Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 17: Pirate School for Wisecracks and Weirdos

The first batch of donors have arrived. Ten Werewolf cubs, and ten Vampire infants. Simulations project most of them not surviving the first phase of testing. I will need to secure more donors.

Grafael hated worrying. Worrying never accomplished anything. Worrying never vanquished any foes. Worrying never aided any allies. And yet, he found himself doing just that quite a bit lately. He had accepted leaving Éclair on another mission despite the worry he knew it would cause him. At the time, he thought it would be for the best, a chance to give her more experience than mere battle. She was meant to be greater than just a warrior after all. She was meant to rule, to bridge the gap between Elemency and the common people of Tarrus, and perhaps do the same for his own people one day. She was meant to heal the wounds of the past, and set the stage for the time that Saurians had awaited since leaving the Dragon homeworld behind.

His Space Dragon kin called it the time of the Reckoning. An era of great upheaval, death, and destruction. But also, a necessary stage in the universe’s development. The universe would be weighed on a set of scales and judged whether it was worthy of continuing its existence. Whether the universe passed or failed such a test, the Reckoning must still come to be. And at the end of it all, perhaps there was a chance for the Dragon peoples to be reunited once again, and take their place among the great powers of the universe without shame or regret. His people had much to atone for, and much room still to grow. But Éclair would be the one to start the process. He knew she would be. So, it stood to reason that he should be able to trust such a strongly destined person to take care of herself even without his help for a time. It stood to reason. But that didn’t stop the worrying. For Éclair was more than simply a harbinger of fate. She was his friend. She was his family. Perhaps the only family he had left. Her, everyone else on Squad 99 ... and Ryan, of course.

“Little brother,” said Grafael, thinking out loud to himself. “You’d better behave yourself.”

“Did you say something, Grafy?” asked Tork as the two made their way to the market to meet up with Sharon and Gumar.

Grafael shook his head. “Just more useless worrying, my winged kin. More useless worrying.”

Tork smiled understandingly. “We have our own prophecies regarding the Elementals, you know? Ryan is a brother to both of us.”

Grafael nodded as he regarded his companion. Tork was perhaps the only member of the team that could understand him better than Ryan could. They were both Dragons in a world not their own. Ryan was a part of that world, but also a part of Éclair’s world too. Grafael just wished Tork enjoyed fighting a little more. The Space Dragon would make for quite a formidable sparring partner if he didn’t despise battle so much.

“Do you think he will be alright with her? He is coming of the age. We both know what that can be like for a young Dragon. Ryan might not be a full Saurian, but he is close enough that it could be dangerous at times. He even felt the blood lust in regards to Leon.”

Tork’s long, scaly ears twitched as he considered. “I suspected as much given the way he’s been acting. It’s not as bad for us as it is for you Earth Dragons considering that my people have spent several eons controlling our bestial instincts.”

Grafael felt a wave of displeasure overtake him, his lips curled into a half snarl. “Saurians control our blood lust through honor. We are not the mindless savages that your people take us for.”

Tork raised his clawed hands in a calming gesture, but his features remained pleasant. “Peace brother. Peace. I have never thought that way of you, or of the Saurians. I won’t say that all Space Dragons are of the same mind, but my father always admired our Wingless kin. He looked forward to the day that we would reunite as one people as was prophesied.”

Grafael stopped walking, his mouth going slack in astonishment. “So you ... you believe as I do? You believe that the time is drawing near. The time of the Reckoning. The last war between the Realms of Light and Shadow. The return of Rhuknor, our great founder. You believe that it is possible ... through Ryan?”

Tork’s wings batted the air excitedly as a warm smile crossed his reptilian features. “Just as you believe that Éclair will help to marshal the Wingless for such a time. All Dragons will be called to war soon as in ancient days. It could mean the end of what remains of us, but it might also mean an end to our great sorrow.”

Tork’s golden-orange eyes became sad as he looked forward, his ears drooping slightly with emotion. “I only wish the Reptilians could have survived to see this new age dawn. All Space Dragons mourned the day the Parasites took them ... my father most of all.”

