• Published 7th Apr 2020
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Consonance and Dissonance - applezombi



After an unfortunate injury while hiking, Pinkie Pie accidentally sets into motion of a chain of events that leads to new friendships, romantic encounters, and even the salvation of an old enemy.

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Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“Girls, it’s really bad this time.”

“I… don’t know…”

“Of all the possible things, this is the worst possible thing!”

“She’s outta control. Somebody’s gotta stop her!”

“Um… did anybody talk to her parents? Or her sisters?”

“Woah, woah. I don’t think we need to go with the nuclear option just yet. I was thinking more zapping her with rainbow lasers or somethin’ like that. Ya know, to…”

“Dash… y’all know it doesn’t work like that.”

“I know, but still. There’s gotta be a way…”

“You girls ready to order?”

The five teenage girls looked up from their booth to the smiling pink face of Sunny Sugarsocks, looking perfectly the part of the Fifties theme embraced by the Sweet Snacks Café. The waitress, clad in her powder blue uniform and clutching an order pad casually in one hand, reached for the mechanical pencil tucked behind her ear and clicked the lead a few times.

“Hey Sunny,” Sunset said. “She’s at work, right?” Nobody needed to clarify who ‘she’ was. Sunny sighed, rolling her eyes with a wry smile.

“Of course, you girls are worried about Pinkie too. Sweet Snacks almost refused to let her come in, but you know Pinkie. As soon as Sweets started acting like she was gonna say no, Pinks turned on the waterworks. That girl sure knows how to turn the puppy-dog eye look up to eleven. So Sweets caved, but only on the condition that Pinkie takes it easy.”

“Takes it easy?” Rainbow Dash sputtered, leaning forward in her seat over the Formica tabletop. “Didn’t her doc say she was supposed to be off her foot for a few weeks? She’s gonna hurt herself. I mean, more than she already is!”

“It’s plum foolish, if ya ask me,” Applejack said with a growl, her concern clear in her eyes. “That gal’s actin sillier than a mule in moonshine.” She paused a bit, thinking about what she had just said, and blushed. “I mean, she’s always been silly, but this is downright…”

“Ridiculous,” Rarity finished for her friend. Sunset watched her two friends closely, wondering if anybody else noticed that the farm girl and fashionista had begun unconsciously finishing each other’s sentences within the last week. Pinkie would have noticed, but she’d been in the hospital for two days, and had spent another two at home, confined to her bed.

“I know you’re worried,” Sunny said, tapping the eraser of her pencil against her pad. “But me an’ Sweets are keeping an eye on her, and Sweets is keeping her off her leg as much as she can. Sweets has her working on invoices and stuff. Didn’t know that girl had a head for math, but Sweets is pretty happy with her work. It keeps her in a chair, at least.”

“Twilight and I have been tutoring her in math,” Sunset said in answer to the confused looks the other girls were giving. “She said she’s going for a business degree in college.”

“Business? But darling, I was sure she wanted to open her own bakery, or even a café? I’m sure she’s spoken about it before,” Rarity said.

“Yeah, but think about it. She’s already great at baking, and customer service,” Sunset replied. “It’s just the more technical parts she needs help with. She’s been catching on really quick. Even her grades show it. She’s gone from C plusses to A minuses, and Twi and I’ve only been tutoring her for a couple of months.”

“Huh,” Rainbow said, her single word response a good reflection of the shock on the faces of their friends.

“What, did you think that Pinkie wasn’t smart?” Sunset teased, and was rewarded with a blush from her other friends, and a sputtering denial from Rainbow Dash. “Now c’mon, let’s order. I’m sure with Pinkie off her roller skates, Sunny’s got too much of a workload to stand around chatting with us all day.”

The girls nodded and placed their lunch orders (Chilidog with all the fixings, cobb salad with avocado-cilantro vinaigrette, two tofu burgers, one with cheese, the other with grilled onions, and a boring, no-nonsense hamburger, plus an order of large fries for the table), which Sunny Sugarsocks dutifully wrote down before taking the sheet from her order pad to the back to put in their order. She walked, unlike her roller skating coworker; Pinkie was the only waitress insane enough to try to do this job on roller skates. It had been Pinkie’s idea, and Sweet Snacks had never been able to deny her exuberant employee anything.

