There is a word in Greek that is ‘pharmakon.’ It is a word that means the cause of an illness and it is a word that means sickness and it is a word that means the cure to illness. Thesis, antithesis, and all that lies between, captured in one word.
There is a word in English that is ‘regeneration.’ It is a word that means death and it is a word that means birth. Though it can mean the thing that spans between birth and death–they call it ‘life’ in English–that meaning is a separate meaning and as good as another word. ‘Regeneration’ means only birth and death at the same time. It means opposites brought together, the space of meaning between them folded into nothingness as they embrace.
As for Gallifreyan, it has words that mean poison/cure and words that mean death/birth and words that mean end/start. But there is no word for death/life and no word for loss/struggle and no word for infinite/end. Opposites can be unified, but not with the space between them.
There is also no word for renegade/citizen. This is not because the idea is inconceivable; it is because the opposite of the idea is inconceivable. The word for ‘renegade’ contains in itself a seed of the word ‘citizen,’ a kernel of meaning that tells every runaway, ‘Gallifrey will never let you go.’
No, there’s no word for renegade-citizen, and the word for ‘Law’ is spoken low and deep inside one’s chest, to carry bearing and pressure on the hearts, on the lungs. It is unutterable if one is not Gallifreyan, for no non-Gallifreyan can comprehend it (there is no word for Gallifreyan/not-Gallifreyan, either, of course) and if one were to say ‘Time Lord’ in the tongue of Gallifrey, one would be forced to say ‘Law’ as well.
But of course, not many people know how to speak in Gallifreyan, not anymore.
“You never talk to me in Gallifreyan these days, Doctor.”
The Master is sprawled across the sofa he had long ago dragged into the console room, stick of standing by as the Doctor worked alone. It is one of those time-spans–‘days’ has no meaning–when the Master will lounge as a cat so long as the mood lasts, bored and superior and completely content all at once. As always, his eyes do not leave the Doctor. As always, the Doctor only glances at him, their vision meeting, locking, and then releasing, the Doctor carrying on and the Master repeating the same silent message over and over.
“Considering you asked that question in English, I don’t know quite what to make of it.”
“Oh, all right then,” the Master says, rolling his eyes, and when he speaks again, his voice sinks down into his ribs, then rises up through his throat, brushing through folds of taut muscle. Each phoneme is caressed, the airflow shaped by tongue and lips and teeth with careful precision, smooth movements that have not lost their weight for all the time passed since last they were engaged.
He says, simply, “Doctor.”
The Doctor stops moving, swallows, and then pulls down a lever.
“You could at least respond in turn,” the Master says. He pushes away from the couch and slips over to the Doctor’s side, leaning back against the console, one hand that grips it absently drumming away. “Well?” he asks, and two eyebrows raise to inflect the question with further meaning.
The Doctor’s eyes skirt over controls, but the Master’s eyes do not waver. The Master stops the Doctor’s right hand with his own, forcing him to look at the Master.
The moment that gives the word meaning is entirely in the eyes, in a downward flicker followed by a levelling of sight as the looks the Master gives are returned in full.
Then, the utterance.
It is, somehow, a power-play. But neither knows a word to describe what has been given and what has been taken and what has been left untouched, unacknowledged, but there, lying on the floor between them.
There is a Gallifreyan word that joins love and hate that roughly translates as ‘passion’ and carries traces of ‘consumption’ and hints of ‘consumed.’
It is a very rarely spoken word.
Surprisingly or not, Gallifreyan is an exceptionally literal language. One does not kick any buckets. There is no surface meaning that differs from the underlying, understood meaning. A symbol does not stand as a symbol.
Rather, a non-literal concept is taken as literal. Metaphor (a term understood to mean ‘expressions of non-literal meaning through connection of unrelated terms and ideas, used by lower life-forms to grasp particular concepts’) is expressed through particular syntactical structures which bind the non-literal meaning to the literal concept it expresses. Irony is a tense which, perhaps ironically, draws the underlying meaning to the surface, thus negating irony. Symbols are bound up in tag-phonemes which destroy the unspoken connection between the symbol and what is represented by equating them. Everything that can be expressed means exactly what it says it means.
