A letter from Elizabeth Warren suspending her campaign
Corona Virus in Italy: A View from the Street by Alan Pascuzzi, Ph.D.

New Fiction by Andrew McGourty: The Z-Team

The Z-Team by Andrew McGourty

Image from Wiki


1024px-Agasthiyamalai_range_and_Tirunelveli_rainshadow            The desert was barren like always, only surrounded by some sand and cactus.

            You’d mostly be bored if you lived here. Unfortunately, for a small group stationed at one of the only bases here, this was the case.

            The base on the outside was simple. It was just a plain brown color, rectangular in shape, expansive in size, with a front and back door, and written on the top of the front wall, in white ink, was U.P.G.A. A blue tank was stationed behind the base.

            Inside a man in his 40’s, with black hair and beard, fair skin, and wearing a suit of red body armor with a rifle attached to his back and a pistol attached to his right leg, was sauntering through a silver hallway, with a scowl. He entered a room with a brown couch, a decent-sized TV in front of it, and the entryway to another hallway on the left. Upon seeing a guy in a blue jumpsuit and a white hard hat by the TV, his scowl morphed in a smirked, with him saying in a gruff voice, “Well, at least the technician is here to finally fix the tank.”

            Just then, a faired skinned man in his late 20’s early 30’s shot up from laying on the couch, like a rocket. He had messed up brown hair and was wearing a suit of blue body armor that had some grease stains on the arms and chest plate. Turning to the older man he said, with a low voice, “Um, no, Roger. He’s just here to fix the TV so we can have some entertainment.”

            Glaring back at the man, Roger’s sneered, “Private Taylor, how many times must I tell you to address me as sir!?”

            Spreading his arms, and walking to the left of the couch, Taylor nonchalantly replied, “Sir, with almost no respect, you’re only a Private First Class.” Extending his arms out wide, “You’re not that much of a higher rank than the rest of us.”

            As Roger’s slapped his head, with his left hand, an African American female in her 30’s came out of the hallway on the left. She had short black hair, was wearing purple body armor, and was holding a black sniper rifle in her hands. Upon entering, she pressed a button on her left arm, which caused a small hole in the wall to open, which she stuck the sniper rifle out of and looked through its scope.

            Roger sighed, “Well, at least someone around here can take charge.” Turning to the female, “Spying on the enemy base, Private Green?”

            Private Green replied, with a smirk and raspy voice, “You know it.” Gripping the rifle harder, “Hopefully the new X-ray system I ordered from that infomercial will let me see inside their base so I can watch on their TV.”

            “Yes. Well, keep up th-.” Roger’s didn’t finish as he shockingly asked, “Wait! WHAT!?”

            Private Taylor laughed, “Nice, Sam.” He pressed a button on his left arm, causing a can of Soda to pop out of it, which he caught with his right hand, “Hey, if they’re watching any cartoons let me know.”

            Sam Green turned to her fellow private and winked, “You know it, Bruce.”

            Taking a sip, “Awesome.”

            Roger’s slapped his face again and said, while dragging it down his face, “I work with complete idiots.” Shaking his head and turning back to Bruce Taylor, “Okay, can you at least tell me where unit MPE-2248 is?”

            Bruce pointed at the floor right in front of the couch, with a smirk. Roger’s walked over and his face morphed into disappointment, at seeing a blue human-sized robot laying on the floor, head staring at the ceiling. Slowly shaking his head and grinding his teeth, “Why am I not surprised.”

            MPE slowly said, with his robotic echoey voice, “What do you expect when buying a robot off of Craigslist[1]?”

            Extending his hands out and exasperating, “This right here is why we’re stationed at outpost Z in the middle of God-fuck-nowhere!” Pointing at MPE, “You’re an idiot!” He then pointed at Bruce, “He’s an idiot!” Sam was the next he pointed at, “She’s an idiot!” Finally, he pointed at himself, “Associating with and being unable to control you guys makes me an idiot!” Stomping his feet, “That’s why the United Peaceful Guild of America dumped us in this SHIT HOLE!”

            Bruce shook his head, “Hey, shit has feelings, too, you know.”

            Roger’s just blankly stared at the private, with his mouth open for a while. Eventually, he shook his head and got out, “Whatever. Do you guys know where Professor Collins is?”

