Project Aphelion Solo Play #021: We Require More Minerals

It’s time to start the offensive! We have a lot of cash getting dusty on the bank account, and I look forward to spending it before some other Faction decides I have a nice trove of cash and it would be a shame it something has happened to it… Those 65 thousands of nuyen are just sitting there, and there’s not that many things we can do with them…

No, I’m lying. There are millions of things I can spend this money, intel, and influence on. Just watch me <imagine some money-throwing gif here>.


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Faction Layer, February 16th, 2056

Let’s take a look at our Faction resources:

  • 13 Payouts worth of cash
  • 1 Payouts worth of Influence towards Henequen’s Faction
  • 3 Payouts worth of Chloe Intel
  • 3 Payouts worth of Dragon Intel
  • 5 points of general Influence for Rep
  • Cash: 4575c

Whatever Chloe-connected intel will from now on be treated as Fayette-connected intel, as this is still the same case. The dragon intel is connected to Dzitbalchen. There isn’t much I can do with that Henequen’s influence – I’m keeping it for the time when I feel like raising Wheeler to a R3 contact by strengthening his relationships with other Factions and the general power level. I know it’s going to happen, you know it’s going to happen – just accept that. He’s important, and I enjoy developing a romantic relationship between two people who actually like each other and care about one another, no fake drama involved.

And then I’ll steal him from the Cutters and add him to my own Faction, muahahaha. If I raise him to a R5 contact, he’ll join my Faction as a Career Rating 5 Commander.

The general influence is a beautifully useful and versatile resource and I’ll leave it for the darkest days. The money, though… I am going to need a fair chunk to cover the living expenses of three people, their gear, the cost of running scenarios, etc.

We have reworked the passive resource generation (as I told you we will), and now my hired R3 Facility will bring me 3 Payouts worth of money per month, without sending any of my Assets to work there. I just need to pay the ‘rent’ (1125c/month, already paid) and 300c/month for hiring employees (extras) who will handle the sales. For that purpose, we’re cutting a deal with a local talismonger, Arlene ‘Momma’ Calderwood, who will just include our spells, amulets, magic apples (a full daily nutrition in a single fruit!) etc. in her store. This will brings us, after all costs, 13,575c/month – a little less than 3 Payouts worth of cash, but enough to cover the living expenses of three people.

Is this one of the reasons Tomorrow was so onboard with the Cutters (and herself) having access to BBs-owned Shadowmarket? You bet it was. Would it be better for me if BBs’ Facility grew in size, even though it would raise my rent and employee cost? Again, yes. I will look into it at some point, and if they ever run a project that directly tries to make the market better, I’ll help them out.

With the matters of cashflow more or less sorted, I get to spend the cash, preferably on gear, to make my Faction harder, better, faster, and stronger.


The Gear Matters

Here’s what we have so far:

Social Wearables: R1 Business Auction Suit (Tonight)R1 Elegant Suit (Tomorrow)
Social Wearable Augments: R2 Flash Bling (Tonight)R2 Elegant Jewelry (Tomorrow)
Technical Wearables: R1 Technician Work Clothes x2 (Tomorrow, Chloe)
Investigative Wearables: R2 Ghost Jumpsuit (Tomorrow)
Toolkits: R1 Sorcery Toolkit (Tomorrow). R1 Survival Toolkit (Tomorrow)
Commlinks: R1 Terra Nova UtiliTech x2 (Tomorrow, Chloe)
Bots: R1 Overlay Bot Marksmanship (Tomorrow). R1 Overlay Bot Stealth (Chloe). R1 Driver (Tomorrow). R1 Optimizer Bot Diplomacy (Tomorrow)
Electronic Warfare: R1 Encoder (Chloe). R1 Locksmithing Set (Tomorrow)
Electronic Warfare Consumables: R1 Black Screen Bullets (Chloe). R1 Laser Connector (Chloe).
Investigative Consumables: R2 SpamBox (Tonight). R3 InvisiCloak (Tomorrow)
Social Utility Items: R2 Pheromone Emitter (Tonight)
Social Consumables: R1 SilverTongue (Tonight). R1 Peace of Mind (Tonight). R1 Rolling Stone (Tonight). R5 Wits’ End (Tomorrow)
Explosives AoE: R4 Chem Grenade (Dot) (Tomorrow)
Utility Items (Non-lethal weapons): R1 Arc Thrower (small) (Tomorrow)
Elementals: R3 Steven (air elemental) (Tomorrow)

Oof.