Grafael felt the shame of such a topic. His people did not discuss the Reptilians lightly. “They were not a burden for your people to mourn, but ours. They were our kin. They were much like the Winged Ones. Like you, they had no love for battle. Only for knowledge and wisdom, which is why they broke away from the Saurian Empire. I ... I love my people dearly, but even I must acknowledge our mistakes. We should’ve protected the Reptilians better. Even if their pride and ours hindered such a thing, we should’ve been more vigilant. And now, less Wingless live in the universe as a result. One of the four great houses of the Dragon race has been extinguished. I sometimes wonder if the Caretaker will ever forgive us for betraying him, or if we are meant to slowly dwindle into extinction. Perhaps we have earned no less.”

Tork put a large, golden-scaled hand on Grafael’s shoulder. The Space Dragon stood a bit shorter than Grafael, though Tork’s wings made him seem larger at times. “He has forgiven us, Grafael. We need but accept that forgiveness and learn to move forward. We do that by aiding the humans. It’s time for their test now. Perhaps we may yet save them from our fate. In so doing, we will feel the Caretaker’s love in this world yet again before we pass into the next world.”

Grafael almost felt a tear come on as he whispered, “My brother, can you truly know such a thing to be true?”

“I do not know,” Tork admitted. “I believe. Belief is often more important than knowing.”

Grafael took hold of Tork’s scaly arm, giving him a slight squeeze of gratitude.

Tork’s tone became a little lighter, and he assumed his more chipper way of speaking. “And as for our dear chap, Ryan. He’ll be fine, I suspect. A little worse for wear, perhaps, but right as rain I should imagine. You have done a fine job making a proper gent out of the boy. He will mind his manners for the lady. And if he doesn’t, we shall have to give him a proper thumping when he returns.”

Grafael grinned, liking the idea of thumping Ryan. His little brother did make for a good sparring partner. Even better now that he’s skills were growing. Sometimes, Grafael hoped the boy might surpass him and perhaps become a Wielder like Eramar. Fighting such an immense being on a regular basis would be quite the adventure.

But then, Grafael remembered his vision. He remembered the dark stranger in the bar, and his disturbing black dog with red eyes. Most of all, he remembered his horror at seeing his little brother attack Éclair. Her loss would perhaps be even more detrimental to the universe than if Ryan himself died.

Was it all a trick, or should I still be cautious? Grafael considered. I have chosen to trust Ryan, but I ... I cannot help but worry ... especially now that I am not there by his side to quell him should the Berserker strain take him. Still, I should also consider the Light Wielder. Saria hinted that he arranged these circumstances. It was by his will that Ryan and Éclair journey together now. I must have trust. I must have trust in all of them. I will not make the mistake of being too easily influenced by fear yet again. Whoever that creature was with the black dog, he can only bode ill for us. I should never have believed the word of such a being.

Of course, Grafael had his own concerns at the moment. The Berserker strain was still in him. Éclair had stopped it once. But now Éclair was gone. He had to be strong. If his people had any hope of moving past this curse and rekindling their connection to Elemency, he had to find a way forward. Éclair was the key. He knew she was. She said he didn’t have to worry for now, so he had to trust her too. He had to be like Tork. He must have faith in the Lord Caretaker’s plans for his life.

Grafael and Tork made their way through the bustling streets of Karma-1. Grafael still wore his disguise armor, but Tork, after much prompting from Mozar, had decided to remove the eyepatch. Most of the locals wisely gave them a wide berth. Grafael almost wished a few hoodlums would challenge them. He was still very annoyed with Leon for asking him and Tork to stay behind while the rest hunted the Pirate King in the Inner City. Though that bar fight with the Minotaurs had been most enjoyable, it was hardly challenging. He felt that ever-present need that all his kin felt. The need to be tested. The need to overcome something. It would help his worrying if he had a physical test to distract him. Something to tax his strength and perhaps propel his growth. Saurians always needed to evolve, always needed to grow stronger in order to be ready for the last war. They were predicted to perish in that war, but every Saurian dreamed of making their final defeat as glorious as possible.

Surely there must be some brave and foolish rogues willing to take on a couple of Dragons on this dive full of cutthroats and...

Grafael heard a loud voice ahead of them. “Oy! Stop yer yammering and pay up now!”

“This is our turf, slag head! I’m not paying you a bloody thing!” yelled back another voice. It sounded like Sharon, Captain James’ little sister.

