Tag Archives: Operation Outrigger

[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] #rp-exploration: The Mintaka Claim

Mintaka, also known as Delta Orionis, is a blue giant multi-star system. In the first orbit, there’s a hot “rockball” world. The second and fourth orbits contain asteroid belts. The third orbit is empty.

The fifth orbit contains an Earth-like terrestrial world some 6,000 miles in diameter with about .5 Earth gravity, 15 degrees of axial tilt, a near 24-hour day. It’s got standard atmospheric pressure and an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere. Climate is very cold with icy terrain covering most of the planet. Life forms on the planet include lower animals – varieties of insects, fish, and amphibians. Resources are largely limited to radioactives, with ample supplies of uranium, radium, and thorium (among others)  and industrial metals such as iron, tin, copper, and zinc. Scarce gemstones, no rare/special minerals, no light metals, and no organics such as carbon or fossil fuels.

The sixth and final orbit contains a gas giant.

“Coming up on Mintaka, Captain,” Meuc Sionnach calls out over the intercom as he brings the Pride out of FTL. The star explodes into view, its blue light taking up most of the viewport. The Pyracani puts the vessel into a solar orbit as he looks over what sensor readouts are available to him.

“Anything promising?” Prague asks as he gazes out at the blue giant.

“The second planet seems like one we could walk around on without six spacesuits each,” the pilot says wryly, “No evidence of civilization. In fact I’d say life is a pretty new thing down there.”

“OK,” the captain replies. He fumbles in the pocket of his trenchcoat for a crumpled pack of cigarettes and a scuffed silver lighter. “Lay in a course. Let’s see what’s what.”

The Pyracani fires off the engines to whip the vessel around the star’s gravity. “Slowing for orbit in five minutes, boss,” Sionnach replies, “What exactly are we looking for there?”

“Stuff worth money to someone else, I guess,” Prague says with a shrug as he lights a cig and pokes it into his mouth. He returns the pack and lighter to his coat pocket. The cig bobs between his lips as he speaks: “Figure if we make a rich find, it’ll be worth setting up a stake planetside. Make a claim.”

“Fun times,” Meuc says, “Well, hopefully, we don’t have to dig the whole place up. Some radioactive material, metals, the odd gemstone deposit. Might be able to get some scratch off of plant and animal specimens.”

Prague frowns. “Radioactive? That sounds like a pain in the ass. And maybe profitable. Huh.” Another shrug. He puffs on the cigarette, then looks out the viewport as the Pride passes the gas giant while traveling farther in-system. “Don’t call me captain, by the way. Never been in the military. Hate uniforms. Just call me Vech.”

“Vech it is, then,” Meuc replies grinning as he begins to slow the vessel’s approach to the second planet, “Not a great fan of uniforms myself. Fortunately, the Pyracan military’s uniform is not particularly restrictive.”

“What made you sign up as a soldier, anyway?” Prague asks.

“To prove that I could,” Sionnach says with a grin, “I may not be the biggest and the strongest warrior, but the sky is mine.” Even as he says that, he slips the Pride into orbit. “Anyplace in particular you’d like her put down?” he asks.

“See any warm beaches with cocktails and lounge chairs?” Prague asks.

“That depends,” Sionnach asks, grinning from ear to ear, “Did you bring a bar and some lounge chairs? Oh, and a terraforming crew?”

That gets a smirk from Vechkov. “Maybe our engineer can whip up a decent climate.” He shakes his head, then says, “Pick a decent spot along the equator. Surprise me.”

“Will do,” Meuc replies as the ship begins to enter the atmosphere, making for a point in the late morning sunlight. Not long after, the vessel finds itself nestling into a valley, sheltered from the prevailing wind.

“Good job getting us down without landing sideways,” Sharpers quips via intercom from engineering. “I’ve run diagnostics on the atmosphere suits. They’re, uh, not top of the line, but they should keep us alive for a few hours if you decide to EVA. Y’all knock yourselves out with that. I’ve found some calibration issues in the baffle manifolds for the drive system. Unless one of you wants to tweak that, in which case maybe I will go sightseeing.”

“Want to take a walk, Vech?” the Pyracani asks, fiddling with some of the controls before clambering out of the pilot’s couch. “I could certainly do with a stretch of the legs, myself,” he adds.

