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Ficlet Challenges - January 2015


Set by Purplecleric

There was a strong response to Purplecleric's ficlet initiative, with a wide range of stories ranging from humorous to thought-provoking to angst. We're pleased to present the January collection here, in alphabetical order of authors. (NOTE: At his request, the stories by Spaceship Dispatcher have not been included.)

Word Prompt:

Complete the Scene:
The tap-tap of heels heralded Jenna’s arrival on the flight deck of the Liberator. Hastily, Avon cleared the display on his terminal, and as a cover for his guilt, went on the attack.
“You’re late.”



No measure of safety now. The base's blown. We'll have to abandon it. And where to next? Where the hell can we go where the odds favour our survival? If that idiot Tarrant could keep it in his pants we might have... no, irritating though he is, the Alliance was dead before it started.

How... how the hell did she get wind of it, scupper it at the first hurdle? Come on, come on, you're renowned for your logic. Reason it out.

Three possibilities - maybe four...

Zukan told her. If he formed an alliance with the Federation, well, what better way of shoring up his control of the border planets? But why trust her? Why trust her to keep her word? His fleet's a match for anything the Federation can muster. Ally with us and he.... Ah. Resources.... Respectability! Expensive to join with us and fight her, so he gambles. Gambles that he'll get the antidote from the base and be able to manufacture and administer it, so even if she does go back on her word and attack, she won't succeed. If she keeps it, he's avoided war and made himself so rich, powerful and respectable that nothing can touch him. Yes! It's what I would have done, if I didn't know her so well. Ally with her and you're dead within the week, as he discovered. Rich and respectable... wasn't that my dream? 

"Congratulations, Avon, you are showing the rudiments of logical deduction."

Shut up, Orac. Of course that's how it happened except... I can't rule out the possibility that we also have a traitor in our midst. Vila, perhaps? Revenge over Malodar? He'd have to crawl out of the soma bottle and I can't see him having the courage. Dayna hates her too much and I think she sees me as a substitute father. Was that a snort, Orac? Derision doesn't become you. Soolin now... no, she's no traitor. She doesn't have that sort of ambition. Tarrant on the other hand... I've never trusted him and something definitely happened between him and Servalan on Virn. He could be feeding her information about our plans. An ex-Federation Captain without a reasonable explanation for his defection. Hates me, too - he'd love to hand me over to her and watch while her trained thugs experimented on me. Would he betray Dayna, though? The idiot'd probably persuade himself he'd keep her safe. But is he... ruthless enough to devise such a scheme? And what do I do anyway, if he is a traitor? We can't survive without a pilot, can we?

"I assume that is a rhetorical..."

Damn, damn, damn! A good plan, a great plan, our best chance of safety. Where to go from here? And do I dare do anything while the third possibility still exists... that the bitch conditioned me on Terminal. Unlikely, but just possible. Unlikely, because the set up was designed to get her hands on the Liberator and to maroon us on Terminal to die. Possible, because her devious mind might have wanted insurance in case I escaped. And if she did condition me to let her know my plans - it would explain the farce on Zerok and why the blasted woman seems to turn up wherever we go. 

"I can assure you, my scan..."

Yes Orac, I know you claim that I'm not conditioned, just unlucky. Well now, that just leaves the fourth possibility and that's that Ensor programmed you to serve the Federation and you are selling us out to Servalan.

"I must point out that if that was the case, she would hardly be so desperate to get her hands on me. She could access my data banks whenever she chose. Really Avon, do use that much vaunted brain! "

True. True. So I can assume that we do not have a traitor in our midst, that I am of sound mind and that you have not been instilled with the urge to spill our secrets to Servalan. What do we do next? Run away and hide? Not practical - finding resources with the Federation breathing down our necks is tantamount to suicide. Ally with the Federation? Fine, if we want to find ourselves paraded in front of the masses and executed painfully as an example. So that leaves, ....

"I assume you plan to find a suitable figurehead to front your plan to form an Alliance with the border planets against the pacification programme. Someone who trusts you enough to believe you know what you are doing and that your plan will work. Someone like... Blake, perhaps."

Oh dear God... is that the only way? There must be a better... I can't get dragged into that again...

