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[BACKLOG] JL | Cmdr Valeese, Lt. Cmdr - "Skirmish"

Posted on Sun Aug 25th, 2019 @ 1:11am by Lieutenant Commander James Stacker & Commander Valeese
Edited on on Sun Aug 25th, 2019 @ 2:07am

Mission: Dust Stirring
Timeline: Three months ago...

In the hours leading up to that exact moment, the one where she came face to face with the Ghost in an entirely new light, Valeese had forced herself to sit, silent as the grave, to meditate and find center. It was either try her best to do so or rabbit from the situation entirely... Which wasn't exactly a perfect option either. I can't wasn't a reason that he was going to accept given how crucial it really was that she learn better ways to defend herself. The training she'd received in the Academy hadn't exactly stuck and it wasn't as if she needed to ace the art of hand to hand combat seeing as she was majoring in medicine and science, not security or tactical operations of any form.

Blowing off those classes had been among the worst mistakes she'd ever made and while she had no true desire to ever fight anyone, the Ghost had made it abundantly clear that the situations she'd found herself in already had the potential to breed and grow in number in the future - especially now that she was perceived as vulnerable. What he hadn't said, but she knew beyond shadow of a doubt, was the concern that her condition would insight anger in those who were merely tolerating her existence but wouldn't be able to stomach the idea of there being 'more of her kind'. Such a thought traveled along her nerves until it reached her ears and set them with a sullen droop before continuing to her hands and bringing them to cradle and rest over the swell of said child. Standing there, the sitting area devoid of furniture aside from a set of thin 'crash mats', there was no chance of denying the existence of such a being. Not with the lack of lab coat and certainly not beneath the thin fabric of her tank top and the knee-length work out sweats she'd been more or less forced to don. Nothing else made sense.

And then she blew a soft sigh, reminding herself that they were tucked away from the rest of society and that cold brand of anxiety was exactly why she needed to do this. To learn. Valee's hands made one final pass over her midriff before tangling and finger combing through her hair, effectively working to bridle it in a messy bun as the door slid open to herald in the Ghost.

The look he gave her when he came through the door was one of critical regard: it served him well as an effective mask, hiding the fact that he was uneasy. There was no professional reason. He'd led training events before as part of deployments elsewhere: Starfleet Marines had inherited the role from their blue-water ancestors on Earth many decades before. Typically it ranged in size from a small contingent lent out from the local embassy to whole detachments rotated through as part of regular engagement. Such things served a useful role from all the way up high at the geopolitical level (building friendly relations) to right down in the suck at the tactical level (keeping your ass alive). No, the reason James was uneasy was because of the importance.

Failure meant loss, not just of a person he barely knew but of the mother of his unborn child. By extension this meant keeping the child alive. James was not enthralled with zero-sum games, where even the slightest hint of failure meant whole and outright failure, but in this there really was no choice. Could he live with himself if he failed? It was the exact opposite question - could he live with himself if he didn't make the attempt? - that had brought him to this moment, but now it was the flip side of the coin which gave him pause. In a way he had never felt so thoroughly tested on a single matter, and in this case the test was pass or fail. Literally. Putting this aside, not for the first time today he breathed deeply.

"Right. This won't be a single-day thing Val. We're going to keep at it for several days, and we're going to work on refining your process. Now come stand over here," he said, gesturing to the floor mat. "And watch what I do."


Time passed. He was sweaty by now and starting to register the inevitable complaints that told him he was getting old, and also that it'd been years since he'd been directly involved in a training evolution. Even so he was ready to concede that she was on par with most first-time students from outlying planets: not great, but learning. Doing well enough that even the Ghost was prepared to give her a grudging pass for the day. Of course this went in two directions. He wanted to praise her, but that silent part of him was constantly there at his elbow to remind him of the cost of failure.

So now he wiped the sweat from his brow and gave her a nod of begrudging approval as they set about reviewing a new defensive technique just introduced. "Okay, so again. I come up behind you like this," he said, arm slipping around her from the rear. "And remember. Throwing me off-balance is key. You want to disorient your opponent and gain seconds."

