Close Quarters Battle

From Quora:

In order to explain what it feels like, I need to first explain what it is, and what it is not.

CQB does not mean “I’m fighting someone inside a house, or at close range.”  CQB is not urban fighting. It’s not a bunch of cops bumblefucking their way through a door trying to arrest a drug dealer.  It’s not Solid Snake carrying a knife as well as his gun.

The U.S. Army defines CQB as “Sustained combative tactics, techniques, and procedures employed by small, highly trained special operations forces using special purpose weapons, munitions, and demolitions to recover specified personnel, equipment, or material. ”   This is important, because the Army distinguishes CQB from MOUT, which is Military Operations in Urbanized Terrain, the general term for city fighting.

CQB, as far as the Army is concerned, is a specific subset of combat, conducted by trained professionals, emphasizing three things.  These are: surprise, speed, and violence of action. You must achieve surprise over the enemy, typically by a rapid, unexpected, dynamic entry (or by the use of stealth) and possibly supported by distraction devices or pyrotechnics.  You must quickly and speedily take the opportunity granted by your surprise advantage to maximize your effect on the enemy. And you must do so in a way that achieves complete domination over the enemy, both physically and mentally/psychologically, to minimize friendly casualties and maximize the effect on your enemy.

I have a feeling that you really need hands-on experience to roleplay CQB properly: it’s really special forces work, for specialized situations.

On the other hand, urban warfare is better documented, has more film and history behind it, and so it’s easier for an interested civilian Referee to model it in-game without too many glaring mistakes.

Also CQB is really kinetic: physicality, force, momentum, awareness, all bundled together in a handful of seconds. Not easy to roleplay properly with pen’n’paper: LARP is what you be using here, to do it right.

(And the dice is going to have a bigger say than the Referee, in many situations: who sees what in so many tenths-of-a-seconds…)

City fighting takes up more time, involves more tools and tactics, and has more moving parts for a Referee to get involved in. There’s more ebb and flow involved in city fighting, rather than 25 seconds of heart-pounding ACTION which is the essence of Close Quarter Battles.

So, Traveller is a lot more friendly to (relatively slow-moving) city fighting than to CQB. But for completeness sake, let’s get into how it feels like.

So, what does that feel like? It feels like quick, controlled intense violence.  Picture it this way. Imagine you’re outside a door. You, and the other three men in the stack with you, are preparing to make entry. You know what’s coming. The people on the other side of that door don’t. There may be one of them, there may be six. You have no idea, and you have to be ready to respond to whatever happens, instantly, or you and the other three men in the stack potentially die.  It’s dark. It may be smoky, depending what else is going on. You may be looking through night vision, seeing everything in a green haze, punctuated only by beams of infrared lasers slicing through the air like scalpels. The command to breach is given. The breacher forces the door open with a shotgun to the hinges; or maybe he batters it down with a sledgehammer; or literally detonates explosives and blows it off it’s fucking hinges.  Perhaps someone throws a flashbang in, causing the room to erupt in literally blinding light and intense thunderclaps that stun you like a physical blow to the body. You push your way into the now smoky room, the first man in the stack, leading with your own body into the unknown. You key the weapon light activation switch on your carbine, flooding the room in a bright glow that highlights the swirling haze; or maybe you’re still wearing night vision and instead you trigger the IR floodlight “illuminating” the room for you only.

I just realized: boarding actions done by professionals are going to feel a lot more like CQB than anything else. Now, I have no intention of drawing the attention of some Imperial Marines on the job, but your PCs might, so to continue seeing things from their perspective for just a bit longer…

