After the Revolution: Chapters Three, Four, & Five
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Her parents would have been mortified if they'd known how she was spending her few hours of free time but she had a good vpn or at least it was good enough to hide her activity from her. Non tech savvy elders. She doubted they'd ever suspect her of something like this. Sasha was a good student. Her grades guaranteed her admission to the american university in dc. At one point she'd had a shot at being her high school's valedictorian and maybe of gaining admission to stanford but then she discovered the true gospel and giving herself to christ her grades. Were still good but probably not good enough to earn her in educational these to the california republic the extra time. The old her had dedicated to school was now spent glued to a gun. Cam browsing live feeds from various christian militias and reading everything. She could from the few pastors brave enough to preach the word. The knew her didn't want to go to school near san francisco. Capital of what pastor. Mike called the world's most sinful nation. Sasha didn't even really want to go to college in dc. What was the point saw. Her dad called from the kitchen. Dinners on cheese inch ladas. There was still nothing in her line of site for the eleventh month in a row she was spending sixty five m fed dollars for the privilege of steering through through a camera at nothing for a half hour a day. Sasha had been warned about this when she signed up to support the woodland's martyrs brigade their drone. Guns didn't see much action. The front had been stable for the last year. Rumor said the number of backers had even gotten to fire during their turn was under a dozen. Sasha had hoped she'd be a special case something moved just as she thought about killing the app and going downstairs. Something moved across drones field of vision. It happened again and sasha realized that the some things were armored soldiers. Sprinting past her weapon. She locked drone on one. And for the first time ever selected the fire approval button a second went by then another and then red box replaced her firing ridicule target. Declined friendly fire sasha. Her mother called up in that grading voice that meant. She was almost frustrated enough to start yelling. Get down here. She stared at the box for another long moment. Friendly fire that made sense is she. Belatedly realized the men had been rushing out of territory occupied by the martyr's good thing they check up on us before we pull the trigger. Her heart pounded little at the thought of killing the wrong soldier but at the same time she noticed something odd. The men were still coming. They rushed past the drone camera in waves ten feet apart ducking low and hefting. Heavy weapons must have watched at least at hundred of them pass before she realized what this meant. A new offensive. Oh god dial alexander. She told her deck aecom window popped up about six inches in front of her hand to the left of the large zone control screen. That hovered above her. Anyone without a deck would have just seen a seventeen year old girl lying on her bed and poking at the air but sasha saw the space in front of her as a giant screen curved around her body she opened another window and flung it up on her right side. It was populated with links to the camera feeds of all the personality. She followed most of them. Were located somewhere in the republic of texas in more than half of the feeds. Were dark it was hard to tell. Just what was happening on the others. Sasha decided she'd get a faster update on the situation through her news. Aggregate her she reduced the other windows and shifted. Them to her periphery. Then she opened a new window and waited a half second for her curated news. Feed to populate her deck kept ringing alexander she scanned the headlines reports of explosions across the dallas front texas extremist advance into stf republic territory reports from dallas just new offensive by heavenly kingdom. A half dozen rings later. Alexander picked up sasha. He asked his voice sounded distant. There was noise on the line after a second or so. Sasha her boom in the strange crackling sound that had to be gun fire. It didn't sound like it did in the movies or even in the few vr shooter. She played sasha's heart had started to pound. By the time she responded. Yes alexander. I was just on my drone and it looks like something's happening the media saying it's another offensive. They're right for once said alexander and the still wrong at the same time. This is something new. Sasha i'm sorry i couldn't tell you before the law be clear soon is this just the martyr's brigade. He smiled and sasha face went red. No sasha something wonderful is are you near the front. Are you part of the fighting. Sasha interrupted she'd never have done that normally but she could hear what sounded like gunfire over his line and sasha was scared. i'm with the second wave. He said the tracks are moving to send a position now. I'll probably have to whatever else he'd been about to say was cut. Short as all of sasha's deck apps closed at once her digital world was replaced by a red box that read parental lockdown. Come to dinner. Sasha mom she screamed down the stairs as her eyes welled up with tears at the unfairness of it. All alexander the man. She was pretty sure she loved was going into battle for the first time. He was fighting right now to reestablish the rule of god on earth i should have read a poem or said something beautiful and stirring something about how i love for him was everlasting. As god's own love it should have been a powerful moment. But her heretic. Horror of mother had ruined for inch. Ladas sasha's storm downstairs ripe with fury but unable to vent it. Her parents couldn't know she'd been giving money to a militant group. They wouldn't have to drop in on her talk alexander to know what she had planned six kids from her. High school had already left for the republic of texas to fight in one militia or another. It was a problem across the american federation but here in virginia parents were particularly wary. The border of the united christian states was just an hour's drive from her front door rat lines in the ucs brought thousands of young volunteers yearly from the heart of corporate america to the various militia groups that battled across texas sasha marian. What did we interrupt. That was so important. You had to yell. I was praying mother. It wasn't really ally pastor. Mike had said that every done in support of the heavenly kingdom was an act of prayer. Gwendolen mary frowned back at her daughter. She was stern woman with a broad germanic face. Dirty blond hair pulled back into a severe bun fate. Crow's-feet trickled out from her eyes. But those were from choice rather than times formerly inevitable march. Gwendolyn was the chief of surgery at annapolis general hospital. She'd been taking juvin treatments and she was twenty. She decided to let the crows feet through once. Sasha had turned seventeen. You can pray as much as you want honey but right now. It's dinner time and this is something we do as a family. Sasha thought juban was unnatural. Heretical god had created each human to age a certain way using science to disrupt that natural process was an act of blasphemy. She urine to say something cutting hurtful in response but she fought it down. You don't have to obey your father and mother if they try to keep you out of the kingdom of heaven. Words from one of pastor. Mike's weekly casts ring her ears. But the lord. God still calls on us to respect our parents. He'd added that well behaved kids. Were the ones who caused the least suspicion and had the best chance of successful escape. Yes ma'am was. All she said. Is the family settled into their chairs. Her brother ian was just five an unusually quiet for his age. He smiled at her as their father told him out. An inch. lada such who's alexander. He asked and sasha felt the blood run out of her face their father. Tony smile wryly at the remark as he spooned a proportionately