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Halo Tour Primer Circle 3A (a bit less spoilers)
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 1/5/20 4:45 a.m.

CIRCLE 3: THE SPARTAN II PROGRAM AND THE FALL OF REACH

Arc 1: Halo: The Fall of Reach

Welcome to the third and final of the Halo Tour Gaiden primers.

Not to be confused with Halo Reach, Halo: The Fall of Reach is the first Halo novel and it sets the scene for the entire franchise as effectively a much longer Story so Far segment of a manual. Halo Reach is more a side story taking place during the actual fall, which only occurs toward the end of the book. This book along with the other original Eric Nylund trilogy books is very special, as it contains references to things that effectively become plotholes after later Halo games and even other books like Contact Harvest come out, Reach being the worst offender. The biggest plotholes are that for some reason, Elites are never fought until the titular Fall of Reach itself and both Drones & Brutes never appear until the third book, First Strike. Both Contact Harvest and Halo Reach say this is not true. In fact, Brutes and buggers were the 2nd and 4th Covenant species encountered respectively, not counting Engineers when Johnson glimpsed Lighter-than-Some during his ambush of the Jackal pirate ship.

I still have my original copies of those books I got around Christmas or my birthday in 2007. Now I am reading the 2010 reprints that address some of the plotholes for the first time, starting with the Fall of Reach which is how I will be providing my information here. Halo: The Flood will only be referred to when needed during the actual Tour, as it is a novelisation of Halo 1 itself, and SPV3 makes sure to acknowledge a few of the events and characters in that book.

Halo First Strike will be left alone entirely minus the prologue that shows the Fall of Reach from a different side, unless you guys would like me to do it after SPV3, in order to fill in the gap before Viking Boy Billy starts Halo 2 so nothing is missed out.

There is also a movie of The Fall of Reach out, which I have on DVD. I havenít seen it yet, but I look forward to doing so as I write this all up while reading my 2010 reprint. I thought it was live action but I heard somewhere itís actually animated.

Without further ado, we start at the earliest possible point of the present day.



Reville

Dr Catherine Elizabeth Halsey and Jacob Keyes (yes, that Jacob Keyes) pilot a shuttle to Epsilon Eridanus II in the same system as Reach in order to observe the first of many 6 year old children the UNSC wants for their secret super solider project codenamed Project ShadoÖI mean SPARTAN II, after the Greek Spartans of old; Bungieís tradition of referencing history and mythology still going strong.

The terminology is confusing as both versions of the Fall of Reach say that Epsilon Eridanus or rather, just Eridanus is different to the Reach system of Epsilon Eridani, the former being an outer colony and the latter an inner one rather close to Earth. But some sources like Halo: Contact Harvest say they are both one and the same system. Are Eridanus and Epsilon Eridani both inner colonies in a binary solar system?

The system in question just so happens to be an insurrection hideout and the planet of Eridanus II is the same one where Johnsonís failed TREBUCHET op in Contact Harvest took place. Same city too; Elysium City. Itís hilarious that the UNSCís original enemy in the Halo universe happens to be practically on their front doorstep and they still miss them for a good length of time.

Halsey speaks with the child in question: a boy named John, and plays flipping a coin where he has to call out the side before it lands when she flips it as opposed to before she flips it. He correctly guesses tails and he gets to keep the coin as a souvenir. We are never told any of the Spartanís surnames; just their first and their serial number, so Iíll just refer to Johnís surname as Carver like Iíve done for over 10 years. Yes, I know thereís someone called John Carver in Dead Space but A. Iíve never played Dead Space and B. I came up with the Master Chiefís full name being John Carver long before Dead Space 1 even came out, namely around 2007 or very early 2008, likely the former if I remember correctly. I was 11, didnít even know about or use youtube at this time and had only recently discovered Wikipedia much earlier in 2007 or late 2006.

Fast forward to Reach, the Spartan II candidates have all been kidnapped and replaced with flash clones engineered to die of natural causes soon after, so the parents wonít come looking. Incidentally, this bites the UNSC in the ass hard later on around the Kilo Five trilogy. Halsey informs the children the truth of why they are there, many of her lines you may recognise Cortana saying during the hallucination sequences in Halo 3: ďYou have been called upon to serveÖYou will become the protectors of Earth and all her coloniesÖThis place will become your homeÖThere will be a great deal of hardship on the road aheadÖYou will become the best we can make you.Ē

She then tells both the childrenís teacher AI and their lead drill instructor to keep them busy when basic training starts the next day, so they canít process what was just done to them properly and therefore, not try to rebel or escape.



