Epilogue : Meet You On The Beach

SPOILER ALERT!

(if you read this one before reading the rest of the books, it’s on “you”… not “me”! 😉 )

As has been noted elsewhere, editorial work on the entirety of The Future Burns Bright, has now been completed; but as of now (early December, 2019), according to the publication schedule, the latter 3 books of the series will likely not be available for formal distribution and purchase until somewhat later in 2020.

With that having been said, as is inevitable in cases like this, a lot of material simply could not be put into the various books of The Future Burns Bright, simply for reasons of space.

You can find one such chapter – which takes place (SPOILER ALERT) after the end of The Future Alight – below.

Sincerely

Marcus Shields

Author, The Angel Brings Fire and The Future Burns Bright


Epilogue : Meet You On The Beach

Well… finally, I get some quality time with her, mused Billings, as he whispered “taxi” and stepped out of the ink-black-shroud that had been enveloping him, as he stole away from the crowd.

I should be happy… all those hangers-on up there in the castle could have kept her busy for weeks.

But damn, wasn’t it nice dancing with her… and letting the kids join us while doing it.

I’m counting my blessings… that’s for sure.

He had gingerly stepped down the stone steps of Fort Catherine (nearly stumbling and falling prat-over-teakettle at least twice, due to the imprecision of using the heat-seeing-thingie in place of good ol’ Human Mark One eyeballs), toward the immaculate sand-beach upon which now he trod.

Actually, near the top of the stairs, he had gone for a bad stumble; but something innate had kicked in, stopping his fall a few imprecise inches above the very hard stone construction of the fortification.

Couldn’t even see where the floor was, he ruminated,

But somehow… I didn’t end up on my head, or on my butt.

Thank you, Sari!

Though his hiding-cloak was now defunct, the surroundings were still quite dark; sunset had been about an hour ago, and what little visible illumination was available was provided by the castle’s sparse night-lights, plus the considerable shine of a nearly-full moon, starkly visible high over the horizon.

Billings looked out over Gates Bay and soothed his soul by listening to the low sound of the ocean’s breaking waves. The crests were minimal, as only a light breeze was blowing.

He scanned in every direction. Luckily – other than for a couple of random tourists, who were perhaps 300 feet down the beach to the south – he appeared to be alone.

God… after the insanity of the past few months, I needed this, reflected the ex-salesman.

It’s all like a dream… mostly, a bad one… except for her, of course.

Okay… and the kids… Tommy particularly.

Never thought I’d hear myself saying that, considering it was a big part of why Patty and I had to call it quits.

Now, I’ve somehow ended up with a “gf” who snatches kids off the streets of Third World countries and flies them, all under her own power of course, to her own private Batcave, self-hollowed out of Antarctic islands.

Okay, then, Bob… how’d you pull that one off, again?

Oh, right… you got tortured, and almost killed.

Other than for “that”… well, it was a walk in the park!

Now if I could just get a buzz out of the next Piña Colada…

This forlorn memory called for a deep sigh, which he did fully aloud.

You sound wistful, my love,” came a familiar, melodious voice, from nowhere in particular.

There’s nobody around, honey,” he offered. “You can drop the hidey-thing.”

And in an instant, thus did the perfect-shapely figure of the Storied Watcher appear by his side, as if from nowhere. She was dressed in typically-fetching, diaphanous beach-garb, almost as revealing as a bikini and every bit as stylish and complimentary.

He saw the teenager-cut bang of her almost-white-blond hair, along with its long tresses flowing down her shoulders and back.

Her big, soft, green eyes stared affectionately up at him.

By now, Billings had – barely – figured out how to control himself when she came as close as she now was, with his arm around her upper-body and her head leaning affectionately against his bicep.

It still drove him crazy, though.

It’s pretty dark out here – nobody would see us, if we were to toss our clothes aside and – oh well.

She promised me for later tonight, anyway… guess I can wait, but a million other men couldn’t…

Truly, this is a gentle time and place,” observed Karéin-Mayréij. “Our brother Alan chose well… did he not?”

Umm-hmm,” murmured the ex-salesman.

You left the kids up there?” he inquired.

Yes,” she answered. “Whitney and Saquina volunteered to look after them, for the remainder of this evening. So we have this time to ourselves, my love.”