            Sam blankly stated, head over her right shoulder, “Um, where do you think, dude?”

            In another room, there was nothing but a ceiling light illuminating the darkness below the one table in the room, which was wider than three tigers in length, and full of test tubes and a variety of objects, like guns, boots, swords, and the like. Back facing this table was a man looking to be in his 50’s, with hair half black and half white, pale skin, a twitching left eye, and wearing a lab coat, blue shirt, and black pants.

            The man was laughing and shouting, “They all called me crazy for my revolutionary ideas! Well once they are finished, we’ll see who's laughing now!!!”

            As Roger appeared at the hall entrance into the lab, he coughed, getting the man to turn around and said, “Um, Professor Collins, do you need a minute?”

            Collins whipped his hair back with his left hand and replied, “No sir. Also, I have new inventions for our team.”

            Smiling and walking over to the other side of the table, “Good. What do you have?”

            Picking up one of the rifles, with his left hand, “This is the Do Gun.”

            Raising his eyebrows, “Why is it called that?”

            Smirking, he pulled a remote of his right pocket, and pressed the button on it, causing a pole with a stuffed dummy strapped to it to appear from the floor on the side of the table. Collins aimed the gun and pressed a button on its left causing a recording of his voice to be heard from the gun saying, “Do. Do. Do. Do, do, do.” Every time a “Do” was heard a blue energy bolt was fired from the gun at the dummy. After the six “Do’s” the gun stopped. Setting the gun back down on the table and smiling, “Music to my ears. Now we wait for it to recharge so it can play that song again.”

            Just staring at the gun, Roger’s had a blank look, “Please tell me you have something else?”

            Quickly pointing up, “OF COURSE!” Grabbing the boots on the table, “I’M A SCIENTIST. OF COURSE, I HAVE MORE INVENTIONS.” He took off his brown shoes and started putting the boots on, “If you thought my gun that plays a musical sound when it hit something was good, wait until you see this.”

            After getting the boots on, he took the remote back out and press the button again, causing the pole and dummy to go back into the floor, and a gun attached to four legs holding it up, with a light bulb in a box on top of it to take their place. Shouting to the gun, “Automatic stun bolts for thirty second!” The bulb flashed red and the gun rotated to Collins direction, before firing. Collins spun to the left to dodge the blast. He then started moonwalking backward, dodging five more blasts, as the gun rotated in his direction. When he stopped moving and the gun took another shot, he jumped down to the floor, stomach first, and then started moving like a worm back towards the table. When he got up, another shot was fired at him, so he leaned the upper half of his body to his left while extending out his right arm hand first and sweeping it across with him, dodging the blast. One more shot was fired, so Collins did the same move only this time going to the right with his left arm. The light bulb on the gun turned off and Collins finished with pointing his right-hand finger up disco style, with a massive smile. Turning to Roger, “So what do you think?”

            Bringing his left hand to his face, “You want” extending it back out, with his eyes closed, “our troops to die.”

            Throwing his hands up, “NO! I want us to look badass while we kick ass and take names.” He spun around and started moonwalking backward, “And nothings more badass than kicking ass while either singing, dancing, or playing music.”

            Eyes flashing open into a glare, “Do you even realize” throwing his hands up, “what’s going to happen if we use these when the enemy att-.”

            The sound of an explosion prevented him from finishing, with the two barely steadying themselves by grabbing the table. Roger straightened himself up, “Oh great the enemy is attacking!”

            Collins straightened his lab coat, “Now don’t assume the worst. It could just be the traveling Circus with a new explosive act” raising his finger, “or those Extremist Jehovah Witnesses.”

            Eyelids half-open, “I highly doubt that.” Turning around and grabbing his rifle with both his hands, “Besides, most of the Extremists were wiped out by the U.P.G.A. in 2485 during the Battle of the Second New Jersey.”

            Shrugging his shoulders, “I still think my ideas are plausible.”

            Rolling his eyes and lifting his rifle, “Let’s just move.” Roger headed down the hall, with Collins following behind, after grabbing his stuff from the table.

            Meanwhile, back in the room Roger had left, Sam was still by her small hole in the wall, but now she was firing her sniper rifle off many times. On her right, by a new hole, was Bruce with a rifle and shooting through the hole.

