CAST OF CHARACTERS
Austria (Emperor Kantwaulk)..........................Dave Cox England (Nigel Starstruck)......................Jeff Serandos France (Presidente Jerome).......................Jason Whitby Germany (Wood Dragon).................................Ben Foy Italy (Father Malachi Martin)...................Dave Peterson Russia (Czarina Nomoabrodina).......John C. Quarto-vonTivadar Turkey (Sultan av Suat)...........................Rob Addison
[Game Status (1899-1900): The seven powers establish their identities as they gather up their home centers.]
A cool, damp breeze ruffled the greasy hair of the motor launch captain as he ferried the last of the guests from the mainland over to Dude Island.
"Dere's a storm a-comin'," drawled the skipper. "Mark my werds. This time tomorra, the swells'll be as high as them rocks over by the cliff. Could last fer days. Hope yer all prepared fer a good long stay."
That suited the young Englishman fine. He was looking forward to a rest, a relaxing change from the hustle and bustle of his playboy life. This invitation to visit Dude Island couldn't have come at a better time. He surveyed the faces of the other passengers on the little boat. There was the animated Italian priest; the moody German, who was constantly looking out the sides of his eyes at everyone; and the dashing young Frenchman (or was he Corsican? Or Spanish?).
The sun was close to setting as the launch drew up to the wooden pier on Dude Island. The passengers alighted, and were met by three other guests who had arrived on the island a few hours before: An Austrian gentleman, cool and phlegmatic; a shifty-eyed Turk; and a lovely young Russian woman, whose regal bearing betrayed noble blood.
"Which one of you is our host?" asked the Austrian, shaking hands with the new arrivals as the motor launch, with its skipper, disappeared into the shadows and mist.
"Funny you should say that," replied the Englishman. "I believe we were all about to ask you chaps the same thing. It seems that none of us has ever met the man."
"Why, none of us have, either!" returned the Turk. "And yet, we've all received enticing invitations to spend an idyllic time here on Dude Island as the guests of Mr. S. A. Somewhere."
"Oh well, no matter!" sputtered the Austrian. "I suppose Mr. Somewhere will show up before long. For now, let's the seven of us go up to the mansion and have dinner."
The Englishman turned and looked towards the mainland more than a mile away, his eyes searching for the little boat that had carried him and the others to the island. He could no longer see anything through the shadowy fog. The entire world now consisted of Dude Island, six strangers and himself!
What was it the old captain had said? "There's a storm a-comin'"? The Englishman gave an involuntary shudder and turned to join the others as they made their way to the house.
[Game Status (1900 - 1904): Austria and Turkey appear to be forming an alliance, much to the dismay of Russia and Italy. After a brief foray into Brest, England quickly feels the wrath of France and Germany.]
The Austrian gentleman pushed away his empty dinner plate, satisfied.
"Thank you, Father -- Martin, was it? -- for that marvelous spaghetti dinner. I'm sure I speak for everyone here when I say it was most delightful."
A chorus of "hear, hear"'s and "bravo"'s went around the table.
The Italian held up his hand in a self-deprecating fashion. "It was nothing, Kantwaulk. In the absence of an official host, I was only too happy to lend my rather unskilled culinary talents to the occasion."
"Een any case, Father," interjected the pretty Russian, who had introduced herself as the Czarina Nomoabrodina (although no one present actually believed the validity of her title), "I am especially impressed weez zee centerpiece of zee tahble." She indicated the numerous porcelain figurines, sitting on a small round mirrored glass, which graced the center of the dinner table.
"Yeah, they're real ... cute," chimed in the German, who had asked to be called by the name of Dragon, for some unexplained reason. "Look at all these cute little ... little ..."
"Dudes?" suggested the suave young Frenchman, whose name was Jerome.
"Of course! Dudes!" ejaculated the English playboy. He had introduced himself during dinner, as Nigel. "This is Dude Island, I guess those little chaps are 'dudes'!" He counted the figurines. "Seven. Seven little dudes. Ha."
The Italian looked perplexed. "I had nothing to do with the centerpiece. I assumed one of you put it there ...?"
"Well, I can't be sure," said the Turk, who called himself Suat, "But I think those figures were on the table when we first arrived."
