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Very Hot Topic (More than 25 Replies) FDK Face-Off (Read 17778 times)
Lightcudder
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #60 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 11:14am
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Review of extended epilogue;

There are some subtle hints here that maybe Jackson has done more than merely give Ed the truth drug. Sedation? quite possibly and I think perhaps more. Perhaps the good doctor has been trying out hypnosis?  I would not put it past him in his efforts to get Straker back as Commander.
I like the touch with Meg Wheland  - very nice. and the  fact that something good has come out of the night.. she has lost Alec, but that is insignificant compared to the success of getting Straker back. Hmm. Was  she as shallow, as manipulative as Alec?
Still, he's back.. and all will be well again.

You could have ended the story here, quite easily, but the additional description of his office, the blank mural ( a blank space on his wall, but no blank space in his mind now) and his calm acceptance of what happened is the cherry on the icing. That is the part where ]I had a sneaking suspicion that Jackson had done maybe a little more than sedate him and leave him to sleep.
I was pleased that you ended it with  him feeling in control, accepting the events of the past for what they were.
Although ... a rather boring life...?  I don't think so. Bit I could see how he might view his life.. another hint that Jackson might have had a hand in 'smoothing over' his memories.

The final sentence;
'He refused to feel guilty about it'

Guilt is the most destructive emotion. More so than hate in many cases. It the  emotion that people don't discuss, a personal hatred of themselves and what they have failed to do. It can eat away at everything, and although 'hate' is more violent, hate can be expunged as it is expressed towards others. Guilt is an inward feeling and carries with it shame
and self-loathing. Which is why Ed reacted the way he did.

That's why I think Jackson might have done somethng like hypnotise Ed.

But, that last sentence... All has been resolved.

It isn't just the coffee he refuses to feel guilty about, it's his whole life, his actions, his mistakes and his relationships.

A man finally at peace with himself.

Lovely.
  Kiss
 
.I would really like to read your review of my review!!
  

I need some air.
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Matt
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #61 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 2:25pm
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That was a great ending Denise! Smiley The whole story was great! Wink

Louise, I think that is the best review I have seen on a story in a long time! Anything that I would add would only muddy the waters! (The second Vulcan steps forward and says, "Enough.") It doesn't get any better than that! Smiley
  

What do you mean, we're out of coffee!
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Neesierie
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #62 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 6:42pm
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Louise,
Thank you for your wonderful review of my story!  Here’s the response you were wanting.

Prologue – I had originally meant to title this story “Nine Minutes,” but “Face-Off” was such a perfect title that I used it instead, even though there was a movie only a few years ago that used that title.  But it really was perfect, since the story is mainly about two men at loggerheads with one another.  And of course, the underlying secondary meaning: that each of them through the story takes his normal ‘face’ (or mask) off, revealing the man beneath.

I didn’t purposely make Meg a mystery.  I’m glad she turned out that way.  As I glance through her character development throughout the rest of the story, I can see where she is revealed in small bits and pieces.  But I didn’t do that intentionally.  It was one of those subtle things my mind does sometimes when it’s thinking along a certain path, where it makes everything else line up with that path.  I usually let it do what it wants, since it ends up making me look good.  But it’s not something that I do consciously.

Chapter 1 – I agree that Straker has gotten into trouble a lot in my recent stories!  But in reality, this story is a deeper look into the suppressed memories concept that I brought up in my last story, “The Devil is a Woman.”  So much of Straker is beneath the surface, rather like an iceberg.  Bishop really did an excellent portrayal in the series of a man with demons chasing him.  You just knew looking at him that if something didn’t give soon, his command wouldn’t last a lot longer.  The mind can only take so much bombardment before it cracks.

The cuts on his hands were – to me – a dead giveaway to the reader.  But I was pleased that not everyone knew immediately what had occurred.  My beta tester didn’t, and she’s pretty quick.  The reveal of his surroundings was deliberate.  I wanted the reader to become aware of where he was as he did.  And to feel what he felt about it.  His helplessness at the end of this scene underlines the fact that he truly doesn’t remember.  Straker always has such a firm control over his mind that I felt it necessary to stress that this time, he doesn’t.  His mind is doing something without his consent – and that’s a scary thought!

Jackson enters, and we agree with Straker.  It’s going to be one of those nights.  I enjoy contrasting Jackson with Schroeder, even though the series didn’t have this contrast.  But they mixed up the personalities of the doctors so much that I think they simply used whoever was available to do the episode rather than trying to establish a particular character. 

