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#44822 - 11/13/12 10:52 AM These Penguins Have the Right Stuf
RightStufSpecialsMinion Offline
UPSF Admiral

Registered: 04/17/08
Posts: 270
Loc: Iowa
Why are there penguins all over Right Stuf this week? That's a long story...

These Penguins Have the Right Stuf

Part 1


3-2-1 Holiday Savings!

Illustration 1

Space was awesome. Ensign Bubbles had always believed the Commander when she described what it would be like once they finished the ship and finally escaped the frozen moon of Europa, but believing and experiencing were two different things. Tethered by a hose and nothing else, he was swimming in the biggest ocean in the universe.

They had been taken to Europa as part of a grand experiment to find the liquid oceans hypothesized to lie under the frozen surface. The scientists would stay warm and dry inside their research station, and the penguins would risk the bitter, bitter cold searching for water. A robot goes only where it is told; a penguin, accustomed to Antarctica's ice, might instinctively find what had so far eluded science.

For all that the penguins were not exactly volunteers, having been captured and kept in deep stasis for the journey, the scientists were not cruel. They had fitted each penguin with an ice/wetsuit of sorts, since even a penguin would freeze at 250 degrees below. The suits were modeled after those worn by astronauts, and they had been what first gave the commander her idea.

The penguins had found water, through a series of cracks and tunnels in the shifting, broken ice, but the news would never reach Earth. The plate of ice the researchers had settled on was not as stable as they’d thought, and the "icequake" proved quicker and far deadlier than those on Earth.

The penguins were stranded. They'd found life in the water, including a species that vaguely resembled krill, but no penguin wants to live on Europa for the rest of their life. Tess had stepped up, organized the small group, and oversaw the process of cobbling together parts stripped from the station into a - hopefully sturdy - spaceship: the P.S.S. Steelbeak.

They'd loaded it up with as much of the Europan krill as they could and blasted off into the sky, slingshotting around Jupiter and setting a course for home.

The icesuits handily doubled for spacesuits, and with their great escape now orchestrated, it was time to relax and enjoy the ride. Lieutenant Lucky had said they might see space whales in the asteroid belt, but Commander Tess had scoffed. Marine animals, after all, did not live in space. Well, not usually. Still, Bubbles had stayed glued to the porthole all the way through, and was certain he’d seen a flick of a tail near Vesta.

Now, as he swam outside the ship, Bubbles took in the beautiful sight of home, the oceans bright, blue, and most decidedly not frozen. He'd miss this endless sea of stars and the near-effortless swims, but he would not miss the Europan krill. No, the first thing he was going to do when they landed was catch himself the biggest silverfish he could find and he would feast. Or maybe not, depending on where they landed. The Commander still hadn't quite worked out that detail.

But she'd have to work it out soon, as Bubbles was called back inside the Steelbeak and the countdown to re-entry commenced...

Edited by RightStufSpecialsMinion (04/23/14 09:30 PM)

#44825 - 11/13/12 11:17 AM Re: These Penguins Have the Right Stuf (update: Part 3!) [Re: RightStufSpecialsMinion]
kiku Offline
UPSF Vice Admiral

Registered: 06/13/11
Posts: 10415
Loc: Temporally Displaced
Fun story. Is it over?
No matter where you go, there you are.

#44829 - 11/13/12 11:29 AM Re: These Penguins Have the Right Stuf (update: Part 3!) [Re: RightStufSpecialsMinion]
Cheap One Offline
UPSF Rear Admiral

Registered: 10/06/11
Posts: 2605
It says Part 1 so I would imagine, no.

#44834 - 11/13/12 11:44 AM Re: These Penguins Have the Right Stuf (update: Part 3!) [Re: Cheap One]
kiku Offline
UPSF Vice Admiral

Registered: 06/13/11
Posts: 10415
Loc: Temporally Displaced
Right on. Call me Captain Oblivious. Guess I got a little excited. I love story time... and nap time.
No matter where you go, there you are.

#44967 - 11/15/12 09:05 AM Re: These Penguins Have the Right Stuf (update: Part 3!) [Re: RightStufSpecialsMinion]
RightStufSpecialsMinion Offline
UPSF Admiral

Registered: 04/17/08
Posts: 270
Loc: Iowa
These Penguins Have the Right Stuf

Part 2


3-2-1 Holiday Savings!

