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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
After plans are finalised the crew makes the opening play in their campaign against the Reavers
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 7943 RATING: 4 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimer – Everything either does belong to Joss or it should. I’m just borrowing his shiny ‘verse for a while.
The 21st Lancers belong to the British Army so I’m borrowing them too. I hope they don’t mind.
Thanks to my regular readers for making it worthwhile to continue the story and special thanks to my Proof-Reader Landry
* * *
Serenity/Granite Gorge – Three Weeks out from Revelation – 2520AD
‘Okay here’s the plan,’ Mal announced clearing the table so he could unroll a large sheet of plastic over it. River had drawn out the plan using ink that could be easily wiped clear again with a spot of water but it looked so darn artistic the Captain doubted he’d have the heart. She drew diagrams with a flair that would put many a professional artist to shame.
Mal looked up at the group and locked eyes with Jennifer. She really had been trained to be a professional artist, went to university and everything, and judging by the expression on her face River really was as exceptional as Mal fervently believed.
‘The opposition are grounded for repairs on the fourth planet out,.’ Mal began. ‘It’s an ocean world, just a few islands and one smallish continent. From the information we obtained from our captured Reaver they are concentrated in a big group on the southern shore of that continent trying to pool resources to get the repairs finished quickly. They were pretty beat-up during their last run-in with the unknown force that they’ve been clashing with of late but even so we estimate only a few more weeks until they're strong enough to move towards Revelation and take it as their new home.’
‘Why not set up permanently where they are?’ Kaylee asked. ‘They could always raid for supplies and bring them back.’
‘Two reasons; firstly the only source of food anywhere close is Revelation which is a two month round-trip and secondly they want to keep ahead of their enemy.’
Simon looked up from the plan. ‘Do we have any idea where this Reaver nemesis resides?’ He asked. ‘Personally I’d like to stay clear of anything that petrifies a group which itself uses the hanging of flayed corpses upside down from the ceiling as a form of recreation.’
Jayne looked at the Doc slantwise. Why the hell did he always feel the need to say fifty words when a handful would get the job done just as well?
‘I wouldn’t worry about the Scourge of God and his Horsemen. Their lands begin some nine weeks hard ride eastwards,’ River interjected.
Simon raised his eyebrows. River turned to look at the other expressions around the room and responded. ‘I thought you liked the barbarian hordes metaphor,’ she said pouting slightly.
Mal sighed. ‘She means they’re a couple of month’s full-burn further to spin-ward,’ he said. ‘We’ll be staying well clear.’
Wash whistled. ‘Damn that’s a long way out. I reckoned we were right at the edge of explored space already.’
‘Why not seek them out? The enemy of your enemy is your friend,’ Book suggested.
‘Or they could just as easily be your enemy too,’ Zoe pointed out. ‘Reavers and Alliance likely don’t see eye to eye either.’
‘We ain’t taking the risk. One thing we don’t need is somebody else trying to kill us,’ Mal declared.
‘They’d have to join the list,’ Steven said. ‘It’s pretty impressive already.’
‘If we do run into them we just tell them to take a number,’ Wash joked. ‘Sorry, Atilla. It's first come first served. Join the queue.’
Mal grimaced. This was supposed to be a mission briefing. ‘Returning to the subject at hand,’ he said sternly quieting the room down, ‘this is what we’re going to do,’ he continued using a butter knife to point. ‘Although most of the Reavers are grounded, they still have a few boats in orbit looking out for trouble so we’re going to have to take those out first.’
The Captain pointed to the plan. 'Shadow is going to infiltrate the system quietly to this location where it should be able to knock down the boats in orbit then launch a follow-up strike on the surface targets to keep them where we want them.
‘Serenity will be here with a skeleton crew waiting for the all-clear. As soon as we can get going we move hell-for-leather to the planet. Drop into atmo, dump the payload and get the hell out of there before the detonation.’
‘What about Granite Gorge and everyone else?’ Inara asked.
Mal pointed again. ‘This system has a nice big Oort Cloud so you’ll be hiding out there well out of scanner range.’
‘A what cloud?’ Jayne asked.
Wash buried his head in his hands. ‘How the hell can someone spend their entire adult life in space and not know any astronomy?’ he asked in exasperation. ‘The lack of education I can handle but don’t you have any curiosity?’
