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  1. I'll be bowing out - for reasons I shall not air here. All the best with the new site.
  2. Sitting in the shade, Steve had removed his boots and socks, followed by the coat, jacket and shirt, leaving himself wearing just a part of old-fashioned trousers that ended just below the knee. They were reasonably light and practical to swim in, though he had trunks underneath too if need arose these would do for arsing around in the water on on the beach. Sighing as he straightened, glad to be feeling the breeze take away some of the heat of the day, he heard Bastion call out and turned, grinning... well, piratically. His torso was desert-tanned and adorned with tattoos - most of which had a military theme - along with more than a few scars showing up pale and twisting against the taut bronze of his flesh. He was large bones overlaid with solid functional muscle, a warhorse in his prime. "Not one like yours, lad." he rumbled with a laugh. "I can't heft boulders around. Bear that in mind, eh?" "I'll take it easy on ya." Bastion grinned. "Go long!" And he sent a long pass, mindful of his strength so the pigskin didn't end up in Tahiti or wherever. It was an almost lazy flick of his arm, but the oval ball soared through the air practically the full length of a pitch, arcing high over the Marine's head. "Cheeky bastard!" Steve swore, already running like hell. He was notably fast on his feet even on sand - fast enough that he was able to get under the dropping football and catch it, though he had to slide the last half dozen feet to do so. Bastion cheered as the blond man rose, holding the ball aloft like a trophy. "Nice catch!" Bastion yelled. Steve dusted the sand off his breeches and grinned, shading his eyes with one hand as he measured the distance between them. He knew how to throw - playing pickup games in the Middle East with some U.S. troops had been one aspect to an enriching cultural exchange - but he wasn't sure about throwing well at that distance. Fuck it, he mused. Worse that can happen is I look like a twat, and I already showed up to a tropical island sweating my tits off. He took aim, squinting against the sun, took a few quick steps forwards and let fly. The ball arced back towards Bastion, the distance looking decent though the accuracy was not so comforting. "To you!" Steve called back, watching as Bastion ran to get under the pass.
  3. Steve rumbled with laughter as Emily went from distressingly sober to sloppily drunk mid-sentence, though he did ensure that she still had her footing, braced against Bastion though she mostly currently was, as he removed the second drink from her hand and took a swallow to test it. It was a sweetish cocktail, which made him grimace a little, but this was for science so he endured. "Hey thas'sh'mine." Emily protested, grinning up at the well-built Brit even as her hand tested the firmness of Bastion's shoulder and found it not at all wanting. "D'you Shtormer guys all get ripped n'shit?" She asked, peering up through her lashes at Bastion as she leaned on him. With effort, she focused on enunciating her thoughts coherently. "Like, were you ninety-pound weaklings before and then 'bam! muscles for miles!'?" "Pretty much the same as I used to be, looks-wise." Steve shrugged as he took another swig from the glass he'd appropriated. He felt the familiar (though not lately) haze of alcohol interacting with his brain, then took a third swallow, draining the glass. "Cheeky vintage, that." he nodded approvingly to Deezy. "Though you definitely want to lower the dosage. Two mouthfuls for a pleasant buzz is a bit strong. Lets see how quickly we sober up and I'll let you spike me a real drink."
  4. "We could play a round or two of 'feed the starving genius', I suppose." Steve laughed. "Personally, I think she'd end up with food inside there with her." "As for my plans - pretty undefined right now. Technically I'm still a serving soldier, but being a Stormer means they can't actually deploy me right now. No government wants to be the first to open that particular can of worms - Stormer soldiers who can wipe countries off the map are pretty much a U.N. nightmare scenario." "Person of Mass Destruction, that one opinion piece said, I remember." Deezy nodded. Steve made a face, remembering the MSNBC 'Special' on high-profile Stormers and how it had focused a segment on his abilities. It had just stopped short of becoming a scaremongering piece. "Yeah. Not the best thing I've been called on a Friday night." He shrugged as the odd group made it's way back into the main body of the party. "Still, opinions are like arseholes - everyone's got one and most of them stink."
  5. Steve grinned at the eccentric girl in the huge suit of armor. Not just at the sight of her small head poking out from between the massive shoulder plates, but also at her cheerfully dizzy manner. She seemed an almost classic mad-inventor trope come to life, though he reminded himself that someone who could work up a rough suit of power armor just for a party could probably, with funding and time, make a battle-ready one. Or any manner of weapons of singular or mass destruction, for that matter. He'd read reports about those Stormer who seemed to have enhanced intelligence and analytic skills, and whilst Kyria possessed a modicum of such enhancement Deezy seemed to have so much of it that it kind of... spilled out everywhere. "Party's fine, luv." he assured the hostess with a smile. "Tell me, do I want to be standing nearby when the Death Blossom happens?" Deezy's face screwed up cutely in exaggerated thought. "Define 'nearby'. I'm pretty sure the far side of the island is probably... maybe... possibly safe." she said, then grinned like a kid at Christmas. "Great." Steve replied dryly, rumbling a chuckle then as Emily linked arms with him and Bastion and started tugging the two large men in the direction of the main party. "Making girls jealous? Well, sounds like juggling grenades in a thunderstorm, but if we can survive that we might survive the Death Blossom." He looked at Deezy as she wrrr-klomp'd alongside him. "That armor is completely bananas." he said, unable to stop from chuckling further. "How are you even going to eat or drink in that?"
  6. Steve grinned a little, matching the toast and shooting back the tequila with the lack of grimace that spoke of a lot of time in bars. "The U.N. got pissy enough about me causing a continent sized fogbank. If I make it start raining men they're really going to go spare." he said, his voice a good-natured rumble as he held his glass out for a refill. "The MOD are calling me 'Einherjar' - obviously playing off the whole 'warrior / Norse / thunder god' thing while trying not to attract the wrath of Disney. I like 'Weatherman', though - it was Bastion's idea." Emily smiled at the younger of the two impressively built men, then at the older, who winked at her. "Though if you want a codename other than Sea Witch, you could go with Siren. How's your singing voice?" he asked with a piratical grin as she refilled his glass.
