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The Doctor is sent to the Alpha Quadrant to cure the dying creator of his program, Lewis Zimmerman, but the holographic engineer wants no part of him.



Jupiter Station

Jupiter Station, Sol system, the Alpha Quadrant. A shuttle, piloted by Lieutenant Reginald Barclay approaches. He hails the station and requests permission to dock and board.

The station is the home and workplace of Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, the crotchety genius and holography engineer extraordinaire best known for the creation of the Emergency Medical Hologram. Dr. Zimmerman grumpily allows Barclay in to see him. They speak about Barclay's work on the Pathfinder Project and an annoyed Zimmerman mocks Barclay for still searching for that ship. Barclay tells him that they are on the verge of a breakthrough through the establishment of a communications link.

Then the subject turns to Zimmerman's medical condition. Zimmerman snorts angrily at this, stating that he has been scanned and probed a hundred times without anyone being able to tell him what is wrong. Barclay ventures that it is only a matter of time until they find something, but Zimmerman has none of it. His next words remind Barclay that time is a luxury Dr. Zimmerman cannot afford; his condition is fatal and he is dying.

Act One

Via the MIDAS array, Starfleet transmits a compressed data stream across the 30,000 light year distance to the USS Voyager. It is received in the ship's astrometrics lab by Seven of Nine, who quickly analyzes the data and informs Captain Janeway about the transmission.

Janeway calls a meeting of the senior staff explaining the receipt of the data stream and that every thirty-two days, Starfleet will transmit a short burst of data to them via the MIDAS array, utilizing a cyclic pulsar to amplify the signal across the distance. The data is usually correspondence from crew-members' families and news of the Alpha Quadrant. However, they only have about seventeen hours to respond before the pulsar's strength drops below sending range. She orders that the crew be informed and that everyone be given the opportunity to send something.

The Doctor finds out about Zimmerman's condition

As before, Neelix, the ship's morale officer, is put in charge of distributing the individual messages. This time, he also has one for The Doctor, which he promptly delivers to him in sickbay. It is a message from Barclay who informs him about Dr. Zimmerman's condition. Barclay explains that Dr. Zimmerman is suffering from acute sub-cellular degradation and that the doctors at home have not been able to find the cause, much less the treatment. Neelix informs The Doctor gently of the time the Captain needs his response by, if he wants to send one.

The Doctor, however, intends to send more than just a reply; he believes that he can actually help Dr. Zimmerman by adapting a variety of Borg regeneration techniques to arrest the cell damage and maybe even reverse it. And what's more, he intends to administer the treatment himself by being sent back to the Alpha Quadrant. Captain Janeway is not convinced, saying that even if they could send him, he was still needed on the ship. But The Doctor points out that for the short time he is gone, Tom Paris can take over. He goes on to say that Seven has discovered that they can compress his program and send him. He realizes that he would be asking the crew to make a sacrifice, because if his program is sent, then there won't be any room for personal messages, but he believes that while the crew can wait another month, Dr. Zimmerman might not have that luxury. He pleads with her, responding that he needs to be there and that he cannot treat a patient 30,000 light years away. He points out that everything he is, he is because of Dr. Zimmerman and his work and that in a way, both he and the crew owe Zimmerman something. Janeway points out that Zimmerman created thousands of emergency medical holograms and that he can hardly be considered to be a father to him, but The Doctor disagrees, stating that from his perspective, his creator is the closest thing he's got and that if he doesn't help him now, he may never get the chance. Captain Janeway finally agrees hoping that The Doctor will be successful in his endeavors.

Act Two

Seven prepares The Doctor for transmission. Despite The Doctor's protests, she extracts all his non-essential subroutines, such as his singing subroutine and his Grand Master chess subroutine, because his program is currently too large for transmission. Then, in the astrometrics lab, with Captain Janeway and Ensign Kim there to prep him and see him off, Seven downloads and transmits him.

After successfully arriving at Jupiter Station, Barclay excitedly rushes with a portable data device to Zimmerman's laboratory. Zimmerman's assistant, Haley, warns him that he is in a particularly cranky mood, but Barclay insists on seeing him. Zimmerman agrees to see while his assistant asks him to be nice to Barclay, because he is actually worried about him.

