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In Their Shadow - City of Shadows

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Summary: Parallel story to In Their Shadow, covering events on Earth

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Sci-Fi > Night's Dawn Trilogy, TheSmegheadFR151642,158075,80013 Jan 0413 Jan 04Yes

The Balance Starts To Tilt

In Their Shadow - City of Shadows

Author: Bobby Cox smeghead_76@dodo.com.au

Disclaimer: Some of the characters are mine. Some aren't. The 'verse in which this is set, however, belongs to Peter F. Hamilton (the 'Night's Dawn' trilogy 'verse). There may or may not be characters and situations belonging to ME productions and the team that writes Buffy. I'm just covering my arse there. No money will be made from this, but if someone *thinks* it's good enough to make money, I'd be flattered :)

Summary: This is a parallel story to 'In Their Shadow' by rei_ite (and later on, myself), and provides back-story for Xander's activities on Earth. Basically, vampires and the Light Bringer sect - a Satanic cult (no, really!) - are starting to bump heads with each other in the Downtown section of the Los Angeles arcology. Normally, the authorities wouldn't pay too much attention to something like this.

However, when the fighting spills over to the Uptown sections...

AN: The follwing text formats will be used for datavises and affinity:


Affinity will be represented as such: Affinity

Datavises will be represented as such:{Datavise}

Chapter 16

"I suppose the main point of difference between my ex-Watcher and the Slayerettes was that, where Travers had tried to get me to adhere to the letter of the Slayer Handbook, the Slayerettes were a lot more flexible.

"Sure, they had their own version - what they tongue-in-cheek called the 'Slayerette Handbook' - but they tended to treat that more as a guide than a hard-and-fast way to do things, which was fortunate, otherwise the shift in Jonsson's tactics probably would have caught them -
us, I should say - off-guard, with potentially disastrous results."

- Slayer Elizabeth Baker (2614)


Habitat 'Eden'

Jupiter orbit, Sol System

9th June, 2614


The central parklands which were a feature of all habitats were an extremely popular area of the habitat for everyone who wasn't currently engaged in some other task. Eden was no exception, although things were slightly different.

Unlike other habitats, where the population was housed in starscrapers arrayed around the habitat's equator, the two million people who called Eden 'home' actually lived in the habitat's interior, as Eden had been the very first habitat, and there had been no provision for starscrapers in the first-generation habitats such as Eden, Pallas and Ararat. Later habitats, of course, had their genome modified to allow for starscrapers to be installed, but there was no way to retro-engineer the modifications into the original habitats.

Not that anyone was complaining, of course.

Apart from a handful of worlds such as Tropicana, Kulu or New California, it would be difficult to find a better place to live.

At any given time, somewhere between one-third and one-half of the population of Eden would be using the parkland, but given the sheer size of the habitat, overcrowding was never a problem, and it was always possible to find a semi-private area for somewhat sensitive discussions.

The trio of people strolling through a semi-secluded area was taking full advantage of that fact.

From a distance, they appeared normal, although somewhat bulked-up and even taller than the average Edenist - who tended to be taller than most Adamists anyway, which was a by-product of their extensive geneering. Closer inspection, however, would reveal that their features were somewhat more angular than a normal person's. In fact, it would be hard to avoid comparisons with Tranquillity serjeants - which would be one hundred percent correct, for they were Tranquillity serjeants.

Veterans of the Mortonridge Liberation, in fact, albeit from different sides.

"Have you come to a decision?" one was asking the other two.

"Yes we have," the serjeant in the middle said. Although Tranquillity serjeants were identical, the features of these three - and thousands more who had taken up residence in Eden after the conclusion of the possession crisis - had been moulded by cosmetic adaptation packages to more closely resemble their appearances while they'd been alive. In this particular instance, a woman in her late twenties.

"We've decided that we will take part," the serjeant - Stephanie Ash - continued. "If the reports are any indication, the situation on Earth now makes anything that happened during the possession crisis pale by comparison." Stephanie had to repress a shudder at that, for she'd been speaking from experience.

She'd been one of the possessed on the Mortonridge peninsular, and after the removal of the town of Ketton to another dimension, she'd accepted to offer of a serjeant body along with twelve thousand other possessed. After seeing the misery of the Liberation first-hand, she had trouble accepting that there was a situation that could be worse, but the reports sent to the Jovian Consensus by Govcentral made it clear that it was possible.

