The "World of Heroes" DC RPG Season VIII

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The crisis averted, the Aquatic Ace returns to a once again peaceful Atlantica. However, there is still something he must deal with: making sure that Hagen and Triton willingly go back into their respective Atlantean cells instead of a most nasty possible alternative. In a way overriding Garth's authority as the current King, Orin told the two villains he would spare any dire punishment should they cooperate. Ocean Master, however, he gave no such luxury; he hadn't said anything really.

And it is his half-brother, Orm Marius, that he is truly worried about dealing with now that Darkseid's forces have been pushed back and defeated.

As the Marine Marvel enters the throne room, Garth lies on the throne with his son Cerdian on his lap and Dolphin sitting on the smaller throne to his side. Mera with baby Kym resting in her arms stands a few feet away with Artie Jr. and Kym from a parallel Earth standing just behind her looking over her shoulder at the infant; the elder Kym astonished the most looking at her own infant self.

Vulko approaches Orin as the former Sea King sees Hagen, Triton, and Ocean Master brought in from one of the chambers escorted by 6 Atlantean guards.

"Glad to have you back, Orin. We've been waiting for you. Garth figured seeing as Orm is your half-brother, was only right that you oversee his punishment."

"Understood and I appreciate the gesture. We can begin."

Walking down the aisle, the Marine Marvel nods at Garth who nods back with a stern look across his face and takes his place to the side of Mera. Adult Kym from a parallel Earth wraps her arms around her father, noticing he looks down at infant Kym and his heart never felt so warm.

All look to Garth, King of Poseidonis and more importantly the greater area of Atlantica in Atlantis. His run as King has been a most difficult one, but as a bystander watching his former mentor rule for as long as he did Garth knew what he could someday be getting himself into. In the end, this is something Garth had always wanted and made it clear. His passion for his people and the inhabitants of the greater regions of Atlantis is something no one could ever question: it is what makes him a great King.

"Rodunn, bring Orm Marius before me."

Obeying, the longtime friend of Orin and Garth and General brings Ocean Master before the audience. He does not throw him down like some rat or scum even though that is what he is, for he understands the delicacy of the subject given he is the half-brother of the former King of Atlantis.

"Orm, your hatred for Orin has led you to do foolish things, and fall for ridiculous stunts. But I never before had the chance to judge you. Your most recent actions, affected the very stability of everything I am trying to build for Atlantica. It affects everything I am trying to one day spread to the rest of Atlantis. Granted the true deceit and trickery behind this is on Hagen and Triton's shoulders, you were the trigger. Such raw power, yet subtle and hidden, is like a ticking bomb. A bomb I will not have ready to blow in Atlantean waters."

The Marine Marvel suddenly looks at Garth, imagining something horrible coming along the way. Garth was willing to execute Hagen and other prisoners. No. He could not possibly consider doing so with Ocean Master. Especially not when he wanted Orin's council to be present when he sentenced his punishment.

"There is a realm, however, where your chaotic and sporadic tendencies can be contained and controlled. There, your father Atlan will watch over you. As sovereign of his realm, and a sorcerer far more powerful than you, I can trust that you will be no longer a threat, and at the same time you get what decency I have left to not let you rot in a cell til the end of your days."

King Garth looks over to Orin who never stopped looking at him as he finished his sentence.

"How does that sentence sound to you, Orin?"

"Sounds just and fair."

The Marine Marvel looks at his half-brother who stares back with hateful eyes.

"Perhaps father will somehow be able to make you more humble. You should indeed consider yourself lucky, Orm. Because even I was hoping for a punishment far more excruciating."

"Then it is decided. I will personally escort Orm Marius to Atlan's realm and Triton and Hagen will be returned to this cells, Hagen released from his previous sentence of being executed as decreed by my mentor whose words will be respected. We are done here, you can all go."

As everyone exits, the Aquatic Ace with his family, Garth stops him as he calls out.

"Wait, Orin. Don't go just yet."

Turning around, Aquaman approaches Garth. Dolphin takes Cerdian from his lap and cradles him.

"You thought I was going to do something far worse, Orin?"

