|Doctor Who Internet Adventure #02 - "Six Sides to Every Story"
by James Farmer
"Hasn't anyone told him he can't paint?"
- — Professor Bernice Summerfield, The Also People.
* * *
Silence. There is no sound in the world as loud as the sound of silence. The Doctor couldn't quite remember who had told him that, but it was perfectly true. Especially immediately after telling the Lady President of Gallifrey that most of the Key to Time was hidden nearby and asking for suggestions as to where.
"Nowhere springs to mind, Doctor," Romana concluded after a great deal of thought. "Spandrell?"
"Things have been rather quiet of late... But this is Gallifrey, Doctor. We don't keep tabs on everyone."
"Yes, I heard how long it was before you noticed the Master had escaped. I take it that was a no."
"It was a yes?"
"It was a no?"
"Yes, Doctor. It was a no," said Spandrell, without a trace of humour.
"Doctor, call me stupid, but--" said Grace, it having become obvious that nobody else going to come up with anything.
"Oh, I wouldn't call you that, you're just a lower form of life. You're doing your best."
"Very funny. What I was going to say, before you so rudely interrupted, was: can't we use the tracer to find the key?"
"Unfortunately, no. You see, the tracer can only be used to find disguised key segments — if it registered the unconcealed segments then it would just keep leading you back to a segment you've already got. Besides," continued the Doctor, fishing a rather bent and battered wand out of his pocket, "I don't think the tracer works anymore."
"Okay, then shouldn't we be organising a search of the region, or something?" suggested Grace.
"No," answered Romana. "You see, child, in a culture as technologically advanced as ours, there are quite literally millions of methods of hiding things. We could of course conduct a thorough search, but it could easily take many of your decades."
"And that's assuming that it isn't hidden in a REALLY cunning way," finished the Doctor. "But, if nobody else has a better idea, then I do have one plan left."
And suddenly the Doctor's vision was filled with expectant faces; Romana, Spandrell, Grace. Even Merak, who had thus far confined himself to sitting quietly and taking long, wistful glances at Romana, was paying attention now. The Doctor felt a sudden twinge of guilt for bringing the Atrian along; he just wasn't cut out for this. Then again, if it hadn't been for Merak he would have been sucked into the vortex and his mysterious enemies would have gotten the whole Key and by now be putting it to whatever nefarious use they wanted.
But he shouldn't really keep everyone in suspense like this. "My plan," he said, "is very simple. Although our foes have six segments of the Key to Time, we have this strange seventh segment which I presume they will need if they are to assemble it. Hence they will have to come out of hiding in order to capture it — when they do that, we meet and find out who they are."
"Okay," Grace responded. "I think I spot a small flaw in this plan. After we've met these unknown baddies and found out their names, how are we going to stop them killing us and completing the Key?"
The Doctor smiled. "We improvise."
* * *
As a black-robed figure scuttled quickly along an otherwise deserted corridor in the Capitol, he took a small silver tube from a pocket and dropped it to the floor. It rolled to the side of the corridor as the figure hurried on...
* * *
"Of course," the Doctor added at length, "our opponents probably aren't powerful enough to risk breaking into the Presidential Suite, even when the reward could be the completion of the Key to Time. I'll have to put myself in a slightly more vulnerable position if I'm to tempt them out... a walk through the Capitol should do it... say, from here to the Archive Tower."
Spandrell nodded. "Very well, Doctor — I and my guards will be right behind you. These days the Chancellary Guards are hand-picked and highly trained; they'll be able to deal with anything."
"Sorry, Castellan, but I don't think that's wise. The presence of such a highly-trained fighting force might scare off our mysterious key-snatchers." The Doctor leaned closer to Spandrell. "Besides, I don't want to have to worry about them."
"As you wish, Doctor — but take this with you," said Spandrell, almost failing to smile. He waved a small golden disc before the Doctor's eyes. "When you... find... our enemies, just press the button and a detachment of guards will be there to rescue you in no time."
"Oh, very well," said the Doctor as he pocketed the transmitter. "Right — just open the door and I'll be off."
The Castellan signalled to his guards, but the Doctor, straightening his lapels as he walked towards the door, found his way barred by the form of Doctor Grace Holloway. "Doctor," said she, "are you sure this is a good idea?"
