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March 2020 Ficlet Challenge
‘The consensus of computer systems favor a course deviation to avoid contact. In this environment, it is prudent to treat any unexplained phenomenon as potentially dangerous.’ Zen - Terminal

The word prompt this month is … PRUDENCE.

The state of being careful in the way you make decisions or spend money so that you avoid unnecessary risks, or simply a girl’s name.

For the second challenge:

Entering the orbit of an unfamiliar planet, the crew starts to behave strangely...

My apologies for being a day late.
Blake smiled, or as close to a smile as he got these days. “You’ll do it then?”

Jenna huffed a sigh. “One more run, but this has to be the last. There are too many gunships now. Sooner or later they will have enough to cover all the approach vectors.”

“This will be your last run, I promise.”

“Why make another run at all?”

Blake began to pace. “There’s a group of renegades who have been giving the Federation no end of hell. They’ve all but ruined the pacification program single handed.”

Jenna nodded. “So… soon it will be time to strike. So… one more run.”

Blake ceased his pacing, offering no farewell. Jenna studied his face. “There’s more, isn’t there.”

“They’ll be coming here.”

“How can you be sure?” Jenna’s eyes widened. “Don’t tell me you contacted them? The Federation monitors all frequencies around Gauda Prime. If you…”

Blake held up a hand. “The Federation will never decode this message. It was nothing more than a subtle hint for Orac.”

“It’s Avon, then.”

Blake studied her face. “I thought you’d be surprised, or at least pleased.”

“Can you trust him? Can you trust the people he’s with?”

Blake had the decency to look contrite. “You know firsthand how careful I’ve been.”

“More tests?” Jenna’s hands found her hips. “You know I nearly shot you.”

Blake spread his palms in a sign of surrender. “Yes, AFTER you found out it was a test. And you taught me a lesson. I won’t test Avon.”

Jenna knew him too well. “But you will test his crew.”

“We can’t be too careful.”

Jenna frowned. “What if he trusts his crew more than he trusts you? After all, it’s been years.”

“But he is still Avon and I am still Blake.”

“Are you? The Blake I knew learned to take nothing for granted after Gan’s death.”

“And thus, the tests.”

Jenna cracked a smile. “Touché. I’ll be off.”

Blake held out a hand. “Do you have a contingency plan if you run into gunships, some sort of escape plan.”

Jenna broke eye contact. “Some sort of escape, yes. I hope I don’t have to use it.”

“Be careful, then.”

Jenna scoffed, “You send me out to run the blockade and tell me to be careful?”

“Be prudent, then.”

“You, too. Remember, I almost shot you.”

Nice one, Brad.
As you may have noticed these ficlets are linking into an impromptu serial: The Story So Far... Trapped on the planet of Valspar Minor, Avon, Dayna and Tarrant are being hunted for public entertainment, the proceedings being overseen by a ‘neutral’ Servalan. Cally, alerted to this by Vila and Orac, is about to launch a rescue attempt...

Cally teleported down near the field that had been shown in the viscast; quickly, she scanned her surroundings, gun at the ready, to see if her arrival had been noted. It seemed safe enough, however; all was deserted. Apparently the show had moved on. More worryingly, there was no sign of the others.

“Avon?” She cautiously tried to make contact, but got no response. “Dayna? Tarrant?” Still nothing. “Vila?”

“Yes?” The answer at least proved the problem was not with her own bracelet.

“They aren’t here. I’m going to find them. Make sure you stay by the teleport; we might need you to bring us up quickly.”


Cally began her search carefully, aware that if the hunters on the trail of her crewmates spotted her, she was likely to become a target herself. A wooded area ahead offered possible shelter; reasoning that she was hardly likely to find the others in the open, she made her way towards it.

Sure enough, there was movement amongst the trees. Concealing herself as best she could, she waited. Two men in uniform appeared; unfamiliar, not Federation black. Both carried guns. Some of the hunters, she assumed, shrinking back further. A rustle from behind her warned she was not the only one watching; turning, she found herself looking at Avon.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded.

“Looking for you. We saw the viscast...”

“Then you’ll know we can’t stand talking. Where’s Vila?”

“Working the teleport.”

“They took our bracelets,” Avon pointed out.

“I brought spares,” Cally reassured him. He nodded.