As far as the gear goes, we’re not in a bad place – I will, however, sell Chloe’s commlink and buy her a better one – a R3 Zhengdao Operator for 1900c and a R5 BlackHat extension boosting the Hack the System AAC for 687.50c which I’m gonna count as 700c for my own convenience.


Everybody Needs a Friend

We have gathered a pile of stuff and junk throughout 20 episodes of this campaign. Some of the things got re-statted, some got added or removed between my original chargen and now. Some things are modded, some still have some potential, some should be replaced, and others will have to be built. 

First order of business will be summoning and binding another elemental. Steven is great, but Tomorrow likes him for her personal protection. Chloe, as she’s not Awakened and cannot see astral entities unless they’re materialized, could use an extra layer of security – an elemental that will keep watch over her.

Electricity, water, and fire are not something that a hacker would want around themselves and their gear, so an earth elemental will have to do. It will be following Chloe’s command – spoken ones, as she cannot communicate telepathically with a spirit. It’s going to be a quiet and stalwart protector, and if needs be, it can communicate with its summoner (Tomorrow) telepathically. 

We will give it a mental / sustained Guard power, providing Chloe with 3 points of Defense against warfare-style attacks. We’ll also equip it with a mental / instantaneous Fear power, a single-target attack that drops the Morale to zero if it scores marks equal or above target’s Resolve. The last power is going to be the classic and everybody’s favorite mental / sustained Concealment. 

RatingArmor (Defense)Range (Modules)Signature (Astral)Power SlotsDurability (10)Action CardPowers
Jade (Earth Elemental) (Chloe)33330/330ConjuringConcealment [P, S, N/A, Effect: Marks scored provide Resistance against all attempts to spot the target. Max number of targets = Rating]

Guard [M, S, N/A, Effect: Target receives 3 points of Defense against physical attacks and environmental damage. Max number of targets = Rating]

Fear [M, I, N/A, CR: Resolve. Effect: If marks >= Target’s Resolve, reduce Target’s Morale Pool to 0. Counts as a hostile action.

We’re calling the elemental Jade, because she’s a swirling vortex of arcane symbols (like all Tomorrow’s elementals), glowing a nice shade of green. Also, because we’re setting up some really despicable puns later down the road. Does it make Chloe’s companion look a bit like a vortex of the Matrix code (the movie one, not Shadowrun one)? Yes. That is exactly the point. We have Aesthetics to uphold, and that’s a perfect companion for a hacker. Also, Matrix is life.

Imagine this, just as a 3D tornado, about a meter high.

1 Hour Matrix Rain Code animated gif

Anyway, it’s a Scientific project that my scientist is going to be running starting on 16th Feb, rolling 1v5, scoring the necessary 3 marks within 5 days and finishing on 20th Feb. Because I don’t have the equivalent materials in the system, I’m going with SR’s magic spirit binding materials, costing 500c per rating (1500c spent).


Planning and Scheming

February 16th, 2056

‘We need to get rid of those people looking for Fayette. And we cannot bring any attention to ourselves.’

Sarah, who has spent the last six hours preparing the ritual circle for binding the earth elemental and muttering obscure curses and countercurses at the primal force that was never her forte, raises her head when Chloe starts speaking but it clearly takes her a couple of seconds to get her brain back to the material world.

‘Sure. Makes sense,’ she agrees after a moment. ‘Do you have a plan?’

Chloe bites her lips. She has a plan – but getting her sister on board might be a task more complicated. She should have discusses it with Tonight first, she realizes. The spirit would be able to explain it better…

‘I have an idea of a plan,’ she admits. ‘Partially simple, partially complicated, quite assuredly expensive.’

‘Money’s just money, we can always make more. What’s on your mind?’

‘Well… D’Venescu is… if not on a run from Aztechnology, then at least he is extremely unpopular there. I was thinking we can use that against him. It would take some time and resources, and careful planning, but I’m sure we could pull it off…’

‘Chloe,’ interrupts Sarah. ‘Get to the point and stop trying to sell me on this.’