As you cross the threshold you literally feel aggression become a tangible thing within your body, becoming an object that rips itself from your throat in the form of sound waves, as you shout at people to get on the fucking ground. You become hyperaware of everything within the roughly 45 degree angle of responsibility that makes up your “sector”. You force yourself to ignore the movement you see off to the left — it’s not in your sector, it doesn’t exist, even though if the man behind you fucks up, you die. You see a human figure between you and your corner, and your life’s goal for the next few milliseconds is figuring out if you are going to end their life or not. Maybe you see an AK in their hands and your left shoulder muscles clench as you slightly boost the muzzle of the rifle in line with the center of their chest, watching the red dot of your optics come in line and then disappear in a muzzle flash as you send two rounds into their chest and shove their body to the floor while you continue to the corner of the room.  You’re still shouting, partially just because, and partially to confuse anyone else in the room and make it more difficult for them to communicate. You reach the corner and pivot towards the center of the room, stepping to your “point of domination”, the location in which your fire sector interlocks with the rest of your team allowing you 100% control over the room. You see off to your left a man reaching for a pistol in his waistband, his eyes locked on you. He is outside your sector. For your purposes, he does not exist. A millisecond later his body is rocked by a burst from the teammate whose sector he had the misfortune of occupying. Interlocking fields of fire — everyone has each other’s back.  The second man in the stack has mirrored what you did, in the opposite direction, while the third man (your team leader) has now cleared the door and established himself just inside, covering the center of the room. The fourth man makes his way in, covering your rear with the SAW (or breaching shotgun, if he had one).  All of this took about 4-5 seconds.

Note: If I recall correctly, the Traveller turn during battle is six seconds long. A Referee who wants to get it right will have to draw up his own set of battle rules…

This is the four-man flood, the standard Army room-clearing technique. And holy shit, it never gets any less intense even though the overwhelming majority of the time the room is empty or occupied only by terrified civilians. As a rifleman, I was typically the #1 man in the stack. You’d never know what was on the other side.  One raid, it was a “pigeon lady” — a crazy old woman who had hundreds and hundreds of pigeons loose in her house. There was shit everywhere, pigeons underfoot every time you walked. She lived next door to house where insurgents were hiding out — we were trying to get to them from her roof. The carefully orchestrated weaving in and out of team members flooding towards their assigned points of domination while reacting to unpredictable enemy and civilian presence, not to mention dodging cats, furniture, lamps, hookahs, and other detritus was better than any dance, and never the same thing twice.

That’s what CQB feels like. It feels like some kind of eruption of carefully controlled violence. It feels fucking awesome.

Skilled professionals are always in demand: but you need a team to do CQB (or for that matter, almost any front-line fighting, even sniping) right.

And then, there comes the problem of making up losses: a major military organization is geared for this, but a four-man independent small unit isn’t. Warm bodies can be found on poor worlds across the Imperium: competent, trained, experienced team players with the right instincts whom you can trust with your life, not so much.

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China: Powerful Emperors, Dangerous Women

A day in the life of a Chinese Emperor – decent views, about 86,000 as of August 2017

A day in the life of an Imperial Concubine – over 787,000 views, while being put online five months after the Emperor’s video.

Men want the power, but everyone wants to see the beauties…

From the comments:

Did some of these women actually destroy these ancient dynasties or did the ruling men in question just have really poor judgement and sketchy priorities?

Let your PCs discover the answer for themselves! Just be sure to keep the jump engines warmed up, just in case…

(For your information, the names in question are 妺喜 Mo Xi, 妲己 Da Ji, 褒姒 Bao Si, 骊姬 Li Ji, 西施 Xi Shi, 赵飞燕 Zhao Feiyan and 赵合德 Zhao Hede, 张丽华 Zhang Lihua, and 杨贵妃 Yang Guifei. ‘You’re welcome.’)

Warning: High-level savagery.

So, at the end of the day, Lu was extremely cruel and ruthless in her personal life, but this did not affect the people who enjoyed peace and relative prosperity while she was Empress.

An interesting situation for a Traveller to be in. Especially if he is one of the close (but not too close) servants of said Noble.

