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Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Seven: Curiosity & Calamity

NaN did his part. If he didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to get away without notice. And, JOS would be impossible to convince otherwise. He grimaced, putting a polish shine to the last vanity in the sanitation compartment. He too a look at himself, the way his black hair shined purple and green as it passed through light. The four rectangular geometric dark brown marks next to his right eye caught his attention, which made him look into his eyes.

Never having seen them until recently it was still a shock. Silver with hidden stripes of blue, almost pointing to his birthmarks. The way it was set against his almost white skin. When he’d finally seen his reflection he was surprised he didn’t have the same features as JOS, both descendent of apes, he’d assumed they would look the same. He knew they had different markings, and colors.

JOS had too distinct of an appearance even as an ape. Mostly his skin was pale, like NaN’s, however he had fierce dark brown markings, a crescent that touched his top lip, where his skin was a white grey, and ended above his eyes, almost symmetrically. Another formed on his chin and remained unbroken down to his chest, where his heart would be.

He saw the last smudge of grease fade into a perfect shine from all angles. Satisfied, he moved on to the last on the list. NaN had to check all personal compartment filtration systems. A task scheduled specifically when Valevyinellin was docked. Not a whole lot to do if there was any problems with the filters floating in the Void.

While everyone was gone, NaN had to take advantage of this perfect opportunity to know his packmates better. Maybe. He had to be the one to volunteer for it, JOS would never appreciate the situation.

OhkBD’s was first. When the door hissed open NaN nearly leapt in shock. Every microunit* of surface was perfectly cleaned. They knew he’d be coming in. ‘Challenge accepted,’ NaN thought as he stepped into the spotless compartment.

The bed was against the left most wall of the square space, probably four units cubed. Opposite the door was a maze of monitors and what were, NaN could only assume, input devices. Probably all designed by OhkBD himself. ‘That’s the most dangerous thing in this entire compartment. If I do anything he’ll know, probably being recorded right now,’ he thought reaching the circular vent just above the layout.

He pulled the datacard from his coverup pocket, thumbed through its various function icons, selecting the EviroCert one, with the bacteria swimming, another OhkBD creation. Holding it up to the vent, it began reading the particulate count being filtered into this space.

NaN played the game that was also the data processing screen. He was the big black bacteria, eating the smaller bacteria in a three dimensional space. The game ended after you ate the last one in your territory and evolved, then the screen faded to white. A report of showing the contamination analysis faded back into view. Clean, within .001% variation from norm, it gave him a small bit of satisfaction to know he was literally polluting OhkBD’s space.

‘Not this time. OhkBD, your guard’s way too high my mate, we’ll learn about you some other way,’ NaN thought, turning to leave the compartment, confident, not wanting to give away his disappointment.

Next was Vahl, “This’ll be interesting,” he mumbled checking off OhkBD’s compartment. He need to think of a way to get his hands on a usable weapon, and some kind of knowledge about Notan’s Pit and how it worked. Maybe not far, not into the crowds. If they got ahead of themselves they would die. Something came together, “It’s the best alibi if we get caught. Just completing the checklist.” No one would question them, the display of death was convincing enough, even for NaN.

NaN opened Vahl’s door, assailing his olfactory senses with a cacophony of smell, which was somehow dominated by the stink of sulfur. Scanning the dimly lit compartment, NaN regretted taking this task, ‘Funny how wen you seek something, the universe provides.’ He scratched his head in frustration, face plastered in a look of disgust.

One more breath of fresh, as fresh as he’d ever known it, air. Bravely he entered, breath held.

His eyes darted around, searching the piles of scrap on the floor, whilst maneuvering through them. In the corner was biomaterial forming some kind of bed, nest. Heat was emanating from it, probably the source of the smell. NaN thanked him self for having good lung capacity, as his eyes began to water.

‘Somehow,’he thought putting his datacard up to the vent, ‘I have a feeling they’re all like this. Trying to keep us from their things, instead of hiding the real treasure, their full personalities. Like I would steal from them, I have to live with these beings.’

OhkBD is in VirtualSpace rather than reality in his compartment, and is protective, bordering hyper paranoid. Judging by his ridiculous rig with nineteen or more cameras, he was also probably very insecure outside of his intangible world. Every pinhole could’ve been one as far as he was concerned. Vahl seems to have nothing to hide, seeing as he so delicately cares for his personal space. NaN couldn’t say either way, the Ioikheil had a personality much like how his compartment looked.

The EviroCert completed, perfectly normal readings, not that he wanted to remove his other hand from his nose and mouth to bask in it. Using the last of his held breath he examined the walls of the compartment. Still, and in-motion images lined the walls, NaN couldn’t tell if they were supposed to be gory or pornographic. Either way, they were effective at warding him from the space.

There hadn’t been much to expect, but their datacards would only generate the codes for their compartments once per docking. Once a compartment was checked off, it’d be back in restricted access. Giving him one shot at a look, who knows how often.

“Best is last,” he said to himself snaking the thin electronics device between his fingers. ‘Probably not,’ he thought. ‘There’ll be nothing visible, but thousands of tiny hidden digital eyes watching and following me,’ he couldn’t control a giggle as he thought about how true a statement like that might be.

Of all the members of Voiyn’s Horde, Essec was by far the most mysterious. Speaking his mind here and there, but otherwise kept to himself. Inside the compartment, behind the door that JOS and he practically worshiped. The one he was standing front of.

NaN placed his datacard against the same sized compartment lock. He watch, eagerly waiting to see the red “Forbidden” pyramid, switch to “UNLOCKED” in gold on the screen.

“Sa-ka!” he exclaimed reading the word with excitement. His body felt like it was on autopilot, numb and out of control from hyping up his entrance into Essec’s compartment. This time the surprise was pleasant, he didn’t think it’d be possible with Essec’s mysterious behavior, there was no way Nan’d expected this.

There had to be at least one hundred awards and certificates from various institutions and systems. The largest NaN needed to be all the way in the compartment to see. A large canvas banner in some impossible language, a creature’s decapitate head held by what looked like Essec’s arm filled the left side of the image.

NaN imagined a scene where Essec stood as the executioner for his bounty. Holding it’s severed remenants for all to see, the crowd cheering for blood. ‘I’ll ask,’ he said to himself. ‘Maybe I’ll ask.” JOS would want to hear anything about outside the Vale.