Boot

The first day of training does not go well. John Carver is rudely awakened by the lead drill instructor, Chief Petty Officer Franklin Mendez with an electric nightstick, as are the other children. After washing in showers set up like a factory line or carwash, the trainees are all forced to do various exercises including the infamous army push-ups before a long jog or march to their classroom. In there, the aforementioned teacher AI, Deja teaches them about their programís namesake and highlights the Battle of Thermopylae.

Next is the playground, which is actually the aerial assault course from Ratho Climbing Arena crossed with the Brecon Beacons SAS boot camp in Wales.

http://www.mountainmayhem.com/activities/assault-course/

https://youtu.be/AXHa1KjMSC8?t=81

Sounds fun as hell to play on but we never get a chance to even see it in the graphic novel version. If we did, it could be recreated in the TRAOD/Free Running engine (TR10A build) or as a mod for Mirrorís Edge, preferably both.

The name of the game? Ring the Bell, which would come back in an even worse light outside of Halo with a comparatively shitty assault course made of giant mangrove vines leading to it. Ring it 3 times, get groundside and cross the finish line. 2 catches: you are in teams of three and for it to count as a win, all of your team must ring the bell and cross the finish line, which means working together. The second is the prize for everyone is a turkey dinner and extra dessert, but the last team to finish is the loser and wonít get any. Not even rice & beans like post 2012 Iím A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here; just polluted water.



John is gonna ring that bell, but everyone else rings his, as he neglects his teammates in his rush to win the game. The reason for his haste is that the catch part of the rules was never properly explained until after the game as Mendez is a massive, unlikable prick at the start of the novel, just like every Drill Sergeant ever. Johnís teammates, Kelly and Sam arenít pleased with him when they should have been mad at Mendez for not telling them the catch about teamwork in the first place.

Only the next day, they do the same stuff again but Deja teaches them about wolves hunting in a pack and the playground course is slightly different. This time, John picks out a good route to the bell for all 3 of his team and Kelly runs ahead to hold it for them, Carver now discovering sheís the fastest of the Spartans. They win the game in third place, which still counts as first anyway due to the ďlast one thereís a rotten eggĒ rule still being in place and they become friends.

Next comes the ďBrecon Beacons Fan DanceĒ portion of their training: make their way alone as individuals to the extraction dropship with only fragments of a map and their survival skills to keep them going. The last man to arrive gets left behind. John says bollocks to it and has all the trainees meet up with him in the woods near a lake, so they can leave together and no-one is left behind.

However, the marines guarding the pelican dropship are out of uniform and give signs of being potential Innie spies. One of the ďmarinesĒ even tries to attack Sam and possibly kill him before they know the recruits had set a trap for them and Sam was acting as bait. Everyone gets out just fine but Mendez isnít happy. Halsey however, is intrigued by Johnís observation and planning so he is made a squad leader for his bravery, initiative and sacrifice, as he had intended to be the one left behind at first, but his teammates wouldnít let him.

Fast forward to when John is 14, the Spartans are now in a medical facility in space to acquire augmentations that will turn them into super soldiers. Whereas Marathonís MJOLNIR Mark IV Battleroid cyborgs are made by cybernetically enhancing and resurrecting dead soldiers, Haloís Spartan IIs are made by biochemically augmenting living preteen to teenage kids instead. This is not without risks, as a risk assessment report Halsey requests on finding ways around them shows:

ďSYNOPSIS OF CHEMICAL/BIOLOGICAL RISKS

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES ARE CLASSIFED LEVEL-3 EXPERIMENTAL. PRIMATE TEST SUBJECTS MUST BE CLEARED THROUGH UNSC QUARTERMASTER GENERAL OFFICE CODE: OBF34.
FOLLOW GAMMA CODE PROTOCOL.

