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by: Cole Callaway
June 10 2012
10:45 a.m.
Brompton Cemetery, London UK

The news came to him when he was still in the hospital. Agent Tava Bashar coded. Blue. His injuries from the ambush had put him in critical condition and it worsened as the days went on. Cole didn't expect to see him take a terrible turn. Tava was a fit guy, healthy, loved life, and was the poster boy for the ideal agent. Cole doesn't remember much of the news except that it hurt, and he coughed a lot, and that his lungs burned. They still did, and boy did he feel old as hell walking around with a cane.

He eyed his watch and looked out the window; the family were already congregated around the burial site, and the priest was making his way out to start the graveside service. After sitting through numerous prayers and a sea of wails and sobs at the church, it was time to start the cycle again--and bid his old friend farewell. Cole took a sip of the coffee from the cardboard cup he picked up from his center console. His left hand was functional again but not as good as his right. Thank all Gods and stars that the filing cabinet didn't smash up his writing or shooting hand or he'd have some words with Cox if he ever saw him again. He was lucky that Loretta and the others pulled him from the blast in time, or a piece of the ceiling might have fallen on it and he would have lost it, for sure.

The coffee was on the cusp of turning frigid, bitter, and certainly not the same stuff Orion had been spoiling him with at the office that was before, though. He wouldn't think to pester the kid for any now. Shitty office coffee was the least of his worries, after all, though he hadn't had much of anyone left to complain to about the shitty coffee there. Klaus was gone, Jones was backed up, Katarina was...absent and Matt...Oh, he would love to just turn back time to when problems were just that. Simple. No trouble from some wild vigilante with a witch girlfriend--a hitwoman, at that--against his team that was fragmented to shit now.

The service was somber, as any funeral would be. It was a muggy day for summer in London; overcast, grim. The clouds might clear out by lunch time but at least it was chilly enough to wear a coat to protect from any surprise storm that might roll through. Cole found it fitting for the mood and the events as of late, giving him the chance to mourn without the heat beating down at his neck. He paid his respects, set a coin and flower on the casket, gave his love and regards to the weeping Asha and Tava's children, Mika and Brycent, and faded back into the crowd.

It wouldn't be too much longer after that, the priest wrapped up the service, and one by one, the attendees started to vanish, leaving Cole alone, near the open gravesite of his friend and agent.
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by: Matthew Cox
He had his own resources to follow the status of the hospitalized agents. Of the men and women in the hospital, Matt only felt that Swenson and Bashar were his fault. The explosion wasn't from him and Cora, so those agents weren't in his confessions to God.

Bashar, though...Tava. Quick with a laugh, with sympathy, with a snappy reply. He was a serious man when needed. Matt seemed to remember that the agent had a military background. Several years RAF, or something like that. He'd not made a career of it, but that didn't matter. Anyone who took an oath was his brother or sister in arms.

From his distance on the hill and under a shady oak tree, Matt listened to the graveside service and watched the crowd. Most of the people dispersed, leaving Cole and Tava alone. Matt made his way down to the graveside, dressed somberly and appropriately in a grey suit and his blind disguise on. In his free hand, he carried asphodel and red dahlias. Regrets of betrayal that follow to the grave...it was a bitter message of grief underscored with the spray of yellow rue nestled between the larger flowers.

Matt came up behind Cole and gently tossed his flowers into the open grave. He stood silently for a second, then spoke.

"I promised to tell you what was happening when I was able. If you have time to listen, I'm able to share finally."

The odds of Cole callin in reinforcements existed, but Matt believed that Cole would keep it one on one until proven necessary to be otherwise.
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by: Cole Callaway
Someone was on his six, and he could feel it, though when he heard the voice, it made all the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. Cole did well not to show that he feared the man who made his stealthy approach, but there was a nasty mix of emotions swirling inside of him that he was sure the man could sense. Matt. The Devil. Which one was it today? Cole wondered, as he leaned forward on the cane that was planted in front of him for stability. He didn't look to his side when Matt spoke either, he just kept his dull-blue eyes on the flowers he dropped in the open grave. Dahlias. Asphodels. He recognized them right of the bat but didn't understand the meaning of it, at least not fully, but he was sure there was a powerful message behind them.

