Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Associate Editor


Peace Bug
by Stephen L. Antczak

Shipping Error
by Robert Dawson

In the Garden With the Little Eaters
by L Chan

Species of Revenge
by Lance J. Mushung

To Live if it Kills Me
by Andrew Darlington

Freddy Norberg’s Fantastic Flight
by Finry

Death Egg
by Kim Daniels

by Sean Monaghan

Shorter Stories

Love in the Time of Alien Invasion
by Samuel Marzioli

They Call Me Wizard
by Robert Lowell Russell

Reverse Logic
by Sierra July


Let’s Fry Chicken Little
by Carol Kean

UFOs and Rockets
by Preston Dennett



Comic Strips




Freddy Norberg’s Fantastic Flight

By Finry

I COULDN’T BELIEVE THE LUCK. He’s a neck tattoo past trustworthy. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he says. “I do as I do.” He takes a goddamned pantywaist sip from his nickel cup of coffee. “It’s the type like this that we do as we do.”

Cultists never make sense. Hell if I know, Baet would’ve said. But Baet is dead, deader than the strip of asphalt below my loafers. Heaven above the open air café is bare, smokestack-gray save the silver thumbprint of sun. Baet might’ve been there, looking down. I drink my skullgrass tea. Silent and smooth, not at all like him. But a little electrifying, just like him.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the Luck says. “She’s dead-dead, just like I knew it.”

“If she’s dead, then why the caring?” She’s beyond caring. My paper mug had gone all flappy. So I chuck it to the gutter and the birds.

The Luck begins to cry, and I begin to spit.

Caring ain’t nothing where there’s money concerned.

Paper as tangible as fairy wings, made out to be worth more than us. Backed by stone they mined from our planet. Corporations and sinners. Their taking had murdered Mother Nature. All for bright rocks they call Catalyst Blue and Catalyst White—the first for trains and aeroplanes, the last for flattening cities.

Some say the Catalyst has a spirit, a soul. That it fills you up with some sort of love when you touch it. But I don’t see how. I ain’t never seen it. The single slip of paper in my pocket represents all I got of it now. And that fairy wing ain’t nearly as pretty as the pictures I’ve seen. “Five hundred Notes Catalyst,” I say. “Flat rate.”

The Luck’s eyes draw upward. “O, thank Dee, thank Dee,” he says, and I wonder who Dee is. But wondering’s a lotta trouble that usually ain’t worth it. The Luck nods and grins and slaps the steel box adjacent mine. He leans in, like he’s whispering a secret. I don’t care, don’t care to know, but five hundred Cats is five hundred Cats. The proper’s due, and I don’t think the old lady’ll be so forgiving this month—or the next, if I can stretch it.

“See, see,” the Luck says, “here.”

He passes a photo. Gray tones on smooth contact paper. It’s sticky round the edges, just like the woman pictured on it. Pretty enough, sure, but a little dank about the eyebrows for my taste. Real distinct birthmark on her left cheek, in the shape of a continent I once saw in a schoolbook.

“Rowena,” he says, rubbing his eyes. “Her name’s Rowena.”

“Rowena.” Huh. “Yeah, that’ll do.” I pocket his picture and unpocket my ballpoint. I graffiti my wrist with her stage name and the numbers of her last known.

Simple, right?

The Luck said it: she’s dead-dead.

A car chuckles by when I get back to my own. I named her Stoopdown Sally, after a lady I knew. Hop-a-longshot, I call her, sometimes.

Cuz Sally could hop, but she was a longshot.


The laser-blue indigo of the light above the door was the sort of light that makes you ugly, if you cared. But my mug’s never been what got the ladies. Not what got me Sally. The light was something you’d find in a depot, not on a class joint like this, surely.

Richie was the standard everywhere door-opener. Collar and brim, eyes shaded. He tilts his head sideways and doesn’t say nothin.

I look at him sideways too. “Sparks around?”

“Sparks gone home.”

“Any other ladies here?”

“Sure.” Richie makes no effort to move.

K. I dig in and hand him my wrinkled-up Cat. NOTE CATALYST it reads where it peeks through my fingers on its way to the drain. FIFTEEN it says in the corner, all cursive and pretty. The drain takes it and steps aside.

