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Facing the Music

Posted on Sun Sep 12th, 2021 @ 5:45pm by Rear Admiral Gareth Tau & Captain Akiva ben-Avram & Lieutenant JG Jaya Maera Garlake & Ensign Nandi Chakma & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Commander Arianna Frost & Calderon Jarsdel & Rear Admiral Aerilyn Nyel

Mission: S1E5: Symphony of Horror
Location: Deep Space 9
Timeline: MD 3

The wee hours of the morning came and went, yet the promises of new opportunities were unmet. Akiva opened his eyes, checked his messages, and let out a groan of despair. No updates would have been preferable. At least that would have left them with approximately 12 more hours to make something happen. However, news of Mrazak's actions in the Theta-Corvus system had evidently reached the Admiralty. He fumbled for the combadge sitting on his nightstand and depressed it.

"Akiva to Storr, Jaya, Ari, Cal, and Nandi. The tribunal wants us to appear within the hour. Meet me at the state wardroom as soon as you can." He let the channel drop before anyone could reply. Truth be told, he was more than willing to face the firing squad alone. There was no need to drag others along with him, other than the Admirals had already proven to be less than gracious for officers who did not appear when summoned. Whatever happened, Akiva knew he had done his best and could do nothing more. It was just a shame that it seemed like it had not been enough.

"Al ha'paneem," he muttered to himself.

It seemed Memory Theta would, indeed, be falling flat on its face.




Standing outside the doors, Akiva held his hands behind his back to await his friends and colleagues--and perhaps the death sentences to their careers.

Frost was the first to appear, uniform crisp, presentation immaculate. For her, the risk had been a bit different than that of the others. She'd not only risked her own career within Starfleet Intelligence and Starfleet herself, she'd also put Castermer at risk, for which in its own there would be a separate set of consequences. Rahal was fair, but could also be vicious. The Taskmaster was a powderkeg in his own right. Then there was the fact that she could not get past her own morals on this one, so disobeying an order was also in play for yet another set of consequences.

Worth it though, if it worked.

"Morning, Captain," she said to Akiva, her neutral, unreadable mask on.

Akiva dipped his head at Ari. It was a delight to see her, as always, even though that feeling was conflicted by what he had done the night before. Laena's warm embrace, the flush of her minty skin, the allure of her pheromones, all filled his mind. But the admiration he held for Ari also reminded him of all the hard times. Despite the complexity of their roles in Starfleet and the obstacles it brought, things felt simpler with Ari. Simple was something Akiva had never known, and it offered a peace and serenity that was all too inviting.

Chiding himself for letting his mind wander, he returned Ari's polite greeting with a dip of his head. "Commander." There. That should be safe.

Storr and Jaya arrived next, hand-in-hand and energized. "Captain. Commander." While not hiding behind a mask, the Lieutenant Colonel had not much else to say though he felt like they had just interrupted something. Winking at Arianna, Storr guided his pregnant wife to the side as he saw others coming down the hall.

Ari raised an amused eyebrow, then returned the greeting. "Colonel, Doctor."

Whatever Cal had to lose had already been long ago lost, so of the gathered, he was likely the most relaxed. His stance certainly gave that impression, if with a professional air to that easy casual stride as he joined the others. His gaze took in each individual present with a deliberate pause to gauge what he could from them all. The emotional resonance in the air around them was an easy yet complicated mess of a read, enough to make Cal smirk, if very slightly. "Someone have a knife to cut the air?" He asked.

Frost nodded at Jarsdel. "I don't know I find it sometimes helps you focus. Tension, I mean." She said, looking at everyone assembled so far. "You all did the best you could."

She knew that Cal wasn't necessarily only talking about that, but it was what she was choosing to keep her focus on, rather than the subject of her and Jaya and Storr's conversations over the past couple of days standing in the room with them.

"Sorrrrry!"

Running up with dark hair still back in a partial braid came Nandi. If she'd had a tail, it would've been between her legs. Her eyes were downcast in avoidance of everyone's gaze.

A knowing smile crept over Jaya's face when she looked at Nandi, though she spared a warning look for Cal. The connection forming between them was hard for a Deltan to miss. Jaya just hoped there wouldn't be any black marks in Cal's next psych evaluation.

