Excerpt for Assembly Of Planets Complete First Set by , available in its entirety at Smashwords








ASSEMBLY OF PLANETS

Complete First Set














L. W. BROOK

Copyright © 2016 AMSER STUDIOS

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 153510614X




























This work is a part of AMSER STUDIOS and falls within the Timeless Collection.











Dedicated

to those who fear

the path ahead.























ACKNOWLEDGMENTS



I would like to take a moment to acknowledge my wonderful family and friends who have continuously supported me and my writing. Also, I would like to send a shout out to all the amazing artists out there who have created work for Amser Studios! I love running into their beautiful artwork around the internet!


In addition, I’d like to thank everyone reading my work. Your support is greatly appreciated!


I hope you enjoy the story and ask that you please rate and review when you finish so that I know what you think of it!


All errors are my own.










Table of Contents


Castle in a Red Storm 1

Terror by Night 47

Callisto, the Moon 85

Assembly in Trial 124

Serenity 163



 

 

Assembly of Planets 

Castle in a Red Storm


A Novelette



The light is red.

The vibrant color seeps through thick curtains that hang over several towering windows. There’s a Victorian theme in this castle, as though the castle were plucked right out of England. But it wasn’t.

Outside, lies a red fog. The color swirls through thick gasses, making it impossible to see anything but the planet’s atmosphere.

Jupiter. This is the Castle of Jupiter, the heart of the planet.

Curled up on a chair beside the dark curtains is a young woman. Her eyes and hair match the deep red of the planet’s surface, as though she were a representation of the planet itself.

This woman has tucked herself in the corner of the spacious room, her red ball gown wrinkled from her curled up position within the golden armchair.

There’s a knock at the door.

“Come in...” she whispers.

The door opens with a heavy creak.

In steps a man, poised and punctual. He’s dressed in a tailed coat and tie.

A servant.

A butler.

Callisto. A moon of Jupiter.

His hair is chalk white and his eyes are light gray. All moons share these characteristics. Colorless. Inferior.

He frowns, as though put out by something.

“Miss Jupiter... Is now really the time to be sulking?”

Jupiter doesn’t respond. Instead, she pulls lightly at the curtain to get a better look at her planet’s surface. The red light from beyond the window captures the side of Jupiter’s face. This leaves the other side shadowed.

“I believe this to be the perfect occasion for sulking, Callisto...” she mutters to the window.

Callisto sighs and dares an eye roll.

“You pain me, Miss Jupiter,” he declares while stepping forward.

Callisto walks directly to the window Jupiter has perched beside and pulls back the curtains. The room becomes illuminated by the red light of the planet. Outside, a strike of lightning clashes against the fog.

Jupiter winces.

“You know you have an assembly to attend, Miss Jupiter,” Callisto declares with a walk up to Jupiter’s made bed. Upon the covers lie two packed bags. The smaller is neatly placed upon the larger.

“Tell them I can’t make it,” Jupiter says in a voice just loud enough to be heard by her servant.

Callisto gives Jupiter a disapproving look. She catches this, then looks back outside.

“There’s a storm...” she tries.

“And who’s fault is that?” Callisto scoffs. He’s smiling as he picks up Jupiter’s bags from her bed. “Miss Jupiter...”

Jupiter looks to Callisto through the corner of her eye.

Callisto tilts his head and pinches his smile.

“I promise... You will be back before you know it.”

Jupiter’s gaze falls downward, then darts back up through the window.

“Please don’t pretend you can promise me that...”

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Far from the galaxy we’ve claimed as our own rests Kaliph, a small spiral galaxy not yet discovered by man.

Within this galaxy exists the dwarf star, Zephyr.

The star is small, its matter compact just enough to create a gravitational pull for the Assembly that’s chosen to orbit it.

This Assembly is known as The Assembly of Planets.  

Planets and moons have been personified by the Creator to uphold the original plan of the universe. They station themselves in this metallic fortress so that when a problem arises, they may take immediate action.

These Assembly members identify themselves with dark red jackets and silver, circular brooches. Those lucky enough to be given a form of the Creator’s most prized creation, human beings, are invited to join the Assembly. Rarely do they decline.

However, among the members of the Assembly, are the council. Only the planets of the solar system of the original human race are given seats at council.

They separate themselves with navy blue jackets and golden brooches. Only they have the power to direct the Assembly. Only they have the power to decide what is to be done about pieces that do not fit the puzzle.

They control the Assembly. And they control the direction of the universe. It is the council’s sworn duty to make sure the Creator’s plans are fulfilled.

Ten golden chairs sit at the ground level of the Assembly’s courtroom. However, due to recent events, only seven are being used. And so, the Assembly begins to wonder... Perhaps the perfect solar system isn’t destined to rule the council, after all...

“I must have you all know that I stand by what I’ve done. Regardless of the consequences,” Mother Earth declares from within the privacy of her own office chamber. She’s sitting at a large metal desk with a wall of glass at her back. From behind her, one can see Zephyr, the bright blue star they orbit.

Draped across the room’s furniture are the six remaining members of council. They wear their navy-blue jackets and gold circular Assembly brooches with pride.

From a dull, almost purplish-blue armchair, Mars begins to rub at his brooch. He’s quirking his brow when he says, “Well I don’t. Not if it’s going to cost me my rank in this council.” There’s a moment’s pause. He releases his hold on his brooch. “Or worse...”

Sitting beside Mars on an identical armchair, Venus scowls. She crosses her arms, leans back, and pops out her jaw in frustration. “We all chose to exile those two.” She glares. “Don’t forget that, Mars.”

Saturn stands beside the office doorway. He stares at the floor and fusses with the hem of his jacket. Saturn hides his unusual sand-colored eyes by dark bangs and thick-framed glasses. When he does glance upward, he catches Mother Earth’s gaze and startles. “It was the...” He pushes up his glasses with the middle finger of his right hand. “Logical... decision. After all, they did not meet the requirements necessary to qualify as a planet.” Saturn’s voice is weak, timid.

“So now we all have to pay the price for their inadequacy?” Mars scoffs. His messy blonde hair sways with the abrupt kickback. “That hardly seems fair!” he barks.

Saturn twitches at the rise in Mars’ voice.

Neptune stands beside Saturn. Her raven-colored hair twists with messy curls and uneven bangs. If it were not for their eyes, the two would almost look like twins. That said, Neptune’s bold blue eyesight is perfectly fine as she watches her brother curl with discomfort.