Damn, Sari,” he said with a grin, “Don’t that sound good, or what?”

Ahh… more ‘Eng-lish’ idiom,” she faux-pouted. “May I assume from this that you are happy with our situation?”

“’Happy’ is hardly the word,” he concurred. “It’s not just being here with you. It’s being here with you… and not having anybody fixin’ to drop a bomb on us.”

He paused for a second, and then asked, only half in jest and with a whiff of nervousness in his voice, “There’s nobody planning to do that… is there? I mean, the ‘bomb’ thing, that is –”

No,” she reassured. “The war-children so assure me; and besides, I checked myself, before I came down here. Now… of course, there is always the possibility that the President, despite his assurances – or some other such miscreant – could have tracked us down, and then directed yet another of these ‘atom-smashing-bombs’ against us –”

A look of alarm showed momentarily on Billings’ face; but it was short-lived, as his distaff companion’s serene demeanor and impish smile, quickly put his concerns to rest.

They will build more of these hateful weapons, you know,” she commented. “And we will deal with them. You, me, along with our brothers and sisters of the New People – we will do so. Those who mean us ill will soon discover that treachery will fail, and that it will bring ruin to them – and it will not be the end of us.”

How can you be so sure of that?” he demanded.

Because I have seen it all happen before,” she softly remarked. “Other times… other worlds… perhaps, other dimensions of reality. But it is always the same.”

Wow,” whistled the ex-salesman. “That’s heavy stuff. Did I mention how you, like, make me feel ‘inadequate’, all of a sudden?”

For a moment or two, the Storied Watcher just flashed one of her entrancing, enigmatic half-smiles at him; but then she responded with, “That is the last word that I would use to describe you, dearest. Already, you are a veritable god among men, though you dare not to admit it, to yourself. We will have to – ahh – ‘work on that’, you know.”

She giggled, girlishly.

But I don’t feel like a ‘god’, you know,” he protested. “In fact, I don’t even feel like a regional sales manager!”

Again, he heard Karéin-Mayréij’s gentle, low laugh.

Well, Bob,” she offered, “Perhaps when your arts will make some of these ‘floor-tiles’ to glow in the dark – and thus to give off the little-particle-shine – then shall Hugo and his peers give you this ‘promotion’, which is so very important.”

Billings nodded his head in agreement, chuckled, squeezed her waist and murmured, “Yeah.”

For as much as a minute, both just stayed silent, breathing in the salt air and enjoying the touch of half-human-to-alien skin. Their gaze was first cast over the sea, then upon the bright-shining orb of the moon.

Sari,” said Billings, “There’s something that I’ve wanted to ask you for a while now… but the time’s never been right… you know?”

She looked up, her lambent green eyes staring coquettishly.

Yes?” she responded.

I’m not sure exactly how to say this,” he haltingly started, “But, well… do you remember when we first ran into each other – after you had sprung me, Whitney and the kids from the ‘Jesus Jail”? Like, after we – you know – uhh, ‘did it’ in the grass. The first time, I mean.”

Oh… of course I do remember this,” she confirmed, with a sly smile. “For sure, it is a fond memory… although as I also recall, our dalliance was occasioned by you coming into contact with little specks of my life-blood, which as you discovered, contains a corrosive agent. Commander Sam found out the same, back on Mailànkh – it is a defensive measure, which makes me rather unappetizing to big predatory beasts that would, perhaps, want to eat me. We both know what happened after I had to – ahh – clean this off your lips. Out of pain comes pleasure, in other words.”

You have a way of saying that,” he commented. “You know I’m crazy about you… but every so often I gotta remind myself that you and I, we’re really awfully – uhh – different, from each other… you know what I’m saying?”

That is true,” conceded the Storied Watcher, “Tommy said much the same thing, when he agreed to let me become his adoptive mother. And I will tell you exactly what I told him : namely, that when beings such as all of us – people who can live with each other and who can love each other, who can suffer fear and loneliness, who can give each other kindness and comfort – who can live and communicate with each other as I am doing with you now… who cares, if we are technically the same species, or different ones? You are a human; I look like one; and I have accepted you as my mate. What else matters?”

Yeah,” he acknowledged. “I guess that bridge was crossed a long time ago, but… well…”

Yes?” repeated the alien-girl.

