Saturday, September 12, 2009


Baby chicks
To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Skene Character Lineage at Start of Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


The following morning, it was raining lightly by the time Pyosz hauled her milk to Koldok. She stopped at the allotment center to drop off more fruit. She then went to Gitta's to deliver bread.

"I don't mean to create a cash imbalance in your business" she said to Gitta, "but it would be better for me if I could barter for my purchases with you whenever possible, instead of giving you back coins you've just paid me."

Gitta grinned. "Your impact on my business is creating an imbalance, but only in the form of more income flowing my way than before. What kind of barter are we talking about?"

"Well, cheese, yogurt, and butter, obviously. Dried fruits and nuts" said Pyosz.

"I can use a little more of each" said Gitta. "I hear you're making jam on Saya."

"Yes, but I don't know if I can promise exclusivity on that with you like I am with the bread and pies" said Pyosz. "I've been using jam for barter at Market Day."

"I think I can live with that" said Gitta. "If word gets out that I have your jams here, some folks won't wait for market day."

"I'm also wondering if I could change to making bread every other day" said Pyosz. "I'd still deliver as much as I am now, but half the time it would be a day old. I bag everything as soon as it's cool, and I don't know how much the difference can be tasted."

Gitta said "I guess I assumed you weren't baking every day. Let's give it a try, see if anyone notices. How's the vinegar making going?"

"So far so good. I'm going to start a batch of apple cider this weekend, some of which will become vinegar" said Pyosz.

"Well, here's my suggestion. Go for it in a big way, we never have quite enough flavored vinegars here on Pya" said Gitta. "In fact, if you want to buy some plain vinegar from me through your allotment, you could start making herb and other infused vinegars without waiting on your own product. I'll barter a good price for those when they're ready in a month or so." Pyosz put 50 gallons of clear vinegar in her cart, 5 pounds of sugar, a stack of pint jam jars and two flats of blackberries which Gitta had saved for her.

When she went to the Lofthall, she parked her cart inside the main hall and went to the main office. Jiips was there, and Pyosz asked Mill if they could meet in her private office. Behind a closed door, Pyosz pulled a plastic-wrapped cube from her carryall and handed it to Mill. Mill unwrapped it and said "What is this?"

"Clay. I think perhaps the finest grade clay I've ever seen, including that from Argile. I've got a 50 foot square field of it in the middle of my goat pasture that goes down an untold number of meters" said Pyosz somberly.

"You're serious?" said Mill, her face lighting up. "Have you had this tested?"

"I sent one soil sample to the ejida. But here's the problem, S'bemma." Pyosz outlined her concerns. Mill's face grew as serious at Pyosz's.

"I hadn't gotten that far, but you're right" said Mill.

"After seeing my herd's reaction to the tree-cutting equipment yesterday, and how there was a drop in the milk yield today, there's a part of me that wants to keep this news from getting out" said Pyosz. She licked her lips and said "I looked through my contract with Pya last night."

Mill sat down, still fingering the clay. "Your contract for Saya Island, you mean."

"Yes. I have first right for all its resources, with the stipulation that if I'm not using a resource, I can't keep others from it. But I actually know how to throw pots, and I'm considering asking for the right to work this clay field on my own. I mean, I won't hoard it, if there are other keramikers on Pya, or an industrial use for clay of this caliber, I'd be happy to dig it out by hand and have it picked up at the jichang. But I don't want heavy equipment tearing up my pasture" said Pyosz.

Mill pursed her lips, looking off into the distance. "I can't think of another keramiker on Pya. And Skene will want to demand this as a product we export, but you're right, you have first claim. Let me talk it over with Api. Lev...I wish you hadn't taken sent in that soil sample, copies of all those reports go straight to Skene."

"I'll need a throwing wheel, and a kiln" said Pyosz, realizing her mind was already made up about adding yet another occupation to her list of trades.

"I'll pass that on. You'll have as much luck, though, telling Klosa about it -- in confidence, of course. She has tabs on every piece of used equipment there is on Pya, in addition to her furniture trade." Mill hefted the clay and said "Do I get to keep this?"

"Yes. Maar was there when I found it, by the way. She's the only other person who knows."

