BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

HOTPOINT

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part IX)
Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Time starts to run out for the Alliance as the Independent Military prepares to retake their homeworlds


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2769    RATING: 9    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.

* * *

“Policy is the intelligent faculty, war is only the instrument, not the reverse. The subordination of the military view to the political is therefore the only thing possible”

Karl Von Clausewitz – On War 1832

* * *

Fort Obsidian – Beyond the Outer Rim – 2522AD

‘The way we win the war will be the deciding factor on whether we win the peace’ Captain Decker insisted. ‘It’s all very well talking about blasting Londinium back into the stone age but if we go ahead with that kind of mass slaughter there just won’t be room for negotiation afterwards. We’ll just end up fighting until one side runs out of people to put on the firing line.’

‘Do you know how many of our people, our civilians, were killed in the last war?’ Colonel Taylor asked coldly. ‘The bastards used biochemical weapons for Gods sake, whole neighbourhoods, towns even, wiped out without a hope of resistance. If we get the upper hand I say nuke them till they glow.’

‘If we just wanted vengeance we should have just gone ahead with the mission after Hera fell and razed the Core’ Major Brown said. ‘Our opportunity here is to win the war and the peace not just to slake a thirst for revenge Colonel.’

Captain Raine had been re-reading the projected casualty reports. ‘Given the likely level of collateral damage estimated here are we sure that this alone won’t provoke a military response against our civil population? We’re not just talking a couple of dozen accidental fatalities here you realise.’

The Intelligence Officer shook his head. ‘Not if we make it abundantly clear that if they want to start city-busting we are more than ready to undertake retaliatory strikes. If the Hydrogen Bombs start falling those big Core cities will make a very good target a fact they are certainly well aware of.’

‘Other business please gentlemen’ Admiral van der Heijden announced. ‘Gibraltar station’ he said pointing to the rotating hologram of the space-station that he had activated. ‘It lies uncomfortably close to our ideal route of return and is the strongest Alliance outpost we will encounter before actually entering their space.’

‘I’d give it maybe three minutes under fire from Charybdis before it came apart’ Decker responded. ‘We just total the damn thing en-route.’

‘That would be a terrible waste’ River interjected.

A dozen sets of eyes fixed onto her.

‘The fact that it is so inconveniently placed on one hand would also make it extremely conveniently placed on the other’ River pointed out. ‘It would make a very good staging area and a secure point for supply runs from here to the colonised worlds.’

‘If you’re thinking about seizing the station intact I think you’ll find that would be extremely tricky’ Captain Raine responded. ‘Even if we knocked out the primary systems with EMP nukes and then got close enough to use Electro-Magnetic Grapples to fry what’s left we would still have to board and Marine losses would be heavy. It’s not like taking a poorly resourced Reaver ship where you can expose the thing to vacuum to thin out their numbers. They’ll have an EVA suit for everyone on the station and airlocks at every junction.’

‘EMP would cause too much damage to the systems we want intact’ River replied. ‘It would be in our interests to cause minimal damage.’

‘If we don’t pulse them we’ll never get close enough to board’ Colonel Taylor declared. ‘As soon as our ships get near they’ll be fired upon.’

‘Not if we had the codes’ River replied. ‘I can get the security codes needed to approach Gibraltar if you can get me close enough to the Captain of one of the supply ships that dock there’ she told the Marine tapping herself on the side of the head.

Taylor smiled at the young woman. ‘I’m sure you could but the problem then will be they will be following standard military protocol and will run a full scan on the approaching vessel before allowing it to dock’ he explained. ‘When they see a couple of hundred fully armed soldiers in the cargo bay they’re going to realise something is badly up. Large numbers of projectile or energy weapons will definitely be picked up by their sensors including our gauss rifles because of the EM field off the battery packs.’

‘Then the boarding party can’t be armed that way’ Major Brown interrupted. ‘The sensors won’t be able to spot simple edged weapons.’

Taylor gave him a look. ‘I am not sending my Marines into action carrying their combat knives against a space-station full of Alliance troops carrying guns. We’d be shot to pieces’ he said sternly.