She raises her hand to place it upon Saturn’s shoulder, but a disapproving look from Mother Earth makes her think twice. So instead, Neptune holds the dark green gaze of her supposed superior and lowers her hand to her side.

There’s the deep sound of a man clearing his throat to speak. This lures Mother Earth’s attention away from the planets beside the room’s metallic door.

Uranus scoots up to the edge of his seat. His hands are folded together before his chin as he looks to Mother Earth. “Mother.”

Dark green meets clear blue.

“Is there nothing that can be done?” Uranus asks.

Mother Earth takes a breath and stands from her desk. She turns so that her back is now to the rest of the council members. “Our solar system was destined to rule this council... to make all of the decisions for this universe...” she tells the glass before her. In the distance, she can see millions of little blue, red, and white dots lining the sky. Stars. The true form of a human’s soul. “This is our birthright,” Mother Earth declares. She turns her head to peer at the others from over her shoulder. “They will see that.”

Mars laughs. It’s loud, curt, and obnoxious. “And if they don’t, we’re kicked out of council,” he clarifies, his exotic orange colored eyes manic.

Venus extends her leg to kick at the leg of Mars’ chair. When he flinches, she grins.

“Venus. Mars. Settle your differences. We all must hold a strong alliance if we intend to—” Mother Earth begins to scold. She’s cut off, however, by a sudden knocking at her office door. Mother Earth holds just a breath of a pause before stepping up beside her desk. Her fingers slide smoothly against the metallic surface as she calls, “Come in. Please.”

The occupants of the room go silent as they watch the mechanism pull itself open. Distant voices and footsteps can now be heard from the open doorway.

A woman dressed in black from the neck down stands before them. Her structure is poised, her light gray eyes and snow-colored head point downward.

“Luna,” Mother Earth calls in relief. “Any word?”

Luna folds her hands before herself and steps into the room. The door closes itself behind her and separates them once again from the noise of the Assembly’s manor.

“Not on the votes, ma’am. Several members of the Assembly have yet to arrive, and...” The moon trails off, her eyes darting uncomfortably around the room now as she confirms everyone is looking at her.

“And?” Mother Earth prompts, the suspense making her fret.

“And Jupiter... is on her way...” Luna practically apologizes. “I fear it is unlikely she has come to assist with the ruling in your favor, ma’am.”

“Well that’s it then, isn’t it? We’re dead. Nice knowing you all,” Mars says with a wave and moves to stand. “See you in the black hole!”

Venus leans over to pull Mars back into his chair. He goes down with a heavy grunt. “Sit your ass back down, would you? We’re not dead yet. Even Pluto and X are still breathing—somewhere out there, I’m sure...”

Saturn curls into himself unnaturally, as though he were trying to hide from the rest of the planets.

His voice is strained and uncomfortable as he says, “Actually, Mars may be right, Venus. It is quite likely that we will be destroyed if our entire system is, well... exiled.”

“Always the ray of starlight, Saturn,” Mercury finally pipes in from the corner of the room. He’s rubbing idly at his neck as he speaks up, a yawn at the back of his throat.

“Not everyone can be as dim as you,” Neptune retorts through a bark of protective adrenaline.

Mercury lolls his head limply to the side so that the dull, dark gray gateways to his soul can stare back at Neptune. He slides on a lazy smile. “Didn’t know you had a voice. That’s disappointing.”

Venus abruptly takes a stand. She then stalks to Mercury’s corner of the room and traps him beneath her intimidating, light brown gaze. “At least Neptune does more for this council than bitch and moan. If anything good comes from our demise, it will be never having to hear you speak again,” she hisses. Dirty, tangled strands of brunette drape down within what little space there is between the two planets.

Mercury taunts the amazon with another cheeky grin.

“Is now really the time to be turning on our own?” Uranus inquires.

“Isn’t that all we ever do?” Mars asks with an upward twist of his brows.

Mother Earth hits the palms of her hands down upon her desk. “Enough!”

Begrudgingly, Venus steps back from Mercury.

“Uranus is right. This is not the time.”

Uranus tries to conceal a pleased smile.

“Now. All of you, relax.” Mother Earth continues: “We can use this in our favor. As I recall, Jupiter is... reasonable.” She shrugs.

Mars scoffs and drops his head back.

“If you see her, be polite. That’s all I ask,” Mother Earth pleads. Her eyes dart to Luna, and the moon tilts her chin politely downward in response. “Luna. Prepare for Jupiter’s landing. We need to give her a warm and... convincing welcome.”

Mother closes her eyes and begins to rub circles into her temples. “We need her on our side.”

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Approaching the Assembly’s manor is a wide silver shuttle with thick, rectangular windows on either side and at the front. Blue fire pours from the jets to keep the spacecraft moving in the right direction. From within, Jupiter is strapped to her seat. Her legs are crossed upon her seat, but under layers and layers of the heavy red garment she chooses to wear instead of her uniform. The dress pools to the ground in a mess of fabric.

“We are approaching the manor, Miss Jupiter. Prepare for landing,” Ganymede, Jupiter’s loyal pilot and servant, calls from over the speaker system.

Jupiter grabs instinctively at the silver brooch pinned to her chest. She feels as though the weight of it is crushing her. It is hard to breathe as she watches the manor grow closer from outside her window.

There’s a momentary jolt as the shuttle invades the gravitational shield of the manor. Then it’s a smooth ride as the shuttle makes home on the landing strip just before the glass and metal structure’s main entrance.

“And... We have landed!” Pasiphae, the co-pilot, boasts over the intercom.

Jupiter stares out the window uneasily. She watches as Mother Earth and Luna step through the glass doors to the manor, their heads held high upon their shoulders and their hands folded neatly before themselves as they await her next move.

The shuttle door opens, but Jupiter’s sight never leave the duo outside.

Ganymede leaps into the shuttle. The light gray eyes of a moon, a planet’s servant, search the empty aisles before catching on the single passenger tucked away in the shuttle’s back corner.

“We’ve landed, Miss Jupiter. It’s safe to come out now.”

“Is it?” she whispers.

“I’m sorry?”

Jupiter drags in a sharp inhale and stands stiffly from her seat. “It’s nothing, Ganymede. I thank you and Pasiphae for your service.”

