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Thread: Excelsior Stories

  1. #1
    Original Serf
    Join Date
    Nov 2012

    Excelsior Stories

    So despite being a maths teacher and not having studied English since I left secondary school, I decided to have a go at the Excelsior writing challenge.

    Unfortunately, having read the brief very quickly and then started writing, I wasn't even halfway through my story and already well over 1000 words when I noticed it was only meant to be 400-600 in length.

    I decided to finish writing anyway, and not worry about entering the competition, especially when it finally passed 3000 words. I shared the story with my guildmates, and since I had a positive response, I thought I'd post it on here after the deadline for the entries.

    After finishing the story, I also decided to use it as inspiration to write a captain's log based on the same incident, which I have submitted to the competition. I've included it below as well. It was interesting to think about what the captain might say in her log about the same event.


    William's Story

    As the fog surrounded them, the crew of the Excelsior glanced around nervously. It had been a long journey, and now when they thought they were close to returning home to their families, suddenly the familiar mayor's house had disappeared from view.

    The grand old airship regularly flew above the clouds, and when she dropped back down, the vapour would roll over the gunwales and around their feet. Some of this fog had crept in in the same way, as if they were walking through wisps of cotton wool, but while normally they could see over the top of the clouds, this smog had surrounded the ship in every direction.

    "Hold fast!" Came the call from a window on the upper cabin. William had only signed on at the start of this journey, but the sound of the captain's voice immediately gave him a greater feeling of security. He'd heard enough stories from the rest of the crew about previous trips, and now seen enough for himself to know that Captain Sonya Graham would bring her normal calm to the situation and see them through.

    "Bring in the lines, all stop," called out the captain. "Samuel, get up front on the bow. Keep an eye out. We were close enough to the moorings that I don't want us to drift into the mountains without any warning.

    The engines quietened and although they couldn't see anything, William had been part of the crew for long enough to know the ship was drifting to a stop. He finished tying up the ropes at his station, and moved back along the port side to see if Melissa had any jobs he could help with.

    The Excelsior wasn't the sort of place where you stood around waiting once you'd done your own work. Firstly, the captain or her first mate would quickly find something for an idle deckhand, but more importantly, the rest of the crew would let you know back in the bunks. The crew were fiercely proud of the standards maintained, and you either got on board with that mindset, or got off at the next stop.

    As he approached the boatswain, Sonya Graham called out again.

    "Mel, get me someone to shimmy down and see how far this fog drops."

    Melissa looked around, and seeing him approach, gave a him a nod of the head. William altered course and headed up to the top deck to get any specific instructions before hopping over the side, and down the rope that had already been thrown out for the purpose.

    He climbed down, using the woven loops to hold himself securely. While he could have quite happily climbed a normal rope, the airship had several specially designed ropes with loops after every foot to make climbs easier, and also give you something more to hold onto should life get a little rough. The Excelsior's trove of artefacts and information had lots of ideas that made life a little bit simpler, and if they couldn't find what they wanted in the files, then the captain was just as likely to invent something herself.

    His final instructions had actually come from the first mate on this occasion, but it wasn't complicated: get down the rope and climb below the fog to see where they were. As he moved nimbly down, the fog didn't appear to be getting any thinner, and in fact he was losing sight of the rope above him without any benefits in the other direction. He could hear muffled shouts from the ship above him, but with no clarity in the sounds.

    He kept descending until suddenly his head popped out below the mist. Far below he could see an army camp setting up; just making out the banners for the elite troops that indicated a recent return from an epic raid, and in the distance the mayor's house reappeared. He kept climbing to get a better view of the problem above, but eventually the loops ran out, and he reached the limits of the rope. William paused for a while. Looking up he could just see a ball of thick fog with the rope jutting out below. There wasn't much to tell, but if there was anything that stood out, or was different, then he needed to take careful note.

    William realised that although he'd been climbing through the brume, his clothing was still dry. Normally when they dropped through the clouds, the crew that were still out on deck had to go back for a change of clothes upon reaching the base of the vapour, the water droplets soaking them to the bone. He climbed back up to the bubble and waved out a hand. This mist might be wet, but it seemed to surround him without touching, and as his hand swung across it moved to maintain the distance from his skin.