Listen, Sari… what I’m try to say, in my own clumsy way is… well… I was thinking…”

Bob,” she gently prodded, “Just tell me what is – ahh – ‘on your mind’. It will not offend or upset me, whatever it is.”

He gave her a pained look.

I already know what you propose to ask, she sent to his mind.

How could I say anything except for “yes”?

Okay, then,” declared the ex-salesman. “What I wanted to say was, you and I have been through a lot together – a lot more than I’ve ever done with any other, err, human woman; and so I was thinking that maybe we could – that is, we should – formalize the relationship… so…”

Yes?” half-teased Karéin-Mayréij.

Her face wore a bemused smile.

I… I guess I should maybe get down on a knee…” he stammered.

All of a sudden, she, herself, was kneeling in front of him; but the alien-girl was now down on both legs.

What are you doing?” asked a perplexed Billings.

Preparing,” answered the Storied Watcher.

For what?” he demanded.

Oh… well, Bob, you see,” she responded in matter-of-factual tone, “Where I come from, when a female proposes herself in marriage to a male, she kneels down, as I am now doing. That was what you were thinking of… was it not?”

For God’s sake, he found himself thinking.

Look,” he protested, “Didn’t we have an, uhh, agreement, about you reading my mind?”

We certainly did,” parried Karéin-Mayréij. “But doing so was not necessary in this case.”

How you figure that?” he continued.

Would it help to know that I have been ‘married’ to – ahh, let me see – yes – twenty-eight or more ‘husbands’ – and at least three ‘wives’ – in my lifespan so far, Bob?” she remarked. “I have kind of grown used to proposing to a mate… or being proposed to.”

He sighed.

Is that your way of making me feel ‘special’?” grumbled the ex-salesman.

It sure is!” she countered, still on her knees. “Bob – my love – this is the same thing as that which we discussed, back in the Too-sawn shopping-mall. I do not betroth myself to just anyone, you know! I have turned down offers of marriage from more kings and queens, High Priests, Grand Wizards and just rich people – even, one or two mighty demons – than you could easily count. So… are you ‘special’? You bet, man! You are the only person on this planet, who shall have my hand as my acknowledged mate.”

He was dumbfounded. He couldn’t think of anything to say.

Bob of Billings, most honored man in the Kingdom of America,” she plaintively asked, with her intimidating (yet, somehow, vulnerable and doe-eyed) presence staring upward, “Will you have me – the Storied Watcher of the Many Worlds – as your wife? Will you cleave to me – to love, to hold, to pleasure and to defend, in good times and bad, until either you or I, shall leave this life?”

Suddenly, the words came back to him.

Sari – no, I’ll call you by your real name, the one that you came to my rescue by, the one you saved my ass by, God bless you, woman – Karéin-Mayréij,” he gushed, while falling to his knees directly in front of her. “Yes… I will! And will you have me as your husband?”

Yes – as the stars and the Gods are my guide… I will have you as my mate, my husband… my love!” she exclaimed.

Her presence, at this close range, was simply overwhelming.

Come to me now, man!” she demanded, as a cloak of darkness began to envelop the two.

Somehow he was aware of another energy-field – powerful enough to resist any physical intrusion into the area – extending many feet in every direction.

Sari,” he ordered, “Open your mouth.”

She complied, and in the next instant when his tongue met her own, he could control himself no longer.

Neither could she.


Billings was secretly elated that – at least apparently – the lovemaking had managed to tire out his alien paramour, whose eyelids were shut as her elfin face nestled serenely and securely under his chin.

Someone had started to play a medley of “oldies”-style tunes, perhaps as background for a dance somewhere inland from the beach. Although these were clearly audible to the alien-powered ears of both the ex-salesman and the alien-girl, mercifully, the volume was still low enough not to trigger bylaw-complaints.

Neither of the two newly-vowed lovers had really been keeping much track of time; but slowly, the Storied Watcher’s hiding-cloak and its associated external force-field had been abating. By now, it was all but gone, so the ex-salesman figured that at least a few minutes had passed by.

He kissed the top of her head and noticed that only her bottom under-garments had been put back on. Her arms were crossed in front; which was fortunate, as she was naked from the waist up.

You up yet?” he asked.

I never fell completely asleep,” she disclosed. “But I am contented.”

That’d be two of us,” he noted. “That was… ‘wow’, is all I can say.”

