Unus Duro Spiritus


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Scene Title Unus Duro Spiritus
Synopsis The Remnant travels back a century and some change to the end of the Olympic games to put themselves between Kazimir's father and an unknown assailant.
Date October 28, 1900

Fine particles of dust tossed in the wind can at times look like threads of smoke, if they're light enough.

It's that whispery quality that wafts from an open mouth, black lips pull back tight away from teeth. The corpse's mouth is open in an expression of a scream, flesh powery beneath a fragile skin of parchment-like ash, muscle tissue pulled taut like cords of black thread. Staring eyelessly at the sky as a rumble of thunder drums in the clouds.

The first few droplets of falling rain darken the ash, kick up tiny puffs of dust that was once tissue. The corpse's clothing is untouched, dark and understanted, a hat fallen to the side on the street where road dust browns the black.

A moment later her chest collapses inwards and a gout of ash dust explodes out of the skeletal jaws, causing ash to crack, bones to shatter like brittle sand and her jaw to dislocate and head to roll to the side with a cracking sound. Standing over the corpse, the gaunt figure of a dark-haired man in a greatcoat looks up from the crumbling, ashen corpse with a horrified look in wide-blue eyes, bare hands held out in front of himself, gaunt face pale as a bead of rain rolls down his forehead.

"I thought— I thought she was…" is murmured in a thickly accented voice, German evident in his pronunciation. But when Colonel Volken affixes a stare on Jensen Raith when he finally emerges out onto the street from the side entrance of the building, there is a distinct absence of the man who had been behind him up until only a moment ago.

Clutched in one of the corpse's hands, a silver pocket watch shines cleanly against the ash of her remains. The time is inconsequential now.

One Hour Earlier

Paris, France

October 28th


Even with the skies overcast and rain threatened in heavy clouds, the beauty of Paris is unable to be tarnished.

A cool, crisp breeze blows thorugh the Parisian streets, carrying with it coppery leaves and the scent of impending rain. The noise of carraige wheels loudly rumbling across a packed earth street accompanies the clop of hooves and the noisy of a busy morning. From the rooftops of the adjacent buildings, powdery white plumes of smoke are expelled from chimneys, the distant sound of a crowd cheering eliciting smiles from a pair of young boys rushing past a wooden bench on the roadside.

No one is any the wiser, that the two people seated squarely on the bench don't belong here, and won't belong here for another several generations at all. From the perspective of Gabriel Gray and Eileen Ruskin, the world hasn't much changed in the last hundred years and change. It's gotten noisier, bigger, but the troubles that people faced a century ago are still played out.

Across the street, a carraige driver kneels down beside his vehicle, looking at a buster wheel, the metal framing torn loose from the wooden skeleton, his head in his hands in frustration. A young couple walk down the street past his carraige, her expression a difficult to discern mask of reservation and interest as he speaks, gesticulating wildly.

Under the awning of a shop, a woman stands in silence, her expression vacant and distant, dress rumpled and mud streaked down one sleeve, her hair tangled and a bruise on her cheek. The shopkeeper watches her out the front windows, his brow set and jaw squared, his disapproval partly hidden by reflections of the street in the glass. Across her field of view, a parade of six men in black tuxedo jackets, pressed slacks and glossy silk tophats loudly talk to one another, their footsteps interspersed with the clicks of canes on the sidewalk.

The staccatto rhythm; step, click, step, reminds Eileen Ruskin why she's here.

In the young woman's hands, seated where she is on that bench watching the old world go by, there's a faded, vintage postcard. The front shows the city of Paris from a rooftop, the Eiffel tower rising dark against the skies. But it's the back that has her attention, thin and whispery handwriting in German that she was told the meaning of, though the names written on the post card dated several months ago are clear enough.

At her side, Gabriel Gray has hs eyes on a building across the street, a gray-block stone structure with blue trim and tall, narrow windows. In silhouette it looks more like a fortress than a building; Stark lines, blockish, uninviting. The same can be said for the man exiting it with his coat drawn closed around himself, short hair disturbed by the wind in a toussling of gray and brown.

That Jensen Raith was chosen to approach the German consulate for the location of their target is perhaps not surprising. Once a spy, always a spy, and the most basic tenants of the spy game have truly not changed in one hundred years. Some parlance in French may have, but this would not be the only time that someone believed Jensen to be odd; in fact it is just reinforcing what is now a centuries old belief held 'round the world that he is unusual.

Treading across the packed earth street, dust kicked up in his footsteps as he weaves through carraige traffic, Jensen Raith's return is one of triumph. Colonel Volken is, indeed, in the city.

Now the real work can start.

It's not exactly easy, fitting into an era in which he's only familiar with through period films, photographs and history books, but Raith manages it. After all, he's essentially still just 'the man in the black suit,' even if that suit is heavier than he'd like, with a necktie required instead of optional (and happily left at home). At the very least, the cuffs and collar of his shirt are all attached to it, one less thing to grow accustomed to. The hat, at least, is a matching fedora, rather than a far less fashionable (in his mind) derby. It's tough to fit in, yes, but Raith does it, even if he refused to surrender his sunglasses. At least they aren't a complete anachronism in this age.

It's with little difficulty that the temporarily reactivated spy weaves through the traffic, having had plenty of practice in NewYork City (albeit under far more dangerous conditions), and it's with that smirk so familiar to his two compatriots as he strides up to them. "Jackpot," he says, "The Colonel is in the city. Amazing the things people will tell you when you talk fast enough. You two look adorable together, by the way." Because, let's face it, it's just not Raith unless he is getting on your nerves, whether intentionally or not.

Adorable is not a word that Eileen has desired people use to describe her since she was six or seven years old. The corners of her dark mouth, painted a deep carmine red, turn down around a small frown in response to Raith's comment, but she does not vocalize her displeasure beyond a thin sigh that only the man seated beside her can hear.

While many ladies are dressed lavishly for the World Fair like peacocks and Asian pheasants, the Englishwoman's clothes strike the balance between luxury and pragmatism expected of a businessman's wife. The dress she wears beneath a long gray coat trimmed with fox furs narrows her waist, fits closely to her hip and is paired with an elongated corset designed to give her a fashionably classic s-shape silhouette.

A gold wedding band around her ring finger and a pair of pearl earrings give her the appearance of someone who fits neatly into the upper-middle class, which is where she prefers to be for the purpose of this expedition. The Ingrams are well off enough to attend fanciful social functions if they so choose, but not so wealthy that they can't also mingle with the city's criminal underbelly.

