81 A Path to Freedom (pt.6)

2014

Washington D.C

The Triskelion (S.H.I.E.L.D Headquarters)

Secretary Pierce's Office

Few Hours After the Assassination Attempt on Fury

(Omniscient POV)

"How the hell could all of you lose him!?" Pierce yelled over the secured line at the various HYDRA agents on the other end. He sat at his desk, angry and frustrated, unable to believe what had happened.

"The situation was fluid, sir. We thought we had him pinned down...but he was able to get away. I'm sorry." One of the HYDRA agents told him apologetically.

"What are you talking about!? He was right where we wanted him! All you had to do was finish the job!!" Pierce shouted. "How did he get away!?"

"Sir...we have yet to figure that out." The agent replies nervously. "We've been trying to track him down and the asset is currently still in pursuit, but so far...he's vanished."

A long silence stretches over the line as anger builds within the secretary.

"Find him, now!" Pierce shouts. "Or all of you will be disposed of like the trash that you are!"

"Yes, Sir." The agent replies.

Pierce slams the phone down, furious as he realizes the ramifications of what a rogue Nick Fury could mean for his plans.

"Incompetent Fools!!" Pierce yells as he slams his fist against the desk in frustration.

"Anything I can do, Sir?" Brock asks from his position near the doorway of Pierce's office.

"No...no, I need you here to handle our other problem," Pierce tells him as he tries to calm down.

"As you command, Sir," Brock replies indifferently.

"Good. Let's hope we don't find anything else to deal with," Pierce says to him. "But make sure I'll know instantly if we do."

"Yes, Sir," Brock says, giving the older man a salute before leaving the office.

"At least I have one reliable piece on the board," Pierce mutters to himself as he gazes after the younger man.

************

Washington, D.C

Steve Rogers' Apartment Building

(Captain America POV)

After my talk with Sam at the veterans counseling meeting, I headed home for a couple of hours of rest before heading back to S.H.I.E.l.D HQ later.

Walking up the stairs, I hear the door to the apartment down the hall from mine open.

"Hey, Steve!" A comforting female voice calls out to me.

I look over the railing and see a familiar pretty blonde woman standing in the doorway of her apartment.

Kate, one of my neighbors who I talked to briefly a handful of times, was carrying a laundry basket full of clothes. She was wearing a white tank top and shorts, making it easy to see the curves of her body beneath the fabric.

She turns, noticing me looking up at her, and smiles at me, which causes my heart to skip a beat for a moment.

The woman is gorgeous, and she knows it.

Her long silky hair hangs loose around her shoulders, accentuating the contours of her cheekbones and jawline. Her hazel eyes sparkle with mischief and intelligence.

Even I had to admit, she was beautiful. And even though I only just met her a few months ago, I felt like this woman was oddly familiar to me.

"Hey Kate," I greet her as I make my way up the steps towards her.

"Rough day?" She asks, probably noticing the bags under my eyes.

"Yeah, you could say that," I confirmed as I glanced down at the laundry basket in her hands. "Hey um, if you want...only if you want, you're welcome to use my machine. Might be cheaper than the one in the basement."

"Oh, yeah?" Kate asks coyly, a flirtatious smile playing across her lips. "What's it cost?"

Not expecting that kind of question, I start to fumble over my words. My experience dealing with women lacking, as I hadn't really dated anyone since...since Peggy.

"Uh, no, uh...there's no charge," I told her nervously. "I guess I mean...maybe a cup of coffee?"

Kate giggles lightly at my awkwardness.

"You're cute." She says with a playful grin. "Thank you, but um...I already have a load in downstairs."

"Oh, okay," I reply sheepishly. "Hope to see you around again sometime."

"Same here." Kate waves goodbye and moves passed me toward the stairs, but stops as if she remembered something. "Oh, and I think you left your stereo on?"

"Um...Thanks!" I call back to her, watching as she went down the stairwell, before turning towards my apartment door in suspicion.

Quietly moving closer to the door, I silently place my ear against the wood and listen carefully.

Music plays softly from within the apartment, almost too soft to make out, but definitely recognizable as the music that came out of my record player.

Realizing someone might be in my apartment, I move to the window at the end of the hall and open it slowly, before climbing out onto the fire escape.

Carefully making my way over to the window of my apartment, I peek inside but don't see any signs of life.