The third serjeant - a man in his mid-thirties by the name of Moyo - wrapped his arm around Stephanie's shoulders and gave an encouraging squeeze. "All of us agreed, even Cochrane," he added.

The serjeant who'd started the discussion - a former Edenist named Sinon, who was, coincidentally, Syrinx's father - nodded gravely. "Of course, you do realise that there is no obligation for you to take part in this campaign; that participation is entirely voluntary?"

Stephanie nodded. "We do, Sinon," she said. "It's just that... it's hard to explain why, but I can't just ignore it. If an ordinary teenager can step forward and fight these sort of things, then how can I not?" she added, and Moyo nodded beside her.

"I understand," Sinon replied.

****

Apollo Palace, New Kong

Kulu, Kulu System

11th June, 2614


Alistair Saldana, King of the Kulu Kingdom and its Principalities, opened his eyes as he cancelled the link to the processor. "So, Ione is sending serjeants to help with the situation on Earth," he said. "Even though the Jovian Consensus will be able to produce far more in a far shorter time. The question remains, though; why isn't she sending them to Kulu?"

The other person in his office, the Duke of Sailon, who also acted as the Kingdom's Security Minister shrugged. "I'm not sure, Your Majesty, but I would suspect that it's because she has faith in the Kulu military to handle the situation for ourselves."

Alistair nodded. That sounded reasonable. "Do we?"

It was the Duke's turn to nod, although his expression was slightly uncertain. "Probably, Your Majesty, although between checking the Kingdom for a demonic population and the rebuilding of Ombey, that does mean that our forces are stretched awfully thin."

"Do you think that there are vampires loose in the Kingdom?"

The Duke shrugged again. "Probably not, Your Majesty, but we can't afford to assume that that is the case. The Harris File provided us with a point of reference as to what to look for, and AIs are monitoring crime reports. Currently, there have been no matches, but the watch must be maintained - possibly indefinitely."

"Have you sent a message to Ione to confirm this?"

"Yes, Your Majesty. However, it was Tranquillity itself that responded, claiming that she was 'unavailable'."

"Probably sleeping off a hangover," Alistair commented with a smile. Like everyone else, members of the Saldana family enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy a night on the town. The fact that barely a week went by without at least one of the young royals having to be bailed out from a police holding cell for being 'drunk and disorderly' was probably a small price to pay. After all, it showed that the rulers-to-be of the Kingdom were just as human as the people they ruled over.

And it actually served to make the Saldanas more popular, so long as they didn't disgrace themselves too badly.

Bringing the conversation back on-topic, Alistair continued, "Have law-enforcement agencies been given the necessary equipment to deal with any vampires that might be present in the Kingdom?"

The Duke nodded. "Yes, Your Majesty, along with ISA. Hopefully they won't be required." The ISA - Internal Security Agency - was a combination of secret police and Kingdom-wide law-enforcement agency, and was the subject of nasty rumours. The fact that about two-thirds of the rumours had been started by the ISA themselves to act as a deterrent was probably one of the Agency's more closely held secrets.

"I agree with the sentiment, but it would be a rather large failure in my responsibility to protect the population of the Kingdom not to be prepared for the worst."

"I understand, Your Majesty."

****

LAPD Precinct Headquarters

Sunnydale Dome, Los Angeles arcology

12th June, 2614


"Is it just me, or have things started to get quiet of late?"

That was a question that all of the Slayerettes had been pondering for the past couple of days, but which Alex had been the first to actually ask.

"No, Alex, it isn't just you," William replied. "I wish I knew the reasons behind the decline in the numbers of vampires and demons encountered by the patrols, but it's a mystery to me."

"The level of activity on the vampire and demon front is picking up, though," Amanda put in. "Jonsson's still abducting people and turning them. He's got to be keeping his new minions wherever he's holed up, though, and it can't be for any good reason."

"A competent Big Bad," Alex muttered. "Great. That's all we need. Why can't this guy have flaws just like everything else we've defeated?" he asked, somewhat plaintively.

