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Scene Title Kelp
Synopsis In which two former people wash up on the same shoreline and have a disagreement.
Date August 27, 2010

Staten Island

However many months and years after the Bomb and the fall of Staten Island, the stars out here are still brighter than the are in the city. Strangled constellations splayed out into dippers and dragons wink dim against a sky that's neither purple or black. The moon's full and cloud cover is scarce — streamers of sickly grey-brown flecked through the atmosphere like flakes of cheap toilet paper stuck to the universe's ass.

Somewhere in the background, The Angry Pelican is a blur of orange light and the static murmur of shitty radio reception. Out here, the surf churns quiet over rusty metal and old rubber, crusting rancid salt across Goodyear and Firestone. Translucent crabs pebble in and out of plastic cups and sodden McDonald's sacks and Flint's seated indian style watching the tide come in. He's still got his cigarettes. No weed. No booze. No cash.

Left to smoke in sober silence, then, he dusts dirty sand off of one of his knees and twists paired knuckles absently under the already slack knot of his tie. An airplane rumbles low overhead. Why not.

Ghost isn't wont to object, certainly, even if he does arrive in more of a her: the Institute's lady-skin. Also, further, a pair of cotton pants, a jacket bulky enough to convey to anybody who looks at her and knows anything about where they are that she's armed underneath it, and her hair pulled back from her face, ponytailed to help. Her boots are so tiny, she is half-convinced they were built for a Pekinese. The tracks she leaves behind would lead her to think so, certainly.

She walks very quietly.

"Flint." The same contralto as the one his scraggly pot-dealing whelp had led off into his mysterious van of sin the other week. The same skeleton, too, if he'll turn to check, narrow, growing closer like the spread of an inkstain on vertically-grained paper. "Hey. It's me. What's up?" Maybe she meant to ask literally. She does tip her head back slightly, look up at the indistinct promises of stars and satellites.

Somewhere in the last two years Deckard has learned not to be less aware of tinier footsteps and whatever threat they might entail. Winding sutures sketched into the sand by twee crab claws aside. She's not the first to have passed by while he's been out here, though — he doesn't turn his head until he hears his name, cigarette embered orange and eyes radioactive blue against black water and grey sand.

There's something black on his face, too. Blood smeared in tracks from eye socket to neck, the majority of it dried tarry in the bristle of uneven neckbeard and statelier stubble. Someone's punched him in the face again.

His return, "…Hey," is confused. The silence that yawns after it is confused too, quiet defined by knit brows and a long drag through which no explanation seems likely to resolve on its own. Left with some vestigal manners from one or more of his former lives, he's loathe to ask right out who the fuck she is if he should know, so. He sits and sizes her and her gun up for a good minute before he looks back out at the water. Okay.

The heavens lose their charm in the space of an eye-blink. The small woman botches the linear stitch of crab-prints with a dainty smear of one boot, and flattens a rock deeper into the beach with her next tread. Makes a skittering hop-skip up onto the slight incline of rock that mounts the night air behind Deckard's gargoylish sit. "I'm Teo," she says, failing entirely to give that declaration the proper recognition. "I saw you when Amadeus introduced himself the other week. He really seems to think he's your kid, and he's pretty nice. By which I mean 'kind.' Smart, I guess: underachiever.

"That's pretty fuckin' wild." Her boots hang a precarious perch on the stubbly texture of the topography underneath her. She winds up poised like a diver for a moment, arms out and behind her, torso tipped forward, but rocks backward just in time and only juts far enough. "Did you keep him?"

"Teo," echoed long after her conversational inquiry into the status of his son, Flint breathes smoke like a fish breathes water, dusty white eminating from his nose and through his teeth before a beachy breeze can stir the air clean again. Knees tipped up to provide a better rest for his elbows, he hunches forward to check his cell phone — time stamps on his most recent text exchange reviewed and then reviewed again more suspiciously a second time. "Kind've an unusual name for a girl."

She has a gun. So does he. But he's already given her his back and his head feels like a horse stepped on it.

The little girl steps like a little girl billy goat down, closer to the slope of the Flint's turned back, then onto the sand. She winds up stooped over him close enough that he could probably nick her chin with the top of his head if he sat up really fast. There is no click of gun-parts or rustle of cloth, no particular perfume or cologne to waft its notes around the obstruction of Deckard's head to where Deckard's senses can pick it up. Not until she opens her mouth to speak again. "Not a girl.

