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A Marine's Story Part 9

"The Last, Lonely, Stand"

The ramp sealed itself with a sharp hiss. “Joe?” Dale asked. Joe turned around to face him. “Yeah.” “What’s going on?” To be honest, Joe didn’t even know. What was Drake thinking? Send him with two marines and a Firebat, behind Zerg lines to recover a scout. “I don’t know.” Joe replied, “Drake said we have to recover a Toss scout.” “Just us?” the marine Joe didn’t know asked. The marine raised his visor to revile short jet black hair and almond eyes. Joe nodded. “What’s your name solider?” “Private First Class Gadon Verdas, sir.” he snapped a salute. Joe waved him down. The ship gave a huge jerk knocking them all off their feet. “Hold on back there. Zerg are on our asses and closing fast.” the pilots voice came on over the comm system. The ship gave another jerk and threw them all to the port side. If it hadn’t been for his armor Joe’s back would have surely broken. He quickly climbed up before the ship could jerk him in another direction and said back to his men, “The pilot must have some idea what’s going on.”

He made his way into the small corridor that lead to the cockpit. Yet another jerk threw Joe up against the wall but he regained his footing fast and pulled himself into the cockpit. Outside the windshield Joe could see spines and glave wurms shooting past. “Pilot.” Joe shouted. She didn’t look back but said, “Listening sir.” she wore a brown leather flight cap with its goggles pulled over her eyes. Light blonde hair poked out from under the cap. “Who are you? Do you have any idea what’s going on?” “Sergeant Amy DelVorna, and I don’t know any more than you do sir, Stack said he was sending you on a mission and that I was to-” she dove to narrowly avoid a glave wurm, “-escort you there, wait till you found what you were looking for, then fly you back.” “Wait, Stack told you? Drake is the one who ordered the rescue.” “I don’t know sir. Stack called me up and told me to pick you guys up.” If Joe had a bad feeling about this rescue, it felt even worse now. How would Stack know about this mission? He was supposed to be giving his attention to his line of bunkers not to finding Protoss scouts. He had a very bad feeling about this. “Where exactly are you taking us?” Joe asked as the pilot leveled out. “About two clicks south of what’s left of our base.” Joe shook his head, “This doesn’t seem right.” “Your telling me. I thought we’d be Bengalaas shit by now. The Zerg pursuing us just broke off and went back to the base. Weird, like something wants us kept alive.” “Weird.” Joe whispered. And retreated back into the cargo bay.

Success. The base has fallen. The Zerg are victorious once again. Stack was in front of what was left of the central command center with Drake. “Sir it’s time to retreat. Luckily the Spaceport is still operational. We can escape to fight another day.” Drake stood there, Mike Patterson right next to him with his radio on his back. Slowly, Drake started to nod. “Sir everyone that can be evacuated is, except us. There’s one Dropship docked and that’s for us. Now lets hurry.”

He lead Drake, with Patterson trailing behind them, to the Spaceport. He was completely under his control now. The weakness of the human mind. Stack smiled to him self but quickly erased it. When they reached the Space port entrance he ushered Drake inside. As he watched Drake ascend the stairs to the roof he held out his arm and blocked Mike’s path. “What the hell man? Lets move, we gotta get outta here!” he shouted. Stack took three steps forward and turned heel. Facing his foe. Mike just stared at him. Stack brought his rifle up and pointed it at Patterson’s chest. His eyes widened, staring down the barrel. For the longest time they just stood there until the expression on Mike’s face changed. He started to understand. Stack let a smile creep upon his face. “Too late.” he whispered to Mike and pulled the trigger.

The marine was blown back off his feet and landed a few feet away from where he once stood. Blood bubbled up from the hole in his chest and a pool preceded under him. Stack turned his back on his dieing foe and walked up the stairs. Reaching out with his mind he contacted his broodlings “We have won the battle. Pull back now and await further orders.” He reached the Dropship and jumped into the cargo bay as the door started to close. They were off. Drake and himself were the only two in the ship. The captain sat in a seat, head in his hands. “God please make sure Joe is alright.” “That’s right!” Stack thought to himself. Joe would soon be in the trap he’d set and being devoured by his minions. Poor thing. If only he was there once he finally figured out it was himself ,Stack, that destroyed this base. He relished the thought. “Don’t worry sir.” Stack said reassuringly, “I’m sure he’ll be just fine.” Phase two of Kerrigan’s plan would unfold as soon as he and Drake were on Tarsonis. A slow smile crept across his face as he called his Zerg, telling them their prey was on its way.