  7. "Does that apply to your parents? Mine? Your friends and their parents?" Steve replied soberly. "Who decides? What happens when some Stormer as strong as you gets pissed because you killed his favorite mundane humans and returns the favour?" When Bastion didn't immediately answer, Steve sighed. "Simple solutions are for simple problems. Trying to solve complex human problems with simple solutions is how the worst shit in the world's history gets started. Take a look at the last century. It all starts with 'Wouldn't it be great if everyone did what they were told for the greater good' and ends up with concentration camps, genocide and gulags." Glowing blue eyes stared at the surf. "Strikes me that if you want to build something better than humanity did, you can start by avoiding the same daft mistakes. Make brand new ones, for a start. Be better, not just stronger." He was silent for a long moment. "I've been thinking a lot about that myself. Maybe I shouldn't be answering to a government, either. I'm watching my people right now, watching them like a bloody hawk for any sign they're going to try and use me as a WMD for some bullshit political end. The Storm changed my life too - can't just think like a Bootneck." He glanced at Bastion again, sympathy in his tone. "You've had it rough. Don't let that define you, or that arsefaced Colonel might die, but he'll die being right. And arsefaced Colonels don't deserve to be right. They talk a lot of shit about Stormers, but even if we're not human, we're still people too. Losing sight of that would be sad." The tall soldier stood, stretching a little, then looked back up the beach a moment before regarding the younger man. "I'm going to go and mingle with that crazy mob up there. Could use a solid man on my left to make sure that loon in the powered armor doesn't step on my feet." he said with a grin. "Want to tag along?"
  8. "Society's laws are for society." Steve said after a few moments reflection. "Don't know about 'human', but right now 'society' consists of whatever social group you want to be with." "F'r instance, I'm a soldier. Was one for well over a decade before the Storm. When I joined the Royal Marines, I agreed to abide by the rules of that society, which themselves exist within and apart from wider society." He took a long drink, then belched impressively. "'Scuse me. Soda always gives me the wind. Anyway - Civvies don't have to abide by the laws I have to, like not talking to journalists without several layers of authorisation, and in some cases I don't abide by the laws they have to: for example, if you work in a bank it's generally not considered a legal defense to kill someone just because your boss tells you to." "Now it sounds to me-" he pointed a finger of the hand holding his bottle at Bastion. "That you got screwed over. Your folks got screwed over. So now you're looking at your old society, reading the fine print and thinking 'what's in it for me?' and 'why should I play fair if they don't?' Which are both reasonable questions, no doubt. And questions most men ask themselves sooner or later. You've got to add the third question, though: 'What society do I want to be part of, if any?'" The friendly, weather-tanned features were sober as they regarded Bastion. "So what it really boils down to is 'What do I want to do and who do I want to be?' If you want to raise horses, then look at what steps you need to take to do that, and make it happen. Want your folks to get their life back? You can't throw rocks at that problem, but you can figure out how to make it happen. Me? I'm looking to try and help people out while serving my country. There's monsters out there in the wild places, once people like you and me who went crazy with the power on the night of the Storm and ain't coming back. There's cities in ruins, people without clean water or infrastructure. There's countries like goddamn China who are likely press-ganging every Stormer in their borders to weaponise them for the Glorious People's Army. At which point they'll likely start flexing..." Steve frowned, staring at the ocean and taking another swig of root beer. "The world's in a shit state - the first thing blokes who can move mountains or summon hurricanes need to do is try and not make it worse for everyone."
  9. "Tch." The older man shook his head slightly. "Trust the Yanks to overreact in a crisis." His smile was good-natured, his tone dryly humorous. He regarded the muscular youth then, his smile fading a little. "I'm sorry about your farm, Bastion. That's a bloody mischief, and no mistake. My mum's side of the family are dairy farmers up in Somerset - cheese country - and they've been doing that a long time too. Used to go spend school breaks up there helping out - and I tell you, I wish they were horses. Bloody cows are quarter as smart and twice as stubborn." "As for whoring... Yeah. I guess that is a way to look at it." Steve said with the air of a man considering the word. "I'm not here for that. I've already got a job, though I'm pretty sure Queen and Country have no bleedin' clue what to do with me. I'm just here to meet folks and see what this Nova Corp thingy is all about." He sat quietly for a few minutes, then an idea apparently occurred to him. "You'd think the sodding U.S. government could have set your folks up on another horse ranch somewhere. I mean, it's not the same as the old family steading, but it's something at least. I dunno, but if anyone tried that shit back home there'd have been merry hell to pay." He shook his head. "How did they get to your folks? Spun them some nightmare scenario?"
  10. "Steve." the other man said with a smile, twisting the cap off his root beer, then clinking the bottle against Bastion's. "Though I'm going to consider asking them to change my callsign to Weatherman now." He took a pull on his drink, staring out at the ocean. "As for why I'm here - you look like a lad with a lot on his mind who turned up to a Halloween party just to sit down the beach. I can understand that a bit - all that back there is a lot of noise, excitement, people with powers and strange red-skinned half-naked birds and a crazy-eyed girl in powered armor..." "And pirates." Bastion said with a hint of a smile. Steve nodded sagely, raising his bottle in acknowledgement. "And pirates. And it's a lot, like I said. You seem a bit like me - sort of bloke who prefers to sit quietly most of the time with a friend or two, but you don't really know anyone here. I've been at plenty of shindigs where that's the case." Steve took another drink. "So now you know me. At least enough to sit and drink without a lot of fussing about. Or you can say 'Ta, but nah, Steve. I'm good by myself, off you toddle'. And no harm will be done."
