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Changes to the Horus Heresy Fluff - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly


Roomsky
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This topic appears to be taking over another thread (and for that matter, every Siege of Terra thread) so here's a dedicated one where you can have at it.

Discuss what you think were good additions to the Heresy narrative! What you thought was a poor decision, or mishandled entirely? Debate your fellow fraters about the value of Perpetuals!

Please try to include positives (however small) as well so it doesn't devolve into a rant thread.

Some possible topics include:

  • Perpetuals
  • The Cabal
  • Brand-new legion fluff
  • Retcons
  • Plot Armour
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I'll start: I actually think the Cabal was a good idea.

I mean, it was horribly mishandled, but conceptually I'm on board. If you're expanding the Heresy into a proper galaxy-wide war instead of just Horus making a mad dash to Terra, it would be odd if no xenos got involved (Farseers probably would have been having horrific premonitions for years in advance.) It's a common complaint that war as depicted in Warhammer don't properly acknowledge scale, and a rogue faction like the Cabal (and their opponents, like Eldrad) would go a long way to adding the necessary complexity to events.

My major issue with them is that they didn't really do anything beyond motivating the Alpha Legion and messing with Vulkan's resurrection. How about instead you have them more involved with some of the legions that had nothing written about their heresy actions instead of adding actions against the traitors that make both sides look like idiots (looking at you, Salamanders.)

Instead of retconning Alpharius' reasons for defecting, instead they could have had some intrigue and espionage-focussed plots with legions like the Salamanders, Night Lords, or Dark Angels. It would have spared us Vulkan Lives and whatever the hell's supposed to be going on with the First legion, at least. Would have the added bonus of not turning the Night Lords into cartoonish parodies of themselves.

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I definetly like the change of the legion size! I think they were changed after 'Flight of the Eisenstein' from the standard of 10.000 to 100.000. This makes the heresy appear on a much larger scale. 

What I do not like is that in the consequence a company commander should lead about 10.000 Astrates, but in most of the novels only directs numbers up to 1.000. 

Edited by Tolmeus
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The Cabal were an excellent idea. A loose alliance of xenos, headed by the always-manipulative Eldar, was a wonderful possibility as a 'third party' for the Heresy. Always lurking in the shadows, working towards their own goals, an entity that saw a chance to buck humanity from their place at the top of the food chain (whether that was for personal gain, or to genuinely stop Chaos, or something inbetween is a solid hook). We see the Imperium roll over just about every alien civilisation around: it would have been particularly interesting to see that policy come back and bite them, quite directly. Could've been a good avenue to explore Chaos xenos that we see with, say, the Laer.

The Perpetuals aren't the worst idea. The Emperor's shamanistic origins always suggested that humanity were a race with incredible psychic potential. The Emperor having put down his competition and either subverted or driven to ground others who could challenge him is particularly on-brand. The idea of secret councils, groups, power struggles dominating the history of humanity ain't exactly an alien concept, either, though I would have liked to see less 'real world modern' and more allusion to humanity's rise to the stars and the struggles that must have been part of that. It's easier to keep everyone under your thumb when you're on one planet, but out amongst the stars - lot more room for difference of opinion.

Unfortunately, they feel like they lean far too much into 'modern character transplanted into the far future'. Too... standard sci-fi, perhaps, and the way they were written never helped. Pryantis is probably the most egregious example, but Grammaticus isn't great, either. Sureka is solid. Erda could've been an earth-shaking reveal and generated enormous excitement if she'd ever been hinted at (and if she didn't retread the same general ground and character as the excellent Amar Astarte). If we'd been given more hints about the Emperor's 'chief scientist', forgotten/erased/banished in the same way as the Lost Primarchs, I think her reveal would have gone down a banger. Having Malcador or Valdor obliquely talk about her or similar with the 'mystery' of the Primarch creation, or other characters recalling 'that woman', anything of that nature. 