"Really Avon, if you keep tossing my key about in that frenzied manner you're bound to drop it, and -"

I am perfectly prepared to put a spanner in your works, Orac, if you keep interrupting.


Enough! Gods... What the hell did I do to deserve this? Tarrant's bad enough, but him and Blake? Vila's bound to go whining to him about Malodar and if Jenna's still with him, then the only one I can count on to support me would be Dayna. Soolin... yes, maybe she could be persuaded to stand up to Blake, if his bleeding heart puts us in too much danger. But I'll have to tell them how we lost the Liberator.

"And Cally." 

Yes, thank you, Orac. And Cal...

"Should you be starting on the brandy so early in the day?"

Is it too early to ask you to refrain from interrupting me with your puerile Puritan opinions? May I remind you that your survival is at stake as much as ours if I get this wrong. Think... think... If he's got a base, well that's somewhere to hide and he'll need my expertise. I've got the Stardrive and teleport to trade. He's loved by the rabble and he's persuasive enough to get them wading up to their armpits in blood if we need them to. But his damnable pity, can I stomach that? And that look he gets, that superior moral disapproval when he learns about some of the compromises I've made to survive... You can bet Vila will fall over himself to tell him all about those; him and Tarrant, without any acknowledgement that if it wasn't for me they'd be dead ten times over. Can I trust him anyway? He's never been in touch since he left; for all I know he's been captured and programmed again to betray the rebellion. It's a hell of a risk. And I'll have to tell him about Cal... about Cal....

"Are you well, Avon? I notice your hand seems to be shaking. My data banks have identified this as a symptom of ill-health or emotional..."

Don't be ridiculous. Of course I am well. Just a little tired. Thinking ahead for all of you would fatigue even the Supreme Commander or whatever the hell she's calling herself these days. Oh Gods, you're right. It's the only way to win, and winning is the only safety!

"So you require... you wish... Avon, I cannot hear you if you persist in banging your head against that wall..."

Orac. I'm resolved. Listen to me carefully. I am instructing you to redeem your boast and follow Blake's line through the pattern of infinity... whatever the hell that means. Find me Blake, and find him quickly.


Thank you Orac. Oh God what the hell have I done?




"It is my resolution to fight until free men can think and speak again, until power is back with the honest man," Blake proclaimed.

"You should change your resolution," Jenna retorted and stormed off the flight deck.

"What was all that about?" Blake looked puzzled.

"She was talking about the resolution of your eye," Cally explained, "you only see the big mass of mankind. You should look at individuals instead. In particular one special individual that is indeed very special to us all."

"I do not have the faintest idea what you are talking about!"

Cally sighed. "Yes," she said, "and that is the problem."


Final Warning

The tap-tap of heels heralded Jenna’s arrival on the flight deck of the Liberator. Hastily, Avon cleared the display on his terminal, and as a cover for his guilt, went on the attack.

"You’re late."

"Am I?" She did not seem bothered at all by his unfriendly welcome but continued to walk down the stairs, greeting Avon with a disarming smile. "As a matter of fact, my watch ended a while ago. Don’t you remember?"

Avon suddenly felt uneasy as she came nearer... nearer than she had ever been to him, maybe except in those few hours in the cell on Space World.

"No, you don’t remember. You don’t want to remember. Oh, I should have expected it."

Avon still did not say a word. He was tongue-tied as never before. There was a certain thought, a memory, lurking in the wings of his consciousness, but it did not dare to take centre stage.

"Of course you don’t want to remember, with all your scientific knowledge! You prefer to see only that in which you believe."

She drew even nearer, almost touching him, and nodded in the direction of his console.

"Or is it because you are so occupied with the past?" Again she gave him one of her memorable smiles. Then she lowered her voice as if to underline the seriousness of what she was going to say: "I know what you are doing," she said, "you are trying to find Blake. Don’t go there. It’s a trap!"

For the first time he realised that she was not wearing one of her usual fancy dresses but a drab pilot coverall stained with burn marks. There were even burns on her face. Avon saw his breath freeze. A sudden gust of wind dispersed the cloud. Grasping the opportunity to take his eyes off Jenna, Avon watched the puff of vapour slowly drifting away. When he turned back, Jenna had vanished.

Silent moments went by until at last Avon had regained his composure. "Zen," he ordered, "did you register any unusual events in the past few minutes?"


