Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 36, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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A quiet infiltration turning into a not so quiet... introduction.

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Chapter 36
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Daniel watched as Otto paused before the outer gate.

Mike and Tank were right next to Otto, but Daniel had kept a little further back. Mostly to keep an eye on foot traffic.

This part of the city was on the edge of the district. One of the entrances to the Gaps, that they knew about, not far away. The steam exhaust in the air and poor lighting made it difficult to see the nearby district wall or the ceiling above. Daniel had stopped trying to enable the bright dataspace adds, every wall was just another potential billboard and the visual pollution was just annoying.

The few other pedestrians out and about didn't seem much interested in being even slightly involved with the cloaked people at this gate.

Most people didn't seem to wear much for clothes unless they had too. Four people with cloaks were obviously trouble to anyone with half a brain.

Tank’s cone of vision swept across the street, and Mike was keeping an eye out as well. The occasional spark of static fizzled over the line from Otto's connection. The guy had been able to clean up most of his stuff after the cops had jumped them after their attack on Sapient Resources, but there were still little glitches Otto was dealing with. Still, Otto restricted his dataspace by necessity, the rest of them really didn't need to witness Otto's hacker fights. He'd share only when he unlocked useful utilities like surveillance, which he had already done in this case.

Speaking of which, Daniel refocused his attention to see a couple guards on their rounds outside the distribution warehouse. They weren't patrolling together, the idiots, but instead orbited from as far away from each other as they could. Otto had shared surveillance with the group, so Tank, Daniel and Mike would benefit from seeing everyone on the cameras. On the downside, Otto had made it clear he would be slower in the fight, as usual, as he worked to keep the cameras alive and the alarms dead.

They waited until the closest patrol passed the gate and moved on some distance. The tall gate could swing open to allow a car-sized hover if it needed to. Otto must have sent a command because the door hissed, vented some steam and then slowly retracted into the ground.

Tank pelted off towards the guard that had passed them moments earlier. The big green guy's claws and leg joints made him much faster in a dead sprint.

The guard, another of the crows, turned as he heard claws clacking on cement ground.

“Intercepted,” Otto noted. He'd blocked the alarm of the panicked bird.

“Oof,” Mike grunted as he flinched. Tank had simply crashed into the Veprutasian, trampling the smaller guy underfoot. Daniel couldn't help but grin at the brutal effectiveness.

At street level, the big building before them was only a single story tall. If they went left there was a built out section that contained the offices of the center. If they wrapped around to the right of the rectangular building they would come upon a small series of relatively small loading doors. The bulk of this building was below street level.

It was about five stories tall, all included. The provided floor plans showed there to be a huge hollow in the middle of the building for the sake of easy stock handling using anti-gravity utilities. Daniel was pretty curious to see how it looked actually. The plans also showed partial walkways on each 'floor’ and heavy racking that extended from the base floor to the ceiling. Some of those shelves didn't actually reach the base floor, allowing access to the primary docking platform.

Tank dragged the light Vep over to the group and Otto threw the bird over his shoulder, after pocketing the bird’s pistol. “He won't be needing this anymore,” Otto idly explained.

They circled around to the right of the building. Passing around one corner, Tank broke into a sprint once again. The second patroller was just about around the corner.

The bird turned the corner as Tank arrived.

It was a short but intense meeting.

“Sure livin’ up to his name,” Daniel laughed.

“Heh,” Mike laughed.

Mike took the second guard and they arrived at the entry door next to the small loading bays.

“Manifests and guards,” Otto reminded. “I'm still working on matching up the list Piderby left for us.”

“Gotcha,” Daniel agreed. Mike and Tank both just nodded. Some of the people in this building were just workers. It was Hatherkey's goons that were the targets here. Although… Daniel wasn't sure how bothered he would be if they hit some collateral targets with the background manipulation still working. The second target was to find the shipment and document what was found and sending that information to enforcement. Piderby suggested there were shady sources of equipment pushing stuff through this location for Hatherkey that would make the criminal lord look bad if it was pointed out.

The door opened at Otto's insistence and they headed in. Inside the door, the hallway immediately took off to the right. They ignored a doorway branching to the left, the worker entrance to the building offices. They headed down the open hallway. Not far in were a set of lockers for personal belongings and a break room just after that.