As Pyosz stood, Mill said "I don't know if you heard, but there's a dance in Sepek on Roku evening. We're all planning to either ride the bus or take bicycles down. Also, Ollow says she thinks the first of our corn will be ready for harvest this weekend, so Shmonah's menu will be corn-heavy."

"Do you need help with the harvest?" asked Pyosz.

"Whatever you can spare" said Mill, smiling.

"I'll come right after milking on Shmonah, then" said Pyosz. "Listen, I need to run an errand in Pertama, can I leave my full cart in the hall here for an hour?"

"No problem" said Mill.

Pyosz found a bicycle near the library, wiped off the wet seat, and tucked up her burzaka before wobbling onto the Pertama road. Most work traffic had come and gone, and by the time she reached more busy streets, she felt confident again about her bike abilities. She carried it inside the main ejida office and got directions to the section she needed.

Nobody was at the counter when she arrived there, but an older woman was passing by in the rear and came forward to ask that Pyosz needed.

"I sent in some soil samples from Saya and I was told they'd be done by today" Pyosz said.

"The samples may have been processed, but our report explaining the findings won't come out for at least two weeks" the woman said.

"Could I get copies of the preliminary findings, all the same?" asked Pyosz. "I'm the new capriste, and I want to do research on my own about possibilities."

The woman introduced herself at Nioma, adding "I work in the animal section, not soil or horticultural. But let me look." She leafed through a congested inbox and returned with a sheaf of forms.

"There's at least two dozen here marked for Saya" said Nioma.

"That's right, I did a comprehensive survey" said Pyosz. She had pulled out her logbook and opened it to the rough map she'd sketched showing where each sample originated. Nioma leaned over to look at this and said "Very impressive. Poth says you're extremely industrious."

Pyosz grinned widely. "Driven is more like it." She took in Nioma's hazel eyes, the darker cocoa brown of her skin, and wide forehead leading to long black hair with swirling silver at her temples.

"Well, these are in triplicate, I have to separate the pink and green copies from your copy first" said Nioma, starting to sort through the stack of forms.

"I can help" said Pyosz. "I'll check off each one on my chart, to make sure the goats didn't eat one of my marker flags before I took the sample." Without waiting for Nioma's assent, she picked up the next form in the stack and neatly separated pink and green from white, putting the colored copies in a second stack.

"What do you think of the goats on Saya?" asked Nioma, letting Pyosz continue with the form separation.

"I don't have anything to compare them to, they're the first goats I've known" laughed Pyosz. "I've already gotten attached to most of them, however. Except a couple who think humans are a waste of space, and Molars the biter. But you know, I'm tackling the issue of next autumn's breeding plan, though I won't be here. I've been talking over ideas with my cousin Vants, a capriste on Yagi -- "

"I know Vants, went to school with her" said Nioma. "I went to school with your emma as well, I think. Prl, right?"

Pyosz's smile was huge. "Yes. Anyhow, is there a set of guidelines you'd recommend, or at the very least, last year's ejida forms for the breeding that took place then?"

"Now that I know about firsthand" said Nioma, starting to leave the counter.

"While you're at it, I'd like the same for my flock of chickens, I have a chance to introduce a new line" said Pyosz. "I'll need any forms I have to complete for that process as well."

Nioma went out a side door into another office. The ejida was using the same numbering system Pyosz had put on each sample, with a prefix that she presumed meant "Saya". She swiftly thumbed through until she found the form corresponding to her clay field. She folded all three copies into her gilet and had managed to calm her breathing back to normal by the time Nioma returned.

Nioma pushed pamphlets and a clip of papers over the counter to Pyosz. "This should give you a good start. But I'd recommend you also consult a couple of general texts." The titles she gave were those Pyosz already had. Pyosz finished the rest of the forms and pushed the stack of pink-and-green sheets back to Nioma.

"Give my regards to your emma" said Nioma. "I'm not surprised someone with the bent for science and learning that she had produced a woman with your kind of industry."

Pyosz thought My emma would be appalled at the crime I'm about to commit as she thanked Nioma and clasped her own copies to her chest, to mask the rustle of paper under her gilet.

