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London, England
Thursday April 28, 2016
1:42 PM local time 

The Ministry of Powers 

Foreshadow and Ms. Britannia sat in the conference room with Dame Pennington, the current head of the Ministry and one of her analysts.  A hologram of Synapse filled one of the conference room chairs, as Synapse was teleconferencing in from the Haven, where she had been in the middle of some projects with VERA.  A large screen on one wall of the conference room showed video images from six different incidents over the previous six days, mostly from different parts of the world. 

"As you can see, there have been multiple incidents in the past six days, all related to the biblical plagues that God is supposed to have visited on Egypt when Moses was freeing the Israelites.  Twice in Freedom City, one in Rhodes Island, Washington DC, northern Mexico, and Palermo, Sicily."  Dame Pennington stated as the security camera or news footage showed the scenes of the various plagues and the assorted superheroes that appeared to deal with them. 

"While each of the attacks are clearly connected given their themes, no one has yet been able to determine how the particular locations were chosen as targets.  If whomever is behind this continues to follow the theme set out in Exodus, then there could be four more plagues to come.  The only question is where they will strike." 

Department for International Development, 22 Whitehall London 

Prince Tau Abioye-Imari made his way out of one of the large conferences rooms in the Department for International Development in downtown London, chatting with ministers from Kenya and Tanzania.  The meeting had been to discuss some of the DfiD's current projects in some of the poorer countries along the African Horn, projects that involved support by several of the more stable nations in the region.  

"Will you be returning home to Bangallan soon Prince Tau?"  Asked the Kenyan minister as the three made their way down the hallway toward the elevators. 

Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Hotel, Westminster 

A butler led Mark Lucas through the lavish entryway of the Cinema Suite of the expensive London hotel.  Inspired by the era of the 40's and 50's, the suite was a blend of elements inspired by both Hollywood and Indian cinema.  Just off the entry was a large study, filled with priceless antique furniture and other collectibles.  Seated on one of the sofas, was Thane al-Darsah, one of Nina's exiled older brothers.

Trafalgar Square 

Jennifer Owens emerged from the Charing Cross Underground Station right to the edge of Trafalgar Square.  The young woman had spent the morning at a business meeting at 30 St. Mary Axe or the Gherkin, in the City of London.  With that done, she had the afternoon to spend some time taking in some of the city's many sights.

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Dee Farrington watched the footage from the various incidents in the previous days on large screens in the Haven's main laboratory.  The Englishwoman was half watching the computer screen in front of her, which was showing the progress of some tests she and VERA had been running, the briefing from the Ministry of Powers taking away some of her concentration. 

"I think there will only be three more plagues minister."  She stated, her hologram in the Ministry of Powers transmitting her words.  "There were ten plagues in Exodus, but, these events have generally followed the order they were supposed to have occurred in, only Fleas should have fallen between Frogs and Flies.  All the rest have been in their proper order.  So that means Locusts, Darkness, and then Death of Firstborn remain."

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Jennifer Owens sat in a booth next to the front window of a small coffee shop, her meeting to discuss getting some of the less-lethal weapons and next generation body armor her division specialized in into the hands of the British counter-terrorism forces having gone very smoothly.  She was not looking forward to getting all the demonstration pieces back through customs but it is worth the hassle.

 

Try as she might, she was unnerved by the recent events she had heard news reports of and could not relax while out of the country.  And given the plagues are going on around the world, she was glad she had her costume in the briefcase at her feet.

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The weight of the diamond ring in his pocket heavy, Mark avoided the temptation to sketch a bow in the Socotran style, instead giving Thane a firm handshake. Over a decade and a half Nina's senior, Thane's mustachioed face bore a distinct resemblance to a younger Typhoon. Mark avoided commenting on that - he knew what it was like to look in a mirror and see your father's face in it. "Good evening. Nina sends her regrets - but she is still recovering from her battle with the blood controller in Freedom City." 