Cal noted Frost's unemotional response for future reference, expected as it was by nature of her profession. He scanned for deeper thoughts, but didn't push hard in that direction. Not right now, while she was guarded. He might hurt her, and that wasn't necessary while she appeared to be working on the right side. Then Nandi joined them, and Cal couldn't help but grin as the puppy of a person joined them. He ignored Jaya's look, but made a point of making sure that she knew she was being actively avoided in that regard.

"We're all early yet," Akiva said. "Thank you all for coming. I was willing to face this alone and spare you the trouble, but I didn't think that would be fair after we've been through."

"You wouldn't dare," Jaya challenged with an arched brow.

Akiva shrugged. "We're beyond counterfactuals. We're all here now. That's what matters. Thank you all for that."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, old friend," Storr said with a simple and straight smile.

"Then Ha'Shem go before us." Without further ado, Akiva led the others into the state wardroom where the tribunal meetings had been held.

Unsurprisingly, it was rather empty. Nobody was there except for Admiral Tau, his personal assistance Clarice, some unknown man in a red Starfleet uniform with a conspicuous lack of rank pips on his collar, and a handful of custodial personnel from the station's non-rate pool. At first their entry had gone unnoticed, but Tau's assistant caught their approach before long. Tau followed Clarice's line of sight and immediately straightened. His slightly diminutive stature was rather noticeable when not behind a podium or conference table.

"Captain ben-Avram, what are you doing here?" he asked with gravelly concern in his voice. "The next hearing is not for several hours."

Akiva nodded. "I understand, Admiral. I..." He paused to correct himself. "We have come to deliver vital information in hopes that the latest reports will enable the tribunal to make the best, equitable decision."

Penetrating eyes narrowed at Akiva as Tau listened to what he was saying. "Well? Out with it."

Looking around at the cleaning crew, he said, "Perhaps we should dismiss them first?"

"Negative," Tau said. "In fact, I'm going to expedite the entire process." Tapping his combadge, Tau said, "Admiral Nyel, Mister Smith, your immediate presence is requested in the wardroom. Please join us at your earliest convenience."

Tau gestured for the man to join him. The doors opened just as the Admiral was closing the comm link when Admiral Nyel stepped through. "You can be so bossy sometimes," she said, giving the man a coy smile. "I just happened to be coming here, anyway. I believe I have a different hearing in this room starting in ten minutes. How can I help?"

"Captain ben-Avram was about to brief us on some vital information," Tau said. Rather than continue the conversation on the main floor, Tau ascended the dais, Nyel right behind him, and took his seat behind the elevated table. "You were saying, Captain?"

Before Akiva could respond, Ardent Smith walked in and raised his hands in protest. "And just what is the emergency, Admiral Tau?"

"Come join us and find out," Tau countered.

With the three tribunal members present, what had begun as an unofficial statement suddenly seemed very formal. The whole circus was testing Akiva's patience. He closed his eyes and took a breath. "All of our attempts to contact Captain Mrazak have been unsuccessful. The Theta Alert to which he responded in days past has been escalated into a full system lockdown on his order. The sector commander, a Fleet Captain Mulryan, has reported ship to ship combat in addition to the lockdown. Therefore, it is with regret that I must inform you that Mrazak will be unable to appear as twice ordered, and so I urge the tribunal to take Captain Mrazak's conduct into consideration separate from its final judgments regarding Memory Theta."

Carefully scanning the rest, Tau ran his gaze over the other officers. "Is this so?" he asked of them.

"And why should we do that?" Admiral Nyel interrupted. "He is a representative of Memory Theta. Your largest endeavor is the field team, that makes him one of the more prominent players as its leader. His actions are a direct reflection of your installation and the health of your command structure."

"But if he has gone rogue, then he is no longer acting within the mandate and purview of the command structure," Akiva said, "not any more than when any other captain has defied general orders in the history of Starfleet."

Tau took a breath and strummed his fingers together. This was indeed a watershed moment in the tribunal's determination. "We need to deliberate on these developments," Tau began to say, "but as there are other items on the docket, we must--"

Cal wasn't focused on the exchange of words, but on all the layers of underlying emotion, mental energy and atmospheric vibes surrounding everyone present. It might have been overwhelming except for the honed Lethean intelligence that almost effortlessly scanned outward to grab information and run back with said raw data. Something... something stank. He could feel it in every fibre of his mind, a gentle rippling warning of ice at his core. The only outward sign of that internal apocalypse was a deepening of Cal's frown and the slight tensing of his jaw. "Trouble's coming," he said, quietly but with gravitas.