Jupiter tries to smooth out the wrinkles in her long, crimson gown and messy, drawn-up hair of a similar color but to no avail. She’s a mess.

Winded, she adds, “I do hope your return journey is a pleasant one.”

“Thank you, Miss Jupiter,” Ganymede can’t help but say through a smile.

He gives a polite nod and exits the shuttle. Alone, Jupiter sucks in another steadying breath and nods in reassurance to herself.

“You know why you’re here.”

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Mother Earth and Luna stand their ground before the manor’s main entrance. They watch with forced smiles as two moons stand patiently outside the shuttle. Then Jupiter is descending the shuttle staircase, one step at a time.

In a pinched whisper, Mother Earth can’t help but remark, “She’s not wearing her uniform.”

Ganymede pulls out Jupiter’s bags and sets them beside her.

“Shall I send a spare to her room?” Luna asks.

“No, I... would like to hope she packed one in her bags... Wouldn’t you?”

Mother Earth and Luna share a look through the corner of their eyes. Both visibly deflate despite the persistent smiles still stretched across their faces.

Mother risks a quick wave in Jupiter’s direction, but it is not reciprocated.

From across the landing platform, Jupiter watches Mother Earth wave in her direction. She stares back. “That will be all, Ganymede. Thank you.”

“Of course, Miss Jupiter. Have a pleasant stay.”

With that, Ganymede bows and steps back into the shuttle’s command center. Pasiphae sends Jupiter a quick grin before running after her brother for their departure.

There’s almost a ghost of a smile across Jupiter’s lips as she watches the moon disappear through the shuttle doors. When they close, that smile disappears completely.

“Welcome back, Miss Jupiter.” Triton, a moon in expectant black from the neck down greets with a well-practiced bow. “Miss Neptune has sent me to collect your baggage.”

From behind them, the shuttle takes off. Jupiter can’t help but feel stranded at their departure. Yet even so, she holds her head high before the young man.

“A kind gesture...” Jupiter recognizes. She then picks up both of her bags. “But I am more than capable of carrying my own luggage, thank you.”

Mother Earth and Luna stalk up to the two on the landing platform, fake enthusiasm poorly displayed across their faces. “Jupiter, darling! It’s so lovely to see you, again!” Mother cheers with open arms. She goes in for an embrace, but when Jupiter shifts a step back, Mother Earth lets her arms fall passively to her sides.

“Believe it or not, I am pleased to see you again, Jupiter. It’s been a long while, and I’d imagine we’ve both changed quite a bit since our last encounter.” Mother Earth confesses, her tone borderline sincere.

“Quite the imagination, you have...” Jupiter mutters to the ground. Her brow quirks at the thought.

Mother Earth tightens her smile, then looks Triton up and down. He’s forcing back a cheeky grin.

“Triton. The bags!” she barks.

Triton’s smirk falls flat and he panics a look to Jupiter. She avoids the contact and instead says, “I’ve got hands. I can carry my own things, thank you...”

Mother disapproves, so she bites her tongue and clasps her hands before herself. “Right. Yes. Well, that’s very...” She trails off. “Triton.”

Triton’s body goes stiff at the abrupt calling of his name. The woman terrifies him.

“It appears your services are not needed here. Please do make yourself useful somewhere else.”

Triton turns away from Mother Earth and walks toward the Assembly building. It’s not until he’s out of her sight that the moon dares to roll his eyes.

The mother of council looks the ex-council member up and down. “Love the dress. Is it new?” she asks. Her pleasantries are forced, and it shows. The two never got along. Despite her best efforts, they weren’t going to start now.

Jupiter’s crimson red lips quirk up in a pleased smile at the question. “No. But I hear council is going to be.”

Mother Earth drops her facade. Her gaze turns heavy, unimpressed. “So, you’ve made your decision, then.”

Jupiter shifts the bags in her hands to get a better grip on them, looking up to meet Mother Earth’s gaze. It’s an intimidating clash of dark green and red.

“I do not plan on making any decisions about council until the trial has properly begun.” Jupiter promises. Her gaze trails to Luna, who has been trained to avoid eye contact with her superiors. “I will hear both arguments...” At the lack of connection, Jupiter looks back to Mother Earth. “And then I will decide from there.”

Jupiter steps past the two blocking her way into the building. “Pardon me,” she mutters to the ground as she moves toward the doors. They open at her approach and she steps inside. She can be seen through the glass as the doors close, but when she turns down one of the main hallways, it’s as though she’s disappeared.

Luna looks expectantly to Mother Earth. It’s clear the moon waits on her every word, a proper servant as she is, as all moons are and must be. Planets keep them in orbit. Keep them safe, steady. They allow them to exist.

Mother Earth stares simply after Jupiter. The woman in the red dress may have left their sight, but the Assembly members walking around the lobby in red uniform jackets are still of interest to her. Every vote will count. “The plan could still work...” she decides absently. “Keep an eye on her for now.”

She looks down to Luna. “Make sure she isn’t recruited by any of the potential candidates trying to take my place.”

Her eyes fall back to what few Assembly members can be seen walking around the manor’s main entrance. “I’d hate for the competition to get an upper hand on us.”

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Jupiter walks quickly through the clear glass hallways suspended far above the main courtroom of the Assembly.

If she were to look down she would see a spider-web assortment of pure glass hallways, and then a circular, stadium-like courtroom with silver seats spiraling toward the ten center seats of council. If she were to look up, she would see just a few more halls blocking the clear view of the stars and planets of the Kaliph galaxy.

However, she does neither. Instead, she keeps her sights set before her.

Her heels click against the glass beneath her feet, the rhythm fast but steady. Planets and moons of all human sizes, genders, and colors walk the halls with her. Most spare her little more than a glance, while some do little to hide their attentive staring.

The halls are loud. Planets and moons talk in small groups, the uniformed beings either dressed in red jackets or complete black. Jupiter, of course, sticks out like a sore thumb in her oversized gown. Jupiter... no one has seen Jupiter since her sudden disappearance a while back. She’s the talk of the manor.

Jupiter walks past a small group of moons in black. They’re whispering to one another, but she dares not spare a second thought on the matter. She doesn’t have it in her to care about such trivial things. Not now, anyway.