Those voices. They were coming from a nearby alleyway. However, Sharon had asked him to meet her in a warehouse further down the street, along with some Fire Ministry agents. Grafael and Tork came to a halt across the street from the alleyway that stood between two large brown, rusty, and square-shaped metal buildings. Many onlookers shuffled away at the commotion, sensing a fight. There were at least a couple dozen pirates gathering around the alleyway. These pirates were definitely not from James’ crew whom Grafael had grown fairly familiar with at this point. Sharon and Gumar faced the pirates alone in the alleyway. The opposing pirates were comprised of a good smattering of humans, Harpies, and Cyclops. Most of the Cyclops were a little smaller than Grafael, but one Cyclops was very big ... nearly thirty feet tall. The giant Cyclops stood almost as tall as the two buildings on either side of the alleyway.

“Things have changed, sweetheart,” sneered the leader of the enemy pirates. “I hear your brother ain’t around right now. And yer mates seem to be running errands. Just you and that dumb bodyguard of yours. If you don’t pay me price, I bet your brother will ... to get your pretty head back in one piece.”

The leader was a Harpy. A human-sized bird to be exact. The Harpy had black feathers all over his body, a blue beak, and the head of a crow, but he stood on two legs like a man. He wore a brown, sleeveless leather vest and baggy, white pants. He had no shoes, showing off his dark, scaly feet and long talons which scrapped against the metal floor of the station. His arms had long feathers too, allowing them to function like wings, but he also had finger-like appendages which he used to grip a pistol in its holster at his belt. Grafael had fought a few Harpies. Their ability to fly made them a little tricky to deal with, but they tended to be on the frail side. It was the thirty-foot-tall Cyclops that had Grafael’s interest.

The giant bald Cyclops had no sleeves, showing off bulging pink arms. He looked mostly human, except for the single large eye in the middle of his head with a black iris. His face was also slightly lopsided, and his mouth overly large with huge square teeth. The Cyclops had silver armor, spiked metal gauntlets on his wrists, and metal boots with spikes on the shins. As he turned, Grafael noticed one other thing. The Cyclops was a Siamese Cyclops with a second head identical to the other one. He had no weapons, but his size might still make the fight interesting.

Sharon’s Troll friend, Gumar, growled and took a step forward, but Sharon held him back with a hand as she addressed the Harpy. “That’s a riot, Sleegar. You know full well our crew’s bigger than yours. You make one move against me and Gumar, me brother will use you lot for target practice.”

The Harpy giggled in a squawking laughter. “I doubt that very much. See, I’ve been running errands with your brother for a while now, and I know what he’s up to. He’s planning on making a play at being the next Pirate King, ain’t he? I wonder what old Brocktree has to say about that? If you don’t wanna find out, you’ll pay up before I take it outta your hide!”

Grafael had heard enough. The Saurian concentrated power into his legs to fuel his running ability. With a burst of speed that broke the sound barrier, Grafael dashed between the two groups of pirates faster than both parties could react. The Harpy, Sleegar, squawked in surprise as his companions all backed away from Grafael.

“Wha?! What the bloomin’ blazes are you supposed to be?” shrieked the Harpy.

Grafael grinned, showing off his fangs. “Surely you’ve heard of a Dragon. We come in two varieties. Those on the ground ... and those in the air.”

Tork was already in the air hovering behind the group of pirates. The Space Dragon threw back his head and breathed out a rain of fire all around their opponents. Tork took special care not to kill any of them, but simply aimed at their feet to scatter them. Many of the pirates ran screaming in terror, but a few had the wherewithal to take out their guns and fired back at Tork. The Space Dragon was skilled enough in aerial combat that he easily dodged the enemy’s red lasers while continuing to spew flames from his mouth. Gumar and Sharon went into action as well, drawing out pistols and laying down cover fire for Tork.

Grafael brushed off any stray lasers that came his way, his armor and scales too hard to sustain injury from such low-caliber weapons as the energy slugs bounced off him. He ignored the underlings, instead focusing on the giant Cyclops. The creature in question roared savagely and tried to swat Tork out of the sky, but the Dragon was too nimble for him.

