Book 6, Chapter 34

When Elaine’s car turned onto the same road as us it was moving way too fast. Megan wasn’t the one driving, either: that position was taken by Shantaya, who was staring forward and gripping the wheel with a focused, grim expression. Her wolf was on the dashboard between her and Megan, with it’s head sticking through the windshield. I couldn’t tell if it’s fangs were bared or if that was just the metaphysical wind blowing back it’s chops, but it’s head pivoted to track my position regardless of the way the car swerved into the street and screeched to a stop near us.

Emma’s and Shantaya’s wolves were the first two out of the vehicle, since they didn’t have to bother with opening doors. Shantaya’s wolf ran up to me with Emma’s at it’s heels. It sniffed me once, then seemed mollified that I was okay. At which point it growled at Elaine and ran in a brief circle around me as though checking for anyone else it might have to growl at. Shantaya bolted out next, without bothering to do more than put the car in park. She didn’t even close the driver’s side door behind her, I noticed, which made me feel an odd pang for Hans.

Oh, right. He’d done something similar once when picking me up. What was it with werewolves and bad driving and hasty parking on the wrong side of the street, anyway?

Shantaya was on me in an instant. She grabbed me by the arms and looked over me quickly. “Don’t you run off like that!” She shouted at me. “I was worried sick. I…” She abruptly seemed to realize that she was being a lot more familiar with me than she had been — particularly since she’d spent most of the evening kind of afraid of me. She let go of me and scrambled back a couple steps, kind of shrinking in on herself as though regretting having made a scene or something.

Having made a few myself, I totally knew how someone shrinking back like that looks. I also know that she hadn’t done anything of the sort. At least, not compared to the things I’ve occasionally gone on about in public.

“We were worried,” Megan said smoothly, drawing attention to herself and away from the proto-wolf, who spared her a thankful glance. “Dashing off like that — all we had was my ley line to let us know how you were doing, and that was changing too fast for me to even keep up with.” She hesitated, and I felt her concern through our leyline, as well as a gentle reaching to ascertain the condition of my aura.

“Yeah,” Emma agreed. She had gotten out of the car, but not walked over. She just stood by her door, probably expecting us all to pile back in momentarily. “And having the two of you just vanish like that was pretty freaky. You almost gave poor ‘Taya a heart attack.”

The girl in question shrank back further, embarrassed at being brought into the conversation’s limelight again. “‘m supposed to be taking care of you, like Jacob did,” she mumbled under her breath. Of course, I could hear it perfectly well even though I wasn’t really meant to. It made me want to kick myself: her wolf was enthralled by me, and the borders between her and it were thinned because I’d fed on her to heal her injuries earlier. Of course she was going to have an anxiety attack if I ran off! The whole reason I’d agreed to let her and Jacob come along tonight was that their wolves were making them throw fits at the thought of me running around without a pack watching my back.

I bit back the almost automatic apology. “I didn’t mean for that,” I said instead. It was going to have to do, until I could find a better way to deal with the whole faerie apologies being binding geases thing. Which, honestly, made me think maybe I needed to expand my circle of donors. Apologies hadn’t seemed to be a problem back when my aura wasn’t made up so much of faerie essence. “It wasn’t my intention. Hopefully I won’t have to run off like that again. The arsonist got away, and Director Estevez is taking over the hunt now.”

“Did you manage to find Mrs. Fleisher’s ghost?” Kallaher’s ghost asked. Megan echoed his question for the benefit of everyone else who couldn’t perceive him.

I turned back toward him. “Not exactly,” I admitted. “Um. Can we head back to Cassie’s apartment? I’d like to be secure behind some wards, and maybe bring in Valerie and Benjamin before going into the details.” I didn’t want to blurt out that Linda was still alive here where absolutely anyone with supernatural hearing could overhear. I was already mentally kicking myself for being so open about it back in the alley with Director Estevez.

“That sounds like a good idea,” Megan agreed. “Emma, would you mind riding up front to give directions?”

“Yeah, sure,” Emma said. She moved up to the front seat — but before the rest of us could turn back toward the car, i realized that Shantaya had snuck away. I glanced around and saw Elaine nod toward an alley — apparently she’d noticed, too, and had been keeping track of the proto-wolf. That was confirmed when we all heard a startled “What the fuck?!” come from the alley. Seconds later, Shantaya appeared at the alley’s entrance. She looked completely freaked, and was carrying a severed arm. Her wolf was beside her, snarling violently at it.

