Heavy on space romance gone bad, raygun battles, and revenge v. forgiveness
Family friendly science fiction with plenty of action and a positive message!
The Star Chosen are caught in a deadly struggle over a mysterious power pendant that may be the only thing standing between them and certain vaporization. When control over this otherworldly pendant gets called into controversy, a young romance on Planet Pizon turns into a fatal battle involving laser guns, spaceships, and ex-boyfriends.
Will the Star Chosen squander the pendant's amazing abilities in a thirst for revenge, or will they learn to trust God and forgive in a time of mourning? Find out in this sci-fi space opera by award winning author Joe Chiappetta. Novelette contains 10,000 words.
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Free sci-fi online: Read the first 4 chapters below as a free book preview.
The Power Pendant of Planet Pizon: a Star Chosen sci-fi novelette
By Joe Chiappetta
Chapter 1: A Gift from the Deep Space Mining Vessel
From the spaceport, anyone could feel the ever so slight vibrations coming from the antigravity drives on the largest ships as they came and went. Such was the case with the approaching deep space mining ship that Pamma was viewing. The bulky, awkward vessel glided smoothly into Planet Pizon Spaceport just as scheduled. No amount of fancy decorations could change the fact that this incoming mining ship was ugly and grimy--perhaps the ugliest craft ever imagined. As the vessel made its textbook docking procedure into the port, this was Pamma's primary thought as she peered out the giant window of the spaceport terminal, waiting reluctantly for one of its passengers.
Pamma's dark, lovely, purple eyes were blinking rapidly as she let her mind dwell on trivial matters to pass the time. "Whoever designed this mining ship clearly had no concern for aesthetics," she pondered. "It looks as if someone took massive blocks, randomly assembled them, sat on them, kicked them, and then rolled them in the mud oceans of our nearest moon. It's a wonder this vessel even gets off the ground. That ship is about as ugly as my old life."
Pamma would know. She had recently made a list of all the bad things she had done in her twenty-two years. It was a surprisingly long and even repulsive collection of shameful deeds.
Much of what was on the list consisted of things she had done in virtual reality scenarios. However, Archilli, one of the men who introduced the concept of list making to her, explained that, "Evil intentions start in the mind. So that's where they need to be stopped."
Certainly no one would have suspected that such an ugly list would have come from the likes of Pamma. Outwardly, she was the image of ideal, exotic beauty: bronze skin, big eyes, long hair, and healthy body all wrapped up in youthful sweetness. Yet inwardly, as her list revealed, she was a woman that had lost her way, and in need of much help. Her cute laugh and honey-like voice couldn't hide her corrupted character anymore.
That was the whole point of writing the list: to peer beyond the outward appearance and see what was really going on inside. Pamma penned her list willingly at the prompting of Archilli, an Earth man, and Pamma's old boyfriend, Geo. Like Pamma, Geo was a native of Planet Pizon. Ironically, he had recently returned to Pizon with his new friend, Archilli, the very week that Pamma's boyfriend, Oraxo, had gone on a trip. Pamma at first thought it was coincidental that Geo came back to Planet Pizon while her current boyfriend was offworld on his scientific quest for rare power generating minerals. However, through the events of the past few weeks, Pamma no longer believed in coincidence.
While her boyfriend was gone, Archilli and Geo, behaving as perfect gentlemen, had been a great help to Pamma. Both of these men had previously made lists of their own and had benefited from them immeasurably. Pamma could testify firsthand how much of a changed man Geo had become. If Geo could change, Pamma figured that anyone could change--including her.
Of course, she couldn't say firsthand how much Archilli had changed, since she had only recently met him. Yet in that brief span of a few weeks, Pamma always felt completely safe with Archilli. He was just old enough to be her father, and despite his being a little on the quiet side, Pamma saw Archilli as a natural leader with integrity. He was a man who demonstrated extreme loyalty to his beliefs and his friends. Pamma was now counted among that small number, and it made her feel honored.
Navigating through the busy spaceport terminal, Pamma was pretty sure that her current boyfriend, Oraxo, whom she was waiting for, would not approve of these new relationships. Yet none of that would matter soon anyway. At least Pamma didn't think it would matter much longer.
