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Needle In a Haystack
Anderz had done his best to charm her, being both attentive, and entertaining. She'd forced herself to smile, but had been unable to relax. It hadn't been difficult to beg off early, claiming that she still found herself tiring easily.
And she'd spent another restless night. Had she known that her father and his friend were already in the village square, she'd have waited to go to the well for water. But she didn't. Her distraction was making her careless...her need for answers driving her back to the old woman who sat beside the well.
"I don't belong here," she whispered, waiting as several other girls from the village filled their jugs first.
"If that is what your heart tells you, then it must be so," the old woman replied.
"This place...there's something wrong with it," Casey continued.
The old woman raised sapphire blue eyes...eyes too clear for a woman her age. "Follow your heart. Do not forget blue eyes."
Dartal glanced up. Noticed his 'daughter' in conversation with the old woman. Frowned slightly. That was one situation he had neglected. He'd been so focused on Casey, and getting her away from the village that he hadn't taken the time to learn just who the 'visitors' were.
He stared at them. Usually he could feel something of a person, their fears, their hopes, their expectations. But he felt...nothing. Intrigued, but not yet alarmed, he stepped closer.
"...as if it's not...real," Casey was saying softly.
"See not with your eyes, child. Nor with your mind. See with your heart," the old woman replied.
"Ishtar!" Dartal roared. She'd deceived him! She suspected, and she'd managed to deceive him! If she wasn't removed from this part of the astral plane, and soon, she'd no doubt learn the truth, and would find her way back. She'd continue to guide and protect The One! His long strides screamed his anger as he walked toward her.
"Poppa!" she said, startled.
"Anderz is leaving. You are going with him.!" The man whirled to face the old woman. "You hag, and the waif are run away slaves! He will take you as well, and return you to your owner!"
"Poppa! No! You promised!"
Dartal reached out, slapped her, sending her flying to the dusty street. The merchants and peasants who shopped among the stalls stopped what they were doing, watched with wide-eyed horror as he reached for her, yanked her roughly to her feet. "You will not win, little witch!" he sneered softly.
Win? Win what? She pressed her hand to her cheek. Okay, the jig was up. "I have no idea who you are, or what you are. But I do know that I'll figure it out!" she spat in return.
Furious, Dartal looked around, spied what he was searching for. He knew that the old woman and the boy could have left at any time. The fact that they remained should have made him suspicious. But that tiny seed of doubt that had been planted, began to grow. If they had remained, there was a reason...his gaze went back to the green eyes of his intended victim.
She watched his eyes. "That's, right," she taunted. "I will win. Because you're not nearly as strong, as powerful as you think you are!"
How could he have been so easily duped? How had she managed to so easily convince him that she believed the illusion he'd woven around her? What had he missed? "It is already over," he snarled. "I hold the power here, do I not?"
Casey was taken aback when he grabbed a length of rope. Before she could process the fact that he'd moved so quickly that he seemed to blur, her hands were tied. The old woman and boy were bound as well.
Anderz appeared, riding the camel, was leading three others. "I guess this means the wedding is back on?"
She stepped back at the look that filled his eyes when he looked down at her. "Don't hold your breath, cupcake!"
If she were to regain all of her memories, with it would come the ability to leave the astral plane. He couldn't allow that! He reached toward her, felt her struggle against him. Outraged that she had dared to defy him, Dartal reached farther into her mind. Recoiled with fear when he encountered the protective measures already in place. Protection he'd not encountered during the first foray into her mind. This was quite...unexpected. The most he would be able to do would be to insert another block, one that would prevent her from remembering anything at all. As he moved through her mind, in a final, desperate attempt to prevent her from stopping him, he had no way of knowing that whatever he did, it would work only until her memories were activated, brought to the front by something... familiar... something known. He slammed the block into place. Watched as she crumpled to the ground, unconscious from the force of his action.
The old woman and boy exchanged worried glances. But didn't fight when they were lifted onto the backs of the camels. Protecting her was more important than their own safety.
"Know this, old woman," Dartal said, his voice full of contempt, "what has been put into place cannot be stopped. We have already won!"
"Never count your chickens before they hatch," the old woman spat in return.
The young boy chuckled. "It is unwise to believe that you can obtain that which does not exist."
