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GetMeOffTheMoonRockman PMTRRL
Fan Fiction by Dashe
Press Start to Continue - Chapter 21: All in the Family

Chapter 21: All in the Family. Chapter image depicts the Teomo Police Station: a large, imposing, dark blue building with a central tower, two adjoining wings, and a guard tower on the right hand side. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't contain a torture chamber.

Even seven years after she'd been forbidden from contacting either of her parents again, Aero was better at sneaking into and out of the Teomo City police station than most of the people who worked there. She darted around to the Maple Street side and closed in on an inconspicuous-looking door by a camera with the wires still clipped from the last time she'd needed to "borrow" some official paperwork. She picked the lock and slipped into the maintenance corridor undetected.

It was almost 8:00 in the morning, so unless Teisel had managed to screw things up even more than she was expecting him to, the chief would still be in the gymnasium supervising his officers as they ran their morning laps on the indoor track. She could already hear him yelling from the hallway, even with the door closed. She peeked in through the narrow window on one of the double doors to find Gonzo Goodwin in the usual spot. Only this time, instead of shouting at his officers, he was shouting so loudly at Teisel that flecks of spit were flying out of his mouth and getting caught in his thick, white mustache along the way.

Aero had always thought Teisel was a pretty big guy, but the police chief was built from all of his training, and there was no question in her mind that he could probably suplex the former pirate if and when he decided their conversation wasn't worth the trouble. While she had no idea how long the two of them had been talking, it was painfully clear that Teisel was on the defensive and losing traction quickly.

"How DARE you barge in here, in the middle of my training session, and tell me that I need to talk to that rebellious little snake!" He roared. "I've never seen you before in my life! I don't know what that sniveling con artist told you, but Muguet and I had very detailed plans for securing the ungrateful brat a rank in this police force that those ingrates out on the track would die for! All she ever did to thank us was goof around with her stupid computers and associate with the most unsavory characters in this whole stinking city! We should have just left her in a dumpster when she was a baby and saved ourselves years of hassle!"

"Don't you understand the point of having a family?!" Teisel anxiously urged. "So what if Aero isn't the picture perfect police officer you wanted? That doesn't mean she's a bad person! She pulled an all-nighter last week to help build a machine that saved my life! Why would you turn your back on someone like that? Don't you have any kind of respect for your own daughter?!"

"What good is a kid if she's not going to follow in my footsteps as chief of the Teomo Police Department and show me the respect I deserve?! That punk's no daughter of mine!" Goodwin sputtered as he grabbed Teisel by the collar and dragged him close. "You know, you've got a lot of nerve talking to me like that, you..."

It was time for some intervention. If Aero didn't act now, she was sure her father would toss Teisel into a cell for disrupting the peace, and that was assuming he didn't just pulverize the big lug on the spot. At the very least, she figured she had exponentially more practice at escape artistry than Teisel ever did. "Put him down!" She shouted as she kicked the door open and made a beeline towards the chief. Goodwin felt his grip involuntarily slacken.

"What do YOU think you're doing in here? Didn't that restraining order make it clear enough that I didn't want to see you ever again?" Goodwin snapped. He reflexively refocused all of his rage on his estranged daughter. "Don't think I don't recognize you with that ridiculous blue hair! NOBODY else on this island does this kind of stupid crap..."

"Run." Aero mouthed as the police chief dove straight into a tirade of abuse. Teisel opened his mouth to say something, but Aero shook her head. "Teisel, trust me. There are some things in life you can't fix. I'll deal with this on my own. Just get out of here, now!" She hissed, motioning for him to take off while he still had the chance.

Against his better judgment, he did. Teisel ran as fast as his legs could carry him. It took Goodwin a moment to notice, but as soon as he did, he blew on his whistle until veins started popping out of his neck, and yelled for his officers to stop their warm-ups and sound the alarms. "CUFF THAT UPPITY KNOW-IT-ALL AND SEE TO IT THAT HE ENDS UP BEHIND BARS! I'll THINK OF A CHARGE TO SLAP HIM WITH LATER!" He roared. He seized Aero by the arm so hard that her hand started to tingle from a lack of circulation. "In the meantime, I'll take care of you myself..."