"Well, given the--"

"No, it's ok. I...I get it. I admit when I started making changes in Atlantean Law such as Public Execution I was a bit rash but more importantly...scared. Being King...hasn't been easy. But I wasn't scared about disappointing you, or Mera, or Vulko or...the very people of Atlantica. My worry family. More importantly my son. I guess this experience changed me and I remembered the type of king I always was hoping to one day be."


"I don't want my son living in a kingdom where his father is Judge, Jury, and Executioner. That's not the type of king I want to be."

Nodding, and embracing Garth in a hug, Aquaman bids the small family farewell and heads out the large throne room doors. Outside Mera, infant Kym, and Artie Jr. and Kym from another Earth await. Though, Artie Jr. stands in an uncomfortable manner which begs Orin to wonder why.

"Is something wrong?"

" what I felt just before we jumped Earths. A nauseous sort of feeling at the pit of my stomach. I think we are about to head home, sis."

"Yea I'm...starting to feel it too."

Orin mouths the word 'no' to himself though sound never makes itself present. He looks at his two children from another Earth, an Earth where Artie Jr. had never died, and he feels like he is losing him again.

"We could be transported back to our Earth any second now but I just want you to know, daddy, that on my Earth...I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything. I know that this Kym will feel the same--"

And then, the duo is gone.

Seconds pass, and Aquaman is silent. Mera comes up to him, and baby Kym reaches out her little arms wanting her daddy. The Aquatic Ace picks her up, and instantly smiles.

"Thank you, Kym."
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High above the Earth I look down at the various lights skittering across the skies on their way towards space. Mostly Reds, violets, a smattering of blues, and many, many greens.

But it is the yellow that I focus on.

I track them all with my ring, making sure that they follow my orders. Return to Qward and cease all violence against other Lantern Corps. I predict that very few of my troops enjoyed receiving either of those commands. Especially the second.

But I don't really care what any of them think at the moment. We just saved the universe. Literally. At a very high price. Now is not the time for more fighting. It is time for peace, however brief that may be.

I force myself to wait patiently as all the yellow lights finally disappear into hyperspace. Before long, only green lanterns remain. I can't say I'm surprised. Earth seems to be a strange focal point in the fabric of reality. And the Guardians don't like things they can't control. And if they can't control it, they don't want others to have it.

It's what they like to call 'protection'.

As night begins to fall over the hemisphere, all the other colored lights blink away except for those of the green lanterns...and my own.

Satisfied, I descend to the surface. My heart beats faster, but I push the anxiety aside. Anxiety is a manifestation of fear, and I control fear. It does not control me.

I'm quickly below the clouds, and approach the city of tomorrow. Metropolis isn't only home to this world's most powerful hero. In a manner of's my home too.


"Sam, put the spoons and forks on the table."

"K, mom!" the girl shouts happily. Samantha loves helping her mother. It makes her feel like a big girl. And her mother certainly appreciates it, although she still hopes her daughter doesn't grow up too fast.

Mary picks up a pair of plates, and turns to the stove...and promptly drops them on the floor as she grabs her mouth in shock.

"I said if I could find a way back to you...I would."

"Are...are you...real...?"

I take a step towards her, and she takes a step back away from me. I take another, and she tries to move back again, but the counter blocks her way. I step up next to her. She's shuddering visibly. I gently place me hand on her cheek and she inhales sharply.

"I'm real." I lean my head down and press my lips to hers. For an instant, she's too startled to react, but then she returns the kiss, and her body sags into mine as we hold each other tightly in our arms.

"Mommy. Did you break some-?" Samantha turns the corner and we look at her. The shock on her face makes her look exactly like her mother.

And then the shock turns into a huge smile.


I squat down and extend my arms. "Hi, Samantha." She runs up and nearly tackles me, squeezing me in a hug. I give her a small kiss on the side of her head. " I missed you too."

"...Sam...Sam...I can't breathe..."

Mary crouches down beside me. "I think you deserve it."

I smile. "I'm not fighting it."

"Are you hungry?"

"Starving." I finally separate myself from Samantha long enough to stand. Then she wraps her arms around my leg and holds tight again. "Some things never change."

Mary smiles at the sight of us. "I love you."

"I love you too. Now, both of you sit down at the table." Hands extend from my ring, gathering plates and utensils, while a brush begins sweeping up the shattered dishes. "I'll set the table."
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Sinestro is sitting down to dinner with a woman and a little girl. They're smiling, and happy. A family.