Before leaving Pertama, she went to the fish docks and bought two pounds of shrimp plus a thick fillet of ryba, having to pay cash because she didn't have Maar along to get it free with her pilot's perk. She stopped by the food stall next door and got another lentil patty sandwich with fried onion rings, and sat on the balcony over the vetriste yard to eat it in the rain, her burzaka bloused around her.

When she returned to the Lofthall, Mill was on the radio in a detailed argument about the school sinner schedule. Pyosz wrote a note saying "I got the soil sample results from the ejida, official report in 2 weeks, I stole the pages for the clay field. Oops. Goats must have kept me from testing that area" and folded it into Mill's hand.

The sun had emerged when she went back outside, as if the weather approved of her deception. She heard someone call her name from the path to the school and turned to see Dodd coming her way.

"Washing slates?" she asked, hugging Dodd.

"Nothing so simple" said Dodd. "I'm tucking more into the curriculum at every grade level. We're already graduating kids who're way ahead of Skene's academic standards, but there's more room for improvement." Pyosz knew Dodd deeply resented the commonly-held belief on Skene that Pya's school system was inferior. "Listen, I've got chicks ready to go home with you, if you're up for it."

"Oh, lovely" said Pyosz. She went to Dodd's tillage and melted over the yeeping, bewildered balls of yellow fluff.

"These four are clearly going to be hens" said Dodd, setting them gently in a crate. "The other two in this hatching are chanticleers. I can't raise them here in Koldok, folks would complain about the early morning racket. But they're the same line as the hens, which means you could use them equally well for breeding in new vigor. And there's nobody to hear them crow, except you."

"And I'm already up well before dawn" said Pyosz, laughing. "All right, add them in, this will be a new adventure. Will they fight with each other when they start maturing?"

"They might" conceded Dodd. "In which case, neuter the one you like less and fatten her for a fried chicken dinner in the fall."

Back on Saya, Pyosz divided the chicks into two timid groups of three and placed them in the hopeful brood nests of two older hens who longed to emma. The hens went a little out of their minds at this sudden bounty, and Pyosz sat in the chicken run for an hour, watching the antics with pure enjoyment. Both katts came to sit outside the fence and observe as well. Pyosz hadn't named any of the chickens yet, and found no list of names in Ferk's logs, but she now decided the start of this new flock would have appellations. When she finally dragged herself away from the chicken run, she started a new page in her logbooks with her six chick names written in a bold hand: Saffron, Pokey, Peeker, Dusty, Daisy, and Crank.

She realized if she didn't bake tomorrow, she'd have to make a triple batch today in order to provide for Market Day. She began three large sponges of various recipes and rising times. She decided to also try making flatbread with rye, ground walnuts, and plums in it. She put all her blackberries into the stockpot with sugar and pectin. Since she was more or less tied to the kitchen by the need to stir and knead periodically, she retrieved her books with information on soil composition and improvement, and sat down at her table with a pot of tea to make sense of the ejida test findings.

By 2:00, the jam was ready to be canned, her bread was all cooling, and she was hungry again. She cleaned her shrimp, dumped them into boiling seasoned water, and pulled tomatoes plus aromatics from her tillage to make a hot sauce for dipping. She steamed zucchini with thin green beans and made a marinade for her ryba with garlic, miso, and lime juice, putting it away in the coldbox for tomorrow. As she was about to eat her second lunch, Api appeared on the trail from the dock.

"Welcome!" called out Pyosz. "Have you eaten lunch?"

"I did" said Api. "But I could have a nibble." Pyosz set a second place and said "Make yourself at home."

Api looked around the kitchen with an appraising eye, then walked to the cabin and glanced in the door. "You've made it look much more inviting" she commented. "How's the solar power on this circuit holding out?"

"I've had some close calls, but so far okay" said Pyosz. "I don't shower as often as I'd like, and I hate the stove limitations. It'll be much worse for whoever's contending with the cold and overcast of winter."

Api sat down with Pyosz and took small servings of shrimp and vegetables. After a few bites, she said "Mill told me about the soil samples. Including what you did today."

Pyosz couldn't tell from her tone if Api was angry or resigned. "I've been hitting the books, and I was right -- the test results indicate a superior bed of clay is out there in the middle of my pasture." She handed the ejida sheet to Api, along with the open book giving an explanation. Api read slowly, chewing slowly.