Chapter 2: Girl with Gadgets
Pamma closed her tired eyes and found a low lit area of the spaceport terminal to sit while waiting. Her abnormal blinking rate was decreasing over the last few days, and would continue to do so the longer she stayed away from her old habit. She was determined to not go back to her shameful ways. "I feel so anxious," Pamma thought as she settled into the not-too-comfortable public chairs at the spaceport lounge. "I should pray."
Pamma must have nodded off in prayer, because she awoke to the sound of a young man saying, "There you are, beautiful. I got you something! Hey, wake up, sleepyhead." It was Oraxo, always handsome, always confident.
"You got me a present?" Pamma echoed as her eyes focused on the gift that Oraxo was holding out to give his sweet girlfriend. The gift was bright green, and globe-shaped, with a large opening on the bottom--big enough for someone to fit their head into.
The sight triggered quite a response from Pamma. She leaped upwards, and said to Oraxo, "Please forgive me, this is nothing personal, but..." Pamma couldn't find the words to finish her statement. Rather, this sweet, innocent looking young woman grabbed Oraxo's gift, dashed it to the floor, and jumped on it with all her might--repeatedly.
Pamma's favorite song was simultaneously playing over the spaceport's intercom, which made her all the more enthused to thrash dance on the device category that took so much time away from her real life. Pamma's stylish thigh-high boots had not particularly been designed to destroy virtual reality helmets. Nevertheless, they certainly did the trick with complete thoroughness, not to mention exquisite fashion, all to the beat of "Unplug Us Please, We've Had Enough." The irony did not escape her.
"What in the name of the galaxy are you doing?" yelled Oraxo. I paid good money for that VR helmet! It's the latest model!"
Pamma calmed down, looked up from the debris at her feet and made a half-apology; "I'm sorry. While you were gone, I've come to some deep convictions. I decided to give up my virtual reality escapades. I even made a vow to destroy any VR devices that were given to me."
"Well, um, here's to keeping your vows," Oraxo said with some hesitation, trying to adapt to the awkwardness of the situation. "I guess I can respect that. I just wish I would have known. Two month's wages, down the drain--no big deal. You want to know why? Because I sure did miss you while I was gone."
Oraxo had planned to follow up his gift with a big kiss hello, but since Pamma pulled her woman-smash-things stunt, he decided to let things settle down as he and his girlfriend left the spaceport. They traveled through the tube line hovertrain above Planet Pizon, and Oraxo tried to bring the conversation back to a level of normalcy; "Thanks for meeting me at the spaceport. While I was offworld, I had a good deal of time to do some serious thinking."
"What a curious similarity," said Pamma as the hovertrain left the vicinity of the spaceport and travelled down toward the surface of the planet, "I've been doing a lot of thinking too."
As if he didn't even hear her, Oraxo said, "You know why I love you so much?"
"Because my dark hair reflects the purple hues of the landscape so nicely?" joked Pamma. Actually she was only half joking. Pamma's black hair truly did sparkle among the colorful mountains of Planet Pizon. It was one of her many outstanding features, and everyone knew it.
However, as soon as the words left her tongue, Pamma regretted it. This flirtatious comment was not the sort of tone she wanted to set anymore. Given what else she had to tell Oraxo today, Pamma really needed to learn to guard her heart more--especially now that she was a changed person.
Largely dull to Pamma's internal conflict, Oraxo replied, "No, it would take more than the color of a woman's hair to make a lasting impression on me. I love you so much because, not only are you more fun and beautiful than anyone in the whole galaxy, but you're also one of the most talented energy technicians I have ever known."
"Oh, stop it," cried Pamma. "You taught me practically everything I know. It was my attending your virtual trainings on untapped energy models that inspired me to be more than I could be."
"And since then, I've been your biggest fan," said Oraxo, with pride. "You're a quick study. Frankly, however much you had been impressed with me, I've been impressed with you all the more. Your recent theories on brain wave power should help me to create the most amazing personal power harness that has ever existed--and I am firing up the prototype today, as soon as we get back to my lab. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We've been apart for forty days. Perhaps we should stop off for a romantic lunch somewhere. How about Bistro Blasterini? You love the pasta there, don't you? I certainly..."
With much awkwardness, Pamma interrupted, "Oraxo, I've been praying for guidance on this matter quite a bit. I'm not going on a romantic lunch and I'm not going back to your lab."