1. CARBIDE CEREMIC OSSIFICATION: ADVANCED MATERIAL GRAFTING ONTO SKELETAL STRUCTURES TO MAKE BONES VIRTUALLY UNBREAKABLE. RECOMMENDED COVERAGE NOT TO EXCEED 3 PERCENT TOTAL BONE MASS BECAUSE SIGNIFICANT WHITE BLOOD CELL NECROSIS. SPECIFIC RISK FOR PRE- AND NEAR- POSTPUBESCENT ADOLESCENTS: SKELETAL GROWTH SPURTS MAY CAUSE IRREPARABLE BONE PULVERIZATION. SEE ATTACHED CASE STUDIES.

2. MUSCULAR ENHANCEMENT INJECTIONS: PROTEIN COMPLEXIS INJECTED INTRAMUSCULARLY TO INCREASE TISSUE DENSITY AND DECREASE LACTASE RECOVERY TIME RISK: 5 PERCENT OF TEST SUBJECTS EXPERIENCE A FATALCARDIAC VOLUME INCREASE.

3. CATALYTIC THYROID IMPLANT: PLATINUM PELLET CONTAINING HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE CATALYST IS IMPLANTED IN THE THYROID TO BOOST GROWTH OF SKELETAL AND MUSCLE TISSUES. RISK: RARE INSTANCES OF ELEPHANTIASIS. SURPRESSED SEXUAL DRIVE.

4. OCCIPITAL CAPILLARY REVERSAL: SUBMERGENCE AND BOOSTED BLOOD VESSEL FLOW BENEATH THE RODS AND CONES OF A SUBJETíS RETINA. PRODUCES A MARKED VISUAL PERCEPTION INCREASE. RISK: RETINAL REJECTION AND DETACHMENT. PERMANENT BLINDNESS. SEE ATTACHED AUTOPSY REPORTS.

5. SUPERCONDUCTING FIBRIFICATION OF NEURAL DENDRITES: ALTERATION OF BIOELECTRICAL NERVE TRANSDUCTION TO SHIELDED ELECTRONIC TRANSDUCTION. THREE HUNDRED PERCENT INCREASE IN SUBJECT REFLEXES. ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE OF MARKED INCREASE IN INTELLIGENCE, MEMORY, AND CREATIVITY. RISK: SIGNIFICANT INSTANCES OF PARKINSONíS DISEASE AND FLETCHERíS SYNDROME.

/ END FILE /

PRESS

ENTER

TO OPEN LINKED ATTACHMENTSĒ

Halsey checks in on John before his surgery and once he learns he has to survive the treatment (as he considers it one of Mendezís missions), we cut ahead.

Incidentally, itís at this point in the book that Mendez is no longer a dick and serves as a sort of ďuncleĒ to the Spartans while Halsey is considered a surrogate mother, likely to her chagrin.

Not all the subjects survive: the start of chapter 7 on the very next page begins with a funeral: 30 of the children died in their treatment due to some of the risks mentioned above though they donít specify. Itís the Star Trek kind of funeral where they are buried at space, though their bodies were cremated first unlike in Star Trek. They donít get an honorary rifle squad firing a toast into the sky; they are on a spaceship so that would end very badly.

Other Spartans survived the treatment but could no longer be soldiers due to crippling injuries from similar risks: Spartan Fhajad is now wheelchair bound from Parkinsonís (I think) and 2 others, Kirk and Rene are locked in glass floatation tanks on life support like Gyiyg/Giygas as their bones twisted so much they no longer look human, presumably liquefying into white molten concrete like was shown in the risk assessment. I can just imagine what the worse ones were: https://youtu.be/cxvaDUoL90U?list=PL_EOfzsdr7X4strjDOf_kD1XCaQ-Bfaho&t=48

Among the Spartans who washed out and lived was one Spartan Serin, who would not only go on to work at ONI, but eventually become the right hand woman of the ONI boss Admiral Margaret Parongosky, as when we see her in the Kilo 5 Trilogy under the name of Serin Osman.

Mendez explains to John that the failed living Spartans would still be able to serve in desk job positions and as ONI agents like Serin above. He also explains to John not to beat himself up over the 30 dead ones because in part of needing sometimes to send soldiers to their deaths, there is a difference between spending your menís lives and wasting them. He unfortunately cannot answer when John asks what one it was this time; due to the nature of the Spartan II project, it could well have been both.

