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Mutants & Masterminds: Legacy - Childhood Recollections


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Serene sat down her suitcase on the bed, a little at a loss. Behind her, Azkatt rumbled irritably as he nosed a corner of the unfamiliar room. She knew how he felt, she mused as she pulled her mask off and let the air brush over her skin. She wore the mask more often than not, like her father. But Watchman wore it because he had long ago stopped being James Dorian and had just become Watchman; she wore because if she didn’t, she caused problems.

Sensing her dark mood, Azkatt came over and slipped his nose under her hand, his warm breath brushing around her fingers. She scratched at the short fur on his nose, which started what Watchman called The Machine, because it sounded like one had started from somewhere in the big feline’s chest. Serene smiled as the rumble almost shook the air in the room.

The door chimed and Serene tensed. It was keyed to admit her and Watchman without signaling; for it to make that noise meant that some else was asking admittance. Nervously, she left Azkatt’s side and activated the peep screen to see who it was.

In'Karra Zurthyn’s open, smiling face was close to the lens, leaning down to look at the high-set camera. Serene felt both a twinge of pleasure and trepidation; the beautiful girl was so happy and nice. For all those reasons, Serene was uncomfortable around her. It was the envy of seeing someone who had an easy life, especially compared to hers. And there was the matter of their childhood friendship which had decayed. That was sure to be awkward.

It would be rude to ignore her, though. Putting a smile on her face, Serene opened the door. “Karra,” she said, greeting her warmly. “Come in.” Karra was even taller than before, having gained another foot in the two years since they’d last seen one another. Hanging back so that someone in the hallway wouldn’t see her by mistake, Serene asked, “How have you been?”

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In'Karra was almost giddy when she heard that Serene was coming to the HQ; it had been a long time since she had seen her friend last. A brief frown crossed her open features, remembering the last time she had seen Serene.

She hadn't meant to stay away so long, but she had been afraid. Before, she had kept growing bigger and bigger, and stronger and stronger all the time, and she kept breaking things by accident. The idea of breaking her friend had terrified her, and the way everything kept looking smaller had bothered her too. The worst thing though, was how quiet and withdrawn Serene kept getting, it was like she was mad and sad at the same time, and In'Karra didn't know what she had done wrong.

But all that didn't matter anymore. She hadn't grown more than an inch in the last year, and she had learned how to control her strength, so she didn't break things by accident anymore. Well, almost never. And now, Serene was visiting her home for the first time, instead of In'Karra going with her mom Dawnstar to see her old friend the Watchman at his home. Maybe, Serene would even stay here, then she'd have another friend.

Karra waited anxiously for the door to open, she was sure this was the right one. The door slid open with a soft hiss, and when she saw Serene's more than perfect smile, she felt a warm tingle pass through her, and she knew everything was going to be okay. Her smile grew even wider when Serene asked her to come in and how she was doing, her voice soothing. Everything was going to be like it was before.

Karra entered the room, ducking low under the door, careful not dent the frame. She picked Serene up like she was a feather and gave her long, tight, controlled hug; Serene couldn't help but be aware of the nigh unfathomable strength that Karra's long, leanly muscled limbs possessed. After setting Serene back down, Karra settled cross-legged on the floor, her green, guiless eyes almost level with Serene's.

"I've really missed you Serene, I'm so glad you came. I'm doing a lot better now. I haven't grown more'n an inch in the last year, and I don't break things by accident anymore." A brief look of sadnest crossed her face as she remember something, or rather someone she had broken, whispering, "Almost never."

Her cheerful smile quickly returned though, and as Azkatt came to sniff her almost forgotten scent, she began petting him behind the ears with one of her large hands.