"Be glad Agent Patterson's gone. She would have shot you on sight." No hello, no warm greeting to his ex-teammate. Cole was done playing around for now. It was a funeral, for chrissakes. "But I'm sure I didn't have to tell you that, hm?" His senses, he meant.

It was true, though. Loretta pulled the trigger on Day Zero and said she would again, per her orders. Cole knew better than to discharge his weapon at someone like Matt--someone who was fighting against himself to fight for what he thought was right...only to look like the terrorist in the long run. But casualties like this, like Bashar and the still-critical Swenson haunted Cole as he stared at the mix of flowers and dirt atop the casket that was already lowered several feet below.

He sighed, a heavy wheeze indicating that his respiratory health wasn't as strong as it used to be, prior to the explosion. "What do you want?" Cole asked, irritable and exhausted from the events of the last week.
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by: Matthew Cox
To the reference to Agent Patterson, Matt hummed an acknowledgement, but he didn't speak until after he carefully considered Cole's question. It was a fantastic question...what did he want? Matt rolled his own cane in his grip as he considered his answers.

"I want to give you the facts and perspective from my side so you can understand. I'm not asking for absolution or forgiveness. Just understanding."

Matt swallowed and scanned with his radar. It was making him twitchy to be still for so long. Hopefully Cole would be up for walking.

"You remember how I first came to Mi5, freshly retired from the service and still looking to make a difference...That was one of the reasons I agreed to join the research program to develop super soldiers. It was invitation only and it's supposedly still supposed to be a black op, but you understanding is more important to me than keeping that secret."

Matt dropped his gaze down as if he were praying. Confessing like this in front of the open grave felt solemn and holy.

"when I went blind, the researchers thought that it meant that the injections were a failure. Call it paranoia, call it stubbornness, whatever...but I didn't insist that they look deeper and see what else had changed. The radar, the super senses...they weren't as strong then, so the researchers considered me a failure. Obviously, they were wrong."

Matt turned finally and slowly began walking. "I'll feel less vulnerable if we don't stay in one place too long; sorry. Let me know if you need to stop, please." The pace he set was slow and easy, meandering like his thoughts.

"I caught the wrong attention. Time traveling witch, believe it or not...but she put out a contract on me. That seven foot tall cat tried to claim the bounty. She failed, obviously. Then came Cora. She was supposed to kill me. Instead,"

He huffed a bleak laugh and shook his head.

"Instead, she thought I'd be able to be turned into an assassin like her, loyal to the Death Eater regime...I fought against her with every ounce of cunning I could use. I did successfully resist becoming the pet of the regime like the Dark Lady was, despite how the situation looks....in fact, I discovered that the Dark Lady had a softer side. Cora...she's...like me. Captured for her skills. She was turned into the Dark Lady, the way that she attempted to turn me completely into the Devil. She was eighteen when she was forced to become a weapon."

There was compassion and sympathy in his voice. He knew how she felt.

"She broke her conditioning. The Dark Lady is dead."

It was a simple pronouncement, but it carried a lot of weight. Matt cared for Cora and was proud of her for breaking the conditioning. Matt left the conversation open for questions.
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by: Cole Callaway
Cole stared at the grave straight ahead and let his steely eyes settle on the engraving. It didn't matter what it said, it just mattered that he was staring at something to distract his expression from changing as Matt told his story. It was unsolicited but Cole decided he would give him an opportunity to explain himself; Matt earned the chance to be heard. So he was a super soldier. Explained why he felt heavier than he looked and how he was so much stronger than an average person. Fit the bill for a wannabe superhero...that vigilante life and all. His vitals that came back from the medical techs from the initial imprisonment read true too.

He followed when Matt started to walk away, but it wasn't after he was a couple of paces away that he finally started moving. The cane provided as a crutch for stability as he hobbled along behind his ex-teammate, giving almost inaudible grunts as he struggled to keep up. He respected the need to keep moving and also appreciated the extension to take a break whenever he had to rest. He was at least back up to running again, even if it was interval training, so his lungs didn't burn as badly as they did last week. His body, however, was still sore as hell.