Maybe it was the way that his arm came across her, maybe it was the weight of it or the size of him or the heat of him pressed against her back. Maybe it was the fact that she was approaching physical and emotional exhaustion, sweaty, tired, sore, hungry, thirsty. Maybe it was self preservation or some glitch left in her brain from an undiscovered injury. Whatever it was, it left her suddenly cold, frozen solid as he touched and grabbed her. His words were twisted, mangled into an otherworldly snarl until his voice was no longer his own but that of one of the Orions on that piece of shit ship. She couldn't name which one, and frankly didn't need to.

Valeese's eyes were wide, her body rigid to the point that the ligaments lining her tender throat stood out flexed with the hollow between them flashing with each breath she drew through flared nostrils. To her it seemed as if an eternity was passing in slow motion - but in reality it flew by at about the same rate her heart hammered in her chest, ticking away mere fractions of seconds with each deafening beat. Her nails found her assailant's arm, digging their short, manicured length into the flesh as deep as she possibly could, while her body twisted, driving the heel of one of her feet into the groove where his ankle curved and began the plane of his foot before lifting again and using what little distance she had to maneuver an addition blow in his direction - higher, between the apex and junction of his thighs - each assault heralded by a grunt of exertion marking just how much effort the diminutive being - or maybe her blind panic - put into her attacks and struggling bucks and arching strikes she simply refused to cease until that arm, that damned arm, released her. It would seem that regardless of the hell she rained down upon it, upon him, it only tightened and she only fought harder, throwing her head back until it connected with something solid and the flat of her foot found what she could only assume was a knee or a thigh.

It took critical seconds to connect his mind with the reality of the situation, and in that respect he was lucky that his worst moment was the inevitable drop to the knee when her foot connected. Sparks danced at the edges of his field of vision when he did so, breath already being exhaled from his lungs from the upward kick that had preceded his drop. He was vaguely aware that there was something wrong. Instincts were setting off alarm bells warning that somehow this event had gone very wrong and was life-threatening. It was a sign of experience that he trusted instinct instead of stopping to question it.

The most pressing demand was space, not just to stay out of range but to gain precious seconds. It helped that by this point his adrenaline had kicked in. Pain was unconsciously buried, injuries and complaints roughly shoved aside. Willpower and adrenaline propelled him back to his feet and let him step back without collapsing again. It was not a miracle combination however: a jagged and raw bolt of iced lightning blasted its way up his left leg. And in that moment his brain caught up and he realized what had gone wrong.

"Val!" His voiced went unheeded, perhaps on account of its being laced with pain, but he saw her dancing back his way. That triggered even more warning signs. Oh shit. Unconsciously his chest swelled from an intake of breath. "Commander Valeese!" he barked a moment later, the voice of the experienced Marine lieutenant coming back to him as naturally as sunlight on leaves.

She'd been close to going for his face, she realized, having used the sudden release and distance to pivot and come about for another line of assault. She also realized that she'd taken the chance to continue the fight, to finish it, instead of using the confusion to run and put distance between her and her attacker. It all came about at the thunderous roar of a voice that twisted from Orion to Marine and tugged at the edges of her consciousness until every memory, every raw emotion of anger and fear, dissipated into a cloud of psychological dust and left her standing there, panting, her balled fists slowly falling to her sides and releasing as her shoulders and chest heaved. It only took her a couple of blinks longer to re-associate that voice with the Ghost and for his face to register with her and when it did, the panting slowly began to turn to sobs, her head shaking partly in disbelief and partly in silent pleading that the day be over and done with.

Crisis momentarily averted, James was at last able to hobble to a chair - although calling it a "hobble" was akin to saying an old man with gout walked slowly. Outwardly and inwardly he now started to pay the price for participation in this moment in time. Every step was full of fire up the leg and screams of agony from his joint. Breath hissed between clenched teeth every time weight landed on the leg. Every little flex hurt even more than the one before; he looked down at least once thinking he'd see the hilt of a knife sticking out of the inner part of the kneecap. But no, there was nothing there. Even so by the time he sat himself down it was definitely one of the most painful incidents he could recall from recent memory.

The breath that flowed from between his lips was one of acute gratefulness. But even that was marred by the acute throbbing coming from between his legs. The one that told him he was not going to be doing any horizontal tango in the immediate future. The 'incident', as he now classified it, was such a blur it left him wondering what exactly had connected where. There was no way ... guess I taught her right? he thought to himself. He started to chuckle. It cut off abruptly as the throbbing intensified in response. "Ow. Oh oh - Come... here. Please, Val. Come here," he said, holding out an arm to the sobbing little Vorta.

