Friday, January 25, 2013

Against My Better Judgment

I recently acquired a copy of that masterpiece of 1990s game tie-in media, "Kindred: the Embrace."  I vaguely remember watching the first episode or so, but no more than that (because, honestly, it's terrible).  But, my wife is traveling this weekend, and I needed some sort of entertainment, so I decided to do a "While I Watch" sort of summary of the first episode.

It ran to nearly 4,600 words, more than anything I've written in months.  And now, I inflict it upon you.

Kindred: The Embraced 01

OK, let's do this thing.

San Francisco.  Judging from the traffic on the bridge, it's got to be early morning.

Written by John Leekley, so I'll know who to blame.

Hey, people are running around on a rooftop.  Are they playing tag?  They surely can't be vampires because the sun's up.

Meanwhile, a car pulls into a building (the same one?)  Out jumps our hero, C. Thomas Howell, replete with 90s hair, and black dude.  From conversation, we know they're cops.  Also, black dude is skeptical about why they're following up on an anonymous tip (who used one of those voice box things that you hold up to your throat).  But C. Thomas Hero knows this is his one chance to get mob boss Luna.  Grrrrr...

Detective Black Dude remains skeptical.  He thinks C. Thomas Hero is obsessed about Luna because of some woman.  This leads to, I shit you not, a fifteen second plot dump.  Or backstory dump.  Anyway, Detective Black Dude?  You're now Detective Exposition!

Back to the roof.  It is broad daylight.  Seriously.  Like high noon.  Two dudes in suits have caught this other dude with long hair and a leather jacket.  Assuming these are vampires (EVEN THOUGH IT'S BROAD FUCKING DAYLIGHT), my guess would be a couple of Ventrue goons whomping on an Anarch (probably Brujah or Gangrel).

And back to the cops.  Turns out they are in the same building, and they're about to storm the roof. Detective Exposition takes a moment to inform C. T. Hero that they are night shift and it's almost day.  Uh...seriously, are you guys looking outside?  Because it's like 2 PM out there.

Hey, it's the guy who was the Master's muscle on that episode of Buffy in season one.  Or will be, since this pre-dates that series.  Hooray for typecasting.  His well-dressed buddy has the hairy biker guy laid out on the roof while he takes what looks like a TV antenna (on an under-construction building?) and says, "This is what Clan Brujah does to Gangrels."  Wait...what?  Brujah in three-piece suits?  Clearly I missed that memo.  Anyway, Beef McBrujah "stakes" the Gangrel with a cross shaped piece of aluminum.  Symbolic?

And the cops are on the roof.  I can't stress how obviously broad daylight it is.  Seriously.  The fact that everyone's squinting is a major clue.  C. T. Hero fires off a warning shot and tells them to put up their hands.  The Brujah comply, but are clearly up to something.  The Gangrel says, "Arrrrgh."

Sure enough, the Brujah jump off the building in slow-mo.  While the cops are trying to wrap their brains around this, the Gangrel goes up in flames.  Unsurprising,really, considering it's the middle of the day.  As he's burning, he says, "Tell my Prince...I told them nothing...I gave them nothing."

(I should note that the close up on the burning Gangrel consisted of a tight shot on the guy's face with someone holding a torch over one corner of the shot.  It's a really cheap effect.)

Scene shift, we're at the Coroner's Office (that's what it says on the door, along with "Pull"). Hero and Exposition are explaining to the Coroner what happened. Coroner wants to know about the accelerant.  BUT THEY DIDN'T FIND ANY!

Hero gets pushy.  He wants the dental records so he can prove that Crispy Gangrelson was actually Stevie Ray, Julian Luna's bodyguard.  Really, Stevie Ray.  This makes Mister Coroner angry. HE IS THE VOICE FOR THE DEAD!  So, respect his authoritah, goddammit!

Hero convinces the Coroner it was spontaneous combustion, thereby tagging his Scientific Curiosity Aspect (hey, if they can't be bothered to stick with V:TM canon at this early juncture, I'm not limiting my commentary to a single game system.  Fair's fair).

Exposition wants to know if Hero really saw the perps go over the wall.  Seriously, Ex?  YOU WERE STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM.  How'd you miss it?  All of which leads him to having a bad feeling about this.  I suspect poor Exposition may go the way of all 90s black sidekicks.  Hero thinks there's a logical explanation and he's not going to let these mobsters get away with this "Macabre Crap."

