RP Act I: Tanzanite

Obsidian

Member

Smokey and Ame were cruising down the street at an easy twenty-five miles an hour. They were following a GPS on Smokey’s phone and were coming up to their parking spot near the hiking trail. There were two other cars there, including Selenite’s Toyota and a Malibu, parked one spot apart from each other. Ame pulled the car in and parked it on the other side of Sel’s.

The two women got out of the car and stretched. The car ride hadn’t been long, but they had both been winding down for the night when they had gotten the call. Selenite’s call. She hadn’t told them exactly what was happening, only that they needed to come out to Victor Waterfowl. So the two had gotten into their Kia Cadenza and drove.

They hiked down the trail through the state preserve. They had both been here before, for some reason or another. It was a great place to come if you wanted somewhere quiet to practice with your powers in a space where no one was likely to see you. It was routine to take some of their more physically powered trainees out there to teach them control.

After all, you had to learn control before you could learn use.

And Obsidian liked it when they could use their powers. It was helpful. Smokey and Ame were well known for being excellent teachers to their trainees, and they’d gotten a lot of different metahumans over the years sent to their location in Bismark. Still, they had no idea what Sel could possibly want this late at night and this far away from the city.

As they got further down the path, they could feel it. The shift in the air was indicative of Sel’s powers. They were close, then.​
 
Sel had decided to stay out of arm’s reach with this one. There was no mistaking that he was a metahuman – but there was no mistaking what else he was, too. No one who had seen Obsidian could miss the signs of a predator living under his skin.

So she’d put him in a bubble while calling Ame and Smokey, just in case. She had kept her report brief and vague, all too aware of the sharpness behind the blue eyes that followed her while she talked. Fear wasn’t part of who she’d become since joining Slate. Fear was something she caused. But this – this wasn’t something she could scare. And though she wouldn’t admit to it, it scared her instead.

She’d hung up, and glanced at the nearby trees. One had a branch that looked like it was out of the tall man’s reach from the ground and sturdy enough to hold her. He hadn’t moved, but she hadn’t really given him a choice. She didn’t want to look at him now, see that look that seemed to be measuring her out into cuts of meat, or wondering how fast she could run. She didn’t want to look too hard at the torn corpse on the ground, where he was emptying the contents of its abdomen. She took a deep breath, then created the current necessary to defy gravity and push herself the twenty-odd feet off the ground. Once relatively safe, she finally released the bubble, half expecting the monster to come chase.

He didn’t. He sat quietly and ate, though he never lost the slight irritation behind the pleasant – and pleased – exterior. She didn’t initiate conversation. He commented a few times on the meat he seemed to be enjoying, but didn’t try to turn it into a conversation. Food, it seemed, took priority. That was good to know.

When his head lifted from his meal to look back down the path, she willed the air to circle around him again, forming a semi-solid sphere to protect the pair coming up the path from the tensing monster on the ground.

She didn’t feel the need to introduce them. Her part here wasn’t finished, but there was a reason she’d called them, instead of trying to bring this one in by herself. They’d know what to do – Smokey and Amethyst always did.​
 

Smokey and Ame had no idea what to do. When they finally rounded the last corner and came upon the scene, it was to Sel in a tree, and… something on the ground. It was a person, that much was for sure. Well. It looked like a person. It– he– had curly black hair and eyes of the brightest blue either of them had ever seen.

He– it– was eating a person. The head of the body was gone, as was most of an arm, and it– he– was making it’s– his– way through the inside cavity. He– it– was eating what looked like the liver, but neither Smokey nor Ame had any medical training to really say. They both stared for a long minute at what was happening, their expressions blank. Then they turned to each other and had a silent conversation. Nodding heads, gesturing hands, and unreadable facial expressions made the entirety of their talk, in a language only they knew.

Finally, they separated. Smokey walked over to the tree that Sel was in and leaned up against it. Meanwhile, Ame walked right up to the edge of the bubble that the… cannibal(?) was trapped in. She sat down right outside it and started watching, her face expressionless. Then, she gave a soft smile and started with, “Whatcha doing, kid?”
 
Sel relaxed as her two location directors appeared from the treeline. The monster seemed to relax, too, apparently satisfied to be able to see what a second ago had been invisible forces. It wiped its face off on the back of its arm, which only smeared the blood across its features. Then, it went back to eating, like nothing had happened.

