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The Mailstrom Shards             Banned Books             List of Numbers

Beginning or Middle?
It always amazes me how many people don't play certain games simply because they didn't find out about it right at the launch. They come into chat asking "Any good games going on?" and then after you run through the list for them, they decide that "I want to play a game from the beginning." It drives me absolutely nuts. If the main criteria for game play is simply the elapsed time since launch, why even bother asking for suggestions? Just go hang out in News & Rumors and pick a thread at random. Chances are you'll find something that has just started in the past week.

At the same time, I do feel sorry for these people that have given themselves such a narrow window for ARGs. They are missing out on some great experiences because they refuse to get involved with things that don't allow them to be the Edmund Hillary of the ARG world. So while they are sitting off to the side wishing "I wish I could discover an unknown game," everyone else is out exploring and experiencing the joys that the wishers can only dream of.

Of course, the people waiting on the sidelines don't see it that way. "It's too hard to start a game in the middle!" That's utter bullshit - especially if the game is very popular. There is almost always a Story So Far you can find, or at the very least a list of threads to read. Most games can be caught up on within a few short hours. It takes longer the more indepth you go, or if the game is really advanced, but you could still catch up within 24 hours.

With Year Zero, you have UF, echoing the sound, and BrianEngima's trail. Tons of resources to catch you up. I can understand people not wanting to play because of the subject matter, but if I hear one more person say "it's too far advanced," I'm gonna kill a kitten.
Concert T-Shirts
So where to start? Why not at the beginning?

Everything started when people started noticing that there were letters highlighted on the back of concert tshirt from the early 2007 NIN shows. These letters spell out 'I Am Trying to Believe' which, with a little bit of guesswork, takes you to http://www.iamtryingtobelieve.com.
I Am Trying to Believe
This is an incredibly bizarre site. First off, there is this black background with colored lines and blocks running all through it. It reminds me a lot of the corrupted pictures from ILB. The site would be bad enough to read on this background, but to make it even harder, there are all these overlapping letters on the main text, forcing you to Control-A to be able to read everything without crossing your eyes. Which is why I've put all the text on here so that I can look stuff up easier when I need to.

This website introduces us to Parepin. Parepin is a chemical substance/drug that has been added to the water supply (ala floride) to help combat biological terrorism. According to the newspaper articles on the website, it's supposed to be an immune booster. However, as more and more people consume ever increasing quantities of Parepin, undesireable side effects keep occuring. These include constipation, twitchyness, loss of sex drive, and hallucinations. In fact, the author seems to question if the hallucinations from Parepin are behind all the sightings of 'The Presence' - a giant hand-like thing that comes out of the sky. §

The main concern of the site, however, seems to be the real purpose of Parepin. They are numerous articles questioning the immune boosting properties of Parepin and the possibility that this is a goverment conspiracy to keep the general populace complacent. There are small pockets of people who decide to go Parepin free and suffer no ill effects, either from withdrawl or 'biological attacks'. In fact, the people who are Parepin free say they feel more alert and clearer headed than they ever did while on Parepin.

There is an email address (water@iamtryingtobelieve.com) where you can contact the author for more information. However, when you send a note off to him, you get an auto-response that tells you that everything is fine and the water is great. § Oops! Guess someone got to him. Luckily not enough to where the website was changed into some happy advertisement for Parepin, but I guess goverment cleaners have a lot to do. It's not fair to expect them to sanitize everything.

There is one other oddity that needs to be discussed (since it is pervasive throughout all the sites) and that is the 24.x.x numbers. No one knows what these mean, but the fact that they keep turning up probably means something (unless the PMs are just fooling around with us).

There are two numbers to be gathered from this site. The first is 24.14.3. This is found on the front page, just to the left of The Presense photos (it can be a little hard to pick out on the background). The second is 24.14.2. This one comes counting the dashes from the auto response email. There is also a number on the tshirt that started it all: 24.14.1
Another Version of the Truth
So thanks to the magic that is reverse DNS, we didn't have to wait around forever to discover a new website naturally. Because that would just be silly.

