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It was another long night in the city of Tar Valon. Claire sat at her writing table, steadily working. Some papers just needed a quick glance over and her initials to show she had reviewed it. Others required a note. Sighing in disgust at a report on the condition of the novice quarters, she scrawled "HIT THEM HARDER. GET A STICK." across the margins then set it aside to rub at her temple.


A year. A freaking year since Kathana had abandoned them for god knows what, and it still wasn't any easier to wear this stole. On long nights like this, Claire understood far too well the impulse to run screaming from it all.  The Amyrlin sighed and reached for another report.


"You can stop that now." A voice from the corner. Had it been empty a moment before?


"Who's there?" Claire demanded sharply. She wanted a drink and she wanted her bed. In that order.


"No one important." Kathana said, stepping out of the shadows. "Not anymore.


Claire froze, "You were gone.." she stammered. "...my election was lawful...


Her guest sighed. "I'm not interested. I've always said you guys would be fine without me. But we need to talk." The former Amyrlin took a seat. She wore a blue t-shirt with a patterned skirt. Sensible shoes. The effect was incongruous in the quasi-medieval setting of the Amyrlin's study. Claire felt over dressed in her gown. "I hear your an Admin now."


"I am." Claire nodded, still hesitant with her visitor. Of all the people to wander in late at night...


"Good. That's one less I need to round up." She lay a yellow sticky note on the table as she stood back up. "Meet us here, tomorrow morning. And lose the renaissance festival crap. " Kathana gestured at her clothing. "Business casual, if you can."



"Brian, I need you."


Emp rolled over and snorted in his sleep. "'Course you need me baby, I'm the freaking Emperor of Seanchan...yeah..."


The feminine voice sighed. "Brian, seriously. Get up."


Groggily, he raised his head. In the corner, light reflected dully off a pair of eye glasses. "Hey, you aren't my wife..."


"No, she's not here yet. She's still back in Pennsylvania."


"Kathana? What the hell are you doing in my bedroom?" Emp growled, groping for a shirt. Finally he gave up. Kat was the one who broke into his house, if she wanted a show, he'd give her one.


"It's five in the morning. I need you to drive me to a meeting." She held up an envelope. "I've got all the directions here. Find your pants and let's go."


"No, I don't think so." He said, sitting up and arranging the sheets around him. "Number one. Why are you in my house? Number two. Where is Jimmy. Doesn't he usually drive you places? Numb--"


"Listen bucko." Kathana snapped. Emp heard the slight pause before "bucko" as if she'd meant to say something else then changed her mind. He grinned. He'd bet money that deleted word started with an "F".  If she wasn't swearing at him, she must be trying to behave. Which meant she needed something important. "I need," he could hear the gritted teeth "You to drive me. To a meeting. With the Admins. It's important."


"Yeah, I figured. Where's Seggie?"


She paused. And then she started to cry.



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A year. Had it really been so long? Emp wondered as he parked the car. The sun was finally up. Kathana was inside already. She said she needed to be there. He hadn't asked questions after her breakdown. But still, a year since she had walked away from her responsibilities at Dragonmount. She'd left them all in the lurch. It took three people to do what Kathana had done. No one had realized until she was gone just how much she'd quietly taken responsibility for. And the lion's share, somehow, had come to him.


He rubbed his bald head as he walked up the stairs to the unassuming concrete building Kathana had insisted he drive her to. Nothing about this made sense. But force of long habit still made him want to jump when she snapped her fingers. She'd explain eventually.


There was a conference room. A low table. Familiar faces were gathered around. Emp gave everyone a quick nod and seated himself at the last empty table. Kathana sat at it's head, drumming her fingers on the table. Then she realized how loud the drumming was and started snapping her fingers under the table.


"Everyone here? Good." Kathana breathed out slowly, as if preparing herself. "I'm no good at introductions, so I'll just say it." Emp noticed he wasn't the only one leaning forward. "Jason Denzel is dead."