Ultimately, I think a lot of the issues were caused by 'feature creep'. It's easy to look back with hindsight and say: well, we needed the setup for this, and we needed X event to lead more neatly into Y. But some things worked and some didn't, some plotlines were kept and others dropped as the scope of the Heresy series advanced. Growing pains are always a thing, and while it's disappointing that not everything managed to turn out great, that's just the nature of the beast.

It's easy to be excited about getting the NEW HOTNESS into words - it's much harder to build it into a proper plotline over a multi-book, multi-author series.

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You know, when I first read the Saturnine spoilers I thought Erda WAS Astarte, a secret perpetual back from the dead, so similar were their descriptions / roles in the story. I'm not sure if that would have been better or worse than what we ultimately got.

My view on the perpetuals is fairly similar, I'm not against them in concept but they're probably the most obnoxiously executed of the Heresy's weird half-aborted ideas. I never tied the annoyance to their "visitors from our time" characterization but in hindsight that's a good summation of why so many of us hate Prytanis. I don't hate the concept but they don't seem to acknowledge that the Imperium is a post-apocalyptic setting. While I agree that time period should remain ill-defined, their non-acknowledgment the golden age of technology and mankind is... strange. 

Really I think they were underused in fleshing out 30k and simultaneously overused in key plot points that should have enough dramatic weight on their own.

EDIT: To articulate my thoughts a bit better, if we needed Perpetuals they're the perfect civilian window into life pre-Crusade, since almost no mortals would be left 200 years into the Great Crusade who experience Old Night firsthand. If someone lived through humanity's golden age, the dark age of technology, and Old Night, they should have seen wonders and horrors so extreme that any events in the 21st century would be just completely inconsequential to them unless that's when they were born. Prytanis should be mentioning things like "if you think this Compliance is bad, you should have seen this world 600 years ago when the Cannibal Overlords ruled," or "I miss the food replicators. Imperial food is all substance no flash," instead of "lol remember when I killed MLK?"

Edited by Roomsky
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I just dont understand what the point is or they have been so dramatically under used in conveying that point that they all seem vestigial to the story itself.

About the only time the whole arc started to make sense, is when it was revealed Ol' was the Emperor's Warmaster when they took down the Tower of Babel. 

The gnawing suspicion that we are going to get a 'grand reveal' at the last minute to make the Perpetuals worth while, is only countered by the annoyance that they may end up just filling space in the series and doing nothing of worth.

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I was not a fan of the early depictions of Sanguinius in the novels. As a BA player since 1st edition, I felt they totally failed to capture his magnificence. Even Horus felt he should have been Warmaster. Fortunately authors did better after the Imperium Secundus storyline. Sanguinius really has the heaviest plot armour of anyone in the setting at this point. He literally knows he is not going to die on Terra but he also knows that it is time-limited and comes with the ultimate price tag.

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think it makes sense if you look at the Perpetuals as prototypical 'main characters'. They tick all the boxes: modern sensibilities (for the most part), large knowledge of the world and history, relatable in both a linguistic and tonal way (Grammaticus is 'modern spy guy', Oll is deliberately portrayed as 'everyman'), and afforded plenty of 'tools' to use to get them into and out of various events. The narrative of the Cabal gives Grammaticus a bunch of alien guff to call on as-needed, and Legion would seem to position the Alpha Legion to always be on-hand to deus ex machina anything within the Loyalist or Traitor organisations. What made books like Gaunt's Ghosts or Eisenhorn successful were those 'human' characters. That's pretty much always the foremost praise. What better way to contrast the great, inhuman Space Marines and particularly Primarchs - or to anchor an overarching narrative - than a couple of plucky humans? 

You can see other characters that feel like they were earmarked for 'main character' status, too. Loken and Garro are pretty obvious, but Erebus is everywhere in the early/mid-Heresy and fairly firmly attached to every subplot kickin' about. He's at Calth, he's with the Shadow Crusade, he gets Signus Prime rolling, he's a big player in the Perpetual plot around Unremembered Empire, he whispered in Horus' ear through the opening trilogy, he gets the fulgurite, so on, so forth. 

