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A Shot In The Dark [8]

 
Hyle Troy's picture
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Kirsten.” Joe said, softly smiling, palms held up before him. His supplication did nothing so deflect or reduce the dark brown Oriental fury that was emanating from Kirsten’s eyes. The left hand rose to indicate the lounge door. The right arm lowered a bemused Anneka to the ground. The thin brown lips gave only slightly to issue Anni an instruction.

Go find Silja.”

Upstairs, Silja was rinsing Finny’s pants in the sink while Finny sat in a chair resplendent in a pair of Silja’s PJ bottoms sullenly nursing a pet lip.

The bathroom door was pushed open and Anni meekly toddled in. “Momma sended me upstairs.”

Downstairs, the lounge door slammed as the storm began . Anni looked up at Silja shame faced as if she was the reason for the storm. Silja smiled and beckoned “Come and sit next to Finny.”

 

Kirsten leaned back on the recently slammed door and folded her arms.

What the hell is going on! First of all you troop around my house like a brigade, into every room. Even our bedroom! Then you’re setting bombs off in the cellar. Finny wet herself! What next? If its not the Police kicking my doors down, it’s the nanny getting arrested. Or you making explosions near Our Daughter!!”

Joe’s mouth moved, as he took in a breath to speak but the words didn’t get anywhere near his lips.

And why is Finny mooching around in our cellar wearing X-ray goggles?”

Night vision goggles.”

Whatever goggles! What if Anneka got hurt with your stupid bangs hmm? And Finny, you could have blind… deafened.. hurt.. Her too?”

Joe stepped forward, intending to Hug and apologise to Kirsten but the offered hand was briskly fended away. Kirsten stormed past him on her way to stand in front of the ornate marble fireplace. Joe looked up at the ceiling for inspiration. It came, all though not as a complete vindication.

I was preparing her for....” Joe offered, but the flash of fury in Kirsten’s face indicated he had to do better. “Erm, training…”

Training!!” Kirsten yelled. “Training what? A damned Bomb Technician!?!”

Joe was definitely on the ropes. A myriad of different excuses battered at the several doors into Joe’s consciousness like a bunch of piss poor salesmen with equally piss poor ideas.

Kirsten was so furious she could no longer find the words so she turned and placed her hands on the mantel, showing her back to Joe.

The pause allowed Joe a few seconds to think and finally the master salesman burst into Joe’s mind with the master idea. The Truth. Truth with added humility.

 

Joe’s upbringing had schooled him in the mindset of the time. When it comes to more shady dealings ‘Er indoors is better left out of it, What she dun’t know won’t hurt ‘er’. Old dog Joe was still realising that even at this stage of life that new tricks were needed, especially around Kirsten. He was learning, slowly.

He sat in the large, well appointed sofa. It’s bright shiny sky blue and gold softness contrasted sharply with the more classical chesterfields in his study, indeed the contrasting furniture sharply demonstrated Kirsten’s different outlook on life compared to Joe’s. Yet somehow they all belonged together under the same roof.

Kirsten.”

Joe sat forward as Kirsten turned to face him.

Look. Finny is the only hope Silja’s got.”

Kirsten’s brow furrowed at the change of tack.

If I don’t get to the bottom of all this the police are going to tighten up their case against Silja and she’ll be ‘banged up in chokey’ for the rest of her days, and for a clone those are many. I can’t let that happen. Nor can you hmm?”

Kirsten shook her head fractionally, Joe took the chance. He offered his hand, Kirsten reluctantly took it and settled beside him on the sofa, albeit with straight back and knees together, hands placed on her lap. She was giving Joe his chance to put everything out in the open, as it should be.

Joe didn’t hesitate. He explained everything he knew. About the dossier. How the police were keeping tabs on them. And how Finny was the only person whom he could trust who had the required skills.

But she’s only eight.” Kirsten’s maternal instincts still were a barrier to her giving unconditional support to Joe’s scheme.

Eight going on eighteen. Me ol’ duck. She reminds me of Silja.”

Joe’s smirk elicited a welcome smile from Kirsten. Joe relaxed.

Joe…. ?”

Hmm?”

"I am not a duck!"

