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Die Hard 4 Fic: The Hardest Part 1/1

May 12th, 2011 (07:57 am)

 Title:  The Hardest Part

Disclaimer:  Not mine.

A/N:  I wrote this so long ago that it's sort of funny.  I even sent it to get beta'ed a super long time ago that it nearly got lost on my hard drive.  However, sendintheklowns  didn't happen to beta it until this week (which she is awesome for, by the way).  Hence why I'm posting.  I have nothing else to say, except that now I really would like to rewatch this movie because it makes me quite happy :)

Summary:  John McClane didn't think about winning or losing--in fact, he rarely seemed to be thinking at all in the last twenty-four hours.  It was all survival mode, going from one point to the next, doing what he needed to do because he needed to do it.  (Missing scene to DH4, based on the flight and landing of their helicopter ride.)


So taking off wasn't the hardest part. 

Truthfully, there wasn't a hardest part because it was all the hardest part.  The taking off, the flying, the landing, the stepping inside a helicopter by choice.  There were damn lucky to even still be alive at this point.

Still, he was pretty sure that kind of resounding enthusiasm wouldn't help the kid's struggling sense of optimism, or lack thereof.  He wanted to know when they would start winning.  John McClane didn't think about winning or losing--in fact, he rarely seemed to be thinking at all in the last twenty-four hours.  It was all survival mode, going from one point to the next, doing what he needed to do because he needed to do it.

Heroic, not really in his book.

Stupid, hell yeah.

Why else would he be flying a helicopter with a terrified kid over the eastern United States?  It sure as hell wasn't for kicks.  But damn it all if the world wasn't short up on heroes.  He should have been counting the days to retirement, not attempting to defy his years with some hacker from Jersey who actually believed in conspiracy theories and collected dolls.

He glanced to the side where Matt was seated, still gripping the side of the copter, his face glistening with yet another new sheen of sweat.  Yep, he played with dolls and this was who McClane was counting on to partner with him to save the world?  For the love of--they were going to see some guy named Warlock.  What the hell was he thinking?

That was where the whole not-thinking thing came back into play.

Given the kid's shell-shocked demeanor, it was a lesson he could certainly use.

"Hey," he called out of the roar of blades.  "You okay?"

The kid seemed to flinch as he blinked up at him.  "Huh?  What?"

"You okay?" he asked again, louder this time, a bit slower.  The kid was a likely candidate for adrenaline overload--all the explosions and fighting and near-death experiences probably did that to someone.  McClane was sure at some point he would have reacted the same.  If he was so damn tired he might know how the kid felt.

Matt grimaced a little.  "Oh, you know," he said.  "Besides the fact that I'm about to wet myself and all, things are grand."

McClane laughed.  Humor under pressure, even of the sarcastic nature, was always respectable.  "You nearly get shot and blown up multiple times and a little flying is going to do you in?"

Matt attempted to laugh, a little high and hysterical.  "Funny," he said.  "I guess maybe the whole flying without a real pilot thing is a little hard to swallow."

"Aw, come on," he cajoled.  "It could definitely be worse."

With raised eyebrows, the kid leveled him with a disbelieving stare.  "And how could it be worse?"

"Well, we haven't landed yet, have we?"

Matt's mouth hung open before he blinked and looked bleakly back out the cockpit window.  "Dying back in Jersey would have been so much easier."

Chuckling, McClane focused his attentions again on the string of headlights below them, trying not to notice how his knuckles were white on the controls.


The landing went better than he anticipated.

Again, not that he told the kid that, because he was a little afraid that the whole wetting himself thing might be a little truer than he'd let on.  But all in all, slicing up a fence was a lot better than going up in a ball of flame and smoke.  Actually, he was rather proud of the entire thing, that he'd done it without killing them and that he'd retained control of all his own bodily functions in the process.

He'd spend more time gloating if his own hands weren't shaking so hard.

No time for that, though.  He hadn't flown a helicopter just for kicks and he'd let himself mentally berate himself later for being so stupid and laud himself for doing it despite all the really logical reasons not to.

He was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he almost forgot about the kid.

Well, not really forgot about him, but didn't really notice him.  Sure the kid had offered a quip or two since landing, but when McClane really looked at him he realized that maybe he wasn't the only one with a genuine fear of flying.