            MPE was still lying on the floor and sighed, “I guess I’ll have to get up soon.” Shrugging, “Meh, like five more minutes.”

Eventually, the two by the holes ducked down as red laser blasts came through the holes and started hitting the ceiling.

            Sam sneered, “We need a new strategy.”

            Bruce snapped his fingers, “I got it.” Pointing at Sam, “You” pointing over to MPE, “and maybe MPE, will just shot randomly as a distraction,” he started making a walking motion with two of his fingers, “while I sneak around behind them and start shooting like a lune.”

            “That’s your plan?”

            “Hey, I used this strategy all the time to great effect in the Star Wars: Battlefront[2] games.”

            Raising an eyebrow, “The 2004 and 2005 version or the 2015 and 2017 versions?”

            Shrugging, “The originals from 2004 and 2005, obviously.” Hitting the ground with his right hand, “The newer stuff is clearly inferior.” Shaking his head, “It’s only been going down since Disney[3] took it over and started trying to take over every form of entertainme-.”

            He stopped as he saw Sam aim her snipper rifle at him, murder in her eyes, “You better take back what you just said about Disney.”

            Pointing his gun at her, “Two can play at that game, my friend.”

            The two stared at each other, the only sound that could be heard for several minutes was the laser blasts hitting the ceiling.”

            They both sighed and set their guns down, with Sam shaking her head and facepalming with her right hand, “Look, will prove your wrong later, we need to come up with an actual good plan to deal with these jokers.”

            Raising his eyebrows, “Hey, what about my plan.”

            “I said, good.”

            Just then, Roger and Collins came rushing in but quickly ducked to avoid a laser blast which struck the ceiling.

            Roger growled, “Why am I not surprised by this.” He and Collins crawled over to the others, “So, how did this week’s fiasco happen?”

            Bruce extended his hands out, “Hey,” pointing to himself and Sam, “we aren’t taken the blame for this. It’s not our fault.”

            Sam nodded, “Correct. They just came out of nowhere.”

            Roger exclaimed, his voice getting a bit higher in pinch, “You were trying to spy on their base to watch on their TV, how did you guys not see them coming!?”

            “Um. Faulty equipment.”

            Sighing, but then looking over his left shoulder at Collins, “Okay, given who our tech guy is, I could kind of believe that.” Grabbing his rifle from behind his back with both hands, “So does anyone have any non-stupid plans?”

            All three of them, except MPE, raised their hands.

            “Let me repeat. Non-stupid plans.” No one lowered their hands, so Roger just covered his face with his left hand.

            Outside, the front of the base was constantly getting bombarded by a squad of twenty soldiers lined up outside their base, firing from rifles. These soldiers each wore a red jumpsuit, were male, had shaved heads, with the left sides of their faces replaced with a mechanical head, with a glowing red cybernetic eye.

            Behind these soldiers was a man in his 40’s with fair skin, black hair, a black mustache, which he was combing with a small comb in his left hand, and in the same red jumpsuit. Also, behind him was another man, who looked like the twenty soldiers, except his face didn’t have mechanical parts, but he did possess a scar over his right eye.

            As the man finished combing his mustache, the man behind him said, “It looks like converting all our troops to a hive mind was a good idea, Master Gercher.”

            Gercher put his comb away in his back pocket and smiled, “Of course, it was my plan after all.” When the soldiers stopped firing, he raised an eyebrow, “Did we kill them?”

            A blue shot came out of the hole in the wall at the soldier on the far right, it was accompanied by a “Do.” The soldier stepped back in time, but another shot and “Do” came a little after that, which he dodged again. This happened one more time. After that, the soldier wiped some sweat from his brow with his left arm. Unfortunately for him, three more shots rapidly came out, along with a “Do, do, do.” The three shots hit the soldier square in the chest, causing him to drop his weapon and falling to the sand, face first, dead, with electricity coming off from his part mechanical head, before it exploded. All the other soldiers started re-firing at the holes.

            The man with the scar came up behind Gercher and said, “Um, I don't think we killed them, master.”

            He growled back, “Shut it, Carl!” Grinding his teeth, while staring at the enemy base, “They must have the bravest, smartest, and most disciplined soldiers ever in there.”

            Back inside the U.P.G.A. base, the team was once again on the floor, as shots kept hitting the ceiling.

