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Video Game / Obduction

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You're definitely not in Arizona anymore.
An environmental Adventure Game from Cyan Worlds, Inc., their Spiritual Successor to the Myst series.

Like Myst, the player controls an unnamed protagonist, with the exception that the character can be male or female. You start near a campfire by a lake in a forest, where paranormal streaks of light descend and dance in the sky. One of them slows down to approach you, resembling an acorn-shaped stone. It opens up, and teleports you to a mysterious alien world.

It was released August 24, 2016 on PC with Oculus Rift compatibility released on October 31, with a Mac version forthcoming. A PS4 port was released in 2017.


Tropes featured in Obduction:

  • After the End:
    • Earth as seen in the Bad Ending.
    • This is implied to be the state of the Mofang homeworld as well, and if Farley's theory about the purpose of the Trees is correct, the other two worlds are also on the verge of extinction.
  • Alien Geometries: The hearts of the Trees are connected, allowing a person to walk from one world to another by following their roots.
  • Alien Sky: Every sphere has a very strange sky, as each protects its inhabitants from an unbreathable atmosphere.
    • Hunrath has giant purple rocks floating outside its sphere, as well as three Earth-like planets unnaturally close to the one you're on.
    • Soria is on a sand-blasted dead world; if you go up to the highest point of the sphere, you can see devastated roads and buildings — it's Earth, and it's a big hint that you don't want to go back there.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Deconstructed in the case of the Mofang. They have a natural ability to mimic sound, and eagerly learn to speak human languages proficiently. Farley notes that the Mofang's only "accent" comes from their apparent insistence on learning all Earth languages at once. They are the exception, however, as the other species speak in Starfish Language.
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  • Alliterative Name: The current mayor of Hunrath is named Josef Janssen.
  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Justified, according to the Hunrathians' theories; the four worlds were chosen to be linked because of their similar atmospheric conditions. Despite this, they're still different in some very significant ways.
  • All Up to You: Cecil depends on the player to do all the legwork of getting all the spheres connected again, but there are good reasons for this: first, he's lame and can't move well, and he needs to finish building his giant swapper to take Hunrath back to Earth or so he thinks. And in a slight subversion, if you never connect his battery despite numerous reminders, he'll eventually do it himself. He even mentions in your first meeting that he could do it all himself, but implies it would take a lot longer.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Just before reaching the Tree on Maray, there's a battle between a Mofang and a couple of Villein guards, resulting in two corpses and an injured guard trapped under some rubble. He makes sure you see the humans in stasis before he lets you proceed.
  • Already Undone for You: Justified - all the worlds you explore were preparing for a battle, and thus configured everything into the position that made it hardest to get around, for defensive purposes.
  • Alternative Calendar: Because Soria, the planet that Hunrath is marooned on, has no distinct seasons, the citizens use a system of just counting the number of days since they've been trapped there. For some reason, they chose to mark the election of Karl Hunrath as mayor as their zero point, so the calendar is divided into "BH" and "AH" units. The player arrives sometime in the 17150s AH, somewhere in the range of 50 years later.
  • Alternative Number System: The Villein number system is in base 4, and involves connecting dots in a square array.
  • Anachronism Stew: Justified - the seeds can abduct people across time as well as space, and the humans who populate Hunrath were taken in years between the 1870's and the 2040's (or more). Most of Hunrath's geography is a 19th-Century mining town, but it is cluttered with buildings and objects swapped in from different times and places.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The generator that powers the town is fueled from a gas station pump. You can only put in so much at a time, so it shouldn't logically last very long; but once the generator starts, it runs indefinitely, so that the player doesn't have to keep running back to re-start it.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • The Mofang intended for a Societal Collapse or Societal Extinction for the other three races by sending massive bombs and smart bombs. It's averted; defector Mofang told the humans about it who prepared a backup plan, the Arai were able to cut a Mofang off before he was able to give the proper signal, and the Villein stored all the humans of Hunrath in pods in an underground vault. In the good ending, the whole thing still manages to enact Societal Disruption, given the three domes from Earth (Hunrath), Kaptar, and Maray were transported to a new world and they have to start over as the only ones from their races. In the bad ending, it basically succeeds, because C.W.'s plan prevents Farley's from working.