“Load up on ammo back there, we land in five.” the pilot’s voice came over the comm. The rest of Joe’s men looked over at him. He nodded and they all got up. As they reached the storage compartments they slid open to reveal all sorts of ammo. Watching his men sift through the compartment he slid his hand to his belt to check his ammo. He had two extra drums on his belt. Did he really spend three drums in that bunker? Bringing up his rifle up he checked how much was left in there. “043” flashed up on the screen. Not enough for Joe. He popped out his drum and pulled a fresh one from his belt. “150” replaced the former number in an instant. Joe looked up to see Dale and Verdas returning to their seats, belts full of rifle and pistol rounds.

But something Joe hadn’t noticed before came to his attention. The Firebat hadn’t moved. “Firebat, name and rank.” Joe barked. The bat looked up and replied, “Corporal Paul Arenes sir.” “Arenes, grab a rifle and ammo.” The bat looked insulted, “Sir, I am a Firebat, I was only trained to use these-” he shook his wrists, shaking the nozzles, “-I was put through Neural Resocialization.” Joe remembered the faster, yet painful, way to train common soldiers like marines, Medics, and Firebats. The program was only to be used under extreme circumstances and focused on teaching the “learner” only the things that were needed of him at that moment. Neural Resocialization could also be used to erase a persons memory if that interfered with the mission. “I understand Arenes but, if we run into hostiles, and I’m sure we will, we’ll need more than three rifles.” Standing up he sighed, “Sir, I’ve never fired a gun before.” “Here’s the crash course,” Joe got up, grabbed a gauss rifle and tossed it to him, “you look through the sights, line up a Zerg, and pull the trigger.” The Firebat didn’t look to happy about his new weapon but he didn’t protest. “Grab some ammo.” Joe ordered. Arenes walked past Joe and began sifting through all the bins and containers as Joe ran his computer to check on his armor.

Nothing major to be concerned about. A few spine punctures but nothing that caused damage. His battery was a little under half as well. “Ah sir? We’ve got a problem.” Arenes said. Joe turned to see him holding up two drums of ammo. “Only two left sir.” “Any C-10 rounds?” “Tons, but no gun.” “Damnit. I’m running low as well.” Joe stated. “We’ll share what we found.” Dale spoke up. “No,” Joe answered, “that’s the only weapon you two have. Me and Arenes got other options. We’ll split what’s left.” The bat nodded and tossed a drum to Joe. He caught it as Amy came onto the comm. “ Lock and load boys. Ten secs till drop. Opening drop doors now.” The two doors in the middle of the floor started to slid open. “Alright I go down first. Verdas you follow, then Arenes, then Dale.” Joe instructed. The men nodded and closed their visors. Joe did as well. “Go.” Amy shouted. Joe jumped out the hole in the floor and watched the ground fly by him as he fell.

Joe hit the ground with a ‘thud’ and quickly rolled to his right to give Verdas room to land. He rolled onto his knee and brought his rifle up. Amy dropped them in a narrow canyon. With sheer walls to his left and right, hundreds of feet high. Clear. Not a thing in sight but rocks and dust. That’s all that was on this damn planet. Rocks and dust. And Zerg. But no Zerg to be seen. A loud ‘thud’ informed Joe that Arenes had dropped. He turned to see his bright red and yellow armor roll out of the way to give Dale room. “Stack just sent me the last know coordinates of the Toss. Uploading to your armor now.” Amy wired the point to Joe and the yellow arrow zoomed across his HUD and stopped straight ahead. But all Joe could see was a stone wall of the canyon. It must bend up ahead. “I’ll be right over head of you guys. The path winds up ahead and appears to come to a nice wide opening before narrowing again.” Joe looked up to see her close the drop doors and speed off toward the direction of the arrow. “Can you see him from where you are?” Joe asked. “Negative sir. It’s pretty shadowed up ahead though, so he might be.” “Any Zerg?” “Not from what I can see but this doesn’t seem right. Find this damn Toss and buzz me when you do. I’ll pick you up and we’ll be on our way home.” “Copy that. Tarn out.” Joe took another quick look around before rising and motioning for his men to follow. Walking as slowly and quietly as he could he reached the bend and peered around it. Nothing. He proceeded. Amy was right, these canyons were really shadowed. It was getting late and the sun just wasn’t getting into this canyon. He had a hard time seeing.