Gabriel's gift to her completes her costume, long black rooster feathers shimmering like silk in the light. A few loose strands of dark brown hair curl serpentine at her jaw, but the majority is pinned back into an elegant twist at the nape of her pale neck.

"Thank you," seems like the polite thing to say and, perhaps for the sake of staying in character, she does. When it comes to playing a part, it's Gabriel who is the expert, and although she hopes to learn from him while they're here, she's making a sincere effort even without his guidance.

Seated patiently and quietly, Gabriel stands out in much the same way Raith does — which isn't much at all, if markedly well to do. With his own fedora in hand rather than on his head, upside to the sky and all grey tweedy material, he's in his obligatory three-piece black suit which he'd sweltered in during the New York City early fall, but is glad for the layers currently — and this includes the coat he has flung over it, wolf fur defining wide lapels and streaking down the buttoned hems, hanging open.

His gaze snaps over to Raith as the other man emerges and approaches, automatically getting to his feet. His own wedding band glimmers golden in the hazy light of cloud-riddled day, as he goes to replace hat upon head. "Glad to know we didn't get dressed up for nothing," he notes, with a lift of thick eyebrows. He hadn't fit his clothes as well as he does now, upon transporting here under a shapeshifted disguise that Hiro had barely even looked at.

The time traveler looked a little tired. Gabriel isn't quite prepared to lend a hand in time travel beyond what he already has, despite the fact that the flow of time feels like a tangible, malleable thing around him. Testing that one out should be fun.

The cool breeze that blows down the street is punctuated by a distant rumble of thunder, an unfortunately damp ending to the festivities of the 1900 Olympics and World's Fair. But as tempting as it is, the journey beyond the pale of both space and time comes with its share of responsibilities, and that this group was chosen for this mission did not emerge from the throwing of darts at names on a wall. There is design in here, perhaps more so than any one time-traveler or postcognitive would have led on either.

The information Raith obtained from the German consulate was specific, that Colonel Volken would be attending the closing ceremonies at the games in the evening, and prior to that would be taking a personal visit to the Montclair Institute of Performance Art before then.

Thankfully for Jensen, the man at the consulate was considerably helpful in the determination of where this particular school is located, and while the distance of several blocks in a modern world is not much of an inconvenience, to out of towners in 1900s Paris, there are more complications to consider, eventualities of expedience juxtaposed against the difficulties of something as simple as paying for a carraige ride.

"Indeed." At least that's working in their favor. Raith glances off into the distance, scowling at the sky as if that might somehow ward off rain for the rest of the day. Nothing, of course, is ever so simple. "He'll be at the closing ceremonies," Gabriel's faux-brother states as he turns back to look at the other two, "Or we can attempt to catch him earlier. Montclair Institute of Performance Art. I think that might be a slight bit easier, considering the smaller crowd we'll have to contend with, but we should get moving in that case. I don't want this to get more complicated than it needs to be. So." A pause, just for effect. "In the interest of not getting lost, I propose we take a taxi, and keep it simple."

Eileen rises from her seat after Gabriel does, and it's a little more complicated than simply standing up. A hand sweeps across her backside as she climbs to her feet, adjusting the skirt of her dress and its many layers. Fortunately, her commitment to authenticity does to extend to her undergarments. If she did, she'd have even more fabric to contend with.

She slips the postcard into her coat's interior pocket — the same one in which she keeps her watch — and directs the turtledove perched on a nearby roof to flutter closer and alight on the stone lip of a gently-burbling fountain that has difficulty being heard over the murmur of voices and the clip-clop of passing hooves. "Hail a carriage," she suggests. "We don't necessarily need to pay."

"Fine. Let's go with a slight bit easier," isn't one of the hardest decisions Gabriel's had to make, glancing down towards Eileen as she rises with more effort than should strictly be necessary, before he's offering his arm to her in a gesture mimicked from one of the men on the streets he's been watching in interest of acting.

If there's anyone here who might enjoy sinking into a role— well it could be any of them, but Gabriel does have a track record for enjoying himself. "Unless you want me to try teleporting for the first time," and no one wants to be a first time when it comes to teleporting, though this is the first time Gabriel has verbalised copying Hiro's ability besides speculation back at the Old Dispensary, "I'd say the guy with the French should do any carriage hailing."

"Good, glad we're all in agreement here." Without adding more, Raith immediately turns about, not having to do much to play up his role as 'eccentric,' and steps just enough towards the thoroughfare to make his presence known, hoping (perhaps vainly) that the proper method for hailing a carriage is no different from hailing a taxi cab one hundred years later. If it's not, that's okay too. He's American.

Truth be told, stepping out on front of a street and waving down a coachman isn't all that different than hailing a taxi, and the results are more likely too in 1900s France. When one of the black passenger carraiges rolls to a stop by Raith, there's a look of the driver and a tip of one hand down on the brim of his bowler hat, "«All three?»" is tiredly quipped in French as a look is cast out from the top of the carraige to Gabriel and Eileen, followed by one raised brow.

It's not entirely impossible, at least as much as it would seem, to integrate into a culture both so far removed from your own in time and space. On the outside, this journey into the heart if Paris a hundred years back may not be as difficult as it seemed, not nearly as daunting. After all, Raith, Eileen and Gabriel are from a culture one-hundred years more advanced. Time travelers from the future in science-fiction are always at an advantage right?


Or at least this is the way Eileen has chosen to approach things. This isn't their city — it isn't even their century, and of the two who speak French, only one has enough experience to perhaps pass himself off as a native speaker. Their clothes are reproductions, her knowledge of the era grounded in text and a handful of stories she remembers Kazimir relating to her.

And they're not alone. Her turtledove observes the crowd rather than the carriage, even as she lightly clasps her hand around Gabriel's forearm for support when he opens the door and ushers her inside, its black-rimmed eyes seeking discrepancies in the crowd that might identify one of the individuals they've been sent here to stop.

She ducks her head and takes a seat by the opposite window, her movements deliberate and ginger. Unsurprisingly, her small frame leaves ample room in the carriage for the two gentleman accompanying her. "Oui," she tells the driver.