"Get them out of here!" Dartal said. "Lose them in the Desert of Forgetfulness!"
"As you wish," Anderz replied lazily. He tapped his camel with the riding crop, and the beast lumbered forward, pulling on the tether that linked the other camels together. In a matter of minutes they were nothing more than a small dot on the horizon.
The village around him vanished. He had no need of it for now, and maintaining the illusion was a draw on his strength. Dartal watched his companion and the prisoners for a few more moments. Tried to ignore the feelings of remorse that plucked at him. It had been so pleasant, believing she loved him...being her 'Poppa'. He shook his head. It was time to locate The One. And to rid the universe of that annoyance once and for all!
A A A A A A
The ground was still dark where the blood had saturated it. The trail that had been made when Daniel had been moved, presumably by Casey, was still visible.
"See anything we should be aware of, Teal'c?" Jack asked.
"I do not."
He turned to the archaeologist. "Okay, Daniel, you managed to get through to Chalk once..."
"Right. Do you think he'd recognize Casey as a friend, and not dinner?"
"I don't know," the young man admitted. His heart wrenched with pain as he did so.
Jack cleared his throat. "Can you remember where that cave was?"
Daniel managed to nod.
"Take point. Teal'c you have our six. Let's go. If she's there..."
Sam glanced at her commanding officer...her lover. Could see him struggling with the same fears and worries that plagued all of them. "If she's there, she's probably nine kinds of pissed off."
Tight smiles tugged at the mouths of the three men who stood looking over the terrain. All of them knew the truth. If Casey wasn't in that cave, a prisoner...or a 'guest' of the Unas, she wasn't on the planet. And if she wasn't here...where the hell was she?
A A A A A A
The caravan had stopped for the night. The camels were bedded down, secured so that they couldn't wander off into the darkness should the desire to do so strike. Anderz and the two men who worked for him had tied the prisoners near the animals. They'd placed their own camp a few feet away. A fire burned in the night, fueled by the dried dung that had been gathered during the day's trek. None of the men bothered to offer the old woman or the boy food or water. The slender blonde was still unconscious.
The old woman watched carefully. Any battle that needed to be fought, would be lost if she were to attempt to do so on Dartal's terms. Casey had to determine when, and where, she'd be ready to face him. Time was running out. But the situation could not be rushed.
A A A A A A
She moaned softly, opened her eyes. Her head was aching. She looked around. Nothing looked familiar. Nothing felt familiar. Fear rose in her chest. "What's going on?" she asked softly.
The young boy looked at her. "Your heart will never lead you wrong."
She recognized those words...had heard them often...where? "Where are we?"
"We are on a path that leads to our ultimate destination," the young boy replied.
Casey shook her head. That told her absolutely nothing!
"You must decide if the path you follow is one of your choosing. If it is not, then it is not your path," the boy said, his intense brown eyes holding hers in a stare for almost a minute.
Okay, she was sitting in the sand, in the middle of a desert, tied up...nope, she hadn't chosen this particular path. If this wasn't her path...She frowned. What in the hell was that? On the horizon, just barely visible, was a light. It wasn't just a star, she could see the stars around, even behind that light. There was where she needed to be. If she could just get loose...Struggling against the ropes only served to tighten the knot. She gave a sigh of frustration. Stared at the light until sleep overtook her.
A A A A A A
Flashlights illuminated their path. There'd been no sign of Unas all day. If the creatures were anywhere near, they remained well hidden.
Daniel shivered as the beam of his penlight moved over the drawings on the stone wall. There...that depiction...that was him...drawn in his own blood. His hand went absently to his cheek. And he looked carefully for any new additions to the 'story'. Wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed to discover there were none.
Slowly, carefully, the team made their way further into the cavern, following the marks he'd left almost two years earlier. He could still remember the fear of believing he was facing his death. The hope that he'd clung to, that he'd managed to reach the creature known as Cha'ka. The fact that he was standing there a second time was proof of his success.
Several low growls echoed eerily around them, bouncing off of the stone walls. "Cha'ka? Cha'ka! It's me, Daniel Jackson," he called out.
The growls stopped for a moment, then became louder, more insistent...closer.