And the battle begins.  I have always thought that the question ‘How are you feeling?’ is one of the most obnoxious in the world!  And here’s why.  Whenever you are asked this, it’s by people wanting one of two responses.  Either the question is casual, and they want you to say an automatic ‘fine’ in response, so that they can feel like they really care about you.  Or the question is deliberate, and they really want to know how you feel.  I hate the second person more, because I don’t even like to think about how I feel at times.  I just do what needs to be done anyway, sometimes in spite of my feelings.  So to me, what I feel is secondary – and most times completely irrelevant.  And I think Straker would feel the same way.  In fact, I know he does, because that’s   how I portray him! *grin*

And of course, Straker’s first concern is if anyone was hurt.  I have always believed that people in a crisis situation reveal their true nature (perhaps it’s the influence of all those action adventures I watch!), and Straker shows the reader his true nature here.  His whole life is centered around keeping the world safe, and although many who see him at work don’t realize that, he does.  And it will always be his first priority.

And once he knows that he was the only one hurt by the incident, he immediately goes on the attack.  Is this just one of Jackson’s mind games?  And of course, the doctor denies this in astonishment (as if he’d never do such a thing and shame on Straker for even suggesting it!)  Which only pisses Straker off, since he knows better. 

And Straker brings up two other instances when he woke up not knowing what had happened.  Mindbender and Timelash.  These are two of my favorite UFO episodes, and with very good reason.  Getting inside the mind of the stoic commander is such a thrill!  But he knows that nothing like that happened this time.  There were no outside influences.  He was in his office reading reports.  Nothing untoward occurred; therefore he is saying (without saying it) that nothing could have occurred.  And we see his position as commander from his viewpoint.  95% of his job is reading reports.  Now you know no one else sees his job like that!

And the battle continues as Jackson presents the commander with a puzzle.  Can he deduce what happened from the clues?  And we see from this that the doctor knows his patient well.  He has a powerful mind and sees things that others miss.  Make him tell what his mind is refusing to share.  But the commander’s mind is stronger than that and turns the attack around.  If there’s a witness, ask them.  And the doctor presents the situation in clinical terms, letting the commander (and the reader) glimpse just how seriously Jackson sees this crisis.  And although the chapter ends there without a response from Straker, we can be certain that he is worried.  He’s not the kind of leader who would be indifferent to the possible destruction of all he’s worked for.  And hopefully, the reader is worried too.  (And possibly worn out!) *grin*

Chapter 2 – Now we see that Keith is a coworker with Meg, which should get you thinking later when you find out just what it is that Meg does at HQ!  But Dragon’s use of Ford as a sort of double agent got me thinking.  He’s in the perfect spot for it, you know, at the comm station.  I’m glad that you liked Meg’s statement as the omniscient observer that what occurred in Straker’s office ‘shouldn’t have happened.’  In other words, no one has any idea why Straker apparently flipped out.  And that adds a level of intrigue to the story and helps explain why Jackson is handling it this way.  He was serious when he said that only the commander could explain it.  So the reader should realize that it’s not so much what happened, but why.

And Keith’s final words should make you worried!  What was in actuality a very small, localized incident in HQ could have a profound impact on SHADO and therefore Earth as a whole.  And although he tells Meg not to even think of it, it’s obvious that Keith himself has – and the outcome wouldn’t be good.

Back in the detention room, Straker is (as you said) on the defensive.  He knows now that this crisis is serious and could have dire consequences to SHADO.  But his mind still won’t let go of its secrets, and he’s desperate as he tries to handle it.  He reveals a part of his worst nightmare: that he could have been drugged.  For me, as I age, I find that the worst possible way for me to spend my last years would be as a victim of Alzheimers or some similar mental disability.  My mind has always been my one bastion of safety and security in a world gone mad, and for me to lose that anchor would be absolutely terrifying.  Straker would undoubtedly feel the same, especially since he’s had to face such situations before where his mind couldn’t be trusted.

And in his desperation, he almost catches a glimpse of what happened.  Before his mind betrays him utterly by shutting down on him mid-thought.  I’ve had this happen to me, and it is quite horrifying when you realize that your mind is actually working against you.  I study the theme of betrayal in this story on many levels.  You could go through and list them all if you had a mind to, but suffice it to say that this betrayal is perhaps the worst of the lot.  Because if you can’t trust your mind, what other recourse do you have?