‘Not exactly what I had in mind’ the Intelligence Officer told him.

* * *

Commerce Raider – Five Days Hard Burn out of Wilkes Moon – 2522AD

Mal leaned back in a chair in the captured Alliance Patrol Boats galley and looked across the table at his friend who had just arrived back at the ship on Monty’s Transport. ‘A Regimental reunion?’ he repeated, ‘interesting idea.’

Steve took a drink from the mug of coffee in his hand and nodded. ‘Sean and Claire can still operate out in the open’ he said ‘unlike us’ he added ‘so they’re back in the real world getting things sorted.’

‘So you’re just going to invite everyone left from the Lancers to Wilkes Moon telling them it’s for a big gorram party? Boy are they going to be surprised when they get there.’

The Cavalryman chuckled. ‘It’ll be ten years since we got let of the damn POW camps. That’s a good reason for a celebration anyway.’

‘Do you think they’ll all go?’ Mal asked.

‘Pretty much’ Steve replied. ‘We’re a clannish bunch’ he continued. ‘There’s a Regimental fund we set up a few years back to help out Lancers in trouble and we can route funds through that for anyone who can’t afford the flight.’ The Cavalryman’s face turned wistful. ‘Of course there aren’t really all that many of us left’ he said sadly.

‘Enough to train up some replacements though’ Mal replied. ‘Same as with the 57th Brigade we’re thin on the ground but there’s still enough of us about to get the rookies off to a good start’ he stated. ‘Heck at least we’re starting off with a few combat veterans to lead the way this time.’

Steve nodded in agreement. ‘That’s true’ he said brightening. ‘Start of the last war the closest thing we had to a veteran in the 21st was a veterinarian from Triumph who thought riding tanks would be better than sticking his hand up a cows arse for a living’ he joked.

Mal laughed. ‘I’ve seen how the Cavalry live’ he responded ‘the smell was probably better with the cattle anyway.’

‘Yeah well I’m sure you’ll have months of fun teaching eighteen-year-olds how to dig holes and march up and down in straight lines’ Steve countered. ‘That’s all the Infantry know how to do’ he told Mal. ‘Well there’s also the bayonet fixation but that’s just because it hasn’t got any confusing moving parts.’

Mal frowned. ‘Don’t go mocking the bayonet’ he said. ‘It’s not the weapon it’s the psychology of it. At the back of their mind folks don’t really understand lasers and such so they don’t fear them the same way, but there ain’t too many that don’t feel like running when they see a whole heap of screaming lunatics coming at them with a bayonet stuck on their rifles’ he declared. ‘Sharpened pointy steel is something everyone understands real well.’

‘Well talking psychology I’m sure Freud might have something to say about the whole psycho-sexual bayonet penetration thing’ Steve responded tongue in cheek. ‘As for me, instead of a glorified knife at ten inches range I’ll stick to a nice Railgun at ten miles.’

Mal rubbed his temples, he felt another headache coming on. ‘But where’s the finesse?’ he asked eventually.

* * *

Fort Obsidian – Beyond the Outer Rim – 2522AD

‘We should have sufficient men and material to overwhelm the garrisons on at least four worlds initially’ Major Brown indicated pointing with a large aluminium stick three times in succession at points within the large holographic image being projected at the front of the parade hall. ‘The most important of these is Toulouse given that it will enable us to start setting up large scale armaments manufacturing right away and it is for that reason we will be deploying the majority of our Companies in that arena’ he said turning back to face the assembled Marine Officers and Senior NCO’s filling the hall.

‘Why not Hera?’ a voice from the back asked.

Colonel Taylor standing beside the Intelligence Officer put his hands behind his back. ‘Although it would be a great psychological boost to take Hera back on Day One the garrison there is too large for us to overwhelm with anything less than moderate to high losses that we simply cannot afford’ he explained. ‘The Alliance Forces on Toulouse are smaller and the civilian population larger and more hostile to the occupation. We feel that we should be able to raise several Brigades of volunteers fairly rapidly on Toulouse and then immediately launch our second wave of invasions.’

‘What if they reinforce Hera in the meantime Colonel?’ another Marine asked.

