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The Alexander Inheritance: Chapter Eight

       Last updated: Wednesday, June 14, 2017 19:32 EDT



Mount Ida
September 29

    Eumenes sat at a camp stool doing the books. He was making a record of the horses he had taken from the royal herds. He had kept the Argead royal family’s books honestly since he was thirteen years old and wasn’t about to stop now. It was all coming apart and all he could do was keep the books as the pieces fell. He had defeated Neoptolemus twice and killed the traitorous bastard the second time. Unfortunately, he had had to kill Craterus in that second battle and Craterus was a good and well-respected Macedonian general. The Macedonians hadn’t liked that — even his own troops, who had been right there with him. Word was that the troops who had betrayed Perdiccas to Ptolemy had declared him traitor for having the gall to win against Macedonians.

    He was making another entry when a knock came. “Enter!”

    “A message, General,” said Dardaos, one of his Thracians.

    “From who?”

    “We’re getting it from Apelles. He got it from Alexandria.”

    “What? Ptolemy hates Apelles’ guts.”

    “Ptolemy is in Memphis. The message is from Dinocrates. Well, Crates, but…”

    Eumenes held up a hand. “Give me the message.”

    Dardaos handed over the scrolls and Eumenes started to read.

    Out of fond memories of our time together in Philip’s court, I decided to forward this to you, risking Ptolemy’s wrath. It is unlikely that anything will make him more angry at me than he already is. That man has no sense of humor.

    Eumenes remembered the sketch that Apelles had made of Ptolemy trying unsuccessfully to sexually mount a bull. The look of bored disgust on the bull’s face had been particularly well done. Still, on balance, he thought that Ptolemy might be justified in his upset. He went back to reading.

    Crates writes to tell me of a ship that came to Alexandria harbor on the eighteenth of September. The next day he had occasion to board it, and he dictated a detailed report to his scribes. I would think that he had taken to drink, but I know Crates and he is a careful and meticulous man. I believe what he wrote to be true and accurate, though I can’t explain it.

    He sent off several copies and as we have been friends for years, I got one. I am staying here in Colophon with Nausiphanes, a friend and a great wit, if his humor can be a bit cruel, which is why I happened to be so close by. I send you the letter I got from Crates and ask that when you have finished reading it, you send it back. I would go to Alexandria to see for myself, but that would be almost as unwise for me as it would for you.

    Eumenes nodded to himself. There had been rumblings in his own army when Craterus died, and even now his hold on the Macedonian soldiers was not firm. Some of the Silver Shields had come to his defence and had kept the core of the infantry from abandoning him. But the Macedonians, especially the Macedonian nobility, still resented him. That was why he had recruited additional cavalry and why he was taking horses from the royal herds to mount them. “What do you think, Dardaos?”

    “I don’t know, sir. My gut tells me this changes everything, but I have no idea how.”

    “All right. Here’s what we’re going to do. You make two copies of all of this, then send one copy to Cleopatra. I’ll write a note to go with it, asking for another meeting.”

    Eumenes went back to his work, but his mind — all on its own — tried to imagine a ship as tall as a lighthouse.



Queen of the Sea, Alexandria Harbor
October 3

    Allison Gouch, the sommelier on the Queen of the Sea, went over the wine list with considerable dismay. The Queen had been in Alexandria for fifteen days now, and the holds were full of food. Not of the quality or the variety that the passengers or even the crew was used to, but edible food nevertheless. Ground grains, frozen meats, local fruits and vegetables. But the wines of half-built Alexandria were not up to twenty-first-century standards. On the other hand, Egyptian beer was a sweet, rich brew, only mildly alcoholic but rich in flavor and nutrients.

    Meanwhile, the passengers and more than a few of the crew were getting restless. Two weeks stuck on a ship with little to do but study Greek and look at primitive Alexandria while the food got worse and the crew got less attentive hadn’t made the passengers happy. But it had made them thirstier. Before they got to Alexandria the cost of spirits on ship had more than doubled, and now a shot of good whisky cost a small fortune. Ship wines were still for sale, but the price had gone through the roof. It had to. There would be no new rieslings for the foreseeable future. Allison knew that the lack of good wine was among the least of their troubles.