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Emp blinked. His fellow Admins stirred nervously around him. Before he could stammer out a reply, Owen slammed his hand on the table. "Why wasn't I told earlier? This is an out--" A withering glance from Kathana and a pinch from Taymist silenced him.


"I'm telling you now." Kathana said. "Apparently, he's been dead for sometime. There was..." she paused. "A cover up."


"What happened?" Luckers asked, frowning as he picked at the cuff of his jeans.


"I'm not entirely sure. What I do know, is that Jason Denzel, as we knew him, never existed. It was only a pen name for James O. Rigney, jr." Kathana paused to let them consider that.


"So that means..."


"Jason was Robert Jordan. And he has been the whole time."

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Luckers was confused. His jeans had something called a cuff, and he was uncertain as to whether it should be there or not. He picked at the cuff self-conciously, eyeing his fellow admins to see what they were thinking. Was Barm smirking at him?


"If Jason is dead..." Claire breathed, "then that means..."


"Yes." Kathana nodded. "We are now in sole command of the Board."


Luckers frowned. They really were glancing at his cuff. Had he commited some terrible faux pas? Why had no one told him?


"We shouldn't get carried away." Brandon Sanderson murmured from the corner. "It's a heady feeling, all this power, but we should be cautious."


"Screw cautious." Empy shouted. "LET'S FRACKING PARTAAAY!"


Now they were celebrating his embarressment? Crying, Luckers spun and ran in search of his mummy.

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Nope, only I get to write this. I've actually got a plan, frightening as that is.

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If I lock it, then no one will be able to tell me how awesome I am in between updates.

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"That has to be," Taymist said slowly, "the stupidest thing I've ever heard. You've got to be joking."


Owen sighed. "Yes, you've had your laugh, Kathana. While we're all glad to see you've returned, some of us have responsibilities to attend to and don't appreciate the interruption."


"Actually," Emp said. "I think she might be right. I mean, why else would Jason be the only person who liked Crossroads of Twilight? When he wrote that review before it was released, I thought he'd just sold out, but..."


"Question!" Barm said. "But haven't some of you MET Jason? Like at JordanCon? I've seen pictures."


"Animatronics." Kathana replied. "Very sophisticated animatronics. They bought an Abraham Lincoln frame from the same guy that built Disney's 'Hall of Presidents' and custom built a skin for it." She shook her head. "Jason isn't real. He never has been. Tor, or Team Jordan, or SOMEONE has been manipulating us from the beginning. And I aim to discover why."


"Alright," said Barm. "Assuming for a minute that I believe you, which I don't, why would any author create a fake persona that's their ultimate fanboy? That's insane."


Kathana shrugged. "The same reason Kevin J. Anderson pays people write positive reviews of his books on Amazon? It's publicity. Look, I don't know how deep this rabbit hole goes. Not yet. But I think I know where to start."

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Someone was missing from the group. Kathana had done a good job of rounding up the Admins. Emp hadn't expected her to find Kevin, Dragonmount's server monkey. Last anyone had heard from him, he'd painted his face blue and went charging north to New Hampshire yelling "FREEEEEEDOM!!!" No one expected to hear anything from him, except perhaps that he'd been arrested to scale the White House fence and beat Obama to death with Health Care Reform. But no, someone else was missing: Segurant.


If Kathana was the brains of Team Liang, then Segurant was it's hands and feet. Never far from each other, always working hand and hand. It had been Segurant's quiet support that allowed Kathana to rise as far as she had in the DM hierarchy. If he was away from her, and she refused to acknowledge the lack... Well it didn't bode well.


Owen spoke up again. "This is all well and good and we appreciate you telling us this. But this is a matter for DM staff to handle. And you aren't anymore."


Kathana looked at him. "Do you know who killed Jason Denzel? Do you even know where to begin looking? I spent a year away from Dragonmount, the site I helped found, the site I helped build from the ground up, to investigate this. Do you know what it's like to find out your partner was a chatbot? Which of you has the contacts with Team Jordan or Tor that I do? Do any of you have Brandon Sanderson's cell phone number? I don't think so."


