The Better Man? Part 1
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Last time on Nexus:
The Punishment of a God, Part 3

France, Paris, 1800

Pierre didn't really know where to look first. The brown-haired boy at the tender age of fourteen finally decided to stare self-consciously on his worn-out shirt. That was besides his equally dirty pants and shoes the only things here that seemed familiar to him. The room was simply to extravagantly furbished. Valuable carpets lay on the stone floor, two embroidered couches faced each other over a glass table and on several side-tables stood artful vases and other expensive-looking objects.
He had been grabbed by two man on the street and dragged here. They were dressed like guards so nobody had reacted to Pierre's calls.
Together with him a man wearing a blue doublet with golden buttons was in the room. His pants were also fitting in and were downwards taken over by black boots. How many from the nobility, this man with the ridged face and the hooked nose wore magnificent grey head hair, a tricorn was pinned under his left arm. He smiled nicely.
"Pierre Lapin, correct?", he asked.
Pierre nodded briefly and hesitantly.
"Uh, what am I doing here? And who are you?"
"Oh, how rude of me. My name is Charle de la Croix. I brought you here because I want you to become my apprentice."
Pierre had expected many things but not that…
"Apprentice?", Pierre echoed. "But Sir, I can't even read! And, I mean, I live on the streets and-"
"I know, Pierre", de la Croix interrupted him. "I am aware of your circumstances. Your father fell in the War of the Second Coalition, your mother and your siblings were carried off by tetanus."
Pierre looked sadly to the ground. De la Croix shook his head.
"So much death, and that even before reaching manhood. Enough to break the mind of a child. But you, you struggled through. You are a bright boy, Pierre, and intelligence is a rare good nowadays. Tell me, do you also want to end like your family?"
"N-no, Sir."
"Good answer. So, Pierre, I give you the chance of a lifetime here. Should you reject, I will send you back on the streets and everything will be as it was before. Become my apprentice and together we will defeat death. What do you say?"
Pierre didn't need to think long. He still did not know what was expected from him but ,in any case, a warm meal and a bed were more tempting than sleeping under a tumbril.
"I, uh it would be an honor, Sir."
De la Croix smirked.
"Well then, welcome, Pierre, to the Humanist Gentlemen."

Germany, Dresden, Present

Everybody has his strengths and weaknesses. Some are good at sports but absolute suckers when it comes to math. Some are extremely good in natural sciences but have no social skills whatsoever.
Chloe was very creative and liked history.
It was just that she couldn't remember for the live of hers what was required by school from her about it.
At the moment they were going over the French Revolution and Chloe was supposed to prepare a presentation about the times that came afterwards. It was absolutely frustrating, because not many interesting things had happened in this time. Well, the French now had a constitution but who cared for such things? She would have liked to start with the rise of Napoleon but somebody else had gotten that topic. She now had to cope with the everyday-life of the French, now find enough informative material about that.
Chloe scratched herself behind the ear with her pen. While doing that, there was a rather loud creaking sound
Surprised she held the pen in front of her eyes before she identified the creaking as the one her closet made. It opened right now.
A grinning Elli appeared behind the ominously opening door. Well, her head at least, the rest was situated in the blackness representing the entrance to the Nexus.
Since their last meeting two weeks had passed.
"ELLI!", Chloe exclaimed. "You can't surprise me like that!"
Anyway, she stood up and walked to her closet.
"Oh, I am sorry for that", Elli apologized and stepped out of the Nexus to hug Chloe. Today she wore jeans and a pink t-shirt with the label "My eyes are further up, asshole."
"Nice to see you again, I like what you did with your hair."
"Oh, uh, that…"
Chloe's hairline had become white after her encounter with Ku. At the moment, it was only visible when she was observed more than just briefly but the whiteness increased day by day because her hair kept growing unperturbedly. It had even accelerated, so it seemed to her…
"Oh…", it came from Elli. "That will be a shock reaction to the absorption of Ku. Godliness can have some weird effects on the body chemistry. I cannot help you with that, the only thing that helps is coloring hairs."
Easier said than done, Chloe did not get much pocket money and she held the opinion that with such funds one should have more important goals for himself than hair colorant.
"Hey, snow-white hair is an unique feature ", Elli comforted her. "If you do it right, you will have everybody's eyes on you."
"I don't really know if I can do something like that. I mean, for example, I could never look like you."
"Oh, the bimbo look is nothing for you, believe me", Elli put her off with the confidence of a veteran. "I like it especially because some think I am dumber than them. I love the facial expression when they find out the opposite. Hehehe… What are you doing right now, actually, homework?"
Elli had noted the state of Chloe's desk and studied her current writing with curiosity.
"History home work… Hm, until now you did not get into detail on the famine. People got really crafty back then."
"You know about such stuff?", Chloe asked with bewilderment.
"I was in that time, Chloe."
She needed a moment to categorize this sentence.
"What?"
"With the Nexus I can go everywhere, Chloe. Not just into other universes but also into the future and the past. Why do you think you absence lasted only ninety minutes last time? I demonstrate it for you if you do not believe me."
"I would like to see that…", Chloe announced.
"Well then, come with me. We go to the past."
She turned around, bristling with motivation and set her course on the closet. However, she had not accounted for Chloe's zeal.
"Ho- Ho- Hold on, I need to finish this here first, Elli!"
Elli stopped mid-stride and turned her head. Her left eyebrow was raised
"That will be a time journey, Chloe. We have all the time in the world, if not even more. Think about it, last time, you were only gone for one and a half hours. This time, I have practice. Getting the time right is always a balancing act but I think I can lower the time you are gone down to twenty minutes."
Due to this statement, Chloe was torn between her sense of duty and the wish to experience once again something exciting. Elli could apparently see that because she kept helping.
"Don't you think that you could improve your presentation with some first-hand experiences?"
Chloe wanted to reply something but already hesitated while inhaling.
Elli was right…
"Iiii think I cooouuuuld maayybe make a exception…."
Chloe avoided to look Elli into the eyes but she could positively feel her triumphant look on her skin.
With slow steps she approached the portal…

