Trials 038: Reincarnators

At Wieslaw’s unexpected question, all the fun Nova’d been having picking on Sirius earlier was instantly dispelled, like she’d been suddenly dunked in a tub of ice-cold water.

Though it wasn’t exactly the question which was unexpected, but rather its timing. Nova knew the subject would come up at one point or another. If nothing else, Aaron and Marian would want to know where Sirius’s unusual strength, which had been caught crystal-clear on camera, came from. They might not have pressed the point, yet, but Nova was sure they wouldn’t commit themselves to anything big without having some questions answered. Thus, it stood to reason that at least some part of the truth about the two boys would soon come to light.

What she hadn’t expected was that they would be the one to make the first move and try to get the truth about her. And at such a time, too, in the middle of a crowd, barely a minute and a half after greeting each other for the first time…

Fortunately, on this occasion, Nova’s mandatory expressionlessness was a blessing. Not a single inkling of the shock she felt inwardly ever made it onto her face.

The world around her slowed to a crawl as her brain went into overdrive.

That confirms it, then. Wieslaw is a reincarnator. Sirius doesn’t look surprised or confused by Wieslaw’s question. Added to his superhuman abilities, he too is one. So I’m still one step ahead. I know they are, while they merely suspect I am. Or do they? Wieslaw doesn’t look like he’s bluffing. He seems very sure. How could he be sure? Did I betray myself? Unlikely. I’ve been careful. Even if I had betrayed myself, it would have been to Sirius; I’ve never met Wieslaw before. Could Sirius have transmitted a message to Wieslaw? Possible. The bags we found in his hotel room in the capital and the communication equipment he was carrying on his person that night were returned to him afterward. But Mom and Dad must have been monitoring them. If Sirius had revealed something about me on there, my parents would have also known about it, and I would have noticed a change in their behavior. Is Wieslaw just fishing for a reaction, after all? But what does he even hope to achieve by revealing himself so openly? What’s the catch, here?

With how things had been going, Nova had imagined that the status-quo would remain solid for a long while still, with both sides slowly and carefully sounding each other out to try and expose the other without being exposed themselves. But then what was up with Wieslaw’s overly blunt approach?

I don’t think I need to worry about any immediate risk to my life. Reincarnator or not, both Sirius and Wieslaw should know what kind of reprisal they’d have to face if something happens to me. Revealing myself shouldn’t put me in direct danger, right at this moment. And they might have valuable intel about the trials, too. On the other hand, worse than powerful enemies are untrustworthy allies. Keeping my cards close to the chest when faced with unknown quantities like them would be a good idea. All right. It’s decided, then. For now, I’ll just play dumb and see how things develop.

“Are you slowing down time, right now?” Wieslaw asked with a widening grin, his voice absurdly distorted and lengthened by the spike in the processing speed of Nova’s brain. “To find some innocuous answer you can give me?”

Sirius spoke up next. “Nova, you don’t need to worry. I can solemnly swear that we hold absolutely no ill intent. We’re only curious. And prudent. The three of us aren’t the only reincarnators in this world, and some of them are… dangerous individuals.”

No shit. That’s precisely my concern, boyo. The reason I’m not sure what to do is that you two may very well be part of these ‘dangerous individuals.’

Eventually, Nova decided to go with her first idea and just play it safe. ‘What’s Earth?’ she asked, looking back and forth between Sirius and Wieslaw like she was confused at them speaking nonsense.

Wieslaw returned Nova’s gaze with a mischievous smile. “You don’t know what Earth is?” he asked.

When Nova shook her head, he laughed out loud and glanced at Sirius, sending him a small nod, as if confirming something between the two of them. Nova started to feel a little nervous. She was getting the distinct impression she was losing control of the situation.

“Nova,” Wieslaw said more soberly, “I don’t know if you’ll recall, but in the list of traits available for purchase during the reincarnation process, one of them was called ‘truth-telling.’ It cost 1200 points. It required getting perception and intuition to 100. Do you remember that trait? I acquired it.” Wieslaw paused for a beat, probably to let Nova appreciate the feeling of her own sinking heart. She did, in fact, remember that trait. Its characteristics matched those Wieslaw had just described. “I wasn’t actually sure you were a reincarnator until you answered that last question with a direct negative. But now, I am.”

