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 "To the cafeteria... FOR JUSTICE!"

PS238 is a comic book series about the eponymous first public school for metaprodigies -- super-children, in other words. That is, if you can call a top-secret underground school "public".

Created by Aaron Williams, who is also known as the maker of Nodwick and Full Frontal Nerdity -- all of which can be viewed here -- it has been described as "Take the kids from Springfield Elementary, give them X-Men powers, and send 'em to Hogwarts."

Basically concerned with the general, superpowered going-ons of a school filled with superpowered children (most of whom are the children of Lawyer Friendly Cameos of various well-known Marvel and DC heroes), PS238 follows a small core cast of about ten to twelve kids, with plenty more who make cameos. The closest thing the series has to a protagonist is Tyler Marlocke, the notably only non-superpowered student on campus.

Needless to say, the series thrives on Superhero-related tropes, and indeed, tropes in general. Several characters are openly Genre Savvy, including Tyler at times -- though he would probably prefer if those tropes weren't there.

Originally a print comic, Aaron has followed the example of the Foglios and released it as a webcomic, but the free online version is still well behind the print-version. Recently, a licensed Role Playing Game using the Hero System has been published.


PS238 provides examples of the following tropes:

Name a superhero-related trope. Any superhero-related trope.

  • Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Despite the fact that they could eventually end up with one that consists of absurdly powerful people, this is averted. When Tyler got elected Class President, the faculty had yet to figure out what responsibilities the Class President was supposed to have. So far, said duties have consisted entirely of participating in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
  • Academy of Adventure: They try to keep the super-trouble away, but the administrators seem to accept that it's inevitable.
  • Academy of Evil: Praetorian Academy.
  • Action Survivor: Tyler. Although, as time goes by, he is slowly approaching Badass Normal. He's already running toward danger of his own volition.
  • AI Is a Crapshoot: Averted. Human AIs, like Doctor Positron, exist and they're all perfectly nice. The only exception was Prospero's robot companion, which was implied to have gotten damaged in the crash. The Singularity is pretty nice too, for an omnipotent extradimensional AI. Think of it as a sort of omnipotent schoolteacher with a somewhat quirky sense of humour.
  • Alternate Universe: Tyler sees a few alternate versions of himself in the Castle Beyond Time and Space. One is a Jerkass Woobie who is one of the most powerful people on the planet but has a hair-trigger temper, another is more along the lines of what his parents wanted, and the third is a ridiculously powerful telepath who accidentally turned the human race into a Hive Mind when he was bored.
  • Animal Eye Spy: The Flea and insects.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A telepath caught red-handed holding political office (which is apparently illegal), admits that he's used his telepathic abilities to defeat opponents, win elections, and get good deals on cars.
  • Art Shift: One issue contains school reports from the superkids that are drawn by children of the same age.
  • The Atoner: Cranston is attempting this but Toby may have inadvertently messed this up for him as a side-effect of his Reality Warper powers. Depending on how closely you're reading, the scene is either an Oh Crap moment or a moment of Fridge Brilliance, because neither Toby nor Tyler realize the significance of the exchange demanded by Toby's powers, and thus Toby's statement passes without comment.
  • Author Avatar: While there haven't been any explicit versions of the author himself in the series, Miss Kyle is modeled after his wife.
  • Badass Longcoat: Cecil Holmes
    • The longcoat becomes Badass unto itself as well as making Cecil Badass
  • Badass Normal
    • The Revenant, Tyler's mentor (who bears a striking resemblance to Batman/MoonKnight, right down to most powered heroes not trusting him or thinking he's crazy).
    • Tyler himself can be considered a Badass Normal in training. (A time-travel storyline offers a glimpse of his adult self in which he's Revenant's partner.)
  • Bad Bad Acting: When Zodon sarcastically "acts" to keep up the illusion of being a normal child: "Oh, ow, ow, ow. My innards. I fear I shall never recover." Cue Face Palm from Ms. Kyle.
  • Batter Up: The supervillain The Sinister Shortstop was armed with a baseball bat that caused whatever was hit with it to explode. It recently came into the hands of one of PS238's students, who's held onto it because it complements her existing powers, which are entirely defensive.