The Doctor smiled. "It's the only idea. Don't worry; I've been captured lots of times before. I'll be all right."
"Well, I'm coming with you," announced Grace.
The Doctor held up his finger.
"Look, if the bad guys do get hold of the Key then I hardly have a long-term future, do I?" she continued in her most persuasive voice.
The Doctor withdrew the finger and conceded the point grudgingly. "If you really want to."
They made for the door, but found themselves pulled back within. Really! thought the Doctor. The opposition will have died of natural causes by the time I get out of here.
"No, wait!" said Merak, who owned the hands that gripped their shoulders. "I'm coming with you too! I must help to save Astra!"
The Doctor looked at Merak long and hard. It really wouldn't be fair of him to endanger his life any further. He just wasn't up to it. "No, Merak, I'm afraid I can't let you come."
Merak shook his head. "You can't stop me, Doctor."
"Well, actually I can," the Doctor said sternly.
"Then you'll have to."
The Time Lord and the Atrian confronted each other for several long moments. Then Spandrell coughed. "Shall I take him into protective custody, Doctor?"
Such a tempting offer... but even as he considered it the Doctor found himself replying. "No, I'll keep an eye on him."
The Doctor stuck one arm out at a funny angle. Grace took it. He repeated the action and Merak grabbed the other one. Arm in arm, they strolled out the door.
Romana watched them go. "Well, Spandrell, if they fail then I expect it won't take us too long to find out."
* * *
Inside the Archive Tower, a black-robed figure worked furiously at a computer terminal, calling up page after page after page of data in his search for the page he wanted.
For the Time Lords have archived a LOT of information.
* * *
Walking three-abreast arm-in-arm along the twisty corridors of the Capitol is not easy, so Grace, Merak and the Doctor soon gave up on the idea. They strolled at a brisk pace, the Doctor in the lead not hesitating at any of the many junctions they encountered, but picking his path instantly and never looking back.
Grace hoped he knew where they were going.
She hoped he knew what he was doing, too. Her friend had often exhibited a cavalier attitude towards danger but she had never before known him offer himself so willingly to the lion's den without the faintest idea of how he was going to get out. Or even of what the lion looked like.
And then there was Merak to worry about. Since his brief show of determination he seemed to have slipped into a near-catatonic state; now not looking left or right, but following blankly in the Doctor's footsteps.
She was also worried about — damn it, this silence was getting to her! "So this is Gallifrey" she said aloud, jogging ahead and waving her arms about. "Somehow I was expecting something different."
"Different?" questioned the Doctor.
"I mean, where's the orange sky?"
"Above the roof," responded the Doctor, eyebrow raised and a twinkle in his eye.
"And the fields?" she said, after a brief pause in which she realised how little the Doctor had actually told her about his home planet.
"Oh, here and there, here and there. You know how fields are," said the Doctor. "Aha — what's that?"
Grace strained her eyes; something was catching the light on the floor a few dozen metres up the corridor. "Litter?"
"Time Lords don't drop litter. At least, not in the Capitol." He waited for Grace's response to reach his ears.
What instead reached his ears was a thump and a muffled groan. Perhaps it was time to turn around...
Merak was lying face-down on the floor, unmoving. Standing over him, holding onto Grace with one hand and a staser pistol with the other, was a short, dark-robed Time Lord the Doctor didn't recognise.
"Greetings, Doctor." he said. "Give me the Key to Time or the human gets it."
* * *
Guard Zaban yawned; the Castellan had told him to keep an extra special watch on his prisoner, but he was still unconscious and not showing any signs of waking up and even if he did where could he go with the Chief Hospitaller and all his meditechs just outside the door and so there wasn't really any need to keep such a close watch and maybe he could just have a
little rest because he was so tired even though he'd slept only last week but even so he was tired and it wouldn't do any harm just to shut his eyes for a moment would it he wouldn't go to sleep oh no but he could just rest for a mo...
A black-robed figure pulled the needle out of Zaban's leg and clambered to its feet. The poison wouldn't immobilize the guard for long, but fortunately its mission was an extremely brief one. It walked over to the injured Time Lord and slipped something small into the pocket of his robe. That done, the mysterious figure went back down onto its hands and
knees and crawled out of the door...
* * *
The Doctor held up his hands, mind racing. At last, a real live bad guy to contend with! "Last request?" he said.