He'd been studying the Unas, setting up cameras in the areas where it seemed they gathered food, leaving the energy bars that Cha'ka had seemed to enjoy. They were always gone when he came to change out the film. Watching, studying the tapes, along with what he'd been able to record while he'd been Cha'ka's prisoner, had given him a rudimentary knowledge of the language. He pushed away the guilt that because of his actions, Cha'ka had been captured, enslaved...He'd been able to convince General Hammond - and Jack - that finding Cha'ka was something he had to do. It hadn't been his intention to start a rebellion among the Unas slaves of the planet...He shook his head mentally. Corralled his wandering thoughts...which, he sighed mentally, was a sign that he was more tired than he wanted to admit. He glanced around. "A-Cha'ka...I've come to talk to you...I need your help! Cha'ka! Cha! Cha!"
A figure stepped into the glow of their flashlights. "Da'nel?"
Daniel stepped into the beams of his teammate's flashlights. "That's right... Cho’ee’che."
Cha'ka moved a bit closer.
"Cha'ka, is there an 'Uman...um...female..." he stopped, looked at Sam. Hurried over to her and pointed. "Female. Female 'uman."
"Close enough. Ka cha female 'uman."
The Unas tipped his head to one side.
"Ko...ko female 'uman."
The creature was plainly confused. He pointed to Sam.
"No, not her..." Daniel hesitated, then held up one finger. He dropped his pack, reached inside and took out his journal. And the picture of Casey that he carried with him. It had been taken at the Grand Canyon, while she had been staring out at the vast vista that had been spread before her. "Ko female 'uman."
Cha'ka shook his head, pointed to the picture. "Ka."
"Female 'uman...uh..." he closed his eyes, tried to concentrate. "Female 'uman na?"
He turned to his friends. "She's not here."
Oh, crap, Jack thought, watching as the pain deepened in Daniel's eyes. This is so not good! If she isn't here..."Radar?" he shouted.
The result were nearly a dozen low, rumbling growls.
"Jack, don't," Daniel warned.
"Right," the older man replied. He tightened his grip on the P90 in his hands.
"Aka," Daniel said softly.
Cha'ka watched the man for a moment. Pointed to the picture, then pressed his hand against Daniel's chest.
"Yes," Daniel nodded. "My Wife. I love her very much."
A single tear made its way down his cheek. "Aka."
"Daniel?" Jack asked quietly.
"He told me he was sorry. He understands that we're looking for her, that she's missing."
Daniel reached out, patted Cha'ka's shoulder. Smiled at the awkward, and very powerful, pat he received in return.
"Let's go," Jack said softly. He turned to lead his team out of the cave. This was not good at all. Where the hell had Casey gone? It was as if she'd simply vanished into thin air. And that just couldn't happen. Could it?
First watched carefully. "Soon," she whispered.
Third and Second nodded.
Very soon their presence would no longer be required. What would be done, would be done. And there was nothing more they were allowed to do...they were forbidden to help in anyway other than the basic safety of The One, or She who was His Beloved. Not an easy fact to live with, for Beings of such compassion.
A A A A A A
Her eyes rarely left the light. Even with the sun beating down on them, she could see it. A glimmering beacon of hope. And it was growing smaller with each passing moment. No! This was wrong! She wasn't supposed to be here...not like this! For the moment she knew only one thing...she had to get to that light! All she had to do was concentrate...she could get there...if she could run fast enough...
Anderz pulled her from the camel. He untied her long enough to allow her to tend to her personal needs. "Tonight, my sweet Ishtar, you will please me," he whispered.
"Like hell!" She shoved him with all her might. Dropped onto his chest and began to beat his face with her fists. His hands closed around her arms, and he tossed her to the ground.
When his companions would have grabbed her, the young boy looked at them, held them steady with his gaze. The old woman stood between the men, and the couple who continued to struggle on the burning sand.
"Bitch!" He straddled her, grabbed the front of her shift, lifted her up, slapped her viciously.
'Look for his weak spot,' a male voice insisted from somewhere in her mind.
His ribs were unprotected as he held her with one hand, continued to strike her with the other. She curled her hands into fists, struck him on either side simultaneously. He grunted with pain. Her left hand came up, impacted just beneath his chin. She put both hands on his chest, and pushed.
Anderz rolled to his side, breathless from the blows. When she made it to her feet, he grabbed her ankle, determined to knock her to the ground again. Wasn't prepared when she spun and buried her free foot in his belly. He grunted, let go of her ankle, tried to roll away from her.