Everything he explained was the truth, corroborated what he'd read or seen first hand, but when he mentioned the woman he'd worked with--his accomplice, the witch...Cole frowned. He didn't let it linger but he was sure Matt could see that. First he called her by moniker, then by her name, and Cole stopped for a beat. He sighed. What was he supposed to say to all of that? "Alright..." Cole nodded. What a whole other mess to process...
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by: Matthew Cox
Matt huffed quietly, not sure where to go with his narration after this. He stopped and turned to Cole, emotional pain naked on his face.

"I've got no illusions; my life is destroyed. Legally dead, most of my relationships practically shattered, no means of supporting myself...what am I supposed to do, Cole? My repentance assures my mind and soul, but my temporary and earthly problems are still menacing."

Tristan was a safe place to land for now, but Matt couldn't stay there forever. He stood with his former friend...still friend?...neutral agent. His heart wasn't pounding, but his muscles sounded swollen and painful. Matt could afford to wait here. In fact...they weren't too far from a mutual brother.

"I'll figure something out. It's what I do; I'm just trying to give you my mindset to understand what I'm feeling and why I chose now of all times to come confess..."

He gripped his own cane. It was a disguise and an emotional support. He wanted Cole to say something, anything. Yell at him, accuse him, admonish him for his stupidity, ask questions...the silence was painful.
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by: Cole Callaway
"I'm not a priest, Cox. What do you want of me?" Cole held out a hand, keeping his other held tight to his cane as he leaned all of his weight on it to stabilize himself. "I'm currently mourning the loss of a team member. Moreover, I'm mourning the loss of my own team falling apart. I'll listen. I just don't know what you want me to say."

He wasn't a religious man, at least not in the recent years. If Matt needed a confession, Cole would always let him lean on him and give him the chance to be heard, but as torn as he was and as defeated as he felt, he was in no condition to advise someone in Matt's condition.

Cole brushed past his ex-teammate and kept walking. He had someone else to visit.

Donovan, also known as Sgt. Donny Graves was buried in this very cemetery and he would go pay his respects to his older brother before leaving here. He felt bad for trailing around his unsolicited company, but so many wounds were fresh; violent lacerations on his already broken heart made Cole ache even further. He breathed evenly but strained a bit as he paced on his left side, his leg from his hip all the way down to his foot was throbbing in immense pain. He absently wondered if his sister made it out here lately, since the pair visited Donovan together, as often as possible.
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by: Matthew Cox
Matt didn't know what he wanted to say, either. He sighed in frustration.

"Id hopes to come and be able to answer your questions freely. I want...I want a life line. Some sense that I'm not getting cast out. If I'm a pariah, then this is me trying to be a prodigal agent, Cole. I can't undo what's been done, but if anything so can tell you can help, I'm offering it freely."

And there it was. A verbal submission of information. Matt followed Cole until they reached a familiar marker. Matt stood back and let Cole pay his respects while the agent mulled over his words. The questions would come, Matt was sure. Or he hoped.

Once Cole stepped away from the marker, Matt stepped forward to take his place, pulling out a 25p piece from his pocket and laying it on the top of the marble stone. He spoke in a low tone, comfortable and familiar in his own private rituals with Gravestone.

"Been a few weeks, Sergeant. In a better place than when we last talked...still keel-up, but there's hope now...all I have left is all you left me with...eyes up..."

Half of a smirk made its way to Matt's face as he fell quiet.
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by: Cole Callaway
Cole was still...very still. He'd been disconnected for the most part, until now. Physically, he was there for conversation purposes but something for a brief moment, he felt absent. They might not have been the best of friends but they were teammates at the very least. "We're mourning an agent, for chrissakes, Matt-- I..." If Cole didn't know any better, he would have kept going. He would have scolded the Devil for appearing graveside. He would have reprimanded him for his getaway and all of the danger left in his wake. He kept quiet, out of respect for the lingering family who were still conversing a few feet away, out of earshot probably--but he kept quiet. Cole just nodded. He understood. Yet, he still had nothing to say. "Forget it."