None of them see me standing outside, looking in. Following Sinestro without being detected was difficult, but it seems like it paid off. Because now I know. Now I know how to hurt him like he hurt me.

"You don't get to have a family, Sinestro," I mutter to myself, "Not after what you did. Actions have consequences..."

What will the consequences of mine be?

If there's one thing I genuinely don't like about what I do, it's the aftermath, the cleaning up after an enormous crisis like the one that had just passed. It's not repairing all the structural damage that I mind; in fact, part of me has always enjoyed fixing things, big or small. It's seeing the people who were hurt that gets to me.

There's always an amount of triumph mixed in with the tragedy, but to me it's never enough. For every one person who found new courage in the face of ultimate horror, there are a hundred who will never walk again. For every tearful reunion with a missing loved one, there are thousands who learn that their parents or children or husbands or wives won't be coming back. Rebuilding and repairing a flattened city is easy compared to rebuilding a ruined life.

And every one of them, every man who can't dance with his wife because he's confined to a wheelchair now, every child who's been made an orphan, everyone whose homes have been obliterated, all have one thing on their mind when they see me:

"Why didn't you stop this?"

When you can do the things that I can do, when you're as fast and as powerful as I am, you can take every needless death or injury personally. Because even though I can be anywhere on the planet in a hundredth of the time it takes to blink, I can't be in multiple places at once. Which means that it becomes an awful matter of time management, judging whether going out of my way to save one person will endanger even more people somewhere else.

Before I left Earth, there was a protest group called KRYPTONITE, that claimed that people got maimed and killed during attacks like these because I simply didn't care enough to save everyone. The truth of the matter is that I care about everyone, but don't have the luxury of picking favorites. As horrible as it is, in situations like this, people get hurt because I have to choose not to save them.

This time, though, I could have actually done it. I could have erased everything that happened, and prevented all this needless tragedy from ever happening. I had conjoined with the Source, and could literally manipulate everything.

Everything, from the rise and fall of massive intergalactic nations, right down to the DNA structure of a single person in a single spot in time, can be altered if I want it.

Did I do the right thing by letting it all go? Did I even actually leave everything back the way it was? I know that was my conscious intention, but subconsciously, in the back of my head....did I change something without even knowing it?

I wish I had more time to think about these things, but right now I've got work to do.

There's a fire in Osaka that's threatening three or four residential blocks. I extinguish the brunt of it with a gust of Arctic breath, careful not to freeze the people still inside.

It takes a good ten minutes to quell the riots and looters in Moscow.

When rebuilding the slums in Rio de Janeiro, I make it a point to build homes and businesses back better than they were before. Those people have it hard enough as it is; the least I can do is make sure they've got a decent place to live.

In the weeks since the attacks, I've been everywhere there was damage, from the major capitals of the world to tiny little hamlets that aren't even a dot on most maps. Working overtime to set things right, I do everything I can to make up for the fact that I've been gone so long. It's been pretty exhausting, but getting to come home to Lois at the end of each day has been worth it.

Metropolis suffered hardly any damage at all during the invasion. According to sources, the invading aliens had been driven out by a complicated defense grid, shooting them down with energy beams or constructing enormous force-fields to keep them out. I'd been investigating the mysterious power fluctuations along the outskirts of the city, and found some kind of power relay devices, that gather energy from a central source and then distribute it wirelessly through a network that covers the entire city.

Only one man could have pulled off something like that without everyone noticing, and he's been believed dead since the attack of the Dark Alliance. No doubt Lex is actually hiding underground, in some shielded bunker where I can't see him with my X-ray vision or hear his pulse, planning some grand scheme against me. I'll be ready when he makes his move.

Everything, from the rise and fall of massive intergalactic nations, right down to the DNA structure of a single person in a single spot in time, can be altered if I want it.

I may not have used the power of the Source to create the world I wanted, but I've been working almost non-stop to undo the effects of Darkseid's attempt to do the same thing. From one country to the next, never staying in one place for long, not stopping for pictures or interviews, always moving....

...right down to the DNA structure of a single person in a single spot in time....

....And then I hear something that stops me dead in my tracks. Something that, in time, may change the course of the world forever.