And from Quora:

In 1596, Queen Elizabeth I wrote a letter to Emperor Shen of Ming (明神宗) seeking to establish trade relations (most likely not involving opium). Unfortunately, her message, and her messenger, were lost in a shipwreck. Almost 400 years later, this letter was finally delivered to China by Queen Elizabeth II as a symbol of friendship. [1] [2]

Before you get all sentimental about the “what if’s” of history, you should also know that her intended recipient was already on strike. Emperors were sometimes lazy, but Emperor Shenzong of Ming (明神宗) took negligence to a whole new level. After becoming emperor at age 9, he ruled diligently for 15 years, most of which was under the strict guidance of his teacher. Then for the next 30 years, he essentially went on strike, and did not leave his palace, see his court officials, or read any missives. Some suspect that after years of dealing with stubborn and orthodox Confucianist ministers, he just stopped caring. The ministers fought him for years over his choice of crown prince (his eldest was born of an encounter with a palace servant, but he favoured the son of his favoured consort). The Confucianist ministers insisted on the rightful elder son, while his wife pestered him to choose her son. The ministers won over crown prince matter, but he ended up giving them the most passive-aggressive “f-you” he could think of.

Also, “Long live the emperor” was not true. The average emperor, despite better quality of life, lived shorter lives than the average Buddhist monks and Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors in the same time period. The mean age of Chinese emperors is 41.3, compared to 66.9 for the monks and 75.1 for the doctors. Why? Indulgence in alcohol and/or sex. The mean age at death for emperors who indulged in both alcohol and sex is 36.6.[3]

Now, there definitely were good emperors of China, but (due to the nature of goodness) they tend to be fairly boring in story terms.

(Of course, if you were Chinese, you definitely want a boring, sensible, competent emperor who liked prosperity, peace, had a reasonable sense of justice, and some concern for the lives of the lower classes.

“You know, the folks who are tied to the land, and never even leave their little homeworld village…”)

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On Brambles and Kings, and Nomadic Travellers

I was reading an article on Celebrity Cults in the church, when I was struck by a great reminder on the nature of kingship.

It stems from – not I Samuel 8, the standard passage warning against kings, where the kings inevitably exploits the people, but the people still cry out for a king “to fight our battles for us” – but instead a parable from Judges 9.

And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.

But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.

But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.

And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.

And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon. — Judges 9:7-15

In effect, productive people – vines and fig trees and olive trees – don’t waste their time seeking political power, but worthless brambles do.

But when productive people have a great fear of some outside threat, if they prefer to put their trust in brambles than take responsibility for their own lives and safety… well, the final result is predictable.

The bramble, knowing that the motivating factor for his enthronement was fear, proceeds to put more fear into the other trees. From the article:

Once made a king, the first thing Abimelech did was to show what he would do to even to those relatives whom he perceived as a threat to his power. The men of Shechem were his relatives, but so were the sons of Gideon who were his brothers. Abimelech hired a group of thugs and went and killed all of his brothers save one. In other words, “Now that you have all come under the shadow of the bramble, let me teach you what the bramble can do, even to his fellow trees.” You can read the rest of the story in Judges 9. What is important for us here is that once accepted as a king because of fear, he made sure to immediately reinforce that fear. After all, if fear made him a king, fear would keep him a king. So his first act was to produce more fear in the hearts of those who made him a king.

Very Machiavellian – and straight from the Bible, too!

Again, to continue expanding on the human need for nobles and kings and aristocracies – as chosen by Blood, by Party, by Church, by Corporation, whatever…

A man who is in the redemption of Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit needs no leaders; as Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:3, “The head of every man is Christ,” not some human leaders. The same message was in the Law: the Law was all given in second person singular, that is, it was primarily a Law given by God to every individual member of Israel. The existence of civil government was limited only to the courts, and they were only involved when there was a crime or a dispute. […] Men, therefore, in their redeemed state, do not need human rulers, whether political or ecclesiocratical. And the only reason they want rulers is that they have sinned against God.

There are plenty of sinners in the Third Imperium: but what is striking is just how fearful they are! Crying out for kings to fight their battles for them…

…those who fear other things than God, also worship other things than God. At the heart of every idolatry, therefore, is fear. Or, we can also say, paraphrasing Henry Van Til, idolatry is fear externalized.