    He climbed back up to the ship, and reported back to the captain. She listened quietly to his information, and only the merest twitch of her lips betrayed any discomfort at the news of the encompassing cloud. She also digested his observations on the lack of contact he had with the fog, and her brow furrowed as she ruminated on what this might mean.

    After a few moments, Captain Graham spun on her heels and strode towards the gunwales. With only a brief hesitation, William followed, having not been officially dismissed. As she reached the edge, she waved her hand out into the fog, and William watched as the fog moved away from her hand as it had done with him previously.

    "I don't know whether it's self-aware, or whether it's an automatic response, but this fog is not interested in us specifically," the captain said out loud. She spun again, and began to call out orders to other members of the crew.

    "Harry, get a team together and organise them down with Samuel at the bow. I want them ready to fend off if required."

    "Beth, plot me a course. We know the mountains should be in front of us, so I want to reverse our previous manoeuvres and see if we can ride out of this."

    The first and second mates moved quickly to complete the tasks assigned, with the second mate calling over the most experienced helmsman in the crew to follow her piloting.

    William made as if to return to his station, but the captain stopped him.

    "I want you to stay with me and keep an eye on the fog," she said. "We may not know much, but you've been in the middle of it and may be the best person to notice if anything changes."

    The crew flowed around the ship, the usual watch taking their positions, and those who had been on deck ready for the welcome home, filled in around them with poles ready to push off if they got too close to anything. William noted that his bunkmate Peter had filled the gap at his position. Captain Graham climbed up to the navigation desk, continuing to shout out orders, but the crew already knew what to do, and William realised she was talking as much to help reassure and keep them calm, as to actually inform their movements. As he had felt the benefits of her words earlier, he could see the tension ease as they went through their familiar tasks.

    The second mate finished working out the details to reverse their previous travel. "Captain, we're ready when you are."

    "Docking speed only," replied Sonya, "Let's not rush this."

    Beth relayed the instructions to the helmsman, including the new direction for the trip, and the crystal driven engines rumbled back into life. The ship gave a minor jolt as they started to move.

    William observed that although the fog was still surrounding the airship, it had noticeably thickened around the Excelsior's engines when they revved up and as the ship began to move. At the same time, one of the other airmen was resupplying the engine room, and tendrils of the fog begin swirling out towards him and the case of crystals he was carrying. He began to pass this on to the captain.

    "We know it's not interested in touching us, maybe it's the crystals the fog wants," suggested William.

    Suddenly a call came from the starboard side. "Mountain!" shouted the eyes at the railing.

    "Hard to port," screamed the captain, and the helmsman swung the wheel. The whole ship creaked at the sudden swing, and then juddered as the keel scraped against the rocks over the side. Crew rushed across to push their poles out and attempt to keep the ship from too much damage. The boards on the starboard side continued to crunch the stone as their momentum kept them moving forwards, and Captain Graham leapt across the navigation deck and pushed the handle to increase the power. The burst from the engines swung the airship around quickly and away from the mountain. She then pulled it completely back to cut out the propulsion.

    A crewman on the starboard side leaned over to inspect the damage. His report was positive, a couple of timbers would need replacing, but nothing that couldn't wait until they dealt with their current problem. The mountain had already disappeared from view, but its presence would show on the ship for at least a little while.

    "Right, let's not try that again," said the captain. "Looks like this fog is turning us around. William, what were you saying about crystals?"

    "The fog definitely reacted when the engines started, and also when a case of fuel was being carried across the deck. I think it's interested in the crystals."

    "Then we need to test that theory and see if it can lead us to a solution."

    The captain had some crystals brought up from the hold, and immediately the fog began to send out a stream towards the box holding them. She took one out of the box and the stream suddenly snaked forward and snatched it out of her hand, retreating to the cloud. The entire bubble around the ship pulsed and grew denser around the section where the crystal had disappeared, while at the same time thinning around the opposite side, enough that a faint outline of the local scenery appeared against the gloom. After a few seconds the fog returned to its former state.

    Now they had confirmed the crystals were attracting the fog, they had to figure out how to deal with it.