Then we find out that Jackson has been keeping tabs on his commander.  NOT something Straker wants to hear, I’m sure!  And we see how much he values his privacy by the strength of his reaction on finding out he doesn’t have it anymore.  He damns the doctor for his interference, and we realize that the battle between them is still ongoing.  They had almost been on the same wavelength for a moment – both of them concerned how SHADO would find a replacement for him – but now we’re back to square one.  Because the way they handle their concern differs dramatically.

And the subject of masks is introduced.  They both have them, but Straker condemns Jackson for the multiple levels of his masks.  And yet – it isn’t Jackson’s masks that have caused this current crisis.  It’s the commander’s own.  And the doctor is not shy in pointing that out.

And we come to the bit about the coffee!  This was so fun to write, and very tongue-in-cheek as I used Matt’s motto in the story!  And poor Straker – to have his favorite thing, his crutch, used against him!  As someone who seriously tried at one point to cure themselves of being a chocoholic (which I eventually gave up trying to fight!), I can sympathize with his plight.  He wants his coffee, damn it!

But we find that it truly is part of his problem now as he tells us that the caffeine was needed to help him deal with his nightmares.  At this point in the story, the reader becomes aware that these vaguely mentioned nightmares could be the heart of the crisis, but although this is true, even the nightmares have masks.  Straker remembers them as horrific, but we see later in the story that they weren’t.  For me, this is one of the truly fun aspects of the ways in which our minds play tricks on us.  His mind is still lying to him, still shutting him out from what it doesn’t want to face.

And Jackson’s final line makes us realize that this crisis didn’t crop up in a moment.  It’s been coming on for a while.  And we suddenly see the clues that the doctor has picked up through this scene.  Straker’s loss of control now seems much more plausible as we realize that it was the culmination of two weeks of dealing with something he didn’t want to deal with.  We still don’t know what that something was, but at least we now know he not going insane.  He just had a small mental breakdown.  This can be cured.  This can be handled.

If his mind will let it.

Chapter 3 – As you said, there’s symmetry in having Meg start out each chapter, revealing to the reader more of her job at HQ as the story reveals more and more of what is going on in Straker’s mind.  And we introduce another player in this game: Alec.  He has his own masks, his own agenda.  But we understand and forgive him for his manipulations, because he’s doing it to help a friend.  Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t also enjoy himself – which he most certainly does. *snicker*

And the double entendres in the final two lines of this scene were too fun to pass up!

Then we cut back to the cell, where – as you noted – no such intimacy is going on.  The two men are still very much at odds.  And we can see that the tension is getting to the doctor, who begins to actively taunt his patient in an effort to get him to speak.  And although Straker is stressed by this situation, we can tell that he’s still safe inside his wall of blankness, refusing to give an inch.

But the entrance of food changes that dynamic.  Straker’s not interested in the food he’s brought (rather like the sulky child he admits to later in the scene), but he’s really pissed off about the lack of coffee.  And he lashes out at his best friend – not intentionally, but as another defense mechanism.  Surely coffee isn’t as bad as alcohol?

But Jackson won’t be moved.  (Although Alec gets a bit of a shock!)

And the doctor uses the moment to delve into the commander’s psyche, hoping for a crack, an opening that will allow him to break open that wall.  Religion?  Not an easy topic for anyone to discuss.  It’s too personal, too private.  Straker tries to sidestep the question by focusing on his self-control (or lack thereof), and the doctor utterly confounds him by saying that a man can have too much control.  Which we can clearly see is beyond Straker’s ability to comprehend.  But the story has already shown us that he’s spent a lifetime trying to control his wayward thoughts.  Poor boy!  How could he understand such a concept?

But the doctor senses a reluctance and takes advantage of it, reminding the commander of why they are here in this room.  And Straker is so ready to get out of here.  We can see that by the way he lets go and answers the questions with no further argument.  But when the doctor sees him trying to suppress his response, he changes tactics and demands an answer!

And the commander tells him!  His hatred, his guilt, his sorrow all pour out in those few sentences.  And we see him through his own eyes again.  He’s tainted, condemned by the life he has led and the job he has performed so excellently.  He’ll never be fit for holy places again.

And as you remarked, it makes the reader wonder just what the hell happened in his office or even two weeks ago to bring him to this place.  ‘Shades of Macbeth?’  Oh, quite definitely.  Guilt is a major player in this game, as we’ve already seen.  And some of the blood on his hands is still yet to be revealed.

Chapter 4 – Yes, the contrast between Alec’s methods of investigating and Jackson’s is quite marked, isn’t it?  Of course, if Straker had been a woman (or even receptive to that sort of thing) who knows what Jackson might have tried? *snicker*
 
And when we return to the cell, we find that Jackson is feeling magnanimous after his small victory with the commander.  He feeds him his favorite soup.  And Straker, worn down and exhausted by all the emotional turmoil, takes his gift at face value.  He even thanks him.