The Austrian cleared his throat. "It really is a matter of little consequence, who placed the figurines on the dinner table. Perhaps a more germane topic of conversation might be, 'What are we all doing here?' For my part, I was invited to this island, by a letter from our unknown and absent host Mr. Somewhere. I was led to believe I was to meet a few old friends here. I have to say, that although the company is indeed pleasant, I don't know any of you people from Adam. I am entirely at a loss to explain this."
One by one, the seven companions related similar, if not identical, stories.
Pouring out brandies for everyone from the mansion's ample stocks, the German shot a sidelong glance at the Englishman.
"You know, Nigel," spat the Dragon, "For a complete stranger, I heard you were pretty fresh with the Czarina on the way up to the house. Jerome told me he saw you with your hands on her breast."
There was an audible gasp, and the Czarina blushed and covered her face.
The Englishman rose from his seat and faced the German.
"What? Why, that's a filthy lie, Dragon. I ought to --"
"No, no, gentlemen, please," said the Frenchman, wearily. "Dragon, I told you I'd seen Nigel once in Brest. In. Brest. A city in my homeland. Walking up to the house just now, I thought I'd recognized him as a man who'd had some shady dealings there at one time. I merely mentioned it to you, to see if you had heard anything similar about him. I didn't expect you to announce it to the entire gathering." He faced the Czarina. "My dear woman, my apologies."
The Englishman sat down sullenly in a chair in the corner of the room. His eyes darted from one guest to another. He took a sip of brandy, clutched his throat, and fell sideways from his chair to the floor.
The others rushed over to him. The German laid his fingers on the Englishman's throat, and placed his ear on the man's chest. After a few seconds, he looked up.
"He's dead," he whispered. "The Englishman is ... dead."
For a moment, there was silence. Finally, the Austrian spoke:
"Nonsense! There must be something we can do for the man! Are you a doctor, Dragon?"
The German frowned. "Well, no. But it doesn't take a doctor to realize when a guy's snuffed it!"
"Snuffed eet? I'm afraid I am not understanding your words, Dragon," pleaded the Czarina.
"Say, now this is strange ..." mumbled the Turk. He was standing by the dinner table.
"What now, Suat?" cried the Frenchman. "Can't you see a man has died here?"
"These figures, on the table. There were seven of them, weren't there?"
"What of it?" shot the Dragon.
"Well, now there are only six!"
[Game Status (1904 - 1909): The A/T alliance is thriving, to the detriment of Italy and Russia. France and Germany are apparently unwilling partners, attempting to hold off the advancing A/T front. Amid cries of "Carebear" directed at Austria and Turkey, even a cynical 6-way draw is discussed.]
Jerome and the Dragon carried the Englishman's dead body to one of the great mansion's second-floor bedrooms. They laid the unfortunate guest on the bed and covered him with a sheet.
Returning downstairs, the two men discovered that the rest of the guests had migrated from the dining room to the drawing room. They were greeted by stunned silence.
Finally, the Austrian spoke:
"I suppose we should make an attempt to call the authorities ...?"
Suat, the Turk, shook his head. "Not possible, Kantwaulk. We have no way to communicate with the mainland. Our ... host ... has seen to that. There's no telephone, no radio. We're isolated, at least until that motorboat returns in the morning. Unless you propose we use smoke signals..."
Nervous laughter greeted the Turk's suggestion.
"What - what do you suppose happened to heem?" the Czarina wondered aloud.
"Bad heart, I suppose," mused the Dragon.
Suat frowned. "Bad heart, nothing. He certainly didn't look ill to me."
The Dragon snickered. "Have you looked at him lately?"
"Well then, Suat, what do you think happened to him?" asked Jerome, sharply.
The Turk shrugged. "If you ask me, he was poisoned."
"Poisoned!" the Czarina shrieked. She looked down at the brandy glass in her hand. Several of the other guests also looked at their own glasses.
"Wait a minute!" cried Father Martin. "Suat, are you suggesting that one of us killed the Englishman?"
Slowly, all eyes turned toward the Dragon. It was he who had poured the drinks.
"Now, wait just a m-minute ..." stammered the German, holding up a finger.
The Turk intervened. "People, please. I didn't necessarily mean that the Englishman had been murdered. If he was poisoned, perhaps it was ... self-inflicted."
Kantwaulk pursed his lips. "Suicide? Preposterous! Only a few moments before his death, Nigel seemed as gay as any of us."