 

"Yes, I saw that on the news," rumbled Thane, his deep voice infused with a distinct Scottish burr from his years working in the Orkneys as their adopted hero. "Nina has blossomed into a brave woman." He looked Mark up and down and added, "What are you to her, exactly, sir? I know you by your work - shouldn't you be producing loaves and fishes for orphans?" 

 

"I'm hers," said Mark with a little shrug. "And I'm someone who cares a lot about Socotra and its people - as much as someone born away from it can. It's not my home - but it is my passion. Just as Nina is." 

 

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Tau smiled broadly as he continued on his way to the lobby elevators, "You are correct Minister, it is my intention to return home with some degree of haste.  Queen-Mother celebrates her birthday in two months, and the whole of Bangalla shall rejoice.  I would be remiss in my duty as both Prince, and son, were I to avoid the planning of said celebration.  Yourself Minister, shall you be returning to Kenya, to discuss today's proposals with his Excellency, President Kenyatta?"  He nodded as the older man statesman responded, he was civil, but displayed a keen insight, as evidenced from his probing questions during the days proposals.

 

"In the spirit of the steps made today, I am sure my brother, his Royal Highness, would be honored to have President Kenyatta in attendance during the celebrations for our own Queen-Mother."  He paused, considering the steps that had been taken recently in establishing the wildlife preserve that encompassed the entire coastal region of Bangalla, "Perhaps his Excellency would care for a tour of the Abioye-Imari Wildlife Preserve, for I feel our two nations have much to learn from one another in regards to our varying successes in the preservation of our ecological systems."  As the elevator chimed, he stepped inside, turned and shook the Kenyan's hand.  "Consider my proposal, I shall have our Embassy draft both the invitation and the proposal for your review.  Good day Minister."

 

As the doors slide closed, he turned and looked towards his security detail, "That went reasonable quickly, but I will need to review Ayari's notation and analysis before coming to a final conclusion.  I am aware that at least one of the incidents occurred in Freedom City, are our Embassy staff secure, or have they been affected by this ...," he paused unsure of what these incidents portended, "outbreak?  Has there been any sign of an incident within Bangalla itself, or the African continent?"

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"I've been thinking.  So either villains have stepped up their having a theme game.  Or this is some sort of 'magic' thing."  Foreshadow commented.  Putting magic in air quotes yet keeping a serious tone of voice as he did so.  "If it's the former.  I'd say they'd go for somewhere with high superhero traffic.  Then again...Rhode Island.  If it's the latter, probably the same thing.  Replacing bringing judgement to Egyptian gods with people in capes.  Maybe someone throwing their hat in for Master Mage contention."

 

His conjecture notwithstanding, it seemed as if the plagues were centered in North America.  Italy was a weird exception.  To Foreshadow it seemed unlikely that the UK would be caught in the crossfire.  At least with no other info to go on.  Logically there was nothing to worry about.  But, a healthy amount of paranoia came with the prescience. 

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Even with many lifetimes of experience Ms. Britannia, and even she was getting use to the name, could come across something new. Well not new but the original was a little before the spirits time.

 

As someone steeped in magic I can tell you it’s not that simple, it could be some tied to people, places and even things. If it’s still tied to Egypt then it doesn’t take more than customary look at a guide book show how much Egyptian stuff we have around London.”

 

The Agnus inside was thinking along the more practical side of things, one of the advantages of the Ms. Britannia arrangement.


“Have we tried to see if any of the earthbound Angels knows anything about this? Or maybe one of the Egyptian gods, I think I have the Set kid on my twitter feed...

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GM 

Department for International Development 

"I am certain President Kenyatta would be honored to attend celebrations for the Queen-Mother."  The Kenyan minister replied.  "I look forward to passing on the invitation and proposal your highness."  He then added as the two shook hands and went their separate ways. 