France, Paris, 1801

As always when the Humanist Assembly approaches, dozens of wealthy men in all of France got on the move to partake in it. This time they would come together in Paris.
It was still a day until then but some Gentlemen met up beforehand to exchange news and to discuss about the world.
Phillip Ambroise also had this plan. He was a burly man with a face that seemed to be a tad to small for his chubby-cheeked head. At the moment, he wore, like many people in his position, white pants and a white shirt, black leather boots and a blue jacket. The sweat oozed from under his brown hair, which let him look very silly, while he looked at a painting, that showed a landscape near Avignon. Ambroise was not aware of how he looked to others because nobody ever told him.
The wall at which the painting was hung up was wood-paneled like its colleagues and belonged to a saloon furnished with lots of porcelain and glassware. At a big fireplace stood a group of armchairs, all of them accompanied by a side table. Light streamed in through several windows.
"It appears to me you found something that its your taste."
De La Croix entered through a white wing door. Ambroise sluggishly turned to face him and in doing that, created the impression of a moderately interested hippo.
"Oh yes. I was in that area, it is a good likeness of it. Say, how much did it cost?"
Nice try, de la Croix thought to himself. He already had an idea why Ambroise was here.
"That was a gift, I do not know how much it is worth. Tell me, did you have a pleasant journey here?"
"It was relatively bumpy. And we could hardly move in this town. Paris is always so busy, I had the impression that I was in an ant hill."
"Yeah that is always a little bit annoying. Can I get you something to drink?"
Smile, always just smile…
"I appreciate your hospitality but sadly I come with to bad news as that I could take advantage of it."
De la Croix rolled his eyes internally. Wretched pretender…
"Oh? What a grief-stricken thing do you have to report?"
Ambroise gave him a pitying look that got de la Croix's blood rising up.
"I want to be honest with you, my friend. Your approach at creating the Better Man doesn't really incite sympathy. Additionally, you haven't shown any results in three years. I'm afraid that, should you not change this quickly, the Assembly will cut your funds if not even withdraw them."
What was to be expected… Yes, de la Croix research was difficult, time-consuming and expensive but what counted was the bloody final product, dammit! The other Gentlemen were so incredibly shortsighted. His ideas were revolutionary! One could not just stick to the old stuff to create something that should transcend the imagination of the common people. Alone the fact that de la Croix put up almost his entire fortune for his research should actually show them how much he believed in it but no, of course they had to turn of the faucet for a man that was barely able to pay the membership fee. But after so many failures de la Croix was finally almost there… There was only one solution…
"Well, I actually managed a breakthrough a while a go, dear Ambroise."
Ambroise pricked up his ears.
"A breakthrough, you say? Why didn't I hear about that until now? Could you show it to me?"
De La Croix broke slightly out into a sweat. Right now, he had dug his own grave…
The boy is not ready yet.
That meant improvising…
"Well, I wanted to save it for the Assembly tomorrow. As a surprise, to raise like the phoenix from the ashes, you see?"
Ambroise nodded affirmatively.
"Oh, I see. But now I am really curious. Show it to me."
De la Croix nodded with a false smile and signaled Ambroise to follow him. Slowly, as it should be noted, because Ambroise's corpulence slowed him down notably. De la Croix thought briefly if it wasn't faster if he just rolled him…
Both Gentlemen went to the third floor of de la Croix's manor to a room that was secured by a heavy door made of oak wood and a guard. It should be noted that it was an unshaved day laborer because de la Croix's finances were not exactly fluid as already mentioned.
"Monsieur de la Croix", he answered as polite as possible.
"Is he awake?", the one spoken to only asked.
"No clue, a while ago he cursed rather loudly but now everything is silent."
he must have hurt himself again, de la Croix thought resignedly. Correcting the kinks of his creations had proven to be very complicated but Rome also hadn't been build in one day.
He pulled out a heavy wrought-iron key and opened the door with a sigh. It opened with a gleeful creak.
And granted the view of a scene of destruction.
The shelf with the many books was still intact but the narrow bed had apparently been used as a battering ram to break open the formerly boarded up window. The sheets were tied into an improvised rope that had been fastened to the window shutter and ended approximately two meters above ground.
De la Croix slowly dawned, that the loud cursing served to hide the noise that had inadvertently been made during the escape. Noise that could impossibly be heard on the first floor.
Ambroise, who, like the paled de la Croix, had noted that the showpiece had escaped, looked at the scene with silent amazement.
"There is a darn cold wind blowing through your finances", he remarked.
De la Croix, visibly sweating and resolved to take the day laborer to task later, turned to the plump man and reassuringly raised his hands.
"Don't worry, we still have time. I will find him again later. We will arrive together at the Humanist Assembly tomorrow, I promise."
Ambroise gave him a skeptical look.
"De la Croix, that will be your last chance, seriously. First you talk about a break-through and then you present this. You are lucky nobody except me witnessed that."
"Of course, Ambroise, but don't worry, I will think of something. That#s what our clique is known for, after all."
The day laborer behind him started to get weak knees in a dark premonition when de la Croix closed the door again and crushed the iron wrought door handle seemingly without noticing…

Nexus, ???