Behind the idolatry of the celebrity worship and submission to human rulers, however, there is a very specific type of fear.

Now, things get educational.

…in the context of Genesis 11, the land of Shinar has a very special significance: It wasn’t a no-man’s land. It was under the rule of a mighty man of power; or, to be precise, under the first mighty man of power.

Ah, the rise of the Imperial Nobility begins!

(But I wonder what the Vilani equivalent of Nimrod and the land of Shinar is…)

This point is important here, for the men in Genesis 11 were not operating in a political vacuum. Before they set out to build a tower, they had first submitted themselves to the rule of the first mighty man recorded in the Bible, the first one to organize his own kingdom and have men under his power. The rebellion at Babel didn’t start with the construction project; the construction project was only the logical continuation of the true rebellion. The true rebellion was men submitting themselves to a human ruler where they should have submitted themselves to God.

What was their motive? Their own words explain it: “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” It was Cain who built the first city to himself (more precisely, to his son, Enoch); the genetic line of Cain was extinguished in the Flood, but these men obviously continued the spiritual legacy of Cain. And just like Cain, who was concerned of being a wanderer on the face of the earth, these men were afraid of being scattered over the face of the earth. It was the fear of being scattered and becoming a wanderer that made men gather together and deliver their God-given liberty to a man of power, and give him authority over their lives.

Interestingly, Travellers don’t mind being scattered, wandering among the stars without a home to call their own.

Now, granted, this is because most of them are borderline (or not-so-borderline) criminals, drifters, rebels, scoundrels, and violent adventurers, not part of any community. The kind of trash David gathered to himself during his own exile from home, cast out during the rule of the handsome (…and cowardly…) celebrity, King Saul.

On the other hand, there has been numerous godly men who were forced to wander from home. My favourite is Abraham, a good businessman who kept up his own trading fleet caravan (and even a small military force!) as he crossed the desert sands. Numerous righteous men were driven from their homes in the days of Israel, of course. And then came the Apostle Paul, who made it his business to travel on the seas and the roads, to spread the Gospel to gentiles and alien foreigners with weird and outlandish customs.

And, not so long ago, Americans were not afraid of being isolated wanderers: as settlers in a strange land, they did not cry out for kings, but built a civilization of free men.

But, to return to the theme of the fear of being scattered and alone, naked before the stars and the cold, pitiless void:

Being scattered is a terrible punishment for men who are not under God. A man who is scattered over the face of the earth, who is a wanderer over the face of the earth, is forced to deal alone with all the challenges of life, to stand against a faceless, impersonal universe which he has no assurance is friendly toward him. Or even neutral.

As is implicit in the quote, it isn’t nearly so bad if you have a purpose, an assurance that your labours, the risks you take, the losses you suffer, is not so much dust in the wind. But without such assurance?

It’s a terrible ordeal, and this is why God included the curse of scattering in His curses against Israel, if they rebelled against Him (Deut. 28:65). It was not just that they would be scattered, but they would be also wanderers, because, in the next verse, “Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot.”

Nowhere to rest, nowhere to build.

Pagans in the ancient world understood this concept very well, and they dreaded it more than anything else. In the ancient Greek cities, one accused of a capital crime was given a choice: to either commit suicide or be exiled, that is, scattered away from his home to become a wanderer. It is surprising how many chose suicide; apparently, Cain’s complaint, “My punishment is too great to bear!”, was the complaint of many others of his spiritual descendants.

I can definitely see the collectivist Vilani go this route. Without the group, without a purpose, without tradition, why exist in a universe of pain and futility? Much like the group-oriented, collectivist Japanese, the group-oriented, collectivist Vilani probably have their own “elegant, proper” manner of suicide.

The Vargr? Maybe: they do love their packs, and don’t do so well as lone wolves. One hard hit from an enemy, with no one to lend a hand or make a distraction or even tend to your wounds, and you’re done for. But I’m quite sure that they will last longer alone than the Vilani will!