Just a dark room with an old television set that I rarely use.

Opening my apartment window as silently as I could, I slip inside and grabbed my Shield that was leaning against the wall by the bookshelf.

Now armed, I make my way down the short dark hall of my apartment, moving toward the source of the music.

I reach the living room and peek around the corner, but I'm surprised to find Fury sitting on my couch in the dark.

He was listening to my record player and had a glass of scotch in his hand.

"I don't remember giving you a key," I say to him, a little confused as to why the man would be in my apartment so late.

"You really think I'd need one?" Fury says as he takes a sip from the glass, groaning slightly as he does. "My wife kicked me out."

I blink in surprise at that.

"Didn't know you were married," I say cautiously.

"A lot of things you don't know about me." Fury states cryptically.

"I know, Nick. That's the problem." I say indignantly as I place my shield against the wall and move to turn on the lights.

As light fills the small apartment, I look back at the man and finally notice all the injuries that he has sustained.

"Wha-" I start, but I'm cut off by Fury's raised hand.

He shakes his head, indicating for me to be silent, and points to his ear, signaling that someone could be listening.

I nod in understanding and cut the lights back off as I pretend not to have seen anything.

"So, how long are you staying?" I pretend to ask as I move over to the injured spy, handing him a notebook and pencil.

"Just tonight. I'm sorry to have to do this, but I had no place else to crash." Fury says as he writes two words on the page and shows it to me.

<S.H.I.E.L.D Compromised>

Reading the note, I'm shocked but try to keep the surprise from showing on my face.

"Who else knows...about your wife?" I ask in disbelief.

Fury writes a few more words and shows me the paper: <You and me>

"Just...my friends." He answers. "I can't trust anyone else."

"Is that what we are?" I ask seriously, trying to glean the truth from the spy's expression.

"That's up to you." Fury responds as he gives me a meaningful look.

Sighing heavily over the new revelation that my current employers could be compromised, I shake my head in confusion as I try to wrap my mind around the news.

"Why come to m-"

*Bang!*

*Bang!*

*Bang!*

Suddenly, three distinct gunshots fired from through the wall behind Fury interrupt my question, and the sound echoes throughout the room.

Fury looks startled by the unexpected sounds, before collapsing to the floor as blood seeps from the three fresh holes in his chest.

"No!" I yell out in horror as I rush to the fallen man, checking his pulse only to find it wavering.

Looking around for the shooter, I quickly decide to grab the fallen spy under the armpits and drag him to the next room, before throwing him down on the bed.

As I move to leave and search for the shooter, Fury grabs my arm and slips a small flash drive into my hand.

"Don't...trust anyone." He whispers hoarsely before passing out.

"Fury!?" I shout as I stare down at the unconscious man.

*Crash!*

I flinch as the sound of someone kicking in my front door echoes throughout the apartment. I take out the flash drive and slide it into my pocket before rushing out of the room to see what's happening.

On the other side of the doorway, I'm surprised to see my neighbor, Kate, holding a gun in her hands as she storms into the apartment.

"Kate?" I exclaim in surprise.

"Captain, I'm Agent Sharon Carter of S.H.I.E.L.D Special Service." She says as she lowers her weapon and looks around the apartment. "I'm assigned to protect you."

"Carter? What?" I stammer in confusion, glancing back at the bedroom where Fury is lying on the bed before turning back towards the woman. "On whose order?"

Kate, or I guess Sharon, follows my gaze and sees Fury for herself.

"His." She states as she goes over to Fury, then contacts S.H.I.E.L.D through her radio. "Foxtrot is down, he's unresponsive. I need medical assistance and reinforcements."

"Copy That." A voice replies over the radio. "Do you have a twenty on the assailant?"

Sharon looks over at me, but I just shake my head before looking over toward the window, where I notice a shadow moving away from the building.

"Tell them I'm in pursuit," I call out as I run for the figure, grabbing the shield from the wall as I barrel through the window and run after the fleeing assassin.

Outside, I see a silhouette jumping from the fire escape of my building onto a nearby rooftop, and I chase after him.

"Stop!" I shout at him as I jump from the fire escape and swing the shield at his legs, knocking him to the ground.

The attacker tumbles down the rooftop we were on and lands hard in a heap.