    "We saw the fog thin on the opposite side to the crystal," said Harry. The first mate had rejoined the senior crew on the navigation deck once they'd decided that stationary was probably safer than the first attempted escape. "How about throwing a couple of crystals aft and trying to sail forward when the fog weakens?"

    No one disagreed with the suggestion, so the team moved into place and got ready to carry out the plan. The first mate went back to the team of fenders, and the helmsman prepared himself for a quick start. William accompanied the captain to the rear of the Excelsior with the box of crystals.

    "Get ready," she instructed. "You open the box, I'll throw the crystals and shout to the helm. Keep your fingers crossed."

    William nodded in agreement, and got his hands ready to open the lid for the captain. The fog was already reaching out towards them, and his palms were slick with sweat. He hoped his grip wouldn't let him down at the vital moment. The captain counted down, and when she reached zero, William swung up the lid. Sonya grabbed the crystals, and as the tendrils snaked out, threw them into the fog. As the captain let them go, she called out to the crew on the navigation deck, and the helmsman threw the engines up to full power.

    Unfortunately, this was when William realised the problem with their plan. With the engines running at maximum, the fog was attracted to them almost as much as it was the crystals the captain had thrown. While some of the cloud had flowed towards the crystals, the rest had gathered around the engines and been dragged along as the airship shot forward. Once the crystals had been consumed, the cloud rejoined around the ship.

    "All stop," called the captain. "No point risking another crash."

    Around the ship, several members of the crew were looking around at their closest shipmates, with some consternation. Although they had confidence in themselves and their captain, this wasn't looking good, and they were all wondering what was going to get them out of this situation.

    Luckily the captain had some of her usual inspiration to hand.

    "The basic idea was okay, but the engines are the problem. We need to move quickly, but without running them at full power. It may sound a bit extreme, but we're going to cut them out entirely."

    Her team looked around with interest, while William was now the one with consternation on his face.

    "Captain, won't that mean we just drop out of the sky and crash?"

    "I'm hoping we won't need to drop quite that far, William, just far enough to escape. At that point we can restart the engines with just enough power to stop us from falling, but hopefully not enough to attract the fog again. I also have an idea to get the fog to move further away from us at the same time. Someone needs to fetch the arquebus from my cabin."

    Once the arquebus was retrieved, the captain handed it to William, sending him down to the stores.

    "William, get a couple of crystals and break them up. Mix them with the serpentine and load the gonne. Keep the end covered when you bring it back up, as I don't want the fog going straight for it."

    While William went off to complete his orders, the crew scrambled to secure the Excelsior. As an airship, things were normally fairly tight anyway, but the ship wasn't normally expected to drop vertically, so some things need adjustment or extra ties. The captain and her first and second mates went around checking everything was done correctly, and making sure all the crew knew exactly what was going to happen. While the equipment on board was going to be fully secured, the crew needed to be able to move fairly quickly once things got going, so they would have to have somewhere they could brace themselves.

    On his return, everyone was in place and ready for the next attempt to escape the fog. The helmsman had strapped himself to the wheel, with one arm free to reach the switch on the engines. The captain was over at the side, both arms free for the arquebus, but a rope around her waist to secure herself to the rail.

    The captain took the weapon from William, and he took another rope to strap himself to the railing as well. Captain Graham looked around to check the rest of the boat was ready, and aimed the arquebus up into the air above them. As she prepared to squeeze the trigger, the helmsman was ready to cut the engines completely.

    As the roar from the arquebus ran out, the switch was turned and the engines stopped. As William's ears stopped ringing from the shot, the silence hit him. The ship was rarely this quiet, even when docked the engines hummed with just enough power to keep the Excelsior in the air, and William hadn't been part of the crew the last time the airship was on the ground for repairs. Without the engines running, there was a rather spooky atmosphere onboard, and he was surprised how much he had gotten used to the normal buzz.

    Then the ship began to fall, and the wind rushed up passed them. It roared like the arquebus, and without the engines running, all the fog was pulled towards the crystals the captain had fired into the air. The ship dropped through the bottom of the cloud, and they were free.

    The helmsman turned the switch back to fire the engines, but it clicked across without any change in their downwards progress.