"This is just pretend. For a good cause. You know something about that, don't you?" The wind draws strands loose from her ponytail, lays them across her cheeks, so she lifts her empty hands to push them back behind her ears. The wind also puts nicotine smoke into her face, and that's what shifts her backward a rising half-step. "Where is he? Raquelle sitting him?"

"I dunno," says Deckard. Again after a pause. He knew where he was an hour or two ago, when he came over here and sat down and finished bleeding. But a couple've hours is a long time on Staten Island and he's mostly been thinking about how badly he'd like another drink to polish off the one he didn't get to finish.

Drugged up enough not to flinch or fidget at the sound of Teo(?) prancing around the rock face behind him all the same, he continues to step over entire reams of subject matter with silence. Busy measuring out the remaining stub of his cigarette on his way to deciding it's probably time to knock out a fresh one. "Prove you're here."

Short sprint in a rattle of breaking stone and scratch of small feet pushed downward, takeoff. Landing on the sand, next, and doesn't do a very good job of it even if she doesn't fall over. Arms windmill. Almost-laughter— a rare token's self-deprecation, for Ghost, twists a bar of long, oddly horsey-teeth into view on her sharp-featured face, even as she spindles her slight legs around to draw abreast of Deckard's sit. Christ. She hates being this fucking clumsy.

With a burning passion, but typically, proximity to the old man with X-ray eyes is a chilly enough radius of influence to quell things of burning and tonight seems typical enough, for both of them. Presence of borrowed vagina notwithstanding.

"I guess. Okay."

The curl of her fingers riffs out a square of tissue, summoned out from the lint and dander graveyard of one of her pockets. Folds it up over her index finger, pinched shut between deft middle and thumb, and then her arm is out like a cat's paw, roughing across the notch in the man's lip as if she's trying to sand it down to level with the rest of the grim geometry of his face.

Non-judgmental of gracelessness as a necessity, Flint is slow to look over when (s)he lands next to him. 'Grim' is apt. Particularly tonight, with the hard-edged planes and angles of his countenance cut silver and black in urban moonlight. The suit he's wearing is a nice one; pinstripes show clean across the rise of his near shoulder when he lifts his arm to shove the thing called Teo back out've reach, violence subdued out of muzzy, reluctant affection or. Exhaustion with the world. Both.

Blood easily comes away onto the tissue, meanwhile — a tired shade of orange-red with crustier bits of black where sweat alone isn't enough to re-animate desiccated cells. All this and he still has the stumpy filter of his original cigarette sputtering at the corner of his mouth and another on hold on his left hand, ready to go. "What happened to your manhood?"

She had managed not to flinch in anticipation of the blow, or even grimace when the arm settled within odor range. Instead, the ghost keeps wiping, until the brittle pattern of the scab comes away in recursive layers, allowing the grain the older man's bristly and careworn cheek to view of the night air. "I had to ditch it when I ran away from the Institute," she answers. "There's this whole clusterfuck. I'm trying to figure it out, but you know how it is with these sprawling, unexpectedly militant government shadow subfactions.

"Lots of layers, locations, operations. It's complicated." The tissue finally parts, dewed with some of Deckard's saliva, as well, possibly a little windblown ash. Ghost takes it away, folds it up, and looks around for somewhere to throw it. After a few seconds, she remembers she hates the sea, and chucks it overarm there. "What happened to your face?" Fair is fair.

The Institute is something Deckard's heard a lot and very little about. Vague threat forever looming with its elbows on the table of his life, closer even than he imagines. Like a TV show you've never seen but everyone else loves. Only it kidnaps and kills people. He's living with one of them, after all. More or less.

Acceptance that this is legitimately some form of Teo or another is as slow as it is relentless, disheartened tension at the truth of this meeting cinching slow into crow's feet and the clamp of his jaw. Not only because it's weird, but because it's the one that hardens his diaphragm and tweaks all of the elasticity out of his tendons, like he's been left out too long in the sun.

None of which is enough to stop him from checking her out. He's even clever enough to turn his eyes off before he does it, dull jelly grey raked around in the shadow his sockets've been pitched into. "Got in a fight," he says at length. "It's complicated."