The Reader knows that probably. Some views are so incredible that ones jaw drops as a first reaction. Examples for this are the own living quarters that got newly and better rearranged by other people or the cheating of the own spouse.
For Chloe some plate-sized eyes were thrown in as she now entered the Nexus for the first time whilst fully conscious.
Elli had described it to her as a space ship but if this was true, it had to be an extremely huge space ship because there was a blue sky and a sun that shined through some clouds. Chloe walked on soft grass connecting to a gravel path. That one lead to the probably strangest house she had ever seen.
For starters, there was the painting. The house did not have an uniform color but had been painted in the most diverse colors and patterns. The whole thing could be best described as a rainbow who had decided that it didn't want to be like the other rainbows. The architect seemed to have reached a similar decision because the house with its six floors and several small towers turned and warped itself in the most impossible shapes. And everything here appeared so incredibly real. More real than Chloe herself…
"Is- Is that your house?"
Elli besides her, took a sip from her flask right now and therefore did not answer immediately.
"Sure, build it myself. Do you like the painting?"
Chloe nodded, although the house appeared strange to her.
"Were you sober when building this?"
Elli just chuckled.
"Nah, why?"
"Just asking… So, this is your spaceship?"
Elli seemed to be confused for a moment before understanding flashed on her face.
"What? No. I just said you should imagine the Nexus like a spaceship. But that was just an aide. This here is something different than a vehicle. This here is my own little private dimension. Here I can do whatever I want."
"Well, it sure is easy without an regulatory office."
Elli amusedly raised an eyebrow and then pulled a violet out of her nose.
"You think in to small dimensions. Look at this."
Chloe, who was walking right now, flinched when her feet suddenly did not feel any ground anymore. She looked down confusedly and realized that she was slowly tilting backwards.
Two centimeters above ground.
"Wha-"
"This is zero-gravity", Elli explained with both feet still on the ground. "Having fun?"
Chloe helplessly flailed her arms and legs. She did not say a thing but on her face increasing panic appeared. Elli frowned her brows.
"Hm, I did imagine this differently…"
She aligned Chloe correctly again and pressed her back on the ground. The girl affirmed with relief, that she was affected by gravity again.
It took a short while until she recovered from this shock.
"You can really do everything here?"
Elli nodded.
"It is possible because of the special properties of the Nexus. But unfortunately I cannot take anything I create in here to other universes. When a creation of mine leaves the Nexus they immediately stop existing. Quite annoying because I cannot eat anything I create here. Would I go then, I would lose a considerable portion of my body. Even the air in here I had to import from somewhere else…"
They reached the door of the house. Before Elli could grasp the door, it got opened from the other side by a Dean that had apparently entered a contest for the best cleaning woman. He wore a blue apron with green flowers, a purple head scarf and two rubber gloves. In his right hand, he held a floor bucket, mop included.
"Oh, hello Chloe. I am cleaning up right now."
"Forget cleaning, Dean", Elli put him off. "We have to sightsee. In France. At the start of the nineteenth century."
Dean rolled his eyes.
"It was very dirty back then… Elli, that will have to wait until I got the house-"
Elli snapped her fingers. Not much changed, except that the water in there floor bucket was now way more dirty. And the interior of the house appeared way more clean…