She kicked his back...low and hard, right about where his kidneys should be. She aimed another kick for his head. "Get up!"
The man remained on the sand, groaning.
Casey kicked him again. "I said get up!"
Barely able to move, Anderz made it to his knees.
She grabbed his head with both hands, brought his face down against her knee, at the same time she brought it up. Blood spurted from his nose. She curled her fingers into his hair, jerked his head back. "Tell Dartal I'll be coming for him!"
Anderz watched in utter amazement as she began to run toward the light that could still be seen on the horizon. Within seconds, or so it seemed, she was out of sight. He looked toward his men, fuming over the fact that they'd stood by and done nothing, while that slip of a woman had beaten the crap out of him...shook his head. Dartal would find it difficult to defeat her. And he needed to find a place to hide, for his companion's anger would be unbearable when he learned that she'd escaped.
The old woman and the young boy smiled, and vanished.
"Let's go," he managed to gasp. The further he was from Dartal, the better!
A A A A A A
Daniel sighed. "The only other possibility that comes to mind is that there were slave traders, or bounty hunters nearby, who saw them arrive, and took Casey. Nutesh said he and Shanda left the planet within minutes of arriving, at Casey's insistence. The Jaffa, whoever he was...well...anyway, if there'd been someone else there, they might not have had time to stop them from leaving."
General Hammond frowned. "They have no idea if Casey is the one who dragged you to those trees?"
"No, sir. I don't have any memory of crawling there, I'm not sure it was even possible," Daniel replied.
"All right. You know the planets most likely to deal with slave trade. Make a list. I can't send anyone else without causing a commotion in DC."
"I understand, sir," he said. His heart was breaking. It had already been two days since they'd spoken to Cha'ka. She could be anywhere....suffering anything. He pushed the dark thoughts aside.
"I want you all to get a good night's sleep. You'll leave first thing in the morning."
"General-" Daniel started.
"Son, you're damned close to exhaustion now. You won't do yourself, or Casey, any good if you're past the point of endurance. Get a meal, and some sleep," Hammond said kindly.
"Yes, sir," he replied wearily.
A A A A A A
He didn't know how she'd managed to do it...but she'd escaped. He could feel her...sense her, but he couldn't see her. He concentrated on the mental block he'd erected in her mind. Even if she managed to find her way off of the astral plane, she wouldn't be able to do anything to stop him. She'd be nothing more than a shell. Her body would live, but her mind would die. He smiled as he strengthened the mental block one last time. Not so difficult, after all!
A A A A A A
Janet had insisted that they all leave the base for the night. It had been over a month since any of them had set foot in their homes. He tossed his keys onto the sofa table. The basket was overflowing. Knowing that there were undoubtedly bills that needed his immediate attention, he grabbed the handle as he walked by the island, carried the basket to the den.
His gray sweater was lying in the chair where she curled up to read when he was working. She'd been wearing it...he picked it up, held it to his face. Could smell that sweet scent that she left on everything she touched.
He dropped into his chair, the sweater still clutched in his hands. They'd celebrated their first anniversary. He smiled when he thought about the four nights and three days in that tropical paradise, where they'd made love in every way imaginable. His body hardened...ached...as images of her...naked, moaning, loving him...filled his mind. His addiction was being 'controlled' by the injections he continued to receive. Janet was certain that the fact he'd been with her for those two precious hours had helped him. He didn't doubt that holding her, loving her...knowing that she was all right, that she still remembered him, still loved him, still needed him...had kept him from completely losing his mind.
"Where are you, Angel?" he whispered.
"Everything will be all right...Even when things seem the darkest, remember that everything will be all right."
Things couldn't be any darker than they were right now, he thought. Knowing it would be of no use to try and sleep in their bed, he took the sweater, stretched out on the sofa, and let the past days of worry and physical activity catch up with him. The fatigue he'd been battling won out, and he slipped into dreamless sleep.
A A A A A A
Shoulders hunched forward in despair, Daniel walked down the ramp, following his teammates. Six days, thirteen planets. And no sign of Casey anywhere. It had been damned near three weeks since he'd last seen her, on Ba'al's ship. Almost two and a half months since she'd disappeared from that Viking village. And they were no closer to finding her now than they had been then!