"We're done here." She managed, a hand lifting to tangle in the curls at the top of her head - the band holding her hair up had lost much of its hold throughout their lesson, especially during the... Skirmish. She'd call it a skirmish. The recent memory, and now the aftermath, of which made nearly every fiber in her body want to rabbit in the general direction of a lockable room, but her mind - at least the rational bits of it that were steadily working on rerouting the rest of her reactionary synapses - told her that running wasn't going to help a damn thing. The Ghost was hurt, she'd caused it, and she knew the only reason he'd been put in such a position - and likely the only reason she was still standing upright on her own - was because he hadn't the heart to put her down.

That left guilt as a viable option when it came to emotions she should be feeling and it certainly took hold rather quickly and energetically.

But he called to her, holding a hand out as a life line to her sniffling, shivering mess of a self and she found her hand leaving her hair and falling limply back at her sides while her feet engaged in forward motion and drug her sullenly towards him in search of both comfort and the chance to make it right. "I'm sorry," nope, no explanation. Not yet, but he was given a tearful apology and she found herself sinking to her knees in front of his seat, immediately trying to assess the damage he'd been dealt.

"It's okay," he breathed - or more accurately managed to wheeze, as the throbbing sensation had grown significantly more acute in mere seconds. "It's alright. I'm fine. I'm okay. These things happen" He wasn't - that much was immediately obvious - and normally training did not go this wrong. But even though he was definitely worse-for-wear he still insisted on perpetuating the lie. Insisting to her that he was going to be alright even with his busted knee and that ache between his legs. The shoulder that was starting to hurt from where she's either hit home with a kick a ballet dancer would envy, or a swift hit of her head made of stronger stuff than he realized. He was sure the fuller catalogue of injuries was going to turn up something he'd missed.

His arm went out to settle on her shoulder, even as she tried to tend to him. "Val... Val it's okay. You did good. You did a really, really good job. I'm sorry I put you in that position, but you were spot-on. It just... I'll be honest, it fucking hurts. Get me two painkillers and I'll be good in the morning." A particularly vicious throb gave lie to that, ripping right up through his guts and driving the air out of his lungs. His face flinched before her as the mask slipped, just for a second. "Jesus you've got a mean kick."

"That's not helping." She sniffed. While Valeese may have managed to get the majority of her sobs under control, there was nothing to be done for the shaking of her hands and the way rogue tears spilled along the contours of her cheeks as she tried to work. "Ice..." She coughed trying to clear her gravelly voice, knowing full well it wouldn't do a lick of good, "You're gonna need ice for your groin, but um," her teeth caught her lip as she worked to free him from his pants in a manner that wasn't going to injure him any further, "I should have a regenerator or two around here but..." Another pause, this time punctuated with a heavy sigh and the closing of her eyes. She wasn't ready to face the world like this, having to explain what happened and why or her current state or the existence of a third party at their little shindig. Going out simply wasn't an option, she'd have to treat him right then and there and she pushed her brain to remember if she had a medical tri-corder buried somewhere in a drawer or cabinet. The answer was yes, of course, to help set her mind at ease about everything a mother-to-be could possibly worry about.

"Take your pants off. I need to go grab a tri-corder and get some scans." There was no looking him in the eye, not then. Not for awhile and she miraculously avoided them as she shoved back off her own knees and managed to get to her feet without looking like a drunk wildebeest for what would likely be the last time for a number of months.

His hand caught hers as she arose, capturing and bringing it back to his lips. A kiss followed; soft and sweet, lingering on her skin. His fingers brushed cross the heel of her palm and underside of her wrist in a light and airy way. Really, it was a wonder he could even focus on something like that at a time like this: the average Marine would have been hard down for the count after a blow the likes of which she had delivered. But somehow he managed. When that one and isolated moment ended, silently, without saying any words, he let it go. There was a final reassuring pat before he turned his attention back to more pressing concerns. Like how the devil to lose his pants in a way that wouldn't make things worse.