Then it turned out that people really, really loved the Primarchs and they were the big sellers (who knew?). No need for plucky humans or alien cabals - just good ol' biffo between spacedads.

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12 minutes ago, wecanhaveallthree said:

think it makes sense if you look at the Perpetuals as prototypical 'main characters'. They tick all the boxes: modern sensibilities (for the most part), large knowledge of the world and history, relatable in both a linguistic and tonal way (Grammaticus is 'modern spy guy', Oll is deliberately portrayed as 'everyman'), and afforded plenty of 'tools' to use to get them into and out of various events.

Thats simply...not the story of the Heresy though.

Its not supposed to be relatable with modern sensibilities. I dont need Joe's perspective. I need Angrons.

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Ollianius needed to be a Perpetual and long-time friend of the Emperor

The death of a single Guardsman is meaningless to the Emperor who technically tortures countless kids every day (Astartes, Webways, Xeno Kids burned alive, etc) and doesn't give a :cuss: about anything except Malcador, Custodes and Old Perpetuals.

Horus is going to be more powerful than the Emperor and the latter isn't holding back in this version of the duel. Olly being a Perpetual is needed to actually contribute something to the duel.

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I'm not sure I'd wholly agree with that. The story of the Heresy should necessarily include humanity, not simply spacedads biffing. This was, even through the lens of in-setting history, a time when humanity conquered the galaxy. The reason Horus Rising gets so much love, I think, is because it asks a very important question: well, what next? What would the Imperium have become without the Heresy? Would it have improved? Was it sustainable? How was the average life of the average Imperial during this supposedly great age? Improving? Declining? What was - to borrow a meme - the Emperor's tax policy?

We don't connect as much with a 'loss' if we don't see the 'triumph' first. That's an unfortunate problem with the Heresy books: everything's just sort of crap everywhere, anyway. As Roomsky's edit above says, there's no point where Grammaticus or Oll square up and are like 'yeah, compliance is pretty awful, but Narthan Dume was literally filling continental sacrificial pits a hundred years ago and he was one of the nicer techo-barbarians'. I feel like that sense of hope for a better tomorrow is sadly missing. Nobody really envisions a prettier future. They just get stuck into the biffing. There's this sense of great resignation about the whole affair, that everybody's read the tagline - in the grim darkness of the far future, there's only gonna be war - so why really bother?

That's where the Perpetuals could've been best-used, perhaps. People who have seen humanity rise and fall, the good and the bad, and have plans for an uncertain future - or at least an idea of what that future might be. 

Edited by wecanhaveallthree
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I don’t think there are many things they added to the HH over the series that were bad ideas as such.  There are a couple that were handled so badly that it may have been better to not have been used as all (Perpetuals and the Cabal have been pointed out already).

I have said elsewhere that the series would have been better structured as a setting rather than as a continuous rolling storyline.  This would have allowed a central spine to progress the main HH storyline with side series to follow the characters and situations thrown up by the main books.  Subplots like the Cabal, Perpetuals, Shattered Legions, Imperium Secundus, etc, could then spin out into as many novels/novellas as required without bogging down the overall storyline.

Hopefully, they will use this as format if they do progress into a Scouring series.  Then we can following the main storyline (Imperial forces pursuing the Heretic forces as they retreat into the Eye of Terror) while also reading about the main subplots (Iron Cage, Fall of Caliban, Legion Wars within the EoT, early days of the new born Chapters, etc) as they arise within the main arc. 

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Wraight taking liberties made the entire White Scars story beyond Chondax possible, and I will happily go to the mat for his interpretation of just what Mortarion's angle was. Particularly as he was having to bounce off two others who don't appear to have tried to coordinate at all.

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some changes/things i didn't like...albeit sometimes the execution was decent to very good.