"What?" exclaimed Oraxo in disbelief. "Since when do you pray? Is something wrong, I mean aside from you going through the withdrawal symptoms of someone in rehab from virtual reality addiction? Sure, anyone can tell, with all the excessive blinking you're doing, that you're still having withdrawal symptoms. But I respect you for cleaning up your act. Maybe I should too. Yet is there anything else that's wrong?"
Pamma answered with a heavy heart, "Yes, I mean no, nothing's wrong. It's just that I am a different person now. I've changed. Oraxo, I am breaking up with you."
Completely stunned, the young man replied in a panic, "No! Don't even think that. You can't possibly say that. You're my inspiration for creating the power pendant." Oraxo franticly pulled out a triangular shaped pendant from his briefcase and started programming it with great determination. This was his last-ditch effort to impress his woman. "I was going to wait until we got to my lab to show you this, so we could properly document everything, but you must behold my creation now!"
Oraxo was certain that his invention would change the universe. He had really been looking forward to sharing his moment of triumph with the love of his life in a private event wherein they could celebrate. Yet now that Pamma shot down such an opportunity, he took consolation in the fact that the hovertrain's security cameras should record the sudden burst of amazing energy that would soon be emanating from his triangular device. In turn, this footage should be enough documentation to land him scientific credibility, as well as extra publicity for revealing the pendant in such an unorthodox manner.
Therefore, he unclasped the cordage that held the pendant and touched the ends of the cord to the front and back of the top of his head. As he did so, ten tiny wirebots slid out from the cord and pinched into his own skull. "No need to worry--this will only hurt for a moment," Oraxo explained in a louder than necessary voice. He did so because the other passengers were now peering at the couple in curiosity. Apparently, they were making a bit of a scene.
Oraxo continued to explain as Pamma just looked on in confusion, "The device needs a jump start from a human brain. The procedure should be harmless, and it will pull the unused brain capacity of my mind and convert it into a living power source. My calculations suggest that I might pass out, but it should only last a moment or two. Either way, in a few seconds, the triangular pendant at the ends of these cords should light up in the most dazzling display you have ever seen."
Pamma cautioned him, "This is foolish, Oraxo! Don't you think it might be dangerous to launch your experiment in such a public setting? I mean, we're on a moving hovertrain! What if something goes wrong? There are a lot of people here. Besides, you of all people know my cautionary side notes on brain wave energy tapping. I suspect it might increase a person's aggressive behavior."
Oraxo did not have the opportunity to respond. He gently passed out, like a late night virtual reality user at the end of a long day in fantasy land.
One passenger seated in back of them commented, "I guess your boyfriend was right about one thing: he did say he would pass out. However, I don't see any dazzling light display."
"He's not my boyfriend," Pamma quipped, with a mind-your-own-business look on her face.
After a whole thirty seconds had gone by, with no revival from Oraxo, nor any dazzling display of lights, Pamma decided to take matters into her own hands. "Let's hope this doesn't hurt," she said as she grabbed the cords attached to Oraxo's head and yanked them out. She was relieved to see that her ex-boyfriend was beginning to come back to consciousness. However, she became more than a little annoyed when her entire car of hover train passengers started clapping. "Why were they clapping?" thought Pamma, "All I did was yank some wires out of my idiot boyfriend's impulsive head."
Then she wondered if it was the time of year when both of Planet Pizon's suns were out, because it was suddenly awfully bright in the hovertrain. A faint exclamation from Oraxo clarified everything. "It works!" he said, "The pendant works!"
Pamma looked down at herself to the realization that the radiance was coming from the pendant she was holding. An unexpected feeling came over her: the very emotion that Oraxo had hoped for. Pamma felt special.
Chapter 3: The Impromptu Hovertrain Experiment
The hovertrain passengers continued to clap at the amazing sight of Pamma holding the radiating pendant. She was a vision of glowing beauty--literally. Yet what was that overconfident look on Oraxo's face? Satisfaction and pride were oozing from this shrewd young man. "Who does he think he is?" pondered Pamma in irritation. "Does Oraxo think I'm that shallow, that he can just flash around gifts and fancy inventions to win me back?"