  • Beehive Barrier: When Aurora's "ghost" attacks Ambriel, her Deflector Shield is briefly visible as a geodesic crystalline dome.
  • Berserk Button: Don't rip Julie Finsters' cape.
  • Blessed with Suck: Lyle can't turn off his ability to "see patterns in things" and he spends most of his time in a featureless white room to keep his brain from overloading. On the other hand, he is effectively omniscient and at one point he begins to set into motion a complicated scheme to allow himself and his classmates to escape unharmed from a pair of dangerous kidnappers several issues before the kidnappers have even decided to show up.
  • Bungling Inventor: Angie. In a variation, her gadgets all work, but they're too powerful. Tim Taylor Technology is her Hat.
  • Butt Monkey
    • Zodon. He deserves it.
    • Tyler has moments of this as well, but in his case, it's more to toughen him up.
  • Cape Wings: Cecil
  • Captain Ersatz: PS238 is made out of this trope. Two of the more outstanding examples are Atlas and Emerald Gauntlet, although both have developed points of distinction from the originals as the series progresses. Among the students, there's also "Murphy", the "Prince of Daydreams" (whose older sister is often mentioned in passing...), and Victor VonFogg, heir of the VonFogg family of supervillains.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: The Revenant is perfectly able to take calls while in the middle of fighting bad guys, and has been known to make them as well.
  • The Chessmaster
    • The Revenant. He currently meddles in most of the storylines and well over half the cast, directly or indirectly, by sheer virtue of his many contacts.
    • Also, Tom, the kid with time-travelling abilities seems to be heading in this direction.
    • And, of course, Lyle, who knows everything. No, really, everything.
  • Chewing the Scenery
    • Von Fogg junior is especially prone to this in his first appearances, and would probably count as a Large Ham if he didn't eventually mellow down in later issues.
    • American Eagle and Patriot Act also act like this on-camera.
  • Cloning Blues: Averted. Tyler's clone gets a name (Toby), develops cosmic powers, and is adopted by his parents, who are delighted -- to the point where Tyler is worried they'll like his new "brother" better. However, Cecil rejects Toby, though he remains close friends with Tyler.
  • Combat Uninterruptus: Happens all the time with the Revenant and Tyler.
  • The Comically Serious: American Eagle during her tenure with Tyler's impromptu "superhero team".
  • Competence Zone: Averted; the kids' teachers are presented as intelligent, competent, and perfectly aware of what's going on around them. This being a comic about the kids, though, the kids still do most of the day-saving. Most of.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Cecil Holmes. He actually gets pretty close to figuring out the truth about PS238, but Tyler derails him with alien stuff.
    • Ironically Cecil can unconsciously detect superpowered beings (who he thinks are aliens) unless they are, in fact, aliens. He thinks Propero, the resident alien kid, is a normal, if weird and foreign, kid.
  • Contagious Powers
    • Tyler's parents are sending him to the school based on the theory that eventually this trope will kick in.
    • Cecil goes for a "trip" with Malphast and ends up with a pair of wings (plus a lot of other Eldritch Abomination traits that are suppressed as long as he's in the human world).
  • Cool Pet: Argo the super-dog
  • The Corps Is Mother: Averted, as PS238 is just a superhero-flavoured school and is, if anything, less sinister than the regular kind. Praetorian Academy, meanwhile, is not an aversion.
  • Crazy Prepared: The Revenant. He has a box under the seat in his jet just in case he suddenly needs to go into space.
  • Crimefighting with Cash: The Revenant

 The Revenant: I sometimes think access to cash is the greatest superpower of all.

  • Crossover: In issue 39 it was revealed that the events of Nodwick take place in the distant past of PS238. Thanks to some time-travelling and a Predestination Paradox, some of the characters from PS238 briefly meet the main characters from Nodwick.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The Crystal Skull, an ex-supervillain, has since turned his intellect to taking money from people legally, and runs one of the higher-class casinos in Las Vegas.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Alexandria von Fogg, Victor's sister and a student at the Praetorian Academy.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    • Zodon
    • Miss Kyle resorts to it sometimes:

 Victor Von Fogg: (to Zodon) You will pay for this, oh, yes...