The girls chatter became more relaxed; Sunny Sugarsocks’ reassurances had eased their minds somewhat. They had a few moments to gossip about their week at school before a shriek broke through the comfortable buzz of conversation, clinking utensils, and jukebox tunes that filled Sweet Snacks Café.

“I know that order!” came the shrill voice of the girls’ pink friend from behind the diner’s swinging polished chrome door. The diner went silent as customers and employees stared at the door, and the round glass window built into eye level on the door. Suddenly the door swung open with a slam, dashing against the rubber stopper screwed into the floor to keep the door from slamming into the wall and doing damage. The awkward silence of the diner was suddenly filled by the metallic click, click, click of a pair of crutches striking the floor. Pinkie Pie emerged from the back room, suspended by her crutches as she propelled herself towards the table where the girls sat. She had an intense look on her face, almost a grimace, and the five friends watched her nervously. Fluttershy began to shrink down in her seat.

Pinkie was wearing her light blue waitress uniform, and like Sunny had a pencil behind her ear, but lacked the typical waitress order pad. What she did have was a pair of brand new metal crutches, and a pristine looking light pink cast encasing her right leg from her bare pink toes to her knee. She kept it raised as she moved over to her friends table, freezing them with the intensity of her gaze. Without a word she stopped at their table, staring at them all.

“Heya, Pinks,” Rainbow Dash said nervously, noting the expression on her friend’s face. “How ya feeling?”

“Where’s Twilight?” Pinkie asked softly, ignoring the question. The rest of the diner began to buzz again, though softly, as if they could sense that something momentous was happening.

“Oh, uh, don’t you remember?” Fluttershy nearly whispered. “You got her those season tickets for the orchestra. She’s at a concert with her brother and his wife.

“Oh yeah. That was a good birthday present, wasn’t it?” Pinkie said, her eyes going distant as she remembered Twilight’s last birthday party with a grin. Then her face snapped back to seriousness, and she stared down at her friends. “I’ll just have to have a talk with her later.” Balancing on one foot and a single crutch, she let go of the other so she could reach inside her voluminous pink hair, drawing out a box, which she unceremoniously slammed onto the table. The five at the table jumped, and Fluttershy dived fully under the table with a startled ‘eep!’ Sunset looked at the box. It was an orange and green box of brightly-colored, seventy two count markers. “You girls owe me something.”

“You want us to… sign your cast?” Sunset guessed, and suddenly Pinkie exploded with a grin.

“Yup! Just look at it! It’s so boring and mono colored. A tragedy!” She plopped down in a chair next to their booth, leaning her crutches up against a nearby table and propping her cast-bound leg up on the bench next to Rarity with a slight wince of pain. “You girls can fix that, right?”

“Oh, we can do so much more than fix it, darling,” Rarity said, reaching for the markers and pulling out a collection of blues. “We’ll make that horrible eyesore fabulous.” She immediately began work drawing the three blue diamond motif that appeared on much of her clothing. Next to her on the bench, Applejack watched with interest while Rainbow Dash helped Fluttershy out from underneath the table. When the fashion artist was done, she signed her name underneath the design with a graceful calligraphy flourish, before passing the box over to Applejack.

One after another, the friends drew their own personal symbols on the light pink cast, with varying degrees of artistic competence. Applejack’s somewhat crudely drawn trio of apples sat between a rough rendition of a rainbow lightning bolt and Fluttershy’s carefully drawn butterflies. Sunset watched it all with a smirk, before adding her own symbol, the cutie mark she used to bear, alongside her signature.

“Something funny, sugarcube?” Applejack asked, noting the expression.

“Maybe. Those symbols you guys drew, the ones that you’ve got on your clothing. Where’d they come from? Like your apples, the ones on your boots.”

“Come from? Sunset, y’all know I’m an Apple. We’ve got apple stuff all over everything. Just kinda family tradition, I reckon. Why’d ya ask?”

“Idle curiosity, I guess. I’m just willing to bet, though, that if we took a peek on the other side of the portal at the other Applejack who lives there, she’s got that same three apple mark on her flank.”

“You mean like a tattoo? Sweet,” Rainbow said with a laugh.

