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Fall 2020 

Lucy the Elephant

Margate City, NJ 

 

In retrospect, Ashley's mistake was in letting herself think that today was going to be a good day. The trip out to Margate City was the sort of thing that many Claremont students might have balked at as being just kids stuff, but it had been just the right thing for her charge and the teens she worked with. Lucy the Elephant had stood proud and tall in Margate City since 1882, at least until a recent act of super-vandalism had left it tagged with various sorts of obscene graffiti, the Tag Gang having made their escape before the local police could arrive. 

 

The chance to send out some super-teens in costume to show the nice people of Margate City that teenagers weren't so bad, and could actually help clean up what their peers had wrought, was just about perfect - especially once a little check from the Secret Service revealed that the Tag Gang really had moved on to much more interesting pictures than a seaside New Jersey town. Blue Squad had spent the day doing various things; cleaning the inside and outside of the elephant, cleaning up the broken glass from the tavern window nearby, straightening up the museum inside the elephant that told the long and rich story of a 138 year old wood and tin elephant. 

 

Watchdog and Daystar had spent the day mostly working inside the elephant, letting the more photogenic members of the team talk to the local press that had stopped by to take advantage of the rarity of super-teens stopping by. You could see the skyscrapers of Freedom City if you looked out Lucy's eye across the water; but this place still seemed miles away. The local Jaycees had brought snacks and somebody had put on some music that had been old when Ashley was younger - and honestly - things had been pretty good.

 

"I've been washed," sang Judy softly, almost under her breath, as she helped Ashley mount the new bulletproof windows in Lucy's butt, "I've been washed in the blood of the Lamb..." Daystar had been powered up most of the day, a pleasant rainbow glow, and Watchdog's armor was actually just about right for the Jersey Shore in September. 

 

 

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Forever Boy

 

Washing and cleaning things were honestly not Pan's idea of a good time. He had tried to get out of it at first, but... well, that elephant. That marvelous monstrous elephant. Once he saw it, it was love at first sight. He really had no other way of explaining it. He could not let it stay in this state, could he? Vandalism was such a petty thing, not even a proper prank.

 

He had spent the day in full costume. Greens, whites and reds, domino mask and smile firmly in place as he worked, stopping at every opportunity to talk to the local press as they showed up. Any excuse to do less work, after all.

 

Such as right now, where he was hovering a bit above the ground, grinning widely at the older gentleman in suit, tie and fedora that really seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else but here. "Why, yes, of course we had to come to help. There is much more to being super heroes than just fighting bad guys!" He left out about the part about adventure and how boring all this was, but of course, who could blame him?

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Chelone was working outside as well, partly because her bright shell was a nice visual image for the worried citizens of the town, and partly because said bright shell kept bumping into things in the narrow confines of the elephant's insides. Besides, the "intestinal pink" of the walls, as the enthusiastic caretaker had described them, were sort of grossing her out. Wielding a scrub brush was easy work that didn't require speed or agility. In fact, going slow and paying attention to details was an asset when it came to scrubbing the nasty graffiti off each brightly colored elephant toenail in turn. Down on all fours to work on toes, she was almost completely obscured by her own shell and looked substantially more like a real tortoise than usual. 

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Eventually it was near the end of the day and the heroes were almost done with their work, enough that the sky overhead was just beginning to darken, and Ashley could think good thoughts about the Claremont van that was going to take them back home shortly. Then the weather turned. Out on the coast you see storms coming from the sea twenty miles away, but from land things can be trickier. The dark cloud that passed over the city was big and black, shot through with sparks of lightning that flashed silently against the dimming afternoon light. When it settled over the coast, there was a loud noise and a clap of thunder - and then the rain came, wet and thick, driving the tourists back inside buildings or at least under heavy umbrellas. 