Raising the shield above my head, I run over towards him and finally get a good look at who I'm fighting.

It was a masked man wearing all black, with some kind of silver metal casing covering his left arm.

"Who are you!?" I demand of him, as I move to strike him again.

Before I can make contact, the man in black moves with inhuman speed and Kicks me backward.

I land hard on the pavement and my breath escapes me for a moment.

He was strong. Much stronger than I expected.

Rolling to my feet, I lunge at the masked man again, this time using my Shield, but he dodges the blow easily and continues to evade my attacks.

I realize that he has to be an enhanced human when I see him dodge another of my blows and punch me in the gut with his metal fist.

Pain explodes through my body. It feels like somebody took a sledgehammer to my stomach. I cough and spit up blood as I stumble back.

The assassin looks down at me for a second, before turning and running away.

I crouch there for a second, stunned as the pain finally begins to recede.

Not wanting to lose sight of the masked man, I run after him and quickly hurl my shield at his retreating back, but as the vibranium shield speeds through the air toward him, he suddenly turns and smashes his armored fist into the shield, sending it flying away from him.

Without hesitation, he turns and runs straight towards me.

I step aside, only to be met with a punch in the gut, followed by a knee to the chest, and another knee to the chin.

I stumble backward and fall to the ground, gasping for air as I watch the masked man jump from the roof of the building and disappear into the night, leaving only a trail of blood and debris behind him.

**********

Washington D.C

S.H.I.E.L.D Medical Facility

One Hour Later

(Omniscient POV)

In the medical facility reserved for only S.H.I.E.L.D personnel, Steve, with numerous cuts and bruises across his body, sits in a chair in the hallway and is being checked over by the doctors as he helplessly watches on through the observation window, showing Nick Fury strapped to a bed, with several tubes sticking out of various parts of his body.

"Is he gonna make it?" Natasha asks as she arrives in the waiting room and walks over to check on Steve.

" I don't know," Steve says as he looks over at Fury. "He got hit pretty bad."

Natasha nods in understanding as she looks over at Fury with concern.

"Tell me about the shooter." She orders Steve as she walks back over to the observation glass.

"He was fast and strong," Steve says, shaking his head. "As strong as me."

"Try to recall everything you can," Natasha says to him as she leans in close. "This guy could be a threat to us all."

Steve looks over at her, unsure if he should tell her, but knowing that he needs to.

"He was dressed in all black, long hair, a mask and goggles, and he had some kind of metal left arm." Steve begins hesitantly. "After the shooting, I chased him down and we tussled, but...he got away."

Natasha looked worried at the news, and it didn't help that she saw the extent of Steve's injuries.

"We'll get him." She tells Steve reassuringly as she looks over to Fury laid out in his hospital bed.

"Yeah," Steve mutters as he follows her gaze. "We will."

Just then Agent Maria Hill enters the waiting area and approaches Steve and Natasha.

"How's Fury doing?" She asks.

"He's stable for now, but..." Steve starts but is interrupted by Natasha.

"Have the ballistics come back yet?" Natasha demands.

Hill, ignoring the woman's rudeness, nodded and replied. "Three slugs, no rifling. Completely untraceable."

"Soviet-made?" Natasha asked, sounding worried.

"Unknown," Hill said. "Definitely not American though."

"Maybe we-" Steve started to say, but is interrupted as a loud alarm suddenly sounds from the monitors attached to Fury's bed.

"He's in V-tach!" A nurse exclaims as she rushes over to start working on the bedridden agent.

"What's wrong!?" Steve, shouts but is ignored as more nurses and doctors rush to Fury's side, pumping his chest as the others turn toward the observation window.

"Defibrillator!" A Doctor yells as he looks over to Steve and Natasha, who entered the room. "Get out of here!"

"What's happening!?" Steve asks angrily.

"The patient is in cardiac arrest!" The doctor repeats, his tone harsh as he looks over at Steve impatiently.

"Crash cart coming in!" A nurse calls out, pushing past Steve and Natasha with a cart carrying the defibrillator.

"He's flatlining!!" Another medic yells as a long beep from the machine begins to sound.

"I want you to charge him at one hundred." The Doctor orders as he grabs the pedals to the defibrillator.

Steve and Natasha freeze as they could only watch on as the medics try to revive their friend.