While he had already unstrapped himself and had a hand on the door, Matt was fumbling with his seatbelt, and McClane suddenly wondered when the kid had gotten that pale.

"It wasn't that bad," he said, which was true.  Those lessons, as painful as they’d been and as spotty as his attendance was, had paid off.  Even if he hadn’t conquered his fear, he could apparently fly adequately even if he didn’t know what all the buttons on the console were.  "I know it was a little rocky, but not enough to make you toss your cookies."

But Matt wasn't really listening.  Which was, of course, typical—that kid didn’t seem to really listen to anything until there were bullets flying at him and even then he was pretty sketchy on the uptake.  No, the kid was pulling off the headset and yanking hard at the door, stumbling out into the night as he did so.

"You okay?" he found himself asking again before he could think of something more intelligent to say.  After all that they’d been through that day, he’d hate to think he let the kid get himself done in by a helicopter ride.  "Farrell?  Matt?"

The kid ducked out of sight, and McClane cursed a little, hurriedly finishing the power down of the chopper as best he could figure out.  It looked like the kid might be well on his way to another breakdown, which wasn't really to be unexpected given the circumstances, but more than a little frustrating--he'd thought they were past this, at least until the next crisis came their way.  He could only talk so much inspiration into the kid before he wore a little thin for him as well.  Still, whoever Warlock was and whatever the hell Warlock did, he needed Matt to figure it out. 

McClane wished it was that simple, that this kid was nothing more than means to an end.  But it was more than that, and he knew it.  After all, when he had started thinking of the kid as Matt and not Farrell?  When they'd started this, he'd been nothing to McClane but some pain in the ass hacker from Jersey.

But this kid was still here, still trying to help when he could have ditched the entire thing a long time ago.  And the damn idiot had had the guts to save his ass back at the power plant, and McClane couldn't deny that the kid just might be growing on him.

Which was part of the reason he needed Matt to keep his crap together, even if that meant a little more inspirational chitchat.  It was a small price to pay, he figured, in the name of national security and, more importantly, getting done with this God-awful mission that had fallen into his lap before it was the death of him.

Besides, he was too far in to back out now.

Luckily, the one control that was pretty obvious was the power button.  They were pretty universal and he was more than happy to hear the engine wind down and the blades begin to slow.  Once he was sure that the thing was at least not a threat to anything or anyone (because, really, like he needed collateral damage on his conscience at this point), he climbed out.

Staying low, he moved around the front of the chopper.  “Kid!” he called over the dying sound.  “Hey, kid!”

And there the kid was, on his hands and knees, just a few feet from the still-open copter door.


Unfortunately, Matt seemed to be a little worse off than he’d anticipated--perhaps the rocky landing had jarred more than a fence.  Apparently small time hackers from Camden could only take so much before succumbing to a panic attack.  This might take a little more than an upbeat chitchat, which really was not what he wanted to deal with right now.

“Matt,” he tried again, moving close enough now to touch him. 

The kid didn’t even respond to a hand on the shoulder.  Not even a flinch, which he actually expected, given the kid’s jumpy nature (check that, the kid was probably in caffeine withdrawal if the number of Red Bull cans in the apartment was any indication).

His concern spiked a little.  He was no medic and he certainly wasn't the warm and fuzzy type even under the best of circumstances.  And hell, this kid had been more than a slight pain in his ass, but somehow the kid was his responsibility.  He was also his key to figuring this damn thing out because all the techno-babble was pretty well over his head, even if he didn't like to admit it.

And so far, they'd kept it together despite all the crap thrown their way.  But maybe the human body could only handle so much adrenaline before it just fizzled out--McClane wouldn't know.  He'd been through too much of this crap before to really stop and think about what the hell they were going through now.  Being shot at was nothing new, the exploding apartment had been a bit jarring but nothing too difficult.  Okay, so the rapid gunfire from the sky and being trapped in a tunnel with oncoming traffic in both directions had been a new one and an exploding power hub wasn't exactly par for the course, but still not totally unreasonable.  He'd even flown a helicopter and so okay, yeah, maybe there was a little adrenaline pumping through the veins and for someone with a little less experience (i.e. normal people or even scrawny second-rate hackers), it would be a bit much.