larger serving onto his own plate. Alexander Maybe this means another boyfriend. It's been what four years. Tony had opted for fewer cosmetic juvan treatments than his wife. Sasha loved her father's receding hairline his slight jowls his graying hair. He was still a heretic but at least he wasn't a vein one. He's not my boyfriend dad. Just boy talk with. Sometimes we pray together. Gwendolyn rolled her eyes a little search an exciting adolescence. You're having she said sarcasm swelled every word. Sasha didn't rise to the bait. Herself control was iron. Now she wouldn't give them any cause to worry or call the authorities. It was better even for them to think alexander with some boy from school if they thought her principles were thawing. They'd be less likely to suspect what he had planned. The marion family eight companionably for several minutes. Tony talked about some cockeyed nut. Who'd come into his office at deutsche bank looking for a loan. He wanted three million in nineteen percent to get this build a blimp to take tourists from the to louisiana without crossing. Ucs territory. And i'm like first of all. I can name one hundred boat charters that do the same thing and second. Sasha tuned most of it out and tried to focus on eating but knowing was out there facing death for his faith killed any appetite she otherwise might have had. She ate mechanically without really tasting. It until her plate was almost clean. Sasha was planning her exit when her mother spoke up by the way. The school called today and said you still haven't been by to get sized for your graduation robes. They need at least forty eight hours to print them out. You're running out of time. Sorry mom she said. I know that's important. I've just had a lot of my mind lately. The teas were last week. Sasha had gotten very good at telling her parents what they needed to hear without actually lying. The federation standardized test had been last week and she'd certainly had a lot on her mind lately but the f. s. t. hadn't been keeping her up at night. It was little more than a rubber stamp for a student like sasha. That's okay sweetie. Wendell and said i know how important your schoolwork is to you. I just want you to have a fun graduation experience. that's important. There's a war going on a few hundred miles from your door. Men are dying for god's kingdom in you'd think school matters to me but sasha just smiled told her mom she loved her and went back upstairs to her room as soon as it was politics to do so she reactivated her. Vpn and popped her deck into stealth mode which displayed a selection of websites and chat apps for her mom and dad in case they came by. She drew a new private window about two feet in front of her face and split it in half between face com with alexander an newsfeed full of her favourite militia press offices. Her jaw dropped. Voice of the prophet's main headline was republic of texas forces clashed with martyrs judgment. Day is here. She read in a social media post from one of her favourite sources in the area. A twenty something mechanic who lived on the fringe of the republicans supported the heavenly kingdom. He'd posted a picture of the governor's mansion plano. It was burnt around several of the windows and riddled with holes. Gone was the republic's flag replaced by a white banner with a burning black cross in the centre. Sasha's sent out another call request alexander and switched over to al jazeera's feed to learn more. It gold her to use a new source run by muslims but she learned from experience that aljazeera had the best reporters on the ground and the republic. They negotiated coverage deals with several of the militia groups including alexander's. The first thing she noticed was that their last article had gone up over an hour ago but the titles of the foremost recent articles painted a vivid picture republic capital in galveston burning military. Coup republic media. Feeds go dark. Stf under attack in dallas pester. Mike donnegan announces new offensive for heavenly kingdom. How could there possibly be a new offensive against the secular forces in dallas. The richardson line had been locked. In a stalemate for the last year alexander had told her often how outnumbered outgunned the martyrs of the heavenly kingdom were withholding our own but only by the grace of god was his usual refrain. The idea of them advancing again on the stf seemed impossible. Nothing is impossible with god. She could almost hear alexander's voice. Echo in her mind's ear. She glanced over at his chat screen but it was still just showed the standard dialing symbol frustrated. Sasha brought up her militia news feed this one of her most cherished possessions. It had taken months for her to sort out the most influential christian militias in the area. Find their official. Spoke speeds and cross index than based on which groups agreed with the strict neo. Calvinism doctrine she alexander and pastor. Mike all new to be the one true word of god and for the first time since she'd started the feet each and every militia she followed had posted the exact same age. The first battle of armageddon has begun. Sasha was confused for a minute. she done her homework. She knew the final battle of the times was supposed to occur at mount megiddo in israel but she thought back to pastor mike sermons. He had talked about the battle of armageddon many times the coming in times and the central place of the heavenly kingdom and the world's last battles were constant refrains in his sermons. Sasha had always believed the battles of armageddon would come. She just thought they had more time. Sasha was frustrated in a little hurt alexander must have known this was in the offing and kept it from her. She understood of course but she was furious at herself for being so far away from the action that he'd been forced to hide this from her. The first battle of armageddon was beginning just a few hours south of her bedroom. She could either stay here in rot in the american federation or prove god with devotion and move there. It didn't even seem like a choice. Really if goodman were fighting and dying to restore the kingdom of god on earth it fell to her to travel there and support those men. She thought of alexander lebed. Green is his beard the way his still boyish voice broken excitement when he lost himself in the spirit of the lord her beloved was out there right now fighting and maybe bleeding to bring the truth back to the world. The leash she could do was join them. Weeks ago. alexander had given her the contact information for a man named brother andrew. He called the other man deliverer. Sasha knew her parents in the fifth authorities would have described brother. Andrew as a people smuggler. She hadn't reached out to brother. Andrew in her fantasies. She'd always waited to graduate before escaping to the heavenly kingdom. She was still a few weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday and had hoped to at least spin that with her parents before setting off but right now as she scrolled through articles about the martyr's breakthrough and immersed herself and snap bids of cheering soldiers raising cross banners over newly captured neighborhoods. Sasha felt a powerful anxiety overtake her. She needed to be there. There was no other option. Sasha flicked open a window on the left side of her view space typed in the address she'd memorized for brother andrew and sent him a message. I'm ready to go at children's national hospital. Everything we do is just for kids. Our top ranked specialists are here for kids of all ages from babies. Who need help before they're even born to. Teens and young adults are pediatric experts. Work together to diagnose problems quickly and thoroughly and use treatments designed exclusively for growing children with convenient locations all across the dc metro area. 