Teisel was already out in the hall by the time the sirens started wailing. He couldn't believe Chief Goodwin was so dead-set against making amends with his daughter that he'd be willing to send officers to hunt him down for merely trying to suggest it. Had he even broken any of the city's laws? Was Aero really so bad that the simple act of trying to help her out warranted a full-scale manhunt?

Thankfully, most of the officers were still in sweats and T-shirts, so he didn't need to worry too much about any of them pulling weapons on him until they had a chance to suit up. He followed the exit signs. He could barely believe he was on the run from the law again.

He needed to focus on getting himself out of danger. There were too many old memories threatening to overtake him already. The faster he could get out of that building, the better.

The exit door was less than thirty feet away. Even though he wasn't in great shape, and in spite of the cramps that crept up on him as he pushed onward, he knew he could make it. The bureaucrats scrambled out of the front offices in a last-ditch effort to block his path, but he had too much momentum going already. He barreled past them and burst out into the morning sunlight.

To Teisel's dismay, the cop cars and motorhorses were already pulling out of the station to scrub the town over and cut off his escape. This was not good. He was just too easy to spot in a crowd. Being tall had some serious drawbacks. Even considering all of the exercise he'd had underground, he just wasn't used to having to outrun vehicles on foot. He knew he couldn't dawdle for long. The desk workers were beginning to close in on him from behind. He sprinted in the base's general direction and kept his eyes open for a side street that the cops would have trouble getting through.

Once he spotted something that looked like it could work, he skidded down the narrow passageway, taking care to watch for potholes and pieces of junk lying on the ground. A couple of police officers on motorhorses whipped around the corner after him. They were catching up quickly. Tripping over anything was out of the question. He thought he caught a glimpse of a fleet of Draches spraying bullets over the town as several police airships gave chase. That wasn't right, was it? It had to be the commotion and those stupid police sirens skewing his perception. His head throbbed from sensory overload. It was becoming nearly impossible to focus on anything. He hung a sharp right into an alleyway and stumbled through a pile of trash. He focused on staying on his feet as he struggled to ignore the shouts of Servbots asking him for further instruction in his mind. He hoped it was all in his mind. If it hadn't all been in his mind, then he'd managed to get himself in bigger trouble than he'd thought.

He suddenly felt a hand reach out from somewhere and seize him by the upper arm. "This way!" Pic shouted as he dragged Teisel behind him. The older man had no way of knowing where Pic was headed. He could barely see three feet in front of him anymore, and it was hard to tell whether the boy was even real to begin with, or just another hallucination.

Real or otherwise, Pic guided Teisel's hand to a cool, metal bar. A ladder, he realized at some point after he'd begun to climb it. "Keep moving," he instructed. "I'm not going to let you fall off."

As soon as he found himself back on solid ground, he looked up and scrambled toward the edge of the rooftop. "AAAAAAAGGGHHHH!!! THEY'VE GOT AIRSHIPS!" He shouted. Everything felt like it was spinning out from under him. The longer he looked out at the city, the harder it became to keep his balance. "WE NEED TO HIDE!"

"T-Bonne, stop!" Pic shouted. He grabbed Teisel's wrist and tried to hold his ground, despite Teisel's size advantage. "There aren't any airships! You're safe up here! Just be quiet and hold still or you'll increase your chances of falling off to 86%!"

Teisel turned to look at Pic. His face had contorted itself into an expression of sheer terror that the strange young man couldn't even begin to guess how to react to. "Pic. You're Pic, right? You're real?" He asked. He grasped the kid by the shoulders to make sure he was solid and tried to blink away the noise that was clouding his vision. He barely felt Pic's muscles tense up, and he didn't notice the subdued discomfort that flickered across his teammate's face at all. The throbbing migraine that had crept up on him made it nearly impossible for him to see anything.

"Yes. It's me." Pic informed him. "You appear to be highly disoriented. We're on the roof of the 3000 building on the north side of 12th street. You are in no danger, unless you decide you would like to continue shouting and running around near the edge of the roof. Your voice carries, and that would defeat the purpose of hiding entirely. I recommend sitting down to avoid that outcome. If you are seeing or hearing airships of any sort overhead, they're not real. You can ignore those."

"Easier said than done," Teisel muttered in frustration as he followed Pic's lead and lowered himself to the ground, making sure to keep one hand on the kid at all times, just in case. "I know I messed up, but...don't disappear, Pic. Please."