"But look at you Serene! Your pretty spots are so bright now, and you're so pretty now, you must have a hundred boyfriends back home. Are you going to be staying here? You should. Space is the best, and I can take you out there anytime. They made a small shuttle for me that I can carry so others can come with me. And look at Azkatt, he's so big now. He is bigger right? Sometimes, it's hard for me to tell. Are you going to be here long? I should take you on a tour, show you the station, like you showed me Dorian Manor when first we met. I had a boyfriend once, well slmost, but we were fooling around, and I got excited, and... and, well, I think I scared him - but really, they were able to fix him right away, he didn't have to leave. But that's alright, 'cause you're here now. What have you been doing? Oh! I also visited the Shytar System, where mom is from. It was very pretty, all the habited planets, they were, like, five of them, have lots of moons, so it was fun to fly from one to the other, but there were only two girls near my age, and they were still a lot older than me, and very mean - and... they said bad things about me and mom and dad - who they don't even know! - and I did a bad thing to them, and we came back. Soon, they said, I'm gonna be a full league member. You should become one too Serene! We'd be the greatest heroes ever, and..."

Not needing to breath in a conventional manner let Karra talk for a long time without pausing.

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Serene let Karra talk and talk and talk. It was soothing, because it meant that she didn't think of anything to say. Azkatt wandered between the two women, the tiger-sized alien seeking the best possible scratches at any given moment.

Serene was taking mental notes about what to address when Karra wound down. She was content to not speak until Karra was complete done, at which point, she started to answer the other woman. "No, no boyfriends," she said, not sure how to explain that she hadn't seen a man other than Watchman and his trusted butler, Allen, without a mask since age twelve. Watchman said that was too much danger that someone would figure out her secret; Serene knew it was because he was afraid she'd start acting like her. The mask was there to stop her from doing it by accident, but it would serve to keep her from doing it on purpose, too.

Serene gazed at Karra and had a dark urge to see if she could do IT to her. It had worked on Allen that one time; it had gotten her what she wanted-

She quelled the urge. Even if she wanted something from Karra - other to prove that she could - Serene knew that she shouldn't. She shouldn't especially when she wanted to do it.

"I don't know about staying," she said honestly. "Watchman wants me to." Like Allen, she hadn't called him anything other then Watchman since the day she realized that's all he really was, now. Maybe once he'd been James Dorian, but he wasn't anymore. It made her a little sad; Watchman was a good father, but James had been a dad.

She brushed past the offered tour and the talk of Karra's boyfriend. She suspected that it was a sore spot, or would be if Karra understood what it had meant. The news about the people of Shytar caught her off-guard. She had thought that all the people of Shytar were like Dawnstar, who was distant but nice to her. "What? What did they say?" she asked without thinking that Karra may not have wanted her to know.

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Karra's jaw dropped when Serene told her that she hadn't ever had a boyfriend. "None, really? But - but you're so pretty and not too big like me - why wouldn't - Do you like girls?" Karra was honestly surprised, and for a brief moment, she thought she felt something...

"That's too bad if you don't stay, but you'll visit now, right?" Karra gave Serene a grin that said that she believed that was a forgone conclusion. Then she looked around, and crouched closer to the unearthly beauty, her grin turning conspiratorial. "I promise I'll visit more often too, and I'll bring the shuttle-box. I can fly fast - and in outer-space I can fly really fast, ZOOOOM! We can visit other stars and planets if you like. There's lots of pretty things in the galaxy, and I have maps so I don't get lost. Again."

Karra had a dreamy smile on her face, her eyes on the ceiling as she pictured nebulae, and stellar clouds, and some of the stars she had seen while travelling the galaxy, when what Serene had asked her percolated through her brain.

"Who did what say?... Oh, them, the girls from Shytar." Karra's voice turned melancholy, and her green eyes began to glow with a steady light. "The twins, Il'Ranna and Ol'Ranna called me illythul and then mocked me because I was so big and can't shoot lasers and absorb energy like all the other Shytari women. That didn't really bother me, though I was scared for a bit when I got lost chasing them among the moons, and then a little mad when I found out they had cheated and went back to their palace on Shytar VII."

Karra stood back up and began to pace, her muscles tense with suppressed anger. "But then, they said that mom was a clurquom for clurquing with an alien man - and then they said my father must have been small and weak and illythul and nergonal and that was why I was illythul and nergonal and that I must've eaten my father because that was why I was so big. I don't know who my father is. How dare they say bad things about him, they don't know him either! I'm not illythul!"

