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A memoir of Professor Artemus More FRS


  If you are new to my ramblings, you are very welcome to my world.

  I am Professor Artemus More. Of course, no such introduction is necessary if you are familiar with my particular brand of waffle, other than for me to say thank you, my friend, for your faithful forbearance.

  As I sit here beneath the stage of The Metropolitan Theatre of Steam, Smoke & Mirrors, in London’s Edgware Road, the story I am compelled to relate shall definitively explain how my diminutive friend, Dr Manswick ‘Wicko’ Smawl and I came to find ourselves here, in 1899. And how we eventually happened upon a young, penniless street magician named Michael Magister.

   I say ‘compelled’ because this curious recollection follows an appeal from Miss Phoebe Le Breton. Now, if you know Phoebe, you will have guessed that forthright request was elegantly dressed in a velvet glove.  

  Those of you unaware of Phoebe’s youthful, spirited, un-Victorian attitude to life should understand she was Michael’s stage partner in our show of gruesome illusions and ghostly magic which they performed twice nightly on the stage above me. Never simply a supplicant magician’s assistant, no, Phoebe was very much an equal partner. ‘The Queen of Steam and Goddess of the Aethyr’ – that was her stage billing. And the raucous crowds we drew adored her as much as they did Michael. Admittedly much of it fuelled by lust.

  From very early on we learned Phoebe’s secret – that she was the illegitimate daughter of Edward, Prince of Wales and the actress Lillie Langtry – so now it was our turn to reveal our mysterious past. Myself, Wicko and Michael.


 You see, Phoebe had just read the letter that Michael had written to her. The note I published in my most recent memoir ‘The Nostradamus Curiosity’. I knew she was wanting me to apply flesh to the bones Michael had outlined, as soon I heard her resolute stomping across my workspace. She sat herself firmly on my table, crossed her legs and waggled the flimsy sheet of paper in front of me, saying firmly: “You know I am going to require rather more than this! Give me details, Professor. Especially as we now have all this time on our hands!”

  What else could I do...?

  Needless to say, our change of situation began with an explosion. Of course it did.

  And with Wicko shrieking, I think, something like, “Neeeugh!  Neeeughh!”

  Although he might not have been so erudite.

  And, actually, you know, as I sit here ten years later committing these particular recollections to the page, I now believe it was not so much an explosive


but more a sharp


  A high-pitched, dazzling crack which viciously spat violet zags of lightning, stabbing in every direction. I remember watching the sizzling shards as they snaked across everything. Just before being punched by a shockwave of energy which dragged me by the scruff through a blaze of heat, a curtain of frost, then flung me straight through what felt like a thick wall of solid stone. I must tell you the pain is akin to having every bone in your body shattered, while tearing apart every organ and soft tissue. I just thank heaven my legs were crossed. Judging by his yelps, Wicko was not so fortunate. And then, then!, to add insult to injury, after enduring all that agonised jip you wind up dashed like a doll to the ground… and wake to find yourself here. In an unfamiliar Realm.

  Well, reasonably unfamiliar.

  So, should anyone ask you, that is what it feels like – to breach the Nexus. That thin veil between our reality and yours.

   So I had best get on with it. “Finally!” I hear you cry.


  Up here on the fourth floor was where it happened. The beginning of this curious life-changer.

  Atop one of the red brick gothic buildings set within the one-hundred-acre estate known the world over as:





…which, as you will not know (why would you?) stands for:

Her Majesty’s Royal States of America.

 Those of us who worked in the Alva-Edison Complex at Menlo Park were considered to be the most creative minds of the Age. Oh, yes. ‘The Genius Inventioneers’ we were dubbed. The pinnacles of human endeavour, who strode at the vanguard of conceiving and building that relentless outpouring of progress which was inspiring and driving the New Royal World.

  Having never been given to any swank myself, I thought all that nonsense was a pile of freshly laid horse dung. We did what we did because we could. And wanted to. Admittedly, Wicko embraced the position his status afforded him with his enthusiastic followers, but then in matters of the harem he apparently has much to be admired. That said, by and large we simply enjoyed the magic of creating stuff to see if it either worked – or caught fire.  