But he still wants coffee! *grin*

The doctor leads the conversation back to his father, carefully digging for more information.  And Straker lets him, even going so far as to open up and talk about his concerns about why he chose his wife.  The Oedipus idea seriously cracked me up when I thought of it, mostly because it’s the kind of thing a very uptight moral man like Straker would worry about! *grin*

And of course, when Straker learns that this is normal, his first reaction is an understanding of why his best friend never married.  And Jackson is diverted into asking about it, which it seems even the reader wants to know! *snicker* 

‘It was her one main talent” is a statement I feel gives us Straker’s retrospective of his wife in its clear and untouched form.  Of course, his upbringing and sense of guilt color that and he alters his original assessment.  But that first sentence was the most honest, and I hope the reader catches that.

But when the doctor asks about things deeper into the commander’s mind, things that may even touch on that barrier he has erected, the commander suddenly goes back on the defensive.  And realizes that he’s been a bit too communicative.  He looks at the food; he looks at the doctor.  And he knows.  Those masks within masks the doctor wears have shown themselves.  And the commander is well and truly pissed now.

Chapter 5 – And Meg and Alec come to a parting of the ways.  It’s interesting that she can see his side of it, although he can’t see her side at all.  As Dragon said, he’s not as smart as he thinks he is.  His reference to women as being as ‘cold and heartless as the dark side of the moon’ was indeed for your benefit!  Still remembering Farsight here!  And your comprehension of his blindness was quite accurate.  He’s just as cold and heartless under his charming exterior.  A user – which is how he sees the women he uses.  It’s a vicious cycle we have a small glimpse of here, and from the last chapter we even possibly know why he is this way.  But this story isn’t about him, and we get no further peeks inside the workings of his mind.  He leaves, and Meg doesn’t fool herself into thinking it’s not for good.

And as furious as we are with the good doctor for his use of the truth drug on our beloved commander, we can’t help but see the desperation that brought him to that point.  Time is running out, and the commander is still locked behind that wall in his mind.  Something had to be done.  And Jackson is a man who has no qualms about doing the distasteful – as long as it gets results.  This is one of the major differences between him and the commander.  But hopefully even the reader can see why he did what he did.

The commander seems to understand as well, because suddenly all the fight goes out of him.  Once more, we glimpse how he sees himself – as a man unfit for command.  This is where his guilt and anguish have brought him.  To a place where he sees himself as beyond reprieve.  The barrier in his mind is nothing compared to this final despair, and Jackson clearly sees this – and is dismayed.

And the barrier goes down.  Not by beating against it, not by tunneling under it or scaling over it.  But by the commander’s acceptance that he is no better than Jackson.  He’s a man without loyalty, without honor.  The reader doesn’t know this yet, but perhaps they can sense it.  Straker knows it, and it shows in how he draws himself up into a ball ‘like a child.’

I’m glad that you liked Jackson here.  He really isn’t the commander’s enemy, as he stated before, and contrary to how he seems through most of this confrontation.  He wants his commander back at his desk ‘reading reports.’  That has been his motivation from the start.  He’s not the bad guy.

Straker tells us what we may have already guessed by now.  He smashed his mural.  He seems surprised to recall that he tried to immediately fix it, but the reader shouldn’t find this surprising.  It’s very much in his character.  He thinks by doing so, he proved that he truly had lost it.  But we see the truth of it.  Like Jackson, we know that he’s finally coming out of the fog.  No matter what is revealed in these next moments, all will eventually be well.  Because he’s finally facing it.

I wrote about an artist as a tribute to you, but more than that, because I really love art myself.  Can’t do it, but that doesn’t stop me from loving it just the same.  And how tragic that he finds the soulmate his heart has been looking for all these years – far too late to do anything about it but betray her.  And everything he feels for her.  Richard Marx did a song about this once that breaks my heart every time I hear it.  What do you do when it’s too late to change the road you’re on?  What can you do?  And of course, the added insult that when he goes home, Mary has left him only cements the guilt in his mind.  He’d betrayed the woman he loved for nothing.

It’s no wonder his mind didn’t want to think about her.

