UFO

By Steven Fritz

sfgenreLT Karen "Buster" Reynolds turned her F/A-18H inbound toward the carrier and flew at low cruise airspeed into an empty sky filled with stars. The Moon was new, not even above the horizon at the moment. It was always beautiful to see so many stars in the sky this far from land. She moved her head to see whether a blur was a smudge on the canopy or a distant nebula. Not a smudge. Combat Air Patrol could be tense, but what could go wrong on a night like this?

"Alpha Romeo 46, this is Alpha Romeo 35," Dave ‘Reef’ Black called over the CAP frequency, "I've got a bogie on my heads-up display!"

Karen glanced at her heads-up-display. Reef was thirty miles away, headed outbound from the carrier.

"Thirty-five, forty-six, gimme a break," Karen replied. "I've been looking at that piece of sky all night. There's nothing out there."

"Alpha Romeo 35, this is Crystal Ball," Carrier Air Traffic Control radioed. "What's the classification of your bogie?"

"Crystal, Alpha Romeo 35, contact possible extraterrestrial."

"Roger, 35," CATC replied. "Take immediate action to identify the intruder."

"Shit, Hack," she muttered over the intercom to Jim McNeil, her weapon systems officer.  "We're gonna be out here all night,"

The intercom was suspiciously silent. Karen increased the volume. Soft snores were the only sound from the rear cockpit. 

Karen slammed the stick left, then right, rocking the aircraft abruptly. 

"What the..." McNeil blurted over the intercom. 

"Wake up!"

"I'm awake now," he snarled. "You trying to break my neck?"

 "You hear any of this?"

"Lemme see," he mumbled. "Something about a bogie?"

"Dave Asshole Black thinks he's spotted a UFO."

"Lemme guess," McNeil said. He sounded awake now. "It's right in the center of the HUD in the fifty-mile range mode."

"Don't know."

"I'll find out. Let me send 'em a text."

"Okay, let me know."

She continued her pattern inbound toward the carrier. When she got there, she'd reverse course and continue the racetrack pattern she'd been following for an hour already.

"Yup, just like I thought." McNeil chortled.

"What?"

"They say it's right in the center of the display, fifty-mile range."

"So?"

"It's a known software glitch," Hack said. "Raytheon sent out a bulletin. Didn't you guys get a briefing?"

"That's why I love flying with you," she said. "You keep track of that shit for me."

"Reef's flying with Thumbs tonight. Thumbs isn't big on technical details. That's probably why Reef doesn't know about it." 

"We got two choices," Karen said. "We can bore holes in the sky 'til we're down to bingo ..."

"Or?"

"We can have some fun with Reef."

"How?"

"When he turns inbound," she said, "we'll be turning outbound. We kill the rotating beacon, fly right at him with just the low vis position lights on. He'll see our lights right where the bogie should be. He'll think we're the UFO."

"I dunno, Buster," Hack said. "Reef might run into us while he's staring at the tactical display."

"You worry too much. We'll know where he is. If we get too close, I'll break it off."

"I guess."

After their outbound turn, Karen shut down the beacon, nudged the airspeed up and wished she could see the expression on Reef's face when he thought he was being chased by a UFO. 

She shifted left and right in her seat, trying to get comfortable. As if. The stiff foam pad on top of the survival kit felt like granite. The price you pay for being able to eject in an emergency.

"Hack," she said over the intercom, "have a look further out. I don't really expect the Iranians to do anything tonight but I don't want to be caught napping."

She moved her head around, looking forward, trying to see if she could pick up Reef's aircraft visually. He was on her HUD, but the range was close enough she might see him.

There! No, that one was moving right to left. The HUD showed Reef's aircraft dead ahead, still heading outbound. The errant light went behind Reef and failed to emerge. Must be her imagination.

"Buster," Hack said, "there's something weird going on here tonight. The radar seems to be picking up multiple targets dead ahead, but the range fluctuates in big jumps. It could be interference with Reef's aircraft, but the HUD's showing him rock steady."