  11. "Nice to meet you Donald - and it's just Steve the pirate today." the tall man with the desert tan and the irises that softly glowed as though backlit by lightning said to Donald with self-deprecating grin, offering a hand for the younger man to shake. "'Einherjar' is a name I'm still not used to. It's like a new pair of boots - pinches and chafes." He shook hands in a casually brisk way, one-and-done, then turned to 'Darth Mask', smiling amiably. "You could always go posh - end it with a q-u-e and call yourself 'Masque'." he said to the Sith Lady, offering her a hand in turn. He radiated a laid-back, just-plain-folks ease which was a contrast to the lightning-wreathed figure that had been seen fighting a giant ice monster or the stern, businesslike pictures of him in military fatigues that had adorned the media for the last couple months. He stepped back as Kyria introduced herself, turning to shake Davian and Ryan's hands and the end of one of Deezy's makeshift bolters, then grinned as Aquama'am made her entrance. Showy, but the fun kind he mused, studying the water-controller. Some of these people he'd read files on - those that had files at least. Others were very much mysteries. Like the young man who'd stepped through a portal then stalked off down the beach. Steve had been around the block once or twice, and had been a young man himself once. That youth (he disliked the term 'kid') had the look of someone who wanted to be here - for whatever reason - but wasn't sure how to proceed, especially in a crowd of adult superhumans all being fah-bulous. Steve could relate: the Palace had been more a proud moment than an uncomfortable one for him - after all, meeting one's sovereign as she praised his valor was pretty much on the bucket list for most serving members of Her Majesty's Forces. But the swanky parties were a little much for a man who was, at heart, more of a 'beer with his mates' sort than a 'stand around seeing and being seen' sort of guy. Even Kyria, social butterfly and people person though she was, had found the London party scene to be overmuch at times, so she'd been happy enough to come with Steve to Portsmouth to sit and have a drink with some of his old unit - who naturally were charmed by her and loudly proclaimed that she was too good for Steve and must have taken a knock on the noggin during the ice giant fight. That night had gotten a little raucous, and Kyria had learned the lyrics to songs with catchy tunes but that were best not sung in polite company (like all the best soldier's songs), and had been adopted as somewhat of an unofficial mascot by the Commandos. Now, though, she was excitedly greeting all the new Stormer faces, so Steve quietly ambled off towards where his keen nostrils detected food and drink. = = = = = = Sebastian was staring out over the ocean, his back to the palm tree and eyes squinting against the sunlight on the waves when he became aware of the soft sound of someone walking on sand nearby. He glanced up just as the large figure in outlandish pirate garb settled down a few feet away with a sigh, heedless of the sand getting on the fancy long coat, and also looked out over the view. "It's a lot, isn't it?" the pirate with lightning eyes said quietly, holding out a hand with two still-capped bottles cold enough to be dripping condensation down their sides to the young brooder. "Wasn't sure what your poison was, so I brought a Coke and a root beer. You choose: I'm good with either."
  12. "You're joking." Steve 'Einherjar' Nord, Colour Sergeant formerly in Her Majesty's Royal Marines and currently in Her Special Air Service, stared at Sir Cecil with a mixture of amusement and disbelief. At least at first - the amusement was fading somewhat as he realized that, yes, indeed, Sir Cecil was serious. Over by the patio window, Kyria hid her grin by staring out at the grey, dismal October day. England had some lovely countryside, but all those lush green hills seemed to require a lot of work with the sprinkler, so to speak. Summer this year had been a case of 'blink and miss it'. "It's a golden opportunity: most of the Stormers in the free world will be there, and possibly some from other nations too, using the occasion to do a little recruiting and scouting of their own." Sir Cecil was 'the man from the Ministry'. Officially he was a mid-level bureaucrat in the M.O.D, but unofficially he was the British government's man in charge of all Stormer related matters. He oversaw the collection and analysis of intel, made sure briefings were read by senior military staff as, well as by the Prime Minister, and spent a lot of time getting to personally know the U.K's small selection of Storm-enhanced. Word was that there was going to be an official 'Department of Enhanced Affairs' or some such, and when it was set up, Sir Cecil would be in charge of it. He preferred a light touch - treating people with courtesy and dignity. Technically, he could order Steve to attend the party, or at least arrange for orders to be so issued. But for a bureaucrat Sir Cecil was a definite people person, presenting himself as a reasonable sage advisor whom it would be wise to heed, rather than a martinet who expected his orders to be treated as the word of God. A lifetime of dealing with powerful, often mercurial people in the corridors of power translated well when it came to dealing with really powerful, often mercurial Stormers. Steve and Kyria liked him - Kyria jokingly calling him 'Uncle Cecil', which the Man from the Ministry took in good humor. "Hmm." Steve sat back in his chair, regarding the briefing paper and the invite that had arrived, courtesy of the Home Office. Kyria, being a private citizen, was free to come and go as she pleased. Steve on the other hand, being both a serving soldier and currently a focus of international concern due to the scope of his abilities, was somewhat more restricted. "Says here it's private land?" he looked up at Cecil, who nodded as he sipped his tea. Like most of their informal briefings, this was being conducted as a simple Sunday afternoon visit for a cup of tea and a chat at the pair's house on Hereford base. "Exactly. The Cook Islands are loosely tied to New Zealand, but this particular bit is owned lock, stock and barrel by private interests. Nobody to get irate about a living WMD wandering around inside their national borders. You've even been personally invited by this Davian fellow." Cecil explained as Kyria came over from the window and draped herself on the arm of Steve's chair, leaning on him as she peered at the satellite picture. "Looks sunny." she said with only a faint emphasis on the second word, but Steve glanced up at her with a slight smile, then shrugged as he looked back at Cecil. "Might as well save myself argument. I'm outgunned." he said with a grin. Kyria nodded, affecting a sober expression, then kissed him on the cheek as Cecil smiled. "Excellent. I'll send word to this Nova Solutions and arrange a time and place for your 'lift' - that teleporter fellow I believe will be doing the honours. Have fun, get to know your fellow Enhanced, and get some Pacific sunshine in October. I'm rather jealous." Sir Cecil smiled as he gathered his briefcase and coat, shaking hands before leaving. Steve and Kyria saw him out, then wandered back into the lounge. "What the hell am I going to wear to a sodding costume party?" Steve asked, almost plaintively. Kyria grinned as she hooked her arms around his neck. "It's a private island. I guess you can wear what you like. Or not wear what you like." she teased, waggling her eyebrows. 