She would’ve advised against sitting across from it, but something had definitely been discussed between the two directors that she didn’t understand, so she trusted their judgment. The air around the creature unbent, and then solidified in a wall between the two of them, like the glass between a man on death row and his family. Not so tightly wound that sound wouldn’t travel between them.

The monster waited for Ame to talk first. When she did, he grinned. His jaw was far too tight, even from where Sel sat perched, and there was something too deliberate about the show of teeth.

“I don’t think it needs to be spelled out,” he said, and then tore a big bite off the organ. Sel’s stomach clenched. She was used to violence, but her methods were usually… cleaner, than this. His voice wasn’t any different now than it had been while he described his process to her. “Whatchyou doing?”
 

Ame quirked an eyebrow and looked over at Smokey. Her partner nodded back and she turned her attention back to the kid. He had to be a him, she decided. That would make it a lot easier to think about this in her head. So she watched him tear a bite out of whatever it was he was eating, and she sighed.

“Talking to a cannibal, apparently. Not what I thought I’d be doing with my Wednesday night, not going to lie to you, kid.”

The Latino woman shrugged and looked up toward her counterpart. She looked back, her nearly black eyes conveying another silent message. Ame frowned and looked back at the kid. It was, after all, only a kid. He looked like he was maybe twenty at best, and definitely not any older than that. That made him a kid, especially compared to Ame’s own age of thirty-seven. She sighed and looked away from the picked-at body that her eyes had started to focus in on and looked back up at the kid.

“What’s your name, kid? You got one?”” A name would humanize him. A name would make this a person for Smokey and Sel. Neither of whom was currently looking at him as though he was one.​
 
The bloodsmeared face turned toward Smokey, then back at Ame during their glance. Without any more thought than that, Sel stretched her wall, pulling the shield to protect Smokey as well. By extension, it would protect herself, since it’d keep him from reaching the tree trunk. But he seemed to have forgotten about her, focused on the new potential victims, she was sure.

“Oh, I’ve got lots of names,” he said, cheerfully. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve again. “Cryptid’s fine, though. Mostly cause I like it more than Slasher.”

Sel frowned, and reached for her phone. As much as she didn’t want to take her eyes of the scene, she knew the name Slasher from somewhere. Some news report of…something. While she scrolled, the monster tilted its head at Ame.

“Y’know, I don’t think I caught your names, either, and I really hate it when people have me at a disadvantage. Spoils the scary predator act. So! Who’re you ladies, and to what do I owe the dinner interruption? First tiny and easily spooked comes up, then you two? There’s somethin big going on. Surely it can’t be all about little old me.”

He never stopped eating while he was talking. His eyes lingered on Ame, though he glanced up as Sel flinched when he called out her unease. She didn’t like the look in his eyes, even from this distance. Like he was a cat just waiting for a bird to fly back down. She wanted to tell her directors never mind, they should just leave him alone – especially after the body count. her quick search for Slasher cannibal North Dakota had pulled up, in connection with murders all over the northwest.

But she trusted Ame’s judgment, and waited for her call.​
 

Smokey tensed a bit against the tree. While Ame might have been confident, Smokey was less so. This was a thing, and she didn’t like her partner sitting so close to it. But she took in a deep breath and left it. Ame could take care of herself if anything happened. From the corner of her eye, she saw Sel pull out her phone. That was odd. Sel was one of their most attentive trainees. Her pulling her phone during such a crucial moment was… strange. Had the thing said something– she was looking up Slasher. It had said that name as though it meant something.

Ame noticed when Smokey pulled her phone out right after Sel, but she couldn’t afford to pay attention to that. She had to keep her eyes on the young man in front of her. She had a feeling that if she didn’t give him the attention he deserved, something bad could happen. So she shrugged and smiled.

“You can call me Amethyst and you can call my partner Smokey Quartz. I have to be honest with you– it’s not every day you find a kid eating a person on the side of a hiking trail. That’s a bit of a big deal for us. We keep an eye out for people like you. Metahumans who have unique powers. So what does doing this get you? I mean, she didn’t say anything about what she saw.”