A handful of Latin, a fast fading smattering of Mandarin. Gabriel has regrets about not making proper use of his super memory when he had it, but he's not too nervous about being an English speaker in a different country, even without Eileen and Raith to buffer communications — their story is good, and looking the part is half the battle. Once Eileen is helped inside, he's quick to follow with a fur-lined flick of his coat, a hand up to pinch the brim of his hat between fingers to steady it during his climb before settling in in front of her, his back against the front-most wall of the carriage.

"And what are we doing when we get there?" is offer to plot as he settles in for the ride, scratching the back of his neck before he glances out at grey stone, overcast Paris through the window of the vehicle.

"We do the same thing we did when we struck it rich in shipping," Raith replies, pausing just long enough to voice instructions to the driver- "«Please, Monclair Institute of Performance Arts. Quickly.»" Before he focuses his attention back onto Gabriel with his smirk. "We improvise." It's not completely a lie; they did sort of improvise the origin story of their money.

It's a wait of measured time between all three passengers getting in to the covered carraige, and the door swinging shut with a firm click when the last comes in. A moment later there's a yip from the driver and a sudden lurch of movement as the noisy carraige begins rumbling forward. While the noise of the metal-rimmed tires is amplified somewhat within the confines of the wooden carraige, it's likely far louder up top for the driver. In a way, it's the ample cover needed to have a more open conversation about the plan they are likely going to be enacting.

In detailed assessment of their plan, there is a Colonel of the German Military visiting a French school for the performing arts. Unfortunately, Kazimir Volken was never one to speak much of his father, and what little that Gabriel Gray saw of him when the pair shared a life and history in the same body was of a taciturn and strict man, but one devoted to his family who showed considerable remorse at his son's side in death.

That Kazimir repaid that kindness in unintended murder is perhaps the litmus by which the remainder of his entire life was written. To imagine that moment in history sliced out like so much dead tissue, Gabriel cannot help but recall the painful moment Kazimir had forced on him.

How would his history be different, had his mother not died? Would he have still become the monster that lurks in both the back of his mind and outside of his skin?

Would Kazimir really change? Or are some people simply born evil.

Inside the carriage, with no sparrow or bluebird tucked under her collar, Eileen is rewarded with darkness for relinquishing her influence over the turtledove. She braces a hand against the wall adjacent to the window Gabriel is looking out of and grows tense beneath her fox furs. To say she sometimes forgets that she's blind would be wildly misleading at best and a cutting insult at worst, but every time she chooses not to use her ability, she experiences renewed feelings of quiet apprehension that shudder down the empathic connection that exists between her and the man seated across from her.

"We should stay as close to him as we can," she recommends in a soft but steely voice. "Germany has a need for what you're selling if it desires to expand," which they know it does, and soon will — to the whole world's misfortune. "Who better for a pair of coal barons to approach than someone close to the top of the military's food chain?"

If there was a way to give her sight, they would have figured it out by now. But Teo's psychic meanders only go one way, and their empathy is a mute, blind and deaf connection, tenuous at best. Beneath the brim of stiff grey wool, Gabriel shifts a look to Eileen at that flicker of nervousness, but doesn't have much in the way to soothe. There's no fixing some things. He listens, though, and eases back in his seat with an elbow resting against the edge of window.

Angles to look at Raith as he notes, "You're so taking the lead on this one." A slice of a smile, shadowy and toothy, indicates he's not even kidding. It might also indicate, remember Shooters. It's a facetious expression, vanishes instantly, Gabriel returning back to customy, brood pensiveness and watchfulness.

"Well, I don't have any problems with taking the lead on this one, so long as you stay on hand to provide any support I might need." Raith is, if nothing else, up front regarding what their plan is. If, in fact, 'improvise' can be considered a plan. "This is going to require all the finesse necessary to run a good scam, only without the easy money at the end of it. Now, heads together. Between all of us, what do we know about Colonel Volken? We'll have an easier time working into his trust if at least one of us is the sort of person he thinks he can relate to and understand." Leaning forward in his seat, the way a television conspirator might, Raith states what he knows about the man in one moment of measured silence. "Well, that's all I got," he says, returning to his former position of leaning slightly back. "Name, rank, and not much else besides that. So I certainly hope the two of you manage to turn me into an expert before we get there."

"He has a wife." Eileen's contribution is small, but it's more than Raith's silent offering. "And a son who felt enough affection for a woman named Serise to keep a picture of her between the pages of his journal. She's the Colonel's wife, I'm almost certain of it. Kazimir's mother." She reaches into her coat again, takes the postcard between two slim fingers and holds it out for either of the men to take. "He's here in Paris to visit them and writes that he hopes his son is doing well in school. Whether or not he means the Monclair Institute, I don't know, but I don't think it's an unfair assumption for us to make."

Allowing Raith to have first dibs, Gabriel folds his arms on a knee, legs crossed as he considers what he knows, which— are less facts and figures, footnotes in history and momentos, and more feeling, intangible memory, impressions that are more like touch and scent than concrete words. He runs his tongue long the front of his teeth as Eileen talks and he thinks, back to watching Paris out the window, another carriage with an open top carrying what could well be the 1900s version of tourists in the back in the form of three women craning their necks to see the city.

"Maybe he means something to his son enough for him to follow in daddy's foot steps. Kazimir dies in Belgium, or he's meant to. Colonel Volken's ability— the ability— siphons into him to keep him alive, and Kazimir takes it and kills him in turn. Accidentally." He glances between the two, back to the window. "That's how it's meant to go down. That's all I remember."

Although Raith's gaze is focused outward to the city, specifically to the other carriage that rolls past them, he is nevertheless listening to the information that filters in, nodding his head now and then when a suitably long pause presents itself. "I think I can work with that," he says, once more focusing on the coach occupants sitting across from him. "Not much, but we're never going to have much in these circumstances. If nothing else, stay close. I don't expect trouble, I'm not looking for trouble, but we're still dealing with the dust shadow. And I, for one, would like to go back home alive."

Momentarily, his concentration drifts again and his gaze dances back to the window. "Look out there. The totality of man's accomplishment so far, on display for the world to see. And with the smallest gesture, we could bring all of it crashing into oblivion. The closest to having an ability I'll ever get." Another moment, and then he turns his attention, for the second time, back to Eileen and Gabriel. "Either of you suppose the Colonel might be hungry?"

Gabriel doesn't want the postcard. Raith doesn't want the postcard. Eileen runs the tips of her fingers along its edge, one dimpling at the corner, and then rests her hands in her lap rather than tuck it away again should either of them happen to change their minds.