'Einherjar' snorted, giving her a kiss. "That's all I need - some Stormer's cellphone video of me starkers on the internet to go along with the half-naked ice monster footage." "I still think you should do that Playgirl photoshoot." Kyria giggled. "If you're worried about it affecting field work, you could wear a balaclava and nothing else. Trust me, they won't be looking at your face- Eep!" she squeaked as Steve smacked her backside firmly. She pouted, theatrically rubbing her rump. "Big bully." she said accusingly, then gave him a shark-like grin. "Got another one in ya?" "Focus, we've got work to do." Steve said, affecting an aloof demeanour. "Can't have Einherjar and Valkyrie showing up in shitty costumes. And anything viking related is out - I'm not sweating my bollocks off in leather, fur and chainmail in a Pacific summer." "Zombies?" Kyria suggested, bouncing up and down on her toes as her arms went back around his neck. "Vampires? Vampire zombies?" Steve sighed and picked her up, heading towards the bedroom. "Wait, what are we doing now?" "Searching for inspiration." Steve rumbled as he carried her down the hallway. "Really? Feels like you're inspired in all the wrong ways, Mr 'We've got work to do'." The lovely redhead made a half-hearted attempt at struggling. "Help! Oh help! A big brute is carrying me off to have his wicked way with me- Oh! I've got it! Pirates!" Steve stopped, considering for a moment, then nodding. "Yeah, that'll work. Good pirate costumes, though. No 'pirate stripper' costumes." "Oh, it'll be awesome." Kyria grinned ear to ear, then poked Steve in the chest. "Now keep moving." "But we've got the inspiration now." Steve deadpanned. "Wouldn't you rather have a nice cup of tea?" A pair of surprisingly strong hands grabbed him either side of his head as the slim woman squirmed around so her legs were now scissored around his waist, her deep blue eyes looking into his glowing pale blue ones. "No." Kyria growled, not-quite-playfully. "I would not." =========== Right on time, Davian thought to himself as, ears still ringing from Deezy’s concussive display of pyrotechnics, he turned to see Ryan’s portal to Hereford, England open… and disgorge a pair of pirates. Not cheap, thrift store pirates, or slutty bikini pirates, or ‘pirate-like’ costumes. Nope. Pirates, a villainous rough-looking pair indeed, though Kyria’s beaming smile at the sight of new people (and, let’s face it, Deezy’s costume) did a good job of reassuring Davian that this pirate lady, whilst she might cheat at cards, probably wouldn’t set fire to the place afterwards or stab too many people on the way out. Brown tricorne hat, a russet-coloured coat with a dark red shirt beneath, and well-fitted brown leather pants tucked into knee-high boots were finished off with a baldric from which dangled a sword and pistol. With her flaming red hair loose under the hat and her blue eyes sparkling with mirth and excitement, she was a sight to behold. As was her companion, dressed in a long crimson-lined blue naval coat which looked, from the bloody hole over one breast, as though the wearer had liked the look of it so much they’d murdered the poor previous owner. Under that grim, stained garment a white shirt was worn under a short jacket adorned with three braces of flintlock pistols, mounted cross-draw fashion down Steve’s broad torso. Crimson pantaloons were tucked into fold-topped boots, and a baldric similar to Kyria’s supported a sword that was more butcher’s cleaver than elegant rapier, as though someone had taken a broadsword, roughly hewn a foot from the blade, then stuck it on a basket hilt meant for a different type of blade altogether. Whereas Kyria’s outfit was mostly clean, as though this was her first cruise on the high seas for plunder and booty, Steve’s outfit was smoke-stained, patched, spotted with what could only be hoped was fake bloodstains, and altogether terrifying. This pirate, in contrast to Kyria’s, would not only casually staple card cheats to the table, he’d then pillage, plunder and set fire to everything around him before carrying off any women who hadn’t already run away. A black bandana was tied over Steve’s head, from under which his faintly glowing electric-blue eyes squinted in the Pacific sunshine, taking in their surroundings at a glance before regarding Davian, Deezy and Ryan with a friendly nod. “This’d be the party, then.” he said to no-one in particular, grinning at the three Nova Solutions people. “Steve Nord, this is Kyria Stormborn.” He rested the heel of his left hand on the hilt of his bastardised cutlass as he offered a lazy touch of his forelock to them in salute. “Permission to come ashore?”
  13. October 5th, 2019 "Nant Ddu?" Kyria asked over the headset as she looked at the brochure and at the map on the back, pronouncing the name of the place to rhyme with 'aunt do'. Steve was likewise going over his briefing package, which included the same colorful brochure advertising the getaway spot and it's facilities. "Close." Colonel Hatcher called back. "Two d's together in Welsh is pronounced as 'th', and the 'a' sound is a bit flatter on the first word, rhymes with 'pant'." The reason they were speaking loudly, even over headsets, was due to to the fact they were sitting in the belly of a huge twin-rotored Chinook as it thundered its way across the countryside. Further back in the compartment were two dozen members of the SAS and some large pieces of scientific-looking equipment. "Whitehall paid off the owners and the staff are getting paid leave - so we have the run of the place. The Beacons are officially an emergency zone right now - all civilians have been gently ushered away and we've got some Terries maintaining the perimeter." "It has a spa. With a pool, jacuzzi, gym... ooh, 32-carat gold body wraps!" Kyria nudged Steve. The Colonel smiled slightly as Steve shrugged. "It'll do. I mean, it's not up to the high standards I've become accustomed to." deadpanned a man who'd slept aboard tight quarters on naval warships, shared a bunkroom with twenty other snoring Marines, and on at least one occasion fallen asleep in a shallow cave in the middle of the Afghan highlands. "I'll make do, though." "Sadly, the spa services will be limited." Colonel Hatcher said dryly. "We will have use of the pool and other amenities, though. I'm fairly certain that administering gold body wraps is not a skill currently in demand in the 22nd, or indeed the Territorials." "So other than 22nd and the Terrys, who can we expect on the ground?" Steve asked as he flipped through the package. "The best minds we were able to scrape together." Hatcher acknowledged. "Leaders in the fields - medical doctors, neurologists, biochemists, along with physicists, head-shrinkers and, of course, a lot of civil servants to write reports on the reports that are being written." His tone was even drier at the last statement. "All very useful and necessary, I am sure. Kyria, just a word for you since Colour Sergeant Nord knows this already - the civvies cannot order you around. God knows they will try, but they cannot. Technically, and please understand this is a formality for your protection, you are attached under my oversight. Keep that in mind, don't lose your rag with some pompous egghead and throw him over the Fan." The Colonel smiled at her. "Just play along with any reasonable request, if you would." "I'll try." she said with an air of doubt as to whether she could, then shot him a winsome smile in return. He chuckled and sat back in his seat, and Kyria leaned against Steve's comforting bulk and studied the briefing package. The release of her hospital records combined with a PET scan at the base had revealed that Kyria's brain was, quite literally, a new one. Though she had knowledge of a lot of basic things, she had no memories, even suppressed or