“Then prudence would seem to suggest we leave. Immediately.”

“Dayna and Tarrant?”

“Over there.” Avon led the way; Cally, following, could not shake the feeling of being watched.

“Avon?” The first shot was fired as she began her warning. “Look out!”

* * *

By the teleport, Vila was worried. If Cally couldn’t find the others; or if she was caught too... he was all alone, and...

“Think of something else,” he muttered. Then, uncertainly, “Orac? That stuff they drink down there... it’s not really poisonous, like Tarrant said, is it?”

“I fail to see why such a possibility would concern you, given your propensity to consume liquids known to be poisonous to humans when taken in sufficient quantity...”

“I don’t feel well.”

“It is not poisonous. Of course, if another substance were to be added, that might alter matters considerably.”

Vila suddenly remembered Purnell handling the drinks, and felt worse than ever. Orac, oblivious, carried on,

“In that case symptoms could range from mild illness to death...”

“Shut up, Orac!” Vila snatched the key out; there was a whine, then silence. “Are you trying to make me...” He closed his eyes and swallowed, but it was no good; scrambling to his feet, he fled from the teleport section.

* * *

Avon and Cally had begun to run as soon as they realised they had been spotted; rejoining the others, they hurriedly handed out the spare teleport bracelets.

“Vila, bring us up,” instructed Avon. Nothing happened. “Now, Vila!” he shouted as their pursuers came into firing range once more.

There was still no response.

“So much for our prudent retreat,” Avon snarled. “Run!”
Great stories, JustBrad and Stormypetrel! They both kept me entertained on my boring bus ride home. I love these ficlet challenges, I love seeing what everybody comes up with!
Brad, that was just super. Hit me right in the feels. So good.

Stormy, your impromptu series is so much fun! I especially love the dialogue between Vila and Orac. Can't wait to see what happens next. Smile
M1795537 OC Virn
Not one of my best, but it's a start. Sorry, Purple, I've taken a few liberties...

On Mount Olympus, the gods were becoming bored. Zeus/Jove/Thor/The Big Cheese was worried. He didn’t want any of the others starting a feud of some sort, just to pass the time. It made such a mess. Apparently the Virtues had gone for a walk. Except Prudence, of course. She stayed... just in case.
He looked down to see what his humans were up to today. The Earth was quiet, apart from the usual volcano or two, left over from previous spats.
The seas were looking untidy, somehow. What was that floating mass of garbage? I didn’t do that, he grumbled to himself. Someone down there was being careless. He hadn’t bothered to note what the humans had been inventing recently. Plastics so soon? How long had it been since he last checked – in person?
Prudence came closer, seeing his frown.
“Can I help?” she asked sweetly, hoping to forestall an outburst.
“Perhaps, “ he answered, “Just pop down there and find out what’s going on, will you?”

“Immortality? They’re still trying to steal it?”
“Er, not so much steal, as work up to,” Prudence explained carefully, not wanting to cause alarm, “Humans are living a lot longer than they used to. They have something called ‘medicine’. It seems to help.”
“There are limits,” the chief god answered grumpily. “My limits. Anything else?”
“Well -“ she tried to find a gentle way of putting it, “Humans no longer pay much attention to what we do up here. They invented something called ‘internet', which takes up most of their thinking nowadays.”
“Oh, really?” Zeus/Jove/Thor/The Big Cheese was angered, “Well, I’ll soon put a stop to that.” He rose and went forth. Prudence followed, just in case.

What he discovered left him all but speechless. It was much worse than she’d said. Everywhere, people were busy with their lives, not even acknowledging the gods. And the place was a mess.
“They need a good seeing-to!” he roared, making Prudence cover her ears, “Shazzam!”
And thus covid 19 arrived, making everything much tidier and quieter, everywhere. Olympians were no longer kept awake all night by the noise of aeroplanes, and even the air smelled cleaner. He made sure the new disease affected the adults most, because they were the ones who’d made the mess. Sadly, he didn’t know much about computers, even after his ‘Silver Surfer’ course, so the humans were still able to contribute to their ‘forums’.
“Er, I think there’s something you may have missed, “ Prudence was struggling now, “There’s talk of cancelling the Olympics.”
“Cancel us? They can’t do that!”
But it was so.
You're not sulking, I hope?
OC Virn, that was funny! I love the idea of Zeus also being known as The Big Cheese! And the idea of the feuding Gods making “such a mess”!
Cygnus Bazza
Highly entertaining and extremely timely, M1 - nothing less than a parable for these times.