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Take a virtual tour and find a store near you at home sense dot com chapter four manny many woke up needing to piss and also to the sound of explosions. You couldn't quite tell which was more to blame. For his sudden unwelcomed consciousness his lizard brain woke up and shouted. Get the fuck out of there. You asshole a second later. Many got to his feet grabbed his gear bag and looked around for the journalist. Reggie still seemed to sleep but he stirred just as many started towards him in another thundering. Boom of the world. Christ was that reggie asked in a slurred voice. Heavy with sleep mortars manny explained. I think i heard rockets to shift. The british sailed sharply. Is this bad. Many shrugged though sound like small mortars very short range but we're miles behind the line so a deafening explosions shook the world. It was loud enough that manny didn't even properly here it. He felt it hard and hot against his skin. The sheer impossible noise of it pulled the air from his lungs and the thoughts from his head the next instant he was flat on the ground his eyes darted left and right for cover. He spotted something. An artificial cave built into a corner of the main room. Perhaps one hundred feet away. It looked like some sort of shrine or temple many could see. The walls were thick with melted candles colorful drawings and a variety of brass cymbals. He grabbed reggie by the shoulder and shook hard. The other man jerked locked eyes with manny and mouth. What the fixer pointed towards the shrine of pulled himself up and sprinted towards it the journalists followed and soon both men were huddled in the little substructure staring at the devastation. That had overtaken the. Richardson autonomous project. They could see two holes in the roof. Huge circular kitchen bar like it had taken a direct hit beer. Spurted from shattered taps in many could see what looked like blood staining the white oak of the bar counter flames licked somewhere off. In the distance on the other side of the vast structure the air smell of smoke and burn grass. More blasts sounded in the distance including a few that. Were just too loud to be mortarfire. Now that he focused many could also hear the chatter of machine guns. It was distant. The not nearly as distant is have been many dug into his pocket found where the deck was clipped inside and thumbed the power button static flashed at the edge of his vision as his implant started up here nearly always ran and minimalist mode which gave him access to his maps in his communication suite. And nothing else. He selected his address book and sub vocalized his cousin's name alejandro. It dialed dialed and dialed man. Reggie said his voice. Oddly calm i think we might need to get the fuck out of reggie looked over at the brit and then towards the flames they were bigger now and closer he could see a dozen or so men and women fighting the fire with hoses and extinguishers. They didn't seem to be winning elsewhere. He saw small groups breaking cover to run for the exits. The sound of alarm bells echoed across the big structure. I'll hundred hadn't responded which meant he was fighting or dead either way manny and reggie would need to find their own right out of this mess. It has been a while since the last mortar had landed on the complex and the small arms fire still sounded distant. This seemed as good a time to make a break for it as they were likely to get so they ran until they hit the exit doors shoved them open and staggered outside into the balmy texas night. The asphalt parking lot outside was filled with newly minted refugees. Perhaps two hundred of them most carried at least to go back a few had managed to drag out more they were ringed by a widening coordin- of armed men and women fifty at the most. The militia clutched antique weapons. Mostly small arms stuck like glue to the hesketh barriers that ringed the old parking lot here and there. Manny caught sight of a man with an rpg or machine. It was a force meant for scaring off bandits. The rockets still sitting in the distance told many of these men and women faced considerably more than their match. A green blink of light caught his attention. Reggie head engaged his lapel camera. The brit fixed him with a look. That said dude. What did you expect me to do. Most of the survivors were probably recording to their desks. To but reggie's little camera could do considerably more. It scanned the world around him. In a three hundred sixty degree arc it also recorded the journalists own physical data his heart rate his respiration his adrenal levels everything he saw and felt was being recorded for later consumption. The brit was carving out a little slice of the war for safer. Parts of the world to binge-watch vehicle started to arrive the projects motor pool included three tracks built to carry large groups of people in semi armored semi safety. The commune's rapid reaction force set to work. Looting children wounded up i. There was no panic. No hysteria just an exhausted efficiency that spoke of long practice many saw glassy eyes and clenched jaws but very little open rage. They're so very used to it. He realized scattered throughout the crowd. Manny saw people whose bodies rattled with the sort of palsied shock that artillery leaves in. Its wake reggie just stared out at them mouth slack. His left knee twitched the foot below at pumped against the ground many guests. He was caught between the urge to step out and talk to some of them and the voice of sanity in the back of his head. That knew how tone that would be. Many put a hand on the journalist shoulder we need to get the fuck out of here and our right is off calms. He said i'm going to suggest we hitch with the. Ap we're their guests. They'll make room for us. But if you'd rather drag ass. I know a safe neighborhood about six miles into the city. We could probably hirer right there. It looks like they're a short of room. As is said the brit those tracks can hold more than twenty people. each many smiled a little twenty-four attached to things like seats. Ten minutes later reggie and manny clung to the head of the track is at barrel down the broken street soc- add them wetter bound for a staging area in ellum. The fighting sounded much closer. By the time they left many guests the small-arms fire couldn't be more than a couple of blocks away. He and the journalist held on with white knuckles and tried not to linger long on. What would happen if they lost their grip. The maters passed the command post. The brick shouted and sudden realization. His voice strained to be audible over the roar of the engines. Holy shit they have to be right many thought about the geography for a moment. It was possible that the martyr's had only broken through a few chunks of the line. But that would mean to sean and the others were alive and surrounded or fleeing those were the best case scenarios. I think we might be fucked. Manny said stunned by the realization for the last year major clarke had been his most reliable source in the stf that posted seemed immovable impregnable for its significance in his little chunk of the world the tracks slowed to a stop parked facing them. Were to smaller armored. Stf tracks with swiveling cannons on their roofs. Soldier scurried around them. They pulled sections of frosted grey. Still glass barricades off the vehicles and started setting them up to form a new defensive line. Many watched to militia-women wrestle with a large olive green case covered in boxes cyrillic script. They prided open and many saw huge metal tube and what looked like a lot of antique optical equipment it was probably old wire guided missile launcher. Something that had been antique before the revolution he'd never seen the stf use anything that old. They had drones half the size that carried even more firepower had them yesterday. At least he thought the tracks slowed to a cautious. Stop and honked. Many glanced back at the driver. She had her hands in the air and a universal. Please don't shoot us gesture. Two of the soldiers peeled off from their efforts and approached weapons in hand but not aimed. The driver opened her door and shouted something down at them. One of them responded and gestured vaguely downtown. Many couldn't make out exactly what was