For one brief moment, Teisel couldn't be sure whether the boy was going to slip out of his grasp anyway and wander back off into the city as he'd grown to expect, but he felt Pic wrap an arm around him and grip his shoulder with his free hand. "Don't worry, T-Bonne," he replied, "I'm not going anywhere."

When they got back to the base, even though it was dark and most of the city had turned in for the night, Aero still hadn't returned. Grill and Max were both munching potato chips and watching a movie on the couch. There was no way Teisel would be able to just try and sleep through the rest of the day.

"Pic told us what happened this morning before he took off looking for you and Aero," Grill replied once Teisel had explained the situation. "I wish I'd seen it coming sooner. The rest of us have known about the Goodwins for a lot longer than you have, and we all know how important your family was to you. At the very least, I feel like I should have warned you about Aero's parents...but...I wanted to be completely sure you'd be able to handle it. Waiting so long probably wasn't such a great idea, after all."

"We didn't realize she knew Tron until just now, either," Max admitted. "It certainly came as a shock to Pic and me when we figured it out on our own."

Teisel just felt numb. "I didn't mean for anything to happen to her," he said as he wiped his eyes with his arm and sat down against the end table. He ran his fingers along the edge of Tron's book and nudged it out of its spot as he spoke. Having it in his hands usually helped calm him down. "I really thought I could fix it. Even if you'd sat me down and told me it was that bad, I don't think I would have been able to believe you. I'm still having trouble believing it and there are police officers searching the city for me so they can throw me in jail!"

"If there's one thing we know about Goodwin, it's that before you know it, he'll have a more important case pop up sooner or later." Grill explained. He didn't want to add that the chief probably lost the drive to pursue Teisel any further the minute he really started focusing on Aero. "He'll probably have forgotten all about you by this time tomorrow."

"Yeah, I've had cops chasing after me before, too. We've pretty much all done jail time...except Grill, but only because he's really boring." Max replied, popping a chip into his mouth. "Apparently it's still stealing if you owned a copy of the DVDs already, but your roommate sat on them and broke them. Who knew?"

"Is she going to be alright, though?" Teisel persisted. "We should probably think of some way to bring her back if she isn't back here by..."

"Teisel." Max frowned. "Aero is going to be fine. She can handle a lot of crap, and knowing her, she's got a plan of her own and doesn't want anybody interfering with it. You've already screwed things up enough. Just stay out of her way and let her cool down, okay?"

"...I'm not going to get kicked out of the gang for this, am I?" He asked.

Grill looked at Max. "I'd like to say no, but it's got to be Aero's call this time." Max replied after thinking it over.

All Teisel could do in response was nod and wait for Max and Grill's show to end so he could try to fall asleep.

Sleep, however, was no easy task. The only reason he thought he might manage to get any to start with was because he'd had so little the night before. Even then, he tossed and turned on the couch as he wondered whether running away from the station had really been the right decision. It felt like he was locked in an endless cycle of trying to get comfortable, trying to mop up those persistent tears with his pillow, and, most importantly, trying to stop thinking about what might have happened to Aero. His imagination kept leaping to wild conclusions, each more horrifying than the last. Why did he have to be so insistent on trying to reconcile her with her parents without really stopping to listen to her side of the story? The past three days had been nothing but a nonstop barrage of painful revelations, and this mess really cranked it all up a notch or ten.

He wasn't sure what time it was when he heard the door click open, but it was definitely well before Pic and Grill usually got up to go about their daily routine. "Teisel, are you still up?" He heard Aero whisper, presumably from the doorway.

Teisel briefly considered just pretending to sleep through it, since Max recommended that he let her cool down first, but he could almost feel her staring at him from across the room, evaluating whether he was really awake or not. "Teisel, if you're awake at all, we really need to talk."

"Yeah, I'm up," he groggily replied. He pulled himself into a sitting position and groped around for the lamp switch in the dark. "Couldn't sleep," he added as he clumsily smashed the switch with his massive fingers.