The Doctor makes it to Zimmerman's lab

Barclay enters and activates The Doctor, who is projected using the emitters Zimmerman has installed throughout his lab. Zimmerman is not very impressed with being presented with an EMH Mark I, stating that he is not in the mood for nostalgia. Barclay informs him exactly what EMH Mark I he is looking at, but this merely elicits yet another sarcastic dismissal of The Doctor from a still unenthusiastic Zimmerman.

When The Doctor informs Zimmerman of the reason for his visit, Zimmerman becomes angry. "You brought a Mark I 30,000 light years to treat me?" he asks Barclay with a baleful glare. "I was wrong about you, Reginald; you do have a sense of humor." He curtly turns his back on both of them.

The Doctor asks Barclay what the joke is. Zimmerman tells The Doctor the EMH Mark I program has been reconfigured to scrub plasma conduits on waste transfer barges. The Doctor is horrified. Zimmerman loudly continues that he has been treated by the Mark III, Mark IV, along with real doctors in Starfleet, none of whom could help him. Barclay explains to Zimmerman that all The Doctor's unique experiences have vastly increased his knowledge in the medical field, but Zimmerman doesn't want to hear it.

Irritated but undeterred, The Doctor tells Zimmerman that he needs to run a complete analysis by scanning him with a medical tricorder, but Zimmerman refuses to let him do so. However, his persistence makes Zimmerman see that he is going to have to acquiesce in order to be left alone, so he finally relents, standing still and allowing The Doctor to take his scans.

It does not last, however. The Doctor, annoyed by a holographic iguana Zimmerman has in his lab for company, deactivates it. Furious at this, Zimmerman ceases his cooperation and shouts at him to leave. The Doctor refuses, defiantly retorting that he is no longer under Zimmerman's control, to which Zimmerman sharply orders the computer to transfer The Doctor to the living quarters. The flustered Doctor finds himself suddenly relocated outside the lab, where a concerned Barclay and Haley look at him in surprise.

Act Three

"He reconfigured my tricorder!"

The next day, Haley and Barclay are sitting in the living quarters, talking about the situation. A furious Doctor storms in, demanding that the MIDAS array be powered up to send him back to Voyager at once. He spent an hour analyzing the confusing data before discovering that Zimmerman, according to the readings, is a Vulcan marsupial. The Doctor is outraged because Zimmerman reconfigured his tricorder. Barclay chuckles a bit and Haley tells him that she thinks that he is making some progress because Dr. Zimmerman only teases people he likes. Finally, Barclay calms him down, reminding him that he cannot be sent back until the following month. The Doctor is becoming increasingly agitated by the situation he is in, especially when a holographic insect keeps buzzing into his ear. He angrily voices his opinion of the absurdity of the situation he finds himself, with undercover insects, talking iguanas and not to mention Dr. Zimmerman whom he considers to be deranged and in dire need of a counselor. This gives Barclay an idea.

Barclay contacts Deanna Troi for help

Barclay contacts the USS Enterprise-E and speaks to Commander Deanna Troi, the ship's counselor. He asks her to come to Jupiter Station and provide some insight into the situation between The Doctor and Zimmerman. At first, she is reticent, responding that the Enterprise is on an important mission, nearly seven light years away. But Barclay pleads saying that this situation needs the best: her. She is visibly pleased by his confidence in her, and agrees to come, provided Captain Jean-Luc Picard, grants her request.

Meanwhile, on Voyager, Chakotay enters Captain Janeway's ready room to find her mulling over a message she has received from Admiral Hayes. In the message, Hayes assures Janeway that Starfleet has not given up on Voyager; in fact, they have redirected two deep space vessels toward Voyager's position, and the ships would be able to rendezvous with them in five to six years. Hayes also requests information from Janeway regarding her first contact missions, interactions with the Borg, and the status of the ship's Maquis crew members. This last point troubles Janeway; she tells Chakotay that she no longer thinks of the Maquis as a separate political entity (and enemies of the Federation), but as a normal part of the crew. Chakotay confesses that while Janeway may have forgotten their ugly history, the Maquis have not, but he also reminds her that it will be years before she will have to address the problem with Starfleet, and she should wait until then to do so. Janeway invites him to lunch so that he can help her compose a proper response to Hayes.

