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Next: "Control"

Series 5 Episode 1

Excitedly moving through the forest, Dami was so intrigued to explore. The forests of Crystalshaw were the subject of so many myths and rumours, and nothing ever scared her. Glowing eyes? Wolf howls? Piece of cake.

Jake was less convinced though. Dami had dragged him along for some company. Going into the forest alone at night would be stupid, and although Dami wasn’t scared, she had common sense and a back-up plan. Twigs crackled beneath her feet, and she saw Jake getting startled each time in the corner of her eye.

“Don’t be such a pussy,” Dami laughed.

“Hey, this is how any normal person acts. You’re the mad one,” Jake hit back.

“Everybody’s a little mad,” Dami responded. That was what she firmly believed. Embracing the madness was part of being herself.

As they continued further through the forest, Dami began to hear an array of sounds. More than just twigs crackling. Owls were hooting. Leaves were rustling in the distance. A wolf howling.

The hairs on Dami’s arms were stood to attention. Perhaps she was a little scared. It kept the adrenaline levels high, after all. If she had to run, she knew that would keep her fast.

Jake was a wreck still. Dami grabbed his arm and pulled him into a clearing in the woods. It was vast, with a huge amount of space surrounding. A humongous tree stood in front, almost glistening in the dark night. Tiny little fireflies were floating around it, acting like fancy lighting. It was gorgeous and so relaxing. Dami’s guard came down.

“This is incredible,” Jake was at ease too.

“What is it?” Dami wondered. Swoosh! Something swept past. Dami looked around, but she couldn’t see anything.

“What the hell was that?” Jake worried. Dami was alert. She was ready for anything. She looked back to the tree, noticing a girl, her unruly afro hair pulled back into a neat bun.

“Run,” she warned. Dami didn’t need to be asked twice. Something was there, and maybe it was following them, but Dami didn’t care. Everything had become too weird. Her and Jake remained neck and neck the whole way back. Dami didn’t see what it was, but she knew one thing: it was like nothing she had seen before.

Music blaring loudly. Bass thumping. Lights flickering. Dylan was so far out of his comfort zone. Computer whizz Freddie had scored them all fake IDs to go clubbing on their last Saturday night of summer.

It really wasn’t Dylan’s scene, though. He was sat in a booth with a Diet Coke on the table in front of him while he watched everyone else on the packed dancefloor. It was nice seeing the pack enjoying themselves. Even Drew was busting a move or two. Dylan wasn’t so outgoing. A club was pretty overbearing for him. Too many lights and sounds. Sensory overload.

“Hey, sorry I abandoned you,” Jono came and sat next to Dylan, “Lily demanded a dance with me. I managed to shove Josh her way.”

“I don’t expect you to be glued to my side,” Dylan smiled. He would’ve hated to be one of those clingy boyfriends who is joint at the hip to his partner.

“I know, I just hate seeing anyone on their own,” Jono rubbed Dylan’s leg soothingly. His favourite sensation.

“I’m fine, honestly. I’d rather see you enjoying yourself. Don’t let me bog you down,” Dylan justified, “It’s too loud, the lights are too bright, I can’t focus.”

“You seemed alright when we saw Dua Lipa?” Jono thought. How could Dylan forget? His birthday present was everything he’d hoped it would be and more.

“Best night of my life,” Dylan smiled, “At least we had allocated seats.”

“Fair,” Jono nodded, “To tell the truth, I prefer quiet nights with just the two of us anyway.”

“Always,” Dylan smiled back. That was his idea of a dream night.

Interrupting their moment, Lily slammed a tray of drinks onto the table. The whole group came to sit down in the booth. This must have been the third or fourth round of the night – most of them weren’t even slightly tipsy either. A werewolf’s body healed too quickly.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Dylan politely excused himself and quickly paced to the gents, locking himself in a cubicle. Now he could have some quiet.

“You didn’t see it, though. It wasn’t human, it was way too fast, and I’m sure I saw light reflecting on its scales,” Dylan heard a lad talking across the bathroom. His ears picked up. This sounded interesting.

“Man, were you high? That’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard, Jake,” his friend replied. Jake sighed.

Dylan unlocked the cubicle, taking a look across the room. Jake was alone, his friend walking off. Dylan recognised him from school, not that he had ever spoken to him. Jake seemed pretty deflated.