Prague shakes his head. “You think I’m leaving my ship in the hands of a near total stranger so I can roam around on this ice bucket? No, thanks.” He takes out another cigarette and lights it. “Take a short EVA. Get some readings of the immediate area.”

The Pyracani smirks faintly at this. “Not afraid of the cold, are you, boss?” he asks, “Well, I’m no scientist, but I’ll do what I can.”  He heads below to get to the job of adjusting the suit to his frame.

“Yeah,” Prague grumbles. “Forgot to pack a scientist. Maybe they’ll have one on the Rucker when we head back for a re-stock.”

Down below, Sharpers watches as Sionnach works his way into the atmosphere suit. “Not too tight, I hope,” she says, approaching to check the seams and seals.

“Seems ok,” the caninoid replies, “Don’t think it was designed with me in mind, though.” When he snaps the helmet in place, his muzzle nearly touches the faceplate. “Think I’ll survive?” he asks, jokingly. Mostly.

“Sure,” Sharpers says with a wry smile. “Unless you die.” She glances up the ladder. “Boss not tagging along?”

“Best part about being the boss, I guess,” Meuc says with a grin as he grabs a scanner and looks it over. Satisfied he can operate at least its basic functions, the pilot steps into the airlock. “Wish me luck,” he calls out as he triggers the hatch cycle.

The icy landscape seems fairly forboding, although the horizon is hemmed in by a ridge of snow-capped mountains to the west. The sky is a pale pinkish-blue. Hard-packed snow waits at the bottom of the Pride’s departure ramp.

Before getting too far from the ship, Sionnach makes a quick scan for any megafauna worth being wary of.

Nothing living in the immediate vicinity raises any sorts of alarm. Just small creatures – nothing bigger than an adult Earth mastiff. Also some mossy fungal patches on the sun-facing cliffs of an eastern ridge. Sensors on the PDA detect mineral resources behind those fungal patches, though – veins of industrial metals, most likely.

Sionnach makes his way over to the cliffs and begins to take some scans of the metals therein. He takes some of the moss in a sample container from his belt.

The cliffs contain rich veins of iron, with some smaller caches of copper and zinc.

“Sionnach to Ekaterina’s Pride,” the caninoid says into his comm, “I’ve picked up some moss samples. There’s a good amount of iron ore here, some trace metals. I’m sending my readings in. Anything you want?”

The response via comms: “Pride here.” It’s Prague. “Complete your scans and head back. We’ll return to Rucker and send word back to the Consortium that we’re staking a claim to the mineral rights on this world. I’ll share if they’re willing to help develop the claim.”

“Acknowledged,” Sionnach says, putting away the sample container as he finishes his scans as well as he can. Once he has done what he is able, he begins to move back towards the ship.

As the Pyracani returns to the Pride, he finds the ramp still down and waiting for him. Prague’s voice comes across the hatch intercom: “All aboard. Sharpers says she’s done with her calibrations. Ready for launch.”

“On my way up, boss,” says the Pyracani as he cycles the airlock and squirms his way back out of the suit.

“Was it as exciting as you imagined?” Sharpers asks. She’s waiting in the corridor next to the airlock as Sionnach returns.

“No, thankfully,” the pilot says with a chuckle, “I don’t suppose you need a whole lot of iron ore downstairs. What do you make of this?” He tosses the sample container of moss to the woman.

She frowns at the container in her hand. “I look like a botanist?” She tosses it back to Sionnach. “Show it to some egghead on the Rucker. Maybe they can sort it out.”

“Fair enough,” the Pyracani says, tossing the container into a storage compartment. “Better get strapped in, going airborne in a second,” he calls back as he bounds up the ladder towards the cockpit.

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[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] #rp-exploration: Under These Alien Stars

A holographic representation of the Vox, Gris of Hatch Vril, appears in mid-air. She’s surrounded by orbs representing the worlds of the Parallax – Nalhom, Lebal, Vollista, Ist’thol’mek, Grimlahd.

“Our goddess is pleased with what we have accomplished so far,” the Vox intones. “But she knows we can do more. We must do more. NOW is the time.”