‘I was thinking we could shut down his book tour and make it look like Aztechnology did it. He knows they’re against him, he won’t suspect anybody else. I’m pretty sure I could build a trail connected to Azzie grids that would stand to scrutiny. I still have some access there. He’s not going to accuse Aztech for messing with his plans, but even if he does, they will deny, and he’s not going to believe them.’

‘A false flag, huh? Could work if you can pull off the technical side. Any plan for that book tour shutdown?’

Chloe winces. ‘Not yet. I’d rather, you know, not kill people – but maybe we can make sure they’re… uninvited from places.’

‘Disgraced,’ Tonight pipes in happily. ‘Socially departed. Discredited. Shunned. Ostracized.’

‘Useless.’ Sarah shuts down her notebook and gets up from the floor. ‘I like it. Where’s the expensive part?’

‘Well, that depends. We could hire somebody for the disgracing part, just to make sure our faces are nowhere near the whole thing. Or we could do it ourselves, but I’d need better equipment for this. I can’t hack shit from a basic commlink.’

‘You’re going to need that gear sooner or later, so we might as well just buy it. Do you think you could do the disgracing through Matrix as well?’

Not that she hasn’t thought of that. It could be possible, but getting d’Venescu’s team uninvited from all the places would take dozens of hacks… She neither has the time, nor gear – and quite possibly, not even the skill for that. And it would be so easy to undo – the system would say one thing, but the people wouldn’t know why, counted that as a mistake…

‘I don’t know,’ she admits. ‘Seems more of a social thing. Or maybe not, maybe it’s a matter of framing them, blackmailing, or breaking in and breaking bones… I don’t know yet. It will take some thinking for sure. But if we use Aztech as a smoke screen, we’ll remove d’Venescu’s search party without any risk for us. And then we won’t be dependent on whether or not Crowley’s magic keeps this place safe from divination.’

‘The young one has a point.’ Tonight grins. ‘This sounds like fun. I can start digging for an angle while Chloe is upgrading her gear and raising the smoke screen. You should be done with the elemental by that time, right?’

‘Probably. It’s the first time I’m working with the energy of earth like that. Air is so much malleable,’ complains Sarah with a scowl. ‘But somebody thinks electricity does not belong next to her precious gear. It is in your gear, you know.’

Chloe shrugs. ‘Miss me with that. If it’s not grounded, it’s not coming near my deck.’

‘Anyway…’ interrupts them Tonight. ‘We got stuff to do and you two are losing daylight. You’ll have the time for banter later.’


The False Flag

What we’re about to do is called a False Flag project: an investigative, passive project aimed at a Faction that we’ll be copying and connected to a specific Scenario. Unless somebody runs an interference against the Scenario in question and the Scenario is successfully completed while in concealment, the target of the Scenario will think it was performed by the copied Faction.

So, in this case, we will prepare a Scenario to destroy d’Venescu’s R2 Creative Crew and hit him where it hurts – at the same time running a project to ensure d’Venescu blames Aztechnology for that loss. They’re already at Familiarity 1, so even if we went for the kill, it would still work within that relationship.

I don’t know if we will go for the kill – instead, we’ll have Tonight run the project to set up the Scenario; as the purpose of the Scenario is to get rid of the Asset, the Challenge of this project equals the Rating of the Asset times 5, regardless of the actual Payout. This means we need 10 marks collected in the project, which will realistically take at least to the end of the month, and we want the false flag project to cover the whole process. The project is finished in 13 days, on 28th Feb.

To set up the False Flag, we will have Chloe run it at the same time as Tonight’s Scenario preparations. The Challenge/Payout of this project equals the copied Faction’s Rating – in our case, it’s Aztechnology with Rating 5. We roll 1v5 for Chloe’s progress, collecting 5 marks in 11 days and finishing on 26th Feb. This means we’ll sustain it for a couple days more, until the Scenario is over. Lots of work for a single hacker to make a careful, detailed, but not too obvious trail of evidence leading to one of the biggest megacorporations in the world! This will cost her a lot of Deployment Fatigue, but we’ll deal with that later.

Looks like the legwork and the actual Scenario will only happen in March – which leaves Tomorrow to her own projects for the next two weeks!


Let’s Not Forget Who’s the Protagonist Here

With both Tonight and Chloe hard at work, Tomorrow has found herself… obsolete to the main quest. Which is perfectly fine by her, letting her focus on her things. There’s a lot of things in her life that fell to the wayside and should be picked up before the month is over.