At the end of the glass hall, Jupiter makes a sharp right. This half glass, half metal corridor is far more secluded than the last. The glass half of the hall on her left gives view to several other halls, open areas, and the space outside the manor. To her right, however, is a plain metal wall. She stops when the barren wall hits a large metallic door discolored from what seem to be burn marks. It’s charcoal-colored around the edges and nearly rusted at its center where the name Jupiter is engraved.  

“Hasn’t been long enough, old friend...” she whispers to the familiar inanimate object.

From above the door, on flashes a green scanner that runs up and down the length of the visitor. Then, in a beat, it’s gone, and a click rings out through the hall. The door creaks open.

There’s a stutter in Jupiter’s breath. Tensely, she sets down the bag in her left hand onto the ground. She then hesitantly forces herself to push at the door so that it would swing open. The screech of the unused hinges can easily be heard over the distant sounds of Assembly members. The door opens to reveal the room Jupiter had spent a large portion of her existence in.

The metal hunk of a door bounces against the room’s metallic wall with a gentle bang. Jupiter cringes at the sight of the distressed metal room. It’s all too familiar as she looks over the cold, windowless room she was imprisoned in many years ago.

She’s suffocating, she feels, as she stares at the metal cage she swore she’d never go back to. She swore she’d die before ever going back.

Inside these metal walls are a plain bed and dresser.

The walls, themselves, appear to have been put through severe conditions, as if they had previously contained a fire or... a storm.

Jupiter can feel her heart flutter as she takes the sight in. She looks to the door frame. Her fingers dance gently over the slot where the door would typically bolt shut.

“You know why you’re here...” she breathes.

“I should hope so.”

Jupiter turns abruptly to face Damarr, a young member of the Assembly. As she does so, her right hand hits against the doorway and she drops her second bag.

“Damarr.” She looks away. “You startled me.”

The young man slides on a curious smile. His posture is loose, comfortable. Unlike Jupiter’s. He has a natural charm about him as he looks down upon the woman, his eyes a rich auburn that match almost perfectly with the somewhat tamed curls of his hair. “It would seem I have... My apologies, Miss Jupiter.”

Damarr bends down to pick up both of Jupiter’s bags. She’s flustered and therefore can’t help but fidget in place until he stands and she snatches the luggage from his hands. “They’re mine, so...” she tries to justify.

Damarr lets out a light, airy laugh that is seen more in his smile than heard. “Right... yours,” he agrees.

Jupiter gives Damarr an uncertain look, then tosses her bags just within her room and pulls the door closed. Uncomfortably, she straightens out her dress and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

There’s silence. It’s awkward. Damarr bites his lip through a few short nods. He gestures to the closed door. “Strange room they gave you. Looks a little... banged up?” he says through a breathy laugh. There’s a beat as he waits for any response from Jupiter. He gets none. “You’d think they’d treat one of their own with a bit more hospitality.”

Jupiter straightens out her posture and stares directly into Damarr’s eyes. He’s taken aback, but holds the look. “I am not, and never have been, one of them.”

There’s dead air between them.

Damarr cracks a smile.

“Then how about becoming one of us?”

Jupiter blinks, and with it, her confident stare shatters. She looks away.

“I’m serious,” Damarr promises. “The council could use a planet like yours. You’ve been around for a long time, you’ve observed the ways of the universe without causing conflict, and... and truth be told, I’ve heard a lot about your abilities.” He reaches over to touch Jupiter’s shoulder. “You’re an asset, Miss Jupiter.”

Jupiter stares coolly at the hand upon her shoulder. It doesn’t take long for Damarr to catch on and retract it. When he does, she looks him dead in the eye.

“I’m not running for council.”

The uniformed Assembly member sighs as if this were a great loss.

“Alright... Well, I suppose I understand. Can I at least count on your vote, Miss Jupiter?” he says, a charming, ghostly smile across his lips.

There’s a pause. Jupiter’s eyes trail up to the ceiling. Her lips quirk. When they drop, she turns her back to Damarr. “Interesting tactic,” she mumbles under her breath as she walks away.

Damarr stands befuddled beside her closed chambers as she walks off. Then, with a taken-aback noise at the back of his throat, he walks after Jupiter, his pace matching hers.

“Now hold on—tactic? What tactic? I have no tactic—and I’m certainly not that interesting!” he boasts beside the woman. He trips up when she makes a sharp turn down another, busier, glass hallway that overlooks the courtroom, but he’s quick to catch up.

“Your charm is a facade to collect votes. You never wanted me to run for council, why would you? We’d be running against one another. I can only imagine how many people you have lined up as so-called allies. And when they’re voted out? Well—” she scoffs, her voice just loud enough to hear when Damarr can manage to push past the others and walk directly beside her. “You can certainly count on their vote.”

Damarr eyes the planets and moons on the walkway, then grabs at a startled Jupiter and forces her to take a turn at the end of the hall. Red and black dressed personifications of moons and planets walk beside them where the two halls intersect. “Fine,” he confesses whilst releasing Jupiter’s arm. He takes an extra step or two away from the busier hall. His hands fall upon his hips. “They’re out of control. You know I’m right about that.”

Jupiter is stoic as she asks, “Then why not vote to rid yourself of the council entirely?”

Damarr scoffs, then looks nervously to those walking across the busy hallway beside them. He runs a hand through his hair, then invades Jupiter’s personal space. She eyes him up and down.

“Too many people want a shot at those seats and rights. It would never pass... Which is exactly why we need to rebuild the council from the inside out.” His weight shifts. As he speaks, his hands raise to gesture through the words. “We need to create an alliance that will give us a council we all can trust. A council we can all believe in.”

Luna walks down the busy glass hallway, her eyes searching through the crowds for something. For someone. She stops when she finds Jupiter and Damarr pressed against a wall within a smaller, otherwise unused hallway. She approaches without hesitation. “Miss Jupiter.”

Damarr and Jupiter both startle at Luna’s calling. Uncomfortably, Damarr steps back, his eyes forced downward. When he turns to leave, he glances at Jupiter. He’s trying to convey a message through the look, as though he’s telling her to be careful. And then he’s walking past Luna and down the busy hall without so much as a hello to Mother Earth’s little servant.

Both women stare after him.

As she watches Damarr’s form retreat, Luna says, “I’ve been looking for you, Miss Jupiter.”

She then tilts her chin downward and faces the planet directly, her eyes downcast in what is considered the appropriate stance of a moon. “The council was hoping to have a meal with you before the trial. They wish to catch up.”

