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 Coppertop Coltrane and the Brides of Betelyan

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Veav



Posts : 33
Join date : 2009-05-21

PostSubject: Coppertop Coltrane and the Brides of Betelyan   Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:16 pm

All right. I hear what you're saying. You're saying: Coppertop, it's your turn to buy the round. I can understand why you'd say that, seeing as I'm sitting here and we're doing this round-table thing, so linear logic agrees with you. But there's something you're not taking into account. I'm too busy to buy a round.

Yes, I'm too busy! I'm too busy telling you a story. No, it's a good story. It's a true story, all true stories are good. What kind of story? It's the story of how I got my earrings. And these aren't just any earrings, because when I first laid eyes on them, they weren't earrings at all.

Take a look at this. I put them together... I turn them like so... it's a ring. Or it would be, if their mates were here. These are the same side of a pair. Somewhere out there are two opposing earrings that mate with these. And when mated, they become rings. They become wedding rings.

Yes, really. This story isn't for the faint of heart. It has romance, betrayal, car chases, pitched firefights, the rise and fall of empires, ancient heresy - and even true love. So someone else had better buy the round because these are thirsty memories.

This is the story of... Coppertop Coltrane and the Brides of Betelyan!
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Veav



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Join date : 2009-05-21

PostSubject: Re: Coppertop Coltrane and the Brides of Betelyan   Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:16 pm

Act I: A Long Time Ago



I'm going to start by saying this happened a long time ago, and I know what you're thinking. How long ago could it be for a stripling like me? How could this possibly happen a long time ago? And I respond to you: shut up, that's how. It was a long time ago, when I was raw and unlearned. I was still handsome and heroic of course...

It was my first shore leave. I'd just touched down planetside and was eager to get my first breaths of unrecycled air, eat some food that had been cooked just for me and explore a world I'd never seen before. This was a mining town, right, a place to separate miners from their hard-earned money - plenty of entertainment options, right? It also meant it was a mining planet. Betelyan is a big ball of jutting shale laced with some isotope or another, drenched in rain and lakes that just won't grow anything green.

So I slagged off out of processing and got a look at main street. Neon signs and backlit signs, smeared by the rain into a bright fingerpainting. Groundcars and pedestrians pass, huddled and rushing to get wherever they're going. Not a happy place so far. All right, I say to myself, I have my fresh air - I flag down some transportation. The driver's smile is chromed and never goes away, I'm not sure he can unsmile, but he knows just where to go when I ask for a taste of local cuisine. Oh, does he.

He takes me pretty far from the spaceport, and I'm thinking he's just driving in circles to rack up the bill, but we get there before my patience runs out and it's still a good part of town. And the restaurant is awfully nice. No neon, wood highlights, and when you're importing all the wood on a planet that means posh. I get inside and it's a coat-and-tie affair, big crowd and bustling, but not a lot of traffic in and out, some private party. The waiter looks nervous, but gets me in anyway, because I'm dead sexy. I'm sure that was the reason.

The food tastes good, better than the air, but after a while I'm starting to pay more attention to the party. I'm overhearing a few things that are of questionable legality. Many of the coats are cut loose around the arms, good place to reach in and scratch and maybe pull something out. There are jovial comments about goods and services not traditionally advertised where the Arbites can hear about them. I'm getting the idea that the driver either had a sick sense of humor or had a very good idea of what crewmen want on their shore leave.

Under other circumstances this might work out but I'm also getting the idea that this was a very private party, so I leave some currency on the table and make for the door. I don't get there - some large men obeying the dress code take me aside and ask me politely who I am. Most people are thrilled to be in the presence of Coppertop Coltrane, but these are not most people. These are in fact representatives of a well-organized operation that does not appreciate attention. They particularly don't appreciate offworld attention, and I've just paid with Imperial gelt. I'd like to run, but at this point, my feet are not touching the floor.

I'm in a lot of trouble.



They're pulling me towards the kitchen. Comments are made about the condemned man's last meal, and about getting their food back in a direct and pointed fashion. My knife is gone, and so is my breath, and my time looks like it's going to be next. But I'm telling the story, so we know it doesn't end there.

