Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 79, Part 2

"We bury today a man who changed his nationality, his body, his mind, and his very essence to become one of the greatest military heroes of The Last War. The man who was born Wei Sung, and changed his name to..."

"Beshu!" a man behind the congregation called out.

The entire clot of Mongols turned around. They began to part like waves to allow the intruder through. Many of them were boggling at the newcomer.

"You are interrupting a very solemn ceremony, young man. Who are you?" the Mongol priest demanded.

"I am the man you are burying today."

The priest stared. Beshu turned around to face the congregation.

"Yes, I am alive," he said, "Any commando here knows we are all equipped to fake our own deaths. But I am not here to comfort any of you with the knowledge I am alive. I am here to say I am sorely dissappointed with every dog which calls itself a Mongol. You gave up the fight! You stopped our war which would have returned us to our former glory. I want to offer you all a chance to redeem yourselves. I am planning to rebuild the empire. Join me! We can still be great."

"We'll follow no more warlords!" one of the congregation called out.

"We're tired of war. We want peace, for once. The whole world wants peace," another exclaimed.

"As long as fools like you still dream, we'll never truly have peace. Give up your fight! We all have."

Beshu planted his hands on his hips in a gesture of disgust.

"You would all have the cause fade away?"

"We're tired of causes! They just make people die. The world's wiser now. We'll have no more dogma, so you can stop preaching it."

Beshu felt shell shocked. He nodded.

"Fine, then," he said drily.

He stepped down and walked away. He was never heard from again. It was as though he had faded into history.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 79, Part 1

"I can hardly believe you're really dead, Dan."

Even the usually ecstatic Omar was surprisingly quiet and reverent. It was as though he knew somehow his master lay under the ground, and that things were solemn.

"I've retired, you know. I think it's time for this old soldier to fade away. I think it's time for all soldiers to fade away. At least we won't be forgotten. I'll sure as hell never forget you, old friend."

The breeze blew the new grass which was growing on the grave from side to side. Sarah York sighed. She kneeled down to place the flowers on the grave which was marked DANIEL HAYES.

"I don't see why you had to die. It's all my fault, I suppose. If I hadn't got caught up in the Winter Offensive and all..."

"Don't blame yourself."

Sarah turned around suddenly. There was nothing there. She probably imagined the voice. Probably just the wind.

"Still, I'm sorry, Dan. And thanks. Well, I'd better get heading now. There are a lot more graves I've got to visit. I'll take care of Omar for you. He's not to hard to please with some food and attention. I guess I'll have a lot more time to play with him now. I'll be okay with a pension to feed him. You enjoy yourself, you hear? Good bye."

She turned around and turned her lapels up. It was a very windy day. She left the graveyard for another one. It held the graves of so many soldiers, cowards and heroes. It may as well have held the grave of war itself.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 78, Part 2

The noises of the sea, which can not be reproduced by anything but the sea, were filling the cool night air. The water was moving gently. The ship was swaying slightly. The sun had just disappeared over the horizon, and there was still enough light to see fiery blazes of orange across the sky. The stars would soon be out. It was the time of transition between night and day, which was so perfect and so often ignored that it seemed magical when it was noticed.

Footsteps interrupted the magical spectacle. Gus Waber looked up. The tapping on the deck ceased.

"Good day, captain."

"Commodore, actually," corrected Carl Leonard, as he joined Waber in leaning over the railing.

Waber swung his little swagger stick to and fro as he rested his hands on the railing. It was an absent, nervous tick he had. Other men bit their nails or twiddled their fingers. When he was a little worried on occasion he did this.

"It's so calm and peaceful, don't you think?"

"It's much better than constantly fighting for survival," Leonard admitted, "You know, this is probably the second thing I've just looked at and enjoyed in the past ten years or so. I've been so busy the rest of the time."

"I know exactly what you mean," Waber agreed, "Did you just dock with the Leviathan?"

"A few minutes ago. It takes a while to get around this place."

Waber nodded. He was looking a bit sorrowful. He had the look of a man witnessing something of such extreme beauty that he already begins to miss it before he had even finished looking at it. It was the bittersweet look of nostalgia.

