BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

AMDOBELL

THE DEVIL'S CRADLE: 25. "Search and Rescue"
Thursday, October 11, 2012

People had done this? It wasn't possible that human beings could deliberately cause such carnage then return to calmly check the results or was it?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2346    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

TITLE: "SEARCH AND RESCUE" SERIES: THE DEVIL'S CRADLE CHAPTER: 25. Sequel to "HELL AND BACK" FANDOM: "FIREFLY" AUTHOR: Alison m. DOBELL PAIRING: Zoe/Wash Kaylee/Simon "Mal/Inara SUMMARY: "While Davie Thomas is consumed by panic, Jerrod Perkins finds out why the communications net is down on Anaeron. Meanwhile the Captain recovers only to face another dilemna."

"SEARCH AND RESCUE"

A "Firefly" Story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

"He's in trouble!"

Her mother stopped walking and stared at the sticken look on her daughter's face. "*Shei*, Suzie? Who's in trouble?"

The girl was oblivious to the tears in her eyes. "*Wo bu zhidao*."

"Are you havin' dreams again, *fengmi*?" Said her father gently.

"They aren't dreams, *ba ba*."

Her mother was perplexed. "Then what are they?"

"I don't know, mama, but I can hear him. He's cryin'."

"Ssssh, hush now."

Mrs Prior could feel her heart sinking, it had been months since her daughter had last had an episode. She exchanged a worried glance with her husband as she wrapped the child in her arms. Suzie Prior was smart and knew what her parents' look meant but she was not *shenjingbing*. Her teacher had called her gifted. Offered to put her name forward for a scholarship to a special academy even though she was only eight. One with the most exciting programme but oddly enough Suzie had not wanted to go and her parents were reluctant to try to force her. Physically a fragile child, Suzie had a strong indomitable will that by turns amused and frustrated her mother and father. The teacher had tried to encourage them to put pressure on their daughter but each attempt was met with the same result, Suzie was not interested. After a while the teacher stopped asking and Suzie felt as if she could breathe freely again. That had been last year, in the Summer time. It was now Autumn on Boros and they were going to visit her Aunt May but Suzie knew they were not going in the right direction.

"Mama?"

"Yes, *fengmi*?"

"We need to go that way!"

Her parents looked in the direction Suzi's thin little arm pointed. The direction of the city outskirts, where the poor people lived. Not that they were rich themselves but in comparrison they were worlds apart from the folk on that side of the city. Henry Prior looked troubled. "Suzie, *xingan*, why would we go that way?"

"It's where the boy is. He's in pain, *ba ba*, but I can help him."

Before he could ask her what she meant, Suzi broke into a run towards the city outskirts. Alarmed, Mr Prior swore. "*Wode ma*, what has got into that girl?"

"Henry, there's nothin' wrong with Suzie, she's just sensitive."

For a moment he was tempted to tell her that was a load of *fei hua* and she knew it but such arguments never had happy endings so he kept his mouth shut and hurried after his daughter, his wife making up excuses for Suzie even though she was as baffled as he was.

* * * * *

"He gonna live?"

Simon sighed. "Yes, Jayne. How many times do I have to repeat myself?"

"Huh, well he ain't woke yet."

"It's called sleeping."

Jayne Cobb's eyes narrowed at the sarcasm. Since the procedure to get rid of the metallic dust, the Captain had fallen into a deep sleep. It had been hours now and to the mercenary's mind not waking up was not a healthy sign no matter what Serenity's doc said. "D'ya drug him?"

"*Bu qu*, I didn't need to. He was tired, Jayne. *Fang xin*."

"Who says I'm worried?"

Simon didn't point out the obvious. As much as Jayne moaned and bitched about the Captain he didn't like it when the man was injured or below par. It was as if Jayne only knew his place in the 'verse when he could steer by the Captain. Simon was saved from saying something he might regret by the arrival of Inara. It seemed every member of the crew managed to find themselves wandering by the infirmary every hour or so not that Simon had any intention of commenting on it.

"How is he?"

"Resting."

The Companion gave him a beautiful smile and Simon could not help smiling back. "Do you mind if I sit with him for a while?"

"No, of course not. I was going to get something to drink anyway."