“Not tattoos, cutie marks. Pony magic. They’re supposed to represent our true selves, our destiny, or our personality. It’s a really hard to understand magic; nopony on the other side really knows very much about it.” She pointed at the red and orange sunburst she’d drawn on Pinkie’s cast. “That’s what mine looked like.”

The questions flooded in after that. What were cutie marks, where did they come from, what did they mean. Sunset tried to answer as much as she could, but ultimately cutie mark magic was still a mystery to even the keenest pony minds. The conversation lulled a bit as Sunny Sugarsocks brought their meals (and an extra plate of nachos for Pinkie, along with a strictly worded demand from their boss Sweet Snacks to take a break with her friends) and the now six girls dug into their meals.

“So, what’s everybody up to this evening?” Rainbow Dash asked, pretending not to notice Rarity’s pained grimace when she spoke with her mouth full.

“I don’t have any plans,” Applejack stated, glancing at Rarity as she said it, though Sunset was sure she was the only one who saw the significant look. “Do y’all?”

“N-no, I wasn’t planning anything for tonight,” Rarity stuttered uncharacteristically. “What did you have in mind, darling?”

“Well, the Captain Marevel movie just hit the cheap theatres, and I’ve already seen it a few times, but I thought it’d be fun if we all went together.”

“I could go,” Fluttershy said simply. Rarity nodded as well.

“Captain Marevel. Isn’t she the one with the lasso?” Applejack asked with interest, before withering away from Rainbow Dash’s glare, a look that managed to be shocked, offended, and slightly murderous all at once. “What? I can’t keep all these superhero movies straight half the time.”

“You’d like this one, darling. She reminds me of you,” Rarity said. “She’s strong, honest, and direct, and she has the most delightful costume that would just look smashing on…” she blushed hotly, her face filling with red as she trailed off with a significant glance at Applejack. Sunset saw a similar blush on the farmer, and grinned. Good, she thought. It’s about time those two got things going.

“I can’t come tonight, sorry girls. I’ve got a… a thing,” Sunset said regretfully.

“A thing?” Rarity asked, spying an opening to escape from the uncomfortable scrutiny she was now receiving not only from Sunset, but from Pinkie and Fluttershy, as well. Rainbow Dash was, as usual, oblivious to any of the conversation’s subtext. “Is he cute?”

“Not that kind of thing,” Sunset said with a laugh. “To be honest, I’ve signed up for a three month class at Canterlot Community College. Nothing for credit, just something I’m interested in. It’s a few hours, two nights a week.”

“What kind of class?” Fluttershy asked.

“Um, first aid and CPR,” Sunset said, glancing at Pinkie Pie in time to see her expression turn dangerous. She waved her hands defensively. “I’m not breaking my Pinkie Promise, I swear. I’m not blaming myself.”

“Uh huh…” Pinkie said, her voice dripping with suspicion.

“Really, I’m not. I promised I wouldn’t beat myself up or blame myself for the accident, and I’m not.” Sunset said while Pinkie and the other girls watched her cautiously. “It’s just that, when the accident happened, I felt so helpless. Rainbow, you were so cool, taking control of the situation. You were fearless, you knew exactly what to do. You were…” she trailed off, and then let out a resigned sigh, only to continue “…completely awesome.”

“Well, yeah,” Rainbow replied, puffing up a bit. “Cuz I am. But that’s because I’ve had training.”

“Exactly. When we were threatened by mind controlling aquatic sex lizards, or a giant insane power hippie, or even our own possessed demon friend, I didn’t panic. I may not have known exactly what to do every second, but,” Sunset paused for a bit, taking a handful of fries from the center of the table while she gathered her thoughts. “I’ve studied magic. I know how it works. It makes sense to me, it’s familiar. I might have been scared, but its… kinda my element. Up that canyon, in the middle of nowhere with an injured friend, I felt so out of place. So here I am, shaking and puking and barely able to breathe, while Rainbow just calmly figures out what we have to do to get Pinkie safely to the hospital. For Celestia’s sake, the paramedics were treating me for shock while we were all riding in the ambulance. I don’t even know what shock is!”

