2007-08-17: DF: A Tragic And Familiar Shade


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Summary: The morning after the Saints rescue Cass, Elena stops by to check on her. Cass informs her of what she found out in holding. The dark truth behind the rising death rates in the human detainee camps is revealed.

Dark Future Date: August 17th, 2009

A Tragic And Familiar Shade

"I shall see this eloquent phantom as long as I live, and I shall see her too, a tragic and familiar shade, resembling in this gesture another one, tragic also, and bedecked with powerless charms…"

— Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Basement Levels, Phoenix Rising Penthouses

When Cass wakes up, she'll find herself staring at an art-deco light fixture above her head, glowing with a dim, but comforting shine. Lachlan isn't there, though he'll probably return in a few minutes. However, she'll find herself in an actual bed, in a room that looks more like a small apartment than an actual bedroom. The king sized bed is comfortable and there's a dent in the pillow next to her indicating that someone, probably her fiance, slept next to her. There is a clock on the bedside table, as well as another lamp. The floors are hardwood, and while the room doesn't have a window, there's a fake one on the side, shifting virtual landscapes from Madrid, to Hawai'i, to Belgium…

There is a door to the bathroom that she could see if she lifts her head.

Her bruises would've been gone by now, and while she might still be a little achy, at least her most severe injuries are gone. There is a bottle of aspirin and a bottled water next to her bed.

The door opens quietly, and bare feet pad on the floorboards. Elena arrives dressed in a tanktop and a pair of black yoga pants, her hair pulled up messily. She looks like she hasn't slept, dark circles were under her eyes and she's moving a little more slowly than she usually does. She's got a tray with her, a wrapped sandwich on a plate, and orange juice.

Opening her eyes slowly, Cass can already tell that she's not back in her cell. The bed is too comfortable, it's too quiet, the lighting isn't as harsh. It takes her a few moments to realize /where/ she is, though, and she closes her eyes to think everything over. A hand goes up to gingerly touch her throat, but it doesn't hurt as it has for the past four or five days. Neither does her face. There are still aches and pains, but, the outward signs of her trauma, at least, are gone.

By the time the door opens, Elena will find Cass standing by the window, looking out through the virtual landscapes of Madrid, a strange kind of serious expression on her face despite the beauty of the view. It's not real, she knows that, but it certainly looks it. Much like she had acted in her cell, when the door opens she doesn't turn. Not to show how tough she is, but because she doesn't need to. It's either Lachlan or the Saints. Sometime during the night, Lachlan must have dressed her in more comfortable, less rescue torn clothing because she's wearing sweatpants and an old t-shirt, her hair still mussed up from sleeping.

"I brought you something to eat. God knows what sort of swill they gave you while you were there," Elena says - her voice at least will be distinct. She walks over to set the tray on the bedside table, and absently fluffs the pillows. She had a pretty good bedside manner, all those months and years of volunteering, but these days she can turn it on or off when she needs to. She doesn't approach Cass, not yet. She remembers when she instinctively flinched away from her when she tried to touch her. Whatever they did to her while she was in captivity had been traumatic, and she's not about to make it worse. All she wants to do is feed Cass, make sure she's comfortable, and then tell her about the things she missed - important things. But she'll wait until the woman gives indications that she's ready to talk, or at least listening.

"How are you feeling? Physically…I mean. Peter healed you as much as he can, but I don't know if he got all of it." She knows there's a difference. She eases down to sit on the edge of the bed, looking at Cass's back.

There's a long pause in between the questions. It's not that Cass isn't listening, it's that she has to really compose herself before she can answer any sort of questions directed at her. She's still just adjusting. When she talks, her voice is back to normal, not the damaged rasping thing that Elena may have heard in the Pearl. "I always wanted to go to Spain," she says, looking out at the sun-dappled city, it really looks beautiful. Peaceful. "Meant to go all my life. Something always seemed more important, you know? College, med school, Enlightenment, then the war and the resistance. Lachlan and Abby." No, this is not /really/ answering any of Elena's questions. But that's kind of the point. The virtual landscape shifts, this time to the more lovely tropical beaches of Hawai'i and while the lab head takes that in for a few moments, she turns her back to it and just leans against the wall. Now, she looks to Elena, but she doesn't seem to care about the food that she brought. "They're experimenting on people, Lena. The people in the camps. They're trying to change them into Evolved."