For a second, Karra raised her fist as if she wanted to put it through the wall, or take down the entire wall, then lowered it, her anger leaving her as suddenly as it came. She sat back down, propping her chin on her hands, the melancholy smile back on her face.

"We got in a fight. I hurt them pretty badly. I hurt a lot of other people too when I used them to break part of their palace. It took a lot of the other Shytari to stop me. I think mom was angry too - I'm not supposed to lose my temper because I'm so strong and things like that can happen."

"But that doesn't matter anymore," Karra said, her sunny smile back. "I'm never going back there - mom and all my friends are here - and you are here too. I don't need them."

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Yes, you don't need friends like those," Serene said, sorting Karra's talk into separate topics to consider later. Watchman had told her to not speak down to Karra, which Serene had an unfortunate tendency to do, just because talk to her was sometimes like talking to a dumb child. But Karra was also her friend, one of the few people who wouldn't pick on her for being too pretty - or who she looked like. Serene wasn't sure that Karra had even put the facts together.

"I'm sorry to hear that your trip to your mother's home planet didn't go well," Serene added. She drew up her knees and hugged them for a long moment, thinking. "Karra... do you ever feel... out of place here? Like you don't belong? Here being Earth, and don't belong being because of your mother being an alien?"

It gave her a sense of camaraderie with the other girl, and Serene wondered if she should tell her to the truth. After all, who could understand her otherworldly origin better than a girl who was half-human?

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Karra copied Serene's position, wrapping an arm around her remarkably long, powerfully-built legs, the fingers of her other hand twirling a strand of glittering, fiery hair.

"I feel out of place all the time, Serene," Karra said, giggling in her deep, girlish voice. "I'm bigger and stronger than almost everybody and things are too small for me and I always have to remember to be careful so I don't break things and - well, it's not that I'm outta place, it's I'm in place more than almost everybody else." She stretched out one of her long legs so that her foot was next to one of Serene's considerably smaller, more delicate ones. Karra smiled in amusement at the difference in size.

"But that's only 'cause I'm different. Mom says there's nothing wrong with being different, everybody's different - except twins maybe - they can be the same, but some are different too! - Twins confuse me sometimes."

Karra began chewing on her lip, and a furrow appeared between her fine brows as she pondered about 'belonging'. "Serene, you belong where the people who like and love you are and where the people who you like and love are. Since mom and you and Tessa and Hype and Watchman and Matrix and Samson and Colossus and Thoughtwave and Jade De'jinn and [OOC: add several more names to the list] and Ultraboy - maybe not Ultraboy - and all my other friends are here, why wouldn't I belong here? That's what mom says, and I don't see why she would lie about that. And why would mom being not-human matter?"

Having cleared up her confusion on her own, Karra's standard, slightly inane smile returned, bright and cheerful.

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"Because it makes you not human!" Serene burst out in frustration, then chided herself for trying to discuss complicated things with Karra, who didn't care about them. She pressed a hand to her eyes, hiding their alien beauty as she composed herself. Watchman would have been embarrassed.

"I'm sorry," Serene apologized. "I shouldn't yell at you. It's just... I've been feeling so alien, so different, and I was wondering if you feel the same. It's good, though, that you don't. I know you have lots of friends. I... don't get out much, and I don't have much beyond you and Watchman."

Karra frowned, and Serene anticipated her next question. "It's not like... I don't have the same relationship with the League members that you do." They don't trust me, not like they do you. They're waiting for me to be bad. "I can't really say their friends, but you and Watchman and Allen and Azkatt are." The big animal had flopped on his side; at his name, his long ears perked up and he rolled over, moving into scratching range. Serene smiled and leaned forward and dug her fingers into his fur. As he started to purr, Serene sighed and said, "I mean, you and Azkatt are my best friends."

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Karra jumped back in startlement, her eyes wide with shock at Serene's outburst. She had said something wrong, Serene was mad, but she didn't know what she had said to make Serene mad.

"I'm sorry Serene, I know I'm not human. Humans aren't Shytari like me either - I mean sort of Shytari." The oversized girl scooted closer to Serene and hunched over so she could whisper to her softly.