She isn't counting on it. When she inhales, her nose is filled with the stale smell of old upholstery, the damp cobblestones outside and lingering traces of the perfume she dabbed on her wrists and throat this morning — like long wool coats and leather boots that lace up, floral fragrances have been in style for centuries, and will probably continue to.

Gabriel doesn't comment on the power Raith contemplates, raising an eyebrow but not his voice. That he's not a fan of Bradbury is put on hold, for now, preferring to keep the conversation on the right rails rather than dispute the importance of a butterfly — if he believed in course correction, then what's he doing here? He also doesn't offer input this time, with no opinion on how hungry Volken Senior might be, or whether or not Raith is asking them out to dinner. Dining in Paris at the turn of the century would be an experience.

"I'd suggest against too much conversation, but I guess one benefit for us is that if we slip up, no one's gonna believe the truth," he offers, more to himself than the other two.

Another nod of agreement from the ex-spy. "Why not take them to dinner?" he asks, "We need to stay close to them, and that will be that much easier if they feel we are trustworthy people. If we intend to approach this as if we were hoping to make a business deal, then what better opening that an invitation to dinner? As long as we're careful where we go, what we do, and what we say, there shouldn't be any problems. And not for nothing, if we can make a good impression with a dinner, it will be much, much easier to stay close to Volken while he's at the closing ceremonies."

Conspiratorially, Raith leans forward again. "Don't you agree?" He might be having a bit too much fun with his role.

Raith has been doing this longer than Eileen or Gabriel. This does not, however, prevent the Englishwoman's mouth from adopting a dubious shape. "I'm not sure we can successfully bluff our way through all three courses, but the cover we've chosen will help." The carriage's gentle sway has her placing a hand across her midsection, and if either man is looking they may notice a tightening in the muscles of her neck as her throat contracts and she forces herself to swallow. She looks a little nauseous.

That is to say: Not hungry. "French and American cultures are different enough that the Atlantic should excuse any idiosyncrasies," she continues after a brief pause, wan. "I hope. Maybe we ought to invite him to talk about himself. Keep the conversation as one-sided as possible?"

Eileen won't be able to see the suspectful switch of a glance her way from Gabriel, his mouth in a line as he seems to scan her face for any ulterior motives beneath wanting to hear Vladimir talk a whole lot. There is nothing particularly to glean, though, not from her words nor her expression, not when she's talking logically, and he shifts a look back out the window, listening more to the conversation than contributing — taking heed is useful in its own right.

"We'll work on the plan when the time comes, sister dear. Press for too much about him, and he's liable to think one or more of us is a spy." It's all Raith has to say in the way of plans for the time being, and his settling back into his seat says as much. He is, however, not finished talking. "For now, practice. Tell me again where you met my brother."

The Montclair Institute of Performance Arts

Paris, France


That the courtyard of the Monclair Institute resembles a palace courtyard more so than a school is testament to the age of the structure. Cobblestone covers the plaza where an enormous bowl fountain features rising tiers in the middle, upon which is perched a weathered statue of an angle carrying a book. Water pours from the pages, cascading down into the first tier and then each other successively.

Seated on one of the benches around the fountain's base, children with wooden easels and sticks of charcoal are sketching the grounds of the school, from the leafless trees rising up out of landscaped beds dusted with autumnal foliage, to the carraiges parked on the plaza grounds.

One young girl of barely twelve sketches one of the carraige horses, a brow raised in appraising of her drawing. All the while, a female teached in waistcoat and dress all a charcoal gray circles the fountain hawkishly, inspecting each of the students' work. The threat of rain draws her attention up to the clouded skies overhead, then back down to the students, stopping by one as she dips into a crouch, looking at his drawing of the street. Clean lines, attention to detail and all too mechanical for the teacher's taste.

"«I told you, no more buildings,»" one of the teacher's hands comes down to snatch the picture up, crumpling it into a ball in her hand as the young, blonde boy stares at her with wide eyes. Lips part and he begins the sound of a whine, only to have her tap down on his board where another sheet of paper lays.

"«Start over. Remember, life study, we are studying,»" and this word has a pointed pause between it and "«life.»" Straightening up again, the teacher looks to the sound of roaring wheels rumbling over cobblestone and the approach of a carraige headed into the courtyard. "«Hurry, hurry, I want you all to have something to show me before we go in from the rain! Some of you are further along than others, work quicker!»"

Turning her back on the carraige, the teacher begins pacing around the fountain again. At her back, the carraige door is opened and common decency puts the dark-haired and quiet husband of any married pair out of the carraige first, turning to help his wife down. The gesture is perhaps more appreciated than most people would realize, Eileen Ruskin's blindness makes most forms of stairs, especially narrow carraige steps, harrowing.

From the front of the courtyard, the palatial grounds of the Montclair Institute is an ornimental silhouette on the landscape, a sprawling building on forested parkland surrounded by iron fencing. A handful of young children ranges age eight to twelve are in the plaza, most sketching what they see around them. It isn't the children that has brought this time-spanned guests here though.

Somewhere on the grounds, Colonel Volken is unknowingly at terrible risk.

As Eileen descends the carriage steps with Gabriel's aid, a pair of sparrows that had been splashing in the fountain and scattering droplets of water with excited flickers of their wings weave joyously through the air, scissor past the brim of the driver's squat hand and swing once around the courtyard to give her a view of everything there is to be seen, their flight brisk, sporadic.

"If anyone asks," she murmurs lowly in a voice that only Gabriel and perhaps Raith can hear, "we're touring the grounds to see if it's worth sending Jensen's daughter to study here." And that's an easier lie than pretending that she and her 'husband' have a children, because it masquerades as a half-truth. Raith is a father.

Whether Liette Fournier has ever expressed to him or Lorraine any desire to study abroad—


Soles of polished shoes scrape quietly on the cobblestone once Gabriel is out of the carriage, a light breeze kicking at his wolf hair collar and the hanging hems of his coat. A reasonably intimidating presence in a space littered with children and teachers, he doesn't lessen such an effect with a smile or much acknowledgment to the scenery.

With Eileen's hand perched on his wrist like any obedient bird, Gabriel spans a glance over his shoulder towards his 'brother' as Raith leaves the carriage. A psychic reach of feeling around the available minds within the orbit of his ability doesn't— tell him much at all, with the scattering of people within the courtyard, the wanderers beyond, but it's a cursory sweep as instinct as a glance around the space.

