The atmosphere around the living room table was dense, and grim, and no amount of warm light or comfortable couch cushions was going to alleviate it.
"No." JP was saying, chopping his hand down onto the table. "No! Worst idea!"
That table was currently covered in... a bit of everything. Anesh's efforts to keep things organized had cut out about an hour ago, and so, the copies of notes, plates of food, candy wrappers, laptops, pens, loose orbs, books, and harpoon gun, were all just cluttering up the damn thing like it was a museum piece on the lives of millennials.
The apartment was also heavy with the smell of cooking food. Despite the tense feeling affecting everyone else, James was humming away to himself in the kitchen, currently shuffling a pair of potato latkes onto a plate with a casual twist of his wrist, and placing it on the counter between himself and the living room. "Here, eat this." He said to JP with a grin. "Also, I didn't say it was a good idea. It's a night for bad ideas."
"Bad ideas in regards to personal safety, and the actual dungeon you discovered. Not in regards to real life things, James." JP retorted, taking the plate.
"Isn't this both?" James asked, needling his friend with a smile.
"Isn't what both?" The voice belonged to Alanna, as she and Anesh came back in the front door. The end of the recent heat wave allowing the opening to let a cooling breeze into the apartment. "Also, we got you guys drinks!"
JP caught the plastic bottle Alanna lobbed at his head, arced over Anesh and causing him to duck on his path to his room. "Oh, James is trying to get me to recruit my girlfriend for our guild."
Grabbing her own plate of food that James was serving up, Alanna started to maneuver her way through the mess of the living room before just giving up and leaning on the kitchen counter to eat while she talked. Around a mouthful of food, she asked JP, "Is it at all weird to you guys that we think of ourselves as a guild, or an adventuring party, or whatever? I mean, the dungeon is... legitimately world-shaking, but we've just sort of fallen into this pattern of delving and thinking of ourselves as the kind of people that fight monsters for rewards. That's fucking worrying, right?"
"We're sort of breaking out of that routine now." James said, with a casual voice and seemingly without an ounce of tension in his chest.
Alanna opened her mouth, then closed it with a huff. She was pretty frustrated with James in general right now. His decision, sudden and seemingly stupidly reckless, to go into the second entrance tomorrow had left everyone on edge. But despite that, he didn't seem to have any of the lingering pool of anxiety and tension sitting in his chest that Alanna and Anesh did. Here he was, cooking like he'd been practicing his whole life, filling the room with the scent of potatoes and the sound of his off-key singing along to Offspring songs playing off his phone, and acting like he wasn't planning a potential one-way trip to hell in just under eighteen hours. If it weren't for the fact that he actually *was* helping her stay calm with this, then she'd probably be actually punching him right now.
So instead of punching, she just sighed. "Yeah, we are out of that routine. And... I know I asked a million times, but are you *sure* you want this? Like, really sure?"
James flicked off a couple of the burners on the stove, and spooned himself his own helping of food. "Yup!" He said cheerfully, letting no hint of doubt into his voice. "So, how was your walk?" He asked back.
"That's a deflection right there." JP said calmly from across the room.
Ignoring the fact that James was changing the topic, Alanna moved past him in the kitchen to add more food to her plate. "Not bad. We purposefully didn't talk about the dungeon; figured we'd go over a plan here. But... okay, you know how there's all that construction going on over there?" She looked around as the nods before continuing. "Well, I haven't been over here as much as you guys, so it's a bit more sudden for me, but it feels super weird to know which way to walk, but have the landscape look different. Like remembering an alien street that you've never been on before."
Sitting down at the table opposite JP, James let out a hum of consideration at her words. "That's a weirdly poetic way to describe a changing skyline, but yeah, I can see it. You didn't get lost though, right?"
"I just said..."
"He's messing with you." JP cut in and ending the argument before it could start. "So, where's Anesh and Dave? Are we going to get this planning meeting going?"
Through a mouthful of food, James said, "Dave's on his way, Anesh is just relaxing in his room for a bit before we start... Oh, hey Anesh." He trailed off as his roommate walked back in. Before Anesh could say anything, though, the door opened suddenly and Dave burst through. "Oh, hey Dave." James let his fork fall to his plate with a clatter, throwing up his hands. "Okay, fine. Yes, we're starting now."
"I'm not late, am I?" Dave said, with a worried shake in his voice.