  Our towered building, ‘The Robert Hooke Memorial Facility’, designed by the aged Sir Augustus Pugin, was by far the most hallowed on the Menlo Complex. From our Laboratorium Suite 13 (I know!) we could gaze down through the white-stone framed and stained-glass windows onto the Steamotivation traffic streaming steadily either way along Main Street. Or we could peer up at the equally orderly lines of powered dirigibles, flying into and out of New York’s ‘Queen Victoria Aerodrome’, located just across the River Hudson, in Manhattan’s Jubilee Central Park. All of them modes of Steamotive vehicular transport which primarily myself and my associates may be credited with devising and improving.   

  Let me quickly walk you through our set up at Lab Suite 13. Double aspect gothic framed, stained-glass leaded windows. Three bare brick walls were lined with mahogany wood shelves supporting a sparkling range of scientific glassware of every conceivable shape and size in which to bubble and stew the most beneficial stinks and fire up useful new chemical elements. Against the fourth wall, the black shellac master cabinet controlling our multifarious monitoring mechanicals, topped with whirling antennas and displaying rows of circuit breakers alongside white dial gauges the size of dinner plates, complete with dancing needles, all measuring, testing and analysing.  

  In the centre of the Lab stood four dark wood work tables, plumbed into both the A.C. power grid and the network of pipeage which delivered detoxified coal gas.

  My table was given to my speciality, the mechanics of anything that makes something go from here to over there. Additionally, I rectified snags such as heaters that refused to heat, wipers than refused to wipe and pistons which refused … to work at all. The only bafflers in my section were those which reduced the backfiring flow of voluminous exhaust. As I’ve said before, I wish I had constructed such a thing for Wicko.

  Speaking of our friend Dr Smawl, his suitably lowered workspace was littered with what looked like burnished-bright silver limbs. Parts of half-built ‘Humannequins’, which would become the latest upgraded incarnations of our Realm’s labour-saving automatons. I never stopped being quietly enthralled by those disassembled limbs twitching and flexing and those upright torsos supporting nodding heads which rolled their eyes as if in perpetual bewilderment. And yes, you’re quite correct in thinking these ‘Humannequins’ were the forebears of our much-loved Mr Garrideb. Which, I suppose, makes Wicko his godfather.

  Oh! Yes! That reminds me!

  One of my final recollections of that time and place was also my most grim. Lord Alva-Edison had announced those words which always made the heart sink: “I have had a glorious idea!” And this one was a belter. “Pastoral enrichment!”

  Excuse me? Oh, dear. Who had he been listening to now?

  Lord Alva-Edison felt we would all benefit from weekly wellbeing visitations from a newly appointed, gently spoken Guru of Nurture, Tranquillity and Peace.

  Enter the very cove. His Kindly Benevolence Father Gregory Rasputine.

  Now… there must have been ‘something’ about His Kindly Benevolence, because everyone in the Lab Suite right from the start hated him. On sight. It may have been his patronising bows, his full-length smock, his black and lank centre-parted hair and long thin beard, or even his obsequious hands-together-on-heart “Namaste” greetings which prompted our loathing, but to us he screamed every inch a trickster. And a nasty bugger with it.

“My sons, you are blessed with such power of the mind,” he would simper. “Such inspiration. But even the most fertile soil must lay fallow. Even the foaming tide must be calmed in a placid lagoon.” That kind of transcendental tripe. I remember once, when Rasputine was adopting a meditative stance, having to restrain an incensed Wicko from attacking the Guru’s groin with a heavy-duty pair of Stilsens. But I digress from my digression. 

  Here’s what happened.

  During Rasputine’s last but one visit, he was preaching his usual well-doings of which none of us were taking very much interest. Then suddenly I heard the sermonising cease and the gasping begin.

 “Errugh, kurrrgh.”

  I looked up from my gaskets to see a pair of Humannequin hands, which were originally lying on Wicko’s table, now clutched about His Kindly Benevolence’s throat. For no apparent reason we could fathom, the robotic hands had taken it upon themselves to reach up and throttle the peacemaker.

 It took the combined strength of Wicko, his assistant and myself to prise the murderous gauntlets from Rasputine’s neck.

“You cesspit cretins!” he rasped, as he staggered back, his own hands now nursing his Adam’s apple, his red, sweating face shading darker with fury. “You base beasts! You filth scum! You…!” 

“Here, steady on, Rass,” jammed in Wicko. “We just saved you.”