The figure nodded, keeping a tight hold on the squirming Grace. "Very well, Doctor, and I think I know what you will choose. You want to know who I am, and what I am doing."
Hmmm — this chap had obviously been doing his homework. "Those thoughts were foremost in my mind," admitted the Doctor.
"My name is Kabada-Zabada-Klamana, and I am High Lord of the Reformed Order of Westenra!"
"How nice." said the Doctor, still none the wiser. "May I call you Kabada?"
"No." Kabada laughed long and loud; the laugh of someone who has watched too many bad TV dramas. "You foolish little man, did you never stop even for one moment to wonder what had happened to the Key to Time before your petty little quest to assemble it?"
"No." Now that he mentioned it, the Doctor had never actually considered that question, largely because he didn't like thinking about questions he would never be able to answer. Or would he...
"I thought not; well, it used to be here! Right here!"
Right here. Ah-ha. Maybe a bit of clarification needed. "Here?"
"Here; on Gallifrey. In the Old Time our ancestors searched for the Key, each of the six segments being won only after a great quest, compared with which your exploits pale as the flutter of a zingerwat beside a solar flare. And when all six segments were finally in Gallifreyan hands, their care was intrusted to the great Hero Westenra for All Time. She placed them in a tower, wrought from diamond and quartz and inlaid with cobalt and gold, so that it might weather the eons and remind all Gallifreyans of their greatness. And there the segments remained, tended by Westenra and her devotees, until Rassilon--" Really, thought the Doctor, Time Lords shouldn't spit like that, "--scattered them throughout Time and Space."
"Well, I never knew that," said the Doctor.
Kabada continued in his rant, seemingly oblivious. The Doctor was starting to wonder whether he'd rehearsed it. "But we never gave up hope. For millennia our order survived underground, away from the view of Gallifreyan society and the High Council. We never gave up hope that the key would return to us." Kabada paused for breath. "Our problem was that we had no way of locating the key segments, for that knowledge had been lost at the end of the Old Time. But when we heard of your first Quest for the Key we knew our salvation."
"How so?" said the Doctor. Just get as much information out of him as he could, then call Spandrell and his guards to take him away. This would be easy.
"When your TARDIS was last on Gallifrey, we drew from it the specification of the 'tracer' you had used to find the Key. At last, we could begin our search for the Key — but we feared we would be unable to conceal ourselves from the High Council if we did so. But we were clever. We encoded the tracer device into an airborne virus and released it on an old Terran colony. It infected both the colonists and a foolish renegade Time Lord who crash-landed his TARDIS on the planet."
Another pause. It looked almost as if Kabada was having difficulty remembering his lines. "The virus had some unexpected side effects; in the colonists with a particular DNA sequence it invoked vampiric tendencies, whilst in the others it invoked instant death." Kabada slipped in an insane giggle that was probably meant to sound menacing. "We told them that they must search for the Key in order to allow the Great Vampires to swarm over the Galaxies in an orgy of blood-sucking destruction."
Tracer virus. Great Vampires. Orgy of blood-sucking destruction. Right. Only one possible question, really. "Why?"
Pause. A bit of a longer pause this time; maybe he hadn't thought too much about that one. "We thought it'd be fun."
The Doctor gestured for Kabada to continue. "Our vampires took to their ships and set out across the Galaxy, like nebbits emerging from their nest, but their search was in vain, for it seemed that no Key segments existed in that time period. We tried to send them a TARDIS, but it never arrived. Those High Council bastards must have intercepted it!"
"But we never gave up hope, and Fate smiled upon us as you once more took up the search for the Key. I know you have it. Now give it to me or I will kill your companion," finished Kabada.
"Okay, it's in my pocket." said the Doctor, taking one hand from above his head and easing it into this coat pocket. Spandrell's transmitter nestled into his fingers; he had heard enough from this loony. Much as he hated to admit it, it was time to call out the cavalry.
He pressed the button. Nothing happened immediately. "Well come on, come on, get it out!" screamed Kabada.
The Doctor took the seventh part of the Key to Time out of his pocket, very slowly. "This is the segment I've got. Now, you let Grace go."
"Doctor, do you take me for a fool? That is only one segment of the Key. You must give me it all if you want your Doctor Holloway to survive."