"All embassy staff in Freedom City and their families are secure your highness."  Replied one of Tau's security detail.  "Thus far the incidents in Freedom City have been rather isolated, primarily due to timely intervention of superpowered individuals.  So far both Bangalla and the rest of the African continent have been spared any incidents.  Although tensions are raising in many areas with each new incident." 

The elevator came to a stop as the doors opened and the group with Tau exited onto the mail level of the DfiD building, making their way out the main entrance and to the waiting car outside. 

Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Hotel 

Thane gave a small nod as Mark explained his relationship with Nina, and his concern for Socotra and its people.  Gesturing towards one of the seats in the study, Thane sat back down as he continued to focus on Mark.  "I am glad my sister found someone to provide a counter to the....more volatile influences that are present in our family." 

"So what exactly has my sister sent you here to speak to me about?" 

Ministry of Powers 

"Well, more than half the locations thus far have been rather low in terms of regular presence of Powers."  The Ministry analyst interjected.  "Freedom City naturally is at the very top of the list in terms of that, DC less so, but certainly more than the other targets, particular as AEGIS headquarters was at the center of the incident." 

"So far, that is the target that makes the most sense."  Dame Pennington stated, looking back at the monitor and the footage of the various incidents.

Just then, the door to the conference room opened as another analyst appeared.  "I am sorry Minister,"  he man stated apologetically, "but you need to see this!"  Moving over to the controls for the monitor, the analyst pressed a key and the previous footage was replaced by a live broadcast from BBC News 24.  The reporter was along a section of the Thames west of London, up in the sky behind him was a massive swarm of some sort of insects, trailing miles as it made its way east...

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Mark exhaled. "You know about the Great Game, that horrible thing Typhoon is inflicting on your family. Nina wants to make sure you're not in it.." 


Thane frowned, his bushy eyebrows meeting in a scowl in the middle of his forehead. "You may tell my sister that I have no interest in our father's throne. Is that why she sent you here, sir? To see if I was some competitor?" 

 

"No, no," said Mark, chopping the air with his hand. "She wants to make sure nobody's playing the game. If nobody's playing, then Typhoon doesn't get an heir - he just gets the-oh, geez!" Mark had set his phone to vibrate, but he recognized the triple buzz of the UNISON emergency signal well enough. "There's something really bad happening outside. I'll be right-" Edge disappeared onto the roof of the hotel, where he took one look at the approaching swarm of locusts and realized what was happening. 

 

Oh crap! It's the crisis! I can't call Erin and Trevor - and Joe's too busy with whatever's going on in Freedom. He thought fast, paging through his phone and the list of super-contacts in London. He didn't know the city very well, but he could find one particular destination - 

 

And so it was that, in a flash of black blobby light, he appeared directly in front of the front doors of the Ministry of Powers. "Hey!" he yelled, running up to the front doors, where guards were automatically on high alert at the arrival of a new super. "Mark Lucas, codenamed Edge, Unison Agent #402. Do you guys know about the giant cloud of locusts?!"

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As Tau and his party stepped on to the street, the Prince stopped and inhaled deeply.  While he accepted the duties and responsibilities of his position as Prince, and Spokesperson, for his native Bangalla, and performed them admirably, he did not enjoy the tedium of these administrative and bureaucratic planning sessions.  So when he, and his near ever present security team exited the lobby of the International Development building, he stopped, raised his head and closed his eyes.  He reached out to the great predators of the plains, as he did so he could feel the heat of the African sun beating down on him, the rustle of long grass as something dangerous approached.  With a pounce, and a low rumbling roar that transcended the spiritual and echoed softly down the streets of London, the spirit of the predator was upon him.