Gallifreyan linguistic theory claims that lower-species rely on non-literal language to fill the gap between what they know, concretely, and what they cannot fully grasp with their limited minds. Rather than rely on inaccurate approximations of reality, new word-signs of Gallifrey are developed to take on any meaning necessary, then understood and absorbed into the language immediately. Considering that the extent of Time Lord experience is very stagnant, new word-signs are not often needed.
Two Gallifreyan boys once sat together, in fields and on balconies and under stars, and they tried to teach each other English, just to prove they could. They battled with metaphor, irony, and symbolism, attempting to understand how a word could mean what it did not mean, how something could be taken to be what it was not without being expressed, distinctly, as that, and how another speaker could understand this strange difference.
The blond one in the pair got it first, and the other, by far a superior psionic and therefore by all rights a better linguist, silently raged over this, struggling to catch up with his friend. On the third day of this, the first boy smiled a lopsided smile and said in English, “In a cheerful mood, aren’t you?”
The second boy stared, and then he laughed and laughed and laughed. And the first boy laughed too, and they learned to share irony.
It was not English but instead its supposed linguistic failure of non-literalism that became their secret language, to guard against professors and students alike. They had broken through a law, a block against understanding, and it seemed that another angle of the universe was available for their exploration.
The Master has not stopped speaking in Gallifreyan for several sleep-cycles now. It is Gallifreyan when he greets the Doctor over tea and it is Gallifreyan when he requests a screwdriver for his work. Even the insults of ‘idiot’ and ‘boring’ and ‘coward’ have been replaced by approximations of the words in Gallifreyan.
The Doctor is not so quick to rewind. Though he only ever says ‘Master’ now in the language of their childhood, the Doctor lingers in his Estuary English, saying ‘Good morning’ when the Master gives him a reunion greeting and retorting with a scathingly ironic denouncement of the Master’s evil genius next time they argue.
When the Master’s reply is equally ironic, the Doctor has to stop, rewind, and replay the noises so he can figure out how the Master forced their literal language to escape literalism. It slips past him because he’s thinking in English still, so he has to try again, in Gallifreyan.
Intent-meaning. Context-interior. Comprehension-irony.
The Master had created irony in a language without it, simply by not using the tense that was meant to express it.
“I forgot you could do that,” the Doctor says.
“You've forgotten a great many things,” the Master replies.
The Gallifreyan word for ‘forget’ is cousin to the Gallifreyan word for ‘destroy.’
And because the Doctor’s mind is still working in Gallifreyan, he flinches.
The Master steps forward and stops in front of the Doctor. He lifts a hand and carefully taps out a rhythm between the Doctor’s hearts. Taptaptaptap. Taptaptaptap. Taptaptaptap. The Doctor watches the Master’s hand and he breathes, slowly, ribs collapsing and expanding, falling back away from the tap, rising up to meet the fingers.
“Does it hurt you?” the Doctor asks, and the Master doesn’t answer. So the Doctor repeats the question in Gallifreyan, and when he says the word for ‘pain,’ he is saying ‘pleasure,’ too, for both of these are the same abstract idea that doesn’t really appear in their birth culture. The difference is all in context.
“True/false,“ the Master replies, and then he says, “True/false-indeterminate.”
You can’t say that; it doesn’t work. You can’t bind the binary pair with its middle-ground. But the Master used the literal/non-literal binding structure, so it has to.
“Maybe-” starts the Doctor in English, but the Master stops him simply by opening up his palms and spreading them over the Doctor’s hearts.
“You can’t do this from the outside, Doctor. You have to use its own failings against it. Break the rules with the rules.”
What he’s saying doesn’t say what it really means. One of the Doctor’s hearts picks up and the other one slows down, because a Gallifreyan changes his voice when he regenerates, but the speech patterns of his childhood tongue stay much the same as what they were when two stupid boys were just ninety years old.
Gallifreyan has two hundred and eight tenses, and that is just the start of its syntactical complexity. Moods are broken down into particular forms so that there is a specific structure for almost anything one could mean to say. Gallifreyans have told lower species that the language is mathematical, but all syntax is mathematical in some way. To Gallifreyans, their language is mathematics. There is an unalterable truth-property in the sentence structure that forces falsities to be spoken in what is roughly equivalent to the subjunctive mood, though it isn’t really that. To speak an untruth, one must rephrase the statement as theoretical, then declare what truth must be altered to allow for this further untruth.
