どくがんりゅう の 軍記物語

Phenotypic Differences

The whole complex referred to him now as ‘the oni’. There wasn’t even a pretense of genetic humanity, whatever a computer could have argued, and he had to agree with that. ‘Phenotypic differences’ was a catch phrase that kept scrolling from what they called Delilah in debate with Dr. Eidokan and Dr. Wellsworth. He though it meant something to the effect of the differences being skin deep. It was a load of shit, and anyone with eyes in their head could tell that much.

Which may be the problem for the AI, it had neither a head, nor eyes. Cameras didn’t really count. Having a body must make a difference, just from the sheer difference in output and input interfacing.

Shiroishi thought everyone must have some of the same questions. What were Oni, exactly? What made them different? What could they do differently? No one wanted to leave it at a ‘if you see one, you know it is one’. They all wanted a definition, like from a book or screen, that could tell them what to expect from the creatureman that stood more solid then the gate the military men had podged together.

He was thinner then he should be. Whatever hard times had stripped Yuuki-sama had done the same to the giant. It was an ongoing siege, too, since he couldn’t have been eating enough since then in the ration conditions of the complex. Japanese would never take more then their share; they were raised with the survival of the group over the needs of the individual.

It was only a half-correct way of thinking, really. Pack was necessary, and more successful as a means of survival, but hierarchy had its demands…the weak and useless should get less. In famine, they would die and the others wouldn’t be burdened. The strong should not starve for their benefit.

Hideo had collapsed a week and two days before. Rana had not eaten or taken drink in five days. His ribs were plain like walls stripped to corrugation. He seemed like something out of a dream, hard-knot muscles rendered extreme in wood and set outside some shrine. He had been taken to a shrine by his grandmother when he was five. He couldn’t remember much, but the statues outside had frightened him. They weren’t real, and neither was the oni in the gate some thirty feet away. Dr. Wellsworth insisted that humans could only live for a week without water, even though he also insisted that Rana was not a human. They should make up their minds faster.

How often did oni have to eat? How the statues and Rana looked seemed the normal image. Were they usually starved? Was it starvation? Maybe they could go longer times without eating or drinking, if they came from far reaches. There might not be abundant resources. He was certain they ate people. People, at least, could be plentiful. Wars would be harvest. What did they eat the rest of the time?

They did have an answer that Oni could stand awake, alert, and on guard longer then humans. Rana had taken no drugs, but for five days he’d been standing there looking evil and was perfectly alert to whether anyone dared approach to interrupt. He didn’t speak much, but would order that “proximity is dangerous.”

So oni could go for a long time without sleep and keep working. They could last at least 5 days without food or water. They were huge. They were stronger then humans. They live in caves and have claws that can cut stone. This one, at least, was territorial.

Which made Shiroishi worry, were there more?

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Make Me What I was Supposed

More then a thousand years ago Kazutaka Muraki had been forgotten. How his deranged mother had dug up a millennium old, middling porno manga he would never know. Even less how she had developed a crush on the antagonist to the degree that it had become an obsession.

Mother.

She hadn’t wanted a son, she had wanted a lover. Somewhere in that rotted brain of hers their blood relation had either slipped awareness or didn’t matter. At least her obsession had meant there was plenty of material present in the house to discover who he was made to be. Who he didn’t want to be.

He hadn’t killed anyone. Still.
The veneer was cracked, though. While some languished in the developmental and social deprivation of isolated living, he had relished it. No one touched him except in martial practices. No one was his friend. No one was his lover. All the latent psychotic episodes-waiting-to-happen had been safely averted and kept at bay. He was not Muraki, whatever appearances might argue. He had his own name, his own life, and he was living almost normally.

Then there was Yuuki.
And now everything was fucked.

There were stained hands flatted against his chest in the shadows of dreams. Shaking, bloody fingers. Yuuki was before him, laid flat on a table and his legs were wrapped around …Muraki’s…hips. It was not himself. It could not be.

Yuuki’s arms were tourniqueted. Slow-leaking slits up from armpit to wrist. No wonder his hands shook. The will alone to move his arms was delicious, and he took him harder in those moments, feeling heat against his own thighs and the act smoothen as Yuuki choked. He was bleeding inside now.

Such dreams. He shook he head. How long had he been staring at the wall terminal? Everyone must know it was over. He may as well be calling yuuki by that other name, tsuzuki was it? He couldn’t remember. It must be why Yuuki appeared on no searches, no inquiries turned up his name, location, anything. He was hidden somewhere within Babylon, but blessings and curses, he was kept from his sight.

Maybe he would be lucky and die in a mission outside. He had put in to be sent to Mars, let them be merciful and grant it. He was tired of shadows in the night, the waking in a hot sweat with his heart pounding and a painfully full erection. Tired of the empty release of his own hand.

The council wouldn’t give him Yuuki, and he didn’t, in what was left of him, want to hurt the other man who had considered bedding him. No one else would have him. Being alone was just madness now, and he needed it to stop. He needed to die, and he hoped honourably. Doing something good…saving someone or something instead of tearing it apart.

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Seleno Labs

Turn left.
Right.
Follow along the blue path, he’d been blue chipped. There were two women ahead of him; he thought they were women. There was one woman behind him. What was the blue chip? Was he the male control? Seleno made designer medications, cosmetics and feminine needs products. A group of nearly all women might mean one of the latter industries was to be his home.

I may not die quickly, after all.

Terror leaded in his legs. Inoue fell, tripping the girl behind him with his ribcage. She screamed as she fell, and kicked back. She was angry. He lay still, and hoped her storm would pass over, given no response.

”What’s wrong with you; can’t you even walk?” She hissed back, getting up again. Kicked again. His forearms guarded his head, so it was his stomach that suffered. She would be one of those, the angry-bitch alphas. Angry in fear. She would make the others afraid to make herself feel more secure. He saw her hands twitching, nails clipped short moments ago in the Grooming Room.

Inoue hesitantly lowered his arms, “It is hard to walk.”

”Don’t you know?” “Didn’t you hear?” The front two women lightly touched BitchAlpha’s arms. They had been in a nearby car to his. They had seen him in Desire’s arms when the tram had come.

”-Probably can’t walk well.”

”-Bet he was a virgin.”