Illustration 2

Blue was absorbed with the nav computer.

"Lucky, could you read me those coordinates again?"

No response.

"Lieutenant Lucky?"

At the continued silence she glanced up. The room was empty - wait, no, not quite empty. Bubbles had just floated in.

"Lt. Lucky went to help out Blaze in the engine room. What's up, Blue?"

Her eyes returned to the computer. "Could you read me those coordinates on the table? Lucky wrote them down on a piece of paper somewhere." She gestured vaguely towards the middle of the room. This close to Earth, Blue was taking no chances of the Steelbeak going off course, and had hovered over their jury-rigged navigation system since the bright blue sphere had gotten close enough for the penguins to see land masses and clouds. Her long-since forgotten lunch, a bag of Europan krill, was tucked un-opened next to her desk.

They were aiming for Antarctica, obviously enough. Lucky and Blue had agreed that the South Pole was their simplest, best option. The nav system was sketchy, to say the least, and they wanted to avoid a water landing (the penguins would probably survive, but they doubted the Steelbeak would). After Europa, it would even feel warm.

"Found ‘em! Uh... zero point zero-zero-zero- do you need all the zeroes? yeah? zero. And ninety point zerozerozerozero. Do you need the S and W, too? There's an S and a W."


He floated closer to Blue and the computer. "That's all it takes to make sure we get home? Two numbers?"

"All it takes. Shouldn't you be strapping in somewhere? Te- Cmdr. Tess says we'll be entering the atmosphere as soon as she's done making sure everyone's accounted for and inside the ship." Blue stopped looking at the system long enough to throw a pointed look Bubbles' way.

"I was just trying to find a window seat. Why didn't we build this thing with window seats?"

"We, Ensign?" The reply came not from Blue but from behind him.

"Oh, uh... hi Commander." Bubbles attempted an almost-passable salute. "I did help test the suits."

"Yes, I recall. I also recall what happened after you helped test the suits."

"Blaze said it was better to spot the problem with the oxygen tanks sooner rather than later, and that the fire could have been a lot-"

"Go strap in, Ensign Bubbles."

"-worse and... Yes, ma'am." Another rough salute, and Bubbles floated back the way he came.

"Well, Lieutenant Commander, are we ready to land this hunk of junk?"

"Yes, ma'am!"

"Good. Start pointing our beak towards home on my count. Might as well make a show of it."

Tess hit the button for the ship's intercomm. "Alright everyone, we've got about 300 kilometers between us and some fish that tastes like real fish! I want everyone strapped to something that doesn't move, and I want everyone to stay like that for the next hour. Landing manuevers begin in three..."

Lucky had found a seat where, now that he'd moved some storage lockers, he could at least see out a tiny corner of the deck window and succeeded in buckling himself in just as Tess started the count.


Blaze and Lucky were firmly strapped in near - but not too near - the engine room, in case any heroics were needed during landing. Lucky hoped there wouldn't be. Blaze hoped there would.


There were a lot of clouds today, and Blue couldn't see if it was land or ocean beneath them. But Lucky's calculations had gotten them this far, and of all planets, the nav system should be able to handle Earth. One more hour. One more hour.

"Blue, take us home!"

#45180 - 11/21/12 09:28 AM Re: These Penguins Have the Right Stuf (update: Part 3!) [Re: RightStufSpecialsMinion]
RightStufSpecialsMinion Offline
UPSF Admiral

Registered: 04/17/08
Posts: 270
Loc: Iowa
These Penguins Have the Right Stuf

Part 3


3-2-1 Holiday Savings!

Illustration 3

This was not right. The water beneath them was water, for one. It was supposed to be a continent of ice. Something had gone very wrong.

"Lieutenant Commander! What's going on?" Tess barked.

"Somehow the nav computer got mixed up! We should have come out from the cloud cover over Ant-"

"Never mind why! Can we land?"

"Steering is pretty limited when we're falling at 5 kilometers a minute!"

"The plan wasn't to just crash into the ice, was it? How can we land?"

"The engines are supposed to kick in and slow us down while I get us level. With the drag of the atmosphere and the amount of fuel required, Lucky said not to start them early, and that's why he was with Bla-"

"Start those engines now, and start looking for a place we can land this thing."