"Yes," said the Turk, "Until Jerome made mention of Nigel's purported shady dealings in Brest. You must admit, the Englishman seemed quite perturbed by the accusation."
"So you're saying," returned the Frenchman sarcastically, "Nigel was carrying around a vial of poison, to be taken immediately, whenever he felt the urge to kill himself."
"You're right," admitted the Turk. "It sounds ridiculous. Perhaps the poor man simply had a weak heart after all." He took a final sip from his glass and refilled it. "After all, none of the rest of us has keeled over from poisoned brandy, have we?"
"What do you make of the missing figurine from the dinner table, Suat?" asked the Austrian.
"Oh, that could be nothing, Kantwaulk. Maybe there never were seven of them. We may have miscounted them in the first place." He sighed. "In any case, I've seen enough. I propose that when the launch returns tomorrow morning, we call an end to this holiday, board the boat and leave this island."
"Wh-what?" snorted the Frenchman. "A man dies, so you want to go home? Pull yourself together, Suat! Why, we've only just arrived! We haven't even met our host yet!"
"I don't care," pouted the Turk. "I'm ready to call it quits."
The Italian stood up and smiled sadly. "With that, Czarina, gentlemen, I'm afraid I must go to bed. If you'll excuse me ..." The priest made his way to the staircase. "I'll be down early in the morning, to make breakfast," he called back. "Oh, and I expect I'll be awake for a few more minutes, if any of you would care to bare your souls to an old priest," he added solemnly, before disappearing up the stairs.
The remaining five guests remained seated in the drawing room staring uncomfortably, alternately at their glasses, then at each other. Outside, the wind began to howl through the poplars. Large drops of rain splattered on the windows of the mansion.
The storm was fast approaching.
[Game Status (1910): In an effort to end the 6-way impasse created by the F/G/R/I union's successful attempt to stall the A/T "Carebear" alliance, Austria finally stabs Turkey. Although Turkey apparently wishes to continue the A/T alliance despite the stab, Austria's act endangers the future of Italy and Russia, the two smaller powers at the edges of the former stalemate lines.]
The morning sun broke through the ruddy mist surrounding Dude Island. In the mansion on the tiny islet, the guests were beginning to stir.
The Frenchman entered the dining room, yawning and stretching. Kantwaulk and Suat were already seated at the table, engaged in conversation. The Turk was absent-mindedly playing with the six 'dude' figurines in the centerpiece of the table as they spoke. The Austrian looked up.
"Oh hello, Jerome," he called to the Frenchman. "Suat and I were just going over last night's ... er, unpleasantness."
"Kantwaulk and I are getting off this island," said the Turk, "and we think the rest of you should come with us."
Jerome sat down and lit a cigarette. He smiled. "Have you looked at the sea this morning, Suat? After that storm last night, those swells must be as high as this house. There'll be no boat from the mainland today. The two of you are stuck here with the rest of us." He blew a stream of smoke over the Turk's head.
All eyes turned to the doorway of the dining room, where the Dragon and the Czarina had just appeared. They entered, and sat at the table with the others.
"I ... just ... looked in on the Englishman," announced the Dragon in a quiet tone.
"Still dead, I trust?" chirped the Frenchman.
"I did not slept a wink last night," pouted the Czarina. "If it was not the terrible storm, then it was the thought of that poor man dying in front of our eyes ..."
"There, there, my dear," soothed the Turk, patting her hand. "Kantwaulk and I are going to do all we can to end your torture as soon as possible."
The Dragon and Jerome exchanged bemused glances.
"Gosh, I'm hungry," said the German. "Where's the priest? He said he'd be up early to make breakfast for us, didn't he? It must be nearly nine-thirty."
Kantwaulk checked his pocket-watch and raised his ample eyebrows. "It's almost ten, actually."
Suat wandered into the kitchen. "He's not in here," he called back. "Nothing's been touched since last night. The old boy must've slept in, with all the fuss. I guess I can make breakfast for us. How do you folks like your corn flakes burnt?"
Jerome pushed his chair away from the table. "I'm going up to see about the priest. I'll be right back."
A few moments passed, and then a call came down the stairs.
"Kantwaulk, Dragon, Suat!"