            Collins laughed while pointing at his Do Gun in his left hand, “Ha! Look my gun worked! It took one of those mother fuckers out!” He gave a smile at Roger, one dripping with smugness, “So, are you ready to go with my plan to survive?”

            Roger pointed at Collins while steaming in anger, “Just because one of your crackpot inventions worked doesn’t mean your plan is actually going to work!”

            Shrugging, “Um, who's the professor here?”

            Rogers opened his mouth to reply but was cut off by Sam putting her sniper rifle down, extending her hands out, and shouting with sarcasm, “Girls, girls, you’re both pretty!” Bruce laughed.

            Grinding his teeth for a bit, Rogers eventually sighed, “Fine.” Glaring at Collins, “Will go with your plan.”

            Collins jumped up and shouted, “YES!” He was quickly pulled back down by Rogers pulling his lab coat, just in time for a shot to swish pass Collins hair, “Phew, close one.” Rogers shook his head at this.

            Bruce raised a finger on his right hand, “Um, won’t we need the tank for this plan?”

            The repairman came through the hallway Rogers originally came from earlier, dusting his hands off and saying, “Alright, tanks fixed. That will be-.” He fell to the floor dead, from a shot to the head, before he even finished.

            After staring at the guy, for what felt like an eternity, Bruce let out sheepishly, “Well, at least we won’t have to pay him now.” The others just looked at him with raised eyebrows, “What too soon?”

            Sam asked with a hint of irritation, “What’s the appropriate amount of time you think can pass for that to be okay?”

            Shaking his head, “I don’t know. My buddies always said to wait two weeks after a breakup to ask one of the parties out, so for this, I’m guessing a month or two?”

            One more awkward stare later, Collins just shrugged, put his Do Gun in his pocket and then crawled to the hallway the repair guy just came from.

            Rogers pointed to the others and held up three fingers. He brought one finger down, as Sam and Bruce nodded, before clutching their weapons harder. After he brought another finger down, MPE sighed and raised his right arm, which broke in half by the elbow, with the front of the arm folding backward and connecting to the back of it and a gun popped out of the opening in the arm now. Once the final finger fell, he clutched his rifle with both hands and jumped up to the hole on the left, while Sam and Bruce took the one on the right, with all of them opening fire at the soldiers. MPE just put his head and gun arm back down.

            Outside, a soldier near the left hole was shot in the head, causing his mechanical head to explode and him to fall dead to the ground. Two soldiers on the right were also shot and killed: one was shot repeatedly in the chest, while the other was shot right in the cybernetic eye, causing sparks to fly out of it, before exploding.

            Back inside, the trio ducked down, like they were in fast forward, dodging more incoming blasts that hit the ceiling, which by this point had been completely scorched black.

            The three of them smiled, with Bruce turning to Sam and asking, “Must you always show off by being so precise with just one shot?”

            Sam chuckled, “It’s what I do best.”

            Just then, a huge explosion came from the wall they were by, knocking them back and showering the room in smoke and flying rocks. The echoes of coughing filled the air. As Rogers, Bruce, and Sam got up through the coughs, the smoke finally cleared revealing the wall they were by was gone, only leaving some small parts at the left and right ends of it. The sixteen remaining soldiers and Tom, who was carrying a big black rocket launcher, now loamed in front of them, with rifles aimed at them. Rogers, Bruce, and Sam were forced to lay their weapons to the ground and put their hands up in the air.

            As Gercher slowly stepped over some rubble and joined his forces, Carl smiled and asked, “Did I do good, master?”

            Gercher rolled his head to the left and replied with barely any emotion, “Yes, Carl. Very good.” Pointing behind himself, “Now get behind me and stop talking during my triumph.” Carl bowed and rushed behind Gercher. Turning to face Rogers and his team, he flashed his teeth at them, with a laugh, “Well, it appears this little game was over.”

            Bruce shrugged, “If this was a game, I’d being having fun.”

            Gercher ignored this, as he began to relish in the moment, “Now is the time for my greatest triumph! Once I take this base, my superiors will see I’m not incompetent” shooting his hands up like rockets, “and then they’ll-.” He stopped as the sound of music could faintly be heard. Gercher and his troops looked around puzzled, “What the hell is that?”