Avon grimaced at his own slip. His imprecise question was something that Vila might have asked, but not the Federation’s second best computer genius.

"Any presence of life-forms or any temperature drops?" he specified.


He must have fallen asleep for a short while. Only a few weeks ago they had had the eerie encounter with the alien flying tomb, and he was already suspicious of the strange messages that were seemingly sent by Blake. No wonder his subconsciousness had come up with such imagery!

"Run course programme!" he ordered.

Of course he would not abandon his plans just because of a silly dream. Blake was waiting for him, somewhere out there.

The Liberator sailed on towards Terminal.




I ache. I am weary. But I am resolved to continue the fight.

I am resolved to keep my word and hand over the ship. Jenna can come with me if she chooses.

He intercepts me as I reach the flight deck. Nothing is said aloud but everything is said.

"Can you manage?" he asks, knowing what I am doing. "Alone?"


I am resolved to give Avon the absolution he thinks he seeks, even though he knows otherwise.

"Avon... for what it is worth, I have always trusted you. From the very beginning."

He looks at me impassively. He is resolved to give nothing away, but I see the light rise within him.

I need him, but I must show him I keep my word. If he can see I kept my word about the ship, he will know I will keep my word about him. I will trust him whenever he comes back. Whenever he needs trust.

I leave. I am resolved.



The tap-tap of heels heralded Jenna’s arrival on the flight deck of the Liberator. Hastily, Avon cleared the display on his terminal, and as a cover for his guilt, went on the attack. “You’re late.”

Jenna marched to the scanner station, one hand on her hip as she replied to Avon. “I’m sure you dealt with the inconvenience in your usual, stoic fashion.”

Avon stood, stretching the kink from his shoulders. “I expect such irresponsibility from most of the crew, but not from you.”

“You’re such a flatterer. Are we still on course?”

Avon climbed down from his console. “Why wouldn’t we be?”

“Spoken like a man with something to hide.” Jenna suppressed a grin as Avon’s eyes flashed.

Avon paused at the corridor, looking back. “Enjoy the solitude. Try not to fall asleep and fly into a sun.”

Jenna raised an eyebrow as Avon withdrew, whispering to herself, “He’s in an even better mood than usual.”

She turned her eyes to the ship’s computer. “Zen, anything on the long range detectors?”


Jenna huffed a sigh. “Any ships?”


“Thank you, Zen.” As quietly as possible in four inch heels, Jenna climbed the steps to the corridor that led away from the flight deck. It was empty and quiet.

Moving with more speed and only slightly less stealth, she approached Avon’s console, pausing to take one final look over her shoulder before dropping to her knees. She reached under the console, smiling as she pulled a small data crystal from a service com port.

Holding the data crystal before her like a champion lifting her trophy, Jenna returned to her own console. As she plugged the data crystal into her work station, a history log appeared on her display. “It worked, and he didn’t notice, I don’t believe it.”

Her eyes darted to Avon’s work station. She spoke quietly, but as if he were still in the room. “Now we’ll see what you’re up to when you’re in here all alone."

She punched a few buttons and pulled up the last entry, the one he had so hastily wiped from his screen as she entered. She read the page address. “FedFound. The Federations leading service for Lost and Found.”

The display began with a header. Item, lost at Earth Dome 1, apartment 2B, Unity Complex. Substantial Reward. Contact Chevron1@ORAC-LIB.com

Data followed: Views 276. Replies 0.

Finally, there was a link to the item in question:




He stared at the paper again, wondering if it was worth the risk. In his hand was the difference between a certain future on Cygnus Alpha or an uncertain future with him.


Neither prospect was particularly pleasant, especially as within minutes of making his acquaintance, Avon had decided that this man was trouble. It didn’t help that Blake had informed the others exactly what he, Avon, was planning to do.

“Was it wise to put that idea into his head?” the woman called Jenna had asked.

“He’s already thought of it,” Blake had replied.

That news had not gone down too well with the one called Vila.

“Let’s kill him now!” Vila had suggested.

Blake had casually dismissed it, deciding to take some positive action of his own. As far as Avon was Concerned, the hair-brained scheme was destined for disaster. But at least Blake was willing to try.