The main page of http://www.anotherversionofthetruth.com is very serene and idyllic. A farmstead with an American flag in the background, proclaiming 'A New Beginning' of zero tolerance and zero fear. 'America Is Born Again' thanks to the US Bureau of Morality. Talk about a nightmare future. It also has a number on it that you can see if you do a control-A: 24.10.8

Luckily, that's not the only thing to this website. If you click on the picture and run the mouse across while holding the button down, you'll 'scrape' off the top layer to reveal a burnt out and devestated farm where we have Zero Hope and Zero Chance for the future. Nifty! Clicking on the words 'Another Version of the Truth' takes you to a fourm with the same funky styling of 'I Want to Believe'. §

This site actually goes along quite well with iamtryingtobelieve.com. Both are sites trying to get the word out that the government is corrupting/lying/poisoning the country. This site contains more violence though. From listening to an innocent kid being beat to death by the police, to a homegrown terrorist blowing up Wrigley Field, this isn't a website to take your kids to. But then, this is NIN we're talking about. Little kids shouldn't be listening to his stuff anyway.

There are also two more numbers that we can get - if you listen closely. At the end of the mp3s, there is a bit of static that taps out Morse Code fragments. Each of these is another number:
  • nohurry.mp3: 24.10.1
  • ballgameOver.mp3: 24.10.5
  • opalo.mp3: 24.10.3
Be the Hammer
Thanks to the crazy terrorist guy posting on the forums, we got another website: http://www.bethehammer.net § This guy is scary. I mean really scary. Psychopath scary. He used to be a member of the 105th Airborne Crusaders. And not just any member, he was an elite member. Was given special drugs to counter the effects of Parepin that made him into the perfect soldier, albeit one that could never be returned to society. He carried out wetwork missions, taking out entire communities in a single night. I don't know if it was burnout or downsizing, but now he's working against the government and giving tips to the general public about how they can fight back too.

Based on the Mallory page, I'm guessing it might be burnout. You wouldn't think such a hardened killer would be so affected by a girl tied to chair waiting to be stoned to death. But he is, and the whole thing seems like an apology to her (not that he would ever admit it).

And for those keeping track, there is one number on the index page: 24.10.7
105th Airborne Crusaders
So the psychopathic terrorist mentions twice that he was part of the 105th Airborne Crusaders, so if you were clever you could find http://105thairbornecrusaders.com without having to use reverse DNS. §

This site is even scarier than the Be the Hammer site. Now I know why they're called Airborne Crusaders - the country has started fighting a holy war and these guys are the first Crusaders. It's like the stuff of nightmares. Reminds me a lot of Passion Play, which may or may not be a coincidence since 42 Entertainment is behind this. Now I know why everyone (who isn't on Parepin) is raging againt the government. I just wonder if I would become an extremist, or if I would stay on Parepin just to forget everything that is happening.

Our seventh number is on the main page: 24.10.6
Consolidated Mail Systems
If we were all paying attention when guiltfree was talking in the Opal/Cocaine thread at Another Version of the Truth, we would have found another new website (instead of yet again relying on reverse DNS. No one has any patience anymore).

If you just go to http://www.consolidatedmailsystems.com/, you get forwarded to a page that says 'Citizen Unknown'. Hmm, that isnt' very helpful. But let's not forget what guiltfree actually said: "Check out the inbox of “nooneimportant” over on consolidated mail systems."

By changing 'citizen_unknown' to 'nooneimportant', we find what we were looking for. It almost looks the email was sent from our friendly resident psychopath. How many angry snipers can there be? Maybe a lot considering how messed up the country is. §

So is Opal really the cause of everyone seeing The Presense? Or are they just throwing that in there in order to give it an explanation. 'If someone sees The Presense, they must be on drugs.' I'm guessing the later since the authorities don't seem to have any trouble manufacturing evidence to suit their needs.

If you try clicking on any of the buttons on the page, you get an error message that contains another number.
WARNING CODE 24.10.4 (All page functionality disabled): You are not the citizen assigned to this account. Close this window immediately and stay where you are. Authorities will be in contact shortly for appropriate reeducation.
I love that even simple email hacking brings the cops running to your door. Wonder if we can use that to our advantage one day.