"Alright," Barm broke in. "If you're so awesome, then why do you need us? Not that I'm saying I believe you." He added hastily.


She smiled at him. "I can't be everywhere at once. I'll need you and some trusted members of the DM staff to help me. There are clues hidden if you know where to look."


Kat took a handful of envelopes from her purse and tapped them on the table. "These are marching orders. Each of you is tasked to find a particular team of people. They may or may not be currently on staff. I've been away, I don't know everything you've been up to." She spread them out with hand. Emp saw his name scribbled across one with felt tipped pen. "But once you find them, you'll have a task to perform. Something only your team can do. It won't be easy. This is a choice between what's right and what is easy."


Emp declined to point out the last line was a quote from Harry Potter as he reached for his envelope. "What the hell, right? It's not like there's anything good on TV since Charmed ended anyways."

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And then everyone looked at Barm and realised that he is so awesome that they should just worship him and forget the whole matter. So they did. They worshipped him and fanned him with palm leaves and fed him grapes. The women and emp dressed scantily for him and the men were his royal guard.





...what? I liked that ending.

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Emp grabbed his envelope and left the building. The others were still trying to argue with Kathana. Whatever. Arguing with Kathana was like arguing with a hurricane that put it's fingers in its ears and yelled "La la la la! Can't hear you!" It didn't work. Besides, he had an investigation of his own to look into.


Sitting in his car, he pulled his cellphone from his pocket and dialed a number. It rang, then picked up. "Hey--"


"Hey, this is Jimmy. I'm unavailable right now, but leave your name and number at the beep."


Emp sighed. "Jimmy, when you get this, call me. It's Brian." He hung up.


He then thumbed his envelope open, unsure of what he'd find. The only contents were a single slip of paper, a name hastily scribbled on it and an address. Empy swore and banged his fist lightly on the steering wheel.

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Claire walked out the building and zipped up her windbreaker. It was a sunny day, but after Kathana's revelations she felt cold inside. As the door banged shut behind her, she heard a snatch of conversation from inside.


"Will you just--"




Claire lit a cigarette and tore open her envelope. She looked at the paper inside and smiled.

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After a few minutes of watching the show, Luckers picked his envelope off the table and walked outside. Kat knew what she was about, he supposed. She'd played jokes before, like the time she changed Corki's custom title to a dancing pony. But they weren't usually this elaborate. And also she giggled.


He sat down on the steps and flipped over his envelope to look at the front. "LUCKERS" was scribbled across it in giant, barely readable letters. It looked she's used a Sharpie pen.


As he contemplated it, Barm slammed the door behind him. "Wow. Just...wow." he said.


"Yeah, really." Luckers replied. "Did you take an envelope?"


"Yeah, I did. If only to get her to take her fingers out of her ears." Barmacral showed it to him. "Do you think it's true?"


"What? You mean Jason being an avatar for dead fantasy author who is somehow manipulating us from beyond the grave and somehow only one person has noticed? It seems fishy." He sighed. "But we both know she could never keep a straight face during a joke. So if she's playing one, she's also been taking acting classes." Luckers tore open his envelope and looked inside. "And either way, I'm curious, so it looks like I'm off to...Oh crap."




Wordlessly, Luckers passed his note to Barm. "Oh man. Better get a sweater." He smirked as he opened his own. "You've GOT to be kidding me... Do you think we can trade?

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Emp supposed there was a certain sense to sending him to this location. He was, after all, the King of Entertainment for Dragonmount, as well as their Emperor. But this dingy theater...Well, it reeked of porn.


He pushed open the dirty glass doors, plastered with faded advertisements and paid his dollar to the smirking man behind the counter. Emp tried to ignore the sticky floor as he made his way to a faded, red cushioned seat.


"Uh, hey." He said to the theater's lone occupant, a thin young man with dark hair, scribbling furiously into a notepad while watching Caligula.


"Shhh...This is a climatic moment!"