    "Try it again!" screamed Sonya from the railing next to William, and the helmsman flicked it back and forth. William glanced behind him and over the side of the ship. Although they'd started at quite a height, the ground was now rushing up towards them at a ferocious pace.


    The helmsman had a look of terror on his face as he frantically pulled the switch back and forth. The clicks from the toggle pounded in William's ears and the ground seemed impossibly close in his eyes, filling his vision completely.

    Suddenly the engines roared into life, and William felt his whole body compress against the deck as they accelerated upwards. The momentum carried them down several metres further, and they heard the keel crash into the trees below. William reflected that it might need more work to sort out than the brush against the mountain earlier, before his thoughts turned back to the fog.

    Far above them he could see the cloud, but whether they were far enough away, or whether it was sated by the crystals it had already absorbed, it didn't appear to be making any move towards them. On one side captain began to untie the rope holding her down, while the helmsman was clearly trying to recover his inner calm after the fear caused by the misfiring engines.

    As the rest of the crew began to unwrap themselves from whatever ties or braces had held them down, Sonya Graham reached down and hauled William to his feet.

    "Take my arquebus back to my cabin, and then report to your station. We need to get back to dock."

    William did as he was told, and slotted back into his usual position, giving his thanks to Peter for filling in. The airship was sluggish with the damage to the bottom, but they weren't far from their usual base, and it'd get them there without too many problems.

    The Excelsior drew towards its dock, the waiting crowds littered with faces shocked at the damage to the ship. Others had seen it all before, and were only curious about what had happened on this occasion. As they got closer, William spotted Annie in the crowd, and saw hers was one of those showing shock. He hoped she'd get used to it once he'd returned a few more times.

    After the crew had finished stowing gear and unloading cargo, William headed for the waiting rooms where his girlfriend was sitting rather impatiently. He spotted the captain and first mate deep in conversation and looking at the underside of the airship to assess the damage. He walked on past and reached the door in.

    "William?" called out Captain Graham. He turned at her voice and looked across the field.

    "Good work today, you did well up there. Get a good night's sleep, early start tomorrow to get on with these repairs."

    William puffed out his chest and marched confidently into the waiting area. As he hugged Annie he realised that although he'd enjoyed his first trip, that final touch really made him feel part of the Excelsior family.

    He'd finally found his true home amongst this crew, and he couldn't wait to get back out on the next adventure.


    And my actual entry:


    Captain's Log: 02/09/2016

    Interesting encounter today with a mysterious fog. The ship was surrounded by what I can only describe as an entity, given that while I wouldn't necessarily characterise it as intelligent, it definitely reacted to our presence.

    When I waved my hand towards it, the fog moved backwards to avoid contact. It was however interested in the crystals we use to drive the airship and many of our other technologies on board. The fog gathered around the engines when they were fired up, and sent out ribbons towards a box containing them when it was carried across the deck. When the crystals were fully exposed, the fog raced towards them and snatched them out of my hand.

    I theorize that the fog consumes the crystals for some as yet unknown benefit, but that it is not extremely sensitive to their presence. While it was attracted to the engines and the box, it did not seem to be aware of the stores inside the ship, and so the thickness of the hull and internal walls blocked the fog's senses.

    We tried to reverse our course and navigate out of the fog, but it appears that the fog confuses sense of direction and we narrowly avoided a serious incident. I would not recommend anyone try this approach in any possible future encounters.

    In the end we escaped by distracting the fog with some crystals. Throwing crystals into the fog and firing the engines was unsuccessful, as the extra power only attracted the fog again. We were then successful by firing some crystal fragments into the air with an arquebus, and cutting the engines at the same time, dropping the ship vertically downwards, before firing the engines up again. The fog followed the crystals, and did not chase the ship afterwards.

    Should any other captains meet this entity again, this approach should work next time, but I would recommend keeping an eye out for any unusual fogs and try to avoid if possible. Note: we were surrounded very quickly and out of nothing, so this may not be possible, although without any specific criticism, the crew are tired after a long journey, and it is possible something was missed.

    Ship Notes:
    Excelsior needs repairs to the starboard side after scraping across the mountain, and to the keel after dropping further than expected into the trees.