    The first of the drugs were running out. The birth control pills were gone, either into the purses of private individuals or used up. Anticoagulants like warfarin were getting low. The insulin was gone, but retired scientists on board and doctors using the ship’s mirror of Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica were trying to use jerrybuilt centrifuges to purify insulin from cattle and pig pancreas. They thought they would be able to do it. Whether it would be in time to keep the diabetics on board alive was another question. Two of the Type One diabetics had already died, which was another reason the passengers were restive.

    There had been a dozen fights that security had had to break up. In the worst instance, one man had wrested a gun from one of the security guards and had to be shot when he tried to hijack the Queen and force it to take him back to Miami.

    So far at least, the troubles had all been isolated incidents, but there were almost constant rumblings about holding elections, and signs showing Wiley for President were appearing on the ship. Allison was getting scared.

    She was also disgusted. There was no question now. Hadn’t been since the first. The builders of Alexandria were slaves, dmos in Greek, which Marie Easley said meant “slaves captured in war,” but other kinds as well. There was even a word for “human-footed livestock.” Like people were cows or goats! Allison wasn’t the only one upset. Her husband Pat, who ran the excursions, or had before The Event, was normally an easygoing guy. But what he’d seen while he was trying to arrange a safe excursion for the passengers in Alexandria left him furious.

    The problem wasn’t the abstract injustice of slavery, either. Even more, it was being forced to witness the actual fact of it in front of their noses. The level of casual, almost unthinking, brutality visited on the slaves was simply astonishing to people brought up in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Astonishing — and outrageous. In the world they’d come from, even police officers or prison guards caught inflicting that level of violence on convicted felons would be charged with criminal behavior.

    Dag Jakobsen and Romi Clarke were ready to kill the Greeks and start the revolution. Romi was just looking for an excuse to use the new steam cannons on the promenade deck.



    “You’re worrying over nothing, Professor,” Daniel Lang said. “I’ve been looking at the tactics these guys employ. They’re toast if they try anything. I don’t doubt that individually they are some tough SOBs, but they use pikes. Not even pikes and muskets, or pikes and arrows, just frigging pikes. A hundred guys with crossbows and they are toast.”

    “Even if you’re right — which I doubt — you don’t have a hundred guys with crossbows,” replied Marie Easley. “You don’t have a hundred crossbows. You have twenty-seven. Granted, they are excellent crossbows, low carbon steel bows and machined parts. But still each one had to be individually made and the people and machines that made them had to fit them in between other work.”

    “We have the steam cannons.”

    “All four of them. One on the port bow, one on the starboard, and two at the stern. And even at that, Captain Kugan is screaming bloody murder about the Reliance being shorted. And not without reason. He has none of the guns and none of the crossbows.”

    Daniel gritted his teeth. Marie Easley could be irritating. She was one of those people who read all the time and had an excellent command of the facts. What Daniel wasn’t convinced of was that she understood the implications of those facts as well as she thought she did. Sure, the Macedonians and their allies had kicked the crap out of all the other late-Bronze early-Iron age countries in their neck of the woods. But even Alexander had started incorporating mounted bowmen, and his Macedonian phalanx had never faced even Henry’s bowmen from Agincourt, much less a machine gun. Warfighting technology had moved on. Ptolemy had to realize that without them wasting ammunition or giving away their tricks.

    Daniel had people working on a design for a reloader and others looking for ways of making modern gunpowder, but those projects were going to take a while. They would need a lot of charcoal, sulphur and saltpetre even to make black powder. They would probably need some sort of land-based industrial complex to make what they were going to need. In the meantime, every round of twentieth-century ammunition they had was likely to be needed to keep control over the increasingly restive passengers and staff.

    Most of the crew were okay. They had jobs and they knew it. But the staff who took care of passengers lacked a lot of the skills that were needed to run the ship. Truth be told, once the passengers were off loaded, they weren’t going to need four thousand beds made every day. A lot of the staff weren’t needed by the Queen unless it was acting as a floating luxury resort. That was the real danger Daniel had to deal with, not some phantom army of hoplites.




Royal Palace, Alexandria
October 3

    Ptolemy looked out at the ship and worried. He had been on board her several times now and everything about the thing screamed disaster waiting to happen. There was disaffection among the passengers and no weapons to speak of. Even if they made weapons, none of them knew how to use a sword or a pike. He doubted most of them could survive a tavern brawl, much less a real battle. There didn’t seem to be a real soldier on the ship, not any. Even their so-called “security forces” would faint like women if they faced a Macedonian phalanx.