Emp winced. "Uh, look...This is... Ugh. Why are you hanging out in an adult theater Corki?"


"It's the only establishment showing this film."


"There's probably a reason for that. Why are you watching it? And...uh taking notes?"


"As you well know," Corki said, indignantly turning around to glare at Empy over the back of his seat. "I happen to be a fan of the antiquities. This is one of the few movies about the Roman Empire that I've not seen yet. And I am taking notes so that I can go home tonight and do a though research on how inaccurate it is."


"That's..." Insane? "...great, Corki. Just great. Look, can we go somewhere else and talk?" Above Emp's head, on the screen Malcolm MacDowell was having a much better time than he was. "You know, without the distraction." He shot a thumb at the movie.


"I always knew your tastes were plebian, Empy."


"What ever. I'm not sitting in here watching porn with you, no matter how many togas you dress it up in."


Outside, safely on the street, Emp shoved his hands in his pockets. "Look, I came to find you for a reason, Corki. Only I'm not sure what it is."


"Typical of your disorganization, I should say!" Corki sniffed. "And you've interrupted my research."


"It's not like that. Kathana told me..."


"Ah ha!" Corki exclaimed, full of Britishness. "The truth comes out! Has she come crawling back to Dragonmount, hoping that her ever patient minions have kept the site running for her while she gallivants around? I bet she's full of fancy tales of hanging out with people that are far more famous than us lowly creatures. Her and Jason both used us up to make Dragonmount their platform for the stars. Well, I'm not having it anymore. Pah! I say, pah!"


"Jason's dead."




"He's dead. I think. I'm honestly not sure. And I think something's happened to Segurant too. It's all really strange and mixed up and all I know is that Kat told me to come find you here. She said you can help."




"Seriously. Look, have you gotten any mail recently? Or noticed anything weird?"


"Yes, well, I did receive a letter post marked from Georgia just last week. I assumed it was junk and discarded it in the rubbish bin."


"Great." Emp sighed. "Just great. It was probably a clue or a message and just trashed it."


"Well, if it's that frightfully important to you, the man doesn't come around until tomorow to pick up the bins. If you'd like to dig through my trash for it, be my guest."


"No, I wouldn't." Emp said with resignation. "But I'll do it anyways.

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Kathana, Barm decided, had a sick sense of humor. Or she had just forgotten a few things while she was away. It was probably the second. The former Admin wasn't noted for her memory.  At least Luckers was coming with him. In fact...


"Let's go get your boy first, alright?"


Luckers grinned at him. "That excited about yours?"


"You have no idea. I'm pretty sure the feeling will be mutual though. I don't exactly go out of my way for her." Barm said glumly.


"Sure thing, mate."



The address was for a bar. Luckers liked bars. They were crowded, smokey, and full of drunk men. This one had decent music too, some guy crooning in a foreign language in a corner. Luckers put a bill down on the bar and nodded at the singer. "That's for him."  


The server nodded and poured a Guinness. In heavily accented English he said, "You can give it to him yourself. He's about to take a break."


At the table, Barm ribbed him a little. "We've been in Sweden five minutes and you're already trying to pick someone up? Classy."


"Not so much. You didn't even look at him did you?"


"I never notice musicians." Barm tapped his ear. "Remember? Not worth the effort. Unless they are girls. I notice those."


"Well pay attention to this one."


At the end of the song, Majsju came over, sat down, and took a pull on his beer. "I have to say I'm flattered, but you aren't my type, boys." He grinned. "Good to see you both. What brings you to my neighborhood?"


Luckers leaned forward. "Have you heard from Kathana recently?"


Maj dropped his grin. "Yeah," he said hunching forward. "As a matter of fact, I got a letter from her last week. Really weird stuff. Is she alright?"


"Did she tell you about Jason?"


"She said something was wrong with him and she'd explain later. But she's always complaining about him."


Barm broke in and outlined the meeting they'd had with her, making sure to emphasize how insane this sounded. Maj took another pull on his beer while he listened and lit a cigarette thoughtfully. "You know, life was always much more interesting when she was around."