Whereas he, Avon, was content to wait for the right moment to implement his own plan; the plan which was still staring up at him from the small sheet of paper.

A way out. Possibly a better way out than that being offered by Blake.

Only four of the other prisoners had decided to follow Blake’s lead and go without food or drink to rid themselves of the drugs used to pacify the unwilling cargo on its way to Cygnus Alpha. He too, had decided to abstain, but he was still unsure why. Avon smiled; maybe the scheme being engineered by Blake would succeed.

But should he be part of it? What if it went wrong?

Avon allowed himself a furtive glance in the direction of the guard. Why hadn’t he noticed that one of the prisoners was missing? Any moment now he would, and then Blake’s dream would be over. Maybe it would be best to sit away from the others, just in case the alarm was raised. He returned to gazing at the sheet of paper, the meaning of the schematics known only to him. It was a choice he did not relish…

…The sound of the siren was incessant; demanding his attention.

The sheet of paper slowly evaporated to reveal Blake, his body bloodied and broken at his feet.

Avon felt as if he had suddenly awoken from a nightmare. But it was all too real. He raised his eyes, taking in the scene of carnage that had unfolded about him after he had pulled the trigger.

Jenna’s words echoed in some faraway memory: “Was it wise to put that thought in his head?”

“He’s betrayed us,” Tarrant had said, “Even you, Avon.”

That had sown the seed; had blinded him to Blake’s explanation...

And now only he, Avon, was left standing.

The one who didn’t want to be any part of Blake’s fight against the Federation.
The one who supposedly didn’t care for the honest man.
The one who supposedly cared only for himself.
How wrong they were.

The guards were slowly encircling him. Avon looked down again at Blake.

“Don’t manipulate me, Blake”.

Oh, but he had.

That sheet of paper seemed of little importance now; a once in a lifetime chance to escape this man - gone.

He drew in a deep breath, maybe his last, and stood astride the one person who had trusted him, despite everything. His dilemma was of no consequence; not now. As the shrill siren was silenced, the problem was about to be resolved.

Slowly, he raised his gun…
…and smiled.



A Blake's 7 Word Story
"Get off me Gan!" said Avon flatly.

(Credit to Website Mutoid, From a conversation in a Pub, oh so many years ago...)




Light years
This is the distance between stars. It was the lengths they had travelled and the time it had taken to come this far. So very far. A measurement that was unable to encompass the changes within them or between them.

This is the distance from orbit to planet. The range a dying ship travels to its eventual demise.

This is the distance between forest and the final showdown. The space between woods and would have been. 

This is the distance between friend and foe. It is a fundamental unit of length that fails to define who is what.

This is the distance between barrel and blood. How far a blast travels until it severs the bonds of friendship, until trust and truth and lies and love are beyond measurement.

This is the distance between two men. The distance between betrayal and loyalty; between a friend lost, a friend found, a friend lost again. This is the distance between the shock and the realisation. This is the distance between a sigh and a smile.

And the smallest distance of them all is one so small it has never been measured, never been named.

This is the distance between life and death.


Complete the Scene

The tap-tap of heels heralded Jenna’s arrival on the flight deck of the Liberator. Hastily, Avon cleared the display on his terminal, and as a cover for his guilt, went on the attack.

“You’re late.”

He stalked off, not deigning to wait for her reply. Jenna resisted the urge to poke her tongue out at his retreating back and then turned her attention to his console. What was he up to now?

She fiddled around with commands and settings while her mind explored possibilities. A bolthole was the most probable – he’d made no secret of his wish to leave. And because she was irritated with him, less charitable thoughts crossed her mind; he was selling them out, he was sabotaging the systems. These thoughts fuelled her anger and she imagined even more sinister and increasingly improbable scenarios, her hands working furiously on the keys.

More through luck than skill, the terminal suddenly came to life. 

Jenna’s brow furrowed as she took in the elegant script that scrolled across the screen. “Vintage Delights” the words declared and now her imaginings were taking a stroll down a rather salacious side street. After all, exactly what ‘delights’ would an uptight alpha male with a taste for leather indulge in? It would be just like him to use the guise of ‘vintage’ to add a pretentious air to something more sordid.

Curiosity now raging, Jenna selected the ‘most recent indulgence’ option and steeled herself against what secrets it might reveal. 