The second the two of them could get a good look at each other in the lamplight, they both felt a pang of heartache and regret threaten to tear down the defenses they'd both built up, intentionally or otherwise, in anticipation of this inevitable encounter. Aero had stripped down to her tank top. Teisel was so used to seeing her in a jacket that it felt weird to think that he was actually looking at her arms. He had started to wonder if she'd been hiding some mechanical limbs this whole time, but all he could see was the beginning of a tattoo sleeve in the middle of one of her arms. More noticeably, that tank top made it painfully obvious that she was covered in bruises and scrapes, and not all of those scrapes had scabbed over yet, either. She'd also rolled up her pants and splinted her own leg with her jacket and some discarded planks. She must have had to sneak back to the base with a makeshift crutch. He hoped she'd picked that old two-by-four up early on, at least.

"You've been crying all night, haven't you? Your eyes are red." Aero hesitantly observed out loud, breaking the silence. As soon as she said it, she cringed and realized how stupid that sounded. Teisel's eyes were always red.

He didn't seem to catch the slip-up. He just bit his lip and shrugged. "Are you going to...?"

"I'll live," Aero curtly cut him off as she limped into the common room. She lingered a bit as she shut the door while trying to keep her weight off her bad leg. Once she was sure it was properly shut, she hobbled over toward the couch. "Most of this is really just from jumping through the window on the way out. Good old parking lot asphalt...I've had worse. My mom's worse. She runs the hospital, so the gang and I have had to learn to patch ourselves up after all this time. That's why we had to nurse you back to health here when we first met. None of us can rely on the medical system or the police to help with stuff like this. The chief slammed my knee pretty hard with the truncheon this time, but it's,'s not the worst I've had to deal with."

He could barely utter, "Aero, I'm so sorry," before the tears started streaming down his face all over again and rendering his words unintelligible at best. He couldn't bring himself to even look at her for very long.

"Teisel, look," she sighed. She pursed her lips hard and her face scrunched up in frustration as she struggled to keep herself from decking him with the two-by-four and risking further injury to either of them. "I know that you've spent years thinking of nothing other than your family. I get that you miss them more than I can probably imagine." She took a deep breath, reached into her pocket and pulled something out. Teisel flinched for a second before he realized that she was holding a half-used, pocket-sized pack of tissues in front of him. After a moment of uncertainty, he took one and wiped his face. It was a futile effort at best. "But your family and my family aren't the same people. I really wish it didn't take something like this happening to get you to take me seriously about that."

"It isn't fair," Teisel hiccupped. "You never got to have a family worth missing, but yours is the one that's still around!"

Aero shook her head and propped herself up against the armrest opposite Teisel. She elected to keep some distance between them instead of sitting down on the couch. "You know, believe it or not, I did miss them in the beginning, even if they weren't worth it. I was actually pretty upset back then, but if it weren't for them kicking me out and filing that insane restraining order, I'm sure I'd be in much worse shape than I'm in now. Right now, the chief only sees me as some persistent biker he can beat up whenever I get in the way. If he'd kept me around as his daughter, I'd probably be slaving away at the police station, running laps with those officers you saw back there. I'd have hated that. I wouldn't have been able to be myself if I lived with my crappy parents. Do you know how I managed to figure that part out?"

It took a few moments for Teisel to realize she'd asked him a question. He sniffled and shook his head.

"It was because Max, Pic, and Grill went out of their way to reach out and help me through it. Grill used his paycheck to start renting this place instead of just having us all hang out in the scrapyard. Pic got his hands on enough junk to furnish it. And Max?'ve seen how great a guy Max is by now, even if most of his leadership decisions are questionable. Teaching myself that the Goodwins weren't worth caring about was harder than you could ever imagine, but he got me through it in one piece. They all did. Pic might have spent his life living on the streets, sure, but Max and Grill really didn't have to move out of their parents' houses to help me out and make sure I had someone to lean on when I needed it. Teisel, the Bright Bats are my family." She glanced over at the pair of goggles on the ground next to the former pirate's shoes and added, "And we all chose to let you into our family, too, if you decided you were interested."

Even though it had been something that Max and Grill had talked about with him months ago, words completely failed Teisel. He'd never really expected any of the Bright Bats to follow through with that. He'd just figured it was something they'd said to make him feel better at the time. It had been so long since anything good had happened to Teisel that he'd just gone in assuming that the bikers would get tired of dealing with him sooner or later. However, hearing it come from Aero left him completely dumbstruck, even after she'd managed to surprise him multiple times over a span of twenty-four hours. He opened his mouth, but there wasn't any response that could accurately reflect the emotional onslaught that had crept up on him all over again.