    • Earth has experienced a Societal Collapse at best. If you take a good look around on the swapped portion of Soria, you can see a city not too far out. It is totally ruined, the area is sand-blasted to hell, and black clouds cover the area. The only hints as to what happened is that the swap seeds appeared right before someone was about to be killed, but who knows what happened.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Justified and lampshaded; everyone knew a battle was about to begin, and they left journals laying out in various places in case no one survived the conflict and someone came along later to wonder what had happened.
  • Artistic License – Geography: According to a road sign, the service station originally stood in Riggsville, at the junction of US-19 and US-71, on the route to Ericston. Odd-numbered US routes run north-south with the route numbers increasing as you go west; US-19 and US-71 are never less than 500 miles apart. (Oh, and there's no town named Ericston anywhere in the United States.)
  • Beautiful Void: Naturally, although unlike most other Cyan games, there is a human being present in the game world that you can talk to anytime you want. He's just too paranoid to open his door and speak to you face-to-face, is crippled so he can't move, and is really surly, making him of only occasional use.
  • Benevolent Precursors: Josef notes that whoever is responsible for engineering the trees, they made sure that those who get abducted have a renewable source of water in their new home. Farley goes even further, suggesting that every seed grabbed someone shortly before they were about to be wounded or killed. The game's Bad Ending implies she's right, with its glimpses of a ruined, dust-covered Earth. The Good Ending makes it far clearer with all four of the regions in the game placed on a beautiful green planet without the domes keeping them in. However, there's an alternate theory that this generally benevolent process is entirely natural and not caused by a specific intelligence. The truth is not known.
  • Bilingual Bonus
    • Kaptar is, in fact, the Hungarian word for hive.
    • If you can read Russian, the mindboggling black box in Kaptar will not seem quite so intimidating: the text on its back says "to engage in meaningless activity", which is what you will be doing if you try to solve it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The good ending. The three domes from Earth, Kaptar, and Maray are all transported to a relative paradise, but only those from the domes survive from implied Apocalyse How situations on their own worlds. And Earth itself is basically done for.
  • Bizarre Alien Reproduction: What we're told of the Arai lifecycle is pretty unorthodox. They lay eggs all over the place that resemble barnacles. These are coordinated by a mature Arai, called a polyarch, and can either hatch into mindless bee-like drones or grow into another polyarch, which is immobile but controls the drones and uses them as its sensory and manipulative organs.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The four species' visual spectrum and audible range differ. This impedes verbal communication from Villein to human, while allowing humans to conceal notes from the Mofang by writing in blue ink.
  • Closed Circle: Literally; Hunrath and its adjacent worlds are locked inside force-field domes. Attempting to leave one of these domes only transports the traveler to the point on the opposite side. Though the inhabitants are capable of traveling between these domes, the system of four worlds is sealed off from the rest of the universe.
    • Hunrath is a piece of Earth that got swapped with Soria, home of the Mofang. Farley makes mention in a diary that a Mofang once looked like it was running towards the dome where Hunrath was, only to disappear. It was reported to have popped up on the other side of the dome, having never set foot in Hunrath, and just kept running like nothing happened.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Villein technology is light gray with blue energy signatures, whereas Mofang tech is darker and more angular with red signatures. This is related to their biology, these being the colors their eyes are best adapted to see. This also means that light blue text is used for messages meant to be hidden from the Mofang, flagging these as extra-important to the player.
    • Each of the four worlds has an associated color that is based on the predominant color in its palette: yellow for Hunrath/Earth, red for Soria, green for Maray, blue for Kaptar. These are seen when an ambassador seed is preparing to swap, in the sky when a Mofang beam is destroyed, as well as within the caves that connect the Trees.
    • Arai eggs glow a particular color depending on the surface they're attached to. Farley shows this can be useful for finding precious metals: if they go pink, you've struck gold!
  • The Comically Serious: Judging from the contents of his office, Mayor Josef is taking the whole 'Mayor of Hunrath' thing far too seriously, with 'Vote for Josef' placards everywhere, and one of the first entries in his log is about how people think he's calling too many meetings. His leitmotif is titled "A Man Who Grossly Overvalues His Own Importance".