"Mom says I shouldn't feel sorry for them, but sometimes I do. They can't fly or zoom to the stars - not without shuttles and ships and things - and it's not the same. The way it feels... oops! I shouldn't've said that - please don't tell mom!"

Karra returned to a normal tone of voice, straightening again. "Anyway, I always feel different too, but that's okay - it doesn't matter." Karra was silent for several long moments, an unusually reflective look in her large, green eyes, before she continued in a soft voice. "Almost never matters... I would really, really, really like a boyfriend, but it's so hard to find a boy who isn't too small or too squishy or who can fly and zoom."

Karra listened to Serene talk about the League, her head cocked quizzically, a finger tracing idle designs on the floor, unconsciously leaving gouges of noticeable depth in the hardened composite. Then she broke into her biggest grin yet, grabbing Serene in another tightly controlled, friendly embrace, and spun her around, feet leaving the ground, laughing in joy.

"I'm your best friend?! Really, for true?! Oh, wow! Nobody's called me their best friend before - you're my best friend too, Serene! We should do something - I don't know what - but something! I know! We can..."

"... "

"... "

"You're a n'alien?"

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  • 1 year later...

Serene’s mouth dropped open and she blinked at Karra when she was grabbed. Part of her was startled by the pure outpouring of delight. Another part of her was gratified by it; after a lifetime of being watched like a hawk for the first indication that she was a bad seed, someone just being happy and just happy to have her around was intoxicating. Karra’s next words brought her back down to the ground.

“I’m… yes,” she said, hanging in Karra’s arms. Her friend’s giant green eyes blinked at her and Serene added, “Can you put me down?”

“Opp!” Karra put her down so fast that Serene stumbled back a step. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?!”

“No, no, you didn’t,” Serene said quickly. She patted Karra on the arm as Azkatt circled them and looked up nervously. The big cat wasn’t used to his mistress being handled like that and the red-eyed girl leaned down to pet him. Looking up at Karra, Serene added, “My mother wasn’t human. It’s why I have these eyes and… the spots.” She frowned, looking uncomfortable. “No one’s really supposed to know, though.”

Avoiding Azkatt’s bone spurs, Serene sat on his back and grinned up at her friend, forcing her moodiness away. “So, you wanted to do something? What did you have in mind?” It was likely that Karra wouldn’t know, but she might have a favorite activity to share with Serene.

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Karra bent over at the waist, bringing her face closer to Serene's, though the half-Shytari girl still loomed over her friend, her green-eyes wide with excitement. "So... it's like, like a secret then? Oooh! A secret! That's what best friends do, they tell each other secrets." Karra's arms went around Serene again, but she checked herself before whirling her around, instead just giving a brief squeeze as she squeed in delight. "I won't tell anyone, ever, I promise Serene," Karra swore with somber seriousness, which faded as her fiery brows crinkled up with consideration. "Except you, of course."

Her sacred duty as the best friend done to her satisfaction, Karra straightened back up to her full height, a wide smile on her face as she paced, her thoughts finally catching up to Serene's question. "I don't have anything in my mind, only my brain. I saw that in a picture once. But, yes! We gotta totally do something! We're bestest friends."

"I got it! I know what we can do!" Karra squealed, eyes brightening with epiphany as she gave a little jump and clapped her hands. Her head banged into the ceiling, but she didn't seem to mind, though Azkatt hunched down in a low slouch at the noise the winsome giant was making. "We can zoom through the black, Serene!"

"The black?" Serene repeated with an elegantly arched brow, wondering if she was going to regret asking for clarification.

"The stars, Serene," Karra said with an eager nod, her metallic, fire-hued tresses flying wildly. "Flying through space is the best and I can take you with in the Space-Egg." Karra dropped to her knees in front of her best friend, her big hands engulfing Serene's much smaller ones. "Please, please say you'll come. I can show all my favorite places, like glowing space clouds and pretty moons and pretty rings around planets and funny suns and... and everything. Please?"