Some wag in the crowd says, wait a minute. Don't kill him. Marry him.

And they all laugh and cheer and say, yes! Let's get him married! Yes, I'm serious. Put a cap on it and you'll find out.

I'm just a little dazed at this point, because I didn't expect that either, so I don't put up a lot of resistance as they haul me aside and measure me out for a formal suit. Someone with ratlike ears explains to me that I can make up for my rude imposition by helping them with a little dilemma. You see, they're having a dry run on a wedding. It's just a dress rehearsal. But it's an important rehearsal, because another organization is contributing the bride, and everyone wants it to go smoothly so the two big organizations can become one really big organization and have little baby organizations. No one wants to look bad for that.

So what am I doing standing in for the groom? Apparently the groom is a bit of a legend in their circles, known as the Butcher for never leaving witnesses. Which means no one knows his face. They can't have him in the open - it'd ruin the surprise, and besides, they've been hearing some rumors about outsiders being interested in his disappearance. They were going to have one of their own stand in, and I'm guessing it's the asshole who came up with this idea in the first place. I've gained a stay of execution and a cool suit but I'm not out of it yet. In fact, I'm deeper in it than ever before.

There are plenty of helpful types around who can offer an easy way out, and I don't want to mess up my new clothes, they look expensive. I go along with it. They bring me to the civic hall, and it's nice and packed. I am now surrounded by the elite of not just one criminal syndicate but two, on opposite sides of the aisle, watching each other like two dogs with one bone.

Now, if you've never seen the marriage thing done, they make it simple for the groom. Someone brings you down, presents you to the bride, someone else tells you what to do and you repeat after them. All you have to do is not faint. There's a lot of hushed conversation about how there's no way I can be him, I'm hearing some of it as I head down the aisle, and most of them think it's a joke well played. Good news for me!

I get to the bride and she's- what? Let me think... a six. That's just for looks though. For sheer presence she goes all the way up to eleven. They weren't fielding a pretty face, they were fielding a power player. And there I stood, facing her eye-to-eye, because they hadn't imported heels and she had my build. I felt about twelve inches tall.

Anyway, they get the ball rolling. Some meander about the Emperor's blessings and the fruit of my loins, I'm focusing mostly on my chances for survival. The ringbearer comes up and the rings come out. And it's all very symbolic, the bands coming apart, just as these join to create rings so shall we join to create one big family, the veil goes up, and that's when the roof explodes, cloaked figures dropping in a deluge of falling rain and shattered masonry.

That's the one we want, they shout! That's their deadliest one!



And the hall goes berserk. About a hundred holsters start clearing, and the outsiders are just brutal. I see one pick up a bench - a stone bench, remember - and hit a half-dozen bodyguards with it, and they don't get up again. I see others have trouble drawing a bead because these motherfuckers move fast, they're in the crowd and out of it again, and I see flashes of something sharp in their hands, just before people come apart at the seams.

But for the most part, I see a pair drop right for me. I'm remembering the comments about making the man with no face disappear, and I'm remembering that as of this moment I am his face. I tense to dive out of the way and they're already there. It's too late.

One promptly picks up the bride, the other does a powerful stirrup boost, and they disappear into the night.

It's like a bad punchline, and if the goons were shocked before, they're floored now. As an assassin, I'll give her a three on the deadliest-one-scale. She had people to do that sort of thing. All right, laugh it up - they thought she was deadlier than me? Yes. They did. They went to all that effort and then they snatched the wrong one.

The outsiders retreat just about as fast as they came, and at the moment nobody's fighting over any bones, everyone's trying to get organized and stay on their heels. I'm swept up in this; we're headed for some groundcars, and I like the idea of having a few extra tons on my side. There's a lot of shouting and voxing and getting things turned around and muscling traffic out of the way with extreme prejudice.

We can see the outsiders ahead, dim shapes legging it through the mists. The rain has stopped but fog is sweeping in from outside city limits, which is the way we're headed - they're not making any turns, they're not even trying to take any vehicles. They're just booking it out of town with their prize. You'd think we'd catch up with them, but the urban congestion works in their favor and we're barely able to keep apace.