"Well this isn't such a bad way to end the day," said Daystar encouragingly as they stood under the shelter of Lucy's torso with Chelone, the two of them having come out after lunch to help Danica with the painstaking work of outside cleaning. "At least we're all under shelter." A cold wind was coming in, but as usual that didn't seem to bother the rainbow-glowing teen. 

 

"Mm," Watchdog grunted, looking at her phone. "Came up too fast for my liking. Nobody known for weather bullsh*t is on the loose right now, though." She set down the phone and called out, slightly muffled by her bright red helmet. "Hey Forever Boy! We're under here!" She'd spotted Pan hard at work that day and had admit she was grateful to him, with Pan around, nobody had wanted to do any particular investigation of any of the two teens who were spending most of their time inside the elephant. 

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Benny had on a broad brimmed hat to shield out the sun, and he had stripped down out of his normal attire, wearing a t-shirt version of the outfit, without his normal Letterman's jacket, but with work gloves. And he wasn't as outgoing as the rest, or as immediately affable, he was a genial guy and didn't mind doin' his Boy Scout duty at washing the thing. He was fairly fearless in standing on the elephant, and with Pan he could get to most any spot on the the thing lickety split, and he could hold himself with those big gorilla gorilla arms.

He was also danged earnest, and would cheerfully deflect inquiries, and had no issues jumping and scrambling over the big thing.  He did pick up what was being thrown as the wind changed, and he frowned, before he slide down the sloping belly of the fake elephant, and did an artful, if effortless seeming flip as he dropped down, landing into a crouch and then a roll that carried him back up to his feet. "'ey yo."

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The dark clouds and rain came suddenly. When Pan had felt the first drops, he had not cared much, but now? Now it was something else entirely. What was that saying he had heard here? When it rains, it pours? It seemed fitting. 

 

He was under Lucy in a matter of seconds, water flying off him as he came to an abrupt stop. Still dripping wet and soaked, he was grinning nonetheless, looking to Ashley. "You called?"

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"Oh, it's not so bad," Danica said cheerfully, finishing off her last elephant toenail with an oversized toothbrush. "Usually the rain that comes in off the ocean is cold and nasty, but this is nice." She tipped her head back to feel the rain on her green-tinted face, then frowned a bit. "Really nice, actually. It's like bathwater. Does that seem weird to anybody else?" 

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Watchdog walked out from under the elephant just long enough to stick her hand out in the rain, drops falling on the uncovered stretch of wrist between her jacket and her glove. "That is warm," she growled, "I don't like it. Daystar, you should get inside." 

 

"Watchdog, it's just some rain," said Daystar, sounding a little tired as lightning flashed in the dark, dark clouds overhead towering impressively over the small city skyline of Margave City. "Ah don't think it's going to hurt me unless it's from Venus or something, and then Oh My Lord, look!" She pointed upwards at what at first looked like nothing but a cloud moving inside the cloud overhead, until the heroes realized exactly what they were looking at. 

 

A huge ship, easily as large as the WWII battleship moored offshore at the nearby museum, was swooping down out of the cloud, no, at the _center_ of the cloud overhead, and was swinging down directly over their position - directly over them and the elephant! 

 

"Daystar, get out!" said Ashley without hesitation, grabbing her glowing arm as the ship swooped in overhead, its shadow casting the area around the elephant on the boardwalk (and several blocks on either side into darkness. A distinct glowing cone was now emanating from its belly, encompassing the elephant and all who stood beneath it. 

 

"Ah...ah can't!" declared Judy. 

 

"Yes you can-"No Ah mean Ah can't, something's blocking it!" 

 

And then a voice from overhead, booming loud enough it must have made windows shake all over the small town said: 

"ATTENTION HUMANS! IF YOU WANT YOUR GOD RETURNED, SURRENDER YOUR GOLD TO THE KRAKEN ALLIANCE!" and the flash of light grew infinitely bright for just a moment - 

 

And then they were elsewhere. Or rather, elsewhere was with them, because they were still under the elephant and the nearby hotel was standing by, but above them and all around was a big, metal-walled room that curved overhead just big enough to include the half a city block or so that had come with them. They were caught! 