And full marks for avoiding any gags about the human race finding itself feta'ed.
Well, here we are. Sorry it's taken a bit of time, but Lurena has had to be sneaky about getting her piccies to me. Just imagine her creeping about her home town in Holland to the tune of the Pink Panther!!!

A Time to be Prudent

“Why do you keep everything to yourself? Why so secretive?” Dayna had asked all that time ago.
“Perhaps because I’m shy…” he had replied and as he stared into the flickering flames, trying to put his thoughts into some sort of order, he began to consider just how he had come to this moment in time? Stranded on a planet with no way off and three companions all looking to him to get them out of this mess.
Even Orac was incapable of help. It was damaged and there was no way to repair it.
Avon began to consider his options…

At one time he had worked on some of the Federation’s most important projects; keeping himself aloof from the others around him. It had made him appear arrogant and maybe even cold.
But all that had changed when Anna had come into his life. She had made him determined to make a better life for both of them….and it had cost him dear.
And he had then made up his mind not to allow anyone into his life again; to erect a shell about him and be far more prudent with his dealings with anyone else.
And then he had met Blake…
That meeting had led to a gradual chipping away of the shell that he had built about himself and despite his best intentions that shell had begun to break down.
Oh he had tried to deflect any criticism of his seemingly uncaring attitude, “I have never understood why it should be necessary to become irrational to show that you care,” he had said once. As far as he was concerned that was true.
He had cared once and it had cost him dear.
But now, he was wondering if his lack of self discipline in that respect was, perhaps, the reason why he had lost the ship; Cally and maybe why he was marooned on this hostile man made world.
He dare not meet their questioning eyes.
He had got them into this.
His total lack of prudence was the reason for their predicament.
He recalled Gan asking, “Did you ever care for anyone?”
Avon had sidestepped that answer; not wanting to commit himself to any response that would reveal anything about himself.
But he did care. Not just about himself, but about these three people who were all looking for him for guidance.
This place was a nightmare.
Maybe it would be prudent to get as far away from this location as possible in case of any other traps laid by Servalan.
Avon sighed. It was useless trying to repair Orac.
“First light, we'll make for the high ground to the south.”
It was the only prudent thing to do…..

Cold.....you don't know the meaning of cold.
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of the window!!!

sues stories http://sjlittle.w...
sues youtube channel http://www.youtub...e54/videos
sues book shelf https://www.media...ne%20Shelf
rebel run video http://www.youtub...prqS-XZtLo
Lara and Sue's Stories http://lectorisal....webs.com/
Nice one, you two!!
And now for the second story...this time a little more lighthearted and once again with another piccie by Lurena The Pink Panther!!!
Sneaking out to THE Building and using an electronic key to get in and send me a scan...yes, our very own Vila!!!

A Sobering Thought

Vila’s contemplation of the precious bottle of Brandy was abruptly brought to a halt as the ship lurched wildly. It took all of his juggling skills to keep the Brandy bottle from falling out of his hands and onto the hard, cabin floor.
He waited tentatively to see if the ship would go off kilter again…but it didn’t. He wondered what he should do and was worried that no -one had called down from the Flight Deck for help. He bit his lip; what if they had been boarded?
“Oh dear,” he thought. Heroics weren’t really his forte, but he couldn’t just sit here, in the safety of his cabin? Could he?
He took a couple of large swigs from the bottle; the Brandy was good; very good.
Somehow it strengthened his resolve….
Despite his misgivings, he would have to go and find out exactly what was wrong.

The first sight that met him was Cally, in the corridor, in an upside down yoga position...and she was blowing bubbles…

He headed to the galley and was greeted by the sight of Avon delightfully tossing a pancake and watching with glee as it stuck to the ceiling. There were others on the bulkhead. Vila decided to leave Avon to it and quietly made his way along the corridor.