The doors split apart with a little help from an industrial-sized hydraulic spanner. They admitted a squad of a dozen masked individuals who were armed with tactical armor and phaser rifles which flooded the room and quickly covered assigned zones of fire. Even at a trot, their footfalls were in tandem, giving clear evidence to the drills and training that had led to this moment. Six of the armed Trills flanked the dais where everyone had been gathered. The four others split off into pairs and quickly secured the cleaning crew before they could flee the room.

"Clear," sounded off one of the riflemen.

"Line them up," replied a woman who shouldered her phaser rifle.

At her order, the masked terrorists gestured for everyone to get down on their knees at gunpoint.

Cal stood silent, gaze lowered, mind racing to find the easiest trip switch in all those minds before him. Electricity was a weapon he'd learned to fear when Jumik had hijacked him, it was now, however, a valuable chance at a secret strike should the right moment come to pass. For now, he mentally sought the true leadership here, the easiest path to some form of victory. He tested limits, no visual sign of his internal actions showing in his stance or expression. One mind at a time.

This was your plan? The thought filtered into Ari's mind as she listened to their instruction and got on her knees, observing their captors carefully.

"What do you want?" Tau asked. It was clear what the purpose was. These malcontents were after something. Otherwise they would have charged in with phasers blazing. Despite the clear tactical disadvantage, Tau knew that put himself and Nyel as the ones in control.

Turning around to face him, the woman unmasked herself. "Yes, Admiral, I do want something. A life for a life. You have a number of my compatriots held under lock and key, and I will return the lives of you and everyone here in exchange for them." Doing a quick headcount, she said, "Looks like you're getting the better end of the deal, too, by the numbers."

"Hello there." Ari raised an eyebrow in recognition of the bumbling agent she'd met a few nights before in Quarks. She said nothing for now, they needed the captors to tell them more.

Storr took and released a deep breath while remaining on his knees like the rest of the hostages. While an imperfect plan executed with violence of action is better than none, timing does play a critical role and now was not that time. More information was needed about both their situation and their captors before anything was to be done.

Tau bristled at the threat. There had to be a way to alert station security. He just had to hold out until the opportunity presented itself. "I need names, ma'am. Yours. Your compatriots. Without them I cannot do much for you."

"Vaera Sodari," the woman said. She tugged at the sides of her face, peeling off pseudo-skin that covered now revealed Trill spots. "On Stardate 44763.4, General Gelad Arjuna was arrested along with his retinue in the Talos star cluster. We demand the immediate release of the general and everyone in his company, or we will start dropping bodies." Vaera leered at Tau and Nyel. "As previously noted, we have several to spare."

Cal readied to attempt to drop a few bodies of his own, eyes still floor-bound, mind seeking to start with whoever looked to be the weakest link.

"The problem is," Arianna spoke finally, while mentally she began counting. One. "You played your hand too soon, dear." Time to shake the tree and hopefully buy Krass and DS9 Security time to mobilize. Two.

This was too high-risk an attempt to be a plea for release. Going after such high-profile personnel to release one high-profile person...foolish. Careless. Extremely risky. Not to mention the negative publicity once this gets out and the backlash it will have on Trill. No, there was more.

Vaera looked at Ari in surprise. "What are you still doing here? I thought you were supposed to give your statement and leave." She shrugged. "Oh well. The more valuable hostages we have, the better."

"Never got dismissed." Arianna shrugged, "you played the silly bint part well. So, was it your play to get me to falsify my statement or did that actually come from them?" The spook pushed inclining her head towards Tau, Nyel and Smith, her eyes glued to the human turned trill's mannerisms and tones.

Shake, shake, shake that tree.

"You were a distraction," Vaera said. "Nothing more. But now, I guess, you've been promoted to hostage, which means I do not need this one." She pointed her phaser at Ardent Smith, the civilian overseer who filled the third chair of the tribunal and fired. The man disintegrated into atoms before their very eyes.