She crossed her legs and grabbed her ankles as she watched the boy. The longer she looked at him the more she realized that he was just a boy. She almost felt sorry for him. A twinge in her heart as she realized how difficult his life must have been if he had to live like this. How did someone even find out they had a power like this?​
 
The creature never lost that wry smile, as it tore off a chunk of meat with its fingers, tossed it into the air, and caught it between its teeth with a click that sounded much too clear in the still night. He chewed it thoughtfully, and swallowed before answering.

“Well, Amethyst, we all gotta eat. As for your little bird, I don’t think she saw much. Too dark for most folks, and I’d already run our friend–”

He paused, then turned around and reached behind him, rustling through some clothes to find a wallet. He flipped it open, and squinted at the name.

“Benson, David. He wasn’t as fun as some of the hunts I’ve done in the past, but he did the job.” He tossed the wallet aside, and went back to eating with a shrug. “I dunno if I count as metahuman, really. Any-human. As for what I get out of it…”

The head tilted the other way – not like a bird, but more like a confused dog looking at a new animal.

“Why so curious? Most people don’t like being reminded they’re made of meat, like everything else in class Mammalia.”
 

Ame’s smile narrowed a bit. Before she could speak up, however, Smokey moved from the tree to stand by her. She was smoothly tucking her phone back into the pocket of her joggers as she moved. For the first time since they arrived, she spoke up. “Honeybun, this one might not be worth it. Just checked somethin’, and this one might be a little rabid.”

As she spoke, Smokey pulled a gun from a concealed shoulder holster under her track jacket. She flicked the safety off as she glared down at the thing sitting on the ground, covered in gore and smiling as he was. This thing wasn’t worth Ame’s energy and efforts. She started to lift the gun, pointing it directly at the thing’s head. It might have looked like a person, but no person had this kind of a kill count.

Amethyst scrambled to her feet and put a hand on the gun. “Smokey, it’s just a kid. Let me talk to him.”

The dark-skinned woman stopped and lowered the gun slowly. She kept it out and in her hand, tension in her limbs as though ready to aim it and pull the trigger should he make one wrong move. “You make any move to touch ‘er, you twitch a single fuckin’ muscle in ‘er direction, and I’ll put a bullet through yer head.”

She backed off, moving back to the tree. As she moved, she looked up at Sel, her eyes narrowed. She jerked her head back toward the two behind her, as though instructing her to continue doing what she was doing. Behind her, Amethyst shook her head and turned back to the kid. She smiled at him and started back up. “I’m sorry about her. She’s a little gung ho. Where were we? Right! I’m curious because, well. We know someone similar to you. But he’s not exactly like you. I think he’d be really interested in meeting you though.”
 
The thing that sat next to what used to be David Benson had met Smokey’s eyes when the gun was pointed at it. It bared its teeth fully in a grin, and its head tilted the other way again, like it’d never seen a gun before, or thought of the threat as a joke. It almost even looked disappointed when Smokey put it away, for fuck’s sake. Like it wanted to see what happened when she shot it.

Then, apparently disinterested in Smokey, its eyes shifted back to Ame. “Why, is he rabid too?”

The monster’s chin was tipped up a little bit, and something about his smile shifted as it settled – some teeth still visible. Selenite was inclined to agree with Smokey Quartz about just leaving this one here – she probably shouldn’t have called it in at all, now that she knew what she did. Still, when Smokey gestured for her to keep the wall up, she nodded back. The current of air never so much as faltered. Not even when Ame indirectly mentioned the Director to this thing.

“There’s nothing like me,” it said, with a shrug. It licked some blood off its fingers, then went back to peeling the – undefined organ apart, popping chunks into its mouth as it talked. “Or if there is, it’s not around here. Not really much competition for prey, yeah? And – Smokey, was it? I’m not rabid. She wouldn’t contract anything except some broken bones if I bit her, swearsies.”

It crossed its heart.

“I’m not a zoo animal for display, though. Sorry to disappoint but I like what I’ve got going on. I’ll be out of you ladies’ hair day after tomorrow, after I’ve slept Mr. Benson off. No harm done, really.”
 

That was enough. Smokey turned back to the thing and leveled her gun. Ame noticed but wasn’t quick enough to stop her. She didn’t get a single word out before Smokey pulled the trigger. A bullet flew through the air and straight toward it’s thigh. She would have loved to have aimed for the head and to have ended this, but she knew Ame wouldn’t forgive her anytime soon for that. So instead, she fired straight for the things thigh.