The disguised Doctor scans a complaining Zimmerman

Later on, Haley, having prepared Zimmerman's lunch, calls and informs him. His response over the comm is pleasured groaning, then an acknowledgment of her message. Zimmerman is being massaged by a Tarlac woman, to whom he complains about The Doctor's harassment of him and the dread he feels just thinking about him. Then he notices her pulling out a medical tricorder to scan him. Shocked, he gets up, demanding an explanation. He orders the computer to realign Voyager's EMH. The Tarlac woman is replaced by an embarrassed-looking Doctor.

Zimmerman becomes furious and threatens to report The Doctor to the medical ethics board, screaming at him to leave him alone. The Doctor sternly tries to get him to see that he is only trying to help, but Zimmerman screams that he doesn't want his help, again asking why he just won't leave him alone. The Doctor explains that for some reason unknown to him, he cares about him. Zimmerman mocks him again, saying that he was not programmed to care but to hold a scalpel. However, The Doctor reiterates that over the past six years, he has become more than the EMH Zimmerman had once created.

Just then, Haley calls, informing Zimmerman of a visitor, who enters shortly after: Commander Troi.

Act Four

Troi introduces herself and immediately gets to work, trying to engage them. The Doctor is appreciative, but Zimmerman is surly and obstinate. She first tries to get The Doctor to see Zimmerman's point of view on the situation but to Zimmerman's mind, The Doctor is obsolete. Therefore, he has difficulty putting confidence in him. The Doctor understands this.

She then asks Zimmerman to understand The Doctor's position. If the situation were reversed, The Doctor would not want him working on him either, considering him obsolete. Zimmerman appears to be conciliatory but this soon gives way to crassly commenting The Doctor can start purging the plasma conduits on Deck Six. This arouses The Doctor's anger once again and they begin to bicker, until Troi loses her cool, calling them both jerks before storming out.

Later, in the living quarters, Troi tells Barclay that perhaps she should not have come; Zimmerman and The Doctor now refuse to even be in the same room with each other.

Troi meets Haley

Haley brings Troi chocolate ice cream. Troi is very appreciative. Her empathic powers, not sensing any emotions from her, reveal Haley to be a hologram. Upon finding out when she was created, she realizes that Haley is in fact older than the Mark I. She asks why Zimmerman listens to her, but refuses to do so with The Doctor. Haley explains that the Mark I was Zimmerman's most prized work. He had dreamed about holograms in every corner of the Milky Way, rendering critical medical care, saving lives in situations where flesh-and-blood doctors could not go. He was so proud of the Mark I that he modeled its physical appearance after himself. But Starfleet was unimpressed, ordering the Mark I reconfigured as plasma conduit cleaners. Zimmerman was devastated and humiliated. He tried for years to repair the defects, until he gave up and started again from scratch, first creating the Mark II, then III, then IV. None of these newer models looked like him again; he made that mistake once and was not about to do it again.

Troi concludes that a Mark I then appears, a reminder of his failure and shame, like staring in the mirror at a reflection one never wants to see again. She now understands exactly what the root cause of Zimmerman's attitude and belligerence toward The Doctor is. Savoring her ice cream, she considers her next steps.

Zimmerman dictates his will

Alone in his darkened lab, a quieter and resigned Zimmerman dictates to the computer his last will and testament. He makes bequests to those few who are close to him, such as Haley and Barclay. Then pain seizes him and he sits in his chair, gasping.

Meanwhile, The Doctor is in the station's holodeck, which Barclay has programmed to be a facsimile of Voyager's sickbay. Commander Troi enters and speaks to him about having dinner with her, Barclay, Haley... and Zimmerman. Initially, he is interested, but at the mention of the last, he flatly refuses. Then he begins to fritz. Urgently, Troi calls Barclay who immediately transfers him to the living quarters, where he begins running diagnostics on him.

The news horrifies The Doctor: he is degrading, destabilizing. Soon, he will be destroyed completely. There is nothing Barclay can do.

Act Five

Soon after, Barclay, Haley, and Troi are in Zimmerman's lab, with Zimmerman. Haley busies herself cleaning while Troi and Barclay speak to Zimmerman about The Doctor's deterioration. Zimmerman could not care less: "Good riddance to bad photons," is his response.