The three men ran up to the second floor bedroom of the Italian, where they were greeted by a shocked expression on the face of Jerome. The old priest lay in his bed, motionless, serene. The Dragon walked over to the bed and felt the cold skin of the Italian's hand.
"He must have died in the night," he said quietly.
The Turk shuddered, and seemed near to collapsing. The Austrian gripped him by the shoulders. "It was his time, Suat. He was an old man. Now come downstairs with me," he urged. "We've got to tell the Czarina."
Jerome and the Dragon carefully placed a sheet over the old priest's body before rejoining Kantwaulk, Suat and the Czarina in the dining room. The young Russian woman was sobbing, covering her face with her hands. The men all wore downcast looks. A pall hung over the room.
The Dragon poured himself a drink and sat down heavily in one of the chairs which surrounded the dining room table. Suddenly, he gave a start. His glass dropped to the floor and shattered, spraying brandy halfway across the room.
"Why, what's the matter, Dragon?" frowned Kantwaulk, alarmed by the expression on the German's face.
"Th-those figures. Those dudes, on the table --" sputtered the Dragon, shaking his finger at the centerpiece.
"What about them?" returned the Austrian. He looked at the figurines.
There were only five of them.
[Game Status (1911 - 1913): Turkey continues his staring contest with France in the Med, as Austria helps himself to Turkey's former Russian SCs. Russia herself is shrinking, the Franco-German border is more or less static, and there is much sometimes acrimonious discussion between Germany, France and Turkey as to who should attack whom next.]
The Austrian raised his hands. "Everyone, please, calm down. We must remain rational, and attempt to think this situation through to its logical conclusion."
The Frenchman concurred. "Quite correct, Kantwaulk. Here are the facts: We were all invited here by a Mr. S. A. Somewhere, apparently under false pretenses. Two men have died in this house. We don't know the exact reasons for their deaths, but should we allow our ignorance to cause us to suspect foul play?"
The Turk's narrowed black eyes drilled a hole through the Frenchman's forehead. "The Englishman's death alone was enough to raise my suspicions, Jerome. The old priest's death, had it come by itself, may not have been a shock. But two unexplained deaths in a matter of hours? Beyond suspicion, I say."
"And don't forget the 'dude' figurines," added the Czarina. "We were certain that there were seven of them when we came here. Then there were six, after Nigel ... died. And now, there are five of us ... and five figurines ... remaining."
At the mention of the figurines, the German's eyes darted to the Turk. "You were playing with those 'dudes' less than an hour ago, Suat. Did you take the sixth one?"
The Turk started. "I resent that, Dragon. What are you implying? That I'm deliberately trying to scare everyone here? Or --" He lowered his voice. "-- Or that I've had a hand in these unfortunate men's deaths?"
"Take my words any way you like to, Suat. I know I'm not much of a diplomat. I tend to speak my mind. I only meant --"
"You meant to make me the villain in this piece, Dragon. Admit it. Why --"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen," interrupted the Austrian. "We were all sitting within inches of the figurines, moments before we learned of Father Martin's death. Any one of us may have taken the sixth figurine."
"Or perhaps --" said the Frenchman, then he stopped himself. "No, it's too bizarre, too sinister."
"What?" begged the Czarina. Her limpid green eyes betrayed her fear.
"Perhaps," continued the Frenchman, "There's another person on this island, maybe in this very house. Someone we haven't seen, who hasn't showed himself. Perhaps our host, Mr. S. A. Somewhere, is hiding himself from us and playing some kind of an evil game."
Everyone paused for a moment. Finally, the German spoke.
"We should search the house. Search the whole island. Couldn't hurt, could it?"
"An excellent suggestion, Dragon," returned the Austrian. "A thorough search of the island should put our minds at ease, at least about the possibility of an unseen maniac hiding in the next room, or behind the nearest tree."
"All right," said the Frenchman. "This island isn't very large. Two of us should be able to handle the outside. Suat and I will search the woods, the dock, and the cliffs behind the mansion. Kantwaulk, you and the Dragon comb every inch of the house while we're gone."
The Turk stiffened. "I -- I don't know that I want to be alone with you right now, Jerome. I mean, after all ..."
"After all, what? I might kill you while we're alone? I don't believe this! Maybe you'd like to bring the Czarina along for protection?"
"That's not exactly what I meant," replied the Turk. "But I think I'd rather search the grounds with Kantwaulk."