  • Creator Cameo: A number of Cyan employees, most recognizably Cyan CEO and Myst co-creator Rand Miller, can be seen inside Villein cryopods. Some of their voices also appear on Farley's tape recorder.
  • Creator Thumbprint: There are certain visual touches typical of Cyan games, such as floating rocks and an Anachronism Stew approach to the setting.
  • Diegetic Switch: Farley has a music box that plays her own leitmotif. The Mayor has a Victrola that plays his.
  • Disney Death: According to various journals and Farley's tape recorder, Chavar, a Mofang defector, had lost contact with the humans just prior to the battle, and Farley presumes the worst for her. A perusal of the check-in logbook on Maray confirms that Chavar made it out okay.
  • Door to Before: All over the place, especially in Hunrath. Some of these are necessary to the player, since they allow one to get to a room in a different way, which allows them to reconfigure the path they used originally and thereby reach somewhere new. In other cases, they just make it easier to get around within the area.
    • In a patch after the release of the game, an extra one of these was added to Maray. Before its addition, it was possible for the player to fluke their way through the Villein number panels controlling the bridges, but upon reaching the sign-in area, where use of a specific number is required, the game became Unintentionally Unwinnable as there was no longer a way to reach the tutorial sheets in Hunrath.
  • Energy Weapon: Despite having very different technologies in many ways, both the Mofang and Villeins have opted for highly-visible beams as their main weapons.
  • Egopolis: The mining town of Hartnell was renamed some time after the swap and given the name of its then-Mayor Hunrath. It also marks a new Year Zero.
  • Fantastic Light Source: Farley uses the Arai barnacles as lights in her bedroom, noting that they don't hatch if not connected to a polyarch.
  • Featureless Protagonist: As with Myst and other games in the genre, the player character has no specific characterization, in order that the player can more easily identify with them.
  • First-Person Ghost: The player character has no in-game model or reflection and their appearance is not referenced in any way, but there is an option for a generic male or female shadow.
  • 555: The number for the Kenway, Bilhem & Bale Law Offices is 1-555-HELPYOU! (435-7968).
  • Flying Seafood Special: There used to be giant fish that swam through the skies of Kaptar.
  • Foreshadowing: The power light for Soria/Mofang is broken in the Hunrath watch tower. Soria as a viable sphere, except for the tree, does not exist anymore.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Cecil designed and built much of Hunrath's infrastructure, including reverse-engineered alien technology. This is especially impressive considering he was born in the 1800s.
  • Genius Cripple: C.W. can't move very fast, and uses the town's rail system to get around. Which makes the player especially helpful.
  • Genocide Dilemma: Happens in the backstory. The Mofang decide that they'll be better off without any other races to compete with and decide to wipe out the inhabitants of the other spheres. Learning this from a few sympathizers, the other races sabotage their plans and kill off the Mofang. From Farleys' journals, it's clear there are severe misgivings on both sides about this scenario. In the end, Mofang extinction seems certain; there are a few defectors who were saved along with the humans, but it may not be enough to repopulate their race.
  • Glamour Failure: On Maray, there's a Mofang infiltrator disguised as the Mayor who tries to trick you. His illusion is given away by the Hologram Projection Imperfection of his tech, plus vocal distortions and poor grammar that make him pretty clearly unhuman.
  • The Greys: The Mofang have this body type, though their skin ranges in color from red to yellow.
  • Hive Mind: Superficially the Arai seem to have this; but in fact, the insectoid drones are mindless extensions of a gigantic organism that is rooted in place and controls them remotely.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Hunrathians defeat the Mofang with the help of a few Mofang defectors and some well timed swap seeds, use the weapons intended for use against the other spheres against their own creators.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: The Mofang hologram projectors have a red crackling light that indicates their falseness, though according to C.W.'s notes, this can be reduced if their power supply provides exactly the right voltage.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: The Villeins' long-term lifecycle involves this, living on a planet until it is about to die, then putting themselves into stasis and voyaging through space in search of a new home.