"With who?" Not letting the old man off the hook so easily! Teos are relentless, even when they are little girls in absurd ragamuffin jackets. And whose overhand throw isn't even good enough to get the tissue more than three feet across the sand, before an errant whiff of salt air brings it back in a loop-de-loop of meandering flight through the air, back, inland, toward the treeline and snaggletooth grin of the skyline. Once upon a time, those were relatively expensive homes and tourist spots, with a sea view, uniquely positioned to receive coastal hikers.

She wraps her arms around her legs and steals his cigarette as an afterthought. Maybe just to see what he'll do, especially after she attaches a question-mark to the gesture with a lift of her thin, brown eyebrows.

"Some kid," says Deckard, his only emphasis housed in dejection when his unlit cigarette skips from his fingers into hers. It's good timing, really. He has the process of plucking the rumpled box out again to district himself with, old smoke smothered nose down into the sand before he picks out a new one this time. The lighter follows, cheap plastic glinting hot pink behind the first splutter and spill of sparks. Cost've picking one out while you're color blind.

He lights himself up first, charity reserved as an afterthought for this latest iteration of Teo. "It's cute when do it while you have a pussy," shared without malice, he leans the necessary degrees to tongue flame at the end of purloined tobacco. Crabs scatter away from the light like roaches, one big and two small.

Iiiinhale, and the end of her cigarette glows jack-o'-lantern bright as she does. Her fingers twitch inward and she twists her head to exhale away from Deckard. Not much point, though: the sea breeze rather promptly U-turns it and puts it back into Deckard's face. Not that the man can feel it, probably, having long since habituated to everything from briney air to combusting carcinogens. "Yeah," she answers. "Although the pussy probably shouldn't smoke. Nor you should.

"This public health bulletin was brought to you by," and then she fades off into an easy silence, flicking ash away with a pinkie on the underside of the tiny scroll. It takes her a few seconds, purling her tongue against the roof of her mouth, to realize that she thinks this brand of cigarettes tastes categorically terrible. But what can you do? "But you know," she whuffs a lungful of air inward, through her nose. A wet boy-noise. "You know what you could do when you get into fights with kids?

"Radiation burn them with your eyeballs."

She's straight-faced the whole way through that sentence. Looks at Deckard, eyes hooded, her ponytail half-coiled over her shoulder, provides no better punchline than the toilet-flush noise of the outgoing tide percolating through swept-up garbage.

Deckard's had worse things than cigarette smoke blown in his face, it's true.

"I quit for a while," is meant to sound more responsible than it does, probably, reassurance that he's capable of having willpower but not of sustaining it symptomatic of — everything about him, actually. With the bleak nature of that implication being limited only to one's imagination, it's probably for the best that Teo changes the subject on her own.

Her own. Her own.

Left hand lifted enough to feel after the hollow of his cheek, now mostly free of sticky residue, he tugs his cigarette away long enough to run his tongue over his teeth before he checks Laudani out sideways again. This time he doesn't turn his eyes off, either. "Radiation burn them with my eyeballs."

"Yeah." Ghost nods the girls head, and then has to push the hair back behind her ears again. She notices he is looking at her with his eyes on, and looks at him with a slightly impudent curl to the nostrils, shifts her eyes away, after a moment. There aren't a lot of things that the ghost wouldn't sully. That the body of an Institute goon and his relationship with a sometimes-serial killing kind-of-Company former-arms dealer ex-con who's (technically) shot him before is one of those things might not make a lot of sense, but no less than anything else. "Like Clarke Kent, uh? I mean.

"I doubt you cold charr anybody's skin right off or cut through sheet metal, but most people don't like to feel like they're burning. Even a little. And if you get them on the surface of their eyes, or something. That could go a long way toward getting shit done." She takes another drag, the cigarette cinched between her ring finger and her middle, and she makes an 'o' out of her lips, tries to make smoke rings. Fails utterly, is left frowning accusations at a shredding translucency in the air, but does not seem tremendously upset for it. "You love your eyes. I'm surprised you haven't tried to do more with them, 's all."

Deckard's quiet again for the time it takes him to turn the potential over in the back of his aching skull, free hand lifted again to nudge unconsciously after the dull throb in his eye socket. Once he's done trying to gauge age from the conversion of her cartelage into bone. Teeth. Wear and tear. Clearly he hasn't had boobies long enough to get into any kind've serious altercation. All of her major limbs and organs are still intact.