"*Xie xie ni."

Inara watched Simon go as she settled herself in the chair next to the infirmary bed. Her eyebrows rose in query when Jayne made no move to leave. "The Captain is going to be alright, Jayne."

"Huh, that's not what I'm thinkin'."

"It isn't?"

"Nah, somethin's been buggin' me. Ya saw them purplebellies that came aboard?"

"*Dang ran.*"

"They got dust on 'em, on their uniforms an' boots."

Inara nodded and wondered what he was getting at. "*Wo zhidao, weishenme*?"

Jayne glanced at the sleeping Captain. "Doc got that dust outta the Cap, said it was metallic or somesuch. Was more dangerous than the other stuff. What I can't figure is, he said it was eatin' through that device he was usin' to get it outta the Cap so how come it didn't eat through Mal?"

She blinked. For all Jayne's rough manner and somewhat slow thinking processes the man was no dummy, he just thought along different lines to most. Right now she was surprised by how astute his observation was. "I hadn't thought of that, Jayne. Did you ask Simon?" "Was gonna but he left. An' another thing." Jayne walked over to the Companion and leaned down. Inara forced herself not to lean back and down wind of him. Jayne had been lifting weights and was still sweaty from his exertions. "If them purplebellies got that metal dust on 'em how come it ain't made 'em *shenbing* too?"

"Oh, I think it did."

Jayne and Inara looked up to see Shepherd Book step into the infirmary.

"They got sick?" Asked Jayne.

"Not the ones who came on board but I think some of their men must have become ill."

Now Inara was intrigued. What had she missed? "Why do you say that?"

"It was the way the Commandant's interest in the Captain piqued when he heard that he had become sick when his dust mask malfunctioned but that he was now getting better. Made me think he had a vested interest in finding out why."

* * * * *

It was not much to look at. A mostly disc shaped but battered remote no bigger than a man's head that looked for all the 'verse as if it had started off round but had been sat on by someone real heavy. Howdy Marks looked sceptical. "You sure this is gonna work, *laoban*?"

"*Bu qu* but it's worth a try. Billy, what d'you think?"

"Everythin' checks out an' the camera feed is workin' *hen hao*. Not sure what kind'a distance it'll cover."

"Didn't Hank Miller give us any instructions about it, *laoban*?"

Jerrod Perkins shook his head. "Not a word, just threw it in with some other parts we might wanna use or trade as spares."

Howdy didn't look impressed. "You ask me he was just savin' himself a trip to the tip."

"Maybe so but it responds to the remote control so let's check out how well it works an' what its' range is. See if we can finally find out what the good gorram is goin' on." The men nodded and watched as Howdy cracked open a hatch just wide enough to let the disc slip through then sealed it shut tight again. Without a word they gathered in a tight knot around the monitor and held their breath as Howdy banged the side of it hard and the picture stopped rolling enough to give a decent image. At first there was pretty much nothing to see. Gorram dust everywhere, not to be mistaken for sand which was natural and not a harmful thing. They watched it skim over the flats from the warehouse district where they were located and off towards town.

"We should get it to rise up over them ridges, *laoban*. Maybe get a look at them snipers."

Perkins shook his head, not taking his eyes off the monitor. "Can't risk it gettin' shot up, Howdy. We on'y got the one remote, *dong ma*?"

Howdy fell silent, the boss was right. Minutes later the remote approached what passed for Anaeron's main town but as it got closer and entered the market area every man took a sharp shocked intake of breath. Bodies lay every which way, some little more than fluttering rags on the stumps of arms and legs. Body parts appeared to be missing from so many of them that it took a while for anyone to realise there was little or no blood. What the *diyu* had happened? His voice thick with emotion and tinged with fear, Billy voiced what many were thinking.

"What *tamade yaoguai* did this?"

"Must'a been Reavers!"

"There ain't been no word of Reavers comin' this far out." "Yeah, maybe 'cause they ate anyone who might'a said anythin'."

Voices were getting louder, the theories more outlandish. Jerrod Perkins leaned in close to the monitor as a shadow fell in front of it, then jerked back as it moved and came into focus. It was a figure dressed in a bulky containment suit the like of which he had never seen before.