"It's all over, you know. I always feel bad when things end. It's like a knight coming to the end of his quest. He's fought so long to end his quest he feels empty when he's finally completed it. My adventure's over. There're no more bad guys to keep in line."

"At least democracy has prevailed," Leonard said.

Waber snorted.

"I don't care any more. I'm tired of all this dogma about how democracy is good, or how monarchy is good, or whatever. Who cares what system of government is in power? They're all the same at the core. I don't want to fight for belief any more. The only thing I want to fight for is peace," he laughed, "I guess that's a bit of a paradox. Let's just say that all I want to work toward is peace."

Leonard nodded, saying, "But you miss war."

"Oh, God, I do. I love it. It's a thing of the past now, though. Bourgeois, as they say. I look at my whole life, and wonder, what have I accomplished? What difference have I made? The one thing I've spent my entire life on is a fossil now. There'll be no more wars after the last one. I'll be nothing but a bit of history.

"What change have I made? What legacy do I have? I haven't got any children. I'm too old to have any now. What memorial is there to remind the future generations of Gus Waber?"

"What difference have you made? Are you joking? The war would've been lost without you. Germany never would have been retaken. All of India would have fallen to the Mongols. You damn near single handedly gave the Alliance sea supremacy."

"Bah," said Waber, waving his hand, "I won't even be a foot note in a history book. I suppose I'm destined to just fade away and turn back to dust. I've left no lasting impression. My footprint isn't carved in stone."

"What memorial is there for you? Look around you!"

Waber looked around himself at the deck of the Leviathan. She wouldn't be decommissioned probably ever. She was the largest, most state-of-the-art ship ever built. It would probably be converted into a luxury liner or something as the navy began to disassemble itself. But the Leviathan wouldn't be decommissioned. It would be a memorial.

Waber realized suddenly how much his ship reminded him of himself. It was loud, boisterous, and big. It dwarfed everything in it's way and bulldogged it's way around. It was like the prima donna of vessels. Perhaps he wasn't worried because he wouldn't be remembered. Perhaps he was worried because leaving the Leviathan meant leaving a part of himself.

"Oh, listen to this old sailor go on. I've got no problems. You on the other hand! They don't even keep commodores in peacetime!"

Leonard laughed. Waber clapped his friend on the back and began to walk away.

"Good night," Leonard called after him.

"Good night," Waber replied, waving.

The Australian left. Carl Leonard looked up as the stars began to dot the sky.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 78, Part 1

"...And he must have been about two and a half meters tall. He came walking towards me, and I just about wet my pants."

The whole crowded bar laughed. The girl who was sitting on Jacques de Ris' knee was leaning on him and listening intently to his every word.

"Wait a minute," someone said, "What were you doing that whole time, Pierre? You were his driver, weren't you?"

Pierre grunted. He broke the embrace of the girl he was with to take a drink. He took his time about it to build up suspense. When he saw that everyone was completely quiet he spoke.

"I was having a little tete-a-tete with unconsciousness. As Jacques told you we leapt towards an artillery emplacement and were shot down, due to the incompetence of our gunner. I struck my head as we went down. That's how I got this," he pointed at the gash on his forehead, "And when I had woken up the major was back helping me to my feet. I can neither prove nor disprove his story," he turned back to the girl who was fawning over him and said, "Go ahead, give me any two numbers."

"Seventy- three and fourty-eight," the girl said after thinking.

"Three thousand five-hundred and four," he said smiling.

"Oh, Pierre's a bit distracted because he's got a girl interested in him for the first time," the crowd lauged again, "I'm telling the truth."

"First time," Pierre snorted, getting up, "Ask this fine lady tomorrow morning if this was the first time. Au revoir, everyone."

Pierre threw some money onto the table and walked off with his arms around his girl's waist.

"So he's speaking French like only an American can: 'Bonjour, c'est la vie, huh huh huh' and so forth, and with a great amount of effort I decipher his words. He's challenging me to a duel! Me! The greatest gunner who ever lived! So what I did was..."