 

He smiled as he felt his primal spirit rise, his eyes still closed the scents of London assailed him, the cool afternoon air, a lingering scent of ozone from this morning's rains, the noxious fumes as cars rumbled by, the smell of fish and brine from the Thames, there was something else, something that hovered at the edge of his perceptions but remained hidden from him.  He opened his eyes, Tariq nodded at him, accustomed to his Prince's indulgences, he had not failed to notice the echo of the Tiger spirit that Tau had summoned.  Tariq knew that his Prince would soon wish to run, and had informed the driver of the State provided Sedan of such, St. James park was a few short blocks from the Development building.  He held the door open for Abioye-Imari, in his breast pocket his cell phone chimed, the call was routed to his earpiece, and he was soon speaking with Tau's personal assistant, Ayala.  She was calling from the Langham were they had secured suites for the Prince and his support staff, "As requested, I have been monitoring local and international news feeds, and the BBC is currently reporting an incident in London, over the Thames.  It seems that it follows in the wake of other international incidents, a massive swarm of locusts is currently moving towards central London."  Tariq's brow furrowed as he considered the implications, biblical in nature, the global incidents had already caused some concern among the more religious members of the Bangallan cabinet.  "I will apprise his Highness, see that all Bangallan staff are secure and in their suites, we will be returning to the suites as fast as traffic will allow."  He disconnected the call, and turned towards his Prince, "Your Highness, it seems your concerns were not unfounded.  Ayala reports that local news agencies have located a massive swarm of locusts descending upon the city, we must return to the suites."  As he spoke he ushered his charge, his friend, into the waiting sedan.

 

An almost feral smile crept over Tau's face, as he slid into the waiting sedan.  "Please Tariq, see that all Bangallan staff are secured in our suites at the Langham."  Tariq did not miss that the Prince did not include himself in that statement, and watched in horror as his charge, the spiritual champion of his people, unashamed began to change into his traditional garb in the rear of the vehicle, "Surely my highness, you will seek safety for yourself as well, rather than ..."

 

As Tariq's ceremonial half mask settled over his face, he cut off the Head of Security, "Only once I see that my people are safe, this incident requires my attention, for if the spirits are angered, who better to assuage their wrath, then the Prince of Bangalla?"  Tariq sighed as his Prince slid out of the opposite side of the car, and began sprinting towards the Hungerford Bridge that ached across the River Thames.  He shrugged his shoulders, and ordered the driver to return to their Suites, while he himself plunged into the crowd in an attempt to follow his Prince, and ensure his safety.

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GM 

Ministry of Powers 

The guards outside the Ministry of Powers briefly flinched as Edge suddenly appeared in front of the building, at least one starting to reach for a weapon.  But they relaxed, at least slightly, as the UNISON agent promptly identified himself. 

One of the guards, who was half paying attention to Edge and half listening to the chatter over the radio through his ear piece, responded.  "The Minister is currently meeting with several members from Vanguard and have just been alerted sir.  I wager they would be willing to accept any assistance." 

Up in the conference room, Dame Pennington answered a phone call, curtly responding to whatever she was told by the individual on the other end.  Hanging up, she looked back at Foreshadow and Ms. Britannia.  "It appears is it no longer a question of when the next plague will strike.  I do believe this meeting is over, as the two of you have much more pressing matters on hand.  The UNISON superagent Edge has just appeared outside and is aware of the general situation, I would suggest getting out there to coordinate with him." 

Streets of Westminster 

As Primal Spirit sprang into action, he could make out the looks of shock on the faces of Londoners as he sprinted and leapt past, not as accustomed to seeing superpowered individuals as the residents of Freedom City.  But it quickly became apparent that a bit of panic was already starting to spread among the residents of London, as the African hero could see groups of pedestrians already starting to run for buildings and other cover.   

A few quick leaps and Primal Spirit was up on the rooftop of a nearby four story building.  Once there he had a clearer view of the sky to the east.  It seemed he did not have far to go, as the swarm of locusts appeared to be headed toward Westminster. 

Trafalgar Square 

Jennifer Owens had been doing her best to enjoy her coffee and relax after her presentation when a commotion and startled cries in the coffee shop caught her attention.  Looking back, she saw almost everyone in the shop was turned toward a flatscreen up on one of the walls, where a BBC news broadcast showed a massive swarm of insects, that was apparently closing in on central London...