Which is not to say that lies and deception are unknown to Gallifreyans. To lie is simply to create a verbal equation which appears to be true, but is not. It is as easy as proving that one is equal to zero. As long as no one looks closely enough, no one will notice the flaw that allowed the untruth to be presented as true, and as long as people don’t think the phrase is incongruous they won’t look.
All Laws are not merely assumed to be true when stated, but require are phrase-structure that double-emphasizes their status as universal facts. By word order alone, a Law, when spoken, declares ‘all’ and ‘true’ at the same time. To deny a Law would be to say that something which is all-true is untrue, which is a theoretical absurdity. Two opposite truths may join, but not a truth and an untruth, because untruth is the between-space.
Once, a young boy said to his friend, “They seem to be a little defensive, hmm? Do you ever think they might be trying a bit too hard to make Law true?”
The friend smiled and replied, “I do, actually. I don’t know that I ever realised it until you said it out loud.”
By the time they land anywhere again (Earth, of course, it’s always Earth, and money’s down that it’s a Saturday) the Doctor speaks and thinks in Gallifreyan, and a few chiding words from the Master keep him on that path, even as they walk the streets of Pompeii. When he talks of fixed points and moving ones, he speaks the words meant to express these concepts to the only person left who can understand. When he debates if he has the right to burn Pompeii and all the Pyroviles, he debates it in terms of Gallifreyan Law and Gallifreyan causality and Gallifreyan notions of Fact and Past. When the Master folds his arms and asks the Doctor, “What, you’re not going to save anyone, and then you’ll mope about it for days on end, and I’m supposed to put up with that?” the word he uses for ‘save’ is a slurring of the word for ‘preserve timeline’ and the word for ‘destroy fact,’ because there isn’t any word that means ‘save a life and change a history.’ That sort of thing is unheard of, but the Master says it, and the Doctor has done it, so he does it again.
“Burden of a Time Lord,” the Master says as they settle in to watch a star die.
The Doctor repeats the word ‘Law’ inside of ‘Time Lord,’ and then he says, “No being shall distort History as he knows it,” and lets his hand fall to his side.
“And what does that mean, exactly? I heard your story about Satellite 5. That certainly wasn’t History as you knew it. Were you supposed to go back and fix it, or was the new History the correct one?”
The entire construction, though perfectly understandable, had been shifted from Law-mood to untruth-mood, with ‘no Law’ declared as the truth which must be made false.
The Doctor doesn’t turn away from the dying star, but he lifts his hand again, and presses it against the side of the TARDIS doors. He leans his head against it, and in the theoretical mood says, “I did what I could. We’re the only ones left. We have more weight on History than anyone else. Simply by being there, we make it History.”
The Master only says, “I knew you’d pick that mood.”
They smile like they are school boys, but of course, they are not. “You’re manipulating me,” the Doctor says, voice mild. ‘Manipulate’ also means ‘change,’ so it is a very very bad word, but the Doctor and the Master know how to mean what their words do not.
“I’m engaging in a discourse on the text that is ‘the universe’ with you,” the Master corrects.
“Ahh, of course,” the Doctor says to the pharmakon who taps away a drum beat.
They watch as the star collapses in on itself. Soon, it will die. Soon it will become something new. Death/birth, regeneration. A beautiful example of the old pattern. It is a beautiful universe, for all of its failings, and it is what they have.
“Time Lord renegade,” the Master says. It is not a contradiction in terms, and so the Doctor frowns.
“Time Lord rebel? Nahh…” Almost off-handed, he tries, “Time Lord foreigner?”
“We’re not Outsiders.”
“What’s wrong with Outsiders?”
“I believe the answer to that is in the question,” says the Master, because the word ‘Outsider’ carries the meaning ‘wrong way of life.’
“Maybe the word is wrong, then.”
“It’s all we have, until you find a suitable replacement.”
The Doctor says ‘Outsider’ in English, but the Master shakes his head.
“From inside it, remember?”
The Doctor frowns, and then speaks in Law-mood. “No Outsider shall be wrong simply because he is an Outsider.”
The Master says, “You might be trying a bit too hard to make Law true,” and the Doctor turns to look at the Master. The Master pulls away, just slightly. “Koschei is dead,” he reminds the Doctor.
This ‘Death’ word does not mean ‘regeneration.’ This ‘end’ word does not mean ‘start.’ It is absolute and finite, and the Doctor nods.