"Yes, Commander!"

The engines roared to life, jolting the ship but not yet appreciably slowing the Steelbeak down. They both strained their eyes looking out the window, but the empty sea did not look inviting. The sudden loud crash would have caused them to jump out of their seats if they hadn't been strapped in and further held in place by the ship's momentum.

"There's land! Blue! Tess! There's land!" A bruised Ensign Bubbles and a tangle of equipment were now occupying the ceiling. Of course. That penguin couldn't stay out of trouble for five minu-

"Repeat that, Ensign!"

"There's islands to right of us! I saw them from my window!"

"Starboard," Tess automatically corrected. "Lieutenant Commander! Have you found anything yet?"

"Still working with the engines, Commander!"

"Ensign, get over there and direct Lt Cmdr. Blue. No, belay that. Stay where you are and try not to hurt yourself further." Tess tried not to think about the probability that any window in the Ensign's vicinity was more than likely covered with "island" smudges and dirt.

Blaze's voice crackled over the intercom. "Commander, Lucky says we can use the parachute to buy some extra time, but it'll cut into maneuverability."

"How did- never mind." The switch to the intercom was still on from her speech earlier. Wonderful. The whole ship knew they were in trouble now. "Lieutenant Commander, you heard that?"

"Got it, Commander!"

"Wait until we're on trajectory, and deploy it only if we're out of options. Do we have sight of land yet?"

"Not ye- yes! Yes!" Cheers echoed from over the intercom.

"Still gonna be a rough landing," Blue warned, "so everyone, uh, continue holding on."

It was a jerky, jolting landing on an uneven surface, and they nearly ended up in the water after all, but they made it. The Steelbeak seemed intact, and there wasn't a scratch on the crew except for poor Ensign Bubbles, who had fallen from the ceiling with another loud crash when the ship had first hit the sand. But where were they?

Tess unstrapped herself, stepped over the tangle that was her bumbling crewmember, and went to open the hatch. At first she just stood there, letting the sunlight stream in and the warm ocean breeze fill the cabin. Home. Not Antarctica, no, but anywhere on Earth was better than the "best" of Europa. She lowered the gangplank and strode out onto the beach, taking off her helmet and squinting into the sun.

It seemed a fairly a normal beach. Some seaweed, a few crabs, palm trees, sea lions barking off in the distance. That reminded her, she'd have to send out scouts in pairs until they learned if there were any predators on this island and where they might be hiding. ...Did that palm tree have lights on it?

The other penguins were starting to stream out of the Steelbeak now. Ensign Bubbles, whom she was frankly surprised could still walk, had already discovered the local fauna, and was running away from it and its sharp claws as quickly as possible. Lt. Lucky and Lt Cmdr. Blue were huddled over a map, gesticulating furiously at each other as they studied it. She caught the end of their discussion as she approached.

"...I knew I should have asked him to just bring me the paper!"

"Have you two figured out where we are?"

They looked up at her over the map. "Most likely the Galapagos Islands. Not sure which one yet," said Lt. Lucky.

"The Galapagos? Of all places, why?"

"We were aiming for the South Pole. In coordinate form, 90 degrees south, 0 degrees west. But someone" - he glared at Blue, who looked innocently wounded - "got the numbers switched. We're at 0 degrees south, 90 degrees west. Or close to it, anyway, after that ride in. The Galapagos Islands."

"Huh." Tess let that sink in. "Well, now that we know where we are, does that explain why Christmas lights would be strung around a palm tree on an otherwise uninhabited beach?"

The penguins stared where she pointed.

"Uh... no," admitted Lt. Lucky.

"Then I suggest we find out."

#45313 - 11/26/12 12:07 PM Re: These Penguins Have the Right Stuf (update: Part 4!) [Re: RightStufSpecialsMinion]
RightStufSpecialsMinion Offline
UPSF Admiral

Registered: 04/17/08
Posts: 270
Loc: Iowa
These Penguins Have the Right Stuf

Part 4


3-2-1 Holiday Savings!

Illustration 4

"Got everything?" Lucky had been put in charge of the investigation of the lights, and he eyed his small team dubiously: Blaze, who was good with engines and anything else that exploded but not much else, and Snowflake, their Human Relations Officer. Snowflake had been caught up in an oil spill a while back and been taken to a clinic in New Zealand to get cleaned up. Her genial nature led to her being used as a hands-on exhibit at local schools and for a couple of news crews, giving her the most human experience prior to the Europa mission out of them.