"Clark?.........I think I'm pregnant."
"When you're smiling,
When you're smiiiiiiling,
The whole world.... smiles with you!"

Singing to himself, The Joker entered one of his regular hideouts in Gotham. The whole multi-color cosmic fiasco had wrapped itself up now, and now that The Joker was done saving the universe, it was time to get back to business as usual: his everlasting game of chess with Batman. He'd put off getting back to business - given a little time over to taking it easy and doing some recreational killing - but now he had to get his head back in the game. But even now, though he was a-singin' and a-smilin', something didn't quite feel right. He was lacking inspiration.

It had been quite a ride, these past few years. But after all that had happened... what else was there to do?

The game-changer had surely come at that pivotal moment when he had discovered Batman was Bruce Wayne, or rather that Bruce Wayne was Batman. In a way, The Joker felt like he had always known, deep down, and not acting on that knowledge was merely a way of preserving that endless to-and-fro of their relationship, keeping the gag running that little bit longer before its inevitable punchline. But finding out that big secret, without a shadow of a doubt... after that there was never any going back. Looking back... that's what changed everything.

Bruce Wayne is Batman. The words that hiss out of Pandora's Box when you peel open its lid. When The Joker knew, he had to act. And so he put together his ultimate plan, the final, climactic struggle between good and evil. Batman VS The Joker: The End. Only, it wasn't the end. Both men walked away from that battle.

The Joker made his way down the stairway into his workstation, kicking aside some lethal novelty toys he'd built in a moment of boredom. He thought about how things had gone after Batman emerged from the grave The Joker had buried him, emerged from the edge of madness and let him know that he still couldn't win. The Joker had tried going bigger and better, engaging in killing sprees and masterplans on a scale he had never attempted before. All in an attempt to recapture that magic, trying to push that last button of Batman's even unmasking him had not been able to push. And finally, he succeeded. In one moment of frenzied combat, Batman let The Joker fall to his apparent death, and didn't save him.

The Joker survived, but that wasn't the point. Batman didn't know that. For all Batman knew, he had killed The Joker. And so The Joker had won, at last he had driven Batman to break his one rule. So all that remained after that was, of course, to kill him. He'd planned it all out so poetically, as part of the Dark Alliance reunion he masterminded with Brainiac. He and Batman would die together, trapped in an Apokoliptian rocket-weapon sent flying into the sun - the moment of their death would mean extinction for the whole human race. It was beautiful. But again, Batman defeated him, and spoiled the joke. So The Joker didn't get his beautiful, poetic end, but he settled for a brutal and ugly one: kniving an injured Batman in Crime Alley and killing him.

At last, The Joker had won. And it was the ruin of him.

The Joker began absently toying around with some chemicals in his makeshift lab, thinking of some delightful poisons he could make with them as he recalled the dark, aimless days of a world without Batman. He couldn't bear such a meagre existence, and so when he heard an inkling that Bruce Wayne could still be alive somewhere, it was he who led the quest to restore Batman to his rightful place in Gotham. The Joker travelled to the ends of the earth, and found a Bruce Wayne with no memory of his former life. He rescued him, brought him back to his home, and helped him remember who he was, what he meant to this city, and to The Joker. What they meant to each other. He succeeded. He killed Batman, then he brought him back to life.

But that was the issue, wasn't it? This universe-trotting adventure to save all reality had been a fun distraction, but now The Joker had to face up to the fact that there wasn't much else to do. Batman had killed The Joker. The Joker had killed Batman. The Joker had already taken everything that was important to Batman away from him at one point or another - though he'd eventually got it all back, in one form or another. And when Batman was gone, The Joker too felt what it was like to lose everything. Their journey over these past few years, what should have been the endgame... all it did was serve to show that there was no end to this, what they had. Neither was capable of putting an end to it, they needed each other too much, and so they danced around each other, going around in circlles...

"We're destined to do this forever."

The Joker let those words echo around his lair. Then he through his head back and started laughing.


So what if Batman and The Joker were only play-acting? So what if now it would just be variations on the same joke, over and over? The joke was still funny! It would always be funny!

No more endgames. No more final countdowns. It was Batman VS The Joker: The Eternal Dance of Death! It would be business as usual! He'd gas some orphans, blow up some churches, whatever... and Batman would come running. He had lots to do, so much to plan...