Jupiter looks away, her eyes narrowing. “Am I allowed to say no?”

Luna startles. “Umm. I... suppose so. But it would be greatly appreciated if you said yes, Miss Jupiter.” She risks a glance up at Jupiter, but the planet isn’t looking back at her. “They have missed you greatly.”

“I doubt that.”

Luna looks uncomfortably back at the main hallway, then she lifts her head and looks to Jupiter. “Please, Miss Jupiter...”

Jupiter keeps her head down as she meets Luna’s colorless eyes.

“I am certain you know how Mother gets upon hearing bad news... Please do not wish her wrath upon me...?” She’s practically begging.  

Jupiter looks down, again. She takes a deep breath. After a short pause, she then nods her compliance.

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

  The council members—Mother Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn—sit around a long, rectangular table at the center of the dining room. On one side of the room, two adjoined walls are made of glass and exhibit a breathtaking view of the galaxy. On the other side, one wall is simple metal while the other bears a large doorway. The ceiling is decorated in tiny yellow lights and a crystal chandelier. 

Standing along the walls are several different moons—Triton, Enceladus, Phobos, and Titania—dressed in black from the neck down. They await orders while the council members await Jupiter and Luna’s arrival.

Mars spins his glass around and collects water droplets with his finger. “She’s not actually coming, is she?” he asks with an idle look around the room.

Mercury, who’s slouching in his chair, responds, “Who knows. I wouldn’t, if I were her.”

“I would,” Venus cuts in with a grin. “We’re all together in one room.” She looks over the other planets. “Perfect chance to kill us off in one go.” Her eyes dart to Uranus. “Wouldn’t you agree, Uranus?”

Uranus bites back a smile and looks to Mother Earth. She’s wordlessly smoothing out her napkin. Uranus looks back to Venus. Lightly, he says, “Perhaps...”

Venus barks out a laugh and slams her fist on the table. “That’s my boy!”

There’s the sound of the door unlatching. All planets watch, then, as the door slides open to reveal both Jupiter and Luna. Luna steps forward. She bows. “Miss Jupiter. As you’ve requested.”

“Good work, Luna. You may stand at the back of the room until next called upon,” Mother Earth replies. She’s smiling at the uncomfortable planet in the doorway when Luna goes to stand by the other moons waiting in the shadows.

Mother Earth stands and touches the seat at her left. “Jupiter, please. Take a seat.”

Jupiter takes a fleeting glance around the room. “I’d rather sit back here...” she says while walking up to the empty seats closest to the door. She chooses the second head of the table, furthest from all planets, and takes a seat. The door closes by itself a moment after.

Mother Earth pinches a smile, Venus grins, and Saturn takes a nervous sip of his water before pushing his glasses up with the middle finger of his right hand.

Mother is staring at Jupiter as she calls, “Luna.”

Wordlessly, Luna, Enceladus, and Triton make their way beside Mother Earth to grab up the table setting there. They then carry knives, forks, spoons, bowls, plates, and the like to the other end of the table where Jupiter has situated herself.

“Thank you,” she says.

Triton glances shyly at the moon, Enceladus, then gives Jupiter a polite smile as the three moons finish setting her seat. Without word, Enceladus and Luna return to the left side of the room while Triton returns to the side Neptune is seated at, the right.

Jupiter’s watching the floor as she mumbles, “Again, thank you...”

Mother Earth takes a seat. “We are all... very glad... you could make it, Jupiter,” she says while pulling her napkin into her lap. She smooths out the wrinkles, then smiles across the table at the ex-council member.

Jupiter looks up at the other planets gathered around the table. They’re all attempting to appear pleased, but all, except Uranus, fall short.

“You don’t look to be...”

Mother Earth shares a look with Luna. “Well, we are.”

Luna, followed by all other moons in the room, take their leave. The door clicks behind them, as though it were being locked.

A sense of unease befalls Jupiter, but she dares not look back at the locked door. Instead, she sits still.

“In fact, we’ve missed you very much,” Mother Earth continues.

Mars looks to the lights on the ceiling and takes a settling sip of his wine. The air in the room has grown tense, uncomfortable.

“Jupiter. We want you back on our council.”

Mars chokes on his wine. His fist comes up to pound on his chest while the others try their best to appear as stoic as possible, as though they were aware of this development the entire time.

Mother Earth attempts to stifle a sigh. Her hand reaches up to rub small circles into her temple. Her head is aching. “It is your birthright, after all,” she explains. “We are family. We share a bond, a solar system. It would only make sense for—”

“For you to save yourselves by using my admittance as a distraction? Or rather...” Jupiter interrupts. Her hands come up to play with the napkin set out before her. “As a compromise... for what you’ve done and what’s to come now because of it?” She pulls her hands back down into her lap. She inspects them. “I apologize, Mother... But I have no intention of being dragged down with you.” Her eyes dart around the table. “Any of you.”

Venus scoffs and takes a drink of her wine. Against the chalice, she mutters, “Coward.”

“Venus,” Mother warns.

Venus sets her wine back down upon the table. “No. I will speak my mind.” She turns in her chair to look at Jupiter. “You’re a coward, Jupiter. You always have been. You run away from your duties and hide in that silly little castle of yours. It’s pathetic.”

Mother Earth raises both hands to her temples. “Venus. That’s quite enough.”

To her lap, Jupiter retorts, “At least I didn’t exile two of my fellow planets without the Assembly’s approval.”

Venus shoots upright and slams her hands down upon the table. The movement causes her chair to fall backward, but she pays it no mind as she shouts, “We did what had to be done—we always do! How dare you—” She makes a grand gesture. “Or anyone else—judge us for it!”

Mercury is lazily swirling his finger over the rim of his empty wine glass when he suggests, “Why don’t we call this quits before Venus starts throwing things?” He gives a lazy smile. “Agreed?”

“No. Venus, take a seat,” Mother Earth orders.

Fuming, Venus reaches down, picks up her chair, and slams it back down in the upright position. With venomous, light brown eyes still on Jupiter, she takes a seat.

Mother Earth lowers her hands to fold upon the table. “Pluto and X... Their abilities proved false, you understand? We had no choice but to strip them of their ranking as planets, and...” She rubs again at her aching temple. “And send them off. It’s up to fate to decide what becomes of them now.”