"Ten-four," is a very futuristic acknowledgement of Eileen's instruction, but quietly muttered, and then a little louder to include Raith, a cynical flash of a glance; "Shall we?"

Gabriel steps out, followed by Eileen, and finally Raith, who pauses just short of stepping down to the ground as he looks this way and that, observing the architecture. Turning back to the others with a smile, he replies with an emphatic, "Let's," before he steps down fully and wheels about with the slightest bit of flair to pay the coachman: "«Thank you. How much?»" It's just as much up to Gabriel to make sure that the money Raith trades for services rendered is convincing, but all of that they'd worked out ahead of time. The challenge now is less trying to fit in as it is to locate Colonel Vladimir Volken before wicked fortunes befall him. And surely, someone as powerful as Volken arriving certainly will generate a greater buzz than two American businessmen and one Englishwoman with money but of otherwise no importance.

As Gabriel, Raith and Eileen cross the courtyard from their point of arrival, the children sketching seem to be paying the new arrivals more attention than their work, much to the chagrin of their teacher. Scolding a young girl who is refusing to pay attention to her drawing of the carraige horse, the teacher is wholly unaware that the blonde boy she had scolded earlier is likewise paying far more notice to the unfamiliar faces arriving than his own work.

Across the cobblestone courtyard, under the boughs of leafless trees, the three can spot a pair of people walking out of the school's front doors. Both of them look distinctly out of place in their sharply cut clothing of tall boots with pants tucked in, buttoned down great coats and stiff demeanor. One of the men is far younger than the other, a dark-haired teenager with fair blue eyes and a scruff of sandy blonde hair cut short atop his head. The man at his side is older, somewhere in his forties on estimate, dour and gaunt, black hair swept back from his face, blue eyes cold and set within sunken sockets of a man who does not sleep.

Eileen notices the way birds scatter from their path, and that the pigeons that had been occupying the courtyard scatter out of fright reminds her of the ravens at the tower of London, scattering on the firdy day that she recalled seeing Kazimir Volken and Amato Salucci together.

"Madame?" A squeaky voice draws Eileen's focus away from the two men headed their way, "Madmoiselle?" Politer now, still as squeaky, there is a child standing at her side. Pale blonde hair and big eyes, a scarf tied loosely around his neck and drab brown school uniform hanging a little big on his stick-thin frame. "Est-ce que madamoiselle, poseriez-vous pour que je dessine?" The young boy looks up, holding out his drawing table as if demonstrative. She hasn't a clue what he's asking of her.

As Gabriel, Raith and Eileen cross the courtyard from their point of arrival, the children sketching seem to be paying the new arrivals more attention than their work, much to the chagrin of their teacher. Scolding a young girl who is refusing to pay attention to her drawing of the carraige horse, the teacher is wholly unaware that the blonde boy she had scolded earlier is likewise paying far more notice to the unfamiliar faces arriving than his own work.

Across the cobblestone courtyard, under the boughs of leafless trees, the three can spot a pair of people walking out of the school's front doors. Both of them look distinctly out of place in their sharply cut clothing of tall boots with pants tucked in, buttoned down great coats and stiff demeanor. One of the men is far younger than the other, a dark-haired teenager with fair blue eyes and a scruff of sandy blonde hair cut short atop his head. The man at his side is older, somewhere in his forties on estimate, dour and gaunt, black hair swept back from his face, blue eyes cold and set within sunken sockets of a man who does not sleep.

Eileen notices the way birds scatter from their path, and that the pigeons that had been occupying the courtyard scatter out of fright reminds her of the ravens at the tower of London, scattering on the first day that she recalled seeing Kazimir Volken and Amato Salucci together.

"Madame?" A squeaky voice draws Eileen's focus away from the two men headed their way, "Madmoiselle?" Politer now, still as squeaky, there is a child standing at her side. Pale blonde hair and big eyes, a scarf tied loosely around his neck and drab brown school uniform hanging a little big on his stick-thin frame. "«Madmoiselle? Would you pose for me to draw?»" The young boy looks up, holding out his drawing table as if demonstrative. It's a simple enough request, simple words, the boy isn't a native French speaker either.

The way Eileen lowers her eyes and appears to study the youth from beneath the veil of her lashes is a courtesy as well as an attempt to disguise the fact she cannot see and that the sparrows, now twittering in the drab, threadbare branches of a nearby, are instead performing the assessment for her. There's something genuine in the smile that ghosts across her face, cracks in her solemn demeanor like the spiderwebs that spread through old paint on a distressed wooden cabinet before it begins flaking off.

"Ah," she says, "non." Her hand at Gabriel's wrist curls nimble fingers. "«I would love to pose for you if we were staying very long.»" She's not vain enough that she wishes she did, either, though she apparently has enough time to lift her chin as if craning her neck to get a better look at the table. "«Where are your other drawings?»"

"There you go. Colonel Volken." At the very least, Gabriel looking to Raith an angling the tip of his hat towards the group of two sweeping out of the school is less conspicuous, more gossipy, if their cover story is to be kept to. The tip is spoken with a measured mutter, not out of character, but the too familiar visage of a man he's never actually met in the flesh allows for a pang of some emotion, regret, that doesn't actually belong to him. It's not enough to send a shimmer through empathic link with bird girl, over here.

Especially not when all the birds are flying away. Their distress at the presence of power is enough to drown out ghost anxiety's that Gabriel may be projecting. His hand clasps over Eileen's absently, barely even paying attention to her exchange with the student. The ridges of her fingers beneath his palm are adequate reminders that changing the past would be a bad idea. Of the things he would lose.

Though it is with direction from Gabriel that Raith sweeps his eyes over to, and then past the appearing pair of men who are most likely soldiers, the manner in which he does it suggests a much greater interest in the grounds of the institute: Gaze to and past the soldiers, before sweeping gradually back around to Gabriel. "Looks like our timing was just perfect." Perfect timing, however, does not solve the somewhat more immediate issue of arranging a meeting with the Colonel without making him suspicious of them. "So much for time to make a plan. Is he coming this way? If so, how long before I 'accidentally' bump into him? How's his mood look?"

While conversation cannot be heard, Colonel Volken's body posture is tense. His path towards Raith, Eileen and Gabriel is halted, however, when the teacher out int he courtyard with the students spots his presence, making gesture with one hand before swiftly carrying herself across the cobblestone towards the Colonel. Motioning to one of the carraiges with driver parked near the gates, the Colonel's young right hand dips his head into a bowed nod and turns sharply for the carraige, booted feet stomping soundly against the ground.