    Engine starter needs a complete overhaul before setting out again. The engine did not restart when required, and we were lucky it finally kicked in before we crashed. The engine needs to start on first attempt.

    Crew Notes:
    The crew acted with credit throughout the incident. They kept to their jobs and those not on shift quickly came to provide extra support.

    Special credit to William Cuthbert. After joining the crew on our last visit to our home port, he acted bravely and with distinction. He climbed down through the fog without hesitation, and made important observations on the situation. His help in the final escape was also commendable. He has fitted in well with the rest of the crew during this journey, and I hope he will stay with us in the future.

    Ensure all airship captains receive a copy of this report and the actions carried out to escape the fog.

    Complete repairs as previously described.

    Signed: Captain Sonya Graham, Excelsior.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    That's a very nice story, thank you for sharing it with us!
    Come join HOWL one of the best guilds in Northisle. Don't be scared, we don't bite (much)!

  3. #3
    Skilled Student AnteroTurku's Avatar
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    Dec 2015
    Helsinki, Finland
    Really nice work! - I ended up sending my own entry even though it became 1000+ words... :/

    Uncle Antero's Fish Platter Emporium

    Here to make your Island have that extra special stench all year around!

  4. #4
    Original Serf sandygk's Avatar
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    Oct 2015
    Really enjoyed reading your story, very well done, and thank you for sharing.

  5. #5
    Community Manager
    Ruler of the Land BB_Saqui's Avatar
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    Aug 2016
    Thanks for the entry! Just to double check, you definitely submitted it to the SurveyMonkey website right? Posting it here doesn't count as an entry.

  6. #6
    Original Serf
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Yeah, I posted the Captain's log as my entry to the survey, after realising my first piece was far far too long.

  7. #7
    Community Manager
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    Aug 2016
    Quote Originally Posted by Adishem View Post
    Yeah, I posted the Captain's log as my entry to the survey, after realising my first piece was far far too long.
    Brilliant - it's a good story and just wanted to make sure it went to the right place. Thanks for sharing!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    im too late to do the competition, but here is an offering oof mine from the captains journal and the search for the lost islands


    Day 1

    First day of the expedition to the lost Islands, although we are not travelling at high altitudes the visibility is so poor I have had to commission some high powerful lights from the ships provision master, I really didn't think that the lights would use so much steel to make, we will have to weigh anchor and purchase more steel. 100 bars of steel does not go far nowadays it seems.

    Day 2

    The thick fog seems to be lifting, at least we can see below to navigate better, I wish we had not left the star maps behind in our excitement and prospect of all the treasures. Finally we see land ahead where we might be able to restock our provisions and hopefully get replacement star charts.

    Day 3

    Finally after getting the 300 map pieces we managed to barter our way to getting some local star charts. Now we can properly see our next heading. The problem is which way is North on these maps. After much deliberation and wild guesses we headed north in our search for the lost islands.
    The Excelsior had been heavily damaged in an electrical storm, we need to find a place to anchor and wait the storm out. The sheer severity of the storm we are now being forced to travel south, we need to make a stop somewhere where there is an exotic wood-smith for we need to repair the hull of the Excelsior for the cost of 200 exotic planks.

    Day 5

    We have been told of a set of mysterious island to the south of our position, I wonder if this is the fabled Lost Islands, only time can tell. We will need to make food provisions, luckily Aunt Irma gave us 30 picnic baskets to feed us on out journey, they sure will come in nice and handy right now.

    Day 6

    Such a bright and glorious morning we have today, below I can see the islands the wood-smith was telling us about, I hold myself in trepidation and excitement at the same time.

    Day 7

    The jungle is so dense we need to make camp and craft some Titanium Machetes and protective clothing so we can continue in this deep region.

    Day 8

    Finally we was able to make some new weapons and set off to through the jungle, soon we began to hear faint noises in the distance, I hope that is a friendly commotion rather than any unpleasantness.
    Eventually we came to a clearing, crouching down into the grasses we are able to see the spectacle before us. In the clearing we can see tiny people dressed in modest grass clothing, gathering berries and making makeshift baskets to carry their produce, I wonder if they would appreciate our Aunt Irma's empty baskets. I think we should leave them a little way off from us so not to startle them.

