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Airon

The Stars Say That... [IC]

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Friday, January 20th

9:00 PM - The Boardwalk

Synth

Synth was running at her usual steady pace. She didn’t know how to feel about her choice. The Boardwalk was a decent place for jogging – the riverside promenade was car-free, and full of colorful people that kept looking at her funny for how light were her training clothes. On the other hand, the whole length was full of giant neon insignias over noisy casinos and nightclubs, some already emitting a thrusting bass beat, getting ready for the night to come. It would probably be a good place to explore the nightlife, though.

She was about to head back, when she ran near a back alley and a chocked cry of help grabbed her attention. She looked and among the shadows she saw three men, two standing and a third one crouching on a knee “Shut up, you @$*#%!†one of the two standing man punched the man on the ground “We don’t want nobody to come bother our business, do we?†the other standing man chuckled, and casually kicked his victim in the ribs.

Glowstar & Wisp

The two young heroes emerged from the South River, the smell of swamp and rotten just barely washed away from the dirty water of the River. Who would’ve thought that Alien-Gator, of all the crazy villains in this city, would have been so dangerous to require a dive into that brownish water to stop his plan?

Now the Gator was unconscious on the riverside, with AEGIS on its way, and his victim was safe on an ambulance, but the current had dragged the two young heroes for a while before they could get out of the river.

Glowstar was about to grab Wisp’s arm and get teleported at his dorm, with a shower and clean clothes, when a loud noise grabbed their attention along with that of every person around them: they looked up and saw, thirty-three floors up, the GOLDEN CALF neon insignia – made of ten 8-feet-tall letters built of neon and metal, shrieking and trembling… and then it read only GOLDEN CALF as two letters started falling on the crowd below.

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Synth

Synth was half tempted to enter some of the clubs. She probably would have, if she had any money. The lose change in her pocket would barely have bought a sandwich, let alone a night out however. She was an illegal immigrant, and just picked up whatever jobs she could.

They didn't pay well.

At least she had a room over her head for another week.

She came to from her musings when she saw the three men, coming to a stop and then walking to them.

"That's enough!" she said loudly, a hint of steel in her voice and her eye "leave this man alone, or you will be facing more trouble than you could imagine! whatever he has done to you, it won't be as bad as what's coming..." she continued, ice in her voice.

She puffed herself out. She was a good size for a woman, but something about her looked...well...dangerous right now, the way she moved...a little too fast and fluid, like a cobra.

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Wisp looked over her and Glowstar's work and grimaced, "That was almost as unpleasant as the last time we went into God awful water to deal with a berserk reptile." She was just wringing out her long snow white hair when she heard the shrieking metal of the frame of the over sized "O" break away the rest of the Golden Calf's sign.

"Oh crap," she muttered in Russian as she directed her teammate's attention to the sight before teleporting them both, in a cloud of snowy and scarlet smoke, under incoming debris. As soon as they landed she raised her hands and focused her will, pouring energy from her spread fingers. As the blue and black energy coalesced it formed into a flat plane between the crowd and the heavy rain.

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Synth

The two never-do-well turned and saw Synth, changing her pace from casual jogging to a menacing predator’s stride. They stared at her for a fraction of a second, then one of them reached behind his back for something; but the other one grabbed his wrist blocking him and growled “#@€§ this! Let’s go, let’s go, dammit, before she punches us or eats us or something!†they ran away in the opposite direction, looking back every few steps to check on an eventual pursuit.

Their victim was getting on his feet. He was a 30-something white man, with hair full of gel and a flashy shirt under a light grey suit; his face was covered in bruises and tiny cuts. “Ow… thanks, girl!†he touched his teeth, making sure none was loose “Are you security, one of those kung-fu chicks bouncers at the Jade Palace? You gals rock!â€

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Synth

Synth squatted down to examine the man, and then hefted him up without any apparent effort. He looked a bit battered, but nothing seriously wrong with him, she concluded as she examined him.

Lying, for Synth, was impossible. She just couldn't form the words in her head.

"No, I'm not one of those kung-fu chicks. Perhaps I should learn..." she said, meeting his eyes. It wasn't a lie, but then again, she didn't have to tell the truth. And learning some Kung-Fu was perhaps a good idea, the scrapes she was getting into in Freedom City.

"But I can handle myself, if I need to...what happened to you?" she continued, redirecting the flow of conversation "looks like they were ready to beat you to a pulp? did you know them? any idea why they were after you?"