Mike and Otto headed through the break room. The stark white room held a counter with basic food provisions and some simple info terminals. Four long tables were surrounded by stools rather than chairs, although one table had reinforced benches for the Ytheon workers.

“What's botherin’ ya?” Daniel asked as the two exited the bathroom where they had dropped the bodies. Otto seemed unsettled by the room.

“Nothing much,” Otto replied. “Just used to seeing break rooms with fridges, billboards, vending machines, utilities and general mess…” he waved at the room. “Here we have a water dispenser, a mealball dispenser, stools, tables and… that's it. It feels dead.”

“Hunh,” Daniel grunted. The little gas station he worked at had a tiny, dingy office. His breakroom had been outside. But he could understand what Otto was getting at.

“Let's keep movin’,” Mike complained.

Tank lead the way down the short corridor. No one was in at this point in the day. A few more feet found them staring at another blank door with the warehouse on the other side and a little gear room in between. The door slid open to reveal a number of harness docking points, spots where a heavy harness would pick itself off and slot into a charger. There were ten sets of empty pegs. They passed through the room without issue.

“They are not moving,” Tank noted as he arrived at the last door. He picked a small package off his belt and unfolded some footwear he’d asked Atlatal to obtain for him. He crouched down to pull the complex clothing on, a set of sheaths that would deaden the sound his claws would make on the floor. The other thing would be keeping his tail off the ground, Kraltnin typically had a swishing, shuffling sound since they dragged their tails often. Usually, that didn’t matter, here it would.

“Waiting for a shipment I’d guess,” Mike volunteered, referring to where the workers had gathered.

The big group of ten workers was still gathered at the base level, waiting for whatever it was they expected to arrive. The Two Ytheon continued to watch the door, although Daniel grinned as he caught a flash of the second smacking the first one awake. Otto had pulsed the image to him and Mike as a little gift. A pair of Veprutasians standing back from the group of gamblers were suddenly tinted differently as Otto updated his information. Another two blips just on the outside of the loading bay identified a couple more thugs. A trio of gamblers also shifted to mark them as targets.

“Well, as far as them not moving, I’d like it to stay that way,” Otto commented. He hesitated a moment before continuing, “although I’m not sure if I’m more hopeful the Kashto stay put or finish before we get there.”

“Heh,” Mike laughed.

“I’ve got my fingers in the sensors,” Otto noted, “fields are good to go.”

The group of them activated their d-fields in short order. The things only really made noise and light if they struck power fields. Barring walking into a stray unshielded power conduit, just having the fields active was unlikely to give them away.

“I’m going,” Tank forestalled any further conversation as he stood up. He tapped on a sensor pad next to the door. It too slid open with a hiss and Tank led the way into the warehouse. Daniel was momentarily surprised at how bright it was. He’d probably watched too many cartoons. Rather than dark and dirty, this warehouse was clean and bright. Right as they stepped through the door they could see rows of heavy racking sticking out from the wall in front of them. This door came out near the edge of the building, limiting the vision further in. Just about any spot in the racking that had anything in it simply had a crate with two slots along the sides for easy grabbing with forks. They stepped forward further and they could see the wall at the end of the building. The racking along the first wall was set with walkways around it for foot access.

Just on the other side of the door was a small platform with a ramp leading downwards along the wall and a launchpad clearly made for airborne landing and take off with the guard rails set back from the edge. They headed down the ramp with care, taking their time to avoid making noise.

Heading away from the entry door their view of the warehouse quickly opened up. A little bit more to the left they could see where the racks ended and the open space began. Coming around the corner Daniel could see the opposite wall had no walkways and the racking extended from the ceiling to the floor.

“They must believe an attack would come from the dock if anywhere,” Otto mused.

“Seems weird tho’,” Daniel couldn't help but complain. “You'd think they were watchin’ since Red Tail was makin’ a big stink 'bout these attacks.”

Otto nodded as they spoke over their shared connection, “I hear what you're saying, I'm being as careful as I can here.”

“Which means we gotta keep an eye on the real world,” Mike added, “but don't worry Tank, we got you covered.”