She goes on: “The children of Nalia must make their mark in the unclaimed stars beyond our homeworlds and beyond the meddlesome interlopers of the Stellar Consortium. YOU must step forward to serve. YOU must give all in the name of the goddess to carry our people forward into the future that awaits us under these alien stars.” The message ends.

A Mekke stands head and shoulders above your average Nall, which is not difficult to do, and this particular insectoid is doing his best to get through the spaceport without getting in anyone’s way or attracting negative attention. Acran finally arrives at the deep-space recon vessel, unarmed and wearing nothing on his carapace other than a small bag of belongings and an insignia representing his status as Interrogator. He arrives at the airlock and taps the call button.

A Nall voice replies via the Brazen Star’s intercom: “State identification and assignment.”

“I am Acran, ID# 487902-33758,” the Mekke clacks into a translator device from his bag,  “Assigned as replacement interrogator for Voltissa.”

“Ah, yes,” comes the reply over speakers. “That was quite a mess. Perhaps you will survive longer. Report to Ur’Huluth Tyalavikil on the bridge.” The airlock hatch thunks open.

“My thanks,” the Mekke replies as he skuttles aboard. He makes his way to the bridge and approaches the command chair. /Greetings, Ur’Huluth,/ he sends, /Interrogator Acran, reporting in./

The scar-faced Nall commander of the Brazen Star swivels his goggled gaze toward the Mekke. Both eyes, presumably lost in battle, are covered by blood-red glowing lenses. He replies: “Speak aloud to me at all times unless otherwise ordered. That is to be your default. Intrude into my mind again without permission and I will have your head.”

The Mekke bows, spreading wings as he retrieves his translator again. “My apologies, Ur’Huluth,” he clacks into it, “And I appreciate your forbearance this time. It will not happen again.”

“Good,” Tyalavikil replies. “The goddess expects greatness from you during your service aboard the Brazen Star. Once you get settled in your bunk, report to the ship’s information minister for further briefings. Huth Zohikavir. She will keep you apprised of any mission-vital data.”

“Understood, Ur’Huluth, it is my pleasure to serve,” the translator replies as Acran bows once again before heading below to stow his few belongings. This takes little enough time, and Acran is soon approaching the information minister’s office.

Crouched in a swing suspended on chains within a domed chamber, Zohikavir regards the newly arrived Mekke with gnashed fangs. Her tail lashes back and forth. “Interrogator,” she says, bowing her snout in deference to the Mekke. She raises a tattooed palm in salute. Lifting her beady black eyes to stare at Acran, she adds: “Departure is within the hour. I feared you might miss this opportunity.”

/Huth,/ the Mekke sends, also bowing in response, /I am glad I received the orders in time. The Ur’Huluth sent me to you for briefing on the mission./

“Our primary mission is to observe the activities of this vessel.” She waves a clawed hand in the air, bringing up an image of a Consortium vessel. “The Zheng Fe.” She swivels her snout to regard Acran. “Our secondary mission is to gather evidence that the Ur’Huluth is conspiring against the Vox and the interests of the Parallax.”

/That explains his reticence to allow telepathic communication,/ Acran sends, while reaching out very gently to the officer’s mind. Just a touch to confirm the truth of the information, with the telepathic message used as cover.

“No, that is just his usual professional paranoia,” Zohi of Hatch Kavir responds. Her comments seem truthful. “But we should be wary of any efforts on his part to undermine Parallax interests in the exploration region.”

/I see/ the Mekke replies, clacking his mandibles, /Do let me know if there is anything specific I can do to serve the Vox./

“For now, feel free to roam the ship and observe the crew,” she says. “Report any anomalous or aberrant behavior.”

/Of course,/ Acran replies, offering slight bow before scuttling out into the corridor.

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[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] #rp-exploration: Good Help

Following the announcement to begin exploration efforts, Galactix can’t resist the chance to flex his exploratory muscles once again and experience open space. Ensuring an adequate supply of fuel, he departs Sol, heading towards the galactic Southwest, and what lies beyond.

“Yezzyezz,” mutters the Lotorian known as Vizgwyr as he lopes down one of the long corridors aboard Galactix. He’s got a PDA in one hand and a battered satchel slung over his shoulder. “Excellent!”

“Welcome aboard.” Galactix voice says.