On a side note, the Opalescent Haze site that is mentioned in the footnote is a fansite and is not at all associated with the larger Year Zero game. It's pretty obvious now, but I guess when it was first found, it was a little difficult to tell.
Church of Plano
The last site we got from our initial DNS sniffing was http://www.churchofplano.com. It was mentioned in passing during the nohurry.mp3 (with the Sunday School Strangler. I think that's gonna be the name of my next band.) §

You know, I think this is the scariest of the sites we've seen so far. Did you actually see the logo for the Plano's Faithful Civil Patrol? It's a gun with a cross sticking out of the barrel! And the sermons! If you aren't a member of the Christian pod people, you're damned to hell!

Of course, you can technically read Bible passages any way you want to. 'Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.' could be read by people like me to mean that the powers that the country is fighting are also ordained by God and therefore we shouldn't be fighting them. Or 'Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge uprightly among men? No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth.' could be read as 'you're making up reasons to destroy stuff in the name of good, so leave it to God to do the punishing'. It's probably why I never really understood religion or at least the appeal of it. Too many people use it as a justification to do things that under any other circumstance would seem cruel, wrong, and just plain evil. Hmm, now that I think about it, I guess that's the appeal right there, huh? Well, enough of my religion bashing. Let's discuss the website some.

Reading between the lines, it seems that Bill Chapman might be our Sunday School Strangler and that people are blaming his rampage on The Presence. I wonder if they are also going to say that he was on Opal when he did it.

That seems to be about it for this website, except for we got another number: 24.10.2
My Violent Heart
So it appears that during a Lisbon NIN show, someone hid a thumbdrive in a bathroom stall there. Kinda gross. I'm not entirely sure I would pick up a thumbdrive that had been laying near a toilet during/after a concert. People are messy!

On the thumbdrive was a copy of My Violent Heart. If you look at the comments on it, it says "found in men's bathroom, stall 4, coliseum, lisbon, portugal / another version of the truth .com / dig / 24.3.2" (at least I believe this wasn't just added to the file). At the end of the mp3, there is some static. galoot3000 discovered if you put this static through a spectrograph, you see an image of The Presence. §

At the same time, there was a new Tour shirt released with some highlighted numbers on the back, along with a number: 24.15.1. The highlighted numbers spelled out a phone number (1-310-295-1040) that led to an audio clip when called. §

We can now add two more numbers to the list: 24.3.2 and 24.15.2

Year Zero and The Hobbit
Amid all the lines and funky colored blocks on the Year Zero sites, there has been a bunch of backward letters cropping up in places. Over on the echothesound board, morethanshapes managed to piece all the various bits together into a semi-recognizable state. The text is taken from The Hobbit, specifically from Chapter Two. §

So what do The Hobbit and Year Zero have in common? Is this tied in with the new Tolkien book coming out next month? (A girl can dream, can't she?) Or is The Hobbit one of the only books they can still read in the future? Or maybe the webpages are coming to us through some libray network and its overlaying scans of old burnt books onto the webpages. Will we ever find out?
Me, I'm Not
There were a bunch of people speculating that The Hobbit passage referred to Bilbo which is pronouced the same as Bilbao, Spain, and that the next clue would be found there. The next clue was found in Spain, but it was in Barcelona. Grinwithoutacat from the (member-only) Spiral forums found a pen drive with the mp3 on it. It actually contained two mp3: Me, I'm Not and 2432.mp3

The 2432.mp3 sounds a bit like crickets chirping. Really annoying crickets. If you run it through a spectrograph, around the 2 minute mark all the sounds line up to form the image of a phone number: 216.333.1810 §

Over on the NinWiki, they've come to the conclusion that the static decodes to 24.3.1. To me, it sounds closer to 24.3.6, but who knows. It could be the same number thats in the ID3 tag: 24.3.3. What we do know is that the audio leads us to another website: US Wiretap
US Wiretap
US Wiretap is Big Brother on steroids. Together with the Bureau of Morality, they aim to keep you on the straight and narrow by making sure that if you break the law, they know about it and can take appropriate action. At least that's what I glean from the fairly blank homepage.

