With A Flash And A Bang



Scene Title Rachel Audition
Synopsis During the attack on Antananarivo, one soldier discovers a hidden truth about herself.
Date December 30, 2009


And the sky is full of light…

Can you see it?

A roar of helicopter rotors is all that anyone inside of the chinook can hear, though the distant rumblings of explosions that fill the air come as a terrifying realization that this is not just some training exercise, this isn't some small insurgency in the middle of Tikrit, this isn't days of stalking Taliban across the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, this is real honest-to-God war.

The skies of Antananarivo look like they're on fire, black smoke and burning embers fill the heavens, and the fiery light of a sunrise at the backs of the inbound assault team makes everything seem like it's part of some grand depiction of an inferno, the way usnlight shines gold off of building windows, the way it casts the mountainous city in such burning hues. It's almost beautiful, were it not for the context it's delivered in.

«Assault Squad Seven we are inbound to hot zone! I repeat we are inbound to hot zone!»

The crackling chatter pops and clicks over the headsets of every marine crammed like Sardines into the chopper, and out the wide open bay doors, the Marines positioned near the door gunner can see the streaking contrails of fighter jets crossing the skies.

A flash of light and the roar of an explosion sends one of the jets careening out of the sky, plummeting down towards a nearby street, crashing nose first onto the pavement and cartwheeling end over end, narrowly missing a jeep driving up the road before that very truck crashes into the front window of a downtown shop. The jet continues to bounce and skid out of control, before tearing itself apart in a while cartwheeling bounce thorugh the city.

«Everyone lock and load, this LZ is hot! I repeat, this LZ is hot!»

The sound of the Chinook's rotors pales in comparison to the rumbling growl of the doorgun being fired, the wailing scream of a minigun tearing up the pavement of a parking lot, ripping thorugh parked cars, through lightly armored Malagasy infantry. The tension on that chopper is high, and the Marines gathered there know what their task is. All ten members of Assault Squad Seven are to secure the landing zone at the Antananarivo soccer stadium for medical teams to get in and back up the ground teams already in place.

As the helicopter's door gunner clears the landing area, the Chinook begins to set down in the expansive and mostly empty parking lot outside of the stadium, and one of the soldiers standing beside that door gunner, Lance Corporal Damon Riggs cannot help but stare in wide-eyed wonder at the desolation and ruin that Edmond Rasoul has brought to the city.

"Mills!" He shouts, as the helicopter lands, "You ever seen anythin' like this?" The look on the 24 year old soldier's face is one of overwrought fear, and for a soldier like Rachel Mills, this isn't just one more engagement, it's the single most devastating engagement she's ever partaken in.

As the helicopter touches down on the ground, the door gunner folds up the minigun and leaps out onto the pavement, sweeping a view across the empty parking lot, as the boots of other marines pile out of the helicopter into a warzone.

This is what Rachel Mills was born for. She is a soldier, and this is all she has known in her life. But here on the island nation of Madagascar, she will come back with more than stories of war.

Outwardly, Rachel Mills is all that the United States would want in a Marine about to be dropped into the closest thing to hell that can be found on Earth. She is calm, and looks as if nothing in the entire world could startle her. Truth be told, its just conditioning to not let the enemy see her fear. Or back when she was a Corporal, to not let the men that would be charged under her for a task to see her own fear at the situation that is unfolding before them. Her eyes, however, tell the truth of the matter as they go wide. She has never seen destruction on so large a scale, her hands clutching at her M-16 knuckles starting to turn white for a moment or two.

Her attention is turned towards the Lance Corporal before she replies in her own yell to be heard over the cacophony of the battle, "No. Not even in Fallujah." Her eyes turn towards the fiery sky for a moment, eyes searching for perhaps a hint of the natural sky. None can be seen as she hops out of the helicopter after it lands, M-16 coming up as she looks down the sights, scanning for targets. Making sure to cover those that are still coming out of the chopper while she scans for enemies and their objective.

Stepping out of the helicopter, Captain Jacob Warren seems confident about his team, about the unit put together to secure the medical field. Moving out between ihs soldiers, the squad Captain looks out over the desolate city, watching the tracer rounds from anti-aircraft guns firing up into the air, listening to the roar of approaching helicopter blades in the distance, and hearing the rattling pop of gunfire all around them. "Patterson, Clemens, Wright— " The Captain bellows to the squad, "eyes up and keep a look out for snipers!"