Another exterior shot. But this time, it actually looks like, well, dusk.  It is, I'll concede, an improvement.  We've got an establishing shot of a schmancy mansion looking place. Close up on an ornate door.  The glass in it is frosted, depicting the face of a wolf.  And behind it, looking through the wolf image, a man's face.  Quick cut to interior.  Ah, it's Mr. Luna.  His associate advises him to be patient and not frenzy.  For those of you playing Masquerade Bingo, so far, we have Brujah, Gangrel, and Frenzy.  And, I guess Embrace, since it's in the title.

Anyway, Luna is already talking about Stevie Ray in the past tense.  He wasn't just his bodyguard, they were buds.  He wants reewengeh!  Or revenge.  Anyway, this older dude, we'll call OLD VAMPIRE, because he actually has grey hair is trying to calm him down.  I think the effects department is doing something with Luna's eyes to make them extra creepy. If so, it's a pretty good practical effect.
OLD VAMPIRE says the really troubling thing is that the cops found Stevie Ray's body before it was burned all the way.  Seems to me, the bigger question would be, "How did the cops know to show up and nearly interrupt this thing?" but what do I know?  How does this cop know so much about them? (Hint: He really doesn't.) The Kindred in the department don't know. (Dah Dah DAH!!!!)

Does Kindred count as a Bingo word? I don't want to go dig through my V:TM stuff right now to look.  But I think it does.

Luna declares the bloody obvious, assuming he is Prince of the city: they have a traitor.  No, really?

Hey, actual nighttime exterior shot.  I guess they found a camera crew who could stay up past 8 PM.  It's a swanky restaurant with paintings of mobsters adorning the red and wood panel walls.  C. Thomas Hero is having dinner with a blonde and makes a crack about her choosing this place because Luna wouldn't find them.  This must be the object of Hero's obsession that Exposition mentioned.  Obsessia says Hero underestimates Luna's power.  He's probably got five dots in everything.  Hero wants to take this guy down and he's going to do it.  Obsessia doesn't want to talk about it.

She reaches out to touch him and her hand's like ice.  Dah Dah DAH!!!!  And pale.

(I can't help but wonder if the single rose on the table is a nod to the classic cover design.)

She goes to "freshen up."  There's a woman doing coke in the bathroom, because, California.  Obsessia goes all seducty on the woman and then her eyse go all Luna-style.  She comes back out looking less pale.  There's also a single blood spot on her otherwise imaculate white dress.  He fails to make his Cop roll and doesn't notice.  Coked-out woman nearly faints going back to her table. Also, Hero likes that Obsessia ordered her steak very rare.

Back at her place (I presume, since it's way too nice for a cop's digs) CT Hero and Obsessia are totally making out as they come through the front door.  Looks like the dude's gonna get some and we're just 11 minutes into the premiere.  Maybe it was in his contract. 

Anyway, we're back at Chateau de Luna now and there's a limo and a bunch of mooks in suits out front.  Luna is heading to the club.  The nearest mook addresses him as "Sire." Bingo?  Anyone?

Back at Obsessia's, she's dancing around a rose garden in a white nightie.  Her whole deal seems to be white clothing.  She pulls C. Thomas out to dance with her. She says, "When you put me against the wall, that's when I knew.  I couldn't stop you."  I'm sure that sounded less rape-y in the 90s. He makes a crack about having a couple of beers, because Patriarchy.  All the same, I'm pretty sure she's setting him up for something fang-y.  (Though we have yet to actually see any fangs.  Is this like that whole "No flights, no tights" policy they had on "Smallville"?)

Ah, our first, "I'm a lot older than you think" line.  I'm sure it won't be the last.  Oh, and the ever-heavy handed, "You make me feel like a woman.  A real human woman."  Oy.

Hey, it's a text pager!  Wow, I haven't seen one of those since I threw away a big box of old tech from work a few years ago. Luna's on the move!  Obsessia advises Hero to stay away from him.