being said. But the driver's face contorted in a fury. That was impossible to miss. Somethings fucked. Manny said to the journalist. I think we're about to lose our ride. Look he pointed to the makeshift barricade and the dozen or so soldiers who filtered past it and towards the track. The driver yelled and one of the other passengers knew the front started to shout. The soldiers face remained impassive but he put a hand on his side arm and repeated command even need to hear a few seconds later a soldier with a megaphone arrived in addressed manny reggie and the new refugees citizens your viewpoint the for use by. Sef please this now were injured. It permanent individuals may stay aboard. The men repeated the order this time in spanish ridges jaw clenched many could see fear in his eyes. But the other man just nodded and started to climb down off the track. Many did the same. Not all of the tracks. Passengers were as compliant. There was a lot of shouting and even if you shoving matches between the militiamen and the passengers but in the end the stf got their way. Many gathered fairly quickly that they plan to send the civilians a mile or so back to a holding area behind the new line. That was the last fucking place in the world. He wanted to be so. He approached the officer who had been arguing with their driver. The man had no rank insignia on his uniform but that wasn't unusual from alicia his fatigues were old. Us army issue. His armband identified him as part of the citizens. Front many found that odd. Most of the militia this barricade were with rosza front or the pa. this much. intermixing wasn't normal. It pointed to a lot of casualties among the stf school-based senor many started chico. noah. I'm he's i don't have time to debate. No senor. my cousin. Alejandra was with citizens front ninth. Battalion was a ride. We were taking this journalist. Many jerked his head towards reggie who stood a few feet back and we got caught up in the attack. The officer nodded then. Grunted many studied his face for a moment. The man was middle aged with a weak chin and enough meat on his bones suggest. This was his first frontline duty a while. His eyes were bloodshot. His hands clinched his attitude softened. A bit at alejandro is name alejandro hernandez yeah. He's a good man or was the officer said darkly all our frontline units were wiped out or near enough. The stf spin pushed all the way back to see that the mortar. If he's alive. He's a prisoner. The man shook his head sorry chico. There's not much i can do for you or your friend. We need to get to waco. I know there's a hospital there that must be where you're sending the serious injuries right. Dallas doesn't have anything left with a fully are. the officer nodded. These tracks are headed to the field hospital in oak lawn. But we've got a couple of deuce and a half's loading up at firebase jimenez. If you can get there on your own all radiohead and ask major perron. If he's got space. I know perron. Many almost shouted. I went to school with his nephew. Hector he couldn't stop himself from wincing as he said if you give him my name. That might help the other. Man's i cocked up in a really motherfucker. Look but then. The soldier asked and your name is many sanchez he nodded. Good luck than manny. All radiohead you and your friend get to the firebase pedo. Brinda many nodded. And turn to reggie. We've got a ride but it's going to be a bit of a hike. It was less a hike and more of a panicked jog. The streets around them were filled with dozens of people carrying their possessions bags and rusted old shopping. Carts many had never seen dallas this crowded less than a million people still lived in the metroplex but most of them seem to be out in the streets to watch the world end. Sirens sounded courtesy of the city's old civil defense system mixed every few seconds with the distorted voice of a woman. Reminding them that all motor vehicle. Use was prohibited only started the road. Traffic was all military. There was less of it than manny would have hoped to see in the space of a few seconds. He watched three pairs of cougar. Assault vehicles race up towards the front carrying squads of armored troopers in. They're open beds. He also saw one convoy of five antitank drones. Each was the size of a four door sedan with to link chain guns on a turret that scanned the sky. In fast jerky arc's there was a troubling amount of space on the road between the two units by the sound of it the fighting had only grown more intense throughout the morning the crack of small arms fire had been nearly drowned out by the all consuming roar of close support drones in the sky above them. The only noises to rise above that din where the stiffling bangs of mortar fire. In the popping of clusterbombs firebase jimenez was about two miles back from the new front. It was mainly staging area for the stf's autonomous artillery division. The a d was made up of men and mostly drones from all the secular militia groups active in the dallas area. The firebase itself wasn't well fortified. The only physical defense was a fence. Topped with razor wire to keep civilians out. That wouldn't be much of a barrier for a determined assault until a couple of hours ago. Human has had been far enough from the front assault. Wasn't considered possible after an hour of mixed jogging and running many and reggie took a left onto park lane. The firebase came into view. It had been built in the bones of an old apartment complex. Several buildings have been converted into offices and the rest left barrack space. The apartments were situated across the road from tall very thin parentheses shaped building. That looked out over. A large field dotted with landing pads the name. Top golf driving range was still visible on the side of the building. Several hundred militiamen were hard at work. Throwing up defenses. Still glass sheets had been set up to screened dozen machine gun. Nests further back soldiers piled sandbags in front of two howitzers. Many and reggie weren't the only civilians trying to gain entrance fifty or so people clustered by a checkpoint in the middle of the road hundred yards ahead of the construction efforts the checkpoint was new just a sandbag machine. Gun emplacement manned. By six fighters empowered body armor. They were over watched. By a pair of ancient abrams. tanks positioned on either side of the road. The soldiers in the middle check the documents and let the occasional civilian through. They turned most people back. There were a lot of shouts and violent gestures on the part of the civilians while many watched one of the guards raise their rifle up and fired it just to the left of a screaming. Man's face he recoiled in pain and fear clutched his ears and staggered away from the checkpoint. The weight was only about ten minutes but with the funding artillery at their back. Each of those minutes felt like an hour but soon they stood face to face. With one of the armored militia folks reggie went stiff at once his pupils the size of dinner plates he had never seen powered armor up close before many couldn't blame the man for being unnerved the reflective bug-eyed ballistic glass of the helmets and inhumanly broad shoulder armor made the wears look like kronenbourg in guerrilla mantis. The shortest armored soldier was well over seven feet tall and almost as broad as two men gender was impossible to discern but a feminine voice leapt. From the speaker's state. Your business she said. If you're looking for shelter you'll have to head to north park center. We don't have room for you a manual sanchez. Major perron should have my friend and i on your list. The woman was silent for a little while she called up the list. She clocked her tongue between her teeth. And the high fidelity mike in her suit made it sound like she done it next to his ear. Full hell there. you are her helmeted head. Bob did them all right. Iran come through quick. You stop being my fucking problem as soon as you're inside. They made their way towards the actual front gate of the firebase passing. Squads militias