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Devil in the Shadows
Duncan had given the team a day to spend with their families. Now they were sitting in the conference room, tanned, smiling, ready to face their new battles. He looked at Casey. She seemed more relaxed than he had seen her…since before Nergal. He couldn't remember the last time her eyes had been so full of life…of light. Daniel was looking good, too. Even a bit...smug. As if he had just slain one hell of a dragon. He smiled to himself. If anyone could slay the dragons that threatened Casey…tormented her…haunted her, it would be Daniel.
"Okay, what's going on?" Jack asked opening the mission folder.
"Well, we have a location for that…laboratory…in Siberia, where those…lizards…are created. EDA is asking us to take it out. They have two new X303 ships, but neither have completed their shake-down cruises," Duncan said. "And they're not completely confident that they can destroy the facility."
"They just want us to do it so that if something goes wrong, if one of those insane scientists gets away, they'll have someone to blame," Jack grumbled.
"Pretty much," Duncan grinned. "I would prefer that we do it, however. That way we know the job is done."
"Are there laboratories anywhere else?" Sam asked.
"If there are, Emerson and his crew have no knowledge of them," the Scot replied.
"What about NID agents and holdings on Earth?" Daniel asked.
The Highlander smiled. "It seems that President Taylor was able to compile quite a dossier on NID activities, who was helping them, where they had 'safe houses', what companies were a front for their activities-"
"No wonder they threatened his family," Casey murmured. "They had to stop him, and quickly!"
"Well, he's been very forthcoming with the information. Seems he turned over every scrap of paper that had to do with that particular investigation to the EDA. They've been sorting through it, and shutting down businesses, bank accounts, the Brits confiscated two houses in London that belonged to the NID. With what you learned from those goons on Langara, four safe houses in three countries in South American have been…taken out. Word is that agents are running scared. SG-1 is on the top of their hit list right now. You've destroyed two ships, taken another, I believe they used the term 'stolen'; wiped out one of their dirty little back water camps, and killed a couple dozen agents," Duncan said.
"How many ships do they have?" Sam asked.
"Right now we're not sure," Duncan admitted. "As upset as they are, we're thinking you may have wiped out their fleet. If they do have any other ships, they aren't going to be as big as what they've lost. Since the NID, or Ptah's half of it, was trading weapons and cocaine for naquadah, a couple of Terran SG teams have run into problems. Bra'tac has been getting reports that some of the Shakka are finding cocaine to be their drug of choice. The leaders are not happy about this. So, we gave him the coordinates of the planet that SGI-7 almost didn’t make it back from, and from what I understand, the Hak'tyl burned that settlement to the ground. Don't know which NID group it was, but they aren't there now. And if there were any ships, they aren't around any more. Bra'tac didn't say anything about ships, though."
"Is Methos still meeting with Ptah?" Jack asked.
"He hasn't heard from him in awhile, but that wouldn't be unusual. The snakes don't meet unless they're planning on attacking one another," Duncan replied.
"But the supplies coming out of South America have stopped?"
"Yep. What seems to have hurt them the most was the loss of the 'gate," Duncan said.
"Gee, my heart bleeds," Casey retorted, her eyes on the report in front of her.
"Okay, here's the game plan, team. You're going to take the Phoenix II, Bra'tac says there will be a feast day in honor of SG-1 by the way-"
The team laughed. "I take it he liked the new ship?" Jack asked.
"Yeah, he did. Methos will continue to use it, but since he has a Jaffa crew anyway, might as well give it to them. So when it comes down to the line, Bra'tac calls the shots on the Jaffa Ai'emain."
Teal'c smiled. "They are calling the new ship 'Rise of Jaffa'?"
"So it would seem," Duncan replied.
"Very appropriate," Casey said. "I like it."
Teal'c's smile widened. "I shall remember to tell Master Bra'tac that you approve."
"Okay, back to the mission. You'll take the Phoenix II, and turn one spot of Siberia into a very hot, black hole."
"That's it?" Jack asked.
Duncan laughed. "For today. MALP3 brought back some interesting images…"
"Sorry I asked," the general grumped good-naturedly. The rest of the team laughed.