Somehow he managed it, although truth be told things were still as bad as before (if not worse) by the end. He could see his knee already swelling and movement of the joint was a tad - his opinion, although the average person probably would have had some stronger words concerning its mobility or lack thereof - difficult. Looking down to see the damage was not high on his bucket list; he decided to leave that to the professional in the room and leaned back with a sigh bordering between relief and 'what-a-fucking-day'. "Scan away, Val. Nothing you haven't seen before." The chuckle was cut off as soon as it began; laughing just induced more agony, which made him want to laugh even more, which really wasn't a good idea just this moment.

While his touch was the last thing she felt she deserved at the present moment, Valeese didn't fight him when he caught her and administered his affections. Instead she silently appreciated the velvet of his lips as they pressed themselves to her hand and watched the way his fingers graced her skin but said nothing when he released her. Instead she disappeared into the depths of his quarters, their quarters - hers had been mostly abandoned and only visited briefly for the sake of continuity - and returned a short minute or two later with pretty much everything she needed to repair the damage she'd caused, "First time I'm patching you up, your eye not included." She deadpanned as the tri-corder sang out the fact it was scanning. The results of which made her shake her head, "Good news? Not broken. Bad news? Your ACL is shot to hell along with a secondary ligament." Everything was short, clipped, business without much emotion as she struggled to retain a sense of normalcy where guilt didn't rule over the entire kingdom, "Need to see your arm too. After I fix that, you'll probably need a quick patch job there unless you want questions asked... Make sure you keep the ice on your groin. It'll stop hurting soon." The clinical nature of her voice didn't make her any happier, nor did it lend itself to normal - but there was a task at hand and a problem to solve. He needed to come first, and that was something she not only rationalized, but insisted on.

Her ministrations may have been clipped and short, but that didn't diminish the blessed sweet relief he felt. First and foremost being the ice, now held firmly in place with one hand - his good hand, as it turned out. Once again he leaned back in the chair and sighed, eyes closed as the age-old cooling and numbing agent worked its magic. It took a few moments before he could speak again; minutes in which he found himself now able to swallow normally again. Where that feeling of something hammering up into his guts started to diminish. The end to this temporary period of solitude was marked with a breath in, then out, as he re-opened his eyes and looked to her. "Let's try not to make a habit out of this, shall we?" A moment later he regretted his horrific choice of words and reached out with his good hand to hold one of hers, again. "I'm sorry. That was ... not a good way of saying things. But thank you. Seriously," James - not the Ghost - told her.

A throb of pain from elsewhere reminded him of another issue. "You said the ACL was busted?" He turned to eye it, a hint of a frown quirking the corners of his mouth. Clearly something was going through his head judging by the way his eyebrow moved. It moved, moved again as the frown deepened, then flattened. A final look most closely resembling 'oh well' crossed his face before it all vanished completely and smoothed back to normal. "Is this something needing a trip to sickbay?" The question spoke volumes as to his lack of knowledge in the medical field. Basic first aid and immobilizing a limb were one thing. Treatment? An entirely other story best left to the professionals, in his personal opinion.

The words stung, the touch soothed, his question brought about the vehement shake of her head, "No. I can handle it here. No one has to know anything." Because explaining that situation was certainly something she'd decided upon not sharing with anyone other than the present company. "Unlike Vorta, humans aren't immune to the marvels of medical science and this little tool right here will take away the majority of the injury." The hand holding a regenerator wiggled the device for emphasis before putting it back to use, "You may have a bit of a hitch in your giddy-up for a bit, but you'll survive and won't be any worse for wear..." Valeese paused, pursing her lips for a second, "And we won't be doing this again so there's no real chance of re-injury."

Naturally, as a marine and grey collar he was inclined to first rise to the challenge she had thrown down. Logic, thankfully, intervened before he could open his mouth and let out a hot retort: there were several key points that occurred to him. The first and foremost one was that she was not a marine, and in all likelihood wasn't marine material. Second was that there was nothing to stop whatever had caused this from recurring again. Clearly she had been through trauma - fuck. Trauma. He closed his eyes as the circuit connected in his mind. Of course: it hadn't been all that long ago that someone had abducted her with an attack from behind. He shook his head softly and it bowed as he thought. Then he looked up. "You're right. We won't be doing this again. We'll find something else. Some other way to train you to defend yourself. One where people aren't coming at you from behind." Under any other circumstances it would've been perverse. Now, however, it sounded like something else entirely. Tacit acknowledgement, perhaps, that her case was a unique one.