All? What was he on about? Come on, Spandrell, where are you?! "This is the only segment I've got."
"Only?" yelled Kabada incredulously, "Only? You are the Doctor, you went after all six pieces of the Key to Time. You must have them all!"
"Sorry, someone beat me to the others." The Doctor tried to sound as small, pathetic and apologetic as he could. It wasn't something he'd had a lot of practice at.
So it was lucky that Kabada was struggling with the concept that the Doctor didn't actually have the entire Key to Time. Really struggling, in fact. It took him several minutes to work out just what to say. Eventually, though, he came up with: "Very well, give me your segment of the key then go and get the rest of it and I might just let the human live."
The Doctor cursed silently. He cursed himself for believing Spandrell's reports of his guards' efficiency, he cursed himself for allowing Grace to come with him, but mostly he cursed himself for not knowing whether Kabada really didn't have the rest of the Key or whether this was a trick to make him give up the final part more willingly.
And while he was cursing, Kabada was changing his mind. "No, Doctor," he said, "you can't have failed to obtain the entire Key. You're just trying to trick me; well, you won't catch me out like that. I'm too clever; I'll just have to show you that I mean business." He shoved Grace away from him and took aim. "Your companion dies!"
From this distance, there was absolutely no way the Doctor could get there in time. As Kabada pulled the trigger, deadly energies leapt forth from the staser, playing around Grace's form and...
Doing absolutely nothing.
Kabada did an almost comical double-take and shot Grace again, with equally little effect. He would have tried it a third time, had not the Doctor arrived beside him and relieved him of the weapon.
"Doctor? What?" panted a slightly surprised Grace. "For a moment there I thought I was going to be dead. Again."
"I'm not sure..." said the Doctor, examining the pistol whilst keeping it pointing in the general direction of Kabada. "Time Lord staser, set to kill, so... ah, of course."
"Of course what?" asked Grace, understandably rather curious about why she was still alive.
"Don't stand there asking questions, Grace, see how Merak is." The poor chap had been lying practically ignored for the last few minutes.
Grace Holloway went to work on the unconscious Atrian with in an admirably professional manner, considering all that had happened. In just a few short minutes she presented her diagnosis. "His pulse is beating at 250 a minute and there's a very big bruise on his head. Is that normal?"
"Yes and no." replied the Doctor, still eyeing Kabada nervously. Kabada, for his part, looked defeated and not particularly threatening. Grace looked up expectantly. "Oh, the gun. Well you see, most directed energy weapons kill by pumping as much energy as they can into their target. However, with a Time Lord there's always the chance that the victim will regenerate, so the staser uses a series of modulated energy fields that cause the target to resonate, which, for want of a better phrase, scrambles his innards." The Doctor sounded bitter for a moment. "It's obscene, isn't it, the lengths to which a species will go to devise ways to kill."
The Doctor seemed willing to leave it at that, but Grace wasn't about to let him. "I'm not complaining or anything, but why didn't it work on me?"
"Oh, that's simple. You see, your human physiology is vastly different from that of a Gallifreyan, and resonates at a completely different frequency. Hence, no effect. You were just lucky he didn't have it on a higher setting." The Doctor looked at the gun again. "Of course, it could just be because this gun is almost out of power. Ah, about time." These last words were directed at Spandrell and a squad of Chancellery Guards, who were just rounding the corner into view. "So much for Time Lord efficiency!"
"I apologise, Doctor. One of my officers has gone missing," the Castellan explained.
"Grace here almost went missing from this life. Well, now you're here you can get some of your boys to take young Merak to the infirmary. He's had a nasty bump on the head."
Spandrell snapped his fingers and a couple of guards jumped into action. They were getting rather good at this. "Well, Doctor, you seem to have had some success." he said, directing some more guards to watch Kabada.
"I thought I had, but he doesn't have the Key to Time either." The Doctor sounded sad for a moment, then pulled Spandrell away from the guards and hissed in his ear: "Why on Ear-- on Gallifrey didn't you tell me about the Order of Westenra!"
"The Order of... Westenra?" answered a puzzled Spandrell. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but I don't know what you're talking about."
"But he said... oh, sorry old chap." said the Doctor, clapping the confused Castellan on the back. "Shouldn't take the words of megalomaniacs at face value. Might as well try to round the rest them up, though." They walked over to Kabada and looked down at him menacingly. "How many are there in your order?" demanded the Doctor.