For a brief second, Dylan and Jake locked eyes. A knowing glance. Jake scuttled off, as if he were afraid. It was probably nothing.

Now, Dylan had to think of an excuse. Anything to get home to bed.

Two sleeps later, junior year had arrived. Dylan had spent two months waking up after nine o’clock, yet here he was, arriving at school just after half past eight. His eyes felt so heavy. The club night was two nights ago, but any hopes of a sleeping pattern had been well and truly thrown off as a result. Walking to school with Josh was surprisingly tough-going at such an early hour.

“I took my lie-ins for granted,” Dylan commented, making conversation.

“You and me both,” Josh replied, “Still can’t say I didn’t make the most of the nights, if you know what I mean.” Unfortunately, Dylan knew exactly what Josh meant, but he preferred not to think of it.

“Too much information,” Dylan mentioned, avoiding eye contact.

“Don’t pretend you and Jono are practicing celibacy,” Josh hit back.

“Yeah but we don’t brag about it,” Dylan defended. His sex life was nobody’s business but Jono’s and his own.

“Get with the times, I can’t help being a babe magnet,” Josh bragged.

“I’m gonna throw up,” Dylan winced. He was no prude, but too much sex talk made him a little uncomfortable.

“I’m joking, and I get it. You’re happy with Jono. I just…haven’t found my Jono yet,” Josh opened up.

“I’m not judging, you can shag who you want, it’s your business. Just…spare me the intimate details,” Dylan requested.

“You don’t know the half of it,” Josh chuckled.

Much to Dylan’s relief, they had reached the bench. Now he had other, less horny people to talk to. Yasmin, Lily and Jono were there already.

“You really think Mrs. Johnson is gonna be okay with your hair?” Yasmin seemed unsure. She was talking to Lily, who was rocking a newly-styled blonde bob.

“It’s part of my therapy,” Lily defended, “Looking after myself. Appreciating myself.”

“Annoying everyone else,” Jono laughed. Dylan admired Lily for how openly she spoke about her therapy. She was braver than any of them.

“It looks great though,” Dylan complimented.

“Thank you, brother I wish I had,” Lily planted a kiss on Dylan’s cheek.

“Fuck’s sake,” he heard Yasmin complain. He looked over to see her textbook soaking wet. This had been a recurring theme over the summer.

Yasmin stood up and ran inside, ashamed. Lily and Dylan both sprinted inside, desperate to check she was okay. Dylan was definitely worried about her.

“Nothing’s shown up Drew, I’m sorry,” Ed explained, much to Drew’s disappointment. He had spent most of the summer nagging at Ed for an updated search on any one of Allyn, Kamilah or Monty. None of these names were especially common, so it should have made a search easy, but Ed hadn’t brought anything up yet.

Drew had searched all over to find them again, too. Not only were they another pack in Crystalshaw, but Allyn had saved him twice. He desperately wanted to thank her in person. No girl had ever left such a mark on him before.

“Can’t you check again? Kamilah, spelt K-A-M-I-L-A-H,” Drew begged.

“Drew, I’ve got a homicide just in, your little quest isn’t that high up my list of priorities right now,” Ed defended. Drew sighed. He had tried following a scent, but there was little to go off. The bunker had been totally cleared out. There was no trace. If it weren’t for the fact Lily saw them too, Drew would be questioning whether he had hallucinated the entire thing, “Actually, it’s right next to the high school. I’ll give you a lift.”

“Wait, homicide?” Drew’s ears picked up. Homicides that weren’t related to the supernatural were rare in Crystalshaw.

“School. Now. Let’s go,” Ed firmly ordered. Drew growled under his breath. This wasn’t going to get him anywhere.

Freddie couldn’t believe it, but the moment had come. He was finally excited for a class. Sure, English and maths still drove him crazy, but now he was in his element. AP computer science was just the class for him.

He glanced around at the others in class with him. A few familiar faces: Brett, Drew’s basketball mate; Dami, a cute girl who Freddie had always admired from afar; and of course, Freddie couldn’t ignore Josh and Noah either side of him.