The officers plead with him: he is dying; Voyager cannot do without him. He says that he will send them a Mark IV as a replacement. They don't want a Mark IV, Barclay presses, they want their friend. This irritates Zimmerman even more, and he states that no EMH was ever designed to be anyone's friend and shouts at everyone that he is just a hologram. Hurt, Haley asks him if that is that how he feels about her. Zimmerman mutters that he will not be ambushed in his own lab.

"Don't turn your back on him."

Haley reminds him of the time when he was on Vulcan to give a lecture and received a message that she was destabilizing. He immediately canceled the lecture and returned to Jupiter Station to repair her. Zimmerman responds without conviction that he was merely looking for an excuse to escape delivering the lecture.

"You came back because you cared about me," Haley presses. "Just like you care about the Mark I; you just won't admit it." She admits that The Doctor may not be perfect, but that he is one of his creations, and that right now, he needs his creator. She asks him to not turn his back on him now. Zimmerman looks around at all of them, and quietly relents.

Later, eating Haley's salad, alone in the lab, he begins his work. He activates The Doctor and informs him of his intention to repair him and begins working at a terminal. The Doctor pesters Zimmerman with questions about what action he is taking and why he is taking it. Finally, Zimmerman just shuts him off.

Seventeen hours later, he activates him again. He proudly informs him that he has succeeded. But The Doctor finds that he cannot move. When asked why, Zimmerman excitedly informs him that not only has he repaired him, he has made some "improvements" on him. These improvements are those that he always had wanted to do on the Mark I, but never got the chance to. The upgrades include changing his greeting protocol to something more friendly, as well as adding new subroutines for compassion, patience, empathy and decorum. Zimmerman is extremely pleased. He acknowledges that The Doctor has exceeded his programming and accomplished much more than Zimmerman would have predicted. But, he adds, he never overcame his initial defects as a Mark I but now, he has a chance to.

However, The Doctor is happy with himself the way he is. Zimmerman tells him that he is doing him a favor, but The Doctor doesn't want any favors or the new subroutines. He bluntly asks why Zimmerman just can't accept him as he is. Zimmerman responds that this is because The Doctor is defective. He tells The Doctor; about the pejorative acronyms Starfleet gave the EMH Mark I, such as "Emergency Medical Hotheads" and "Extremely Marginal House-calls"; about how he tried to have them decommissioned, only to have to watch Starfleet reassign them all to work waste-transfer barges.

The truth comes out

He sinks onto a couch, pouring out feelings of extreme shame and embarrassment: "Do you know how humiliating it is? to have 675 Mark Ones out there, scrubbing plasma conduits... all with my face?"

The Doctor gently tells him that he is still doing what he was made for, and is quite good at it. And this is why he is here: to do that job for him, so that he may be proud of him. Somewhat comforted, Zimmerman states that at least one of the EMHs he created is still doing what he designed them to do. The Doctor points out Zimmerman's intercellular proteins are at a dangerous level and that he should commence treatment. Zimmerman considers this and finally agrees to let The Doctor proceed.

Thirty-two hours later, The Doctor emerges from the lab to happily inform Barclay, Haley and Troi that the procedure was successful. He is certain Zimmerman will recover. However, he has a few questions regarding his earlier degradation: apparently, it had been started intentionally. He rounds on Barclay and pointedly calls for an explanation. He and Troi sheepishly confess that they set up the whole thing about his program decompiling in order to break down Zimmerman's resistance. The Doctor smiles, not holding it against them.

Father and son

One month later, The Doctor is in Zimmerman's lab, snapping holo-images. Zimmerman walks in. The Doctor insists he go back to bed. Zimmerman sighs in annoyance. He voices hope that The Doctor will not be returning next month to ensure he is taking his medicine. The Doctor assures him with a smile that Captain Janeway would not allow it. Zimmerman then remarks that The Doctor may want to drop him a line next time Voyager sends a data stream, to let him know how he is doing. The Doctor happily agrees.

Barclay enters. The MIDAS array is ready to send The Doctor back. But before leaving, he has Barclay take a picture of him and Zimmerman.

Memorable quotes

"You're still searching for that ship? What's it called... Pioneer?"
"Uh, Voyager."