“Just don't blink,” Daniel joked.

“I do not blink,” Tank replied straight-faced. The tip of his tail was twitching though.

The whole conversation happened naturally over the shared space. They were pretty much at the point that dataspace conversations happened as smoothly as vocal conversations and they sometimes didn’t even realize what mode they were using. As for actual sound right now, the whole group made barely more than a whisper as they moved across the walkway to the opposite wall. There were ramps between levels, although they didn't show much wear and tear. With most of the workers here being able to fly or catch a ride, there was little need for foot access, it was merely there 'just in case’.

“Swear I shoulda’ brought the scanner drone,” Daniel muttered over the connection.

The other option was dual gravity lifts in the center of the walkway, that would quickly take them all the way to the bottom if they liked. But the whole shaft would probably hum as soon as someone stepped in. A surefire way to give up the element of surprise.

Down a ramp and back to the other side they went. The group made sure to keep away from the edge of the walkway. While the hearing of everyone downstairs might not be remarkable, their vision was likely another matter. The dynamic sight of the Veprutasian workers was the most dangerous to them.

Down another ramp to the third floor they could see the office roughly in the center of the walkway. Two hover pads, essentially large hover scooters, were parked on the edge of the walkway. This was the office the two Kashto were watching their porn… although they had apparently moved past watching. The proximity and movement of the two…

Daniel lifted his hand but never had a chance to say anything.

“Yes, they are,” Otto sent with an audible sigh. “I guess the walls are soundproof at least.”

“I shall take care of them,” Tank volunteered.

“Remember to tuck your tail,” Otto replied, “I'll close the door behind you to reduce noise.”

“Sensible.”

Daniel crouched and crept up to the edge of the walkway and Mike did the same several feet away. They wanted to watch the bottom floor while Tank and Otto worked. Just peeking over the edge revealed an array of crates that appeared to be waiting for transport. The group at the bottom were chattering and throwing dice, although they seemed to be keeping things calm. They could see two of the guards at attention on the far side of the goods, the two birds not bothering to hide the light rifles in their arms.

“What kinda weapons they got?” Daniel asked.

“Probly’ plasma,” Mike replied. “The gun designs are all smooth and rounded, pulse guns are kinda blocky.”

“Yeah, makes sense,” Daniel agreed as he thought about it.

The door behind them hissed as it opened. There was a short delay before the Kashto responded.

“What? Who?” Asked a male voice.

“Where did you-?” A female voice asked at the same time.

Anything else was cut off by the door shutting closed. Tank captured the two, scaring them into a corner of the room. He then moved to the terminal for a moment. Daniel couldn't see the specifics of what the guy was doing just from his minimap.

“Module plugged in,” Tank sent.

“I see it,” Otto replied, “thanks big guy.”

Tank waited in the room as Otto started worming his way into the manager terminal.

Daniel had gotten comfortable, laying on his belly as he watched the base level. “Ain't no one noticed so far,” Daniel noted. “Still feels too easy.”

“Hmm,” Mike grumbled back.

“Food supplies it says?” Otto asked himself. “Somehow I don't think that's what's in those crates.”

“When we gonna make some noise?” Mike asked.

“Soon, you guys still want to do it your way?”

Daniel grinned. “Sure do.”

“Okay, Tank, can you shoot the spot I've highli- cool, there goes the terminal access,” Otto explained. “They won't be able to leave on their own when you exit the room.

There was the telltale hiss of a door opening. Daniel glanced in but could only see one of the Kashto quivering in a back corner of the room. A black weasel with spots of bright grey along their limbs.

“Enjoy your private time while it lasts,” Tank advised before clearing the door. They didn't respond and the door shut without them making a noise.

“Hmm,” Otto mumbled. “Lotsa stuff here, kinda wish I could browse.”

“Ain't a video game, can't just go lootin’,” Daniel chuckled.

“If only,” Otto agreed while Tank gave them both odd looks.

They descended the next ramp to the second level. From here they had to stay low and move slowly. They were close enough that it would be easy to make a sound and give themselves away.