First, she spends 5 days binding the earth elemental, ending on 20th Feb.

Second, she checks in on Salazar and his brand new crew of gangers, also on 20th.

Third, she runs a quick Payout 3 Scenario from the Income trait, working on her arcane research business, with legwork on 21st and Scenario on 22nd.

Fourth… Ah. Let’s wait for the consequences of the Scenario. Just in case. She plans to work on her spell research (learning the new Advanced Action Card), but we’ll see what happens.


February 20th, 2056

It takes a couple of minutes of constant ringing, but Tomorrow is not in a hurry. She knows why Salazar is not picking up and she knows why he will. At some point.

‘Hi, Sal.’ She grins when the bald head of the elven blood mage finally appears on her commlink.

‘Whatever is your question, the answer is no.‘ The scowl on Salazar’s face is only partially faked, Tomorrow is sure of that. She decides to ignore it anyway.

‘Lovely!’ she exclaims. ‘I was just about to ask if you’re busy tonight.’

The mage sighs heavily and rubs his temples. ‘I suppose I brought that on myself. You’re like a migraine, you know? What do you want?’

‘I actually wanted to check if you’d be open to some vodka, good food, and swapping notes. I got some fresh stuff. And I miss your ugly face.’

‘And there are absolutely no extra layers in this deal?’ Salazar looks and sounds suspicious but it’s obvious that he’s not really opposed to the idea.

‘I also wanna snoop on your new crew. The ‘hood is buzzing that you got some new folks on the roster.’

‘I never know if you’re the world’s best or worst spy.’ The blood mage shakes his head. ‘Sure, come over. With more than one bottle. We got company.’ He flips her a bird before disconnecting, and Tomorrow laughs. Whatever happened during the blood magic ritual, did not harm their relationship even a bit.

. . .

When Tomorrow arrives at the old elementary school that serves as the Hellhounds’ headquarter, the snow is falling with a sad, wet plop all around her. The small raven takes shelter under a materialized elemental over the two-kilometer flight but it’s still unpleasant. She’s not hiding: even though she would surely be able to sneak past all the guards, weasel her way through Sal’s mana barriers (after all, she’s the one who taught him how to place them properly), and fool the watchers and elementals, it would be considered impolite. And while neither Tomorrow nor Sal care about what the general populace considers polite, they have a certain level of professional courtesy to uphold. 

She could kill him in his sleep in his own bed in the middle of the gang HQ and still leave unnoticed. He could kill her awake with a single fireball and burn half a block with her. The courtesy is non-optional.

The glowing elemental announces her arrival well enough, so when she drops the bird form mid-air and lands gracefully at the main entrance, the ganger on the other side of the door just lets her in. She high-fives the ork girl, then collects the carrier bag from Steven and pulls out a tupperware. 

‘A brownie?’ she asks with a mischievous smile. ‘I brought enough for the whole class!’ 

‘And what exactly am I gonna see after eating it?’ Tina gives the sweets a careful once-over but picks up a piece without much delay. ‘And how much I’m gonna hate you afterwards?’ 

‘That’s between the brownie, you, and your brain. But they’ve been sold to me as recreational.’ Tomorrow grins and throws the bag’s strap over her arm. The clinking of glass bottles reminds her she should treat it more carefully. She grabs a brownie for herself too. ‘If you don’t tell Sal, I won’t either. In any case, we’re about to get wasted, so it would be unfair for you to be left out. Why is it actually that it’s you here? Didn’t you pick up some greenies lately to do the crappy jobs?’ 

‘We did.’ Tina takes a bite of the cake, staring morosely at the boring, wet darkness outside. ‘They’re still too new to trust them with defenses, tho. But I think it’ll be alright. They’re slowly getting the hang of things. It’s good to have more peeps here. Safety in numbers and all. Can’t really trust the big guys up north.’

‘It’s quiet there now. Good for the biz.’ Tomorrow stuffs a piece of the brownie into her mouth. ‘Anyway,’ she says around it, ‘when your shift’s over, come join us. Got some booze and shit. I’ll keep it cold for ya.’

Tina nods along, returning to her post. She’s gonna be happier in about ten minutes, thinks Tomorrow. She considers for a while whether she should stay sober, lucid, safe… But no. Screw this. She needs a party or her bird brain is going to overheat. 

