World of Gears
“Better a thousand enemies outside your door than one within.”
– Celden proverb
“Good night, Frau Haussedorf. Be sure to send word if your son’s condition worsens, no matter the hour.”
A distant clock tower struck three as Ludwig Krauss stepped from the house into the cold night air. Newly fallen snow muffled his footsteps as he set off for the Clinic, taking a shortcut through the deserted streets of the industrial district. Not the wisest route at this time of night, but he was willing to chance it for the possibility of a little sleep before work resumed at dawn. The Haussedorf child’s fever had broken, but he would need surgery, and soon, to drain the abscess on his knee. That meant rescheduling Fraulein Schmidt’s procedure, and shifting more of the clinical load to Leah, who was already swamped with…
Actually, Krauss reflected with a groan, he may well need Leah’s help in the operating room tomorrow. It was anyone’s guess whether Michael, his brother-in-law and surgical assistant, would show up for work. For months now the man’s behavior had been growing more erratic, his manner more evasive and distrustful. Krauss had assumed at first that some dicey Celden Brotherhood business was afoot, but Michael had been holding Leah and the Murphy twins at a distance as well.
Leah, for her part, remained fiercely protective of her younger brother. Her few serious arguments with Ludwig had centered on what he saw as the growing darkness in Michael. Not for the first time, Krauss wondered if his brother-in-law’s old brain injury was calling in its long-delayed toll.
The murmur of voices from a side street up ahead interrupted Krauss’s thoughts…and, speak of the Ash King, one of those voices was Michael’s. Ludwig was about to call out a sardonic inquiry about any plans involving actual Clinic work, when rapid footfalls from further down the side street marked a newcomer joining the group. “Mo shaol ar an Oileán,” a woman’s voice spoke.
Krauss froze. My life for the Isle. The slogan belonged to the Celden Liberation Army, radical insurgents and enemies of the Empire and the Celden Brotherhood alike. The other voices, even Michael’s, echoed the words.
A gust of wind whistled down the street, driving ice crystals before it. The voices muttered complaints and began drawing closer. Krauss slipped sideways into a dark, narrow gap between buildings, just before the Celdens rounded the corner. They drew to a stop just outside his hiding spot, blowing their hands and stomping half-frozen feet. Three men, Michael the youngest among them, and a tall, grey-haired woman.
“Fitzpatrick and Jenn are unloading the weapons at the dock,” the woman said quietly in Celden. The language barrier alone would have hidden her words from most Kreigerians, but Krauss had a workable command of his wife’s native tongue. “Not everything got through, but it’s enough for the initial strike. Once we hit the depot, we’ll have all we need.”
“We’re not hitting a damned thing without diversions,” answered a dark-haired man. “Are the bombs ready?”
“They will be by morning.” The tall woman’s voice hardened. Clearly, she disliked being questioned. “We’ll plant them at all four sites an hour ahead of the strike.”
“Two sites,” Michael corrected, turning to look sharply at the woman with his good eye. One of the others, a heavyset bald man, nodded in support. “We’ve been over this, Mary.”
“It’s a poor workman despises his tools,” she snapped. “Were you at Speiburg, that you think you know so much?”
Krauss pressed himself further into the shadows. His grip on his walking stick tightened. The CLA bombings in Speiburg last year, and the firefights that followed, had killed as many unlucky bystanders as soldiers or insurgents…and the culprits had slunk away like worms, leaving retribution to fall on any Celden at hand.
Michael and the bald man shared a glance. “You’re the one changing the plan,” the bald one answered.
“Fitz will back us on this, you know,” Michael warned Mary.
She scoffed, her breath forming a brief whirling cloud. “Know your place, child,” she tossed over her shoulder as she strode away.
Michael cursed. “Not a damn thing to do before Fitz gets there,” he said angrily. “I’m going to grab some sleep,” He headed off in the direction Ludwig had been traveling, toward the Clinic.
The last two departed by the same side street where Ludwig had first heard their voices. He counted half a minute, then slipped out of his hiding place and followed. At every turn he expected a cosh to the head or a knife in the ribs, but the CLA men were bickering with one another in low tones, and never seemed to notice that they had picked up a tail.
