View Full Version : Fiction A What-If Story #8 (read only)
"This is a #### assignment." Johnny storm said, pacing in the large meeting room. Reed Richards leaned back in the $2000 Italian leather chair with his name emblazoned on it and smiled.
"You don't have to go, John." he said Storm looked at him with fury burning in his eyes.
"Look, Mr. Genius Millionaire. Just because you're hittin' it with my sister don't mean I won't ace you right here and now. In fact, it might help the decision to do it."
"Ahem." came a feminine voice from the doorway. Johnny turned around and Sue punched him in the gut, knocking the breath out of him.
"You know I can still kick your behind, Johnny. Watch what you say about Reed."
Benny "The Hammer" Grimmalski was the last one to enter the room. The mountain of muscle strode to the window and looked down. He'd never been in a place this fancy before joining the group, and it certainly payed better than running protection and rackets in the Yancy Street Mob. He'd had more respect there, though. The Jewish Mafia never allowed the Italians to get a foothold in Yancy Street. Benny smiled and put his cigar out on a marble tabletop.
"Tell them what this #### mission is, genius man." Johnny wheezed, getting his breath back. Reed stood and went to the maps on one wall. He pointed to the Florida Everglades.
"Our employers would like us to inspect reports of strange happenings in the Everglades. People disappearing, strange plant life, the whole shtick. John doesn't want to get messy. He wants to do another mission in Eastern Europe."
Sue put her feet up on the table. "We just got out of Europe, barely. I'm not going back there for at least six months."
Ben joined the others. "How much they payin'?" he asked.
Reed smiled. "Glad you asked. For inspection alone we take 100 thou each. If we bring back a live specimin, we walk away with a cool million apiece."
Johnny walked into his prep room. In the vice on his workbench was the HK MP5 he was tuning up. He walked past it to the back wall. Hundreds of firearms hung here.
Johnny strapped on a twin shoulder holster and slid in two 9mm automatic pistols with extended clips. In his travel bag he packed away an AR-15 and a pair of mac-10's among other weapons. At his hips were his self-build 50. pistols. There was a revolver in his left boot and two throwing knives in his right. As always, his K-bar was strapped to the small of his back.
Susan Storm had her own prep room. Like her brother she had been trained well by their mercenary parents, but she was not the firearms expert her brother was. Stealth was her strength, and with it bladed weapons.
At any one time she had at least eight weapons on her person, mostly throwing knives. These were supplemented by garrotes, shuriken, and other tools of assassination. She liked to get in close for her kills.
Sue also packed a travel bag. On her back she strapped a katana, and placed several small weapons in the hidden pockets all over her uniform.
Ben hit the workout room while he waited for the others to prepare. He always had his trusty bowie knife and several pistols, and his M-60 was ready to go when the time came. For now he hit the punching bag, working up a sweat. It would feel good to get back to work.
Reed Richards had precious few weapons outside of his sidearm. His greatest weapon was his mind. With it he led this team of killers to success after success. He invented their armor cloth, which had saved their lives several times.
The most Reed had to pack were his science kits and various gadgets. He was already anticipating the challenge of the unknown. 'Strange phenomena', 'people missing' weird plant life'. He lived for mysteries to solve, and the money didn't hurt either.
Reed always had opera on in the jet when they were en-route to their goal. Johnny hated it. He wanted to jam out but was forced to listen to this stuff. "I could sing better with my ###." Johnny said, scowling. Reed ignored him.
When they arrived in Naples, Florida, the team switched to a van. They would take this as far in as they could before they began walking. Once in the van, Ben got into the pre-action mood. He lit a cigar laced with an amphetamine. As he puffed on it, the others moved to the front and opened the windows.
"That thing smells awful, Ben." Sue said, sharpening a dagger. Reed used an on-board computer map to find their point of embarkation. He closed the others out as he drove.
"This is it, team." Reed said. They were on a mostly solid embankment, surrounded to the front, left, and right by water. This was the beginning of the Everglades.
Sue strapped on several of her weapons. Some she had to leave, but they would be here if needed. Johnny was covered with guns and held a rifle in his hands. Reed had a harness with several pouches for his gear. Ben chose to leave his M-60 in the van until it was needed, if it was needed.
Reed brandished a hand console. "Let's go."