She walks into the main hall with a box full of pot brownies in one hand, a bottle of vodka in the other, and several more bottles in the bag on her shoulder. And she grinds to a halt. 

‘Well, hello there,’ she answers to several people happily calling out her name. ‘I didn’t know we’ve moved the team meeting. Through time and space.’

‘We didn’t,’ laughs Fudge, the dark-skinned troll sprawled on the couch between the rest of Tomorrow’s combat biker team. ‘But we figured it’s time to apply the training to reality.’

She chuckles as a couple of her teammates start talking one over another, explaining how they decided to do the exact one thing they were supposed not to. She listens, while unpacking the booze and brownies, setting up the party and fully expecting Salazar to emerge from his hideout at some point. After a couple minutes, once several other Hellhounds joins their circle and partake in the libation, Tomorrow finds herself perfectly amused by the situation – to the point that can only be explained by drugs. Adam was right – whatever Doc Harmon is selling, really takes the edge off.

‘Does Phase know?’ she asks after a while, once the whole story unfolds. ‘I’ve seen she cancelled the last couple of trainings, but I was busy with my shit anyway.’

‘Phase is also busy.’ Sharpie, the team’s best marksman, scowls and bites into a brownie. ‘She’s hunting down bug spirits. Which, I guess, is a good thing, because nobody wants another Chicago here. And she least of all. But, you know, she kinda left us on ice.’

‘And Ice doesn’t give a shit about us,’ adds Fudge, making the rest laugh at the pun. ‘Which is fair – he’s got a league to run, and we can take care of ourselves. So Phase doesn’t know and we like it that way.’

‘She won’t like it,’ notes Tomorrow calmly and pours a shot for herself and Mike, the oldest of her teammates – the only one who’s legally even allowed a drink – who is sitting next to her. ‘But you ain’t her property. How’s the gang life treating y’all?’

‘Pretty good. We got a deal with guys here.’ Mike downs the shot and licks his lips. ‘We got skills, they got gear, together we got, you know, the feeling of belonging.’

‘They’re not half bad,’ admits Caw-Caw, one of Salazar’s mages and a fellow follower of Raven. Tomorrow finds the crow’s wings on the woman’s hat distasteful, but she knows it’s really none of her business. Caw-Caw is a good medic, and she will take care of the younglings – even if Salazar won’t. ‘The moment they learn to shoot with criminal intent, they will even be useful. Right now, they’re still trying to steal the other gangs’ flags, like some college athletes. And this one-‘ She points at Fudge who stops with a bottle halfway to his mouth. ‘This one has tried to use a rebar as a lance.’

‘Lances are a valid weapon and I’m good with them!’ cries back Fudge and within seconds the conversation devolves into a shouting match about the tactics of street warfare.

Tomorrow is listening with half an ear, happily taking a backseat in the conversation. She scans the crowd in the room: eight Hellhounds and nine of her combat biker teammates. Caw-Caw is a mage, Fudge is an adept, so is Sharpie. That’s seventeen. Plus Tina on guard, plus Sal and Gargoyle, both suspiciously absent from the gathering – probably having a party of their own in their bedroom. Ahab, the last of Sal’s mages, is also absent, but he’s probably on astral patrol… Is that all? Tomorrow thinks back to her previous visits, trying to recall all names and faces, but she’s reasonably sure she’s not missing anybody. Which means that Sal has practically doubled his gang’s numbers, even if the newbies are… Newbies. Without their bikes and guns, because no matter how they talk about their team captain, they’re not about to steal from her, apparently. Which is wise.

Phase isn’t going to like it. The ex-shadowrunner has spent the best part of a year providing free training, lending them gear, and expecting nothing in return – just to keep those ungrateful teenagers away from joining gangs. Which is exactly what they did, of course, at the first opportunity. Tomorrow isn’t going to chastise them – she did even more ridiculous things when she was their age. It’s their choice whether to mess up their lives – but she cannot shake a bitter feeling that gnaws at her even through the joyful drug haze in her brain. Somebody needs to tell Phase, because when she learns about it on her own…

‘Would be cooler if you told me you’re moving to the Warrens,’ she mentions to Mike, handing him the bottle.