    But in the hands of a competent general with good troops, that ship could take and hold the coast of Egypt. And holding the coast, it would control all of Egypt. He turned back to Gorgias. “If you fail, I will deny you. Hang you myself, if need be.”

    “Yes, Satrap. And if I succeed?”

    “Carthage to the pillars of Hercules as your own satrapy.” He gave his general a hard look. “Don’t get greedy once you have the ship. I will have people watching you.”

    Gorgias nodded.

    Ptolemy asked, “How long?”

    “Another week. We have the galleys ready, and the towers are half built.”

    “They should have let me provide them with guards,” Ptolemy said and Gorgias was silent. Ptolemy knew that any troops he put on the ship would be his hands and control of the ship would be his, not Captain Floden’s. Still, it would have made things easier for everyone.

    He looked over at his general. “Very well. I don’t want to see you until it’s over.”



    Gorgias smiled as he left the royal apartments. In fact, he knew just who Ptolemy had watching him, and his watchers were going to have some very bad accidents once the Queen was his.



October 3

    Roxane looked out the window at the Mediterranean Sea as Attalus discussed the options. Among the news that they had gotten from the future ship was the information that Attalus would lose to the Rhodians when he tried to gain control of Caria. Though, with the generals in disarray, the Rhodians might not be so quick to fight.

    “We still need the link to Eumenes,” said Attalus’ sea commander, a Carthaginian named Metello. “And we should be able to take the Rhodians. It must have been bad luck in that other time. Assuming the tale of an alternate past where Antipater became regent is true and not just a clever ruse.” There was, in fact, almost no information about the fight between Attalus’ navy and the Rhodians, except for the fact that it was over Caria.

    “Well, what makes you think we will have better luck this time?” Roxane asked the Carthaginian, ignoring the comment about it being a ruse.

    “Attalus had better luck at Triparadisus,” Metello said. “The army is divided and the orders for his execution have been rescinded, at least for this army. The same for Eumenes and the rest. We’re still collecting more forces. We will have a bigger army.”

    “Eumenes is not nearly so important now that the ship from the future is here,” Roxane said. “We need contact with them.”

    “We need both,” Attalus said. “Metello, you go to the coast of Caria and be polite to — No. I will go to Caria. You will go to Alexandria. Stay out to sea, but send a boat into the harbor to make contact with the ship people. Polite contact.”

    That made sense to Roxane, as she thought about it. Metello was a Carthaginian, and the Rhodians were supporting the other side in the conflict in Sicily. Metello wasn’t fond of the Rhodians, and the Greeks weren’t overly fond of Carthaginians in general. Metello was probably not the right man to negotiate with a Rhodian admiral. Still, Roxane was more interested in the Queen of the Sea. The knowledge of the future had already proven vital. More knowledge might well prove the difference between death and survival for her and her son. “I will go with Metello to visit the Queen of the Sea.”

    “No! The risk is too great. I won’t put you in Ptolemy’s grasp again.”

    “Why not? He wasn’t interested in keeping me last time he had me in his hands.”

    “The only reason he let you go was that he wasn’t ready to try for the throne. I suspect that now he is. With the failure of Triparadisus leaving no clear successor to Alexander and no clear regent, Ptolemy will make his bid soon. I want you behind walls with an ocean between you and his army. It took Alexander himself over a year to take this island. You’re safe here.”


    “No, I said. You have had your say and I listened, but I will not risk the heir or his mother in this.”

    Roxane sat silent. She had lost the argument and she knew it. There had never been much chance that she would win it. She and Eurydice were still counters in the game of empire more than players, whatever Eurydice thought.



    It took a couple more days, but soon enough Roxane stood on a balcony and watched two fleets leave. Then she turned, picked up her son, and went inside to wait.



Queen of the Sea
October 10

    “How’s it coming, Mom?” Josette Easley asked as she entered the corner that had been set aside for Marie Easley’s use in one of the ship’s internet cafes.