 

Comments

Joe Spivey's picture

((Brilliant! You do Joe and Kirsten so much better than I can :D

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

JeassiahBlack's picture

((gets the popcorn and plops on a warm chair to watch As FE Turns

Joe Spivey's picture

Dinner was eaten in silence.

Finny found herself being the guest of honour and was more than a little overwhelmed by the whole experience. The room, the tablecloth, the cutlery, even the food. Nobody grabbing, no need to guard your plate and a remarkable lack of mid-air food scraps.

As her trousers still hadn’t dried by the time it came for her and Joe to leave Finny found herself wearing an old pair of Silja’s jeans, legs rolled up to half their length and the waist pulled in tight with a belt that was so long that the end of the strap dangled down about her knees. Unexpectedly, Finny found herself enveloped in a perfumed hug when Kirsten bent down and just gathered her up.

“You be careful, you hear?”

Finny’s whole body went rigid while her hands automatically became fists and it took an effort of will to make herself relax in this sudden and far from normal intimacy. The hug showed no sign of ending any time soon so Finny reasoned that a response was probably needed.

“Umm, I will. I promise.”

Kirsten slowly stood up, releasing Finny from the hug. She smiled down.

“Make sure you do. Don’t let Joe bully you.”

Wondering if Kirsten understood the concept of Joe being her boss, Finny followed Joe out the door and down the steps to the waiting car. Across the road a pair of neighbourhood watchmen were giving someone in dark doorway a hard time but Joe didn’t pay it no never-mind, so Finny didn’t either. Then the car sped off towards The Borough and Finny’s promised new suit.

The ‘suit’ was black and fastened up the front all the way to the neck. The thick collar was actually a rolled up hood come mask which hid everything except the wearer’s eyes and mouth. Finny wasn’t a fan of the hood and rolled it back into its collar form. The material of the suit was strange and the tailor explained to her that, between the inner and outer layers was something called ‘non Newtonian gel’. In response to the little girl’s screwed up expression of total lack of understanding, Fingal held up the suit and invited her to punch it. Finny shrugged and did so.

“Ow!”

She pulled back her hand and examined her red knuckles. Then she looked at the suit and wondered if the old man had hidden a brick behind it.

“The gel responds to being hit by turning into a solid. Think of it, my dear, as a kind of instant shell. It will protect you to some extent from falls and punches but it isn’t bullet proof. You get shot, you are shot. Deal with it.” Fingal signalled one of the two women from earlier. “Go with Nancy, she’ll show you how to put it on.”

When Finny and the seamstress returned a couple of minutes later, Finny looked like a four foot wrinkled black sausage. Joe’s eyebrows crept upwards. Fingal smiled.

“Growing room, my dear.”

Joe nodded. It made sense. Finny scowled. The suit felt weird. Fingal stared at her, the tip of his tongue flicking out to moisten his cracked lips.

“It will be skin tight by the time she is sixteen.”

Joe’s eyes narrowed but he let it go. He tossed a bag of chips onto the table.

“Good work as usual Fingal, ladies.” Joe checked his watch and gestured to Finny who was trying to pull the wrinkles into some sort of order. “Come on Finn.”

They were almost out of the door before Nancy caught up with them. She pressed the bundle that was Finny’s clothes onto Joe. Then Nancy bent down so that her lips were on a level with the little girl’s ear.

“Don’t do anything to make Bill angry.” She whispered and the stood upright, smiling nervously. “Okay sweetie?”

Finny didn’t get a chance to answer as Bill bundled her out into the night.

Darkness changes the way people see the world. Familiar places become foreign and hard to find. Unless, that is, you grew up with night as your friend. Both Finny and Joe were on excellent terms with the night so Finny had no problem knowing where it was Joe took her next. Behind the buildings on her right was the square and the pond, a little further back was the LifeNet place where clones came and went and did whatever it was clones did down there.

A figure emerged from the shadow of the nearest wall. It was Bill. Joe reached across Finny and opened her door.

“Go with Bill. He’ll get you onto the roof of the Ranyhyn Building, you know what to do from there.” Joe saw the hesitation on Finny’s face as she stared at the man Joe wanted her to go with. He touched her shoulder. “Don’t be scared Finny. He’s a bit of a ba… Er, bear but he won’t hurt you.”

“Aren’t you coming?”