Storr quickly moved Jaya under his frame. Shooting hostages was the beginning of the end and while he didn't think that Jaya or he were targets, the more hostages killed the more desperate they would be to have their demands met all the while knowing that the potential for them getting them continued to decrease.

"There is no version of this where you walk away with everything you want," Tau cut in. "What lies before us now is the determination of how much damage we allow to be inflicted upon ourselves and one another. I have lived my entire life prepared to die at any moment, so you are nothing more than an unscheduled interruption to my day. The more harm you inflict here, Miss, the fewer demands you will be granted. Shall we proceed to the part where you tell us what you really want?"

Vaera looked briefly conflicted before resuming her stoic face. "I told you what I want, and now that you know I mean business, you're going to make it happen."

For his part, Cal focused on drilling down into Sodari's skull. Ardent Smith might not be a close personal friend, but then no one here was. No one here, in his view, deserved to die needlessly either and certainly not in the mere interest of being made an example. Perhaps he could make a point of his own, but that would depend on her level of foresight and protection.

Whirling around, Vaera scanned the line of hostages. "One of you is a telepath," she said with narrowed eyes. "Don't think that was unexpected. Scan my mind and you will find only the truth."

Arianna put on a visible shudder, "oh I don't think we want that..." Thirty six...Security response is taking too long. More forces in key points likely. Problematic. Frost run a silent assesment of the situation.

She then stood up, despite the pointed weaponry. "Let them go. I'm the most valuable asset you've got at the moment. You know it, you've had the access. There's no other way how you could know things about me without being deeply embedded in Starfleet, for a long time."

Forty.

In the distance, an explosion could be heard, followed by a slight shudder of an aftershock. Then another, moments later sounds of weapons being discharged.

"Encounter...resist...Aagh!"

"We've got them pinned down! Return fire!

"Position overrun, fall back!"

"Still hold...point two..."

"Benz is down!"

"Station security squad neutralized."

A myriad of incoming calls filled Soderi's team's comm channels.

"Fall back!" Vaera ordered. "Take the admirals, kill the rest."

With a squad of four at her command, two escorting Tau and Nyel away with one rifleman running point and the other bringing up the rear, Vaera disappeared through the service door away from the main entrance she'd used. The remaining eight riflemen leveled their weapons at the assembled hostages.

Arianna had used the opportunity in the escape to move behind one of the desks and grabbed the chair behind it she then hurtled it at the closest gunman to her, hitting the man square in the chest. What followed was the flipped desk being slammed into the man, pushing him into the man to his right.

Frost hoped to all those that were holy that the others would react in time and take action against the others.

Eight riflemen. Two affected by Frost's bold move. Six remaining. And, by Cal's calculations, six minds would be difficult to influence all at once with anything complicated.
First, he threw out a simple but powerful trick to as many of those minds as he could grasp - the troopers would see that somehow their weapons were reversed, pointing at themselves! - they needed to turn them around and fire.

Secondly, he threw confusion deeper into the mix by multiplying their visible targets in those riflemen minds. Two Frosts? Four Nandis? Five Jayas? Three Storrs? Six Akivas? Three Cals? Which were real...

Thirdly, he moved towards them, at speed.

Unrestricted use of speed, strength, surprise, and aggression to achieve total dominance against your enemy...that is violence of action and now was time to unleash it. Lt Col Garlake sprang from the floor at the nearest rifleman, grasping the phaser rifle and pinning it between them to make it as ineffective as possible. Rotating his wrists to strip the weapon, he also violently snapped his head back to crush the man's nose, a *crunch* and shout precipitated a warm and sticky liquid soaking the marine's hair. An elbow to the ribs and another half-turn brought the rifle into Storr's possession though one of the Trill's newfound empty hands balled into a fist and thrust upward, connecting with Storr's chin. The Afrikaner saw stars for a moment as he toppled backward but the distance now allowed him to tuck the rifle under his armpit to fire. A short blast of orange engulfed the male trill, his expression frozen as his body crumpled to the ground. Five riflemen left but now it was chaos.

Another rifleman, looking at his own weapon like it had grown horns was Garlake's next target. Pushing off from his back foot, the marine tossed his phaser rifle at the unsuspecting Trill.

"Catch!"