Oraxo compulsively went to hug his beloved in this moment of victory. However, Pamma instinctively held up her hands and the pendant to stop him from doing so. In consolation, Oraxo sadly grabbed the brilliantly glowing pendant from Pamma's hands. Their audience immediately stopped the applause. Some stopped clapping due to the heartbreak of the moment. Others stopped clapping because the pendant ceased to glow as soon as it passed into Oraxo's hands.
"That's very strange," declared Oraxo, as he checked some settings on the back of the pendant. "According to my previous calculations, once the device is activated it should never run out of power."
"Maybe the device doesn't like you," joked an outspoken passenger. A sarcastic woman sitting nearby added in a whisper, "And obviously, neither does she."
These crude comments actually gave Oraxo an idea. "Here," he said as he handed the pendant back to Pamma, "I want to test something."
"Broken high-tech jewelry is not going to win me back," sighed Pamma.
"Fine," said Oraxo. "Just hold it anyway." With no enthusiasm at all, Pamma took the pendant. Just as Oraxo suspected, the device lit up again just as brilliantly as before. "Apparently you're right. Something about you activates this device, where I, on the other hand, don't seem to have the power to turn anyone on," he said with a wry smile.
"Maybe it's just you Oraxo," Pamma said, passing off the device to the outspoken passenger behind her, "Here, see if you can light it up."
Eagerly, the man in the seat behind them declared, "I have been known to light up peoples' lives before. Sure, let me hold it." A soon as his thick fingers clenched around it, the device darkened yet again.
The sarcastic woman yelled, "Hey, mad scientist, maybe it's just woman-powered, like everything else good in this galaxy!" After a round laughter, this woman took the pendant from the man, yet she too had no affect on the device. It was as unresponsive as a robot after an electromagnetic storm.
This prompted an intuitive experiment among all the passengers in the hovertrain car. They passed the pendant, one person to another, until every passenger--all 44 of them--took a turn at holding the device. However, not one of the others could make the device light up again. Just to triple check, Oraxo gave the device to back to Pamma, and for the third time, the pendant illuminated the environment with a spectacular brilliance.
Suddenly, a hologram of a hovertrain security guard projected at the front of their cabin, and the guard said, "Thank you for riding the Pizon Hovertrain Line. Pardon the interruption, but a few minutes ago the security camera in this car went out. Is everything alright in your hovertrain car? We no longer have video surveillance into your cabin."
Pamma, who was already standing in the aisle, replied, "Oh, everything is fine, officer. Thank you for asking."
"Are you sure?" asked the guard. "The hovertrain cars in front and in back of you are reporting a brilliant light coming from your cabin."
Oraxo joined the conversation, his dreams of free publicity shattered by the reality that his invention was not quite ready for public scrutiny. "Yes sir, officer. There's no danger in here. Everyone is getting along quite agreeably. Yet you say your command center can't see inside our car, even now?"
"No, we can't," replied the guard. "Even my hologram transmission is only one way. Of course we can still hear you, but we have no visibility into your cabin. I take it however you all can still see me. Is this correct?"
As Oraxo affirmed the guard's question, one of the other passengers whispered to Pamma, "Say, young woman, why don't you stash that pendant in your purse. The government may hold us for questioning once we reach the surface of the planet. And you know how long Pizon investigations can take--we could all be stuck here for hours!"
Getting a nod from Oraxo, Pamma buried the pendant in her purse. Immediately, the light that had caused such a disturbance had disappeared as quietly as it arrived.
The guard ended the conversation with a scripted government response, "Sorry for the interruption. Your safety is always our priority on the Pizon Hovertrain Line. Please enjoy the rest of your ride down to the planet."
Poised in a posture of perplexity, Oraxo mumbled as he glared at Pamma, "This is quite bizarre. What is so different about you, compared to the rest of us, that you--and only you--can illuminate my pendant and short out government security cameras? There are, let's see, 44 people on this hovertrain car. That's a reasonable population sample size. The device only responds to you. So what makes you so unique?"
Pamma replied, "I don't know about the rest of these people, but I can't think of many differences between you and I. We're both third generation Pizon citizens, both trace our lineage back to Earth through Indian ancestors. And I think... let me scan your ID tag. Yes, we even have the same blood type."
"Please come back to my lab with me," urged Oraxo as the hovertrain pulled into the surface station. "I really need to run a few more tests."
"Fine," huffed Pamma, "But I am only staying for thirty minutes, and then I'll have some friends pick me up."