Once they reached Donny's grave, Cole planted himself firmly into the ground, the cane held up in front of him again as his post and crutch. He was about to say some words, when Matt's voice cut the air.

"...eyes up..."

Was he seeing this right? 25p...He knew what that meant. Suddenly, the veil of ice that was resting on his shoulders lifted. Cole was intrigued. He was there? He wondered, as he looked at Matt in a different light. It didn't change what the man had done, but only piqued his interest to what the man had been before, before the mutation, before the agency, before any of this bollocks happened, he wondered why he knew so much about Sgt. Graves and his old saying.

"You must be Choir Boy." Cole couldn't help but smirk at that, as if he'd had some miraculous revelation. He didn't know too much about his brother's company other than their nicknames from some of the tales he was able to hear when Donny came home-- but given Matt's religious convictions, it was a no-brainer. How the hell did he not see this before?!

He huffed. Then he chuckled. Then he just laughed. "Bloody fucking hell."

Of course.
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by: Matthew Cox
Matt went inhumanly still at Cole's revelation of who he was.

"Yeah. That's me. Dorito's still floating around too. I haven't been able to keep contact with many of the others, but if Gravestone told you about me, then you know about the trio."

Dorito, Choir Boy, and Gravestone had been battleborn brothers, closer than blood, baptized in fire, and inseparable. Everyone else had been a brother in uniform, but the trio was each other's bones and blood.

"Donny was the one who taught me the flower language, actually...ladies in the Philippines has revitalized the Victorian trend and would flirt exclusively in flowers...I sent several striped carnations thanks to his interpretation. Rejection," he explained gently.

"Asphodel and red dahlias...that's a message I pray you never have to wrestle with. 'My deepest regrets of betrayal follow you to the grave.' Nothing I do will ever atone for that. Murder wasn't in my heart or my will, so mortal sin it was not...but sin it still was, and I can't ever atone for it...I'll always feel the guilt burning."

Purgatory would be his release from the guilt...this sin and all his others would be burned away, purifying him before God. Until then, he bore his shame and let it remind him to never lose himself again.
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by: Cole Callaway
Just like that, the expression vanished and he was his original self again. He had no clue who that 'Dorito' guy was but he knew that Gravestone was Donny. It was a given. A play on his name and the fact that he was a stickler for all of the rules all the time. Everyone thought he looked upset or intimidating all the time, but that was just his way, his demeanor, that he seemed so subdued. That's where Cole got it from, after all. The discipline his father and brother showed in the service resonated with him so it just stuck. Cole shook his head, "My God...I didn't think this world could feel any smaller."

The story about the flower language? Cole had one of his own. Donny taught him that one over the years because he was curious about what he was reading and it was their way of bonding. Carri knew it too, one of the odd things these siblings had to bond over. He recognized the two flowers, but it wasn't until Matt confirmed it was a message he was trying to send, even into the afterlife, Cole nodded to acknowledge his effort. "Where's it going to end, Matt? Eye for an eye, blood for blood, things aren't going to stop piling up against you. I don't have an answer for your redemption, or absolution. All I know is that I'm an agent down. Two of them. I'm at a real loss for you, I truly am. I personally don't know what you've gone through but I'm certainly aware of people who have, in some form or another. Then again...It's not too late for you to turn around."Maybe he wasn't making a whole lot of sense. Cole wasn't sleeping well as of late, with the numerous amounts of meds he was on and the fact that everything surrounding Day Zero was a damn nightmare, he couldn't bear to close his eyes.

His neutrality was speaking for him. He knew there needed to be some justice done...but he also considered the internal conflict his former teammate was dealing with. It was a roundabout."Look. I've tried so hard to play Switzerland here but it's pretty fucking terrible. I'm not going to lie. What is going to come out of all of this is a war. That's the opposite of what I want for everyone, but I have to find the balance. I have to play this one by our code and I'm going to try to prevent death where it isn't necessary. That will ALWAYS be my stance."