‘I just ride in spaceships,’ Jayne said defensively. ‘I don’t know how they ruttin’ work and I don’t know anything about what they ruttin’ fly through. Can you field-strip and reassemble a Langston Sniper Rifle in thirty-four seconds? Well can you? No! Then don’t go talking down to me because I don’t know your job either.’
Wash looked at the mercenary who had crossed his arms and was glaring at him. The worst thing was he had just made a pretty good point.
‘Okay point made Jayne,’ Mal interceded. ‘Anyone care to explain for Jayne’s benefit?’
‘An Oort Cloud is the leftovers from the formation of a solar system. It’s mainly comets and other things which are found out beyond the systems Kuiper Belt. That’s another load of small asteroids and planetoids that haven’t coalesced into larger bodies,’ River explained. ‘It’s a good place to hide because it’s far away from the inner system but unlike deep-space there’s still some mass to hide behind. We’re going to set up home behind a big comet.’
‘See was that so hard to explain?’ Jayne said. He knew what a damn comet was and an Oort cloud sounded like a place where there was a whole mess of them to hide in.
Zoe decided to get the conversation back on track. ‘What’re the mission time constraints?’ she asked.
Mal gave her a nod of thanks and put his hands behind his back holding himself at ease military style.
‘The longer we leave it the more Reavers will be repaired and either in orbit or maybe on their way to Revelation. Also as soon as Shadow hits the orbital shipping they’ll be doing their best to get the grounded boats up so we want to give them as short a time as possible to get that done before Serenity can finish the job.’
‘Think Shadow can keep them contained until then?’ Steven asked. ‘There’s likely to be a lot of them down there.’
‘Anything that looks like it’s powering up gets a Railgun round through the hull. If needs be, the AI will do a few strafing runs to keep them where we want them. When we get there it’ll be running diversion and defence suppression. Even grounded I reckon a number of ‘em will still be able to bring some guns to bear so I expect to see a whole heap of anti-aircraft fire heading our way.’
‘Then what?’ Kaylee asked.
‘Then...’ Zoe paused. ‘Boom,’ she continued, miming an explosion with her hands. ‘Game over, we win.’
‘And hundreds, possibly thousands die,’ Book said sadly. ‘We’re contemplating instantaneous mass-murder.’
‘We ain’t contemplating anything.’ Mal replied. ‘Decision's made.’ He paused. ‘Anyhow we know the Reavers next stop is the colony we’ve already saved ‘em from once and you know as well as I do that after that they’ll be raping and munching their way across the ‘Verse just same as always.’
Book cast his eyes downwards. ‘I know that but we’re still embarking on a course of action bathed in blood.’
‘No disputing that, Shepherd. But there ain’t no disputing who’s blood deserves to be spilled the most either,’ Mal told him using the tone of voice he reserved for “end of debate”.
* * *
Transport Ship Granite Gorge – Drifting – 2520AD
Jennifer considered her eldest. She was clearly still very annoyed and would likely be sulking for days to come. There is something very concerning when your eleven year old daughter has a temper tantrum because you won’t let her go watch a hydrogen bomb being dropped on a large mass of people. Even if they are Reaver savages.
Remembering her childhood growing up on Toulouse Jennifer was struck by the contrast, wandering the wide-open spaces outside town, playing tennis and squash with her parents and brother and sister, fun and laughter and none of the periodic fire-fights that were likely to be the core of Cally’s own youth.
Tragedy only appeared slightly later in her life. Jennifer’s father had died in an asteroid mining accident when she was fifteen. The pain when she thought of it still surprised her. The other man in the family died in space too. She was twenty-one when her elder brother was killed in action fighting the Alliance. He was two years her senior when the Frigate he was on found itself totally outgunned facing a pair of Alliance Destroyers over Du Khang. According to Toulouse legend the crew, who were all spacers from that world were offered surrender terms and answered as their ancestors had done centuries before at Waterloo with a single word from their Captain “merde”. Then they backed up the sentiment with their cannons.
How old would Cally be when her mother or father or brother or sister died? It was only a matter of time. Or might it be Cally that gets killed leaving Jennifer to explain to John where his big sister was?