De Ris continued on. The crowd was hanging on his every word. He was happier than he had ever been in his life. The war was over, he was back in sweet France, he was a war hero, he was in a warm room with good wine, and the women were flocking to him. He smiled as he continued on. He felt as though nothing would ever go wrong for him again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 77, Part 9

Bleda Khan seemed stunned like a turtle roughly thrown on it's back. He stared at the piece of paper in his hand and slowly, almost unnoticeably, placed it on his desk. Though his expression didn't change, tears began rolling down his cheeks.

"Why do they do this? Why do they continue this doomed struggle?"

"I don't know, sir," said Colonel Bura Karakoram.

After receiving her burn wounds she had been incapacitated, but had recovered enough after a short stay in the hospital to begin working again. A few hours had been her short stay. It was all the doctors could spare considering the influx of wounded troops.

Being unable to continue fighting, she was relegated to message carrying duty. She had just brought the news to Bleda Khan that Jagatai had refused to lay down his arms. She was still a little stunned herself to see her leader, especially in such a disconsolate state.

"I started this whole terrible conflict. I wish I could make things right again. I wish I could stop this now. I wish I could change things somehow. I feel such sorrow for the things I have done."

Bura felt a bit uneasy about addressing the emperor, but she felt she should.

"Perhaps you should apologize, my emperor."

Bleda's eyes suddenly glimmered in excitement.

"You're right. I should at the very least apologize."

He leapt up with an urgency he hadn't felt in years. He opened the doors to his balcony and stepped out. A microphone was there, always ready for some impromptu speech he was going to make. He walked to the microphone but said nothing.

Below him the streets were still bustling with people. Many of them were now the invaders, taking prisoners and resting after the battle. Ulan Bator had left the conflict at Bleda's order, but much of Mongolia was following Jagatai. Slowly eyes began turning upward toward him. Gradually the din quieted down to a low rustle. Even the Allies were looking at him expectantly. In the crowd was a GRTH reporter, who began recording and transmitting Bleda Khan's image all over the world. He began to speak.

"I have retarded progress for so many years now, I would like to make a step in the right direction for once. I know that a simple apology can not make up for the pain and horror I have caused, but I hope that it can at least be a start. I wish to apologize to the people of the world. The people I've invaded: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, India. The people I've hurt all over the world by my involvement in The Last War. Most of all I'd like to apologize to my own people, the Mongolians, for having led you all astray.

"I've been seeing things through the eyes of a child. I've only been looking at dreams, not at realities. I realize now that it is action which counts, not ideas or dreams. If a soldier is killed, is he any less dead whether he was killed by a communist or an imperialist? Motives never matter in anything, it is only what you do.

"I have ruined the world, but I had the best of motives. Some men would hide behind that. I will not. I wish to try, as best I can, to right the wrong I have done. I've realized now that this must truly be The Last War. We must work for peace now. Man has killed other men for far too many millenia. He must now go beyond that stage of evolution, and learn to work together in peace.

"A man does everything for some reason. Everything men do is because they think it is the best thing to do at that time. Men are not machines. They can not trace every action to a diode or a lever. Men must make complicated decisions. Men must sort things out before acting.

"If we could think a hundred steps ahead before we acted, we would never wage wars. Alas, we can not. We can only perceive one step ahead, if that many, I began this war because I believed - I believed - that it would bring Mongolia to it's former glory. I made two great mistakes that day. First, I tried to regain the past. Second, I thought war would solve a problem. War never solves problems! It only causes more! If we as a species can realize that we can rid ourselves of the urge to make war, and we can usher in a new golden age of peace and prosperity.

"War is like a drug. It offers instant gratification, but it solves no problems. We as humans must break this addiction. Let us vow to make this truly our last war. If we should ever want to fight again, let us merely remember these last few years and shudder in horror. When we have broken our addiction to war we can evolve and become a truly civilized people. We can advance technology and social causes through words and thoughts, not through guns and fists.

"I beg of you, let us all work together to make this truly our last war. Jagatai, please, lay down your arms. Let this hideous conflict end. I began this, and I would gladly sacrifice everything I have, my possessions, my country, my life, my soul, to see it end now. Please let this wicked war end."