Jupiter slides on a curious smile. “You speak of fate... Yet you dare to play god?”

Venus makes a grab for her knife, and so Uranus abruptly captures the room’s attention by rising to stand. He clears his throat, then touches the rim of his plate with his finger. The painted glass is cool to touch, the glazed material smooth against his fingertips. “We play... council... of the universe... Just as we always have...” He looks to Jupiter, then pulls his hand back beside himself. “We keep the universe balanced...” He glances out the window, to the stars and planets far from their reach. Then he looks back to Jupiter and gives a small, almost shrug of a gesture. “Just like it needs to be.”

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Jupiter walks within the main lobby of the Assembly’s manor. The lobby itself is tall, open, and bright. However, the space is packed with moons and planets alike as all attempt to make their way through the courtroom doors.

Damarr is chatting with a group of planets when he catches sight of Jupiter. She’s dressed defiantly in one of her crimson gowns, which makes her easy to spot within the uniformed crowd.

He excuses himself from his prior conversation to seek her out.

“Jupiter! Jupiter, hey!” He calls over the excited chatter of planets.

Jupiter stops and looks around for whomever is calling out to her. She can see plenty of familiar faces, but they blur together. None stand out, and so she looks over her shoulder. Again, all she can make out are red jackets and personified planet after planet.

“Yes, you!” Damarr shouts through a smile. “In the ridiculous gown that’s bound to get caught on something!”

Jupiter turns and finally catches sight of Damarr. The planet looks exhausted as he works his way through the crowd of people, careful not to step on any toes along the way.

“Finally—finally caught you,” He pants.

Jupiter watches blankly as the man composes himself.

“Right, well. It suits you.” He smiles, then gestures to Jupiter’s dress. “The beautiful gown, I mean.” He clarifies.

Damarr pinches back his smile at Jupiter’s blank stare, then glances to the ground. “I heard council offered you a position.”

“I didn’t take it.”

“Yes.” Damarr moves out of another Assembly member’s way. “Yes, I know.”

He gives a breathy laugh, then raises his hand to rest upon Jupiter’s shoulder. However, mid-motion he thinks better of it and allows his hand to fall back to his side.

“Between you and me, Miss Jupiter... You made the right choice. You could do a lot better than Mother Earth ever could. I sincerely believe that.”

Damarr steps back and runs into another Assembly member. At their grunt, he jolts forward and turns to apologize. “Sorry, so sorry.”

Damarr sends Jupiter an awkward smile and waves. “See you in there, Miss Jupiter!”

He disappears into the crowd, and so Jupiter looks back toward the courtroom.

“The right choice...” she echoes under her breath.

Her head snaps back in the direction Damarr had gone upon realizing what he’d meant. It had already been decided. Somehow, Damarr knew there was no way council could save themselves.

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Jupiter sits upon one of the numerous silver chairs that encircle the ten golden seats of council. Surrounding Jupiter are hundreds of qualifying planets, all dressed in the same red jacket with the same silver brooch pinned to their chests.

The Assembly waits in a storm of whispers for the council members to arrive.

When the door to the courtroom opens, the Assembly members fall quiet. Then in steps the council in blue and black, the brooches on their lapels all shining an intriguing gold color.

From beside Jupiter, an older planet, Eldred, leans in.

“I’m told this trial is merely for show. Over half the Assembly has already decided to vote in favor of a new council,” he tells her.

Jupiter watches passively as the seven remaining members of council take their seats in the order their planets are positioned around the sun. This, of course, leaves gaps between several of the members.

“I think it’s about time,” Eldred says with a lean back into his own seat.

Jupiter watches the old planet pull away through the corner of her eye, then looks back to the council.

Loi, an old planet dressed in a red robe, steps into the hollow cut out of the desk encircling the ten seats of council.

He turns in a slow circle as he says, “Today the council is to face trial for their unapproved exile of planets Pluto and X. Assembly members... you... are the jury. Do not forget your rights and duties.” Loi looks to Mother Earth. “You will speak for council?”

Mother Earth nods politely.

“Very well, then. Tell us. What led you to disobey the rules of the Assembly and act separately? To act, without approval?”

Mother Earth stands respectfully. She turns to face the Assembly. “One must understand... There was no time to waste on trial.” She turns to look over new faces. “When we first approached Pluto and X they reacted drastically, violently. And when our suspicions were confirmed? When we knew that Pluto could not see more than what was before his own eyes, or that... that X had nothing to offer as proof of her apparent ability?” She looks back to Loi. “Well, we had to act.”

As Jupiter listens to this nonsense, her expression grows dark.

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Loi stands before the council and all present members of the Assembly. His voice is clear as he speaks for the majority.

“Without X here to assist in the... recognition... of deceit, it has been left to majority vote to decide the fate of our council,” Loi explains. He gestures to the council. “Defendants...” He gestures to the Assembly seated all around the courtroom. “Jury... A decision has been made.” With an upward raise of his hands, Loi instructs, “All rise.”

The occupants of the expansive courtroom do this with little pause. They then fold their hands behind their backs to await the verdict.

“It is with my blessing that the council shall undergo... reconstruction.”

The Assembly falls into an abyss of whispers at the ruling.

Jupiter stands within the crowd, her hands folded behind her back. Her expression is unreadable as she watches Mother Earth rub at her temple with her left hand.

Loi raises his hand to settle the crowd, and most fall silent.

“All prior council members will be relieved of their duties and given rights equal to that of all current Assembly members. Now. Until these next ten planets are given the duties of council, all hearings are to be held similarly to this one.”

At this new information, any remaining conversations cease.

Loi turns as he speaks. “However, those wishing to run for council must first be voted a potential candidate, then undergo a series of trials which will weigh the affect any particular candidate may have on council. Understood? This will not strain the balance of the universe. We will not stray from the Creator’s plan any more than we have to.”  

Mother Earth turns to scan the crowd. When her eyes catch on familiar crimson, she glares a threat that’s hard to miss. Jupiter, in turn, stares back, her expression unreadable.

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Jupiter sits upon the bed in her old, distressed cage of an assigned room. The lights are fluorescent from upon the ceiling where they shine down every inch of the damaged space. Two bags lay beside the closed door that’s clearly been exposed to dark burn marks. Many other spots on the walls share similar damage.  