Taylor grinned. ‘In the timescale I’m talking about the Alliance will still be too busy trying to figure out where the hell their fleet went to think about shifting more soldiers rimwards. Anyhow we figure they’ll all be too busy at home.’

‘So we’re going planet-hopping?’ a sergeant asked. ‘Hitting one after another rolling them up before they get a chance to respond right Sir?’

Colonel Taylor nodded. ‘Best estimates are that we should have retaken pretty much every former Independent World inside of four months if the uprisings we predict do actually break out’ he said. ‘That’s not bad going because it took the Alliance a longer than 3 years to take them in the first place’ he continued. ‘Of course the trick will be holding them but that’ll be the Army’s problem. The Navy are going to give them all the time they should need to get ready for the Core’s counter-offensive.’

‘What if it’s not enough Sir?’ the same Sergeant asked. ‘It was the gorram Army that lost our planets in the first place.’

Colonel Taylor looked around the room. ‘Well then I guess it’ll be up to the Marines to save their sorry asses again’ he replied to a chorus of approving whoops and “Semper-Fi’s”, ‘but from what I’ve heard about the “new” Army we’re planning to build it ain’t going to be much like the old one.’

* * *

INS Kortenaer – Two Months Burn from Fort Obsidian – 2522AD

By preference the crew of the Missile Destroyer Kortenaer would have simply flown into range of the aging cargo transport and blown it to hell but they were under orders to disable then board the vessel leaving the crew as unharmed as possible. This was very hard on the platoon of Marines who would have to do the actual boarding given they would have much preferred the Destroyer to have done the job as well.

The Independent Marines were tough and battle-hardened but the prospect of maybe going hand-to-hand with a boat load of Reavers once again wasn’t something they exactly relished all machismo aside. The professionalism and discipline, not to mention superior personal weaponry, of the Marines had given them victory in the other occasions they’d undertaken a boarding mission like this over the last ten years but the names of fallen comrades etched into the monument stone back at Fort Obsidian testified to the fact that the cannibalistic savages were still not a threat to be taken lightly.

Kortenaer had already disabled the transports engines and electrical systems with a small missile-mounted EMP warhead but before it closed to send boarding shuttles the Missile Destroyer used its secondary armament, twin particle beam cannon, to carefully dissect the transports armament, which although no threat to Kortenaer herself it would be dangerous for the shuttles if the Reavers somehow managed to get them powered up again.

The Captain of the Independent Navy vessel left the bridge to see off the Marines personally, if you might be sending some of them to their death you should at least have the decency to look them in the eyes first he’d decided.

The Marines were down in the flight bay doing final checks on their equipment before boarding the small shuttles. When the Ships Captain walked in he was spotted by a Sergeant who called out ‘Attention on Deck’ bringing the whole unit snapping to attention with the crisp professionalism of men who had served the Corps for well over a decade. The ranking Marine, a Lieutenant, saluted the Naval Officer which the Kortenaer’s Captain returned knowing his own salute wasn’t half as smooth.

‘Just thought I’d wish you and your Marines luck Lieutenant’ The Captain announced.

‘Thank you Sir’ the Lieutenant replied with a nod of acknowledgement.

The Captain looked around at the Armed and Armoured Marines who were still stood to attention before turning back to the Lieutenant saying ‘I’d rather not be sending you over like this but the Orders came from the Admiral himself.’

‘It’s the job Sir’ the Marine Officer replied simply.

The Navy man nodded then smiled ‘So are your boys and girls up for this?’ he asked.

The Marine smiled then called out loudly ‘What makes the grass grow’ to which all the other Marines chanted back in unison ‘Blood, Blood, Blood’.

‘I’ll take that as a yes’ the Destroyer Captain commented. Wondering exactly what defect in the human psyche made people actually want to be Jarheads.

* * *

Foreman Industries Factory Complex – Toulouse – 2522 AD

The new Mass-Driver production line was still prone to occasional stoppages as the tooling was still being run in but Jack Foreman was more than pleased with the way things were going. It was strange really that you could quite literally produce heavy weapons right under the nose of the Alliance but in some ways it was just history repeating itself once again, Steve Hicks would certainly appreciate the situation Foreman considered.