Kirghiz Jagatai heard his emperor's plea, nodded, and ordered his troops to stop fighting. Basilisk hissed like his namesake upon hearing the news. He'd be imprisoned for war crimes now. The dream was gone. Bura Karakoram felt a sense of relief upon hearing Bleda Khan. She began wondering what she would do now that she had a trade. Farming would probably be a nice change. Beshu continued plotting to reconstruct the Mongolian Empire, with himself as the new Khan.

Monday, January 18, 2010


"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Relief for Haiti

Okay, as you know, I normally don’t interrupt this blog for introspection and personal griping (although it’s been known to happen.) However, there is something that we all need to be doing today that’s more important than pop culture dreck. If you haven’t yet, please give something to the victims of the hurricane in Haiti. You can donate to the Red Cross. If you’re of a more religious bent, a friend of mine also posted this link to a charity run by the LDS Church.

I shouldn’t have to do a whole lot of convincing if you’re a human being and you care about other human beings. Just keep in mind that this weekend, while we’re at the Olive Garden, somebody in Port-au-Prince is starving. While we’re at the movies with our loved ones, the Haitians are at the graveyard with their loved ones (if they’re lucky enough to find a plot.) And while we’re drinking a few cocktails at the bar, an entire nation is scrabbling desperately for potable water. If you can spare it, consider donating.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 77, Part 8

Kirghiz Jagatai sighed. He had never liked the cold. He had never liked unpleasant things. He was a decent tactician, a capable leader, and an average leader. He still wasn't certain why Bleda Khan had chosen him as head of the Golden Army.

Yuan Timur had been a glory hog, and his replacement as Golden Navy commander was little better. The commander of the Golden Sky Force was a pompous, self-important former fighter pilot. Jagatai was just a regular, dependable general.

Then again, maybe that's what Bleda had always had in mind for the leader of the army. Not a prima donna who would ruffle at the thought of manual labor, but a hard working, responsible, average commander. The divas would be reserved for the Sky Force and Navy. This perked Jagatai's spirits a little, but not much. He had still betrayed his emperor, and felt terrible about it.

"Onward," he whispered through chapped lips.

What hope did his force have? Dariganga had given them a lease on life, but Hangayn Nuruu could not be held for long. Jagatai intended to go out in a blaze of glory. If every last one of his men died, they wouldn't mind; they would all be perfectly happy to do so.

So here he was, blindly pressing for an attack. What was really required was to defend the position, or prepare a surrender. Jagatai had been keen on those ideas before, but now, for some reason, they both sickened him.

The tanks and troops and, God help him, the cavalry began to move forward. The Allied positions were far ahead. A few moments later an explosion heralded a return to battle. He would do his best to win.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 77, Part 7

The jeep bounced and thrashed, fighting to stay upright on the icy ground. Nemov could still remember the conversation he had had with Yurii Marchenko. They had all been relatively happy, despite the cold, because of the recent victory. Then Marchenko had received a call on the radio. The younger officer had turned to the Iron Man looked very disturbed.

“Sir, we’ve been ordered to proceed on to Hangayn Nuruu to fight Jagatai.”

Nemov furrowed his brow. Was it a joke meant to make them look stupid? Was it serious, which could have been a very grave situation? There had been a playful rivalry going on between the Germans and the Russians all throughout the Winter Offensive. It may have been a prank. Then again, if it was real, not going could put others in danger and have him court martialed.

“Germanski or Anglichani?” Nemov asked, wondering whether it was a German or a Briton.

“American, actually.”

It was too likely to ignore. So he had ordered them to proceed on. Now here they were, fighting the elements so that they could get to where they were going and fight the Imps. Nemov spotted something out of the corner of his eye.

“Halt!” he ordered.

The jeep shuddered to a stop. The Iron Man stood up. Marchenko looked to see what Nemov was doing. A man was hunched over fixing something in a tank.

“You there!” Nemov called out, “Stand up!”

The mechanic banged his head on the roof of the tank in surprise, then stood up and came to attention. Suddenly his face broke as he saw Nemov.