- Alpha Legion corrupting the Raven Guard's attempt to rebuild their legion.

- Fulgrim's daemon sword entirely replacing the broader Slaanesi corruption during his parley with Horus. This would have made a better subplot for a captain or lord commander imo.

- Wraight's alterations to the Death Guard/Mortarion's fall to Nurgle. Buried Dagger was a mediocre depiction of the becalming, but the underlying narrative was solid. Mortarion was the one fall where not having too much agency against the lengthy machinations of the gods was a nice aspect that i didn't like being muddled.

- Swallow retconning the Ka'Bandha vs Sanguinius confrontations

- WAAAY too many primarch fights. They have ended up full of rehashed events like the repeated use of last minute saves by their marines, or tanking an attack to deal your own killing/fight ending blow. Having every single daemon primarch banished/defeated in single combat was gratuitous. I'd have kept the siege fights down to one or two. Emphasise the massive size of the frontlines more, and keep one or two around for a depiction of King's image of them looking back  on the devastation.

- Forgeworld Dark Angels Crusade background was a big drop in quality from the earlier books. A good core bloated out with nonsense that read like it came from a 10 year olds first homebrew chapter.

Edited by Fedor
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On 9/15/2022 at 12:36 PM, Tolmeus said:

I definetly like the change of the legio size! I think they were changed after 'Flight of the Eisenstein' from 10.000 to 100.000 as standard size. Makes the whole Heresy appear on a bigger scale. 

What I do not like is that in the consequence a company commander should lead about 10.000 Astrates, but in most of the novels only directs numbers up to 1.000. 

Yap, I could not agree more. The size of the Legions makes perfect sense with the boost to the 100-200k range but BL authors seem singularly ill-equipped to really handle it.

For one thing, despite most Legions having a lovingly thorough chain of logical command titles with clear definitions, the authors cycle through the title and command of their characters as if they were trying to audition for a circus.

One recent example, which is not a spoiler imo, is from Echoes. Amit has a scene where he says 'Im a captain, why am I making strategic decisions?'

I love the book and all but holy hell that drove into my skull that ADB does not know what a captain's job description is. A captain of a hundred mortals makes strategic decisions and arguably has no place seemingly fighting solo, much less a commander of a Legion that likes making alpha strikes, a methodology that infamously requires alot of strategic planning.

But to a degree I blame mandated bolterporn making authors feel like they need their PoVs up to their guts in gore every few minutes and about to die or the sky will fall down.

Edited by StrangerOrders
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As an Iron Hands fan, I absolutely hate the lack of attention they received, and that what little attention they did get was just painfully bad.
 

The Primarch novella took a great battle from the Forge World write-up and turned it into Ferrus Manus blindly stumbling into every obvious trap, and utterly dumbfounded that the enemy is using strategies that Ferrus knew they used, as they were the whole reason his presence was needed, and he’d censured the Thousand Dons and Ultramarines for being beaten by. When it wasn’t busy giving Ferrus the tactical awareness of a blind charging rhino, it was having Emperors Children, led by Captain Marius Suevius, just effortlessly upstaging the Iron Hands in everything they do.
The story even ends with Ferrus Manus sulking at Marius Suevius’ funeral after he heroically sacrificed himself to save Ferrus after he mindlessly blundered into yet another trap, and telling Fulgrim that this whole story proved that he’s not a good commander. The other Emperors Children characters end their arc by vowing to honour the sacrifice of their Iron Hands counterpart “in our way, by doing our utmost to surpass his every achievement.” Hooray for the Iron Hands!

The only other stuff they got was the Shattered Legions stuff by McNeil, which I could never get into given it was about a character given the least inventive name ever. 
“The Legion came from a planet named Medusa, whose inhabitants are referred to as Medusan, I’ll call their main Black Library character Shadrak Meduson!”