I lead my way to the bar and realize this place is far emptier than I think. I lean over walnut lacquer next to a tall broad, real tall. “Twenty for the back,” she says, and turns.

She looks good for a man, but not quite good enough. “I’ll pass this time, sugar. Thanks.”

“I’ll be here.”

I sigh to the flamenco-playing and the stage mistress dancing to its bidding. The rhythm she brings is ancient, the kind that makes you pray for a mother-goddess. Her pasties are just enough to put a man to wondering, and her legs are the forever train. But the indifference in her eyes kills. So I span the room with mine, to those other indifferent ladies.

One hazy perfection with her eyes set on me saunters over. She touches me. I smile like I like it. But I do. Her touch on my waist is like magnets. I’m polarized. The cheeks again. I quit it and smile my fake smile that always hurts. But at least the Comfort’s a comfort. Right.

The Comfort’s my pill of choice, but I ain’t no addict.

She blows smoke when I ask her about the girl. I forget the stage name, so I give her the real. Moves to ash her half-smoked drip in a bowl on the bar. “Hells,” she says, “if I remembered everyone who gigged here, my brain would be full.” She smiles, and I can barely see the lipstick on her teeth. Blood’s its shade too, but ain’t it always. “Look,” she says, “I know her. Cute kid. Quiet. Gone. But she told me her name is Laris. That’s really all I got. She said she’s from South Apaego. Real sweet kid.” She shrugs and sets her empty tumbler next to me on the walnut. I gesture to the barkeep, thank him, and reload it. Her smile is genuine, this time. While I’m at it, I think I’ll reload myself.


“RIG INS,” the gold letters say above the black tape. I rap the door and remind my ankles to thank the Lord Behor for the elevator while I wait.

May’ve topped off a bit too much at the Sleaze.

Er, Teaze.

Slow down, ol boy. You’re not the young one anymore.

Baet, I think, you left a real mess in me. A real mess.

The door finally opens and Slim Rig looks at me like he’s got somethin to say. But he don’t. So I step beside him, though he don’t step aside for me. He’s not at all surprised, and not at all surprising. Glasses all afog and lips curled. Just like every time we’ve done this before.

“Norberg,” he says.

“Riggins.” I look up to the inside of his megastructural brass dome. All the papers and the photos in swirl-patterned folios on their lines and stacks upon mulberry shelves ring the chamber. Always in awe, and always an awe, but I’m bored of it, so I say, “Got sumfin for ya.”

I walk and scan the length of his machine telescoping downward from its root at the apex of the dome. I almost walk right into its circular hole leading downward, to the basement, all the way down to hell. A man could die from that drop, halfway down that drop. But the machine shows you if your picture matches its pictures. In its reservoir-tube, or whatever. I just call it the Hellshaft.

Slim looks at me all frustrated-like and walks to his tin-and-wood ladder strung from the upchair at his machine’s belly. “Sauced, I see.” He climbs. “Again,” he calls. For a little brother he sure acts like an older one.

“Workin a case.”

“Well there’s that.”

“Right.” I look into the pit, the thousands of people down there lined up in their likenesses. Facsimile-people ready for the plucking. Anticipations of souls down there, their lives and what they’ve been. Mmm, and the mood for another Comfort takes me. So I slip one from the custom-engraved flipcase I keep in my heart pocket. FRN, RPF, it says. A present from baby brother, and he thought I’d use it for cards.

Lil Riggins wouldn’t notice.

Even if your eyes are lookin hard on me, baby bro.

Cuz we’re good at this, real good.

I get a lil woozy from my perspective, so I back from the pit. Slim is standing right next to me with his hand outstretched. I chew my pill and give him the gal, her black-and-white likeness, straight-on, just how he likes it.

On the stickiness of its back are plastered what look to be pieces of a jack-o-lantern’s face. Can’t really see ’em from the frontways, but if held up to a light like the machine’s light, they shine right through. Brows and eyes and cheekbones and mouth and nose and maybe more, I forget. They outline the picture’s skullform features.

Clicketies and clackies while the Comfort seeps in. Riggs again mounts his upchair, fascination in his eyes like this never gets old. But it does.

Everything does.


“Eight matches.” Riggs riffles papers in the scoop at the central brass tube leading downward from his machine. He spreads eight pictures just like the one I had, but for the backgrounds and her outfits. And her expressions. But same birthmark, all eight.

