Rotblossom Rose (1.37R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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Rose meets The Spider in his lair to hand off the green Wraithbone that she stole from the Kisvavi slave lord. She represses the urge to grimace and look away as he examines the stone with an expert eye, making little clicking noises and taking as long as possible. He always does this with Wraithstone, she is familiar with it from all of the business they’ve done over the years. If he notices her revulsion, he does not take note.

There is something monstrous about The Spider, but Rose has never met anyone who can quite describe why they find him so unsettling. Physically, his cadaverously thin body and eerily symmetrical face are nothing compared to the horrors of her own ravaged body and yet people who find Rotblossom acceptable are still repulsed by The Spider. Even Scarab treats the man like sour milk.

It is not the smell, nor the way he talks, but rather something about his mannerisms that hint at what lies beneath the surface.  It is hinted at in the the way he is always weaving a brace of garrotes like a web in his fingers, in his half-lidded, dead-eyed gaze, and in the knowledge of what he has done to gain his pre-eminent position within the hive.

The Spider is a monster; the kind of person who has engaged in the most disgusting and decadent of acts just to say that he has experienced them.

But Rose trusts The Spider completely because they both want Lawch dead. Without him she has little chance to get to the man who presided over the death of her family and even less chance to overcome the sorceress that guards him.

He continues to examine the stone until Rose is certain that he is about to complain, then nods and sighs.

“Excellent grade for our purposes. Not too pure to be rendered, but pure enough to hold a lot of strong bleed. The measure is really impressive, at least a seventeen. The Kisvavi must be livid.”

Rose does not ask how he knows. The Spider had ears everywhere, even in the Bedrock Wards.

“It was faster than scabbing,” she responds.

“But also less profitable and more dangerous,” answers The Spider. “We both know why you went after The Kisvavi. The escaped slave was a nice touch. They will think that he was the killer, at least until they think to track down the guards that saw you leave.”

“They will be out of the city by then,” retorts Rose.

The Spider looks up. His pale eyes meet hers and she suppresses a shiver.

“No one ever really escapes The Scab, Rose. You of all people should know that.”

Memory pushes on Rose. She wills it aside and changes the topic.

“What next?”

The Spider smiles. His teeth are unnaturally perfect, and the gesture is as devoid of pleasantry as a Rockwyrm opening its maw to bite you in half.

“Well Rose, we can’t have you visiting, our old friend Lawch looking like that. He’ll smell you a thousand paces out… no, that look won’t do, its time for a disguise.”

A he pulled out a vial of clear, refined Wraithstone essence. THE CLEAR. The most valuable substance known in The Scab and handed it to Rose.

“This is going to hurt, I’m afraid,” said The Spider, grinning and fingering the green Wraithstone. “Drink up.”

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Rotblossom Rose (1.36R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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Rose stumbled down the tunnel after the Rockwyrm. She was drenched in Ferret’s blood and felt winded from being squashed inside the alcove with the dying scout. All of her digits worked, and aside from balance she seemed to be moving fine.

Ahead she heard shouts and saw flashes of light. In one hand she held the bloody hackblade that she had taken to the Rockwyrm, in the other the one of the lightsticks from her pack.

“What I wouldn’t give for a Coilsword,” she muttered.

The darkness loomed around her, and Rose realized that she had ventured into a room. A point of light outside of the soft radius of her light  resolved into an ember; one of the larger lights used by her group lay crushed on the ground next to a boot with the bloody stump of a leg sticking out of it.

“Fuck,” said Rose. If the rest of the Scabbers died she doubted that she would be able to get out of the depths; she was just too new at this.

“So what are you going to do about it Rotblossom?” she asked. She ignore the broken body and hurried toward the sounds of fighting. The only care she took was to avoid blundering into a pit or tripping over the uneven ground.

She saw dancing lights, heard the sound of something huge moving and shouted orders. Was that Geb, handsome reliable Geb, still alive?

Rose sped up, slipped in some gore, and then skidded several bodylengths frantically trying to stop herself. She saw dancing lights on an ancient stone wall opposite her, realized that she was in another large room, and then she saw the Rockwyrm.

It was huge and covered in segmented plates. Geb was in its mouth.

“Get down!” said a voice from beside her. Scarab.