"Three, two, one. Clear!" The Doctor says as he presses the pedals to Fury's bare chest and the machine sends a small current of electricity through his body.

"Still no pulse." A nurse informs.

"Okay, raise the charge to 200." The doctor says, pressing the pedals again. "Three, two, one. Clear!"

"No response." A medic says as the beeping stops.

"Give me epinephrine!" The doctor orders, still not satisfied with the results."

"Don't do this to me, Nick. Don't do this to me." Natasha mutters, tears streaming down her face as she watches on helplessly.

"Pulse?" The doctor asks anxiously.

"Negative." A medic says as the alarms continue to go off.

Steve and Natasha look at each other, both anxious as they watch the doctors as they continue to try and revive Fury, but the old spy still doesn't respond.

The doctor stands and shakes his head before he speaks as Steve turns away, unable to watch anymore.

"I'm sorry, but there's nothing else we can do." The doctor informs them, looking back over to Fury. " What's the time?"

"1:03, Doctor." A medic replies.

"Time of death, 1:03 a.m." The Doctor announces somberly.

Steve lowers his head as he hears those words, looking down at the flash drive Fury had given him earlier, a determined look on his face.

"Don't...trust anyone." Fury's last words echo in his mind.

**********

Washington D.C

S.H.I.E.L.D Medical Facility

A Few Minutes Later

Natasha and Steve are in the room where Fury's dead body has been laid out. Natasha, looking at Fury's body with tears running down her face, moves over to the body and reaches out to hold Fury's hand.

"I need to take him." Maria Hill says emotionlessly, stepping forward into the room.

Steve goes over to Natasha and tries to place a comforting hand on her shoulder, but she jerks away from his touch and instead, she tenderly touches Fury's head, then turns and walks out.

"Natasha!" Steve calls out as he follows her out, but Natasha ignores him completely as she marches into the waiting room.

"Natasha!" He calls again and this time the woman stops and spins around angrily.

"Why was Fury in your apartment?" She asks suspiciously.

Steve opens his mouth to speak but, remembering Fury's last words to him, he shuts his mouth and thinks before answering.

"I... I don't know." He says, looking away nervously.

"That's bullshit!" Natasha snaps, seeing through the man's terrible lie. "What aren't you telling me?"

"Look, Nat-" Steve begins, but is interrupted as a unit of soldiers abruptly come bursting into the lobby, surrounding Steve and Natasha.

They are dressed in full combat gear and carry assault rifles. The silver S.H.I.E.L.D logo is emblazoned on their shoulders, with the letters S.T.R.I.K.E. above it.

"Put your hands on your heads." One soldier orders Steve.

Steve stares defiantly at the soldiers as he continues to ignore the order and opens his mouth to speak, but is cut off as one of the soldiers points his rifle directly at Steve's head.

"At ease." A cold stern voice commands from behind the soldiers.

They freeze at the sound of the voice and immediately lower their weapons. They all turn and make a path for a familiar figure to enter the room.

"Brock," Steve says, his eyes narrowing slightly in confusion.

"Captain. Agent Romanoff." Brock greets the two, as he casually strolls into the room. "Sorry to interrupt."

"What's going on," Natasha asks, confused.

Brock glances at the woman but doesn't acknowledge her question as he turns his gaze over to Steve.

"Cap, they want you back at S.H.I.E.L.D." He explains.

"Back at headquarters?" Steve asks, confused. "Um yeah...give me a second."

"I'm afraid they want you to come in now," Brock informs him, giving Steve a serious look as the rest of his men give off an aura of quiet confidence.

"Right," Steve mutters, still having trouble processing what was happening.

He looks over at Natasha, but the woman just shakes her head at him and let out an exasperated sigh.

"You're a terrible liar." She tells him as she turns and walks off without another word, leaving Steve behind.

Steve stares behind her and takes a step to go after her, but realizes that this isn't actually a conversation he wants to have in front of everyone, so he takes a deep breath and walks over to Brock.

"Let's go," Steve says quietly.

Brock nods and turns as Steve walks past him, stopping at one of the vending machines that was currently being restocked, before getting escorted out of the medical facility by the soldiers.

As they walk down the hallway, Brock turns his head and looks through the glass of the observation window to Fury's room.

He sees Maria zipping up the body bag and a small, amused smile forms on his lips, and then disappears.