Kabada replied with a silent glare.
"We have ways of making you talk," said Grace.
"Yes," said the Doctor, hardly able to keep a straight face. "We can easily hypnotise you, or use a mind probe. So you see, it will be much easier on you if you just tell us."
"Ohhhhhhhkay," sighed Kabada. "Including me, we are two."
"Just the two of you?" said the Doctor incredulously. "You were going to return the Key to Time to Gallifrey with just the two of you?" He shook his head, as if trying to clear it. "Okay then, what's the name of your accomplice?"
Kabada looked defeated. "Jentawat; he's an Commander in the Chancellery Guard."
Beside the Doctor, Spandrell had gone very grey. "Doctor, Commander Jentawat is the officer who is missing."
"Oh dear," said the Doctor. "Well, nothing we can do about that now. You can go and lock this chap up, and we'll finish our stroll to the Archive Tower."
* * *
The Archive Tower was one of the tallest buildings in the Capitol — a gigantic computer containing the sum total of all Time Lord knowledge (at least, all that they could be bothered to record). However, with the lack of foresight that is typical of architects, the Public Records Section, from which this information could actually be accessed, was on the top floor.
"Now which should it be, do you think? Stairs or Elevator?" the Doctor had asked. Elevator, Grace thought, with a touch of humour. The journey was taking long enough by lift; she did NOT want to find out how many flights of stairs it would have entailed.
"I'm worried," the Doctor confided after a few moments of silent ascending. "We shouldn't have got this far. Our main enemies haven't tried once to get this key segment. It's almost as if they can't be bothered..." He trailed off, becoming lost as he tried to fathom out just what the bad guys were up to. "Ho hum. Maybe there'll be a welcoming party outside this lift."
"You are worried, aren't you," said Grace, giving her alien friend a quick hug. She hated to see him like this.
The lift reached it's destination with the annoying 'ping' of lifts everywhere. The Doctor greeted the opening doors with a big grin, which faded at once when he saw what was beyond. "Hello, Co-ordinator."
Co-ordinator Salis, a short, plump woman with horn rimmed spectacles who looked to Grace just like a stereotypical librarian should look, was too polite to react to the Doctor's downcast expression. "Greetings, Doctor. We were informed that you would be coming."
"Were you, indeed, were you. Well, seeing as we got here we might as well do a little research. If you could find us a terminal?"
Salis nodded and led them over to a nearby booth. "Oh dear," she tutted, tapping at the 'RESET' button. "People just will leave these things switched on. It doesn't matter how many times I tell them or how many signs I put up, they still leave them switched on. It's most infuriating."
Grace gave the Co-ordinator a smile as she moved away. Turning back to the terminal, she found the Doctor talking quietly to himself.
"Data retrieval. Request information concerning Gallifreyan sect, 'The Order of Westenra'."
After a moment, the calm, emotional voice of a computer responded. "Negative information; no references to 'The Order of Westenra' present."
"Well, that's odd." said the Doctor. "Nothing else we can do here, so let's be on our way." He stood up and made to leave, but Salis caught his eye. Smiling, the Doctor switched off the terminal.
Grace also smiled as she followed him to the lift.
"Where are we going?" asked Grace, as the elevator carried them towards ground level, or at least a closer-to-ground-level.
"The opposition don't seem keen to be lured out, and there was nothing back there that could help us. That means that we only have one lead left to follow."
"That's one more than I thought we had. Any chance you might tell me what it is?"
"Yes, if you ask nicely." said the Doctor.
Pause. "Well, what is it?" asked Grace, nicely.
"You remember the injured Time Lord we brought with us?"
Grace nodded. "Yes; I was wondering where he came from."
"I'll tell you some other time. He's working for our enemies; he wasn't much help earlier but right now he's the only hope we've got."
* * *
"I am afraid that he has yet to regain consciousness." the Chief Hospitaller looked over his beaky nose at the sleeping Time Lord, somehow managing to simultaneously convey concern for his patient and disgust that any Time Lord could sink so low. "I think that may be for the best; there is evidence of substantial mental damage. The neural pathways seem almost... scorched."
"I expected as much." said the Doctor, bending over the patient and looking under his eyelids. "You still have no idea-- ack!"