"I want confirmation that this place is gone for good. The EDA knows the location. After you bomb it, they're going to send in low flying craft to verify that it's gone…completely obliterated. Nothing less is acceptable. From the information we have, the scientists aren't allowed to leave the facility, too much risk of them talking. Or trying to run away. So we'll be taking out the sick bastards that came up with this," Duncan told them. "Questions?"
It seemed that there were none. SG-1 knew what they had to do, and they were going to do it.
"Okay, the crew is skeleton at best, you'll be doing the flying and shooting," Duncan said.
Jack looked around. "Let's get this done. There's a hockey game on TV tonight that I'd like to see."
Laughter moved easily around the table.
"Okay, team, you have a go."
A A A A A A
The crew was indeed small. Fifteen people, not counting SG-1. All of them citizens of Gamma and the Stargate Command Colonies for less than two years. All of them dedicated to protecting their new home, and the Immortals who had founded and lived in Gamma. Five were Terrans. Two were Langarans. Eight were from Earth. Those from Earth were deliriously happy to be off that planet and on Gamma. Every one of the crewmembers were excited, and a bit overwhelmed, to be serving with the legendary SG-1.
Jack took the captain's chair, much to the relief of the First Officer. A captain hadn't actually been assigned to the ship yet, although the young woman who was serving as 2IC was going to be a great asset to whoever earned command of the Phoenix II.
Casey studied the controls in front of her. It certainly wasn't an al'kesh! Wasn't the Prometheus or Persephone, either. "Does this thing come with instructions?" she asked quietly.
"As a matter of fact," the 2IC said, smiling wickedly, "it does." She pulled out a manual, and flipped through the laminated pages. "We're pretty sure this is right."
She raised an eyebrow. "Um...'pretty sure'? Isn't that like 'pretty close'…only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades and nuclear bombs?"
The young woman laughed. "I don't know, probably."
Casey studied the carefully written and diagramed notes, compared them to the console. "Okay, I think I have it," she announced some thirty minutes later. "Please tell me that the lab rats and the monkey wrenches put some Scorpions on here." The Scorpion class, naquadah tipped missiles were the most advanced missiles that Gamma had. They were the most accurate, most deadly weapons in the arsenal.
"Ten," Jack grinned. "The Phoenix II has all the latest doohickeys and doodads we could get on it."
"Love this ship," Casey replied. "If I have Scorpions, all I have to be able to do is program in the target and send them off."
"Can you program in the target?" Daniel asked, his cheek twitching.
"Ha ha. Funny. You're a regular laugh riot. Yes, smartass, I can program in the target," Casey retorted. "At least I think I can," she said under her breath. She caught Sam's eye, gave a subtle nod for help.
"So, what's this console look like?" Sam asked as she approached.
"Like all the others in here, I guess," Casey said. "Okay, do I have this right?" The two blonde heads poured over the manual and the console, and Sam answered several of Casey's questions.
"See, you did know what you were doing," Sam said, smiling encouragingly.
"I don't know whether to be impressed with myself or worried that I'm turning into some sort of weapons specialist," Casey admitted.
Sam laughed. "Be impressed, girlfriend."
"Works for me!" Casey grinned.
A A A A A A
Since it would be at least an hour before they reached Earth, Jack agreed to a coffee break. The mess hall was large, but only five of the tables were uncovered and in use. The cook, an older woman who had been in the Army for twenty-two years, and insisted that everybody call her Hattie, brought four mugs and a pot of coffee, and a tall glass of iced tea to the table where the team was sitting.
"Thanks, Hattie," Sam said, smiling at the woman.
"No problem, colonel," the woman replied, returning the smile. "When you folks are ready to eat, just let me know."
"We will," Casey said. She took a sip of coffee. "Oh, yeah, this is good."
Daniel, who was convinced that Casey's coffee couldn't be beat, agreed that it was good. Not as good as his Wife's, but close!
"Casey, tell us what you 'see'," Jack said. He blew across his cup, then took a sip. Damn, this was good coffee!
She closed her eyes, waited for Daniel's gentle presence. She held to him for just a second, reached out and caressed him, before reaching across the vastness of space. She listened, looked around. Waited. "Well, I'm getting the usual chaos I get every time I search near that planet. There are a few NID agents still running around free, I think they're the top of the food chain types. It feels like they want to leave Earth, but can't. No 'gate, no ships. Well, there's a 'gate, but they can't get near it. Security is really tight in Cheyenne Mountain right now," she reported. "They have places to hide, but with their subordinates falling all around them, it won't be long until their identities are revealed. When that happens, they won't last long."