hidden, to provide emotional context for that knowledge. This likely explained her mercurial, tempestuous nature as well as her emotional openness. The Storm had taken a woman in a coma and turned her into a brand new woman, and though Kyria did wonder who she had been before, she was more interested in who she was going to be next. Or now. Steve appeared less changed, at least physically, so far as the tests over the last two weeks had determined. His blood work, like Kyria's, showed elevated compounds of various hormones and other elements not yet fully quantified. New cellular structures were apparent, but their purpose was unknown yet - hence the commandeering of a comfortable remote getaway spot to allow the leading minds in their fields to poke and prod the two enhanced people. An excellent physical specimen before the Storm, they hadn't really been able to test the limits of his changes in the quarantine bubble - though this morning he had celebrated freedom from the bubble by going for a long run with the Hereford base lads - and running them into the ground, maintaining a sprinting pace without slowing or tiring for the full ten mile run. Soldiers being soldiers, the PT sergeant had told him to run it again for being a smart-arse, which he did. At least by the end of the second run of the course he had worked up a healthy sweat and was breathing hard. Emotionally and mentally, he was much the same. A little sharper, perhaps. He was aware of an increase in his sensory acuity and that was roughly it. He didn't feel unstable, or any different from the stoic self he had always been. Which was a good thing - Kyria clung to that solidity over the endless days in quarantine, drawing some strength from the way he just endured, with good humor, their predicament when there were times she wanted to kick out the airlock door and scream. Though their initial physical attraction to one another had not diminished in the slightest, they had at least mastered the art of not trashing the house in their frequent liaisons. In addition, they just enjoyed each others company, moving from just the affectionate teasing and verbal sparring of their earlier days to a deeper level of appreciation. There was still a lot of the teasing and verbal sparring, mind you. It was just not the whole cloth of their relationship. There was another reason for their advanced assessment being carried out in the middle of a large mountainous national park, too. Steve's other ability, namely being able to control and harness the weather, was not something anyone wanted experimentation on whilst he was on a base near a town. That, as much as the pair's more physical gifts, needed to be assessed, and quickly. How great was his scope? How fine was his control? Was the weather a blunt instrument in his hands, or could he only harness existing conditions? And finally, perhaps most worryingly: if he used his gifts, would it upset weather patterns elsewhere or was there some built in limiter on the knock-on effect? As the Chinook started its descent, Steve glanced out of the window at the fancy-looking buildings below and the small crowd of uniformed and non-uniformed people who were gathering at the edge of the landing field. Well, he supposed, they were going to find out.
  14. Kyria bumped the fridge door shut with her hip, laying out the spoils of her chilled hunt: grapes, hard cheese, a summer sausage log, and a large bottle of orange juice. She rummaged for a knife, finding a fully stocked drawer of utensils next to the fridge and a block of steak knives sitting on the counter nearby. Sharp knife in hand, she began slicing cheese and meat with deft, quick motions that would have professional chefs blinking at the speed and precision. "How's the pantry raid going?" she called out, grinning as she misspoke just enough to lay the joke bare for the blond god of lightning only a few feet from her. "Soup... Baked beans... aha! Nutties!" Steve crowed triumphantly as he dug the retail box of Snickers bars out of the cupboard, holding it aloft like a naked tattooed Prometheus bearing fire. He tossed a jar of Dijon mustard over to his equally - and distractingly - naked room-mate. She arched a finely shaped brow at him. "What? I like it with cheese and cold meat." "Not that. 'Nutties'?" she giggled as he came over and stood behind her, dropping a kiss on her shoulder that tickled delightfully. Setting the box of candy bars on the counter, he gently rested his hands on her hips and peered at what she was doing. "Mmm. Chocolate and peanuts. Food of the gods when you're in the field or just come off a belter of an exercise." Steve nodded, breathing in the scent of her hair, then mischievously kissing her ear. "And I'd say we've had plenty of exercise." he murmured in a husky growl. She hummed an agreement, slicing the last of the cheese and pushing it over next to the sliced summer sausage. Laying the knife down, she laid her hand against his cheek and pressed back against him. She chuckled, "We need better exercise equipment then, we're all out in the bedroom." "And who's fault is that?" he asked, reaching for a slice of the cheese and bringing it to her lips, enjoying the feel of her nestling back against his body. Though currently satiated by a truly staggering amount of room-trashing sex, the intimacy was still gently arousing. She pulled the cheese into her mouth with her lips, her stomach growling in protest of how long it had gone without sustenance - hours! - and she gave him an innocent stare. "You," she decided with her puckish grin. "I'm going to say you." "Is that how it is, hmm?" he took a piece of cut meat for himself, then stacked it with a slice of cheese dipped in the mustard before popping the whole thing into his mouth. "That poor dresser." He said mock-woefully. "That was all you." "Your body," she countered archly. "Not my fault if the wood couldn't take a push. Or two. Or two dozen. Flimsy construction, really." She watched him pile his not-sandwich together, then tried one herself, but looked mildly disappointed at the results. "This needs something." "Hmmm." he pondered as he chewed a couple of times and swallowed. "No Granny Smith apples. I checked." He plucked a grape up and tossed it up over Kyria's head, leaning back slightly so it landed in his mouth. "Hah. First time I ever did that with an armful of lovely." Kyria made a pleased sound at the movement, enjoying the ever-so-slight friction. "Too bad. Though I don't want sweet or tart. Just crunchy." She hadn't said anything about the 'lovely' comment, but her her cheeks were pink and that smile that was always romping around her expression was a little softer for it. She chuckled then as a thought hit her. "Good thing we've got two bedrooms. And the bed was your fault. Totally." She nodded with the certainty of someone who knew they were lying. "Nuh-uh." Steve shook his head as he disengaged from the shapely redhead and padded back over to the pantry. "Crunchy... Crunchy... Ah, here." He dug out a packet of crackers and slid them along the counter to Kyria, who fixed him with a look. "Those were in there?" she asked with a grin as she unwrapped them. "And what do you mean 'Nuh-uh', mister?" "I mean you told me to, and I quote, 'fuck the hell out of you." Steve replied, leaning one bare hip against the counter and helping himself to the bottle of orange juice, taking a long pull from the container. “Also threatened to go find another thunder god.” She put mustard on her cracker and layered alternating meat and cheese on it, munching down happily for a moment. "And how does that make it my fault? You heard it groaning." She stepped up to him, poking him in the chest with her best impression