Miss Kyle: Let's keep the vendettas down to a dull roar, okay?

  • Deconstructor Fleet: Of the superhero genre.
  • Drool Hello: When Malphast accidentally summon a tentacled thing, it naturally drools on Tyler.
  • Dumb Muscle: Bernard
  • Equivalent Exchange: The basis of Toby's Reality Warper powers. Doing things much more complicated than flight creates an after-effect to balance out what he did, for better or worse.
  • Evil Chancellor: Drax
  • Exposition Beam: Tyler learns of Principal Cranston's backstory when his headband is damaged by reliving his memories.
  • Expy: Almost every character who is not an outright Captain Ersatz is an expy of a known superhero comics archetype without blatantly referencing any one single comics character. An example would be Herschel Clay, who turns out to be an expy of Iron Man.
  • Face Palm: Frequently used by Ms. Kyle and the other teachers.
  • Fantastic Racism: Argonians look down on everyone who does not have Flying Brick powers. Normal humans are treated as an inferior underclass; other metahumans as outright threats.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: As usual for a Superhero setting, they have Mutants, magic, aliens, gods, beings from Another Dimension, time travellers, and Schizo-Tech galore.
  • Fastball Special: Rockslide and Micro Might.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Zodon manages to convince the otherwise mild-mannered and rather cowardly Flying Brick, Forak, to guard a dimensional portal while he's on the other side with some of the other kids. The threats he makes are spoken of only in whispers, but Forak is terrified enough to even stand against the Creepy Child Alexandria Von Fogg when she shows up to disrupt matters. Towards the end, Hershel convince him to tell him what was said. Turns out that Zodon threatened to delete all his Achievements if he didn't do as he was told. Terrifying!
  • Flying Brick
    • Deconstructed as being a F.I.S.S. (flight, invulnerability, strength and speed). This package is so common that F.I.S.S. heroes are just given a number. Julie, one of the current PS238 students, is number 84.
    • Further deconstructed when Earth makes contact with Argos. Flying bricks rule the planet in noble houses with normal people (called "softies") as an oppressed underclass. All other superpowers are referred to as "ferals" and are implied to have been culled from the Argonian gene pool long ago.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Tyler is expected to do this, despite the fact that he didn't inherit his parent's superpowers. Ron feels pressure of this nature as well.
  • For Great Justice: "To the cafeteria... for Justice!"
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Anything to do with Order and Chaos.

 Lord of Order: When you observe the actions of an imp and cherub who influence the clone of Tyler Marlocke...

Lord of Chaos: ...what you see them doing isn't truly real. It's just how your eyes try to explain what's going on to your brain, which is sensitive and doesn't do metaphysical stuff if it can avoid it.

  • From a Certain Point of View: When Cranston used to be president he was accused of using a telepath to read his opponent's minds, and he swore that he had no telepaths of any kind on his payroll. He didn't. He wasn't on his own payroll after all.
  • Fun Personified
  • Gadgeteer Genius
    • Herschel Clay/Mantium
    • Angie
  • Genre Savvy: Many of the heroes and the villains. One even notes at one point that he has read the Evil Overlord List.
  • Geometric Magic: Alec, who ends up being able to do magic with scribbled runes after some exposure to Malphast.
  • Grappling Hook Pistol: Tyler's still getting the hang of it. Hilarity Ensues. Interestingly, it's about the size of the Myth Busters model, and thus is worn as a sizeable forearm bracer rather than sitting in the utility belt.
  • Guardian Entity: Ambriel's power.
  • Harmless Villain: Zodon. He would count as Not So Harmless as he has both a will and potential to cause a lot of carnage, but events usually conspire to keep his malicious acts in check. Victor Von Fogg probably counts for this as well.
  • Healing Hands: Dr. Newby, the school medic, has this -- fortunately for Tyler. He needs it. A lot.
  • Her Codename Was Mary Sue: When the pupils are reading their creative writing assignments, Dylan's story features a very handsome and powerful version of himself defeating Victor's father and saving the world, while his rival Jenny is completely useless. It ends abruptly when Jenny and Victor sets his essay on fire.

