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Chapter XXIV

01/19/11

Chapter XXIV

 

            A quiet rumble shook the Factory walls in the darkness of the early morning.  Little Ghost woke with a dry mouth and looked for the glass of water she kept on the nightstand.  She quickly remembered, after not seeing it there, that she had told Celia she didn’t need it.  She instantly wished she hadn’t done that, considering her current state of dry mouth. 

            She looked over at Celia sleeping peacefully.  The smile on the older girl’s face made Little Ghost wonder what she was dreaming about.  The thought of it being about Diamond Dog made her giggle quietly.  She leaned over her adopted sister and made whispered kissy noises in her ear.  Celia fidgeted, and her smile grew.  Little Ghost had to hold back her laugh. 

            Little Ghost stood silently for nearly a minute, contemplating whether or not to wake the older girl to go and get her water.  Suddenly, she remembered her great accomplishment earlier that night.  She had blown the candle out while in her ghost form.  She was growing up.  She could go and get her own water – maybe just this one time. 

            The young girl turned the handle slowly; listening as she did to hear if anyone was moving about in the building.  Little Ghost was happy, if not surprised by the silence in the building.  The older kids hardly ever went to bed before two in the morning.  She didn’t think much more of it, and tiptoed down the hall to the kitchen. 

            Little Ghost opened the cabinet door slowly, trying not to make any noise.  She had watched the other kids at the Factory, and knew that they were all pretty friendly.  Celia was comfortable around them, and they were all nice to her.  Inside, Caroline knew that none of them wanted to harm her, but she still couldn’t lower her guard.  She wasn’t afraid of them hurting her, at least not physically.  She was afraid that they wouldn’t like her.  That they would reject her like her parents did. 

            Caroline’s parents didn’t believe her stories of turning invisible and being unable to talk; or talk for them to hear her.  To her, they never tried to find out the truth.  They turned on her, and called her a bad girl.  Caroline was afraid that the kids at the Factory would be the same way.  The longer she stayed in her ghost form, the more she came to like it. 

            For Little Ghost, watching other people talk, play games, listen to music, and dance was just as good as doing it herself.  Living life vicariously through others wasn’t so bad.  Plus, she got to see who they really were when no one else was around.  She soon learned how much they were like her.  It made her feel close to them, closer than if she physically interacted with them.  She cried with them in the dark, and prayed with them in silence.  In a way, they were friends, even though they didn’t know her. 

            Little Ghost placed the glass on the counter and opened the refrigerator with equal stealth as she had the other doors.  She grabbed the pitcher of purified water and poured up a nice cool glass. 

            The young girl was only three sips in when she heard the voices.  They came from the stairwell door.  Little Ghost stood in silence, and let the darkness hide her. 

            “You take this room.” The familiar voice said in a hushed tone.  “I’ll take the one at the end of the hall.  Remember, don’t kill him.  I want to do that.”   

            Little Ghost started to shake in fear.  Her fear grew as the two voice passed before the nightlight in the hall, illuminating their bodies and faces.  She saw Black Sunshine, his clothes were dirty and disheveled.  His hair was wild and all about his head.  The one that walked behind him was the most frightening thing Little Ghost had ever seen. 

            Devilish was right behind Brutal, making their way down the hall.  His lower jaw had elongated to resemble that of a goblin.  His mouth was filled with razor sharp teeth that seemed too big for his face, and stuck out like a piranha.  His arms had also lengthened to the point that they were only inches from dragging along the floor.  The fingers themselves seemed to have disappeared and given way to the long blade like nails that stood in their place. 

            Little Ghost couldn’t suppress her fright anymore and gasped.  She immediately turned invisible and ran through the walls to her and Blue’s room.  The glass she held slipped through her ghostly hands and hit the ground. 

            “What was that?” Brutal questioned as he turned to the sound.  In his current form, Devilish was beyond making any sound that sounded remotely like human speech. 

            Brutal saw the broken glass gleaming in the low light of the 15-watt bulb.  He pondered on the sight for a brief moment, until the cause of the busted glass came to him. 

            “Shit!” He cursed aloud. 

            “Come on!”  he said to Devilish, and ran to the end of the hall.  He flipped on the hall light as he rushed to the far room.