"Any problems with the mission?"
She closed her eyes, searched again. Shook her head. "Everyone we need to…get…will be there. The problem I have is that some of the folks that we don't necessarily need to get will be there, too."
"Case, the people there joined the NID. Maybe they were coerced. Bottom line is, they still could have said no. From the reports we have, most of the NID recruits are from prisons all over the world. They want people who won't balk at breaking the law, or doing some pretty nasty things to other people," Jack said.
She shivered when she thought about Shakney and the men who had been with him. "You're right. We aren't talking about innocents here."
"Exactly," Jack nodded.
She felt a soft breeze against her face, and looked around. There, in that corner. "Excuse me," she said softly. She stood up and walked to the far corner of the room.
"Is there something wrong?" she asked, pulling her lip between her teeth, shoving her hands into her pockets. She couldn't see them...but she knew they were there.
"No," the First replied reassuringly. "All is well."
"No offense, I mean, I'm glad to know that you're watching out for him, but…why are you here?" she asked.
"We are here to offer…support. What those people are doing is wrong, and dangerous, and is of great concern to…to those we report to."
"Wow, the NID has caught the attention of the Big Boys, huh?"
The First smiled, even though she knew that Casey couldn't actually see her. "Indeed they have. They were quite impressed that The Chosen so easily disposed of so many of those…people. I believe they were also surprised to learn the depths of The Chosen's love for you, the lengths he is willing to go to in order to protect you, and his children."
Now it was Casey's turn to smile. "I don't think anyone realizes how deadly Daniel can become if anyone threatens his family. Okay, so I'm not picking up false images or anything, I'm getting the straight scoop?"
Again the First smiled. How she enjoyed this young woman's sense of humor! "You are getting the 'straight scoop'. We are merely here to insure that all goes as it should."
"Good. I just wanted to make sure. No stupid tests or anything like that? After what I've been through, that would make me really pissy right now."
The First began to laugh. Casey heard nothing more than a light tinkling sound. "No tests, I assure you."
The Second and Third were laughing as well. How lucky were they, to be the Triad selected to keep watch over The Chosen and His Chosen? She was such fun to listen to!
Casey nodded. "Okay. Well, then, I guess I'll let you get back to…watching…and I'll get back to work." She turned and walked back to the table.
Daniel was frowning when she sat down. "What's up?"
"Seems that the NID has the attention of the Big Boys. And the Big Boys are not happy. All of this changing people into lizards stuff has them a bit ticked off. The Triad is just here to make sure that we get the job done." She pulled her lip between her teeth. Her teammates all exchanged nervous glances.
"Case?" Daniel asked softly.
"Well, I'm just wondering…I get the feeling that the Triad was totally pissed off when Simmons pulled some of the stunts he did, and I'm pretty sure he was he one blocking me when you guys went to PX9 869…Arconia. I don't think he was playing by the rules. So, who else is out there not playing by the rules?"
Sam shuddered. "Let's hope that it's just simple bad guys."
"You think that the Triad might be here to make sure that you aren't blocked again, or something like that?" Jack asked.
"It's a possibility. I mean, I asked straight out if it was a test. I don't think they can lie. Anyway, it's not a test, and the First says they're here just to make sure that things go as they should, that they're here only to offer support." Casey turned this phrase over in her head. She reached out again, felt nothing amiss, could sense no danger to the Phoenix, or the crew.
"Their presence might be simply because the NID and this…project…of theirs, is a real threat," Daniel said.
"I can understand the biologists using Nirrti's…notes, if you will. But it seems that they've moved a long way past that, turning humans into lizards," Sam said.
"That mission happened while I was Ascended, nearly eleven years ago. It's possible that they've had the information that long, and have been working on this for that long. Remember, the NID was entrenched in Area 51, and everything we did went there," Daniel reminded her.
"True," the colonel admitted.
"Now, toss in technology stolen from other civilizations across the galaxy…" He raised his eyebrows.
"They've been working on this for a long time," Sam finished.
"Let's just hope they haven't had the time to set up a new laboratory for the work," Casey said dryly.