"Nah, you're good mate." Anesh told him. "I just got here too. So, let's figure this out." He sat down in the plush armchair that was his seat at the head of the long table. "James, make sure we're on the same page here."
James set his fork down again, resigning himself to not getting to eat uninterrupted. "Okay, so. Facts : Theo is missing, something about the dungeon blanks people's memories of anyone who's left there, and Secret is screening for us, which is the only reason we don't."
"Theo?" Dave asked, raising his hand like he was in class.
"My boss. Well, former boss, now, I guess." James looked down, clenching his teeth and fists for a second before remembering to breathe, and resuming his briefing. "So, yeah, that's the basis. Part two, conjecture : the dungeon has been eating people for a long time." He paused this time to let that sink in. "We knew that there was a high turnover, sure, but I literally cannot remember anyone who's ever worked there and left. My running theory is that some people are more or less immune to that memory wipe effect, which is why Anesh sort of pointed out the possibility a long time ago. Which is why I suspect the company isn't taking advantage of the dungeon; too many points of failure in a large organization like that. One guy gets eaten by a desk, and suddenly none of the higher ups can remember the project even exists."
"Fair, but what if they have their own monsters like Secret?" JP asked, leaning forward onto the table.
Alanna winced. "That'd be bad. That would mean we're actually fighting on two fronts. Also, how do we even fight things like Secret?"
"We don't. We get Secret to do it." James said, tilting his head to look at the pale outline of Secret's scaled form still wrapped around his shoulders. He wasn't fully manifested, and James was pretty sure no one else could see him right now, but he was present for this part. "He's with us, all of us, and he'll give us the tools to support him in a fight on his turf if needed."
Anesh had, by this point, gotten the laptop open and was furiously typing away, making notes as fast as he could to catch up. He paused as James brought up infomorph combat, looking up at the table. "What good are we supposed to do?"
"We're ammunition, mostly. Or, well, no. We're a lot of things. Our thoughts and memories can serve as weapons for things like Secret. And oftentimes, our minds or emotional landscapes are literal landscapes for them, and that's the battlefield. It can get, from our perspective, really abstract, really fast." James tried to explain. "None of those words are *correct*, by the way." He said, as he saw some incredulous looks on the faces around him, especially Alanna's. "That's just the best way to think of it."
Anesh cleared his throat. "So, we're relying on one meme to be in five places at once?"
"It's not five places to him. We have a shared idea of who Secret is. That's it. He's there. That's how he works." James said with a grin.
It was Dave who caught on to that one first, letting out a low whistle, before saying, "Ooooh, fuck. That's kinda creepy. He's an idea, so as long as we know about him, he can be there. Are you sure he's friendly?" He asked James.
"Yes." James spoke with absolute conviction.
That was good enough for Dave. JP and Alanna were still on the fence, and he understood that, but if James said that his friend was a good guy, Dave was inclined to trust him.
"Okay, next point." Anesh brought up. "Why the emergency strategy meeting, and why the suicide mission?"
James nodded. This was going to be the difficult part; convincing literally anyone that this was at all a good idea. "Okay. So. Part three, the plan. There's another breach that opens regularly some days in the vent above my desk. Tomorrow, I'm going to go into it, and see if I can find Theo, and anyone else who's been pitched into the dungeon."
That got JP, Anesh, and Alanna all yelling conflicting things over each other as they both jumped at the chance to tell James how stupid it was. Alanna relented as JP jumped up and slammed his hands onto the tabletop, though. His normal unflappable attitude let him see things a little clearer than most people, and it was now that what James needed was that logic to talk him down. "James, if she were still alive, why would the dungeon make everyone forget about her?!" He asked, simply, his voice suddenly too loud as Alanna and Anesh had gone silent. "Ah. Hem. But, yeah, no! You've told us about that opening! You don't know how long it lasts for, you don't know where it opens to, and you especially don't know if the person you want to save is even still alive!"
"I know she's still alive." James said, with far more outward calm than his pounding heart would indicate. "Secret talked to me about it, after we figured out what the memory wipe was doing. He's felt the force of it before, presumably from other employees or people going into the dungeon. And it comes in one of two strengths. So, our going theory is that there's a weak one for when you go in, and a stronger, finisher, if the dungeon... you know.... kills a person."
