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The Black Samurai Series Volume One: Black Samurai, The Golden Kill, Killer Warrior, and The Deadly Pearl

The Black Samurai Series Volume One: Black Samurai, The Golden Kill, Killer Warrior, and The Deadly Pearl

Citiți previzualizarea

The Black Samurai Series Volume One: Black Samurai, The Golden Kill, Killer Warrior, and The Deadly Pearl

Lungime:
913 pages
13 hours
Lansat:
Oct 2, 2018
ISBN:
9781504056151
Format:
Carte

Descriere

A sword-wielding martial arts master takes down legions of bad guys in a series that inspired the 1970s cult classic starring Jim Kelly from Enter the Dragon.
 
On leave in Tokyo, American GI Robert Sand is shot trying to protect an old man from a gang of drunk soldiers. Before Sand passes out, he sees the old man spring on his tormenters, beating them senseless with his bare fists. He is Master Konuma, keeper of the ancient secrets of the samurai, and Sand is about to become his newest pupil. Over the next seven years, the American learns martial arts, swordplay, and stealth, becoming not just the first black man to ever take the oath of the samurai, but the strongest fighter Konuma has ever trained.
 
Here are the first four action-packed adventures in the series from an author who “writes with the quick, slashing motions of a karate chop” (Gerald A. Browne, New York Times–bestselling author).
 
Black Samurai: When terrorists ambush the dojo and butcher his sensei, samurai Robert Sand takes vengeance in blood.
 
The Golden Kill: Alone and outgunned, Sand races against the clock to stop a power-mad millionaire from pulling off the largest gold heist in history.
 
Killer Warrior: Sand must prevent an arms dealer from selling a black-market atomic bomb to a vengeance-crazed Japanese man who plans to level New York City.
 
The Deadly Pearl: To rescue the daughter of a secret service agent, Sand goes after a vile pimp trafficking in white slavery.
Lansat:
Oct 2, 2018
ISBN:
9781504056151
Format:
Carte

Despre autor

Marc Olden (1933–2003) was the author of forty mystery and suspense novels. Born in Baltimore, he began writing while working in New York as a Broadway publicist. His first book, Angela Davis (1973), was a nonfiction study of the controversial Black Panther. In 1973 he also published Narc, under the name Robert Hawke, beginning a hard-boiled nine-book series about a federal narcotics agent. A year later, Black Samurai introduced Robert Sand, a martial arts expert who becomes the first non-Japanese student of a samurai master. Based on Olden’s own interest in martial arts, which led him to the advanced ranks of karate and aikido, the novel spawned a successful eight-book series. Olden continued writing for the next three decades, often drawing on his fascination with Japanese culture and history. 


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The Black Samurai Series Volume One - Marc Olden

The Black Samurai Series Volume One

Black Samurai, The Golden Kill, Killer Warrior, and The Deadly Pearl

Marc Olden

CONTENTS

BLACK SAMURAI

Part 1

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Part 2

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Part 3

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

THE GOLDEN KILL

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

Chapter IV

Chapter V

Chapter VI

Chapter VII

Chapter VIII

Chapter IX

Chapter X

Chapter XI

Chapter XII

Chapter XIII

Chapter XIV

Chapter XV

Chapter XVI

Chapter XVII

Chapter XVIII

Chapter XIX

KILLER WARRIOR

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

THE DEADLY PEARL

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Preview: The Inquisition

About the Author

Black Samurai

For Sensei Mori and Rick, my first judo Sensei

PART I

CHAPTER ONE

1973/SLAUGHTER

ON A CHILLED MARCH night at the edge of a small Japanese village twenty miles north of Tokyo, twenty-four men—faces darkened by black shoe polish and mud, each man carrying an automatic rifle, one handgun, two grenades—crouched behind trees, bushes and cars, watching six killer dogs trot gracefully toward three wooden two-story houses painted blue and yellow.

Silently, the lean Dobermans glided toward the three houses, moving across the grass like quiet black shadows, their shiny black coats reflecting handfuls of yellow moonlight. With their small heads and open mouths, jagged teeth wet with spit, the dogs looked like four-legged reptiles, vicious giant lizards slithering closer for the kill.

They knew only killing. Since they were becoming more and more high-strung and therefore dangerous to handle, the man in charge of the raid had ordered his dogs to be killed tonight as well. Either during the slaughter or after.

Leaning against a tree, hidden by the darkness, Colonel Leo Dimitri Tolstoy, United States Army, watched his dogs scamper up the stairs and sniff around the front porch and door of each house, lizardlike heads darting left and right, then back and forth. Despite the chill the battle-hardened Colonel Tolstoy wore a short-sleeved, faded green fatigue shirt, his sun-browned arms bare to their hard biceps. Two grenades were clipped to the left front pocket of the green shirt, dangling like obscene black fruits.

The United States was not at war with Japan. The raid was Colonel Tolstoy’s idea, a shrewd move, as he saw it, because the men he was about to kill would most certainly kill him as soon as they found out what he had done. He had no intention of giving them the opportunity for revenge, because the men sleeping inside the three houses were men to be feared.

They were Samurai.

Warriors tied to the highest martial-arts discipline Japan could provide, a dying tradition kept alive by these twenty men, true experts in the twenty-six martial arts, masters of judo, karate, archery, aikido, horsemanship, kendo or sword fighting, bojitsu or stick fighting, the sai, or knife used in Okinawa and Japan. And more.

Samurai.

Men who read the ancient Japanese scrolls, who painfully, persistently, practiced these arts seven days a week under the watchful eye of The Soft Tiger, Master Konuma. Sensei. The eighty-year-old teacher.

These men were dangerous and deadly. And Colonel Tolstoy could not afford to have them searching for him, because he had learned enough about them to know that they would follow him to the ends of the earth and claim his life, if he let them live after tonight. Forty-five minutes ago, he had kidnapped Toki Jakata Bi, the twenty-two-year-old granddaughter of Master Konuma. Colonel Tolstoy planned to take her to America and kill her in ten days.

Tomorrow morning, the Samurai would know she had been taken. And they would come for her. Unless they died tonight.

Stepping from behind the tree, showing his blade-thin, six foot four inch body, Colonel Tolstoy cradled his M-16 rifle in the crook of his left arm, lifted his right hand high and overhead, then pointed toward the houses. The men understood and moved forward. They had been told what to do.