As Rose stared she realized that Geb had wedged his shield in the Rockwyrm’s mouth. The Wyrm was shaking its maw back and forth, trying to tear a chunk out of its prey, too stupid to realize that what it was biting would not be dislodged that way. Geb was tossed about like a toy in a dog’s mouth, but he held on, his boots braced in the beast’s bloody maw.

“Rose, Get down!” Scarab again.

Rose ignore him and ran forward, moving toward the Wyrm and Geb. Something whooshed past her shoulder in the dark and then the Worm’s side seemed to pucker and burst. She was showered in gore. The beast thrashed, dropping Geb. Jack Rumbarrel ran out of the dark, hacking the beast with his axe. Rose close the last few strides and brought her hackblade down, trying to cleave into it, dig deep and hit something vital. The Rockworm thrashed, then rolled toward them. Jack gave a shout and backed away swiftly, but Rose was too slow. The bulk of it threatened to crush her.

Spurred by the thought of what happened to Ferret, Rose jumped up, stabbing her hackblade into the side of the Rockwyrm. This gain her enough purchase to pull herself up and over as it rolled. The world titled, Rose scrambled, and then her feet found solid rock and she pulled the blade out and rolled away. She shoulder struck an outcropping, hard, but she avoided being crushed.

She came up to see that part of the Rockwyrm was now on fire. It thrashed, bleeding from a half dozen gaping wounds. At its head, Geb moved in with grim intent, his shield held high and a long-vicious looking blade in his hand. The Rockwyrm seemed to give a sigh as he closed, too injured to want to live. Then Geb struck, driving the blade deep into the head above the maw. The beast convulsed and then it was no more.

Rose picked up the hackblade and began to dig for the Wraithbone she could sense from withing.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.35R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

In the end Rose leaves the Kisvavi scion dead and bleeding on the floor. After a moment’s thought she decides to leave the way she came in, through the secret slave tunnel and down to the guarded platform where ‘special’ goods are delivered to the masters of the high ward.

“Follow me, and do not say a word,” Rose says to the wide-eyed slave boy. “As far as anyone else is concerned you are still a slave, my slave. Do as I say and you will have a chance of surviving; fail me and you are on your own. Nod if you understand.”

“Yes,” he says, nodding. His form is exquisite.

Rose cracks the whip, snarling as he flinched. “I said nod, not speak, fool. I don’t want to hear your voice. We will leave your wounds as is, for realism. Now, follow me.”

Taking a collar and chain off the wall, Rose puts the hard metal around the man’s neck, ignoring his trembling. How odd it must seem to him for a killer in a skull mask to rescue him from torture or death, only to put the chains on him again. Had she been in the slave-boys place, she would have attacked.

She leads him down the corridor and out through the secret door. The night is cool and the lights of the city flicker all around them. She descends slowly, leading the slave-boy, making no effort to hide.

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“Halt, do not move!” two of the guards raise fire-spitters, aiming them at Rose.

She stops.

The guards stare at her. A cloaked figure, wearing a skull-mask that glowed silver in the half-light; she must make quite a sight. The moment lengthens. The guards seem unsure of how to proceed. Rose waits.

“Is there a problem?” she asks.

“What are you doing here?” asks the lead guard. “No one told us you were coming.”

Rose laughs. It is not a pretty sound. “You didn’t need to know. As for why I am here; let’s call it payment for services rendered.”

She yanks on the slave-boys chain and he stumbles forward, half-naked and covered in whip-welts. Tension melts from the guards as they see him. This is the kind of encounter they are used to.

“Right, right, let’s see your identification.”

“How about I stay anonymous?” says Rose, placing one of her stolen Wraithbone stones on the ground between them. It is more money that all four of the guards, the two she can see and the two she can’t, will make in a year. The wealthy of The Pinnacle are notoriously cheap.

“Is that a bribe?”

“Let’s just say it is for services rendered,” says Rose, laying down another stone, this time with her metal hand. They watch her carefully as she straightens, afraid now.

If they attack now, she will have to use the slave-boy as a shield and then kill them. Hopefully they find her fearsome enough to take the easy offer.

“So be it,” says the Guard. “I’m tired of this city anyways. Time to retire.”