Tapping the button on his chest he turned on his shoulder lights. In a second he regretted doing it. Caught in his lights was a body, or what was left of a body. It was so twisted and deformed that if it hadn’t been for the twin Psi blades on the wrists he wouldn’t have been able to tell it was a Protoss. It looked like something took a huge knife and just sliced the Zealot down the middle. Dark blue blood still oozed out of the tremendous wound. Both of the Toss’s eyes, which are normally glowing, were dim and lifeless. Both of the Protoss’s legs were severed and lying a few feet from were he laid. “Holy shit.” Arenes’s voice came from behind him. “Is he our boy?” Dale asked. “I have no idea.” Joe knelt down next to the warrior and shook him and checked his pulse. As if expecting a something. Nothing came from the being. “This isn’t where the scout was last seen but we could be wrong.” Joe stood back up. “We’ll take a quick look over there,-” Joe pointed in the direction of the arrow,“-then I’ll call in our ride.” “Sir can’t we just leave now?” Verdas asked, with a hint of panic in his voice. “No. We’ll check out the opening ahead and then we leave.” “But sir-” Verdas started. “Hey,” Dale interjected, “You’ve got one of the best officers in this military leading you, so you be damn happy he’s here. He’s been through three battles, coming close to death each time, and coming out victorious over the Zerg. He‘s one of the few officers I‘d trust my life to.” Verdas stopped and closed his mouth. One thing bothered Joe about what Dale just said. It was true he’d been through three battles but he’s lost of men in all battles. Joe forced the thought out of his mind. “Alright shut up marines and lets move. I don’t wanna be here anymore than you do. But we have a job to do, and the marines I lead always get the job done.” Joe took one last look at the Protoss warrior and then walked off toward the next bend.

Stopping again at the bend he peered around it. Nothing. He did notice it was getting lighter though. A beam of light extend beyond the next bend. This must be the area that widened enough for light to come in. Looking around the last bend he saw that the canyon widened to about two football fields in width. But before it did Joe noticed two rocks on either side of the bottle neck and a stone arch above them. Joe crouched down and inches his way over to the rock closest to him. His marines followed and took defense positions against the rocks. Dale poked his head above the rock slowly to survey the canyon. “What do you see Corporal?” His eyes widened, “Lieutenant I see the Scout!” Dale exclaimed excitedly, “And I think he’s alive!” “Any sign of the Zerg?” Joe asked. “No sir.” “Alright here’s the plan. Verdas and Balsitis, you two stay here and keep a look out. Arenes and I will go out there and retrieve the scout.” Dale and Verdas nodded and Joe started an all-out sprint for the Toss. The servos in his armor squeaked and whined as he pushed them to their limits. As he drew nearer he saw the Protoss was in a lot better shape than the last. Both his legs were attached and looked capable of moving. The numerous cuts and cracks in his armor expanded and closed as he took in breath. When Joe was within a few yards of him he looked his direction. Immediately he activated his Psi blades in defense. “Back monsters.” He shouted. He voice was frail and weak. Joe ignored the warning and replied, “I am Lieutenant Joe Tarn, of the 390th infantry division, C company. We’re here to get you out.” Finally they could leave this place. Joe knelt down next to the alien and he disabled his blades. “You don’t understand young warrior.” the templar stated, “This is a trap!” “He’s right.” a booming voice echoed in his head. A sharp pain erupted in his brain it felt like someone was driving a sword straight through his skull. Joe keeled over onto his back in pain. “What’s happening?” Joe shouted. “Oh what’s the matter? Can’t handle a little pain?” Stack’s voice laughed in his mind, “Fine. It’ll be a little difficult to converse with you if can’t even respond.” The pain stopped and he opened his eyes. Joe was in an all white room but he couldn’t see where the walls meet the ceiling. Stack was standing in front of him laughing. “Stack what the hell is going on?” Joe asked, fearing the answer. Stack laughed even harder, “You mean you haven’t figured it out yet. You’ve even seen a vision reveling what I am, and you still don’t know? I guess you’ll learn as Patterson did. Right before he died.” Joe began to question what Stack meant by that when something happened. It felt like a door that had been locked to him for a long time had been opened, and everything behind it flashed before Joe’s eyes in a second. It was all clear now. Joe hung his head and said quietly “You bastard.” Stack stopped laughing. “You killed him. You killed everyone at that base. You’re responsible for everything that’s happened on this god damn planet.” Stack’s face turned serious, “Well congratulations marine. You finally figured it out. It took you long enough.” “Jon and Tiffany too?” “Yes indeed marine. I saw their bunker explode myself.” Joe was shaking now “I’m going to kill you.” “What was that?” Stack asked tilting his head, pretending to care. “I said I’m going to kill you.” Joe growled, raising his head, “You’re kind took my whole family and now you’ve taken away from me the only family I had left. I am going to kill you.” Stack gave that disgusting smile again “I think you might find that rather difficult lieutenant. Seeing as how there are Zerg burrowed all around you, eagerly awaiting my command to tear you and your men into shreds.” Joe’s eyes widened. Stack’s smile broadened, “Goodbye Joe.”