It was to be eight men to a house. Five inside, three outside. First the colonel’s dogs inside, slashing, slicing, ripping flesh with their teeth. Then grenades, and quickly the M-16 rifles, a full clip of eighteen rounds to be emptied regardless of what damage was done by the grenades. Fifteen minutes ago all telephone lines had been cut; both the ones belonging to the village and to the Samurai.

There were to be no survivors. Not men, nor animals. No survivors.

At two o’clock in the morning, the village was silent. And so was the Samurai compound. Quickly the raiders crossed the grass, two men taking up positions in front and back of each house. Three raiders crouched on each porch, the leader of each party silently counting to ten.

Then—

Slowly, Colonel Tolstoy turned the knob, pushed open the door to the first house, took one step to the side as two Dobermans sped past him like lean black streaks, then followed them inside. He knew they would find warm, breathing flesh, find it quickly, then attack it.

Behind him and off to his right, Colonel Tolstoy heard an exploding grenade followed quickly by automatic-rifle fire. He smiled, only the corners of his mouth moving.

Two small, dim lights in the ceiling overhead lit the downstairs. The raiders had stepped into the dining area, two large tables and chairs. Along the corridor were photographs framed in wood, past and present members of Master Konuma’s Samurai.

Hard combat boots tore at the faded yellow matting along the corridor as the five armed men quickly followed the killer dogs. At the end of the corridor a stairway on the left led to the second floor. Again, two small bulbs burned dimly in the ceiling.

In a fraction of a second the dogs had scampered up the stairs and were at the top of the landing. Both stopped, then walked slowly over to the first door on the left, stopped in front of it and began to make low guttural noises in their throats, anxious to taste blood.

Colonel Tolstoy stepped to the door, turned the handle, pushed it open and the dogs sped by him, leaping on two men sleeping on straw mats on the floor. Both men rolled over quickly, their hands pushing at the dogs, desperately trying to ward off the animals’ razor-sharp teeth.

Shina, a twenty-four-year-old son of a Japanese fisherman, was the Samurai nearest the door. He had been training for three years. His Samurai training would end tonight. Bringing both knees up, he pushed the Doberman back and away. Both of the young Samurai’s bare forearms were bleeding, shredded flesh, but he blocked the pain from his mind and concentrated on the dog.

The Doberman had tasted blood and wanted more. It leaped in the air, all four legs off the ground, and that’s how it died. Rolling over on his left side and facing the animal, Shina lifted his right knee to his own chest and screaming Aaiii! shot his right leg up at the dog in a vicious, strong karate side-thrust kick, breaking the dog’s neck and killing it.

Ito, his roommate, was dead. The other dog had torn his throat apart, slashing the soft flesh as though it were tissue paper. Quickly rolling to his right, Shina saw the dog turn from Ito’s throat and move toward his genitals. As Shina stood up to move toward the killer dog, Colonel Tolstoy shot the Samurai in the head and back.

Quickly backing away two steps, Colonel Tolstoy motioned the men with him to move farther down the hall. Then, unclipping a grenade from his shirt front, he laid his M-16 on the straw matting, pulled the pin from the grenade and rolled it into the room with two men and two dogs. Then in one quick motion he picked up his rifle and ran down the hall toward his men.

Four seconds later the explosion rocked the house, sending plaster and wood flying through the open door and down the stairs. A man’s bloody head flew through the air, hit the wall in front of the bedroom door, then bounced on the floor and rolled down the hall toward Colonel Tolstoy, white plaster dust sticking to the blood-covered face.

The colonel and his four raiders continued their slaughter of the Samurai.

The Second House. St. Paul Braeden, six feet five inches, two hundred fifty pounds, and a black American GI deserter who had fought with the Viet Cong for three years, led the raid.

He began his slaughter on the first floor as three Samurai, awakened by grenade explosions and gunshots, came downstairs. The dogs met them first, growling and yelping as they leaped at the three Samurai. Nishi, the eighteen-year-old Samurai who had come downstairs first, showed why he had been picked to train under Master Konuma.

As the two dogs left their feet in a death leap, Nishi went down on both his knees, his fists tensed, then, quickly crossing both wrists in front of his stomach, shoved his crossed wrists high and at the throat of one of the dogs.

The two-handed block stopped the animal in mid-air, but the other dog came down on Nishi’s left, his razor teeth tearing flesh from the round face of the young Samurai.

"Now’s the time,? muttered St. Paul Braeden, leveling his M-16 at the three Samurai and the two dogs, then pulling the trigger, the bullets tearing into the men and dogs, making them jerk and spin around in a bloody dance of horror.

Chunks of wood and plaster ripped loose from the walls behind the Samurai and the noise shattered any remaining silence.

Up on the second floor, two Japanese Samurai stood in the hall under the dim light and looked at Robert Sand, standing bare-chested and barefoot, wearing only blue jeans. Sand was also a Samurai, but he was different. He was American and he was black, the only outsider ever to be accepted for Samurai training by Master Konuma.

Maka said to him, Go, quickly. To the Sensei.

You will be killed, said Sand.

That is what we trained for all our lives, said Maka. To die. Without fear, and with honor. You are the best of us. Get to the Master. We will fight and hold them back as long as we can and we shall die here because it is meant to be that way. Go to our Master. Save him if you can. If you cannot, then die there with him.

Sand looked at Maka’s long sad face, then at Kuri, the short stocky Japanese who loved Playboy magazine and who would have been the best judo player of them all. I will not disgrace my brothers or my Master, said the Black Samurai, clutching his prize in both hands.

His prize. Master Konuma had given Robert Sand an almost sacred relic, a two-hundred-year-old Tanto, a short twenty-seven-inch Japanese sword, his prize for physical and mental excellence, his award for being the best Samurai in a group of men who knew only excellence.

Go, said Maka as he heard the slow, cautious sound of footsteps on the stairs. Sadly, Sand looked at his brother Samurai once more, then turned and ran down the hall to the last room on the right, into the room and over to the window. Behind him, he heard the kiai, the loud yelling from Maka and Kuri as they charged into the raiders.