"Wait, does that mean that every time we go in..." Anesh started to ask.
James finished for him. "Everyone sort of forgets about us until we come out."
"That's not even a little okay!" Alanna said.
It was JP who countered her, rubbing his chin and smiling. "Now hang on. Wouldn't it be nice if we could get a day off of work because our boss literally didn't remember scheduling us?" He said, thoughtful. After a second, he looked back up. "Wait, hang on. I'm getting distracted. James, we were talking about why you were throwing your life away."
That was the question that had been on James' own mind for a whole day. Why? Why bother? Theo wasn't that important to him, really. He wasn't some destined hero. He was just a guy with a crowbar. But there was a weight to his decision that had kept his heart free and his mind clear ever since he'd made it, and he knew exactly how to express it.
"Because it's the right thing to do." James spoke quietly as he looked at JP, his voice gaining strength as he talked. "Because no one else is going to." He said, turning to Alanna. "Because it's what we'd want others to do for us." He said to Anesh. "Because it's important." He finally said to Dave. "All of those, and none of those. It just... feels right. It's where I need to be. I have a chance to make a difference. To be more than some jackass exploiting literal magic phenomena so that I can make rent."
Silence from the others, as they thought it over. Dave looked like he wanted to say something, but eventually just shrugged, his mouth in a thin line; like it was the most understandable thing in the world. JP and Anesh looked less convinced, but Alanna nodded along too. For her, it really *did* make sense. James was the kind of person who, in her world, was the perfect hero. Because he actually thought about how to be more than some jackass who took whatever he could, and gave nothing back.
"Okay." Alanna said, breaking the quiet contemplation. "What's the plan?"
And just like that, the tone changed. It was accepted; they were doing this, in some way. Now it was just down to how to support James, and make this work.
"Well, first of all," James said with a massive smile, "who's coming with me?"
"I'm in." The words came, shockingly, not just from Alanna, but from Dave as well. All eyes pivoted to him, and he shrunk a little under their gazes. "What, no one's curious about Alanna?"
James snorted. "No, because we all know Alanna. Why you, though?"
Dave just shrugged, giving away nothing. "Because of what you said; it's the right thing to do. There's a chance, right? I think it's worth helping you out, if I can. You believed in me, at first, and now, I believe in you, you know, man?"
"I did not know." James said coyly. But then, softer, "But thanks. Thank you."
Kicking out at JP's chair, Alanna asked him, "What about you?"
"Oh, hell no." JP said. "I'm... no hero." He almost sounded sad as he said it. "I'll help with this part, if I can, but the fighting in the dungeon scares the shit out of me. I'm having a blast exploring with you guys, but I can't face anything bigger than a strider without freaking the hell out. There's no way I'd be helpful, or willing, to go in there with you tomorrow."
James was disappointed, but not overly surprised. Which only left... "What about you, Anesh?"
A torn look was the response. Anesh simply didn't know. On the one hand, he wanted more than anything to support James. His friend was trying to save someone's life, and Anesh felt a strong connection to the force of will that his roommate was showing. But on the other hand...
Well, Anesh was afraid. He *didn't* want to risk his life for this. The best case scenario was that they'd be trapped in the dungeon for however long it took to find the front door, and then longer until it opened. Worst case...
Worst case, apparently, a lot of people had been forgotten there.
"I don't know." He settled on. His voice shook a bit, but James pretended not to notice, despite feeling a bit of a sting from his companion from near the start of this not instantly jumping on board with him.
"That's fine!" James said. "Honestly, you know, three is probably the best number? Especially if we're going to have to pull people out of there." He just paved over the awkward feelings of Anesh's answer. "So! What's the plan? How do we make this work?"
Everyone looked to Anesh, but he was currently a bit lost in thought. It was JP who came to the rescue by getting the idea ball rolling. "Okay, so, we know who's going. What do we need to do to prep you guys?"
And with that, the ideas started flowing. They went around the table, discussing, debating, and plotting, until a rough outline emerged. Three of them would go in, climbing into the ceiling as quickly as possible and basically just praying to avoid being spotted. JP and Anesh would be as disguised as possible as maintenance people, which mostly involved sending Anesh to their local thrift store to pick up overalls and clipboards, and get the ladder out of the building. Two days later was the hard part, because Anesh and JP would need to somehow sneak back in, without James there to provide an excuse for them getting past Frank. Then, they could provide, through Ganesh and also mundane drones, as well as flares, the most possible coverage to help guide the others back to Fort Door.