“Oh!” Elaine said. “That belongs to the arsonist,” she explained. “I did manage to at least wound him before he and his ghouls ran off.

Shantaya looked incredibly queasy as she held the arm out away from herself. Her wolf kept leaping at the appendage like he — she? — wanted to gnaw on it, which I guessed was what possessed Shantaya to pick the thing up with to begin with.

“Belonged,” I corrected Elaine. “I have a ghoul who’s going to wake up hungry. I think we can at least give him part of that, so tonight isn’t a total waste. And give the hand or something to some witches to see if they can make a tracking amulet out of it?”

Elaine nodded. “Yes. I’ll be sure to pass along enough of it that Estevez will be able to work out some talismans. I’m relatively certain he won’t object to the rest being put to good use.” She walked over to Shantaya and took the arm from her, though the younger woman looked both relieved and as though she’d been stolen from. The wolf growled and followed Elaine all the way back to the trunk of her car, snapping occasionally as though she was taking away its favorite toy and/or putting a snake in the vehicle with us.

The rest of us followed them back to the car. Elaine took the driver’s seat again, and somehow I wound up between Shantaya and Megan in the back. Kallaher’s ghost resumed being wedged in between the two front seats.

I’m really glad you’re okay, Megan thought at me. Please give us more warning next time, sweetie. I was afraid for a second after you disappeared that Shantaya was going to turn wolf on us, and I might’ve been able to head that off with a moment or two of forewarning. For a heartbeat my stomach seemed to drop, but Megan responded just as fast as my emotions pivoted. No! Don’t worry. I managed to keep her calm. I don’t know if I could have had something happened to you, but… Anyway. You might want to give her some reassurance, Abby.

I glanced at the girl sitting next to me. She was studiously looking out her window; scanning up and down the street and trying to keep herself small. Her wolf was in her lap, looking up at me with a woeful expression like it thought it was in trouble for something. It didn’t escape my attention that the shuffling of seats had moved Emma — the only one theoretically still vulnerable to the werewolf curse — to the front seat and effectively put me between Shantaya and anyone else. Right, I thought back at Megan. Sorry. I wasn’t thinking.

And I really hadn’t been. Transfer of the werewolf curse aside, if Shantaya had shifted in a confined space and Emma and Megan had been trapped with her, they might have been killed. Megan would have recovered. Emma wouldn’t. From the way Shantaya was biting her lip and clutching her hands in fists, I got the impression that she was aware that she’d had a close call, too. It was confirmed when I checked her leyline and saw she was struggling with entirely undeserved guilt over what might have happened.

“Um,” I said. “Shantaya?”

She looked at me, and her hands unclenched. She looked calm, except I thought I could see her uncertainty through her eyes — or maybe that was just that I knew what she was feeling because I was still peeking down our shared leyline. “Yeah?” Shantaya asked. There was just a hint of defensiveness in her tone. In her head, she was already beating herself up in line with the scolding she thought she was going to get, though.

“You did good,” I said. I winced, because it sounded condescending. “I mean: I didn’t expect tonight to go like… I didn’t expect any of this to happen,” I clarified. “I didn’t think there would be fighting and chasing undead arsonists and all this insanity. I didn’t think Jacob would get hurt and be forced to shift, and I didn’t think you would be put in as precarious a position as you have been. I appreciate the self control you’ve shown. And I’ll try to make sure that I’m not putting you in taxing positions like this again. I know it has to be hard enough just adjusting to being a werewolf, now.” I really wished I hadn’t drained Hans so far that he’d shifted already. I sincerely hoped that he’d be able to do some good for the kids when he was human again and could talk to them.

It took a few seconds for Shantaya to respond. When she did, it wasn’t with what I was expecting. “So… what are we doing next?” She asked. “I mean… Jacob’s a dick. But that guy who hurt him? I want that guy.” She shivered, but her wolf gave a low growl of agreement. “He hurt my people, and he’s…” She looked up at me. “I don’t… I’m not violent. But that guy needs to pay.