Ever since the first rotation they’d met, when JOS punched him back for hitting someone JOS was friends with. They fought like younglings, NaN touched the spot where his nose had been broekn. Even since then, NaN and JOS were bound by friendship to leave this forsaken section of space. Information had always been kept hidden, now he knew they had genuine access to the real thing. He’d always been sure that there had to be more out there, too much of reality argued for that point. Now he was standing amongst the treasures commemorating the exploits of one of his packmates, whom has been outside the Vale.

The compartment wall to his right was lined with weapons, projectile and melee. All the classic Juxl weapons were there, the AP6, the GRØ-Tohrax, a single handed energy projectile weapon. Easy to recognize from the cylindrical power core that hung from the users waist from the thick cable connected to the hand hold of the weapon. Some he recognized, most he couldn’t even imagine how to operate. Or their purposes.

NaN checked the vent before he fed into his fascination with weaponry. Didn’t need to get distracted at the last moment. He hadn’t noticed in Vahl’s room, but his little bacteria had maintained it’s evolution and now needed to pray on other, bigger bacteria. All good. He slipped the card back into his huge pocket.

NaN went over the exotic pieces first, one at a time, inspecting their uniqueness, feeling the strangeness of the materials origin. Careful to keep his limbs he restrained himself from any lingering touches on any of the devices. The very last one he came to was the least attractive on the rack, a matte black sphere. It’s commonness made NaN that much more intrigued by it.

He reached out to feel the material, at his touch the sphere seemed to come to life. The material reached out, grabbing at his hand. NaN panicked, ripping, pulling, biting to escape the things grasp. Nothing worked, this was the worst.

NaN wondered if this was some new crew ritual intended for a laugh, ‘No Essec isn’t that funny,’ he confirmed mentally. Then, what if it was far worse, if this device was anything like the blood feeders he’d heard of. The thought was too much. Cutting off his own hand might be better then the embarrassment of being found like this.

NaN flew from Essec’s compartment as near the speed of light his body could manage. His favorite hiding hatch was on this level, in the engineering compartment. ‘Something, something…’ coming up with ideas felt as futile as swimming in space, “Think of something!” he yelled at no one.

The glassy black liquid-like material began to solidify, fingers first, then all the way down to his elbow. The device had eaten away the material in its path as it had formed to NaN’s arm. NaN spread his fingers apart. Spikes shived instantly into the air from every fingertip. Again. Same thing. Then it came to him, ‘Nanobrains.’ It’d always been something he wanted to see, he’d convinced himself they were made up stories to scare young ones about the future. Maybe they would be able to go a little be further than just outside now. If he was stuck with it, may as well own it.

*microunit – micrometer

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Act One | Chapter Two: Notan’s Pit | Episode Five: Welcome Return

Docking procedures confirmed, Valevyinellin was set to take its place in the mudball known as Notan’s Pit. For Voiyn’s Hounds, the closest thing to a terrestrial home. JOS’s prisoner, Rooioe Çör, remained fully restrained, especially his oral cavity. Uncovered, it was impossible to resist the urge to break one of his jaw hinges. Prattling on about how connected he is in the Corporations. He was the third catch he’d seen making such lofty claims. It’d probably be the third time no there would be no reaction against Voiyn.

“You’re going to help pay for these,” JOS jibed. Pulling on the collar of his omni-suit.

“Not a bad chunk either.” NaN leapt on the prostrated body, poking hard into it’s chest. “You’re lucky it was him,” pointing at JOS, “not me.” NaN winked, jabbing again, ego swollen.

The pedal exit door hissed open, the rest of the Hounds stood around anxious to exit the ship, no matter how briefly. “ You two better have all the credentials prepared on this one. We want it quick, we’d like to enjoy ourselves as long as possible.” Vahl’s voice impetuous, and alpha.

“Don’t worry about what we’re doing. We haven’t made a mistake to date.” NaN beat his chest right back.

“Call on me after you do, then we’ll talk.” Vahl threw up an obscene gesture, “Pull your weight first, you’ve got a long way until you’ll touch black.” OhkBD put the final word on it, “You’ll be near our age before you can even dream of erasing your debt at this rate.” The Double Dorsca crossed forelimbs.

JOS couldn’t help but repeat the image of OhkBD saying “..at this rate..” scanning him with those spindly fingers. He made a face thinking about it again. ‘One of these days you’ll change your opinion, we’re doing better at this than you ever did.’ JOS started building back his confidence.

“Get ready grubs, stay close. Bad things happen to things with soft flesh in in Notan’s Pit.” Vahl, malicious as possible.

Essec reassured them with a touch. “Anything reaches for you and they lose a limb.”

“Why you got to coddle the little ovellies*,” Vahl pushed.

“Do you remember how it is to be fresh out of the colony? Have your fun, they need to learn. But they’ll know they’re protected from things outside they aren’t prepared for,” Essec’s voice remained cold, and direct. Vahl didn’t make another sound as the crew exited Valevyinellin together.

JOS and NaN were advised to keep their helmets on to withhold their species, and more importantly their age from the waiting predators. Together they carried their catch one arm holding the magtray. A nasty smoke plumed in sheets of red and brownish yellow as Voiyn’s Hounds left the ship.

Vulgar gambling and excess occurred on the outside of his vision. He didn’t remove his eyes from the grime encrusted catacomb, and Voiyn’s back. “Voiyn’s got vekhæ*.” A faceless voice called out from some random corner, causing a lump to form in his throat. JOS did his best to avoid tensing up as the cavernous pathways erupted with vile calls, and a flurry of flying objects.

Maintaining his poise was key, not to be intimidated. His helmet took a blow from something orange and slimy, obscuring the left part of his vision. There were red chunks of something biological in the ooze. Hopefully this would be a once through experience. With a reputation, respect would be given freely, rather than tolerate this.

The rest of his confidence stemmed from the three at his back, and it was he who made pulled the lever. Remembering the takedown set his shoulders back, confident and bold. He followed right. Into the teeming marketplace, a motionless glace around showed beings of all types. Trading, and engaging in what would certainly be considered “illegal” in front of a corporate official. Concerns like those were best left elsewhere. One wrong look could see him with a slug punched through his cranium.