“I know. I’ve known for a few regenerations now. Really known, not the way I thought I did. I’m not asking for that.”
“You see,” the Master says, “Koschei and Theta were a complimentary binary, not a negating one. A truth and a truth can exist together. But you and I are a truth and an untruth.”
“We’ve been working,” the Doctor says, but the Master shakes his head.
“We can’t last forever like this. What ‘Master’ means cannot be while what ‘Doctor’ means is as well.”
“Compromise, Master. I’m not asking you to give up everything-”
“Why should either of us have to surrender anything? We should be able to be everything that we are and coexist, but we can’t. Consider: the Master conquers. The Doctor overthrows conquerors. The Master murders in creative, interesting, and ever-more-delightful-ways, though I do say so, and the Doctor runs around saving lives and stopping happy, sadistic mass murderers from satisfying their love of destruction, being the idiotic do-gooder that he is. The Master and the Doctor cannot both succeed. The space between them prohibits that.”
There’s something in the way the Master says ‘Doctor’ that makes it unlike how anyone else says it. He says the name wholly and completely, yet there are hints of shadow phonemes, unspoken sounds lingering around the edges of the name. There is another meaning to it, and for the Master, it is a very literal meaning.
The Doctor steps back into the Master’s domain and no closer, and when he speaks he reflects that passionate intensity which the Master so often gives him. “That’s not all we are,” he says. He doesn’t say the ‘we’ which means ‘this person who is I and this person who is not I’ but instead uses the ‘we’ which means ‘we two parts of one whole.’
“Of course not,” the Master says as his left heart slows and his right heart speeds up. His feet stay still. “But it is part of us.”
Neither speaks for a moment, and then the Master says, “Doctor,” before he turns on his heel, walking deep into the TARDIS and leaving shadow phonemes in his wake.
Given the structure of Gallifreyan language, it is exceptionally easy to connect two concepts and explore them from that positioning. The process is a juxtaposition, but the merging of two concepts into one is rare. Altering the meaning of word-signs is said to create imprecision to language. Any connection between concepts, whether it is including one concept inside another or equating two things, can be created simply by following the syntactic rules.
Though there is a single word for poison/cure, one could also create it by correctly fitting a word for poison and a word for cure into a phrase. But ‘poison-union-cure’ is not the same as ‘poison/cure.’ It is not sufficient to describe it.
There is no word for past/present/future along a Time Lord’s relative time stream. There are words for meeting someone from your future to whom you are the past, but there is no true word for when something is in one’s past, one’s present, and one’s future all at once, because quite simply, it isn’t supposed to happen.
But it does.
When the Master was a very young boy, he stood underneath the stars and stared up at the sky and said the word for ‘Doctor’ and the word for ‘universe,’ and he said them again, and again, and again and again, faster and faster until they slurred into a single utterance, one all-encompassing word-sign. That word was where the Master placed his desire. The Master absorbed that word and made it part of himself.
They encounter the Doctor’s third incarnation purely by accident (on the Doctor’s part, anyway) at Pink Floyd’s London concert for The Wall. The present-past Doctor is with Jo Grant, foiling one of the present-past Master’s plans. The present-future Doctor immediate pulls away from his past self, but he comes closer when the present-future Master gently pulls Jo aside and gives her a white lily.
“It’s very beautiful, thank you,” she says with a smile, and then the present-past Doctor pulls her away before anyone can do anything else.
When they return to the TARDIS, the Doctor asks the Master what that whole flower was about. The Master smiles.
“I preserved History as I know it. Miss Grant will give that lily to me, and I will return it to your TARDIS next time I’m in it. Then, when I steal your TARDIS at the end of the universe, I’ll find it again and keep it in my pocket. There’s a marking on it; it’s not an Earth lily. It has Gallifreyan writing on it.”
The Doctor imagines a lily that has been held by three of the Master’s bodies and clasped in the only fingers Jo has or will ever have, a lily that has been with him for years and he never knew of it–a lily that’s gone to him, now, except that it’s pinned to Jo Grant’s blouse in what is now his past but was once his present and before then, would be his future.
The Doctor says, “It’s a predestination paradox.”
Though there is no Gallifreyan word for ‘sin,’ there is a word that means ‘bad deed.’ ‘Paradox’ has that word inside it.