This last syllable came from the very back of the Doctor's throat, as the patient's eyes suddenly snapped open and his hands latched themselves around the Doctor's neck. Guard Zaban quickly leapt into action, hitting an alarm and grabbing one of the prisoner's arms, whilst Grace and the Chief Hospitaller pulled at the other one. But the patient had the strength of the possessed, and none of their efforts budged his hands as much as one millimetre.
"Ack! Ugh argh uargh!" croaked the Doctor as the Time Lord continued to throttle him. He backed up, dragging his attacker off the bed but still those hands held firm around his throat and very soon he felt that he'd be seeing stars...
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that Zaban had given up the unequal struggle with the arm and was now fumbling with his gun. Now he was aiming it at the would-be strangler, albeit rather unsteadily. The Doctor hoped that he wouldn't miss.
He didn't. The Time Lord screamed as Zaban shot him, a loud, lung-rending scream of rage, then went limp.
The Doctor bent over, coughing and trying to breathe in wonderful deep breaths of wonderful air. Grace was fussing around him, asking him if he was all right and all those silly questions humans asked at times like this. He waved her away.
"I'm all right, Grace. How... how's he? You didn't kill him, did you, lad?"
"No, sir. He's just stunned," responded Zaban nervously. The Chief Hospitaller, now again caring for his patient, nodded.
Spandrell rushed in with a squad of guards. "Did someone set off the alarm?"
"You missed the excitement, Castellan. This chap tried to strangle me, but young Zaban here saved me." He noted Zaban turning an amusing shade of red and decided not to push that particular point. "Hmmm... I wonder why he did it. Post-hypnotic command?" The patient didn't react as the Doctor waved his fingers in front of his closed eyelids. "Subconscious impression? Maybe he just doesn't like me... or maybe I used the wrong deodorant this morning."
Noting the confused expressions of most present, he decided to offer an explanation. "Human joke. Well, we're not going to get anything out of him now. If nobody has any other suggestions, I think I'll just go and check on Merak."
"Your friend is in the next room, Doctor." said the Chief Hospitaller, who was watching a couple of guards manhandle his patient back into bed. "There is no permanent damage, but he needs rest."
"Wait, Doctor. You've dropped your transmitter." said Spandrell, picking something off the floor. The Doctor accepted and pocketed it grudgingly, for he'd hardly be needing it anymore.
Merak was fast asleep when the Doctor and Grace entered his room. He looked very peaceful, the worried expression he had held almost continually since leaving Atrios no longer in evidence. So they sat in silence beside his bed, the Doctor thinking deeply whilst absently spinning his key segment from hand to hand, Grace trying desperately not to think about what was happening — and thus failing.
Only after they had sat there for quite some time did Merak awake. "Doctor..." he croaked, rubbing at the bandage on his head. "Where am I... what's..."
"Don't worry, Merak. You've just had a little bang on the head; you're going to be all right," reassured Grace.
But Merak wasn't reassured, and Grace had to restrain him from getting out of bed. "Must... help you," he gasped. "Must... save Astra." Eventually, he gave up the unequal struggle with the human woman and flopped back onto his pillows. "I'm worried... worried about Astra... must... Astra..." he murmured as he drifted back into unconsciousness.
The seventh segment of the Key to Time descended from its apex in a rough approximation of a googly the Doctor had once bowled at Don Bradman. Spinning fiercely, the chunk of crystal landed in the palm of his outstretched hand.
His fingers closed around it and a look of blessed relief washed over his face as a slight smile played on his lips.
"Doctor, are you-- what's that noise?" asked Grace, her question changing as she became aware of a wheezing, groaning sound that echoed through the infirmary. In the doorway, a tall, black box was fading into view.
Just before it was fully solidified, Grace saw Spandrell and his guards running towards it. Too late again.
The door of this TARDIS (for that was what it was) opened and a black-robed figure came out. His face was in shadow beneath his hood, almost as if light was unwilling to strike it. His hand held a black gun.
"Okay, Grace." said the Doctor, surreptitiously pocketing his key segment. "Don't make any sudden movements."
"Doctor, you have put us to a lot of trouble by avoiding the trail we so carefully laid. Now into my TARDIS, both of you." the figure said, gesturing with his pistol. "The Great One wants to see you."
To be concluded...
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