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Glowstar sloshed out of the sewer, covering his nose and wishing it would adapt to the stench. "Yeah. I don't even know how on Earth you clean morphic molecules. I mean, can you dry-clean them? Is there a solvent I can use?" His speech was cut off when they heard the groaning metal falling from above, and his head snapped around to see the sign falling. He gathered his energy up -- only to be beaten to the punch by Wisp's faster reactions. "Nice job," he observed, examining her energy shield. "Let's see who's responsible for this, shall we?"

Tendrils of black-red energy wrapped around the metal letters and dragged behind Glowstar as he flew up to the building's roof. "Excuse me," he said, "but trash pick-up isn't until Thursday. I'm going to have to fine you for littering."

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Wisp

Victoria strained her powers to maintain the barrier – her energy projection usually assumed a form way more volatile. The wall of energy crackled and fizzled as the metal and neon crashed into it, with thunderous noise and a rain of sparkles. She felt the stress of the object when minor cracks appeared where the letters impacted, but overall it held decently. She had bought enough time for the crowd to get away from under the falling objects – which was a good thing, since she wouldn’t be able to hold the energy in solid form for long.

Glowstar

Brian had hoped to surprise the saboteur with his sudden and snarky appearance, but the rooftop was empty, filled with noise from the heaters’ vents and the humming of the large electricity lines powering the remaining letters. A quick exam revealed that the support for the two fell letters had been neatly cut, with a blowtorch or something similar. Unluckily, the combination of weird lighting and dirt on the rooftop made it impossible for the young hero to find any kind of tracks leading away from the scene of the sabotage.

Synth

The man finished checking that every bone was in its place, then answered Synth: “Oh, you know how this things go… lots of money circulate in this places, people get greedy – no need to worry about the reason, really – don’t want to bore you! I’m… I’m sure they learned their lesson, yes.†he cleaned off the street-dirt from his suit, then he tried to smile confident at Synth, but his face assumed only a funny grimace due to a large bruise on his cheekbone.

“What do you say I repay you by taking you to the Golden Calf tonight? I just so happen to have two tickets for William the Wonder! Ever seen one of its shows? He’s great! C’mon, what do you say? A couple of drinks, a show… it’s the less I can do, don’t you think?†he waved two tickets at the girl, in a tempting way.

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“Oh, you know how this things go… lots of money circulate in this places, people get greedy – no need to worry about the reason, really – don’t want to bore you! I’m… I’m sure they learned their lesson, yes.What do you say I repay you by taking you to the Golden Calf tonight? I just so happen to have two tickets for William the Wonder! Ever seen one of its shows? He’s great! C’mon, what do you say? A couple of drinks, a show… it’s the less I can do, don’t you think?â€

Why not? Synth asked herself. She had wanted to explore a little of Freedom City nightlife, but had no money to do so.

She took the two tickets and inspected them. "Thank you very much, I shall try and come" she said by way of courtesy. "I haven't see William the Wonder, no, but it sounds very interesting".

There was something about the man that seemed...well, a bit deceptive, but not malign. Something that set her teeth on edge slightly. But for all that he was friendly enough, and she could certainly handle herself - nothing to be frightened of.

"I guess I'll see you there, Mister....?" she finished, trying to get his name.

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Wisp watched the two giant letters made of neon tubes and steel collide into her light blue energy barrier, sending spider webbing cracks throughout the transparent construct. Well, those extra training sessions certainly paid off, she mentally grunted. Aloud she yelled, "Everyone, please move in a calm and orderly fashion out from under the debris! These things are really, really heavy."

Looking around her red on black eyes scanned the area to make sure people followed her instructions. With a heavy sigh she dropped the improvised barrier before teleporting out of the impact zone once everyone was safely out of the way.

Reappearing in cloud of her bi-colored smoke she took a minute to catch her breath and wipe the sweat from the exertion from her eyes.

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Synth

“I’m Lewis. Lewis Beck.†he held out his hand, but before Synth could shake it he realized it was covered in blood and dirt from the street “Sorry.†he cleaned it on a handkerchief.

“So, you’ve never even heard of the man? His face is on every poster around here! Oh, he’s great! I swear I’ve seen him do and know things I never believed possible. And 100% human, you know? No crazy mutant-precog genes, he’s like us!†they walked out of the alley and back in the massively neon-lit Boardwalk. “The Calf is just two blocks away. Yeah, you can already see the crowd… I bet William just arrived!†he smiled a crooked smile, meant to be cool but coming off just as trying too hard. “So, I told you mine… what do you call yourself?â€

Wisp (& Glowstar, if he's listening)

A thunderous sound of applause and whistles greeted Wisp’s stunt as the two letters crashed safely far away from the crowd. Superheroing might be mundane in Freedom City, but people were still amazed in front of the most spectacular actions.