"I got the hint," Elena says softly. Cass and she worked on the same brain wavelength most days. Even after the war that hasn't changed. She folds her hands on her lap. "I left a camera in the ruins of your clinic, in case any stragglers came that we could capture and interrogate." And being interrogated by the Saints were, most of the time, a fate worse than death. "We found Benjamin trying to figure out a way to contact us because he wanted to get you out. I wouldn't have trusted him if Papa hadn't lanced into his head the moment he saw him and made sure he was legit. You know him, these days he doesn't hesitate - and he always strikes first." Ramon had lost plenty in the last two years, she couldn't blame him in the least. "He told us the Petrelli administration was kidnapping scientists from all over. People who were in the top of their fields. You dropped out of med school so I wondered why the hell Punk— the President would want to kidnap you. But I've known you for a while, and you've studied and trained plenty of Evolved. It was the one thing that set you apart from the rest of the scientists he kidnapped. I figured he wanted your knowledge somehow. Papa theorized the President wants his super soldiers." The last is said flatly.

She continues. "Speaking of the President…we have him. I don't know if you managed to catch the news or if you even had the time to look at the TV since you got here, but it's all over it. Jack's got him."

The /ruins/ of her clinic. That doesn't sound like anything good. Having been trapped inside the belly of the shark for awhile, she had no idea what actually happened to her clinic. Or those who were inside of it. Cass trusted nothing of what the government told her. "Huh." The mention of the President coming to kidnap her as well as Benjamin actually trying to turn sides, well, that just makes her glance over her shoulder, back out to the beach. "I tried to shoot him. Thought he was trying to give away the Saints location." Thinking about the last week or so, she can't look at Elena, even if she needs to tell them what she found out. Instead, it's still back out that window. Isn't that virtual turtle really interesting? "Not super soldiers. They wanted to eradicate unevolved people. Speed up their evolution so everyone is Evolved. Those that can't handle it die in the experiment. They wanted me to come up with a procedure to perfect the process. Lower the death rate."

Staring out the window stops, though, the minute she hears that they have the president. "You /what/?" Quickly, her attention snaps so that it's focused directly on Elena. Obviously she hasn't seen the news, or heard anything of the like. There's an intense gleam to her eyes as she continues. "He's /here/. Where?"

"It was just a theory, I wouldn't put it past him," Elena says simply. But this does make her blood run cold. "….is that why they've been ferrying more and more peo— " And then she pauses. "The death rate in the camps. It's been rising since the program started. Is that what they've been doing in there?" She can't help but feel sick to her stomach. Oh god. Oh god. It's worse than she thought. Her jaw ticks a little bit, where her neck meets it. Truth be told she wanted nothing more than borrow Cass's bathroom and throw up. "Oh my god. It's like the Nuremberg Doctor Trials all over again." This wasn't the future. This was the past. She remembered reading about them in her Bioethics courses back in MIT. Nazi doctors put on the stand over the inhuman experiments they used on the Jews in the 1940s.

When Cass whirls around to look at her, she nods. "Not here," she says. "But in a secondary Saints stronghold. Dangerous to get to. We're supposed to keep it hush-hush, even in our ranks. But I've been cleared to tell you and Lachlan. I haven't been cleared to tell Peter, or Ali given Jack thinks she's been pretty unstable lately. Everyone else knows, though."

"I know." Cass has gotten all her disgust and throwing up while she was in holding. Now, the very thought of it is just numbing to her. "They're all insane, mad with power." As if they didn't know that already. "He killed Mohinder over it. He…they think they're bringing the race to the next evolutionary plane. They're dangerous and deluded." And they do not like when you tell them no.

"Don't tell Lachlan." That's all she has to say. "I don't care what clearance you have…but, don't. He'll try to kill him. And he may deserve that and worse…just don't." It doesn't matter how many other people may know about it, Lachlan can't. "Where is he? I have unfinished business I need to discuss with him." Dangerous or not, it's the sort of thing she is not going to be told no about.