 Dylan: I consider this an assault on my basic freedoms and liberty.

  • Heroic BSOD: Captain Clarinet suffers one -- preceded by a quick bout of What Have I Done -- after punching out Charles.
  • High-Class Glass: Victor Von Fogg's headgear comes with a lens giving the effect of a monocle. Just like his father.
  • Hive Mind: The Commonality, created by an alternate universe version of Tyler. He had such powerful telepathy, he decided to see if he could touch every mind on Earth at once. It worked.
  • Holographic Disguise: Those PS238 students who can't just change into normal clothes (because they're part-machine, or bright blue, or whatever) get image emitters to help them blend in with the oblivious above-ground muggles.
  • Hurl It Into the Sun: Issue #40 revolves around an installation that uses this method of disposing of dangerous super-gadgets.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: You know one is supposed to be happening when Zodon starts singing "Oklahoma"
  • I Have Many Names: How Murphy introduces himself.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Captain Clarinet.... Or so you'd think. Subverted hard.
  • Implied Love Interest: Julie "84" Fenster to Tyler. Though, as both of them are eleven, it's more like "implied childhood crush".
  • Instrument of Murder: Captain Clarinet's clarinet.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Sort of -- the Revenant was created by Michael Stackpole for the Tabletop Game Champions and was "donated" to the PS238-verse. The Stackpole version also appears in the short story "Peer Review" and in In Hero Years… I'm Dead. The Revenant mentions this role-playing game to Tyler in passing.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: Doctor Von Fogg's pre-recorded gloating in issue #10.
  • Jerkass
    • Zodon (funny version)
    • Charles (less so)
  • Kinda Busy Here: The Revenant, every time Tyler calls him for advice. But he's so badass he can whomp supervillains and give career counselling simultaneously without breaking a sweat.
  • Landslide Election: Tyler becomes Class President in one of these, despite the fact that he wasn't running. This is because nobody in the class liked either of the actual candidates, so they voted for him as a write-in candidate.
  • Laughably Evil: Zodon and Von Fogg again.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:

 Wil Wheaton: ...and I'm even writing a story for a comic book about a character I played on television. Neat, huh?

  • Little Professor Dialogue: From Gadgeteer Genius kids, supernatural kids, and politically backed kids.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Look Ma, No Plane: Captain Clarinet starts out with a pathological fear of flying, due to having repeated nightmares of being sucked into a jet-engine. It doesn't particularly improve matters when Zodon "helpfully" reminds him that his invulnerability ensures that, should that happen, he'd come out on the other side unscattered... while the plane plummets to the ground in flames with the passengers aboard.... And then Zodon plays a "practical joke" on him that results in it happening in real life. It backfires spectacularly in that it ends up curing the good captain of his phobia instead of compounding it when is forced to use his flight to put the damaged plane down safely.
  • Loophole Abuse: Crystal Skull hires Zodon to figure out who is robbing his casino for $100,000. After Zodon finishes, CS points out that the contract doesn't specify the form of payment, so Zodon ends up receiving $100,000 in store credit at the shopping center in CS' casino.
  • Magic Pants: Funny in-universe example, with a dash of Late to The Punchline:

 Poly Mer: I'm glad I don't have to worry about costumes.

Julie: You don't?

Poly Mer: Nope.

(beat)

Poly Mer: What?

Julie: Nothing. Just... nothing.