            Little Ghost ran into the bedroom and tried to wake Electric Blue.  She tried frantically to shake the teenage girl from her slumber, only to have her intangible hands pass through the covers, her body, and the bed.  She tried again and again, panicking. 

            The door to the bedroom was thrown open.  Brutal stood in the doorway.  He looked at Blue’s sleeping body and started breathing heavy.  His fingers curled into fists. 

            “Celia!”  Little Ghost tried to scream.  Her voice was nonexistent in her ghostly form. 

            “Celia!”  She tried again. 

            Brutal raised a clenched fist at the girl in the bed. 

            “CELIA!” the young girl screamed at the top of her lungs.  Little Ghost was still invisible to sight, but could be heard by everyone around her. 

            Celia sat up in bed.  A silhouetted figured stood in the open doorway, and Little Ghost was nowhere in sight.  Electric Blue couldn’t see who it was trying to enter her room, but she knew they didn’t belong. 

            Threads of blue electricity traveled along the floor and walls and into Blue’s welcoming body.  She let loose a stream of twisting, arcing light at the intruder.  An unseen force slammed into Blue’s upper chest, throwing off her aim, and knocking her off the bed.   Her blast missed its target, hitting the doorframe mere inches away. 

            Electric Blue could hear screaming and fighting from the hallway.  She tried to get to her feet, but stumbled.  Another assault from the attacker in the doorway ripped her bed apart, sending pieces everywhere. 

            A chunk of the frame hit Blue in the back and sent her sprawling to the floor.  Her anger grew, fueled by her fear and panic at the assault on her home.  More electricity flowed into her.  Electric Blue aimed a bright white hand at the stranger and fired off a blast.  The current sped from her hand and traveled along the floor like a bolt of lightning, ripping up the tile as it moved.  The bolt exploded at the attacker’s feet, sending him reeling into the hall. 

            In the hallway light, Electric Blue could see the assailant’s face clearly, and what she saw scared her even more than the attack itself.  Black Sunshine. 

            ‘Bitch!” Brutal cried.  He rose to his feet and ran towards the kitchen. 

            Dazed, Blue was barely even aware of the tiny hands that tugged at her forearm.  She looked up to see Little Ghost in her corporeal form trying to pull her to her feet. 

            “Come on, Celia, get up!” Little Ghost pleaded. 

            “That was Black Sunshine.” Blue said in disbelief.  “Oh my God.  That was Black Sunshine.”   

            Blue wasn’t conscious of her movements.  She moved in an autonomous fashion, stiff and unresponsive. 

            ‘We have to go!” cried little Ghost. 

            Electric Blue looked at her adopted sister and snapped out her haze.  She was right, they had to go.  The question was:  Go where?  And how? 

            She could hear the fighting out in the hall and other rooms, and knew that Black Sunshine hadn’t come alone.  Who had he brought, and what were they capable of?  

            Like a shot of her own electricity it hit her, and Blue’s breath was taken away. 

            “They’re here to kill us.” Electric Blue said aloud.  It was so hard for her to comprehend; even harder to believe.  She suddenly flashed back to all those times she had watched television and wondered why it took so long for the people in the TV shows and movies to grasp the obvious.  She would dismiss the shows as being stupid and the character’s idiots.  Now, being in an unbelievable life or death situation, she understood.  Life, no matter how hard or cruel it can be, can never prepare you for something like this.  No one ever believes that such a thing could happen to them. 

            Blue found herself mentally drifting again, and shook her head to focus again.  Little Ghost was pulling on her arm hard enough to pull it out of its socket. 

            “We’ve got to go!”  Little Ghost pleaded with the older girl. 

            Blue wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words.  She grabbed Little Ghost by the arm and headed towards the door. 

*****

 

            “CELIA!” 

            Diamond Dog stirred from his sleep at the sound of Little Ghost’s cry.  He grimaced a bit, but didn’t open his eyes.  He groaned and slowly slid a leg out of bed.  The arcing sound of loose electricity, followed by the abrupt crash of busted furniture, forced his eyes open.  

            “What the hell?” DD asked as he cocked a head towards his room door. 

            The former high school athlete barely had time to act as a shadowed figured pounced at him from across the room.  DD threw himself out of the bed and onto the floor.  The bestial creature tore into the pillow and mattress, sending foam and stuff everywhere. 