  Rasputine was still bent forward when he fell silent.

  And turned his head towards us.

“I am on to you. I am on to you all.” Rasputine’s eyes were narrow. His finger of accusation pointed with malevolence. The mask had now truly slipped. “I will see you finished. Crushed. All of you. Crushed under foot. Consigned to oblivion!”

  With great drama the Guru turned and with a distinct lack of serenity stomped to the exit, still nursing his throat, with the lanks of his hair and billows of his black smock trailing behind him.  

  Wicko made an obscene gesture. “And we are on to you, pal! That showed him Prof.”

  I agreed, of course, His Kindly Benevolence had now been revealed on record as a fraud. But I vividly remember at the time wondering quietly if we might have made ourselves an enemy. A very dangerous enemy.


 Back to our tour. The vaulted roof of Lab Suite 13 was spanned and reinforced in a geometric web of bare metal cross-bracing and stanchions. The centrepiece high within the tower was a hefty golden pendulum swooping relentlessly back and forth. Each swing cranked the silent assemblage of black, cog-toothed centre wheels, third wheels and escape wheels, notch by notch, second by second, nudging the hands of all four huge circular clockfaces outside the vast tower.

  The faces stared out over Essex County, conveying the message of regularity, progress and order in four different directions. In stone below each clockface was carved the legend: “In this place, only I have time on my hands.”

  Everyone agreed it was profound. But nobody really knew what the hell it meant.   

  Back then, in my apparently esteemed position within the order of “Genius Imagineers”, my title was Vanguard Professor of Stratagem Transportation Esoteric Advanced Mechanisation. Which inspired the kind of clunky acronyms with which you sometimes associate me. I even had my name and title calligraphised in blue cursive stitching on my white Lab suit.

  I oversaw, but usually overlooked and didn’t interfere with the inventive work performed by my dwarfish friend Dr Smawl. Which is why I still cannot work out if Wicko programmed the ‘Humannequin’ hands to choke Gregory Rasputine and, based on the events which were to follow the next day, never really got around to asking. After all, ‘choke’ and ‘throttle’ were words usually associated with engines. 

  Nor did I ever get to discuss the Rasputine incident with the Complex Scientifica overseer here at Menlo Park, the genius to whom I reported, Emeritus Professor Royal Sir Nicholas Tesler.

  But to continue. It was upon that memorable early evening of the following day, with the sunlight refracting through the leaded windows to cast prisms of light upon the dark linoleum floor, all that fancy descriptive imagery, that the catastrophe occurred.

  I was assisting Wicko to power down the full body assemblage of the ‘Humannequin’, a tall, broad-chested hunk of technology, skinned in silver alloy when…


…the self-opening double doors of Laboratoire Suite 13 barely had time to self-open, before in crashed a whirring, trundling self-propelled gurney on wheels, followed at a distance by the porter who controlled the trolley via a hard-wired panel. The dreadful driver was that brown-coated, thoroughly bald, impassive mute by the name of Mr Chiaroscuro.

  He was then followed by Mr Dok Tor Phunn, looking every inch the elegant Chinese Mandarin in silken white Lab fatigues. Lying upon the trolley was Dok Tor Phunn’s ‘Contrivance’: wrought in black metal and pocked with rivets, the size and shape of a coffin. The urgency of their entrance put me in mind of the funeral of a miserly uncle who had left a substantial bequest to avaricious relatives.   

 “Thank you, Mr Chiaroscuro,” ordered Phunn.

  It was only then that the porter applied the air brakes and shuddered the trolley to a standstill in the centre of the Lab.

  The Oriental doctor’s basso-profundo voice was so resonantly basso and deeply profundo that we learned early on to set any glass vessels, retorts or jars at the very back of the wooden shelves on which they stood, otherwise the low frequency of his speech would cause them to vibrate so vigorously, they would agitate straight over the edge, smashing to the floor.

“It is completed,” announced Phunn.

  I asked him what was completed? As if I did not know.

“My Healing Chamber,” said Phunn, gesturing. Oh dear. This would not be good. Already Wicko’s cheeks began to flush and his brow furrow. And, I must admit, with fair reason.

“That’s my idea!” yelled the dwarf, jumping down from his padded stool, and pointing. “You thieving…. Professor, he’s stolen my idea! A cabinet with properties for healing! I put that forward. Months ago.”