Jupiter is silent. Nothing but her steady breathing can be heard as she sits on the edge of her bed. Her eyes are wide and glued sightlessly to the wall in front of her.

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

The courtroom is packed with Assembly members. The council had been asked to step out, leaving their seats empty at the lowest level of the courtroom.

Loi stands within the hollow circle of a desk. He listens carefully as a man, Farge, gives his testimony.

Farge grips one of the seats of council firmly as he speaks. “As I’ve said, they’ve been council for too long. Far too long. What we need now is fresh blood and a reality check.”

Farge releases the golden chair from his grasp and walks around to the next one, which he quickly grabs in its place. It’s as though he’s worried he’ll lose his chance if he lets go for any length of time. As though he believes he needs constant contact with his destiny.

“The council is not a birthright, it’s a privilege... And it needs to be earned.” 

Chatter breaks out around the courtroom. Loi looks to Farge and gives him an approving nod. He nods back, and reluctantly lets go of the council chair to take a seat within the lower levels of the Assembly.

“Does anyone else care to testify?” Loi asks.

The response is silence.

Jupiter sits within the higher levels of the Assembly, her posture perfect. She says nothing.

“Very well, then. We shall now look at the damage this incident has caused the Creator’s plan.”

Loi steps out from the partially enclosed desk space and closes his eyes tight. The lights go off, leaving only the stars visible through the glass assortment of walkways and ceiling above to light up the courtroom.

Loi opens his eyes, and up projects an all-too-familiar hologram at the center of the hollowed desk. It’s a sight he knows well. A sight he sees every time he dares to close his eyes.

The Creator’s plan.

It’s a blue line, the Creator’s plan. Simple, steady.

Scattered all around the blue line are red dots that connect with a jagged red line. It dips far below and above, never once keeping steady with where they should be.

“We can see here we have traveled far from the plan the Creator has left for us. We can see here, that, despite our best efforts, we continue to stray.” Loi begins to pace around the outer circle of council chairs. “And when we do this...”

Loi blinks. The hologram flashes off and then back on to another image. This time it’s a black hole. It sucks up the stars, the souls, of those unfortunate enough to be within its reach. It destroys them, crushes them, into oblivion.

Loi stops his moving and stares at the destruction the council has caused. “We upset the balance.”

He blinks again, and the hologram disappears. A moment later, the lights turn back on.

From her seat in the Assembly, Jupiter swallows a thick lump within her throat. Then, she looks up through the assortment of glass walkways and out at the stars above. Somewhere, in a far-off galaxy, human souls are being pulled into nonexistence.

“This is fact, mind you. This is what happens and will continue to happen until change is made... By this council, or another. I do not mean to sway you, I simply mean to inform you,” Loi says with a sigh as he works his tired old body back into the hollowed desk.

“Now. Are there any last words before the council returns to us for a final vote?”

Jupiter sits punctually in her seat. She’s staring at the ten seats of council. For a beat, she almost looks as though she’s about to move forward, but she stops herself. Then, not a moment later, she takes an abrupt stand. All eyes fall on her.

“Miss Jupiter...” Loi breathes. “Have you words to share regarding the other planets within your solar system?”

Jupiter takes in a shaky inhale. “Apparently.”

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

Jupiter sits still on her bed. She’s holding an unblinking gaze upon the wall before her, but it’s clear she’s not seeing what’s there.

There’s a knock on the door. It breaks Jupiter’s concentration.

Releasing a breath, Jupiter crashes back into reality and looks over to the door. Without word, she stands and smooths out the wrinkles in her dress.

Jupiter walks to the door and opens it an inch or two to see who’s there. She finds Damarr grinning back at her.

“Hello, there, beautiful.”

Jupiter looks off to either side of the hall, as if expecting others. Damarr follows the look, down one side, then the other. He hums and gives Jupiter a peculiar smile.

“Sorry, just me.”

Jupiter raises her left hand around the rim of the metal door.

“What do you want?” she asks.

“Just... wanted to thank you.”

Damarr raises his arm to lean against the door frame. His other hand slides into his pocket for a stance of ease, comfort. “Your testimony helped sway a lot of votes, Miss Jupiter. You may find yourself up for council, after all.”

“I don’t want to be on council.”

Damarr stretches against the door frame, yawns, and then slides on a dreamy smile. “Of course you don’t. That’s what makes you so perfect.”

Jupiter leans away from Damarr’s invasive presence and makes a move to close the door.

“Wait—don’t go!” He begs with a lean after the closing door.

Jupiter glances away, then forces herself to reopen the door to its original position.

Damarr smiles at her from the other side of the doorway. “So, Miss Jupiter. Will you be staying?”

“I don’t want to.”

“But will you be?” he persists.

Jupiter glances at Damarr, then down the poorly lit hallway.

“Damarr...”

Damarr visibly perks up at the sound of his name.

“I think you should leave...”

Damarr’s smile falters. He takes a lazy step back. His fist lightly hits the wall on his backward step.

“I hope you stick around, Jupiter.”

Damarr smiles and slides his hands into his pant pockets.

“And if X were here, she’d tell you I mean that.” He winks, then walks off down the hall with just one last glance back over his shoulder at Jupiter.

When he’s turned the corner, Jupiter closes the door to her room and leans against it. She stares ahead of herself at the distressed view of metal. Her stomach churns.

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

The main entrance to the Assembly is bright with natural light from the dwarf star, Zephyr. Only a select few are up and moving about. Most are sluggish and/or gravitate toward the walls. Jupiter, however, walks with a persistent stride, bags in hand. She’s working her way toward the tall double doors at the front where just outside her planet’s shuttle is waiting for her.

Mother Earth and Luna cut off her view of freedom by walking before the Assembly’s exit. “My, where could you be off to so early?” Mother asks, a smile spread wide across her lips.

Jupiter stops her advance and darts a look to her shuttle. Mother Earth peers over her shoulder to follow the look. “Oh.” She breathes, the revelation laced with sarcasm.

Jupiter tries a step forward. “Excuse me.”

Mother Earth steps forward to properly block Jupiter’s exit. “Afraid not, love. You can’t leave the building just yet.”

Jupiter’s eyes go wide. A pull of panic starts to build within her chest. She can practically hear the rush of blood pumping through her veins.