"Oh, is one of them your new boyfriend?" blurted Oraxo in a bout of disgruntled jealousy. Even as he ended his childish statement, Oraxo realized how petty he sounded. He knew jealousy would only cloud his judgment, yet he couldn't seem to help himself. He had really missed Pamma while away on his offworld expedition, and the thought of her with someone else was simply unacceptable.
"I don't have a boyfriend. It's not like that," replied Pamma, straining to be civil. "Now hold off with the questions. I've had enough public drama for one day."
Chapter 4: Showdown at Oraxo's Lab
As the two of them left the hovertrain and boarded an air taxi to Oraxo's lab, Pamma sent a message to one of her friends: "Geo, there's been a slight change of plans. Pick me up at the Leonardo Tower, 322nd floor in thirty minutes."
Oraxo would never have become a great energy technician if he wasn't extremely observant. Therefore, he couldn't resist discreetly looking over Pamma's shoulder to read her message. Moreover, as they stepped from the air taxi to Oraxo's 322nd floor balcony, he couldn't resist raising another jealous question: "I saw that you're having Geo, of all people pick you up. I can't believe you would leave me for that loser. What are you thinking?"
Pamma held her tongue for a few minutes while Oraxo huffed, and tried to distract himself by running a number of tests on the pendant. Finally, Pamma tried to explain, "I told you earlier, Oraxo, it's not what you think. I am not breaking up with you to go out with Geo. We both know that Geo has had a rough past--to say the least, but believe it or not, he is a changed person. So am I."
Oraxo was clearly getting frustrated as he spoke. He adored Pamma as the younger professional who looked up to him: the seasoned man who showed her the ropes of their industry. But this newly discovered independent side of Pamma... that was no fun at all. "You keep yapping about being changed," Oraxo snapped at her. "What do you even mean by that statement? I've known you for three years. We both like the same foods, the same virtual reality programs, the same jokes, the same everything. We're perfect for each other. Now suddenly a few weeks go by and you're all different? And coincidentally, so is Geo? The last I heard from you, your old boyfriend was a hoodlum. But let me guess: your outlaw ex-lover is now a reformed man--living on the straight and narrow. Is that it? Do you really believe that? Should we throw a party? That sure is a lot of change for one season."
Oraxo took a few breaths and added, "Oh, and on top of all that, now I have to figure out why you--and only you--can activate the pendant power source that I've been working on all year! While you were sending your little message to Geo, I even had the air taxi driver hold the pendant--with no results. I just don't get it! What is so special about you? You say you're a 'changed' person. What does that even mean? I change every morning too--out of my pajamas. So what are you talking about?"
The whole time Oraxo spoke, instead of looking at her, he was fiddling with the pendant. This was one of the behaviors that Pamma disliked about Oraxo; she could rarely get his full attention. The young genius was always tinkering with some grand concept or another. It never made her feel special. Yet the change she had recently undergone in Oraxo's absence--that made her feel very special.
Therefore, to get her ex-boyfriend's full attention, Pamma grabbed the pendant out of his busy hands. Of course, this caused the device to instantly light up again. It wasn't a blinding light. Rather the light was soft and easy on the eyes. It was an attractive glow--a pretty radiance--like the light from an army of fireflies.
Now she had his full attention. As Pamma spoke, she clasped the pendant around her slender shoulders, like a necklace. Pamma was now a vision of spectacular, glowing beauty. "You asked me an important question--you want to know what's different about me now, aside from this glowing pendant--that's good. You want to know why I'm so special--great. I'll tell you, and I hope you believe me. Whether my new outlook on life has anything to do with this pendant going all bling-bling, I have no idea. Nevertheless, the change I have undergone is significant and refreshing. Over the past 40 days, I have become a new person."
Getting impatient, Oraxo huffed, "What are you talking about?"
Pamma steadied herself and explained, "The whole time you knew me, I lived to please myself and you. Yet I am now a follower of the God who is the creator of us all. Forevermore, I will live to please him. He is known as the Advocate, because he fights many unseen battles on our behalf."
In complete disbelief, Oraxo scoffed, "Are you out of your mind? If Geo has brainwashed you with some new virtual reality scenario, I swear, I will vaporize his skinny little..."