“I’ve got to go and get ready for when you come back. Don’t worry, I’ll be waiting for you.”

Outside, Bill was starting to get agitated and was gesturing for Finny to get a move on. Finny slid out of the car and the pair of them disappeared back into the shadows. Joe pulled the door closed and drove off.

Finny realised that Bill was not alone. Two other men were with him. Finny stood with them in a well of darkness next to a door. The buildings along this side of the square were not in the best state of repair and the top levels of the one they were next too had suffered severe damage long in the past. Now the buildings were used as temporary warehouses for goods bought and sold at auction.

Bill picked up a huge canvas holdall then gripped Finny by the shoulder and pushed her towards the door.

“Open it… be quiet about it, there’s a watchman inside.”

Finny pulled free of the man’s fingers and knelt down. The three men huddled round her, watching her every move. Finny could smell the nervousness on them, that and the beer.

The lock proved to be simple. With a final click the door opened a fraction and Finny turned to Bill with a smile and ready to be congratulated, or at least thanked. But Bill and the other two just pushed past her. There were sounds of a scuffle, a couple of meaty thwacks and the sound of a body hitting the ground. By the time Finny had rolled up her tools it was all over and all she saw was a pair of legs sticking out from behind a small counter.

The three burglars held a hurried, whispered conversation before splitting up. The two other med vanished into the depths of the storage area. Bill took Finny by the upper arm and pulled her after him towards the stairs.

Joe drove through the streets until he was sure the union guards outside Hanne’s place hadn’t got suspicious and got a patrol car involved. Then her dove to Beau’s and picked up an unassuming young man called Ike who had been waiting for over an hour. Ike owed Joe.

Bill and Finny emerged from the stairwell onto a floor of the building that was pretty much open to the stars on all four sides. Snapped off concrete pylons, showing their bare sinews of rusting rebar intimated that the floors above this one were considerably less stable than the one they were on. Bill pulled Finny over to the edge of the building and for a moment she wondered if the man was going to just throw her across the ten metre gap to the Ranyhyn Building. As they were on the third storey Finny really hoped not.

But Bill didn’t. He just stood on the edge for a few moments looking intently, first at the building opposite and then at the floor where they stood. Having come to some kind of a decision, he let go of Finny’s arm.

 

“Don’t wander.”

Finny rubbed her arm. She watched as Bill set down the big holdall and pulled from it what seemed to Finny like a disproportionate amount of rope for the size of the bag. And not only rope. There was a small three hooked grapple which had its shaft and tines tightly wrapped in tarred cordage. Then there was a thing made of little wheels all held together with more rope that Finny didn’t understand and finally a harness, which Bill thrust in her direction.

“Put this on.”

This was more like the plan Joe had drilled into her for most of the afternoon while she lounged on Joe’s chesterfield wearing Silja’s PJs. Bill was going to somehow string a rope between the two buildings which Finny would use to cross the gap onto the roof of the Ranyhyn Building. Obviously the harness was to be part of this arrangement.

While Finny worked out what went where with regard to the harness she half watched as Bill went about his business. First of all he wound a length of rope round and round one of the stumps of concrete. Then he spent a lot of time making sure there were no kinks or twists in the complicated arrangement of ropes and little wheels.

As she observed the big man going about the delicate work Finny let her thoughts do their own thing in an attempt to distract her from the knowledge that she would soon be dangling in splatting distance of the hard ground. Something had been niggling at her ever since her and Joe first went to The Borough. Finally, she plucked up the courage to distract Bill from what he was doing.

“Mister Bill?”

Bill didn’t even look up, but the grunt that reached Finny was taken as some kind of acknowledgement so Finny went on.

“Have you got a dog?”

This time Bill did stop and his bullet shaped head slowly tilted up to face where Finny sat on a small pile of rubble.

“I do. Why?”

Finny ignored the question.

“Is… Is he called… ‘Bullseye’?”

Bill stood up quickly and crossed the intervening gap in four long strides to stand glowering over Finny. By his sides his thick fingers clenched and unclenched as if unsure if they wanted to be fists or not.