Eventually his latest drag is spent out through his teeth, smokey warmth swallowed away from his sinuses. He adjusts his sit, back hunched further over until he resigns himself stiffly back in humid sand. The suit's probably already ruined anyway. He smells like whiskey despite his slouchy sobreity. "Never really thought about it before."

Ghost takes his speculation in stride, insofar as that she isn't physically getting up and going anywhere. She makes another flick of ash at Manhattan, and the wind derails it again. While characteristically a verbose motherfucker, as extroverted as an introvert can be, Teo has always been more comfortable in the moats of Deckard's silences than with those of other people. "I think you should. It'd be keen. There's all this potential wrapped up in your head.

"Most of the abilities I know, they have a million applications, if you turn the knob around a little. There's more stuff your eyes could do. More you could see. If you practiced." She twirls her cigarette around, and nearly drops it, but manages to catch it with her ring-finger and middle— somehow without burning the skin of her hands. Doesn't laugh at herself, but there's a rueful smirk, the wrong shape for her pointed face.

"You're not supposed to have one." That much Flint remembers with clarity enough to be confident in pointing it out. The Teo he knew of old couldn't crawl into the bodies of passers by and inhabit them like a lump of parasitic larvae in their brains no matter how many knobs he turned.

Less quick to qualify a roll of the dice for insta-cancer as potential, he's slow to stretch himself all the way out into a supine loll in the sand. Easy without reason to be. Lax carelessness that has more to do with not giving a shit than it does contentment or peace of mind. "She still in there with you?"

Subtle surprise shifts through the girl's thinly shaped eyebrows, timed approximately to that first declaration that Flint made, but it stays there, and fades only slowly as he wriggles around like an elephant seal on the grit and mottle of the snow. There is probably broken glass down there, somewhere! but by 2019, Teo had long since given up throwing himself at minor skirmishes. Especially ones that he might not have the upper-body strength to lever up and back to safety.

"A little. Sometimes. The last time she was awake, we argued about the respective sizes of our prisons. She stopped talking before she gave me any idea of what kind of facility my meatsack is in." There's a small moue at that, too small to be parody. "I hate this thing. No offense to her."

Deckard considers what few aforementioned stars there are to see through the smothering grey influence of his own breath. And light pollution. Also the sweeping moral and ethical dilemmas active possession of someone else's body while they're still in it entails. Even if they aren't still in it, maybe.

He levers his cigarette out and aside to flick ash off the end with a turn of his thumb after a while, steeped in the usual murk of unreadable silence, eery regard late to roll back around for still another survey of Teo's vessel. Particularly the leg and ass regions. "I think it's alright," he says, earnest for all he fails to provide details or evidence to support this conclusion. A second flick of ash is more successful than the first and the filter touches back to the flat of his mouth on the leading edge of a second thought that has him hesitate on his way to drawing it out again. "Wanna screw around?"

She puts her shoes together underneath her, balancing like a penguin. This coincidentally makes her butt do pert muscular things and doesn't hurt the shape of her legs, either. The cigarette is done, or near enough that she doesn't want it anymore. Having more mass than the last couple things she aimed at the Northern satellites, when she flicks the cigarette, it goes all the way over. A half-dozen yards, tracing a parabola until it touches down in the soupy eddy of the tide.


(It took her a little time to answer. A little.) Also apparently the question warrants a token outright boner-kill. "Do you ever miss Abigail?"

No? Skeptical of such ready dismissal, Flint lifts his scruffy head to better seek out the muscles fixed sleek under cheeks and brows that aren't Teo's for familiar twitches of insincerity or. Room to be convinced. Sand peters out've the wiry hackle of his hair in damp fits and starts; catches in his collar and the skin furrowed loose around the join of his jaw to his neck. His eyes ring blue — osprey intent never blinking.

But he doesn't have long to do work. There's a tangible clench around his middle at mention of Abigail — a literal reflexive recoil of his junk that coincides with a grit at his jaw and a rankle through the bridge of his nose. The rise he might've attempted up onto his elbow is aborted at its midpoint. He rolls over up onto his side instead, Giving Teola the broad of his sand-dusted and pinstriped back.