Mother Earth smiles. “You’ve been selected to participate in the trials, Jupiter.” She puts on her best patronizing tone as she explains, “For council, of course.” She glances at Luna, at her eyes and ears. “I heard you gave quite the speech yesterday. Must have triggered some votes in your favor, no?”

Mother Earth steps forward and brushes her shoulder against Jupiter’s. “I look forward to your trials, Jupiter. Let’s be sure to keep things civil between us, yes?”

Mother waves Luna along. Loyal as she is, Luna follows.

Jupiter stands before the door, her sights set on the shuttle waiting upon the Assembly’s landing strip. With a shaky inhale, she moves forward and the doors fall open for her.

She sprints up to the shuttle, her bags and heels slow her down as she tries to make a break for it.

“Miss Jupiter? What’s wrong?” Ganymede asks with a step out of the shuttle as he notices Jupiter’s approach.

Jupiter throws her luggage up into the shuttle and pulls up on her heavy gown so that she can take on the short staircase. Ganymede grabs lightly at Jupiter’s arm to steady her. She looks back in a panic.

“I can’t stay here.” She looks to the Assembly’s manor. “It’s suffocating.” She meets the moon’s light gray eyes, again. “I can’t sit through the trials. I don’t care what protocol mandates, I refuse!”

Jupiter tries to make her escape into the shuttle, but Ganymede tosses out an arm to block her path. “Miss Jupiter, please calm down.”

From the shuttle’s control center, Pasiphae unlatches the safety escape window and sticks her head out to look back at the two beside the shuttle. “What’s all the fuss about?” she asks, her colorless white hair of a moon sticking up in complete disorder from around her goggles turned headband.

“Miss Jupiter has been selected to run for council,” Ganymede explains.

Pasiphae’s expression drops to one of sympathy. “Oh, Miss Jupiter...”

Jupiter brushes off Ganymede’s hand. “I won’t. I refuse to be a part of it. I don’t want the position, and I definitely don’t want to be stranded here.” She shakes her head. “Not with these lead souls, Ganymede...”

Pasiphae and Ganymede share a look.

“Can’t choose the position, Miss Jupiter... The position chooses you. It’s the law of the universe.” Pasiphae apologizes. “You can’t fight fate, Miss Jupiter... She’s one persistent bitch.”

Jupiter deflates and leans back. Her grip slacks around the dress and leaves the material wrinkled. She looks back at the Assembly building. All is quiet.

“...Don’t go anywhere...” Jupiter mutters in the quiet space.

“Miss Jupiter?” Ganymede asks.

Jupiter steps down from the shuttle. “Stay here. I’ll be back shortly, just—”

She steps forward, then looks back at the two moons, followed by their shuttle.

“Don’t go anywhere.”

Jupiter turns her back to her shuttle and walks toward the Assembly’s manor with a dignified stride.

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

The courtroom is full of Assembly members. Most sit in their usual seats, while twenty-three stand around ten golden council chairs. Within his hollowed desk, Loi stares sightlessly ahead at something within his own mind. He’s reading a list of names. A list of those voted by the Assembly as the next candidates for council.

Of these twenty-three, eight are from the original council.

“And lastly, Miss Jupiter...” Loi calls, and Jupiter steps forward to slide directly beside two other candidates for council.

Loi blinks back to what’s going on around him and makes a grand gesture to those selected to complete the trials. “I give to you... your candidates for council.”

The members of Assembly break into polite applause.

Jupiter takes a moment to glance around the other candidates. She catches eyes with both Mother Earth and Uranus before running into Damarr. He’s smiling back at her. When he winks, she looks away.

The applause dies down, and Loi proclaims, “Our future—”

He’s cut off by Jupiter’s quick, quiet call of, “Wait!”

The Assembly goes silent. They stare at the woman in crimson as she forces her gaze to look up around the room. “I do not believe myself fit for council.”

Mother Earth smiles to the ground, then to Uranus. They know Jupiter well.

Venus crosses her arms and pops out her jaw in poorly constrained aggravation.

From across the group of council candidates, Damarr drops his smile.

“Miss Jupiter... The universe has accepted you as a candidate, a potential keeper of balance, a key to this Assembly. I assure you, you are, and you will uphold your duties.”

“No,” Jupiter says to the ground. She steps forward, and raises her head up high. “I...” She starts, but her will dies shortly after. “I am submitting myself for exile.” She tries again, this time successfully.

Loi, and most others, stare at Jupiter in shock. The silence has grown uncomfortable.

“I’m... Sorry? Under what circumstan—”

Jupiter drops her head. “I believe myself to be a danger to you all!” She very nearly shouts at the ground. Her hands are clenched into fists at her sides.

Damarr clenches his jaw and makes a move to step in. Beside him, Uranus raises his arm to purposefully force the smaller planet back into place. Damarr grits his teeth but forces himself back.

Loi’s eyes wander around the room for much needed guidance. When he catches sight of Mother Earth, she gives him an expectant look.

Loi takes in a deep breath and looks down upon the poor girl trying to get herself exiled.

“Then I have no choice but to submit you for trial, Miss Jupiter.”

⸰⸰⸰⸰⸰

The cell block is lit with yellow lights. Its ceilings are high and made of glass framed by beautifully designed works of metal. Through it, one can see the stars.

The wall to Jupiter’s left shares similar characteristics, while at her back, front, and right she can find nothing but entrapping bar after bar, the metal curved to give itself more appeal.

Jupiter slides her fingers across the cool, metallic surface of her silver brooch. It’s a hollow circle, with two smaller hollow circles orbiting the ring around the largest circle. The planet’s ring.

This, of course, symbolizes a planet and its orbiting moons. Engraved in the largest circle are the words, Assembly of Planets

There’s the creak of an old, non-automatic door unlatching and falling open. Jupiter doesn’t bother to look up as Damarr finds her cell and stands before it. He pops out his jaw and moves his hands to his hips.

“You happy, now?”

He starts to pace.

“Are you getting what you want? Is this you—” He gestures to Jupiter’s cell. “Getting what you want? Exile? Permanent exile?”

Jupiter’s fingers dance over the silver metal brooch, as if she were trying to familiarize herself with it before it was inevitably taken from her.

Damarr slams his hands angrily against the bars of Jupiter’s cell. “They’re up there.” He points up and to the right, where the courtroom is. “Right now. And you know what they’re doing? They’re deciding whether you’re a threat. A danger to us all.”


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