So, Luna owns a club called The Haven.  Sure, why not?  He walks out with a hot redhead, whose bitching about the Brujah.  So a hot redhead vampire.  Named Lily. Also, we're told she's a Toreador.  Thanks, Luna!  Anyway, Luna's bitching about Fiore (sp) who's muscled into her record company and is moving on her clubs.  Because, y'know, if there's one thing that screams "Anarchy," it's corporate music.  Amiright, Green Day?

Clan War!  Anyone have Bingo yet?  Those of you playing L5R Bingo, your board is now open.

Hey, look! Right across the street, it's a biker gang full of Gangrels.  And one of them was sired by Stevie Ray.  Oh, the pathos. No, ALL of them were sired by Stevie Ray.  He was a busy little Gangrel-Maker.  A spunky redhead Gangrelgal tells Luna, "We were down for Stevie.  You know what I'm saying?"  Oh, aging out-of-touch TV writers.  Never change.

Anyway, the entirety of Clan Gangrel's West Coast operation tells Luna a bunch of stuff he already knows.  Not sure what the point of this scene is, honestly.

Spokesmouth Gangrelboy's name is Cash.  According to Lily, he's walking on thin ice.  OOOOOHHH...

A limo slowly approaches.  Drive by?  If so, I can totally read the license plate.

Cash is going on about how he don't bow to The Man.  Spunkygirl says the Prince don't know what's goin' down in the streets.  I swear, these are the best groomed,racially homogenious Gangrels on the planet.  Spunkygirl looks like she's comin' straight outta Sunnydale.  Seriously, the actress has a real Sarah Michelle Gellar vibe going on.

Luna offers Cash the now open bodyguard job.  Cash takes about two seconds before he jumps all over that shit.  Is that limo ever going to get here?

FINALLY!  Roll down the window that a grenade launcher?  It's either that or a combat shotgun with a rotary magazine.  The way shit's blowing up, I'm guessing the latter.  Looks like they loaded flash-bangs though.  Anyway, all the Gangrels are packing and return fire, but it's ineffectual.  The drive-by throws the GL out the window, its grip on fire (I guess to destroy prints).

The cops pull up.  It's C. Thomas Hero and Exposition.  They pick up the grenade launcher without bothering with gloves or photographic records.  Because, 90s!

Luna addresses Hero (who's actually named Frank).  He notes he's up late.  But wait...I thought Hero and Exposition were night shift. So, really...that fight on the rooftop in the middle of the afternoon would have actually had him up late.  Perhaps I'm overthinking this.

Luna also hopes Hero wasn't taken away from "Anything pressing."  'Cause he totally knows about him throwing Obsessia against the wall.

Macho posturing ensues.

Back at Stately Luna Manor, Luna and Lily depart the limo.  Lily is ready to lead him upstairs, but Luna needs "to see him."  Her understanding tone indicates there's something more to these two than politics.  Luna walks to the guest house, I guess.

Now we're in a basement.  It's dimly lit and there are paintings, distorted portraits, everywhere.  I see where this is going and it ain't a Frida Kahlo retrospective.

Hmmm...I'm assuming this is a Nosferatu.  He's bald and has really weird earlobes.  I guess he's kind of unsettling, but horrific?  Ain't seeing it.  He does smoke, which I consider repellent, but that's not really a thing in Gothopolis.  Anyway, Boss Luna wants him to set up a meeting with the Brujah boss.  Lobes says Brujah only understand carnage.  Is it just me, or did the screenwriters mis-spell Sabbat in an early draft and it just stuck that way?

Also, he needs Lobes to recover Stevie Ray's body from the Coroner.  Because it could "Break the Masquerade."  Surely, we've got a Bingo now.

Now Luna and Lobes have adjourned to Bossguy's opulent study so they can plot by the fire.  They proceed to say absolutely nothing they didn't already say in the basement. I assume this scene occurred because they needed to construct the study set for the rest of the series (sort of like the Engine Room on Star Trek the Next Generation).  We'll see if it turns up in future episodes.

Meanwhile, we're in Luna's boudoir (he seems like the sort of guy who'd have a boudoir). Lily, now clad in a negligee is waiting for him.  Makes me kind of annoyed that, while she's ostensibly Boss Toreador, when it came to political discussion it was all Luna and Lobes.  There's no reason she shouldn't have been in that conversation, but she was upstairs getting ready for sexytimes.

Ah, now I see.  She's feeding from him.  Blood Bond.  They didn't call it out, but it's still a Bingo square.