Adrenaline overload or not, the kid wasn’t looking so good, but he really needed to see the kid to make a better assessment.  Kneeling, he tried to get a look at the kid’s face.  What he saw wasn’t reassuring.

The kid’s face was pale, covered with an even thicker sheen of sweat than before.  He could see a trickle of blood smeared behind his hair and down his neck—how long the kid had had that, he wasn’t sure, but it didn’t look too serious.

Still, the kid was panting, his mouth gaping open as he tried to draw in desperate gasps of air.

“Matt?  You okay?” he asked yet again, nearly in the kid’s ear this time.

Still nothing.

Just more ragged breathing.

“You need to slow it down,” McClane advised.  “Just breathe, okay?”

If he ever needed the kid to listen, it was now.  Because John McClane knew about this kind of crap and he knew that even if the kid didn’t have life threatening injuries, he was about a breath away from passing out. 

And then he did.

Before McClane could talk him down, before McClane could even figure out what the hell was the problem, the kid went limp, falling face first toward the grass, just like some freakin' ragdoll.

Swearing, McClane reached out, attempting to stop the kid’s rapid descent.  He didn’t have far to fall, but he didn’t really want to let the kid face plant into the turf.

One thing he had going for him was that the kid was a lightweight.  Spending all day in front of the computer meant he didn’t have time to build much body mass and it seemed like the kid was focused enough not to waste much time with superfluous things like eating.

Still, it was awkward, and he cradled the kid uncomfortably, gripping him beneath his shoulders.  Carefully, he turned the kid, lowering him to the ground as he did so.

By that time, the chopper had powered down, leaving them alone in the dark stillness of the Baltimore night. 

Just him and an unconscious hacker who had passed out from reasons still yet to be determined.  All while the country was under attack and they were supposed to be talking to someone he only knew as the Warlock.

Hell, this night just kept getting better and better.

It took some maneuvering, but he managed to turn the kid over before lowering him to the ground.  The fact that there were no lights in the vicinity wasn't going to make this easy, but the kid's face stood out starkly in the darkness.  For the first time McClane noticed how damn young he looked.  The scruff on his face seemed to suggest that he couldn't grow a full beard even if he wanted to and with the features slack and devoid of snide commentary, he looked even younger than McClane's own kids. 

Which really was the kicker.

The kid could be Lucy's age, one of Lucy's classmates.  Somewhere out there, this kid had a mom and a dad and maybe brothers and sisters and a family.  A hacker he may be, but a criminal?  Maybe, but not in the diehard sense of the word.  He was full of conspiracy theories and hyped up on anti-culture, a phase that McClane's own son had endured but thankfully grown out of.

The point was, though, that this was a kid.  A kid who people were going out of their way to kill. A kid who had written one program and inadvertently sold his soul to the devil, metaphorically speaking.

Okay, so maybe passing out wasn't totally out of the realm of normal behavior.  It was a lot to take in.

Which just made McClane feel all the more responsible.

Which was just great.

Because the kid was still unconscious and looked worse than ever.

Gently, he felt for the pulse at the kid's neck.  Not because the whole breathing thing was in doubt--the rapid rise and fall of Matt's chest pretty much cinched that one--but because he wanted to see just where the kid's body was at.  Basic first aid sort of came with the territory and he was, after all, a senior detective.

As expected, the kid's heart was pounding, way faster than it should be, which could fit in line with the whole panic attack theory he'd had earlier.

"Kid," he tried again, patting at his face.  "Hey, kid."

Nothing.  Not even a flicker.

And that was a little weird.  If the kid had just hyperventilated, he'd come around pretty easy, or at least be semi-aware, maybe mumbling incoherently.  But this?  The kid was out cold.  Like he'd suffered some kind of other injury.

McClane began to think--really think, which was never something he particularly relished.  The kid had been scraped and bruised throughout most of it.  Traumatized by all of it.  But still standing.  So it had to be recent--well, more recent, he realized, since it had barely been a day since he'd met the kid.

So the explosion.  It'd rocked them both pretty good and Matt had been a little slower than usual.  A little less resilient, too.  He'd chalked that up to emotional overload, but the downshift in perspective could be a symptom of something else, too.