I looked back at her, at the confusion in her eyes as she tried to correlate the wolf’s very simple territoriality with whatever her own sense of justice was. I felt my heart break a little. She was going to end up as conflicted as Hans — as torn between personas as I was, when my buffer was thin, and for a moment she seemed so much younger than I was, even though we were probably only separated by a handful of years.

At least, as long as I wasn’t counting the relative time I spent in my own little time stream, slowly consuming vampire Directors and Faerie Lords.

“For now,” Elaine answered for me, “we let Director Estevez do the leg work. He came here with the express purpose of calming the supernatural elements of this city. He has far more experience with hunting monsters than we do. So we let him, and when he brings these bastards down, we line up for their trial and make sure they stay down.”

Shantaya’s eyes flicked to the front of the car and then back to me. I nodded. “Yeah. You don’t need for your first week on the supernatural side of reality to be like mine, Shantaya. We’re going to drop you off at the hotel with the others, and all you’re going to have to focus on is coming to grips with your own…”

Shantaya shook her head violently. “Hell no,” she protested. “I’m not letting you run around — or sit still — without me. If Jacob and I hadn’t been there at that first house, you’d have been roasted. Ditching me is: Not. Going. To. Happen.”

I hesitated, then glanced at Megan. We could both feel the young woman’s determination, even though she didn’t realize where her protectiveness was coming from, herself. Or maybe she did — but because of the magical compulsion behind the feelings, just didn’t care. Whatever. I caved.

“Okay,” I said. “But you aren’t hanging out with me by yourself. I tried to do the ‘by myself’ stuff on my day one, and it didn’t go so well.” I bit the inside of my cheek and tried to think. “Okay,” I said. “Confab time. Megan, have you gotten Valerie’s number yet?”

“Yep,” Megan answered cheerfully. “Although I’m thinking of setting up Prudence as her liaison, too, since I think they’ll be working together a lot anyway.”

That struck me as a good idea. It would add redundancy to the communication network — my own phone had gotten busted up enough that I could really appreciate that. “Good. Call her and the people at the hotel, please. I want them to relocate all of the new wolves and their people out to Cassie’s apartment community.”

“That’s a lot of people to invite into one witch’s home,” Emma noted — though she didn’t really sound like she was protesting, just curious where I was going with it. “Want me to call her and tell her to expect more guests?”

“Um,” I said. “Yes, but I’m not throwing a big meeting at her place without her permission,” I said. “Most of those apartments were empty. Totally empty, I mean — not even warded, because I could hear the little noises that crop up in an unoccupied home. So, between the werewolves and the faeries and Hans’ house burning down, I want to commandeer some of those apartments.” I looked back at Shantaya. “That way you can stay nearby — I won’t be going anywhere without you…” until this compulsion to protect me wears off, I mentally added, “…but you can also have your friends on hand to help you cope. And Hans will be right there to help in the morning.”

“Right,” Shantaya said. “Good.” She seemed to be relieved. “I mean, I know vampires don’t go out in the sun. Right? But I was worried it would be just me keeping an eye on you until you woke up.” She glanced at Emma when Emma’s wolf yip-barked in protest — responding to her own wolf’s awareness, I guessed — and then back at me. “I mean: Me and maybe a couple other people I don’t know,” she said quietly.

I nodded in understanding, but didn’t know what to say really. Next to me, Megan had already called Valerie to update her on the new plan. Meanwhile, Emma’s wolf slipped through her seat and scrambled onto my lap. It stretched it’s head out toward Shantaya’s wolf, which hunched down slightly and growled. I put a soothing hand on Emma’s wolf, but that turned out not to be necessary: it just wuffled at Shantaya’s, then settled down in my lap and closed it’s eyes. I stroked its fur and wondered if I looked insane to everyone who couldn’t see it.

“It’ll be okay,” I finally tried to reassure Shantaya. My transition to ‘supernatural being’ hadn’t been, but I was determined to make sure hers would be better. Hers and all the other new werewolves. And it wasn’t even just because I knew Hans held himself responcible for their well being, and I cared about him. Or because I was sympathetic due to the shit I’d already been through, and I felt guilty that I’d already dragged two of them into my mess — and, hell, their being infected was kinda sorta my fault anyway.