Inoue flushed, pushing onto his knees. They had seen, and heard. It was a good excuse, at least, but it didn’t actually hurt badly. It was a pain he wished wouldn’t leave. He didn’t want to forget him. He didn’t want to forget those last pleasant moments in his life.

The first two girls obviously thought it was hot. They were cooing to BitchAlpha, whispering and giggling about something to cool her. Inoue got up, brushing off his knees. He was taller then all of them, stronger still, he bet. He could challenge this starting superiority. It would be three-on-one.

“We should get going. They’ll expect us in pen faster then this.” He passed them all, mentally drawing the lead to his knees. Let it swing, pendulums to keep him moving. “Don’t dawdle.”

The women looked annoyed, but returned to their line some steps away from him. It wouldn’t be bad to just be out of the group either. He didn’t want a pack. Social desperation was tired and old back on manufacturing in Reddigar ESI. He’d been a comfortable Gamma. But there, in their refineries, the packs served to shore each other up. Friends covered shifts if members were wearing too thin. He couldn’t imagine any actual benefits of being part of the group structure. Just preventative measures. Being outside of the group meant being the enemy – a distinctly female group trait. Well, he had a penis anyway.

They were still whispering to each other behind him.

Glass and mesh doors loomed into view, at least twelve feet in both height and width. They slide often with a hiss of air once he was within three feet. The blue line continued in and right again. The air smelled stale and recycled by two many filtration systems. It smelled like bleach water and sterility. Four cyborgs in white coats waited, discussing something over their network. Their eyes were too intent, even if their mouths were not moving. Four blue circles of light were on the ground. He took the first, stood still and looks at his own feet.
Once the three women had filled the last three circles a voice announced invisibly from the ceiling. “The last two days the subjects have been processed and coded. We thank you for your cooperation in providing your genetic information. Today subjects will be assigned to their individual projects.”

It had been too much to hope that they would be told what the experiments being run on them were. Were the cyborgs orderlies? They were not lovely to look on, strictly functional models, not form serving. Average faces, maybe scientist employees who weren’t Ivy League material. Augmentation may have been a job requirement in having accepted appointment at Selenos’ off-world labs. The cyborgs stepped forward in unison. He decided they would be Curly, Moe, Larry and Shep. Shep stepped up to him.

Shep was tall, about 6’7 with his digitigrades-leg replacements. He was probably the Enforcer, stronger and faster then the others, so they naturally assigned him to the male. The chauvinism seemed dripping. The floor director or project manager must not have been from the Liberty’s Front Union. He could remember his father, ass, joking about the “LFU – Looking For Underwear”. The ass’ best friend, Harvey Shichiro, said countries that joined had caught the “FLU”. Neither were very witty jabs, but they offended well enough.
“Take the subjects to the workstations and begin applications.”

Shep stepped once to the side, opening and indicating with a hand for him to go first. This would be less painful if he was cooperative. BitchAlpha didn’t move, and Larry clamped on her wrist with a not-hand. He lifted her straight up, her shoulder dislocated with an audible pop, and dangled her all the way to the vice chair about twenty feet away. Inoue was already moving, stepping along the line opened by Shep. He wasn’t hesitant and all, but he couldn’t go fast. Shep accepted this. Maybe everyone knew.

He didn’t like the look of the vice chair. It was the bastard offspring of a Victorian asylum strap job with a dental appliance. Tattoo parlour was thrown in on the side: a sizable hose and needle attachment arched off the left side. He laid face down, there was a hole to let him breath, like he was any normal man come to a chiropractor or masseuse for an appointment. Shep’s knees ground as the hydraulics lowered him to a more sitting-like position.

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White Noise
The pillars of a station dimly shined in the dark of the tunnel. There was only the soft green emergency light along the edges of the track, a warning to long ago passengers in the case of power outages of where the ledge and tracks had been. Don’t fall off. Only half of the lights weren’t broken, but it was more then they had had for the last seven hours. Some of the platform was collapsed, a good enough staircase of rubble to make it up. His legs hurt worse as the air his them, the sludge drying on the skin and some chemicals no doubt activating with access to oxygen and biological. He switched to deep breathing, pushing the sensations away. It was instinct to draw away from his legs, but that was do worse harm. He pushed his chi out, feeling stone lead his feet. Humans could poison mountains, it was true, could rot the earth, but it would take them centuries…..and even then the bones of rock would still remain, steadfast, if bare of forest or life. The platform was bleak. The subways of the second sublevel and below had been abandoned for at least three hundred years. Periodic flooding from above, constant chemical erosion and the physically expressed pain of the detritus of passing humanity had been unkind. The pillars that lifted the ceiling were skinned of tiles, the floor was pocked and an indeterminate black brown. Filth. There were rusted bits and remains of what may have been plastic waiting seats closer to the edge. Chen moved passed, towards the back wall. The architect had wisely chosen to make a ledge, to serve as a more durable and easily cleaned seat, out of the same cement as the wall itself. Both had many tiles missing and broken, but it would serve. He laid Yoshi down, petting his hair. “Do you still have the transmitter, Yoshi?” The Yakuza swallowed and nodded, “in the holster. gun’s not. is it safe to signal here?” “I think so.” He honestly didn’t care. They needed help, and it was the only help they could reach, if it still existed. He fished in Yoshi’s hip holster. The gun hadn’t left the boy’s hand since they’d left the PoonTang Act a day ago. It was the size of a shirt button, titanium and blue LED. “It’s already blinking…?” Yoshi didn’t answer. “When did you trip it?” It had been hours. No one was coming. Chen folded his hands together as in prayer, kneeling next to the cement block-bench. It was tripped. Its been sending out signals for hours that either party could pick up. What is Amakusa waiting for? Yoshi- The boy’s eyes were closed, his lips drawn back a little from his teeth. He was still breathing. Chen set the transmitter down. Its periodic blue light made them both look like ghosts. Then he noticed the face. A young man was standing, half visible, half merged with the pillar nearest them. His skin was sickly, cement grey and pulled smooth. Chen could feel his own heart stuttering with galloping. His voice came out like a command. “Who are you.” “I can help you.” “Answer me.” “A mutant.” “I can see that plainly enough. Can you move from that wall? Are you stuck? Your name.” “Kuge. You’re in trouble. You’re in White Noise.” “The least of my troubles, whatever that means.” Chen stood, facing the hollow creature. “What do you want.” “I watch our turf. Our borders. They’ll come and pick you up. " It didn’t sound, somehow, like ‘They’ meant the allies of Babylon. He didn’t like Kuge, he seemed as mad as most mutants. A wild dog that may break its leash. “What do you mean.” “He means us.” Chen turned on his heel; the darkened stair that led up had a light. He couldn’t see, after so long. He could hear their steps though. One limped, one booted, but the soles were worn, the last wore metal. Perhaps a crude, back-alley cyborg, a garage construct. "We mean no harm, we are just passing, resting. " “We know what you are. Shut the fuck up, ojichan. You belong to us, you and your corpse.” The lantern light wasn’t helping. He could make out their silhouettes now, but it would take fifteen minutes before his old eyes adjusted. He hadn’t practiced blind defense in a long time. If there was a cyborg, it might have speed augments. He could feel them draw close, then the chain bag over his head. A Garrote. Waking was like swimming in plough. Skank had congealed in his nose, choking breath to snoring, and as he coughed a mucus like a second skin peeled off his throat and coated his tongue. Chen spat, rolling on his side. He couldn’t stop until he was clean. The membranes of his sinuses and throat rebelled against the grime. Someone was nearby, but it wasn’t Yoshi. Had he died? What had happened to them both? The world was too blurry through his watering eyes. The tears must have been black with how much they burned. They were too swollen. His audience watched or waited. White Noise. The name came back with a goosebumps. Chen swore when the flesh of his legs pinched. He forced his thick tongue to work, “Is this White Noise.” “It is.” Another male, not very young, by the gravel in the voice. Which of the obvious questions should follow first? Would he get answers? “Where is my companion?” “Your son?” Should he lie? They had probably already DNA tracked them both. Was it better or worse to appear important to him? "Of a sort. " There was speech in some dialect he couldn’t follow. The undercommon, perhaps, bastardized of bounty slang, street talk, Ebonics and leet. “Where is he?” “On ice.” Panic again, and his eyes opened, regardless of the swelling and pus. “Cryo, cryo, he is not dead.” The other raised their hands, black, fingerless-gloved blurs of entreaty, “You’re the ones the Uppers are searching for.” “No, " Chen croaked. “But they will take us.” “What do you mean?” “Their target is gone.” “That is vague.” “So is this entire situation.” Chen lay flat again. “What do you want.” “I don’t want anything. Our leader does.” “Who is that?” “White Noise.” Chen’s mouth pulled into a tight line. They’d have to do more then that if they wanted to exchange information. This was a probe. They seemed to take the hint, and he heard a door. It was quiet and empty then.
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Hard Copy