They are insane. Elena is still staring at Cass, and she….well, to her credit she doesn't look gray. Two years ago she would've. The news that Mohinder is dead causes her to…well. She doesn't react, her internal walls slamming down and cutting off whatever emotional responses she could've made at the news. Mohinder. Nathan killed Mohinder. Nathan killed Dr. Suresh. It was an ability borne out of necessity than actual desire. But she shakes her head from her stupor, to focus on her next words. "I won't tell him where he is, and I'll tell Jack. It'll be Jack's call whether he wants Lachlan to know or not. I'm just his right-hand, Cass. Jack calls the shots. But I don't think he would've cleared me telling you if he didn't want you to know for a reason. If you want to see the President, I can arrange it. Jack's monitoring who sees him like a hawk. And with good reason. Doing this kind of just called the Hounds of Hell upon us. A whole cell of Flock members got slaughtered last night while we were trying to get you."

Most of Cass' emotional walls have been fortified against everything right now. So, the idea of Mohinder being killed, of experiments being done to other human beings, they crash against those walls, but don't break through. It's something she's been dealing with before. "I'm not about to kill him," she tells Elena, though her tone is quite neutral about that. She doesn't have to want to kill him to be dangerous. However, when she hears that an entire cell of Flock members were killed while they were focused on trying to rescue her…well, that's new information and it passes just over those carefully constructed walls she's been building around herself to keep all emotion out. Sliding down the wall until she's in a crouching position, she puts her head on her knees, tears starting to roll down her cheeks.

She didn't mean to tell her that, but it had been the best way to illustrate the security concerns. "I know. You're….you were never the killing type, Cass," Elena says softly. In a way, she wished she could've been the same. But it can't be the case anymore. She stands up from the bed, and walks over. Turning her back to the wall, she slides down, next to Cass. She doesn't hug her, not yet. She won't unless she lets her touch her. A hand reaches out to rest her fingers on her shoulder, squeezing gently. "It wasn't you," she tells her softly. "Believe me, it wasn't you. It was because of us. What we did. We took the President, they want him back. Jack didn't let anyone know, and now we're paying for it. Little by little we're paying for it."

It's true, Cass was never one for killing. The years have kind of necessitated her to grow a thicker skin for the violence all around her and she's had to fight back. However, that doesn't mean that she likes it. When she rests her fingers on her shoulder, she doesn't flinch away. Not yet. "I didn't think I was going to get out of there." In the beginning, yes. As the days spanned on, though, and worse and worse things started happening, the hope all but died. "I didn't think I would see anyone again. And they weren't going to kill me, they were just going to keep trying to break me and break me until I had nothing left to take." Unable to show any of that fear, it's all starting to leak out in one big burst, the tears quickly turning into a full-out sob. "And then I get out, and people /still/ die because of it. It /is/ me, Elena. I could have done it. I could have figured something out to lessen the death rate. All those people…they're not going to stop. Not going to listen. I could have…I could have saved lives."

"Cass…." The lump was growing in her throat, but Elena keeps herself strong, somehow. It was the Gomez way. She was too much her father's daughter. As she starts sobbing, the younger woman puts her arms around her big sister figure, and she'll hold her there. She doesn't say anything. She just rests her chin on the top of her head, and she won't care if Cass didn't return the hold. She smoothes down the woman's dark hair, fingers tangling there. But she could understand. All hope's but died. It was the status quo of the world they lived in. "Going along with them will not change anything. Deep down you know this. They're just going to abuse what they learned. They're going to make you suffer through another breakthrough, and once they milk every drop of intelligence and dignity and strength and beauty left in you, they'll kill you. And Lachlan. And Abby. You could've saved lives, temporarily, but they would've used your knowledge, your life's work, to continue to take everything that's important to everyone. You know they would."

There's no return of the hold on Cass' end. Right now, she's just letting days of repressed emotion out through her eyes. For awhile Cass doesn't reply in any verbal way. Instead, she just cries everything out on Elena's shoulder. Once those tears finally start to slow down, the woman abruptly pulls away from her younger friend. "I know." She starts rubbing the tears off of her cheeks, trying to erase the very thought that they were there. That she ever broke down. This isn't the age of letting your emotions rule. "That's what I told them." The more neutral mask is pulled back into place as she attempts to stand again.