As they moved further into Notan’s Pit the jeering crowds died with the lack of a reaction. NaN, and he had held firm. The Hounds continued their march to The Grand Lair, Notan’s private entertainment compartment. As Voiyn described it on the way in, “The richest hub in the Pit. Listening is how we stay ahead.” His ears would stay hyper vigilant, even if he had no idea what was being said. JOS would do his best to latch onto anything he could grasp.

At the end of the market would be a descending helix, leading to insect maze that made up the asteroid-made livable. Reaching the bottom, the six plus one were lead into a vaulted domed space, filled with immaculate scenes of debauchery at its most refined. On grand display in the center of the room, on decorated platforms; a female of some beautiful lethal species, and a male strong, and powerful looking. Both in chains, linked to a torture mechanism meant to keep their bodies suspended. All gold.

Very off putting against the shifting colors in the semi-translucent floors and ceiling.

She was being decorated. Pierced with lavish jewels, skin marked with knife and ink, all in a seductive display for the sinister creature atop the throne with a perfect view of the bizarre spectacle. Across from her the male was being encased in some precious alloy, a slow process so that the metal would bond to the exoskeleton without damaging its internal organs. JOS had heard about ancient practices like this, they sealed the body to have the energy protect them for eternity.

It was so unbelievably quiet. The realization of the sound proofing somehow made it much more twisted.

“Ah! Welcome Voiyn!” The creature JOS could only guess was Notan, rose taking small devices out from around his neck. Overfed, what used to be muscle was now oozing flesh between plates of natural calcium on his front and back. Loud and over dramatic, his gesture caused his blubber to jiggle. “I see you’ve go my coñnä*. You’re so quick, I’ve got a lot of trust for you.” JOS repressed the sick feeling, watching the crusted fold jump and crack apart as Notan stroked his leader’s ego. Or, the constant hanging yellow drip from the corner of his mouth.

“After all this time doing work for me. I think you deserve a better opportunity. Something one pack could never do alone, a very big hunt.” Notan stood nearly as tall as Voiyn, but danced around him like some small excited thing. “Direct from the corp head hunters, right off the top of the list. 719,000,000orn.” Notan exposed his thick, herbivorous disgusting teeth in a snarl as he stepped up onto the platform, dripping the molten element down his slaves front. Drinking in the silent scream.

Never moved in either direction, Voiyn replied,”Sounds worth hearing about. Though I don’t think my two newest are ready, yet. Since they made their first catch, I can’t tell them no if they want in.” Voiyn paused, looking over NaN, and him. “I am sure you have another pack in mind for us. Before that I would like to ensure our payment.” Voiyn maintained his posture.

Notan’s thick, encrusted finger motioned across the pavilion to a half-moon shaped ethylalch* station and lounge. Seating five shadowy figures. JOS followed the stub across each of the unique faces, all races unknown to him. Every one of them equally dangerous.

“Seven Hands.” Vahl mouthed quietly behind them.

“If we must. The price is too large to pass.” Voiyn responded.

“Good,” Notan purred,”you’ve always been my number one, because you understand so well how my business operates.” Pure, disgusting, honey.

“Have your technicians relay the appropriate link to us on the V-alg Comm.” Voiyn ended the conversation, moving towards the exit. “Don’t forget to include a new magtray in my earnings. You’ll thank me.”

JOS stayed in step, feeding of the confidence exuding from the being before him. Returning up the dank passageways, to the Valevyinellin. He couldn’t help but think how amazing the Vocal-Algorithmic Communication system is. Instantly translating communications into Mean Language, being the commonality between all languages know to the V-algComm’s database.

Distracted by his thoughts, his shoulder met with a passerby’s. “Gxbo fule pukoda siōp.” JOS barely blinked, and Essec was there, between him and the other. All he could really see were the wall stained rags around the creatures shoulders, Essec’s back took up the rest of his view. His eyes couldn’t help but focus on the hand ready on the thin blade behind Essec’s back.

Ovellies – babies, younglings

vekhæ – cabin boys, whipping boys

coñnä – forced submissive partner

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Act One | Chapter One: A Pack With a Mission | Episode Four: The Hunt