  • Hornet Hole: The polyarch's cavern inside Kaptar's cliffs is a friendly one.
  • Hugh Mann: On Maray, there's A Mofang disguised as Mayor Josef. However, his image has numerous flaws that should make anyone suspicious of his true nature. That said, because of their differences in vision and hearing, it's probable that the Villeins were less able to detect these clues.
  • Human Popsicle: And alien popsicle: The Villeins use cryonic pods to preserve their population during their routine homeworld evacuations. During the games, the Villeins as well as the populations of Hunrath and Kaptar are frozen in this way as a last-ditch hope to protect them from the Mofang WMDs.
  • Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Many areas in the game are cut off by obstacles that in real life could easily be climbed over, swum through, or even taken apart.
  • Just Before the End: There are hints that the Villeins' and Arai homeworlds are on the verge of becoming uninhabitable: The Villeins have a tradition of Homeworld Evacuation and were getting ready to leave before getting trapped in their sphere, and the Arai have outlived several other civilizations, who are now seen only by their ruins.
  • Kirk's Rock: There is a rock formation at Hunrath that closely resembles the original from Start Trek.
  • Late to the Tragedy: The player character arrives at most a few weeks after a major conflict reached its climax, meaning that all the locations you can visit have been abandoned and put into the highest possible defensible state.
  • The Lawfirm Of Pun Pun And Wordplay: In the gas station, there is an ad for the law offices of "Kenway, Bilhem & Bale" (as in "can we bill'em and bail").
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Swapping from one place to another can take a long time, especially on less advanced computers, as in most cases the game has to load the entire world that the player is moving into. This can be problematic as several puzzles involve multiple swaps back and forth. There were some efforts to mitigate this, particularly in the maze at the end of Maray, where swapping to Hunrath only loads the immediate mines area, but it can still take a while to get back.
  • Made of Iron: Although they require a great deal of care to mature, the trees at the sphere centers can apparently shrug off a considerable amount of damage: the one in Mofang survives a point-blank detonation of a powerful bomb which reduces all other structures in the area to dust or smoking debris.
  • Multiple Endings: There are two, plus a Non Standard Game Over.
    • If you connect C.W.'s battery before destroying the Bleeder, his plan succeeds, circumventing the intentions of the Benevolent Precursors and returning the four domes to their original planets, but when Hunrath is returned to Earth it's After the End. Furthermore, most of the Human Popsicle survivors didn't even make it back to Hunrath, leaving their fate unknown. If you don't pay attention you'll end up with this ending anyway, since if you don't do it C.W. will connect his battery himself.
      • It is still possible to get the good ending even if C.W. connects his battery himself. It's very easy to disconnect.
    • If you destroy the Bleeder and leave the battery unconnected, the Benevolent Precursors original plan goes forward, and all four spheres are transported together to a verdant new world, with the force-fields removed.
  • Mythology Gag: Veteran Myst fans will definitely get a sense of deja vu over the course of this game.
    • Learning an Alternative Number System in a base other than 10. Though most can be brute-forced and you only need two, of which a machine in Hunrath can give you the necessary inputs.
    • Exploring Hunrath, an empty desert settlement, with the goal of entering a chamber inside a tree, is reminiscent of the Cleft segment at the beginning of Uru: Ages Beyond Myst.
    • There are several explicit references to the Myst series. The first is when the Mayor's holographic greeting says hello in several languages, including D'ni ("Shorah"). The most obvious is the Myst book and Myst tie-in RPG manual found in Farley's bedroom. A few sounds and visual assets have been reused, as well.
    • There also more subtle references. The first thing C.W. says to us is "Who the devil are you?", the exact same thing Atrus says when he first sees the Stranger in Myst. The gas station contains bottles of "Moula Cola". MOULA is an acronym for Myst Online: Uru Live Again.
    • The presence of Multiple Endings based on which character you trust.
    • The entrance to Farley's vault, although at first inaccessible anyway, is hidden by a door which the player opened from the other side, much like a trick they used in Riven.
    • Hidden on the back of one of the hint sheets, there is an advert for The Manhole.