A wan smile greeted him.

“’Wow’, indeed,” she echoed. “May all our encounters be so, ahh, ‘torrid’. You know, Bob… the weirding-arts possessed by some of us – myself and yourself included – can cause a fire to burn very hot. But not even this can exceed the flames of passion… do you not think?”

You got that right, honey,” he smugly confirmed.

Her equally-self-satisfied giggling was the proverbial music to his ears; but he was somewhat crestfallen at seeing her top-garment re-enveloping her torso.

Aww!” pouted Billings.

Like the rest of my body,” she teased, “My breasts and nipples and other girl-parts are at your disposal… but let us refrain for a few minutes. Again shall the embers of love flare to incandescence!”

That’s my girl,” he snickered.

She blew him an air-kiss.

Nice music,” said Karéin-Mayréij, upon hearing the chords and lyrics of People Will Say We’re In Love. “It is well-suited for such relaxing and happy times as these.”

Yeah,” agreed the ex-salesman. “Sinatra, I think.”

He is a good singer,” she observed. “His voice is very smooth and precise.”

He was, like, the biggest thing in America for a while, as I recall,” mentioned Billings. “But now you are.”

Another of her entrancing, girlish laughs met his ears.

Well… not as a musician… at least, not yet,” she quipped. “I shall stick to shattering comets and to shrugging off atom-smashing bombs, for the purposes of fame – though not of fortune. I doubt that this ‘Sinatra’ person could overmatch me at those duties… perhaps it would be rude for me to try to contest his singing.”

I never mind hearing you – talking, singing, or just those weirdo ‘war-songs’ that seem to be everywhere, when you’re fixin’ to kick some serious ass,” commented Billings. “Especially that last one. Did I tell you, by the way, that when we heard that – down in the dungeon on the island, that is – it was like being shot full of high-test stimulants? The minute I heard it, I felt like Superman, despite being half-dead beforehand. Damn, girl… if you could record that, you’d be on top of the charts, eternally –”

Ha, ha,” she gently disputed, “Métschaì’l does not work that way, dearest; its notes and tones are of the Holy Fire, and they cannot be fully –”

The ‘what’ doesn’t work that way?” he interrupted.

The background-music had transitioned to that of some other singer, perhaps Bing Crosby.

It is pronounced ‘mate-sha-eye-el’, as near as I can do in Eng-lish,” she elaborated. “I honestly do not know exactly how it works; but my ancestors told of a blessing that would both empower their descendants – like me – while warning evil-doers that a mighty demon-slayer of the Khùl-Algrenàthi’i stands against them –”

The ‘kool… what’?” he again interjected. “Oh… forget it.”

You really should learn how to say that,” she instructed.

Why?” he requested.

Because… you are one now, Bob of Billings,” she disclosed, with a proud but slight nod of her head. “A dread warrior are you – and those who would oppress, steal or kill, should fear your coming!”

The music’s nice,” he offered, through pursed lips, “But the sound of that’s… even better.”


They both fell silent for a short while, absorbed in each other’s company and with the relaxing surroundings; then Billings happened to again glance at the moon.

Sari,” he asked, “Didn’t I hear you saying – okay, I read about it somewhere – that when you were ‘her’… like, when you were the other ‘you’, I mean… you were flying around out there? In outer space, I mean.”

Yep,” she replied.

There was a proud, confident tone to her voice.

That must, uhh, be quite a ‘thing’,” he advanced.

Definitely,” elliptically confirmed the alien-girl.

The hit-parade at the far-off dance-floor had, evidently, returned to numbers by “Ol’ Blue Eyes”.

With curiosity overcoming him, Billings asked, “What’s it like?”

Well, Bob,” stated Karéin-Mayréij, “After all… you, too, have learned how to shrug off the bonds of gravity – that is, to turn them to your own use, and thus to soar into the clouds, here upon this beautiful little blue planet… have you not?”

Sure I have… except it scares me shitless – especially when I look down,” he admitted.