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Benny was used to the overprotectiveness of the older sibling. Though, he did the math a bit, and if Judy was a... Eh, probably means the boss just allowed it cause of reasons. This ain't a normal school after all, he thought glancing over to Pan and Danica.

"Yeah, rain's not too bad." His internalized eternal optimism showing sunny on his broad, blunt features. Let it never be said that Benny was a sourpuss after all.

 

Then, alien abduction happened, and he immediately sprinted to be closer to the team, and to pick people up and jump away if need be. The last big was a half spin as he cleared the sisters and tried to basically present his back as a target... not that his enthusiastic efforts meant much as they went elsewhere.

 

"Ah, crud! Not again!" 

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"That is new." Pan stared up at the cloud within the cloud that was not a cloud at all when it was pointed out. His voice was a mix of awe and excitement. A giant ship, flying in the air. "It kind of reminds me of home, in a way." 

 

The glowing cone of light that surrounded them were something else, though. Something that was not nearly exciting. He started to move, flying up, towards the ship... and then they were gone, before he managed to get more than a few feet. Pan came to a complete stop, never even leaning the others. 

 

He stared at the sky, the big metallic dome, and the parts of the city that were still with them, and he sighed. "Oh... What is the phrase? I do not think we are in California anymore, yes?"

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"Close enough," Danica assured Pan, staring around in awe. "And nice job on the cultural reference anyway. I'm thinking maybe 'we're gonna need a bigger boat' for a followup." She reached into her shell and pulled out a fluffy blue towel, quickly scrubbed off her face and arms, then held it out for anybody else who'd gotten too wet for comfort. "At least they were nice enough to bring my wheels with us. Anybody want to lay odds on us having at least one running chase coming up?" She was grinning, trying to project confidence despite the nerves of yet another field trip gone awry. It wasn't as though she wasn't used to it after all these years, but ending up in space was a bit further from home than normal! 

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A brightly-glowing Daystar looked from one hero to another, and when she spoke her resonant voice was awash with alarm. "Aliens!? We got kidnapped by aliens? How can you be so calm?" Inside her glowing persona, it did not sound like Judy was very calm about it at all. 

 

Watchdog put a hand on her arm, then an arm around her. "It's okay. It's okay. We're going to get out of this, and we're going to get back home. Besides, aliens aren't so bad, right?" The hug, and the words, seemed to calm Judy, and after a moment or two they stepped aside - Judy glowing, Ashley drawing her sidearm. Well her laser pistol, anyway. "Sound off. What can you see?"

 

"Um, we're in a big room," said Daystar, peering up at the ceiling. "And there's...there's lots of radio chatter," she said. "Ah don't understand any of it because they're not speaking English, but Ah can hear what sounds like music, and people talking to each other, and oh Lord that should _not_ be on the radio..." Her shimmering rainbow colors rippled for a moment before she added, fear edging her voice "Ah can't hear anything from Earth at all." 

 

"That's okay," said Watchdog, "we may just be in a big box. That's probably why you couldn't teleport back. All right, I've got the same radio chatter," she said, voice slightly muffled by her helmet. "Big room - bigger than it needs to be," she said, looking up at the ceiling. "If this is that ship that was flying overhead, this has to be a significant piece of that ship we saw. Maybe this thing mostly hauls cargo...?" Ashley was doing her best here. 

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"It's awfully humid for a spaceship," Danica remarked, "and pretty hot, too. So they might be from a planet where atmospheric conditions are like that, maybe?" She shrugged. "All we really know is that they're capable of some kind of stealthing and they're like, super dumb. Who comes to a planet without even doing their homework and steals an elephant statue because they think it's a god? And if they wanted gold, why didn't they just ask a matter creator for it? Mark Lucas came to my class one time at Nicholson and turned a desk to gold so we could use it for a science experiment. It's not even hard!" She looked more put out at the idea of being kidnapped by stupid aliens than afraid. 