“I’ve been looking for you for a while,” Nemov said.

“Who is it, colonel?” Marchenko whispered.

“Remember at S├╝hbaatar? I recognized the ass.”

Marchenko raised his eyebrows at this.

“Are you afraid of smert?” The Iron Man asked the mechanic.

“Everyone is,” the man answered, a bit taken aback by the odd question.

“An excellent answer. Last time I only caught you a glancing shot. This time I’ll finish it.”

Nemov drew his S-pistol. The man looked as if he was going to wet his pants.

“Ruki verkh,” The Iron Man said, and the other man obeyed by raising his hands into the air.

Nemov drew a bead on the man, who looked like he was going to die of a heart attack before Nemov got a chance to shoot him. The Iron Man gently squeezed the trigger. A click went off.

“Oh, gavno, out of ammunition. You’re lucky. Driver, proceed!”

Nemov sat back down. Marchenko looked over his shoulder to see that the mechanic was sitting down and panting heavily.

“You did know that the gun was unloaded, didn’t you colonel?”

“Major,” Nemov said in an offended tone of voice, “You don’t think I’d threaten a man just to scare him, do you?”

Nemov gave out a muffled chuckle. Marchenko smiled. It was good to see his commander in good spirits again, even if only for a moment. The jeep bounced along toward their final destination: victory.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


A year? Really? A fucking year? That’s fucking crazy! But apparently so. One year ago today I started this blog with the humble aspiration of becoming history’s greatest writer. And I think by now it’s clear to everyone that that’s well, pretty much come to pass.

Wow. A year. Jesus. Think about all that’s happened in the past year. Um, actually, nothing springs to mind. There was that moron in the balloon. This is kind of what our society’s been reduced to. Worrying about morons that aren’t in balloons. Oh, I know what happened. That guy died. You know the one I mean.

Hmm, what else? Oh, health care. Everyone hated their health care up until somebody offered to change it. Sort of like when a baby’s not playing with a ball, but then if another baby tries to pick it up, it becomes a big god-damned deal.

What else? Well, okay reminiscing. Let’s reminisce about the blog. Okay, well we’ve fully posted two full manuscripts, being, of course, the legendary Eternity Burning and the less than legendary Terrifying Revenge of the B Movie. Revenge was definitely a much lighter note after the heavy, heavy EB.

We finished a brilliant, brand new novel in November, with periodic updates! Not that you’ll be seeing that on Manuscripts Burn anytime soon. Oh, no. Braineater Jones is definitely palatable to human beings. (With special thanks to Greg Lynn Murals for the cover! Cheapest cover art I ever got – one bottle of Sailor Jerry’s Rum. Well, also only cover art I ever got.)

I’ll tell you what else happened. We all mourned the passing of Life on Mars. History’s greatest show. But there is no better memorial than the outpouring of support on Manuscripts Burn. From me. And also that one other guy that commented on it. Thanks, Tom.

In other blog news, we changed formats multiple times. Just recently we switched from a 7 day a week update to a more reasonable 3 day a week update. Earlier in the year I came to grips with the fact that I can’t create a multimedia event on demand, even if it does drive up blog stats. Oh, but you should thoroughly check out our newest multimedia event here:

It’s an anniversary! It’s crazy! It’s celebrating. Feel free to share your reminiscences. Or, just do what you normally do and say nothing.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 77, Part 6

Still clenching his face with one hand, Basilisk flung an eyepatch, a scalpel, a lighter, and some iodine onto the snow covered ground. He had been rummaging through the First Aid kits and backpacks of himself and his men, but now he’d found everything he needed.

"Can it be saved?" asked one of the Claw men.

"No, you idiot," hissed Basilisk, still in pain.

Basilisk picked up the scalpel.

"Too small!" he hissed through clenched teeth. He turned to one of the men and said, "Give me your field knife."

"Of course, sir," said the man nervously.

He unsheathed a small machete and handed it to the Claw colonel. Basilisk took his hand away from his face to reveal that his eye had been shot through. He took the knife and jammed it into the socket. He let out an unearthly wail. The Claw men turned a few shades paler. He pulled the knife out and threw it on the snow, staining it red. He'd cleaned out the last remnants of his eyeball from the ruined eye.