In the face of Karra's enthusiastic pleading, Serene couldn't bring herself to crush her idea, dubious though she was of traveling through space in something Karra called a Space-Egg. Instead, she gave Karra a warm, assenting smile. "Of course, Karra. I'd like to see all your favorite places."

"Whee! You'll love too, Serene, you will! Let's go, the Space-Egg is in bay..." Karra carefully counted on her fingers, counting under her breath. "...one, two, three, bay three!" The towering girl-woman waited impatiently for the automatic doors to hiss open, then she was gone in a ground-shaking flash.

Serene sighed, put her mask on, just in case, then stepped out of her room, looking both ways, seeing no sign of Karra. Three steps later, Karra blurred back in front of her, almost vibrating with her excitement.

"C'mon, it's just a little ways this way." Before Serene could get a word in, Karra sped away again. Resigned, Serene continued in the direction Karra had gone, sure she would be back soon. And so, she was.

"Serene, are you-"

"I'm coming, Karra. Just slow down, please. Not everyone is as fast as you."

Karra blushed almost as brightly as her glinting hair. "Oops! I'm really sorry, I didn't mean too." Bouncing on her toes, Karra led Serene to Bay Three.

Space-Egg was an apt term. The engineless shuttle was a gleaming, off-white oblong, short, curved landing struts keeping it level, smooth except for the multiple grip points molded into the exterior. As Karra approached, a seam appeared in the Space-Egg, then a wide sliver slid open and down, forming a ramp into the interior. It was big enough to hold Karra's impressive size, or two regular sized people. The wide, ergonomic seat looked surprisingly comfortable, able to swivel to observe the entire panoramic view offered by the 360 degree view screen.

Karra waved Serene in with a broad grin, pointing at her thick-banded wrist-communicator. "Matrix was nice, he made it so my communicator can talk to the Space-Egg to I can talk to those inside will I'm outside and we're flying through the black."

"That is very useful." Serene stepped inside, carefully sitting the the wide seat, which molded to her lavish curves with almost intimate comfort. A few discreet words revealed the Space-Egg's interior was completely operated by voice commands, varying from rudimentary (presumably for MegaGirl) to intricate (for those with the advanced skills to take advantage of them). The sliver slid closed silently, the view-screen forming a seamless, 360 degree view once more.

"Ready?" Serene heard, barely, through the thick shell of the Space-Egg. "Ready," she relayed through the com-system. "Here we gooooo!" Without further delay, Karra gripped the specifically designed hand-holds and fly out of Bay Three and into the star-spangled blackness of space.

Stars turned into bright streaks, a sensation of the Space-Egg listing down and to the left, though the inertial dampners should have prevented any such sensation, as Karra zoomed with through space with an exulting cry transmitting through the com-system. Pulling up a holographic display of their flight, Serene could see they were traveling at a phenomenal rate, far faster than any ship she had ever been on.

Their first stop was a binary star system, a red and a blue sun in close orbit, a gorgeously glowing nebula between them, all in shades of magenta, lavender, fuschia, and more. The nebular was thick, viscous - Karra flew the Space-Egg through it, trailing a long, almost gelatinous wake, the disturbance through flashes of winking, silver light.

Next, Karra brought them to a massive, indigo gas-giant, encircled by a ring of opalescent moons, so thick and closely spaced it was a wonder they didn't crash into each other. Serene looked on in wonder, it was like planet was girded by a pearl necklace. The Space-Egg kindly supplied the name of the star system, though Serene barely heard it. She doubted Karra would recall its actual name, she simply enjoyed the majestic sight with needing to define it.

For a second, Serene's emotions surged wildly, envying Karra's sheer simplicity and exuberance, her ability to travel and explore as she wished with not a care in the world.

"Do you see it, Serene? Do you like it?" Karra asked as the Space-Egg began weaving between the moons, skimming through ephemeral gases of the planet. "It's beautiful, like a moon-pearl necklace made of real moons."

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Serene glanced at the Space Egg with a trepidation she usually reserved for one of her father’s ‘life lessons’. No one could say that Watchman hadn’t prepared his daughter for a life of crime-fighting, though they could say he’d prepared her harshly. Serene had a medical file volumes long to prove that.