Joe’s eyes closed again but instantly he knew he was no longer with Stack. He was being shook too. “Sir? SIR!” Arenes was yelling. Before Arenes could finish his next ‘sir’ Joe was up, on his feet yelling, “Grab an arm, we got Zerg burrowed all around us!” The bat was frozen for a moment but as Joe grabbed the Toss’s left arm he sprung into action. Immediately they were off. Sprinting back to Dale and Verdas. “Dale,” Joe commed, “Zerg are burrowed all around us. Hold position till we get there. Cover us on our run.” Dale’s response was a little slow, “Alright. Holy shit. Joe you guys run your asses off. They’re coming up.” Verdas raised his rifle and took aim, Dale followed shortly after. “Amy get over here now! We got Zerg up to our necks here.” Joe shouted over the rifles. “Copy that lieutenant. I have to pick you up where I dropped you off. Everything in between is too narrow.” Joe slid behind a rock and let go of the Toss. “Copy that.” Joe yelled.

Turning back toward the canyon he was stunned. An insane amount of Zerglings and Hydralisks had burrowed up from the ground and approaching them fast. There was no way in hell that three marines, a Firebat, and crippled Toss could survive that rampage. Tossing his rifle to Arenes, who had laid the Toss down and was taking aim. “Dale, get the Toss back to the evac point.” Joe ordered pulling out his rocket launcher. Slinging his rifle over his shoulder, Dale picked up the Protoss and ran back toward the extraction point. “Fall back everyone. Fall back.” Joe roared. Firing at the closest pack of Lisks, he turned the ground they once stood on into a dark red pit. But more Zerg charged through the dark, bloody mist without hesitation. “Fall back.” Joe repeated setting his sights on the archway above.

Once Arenes and Verdas were clear he let the round loose. It smashed into the middle of the archway sending huge boulders raining down on the unsuspecting Zerg. The boulders crushed the Zerg under their tremendous weight and blocked the path. Verdas and Arenes picked off the few Zerg that made it by before the rocks came down. Joe turned around and started to run. His men pursued. “That won’t hold them for long.” Joe stated. As they reached the first bend he said, “Alright, I’ll stay here and hold them as long as I can. Verdas I want you at the next bend waiting to give me cover. I’ll break as soon as they start to overrun me. We’re trying to buy Dale and the Toss time to get on the Dropship. So, Arenes, give me a wall of fire to give them time.” Nodding, the bat tossed Joe’s rifle back to him and threw his own to the ground. Squeezing the triggers on his gloves, he sent a jet of fiery death ten to fifteen yards from Joe’s bend. “That’s good.” Joe yelled over the noise, Arenes stopped and picked his rifle back up. “Alright move. Verdas, you’re at the next bend. Arenes, help Balsitis get the Toss on the ship.” Both sprinted off without delay.

Joe turned back and took cover around the bend. When he looked beyond the burning wall of fire he saw that the Zerg were starting to make their way over the top of the rock pile. Mainly Zerglings because they were small and agile but a few Hydras. Joe Lifted his rifle up and began to fire through the flames. The Zerg were confused with what to do next. With a wall of rock behind them and a wall of fire in front with Impaler spikes flying through the flames.