  • Names To Run Away From Very Fast: Villein. Most pronunciations are close to "villain". Averted; they're actually close allies.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: The four connected worlds are at least similar enough that their inhabitants can visit each other without harm, and Arai beetles can survive in the Earth sphere for at least a few days. If Farley's theory is correct, this is justified, as the spheres were connected based partly on the biological similarity of their respective species.
  • Notice This: Certain hints in journals are written in blue. In-universe, this is to hide them from Mofang who can't see very well at that end of the spectrum.
  • Ontological Mystery: You get whisked away to an alien planet. There's a farmhouse and an old, abandoned mining town. That's all you're given.
  • Organic Technology: The object which transports the player to the alien world resembles a kind of seedpod with other, stranger shapes nested inside.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Cecil assumes the rest of the townfolk were killed, rather than just ask the player character, who has seen that they're all alive in Human Popsicle form. He also assumes the earth will still be habitable when he returns to it, while the player, provided they got a good look around while on Soria, knows better. This hastens his resolve to complete the plan to swap Hunrath to earth when the trees mature, which proves to be a bad idea.
    • Cecil in general could get his plans moving along a lot quicker if he spent a few minutes explaining to the player what is going on, or where everyone has gone, or what any of the machinery that he built does, or the codes to any of the doors, or at least the location of the codes to any of the doors. Since the player character is a Heroic Mime, they have no ability to ask themselves.
  • Portal Cut: Everywhere. The swappers exchange perfect spheres of matter, resulting in some very obvious cuts; you appear in a perfectly spherical depression in a canyon containing the picnic area you were abducted from, and every abducted structure is on a perfect circle of ground from another place; the house and gas station are on circles of asphalt, the train station is on a circle of concrete. The kitbashed swappers are on circles of grass or stone, all very noticeable in the bright red Arizona sand - and the giant stone sphere next to the junkyard is the result of an underground swapper. Late in the game you even find a Mofang who was apparently attacking a swapper mid-swap - only the upper half of its body is inside the swapper.
  • Punny Name: Like previous Cyan entries such as Riven and Uru, this title uses an obscure term to suggest a more apparent one. In this case, obduction, a geological process in which one tectonic plate covers another, and abduction, because the player is stolen away.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Mofang have this motif going. It's especially heavy in their homeworld, although that's largely because it was recently burnt to a crisp. Strangely, the Mofang on the human side tend to have orange or yellow skin, but what this means is not explained.
  • Red Herring: The "Box of Infinite Complexity", a device in Kaptar with dozens of buttons and switches, lights with apparently randomly changing patterns, and instructions in Russian. By the time you get the code that works with it, you don't need it. You do get an achievement for destroying it, though.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Many mysteries in the setting are never fully answered, most notably the ultimate source of the swapper trees, and whether they are part of a natural process or created by some intelligence. Many details of Hunrath's history, both recent and distant, are left unexplained as well.
    • A couple of items of Hunrath's history were added in a late patch, adding a bar and the source of C.W.'s power.
  • Rock of Limitless Water: The stream in Hunrath flows from the top of a cliff without any source. This is taken by some as a sign that the sphere they're trapped in has a benevolent purpose.
  • Scavenger World: Because the inhabitants of Hunrath can't control what materials are brought into their sphere, they keep everything that is brought in that might remotely be useful at some time in the future. Everything that's not in use is kept in a massive junk pile, and what is used is combined haphazardly with an aim to function over aesthetic.
  • Scenery Porn: This is game was made by Cyan Worlds, the team responsible for proving that video games could look beautiful, and none of the worlds fall short of this legacy.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: It's Cyan. The puzzles will go back and forth from obvious (shoot laser at rock) to mind-boggling (finding the key code to the Tower elevator).
  • Schizo Tech: The structures around Hunrath were transported in from different time periods, so a wide variety of human technologies and devices from the 19th to 21st centuries can be found, along with technology from three different alien species including the extremely advanced seed-teleportation technology made by whatever species created the trees.