The Spartans are then encouraged to recover from their surgery before returning to training. This means a lot stretching, isometric exercises, sparring matches and guzzling as much meat and other protein rich food as they can. John heads to the shipís gym one day for one such exercise drill but has trouble adjusting to his new Far Cry Trigen like abilities: he and his squad mates now effectively have super strength and bullet time, so all the weights in the earth gravity section of the gym are too light for him and dropping a safety pin from the bench press in the same zone seems to take too long. He even times it and does the maths to make sure.

Some Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs) enter the gym and nearly hurt themselves on the bench press as John forgot to put the pin back when testing himself. Despite apologising and trying to be nice, they have none of it and attack him. So he breaks one of their noses before the Helljumpersí sergeant shows up and tells them to go into the boxing ring if they want to fight.

John obliges straight away and itís clear the boneheads (Not the sergeant at least it seems) want to seriously hurt him despite being on the same team and risking court martial if they tried.

They donít get the chance as John straight up kills 2 of the ODSTs in the boxing ring effectively by accident and injures the others badly, breaking their ribs, arms and cutting their internal organs. He even crushes one guyís cock & balls with a single kick. Presumably they got caught in the ODSTís windpipe mid-soprano. Mendez shows up and sends the ODST sergeant off to some ONI spooks for questioning. Itís unclear if this was a genuine accident or a training mission or not.

Halo: The Flood removes the ambiguity when we hear from the evil ODST Major Antonio Silva that yes, it was indeed a test to see what a Spartan could do bare handed to a vanilla human. Thatís like asking a Battleroid and a Marathon 1 Bob to go against each other in a patty cake contest.

Back on Reach, the incident in the gym as well as similar incidents in actual training drills leads the Spartansí trainers being required to use obsolete Mark I exoskeleton battle armour to protect themselves in exercises and their training grounds being relocated to an underground base in a mountain titanium mine. Halsey gets to witness some simulation troopers in exoskeletons get humiliated by the Spartans during a round of capture the flag: Johnís team uses Kelly to distract them while John nabs one trainer and uses his armour as a counterweight to let 2 more Spartans rappel down. When they seem cornered by supressing fire, other Spartans on the team kill the lights so they can knock out the trainers or at least disable their exoskeletons and take the flag in the confusion.

They even destroy or disable the hidden cameras meant to record them, as Mendez says theyíve managed to do on every match. And this is before they have a chance to record them too. Halsey wants the Spartans ready for their first field test: a mission into the Insurrection hidden base in an asteroid field near Johnís old homeworld. This is where Halo Contact Harvest and The Fall of Reach intersect: word has got back to Reach about Harvestís destruction.



My Own Private Thermopylae 2: This is REACH!

John is promoted to third class CPO, 3 stages below his iconic rank and he embarks with Spartans Kelly, Sam, Fred and Linda to Eridanus II in order to sneak aboard a cargo ship to the rebel base. Their mission is to sneak onto Hidden Base inside an asteroid and grab the leader of the Epsilon Eridanus insurrection cell, Colonel Robert Watts.

ONI wants Watts alive so they can trace the leak they found in FLEETCOM and get him to spill the beans on any other potential leaks.

The Spartans hide in the ceiling of a water tank of the cargo ship for the journey and tag a crate of cigars and champagne being delivered to Watts so they can find him.

It turns out the rebel base is indeed inside the asteroid Eridanus secundus and contains an actual city complete with skyscrapers, public showers, blocks of flats (apartments), factories and even a small hospital. Itís like a miniature, human built version of High Charity. It also makes me think of Admiral Boschís ship, the NTF Iceni in Freespace 2 when you discover it disguised as an asteroid with bits of the hull and turrets poking out:

The super soldiers break into the penthouse suite of Wattsís apartment building, kill his bodyguards and smuggle him out to a rebel pelican in the hanger by hiding him inside his own, vacuum safe champagne crate. Just as well itís sealed against vacuum as Sam blows open the hanger airlock doors so they can get out and even destroys the emergency shutter, venting a lot of Hidden Baseís occupants to space before the outer (or is it an inner?) bulkhead door closes to protect the city. They make it out on the pelican dropship. Once the chapter changes we skip ahead to where the Human Covenant War truly begins after Harvest is destroyed and the newly anointed Prophet of Truth begins his deception about the humans so that the people of the Covenant will want to fight them.