The man was flabbergasted and instinctively dropped his own rifle to catch the incoming one. With the Trill's eyes off of the Commandant, it was all but over as the last three feet were crossed with Storr's shoulder dropped into the man's solar plexus. Against 8 years of semi-pro rugby...the Trill didn't stand a chance. Unfortunately, as the two crashed into each other, neither did Storr's right leg. The desk the men crashed into tumbled over in a cacophony of metal clanging into metal but as metal was stronger and sharper than flesh, the desk had the last laugh. The Trill was out cold and a gash 4 inches wide graced Storr's right thigh, bright red blood coming out in rivulets. Four riflemen now but at this rate, there wouldn't be much left of the Lieutenant Colonel. But there was no stopping.

Moving at the same time as the Marine, Storr's misfortune was behind Cal as he hurled himself forward and dropped into a hard slide on the polished flooring. His body collided with two sets of TLA member legs as Cal skidded sideways, dropping them both to the ground. He rolled with the one he could reach and twisted the confused soldier's dominant arm back on itself, releasing a rifle into the Betazoid-Lethean's grasp. Without hesitation, Cal fired on them both, easy shots in very close quarters from his position on the floor.

Arianna didn't miss the ever-increasing chaos, and used her side of the table which now lay on the unconscious and/or dead bodies of the two guards she'd first attacked to flip over and kick another guard in the back with her legs. The man had been affected by Cal's illusions, staring at his gun, pointing it at himself.

As Ari's feet made contact the man fell forward, his rifle releasing, effectively ending himself in the process.

In the momentum, Frost rolled to the side of the collapsing man, got on her feet and stepped towards the last standing opponent, who too had been affected by the Betazoid's illusion. Disarming the man who was unware of all but the two visions he was seeing in front of him was easy.

Frost slammed a fist into his kidneys, at which he doubled over. Arianna stepped to his side, grabbed his wrist and wrestled the rifle away from him. In quick succession she fired straight at his chest, then released shots at each of the men she'd downed with the table.

Out of breath and more than a little surprised that they'd actually pulled it off, Arianna looked around to see the state of the others, the rifle she'd wrestled away still at the ready.

"Well done, everyone..." Akiva stood stock still as he realized they were not in fact going to die there and then. "Well done."

Storr knew that he had less than 4 minutes from the time the femoral artery had been cut until he bled out on the courtroom floor. Pressing down on his thigh with all his might with both hands, he quickly removed his left to reach behind and remove the...the...blerrie hell he cursed, the tourniquet normally affixed to the tactical belt missing. Three minutes thirty seconds. Looking around, he saw the TQ dangling from the table that had inflicted the wound, the windlass wedged into the leg and the main strap cut 3/4 of the way through. Three minutes. The pain was excruciating as he pressed down, white pinpricks intervening with the world around him as the red pool developing underneath him getting larger by the moment. Two minutes thirty seconds.

Jaya, on the other hand, was already running toward her husband. "Storr!" she cried out. Dropping to one knee, she ripped the tear in his uniform trousers wider in order to inspect the wound. "Approximately 7cm laceration. Femoral arterial bleeding is moderate." Although she'd never served in Sickbay, all counselors were trained in basic first aid. It was, in fact, the one thing that allowed her to accompany Storr as part of his squad as a field medic on a mission against a powerful telepath. An old trick from her field medic review at the time came flooding back to her mind now. Removing his belt with the dexterity of frequent practice, Jaya folded it and shoved it into his mouth.

"Bite down, my love," she said, "because this is really going to hurt."

Like a Valkyrie descending from upon high, his vrou appeared from the darkness to his side, her beauty radiated from her as the edges of reality started going gray and black at the edges, further accentuating both her feminine grace and fierce determination. Before he knew it, hard ground was against his left side as his belt both loosened and the sharp, earthy tang of leather filled in his mouth. Something in the back of his mind laughed that a situation was reversed but it was just as quickly driven from him as a searing, agonizing pain burst from his leg, the gray and black blown away by white-hot anguish. He fought unconsciousness and blinked away the tears that mixed with blood on the floor.

Without brooking any protest, Jaya then swiped the combadge off Storr's chest and shoved it into the laceration on his thigh. One of the blaster rifles was only a few feet away, so she retrieved it, slid the power setting to below stun, and shoved the muzzle against the open wound. Despite the weak power level, the sustained fire superheated the combadge until it began to sizzle the flesh. Potentially disfiguring, but at least the bleeding stopped.