"You should do that more often, Elli", Dean remarked. "Or finally calibrate the Nexus so nothing gets dirty anymore."
"Then I won't get you out of here ever again", Elli remarked and pushed Chloe past Dean into the house.
"Get yourself time period ready, I take care of Chloe. And dispose of the water."
"Yes, my master", was the response Dean gave with a robotic voice before he turned around shaking his head and walked away.
"Ho- Hold on! Where are we going?", Chloe asked, while being guided through the mind-bending corridors and halls of the house by Elli. The floor partly warped into spirals, sometimes they walked on the ceiling and one time they even walked through a wall.
"Well, if you go to the past in your clothes you will have to face some questions. Therefore, we will change quickly.", Elli explained and opened the door to the probably biggest wardrobe in the universe.
The room could impossibly fit into the house it was located in, it was just to big. Elli seemed to possess enough clothes to outfit the entire population of Earth. Chloe saw casual clothing, historical garments from all possible eras, including some sewn together rags of animal skin, probably fashionable in the Stone Age. Then, there were clothes with designs completely new to her like a blue cape with erected, long prongs on the collar, a dress that appeared like a machine and a garment that looked like Elli had to feed it regularly. In addition to that there were some rather absurd artifacts like for example a bear costume, a space suit, beekeeper equipment and, Chloe blushed in shame at the view, swim suits which fabric assumably did not even suffice to cover a small saucer.
While Chloe starred at the myriads of clothing, Elli pulled out a rather simple dress without sleeves and put a red cloth on it. With it came a pair of shoes that had to be fastened with straps at the calves. Chloe saw straightaway that Ellis plan had a fatal flaw.
"Elli, that is way to big for me."
Elli stopped briefly and seemed to measure Chloe with her eyes. All of the sudden, the piece of clothing shrunk down to a size fitting for Chloe.
"Problem solved", she proclaimed with a grin.
"Wha- Elli, did you not say beforehand that nothing you create in here can exist outside of the Nexus? I will be in my underwear on the street once we arrive!"
"Now, slow down", demanded Elli. "I did not create, quite the opposite, I annihilated. The dress remains, even if you leave the Nexus."
Chloe became uneasy.
"You did not have to trim one of your dresses for me. You will not get that back in its original size, won't you?"
Elli declined.
"I have to much clothes anyway, and you won't believe how cheap that one was."
"Cheap is certainly still pretty expensive. It looks valuable."
"And it is, that is muslin made from silk. You do not have to concern yourself about the price. I stole it."
There was a short silence.
"WHAT?"
"I told you, you wouldn't believe it. Don't worry, the vendor in the universe I got this from had other problem two ours later anyway. In Marseille over there the war against the squirrels suddenly broke out."
Chloe could only stare in disbelief.
"Yes, squirrels, Chloe. Those little pricks are far more intelligent than you think. Decided in that universe to become the dominant species of the planet. I think they even were successful, hm…"
Chloe still only starred at Elli. Elli put on a strict look.
"Chloe, in the multiverse there are almost no things that do not exist. I already visited universes that were made entirely out of porn mags or where the Earth was ruled by a school of mackerels. It really is not less believable than standing in a small dimension you entered through your closet, is it not?"
Chloen remained silent but her face expressed reflective agreement.
"There we go, so, I've got a changing room here somewhere. Take this and put it on, we will meet with Dean at the entrance in a minute."