The Master’s smile broadens.
“You broke two Laws.”
“Three, actually. Creating an ontological predestination paradox–where did that lily come from, if I got it from her and she got it from me, after all?–encountering a past self, and encountering a Time Lord who is not synchronized with my time stream.”
“You didn’t actually meet yourself,” the Doctor says. The very idea of it tastes wrong.
It sounds wrong, too, but the Master only smiles more. “You did! I think that’s close enough.”
“And was there a point to all of this Law-breaking?”
The Master takes two steps in toward the Doctor. He stops there, and he does not act for microspans. The Doctor’s fingers twitch, but he stays still as well, waiting, quietly, for the reveal.
The Master lifts his hand, as if he’s presenting to the Doctor a white lily that holds the secrets of the universe. “The lily says on one petal, ‘No being can uphold the Law by breaking it.’ And on the petal opposite to it, ‘No being can uphold the Law without breaking it.’ The pistils form the symbol for the union of the two phrases, which I think is terribly appropriate, considering.”
“You wrote that,” says the Doctor, but the Master shakes his head.
“The lily had those words on them when I gave it and when I received it again. They always are.”
It is wrong, as all paradoxes are wrong, but it seems complete.
The Master gives the Doctor a lopsided grin and says, “You know, there’s no word for law-unLaw. Without the construction, I mean. Why don’t we make one up?”
“Just make one up, right now?”
“We are the only community of speakers who can define the language now,” the Master points out.
The Doctor considers for a moment, and then he produces an utterance. The word sounds a little bit like ‘universe’ and a little bit like ‘hope.’
“I like that,” the Master says, and so an old language is changed.
With two hundred and eight tenses and even more mood forms, a Gallifreyan word-paradigm is a very complex. Inflections on words, whether altered endings or lowered and raised vowels, create a spectrum of associated meaning. Words that are pronounced nearly the same are not merely inflections in sound and form, but are often considered different inflections of meaning on a word. The Gallifreyan word for ‘reflection’ is also the Gallifreyan word for ‘inversion.’ It is an inflection away from ‘derivational’ which is, itself, a phonetic cousin to ‘not good enough.’
To declare something ‘enemy’ is not to declare it a reflection, but an opposite. Each thing is enemy to the other and neither came first. The event which created the enemies is a single shared event. In essence, enemies are meant to be equals, or else they aren’t really enemies.
The only real word for ‘friend’ in Gallifreyan is two small inflections away from ‘enemy,’ because a friend is an equal, too. All other words for companionship carry some connotation of unbalance.
Interestingly, the verb ‘to be’ does not actually exist. Instead, it is contained within those things that are being. The time of every object is declared by the object itself, which allows for greater complexity in describing time-relations between different objects and the actions occurring between them.
Enemies and friends are always declared to exist in the same time, and when they do not exist in the same time in reality, alternate constructions must be used to indicate this. This is to preserve the idea of equality.
Possession is indicated by an inflection of the thing possessed. The possessive phoneme is inflected further to indicate tense as much as anything else in the Gallifreyan language–when it is or was or will be possessed and how long that possession has lasted or will last or is lasting.
When the Master says, ‘My best enemy’ of the Doctor, the possessive inflection is used in the pan-temporal/spatial tense.
They battle across the constellations, the Master against the Doctor, the Doctor against the Master, with all the cosmos as their playground. It is, the Doctor rationalizes, an extension of their UNIT days combat. Time and space are won and lost and won again, and each combatant is a victor about as often as he suffers defeat. At the end of every battle, they return to the TARDIS and disappear.
Always, they fight.
“We were friends, once,” the Doctor says as a planet burns, and the word ‘friends’ is in what the Doctor has nicknamed the ‘saudade’ tense, a tense which means the thing used to be, and may perhaps one day be again.
The Master’s jaw sets. “Friends,” he corrects. The word it is in the oblivion tense, meaning something that used to be which has been erased from time completely.
The Doctor looks away, but only for a moment, because there are some things worth holding on to, even if they burn and freeze your fingers. “It wasn’t that bad.”
“Ohh, it was.”
“We were happy.”
“You might have been.”
“You’re telling me you weren’t?” The Doctor steps in, head tipped down, spine curved, just slightly, because he’s taller than the Master–always taller, nearly every regeneration–and he’s though he’s not conveying submission, he’s saying something when he says, “Master,” as if the Master always has been and always will be. “Not ever?”