The Joker heard the noise of the gunshot before he connected it with the quickly-expanding red circle in his shirt. By the time he realised he had been shot in the back, and the bullet had passed right through his gut, he was on the floor.

He started stifling giggles as the ragged hole in his belly poured out blood, only vaguely aware of the approaching footsteps coming down the stairs. Finally, the footsteps stopped. The assailant was standing over him. The Joker looked up at the attacker, and he knew.

He knew that this was it. After all the elaborate schemes, after all the epic battles, this was where he would die. On the floor, in a puddle of blood. Alone. He smiled at his murderer. He knew who it was.

"Heh heh.... I get it."

The killer pulled the trigger on the gun again. The bullet fired out from the chamber, travelling inexorably forward in one direction, headed for the target it had been waiting for all this time. The bullet connected with The Joker's head, went through the skull, and blasted out the other end, burying itself in the ground underneath. Bone fragments and brain matter shot out through the gaping hole in The Joker's cranium, afterbirth in the bullet's wake. And The Joker crumpled lifelessly to the ground.

There was no escape, no "we couldn't find the body", no get-out clause. This was no joke. The Joker was dead. But as the people of Gotham - and Batman in particular - were soon to discover, The Joker's death was just the beginning.

The beginning of the end.
"Well, I guess I can get used to it."

I look around, enjoying that feeling of being free, of being myself, again. But my smile quickly fades as I take in all the destruction. I had hoped that sacrificing myself would keep Keystone safe. And buy Wally and Barry the time they needed.

I was partly right.

Keystone is a mess. Darkseid did keep his word and stopped his attack, but I know it's just because he was saving it for last. And all bets were off when Superman showed up.

But I don't blame Superman. It's Darkseid's fault the city, the whole planet, is in the shape it's in. And even though I tried to fight it, I'm responsible as well.

"What did I help do, Wally?"

"You didn't help do anything, Jay. It was all Darkseid." I say as I put my hand on his shoulder, with the most reassuring look I could give him.
"You didn't help do anything, Jay. It was all Darkseid." I say as I put my hand on his shoulder, with the most reassuring look I could give him.

"And I willingly chose to side with him."

Suddenly, I realize what's just happened.

"Where's Joan? Did Al get to Joan? Did you see?" But I can tell Wally knows as much as I do. "Oh god, if he did..."

"He didn't, Jay," Barry says. "I got her safely away and kept Prat busy."

I sigh heavily, doubling over with relief. "Thank you, Barry. I'm glad you came back when you did."

"I got her to the hospital as fast-"

"Hospital?! What's wrong? What happened?!"
But before Barry can say anything, I'm halfway there.



I stand outside my wife's room, afraid to go inside.

"Mr. Garrick," a doctor in scrubs says, approaching me.

"Is she...Is she in a coma?"

"What? Oh, no. No, she's just fine. We just gave her a mild sedative. for the pain."

Once again relief washes over me. "Pain?"

"She suffered a broken arm and some bruised ribs. But she should heal perfectly in a few weeks."

I slump against the wall, nodding my head. "Thank you, doctor. I was afraid...afraid..."

He puts his hand on my shoulder. "Everything's fine. Why don't you go sit with her for a while."

I nod again, numbly walking into the room and sitting beside her bed. I hold her hand in mine, and she starts to stir.

"Jay...?" she says groggily.

"I'm here. It's me. I'm...back. We won, again."

She smiles softly. "That's good. I knew you would. You always do."

I lean closer. "I'm sorry, Joan. Sorry for what I did, and what I tried to do to you. I...I don't expect you to ever forgive me-"

"I already have. You did it to save the city." She puts her hand on my cheek. "It wasn't you, Jay."

I kiss the palm of her hand as her eyes close. Setting her hand gently on her body, I let her sleep.

"That's the thing, Joan...I think it was me."
I lean over and kiss her cheek.

"Goodbye, Joan."
Baltimore, Maryland

I stand in the gutted out remains of a burnt down rowhouse.