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"The writing is on the wall," Pan stated. He sounded amused at the entire experience. "That one," he pointed to one side, "says: Watch out, cargo door." With a brief pause, he pointed to the other side of the room. "And that one says exit."

 

He looked around, he seemed distracted. "This all feels very familiar. Do the space of your world have pirates?"

 

He still seemed distracted, looking around. His eyes focused on a flying thing, a little robot that whirred around. His lips split into a smile. He nodded towards it, and his shadow came loose from his feet, flying towards the little robot to try and engulf it.

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Dragged down below, the thing blinked a few times and tried to pull away from the entangling shadow - before Watchdog came up behind it and shot it through the body in a single flash of ruby-red laser light. Shot through the midsection, the little drone fell to the ground and its lights went out, Ashley nodding with satisfaction. "Good catch," she complimented Pan. "This way it won't track us." She considered for a minute, weighing the extent of her knowledge, then said diffidently, "Well, uh, Chelone, there's a lot going on in near-Earth space right now. The Lor government is still stretched thin after the Incursion, and a lot of aliens who don't know much about Earth think this is the perfect time to count coup and hit the place with all the demigods." She hadn't really been paying attention to anything other than Fa'Rua's hands on her feet the last time she'd heard anything about space...which luckily the kids didn't need to know anything about. She didn't seem excited or afraid, just - resigned. 

 

"I...oh! No, can you hear me?" Daystar was exclaiming out loud, then she looked at the others, backing away into the shadow of the nearby elephant. "I just...I just heard a voice talking to _me_." She gabbled nervously, stumbling over her words. "It said 'I'm sorry, I didn't know you were there. I'll take care of the others and then we can talk.'" Sure enough, there was the distant rumbling sound of metal sliding against metal near where Pan had pointed out the exit sign; peering that way, the heroes could make out a dimly-lit corridor behind, and a trio of alien figures entering the cargo bay, talking to each other in clicking tones. 

 

Gods what a day said the one on the right, her red outfit tight and leathery over her reptilian skin. This had better have been worth all that time on silent running. 

 

Jubat don't worry about it, said the other reptile on the far left, we'll scan the prize, make sure there's a good holo for the boss, and then get some meat! 

 

The one who didn't speak at first was in the middle; a slim, furry and vaguely wolfen-looking fellow. Turn on the translator, would you? With a sigh, Jubat did just as the Wolfman asked, reaching over to hit a panel on the wall. 

 

"Why are you so interested in talking, Lon?" she asked, the first thing anyone other than Pan could understand. "You expecting the idol to talk?" 

 

"Well you never know," said the wolf, smiling mysteriously (and toothily) as the cargo door closed behind them. "Let's get to work." 

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"Well, hopefully that wasn't one of the crew," Danica said dubiously, observing the very deceased remains of the robot. "Probably not, right? I mean, do robots go to space? I don't think we're supposed to kill kidnappers unless it's like... really important." She looked relieved to hear voices and see humanoid shapes in the doorway. "Okay, nevermind, we're probably good." 

 

Climbing onto her Segway, she rolled towards the trio of newcomers. "Hi!" She called, keeping her hands in view on the handlebars. "I think you picked us up by mistake when you grabbed our tourist attraction. It's okay though, if you put us all back right away, the adult superheroes won't even get upset and I bet we can help you get some gold." 

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"That seemed a bit excessive, did it not? And why not? I am sure that Eira has been to space once or twice." Pan winced at the remains of the robot, before turning his attention to the newcomers. Danica was already approaching, so he took the chance to lean closer to Ashley to whisper. "They were talking scanning a prize and having some meat."

 

Then he was off, flying by Danica, his feet gliding lightly over the ground. "Hello, hello! What rings you fine gentlebeings to the Earth? Is there any chance I could interest you in some food? I am sure we can find a good restaurant somewhere close by! We can sit and have a chat about everything that is going on here."