JOS watched the heavens become swallowed by the opening above as the eased into the ships depths.
“Activate tracking, and set friendlies.” Voiyn growled.
“How?”, JOS couldn’t figure it out.
“Fix your pupils to the target icon in the upper right.”
He’d hardly noticed the images in his peripherals. JOS focused on the dot inside of a circle.
Non-Combatants Target
Looking into the blackness the brain continued.
Team Target
A quick shift of his faceplate towards Voiyn, the computer generated outline lagged to keep up with the subtly of his vision.
Hold
Selected
More?
Turning to NaN made his magboots click audibly. Both targets set, he peered back into the darkness.
No Target Selected
Continue?
“Yes.”
Tracking Activated
Select New Target
The text blinked, shifting into the upper left field of his vision. Aware of the menu icons, JOS took a moment to gain some familiarity with them: Screen Customization, ‘After the mission.’, Vision Modification, Audio Modification, and Target Tracking. He Opened the Vision mod menu first: Standard, Infrared, and UltraViolet. JOS activated the Infrared.
Everything went black, except the onscreen images. He stared hoping to watch the screen change, to his chagrin he blinked. Activating the Infrared imagery. JOS gaped as he viewed the elaborately etched tunnel the descended into. Beautiful and terrifying images of titan-like creatures, of a more alien origin than the craft they were searching. Locked in combat, consumed by flames.
The lift ceased. Before them a tall door, the etching of two opposing giants seeming to keep the door locked by way of their contest of strength.
“NaN, are you seeing this?”
“See what? Black.” NaN’s voice dripping in sarcasm,”There’s lots, and lots of black.”
“Why are you so slow?” JOS asked no one,”Go to the Vision Mod menu and turn on IR.”
All three stood in silence while NaN adjusted his sight.
“Woah…”
JOS watched NaN as he surveyed above. Remembering their purpose JOS was surprised by Voiyn’s patience.
Voiyn slipped the device from his shoulder again, placing it up against the only smooth space along the side of the door. Roughly the same size as the device. The same glow appeared, only now the figures in the door seemed to ball up their hands. Rapping the same sequence, the two appeared to pull the door apart.
Beyond the entrance lay a vast empty space. A pile of wreckage discarded in the corner. Some other Pack had picked the ship clean of any and all technologies. It was a near guarantee the only thing of value was the living being within these walls, and the vessel he used to get here.
JOS wondered how one could escape a Pack. Voiyn’s Hounds would’ve give chase to the ends of The Vale if NaN, or he attempted the same.
“Spread out. Stay equadistant on my flanks. Weapons ready, look for any heat he’s left behind.”
Simultaneous clicks as all three detached their weapons. JOS looked to see the stun stick in Voiyn’s massive grip, a heavy 17(weight). Too bad for anything on the receiving end. He ventured out to the left, the enormous cavity opening into a circular hemisphere, eventually leveling of into a straight line. Making sure his position was in line with the other two.
Nothing to see but the ornamental imagery surrounding them. He passed through the black limit of his IR mod scanning everything dutifully, “Nothing to see on the left.” JOS announced.
“Same here.” NaN checked in.
They continued in silence, JOS examined the walls looking for any mechanism to open, glow of any kind, and trying to take some sort of knowledge of this lost race. Definitely fascinated, and dedicated to war, many of the images of clashing dichotomies; vessels, infantry, creatures in single combat. Once he could afford his own, he’d have to get an ImageryCollector.
UltraViolet might reveal something different about the artwork, he surmised. JOS flicked his eyes to the vismod. Blinking, again set the new modification, the light was brilliant and deep blue and black, certainly bringing out an incredible new quality to the art. Revealing motion in the application of the UV reactive substance.
“I’ve got a faint lock on his ship mixed in with the trash, and a trail of just glowing blood going back into the ship.” NaN called, forcing JOS to drag himself to the opposite side of the hangar, he switched the mod back to IR. His breathing felt sharp as he tracked the five hundred units, while trying unsuccessfully to make no noise.
Joining the other two, Voiyn gave JOS a hand sign to maintain silence. He tiptoed the last few steps behind NaN to the right of the entryway. Voiyn opposite, ready to watch their rear, he used the device, JOS notice the just barely glowing pool at the foot of the door. Voiyn manipulated the panel, causing the door to groan open. JOS scrunched his face as they lost their surprise. The moment the door was wide enough, NaN slipped in, JOS stayed right on his heels covering the left.
Every step on time with their heartbeat. Focused and calm. Corridor width, seven units. Height, five units. No heat signatures yet, “See any doors?” After a hundred units, JOS had to ask.
“I’m looking at the same things pralo. Are we missing anything boss?” NaN replied.
“You are performing excellently. Continue forward.” The reptile commanded soothingly.
A deep breath, JOS returned his focus to the long corridor ahead.
“Get that?” A new trail of blood.
“Yep.”
Adrenaline kicked in, JOS could feel himself running. His mind still, focused, body reacting instantaneous. Every moment dedicated to seeing a limb, or some other recognizable shape giving him the signal to squeeze the lever sending the being into a severe electro-paralysis.
Two-hundred units down.
Three hundred.
The drops of blood became more frequent, glowing brighter, they continued along in the grey blackness of the corridor.
Twenty more units and the blood veered off behind a bulkhead. A fresh smear on the compartment control. NaN palmed the panel, opening the door. As one they entered the room. A concert of movement, practiced as young boys while they were supposed to sleep. Just like the games back then, only real.
JOS caught a couple of empty hand prints, bi digit, multi-limbed. His pace increased, feeling how close he was to bearing down on his first. Blood, rushing intently. All nerves screaming for the moment, his vision lit up white with what looked like a limb.
Sure of his sight, his suit confirmed the life signs, and range.
<span A million lights buzzed in a chaotic sphere of light. Temporarily overloading the IR cameras. Once the lights dimmed, JOS took off to pin down the catch. Three limbs out of each shoulder joint, a thin creature. He placed his magboot on the thing’s middle while NaN and Voiyn set to restraining all those arms.
“The went perfectly. Well done, both of you. You didn’t give him an opportunity to counter you. You both are definitely riding on the next lethal hunt. Very smooth.” Voiyn complimented, “We need to get him back to Valevyinellin. Electro-paralysis after a grievous injury can cause vital systems to shut down in some species. Not worth a whole lot but experience if he’s dead.” Voiyn gave his congratulations.
Getting the creatures body back to K8 would be simple enough. Jumping back to the K8 would be the only place they needed luck. Voiyn made it clear that he would handle the task. “You pups need to learn to orient yourself in space still. This thing’s not even heavy.” As he reactivated the lift, sending the giants back to combat.
“Can you show me how to operate that?” JOS pointed at the device Voiyn had been using to unlock the ship with.
“The Ancient’s Key.”Voiyn mused,”One rotation. You will probably have your own.” Soundlessly they rose back up into the brilliance of the Vale.
JOS took the response as yes. Somehow it seemed Voiyn was saying more than that. Surely if there was other meaning, it would reveal itself in time. The K8-Blackstar looked intimidating hovering so close. Imagining being the focus of the death machine sent a chill. The lift reached the top, automatically sealing the handmade ship. ‘I still can’t believe we just pulled that off so well.’ JOS still high on his endorphins, shocked in mental disbelief.
“You’re going to have to use me as your outboard hand holds.” Voiyn motioned the two over, positioning himself for their benefit.
NaN went first this time, JOS stay right behind him, he swore he heard the distinct sound of the stun stick going off, or maybe it was Voiyn leaping off after them.

Comeback next week for the start of Chapter Two, come to Notan’s Pit your new home from home maybe?

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Act One | Chapter One: A Pack With a Mission | Episode Three: Breaking-in

K8 successfully traversed the contraction. JOS looked out of the viewport to see the hulking, angular remains of an Ancient’s ship. The biggest he’d seen this intact. Voiyn went into a flurry of action, stopped, turned to face the compartment. “K8 has an amazing sensorial array. First, infrared.”, he instructed.

Poomph!

The ship rocked on invisible threads in the sea of nothing, as the IR drones launched from it’s belly. Ten shells in all, each containing five probes. Have a unit in size, and as black as the void, it was impossible for JOS to follow as they worked.

“No external heat, loiñl*must be defending inside. Don’t die little monkie…” Voiyn silenced the tiny OhkBD with a jab from his talon. In the immediate silence after, the whole crew could hear the strain on the synth-metal plate. Seriousness returned, somehow JOS didn’t feel as tense anymore, like the atmosphere had thinned.