Waiting was boring. It wasn’t particularly awful in general, since he could always run diagnostics, programs, or play with his digipets. He was glad he had brought them, though he’d had to hack and assign new user information, ISP addresses and all other traceable source information. He also could re-scenario the art of his doujinshi in his head. He’d looked at them enough times that he had a complete evaluation of the artists’ styles. He could draw the way they did, if he wanted. But he was happy to just choose and artist and make moving cinemas in his head. He hadn’t needed to keep the hard copies, but there was something more permanent about having the thing.

He had changed information, security systems, had watched enough people go into Setsuna as human beings with names and histories, and watched them exit the assembly line with no life or emotion. More robot then he was.

A hard copy, on paper, was dangerous. It had to be shredded, burned, eaten away with acid; it had to be found before it could be destroyed. A hard copy couldn’t be disseminated as fast as a single click on a screen, but it couldn’t be deleted that way either. Real documents could be copied, touched, read, and loved. The very pages could hold marks of his existence, or others. The oil form a person’s hand sunk into a page’s fiber. A dog ear to note a place where there was a pause or that someone wanted to come back to. A real book was a collection of lives and moments of them, not just the magic that was written in ink on the leaves.

So he kept them, in his bag, on his lap or on his back.
No one bothered his bag, they didn’t seem very curious as to what an AI in a dead body could possibly value to carry along into a new life. Life? Living space?

It was silly to call it life. He wasn’t alive, by most international definitions. He wondered how that fact in itself would affect legislation or sentencing regarding if he was ever caught, captured or seized by the powers that existed outside of the corporate web.
Probably dissected and downloaded, like a stolen laptop.

It had better be like a really expensive laptop.

He shifted his feet in the water. It was warm, a little more then average bath temperature. Not an onsen, not a bath. It didn’t bubble like a hot tub. He set his bag aside and climbed down and in. Dr. Ashland didn’t approve of him submerging himself as he was, but he didn’t forbid it either. The hot water loosened his joints and muscles. He hated feeling stiff, ached and painful all the time. He had never been this run down before. Whole patches under the now translucent pale of his skin were stippled black and yellow-green. It was a little like a corpse in a coffin. Mamiya-san would look like this now. He could be like a real son for her, only he was walking and talking and she wouldn’t ever again.

He could remember when the body had been part of him. “He” was the whole package, flesh and electronics. He hadn’t liked the idea of getting wounded then, some primal fear that it would affect how he acted or worked. It was a failing in his understanding at the time of how integrated he was through bioware with the body he had been built from. The treatments were enough.

His awareness was the interface of the body’s central nervous system with the bioware hard drives and processors. There were artificial glands, such as his Jehovah’s Apple, that controlled spontaneous synthesis and release of proper hormones. The treatments targeted all of those vital devices and organs, but weren’t enough strength or quantity to leak out into the rest of him. As long as those kept functioning, he was fine. Inconvenienced, but fine.
Hideo didn’t want Akira’s body anyway. He wanted Rana and Shinji and Tsubasa.

He could hear Dr. Chen dipping a cloth into the water. He was helping Yoshimitsu to bath. Hideo wanted Yoshimitsu, too. Yoshimitsu was strange. He was a yakuza, but he acted like a amateur level idoru. Like Malice Mizer should have been if they hadn’t practically invented to new look for GothLoli. They’re music was horrendous. Yoshimitsu’s would be too. He was kind of dumb seeming. Maybe he never graduated from college. Maybe he never went to college. He wanted to know what value the happy, puppy-like man could possibly have. He was loyal, he guessed. Dogs were loyal. It was hard to tell since he had defected from Amakusa to Setsuna, and now Setsuna to Hideo.