- Doctor Zimmerman and Reg Barclay

"Can't it wait until I'm dead?"

- Doctor Zimmerman

"I'm a doctor, not a zookeeper."

- The Doctor

"A smattering of photons; that's all he is!"

- Doctor Zimmerman, speaking about The Doctor

"Hello, I'm Deanna Troi. Which one of you is Dr. Zimmerman?"

- Deanna Troi, introducing herself to Lewis Zimmerman and The Doctor

"I found a friend waiting for me at home."
"You don't have any friends."

- Reg Barclay and Doctor Zimmerman

"I traveled halfway across the galaxy to treat you. The least you could do is show a little gratitude!"
"Thank you. GET OUT OF HERE!"

- The Doctor and Doctor Zimmerman

"The Enterprise is in the middle of a mission...we're nearly seven light years away from you."
"An important mission?"
"They're all important, Reg."

- Deanna Troi and Reginald Barclay

"Oh, spare us your psychobabble!"
"I came here thinking that you were opposite sides of the same coin; identical, but different. Now I see you're both exactly the same. You're both jerks!"

- Doctor Zimmerman, Deanna Troi, and Leonard the iguana

"Do you know how humiliating it is to have 675 Mark Ones out there, scrubbing plasma conduits... all with my face?"

- Doctor Zimmerman

"I can assure you I'm quite real."
"Oh, well, the last beautiful woman to walk in here turned out to be him."
"I'll take that as a compliment."

Deanna Troi, Doctor Zimmerman, and The Doctor

"You're arrogant! Irritable! A jerk, as Counselor Troi would say."
"I believe she was describing you as well."
"Don't change the subject."

- Doctor Zimmerman and The Doctor, arguing about The Doctor's personality subroutines

"What were your initial symptoms?"
"Radical hair loss."

- The Doctor and Doctor Zimmerman

"Computer, deactivate iguana."

- The Doctor

"I also have an exceptionally high tolerance for difficult patients."
"I didn't program you for sarcasm."
"You'll find I'm full of surprises."

- The Doctor and Doctor Zimmerman

Background information


  • Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi), Robert Picardo (The Doctor / Lewis Zimmerman), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Dwight Schultz (Lt. Reginald Barclay), and Jack Shearer (Admiral Hayes) all previously appeared in Star Trek: First Contact. With the exception of Phillips, all of them played the same characters in the film.
  • This episode bears some resemblance to the episode TNG: "Brothers". Both feature an artificial life-form (Data, The Doctor) meeting the reclusive Human scientist (Noonian Soong, Lewis Zimmerman) who created them (in both cases, played by the same actor as their creation). In both cases, the creator is terminally ill, though in his case, his creation is able to treat him.
  • For this episode, Dwight Schultz is credited simply as "Barclay".
  • Although Tim Russ (Tuvok) appears in this episode, he has no lines.
  • This episode remains one of only two Star Trek episodes in which a cast member receives a writing credit, as it was written by Robert Picardo. The other was TAS: "The Infinite Vulcan", written by Walter Koenig.
  • Zimmerman incorrectly guesses Voyager's name is Pioneer; this was a subtle homage to NASA's Pioneer program, the first spacecraft to leave the Solar System, Voyager was the name of the next generation of planetary explorers that also left the Solar System.