  Phunn calmly faced his accuser. “Thank you, Doctor Manswick Smawl. As I recall, your suggestion was a most ambiguous generalisation. I, however, sharing none of your inertia, possess the drive and impetus to devise, develop and build this Contrivance in my private time.”

“Well, I’m not having it! Send for His Lordship right now! No! Send for The Royal New Jersey Legislature,” demanded Wicko. “Let them pick the legal bones out of it. That Contrivance is a patent contravention of my … well, patent!”

   I waved Wicko to calm himself, and heard myself insist that as men of science, he and I in our capacities as ‘Genius Inventioneers’ were obliged to observe and then critique the said healing properties of Dok Tor Phunn’s Chamber.

  We both knew there was no way on Her Royal Majesty Queen Victoria’s good Earth that this Contrivance could possibly work. The problem was always going to be delivering the sheer quantity of A.C. power such a device required.  

  Wicko harrumphed, climbed back up onto his stool and sat with his arms crossed in front of his chest in a proper scowling grump.

  By the way, in case you are now wondering, forgive me another brief digression.

  Queen Victoria? Still thriving in 1919 when in your Realm she died eighteen years before? Let me quickly confirm that Her Royal Majesty was very much alive, not to say lively, considering she had only recently celebrated her Centenarian Jubilee with a whistle-stop tour of her Dominions. Which happened to be the entire world. Let me also admit that our Empress was more likely to suffer from rust than rheumatism, because you see, Her Royal Majesty had become more of a, let’s say, Mechanical Monarch. The crumbling joints in her limbs had been replaced with great success by the NewMatic Units engineered of exotic alloys and developed by Wicko here in Laboratoire Suite 13.   

  Admittedly the Queen now gently whirred as she walked, instead of creaking, which meant she could once again creep up upon Regent Consort Albert with love on her mind as stealthily as she used to. And apparently much to his distress. Officially he pronounced his gratitude to us, and her surgical adviser Mr Dok Tor Phunn. He even decreed, “Her Royal Majesty ze Qveen unt I rejoice at zose who toil wizz-in ze Most Regal Lord T. Alva-Edison Complex Scientifica here at Menlo, who so fearlessly push ze boundaries of ze Engineerings and ze Physics, unt have restored Her Majesty’s Royal vigour!” But after already siring twenty-one children, I sure he could have quietly cursed us.

  But where was I? Oh, yes, Phunn and his Healing Chamber.  

“Thank you, Professor Artemus More,” resounded Phunn. “Please be so kind as to connect the Coffin with the A.C. Power Matrix.”

  He unravelled a weighty snake of heavy duty and passed it to me. I wrangled the two large pins protruding from the tail of the fabric-coated cable into one of the spare sockets on the brass-plated A.C. wall outlet.

 “Be so kind as to observe,” announced Phunn. “If you please, Professor Artemus More…”

  Taking his cue, I pulled down the wooden handle on the circuit breaker and clicked it into place. The power surged through the cable and jerked the Coffin into humming life. Blue light bled through the metalwork here and there.

“All right, it makes a fancy noise when you plug it in,” sniffed Wicko. “But I don’t see it doing much in the way of medical healing.”

“Thank you, Dr Manswick Smawl, but do well to observe … my patient!” Phunn clapped his hands. He had a keen sense of the dramatic.


  The double doors eased open as they were designed to and in strode a tall, pretty young girl of no more than sixteen. She raised her head with a precocious sweep of long black hair. The almond eyes were dark and piercing. “Gentlemen. Good evening,” said Phunn’s no-nonsense sister, Wu Hu. “I have come to be healed by my brother’s glorious new Contrivance.”

  Stylish of dress, in a silk suit of royal blue trousers and matching tunic buttoned to the neck: Wu Hu, exuding an air of confidence beyond her years, born of achieving such remarkable progress in her medical studies. Already she was listed to join our Therapeutic Research Staff here at the Complex Scientifica.

“I don’t mean this rudely to your brother, Miss Wu Hu,” said Wicko, which meant he most certainly did, “but for someone who’s in need of healing, you look a picture of health to me.”

“You are correct, Dr Smawl,” said Wu Hu. “I am exceedingly well!”