The Cyclops soon had help from the Harpy, Sleegar, who took to the air while wielding two pistols attached to his clawed feet as he needed his feathered arms to fly. The lead Harpy engaged Tork in an aerial duel along with a few of his flying companions. The Harpies were skilled enough in the air to keep up with Tork, but they were unable to cause much damage as most of their shots simply bounced off of the Dragon’s scales. Though Tork took a few hits from the Harpies, he adjusted his aerial maneuvers to avoid more damage as they could wound him if they hit him enough.

When they realized they couldn’t bring him down on their own, the Harpies maneuvered Tork towards their large earthbound ally. Any fireballs that Tork shot at the Siamese Cyclops fizzled out uselessly, leaving the creature unharmed. Grafael suspected the two-headed Cyclops had fire resistance, making Tork ill-suited to fight it. When Tork tired himself out after unsuccessfully flaming his large target, the Cyclops nearly crushed the Dragon with his huge arm. In that instant, Grafael withdrew his hammer and threw it at the Cyclops. The two Cyclops heads cried out in pain as the hammer hit its hand, causing it to recoil. Grafael then brought his hammer back to himself using the metal chain that connected the staff of the weapon to his gauntlet. Grafael had his weapon back in hand as the Cyclops focused both its heads on him. The single eyes of the Cyclops heads glared cold hatred down at Grafael.

The Saurian grinned. “Now that I have your attention.”

Grafael then raised his hammer and hit himself in the arm with it. He grimaced as he very nearly broke his own wrist, but he couldn’t afford to lessen the blow. Now that he had an injury similar to the one he had inflicted on his opponent, Grafael detached the chain on his hammer from his armor and dropped his weapon to the ground.

Sharon, who was still in the midst of a firefight with a much smaller force of ground-based pirates, stared at Grafael in shock. Gumar, realizing how distracted she was, took her in one of his huge arms and pushed her behind a large garbage disposal while maintaining suppression fire.

“What are you bloomin’ doing? Are you a bloody masochist or something?” she yelled from behind the garbage disposal as it was peppered with lasers.

“Just focus on your battle and let me focus on mine,” said Grafael, feeling the fire blood in him boil as the large Cyclops lumbered towards him menacingly.

The two-headed Cyclops raised its huge hand, which was almost as big as Grafael’s body, and slammed the Saurian with all his weight and power. Grafael raised both arms and blocked the blow, though his legs nearly buckled under him from the weight of the impact. The metal ground beneath him caved, creating a huge dent with his clawed feet. Grafael heaved, but managed to stay standing despite the agony to his back and his neck from the weight of the massive hand. He laughed, feeling delighted at the pain his enemy was able to inflict on him from a single blow.

The Cyclops, confused by Grafael’s reaction, lifted its hand and studied its fingers as if wondering if the fault for the failed attack rested in the limb.

“Out of respect for your strength, large one,” called Grafael up to his much larger opponent. “I will allow you two more blows before I counterattack. If you can defeat me with two more hits, the fight is yours, friend.”

The two heads of the Cyclops looked at each other, then glared down at Grafael with their large single eyes. The Cyclops raised a huge, booted foot and stamped down on Grafael’s chest with its full weight. The Saurian was flattened onto his back from the stomping foot. Grafael grunted, feeling his armor cave slightly from the pressure. The Cyclops raised its foot to see if Grafael was dead. The Saurian coughed up blood, and then laughed even harder. He hadn’t had this much fun in a fight since his duel with Ryan during the exams.

“One more, large one! Surely you have enough strength to honor me one last time!” called up Grafael.

Both of the Cyclops’ heads roared. It picked up Grafael and threw him. Grafael went flying across the street, his body slamming through the metal wall of an apartment building. He might’ve lost consciousness for a second, but when he came to, Grafael grinned, feeling rejuvenated by the experience. He removed himself from the dent he made in the wall of the apartment complex. Only then did he notice the occupants inside. A family of very sourly Leprechauns.

They were gathered around a tiny wooden table in the small apartment for dinner. The young Leprechauns, too young to even have beards, looked frightened. However, the adults just looked annoyed. The head of the household, an older Leprechaun with a long, red beard, a gnarled face, and wearing green overalls, cursed as he withdrew a large, wooden pipe from his mouth. He pointed a brightly red colored cane up at Grafael and seemed no less fierce despite his diminutive stature.

“What’s all this hootin’ and hollerin’ ‘bout? Ya best be paying for the damages to me wall, laddie! Or I’ll take it outta yer scales, I will!”