While Nova cursed inwardly, she was also somewhat relieved. The trait Wieslaw referred to worked in two different ways. It allowed one to tell the truth – as in, distinguish it from lies – and also to tell the truth – as in, speak the truth in such a way that people noticed it was the truth. This latter feature would make the next steps a lot simpler.

Nova reached for her bracer again to continue the conversation, when it suddenly occurred to her that this thing constantly recorded everything that happened to her. Additionally, as a security measure, it was impossible to deactivate this recording – or even just mute the audio – from the bracer itself.

And Wieslaw had already spoken aloud his guess that Nova was a reincarnator and could slow down time…

Fuuuuuuuuck. Mom and Dad shouldn’t be watching right now. They respect my privacy. But if they ever have cause to view the records, or if one of dad’s AIs flags it for them, I’ll be in deep shit.

Nova would have to physically go to the server and delete the files by hand. This would still look quite suspicious, since she’d never had cause to do that before, but it was better than leaving something so incriminating in there. If asked for a reason, Nova would just have to say that she forgot to remove her bracer before masturbating or something like that, and she didn’t want this shameful scene on the server. This was still a pretty faulty explanation, since Nova never bothered to remove her bracer when she played with herself – on the contrary, she found it rather exciting to know she was being filmed, even if no audience would likely ever watch it – and she’d never gone to manually remove the evidence afterward. But that was fine. All she needed was plausible deniability.

Still, better be careful from here on out.

‘Speak the truth,’ she said to Wieslaw in English, a language no one on this planet but a reincarnator would understand.

The English spoken by her bracer was kind of broken, with the accents on the wrong syllables and weird pauses here and there. That made it a little difficult to understand, but there wasn’t much Nova could do about it. She couldn’t speak it herself, and there existed no voice samples from that language that her father might have used as a reference when programming the bracer. Still, the voice synthesis software could speak Ethilonian, and Ethilonian’s acoustics were passably similar to English, so Nova made do with that.

Both Wieslaw and Sirius grinned upon hearing English from Nova, like they’d met a fellow member of their home village while visiting a foreign country.

Wieslaw nodded repeatedly, understanding her request and happy to oblige. “We wish you no harm at all,” he said in English too, his voice sounding normal to Nova’s ears, but resonating like a clear bell inside her mind, dyed with the tint of undeniable truth. “We want to learn more about you and come to an understanding, so we can coexist peacefully without having to be on guard against each other.” Seeing that Nova still hesitated, Wieslaw continued gently, his hands in the air, palms out, like he was trying to soothe a spooked animal. “Let’s at least talk. I can’t lie to you; you can’t lie to me. Neither of us is going to lose anything through this. If you don’t feel comfortable answering any one of our questions, just stay silent. We won’t force anything out of you. It’s not an interrogation.”

Nova stared at Sirius.

Understanding the meaning of her gaze, Wieslaw shrugged and said, “I can vouch for Sirius’s… thick moral fiber. He may not be able to Tell the Truth like I can, but he’d probably put the both of us to shame in the righteousness department anyway.”

Hearing that, Sirius scowled at his friend. “You make it sound like I’m some self-important goody-two-shoes who couldn’t compromise if his life depended on it.”

Wieslaw pursed his lips in thought, then quickly nodded. “Yes. That’s what I’m saying. Well, perhaps not the ‘self-important’ part, but the rest is right on point.” He then proceeded to ignore Sirius’s continued disapproval and turned back to Nova. “Do you mind if we have this talk before I meet your parents? Like, right now?”

Nova agreed. She didn’t want these two to blow her cover. She had to make it clear right now that she wouldn’t allow them to disturb her peaceful life by somehow ratting her out to her family.

She pointed toward the opposite end of the terminal, where an overpriced coffee shop looked to be fleecing tourists out of their holiday budget, and the group quickly relocated. They gathered even more attention from passersby now that Wieslaw had joined them. He was approximately as attractive as Sirius, though in a rather different way. Where Sirius was the rough-around-the-edges handsome jock type, Wieslaw was more the intellectual, indolent pretty boy type. Also unlike Sirius, Wieslaw didn’t seem affected at all about the stares he was receiving. He even returned bright smiles and cheery waves to a few of the girls he crossed, to noticeable effect. He seemed a more difficult opponent than Sirius, however, so Nova refrained from teasing him about it; he looked like the kind of guy who’d turn everything she said right back on her.