“Then we use Boomers.”

Two thumps, each an audio emitter and receiver. By pumping out ultra low frequency to ultra high frequency waves throughout the ship. Creating a three-dimensional model of the entire structure, excluding air tight compartments. Data streamed into K8’s brain, and began to form into a map from the holoprojector. JOS watched the map draw itself in greater and greater detail. Finished it was like nothing he’d ever seen.

Elaborate corridors in circular designs, weaving throughout the ship in complex, even overlapping, what he could only assume, corridors. Much of this floating rock remained internally intact, a nearly functional structure.

Voiyn unstrapped, standing from the pilots seat. Walking up to the projection, examining it carefully. The crew stood, following Voiyn’s lead, JOS tried to understand the design before thinking about looking for something out of place.

What do you see?” Voiyn’ too close voice startled JOS.

Circles. Paths. A ship. His mind tumbled, he took a breath, gathering his thoughts in the process, “I see a very complex design, like a catacomb intended to house life. Determining what’s in these sealed compartments will give us a better idea.” JOS completed the idea.

“Good. This time we don’t though. Throughout the Vale, there are a decent amount of these. Zepzhyr, half-alive. Two have been converted into Pits.” Voiyn lectured, “These seven compartments,” His touch leaving red chevrons along one side of the vessel, “are our secondaries. Getting to these can prove difficult. He’s probably in the main hangar.” Voiyn tapped the huge hollow spot on what he assumed was rear.

“How will we get in?” NaN asked with a little too much confidence.

“We have a few choices. Best to enter through the manual hatch from outside.” Focusing his talons to a point, he touched the external portion of the projection. Expanding his fingers, magnified the image. He then spun it a quarter-turn, revealing a flat panel JOS assumed was the entry point.

“The hunt start’s here.” Voiyn assured them, “Go below, and prepare. I’ll meet you in the depress. Essec, con. Vahl, guns. Disable only. You two,” Voiyn motioned to JOS and NaN, “grab a 5-dij* immobilizer. There should be two Twister-AP6’s for you.”

Neither cared if there were more instructions or not, bolting to the common compartment in the first curve of the ship. Then slid down to cryoprison/armory. Amongst the various immobilizers were two shoulder stabilized, hip shot weapons. Bulky and strange. Cylindrical cartridges were lined next to the weapons.

Both reached for their own, first the Twister which attached to the magtag along their spines, followed by their ammunition, securing the cartridges to their belts.

“Pralo, this is real.” JOS almost yelled.

“I know!” NaN barely restraining himself.

“If you die… so will I, to kill you a second time.”

“You first.”

Both roared, any nerves had been lost.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

JOS, and NaN pulled their matching helmets from the nearby rack. Sliding them on the suits gave a temporary glow, as it sealed itself. JOS watched the suits computer analyze his body composition, physical diagnostics, and personal biometrics.

SYNC? The suit asked

“Yes, now.” JOS demanded, it felt nice.

Lines of code scrolled past his eyes.

SIGN?

“Fligar*.”

“Ragilf*.” Came from NaN. Using the call-signs they’d created cycles ago, just for such a moment. Their secret identifier, so they’d always be aware of the other, even if they were enemies.

Excitement bubbling, the two went to exchange glances. Frozen by the shock of their appearances. Both stared into the reflection of themselves off the mirrored surface of the angular face shield.

“Pralo…”

“I know…”

JOS let out some air.

“Let’s get ‘im.” NaN slapped JOS on the back of the head.

A final embrace, the two ascended to the common compartment, cocksure. No words along the way. Waiting for them in the depress, Voiyn stood fully regalia. Rather than the basic oblong helmet, Voiyn’s elaborate headpiece was as or more foreboding then the being himself.

Sharp, black horns protruding out of the back. Golden, grotesque teeth formed a sinister smile across the face. JOS had to force through the momentary lurch of fear it cased.

“How d’you activate the external audio.” NaN’s amplified voice causing enough feedback to double over JOS, and Voiyn. As JOS reoriented himself, he saw NaN fly into the back of the compartment from the great reptile’s slap. “No outgoing coms for you.” Voiyn snarled, JOS suppressed a laugh. Continuing, “The control mechanisms are opposite your aural cavities. Left, “ he demonstrated on NaN,”outgoing. Right, external receiving.”

JOS inserted his index into the device, and audible click was followed by a ringing. Clearing up, he could hear the hollowness of the space, as NaN picked himself off the wall.

“You three done? I’ve been ready to drop you for six circuits now.” Vahl sounded agitated.

“Depressurize.” Voiyn not losing control for a sphere.

“Depressurizing now.”

JOS’s nerves made his body feel like an automatron. Aware of his actions, and consciously deciding them. Only, his body performed the in-between. Coupled with the depress, every part of him felt foreign.

“Compartment depressurized.”

“Open up K8. JOS, NaN, stay close. Emergency situations are the only reason you should leave my side.”

“Valegbosh.” Chorused the youth.

Opposite the entrance, a portion of the bulkhead silently slid into itself revealing the external plate shielding. A hiss as the shielding detached and swung into the void. The behemoth sat before them. JOS had never seen an object so large. It’s entirety had to be close the size of the whole Servitude Colony, he couldn’t even see the ends.

“Jump. Magboots first. Directly onto that smooth octagon. On my lead.” Voiyn gave them a parting flick of his digit. Effortlessly, Voiyn took the outboard handholds, JOS followed, NaN came out, positioning himself like his comrades. “Watch closely.” Voiyn lifted his body perpendicular to the ship. Aiming with his feet, he pushed with his arms. Nice and gentle, Voiyn glided across the hundred unit gap. Imitating, JOS pointed his feet, one last check before he leaped. NaN looked good to go.

JOS inhaled deep, pulling himself to K8. Watching the point where his heels met, he exhaled and pushed. Sensationless motion caused his mind to race as he watched himself fly straight for Voiyn, already landed and waiting.

Closer, and closer, until he heard the definitive click from his magboots attaching to the surface. Looking up, NaN had another ten units before touching down. Relieved, JOS threw out some encouragement, “You look as graceful as a pxois* dancer.”