From the crowd emerged a tall man, in a tailor-made white suit and a burgundy scarf fashionably draped on his shoulders. “Amazing, absolutely amazing.†He had a large smile and kept clapping as he closed the distance between himself and Wisp “We truly are blessed with the most amazing heroes in this city.†As he got close to the heroine, the camera flashes and red dots of recording cameras multiplied “The fine people of Freedom went to see my show, but you surely gave them a tasty appetizer, didn’t you?â€

He positioned himself so that both him and the heroine were facing the largest amount of cameras possible. He put forward his hand trying to grab Wisp’s in a politician handshake. “I am William. Yes, that William†he pointed at a large billboard publicizing the

WILLIAM THE WONDER WIZARDRY SHOW!

Illusions, hypnosis and incredible predictions for all the family!

with his ten-feet face smiling on the golden background. “I would love to have you and your costumed partner as honor guests tonight! I won’t take no for an answer, you saved my life with your powers, it is only fair that I entertain you with mine!â€

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Name?

"Synth" Replied Synth, hoping the man didn't inquire any further. She Galt oblidged to give him some response, and it was the closest thing she had to a name. She was not able to even think about lying.

Perhaps, she reflected, she ought to acquire a more regular name... Or at least one that would not invite unwanted attention.

Instead, she pressed ahead with a vigorous stride towards the show. Hopefully that would distract the man. As she approached, she caught sight of the spectacular display.

Very..distracting...she thought.

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Glowstar sighed as he landed. There was never anyone around to hear when he came up with a really good quip. Pushing aside his annoyance, he landed and examined the cut struts, close up. This didn't look like any kind of rush job; someone had sat up here and worked for a goodly while at this. That meant that whoever had done had done with malice aforethought, as the legal saying went, and that they knew when there would be a big crowd beneath the sign. A pretty sick puppy, in other words.

His powers wrapped around him again as he lifted off and drifted towards the ground and towards Wisp. "Hey, Wisp. I think it's pretty safe to say that... um, hello?" He put his head to the side as he looked the stage magician up and down. "Uh, hi. I'm Glowstar, and she's Wisp. Are you okay?"

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Wisp & Glowstar

“Am I okay? I’m fantastic, in no small part thanks to you and your stunning companion, young man!†William’s smile, if possible, grew even wider as he grabbed Glowstar and pulled him closer; putting each arm around the shoulder of a hero, he stood winking in the middle, the cameras and recording smartphone going crazy.

“So, what do you say? Freedom’s finest deserve the finest show their city can offer and that, all modesty aside, is about to begin, with yours truly! And all these people you saved†he waved in front of himself “will be so excited to share this magical evening with their heroes! Come on, you can’t say no to such an offer!†the crowd cheered loudly at this little speech; William waved some more at them, then turned to the entrance of the casino, gently pushing the heroes with himself, stopping every three steps to smile at a camera or sign an autograph.

Synth

“Just one name, eh? Like Prince, or Cher… I like it!†the shapeshifting hero and her chaperone got closer to the crowd and caught several glimpses of William a tall man finely dressed with a smile too large to be true. He and two costumed heroes were drowning in camera flashes as the crowd slowly got into the casino.

“It’s going to be a while until the shows really starts, he has to get ready and that incident with the superheroes will probably slow down stuff.†he pointed at the bar “What do you say if I buy you a drink in the meantime?â€

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Synth

What do you say if I buy you a drink in the meantime?â€

"Are you sure you are able to go?" said Synth we genuine concern "isn't it better to seek medical aid? after those men attacked you?"

She scrutinized the man once more. It was true, all that were visible were a few light knocks, nothing serious. Although it was more than possible that the man had some internal injury or broken bones. She knew a fair amount of anatomy, but short of x-ray vision, there was no real way of knowing.

Still, if he said he was ok...

"Thankyou. I'll have whatever you think is exciting to drink. I don't go bars much, so give me something tasty and strong!" she said with some enthusiasm.

"And thank you for your generousity!" she added, oblivious to the social connotations of drink-buying.

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Wisp inwardly grimaced when William came over and start posturing for the cameras. However, she put on her friendliest face and shook the magician's hand. "I do what I can, my teammate and I were just in the right place at the right time tonight."

She smiled as Glowstar landed nearby, "Seems we've been invited to William's show for tonight," she said before they found themselves being ushered towards the front door of the Golden Calf. As much as she wanted to get home, grab a shower and study for her history test on Monday she knew leaving now would be a public relations nightmare.