Inside the coffee shop, the three settled at a table in the corner, out of the way of the other patrons, and ordered a few drinks to wet the tongues that would soon engage in conversational jousting. Sirius, gentleman that he was, offered to pay for Nova’s drinks. He was gently rebuffed with the argument that Nova carried enough pocket change on her person at the moment to buy a soda can.

She carried enough to buy the coffee shop itself, too.

And the airport.

The awkward look on his face when Nova told him as such was so glorious as to make Wieslaw burst in laughter, and Nova would undoubtedly have followed suit if she could’ve.

Eventually, once everyone was comfortably settled, they got down to business.

“You can ask whatever questions you have first,” Sirius cut in when Wieslaw seemed like he’d start talking. “Since we essentially forced you into this, it’s the least of courtesies. Right, Wieslaw?”

Wieslaw didn’t hesitate long before assenting.

Nova readily took the offer as well, and after pondering a few moments as she idly sucked on her straw, she asked, still in English, ‘How did you discover I reincarnated?’

This was a vital first step. If she had somehow betrayed herself, she needed to correct that as soon as possible, so that it wouldn’t happen again in the future.

Wieslaw blew on his cup of tea, took a small sip, and once he had collected his thoughts, started to explain. “As I told you earlier, we weren’t sure of anything until a minute ago. We simply believed there was a good chance you were a reincarnator. As for the reason why we suspected you, well, I’d say you’re simply… too outstanding to be an average person, I suppose. And too secretive and careful to be an average teenager. Which means, either you were drawing on the wisdom of your past life or on the stats and traits of your reincarnation.”

Nova blinked. ‘Family. Wealth. Training.’

“Of course, I’m not discounting the influence of the resources available to you, but that you could use these resources with such efficiency, to achieve what you have in so little time, is unrealistic,” Wieslaw said and leaned forward to accentuate his point. “You’re only 15 years old. Would you expect even a ridiculously precocious and talented 15-year-old to be as outstanding as you are? You’re a musician, a dancer, a soldier, a driver… And those are only the ones I’m aware of. And such an outstanding individual also coincidentally happens to be a world-class beauty on top of it all? Now, that’s just pushing it. Perhaps if one didn’t know about reincarnation, one could just accept it as simple chance, but when there is such a convenient explanation waiting on the side, isn’t it natural to put some stock in it?”

“Even if we’d been wrong,” Sirius continued quietly, “we could have just pretended that all this reincarnation business was just us… role-playing as a game or something. After all, we are children. It would have been a little embarrassing, but that is all.”

Nova ruminated on that for a while before asking her next question. ‘Told your parents? Anyone?’

Wieslaw nodded. “My mother knows I’m a reincarnator. On that point, my truth-telling gives me an advantage over you guys. I can make people believe even outlandish things, as long as they happen to be true. Telling her about my situation wasn’t difficult.”

Nova gave Sirius and interrogative glance, and he replied with more hesitation. “My father knows. I didn’t tell him on my own initiative. He discovered my abilities by accident. Afterward, when he confronted me about them, I ended up explaining it as best I could. My mother and little sister shouldn’t know, though.”

“What about you?” Wieslaw asked in return. “Did you tell your family?”

Nova didn’t answer for a long time. Instead, she tried to imagine the reaction of Wieslaw’s mother when her son suddenly told her, in that voice that positively rung of truth, that he was an adult man with a mental age higher than even her own. Did she ever breastfeed him, when he was a baby? What kind of thoughts went through her head when she remembered all the times she did that? Or all the times she changed his diaper or took a bath with him? Was she embarrassed? Ashamed? Did she feel like she’d been taken advantage of? Did she find it creepy? Did the memories of watching her son grow up become awkward or disturbing to recall? Did she feel uncomfortable when she looked at her son? Did she ever wonder if, well, he was even genuinely her son? Hadn’t he spent most of his time alive as someone else’s son, after all? He might be hers now, but in his heart of hearts, didn’t he only see her as a replacement for his real parents, those from his life on Earth?

Nova didn’t feel guilty for not telling her own family the truth about herself. At all. Quite the contrary, in fact. To her, it was a kindness to keep that secret buried.