Unable to receive a response, JOS imagined NaN’s contorting features trying not to laugh. JOS barely contained his own.

“NaN, outgoing coms on.” Voiyn commanded. “Hereforth, your life is threatened, focus yourselves accordingly. Anything trapped in a corner is likely to fight o the death to live.”

“Valegbosh.” the crew responded.

JOS watched intent to learn. Voiyn unslung a rectangular device from his shoulder, placed it against the far edge of the panel on which they stood. “Step back.”

JOS and NaN moved back to the outside edge of the octagon. Placing a hand on the device,Voiyn became basked in the fluorescent blue glow emitting from his hand’s outline.

The center of the ‘access hatch’ fell into itself. “On, quick.” growled Voiyn. Both maneuvered awkwardly onto the platform. Voiyn fingered the device in an apparently random series. JOS’S eyes were fixed on the dazzling light. “Let’s make these easy orn.” Voiyn disconnected the box, and slung it back up on his shoulder as the platform descended into the heart of the floating giant.

Loiñl – an insult something like scared baby.

Pxois – an dancing entertainer whom has no skill or ability.

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Act One | Chapter One: A Pack With a Mission | Episode Two: Target Locked

“Your debt has been increased by 9,107 orn*.” Immediately followed the greatest news in his life. Before JOS had an opportunity to protest. Voiyn continued, “Acquiring them took time. Your omni-suits have taken time to earn. To date your earnings sum 9,107 orn. Now that you have them. Earn your place in my Horde.” Voiyn looked deep into JOS with those eyes. Releasing him, JOS felt relieved when his gaze focused on NaN.

The cool chill of excitement went down his spine when Voiyn stood his full 2.7 Units. His taloned gauntlet motioned for Essec to stand.

“This is as close to a ceremony you’ll get, we don’t really do fancy.” The smoothness of Essec’s fluid articulation put them both at ease. Even as he reached for the matte black cubes stacked in the corner of the compartment, every action minimal, sliding them across the metal flooring with is foot. A black Unit-Cube* at each of NaN, and JOS’s feet.

No longer would they be stuck being hangers-on aboard the ship, cleaning while the team did the important work. The fact OhkBD stayed onboard, felt more like a punishment, “Open them.” Essec instructed further.

JOS stared. At a loss for words. His first new thing, ever. And of all things an omni-suit!

Excitement overpowered reverence as JOS’s fingers eagerly undid the synth-metal* locks. Somehow his hands were moving on their own, lifting the lid. Inside, a really folded omni-suit, azure with white accents on the joints. Off to the corner a matching helmet, the vyinellin’s wings wrapped the crown, lined with white on an equally azure background.

“Wake me up, before I believe this is real.” NaN broke his focus. “You wouldn’t wake up if we tried anyway.” JOS quipped.

NaN glared for a sphere, suddenly his attention shifting down, “Pralo*, we’ve got matching suits.”

“We are ‘brothers.’”, JOS performed the two finger sign of a joke, the whole room snickered.

“If you’re going to copulate, please do so elsewhere.” OhkBD was probably going to focus on that the rest of the rotation. JOS rolled his eyes at the thought. Not even OhkBD’s dung flinging attitude could ruin the mood.

“Prepare yourselves now.” Voiyn commanded, scanning the rest of the circle, he ended the e.r.* council, “Adjourned.”

The black body slip felt tight and comfortable. JOS wiggled his toes feeling the silky material between them. “Who’s fantasizing now?” He shot NaN a look. “I can believe it, I didn’t think they’d ever let us off this thing except pick up garbage until we paid ’em back.”

“When he said our debt increased… I nearly blacked out.”

“Voiyn’s got a sense for funny pralo.” NaN smirked.

“I’m really starting to believe you about that.” JOS laughed to himself, thinking how the great reptiles timing was perfect. Totally aware of how intimidating he is, using it to create humor.

He’d left the omni-suit folded on top of its cube. Bending down to pick it up was like opening the case. The rough looking material felt strangely smooth as he admired the design and placement of white throughout. JOS slipped his limbs through the opening feet first. Then filling the gloves to the finger tips, the suit still seemed big.

Confused, but unrelenting JOS did up his mag tags. Attaching the final mag tag the suit shrunk. “Look!” NaN looked just as he finished his own, “What?!” Nan exclaimed incredulously.

Both suits fit to their bodies. JOS watching in amazement as the nanotech sealed the suit to the elements, it was beautiful. Matrices of light, twisting and twirling, making the suit its own self contained environment once the helmet was attached. Resisting the urge, JOS slid his feet back in his magboots.

“What a chance! Imagine if all those quovora* could see us.” JOS said, half to NaN, half to his reflection in the helmet.

“What if bÆW were here.” NaN laughed. JOS snickered instantly, imagining the poor boy who was terrified of everything. A giggle slipped out despite the empathy he felt for poor youngling still probably stuck in the Juxl Colony.

Dressed and ready, the two clasped hands grinning ecstatically, picking up their helmets and proceeding below to the hanger deck.

Like when they first arrived, JOS was unable to keep his eyes off the K8-Blackstar. The strange curve that made-up it’s crewspace and cockpit. The strange “personnel hold” that jut straight out into a beveled point matching the one under the cockpit. Lit well by the hanger lights, the K8 managed a bluish black shine, with accents of orange on the outboard equipment. Once in the void only sensors could see it, if they were strong enough.

OhkBD demonstrated how powerful the sensors needed to be to see it. The average ship might catch it if physically close enough, the K8 would destroy anything within the kind of range required. She was an invisible murderess in the dark. JOS was on edge from the excitement, as NaN and he approached the boarding lift.

“The order taken from Notan’s Pit is a Capture-Only hunt.” Voiyn began the prehunt assignments. “All experienced hunters will take support. You two, with me. Should you perform well, and follow instructions. One of you may get to take him yourself.” JOS was paralyzed, caught up in the thrill, his eyes locked into the amber slits of of Voiyn’s.

“Our target,” Voiyn spoke directly to NaN and him, “is a detprize*, caught trying to escape from the crew he was bought by. We’ll get the most orn for the least damage to it. Our chase may seem easy. Don’t underestimate anything fighting for its life.

“We are!” Voiyn started.

“VOIYN’S HOUNDS!” ,the crew finished, even the miniature onscreen OhkBD on the operator console.