Through white flashes of pain, Basilisk said, "The lighter! The lighter!"

The other man handed the Claw colonel the lighter he had picked out. Basilisk lit the device and thrust it into his eye socket. A burst of flame came from his eye socket. The colonel grabbed the iodine and thrust it onto the fire, extinguishing it.

Basilisk stood up and placed the eyepatch over his socket.

"Cleaned, cauterized, disinfected, and covered.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 77, Part 5

“Damn it!”

Sarah York smashed the table with her fist. It hurt, but she didn’t notice the pain. She was too enraged to notice it. The Mongols were still fighting. They were ignoring even their emperor.

She stood up.

“This thing has to end,” she said.

The messenger had left. If she was speaking to anyone in particular she was speaking to Omar. The dog was looking up at her expectantly.

“This is our last war,” she said, “There could be no better name for it. We’re tired of fighting. We’re tired of warlords waging battles, and then freedom fighters having to fight the warlords. This is it, damn it! These things have gone on for far too long. There is never going to be another war after this because this is the final decision maker, Omar.

“If the Mongols defeat us, that’s it. The world will be oppressed, and we’ll all bow to Jagatai or whoever. Because if they win, no one will want to fight any longer. People are not going to want to wage another war, ever again.

“This has been the longest, bloodiest, deadliest war in history. There’s never been a higher loss of life, civilian or military, ever. The Last War can be pointed to as the incarnation of the horror which we inflict on ourselves.

“If, on the other hand, we are victorious today, the opposite will be true. Everyone will be free, and they will be so sick and tired of war everyone will stay free. Because there won’t be any communist revolutions or Nazi revolutions or Imperialist revolutions. This is it. This is the end. This is our last war.”

The die was cast.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Last War: Chapter 77, Part 4

Beshu stood up. His bag of tricks was empty. No more mines, gases, grenades, poisons, or other booby traps were left. He’d run out. He fingered the last bit of commando regalia he had left. It was a small metal device in his palm, which was very similar to a joy buzzer.

He began to run. The snow was packed so tightly together it had become ice. As he left the haven of the woods, he dove to the ground, and slid along the ice. He was sliding through crossfire, and was very lucky to be able to avoid it. When he finally came to a stop he pulled out his AS gun and leapt to his feet.

He nearly lost his footing and slipped and fell on his ass. Fortunately he managed to scramble his feet around a little bit to keep his balance.

“Come on!” he yelled, “I want to fight out in the open!”

He lifted his AS gun, but he was too late. A string of shells were coming towards him. It was quite stupid to stand up in the middle of a battlefield, but such basic battle knowledge was often not taught to commandos.

The shells shattered the icy snow at his feet, and began to leap towards him. He pressed the button of his joy buzzer device. Suddenly, his chest erupted into tiny spurts of blood. It appeared that shells were tearing craters into the soft flesh of his belly. He smiled strangely and collapsed to the ground.

Yesugei saw Beshu’s death. He knew they couldn’t hold out much longer. In lieu of his leader, he ordered the commandos to stop fighting. The battle slowly died down, and both sides moved out, not making more than a token attempt to remove the bodies. Some of the bodies that lay on the ground were dead. Others were not.

Beshu’s body was amongst the latter.

When he saw that the battlefield was completely clear, he stood up. He touched one of the little craters on his chest. He tasted the blood.

“Sweet,” he said, “At least it looks real.”

He tried vainly to scrub off the fake blood with some snow. It was a fruitless effort. He pulled off the spent device from his palm. He threw it into the snow. It was his last trick: a button which blew a dozen tiny fake blood capsules along his chest. It was for a commando to fake his death. If the fake wasn’t believed, they had poison capsules in their teeth. Beshu now flung these teeth into the snow and stomped on them.

He looked around him at the devastation which the Winter Offensive had wrought. It would probably be over soon. But he wasn’t done. He’d live on, and the dream would live with him. He’d reforge the Mongolian Empire. I was only a matter of time.
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