Soon though, the more intelligent and ballsie, Lisks started to slither through the fire. Singeing their flesh and sending an extremely foul smell into the air. Joe had a bigger problem than burning Lisks though. The fire Arenes had started was getting weaker. Two Zerglings jumped over the dieing inferno and ran straight for Joe. Taking aim he pulled the trigger and sent seven rounds into its carapace. The other leap for him once his brood mate fell. Joe didn’t have time to shoot this one down so he side stepped behind the bend. The Ling flew right past him and skidded on the loose ground. Swinging his rifle around he fired and sent the Zerg into the great beyond. Turning back around the bend he saw five more Zerglings have jumped over the fire.

Joe decided that he could no longer hold this position. He turned and ran back to Verdas’s position. A high pitched scream sounded from behind Joe. A Zergling. Even with his armors servos and inner motors he still was no match for the Zerglings speed. Another scream signaled to Joe that two Zerglings were now rushing after him. Ahead, Joe saw Verdas take aim and fire. A shriek of pain and death sounded inches from Joe’s head. He caught the Zerg in mid air! But something rammed into Joe’s back knocking him to the ground.

Rifle sliding far out of his reach, he rolled over to see the Zergling that hit him leap into the air and land right on Joe’s chest, sinking one of its claws right above Joe’s left hand and using the other to tear away at Joe‘s chest. In addition to the terrible pain that was shooting through his arm, he couldn’t move it. The Zergling raised his head to strike. Joe’s right arm shot for his sidearm and, before he knew it, it was pressed up against the Zerg’s soft underbelly. Joe’s shots echoed off the solid canyon walls. The Zerglings lifeless body collapsed onto Joe. Dropping his pistol he pulled the claw out of his arm, freeing it.

As Joe got up his stim packs kicked in. The stim numbed the pain in his arm instantly. Grabbing his rifle he raced back to Verdas. The marine held fast, firing at the Zerg appearing around the bend. Joe took a knee next to the marine and started shooting. Two rifles was definitely better than one but even their combined fire power didn’t stem the tide of blood thirsty Zerg. Soon after joining Verdas, Joe found himself yelling, “Fall back.” over the sound of there guns. Both marines ran in all out sprint back toward the evac point.

After rounding the finale bend Joe would have breathed a sigh of relief, if he had any breath. Joe saw the dark blue Dropship hovering a few feet off the ground with Dale and Arenes rushing out to give them cover. Halfway to the Dropship a high pitched scream came from the bend. Arenes and Dale opened up on them. Spines whizzed past as Joe was only a few yards from the cargo bay doors. Joe leapt up and landed inside, his boots slamming hard against the metal floor. Turning around, Joe saw Verdas trying the same move.

Joe saw it. The Hydralisk as it opened up its chest cavities and expel its deadly arsenal at Verdas. Everything slowed down for that one moment. Joe watched as the super sonic spines penetrated Verdas’s armor. One spine shot straight through the back of Verdas’s helmet and shatter the glass as it came out the front. The marine went limp in the air. With the life fading fast from Verdas he loosened his grip on his rifle and landed face first on the hard steel floor. He skidded to a halt just before the entrance to the cockpit. He was dead.

Dale and Arenes continued to fire, oblivious to the fact the one of their squad mates just died. The Zerg were approaching fast as well. Coming closer and closer with each passing second. “Fall back, we need to get out of here.” Joe ordered. But as Joe gave that order a Zergling broke free of the wall of lead the soldiers were creating and closed in on Dale. Joe raised his rifle to fire but the Zergling was so close he risked hitting Dale as well. Dale swung his rifle around to shoot the Zerg but he was too late. The Ling grabbed hold of Dale drove its head straight through Dale’s visor. With one quick motion the Zerg thrust its claw through the hole in the visor and through Dale’s exposed face.