Looking out the window, Sand saw him. The raider had his back to the window, staring over at the first house, now on fire. Softly, Sand opened the window, then pulled the sword from its sheath, the steel blade catching the moonlight, a bright lean diamond in the night.

Gracefully swinging both legs onto the window sill, Sand leaped into the air, as far out as he could, coming down hard on the raider’s shoulder blades. Both men fell to the covered grass, Sand on the bottom, the raider’s back on top of the Black Samurai’s chest. In one quick motion Sand sliced the man’s throat almost completely around, the warm blood pouring from the dead man onto the Samurai’s bare chest.

Pushing the dead man away, Sand scooped up the M-16 and, heart pounding, his chest smeared with blood, ran toward the third house, the house where his Master Sensei Konuma lived.

The Third House. Rashid OmarCid led the raid here. He was a twenty-five-year-old member of the Black September terrorists, specializing in sabotage and in painful interrogation of Jewish prisoners. He was having the most trouble, for the explosions and gunshots had alerted the four Samurai living in the house with the Master. They were the elite, the finest of all the Samurai, and had earned the privilege of being his personal attendants.

So had the Black Samurai, but in winning the prized sword, he had been allowed to go into the village and celebrate, provided he showed up at training at six A.M. the next morning.

Rather than enter the Master’s house, perhaps with too much rice wine in his stomach, Sand had decided to sleep in the second house.

Four of the Samurai had rushed downstairs, quickly killing the two dogs, then they had met Rashid and his raiders and charged them before the grenades could be used. But the guns were a different matter. They were used quickly.

As he quickly ran toward the house, Sand heard the gunfire, the loud noise cutting through the chilly Japanese night. The nearness of the gunfire had drawn the first raider-guard out of position. He walked closer to the front of the house, anxious to see what was going on so near him.

Over the gunfire and screams of the killers and the dying, he never heard the barefoot Black Samurai closing in on him. Moving almost close enough to touch the man, Sand dropped his own rifle on the grass, then reached for the raider, his left hand going over the man’s mouth, the sword, still red with blood, passing swiftly around the man’s neck, ear to ear. There would be no warning given by this killer, ever.

Sand let the man’s bloody body sink quickly to the grass. As he looked behind him over his own shoulder, he saw blacked faces staring out of the window from which he had just leaped, and a man pointing at him and shouting.

They were too far away to shoot him, but when their faces disappeared he knew that they were coming for him.

Quickly stepping over the man he had just killed, Sand ran to the third house, across the porch, the rifle in one hand, his short sword in the other.

Inside, he saw the bodies. One raider, a white man in U.S. Army fatigues, his head at a crazy angle. It had been broken with a kick to the face. Near him, bleeding bodies still as though resting, were four Samurai. Sand’s heart fell and his stomach grew weak. They were the only family he had known, they were his brothers, as much as if they had all been pulled from the same womb. Seven years of Samurai training together and now this. This nightmare of sudden, unprovoked attack, except that Sand knew something that the other Samurai didn’t.

Sand knew who was attacking. He didn’t know why, but he knew who.

And he had never discussed this with the Samurai because he had not known for sure that the attack would ever come. He had been warned to be aware, to be alert, to always remember the existence of Colonel Leo Dimitri Tolstoy. But this—!!

Sand never expected this!

He felt the warm blood under his bare feet as he stepped over the bodies and moved down the hallway. Other raiders would be here soon. But it didn’t matter. He was a Samurai, he would die fighting as a Samurai, as a warrior, as he had been trained to do. He would kill as many of Colonel Tolstoy’s men as he could and if he were fortunate, he might kill Tolstoy himself. That would be a blessing, that would be a nice way to die.

Sensei Konuma lived alone in the room at the back of the top floor. His wife had died and his children had left home. You are now my children, he often said to his Samurai. I need no other; I want no other.

In front of Sand, the long hallway was empty. He ran quickly along it, reaching the stairs in the back, then rushing up two steps at a time. At the top he saw them. Two men with their backs to him, about to step into the Master’s room.

Dropping the small sword to the straw matting on the floor, Sand lifted the M-16 and pulled the trigger. Damn! One man had stepped out of range and through the doorway at the very second that Sand pulled the trigger, but the Black Samurai hit the other, the shots driving the raider back into the wall, ripping chunks of delicate deep brown wood from the wall behind him.

In that small space, the roar of the rifle sounded like a cannon, for Sand, in his rage, emptied the entire clip of eighteen rounds into the raider, almost severing his body in two. When the gun clicked empty several times, the other raider, Rashid, stuck his head out of the door and lobbed a grenade at the Black Samurai.

With all the quickness of his seven years of Samurai training. Sand, seeing the grenade flying at him, turned and leaped back down the staircase, landing hard, but breaking his fall as best he could, as he had done so many thousands of times in judo practice.

The roar behind him momentarily deafened him and sent flying wood chips digging into his body. A sharp pain creased his side and when he touched it with his left hand, his fingers gripped something else—the blade of his short sword. The explosion had hurled it through the air at the Black Samurai’s back.

The sword was intact, miraculously so. It was covered with plaster, wood and blood, some of it Sand’s blood, but it wasn’t marred.

Picking himself up, Sand brushed white plaster from his face, then started back up the stairs. That’s when he heard the shots coming from the Master’s room. Quickly running up the stairs, he started down the hall when Rashid backed out of the door, a smoking .45 in his right hand. Before the Arab terrorist could turn, Sand swiftly hurled the sword at his face, the blade whistling through the air and slicing into the Arab’s ear. Eeeii! yelled Rashid, dropping his gun and reaching with both hands for his bleeding ear.

Behind him, Sand heard footsteps rushing along the first-floor hallway, quickly heading for the stairs. Racing toward the Arab terrorist, Sand saw him stagger back, blood running through hands cupped to his ear. Reaching the Arab, the Black Samurai front-kicked him in the pit of his stomach, driving him into the wall and onto the floor.

Behind him, he heard men climbing over the debris on the stairs, cursing and tossing aside wood pieces. Picking up his sword, Sand stepped over to the moaning Arab, ripped a grenade from his shirt, pulled out the pin and in one motion tossed it the length of the hall; it hit the stairs just as two raiders reached the top.