  • Magnetic Medium
    • Satori Deacon, one of the Excelsior kids who turns out to have a power, can see ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. She hates it, because as soon as any given ghost figures this out, they will bug the living crap out of her with requests from beyond the grave.
    • And Cecil, the conspiracy theorist who thinks the PS238 kids are (all) aliens, turns out to be able to sense metahumans. This being the series that it is, he gets what he sees, which sparks the conspiracy theories, presumably because he gets some sort of "otherness" feeling when the sense goes off. Notably, he doesn't seem to recognize Prospero, the actual alien. Most likely because, while Prospero is an alien, he's a normal alien and not a meta-alien.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Malphast's parents, an angel and a demon who have kept their relationship, and particularly the fact that it has issue, secret because they expect unpleasant consequences if they're found out.
  • The Masquerade: The presence of PS238.
  • Memetic Badass: In universe -- as Moon Shadow, Tyler somehow gains a huge cult following at the school who equate him to the superhero version of Chuck Norris, including everyone thinking he has a ton of powers he doesn't really have. Tyler is understandably very confused about it.
  • Mood Whiplash: There are some surprisingly dark and serious elements to the series, which is also more thoughtful than you might expect, based on the description at the top of the page.
  • Most Common Superpower: Averted. The one character who could probably conform to this trope is revealed to have had "work" done to look that way. Then again, most of the cast is grade-school age.
  • Mugging the Monster: The school bullies above ground have the bad habit of picking on the wrong metahumans.
  • My Friends and Zoidberg:

 Tyler: ...he says if he sees me at school again, he'll splat my friends. Oh, and Zodon, too.

  • Nanomachines: The "ghost" of Aurora.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Cecil Holmes, who doesn't know the school secretly has superhero students, so is convinced it's being infiltrated by aliens in disguise. Latter, it's been established that Cecil can detect metahumans. He's very disappointed that "the aliens were a lie."... But not for long.
  • Only Sane Man: Tyler, regarding Paper-Thin Disguise.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different
  • Overlord, Jr.: Victor Von Fogg
  • Papa Wolf: You do not kidnap the daughter of Mister Extraordinary (the first recorded metahuman). He will rip your car apart then beat you over the head with the largest part left.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: In the PS238 universe, a simple mask can fool your best friends and family into thinking you're a completely different person. Tyler is highly worried by the implications this has. Notably, it only seems to work on people who are part of the whole "superhero" shtick -- even teachers and super-intellects are fooled by it, but Cecil isn't.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Parodied with "American Eagle" and "USA Patriot Act".
  • Pensieve Flashback: While mentally linked to Principal Cranston, Tyler relives the latter's memories of his short tenure as President of the US, while seeing himself in Cranston's spot.
  • Picky Eater: One of the Emerald Gauntlets apparently does not like Chinese food. Which is how the younger one knows about Take a Third Option.
  • Pimp Duds: As a practical joke, some tampering with Zodon's holographic disguise makes him look like he's wearing Pimp Duds.
  • Power Incontinence: After Principal Cranston's headband is damaged and removed, a hex to punish removal kicks in. Instead of him being able to hear other's thoughts, now his thoughts are projected out. The one who placed the hex has to help control this, as the removal of the limiter was justified at the time.
  • Power Nullifier
    • Harold
    • Cranston's headband is also supposed to be one of these, but it doesn't work completely -- he can still lift pens and push buttons while wearing it. (Telekinetically, that is -- his hands work just fine either way.)
  • Powers Via Possession: Satori
  • Psychic Static: The Revenant is fond of using The Alan Parsons Project music. He specifically mentions "Sirius", the instrumental lead-in to "Eye in the Sky", which featured the repeated line "I can read your mind". (And the album, also called Eye in the Sky, had a mystic symbol on the album cover which looks suspiciously similar to the Revenant's Chest Insignia.)
  • Remote Body: Toby was originally one for Tyler.
  • Restraining Bolt
    • Zodon's "Barry Ween" chip to prevent swearing.
    • Cranston's headband. Also an Explosive Leash.
  • Retired Badass: Most of the PS238 teachers are former superheroes. They're more than capable of getting their hands dirty to protect their students, although they tend to suffer from The Worf Effect to allow the students to shine.
  • Running Gag: Whenever anyone new shows up, Zodon and VonFogg will hand them minion application forms sooner rather than later.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Averted; one of the main problems for the Revenant is that many of his wealthy cover identities have problems with tax evasion charges.
  • Secret Identity
    • All superpowered students at the school are required to practice having a secret identity (those that end up going into hero work are expected to discard this "practice identity" when they start their careers.) They must appear as normal humans aboveground, and wear their costumes in the secret underground classrooms.
    • Moon Shadow subverts it by being a normal human with a secret identity to hide who he is from the supers.
  • Serious Business: Foursquare.
  • Shout-Out: Apart from all the superhero homages, there are also homages to non-superhero comics, including:
    • Zodon's human disguise makes him look like a character from The Far Side.
    • The time-traveller Tom Davidson is named after two of the stars of Doctor Who (and the cover art for issue #12, in which Tom features heavily, includes a homage to one of the old Doctor Who title logos).
    • In another issue, Murphy quotes Leela in "The Robots of Death".
    • One humorous two-panel joke has the Revenant decrypting the names "Wayne, B" and "Grayson, D".
    • Phil Foglio and his family appear as supervillains. He gets another Shout-Out when Zodon gets his hands on a Heterodyne Tachyon Generator.
    • Revenant's Alfred Ersatz is named Cranston, most likely a reference to Lamont Cranston, a.k.a. The Shadow. The Revenant also uses the alias Kent Allard, which happens to be another secret Identity of The Shadow.
    • Toby being simultaneously bossed about by order and chaos is represented by him as Captain Kirk -- complete with Star Trek Shake.
    • Bernard has a Skull doll.
    • Spell Syrin tells off her magic students for trying to start a Quidditch game.
    • Tyler uses the Stargate Verse to convince Cecil that one of the "aliens" is on their side.
    • Tyler finds himself in a Tron costume from his clone's superpowers leaking out.
    • When Alec's drawing causes the Headmaster's computer to crash, it begins to sing "Daisy, Daisy".
  • Shrouded in Myth: Moon Shadow gains a near-mythical reputation amongst the PS238 students.
  • The Slow Path: Zodon takes it to get back to the present day from ~10,000 years ago, Human Popsicle style.
  • Special Guest: In a very bizarre but hilarious situation, Wil Wheaton guest stars in the comic about superpower career day, as the representative of meta-humans who go into the Entertainment industry. In the PS238 universe, he not only played Wesley but single-handedly used his psychokinetic superpowers to do most of the special effects for Star Trek: The Next Generation, which apparently helped cancel out some of his character being Creator's Pets in this universe. Zodon still hates him, though.
  • Stage Mom: Tyler's parents are utterly convinced they can micromanage their son into becoming the World's Greatest Super Hero (when they aren't ignoring him).