Nova had never had kids of her own, of course, and she never would, even in this life. She didn’t even like kids, in general. But as far as she saw it, one of the few good points about having kids was that this cute, innocent little critter would sometimes do cute, innocent things around you. And if you were lucky, you might take a picture of that at the right moment. And you’d laugh about it and remember the good times, once your child grew up and you stumbled upon that old photo twenty years later, and you’d tease them about it, and everyone would have fun and be happy.

All those moments would be ruined if that cute, innocent little critter suddenly revealed himself to be a fifty-something motherfucker. All those moments would all of a sudden become intensely disgusting.

Which was why Nova had always endeavored to act cute, in a manner appropriate for her apparent age. She couldn’t make funny faces, of course, but that fact itself could be made into something funny. A little girl, looking all serious, doing something goofy and making poses before the camera. Good stuff.

Though ‘act’ wasn’t the right word, either. Because it implied it was only a performance, a fake, a mask. But Nova had had a lot of fun doing this. She’d had a lot of fun growing up, and she was convinced her family had had a lot of fun watching her grow up too. There was nothing fake about any of that.

Telling the truth was all well and good, but if this truth damaged Nova’s happiness, damaged her family’s happiness, then it wasn’t worth telling. She might as well substitute it for another truth.

She was Nova.

She was not that pointless, worthless man from the planet called Earth, whose name she’d buried somewhere in the confines of her perfect memory. That piece of shit was long dead. And good riddance, too. He just plain didn’t exist anymore.

As for anyone who tried to convince her family otherwise…

‘No. I didn’t tell,’ Nova said finally.

Then she looked up into Wieslaw’s eyes as her fingers flew across her keyboard, forming a perfect, coherent, sincere sentence. A sentence worthy of her conviction, whose absolute truth Wieslaw would be able to feel right down to his fucking bones, thanks to that convenient trait of his.

‘If you tell the truth to my family, I will beat you to death and drink your blood from a boot.’

23 comments

    1. Reverse psychology strikes again! Thanks for the chapter Liv, looking forward to some new Taint chapters, or more Trials, doesn’t matter either way. Keep up the good work!

  1. Let me start with the admission that I love this story. And let me continue with the fact that there is still one thing that I just can’t really get over. It isn’t a new thing, but it took me quite some time to get around writing it down.
    It’s Nova’s bracelet. I just cannot imagine that it is the best solution – moreover I believe it to be the worst one that still works (at least in a limited fashion).
    The problem is that it is really impractical: it takes both hands to operate and it still gets her generally clumsy results.
    And there are options: AR glasses with some kind of independent all surface input method. No need to look at a screen, just to glance at it, much better camera angle – actually shows what she sees, both hands free for the input.
    As for what I recommend for that: TAP. Or rather a modified version of it, mixed together with some kind of 3d touch gloves. The basic idea for TAP is that it is a wearable keyboard based on a binary numbers and pressure sensors. Each finger gets defined as a binary digit, resulting in a maximum number of 31 buttons for one hand, and 1023 for both (I don’t know whether the actual product can use a combined setup or if using one of these on both hands only raises input speed/simply doubles options, but that’s not something you have to limit yourself by). And Nova, with her memory and processing speed could easily make use of it.
    Set it up so that she can write letter by letter with a single hand and add her most used words and expressions to the two-handed numbers. Add some intelligent/learning software that offers multiple suggestions but not autocorrect that she can access by a single tap. Make the whole setup into a glove instead of a strap to be able to add a grab option: certain gestures could allow her AR screen manipulation like with a 3d mouse, as long as she uses her gloves inside the recording field of her camera.
    Given the enhanced functions, she’d probably have to keep the bracers as a processing core and maybe for redundancy.
    This would result in a much more logical and effective way for her to actually communicate with her surroundings.

    1. I was already thinking of AR glasses, but I didn’t know about TAP, so thanks for the suggestion. It’s indeed a good idea. I’ll think about maybe adding it to the story.

    1. Haha, my thoughts exactly. “Where’d thr boot come from?” xD

      Reqlly, isn’t it customary to make a cup out of his skull and drink from that?

  2. Thanks for the chapter.

    Well, that was most interesting. Nova fell right into Wieslaw trap, not very smart of her.