Incidentally, it looks like she's got a tiger tattooed on her ankle.  Now sure whether that's intentional or not.  Either way, it's kind of weird.

Oh, hey, OLD VAMPIRE is just standing there watching while Luna and Lily roll around on the bed.  That's in no possible way whatsoever creepy.

Luna finally notices him.  I think OLD VAMPIRE'S name is Walker.  All the same, I think I'll call him Alfred, since he's clearly the butler.  Anyway, Alfred tells Luna his grandchild just died.  Of being an old man.  Because, y'know, Vampire immortality. Turns out he had a wife and child before he was turned.  Lily either
finds this tragic or charmingly quaint.

Anyway, Luna heads back out, I guess to pay his respects, but he only gets out of the driveway when he spots Obsessia standing across the street. Not stalking. Also, apparently, her name is Alexandria.  I swear that hasn't come up before this moment.  She's there to beg for C. Thomas Hero's life because she's in LURVE. She wants Luna to give Hero to her.  Not creepy at all.

Luna doesn't like him nosing around.  Obsessia says he's just being a cop and he's on Luna's tail because he bosses the Brujah Clan.  The what with the who, now? Is this a hint of circles within circles?  Probably, because it's about as subtle as a kick in the throat.

Uh oh.  Luna just called out Exposition as "The other one."  Poor man.  Poor, poor man.

Hey, Obsessia just made a reference to Humanity. B-4: Humanity.

Ultimately, Luna tells her she's being an idiot.  She calls it vengeance as cold as his heart.  I call it simple honesty.

Meanwhile, Coroner guy (who was clearly working the day watch) is now calling C. Thomas Hero in the middle of the night, telling him to get over to the morgue.  Hero, by the way, Mr. Night Shift Cop, appears to be sitting on the floor of his living room, in a t-shirt. Not exactly on-duty. While CTH is telling Coroner not to tell anyone about it because he's on his way, one of the morgue drawers slides open on its own.  It's LOBES!  Not exactly surprising that a Nosferatu has a sekrit tunnel into the morgue, I suppose.  I think it's required.

Lobes seems to have creepy fingers as well as weird ears.  And mad-crazy mind control powers.  He's making Mister Coroner slash his wrists with a scalpel.  Remember kids, it's down the block, not across the street!

Luna's turned up at an old cemetery.  His chauffeur warns him the sun will be up soon.  Luna stops at his wife's grave and tells her he's burying their last grandchild.  He then does an Earth Meld in order to lie with her for a while.  Bingo! To be fair, it's a pretty decent effect for low-budget 90s TV.

Back at the morgue, Lobes takes his Stalag 13 tunnel out just as Hero comes in.  He calls for Mister Coroner, but only hears moaning from under a sheet. Unsurprisingly, he pulls his gun and lifts the sheet.  It's Mister Coroner, who expires grodilly.

Back at Obsessia's Lurve Nest, she's reclining on her perfect, white bedspread.  Interestingly enough, she's wearing blue.  One assumes it's daytime now, or early morning, but she's still moving around.

Or maybe it is night again.  C. Thomas Hero is there, and it looks like he's trying to clean up a bit.  His shirt is unbuttoned and he's shaving with a gold safety razor. I don't remember whether or not mirrors were a thing in V:tM. I'm thinking not, and they're not here.  Mr. Night Shift has to relieve Exposition on the Coroner's case.  Funny, I thought a) they were partners, and b) NIGHT SHIFT.

Anyway, he and Obsessia trade pillow talk.  He's clearly developing feelings for her.  It would all probably be very romantic if a) he didn't have shaving cream on half his jaw, and b) it wasn't C. Thomas Howell delivering the lines.  

Oops, Obsessia just brought up the death of his wife (something he and Luna have in common!) and Hero went and cut himself with the razor.  Blood!

Also, Hero Cop's wife jumped out of a window.  It just happens.

Obsessia offers to take care of the cut.  She licks it and he's healed. (BINGO!)  He notices the cut is gone, but doesn't say anything because his nards won't let him.

They go out on her balcony.  She waxes poetic.  He tries.  She looks across the street and sees a lurking Gangrel. Violin music ratches up the tension.  Hero offers to take her to breakfast, but her eyes have gone all Luna and she says she has things to do.