Looking at the keywords of the site, you can find '71839J' which is also the case number of the Roby/Mia convo. That sounds like it will get us somewhere (especially when you realize that http://www.uswiretap.com forwards you to http://www.uswiretap.com/case_number_required/). Putting in our case number takes us to http://www.uswiretap.com/71839J/ §

Wow, something really funky went down at the Star Chamber. Sounds like there might have been some sort of biological or chemical contamination of the site - one that the Government was responsible for since they are trying to cover it up. Whatever it was, it seems that freaked out guy who came into the club infected everyone else there. That's why Mia's skin is hemmoraging blood. The Feds then come in and torch the place. I somehow get the feeling that they were the ones that hunted down and murdered the 112 people still in the Star Chamber. Either that or maybe the 'substance' turned people into zmobies and they started hunting each other.

The curious bit for me is the Agent that Slanksi saw. Was she another victim by whatever took place in there? Or is she some sort of altered human that the government doesn't want anyone to know about. Either way, you know Slankski isn't getting out of that interrogation room alive. Poor guy. Hope they give his daughter a least a good story about how he died.

For those keeping track, this site also has a number: 24.3.3

There is also some hidden text in the background image of US Wiretap. This time it's from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. "It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has. There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground."
Art Is Resistance
During the Paris shows, a red flyer § was passed out pointing to a new website: http://www.artisresistance.com There is also a number here if you count the small horizontal lines just to the right of the T at the top of the page: 24.13.2

Be forewarned: the Bureau of Morality does not like you looking at this website and will give you a huge red beeping warning that continuing to view the site will result in citizenship privileges, including your licences for marriage, worship, business, and child-bearing. You need a license to worship?! What's next? A license to breathe? §

So what have we learned? AIR is an organization that promotes peaceful resistance, although I'm not sure the government sees it that way considering they've arrested the founder of the site. But luckily the website is still up so we can get our hands on all sorts of art to rage against the government. This is the second site that's been left up since the owner has been gotten to. And this one has that big annoying warning telling us we're being monitored. I wonder if they left everything up as a honeypot to see who comes back to get some goodies.

We also get to see an 'archived' page of Another Version of the Truth. Wonder how many other pages are archived and thus hidden from view? Besides the tragic story from Philomela, we also learn that soonerlater's mom was killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing. I'm guessing if anyone on the 'outside' has a strong opinion about what terrorist/resistance fighting does, it's soonerlater. Also, based one of CazazzaKid's posts, WW3 has (or is) taken place. It probably was the conflict that created Post-Iran and this militant theocracy everyone is stuck in.

Oh, and in case you missed it while searching for the volume to get rid of that hideous noise, there was a number in the warning page: 24.13.1
Presence Video
On the main website for Year Zero, a teaser trailer showed up that contains a picture of The Presence. The video starts off nice enough. Someone video taping out of a car window as they drive down some road. A blue road sign flashes by that just happens to read 'I Am Trying to Believe'. Then The Presence shows up, and the video starts getting all staticy before cuts out all together. This is only the 4 finger version of The Presence. I wonder if it has something like the Fujita Scale. Of course, I'm not sure which would be worse, a 5 fingered Presence or a 1 fingered.

Besides some relatively decent pictures of The Presence, there is also a hidden bit in the static around the 12 second mark. If you pause it in the correct spot, you'll see it says /0024 on the left side of the picture. That leads us to http://yearzero.nin.com/0024/ where we get a really good look at the 4 Fingered Presence.
Hollywood In Memoriam
Another USB stick was found during the Manchester concert. This time around, we got a copy of In This Twilight and a picture file. The picture has a shot of the Hollywood sign with the words 'In Memoriam' written underneath. This points us to yet a new website: http://www.hollywoodinmemoriam.com. §

So now we know a little more about what happened in LA and Anaheim. Terrorists set off a dirty bomb at the 81st Annual Academy Awards (to be held in 2009), followed by more dirty bombs and ricin attacks. Bet people now wish that California had a giant earthquake that made it fall into the ocean. There isn't a specific death toll, but you know it's gotta be in the tens of thousands. No wonder the country went to hell in a handbasket.

This site has been brought to you by Walt Whitman's hidden photo text: "To The States, or any one of them, or any city of The States, Resist much, obey little; Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved; Once fully enslaved, no nation, state, city, of this earth, ever afterward resumes its liberty."