of accusation. "You kept going after the first leg broke off!" "Well, I was busy. Can't expect a bloke to keep track of details like that." he shrugged, waving a hand dismissively before setting down the juice and reaching around her to grab some more food, 'accidentally' pinning Kyria up against the counter bracketed by his arms as he built his own loaded cracker. "Besides, you were doing that thing with your... you know. Also: shrieking like a howler monkey." "Mmph," she said intelligently as she shimmied against him, momentarily distracted from the deep and philosophical accusations. "Well, a girl needs to express sometimes. Loudly. And words were hard." He picked the cracker up, moving it towards himself, when Kyria leaned forward and took a bite that left him a small crescent of his little tower. She gave him a look of challenge over her shoulder as she licked some stray mustard off her lip. He stared at the pitiful remnant of his snack-stack, then narrowed his eyes at the unrepentant minx before bending his head down and kissing her, sucking gently at the lip she had licked before breaking off the kiss and popping what was left of his cracker into his mouth. Kyria grinned and laid out more crackers to build up, making a half-dozen at a time now. She gave a breezy little snicker, reminiscing. "Oh, poor dresser. You fit only for matchsticks now. I think there's a board left from one of the drawers. We could make a little plaque to commemorate it's demise. I don't know that there's that much of the bed left. And you, sir, did rip the hole in the mattress." She nodded gravely at him, holding one of her mass-produced snacks in her hand. "Face it. We're going to beggar the military through sex and broken furniture. It's the new warfare of the future." He nodded as though this was a deep and worthy consideration of strategic merit, then plucked another of her laden snacks from the counter. "They're going to tell us to stop shagging." he suggested, then grinned. "Fat chance of that happening, though." He chewed in thoughtful silence for a moment or two, regarding Kyria's face with a gentle warmth in his steel-hued eyes as his other hand tenderly stroked her back. "Mm, backrub," she said, letting out a pleased little sound. She pushed the cutting board and food out of the way and laid her head and arms down on the table. Little goosebumps spread like cold wildfire over her skin at the cold feel of the table against her bare breasts, but instead of moving she just decided to enjoy the shiver and the contrast between the chill tabletop and the warmth of Steve's body. "Royal backrub, no less." Steve quipped as he grabbed one more meat and cheese-laden cracker 'for the road', then let both large hands stroke down Kyria's back, his fingers splayed wide across the satiny skin. More tiny sounds of enjoyment were coaxed from the girl as the soldier's large hands displayed - not for the first time this night - a surprising amount of intuitive precision on where to press, where to stroke, how hard or how fast to move. For Steve, it was similarly surprising: lord knew he'd not gotten many complaints about his occasional backrubs or footrubs from past lovers, but he'd seldom felt so connected to the world through his senses, all of which had been operating on '11' since the Storm had changed him. He also had an enhanced awareness of his own body and how it moved, plus of course the whole 'tougher and more tireless' thing. All of which, whilst definitely being of aid in his chosen profession, were also a plus in other arenas. As evidenced by the slender mischief currently making tiny purring noises and squirming her backside against his groin. "That's distracting." he teased, letting his fingers graze out and along her sides under the ribs, almost-tickling. "Mmm," she agreed without changing a single thing about the situation. She was giving little shivering starts when his fingers would find just the right sensitive spot, sending her words stuttering for a letter or two. "It is d-distracting. And here I a-ah-am, just an innocent girl trying to get s-some food and a backrub." "Go ahead and eat." Steve said evenly as he continued his lengthy exploration of her skin, sliding his finger up over the nape of her neck and tickling her scalp under the thick hair. Infected with a slight touch of impishness by his companion, he would now and then move his hips so that contact was broken, causing her to make a small sound of protest and wiggle her posterior, seeking the pleasurable warmth of him before he would once more move back into place. He took a little more time on her scalp, tickling turning to a gentle pressure as he spread his fingers through her hair and then down over her ears, rubbing in little circles before trailing them down over her neck and out along her shoulders. Kyria had no memory of the world before she was like this, but she surmised that it must have been at least a little different. Either that or if she'd spent her previously life with these appetites - for food, for companionship, for sex, for just being touched - she hoped she’d had the resources and someone like Steve to share them with. His touch was addictive to her, running from rough and calloused to so gentle she was arching against him just to make sure he was still there. Nothing had made her feel so alive in her short memory except maybe barrelling down through a tornado at the ice monster and even then that had been with him. "Can't eat," she moaned after a few minutes of the scalp massage. "Muscles won't listen anymore." Her stomach did make another grumbling protest at that and she murmured, "Hush you." "Here." his voice rumbled, and she felt him lean forwards, the movement pressing a certain (now very wakeful) part of him up against certain parts of hers. As he picked up candy bar and unwrapped it, her lover made a slight adjustment that had the result of making Kyria's eyes shoot wide open, then half-close in bliss as his hardness insistently nudged its way into her body once more. As she moaned, he broke a piece of the Snickers off and held it to her lips, crumbs of chocolate and caramel adorning his fingers. "Got to... keep your strength up." Steve sighed, his own train of thought somewhat derailed at the sensations of her body welcoming and grasping onto him. "So... we're going to have... to do both." "Oh yes," she said breathily, "we simply...must. No other...earthly choice." She licked the chocolate from his fingers, nibbling through the nuts and caramel as her body sang with appreciation at the sugar. "More?" she leaned her head back, giving Steve a hopeful look and refusing to source her own food while he was so deliciously sunk inside her. Steve had enjoyed the carnal way she had cleaned off his fingers, even as her hips took up a greedy slowly-rolling motion as she tried to draw him deeper into her. Biting a chunk of the Snickers off, he leaned over Kyria with it between his lips, watching her eyes darken even as a lazy smile curved lips plump and reddened from an excess of kissing. She tried to stretch up a little to meet him, but the angle was awkward - not least because in order to claim the treat, she would have to slide off her other treat. She whined in the back of her throat as she felt him about to slip out and instead sank back fully onto him, blue eyes glancing up with a mixture of frustration, aroused enjoyment of the game, and pleading. He acquiesced readily, lowering his head and letting Kyria's lips hungrily lock onto his, tongue dancing as she took the bite-sized piece of candy into her mouth. Steve's free hand curled around from behind to rest on her hip and abdomen as the pair of them began to rock against one another, hungrily