            Devilish tore the pillow to shreds, and cut three large gouges into the mattress.  He wasn’t aware that he had missed his target until he started coughing out feathers from the pillow. 

            Diamond Dog was frozen in shock.  He couldn’t understand or believe what was happening.  Part of him thought that he was still asleep.  A heavy crash from beneath him and the screams of others in the Factory woke him from his trance.  Liquid quartz exuded from his pores and covered his body.  The shell started to harden just in time for the creature on the bed to attempt a second attack. 

            Devilish jumped from the bed and down on top of DD.  Diamond Dog raised his left arm to block the attack and hold him off.  Devilish opened his maw of teeth and clamped down on DD’s forearm.  The teeth scratched but didn’t penetrate the surface of the crystal.  One of his smaller teeth broke and skittered across the floor. 

            Devilish gnawed on the crystal covered arm like a dog with a bone.  He tried furiously to get to the flesh and bone inside. 

            DD increased the thickness of the quartz on his right fist and planted it in the side of Devilish’s face.  The punch sent the Hell Spawn reeling.  He howled as more broken teeth fell from his mouth.  Diamond Dog wasted no time in getting to his feet.  He followed the right cross with a left hook and another right.  Devilish fell to the ground unconscious. 

            DD looked down at the Hell Spawn punk at his feet. 

            “What the hell is going on?” DD asked as he ran out of his room and to the sounds of other kids in trouble.   

            Diamond Dog dashed out into the hall of the third floor just in time to see Brutal running from Blue’s room. 

            “Sunshine?” DD said curiously.  It still hadn’t clicked in his mind. 

            Brutal looked up and saw Diamond Dog staring at him from two rooms away. 

            “Black Sunshine.” DD said faintly.  He then realized that boy had just come running from Electric Blue’s room.  “Blue?” 

            DD shook his head from side to side in disbelief.  “No.  No No No!” 

            Brutal backed away.  He moved slowly, hoping that DD didn’t notice him moving.  Diamond Dog charged at the younger boy. 

            “What did you do?!” Diamond Dog screamed. 

            Brutal fired off a bolt of black energy.  The ebon energy hit DD’s quartz shell and bounced off into the hallway wall.  DD kept coming. 

            The Hell Spawn initiate looked to his right.  The door to the Pitt was right next to him.  He turned quickly and blasted the door apart.  DD saw him trying to run and dove at him.  Brutal jumped through the opening and down to the recreation room below. 

            Diamond Dog barely missed grabbing the younger boy.  He crashed to the ground, sliding between the door to the Pitt and Electric Blue’s room. 

            Blue and Little Ghost stepped out of their room cautiously.  Blue had no idea who else was attacking them or how many.  She looked down and saw DD lying at her feet.  She bent down to check on him. 

            “Carson.  Are you ok?” Blue asked. 

            “No.” DD said between gritted teeth in a voice that was more than pissed off. 

            “What’s going on?”

            “Black Sunshine.  He… We have to get everyone out of here.” 

            Beneath the trio the floor rumbled and buckled.  The new chaos was followed by a loud boom, and the building shook. 

            Diamond Dog looked down into the Pitt and saw Big Time crash through the wall and into the room.  Killzone stepped through the hole in the wall and into the Pitt.  Big Time had been knocked unconscious by the leader of the Hell Spawns attack. 

            Killzone picked up a broken piece of rebar and held it like a spear.  He casually walked over to where the unconscious teen was laying and prepared to finish the job he had started.  He hefted the metal bar over his head and yelled a taunt into the air. 

            “Hey, old man!  This one’s for you!” 

            “No!” DD cried.  He dove down at Killzone.  The crystal covered teenager slammed into the Hell Spawn leader.  The two of them hit the ground hard.  DD tumbled away from his assailant as the fell. 

*****

 

            Like the others, Crash had been awakened to the sound of Little’s Ghost’s scream.  He sat up in the bed and looked over at Big Time, whom he shared a room with. 

            “Big…” It was all the young boy could get out of his mouth.  Something in the dark smacked him hard across the face.  Crash was knocked flat on the bed.  He didn’t try to sit up right away.  He had been caught off guard by the attack and laid in the bed looking up at the ceiling.  His eyes blinked over and over again, not sure of what had just happened. 