Rose nods and walks past slowly, as if she does not care at all about the weapons aimed at her and the calculations going on in each man’s head. Her boots touch the street and she turns and heads toward The Hive feeling their eyes on her as she fades out of sight.

<>

She lets the slave-boy go in an alley outside a riotous Red Ward brothel.

“Thank you.”

“You can thank me by keeping out of the mines.”

The boy, now free, nods. Rose turns and leaves him, without another word. She has the stone she was looking for, the first of the items The Spider needs to help her get at Lawch.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.33R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

The entrance to the Kisvavi ‘dungeon’ is much easier to find than that of The Spider’s Lair. After surmising that the family will not want to suffer the embarrassment of having to drag their slave victims through the streets, Rose decides to begin her search in the parts of the ward where the Kisvavi receive their goods. She finds a small cellar with a porter door, on the back of their compound. Reasoning that they will not want to expose their slave on a long walk up an open staircase clinging to the outside of the ward’s wall, she slips through the door and follows it down.

After a few steps she lifts the skull mask and binds it tight; you never know when you might bump into someone, even on a dark stair in the middle of the night.

The bottom of the porter’s stair is a platform guarded by a pair of bored guards. Rose slips past them quietly, glad that they do not have watch animals. A half dozen stairways converge on the platform, each leading to a different family’s compound. Rose backtracks finding a hidden doorway out of sight of the guards. She smiles; it has taken her less than a candle to find what she needs.

Of course the door is designed to only be opened from the inside, but Rose has learned quite a bit about doors as a Scabber and a skull-masked skulker. This door is held closed by a latch which is released by a handle on the other side of the door. Rose gently pushes around the edges of the door, listening. She hears the latch rattle exactly where she expects it to be.

Rose pulls out a flat metal bar, almost paper thin and feeds it through the crack of the frame toward the latch, then she takes a rod with a flat angled end and pushes it along the bar. She uses the rod to move the latch, bit by bit until she can feed the bar between the latch and the frame where it rests. Then she pushed the door inward and slips inside.

As she gets her bearings, Rose is greeted by the crack of a whip and an agonized whimper. She draws a long blade and creeps down the hall toward the sound, cursing her luck at finding the dungeon in use.

Rose hears the whip crack twice more. She sees light spilling out from under a door and drifts toward it, kneeling to look through the keyhole.

A large, muscular man wearing a mask fashioned to look like some tusked beast and nothing else, stands over the bleeding form of a smaller man, fine featured and sleight of build. The smaller man has been bound to a half-stock. Rose realizes that she is watching the aftermath of a rape.

The whip is red with blood as is the smaller man’s back; his breathing is shallow and he has lost consciousness. The big man steps forward and pulls out a green glowing stone, stepping forward to ease the damage so that his sick game can last a little longer.

The stone is exactly what Rose needs. She slips into the room and is halfway to them before the big man turns, raising his whip. She anticipates the movement and flows with it, planting her long blade deep in his throat just as his eyes widen at the sight of the silver skull mask. He jerks twice as the tip of the blade bursts from the back of his neck, severing the spine, tries to scream, and dies.

Rose takes the stone from his hand. It feels good. She is about to leave when the slave begins to stir. The Kisvavi will torture the man to find out what he knows. She doesn’t want that, but she does not think that she can get the man out with her.

Cursing herself for being soft, Rose cuts his bonds. His eyes flutter open.

“Come with me if you want to get out of this place,” she says.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.32R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Rose felt a nudge in her ribs. Normally a light sleeper, she was surprised and came up snarling, knife in hand. Scarab stepped back and laughed.

“Fuck you Scarab,” she growled.

“Yer lucky I wasn’t a campspider, Rotblossom,” said Scarab. “Deep sleepers don’t last long down here.”

“Most women would rather wake to a campspider bite than you in their bedroll, Scarab,” interjected Harmony as she walked past, carrying water to the fire. Jim Lowrock, Ferret and Geb all burst out laughing while Scarab rolled his eyes.

“Breakfast, Rose,” said Geb. “Ignore the local Rock Troll and come enjoy some of the finest hot oats you’ve ever had.”