The Droyne are a hive species, of course. The Sports are the most individualistic, but even they serve their oytrip (“community”), which is a mix of the basic and extended family.

The Aslan serve their clans: there are wanderers, the ihatei, who are more like scouts than true loners. They operate alone, but in service to their clan.

There are also outcasts and pirates, described below with an excerpt from the Classic Traveller: Aslan book:

Outcasts: Outcast characters for one reason or another do not fit in with normal Aslan society. Generally scorned as misfits, they tend to pick up an unusual assortment of skills; frequently such characters will be more independent, but will also nurse a fierce desire to prove themselves and thus rejoin the society which has scorned them.

Pirates: Some Outcasts become outlaws, travelling between the stars raiding other clans or other races. Pirates represent a deviant subculture within Aslan society; normal standards for male and female pursuits have broken down to some extent, with each learning and performing tasks that the other normally does. Pirates, like Outcasts, privately nurse a desire to return to normal Aslan society, but see little chance for success in that aim.

They get no pleasure, and derive no meaning, from being alone and cast off from Aslan society, and hunger to rejoin it. But unlike the humans, they don’t often commit suicide after being exiled.

The Hivers are the most individualistic of the Major Races, even more so than the Solomani humans. But their community is the Race itself, and not on any lesser grouping. They are a different flavour of racial supremacists than the Solomani: less interested in subjugating all under their feet, and more interested in subtly tailoring (via genetics and culture) and manipulating other species to support Hiver goals and Hiver plans.

So, back to the article on shallow celebrities in the church, the launch point for this post:

And the same complaint can be seen in the motive of the builders of the Tower of Babel: “otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” This was their motive to gather together in one collective, under the same ruler, and build a tower that would cement their belonging to a collective. Notice, the purpose of the tower was to make a name, that is, one single name – which means one single purpose – for the collective, not many individual names and purposes for all the individual members of that congregation.

Men bond together, to give each other support in an uncaring and hostile universe: and in their fear, they kneel to the greatest man among them, calling him Lord.

Whether in a local community, or a nation, or a tribe, or a church, or anything else, people without God are afraid of being scattered, and in seeking a safe place from being scattered, they appoint celebrities over themselves to serve as a point of gravity and cohesion.

And thus, the rise of the Imperial Nobility.

Or the Solomani Party, for that matter.

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Saving the Scouts, Stomping on the Ancients

This actually makes for a nice little zombie/save-the-scouts mission. A model to imitate for your PCs, perhaps.

PS: The Ancients Elders Chosen of the title are seriously annoying bosses, and quite difficult to kill. Still, the game makes for a fine model of an anti-Ancient campaign.

Interesting thought wave: the Ancients return, and occupy Charted Space as they need more psionicly enslaved thralls beloved new friends to help rebuilt the Ancient Empire of old. Anti-Ancient forces, remnants of the various fleets of Charted Space that were shattered by the multi-wormhole Ancient Invasion 1, sorta-kinda work together against their universal enemy, at least until they are driven off.

(Various flavours of a tailored bio/psionic plague have shown promising results, and there is still that supersecret “AI Virus” project that is being trained to eat TL 35 electronics…)

The Imperials here get to be the bond that keeps everyone together… even the Zhodani. The Zhos have the best anti-Ancient psion fighters, but are still repulsive mind rapists in the eyes of the Imperials “…but in wartime, sometimes you have to hold your nose and work with distasteful allies in order to win.”

1 To give the PCs a break, assume that those Ancient warships are immensely powerful: but the Ancients can’t build any more until…

(after a long, long, tedious sequence of ‘build the labs to build the tools to build the robots to build the tools to build the robots to build the tools to build the robots to build the tools to forge the materials needed to build the infrastructure’)

…new shipyards are set up to build more TL 35 warships, once again.

Even better, if the PCs can find some way to hijack those Ancient warships. Maybe some friendly Droyne who dislike their Superior Master Race Ancient Droyne can be convinced to give some pointers, and perhaps to lend a hand as well.

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Getting Serious with Mars

Ferns tailored to help support terraforming, for the win!