Blood loss--maybe.  But even McClane would have noticed copious amounts of blood.

Head injury--probable.  Those were easy to hide, especially in a mess of hair like the kid was sporting.

With a sigh, McClane began his inspection, fingering through the kid's mop.  He found a smaller cut behind the ear, which was responsible for the weeping blood down his neck, mostly dried now.  And there it was--right on the back of the head, a sizeable lump, though surprisingly free of blood.  Head wounds usually bled--a lot, if his own were any indication--but he knew some could cause just as much damage without the dramatic show.

Unless the kid had unnatural bumps on his head, that was McClane's bet.  It explained the randomly fatalistic attitude, the sweating, the paleness, the shockiness.  Concussions could do strange things to people.

They could also be pretty serious if left untreated.  McClane couldn't treat a concussion, but he could keep it from killing the kid.  Because in his limited medical know-how, he was pretty aware of the fact that letting someone stay unconscious while concussed was not recommended.

Which meant he had the oh-so-fun job of waking the kid up.

"Kid," he said again, patting him harder now.  "Come on, kid.  I need you to wake up."

Needed it because he didn't know who the hell Warlock was and he sure as hell wasn't going to knock on some door and ask for him.  Needed it because while he could shoot and kill and defend and protect, he couldn't type very fast and he had trouble accessing his email and programming his cell phone.  Needed it because he was asked by the FBI to pick up some kid in Jersey and there was no one else to do it and he wasn't going to let the kid die on his watch.

Needed it because, damn it, he'd been through too much with his kid.  They'd saved each other's lives.  They were in this damn thing together, for freakin' better or worse and death sure as hell wasn't going to part them.

Needed it because in all the crap, the kid had balls even when he didn't know it and McClane liked that about him.  Liked it because the kid didn't want to be here any more than he did and yet, there they were.  And that mattered.

"Matt!" he tried, hoping a more personal approach might do the trick.

The kid remained limp and McClane swore.  He did not have time for this.

He didn't have time for any of this.  He should be at home in Brooklyn, doing nothing.

Of course, then the kid would probably be dead, but if the damn kid didn't wake up he might end up that way anyway.

"Damn it," he said.  "You need to wake up before I really get pissed off here and beat you to death for being too damn stubborn."

Logic was out the window at this point--he'd used up the last of his real rational thinking when he'd climbed into some damn helicopter and flew to Baltimore.  This just was not going to go down like this and McClane didn't really have any persuasive tactics except sheer violence when he was desperate enough.

And yeah, he was pretty damn desperate right now.  Because he had to save the world and all that crap and to do that he had to save this damn kid's life and all the kid could do was lie around unconscious on some nowhere street in the middle of the night in Baltimore.

Luckily, his forcefulness was effective even on the unconscious--the kid stirred.

Slightly at first, a small grimace on his face, and McClane pounced.  "You with me, kid?" he asked, leaning closer to him, watching intently to gauge the kid's response.

The grimace deepened and was joined by a groan as the kid's hand went absently to his head.  "What--what happened?" he asked breathlessly, his eyes fluttering.

"You hit your head," McClane said. "Why didn't you say something?"

The kid's eyes blinked open, squinting up at him.  "What?"

"Back at the plant," McClane clarified.  "You should have said something."

The kid just looked confused.  "I--what?"

McClane sighed.  "Do you think you can sit up without hurling?"

Hesitantly the kid moved to prop himself up shakily on his shoulders.  "We landed?"

"Yeah, safe and sound," he said.  "Fence is a little worse for wear, but hey, we already stole a helicopter and a car, so I think the fence is pretty low on our priority list."

"What are you talking about?" the kid asked, sitting up all the way.

McClane kept close, ready to move should the kid show signs of losing it again.  "Nothing," he said.  "What do you remember?"

"Getting into a helicopter," he said.  "And then learning that you aren't exactly a licensed pilot."

McClane couldn't help but grin.  "We made it, didn't we?"

Matt's eyes flickered around.  "Yes, but like you said, the fence wasn't so lucky."

He shrugged.  "Could have been worse."

"Oh, yeah, that makes me feel so much better," the kid said, and McClane couldn't help but notice that the kid was still shaking a little.  Or a lot.