As he passes by where Rachel and Briggs are, the Captain offers them both a side-long stare. "Briggs, Carlton, Stiles, Stone, Jameson— keep the perimeter clear." Those five Marines immediately give a sharp nod and begin to slowly fan out around the chopper, "Mills, stay with the helicopter and keep it secure." As usual, the lone woman on this squad is relegated to a support position; communications and security. The Marines' glass ceiling on female soldiers is a difficult one to pass, and it's something that Rachel Mills has struggled with since her enlistment.

Rachel is enough of a soldier to do what she is told to do and not voice her complaints about it. However, that doesn't really stop her from rolling her eyes as she turns back towards the chopper. She mutters a little, before all of that is suddenly stopped by the explosion of the mortar. Her head spinning as she is dumped on her stomach by the force of the explosion, the air sucked from her lungs as she tries to shake her head and clear it. Her eyes looking at her Captain, before they move to look at the rest of her team.

Here in Madagascar, she volunteered to be a part of a strike team, something that female soldiers typically are not allowed to participate in, but that still leaves her duties assigned by squad captain, who happens to feel that her talents are better served waiting.

Were this any other engagement, and were this any other country, perhaps Rachel would have been left behind at the chopper while the other soldiers secured the landing zone.

The whistling noise of a mortar round incoming changes everything. From her position near the helicopter, Rachel is shielded in part by the hull of the Chinook from the blast of the falling mortar. The explosion leaves an eight foot wide crater in the pavement only thirty feet from her position, and the deafening sound of the explosion leaves her deafened, save for the ringing in her head. Blown off of her feet by the shock wave, showered with broken glass from the exploded Chinook's front windshield, Rachel sees the world in double-vision blur.

Captain Warren is down, he's not moving, limbs twisted in a dislocated menagerie. The forward team that went to secure the landing zone is gone, just gone, they were ground-zero to the mortar explosion, and only one of them is within sight, curled up on his side, writhing on the ground.

From their fanned out positions, Patterson, Clemens and Wright are firing into the smoke created by the falling mortar round. The muzzle-flash of gunfire sounds muffled to Rachel. She sees gunfire inside of the smoke cloud, thorugh it, and Patterson falls backwards, dropping his gun and toppling over the hood of a derelict car in the parking lot.

The ground is rumbling, and Rachel can see something massive and dark approaching through the haze of smoke. Clemens and Wright are falling back, firing as they flee. It sounds like something driving into the parking lot, feel like something heavy rolling across the ground. Rachel's arms and legs are numb, her back aches, head spinning. When her eyes finally focus, it is on the barrel of a tank's turret ploughing through the smoke, followed by the creaking roar of its treads close enough that she could reach out and touch them.

She's going to get run over.

This is how it's going to end.

She freezes when she feels the ground starting to shake, and the tank looming up in front of her. The ironclad behemoth bearing down on the woman, and to the rest of her squad, doom seems inevitable, the tank rolling over her with a brief flash of white light.

Suddenly, Rachel's vision is completely overtaken by the white light, and when it returns, she suddenly finds herself inside the tank, behind the gunner, driver, and commander. She blinks, eyes going wide as she notices where she is at, "How the fu— " is the first thing that comes out of her mouth while she sits there. Her words causing the three men in the tank to turn around, guns starting to raise. Years of service in the Marines kick in at the moment, and Rachel's own M-16 comes up and fires three three-round bursts into the center of mass of all three men, her reaction-time in the order of a couple of seconds.

When the last of the bullets ring out, Rachel is left sitting there in the tank, her breath coming in gasps as she looks around wide-eyed. "Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. What just happened," she asks of the dead men who share the cockpit with her. The usually unshakable marine starting to shake as she stares into the now silent interior of the tank, the sound of her breathing, the ringing in her ears, and the racing beat of her own heart the only sounds to keep her company now.

Rachel stares, tensely, up at the hatch above, and she can feel her hands trembling as she starts to inch up and twists the latch to the tank hatch, finally popping it open. As it comes up, she ducks as Clemens and Wright shoot at it. She yells out to them, "Stop shooting, its Mills!"