"Fine," spat the Frenchman. "The Dragon and I will search the house. Czarina, would you care to join either group?"
"I'll ... I'll come with you and Mr. Dragon," answered the Czarina, rising from her chair.
The two parties separated and carried out their searches. Not one square inch of the island, not one room of the mansion was overlooked. And no hidden human being, malevolent or otherwise, was uncovered.
The two groups converged in the drawing room of the mansion as the sun began to sink behind the poplars.
"Well, there are just the five of us alone on this island, of that we can now be sure," concluded the Austrian.
"You know what this all means then, don't you?" asked the Dragon, of no one in particular. "The phoney invitations, the deaths, the missing dudes ..."
"No, why don't you enlighten us, Einstein?" said a voice.
The German scowled. "It means, that one of us -- one of the five of us -- is probably Mr. S. A. Somewhere."
"And Mr. S. A. Somewhere," he continued, slowly surveying the faces
of the other four guests, "Is a murderer."
[Game Status (1914): Through brave effort, Russia has survived to this point, despite having her strength pared down to a single unit -- in Munich! Her last hope is that her Munich army can serve as a buffer between France and Austria as (she hopes) those two nations work towards the extinction of Turkey and Germany. At the same time, France, Germany and Turkey seem ready to take the first few faltering steps of an F/G/T alliance.]
A new morning sun rose over the mansion on Dude Island; old and darkening tensions remained among the members of the household.
Jerome, the Dragon, Suat and Kantwaulk sat with the Czarina at the large table in the dining room. The young Russian beauty was sobbing softly.
"Dear Czarina, is there anything I can do to help you?" asked Jerome.
"I -- I'm fine, really, Mr. Jerome," smiled the Czarina, bravely. "I just wish this could all be over. I want so much to see my homeland again. Despite being surrounded by all of you big strong men, I must admit that I feel very alone here."
Kantwaulk patted the back of her hand. "There, there, my dear," he soothed, looking at the other three men, "We'll protect you."
"Yeah, Czarina," added the Dragon. "You can count on us."
"Well, she can't count on one of us, according to your theory, Dragon," said the Turk. "According to you, one of us 'big strong men' is a murderer. Unless, of course, you think the killer is the Czarina."
The German looked steadily at the Turk, but said nothing.
"If you'll all excuse me," announced the Austrian, "I think I'll go down to the dock, to check the sea and see if there's any chance we can get off of this island today."
"Want me to come and hold your hand?" called the Frenchman, speaking to the Austrian but smiling at the Turk.
Suat returned a half-smile and stood up from the table. "I'm going to my room, folks. Call me for dinner."
"Dinner," mused the German. "That reminds me, I missed breakfast this morning." He looked at Jerome and the Czarina. "I think I'll just pop into the kitchen and make myself a sandwich." He left the room.
"Czarina, please forgive me," said the Frenchman, "But there's something I absolutely must discuss with the Dragon. I won't be a minute." He headed for the kitchen.
A minute later, Jerome returned to the dining room.
"That's odd, Czarina," he said, "The Dragon said he was going to the kitchen. He's not there now ... I'm sorry, were you saying something?"
He walked up to the young Russian and touched her shoulder. Her head slumped forward on her chest.
"Oh, my ... " breathed the Frenchman. "Suat! Dragon! Kantwaulk!" he shouted. "Come quickly! It's the Czarina!"
One by one, the other three men returned to the dining room; Suat running down from his bedroom, the Dragon from another part of the mansion. The Austrian came in last, from outside, wiping his brow.
"Deucedly warm out there today," he proclaimed. "The sea has quieted down considerably, though." His eyes followed the silent gazes of the other three men, finally settling on the lifeless body of the Czarina, still sitting slumped in her chair at the dining room table.
"What? What's happened?" asked the Austrian.
Jerome spoke. "I don't know. I only left her for a minute. When I came back, she was moaning something. It sounded like 'Munnn, Munnn, Munnn'. By the time I reached her, she was ... she was ..."
The Turk was studying the Czarina. "Look at this!" he fairly shouted to the others, pointing at a small mark on the young woman's neck. "A puncture wound, if I've ever seen one!"
The Dragon bent down and studied the Czarina's slender neck. "Suat's right," he concluded. He stood up straight. "Someone's given this woman an injection. She was murdered."