            Crash’s surprised pondering was interrupted with a flurry of punches to his face. 

            Big Time heard the desperate gasps of his roommate, and turned on the light on the nightstand to see what was going on.  What he saw left him speechless.  In the bed on the other side of the room, he saw his friend beating mercilessly beaten by a walking shadow.  The shadow was on top of crash punching on the helpless young boy.  The ebony figure was two-dimensional except for its hands which were real and solid. 

            Big Time jumped out of bed and ran across the room.  He tripled his size as he moved, his footsteps becoming heavier and thundered against the tile floor.  He tried to grab the shadow man, only to have his hands pass right through him. 

            “Get off of him!” Big Time screamed. 

            The shadow man’s left hand shot out at Big Time, hitting him in the chest and shoving him away.  Big Time futilely tried once more to save his friend with no affect.  The shadow man flowed down the side of the bed and across the floor, moving between Big Time’s legs.  The figure of darkness lifted off the floor behind the bigger boy.  Its hands became solid again, and began pounding Big Time in his back. 

            “Aaahh!” Big Time cried out.  He fell forward across the bed where Crash was lying.  The attack had caught him from surprise more than it hurt him.  He moved up along the bed and hunched over his friend protecting him. 

            The door to the bedroom opened.  The shadow man stopped attacking Big Time long enough to see who was there. 

            Headwires limped into the room and moved directly towards the shadow man.  The teenage girl’s lip was busted and bruising was already starting to form around her left eye.  Her tank top was ripped along the left side, with the strap hanging down to her wrist, and her bra exposed.  She held her sleep pants with her left hand; the waist band bunched in her hand.  She raised her right hand at the shadow man as he started to slink towards her. 

            “F*** you.” Headwires said.  The look on her face was more intense and viscous than all seven of Dante’s hells. 

            The shadow man stopped, and the whisper of a man bounced in place.  Headwires scrambled the bio-electrical impulses in the shadow man’s head.  The attacker could no longer maintain its shadow form and became fully solid. 

            Negative Death fell to the ground as Headwires forced him to have a full blown grand-mal seizure.  The Hell Spawn member fell to the floor and passed out.  Headwires didn’t stop. 

            “Die.” Was all the teen girl said. 

            “You first.” Came a voice from behind Headwires. 

            The battered girl was suddenly struck from behind with an attack so strong that it knocked her across the room.  Headwires hit the foot of Big Time’s bed, flipped over onto it, and skipped across the top until she struck the wall at the head of the bed. 

            Killzone smashed his way into the room, destroying the wall for no other reason than to be destructive. 

             Big time rushed the gang leader.  He increased his size again as he moved.  He was now as wide as the twin bed he slept in, and almost as tall as the ceiling.  His speed was incredible, but not fast enough to catch Killzone. 

            The vindictive Hell Spawn attacked first.  He dropped down and fired a punch directly into Big Time’s abdomen.  The young boy’s charge came to an immediate halt.  Killzone followed up with a punch to the knee, dropping the younger boy to his knees, and bringing his head within striking distance.  Killzone proceeded to deliver an uppercut that lifted Big time into the air. 

            Big Time was thrust against the ceiling, shaking the walls of the Factory.  He was amazed that he was still conscious after the serious of punches.  He somehow landed on his feet, and backed to the far wall, next to Crash’s bed.  He braced himself against the wall and took a deep breath.  He was determined to at least hit the guy in front of him before he had his ass handed to him. 

            Big time feinted a jab with his left hand, then snaked out a punch with his right.  As his fist shot out, he increased the size of just his right arm, making it too big to avoid.  Killzone tried to sidestep the blow but couldn’t.  He was clipped by enough of the supersized fist to spin him around in a circle.  He instantly recovered, and smiled. 

            “Good shot, boy.” Killzone said.  “Too bad for you that’s all you get.” 

            Big time was in the process of returning his arm to normal size, for his current stature, when Killzone advanced.  His speed was more than the shape-changing boy could handle.  The Hell Spawn leader planted his shoulder in the younger boy’s chest and sent him through the concrete bedroom wall and into the next room, the Pitt.

            Killzone stepped across the rubble and into the Pitt.  He grabbed a broken piece of rebar as he moved.  He stood over Big Time and prepared to impale him with the metal bar. 