The foursome strode into the knee high water, keeping an eye out for predatory swamp life. Reed had supplied them with armored shin protectors, but a gator could grab you and pull you down fast. You might not get a chance to take a breath with you..
Automatically Reed observed something strange. "I'm observing what I believe is the perimeter of the subject area. The vines and boss here do not appear to be indigenous to Florida. Susan dear, please provide me a sample."
Sue Storm swept a knife from it's sheath and cut free a section of vine. Reed bagged it and they continued.
It got dark really fast.
"There appears to be a thick canopy of moss along the treetops. We won't be getting any sunlight." Reed said, scanning the area with a small device. "Strange, I detect no animal life within the perimeter, with the exception of us."
Johnny produced a hand-held flamethrower as he and the others put on head lamps. When he lit it, the vines hanging nearby scuttled away.
"Ok, that was creepy."
Reed stopped. He checked his handheld, looked down, checked his handheld again. "Susan, shine a light down there, will you?" Reed asked. Sue complied. Several thick vines were in the brackish water. "They shouldn't be underwa.."
Sue felt a tug at her leg and went down fast, missing the rest of Reed's sentence. Ben grabbed her arm and tried to haul her up, but there was a force at least as strong pulling her from the other side. Johnny began torching the vines and moss around him and even sending fire at the water.
Sue burst above the water, knife in hand, and gulped in air. The knife was covered with viscous green fluid, which automatically caught Reed's attention.
"This is not normal."
"No ####### duh!" Johnny replied.
Reed examined the substance on Sue's knife. "Interesting." he muttered, s####ing much of it into a small tube. "The substance appears to be fighting to get out of the tube. Whether this is sentient or instinctive will require research."
Johnny kept his mini-flamethrower handy as they moved deeper into the dark zone. The vines grew thicker, hung lower and closer to them. Sue was slashing their path through while Reed hooked his finger through her belt loop.
Then the vines were upon them. They curled around Sue's wrists and encircled Ben. Johnny waved the flamethrower at them. They'd recede from him in one area but approach from another. He began torching the vines.
"Susan!" Reed yelled. He was tugged nearly out of the water as Sue was ripped from his grasp.
"Where is she? Where the #### is she?" Johnny screamed. Reed moved his scanner about. "Up there!"
Sue Storm was being strangled. No matter how much she waved her knife around, she couldn't manage to free herself. Eventually the vines contained her like a cocoon and she couldn't move at all. Her face turned red, then purple.
A great splash resounded as the corpse of Sue Storm was dropped into their midst.
"Oh ####! Oh ####! Oh God! Oh ####!" Johnny kept screaming. He lifted his sister out of the water and shook her. "Wake up, Susie! ####!"
Reed was examining the body as Johnny held her. His face was firm, showing no emotion. No pulse. No extraneous life signs. Severe skin discoloration. "Get back to the van." Reed said. The remaining three ran back to their starting point. Johnny put his sister on the floor of the van.
Reed tried to resuscitate her, but Sue was dead and that wasn't going to change. When he finally sat back, it was to swig water from his canteen.
Johnny was furious. "Why are you stopping?"
"She's gone, John. She's dead."
"#### YOU! You're the ####### genius here! Save her!"
"There is no saving her. I'm sorry, John."
"You're a cold-blooded ############!"
Johnny launched himself over his sister to grasp at Reed's throat, but Ben caught his foot and stopped him. "Let's finish this mission and go home."
Johnny turned and looked at Ben, incredulous. "THIS MISSION IS A SCRUB! MY SISTER IS DEAD!" he screamed.
Ben slammed him against the van. "Not till I earn my pay."
Johnny pulled a pistol and brought it up to Ben's head. Then he felt the cold metal of Reed's gun on his neck. "Ben's right, Johnny. We finish the mission. You'll take point."
Johnny, fuming, led the three remaining members of the team back inside the perimeter. Both Reed and Ben had pistols out. Johnny was the best shooter in their lot and they weren't about to underestimate him.
Back at the van, the door opened. something fell into the water.
At about the same place where Sue'd died, the vines attacked again. Johnny was quick to flash fry them with the flamethrower, forcing even the unburnt ones to recede. They still attacked Reed and Ben, as though it knew they were less dangerous. 'It' was wrong. Reed hacked at the vines, chopping several of them up.