"Great sauce" commented Api, taking a second helping. When she finished reading, she tucked the report neatly into the book and closed it. "I have to think about this another day or two. Basically, yes, we can grant you the right to become a keramiker and use this resource exclusively, as long as it isn't a token effort on your part. Not that you seem to indulge in token efforts" she added with a tight smile, looking around her.

"That's just-made blackberry preserves, by the way" said Pyosz, pointing to a bowl. "And warm flatbread." Api added helpings of each to her plate.

"Don't do anything else" said Api flatly. "Not until I decide on a course of action. Don't even talk to Klosa about equipment."

"All right" promised Pyosz. She tore apart a shrimp and dropped morsels to Ember and Curds at her feet under the table.

"Tu and Pank say you've expressed agreement with their connecting a ferry to Saya and using the island as a pathway" said Api.

"Jubilant agreement" said Pyosz. "It's a go, then, for Herne Island?"

"Yes, it wil be good for the Pea Pods to have their presence among us" said Api primly. "The family from Skene has definitely settled on Kacang for their immigration site, by the way."

"I have a hypothetical question for you" said Pyosz. If I asked for a geothermal survey and installation on Saya at the same time as Kacang and Herne's is done, splitting as much of the cost with them as I could, what would my share be?"

Api wiped her fingers and opened her notebook. She leafed through to a particular page, made calculations in a tiny script with her pencil, and munched through a piece of jam-topped flatbread while she stared at her figures for a long minute. Finally she said "There will likely be some offset from rock harvested as part of the geothermal excavation, I can't predict how much credit that could give you. But as it is, if you include what you'll have to pay a timmer to build your power shed, plus the survey, tap, machinery, and connections to several structures here, I think your component will be at least 3 eks."

"Whew" said Pyosz. "What if I added on an aga to this kitchen?"

"Another two-tenths of an ek for the installation, and then whatever an aga runs these days" said Api. She looked around and said "You don't actually have room to place an aga in here."

"I know" said Pyosz. "But if I go forward with taking up potting, I'll need a space for the wheel and kiln. I was considering the idea of extending this kitchen canopy over to the grill area, with flooring and rain screens as well as a roof. I'd shut out the grill smoke from coming into the kitchen, of course. The geo pipe for the aga could also work for the kiln, I think I remember from Skene. So, that's an additional construction cost there."

"Up to 5 eks, not including the aga" guessed Api. "You understand, we don't have the funds to pay for personal improvements. If you're a keramiker, that income will be yours alone. Although if there's a use for this clay elsewhere on Pya, I will ask you to turn over a half-share for that."

"As long as I have the say about how it is excavated" said Pyosz. Api had finished eating and was setting her plate tidily in the sink. Pyosz said "I'm not nearly done with this shrimp, it is all right if I let you go do your inspection without me?"

"Of course" said Api. She picked up her notebook and walked to the grill, lifting its lid. Pyosz had not cleaned out all the ash and charcoal from her herring smoking. Api leaned over to look into the bottom of the grill.

"What sort of stone did you use for the foundation?" she called out.

"It's on bare sand, then a thick layer of shingle from the southern beach" answered Pyosz. "Pank had me haul up two buckets, I hope that's within guidelines." Api was still trying to see through the charcoal, and Pyosz added "I also brought all the leftover wood from the tree removals here to burn in the grill, that's it stacked nearby. If that's not okay, I'll do whatever you want with it."

Api put down the grill lid to look at the woodpile. "No, this is appropriate" she said. She turned and smiled again. "Ah, the infamous orange wain." She headed toward the barn.

Pyosz whispered to herself You're getting altogether too accomplished at deception. She decided if there was no shrimp left for dinner, she'd have an omelet with her salad, no problem, and kept eating.

After doing dishes, she began rolling out pie dough as jars of jam were canned in the hissing pressure cooker. Curds and Ember always left the kitchen when the pressure cooker was in operation. She reluctantly used a portion of the blackberry preserves to make turnovers with soft cheese added to the fruit and an almond-sugar frosting on their tops. She reminded herself to charge extra for these tomorrow. She saw Api go through the kissing gate heading west and hoped Molars was far away.