"What's goin' on?"

Herb Rogers noticed the figure seemed to be looking at the bodies, or what was left of them, without touching any. "Looks like someone's checkin' on their handiwork, *laoban."

Jerrod Perkins frowned. People had done this? It wasn't possible that human beings could deliberately cause such carnage then return to calmly check the results or was it? That was when they saw the suited figure look up. Howdy fiddled with the remote control and managed to see what the figure was looking at. All of a sudden a terrible dread certainty made each man feel sick to his stomach. Above the figure a huge Alliance Dreadnought hovered. Perkins turned to look at his men.

"You still think it was gorram Reavers?"

No one said anything. Too upset and stunned they simply watched the feed until the Dreadnought recovered the man in the containment suit. It was Billy Parker who gave them another worry to think about. "Do you think they're comin' for us next?"

* * * * *

He was so frightened he was hiccupping. Mrs Evelyn Thomas was beside herself, unable to calm her son or break him out of his nightmare. Where was that *tamade* ambulance? Sara Kaye knelt next to her brother holding one cold little hand in hers, her eyes wide and fastened on his flushed face.

"*Wo haipa*, mama."

"The ambulance will be here soon, Sara."

Davie lay flat, eyes closed, his body trembling. Sara Kay began to cry, though she was older than her little brother they had always been close. A sudden loud knocking on the door brought a brief relieved smile to her mother's face. Quickly Mrs Thomas rushed to open the door surprised to find not her husband and the ambulance crew but a group of people she had never seen before. For a moment she blinked stupidly at them until a young girl about her son's age pushed forward.

"*Wo duibuqi*, he's in pain, I can feel it!"

Mrs Thomas looked from face to face then stared at the child as if she were quite mad. "*Shenme*? Who are you and what are you doing here?"

"My name is Suzie Prior an' this is my mama an' *ba ba*. We've come to help."

Before she could think of how to reply, the girl slipped passed her. Mrs Thomas felt irritated and more than a little annoyed but then the man and woman stepped forward, the man's expression apologetic but kind. "We didn't mean to intrude but our daughter senses things, *dong ma*?"

His wife carried on the explanation before Mrs Thomas could interrupt. "Suzie could feel that he was in pain, she says she can help so we had to come."

"*Bangzhu*?" Mrs Thomas blinked like a stunned owl staring into an oncoming train. "*Wo bu dong*, how does she think she can help my son?"

Just then she heard a gasp behind her and spun quickly, thinking her son was worse. To her surprise and joy Davie had his eyes open and was no longer trembling and moaning. He was staring straight up into a pair of green eyes that he had never seen before yet felt as if he had known forever. "Are you an angel?" He whispered in awe.

Suzie smiled and sat back on her heels, feeling a little light headed now that she had helped block the mental intrusion that was causing him so much pain and distress. Sara Kay stared at her brother then the strange girl and back again. "She healed you, Davie! How did she do that?" Mrs Thomas reached them just as her son sat up, a smile on his face that lit up his eyes. Still a bit flushed at least now he looked more like himself. His mother put a hand to his forehead, needing to reassure herself that he really was alright and not running a fever. Her relief was quickly followed by confusion. She looked at the girl. "What did you do?"

Suzie gave a little self conscious shrug. "I helped."

"*Qu*, but how?"

"I can't explain it, I just knew that I could help."

She opened her mouth to question the girl further when the door flew open again and her husband came running in followed by the ambulance crew carrying a stretcher. Davie got up and reached a hand down to Suzie who took it shyly and stood up.

Mr Thomas looked stunned. "*Fasheng shenme shir la*?"

His wife was about to explain when she caught the pleading look in Suzie Prior's eyes and gave a small smile back before turning to her husband and the ambulance men. "*Wo duibuqi*, it seems we called you out on a false alarm. It's my fault, Davie had a piece of food caught in his throat and was having trouble catching his breath. He's alright now."

Mr Thomas just stared at her. Why the *diyu* was she lying and why did his wife look so happy about it? Vaguely he was aware of the lead ambulance officer taking a few details from his wife then the men filing back out. As the door shut behind them he frowned, who were these people and what were they doing in his house?