"Something moved past my leg. YAAAGH!" Ben's comment became a scream and his right leg buckled. Johnny used his flamethrower on the water's surface and saw a large form. It burst up and looked at him.
'Sue' swung a sword at Reed, but his flexibility allowed him to dodge. Johnny was next. Sue sliced at him, the young man barely staying out of the way. "What the #### are you doing?!" Johnny yelled. Sue continued her attack. Johnny pressed the trigger of his flamethrower and in the light, saw Sue as she now was.
Her skin was decayed, tainted green. Dark, thick liquid oozed from her mouth. Her eyes were dead as she locked onto him with an unblinking gaze.
Reed opened fire on Sue, and she launched herself up into the trees. "Oh ####!" Johnny exclaimed, firing flames upward. His sister was gone, this was an abomination.
The sword came down and caught the flamethrower. It fell into the water, and Johnny quickly pulled his guns. Reed caught her in his strap-on forehead light and Johnny shot. More black ooze emerged from the hole in the middle of her forehead.
"DUCK!" Reed yelled. Johnny dove underwater. Reed tossed a grenade up at Sue and fell back. It exploded, sending her flying apart in hundreds of pieces.
Johnny and Reed returned to Ben. "She cut my Achilles tendon! I can't walk!" he yelled, in great pain.
"See! I told you we should have scrubbed this stupid ####!" Johnny yelled. Under his tough veneer, however, he was scared. When they were in Eastern Europe, sure they were going to die, he had been cool. He'd never seen his dead sister try to kill him before.
"Ben, watch him. I'm going back to get your big gun and some medical supplies." Reed said. Johnny chuckled.
"Yeah, like we're trusting you to walk out of here without us."
Ben aimed his weapon at Johnny, still wincing in pain. "Go reed. Ya got ten minutes.
Nine and one half minutes later, Reed returned. Behind him he carried a yellow raft which bore Ben's M-60 and some medical kits. With Reed and Johnny's help, Ben was moved into the raft. The group continued on.
It was not long after this that the three began to notice shapes moving at the edge of their vision. As they flashed their lights, however, the shapes moved so as not to be seen.
"Look." Reed said, being the first to notice the shack as they approached it. Somebody lived in this swamp, apparently, or had at one time. Reed and Johnny pulled the raft to the front deck and unloaded the supplies and Ben. The shapes they'd seen earlier were closer now, and they were human. However, they were clearly not alive. The three scrambled to get inside with their weapons and supplies, and slammed the door just as the first 'thing' climbed onto the deck.
Johnny split the first 'zombie' in two with a blast from his Mossberg 12 gauge through the window. Several more were creeping up now. Reed propped Ben up at another window with his M-60. The cabin had a wood burning stove, a bed, table, a pair of chairs, and little else. Shelves on the back wall held cooking utensils. Reed lit two lanterns and put them on the table.
Ben squeezed the trigger of his weapon. Reed was sitting at his feet, tending to his Achilles tendon injury. It was something that could not be fixed properly here, all Reed could do was bind the wound and give him painkillers. Two zombies fell back into the water from the impact of the M-60 bullets. Johnny, at the other window, fired several more times as more and more of the ghouls approached.
"There's too many!" Johnny said, dropping the empty shotgun and lifting his AR-15. The automatic weapons fire would knock them back, but not 'kill' the things.
"REED! Do something!" Johnny yelled. He was panicking now. Reed readied another grenade and opened the door.
There was Sue.
There was little resemblance now. Tiny vines seemed to have her pieces 'sewn together'. If a grenade couldn't permanently kill them..
Sue decapitated Reed with her sword. Johnny, attention turned away from the window for one moment, was grabbed by several zombies and pulled outside. He was screaming as they carried him into the water and submerged him.
Ben blasted 'Sue' with the M-60, then pulled a pistol and put it to his head.
Then he pulled the trigger.
Over the next few months, people began to notice the encroachment of the Everglades into other areas of Florida. Vines stretched across and under 'Alligator Alley' and crushed the road to pieces. It was just the beginning.
"Parker, Pym, and McCoy. How can I help you?"
The phone rang. Peter scooped it up. "Yes, Denise." he said.
"Sir, I think you'll want to take this call. You and the others."