"So you believe her?" Barm said incredulously.


"Not so much. But I'm bored. I've collected all the women's underpants I can in Lund and I'm not ready to go to Stockholm just yet. So yeah, I'll go with you. Luckily, I know the next stop: Israel" Maj blew a puff of smoke at Barm and grinned. "Apparently Kathana didn't think you'd go by yourself."



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Claire didn't need the address she'd been given. Instead, she pulled out her phone and dialed a number. It rang, then picked up. The person on the other end screamed obscenities at her then hung up. She dialed again.


"Yeah, sorry about that. I haven't had my coffee yet. Who is this?"






"Hello to you too, Joram." She said patiently.


"What ever you need, I'm not doing it."


As far as conversations with Joram went, this one was going quite well. Claire was pleased. "I think you'd be happy to hear that Jason's dead."


"Hah! Was it anal cancer? Please tell me it was anal cancer."


"Actually, Kathana says he never existed."


"Make up your mind. How can someone who doesn't exist get anal cancer and die?"


She sighed. "No one knows. Look, can we meet? I'll buy you a drink and --"


"Sold. You know the place." He hung up.


The MonkeySex was a craptastic hole in the wall in Austin, Texas. Like most of Austin, it was deeply, psychotically weird. Not in the normal way that Texas is weird, with guns and whiskey and football. More of a "Hey let's go protest at the G20 summit and set Toronto on fire in the name of antidisestablishmentarianism!" kind of weird. The MonkeySex catered to the ones who decided to watch it on TV instead.


At a dirty table, Claire found Joram poking irritably at his phone. "Stupid Twot fans..."


"Updating Twitter?"


"Yeah, I'm telling everyone how much Robert Jordan sucks. It can't be said too much."


"Using the Ask the Chosen account?" Claire asked, sipping the beer the waitress sat down in front of her.


"Of course. Anyways," he said, setting down the phone. "What can I refuse to do for you today?"


"Like I said on the phone. There's some kind of conspiracy. Kathana said you'd know something about it."


Joram snorted. "Hardly."


"Come on." She weedled.


"Do I believe that Jason's really some kind of animatronic chatbot? Absolutely. It explains how he runs that crappy website. But I'm not involved." He took a swig from his bottle.


Claire frowned. "Then why did Kathana send me here?"


"Can't help you." he said "Look, thanks for the beer. And the company. You don't smell nearly as bad as the other WoT fans, but I can't help you. I haven't been staff in almost a decade. I don't even talk to DM staff."


"You talk to me." Claire countered. "And Emp."


"I only talk to Emp as a favor to Yveva." He smiled. "Besides you two are almost tolerable." He took another drink. "Actually, I have something for you." He fished a thumb drive out of his pocket. "This is some of DM's back end code. I didn't write it." He pushed it across the table to her. "I assume Jason wrote it, because it sucks like his mom did last night. But if he really didn't exist, then who knows who wrote it?"


Claire pocketed the drive. "Thanks Joram." She smiled. "I knew you'd come through."




She laid a couple of bills down on the sticky table, and walked out the door. What a softie, she thought to herself.

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For the record, I have no knowledge of Corki hanging out in adult theaters, dingy or otherwise. But if he did, he'd totally critique them for historical accuracy.

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Corki and Emp sat at the kitchen table of Corki's modest, yet neat flat. Everything around them was lovingly cared for and carefully kept in it's correct place.  It was charmingly British. The only object out of place was a stained envelope on the table.


Corki pushed it towards Emp. "YOU read it. I'm not interested in anything that silly bint has to say."


"Fine." Emp picked it up and tore it open. Inside was a letter, thankfully typed. Emp had never known a school teacher with such horrible handwriting.


"Dear Brian," it said. "Thank you for traveling all the way to see Corki. I hope you found him without too much difficulty." He blinked. "Please read the rest of this out loud to him."


"I'm supposed to read the rest of it to you."