'The hard part' was super relative, of course. Because James, Alanna, and Dave, would be going in without anything that they'd stockpiled in Fort Door over the last couple months. They had one set of incredibly damaged football armor, James had a crowbar under his bed, and Alanna had access to a handgun. On the table here, they had a surprisingly functional harpoon gun, a handful of orbs that they'd never cracked, and a half-complete shield; though that last one wasn't technically 'on' the table, James was going to count it. So, they'd handed Dave a few hundred bucks, and sent him to the sporting goods store to grab them something that could at least pass as armor, and also the heaviest baseball bat he could find.
Finally, and most importantly, JP was dispatched to their local hardware store to get them a ladder in the few hours before everything closed. Alanna also requested a hammer, having grown used to the style of weapon in her time in the dungeon.
As soon as the other guys were out the door, Alanna turned to James with a clap of her hands and a mad grin. "Alright! Now that we've got them gone, we can start making out!"
"Maybe when Anesh gets back." James said, patting her on the head as he walked by. "Also, I know I'm playing it cool, but I think I'm way too tense for that right now, even if you are just screwing with me."
"Wasn't, really. But that's fine, I get it." Alanna shot back.
James choked on his words briefly, before recovering. "I feel like we should actually address that when we get back."
"If we get back."
"It'll work out."
"I know. I believe you."
"Okay, again, but say it with some conviction this time."
Alanna snorted out a laugh. "So, what're you doing before they get back and we figure out how to divide up the orbs?"
"Making sandwiches." James said. "We're gonna need to eat, so I want to be prepared and not forced to rely on finding someone's leftover dungeon-lasagna."
That got a twisted look from Alanna. "Egh. Ew. No. I would not test that."
James nodded as he pulled a cooler down from the top pantry shelf where it lived most of the time. "No kidding. So let's get around it. At least Frank won't blink at us bringing in a cooler and a duffle bag full of harpoon gun."
"He might not notice the contents of the..." Alanna trailed off. "James." She turned her voice questioning and serious. "How is it possible that Frank acts the way he does, and doesn't know about the dungeon?"
There was a pause. "He's... no, hm. I mean, the dungeon wiping people's memories kind of makes it possible. But no, you're right. Frank is perpetually suspicious. He also might actually have useful intel that we could really use, if he's not earning that suspicion. Do you want to go talk to him, while everyone else is out?"
"What, right now?" Alanna asked blandly
"Sure. I can make sandwiches later. I know what bar he drinks at, it's where I had to go to bribe him. You can text everyone on the way." James was already pocketing his keys off the kitchen counter and pulling his shoes to the side so he could slip them on. "Grab that blue off the table, just in case, and let's go see a man about a dungeon."
Sometimes, Alanna thought to herself, it was just that simple. They'd driven maybe five minutes to a small pub, and were sitting outside in the parking lot. The ride over had been rock music and quiet confirmation to each other that they really were ready for tomorrow. Ready to give up everything if it meant saving someone else.
"Okay, you should wait here. I'll go in and talk to him, and yell if I need a goon." James said.
"Why shouldn't I come in too?" Alanna asked indignantly.
James poked her arm, feeling tight muscles under her tee shirt. "Because you're absolutely a goon. And he knows you, too, which is the real reason. If he's in the dark about the dungeon, I think the absolute last person I *want* to know is Frank, and the less suspicious I make him, the better."
"Gotchya. I'll wait by the door." Alanna said as the two of them popped their seatbelts off and stepped out into the balmy night.
James pushed open the door and stepped into the overly air conditioned bar. It was dim inside, the lighting even lower than the streetlight lit nighttime landscape outside. Around the bar were a few people at tables off to the side, no one talking, or even with anyone else. Just quiet drinking, and low jazz. Frank himself was at the bar. The only person at the bar, including the absent bartender.
As James walked up, Frank looked up at him with a mild lack of surprise. "Jim." He said with his deep, gruff voice, reminding James of his late grandfather in that moment of casual recognition. "Don't see you here often. Got another bribe for me?"
