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Fic: Master of None 1b/3

Notes in part 1a


-0-

Since training once a day was suddenly no longer enough, Sam was greeted at 4:30 AM with a brusque wake up call, demanding he be dressed in sweats and behind the motel in fifteen minutes.  Where as evening training was more of a solitary experience, running and cardiovascular stuff, the morning stuff was a family activity of the worst possible kind.

Sam had spent a good portion of the morning training with Dean under his dad's watchful eyes.  Make that over watchful.  If Sam was supposed to kick high, he always fell short of his mark.  If he was supposed to go in low, he nearly decapitated himself on his brother's muscular forearm.  He was lucky he hadn't received anything worse than a bloodied nose and a bruised hip after his showing this morning.

And it really sucked out loud because he'd been trying.  If he had gone through the exercises with his usual lackluster effort, he'd probably have done better.  His focus was working against him, like his mind and his body weren’t quite in synch anymore.  Growth spurts, stress, exhaustion--Sam couldn’t be sure, but wished like hell it would just stop.

As it was, Dean had looked at him like he was retarded and his dad had looked at him as though he was an alien life form.  And today, Sam might just believe it.

Winchesters were supposed to naturally take to this shit but Sam was an aberration.

To make today even more stellar, since it was Saturday there was no respite of school.  All training, all the time.  The new Winchester motto.

After training exercises, he'd been ordered to work on Latin translations.  His dad had crossed his arms and glowered when Sam had asked if he could work on the school assignments he was missing.  Dean's Latin was suspect at the best of times and Sam's pronunciations were better than his dad's so he didn't understand why he was being made to waste his time.  

No, scratch that.  He did know.  He was being put in Remedial Hunting across the board.  Until his performance improved in the field, all of his skills would be hit hard at home to compensate.  Arguing would get him nowhere and since he actually enjoyed Latin, he kept his mouth shut after that.

A shadow blocked his light as he poured over the Latin textbook and he looked up to find his dad staring at him with irritation.  "It's going to be a long night, son.  I think you'd better get some sleep while you can."

Sam was certain he looked like a spaz as his mouth opened and then snapped shut, the proverbial fish out of water.

Sleep wasn’t such an unusual thing and it might have even been a welcome break were it not the middle of the afternoon.

Dean was standing by the door, arms crossed.

Apparently he'd managed to piss them both off.  He didn't understand how; sure, he'd sucked during the morning training session but since then he'd put his head down and concentrated on the task at hand, one assigned by his dad, not even stopping for lunch.

Snapping the textbook shut, Sam set it on the nightstand between the two beds.  Striving hard to keep the attitude out of his voice, he responded, "Yes, sir."

He kind of felt like he was being sent to bed without any supper.

His dad huffed out a sigh, his usual response to Sam these days, and motioned to Dean as he headed toward the door.  "Dean and I will be right outside.  We'll go get something to eat when you're up from your nap."

The door was yanked shut before Sam could respond.

Little Sammy had been put down for his nap while the big kids got to play outside.

The nerve.

Sam snagged The Scarlet Letter out of his bag.  It was the book his English Lit. class was reading right now and it at least featured an element of the supernatural.  It made him feel as though he wasn't completely dishonoring his father's wishes.  It was splitting fine hairs but he'd be damned if he was going to snuggle down and sleep like some over-tired toddler.

Voices drifted through the open window, disturbing Arthur and Hester's conversation.

"He's not ready, Dad.  You saw him out there this morning.  He's a disaster."

Dean's words wounded him to the core; his brother thought he was a disaster.

"I know he is.  We're going to have to stick close to him but he's sixteen now and it’s time he was a full participant in hunting.  At his age, you had several successful jobs under your belt already.”

As usual, Sam couldn't measure up to his older brother.  And it burned like acid in his stomach, rising up his throat.

Throwing down his book, he stretched out on the bed, covering his eyes with a folded arm.  The voices receded but their words had marked Sam indelibly.

He was a total fuck-up and his family didn't have any faith in him.