  She walked with purpose to Wicko’s workbench, placed her left hand in the jaws of the vice which she quickly spun firmly shut and


viciously jerked her hand.

“But now…” she released the vice and displayed her misaligned little finger. “I have sustained a fracture.”

  Oh, my…. I think I flinched far more than Wu Hu, and heard Wicko saying: “What? Oh, no! No. Dok. No. That ain’t right! I mean what the…”

“Come, sister. Step up into the Chamber.” Phunn waved an inviting arm.


“Cease,” shouted a voice.

  Before Wu Hu could climb aboard the trolley, the open doors revealed the entrance of a short man, slight of frame, pale of face, with a shock of black hair and a black moustache. He exuded all the charismatic confidence required of the Leading Scientist of the Complex Scientific.

  It was Emeritus Professor Royal, Sir Nicholas Tesler himself.

  As instructed, I quickly clicked the power switch to off.

  By its handle, Tesler was carrying a heavy polished pine wooden box. This receptacle was shaped and sized exactly like something in which you would convey your overweight cat to a Veterinarian.

“Young Miss, before you are submitting your injury to this Contrivance of your brother’s making, I must enquire of Dok Tor himself if he has met with success in supplying the device of the power amplification necessary to expedite the healing capability?”

“Sir Nicholas … I am still to overcome such an anomaly,” stuttered Phunn. “However, I considered the present power sufficient to…”

“You need concern yourself with such matters no further, Mr Phunn. For I, Tesler, have with me the solution.”

  The great man held aloft the box. The fact that he had just created a new Contrivance which could further boost his already ultra-powerful Aethylium Charged current in such a blasé fashion made his statement all the more impressive. “Artemus, permit me to connect The Tesler Aethylium Amplifier.”

  Indeed, I gave way.

 Sir Nicholas pressed a folded docket of paper into my hand as he barged me out of the way. “Here is this work of genius in diagrammatic form.”

  He then busied himself unplugging the flex from the wall. “My innovation requires neither the testing, nor the review of the peers, for one reason. And one reason alone, gentlemen. And we know this how?”

  We all chorused the words: “Because you are Tesler.”

“Precisely so. Nevertheless, on this occasion I submit to the prudence of running the Amplifier, before we subject the brave Miss Phunn to the process of the healing.”

  We all of us, including Miss Wu Hu – barely nursing her throbbing finger – formed a semi-circle, peering over Tesler’s shoulders, to watch the genius at work.

  He flourished a screwdriver with the fluency and speed of a Transplant Surgeon-Mechanic. When he prised open a panel on the Amplifier’s casing, we caught a wonderful glimpse of the exquisite spaghetti of wires and pipes and nano-lights blinking within. A twiddle here and a fiddle there and his screwdriver work was done.

“All has the look of the satisfactory, no?” asked Tesler. Rhetorically, of course, because he knew we’d all nod and say: “Yes, indeed,” whether we knew it was satisfactory or not.

 Then he clamped his device shut, and screwed tight the panel.

“The Amplifier will boost the A.C. current in a manner most superior to even my own Tesler Generator Coil,” the great man assured us. “Please, not to hold your breath. We all have observed the birth of many of my scientific breaks through. This is merely another.”

 Sir Nicholas Tesler plugged his Aethylium Amplifier into the outlet, then eased the cable from the Coffin into the correct socket on the Amplifier. “Lovely lady, and gentleman, ready yourself to witness history. For the record of posterity, the chronological time Dr Smawl, if you please.”

  My dwarfish associate squinted up into the roof space. Read the angles of the hour, minute and second hands. “Eighteen hours, eight minutes and five seconds!”

  Tesler leaned forward and gripped the handle of the circuit breaker.

  But just as he pulled … there was a blood curdling scream!

“Die, fiends! Die!”

  We all turned to the source of the horror. I knew that voice!

It was the porter. Mr Chiaroscuro! His face a mask of pure hatred. His eyes narrow and familiar. His arm was raised. His hand gripping a hammer. We watched as he smashed the hammer onto the casing of the Aethylium Amplifier.


  I saw an intense blinding flash. Felt the rage of violet blue energy. Surging free. Engulfing. Scorching, then freezing the skin. Sucking the breath from the lungs. My spine arched as I was flung back. Limbs flailing. Then slow. Weightless lethargy. No high-pitched whine. Just numb, deathly silence. And a constellation of stars. And the falling. The helpless, relentless falling until the great iris of darkness closed itself down into nothing. Absolute, unfeeling nothing.