I've ended up with three others. The driver in the front is one of the bride's, and so is the man in back with me, but the guy up front is mine - or the groom's, in any case. We get a bit of space to breathe, and we look around at eachother, and there's this mutual moment of "we'll talk about this later" to which everyone silently agrees. We're flanked by two groundcars at that point, the rest have fallen behind or T-boned at intersections. T-bone. A groundcar is coming this way, you nosedive into- yes.

Angular shadows pass in the fog. Hulking mining platforms, skeletal industrial vehicles, tall rock outcroppings. The glow of the city has faded and all we've got are the headlights which gets us all of ten meters visibility. I can't see our quarry anymore, I don't think the driver can either, but no one wants to be the traitor and say "hey, let's stop" so we press on. After a while we don't even have mines anymore. Just arroyos and gullies, stretching up and dropping off. I've completed my third objective, exploring a world I've never seen before...

One of our flankers turns an axle in a subsidence and pretzels. I'm ready to be that traitor but I don't get the chance, because the road turns and we don't turn with it. The ride gets real bumpy, and for a moment all I can see is sky ground sky ground sky ground. Then the world ends. The ground just stops, and the darkness falls away into forever. The driver's some kind of genius, because he actually gets us slewed around enough to halt at the last moment.

Then the other flanker T-bones us right over the edge.
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Veav



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PostSubject: Re: Coppertop Coltrane and the Brides of Betelyan   Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:17 pm

Act II: Valley of the Outsiders



I'm going to mention something at this point. Betelyan's rough terrain would be perfect for airlifts, right? Not with that weather. You need auspex to cut through that crud. The air traffic is expensive and very limited and what we're in is not a part of it. We are in a simple groundcar and it's trying to find more ground to car on. It's being very efficient about it. Layers of rock rush by on one side, the wind has dried the windows off nicely, someone's screaming and I hope it's not me.

The world suddenly tilts. We get shaken up like a margarita, bouncing to a halt. I pick an elbow out of my eye and see straps across the window. Someone's caught us in a net! A frayed cargo web business, stretched to the breaking point- get over it. Here, I'll blow the ending for you: I don't die. I'm here, I'm telling the story, you knew something would happen.

Before I was so rudely interrupted, by an asshole, I was talking about this net. It's a very nice net and I appreciated it. We climb out and up to the top, and are pulled up and over into a cave by these pale, skinny fishmen. Mutants, or regular guys after generations of isolation? I couldn't tell. The tourist board hadn't mentioned natives. But here they were, and there were a lot of them, waving sharpened bones in a menacing fashion.

Are you demon?! That's right, you get the voices. This is the deluxe story. Him not demon! Darkfella not gotum jubblies! Him not demon! Purify! Purify darkfella! No wantum cooties!

They drag us deep underground at bonepoint and gather in this ancient temple. Someone carved it out long ago, and not just with bones; whoever these fishmen are, they've inherited their ways. There's a pit in the center, and they drop us in. Not far, a bit of a fall, enough that getting out again is a tall order. Then they start going through this ritual.

Demon hate water! Water swells demon! And they toss a few skulls of water on us.

Demon hate germs! Germs sickum demon! Then they pelt us with carved bread. I kid you not, they have taken soft round stones and carved them to look like bread. They're not strong enough to put their back into it, so we get out of it with a few bruises.

Demon hate yeast! Yeast swells demon! They sprinkle us with something... I don't know, man, I guess it was bone dust. I didn't taste it.

Demon hate herbs! Herbs sickum demon! And down comes the mushrooms, which is about the only thing that grows on Betelyan.

Darkfella not swell! Darkfella not sickum! We purify darkfella, you betcha!

They start laughing and cheering. We're properly purified and un...demonized, we're hoping this is the end of it. But they don't seem ready to let us go. So I call up, hey, we're not demons, so how about letting us out?

Darkfella not demon! Darkfella purify! Now we eatum darkfella! Plenty good eatum you bet! Oh boy!



We're deep underground, imprisoned by cannibal fishmen, far from the city and any hope of rescue. The bride is nowhere to be seen. We're short on grapnels and jet boots. My goon buddies are inclined to put a few shots in our captors, but have showed remarkable restraint so far, if only because they're thinking they need to save some for themselves. It's one of those nights.