Claire-Marie was so different. She still had the same bouncy girly personality she’d had on Toulouse. Whilst Cally sulked she was getting her hair all “prettified”, as the Mal would say, by Inara. The funny thing was Inara was probably getting more out of it than the little girl. It kept her mind off where the Captain was.
At least Steven wasn’t with them this time. He was slightly sulky about that, too. Sometimes it was like having four children Jennifer thought to herself allowing a slight smile to appear on her face as she thought of it.
When he’d returned from the war alive, if not entirely the same man as before, Jennifer had celebrated. He’d done his duty and Jennifer never had to put up with snide comments about her choice of man again. During the run-up to the fighting many of her “friends” had criticised her for getting engaged to a damn rosbif from Wessex who would either fight for the other side or hide in academia for the duration. Well he hadn’t done either, as the Independent medals he had a right to wear, and the scars he had to wear every day, clearly testified.
It was all supposed to be over then and there with her husband back and the fighting all finished with.
But, no. Fate intervened instead. Years after the war ended they got caught up with a load of wanted desperados who were still fighting it and now they could never go home again unless she didn’t mind Cally being taken away and her Husband being put before a firing squad.
Is everyone I care about destined to die in space? Jennifer wondered.
She shook her head to end her revery and looked to her surroundings for a distraction. Simon was half-heartedly kicking a football around the cargo bay with John, Jayne and Steven and looked like she felt. His sister was off with the Captain, Wash and Zoe on Serenity and wouldn’t be back until after the mission was completed. Assuming of course they got back from the mission that is. Fate had intervened unpleasantly in his comfortable life too, Jennifer knew.
Shepherd Book was also watching the game. Normally he would have joined in but things were weighing heavily on his mind. He hadn’t been the same since the fighting on Revelation. Too many memories dragged up from the past perhaps? Jennifer wondered about his mysterious past but dismissed the thought. He was clearly a good man regardless of anything he might have done in another life and it was here and now that mattered.
Actually for that matter when you considered the whole crew one-by-one about the only person who might be thought of as even remotely deserving of being stuck out here was probably Jayne Cobb who was also the one least likely to think so.
Jennifer made a silent prayer that everything would go well. That the Reavers would be vanquished and Serenity would return intact. Then they could just disappear back into the void away from any threats.
Given their track record it didn’t seem likely her prayers would be answered, at least not in their entirety, but Jennifer would settle for the first three.
AI Warship Shadow – Powered Down – 2520AD
‘That’s right there’s nobody here but us rocks,’ thought the AI as he felt the active scan swept over his position. Actually the rocks had considerably more radar cross section that he did, even the relatively small ones, and with his fusion reactor completely powered down and running the bare minimum of systems off batteries he wasn’t putting out an EM field or any Infra Red either.
For the last day Shadow had been moving on nothing but inertia. The AI had run up to speed with his inertia suppressors switched off then cut the engine and drifted in towards the objective on good old momentum. Approaching the planet on the system's plane of the elliptic where most of the asteroids, comets and other debris could be found meant that even if one of the Reavers was using a fancy gravitational anomaly scan, which was highly unlikely given their archaic technology, they would still not spot him.
Finally close enough to get decent resolution, Shadow hid in a small asteroid field using the optical sensors in his bow to start targeting his prey. Active scans with radar or lasers would have allowed a precise firing solution from much further away but they would have been detected and would have ruined the plan so Shadow aimed the old fashioned way.
Seven vessels were in orbit. Two in geosynchronous position over the grounded Reavers below and the others in varying orbits closer in. They were all actively scanning the system hard, pumping most of their power output into their Radar arrays. Anything much less stealthy than Shadow would likely have been picked up several hours ago, as it was Shadow bemoaned the fact that until the loss of some of his hull's RAM (Radar Absorbing Material) in his clash with the Reaver Fleet heading for Revelation a month ago he could have gotten closer still without risking detection.
Shadow powered up his reactor to just over two percent of maximum output and used the electricity generated to replenish his batteries and slowly trickle charge the capacitors on his Railgun.
When the capacitors reached the required charge the AI gently used his manoeuvring thrusters on low-power to aim the whole ship, opened the front gun-port and fired the Railgun. He then closed the port and began slowly charging the Railgun again.
Slow and sure, no sudden large energy spikes to warn the enemy.
It took eleven minutes to fire all the projectiles this way. Each one fired at a marginally different velocity on a marginally different course.