    First, I agree with Nova’s conclusion that it is kindness to keep the truth a secret and doesn’t tell her family. Because Wieslaw told his mother, I somehow don’t really trust him. Sirius’s father found out the truth by an accident but Wieslaw chose to willingly tell his mother. How can he talk about all this hero nonsense when he doesn’t even really care about the feelings of his own mother?
    But maybe I am interpreting too much importance into such a small scene. Still, it would be most satisfying, if in the end Nova’s prudence (paranoia) would be right and the whole time Sirius was used by Wieslaw like a fool. Maybe Wieslaw has found a loophole in the truth-telling talent?

    Secondly, we know now how pitiful Nova was in her last life. She chose Acute aphonia (+190 points), No facial expressions (compounded: +225 points) and Sterile (+600 points) and only gained additional 1015 points. The only big purchase she did in return was Perfect memory (req: 100 MEM) for -190 points. Wieslwas instead manage to accumulate and spent 1200 points only for truth-telling and we don’t know what else he got. He at least doesn’t have any obvious bodily disadvantages like Nova.

    Finally, I want to say that I still enjoy “Trials” immensely, but after this chapter something was bothering me a bit.
    I know that Nova is still only a 15 year old girl and that she is not an OP character, but from the beginning Nova was mostly passive, following the lead of others and she was more a playball in the story (e.g. attack on her, following her mother wishes, now Wieslaw revealing her to be a reincarnator). Nothing wrong by itself but I after some time I prefer a character to be more like Akasha. Someone who is active and assertive. Who has a plan, get things done and shapes the story. Thus I hope in the future Nova becomes more like Akasha.

    1. Thanks Liv for the chapters.
      I like Trials but, I agree with darkpoint. This two guys took too much screen time in the story. To me, Nova feels like some kind of background character now. I hope they will become her future antagonists. (Maybe last boss?) I can’t see them as allies.

      And some calculations(?):

      Name: Sirius

      Growth potentials:
      Strength:
      Explosive strength: 100
      Endurance: 75+
      Agility:
      Flexibility: 40+
      Coordination: 85+
      Mind:
      Processing speed: 100
      Intuition: 40+
      Memory: 35+
      Willpower: 100
      Vitality:
      Resistance to disease: 50+
      Resistance to environment (heat/cold…): 50+
      Healing factor: 100
      Charisma:
      Beauty: 65+
      Presence: 30+
      Perception: 100

      Traits:
      Pain tolerance (req: 100 Will) (190+ points)
      Regeneration – Human planaria (req: 100 Heal) (190+ points)
      Hulk strength (req: 100 Ex Str) (190+ points)?
      Parallel processing (req: 100 Proc) (190+ points)?
      Tuned perception (req: 100 Perc) (190+ points)? – (Chapter 031:
      “Sirius’s sensitive hearing caught from that earbud half of a conversation Nova was seemingly holding with a woman…”
      “Sirius quickly tuned out the conversation between mother and daughter.” How else can he do this? Nova can’t, she see, hear and feel everything around herself)
      ???

      Sum minimum: 1350+ points (It’s bare minimum – only Regeneration and Pain tolerance added)

      Name: Nova

      Growth potentials:
      Strength:
      Explosive strength: 39
      Endurance: 41
      Agility:
      Flexibility: 85
      Coordination: 86
      Mind:
      Processing speed: 100
      Intuition: 62
      Memory: 100
      Willpower: 87
      Vitality:
      Resistance to disease: 74
      Resistance to environment (heat/cold…): 58
      Healing factor: 91
      Charisma:
      Beauty: 94
      Presence: 57
      Perception: 89

      Traits:
      Acute aphonia (+190 points)
      No facial expressions (compounded: +225 points)
      Clean body (-26 points)
      Rare blood type (+12 points)
      Sterile (+600 points)
      Perfect memory (req: 100 MEM) (-190 points)
      Ambidextrous (-38 points)

      Sum: 1317-600-190-225-12=290 points

      1. Will Manders express my concerns very well. Nova should be the main character of the story but feels like some kind of background character at the moment.

    2. I los wrong?

      Telling the parents could be viewed as an act of trust, more so with the truth ability. After all, telling someone I love you, and I think of you as my parent, and having it ring true would be great.

      — How can he talk about all this hero nonsense when he doesn’t even really care about the feelings of his own mother?

      How do you know he doesn’t care? It is a very one sided opinion of yours.

      1. “How do you know he doesn’t care? It is a very one sided opinion of yours.”