“Alright class, listen up. Mr. Kosinski, this is a computer science lesson, it would help if you logged in,” Miss Pannu began. A lot of people said she was the nicest teacher in the school, so Freddie felt pretty relaxed, “Your first task is on the shared drive. Don’t even think of asking me how to get onto the shared drive, let’s remain positive for our first class at least before I lose the will to live.”

Freddie chuckled. He saw Josh in the corner of his eye, flapping about through different folders. Freddie simply pointed to the left of his screen – a folder labelled “Shared Drive.”

“Ah,” Josh acted as if he had simply overlooked it, “I knew that.” Freddie laughed. This lesson was bound to be a hoot.

“Don’t go out there, it’s not safe, I swear,” he overheard Dami telling Brett.

“It’s just a walk in broad daylight,” Brett responded casually, “Those are just horror stories.”

“I saw it,” Dami added, “Last night. There’s something in that forest.”

“Save me the drama,” Brett replied rudely.

“On your head be it,” Dami warned. Freddie was intrigued. He knew full well that the forests were risky, especially considering that the Nemeton was nearby, acting as a supernatural beacon, potentially drawing all sorts of creatures in. He needed to investigate.

Frustrated, Yasmin couldn’t get to grips with her new abilities. For the whole summer, she had been trying to research everything she could about nixes and what they could do. However, Google was far from helpful. Supernatural creatures were not common knowledge, so she had to rely on myths.

Most of them were wrong, though. Legends of werewolves seemed almost accurate when she first looked them up for Dylan, but the myths and whispers of nixes were unlike anything Yasmin had seen in herself.

The articles she had read claimed the nix was a shapeshifter, but Yasmin hadn’t changed, not yet at least. The Bestiary said she was a “harbinger of death,”, just like Lydia, a banshee, but she had that ability already. What separated a full nix from the partial state she had before?

Otherwise the Bestiary was annoyingly vague. It seemed nobody really knew anything about being a nix. That meant until she figured herself out, she had to endure puddles of water cropping up all around her. She couldn’t control her ability to summon water, and it was okay at home when nobody could see her, but it was only a matter of time until she embarrassed herself in class. The toilets were a safe refuge for now, but she couldn’t hide there all day.

“Yasmin?” Lily’s voice sounded as the door opened.

“First cubicle,” Yasmin answered. Lily was one of the only people she trusted to confide in.

“What can I do to help?” Lily immediately questioned. Yasmin appreciated that Lily didn’t ask her how she was. It was a pointless question – she obviously wasn’t okay, “What can we do?” Lily corrected herself, “Dylan’s stood outside, he’s listening.”

Yasmin clicked open the cubicle.

“Change me back,” Yasmin replied to Lily’s face, “Everything that happened in the forest, reverse it.”

Lily opened the door and pulled Dylan in, much to the annoyance of his masculinity.

“You’re perfect as you are,” Lily replied. Yasmin didn’t think so. She was basically leaking water.

“Buy me diapers then,” Yasmin laughed at herself. If she didn’t laugh, she knew she would cry.

“I hate that I hurt you before. We wouldn’t be in this mess without me,” Dylan looked sombre.

“Dude, none of this is your fault,” Lily instantly replied.

“If we didn’t want to be a part of this, we would have said no a long time ago,” Yasmin answered. Sure, Dylan was the one who scratched her, but it was an accident. She never once blamed him.

“You’re not the only one adjusting,” Lily replied, “I got stabbed and healed in minutes.”

“We’ve all had to adapt. We just need to find our way through,” Dylan sensibly added. Yasmin nodded. She knew he was right.

“Alright, we’ve got math,” Yasmin smiled.

The trio headed off to class, Yasmin passing Jake from their year group on the way. He was stood suspiciously close to the girls’ toilet door, as if he’d been listening. Yasmin thought nothing of it, though. She was likely being overly paranoid. Now it was time for an optimistic mindset. Perhaps it could benefit the nix, too.

Rushing off back towards the computer classroom, Jake had to find Dami. Something mega weird was happening after the whole forest saga the night before, and they were surely being played. Either that gang of three – his classmates Yasmin and Dylan, and Jono’s sister Lily – were trolling him and Dami, or they were psychotic, because a conversation as weird as that just had to be linked.

Jake awkwardly entered the classroom, spying Dami right by the door.

“I need a word,” he told her bluntly. Dami stood up begrudgingly.