“It’s the body’s physiological response to injury or extreme stress. Basically, the body’s organs, like the brain, aren’t getting the blood they need and can start to operate weird or even begin to shut down. It usually shows up with an injury, but it can happen with stress or panic attacks as well,” Rainbow said. As soon as she stopped talking, she noticed the shocked stares from the five girls around their booth. “What? So I know a bit about first aid. That doesn’t make me an egghead. Look, this thing,” she gestured to her body, “is a finely tuned machine, like a sports car. Ya gotta know how the bits and pieces work in order to take care of it, right? And that sometimes means reading the owner’s manual, and knowing when you can tinker yourself, and when you gotta see a mechanic.”

“Wow,” Applejack said simply, and Pinkie giggled.

“You compare your body to a sports car?” Sunset asked.

“Why not? I think it’s a good meteor,” Rainbow said. The girls stared once again, this time trying to wrap their heads around the apparent non-sequitur.

“You mean metaphor, darling,” Rarity exclaimed suddenly, as the lightbulb went on for the friends. She giggled. “Goodness, I was worried there for a moment. Thank you for making the world make sense again.” The other girls laughed as well.

“Um, yer welcome?” Rainbow said, confused. “But seriously, Pinks, don’t be mad at Sunset for taking a first aid class. It makes sense to me.”

“I’m not mad,” Pinkie said. “As long as she doesn’t break her promise…”

Sunset shivered at the dangerous voice, and the implied threat.

“I won’t, I swear,” Sunset said.

“How about you, Pinkie? Wanna go see a movie tonight?” Rainbow asked, going back to their earlier conversation.

“Aw, sorry Dashie, but I can’t. I have work until nine. I wish, though. Being in the hospital has really cut into my girl time. Raincheck?”

Everybody at the table went silent, awkwardly looking at their food, or each other. This was why they had come, after all.

“Um, sure, Pinkie. Maybe next time,” Rainbow said. “But, uh…”

“Don’t ya think you’re pushin yourself a little too hard, Pinkie?” Applejack pushed forward when Rainbow hesitated. “All of us’re worried about ya. I thought the doctor said you were supposed to stay off your foot, and Sunny says you pretty much had to beg Sweet Snacks to let you come back early. Sugarcube… yer gonna hurt yourself worse than you already are.”

Pinkie’s face had gone solemn. All of the other girls were watching her nervously, except for Fluttershy, who had tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry you’re worried, girls. I never meant to make you feel bad,” she began, but Applejack was already shaking her head.

“Nothin’ doin’, sugarcube. I don’t wanna hear you say you’re sorry. I just wanna hear what got in your durn fool head, comin’ into work early like this. It’s not like y’all need money or something, is it?”

“No, nothing like that,” Pinkie said. “I really was gonna take it easy. I had an amazing plan; stay at home, eat lots of cookies, get visits from my bestest best friends, and work on my Thanks-For-Calling-The-Paramedics-And-Doing-Excellent-First-Aid party I’m gonna throw for Rainbow Dash as soon as I’m all better. But then…” she sighed, her eyes on her cast, before brightening, her face spreading with a smile as she looked at her friends. “I got a tickly feeling. You know, the ear-wiggling, toe-scrunching, eyebrow-tickling kind of feeling. The one that means somebody’s got a frown that needs upside downing, and I’m gonna run into them at work.”

There was a collective sigh of resignation from Pinkie’s friends. Nobody had any idea what she was talking about. Not really. But each and every girl at this table knew enough about Pinkie’s odd prescient moments that they couldn’t deny there was something to them. Once she claimed it was a Pinkie Sense thing, nothing they could say would sway her from her path.

“So, is it one of you five? I thought maybe it would be Twilight, because of her break up, but she’s not even here. And the only thing making you five frowny is worrying about me, right? So it’s gotta be somebody else.”

“Is there anything we can do to help you find your, erm, frowny target?” Rarity asked. “I only ask because we wish nothing more than for you to be at rest, getting yourself healthy as quickly as possible.”

“No… I don’t think it works like that,” Pinkie said vaguely, but leaned over to pat Rarity on her hand affectionately. “But you five just showing up and worrying about me helps a lot. It’s nice to know you all care. And you don’t need to worry; Sweet Snacks won’t let me do anything too tough anyways.”