He took a deep breath and shrugged. Matt opened the forum for him so at the very least, he wanted to ask him a question he posed on two separate occasions, warranting different tones and different answers. "But...why, Matt? Why all of this, and then show up here, at a damn funeral, to express your concerns to me instead of someone else you might have gotten along with better at base?"

Klaus, he meant. That was his best mate, after all. Maybe Orion, Jones, or anyone else. Why Cole?
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by: Matthew Cox
It was sweet that Cole thought he could turn around and come back in as if nothing had happened and all he'd get was a slap on the wrist.

"When has anything been that simple, Cole? I ran because I overheard a teleconference between Jones and Representitive Edwards. You know him as the head of the special council on Defense measures? Our boss' boss, in other words? 'Confession or not, it's the needle.'..."

Matt swallowed at the quote, letting some of his dread shine through.

"Confession...or not...the needle. Nothing I do matters if the result is me being dead, and I don't want to die. I love Klaus, but he's a contractor. The kid's a good kid, but he's a wizard and you know as well as I do that means that he's a curiosity, not a power. But you? Jones respects you. I respect you, as much as you get under my skin sometimes. Your reputation of being sterling is well earned. If you say something is or isn't, it's considered at the very least."

He grimaced at the topic of being at the funeral.

"And here? Tava stands witness over us right now. I...I need that. Whatever was done to me in the mutation, it's given me this devil, clawing for freedom in my soul. The mass before the service helped calm that. My only other option was to come to you some night in armor, and I don't know if I could have held that monster in me back..."

It was easier to be honest with Cole now, for some reason. The ease of confession? The witness of agent Bashar and sergeant Graves? Maybe.
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by: Cole Callaway
"Nothing is simple. You run from justice you have to face while trying to masquerade as someone who fights for that very thing--justice--and come to me for what...my old man wisdom, like i'm suppose to absolve anything, maybe ease the burden some? Like I said, I'm trying to level out. Try to see both sides, that's why I let you have your piece. But sometimes there is no grey area. Sometimes it's better laid out in black and white and I'm already having trouble discerning which side is any good." The words spilled out, out of control, fragmented thoughts that Cole had been wanting to express since he ran into Matt the first night, when he'd seen beyond the Devil and into the listless, exhausted eyes of the man who'd tried to kill himself... He coughed, the air in his lungs like fire.

When the fit stopped, Cole sighed. It was his thing, his trademark essentially, but it always seemed to befit the mood he wore in this trying time. He lifted his hand off of his cane to run it through his sandy-blond hair and looked at Matt straightaway. Tava and now Donny present in this sea of buried bones and resting souls, were watching over this. He half-chuckled when Matt mentioned respect even though he 'got under his skin'. The feeling was mutual, and while they didn't truly see eye-to-eye, Cole knew there was an unspoken camaraderie between him and the soldier. Now that he put together the relationship Matt shared with his brother? It made sense. It took a lot of courage to come of all places, and if Cole was going to draw the line of neutrality here like he said he would, then he had to give Matt a fighting chance. At least, for now.

"You know we were told to apprehend or detain on sight right? Well, some of us took to extreme and heard 'shoot on sight' and I honestly believe the Agency is okay with that detour. Yet..." Cole shrugged. He didn't reach for his gun. Off-duty or not, Cole was still a concealed-carrier. After the events of Zero, he knew he'd never leave his house unarmed, but his point here was that he didn't pull his weapon out on Matt. The thought hadn't even crossed his mind, even though the Devil was proven to be dangerous to any and all. That had to show Matt something right? His way of expressing his neutrality and respect without having to say it until now. "A man can show compassion to family, Cox. The team is like my own. Like the service--like Don is to you." If Matt could read into what Cole was saying, he'd know that Cole was reaching out, trying to meet him halfway.
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by: Matthew Cox
The dig at him running from justice made Matt flinch. His temper flared at that. He'd been under the Imperius curse, for God's sake! Was he going to be held culpable for something that he hadn't been able to resist?