[BLACKOUT]"So, why me?"[/BLACKOUT]

[BLACKOUT]I can see into you, Guy Gardner. I can see the emotions that fuel you. You are very unique. Most humans have different sets of base emotions. Like your friend, Hal Jordan. He runs on the green willpower, but I can see the yellow fear in him as well as the red light of rage. As for you, you seem to have it all. At your core is the green, but there's also your intense rage, love, and compassion along side the spots of fear and avarice. You're the perfect host for me.[/BLACKOUT]

I look at the ring and the white energy sparking from it.

"What comes next?"
Darkseid came close to breaking the universe. He didn't succeed, but cracks have formed in life itself. We have to fix it, Guy. Look over at that skeleton.

The Entity points me towards the charred remains of a cat, a casualty from the fire. [BLACKOUT]Say it.[/BLACKOUT]

The words spring out of my throat almost by themselves.


The white light of life blasts out of my ring and forms a cocoon around the cat's body. The cat and its whole life run through my mind. I see it born, live, and die all in the blink of an eye. A bright flash temporarily blinds me. The blinding light fades from my eyes and I see the cat scamper off, alive and well. I look down at my ring with a shocked look.

[BLACKOUT]Guy Gardner of Earth. Destiny awaits.[/BLACKOUT]
I'm somewhere in Arizona. I'm not sure where. I don't really care. Just as long as it's away from Keystone. Away from the people.

I spent a good deal of time helping to fix the damage caused by Darkseid...and me. And I think the only thing that moved faster than me that day, was the news of what I had done. So, during the long hours I spent trying to help, all I get were stares, and looks, and anger. I may have done it for the right reasons, but that still doesn't change the fact that I betrayed them.

I turned my back on my city.

"Well, it's about damn time."

I look up from the fountain. For the last couple of hours I've been sitting on this bench in the park, trying to enjoy a beautiful day, and failing rather miserably.

"What's about damn time?"

Alan touches down and sits next to me. "Took me all day to find you."

"I've only been gone a day."

"Yeah, I know. And this has been the longest you've stopped moving."

"That's because I wanted to be alone."

"So you could mope and feel sorry for yourself?"

I don't say anything.

"That's pretty selfish, Jay."

"Go to hell, Alan."

"Excuse me?"

"I said go the hell. I don't have to sit hear and listen to this." I stand up, but find my legs won't move. I suppose it has to do with the green chains binding them.

"Let me go."

"Not yet."

"Let me go before I force you too."

"Maybe Darkseid chose well."


"How dare you! You turned your back on the people and city you swore to protect!"

"I had no choice! I had to join Darkseid to buy Keystone time. I had to trust Wally or Barry would stop me."

"I'm not talking about that! You made the right call."


"You had to do what you did. I get that, Jay. It was probably the hardest thing you had to do, but you were trying to fight a god. You had to do something."

"But, you just said-"

"I'm talking about now. You just up and left Keystone when they need you. They need to see their heroes out there protecting them, making sure there's nothing for them to fear."

"They hate me!"

"No they don't, Jay."

I spin around. Joan just smiles at me. "They don't hate you, Jay. Not really. They don't understand why. And they're angry. And they need something to be angry at. But you're still their hero. You're still my hero."

"Alan, why'd you take her out of the hospital?"

"Hey, this wasn't my idea, buddy. I may control one of the most powerful objects in the universe, but even I can't stop your wife when she's made her mind up."

"I'm fine Jay. It's not my first broken bone."

"I turned on you, Joan. I-I tried to kill you." I don't even try to stop the tears starting to roll down my cheeks. Alan is good enough to walk away and leave us alone. And I'm thankful for that.

"Jay," Joan puts her hand on my cheek. "It wasn't you."

"But I-"

"It wasn't your fault. I know you, and that thing out there wasn't you."

"But it was, Joan. It was the me that's inside. That's stays buried and locked away. That's what Darkseid did. He freed the things that's inside us all, and enslaved it."

Joan sits on the bench and pulls me down beside her. " may have been a part of you. But part of you is not you. The thing that attacked me was an animal. The man, the real man, was locked away. That wasn't my husband back there. But it's my husband here."

Despite the tears in my eyes, and the guilt in the pit of my stomach, I can't help but smile. "Do you know how much I love you?"

"I wouldn't mind hearing it again," she laughs.

"Are we done with the pity party yet?"

I look up at my best friend in the world, and then at the woman I love more than life itself.

"Yeah. Let's go home."
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