struggling with hess goes and setting up firing positions behind the still glass. Palisade manny and reggie walked past it all and to the fire bases front gate. They were leading without any fuss which surprised many a bit but he wasn't about to question it on the other side of the gate. They found themselves adrift. Unescorted and surrounded by pure chaos. There were other civilians inside. The walls huddled in small groups around piles of backpacks. They sat wide eyed and shaking and waited for whatever deliverance. The stf could provide soldiers rushed through the class of humanity in groups of two or three often their arms filled with machinery or paper or even crates of munitions. Everyone's eyes were wide full of fear for a while. Reggie and manny milled around with no real aim. Unable to enter any of the buildings manny found them an unclaimed place to sit. That looked like it would be easy for mister perot to find and then they just sat there at one point. Reggie offered him a protein bar. Many tried to eat it but three bites in. He accepted that his appetite. Just wasn't there. what do i do if dallas falls. He ran through his finances over and over again. Mulling over which european visas he could afford. How long he'd be able to survive in each country could make it a year. Maybe eighteen months in croatia. He'd been studying german for the last year. Though i can learn croatian in the year he tried to convince himself he also tried to ignore what he'd be leaving behind if he hopped the next flight. From austin to the eu. He didn't wanna think about oscar's wife and child how they'd get by without their dad's income he didn't think about his own father or the rest of his family. And how they'd fair. If austin fell you can only afford to take care of you here manny. It was two hours before major perron found them. The older man skin was a deep son. Chart brown seemed at odds with his narrow face in thin wire glasses. He had the look of a high school history teacher. Who'd been transplanted into a war zone. There was something drawn and strained in his expression that spoke of deep exhaustion. His eyes were bloodshot and his nose was swollen slightly. Read many could remember seeing that same face a bit younger and wearing a t-shirt rather than digit cam at one hundred different slumber parties. Mr perron was hector's dad. Mr perron made them kettle corn and let them watch violent movies on the family. Projector major perron. Manny had to remind himself he's major program. The major favored manny with a sad smile. Moderated deal some annual. It's good to see. Have you seen your cousin alejandro. He was with us last night. Manny said before the attack a pained. Look cross the major space okay. He nodded enforced a smile back across his lips. Here you boys need a ride. Yes many said if you could get us back to waco. I have enough connections in the area to get him. Not back to the journalist into austin and what is your name sir. Major perron ask the journalist to see extended his hand. Reggie the brit responded. Thank you so much for helping us. I'm afraid there's not much. I can do right now. The situation is still very fluid. We've set a new defensive line running from the lakewood crater to love field with any luck the martyr's have spent the bulk of their strength will hold them there. And if not reggie asked. Mr perot laughed scratched his head. Well if the line breaks than i'd guess our collective bucci screwed we'll begin the evacuation if it gets much worse but right now. We're still waiting for convoys of wounded to get back through the lines. He gestured out at the considerable amount of fenced-off open space in the firebase. This whole place is about to be a big open air hospital. He gave regius severe. Look i won't tell you not to record them because quite frankly everyone here is too busy to police that but i will ask that you show tact and respect and your documentation of course said reggie with enough sincerity. That many believed him all right. He collapsed many on the shoulder and after a second pause embraced him. Hold on out here for a while. i'll try to send some food in a little bit. Many enriched both thanked major baron and he trundled off into the old top gulf building to do his part in. Coordinating the defense. So what now reggie asked. We wait. Said manny three hours past more and more wounded men streamed into the base carried on stretchers and and ambulances and in several cases stacked like firewood on flatbed trucks. The wounded were set up on cots and piles of blankets in the grass and wherever possible in paved sections of the driving ranges. Old parking lot. Medics far too. Few medics hustled from soldier to soldier a frantic manic unsustainable pace for a while. There was nothing to do but follow reggie while he interviewed the wounded men and women who were stable enough to talk. They all reported shock at the speed and ferocity of the attack. Their testimonies drove home. The fact that this was something new tendrils of fear crept up manny spine was all he could do to keep moving with his journalist. Amen reggie said look at that fellow. He pointed to a soldier. The top half of his head wrapped in blood soaked bandages. Something about the man's broad and square chin looked familiar. Isn't that one of the men we met yesterday. Reggie asked the major holy shit. Reggie was right. That had to be to sean clark. Many ran over to him as he drew closer. It became clear that to sean was in even worse shape than he looked at a distance. His shirt had been ripped open exposing a muscular chest. Drenched in blood three white plugs of hardened celac swoon spray were visible across his abdomen. He'd been shot repeatedly and had what looked like shrapnel wound on the side of his head. At least he's breathing. Manny thought major. Clark he said and too many surprise. The warrior poet stirred many sweet. Jesus is that you do. Sean asked in a slurred voice. Yes sir manny said you know. I was damn sure he'd been killed an animal that much time to think about in the last few hours of course what with everyone dying and all. I'm glad you're alive. Manny said and he was major clarke had always been good to him. Do you know what happened to hamid. And colonel milgram many asked before the thought had fully crystallized in his mind. Major clark tried to lift his head and almost cried out from the sheer agony of the movement. He didn't speak for a few seconds. He just took deep slow breaths but he started to whisper. Last sunbeam lightly falls from the finished sabbath on the pavement. Here and there beyond it is looking down. A new made double grave. What many asked confused walt. Actually major clark laughed. Winston explained walt whitman. That is sorry imminent. Death makes me go for the deep cuts. So they're dead. Then many asked major clark coughed and again. His lips curled up in an agonized cringe. I think so. He managed to say. I think everyone from the command post is dead. I was out grabbing a smoke. When they hit us came at a nowhere drone artillery heavy stuff hope place lit up like christmas to boom sounded in the distance. Major clark tensed up. Reggie cringed to manny. The whole situation seemed almost too unreal to justify a reaction like that major clark said after. I grabbed who i could and tried to save as many minutes. Possible fighting retreat. We linked up with as many fighters as we could but every time we'd set a line they break through. They had so. Many damn drones have never seen martyrs us drones like that. What do you mean reggie asked well. They've always had drones but usually just as defensive aids for when we make a push. We've got a jammers. Their hardware was no use in our territory since none of their shit goes autonomous. So what the journalist asked does he drew in a bit closer do you think. They've changed their minds on autonomous drones. Or is this something else. Major clark world his head just a little. It seemed to be the only gesture he could make without hurting himself. I dunno kid. He said whatever's happening. It's totally new. And