“As per the plan,” Tank said mostly to himself. The gravity lift against the wall was active, but not in use. Daniel headed over and checked the pad next to the open shaft. It was kind of a relief to see up and down arrows like he'd expect on earth. A light on the back of the shaft displayed a down arrow to show what it was set to.

Mike, Daniel and Tank stopped in the middle of the walkway while Otto continued to the last ramp. Daniel and his brother waited at the shaft while Tank remained closer to the walkway edge. The big Kraltnin was quietly and slowly removing the socks that kept his claws from making noise on the hard walkways.

Otto reached the ramp. “Give it a couple minutes, it's almost time.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Mike replied.

The were working on a clock. All of these attacks were supposed to occur at the same time to confuse Hatherkey and split possible reinforcements. Just waiting was much more tense than Daniel expected. It was easier when they were climbing down. Now all of a sudden he was worried about one of the birds or Kraltnin or Ytheon needing to go to the bathroom or something. Anything that would give the group away.

“Okay, anytime should be good now. You guys call it.”

“Heh, going,” Daniel responded. Mike sighed, he already knew what was coming. That just made Daniel grin. The pair of them stepped into the gravity lift. It hummed to life and they had to use the walls to turn themselves around. It carried them down gently.

They landed on the base floor facing the group of workers and guards. Daniel's grin widened as he looked at all of them just gazing at the Humans in stunned surprise.

“Hey guys, I hope you don't mind my friend… dropping in.”

One of the guards in the back opened his beak.

Tank jumping from the upper walkway interrupted the bird. The big Kraltnin's aim was perfect, he landed on one of the thugs in the middle of the group, crushing the unfortunate Vep into a mangled mess.

“[Get down, close your eyes],” Tank ordered.

The regular workers did as they were commanded. The group of them dropped to the floor, shutting their eyes, most of them putting their arms, or wings, over their heads. All of them were wearing bulky harnesses with extra arms except for the two Kraltnin.

The guards sent out their alarm. With Otto watching the space, they all saw it go out. At the same time, Hatherkey's Veprutasian thugs raised their weapons.

It was the two next to Tank that got dealt with first. As the two birds pulled pistols a hefty foot struck one in the chest and a whipping tail smacked the wing of the other..a quick turn and stab from Tanks blast spear meant both of them were out of the fight.

Sixteen drones activated moments after. Simple defence drones loaded with pulse weapons. The drones dropped from mounts on the upper ceiling and under the walkways. The grey metal balls caught themselves with anti gravity and the round shells split open to reveal a small sensor array with a weapon mounted under the middle of the drone.

The closest drones started firing pulse rounds on the group without hesitation. Tank jumped backwards to join his field with the brothers and to move himself away from collateral injury.

One drone blew up as Otto took aim and shot it out of the air. The balls were moving slowly and their aim was questionable at best. Otto had spent his time waiting by messing with the things Daniel suspected.

While the two guards inside opened fire, their weapons were unable to get past the layered d-fields. Daniel wasn't paying attention though. He and Mike were waiting. When the two Veprutasian guards came in from outside they found themselves under fire from the brothers.

But only by plasma. The kinetic rifles were on reserve in case things got serious.

The crows returned fire and the air was filled with energy projectiles and the arcing of plasma across deviation fields. Then the brothers split off from Tank. The crows were blinking away the light and visual noise put off by the plasma weapons and ended up slow to react

Mike made short work of his target. The blast spear passed through the field and caught the bird full in the chest. The impact blew the bird off his feet and by the time he hit the ground he was nothing but a corpse. A moment later Mike had to jump backwards to avoid the arms of the Ytheon from outside smashing into the floor. There was a blast similar to that let off by Mike's spear when the big Ox-minotaurs hands hit the floor.

Daniel had tackled his Veprutasian. The bird apparently never expected it. Daniel’s shoulder caught the bird right in the sternum and the rifle in Daniel's hand blew a hole in the bird from point blank. He kept moving though. If Daniel stayed put he'd be in the range of the other Ytheon guard.

A second and third drone was blasted out of the air by Otto. A fourth would follow moments later, but the rest were joining the party.

“How's the video?” Mike asked as he took a stab at the big brute attempting to smash him into paste.

“Nice and flashy,” Otto replied, blasting another virus-infected drone out of the air.