"If by everything you mean a compass and flashlight, then yes," Blaze grumbled.

"Oh, come off it Blaze. We're just going up the beach for a look-see anyway," Snowflake replied. "Can't you just be glad to be back on Earth?"

"Not if those lights mean more humans."

"They're not all bad."

"Says you, Snow. Says you."

"Right," Lucky cut in. "Let's get moving, shall we?"

It didn't take them long to reach the tree. The Commander had spotted it right off, after all. Staying well back, they all peered at it. Nothing happened. Snowflake shrugged and walked right up for a closer look, Blaze hovering behind her as if he expected the tree to explode at any minute. Lucky hesitated for a second, then joined them. It was definitely a palm tree strung with Christmas lights. Okay, then. Why? For that matter, who? And how?

Blaze answered the last question for him, at least. Poking around the base of the tree, he found a small solar-powered battery. "Looks pretty well made," he said, turning it over to check the craftsmanship. "Should run for ages if it doesn't get covered with sand."

"There's another that way," pointed Snowflake. She squinted. "And another. Looks almost like a trail."

Blaze scowled. "Probably a trap."

"So we'll follow the trail very quietly," said Lucky. "Sooner we're done here, sooner we can report back. Besides, aren't you curious?"

"We could report back now. We investigated the tree."

"You know the Commander would just send us back out again."

"And we'd probably end up with Bubbles as backup," added Snowflake. All three penguins grimaced at this prospect.

"Fine. But I'll take point. You two wouldn't know what a bomb looked like if it hit you." Blaze's glare at Snowflake seemed particularly pointed, though Lucky didn't know why.

The trees became more closely spaced together as they marched on, and soon were on either side of them, creating a lane. A little after that, the lane became paved, with neat bricks of white and red.

"What is this, Santa Claus Lane?" Blaze asked. They rounded a small cliff, and abruptly found the lane led to a large house, covered in Christmas lights and trimmed everywhere with more red and white. A real Christmas tree, not a palm, grew in the front yard, decorated with tinsel and glass balls, and the sign on the mail box read in neat gold letters, "Claus."

"Huh," said Blaze, as the penguins all stared. "Wasn't expecting that."

It took them a few minutes before they realized the lane continued on past the house. "Don't tell me there's a whole development," said Snowflake.

"Could go to a garage," Lucky offered.

"Or a stable," said Blaze.

The penguins quickly conferred. No one had appeared while the penguins had been staring at the house slack-beaked, but that didn't mean no one was home. Blaze was happy not to meet the inhabitants, Lucky thought they ought to be thorough (and he still wanted to know about the lights), and Snowflake argued that if the house did belong to Santa Claus, then not only was he no threat, but he could give them a ride home.

Blaze rolled his eyes at that. "Snow, Santa lives at the North Pole."

"He flies all around the world, Blaze."

Lucky simply left them to it while he went up to the front door and rang the doorbell. The opening bars to "Mele Kalikimaka" echoed through the house, but otherwise it stayed silent.

He called back to Blaze and Snow, who had stopped arguing to stare at him. "I don't think anyone's home. We might as well keep going down the lane."

Down the lane they went, and the lane ended at another house, similar to the first but trimmed in black and red. The Christmas tree in the yard was festooned with empty wallets, and the mailbox read "Kleckner."

Lucky didn't bother to wait for the debate this time. He walked up to the front door and leaned on the doorbell. The Imperial March echoed, followed by a voice calling for whoever was at the door to wait just a minute.

Lucky had not actually expected a response. He turned back towards Snowflake and Blaze in a panic quite unbefitting a Lieutenant, but before he got far the door opened and a redheaded man with a goatee dressed in a red hat and coat stepped outside.

"...Penguins?" he asked.

"...Santa Claus?" Snowflake asked.

"Santa Kleckner," the man corrected. "What are you doing at my winter retreat?"

"Well, we were aiming for the South Pole, but the coordinates got mixed up..."

"Why don't you come inside? I've been making up lists of anime deals for good boys and girls, but this sounds like it'll be good."