The thing is, we're also deep in a temple. I'm no expert on cannibal fishmen but I'm convinced they didn't have anything to do with it. Tall, vaulting pillars, majestic carvings of a bygone era- all right, yes, it's heresy, but it's still a good show. We've even got an overturned statue down in the pit with us, a woman shaped like an apple - tiny feet, tiny head, huge belly and jubblies. We're definitely in the official cootie quarantine zone.

So what's my point? The fishmen may not know what they've got. I start hunting around, and I find what I'm looking for, grooves in the stone. It takes some stomping but we find the right balance and open up a secret passage. The fishmen whine inarticulately as we make good our escape, but aren't brave enough to come after their supper. Score one for the goon squad!

We keep on for quite some time, making our way deeper. Two of the goons do lho sticks and have lighters, so we've got light, enough to see the dropoffs and chasms; the passage has seen better times. I have to take the lead a few times, squeezing through small cracks and scouting ahead, because I'm the only one of us who can fit. There are advantages, fellas.

The temple no doubt has untold secrets, but we fuck off into the first hull breach we find and into the valley outside. It's there that we find our outsiders amidst a sprawling city of wreckage and prefabs. Edging on a sheer precipice far above, we get a good look at them as they go about their business. And we realize why the fishmen are such orkbrains. The outsiders? They're the fishwomen. Except they're not fishy at all, they're tall and lean and look like they could chew up orks for breakfast. They have tools, and language, and some complex caste system we didn't care about. Right handsome women, if you like the pale and bodypainted types.

What's more, we find our missing bride. She's been put behind bars, locked in the back of an overturned ore carrier repurposed as a jail cell. She's having it out with their priestess, nice and vocal, leading us right to the scene.

And it's all about a marriage.

Our people- no, her voice was better than this. It was the sort of strong contralto that could lead a nation into battle. But she's not here so you get mine. Our people are strong. We are not weakened by the failures of men. We do not suffer the blindness of lust or the sickness of pride. But we are shunned by your patriarchy. We are feared by your weak, testosterone-bound leaders. We will change all of this.

You know. You know how it is to be passed over. To have your superiority dismissed. You, who can give life! You who are stronger than any of them! Even in their ranks they acknowledge you as their 'deadliest one' and you are dressed in this... absurd frillery! You, who have grown pure and strong even amidst the corruption and decadence of your patriarchy, will marry the most innocent of us, the purest of our hopes and dreams. She has never laid eyes upon a male. Machoolah, our goddess, will smile upon us when we unite our nations against the tyranny of the testicles!



Things are starting to make sense now. How did it get started? Who knows? But one day, a breeding pool got kicked out. Temples got carved, gods were worshipped, and in the end they started a nice little gender war. Life out there is harsh. After generations of hiding like animals in the caverns, the fishmen completely suck. And after years of climbing around in the mountains, raiding outposts and mining encampments for supplies, the surface outsiders are frighteningly competent predators - but when they're looking for the strongest, they're not looking among the men.

We make our way down and skulk across the grounds once the priestess gets bored of monologuing. Emperor be praised, the bride is fit and well. She's also been sealed up rather well for a bunch of savages who don't have lascutters, and there are constant patrols preventing us from just hooking up a block-and-tackle. We get close enough to hold some muffled conversations. She even remembers my name, although she pronounces it 'the patsy', which is just how the local dialect goes; she's a mezzo by the way, and I guarantee I have this voice down...

If you cannot free me, let me die an honorable death at my own hands.

We cautiously explain to the heir apparent of a powerful crime syndicate that she can go fuck herself, because it's not going to happen. It's a difficult conversation because we don't have a better solution yet - most of our ingenuity has been expended just getting this far.

There is a great deal at stake here. I charge you with my release or my death. The marriage that they plan cannot be allowed.

We allow as how we're not thrilled by the idea ourselves, but fail to see how playing along with their little ritual will be a real problem.

They are not deluded. They will conduct the marriage in the eyes of the law. It will take place in the morning, in the civic hall. Their bride is a registered citizen of the Imperium. The ceremony will be legally binding.