Nevertheless, she trusted Karra and she climbed inside with only a beat of hesitation. Settling into the chair, she made herself relax. When had she ever gotten to just have fun doing something? It had probably been when she was young, when Karra had come to Dorian Manor for playdates. Their parents had gone off to discuss adult things and the two young girls had run wild through the estate. Even then, Karra had to be careful to not hurt Serene; she’d already been displaying the power she’d grow into as an adult. Serene, on the other hand, hadn’t developed at all; she’d been super-skinny until she’d turned twelve. Then everything had blossomed as if her body were in a mad rush, including her powers.

The moody teen might have continued to consider these gloomy thoughts for a while longer, but Karra interrupted her with demands for her opinion. Focusing on the scene outside, Serene let go of her own concerns and smiled. “Yeah, it’s awesome, Karra,” Serene said, leaning forward to see better. “How’d you find this?”

“I dunno!” the super-strong teen chirped happily. “I just did, I don’t remember!”

Chuckling at the typical Karra reply, Serene leaned back into the chair, just enjoying the view. Then a thought popped into her head. Nervously, the girl swallowed, then typed some commands into the computer. The data that came up made her more nervous; the planet she’d searched on was on the star charts – at the very edge. “Karra, I have a planet I’d like to see. I’m sending the coordinates up to you. Can we go?”

Karra checked her watch, which translated the coordinates into directions and times to make it easy for her to understand. “Oooo, that’s a long ways! Sure!”

“It’s okay if its too long-”

“Nope! It’ll just take longer to get there than it did to here,” Karra said, turning and moving away from the stars. “We’ll have time to talk – maybe about boys?”

“Boys?” Serene frowned. “I don’t know much about them. What did you want to talk about? I mean, if you want advice, I can give some. Kinda. I can tell you what Watchman has told me about them.”

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  • 1 month later...

"Eeee!" Karra said excitedly, turning the Space Egg onto the course her wrist communicator directed her with a casual shove of her hand and a fraction of her immense strength. Her exuberance faded into uncertainty when she got around to considering Serene's source on boys. "Watchman? But, he's Watchman not Watchboy, what would he know 'bout boys, Serene?"

Serene considered how to respond to that, settling on a simple answer for Karra's - and her own - sake. "He's older than us, Karra, has more experience."

"Oooh, experience, that makes sense," Karra agreed. Serene could feel Karra's nod by the way the Space-Egg wobbled with the motion. "What do boys like? I've seen holo-vids, even those sexy ones - You're not going to tell Mom, are you, Serene? - and I thought I knew what they liked. I'm, like, really big, so I have bigger boobies than almost everyone's, and my legs are longer than almost everyone's and people tell me I'm pretty. I think I'm pretty, even if not as pretty as you, Serene. Am I pretty? Boys look at me, I know they do, but none of them ever want to kiss me or anything and I don't understand why. Well, there was Ultra-boy, we kissed and... and more then kissed the last time, but his hands were, um, on my boobies and, er, down there and the feelings... I wasn't expecting that and I didn't mean to break his back, honest, and they were able to fix him good as new and I said sorry and everything and I wanted Ultra-boy to do... whatever it was he was doing, but he didn't want to see me anymore. So, what I want to know if how to get a boyfriend. I'm not that picky, he just has to be handsome and not squishy and not that short - it'd be nice if he was at least seven feet - oh, and he as to be able to Whoosh and Zoom, because it's fun and..."

So, traveling through the vastness of space in something little more than an escape pod, relying on Karra's ability to follow directions, Serene spent the time engaged in one of the most mortifying, yet honest, conversations of her still short life.

"-We're here!" Karra announced exuberantly, interrupting what she was currently saying and thinking - which for Karra, was much the same thing. "At least, I think we're here. Is this it? I've never been here before."

"Yes...yes, this is Karra," Serene said softly, suddenly wishing their girltalk about boys would continue, her nervous anxiety suddenly jumping by a factor of hundred as she stared at the image of planet they were orbiting.

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