And by the number 24.17.1
Secure Broadcast Informatics
It's a good thing someone from the NIN community plunked down some money for one of the new DVD players, since the next clue came from the booklet for Beside You In Time in the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray releases. It's really hard to tell from the photos [1, 2, 3] (I guess people just don't have scanners anymore) but the text spells out 'solutions backwards initiative'. That takes us to http://www.solutionsbackwardsinitiative.com which redirects us to http://www.securebroadcastinformatics.com.

Secure Broadcast Informatics is just the type of company every paranoid country needs. It provides ultra secure connections so that the public will be completely unaware of what the government does behind closed doors. And if that isn't good enough, their engineers will turn in individuals who are on the 1000 Most Wanted List. What gets me is that this company was started by scientists. You know, the people who are supposed to be constantly questioning everything around them? This almost breaks my heart. §

There is one email address that we can get an auto-reply from. It appears that not everyone at SBI is blindly working for the government, and clearly the Powers That Be don't like that one bit. If you cross Them, not only will they come after you, but they'll come after your family, friends and probably even your pets simply because they can. The German at the end of Francisco's email is from the poem First they came... by Martin Niemöller. Haunting stuff. Even though Francisco, his wife Elaina, and all of his co-workers at SBI are probably dead now, his email did provide us with another number to add to the list. Count the >s in his forwarded reply, and you get 24.19.1 §

SBI has one of the most annoying flash puzzles ever: align the pieces to make a login box. First, the overlaying flash means you can't click on any of the navigation buttons on the left. You have to look in the source code to find out more about the company. Two, the pieces don't move as you expect them to. Dragging your mouse left and down might make the piece you are manipulating move right and up. This means that there is only one spot that all of the pieces line up correctly, making you go through a lot of trial and error figuring out where that will be. Third, the hotspots for each piece change/overlap. So you could have most of the pieces lined up correctly, but when you go to grab one of the last pieces, you can't and instead end up moving one of the previously placed pieces. Fourth, even if you do get everything lined up and get the password into the box, the submit button doesn't always work. So you have to go try to recreate the whole thing in a different browser or just wait a while hoping that it will somehow fix itself.

Removing all the frustration, you need to take all the pieces and line them up in the middle of the page. This creates the login box. When you're moving the piece with the submit box, you'll notice that a password 'types in' as you're moving it. When the login box is complete, you need to type that password ( matt26:45-46 ) into the box and hit submit. If you manage to get all that completed, you'll be taken to http://www.solutionsbackwardsinitiative.net/pilgrims.
Solutions Backwards Initiative
The other SBI seems to be the home of all the scientists who still have half-a-brain and a backbone. As you read through their whiteboard postings, you begin to find out they are looking for ways to send information back to the past in order to stop everything that has been happening now. Even though they are using some of Secure Broadcast Informatics systems (and thus probably have the ability to keep their communications secure), they can't hide their bandwidth usage (see Francisco's email). The SBI Pilgrims know they are running out of time and schedule a test of the system. §

While you're reading the Whiteboard entries, a chat applet pops open. It's the SBI crew starting their test. Unfortunately, things don't go smoothly. For some reason, there is a data leak and the login to their whiteboard appears on the Secure Broadcast Informatics. This might have been a signal to the authorities as one by one the SBI members are knocked offline. The authorities didn't act quickly enough, however, as the data spike (including text from banned books) goes through, and we are now able to see the websites from the future. §

Poor SBI people. The only hope for them now is for us to make sure that we don't start down the path towards a theocracy. But we now know that the hidden text (like this page's Huckleberry Finn quote) was part of their testing protocols. They banned The Hobbit? That's just wrong! Sadly, we still don't know what the numbers mean. Our latest one, by the way, is 24.19.12
During the Brixon, UK shows, USB sticks were handed out that contained a video of Survivalism (which can now be found on the Year Zero website). The video shows a bank of television screens monitoring what looks to be an apartment complex. As NIN performs the song, you see a swat team enter the complex and eventually reach (and presumably kill) their target. You can also see some AIR guys performing an act of resistance by spraying painting the AIR flag using some nifty stencils. If you are the more obsessed type ARGer and go through all 3 minutes and 47 seconds of video frame by frame, you will notice that the time codes at the bottom of each monitor do not always show numbers. §