Did they ever stop to think for five second about why?  That maybe Sam was four years younger than Dean and couldn’t be as good.  That maybe his entire body was in full-on rebellion mode as his arms and legs were longer than they were supposed to be.  Or maybe, even the unimaginable reality that Sam didn't like hunting.  He didn't like to train.  And that maybe, just maybe, that was okay?

He was pretty sure those thoughts hadn't crossed either of their minds.  The recourse?  Train him until he fell into line, until they broke his will, until there was nothing left of Sam's dreams at all.

It shouldn't have surprised him.  This was all they knew.  Dean liked this stuff, bought into it.  He wanted it.  And try as Dean did to make things better for him, to help him, Dean just didn't get it.

And now Dean thought Sam just didn't get it, just like their dad.

This hunt, it was his shot at redemption.  Prove himself here, and he might just gain back enough freedom to keep himself sane.

Fail, and he may be screwed for the rest of his life.

Yep, this was shaping up to be the worst hunt ever.

-0-

At least it was almost over.

Dean was pretty sure that was what they were all thinking as they made their way to the wooded area Sam had identified as the Jack's hide-away.  Not because the Jack was big and scary and particularly important, but because this hunt was wearing them all down.

No, check that.  Sam was wearing them all down.

Dean had been downright horrified at Sam's performance during training this morning.  Their dad had found them an isolated patch of land next to a cemetery to work out and what should have been an enjoyable time had been the pits.

Sam couldn't execute anything.  His little brother's limbs were too long and snaked out at all the wrong times.  Dean was lucky he hadn't been maimed.  Sammy was lucky he only got popped on the nose and dumped on his side.

It was hard to see his brother like this.  Contrary to what Sam thought, Dean wanted him to succeed.  Sure, it was fun to razz him but not when Sam sucked this bad.

And it wasn't just about living up to the Winchester name; Dean was getting pretty worried that Sam couldn't defend himself if push came to shove.  Was it possible that Sam had tried to fight the bullies at school and failed?  It didn’t seem likely, but hell.  Dean had seen better performance from cheerleaders when it came to hand-to-hand (those damn cheerleaders could be as agile as they were peppy sometimes).

It was Dean's job to protect his brother, but taking him on a hunt right now would be like painting a gigantic bulls-eye on Sam's back.  How could Dean be expected to keep him safe under these conditions?

The more he thought about it, the more he worried about having Sam participate in the hunt at all.  Sure, the kid had found all of the information needed for this job but that was nothing new.  Sammy always excelled at research.

But Sam’s entire demeanor was off.  When his little brother had been ordered by their dad to work on Latin translations instead of homework, he hadn't argued.  In fact, his brother looked worn down, depressed.

Hell, if Dean had a workout like the one Sam had just had, he'd be depressed, too.  And embarrassed.

To make matters worse?  Sam had been even quieter, if that was possible, after his nap.  He'd picked at his dinner listlessly, ignoring Dean's attempts to jolly him out of his funk.  The only time he responded was when their dad asked him a question and then he answered with the minimum amount of words and only looked up briefly.

Whatever had Sam’s panties in a twist, Dean couldn’t be sure.  Psychological, emotional, school, training, physical--it could be anything.  But what he did know for sure was that Sammy better watch it or their dad was going to go medieval on his ass.

The Impala pulled off the road on to a packed dirt driveway, hidden behind thick brush. "We'll hike in from here.  Grab a bag out of the trunk and let's hit it."

Sam quickly clambered out of the back seat and was first in line to snag his cache of weapons.  Their dad looked Sam up and down before handing him the khaki knapsack.  "You take the point, Sam."

Dean exchanged an uneasy glance with his dad as Sam turned without comment and headed for the thicket of trees ahead.  While Sam had been sleeping, he and his dad had talked about how the Jack probably had set up camp at the edge of the trees and here Sam was taking them right into the heart of the wooded area.  Easier access to town, they figured, and it was probably easier to navigate while jumping without lots of trees in the way.

His dad shrugged but his face and posture were resigned.  They were going to let Sam figure this out the hard way.  Which meant it was going to be a long night.

They'd walked single file, ducking branches and leaves, for fifteen minutes when they entered a small clearing.  Sam put his arm out to halt their progress.  He was looking up at the night sky.