tasting each other's mouths. Her tongue greedily searched for any other trace of chocolate inside his mouth, running over his teeth and licking over his tongue. Steve had a quick flash of her using the same maneuver on parts decidedly not his tongue. She finished with a nibble on his lower lip, giving him a pleased grin when she pulled back enough to see the blissed out expression on the soldier's face. She pulled the hand on her abdomen up, an utterly sinful sound escaping her lips as he found himself cupping her breast. She squeezed his hand, the two of them together kneading the sensitive globe of flesh and he could feel her nipple harden under his fingers. "I'm still...mhm....hungry, Steve," she cooed. "Help me?" "Next time we get food... we do it clothed." he suggested in a low growl emphasised with a jerk of his hips that caused them both to moan as his free hand slid across to her other breast. He began to set up a more insistent surging rhythm, his body trapping her against the counter, yet he was aware of Kyria's supple feline power as he felt her brace herself on her hands and push back hard against every rolling thrust. He was hungry too, and it was for her, much as he'd tried to keep her at arm's length at first - a fact that viewed in hindsight he realised was him fighting against the inevitable out of sheer stubbornness. She made him smile, even when instead he'd put on a frown or an air of wry exasperation. And every time she'd draped herself over him, or plopped on him while he was blamelessly napping during their quarantine, he'd wanted little else than to kiss her. He wasn't religious, or even particularly superstitious - at least, not any more so than most soldiers. But he couldn't help feeling a connection between himself and Kyria, despite the fact he'd never laid eyes on her until she'd come flitting out of the storm-tossed night with a smile on her face as though everything was exciting and new. So he pulled her against him, her back to his chest as the pair of them, breathing heavily, rocked and clung to each other. Kyria arched against his roughened hands, her own hands reaching up and back to latch onto Steve's neck as a sheen of perspiration made their skins gleam. "Why....ruin....clothes?" she gasped out as her body shook with each thrust. She tried to laugh, but a rough moan bubbled up instead. She felt on fire, every thrust setting off firework sizzles in her brain and sending her muscles in search of a release. She tried to brace a foot against the kitchen table, but only sent it sliding off away from them; the food they'd gathered scattered like scared peasants in presence of mating giants. The wood vibrated angrily after burying itself in the drywall - Kyria didn't even open her eyes at the sound of the crash. She didn't want to lose her leverage from her clutch on Steve's neck, but she her body was begging for more sensation - just enough to send her over the edge and give her back a measure of sanity. She let one hand loose and tried to pull his hand in a reverse of what she'd done before, but even the tiny bit of friction lost at the movement drew needy, mewling sounds from her. She couldn't finish her silent instructions before she fastened her free hand back on his neck and thrust herself back down on him with an utterly selfish demand for every centimeter of his shaft. Her frantic grasping at his hand did not go un-noticed, though it was a torturously long moment before the hint percolated through to the still-thinking part of Steve's brain. He buried his face in Kyria's perspiration-damp hair and swept his hands down her body, over her stomach and abdomen before latching onto her hips with force that would have bruised a normal woman but drew an appreciative feral cry from somewhere deep in her throat. He set the pace, pulling Kyria's body down and back onto him, his jaw clenching with his own need as the air filled with rasping moans, gasps and the sounds of their bodies coming together. Steve's mouth opened against her shoulder, teeth gently gripping as his tongue tasted the sweet salt of her skin. The gentle bite elicited a hard slam back on him with her hips and a rasping moan. The bedroom had been fun but they hadn't done this yet and Kyria's fevered mind emblazoned in on her libido as a must have from here on out. He felt her shudder and clench around him but it was fleeting, far less than her usual noisy, energetic orgasms. Then it happened again. Then a third time. Her body began to nearly vibrate as the little orgasms kept coming faster and faster, crashing in together in a frantic frenzy. He felt her knees begin to buckle and her body began to dip downward, but the motion reversed itself immediately. Her knees hadn't locked - instead it was her flight power now keeping her in place instead of unreliable legs He felt her hunger and need as though they were his own, his teeth finding another spot on her flawless skin to redden as Kyria began to lose control of her body under the barrage of lightning-quick climaxes that seared afterimages across her nerves. Steve's own wave was cresting at the fluttering, spasming coaxing motions of his lover's walls, the intensity she awoke in him burning in his veins like a drug. As he bit her once more, he slid questing fingers around her and down to the junction of their bodies, finding the stiff little center of Kyria's pleasure and rubbing with calloused fingertips as their bodies thundered together. The stroke of his fingers sent her from moans to ecstatic howls in time with his ministrations. She wanted to hear him scream, to feel those final rough thrusts as Steve lost his self-control at last and surrendered completely to her for just a moment. In all their acrobatic pleasure-seeking, it was that moment that she craved the most. Even as she keened out her own overload of utter abandonment to pleasure, her own submission of her body to Steve's touch and erotic invasion, there was a part of her waiting. A part of her still coiled in anticipation for that reciprocal capitulation to instinct and carnal joy. When he felt her lean her head back on his shoulder, her voice lifted in a full-throated paean of ecstacy as her body flushed, Steve lost his own scraps of control that were keeping the burning tide at bay. Swearing uncontrollably in a low growl he buried himself in her one last time, arms wrapping around Kyria and holding her tight. Her hands gripping his head and holding it close, she felt his body tauten, his solid arms constricting her delightfully as she arched her back in his embrace, feeling that pulse that immediately preceded the flooding warmth of him deep in her core. Her feet finally slipped back to solid ground as she let out a languid, satisfied sigh. She turned her head to kiss him contentedly on the corner of his lips while her pelvic muscles continued - now under quite conscious control - to stroke him from within. "I think," she said breathily, "we broke the kitchen, too." He sagged back against the wall, nodding as Kyria, with a giggle, matched his movement to prolong the moment until their bodies separated. "Bloody hellfire and fucking damnation." he swore softly, if a bit more coherently than his earlier string of profanity, before he laughed and kissed her lingeringly. "At least the cupboards, fridge and pantry are intact." he observed as his stomach growled, sensing the opportunity to be heard now that it was quieter. He gave her another quicker kiss. "Quick, let's grab some scran and stuff ourselves before we end up going at it like ferrets again." Kyria laughed like chiming bells and finally released both of them, scooping the Snickers up from the floor. "Can't go wrong with Nutties," she