Over margaritas - this was Santa Kleckner, after all - the penguins told their tale of kidnap and self-rescue in space. In turn, Santa Kleckner explained that he was just about to leave for his workshop in Iowa after he finished putting the last details on his Twelve Days of Christmas.

"Details? Are you swapping out the partridge or something?" Snowflake asked.

"'Or something,'" Santa Kleckner smiled broadly, and a glint came into his eye. "Many 'or somethings.' Tons of 'or somethings.' Dragon Ball Z, Fairy Tail, Hetalia... " Blaze elbowed Snowflake and rolled his eyes. Clearly the topic was near and dear to this Santa's heart, but this could go on forever. Lucky discreetly coughed.

"Ah, right, as I was saying, I've got to get back to my minions, but I'll give Nick a call. He can give you guys a ride home after the holiday is done. I'd do it myself, but the Steelbeak doesn't sound like it would fit in the Darklordmobile."

"Nick?" asked Lucky.

"Sorry, Santa Claus. Lives down the lane. Anyway, you guys will be just fine here on the island. Nick got it on the restricted list back when we built the retreats, so no other humans come around except the occasional tourist diving offshore. Why don't you have a party? There are some extra decorations and stuff in a shed out back. I've got to run - savings can't wait - but I want a tour of the Steelbeak later. Merry Christmas!"

And with that, he drained his glass, packed up his paperwork, and took off in a sleek black jet that had been parked on a small runway behind the house.

Blaze, margarita still in flipper, turned to the others. "Huh. Wasn't expecting that."

"Me either," said Snowflake.

"Well, the important part is we can still get home and in the meantime we've got nothing to do but enjoy being back on Earth," said Lucky. "Let's go tell the Commander."

"And party!" added Blaze. "I liked the sound of that suggestion. We should tell the Commander that part first."

"What, you don't think there's a bomb in the shed?" teased Snowflake.

"This is a really good margarita."

And so they reported back to Commander Tess with all that they had learned, and, once they had convinced her the story was true and showed her the shed full of decorations, she gathered the penguins all together for an announcement.

"Everyone, we've had a rough time of it these last months. But we banded together and with teamwork, ingenuity, and perseverance we've returned to Earth, safe and mostly sound." Bubbles, still on the run from the crab, was clearly the "mostly." "Now I need you all to pull together one last time. It's not going to be easy to set up. Some of you may have to make more than one trip to the ship to get all the necessary supplies out, and loading up the cooler will take dexterity and care. But I believe we can do this! We're back on Earth and it's holiday time, so let's all have fun, celebrate, and make this one hell of a party!"

And the penguins did just that.


Meanwhile, in the middle of Iowa:

"Alright, minions, from the top on the count of three: On the first day of Christmas, Santa Kleckner gave to me..."

Edited by TroyR (11/29/12 01:55 PM)

#45967 - 12/10/12 11:51 AM Re: These Penguins Have the Right Stuf (update: Part 4!) [Re: RightStufSpecialsMinion]
RightStufSpecialsMinion Offline
UPSF Admiral

Registered: 04/17/08
Posts: 270
Loc: Iowa
These Penguins Have the Right Stuf

Part 5


3-2-1 Holiday Savings!

Illustration 5

The party had stretched into a wonderful vacation as the penguins relaxed and recovered from their ordeal. Some of that recovery had already started on the Steelbeak, but even then they'd had worries hanging over their heads. All things considered, if something had to go wrong, botched landing coordinates were certainly not the worst that could have happened on the long trip from Europa back to Earth.

Swimming and fishing in the ocean whenever they liked, they'd also spent time soaking in the sun, playing limbo - Bubbles was an unexpected master - and singing traditional penguin carols. On one swim, Snow had made a surprising discovery: there were native colonies of penguins already living on the islands, though not on the one they'd landed on. The small Galapagos penguins had been enthralled by the "space" penguins' tale, and Blaze didn't think they'd have believed it at all if not for the spaceship parked on the beach.

For all that they had everything they could need to make themselves comfortable on the island, however, as the days turned to weeks thoughts of home - Antarctica, not just Earth - loomed ever larger. Many of the penguins had loved ones who'd probably long-since given them up for dead, and while the warm sand was nice, Blaze missed the stark beauty of the Antarctic ice shelves. Plus, no one complained if you set fire to things there.