As soon as the bullet was fired, Ame’s hands went up to her ears, which rang from the close proximity to the gun. She turned on Smokey and threw her hands up and into the air. “Smokey!”

“He’ll live. Unfortunately.”

“Why would you shoot him?! Now he’s never going to listen to me!”

As the bullet connected with the thing’s leg, something happened. A noise unlike anything either woman had ever heard was pulled from his throat. Smokey knew what a deer call sounded like. She was keenly aware of the animalistic quality of the sound, but that was an inadequate way to describe it. Meanwhile, Ame was likening it to the time she climbed Clingman’s Dome with her grandfather. The way the wind whipped through the air at that altitude, the way it whistled and howled and sounded like nothing else she had ever heard. At least, until now.

Ame turned to face him as the sound faded, and she very softly asked, “Are you… okay? What the fuck was that?”
 
The air current didn’t falter when the gun went off. Even at this proximity, Sel was at least used to it – if not outright expecting it. No, what made even her cringe was the sound the thing made when it was hit. Under a mostly human cry of pain and annoyance was a whistling shriek. She knew the sound of wind at a high speed. This was different from that. It made her blood run cold, set her heartbeat at full speed, and caused the air to hesitate for just a second.

Fortunately, it was too busy unfolding its legs to take advantage of that, and she got the shield going again while it inspected the injury. The pain left its face, replaced by something that made Sel’s eyes narrow.

“No – fuck –” it actually chuckled “– just didn’t actually expect her to go through with it. Good shot. Glad I had it folded that way or there’d be way more blood. You coulda hit the artery.”

All Sel could do was watch as it reached around behind it again, rummaging through its black bag of knives and producing one that was long and thin. Then the creature inspected its leg, talking all the while.

“Okay, you have my attention until I can stand on this again. What do you really want? Why’re you talking to me?” He gestures to Smokey with his chin. “Why not take the headshot?”

And as he said that, he pressed the tip of the blade into its black pants leg – and then deeper, into the skin. And deeper than that. It was cutting itself open, and for the first time, Sel looked away from the tableau to gather herself as it started to root around in its own flesh for the bullet.​
 

Ame and Smokey shared a look. So then they were on a time limit. Smokey threw her hands up and reupholstered her gun. While she did so, Ame turned her attention back onto the boy in front of her. The longer she looked at him, the younger he looked. He was really just a kid. Just a boy. Ame was at least a decade older than him, maybe more. She thought about Seven back at the base. She thought of Opalite. Her two kids, even if they weren’t really hers.

Maybe this would be another.

She made a face as he started digging through his leg with the knife. God, that looked like it hurt. He hadn’t even cleaned his hands before he started digging. She watched him for a moment, hesitating, before she started to talk again. “Quite a noise you can make. We want you to come back with us, maybe meet our boss. We’re interested in, to put it frankly, freaks like you. Our whole team is full of them. No one, uh, quite like you. You’d be something new.”

She turned and looked at Smokey, and the black woman rolled her eyes as she realized Ame wanted her to answer the third question. “Because Ame wouldn’t talk to me for a week, at least. Listen, you might not be what we normally pick up, but yer what we go for. I know better than to shoot ya.”

Ame groaned and shook her head. Smokey wasn’t helping their case any. But Ame had been honest, and Smokey had been honest too. They were just interested in the little monster.​
 
Once Ame and Smokey were talking, Sel felt grounded enough to look at the thing again. She knew that tone – both of those tones, really. A week was lowballing it. Amethyst had already decided this creature was coming home with them tonight, one way or another. There wasn’t anything she or even Smokey could do anything except accept that a decision had been made.

It – he, if it was going to stick around – had paused in its digging when Ame started talking, and his head was doing that stupid tilt again. He listened, at least, and waited for the directors to finish talking before he shook his head.

He didn’t break eye contact with Amethyst, although the smile faded a degree. “What do you mean, noise?”

Selenite almost tilted her head herself. There was something new in his face – something genuine, almost human under that odd joy he wore like a mask. Her eyes narrowed just a little. She was almost sure that it wasn’t even kidding, that he had no idea about that shriek. Was that even possible? A reflex, maybe? But wouldn’t he hear it?
 