"Dear, this is...?" Mrs Thomas raised an eyebrow at the Priors and waited for them to introduce themselves.

While the introductions were being made, Davie and Sara Kay plied Suzie with questions of their own. None of the children seeming in the slightest bit surprised when a meal was laid out for all of them. While the adults got to know each other the children put their heads together, quickly becoming fast friends. For all the fear and panic that Davie had gone through, he thought it one of the best days of his life. A day in which everything changed in some fundamental but indefinable way. The one thing he could be sure of was that it was definitely a change for the better.

* * * * *

It was funny. Really. In one of those painful trying-not-to-laugh-out-loud ways. As soon as the Captain woke everybody pretended they hadn't been watching and waiting to see if he would. Simon silently shook his head, not blaming them but wishing that for once they would just trust his word when he said everything was going to be fine.

"They were just worried, *bao bei*."

Simon smiled at Kaylee then glanced at the now empty infirmary. With the Captain declaring if he didn't eat something *mashang* one of his crew was going to go missing, the little room had emptied of everyone except himself and Kaylee. He wanted to stay behind to clean and sanitise every surface in the infirmary. He had already sterilised his surgical instruments and put them away. Kaylee watched him, wanted to help, but Simon gently declined the offer.

"Really, there isn't that much to do but if I don't do it now Kaylee the room might not be sterile enough for the next emergency."

The smile on Kaylee's face froze. "We expectin' more trouble?"

Sometimes Simon could kick himself for speaking without thinking first. Kaylee tended to take every word he spoke as if it had been handed down on a tablet of stone. "*Duibuqi*, I didn't mean that it's just you never know when we might be needing to use the infirmary again and I would rather be prepared."

"Then what?"

He paused as he removed the sheet from the bed and tossed it in the bin for washing, carefully cleaning every inch of the metal infirmary bed until it shone. Kaylee loved watching the look of confusion cross his face. That man was so dear to her it was almost sinful to spend so much as a moment away from him but she had to admit that seeing how concerned he always was for the crew did things to her already over active libedo. That Simon didn't see it was amusing as *diyu* and made it all kinds of fun to wrong foot him.

"*Ni zhide shi shenme*?"

Kaylee sidled up close and began to rub her body up against him. Simon choked back what he was going to say next, willing his body not to react but it was a losing battle. "Kaylee," he groaned "I've only just got the infirmary sterile again."

"Well why didn't ya say so?"

He stared as she suddenly pulled away from him, both mourning the loss of contact and puzzled by her action. With a wicked little grin, Kaylee grabbed his hand and tugged him out of the door. "W... where are we going?"

"I got a itch needs scratchin'."

"Kaylee, it's the middle of the day!"

"Everybody knows there ain't no day or night in the Black, Simon, an' I been plenty patient." "But the others, what will they think?"

Kaylee paused to kiss him, a hand reaching down to cup and caress him until every thought in his head turned to jelly. "Long as they don't interrupt 'til we're done I don't care." Came her husky reply.

* * * * *

"Don't go!"

Suzie heard the soft but urgent plea in his voice, the silent begging of his eyes touching something deep inside that had lain sleeping most all of her life. His voice was carefully pitched to carry to her ears alone. Davie obviously decided some explanation was in order.

"I can keep him out when I'm awake but as soon as I fall asleep..."

The suddenly vulnerability she saw weakened her resolve. Suzie knew her parents would want to go soon and from the look of Davie's parents they weren't the kind - grateful or not - to want to entertain strangers in their house a moment longer than they had to. Oh, they would be all kinds of polite about it but none of it would be more than a thin civilised veneer. She knew that the initial gratitude they felt on seeing their son's recovery would quickly turn to suspicion and even hatred if they knew what she had done and why. But she was torn. Davie needed her and really, she wanted to stay, talk to him, get to know him better. This however was not the time or the place. An idea popped into her head.

'Can you hear me?'

His eyes widened in surprise.

'I can see you can but *qing*, try to hide your reaction, *dong ma*?'

'*Weishenme*?'

'Your parents wouldn't understand. Now I know we can communicate without words this will be a lot easier.'

'What will?

'Keeping in touch. I have to go and you have to let me otherwise your parents will get suspicious. Just don't cause a scene, say goodbye like everyone else. Can you do that?'