It is like that – one bends the waves of gravity to propel oneself, although there is really no ‘left’ or ‘right’, ‘up’ or ‘down’, in the empty black void,” she explained, “But one must use the Holy Fire as a substitute for breathable air and – later, in long trips – for water and nourishment. And since the void has next to ‘zero’ air-pressure, it is also vital to employ one’s, ahh, ‘force-field’, to protect oneself from the vacuum’s lethal embrace… fail to do this, and one’s very blood will quickly boil away, leading to a painful demise. It is scary when one first tries it; but later, it is thrilling because one can travel at great speeds in the void – much faster than in the Earth’s sea of air, where the drag of the gas-molecules slows one down and causes a blaze of incandescent fire, to envelop oneself.”

That’s one hell of a lot to get right, all at the same time,” remarked the ex-salesman. “Especially… if you get it wrong – you’re kind of screwed… right?”

That would be a ‘yes’,” she answered, with a knowing smile. “One does not have ‘second chances’ in the void. But one learns gradually; I did not just jump out into it – back on my native world, I tested my abilities by flying faster and faster, higher and higher, adjusting my defenses as necessary. When I had it all, ahh, ‘figured out’, only then did I leave the planet’s atmosphere, entirely. You can do that too, you know. You just need someone to, ahh, lift you up to where you can safely experience it, first-hand.”

I’ll take your word for it,” stated Billings. “Once I figure out how to – say – get myself from New York to L.A. without paying for a plane-ticket… maybe I’ll try this crazy stuff you’re talking about. Honestly, Sari… it all sounds unreal. I mean, if the ‘me’ of a year ago, could hear what today’s ‘me’ is saying…”

Well,” she philosophically mentioned, “One Earth year ago, I would have still been lying in the sleep of the ages – only slightly alive – in a cold tomb on Mailànkh.”

Oh… right,” he said. “I had forgotten about that. Want to talk about it?”

I am not sure that there is a lot to say that you would easily understand,” she evaded.

Despite the disclaimer, her demeanor suggested that, in fact, she did want to discuss the subject.

You know I don’t want to make you do anything that you don’t want to do,” he pledged, “But come on, humor me… I’m curious… what was it like?”

Karéin-Mayréij paused for a second or two, pensively staring out into the distance. Eventually she described,

It is – was – like nothing to which you – or any previously-human-being – are accustomed, Bob. It is sort of like slumber, but one is actually not asleep; one’s senses are still working to a very limited extent. And time passes very slowly; a minute becomes a second; an hour becomes a minute; a day becomes an hour; and so on. With each passing second, the time-scale becomes different, even more extended… I honestly do not know by how much. As time passes, it becomes more and more like a dream, and one cannot be sure whether one is even alive any more.”

That’s crazy,” was all Billings could think of to say. “Does it, like, hurt, or something? If I sleep in too late, sometimes I wake up with a sore back or whatever.”

Not while I am in this state of, uhh, ‘suspended animation’… no,” she disclosed. “But when finally I awake, oh sacred stars man, does it ever hurt! Each movement of one’s muscles – that is, what little is left of them – brings agonizing pain, like having one’s arms twisted backwards by a strong opponent, would feel to yourself. Even breathing is like having a huge weight on one’s chest –”

Hey… hey,” he interjected, “If the subject’s too painful, we can just –”

But the alien-girl was by no means finished.

Do not worry, Bob,” she responded. “It is good that I finally have someone to whom I can entrust this information, you know. It is awfully lonely never being able to talk about it, lest ‘the wrong people’ should overhear, and thus determine a weakness that they can use against me.”

The melodious voice of Frank Sinatra again sounded over the night-time Bermuda beach; the tune was louder now, so that it would be easily audible even to human hearing over the lapping of the waves breaking on the sand.

Hmm… another nice song,” remarked Karéin-Mayréij. “I really enjoy hearing this man.”

Well,” he noted, “A lot of it has to do with having good material to work with. Which, he usually did.”

Ah,” she acknowledged; and then, staring forward as if deep in thought, she went on,

While I was thus in repose, I remember that my mind went wandering outside my body – perhaps to other places, to other dimensions of reality – and though thus I had many adventures, there was always the fear that I would never again be whole; that is, my mind and body would be hewn asunder by some psychic or mystical mishap. I was on one such mind-quest, when – somehow – I was again as one within the crystal-box that the Old Ones and I had crafted many centuries – perhaps, millennia – earlier, to preserve my physical body as best I could. It was then that I sensed the presence of Commander Jacobson and Professor Tanaka. The rest you know.”

She looked up at him and asked, “Does that answer your question, Bob?”