Epilogue – Here we see that Jackson would have liked to have the tale end on a happier note.  He wonders if the commander ever saw Cait again.  But Straker’s timing is perpetually off, and he finally had to ‘put it away.’  But Jackson persists, and we find out that her divorce became final two weeks ago.  No wonder Straker’s been fighting his own mind!  But although Jackson thinks things could improve for the commander now, Straker clearly doesn’t.  He can’t undo what was done.  In fact, as commander of SHADO, he can’t even ask her forgiveness or tell her the truth about what happened between them.  And he certainly can’t face her.

The doctor reassures him that he won’t have to, and the commander relaxes finally, letting all of it  go.

The additional scene that was added later (after I’d slept a few hours!) finishes the story better, I think.  We see Meg again, and although the commander doesn’t know the part she’s played in his night, the reader does.  Meg’s glad he’s back at work too.  Although we should be able to glimpse that she’s still upset about Alec.  But as you said, that’s secondary.  The commander was the most important part.

I suppose the story had to end with him back in his office, if only to make Jackson, Meg, and the reader feel that everything would be alright now.  He has a nick in his chair.  And a blank wall – yes, a mirror to the one in his mind which is no longer there!  And he has a better view of himself now.  He’s not perfect – but he’s finally able to accept his faults and failings.  Hiding from them did him no good.  But facing them – speaking about them out loud – helped him realize that they weren’t as terrible as he thought them.  He was human.  He was fallible.  And he can finally live with that.

No, it didn’t need Jackson to hypnotize him into acceptance.  In the end, all it needed was to talk about it.  For most of us, just the act of speaking those things out loud acts as a release.  And we can finally begin to heal.  We can see that healing take place as he considers going back to the gallery for another light mural by Cait.  He still wants her in his life – even if the only way he can do so is by proxy.

And yes, the comment about the coffee was quite deliberate.  It’s not just coffee he wishes for, but he’s not going to fret about it any longer.  He’ll take what he can get.  And at least the tea is better than drinking water!

Thanks again for your thought-provoking review!  This story was sooo exhausting to write!  And I’m glad that it’s finished.  But now I’m looking at the sequel and thinking – can I go back down that road?  So, we’ll see.
Love,
Denise
  
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Lightcudder
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #63 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 7:02pm
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Wow. An excellent review of a review! thanks so much.  i'm pleased i was on the right track mostly! If you had to change the title of this story.. ( as I do a LOT!) what would you call it?

I think  I'd go for 'Guilt Trip'.


Glad I picked up on it being the mural he smashed..although i envisaged him doing it with his hands, rather than a chair and initially thought  it was because he was trying to escape from something that terrified him..but I suppose in a way I was right. Wasn't I!

I'd love to read a sequel. Seriously. I'd like to meet Meg again, and for Alec to tke Ed on that long drive and tell the commander exactly what JAckson has been up to, but I think Ed already knows and accepts.

And I'd love to know why Alec never married!
  Huh
  

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Matt
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #64 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 8:56pm
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Okay, I'll just go and stick me head in the sand in shame! Sad

I've been seriously outclassed here! Smiley

Bravo, and Bravo Smiley
  

What do you mean, we're out of coffee!
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Neesierie
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #65 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 9:59pm
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Don't you dare, Matt!  Angry

Listen, do you honestly think I could have written this story when I first started writing UFO fanfic 10 years ago?  Not a chance!  We grow as writers.  It's our craft, and as we write, we improve.  (Well, most of us do!)  Don't you dare compare yourself to someone who's been writing longer than you!  Check out my first Conover stories if you want to compare.  Yours are right up there alongside them in quality.  You've got nothing to be ashamed of!  So cut it out!  Cheesy
  
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Matt
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #66 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 10:22pm
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(Matt shakes his wrist where Denise slapped it!) Cheesy

I was actully refering to the two reviews, very well done and there isn't much I can add to them! Smiley

I know what you mean about writing being a craft, and I have seen improvment in my work since I started writing. Wink

I know better than try to compare my work with someone who has been writing for a long time! That would be like comparing my guitar playing to Chet Atkins! Cheesy

Thanks for the encouragement Denise, I know I'll get there! Smiley
  

What do you mean, we're out of coffee!
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Neesierie
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #67 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 10:29pm
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Oh.  Sorry.  I misunderstood.  I'll sit down now.  Embarrassed
  
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Matt
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Re: FDK Face-Off
Reply #68 - Jul 10th, 2010 at 10:36pm
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No, your heart was in the right place! Kiss Smiley No harm, No foul! Wink

BTW you can make your own smilies but you have to be able to program in HTML, and the option has to be turned on in the forum software. I think Deb has it disabled. Smiley
  

What do you mean, we're out of coffee!
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