Peter looked at the other two men in the room. Henry Pym, Hank McCoy, and himself were internationally famous for their several exploits. These ranged from debunking mystics and magic to finding legendary treasures to recovering kidnapped children from Arab countries.
"It's on speaker, Denise." Peter said.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen. We are the former employers of a mercenary team that was sent into the Florida Everglades to discover the source of the unexplained goings-on there. We have not heard from the team in several months, and undoubtedly you've heard by now that the Everglades appear to be gaining ground. All attempts to discover why have been met with futility. Please consider the offer I am about to give you. Because of your prestige, the sum of ten million dollars will be paid to you corporately if you will resolve this situation."
Peter looked at his partners. This was something they'd looked forward to for a long time: a challenge. "Deal." Parker stated.
In a hotel room in Sarasota, Florida, three men viewed several hundred photographs. Peter and a small team had done reconnaissance of the 'perimeter area' where the thick overgrowth and the vine walls were. Hank McCoy now analyzed the small samples they'd brought back, while he and the others perused the photographs.
"Notice the responsive movement to your approach. These things are clearly showing a defensive instinct." said Pym.
"Instinct, couldn't it be intelligence of some sort?" Parker rebutted.
McCoy picked up a vial. "There are micro-organisms in the very 'blood' of these vines that are constantly responding to pertinent conditions. I had to switch to more durable containment systems when the organisms spawned and bloated large enough to force the plastic to crack. It almost got loose."
Half of Naples and a corner of Miami were now being consumed. The National Guard had been called in to kill back the overgrowth. Equipped with flamethrowers, they had torched the encroaching vines. Then the 'plant people' attacked. Two out of one hundred and fifty-seven escaped the Naples attack. The bodies of the others were nowhere to be found upon inspection.
Henry Pym stood from the meeting table. "It becomes clear to me that we must get to the center of this 'encroachment'. I'm starting to believe that there is an intelligence involved here. We can't just attack, the National Guard failed in that method. Instead, we must infiltrate. Gentlemen, I'm open to ideas."
The Army began firebombing the Everglades the very next day. Parker, Pym, and McCoy watched the progress. As soon as a large chunk had been destroyed, it immediately began weaving itself together. Vines would shoot upward in an attempt to capture the attacking planes.
"This is it." Peter Parker said. He would lead the trio and their team into the Everglades in a matter of minutes. Armed with flamethrowers, the mercs in their employ would allow the three men to concentrate on the task at hand instead of defending themselves.
After several hours, the group came upon a van. Dry ground ended here. Peter opened the van and discovered a cache of weapons and scientific equipment. "The previous team." McCoy commented, using simple deductive reasoning. The team stood at the edge of the water.
"Activate the backpacks." Parker said, pressing a button on his belt. Eight tendrils emerged from a small metal box on his back. They began walking through the water, carrying Peter above, keeping him dry. The others did the same. "Thank you and God rest your soul, Dr. Octavius." Peter whispered.
The team came to a vine wall that marked the perimeter of the center of this odd phenomenon. One of Peter's tendril arms produced a small laser and cut a path to the inside. A flood of zombies came pouring out.
"Good God!" McCoy exclaimed. his and the other men's tendrils retreated them as the mercs began their attack. The zombies fell, burning, into the water. Moments later, two of the mercs were pulled under. The others soon followed. They fought, but to no avail.
Parker and his partners were left alone, suspended above the water, which was now alive with these plant-man corpses. "Retreat back to the van, guys." Henry Pym said. McCoy and Parker began their retreat until they noticed that Pym hadn't moved.
"Henry.." McCoy began.
When the others were some distance away, Henry Pym produced a tiny object from a pocket. It grew to full size in his hands. He loaded the object from another pocket. As the zombies clamored at his tendril legs and some erupted from the water to grasp at him, he fired the weapon.
Henry Pym had been one of the most ingenious inventors ever. He seemed to come up with a solution for every problem. In a fifteen yard circumference from where he had been, there was nothing, not even water. The swamp had given way and it's edge had hardened, creating a bowl. Limbs of zombies still fluttered, but where Henry had been, all was destroyed.
The water, in an ever-widening circle from the bowl, began to crisp and harden. It's very chemical composition was changing. After some time had passed, Peter ventured a step. He leaned down and felt the substance. "Salt. Hard as a rock." he said. McCoy laughed, marveling at Pym's genius, even as he mourned his friend's death.