"Bet they weren't happy about that," Elena says, letting Cass ease away, her hands dropping on her sides. She lets Cass do whatever she needs to, and when the other woman stands up, she remains sitting where she is. She folds her arms around her legs, and she looks at the bed where Cass had been sleeping for the past few hours. "I need to ask you something," she says. She's trying to make it easier on her by…tapping into the Evolved expert's knowledge. To try and bend it towards her using it for good again. She'll explain it later, if Cass desires to hear it, but the question is important. "Have you ever come across a phenomenon with Evolved…." she begins. "When their powers lay dormant for a long period of time after getting it and controlling it, only to have them come back unpredictably with greater potency and less control? For example, a young Evolved discovers his powers as a teenager. He practices with it. Learns to control it. Keeps practicing to gain mastery of it. And then suddenly….it disappears. Only to return several months later worse than before?"

"No. He wasn't," Cass replies softly, coldly, rubbing the last traces of salty tears off of her cheeks. There we go. She never cried, right? Of course, her red eyes kind of give that whole thing away. She's actually relieved to be talking about something other than what she might have, should have, could have done while in captivity. "I can't say I've ever worked with anyone like that," she says thoughtfully, thinking back. "It'd certainly be a phenomena. Normally, powers stay dormant and then awaken. I've yet to hear of someone get powers only to lose them and regain them again. Unless that person somehow got a hold of that virus strain that Sylar had years back that dampened his powers. Then, if they were cured, then the powers would come back just as ferocious as they were to begin with. I'm assuming you've met someone like this?"

"Yeah. The person who almost wiped out New York." Elena stands up then, sliding her hands in her pockets as she turns to face Cass. "I was taking Peter on a training run. I've been helping him with my abilities. We figured out a way for him to keep a newly absorbed power from backlashing, and now I've been training him in Boost. I'm just trying to prepare him for what'll happen when he gets back to his own time. You weren't around….I haven't done this sort of thing in a really long while, but I still remember his file. But we found her. We asked her about what the hell happened, and she told us that. She couldn't remember anything, when we asked her how that happened to her. All she knows was that she went out to practice, and then realized it was gone - and had been gone for a while. Sometime in the Fall or Winter of 2007." She thinks about the strain - another piece of information she'll have to let Peter know about when he gets back. "If we can't find a way to figure out how to stop what the hell's going on now, then by all that's still sacred, we're going to cheat."

"Well. I'm back. I can help train Peter again." Cass keeps leaning against the wall, pushing her long hair back over her shoulder. "But…yeah. Petrelli hasn't come to me for help in awhile. I'll be out of practice, too." But she knows Peter's abilities. Maybe not these ones, but the ones they trained in before he went off to fight with Sylar. "When he goes back…he can find her. Make sure that she doesn't explode again. Somehow." Now that they know. It's a huge piece of information that they didn't know before. It's something that can stop everything from happening. "I don't mind cheating a little."

"We got her name, contact information, and how to best approach her." Elena pauses. "I think though when it comes to the phenomenon she described, it'd be best if Peter came to past-You…" Yeah this can get confusing really fast. "To let her know about it. I think it might be wise to keep you in the loop in terms of what happens to her in the past. You might be able to figure out what caused it. If he tells me in the past after we've….maybe….sorted out our issues." A resigned, almost comical look is on her face. "Past-Me will help. I know Papa, Eric, and me already touched into her identity around the time Peter left, thanks to Dezi's…" And a haunted look returns on her face at the mention of her stepmother. "Visions." She pauses. "…..though one thing's for sure. When Peter finds you in the past, he can't take the girl into Bat Country. By 2007, I found out from Benjamin your lab was compromised."

There's a bit of a smirk. That /is/ kind of confusing. But, when they're talking about a Past-Peter, well, it makes sense. "Well, definitely keeping us all in the loop no matter what time it is sounds like a good idea. There's not much we can do to stop something that already happened in this time." Cass shrugs. "I know," she says. "Ramon told me that Benjamin might be part of the Company before I started helping him back then. I kept him as far from everyone as I could. But…he was a friend. I couldn't take the chance he actually needed me and I turned him away. The whole point of Bat Country is that it was easily accessible to /anyone/. But…finding anything out? That's the part that you needed me specifically for. I made Bat Country specifically keeping in mind that they might try something like that."