Dean looked up but didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.  Clouds obscured the moon.  Hardly any stars were visible.  The trees swayed in the breeze.

Suddenly something dark swooped down from the treetops, heading straight toward Sam.  His brother held his ground; it was the wrong tactical move so Dean tackled him to the ground.

Visions of Sam passed out on the grass danced in Dean's head.  Nothing was going to get to his brother without going through him.  He shifted his body to cover more of Sam's

Sam squirmed.  "Jesus, Dean, get off.  It's just a bat."

Dean glowered.  "If it was just a bat, why'd you stop and do your Lassie routine?"

Reluctantly, Dean rolled off his brother, chagrined, giving him an extra shove as he pushed himself to his feet.  Just a bat.  So maybe he'd overreacted a little.  With Sam traipsing them aimlessly through the woods and his atrocious sparring performance, he had a right.

Sam slowly climbed to his feet, brushing the dirt and twigs from his jeans.  "The branches at the tops of the trees are broken down, I thought maybe…"

"Maybe what?"

Both brothers startled as John Winchester s voice quietly growled from behind them.  So far his dad had been a silent observer, leaving the talking to his sons.

Sam shook his head.  "I thought maybe Spring Heeled Jack used this area as kind of a launching pad as he hopped to his hide-away.  See, all of the branches are bent going in that direction…"

Dean jumped into the conversation.  "I know the Jack can leap but that seems a little farfetched, don't ya think?  Me and Dad thought maybe he'd picked a place on the other side of this stand of trees.  It’s more accessible for his nighttime wanderings that way."

His brother stepped back, looking down and away.  "You and Dad talked about the location and didn't think it was worth mentioning to me?"

Now Dean felt like a heel.  He hadn't thought about how Sam would feel, left out as their dad compared notes with Dean and left his little brother in the dark.  “Just normal review stuff.”

“So why did you even bother letting me go into the woods?” Sam asked, and the accusation was clear in his voice.

Dean shifted uncomfortably.  It hadn’t been mean-spirited.  This was about Sam’s ability to pull this off, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t going to have all the right back ups in place.

His dad cleared his voice.  "Boys, time's a-wasting.  Dean, take the point.  Sam, head back to the car."

Sam's shoulders drooped, totally demoralized.

Dean didn't think Sam was ready for the hunt but he didn't think exiling his brother to the car was the answer.  After all, Sam had done a ton of work on this one, and even if it wasn't all grade A work, it was still work.  Sam deserved the follow through.

Still, Dean couldn’t deny it--a launching pad?  The kid needed to stop reading sci fi novels in his spare time.  Conjecture was good, but there was no evidence that pointed to anything quite like that.  The reports said the thing could leap, but people exaggerated that crap, and surely someone would have been more freaked out if the thing was jumping around like Sam seemed to think.

Maybe leaving Sam out wasn't a terrible option, just given the level of distraction.  This kind of stuff had to be figured out in advance.

He wanted to keep Sam safe and as far as he was concerned, that meant leaving Sam out of the hunt.  But how could he keep Sam safe if he wasn't nearby?  And what good would it do Sam’s ability to hunt if he was sulking in the car?

His dad surely had a plan, his dad always had a plan, but Dean sort of wished they'd talked about this.  Maybe included Sam in on some of it--it would have kept the sulking to a minimum, at least, and might have avoided the need to send him back.

Still, a mopey little brother and a hard-assed father.  This hunt sucked out loud.

-0-

John had watched as his sons debated about broken tree limbs and Jack's hiding place.  Sam was so far out in left field, it wasn't even funny.

The tree tops were all bent in the same direction but they pointed due south from where John knew the creature's lair had to be hidden.  He’d already scoped the area.  Found a few likely hiding places along the edge of the trees, all of which were consistent with the direction and method of attacks.  By stalking the edges, the Jack could better gauge its victims, better stalk its prey.  The Jack may have reverted to nature to hole up, but it was still drawn to civilization, even if it could never be a part of it.  It would get as close as it could get without being found.

Between Sam’s wayward theories and Dean’s over-protective nature, this hunt was derailing faster than John could keep track of it.