"I don’t think so," Sam said. "Something this…complicated, this complex, would take special equipment. It's only been four years since the NID was exposed, and we've caused a couple of major shake-ups along the way. I think that the Siberia outposts have been in operation since Maybourne was sent there."
"I wonder how Harry's doing," Jack mused. "Then again, I really don't care."
"The last time we heard from him was when he said he had a lead on a bunch of ancient weapons," Daniel said. "Well, I didn't actually hear from him. I was Ascended at the time for that one, too."
"We sure could have used your help with translating those pictures. You would have had it figured out in no time at all," Sam smiled.
Jack grunted. "Should have shot him again. Just for the hell of it."
Casey giggled. "So where did Harry wind up?"
"Haven't a clue," Jack replied. "Tok'ra found a place for him. Hopefully one where he's the only inhabitant."
"SG-1 to the bridge," came over the intercom.
"Time to go to work, campers," Jack said. He finished his coffee and stood. He and Sam walked out, hand in hand. Teal'c followed, Daniel and Casey were last, arm in arm.
Hattie smiled. So they were the famous SG-1. Those were darned nice folks. And they didn’t leave a mess to clean up, either.
A A A A A A
Daniel and Teal'c brought the Phoenix II into orbit directly above their target. Casey programmed the coordinates into the computer. They were ready.
Jack looked out at the curve of the Earth beneath them. "Casey, take a look and see if this is where we need to be," he said quietly.
She closed her eyes, smiled when Daniel gently approached, held tightly to her. She moved down, saw the compound, the buildings. She could feel the fear, the terror, the…evil. There were at least fifty…lizards… more if the ones in varying degrees of…mutation…were counted. She moved closer. There three people, two men and a woman, they were terrified, and they were being injected. Whatever was happening…it was painful. She searched for those in charge. Jerked when she saw the face of the man who was referred to as the Director. She retreated, what she had seen leaving her feeling ill.
"Well?" Jack asked.
"You aren't going to believe who is in charge down there," she said softly. The look on her face had the entire team nervous.
"Tell me," the older man said.
"Former Surgeon General of the US. His colleagues down there are some of the most respected medical professionals from around the world." Casey shook her head. "All hell is going to break loose when this gets out. And with all of them disappearing at the same time, the EDA isn't going to be able to keep this under wraps."
Jack began to swear. "Should have known that the NID went all the way to the top."
"It's bad, Jack," Casey continued. "There are about fifty…um…lizards…more that are at least partly lizards. They just started the process on three people." She shivered
"We have got to take these sick bastards out," Daniel said softly.
"Sam, see if you can't get into their computers. I want every bit of information you can get. Then we'll know if they have any other of these type of hell-holes to take out."
"On it," Sam replied.
'Angel, are you okay?'
She looked over at him, saw the concern in his eyes. 'I've never seen anything that…horrible… at least done by…done by humans!'
He reached out to comfort her. 'We'll take it out. Then those assholes won't be able to hurt anyone else.'
"I think I have everything I'm going to get," Sam reported.
"Okay, let's turn that place to ashes," Jack said. "Contact the EDA, let them know we're here and ready to let the birds fly."
Sam nodded. "We have a go," she said a minute later.
"Gee, that's swell of them," Jack replied sarcastically. "Move us down there, Daniel. I want them to see it coming."
"You got it," Daniel replied.
"Casey, get those missiles ready," Jack instructed.
"Aye aye. Target locked, missiles on stand-by."
"One at a time, let's not waste any we don't have to," the older man said quietly. "Fire on my mark."
"On your mark, aye," Casey replied.
Daniel brought the ship down to ten thousand feet. There wasn't any way that the people in the compound below them could miss seeing the ship.
"Okay, move us back up to safe range," Jack said.
They watched the ground move away from them, Daniel stopped at thirty-five thousand feet.
"Fire one," Jack ordered.
"Firing first missile," Casey said as her finger pushed the button. The Scorpion missile flew away from the Phoenix, targeted for the main building of the compound, the building where intelligence reported, and what she had been able to 'see' confirmed, was the home of the laboratory where human beings were turned into lizards, against their will.
They watched carefully. The building exploded into a fireball, catching those nearby on fire. "Put another missile in that hanger," Jack said.