"Alright." As always, Elena trusts Cass's opinion. Finally, she sighs and rakes her hand through her hair. Here is the hard part. "Cass, now that we have you back…" she says. "And now that we know you're not tagged…" Otherwise she still wouldn't be here. "The option of running is still there. I know it's not in you, but….bringing you guys to Mexico and Canada, we can definitely swing. I just need to know what you intend to do now so we can do it right since you're in our headquarters. But if you need time to think about it, you're more than willing to stay here. If you want to train Peter again too….we have facilities here you can use. It's up to you, I just want to be informed when you make a decision. Jack's spending most of his time with Commander Cocksucker - in his shoes, I can't blame him for it, so whatever it is that needs to be done here, I take care of."

There's actually a pause when the option of running is brought up. Before it may not have been an option, Cass wouldn't even have heard of it. So much has happened, though. The government has shown what they'll do to people they don't agree with and who they deem as unnecessary. "I can't make that decision on my own," she shakes her head. "I'll talk to Lachlan about it." Because she's not leaving without him. "I just…Abby. She's…I don't know if she's got Lachlan's genes or mine yet." And she's not about to risk her daughter being taken into those lunatic's hands. "I'll stay on as if I'll be here for the long haul. But, Abby and Lachlan are really what are important. I don't know if this country can be fixed." Not with what she saw.

"That's understandable, Cass. That's why I offered it," Elena says quietly. She's extremely aware of Abby - it was hard to be a parent this day and age. She knows, she has to deal with her father's rages every time he's got a bout of it, because she's the only one who can calm him down. "I'm just asking you to let me know. Meanwhile, get some rest here, some food in you even if you're not hungry. You've been through a lot, and if you're staying or running, either way you're going to need to be healthy in body." Even if her spirit's got cracks all over. But she's still standing, just like she knows she would. She walks closer to Cass, but she doesn't touch her. A companionable distance even as she looks her right in the eye. "We haven't seen each other in a while, but if there's anything else I can do for you, just please ask me. I'm not going to force you into anything but if you really, really need anything, even if it's something simple, don't hesitate to tell me, okay? It's good to see you."

"I know." It's hard for her to not feel like she's bailing out on the resistance and the Alliance some way just by thinking of running, getting very far away from there. Cass is still standing, because really, that's all she can do. She can either lay down and call herself the broken toy that the President tried to make her, or she can just keep standing. And the woman's never been the sort to lie down. She's too horribly stubborn for that. "Yeah." Eating should probably be done at some point, even if she doesn't feel like it. The companionable distance and the offer is taken with a smile. It's not a broad one, but it's genuine. "Thanks, Elena. It's really good to see you, too. Thanks. For everything."

"You don't need to thank me, we're all we have left," Elena says. "I'd like to think your daughter can have a normal life despite this, even if it's away from us. I wouldn't want her to see what all of us here've become anyway. Bloodthirsty terrorists who commune with our ghosts." She grins ruefully and reaches out a hand to clasp Cass's if she'll allow it. "One more thing…I've got Benjamin in a holding cell, one of our quarantine rooms. The door's secure, only I know the access code. Even if he puts everyone here to sleep, he won't be able to get out. But….I gave him the same offer since he did pull you out of the fire and it wouldn't have been possible without him. To run, or help out. He doesn't care if he lives and dies anymore. He hasn't said anything since I checked in on him. I just want to let you know he's still here, and I'm hoping you don't wig out on me for keeping him here."

"We're all just ghost's of ourselves," Cass' smile fades when she remembers someone else's words. Of how the war scarred and broke everyone. Maybe it's that memory that leads to her harsher response to the news that Benjamin is in holding. Or under quarantine. Whatever it is. The hand that Elena extends is taken, but without any real sort of grip to return. It's mostly just an automatic reaction. There's no rueful smile returned to her friend. "It's your base, I have no say who you keep here or not. He can do what he wants, but his help doesn't atone for any of his many, many sins."

"Maybe. But he hasn't told me if he was helping out. He could still choose to run. I think part of him really wants to, make it on his own and see who kills him faster," Elena says. She squeezes her hand, and lets go of it gently. "I've long given up on the idea that I can save everyone, Cass. Don't know what the hell I was thinking anyway when I thought I could. But I'll settle for the ones I can save. Papa told me to let it go, and I am listening to him in my own way - but the ball's in his court." She looks over at Cass silently, and then speaks up again. "I'll go and tell Jack you want to see the President. Meanwhile is there anything else I can do for you?"