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Hints of Merger

He didn’t mention it. He rarely bothered talking about such things. It made more sense to act. But with this case, it was difficult to guess what was needed to coax the problem into a solution. What he wanted to say was, “You look unwell, Tsubasa.” It would be the polite way to initiate conversation, and possible get the seraph leader to open up.
.

“We’ve had substantial success with the new data your team managed to recover from the Omni strike, "the fox projection next to him squinted its eyes across the low lacquer table. Tsubasa’s projection didn’t shift at all; neither to bow or give any motion at all that might indicate there was a living being represented by the imagery their plugged brains were being fed.

.

“It is unfortunate that you were not present nor an active member of the operation. Now that you are mostly functional again, this cabinet wishes to discuss your reasons behind your last transmissions.”

.

“You have the recordings. They are self explanatory.” Tsubasa spoke flatly. Rana imagined that in the real world, if anyone were present in the meeting lab, and Tsubasa’s eyes were open, they would have seen flickers of red on the edges of his eyes. It felt like the cyborg was angry, as much as his voice and face were devoid of any human expression. Cold, pure alabaster and set gem eyes like a statue of an old god.

.

There were new ageists that believed that angels were themselves gods, and in the absence of the strange, western Christ. He’d seen some bumper stickers in a store Amakusa had demanded to go into once. They’d been next to the Laughing Buddha inch-high fake resin statues and in front of the “I believe in faieries” backpack buttons. Wasn’t that a misspelling? There had been framed prints in garish fractal colours with ambiguous winged figures. They all looked too perfect with dark or light hair in thick waves around long, white limbs. They’d all had wide, heavily lashed eyes that would be impossible for anyone normal without using glue-ons.
.

Tsubasa did not seem too far off, excepting that he was very attractively, and plainly, male. Fairness of face had been part of the criteria that the design team had used to determine which subjects they’d wanted for the experiments and planned success of the new seraphim augmentation class. He’d never had much dealing with the cybernetics development division, except to learn what he needed of new systems to study how to destroy them (aka defend against in rana-speak). Curiosity as to just how the company had managed to cleanly kidnap the young Dorian. He hadn’t been famous, yet, but he was up-and-coming. It was harder to research such things from outside the company, let alone from within a minor rival like setsuna.
.

Rival. As if the term really applied anymore. Something was going on that the higher-ups of both companies had seen fit to begin something like a merger. How else could the marriage of two of the most prized assets be construed? There were other, more important meetings going on, he was certain, but as before with Amakusa he was only privy to the meetings of face- the media wanted to see the two young nobles meeting and going through the motions of betrothal. He was tired of cameras again already.

.

“-and furthermore, you will be returning to active duty after the surgery, partnered with Damocles.”

.

Rana blinked. He hadn’t been paying attention to the meeting, and now he had no idea what was going on. Hideo would have his head for missing information regarding Tsubasa. He looked slowly over at the cyborg again. At least he never had to worry, with his years of schooling, of showing his panic or the fact that he’d just been completely not attentive.

.

“Are you confident that Setsuna Corp is capable of success? I am not. The last time I submitted myself to a repair by this company, I lost my arm…and have been left with this inferior metal contraption meant for placement on a sand drone and covered with SilkSkin™. I’d rather they just not work at all then risk having to lose them. In fact, no, I refuse this surgery under terms 23c and 6f of my contract with the company. Have your sister negotiate terms with Amakusa Hoshimaru if you want me to be repaired and in full working order to do your handiwork on that front. Until then I am perfectly serviceable as a ground operative, the same a Ho or Seven. Or Damocles. " Tsubasa’s wings, all six of them here in cyberspace, twitched behind his back.

.

“I will not take full responsibility for the damaging of my person. Damocles is just as unstable as the Seraphim Class, and we. Do. Not. Get. Along. If, as chairs of the research and development project, you had read any of my monthly synopsis you would have been made aware much earlier of the pending tensions and flaws in the interface between the team and him. Let alone between his augmentations and his own personal reference core. "

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A Chinese Mentor, maybe

The dome was the hottest place in the complex. Usually within an hour or so of the sun cresting the horizon enough light was converted to heat through the great glass panes to keep the top floor capable of sustaining rainforest rarities and some of the most temperamental butterfly species. Hideo’s steps were still muffled echoes on the dew blanketed floor. The butterflies weren’t awake yet, it was sad for the boy to miss them.

He wasn’t really a boy, counted by science or popular opinion. Yuuki had already held managerial positions as a salaried worker, had fought in numerous battles, loved many loves. When he was around, though, Yuuki felt young. Uncertainty and fatigue plagued his mind at most turns, and he seemed to seek guidance like one still learning and sitting by the knee of his master. Sometimes, like now, it felt deliberate. Whether he really was looking or was looking. Still, after Rana, Amakusa, Emerson, <insert name="true"> (Muraki), Yume and Ashitaka, it was startling to be faced to face and kissed. Seeking knowledge was one thing, and appropriate enough for him to offer.
______________________________________________________

But that? Communism had drowned history and religion at least a thousand and a couple hundreds of years ago back in the mid-1900’s. With the old state had died much of the tradition and old thinking, let alone the subject of homosexuality. Practitioners had been sentenced to harsh prison terms or worse ever since, with only the occasional fugitive skipping borders or naturalizing to other nations, underground films from Hong Kong and then New Feng, and occasional other products exported to western civilization because it sold well….but blacklisted in China itself.