May as well have a Blood Angel character, Captain Ballite, next to Wolf Lord Fehnrusian, Ultramarine Lord McCraggiyan, and Dark Angel Master Kallibbanite. 
 

 

Edited by Lord_Caerolion
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I really dislike the retcon to the Council or Nikea.

 

Used to be Sorcery was outlawed and was defined as bargaining with Warp Entities for greater Psychic power. Psykers were OK but had to be monitored to ensure they didn't step over into sorcery. This retcon sadly made the Sixth giant hypocrites.

 

I'm still unsure how I feel about Predators being able to take Lascannon turret. It does make more sense that it WAS part of the STC and was subsequently misplaced/lost for millenia and I actually kind of like that idea, it showcases the technological loss beautifully.

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On 9/16/2022 at 9:53 PM, Fedor said:

Swallow retconning the Ka'Bandha vs Sanguinius confrontations

Sanguiniius’s defeat of Kabandah in Fear to Tread probably shouldn’t have happened at all. Instead the climax sees Sanguinius kicking ass and then the author tries to paint it as loss. The BA’s overall arc would have had the potential for much more drama if they actually lost - and lost hard - by the end.

On an entirely different note, Alpharius’s main revelation in the book of the same name was excellent. 

 

 

 

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One thing I'm ambivalent about is the seven year duration of the Heresy, expanded out from the prior Collected Visions artbooks stuff. 

Previous material, while not specific on timelines, dates, etc., carried strong implications that everything happened extremely rapidly. Events like Isstvan, Prospero, Signus, Calth could occur in such succession because they were near simultaneous. Horus' campaign on Terra after the Drop Site Massacre was a blitz, going straight for the throat ASAP.

On the one hand, the expanded timespan is fantastic from a setting perspective, especially for collectors and gamers. It immensely opens up all kinds of potential for concepts like Blackshields and other renegades, side campaigns in homebrewed sectors of the galaxy, personalized Legiones detachments, and all that.

It also makes practical sense that a galaxy-spanning apocalyptic war takes time to wage. As an example, let's take an extremely simplified model. Say you're taking on an empire of exactly one million planets. You conquer one planet every day; every 24 hours you can travel to, attack, and completely take over one planet, You even are so amazing that you never lose any of that conquered territory, and it never takes you more than one day per planet. It would take you 2,739.73 years to conquer that empire. Obviously, a galactic war would not be fought in exactly this way. Nevertheless, it would still take time for a war the scale of the Heresy to play out.

 

On the other hand, from a story and novel series perspective, ay yi yi. They wanted to ensure that all the established events still occurred in some way, shape, or form. Fair enough. But oof did having to stretch things out across seven years result in some ham-fisted, , pile-splicing contrivances for things to play out, with padded story arcs, nonsensical character behaviors within the new context, broken pacing, and utter lack of focus on many central characters *cough* HORUS *cough*.

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On 9/15/2022 at 7:36 PM, Tolmeus said:

I definetly like the change of the legio size! I think they were changed after 'Flight of the Eisenstein' from 10.000 to 100.000 as standard size. Makes the whole Heresy appear on a bigger scale. 

What I do not like is that in the consequence a company commander should lead about 10.000 Astrates, but in most of the novels only directs numbers up to 1.000. 

I agree the legion size change was definitely warranted and one of the better Heresy choices 

Although completely disagree that a “Company” Commander should then be leading 10,000 Astartes

We’re talking about “30k legion” sized force here so the fact we now have a clear and large command chain makes is the only outcome that makes sense. You can’t rely on a single Captain to lead 10,000 Astartes effectively you need a large robust chain of command, It’s the right choice having the leadership scale match the 40K counterpart. So Captain/Centurion leads roughly 100 Astartes and Chapter Master [Or Equivalent Rank] leads roughly 1000 and so on to the Praetor/Lord Commanders leading whole crusade fleets just makes sense. It also aids to the whole “this is on a bigger scale” they were aiming for 

Who’s supposed to lead the 10 chapter sized sub company’s of 1000 warriors within your 10,000 Astartes strong company? A lieutenant? A sub commander? And then who leads the 100 strong force than now doesn’t really get a name? It just doesn't really make much sense logically.