Ears still ringing from the noise of the mortar going off nearby, then further from the confined scream of automatic gunfire in the cramped quarters of a tank hull, Rachel can't hear what the soldiers on the other side of the parking lot from the tank are shouting. She can't hear more than crackling static over her helmet comm, and she can't hear anything except the ringing in her ears and the pounding of her heartbeat. It's possible that Clemens and Wright can't hear her either, or see her due to the smoke, and likely why they keep firing in the tank's direction.

Forced to drop back down inside the now stationary hulk, Rachel hears the pinging and ricocheting of rounds off of the open hatch. Her heart races in the back of her throat, her pulse throabs behind her eyes and her hands won't stop shaking. The three Malagasy soldiers are dead inside the small, cramped confines of the tank. One hunched over the gunner's seat that was ripped apart by the M-16 fire. Another dead on his side of the tanks/ floor, and the driver slouched out of sight behind the gunner.

She's inside the tank.

She's inside the tank.

For the moment, she has time to consider what just happened, while trying to let her hearing clear up, and try to radio over to her team members, who are likely as confused as she is.

Rachel shakes her head while she tries to deny what just happened. Must have been caused by swamp gas interfering with all the evolved that are supposedly doing things all around the city. She nods her head once she figure out that story, yep that will be what she will say. Random evolved saw her, helped her, and got their coordinates all mixed up. She smiles, that sounds so much better then her having done it. As her hearing finally comes back to her, and she continues to try to radio to the other members of her team. "Clemens, Wright, its Mills in the truck. Cease fire. Cease fire," she barks over the radio, a bit of command in her voice. Well, they're all privates here, but she was once a Corporal, and she did get a little used to telling the Privates what to do, occasionally. She shakes her head, and looks around for a moment, before she bites her lip and decides to try it for herself, just to test a theory out. Concentrating on getting out of the tank, her form briefly shines with that light as it clouds her vision, before it clears and she finds herself back by the Chopper, eyes blinking.

"Oh, fuck me."

It's reflexive, like clenching a muscle or blinking eyelids shut. It's as easy as breathing, to Rachel, and in a way sort've like riding a bike— once you learn you never forget how. It's strange, that sensation of mild panic and euphoria that follows the jump, and while she only moves a few meters outside of the tank— she could probably learn to work on her landings.

Since she's four feet off the ground.

But there's worse places Rachel Mills could wind up, than on her ass again.

"Mills! Jesus Christ what the hell did you just do!?//" Running from the far side of the parking lot from seperate directions, Wright and Clemens come charging over to the helicopter. Wright's approach affords him a view of the shattered front window and the lacerated corpse of the pilot and co-pilot slouched in the seat. Wright's approach takes him over to the crater, towards the unmoving form of Lance Corporal Briggs curled up on his side.

"Christ, they're all dead. Briggs, the Captain, fuck." Wright's voice seems haggard as he speaks, catching in the back of his throat. "What the fuck happened!?" The marine finally shouts out, rising up from his crouch and looking around the parking lot. "Mills was there one second— then— what the fuck!?"

Clemens moves away from the front of the helicopter, looking over at Rachel with a suspicious stare, scrutinizing her position on the ground. "What the hell happened, Mills. How'd you get inside the tank? You— no one in command said anything about an Evo on the squad."

Rachel winces and lets out a yelp as she falls on her ass and she stands back up, rubbing at it. "I'm not an evo. I'm a regular old human. Some random evolved must have helped out. Command mentioned them," Rachel replies, keeping herself cool as she looks at the two. "As for us, we're going to complete our objective. Oo-rah?" She grins lightly, the soldier slipping into her element so simply and easily as breathing, as easily as teleporting. Though she cringes as she thinks of that. She turns away and begins walking in the general direction, cutting off any more chatter about what she may or may not have done, as well as getting them back on track.

Using her com, she calls into Command, "Command, this is Private Rachel Mills, two-thirds of the assault team have been killed at the landing sight. Captain Warren and LC Briggs are dead, it— I have assumed command of the squad and we are making out way to objective Zulu to secure a medical base. Over."

"If you think we're that dumb, Mills, you'd best pop one in us now because we might point the wrong end of our guns at the enemy." Clemens explains with a wave of one gloved hand. "I ain't gonna shit all over you for it though, hell— it's nice to know there might be someone in the squad who's got a better chance of pullin' our ass out of the fire." Wright looks like he's having a harder time getting over the escalation of violence that's already claimed half the squad.