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Watchdog stepped back into the shadows with the glowing rainbow that was Daystar, knowing full well she couldn't actually conceal herself nearby but trusting that Judy's presence would give her enough cover to take out the cannibal pirates. She raised her guns, and then - 

 

"Ah by the stars, it's a bunch of kids!" said Jubat, sounding more annoyed than amused. "Why would you idiots just stand there under a teleporter?" she demanded of Pan. "We have plenty of food," she added, "we're not some vagrant 'fugee ship." 

 

"Oh be nice," hissed Lefty the reptile, who did sound amused. "The teleporter works so fast, they probably had no idea what it was." He smiled toothily at Pan and Danica, then his eyes lit up as he focused on the latter. "Hey, look at this one Jubat, she's some sort of reptoid fusion. Hello there, little one! Did we take you away from your clutchmates? I'm sorry; we'll have you back soon." 

 

For his part, Lon seemed to focus where Watchdog and Daystar were concealing themselves back in the shadows, narrowing his eyes and snuffing the air with his black-nosed snout, but relaxed visibly when the two of them stepped out from concealment. He seemed to watch Judy especially carefully as Watchdog carefully put away her guns. "Better call Cap'n Rex," he said, turning around and padding towards a panel on the wall. 

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"That's exactly how it happened!" Danica agreed. "One minute we were cleaning the old elephant statue, the next minute it was pouring rain from a clear blue sky! We ran to get out of the rain, and suddenly 'zoop!'" She enthusiastically mimed an elephant statue and a team of young superheroes being teleported into space. "I'm not sure why you wanted the elephant; I mean it's definitely cool and it's an historic landmark, but I'm not sure it's, um, actually _worth_ very much." She made an extremely winsome apologetic face. "But like I said, if you can put us back before anybody notices and gets mad, we can help you get whatever it is you're actually needing to get." 

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Benny was not a fan of that whole teleporting thing. A moment of no space, and then space, and it threw him off, like that other... Not the time!

Though once he focused, he waited for something. Those previous words still ringing in his ear, or at least his mind as the other more outgoing people. After a moment he followed after Danica and Pan. "Yo. Fellas," he started, spreading his hands slowly, palmed upturned, showing a universal sign of non-threatening, indicating he had no weapons, and wasn't in a position to really do anything (That was patently a lie, as everyone on the squad knew that Benny was fast enough that he was sudden). "Youse guys made a mistake, it happens, right? Right. Ain't nuthin' that matters, ain't no-one gonna tell anyone's grandma or boss or nuffin, right?"

He addressed the closest to him, keeping the Lon Cheney Jr. lookin' guy in the corner of them.
 

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Pan spread out his arms. "See, we can all be friends here. There is no need for any trouble, yes?" He approached the aliens, a wide smile on his lips, a shine in his eyes despite the mask he was wearing. "I am sure you have heard of the Earth. There is a lot of people here that could cause you trouble, entirely unlike us in every way, yes! It is probably a good idea to just put everything back before they start showing up, is it not?"

 

He gestured towards Danica. "So, are you really after that elephant? It does not seem like it is worth much, except the sweat on our brow! If you are looking for something else, we can help you, and get everything back in order before someone troublesome discovers you! So, please, what are you looking for? Let us help you!"

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"Yeah yeah," said Jubat dismissively, "Terra's full of crazy monsters who can punch a hole in a starship and wear Spectrum Knight armor. Kid, we've heard everything about that planet. Listen, we don't want a fight with whatever BS you have on your planet, we're just here to make our bones with the Kraken and get out." 

 

"Wait a minute," Ashley interjected, "as in Captain Kraken? The squid space pirate?"

 

"Better not call him that where you can hear it, Shouty!" said Jubat. "Grand Admiral Kraken put together this whole syndicate." 