“Excuse me, I have a class happening,” Miss Pannu called from her desk, but Jake ignored. This couldn’t wait.

“Dude, what’s happened? Why aren’t you in class?” Dami impatiently questioned as soon as they left the classroom.

“I needed to see you, urgently,” Jake justified, “Last night, I think I know what happened, or rather, who.”

“I don’t care, I’m not going back there again,” Dami insisted.

“It’s that Drummond kid and his little group. They’re probably all in on it,” Jake explained, disregarding what Dami said.

“Jake, why don’t you go home? Chill out a bit. Last night was kinda crazy,” Dami encouraged.

Jake sighed. Perhaps he would need to take matters into his own hands.

Pulling up at the crime scene, Drew was fed up. He didn’t give up on anything unless it was totally necessary, but he was beginning to lose hope on Allyn. Obviously, she didn’t want to be found.

That said, she had a habit of finding Drew herself. Maybe all he needed was to be in trouble? That was probably the stupidest idea Drew had ever had. However, trouble always seemed to find him sooner or later anyway.

“Alright kid, get to school,” Ed commanded. Drew caught a glimpse of the crime scene. Blood was sprayed all over the pathway. An entire street just around the corner from the school was cordoned off. All Drew could see behind the ambulance was an arm. Well, that’s what it used to be. There was barely any semblance of a human arm left. It had been ruthlessly torn to shreds. Flesh was hanging out, bone exposed, and a pool of blood surrounded it.

“That body,” Drew got out of the car and moved towards the arm, the rest of the body coming into view. Drew had never seen such a repulsive, gut-wrenching corpse in his life. The face had been slashed so much that no features were recognisable. The pool of blood by the arm was nothing compared to the river surrounding the hideous head. There was no way a human could have caused all of that.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Drew looked to Ed.

“I’m thinking you need to get to school, what are you thinking?” Ed facetiously replied.

“Are you serious? You need me,” Drew defended.

“I know. I was just praying that for once, it would be a regular human murder. They’re a damn sight easier to solve,” Ed sighed.

Drew examined the corpse more closely. The wounds had been caused by claw marks, slashing the skin all over. The stomach had been stabbed and ripped out, as had the back of the neck – what was left of it.

“Why would you stab the neck?” Drew thought aloud.

“To stop the victim screaming for help?” Ed offered.

“It doesn’t seem like they had a chance to do that anyway,” Drew rebutted. This attack was way too messy to be calculated. He needed to confer with someone who might know more.

First day back: complete.

Lily was pleased that she had gotten through a full day. Every time she went to school, all she could think about was Taylor. The worries bubbled up.

However, she hadn’t had a panic attack in weeks. The anxiety medication she had taken was beginning to work, and she was now about to have her next therapy session. Her therapist, Denise, was pretty great. She had taught her some mindfulness techniques; Lily never realised just how helpful medication could be.

She was also working on turning her negative thoughts into more positive ones. Worried about people laughing at her? Realistically, most of the students at school were more wrapped up in themselves to notice her even if they did care. People judging her for panic attacks? They were more likely to want to help. Lily had tried to find a way to love herself. That’s why she cut her hair and dyed it blonde. A fresh start.

Lily glanced around the mundane waiting room. She had never seen a comfortable, welcoming waiting room in her life and this was no different. All of them were deadly silent, where time passed ten times slower. Lily needed to hear her name, but everyone else seemed to be getting called in before her.

“Lily Chadwick?” the receptionist announced. At last. Lily picked up her bag and she headed towards Denise’s room.

“Hi Lily,” Denise smiled kindly yet professionally, “I love the hair.”

“Hey, thanks,” Lily smiled back, taking a seat on the comfy sofa next to Denise’s armchair.

“First day back at school, huh? How did it go?” Denise began. Small talk wasn’t needed, much like with Yasmin.

“Not bad,” Lily admitted, “I did what we said. Turned negatives into positives.”

“Did you find it helpful?” Denise enquired.

“I found it hard, but it worked. Any time I thought of Taylor, I remembered it is unlikely for me to go missing like that too,” Lily elaborated.

Of course, she couldn’t tell Denise the truth about Taylor. Nobody would believe that, and she didn’t want to be admitted to the mental asylum. The official story was that Taylor went missing, and Lily hated that she had to lie, but perhaps it was for the family’s good to keep some hope alive? It didn’t feel like her decision to make.