"Maybe." James said, sitting down on a hard stool next to Frank. "Frank, you're an observant guy, right?" He asked casually, feigning all the trappings of an old friendship. Frank just grunted in response, which James took as an affirmative. "Well, can you tell me what's wrong with where we work?" James didn't want to allude to anything serious, instead starting with something basic: complaining about his job.
"It's corporate." Frank spat out. "That's what's wrong with it."
James just nodded as Frank took a sip of his whisky. "With you there. They keep firing anyone that I like. You ever feel that way?" Frank didn't respond. "I mean, you're still there." James said, before trying to drop a lead, "But that new guy that replaced my manager is a total tool."
"He'll be gone soon enough." Frank said with a grim confidence.
"Yeah? How do you know? The last manager was there for a while." James said, trying not to give anything away as he spoke.
Frank just snorted roughly, the noise half from his throat as it was from huffing air out his nose. "Bah. She was just as bad as the suits. Or all those stupid kids they keep trying to make me train." He said bitterly.
There it was.
James tensed up, before forcing himself to relax. She. Frank had said she. Not they, nothing ambiguous. He remembered, at least in part, who James' boss was as of a week ago.
Suddenly, James realized just how stupid this was. Frank was an actual person. More than that, he was almost certainly some kind of ex-military. He could legitimately kill someone, and James had just walked in and started asking him questions. Alone.
And now, he knew that all those suspicions of Frank were valid. Because the man certainly knew something he wasn't supposed to, and he seemed wholly uncaring about Theo's disappearance, or the constant rotation of employees. Though that might just be Frank himself, and not anything more sinister than a bitter, angry old man.
"Well, Frank, I should..." James made as if to stand up.
"Jim." Frank said, turning in his stool to look at the younger man. His voice firm, a mix of amused and angry. "Really?"
But only for a second. And then he started casually walking to the door, throwing over his shoulder a simple, "yeah, I'll see you at work tomorr..." He stopped, as Frank stood up, cracking his knuckles.
"Oh, Jim. I had high hopes for you, boy, and you threw them all away." Frank downed the rest of his drink and set the glass on the bar counter. "Every time I think one of you is good enough, you end up getting too nosy in the end."
James turned briefly, smiling as Frank rose to his bait. "Well, Frankey," he mimicked Frank's continual fucking up of his name, finally letting go of the polite respect he'd been showing the other man, "maybe it's about time for some straight answers. Though I'm not sure you're the right person for them. After all, you just take your paycheck and look the other way, right?"
Frank stalked forward, sizing James up. He didn't get too close, leaving a few feet of space between them as he pushed aside one of the beat up wooden chairs the bar had on its floor space. "You really don't have any idea." He growled out as he approached. "You're just another idiot kid. You haven't figured out yet, the world doesn't care about you. You think you're special because you can remember some faces? It doesn't matter. No one's going to miss you." Frank smiled then, a vicious, angry smile.
"I feel like some of my friends might care." James said, nerves burning. "Besides, it's not like you can just kill me in a bar. *Someone* would take offense."
There was just laughter from Frank. "Oh, James. You know, it's amazing what the orange balls can do for you, if you get lucky? I've owned this bar for months now." His laugh was cruel and wild, exactly on tone for what James expected from someone who felt like he had all the power. "Oh, but you're a bit of a coward, aren't you? That's why you keep coming out alive. But that's okay. You always paid your toll to enter, so I let you come and go, but you've probably never seen anything more powerful than a yellow, huh, kid?" Frank gestured to his side, and James noted that the bar patrons, all five of them, stood up in unison. "Here's the other thing you can steal out of that place, boy. Friends." The word was uttered like a curse, and in that moment, James knew that Frank had never once had an actual friend.
In jerky motions, the five figures moved forward, two of them circling behind James to block the door. They were dressed in black leather coats and denim jeans, but no amount of urban camouflage could hide the fact that they didn't have any features on their blank, papery faces.
James may have been in some trouble.
"So, kid. What's it gonna be?" Frank said, causing James to focus back on the man to see that he'd pulled a pistol out of somewhere and had it leveled at James. "I get a great deal on trade ins, but I can just shoot you now if you don't want to find out what the other place does to prisoners."
Somehow, those were the words that snapped James out of his fight or flight panic. "Are you seriously telling me that you've been feeding people to the dungeon because it *pays you*?!" He yelled at Frank. "You cannot be that fucking mercenary! There has to be a limit!" Before Frank could respond, James acted on sudden, violent impulse.