The Railgun rounds were just a ball of iron, 250 millimetres in diameter that had been dipped in RAM paint. They had hardly any radar bounce and were totally inert. Shadow had once managed to sneak up close enough to a state-of-the-art Alliance Cruiser to put a Railgun round straight up its engine exhaust. Compared to the sensors deployed by that thing the Reavers were half-blind, hard of hearing and with no sense of smell.
Actually, now he came to think of it, given how they kept their ships having no sense of smell would have been a bonus to the average Reaver.
Projectiles en-route Shadow went back to sleep but before powering down his reactor again he directed a signal via a low wattage laser out towards the edge of the system.
The machine was ever patient. It wasn’t hard to be when you can just shut down your higher brain functions at will when there’s nothing to do. A simple program continued to passively observe the objective it would raise the AI from its synthetic slumber if anything happened otherwise the warship would quietly sleep.
He could have just gone in guns blazing and swatted the lot of them but the ship would likely have still taken a few hits in response and he was in no mood for more repairs. There weren’t the time constraints of the last battle which had precluded a nice safe stealthy strike. If you can get the job done without risking any damage yourself you do so.
There’s a time for honour, glory and chivalry in war and this wasn’t it. Shadow had opted to be a sneaky bastard this time out. Forget the Book of Five Rings and the Samurai honour stuff the opening to today’s festivities was a Ninja style knife in the back operation.
The warship slept.
Transport Ship Serenity – Powered Down – 2520AD
The aging transport was also trying to be sneaky, approaching like Shadow on the plane of the elliptic running on nothing but momentum but since she lacked Shadow’s inherently stealthy shape and construction Serenity was by necessity a lot further out so as to ensure she wasn’t detected.
The Firefly had an excellent power-to-weight ratio for a transport with lots of thrust for her mass and as soon as things heated up she’d be burning hard. Her cargo bay was empty and her shuttles detached to reduce her mass still further.
Wash lacked the AI’s patience waiting for the next stage of the mission but he kept himself occupied playing with plastic dinosaurs.
His wife meanwhile was in the hold playing with plastic explosives.
‘You know if that thing doesn’t work and for some reason we end up getting knocked down to the surface we’re going to be so knee-deep in Reavers that a few improvised bombs aren’t going to do us a hell of a lot of good,’ Mal observed reasonably as his second in command sat on an ammunition crate in the cargo bay embedding pieces of scrap metal into blocks of plastique.
‘The point, Sir, is that they won’t do them any good either and I’d like to take as many of them with me as possible,’ Zoe replied continuing to work. ‘I don’t like saying it but I wouldn’t mind Jayne’s company either.’
‘If we don’t get back from this one I wanted Jayne to stay with the others on Granite. They’ll need looking after,’ Mal told her again. ‘I know Book, Steve and the Doc would do their best but if they ever ran into something nasty I’m downright happy to know they’ll have something even nastier backing them up.’
‘Got to admit he’s nasty all right,’ Zoe agreed, ‘but if we were really worried about them we could have left River instead.’
Mal smiled wryly. ‘Yeah but having River along increases our chances of pulling this off a hell of a lot.’
‘Can’t argue with that Sir,’ Zoe responded, ‘but I’ll still keep making these if you don’t mind.’
‘Just remember I’ll want those damn things taken apart again afterwards.’
‘Yes Captain,’ Zoe said and went back to the task at hand. As always she devoted herself to the process with the single-minded efficiency she applied to most things.
River was sat cross-legged by the airlock doors looking at the device sat in front of her. It was a real ugly kludge of a construction but according to her it would work fine even if it was sorely lacking in the looks department. Basically it was a rusty steel packing crate with a parachute attached to one end and a home made chunk of electronics in an oversized aluminium can riveted to the other end. It looked far less impressive than it actually was.
Inside the crate was the guts of a 5-megaton yield thermonuclear weapon. It had originally been a high-powered EMP device designed in such a way as to turn as much of its released energy into Electromagnetic energy as possible but after removing the crystal structure around the warhead and a few other alterations Mal frankly didn’t understand, it was back to being a nice “conventional” Hydrogen Bomb. All blast and fury, no fancy electronics-frying pulse wave.