'If you promise I'll see you again'

'*Wo daying*'

Before Davie could think of anything else to say, Mr and Mrs Prior were saying their polite goodbyes to his parents. Suzie joined them and seconds later the three were gone. Mrs Thomas closed the door behind their visitors and gave her husband a look Davie could not interpret. "What are we going to do?"

His father, never a man of many words, just turned to his children. His eyes going from Sara Kaye to Davie. "*Ni mei shir ba*, Davie?"

"*Hen hao, papa*."

Mrs Thomas joined them, Sara moving over a little so her mother could get in close and see for herself that Davie really was okay. "You had us so worried."

"*Wo duibuqi*, I don't know what happened." He lied. "I just came over all dizzy."

Leaning in to kiss his forehead, Mrs Thomas manage to control her emotions. For a minute there she was convinced her son was dying. "You must be hungry."

Davie never got a chance to answer before he was swept along with the rest of the family to have something to eat. Sara Kaye watched in silence, her eyes taking everything in, her ears stretched for every nuance. Picking up little things her brother missed. Something else was going on, she just knew it, but what? And why were her parents being so careful to keep it from them?

* * * * *

Wash gave his wife a loving look, happy to have Serenity finally on her way. "Did the Cap'n say where we're goin', *bao bei*?"

She shook her head. "Not yet, *zhangfu*, just head deep into the Black. He wants to be as far away from here as possible."

"I can do that."

Zoe patted his shoulder and gave him a kiss before heading off the bridge.

As Zoe entered the commons room she was relieved to see the Captain up and about. Shepherd Book was making something tasty on the stove. Her nose twitched, not recognising the aroma but finding it tantalising nonetheless even though they had eaten just hours ago.

"Thought I'd rustle up something for the Captain seeing as he missed the main meal."

Zoe nodded to the Captain. "Good to see you up an' about, sir."

"Good to be up an' about."

His voice still sounded a mite scratchy and underpowered but the man was smiling and looking better than he had in days. Simon gave her a slightly exasperated look. "I keep telling him to try not to talk too much, at least until his throat has recovered properly."

"Needs honey."

Everyone stared at River. Shepherd Book frowned. "River, you don't put honey in an omelet."

Jayne strode in at that moment. "We got eggs?"

Book shook his. "*Bu qu*, the omelet's made with an egg substitute, Jayne."

"Huh, I ain't fussy, just slide it on a plate an' I'll eat it. I'm starvin'."

"Jayne you've already eaten, we all have. Well, all except for the Captain."

The big man blinked as if he had to run that twice through his brain pan but River started speaking again, this time addressing herself to Inara who was making a mug of tea. "Honey. It's a natural healer and it's bacterial."

Inara smiled at her. "Are you saying you want some honey, *mei mei*?"

She shook her head. "Not for me. For Captain Daddy. His throat's sore."

Inara looked over River's head and saw the Captain staring back at her, amusement tugging at his lips. Shepherd Book carried the pan from the stove to the table, Kaylee sliding a plate towards the Captain. As Book started to slide the omelet onto the plate Jayne tried to intercept it but the Preacher turned his body to block him. "Now Jayne, don't be greedy. Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins."

"But I'm hungry!"

"You're always hungry." Quipped Kaylee.

"Perhaps you have a tapeworm." Said Simon.

Jayne turned and looked at Simon. "What one'a them?"

As Simon explained the Captain quickly ate his omelet, smacked his lips and smiled at the Preacher. "That was a mighty fine meal, Shepherd. I'm obliged."

"Oh you're quite welcome, Captain."

Inara handed Mal a mug of tea. River stared at Inara. "You forgot the honey."

"*Duibuqi*. I'll see if there's any left."

While Inara rummaged in one of the little lockers River turned to the Captain. "Can't stay long."

The others started a game of Tall Card. "Where you goin', little one?"

"Not me, all of us."

Zoe paused as she was about to take a card. "Goin' where?"

"They saved us, now it's our turn."

The Captain frowned. "River, who're you talkin' about?"

"Have to go back to Anaeron."

Everyone stared at River, stunned. Inara paused with the honey pot in one hand and a teaspoon in the other.