And this gets our attention.

They are outcasts, but they are not ignorant of our ways. They have been performing acts of sabotage and piracy on excavations for generations. The cost of the damages to the platforms alone can be counted in the billions. They must not be allowed to conclude this state of affairs to their satisfaction. The Arbites would like nothing more than to see our family linked to these acts. It would obligate us to take responsibility for these damages, leading to the harshest penalty that could be levied against an organization such as ours.

The harshest penalty... what could it be? Imprisonment? Execution? Conscription? And she turns eyes on me, hollow with terror.

Bankruptcy.
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Veav



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PostSubject: Re: Coppertop Coltrane and the Brides of Betelyan   Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:17 pm

Act III: Timing Is Everything



In the earliest hours of the morning, the sun finally makes an appearance. It can't burn through the clouds, but it turns them a dull orange and washes the city with an ambient glow. Rain drums again on the roof of the civic hall, louder on the metal plate that's been slapped over the hole. Tall, strong figures line both sides of the aisle, and the dress code is now cloak-and-tie. There are no ties. The city official is looking very nervous. No more dress rehearsals. This is the real thing.

The bride is ushered down the aisle, veil down once more, somewhat bedraggled by her long night but still in the game. Then the other bride, their bride, is led in by the hand. I'm not waiting for it this time. They've got a hood on her for the trip, but with the shutters drawn and the door closed, the hood comes off; a strong eight. She's cute as a button in the dress they've got her in, because she's six years old if she's a day. It's adorable - really. They weren't kidding about innocence.

There is no music. The official mumbles her way quickly through praise for the Emperor, because it doesn't play well to the crowd. Her voice dies out. She asks if any can show just cause why they may not be lawfully joined together.

There's a commotion at the door. The outsiders begin to draw together, massing in the aisle, and just in time as the door bursts open, goons throwing them back against the guards as a lithe figure slips through.

I can! You sought the deadliest one? I am the deadliest one! I, the Butcher of Betelyan!

Frantically, outsiders close ranks about the brides to block the innocent from the sight of maleness. Blades flash as the battle is joined, chilling laughter and screams of rage echoing through the hall. The Butcher is a swift and merciless whirlwind, and the outsiders are as savage as ever, so it's a fine battle by anyone's imagination. In fact, against all odds, the Butcher might be winning. He's just that slagging good.

Careless! Careless! He shouts over the clash of combat. She is my beloved, but she is not the deadliest one! That was your first mistake! Your second mistake was in facing me! This marriage is useless, you must desist!

The priestess, shaken by the eleventh-hour invasion, snaps at the official to finish the ceremony. Immediately.

The Butcher draws closer. The child's back is turned, as he's close enough he might be glimpsed amidst their ranks. Rings are hastily produced. The official starts saying something about the symbolism of bands coming apart and joining together. The priestess snarls.

Rings are placed on fingers. The child's hand is too small, and closes about the loose ring to keep it in place. With a prod of a knife, the bride goes down on one knee and reluctantly lifts the child's veil, and the child reaches up to do the same for her with a shy smile.

They kiss, chastely. The Butcher's curse nearly drowns out the pronunciation.

The marriage is complete. The brides are wed. The outsiders win.



And that's when the voice rings out.

Misbegotten third son of a cutpurse! You would have ruined everything!

All eyes turn to the front of the hall as the Butcher disengages, startled. The syndicate's bride stands there in a three-piece suit, thoroughly irritated and well-protected by a squad of armored soldiers.

Oh, I'm not that buzzed - I count real well. There are three brides in that chamber, and it's just as big a surprise to the priestess as it is to you because she turns with frightened eyes to see me looking up from under the veil. Me, who just married her vision of purity and bestowed her first kiss at the age of sweet six.

But my love! the Butcher protests. I surely could not stand by and let this travesty take place! And she points out that his presence changed nothing, and he laments this bitterly, but this is drowned out by the priestess's scream of terror. I expected to get a reaction out of her, but I had my money on more rage than fear; the story isn't over yet, and I'm unnerved by this realization, because I rather thought the move was well-made.