It was time to take command of things before they seriously went FUBAR and someone did get hurt.  Clearing his voice, he rapped out his orders.  "Boys, time's a-wasting.  Dean, take the point.  Sam, head back to the car."

Dean frowned and Sam looked at the ground.  No one said anything.

His oldest son finally moved forward, bumping shoulders with the youngest.  Sam lifted his face and tried to smile but even from his vantage point, John could see it was more like a grimace.

John searched his mind for something he could tell Sam, something positive he could take from the experience.  His mind was a blank.  Not only was Sam not physically ready for the hunt but his much-vaunted brain had been a no-show.  Maybe they'd trained him too hard, pushed too much--the kid just wasn't with it.  Setting Sam loose under these conditions was just begging for trouble.

Time to let Sam stew, finish the hunt, and then rebuild the entire damn effort tomorrow.

Giving his youngest son a wide berth, John passed through the little clearing, watching Dean's straight and steady back.  But he couldn't leave things between he and Sam like this and turned around, words of encouragement forming and dying on his lips as a loud crash sounded from above.

Tipping his head back, John watched with fascination as the Snidely Whiplash look-alike pounced downward, cape flowing behind him.

The sight would have been exhilarating – there was nothing like the thrill of the hunt – except for the fact that the hulking form was headed straight for Sam who hadn't set foot out of the tiny clearing yet.

His gun was up and aimed, and his angle was good, no risk of collateral damage, and he fired before he could think twice.

His bullet was dead on, but the Jack was faster than he'd anticipated.  The thing had sprung again, a leap so powerful that it rustled the air.

John had to blink, trying to figure out where it'd went.

He glanced to Dean, feeling a little frantic, who was spinning, gun still out and ready to fire.

He was turning to look at Sam when he realized he'd fallen victim to the very stuff he preached again.  Overconfidence.  Never take a hunt for granted.

And he had taken this one for granted.  The only other Jack he’d downed had been easy, in and out.  He’d tracked the thing, it had been more predictable than this one, found it mid-attack and shot it in the heart while it made lackluster jumps and blathered pointlessly.

But there was that chance that maybe he’d caught one past its prime.  Maybe they didn’t have as much leverage in town.  There were a thousand possibilities and he hadn’t considered them thoroughly enough.   

Because there was the Jack, poised behind Sam, one arm wrapped tight around his son's neck, pulling the teenager back against its lithe form.

And the damn thing was grinning.  "Careful, careful," it chanted mockingly.  "I apologize for the blunt introductions, but I dare say that you did fire first, good sir."  It bowed its head in a farcical apology.

John gritted his teeth, narrowing his eyes.  He could get off a head shot, but it was too risky.  No other part was visible enough to shoot, not with Sam secured in front of him.  "Let him go," John ordered, trying to keep his voice strong and even.  Never show weakness, not even when the crap has hit the fan and it was all his fault.

The Jack raised a pointed eyebrow, its curled mustache twitching.  "Leverage, good sir, is as powerful as the devil himself.  You can threaten fire and brimstone, come bearing firearms in shows of pitiable force, but in the end we both know you are inescapably at my mercies."

Over a hundred years and the thing hadn't changed at all.  The archaic mode of speaking.  The dress.  This was a monster straight out of the history texts, all the predictable flourishes and moves, so how the hell did John let it get the drop on him?  Worse, his sons?  He wanted to teach Sam a lesson, not get the kid caught.

Sam was still, looking grim-faced and ready to move in the Jack's grip.  John tried to catch his son's eye, but Sam seemed to refuse.

The fact that the Jack wasn't deadly on its own was some solace, and was the only leverage John had at the moment.  "We also know that you like to put on a nice show, but there's little substance beneath your blunder," John said.

The Jack's eyes widened, seeming to glow with a spark of dark red.  Its arm tightened, and John saw Sam stiffen, a surge of panic lighting across his face before settling into uncomfortable acquiescence. 