“That’s great Lily. Is there anything else bothering you?” Denise asked. Oh, how Lily desperately wished she could go into more details.

Unusually, Dylan wasn’t headed straight home at the end of school. On a regular day, he was ready to chill and put his feet up with his mum and Jono, but instead, he was ready for his next class.

This was no ordinary class either, as it was one he was teaching. Meeting on the basketball pitch – it was guaranteed to be empty as Jono had informed him there was no practice that night – Dylan needed privacy. Nobody could see this, or their cover would be blown.

“When do we begin?” Noah questioned, arriving at the far end of the pitch.

Dylan smirked. He wasn’t going to see this coming. Dylan’s eyes glowed red, the fierce, powerful colour undoubtedly shining through the setting sun across the pitch. Without notice, Dylan sprinted across the pitch, colliding with Noah just seconds later.

“What the heck?” Noah cried from below Dylan.

“I was testing your reaction time,” Dylan replied, heaving himself back onto his feet.

“No prizes for guessing my result, huh?” Noah sighed.

“You’ll get better, I promise,” Dylan encouraged. He had vowed he wouldn’t be one of those teachers who was overly critical of their students. He wanted Noah to feel he was benefiting and improving, and he could only do that with a positive mindset.

“I’ve not made any progress so far though, have I? I can’t even glow my eyes, how do we know I am a werewolf?” Noah complained.

His worries weren’t unjustified. They had been spending a lot of the summer learning the tricks of the trade. Noah was becoming pretty good at focusing his enhanced hearing, and his scent-tracking was getting better each time, but Noah still couldn’t shift. No eyes, claws or fangs in sight. Dylan had shifted uncontrollably within twenty-four hours of being bitten. He had no idea how Noah hadn’t, two months on from the Nemeton.

“You will. I’m still making progress, and I got bitten almost a year ago,” Dylan encouraged, “I know you said nothing happened on the past two full moons, but maybe this Friday, I can help you out?”

Dylan saw a lot of himself in Noah. He liked to do things himself, in the way that suited him best.

“Maybe. I don’t know what you can do to help me though,” Noah answered.

“Me neither, but I’ll think of something,” Dylan thought aloud. The full moon should have made Noah angry, bloodthirsty, and so far away from the usual, sweet Noah, “Anyway, let’s get those reflexes going.”

He had a long way to go, but Dylan wasn’t giving up.

Surprised by the amount of blue police tape, Josh had arrived at the crime scene. Instantly, the scent of blood filled his nose. Everybody’s blood had a unique scent, but the metallic element never changed, making it easily distinguishable. Regretfully, it was a scent he was very familiar with.

Josh spotted Drew, stood near a bunch of forensic scientists.

“Hey, you have got to see this body,” Drew sounded creeped out. Nothing ever creeped him out, and he rarely called for back-up too. Usually, it would be Dylan that would get the call, so Josh didn’t know whether to be taken aback, flattered, or both.

Drew led him to the body as people in white overalls took swabs and samples from all over the body. The body itself was vile. Never had Josh seen a corpse so horrific and disfigured. He was repulsed.

“Who did this?” Josh questioned.

“Try again,” Drew hinted.

“What did this?” Josh corrected. Drew was right – this couldn’t be human.

“I was hoping you’d know,” Drew answered. Huh? Why would Josh have known anything? He was pretty confused.

“Why?” Josh casually wondered, keeping his cool.

“You’ve got more experience than the others. If we can’t figure this out, we can at least narrow it down, huh?” Drew reasoned. Josh wasn’t confident. Sure, he had more experience at being a werewolf than Dylan or Freddie, but he was stumped.

“I don’t know. I’ve never seen a werewolf kill like this,” Josh responded.

“That’s because werewolves don’t waste energy destroying a body that’s already dead,” Drew added, “Have you ever seen anything like this?”

“I’m sorry. Most of my old pack hated me so they kept me at arm’s length,” Josh recalled the days when Clara tried her best to shut him out of the pack he was in, “I think I might know a way, though.”

Anything could be worth a shot.

Stood by the lake, Yasmin had found herself visiting the shore too many times over the summer. She was trying desperately to control her abilities and find out her new limits, but it was hard.