"Things" appear to consist of punking the Gangrel off-camera and dumping his unconscious self on Luna's driveway while telling off Luna (and Alfred).  Incidentally, she drives a sweet 50s Thunderbird.  Anyway, she's pissed as all fuck at Luna and tells him to leave her and Hero alone.  Lily looks on from the bedroom window overhead.  Unconscious Lurking Gangrel is sporting a wicked gash on his throat, but he's moving, so he just needs to rub some gravedirt on it.

Cash finally shows up when Obsessia drives off.  He's got a gun, but man, what a suck-ass bodyguard.  Where were you two minutes ago?  He and Luna and Alfred look at Unconscious Lurking Gangrel, and Alfred says "She's gone too far, you can't save her now."  Cut back to Lily in her negligee being marginalized.

Daytime, exterior shot, a different mansion.  We're in a gym, one assumes in a basement.  It appears that these Vampires can be active during the day, as long as they don't get the sun on them.  Anyway, Beef McBrujah (remember him?) is doing inverted crunches while Vampire Kerry Von Erich looks on and counts.  (Seriously, I met Kerry a few times and this guy looks just like him.Lily's there, wearing the same damned little black dress she wore in the walking out of Haven scene. It's like she's got two outfits: out on the down and negligee.  Annoying.

Anyway, she's here to interrogate Beef about the drive-by.  He blames it on Gangrels fighting among themselves.

(By the way, is it just me, or does "Gangrels" sound wrong?  For me, the plural of Gangrel was Gangrel.)

Lily's here to talk business, so Kerry and miscellaneous bodyguard can fuck right off.  She mentions Beef used to work the docks.  One assumes as a stevedore and not a rent-boy, but I'm not passing judgment.  Anyway, she points out he controls the record studios in LA and the artists' contracts, but she controls the clubs. She'll guarantee him bookings for his singers.  It's all so pre-iTunes! All he has to do is take care of Obsessia, who she sees as a threat to her relationship with Luna.  Really?  Because so far, the two times she's seen them together, he's been all, "Obsessia! You cray-cray!"  Insecurity, thy name is Toreador.

Now, I'm guessing we're back at Chateau Luna.  Big table.  Bossman, Cash, Alfred, Lily, and Beef are present.  Luna wants to know who killed Stevie Ray (it lacks the cachet of "Who Killed Laura Palmer," but you work with what you've got and this is a Spelling production).  Beef says the Gangrel were interfering with his bidness.  Cash calls him a lying grease stain.  Seriously.  Kids these days.

Beef McBrujah refers to the Gangrels as "Gang-bangers with guns."  Really?  Did no one explain Brujah to the writing staff?

Luna says this shit has got to end.  Beef comes back with "Hey, you know that ex of your? Word is she broke the Masquerade and you let her live." He's all, "You're soft. We need a new Prince. Also, that cop you let live has the body."

That would be Lobes' cue.  Whatever else you say about the man, his timing is impeccable.  He strolls in toting the crispified remains of Stevie Ray. Choke on that, Beef!

"Clan Nosferatu remains loyal to our Prince."  Ooooh, burn!

Looks like everyone thinks Obsessia has to go.  Even Alfred, who it turns out is actually the head of Clan Ventrue, but I'm still calling him Alfred.  Luna succumbs to peer pressure and declares a Blood Hunt (BINGO!).  Then everyone has to stand up and kiss Luna's hand to do the fealty thing.  And Luna takes Beef aside to tell him to stop fucking with his shit.

Cut to Obsessia's balcony.  She has to dump him!  He doesn't know why!  It's very tragic.  He won't leave her!  And then more makeouts.

And he wakes up next to her and realizes he can't feel her heartbeat. She cuts her wrist, then licks the wound away. She's totally clueing him in on everything. Also, apparently, she can totally go out in the sun for a little while if she's fed well.  CONVENIENT.

He's shedding SAN points left and right.  He asks her to turn him.  She's all "No, I can't!" She's telling him to leave.  He's tasted her blood and he's ghouling out!  Or, going to the sink and washing his face.

She apologizes, then turns into a White Wolf(tm) and flees.