 

For his part, Lon met Benny's gaze, sniffing him suspiciously, and stuck close to him as they headed through the corridors before whispering, "They don't know, do they? But I can tell just from the smell of you. Here I thought there was just one alien on your crew." 

 

The doors behind them slid open and revealed a small but homey room, adorned with crude-looking pictures of various sorts on the walls, some of them of reptilian-looking entities, some of them humanoid. There were about half a dozen small beings here of various sorts, watched over by what looked for all the world like a large anthropomorphic platypus, albeit one with green fur rather than the typical brown. The kids looked up and stared at the new arrivals, some looking worried, some interested. The still-glowing Judy blinked a few times, shaken out of her worries, and mouthed "...the platypus?" to a baffled-looking Ashley. 

 

"So this is where we keep the kids on the ship," Lefty the lizardman told Danica cheerfully, though he was obviously trying to disengage like a parent dropping a balky child off at school. "It's nice, we've got snacks, and games, and Porcus here knows a lot of crafts and stuff. If Jubat and I had kids, this is where we'd keep them."

 

Jubat snorted at that, adding, "You wish, pal."

 

"I think you'll have fun. And what a story this is gonna make for the other kids, huh?" Lefty spread his limbs wide. "Soon as we get the gold, we're on our way. There's tons of it on your planet anyway." 

 

"We are not children!" declared Ashley, sounding highly annoyed. 

 

"Who wants snacks!" called Porcus in a surprisingly deep voice, pulling a tray of big pyramidal fruit with lush red skin dotted with small seeds out of a slot on the wall. The kids looked very interested. 

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Danica was happy enough to roll along with the group, looking around curiously as they traveled through the ship. She'd been on lots of strange field trips but she'd never actually been to space before! It was kind of too bad that there was enough gravity to keep anything from floating around, but if she wanted to feel a zero-g environment she could always just ask Pan. She was more amused than annoyed at being escorted to the daycare, and a little relieved as well. A room full of the ship's own children was not a room where the pirates would come if they had violence on their minds. And there was fruit! Huge fruit of a sort that Danica had never seen before! 

 

Looking covetously towards the big plate, she offered "Can you give us a way to communicate with Earth? If we can tell them what you need, it'll probably help." Unable to resist, she wheeled over to the group of kids and picked up one of the giant berries. "It's the biggest strawberry in the galaxy," she murmured reverently. 

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"Oh, is it just gold you want?"

 

Pan reached into pants pocket, pulling out a nice fist-sized chunk of gold. A nice, uneven golden rock. He juggled it from one hand to the other, keeping it in motion while looking straight at Lefty and Jubat. 

 

"Why do you need this? I am sure I can find some more."

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"Ooh, gold!" It wasn't just the two pirates paying attention now; the gold seemed to get the attention of all the little kids, who were swarming around Pan as if he'd brought an exciting new treat. "Are you in the sindcut?" asked one little boy, his mouth already stuffed with the big strawberry-looking thing Danica was chewing on. The kids had been happy to share at the sight of the tortoise girl, getting in close and crowding around her, some reaching up to tentatively pat-pat-pat her shell. 

 

"Hah, well, that's very nice!" said Lefty, peering at the gold with great interest. "But there's gold on any planet that's had vulcanism, right? So we can go visit one of them if we just wanted any random gold." 

 

"So why do you want Earth's gold?" asked Judy, whose glowing was also getting the attention of the kids, though none with as much interest as Danica's. 

 

"Not _all_ of it!" declared Jubat, sounding annoyed, "where would we even put it? We just need enough of it to make our bones. Speaking of which, see you kids later!" And then the lizard people were gone, leaving just Lon and Benny at the door. 

 

"Here's you a commlink, kid," said Lon suddenly, tossing something from his belt to Danica that turned out to look like a small flipphone. "Better not call the cops, though." He grinned wolfishly, showing teeth. 

 

 

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