Grafael groaned. I think I might’ve been enjoying myself too much. Why’d it have to be Leprechauns?

Having flashbacks of some sordid encounters with the ill-tempered people in the past, Grafael raised his hands apologetically. “I ... I am very sorry, Master Leprechaun. I promise to repay the damages and then some after-”

A large, pink hand covered in armor reached for Grafael from the hole in the wall his body made. Grafael took hold of the large hand, pushing it back before it could harm any of the occupants in the apartment.

“I promise to repay the damages after I deal with this!” growled Grafael as he grappled with the large hand.

The old Leprechaun, not at all perturbed by a giant hand in his home, raised his hand up towards the struggling Grafael. “It’s a deal. Shake on it, laddie.”

Grafael huffed. Only a Leprechaun would be concerned about business at a time like this!

With a mighty heave, Grafael shoved forward, throwing the giant hand out of the apartment. He heard a loud crash! as the Cyclops fell backward into the streets.

Grafael, panting slightly, leaned down and shook the old Leprechaun’s tiny, gnarled fingers. “But you can’t have my scales.”

The old Leprechaun grinned. “I will if ya break yer word. Earth Dragon scales fetch a fine price in some markets. Although, I’d consider the debt paid in full now if ya parted with that tail of yers.”

Grafael instinctively grabbed hold of his tail. He remembered, with great embarrassment, how a rabble of drunken Leprechauns nearly relieved him of his scales and his tail. Despite their size, Leprechauns proved quite tenacious when they wanted something they felt was owed to them. He would’ve never participated in that drinking game if he knew what the price for losing would be.

Grafael heard a grunt from outside. The Cyclops was slowly coming to its feet.

Grafael turned back to the Leprechaun and growled lowly. “Of all the adversaries I have faced, your people are by far the most merciless.”

The old Leprechaun nodded proudly. “I know.”

The Cyclops raised both hands as if to crush the whole apartment building. Grafael leapt from the hole directly into the stomach of the giant Cyclops. He elbowed his opponent in the chest, using the momentum of his powerful leap to knock the Cyclops off its feet. Grafael’s whole body shuddered as he fell with the two-headed creature, lying on its chest when they hit the ground. The Cyclops, while on its back, reached out a long arm behind it and grabbed one of the long metal lampposts used to illuminate the streets. The creature pulled the lamppost from the ground in an instant and swatted Grafael off its chest like he was a bug.

Grafael twisted in mid-air to land on his feet. He felt a sting to his ribs where the lamppost had hit him. Hissing out with an anguished and angry breath, Grafael stood to his full height, and felt a hovercraft behind him. It was an older vehicle made to look almost similar to a car from Ancient Earth. A Volkswagen if Grafael was not mistaken. The vehicle had dull, yellow paint, and no wheels.

Grafael looked to the family of Leprechauns who were watching the fight from the hole in their wall.

“Is this your vehicle?” he asked, nodding to the hovercraft behind him.

“Aye!” acknowledged the old Leprechaun who stood with his family as he watched.

“Add it to the bill!”

Grafael then focused on the Cyclops who was up again and brandishing the lamppost at him like a club.

“Well, my large friend. Since you feel inclined to honor me with a weapon, I will do the same for you.”

Grafael then grabbed the Volkswagen with both hands, heaving it over his head as he charged the Cyclops with his new weapon. The two-headed Cyclops roared as it swung at Grafael with its lamppost. Grafael jumped over the metal pole, and slammed both of the monster’s heads with the Volkswagen, shattering the vehicle to pieces. One of the heads of the Cyclops was popped clean off its shoulders to plop in the alleyway where Tork and the others were just finishing up their battles. The other head was caved in with the bumper of the vehicle going through its nose and mouth. The mighty Cyclops fell backwards, smashing another hovercraft behind it with its huge back and shaking the ground from the impact.

“That other one that the big fellow smashed was mine too, ya know!” called the Leprechaun in annoyance.

Grafael, now holding a small portion of what remained of the demolished Volkswagen, dropped his weapon to the ground and sighed. He was breathing heavily from the exertion of the battle.

A good fight, but tarnished by the debt it incurred, he thought dejectedly. Why’d it have to be Leprechauns?

“Who do you bank with?”