"M— Mills." The soldier stammers, looking down at Brigg's bod. "Mills maybe we should just pull back, fuck the mission. Let's get the hell out've here and find a place to hunker down." Anxiously looking to one of the adjacent derelict cars, Wright's hands keep trembling on the handle of his rifle. "I— I dunno, man, I— I don't like this. We're only three dudes and— " Much of what Wright says next is drowned out by the nose of a bombing strike that passes by when the remaining fighter jets in the air roar overhead, followed by a plume of flames like a fiery wall that rises up from where the anti-aircraft guns were firing earlier.

« — om in Assault Squad Seven. This is SatCom Command, Private Mills, you are hereby given field promotion to continue assignment. I repeat, you are hereby given field promotion to continue assignment. Secure LZ for medical transport ASAP.//»

It's only the tail end of the communication that the remains of the assault squad hears when the roar of the bombing run ends, and already Rachel can see the look of disconcertion in Wright's face. He doesn't want to do this anymore.

Rachel listens in to the tail end of the chatter that is given to her, and she replies into the com, "Can you repeat the first half of that, Command? Over." Her eyes then go to those with her, and she looks at the man who is stammering and looks like he is about ready to give up. She marches right up to him, and gets in his face in a talk that would probably make her drill Sergeant beam. "We are Marines, Wright. We do /not/ give up. We do /not/ surrender. We keep fighting until the job is done. Would you rather disobey orders and get court martialed? Or killed by one of the enemy out there? Would you dishonour the all the Marines that came before you who thought of quitting on the beaches in World War 2, but continued to fight and die for their country so that it could remain to be free," she doesn't quite scream it, but its clear that the woman is being quite fierce in her talk. Her eyes bore into Wright, before she says, "We are going to be taking that El-Zee so that the people who are wounded can be evacuated and treated instead of dying in this god forsaken town."

Finally taking a couple of steps back and looking between Clemens and Wright before she adds, "As far as I am concerned, Wright, you can either follow me or not. But if you don't follow me, you had better be prepared to face the Tango's that swarm this chopper looking for any wounded and dead Americans to strip of all their useful supplies."

Clemens furrows his brows, wiping sweat off of his face with the back of his hand, exhaling a tired sigh as he does. "Oo-rah…" he offers in solemn agreement, beginning to follow in Rachel's footsteps. Wright watches the pair beginning to move, offering a look at the damaged helicopter in silence. His eyes shut, head shakes slowly, and throat works up and down in an anxious swallow. That Wright moves to fall in line behind Rachel is a testament to either her ability to inspire confidence in subordinates, or Wright's distaste in the idea of dying alone.

«This is SatCom Command, we hear you Squad Seven. Orders repeat as follows: Private Mills is given temporary field promotion to lead Assault Squad Seven to completion of assignment. Secure LZ for arrival of medical personnel. When the LZ is secure, pop the green smoke flares to indicate target area to airborne friendlies.»

Glancing back over his shoulder to the helicopter, Clemens furrows his brows and rolls his tongue over the inside of his cheek. "I saw some Tangos up on the roof of that apartment complex on our way in," he notes with a wave of his hand to a four-story building. "Everything else on ground looked clear. We should head in, do a sweep of the building and reduce the enemy artillery on the rooftop then pop the smoke. We should be able to handle it with just the three of us," he slants a look towards Rachel, "especially with Wonder Woman here."

Rachel makes a gesture with her hand as she hears Clemens. "Cut it, Clemens. I told you it wasn't me. It must have been some other evo. I'm not evolved." She shakes her head before she says, "Well, lets go clear out that building shall we. The two of you take the side of the door, Clemens, you open it. I'll rush through followed by Wright who will take the right of me, and you'll take the left."

That's all she says, quick and business-like as they reach the door and she nods her head to the both of them. She takes a deep breath, she is really not liking this right now, but orders are orders. "Go," she snaps into the headset to give the order for Clemens to open the door as she bursts in through the room, gun ready to kill anything that moves and isn't friendly so that they might be able to complete the mission they were assigned.