The Master’s voice is dry and soft and drawn from the quiet strength called ‘hatred’ that keeps him from accepting friendship and submission and returning to what he used to be. “Perspective is much clearer in reflection,” he says, and the Doctor laughs softly.
“Reflection,” he says, and the Master pulls away in injury, and the Doctor is left wondering what misstep he has taken.
“Tell you what, Doctor,” the Master says, voice light and therefore dangerous. “We can get along! We can work together, just like old times, by changing the rules of the universe. Together. Change History together! As we always dreamed when we were children, remember? That planet I just burned down, we could stop that. Go back and disable all the converters. It would be easy for us.”
Language is composed of signs and is therefore a representation of reality. No matter how advanced the life-form and sophisticated the thought process, language limits thought. Contact, the direct connection of two minds, escapes language. The communication in fully merged minds is not one of language, but one of pure meaning. It is absolute togetherness.
“We can’t change History. It’s too fragile. It isn’t stable with the Time Lords gone.”
“That means it’s the perfect time to change it. No Time Lords to stop us and all the universe malleable to our desires. This is our chance.”
“And we have that right? We have the right to choose what’s best for everyone?”
“This sort of talk is why the Daleks survived to wage war against us,” the Master says, and the Doctor looks like he has been struck.
But still, he carries on. “We can’t change the universe. Not like this, not like how you want to.”
There were once two young boys who brought their minds together, because they were not supposed to, and because they wanted to. There were once two young boys who brought their minds together and so shared in their dreams and desires. But an event occurred–a poisoning, perhaps, or some sort of cure. Maybe the event was the illness itself.
And after that, their minds were apart.
“I need to change you,” the Master says, taking one step forwards and looking over the Doctor like he is something to be deconstructed. “We can’t work like this.”
There are two men who want to bring their minds together, but they cannot, because they want to remain apart.
The Doctor steps away from the Master. “You like me as I am,” he says, declaring it as truth and hoping that it is one.
In Gallifreyan, there is a word for together/apart. It means ‘lonely.’
There is no word to bind together, apart, and all that is between.
The Master, filled with hate/love–suffocating him, beating against his skull, trembling under his skin–says, “What I like is obedience,” and he lunges forward and links his mind to the Doctor’s and sends every nerve of his best enemy’s body into agony.
The Doctor screams and stumbles, but he recovers quickly. He stands and grasps the Master’s skull, and what he sends is emotions, feelings, every sensation and memory and thought he has on the Master, forced into the Master’s mind, forcing on him a terrible knowing.
Before the Master collapses, he growls and forces the Doctor to know as well.
Though there is pain, though he falls, there is one moment of clarity when the Doctor understands, because the cure is in the poison and the poison’s in the cure.
The Doctor says, “Doctor-universe,” and the Master looks at him, face still twisted by violence, but he is looking at him.
“Doctor,” the Master says, and now the shadow phonemes are all the clearer for the light.
“Master,” the Doctor says, and their two minds and four hearts seem to work in synchronicity.
The thing that lies between them is the universe, written out in all-true Laws. In Gallifreyan, there is no word for the union of a thing, it’s opposite, and what is between them, because that simply cannot be.
Laws are declared in the pan-temporal/spatial tense, indicating that which always is and was and will be, all through the universe.
Laws declare that no being may come into contact with a past or future self.
Laws declare that no Gallifreyan shall meet another Time Lord whose time stream is out of sync with his own.
Laws declare that no being shall create any sort of paradox.
And all these Laws are the same Law, reiterated as a truth through its thousands of variations. All Laws derive from one Law: no being shall distort History as he knows it. This is the cornerstone of all Laws.
There is no word in Gallifreyan for ‘untrue Law,’ but there is a structure that can declare it and there are two minds who can invent it
There is no word in Gallifreyan for ‘untrue Law,’ but that doesn’t mean an untrue Law does not exist.
Any language is defined by its community of speakers, and there are only two people who speak Gallifreyan: thesis and antithesis. Though there’s no word for ‘untrue Law,’ there is a word that means ‘Law/unLaw’ and it sounds a bit like ‘hope’ and a bit like ‘universe.’
You have to change things from the inside.
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