"Yeah, well, I prefer not to dwell on the details."

"Yeah, like how you shouldn't even be allowed to fly," he said pointedly, but his voice was still strained, a little weak.  "And I thought you said the hardest part was taking off."

McClane laughed a little, giving a nonchalant shrug.  "It was the only way to keep you from jumping out of the chopper."

The kid looked at him, his chest still rising a little too fast, his face unable to shake that sheen of sweat.  "So you lied to me?"

"Whatever works."

"You don't need to lie to me."

"Would you have let me take off if you'd known that maybe I didn't know what the hell I was doing."

"McClane, when in this entire mess have you known what you're doing?"

He considered this.  "I keep saving your ass, don't I?"

"Yeah, well, not that I'm not grateful, but it's not exactly like we've had a really solid plan or anything.  We're flying by the seat of our pants and just hoping to hell that we don't get ourselves killed in the process.  And why?  Because I wrote some damn algorithm and you keep saying there's no one else to do it.  Well, you may do it because there's no one else, but what about me?"

"Yeah, you're pretty well screwed," McClane agreed.

Matt sighed, rolling his eyes and pushing a frustrated hand through his hair.  "Great.  Just great.  Thank you very much.  That really does wonders for my spirits at the moment."

It was McClane's turn to sigh.  Clearly they were somewhat past the point of humor, or at least the kid was past the point of appreciating it.  He could only hope that was a temporary thing because if he had to get through this entire ordeal without a sarcastic crack or two he would probably have to go stark raving mad.  Which really was not what he signed up for, whether there was no one else to do it or not.  "Look, Matt," he said.  "You are a part of this.  I mean, they are trying to kill you, so I would think that you'd be of the mindset that you'd rather get them before they get you."

"Actually I'm more of the mindset of not dying."

"And you're still here."

"Barely!" the kid exploded.  "God, I don't even know what the hell is going on.  A fire sale?  My apartment is in ashes.  They just blew up a power plant and I've seen like, ten people get killed in the last twenty-four hours."

No matter how McClane tried to spin that one, it was still a hard truth to swallow, and one that would bother him in the days and weeks to come.  Because killing, sure, he could do it.  And yeah, he could do it well and on the move.  He could fire the gun and not think about it.  But not forever.  He was rough and tumble but he was still human, no matter what anyone thought.  Sometimes he underestimated the weight of humanity in others, that not everyone was able to defer it quite so well.    "All of this, it's a mess, and we both know it.  It sucks and it's hard and there's never any guarantee in any of it.  It's kill or be killed and you've got the balls to deal with that whether you think you do or not."

The look Matt gave him now was downright incredulous.

"You think you don't?" McClane asked.  "Back there, when I was in the elevator shaft, you took that guy down.  You know that, right?"

The kid blanched.  "I've been trying not to think about it."

"And how's that going for you?"

"Well, I passed out if that's any indication."

McClane sat back and looked up.  "You have a concussion."

"Oh," Matt said.  "So throbbing headaches are not a natural response to murder."

"It wasn't murder."

Matt glanced at him, tentative, childlike. 

McClane blew out a breath.  "Is that what's bothering you?"

The kid's shoulder's slumped a little and he seemed to shrink into himself.  "He was a person," Matt said softly. 

"Yeah, with a gun and a plot to attack the country.  He would have killed you."

Matt nodded.  "I know.  And he was trying to kill you.  I mean, there wasn't any other choice.  But--God, I mean.  I killed him."

And McClane remembered a time when he felt that way.  A time when it hadn't been so easy to swallow.  And he knew what he'd be feeling when this was done.

The kid was still watching him, all wide eyed and looking all of twelve again, and McClane thought about his own kids.  About what they would feel if they were here.  About how much he would never wish this on his own kids.  "I told you taking off was the hardest part," he said finally.  "And you think landing is the hardest part.  But that's all crap.  The hardest part will always be everything after.  The decisions, the actions, and how the hell you live with it.  Going up's not so bad.  Coming down's only second nature.  But what you do with it--that's the clincher.  That's the part that can make or break you."

At that, Matt looked down again, his brow furrowed. "And how do you do it?"