    Day 9

    The first contact albeit a short one was a delight to behold. One of the villagers happen to see the baskets we put out for them to use and the next moment the squealing was almost deafening, in a flash all of the baskets was taken and the gathering was once again taken up in a feverish attempt to collect the erst of the berries and fruits before the sun began to set.

    Day 10

    Today became our first contact in verbal form, sleeping under the canopy of a huge tree we was awakened by something sharp prodding us in the torso's upon waking we see out local neighbours standing over us with pointed wooden objects that can only be described as mini javelins, I sincerely hope that they do not think that we are of offensive nature.

    Day 11

    Finally after what seemed like hours of fruitless attempts to sign to our hosts that we mean them no harm I am beginning to think that they are having second thoughts to our appearance being of offensive in nature.

    Day 12

    What I can only describe as a 2 foot nothing in his grass boots of a leader is emotionally thrilling, his happy go lucky antics are keeping us entertained for hours as he tries to speak of adventures in his rudimentary effort at communication, what I have managed to conceive from his strange gestures that a great time of misfortune had befallen his tribe and their gods are displeased with them. I did as did my crew try to reassure them that the storm was not some deity on the warpath but a natural phenomenon that can be revered as a wonder of nature but alas they was adamant that their storm gods was displeased with the tribe ans atonement was necessary.

    Day 13

    For the better part of the morning the tribe has been seen carving large wooden totems of their gods of thunderstorms and other wonders of the modern world eyeless sockets look out from the idols staring into the heavens, finally after what would be seen as their evening meal time I was approached by the leader of the tribe alongside his wonder-maker, not much taller than the leader, all dressed in ceremonial bones, pouches of foul smelling items and necklaces of brightly coloured semi precious stones and small metal items.
    After trying to make educated guesses at their language, I could just about make out why their deity is displeased with them, apparently wild birds have taken the gems out of the eyes of their gods making them blind and their food offerings have also been stolen by the local wildlife.
    This looks like a mercy mission only we can help out with, I half excitedly / half curiously attempted to communicate our good will gesture to the tribal wonder-maker that we will help in the return of the gemmed eyes and food for their offering to the merriment of his dancing and chanting I think we got our point across.

    Day 14

    Our journey begins with a hearty meal of energy rich berries and fruits, our bodies feel like Olympic champions after eating such a feast and off we go to retrieve the lost items of our new found tribe friends. We encounter many different species of wildlife heading towards the caves east of the encampment, from tiny rat-like critters to giant canines hungry for their next meal. At last after many hard battles with not only the local wildlife but flora and fauna alike we emerge from the jungle at the entrance of the subterranean catacombs for which the tribe calls Mugbawah the land of darkness.
    Fortunately we brought the high visible spot beam lights from the Excelsior, now walking through the caverns we can see the wondrous items in these usually dark dangerous caves.

    Day 15

    We finally emerge from the caverns carrying bags-full of gems and trinkets that we think the tribe can make use of. After creating a makeshift early warning system for the tribal leader, we begin to make our way back to the Excelsior when we was nudged towards the centre of the tribal totem. Upon the top of their new totem we can see the Excelsior emblazoned with jewels and gold. It looks like they found a deity that they can be more friendly with than to fear.
    Time to depart from our new found friends, I wonder what their future will bring, and we are all so much hoping that our paths cross again in the future. Who knows maybe we can find other tribes close by that we can help to feel safer.


    Day 1

    I hear there is a cursed village made of solid gold and a kings ransom in gems hiding in another lost civilised and ancient land, I hope this time we don't get eaten almost half alive by big old bats.

  9. #9
    Community Manager
    Ruler of the Land BB_Saqui's Avatar
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    Aug 2016
    Quote Originally Posted by Nightdancer View Post
    im too late to do the competition, but here is an offering oof mine from the captains journal and the search for the lost islands.
    Thank you for sharing your entry with us even though you missed the deadline - was a very fun read and appreciated!

  10. #10
    Original Serf
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Good fun, Nightdancer! I like the way you worked in the goods from the game, and like the prices we have to pay out for quests.

    Totally different style as well, which is a nice way to do it.

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