Ghostla watches Deckard roll over. She is reminded of kelp. Ripped up out of the sea's floor, boiled ashore in a frothing sussurus of salt water, drying out in the sun, bubbles caged in the slime of deterioration. Which isn't very flattering, but. It would be worse from someone else. Teo always loved the sea, even after it discarded him with the rest of the niceties and hobbies he'd accumulated in his life.

"Sorry," she hears herself say, in her squeaky little girl-voice.

There's nothing after that. And it's less than there would have been, with another incarnation of Teo. Or. Any other incarnation of Teo, really, but it's— something. More scratching, small feet on broken shells and fragmented litter. She steps over his legs. Looks at his face in a way that doesn't seem to be staking a claim for eye-contact, when she shares, unbidden. "I do too."

Comparisons to kelp are apt. Long face flattened aside to sand and his shoulder, where grit abrades fresh seeps of red from the split in his cheek, Flint lies still to the soundtrack of contaminated seafoam and things he doesn't want to talk about.

His tolerance is more tenuous, now, bland stare aimed past the girl that is still Teo rather than at her. Even rickety old zoo animals used to being flicked with pennies and teased and hooted at tend to snap when they're poked in the face.

He doesn't say anything.

The girl supposes she shouldn't, either. Three feet away, she sits down too. Pak-pak, the heels of her shoes digging in the sand. She folds down until the back of her pants touches the ground, and then the arch of her spine loosening, flattening out on the incline. The back of her head meets the pebbly surface before her feet do. She lays prone for a couple minutes, her own slithery pile of kelp, looking up rather than across at Flint. Picks out North star, a dipper, the bear one. The little one. Stuff that's blanched out back in the skies over Manhattan.

"I have athletic tape," she says, when that gets boring. "I've been jogging a lot. Can I close up your cheek?"


His face is fine. Even if she insists on framing herself out in front of it.

Cigarette snuffed down into the beach under a flat scrape of his palm, Flint muffles a cough out after it and rolls the rest of the way over onto his front, free arm shifted up over his eyes in the process. "Is that all you had to tell me?"

For a few minutes, she can't remember. Mostly because Maggie's waking up. Yelling. Not about the cigarette, like she should be, but what if this gangly stranger thinks to touch her? Hadn't they been talking about touching her? TEEEEEEOOO.

Teo blinks her eyes for her, and the flinches the corners of her mouth downward in rebuke. "No. I'm getting things together to question her, soon. The real her, I mean: this Institute operative. I wanted to invite you, in case you could see something that I'd miss. I don't want to torture her or anything, so." So this is a decade too early, and that would appear to be genuine loathing etched into the older man's long face, but.

Those things seem temporary. The former, by definition and dint of luck. The latter, because it's passed, before. Having too much history between two people tends to mean it'll last, even if only in agonizing, sucking inches, cruel coincidence and burdensome psychology, not that it's over. "Francois will be there, too. He's a miserable fuck, lately. Could be fun to watch."

In those few minutes Flint's breathing had slowed into a regular sink and lift to match the tide rushing at his bootheels.

Teo's girl voice snaps him out of it sufficiently enough that he starts to push to his feet once the actual words have sunk in, though — he grunts through his teeth and rustles and drizzles sand like a dog, dirtier than it's responsible to be in the caliber of clothing he's in. "You're already torturing her," could stand to have stronger delivery than the half-hearted growl it comes out as while he's still on all threes, one arm out for balance while he heaves himself out've the beachy grind with the other. "I'm retired from sociopathy."

"It's nothing compared to what they did to the pastor," could stand to have more humility in its wording and substance, but hey. As long as nobody here is perfect. "Or Gillian. 'Nette. Or me.

"I could be fucking her a lot harder." Defensive should be done the way adolescents do it, guys! And that wasn't even a deliberate reference to their earlier exchange. "She'll get to go home, someday. Luckier than some of us." She doesn't even bother to get up, much to the dismay of their outwardly silent audience member. She watches Deckard stilt his ascent toward upright, all stretched bones and sand-clogged suit, fading to a silhouetted point below the slow swing of constellations.

She folds her hands on her belly. "Is that a No?"

Somewhere in there was a poor choice of words.