The conversation moved on to harmless gossip and weekly news as each girl finished off her lunch, polishing off the shared fries in the process. Finally Pinkie announced that she’d taken long enough, and with a pained groan, managed to maneuver her cast off the bench and onto the floor. Instantly, three of the girls, Applejack, Rainbow Dash, and Sunset all jumped up to help her, causing a wave of giggles from Pinkie as she waved off their offers of assistance. It was a little awkward watching her clumsily retrieve her crutches from the nearby table she’d leaned them against, but she handled it fine, and gave her five friends a cheery wave before finally disappearing behind the swinging metal door to the restaurant’s back room.

“So, you think she’s gonna be okay?” Rainbow asked into the silence that followed.

“Well, that Pinkie Sense of hers has never steered her wrong,” Applejack replied, though she was frowning at the still-swinging door.

“She’ll be fine,” Sunset said, her voice more confident than she felt. “If she doesn’t slow down, we can always tell Maud on her.” The girls passed a nervous glance between them. Nobody wanted to tattle on their friend, unless they absolutely had to.

* * * * *

“Sweet, I’m done with the dairy invoices!” Pinkie called out of the tiny manager’s office to her boss, who was just outside the open office door in the kitchen, cleaning off the grill. Pinkie leaned back in her chair, looking around the door frame to see her boss, leaning over the huge grill with an intense look on her face, hunched over as she scrubbed at some stubborn spot with her weight. Sweet Snacks was older, certainly old enough to have lived in the fifties, though probably not old enough to have been a waitress back then. Pinkie knew, she had asked. For some reason Sweets had nearly fired her that day. Her skin was light blue and wrinkled, as much from her easy smile as from her age. Her hair had long ago gone snow white, and stray locks escaped the tight bun and hair net she kept it under while she was at work. Sweet smiled at Pinkie where the young woman sat in the office.

“Okay, Pinkie. You can start heading home if you like. Need any help?”

“Ma’am, I’m not done with my closing chores yet!” Pinkie protested. She lifted herself out of the padded, rolling chair that Sweet usually used while doing the paperwork, maneuvering her crutches so she could put her weight on them. The bulletin board inside the office contained a half dozen notices, including a closing chore sheet. Under Pinkie’s name was a list that included taking out the garbage, wiping down and sanitizing spare trays, and wiping down and sanitizing the booth seats and tables.

“It was slow. Sunny already got your trays and the booths tonight. I’ll take care of the garbage before I go. You’ve done enough today, Pinkie,” her boss told her kindly.

“Nope nope nope! I’ve got the garbage!” Pinkie called out.

“Pinkie…” Sweet began warningly, but the pink blur was already out the back room’s swinging door, although somewhat less fast than usual and accompanied by the click of her crutches. The diner owner sighed and rolled her eyes, walking over to the shelf where they kept the spare garbage liners, grabbing a thick roll and holding it out just as Pinkie reemerged, looking sheepish.

“Um…”

“Forget something?” her boss said with a smirk. Pinkie giggled and snatched the roll of liners from her, before heading off to collect the garbage in the dining area.

“When you’re done with that, could you dump the tortilla soup that’s in the fridge? It goes out of date tonight.” It seemed a safe enough thing to ask the injured girl.

“Okie Dokie Lokie!” she called out cheerfully from the dining room.

It took Pinkie Pie exactly four minutes and fifty-one seconds longer than usual to change all of the trash cans in the dining room. She knew this because she timed herself with her phone; Pinkie had her garbage duties down to three minutes, seventeen seconds flat on a usual day, and she prided herself on her efficiency. The extra time didn’t bother her too much, because she knew she’d be slower without her roller skates.

As soon as she had all the trash gathered into two large plastic bags, she maneuvered herself so she was holding one in each hand, clutching tight to both the top of the bags and the handles of her crutches. When she pushed into the kitchen to head towards the back door, however, she hesitated, looking over to where Sweet Snacks was washing dishes.

“So, Ms. Sweet?” Pinkie began nervously. Her boss looked up from the hot sudsy water her hands were immersed in.

“Yes, Pinkie?” she asked, warned by the young woman’s tone of voice that something was up.

“Um, so I came in tonight because I got a Pinkie feeling. Ear wiggle, toe scrunch, eyebrow tickle.”

“What does that one mean, dear?” Sweet asked patiently.

“It usually means that I’ll meet somebody at work that needs a frown turned upside down. But what if I was wrong? What if my Pinkie Sense is on the fritz? The soup, Sweet! You said the soup needs throwing out!”