Finny remembered Nancy’s words and wondered if she was about die, sitting on a pile of bricks in an itchy suit that didn’t fit right. She squeezed her eyes shut and waited. When nothing happened she squinted her eyes open enough to see Bill fishing something out of his back pocket. Sure it was going to be a knife Finny was on the verge of finding out what the absorbency level of ‘non Newtonian gel’ was when Bills hand re-appeared holding a thick wallet. He thumbed through its contents for a few moments and then held out something for Finny to see.

It was a photograph of a very proud looking Bill holding on his lap a small Yorkshire terrier with a little pink bow on its head.

“She’s called ‘Tulip’.”

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

(daww.. Finny got a big hug... 

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers

Joe Spivey's picture

Finny looked at the picture.

“Ohhhhhhh. Awwwwww she’s cute!"

Bill put the picture away. He was still scowling.

“Everybody asks me about my dog. I don’t get it.”

Feeling uncomfortable, Finny tried to explain.

“Umm, well you see… There’s this book…”

Finny told him about the novel ‘Oliver Twist’ and how there was this character in it called Bill Sykes who had this dog called Bullseye. Heeding the warning from Nancy, she didn’t go into too many details.

Bill’s scowl disappeared. He still didn’t look happy about being compared to a character in a book but at least now he knew why people kept asking about this ‘Bullseye’ dog. He went back to work on the pulley system and Finny was left to finish adjusting her harness.

Once happy with the tackle, Bill tied one end securely to the rope he had wound around the broken pylon. Then he turned his attention to the long rope with the grapple on one end. Very carefully he arranged the rope into two coils. A coil of maybe half a dozen small loops with the grapple attached and a coil of bigger loops for the remained of the rope. Then he called Finny over to him.

Finny stood in front of Bill with her arms up while he checked her harness. He grunted his satisfaction.

“Ok, kid. Stand back.”

Finny stepped backwards until Bill nodded that she was far enough. Then he picked up the coils of rope. His left hand held the bigger loops and he took a second to make sure the loops lay flat and weren’t tangled. His right hand held to smaller coil and the grapple. Bill stepped as close to edge of the building as he dared and set his body into a relaxed posture while he took mental aim at the roof opposite and slightly below where he stood. Finny heard him take a breath and then his right arm swung backwards and then forwards in a fluid arc. The grapple sailed towards its target with the little loops of rope uncurling behind it. When the loops were gone, the bigger coils in Bill’s left hand slipped one by one off his fingers with minimum friction and barely slowed the progress of the grapple.

Finny didn’t realise that she had been holding her breath until the padded grapple bounced almost silently on the tarred felt of the roof of the Ranyhyn Building.

At the same time the grapple struck, Bill closed his fingers to prevent more rope than was necessary slipping into the void. Slowly, he pulled on the rope, dragging the grapple back to the edge where it caught on the parapet. Bill walked back to the tackle hanging on the pylon and tied the rope to the trailing end. Then he started to pull on the hauling line of the first standing pulley and the rope between the buildings began to tauten.

Finny watched until she was sure the rope was about to snap, but Bill kept on shortening the tackle for several more pulls. Then he tied off the hauling line and, making Finny grimace at the expected inevitable calamity, Bill swung off the tautened rope making it take his whole weight.

Nothing happened. Bill had been chosen because knew what he was about when it came to rope work. When he let go of the rope it responded with a twang. He called Finny over.

“Listen good. When you get over, you take off the harness and hook it to the grapple. I’ll loosen off and when I give you the nod you drop the grapple over the edge. Got it?”

Finny nodded. Bill led Finny over to the where the holdall sat by the edge of the building. From it he took another rope. This one was already coiled and its ends tied so as not to trail. He hung it over Finny’s neck and shoulder.

“This is for the shaft.” He wagged a finger in her face. “When you climb back up, don’t leave it behind.”

Finny nodded again.

“Ok, got it.”

Then she gasped as Bill lifted her up and clipped the ‘D’ ring on her harness to the rope.

“Good. Don’t look down, look at the rope.”

Finny wrapped her legs around the rope and looked past her feet to the Ranyhyn Building’s roof. She took hold of the taught rope in both hands and took a deep breath.

“Ready.”

Bill let go of her and Finny began her angled descent, feet first to the building ten metres away.