He didn’t wait to see what happened next. He leaped into the Master’s room, rolling over the floor in a perfect judo rollout, covering as much distance as he could. He heard the explosion, the roar, and he heard the screams of dying men.

None of that mattered. Because what he saw in the room was the most chilling sight of his life.

Master Konuma lay on the floor, his aged yellow skin pulled tight over his skull, his white beard dark with his own blood. He had been shot twice in the chest. His eyes shone bright in the night, glazed with approaching death. A plain white nightgown covered Konuma’s small, thin body, and being close to death now made him look younger than at any other time Sand had ever seen him.

Sand’s heart was beating fast, and for the first time in many years he wept. He hadn’t been in time to save Konuma. Inside, he felt an ache that threatened to tear him apart. There were no words for this sorrow and this pain. Words could only limit it and this night there was no limit to the agony inside the Black Samurai.

Bending over, Sand swallowed hard and said softly, Sensei?

The dying old man looked at Sand, and his thin, bony arms, the backs of his hands knotted with blue veins, reached up toward the black man’s face. Softly he said, Sand-san…San…Sandayu…Sand.

Sandayu. Perhaps the greatest Samurai warrior in Japan’s history, a master of weapons, a man both cunning and courageous, a man who fought like no other ever had. A legend in medieval Japan, yet a man who actually lived, performing incredible deeds with courage and skill.

And now, the dying old master was calling Sand by that name. As he had done once before. What did it mean?

Sensei? said Sand, a horrible sadness tightly gripping him.

Sandayu, whispered the old man and died.

His Master was dead. And the Black Samurai’s world collapsed.

He heard the voices at the end of the hall. More raiders coming.

Now the Black Samurai wanted to live. He wanted desperately to live, because he wanted to kill Colonel Tolstoy. Nothing else mattered.

Gently closing the Master’s eyes, Sand, his face wet with tears, touched the old man’s peaceful face for the last time, then stood up and moved to the window.

Tears for the Master, for a father and brothers was not unusual, but Sand was a Samurai and he had to kill Colonel Leo Dimitri Tolstoy.

Quickly pulling the window up, Sand leaped through, landing lightly on his feet, then ducking back against the house, flattening himself against the wood, blending with the shadows. He wasn’t crying now. He had to survive.

Crouching, he moved to the edge of the house, to the rear. He saw him. A man in fatigues looking up at the second floor toward the sound of the recent gunfire and grenade explosion.

Above Sand, a voice yelled in English, Watch out! One’s around here somewhere! Crouching lower in the shadows, the Black Samurai waited. Footsteps came closer as the guard ran toward the voice coming from the window. As he passed in front of Sand, the Black Samurai reached out from the darkness, grabbing both of the man’s ankles, pulled both feet from under the raider and dropped him on his stomach as if dropping a stone to the ground.

Quickly shifting until he was over the man’s neck, Sand raised his own right fist high, then crashed his elbow down on the back of the man’s neck, breaking it. Then, rolling the man over, Sand pulled a grenade from his pocket, took the pin out, counted to three, then stood up, stepped away from the building and lobbed the grenade up toward the window at the yelling voice.

Picking up his sword and the dead man’s rifle, the Black Samurai swiftly ran toward the trees where the raiders had been hiding minutes ago. Behind him, the roar of the explosion sent broken glass and wood flying out into the night. Men screamed, high-pitched, like women.

Get him! Get him! Don’t let him escape! Kill him! Kill him!

The shouting came from Colonel Tolstoy, who stood on the porch of the first house, a long, bony brown finger pointing at the fleeing Black Samurai.

CHAPTER TWO

1966/BEGINNING

Running in the darkness

SEVEN YEARS AGO, THE Black Samurai had been running in the darkness, too.

Then he had been a skinny GI, a twenty-two-year-old sergeant in Tokyo on thirty-day leave from Vietnam and awed by the largest city in the world. That night he had stepped from a bar to see four white GIs, mean-drunk and surly, taunting an old Japanese man who tried to step around them. They wouldn’t move, nor would they let the old man pass.

For shit’s sake, thought Sand, an old cat like that, seventy, maybe seventy-five years old, and Charley got to whip up on him like it was Saturday night in shitkicker’s heaven. They act like they were back in America.

Laughing at the old man, the whites pointed at him and said, Chop, chop, over and over, and wouldn’t let him pass. Sand got pissed, and when he saw a red-faced, stocky sergeant reach over and yank the old man’s beard, the young black said Shit! and ran toward the four white men.

He was too angry to think about the odds. But they heard his footsteps coming toward them, and reaching inside of his shirt, one of the whites pulled out a Miroku .38 special revolver and shot Sand in the stomach twice, knocking him to the ground. Only a nigger, said the white, spitting from the side of his mouth.

Oh my God! I can’t breathe, thought Sand, lying and writhing on his back, the burning in his stomach tearing at him like a vicious animal trapped inside, clawing his way out through tender flesh. God it hurts! Nothing in Nam, not a goddamn scratch, and he gets wasted on leave when all he wanted was some sleep, a clean shower and regular pussy. Ain’t fair, he told himself, it ain’t fair, man, not like this, not like this.

He lay on the cold hard pavement, rolling gently from side to side, both hands covering his stomach, trying to keep the blood from coming out. Jesus it hurt, man it hurt worse than anything he’d ever imagined. This is what it’s like to get shot, he thought. It’s a bitch, let me tell you.

Sand’s mouth was open, greedily gulping air. His head felt light, as if he were high on something, then it felt cool, then light again. His hands were warm and sticky with his own blood. Then—

He couldn’t believe it. Man, he couldn’t believe it. Shit, he wasn’t seeing what he was seeing, it was just his imagination, something he was dreaming.

That old man was stomping the shit out of the four young white dudes, all of them bigger and stronger than he was. Too fucking much. The old man, gray beard and all, was kicking ass like there was no tomorrow. He dropped the stocky sergeant with the quickest kick in the balls Sand had ever seen, then, without putting that foot back on the ground, he drove the edge of the foot into the side of another white GIs knee and Sand heard the sickening snap and the man’s scream of pain.

Before the man with the gun could use it again, the old man had leaped high in the air, both feet tucked neatly under his own ass and quicker than hell lashed out with both feet at the gunman’s face, breaking a lot of bones.