The rumbling started out low, and it was a while before the penguins even noticed it; longer still before they identified where it was coming from: on the horizon were nine helicopters, eight black and one red in the lead. Blaze tensed, ready for whatever evasive maneuvers he could make on the beach, until he realized following closely behind was Santa Kleckner's black jet.

"What in the world...?" Tess had put down her tanning reflector and come over to join him on the bluff, squinting up at the sky. As the other penguins heard the noise, they too ceased their party activities and came over to see what was going on.

While the helicopters hovered in the sky, the jet neatly landed on a flat patch of sand, which Blaze was certain was not a usual property of jets. It powered down, and with a jump lively and quick out leapt Santa Kleckner - at least, Blaze was pretty sure it was Santa Kleckner. He'd traded in his red coat and hat for a... penguin cowl?

"Santa Kleckner!" called Snow, who ran up to greet him. "It's good to see you again! Did you manage to take care of those 'savings' you were so excited about?"

"Ho ho!" he cackled. "I did indeed, but I'm not Santa Kleckner today. Today, I'm the Dark Penguin Lord." He turned to open up a hatch in the jet's side and pulled out a large red sack. "I just couldn't stop thinking about you guys, and now that I've wrapped up my 12 Days of Savings I've left the minions to manage things while I see you guys home."

"Home?" Blue asked.

"Antarctica, right? I've brought my fleet of helicopters with me. We'll run cables from each to the Steelbeak, and together they'll be able to lift it up and fly you and the ship home in a jiff. That is," he paused to acknowledge Tess, "if your Commander agrees?"

"One moment, 'Dark Penguin Lord,'" Tess said with a wry smile. She turned to the group. "Everyone okay with that plan?"

There was a resounding chorus of "YES!" from everyone, or nearly everyone. Bubbles asked anxiously "Right now? I've still got to say goodbye to my new friends, and we were going to have the limbo championships tonight."

Tess rolled her eyes, but said "Ensign Bubbles has a point. Dark Penguin Lord, we'll need a little time to get everyone and everything ready to go. I believe Lt. Lucky promised you a tour of the Steelbeak? He can show you around while we pack, and you can join us for a last feast and some limbo here on the island."

"Perfect!" the DPL proclaimed. "And while you're packing, make sure you include these." He began to pull boxes out of his sack. "I know it can get dark and dull in the winter at the South Pole, so I brought along some gifts for you." He winked. "The minions insisted on helping pick them out after that video." Blaze didn't know what video the DPL was talking about, but the boxes were titled things like Disgaea, Azumanga Daioh, PenguinDrum, and Idolm@ster Xenoglossia. "And you'll need something to watch them on, so I also got you a complete entertainment center!"

The penguins stared. "How did you fit that in the sack?" asked Bubbles, his flippers still full of the DVDs and Blu-rays just handed to him.

"Is this cabinet walnut?" Blazed rapped on the wood appreciatively. He peered around the back. "Hey, solar panels! We'll need a generator in the winter though. Could probably repurpose one of the Steelbeak engines..."

"How did you even lift it out of the sack?" asked Bubbles. The pile in his flippers was growing as the Dark Penguin Lord added The Irresponsible Captain Tylor.

"No penguins in that one," DPL said, "but your Commander will either love it or hate it."

"Why was it already assembled in the sack-"

"Dark Penguin Lord, why don't I take you on that tour now?" Lucky cut in.

As Lucky showed their honored guest around, the other penguins packed up the decorations, bid farewell to their new friends from the other islands, and assembled a great feast (if mostly sardines) next to a roaring bonfire. DPL, of course, provided margaritas for all, and participated in the limbo finals with as much gusto as any penguin.

When the last fish was eaten and the cables properly secured to the Steelbeak, the Dark Penguin Lord took charge, calling up to the helicopters: "Now! Tylor, now! Akari, now! Boogiepop and Emma! On! Muryou, on! Utena, on! Shinobu and Kimba! Astro Boy, with your taillights so bright! Let's get this ship in the air and home tonight!"

He sprang to his jet, to his team gave a whistle, and up went the Steelbeak, like the down of a thistle. But the penguins heard, as they left the sand bluff: "Anime savings to all, with love from the Right Stuf!"

Edited by RightStufSpecialsMinion (12/10/12 12:06 PM)


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