it's totally fucked us. Major clark was taken by another coughing fit. This one lasted a long time. Blood bubbled up in out from the corners of his mouth. Manny wanted to call a medic. But he couldn't see any of them weren't dealing with patients who are even worse off eventually. The coughing subsided in major clark drifted off into unconsciousness. They sat with him until the night. Fell and mr perron finally came to get them. He looked exhausted and somehow broken. His skin was sallow and so pale. it was almost. His uniform was soaked with sweat stains and he had two cigarettes in his mouth when he found manny. Reggie many wasn't sure he'd ever seen the older man smoke. Mr perot surprise. I've taken up smoking again. He said with a hollow. Laugh since i don't expect to survive to the end of the week. That bad many asked as he shook his head and then seem to notice. The major. Is that d sean clark. Yes sir manny said is he. He's alive and he seems to be stable for now. Major perron looked relieved. That's one spider mercy. Then hopefully we'll get out in time on that note. I've confirmed that. We've got a convoy heading out tomorrow a. m. as soon as our scouts clear the route. You'll both have a seat in that convoy. Thank you so much sir. Reggie started mr perron. Cut him off. It's no problem son. Do your job and tell people what's happened here. What are you going to do sir. Manny asked. Mr perron looked into his eyes he always had an intense stare. His edge had been evident even when he'd been driving the boys to soccer practice or taking them out for pizza. Now his is board into manny's heart so deeply that the fixer finally understood with that phrase meant. I'm going to die here emmanuel. He said i'm going to die here like your cousin. Alejandra died here. Because it's the only thing i can do. That might protect our home. Many felt intense urge to look away to cast. His is down but he didn't. He held mr peron's gays embraced himself for what came next. What about you. Mr perron asked. What will you do if they reach austin wait. Is that on the bloody table. Reggie interrupted mr perron paused for a moment and considered his words. I don't know he said no one does but the martyr's just broke through at lakewood. We won't hold dallas for another day. He pulled me into a hug and kissed him on the cheek when he pulled back. He kept his hands on many shoulders. I've always been proud of you emmanuel. I think that what you do here. He nodded to reggie has value. But there are times when our homelands require more of us. What are you prepared to give for austin. Many clinched his jaw plan to be on a plane out of here in the next twelve hours. If but i don't know sir is all. he said. it was hard to meet. Mr perez is when he did he was sure. The older man saw guilt in them. Mr perot didn't say anything though. He just lead manny. And reggie to where the convoy was assembling and slipped them a pair of emory's and some bottled water. The best i can do he said apologetically. He left them at the disembarkation point. Last clear sight of the man who had helped raise him was of his slump. Sweat stained shoulders trudging back to the fire. Bases command center. They sat there for hours. Neither of them talked much one by one. The wounded men were loaded carefully into the assortment of old half tracks buses and trailers. That made up the convoy once. They were seated. There was another two hours of time before the convoy. Got moving booth. Reggie and manny found time to nap but neither of them were really rested when the dawn broke and the convoys set forward by the time the ramshackle assortment of trucks and broken soldiers started on its way to waco. The sound of mortar fire was so constant. It'd almost become white noise. The small arms fire wasn't as loud but it was also clearly much closer than it had been when they arrived at firebase. Even as as the convoy rolled out onto the old access road that led eventually to waco. A flight of drones roared past them and towards the new frontline. Those aren't stf tones. Reggie asked without actually looking at manny. His gaze was focused on the two medics in the of the truck as they moved from soldier to soldier. No manny confirmed those are austin civil defence forces. The brit whistled through his teeth. So you think this means. The stf ran through their drones could be as all manny said the track and its escort lumbered through the cracks remnants of the old highway system the accumulated hangers on civilian vehicles piled high with refugees as they rolled along the civilian stayed back leery of the convoys guns but trusting in its presence for protection but the time. The convoy finally left the dallas sprawl. Their tail stretched back to the horizon. Line had seen similar sites before when his parents had fled the dfw area for austin's relative safety here and there on and in the paris behind them he saw small figures that had to be children. Kids like he'd been fleeing the same city he'd had to flee for the same basic reason. Many standout memory from that time wasn't the terror of seeing a motor land for the first time or anything about their flight out of the city at all. It was from the next day at their first refugee camp when he saw his father in line for their daily ration of food a journalist had passed by taking the sort of pictures reggie's lapel camera now snapped mindlessly. Manny's dad had been crying ashamed that he'd needed charity and even more ashamed to a fled. The family home more than anything about that time. Many remembered how his father had hidden his face from photographer. The gesture told manny more about their new status in the world than anything in adult had actually said behind him. Now we're cars full of mothers and fathers and children who were about to have their own. Searing experiences many hated how familiar this fell to him. He hated that for reggie. It counted as the adventure of a lifetime. Many looked at the journalist at the all an innocent excitement in his eyes and tried to imagine reggie's life who none of the individual pieces of that life would be new to manny. His world also had bars and parties and apartment leases in term papers. The thing he couldn't imagine was the sense of security living life without the constant threat of war. He'd been so close to securing that life for himself if they'd only waited six months but they hadn't and now manny had a choice to make stand and fight or run with what he had and hope for the best many leaned back as much as his precarious seat allowed and stared out at the burning city. That had once been dallas. Got him he muttered to himself. I gotta get the fuck out of texas After all that planning it's happening your diy closet. Renovation is finally becoming a reality question is where do you put your things while you work cubes smart. Has you covered with month to month. Leases and self storage solutions that make it easier to get organized online or in person giving self storage is convenient and fast and because diy renovations can easily go over budget. It's great to keep smart is offering up to twenty five percent off your monthly rent. Sit by before and hello to after with qb smart self storage visit cube smart dot com for more details. Mattress warehouse knows the buying. A mattress can be tough with so many choices. Where do you start introducing bed match a patented diagnostic system. That determines your pressure points and recommends the mattresses that are best for your individual sleep needs and it's found only at mattress warehouse come. Tried that match at a mattress warehouse near you. Visit sleep happens dot com for locations and get free next day delivery on select purchase mattress warehouse dot com Chapter five roland. Twenty years ago camelback mountain towered over a wealthy suburb of phoenix arizona. Then had come the civil war power food and water shortages made the city's hundred and thirty degree summers insufferable for all but the hardiest or most chrome d- millions fled for less vicious climates or simply died from exposure and starvation. Now