After forking over considerable funds to the belligerent Leprechaun, Grafael made his way wearily back to his companions. He learned that the old Leprechaun was called Mr. McCorry. He was actually the mayor of Karma-1 and apparently a friend to Captain James, so he generously offered to make calls to quietly take care of the crew of pirates that had threatened Gumar and Sharon. Grafael still had no idea what the two of them were doing in that alley without the rest of their crew. Their carelessness prompted the attack in the first place, which ended up costing him a great deal of money in the aftermath. But since he got a good bit of exercise from the ordeal, he wasn’t too put out.

Sleegar and the other Harpies lay in a smoking heap. As expected, Tork had prevailed, and he somehow managed to do it without killing any of the Harpies as they still twitched and coughed amidst their smoking feathers. The rest of the enemies were being piled up by Gumar who held them in big heaps beneath his arms.

Sharon came over, looked at one of the decapitated Cyclops heads, and then pointed an accusatory finger at Grafael’s chest. “What was with all that showboating you were pullin’, mate?”

Grafael scowled at the Space Pirate. “Saurians do not showboat. It was a matter of honor. I had wounded my enemy with a surprise attack, therefore, I wounded myself to make us even. The enemy faced me unarmed, so I did the same. At least until he hit me with that lamppost. Then it was no holds barred.”

Sharon just gawked at Grafael for a moment, then shook her head. “Bloody Saurians, and bloody Space Dragons. You’re all mad. The lot of you.”

“A simple ‘thank you’ would suffice,” said Tork as he fluttered down to the ground with a windy flourish of his wings.

Sharon scowled at Tork, putting her hands to her hips. Gumar looked down at Sharon and gave her a gentle shove with his huge hand.

Sharon glanced up at Gumar, and her features softened. “Alright, fine. Thanks. You lot really helped us outta that bind.”

Gumar gave a toothy grin as he extended a big thumbs-up. “Gumar grock Dragon kin. Va tu mok tra. Gabuv ba jugga.”

Still unfamiliar with Trollish, Grafael leaned towards his more knowledgeable cousin and asked, “What did he say?”

Tork tapped a claw to his horn, and said, “My Trollish is a bit rusty, but it sounded something along the lines of the Dragon races aren’t as bad as he heard. And then something about eating rocks if I’m not mistaken.”

“Troll stones,” acknowledged Sharon with a nod as she leaned against Gumar’s arm with her elbow. “A delicacy for me mate on their homeworld.”

Grafael put a clawed hand to his chin and considered. So they eat rocks, do they? Maybe it’s a test of mettle for them. Trolls are more formidable than I thought. I will have to eat something harder so as not to be outdone. Perhaps a diamond.

As Grafael thought of where he might find a diamond of suitable density, his focus turned to the empty alleyway in which Sharon and Gumar had confronted Sleegar.

“By the way. What are you two doing here anyway? This isn’t the rendezvous point where we were to meet with the Elementals later. And why aren’t any of your crew around?”

Sharon looked away from Grafael and held her hands behind her back innocently. “Can’t say. You know us pirates, right? We just fancy a random bit of fun now and then. Me and Gumar took a stroll, and then that lot jumps us. Stuff like that happens all the time here.”

Grafael could tell that she was keeping something from him, and he didn’t like it. Keeping secrets was almost as bad as lying. True, with allies such as the Space Pirates, there could not be the full trust he shared with that of his teammates. Even so, had he not earned a certain amount of consideration given how he came to render aid?

Is she deliberately hiding things in some kind of plot against us? I’d expect something like that from her brother, but I thought Sharon and Gumar at least were different.

Grafael was just about to give Sharon a piece of his mind when he heard a noise coming from the alleyway. As quick as a flash, he retrieved his hammer from the ground and stood at the ready. But the noise ... it had not come from an enemy. The noise came from a child.

A little human girl no older than five dressed in dirty, gray overalls gaped at Grafael from the alleyway. She had brown hair done in pigtails. Grafael wasn’t sure where the child had come from until he saw a small hatch in the alleyway. The hatch led down below the streets. There were other children peeping out from within the secret opening. They all wore similarly dirty clothes and varied in ages from four to ten. The children appeared to be mixed between humans and Demihumans. Among the Demihumans included some Elves, Dwarves, Centaurs, and Satyrs.

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