“OhkBD, set our navigation to the last know location.” Voiyn ran the pack.

“Yahdah*, co-ords set, transferring with overlaps of most likely locations the little gærg is sneaking about.”, the lanky creature’s cackle sounded choked by the systems audio.

The sector began to draw itself in the center of the K8’s crew compartment as the data was organized. Their target’s estimated location appeared in a translucent gold sphere. K8’s a red sphere, everything else in blue. “We’ll jump here,” Voiyn’s golden, claw tipped finger pointed,”below, away from our standard orientation. Should he run. We push him into Essec and Vahl. He’s piloting a single man transport with basic defenses. If he is scared, you two disable his ship. No one get hurt for this one.” JOS heard a strange note in Voiyn’s voice. Was it, care? JOS refocused.

“Let’s go get your first.” Voiyn clapped both boys shoulders hard on way to the operator’s seat. Essec and Vahl were already in their jump seats facing center, along the bulkhead. Understanding the procedure JOS, and NaN took their seats as well.

Engines whined in a tinnitus ring as they strained to get K8 off the ground. JOS was beside himself feeling the positive g’s pushing on his body, as they exited Valevyinellin’s body. Essec winked reassuringly with his amphibious, hazel-grey eyes.

Far enough from the ship, K8 contracted. Gravity pulled from in front of, expanding the space behind it. K8 pulled itself across the “shortened” space from their current point, just outside the target’s sensor range.

*orn – currency throughout the Vale.

*synth-metal – an atomically configured carbon molecule mass, can be shaped into practically any shape, and any hardness science can allow.

*Unit-Cube – literally 1 Unit Cubed, standard size for storage containers.

*e.r. – early rotation the first 1000 Circuits of a rotation.

*quovora – those who are easily forgotten

*detprize – a typical bounty, usually a recently acquired crew member who escape their purchaser.

*yahdah – Roger!

To be continued next week…

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Act One | Chapter One: A Pack With a Mission | Episode One Voiyn Hounds

Off in another fantasy, this time sneaking through Juxl Surveying Corp. Headquarters.  JOS’s one unrealistic dream since being young has been to bring down the corporation responsible for enslaving his family for generations.  Corporations didn’t encourage you to learn about your past, only your future.  He was going to change that for everyone, if one Corp. failed, the balance would be upset.  The whole Board would fall to pieces.

In this fictional reality, JOS has successfully made it through every tier of security on the way to the Brain.  Centrally located in the Juxl Satellite World.  

Finally, this time he’d do it, he reached to the explosives satchel on his hip, ready to set the last charges.

His stomach hit the floor feeling the hollowness.

How could he not sense the weightlessness? “Cqak!” the expletive was instinctive anytime he felt pressured.  Stress levels rising he paced trying to think of something, it took him a moment to recognize the alarm blaring.

 

A sharp strike to the face sent him upright.

Instantly JOS was back from his fantasy.  Musky oil stench filled his nose, the scent of the maintenance compartment turned quarters.  The sour taste of brown congealed mass he’d eaten for his previous meal made his mouth water even though it was excruciatingly bland.  Dim running lights revealed the mess of greasy tools, and his compartmental companion NaN, half rolled over, no headrest.

JOS felt around, not surprised when his arm bumped a cushioned mass from the spanner shelf just about the toolbox he called his bed.  Responsively, JOS launched it back.  No response.

He must’ve shut off his data card’s alarm function without realizing it.  At a touch the device lit up the entire compartment, blinding him slightly.  JOS fought through the severity of the light to read through his responsibilities for the roto*.

“Another rotation cleaning up after others.” JOS murmured the mantra he’d taken up five cycles prior to prepare himself for anything.  Crawling out of his bed, he opened the small one square unit* locker that housed his only personal belonging, an oversized engineer’s coverup.  Despite it’s wear and tear, he was proud to actually own something.  When NaN PK-76\3927, and he had been at the Juxl Servitude Colony, every rotation they’d been reminded of how insignificant they were. To be able have possessions was a dream alone.

Sliding on the tough, grease covered white suit, he recalled Voiyn Valegbash, a being like he’d always dreamt of becoming, standing about one unit over JOS.  From a distance he looked like the color of old grease with an oily shine, up close like the golden statue of a portly reptilian god.  Extra weight or not, Voiyn was certainly not one to test physically, not without putting their life on the line.

A click from the last magtag on his collar.  JOS bent down to tuck the loose materials into his foot insulators before putting on the heavy magboots that he’d have to drag around the rest of the rotation.  Unable to lift them high enough to kick NaN directly, JOS drove his hell into the bottom of NaN’s toolbox.  Still no reaction.  JOS looked down on his sleeping friend, shrugged his shoulder saying, “Not my problem.” 

JOS thought to himself, ‘I know it’s been a couple of periods, I still can’t get anywhere near that comfortable.  Passing by the “Official” Crew Quarters, NaN and him’d joked, couldn’t help but snicker remembering the confrontation between Vahl and OhkBD.  Per usual OhkBD barely escaped a beating because of Essec.  It seemed so routine though, JOS wondered if it really came down to it would Vahl really commit, there was no way to know.  ‘Sixty rotos wasn’t long enough to know anybeing.’ he determined, throwing his weight into the command apparatus in the operational compartment, too small for even the creature that could fit his coverup.

Recognizing his miniature stature, the operator seat lifted him to the controls with a hydraulic hiss.  JOS inserted his hands into the red, on the left, blue, on the right, holospheres. The retina projector scanned him for preset being class, then took his biometrics confirming the eyes first.  One at a time, the cool blue lines of his finger prints appeared in his vision as they were confirmed.  Boot up functions for the ships Brain completed, JOS instructed the Brain with a couple flicks of his fingers, to begin wake up functions: prepare sanitary fluids, jettison biowaste, run maintenance scans, alert Voiyn, and crew.  Finished, JOS disengaged the retinal projector, blinking wildly, a couple of tears rolled down his face as the seat hissed back to it’s original position.

Climbing out, he shuffled around for his data card, pulled it out, and ticked off the first item of thirty on his to do list.  Next, sustenance preparation! JOS scowled at the idea, but it was important to do what was necessary in order to stay with this Pack.  Violent outbursts or not, it was the closest thing to homeliness JOS’d ever come close to.  Far closer than the Servitude Colony was or would ever be.