Ame paused. She tilted her head toward the boy in return, mirroring his positioning. She examined his face and saw genuine interest, genuine curiosity. He had no idea what she was talking about. With a big grin, she realized that this was her in. She straightened back out, made a gesture toward him, and sat back down across from him. “The noise. You know, that shriek. Of course, if you don’t know, you could always come back with us and we can help you figure it out.”

Smokey arched an eyebrow and looked up from her space leaning against the trunk to look at Selenite. She nodded her head in the younger woman’s direction as if to ask what Selenite might think of this. Smokey valued her team’s perspective, and even if Ame wanted this creature, that didn’t mean it was best for everyone else.

That’s why Ame had Smokey, after all. To make the choices when she got too wrapped up in something. If Selenite didn’t want this creature coming back with them, Smokey would stop it all and have a real discussion with Ame.

Ame watched the boy without looking away. Throughout their conversation, something in her eyes had begun to change. It had melted into something almost soft. There was a softness, an acceptance to her brown eyes. She had moved past the cannibalism like it was nothing. To her, this was now just a boy.​
 

The thing– guy – was quiet for a few seconds. Sel took the opportunity to catch Smokey’s eye, and saw the question there without any need for words. She… didn’t know the answer. She’d watched the man in front of him die. Man or not, she’d seen that this was fully a monster. She didn’t know if they could trust it– him. But on the other hand, he hadn’t touched Ame yet. He could be useful if that feral energy found a direction.

When she looked back at him, he was back to picking at his leg, casual as a cat.

“You could be lying to me,” he mused, breaking the silence, “but that would be stupid, because I’d be very upset when I found out.”

He found the bullet, pulled it out, and held it up to inspect it. Sel could tell he was killing time, making a decision. Something heavy in her chest said this wasn’t something that could be completely trusted until it was civilized, and who knew how long that would take? How much time and energy? Unless they could somehow involve the Director –

That was an idea for the back burner. She let her uncertainty bleed into her expression when she looked back down at Smokey, and very slightly shrugged. She’d need to see more before she came to a decision, at least.​
 

There was a brief silence, and then a snort. Ame covered her mouth and then started laughing, looking over at Smokey. “Hey Smokes, what do you think the stupidest thing I could do would be after finding a cannibal metahuman?”

“I’d wager a guess that it would be lie to him.”

“You’re so smart, Smokes, so smart.” She turned her attention back to the kid and leveled a look of almost disdain at him. “Kid, I’m not dumb. What reason would I have to lie to you, anyway?”

She pushed herself to her feet again and dusted her capris off. She looked over at Selenite and Smokey, this time her eyes fixing on the former. She nodded her head toward the kid as if instructing her to drop the wind wall. She could electrocute the fuck out of him if she needed to. She had charged up before they left, and she could feel the electricity humming in her veins. Smokey groaned and tipped her head back. She stared the thing down, then sighed. “Do it. Just… keep it up for us. But Ame can handle him.”
 

When Ame laughed, the – Cryptid laughed too. He had a good laugh, for something so fucked up. It came from his chest, tinged with real happiness. It was like tension between them had been released, like Ame had passed some kind of test. He laughed harder at the look she gave him. Sel actually almost missed the way his skin sealed itself together, now that he was done tearing at it.

That was… disconcerting. It explained why he cut himself open, but an enhanced healing factor in something this volatile? That was a risk. Enough of a risk that in a rare moment of doubt, Sel gave Smokey a second glance, as if double checking. The wind wall stayed a few extra seconds, before she sighed and shifted the current of air until it was protecting just Smokey at the trunk of the tree. Not a full sphere; she wouldn’t risk suffocating the other woman. But, just like she had with Ame, it was fast and thick enough to repel a frontal attack.

Cryptid finally stopped laughing, with a contented sigh, and looked up at Ame as he pointedly re-crossed his legs.

“You want me. Simple as. And Amy– can I call you Amy? – you wouldn’t believe the number of stupid people I’ve met who’ve thought they could bargain with me by lying. Though, for the record, that’s only the second stupidest thing you could do.”

Sel couldn’t resist. “What’s the stupidest thing?”

He laughed again, shorter this time, and put his hand back in the abdomen of his victim, rummaging around for something.