I’ll have to, I guess,” he said. “This is, like, way beyond me, but… uhh… the ‘Old Ones’, Sari? What the hell’s –”

Spirits… ghosts… minor demons, even, as you would reckon this,” explained the Storied Watcher. “Nothing that humans of Earth would recognize as ‘living beings’… their life-essence requires the kinds of senses that now are in your possession, to detect or converse with. Even though in a way they are similar to the life-spirits of my war-children, still did it take me a very long time to learn how to successfully communicate with them. They were on Mailànkh when I first came to that planet; and – as far as I know – they are still there, now.”

Holy crap!” exclaimed the ex-salesman. “You mean there are Martians –”

They are on Mailànkh… that is – or was – true,” she clarified, “But as to whether they are native to that planet, or whether they – like me – came there from somewhere else… I cannot say. By the way, Bob… I would prefer that you not discuss this with anyone else, except for Tommy, and then only if he asks. The Old Ones are no threat to the humans of Earth… but as you have seen from personal experience, their fears and prejudices might drive them to persecute these gentle and ancient beings. I owe the Old Ones a great debt, as they guarded and kept me safe over untold centuries. They are my friends – and I pray that someday, you will make them your own, as well. Oh-kay?”

You can count on me, honey,” vowed Billings. “But… wow. I mean… ‘spirits’? ‘Ghosts’? Can we say, ‘over my pay grade’?”

No, my love,” she contradicted. “They became, ahh, ‘within your pay grade’, the moment that you first elected to travel with me. Though – I will allow – perhaps you did not completely understand what you were getting yourself into. Ah, well… life is full of little ‘surprises’… is it not?”

There’s the understatement of the Century,” he ruefully admitted. “So far, after hitching up with you, I’ve been turned into a half-alien superhero, been kidnapped, been tortured, had a H-bomb dropped on me, been flown to your little home away from home in the Arctic Ocean –”

It is in the Antarctic Ocean, Bob,” she corrected. “You know… the southern polar sea… not the northern one.”

Whichever one that would freeze my ass in five minutes, upon going in for a dip,” he parried. “I forgot to mention how I dropped in to the White House, had to deal with yet more nukes and a shoot-out there. Now ghosts and goblins on Mars. Give me strength!

Oh… do not worry about it, Bob,” cajoled the Storied Watcher. “Once you become accustomed to them – and, they to you – I believe that you would get along just fine. The Old Ones are very wise and patient; but their perspective on life and reality is – ahem – a little different from my own, or yours. You would learn from each other, just like you, Tommy, Elissha and Sayuri have done with my war-children. You should try it… it would, ahh, ‘expand your horizons’.”

Ha, ha… I guess it would,” was all he could think of to say.

Far off in the distance, the alien-girl and her half-human lover could just hear an emcee announcing, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, in a few seconds we’ll play our last number for tonight… but please don’t forget your personal belongings on your way out and drive safely as you go home.”

Darn,” commented Billings, “And here I was just getting used to it. Never was much of an ‘oldies’ guy, but still –”

He stopped for a second or two while trying to figure out the first notes of the final song but was taken off-guard, upon seeing the Storied Watcher coming quickly to her feet with an all-too-familiar dim glow in her eyes; but any apprehension that he might otherwise have felt vanished instantly, as he descried an enigmatic smile on her face.

From somewhere behind them came the silken, immortal voice of Frank Sinatra, crooning out that familiar anthem,

Fly Me To The Moon”.

Uhh… what, Sari?” he guardedly inquired.

Karéin-Mayréij looked kindly – albeit, mischievously – at the man who had undergone so much on her behalf, since first she had chanced upon him.

Her face and body fairly radiated companionship, gratitude, affection and – most of all – a kind of love that none else on this world would ever have, nor would understand.

The alien-girl pointed backward over her right shoulder, at the brilliant orb of the almost-full moon. She turned her head to briefly glance at the heavenly body. Then she again regarded Billings and extended her arms, as if to embrace him.

She arched an eyebrow and winked at Bob Billings, formerly of Tucson, Arizona, but now – as much as anyone could ever be – a citizen and junior guardian of Planet Earth.

Ready?” she proposed.

Yeah,” he softly replied, as he fell into her embrace, not even caring that in the next second, he would not feel anything beneath his feet.

 

 

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