The sight that greeted him on the Flight deck was equally compelling as well as confusing. Blake and Gan were engaged in an arm wrestling match and by the look of both men, this battle had been going on for some time.
And then there was Jenna, at her station and beaming with delight.
“Jenna, what’s going on?” he asked tentatively.
“Another 180 degree handbrake turn; that’s what’s going on…” she informed him, before gripping the controls.
“Hold tight. This one is going to be fantastic…”
Vila did exactly that as the ship powered forward and lurched again.
Suddenly he saw Orac on the floor.
He scrambled over.
“Orac, what is happening?”
+It would appear that the system the Liberator is currently traversing has a planet which is able to exert a force of which I am not familiar. It is most fascinating,+
“But what about the others? What’s got into them?”
+Indeed, their behaviour has become most erratic…+
“Almost drunk, if you ask me.”
+A most interesting comparison.+
“I’m glad you think so. But why haven’t I been affected?”
+I believe it has something to do with that alcoholic beverage that you have been imbibing…+
“Are you saying I’m drunk?”
+On the contrary; it is because your senses have been dulled by that Brandy that the planet has not affected you.”
“You're saying that because I’m drunk…I’m sober?”
+Precisely. +
“But what brought the Liberator to this region?”
+You requested Zen to locate more of that Brandy. It is doing as you requested. +
“How long are they going to be like this?”
+You merely instruct the Zen Computer to take another course and the crew will, ahem, sober up. +
Vila thought for a moment; it was a sobering thought. One that humoured him.
But no, he couldn’t leave them in this condition.
Vila sighed.
“Zen. Abort the current course and take us away from this planet…now!”
Cold.....you don't know the meaning of cold.
Cold is when you have ice on the INSIDE of the window!!!

sues stories http://sjlittle.w...
sues youtube channel http://www.youtub...e54/videos
sues book shelf https://www.media...ne%20Shelf
rebel run video http://www.youtub...prqS-XZtLo
Lara and Sue's Stories http://lectorisal....webs.com/
In the crowded mess hall, the construction grades usually ate in silence. The reason was threefold: firstly, they were too hungry to talk; secondly, they only had fifteen minutes for lunch; and lastly it gave them an opportunity to listen in on the conversations of the officers who, with thirty-minute breaks, had more time to gossip.

As usual, Coles was the first to finish and sat nursing his beaker of water. He gave a slight snort of derision.

“Liberator again!” He muttered. How many more times-?”
“They have thrown everything into capturing this one ship! Why is it so special to them?” Asked Allyn. The older man sitting opposite him chuckled.
“Well, the Liberator is fast, sophisticated and attractive,” he said. “Judging by the women I’ve seen you with, those are three things you wouldn’t understand.” Coles and Jarvik both grinned down at their plates. Allyn flushed a little.
“They’re a step up from your mother,” he retorted.
“He’s got a point, Nossel,” said Coles.
“How would you know? You’ve never even met my mother!”
“No, you prat, I mean he’s got a point about the Liberator!” Said Coles, exasperated. “How many ships and men have we lost for just this one ship? It may be fast and advanced but is it really worth all this effort?”
“No,” answered Jarvik, finally looking up from his empty plate. “The ship alone isn’t worth it; what makes it such a great prize of war isn’t the ship itself, but the people inside.”
“You mean Blake? I thought he was missing?”
“He is,” answered Jarvik. “But he isn’t the only rebel wanted by the Federation, is he? Avon, for one, Tarrant for another. Neither of those two are to be underestimated.”
“Neither is Servalan,” Said Nossel. “Have you ever met her?”
“No, but I don’t need to. That lot have told me all I need to know about her.” He nodded towards the next table. They all pretended to be drinking while they listened to the officers’s conversation. After a minute, Jarvik sat back in his chair.

“I can tell you why they haven’t captured that damned ship yet,” he said. “It’s because they’ve grown lazy. They’re letting their tactical computers do all the work. If they actually pitched their own wits against the Liberator’s crew instead of the Liberator itself they might get somewhere.”
“What are you talking about? Servalan is trying to capture the crew as well as the ship! She’s fighting Tarrant and Avon all the time!”
Jarvik laughed, much too loudly. “You call this fighting? Servalan won’t face the likes of Tarrant if she can get her computers and officers to do it for her! She knows perfectly well she may end up coming off worst. I’ll give her this, she understands where the danger is.”
“And where is that?” Asked Allyn, igniting the warning look from Coles.
“Not with the Liberator, I can tell you. Anybody could take the Liberator with three pursuit ships.”
“You’re exaggerating-“
“No, I’m not! You could do it, he could do it, any fool could! It’s not the Liberator’s power, it’s about the brains of the people piloting it. Servalan fears Tarrant, and his experience. The problem is, she thinks that her tactical computers are better than him. She’s wrong. They calculate, they don’t think!”
“That’s enough!” Snapped Nossel, with a half-fearful glance at the next table. They seemed to have gone unusually quiet. “Break’s over, back to work everybody.” Everybody reluctantly got up. As Jarvik turned to go Nossel spoke to him in a low voice.