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"Twitter keeps suggesting I add him.  But a kid with his shirt always off does not seem like an unquestionable addition."  Foreshadow joked with Ms. Britannia.  His brow furrowing upon the point of the meeting being answered for them.  "Hope you brought the bug spray.  Or maybe the guy waiting for us has a couple cans of Raid."

 

Foreshadow wasn't sure how they drew lots for who got what powers.  But, he had to imagine fleas and locust had to be barely above frogs and boils on the scale of things to be worried about.  It wasn't exactly fire and hail coming from the sky.  Still, he didn't even have a half formed idea for the problem  at hand.

 

Waiting for Agnus, he prepared to go and meet Edge.

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Quickly taking in the scene on the screen, Jen reached into her purse, pulled a few bills from her wallet and left them on her table before grabbing her briefcase and ducking out to change into costume away from the crowd.  After ducking between a pair of buildings the young inventor felt for her ability to alter gravity, jumping twenty feet up one wall and again to land on the flat roof out of sight.

 

Ducking down she strapped on her web-shooters and pulled her armored costume from the briefcase.  A few seconds later Silver Spider was running along rooftops towards the center of the city.  When in doubt, always run towards trouble she thought to herself as she flipped across a gap between a bakery and a jewelry shop.

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“So you can see the appeal then, that and she has amazing hair. Next time I’m a redhead I’m thinking of hair like that.”

 

She resisted the urge to gloat or say she told them so, it was really part of the cause for being part of Vanguard. Beside part of being Britannia was that you occasionally got flashes of precognition.

 

“We should hook up VERA to the feed, so we can get an idea of the scale of this thing. Though I doubt we’ll have trouble finding the swarm.”

 

Her aura flared into light and she began to float a short distance above the ground.


“Let’s go take a look at what's going on.”

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"Yeah, already on that."  Dee's hologram replied in response to Ms. Britannia's comment about patching VERA into the new feed.  Back in the Haven, the Englishwoman was busy at one of the control terminals, while VERA was busy pulling up every possible news feed and displaying them in smaller windows on a large holographic screen in front of Dee. 

"Looking at some of the various reports, it seems there have been some people attacked in Middlesex as the swarm apparently moved in from the ocean and began following the Thames westward.  Nothing serious so far."  She then added, looking at all the data appearing before her.  "But that might be because the swarm has not stopped and really settled in anywhere yet."

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GM 

Ms. Britannia and Foreshadow quickly made their way outside, where they joined Edge in the streets in front of the Ministry building.  Already the streets were starting to get cleared, with many pedestrians starting to run into buildings.  But still there were a number of people that had not heard or seen the approaching swarm, still going about their day. 

The vehicle traffic was worse, with drivers unaware of the impending crisis generally in the way of or avoiding those drivers that heard or saw about the swarm and were trying to head away from it.  A crash of metal on metal a short distance away signaled at least one finder bender caused by the situation.
 

From where they were currently positioned, both Silver Spider and Primal Spirit could see similar chaos developing in other parts of the city.  Down on a street below Primal Spirit, the African prince saw a small crash between two cars, which served to stop traffic in two directions and start a backlog of vehicles, unable to move anywhere. 

Silver Spider landed on a building, and saw several people running for any sort of cover as the swarm approached.  A little over a block away, she saw a small group of school children out with their teacher, apparently not aware of the situation.

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"Alright, seeing as I can't punch locusts.  Well I can, but it'll take me a really long time to get through all these and maybe a pair of stilts to reach them.  I'll be focusing on trying to get people to safety.  Unless you guys have any other bright ideas."  Foreshadow reached for his multi purpose escrima sticks.  Readying the grapnel line to swing towards the source of that metallic crashing sound.  