Ne Cede Malis

John and the Spartans are dressed in funeral gear in Reachís UNSC base amphitheatre. Carver was awarded the purple heart after their mission in Eridanusí asteroid field as he had been wounded.

Dr Halsey, Mendez, new arrival Admiral Stanforth and Beowulf, an ONI AI taking the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to come explain what had happened to Harvest: they show a hologram of the colony as it originally was and explained how the Tiara station had made contact with a Covenant ship, which is none other than Rapid Conversion. Presumably this transmission was either Sif and/or Loki collaborating with Lighter-than-Some or their attempt at the peace meeting with the Kig-Yar.

They lose contact with Harvest and send in a ship to investigate which gets destroyed. They send in a battle fleet to find them and see whatís going on and lose 90% of that too.

Then they show the now glassed Harvest after the magma has been given time to cool: the cooling surface is now a cratered and cracked, barren desert of obsidian and other volcanic glasses. The heat from the formally molten rock and plasma strikes still wavers from the glassy crust and some regions of the planet are still glowing. Just before the ship attacked the battle group, a message was broadcast in English, presumably either from Tartarus or the Prophet of Truth, given Halo 3 fans will recognise it: ďYour destruction is the will of the Gods. And we are their instrument!Ē

Admiral Preston Cole is going on a mission to retake Harvest and terraform it back to at least resemble its former glory. He succeeds, after 4 years as covered by the first prequel in the games themselves which was Halo Wars. I will not be covering that as I suck at RTS games despite liking the genre and unlike the early stages of Dungeon Keeper, I didnít have a lot of fun with Halo Wars at all once it came time to take enemy bases.

As the UNSC is on red alert, the Spartans training is accelerated to the final stage: Project MJOLNIR. Yes, you read that right. The Spartans still arenít actually cyborgs, but MJOLNIR Battle Armour certainly makes that fact unclear, as anyone who has seen John Carver 117 in the games knows. Chief Mendez is then revealed to be training the next group of Spartans who would be coming in and he gives a lovely farewell speech. After everyone else except Mendez, John and Beowulf (who is eavesdropping now as his avatar isnít displayed) have left, Mendez talks to John about how some may be tempted to surrender, but soldiers typically donít have the luxury and that the Covenant certainly wonít accept surrender.

He gives John back the quarter he won when he met Dr Halsey as a child, they shake hands and John never sees him again.

***

Later on after some small missions that involved tying up loose ends regarding the Insurrection and stuff, the Spartans are on the frigate Commonwealth en-route to Chi Ceti 4, where the weapons testing facility for MJOLNOR is. Iíd heard of this star system reading the original print version long before Iíd heard of Tau Ceti. I think I read about Tau Ceti on the Halo wiki and heard about Marathon soon after. I do not know if this was 2008, 2009 or the next 2 years I did those, but 2012 was only when I first played the trilogy as thatís when I learned about Aleph One and how it was on Windows too, so I was overjoyed.

Thereís one problem once they reach the Chi Ceti system: a covenant ship arrives soon after they do and attacks with pulse lasers and a plasma turret that tracks them, like a major Sípht shot but much bigger. Missiles do nothing because like the Shivans, all Covenant ships except banshees, spirits and phantoms have energy shields. They can however, punch right through their shields with railguns like the Magnetic Accelerator Cannon, or MAC gun for short.

Two heavy MAC rounds allow them to damage the ship when its shields are up, but not enough the destroy it. They damage it further by setting off a nuclear missile in space 100 metres from the ship. With getting to the planet imperative, the Captain sends Halsey and the Spartans off on a dropship and uses the Commonwealth as bait to buy them time.

***

After riding a freight elevator Ėwhich I assumed was a Half Life 1 or Akira style inclinator- down hundreds of metres underground to the Damascus testing facility, the Spartans are introduced to their MJOLNIR armour for the first time. You wonít know this simply playing the games, but the armour does much more than just act like a glorified HEV suit from Half Life or Cyberhead Battleroid armour from Marathon: itís basically a human built Varia or Gravity suit without the morph ball or grenade jump bombs. I reference Metroid but I played Half Life 1 and Halo in that order long before Iíd heard of Metroid and Marathon so Iím more familiar with the former 2 games.