            “Hey, old man!” Killzone yelled at Guru, wherever his was.  “This one’s for you!”

            “No!’ came a voice from overhead. 

            Diamond Dog dove from the above and crashed into Killzone.  The two hurtled to the ground.  Killzone went head over heels backwards and into the wall.  Diamond Dog bounced to the side, hit the hard floor, and rolled over near Big Time.

            Blue grabbed Little Ghost by the arm and drug her down the hall to the stairwell door. 

            “C’mon, Caroline.  We need to get downstairs.” 

            The two ran down the stairwell to the second floor.  The younger girl tugged on the older one’s arm, trying to pull her down the remaining stairs to the first floor. 

            “Let’s go!” cried Little Ghost. 

            “Wait.  We need to see if anyone needs help.” Blue answered.  She opened the door and was confronted with even more horror. 

            The entire second floor of the Factory was in shambles.  Holes had been punched or blasted through the walls.  Many walls had been completely demolished.  Water sprayed from busted pipes showering everything within reach.  In the midst of the destruction Electric Blue could see Renegade fighting a teenage girl she had never seen before.  The girl had greasy black hair that was shaved on the sides, cut high in the back, and was long in the front.  Blue was happy to see that the Renegade wasn’t holding back because he was fighting a girl, and threw his punches fast and hard. 

            It was hard to comprehend what was happening around them.  It all seemed too surreal.  To go to bed on what seemed to be a normal night, only to be awakened a few hours later in the middle of a life or death battle. 

            Renegade caught his combatant, Heartless, with a well delivered blow to the stomach that doubled her over.  He grabbed her by the head with both hands and drove his knee into her nose.  Her nose cracked against his knee, and the older girls slumped to the ground. 

            Blue called out to him. 

            “Renegade!  Where are the others?” Blue queried. 

            “I don’t know.  Headwires was here, but then…  Where’s DD?” 

            “He’s – the Pitt.  He’s in the Pitt!” Blue answered. 

            “Come on!”  Renegade turned away from Blue and Little Ghost and tried to get through the debris to the Pitt. 

            “Wait!” Electric Blue yelled at him.  She pulled Little Ghost into the chaos of the second floor.  “Come on, Caroline.” 

            Diamond Dog had just started to climb to his feet when a boot heel to the back sent him sprawling face first into the wreckage of the Pitt.  Killzone stomped him once more in the back before flipping him over and pounding against his crystal carapace.  Chunks of quartz were broken free as the stronger boy proceeded with a barrage of punches. 

            DD couldn’t get his bearings.  His head was constantly being knocked back against the floor.  Killzone grabbed DD by the face and shoved the back of his head into the tiled floor.  With his other hand, he dug his fingers into the cracks in the quartz and tried to break the shell open. 

            “Get off of him!” screamed Crash from the hole in the adjoining room.  His face was beaten and bloodied.  His right eye was swollen shut, his nose was busted, and blood trailed from a two inch gash in his head. 

            Crash hoisted Killzone off of Diamond Dog with the force of a rocket.  The Hell Spawn leader was smashed against the ceiling of the room, two stories up.  The remorseless gang leader was slammed into the ceiling with such force and velocity that it shook the walls of the Factory one final time. 

            Crash let Killzone fall back to the ground.  He tried to make his way into the Pitt but found it difficult to move.  The building groaned and shuddered around them. 

            “Crash!” called a voice to the boy’s right.  He looked up to see Renegade standing outside of the remains of his bedroom door.  Electric Blue and Little Ghost pulled up beside him. 

            “Renegade!” Crash cried joyously. 

            “Where’s Headwires and Big Time?” 

            “Headwires is with me.  Big Time’s in the other room.  I think he might be…”  Crash started to cry at the realization that one of their friends might be dead. 

            Crashed looked at his friends.  His bloodied face even more disjointed as he started to cry.  “Where’s Guru?” 

            Killzone started to stir, as did Brutal.  The gang leader looked around for the other members of the Hell Spawns, but didn’t see them right away. 

            Napalm looked down from what used to be the third floor entrance to the Pitt.  Killzone saw her and sneered. 

            “Do it.” Called the Hell Spawn leader. 

            Napalm turned and walked away.  Suddenly, the Factory went up in flames.  Brutal started to panic as the room was engulfed in flames.  Killzone laughed. 