On a run-down block near the river docks, the two men joined a small cluster of others who were unloading crates from a wooden cart into a ramshackle, two-story house. Krauss watched briefly from the cover of shadows, then slipped away and headed at a brisk pace for the nearest guard post. The sooner the might of the Empire could descend on this nest of rats, the better the chance of cutting off the attacks before they began…and of shielding those he cared for from the entire sordid mess.
When Krauss emerged from the guard station, the chill light of dawn was spreading across the eastern sky. In the course of two hours of tense, suspicious questioning by a series of progressively senior officers, he had rehashed nearly every detail about the CLA cell, their safehouse and their plans…but had insisted that all the criminals were strangers to him and to the Clinic, and had of course said nothing about Michael Shaugn.
He suppressed the urge to look over his shoulder as he walked. If the officers had set anyone to follow him, there was no point in being elusive; they knew already where he lived. The important thing was to reach the Clinic while Michael was still sleeping, and hold him there, have Wee Dan sit on the fool if necessary, while the authorities made their arrests at the CLA house.
When he arrived home, the ground floor of the Clinic was empty. Krauss headed directly upstairs to Michael’s room, knocked, then shouted, and when he received no answer, threw his shoulder into the door. The wood around the deadbolt splintered, and Krauss crashed through into the empty room.
Michael’s bed had not been slept in; there was no sign that he had come back here at all.
“Damnation.” Krauss raced down the hall to his and Leah’s room. Empty also. She must be in the lab. He emerged from the clinic door at a run, then slowed to avoid drawing attention as he crossed the icy ground to the research building. From above ground, it was little more than a glorified storage shed. Krauss unlocked the recessed steel cellar door and clambered down the steep stairs…then smiled for the first time all night.
Leah had not even made it to the cot she kept here to grab bits of rest as she worked. She was asleep at her workbench, a pen still in her hand and her cheek pressed against an open lab journal. Ludwig set down his keys and medical bag, leaned his walking stick against a table, and checked quickly over the alchemical apparatus to be sure nothing dangerous had been left running. A faint scratching sound he traced to Leah’s phonograph player, a birthday gift from Henry Chesterfield’s daughter. The record, a Merloux violin sonata, had played out, but the turntable still spun lazily on the last dregs of energy in its spring. He lifted the needle, shut off the machine, and walked over to his sleeping wife.
Leah lifted her head at the sound of his approach, blinking away sleep. Her cheek was smudged with ink from the page she had been writing; a reversed equation was almost clear enough to read. She smiled and leaned toward Ludwig for a kiss, but at the sight of his worried expression, her green eyes widened. “What’s wrong? Is it Michael?” she guessed without hesitation.
Ludwig nodded. “We need to find him immediately. Michael’s mixed up badly with the CLA.”
Leah’s expression flashed fear, but not surprise. She knew, Ludwig realized with growing dread. What else have I let slip past me?
“I tracked two of them to a safehouse,” he continued. “They’ve got raids and bombings planned, within the day.”
“I’ll gather the Brotherhood.” Leah was fully awake now, her tone determined. “We can still stop them.”
Ludwig shook his head. “The guard will be on the place any moment. We need to keep everyone away from there.”
Her eyes showed horror now. “Ludwig, you didn’t!”
“What choice did I have? We cannot allow another Speiberg!”
“Ciach ort!” She whirled on Ludwig with a curse, shoved him from her path and raced for the stairs. “I have to get him out of there!”
“You think he’s there now?” Ludwig righted himself and strode after her. “Stay here; I’ll head over and…”
“Cnapán asal!” She threw her weight against a bookshelf, jumped clear as it rebounded and fell, spilling its contents across Ludwig’s path. “You’ve done enough, damn you!” He had to slow to keep his footing among the the tumbled volumes, giving Leah time to scramble up the steep stairs and slam the cellar door from above. He heard the deadbolt slot into place, and realized she had seized his keys as she ran.
Ludwig did not bother to attack this door as he had Michael’s; the lab was constructed to far higher standards than the rickety sleeping quarters above the Clinic. They kept duplicate keys stashed throughout the room, though, precisely to assure no one would be locked in. Along with a spare door key, he retrieved his medical bag and his old service revolver, still oiled and well maintained though he had not carried it in years.
Leah was nowhere in sight when Ludwig emerged from the cellar door, but her boot tracks in the snow led in precisely the direction he had feared. He fumbled with the revolver in his coat pocket as he sprinted through the streets, managed to slot six cartridges into its chambers without blowing his own leg off.