“Uh…” Sweet said dumbly, confused.

“The soup was my idea, because of my Pinkie Sense! It was a new combo, thumb scrunch, knee pinch, and nose jiggle! I was sure it meant that we needed to make a lot of soup! And you trusted me, Sweet, and I was wrong! We barely sold any! What if my Sense is falling apart?” Pinkie was shaking as she began to panic, and Sweet quickly pulled her hands out of the sink and dried them, rushing over to the young lady and catching her in an awkward hug around her crutches.

“Pinkie. Take a deep breath,” the older lady said soothingly as she rubbed her employee’s back. Pinkie breathed in, taking in the scent of her boss and friend, a permanent aroma of greasy spoon diner, baking hamburger buns, and cigarette smoke, even though Sweets had been wearing a patch for three years now. “Calm down, please. Nobody’s perfect. Not even unexplainable Pinkie Senses. It’s okay.”

“But the soup,” Pinkie moaned.

“The soup was tasty. So it didn’t sell well. So what? Maybe that combo meant something else? And as for tonight, maybe you made somebody smile without even knowing it. You never know what effect you might have had.” Sweet pushed away from Pinkie, holding her out at arm’s length. “Your ‘Pinkie Sense’ has, to date, saved me from three bruised heads, seven stubbed toes, and a possible broken wrist. It has also led to the creation of three of our highest selling menu items, and helped Sunny Sugarsocks reconnect with her best friend from Kindergarten. I don’t care if you have the odd miss every so often, I’m still gonna trust you. And it. Okay?”

“Okay boss,” Pinkie said, sniffing.

“Good. Now get that garbage out and then go home. And stay there until you’re better!” her boss demanded with a smile. Pinkie gave a mock salute with the top of her crutch, and with a ‘click, click, click’ of her crutches made her way to the back door.

“Be careful,” Sweet called after her. “I think we might have some raccoons getting into our dumpster.”

“I’ll be careful,” Pinkie called back over her shoulder as she pushed the bar that opened the door, shoving her way out into the cool September evening air.

The alleyway behind the Sweet Snacks Café was clean and well maintained, if still dark. It was pretty empty, containing only a dumpster across from the door, and an old, enclosed ashtray on a pedestal bolted to the cement next to the door. Pinkie looked at the ashtray with pride in her boss; Sweets was still going strong with her goal to quit smoking forever. The nearest street lamp was just around the building, casting a sharp, angled shadow that started just on the other side of the dumpster. It left the green metal trash container almost completely sheathed in darkness.

Pinkie winced when the door slammed shut behind her; it was heavy and metal, and usually she eased it closed with an arm. These crutches were really inconvenient. As soon as the loud noise of the door slamming echoed into the alleyway, Pinkie heard a scratching and shuffling from the direction of the dumpster.

“There are raccoons!” Pinkie exclaimed into the darkness. “Hello, raccoon critters! I’m just dumping some garbage, don’t mind me and please don’t make a mess!”

For a split second, there was no sound, the air pregnant with a tense silence. Then came a short shriek, and a muffled thud as a tall, human shaped figure stumbled away from the dumpster, spilling onto the street and into the full view of the street lamp. It was a teenage girl, wearing torn jeans, dirty sneakers, and a dark blue hoodie. The girl was facing away from Pinkie, though it was clear from the dirty cloth bag clutched in her hand what she had been up to. Stuffed inside were several dozen pieces of discarded food from the dumpster, from partly moldy tomatoes to half eaten sandwiches. Pinkie was about to call out when she saw the girl’s hair; a single lock of two toned, light and dark blue hair spilled out from inside the pulled-up hood of her hoodie.

“Wait a second. You’re not a raccoon, you’re a Siren!” Pinkie called out, and the girl spun around on the ground, jerking into a sitting position as she stared at Pinkie. A mixture of terror, revulsion, shame, and hatred filled the Siren’s wide, magenta eyes. Her hands were shaking, and she drew them both around herself, dragging the bag full of discarded food with them as she hugged herself tightly. Her mouth opened, her hostile and terrified eyes tight on Pinkie. Instead of spite and hatred, however, only a single whimpered plea escaped the Siren’s lips.

“Please don’t tell Aria.”

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