Rose was thankful for something soft to eat. Her jaw still ached from ‘dinner’s’  ration of dried meat, a tough meal for someone who could only chew with one side of her mouth. The oats were warm and nourishing, and the spice and cinnamon were pleasant even to someone with Rose’s damaged sense of taste. She devoured her bowl.

“No seconds,” said Scarab, smirking. “Food is strictly rationed down here.”

“You can have half of mine if the haul is as good as yesterday,” rumbled Jack Rumbarrel, oiling a hackblade.

“Alright, clean up and pack, we are moving to the next camp. Today is a travel day, and unless you fancy a belly-crawl shortcut we have a long walk ahead of us”

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“Why are you stopped?” asked Ferret. Rose was moving with, him Geb just behind her. Part of a Sniffer’s duty was helping the scout and Rose was watching Ferret, learning. The man seemed to have supernatural senses, and his hyperactive fidgety behaviour seemed normal when he was performing his role. He did not even turn around as he questioned, just kept scanning the dark.

“What is it Rose?” Geb was right behind her, silent and watchful. He was not as big as Jack Rumbarrel, but he was a solid, reassuring presence. For a moment Rose wished that she was pretty again, free of disease, and able to beguile men with a smile and a quip. She banished the thought angrily as quickly as it came; that girl was dead, her weakness having killed her family.

“I don’t know,” said Rose. “I just feel something when I am near Wraithbone.”

“What do ye mean?” asked Ferret.

“Back in the mines I would get these feelings,” Rose started to Rasp, she was not used to doing so much talking. “I would find Wraithbone there either that day or the next, always.”

“You could sense a bloom?” asked Ferret.

“I don’t know what that means,” answered Rose after taking a bit of water from her canteen.

“Some can,” said Miriam Sprout. “I worked with two. It might sound miraculous good, but it could also lead us to a Killy Bleedwarpt.”

“A bloom is a vein of Wraithbone,” said Geb. “They appear quickly, usually not so near The Gash.”

“Killy means right fucking dangerous,” added Jack Rumbarrel.

Rose felt her sense shift. It was a new sensation and left her feeling disconcerted for a moment.

“What is it Rose?” asked Geb.

“Weapons up,” said Scarab.

“Its moving,” whispered Rose.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.30r)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

Rose could see forms, a deeper dark in the shadows beyond the light, behind the shining eyes. The group backed away from them, slowly.

“Easy now,” intoned Geb. “If we don’t give them reason to attack, they will be happy to feast on the kill. Just back up slowly and do not make any sudden movements.”

“Running is bad?” asked Rose.

“Aye, if we run, they chase,” said Geb.

“We might also bumb into more danger blundering around,” added Scarab,

Breathlessly, the group retreated. The deep wolves stayed at the edge of the light. The Scabbers kept their weapons ready, tensed against sudden violence. Rose almost started when a low growl seemed to sound from beside her, but she kept her cool and moved back.

At last the edge of the light reached the grabber corpse, hacked and bloody. As soon as the darkness washed over it, Rose heard them rip into it with gusto. She caught the flash of teeth as a huge hairless muzzle jumped into the light biting a fist-size chunk out of the meat and chitin. It was dog-like and yet warpt and rose shivered to think of its ferocity.

Once the frenzied sounds of feeding eased, the tension ran out as the group relaxed.

“Get our bearings,” ordered Geb. “I’ll do a headcount.”

Rose was puzzled by this, but kept her mouth shut while Geb called out names.

“The deep wolves are smart,” said Scarab from seemingly just behind her. “They’ll come at you loud from on direction and snatch one of your crew while your looking the other way. They might even drive you toward something much worse, in the hopes of cleaning up what’s left of ya.”

“Lovely,” muttered Rose. She could feel the hairs standing up on the back of her neck. Strangely, she felt more alive, more awake than she had since killing Nave and Blackeyes.

“Darling?” said Geb, sounding nervous.

“I’m here Geb,” said Darling. “Over by Harmony.”

“Right, that’s everyone,” said Geb, teeth showing a smile in the dim light. “Miriam, you have our bearings?”

“I do.”

“Good, good, Scarab drop a stinker as we leave. I would rather not have that pack of wolves on our heels.”

Scarab pulled an object the size of an egg from a belt pouch, twisted it twice, and tossed it on the ground.