Ten minutes later, he was standing in the shower, letting the water run over his back. He closed his eyes. He'd never been away from her for this long. Janet continued to give him the injections of the Hathor-gene serum. Unless he was off-world, then he injected himself. The serum was a lousy substitute for Casey's sweet nectar...the honey she provided just for him. His heart constricted in his chest. He'd never stop looking for her...never. So far, General Hammond wasn't holding SG-1 back. The team pretty much came and went as they pleased...as they needed to; as rumors, clues, sightings...hope...led them.
"...like looking for a needle in a haystack," Ferretti said. The Marine came up short when he saw Daniel standing in the shower. "Oh...didn't know you were back, Doc."
"I'm back," Daniel rasped. His voice was hoarse. As time continued to pass with no sign of his Wife, Daniel withdrew further and further. He was either silent...or screaming his grief into a pillow.
Rueben James cleared his throat. "Needle shows up in a haystack, if you shine light on it."
Daniel's haunted blue eyes swung toward the young man. "What?"
"If you shine a light on a haystack, a needle will reflect the light," James explained nervously.
Shine a light on the haystack. Shine a light on the haystack...shine a light...It was the first time since his Wife's abduction that he felt a ray of hope. All they had to do was figure out just what kind of 'light' to shine! A small smile pulled one side of Daniel's mouth upward. "Good point."
Ferretti and his men said nothing more as Daniel hurriedly finished his shower, then ran out to get dressed. Not more than three minutes later they heard the door to the locker room slam.
Daniel ran down the corridors, took the elevator to level nineteen. He had no doubt that Sam would be in her lab, tinkering with all of the doohickeys and doo-dads that had come in while SG-1 had been searching for its missing team member. He raced into the room, grabbed the major by her shoulders. "Sam, we need to shine a light on the haystack!"
"We're looking for a needle in a haystack...so if we shine a light on the haystack, the needle will reflect the light!"
"Daniel, slow down! What are you talking about?" Sam said gently.
"Ferretti said that the search for Casey is like looking for a needle in a haystack," he explained. "James said that if you shine a light on a haystack-"
"The needle reflects the light!" Sam finished excitedly. "We just have to figure out what kind of 'light' we need!"
"Any ideas?" Daniel asked hopefully.
"Give me a few minutes," Sam replied, her razor-sharp mind already working on the problem. She absently picked up one of the scanners she'd used on the mission they'd just returned from, about to set it aside, when she stopped and examined it closely.
"Give me a sec," the astrophysicist and resident 'gizmo-expert' said absently. She ran a series of diagnostic tests on the scanner. "Brainwave patterns!"
"Brainwave patterns are as individual as our fingerprints," Sam explained. "If I can figure out how to adjust this scanner to pick up brainwaves...sort of like a long distance EEG machine...we should be able to 'pick up' Casey's brain wave pattern!"
"If we know what it looks like," Daniel pointed out.
Sam smiled. "On file. Janet has them on file, so that if she suspects that one of us has been compromised, she can compare a 'normal' reading with a new one. There are certain 'markers' in each pattern that are the same no matter what the external stimulus...our mental 'fingerprint'."
Daniel dared to smile. "Think you can adjust enough scanners for all of the teams? We'll have to go back to all of the planets we've already searched-"
Jack tapped on the door. The weariness in his eyes was offset by the smile on his face. "Just got word from the Tok'ra. Seems they're going to send Jacob and a ship to help us look for Radar."
Sam's face lit up. "I need to get busy...if I can figure out how to modify this, I can modify the scanners on the ship...it'll be possible to scan the entire planet! We'll only need one, and we can scan faster!"
Jack looked from her excited face to that cautious optimism that had filled Daniel's eyes. "Say what?"
"I think I've figured out a way to shine a light on the haystack!" Sam bounced over and hugged her lover, gave him a quick kiss, then raced out of the door, on her way to the infirmary.
Confused, Jack tried to kiss her in return. "That's great, honey..." He was staring at her back as she disappeared down the corridor. He turned to Daniel. "What the hell is she talking about?"
Daniel explained the comments in the locker room and the ensuing epiphany he'd had and shared with Sam...and her resulting ideas for tackling the problem.