“That’s her.”

Slim looks at me like I’m confused. The eight of her stare at us from his vinyl mat. “See, here,” he says, and points to the numbers along the top of each picture, contact paper too, just like mine. The sequences are different on each, but the dates on their ends match. “One of them might be her, but the others were taken on the same day, different cities.”

I pull two from his stack. Turns out the numbers are coordinates on a map. And yeah, her names are different on each one. She likes to toss up her style as well: cardigan and pulled-back hair like a schoolmarm in one, blouse buttoned to her ears; hair swept to the winds and long like she don’t care in another one, and that’s the one that stops me.

Myra, that one’s labeled. A nightbird in a nightblue dress. Her eyes see me from the paper, sultry pools staring, and they want me, want everyone. But I’ve seen girls like her before. They never last long. The other broad, the schoolmarm, she’s called Tass. But Myra. O My.

I’ll say a prayer to whatever god’ll take me, just for you.

I put the two aside and pull out the other six. Some of the names are odd, some real normal. Some look like they’ve been chosen by her. Kelae, Region, Laris, Twell, Daam, Fiaeo, Twin.

Twin, huh?

More like Octuplet.

But they’re all Rowena.


I drive into the keyhole sun that’s not really there. An intimation of dawn. The Comfort’s no longer a comfort cuz I’m weary. From the worry and the booze. But the Cats are the Cats, and them’s the buckets. And the old lady’s the old lady too.

I breathe low and take another chug off my drip. It’s fargone now, so I ditch it. Give it to the ratters in the alleyways and the sewers. Those beasts’ll chew anything.

Five hundred, I tell myself, Five hundred. I gotta remember to tell the Luck my expenses are extra. I drive Sally like a smokehouse brisket, seasoned by the gaslamps, just right, and slow. A sign in pink neon megalopolis-block letters is spelled out for me.


Last Slim Rig had of Rowena was from two years back, and she was abroad—an adjunct professor. A broad abroad, huh. And tenured, too. But now she works from here. How she found time to be a dancer, Lord Behor knew. That’s one to solve, or maybe two.

Sally purrs like she’s just been born. I pat her dash and pull her key. The car sputters and dies while I stand away from the portalway to her heart. Her neoprene heart, cushioned for sitting. The lamp bulb in her archway dies, and I walk. The sign grows brighter, and it takes me.


No more B-and-E, I’d told myself, no more B-and-E. But that’s just some B-and-S, and the lock snaps. That’s the hallelujah-song, the click of that snap, and with it the lock’s glassdoor monolith rotates inward. I stand and pocket my picks.

The entryway opens from the bend, beneath plaques reading One Big Moment and K Corp’s Finest. They were burled from mahogany wood. Expensive stuff. Rare. I polish one with my sleeve and check my teeth in it. The girl’s office is right past my reflection. Overshoulder and in my future. I tell myself, let’s go see what we see.

“Ready,” I say to Baet as though Baet were really here. I stride toward the quarter-open sliver in the doorway to her office. I hadn’t seen the man in the shadows.

I hear his Stagecoach’s hammer lock before I see that big gun, its barrel rolls into place. Sounds like thunder, a hard gauge. Suddenly my little .22 doesn’t seem quite good enough. Jinx, I think, jinx on me. I look the shape of the man straight in his heart and draw.

My gun goes off in my pocket and that’s the way I wanted it. I had no time for the true draw. His shot goes off and it deafens me in my left ear. I couldn’t hear where his slug exploded the mahogany behind me. I thought my brother’s gift might grift the bullet, just like in those penny-dime films where the hero is saved by a steel flamebox or the thick scripture-word of God housed at his chest in just the right angle and way and with just the right thickness, but the guy wasn’t set, and maybe he thought I was taller. I’ll never know anything of him save the sound he makes when he dies.

I walk toward him and kick aside his gun. Some say God loves a dying man, but my sympathy’s hidden in adrenaline and pills. I bend over him while he sputters his calls to saviors and close relations, but that don’t convince no one of pity. I knock aside his feeble gestures and rummage his breast pocket. There’s nothin there but a piece of paper, sticky on one side. That seems to trend with my night, so I pull it out and discover a wide-eyed porcine mascot looking forlornly at me.