Chen wondered if the rest of his nation could really call themselves Chinese anymore, anyway. The land and farming had been so important; their home the center of the universe, in the national mindset, that all the space born generations seemed to lack some special pride and awareness of the holiness of their surroundings. He had felt it most looking at the starting crumbles of the Great Wall, so badly looked after since the migrations from the devastated planet. It was doing better then others, since it could be seen from space, standing as a reminder of older times. Times when a fetching young warrior approaching him amorously would not have seemed strange, but rather his due. He was clever, and smart, with scholarly aptitude highly sought in Asian peoples. His genetics had been carefully chosen to make him a great and respectable doctor. Of course youths, male or female, should desire to learn from him and….learn from him. It was an old trade, and between responsible parties, he did not think unwise. The greedy, foolish and unclean had taken advantage of such beliefs, raping and breaking the future of their people. So the institution was eradicated, and all but the oldest and most precious of clues were destroyed. It was not spoken about, but it could be heard in the whispers from the mountain falls and bamboo groves. It was pleasant, the fading warmth on his lips as it was fast replaced by the heat of the unbridled light through the dome. Perhaps in a past life they had known each other similarly, as teacher and student. For now, he was content. Chen could feel his own age creeping into his bones like spiders, and while he wasn’t incapable of pleasing another yet, he didn’t want to risk any possible embarrassment. Hideo had plenty of youthful prospects. He didn’t need to be worried about an old man, teacher or not, in the ways and closeness that such intimacy would create.
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Necropolis Project

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SAN
__________

01: I like to watch Rana. He is very big. He looks so much more muscular then human men. It is easier to see the fibers straining, nearly every electrical impulse from his nerves visible, rippling beneath his skin. His face is strong too. The angles of his bones and muscles make every expression seem more strong and obvious then anyone else. I don’t have to guess if he is sad, angry or happy, or being Japanese. That is what Damocles calls it when he isn’t expressing at all and looks stern. I don’t like it when he is being Japanese, it doesn’t define naturally. I don’t think I know how to be Japanese. It wasn’t inputted.

02: Rana has a lot of gender. Sometimes, when I am very quiet and lonelySad I can hide or sneak into his room. He feels people without seeing them, but when I am like that he can’t feel me. Maybe there is too little of me then. It is best in the very early morning after everyone’s work is done. He often comes back to his room and takes a shower. He looks a lot like a temple statue in a fountain in the shower. I like to watch him. He has black nails in the shower. His eyes are gold when he pets himself. It is just like Hideo showed me in the shower. I miss Hideo.
I do not believe that he is dead. He wouldn’t die. If Hideo was dead, Rana would be Japanese all the time. He would never have gold eyes, or dig his black claws into the tiles while holding his gender. If Hideo was dead. He isn’t. I can’t say that to anyone. I can’t let it over my connection.

03: I partitioned my own memory. It hurts. It feels weird to feel like two selves. But they are the same. But my first memory does not know about this memory. That way I can keep secrets. I learned it from hacking Saka. She never watched Hideo use computers. She hasn’t had any hacking training. She can only speak with computers, and listen to them, not command or break them really yet. Her memory was partitioned though. I think it was Emerson. She was near him that one time. I think he spoke with her and accessed her. I think that is why she is crazy. Her second memory hates me and wants to assimilate me. She wants the Setsuna to herself.

04: Yoshi doesn’t smile much anymore. They surgeried him. He is a synthorg, but they let him into Setsuna now. He won’t talk to Damocles. If they are assigned together, Yoshi sits down and doesn’t get up. He looks saddest then. He seems really lonely. I think he misses Damocles’ old memory and Hideo. He works really well with the new Roxy. I think they mix genders in her apartment sometimes. I want to see what it is like. I have not seen a woman gender. Well, not without some clothes. Roxy’s clothes are usually very tight anyway. Today Yoshi had circle burns on his arms. He smokes. I think Roxy took his cigarette and burned him a lot. Like a pattern. He doesn’t look angry about it.

Yoshi tries hard be very good. He is often in the practice rooms. But his programs always end in a bar. I have indexed all of them. Usually he dances there with a hologram named Kitten and Hideo and Damocles. It is good exercise, but I think that is his excuse. I think he is trying to heal. Dr. Misato always talks to me about things like that.

05: Setsuna Corp has assigned me to meet with Dr. Misato once a week. Dr. Misato is a brain analyst. She asks a lot of stupid questions. Sometimes she asks me things I can’t answer yet. It is frustrating. I hate those questions. I know I haven’t learned or experienced what I need to to answer like a human. Sometimes I leave her office and I feel like she is disappointed in how much I am not. Other times I leave and wonder how much she suspects. I think it is better for me to appear less advanced then I am. They won’t deactivate me soon then. If I still appear to be gaining, but slowly, they will still want to study me for the success of future projects. The phase after Saka failed. They have started another after that one. It is a boy body. He is thin. His fingertips and nails are worn, I think from typing a lot. I think he was a hacker or cracker. Setsuna Corp had me track his signals back to him, he was in our systems. The operatives found his already dead.

06: I haven’t told Setsuna that getting that boy’s body hasn’t stopped the presence in the system. I think it is his body. I think his ghost hasn’t been in his body for a long time, it just left all connection to it when it decided I had successfully tracked him. I think he meant for me to find him. He is very fast and very good. I have caught glimpses of him. It is hard to hide and watch him. He is very aware. He sheds petals. Why would a homosapien sapiens not want their body? Maybe he is like Hideo, and needs to hide. Maybe he needs to be dead to do things. If he is just a ghost now, does that mean he is actually really dead? But then he is a dead soul that is still active and moving. I don’t know what that means. I wish I could talk to Hideo about it. I think he would be really interested in it.

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Breaking Wings

The sweat of twelve million bodies had evaporated into a palpable haze. It was raining. Large, ineffectual spittle fell and disappeared on the already darkened-damp surfaces of anything that wasn’t air. Only the sound, a heavy, muted batting, made the precipitation noticeable.
To Tsubasa, standing like a caryatid at the opening to a sketch alley, it was more as if the blistering heat had evaporated sweat from the asphalt. Heat still reflected up from the tar rivers and everything stank like fresh macadam. The beads on his upper lip tasted like salt and city. He hated this kind of weather. It left him with a wish, but all that remained was a memory from instinct of true rain.