"Thirty-five, forty-six," Karen radioed, "it's about time for your turn inbound. Hack thinks we might get a better look at your bogie if you turn toward the ship."

"Thirty-five, roger," Reef called. "Turning."

Reef's aircraft slid left on the HUD, turning back toward the ship. Reaching down, she killed all her external lights except the low visibility ones.

"The bogie's still dead center in the HUD," Reef radioed. "Nothing on earth can move like that."

"Okay, Hack," Karen said over the intercom. "I'm going radio silence and turning five degrees left. Let's see if we can give Reef a scare."

"Okay," Hack replied. "Just don't give us a scare. You can't afford any more air discipline infractions on your record. I'm not interested in any trouble on my last week in the squadron."

"Shut it. I can take care of myself."

The intercom clicked twice, the only reply she got.

She wiggled her fingers in the Nomex flight gloves, trying to get a more sensitive feel for the stick. She and Reef were closing at a high rate of speed, she had to be ready to move on a dime.

"Crystal, 35," Reef's voice rose in panic. "I see it. It's heading right toward me. I'm taking evasive action if it gets any closer."

"Reef," Karen radioed, "try a gentle turn. Maybe that'll shake it off."

She saw Reef’s anti-collision beacon move left. She turned to follow it.

"It's after me!" Reef shouted into the radio, callsign discipline forgotten.

"Knock it off, Buster," Hack said from the back seat. "We're getting too close."

"Roj."

Karen banked hard to the right, simultaneously turning on the anti-collision beacon and external lights. After fifteen degrees of turn, she turned back left to pass alongside Reef, missing by a comfortable margin.

"What the..." Reef radioed.

"Thirty-five, forty-six, this is Lion Tamer," said a low-pitched, gravelly voice over the radio. The Air Group Commander. "What's going on out there?"

"Nothin’, CAG," Reef responded. "Uh, this is Alpha Romeo 36."

"You two are our combat air patrol. What's this about ET?"

"Lion Tamer, 45," Karen radioed. "Nothing, CAG."

"Thirty-five, concur," Reef said.

"Get your asses back here," CAG radioed. "I'm sending the five-minute alert aircraft out to relieve you. You'll both have a week to think about how this is going to be written up."

"Hack, have you got anything on the scope?" Karen asked over the intercom

"I got a couple of blips, dead center, but they came and went."

"What was it?"

"Damfino. I'll have to check with Thumbs when we get back."

"You'll have plenty of time to check," Karen said. "I'm guessing we're all going to be shitty little jobs officers for a week."

***

"That was close," First Officer Ndrang said. "I told you not to get so near those primitive aircraft."

"It wasn't my fault," Third Pilot !@brrr whined. Insofar as a sneed, whose vocalisations were lower than human infrasound, could in fact whine. But some behaviors are pan-specific, even though their expressions may be unrecognisable to any but their conspecifics.

"It most certainly was your fault," Ndrang thundered. Insofar as a Krrring could thunder. Their extremely high-pitched voices, when angry, sounded much like two rocks dragging against each other. "I specifically told you not to place our vehicle in a position where it could be detected. But did you listen? Noooo."

"The Galactic Overlord will not be pleased," !@brrr rumbled. "The last time this happened, three of their conspecifics ended up being embalmed by these barbarians."

"Galactic Overlord, my middle appendage," Ndrang screeched. "What they call themselves when they communicate with the barbarians means nothing. How can something that stupid be overlord of anything? They're nothing more than a political hack who got sent here as punishment for screwing up the Spiral Arm negotiations. They've been here eight nines of this backwater planet's years and we've had one crisis after another."

"Fortunately, we can cover this one up. If not, you'd be here until the Overlord is relieved." 