"Godverdoem that hurt," he said barely above a whisper, immediately following it up with a prayer of repentance. He was sure that God understood.

"I'm so sorry," Jaya said with tears in her eyes as she squeezed his hand. "We'll get you to a proper Sickbay as soon as we can. A doctor with a proper dermal regenerator can fix it, I'm sure." Yet, until then, Storr would have to slap his thigh to use his combadge.

Arianna caught Cal's eyes, then gave a silent 'good work' nod before focusing on the others. "Everyone alright?"

"I'm hundreds," Storr replied barely above a whisper, a short cough punctuating his words.

"We're still standing," Akiva said, then, noting Storr's predicament, added, "though I think we need to get to the infirmary. The entire station may be a warzone for all we know, so let's form up and proceed with caution."

The scent of burning flesh and piles of bodies gave Cal some unpleasant flashbacks, but he kept those to himself. "Everyone grab a weapon," he suggested, while he offered up his shoulder if Storr needed someone to lean on in order to move quickly. "We definitely need to get to an Infirmary," Cal agreed, a wry smile offered not in criticism but sheer pride in the other man's fortitude. "Need a hand?" he asked. "I'm not even sure how you're still conscious after that... battlefield medicking."

Garlake propped himself up first by his left arm then to a sitting position. Letting the humming in his ears and accompanying white flash subside, he placed a hand on Jaya's shoulder to steady himself. Smiling weakly at his slight yet stable bride, he turned and nodded to Cal. "I'm sure you'll slow me up but I suppose I'll take the offer. Give me a hand," the Commandant said, thrusting out his right hand towards the Betazoid. With a deep grunt, Cal and the Marine both pulled to get him to a standing position. He did his best to not put weight on his right foot during the maneuver but it happened anyway, Garlake nearly collapsing as he howled. Thankfully Cal was quick to wrap an arm around Garlake's waist and held him with all his might and Jaya joined in as well before the Afrikaner could clear his head and aid in the effort. Storr only had two inches on the rogue but at least 50 pounds so Cal's effort was considerable. It was all muscle, too. Mostly. Jaya's cooking and constant doting didn't always help tilt that scale in the correct direction.

"Thanks," was all he could muster towards Cal. He meant it.

Cal simply nodded, met the Marine's eyes for a long second and mustered all his physical energy for Support Team Duties. His mental energy reached outward, seeking any danger along their immediate future route.

Hearing Akiva's command, Storr noticed Frost bending down to retrieve a rifle from the recently departed.

"It'll be a cold day in hell when a Marine advances towards the enemy without a weapon. Ari, toss me one."

Arianna nodded, tossed her rifle to Nandi, then picked up another two which she tossed to Akiva and Storr before grabbing another one for herself. "I'll take point," she said as she stepped past everyone, checking her weapon.

This was a bad idea, her gut screamed at her. Her marksmanship was off, and she hadn't been the point person in decades. Since she'd been back in security, but the Colonel needed help from someone physically stronger than herself, which was Cal. It was down to the Captain and Ensign Chakma to bring up the rear while Cal and Jaya helped the Colonel.

Garlake thanked the good Lord that the rifle had a sling so he slung it over his shoulder and tucked the butt of the rifle under the armpit away from Jarsdel. While putting the stock under his arm was a good hasty stance for point shooting, it wasn't much for precision. Again, thankfully, it had a selector that included "Burst." God did indeed look out for fools, children, drunkards, and Marines.

He made no comment on Frost's suitability for point, but Cal noted that aura about the woman and the concern it gave off. With a casual tone, he added what he could to the mix of this ramshackle band they'd suddenly become. "I'll sound off if I pick up signs of trouble," he promised and tapped his free index finger to his skull. "Advance warning system works pretty well." That free hand still sported the borrowed rifle, and he was more than confident he could at least cause some trouble if the need arose. Cal suspected it would. Storr's weight was a burden, but the Marine was not a useless one.

Arianna checked her weapon silently thankful for Cal's offer, "any advantage we can get will be good." She said, then looked at the others, "everyone ready?"

"I think so," Akiva said. "Ensign, stay between me, Cal, and Storr. Arianna, lead us out."

 

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