"You do mock me to test me so," the Jack seethed.  "A strong leader knows not to provoke his enemy, not to bluff when the odds are so stacked against him.  This one is yours, I trust?  Along with that other trigger happy lad?  I know of your ilk, the roguish and those of the hunt.  I would assume you fancy yourself a bit invincible, yet still, I am one movement away from breaking this youngster's neck, which I'm afraid he might object to."

John hated to be wrong, hated it more than just about anything.  What he hated more, however, was to be wrong when his sons were at risk.  To be wrong and get them into trouble.  Dean was restless beside him, twitching and waiting for him to lead, to make the right choice and get them the hell out of here.  "Let him go," he demanded, but it sounded strained to his own ears.  

The Jack seemed to sense John's frustration.  Its face brightened, adjusting its grip on Sam’s neck again.  "I am afraid that is not an enticing offer," it said, its voice sickeningly sweet.

"Let him go or I'll blow your head off!" Dean spat next to him, and John could easily hear the frustration in Dean's voice.  His oldest was calm and cool under pressure, at least until Sammy was involved.  And given the muted grappling of his son's hands against his captor's arm, Sam was more than involved.

"My lad, you are lacking in the proper language skills," the Jack admonished.  He looked down at Sam with an expression of mock concern.  "I wonder if this one suffers from a similar affliction."  Sam twisted, but John knew it was no use.  Even if Sam had been on top of his game, Spring Heeled Jacks possessed a supernatural strength.  The Jack looked at John again, a bemused expression covering its pointed features.  "Children these days, so lacking in manners, in respect.  It is our duty, I suppose, to choke the defiance out of them."

To prove its point, the Jack pulled Sam even closer, causing the boy to gasp as his feet left the ground momentarily.

And John couldn't help it--he fired.  Purposefully wide, but close enough to get his point across.

The Jack didn't flinch, and its mouth twisted into a feral smile.  "Good sir, perhaps your memory is short," it said.  It tightened its grip on Sam, pulling roughly at him.  Sam's body jerked, feet stumbling, searching for the ground, and hands beginning to claw, the facade of self-control withering.  "Or else I would surely think you would not make such foolish blusters of false bravado."

It was Dean who acted next, a blind charge that was as desperate as it was brilliant.  Throwing the enemy off, surprise.  All they need was some clearance--

Then the night split again.  In a motion faster than John could track, the Jack had sprung, a blur of movement that took Sam right with him.  When John blinked, the Jack was gone and there was no trace of Sam.

Then the cackle from behind.

Dean whirled a half second behind him and they found themselves looking again at the Jack, who was standing at the edge of the clearing.  Its free arm was wielding its cape to the side, the other still tight around Sam's neck.  His son seemed to be weakening, his hands not struggling, his expression dulling.  Then, the cackle gave way to a roar, as the Jack opened its mouth and breathed out its blue flame.

The aura was bright enough to hurt John's eyes, but he didn't dare look away.  This Jack was nothing like the other one, nothing like the previous reports.  Something was different about this one, this time.  It could just be playing games, but he wasn't sure he wanted to risk Sam's neck on that assertion.

And if John blinked, if he lost contact, then he could lose Sam.

He didn't move, didn't dare, and forced his eyes not to trail to Dean, who lurked behind him in the shadows. Divide and conquer.  Dean wouldn't need to be told.  John just had to keep his attention front and center to give them a chance.

Its eyes glowed as its self satisfied smirk widened.  With another flash of blue, John could see its fingers elongate to points and the pale facade of skin went translucent enough to see its darkly pulsing insides.  "Pity the man who does not learn from his mistake," it said, its voice dropping to an unearthly pitch.  "Too many of my brethren have fallen for that trick.  I, myself, do not wish for much beyond what all men crave.  To be noticed, to be feared, to be remembered."

"Remember this, bitch," Dean said, his gun firing.  By moving in stealth, Dean had attained a side position, which was damn smart of the kid.

Damn smart, but not good enough.

Another explosion and the Jack was gone, and John cursed as he tried to follow it with no luck.

"Clever boy, clever boy," it cooed.  "You push me and you tempt me and now I fear I have no choice but this: to take what is yours and make it mine."