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As the minutes passed, all of the red-and-black velvet seats in the built-in theatre of the Golden Calf got occupied. Synth could see some people of the age she chose to assume, but mostly the audience was composed by middle-and-older age couples and families. Lewis accompanied her to two fairly central seats: he was still trying to start an ongoing joke, sprinkling the conversation with veiled compliments, but was getting frustrated with the unfazable and unreadable response that Synth provided.

On the other hand, Glowstar and Wisp were given front row seats and got offered drinks: evidently the casino patron thought that if you were of age to fight crime, you could handle a bit of alcohol.

The show was well-constructed, mixing high-end illusions with hypnosis tricks and prophecies born of cold readings. All in all, the show was less boring than one could expect: the one downside was Patricia, the red-headed assistant in the 50’s pin-up costume, who was clumsy and lacked any chemistry with the showman.

At the half-hour point, William the Wonder took up a microphone and got close to the first row “I sense… I sense…†he repeated his routine for introducing one of his “propheciesâ€, and got close to Glowstar “We have a birthday coming up… isn’t that right, young man! Yes, our fine hero, and a fine Aquarius too: a free spirit, and a futurist with a rational mind, I bet. So young, and yet already a hero! Is it a family business, I bet?†he gazed into Glowstar’s alien-looking eyes, trying to read his reaction to guide his guesses.

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Glowstar followed the magician's assistant to the front row and took his seat, adjusting his half-cape so it didn't get caught between his back and the seat back, choking him. He took the proffered drink and sipped it -- once. The alcohol in it made him choke and he set it aside, looking at it like it had betrayed him. So that's what a rum and coke tasted like, then? Why in the world would anyone want a second?

He sat back and watched the show, applauding at the tricks and laughing at the patter. The man was rather good at his job, even if he came off as rather abrasive one-on-one. The teen was surprised when the magician singled him out for a 'psychic' reading, though. He was even more surprised when the man was right on the money -- or nearly so, anyway. Glowstar squirmed in his seat slightly as he replied. "Well, my birthday is on the twenty-sixth, so it's close, yeah. I don't know what my astrological sign is. Being a hero is... not exactly in the family, no."

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“Ah, but I sense extraordinary individuals in this young champion’s past…†William had great showmanship, managing to capture the crowd’s attention even when mystically whispering into the mike “There are superheroes soaring through the cosmos with your father, but they are not with him, THEY ARE FIGHTING HIM!†Glowstar widening’s eyes and a clenching in his jaw confirmed the showman that he had hit a spot. The crowd gasped in amazement to the revelation “So are our young Aquarius! They rebel from their parents, for good or bad! Be warned you parents… you may have a rough customer!†he swirled back upon the stage “What other secrets do our crowd holds, let’s see, something… something a bit more happy, maybe!â€

William proceeded by guessing that a young man will propose to his girlfriend that night, prediction quickly followed by a super trooper spotlight pointing right at a 20-something couple. The man was a bit startled, but then shrugged, clapped at the magician with a smile and got a ring from out of his pocket. The girl said yes and the crowd cheered once more.

“Very well… and now let’s see if we can do something for our clumsy Patricia, tonight!†he scolded his assistant with a fake smile, hiding his true resentment. “What do you say if we make her disappear?â€

He then brought onto the stage a large metal ring holding a white silk veil. Patricia stepped inside, William raised the ring around her and started his routine of gestures.

The light changed, the music drifted into a low drumroll and William dropped the ring.

Patricia wasn’t there anymore.

But someone else was.

It was a short man dressed in a flamboyant costume that seemed made out of nightsky. He pointed with a dramatic gesture at William “Taurus, ascendant Pisces! Don’t leave your house on the 20th, avoid crowds, it is not a good day for your job! You call yourself an expert in reading the stars? You openly disrespect their advice! YOU ARE NOT WORTHY OF THE TITLE!â€

zodiacus2.png

A dark cloud gathered above the strange man’s head, condensing into an ethereal-looking lion’s head. A mighty roar filled the theatre, and a wave of terror grasped the people’s heart – including those of the heroes. People started fleeing, crying in fear, pushing each other out of the way in an attempt to flee the source of panic.

Lewis grabbed Synth's arm as he ran away "Come, girl! That ain't no two-bit thug! Run!"

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Glowstar gritted his teeth at the magician's reveal and resisted the urge to pop him in his smarmy mouth. He sometimes bemoaned having villains for parents, but that's because they were his parents. This guy waltzing around, talking about folks he didn't even know, made the teenager want to do violence to someone. He sat through the rest of the act in ill-humor, picking apart the patter and the prestidigitation. He kept up a muttered commentary to Victoria about smoke and mirrors and how Etain's illusions would blow this guy away, fully invested in hating the rest of the evening.