He had rounded the final corner, and the safehouse was in sight, when he realized he had no real plan. Burst in like an avenging demon, grab his wife and her mad brother, and sweep them to safety? He would get himself shot before he could accomplish a damned thing. Krauss forced himself to slow his pace, to think…
“Get down, dumbkoff!” someone shouted. Up ahead, small arms fire erupted from at least half a dozen weapons. All planning forgotten, Krauss raced forward at full tilt. The roar of an explosion ripped the air, and the entire block shuddered. He staggered, righted himself, and then a second explosion boomed out, so intense that Krauss felt the pressure wave with his whole body rather than registering it as sound. Flame erupted from the ground floor windows of the safehouse, and the building imploded with a “whoooomph” of inrushing air.
Krauss hit the ground hard, rolled, somehow found his feet again. Leah was not in that building, his mind insisted. She could not have been. But he was racing toward the flames nonetheless, screaming her name over the tumult.
“You there. Freeze!” A soldier appeared in his path, steel helmet gleaming the cold morning light. Krauss accelerated. Before the surprised Steelhead could bring his weapon to bear, the doctor slammed into him as if throwing a hard uberball check. The soldier went sprawling, but another leveled her weapon, a short-barreled shotgun designed for room-to-room fighting. Krauss ducked, and the bricks near his right shoulder took the blast, showering him with fine grit as he cut sharply into an alley mouth. There were shouts from the main road behind him, but no one was eager to charge blindly into a potential trap. They had almost certainly seen his face, but that was a distant concern. He had to find Leah.
Two more sharp twists, and the alley opened onto another road. Across the street, the side door of a dingy warehouse burst open and two men stumbled out. He recognized one: the dark-haired man from last night, batting out flames on his coat sleeve. They took no notice of Krauss as they fled. He raced for the door that the pair had left swinging open. There must be a tunnel from this building to the safehouse.
After the glare of morning sun on the snow outside, the darkness in the warehouse left Krauss nearly blind. Off to his left he caught motion in the shadows, drew his revolver, spun that way…too slowly. Michael had drawn first, and Krauss was looking into the barrel of his gun. Leah slumped heavily against her brother’s side, unconscious or worse. Her name had barely reached Ludwig’s lips when Michael pulled the trigger.
The hammer came down on an empty chamber. Michael froze; he must have emptied the gun in an earlier exchange of fire. Krauss’s own weapon was leveled now at the Celden’s head. Michael gave a bitter, humorless chuckle, then shifted his grip on Leah’s unconscious form, moving her well clear of Ludwig’s line of fire.
“Imbecile!” Krauss lowered his revolver and reached for his medical kit. “What have you done to her?”
“Me?” Michael snapped back. He placed Leah carefully on the floor and checked the pulse at her throat, his movements falling into the familiar rhythm of trauma work. “She told me what you did, murderer!” He tilted his sister’s head back and added, “Airway is clear. Pulse faint and tachycardic.”
Krauss did not answer the accusation. Leah was bleeding badly from at least four wounds, any one of which would be life-threatening. “Get a tourniquet on her arm, and pressure on her abdomen.” He unstopped a small vial, measured its contents into a syringe. “Intracardial adrenalkem, five drams incoming.”
“Are you daft? She’ll bleed out even faster!” growled Michael.
“Without it, her heart will shut down!” shot back Krauss. “Get that pressure in place; we’ll follow up with coagulating agents.”
Michael tied off the tourniquet, tightly, aiming not to save the arm but to stop the bleeding at all cost. He winced as if it were his own flesh the cord were biting into. He moved to press down on the gushing wound under her ribcage, while Krauss slid a hypodermic directly into her chest wall.
Leah gasped as the alchemical stimulants reached her heart. Green eyes blinked open, fought to focus as she searched the two faces above her. “Hey, don’t fight,” she said, her voice faint and confused. “See, Ludwig? ’S’allright. I got him out.”
“You did,” her husband answered hoarsely. “Hold still, love. Don’t try to move.”
Leah gave a fractional nod. “Hurts,” she murmured, before lapsing back into unconsciousness. Both men glared sheer hatred at one another, but they never paused in their work. Michael himself was disheveled and bleeding, the patch over his left eye soaked with blood from a fresh cut across the brow. His work seemed unimpeded, though.