    “Tediously. I hadn’t realized how much misinformation was in the electronic record. Britannica is as bad as Wikipedia. It’s not the outline that they get wrong, but the most recent studies are often missing and –” Marie stopped herself. That they could affect history had already been demonstrated. The butterfly effect — the unintentional effect of their mere presence, or the things they said and ideas they promulgated intentionally or not — was less fully confirmed, but seemed highly probable from the results her warnings had produced in Triparadisus. The exact nature of those results couldn’t be predicted in detail, but Marie believed strongly that more knowledge would, as a rule, produce better results than less knowledge. Based on that belief, she had been preparing a book on what was known about this period of history.

    “Well, Doctor Miles has a section she wants you to include,” Josette said. “A basic outline of germ theory and how to clean wounds. Dag Jakobsen wants something on canning food and handling sewage.”

    Marie considered. Adding the information was reasonable and made sense, but there were issues. Especially with Dag’s part. Canning and canned goods were a marketable product for the ship. She wouldn’t prevent Dag from making his own book, in fact she would help him later. But translating canning and sewage processing information was going to take time that she just didn’t have. The translation programs were adequate for conversational purposes, where confusion or mistranslation could be questioned and corrected. But a book took greater precision and understanding. That meant that Marie and a few Greek speakers were going to have to translate every word. And even the Greek speakers, like Panos Katsaros, spoke modern Greek, not Ptolemaic Macedonian Greek. On the other hand, leaving out Doctor Miles’ section on germ theory would be criminal. “We will include the doctor’s section if she can keep it short.”



    “The steel team has made its first successful pour,” Dag reported to Eleanor Kinney. They were in her office and it was just her, Bernt Carlson and Dag, mostly because the chief engineer and all the other engineers were too busy with their work to get away for this meeting. Bernt Carlson was the ship safety officer and between them, he and Dag as environmental officer, were effectively OSHA for the ship, while Eleanor Kinney was the banker.

    They were buying food and raw materials. Iron, copper, zinc, lead and other metals in ore form. Also wood, charcoal, hides and hooves, medicinal plants and other stuff. The Queen of the Seas had an impressive industrial capacity, but in the nature of things cruise liners don’t haul around a lot of raw materials.

    Jackie Ward, the chief electrical engineer, with the help of a couple of retired engineers who were on the cruise and a team of engineering ratings, had come up with an induction furnace and blowers to turn iron ore and charcoal into steel. Well, they had come up with the designs, and as of about two hours ago had a small pilot plant running on the pool deck.

    They also had a small plant that was — quietly and with no fanfare — starting to use the lead they were buying to make bullets for the steam cannons. But that production process was being done in a compartment, not out in the open where anyone could see it.

    “We need more room,” Bernt said. “Putting a steel plant on the pool deck isn’t a good idea.”

    It wasn’t a new complaint. Bernt had been making it almost since they arrived in Alexandria. The infrastructure for an industrial base was located on the Queen of the Sea, but it wasn’t readily transferable. They had the power lines and the electrical capacity to power a small city, but they couldn’t pull it out of the ship without effectively destroying the ship. That meant the factories and shops of their small city had to be located on the Queen. And there wasn’t enough room. It was an ongoing health and safety hazard for the workers and the passengers. It was also not something they could do anything about, and Eleanor Kinney was even more tired of hearing about it than Dag was.

    “Rodriguez says they have another load of padded leather chairs,” Dag said quickly before it turned into yet another argument between Bernt and Eleanor.

    The ship’s carpenter was turning out modern furniture for sale to the locals and daily maintenance was being pushed back. Several of the passengers were hired as extra hands for the carpentry shop, but there were only so many saws and planes and sanders.

    Eleanor Kinney nodded at Dag, and made a note. “Good. Atum has a list of buyers for it, including His Nibs, who wants a lazyboy for the palace. Between that, the laundry, and other projects that the crew and passengers have started, we’ll be buying our food without eating more of our irreplaceable twenty-first century gear.”

    “If we don’t kill people with the risks we’re…”

    “Alert! Riot on the Promenade Deck!” came over the speakers.

    Dag was up in a heartbeat. He ran for the elevators.




    “Alert! Riot on the Promenade Deck!” came over the speakers.