McClane laughed humorlessly.  "There's no formula for this," he said. "You can't write some program and make it go away.  You just do what you have to do, you do the right thing even if it's hard, and you come out on the other side.  And when you look back, you'll see.  Trust me, kid.  You'll see."

The kid was looking at him again, through that mess of bangs.  "Really?"

"What, you think I'd lie to you?"

The kid shrugged.  "You already said you lied to me."

McClane grunted, pushing himself up.  "You're pretty damn impossible, you know that?"

"Well, I can't imagine where I learned that from," he replied, moving to stand as well.

McClane helped him, holding onto his arm while the kid balanced himself.  "You okay now?"

Matt nodded quickly.

"You sure?  I mean, I don't want to have to haul your unconscious ass all around Baltimore."

"No, really, I'm good.  I'm not sure my dignity can take another hit like that.  Besides, you'll need me on this next part."

"Why's that?"

"Trust me," Matt said.  "You haven't met Warlock."

"Warlock, right," McClane said.  "You do know you sound like a total nerd when you say that."

"Nerd?  Yeah, that's a new one.  I haven't heard that one before," Matt said, adjusting his bag on his shoulder.  "Just because I know a little about technology--"

"And you have dolls."

"They're not dolls--and it's not like I have them anymore anyway since, you know, my apartment doesn't exist anymore."

"And you were pissed at me for breaking one of them," he said, shaking his head.

"You're unbelievable."

"Yeah, I get that," McClane said.  "If we're done with our little trip down memory lane, do you think we can focus?"

"I'm not sure my little nerd brain can wrap my mind around something so normal."

"Aw, after everything, you're going to get touchy about that."

Matt just glared at him.  "Are you always this nice?"

"My touchy-feely side kind of got checked out the door when people started firing at me."

"So you mean you're not always this much of a jackass."

"You caught me on a good day, what can I say."

Matt just shook his head.  "Warlock is going to not be happy about seeing us."

"And you think I'm happy seeing him?"

Matt smiled blandly.  "And you said that after is the hardest part?"

"Are we going to talk all night?" McClane asked.  "You know, if we wait much longer, the fire sale might be over--"

"Yeah, yeah," the kid said, moving ahead of him.  "This way."

McClane couldn't help but be impressed.  The kid was moving sure and confident.  He looked a little ragged around the edges, but even underneath that scrawny exterior, maybe there was something under there that knew how to stand strong when all the crap in the world was hitting the fan.

So maybe McClane couldn't trust some guy named Warlock, maybe he didn't want to be here at all, but he could sure as hell count on some idiot hacker from Camden to help get through the night.

And really, for McClane, just making it through was the hardest part.  He didn't chose to be here, he didn't want to be here, and if he was going to be here, he could do a whole hell of a lot worse than Matt Farrell.



Posted by: fangirl1138 (fangirl1138)
Posted at: May 12th, 2011 01:51 pm (UTC)

Yeah, Die Hard 4 fic! This is so cool!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 15th, 2011 12:46 pm (UTC)
bradley seriously 2

Sometimes my muses take me to the most random places. But honestly, there is much to love about this movie :)


Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: May 13th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC)

*happy sigh*

I'm ecstatic to see this posted. I know it's my fault it wasn't posted sooner but once I saw the movie over the weekend I remembered this and darn it, it needed to see the light of day. You know I'm a huge fan of the John and Matt show and this is just a natural extension of it.

Thank you for this much needed shot of happiness!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 15th, 2011 12:47 pm (UTC)
stephen's eyes

All this thinking about the movie makes me want to watch it again in a really bad way. And given how random my muse is these days, I could never real out more fic.

Thank you for beta'ing. You are generally awesome :)

Posted by: rbphotobug (rbphotobug)
Posted at: May 31st, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)

McClane laughed humorlessly. "There's no formula for this," he said. "You can't write some program and make it go away. You just do what you have to do, you do the right thing even if it's hard, and you come out on the other side. And when you look back, you'll see. Trust me, kid. You'll see

There was so much to this fic that I really liked, but I thought this was the best. It explains how John just keeps powering on.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: July 1st, 2013 12:46 am (UTC)
happy Shawn

A bit behind on my replies here, but I'm glad you read and enjoyed this one! I do have a fondness for these characters :)


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