The fourth GI waded in, street-fighter style, swinging wildly, hammer-fist blows. The old man never took a backwards step. He sidestepped, bobbing up and down, leaning left and right, then he blocked a round-house right with his left hand, grabbed the GI’s wrist and pulled the arm toward his own head until the arm was straightened.

Then the old man brought his own right forearm up fast and hard into the GI’s elbow, breaking it with a dry snap. The white man screamed, then collapsed to the ground on both knees, his right arm dangling, the crotch of his light blue bell-bottoms turning dark as he peed in his pants from fear and pain.

It’d happened so fast, Sand couldn’t believe it. Squeezing his eyes shut in pain, he opened them wide again. Four white men lay twelve feet away from him, moaning, weeping or unconscious.

The gray-bearded old Japanese man had disappeared.

Smiling to himself, Sand said, Sheeit, man, and slipped into a long darkness.

Sand opened his eyes and saw him. Standing near the bed, looking down at him. Then the old Japanese smiled, bowed and, without saying a word, turned and left the room.

Seconds later, a fat, blond American nurse, her uniform bulging and bumpy from shoulder to chunky thighs, walked into Sand’s room and smiled, thick lips pulling back to reveal yellow buck teeth.

How are we doing today? she said in that nauseating hospital-politeness tone.

We my black ass, thought Sand. Instead he said, slowly and softly, OK, I think.

Good, goodie, she said, smiling. You hold the record for this year, did you know that? No, I guess you didn’t. Eight hours on the table, well, seven hours and fifty-six minutes to be precise. She had taken his chart from the bottom of the bed and was staring at it through the thickest eyeglasses Sand had ever seen on anybody.

Yeah, said Sand, not knowing what else to say. Then, Hey, who was that guy who just left here, old Japanese man, yellow and black robe, gray beard?

Looking up from the chart, the fat nurse smiled at Sand and said, You need rest. She said it as though Sand had just asked her about a pink Martian.

Didn’t you see him? Sand asked. Now he was getting worried. Was he flipping out? Wouldn’t be the first time a guy got shot and lost his smarts at the same time.

Walking over to him, the fat nurse put a pudgy hand on his forehead and said, Sleep. You’ve had a hard time. Eight hours on the operating table, four doctors, and—well, maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but you died. I mean, you actually died, and they worked like crazy to bring you back. Your heart stopped for a few seconds and—well, get some sleep, we’ll talk about it later. Good-looking nigger, thought the nurse, but a little out of it. No sense upsetting a man who died and is alive to tell about it. No one walked by me, but why upset him. Sand said nothing.

Two and a half months later, Robert Sand was discharged from the American hospital in Tokyo. Ten minutes later, he was discharged from the United States Army.

It all happened in his private room at the hospital, quietly, swiftly, with little exchange of words. Two large brown envelopes held his papers, $1200 in back pay, dogtags, watch. The two Army officers who stood in the room quietly staring at the thin black GI, handed him the envelopes, said Good luck in a voice that meant they couldn’t care less, then turned and walked out of the room.

Sand was alone. Puzzled, but in the back of his mind expecting something else to happen. He had three years and two months left on his enlistment and had nowhere to go but the Army, and he hadn’t asked anybody to let him out. But he was still weak, and what the hell, he didn’t have it in him to fight anybody right now. If the Army wanted your black ass out, then it was out, and that was the end of it.

The door to his room opened and a white man, wearing a tweed jacket and gray pants, stepped inside. Behind him was the old Japanese man. Sand had seen the old man several times more, each time when he opened his eyes after sleeping or passing out from pain, and never for long. To hell with that fat-ass nurse—Sand knew the old man was real.

Proof of it was standing in front of the young black man.

And Sand wasn’t surprised.

Mr. Sand, I’m Jenkins. Watson Jenkins, said the white man, black horn-rimmed glasses slipping down his nose, his receding blond hair and soft round red face looking like a large tomato. I’m with the American Embassy here in Tokyo and this is Mr. Konuma. We both want to talk with you.

The talk lasted almost one hour and no one came near the room during that time. Jenkins looked fruity, but he knew his Japanese, translating Mr. Konuma’s Japanese for Sand and translating Sand’s English for Mr. Konuma.

Mr. Konuma wanted Sand to come with him, to live with him and study with him. Mr. Konuma was one of three high-ranking martial-arts masters recognized in Japan as national treasures, a literal designation by the Japanese Government.

Through the Japanese Government he had contacted the American Embassy and asked that Sand be given, that was the term used, given to him. And the Japanese Government made it clear that to go along with that request would win badly needed diplomatic points, points the United States could use at the moment.

He says you are special, Jenkins said to Sand. He says he has been waiting for you for a long time.

Weird, thought Sand, still listening, still keeping quiet. Man doesn’t know me, and he says he’s been waiting for me for a long time. Yeah, I know. Waiting for me to get my ass shot on his behalf.

Mr. Konuma was speaking softly. When he finished, Jenkins turned to Sand, stared at him for a few seconds, then, in a new tone of voice, with a mixture of awe and disbelief, said, Mr. Konuma says you will be the greatest he has ever taught. He says you are immensely courageous and that since you tried to save his life, he will give you life.

Sand was nervous. Something was happening between himself and the old Japanese man, something the young black could not understand and wasn’t sure he liked. He wanted to run away, to leave that room.

But he didn’t.

And when Mr. Konuma stood up and walked to the door, Sand, without fully understanding what he did or why he did it, walked to the door, opened it, allowed Mr. Konuma to walk through first, then followed the old man out into the empty hospital corridor.

Sand never once looked behind him.

CHAPTER THREE

1973/FLIGHT

Running in the darkness…

THE BLACK SAMURAI SPED across the grass on powerful legs toward the small grove of trees, cars and trucks wrapped in darkness. Behind him, Colonel Tolstoy’s men yelled and ran after him, firing their M-16’s, the swift, tiny flames from the rifles lighting up the night like so many fireflies.

Sand ran in a crouch, five quick steps left, a sharp cut and four quick steps right. Left again, then right, always moving forward, his mind now locked in to his Samurai training. He blessed his Master Konuma for his insistence on daily running, something Sand could usually take or leave.