To semi-quote what Dr Halsey tells the Spartans, MJOLNIRís shell is a multilayer alloy of remarkable strength. They had recently added a coating to deflect energy based attacks to counter the covenant.

The battlesuits also have a layer of ďhydrostaticĒ gel that regulates temperature. The gel can reactively change density. Against the skin of the operator, they have a form-fitting, moisture absorbing cloth suit that has biomonitors which contantly adjust the suitís temperature and fit. Thereís even an onboard computer that links with their neural interface implant chips, the human made, Halo equivalents to the organic control glands in the Pfhor.

Most importantly, the armourís inner structure is composed of a new reactive metal liquid crystal. Itís amorphous, yet fractally scales and amplifies force. In laymanís terms, it doubles the wearerís strength and enhances the reaction speed of a normal human by a factor of 5.

Thereís just one, major flaw: all previous tests failed spectacularly because the system is so reactive, that normal humans lack the reaction time or strength required to use it safely. Hereís a nice, graphic quote:

ďA flat video appeared in the air. It showed a Marine officer, a lieutenant, being fitted with the MJOLNIR armour. ďPower is on,Ē someone said from offscreen. ďMove your right arm, please.Ē The soldierís arm blurred forward with incredible speed. The marineís stoic expression collapsed into shock, surprise and pain as his arm shattered. He convulsed-shuddered and screamed. As he jerked in pain, John could hear the sounds of bones breaking. The manís own agony-induced spasms were killing him.Ē

This is why the Spartans must be augmented and was likely the reason for the Spartan II project to begin with. Only with the all-natural bullet time and ceramic/metal alloy skeletons of the augmented Spartans can you use MJOLNIR without dying or crippling yourself. The armour cannot be powered down once active, the sensitively cannot be lowered and the armour itself cannot be removed without a team of technicians barring the helmet. There is still some risk: when they train with the suits for the next half hour or so, they start moving very slowly and deliberately until they get a feel for the suit.

Once theyíve taken a moment to familiarise themselves with basic movement, they tackle a small obstacle course of live fire barbed wire runs, concrete targets they break by punching them, training dummies they impale to the hilt with throwing knives and leaping 3 metre high walls. Thatís 1Ĺ world units, or 6 clicks in Tomb Engine measurements, something that Marcus Jones requires a plugin to allow him to do, unless heís that nameless soldier or whoever he was in Damage Incorporated.

They can even open COM links to each other with thought alone. Captain Wallace on the Commonwealth gets back to them: the Covenant ship is coming again but the human frigate needs repairs. While flying back in the pelican, John takes his Spartans EVA to detonate one or both of the pelicanís missiles inside the ship, finishing what they started. Using thruster packs, John, Kelly and Sam soar through the void then body-board over the energy shields, ducking inside them when one of the pulse laser turrets fires, as it has to lower the shield around it to do so.



Climbing into the hole the MAC gun rounds made, they encounter Kig-Yar in the shipís hallways. They attack with plasma pistols and succeed in wounding Sam who takes a bullet for John. Then they come to a power conduit connected to either the reactors or a weapons system.

Now Iíve got some good news and some bad news: The timers on the missiles are set for 3 minutes but John orders Sam to stay with the missiles and hold off the aliens while he and Kelly escape. That is the good news. Bad news is, Sam has to do it as his armour was punctured by the plasma pistol shot, with his skin getting burnt. He could get patched up just fine back at the Commonwealth as Kelly points out but thatís exactly the problem: they have no way to seal his suit. So much for MJOLNIRís brand new energy weapon countermeasure, huh? Itís too dangerous to simply have Doctor Halsey come and pick them up in the Pelican either for obvious reasons.

John hates the idea of leaving his friend and squadmate behind to die; heíd rather go down fighting alongside him, but he needs to set an example to his team and not waste his own life, remembering Mendezís lesson about lives spent and lives wasted. John and Kelly escape just as the timer hits 0 and clear the blast radius with milliseconds to spare.

He consuls himself with the fact that Samís sacrifice proved that the Covenant arenít invincible: they can be beaten, and humanity has a chance.

Continued in Circle 3B

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