Hey, that's right, Hero's a cop.  He's back in the car with Exposition, who is somehow still alive.  Also, totally not buying the whole, "This chick I was seeing dumped me by revealing she's a vampire and turning into a wolf" thing.  Can't imagine why.  It's no less plausible than, "My partner's actually a decent cop."

It turns out that grenade launcher thing was all burninating because it was used to shoot white phosphorous shells.  For practical safety reasons, I'll give the production a pass for not actually trying to simulate that, but still, it's annoying because WP doesn't make booms like that.  Exposition still isn't buying it, and wants the hell off this ride.  I suspect his last words will be "Let me off right here."

Apparently, Luna's place directly overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge.  Because, when he opens his front gate, there's Obsessia, sitting on a park bench enjoying the view.  He goes straight for her throat, but doesn't finish the job.  He tells her to run and never come back.  She goes on a bit about how this is all about LURVE.  She begs Luna again to spare C. Thomas Hero, pulling the old, "If we ever meant anything, do this for me" canard.  She hands him a locket with a rose in it that he gave her back in, I don't know, the 1890s?  At last, Luna gives his word, and Obsessia runs off into the dark.  Luna looks at the locket and cries tears of blood.

Back in his boudoir, Lily snuggles up to Luna. This is her big power play.  She's making all the moves, but he's kind of a cold fish about it.  Because he has FEELS.

Sound stage streets!  Obsessia is on the run from rampaging Gangrelses.  She stops a cab and has a moment of "I'm safe" followed by "Oh, shit! LOBES IS DRIVING THE CAB!"  She cringes, then bares her throat, accepting her fate. He slashes her with one of his creepy fingernails and blood sprays on the window of the cab.

Cut to a bright sunny day in San Francisco.  The sky is blue with a few thin wisps of cloud, the sunshine glinting off the hood of Lobe's taxicab.  Seriously.  I know the show has established they can be out in the sun a little, but this is really snapping my Disbelief Suspenders.  At any rate, Lobes pulls Obsessia out of the cab and lays her out on the ground.  Her throat is slit, but she's still around.  He whispers, "The water is your sanctuary" (they're right by the Bay) and drives off.  She struggles towards some shade. No, she's going over a wall, She's not burning yet.

Meanwhile, Hero pulls up.  He's been directed by a mysterious someone on the phone. She's poised to jump in the water, but he calls her name.  She turns to look at him, then bursts into flame, her burning body plummetting into the bay. It's oh so sad.  Mysterious Someone makes a really harsh burn about how this shit always happens to Hero's women.

We're back at CT Hero's apartment.  He's zonked out on the couch and his phone is ringing.  It's the dispatcher; he hasn't answered his pager.  I don't know about you, but I miss being less connected with my job.  Hell, I just took a week off and I still had to field emails and make calls to the office.  It sucks.  But I digress.

There's an urgent call from an unidentified source: The man on the phone is the same guy from before, so he's all about Obsessia's death. He identifies himself as a "Lick" (BINGO!). Hero wants to know why he's helping him.  He has his reasons.  He also asks if Hero is feeling the hunger (FORESHADOWING?) and tells him if he's looking for Luna, to check Obsessia's balcony.  Finally, we get the big reveal: the secret vampire on the phone is none other than EXPOSITION!  Who's still alive! Who's palling around with Beef McBrujah! Also,he was sired by Luna! So...not exactly alive.  And this is all a plot to manipulate C. Thomas Hero to take down Luna so Beef can become Prince. INTRIGUE!

Luna is sulking around Obsessia's balcony.  All her roses are already dead.  So sad.  And here comes Hero, who I guess had a key of his own. He's also got that unshaved, wild-eyed, maverick cop thing going on with his gun out.  But he doesn't shoot.  Luna apologizes.  Hero tells him he knows what he is and that their powers won't affect him like other humans or something.  Hero plugs Luna square in the center body mass.  It doesn't take him out, but he shoots him again because,y'know, fucking nuts.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure he's completely overdrawn at the Sanity Bank.  Luna's all "Whatevs" and strolls away to get his shirt cleaned and mended.

But he left the locket behind.  And when C (for Crazy) Thomas Hero opens it, he sees an image of Obsessia dancing in her garden.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the bay, Obsessia wakes up, all healed.  And the roses on her balcony bloom anew.

So, yeah.  That happened.  I'm going to have to psych myself up for the next one, I call tell you that much.

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