Pamma cautioned, "I've never seen you like this! You're so abrasive. I think jump starting the pendant with your brain waves did some damage to your mind, Oraxo."
Oraxo countered, "Oh, that's very amusing, coming from the woman who once told me that she used to do so much virtual reality with Geo, that she didn't know what was real for days! I think there's something wrong with your mind if you believe that a thug like Geo can just come back and steal you away from..."
"Hold on there," interrupted Pamma. "I admit that Geo, along with his friend, have taught me about the Advocate. However it has nothing to do with virtual reality. In fact, you know that Geo used to be hopelessly addicted to VR, but now he is completely clean. And so am I. No longer will I be living to pursue my pleasures or my career. Like I told you, I am a different person. This is all thanks to God and his word."
"His word?" mocked Oraxo. "I go away for a few weeks and all of a sudden you are talking with God? I can't believe you have fallen for all that nonsense! What in the galaxy do you think this so-called 'god's word' says?"
Pamma confidently explained, "It's called the '1F8thFile,' because we follow one God, under one faith, under his, and only his will."
"His will?" Oraxo continued to scoff. "Look Pamma, you're very talented and up until now I would even say incredibly intelligent, But since when are you an expert on the will of a god?"
Pamma sighed at Oraxo's cynicism and declared, "I may be a newbie member of God's chosen people, but I understand enough to share with you this: God cares about us so much that he sent the Advocate to live among us, and show us how to truly love as God intended. Yet the people, us included, rejected this. Nevertheless, to show the full extent of God's compassion for us, the Advocate died for all the evil we have done, opening a path of forgiveness back to him. He did this by rising from the dead."
"Listen to yourself!" cried Oraxo. "Do you really believe such a fairy tale?"
Boldly, Pamma stated, "Not only do I and the rest of God's chosen people believe this, but unless you do too, you will have no part in a future with him in paradeisos, the wonderful realm of no tears after we die."
A most amazing thing happened just as Pamma had called Oraxo to believe in the Advocate. At that very moment, the power pendant increased in radiance and formed a transparent shield that surrounded Pamma in a giant sphere shape.
Such an occurrence was a surprise to both of them. Oraxo slowly backed away in fear. Yet Pamma kept on preaching. "I am one of three people on Planet Pizon that have become part of a group called the Star Chosen. If you want to save your soul from the emptiness of life without God, join us. Your very future depends on it. As for me, like I said, I am a different person now."
Oraxo, was not only full of fear, but also anger. He didn't say it, but as he grabbed his welding laser, he thought, "This must be one of Geo's virtual reality tricks. I was a fool to underestimate him. I bet my pendant device never really worked at all. This whole day is probably some elaborate mind trick that Geo learned from one of his VR gangs. When that little punk arrives, I'll blast him with this laser. That should snap me out of his cult brainwashing session."
As Pamma continued to testify boldly about all she knew of the Advocate, Geo and his friend, Archilli, arrived at the balcony of the 322nd floor lab. A trained fighter, Archilli immediately ignored the oddity of Pamma in a sphere and instead honed his attention toward the man concealing a welding laser. "That must be this Oraxo fellow," thought Archilli. "He looks like the jealous boyfriend type--like a caged beast."
A number of things happened in the next moment almost simultaneously. Archilli knocked Geo harmlessly down to the floor with a sweeping kick as he also grabbed the nearest vase and hurled it toward Oraxo.
Meanwhile, Oraxo aimed his laser at Geo and yelled, "You want to brainwash someone? Brainwash this!"
The laser beam sliced through the flying vase with ease and was well on its way to fatal contact with Geo. Yet just a few steps before the blast reached Geo, Pamma's sphere suddenly expanded outwards to envelop Geo and Archilli too. The laser blast deflected off the sphere and shot directly back at Oraxo, slicing off one of his ears.
Enraged with pain, Oraxo started screaming and throwing things that simply bounced off the sphere to hit him in various parts of his already hurting body, "I hate you! You took my woman. Get out of here! All of you! I never want to see you again! And get that evil pendant out of my sight!"
The three Star Chosen quickly sped off the balcony and into Geo's hovercraft. They made their exit in what most would consider a high-tech sphere of radiance. Yet there are some--very few in number--that might view those three ragged Star Chosen as making their escape in a holy sphere of faith.
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