He gave an odd jerk and fell to the ground. “NO!” Joe shouted. Dale gave no response. He just laid there on the ground. Still and limp. Dead. Arenes had abandoned his rifle and began spraying down his targets with jets of napalm. Hitting the button to close the cargo bay door Joe ordered, “Arenes, get your ass in here NOW!” The Firebat didn’t need to be told twice. He leapt into the transport as spines bounced off its hull. “Amy, get us outta here.” “You got it sir.” The engines roared and the nose tipped up as the ship pulled out of the canyon. Arenes caught the sight of Verdas lying dead on the floor. Kneeing down beside him he turned him onto his back. Arenes swore under his breath and hung his head. Joe looked at the dead marine. His face was pale and his eyes dilated with the light. The spine that killed him exited his skull right above his left eye. “We failed sir.” Arenes sobbed, “We failed the mission. The Toss is dead.” Joe jerked his head around toward where the Protoss was sitting, and sure enough he had two long spines sticking out of his neck. But something was weird about him. Joe moved a bit closer. The aliens chest was moving. He was breathing! “Hey come Protoss. You awake?” The Protoss shook his head, “Barely. I won’t last much longer.” “Yes you will, come on stay focused. What’s your name?” There was a long pause before the being answered “Ky. Ky Vela.” his voice was weak. “Ok Ky what were you doing out there?” “Recon…” he trailed off. “No Ky. No don’t go.” But as soon as Joe finished speaking the light in the templar’s eyes slowly went out like his bulbs burned out. Joe staggered backwards. He’d lost everything. There was only one thing left for him to do. Kill Stack. “I’m sorry sir. We-we failed.” Arenes sobbed over Verdas’s corpse. Joe was hesitant to tell the bat this, “Corporal, there never was a mission.” He looked up. His eyes were full of tears, “Wh-what do you mean sir?” “This whole thing was a trap. Set by Stack. He wanted to kill me and finish off my company. He’s responsible for the destruction of our base and the death of these two men today.” “Why would he do that?” “He’s infested.” Before Arenes had a chance to feel outraged an explosion shook the ship violently. Red lights started flashing and sirens blared. The pipes along the inside of the cargo bay burst and sprayed their fluids into the bay as the ship started to spiral downward. “We’ve been hit.” Amy’s voice came over the comm, “We’re going down. I’m losing her. BRACE FOR IMPACT!”

The ship slammed into the surface of the planet and Joe was flung against the port wall again. This time he was almost certain he broke his back. When he tried to move he realized he was stuck. A steel beam sliced straight through his right leg. But, fortunately for Joe, it didn’t go through his leg. The beam struck a part in his armor where only wires and circuits ran. He reached down and freed his leg from its captor. The whole ship was on a slant. Verdas’s body had slid to the left side of the ship along with Arenes. The Protoss, who was fastened into his seat remained where he died.

Walking over to Arenes Joe commed Amy “Amy, come in.” No answer. “Amy, come in. Are you alright?” Still no answer. Joe turned his attention to Arenes. “Arenes, get up.” Joe said. The Firebat slowly, but surely got to his feet. Joe’s suit started beeping. His computer informed him there was a massive amount of rocket fuel spilling into the cargo bay. A spark of any size could set the blast off. Moving toward the cargo bay door Joe said, “Arenes we gotta get outta here this thing is going to explode.” Hitting the open door key some wires shorted out behind him. Joe, with every inch of his body, prayed that it didn’t set off the fuel. When it didn’t Joe breathed a sigh of relief. Amazingly the door opened with no problem and the two men ran out into the sun.

When the soldiers got to a 50 yard distance the ship exploded in a ball of fire. Both men stopped to watch it. “Where’s the pilot?” Arenes asked, “Was she alright.” Joe shook his head. “Come on Arenes. Lets go.” As Joe turned around something caught his eye moving in the south. In the direction of the canyon. The horizon was moving. It was a mass of brown bumps that moved up and down haphazardly. Joe’s heart sank. Zerg. Arenes caught what Joe saw. “Fuck.” he moaned, Should we run sir.” Run where? All that was around them was flat land with a small hill about 100 yard to the north and a deep crevasse a few yards to there left.

Joe shook his head “No. There’s no where to run too. And we can't out run them. How’s your ammo?” “I ditched my gun, remember.” Joe checked his ammo. “056” that would have to do. “Oh ya. Well Arenes, it’s been fun but this is where we make our last stand.” Joe finished. A deep voice echoed in Joe‘s head “Have no fear warriors. For you will not stand alone.” At first Joe thought it was Stack again. But Joe knew that voice could only belong to being in this universe. Praetor Gylenacs.

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