He lashed out, and his punch went right through the upper torso of one of the paper pushers blocking the door. The shirt wrapped around his knuckles as he drove through its 'skin', refusing to tear, but the thing beneath it had no such resistance. James spun in place, carrying the wounded ex-employee-thing with him to put it between himself and Frank. He was lucky. Lucky that these things had been out here for two months, lucky that Frank was exactly the kind of person that wouldn't know or care how to feed them, and most of all, lucky that Frank didn't want to shoot one of his own assets.
"Dumb move, Jim." Frank said simply as the other four moved to surround him, the one that he'd punched recovering and starting to struggle in his grip. "You could have just taken your chances with your 'dungeon'." He leveled the gun at James in a professional grip that left James with no delusions that the bullet wasn't going to miss. "Every one of you idiots always comes here to confront me, gives themselves away. All too stupid to bring backup."
Frank pulled the trigger.
Alanna grabbed the muzzle of the gun.
These things happened in reverse order.
"That's a perfect fucking line to enter on hi there I'm the backup did you know this bar has a side door?" Alanna machine-gun rattled off words, and James could swear he saw an afterimage from her as her coffee-enhanced body practically teleported into view.
The gunshot still ringing in his ears, James drove the flat of his hand through the back of the paper pusher's head, dropping it to the floor in a weak pile of dust and confetti. "Well, Frank. I've gotta say. If I need to pick between my friends and yours, I think I'm going to take the one that's bulletproof." He grinned madly at Frank's furious expression, the old man snarling at Alanna as she ripped the gun out of his hands with more force than the security guard ever could have expected.
The other four stuffed shirts exploded into action. James ducked the first one that came at him swinging a clumsy fist. He punched up into its elbow, and was rewarded with a small ripping sound. Another came at him from the side, and he struck out with his foot, kicking back its shins to buy him space to trade punches and blocks with the one in front of him.
This kind of martial multi-tasking would have been impossible for him if he hadn't had ten years of training poured into his brain by the orbs, and then refined it further with martial arts classes at the gym. But now, here, against starving and hollow monsters for opponents? He could bring the most exploitative strikes to bear.
It helped that these things tore easier when they weren't fed properly.
James blocked another punch, and realized that they were punching because they lacked the strength to crush him with their grips. They'd been forced into the position of brawlers, and their psychological edge was totally lost once he knew that he could kick their legs in half. Which he did to one of them, leaving it crawling along the floor.
That actually left it more dangerous, rather than less, as they still didn't seem to feel pain, and all four of them were closing in on him now, albeit in various states of damage. From across the room, there was another gunshot, and James diverted just enough of his attention to see Alanna grappling with Frank, who had apparently produced *another* pistol from somewhere. He was trying to get the gun up, but couldn't manage it with how she'd pinned him, and his third shot went totally wild, shattering the tinted plate glass window of the front of the bar.
James took a hit to the jaw as he failed to focus on his own fight. Growling his own small war cry, he slipped through a gap between two of the inhuman assailants, grabbed a chair as he spun around and up, and smashed it down onto the one that was closest and had failed to turn around fast enough. It went down, and before it could recover or the others could fill the gap, James *stomped* forward, crushing its head to powder and instantly carrying on the brawl with the others.
There was a muffled thud behind him, which he didn't have time for. Trust Alanna. She's got this. James grabbed the arm of the next shirt to come for him, braced his feet, and turned the strike into a throw, slamming it face first into the table. It was pretty amazing what a body with no bones looked like when you hit it that hard; ripples on false skin. He could have watched that like a lava lamp, but there was no time. While it was still stunned, James stuck his hand into the small rip in the face, and made it much larger. Three down, two to go.
Low kick to the crawler, keep it back. Block the standing opponent, then retaliate. No rush now, wear it down by inches. Another low kick, then turn it into a high kick to the off guard idiot in front of him. Punch, feel a tear, turn it into a kill.
James circled behind it and just hit it over and over with a chair until it stopped moving.
He looked up to see Alanna, kneeling on top of Frank's prone form. Her eyes were a mix of excitement, and worry. James realized he was still snarling, and cleared his throat as he shook off his anger. In the dim green light of the five fresh orbs around them, he smiled.
"You need new friends, Frank."
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