His momentary lapse in vocabulary didn't seem to faze Aero in the slightest. "We're not looking to replace your parents or Tron or Bon or anything, but yeah. The guys consider you family right now," she admitted with a reluctant smile. "You know, I didn't realize it until this morning, when I heard some of the things you said about me down at the police station, but I think the real reason I kept you at arm's length for so long was because a part of me had already let you in, too. I didn't want to risk losing the connection we had by opening up and letting you know the truth about me."

"Well, Aero," Teisel replied after taking some time to let it sink in. "I'm sorry I didn't listen and believe you when you tried to tell me about your parents. And if you ever fall head over heels in love with someone again like you did with Barrett, no matter who it is, rest assured that you won't ever have to worry about me getting in your way or trying to split you up...not even if it turns out to be my archenemy." He added almost unnecessarily.

For a minute, it almost looked as if Aero had begun to get a little misty-eyed herself, but she managed to keep her composure in the end. "Thanks. That means a lot coming from you."

"I try not to make the same mistakes twice," Teisel replied. He mustered up a grin and grabbed another tissue.

"Just keep the whole pack," Aero suggested. "If it makes you feel any better, I never did forget how kind and patient your sister was when she helped me make that spotting rig. I didn't know anything about taking piles of random junk and turning them into something useful, but she took the time out to teach me how it worked, and..."

"Hold that thought, Aero." Teisel suddenly exclaimed, cutting her off in the middle of the sentence. "That...doesn't sound very much like Tron at all."

"What are you talking about? I thought you said she was the mechanic who built the rocket!"

"There were two mechanics. This girl who helped you out...did she wear a lot of red? Was she blonde?"

"Yeah, that's her."

Teisel nervously fidgeted with the pack of tissues. "That wasn't my sister. That was the other girl. Roll. Roll Caskett. The professor's granddaughter. Tron used a lot of hair gel and wore a bunch of skull decals on her outfits. She even had that emblem of ours made into earrings. You know, like the insignia on the cover of her book...and on my old suit. It's on my airship, too."

Aero's face fell. "You're telling me she was that girl at the lab who asked me if someone violated my corn flakes when I started getting frustrated that the equipment wasn't working, and then told me to suck it up and quit whining when I tried to explain what it was that we were doing?"

"Yeah." Teisel sighed. He could feel his cheeks start to flush as he reflexively sunk down into the couch a little bit. "That sounds more like Tron."

After an awkward period of silence, Aero uttered, "Well...she"

"Not very good with people," Teisel finished. "Don't worry. You aren't going to offend me by stating the obvious. She was definitely the kind of person you really needed to get to know before she let you in."

He couldn't help but smile as Aero visibly relaxed and let out a subtle sigh of relief.

"Between you and me, you remind me of her sometimes. Not just because you're about the same age, either." He admitted with a wistful grin. "You're a little rough around the edges with strangers, yourself. There were a couple of times over our morning coffee where you'd say something, and it would sound so much like Tron that for a split second it was almost like she never left. I don't know. It makes me think. Especially after finding out about that boy you liked."

"Is that a good thing?" Aero asked after taking a moment to analyze his sentiment.

"It's not a bad thing, but I wouldn't want you to spend too much time trying to act any more or less like her for my sake. Just keep being yourself." Teisel explained. "No matter what you do, I'll never think of you as anyone other than Aero. You can bet your coffee pot on it."

"Well, since our coffee pot's a piece of crap, I'm going to have to hold you to it." Aero instinctively retorted, and as soon as she said it, she noticed the faintest flicker of recognition flash across his eyes before he yanked another tissue out of the pack and blew his nose.

He didn't have to tell her she'd proven his point. Instead, he drowsily chuckled to himself and added, "You don't need to think I'm expecting you to suddenly open up to me or anything either. Especially not after today. For a long time, I thought only Bon and Mom and Dad and I ever got to see Tron's softer side...then I read that book of hers, and it was all too clear that deep down, she was even more sensitive than any of us could have thought. She went to so much trouble to put on a strong front, even when I was a complete wreck after the three of us escaped from the pirates. I must have gone through hundreds of back-to-back hours of anime, while she was really the one who took charge and kept us moving forward..." He shifted his train of thought, frowned, and added, "Never mind. I'm getting off track. If Roll was the one who helped you build that spotting rig, then that puts us back at square one again. After all this trouble, I still don't know how Tron knew Barrett."