"Dear Corki," he read. "I know you and I didn't always get along. However, I must ask a favor of you. There is a task that only the Band of the Red Hand Org Leader can perform. This task is vital to unraveling the mystery." Emp paused, not sure he believed the next line. Then he smiled. "You must find Tenan, the former Band Org Leader, the one who came before you, and his partner, Jim Blonde. They know secrets and they will help you."


"Rubbish. I founded the Band." Corki replied. "I've never heard of this Tenan bloke either."


"There was a Band Org before yours. It closed due to lack of activity. Tenan was it's last Org Leader." Emp grinned. "He wasn't that great of an Org Leader, but man...That guy could spam. And he was funny too."


"What possible help could a spammy, former Org Leader be?" Corki demanded.


"I don't know. But it'll be fun finding out." Emp stood up from the table. "Come on, get in the car. I think I know where to find those two."

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Best. Story. Ever.


I spit soda on myself with the anal cancer part.  But that's ok.  It was worth having a wet stain on my pants........again. >_>

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Emp had always wanted to go to Monte Carlo. Though he'd imagined himself there with some hot girl on his arm, not a muttering, cranky Corki. They walked through Le Grande Casino past roulette tables and card games. Emp's hands itched to pick up the cards and play a few hands himself. Maybe later, on our way out, he told himself.


They walked up to the theater, a large sign with twinkling lights proclaiming "SHIRLEY BASSEY: LIVE" Emp bought two tickets.


"Why Shirley Bassey?" Corki asked.


"I have no idea." Emp responded. "They've always loved her though. If they aren't at DM, then they're probably hanging out here."


They took their seats as the curtain came up. The music started. BWA WAH! Goldfingaaaaaaah!






At the end of the show, Emp insisted they wait. Finally, from the corner scuttled the janitor pulling a cart laden with a trash can and a selection of brooms. He was a weedy looking man, thin and stooped. A faded Red Hand was embroidered on his coverall pocket. It was Tenan. 


Emp grinned big. "I knew we'd find you here, Tenan." He strode down the aisle of the lush, casino theater to greet his long lost friend. "Come on. How about a bro hug for your Emperor?"


"Excuse me, but do I know you?" The janitor peered quizzically at him. "I don't believe so." Corki snorted.


"Come on! It's me! Emp Hefner!" He slapped his chest and thrust his arms out. "Quit playing around, Tenan. You know you remember "


Tenan pulled out a set of spectacles. He put them on and then looked at Emp again. "Oh, it is you! But wasn't your hair...er, there? And didn't you used to dress in drag?"


"Uh, yeah. That was a long time ago. I'm married now...to a woman. Anyways, we need to talk. There's a, uh, situation, I guess at Dragonmount..."


"Say no more." Tenan held up his hand. "I can't help you."


"Just as I thought. This was a wild goose chase. I warned you, Empy--"


"And who might this be?" Tenan interrupted.


"Tenan, this is Corki. Corki, Tenan." Struck by sudden understanding, Emp added, "Tenan, Corki is the new Band's Org Leader."


"Ahh." Tenan said wistfully. "The Band! Now there was an Org. Odi and Ehlana and Lili...dear, sweet Lili... We used to get up to some hijinks, let me tell you. Our fish slapping wars with the Children are still the stuff of legend at Dragonmount, I suppose?"


"Actually no. No one at DM knows you or anything about you. You've been gone too long and the internet has the attention span of a gnat." Emp told him.


"Ah. Too bad. Still, " Tenan looked at Corki. "I suppose this one keeps my dream alive after a fashion. For him, and him alone, I will grant you one request."


"That's great, but we don't know what our request is." Quickly, Emp filled him in on the details of the dilemma. He kept back his suspicious about Segurant though. An ace up his sleeve, as it were.


Tenan brightened. "No fear, my old chum. For I'm sure you recall that our mutual acquaintance is a SPY EXTRODINAIRE! We'll fetch her and set her on the case."


Corki blinked. "Wait. I thought Jim Blonde would be a man?"

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