“You may think you understand combat and tactics, but what you don’t understand is prudence.” He warned. “That is dangerous talk. If you keep shooting your mouth off like that in public places, you’re going to get yourself into serious trouble.”
Cygnus Bazza
Thought I'd have a first dart at this ficlet thing:

“I’m not dispensable, I’m not stupid – and I’m not touching it.”

Avon’s face was a picture.

“Avon, your face is a picture,” Jenna chortled. “But I take your point. I wouldn’t touch it either. What if it responded to body heat and emitted a stream of noxious mesons, unstable ‘up’ quarks or a really bad pong?”

Avon pursed his lips. Then he stopped doing it because it looked indecisive. And that was simply unacceptable.

“Well, now’s our chance to see if it responds to stupidity…” he muttered, parading his finest fourth-form-bully smirk.

“Hey, what am I missing?” enquired Vila, ambling in with the slightly lopsided grin of a man who’d just polished off a whole bag of soma gums without having to offer them to people he didn’t want to share them with.

(The last time he’d bowed to social convention and made that specific schoolboy error, Gan had snatched the entire bag and wouldn’t give it back.)

“Missing?” grinned Avon. “Nothing. Nothing at all. Except perhaps…an OPPORTUNITY!”

“An OPPORTUNITY?” A quizzical look swept over Vila’s features but was instantly banished by a deeply furrowed brow. “That sounds dangerous…”

“No, no, not at all!” Jenna interjected, striding over and laying a reassuring hand on his arm. “No, it’d only be dangerous if Avon said it was a CHALLENGE!”

“Challenge? Opportunity?” Vila retorted as he reclaimed his arm, which was still every bit as un-reassured as the rest of him. “I’ve just checked my mental thesaurus and, yes….they both mean TROUBLE…”

Turning on his heels – and briefly losing balance as his gastric juices broke down more soma gums and sent them hurtling into his rapidly addling bloodstream – he made towards the door. But as his eyes darted anxiously towards Avon, he stopped in his tracks. (Other people’s tracks simply weren’t available at such short notice.)

“What’s that?” he asked, anxiety yielding to a thief’s natural curiosity. “On that table over there…”

“We don’t know,” Avon replied. “I found it in an old bag someone had very helpfully dumped at the bottom of my walk-in bondage wardrobe. Or C-deck as it’s otherwise known.”

“Well, I wouldn’t touch it…” Vila advised, edging tentatively towards Avon and what had been in the bag at the bottom of Avon's walk-in bondage wardrobe.

“Yes, I got that bit!” spat Avon. “Prudence is my middle name.”

“Mix-up at the font?” A nervous smile flashed across Vila’s face, fleeing again before the chill blast of Avon’s icy gaze – a gaze that glittered like shards of a Fox’s Glacier Mint crushed under foot.

“I just want someone to poke it and see what happens,” Avon explained with transparently forced patience.

“Your chat-up lines aren’t getting any better…” Vila retorted, edgily.

“This isn’t getting us anywhere!” exclaimed Jenna as she turned back to Avon. “So if Vila’s not dumb enough to poke it, what’s the solution?”

Avon smiled. “Desperate times call for obvious measures,” he grinned, striding over towards the open door.

“Gan? Gan? GAN? GAN!!! I think I know where Vila’s hidden his bag of soma gums…”
Great stories, everyone. Nicely timed for a spot of fireside reading.

Now- after much thought as to how I could possibly fit prompt no.2 into the accidental serial...

* * *

“We can’t keep this up.” The truth in Dayna’s words was apparent; it was, at best, a delaying tactic for the Liberator crew to continue trying to outrun their pursuers through an unfamiliar forest.

“Then what do you suggest?” inquired Tarrant.