Tonight, the hundreds of miles he had run in seven years of training were saving his life. Right now he needed the speed, the stamina, the quickness to put distance between him and Colonel Tolstoy’s killers.

He ran toward Colonel Tolstoy’s vehicles, knowing he could only use them as cover. The colonel and his men had the keys and the only way they would let Sand ride in one of the cars or trucks was after they killed him.

Sand was heading for the small village a few hundred yards away, toward the stable there, with the seven horses used in Samurai training. Horsemanship was an ancient martial art, one that Master Konuma insisted be practiced no matter how many times man walked on the moon. The Master had nothing against cars. But he loved the martial arts more.

He had said to his Samurai many times that all training would forever be a part of their lives. Tonight Sand was learning that under brutal circumstances.

It’s the same and it’s different, thought Sand, feeling the blood from the sword-cut slide down his side. The night I met Master Konuma, I bled. Tonight I’m leaving him and I’m also bleeding. Except tonight everything else was different and the biggest difference of all was in the swiftly running Black Samurai.

Sand wasn’t a weak, skinny, twenty-two-year-old anymore, with two bleeding bullet holes in his stomach. He was twenty-nine years old, six feet one inch, strong and smart, with powerful legs, muscular arms and chest. His physique looked as though it were carved from brown marble. His strength and skill surpassed his physique, but most of all, he had the training and discipline of the Samurai. A razor-sharpening of body, mind and soul—in martial arts, weapons and, above all, in courage.

Sand reached the trees, leaving his feet in a quick dive for cover. Hitting the ground, he kept scrambling, hearing bullets ripping into the tree between him and the raiders, tearing bark, pieces of wood and leaves loose and tossing them into the air like dark confetti. Leaves and dirt stuck to the blood on his side.

If he reached the village alive, he had no plans to stay there. Less than a hundred people lived there, none of them fighters. Businessmen and their families who preferred country quiet to the incredible day and night noises of Tokyo, some old people, retired and feeble, and a few polite middle-aged women eking out a living carving souvenirs for tourists.

That’s why the village was a Samurai training site. It was quiet, deserted, a place to train without distractions or observers. Tokyo was twenty miles away, near enough yet far enough away. A twenty-mile run was nothing for Sand or any other Samurai, but if he started out for Tokyo on foot, the colonel’s killers and their cars would be on him in minutes.

No. His only choice was to reach the stables, get a horse and take his chances. There were three cars nearby belonging to the Samurai training camp, but the ignition keys hung from the wall on the first floor of Master Konuma’s house.

The Master. Flat on his stomach, dirt on his face and in his hair, Sand peeked from behind the tree and looked at the Master’s house. It was in flames, the bright orange and yellow fire swallowing the wooden building. Flames roared through the second house. In front of the first house, its top floor on fire, the dark figures of three raiders held torches and Sand knew it was only a question of seconds before that entire house went up in flames.

The Black Samurai nailed this sight into his mind and heart. He never wanted to forget it. Old Konuma and his Samurai brothers—all slaughtered by Colonel Tolstoy, and the homes burning. Something was burning inside of Sand too, and it would always burn there. He was on fire inside with tonight’s slaughter. He was on fire with rage and revenge. Colonel Tolstoy was now the most important thing in his life—specifically, the colonel’s death.

The crouching raiders—eight of them—spread wide, trying to surround the Black Samurai. Pulling the rifle near him, Sand shifted his body, brought the rifle to his right shoulder, quickly sighted, then pulled the trigger three times, the hot empty shell casings popping out of the rifle and falling near his hand.

Two of the raiders went down before the flat crack of the M-16 echoed and faded away in the darkness.

Sand quickly rolled back behind the tree as more leaves and wood were torn loose by returning rifle fire. They could blast him out with grenades, but they’d blow up their own vehicles at the same time. Still, the Black Samurai took no chances.

Reaching for his sword, he gripped it tightly in his right hand, and with the M-16 in his left hand, he crawled and scrambled back until he reached the cars and trucks.

The raiders had stopped firing at him.

Sand saw why.

Three of them were crawling to his right, while two moved wide to his left, trying to surround him, get him in the middle and kill him.

Sand moved between two cars, then, keeping the cars and trucks between him and the raiders, he crouched and ran forward swiftly.

The colonel had three cars and four small trucks. The Black Samurai was now at the head of the motor column, crouched beside a small truck, the other six vehicles behind him. Ahead of him was the empty road, the light brown dirt a garish white under the moonlight. One hundred yards down the road was the village, no more than twenty buildings.

The stable was on the edge of town, where it was cared for by an old man who was paid a few yen each month by Master Konuma. It wasn’t the money, as far as the old man was concerned. It was the respect and reverence he felt for Master Konuma. In American money, the old man was getting fifteen dollars a month and would have cared for the horses for nothing if the Master had asked him.

The Master.

Sand thought of him. And he thought of his teachings, of how his entire life had been nothing but giving knowledge. Master Konuma was dead and Colonel Tolstoy was alive. Well, it won’t be that way for long, thought the Black Samurai, his eyes narrowed to slits, his mouth tight and hard. Not for long.

Black on black, he thought. Me and the night. Better than being blue-eyed and blond and dressed in white satin. Soon, the rest of the colonel’s killer force would stop burning and slaughtering and turn their total attention to a search for him. He had to get out of the village and into Tokyo.

Again he looked at the burning houses. All three were on fire now, the bright orange flames sharp and clear against the black night. More shots, two, three, then silence, then one or two more. This was the final phase of killing according to the colonel, a bullet behind the neck, a rifle pressed into the mouth and the trigger pulled twice. Always finish up with the head. That was the colonel’s way.

Until tonight, the colonel’s existence had only been words and a photograph in Sand’s life. He was a man who, Sand had been told, represented danger. But a danger to another part of the world, a danger in Vietnam, not in Japan. The colonel had been just a man, the name of a man involved in the massacre of two villages in Vietnam.

And if the colonel were to be watched, to be kept in plain sight at all times, it was because of what he had done in Vietnam or what he might do in America. That he would strike in Japan was the last thing Sand and a certain very important American had ever expected.

It was this important man whom the Black Samurai had to see. If he could escape from this slaughter, Sand’s next task would be to reach William Baron Clarke, the only living ex-President of the United States, a man who, like Master Konuma, had much to say about the Black Samurai’s life.