No. I chewed the inside of my lip and looked away, letting my hand rest beside the head of Emma’s wolf and trying to ignore the tentative way Shantaya’s stretched it’s muzzle out to sniff the spirit entity snoozing on my lap. No, I was going to take care of Shantaya and her friends and everyone else because…

I swallowed. Because: Director Estevez had acknowledged that I wasn’t some kind of rogue bad guy, thus taking me off The Center’s shit list. Hopefully. Because: Valerie had sort of surrendered her bid to control the city over to me, even though she was still doing all the managing, really. Because: Melvin thought I was some kind of super Machiavellian shadow queen, since I’d accidentally worked a compulsion into every fae to swear allegience to Megan.

And because if I don’t start doing something I’m going to be stuck thinking. And then I’m going to wind up thinking about what Dopplinda told me, and I can’t deal with that. So I need something else to think about, and the only thing I can think of that’s big enough to eclipse… everything she dropped on me …is literally everything else that’s been dropped on me.

This was my city now. And if I had to choose between dealing with that, or dealing with having been told that my dad wasn’t really my dad and my mom had been psychologically tortured my whole life by the same faerie that replaced my grandma and murdered my grandpa…

…then fuck it. This was my city, and I was going to fucking own it. I shoved Dopplinda out of my head. Crammed everything she’d said down to the very bottom, and refused to listen to the thoughts that tried to whisper up reminders of that conversation. I fucking fed the emotions those thoughts tried to stir into my curse. I couldn’t deal with that shit. Not right now. I had important things on my mind.

This was my city, and so far tonight I’d seen two parts of it burn down, a warlock murdered and the attempted murder of a witch, and fuck that noise.

I stared forward, but didn’t really see the scenery as it flickered by. My city. I held onto that idea. My people. I invested it with energy, securing it into my aura as I had the need to protect my friends from The Center and myself. I squeezed my eyes shut and focused on that task until I was confident that I wouldn’t break down over trivial personal shit until my people in my city were safe from undead arsonists or psycho faerie lords or whatever else.

And when I finally opened my eyes, I smiled. My aura had been damaged. I didn’t have the depth to deal with too many emotions at once. And with the work I’d just done in place: I was calm. Focused.

This was my city, filled with my people, who were under my protection. And that meant: no more reacting. I wasn’t going to let people keep getting hurt or killed because of whatever bullshit secrets Mister Salvatore and Director Lewellyn had been trying to conceal.

Director Estevez could do his part with taking over the investigation of the vampire arsonist and his ghoul hit squad. It was dawning on me that I had bigger things to tackle. Or rather: current events were a symptom of the problem, at best. And I could let Estevez try to corral that, because it would give me the time and space to go after the root.

I was going to uncover whatever conspiracy Salvatore and Lewellyn were part of — because there had to be a conspiracy of some sort, if there were multiple Directors involved and more supernaturals engaging in a concerted ‘rescue’ effort, still. But I was going to figure out what the fuck it had to do with the conflicting stories surrounding Lord Archarel’s invasion — if there’d even been one. And I was going to find everyone who was involved in whatever this shit was.

And I was going to expose them — and if necessary, kill them — until there wasn’t anyone or any reason left to hurt any of my people.

And now all I had to do was figure out how.

Midnight Moonlight, Book 6

15 responses to Book 6, Chapter 34

  1. Eren Reverie

    Well, this didn’t quite turn out how I’d planned — or come out as soon as I’d intended. I’m afraid that last week has been a rough one, and even though I’d finished most of this chapter on the Sunday before the election, I didn’t end up writing again until today. It didn’t help that I was working the day job this weekend to make up for time I’d taken off when I realized I wasn’t getting anything done last Wednesday, or that I had a migraine from Saturday evening through to this morning. :/ (My head still aches some, and I wonder if this was in part allergies or a cold or something — I kept getting chills, too.)

    But, that’s life. And the chapter is up now, and hopefully you enjoy it. 🙂

  2. Go Abby! Go! A-B-B-Y!! WOOOOOH!!…

    *coughs awkawardly and puts away his cheerleader outift*

  3. elbonnyjunior

    well i already knew that abby was a posesive kind of girl, still i see a big mess coming to her soon. it’s about time she gets a HQ to orgnize their moves, and a BIG BOSS like office.

    now elen, you just need to make her dress like a ganster and let them be presecuted by the police that would be funny.

    nice chap by the way.