“Respiration shallow, pulse eighty beats per minute,” reported Michael after a time. “Blood pressure has stabilized. Won’t hold long.”
“Long enough to get her to the operating table,” said Krauss. “She’s not safe here in any case.”
They pulled some blankets from a crate, improvised a stretcher for Leah, placed more blankets over and around her for warmth. “This way,” Michael said, motioning with his head toward a small back door.
They emerged into yet another cold and grimy alleyway. The sounds of shouting and sporadic gunfire still drifted from the direction of the safehouse. Michael led the way in silence, keeping to the alleys as much as possible. Blood had soaked through the stretcher before they were halfway to the Clinic, leaving a trail of crimson drops in the snow for anyone who might think to follow.
“Did anyone else get out?” Michael asked after a while, craning his neck to check for unwelcome eyes before they carried Leah across an open street.
“Two men that I saw,” answered Krauss.
Michael’s face flashed rage and pain, then returned to alert vigilance. “I’ll kill you for this,” was all he said.
They rounded the last corner and the Clinic was in sight, eerily quiet for this late in the morning. Word must have spread: after the fiasco at the CLA house, it was a matter of time before the authorities descended on any spot where Celdens were known to gather.
Michael started toward the Clinic proper, but Krauss jerked his thumb toward the research building. They unlocked the steel door and descended into the lab, skirting the pile of spilled books. Down here they might have more time before being found…and in any event, there were things in the lab that they might need.
For the rest of that morning, the two enemies worked with common cause once more. Michael plied sutures and forceps with expert skill, anticipated and counteracted countless tiny beginnings of organ failure. Krauss cut with matchless speed and precision, and when necessary with ruthless efficiency, sacrificing what was too damaged to save, diverting Leah’s strength to what was vital. The arteries feeding her left arm they tied off entirely. They resected a lobe of her right lung, one kidney, a loop of intestine.
“Flame and Ash, Ludwig, she’s…”
“Shut up, damn you.” Forget the things you cannot save.
Together they placed electrodes and site-injectors, directing drugs and galvanic currents to the precise spot where they could best tip the balance. They brought Leah’s own barely-tested research into play, turning her bloodstream into a symphony of unstable reagents. Through the language of alchemy they implored each organ, each cell, to live.
It wasn’t enough.
“She’s in cardiac arrest again,” said Ludwig, pushing back panic. “Double that adrenalkem.”
“I did. She’s not responding.”
Krauss threw the knife switch to begin charging a pair of galvanic plates. “Defibrillating in five…three… CLEAR.”
The heart muscle barely twitched under the surge of current. “Again,” insisted Michael.
Another shock, more alchemical stimulants, then both again at redoubled intensity. But Leah’s cardiac tissue had nothing more to give. Krauss said quietly, “We’ve lost her.”
“Then I’ll see you in the Pit.” Michael’s fist crunched into Krauss’s right eye, slamming him against the wall. Before the doctor could recover, Michael had climbed the stairs, then turned to hurl a flask of alchemist’s fire down onto the overturned bookshelf.
The flask exploded into greedy blue-green flame, spreading rapidly across the volumes and devouring their pages. “Bhfeallaire! Burn on her pyre!” shouted Michael, and fled. Krauss did not follow. Preserve what is vital. He remained at the operating table for another minute, then another, then three more, as the lab became an inferno around him.
When he finally staggered, gasping, into daylight and fresh air, he carried a hastily packed box of reagents and equipment in one arm, a polished steel canister under the other. Burned, crazed with grief and exhaustion, lungs seared with smoke, he was moving now on sheer instinct and momentum. “Hsst! Dok! Over here!” The voice came from the shadows to his right. Krauss turned in that direction, but the sudden motion cost him his balance. Strong arms caught him as he fell, and after that there was darkness.
“Explain again why we don’t just cut his throat?” The tired voice drifted to Ludwig through the darkness
“It ain’t the Dok’s fault. Them CLA bastards would…”
“One of those ‘bastards’ you’re talking about is Michael Shaugn.”
“That’s a damned lie!”