She used the targeting scanner to get the coordinates, fed them into the computer, and fired another missile. The second strike leveled the hanger and what they had been told was the barracks. By now all of the buildings still standing were burning.
"We have movement on the ground," Sam said, working one of the scanners beside Casey. "Looks like some of them might try to get away."
"Not on my watch," Jack grumbled. "Daniel, take me in low and slow. Casey, use the laser cannons. I want those sons-of-bitches dead!"
The Phoenix II loomed overhead as nearly a dozen people attempted to get away, trying to flee across the expanse of frozen wasteland. Casey brought the cannons on line and fired. It was all over in a matter of minutes.
Sam returned to the communication console. "EDA is sending fighters in for a look."
Jack grinned. "We'll just wait here."
Casey giggled. "Gotta show off, huh?"
"Yep. Ours is bigger," Jack said, with boyish glee.
Half a dozen F117's flew over the area. Sam listened to the chatter of the pilots. "They're impressed, Jack. Drop down a little bit, they want a closer look."
Jack grinned. "Do it, Daniel."
The huge ship moved lower, hovered silently as the Stealth fighters flew around them.
"Phoenix II, this is Papa John, do you copy, over?" a voice asked.
Sam grinned. "Papa, this is Phoenix. Are you guys going to check us out, or do your job?"
"Hang on, baby, let us look you over!"
Laughter filled the bridge.
"Damn, I have never seen guns like that!" another voice said.
Casey darted over to the com console, Sam giggled and handed her the headset. "You should see what I can do with those guns."
"Wow, Phoenix, is your whole crew made up of beautiful women?"
"Negative, Papa, we have a few hunks on board," Casey replied, winking at Daniel.
"Okay, before my heart gives out on me, what's the name that goes with the incredible voice?"
There was nearly fifteen seconds of silence. "The Casey Jackson?" Papa John's voice asked.
Daniel and Jack were laughing. Teal'c was grinning from ear to ear.
"Last time I checked," Casey replied.
"You wouldn't be kidding a kidder would you?"
"Papa John, this is Brigadier General Jack O'Neill."
They could practically hear the pilot jerk to attention. "Sir! It's an honor to speak to you, sir!"
"Thanks. I'm sitting right here looking at Casey. She's the real deal boys."
"Holy shit!" Papa John exclaimed. "Did you hear that boys? The Casey Jackson has been talking to us!"
"Papa, let me introduce you to someone else," Jack said. "Say hello Doctor Daniel Jackson."
Daniel grinned. "Hello, Papa John."
"Uh…hello, Doctor Jackson, sir. Look, no offense intended, honest."
"None taken," Daniel replied.
"Okay, Papa," Jack said. "Do another fly by, tell me what you see down there."
"Roger that, fly-by in fifteen…ten…five…I'm seeing nothing but burning buildings. Seems to be a few bodies around two of the buildings… about a dozen more heading for nowhere."
"Any signs of life?" Jack asked.
"Negative, general. We have zero, I repeat, zero signs of life."
"Okay, we're going to move up out of sight and continue to monitor the area for awhile. You boys go get refueled, do another fly by in about three hours," Jack said.
"Roger that, we'll be back in three hours. Nice talking to you Casey," Papa John said.
Casey could hear the grin. "You too, Papa."
Daniel chuckled as he moved the ship far enough away so that anyone who might still be alive in the compound wouldn't see it. Sam was already scanning the area for life signs.
A A A A A A
Three hours later the fires were mostly out, nothing more than just smoldering heaps of ash and debris. There still had been no sign of life. Five helicopters filled with Special Ops teams landed and swept through the area. The Phoenix stayed in orbit as the men sifted through what was left of the buildings. After another five hours, the team leader reported finding nearly one hundred and seventy bodies. No one had escaped.
"Casey, tell me we got all the bastards involved in this," Jack said quietly, rubbing his eyes with his fingers.
She waited for Daniel's gentle touch, then reached out. She searched, tried to move through the chaos. She shook her head. "I can't tell, Jack. There's so much…I don't feel anything…but they could be hiding."
Jack nodded. "Good enough. We took out that Frankenstein's laboratory. Let's hope it's the last that we'll have to deal with."
Daniel felt her frustration. He soothed her, caressed her, whispered his love to her, told her how proud he was of her. When he gently pulled away from her, the smile on her face was genuine, and full of love.