The man dies while I study his tin can wrapper. It reads PORK in big bubbly letters arched over ingredient listings and the cartoon pig licking its lips and rolling its wall eyes. I flip it over to see an address written by black felt marker on its sticky side. I know the place. The rich are ubiquitous in their removal from us. But I’ve been up their boulevards before, and past the manse belonging to this address and its menagerie, cuz I operate in all the places that won’t have me.

I lean over the guy and smooth the wrapper onto his chest. Right over the place where Baet or maybe I shot him. His blood makes it stick and thickens the paper and it looks like a stained gimme namebadge from a place where no one knows you.

I check her office for anything else I might see, but there’s nothing to her but figures on sheets and knickknacks holding no meaning to me. Her red plastic Fair Day keepsake box keeps no message of her doom but a sketch of a dragon on blue-lined graph paper, wrapped about an orphan key.

I take the key and leave the drawing. I shut the door to its original off-kilter placement. The dead man looks at me through the sliver near the hinges and maybe his angel wonders why or how I’d bested him as I stand over the bullet-exploded plaque now lying on the hallway’s linoleum. “One Big Mo,” it reads, and I think it reads the better for it. He was definitely One Big Mo. And his gun was an antique Stagecoach Ltd. JB Smooth. So much for a eulogy. I leave him to the afterlife and the ringing in my left ear.

See ya later, Pork.


The menagerie out front of the manse is something of a class act. I take another Comfort for the hell of it before I step out of Sally in her place behind the opposite walk’s hedges. Something seems not right, but so does everything else. I slip between the bars of the streetward fence and see the parkway leading up the hill to its well-lit manse is unattended, so I walk the rest of it in a fairly unsecretive manner. I hear the growls and the fidgeting of creatures in the rich man’s menagerie from across his expansive lawn. I walk to them. They’re assembled in positions of shadows and hidden corners, big cats and lizards caught behind wrought iron strongholds through which eyes can be seen, and their sounds are assumably ones of protest against confinement.

I light a drip and stop next to a big lizard whose wings had been clipped. His eyes are blue and bald and they glow slightly with the reflection of the light from the manse’s windows. He looks sad to me, and I look sadly at him. I take a long drag and continue walking the grass. My pant ankles are wet and two shades darker by the time I hit the top of that hill. My thighs ache, and the pit of my stomach aches with them. The drink had worn off but a mix of the Comfort and this long night was in me. From the sound of it, a long night was ahead for those gathered before me as well. Their noise must have terrified those creatures. The music and the people and their tin echoes.

It was a party and I wasn’t invited. But revelry is often an open invitation, so I make mine out of the noise and their drink. The party’s round the backway, and I think I can sneak that far unnoticed by whoever’s behind the spyhole dug into the big door at the end of the uphill drive to my right. The house on this side is red brick, four stories, maybe five, unclimbable for the thorned ivy laced in garrote wire on flat surfaces. Besides, the second story has no windows. So I saunter on round back, and the noise hits me like it’d been turned up for my entrance.

The glow of flashbulbs flashing and the holiday lights suspended out of season greet me in halos of yellow-amber. The people here are well past due, past the time of going back, and they sway and rock to the rhythm of their own twelve-man swing orchestra. Half of them are masked. The other half are ugly in their makeup-smeared illusory personas.

What must they think of themselves when they look at those mugs upon waking in the morning? Have another pill, I suppose. So I do, and blend with them if not for their joy, than in their illusion.

The madeup party-people dance and mingle. So I make my way past them and their conversations and their powders lined up as favors on hors d’oeuvres tables dressed in white linens and then to the back door, the kitchen door I suppose it is, but none makes no matter as long as the handle works and the help don’t notice. It does, they don’t, and I enter.

The fray dies down with the sound as it did not penetrate well the closed door. After that cacophony, the kitchen is so quiet I thought the silence might collapse in on itself. Then I see the girl. Myra. Laris. Fiaeo. Rowena. Or whomever she most recently chose to call herself. I don’t say nothin, and neither does she, so I pull up a chair and sit the table’s elbow. She’s at the head and she says nothin to me. But it’s nothin new to me. I’ve never been one to get offended.

“Freddy,” I say, and light another drip.