  4. Paul L Tice

    Thanks Eren. 🙂

  5. Thank you for the chapter.

  6. SpongeeJumper

    How indeed. With the help of all your new supernatural pals of course.

    ‘m supposed -> I’m supposed

  7. Syndic

    Ok, so I’m way late to the party because I put this aside to “read when I can focus on it” and then forgot >_>

    But now I’m glad I remembered again, that was awesome character development all around, mixed with a nice bit of Badass!Abby =)

    As for… dang, I’m not good at this, but… yeah, saying “don’t let the election get to you”, or even “don’t let it get to you too much” probably won’t help. How about “regardless of the political landscape around you, we readers are still here and love you? As do the people close to you, who are way more important than some (beep) who admittedly may make your life difficult, but hopefully will be gone in a couple of years so whoever comes next can clean up that mess” ?

    Yeah, I’m afraid that’s the best I can do with just words. I hope it helps at least a tiny bit. Sending my best wishes over the ocean to you, so when you think everything sucks remember that for your readers and the people close to you you’re a good thing in our life, making our lives better through just being yourself for those who are close enough physically to be affected directly, and through your stories for those of us who are on a different continent altogether and thus can only be reached by you that way 🙂

    • Syndic

      Holy chain sentence, batman! That could’ve used some formatting >_>

    • SpongeeJumper

      Yes, this.
      We love you Eren, for whatever that’s worth.
      I don’t really know what else to say.

      • Eren Reverie

        Thanks. I know I’ve been a bit out of my depth with anxiety lately. It’s been far worse than at any time since I’d started taking medication for it — and that’s including when I found out about having a tumor. Hate crimes continue to be on the rise; the government fills with bigots, white supremecists and new-nazis, and I’ve been finding places of comfort to be few and far between. I even ended up in a rather heated conversation with my Dad, who was of the opinion that I should just ‘stop worrying and see what happens’ and who, at one point, asked ‘well, have any of these things you’re worried about actually happened to you?’

        …no. No, Dad. Because typically the things I worry about happening when I’m out and about happen to you once and then you’re in a hospital or a bodybag. And it’s not like he doesn’t know what Mike Pence means to LGBTQI+ people from a legislative perspective — we’re originally from Indiana! But I think it didn’t really sink in with him that while he might be a cis het white male and unlikely to be the targeted victim of any of the shitstorm that’s going on, the same is not true for all of us.

        Not long ago was the transgender day of rememberence. I attended a service for it. It was very nice, with an intersection of faiths participating. It left me in tears.

        I always had the irrational fear that I would be subjected to violence. Because of it, I always sort of figured that I would die unpleasantly. When I got on my anxiety medications, I started calling that fear what it seemed to be: genuinely irrational. Now? It doesn’t really seem like it. Unlikely, maybe — I’m white, and I feel guilty as hell about it but statistically speaking that affords me a little bit of protection. Transgender people of color are much more likely to be assaulted or murdered than I am, though I am still more at risk than if I were not transgender to begin with.

        The whole situation is sickening.

        In the past week, I’ve seen suicide notes appear on facebook, and seen one be subjected to absolutely hidieous mockery from neo-nazi (I refuse to call them ‘alt-right’) fascisst white supremecist bigots, even as the community at large was trying to grieve.

        I’ve been on the verge of looking up a suicide hotline to call, myself, before admiting that I have too many people relying on me for me to take that route — and that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I took up that line looking for a reassurance that I didn’t really need if I was just able to pull my head out of the muck long enough to get a grip.

        I’ve seen cops try to block off and seperate protesters who were part of a peaceful march, and seen a drunk, white guy in a business suit standing on the street corner yelling insults at those same protesters. I’ve seen the president elect surround himself with the worst scum he could scrounge up, and an unending stream of lies spill off of his twitter account.

        I’ve seen videos of peaceful protesters being hosed down in sub zero temperatures, being shot in the head with rubber bullets, and the aftermath of unarmed people who were there when a concussion grenade went off on top of them.

        These past few weeks have been a literal waking nightmare, and it’s just been getting worse. I still can’t entirely control when it all just hits me, and I start crying at work or at home or just… wherever. But I haven’t really had the werewithal to write in the face of all of that. It always seems to take so much more energy than I actually have, and then I start thinking about ‘the bigger picture’ and then I get depressed, and I’m ususally in tears before my fingers hit a keyboard.