"What do you want me to do, Cole, turn myself in and calmly accept the euthanasia? Or...or just accept being put back into the research program to be an experiment? I just got my freedom and it's... Matt fumbled over what he was about to say and stopped. A deep shuddering breath rattled through him. With a glance at Donny's marker, Matt tried again.

"The Dark Lady is dead, but I'm still recovering from that nightmare that I survived, Cole. I'm not psychic, but I am an analyst. and the odds of me keeping my freedom or my life are impossibly small when you factor in the fact that most of our government hasn't ever heard of the magical world, much less understand what the Imperius or Cruciatus curses are. The idea that I was forced to do something against my will...even if they believed it...the Nuremberg trials set a nasty precedent for me. What's left for me there...what's left in Paranormal...that's not justice, Cole."

Matt didn't try to disguise the fear that he felt when facing the prospect of coming back in to face the music. On top of that, what about Cora? She was as much a victim as he was, but there wouldn't be any understanding or care provided for her. And care was needed...she'd given herself a heart attack trying to break the curse.

Matt looked up at Cole when he mentioned that the team was family. Was he offering to protect him like a brother? Or was he offering to try and understand? Tristan would have put himself between Matt and danger. For Cole, that would have compromised his spoken desire for neutrality. Still...maybe his bridges weren't as burned as he thought. Matt swallowed.

"I don't think I can ever go back to the life I had. Too much has changed. I've changed."
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by: Cole Callaway
When he accepted the job at MI:5 Paranormal, he didn't know what he was to expect. All he knew was that this sure as hell wasn't a part of the welcoming brochure. "Perhaps not. I'm not asking you to do anything like that. I suppose, going forward, I'm simply asking you to see the black and white. I'm asking you to see the other side of the mirror. If it were anyone else in your shoes, if anyone else took on the Devil and you saw this falling apart from the outside, what would you think? You're protecting someone you apparently love, don't spurn someone for doing the same on their side." Spoken like a true paragon of balance... Cole let those words settle before moving on.

He nodded, slightly. "I've been with this division since a bit after it started, but there's still so much I've got to learn about this magical realm. What you've done is you've dove in head first and before you fully burn the bridges with people like Klaus or Jones or even Katarina, just consider that you might not have to do this alone. Cora, or whoever else you might have on the other side? If that's all you want, then fine...we can't stop you from walking away. At least, I won't." He was in no shape to apprehend anyone, and he was still in mourning. If anyone caught this exchange, he'd have his reasons as to why he didn't go after Matt. Surprisingly, he had plenty.

Indeed, Matt had changed. There was no denying that. Where he would go from here? Cole had no clue. "I don't know what there is for you to do now, but you are right. There's only forward...no turning back." The agency, the relationships he'd be leaving behind would only burn further in the inferno he gassed up and lit on his own. Cole was there amidst those flames, not sure if maintaining this kinship between himself and the Devil was going to be a good idea now, though he hoped it would be beneficial in the long run. The fact that he had to balance on scales for him and his other teammate Katarina made his head and heart ache, but he wouldn't say it aloud, at least not to Matt. Cole could see that there was at least a bit of the old Matthew Cox in that head of his--and even if it was a sliver, that was enough for him to hold on for hope. No, he didn't expect everyone to kiss and make up, to just walk off into the sunset like nothing happened because a lot of that damage was irreparable. If they could just cease fire, drop their weapons, and carry on, that would be enough. "I just want you to get well, and do right by yourself. Stay out of our affairs, no more stunts like this--" He held up his cane for a second and then set it back down, "and just consider what I've said, brother."

He'd be there for him, as best as he could be.
He wasn't going to detain him.
He shouldn't work too fast to burn his bridges; he's not alone.
He should consider the other party, when exacting his 'judgment', Devil or otherwise.

Key components to what Cole was trying to convey. He just hoped that in his mild delirium anything he'd said thus far made any sense. Holy hell, he was exhausted and the pain shone through that even more, the longer he stood there. It was almost time to take his medication.

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