So, our number is 24.16.4. But what about the website? We get the text 'The _ Turned To _' which doesn't give us anything. But on the door that gets kicked down, we have Rev 16 3 4 written. Revalations 16:3-4 reads (using the New Life Version) "The second angel poured out his jar of God's anger onto the sea. The water became like the blood of a dead man. Every living thing in the sea died. The third angel poured out his jar of God's anger onto the rivers and places where water comes out of the earth. The water turned to blood." And that leads us to http://www.thewaterturnedtoblood.com.
The Water Turned to Blood
Well, it's nice to know that the government doesn't kill everyone it takes away in the middle of the night. They even try to rehabilitate some of the mentally ill. That is what this website is - a thereaputic website for inmate #4382BX12 §

If you look at the text in this 'Revelation', it's not that hard to spot that there is a secret message spelled out in the changing of the text case. The author has spelled out 'Francesca' three times. But the question is 'Why?' Upon taking a closer look at the source code, an answer seems to present itself. There is a hidden login box on this page. If you click on the red car next to The Presence's thumb, it pops up asking for a password. But 'Francesca' doesn't work. :(

So now what? There's no other hidden links on this page. But the warning message does mention Judson Ogram Correctional Facility twice. Could it be a hint to a new website? But of course!
Judson Ogram
Judson Ogram Correctional Facility is a humane, safe and efficient prison that rehabiliates the criminals in our society so that they can become part of the mindless hoarde of patriotic citizens. I wonder if they use brainwashing or mind control drugs to do this. Either that, or they keep hitting them with a Bible until they repent. The cross symbol at the top of the J in the JOCF logo disturbs me.

Number for JOCF: 24.16.2 §

At the bottom of the staff page there is a login box asking for Name, Case Number and Password. We really only have two case numbers to go on: 71839J from US Wiretap and 4382BX12 from The Water Turned to Blood. We know Agent Sikes worked 71839J, but there is nothing in the interview that suggests a password. So that's out. For 4382BX12, the password might be 'Francesca' but we still need a username. Babcock Hirsch and Susan Zewecky don't work. If you look closely at the pictures though, you'll notice that the picture of the psychiatrist has a name tag: Dr. Preston Gantry. That gives us what we need:
  • Name: Preston Gantry
  • Case Number: 4382BX12
  • Password: Francesca
This takes us to Dr. Gantry's personal files. We come to find out that he doesn't view John (Inmate #4382BX12) as a threat, but that he's overruled by someone, who demands that John be thrown in jail as a terrorist without a trial. John has a magnetic personality, and it draws people in from all over. Including Dr. Gantry in the end. Moments before John is supposed to be executed, Dr. Gantry pleads with him to recant his statements so he can go free, but John refuses. Sadly for Dr. Gantry (and probably his daughter, Francesca), the Powers that Be don't like it when subordinates go over their heads, and they have Dr. Gantry arrested and sent for re-educuation. Poor guy. §

So we've now found out a lot about John of Boston. But we still don't have a password. His daughter's name would have been great, but it's not given anywhere. He does however quote some scripture during his interview with Dr. Gantry, and we've seen a lot of Bible quotes as passwords. Putting "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities" into Google, it comes up with Ephesians 6:12 right away. And as a password it works and takes us to http://www.thewaterturnedtoblood.net/bridge.htm
The Bridge
John is a bit cracked. Sure The Presence is probably real. Sure he might be a prophet of it. But at the same time, the guilt over his daughter's death just oozes out of him (see the Seatbelt section). Maybe his grief is what gives him power. I dunno. Either way, the whole thing is still very tragic and sad. Probably why John merits two numbers. His original was 24.16.1 and now his newest one is 24.16.3 §
While we were so busy trying to find the password to John's site by going through Judson Ogam, we skimmed right over the mention of Cedocore on the staff page, which has its own website: http://www.cedocore.com

From the makers of Parepin, Cedocore has a whole range of drugs that will make you nice and compliant so that the people in power can stay in power you won't have to worry about being jailed for resisting the status quo. Like all the other scary government sites, Cedocore also has a lovely little cross on the page showing you that religion rules over all. §

The funniest/scariest thing on the website has to be the Situational Anxiety Quiz. It's 10 questions about whether or not you need Prozira, from the makers of Parepin. §

And since no site would be complete without a number on it: 24.18.1


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