        Ugh. Ranting. Sorry.

        Anyway, I did write some today. About half a chapter’s worth, so far. I don’t know how much more I’ll get done, but that’s the most I’ve managed in a while. Yesterday my doctor prescribed a sleep aid, and that seems to be helping — I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since the election, either, until last night. And I guess Monday night, when I collapsed in a heap of depression and just shut down for a while.

        Of the two avenues, I find I prefer the sleeping pill.

        I appreciate the emotional and moral support from you and everyone else. I will do my best to keep writing and posting as I am able. I have a lot less time than I used to, though, as I’ve also become a lot more active in attending pro-civil rights, anti-racism, anti-hate group, etc, organizational meetings and protests. It’s a very, very strange world, these days. And that’s coming from the writer of, well, MNML and Et Alia.

        I used to feel that my way of doing my part would be to portray many different ways of having human relationships in my writing. Sort of LGBTQIA+ advocacy by example? That, and putting something out there that might make someone else recognize themselves and realize they aren’t alone with their anxiety, or understand a friend, or build awareness of invisible illnesses like depression and anxiety and how they can be as legitimately cripling as having a physical disability. Stuff like that.

        These days, however, I cannot believe that is enough for me to be ‘doing my part’ — if it were, we wouldn’t be where we are in the current ‘political climate.’ So, even though it isn’t who I am by nature, I’m making the effort to be more outspoken in other venues. I hate that my writing is suffering for it — but it feels like something that has to be done. And if I just buried my head in the sand I wouldn’t have the morale necessary to write, anyway.

        Well, I guess that’s a bit longer than I at first intended. The gist is: I’ll be okay, baring outside factors. And while posting has, admittedly, slowed to a crawl I am still working on it.


        • Syndic

          Ok, first (because I think sometimes it helps to have the obvious stated^^): Nobody here will think poorly of you for posting less when the RL situation doesn’t play nice. Take the time you need, and don’t stress yourself out (more than you already do anyway) over this. We’ll be here and will be happy when you do manage to write up enough to post, but nobody here wants you to ruin yourself by piling worry on worry 🙂

          And second… while it may not feel like enough to you, I think your writing DOES help. I’m hetero, cis, white, male and all that jazz – and aside from one gay guy, nobody I interact with regularly enough to assume I would know it falls in the LGBT(and so on) spectrum. If it were not for authors like you on the internet, I wouldn’t even know about the issues that come with that.
          The people in my circle of friends are all rather tolerant, and at least the higher educated parts of the population here in Germany have learned “intolerance sucks” quite well from our own horrible history. So opportunities for me to personally witness the kind of crap that some people have to put up with because of who they are were pretty much non-existent unless I went out to look for them – which I wouldn’t have known to if not for your stories and those of other authors like you on the web. So go ahead and do however much you feel you have to, but DO know that your writing IS helping spread awareness, knowledge and such 🙂

        • Don

          I know the evening news, and the morning news, and the internet, and pretty much every echo-chamber out there paints a bleak picture about violent crimes and people doing horrible things.

          But the truth is that crime was, in 2014, at its lowest point per capita that it’d ever been. *ever*. *been*. It rose a bit in 2015, but the overall trend has been sharply downward, and it’d take a lot to get crime back up even to y2k levels. heck, 2012 still has up beat.

          Your anxiety is understandable, given the uptick, but please bear in mind that we’re still in historic lows on violent crime.That’s not hyperbole, and it’s not an idle statement. Please reflect: *historic lows*. As in making-history low crime levels. As in so absurdly low it’s almost worrying, because what if it ties into the same things that are causing us to *also* have a declining population, a negative population rate, legendary obesity levels, etcetera? But ignore that, the point is you shouldn’t worry… not to give you *other* reasons to worry.

  8. Paul L Tice

    You be you, do what you feel is right. You’ve made my life a bit nicer with your writing, and by simply being who you are…please continue to do both. 🙂

    But…never ever ever think you’re wasting someones time by reaching out for help if you need it. I’ll happily give you my phone number to call day or night if you need someone to talk to, no strings, just one (more) person that gives a damn about you. Grab my email address from this comment and email me, heck, lemme know and I’ll keep an eye out for smoke signals, whatever works.

    And I have zero doubt that I’m not the only one who’ll be there if you need us.

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