Asteroid Mining had always been the core of many Industrial Concerns out on the Rim and the most cost effective way of transporting the material was frequently to hurl it around from place to place with big mass-drivers. On some low-gravity moons the things were even used to put stuff in orbit. The Alliance had as a matter of record badly underestimated the implications of all this mass-driver technology and production capability in the hands of the otherwise limited Independent Industrial base when they had started the last war.

The tens of thousands of Alliance soldiers and sailors who met their end as a result of an Independent Railgun would testify to the result of that underestimate.

The Independents couldn’t mass produce high-tech Directed Energy Weapons, or shiny EMP charges, or Infra-Red Seeker Drones like the huge industrial concerns of the Core Worlds but they could, and did, convert plants making small short-range shuttles into fighter factories, turn larger orbital factories making Asteroid-Mining Ships into Naval Yards making Destroyers and Frigates and they could also turn those civilian workshops making peaceful Mass-Drivers into Armaments Factories making Railguns.

Even the more vaunted Independent Military machines such as the Excalibur battletank were really not much more than just an assembly of the Laminate Armour used pre-war in Mining Ships, the Gravity Engine used in Hovertrucks and Cargo Skimmers and with a converted civilian mass-driver for its primary armament. The electronics were just civilian grade aerospace for the most part which was why the Excalibur’s Fire-Control System was notoriously glitchy.

It wasn’t going to be like that this time Jack Foreman thought to himself as he leaned over to inspect some circuit boards waiting for assembly on the bench in front of him.

The plant and machinery imported from Blue-Sun had been used to produce the production dyes, tools and lathes needed to start up new factories as soon as they were needed. The equipment they were designed to produce was a mixture of the very best that had been available in the last war plus new weapons based off captured technology that even the Alliance Military itself was years away from using, having cut back purchases of ever more modern equipment in the wake of ten years of peace.

According to estimates relayed to him from the powers-that-be beyond the outer-rim at Fort Obsidian they could expect at least six to eight months from start of hostilities before any half-way effective Alliance Counter-Offensive could be launched. By that time not only would the Independent Navy and Aerospace Force be expanding rapidly but the Rim Colonies would be infested with Gauss-Rifle armed Militia Brigades, and other man-portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons would be pouring out of the factories giving the Infantry the ability to inflict casualties on the Alliance Federals they wouldn’t have thought possible ten years back.

A couple of months after that River Tams so-called “New Model Army” should be trained, equipped and ready to take the field and then God help the Purple-Bellies Jake Foreman thought because they really wouldn’t see that coming.

Foreman smiled inwardly thinking of something Steven Hicks had said during their last clandestine meeting. The Alliance may not have liked fighting our Militia much in the previous war, Hick’s had said, but wait until they meet the Regular Army.

* * *

Fort Obsidian – Beyond the Outer Rim – 2522AD

‘So how goes the refits?’ the Admiral asked whilst still continuing to pedal hard. He was more than pleased that he sounded a lot less out of breath on the exercise bike than the engineer peddling away next to him. He might have been the oldest man in the gym but Van der Heijden wasn’t the least fit by any means.

‘We’ve already produced enough of the heat-superconductor material to turn most of the Destroyers and Frigates into ConductorClads and we’re a third of the way through with Scylla’ the engineer replied repeated puffs. ‘The new capacitors and other assorted circuitry we scavenged from the Alliance Cruiser Charybdis smashed have already replaced the systems on several vessels and our efforts to back-engineer other components is going very well. The designs are being implemented both in our own factory ships production and we are updating those involved with our operation on Toulouse.’

‘Will all our ships be bought up to ConductorClad standard on schedule?’ the Admiral asked continuing to peddle.

The engineer stopped his own exercise and wiped the sweat from his brow with a small towel that had been hanging around his neck. ‘Yes Sir although we doubt the weapon upgrades will be complete, we’re prioritising the large ships first since they’ll be more important in our expected early clashes with the Alliance Fleet.’