“Let’s go,” he said to Rose, grinning. “You don’t want to be caught in the cloud when it goes off.”

<>

They arrived the campsite shortly thereafter. Rose was impressed with the caution the Scabbers took in approaching the camp. Apparently chance meetings with othersin the depths were rare, but often hostile.

Geb breathed a sigh of relief as Ferret Gave the all clear.

“‘I’ll gather water,” said Jack Rumbarrel as they marched into the campsite.

Rose’s eyes were immediately drawn to a post near the centre of the site.

“That is a waymarker,” said Miriam Sprout as Rose approached it. “They mark stable spots in The Depths and also help with bearings. This little compass here, helps me find them.”

“Tarnish check before dinner,” called Geb.

Rose pulled out the silver disc resting against her chest. It was only slightly tarnished. Metals like copper, silver, and gold drew the dark energies of the bleed away from living flesh, tarnishing the metal in process. The Syndicate purchased tarnished coins, and apparently knew how to remove the bleed from them. It was closely guarded secret; one they would apparently kill to keep.

After that, Rose looked around the campsite. Geb was starting a fire using stonewood and crimson Wraithbone oil while the others move about the cavern lighting the various lamps and crystals left by Scabbers over the years. Others seemed to be hunting down insects and making sure the places where they would pitch their bedrolls were secure.

The campsite was on a kind of plateau in an old natural cavern. There was only one easy path up to the top level, which was partially sheltered by low, unusually regular walls. Rose smiled when she realized that they were sheltering on the remains of some ancient tower.

“Hey,” said Geb, coming to stand beside her. “You did well today.”

Rose smiled. “Thanks.”

“This place is relatively safe. Most of the things down here stay away from fires. We set three watches, yours is first up after we eat.”

“Got it.”

“I mean what I said Rose,” added Geb. “Everyone is happy. We rarely get lucky like that on bloody grabber. Had you not pulled it out quickly, we would have lost that Wraithbone to the wolves. You did well.”

Rose slept well that night. She did not dream at all.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.29R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

<>

She crosses the Silverthread Span at midday, distracting herself by staring at the faintly visible bones of long dead titans jutting out of the rocks below. The bones are visible only on the clearest of days for a brief time when the sun is poised above The Gash. They mark the edge of the abyss, where the bleed is too intense for any living creature to survive. People cannot even make it to the bones, but simple organisms, like worms had been lowered and retrieved, though they were always bleedwarpt.

The bones were beautiful, and tantalizing; there was likely enough pure wraithbone down there to provide everyone in the city with a bottle of The Clear.

A few enterprising engineers once created machines that scraped the fossilized Titans for Wraithbone, with some success. But the expense of such an endeavor is immense, and it is also currently outlawed after the last attempt attracted a massive bleedwarpt worm, which then attacked the city.

The Silverthread Span hangs above this abyss, the only bridge that joins the two sides of The Gash and the city around it. Rose hurries along, weaving through the crowd, avoiding as much notice as possible. Thousands of people crowd onto the bridge, which looks like it lacked the structure even to hold its own weight. There are no records of its miraculous construction, or even the materials from which it is made, thought is obviously a Wraithbone infused alloy.

Rose does not like the Span since it limits her freedom of movement to two directions; it would be easy for her enemies to corner her upon it. She’s done the same, in the past.

The thought makes her smile. Fucking Arthrin.

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Part of the joy of having her sense of smell mostly destroyed by the rot, Rose muses, is that it makes climbing through a cesspipe much more bearable.

The pipe is leaves her only a few inches to move. It is a lonely climb, punctuated by torrents of wastewater. She still remembers the first time she did this, a two hour ordeal that had left her

It is also the only way for Rose to get into The Pinnacle, one of the most heavily guarded and exclusive wards in the city and the surest place for Rose to get the Green Wraithbone that The Spider needs.

The Kisvavi live in the biggest compound in The Pinnacle Ward. They are wealthy. They very likely have at least a dozen green stones of the grade and measure that The Spider needs. The Kisvavi are powerful and have deep roots in the city. They are not to be trifled with, by common wisdom.

They also own the slave mines where Rose toiled and Janiye died, so they owe her, she figures.

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