"Unless she overheard something I told her friend, I'm not sure how much I can help you with that," Aero admitted. She pushed herself up off the armrest. "But if you want, I still have a few pictures of him. You never know. Maybe you've even seen him yourself, while you were living around here. It couldn't hurt to try and jog your memory." She reached out to help him up off the couch. "Come on, I'll show you."

"I can't believe you kept pictures of him all this..." Teisel started, but he stopped himself as soon as he realized that it wasn't that far of a stretch from writing a huge romance novel about a boy on the moon. He stood up on his own and added, "If you need any help getting through Pic's junk with your leg like that..."

"I'll be fine," Aero brusquely brushed it off. "It's not broken or anything."

"Sorry," Teisel automatically replied. He made sure to keep a close eye on her anyway as she led the way to her room. He felt bad enough that he'd indirectly caused Aero to get hurt, and he didn't want to take any chances.

Aero's room was the first in the base he'd been to that had green walls—the only one with painted walls at all, in fact—and Teisel found himself immediately drawn to her computer. It was far nicer than Max's computer was. "Don't even think about touching that," Aero scolded as soon as she caught him staring at it. She grabbed a novelty walking stick she'd propped close to the doorframe and limped to a corkboard. "Here." She yanked a few pictures off, gesturing for Teisel to come over and get them.

"...Should I be concerned that you've been out of your parents' house this long and still find it necessary to keep a cane by your door just in case?" Teisel asked without even looking at the pictures.

Aero just ignored him and sat on the edge of her bed. "Barrett's...well, you'll figure out which one he is when you see him. Max and Grill haven't changed as much as they probably should have over the last ten years, and I really hope you'd be able to pick me out of that group without having to think too hard about it."

The first picture was a group shot of the Bright Bats, including Barrett. The other photographs depicted a young man with a red ponytail, goggles, and a metal plate covering half of his face. The guy straddled what Teisel could have sworn was the same motorhorse he'd crashed in Brink Canyon. There was even a picture of Barrett holding a blue ferret that was wearing goggles and a bandana. But instead of joking about how weird Aero's hair had looked when it was pink, or how Grill may or may not have lost weight over the years, all he could say about any of the pictures was, "Oh, this is awkward."

"Not again," Aero groaned. "I don't think the circumstances that got both of us here could possibly get any more awkward."

"Barrett was the guy who blew up the Donner Wels." Teisel anxiously elaborated. "That was the machine Tron and I used to scrounge up funds in the ruins back then. We were co-piloting it when that guy you were obsessed with completely decimated us. You were probably even the one spotting for him, and it set us back...quite a...HEY! Why are you laughing?!" He exclaimed in frustration.

Aero just shook her head. "We both got screwed over by the same guy!" She explained.

"Well, if you look at it that way, I suppose our lives aren't completely irreconcilable after all!" Teisel said with a nervous grin as he handed Aero her pictures back.

She shot him a harsh glare. "I forbid you from laughing. You'll wake up the whole block!"

Teisel felt his face turn red. He took a few steps toward the door and turned around to add, "Right. Guess I'll let you get cleaned up, then. You're not still mad at me, are you?"

Aero thought carefully before she replied. "I'm not mad anymore, but I can't just write this whole day off and forget about it, either. It's one of those things that's going to take some time, but if you really meant what you said about not making the same mistake twice, we'll get past this eventually. It won't be easy. I already spent way too much time trying to figure out the best way to tell you about my family to keep something like this from happening, and despite going to all that trouble, it happened anyway. I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't just run around thinking you know better than the rest of us about things you have no real way of knowing firsthand, don't patronize me, and don't make assumptions. I can't stress that last one enough, now that you've told me that I remind you of your sister." She thought about sending him out, but after a moment of hesitation, she added, "For what it's worth, though...I hope, someday, that I can be able to honestly say that I trust you without having to think too hard about it first."

"Thanks, Aero." He replied with a sincere, albeit exhausted smile before he turned in for the night. "I won't let you down."


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