            Bruce and Sam smiled, while Rogers just shook his head. Five of the soldiers rushed outside to check. When they got out and turned to their left, they were immediately blown to bits by a huge red energy blast that exploded right into them. Grecher and Carl ran out to look and saw the U.P.G.A tank heading toward them, with music blasting from it, alongside the energy blasts from the turret.

            “Take that tank out!” Gercher screeched.

            Five of the soldiers left their posts aiming at the others and joined Grecher and Carl outsid,e but were soon forced to scatter to dodge another shot from the tank.

            Inside the tank, Collins had a phenomenal grin, as he bobbed his head back and forth, with both hands on the wheel. In the background, the song Dynamite[4] was blazing through the tank on the speakers.

            Collins was mouthing the words to the song, “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes!” He threw his hands up and waved them back and forth, “Saying ay-oh, gotta let go!” Slamming his hands down on the nearby panels, “I wanna celebrate and live my life!

            Outside the tank, the top had spun to the left and fired, killing two soldiers, “Saying ay-oh, baby let’s go!” He spun the wheel with his right hand, while still slamming buttons with his left, “‘Cause we gon' rock this club!” The top of the tank did a one-eighty and was now facing the right, while taking shots from two soldiers on the right, which didn’t even dent it, “We gon’ go all night!” A blast from the tank obliterated the two, “We gon’ light it up!” Turning the wheel and bring his left hand up before bringing it back down, “Like it's dynamite!

            The last soldier and Carl were both running, with Carl ahead and the tank following the two, with its top spinning around to face them and fire. An explosion overtook the soldier, but Carl managed to jump ahead to avoid the shot and kept running, as he sweated.

            Over by the other seven soldiers, the yells of Gercher could be heard, “KILL THEM AND GET OVERHERE!”

            They nodded and prepared to fire, but before they pulled the triggers, MPE leaped up and opened fire from his gun hand, hitting two soldiers square in the chest. The two soldiers fell to the ground, as did MPE, which was followed by the sound of him snoring.

            Confusion spread, as the remaining five soldiers opened fire, just as the others dropped to the floor and rolled to the left. As shots hit the walls and echoed through what was left of the room, Rogers rolled forward, leaped up and pressed a button on his left arm, causing a glowing green knife to pop out of it, which he caught with his right hand. He used the knife to stab the soldier right in front of him. A small scream escaped the lips of the soldier before Rogers pulled out the knife and the body fell.

            The soldier behind the fallen soldier fired a shot, which Rogers spun to the right to dodge and then rushed to the soldiers left. As the soldier turned and got ready to fire, Rogers hit the top of the rifle with his left hand, causing it to aim and fire at the ground, creating a small explosion on the ground, with the soldier stumbling back. Rogers got behind the soldier and sliced him across the neck. Blood rained out from the opening like Ketchup. Another soldier came up from behind and fired a shot. Luckily, Rogers grabbed the now dead soldier by the arms and spun him around to use to block the shot.

            Over by Bruce and Sam, one of the soldiers tried to shoot them, but Bruce rolled forward, while Sam rolled to her right, over to her sniper rifle. Bruce jumped up and pressed a button on his left arm, causing another can of Soda to pop out of it, which he grabbed and rapidly shook with his right hand. When he opened the can in front of the soldier, it sprayed out and bathed the soldier’s head in it, causing his mechanical head to start sparking and explode. As the headless body fell, another soldier rushed at Bruce from his right and got ready to fire. Luckily, before the shot, a laser blast hit the tip of the rifle, sending it flying away from the soldier’s hand. Both turned to see Sam with the barrel of her sniper rifle smoking from the shot. She quickly fired another shot, right between the soldier’s eyes. Once the soldier fell, the two turned to each other and gave each other a thumbs up.