“Running away. Which none of you did, either. Kinda impressive, even if you are a little soft.” He seemed to find what he was looking for, and Sel bit her tongue so she didn’t gag when he pulled out the man’s heart. “I’m not coming without details, though. You might not be lying to me, but you aren’t telling me everything.”
 

Smokey looked up at Sel, and then over to Ame. There was no way the other woman was planning to actually tell him anything about their–

“I’ll tell you some details then. We work for an organization called Slate. Our boss is called Obsidian, and he’s the guy we talked about before. The one who’s like you, in a way. He doesn’t eat people, but he eats people, in a way.”

“Ames!” The dark-skinned woman walked to the edge of her bubble and stared out at her partner. She had her hands held up in the air, palms up as she spoke. “Ya can’t just tell ‘im everything, honeybun!”

“Smokes, it’s okay. Everything is gonna be fine.” She turned her attention back to the cannibal kid in front of her and smiled. She got down to his level again, crouching in front of him. “The organization we work for believes that metahumans are persecuted and need to be protected from the people who we scare. We, Smokes and I, run a location just outside the city for Slate. Our sect mostly takes in transfers and special cases– cases like you, Cryptid. We’d like to offer you shelter, on the condition you don’t eat any of our people. And… there might be some mild interest in seeing what you do before all this. Seeing what you do in general. Do you follow me?”

Ame stopped then and smiled, her grin genuine as she looked Cryptid over. She seemed completely unafraid. Not just steeled against the imagery of what he was actively doing, but truly unafraid of him. Ame was unbothered. In her mind, this was a child, and a child who needed their help. It didn’t matter if he did or didn’t, not anymore.​
 

Metahuman.

They’d said that word before, a few times. The bird in the tree had said it, and now the mother hen across from him had used it a lot. Even after he’d offered clarification, it was pretty clear she wasn’t going to get the picture. Her watchdog – girlfriend, maybe, whatever – had gotten nippy before they concluded that conversation, but he’d gotten the gist.

He did like Mother Hen Amy. His gut said she was dangerous, but well-meaning. That was a combination part of his waking brain would appreciate. She wasn’t talking to the waking brain right now, though. Fuck, he was pretty sure his waking brain would fucking love this.

But she wasn’t talking to his waking brain right now. And in his current state, he only had one priority on the brain.

“I follow. But, Amy,” he drawled, finally, his smile languid and patient, “I appreciate the thought, I really, really do, but I don’t need your protection. What’s a lynx got to fear from a warren of hares, huh? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it sounds like you got a good thing going here, but – well, if you’ve got poor, helpless little birds in there, and you’ll just invite a fox right in.”

He sucked his teeth and shook his head.

“That doesn’t sound like a safe environment, if you ask me. No matter what my promises are, I am ruled by my stomach. One little call of the wild and pop! Everything gone except the chase.”

He flicked his fingers by his temple at pop, for emphasis. He paused to take a bite of the heart – maybe a little longer than he needed, as he realized he’d blindly picked a side heavy with fat with the most wonderful texture. He sighed as he chewed it. Even like this, his mother had taught him better than to talk with his mouth full, even if any lesson about playing with his food had gone in one ear and out the other.

Hm. He didn’t think about her often in this state. Was it something to do with Amy? Maybe.

He’d come back to that another time, if he remembered.

For now, he had Amy, and Smokey, and the unnamed white bird up in the tree creating shields for the other two. He knew he couldn’t handle all three at once. Hell, for all his bravado, he knew the dangers of a standard human population. There was a small instinctive appeal to the idea of not having his chases interrupted by frightened onlookers, as tasty as they tended to be. And shelter, a guaranteed safe place to rest in the periods when he forgot he was invulnerable? It would mean he wasn’t wasting energy.

But the concern about being around constantly frightened prey really did stand, even if it was a devil’s advocate situation. Sure, they might not be as fun as wild prey, but if he got cooped up too much and just slipped blindly into the hunt, there’d be no saying where the high would lead him. He was only as considerate as he was now because of the nice chase Mr. Benton, David had given him.

“Besides,” he continued, a little distracted by the blood and his own thoughts. “Outside all this I’m not all that interesting. I spend all my time outside of this just chasing this. I imagine that’d get boring to watch after a while unless you’re – maybe not anthropologist. Cryptozoologist? Cryptoanthropologist?”
 
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