The Jack's grip was unwavering and strong, and Sam was clearly losing the struggle with consciousness.  With another good shake from the Jack, John stifled a curse, and Sam's arms fell limply to his sides as his eyelids fluttered closed.

John was just about to open his mouth, to negotiate, to something, but the Jack threw its head back, another bout of blue fire emitting from its mouth, before turning its steely gaze back to John with vehemence.

"Pretty boys and their pretty toys, all mine, all mine," it said.  "You will try, like many before, but forget that it is not always darkest before the dawn.  Sometimes it is darkest in men's own foolish mistakes.  Time will tell for you, and what to make of this boy here?"  It motioned to Sam, who was completely limp now.  "I am lucky to have the lives of a cat, and shall we see if he has such luck?  Good night, good sir.  I fare you as well as I would any man who cannot save what matters most."

With that, another gust of air, stronger this time, swirling the dead leaves and leaving a rain of broken branches in its wake.

John turned, desperate, looking for a sign, for anything, but this time the Jack was gone, disappeared into the wood, taking all traces of Sam, and the last vestiges of John's master plan, right along with him.

Part Two



Comments

Posted by: Nebula (authoressnebula)
Posted at: March 18th, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
emo - squee

OMGOMGOMG

I love this! EEE, the folklore!! *spins you two in a shiny circle*

And the hurt!Sam and the not-understanding!Dean and John who are about to feel many pieces of hurt and angst now because they didn't understand before andandand

*flails madly*

This is so very awesome. Also, a fantastic way to ignore my Maurice Maeterlinck paper. Which is almost done anyways, and I think even Maeterlinck would understand my ignoring the paper about him and symbolism to read this story, because it is oh so good.

Seriously, you two are such sweethearts. Thank you so much. I can't wait to see what this will become. Oh the limp!Sam it is beautiful, and you two are masters of it.

*is gleeful*

~Nebula

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
doe eyed

We knew you loved the limp, which is good, since we love it too :) We tried to come up with the most original limpness we could find, just for you :)

So we're so thrilled you like it!

Posted by: magser (magser)
Posted at: March 18th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)

Oh this is awesome!!More??

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
happy together

More is up! Thanks :)

Posted by: Moogs (moogsthewriter)
Posted at: March 18th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
SPN - superglue amazing

Yee! I'm such a nerd, but I love how you used the Spring Heeled Jack. I've been wondering if I'd ever see it used anywhere. I've never been able to come up with a story where I could use it, and now I don't have to! You guys are doing a great job with this - really looking forward to the next part!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 02:50 am (UTC)
huh

Your icon is all kinds of awesome. Poor Sam. He hasn't been that happy, since, well, then.

He needs a hug!

I haven't seen the Jack used before and I have to admit, he was rather fun to flesh out. Though sendintheklowns had the idea. I suck at coming up with supernatural bad guys.

(And okay, I know pay it forward is my choice for you but maybe you can suggest a few things you really like to get me going?)

Posted by: i want to cause a ruckus (geminigrl11)
Posted at: March 18th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)

Not the Scarlet Letter, Sam! You'll be scarred for LIFE!!!!

Nice job, gals! Can't wait to read the next part!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
prodigy

Sam never had a chance. Not even in literature. Let's just hope he doesn't try to read Sister Carrie, which may seen okay at first but then devolves into hundreds of pages of drudgery. Though I worry he may like things like Waverly, which no one on earth should like, but it's random enough and the first piece of historical fiction so maybe Sam would.

Posted by: i want to cause a ruckus (geminigrl11)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)

I don't even know what those novels are, but if you are lumping them in with TSL, I aleady don't want to read. :D

Posted by: Damsean (damsean)
Posted at: March 18th, 2009 05:44 am (UTC)

Awesome start but OMG, You left it at a cliff hanger:(, want more soon plzzzz :)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 02:52 am (UTC)
flustered

Part two is up! Thanks :)

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: March 18th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)

I just love this!!! you guys have captured all three Winchesters so well!

I can't wait for the rest!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
little bro

Aw, thanks! The second part is up!

Posted by: Dani (pinkphoenix1985)
Posted at: March 21st, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)

thx! I'll go and read it!

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