  • Schmuck Bait: At the beginning you will probably see notices posted all around Hunrath warning you not to approach a dodecahedral object. Near the end you see one in Maray. Three guesses as to what happens if you approach it.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Characterizes all documents written by C.W., in contrast with his colorful way of speaking. The only exception is his journal, which he obviously wrote just for himself.
  • Shout-Out: The white farmhouse and lantern in the initial area, to Zork
    • The initial scenario, an alien vessel appearing from the sky and whisking the player off to a strange world, is remarkably similar to The Dig.
    • There is also a Myst book in Farley's vault. Instead of opening the front cover, the player opens the back... and most of the pages are cut away to hide video equipment for the linking panel. This is a shoutout to a fan who made a Myst book replica containing a computer that actually plays all five Myst games through a touchscreen where the book's panel would be.
  • Southern-Fried Genius: C.W., the chief engineer of the settlement, comes from the 1870s American South.
  • Spanner in the Works: C.W. has a plan in place to use the teleportation technology to return everyone home. Unfortunately the Benevolent Precursors had a good reason for displacing the spheres from their respective planets. Following through with the battery plan short-circuits the Precursors' original plan and presumably ends up screwing over every character in the game. The player character has the opportunity to put a spanner in C.W.'s own plan by disconnecting his battery just before the final swap occurs.
    • C.W. can also act as a spanner himself - if you completely ignore the battery, he'll get annoyed and just connect it himself while you're connecting the last tree.
    • Backstory-wise, the whole reason everything's still locked down is due to a rather large spanner - namely that the Mofang bomb on Maray didn't arrive exactly where it was predicted to, meaning that the Villeins couldn't swap it back, and allowing its intended trigger-man to elude death.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Myst
  • Starfish Language: All of the alien races encountered in the game use forms of speech that humans cannot replicate. Moreover, none of them can naturally speak to each other, either. However, perseverance has allowed the species to develop secondary ways of communicating.
  • Swap Teleportation: The game's primary puzzle-mechanic, and the key to moving between the four settings.
  • Tele-Frag: The swapper seeds teleport everything within a certain radius of them, creating a sphere of teleportation. Anything crossing the edge of that sphere gets cut in half. This is seen all over the place with rocks and buildings, but In Kaptar, there's a half of a Mofang who was caught in a sphere while trying to prevent it swapping back, realizing the returning piece of land would be carrying a weapon of mass destruction.
  • That One Puzzle: Parodied and lampshaded by the "Box of Infinite Complexity", which is covered in little buttons and dials and a long string number display, the buttons and dials all affect a panel with a number of lights on it, and the only text on it is in Russian. Its in-universe purpose is to lower a set of stairs, but by the time the player finds the code that works with the box, they've already lowered the stairs from above anyway. Putting the code into the box while the stairs are lowered results in the box falling to the ground, breaking, and the player getting an achievement titled "Revenge!".
  • Time Travel: The people brought to Hunrath by the collector seeds, like the player character, are drawn from a wide variety of times, ranging from the late 1800s to the 2040s. Presumably the same is true of the other alien spheres.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: One of the soundtrack tracks is named "You Lost, Bitch".
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: Much like Myst, the whole game is in first-person.
  • The Unpronounceable: All alien words and names are unpronounceable to humans, so the names we have for them are loose approximations of their real languages.
  • Unspecified Apocalypse: As seen in the bad ending, The Earth has been roughed up pretty bad, but the cause isn't clear. All we know is Earth isn't a viable long-term home, which is why the seeds picked us up in the first place.
  • Unusual Euphemism: C.W. uses the term "Karffin'" in place of actual swear words.
  • Wham Shot: A late patch added two new areas to buff out the backstory. One of them is the "crash site" bar, where a swap sphere has brought in a one-seater plane. The other one reveals how C.W.'s section is powered - a swap sphere containing part of a nuclear submarine.
  • World Tree: Each of the four alien world spheres has a tree at the center. These are the sources for the seeds used to travel between spheres, and are connected to the spheres themselves and to each other. There's a theory in-universe that these and others are all connected to a single "mother" tree, but this is unsubstantiated.
  • Year Zero: Well, Day Zero, to be precise. Hunrath's calendar was reset to coincide with the term of its namesake mayor (see Egopolis, above).


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