"A minute" became a marginally longer timespan because Chloe didn't know how such clothes had been worn. A little bit later, Elli came to her in a similar outfit, it was just that her cloth was blue. First, she grinned knowingly before she frowned her brows.
"What have you done with your arms?"
The question was directed towards some scabbed weals on her lower arms.
"Got stuck on a wire mesh fence", Chloe explained.
She didn't know anymore when exactly it happened but if she remembered correctly, she had overeagerly tried out a new short-cut to her home…
"Hm…", came it from Elli .
She helped Chloe to get into her dress correctly and afterwards, guided her to a room meant for cosmetics. A fact Chloe realized only after an extensive examination. The clueless observer would have thought of it as a chemistry lab.
"Do you only have big rooms for everything?", Chloe asked slightly bewildered.
"Sure, wait until you see the walkable fridge."
Elli meanwhile mixed together some sort of translucent pomatum she applied to the wound. The stuff immediately took on color and structure of her skin. The scab couldn't be seen beneath it anymore.
"We want to look at least a little bit pretty, don't we?", Elli said. "Let it dry for a short moment, it will hold until your next shower. It's biodegradable."
After this cosmetic emergency care, both made their way back to the entrance using a similarly confusing way and met Dean there. Chloe had to force herself to not start snorting with laughter because he looked just ridiculous. His pants were pulled up to the waist, he wore uncomfortable looking calf-high boots and something that looked like the ancestor of the tailcoat. It had a collar that reached up to his ears.
He looked scrutinizing at both of them.
"Elli, your purse."
Elli looked to her carried black purse and rolled her eyes.
"Nobody will notice that, Dean. Now that you are mentioning it…"
Elli pulled a small metal cross out of her purse and gave it to Chloe. Then she gave Dean another one and herself.
"What is that?", Chloe asked.
"That is an AAT", was the explanation. "An Anti-Attention-Talisman. It ensures that people overlook us but it doesn't make us invisible. It eases our advancement but is useless when somebody is concentrating on us, for example because we drew his attention. So, make sure to barge into no one and talk to nobody who should better leave us alone."
"I see…"
"Good", Elli rejoiced rubbing her hands. "And here we gooooo!"
In front of them a portal manifested in thin air and took on a rectangular form.

France, Paris, 1801

Chloe found herself in an alley way. At the moment, the portal obstructed the backdoor to a pub and lead to a muddy cobbled street. Who came after them last from the Nexus, gave Elli a reproachful look.
"While you were changing I picked a proper entrance point. Had we arrived on the main street, there would have been to much turmoil", Elli explained while closing the Nexus.
"I had just cleaned those shoes…", Dean exclaimed angrily, while the trio exited the alley way and dove into the bustling life of the town.
"We should be in the year 1801 here, Paris. Difficult to recognize because the Eifel Tower will only be build in eighty-five years. Until the Arc de Triomphe five remain", Elli started.
Chloe lended her only half an ear. There were many sensations to take in.
Most prominent was the smell that caused Dean to take the hand in front of his mouth. Take a fitness room and add a note of equine manure then the reader will get an impression of the scent that drifted over the streets. Chloe knew through her research that people had not washed all that much in this time but this surpassed all of her expectations.
With her translation sticker she understood what was said and yelled on the streets. Some rich looking men discussed Napoleon's efforts to win the former Jocobins for himself, two women conferred about the optimal method of doing laundry, a merchant advertised wares from the colonies and a bunch of children played tag on the street.
None of the pedestrians acknowledged them.
"Awful over here, isn't it?", Dean asked slightly annoyed. "Look at the hair of this guy over there, to much arsenic and lead."
The comment was directed to a man with very unhealthy looking head hair.
Suddenly, Chloe realized something.
"Wait, we are in the past, aren't we?"
"Dean", Dean confirmed.
"Because of that, shouldn't we look out so we don't change the future?"
"That's the thing with time", Dean explained. "As long as you don't do things with farreaching consequences, everything is fine. For example, Elli won't march off to kill Napoleon, although that would possibly save fivehundredthousand soldiers from dying in Russia. But you can go into that pub over there and order stew with a clear conscience."
"What happens when I-"
More Chloe couldn't say because crowd of people suddenly pushed past them and threatened to take them with it. Chloe felt reassured how Dean's hand closed around hers. It took a while but then the street was free again.
"Thanks, Dean", Chloe said. "Elli, where exactly are we going anyw- Elli?"
Chloe and Dean, too, looked around, searching. Elli was nowhere to be seen.
Her face took on a shocked expression.
"Oh- Oh no", Chloe exclaimed. "Dean, what are we going to do now? What if something happens to Elli?"
"Elli can watch out for herself, even if she has dangerously high blood alcohol levels", was the dry answer.
"And what are we doing now? Back to the Nexus?"
Dean shook his head.
"Only Elli can open the Nexus. But we have an emergency plan for such situations. Look, we will do the following…"