There were some chuckles in reply to his last comment, but they were strained. Even though it had been five days since the bombing of Slayerette Headquarters - and the deaths of their friends - the emotional wounds were still gaping and raw. The surviving Slayerettes had thrown themselves into their work with a grim enthusiasm that both impressed and alarmed the police and newly-arriving military elements.

Impressed, because when the Slayerettes accompanied a patrol, that meant that no vampire or demon that was encountered survived the experience.

Alarmed, because the Slayerettes were riding emotions that saw them throw themselves into a fight, regardless of the odds. They'd had a number of close calls, where only the presence of backup had ensured that they'd survived at all, let alone without serious injury. Both Edgar and Henderson had spoken with William regarding this disturbing tendency - as he seemed to have more control over his emotions, and wasn't actively patrolling, instead co-ordinating the research efforts - and he'd said, "Yes, I know. But, surely, you've both been in similar circumstances yourselves?"

They'd both been forced to agree, and William had gone on to say, "What were your reactions in those cases?"

"Not all that different to theirs," Henderson had said, realisation dawning. "But, I was taken off active duty for a couple of weeks, so that I wouldn't get myself killed. In fact, I wasn't given a choice in the matter."

William had nodded at that. "Perhaps something similar can be done in this case, but their stubbornness might prove to be somewhat problematical. If Xander Harris comes to Earth, then that might give them an opportunity to take a short rest. Do you know if that is what is going to happen?"

Both Henderson and Edgar had shrugged. "We've been assuming that something like that will happen, but we can't say for certain one way or another," Edgar had replied.

"Going by the information in the Harris File, I'd say that he'd want to help out however he can," Henderson had said. "And if he does come to Earth, he'll be made more than welcome to provide whatever assistance possible - it'd be stupid not to, given his experience in that area. But like Luke said, we haven't been told if he's coming to Earth or not. In fact, we don't even know where he is at the moment."

William had nodded again. "That is true," he'd replied. "I suppose the only thing we can do is to wait and see what happens."

Dragging his thoughts back to the present situation, William heard Cat say, "Just what the hell is Jonsson up to?"

****

Downtown district

Sunnydale Dome, Los Angeles arcology

12th June, 2614


The patrol was moving through the run-down - even by the standards of Downtown - area, weapons ready and enhances senses working in concert with neural nanonic analysis programs to try to ensure that no-one ambushed them. Even though the squad of Marines and an almost equal number of police AT officers were mainly on the lookout for vampires, there were also Light Bringer sect members to watch out for, as well.

Frustration had been the order of the day, as the abduction operations carried out by Jonsson's minions had been entirely at random. The only consistent fact had been that they'd been carried out in areas where there had been a large number of people, both to maximise the chances of successful selection of victims and to cover their escape after taking their victims. Both the LAPD and Govcentral Navy had been run ragged trying to stop the abductions, although the newly-arriving Confederation Marines were proving to be invaluable, both to increase the number of patrols that could be made, and to allow brief periods of rest for the forces already present.

The patrol roster - drawn up with the assistance of the Slayerettes - was simple. Those personnel who had patrolled with the Slayerettes were split up and assigned to different patrols on subsequent days, to pass on what they had learned. This had the effect of hampering the building of teamwork among the patrols, but that was accepted as a necessary side-effect of spreading vampire-hunting knowledge as rapidly as possible.

Encounters, however, had been few and far between of late. Apart from the Slayerettes - whose reactions to the attack on their home base was beginning to worry even the soldiers - the only patrols that had actually ran across any vampires had been the ones lucky enough to be in the immediate vicinity of an abduction operation, and even then, they'd had to react incredibly quickly - almost to the point of being headed in the right direction almost before it happened - to stand any chance of making a successful interception.

And even in those rare cases, their response had been hampered by the necessity to attempt a rescue of the civilians that had been abducted. The vampires, of course, had been under no such restriction, with the smarter ones inflicting serious injury, rather than killing, the abductees, forcing the police and Marines to render assistance, rather than pursue the now-fleeing vampires. Since the survival rate of the vampires who chose this course of action was nearly one hundred percent, this tactic was becoming more common as more and more of the abduction teams adopted it.

The situation was, indeed, precariously poised.

And starting to slip in Jonsson's favour.

