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The "sphere of influence" was a type of imperialism that stopped short of full colonial domination. Imperialist powers would agree among themselves to divide up subject territories, usually without the consent of the dominated peoples involved. Once a power secured recognition of a sphere of influence, it would be free to conduct trade and establish railroads and factories and the like without interference from the other powers. The concept of spheres of influence was first articulated at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885.

Perhaps the most notable use of spheres of influence was in China, which was too big to be colonized outright. Instead, the European nations divided China into spheres of influence, where their traders could establish lucrative monopolies. If a French entrepreneur wanted to trade in the English sphere, he would have to secure England's permission, and vice versa.

"Peter, how could you? After all these years! And Ben. Ben!" She lost focus for a second, but then her rage came rushing back. "Do you realize what you've done to me?"

She could barely hold it together. Her mind was flying in a hundred different directions. She had to get out. Out of his sight.

She imagined him watching all along. Snickering. Did she even know who he was? Everything she thought she knew was a lie. Every fucking detail.

She half ran, half walked into the street. She knew he could follow if he wanted, even without powers. Her legs were too old.

She needed to be away. Away from the lies. Away from the deceit. What was he even doing all this time? She didn't want to think about it. It didn't matter. There wasn't a single thing she could believe out of his mouth.

Not anymore.

***

She's unresponsive. She's been like this for years. Nobody can get through. Doctors, nurses. She thinks they're all trying to play a trick on her.

We tried to help her make friends. People she could identify with. People she could talk to. We assumed once she trusted even one person, we could begin the path of healing.

She never trusted anyone ever again. That became the one truth she could hold on to. That no one could be trusted. It was all wasted effort.

***

I'm sorry, May.

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