De la Croix hastened through the streets. In his hand was a small compass-like device with which he could locate soul energy. But the problem was that it did not work like a real compass and more like a blood hound that hat to follow a trail. The Gentleman already had to heave himself over walls, squeeze through fences and maneuver through houses to not lose the trail. His wardrobe looked accordingly worn. Everywhere was dirt and he had lost two buttons but he had to find his subject at any cost. Now he slowly came closer, because the swing of the needle became stronger.
And then it suddenly changed directions…
De la Croix came to a stop, confused. He slapped twice against the device. No, things remained like they were, the direction in which the trail went had changed. All in itself this was only logical, because the escapee had to run around corners but normally the curve of the trail wasn't that sharp…
As he proceeded into the direction shown before, his suspicions where confirmed. Something that emitted more soul energy than his creation had crossed his way. Like this, his trail had been wiped away because the needle would now always align itself with this better trail. What a pile of crap! He had to procure something he could present, somehow! De la Croix decided to follow the trail because with some luck the wanted one had joined the unknown one. And if not… Then he would have to //improvise/…
While he made a move one question stuck in his head: What could emit so much energy?

"..and that's why lower class families eat from one collective bowl", Elli concluded her lecture.
She turned around to her companions, looking for applause but didn't find them anywhere.
Her first reaction to this was a good sip from her flask.
The next was to evade a cart that would have almost ran her over. She angrily showed the driver her middle finger before it came back to her that she wore an AAT. Following this, she tried to neutralize her rude gesture with a peace sign. Not that somebody had noticed.
In such cases, the emergency plan, therefore, she started a straight march, or better, totter.
This was annoying. Hopefully this did not ruin the tour for Chloe.
She took a turn into a side alley to make a shortcut but only cleared half of it…
Elli only heard how somebody stepped behind her. She put her hand into her purse but wasn't fast enough to prevent a knife from being held against her neck. At the same time, a very cold hand grabbed her at the shoulder.
"I need your money", a voice whispered, whose owner seemingly had difficulties moving his lungs.
Probably terminally ill, would explain the hand.
"And if I don't have money?", Elli asked tentatively, while her hand in her purse wrapped around the wanted object.
"Don't lie, you are to clean for that."
"Thanks for the compliment but if you try to mug someone, you have to watch out for one thing…"
Her hand sprung out of her purse while her neck leaned in the opposite direction. The knife, which immediately moved up, was parried by the handle of her frying pan she had pulled from her purse. Following this, Elli rammed the elbow of her other arm where she expected the solar plexus of her robber to be. What she hit felt to a suspicious degree like the targeted body region but prompted no reaction. On the contrary, despite Elli's struggle, the hand with the knife pressed down with inhuman force and reestablished contact with Elli's neck.
"Actually, I wanted to say you should watch out for where your victim has its hands but what the Hell are you?"
Elli turned her head tentatively and caught a glimpse of a face that seemed to stem from a nightmare.

Next time on Nexus:
The Better Man? Part 2

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