***

Hack McNeil climbed out of the back seat of his F/A-18, helmet bag in hand. He reached into the bag and pulled out a small black plastic box. He pressed a button on the box, a light blinked on and off, and the nullifier erased all evidence of their UFO encounter from his aircraft's system memory. He activated the nullifier again as he walked past Reef Black's aircraft and wiped its memory as well. He'd write up another gripe about the fifty-mile range glitch and his work would be done.

As he passed a parked helicopter and stepped over its tie-down chains to get to the island, he sighed. One more week and he'd be headed back to Area 51 where he could shuck this human disguise. The Overlord owed him big time.

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About the Author

Steven Fritz

steven fritz 200Steven Fritz graduated from the University of Maryland, became a Naval Aviator and flew helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft in the US Navy.

After leaving active duty, he earned a Ph.D. in Radiation Biophysics at the University of Kansas and spent several years as a medical school faculty member and senior administrator.

After university he managed a seed stage venture fund and did a stint as an avionics entrepreneur. He’s been infatuated with science fiction since his youth and has been writing SF full time for three years. You can follow Steven on his website at <InigoPress.com> or on Twitter at @StevenLFritz1.

AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

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Please visit the ASFF website and consider joining for up-to-date info about Australian SF cons, awards, competitions, and to receive the Foundation's newsletter, Instrumentality, and more.

<https://asff.org.au>

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 272

Buchstabensuppe
By Tony Owens

Content
By Ashley Cracknell

Drowning
By Chris Karageorge

Fodd Prints
By AE Reiff

For More Options Press 9
By Myna Chang

Hotel de Mort
By Emma Louise Gill

The Hot Equations
By Simon Petrie

The Smeg
By Harris Tobias

The Walls Have Tongues
By S. A. Mckenzie

Tribunal on the Misuse of Swords and Knives
By Len Baglow

AntipodeanSF April 2021

ISSUE 271

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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Download AntiSF E-Book

Epub version:

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AntiSF's Narration Team

marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting Book.

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

SF Quote

Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science, because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful.

Philip K. Dick

The Contributors

Chad has a B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University Dominguez Hills and an Associates degree in Culinary Arts from Le Cordon Bleu, Pasadena.

His fiction has been published in Larks Fiction Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, Farther Stars Than These and Verdad among others.

He has made a few short films the most recent of which was an official selection of Dances with Films.

Link to Chad's Vimeo: <https://vimeo.com/cbcinema>.

nick petrou 200Nick works as a freelance writer out of Perth, Western Australia, where he likes to read unsettling fiction and complain about the sun.

His short fiction is forthcoming in two anthologies by Black Hare Press.

You can find out everything there is to know about him (and more) at <nspetrou.com>.

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callan j mulligan 200Callan J. Mulligan was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1988.

Writing poems and fiction from a young age, his imagination took him through several creative careers including Marketing, Music, and Film & Television.

At the age of 29 he wrote his first published work of fiction, a novella titled ‘A Mind of His Own’. The debut work received critical acclaim and scored amazon's Top 100 for thriller and suspense.

Callan predominantly writes science fiction, and his work often contains existential and philosophical themes. He has a deep, personal, love of science, especially astronomy and cosmology.

Callan lives with his wife on the Queensland Gold Coast and spends his time playing more video games than should be considered healthy, and not reading nearly as much as an author should.

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louis evans 200Louis Evans is a sci-fi writer living in Brooklyn with his partner and two cats named after fictional European detectives, Hercule Poirot and Lord Peter Wimsey.

His fiction has appeared in Analog SF&F, Interzone, GigaNotoSaurus and more.

He would never get involved in a pyramid scheme, which is why you can have complete confidence that THIS business opportunity is the! real! deal! Let's do lunch . . .

His website is evanslouis.com and he tweets @louisevanswrite

Kaoru Sakasaki 200Kaoru Sakasaki lives with his family in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

He writes late at night after putting his children to bed.

In 2020, he won the Judges’ Special Prize in the first Kaguya SF Contest organized by Virtual Gorilla Plus.

neil a hogan 2020Neil A. Hogan has been writing space fiction on and off since the '80s.