As the pies baked, she finished listing what she'd need for soil amendments at the portions of Saya reflected in the remaining samples. She walked to check on the chicks and became so caught up in playing with them she almost forgot her canning. Hurrying back, she turned off stove and oven. She did a load of laundry, hoping it would dry overnight because she had to do another full wain of fruit harvesting tomorrow. Api returned as Pyosz began mixing udder cleaner in a bucket in preparation for milking.

"It looks better than it has in years, and I mean to cast no aspersion on Ferk with that assessment" said Api.

"None taken" said Pyosz. She walked back to the kitchen to sign and initial the new round of forms Api had for her. She noticed Api did not request the purloined soil sample copies. Better evidence of criminality should remain in my hands, I guess she thought. She sent Api home with a round of flatbread and a jar of jam.

She wasn't hungry when she finished milking. She returned to the chicken house one last time to make sure her foster emma hens weren't trying to steal one another's chicks, taking a photo of small yellow heads popping out from underneath a large black-feathered body. She bagged pies and bread, put labels on everything, and used a private frequency to call the Genist Manage.

Qala answered. "Your emma's in with a consultation" she said. "Will I do?"

"I'd love to talk something over with you, but you should know that what I share cannot go any further than the three of you there" said Pyosz. "If it gets back to Api here, I'll be in trouble with the Ethicist of Pya. In addition to the legal repercussions I may face at some point."

Qala's voice was deep with concern. "You have my assurance. What have you done, Pyosz?"

Pyosz had to call back twice to give her the whole story. "So...I'm thinking about putting in some major improvements to Saya, and I can realistiically only come up with 2 eks against a possible 6 ek bill" she said. "Will emma's head explode if I ask to borrow money?"

"No, I think she'd be happy except for what you're spending it on. That expense should be covered by Pya, it makes no sense to me to treat your residence there as comparable to the folks who are settling a Pea Pod" said Qala. "You tell Api, and Mill, that you expect your capital expenditures to be repaid to you by the next tenant of Saya."

"That sounds fair" said Pyosz.

"And with regard to the keramiker idea, I think it's an excellent direction for you to head" said Qala. "I remember that plate you made at the University, it reminded me of Ng's work. I gather you're not willing to break open the money-pouch your abbas sent you?"

"No, that's inheritance and I'm returning it to them as premature" said Pyosz.

"Well, if you'll trust me, I'd like to be the one who gives you a loan for your current needs" said Qala. "Me and Lawa together, I mean. I know she'll be thrilled to see someone in her line take up Ng's profession. And as for getting an aga, lev, yes, the sooner the better."

"I'll pay you back, with interest" said Pyosz.

"You can pay us back but no usury" said Qala. "Lawa and I only invest in projects we believe will be in our best interests anyhow, or that of Skene, so that's all the reward we'll take from it."

"Oh, Qala, I hardly know what to say. Don't do anything yet, I have to wait on Api's decision" said Pyosz, emotion filling her chest.

"But it's all right if I tell Lawa and Prl everything, right? Lawa still has contact with folks on Argile, she may have a lead on a wheel or kiln. I'll tell her to not mention you, obviously. Plus you should ask her your soil amendment questions, she's the expert. She's at the ejida or I'd put her on the line" said Qala. Prl still had not emerged from her office, so Pyosz finally clicked off and made herself a late light supper. It began raining again before she went to bed. She daydreamed about the slick feel of clay under her hands as she dropped off.

In Skene, it was late morning. Qala left a note for Prl saying Pyosz had called and asking her to come to her emmas' Manage down the lane for lunch, they all needed to talk. She called said Manage, reaching Halling and asking for them to all eat together. Halling said she would notify Yoj and Bux. Qala picked a basket of produce from the tillage and walked over to the ejida. Lawa went with her to the fish docks, where they selected three succulent hamsa steaks as they talked in their quiet but thorough way about Pyosz's situation.

While Pyosz was in deep sleep, Qala opened the copper cao door to find everyone else already there. Bux was making rice, Halling was assembling a salad, and Prl was pacing.

"We brought hamsa" said Lawa. "Plus asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and two kinds of carrots" said Qala.