Bursting thorugh the doorway into the ground floor of the tenement building, there's an immediate hail of gunfire that awaits Rachel's team when they come in. Automatic gunfire sprays across a tiled lobby hall, oblitering tattered furniture, shattering the facing of a masoned column, blowing apart a row of glass-framed pictures on one wall. Malagasy soldiers hunkered in behind the front counter just reach their guns over the countertops, spraying the entrance with wild blind fire. Clemens drops to the ground the moment the shooting starts, flat on his belly and peppering the front counter with the M-16 rounds that punch through both the faux-wood paneling and the men trying to use it as cover.

Wright rolls to the side, dropping into a crouch and laying down suppressive fire over the top of the counter to try and keep them ducked down and cornered into the kill-zone that Clemens has creates. Rachel, with her forward approach, manages to cut down the two other men who come rushing into the lobby from the stairwell one after the other with well-timed shots.

After only a brief and violent moment of gunfire, the noise of rattling shell casings and the clink of a few tiles falling off of the pillar in the middle of the room is all that's left. Clemens breathes in deeply, sliding up from the floor and creeps over to the counter, leaning gun-fire over it to check the men he was firing at. Satisfied with their level of reduction, he gives a silent nod over to Mills.

Wright slowly pulls himself up from the crouch, creeping over to the stairs and checking up them down the iron sights on his rifle. He looks back to the others, nods his head to affirm that it is indeed clear. Two more floors up, and they'll be all set.

Rachel looks down at her ammo and changes her clip while she stands there, nodding to the other two as she says. "That's one down, two to go," Rachel replies, her eyes looking over to the stairs, the perfect killzone for them. No doubt the soldiers are aware of their presence in the building by now. "Alright, so maybe you were right," she says to Clemens after a moment of thinking.

"You two wait at the the entry to the stairs," Rachel says to them both, as she moves towards there. Ducking her head in to get a quick look at the landing of the stairs, she pops out a flashbang and removes the pin. A moment later, there is a flash of white, the clink of the flashbang being dropped, another flash, and Rachel is standing where she was waiting for the flashbang to go off. Once it does, the three of them head up the stairs hoping to eridicate any of the remaining forces. The soldier going about it quickly and effectively, years of being in an Urban conflict showing.

"Maybe I was right she says," Clemens echoes back with a shake of his head, rushing up the stairs after Rachel breeches the second floor in a way only an evolved can. With the flashbang having blinded and deafened the combatants on the second floor, it's simply a matter of the trio sweeping up the stairs, checking their corners, and then bursting through the door at the top of the stairs. There's no shouting to surrender, no demands to drop their weapons, jus tthe three soldiers working in relatively perfect synergy to demolish the five menw ho had hunkered down behind overturned tables and flipped back sofas.

With the resistance stunned by the flashback and Rachel's untraditional emergence, the neutralization of the handful of men only takes a few quick moments. In the aftermath of the gunfire, Clemens is looking side-long at Rachel again, brows furrowed. "How the hell do you do that, Mills? Seriously? You been keepin' that under your hat all this goddamned time?"

"Autumn's going to throw a shit fit when we get back from this mission." Wright adds, spitting some blood from his mouth where he'd bit his lip during the bursting thorugh the door. "That's some wild shit though, Mills. How'd you even know where you'd wind up? I mean, seriously, you just Star-Trek'd yourself up through the ceiling. That's goddamned wild."

"I'm glad the two of you find this is something to joke about," returns Rachel while she works on gathering a bit of ammo and supplies. "Lets see how gung-ho you all are about it if I ask for volunteers." She shakes her had, before finally saying to Clemens, "I don't know how I do it, I didn't know I could do it, I would enjoy it if I couldn't do it. But right now, we've got a job to do, and its a tool to use for it. Maybe later I can figure out what is wrong with me, okay? But for right now, lets get this done and over with, yeah? Just the rooftop left, and another flight of stairs.

She eyes the stairs for a couple of moments, before she cracks her neck, and holds out her hand, "Grenades, please, all you got, give them to me." She gets more than a couple and smiles, this will do." Her eyes looking at them before she looks over at Clemens, "Three seconds, right?" Her eyes going upstairs, as the both of them probably have a good idea of what is about to happen. She isn't about to risk their lives too much to take this building, and she has to admit, this power is really handy. "Alright then, lets pop the pins and I'll be back," she says, tossing her hair back. Once the grenades have been primed, she poofs in a flash of white light. The sound of grenades hitting the floor can be heard as she pops back with that white light in front of the two soldiers. "Up the stairs," she yells as she starts running for them. Best to come up while they are still stunned from a girl suddenly dropping exploding Christmas presents in their lap.