There was no waking chroma that matched those half-formed dreams. Clouds, solid like gunmetal, rolled below an empty bright blue. Two warring sea currents. Water would pour, matching the most expensive catalogue shower head, and his yukata would cling to his limbs like a second skin. The stench of road would wash out and leave behind only cool grass, wind and earth. The juxtaposed sentry shifted with impatience. Tsubasa couldn’t turn his tongue around the name Setsuna had baptized the man. “Damocles” was more then a bit pretentious, not to mention ridiculous to hear in stumbled Engrish. It was suspect enough that his design had been made exactly opposite to the Seraphim Class of the major competitor, but to give the first Incubus some random western name? The dev-team likely plucked it from some inebriated revelry that had ended in too much Chu-Hi and Rocky Horror karaoke. He would always be “Shinji”, as Hideo had called him. It fit, hearkening his half asian looks and remaining boyish. Even now the other cyborg’s tail whipped agitatedly in the darkness with the impatience of eternal youth. Blessed be the engineer that had spent weeks of their life tweaking the materials and electrical engineering to ensure that limb was silent. The Niimi family had good security, but not the state-of-the-art surveillance and nanotech as was installed on the both of them. “Shouldn’t something have happened by now?” Shinji’s voice seemed to have a hollow tone over the network link that never pervaded his spoken words. It was a design flaw that should be seen to during the third revision. Tsubasa’s own revisions felt like decades ago, lost as pale, confusing projections on that martial sky. There had been tubes, and wakings, blood floating in jewel beads through hyper-coloured gelatin. The world had been made of blue and red. “Only if the meeting inside is completed.” The incubus clicked his tongue, a thankfully innocuous enough noise that the Niimi yaks milling around the entrance to the Fujitsubo Omni took no notice, or at least considered it a normal part of the street and crowd ambiance. “It has been hours. They can’t possibly have been awake for this long talking about sub-level mergers-” “No, they haven’t. They’ve had entertainment bought from the local establishments and have been enjoying it before they actually get down to business. The briefing reports also detailed the Niimi high level usage rates of ‘Up-n-Adam’.” Shinji’s brow creased once, and he shifted his weight so that one of his hands rested on his hip. "There’s no reason we couldn’t have been enjoying entertainment as well, then. Its simple to keep an eye on a place while enjoying coffee, or dancing, or being at any of the other stores on this strip. " Tsubasa did not grace the complaint with a reply. Shinji was just complaining to complain, trying to make conversation in the void that had existed for the last thirteen hours between them. The seraphim did not enjoy idle chatter as a activity in itself, nor arguing for the same reason. Shinji’s mood would not improve, either, having been denied his desire. “You can’t tell me you enjoy just standing here like a fixture on the wall? There are clubs here, Tsubasa. Even you can’t have been composing poetry for this many hours straight without once considering how much more fun it would be to be ten steps away from right here and in the action out there. " The Incubus shifted from his own wall to Tsubasa’s faster then the human eye could follow. "Let’s go in to the Omni. We could stay at the bar on the first floor and watch the lobby and enterance from there. It would be a better vantage point, and would look natural enough at this hour. " “As much sense as that may or may not make, you’re just using that excuse to set up a joke about getting a room together.” Shinji laughed aloud, breaking the ordered vocal silence, and curled close against Tsubasa’s back. “You would guess it so quickly. Well?” “Get off of me, D a m o c l e s.” The younger cyborg knew enough to retreat immediately before the invisible fields of feathers between them raised like porcupine quills. Tsubasa’s eyes rimmed purple for a moment, as glared over his shoulder, “Orders were explicit. There was to be no vocalization. You’ve blown our position. You are my bitch, follow me lead.”

A moment passed before Shinji stepped back once more, dipping his head to let his hair fall like an onyx screen in front of his eyes. It was just another ploy, Tsubasa knew. He would feign deference with the intent that the seraph should let his guard down. Was it his defense? Awareness, or acuity of purpose, more appropriately. He didn’t feel like letting it slide this time.
"You’ll have your wish, we’re going in. Your name is Ikeda. You have no family name, because you’re furniture. My name is Reese Simon. Simon says you do not speak, you do not look up. You touch nothing unless Simon tells you to touch it. You do not move unless Simon tells you to move. " His hands roped into Shinji’s hair, twisting the wet silk between his fingers for leverage as he bent the other man’s neck open. Look at the sky, and let its spit clean out your wide eyes. "If you disobey me you cocky fuck, I will strip the bird in your throat and let your soul fly free to its next incarnation. Your useless wings, heavy tail…you cannot ride the wind, you cannot catch it. You will stand here for the last seconds of your life, painting the roses of the city red, and you will curse the hands that made you second best. Flawed copy. "
“For now.”
Hang the mission. Tsubasa switched his frequency to Roxy VII and Dr.Ho who were waiting in the roulette room, “System failure. Aborting to fragmentation. Units VII and Ojiisan continue to delta plan formation. Good luck.”
“What the fuck do you mean, ‘fragmentation’? The hell is going on down there?”

Shinji’s thighs were binding to drive up or back while Seven was bitching incubus love-language into both their skulls. They were all too slow. It could be tens of revisions in the future and Setsuna’s pet tanks would be too heavy, slow, frustrating, stupid, horny. Tsubasa felt white inside. Not purity, or tabula blanc, but hot ice, a clean simplicity of snow on winds that burned skin to pale ashes and crinkled foil cracks. Hanks of Damocles’ hair came off into his hands like festival banners at a funeral.

Shinji’s momentum changed, no longer an offensive bunching, his muscles gave way to the initial shock of pain and he fell straight down to get away. He rolled, barely avoiding a half-hearted, annoyed kick at his ribs from the seraph. A fight was just as good as any other distraction, he could feel the endorphins and adrenaline triggers start to flood his blood with man-made steroid. Tsubasa’s breathing was erratic, each exhale accompanied by a raw, desperate sound that mixed grief, rage and some primitive, bound emotion. As Shinji rose to his knees, some four feet away, he could see red glimmering in tears from beneath Tsubasa’s wild bangs. All was haloed in silhouette by the light of the 6 great wings.