The pair continued their journey.
With the flamethrowers gone, Peter and Hank kept two tendrils out to function as laser cutters. The deeper they entered, the more clogged the area was. McCoy's UltraLite pervaded the darkness for yards, which let them see the zombies approach. The lasers made quick work of them, slicing them to ribbons.
"Pete, there's a shack over there." McCoy said, pointing off to their right. Parker nodded and the pair headed toward it. They stepped up from the rock-like salt to the exterior platform of the shack. Peter extended a tendril and opened the door.
Immediately a former woman, now covered with plant-like 'stitches', leaped out and attacked with a sword. McCoy struggled against her, trying to contain the zombie. Another emerged, a man, bearing two pistols. He began firing at Peter, who dodged just in time.
"Hank! You OK?" Pete asked, using the spidery tendrils to move around with amazing agility. The gunner zombie pursued him, continually firing.
From the back of the dilapidated shack burst a huge, grotesque form. What was once a heavily muscular man was now layered with plant matter that acted like armor. It leaped toward Peter, who once again was able to dodge. He was relying on his uncanny instincts now, using all resources to stay alive.
"Oh Pete, I'm wonderful! What a great day!" Hank said sarcastically. Another zombie had emerged from the shack, this one firing tendrils and vines from himself in an attempt to ensnare McCoy.
Parker cleared the shack and was near Hank as the plant thing charged at him again. The other one had run out of ammunition and had returned to the building it had emerged from. "Hank, evasive 2B!" Peter yelled, flipping over the swords-woman as Hank slid past her. She turned, swinging her sword, and cut the plant thing in half. Peter, now having a breather, used his lasers to slice the other two apart.
"Pete!" Hank yelled. He alone had seen the gunner emerge from the shack with a heavy machine gun. He jumped between his friend and a hail of bullets. Hank McCoy was dead before he hit the ground.
Peter Parker avoided the gunfire as he drew nearer to the shooter. When he was close enough, he stuck a tendril into the barrel. The gunner tried to shoot and the weapon exploded in his hands, setting him on fire. Peter terminated him.
From behind a tree emerged another plant man. Unlike those that went before, he seemed to be composed solely of plant matter. "Is there nothing man cannot overcome?" it said.
"What are you?" Parker asked.
"I am life, renewal, growth. You are destroying the living planet."
"You're an environmental nut. We take care of the earth. You can't possibly believe that we.."
"I know that I have no need to quote statistics to you, human. I am a part of every plant and vegetable matter on the planet. The ivy that grows on a building, the flower box. They are eyes and ears, witnesses against humanity."
Peter fired a laser. The plant man moved at unreal speed. "Dang it." Parker whispered.
"Do not try that again or I will simply kill you. I want you to fix the damage your friend caused to the swamp."
"It's localized to this area. the rest of the Everglades are fine."
"This is my home, these are my roots. FIX IT."
Parker smirked. "You sound desperate."
The Swamp Thing attacked Peter, ripping apart the two exposed tendrils. Peter rolled under him and let the attacker's weight carry himself over. The Swamp Thing struck the hard salt.
Vines attacked. Parker extended his other tendrils and fled. Swamp Thing followed, gaining on him. "FIX MY HOME!"
When it finally tackled Peter, the Swamp Thing held him down. The attacks of the tendrils had no effect on it. "Fix my home or you will die."
"Don't you think we knew what you were going to do? You were going to extend this swamp and overrun the world. You were going to render us extinct. I may die, but so will you." Peter said defiantly.
As the Swamp Thing pilled back an arm, Peter extended a tendril straight into it's chest. No vital organs. The other tendrils pierced the Swamp Thing. It crushed Peter's head, but discovered that it was unable to extrude itself from the metal tendrils. They were stuck together, the corpse and the monster.
--Two Weeks Later--
Laying on slabs in a Miami medical examiner's office were the bodies of Parker and McCoy. Parker had been covered with rotting plant matter when the Army found his body. Their search of the affected area of the Everglades discovered thousands of deformed, plant/human corpses everywhere, all quite dead. The vine/moss canopy that had covering the area was falling apart, dead.
It was over.
Peter opened his eyes.
Not feel free to post! Tell me what you liked and didn't like. I'm open to any and all comments and criticism.