The fuse was a nifty box of tricks that Kaylee put together. When the device reached a certain height from the ground it would send a signal to the bomb telling it to go boom. As a redundancy there was also a backup radio trigger Mal could use to detonate it himself.
Taken together the whole thing was very heavy. The parachute would slow down the fall long enough for Serenity to get the hell out of the way before the blast but it would still be going quickly enough that wind-sheer shouldn’t take it drifting too far off-target.
Mal found he was staring at the thing just like River was. ‘The plan you drew up was very nice but this gets zero out of ten for artistry’ he remarked deadpan.
‘Kaylee thought we should have done something with it,’ River replied not taking her eyes off the thing. ‘I did consider a design on the lid based around a stylised picture of two atoms colliding but it would have been a waste of paint.’
‘You know during the war they used to say a bullet had your name on it but nukes just had “To whom it may concern”,’ Mal told her.
River considered her Captain. He was trying to lighten the mood because he thought she was upset or distressed and he felt it was his job to make her happier. It was a terribly transparent ploy but he was completely earnest about it.
River turned her head to look at him and smiled. That should make him feel better.
He smiled back. ‘What you thinking about?’ he asked
River’s expression returned to neutral. ‘Dropping the other one on Blue Sun.’ she replied. ‘To be precise I was considering how to make it a ground burst detonation instead of airburst to make sure to get the bunkers underneath too.’
Mal frowned ‘Planning ahead there sweetheart. One thing at a time, okay?’
‘I want to get the schematics ready and drawn up soon in case Simon can’t come up with a new treatment for me. I don’t want them getting away with it just because I lose my grip on things again.’
Mal sat down beside her. ‘I’ll have none of that talk. The Doc will come up with a new set of drugs and you'll be normal by the time we head core-wards again.’
River gave him a look.
‘Okay,’ Mal said, ‘I mean normal by your standards. The Doc's good, but a miracle worker he ain’t,’ he said with a wink. He was still trying to lighten her mood. He was actually succeeding a bit too. It wasn’t the actions it was the reasons that did it.
River smiled and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. ‘Kaylee’s right. You are a lovable Captain.’
‘That’s a foul libel that gets repeated too often,’ Mal replied with mock annoyance.
‘No its slander but if you want I can write it out so its libel too.’ River said earnestly.
River turned to face the device again. ‘I do get to play with the best toys,’ she said, then in reaction to her Captain's thoughts continued, ‘Yes I know I’m creepifying sometimes but it really is a great toy. Captain, you have at your disposal the penultimate weapon devised by humanity.’
Mal looked at her quizzically. ‘Penultimate?’ he asked. ‘What’s the ultimate weapon then?’
‘Don’t worry. You’ve got one of those too.’ River told him. 'Coincidentally it’s also right in front of you right now.’
Mal sighed. ‘You know I like to think of you as a person not a weapon, River.’
‘Yes I know. That’s why I’m your weapon and nobody else’s,’ River replied. ‘Only a righteous knight has the right to wield the lance that slays the dragon.’
Mal chuckled. ‘The fact I can still follow you most of the times you talk like that now makes we wonder for my own sanity.’
‘You never were completely there Sir so relax,’ Zoe called across the cargo bay. ‘For that matter letting a girl universally regarded as not-quite-right build you an atomic bomb is probably certifiable in itself.’
River laughed. ‘I can recommend a few good anti-psychotic pharmaceuticals,’ she told her Captain.
‘He never was keen on needles,’ Zoe replied returning to her task of stuffing the mass of explosives and metal junk in her hands into an empty coffee tin before inserting a fuse.
She paused and looked at the label on the thing. Of all the corporations in the verse that made coffee, it was from Blue-Sun. Zoe wondered if she’d ever get the chance to let someone from the company know just how often their arch enemy had been saved by various sized Blue-Sun coffee tins. The crew had used them for everything from Cry-Baby decoys to Recoilless Cannon ammunition.
Smiling inwardly at the thought Zoe finished the home-made grenade and started making another.
Shortly before Zero hour the AI woke up and sent a signal to Serenity advising Wash to get ready for action.
The Reaver guard-ships in orbit were still following the same orbits they had been when Shadow had fired its Railgun earlier. They didn’t have a clue what was about to happen to them.