“Tank! You can have mine,” Daniel shouted as he left the corpse of the bird behind and continued on his way to the Veps in the middle of the room. The second d-field emitter was heating up pretty quick, Daniel could feel the sweat soaking into his shirt under the heatsink.

It was Tank’s field that blew first, but the primary emitter activated in the same instant, preventing him from catching any projectiles with his body. It was the extra emitter in the cache Piderby had shared that blew up.

Otto had walked out front by this point. His harness limb held the shield out front, just beyond his d-field. He knelt to steady his aim and continued taking careful measured shots.

Tank turned to face the problem Daniel had left him. Mike continued to dance around the one trying to explode him by punching. The Ytheon didn't have any ranged weaponry. What they had were gauntlets. Gauntlets with big coil packs on the back of their meaty hands. The gauntlets went all the way up to their elbows as well. That and the obvious big and bulky d-field emitters on their harnesses.

“They're kinda slow,” Mike commented as another fist swung past him, “but Jesus I don't want that to hit me.”

“Accurate assessment,” Tank agreed as he stabbed at his opponent. The big guard deflected the spear away with the back of a gauntlet but the action fouled his return strike.

The two blackbirds in the middle of the floor had taken to the air. They transferred the lightwieght rifles to their feet with practiced ease and rose up out of melee range before Daniel could get in close. It looked awkward, the way they were holding the rifles, but their aim wasn’t bad considering. Several shots pelted off Daniel’s field as he tried to get closer.

“Heh,” Otto laughed grimly over the shared connection. There were nine of the sixteen drones left. They all turned and opened fire on one of the two airborne Veprutasians. Daniel followed suit, lighting the birds field up with his own plasma rifle. Moments later there was a fizzle and a pop as one of the d-fields went down. In the next moment, the bird was riddled with energy projectiles and came tumbling to the floor. The birds had much lighter d-fields than the oxmen or the crew.

The second Veprutasian dropped the rifle from his feet and let himself fall to the floor.

Mike stepped inside another haymaker from the Ytheon, driving his spear into the chest of the big creature. The blast threw Mike back more than it staggered his opponent, but the Ytheon bellowed in pain and the bubble signifying the range of his d-field lit up and then popped as his harness blew. The blow itself wasn’t as direct as Mike may have liked, failing to take the Ytheon out entirely.

Tank avoiding a straight punch from his own Ytheon opponent, dodging to the outside and jabbing the Ox in the armpit. This strike was much more on target and the second one screamed as the impact blew chunks of fur and flesh outwards.

“Harness off,” Daniel ordered the remaining healthy bird. He walked around the Veprutasian in order to get a look at the whole situation.

Two Ytheon on the ground, one badly injured and one quickly bleeding out. All the Veprutasian guards but one dead and the workers laying with limbs over their heads on the floor. The last crow got the harness off and dropped to the floor with the other workers, laying his wings over his head.

“You, and you,” Tank said, poking the two Kraltnin workers with his tail. “[Stand up, begin opening these crates that are waiting to go].”

The two Whites jumped up and both of them paused and gawked when they got a good look at Tank. “Yes sir!” one even replied, instantly going from terrified to awed and honoured. They ran to a cabinet at the base of the ramp down to the floor, a cabinet Otto was still standing near. The Kraltnin each grabbed a bar and hurriedly returned to the crates.

“I still don’t like it,” Daniel muttered over the shared space. “I know, uhhh, Pid, said they’d probly’ have guys waitin’ to rush in to help wherever, but I still think I shoulda grabbed the drone.”

“Daniel watch our way from there,” Otto suggested, pointing at the far side of the crates, “And Mike watch Daniel’s way. I expected more guys here too, but there’s no reason we can’t keep the mark 1 eyeball working at least.” As Otto talked, their perception extended to the outside of the building. They would need to watch for incoming reinforcement after all, and they could borrow the building surveillance for that. “Let’s see what toys we can find before help arrives.”

Daniel backed up further into the warehouse, coming to lean on one of the racking pillars that went straight from the floor to the ceiling. Mike rested on the wall right next to the gravity lift they had dropped through to arrive on the bottom floor. The pair of them settled in to watch.