"That man is going to cause a lot of headaches," Brock says under his breath as he turns and exits the building.

**********

Washington D.C

The Triskelion (S.H.I.E.L.D Headquarters)

Front Gates of the Facility

(Brock POV)

As we ride through the front gates of the Triskelion in the back of a truck, the military convoy following us slows down as it passes the entrance gate. The convoy halts as a few armored vehicles pull off to the side of the road to allow our truck to pass.

When we arrive at the main entrance of the Triskelion, the driver pulls off the road and we exit the vehicle. As soon as I get out, my earpiece buzzes and I hear a weaselly voice crackle over the comms.

"S.T.R.I.K.E team, escort Captain Rogers to Secretary Pierce's Office immediately for questioning." Jasper Sitwell's voice says, sounding annoyed.

"No shit," I replied mockingly.

Sitwell doesn't respond as the line goes dead and the trucks we were in separate from the rest of the convoy, which is led by one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. security detail, who are standing guard with assault rifles over the main gate.

"Sorry about all this, Cap," I say as I open the back door of the truck and Steve steps down onto the pavement. "Nothing personal."

"It's fine," Steve says to me, trying to lighten the mood. "Thanks for letting me change into my suit."

"No problem," I tell him.

We start walking toward the front doors of the Triskelion, as my men split off to cover our approach.

"You wouldn't happen to know what this is all about, would you?" Steve asks, looking at me curiously.

"No idea." I lie.

We enter the tall building and follow the path to enter the elevator that takes us up to Pierce's Office. We walk down the hall and as we approach the door, two guards in dark S.H.I.E.L.D. uniforms wave us through.

"You're coming in?" Steve asks.

"Yeah, I've been ordered to," I assure him, noticing the concerned look on his face.

The doors open and we enter the room where Pierce and Agent Sharon Carter are seen talking privately.

They finish their conversation as Steve and I enter the Office.

"Thank you, sir," Sharon says to Pierce as she turns to leave and glances at Steve. "Captain Rogers."

"Neighbor," Steve replies coldly as the woman walks past us and leaves the room.

Closing the door behind her, I take up a position next to it as Steve walks over to the metal table where Pierce sits.

"Ah, Captain." Pierce greets, motioning for Steve to sit. "I don't think we've officially met before. I'm Alexander Pierce, Secretary of the World Security Council."

"I know who you are, Sir," Steve says, sitting down across from the older man. "It's an honor."

"The honor is mine, Captain," Pierce says with a warm smile, looking at Steve carefully. "I see your file is quite impressive. A little too much to be true though."

"Yeah, well..." Steve starts, not sure how to react to that. "My reputation precedes me, I guess."

Pierce chuckles, nodding.

"Well, I won't beat around the bush." He says, leaning forward on the table. "I'm here to ask you one simple question."

"And that is?" Steve asks cautiously.

"Captain, why was Nick in your apartment last night?" Pierce asks him.

Steve looks at the man, and even I could pick up on the nervousness in his voice.

"I...I don't know." He says honestly.

Pierce nods thoughtfully, clearly displeased with Steve's answer.

"Did you know your apartment was bugged?" Pierce asks him.

"I did," Steve says, obviously uncomfortable being interrogated. "Fury told me...before he..."

"Did he tell you he was the one who bugged it? " Pierce asks.

Steve swallows hard but doesn't reply, obviously not knowing this piece of information.

"I want you to see something," Pierce says as he grabs the tablet next to him and taps the screen. It comes to life, showing a video of Batroc, the leader of the pirates who hijacked the Lemurian Star, being interrogated.

"Who hired you, Batroc?" The S.H.I.E.L.D Agent conducting the interrogation asks.

"I told you, I don't know!" Batroc replies, struggling in the restraints. "We never met face to face. All I know is they promised us lots of money if we attacked the ship."

Pierce pauses the video and gives Steve a steely glare.

"I don't get it," Steve admits. "Are you saying he's a suspect in Fury's murder? Batroc doesn't really seem like the type."

"No, it's more complicated than that." Pierce states, "Batroc was hired anonymously to attack the Lemurian Star and he was contacted by anonymous channels and paid by wire transfer. And then the money was run through seventeen fictitious accounts, the last one going to a holding company that was registered to a Jacob Veech."

Cap gives the old man a confused look.