            Without anymore warning, the walls of the Factory began to crumble and give way.  The floor of the Pitt fractured and dropped to the ground floor.  The section of the floor the others were standing on sagged and tilted at a 35 degree angle, sending them all sliding to the floor beneath.  It wouldn’t be long before the entire building was in ruin.    

            The deterioration of the building momentarily halted the spread of the fire.  The children of the Factory pulled themselves from the rubble and looked for safety. 

            “Children, over here!” 

            The group turned to see Guru standing by the door to his private room.  The door had been protected from the building’s partial collapse by several stacks of heavy machines and large wooden pallets that had been stacked there earlier that night by Big Time and Crash.   

            “Hurry!  We don’t have much time!” 

            The group rushed to shelter as the Hell Spawns that were still in the building climbed from the ever growing ruin. 

            Diamond Dog and Renegade helped to carry Big Time and Headwires into the private room.  Crash hobbled slowly behind them with Electric Blue and Little Ghost bringing up the rear. 

            Behind them they could hear Killzone laughing as it all fell apart around him.  He made no serious attempt to escape the destrcution.  He took his time climbing to safety.  The other members of the Hell Spawns had already made it out and were waiting on him and Brutal. 

            Blue and Little Ghost were only a few feet from the door, when Blue saw the black glistening beam of energy stream past her.  Little Ghost was forced from Blue’s grasp as the blast of black light energy struck the girl in the back of the head and sent her face first into the wall.  The young girl’s body stood erect for only a second before it slumped to the floor.   

            Blue ran to her, catching her before she hit the ground completely.  She looked in her little sister’s eyes and saw that the sparkle was gone.  Her eyes were dark and empty. 

            The older girl clutched her sister to her breast and cried.  It wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t fair.  She didn’t ask for this.  None of them did.  All she wanted was to be a normal little girl.

            “We’re not finished!” Brutal said between heavy sobs.  He cradled his injured arm.  “We’re coming back!  And we’re going to kill the rest of you!” 

            “No! You! WON’T!”  Blue said.  Each word was punctuated with the force of a sledgehammer. 

            Blue tapped into the currents of electricity that still flowed through the ruins of the Factory and pulled at them.  She traveled back along the power lines and pulled at every volt and joule she could get.  The old lights along the airfield fluttered and went dark.  The effect traveled like a shockwave as power was pulled from every electric source in a two mile radius. 

            Electric Blue reached out at Brutal.  Her fingers extended into long blue and white tendrils that were blinding to the naked eye.  Her fingers reached inside Brutal’s chest and wrapped around his heart.  Blue squeezed the frantically beating muscle, pouring every bit of electricity she had into it.  The brilliant arcing twisting light forced onlookers to blink constantly or hold a hand before their eyes to see.  The scene appeared as if it were being viewed under a strobe light. 

            Brutal’s body convulsed.  His jaw locked, biting off the tip of his tongue.  His blood began to boil and pour out of every possible orifice. His eyes fluttered like a hummingbird’s wings before exploding into the cold dead night air. 

            Diamond Dog watched, transfixed.  He wanted to stop her, but couldn’t look away long enough to make thought action. 

            Brutal’s clothing burst into flames, igniting his hair and skin.  His legs had twisted underneath him to where he was no longer standing under his own power, but by the force of the forty thousand amps of electricity that held him in its grip. 

            The Hell Spawn’s newest member was suspended in the air for fifteen seconds until the hand that gripped his heart had given him all that it had.  His body hit the ground with a sound that was more wet than solid. 

            Diamond Dog ran over to Blue and put an arm around her shoulder, holding Little Ghost’s still body between them. 

            “Come on.  We have to go.” 

            Blue stood, still looking off at where Brutal had stood.  Her hand was still aimed at a target that was no longer there. 

            “Blue!” DD said, bringing the older girl back to her senses. 

            “We have to go.” 

            Electric Blue looked over at Diamond Dog, then down at Little Ghost.  Tears fell from Blue’s eyes, raining down like the dying embers of a fireworks explosion. 

            “She dead, Carson.” Blue said softly. 

            “I know.  We have to go now, Blue.” 

            The three disappeared into the void of the underground room.  Neither of them spoke again as they followed behind the others.  There was nothing left to say.

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