Jack sighed mentally, and sent up a prayer to whatever true gods there were. If they didn't find Casey soon, they were going to lose Daniel as well. And he personally preferred to keep Radar and the Space Monkey on SG-1, right where they belonged. If this worked...well, Casey would be home before Sam could say 'doohickey'.
A A A A A A
First looked at her companions. "We have done all that we can do."
Tears filled Second's eyes. "Can we not stay, protect her just a bit longer?"
"No, Little One. We must leave. Our job here is finished."
"What of The One?"
"We observe, nothing more," was the quiet reply.
"Never give up hope," Third said gently. "The war that rages has not yet ended. The battle that will determine the fate of many has yet to be fought."
"And that, too, we will observe," First said. "Come. It is time."
With a final glance at the young woman who lay so still, her cheeks so pale, Second slowly turned and followed her companions.
A A A A A A
Jacob frowned. "I understand the theory, I just don't understand how it's supposed to work."
"I've programmed Casey's brain wave patterns, Alpha and Beta, into the scanner. I've boosted the reception, so that if she's anywhere within a hundred miles, we'll see the patterns reflected on the monitor. We can focus in, triangulate the coordinates from where we pick up the signal-"
"And pick her up," Jacob finished.
"Right. Theoretically," Sam added softly.
"And you want to start with P3X 888. I thought Daniel had talked to the indigenous creatures...the Unas, and they hadn't seen her," Jacob said.
"He did, and they hadn't. It's possible..." she glanced over her shoulder. "It's possible she was wounded as well. Maybe Daniel's right, and either someone was already there, or came through the 'gate before we could get there. But for some reason she felt she had to lead them away from Daniel. Maybe she was hurt...it's possible she was even dead for a few days...which would explain why none of the teams could find her."
"Don't you think you'd have seen her, or found her, when you went back?"
"Sammy, she had to have known that you came for Daniel-" He broke off.
"Or thought the Unas took him. Maybe there are several groups, and she followed one, thinking they had him," Sam finished softly.
"But why wouldn't she simply go to the Alpha site?" Jacob asked.
"I don't know, Dad. It's possible that she couldn't remember the glyphs."
"I think you're reaching."
"I'll reach for anything I can, as long as it gives him hope," Sam said softly, glancing over her shoulder once again.
Daniel sat with his head back, resting against the wall. His eyes closed. This was their last, best hope of finding her. If it didn't work...if it didn't work, then he'd have to face the fact that he might never see her again. The pain that accompanied that realization had him gasping.
Teal'c reached out, put a large hand on the archaeologist's shoulder. "Everything will be all right," he said softly.
He managed to nod. Clung to those words as tightly as he could. They were all he had left.
"Here we are," Jacob announced as they dropped out of hyperspace.
"We'll have to move a few times, to make certain that we scan the entire planet fully," Sam said quietly.
Jacob gave her a look that said he thought they were wasting time. But stationed the ship in orbit.
"Here goes nothing," she whispered. And began scanning.
Daniel, Jack and Teal'c stood behind her, anxiously watching the monitor. One that remained heartbreakingly black.
After an hour, Sam sighed. "I guess we'll have to check the next one on our list."
He could barely remain standing. He'd been so certain, so damned certain that this would work...it had to work. "Do it again," he said.
"Daniel, I don't think..." Jacob started.
"Start at the 'gate. Scan again," Daniel begged.
Sam nodded. Nearly jumped out of her skin when the loud beep of a received signal filled the air around her. "Move closer!" she demanded.
Jacob willingly complied.
Two lines, one in red, the other in blue, began to move over the screen in a repeating patter. Sam grinned from ear to ear. "Daniel, we found her! We found her!" She jumped to her feet, wrapped her arms around the archaeologist's neck and hugged him tightly.
Within minutes they were on the surface of the planet. Sam had entered the coordinates that had been displayed on the scanner into the handheld GPS. "Holy Hannah," she breathed. And led her teammates to the exact spot where they'd found Daniel.
Lying there, pale but breathing, was Casey.
"I don't get it," Jack said quietly.
Daniel looked around. "I don't care." He knelt down beside his Wife. Carefully gathered her into his arms. "Love you, Angel," he murmured.
"Dad, we have her," Sam said into the radio.
"Understood. Send a message when you get a chance," was the reply.
Teal'c pressed the keys that would take them home. All of them. SG-1 was together once again.
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