  • Reginald Barclay previously appeared in the second-season episode "Projections" (albeit as a hologram) and the sixth-season episode "Pathfinder".
  • Barclay says he's been busy on the "Pathfinder Project". This project, to establish communication between Starfleet and Voyager, was first shown in "Pathfinder".
  • The Doctor references the Vidiians in this eposide, and the disease which afflicts them, the Phage. Voyager first encountered the Vidiians in the first-season episode "Phage".
  • Lewis Zimmerman appears for the first and only time in the series in this episode. He has also appeared in the Deep Space Nine episode DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume". A holographic representation of Zimmerman previously appeared in VOY: "The Swarm", and his image first appeared on a console in "Projections".
  • The Doctor disguises himself as a female member of the Tarlac species from Star Trek: Insurrection in order to examine Dr. Zimmerman.
  • This episode is the first (and only) time that a piece of the USS Enterprise-E is seen on a Star Trek television series, in this case, Counselor Troi's quarters or office. Although a part of the saucer section from the Enterprise-E physical model was used as a piece of debris in the episode ENT: "Regeneration".
  • This episode takes place over the course of a little more than 32 days.
  • Dr. Zimmerman comments that he hasn't left Jupiter Station in "over four years", referring to his visit to Deep Space 9 to interview Julian Bashir for the Long-term Medical Holographic program between Stardates 50564 and 50712 in DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume". This suggests that this episode takes place in early 2377.
  • Doctor Zimmerman claims that there are 675 EMH Mark Ones. However, it is not known how much of the Federation fleet was equipped with the program. Given the number of ships mentioned during the Dominion War, it seems likely that only a portion of Starfleet received the holographic doctors.
  • Although Jupiter Station is mentioned in numerous episodes of Voyager as well as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Enterprise and Star Trek: The Next Generation, this is its only actual on screen appearance.
  • This episode features characters who appeared in five live-action Star Trek series: the regular Voyager characters, Deanna Troi (who was previously a regular character on Star Trek: The Next Generation and who later appeared in both ENT: "These Are the Voyages..." and PIC: "Nepenthe"), Reg Barclay (who previously appeared in five episodes of The Next Generation), and Lewis Zimmerman (who previously appeared in DS9: "Doctor Bashir, I Presume").
  • Admiral Hayes, in his message to Voyager, asks for a casualties list, saying "I'm sure you've had more than your share." This would seem to imply that details of casualties was not transmitted to Starfleet in the fourth-season episode "Message in a Bottle".
  • Troi tells The Doctor that Reg's cat is named after Neelix. Neelix the cat made an appearance in "Pathfinder".


  • Robert Picardo enjoyed playing two roles in this episode: "I play not only The Doctor, but his programmer, Dr. Lewis Zimmerman. So I achieved a lifelong ambition of working with an actor who I've admired. Of course the hardest thing about acting with myself was coming up to my own level. I was very demanding, but also very generous, as an actor I gave myself everything I felt I deserved and more." (Star Trek: Voyager Companion (p. ?))
  • Marina Sirtis enjoyed the opportunity to work with Picardo, who she had come to know through Star Trek conventions. "It was really great because he's so easy to work with." Though she did acknowledge it was a hard episode to film because of the use of motion control. "You have to be standing in a fixed spot; you can't move an inch, and you're having to think of so many other things apart from your performance." (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 18, p. 46)

Video and DVD releases

The video sleeve gives this episode's name as "Lifeline".


  • This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series.

Links and references


Also Starring

Special Guest Star

Guest Stars

Special Guest Appearance By


Uncredited Co-Stars



admission; agoraphobia; Alpha Quadrant; amusement; assimilation; Bolian; chess; chin; commissioning; cycle; cyclic pulsar; Dawkins; Daystrom Prize; deep space vessel; Delta Quadrant; duty shift; Earth; Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH); Enterprise-E, USS; eyes; Federation attack fighter; field medic; fractal algorithm; hair loss; holodeck; hologram; holography; holophotography; homesick; hour; house call; hoverball; iguana; intercellular protein; Jem'Hadar battle cruiser; Jenzo; joint inflammation; Jupiter Station; Jupiter Station Holoprogramming Center; Klingon; "La donna è mobile"; Leonard; mail call; Maquis; Medical Corps; Medical ethics board; medical student; medical tricorder; megaquad; MIDAS array; Milky Way Galaxy; mitochondrial scan; mobility subroutine; Neelix (cat); neutron flux; nightclub; nostalgia; olive branch; parent; paranoid; Pathfinder Project; personality subroutine; phage; Picard, Jean-Luc; Pioneer 10; pinch; plasma conduit; plasma generator; poetry; pork chop; prank; result; Roy; salad; sarcasm; sense of humor; sexual activities (aka intimate relations); scalpel; Starfleet Intelligence; Starfleet Medical; sulfur; Tarlac; terminal illness; therapist; theta radiation; time index; tricorder; Trojan Horse Project; "Voyager's EMH"; Vulcan; Vulcan marsupial; Woman in Four Dimensions; Woman on comms at Jupiter Station; "Z, Doctor"

External links

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