“Many thankzzz, big talky ship!” Vizgwyr replies, sliding to a stop outside his quarters. “Glad to be here, yezyez!”

“Glad to have you aboard.” Galactix says. “We are on our way, so if there is anything you might require, don’t hesitate to ask. We’re setting course for the Horsehead Nebula”

The Lotorian walks into his small bunk area, shoving his satchel below the cot where he’ll sleep. He ponders what Galactix said, then replies: “I’ve been wondering, yezzyezz. Why is it called Horsehead? I have seen images. What horse on Earth looks like that?”

“A very good question.” Galactix says. “Though from their history humans have a tendency to try to find images in almost anything. Though if I were to compare the shape to an actual creature, the “sea horse” seems to be more fitting.”

“Something tells me it won’t look much like any kind of horse, the closer we get, yezyez,” Vizgwyr muses. He settles onto his cot. Tugs the satchel out from below. Starts rummaging through his meager belongings. “If help you need, just shout, yezyez. Like to earn my keep.”

“Very true. It is, after all, simply a gas cloud in space.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr finds something that looks like an ancient vacuum tube – the kind of gadget that might be found in one of the old cabinet-style televisions. He cradles it in his slender-fingered hands. “What you think we find out there?”

“A question with potentially infinite answers.” Galactix says. “At a minimum, we may find worlds suitable to colonize. We may meet races and civilizations as of yet unknown to us. Space phenomena that have never been observed before. And given that vile creature that eats ships, potentially hazards we have not even conceived of.”

“Oh, that big chew-chew thing. Very bad, yez-yez,” the Lotorian agrees. He turns the tube over in his hand. “So, what you need doing? Things broken need fixing?”

“At the moment my systems are fully operational, however before we departed I acquired several sensor probes and a used shuttlecraft in case they are needed once we reach our intended destinations.” Galactix says. “They are, however, notably second hand, and likely in need of repair. Would you be able to go over them and ensure they are in working order?”

“Yez-yez!” Vizgwyr tucks the tube back into the satchel and hops to his feet, tail sweeping back and forth. “I do this!”

“Very good. You should find all the materials and tools if you require them.” Galactix says. “They are in the hangar bay secured in berths one and two.”

The Lotorian capers down the corridor toward the hangar bay. “Must get to work, yez-yez!”

The transit to the nebula is long and tedious, at least from Galactix’ point of view. Hour upon hour of hurtling through space at relativistic speeds, sensors watching for errant space debris and other hazards. This monotony, however, is broken by a warning alarm flashing on Galactix’ bridge. In an instant, his consciousness focuses on the warning, and a sense of urgency overcomes him. His voice echoes from above where Vizgwyr is working. “Mr. Vizgwyr, a situation is arising in my engineering section that I will need assistance with. My sensors are indicating that a oscillation is beginning within my propulsion field that will soon lead to an imbalance. We must find the source soon or the drive will become unstable.”

The Lotorian gathers up his tools, stuffs them haphazardly into his satchel, and then scampers down the corridor. “On the way! On the way! Yezyezyez! On the…” His voice trails off as he reaches a junction of five corridors. “Which way?!”

“Turn left, take the turbolift down two decks, turn right,   turn left, and take the blast doors.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr follows the given directions. Eventually he finds himself in the engineering section. “Ok! Where thing need fixing?”

The room pulses with power flowing from the central main reactor to the Spindrive propulsion units on either side. From these, conduits carry the field energy to the nacelles outside the ship. The starboard one pulses regularly, but the port side is pulsing irregularly. “The portside unit is showing an irregularity in the field coils. They may be out of adjustment.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr hauls his tools to the portside unit and peruses the system, conducting his own analysis to confirm the findings of Galactix. Assuming the findings are confirmed, he’ll look for the best method of adjusting the field coils.

The analysis shows that several of the coils are out of adjustment by up to 12 microns. Not enough to cause collapse of the propulsion field as of yet, but there are indications others are continuing to slip out of adjustment. If they reach a misalignment of 20 microns, the field will become dangerously unstable.

“Oh, not good, not good, no-noz,” the Lotorian says, making a tsk sound as he rummages through the satchel in search of the proper tool. “Realignment not take long.”