phoenix was alluded. Crumbling ghost but camelback mountain still hosted a version of human civilization camel toe was a city of roughly five thousand the name had started because the settlements founders homeless teens thought it was funny. A few hundred orphaned or abandoned kids had settled in. The mcmansions clustered around the mountains western edge. Foothills they'd scrounged grow lamps and engines and weaponry and today. The denizens of the toe had the strongest city. State between california and the kingdom of albuquerque. Roland was their guardian my new. They'd never asked him to guard them. The police had been doing quite well. Thank you very much. When he'd shown up and built his shack in the middle of their only park a delegation of armed twins had showed up to politely evict rowland and he'd been forced to carve off therefore skains as a show of dominance they'd sent a single negotiator next and worked out a thoroughly official arrangement. Roland would aid in the city's defense. In exchange for his now departed and twice a year. All the narcotics. He could carry home from their harvest. It was an arrangement rowland had enjoyed. He was frustrated that jim's men had forced him to destroy his beloved hobble but it was hard for him to be angry. All the same. The sun was out now and it was early that the day's heat had yet to set in the great red desert and the carcass of phoenix stretched out around them and to rowlands is it was all beautiful once. Jim called the fight. A pair of boxy armoured hella transports had flown in and other squad of his men. They'd assemble a brunch spread complete with a table in two wicker chairs in hoped. His old friend was doing this to show off and not planning an actual meal. The acid twisted rowlands guts into knots and effectively killed his appetite. He was still high enough. That the familiar boulders around his home seemed to fluxes wobble like great. Mounds of red jelly. Jim's face however was rock solid ruling focused on it while the rest of the world blurred. A towel came into his hands and he realized a moment later that jim had handed it to him. Ruling wiped the crusted gore from around to shoulder with a tiny robots in his blood had finished reattaching his arm. it was a messy process. That involved a lot of shuffling bad blood out of the skin and sludgy red globs. The gloves looked a bit like the boulders. Now that he thought about it gyms merck's were over by one of the aircraft getting worked over by medical team. That must have been waiting in the wings this whole time. The acrylic stink of fear wafted off from thirty feet away. Once the table was up in the spread was set rolling. Jim sat down to watch the last rays of sunrise. Turn into boring old daylight. A lackey handed them. Both steaming mugs of coffee roland took his blackened turkish so thick it was almost pudding. Most humans made it to week for his taste but this cup was perfect. He sipped deeply and the wobbly acid lions straightened and grew just a little bit thicker took forever to teach them how to make it right. Jim said an old leases a bit of a trial. I think there's something about us that breaks their brains just a bit. Jim sips his coffee and added. I got a theory about that. By the way rolling. Let harsh flee exultation that meant. i don't care. Jim continued all the same sipping his coffee and then launching into spiel ma theory. Is that homo sapiens. Just on built to acknowledge a higher form of life not one. That's flesh and blood and staring them in the face. Demand and service. I think deep in the human brain is the race memory of running up against neanderthals. They were bigger stronger and faster than humans. But we they still wipe the neanderthals out. I think humans look at us. The same way ancestors looked at the end. Atolls roland grunted. Because that was easier than talking and because he really wasn't listening his eyes were focused on the shimmering surface of the coffee sober his brain kept his thermal vision on a different mental track from his color infrared vision but while he was tripping they all just sort of blended together into one multitone information so he stared enthralled as red heat bled off into the white arab on them. The math of it all was rendered a beautiful swatch of colors. Some of which weren't even visible to human is rolling. Lost himself for a moment. If you any other man. I'd prick you with a sober stick right now. Jim said clearly irked. It's been a long time since someone's ignored me. Not ignoring rolling managed to say. The words came out wet mushy. He taken around to the lung. Apparently and repair efforts played hell on his throat. His eyes were still locked on the psychedelic sprawl of color lifting off from his coffee. He had to force himself to take another sip. The mild stimulant surged helped him break off his seperation and he met jim. Still weirdly solid gays. Sorry this coffee is more interesting than your bullshit. Rolling explained blame the acid. Jim laughed the snake tattoos on his torso curled in corkscrew and simulated excitement. You know he said there's a new movement in the post. Human community started up in idaho. One of the intentional commune's took a pretty strong anton narcotic policy. Apparently it distracts us from the important work. We should be doing fuck that role instead and spat on the ground for emphasis. I don't disagree. Jim nodded and produced an enormous end. Very phallic blunt. He lit paul deep and passed it over. Rolling took a long drag and eased into a slump as the thc. Did it slow work. So jim role said after a few more passes once the acid and we had time to push his brain into a hazy new equilibrium. Why are you here. Jim gave an eloquent shrub. Pop the blunt out of his mouth and stared at the curling smoke roland stared to in his eyes was wreath in chartreuse black halo of heat that seems to almost vibrate near the cherry tip to catch up. Jim said and to offer you a job job role in snorted. I need not your filthy lucre. Look at this wealth that surrounds me. Immed- abroad gesture that encompassed the remains of his hovel. What could you possibly offer will. Jim said the status. I can replace you hot. Played anything big broke it with his body. So we'll steal another one roland said what do you really have. I'm gonna guess a few million won't peak. Interest role blew a fat wet raspberry. I don't even care what currency you're talking about. Would money do me. Not even cascadia and scrip. Jim asked with a grin. Cascadia ruled had heard the name. Of course last he remembered the pacific northwest's premier independence movement had been agitating to succeed from the coastal. Pact is a is that a thing now as a six years ago. Jim said he took a deep pool of the blunt. Handed it back to roll it. An exiled thick whitecloud as he spoke and they just finished their own civil war so the value skyrocketing. You really don't get out much these days. do you. Roles response was another deep goal of his coffee. Anyway jim continued. I know you don't care for cash but there is something i think you might want and i can buy it back for you if you'll help me out. Wait by back. By what back ruined. Recognize the snake man smile on jim's face he had the vague since that he'd seen it before enough that the site of it set his hackles arise and sparked an itch his left trigger finger. He took a deep pit from the blunt in handed it over to jim. The other man took the blunt with his left hand and made a gun shape with the fingers of his right hand. He pantomime to shot to the head. His lips meet a barely audible. Pow memories. Jim said i know you only playing with half deck. Maybe less surprised you remember my mug. To be honest. Jim took a final dragged from the blunt crews barely linked of thumbnail now and passed it off to roland but science eh. She's kept on lurch for the last ten years is a neuro team up at mit. They reckon they've made a breakthrough alzheimer's research initially but they think they've figured out how to straight up recover memories from damaged brain tissue. The tech has reversed a