"Oo-rah!" Clemens bellows as he rushes towards the stairs, followed by the sudden eruption of three loud successive explosions from the roof. The stairwell shakes, dust celles from the walls and cracks form on the ceiling where plaster splits from the shockwave of the grenades detonations. At the fore of the group, Clemens slams a boot into the door and rolls out onto the roof, sweeping left and right, looking across the rooftop to the mortar launching station, completely demolished by the grenades, a twisted wreck of a man laying nearby.

Wright bursts out next, running forward, hunched over, and then drops and rolls across his shoulder, coming up and firing across the roof towards a Malagasy soldier readying a rocket-propelled grenade down towards infantry on street level. The soldier lets out a gurgled shriek, fires the rocket off in the wrong direction, and the RPG spirals through the air and impacts the window of a nearby building.

Gunfire pops out from behind one of the air conditioning units, and clips Clemens in the chest, flattening the round against his body-armor but sending him staggering over to the edge of the roof. When he returns fire, off balance, the marine kilters backwards and disappears over the edge of the roof with a scream, beginning a plummet towards the ground below.

"Wright! Pop the smoke," Rachel screams as she goes running for the edge of the building and jumping off it without so much as a second thought to the fact that she can't fly. Right now, she's intent on getting out of this rodeo with all three of the men she entered into it with. Her eyes locking on to the form of Clemens as she is enveloped by that white light, she reappears right next to him, before she pops again, this time landing on the ground with nary a scratch as she pants heavily. "Fucking A. Express way down," she says, bending at the stomach to breath in heavily, still clutching at Clemens' collar while she stands there. "I want a damn good breakfast from you tomorrow, a /damn/ good one," the Teleporter states her squard mate.

She looks up to see if the green smoke did got popped as she starts to walk back into the building to go back up the stairs, shaking her head a little while trying to catch her breath. "Fucking shit… what the hell has fucking happened to me. I'm just soldier," she mutters to herself while she climbs up the stairs.

From the rooftop of the tenement building, a plume of lime green smoke rises up into the burning Malagasy skies. From their vantage point on the street, Clemens and Mills watch that green flare shine brightly, spreading its colored gas up as planned. Clemens is shaken, his hands trembling, eyes wide, just watching Rachel shrug off what happened as she marches back inside of the building. He can't make his legs move, can't will himself to do anything but slouch up against the brick wall, watching the contrails from jets disperse in the hot air, watching smoke from burning buildings contrast black against the green smoke coming up from the rooftop.

With Clemens still on street level, Rachel comes back out onto the roof, watching Wright waving the two flares back and forth in his hands up towards the sky, as the roaring sound of chinook helicopters fills the air. The medical team comes roaring in, rorots chopping noisily through the smoke filled skies. Wright turns around, dropping the flares down onto the rooftop, letting out a disbelieving gasp of breath as he looks to Mills. "Hell, Mills. Oo-fucking-rah, right?"

A warm breeze blows across the rooftop, and Wright rubs his hand across his forehead, watching a lagging Clemens come starrering in from the stairwell a few minutes after Rachel. "You really are fuckin' Wonder-Woman, ain'tcha?" An anxious, sputtering laugh escapes Wright as he eases down to sit on the rooftop, and then bursts out laughing at the fact that he's alive.

"Thanks…" Clemens breathes out as he approaches Mills' side. "Thanks for— Jesus— Thanks for being whatever the hell you are."

Rachel looks over at Clemens and Wright before she says, "I am still Mills, and don't the either of you forget it. Though, you are more than welcome to forget about what just happened." She shrugs her shoulders a little and looks at the chinooks that are coming in for a landing and bringing up a hand to rub at her eyes. This is not what she particularly wants at this point, not at all. "Just glad that you two are alright, at least we made it out of here alive," she says, looking out towards the wrecked remains of their copter, and the bodies that are scattered around to it. She moves over somewhere just to sit, before she cues up her headset.

"This is Mills of Assault Team Seven. The LZ has been taken. Further orders requested. Over."

One battle won, and so many more to fight.

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