    Daniel Lang ran for the elevators, cursing Al Wiley under his breath. The congressman had promised to keep a lid on things. He’d been campaigning for an American colony since they got to Alexandria. At this point, Daniel would be just as happy to put the passengers off the Queen, but you didn’t just drop a colony. It needed support. People needed housing and weapons, seeds and plows, fishing boats and more weapons. And, so far, there was damn little of any of that.

    By the time Daniel Lang got there, closely followed by Dag, Lorraine Hebert and Chris Louie had almost restored order, and Congressman Wiley was trying to help them calm things down.

    “It wasn’t the congressman’s fault,” Lorraine said in her Cajun-accented English. “He was trying to keep things cool. It was the counter-demonstration by the Jerusalemites.”

    The Jerusalemites were a coalition faction made up of the “Clear the way for Christ” people and the group of Jews who wanted to discover the true Judaism of the Second Temple before it was lost. That group was headed by Rabbi Benyamin Abrahamson, who had seemed a perfectly reasonable sort till he had met Atum’s guard commander and the two had gotten into an argument about what was and was not in the Torah and what was meant by it. For instance ?o?afot, according to the guard commander, simply meant armor, though it was often inscribed with holy script for added safety. Now Abrahamson had to see for himself.

    The Jerusalemites wanted a colony, but they wanted to put it in Israel, at Ashdod. And they didn’t seem the least concerned that there were already people living there and the local Jews were a bunch of mercenaries. No. They wanted to use the Queen as a permanent fort to keep the locals in line while they did their religious thing.

    “We’re trying, people,” Al Wiley was saying, “but two colonies would mean almost twice as much work. And each colony, being smaller, would be at greater risk. There is no oil to feed the Queen’s engines in Israel and the oil in the rest of the Middle East is, for the most part, both deeper and farther from shore.”

    “The Queen has flex fuel engines!” shouted one of the Jerusalemites. “She’ll burn alcohol.”

    “Yes, she would. If we had the distilled alcohol she needed. But all the beer in Egypt wouldn’t be enough. Even if we could distill it, which we can’t.”

    That wasn’t entirely true. There was a whole lot of beer in Egypt. But it was damn sure true that they couldn’t distill enough to keep the Queen’s tanks full. Alcohol wasn’t as energy dense as oil and it took more of it — almost twice as much — to get the same amount of power out of the engines. Among other things, that would decrease the Queen’s range. Not that that mattered to the Jerusalemites. They didn’t want the Queen to move, except to Ashdod.

    Once the incipient riot had been quelled for the moment Daniel moved over to Wiley. “Congressman, we have to put a stop to this sort of thing.”

    “The only thing that will put a stop to it is setting up a colony and giving these people room to breathe, Mr. Lang.”



    Marie Easley didn’t even look up when the alert came through. She was in a private room off the forward internet cafe, working with Cathy Joe Chohan on adjustments to the translation app that the ship had a license on. It was voice to voice, but the Greek it started out speaking was twenty-first-century Greek, not third-century-BCE Greek. Pronunciations, however, were the least of the problems. This time’s Greek didn’t have words for a lot of the concepts that twenty-first-century English had. In this case, the water pump. Even Archimedes and his screw was a hundred years in the future. What they used in the here-and-now were buckets. Often buckets mounted on wheels and other quite ingenious rigs. But still they were moving water one bucketful at a time. Crates had been entranced by the notion of a water pump. Now they were working on flow rate and one of Eleanor Kinney’s people was trying to get them to buy a low-temperature steam engine to power the pumps. Or a windmill. Or anything at all except slaves on bicycles.

    The locals weren’t willing to spring for the steam engine, though. Slaves were cheaper. At least, in the short run. The slaves who were carrying the buckets and treading on the treadwheel that lifted the buckets were already paid for and they were going to have to be fed anyway. The steam engine would be a new expense and the fuel to power it another.

    Eleanor Kinney’s assistant purser’s suggestion that they manumit the slaves didn’t go over well. It was hard enough just getting them to buy the pumps and the pipes to get the water up to a water tank.



Royal Lounge, Queen of the Sea
October 10

    “When can we go to America?” Al Wiley asked the captain. “This ship is a powder keg and it’s getting worse. Most of these people are working people. They have spent their lives working. A vacation is one thing. Sitting in a stateroom that is about the size of a prison cell with nothing to do is something else.”