Astartes in 30k are still just as effective as their 40k counterparts [Even though their combat doctrines and modus operandi are considerably different] So it’s only right their chain of command also roughly matches 

 

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My only real complaint with the Heresy is I wished they “Played the Hits” rather than the meandering filler stories we got around the mid point it left quite a few legions with almost no word count [Blood Angels] and some with way to many

Because of this it really didn’t make me feel this was a desperate galaxy sized war to get Terra, we got almost zero books on those themes [Securing supply line issues, Political machinations, Bastions worlds and last stands trying to stall the traitor advance etc] so some legions kind of felt like they were just meandering towards their own objectives 

I get that a lot of authors though this was just going to be a setting in which to write as Dan Abnett has previously stated but I think it’s turned out as a missed opportunity 

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God yeah, Chains of command in 40k are typically bloody awful because the authors have no idea how armies work, and i think mostly due to the number inflation, the 30k Legions are the absolute worst for it. Space marines can probably get by with less officers than humans but they do still need them and given the suicidal ways they tend to act, a bit of redundancy is probably a good thing! 

So yeah, a clutch of Lieutenants working under a Captain leading under 200 troops, Then the Colonel-ish Senior captain leader of a thousand or so with another clutch of i guess, more captains working under them and the Praetors as Generals with their own staff officers in charge of 10k+ troops and a Primarch on top like a decorative cherry :P 

But yeah, Captains lead company sized forces like in the 40/30k games so its Captains all the way up apparently, except the huge number of Generals getting their hands literally dirty or standing in shield walls. Arrrrrrg.

I do understand that im a huge nerd, yes. :P 

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Another idea I thought was great but floundered in execution: Imperium Secundus

Like, if you're going to expand the timeline of the Heresy I think conceptually this was a brilliant move. Guilliman is completely cut off from the core Imperial worlds, of course he'd try to form an enclave of loyalists instead of bashing his fleet into a warpstorm. But as with so many of the new Heresy additions, the focus really wasn't where it needed to be.

First, it was way overstuffed. We absolutely didn't need 4 primarchs involved (and arguably, we didn't need more than Guilliman.) I appreciate the tensions of another legion arriving and questioning if Guilliman's being reasonable or just making a power play, but honestly I don't think any of those present were the right picks. The Night Lords and the Dark Angels didn't benefit from Imperium Secundus shenanigans (especially Curze, who just devolved further and further into a Saturday Morning Cartoon Villain as the books progressed) - they should have stuck to Thramas. The Blood Angels shouldn't be occupying the same space as a legion that doesn't make it to Terra either, just extend the timey-wimey ball around Signus and have them carve a bloody path to Terra once freed. Really, Russ might have been the better candidate if you needed that loyalist conflict - it would have been a damn site better than him returning to Terra then leaving again.

This is just my personal preference but Imperium Secundus really needed more perspectives from the civilians and functionaries. I don't really know what anyone outside the legions thought of Guilliman's short-lived empire, and I think that's a huge problem. The whole premise is such a diplomatic :cuss:-show that focusing on big combat actions is honestly just a waste.

And instead of, say, the traitors (and maybe a few loyalists?) working hard to exploit Guilliman's decision and keep any clues from Terra's survival from reaching him before something inevitably slips through an Guilliman has to really grapple with the magnitude of his logical choices - we got a confession from Curze that really doesn't prove anything but is apparently the ultimate signifier that the Emperor lives. I'm sure people were getting tired of Word Bearers by then but Lorgar or Erebus running a counter-intelligence campaign would have worked so much better than a bunch of pratfalling by the Night Lords.

It's just, ugh, the idea is so cool! And what did we get? The dramatic equivalent of a Benny Hill chase.

 

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