While the Colonel is delayed and the young man at his side is making headway towards Jensen and Gabriel, Eileen is distracted by a boy far shorter than she. Excited when she addresses his drawing tablet, he crouches down to lay the wooden board down onto he cobblestones, then begins sifting through pieces of paper he'd had beneath his current. Lifting it up, there's a bright smile across his face.

"«Look!»" He proudly proclaims, lifting a sketch of the Eiffel tower in both hands. While young, the boy has remarkable talent in the arts. Promise is the words most would use. But for all the detail and time he put into the cityscape and the depiction of the tower, there are no people in it, leaving the hollow city feeling somewhat empty. "«Would you please stay for me? I promise to be quick.»" Blue eyes stare up at Eileen, a smile spread across cheeks reddened by the cool breeze.

"He'd like to draw me," Eileen says for Gabriel's benefit. She knows how it can feel to hover on the fringe of a conversation spoken in a language you don't understand; much of her time with the Vanguard was spent doing exactly that, and it's the memory of her discomfort that drove her to eventually learn French.

She has been fortunate, too, to have exceptional teachers. The sparrows in the tree fall still, miniature gargoyles painted chestnut brown with sharp black masks and claws hooked in the bark, backs hunched and eyes winking with quiet intensity. "«Quick,>" she concedes, her tone gentle but also somewhat terse. Volken's presence hasn't entirely escaped her notice. "«Like a little rabbit.»"

"Don't be long," Gabriel unknowingly echoes her sentiment, a sideways glance to the kid that is stern and dismissive through the lower tier of his eyelashes, but he is more distracted with the mathematical exacts and geometric guesses of Volken's approach. "…dour," is his response to Raith, quieter and spoken swifter so that if someone who is French does happen to listen in, the speedy flow of words might do something to skip them by. His smile fixes, like maybe they're talking about the Olympic Games, or where to have dinner tonight. His tone is even pleasant, but that may be because he's enjoying things a little. "If you bump into him really charmingly, you might pull this off — you have about ten seconds. Otherwise he's getting a carriage."

"Pardon," may or may not have been only the beginning of an apology, as the American's train of thought is apparently interrupted for a second time as he takes a moment to scrutinize Vladimir's face, the visage of familiarity unsure if it should be dancing into his features. The German is, of course, free to interpret this either as well-deserved recognition, or mistaken identity at his discretion. Or perhaps he just has that effect on people.

Long may Jensen Raith's memory be, the tingling sensation that courses through his body when he makes clothing to clothing contact with Vladimir Volken evokes memories of Kazimir Volken's cold proximity. In that same notion, the young blonde soldier headed for the carraige past Raith does bear more than a passing resemblance to Vladimir. Certainly no one is going to see Richard Santiago here, even as a youth, which means spotting Kazimir may have simply been as easy as picking up one dour German from the next.

There's a muffled curse when Raith bumps into Vladimir, and reaching up with gloves hands, the Colonel is quick to push Raith gingerly away and also takes his own step backwards. His expression says it all when he hears the accent, and Jensen can almost hear fucking American laced somewhere subtly beneath, "You should be more careful."

English, for the first time since their arrival when not in their own confidence. Strongly accented in German, but English enver the less. "My apologies," seems thinly veiled as Colonel Volken steps aside, and in close proximity Raith can make out the markers on his collar that signify his rank. Even as Vladimir is motioning for Raith to continue past him, the school teacher looks herself particularly horrified about the subtle affront.

Though when two men of statue as Vladimir and Raith are talking, let alone in foreign tongues, it is the polite thing for a woman to do to stay quiet.

Eileen Ruskin has none of these sensibilities, finding herself taken by the hand by an eager child, led over to the bench where he points down for her to sit. "«Please sit, I will be quick. Your friends, they do not go anywhere yet.»" There's a bright smile on the boy's face as he backpedals, stumbles over his own two feet, then hustles back to his drawing pad and tablet, looking up in pause only to take in Gabriel's profile before he turns towards Eileen with a bright smile.

"«Pose, pose!»" The young boy excitedly squeaks, shoes scuffing over the cobblestone on his way back over, a few of the other, younger children watching as well.

Eileen's attention is divided between Vladimir and the children, some concern creasing the corners of her mouth at the moment of collision. She, Gabriel and Raith all know what that ability is capable of, and how fortunate they are that Kazimir's father is wearing gloves.

And speaking of Kazimir. One of the sparrows follows the older youth's progress toward the waiting carriage with a turn of its head and a twitch of its wings that betrays her worry more than the expression on her face does. Her fear of being recognized by him is irrational and she knows it — it will be almost an entire century before he lays eyes on her for the first time as an infant — but this knowledge doesn't make her misgivings about the situation any less potent.

Incidentally, she's not much for posing. Doesn't enjoy having pictures taken of her either, likely for the same reasons, but she makes an effort for the smaller child's sake. Eileen takes a seat on the bench at an angle, folds her hands in her lap and, chin inclined, turns her head away so he has a profile to work with, all stern jaw and graceful neck.

Gabriel's shadow soon falls over the child sketching his 'wife', his own hands clasped in front of him and shoulders slack. There is some distance still maintained, but he makes an imposing and watchful presence of Eileen being drawn, all black tolerance and veiled impatience. Fortunately for the wee art student, the American's focus is derailed with a concern and watchful stare swiveling towards where his bro is clashing with a military man of some kind, heavy eyebrows angled into concern.

His attention is snagged, fractionally, by the sight of Kazimir sweeping on by, temporarily distracted by that vertigo impression of power. Maybe he believes in Bradbury after all. But when he does take a step, it's more towards where Raith has Vladimir cornered, rather than, say, swooping in and slitting Kazimir's throat. It won't undo his history.

That tingling is little more than a reminder to Raith of how close to the Grim Reaper himself he is standing, and of how delicate the situation he faces really is. "No no," he says, one hand raised to chest level, palm out and fingers splayed to indicate his nonaggression, "My apologies. I should be more careful, watch where I'm going. Sorry for bumping you-" A quick glance ever-so-slightly downward, to Vladimir's neck and, more importantly, some more of his identity- "Colonel?" The pause that follows the American's 'discovery' is not for effect, but is the sort of pause one might give when surprised. Short-lived surprise. "Well, yes. My apologies. But, if I could have just a few more moments of your time, I have to ask. This institute-" A small, sweeping gesture of his hand through the air around him- "Does the quality of its instruction meet your approval?"