Thanks for reading!
I liked that one, I also liked how you left it open for a sequel.
I think the premise for this story was good but there were some nagging plot holes that got to me a little. There just seemed to be a lot of needless death and self-sacrifice. Why would the teams just keep going in after losing someone and only escaping by a hair the previous time? It seems like they would more likely go in, get some samples, stay near the edge, then come back prepared. If they did just decide to go in straight away, then when they lose a member of a tight nit group and the whole rest of the team almost gets killed then they would probably retreat and cut their losses, maybe come back better prepared later on.
Also, if Pym had that special bomb and they were purposefully headed towards the center of the growth then why not just drop that bomb near the center and then go in with that as a safe landing spot. It just seems like he sacrificed himself without a good reason and could have used that bomb from a distance.
Both teams got pumped up as something really special. Being really smart, adaptive, inventive, etc. Then they go in and just try to bull their way through this unknown, extemely deadly environment the whole while being cut down or almost killed at every turn.
Like I said, I like the general idea of this story but how the teams handled the situation seems a little unrealistic considering how special they were supposed to be.
Hey, I had to not like one of them, right?
Nevest, you're absolutely right.
Out of all of my regular readers, Supersktrjustn is the only one I ever run into in the chat room. So... one evening I asked him what kind of story he'd like to see. I gave two suggestions for stories that were already in my head, and afterwards put on "Creepy Tale of Terror". Guess which one he chose. This was my attempt at a creepy tale of terror. I myself did not know how I wanted the story to go. I'm surprised you didn't say that the salt thing was stupid, I thought it was. I wanted to get through this story as quick as possible, and thus failed you, the reader, with my carelessness.
It's all good man, no need to apoligize. I'm just giving my constructive criticism. You're a good writer and probably just got a little off track with this one, at least in my opinion. I certainly couldn't do what you've been doing. Keep up the good work!
Still no comment from suprsktrjustn. I guess he didn't like it.
Something good to remember as writer is that everyone isn't going to like what you write all of the time. Personally this is the first one of your what-ifs that I didn't really like. All of the others have been awesome. I'm just the only one who's really left any feedback so far.
It was a weak story, not well thought out. Honestly, I still can't think of a way for them to get into the perimeter except by force.
However, I thought my representation of this world's FF was funny, especially Johnny, who curses like a sailor.
There were definitely some neat aspects to this story. I like the FF being a sort of band of mafia hitmen or something. I also liked the idea of Parker, Pym, and McCoy working together and having the Dr. Octopus technology. The general concept of the story itself was good. I liked that all of a sudden the swamp started growing out and taking over everything in it's path and turning it's victims into zombies. Maybe one way to make the death of the FF more believable would be for Sue to be dragged away kicking and screaming into the swamp and the rest of the team goes in deeper to find and rescue her only to discover that she's been killed and turned into a zombie and they in turn fall to her and her swamp zombie buddies. It just seemed that they were a really, really tight nit group and if Sue died and they got back to the van that they would have cut their losses and tried to come back better prepared, not just rush back in to try to recover her corpse or finish the mission. They had to realize they were in way over their heads after she died like that. But if she got kidnapped and they thought she was still alive then their love for her would have overrode their survival instincts.
Wow, that turned out longer than expected.
Only Johnny had love for her. To Ben, sue was just a teammate. To Reed, she was a plaything and bed warmer (you'll notice that Reed seems to have little or no emotion.)
In their arrogance and overconfidence in their abilities, Ben and Reed insisted on finishing the mission. By this point they'd only been attacked by the vines. Sue was the first zombie they encountered.
This is helping me alot to talk about this story. You did present a great idea. Feel free to post on any of the other What-If threads and we can talk about them, too.
I like the idea of sue being captured. That gives the team a reason to go back insde. I dont think money would be enough - if you aint living, you cant spend that money.
The self sacrifice thing was good - once. I dont think that twice or three times was necessary.
Overall a great and compelling story - I waited to read it so I could get the whole thing - truely terrifying...;)
KEEP EM COMING!!!!!!!
I am taking it upon myself to give all of Masadas old stories a fresh bump as a tribute to the currently away due to illness Masada. We miss you, get well soon.
I'm still hanging on edge for the continuation of what-if 12
These haven't been up on the front page in months, so...
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