lot of injuries. The old science said was permanent. Rolin felt a painful tugging sensation in his chest. He thought back to the woman from his dreams with the damascene teeth. He saw her every few weeks trapped in some foggy memory or another her name felt like it was always on the tip of his tongue. He didn't know what she meant to him. But the thought of her twisted his heart into knots. It was maddening. Not even knowing what she'd been to him or he to her ruling frowned turned his head and locked eyes with jim. You think a bunch of fed funded school. Scientists are going to help me. Rolling asked get a strong feeling known of the government's on this continent fancy. Jim waved careless. Hand list the issue. He said those amphion motherfuckers are pragmatists. I've been in and out of the northeast half a dozen times just this year. You do work. They value and they ignore a little. Terrorism memory's hazy rowland said. But i know little is an accurate. I think we killed a skyscraper. You don't remember that. The diamond building and photo one hundred and twentieth lows a rich pigs wallow in shit we slipped a bomb in during an austerity summit led by the ceo's of the big fall bug the conference room so we could hear him scream when that first blast cut the support beams. It was better than six. There was a peculiar joy. Gyms is his chest next. Writhed in orgiastic glee roland felt queasy roland. Jim added the sons. A bitches headed coming. Maybe rowland said. But i know we didn't just kill ceo's. I remember other times kids. Not kids jim insisted. A is young enough to take full advantage of juvin. The future undying loads of capital. They had to go rolling shivered even if they did. I'm sort of glad. I don't remember it. Jim shrugged swirled his coffee cup and stared into it for a minute. If he'd been anyone else roland would have been able to read his emotions by the since coming off of him and the micro expressions on his face most post humans were just as easy to read as regular humans it took a mix of very specific surgeries and a hell of a lot of time spent in practice to hide anything from roland. It said a lot. The gym had considered the expense. Worthwhile violence is the coin. That buzz the future. Jim said there was a time when you explain that to me. I don't remember that conversation in said but it's been years since i've taken a life. Yeah a couple of four skins. One guy's hand sure sometimes appoint needs making. I haven't killed anyone in a long time though. That's why folks you sent to. My door are still alive. And i mean to stay on the wagon. Killings not wanted on this mission jim sheridan just property destruction. I need two or three days of your unrivaled. Shit up fucking expertise. Rule inflict a suspicious eyebrow at his old friend property he asked. jim nodded. A couple of guys might need crippling along the way but no killing. So what this gig. Ruling was interested now. In spite of himself sabotage. Jim's lips curled up in a feral grin. Over the last few months we've noticed a substantial buildup among the radical christian militias north in central texas. We and asked my own organization and the central intelligence agency. Roland couldn't help but laugh. I remember enough of the old days to appreciate the irony of you working with the cia. Jim's head cocked just a little to the left. He grimaced roland wasn't sure but he thought his friend might be a little embarrassed and defensive. Anyone who lives long enough becomes a hypocrite. Jim said with a shrug. I'd hope to hold out longer. But their satellite coverage is fucking phenomenal. I'll send you the intel. He made a flicking gesture towards roland with his right index finger and then frowned in annoyance. You might be the last duck brain on this con- you know. That ruined wasn't sure why he disconnected himself from the internet. It seemed to annoy other people but he rather enjoyed it. His hind brain had absorbed pita bytes of data before he severed the link so he never found himself needing to consult a wicky to remember the equations behind the coriolis effect or a bullet's trajectory. You could have walked from canada. Venezuela without encountering a plant or animal has distributed mechanical brain. Couldn't name the only downside. His situation was that he couldn't keep up with politics or bleeding edge military technology he only gleaned that sort of information by experience or conversation and being a creepy godlike being who sometimes circumcise. Trespassers roland didn't have many conversations. One of jim's aids ran up and handed role in paper-thin tablet. Jim directed him through a dozen satellite images of what looked like vehicle. Ammunition depots rollins hind brain recognized. The dallas road systems immediately a surge of sense memory hit him fire so much fire. The smell of it only drowned out by the intent. Stink of thirty thousand people panicking at the same time role felt bullets dig into his flesh. Saw hate in the eyes of the advancing cops and he felt a corresponding surge of glee as his brain started to pump out battle drugs. He squeezed his trigger. Rowen shook his head hold his mind back into the present moment. Jim frown but didn't say anything. He just pointed back at the tablet ruling focused again. It appeared to be a satellite image of a defensive line in dallas. He noted a large of military vehicles piled into several parking garages. What's going on here. He asked suit carriers. Jim said couple dozen of them rolling shook his head impossible. That'd be enough to support. What six hundred. Power armored fighters their nation state numbers and other republican. Texas is shit show. But there's no way they'd let some insurgent militia army like that in their borders. Maybe not jim said maybe so truth. Told i don't care what parked in those garages. You blow him up. I get paid and you get your fancy surgery. Roland felt uneasy. The job itself seemed too simple. The kill team. Jim had sent to wake roland up. Probably could have done this job with a few reinforcements. It seemed weird that some nut bar extremists get their hands on that. Many suits rolling just didn't trust the whole situation. Jim he asked. Can you promise me this memory thing will work fuck. No jim scoffed. A can't even promise you'll survive. This is a bleeding edge mad science operation the imf it is willing to break international law to work on a wanted terrorist. I'm half sure they just wanna see what happens when they start poking around you skull. You might be making the worst mistake of you live here. But at least you'll die after blowing up. A bunch of gear owned by christo fascist assholes roland considered for a long moment. The nodded his assent all right. Then you've convinced me. I'm in as long as the stays a sabotage mission. No killing no killin. Jim agreed they both stared out at the vacant desert for some time roland found himself humming along to a song. He couldn't name or even remember hearing. Jim hummed along with him. He put a hand on the shoulder. That felt good. There was something about human contact that none of the machines in his head could replicate. They sat for a while longer then. Jim squeezed rohan shoulder and stood dumb for another peaceful wall. Then everybody robert evans here. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. You listen to. I hope you enjoy the chapters to come if you would like to read the text version of this book. is on the web or on your e reader an e pub. You can find those on the website. At our book dot com So again the free ad free e pub and the text of every chapter will be on eighty. Our book dot com. Thanks at children's national hospital. Everything we do is just for kids. Our top ranked specialists are here for kids of all ages from babies. Who need help before they're even born to. Teens and young adults are pediatric experts. Work together to diagnose problems quickly and thoroughly and use treatments designed exclusively for growing children with convenient locations all across the dc metro area. 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