 "To even think otherwise is to defy the will of the Universe."

 Zodon: I'm not doing anything suspicious that can be proven within a hundred decimal places!

 Zodon: I'm going 'caroling' ape'beans'!

  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Rainmaker
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Beautifully averted. The children in the Rainmaker program are all in possession of powers that are pretty much useless when it comes to things like fighting crime or saving the world. However, the purpose of the program is to give them an opportunity to explore using their powers in the private sector. A perfect example is a kid who can make any object as edible and nutritious (and tasty) as he wants; he won't be fighting any supervillains any time soon, but several restaurant chains are already lined up to headhunt him. Not to mention the job offers from Hollywood for the one who can change the distribution of body fat in people.
    And even then... Hestia, for one, will break you if you break the customs of ancient Greek-ish hospitality, xenia. Sure, that was usually Zeus's baliwick, but Hestia always needed to be more badass. Several of the others... sure, they aren't classical badass fighters, but they could fuck you up. Assuming they didn't go insane or something in the interim.
    • Pays off when a supervillain trapped in a robot uses their combined powers to make himself a super-powered body.
  • Wingdinglish: Alien tongues are in strange font, but otherwise readable. Prospero's walls of text in his introductory chapters starts off with "If you can read this" and goes on with Monty Python quotes, a recipe, etc, to avoid heavy spoilers, but in the rest of the series, his utterings are often hilarious. (some of them are available here.)
  • Wise Beyond Their Years:
    • Most of the children super-intellects, like Victor and Zodon.
    • Tom Davidson.
    • Murphy straddles the line between this and Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Wrench Wench: Angie
  • X Meets Y: As mentioned in the description, this has been described as "Take the kids from Springfield Elementary, give them X-Men powers, and send 'em to Hogwarts."
  • Your Head Asplode: Tyler's clone has a bomb inside the control device that lets Tyler uplink with it. Victor's immediate response to hearing that the clone is no longer needed is to trigger it -- fortunately the device was outside the clone's head at the time.
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