Colonel Volken's expression shifts quickly, from surprise and frustration to something more suspicious. Immediate recognition of German ranking insignas by an American is quickly picked up on, and the Colonel's blue eyes quickly flick to his young companion at the carraige before turning focus back to Raith.

"It is a fine school," hides a tone of disappointment, not in the school, but in something more indirect. "If this is the life you want," and perhaps that's a suggestion of that directed disappointment there. "I did not know there were Americans interested in this academy, though I suppose I did not know American Military were interested in France much at all, yes?" One of Vladimir's dark brows lift as he calls out Raith on a soldier's upbringing.

Across the courtyard at the carraige, Eileen's avian spies pick up the conversation between Vladimir's second and his driver. Unfortunately, the entirety of it appears to be in German, but that she does hear the name Kazimir spoken in it seems to be indicative of her fears come true. Pointedly, he turns around at that very moment and points in Eileen's direction, then looks back up to the driver.

By the fountain where Eileen sits, the young, blonde boy pauses in his sketching, already having a silhouette of Eileen on the bench finished. It's in that moment that he looks up with a fond smile over his shoulder to Gabriel, seemingly unphased by the dark, looming figure. But if faces like Vladimir Volken are at all common around this academy, perhaps he has less to fear from this particular boogeyman.

"Monsiour?" The boy asks in a squeaky voice, a smile spread across his lips. "«Would you like to be in my picture too? I think she would look happier next to you.»" Gabriel may not be versed in French, but Eileen is not so far away as to be left out of that conversation. It's not common for her to have to play translator, but apparently this boy has an eye for his subjects.

"He wants to know if you'll join me on the bench," says Eileen, mindful not to turn her head. "Apparently I'm too somber alone." It occurs to her that she could have benefited from asking Francois to teach her some very basic German before they left, but it's too late to lament that particular lapse in judgment, and while what she doesn't understand is more important than what little she does — only names — she takes heed and directs one of the sparrows to slice down and alight on the carriage itself so she can better hear.

That she's being pointed at would be cause for concern if she and Gabriel weren't surrounded by youngsters. Until they're singled out or separated from the tiny assembly of round, cherubic faces, there's no reason to be more alarmed than she already is, and the Englishwoman hides her discomfort well.

"Well, tell him you've always been prettier when you're pissed at me," may or may be a lie, but it is a line. A hand touches the kid's shoulder, a brief squeeze of condescending apology, eyebrows twitching up at Eileen as if to say later, before Gabriel is abandoning the woman to the gathering children, heavy hem of his coat flaring in the momentum of his stride for Volken and Raith, deciding that Eileen doesn't need the back up as much as Raith might.

There is a polite kind of expression settling on Gabriel's distinctive features, an enquiring kind of stare towards the man acting as his brother. "Bothering important people again?" is probably brash enough to not seem entirely out of place, although delivered low enough that Volken can probably safely ignore it without seeming rude. American tourists are annoying in any year.

Not exactly the response Raith was looking for, and he knows he's only got himself to blame for it. "No, not much at all," is the beginning of a lied response, and fortune shines brightly when Gabriel saves him from having to finish it. "I am not 'bothering' the Colonel," he answers back over his shoulder with sufficient indignation, looking at the other American only in his peripheral vision, "I am asking him for his opinion. If a soldier says this is a fine school, then it must be. And no child of mine will go to any school that isn't a fine one. Is that so unreasonable?" And then, just as quickly, his attention is back to Vladimir to ask him, "I'm not being unreasonable, am I?"

Pressing his lips into a thin line, Vladimir narrows his eyes and offers a look askance to Gabriel, then back to Raith. "No, it is a very reasonable question. Unfortunately I am pressed for time and have an unexpected appointment I must be attending to." His blue eyes dart over to Eileen a moment later, looking in her direction with marked scrutiny. As if feeling the eyes on him, the blonde child who had his hopes of drawing Gabriel dashed turns to look at Vladimir, lifting a hand to wave cheerily.

Vladimir does not return the greeting, only snaps his attention back to Gabriel, then Raith. "If you will excuse me, this appointment cannot wait." Stepping aside, Vladimir moves to make his way around Raith, all in the same moment that the young boy is looking with furrowed brows to Eileen, returning to his drawing after being dismissed by Vladimir and Gabriel one after the other.

"«What's your name?»" the young boy asks of Eileen, sketching contentedly where he stands, bracing his board against one arm. When the teacher notices the boy drawing Eileen and now has Vladimir leaving her vicinity, she offers a polite tip of her head into a nod and hustles over to where the boy and Eileen are.

"Alfonse!" she shouts in scolding tone, "«You do not harass this poor young woman. I told you to— »" her eyes dip down to the drawing he's working on, then back up to Eileen, and some of that vitriol fades. The teacher takes Alfonse by the arm and promptly drags him over to her bench within polite speaking distance.

"«I apologize if Alfonse was inconveniencing you. He should know better at his age.»" You know how boys will be, her expression practically says, though she's speaking fast and to what she assumes is a fluent speaker, so some gaps in the understanding from Eileen's perspective are present.

Over at the carraige, the blonde young man with Vladimir is turning to see the Colonel ready to make his way to the carraige, and notably neither of them seem to be prepared to use it.

"«He's not an inconvenience,»" Eileen insists, her manner of speech very careful and deliberate. She enunciates her words with the caution of someone who has not been speaking the language very long — her accent is, unsurprisingly, very British — but with sincerity, too. Overpowering her desire to be understood is her wish to appease the boy's teacher. They wouldn't be having this conversation if she hadn't chosen to acknowledge him and consent to a portrait. "«My husband's brother has notions of enrolling his little girl in your institution,»" she adds. "«What better way for me to judge the talent you produce than to experience it myself?»"

Alfonse receives another rueful smile. "«Eileen. Forgive him, please,»" and she indicates Gabriel's back with her chin, something almost sly in her guarded expression. "«It's his nose, you understand. He's very self-conscious.»"