Her lipstick traces its ghost on the white paper of her drip’s filter. She breathes smoke and it frames her in a way that makes me think of gospel. “Tass,” she says, but her eyes don’t shift from the thousand-yard distance whereat they’ve stayed.

I find myself a lil disappointed for some reason. I’d been hoping for Myra. But some people’s complicated. “You’re a regular popular lady, Rowena.”

She looks at me quicklike and her eyes bore into me and see the essence of who I am. I exhale my smoke and the Comfort and breathe into her gaze. And then she looks away.

“You should be careful how you throw that name about, Mister Freddy,” she says.

“Just Freddy.” I lean back. “Y’know, a Luck is out there lookin for ya.”

“I know.”

“You mind lookin back?”

“Yeah.” She butts out what’s left of her limpy.

Her dark eyes are like missile silos preparing their launch. I can hear their countdown now. Three. “I gotta tell him,” I say, “you’re here.” Two. “Cuz I’m a people-finder, see.” One. “And you’re found.” Blastoff.

“You tell im whatever you want, Mister Freddy. I don’t give a numb nut to who I knew or what he wants. And same for you, ya ugly tick.” She stands and her chair gives that angry sound chairs make when they slide on kitchen floors. She’s off and then away, and then I stand to follow, though I damn well know I shouldn’t.


Her footsteps lead me to the windowless second floor, one of parquet and stucco roses, whitewashed beadboard walls. I’d heard her footsteps till they took me around a corner, and then they stopped. I wait a few beats, my back against the roses, listening for those sounds that accompany a woman into her apartments. One can’t stay still for long when having just entered a place.

There. A clitter on a glass drawer, or maybe her makeup on a platter. I dunno—women’s things. I tip-tap lightly on her double wooden doors beyond which the sounds had accused her presence. “Listen,” I say to the whitewash at my nose. “I’m not your enemy, and I ain’t out for ya. I gotta job to do, and so I do it. Listen,” I say, “I might give you some time ... Just lemme know the length, your desire. A few days, maybe?”


The double doors open and she’s standing there and she’s beautiful. She’s changed in a way that makes me uncomfortable with the way my body’s growing accustomed to her. Lace has been discovered from her dress, and my eyes can’t help but drift her peach-colored sea.

“You don’t gotta say nothin,” she says, and grabs my collar. I stumble a bit from my wooze of pills and then peer into what seems to be a small hall of mirrors. It’s a full-room vanity and it’s lined with ’em, every glass reflection reflecting the other, into eternity. Her hand lets go, but she hasn’t. Her fingers curl inward into the gesture meaning enter. So I do.

The roses in their relief continue here, lining spaces between mirrors. Another door lies past her, and this one’s small and solitary and unadorned, and I think it might lead to where she wants me to be. It appears now there’s more than one of her, cuz she’s doubling in the refracted light and I have to adjust my eyes before they begin to twitch. I muck my cheeks up like I do and stop myself. Damn the Comfort. The mirrors present the two of us in a manner that isn’t sustainable. Eventually our infinity-selves retract into some tapered nothing point.

My observation of our lost aspects makes me scared, so I look away and deny I ever felt it. Where do we all go, I think.

“Hey,” she says. “Mister. Do you want what you want or don’t you want it?” Her posture makes her chest swell outward and she’s aching against that peach silk now. Despite my pill haze, I ache for her, too.

Then I hear a voice to my right and it sounds like a child mewling. I shouldn’t be here anyway, I think, and now’s the daughter. So I turn to turn away. Then I see the child, and she’s not a child, but a woman. So now there really are two of this gal I call Rowena. Same birthmark, same everything. More than twins, maybe they’re the same. The gal with two of herself. The one who has the sound of a child’s voice rubs her eyes and asks, “Who’s he?”

“No one, Region, go away. This is Myra’s time.”

Myra. Region. O my o my o my.

I hear another voice like Myra’s from the now-open door of where indeed does lie her bedroom, and the one who called herself Tass is standing there, arms crossed and seemingly pissed. I put my hand atop the sill of Myra’s makeup table and my drip almost burns me. I adjust my fingers but still smell my own singed hair. I start longing for another Comfort, like an itch, but I know another pill will do me in for the vapors.