    “We could leave today if you want us to drop the passengers with nothing but the luggage they brought on the cruise.” Captain Floden waved a hand in apology. “I’m sorry, Congressman, but the issues and the time frame are the same as they were yesterday and the day before.” He turned to the staff captain. “Anders, where are we on the necessary equipment for the colony?”

    Anders Dahl tapped an icon on his slate computer, calling up a spreadsheet. “Two hundred pounds of black powder and fifteen flintlock rifles that we’ve made since we got here. It’s a lot harder to make a rifle barrel than you might think. We’re doing better on the crossbows. We have forty of them and they are good, Captain. Their rate of fire sucks, but it’s still better than the flintlocks. They have spring steel bows and…Well, never mind. It’s still only forty for a colony of three thousand.”

    Dag took a drink of the local beer. He knew the reasoning behind the colony size. Some of the passengers were simply too old for life in a colony. Some had skills that were vital to the ship, but not to a new colony that would have very limited electronics, at least at first. So it wouldn’t be all the passengers who were debarking. About half of the staff side crew was going to go with the colony. The rest were staying on board.

    Dag looked out the big picture windows. There were a lot of people on the pool deck but they mostly weren’t swimming or laying out to get a tan. They were working at the induction furnace, or processing furs and fabrics from Alexandria.

    The vacation was over, but there wasn’t enough room to do all the jobs that needed doing. Meanwhile, the locals were watching everything and word was spreading faster than he would have believed possible before The Event. He wondered if they had heard of crossbows in Tyre yet. If not, they would soon.



October 11

    Roxanne looked out at the Mediterranean Sea as her personal attendant combed her long black hair. Roxane had been looking out to sea a lot since they got to Tyre. She had hoped that Attalus would be better than his brother-in-law Perdiccas, but the pressures of the situation seemed to be making him less stable rather than more. Besides, Attalus was on his way to the coast of Caria and Metello was on his way to Alexandria harbor, leaving her in the care of under officers, who saw her as a playing piece or a bit of loot. Even the Silver Shields who had taken over guarding her were more concerned with their pay than her safety.

    One of the Silver Shields came in then. “Nedelko is here.”

    Roxane turned away from the window in time to see the commander of the Greek forces in Tyre enter the room. “Well, Commander, what did you think of the drawings?” A couple of days before, a ship from Alexandria had arrived, carrying some sketches. There was a bow mounted on a cross piece, a gear with pedals and a chain that could fit over the gear to, as the notes said, “do useful work,” and a new sort of table called a desk that a chair could slide under to make it easier for scribes to work. Roxane barely got a look at them before Nedelko snatched them away to give to Tyrian craftsmen.

    Nedelko stopped at her tone. Which was good. He needed to know that she wasn’t pleased. But he didn’t apologize, which wasn’t good. Instead he looked at her, then said, “I will bring them back, Your Majesty, once the craftsmen have had a chance to study them and make examples of what they show. My guess is that the new scribe’s table will be the most useful. I don’t see the advantage of tying a bow onto a stick. And keeping the bow bent can’t be good for it. The geared wheel is interesting, but slaves work fine and I’m not convinced that letting them lift a bucket with their feet instead of their hands will be any great advantage. The one-wheeled cart might be useful in certain very limited conditions — hard packed flat ground or paved streets, if the cobbles are even enough. But I don’t see what Crates is so excited about. I’m more concerned about Eurydice’s latest pronouncement. She’s claiming that Philip was the true heir to Alexander’s throne. And because Alexander IV wasn’t born when the crown passed, he couldn’t be the heir.”

    “You must realize those proclamations are made under the eye of Antigonus One-eye.” Roxane grimaced. “Just as my proclamations are made under Attalus’ eye. You know he’s claiming Alexander is the only true heir, even if he hasn’t insisted that I sign a proclamation to that effect. At least not yet.”

    She might have to, even if Attalus didn’t force her, just to counter Eurydice’s proclamation. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sending Eurydice off with the other army provided additional security for them both. And it had worked fairly well, at least as far as Roxane was concerned. But there were unintended consequences. Aside from claiming that Philip III was the only true heir, the latest word received had Eurydice endorsing Antigonus One-eye as regent. Something that Roxane knew had to be under duress.

    She changed the subject. “Where is Metello now?”

    “Sailing. It will be another few days before he gets to Alexandria.”

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