Having demonstrated more endurance than the younger man the Admiral stopped peddling his exercise bike ‘Overall how would you rate the upgraded ships?’

The engineer looked thoughtful though he was still breathing heavily. ‘With the greatly improved ability to withstand hits from enemy laser-based Directed Energy Weapons plus the faster recharge times, and slightly higher power-outputs offered by our own upgraded weapons, I would say that when finished Scylla and Charybdis would be a match for any warship ever constructed, even the best Alliance Super-Heavies of the last war’ he concluded. ‘To use a boxing analogy our ships punch far, far above their weight class.’

‘And compared to the current Alliance Fleet?’

‘Pre-upgrade I would have bet on one of our battlecruisers winning a slugging match with at least three of their current generation of Cruiser. With the upgrades fair odds would be maybe five or six Cruisers against either Scylla or Charbydis.’

Van der Heijden got off his bike and picked up a bottle of water from the small bench next to the line of exercise equipment. He swigged a mouthful and turned back to the engineer ‘We’re predicting seven or eight Cruisers at the first big engagement’ he told the engineer.

‘Sir, quite frankly you’ll pulverise them’ the engineer said confidently.

* * *

Gibraltar Station – Three Weeks Burn beyond the Rim – 2522AD

The space station was the most distant outpost of the Alliance far beyond any Colonised World. It was mainly used as a staging post for scouting missions further out into the deep black looking for new worlds to terraform, or new resources to exploit.

Regular transport runs back towards Colonised Space kept Gibraltar both supplied and in contact with Alliance Military Command. The station was fairly large and could house far more than its hundred and fifty residents which included the crews needed to man its half-dozen survey craft and single squadron of Aerospace Fighters. Being sent to Gibraltar was generally considered a punishment detail amongst Alliance Naval personnel, as a posting it was too far from home and too boring to describe.

It was indicative of just how dull things could get out here that the majority of the station crew were hovering around the main airlock for the arrival of this months supply ship. It had arrived in sensor range right on time, broadcast its identification codes and flown into dock just like clockwork with the bridge crew on the ship striking up a lively conversation with the command staff on the station en-route.

All cargo vessels that flew out here used to be armed, that apparently hadn’t helped the Navy Transport IAV Stokerton which went missing back in 2520, but no other ship had disappeared since then and starting six months ago the Navy had given the supply contract to a civilian company which was why the cargo ship that had just docked was an unarmed Wasp Transport rather than a Navy Boat.

Before the supply ship docked it was scanned to check it was neither armed nor were the crew, who were apparently clustered in the cargo bay, carrying any firearms themselves. The commander of Gibraltar station was a paranoid soul.

The Wasp Transport docked and the ships computer immediately linked itself with the one running the station. This was a perfectly safe procedure, the military grade computers on the station were far more advanced than their civilian counterparts and had systems to protect them from anything untoward that might happen.

The gathered crew of the Station waited expectantly for new faces and fresh supplies as the airlocks slid open on both ships.

‘What the hell?’ a curious flight engineer asked quizzically as the airlocks opened to blackness. The cavernous cargo bay on the Wasp was completely dark.

An AI designed computer virus cut through the Stations firewall like a knife through butter cut all the lights and unlocked all the internal doors.

In the darkness remote controlled locks opened on cages, ill defined shapes emerged into the darkness.

‘What the fuck is going on?’ a fighter pilot yelled into the darkness before the dim emergency battery lights kicked in throughout the station turning the cargo bay and the rest of Gibraltar into a web of shadows.

The screaming started seconds later. It could be heard echoing throughout the station.

On the bridge of the Wasp Transport the pilot offered the co-pilot a piece of chocolate. They were both wearing Independent Navy uniforms and were trying to ignore the pounding on the airlock door that separated the cockpit from the rest of the ship. Both it and the doors to all other vital areas of the boat were welded shut and the infra-red cameras throughout the ship showed that the rest of the ships “crew” had done as expected and left for the station.

‘Told you it would work’ the pilot said chewing on some of the chocolate.

The co-pilot popped her own piece of confectionary into her mouth. ‘I never said it wouldn’t work I said I thought it was despicable. It’ll certainly look bad in the history books after the war’ she observed.