****

Jonsson's lair, Downtown district

Sunnydale Dome, Los Angeles arcology

13th June, 2614


Jonsson studied the reports from his minions with some satisfaction. Apart from the setback suffered when the sects had attacked his previous headquarters, his plans were proceeding... well, as planned. He had to fight back a grin at that last though. It wouldn't suit his image to start grinning in what could be seen as an inane manner, as Master Vampires simply did not indulge in that sort of thing. Gleeful and slightly maniacal laughter - possibly shading to near-demonic cackling - yes, but grinning would only serve to unsettle his minions. Sometimes that was a good thing, and served to keep them on their toes.

Wondering if their Master had lost his grip on his sanity, however, was not, as it might encourage some to consider the benefits of, say, sticking something sharp and wooden into his back one night, or possibly separating his head from the rest of his body.

Such plans would be doomed to fail, of course, but dealing with the situation would be... distracting, not to mention annoying, at a time when he could least afford to be distracted.

Returning his attention to the reports, he saw that his numbers were building up nicely, despite the sudden increase in patrols being run by the police and military. A detail attracted his attention - it appeared that some of his abduction teams, when confronted by the authorities, instead of futilely trying to stand and fight, had simply injured the people they'd abducted and broken contact.

Jonsson was forced to admire the initiative shown by the team leaders who'd first thought of it, and the detail of injuring, rather than killing the civilians they'd abducted. As they noted in their reports, the police and soldiers had broken off their pursuit to help the injured civilians. The loss of new additions to his forces was probably balanced out by the fact that losses among his forces had dropped.

The final item in the report impressed him greatly, though. As he'd been giving all of his attention to the strategic details of his campaign, he'd been unable to keep track of smaller details - such as the exact number of vampires he had under his command or part of other groups that had allied themselves to his cause, no doubt hoping for a share of the spoils, but half-expecting to be betrayed.

Jonsson smothered a snort at that though. Although betrayal and double-crossing was the precedent set in the past, he planned to honour the terms of the agreements he'd struck with the Masters of the other domes to the letter. If - when - his plans came to fruition, there would be more than enough power to share between them. Even though he planned on being the Master of the entire arcology - to start with, anyway - the Masters underneath him would have pretty much a free hand to run their domes as they wished, so long as they didn't come into conflict with him of course.

But that was just to start with, of course. Later on, who knew?

Jonsson had to repress another snort. These mental side-trips were enjoyable, but in the end, they distracted him. Speculation regarding the future was all well and good, but there was no sense in getting ahead of himself.

According to the report, counting the groups that had allied themselves to him, he was now in command of over thirty thousand vampires. An impressive number to be sure, but any feelings of invincibility were sharply tempered by the knowledge that the LAPD alone outnumbered him by better than three-to-one, and were more heavily armed as well. And that was even before assistance from both the Govcentral and Confederation was factored in. In a stand-up pitched battle, he was sure to lose.

But he didn't intend to fight a pitched battle.

The tactics he was using now were guerilla tactics - which shifted the advantage to him. Despite being grossly outnumbered and outgunned, the authorities had to cover everywhere his forces might strike, where he was able to concentrate on the places he really meant to be. To confuse matters further, he sent groups out on decoy missions, to gauge the likely reactions of his enemies to his provocations.

After four days of this, he felt he had enough information to move to the next phase of his plans. Looking up from the reports, he gestured in Damien's direction.

"Begin Phase Two," he ordered.

****

Downtown district

Sunnydale Dome, Los Angeles arcology

14th June, 2614


The leader of the vampire ambush group studied the Marine/LAPD patrol he'd be tasking with ambushing. They were alert, on the lookout for anyone - or anything trying to attack them, but a well-planned and -executed ambush always came as a surprise for the ambushees.

His orders - not that he would even dream of questioning them - seemed a little odd. Capture, if possible, rather than kill. That indicated to him that any prisoners taken would be either turned or interrogated... or possibly both, which explained why they'd been issued with cortical jammers and sense-overload ordnance in addition to maser carbines, TIP pistols and Bradfield chemical-projectile rifles.

The patrol was entering the kill-zone of the ambush. Just a few more seconds...

NOW!

He raised his maser carbine, took aim at the lead Marine, and squeezed off a shot. As expected, it had no effect, but it did serve its purpose as a signal.