"The last thing I want is for Benjamin to be killed." Cass shakes her head and makes for the bed again. She probably won't sleep, but sitting down seems like a good course of action. Plus, that's where the pain killers and juice were set down. "If he really feels as guilty as he says he does, I wish him a very, very long life." Maybe then he'll be able to work through everything he deserves to. "Maybe then he'll really know what he's done." Because there's no way that he could. The sheer magnitude is stunning. There's a shake of her head. "Everyone /can/ be saved, Elena. It's just…not everyone wants to be." She sighs. "Just…some more clothes. I can't wear sweatpants for the rest of my life. Also, I should radio in to the Alliance and let them know I'm here." Not to mention seeing her daughter.

There is silence. Unfortunately, Elena doesn't believe that anymore. How Cass can still hold onto that is beyond her, but that was just the way she was. "I'll see what I can find. When you're feeling better, just let me know and I'll show you where our comm stations are. Gene'll help you use them." She rubs her face. "I have to get him to someone licensed. He's got the usual phantom pains from the limbs he lost, but I want to get a bead on his tumor. As for clothes, that'll be easy - I'll have someone bring them over." Thanks to the backdoors set up for them by Lancaster Electronics in several of the buildings in New York City, some of these being shopping malls, it was easy to grab something Cass's size. She can bring her Prada if she wanted.

All her stay has done has strengthened her ethics, her idealism. Cass was always the optimist. A lot of that has been scratched and faded due to the times, but she still has to believe that everyone can be saved. That futures are changeable. Her own, for one. She survived hell at the hands of Petrelli, she can survive a stupid painting. "Thanks, Elena. I will. If you want, we can go over any XRays you've got. See if we can come up with something to add to his regimen." Maybe something to help with the phantom pains, not that they'll ever go away. "Anything's fine. Just, something I can work in." Because work doesn't ever seem to cease.

"I'd like that," Elena says softly, in regards to the X-rays. "Go get something to eat, and try to sleep. I'll check in on you again later. I'll have Gene prep a console so you can get in touch with the Alliance. After this stunt with the President, though, hopefully they won't block our communications. I don't know Nima and Lee as well as you do, but I know that the Alliance is pretty quick in severing ties from groups who do anything questionable." Rumors have gone down the wire that the Alliance broke from Petrelli's Resistance, too, after the train incident.

"I'll give my code. That should get their attention." It's something that can't be faked and that they should know is coming from her. Of course, they may not believe it to be her because she was captured, or a trap or some such, but she at least has to check in. "They have to. If they're linked with you guys, it'll give the HS even more of a reason to start trying to knock down our doors. We can't afford that." Not that the Saints really can, either, but that's the way their two factions work. "Elena…" her face darkens and softens for a moment, but then, she changes her mind and she shakes her head. "Nevermind. Just, clothes and those X-rays." A pause and her voice softens. "Thank you." She knows she doesn't have to thank Elena, but that's not the point.

"Good idea. And I know," Elena says. "I've anticipated it for a while, there was no way. Not with the way we are." She blinks when Cass begins to speak. "What? What is it?" she asks. But when she changes her mind, she pauses. She wants to press it, it's on her face - but she doesn't have the heart to, being as exhausted as Cass looks. "You're welcome," she says, giving into that. After a few more moments of silence, her lower lip quivers for a little bit, but she quickly looks away, blinking rapidly. "I'm….." She clears her throat. "….I'm just glad we got you back. Even if we left pieces of you behind, I'm glad we got you back."

"I know." Not that Cass will ever severe her ties with the Saints. Too many of her friends are there. But, she's not the one who calls the top shots. Glad that Elena doesn't push anything too much, she doesn't bring it up again. Nor about what pieces of her were left behind in holding. Even if she can tell that Elena wants to know more, she just can't talk about it. There's nothing she can really say around the lump in her throat. "Me too," she says quietly.

She gives Cass a small smile, Elena affording Cass her space - she doesn't approach her. It was selfish really, more for her than for Cass. If she touched her again, she'd cry and she doesn't want to put that on her. So she presses her fingers on her lips, and blows her 'big sister' a kiss, and then she turns to start heading out the door. Like Cass thoughts earlier, there was work to do. She needs to go and do it.

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