Without NaN’s lazy ass waking up in time, JOS doubled his workload.  NaN was horrible about waking up, but once awake the guy earned his salt.  Really NaN sleeping wasn’t so bad if everything worked properly, to date he’d failed five times at successfully managing the extra workload.  A separate horror every time, the worst when Vahl’s nutrient combination dispensed incorrectly. Vahl put a knife to his throat, JOS had been through worse, but the reminder was clear.

One final recheck of all in-use SustenanceStations, ensuring all six meals were in correct ration, nutrient content ratio, delivery order, etc.  Beginning to engage each SusStat, with only a few circuits* before all four of them flooded in for their “First Feeding.”  NaN came clomping lazily, half-dressed in his own orange oversized coverup, “Have they came yet?” He knew he was safe.

JOS gave an irritated sigh, “No, do up your magtags.” Covering for NaN was also routine.  Thinking quickly, JOS dove his hand into NaN’s utility pocket for his data card. “Already checked ’em off.” NaN laughed.  JOS narrowed his gaze, dropping the device in his friends hand.

“Glad you’re both ready. Today is big.” Voiyn’s guttural voice bellowed from behind the hydraulic door.

Hissing open, the doors revealed the great reptile himself.  “You two are coming with to earn your worth. A scavenging hunt.  Forget other responsibilities after First Feeding.  Clean. After see us in Operational Compartment for order.”  Voiyn held out his massive hand for his rations.  JOS handed it to him automatically, he watched his new idol exit the room.

Caught in the the same admiration, JOS and NaN looked to each other with “this-is-finally-really-happening?!” plastered across their boyish faces.  The spell broken the instant the Double Dosca*, Vahl and OhkBD, entered the compartment.

“Surprised they have not picked up on Nontanish yet?” Vahl pointed accusingly in their general direction, ignoring the two, nonchalantly grabbing his food. 

“Don’t be so hard on them.” OhkBD responded, “Mammals take a lot of training, that’s all.  Always concerned with procreation.”  He explained knowingly, using his fore-limbs to reach for his radioactive green slime.  Behind his back, he gestured a phallus entering an orifice with his rear limbs.  Both erupted into laughter when Vahl finally noticed.

OhkBD’s high pitched laugh was ear piercing, then cut off by the door to the compartment closing behind him.  JOS’s face was red with fury, but even their chiding couldn’t break his spirit.  A chance finally to earn the respect of these ex-ex’s, and the Valegbosh, a chance he would not take lightly.

JOS sent NaN to clean out the SusStats, a minor recompense for sleeping in.  Essec walked in casually as always, making no sound except from the click of his magboots.  Politely, he grabbed his food with a nod, and walked out, no one but Voiyn really knew anything about him, only, he was lethal.

Hearing NaN toiling gave JOS a sense of satisfaction in a hard-works-done, knowing it would not have to be him chest deep in nose singeing grim.  Enjoying his entertainment JOS picked up the nutrient slush allotted to him, savoring each bite as his thoughts wandered to some impressive Lost Architect Ruin, and chancing upon some ultra-rare artifact, leading to his fame and glory.

Something sticky hit JOS in the face, his eyes focused on NaN laughing at him, “Ya’know it’s gonna be some boring trip, recycling in the void.”

JOS blushed slightly at being read so easily.  “One day…” he trailed off, “Hurry up and stuff your face.  The sooner we are done, the sooner we will be able to scrap this chore list and do something more fun than cleaning Vahl’s biowaste receptacle.” NaN agreed by shoveling all three of the final bites  into his mouth at once, and darting towards the door.

“Like you can outrun me!” JOS threw his dish into the sanitation system, no manual utensil sanitation on Valevyinellin* after Feedings.  Clamoring down the passageways, JOS maneuvered his body to block NaN from the operation compartment access control.  JOS reached for it within range, in that last sphere* NaN’s hand batted his away to steal the victory.  Nothing was making him feel very good about the coming rotation.

Defeated JOS trudged in after his oil-black haired friend, at last the two took their seats in the circle.  Across from JOS sat Essec, tactically ready in his steel blue omni-environment suit.  NaN Sat on his left, next to Voiyn in his distinctive horizontally striped orange-black-green suit.  To his right sat the Double Dosca, unusually alert and silent. Vahl looking even more muscular than normal his white suit while maintaining that intense Ioikheil look, as if all nature covered their bodies in warning.  From his black tendrils, to his “X” shaped pupils, and a mouth that protected his face creating a vertical seam from nose to chin.  OhkBD one seat over looked strangely elongated in his matching white suit. OhkBD was a KipikOwmag, which as a species took on a stick-like appearance somewhere in their evolution to defend themselves.  But his highly evolved brain made up for it in technical ability.  JOS found himself admiring OhkBD’s computational wizardry, he still just couldn’t get passed his lackadaisical attitude.

Voiyn grumbled, instantly getting the packs attention, “We are honored.  JOS QK-11\204 and NaN PK-76\3927.  We are partaking in your initiating hunt.”

 

 

*roto – slang for rotation, the length of time a planet rotates 360degrees

*Unit – measurement equivalent of one meter

*sphere – measurement of time roughly one second

*circuit – one hundred spheres

*Valevyinellin – Vale Vyinellin

*Vyinellin – predatory creature disguising itself amongst asteroid belts

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The Galaxy is Evolving, Enter the fluxDominion

First, the launch of the fluxDominion across every major social media outlet, which has been successful so far. Check out all the sources of information from the galaxy of the fluxDominion as I prepare to launch the first book in the history of this galaxy.

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Things have gotten very busy, and any support has been absolutely motivating.  I’ve been working with Nick Nestor, a fantastic artist, who is helping me make my visions a reality.  The Carnage of Paltock, will be released with four maps, some amazing cover art, and some memorabilia plucked straight from the fluxDominion.  All done by this talented graphic designer, help me support his art as well check him out on his various pages:

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Here is one of the evolution of one of the completed star maps:

by ZachAcid

by ZachAcid

by Nick Nestor

by Nick Nestor

by Nick Nestor

by Nick Nestor

by Nick Nestor

by Nick Nestor

Pretty rad right? All you patient fans, standby, there’s more to come.  Welcome to the fluxDominion!

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