“Delicious!” the screen screamed as a plethora of neon-bright strangely organic shapes cascaded down the viewer. Bemused, Jenna searched for more information.

“Candy Crush – the twenty-first century craze that had everyone from politicians to the proletariat addicted.”

Jenna smiled with a malicious delight that was far from vintage, but nevertheless harked back to ancient times. 




The tap-tap of heels heralded Jenna’s arrival on the flight deck of the Liberator. Hastily, Avon cleared the display on his terminal, and as a cover for his guilt, went on the attack.

“You’re late.”

Jenna did not reply. Instead, she gave Avon a withering look and proceeded to activate her own terminal.

"Zen," she said, "put the latest data from Avon's terminal up on the main screen."


"What – you can't!" Avon was appalled as the screen began to display a succession of maps and star charts. "Zen, don't do that!"


Zen's tone was that of a weary parent trying to placate squabbling children. The visual display faded to black.

Jenna regarded Avon coolly. "You're looking for another bolt hole."

Avon did not deny it. "Are you surprised?"

"Not at all. After XK-72 was destroyed, you were bound to look for alternatives. But I don't see why you have to be so furtive. Nobody will prevent you leaving, and you made your feelings perfectly clear when you told Blake that you were no longer stupid enough to stay with him."

"You heard that?"

"We all heard that. Vila was wondering why it's taking you so long." Jenna gave a wry smile. "He's contemplating coming with you."

Avon rolled his eyes. "I haven't found anywhere yet," he said, stepping down from his flight position. "And the longer I stay here - " he took in the flight deck with a sweeping gesture "- the more I'm associated with Blake, and the less chance there'll be of a life of rich anonymity on a neutral world."

"Vila will be disappointed," said Jenna, her tone sweetly acid.

"What about you?" asked Avon. "How long do you plan to stay?"

Jenna shrugged. "Until I get a better offer."

"I made you a better offer," Avon reminded her, "while Blake was on Cygnus Alpha. You and I could have been free and safe, with the Liberator and all its wealth. But you insisted on waiting for him."

"My conscience wouldn't allow me to do otherwise."

"Then I'm glad I haven't got one."

"Haven't got one what?" Vila, wandering on to the flight deck, looked at the two of them.

"Conscience," said Avon.

"New bolt hole," said Jenna simultaneously.

Vila reached under his flight console and retrieved a bottle. "Gan and I are celebrating his recovery," he explained, noting the others' disapproving looks. "He... we... I wanted more soma, and the flight deck was closer than the food store." He held the bottle up to the light. "Good, there's plenty left. So you'll be staying with us after all, Avon?"

"For now."

"Do let me know if you change your mind." Vila gave him a cheeky grin, and exited.

"He has no conscience, either," remarked Jenna.

"That's just as well," said Avon, making his way up the stairs. "Conscience makes cowards of us all," he quoted, "and nothing would ever get resolved. Good night, Jenna."

...Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. 

Hamlet Act III, Scene 1




"But it’s rubbish!"

“Stop moaning Vila," said Tarrant.

“But it’s almost impossible to see the picture!”

“Vila, we’re supposed to be a group of feared rebels and thieves. And yet all you care about is the wine and whether you’re able to tune into your favourite television programme. Who watches TV these days, in any case? It’s old hat. Three-dimensional interactive simulations are far superior.”

“And since when has Xenon had those? In any case, I never got to experience all that interactive stuff. In the slums, all we had was this old battered TV set that seemed to be hundreds of years old, plus we stole the electricity from the local Federation base. It helped pass the hours of tedium, something I wouldn’t mind when I’m on watch. But Dorian’s TV is even worse than the one in the slums.”

Tarrant gave up and went to bed.

As soon as he was out of earshot, Vila moved over to Orac and inserted the key.

“Orac," Vila whispered, “I need a favour.”

Orac was clearly less than happy on being interrupted. “What is it, Vila? I am trying to track down a line through the pattern of infinity.”

“A what through a what? Look Orac, I just need to know the distance to the nearest Space Argos, if Scorpio were to fly there at Time Distort 15.”

“Two hours, seventeen minutes and 43 seconds, at grid reference OG-LIVES-4EVER. Now kindly leave me alone.”