"Jack, the EDA is confirming the hit. They're sending a thank you," Sam reported.
The general 'harrumphed'. "Let's go home. I just might get to see that hockey game."
A A A A A A
They were lying on the deck, watching the stars. Casey snuggled closer to Daniel's side, smiled when his arm tightened around her. "So, do you think Papa John will be bragging about talking to you?"
He laughed. "Angel, that pilot doesn't give a damn about talking to me. I'll bet he's doing a lot of bragging about talking to the Casey Jackson, though."
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"I…I guess I shouldn't have said anything to him. But when he made that comment about the guns-"
Daniel rolled to his side, looked down at her, the moonlight putting her beautiful face in shadow. "Casey, you didn't do anything wrong."
She looked up at him, unable to see his eyes. "I shouldn't…carry on…like that. I guess I just get caught up in the moment."
"C'mere," he said. He wanted, needed to see her green eyes, needed to see what she was feeling. He led her back into their bedroom. He watched her. Her arms were around her waist, she wouldn't look up at him. "Casey, let me see," he said softly.
She looked at him. "See what?"
She pulled her lip between her teeth, then nodded. She closed her eyes, waited for him, felt his gentle presence. She felt him moving, looking, searching. His touch was warm, soft, tender, comforting. He pulled away, caressed her one last time.
He was shaking with rage. The scars that Helen Webster had left on this beautiful woman, his Wife, were unbelievable - deep…painful…hateful. Sam had been right. Casey was terrified of men. Not afraid of what they might do to her. Afraid that they would talk to her, afraid that she was leading them on by simply being herself. Afraid that if they talked to her, or she talked to them, it would hurt him, make him angry…make him walk away from her. The fact that she had been able to forge friendships, deep, close friendships, with the men of the SGC was nothing short of a miracle. He led her to the bed, sat down, pulled her to sit beside him. "Casey, I don't even know where to start," he said softly.
"I know that I'm not a slut or anything," she said hurriedly, wanting him to realize that was a battle he wouldn't have to fight… again. She understood that she wasn't a slut, or a whore. She had never been promiscuous, as those hurtful names implied. What she did worry about was being something equally as bad…a cock tease.
He grinned, laced his fingers through hers. "Good. Angel, you are a gorgeous, vibrant, incredible woman. You should never be afraid of being yourself. Just talking to a man isn't going to make him think you're willing to go to bed with him. Not every man who says hello to you is going to think you're…'coming on' to him if you reply. You have every right to walk away if you don't want to talk to someone. You're not being any sort of a…tease." He paused, ran his finger over her cheek. "You were terrified when we brought you back to the SGC, weren't you? All of the men around you scared you to death, didn't they?"
She looked down at her hands, shrugged slightly. "Just until I got to know them."
"Were you afraid of me?"
Casey looked up into his blue eyes. "You're the only man I've never been afraid of," she said softly.
He pulled her into his embrace. "I wish I knew how to fix this, Angel."
"It's okay, Daniel. I'm fine. Some days it's easier than others. But as long as I don't have to be around men I don't know… without you, or Sam, or Jack, or Teal'c…somebody I know and trust, I'm okay. As long as you're with me, I'll always be okay."
"One day at a time, Angel. We'll take it one day at a time. Together…always."
She reached up and ran her fingers over his face. She couldn't imagine living without the fear that lurked in her heart, her mind. "One day at a time…together…always," she whispered.
"I love you, Casey."
"I love you, Daniel," she replied.
He held her tightly. Sam's words echoed in his head. He could only pray that nothing would happen that would hurt her beyond his ability to help her. "I'll always be here for you, Angel," he said softly. "Always."
She snuggled deeper into his arms. "I know."
"If you're ever afraid, or worried, or hurting, I'm here. You don't have to go through anything alone," he said, his arm around her shoulder, his thumb caressing her cheek.
"I know," she replied.
"Don't ever leave me, Angel," he said. As terrified as she was of men, he was as afraid of losing her, losing who she was, the vibrant woman inside the beautiful body.
"I won't. I promise," she said. She looked up into his eyes. "I promise, Daniel. There isn't anything that I can't face as long as you're there for me, with me."
"Anything you have to face, we'll face together," he promised.
She smiled up at him. "Tired?"
"Good. Neither am I."
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