“I have engaged the safety interlocks.” Galactix says.

Vizgwyr bobs his snout, then sets to work on the repair. “How often you get standard maintenance?” the Lotorian inquires while fiddling with the settings.

“Not as often as I would like.” Galactix replies. “My repair nanites can handle damage, but situations such as this still require a ‘personal touch’ so to speak.”

“Gonna be important, we out for long time,” the Lotorian chides. His work continues.

“Difficult without an active crew.” Galactix says. “Though I am most appreciative of your assistance.”

“Glad to help, yezyez,” Vizgwyr replies. “Gonna get you set straight! No time!”

“Very good. We are still steady on course, We should be arriving within the next two days.” Galactix says.

The Lotorian finishes his work on Galactix. “Ready to go, yezyez! Not too shabby. How you like? Feel good, yezyez?”

“Ahh.. much better. The field is back within operational limits.” Galactix says. “In fact there is an 8.9 percent increase in efficiency.”

“Excellent! Glad to help, yezyez,” Vizgwyr replies with a smile.
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[SLACK ROLEPLAYING LOG] #rp-exploration: Target Acquisition

The Ekaterina’s Pride arrives at its first stop after leaving Ungstir Prime: the rendezvous checkpoint established by the fuel tanker Rucker.

After Meuc Sionnach drops the ship to sublight, he begins to scan the heavens for the tanker ship. “Heading, boss?” he asks, glancing back at Prague.

“Get docking clearance and arrange for the tank top-off,” Prague replies. “Then you and Sharpers can check in with the Rucker’s crew, see what other supplies they might have on hand that we can use.”

“Understood,” Sionnach replies with a curt nod as he sends out the generic request and maneuvers the ‘Pride into position. Once the operation is complete, he squeezes out of his seat and slides down the ladder to the engine compartment. “Sharpers,” he calls as he lands, “Anything we need down here?”

The blonde woman looks over at the caninoid as she closes the equipment locker next to the main generator housing. “A dust mop. And a rudimentary set of engineering alignment tools. I don’t know much about our boss or this ship, but I can tell right away he’s not a ship person and it hasn’t had a decent wrench monkey on hand in a long time. We’re lucky nothing went wrong on the way from Ungstir. We won’t stay lucky.”

“You picked up on that too, eh?” Meuc replies with a chuckle, “Alright, boss says he wants us to head over to the Rucker and see about picking up anything we need from them while we refuel.”

Sharpers nods.  “OK. I’ll tag along. I mean, I could give you a list…but, no offense…”

“Fair point,” the Pyracani replies with a chuckle as he clambers up the ladder and opens the airlock on their side after checking to make sure they have a good docking seal.

In the docking bay of the Rucker, Captain Miranda Lee stands with a couple of crew, going over the current inventory status of the tanker. “We should have enough for the first wave of Operation Outrigger – say, a month. But we’re going to need resupply after that.”

“Permission to come aboard,” Meuc calls ahead cheerily as he makes his way out of the airlock.

The Rucker’s captain nods to the Pyracani. “Welcome aboard,” she says. “I’m Captain Lee.”

Eloise Sharpers follows Sionnach out of the Pride, taking in the surroundings with a scrutinizing gaze that could be mistaken for an engineer’s curiosity.

“Meuc Sionnach,” the caninoid replies, “Pilot of the Ekaterina’s Pride, Project Outrigger. Captain Prague sends his regards. This is Eloise Sharpers, our engineer. She’s got a list of items we need before we head out there. Hoping you might oblige.”

Captain Lee nods. “I’ll take a look at your list. Obviously, supplies are rather limited and we’ve got to stretch out what we’ve got, but we’ll do what we can for you.”

The Pyracani nods to Eloise, then turns back to Captain Lee. “So are we the first ones out here?” he asks, his ears tilted forward in curiosity.

Sharpers transfers the list from her PDA. Captain Lee confirms the manifest transmission, then looks at Sionnach: “Not the first, no. Won’t be the last, either. Vannie ship headed out not too long ago.”

“I guess we’d better move as quick as we can if we want to get out there first,” Sionnach says with a grin.

The Rucker’s captain nods. She waves her PDA. “I’ll get this order together quick as I can. Relax on your ship or take advantage of the community lounge on the Rucker.” She turns and walks off.