****

The first notice of the ambush the patrol received was that shot, as the vampires had managed to evade detection.

That shot was quickly followed up by a rain of sense-overload ordnance. Military-grade neural nanonic filter programs provided some protection, but the sheer volume meant that none of the police or soldiers escaped the effects. Disoriented, dazed and with the patrol commander unable to issue timely and effective orders, what happened next was inevitable.

The follow-up to the sense-overload ordnance came in the form of solid projectiles fired from Bradfield rifles. Valency generators in the combat armour prevented serious injury, but the kinetic energy imparted by the projectiles was still enough to send their targets sprawling. With the level of confusion now at its maximum, the vampires followed up with their assault.

Swarming from the buildings they'd launched their ambush from, the vampires overran the confused police and soldiers, giving them no time to recover. Although each member of the patrol fought back as best as he or she could, the resistance was sporadic and uncoordinated, and one by one, they were clubbed into submission, with the vampires fighting to subdue rather than kill.

The fighting wasn't one-sided... but it came close. By the time the last Marine had been clubbed to the ground, five of the patrol were dead - three killed in the opening barrage, and two more in the swift, brutal melee - and seventeen vampires had been reduced to dust. Not too bad, all things considered, the ambush commander thought.

What happened next would have confused any hypothetical observer. The vampires not only hauled off their prisoners to whatever fate awaited them, but they also carried off the bodies of the dead soldiers and police, and even the remains of their own casualties.

That was part of Jonsson's plan, however. Instead of leaving undeniable evidence of what had happened at each ambush site, the intention was to create uncertainty as to the exact fates of the soldiers and police who had been captured.

Up until the point where they started appearing alongside vampires, of course.

****

Tactical Operational Command Centre, LAPD Precinct Headquarters

Sunnydale Dome, Los Angeles arcology

17th June, 2614


"What the fuck is going on?"

Colonel James Anderson, recently arrived in Los Angeles with the remainder of his brigade, bellowed the question, causing people to stop what they were doing and stare at him in amazement. Seeing that he was the centre of attention, Anderson glared at them, defying them to make a comment. No-one took him up on the unspoken offer, returning to whatever it was they had been doing.

Getting no reaction from the staff in the room that had been converted to a field headquarters, he turned towards the Slayerettes, who were present to offer advice. "Matthews," he growled, "you and your mob are the ones with experience with this sort of situation. What the hell is Jonsson up to now?"

Alex assumed that the question was intended for him, rather than Amanda. "Impossible to say, sir," he replied, causing Anderson to start spluttering. "Before this, every other Big Bad we've run into has been powerful, but bloody stupid. That isn't to say that they didn't give us some fairly nasty moments, but their plans tended to self-destruct, which made it easier to stop them."

"And that is relevant to the current situation, how, exactly?" Anderson ground out.

"Because Jonsson seems to be about as smart as everything else we've faced put together, sir," Alex replied. "As his sudden shift in tactics - to something like guerilla tactics - shows. But I get the feeling that ambushing patrols is only the start, sir," he added.

"Shit," Anderson muttered. "That's all we bloody well need; a smart enemy who knows guerilla tactics. What's known about him?"

William stepped forward to field this question, as it covered an area that was his field of expertise. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot to cover. "Not a lot, unfortunately, Colonel. All that is known for sure about him is his name. We think that he is approximately four hundred years old, and has killed Slayers in the past. Apart from that, nothing else is known, not even when he first arrived in Los Angeles, or which vampire was responsible for turning him."

Anderson was appalled by the lack of solid information. "So, to sum up, he's smart and powerful," he said, and then snorted. "I could have figured that out for myself."

The reason for Anderson's mounting fury was the fact that over the last four days, over two hundred patrols had been ambushed and, apart from a handful of patrols who had enjoyed far more luck than they had deserved, simply vanished without a trace. Follow-up patrols to the same area had found nothing to indicate what had happened to them - not even vampire dust, which meant that either the vampires were taking it with them, or no vampires were being eliminated.

Both possibilities were alarming. The first because it indicated a level of thoroughness of planning that rivalled the Marines', and the second because it meant that the patrols were being swarmed by such weight of numbers that fighting back was impossible.