"Behind, forward, from the sides, from below, above... Doesn't matter. We're not doing this again." The regenerator beeped that it was through repairing the damage that it could and it found itself tucked into the waistband of her pocketless sweatpants and replaced by the hum of the tri-corder scanning to be sure she hadn't missed anything and that everything was back together again, "You should be able to walk again, once you're ready." Trying to pivot on her knees to gain access to his arm was by far the most graceless thing she'd ever done. Her center of gravity had shifted and with it her ability to get away with that particular maneuver. Tipping forward to rested a hand on his thigh and used it to balance herself with a rather indignant huff before getting her legs back under herself and his arm in clear view. Four perfect crescent moon shaped lacerations greeted her eyes and her jaw tightened with a wince and the regenerator came back out from hiding.

James' eyes followed her line of sight and alighted on the lacerations. He said nothing about her inability to balance although he clearly saw it by the way the eyes had jerked away from her. Inexperienced in such matters he may be, but he knew a flashing yellow light warning of danger if one veered into such matters. Now however his brow furrowed at the sight of the damage however minor it may be. "I definitely don't recall seeing that before. Or the dermal regenerator. When did you smuggle those into m- our quarters? Or was I just too blind to notice?" His voice wasn't truly approaching normalcy yet: that would take some time. But the edge was definitely coming off his words and from where he sat - no pun intended - that seemed like progress. The sweet relief of the icepack was clearly having an effect.

Finally she met his eyes, wetting her lips and offering not much more by way of body language as she worked, "The regenerator followed me home in my pocket and I kept forgetting to bring it back down to stick bay and then decided to keep it handy in the event of a crises." One by one the small abrasions were remedied by technology, warding off questions and odd looks from any who may have had the chance to get a look at his arm, "The tri-corder is a Ferengi acquisition, I didn't ask where they got it from, don't really care. It helps me keep tabs on certain things without having to use the station's equipment or logs." Lying to him held no merit or place in their life. If anything, their relationship had been built on trust and honesty, even if they both of them truly remained members of what could be considered the chaotic neutral given their professions.

"No one but you and I know that I'm pregnant, not even Starfleet officially." Finished with its work, the regenerator was turned off and tucked back into her waistband for temporary storage, "I'm sure there's suspicion by now, it's getting harder and harder to hide... Questions will be asked and I'll come up with a story about being busy, not suspecting until it was undeniable. Maybe toss in the bit that there was a touch of denial for whatever reason." She sighed softly and carefully got to her feet. "Now you know the why I felt the need to procure it. Nothing too nefarious, just an insurance policy."

James found himself nodding when she stopped speaking, and was quick to realize that the reason he was nodding was because he was in agreement. His hand again took hers when he spoke; the throbbing between his legs had by now diminished to the point where it didn't rudely crowd on his conscious mind. Just like the doctor had said would happen. "I'm glad you have the tricorder here, for many reasons. This, right now," he said with a meaningful glance to his knee, mindful of the fact that it had also been used to examine other parts of his body. "But also for other reasons. And I hope you don't mind when I say that I'm very happy you've got the regenerator here." Yes, that was definitely something he was pleased about. A painful walk down the corridors would not have been pleasant. Nor would the ride, nor the walking into sickbay and the inevitable questions that would follow.

His thumb rubbed the back of her hand as the remainder of what she had said registered, which caused his brows to furrow. This should not have been as much of a struggle as it was. He wanted to publicly-acknowledge they were an item. But there was healthy reticence to the idea as well. Or at least reasons to object. He sat there for a moment with her hand in his and wondered just why the hell it was that the universe had decided to play such a cruel trick on the two of them. Life could really be quite unfair at points. An instant later, however, this gripe was forgotten and the thumb stilled as a lightbulb went off. Insurance policy.

"I think," he slowly said, "that we've been going about this all wrong. What if you had something small to carry with you? A deterrent device: nothing too large or bulky. Something powerful enough to register on the station's internal sensors when it goes off, but small enough to fit into your pocket without straining the seams." His eyes glanced up to hers now, look of thought clearly on his features.