It took effort to open his encrusted eyes. His corneas burned, and even the pale moonlight spilling in the window was unbearably bright. He struggled to sit upright. Moonlight? Then it must be hours since…
Memories returned in a rush. Ludwig would have screamed, then, but a hand had clapped over his mouth. “Quiet, Dok!” It was Wee Dan’s voice behind him. Several more Brotherhood folk sat on the bare floor of the dingy room. He recognized the Murphy twins, and Rory Collins, doubtless the one who had just been advocating his murder. Saoirse Murphy spoke up urgently. “We’re safe right now,” she said, “but the walls ain’t that thick.”
Krauss nodded, and Wee Dan released him without hesitation. He tried to speak, but managed only a string of uncontrollable, hoarse coughs. Another half minute in that lab, he realized, and smoke inhalation would have killed him. It still might. His lungs could fill with fluid tonight, and shut down for good. Work to do first.
His eyes landed on the steel canister, nearby and seemingly undisturbed. Forgetting everything else, he unlatched the cap and lifted it free. The twins moved closer to look inside, then drew back with gasps of surprise and disgust. Ludwig barely noticed, titrating fresh reagents into the chambers, drawing fluid samples, checking reactions. After a time, he held up a pipette of tinted fluid, gauged its color in the moonlight. The alchemical markers of life were faint, almost undetectable…but they were there. No necrotic markers at all. “Thank the Two, she made it.”
“Wait. You’re saying that thing in there is alive?” asked Sean Murphy.
“I’m saying Leah is alive.” Inside the cylinder, her brain hung suspended in its bath of reagents, infused with the regenerative compounds she herself had pioneered. For the first time since he awoke, Krauss allowed himself hope.
The others stared at one another in growing horror. “This…this ain’t right, Dok,” managed Wee Dan.
“Now do you see him for what he is?” growled Collins.
As if mentioning the abomination in the canister would make it real, Saoirse seized on another point. “Folks are saying Michael and some CLA men made a run for it together. That ain’t true, right?”
“He was with them last night.” Ludwig’s eyes flicked to Leah’s cylinder. He reminded himself that she had no conceivable way to hear any of this. “Michael’s a traitor.”
Saoirse winced, but the look on Wee Dan’s face left Krauss feeling as if he had just kicked a loyal dog. The enormous man had known Michael and Leah since they were born. “Michael’s tetched in the head,” he muttered miserably. “Bastards got to him.”
“And you went to the Steelheads.” Rory Collins fixed the doctor with a calculating stare. “Keep throwing that word ‘traitor’ around, Krauss. Never know where it might stick.”
Sean nodded reluctantly. “You shoulda told us instead. We could have handled those CLA bastards if you’d trusted us.”
Like you trusted me? How many things did no one tell me? But Krauss did not argue the point. He climbed to his feet, but even that effort left him gasping for breath, black spots swimming before his eyes. “Where are you headed?” he asked when he could speak again.
“Don’t tell him,” ordered Collins, but Saoirse ignored him. “We’ll try to get out of the city before dawn,” she said. “Get off the roads into the wild lands, then make a run for the lakes.”
“I know a lad that can get us on a boat to Victoria,” added her twin.
The corollary hung unspoken. Ludwig could barely stand, let alone join the Travelers in a mad dash across rough terrain. In Rottingen, though, he faced nearly certain capture…and Leah would be discarded like so much medical waste.
Victoria… Krauss looked up sharply. “Fiona is going too?”
“Everyone is going,” confirmed Sean. No Celden would be safe in Rottingen for quite a while now…
“Take Leah with you.”
Four voices erupted in protest. “You said I should trust you,” Krauss argued back. “You’re right. I was a damned fool, but I am trusting you now. Bring Leah to Henry Chesterfield in Ostley, and he’ll…”
“Is this a joke?” Rory Collins growled. “You’re ‘trusting’ us to risk our necks for you, Kreigerian?”
Krauss whirled on Collins, drawing himself as close to his full height as exhaustion allowed, but any retort he had in mind was lost in a fit of coughing.
The Murphy lass waited until he caught his breath, then spoke up quietly. “It can’t work, Ludwig. We’ll be weeks in the wild. None of us can do…whatever you did just now with those tubes.”
Krauss had anticipated this point. Few of the Travelers had ever learned to read or write, let alone handle the complex alchemy that Leah’s life support would require…but Wee Dan’s eldest daughter was an extraordinarily clever exception. “I’ll write out instructions for Fiona.”