            Back over with Rogers, he was getting closer to the last remaining soldier, still blocking his shots using the corpse of the other soldier. When he was just inches from the soldier, after blocking one more shot, he dropped the body and stabbed the soldier in the cybernetic eye, causing sparks to fly out of it when he pulled his knife out, before it exploded. Swinging his head around, he saw Grecher, now holding a small pistol and using it to shoot green energy bolts at the tank, which was still chasing Carl. Grinding his teeth, he rushed at Grecher, who heard him running and turned around, just in time for Rogers to slash the pistol out of Grecher’s hand. The pistol fell to the sand, split in two. When Rogers swung at Grecher’s head, he ducked and pulled his own red glowing energy knife out of his left pocket. Grecher lunged up, aiming his knife at Roger’s neck. Luckily, Rogers pulled his head back just in time to dodge. He then swung his knife at Grecher’s left, only for the latter to bring his knife back down to block Roger’s. While they were locked in their hold, they both gritted their teeth hard and struggled to keep their footing in the sand. While in this enraged hold, Carl ran past them from behind Grecher, with the tank following behind. Seeing the tank pass by, over Grecher’s left shoulder, Roger's eyes widened before he smiled.

            Grecher shouted, “What are you-.” He never finished, as Roger kicked him in the chest, with his left leg. Skidding back, sand jumping into the air, he stopped himself just in time to see Roger duck down and Sam directly behind him shot her sniper rifle. A shot to the head, gaping open mouth, and a shocked expression on Grecher was seen before he fell to the sand.

            Seeing this, Carl screamed with shock, “MASTER! NO!!” He skidded to a stop in the sand, turned to the others and aimed his rocketed launcher at them.

            However, some familiar song lyrics became louder to him before he could take the shot, “‘Cause I told you once! Now I told you twice!

            The tank was now in front of him, aiming its cannon a few inches from the right side of his face. All he could do was turn his head to the right and let out a small, “Oh, somehow I forgot about that in my anger.”

            A blast from the tank at point-blank left nothing behind but debris, a charmed rocket launcher, and a severed left arm, “We gon’ light it up! Like it’s dynamite!

            Rogers got up and jogged over to Sam, who was joined by Bruce, the latter two smiling, with Rogers just sighing and shaking his head, “It is absolutely batshit insane that this plan worked so well.”

            The tank pulled up next to them and stopped, with Dr. Collins popping out of the top, extended hands and a smile plastered on his face, shouting out, “I told you it would work and look awesome!”

            Roger just shook his head, while Bruce and Sam laughed.

            Bruce then raised a finger and said, “But what are we going to do about the hole in our base?” The others turned to look at it, “Even if we call to get it fixed, it will take a while.”

            Sam flicked her fingers and smiled, before saying, “Oh, I have an idea.” She looked over her left shoulder at the enemy’s base.

            Sometime later found the team inside the enemy base, in a room with red walls, a blue couch, a decent-sized TV in front of it, and the entryway to a hallway just behind the couch on the left. The echoes of the TV filled the room, with Bruce, Sam, and Collins on the couch smiling. Collins was bobbing his head up and down, while Bruce was holding a bag of Potato Chips, both he and Sam were eating from. When the pair reached in at the same time and touched hands, they both pulled back quickly, with blushes forming on their faces. In the front of the trio was MPE, laying on the floor on his left side and snoring.

            Lastly, in the back leaning on the left of the entrance to the hallway was Roger, looking down at the floor. Rogers wore an indifferent look until he looked up and gave a small smirk to his team over by the couch.

The End


  1. Craigslist Inc. (stylized as craigslist) is an American classified advertisements website with sections devoted to jobs, housing, for sale, items wanted, services, community service, gigs, résumés, and discussion forums. It was originally started in 1995 by Craig Newmark, as an email distribution list to friends, featuring local events in the San Francisco Bay Area. It became a web-based service in 1996 and expanded into other classified categories. It only kept expanding over the years and now covers 70 countries.
  2. Star Wars: Battlefront is a series of first- and third-person shooter video games based on the Star Wars films. Players take the role of soldiers in either of two opposing armies in different time periods of the Star Wars universe. There were several versions all developed by different video game companies in conjunction with LucasArts Entertainment Company, LLC, from 2004 to 2013, and then with Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) from 2013 onwards.
  3. Disney, also known as The Walt Disney Company, is an American diversified multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerate headquartered at the Walt Disney Studios complex in Burbank, California. It was originally founded on October 16, 1923, by brothers Walt and Roy O. Disney.
  4. Dynamite is a song by British recording artist Taio Cruz for the international version of his second studio album, Rokstarr (2010). Cruz co-wrote the song, along with Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Benny Blanco, and Dr. Luke; the latter two are also the producers. The song itself was released on May 30th, 2010.

Andrew McGourty

Andrew McGourty


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