        I’ve already said, that I probably interpret too much into Wieslaw’s behavior. He is very likely one of the good ones. Nevertheless, I think that Nova has stated good reasons why Wieslaw mother must have been very hurt by the truth and that’s why she wants to keep everything secret from her own family.

        I probably only hope that Wieslaw turns out to be an antagonist so that Nova’s caution, paranoia and always be prepared for the worst attitude turns out to be correct. Otherwise, it will be all for nothing.

        Furthermore, a good betrayal and the following revenge through Nova would make the story interesting. 😉

        1. I think it would probably depend on the person, but it’d be easier to make it “good if you told them and had the Truth ability.

          In fact, I’d say Nova’s approach is the safer one without the Truth ability. Nothing she could tell her parents would let them 100% believe her (excepting their trust in her). I also believe her parents would still accept her, but she can’t be certain and she also raised good points in her thoughts.

          With the Truth ability though, you could let them know that you were being sincere as a child, really view them as your parents, etc. and they can be certain of its veracity. At that point I’d say there’s a very good chance of them being appreciative that you’re willing to tell them something like that over continuing to hide it; a sign of how much you trust them or something. Granted it still wouldn’t be certain you could keep the relationship, I feel like there would be a very high chance in a decent household.

  3. I would have flipped if you left us hanging in that last chapter liv. This one couldn’t load fast enough for me. I have to thank you for both the chapter and the lack of mental suffering i surely would have gone through if i was left hanging like that. Thanks for all your great work!

  4. I recently found Taint and Trails and read through both. I am greatly enjoying the stories and the humor.
    If I may some small criticisms, you are using essentially the same protagonist in both stories; a voiceless, expressionless, violence driven teen girl. Both have a work around for the mutisim. Both are comfortable with their violence to an almost pathological degree, granted in Taint there are reasons for this, Trials there is not.
    There is also quite a bit of sexualization of both protagonists. It seems over done and in Trails as Nova does age too early.

    1. Yes, the main character is basically the same in both stories.
      You see, Trials is actually an old prototype for Taint which I started writing ages ago and never completed. I never expected to publish it until a while ago, when I posted it while Taint was on hiatus and it got a decent reception.

      And yeah, my characters are heavily sexualized. For no other reason than I enjoy it that way. I’m sorry to say that you shouldn’t expect deep, prize-winning writing, here. These stories are merely me vicariously living adolescent, puerile fantasies through my protagonists.
      Still, sex does sell. Would you believe that this website now sees as many visitors in a single day as it saw in a month a year ago?

      1. That both protagonist have a lot in common is true, but I don’t understand the sexualization part.

        Akasha has never shown any sexual or romantic interest. She was kissed once and walks around naked because her clothes got destroyed and she doesn’t have any understanding for social norms, after living and fighting for 300 years alone.

        Nova is a mentally over 50 years old, so she didn’t age too early. She is a bit of an exhibitionist and likes to tease, but its never too overbearing or disturbs the flow of story and is often quite funny.

        It’s not like you write detailed sex scenes.

        1. GX: Sexualization rarely has anything to do with explicit sex.It is in (in written work) the description of the character and how the character is treated by others. For example how Sif treats Akasha, looking at her, bathing her then kissing her without Akashas permission. In Trials, yes Novas soul is older but to the world she is a 15 year old so some of the behavior is at least on the edge if not inappropriate… but Nova took care of that wannabe rapist herself.

      2. Ah that does explain the similarities between both stories. I do enjoy them both but I find Taint to be better plot wise so far; though Trials is warming up. As the sexualiztion is your artistic choice, go for it! I just see it used too often with female protagonists as their main point of interest to the reader I always point it out.
        As for deep, prize winning writing… you are getting damn close. Honestly your writing is better than some dead tree authors so don’t sell yourself short. I would not be reading this if you were not good. Hell if you were bad I would not even offer critic… I comment very rarely.

      3. Keep It Simple Stupid applies. Your comment captures my opinion on your stories rather well.

        I can tell that this isn’t a grand masterwork in the making, but all of your works are fun and satisfying to read. I like that you write things that people want to read. Not enough people can do this well.

  5. Am I the only one here hoping Lynn, for one reason or another, goes to watch the videos from Nova’s bracer and catches a few scenes her playing with herself?

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