Although her heart was pounding the whole way, the actual trip across the void was pretty easy. It didn’t even make her arms ache like climbing a drain pipe did. Her feet touched the parapet and Finny swung her body through a hundred and eighty degrees so that she now had a close up of the crumbling stucco of the parapet. Fortunately, the brickwork beneath seemed pretty solid.

Finny grabbed the parapet securely with one arm and eased her weight off the rope. Then she unclipped the ‘D’ ring and hauled herself over onto the flat roof. Remembering her instructions she unbuckled her harness and securly fastened it to a vacant tine of the grapple. Job done, she squatted behind the parapet and watched the place she had just come from.

Bill was nowhere in sight but before Finny could become concerned she saw the rope between the buildings slacken and then Bill appeared. He was walking slowly towards the edge while wrapping loop after loop of rope around his forearm like some old washerwoman with a clothes line. When he got to the edge he stopped and gave Finny a single nod. Finny lifted the grapple off the parapet and dropped it over the side. She watched it crawl up the far wall as Bill reeled it in. Then Bill gave her a short wave and disappeared back the way he had come. Finny was on her own.

Still squatting, she turned around. Remembering Joe’s instructions she picked out the air vent whose shaft would deliver her to the corridor outside Hanne Berg’s office. She almost set off towards it when Caution stepped forward and pulled on her ear. What if the roof is booby trapped? Finny lifted the goggles from under the thick collar of her suit and surveyed the roof around her. Image Intensify – nothing. Light Gathering – nothing. Thermal Imaging – just the lazy meander of warm air escaping up the vents into the night. Finny slowly crossed the roof, her head turning left to right like a little radar dish. She reached the vent safely. As per Joe’s description the large cowl covering the ventilator shaft was held on with several big wingnuts. Loosening these, Finny was able to push the bulky aluminium cowl off the shaft and Finny was met by a warm draught of air from below.

Finny pulled a small flashlight from her wrist pouch and shone it down the shaft. The grill which was her target was four, maybe five metres below her, well within reach of the length of rope coiled around her torso. Clicking the flashlight off, Finny lifted the rope off her shoulder and tied one end around the solid looking bracket that held the wing-nuted bolt. She pulled on it as hard as she could to make sure it was secure and then dropped the rest of the rope down the shaft.

Excitement bubbled up inside her, eager to go, but Caution and Fear both held up a hand. Excitement paced impatiently but Finny stuck her head down the shaft and flicked through the night vision settings one more time, just to be sure. Only then did she swing her legs over the lip of the shaft.

Climbing down the rope, Finny learned something new about her suit. The elbows, knees and butt of the suit had soft rubber pads embedded into the material. This useful addition meant that it was easy to brace herself against the smooth metal of the ventilation trunking. Before long she was face to face with the dozen aluminium slats of the grill she needed to get through.

One by one, Finny removed the slats and let them slide quietly down the wall onto the floor of the corridor. She surveyed the corridor stretched out before her through the lenses of the goggles. Five doors, and then the corridor turned left. Finny grinned. Five doors, but only one with three horizontal lines of laser light segmenting the doorway. Invisible to normal eyes, but glowing bright orange to Finny’s marvellous goggles.

Finny wiggled through the narrow hole, way too narrow for any adult, and fell into a squat on the floor. She adopted a ‘ninja’ pose and wondered if she looked half as cool as she was feeling. She’d hafta get one of those cloth thingies ninjas wore round their forehead, a red one, yeah. Sill in ninja mode Finny slid dramatically along the wall before performing a twisting jump to land before Hanne’s office door in what she figured was a pretty real looking Kung Few attack pose.

Excitement was having a field day while everyone else watched her manically jumping around their shared space. They exchanged glances with each other. Happiness shrugged, meh, let her have fun.

Finny examined the laser tripwires. Not good. The bit that fired the laser light and the bit where it went were both embedded in the woodwork of the door frame. Nothing she could do about that but the gap between the beams was easily wide enough for her to get through… Once she got the door open.

After examining the door lock in minute detail, thanks to the goggles’ macro mode, Finny decided that whoever was in charge of security had blown the budget on the fancy laser thingies. She was even a little disappointed to find that it was just a simple three lever lock. Job done, she pushed the door open. Her goggles revealed not very much. A simple office with pretty much just the bare essentials of furniture. Except for, Finny frowned, an expensive looking ‘Welcome’ mat directly after the entrance.