"River, what are you talking about?" Asked Simon.

"We can't rescue everybody, too late now. Have to hurry."

"River, we're headin' deep into the Black, *dong ma*?"

She stared at the Captain, knew what he was thinking, that he wanted to keep his crew safe but this was important. "It's gobbled everything else up but them."

Jayne frowned. "What has?"

River stared down at the Captain's empty plate, one tiny little crumb the only thing left of his meal. "Too small to see." She looked up and straight into the Captain's eyes, her look focused and intent. "It was harmless but they changed it, engineered it to be something else. Undetectable until it's too late."

The Captain had a horrible feeling he knew what she was talking about. His dry scratchy throat just got a mite tighter. "You sayin' what I think you're sayin', little one? This about that gorram dust?"

She nodded. "You were accidental, this is deliberate."

He felt anger start to build. "Who they targetin' on Anaeron?"

River's eyes flattened with sorrow, suddenly bleak. "All of them."

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shei* = who *wo bu zhidao* = I don't know *ba ba* = daddy *shenjingbing* = crazy *fengmi* = honey *xingan* = sweetheart *wode ma* = mother of God *fei hua* = garbage talk *xie xie ni* = thank you *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *dang ran* = of course *weishenme* = why *shenbing* = sick *laoban* = boss *hen hao* = very good *dong ma* = understand? *tamade yaoguai* = fucking monster *wo haipa* = I'm scared *wo duibuqi* = I'm sorry *shenme* = what *hangzhu* = help *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *qu* = yes (lit. go) *diyu* = hell *fasheng shenme shir la* = what has happened? *bao bei* = precious/treasure *mashang* = at once/on the double/immediately *qing* = please *ni zhide shi shenme* = what do you mean? *wo daying* = I promise *ni mei shir ba* = are you alright? *zhangfu* = husband *mei mei* = little sister

COMMENTS

Thursday, October 11, 2012 12:19 PM

BYTEMITE


> The one thing he could be sure of was that it was definitely a change for the better.

Considering the likely cause? Nope.

>Jayne turned and looked at Simon. "What one'a them?"

Haha, now that's a quick way to ruin his appetite. I kinda hope we see Jayne being paranoid about this for a few chapters now. Although, he has a good point about his concerns about the face-melting dust, will he remember to ask? Maybe Inara will remember.

Thursday, October 11, 2012 1:23 PM

AMDOBELL


Jayne and the tapeworm, Bytemite? I have all kinds of images running around inside my brainpan on that score. LOL. I also think he has his own kind of smarts and I like the notion that he would pick up on something the others may have missed. Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, October 11, 2012 4:09 PM

MALSDOXY


Ok i've created a flowchart of sorts and now understand all the players, well, kind of...i think...this is REALLy good, AliD, xiexie

Friday, October 12, 2012 2:52 AM

AMDOBELL


Wow, a flow chart? Now that's dedication, MalsDoxy! So happy you are enjoying the story, thanks for the feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, October 12, 2012 5:00 AM

NUTLUCK


Even Jayne has his moments in the brains department. Of course even a blind three legged squirrel finds a nut in winter sometimes.

Friday, October 12, 2012 7:08 AM

AMDOBELL


Ha! Jayne as a three legged squirrel? It's going to take a while for me to get that image out of my brainpan, Nutluck! LOL. Thanks for sharing, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:29 PM

EBFIDDLER


Been delighted with Jayne in the last chapter and this. He had some good one-liners last chapter that I forgot to mention; this time it's his insight into *why* the dust is behaving the way it did. Howdy and Jerrod and the other guys are using their little remote robot to good effect, to figure out what's going on. Whether they're able to do anything about it is another matter. Davie and Suzie can keep in touch, but I'm still worried about their safety. Looks like our crew is about to ride to the rescue.

Monday, December 22, 2014 4:31 AM

AMDOBELL


When Jayne takes notice of something he can be very astute, Ebfiddler. And yes Howdy and Jerrod are doing there best to try to find out what's going on. Our crew is the gorram best so if anyone can pull a rabbit out of the hat for Dave and Suzie it will be them. Thanks for the shiny feedback, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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