Anderson couldn't let that put him off, however. Historically, in a guerilla conflict, the advantages had been with the guerilla forces, with their flexibility and holding the initiative overcoming the fact that they were nearly always outnumbered. And reinforcements were on the way, with another battalion due to arrive the day after tomorrow, and a brigade a day after that. Sure, it'd mean that more senior officers would arrive to take command, but that was fine by him.

And then there were the soon-to-arrive Confederation and Edenist forces as well, which should make things interesting enough that he was kind of relieved that someone else was going to take over this nightmare. He wasn't looking forward to the public reaction to the arrival of the first serjeants, which was supposed to happen in some time today.

His musings were interrupted when he noticed that the Slayerettes were being handed a message flek. If their surprised reactions were anything to go by, it was interesting news. He briefly pondered whether or not to ask, but the decision was made for him when he announced, "It seems that Xander Harris has arrived at the O'Neill Halo and will be reaching the surface tomorrow."

The name seemed familiar to Anderson, and then it clicked. The Harris File... he must be talking about the person who provided the information for that. "I assume you'll be meeting him when he arrives, then."

"Of course, Colonel."

****

Los Angeles Vac-Train Terminus

Hollywood Dome, Los Angeles arcology

18th June, 2614


The train drew to a halt, airlocks at the end of each carriage mating with the airlocks on the platform, and a synthesised voice announced, "This train has now arrived in Los Angeles, where it is terminating. All passengers are required to disembark."

In the lead carriage, Xander got to his feet and stretched, more out of habit than anything else. The trip had been much quicker than he had expected for a voyage of almost five thousand kilometres, and the seats had been extremely comfortable. Suddenly, he was nearly overcome by nervousness.

"You alright, Xander?" one of the officers he'd shared the carriage asked him.

"Yeah," he replied. The officer obviously didn't believe him, but didn't pry. As he made his way to the nearest airlock, Xander couldn't help but wonder how well he'd adjusted to his new environment. Sure, Joshua and Louise had done their best to help him, but the amount of help they'd been able to give was limited by the fact that neither had spent much time on Earth, and that Norfolk was light-years - literally and metaphorically - away. Best take it as it comes, he thought.

As he stepped from the carriage, the first thing he noticed was how... stark... the station was, with only the occasional potted tree and concession stand providing splashes of colour. Then he noticed the black spheres buzzing around like insane hummingbirds. On closer inspection, he saw the text scrolling across their surfaces.

"Transit informatives," a voice said from next to him. At Xander's quizzical expression, the officer clarified, "They tell people when the next train is due in, where it's going - that kind of thing."

"Got it," Xander replied. It made sense. Then he noticed the birds flying around near the roof, but before he could comment, he saw the people waiting in a group.

For me? he thought dully. Nah, can't be. They must be here to meet the newly-arrived troops.

That assumption was proved to be wrong, when a man who appeared to be in his mid-to-late twenties stepped forward. "Xander Harris?" he asked, and when Xander nodded, added, "My name is William Goldsmith. Welcome to Earth."

****

The young man stepping from the first carriage could only be Xander Harris. The fact that he was the only one not wearing military uniform was a mere detail compared to the fact that he matched the image stored in William's neural nanonics.

William stepped forward. "Xander Harris?" he asked, more out of politeness than anything else. When Xander nodded dumbly, looking more than a little overwhelmed at the situation, he added, "My name is William Goldsmith. Welcome to Earth."

He had to suppress a small wince at the way that sounded more than a little melodramatic, but it was said, and nothing could be done about it. Forging on, he continued, "Allow me to introduce my companions. To my left are Catherine Piper and Elizabeth Baker, the two Active Slayers, and to my right are Alexander Matthews, Govcentral Marines, and Amanda Matthews, Los Angeles Police Department."

"And I thought we'd been a mixed bunch before," Xander muttered, before snapping out of his dazed state. "What's the situation? I got told some of the details on the way down - and that was a fun trip, by the way - but not a lot."

"Grim," Cat replied, taking his arm and leading him towards the vehicles that would take them to the Sunnydale Dome. On the way she explained the situation, helped by Alex, Amanda and Liz. Xander's expression changed several times, before settling on amazement mixed with horror.

"You have got to be kidding me!" he managed eventually.

The End

You have reached the end of "In Their Shadow - City of Shadows". This story is complete.

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