The Austrian looked at the centerpiece of the table. His face grew pale. "And there's something else, my friends," he said. "I suppose it comes as no surprise to at least one of us that --" He hesitated.
"That what, Kantwaulk?" asked the Dragon.
The Austrian sighed. "That there are now only four 'dudes' remaining
on the table."
[Game Status (1915): With Russia eliminated, the four remaining powers are left to determine their own fates. Will F/G/T attack Austria? Or will Austria and France combine to battle Germany and Turkey? Can Germany and Turkey trust France? What interesting proposal can Austria offer Germany? In the end, all four powers, each unsure of his own ability to survive, agree to a draw, a most unexpectedly happy ending -- or is it?]
The skipper of the motorized launch held his pipe in his hand as he called out to the men on the dock.
"Have ye got all yer gear stowed on board now?" he called. "Wouldn't do to leave nothin' behind, ya know!"
The four men, Kantwaulk, Jerome, Suat and the Dragon, boarded the motorboat. The boat's engine groaned and gurgled to life, and the four survivors of the mystery of Dude Island set out for the mainland.
"Nasty business you fellas went through on the island, eh? Leavin' three dead bodies behind." The captain shook his greasy head in the warm wind. "Ya know, yer lucky I was able to come back for ya when I did. Weather cleared up faster than usual after the big storm. Faster than I expected, that's fer sure. Two days of rough seas is nothin'. Why, I mind the time back in '74 --"
"It was you, wasn't it, Kantwaulk?" interrupted the Frenchman. "You and Suat were in this together all along. I watched you two, always together, always whispering, plotting ..."
A look of alarm crossed the Austrian's face. "Why Jerome," he replied, "You must be joking. I never met Suat in my life until we came to this island. As a matter of fact," he continued, "I have to say that I noticed you and the Dragon having an awful lot of intimate conversations together ..."
"Absurd!" shouted the Dragon. "I thought Jerome was the killer. And the last little while, I was beginning to think that he and Suat were acting a bit too cosy together, as if they were plotting sinister things behind everyone's back!"
"Now, just a minute, Dragon!" cried the Turk. "Maybe Jerome and I have been trying to bury the hatchet, but we certainly weren't planning to bury it in anyone's back." He assumed an authoritative air. "And, just before the captain returned to the island to pick us up, didn't I overhear Kantwaulk saying something to you about an interesting proposal? Perhaps you and Kantwaulk have something you're not telling the rest of us?"
The Austrian pleaded for calm. "Gentlemen, all this finger-pointing is getting us nowhere. Thoughtless accusations won't help us when we go to the police with our story. I'm afraid we'll have to leave it up to the authorities to determine just who was responsible for the unfortunate occurrences on Dude Island."
Mutterings of general agreement were heard from all corners of the launch.
"I'll tell you one thing," said Jerome, to no one in particular. "I'll be happy when we get back to the mainland, and I can go to sleep in a warm bed without worrying that someone was going to kill me in my sleep."
No words were spoken for several minutes.
"Yep," squinted the skipper, drawing on his pipe as he eyed his precious cargo of four souls. "It's a fine day for a sail, ain't it?"
"Captain, are you sure we're heading for the mainland?" asked the Dragon. "It seems to me ... it should be that way." He pointed towards the stern of the boat, in the opposite direction to the one in which they were heading.
"You know, I think the Dragon's right," said the Turk. "We're heading out to sea. What's the meaning of this, Captain ... Captain ... I'm sorry, I don't believe I ever caught your name."
"Man's name's not important," replied the skipper, measuring his words carefully, his pipe clenched firmly between his teeth. "What's important, is what a man calls his boat. What's important, is what's in that little black box back there."
Suat reached for the little black box the captain had indicated. With fumbling fingers, he opened it. Looking inside, he started, and the box fell from his quivering hands. The remaining four 'dude' figurines spilled out of the box and onto the deck at his feet.
"What's important, is what a man calls his boat?" repeated Kantwaulk, making his way towards the stern, not knowing what he would find when he looked over the edge.
He looked, and Jerome looked, and then Suat looked, and finally the Dragon looked at the name of the craft.
Then, as one, they all turned and stared in horror at the evilly grinning countenance of the captain ... of the S. A. Somewhere.
via Rob Addison
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