Freddie had tried his best to train her from his own werewolf experience, but it wasn’t the same. Yasmin couldn’t trigger anything with an anchor or a memory. Now she was more determined than ever to figure it out.

“What are you gonna do?” Freddie queried. He had tried all of his techniques so was out of ideas. Now it was Yasmin’s turn.

“I’m gonna trust myself,” Yasmin replied. She stripped her clothes off down to her bikini once again. The amount of clothes that she had inadvertently soaked was silly and her mum was asking questions. The excuses were becoming less believable each time.

She stood next to the water, her toes millimetres from the edge. Closing her eyes, Yasmin tried to think about the water in front of her. Urging it towards her in her mind. All she could imagine was the water literally rising up to her hands, like she had total control over it. She was willing it to happen.

Yasmin opened her eyes and looked at her feet cautiously. They were wet, surrounded by a little puddle of water. It had worked.

“Hey, that’s amazing. The water trickled towards you,” Freddie exclaimed.

“It worked?” Yasmin was amazed too. Then it came crashing down. What she had imagined was a significant amount of water, but it had only resulted in a tiny puddle. It was progress, but surely this wasn’t all she could do?

“You can’t expect yourself to know everything right away,” Freddie added, “It’s like when you first see a computer, you can’t expect to code before you can use Paint.” It was great food for thought. As long as she remained motivated, she could easily master the coding of the nix world, whatever that may be.

Exhausted, Dylan crashed out on his bed. The first day back after the summer break was always tiresome, but this one especially so. The group dynamic felt different now. Sure, everyone was still friends, and the pack was united, but everyone had their own struggles. Lily had the double-whammy of werewolf blood, which remained an unknown quantity, as well as her mental health battles. Yasmin was getting to grips with her new self. Jono was worried sick about Lily. Drew was focused almost entirely on Allyn.

Dylan himself, well, his issue felt far more insignificant. Social events made him anxious, and this became increasingly obvious over the holidays when everyone was making plans. Some of them simply didn’t appeal to him. He couldn’t help wondering why. He had always struggled to fit in, but at times like these, he wished he was like everyone else.

“Hey, can I come in?” Jono called from outside the door.

“Sure, I’m decent,” Dylan answered.

“That wasn’t what I was worried about,” Jono laughed as he entered and laid on the bed next to Dylan, “What you looking at?”

Dylan had minimised his Google search tab on “social anxiety,” already.

“Nothing much, just memes on Facebook,” Dylan disguised.

“Dude, you’re the worst liar ever,” Jono saw through it. Darn. Dylan regretfully clicked back to the Google search.

“I was going to tell you, once I was a bit surer,” Dylan defended himself. He would hate for Jono to think he was deliberately keeping secrets.

“Anything you want to talk about?” Jono offered, “They say a problem shared is a problem halved.”

“The club the other night, everything I said about the lights, the noise. It was too much,” Dylan opened up.

“There’s more though, right? I mean, I found the club a little overbearing too,” Jono suggested.

“Everything over the summer. I get this feeling of dread before an event,” Dylan replied.

“Well, Google won’t help,” Jono closed the laptop lid, “Let’s speak to someone who knows their stuff after school tomorrow.”

Dylan threw his arms around Jono. He had no idea where he’d be without him.

Another therapy session down. Lily knew she was benefiting from them and Denise had the most brilliant coping strategies for her anxiety. It also felt strangely good to be able to put a label on her condition. At least she knew what was up with her now. Well worth the costs.

Now it was time to go home. George had said he would meet Lily after, but she just wanted a night at home. The first day back at school had taken a lot of her energy despite going well, but she appreciated his support nonetheless. Considering George had no obligation to stick around, he had been exceptionally understanding.

Lily clicked open the car door with one easy press of her car key, decorated with some pretty keyrings, including a photo of her and George together.

As she opened the door, Lily felt a hand reach over her mouth, blocking her immediate scream reflex. Lily panicked, dropping her keys to the floor.

Her coping strategies were no good when somebody was attacking her. She tried to kick back – Ed had taught her some pretty good techniques for self-defence, but it was too late. She felt a needle sticking into her neck, and Lily slowly lost her strength, slipping harshly to the floor…

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Next: "Control"

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