Ahead of him in the village, Sand saw lights go on and a few doors and windows open as round yellow faces, slanted eyes still puffy with sleep, peeked out and looked toward the gunfire and flames at the Samurai compound.

He knew most of the people in the village and they accepted him as a Samurai, an acceptance they would not have given to other blacks or whites. Polite as the Japanese were, they were not quick to open up to strangers. Unless, like Sand, the stranger had trained as a Samurai and had the respect of a renowned martial-arts teacher, as well as the respect of some of the finest martial artists in the world. The martial arts were as much a part of Japan’s culture and tradition as delicate paintings on rice paper and a two-thousand-year-old statue of Buddha. That Sand was interested in them made him acceptable. That he excelled at them, surpassing even the Japanese, made him special.

He had to get out of there, away from the burning Samurai compound, away from the village. As long as he remained, he wasn’t the only one in danger. Everyone would get killed, especially if Colonel Tolstoy decided to make a house-to-house search.

It wouldn’t be the first time the colonel had wiped out an entire locality. Any man determined enough to lead a killing raid in a friendly country wouldn’t let the body count bother him.

Ahead were trees spaced apart on either side of the road, hot much cover but enough if a man were careful and lucky.

There was open space between each tree, until the road got closer to the village. Between the end of the trees and the stables was forty feet of open ground. If he got across that and to the stables, he’d have a chance.

Unless the colonel knew about the horses and already had them killed or had men guarding them. Sand had to take that chance, however, and go to the stable.

Behind him he heard shouting. Back at the Samurai compound the shooting had stopped. Men were still yelling in front of the burning houses, men yelling in English and Sand couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like Vietnamese. He’d heard enough of that language in the Army to know what it sounded like but right now he was too far away to be certain and he damn sure wasn’t going back to the burning houses to ask anybody.

More lights in the village. Sand didn’t like that. It put them in danger, and it took away the darkness he needed in order to survive.

He had to move now.

Moving back to the truck, he noted where the gas tank was, then moved farther down the line, picking out the gas tanks on one other truck and one car.

It wasn’t going to be easy in the darkness, but he had to try it. Moving away from the vehicles, the Black Samurai reached a tree just as two of the raiders began moving alongside the cars and trucks, toward the front truck where Sand had been just seconds before.

Silently he watched them, his eyes never leaving their slow-moving figures. They had just missed him, missed him by seconds. Waiting until the two were in front of the car he had selected, Sand pulled the trigger on his M-16 three times, the flat crack of the rifle breaking the short silence of the past few minutes.

Both men went down, throwing up their hands and arms as though offering something to the heavens. As they hit the ground, Sand fired three more times, this time at the gas tank. It exploded, the roar booming out into the village and across the quiet country, a huge ball of orange-red flame rolling right, left and up, chunks of metal and glass flying high and low. For seconds the bright flash blinded the Black Samurai.

The shots and the flames would bring more men. Sand couldn’t wait to destroy more vehicles. The explosion had ruined the car and truck on either side. He had to take what he could, and run for the stables.

Quickly, he started for the village, keeping behind trees, running doubled over, his balance perfect, his bare feet moving lightly across the earth.

He saw them.

Two more raiders, standing off, shading their eyes from the brightness of the flames, watching the burning two cars and one truck. One turned toward the burning Samurai compound, lifted his arm and waved as though directing someone to come nearer.

Stopping behind a tree, Sand dropped his sword and lifted the rifle to his shoulder, pulling the trigger immediately. The first shot went into one raider’s nose, turning his entire face into blood-red liquid, dropping him to his knees, both hands going up to what was left of his face. The man screamed and kept screaming.

The second and third shots hit the second man, the first bullet ripping his hand off, sending blood spurting into the air, the second bullet going into his stomach and coming out again, bringing bits of intestines with it.

As the man fell backwards and began writhing from side to side in agony, Sand pulled the trigger again and heard the click.

Empty.

Dropping the rifle and picking up his short sword, the Black Samurai began running for the stables, keeping low, using the trees as cover.

As he reached the end of the trees, he heard shouting behind him. Looking over his shoulder, he saw the burning cars, flames twisting the metal into black ugliness. Another explosion, this time from a small truck, showering metal chunks and sharp pieces of glass over the road, into trees.

Sand turned forward and kept running.

Now he had no cover.

Empty space. Dirt road, flat green grass.

The stable was just yards away.

Samurai! That’s what I am, thought Sand. Samurai! I do my best, nothing less. I must!

Forcing his powerful legs to move faster, Sand ran with all the speed and power he had in him, his mind on nothing but the race across the clear area.

Light! The light from the houses! The lights had to be turned off.

In perfect Japanese, the running Black Samurai yelled— Danger! Danger! Master Konuma is dead. My Samurai brothers are dead! Go back inside, turn off your lights or you will be killed! I must escape! I am Robert Sand, Samurai!

Without a word, two lighted windows went dark.

Again, he yelled, Master Konuma and my brothers have been killed! Turn off your lights!

More lights went off. Some of the people in the village began to yell—The Samurai are dead, turn off your lights!

Sand reached the darkened stable, tore open the door and saw the old man standing there, holding a lantern. Old man— began Sand.

I heard, said the old man. What do you want me to do?

One horse for me, said Sand quickly, then drive the rest of the horses away, toward the Samurai houses, back toward anyone chasing me.

Are they all dead? asked the old man, his weakened eyes searching the Black Samurai’s face, his wrinkled, old head and gray beard turned sideways. Yes. said Sand. I think so.

Master Konuma?

He died in my arms, said Sand.

The horses were calm; the smell of death and fire had not reached them yet. Setting the lantern down on the straw-covered floor, the old man shuffled toward the nearest stall, opened it and walked in, then gently backed a golden mare with a white mane out onto the floor.

Sand had ridden her before. Oki. Fast, temperamental, but never with the Black Samurai. She liked him.

The saddle— began the old man.

From the door, staring back at the flaming houses and cars behind him, Sand said, No time. Then, rushing forward to the horse, and still holding his short sword, the Black Samurai leaped onto Oki’s bare back, his left hand tightly gripping the soft white hair.