It's hard to tell exactly where given that Deckard doesn't manage to get all the way up before he goes stiff through the spine and plays it back over in his head, but the safe money's on 'all of it.'

Then he jerks — gracelessly — but with a ruthless kind of Deckardian efficiency to snarl his right hand claw-like across and into Teo's top to haul her up. Onto her feet, if she can find them. Otherwise on up into him hard and fast, like maybe he's having sudden-onset second thoughts about the whole retirement thing, eyes like brands and teeth bared.

If Ghost hadn't been doing so much running lately, she'd probably have had a bad bout of blood rush right about then. Instead, it happens to her with an uncomfortable degree of clarity. Hard hands on her shirt, the coarse-toothed shore raking at her legs, air, the uncomfortable crick of her neck snapping upright upon halt and the subsequent clack of her teeth, a stone in her shoe.

She does manage to stand on her own shoes. Barely. The balls of feet skitter an anemic pattern on the ground, and her hands are coming up before she can tell them not to, but she diverts them from lethal force to a shove broadside his chest, small knuckles snapping punches off at his elbows. "Fucking let me go," she snarls. It is like trying to hang onto a tantruming cat. It'll be only that, until one of them opts to go for the groin.

Being shoved and punched and wrestled with makes forced intimacy more difficult than it might be with an evil scientist(?) half his size who isn't possessed by an insane ninja. The mouth-to-mouth action Flint tries to force on her is aborted quickly in a nasty clip of his horsey teeth and a shove of his own — down and back towards beachwater tarred thick with debris. Some of the rusted metal looks sharp; once Felix hit him in the head with a lead pipe out here.

All at once the memory sears white behind the rickety crook's eyes — disorienting enough that he lists warily out've the earliest stages of a followup kick and backs off. A little. Enough to reassess his surroundings — like he's skittish all've a sudden. Paranoid that this littlest version of Teo might not be alone.

The reality is much more upsetting for the littlest version of Teo. Who is, in fact, alone. Technically, anyway. "Son of a bitch," she hisses, like a serpent— more enraged than frightened, when she realizes that the old man had just. Tried to— what, kiss her? Incredulous the way most men default to being, at the possibility of being sexually exploited or raped, as if that's the domain of women, and the notion's more often the punchline for a joke than anything else. Probably, Teo should know better.

But social norms, particularly the ugly and hilariously irrelevant ones, die hard. She slides backward, pebbly sand turfing up under her shoes. "What the fuck is wrong with you?" Her voice is upsettingly shrill. Her gun is out now, rather suddenly, the reflex seen through to completion, finally.

Whether or not isolation alone is enough encouragement for Deckard to have a second go of it is likely to remain a mystery for as long as there's a pointed gun between here and there. Hollow and grim in grimy moonlight, he shifts his weight restlessly on the edge of an invisible line that he might get shot for crossing, like a stray who's had lead pellets carved out've his hide before performing rudimentary cost benefit analysis.

Sand sifts wan away from his shoulders, filling the pall of Deckard's silence with the silty pitter patter of pebbly detritus. He looks at the gun. His eyes glow, so.

It's pretty easy to see that's what he's looking at.

"I dunno."

"Do you want me to buy you a hooker?" is arguably the wrong thing to say, but then, the ghost doesn't have the most excellent track record for that right now. Stars wink their various conspiracies overhead at glaring apogees and invisible perigees, and there's humidity accumulating slowly, the promise of some kind of weather. "Motherfucker," and she finds her own voice unattractively shrill. Her foot knocks a can away. "How was that hot at all? If there was ever a time to fucking talk—"

—this probably wouldn't be it, actually. That probably isn't exactly what cuts Teo off, mid-sentence, but silent she falls, her breath going out thinly between her teeth. The gun doesn't waver. Not even when she puts it up, nozzle aimed pointlessly skyward, and puts it back on safety with a press of his thumb.

Arguably, yeah.

Deckard's lower jaw hinges into a sketchy jut and he rankles his nose, ill-suppressed anger hardened through the length of his face. Fresh tracks of blood glisten their way darkly down the hollow plane of his cheek; his knuckles knot, worn tendon bleached out white at his sides. It is what it is. He doesn't make any excuses.

He does turn to go, though — back turned and first step catching out of a trip where one boot sunk too deep into the sand. Away from Teo and the distant Pelican. Time to find a ferry home.

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