Finny knelt down and, careful not to trigger the laser trip, examined the mat closely. Although nothing was visible Finny was ninety-nine percent certain the mat hid a pressure pad. She curled her lip derisively. So obvious. She was just about to ease herself between the middle and bottom laser trips and stretch her leg over the welcome mat trap to the carpeted floor beyond when she stopped and sat back on her haunches again. The mat was just so obvious. Finny knelt forward again, adjusting the goggles in minute increments as she leaned into the room.

Almost imperceptibly, like eyes adjusting to the dark after coming in from outside, the goggles started to reveal slight variations to the overall green glow that was the office floor. Without the goggles the carpet was just a smooth field of average office carpet. With the goggles the carpet was shown to be a minefield of very low humps. Finny swallowed. She counted ten pressure pads in all, the first just beyond the welcome mat and exactly where she would have put her foot.

Finny remembered the sudden, heart stopping, bladder opening, bang in Joe’s cellar. A chill tingled down her spine. This wasn’t a game anymore. It took Finny five minutes to cross the floor to Hanne’s desk. Then another five minutes carefully examining every surface around the drawer she was here to open. Only then did she unroll her tools and get to work.

Again, the lock itself was just a simple lock, a common barrel lock that took Finny all of twenty seconds to open. Inside the drawer was the folder she had been told to look for. She lifted it out and checked the title to be sure. It read: ‘Silja Henningsdottir’ Finny flicked through it briefly. Lots of writing, most printed but some looked like old handwritten letters. There were photographs too. Finny stopped on the ones of a little girl and saw the resemblance to the Silja she knew.

Finny suddenly felt like she was eavesdropping and felt guilty for looking. She was about to shut the drawer when she noticed another folder. Joe never said anything about another folder. Finny lifted it out. It was way thicker than the other one. She looked for the title. Her eyes widened when she read it. ‘Anneka Kjaer-Spivey. Case Closed.’ Lots of thoughts raced through Finny’s head. The two lead contenders were: Why is there a thing about Annie here? And: Should I take it?

From the information Joe had given her Finny knew that this person who worked here wasn’t nice and that Silja was in trouble because of it. Finny liked Silja. She also liked Annie, so if there was a folder here about Annie too, then Annie might be in trouble as well… And Annie was only little, which wasn’t fair. Consequently, both folders were shoved down the inside of Finny’s new suit. Joe would know what to do.

Then it was just a matter of doing things backwards until Finny was at last screwing down the wingnuts to fasten the ventilation cowling back in place over the shaft she just climbed back up. Finny untied the rope and wrapped it around her middle, tying it off with a nice big bow.

Finny looked up at the sky. She sniffed the air and listened to the sounds around her. Only then did she realise that all this was unnecessary because, tucked in her wrist pouch was a tiny clock Joe had put there. Finny used her finger against the scratched glass to work out how close it was before she had to jump off the roof. With only a vague idea of how long a minute actually was she realised she had six of them left. She scooted over to the far side of the building where, below the parapet, the much lower roof of the entrance colonade stuck out over the sidewalk. Not daring to risk seeing if there were still Union guards patrolling the street, Finny sat down cross-legged behind the parapet and waited.

Six minutes later there was a loud explosion from the area of the pond and Finny watched in awe as a huge column of water rose up into the air from the other side of the building. Then all the lights went out, everywhere. At the same time burglar alarms started going off all over town as the power failed. Finny counted to thirty and then leapt into action, literally.

The drop to the colonnade below was about four metres, high, but the roof of the colonnade was wooden so it should take most of the force out of the fall. Finny landed hard on both feet. Fortunately, she knew to bend her legs and the remarkable non thingy jelly in the suit took care of most of the rest. Even so, Finny’s feet stung like crazy as she hobbled to the edge of the colonnade. Where was Joe?

Joe was just turning the corner, at speed. The flatbed truck raced down the now empty road and mounted the pavement outside the Ranyhyn Building. Joe slammed on the breaks. Above him, Finny bit her lip. Joe said it would work. He promised. Still, the large pile of neatly tied empty boxes looked very small and far away to Finny. He had promised. Finny closed her eyes and jumped.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.



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