"What's going on?" demanded Prl. Qala handed her basket to Bux, who set it down on the counter and went to the table, sitting at the head between Yoj and Halling. "Could we make tea first?" said Qala. "She's fine, but I need a little something in me."

Yoj pulled honey bars from the larder and set them on the table. After one bite and sip, Qala told them the entire conversation except for the part about the clay field.

"Lawa and I are loaning her the money" she finished. Before Prl could burst forth, Lawa said "I have additional news. I got a call early this morning from Tu -- did you, Halling?"

Halling shook her head. Lawa said "She and Pank have asked for one of the Pea Pod islands, Herne, which apparently is literally feet away from one of Saya Island's shores. They're having a ferry built to Saya to use as their access to the rest of Pya, and they have extensive plans for Herne's development. Nk and Frahe are moving there with them, and will inherit it. From what Tu described, it will generate a good income and allow them to work at their own pace, at things they love doing. It's their version of retirement. And it seems linked to Pyosz's proximity."

"They're all sinking their hooks in her" cried Prl. "Even Dodd, with those chicks, it's another way to make her stay in Pya!"

"She's ours" said Yoj, anguish in her voice. Qala saw agreement on Bux and Halling's faces.

"I rather think Pyosz would say that we are hers" Qala said quietly. "As we are. But so is the rest of our family. They've been her summer family for 20 years, and I don't hear her giving up one for the other, only trying to make the next right choice for herself. At the moment, building up Saya is what's driving her."

"But that's a misplaced drive" said Prl.

Lawa said "Consider if she'd been given tenancy of Beras, or Argile, sole tenancy and responsibility for maintaining either of those islands. Saya is the same approximate land mass." She let the shock of that comparison sink in. "You raised her to live up to expectations, and she's doing her best."

"How much does she need to borrow, again?" asked Bux.

"She says she's saved one ek and can come up with one more, so at least four eks" said Qala.

"I thought you said she had spent all her money, when we sent her that package" said Halling accusingly.

"She had. Between then and now, she's generated enough income to save an ek" said Qala. "In addition to more barter than she's quite able to use, apparently, and a serious increase in Saya's production for the state."

Bux was doing math in her head. "You realize the exorbitance of what the geothermal guild is charging for their work on Pya? If they could get away with that sort of fee here, it would add up to an annual salary of several hundred eks for that woman. I tell you, when Pya's contracts expire next year, the changes will be ugly."

"What, you think Pya will get its own consultants to move there?" said Yoj.

"For starters. Our tax base for the last ten years has been artificially inflated from all the income we're generating by overcharging" said Bux. "We have almost half again as many people as we did before Pya was settled, and essential services will have to remain the same. But Pya is going to find ways to keep its extra for itself."

"And Pyosz is helping pave the way for that. I suspect she's completely aware of it" mused Halling.

"Our family once again is finding itself at the center of major change on Skene" said Yoj softly. "Only this time, Pyosz is the fulcrum, it appears. No wonder we're all so fixated on her."

"They'll never let her go" said Prl in a near moan.

Bux was reconsidering. She leaned over to look Prl in the eye and said "Pyosz will do what's right for herself, she's not going to fall for manipulation. She's dutiful but not stupid."

They talked on as they prepared and ate a meal together. When Tlunu came home from sinning, she had mail and packages for them from Pyosz. Prl had to return to her Manage for an appointment. Qala and Lawa walked with her, and along the way, Qala told Prl about the clay friend and Pyosz's theft of the soil sample reports.

She expected this to cause another flare. Instead, Prl looked at her appraisingly and said "You two are right, then, about her sense of commitment. For her to go that far...Api won't let her get into trouble, at least not this time."

"I think she was cut out to be an artist instead of a mathematician" said Lawa. "If you want to know."

"I wish I'd had a chance to talk with her" said Prl resignedly. "And that she'd come to me for the loan."

"But she was" reminded Qala. "She was calling for you, I intercepted. She still wants to talk with you. You're in the loop, I think closer than any of us. As long as you don't tell her the family there is casting a net around her."

Prl smiled bleakly. "Did she mention the pilot? Maar, I meant to say."

"No" said Qala.

"I have to rush in. Leave me a note if there's anything further in your letters, please" said Prl. "I'll see you at dinner."

© 2009 Maggie Jochild.

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