‘It’s effective though’ the pilot pointed out. ‘And I doubt this episode will be mentioned in public any time soon’ he said. ‘I’ll be leaving this rutting mission out of my memoirs that’s for sure.’

‘Effective well hell yes’ the co-pilot conceded, ‘but I wonder about the sanity, not to mention the humanity of the person that thought up the mission.’

‘Well she got the codes from the ships Captain didn’t she?’ the pilot replied breaking off another piece of chocolate from the bar in his hand. ‘Anyhow I heard it was that Intel Major Brown that thought up this part’ he continued. ‘Hey do you think it’ll catch on?’ he asked.

‘Might do’ the co-pilot replied, ‘but even without the bad PR it’s a hell of a job rounding them up and caging them though, ask the Marines on Kortenaer. Our part of the job, intercepting and boarding this thing was a piece of cake’

The pilot nodded. ‘Yeah but Reaver Shock-troops could be the next big thing in military affairs. Good logistics’ he observed ‘They literally live off the enemy’ he pointed out in a display of dark humour.

‘So how long do we give them?’ the co-pilot asked. ‘The ships bringing the replacement crew and clean-up squads are due to arrive in half an hour, they were just outside the stations sensor range when we sent the Go Code.

The pilot leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the console. ‘Another fifteen minutes should give them time to deal with the crew’ he replied. ‘Pity we can’t keep them for next time we need disposable troops’ he said ‘but they’re just not domesticated enough.’

‘Fifteen minutes then’ the co-pilot agreed, ‘then we pump in the nerve gas’ she continued dispassionately leaning back in her own chair.

Part X

COMMENTS

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 8:40 AM

ANONYMOUS


So glad that you're back, Hotpoint. I can't wait to read the next chapter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 9:04 AM

AMDOBELL


River as a master tactician is a truly frightening experience. The calm way she wants to then hit them with nerve gas, *wode ma*. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 9:20 AM

ANONYMOUS


wow cool, I so thought you had given up writing this. I am very glad to see I was wrong. Keep up the good writing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 9:58 AM

GRIMLOCK


Glad your back.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts....
It's nice that you hit the ground running with the second war, but I find myself missing the characters that first drew me to your writing in the first place.

The virus... Shadow's work?

More to come, back to calculus

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 11:36 AM

JUUL


so glad you're back :)
i'd all but given up on ever hearing the rest of this most brilliant adventure.
keep it up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 2:48 PM

SIMONISTICSNAFU


YESS!!!! So glad to see you back with this story!

Thursday, February 16, 2006 1:35 AM

FREDEP


Dumping a boat load off Reavers into a Alliance outpost!?....Ruttin' sick and briliant!!

Great work again Hotpoint!

Thursday, February 16, 2006 6:24 AM

ARTSHIPS


Good to read you again, Hotpoint. As always, first-rate military fiction.

Friday, April 7, 2006 9:25 AM

ANONYMOUS


Gripping yarn.

I see in this universe, round two, the race to the moral bottom is accelerating. It's like recalling the Waffen SS to dispose ot the Russians and then applying Zyklon B to the survivors.

I'll pass.


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YOUR OPTIONS

OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XX)
The Independents lift for a return to the Valley

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIX)
As they train for the Campaign to liberate Hera the soldiers of the Independent military continue to go about their daily lives.

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVIII)
Mal faces a worse fate than he ever imagined, Serenity has an image change and Cally adjusts to life back on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVII)
After the initial Independent blitzkreig the Second War of Independence continues with the Alliance still reeling and the Browncoats starting to consolidate their position

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XVI)
Scylla and Charybdis show the Alliance Navy what real warships are made of

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XV)
After the skirmishing the Battle of Toulouse begins

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIV)
Mal Reynolds takes his "Valley Wolves" into action as the fighting on Toulouse escalates

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XIII)
The Independent Navy takes the fight to the Core while Mal Reynolds takes his new troops into action on Toulouse

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XII)
Unification Day 2522 goes not as expected

Horse, Foot and Artillery (Part XI)
Reunions and opening gambits


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