"What's French for 'follow that carriage'," is muttered from Gabriel, low to Raith. Impatience is beginning to filter through his own enjoyment of playacting, because for as much as he'd told Eileen that this was her plan that he'd do her way— "I could follow him, out of sight." The only tribute given to the fact that any form of regrouping would be a difficult task, especially to try and arrange in the space of two seconds, is the fact that Gabriel doesn't furtherly press the issue, mouth pulling as he casts a glance for Vladimir, standing still and expectant.

"Maybe that should have been our first plan," Raith whispers back, turning his attention away from the Colonel. "Let's start a tour. Get around a corner, then do that voodoo that you do, and get in position to follow him unseen. Whatever method you feel is best, but don't draw attention. And definitely don't get caught. He's enough of a pill without us making him paranoid, too." That's it for whispering, at least from Raith. "Well, let her know," he says at a normal volume, "And then let's get going. We're not eating 'til we've seen everything, and everything will be full when the ceremonies end, so let's hurry."

There's a fond smile from the small boy to Eileen, a smile creeping up on his lips as he lets out a happy burst of laughter before looking up at his teacher with a precocious expression that most certainly says something about victory in the face of oppression. Looking down to his half finished sketch, and seeing Raith beginning to move further away, the young boy lays the drawing tablet down and hands out a whispery quick, but well-done sketch of Eileen sitting on a park bench. Some of the proportions are off, but the shading and values are quite well done.

"«For you,»" the boy explains with a faint smile, pale brows lifting up hopefully as he offers it out to her. "«You can keep it, or hang it on your wall. Literature class is beginning soon, so I cannot stay here to draw with you much longer.»" There's a patient look over to the teacher, one brow raised, then a look with wide blue eyes back to Eileen.

"«Your friends,»" he says of Gabriel and Raith, "«they are not waiting for you.»"

Crossing the courtyard with a shake of his head, Vladimir approaches his second, still within earshot of Eileen. Once more, German is not something she is able to decypher, but there are a handful of names within the quickly spoken cadence of two speakers. Kazimir and Serise being ones that stand out to her clearly, followed by a tip of Vladimir's chin out to the street where he instructs his consort to go, following him on his heels as they suspicisously leave their carraige behind and begin heading out of the iron gates onto the street on foot.

"Merci." Eileen accepts the sheet of paper and, with a glance up at the darkening sky, tucks it gently into her coat before the first droplets of rain can speckle the pavement under their feet or gather as beads in her hair. "«You are very kind.»" She touches the back of her hand to his cheek, knuckles grazing his jaw as she brushes back a curl of his pale blond hair. Like the squeeze Gabriel delivered to his shoulder, it's a kind of apology, the sort a woman can only get away with if she's offering it to a child.

Or a lover. And Alfonse certainly isn't that. She rises from the bench and moves as if to join the man who is, even though she can hear Gabriel and Raith just as she can hear Vladimir and the older boy. If he decides that Raith's plan is a good one, then she won't be joining him at all — not for more than a few moments. "Au revoir, Alfonse. Petit lapin. Bonne chance."

Gabriel waits enough to extend a hand towards Eileen, taking her's by the time she's rejoining them as the tourist three make for what must be an elaborate dinner, good wine, good company. As far as Volken is concerned, he's clear to continue his journey without anyone conveniently bumping into him or detaining him from his appointment. That it doesn't end there is mostly an optical illusion.

"He's not using the carriage. Maybe he's PETA. Follow at a distance — Eileen can use the birds to keep track," Gabriel is saying by the time they're around the corner. "I'll stay closer. If I need you, you'll know about it." A hand goes up, lifting fedora off his skull in a gentlemanly tip of departure. "Au revoir." And he vanishes in a blink. It's a split second later that further along, the faint traces of foot prints are being invisibly outlined on the damp pavement a few feet directly behind Vladimir and companion, in a trick of timestop, photokinesis and energy attenuation to dim the clip of his own foot falls.

A bird, out of Eileen's scope, darts around closely, acting as his own additional eyes to Colette's own technique.

"Nothing like an old-fashioned spy game." When Gabriel disappears, Raith directs Eileen to take a sharp turn, putting them both on what he hopes is a direct route from where they are back to the other side of the courtyard. As it stands, going over the walls is not an option. "Nothing more irritating, right now. You figure he's going to the ceremonies now? Wouldn't happen to know a faster way there, would you?" It's not going to be easy to balance keeping a brisk pace with avoiding the attention of students and faculty, but they'll have to make due. Hopefully, between Eileen and Gabriel, they'll have no trouble keeping tabs on Vladimir Volken.

Over at the fountain, Alfonse's cheeks flush red as he looks to the shoulder Eileen had held, his brows furrowed together and lips pursed in a smile. He takes a step back, looks up to his teacher and tugs on her sleeve, indicating his readiness to go inside. Then, with a hasty step moves over to collect his drawing tablet as the light rain begins to fall, other children shrieking playfully in the cool rain. "«Alright everyone, inside, inside!»" The teacher's voice calls out across the courtyard, clapping her gloved hands together as she makes shooing motions to all of the children, one last glance to Eileen and Raith and — wasn't there another man a second ago? — then she's headed behind the children like a sheep dog tending a flock.

The clouds rumble again, signaling the approach of worse rain yet to come, and with Gabriel gone and Vladimir leaving the school grounds, winged spies take alight to the cloudy skies, watching the progress of the darkly-dressed officers on their progress down the dirt street in the drizzling rain, their wings flapping together in steady beats against the driving wind. There's a crack of lightning, a flash that lights up the clouds, and a rumble of thunder that rolls across the Parisian landscape.


Twenty Minutes From Now…

Charcoal gray water pools around the skeletal corpse laying on the cobblestone, water from steadily increasing rainfall turning soot to ashen mud, pulverising bone as brittle as burned wood. The corset that once gave the ashen cadaver's body an elegant s-shaped figure sinks as her ribcage collapses and the rain keeps the dust cloud down.

Vladimir Volken stares down at his hands, then looks up to Jensen Raith, blue eyes wide with both revulsion and horror. But it isn't Vladimir that Raith is looking at, it is the woman stepping out from the shadow of a brick-faced building int hat alley, her double-barrel sawed-off shotgun held in a one-handed grip, leather coat flating out behind her with a rustle of rainsoaked fur trim.

Kira St.Croix catches Raith's stare with her cyclopean one for only a moment, before the double barrel of that gun is pressed up against the back of Vladimir's head.

The skies light up, lightning streaks through the heavens and hilights the rain.

The sound of thunder is deafening.

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