Once again tethered in place by his touch, Valeese briefly closed her eyes and tried - again - to bury all the residuals of what had transpired. The physical evidence may have been mostly gone, but the emotional and mental evidence still burned bright and hot and painful whether she wanted to admit it or not. It was another reminder that she wasn't over everything that had happened... At all. It further needled her, poking and prodding to prove that she'd likely never be over it and that the complications from that situation would likely always haunt her. Not fair. Stop. her head shook, erasing that line of thought with more than a little additional guilt coming to set on her shoulders, "So a small energy weapon... That's your line of expertise. I wouldn't begin to know which one would be best." She cleared her throat and turned her attention, eyes re-opened, back on the Ghost, "Using them is pretty straight forward. Your groin can feel very lucky that we don't have to practice with that."

It was impossible to conceal the wince that ran across his face, or the hand that instinctively moved to cover that part of his anatomy. Once, a long time ago, he'd seen the aftermath of a high-energy weapon hit to the groin - on stun setting - and had no particular desire to experience the misfortune that had befallen the unlucky Corporal. It wasn't something he thought about often but now the memories wanted to come out and play. The Ghost shoved them back into their hole and covered them again, then looked to James as if to say 'well?'

"That part we can decide upon," he said as the memories faded again. If he was lucky they'd be completely gone - subsumed back into his mind - by the time he crawled into bed tonight. If unlucky ... well. The nightmares would be vivid. "I'll take you to the firing range, you can try different models, we can see which one best suits you and won't be an impediment."

"Ok." She nodded, reaching, finally, to cup her lover's cheek, gently stroking him with her thumb, "I'll agree to that so long as we never put you in harm's way... I still can't figure out how I managed to hurt you like that," She half-laughed, reaching with her free hand to tuck a wayward curl back behind an ear, "I mean really... Look at us. You got your ass kicked by a pregnant Vorta who's like a billion inches shorter than you and has the tactical ability of a french fry. What the hell, James?" In many ways it was a relief that her good humor began to curry through and break through the darkness and guilt that had overpowered the situation.

His eyebrows came together in a scowl as he stood, but the tone in his voice indicated that it wasn't a 'serious' scowl. "Hmph," he said in his throat. "Beginner's luck. Don't tell the MACOs or I'll never hear the end of it." She wouldn't tell them, he knew, but the humor needed to be extended a little more. She deserved a chance to laugh and tease after what had just happened. Above all else he didn't want her to retreat back into her own little world, as had nearly just happened just minutes before. "Remind me to never play competitive sports with you." A kiss found her forehead and a hand came up to slowly rub her back.

"Is chess a competitive sport? That's about as close as I get to playing your weird Terran war games. I mean... I might be able to outrun you, and that's not exactly going to win me points playing Football." She smirked, trying to erase the mental image of running her fool legs off trying to evade a hard tackle by someone as burly as her Ghost. "Baseball, though... If you trust me swinging a stick." Valeese shrugged gently, and found herself leaning closer to him, enjoying the tactile stimulation he offered even when it should have been her babying him after everything that had transpired. "Think you can walk? Probably a good idea to grab something to eat. I can move the furniture back around and you can just chill out and eat lunch, sound like a plan?"

He briefly smiled to himself in amusement at her choice of words. 'Just chill out' wasn't something he would've associated with the Doctor when they first met. Now he could think of no better way to sum up spending time with her. Especially given recent circumstances. His hand rubbed her back but the lips parted - regrettably - from her skin. "I can walk. You move the furniture, and I'll get something from the replicator. And call me if it's too heavy for you." There was a strong note of caution there. One which assured in a clear and precise tone that he would not find it at all acceptable if she was throwing herself around the room in an effort to move large pieces of heavy furniture.

"I'll be fine. Go rest." A gentle swat to the hip was meant to send him off, even if she'd have preferred to simply enjoy his company. There was work to be done and the humdrum nature of putting the room back together would likely be enough to help her cruise back into her own head space.

"Fine, fine, I'll go rest," came the concession along with a wave of his hands. A wave that reinforced his surrender on this point; as if the smile on his face wasn't enough. He toddled off towards the bedroom, looking a tad unsteady on his feet but enough to cause alarm. Before vanishing inside, however, he did look back over his shoulder. Casting her a look that seemed remarkably affectionate given the circumstances.

=/\= End Log =/\=

Commander Valeese
Chief Medical Officer

Lt Commander James Stacker
2XO/Chief Intelligence Officer


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