Slowly shuffling over to the lamp, the old man bent over, picked it up and blew out the flame. Now it was pitch-black inside. Neither man could see the other. As tiny swirls of smoke floated in the almost-solid darkness, the old man said to Sand, Did you kill tonight?

Yes, said the Black Samurai.

Will you avenge Master Konuma? he asked.

Sand was silent, then answered, Yes.

Shuffling over to the bare-chested Black Samurai now sitting on the golden mare, the old man reached up out of the darkness and gently touched the cut on Sand’s side. You are brave, he said, then, turning, he shuffled in the darkness to the other stalls and opened each door.

As Sand turned forward, he heard them.

Combat boots pounding hard on the earth, hot in pursuit. Using his knees he gently nudged Oki forward toward the door. Even without reins and a bit in her mouth, the temperamental mare obeyed the Black Samurai.

The running stopped. Dim moonlight lit the empty street in front of the stable.

Then two men leaped in front of the open door, black silhouettes, crouching, staring in at the blackness, hesitating, seeing nothing.

Bending over, Sand whispered into the mare’s ear and she charged forward.

In one quick move the horse reached the two men. As she did, Sand leaned forward over her neck, his left hand gripping the white mane, the sword held tightly in his right. Lifting the sword high, the Black Samurai brought it down swiftly in a backhand stroke, across the throat of the man on his right, the spurting warm blood splashing the golden mare’s chest and belly.

Another command to Oki, this one out loud, made the mare stop, then wheel left into the second raider, knocking him backwards and into the door.

As the raider struggled to keep from going down, still holding on to his rifle with both hands, Sand used his knees to quickly shift Oki until she and the Black Samurai were alongside the raider.

Then, holding his sword-hand low, the Black Samurai brought it up swiftly across the man’s face, then back again, as the man screamed, dropping his rifle and clutching his bleeding shredded face with both hands. Wheeling the golden mare around and strongly gripping her with his knees, the Black Samurai galloped through the village toward the road that would take him to the highway leading to Tokyo.

To William Baron Clarke, ex-President of the United States.

CHAPTER FOUR

1966/TRAINING

OKI, THE GOLDEN MARE, moved swiftly along the dirt road toward the highway leading to Tokyo, her shod feet kicking up dirt, her long head straining forward, her white mane rippling in the wind caused by her own speed.

Sand, his chest and side sticky with dried blood and dirt, leaned forward over the golden mare’s neck, his mind going back.…

For three months the young black man scrubbed floors, cleaned windows, scraped shit from toilets, helped two old women from the village cook the meals for the Samurai, cleaned the weapons—the swords, knives, long and short sticks, the bows and arrows. It was also his job to carry the dirty uniforms—the judo and karate gis—into the village twice a week and bring back clean uniforms. Sand hated each and every one of these tasks.

His work began at five-thirty every morning, when a grinning Ohara, one of two Samurai who spoke a little English, pulled back the one blanket, smacked Sand on the ass and said, Hurro, meaning Hello. Then Ohara, short and muscular, his yellow round face always smiling, left Sand’s room, which was near the kitchen, and went outside to join the other Samurai for a five-mile run.

Sand then went to Konuma’s room, cleaned it—the old man would be off alone somewhere thinking quietly—then rushed to the kitchen to have breakfast ready when the men returned. Breakfast. Sand was sure he’d never learn to chew raw fish, swallow it and keep it down in his stomach. He had only learned a handful of Japanese words, finding the language impossible, unless you could hiss and growl, because that’s what it sounded like. Sand was thinking of running away soon. He couldn’t take this slave shit any longer. It was as bad as America, being black and on your hands and knees scrubbing for other people.

One day he said to Maka, the sad-faced Samurai who knew a little English, This is not Samurai training. I don’t like it. Konuma promised to make me a Samurai. This is nothing, this is for slaves and women.

Smiling at Sand, Maka said, You are stupid. You will learn, perhaps. This is training. You learn to endure. You are fortunate to be here. Then the sad-faced Samurai walked away.

Konuma was everywhere, watching, his small eyes taking in all of the training. He rarely spoke, and then he called a senior Samurai over to him, whispered in his ear, then had him explain the instructions. The top floor of each building was the sleeping area. The first floor of each building was a series of dojos—practice rooms for judo, karate, archery, kendo or sword fighting, bojitsu or stick fighting.

Classes began thirty minutes after breakfast, lasted until lunch, then began an hour after lunch, ending at five P.M. in the evening. Then rest, reading, and for the seniors, some time in the small village. For Sand, the day ended only when he had scrubbed the last pan. Sunday was a two-mile run in the morning, and one hour of training, to be chosen by the student. Seniors instructed, as directed by Mr. Konuma. It was understood that a man chosen for Samurai training was to stay for at least five years. Afterwards he could leave.

Few were chosen. And then, always by Mr. Konuma. He received all recommendations, rejected almost all of them. The night he had met Sand in Tokyo was the night he had accepted a dinner invitation from an old friend anxious to have a young relative accepted for the honor of Samurai training. Konuma had said no, finished the dinner and gone for a quiet walk that had turned out to be not so quiet.

Only the strong survived this training and their strength had to be in their minds and wills. Of those accepted, most failed or quit, slinking away at night or with beaten pride, walking back to the village during the day to wait for the bus to take them to Tokyo or someplace else.

Only Japanese had ever been accepted. No white man, no European and never a black. Most of the Samurai could not understand why Konuma had selected Sand for training and they talked about it among themselves. None of them, however, questioned the selection. They accepted it because of Mr. Konuma, saying nothing, watching carefully, curious to see what would come of it.

On a morning during the fourth month, Sand was awakened as usual by Ohara, who said, Come. No shoes. You run. Master say you run. Still half-asleep, the black man squinted at Ohara’s smiling, round, yellow face and said, What?

You run. Today. Master say, said Ohara.

Outside, Sand, his heart pounding, saw them in the cool quiet dawn. Twenty Samurai, all Japanese, looking at him, their faces expressionless. Sand wore an old, worn pair of green pants given to him by a senior Samurai, and a faded blue sweater. Folding his arms across his chest, he hugged himself for warmth, curling his toes under his bare feet, his heart pounding, his stomach heaving with nervous breathing.

Without a word the Samurai turned

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