When the older man with the soul patch and the purple cape showed up, it was a refreshing change. He stood up, a grin on his face -- until the lion's roar shook through his body and soul, leaving him less confident of his ability to handle this enemy. In fact, he was having trouble standing upright! He floated into the air and moved towards the back of the theater, flying above the heads of the crowd.

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Lewis grabbed Synth's arm as he ran away "Come, girl! That ain't no two-bit thug! Run!"

Synth stood up from the seat with snake-like speed, staring aghast at the performance. Something about the combination of sights and sounds hit her, like she had never been hit before - a powerful surge of adrenaline, cold, sweaty palms, and pure, unrefined fear.

Synth was not unemotional - indeed, in some ways she was more emotional, having the same responses as humans but undiluted by experience. She came across as calm, serene almost, because her brain was just efficient and well organised, her emotional responses completely integrated with her thought.

So whilst day to day life went smoothly, these visceral emotions - they could overwhelm her. And deep within her she experienced the desire to flee...like a primitive hominid.

Without a word she turned, grabbing Lewis with a steely arm, and dragging him away at top speed, vaulting over chairs and tables as she did.

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While the crowd run away in terror trampling each other, the short caped man grinned, accentuating his impish features. The sight of a hero in retreat galvanized him even more.

“Run, you foolish boy, run!†he mocked Glowstar “The stars told me that this man, this pathetic charlatan†he pointed at a trembling William, cornered on the stage “should have stayed away tonight, but he, who calls himself an expert – HA! an expert – he dared make a show. He dared fight Fate!†he quickly covered the distance between him and William, and grabbed him by the neck with his left hand “And you did it too, when you saved him the first time!†shouted at the fleeing Glowstar, apparently forgetful of Wisp.

“Now let’s try to correct that…†Zodiacus lifted William using just the one arm (with surprising ease for such a small man). As the dark silhouette of a crab appeared, similar to the lion that just a few moments before terrorized everyone, William mustered up enough courage to ask “What have you done to Patricia, you bast…†before the madman threw him up in the air, against the ceiling.

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The roar of the spectral lion left Vicky a little uneasy as she looked upon the show's interruption. He didn't look particularly imposing and she focused on that as she focused through the attempted assault on her mind.

Wisp watched as Zodiacus hefted the fortune teller and flung him towards the rafters. Okay, little guy, lots strength, Wisp mentally groused to herself before she let her scarlet eyes track William's path. In a plume of her red and white smoke, she vanished from where she had been seated with Glowstar, reappeared in midair to catch William, and teleported them both to a recently vacated section of showroom. Giving him a slight shove she said, "Get out of here. Call the police, tell them what's going on." When he stood still for a minute she all but shouted, "GO!"

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Synth let go of Lewis, shaking her head and body. The whole joint seemed to smell of panic and fear.

She had no idea what was going on, but it seemed dangerous enough. The man on the stage, whose melodramatic speech she had caught, seemed to the be the gravitational centre of the panic. She had to stop him...

Her body felt slick with cold sweat and she could feel the adrenaline in her body, her brain screaming to run.

Or fight.

Concentrating for an instant, Synth mobilised her remarkable synthetic cells, prompting them to divide and mobilise at fantastic speeds. She felt her legs and arms swell, splinter, and change, into something more than human, but somehow human all the same.

Spinning round, she reached out for the show stopper, who was a good few dozen feet away. But she didn't stop - her arms pumped full of stem cells reached...and reached, growing across the room to reach their target...

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Glowstar was almost out of the theater when he turned around and saw that neither Wisp nor the magician were retreating. He swore and spun in the air, zooming back over the seats, rising higher and higher until he was above the lighting rig. "Big round of applause for our guest magician tonight, folks," he called out. The teen channeled his energy and brought two large, ruddy hands into existence. "Clap 'em like this!" Miming bringing his hands together, the energy mitts grabbed at the interloper.

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Everyone

The villain dodged Synth’s elongated punch with grace, swirling his half-cape, even if he was a bit surprised to see a commonly-dressed girl join the heroes “So we have another star in our sky! It seems that nobody respects the Fate anym…†he couldn’t finish his speech that Glowstar’s construct was upon him. Enclosed under the energy barrier appearing all around him, Zodiacus yelled in anger “You meddling kids! Headstrong, and cocky, like all Aquarius!†his dark aura changed shape once more; it became a giant ram, and as Zodiacus’s fist crashed into the energy construct, so did the ram’s horns.

Wisp

Before running away, William the Wonder grabbed Victoria’s arm “Patricia†he said, with bloodshed eyes “what has he done with her? That madman… please… please bring her back to me!†he struggled for another moment, then the terror got a hold of him and he too fled the theatre with the crowd.

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