giggled, tossing him one and opening another for herself. "I don't suppose we could actually make it through cooking, do you?" Her challenging smirk was just daring him to try. "Not until one of us is asleep... And I'm not sure even about that." Steve grinned as he allowed himself to slide down the wall to sit bareassed on the floor, catching the Snickers and opening it up before devouring half of it in one bite. "Mmmf!" he gestured, causing Kyria to laugh and toss another bar over. "I think we might have enough time to heat up some canned stew." he mused as he leaned his head back against the wall, smiling at her. She dug into her own second-and-two-bites candy bar, and made a face that said 'you can try'. She came over and took up a seat on the floor next to him, putting the box between them. She glanced up at the kitchen window. "Oh, dawn's come," she said with a faint note of surprise. They'd already broken half the bed before sunset. The day before, she thought with a naughty thrill. Well, I guess that's a better way to spend a night, too. "Mmhmm." Steve nodded as he hummed bass agreement around a mouthful of Snickers, then his eyes widened a little and he chewed a couple more times and swallowed. "They'll be coming to check on us soon. Thank fuck this house is in a quarantine bubble or the whole base would have been on alert." He tried to look stern, but the grin that spread across his features ruined the effect. "Do you think we could quietly nap in the other bed?" "Tired?" she teased him. He laughed, tossing a balled-up candy wrapper at her. "I like napping. And I'd like to nap cuddling you. I just want to make sure we're agreed to leave at least one bed intact." She gave him her best fox-grin and shrugged in agreement, finishing off the Snickers in her hand and debating a third. "So long as you admit you tapped out first." "Ohhh, is that how it is?" he asked, curling an arm around her waist and pulling her close, nuzzling her sweat-damp hair and tickling her ear with his breath. She nodded, biting down on the third bar and tracing her fingers over his thigh. "All you have to do is tap out first and I'll let you sleep." "Okay, that is it. C'mere..." he mock-growled, lifting Kyria onto his lap and giving the giggling woman a kiss. “We’ll see who taps out.” = = = = = It was mid-morning, and the airlock cycled. Forewarned by the younger of the two previous scientists, the two man team knocked on the door firmly, rather than just letting themselves in. They waited for a short moment, then the door opened to show a rather bedraggled head and shoulders of Colour Sergeant Nord. His face was slightly flushed under the tan, but of more immediate note was the fact he’d apparently been in some kind of food fight. Chocolate and caramel smears on his chest and one on his face looked for all the world as though someone had daubed him with a Snickers bar and then licked him clean. Which, the two men from PHE realised with mounting embarrassment, was probably exactly what had happened. “Oh.” He said, glancing over his shoulder and then leaning out a little. “Listen, guys. Can this wait? We’re in the middle of a crucial bet and-“ “Oh Steeeeve!” Kyria’s silvery voice was bubbling with mirth. “I found the peanut butter-“ Her voice took on a sharper, impatient tone then “Who’s at the door?” “Mormons.” Steve called back, then grinned apologetically and shut the door in the two scientists’ faces. Through the HAZMAT suits, they could dimly hear a feminine voice raised in a war whoop. = = = = = The next knock at the door came as the late afternoon sun was tinting the lounge golden. Steve looked up from where he lay on the remaining intact bed, Kyria’s head on his shoulder, noting the time before sliding out from under the arm and leg which she’d cast over him. Grateful they’d both showered before Kyria had passed out utterly satiated, he tugged the blanket over the still-smiling redhead, kissed her cheek and pulled on some clothes. “Afternoon, Colour Sergeant.” The base commander - a Colonel – said from inside his HAZMAT suit as Steve opened the door, then drew himself up and saluted. “At ease, at ease. I’d like a word with you?” “Sir.” Steve stepped out of the way and let the Colonel in without thinking, then mentally cursed himself. At least the place was tidy-ish – he’d cleaned up the food they’d, ahem, made use of and done what he could to set the kitchen and the wrecked bedroom to rights. Still, he could imagine the Sandhurst-educated eyebrows raising in critical reproof under the HAZMAT gear as the Colonel looked around the kitchen area. “I see you’re settling in.” The Colonel’s voice might have contained irony, but if so it was well hidden and very polite – something Steve had long associated with the better class of officers. “Tell me, Colour Sergeant – given what I see here, what state is the bedroom in? Speaking candidly, of course.” “Candidly, sir, it’s a shitshow.” Steve admitted. “One of them is, at least. We... agreed to spare the other one, sir.” “I see.” The Colonel was good – his lips never even twitched, but one does not get to be a Colour Sergeant without being able to sense the moods of senior officers. “I do not need to remind you, Colours, that this is a house under quarantine and so getting a repair crew in will be difficult.” “Yessir.” Steve answered, looking straight ahead and not-quite standing at attention. He too did not smile – this was not an openly smiling conversation – but as with good NCOs, good officers can tell the moods of their men. “Also, Steve, I’d take it as a kindness if you and the lass could make yourselves available for the nice boffins from the PHE. They will be by at ten-hundred hours most days to run their tests.” The Colonel glanced at the patio doors. “We’ll be using the rear garden of this place to set up testing equipment.” “Yessir.” “So. No more wrecking Her Majesty’s furniture, or I will make sure she hears about it before you get invited to the Palace.” “The Palace, sir?” “Assuming that you aren’t an NBC threat to life and limb, yes. You’ve made the papers, lad. You and the lass-“ “Kyria, sir.” “Kyria. Lovely name. Yes, you and Kyria, fighting an honest to god monster and saving lives. Your name is splashed all over the place now. I’m reasonably certain the Palace - and Westminster of course - are taking an interest.” The Colonel turned towards him, studying the large Colour Sergeant. “National hero – and you’ll probably be accepted into the Regiment too. Can’t do covert plainclothes work, but there’s plenty of uses for a man of your training and gifts in the Special Air Service. I thought I’d make the offer before the Frogfoots start screaming.” Now the Colonel did smile faintly. “But that is all contingent on you letting the nice PHE boys do their jobs, hmm?” “Yessir.” Steve said once more. “Capital.” The Colonel made to leave, and Steve went to open the door for him. The senior officer paused, half-turning and peering out of the suit’s faceplate at him. “Forgive me for prying, Colours... But I’m reasonably certain that these quarters, whilst being well-furnished – formerly – and well stocked with food and other necessities...” He coughed. “Are somewhat lacking in contraceptives?” He looked at the slightly wild-eyed expression on Steve’s face and managed not to laugh. “Didn’t think of that, sir.” Steve managed. Oh fuck me sideways and rigid. “Ahh, caught up in the moment, eh?” The Colonel smiled. “Well, I’m sure it will all work out for the best, Colours. Don’t fret too much, hmm?” And with a pat of a gloved hand on the NCO’s muscular arm, the Colonel headed for the airlock. He managed to get back to his office before he laughed.
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