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In a crate on the second level up from the base floor, the aperture of a small lens on the side of a crate narrowed. Having seen how quickly that fight was, he was happy to have remained out of sight. The simple, brutal efficiency of the combatants had laid the idea of spreading support around to rest. Too bad that decision had already been made.

Although he found himself wondering just which other locations had actually been hit. This warehouse had been about fourth on the expected list of targets. Red Tail had been making plenty of noise about a few different places.

But he wasn't about to connect to dataspace to find out. That would be near suicide with those four down there. That Human would not miss that connection if he dared to make it. The two Kraltnin popped open another box and the Operator glanced into that one with the visor he had slipped on from a hook hidden underneath the cloak on his back. Probably a scanner for someone else to identify the packaged goods. The big man stopped at one point and went back to the second crate, he picked out a tall cylinder in a large carry case, slinging it over his back.

“What’s that for?” Asked the Human near the grav lift.

“For making an apology, I didn’t expect to find one of these,” Replied the Operator. “I’ll tell you more when this is over.”

“Okay.”

Most of the crates were typical smaller cargo crates like the one he was hiding in. Large enough for a typical Sapient to hide within, with just enough room to be almost comfortable. But as he watched the two Kraltnin arrived at the large crate, an object about twice as large as most of the rest of the boxes. The two Whites went to opposite sides of the crate and socketed the cargo bars into the locks. With a synchronized turn the lid of the crate rose up, lifted by the built-in extension bars in each corner.

“Hmm, A drone of some kind,” The Operator mused out loud. The group clearly had a shared space going, the only time they spoke aloud was conversational.

He could spy on the Operator when the Human acted through the building dataspace, but his encryption cracking had failed to decipher the signal their shared space was putting off. That Human was using package constructs of a sort not usually seen in use by common criminals. It was likely military or a special kind beyond that. If it wasn’t, then he’d already be into that shared communication.

“What kind of drone is this?” the Green Primary Kraltnin asked, the tip of his tail curling slightly as he leaned over the edge of the box.

“Hmmm, good question,” The Operator responded.

The watcher knew of course, and he wasn’t happy they were seeing this particular drone. It was supported and anchored by an assembly of brackets keeping it cushioned in the middle of the crate. A military model, roughly the size of the Human looking down at it. It had a rectangular body, although the edges were rounded. Along the sides were mounted cylindrical guns and a flexible lens and sensor assembly was mounted on the front. It had a pair of arms mounted on the sides underneath those guns, they were difficult to see as arms, a result of the limbs being locked against the sides of the drone.

The Human leaned in closer. “It’s currently powered down. Not much to play with when it’s like that.”

The watcher picked up his nullifier rifle. If that Human tried converting the drone, he might have to consider taking a shot… well, two shots. One with the nullifier to knock out the deviation field, then another with the plasma rifle to kill the Operator. Success was not guaranteed. Upon further consideration, he put the weapon down. They were using back-ups, the Kraltnin had popped a field part way into the fight. The Humans likely all a similar equipment set. A little extra weight rarely bothered a Human.

Which meant that he could probably kill the Green, but then the Humans would catch him...

The operator leaned in and pulled open a panel just behind the sensor array and camera of the drone, tapping on a couple controls. “Hmm… no power…”

His enhanced hearing could pick it up when the Human actually spoke at least. And yes, there was no power. It would be found in another of the crates. Crates those Kraltnin had continued opening.

The group continued to sift through the stock, occasionally stealing the items within whenever something caught their interest. It was when the Kraltnin were opening up the last of the boxes that the remaining Veprutasian guard did something stupid. Not that he could be blamed. They’d been given an ultimatum of course.

The Vep jumped to his feet in an attempt to attack the Operator. The lank Human standing just under the crate he was hiding in had been watching the Veprutasian closely and wasn’t surprised by the action. With ease the Human raised the barrel of the weapon in his hands and fired upon the Veprutasian.

“Shoulda known that weren’t gonna work,” Daniel said with a shrug of his shoulders.

The Human and the Green Primary both returned to rooted around and inspecting the shipment. They all froze as a new signal arrived, one the Watcher was waiting for. Reinforcements had arrived

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End Chapter
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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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