“I could use a chance to stretch my legs,” Sionnach says, glancing over at Eloise, “You? The flight couch is clearly designed with humanoids in mind.”

The Pride’s engineer shrugs. “Can’t do much else without the gear I need.” She watches as personnel from the Rucker set to work refueling the Ungstiri transport.

“Sounds good to me,” Meuc says, grinning. The Pyracani begins to make his way into the interior of the tanker, following signs, or asking for directions to the aforementioned community lounge.

Sharpers follows along, keeping an eye on the signs as they go. “Wonder which Vannie ship went out,” she muses. Turns a corner toward the lounge. “Got a friend or two in the military.”

“We’re pretty far out from the Consortium, on Pyracan,” the pilot says as he glances around the room looking for a source of … refreshment. “Fact, we weren’t even sure it was real until pretty recently. True, we had “outversers” popping up every day, but everybody thought they were from somewhere else…”

There’s a coffee maker. A water dispenser. A snack machine that sells Fizzy Cakes.

Sharpers pours herself a cup of coffee. “I’ve heard of those rift people. Never met one.”

“I’ve met a few,” Sionnach replies with a shrug, “They’re just people. Bit confused, obviously, but still people.” A bit disappointed, he nevertheless makes himself a cup of coffee as well, “So, what made you want to rush off into nowhere with Captain Prague?”

The woman takes a sip of coffee. It’s weak, but passable. Perhaps Captain Lee wasn’t kidding about making supplies last for the long haul. Sharpers replies: “Got tired of seeing the inside of an engine room of a void-jumper in Sol System. Decided I needed a change of scenery to the engine room of a ship somewhere else.”

The fighter jock chuckles as he sips at the coffee, not seeming to notice any lack of quality. “Well, hopefully you’re not stuck down there too much. If we’re lucky, they’ll be all kinds of new stuff to see.”

“I don’t care much about that,” she replies. “I’m happy enough with the machinery. I’ll leave the excitement to you and the captain.”

“More fun for me, then,” Sionnach says, laughing, “So how long you been a … what did you call it? Wrench monkey?”

“A few years,” Sharpers answers before taking another sip of coffee. “Before that I was a teacher. It turns out I hate kids.”

“Quite the career change,” says the Pyracani as he glances down at his chrono, “Anyway, they should be just about done. I’m gonna head back.”

“I’ll follow along in a bit,” she says, holding up her cup. “Not going to rush the last decent coffee I’m likely to have for a while.”

“Enjoy,” Meuc says as he disposes of his empty cup. “Let us know when you’re aboard,” he adds on the way out.

Sharpers nods to the Pyracani as he departs. She lingers in the lounge, long enough for her coffee to get cold. She pours a fresh cup. Finally, one of the refueling crew from the Rucker arrives to get his own refreshment. She strikes up a conversation. Even flirts a little bit. Soon enough, she bids him farewell, pours her coffee in the sink, and then walks out of the lounge, tapping out a last message before departing into the unknown. Just two words: “ZHENG HE.”

That done, she wanders back to the docking bay and appears gleeful at the array of gadgets the Rucker team managed to pull together. She gathers her supplies and proceeds aboard. Once inside the airlock, she notifies the cockpit via intercom: “All set.”

“Thanks for joining us,” the quip comes back as the ship begins to whir to life as the pilot prepares to undock.

“OK,” Prague says. “Next stop is Delta Orionis System. Old maps call it Mintaka. Pretty sure the Sorties are going to Alnitak. May as well steer clear of ’em.”

“Sounds good,” Meuc replies, making the requisite calculations, “Setting course for Delta Orionis. Laid in and ready.”

“Off we go then,” Prague says.

Down in engineering, Sharpers starts unloading her supplies. The PDA chimes. Good timing, she thinks. Another few minutes and they’d have left immediate range of the Rucker’s deployed comm sensor buoy – the last outpost for sending messages back to the known worlds until a new network got built outward to the Horsehead Nebula (probably part of the Zheng He’s agenda).

She checks the PDA. The message reads: “CONFIRMED: TARGET ABOARD.” The image of Armand Levante, ensign in the Vanguard, materializes on the holodisplay.

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