His next novel, The Robots of Atlantis, is due out in May 2021.

Find out more at <https://www.StellarFlash.com>.

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João VenturaJoão Ventura writes short fiction, which has appeared in several websites (AntipodeanSF and Bewildering Stories among them), and also in printed form: Somnium, in Brazil; Dragão Quântico, Hyperdrivezine, Phantastes (Portuguese fanzines); Universe Pathways (in both the English and the Greek versions).

He had short stories in several Portuguese and Brazilian antologies: A Sombra sobre Lisboa (2006), VaporPunk (2010), Antologia de Ficção Científica Fantasporto (2012), Lisboa no ano 2000 (2013), Lisboa Oculta - Guia Turístico (2018), O resto é paisagem (2018), Almanaque SteamPunk (2019), Winepunk (2019), Regiana Magna (2020).

In 2018, a collection of his short stories (in Portuguese) came to light, with the title Tudo Isto Existe.

He likes reading, writing (surprise!), has a blog and is a university professor (now retired).

He is married, with two children and he lives in Lisbon.

Those who read Portuguese can have a glance at some of his stuff in Das palavras o espaço.

Samuel Gachon is a student in creative writing at QUT, with a minor in media and entertainment.

He lives in Brisbane, and has published a few stories on Wattpad and Deviantart.

Links:WordPress: <https://wordpress.com/pages/samuelgachon.wordpress.com>.

Wattpad: <https://www.wattpad.com/user/SamuelGachon>.

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james patrik 200An emerging writer, James Patrik enjoys exploring the existential themes.

A lifelong science fiction fan, he has a particular fondness for Japanese culture—especially Tokusatsu.

James is also passionate about psychology and is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science.

You can read more of his work at: <www.jamespatrik.com>.

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Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

steven fritz 200Steven Fritz graduated from the University of Maryland, became a Naval Aviator and flew helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft in the US Navy.

After leaving active duty, he earned a Ph.D. in Radiation Biophysics at the University of Kansas and spent several years as a medical school faculty member and senior administrator.

After university he managed a seed stage venture fund and did a stint as an avionics entrepreneur. He’s been infatuated with science fiction since his youth and has been writing SF full time for three years. You can follow Steven on his website at <InigoPress.com> or on Twitter at @StevenLFritz1.

brian-biswasBrian has published over sixty short stories in the United States as well as internationally.

His short story "A Betrayal" was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and anthologized in The Irreal Reader.

A collection, A Betrayal and Other Stories, was published by Rogue Star Press in 2018, and his novel, The Astronomer, will be published by Whiskey Tit Press later this year.

Brian is listed in the International Writers and Authors Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

You can read more of Brian's work at his website: <www.brianbiswas.com>.

Or follow him on Twitter: @brianbiswas

"Mercury" is an extract from Brian's upcoming novel The Astronomer.

lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

You can read more of her work on her blog <www.solothefirst.wordpress.com> Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following

<www.solothefirst.wordpress.com>

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ed-harveyPretty much a life-long fan of speculative fiction, Edwina Harvey is a writer, editor, silk painter and ceramic artist.

Her short stories and articles have appeared in a variety of publications including Aurealis, Antipodean SF, Grass Roots, Harbinger, Magpies, Strange Pleasures #3 and Worlds Next Door.

She has had three books, The Whale’s Tale, The Back of the Back of Beyond, and An Eclectic Collection of Stuff and Things and a novelette, Never Forget, published through Peggy Bright Books. <www.peggybrightbooks.com>.

 Edwina received her editing qualifications in 2012 and now works as a freelance editor, specialising in speculative fiction.

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Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels: The Greer Agency & A Felony of Birds. He has written dozens of short stories many of which are available on line at <quantummuse.com>. He is the author of many children’s books including At The Robot ZooMoonRivet Saves His Skin and An Alphabet Book of Bugs available in print from

CreateSpace and as ebooks for Nook & Kindle. You can find links to his writings here: <harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com>

kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.

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