Vila quickly did the calculations in his head, including the extra hour it would take due to the convoluted queueing system at Space Argos. There was just enough time, and any idiot could pilot Scorpio. After all, Tarrant could.


It was a week later. Vila again relieved Tarrant from night watch.

“No moaning tonight, Vila?”

“Nope. I’m happy with just a bottle of Dorian’s finest and my fuzzy TV picture on this old monitor.”

Tarrant looked at him quizzically. Was Vila up to something? Probably not, he decided. Vila’s moods did go up and down, a result of the amount of alcohol floating around his system. It was almost becoming a problem, thought Tarrant. But after gathering what had happened on Malodar, Tarrant wasn’t surprised. Vila had always depended on Avon; he felt he was the one person he could rely on. And now that was gone.

“Goodnight Vila," said Tarrant, and moved off.

Vila waited for a couple of minutes and went over to a magnetic lock on the far wall. A panel slid up to the ceiling revealing a 70-inch screen, mega-high-resolution TV set.

“Perfect," he purred.

Vila settled down in his chair and poured himself a red liquid.

It might have been night on Xenon, but it was coming up to 7.15pm Earth time. 7.15pm on a Monday evening.

Vila listened to the continuity announcer. “And now, in the latest chapter of the science-fiction drama, the crew encounter a strange alien threat in deep space.”

Vila settled down for the next 55 minutes to watch his favourite TV show.


Complete the Scene

The tap-tap of heels heralded Jenna’s arrival on the flight deck of the Liberator. Hastily, Avon cleared the display on his terminal, and as a cover for his guilt, went on the attack.

“You’re late.”

Jenna checked her watch. “Well, I guess I am, if 28 seconds really counts as late. Any interesting information from the cipher machine?”


“Are you sure? You seemed to clear whatever you had on your terminal pretty quickly when I came in.”

Avon said nothing.

"That’s if it was from the cipher machine. Was it, Avon?”

Avon just stared at her.

“No clever one-line retort, Avon?”

“I’m tired.”

With that Avon departed and returned to his cabin.

As soon as he was out of sight, Jenna moved up to his terminal. It asked for his password. Jenna smiled and then typed A-N-N-A. She knew far more about him that she would ever let on.

“Right then,” she muttered to herself, “let’s see what he wanted to keep secret…”

Avon was awoken by the knock on his door.

“Who’s there?”

“It’s me," said Jenna’s voice from the other side of the door.

“Unless it’s urgent, it can wait until the morning," he stated and cuddled up more tightly to Roj Bear.

“I know which Federation site you hacked into.”

Within a minute, Avon had hid Roj, got dressed and opened the door.

“You can’t tell anyone," he told her. “Especially Blake.”

“I need some answers," said Jenna frostily, as she paced around the flight deck. “What were you doing hacking into the files on Space Command relating to Travis? Are you planning to betray Blake?”

“It’s nothing like that.”

“Then what is it, Avon?”


“Look, if you don’t tell me, the next person I’ll speak to is Blake.”

Avon realised it was time to own up. He smiled.

“It’s perfectly simple, Jenna. I wanted to find out where Travis gets his leather gear from!”

Jenna laughed. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that?”

“You can believe anything you want to. But the wardrobe on the Liberator is rubbish. There’s those awful pottery smocks. The best thing is the black costume with the buttons…”

“I’m often tempted to push one of those!”

“… and even that’s awful. I want some proper leather stuff!”

Jenna grinned at him. “Avon, log back on, and let’s find out where it is!”

The rest is history. It wasn’t hard for Avon and Jenna to concoct a story of why they needed to raid the fetish clothing store on Junehud Major. Blake was easy to string along, especially when Jenna was involved. He was wary of Avon’s motives, but not hers.

It was late night on the Liberator again.

Jenna strode into the flight deck, wearing her red and white leather jumpsuit.

Avon was dressed in black leather, with a single line of studs down his chest.

She smiled. He smiled back.


Artwork by Lurena

The original forum threads with the stories and comments can be found here:
Word Prompt
Complete the Scene

All original fan fiction hosted on Horizon is copyright to the individual authors. No attempt is being made to supersede any copyright held by the estate of Terry Nation, the BBC, B7 Media, Big Finish or any other licensees or holders of copyright on Blake's 7 material.


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