“No.” Wee Dan climbed to his feet and loomed. “Fi’s not gonna touch that…that…”
“Say her name.” Krauss spoke through gritted teeth, hobbled forward to face the giant. “Not ‘that thing’, Dan. Leah. She’s hurt, and she needs your help.” He looked toward the Murphy twins, even Collins, including them all in his appeal. “Perhaps more help than you can offer. Others are depending on you as well. I understand all that.”
He drew a deep breath. His lungs screamed agony, but he willed them to hold steady as he hammered home the words. “But by the love Leah holds for all of you, say her name before you walk away.”
In the silence that followed, Krauss held Wee Dan’s gaze, afraid that one blink or cough would break the spell. Dan looked away first, turning to Collins. “Leah and the Dok, Rory…they saved my little girl when she was sick. They saved a lot of us.”
Rory Collins did not give ground. He indicated the steel cylinder, gleaming coldly in the shaft of moonlight. “Then save her from this.”
The twins exchanged a glance. “You really can fix her, Ludwig?” asked Saiorse.
“Yes,” Krauss lied. But he would find a way, make a way. His entire universe lay in those three pounds of grey tissue.
“Ostley. Henry Chesterfield. Got it,” said Sean. He ran a hand through his hair, scrubbed at his forehead as though doubting his own sanity. “We’ll get Leah on that boat with us.”
Collins snorted and turned his back.
Krauss’s seared lungs finally rebelled at the effort he had demanded of them. He fell to his knees, his frame racked with coughs, eyes burning with the tears he had forbidden himself before. “Thank you,” he managed, fitting in words whenever he could snatch a clear breath. “I owe you more…than I can…repay.”
“Captain Ludwig Krauss of the Imperial Army Surgical Korps, advance and stand before the judgment of the Empire.”
The judge looking sternly down at him was a Colonel in full regalia. As a former officer, Ludwig had invoked his right to a military trial. Compared to the proceedings of a bureaucratic court, the whim of a single presiding officer offered far more latitude for variation. He was more likely to receive a death sentence in this venue, but also marginally more likely to salvage some way to reach Leah.
“Yes, sir.” Ludwig stepped to the indicated spot and snapped a salute. His hands and feet were not bound; another perk of a military trial. Even the most deeply disgraced officer was granted the dignity of standing to face judgment as a man, not a chained beast.
“On the charge of High Treason, the court finds Captain Krauss not guilty.”
That had been the only capital charge. He would not face a firing squad…but Ludwig allowed himself no sense of relief. The remaining charges could still constitute disaster.
“On the charge of Dereliction of Duty, the court finds Captain Krauss guilty. On the charge of Granting Aid and Comfort to the Enemy, the court finds Captain Krauss guilty…”
The litany continued. Guilty of Obstruction of Justice, Theft of Medical Supplies, Hijacking a State Transport, Attempted Unauthorized Border Crossing, Bribery, Assault on an Officer… Finally the long list came to a close. “The sentences for these crimes total twenty-seven years at the Bleizerch Imperial Labor Camp.”
Then this was the end. Krauss harbored no illusions about Henry Chesterfield’s health. The Victorian doctor would never last a quarter-century, and without him, neither would Leah.
He took a few final seconds to calculate his move. Tackle the bailiff, seize his weapon, lay down cover fire while making for the door…his chances were infinitesimal, but at least the word of his death would reach Ostley. Chesterfield would know it was up to him to do whatever was still possible… or to do what is merciful, and may the Two damn my soul…
The judge was speaking again, he realized. “…that Captain Krauss’s timely report to Imperial authorities did substantially reduce the loss of life and property. In light of this fact, the Court stipulates that the sentences for his crimes run not consecutively, but concurrently. Captain Ludwig Krauss will therefore serve six years’ hard labor for Dereliction of Duty, to be extended to the full twenty-seven should he exhibit any further disloyalty in word or action.”
Henry Chesterfield might survive six years. That Leah would dream alone for so long in her alchemical trance was a devastating thought, but his wife was strong enough to endure. Everything she had lost, they might still restore.
The salute Krauss gave the judge was impeccable, his stance and expression respectful to the smallest detail. For six years, he would be a model citizen and prisoner.
Dream well, love, he thought as he followed the bailiff away, to begin the first day of those years. Take care of her, Henry. I will join you both as quickly as I can.