‘Ah, well, you know.’ The young ork avoids her gaze, just like she expected. ‘We knew you won’t be going with us. You’re not… A part of the team, not really.’

‘Ouch,’ she laughs, putting a hand on her broken heart. ‘I mean, fair. I ain’t got the time for full-time combat biking, and I’m, like, a million years older than y’all.’

‘And you got a job,’ adds Mike, counting on his fingers. ‘And you’re at uni. And you’re with the Cutters, officially or not, so you’re not joining Hellhounds. And Salazar said that even if you wanted to join, it would be over his dead body.’

‘Huh. Good to know. I’ll consider the offer.’ Tomorrow snaps her fingers and lets the mana coalesce between them into a perfectly golden biscuit. ‘I’d be a good gang leader. I have an infinite supply of cookies and caviar. And I can literally change water into vodka.’

‘I knew it.’ Salazar appears in the door to the corridor and takes in the raging party in the classroom-turned-gang-common-room. Gargoyle is trailing right behind him, the lover and bodyguard doing his job as always. ‘I let you come for a visit, so you drug my sentry, soak the rest in booze, then bribe them all with food and start organizing a coup. It’s been fifteen minutes, Tomorrow.’

‘I also brought you a peace offering.’ Tomorrow levitates a folded piece of paper straight as Salazar’s face. The blood mage snatches it from the air before it hits him, and unfolds the note. A cloud of pink glitter explodes from the inside, spilling all over the Sal’s shirt, and he just sighs. He reads for a moment, pouring over the hermetic equations and Tomorrow’s commentary on her brand new concealment spell.

‘Fine,’ he finally declares. ‘We’re even, you’re forgiven. If your boyfriend keeps his dogs on a leash, Hellhounds won’t bite either. But you owe me a new shirt now.’

‘Cutters ain’t a gang. Wheeler’s got zero interest in taking over your turf and he’s more than happy to sell you more guns. Chop shop is now also open, so they can get you covered on the bikes too. And the glitter is edible, it’ll be gone after a wash. Now.’ She grins and levitates an unopened bottle across the room. ‘You and Gargoyle can either join us in the general revelry or you can skulk through the corners of your own damn house.’

‘One day,’ states Salazar as he and Gargoyle join the party. ‘One day you’ll become more annoying than useful and I’ll send the hounds after you. But until then… You got any of those brownies left?’


February 21st, 2056

‘… Okay, but I’m sure you didn’t call me just to talk about the weather. Whassup, T.?’

The ex-runner on the other side of the call looks tired – not the type of tiredness one achieves by a couple of bad night, but the one only bestowed by weeks of physical and mental alertness. The outward appearances are still upheld – from shiny hair to glowing skin to nicely applied makeup – however, the tension in the shoulders is unmistakable.

Tomorrow smiles to buys herself some more time. She has went through this conversation in her head many times, she knows how to approach the subject, how to steer the talk in the right direction, she is ready to be there for Phase in her moment of angst and to cement her position of a reasonable and trustworthy ally… Now, just to insert the knife and twist in the precise moment and direction.

‘Right, sorry,’ she says. ‘I’m afraid I have bad news. I had some business with one of the Warrens gangs yesterday, the Hellhounds, and…’

‘If it’s about the team, I know.’ Phase’s face is calm, with just a hint of annoyance in suddenly hard eyes. ‘Thanks for telling me, though. They didn’t have the balls. But I’m not their mother, and they’re free to make their own damn choices.’

‘Uh… Yeah. You know, I had this conversation planned, and you’re going off the script.’

The runner shrugs. ‘I’m not responsible for your neurosis. The trainings are cancelled until one of those morons realizes that my doors are always open for them, no matter what. Wanna be adults and grab a beer instead? Haven’t seen you in a while and I’d love to know how your investigation went.’ 

‘I actually had a beer with you in my script, yeah.’ Tomorrow chuckles. Her plan for the conversation has failed, but looks like she will be arriving at the predestined station anyway – and faster. ‘I’ll tell you all when we meet.’

‘Cool. See you on Wednesday.’


Coming up!

Tomorrow needs to work, like everybody else running their business in the world of the gig economy, then stuff might or may not happen, and then we get to run a false flag operation against d’Venescu’s book tour on the hunt for Fayette! It’s gonna be cool. Stay tuned!

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