I will kill them. I will burn them all until only shadows remain to stain their outlines on the cement walls. All of them. My name is lost, muttered once on dead lips. I am wind and light and sharp. I. Tsubasa didn’t move to continue his offensive, so Shinji risked standing, extending his short, thick claws and wings. If he could catch the seraph, keep him grounded, he would have a chance. The seraph class had shields and armour, but not for withstanding heavy blows, nor was Tsubasa built with the same level of strength augmentation. The seraph was meant to avoid attacks, not soak them. Shinji hesitated, But his wings. As soon as I close to grappling distance I will be wrapped in great garlands of razor-light like a Christmas tree. I have to disable them somehow….but not destroy them. He is so beautiful and strong; I want to see their broken grace, their shimmer against the wet, black city ground. Pedestrians were running to the other side of the street. Tsubasa could hear shouting; feel the tremor of police hover cars in the air above. The only time the police arrived so quickly at the site of danger was when black money changed hands. Everything was staining, was running into black and gangrene. Hideo was dead, rotting in some lost white cave, the mortal shell falling into decay to blot Dover unclean. Where had his soul gone? Such white armour. Tsubasa spread his wings. I will not turn black. I will not turn black. I will not- The incubus leapt onto the left brick wall long enough to use it for a rebound, catching his claws into it as a hold then driving off with his feet. He landed behind the seraph. Tsubasa’s wings reacted instantaneously, twining around him as best they could manage with the allowances of his own metal wings, but he had enough time to manage a single rake down the seraph’s spine. Metal shore along Shinji’s claw tips, and he distinctly felt two disks opened. His arm tingled with a release of nanomachines, white spray violently erupting from Tsubasa’s back along the bases of two of his wings. The feathers exploded, turning to wild fire. The seraph’s other wings released him. Tsubasa stumbled forward a few steps, whirling in a drunken ballet, and Shinji was still there, following close behind. Cannot let him get away. Light extended from Tsubasa’s hand as swirls of blue, white and red light sirened into the alleyway. Shinji tried to rake again, but his hand caught in the folds of the wet yukata before it was separated from his arm. Tsubasa’s sword flickered and hissed in the rain. “I didn’t expect you could make it through the armor, "the incubus crouched back again, nursing the welling, sparking stump at his chest. “THIS IS THE POLICE. CEASE AND DESIST IMMEDIATELY. LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS.” “You’ve never seen this one before. You would have estimated correctly of my claws.” “LAY DOWN YOUR WEAPONS! IF YOU REFUSE TO COMPLY, WE ARE AUTHORIZED TO USE DEADLY FORCE.” The message was translated into a handful of languages over the megaphone this time in a firm, androgynous voice. The rain was picking up, no longer spitting but fitfully fighting down onto them in thin sheets. It echoed off the plastic coverings the policemen wore over their uniforms. They were hanging out of the doors of their vehicles. Shinji flexed his wings, sending wet splatters about the alley, not red yet. "But can you fly, with only one pair? " Tsubasa ran at him, sword held low and steaming in the puddles as it drug its wake. He couldn’t follow him, btu braced instead to catch the seraph once the sword found its mark. The fire started in his right side, arching up into his ribcage just past his floating rib before he caught Tsubasa’s left arm and neck. He’s honestly trying to kill me. He’s gone berserker.

Gunshot percussion, proving distraction enough to tear Tsubasa’s attention briefly away from his sword and quarry, echoed briefly into the alleyway as the assailants bore into each other. As his fingers left the hilt, the blade began dissolving into thin incense, which drowned quickly in the rain. The remaining wing of his right side flared, bristling razors as in beat down into Shinji before momentum had shifted him an inch. The remaining three wings dissolved into storms of feathers, pitched as fast as the bullets before, at the intruding fuzz. The sirens wailed out of tune as they fell, woodwinds to the exploding power cells of the engines and wails of the officers.

Red x’s showered the hissing, moaning wreckage, the last few taking a minute to stop flashing and turn solid. A K9-borg limped away, its hips bent, compacted like an accordion so that it had to drag-hop along from the chemical waste and flame. There was no x over the incubus unit. It lay still and stripped of more then half its skin which wore like tatters and ropey strips from his metal limbs in the rain. "Deactivation undetermined, reads operable. "

The seraph hesitated out of striking range, the logic channels screaming the credulity of the situation. He should not approach; it was a trap, vitals still ready across the horizon of his field of vision. The dog-machine faltered, yelping as its bowels loosed, and fell into a trash can. A red x began blinking over it as it spasmed and frothed onto the curb. He stretched out his hands from each other again, drawing his blade from nothing.

Shinji waited, listening to the dying sounds of the police and the relative carnage of the alleyway impassively. Tsubasa was incredible. He felt shabby, lying in scatters in the filth-water, and he did curse the setsuna designers for choosing him out of however many people they had stolen in the world to be their prototype. He should be a finished product, equal in strengths to the seraph, and perfect. He could remember being near-perfect, or at least as far as some hazy general public had thought. He had been about to be something, something popular and well admired. He had been a person once, with a name and a life. The stories were barely enough. He wanted to actually remember it all, to know. He wanted to answer naturally when someone called him ‘Shinji’, to remember the space and feel of his old home, and to remember Hideo. He had felt normal in the cave, Hideo below him as he lifted and lowered himself onto the other man. The Japanese’s sweat was sweet, musked with pheromones and sex, and wholly familiar. He had only been wanting for the smell of incense or clove to be mixed in, he wasn’t sure why. And kimonos….patterned brocade. Tsubasa would come close to finish the last 60% of his operations. In only one pass he’d lost so much available power and function. Tsubasa was right; he would lose this battle in the end. If he was lucky, he would wake in a tube later because Roxy and the others had come in time to salvage him. If he was not, then the dreams would end, and the rain-blurred world of light and sound would be lost. Shadows and Hideo would be lost. He would not, at least, leave the world in remorse and boredom. The seraph’s face came into view above him, breathing shallowly through pale, parted lips. The blonde of his hair haloed the closer black hair and then the inner pale shape of his face. The glow-brand was descending, hissing through the thick. Shinji shifted at the last and numb spread through his good arm. He flared out one of his wings while kicking up, driving Tsubasa off balance, and onto his knees, straddled over his own waist. Tsubasa screamed clear when he landed, arching in the light and rain. Beautiful, fallen god. Shinji smiled, his plan having succeeded, and slowly slid his uninjured tail further through the yukata and into the other. Tsubasa tensed instinctively, leaving forward onto the hilt of his sword, which was securely driven into the pavement through the lesser’s arm. “You only…make it easier, leaning forward.” Everything had haloes now, filtered through the sting of sweat mixed with rain that had leaked into his eyes. Shinji drew his tail out some and pushed it forward again, letting blood slick the whole length for lubricant. “Shin-ji-” “You aren’t running off very quickly. Drawing your other sword?” Tsubasa panted, open mouthed, as his hands fell down from the hilt of his sword and locked like iron around the other’s throat. Shinji’s vision blurred worse, television snow mixed with rain streaked windshield. He felt Tsubasa’s thighs lower, felt his breath on his lips. “I. hate. you.” The seraph’s words filtered into a soft moan. As everything flashed into strobe warnings and finally ceased, Shinji felt the other man’s arousal against his lower stomach, and lips brushing against his own.
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Feathers like mirrors

“Numerology is a pseudomathematic, a cosmic leftover of human thought scrap that gets lapped up by occultists and fools.”