"Veech?" Steve asks. "Am I supposed to know who that is?"

Pierce shakes his head and slides a file across the table to Steve.

"Not likely," Pierce says. "Veech died six years ago. His last address was 14-35 Elmhurst Drive. When I first met Nick his mother lived at 14-37."

Steve flips through the pages, looking them over.

"Are you saying Fury hired the pirates?" Steve asks.

"I'm telling you, Captain, he did," Pierce says, looking at Steve intensely.

"Why would he do that?" Steve asks incredulously.

"The prevailing theory is that the hijacking was a cover for the acquisition and sale of classified intelligence," Pierce says, looking at Steve intently. "Maybe the sale went sour, and that led to Nick's death."

"If you really knew Nick Fury you'd know that's not true," Steve says defiantly, but I could see a spark of doubt flickering in his eyes.

"Why do you think we're talking, Captain," Pierce says, his expression suddenly serious. "See, I took a seat on the Council not because I wanted to, but because Nick asked me to. We were both realists. We knew that despite all the diplomacy and the handshaking and the rhetoric, to build a better world sometimes means having to tear the old one down. And that makes enemies. Those people call you dirty because you got the guts to stick your hands in the mud and try to build something better. And the idea that those people could be happy today, makes me really, really angry."

"What are you trying to imply?" Steve asks, his voice rising.

"Captain, you were the last one to see Nick alive. I don't think that's an accident, and I don't think you do either." Pierce says, getting up from his chair and starting to pace across the room. "So I'll ask you again, why was he there?

Steve stands from the table and clenches his fists.

"He told me not to trust anyone." He says with a heavy sigh.

"I wonder if that included him," Pierce says, stepping in close to Steve.

Steve's expression changes and I notice the anger drain away from his face.

"I...I'm sorry. That's all I can say." Steve says, lowering his head. "Those were his last words."

"Then he was right," Pierce says, moving back to his seat. "Captain, somebody murdered my friend. And I'm gonna find out why. If anyone gets in my way, they're gonna regret it. Anyone. "

"Well, that makes two of us," Steve says, taking a step backward. "Excuse me, Sir."

Steve leaves the room without another word and I move to follow him, but Pierce calls out to me before I can go.

"Major Rumlow," Pierce says.

"Yes, Sir?" I say, turning around to face him.

Pierce stands from his chair and moves over to me, placing a hand on my shoulder.

I glance at the hand for a moment and then turn to face Pierce.

"I think it's time to carry out your mission," Pierce says cryptically, a dark smile forming on his lips.

I give the old bastard an amused look and nod, knowing exactly what he means.

"Sir, yes, sir," I say, saluting him.

Pierce grins and laughs as he turns back to his seat.

"Good luck, Son." He says over his shoulder as the office door closes behind me.

Leaving Pierce's Office, I couldn't help the fervent smile that came to my lips as the moment I'd been quietly waiting for had finally arrived.

Striding down the hallway, two of my soldiers join at my back as I move my thumb discreetly over the hidden comlink on my wrist.

"Is this it, Sir?" One of my soldiers asks.

"Yes," I reply to the soldier simply. "Make sure Jack and the rest are in position."

The soldier nods and touches his radio to complete my order as we walk quickly through the halls until we reach the elevator, where Cap can be seen stepping through the doors.

Just as they were about to close, I place my hand in between the doors to stop them and stepped inside with the two S.T.R.I.K.E agents.

"Make sure all S.T.R.I.K.E personnel are on site." I call back to my men, as I settle beside Steve in the elevator.

"Understood."

"Yes, sir."

They both answer simultaneously, as they take up positions on either side of us.

"Cap." I greet the Super Soldier, who eyes me and my men suspiciously for a second before turning his head back to the closing doors.

"Rumlow." He greets me back simply.

An ominous stillness hangs heavy in the air, amplifying the tension as the eerie smile on my face remains frozen, while the elevator doors ominously slide shut, foreshadowing a descent into the forthcoming violence that was about to ensue.

*********

A/n: Hey guys, I hope you are enjoying the story so far, and as always, thanks for reading!

If you like my work and want to support it, check out my P.A.T.R.E.O.N: /Swarthy, where you can read early chapters or P.A.Y.P.A.L.me: /xSwarthyx anything is appreciated.

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