What have you done? You foolish boy, what have you done?!

No one's interested in me now. This is also not what I expected, because I'd already picked out three good paths for petticoats to reach cover. They're much more interested in the priestess, who is starting to swell up like a balloon.

No- pleath! I worthipped you! I obeyeh you! Ah hath hou haughthah...

And her tongue has swollen beyond the confines of her mouth. Her robes split apart, unravelling and dropping to the floor, and she's still growing, well beyond the point I'd expect sharp showers of meat to occur. This is not an allergic reaction. This is an emergence. Something is coming through, and they are not happy about my clever use of the substitution technique. I'm starting to recognize her, too. I was in her temple, and at her side, stomping around on her tiles...

There's another of those momentary cease-fires as we all pile out into the rain. Machoolah's worshippers aren't quite faithful enough to die under falling architecture, and the hall is gone now, sundered by the bulge of massive breasts pushing out into the open. It's beyond anatomy at this point, a caricature with a strange beauty but no hint of obscenity.

She roars. And the very rocks shudder with her rage.



Scattered goons open fire. Their weapons are useless. Machoolah turns, and her massive bulk pulverizes an office block, a deadly avalanche of debris tumbling across the street. There are a few gender-related skirmishes, but nearly everyone is pragmatic enough to get out. But it doesn't look like there's anywhere to go. Machoolah dwarfs the architecture. She has her own post code. And she's starting to pick up momentum.

I've rejoined the true bride; with no Deathwatch around, they're the closest thing to allies I have. But it may not do much good. Machoolah is spinning slowly, pendulously, and her curves are wrecking balls. Sirens and alarms are going off somewhere far away, and I'm certain something is being scrambled in the port. But that may not do much good either. She's beyond paying attention to the rules of how things die.

And that gives me an idea.

The bar is already broken into when I get there, courtesy of a stray support beam; all I have to do is pick up my skirts and snag a brew. I drop back out into the street and hurl it, a long lonely arc, a crash and a splash and her stomach darkens as it soaks in.

Beer!

I call for the goons to follow suit. Beer! All the beer you can find!

And that's just what we do, pelting her with hundreds of bottles of brewski. Beer splashes everywhere, until even the rain can't compete with the foam in the gutters. Pedestrians are getting into it too, and some brave, dumb motherfucker is heaving cases off a water tower. And it's working! Machoolah is starting to swell up more and more, out of control, weaving and lurching and demolishing a city block as she drops onto one side.

Water - germinated wheat - yeast - and hops. Demon hate beer! Demon... hate... beer!

She keeps ballooning up, a beer gut so big even the Warp can't contain it. Then a bro pitches a keg off a balcony and she pops. One moment, Machoolah; the next, a river of barley pop in the street, washing down into valleys and off cliffs and down into the deepest corners of Betelyan. Rest in pints.
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PostSubject: Re: Coppertop Coltrane and the Brides of Betelyan   Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:17 pm

Epilogue



And that's how it ended.

Oh, there was wrap-up. The syndicates had their wedding, the Butcher had his bride. No one had to file for bankruptcy. The outsiders went back outside, the cityfolk went back inside, and the mining corporation went double shifts for all the reconstruction. Certain parties expressed their satisfaction with the outcome in private; other parties denied any of it had ever happened in public. Betelyan is a safe place, you know. Perfectly harmless. They let me keep one pair of bands as a souveneir. The others are still binding organizations together, perhaps...

But there's one thing in particular that never became widely known. Back in the valley of the outsiders, when I squirmed my way into the bride's cage and wore her dress while she hid under the ore and waited for backup? It wasn't enough for me to wear the clothes. I had to move like her, to sound like her, to become her for just long enough. We rehearsed the slag out of the ceremony.

And we still had those rings.

So that's the story of how beer saved the world, how I saved two princesses from a fate worse than debt, married into their dynasties, earned my earrings... and looked damn good in a dress for just long enough.

What do you mean, I'm full of shit?

You don't know that. The courts there are very len- you're a barracks-room lawyer, shut up. All right, you're buying the next round for that. Why? I'm the slagging godfather, that's why!
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