Suddenly I’ve had enough of this case, this gal who’s now people needing to be found, and now I’ve found her, or them, and that Luck was a bastard, alright. Her and her indifference turned wanting me was a hope I’d secretly wanted, but now it’s dashed. If that isn’t enough, I’ve six eyes looking on me and then two more, cuz maybe another version of her appears over Tass’ left shoulder and this one looks mighty afraid. I look away from them, from her, to the mirrors, but there they and she still are. Eight eyes staring in their thousands.

“There shouldn’t be a man here,” I hear, and I know it’s the ninth and the tenth eyes. Her. Rowena. Them. This has played out like it shouldn’t have been, and I’m gone in my own mind, back in my car, with Sally and the drive away.

I feel a hand touch my shoulder and I know it’s the peach-silked one cuz I can see her now behind me, in front of me in the mirrors. “Hey,” she purrs, “feel okay, OK? You wanna feel better?” I hear the child-voiced one begin to weep and then the sad one tries to console her. The one that came after Tass. Twin, maybe. Or quintuplet.


Now there’s more, three more of her entering shoulder-to-shoulder, wideflung from the open boudoir past Myra’s shoulder. So now there’s eight. Who’s the dancer, I think, and instead I say, “It won’t work on Baet, no it won’t. And it won’t work on Freddy, neither.” I dunno what I’m sayin, who does, but not knowing’s just fine with me.

“This one’s no fun to play,” Myra complains, and she spins away from me, to the rest of her.

I almost shout, “You got an outsize case of overgrown alpha mentality, lady!” but the child-voiced one looks abashedly at me, and then the second-newest version of her in the beddress and put-up hair looks at me real angry and feral like a jungle cat. I look at her back in the eye and ask, “Who was the man with the Stagecoach gun?”

I’m confused now, like there’s an infinity of me, just like there’s an infinity of her, and for all my talk and my mention of my dead stepfather Baet. Mama loved him. Then I almost see my old man in his battered Gutheran brimhat, lost between Rowena’s reflections. Glowering over mine and Slim Rig’s shoulder like we’re still novices to him. I loved him too.

“My work’s more important than me,” and it was Tass who finally answered. “They wanted to dupe the Catalyst rock, they wanted it all, more, more than they should, and they needed me for it. To build them a replication apparatus. But my machine split me like it shoulda split that rock. Vivisected in the soul.” She crossed her arms. “And now I’m we, and we’re all here.”

“Reality is holographic,” Myra says, and she cocks her head. “Just like us in the mirrors. Or what it feels like when we come.”

I stammer and haw and my hand slips from the glass knob. I stare at Myra and then Tass and she looks disgusted. She stares at me like I’m some satyric nothing man. For some reason I’m hurt by that look, so I say something to her that’s one real wrong way to treat a lady—“A harpy has claws and you got what you got between those slim lil sticks o’ yours!”—but I no longer think of them or her as such. Myra just smiles and smolders.

I’ve degreased myself of all my mojo. I scratch at my chest and fidget with a sense of psychosexual dissonance and grope the doorknob. Distance awaits me.


I use the orphan key to free the clip-winged, blue-eyed lizard. His was a light mutilation, and so I watch him stumble on the grass and then fly unsteadily away. The sky is gray with the morning when he enters it. Maybe the moons take him.


Dawn was a firebug that set everything alight. The city woke and so did the Luck when I called him from a graffitied paystand. He met me for skullgrass tea an hour from then. I hadn’t touched another pill and wouldn’t till the next night. My shoulders and my back feel like armor-plated layers of tied muscle knots, so I ache. Maybe for her, but maybe more for the Comfort I’d sworn off for the morning. Let’s go back to the way things should be, shall we.

I sip my skull and posture the swallow; how could I know the venom from the pure? I think I’ll drink a CatViv! instead, cuz it’s sealed and fresh from the machine. Man, that Luck is happy when I tell him he owes me fifteen on top. Expenses are expensive. Right? The old lady and her proper should be properly settled for the next month or two. I give him the new last known and rise to walk away.

Sally awaits me, and the streets, too. My apartment is still my apartment when I walk into it. The blinds and the curtains are drawn. The city wakes, and I
sleep. END

Finry freelances as a storyboard artist for film production companies, as well as making movie props. He is currently finishing up a children’s book. He is also a former dot-com CEO. This is his first professionally published short story.


Hardy Fowler




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