  Until I felt the pain of the hard landing.

  In the darkness I could not work it out. Was I on my back? Yes, it felt like it. Then came the tingling. Pins and needles. My face, hands, arms, legs, torso, everything. Absolutely horrendous. So, that was good. My neural system was intact.

  Now. Could I breathe? I snuffled in a gust of air. Warm and dusty. I coughed a bit, and snuffled in some more. Good. Now, my eyes. Dare I open my eyes? Dear Lord, it took me more than a minute to gather that kind of courage. Not knowing what I’d see. If anything. You know, it was such a rebarbative sensation, I could actually feel my brain urging the synapses to spark. Ordering my fearful lids to raise.

  A rheumy crackle and a tiny slit of light. Not too searing. A little wider. A few blinks to whetten the dry.

  And I saw blue. Definitely blue! And wisps of white. Clouds! It was sky. I was looking at the sky and, honestly, it never looked more beautiful. The peace and serenity of above. Until that large face slid in to eclipse the view.

“Here. You. Professor … Artemus … er … More. You alive?”

  The person with the face peering down was coated in grey flakes of ash. He tapped my cheek. And again. Then harder. “I’m saying, are you alive?” I was now. “Sit yourself up then. Come on. Steady. That’s it.”

  The pins and needles sharpened with every movement. I rubbed a hand over my face. Everything was where it should be. And my saviour appeared to be a dwarf, I could see that now. A dwarf covered in broad flakes of grey ash.

  While he huffed and complained and continued brushing ash, I remembered who he was. Dr Manswick Smawl. But only because his name was embroidered on his now grey coat.

  I looked around as I dusted myself down. The ash was dry, light and friable. The area upon which we lay, the edge of a wooded scrub, was also snowed with a grey coating of these druffy cinders. Over there, ran a well-made lane boasting no traffic whatsoever. I shook my head. None of it was familiar.

“What’s that you got a-hold of?” demanded this man, Dr Smawl.

   He crouched by my side as we examined the pages. Heading both of them and printed in elegant script, it read:





  And beneath it, neat handwriting. And scale diagrams of some sort. I cherry-picked the words. ‘Aethylium Charged Amplifier’, ‘Healing Contrivance’. And names ‘Dr Smawl’, ‘Dr Phunn’, ‘Prof. More’. I directed the dwarf’s attention to the foot of the page. There was a signature: ‘Sir Nicholas Tesler – Emeritus Professor Royal’.

  It was the jog we needed. Wicko and I. We remembered it all. Both of us. And with certainty. Who I was. Who he was.

 Then I saw the stunned Oriental man being helped by the young lady. I remembered Mr Dok Tor Phunn. And his sister Wu Hu.

  And then that blast. Of being flung into the void. The long, interminable falling. The extremes. Being smashed through something. Until I woke with a start here, covered in this ash.

 Wicko looked at me. “Here, Professor. I think there’s been a bit of a cock up.”

  I could not have put it better myself.


 I asked about Tesler.

  Wicko flashed his eyes to the right. I followed his gaze. My brain slowly made sense of the image. I was looking at Tesler’s boots. Strewn, not that far away. Intact, still laced, but dusted in flakes, with wisps of smoke rising gently from within. Oh, dear Lord. Is he?

“I think he must be,” shrugged the dwarf.

  I gripped Wicko’s arm. How could he be sure?

“Because his head’s over there…”

  I peeked a look. Eurgh. The wild black hair and beard, those dark familiar eyes, now vacant and glazed. It was definitely Tesler. And nothing of the rest of him.

“And Sir Nick’s not the only thing around here that’s gone,” said Wicko in wonder and horror. “I mean, have a look. Where’s the complex? Where’s the buildings?”

   Dr Smawl helped me to my feet.

  He was quite right. Instead of seeing the magnificent one-hundred-acre Lord T. Alva-Edison Complex Scientifica, or anything resembling Menlo Park, I was looking at … scrubland.  Dismal ivy-wrapped trees poking up here and there from an untamed carpet of barren grass and desiccated bushes. 

  Wicko summed it up succinctly when he whispered:

“Where the bloody hell are we?”


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