The maths involved in firing from a moving platform and getting the projectiles to all arrive at exactly the same time at different targets moving at different speeds in different orbits was impressive. The self-aware computer had even used the planet's gravity to bank some of the shots to their targets.
Shadow watched the largest Reaver ship through its optical sensors. It was recording the image for posterity.
The AI ship powered up its fusion reactor to recommended maximum and prepped its engines. Finally it transferred power to the main radio transmitter and directed a wide-beam signal that should be picked up by all the vessels.
‘Attention Reavers. A prayer to your deity would be in order right about now.’ Shadow signalled. ‘Goodnight, God bless and Sayonara.’
A small barrage of black-painted 64 kilogram metal spheres travelling at several thousand miles an hour crashed into the orbiting vessels about a second later.
There is a certain finesse required in using a Railgun properly. If the velocity is too low you don’t cause enough damage and if it’s too high you just end up blowing a neat hole straight through wasting much of the kinetic energy you really want to all be absorbed by the target.
There is absolutely no finesse in the impact itself though. It’s just like being hit with a rutting great hammer.
Properly done the effect is nothing short of shattering. The chosen aiming point was ideal for each type of vessel struck. The velocity of the projectiles judged for the exact point of impact as perfectly as the firing solution itself.
Simply put Shadow killed the hell out of them with applied mathematics.
The AI put his inertial suppressors to maximum and dumped most of the remaining reactor power into his oversized engines. Even with the suppressors the surge of acceleration would have killed any human aboard outright, as it was the G-force meant nothing to the machine. Even without risking using its Fusion Afterburner after the improvised repair job by Kaylee the sleek black warship could still move, in Wash’s colourful description, “like a bat out of hell with a rocket up its ass”.
Another transmission back to Serenity would have the Transport heading in-bound at full-burn too. It would arrive quite some time after Shadow but that wasn’t really a big deal.
Chances were that some of the Reaver ships on the surface would be lifting before Shadow’s arrival but they’d never have a hope of reaching orbit before the AI arrived on scene to knock them straight back down again.
After that it was the machine's task to keep the enemy grounded and suppress any fire that might be directed at Serenity when it arrived. Shadow's bays were simply unable to carry the modified nuke and it would have taken some serious structural changes to cram the thing in, so the AI couldn’t deploy it himself, more's the pity.
No worry though. There would be lots to shoot at before the main event.
Some pieces of debris had already begun to fall into the planet's atmosphere, but it would be several years before some of the wreckage from ships that had been in higher orbits would fall like meteors across the night sky. Between that and the very large hole they were planning to leave behind, the visit of Mal Reynolds and his happy band would be written across this corner of the verse for a good long while.
Pulling nearly a hundred G's of acceleration Shadow's velocity climbed rapidly. At this rate he’d be arriving pretty quickly. He was also putting out a hefty energy signature but the large chunks of metal falling from the skies would already have made the presence of a hostile force pretty clear to the grounded Reavers so there wasn’t too much point trying the subtle approach. He wanted to get there before they had a chance to pull their collective fingers out of their collective asses.
The time for the Ninja approach was over. Time for something a bit more dramatic. The AI decided a grand entrance was called for.
It was Samurai time, flashy uniforms, bright flags and open displays of martial prowess and skill.
Transport Ship Serenity – Under Full Burn – 2520AD
Everyone was on the bridge as Wash pushed Serenity’s engines to the limits. It would be quite some time before they arrived even at maximum power but it just seemed the place to be.
The main display indicated the ship was receiving a radio signal. Something was broadcasting across the system with a heck of a lot of wattage.
Wash leaned over and flicked a switch turning on the speakers, a deafening cry emerged which caused him to wince and turn down the volume.
‘Okay that’s a new one from Shadow,’ Zoe said. ‘Got no idea what he’s saying though.’
‘It’s Japanese’. River told her. ‘It literally means “May the Emperor Live a thousand years” but you really need to know the historical context of the use of the phrase to appreciate the reference.’
River smiled. There was it must be said something quite entertaining about the notion of a machine screaming “HEIKE TENNO BANZAI” as it accelerated into battle.
Saturday, July 31, 2004 1:27 PM
Sunday, August 1, 2004 2:45 AM
Sunday, August 1, 2004 5:07 AM
Sunday, August 1, 2004 11:44 PM
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