“That.” Avon’s interruption was unexpected; they looked where he was pointing. Beyond them, in the open, lay a battered but intact craft.

“A two-seater Spacemaster?” Tarrant identified it at once.

“If you object so strongly, you could cut down the overcrowding...”

Tarrant’s objections did not extend that far. They somehow managed to reach the ship safely, allowing themselves a moment’s respite as the door closed.

“If it doesn’t work...” Tarrant was already heading for the controls.

“It may not have to,” Cally pointed out, trying her bracelet once more. “Vila, come in.” There was no response.

“Asleep; or drunk.” Tarrant’s disparagement was automatic. He fought their unlikely craft into life. “Right. Hold on, everyone.”

“There’s not enough room for us to go anywhere!” retorted Dayna, wedged into a corner.

They saw, rather than heard, shots being fired as the little ship lifted; but apparently nothing fatal was hit.

“Put us into orbit, and then we’ll dock with the Liberator,” instructed Avon.

“And deal with Vila,” added Dayna threateningly. She smiled suddenly, relaxing into her corner, then giggled as the ship bounced. Cally and Avon stared at her oddly.

“Avon, something isn’t right.” Cally looked dismayed as she realised that Avon, too, seemed unnaturally happy.

“Stop worrying,” he said easily. The prospect was attractive, Cally admitted; the atmosphere on board more relaxed than the Liberator had been recently... She tried, with difficulty, to concentrate. Dayna was now giggling helplessly, while Avon looked suspiciously as if he would join her at any moment. Tarrant was sitting at the controls in a manner rather too relaxed to inspire any confidence in his piloting. Somehow this worried Cally less than she thought it should.

“Tarrant,” she began.

“Approaching orbit,” he said cheerfully. His head lolled back; he smiled, and closed his eyes.

“Tarrant!” Cally made an effort. “Wake up!” Tarrant appeared to find this entertaining; Cally, fighting the urge to join in his laughter, turned to Avon, who was grinning inanely to himself. “Avon, something’s wrong. There is something- something in the atmosphere, affecting us.”

Avon nodded, but seemed disinclined to do anything about it until Tarrant opened his eyes once more, stared ahead, and with a yell, caused the ship to veer wildly off course.

“What...” Avon’s smile disappeared.

“There was an asteroid!” yelped Tarrant.

Dayna went into even wilder peals of laughter at this explanation.

“We haven’t even reached orbit yet,” she choked.

“At this rate we never will.” Avon appeared to take hold of himself. “There is no asteroid. Cally’s right; something is affecting us...” He looked dully around the tiny flight deck. “That hissing noise...”

“Gas!” Cally started to laugh as well, whether from the effects of the gas or at the simplicity of the solution.

“Nitrous oxide... rocket propellant,” agreed Avon, still as if he was coming out of some sort of trance. “We’ve got a leak.”

“We must get out.” Somehow Cally controlled herself.

Avon nodded, fighting back his own inappropriate laughter. “Yes. Any suggestions?”
Great story, Stormypetrel! I wonder if there was a nitrous oxide leak on board Scorpio at the end of Gold when Avon began laughing??

And Cygnus Bazza- we have a new one!! Hooray!! *Applauds”. I love the idea of “I just want someone to poke it and see what happens” being used as a chat-up line. And the bit about the glacier mints made me laugh out loud- what a fantastic simile!
Cygnus Bazza
GanMiniMe wrote:

And Cygnus Bazza- we have a new one!! Hooray!! *Applauds”. I love the idea of “I just want someone to poke it and see what happens” being used as a chat-up line. And the bit about the glacier mints made me laugh out loud- what a fantastic simile!

That's very kind - and much appreciated by an apprentice! Just to return the compliment, the big gap in B7 is the fact that we're hardly ever encouraged to see Fed types as actual people, with actual families, real-world worries, gripes, relationships etc. Essentially, people like us, shaped by circumstance. So the way your story adds that extra, missing but absolutely crucial dimension - and challenges the reader to see the whole B7 v Feds scenario from a completely fresh but entirely natural perspective - is absolutely invaluable. That can't be over-stressed! I suppose plugging that gap would have been the difference between B7 being a 'space adventure' and a genuine 'space drama'. And at no time did anyone have to share a bed with Vila!Grin
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