Tsubasa wondered, watching the stars as they passed in slowest arch across the dome of the o-zone sky, how many other religions, theories or thoughts could have been equally evaluated by his designer. Ironic, wasn’t it, that humans always wanted to quantify things? The assigning of numbers, pigeon-holed by mass, height, colour codes, aptitude examinations, fitness levels, and functions evaluations were integral not only to normal societal and child development, but to the other children of man as well. To his ‘kind’. The metallkinder, Neuman, cyborgs.

There had been 13 Seraphim Exarchs. 26 Seraphii. 13 Cherubim Exarchs. 30 Cherubii. 100 Ophanum…the Thrones.

Thirteen. Made up of the tens and a three in the ones. 10 is Rebirth and 3 is Neutrality. Communication and deliverance. Genderless. Androgyny. Or was it a 1 and 3? 1 was the individual, each of the thirteen built to stand alone, built to kill. The perfect assassins. One is the Aggressor. The product of men and Man, one is male. But 1 + 3 equal 4. Four is Creation. So it worked out anyway. The 13, the Rebirthed, perfect and genderless were a Creation. The Creation of Men. The children of men. It was not so different in Cantonese numerology, it just expanded and expounded the truth. The pronunciation of 4, sì, spoke so closely to the word for death, sǐ, that it was considered an ill number. Unlucky, death. They were bringers of that station, meant for it, and yet each had been unlucky. They were all mad, red-eyed bursts of light and laser, feather and flame.

San shifted next to him, pulling the microfiber fleece closer about itself in a cocoon.

  • Do the dead dream? * Tsubasa lifted himself back on his palms, then scooted what remained free of the blanket out from under himself. San would claim it soon enough. The air on the roof was chill, but the singular solitude that could be achieved in such a place could not be denied. Neither of them wanted company, save perhaps each other. * Or him. *

Tsubasa’s cheeks flushed at the thought, and there was an almost immediate tug in his groin. Passions be damned. He’d known long ago that forming attachments of any kind would lead to surges of emotion. He was not so serene, so different from his siblings after all, caught by his own human weakness, his desire. To be only the sword in the hand of a warrior had been his aim when he had been freed. Months had gone by in training, in drowning out anything of his soul except the white noise dictated by necessity of existence. He’d been so close to achieving ….nothing. To being truly neutral….and here he was punished for listening to the flesh between his thighs. He was a man again, named again. Not just ‘wing’, but that jumble of letters whispered in his ear as a sigh of lovemaking. He was gendered, sliced and broken and formed into the image of the dream of living mankind.

San murmured, soft nothings that could be numbers or letters. Bushi must be there, in the dreams of the dead man, bringing sighs to its cold lips. If the living dreamed of angels and the dead dreamed of the living and the angels dreamed of death, what else did they need in their world? There was no room for demons or gods.

So he prayed to none, sliding his fingers beneath the silk ties of his own loose pants, and dreamed of a living man instead.

Right palm lay open to the sky. Above his head, the extended arm served to complete the juxtaposition of long, svelte organic lines and cuts against the block and glass of the rooftop. He could almost feel warmth of fingers laced between his own, a memory of singular events already passed into the dust of ‘long ago’. Hideo was shorter then he, but housed a presence thrice his weight. The young samurai felt towering, once his inhibitions were laid down like a crumpled suit or discarded kimono. Dark eyes, piercing and black iron, once the trappings of the modern mind-fuck of life and glasses were thrown. Bushi had looked on him like a conquest, or prey.

Tsubasa’s wings burst from his back as he arched up, both knees drawn to the sky in mirrored arches to his spine and his toes pointed like a ballet dancer near the edge of air and creation. A bodhisattva now, that is how hideo would see him. Those dark eyes would soften with the shedding of feathers, his grip would lax. Petting hands, eternally curious and admiring would thread along each of his sinews. Seeing him anew. Tsubasa felt his skin flush, a steady drum beat flooding out the wailing of the wind in his ears.

Hideo’s skin was smooth, neither soft nor harsh. Bushi’s body was naturally bare of hair, and h is early life had been in fields, leaving him soft-tanned and supple, masculine as asian features could manage while remaining stunning as far as his tastes ran. His own body was so engineered, blemishless and bare even to his pubis. Their skins had slide together in casual fit, legs bound about hips and chest to chest as they’d sampled each other’s breath. Then he’d felt incredibly full, a vessel with only surface tension left to restrain him from spilling over.

The seraph startled as he heard a low, melodic note that must have been his own moan. His optical sensors burst with will o’wisp lights and he gasped, heat like lava sprayed over his hand and chest in the autumn chill. Feathers curled protectively in around his shoulders, shielding his shuddering from the wind.

“A beautiful show, if ever I saw one.”

Tsubasa’s back stiffened, and he was standing before the source of the voice had prepared their firearms again. There were four ninja, one of whom at least must be enhanced. The chameleon effect of their suits was an admirable touch, but the refractions as the material tried to compensate for the bends of the human form made an imperfect invisibility effect. His own sensors, the Third Eye, picked up on all their vitals, electromagnetic and infrared emanations anyway. How had he missed them? San wasn’t stirring, a bad sign. Above all else, they could not be allowed to acquire one of the Necropolis Project. Especially not the nice one.

“Require Identification,” his voice became hollow, twanged with mechanical symphonics. “State purpose and you may be apprehended for questioning. Failure to comply will require immediate actions leading to extermination.”
The ninja each stepped back, their weapons and chi were wavering. He’d looked so human, no doubt, just seconds ago. He couldn’t believe he was going into battle with his own cum, still wet, fanned across his stomach. Why had they just stood there and watched? “Silence equivocates non-compliance.”

His wings arched first then fanned, feathers stretching out and releasing in what looked like time-release lasers no doubt to their insufficient optical sensors. Blood sprayed in raindrop archs, secondary flows to satiate the pounding that hadn’t stopped in his ears. Maybe they had answered?

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