 

He'd wait just long enough for Edge or Ms Britania to offer their opinions.  And not a second longer, it was time to spring into action as far as he was concerned.  He knew enough about London to expect more than a fair share of people had ignored the warnings and were not planning to rush indoors as soon as the plague hit.

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It was a tough situation to call she could quite easily get people away from the swarm, teleporting a few people away at a time, but she also had the capacity to hopefully harm the swarm drawing there attention from all the innocent bystanders. Putting it that way it really wasn’t really any decision as to where her talents could best be used.

 

“Okay I’m going to try and get the swarms attention, buy you as much time as you need to get away the wounded. If you find anyone really badly injured, or get into trouble for a change, call me and I’ll get back down as quickly as I can.”


Aura glowing brightly she flew towards the swarm gathering the energy she’d need to get it’s attention.

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"Where's a good place to put people?" Edge demanded of the others, his eyes on the oncoming locust swarm, his thoughts on Erin and Trevor in Australia. "All the people," he clarified, heedless of any disbelieving looks sent his way from his newfound allies. "I can take care of the evac; it's what I do for UNISON. But where, like, the park, or an island in the river, or..." He shrugged. "I dunno anything about London or where stuff is! But if you need me to, I can move people out from where the swarm is." 

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Down in the HAVEN, Dee was watching her teammates interact with Edge through a feed of Ministry security cameras.  She smirked slightly at the UNISON hero's question.  Is he daft?  She asked Foreshadow through their mental link.  There is no single place in London big enough for everyone in London. 

But if he is willing to evacuate people, maybe moving them out the countryside.  Like the Cotswolds.  I'll notify the Ministry to see about getting some military presence out there to provide some security and any emergency services for people.  She then added as she began to type on the computer in front of her.

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Foreshadow watched as Ms. Britannia flew to handle the insect clean up.  He looked at Edge bemused while Dee gave her suggestion.  Can't say for sure.  I honestly expected someone using a sword with a name like Edge.  Still, let's see what he can do.  Erick moved the conversation from his mind to the open air.  Addressing

 

"If you can figure out a way to get them out of the city and into the countryside, we can get the military to pull security.  The pretty voice inside my head suggests the Cotsworlds in the North.  But that's a two hour drive away.  If your evac isn't done through some sort of mass teleportation my guess would be trying to figure out a way to get everyone indoors rather than to a specific location.  I think some of the World War II air raid shelters are unclaimed.  So any stragglers we can push in.  Locusts aren't exactly going to win against modern infrastructure.  Especially with Lady London up there holding back the wall." 

 

Foreshadow pointed up at Ms Britannia as assurance that Vanguard's leader was capable of buying them some time.

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Edge moved through the city like lightning, sweeping people away from the oncoming locust swarms with as much speed as his considerable power allowed. London's omni-present surveillance cameras showed what would have been an ominous sight under other circumstances - a rapidly moving costumed figure appearing and reappearing in crowded streets across many parts of the city, shouting a few words and then taking everyone with him in a spectacular flash of black light! Lacking Fleur de Joie's foresight, Mark didn't have a safe place nearby to deposit the rescued Londoners - but gradually areas outside the city, and down below at Foreshadow's suggestion. began to fill up with displaced people as Mark scattered them around and out of harm's way, making sure that parents and children and other family members stayed together, but otherwise admittedly adopting a rather scattershot approach to mass transit. Ugh, he thought, reappearing by the Ministry's front door, I should start carrying a notebook. 

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"Color me impressed."  Foreshadow responded as he began looking around the streets.  "Remind me to call you on my next move."  Although he had been addressing Edge his eyes had moved back up towards the sky.  Ms. Britannia's glowing display was worth watching to see if the locusts were sensitive to polarized light or not.

 

What's the over/under on these things acting like actual insects?  The situation had turned less dire.  But, if they were going to live up to the Plagues.  Then people's homes, and more relevant to where they were standing at the moment, the location of their elected officials would be filled by the swarm.  "Well, I guess we should just be happy it's not a giant world ending flood."

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