I admit, I’m a big fan of full-on terraforming the world into a near-exact copy of Earth.

“We don’t reshape ourselves to suit the environment, we reshape the environment to suit ourselves!”
“What about the gravity?”
“A technical problem, easily solved by mining a neutron star and bringing in a bucket of a neutron star and placing it in the centre of the planet.”
“I like the use of the phrase easily solved in that sentence. Can I be in the room when you show the Emperor your projected budget?”
“Errr… It might be easier to just build a black hole and use it instead.”
“I also want to bring in a proper holographic recorder, not some cellphone camera. Legendary responses to over-the-top requests demand proper documentation!”

(FYI: The nearest neutron star, PSR J0108-1431, is only 130 parsecs out from Terra. An interesting place to visit, for a team of PCs with a scientific bent. Now, about starmining starlifting and transporting that bucket of star-stuff the Emperor asked for…)

On the other hand, there are probably more adventure possibilities with glassing in

“Most of the settlement is in caves and lavatubes in and around the giant mountain. Those domes are just for hydroponics”

Yeah, that would work too… even if it’s a bit mundane.

Concerning a lightly settled Mars:

“Its major export right now is curiosity, prestige and wonder, which keeps the money flowing from Earth, for now, but Earth doesn’t particularly need anything Mars has.”


“Valles Marineris is stunning in scope. It’s not that it is 4000 kilometers long, it’s that it is 7 kilometers deep and at its widest, over 200 kilometers.”

Doming in that valley is something to look forward to!

From the comments:

deckuofm: Dropping huge icicles would make big pits 100 km deep. Adding a part of the atmosphere would fill those pits with higher pressure and the rest of Mars would remain almost the same. Methane also would be needed for higher temperature.


(The inevitable religious speculation is over here.)

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And a Teenager Shall Lead Them…

From the comments (General Luigi)

Charles (at least in this part) is reminding me very much of the stereotypical RPG/adventure game protagonist. “Dangerous trek to Narva, inhospitable weather, and a numerically superior and entrenched enemy? Of course I’ll do it!” And like the stereotypical protagonist, he actually wins, too. Heck, as much as I respect Peter, his decision to underestimate the Swedish forces and leave behind an incompetent subordinate is very much in line with the stereotypical villain in these kinds of stories. It could be argued that Charles defied the stereotype by not following up the victory at Narva with an invasion of Russia, but it could also be argued that the decision to go after Poland-Lithuania instead was the classic “big sidequest before the final battle.” Of course, unlike in games, real people tend not to put everything on hold and wait for their enemies to finish up sidequests, as we will see in due time with this series…

Actually, it would be rather interesting to put an energetic, highly aggressive 15-year-old boy man…

(with, admittedly, some decent military instincts and the surprising ability to raise up  cash in a hurry)

…in charge of the largest interstellar empire in human history.

If he manages to fast-talk the Moot into ditching the regent and giving him full-on Imperial Authority immediately, I’d say it would take about a year before things start exploding on some Imperial frontier, somewhere.

“But is it going to be the Zhodani? The Solomani? The Vargr? How about the Aslan?” asked the Admiral.
“How about all of them at the same time?” replied the Emperor, his eyes gleaming with joy at the challenge…

And after the meeting?

“Well then. Either this is going to be a story about Alexander with Starships, or the Imperium is going to get into a lot of trouble, real fast.”
“How strong is the plot armour with this Referee?”
“No matter what, the chain of Unexpected Consequences is going to be absolutely epic!”


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Dynastic Thinking

Yes, I can definitely imagine some of the many Imperial dynasties working just like this.

(And quite a lot of Vilani families, too!)

That’s just the way it is, if you’re thinking big-time – but your big -time plans will take a few centuries to put in place.

‘One weak link…’ doesn’t only break a dynasty: it breaks the power of compound interest, as well! And both things are very valuable, in the mind of a Vilani dynast.

Which means that something needs to be done with those weak links: either harden them, or cut them off from the family chain.

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