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ALL FOR A CLAWFUL OF SHEKELS - featuring the Salt Shell Gang

‘All For A Clawful Of Shekels’ is the adventure of a group of five young law-abiding bikies and their girlfriends known as the Salt Shell Gang. They live on a distant planet similar to Earth with elaborate cities and towns and are known as Shellteans.

The gang learn that the Loonyabbie Children’s Hospital is in dire straits and need to buy much-needed new equipment that will save lives from a new disease that is spreading throughout the younger generation. So the gang organize a fund-raising drive to raise Shekels (money) for the hospital. But when the Shekels are stolen, Barney Smallclaw, a member of the gang endeavours to find the culprit behind the disastrous act.

This is an adventure centred on the gang and their girlfriends as they go through dramas, romance, humour and wit; capturing the ups and downs of life just like humans experience. But most of all, it tells about the undeniable power of good over evil.

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ISBN: 978-1-921574-44-3
Format: Paperback
Number of pages:362
Genre: Children's Fiction

 

 

Author: Alick Green
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2010
Language: English

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About the author 

Alick was a musician in some of the 1960’s bands. He has always loved writing, and penned some songs for local bands early in the 1990s. He also wrote a sports column for the Wynnum Herald, his local newspaper at that time, in the 1970s and 1980s under the name of Chicka, and covered all grades of the Wynnum Manly Seagulls.

In the late 1970s he moved out west for a while. He came back to Brisbane in the early 1980s and resumed writing for the Herald on his return in 1982. He also worked on writing Year Books for the Wynnum Manly Seagulls as part of his duties for that club. After a long illness in 1997 he had to move into a nursing home.

His book A Clawful of Shekels is the first in a series of books about the Salt Shell Gang who are part of the population on a distant planet.

Prologue

 

S

 

omewhere in the far off reaches of Outer Space, in a Solar system very similar to ours, a large misty blue-coloured planet, with three small moons, rotates peacefully in a large orbit around its bright yellow sun. And like Earth, this planet’s surface is dominated by water. Several large landmasses break up the ocean’s currents. The atmosphere consists of oxygen and hydrogen with clouds floating high in the blue sky. Birds of all colours and varieties play around the treetops. Vegetation in different varieties helps make up the landscape of the planet. Hundreds of different species of animals roam throughout the countryside of the continents, while countless sea creatures of various varieties live in the oceans of the planet.

This planet, called Shellacean, could be mistaken for Earth somewhere in the distance past. But then again, maybe it would not. But like Earth, it is unique unto itself within the Universe. Its intelligent dominant life forms are crab-like creatures known as Shellteans. They have a crab-like shell covered oblong body that looks like two people joined together back to front. They walk on four crab-shell legs; one coming from the front of their body while the other one comes from the rear of their body. Each leg has feet on the end of them. They possess two shell-covered arms with hands on the ends of them. These hands are human-like, except they only possess three long prong-like fingers and a thumb and are known to them as claws. On top of their body, central on their shoulders, is a human-like head.

But unlike crabs, as we know them on our planet, these crab-like beings can walk and run front on just like any human can. They also drive cars and ride motorbikes and horses of the type that inhabit their land.

Much like us, they have erected elaborate cities and towns, farm both the lands and seas, built various factories and produce everything that they need for their continuing survival. And just like any known civilized society, they have created intriguing transportation systems, formed social structures, elected governments and constituted their laws. But, just like any civilized society, they have also inherited all of the various problems that can be associated with the continued survival of their living standards.

The bustling large seaside town of Loonyabbie in the State of Crabreef was no different than most towns. It had its problems, but the latest one was slightly different in some aspect to others. It concerned the health of the younger generation within their district. The governing board of the local Young Shelltean Hospital had a major problem. They needed a lot of money urgently so they could purchase certain pieces of the latest medical equipment, especially one piece, and to compound the problem, the Hospital Board just couldn’t afford to blow out their budget any further to purchase anything like that. It was a worrying aspect to the Board, and to all those who knew about it, that a cash flow problem could exist in these times, especially when the Federal Oceanic Government was saying how well the country’s economy was faring. The Board also knew only too well how, everyday that went past without that equipment, meant more and more of the district young lives were being placed in jeopardy. That’s why the Board desperately wanted, and needed, to get their claws on it but they couldn’t see their way clear to obtain it. There was just no light at the end of the tunnel. So, they had resigned themselves to shelving the idea of purchasing it until their next budget clawout from the Crabreef Government Health Department, who in turn relied on the Federal Oceanic Government.

But the Hospital Board wasn’t counting on the reaction of one certain member of the local bikie group known as the Salt Shell Gang. They are a small group of bikies who, are not only law abiding citizens, but also work at different jobs where they are respected for themselves amongst the citizens of Loonyabbie. As soon as this one particular bikie found out about the hospital’s plight, he knew that he had to do something about it. That Shelltean is called Barney Smallclaw.

CHAPTER ONE (part sample)

A Hospital in Need!

 

T

 

he door of the Young Shelltean Hospital burst open with a thud and Barney Smallclaw strode hurriedly out towards the carpark. He was carrying mixed feelings of frustration and anger. They were both going, within their turn, from one extreme to the other. All of those feelings he was experiencing were alien to Barney, after all, wasn’t he the guy who had always prided himself on his gentle nature? But seeing a kid suffer for no reason at all, had brought all that undone and replaced it with those alien feelings.

Barney couldn’t fathom out how one person could control suffering, especially when kids were involved. Mainly because, Barney was a guy who possessed a heart of gold when it came to young Shellteans. Barney would move hell and high water to help out any kid in need. Barney was also the biggest member of the gang, a tall well-built guy who honestly believed that all bikies were judged entirely on the unruly action of a small majority. That had always riled him to the core of his shell; given him a frustrated feeling of how so many people could be prototyped by the actions of so few. But, wasn’t that just the nature of people? Too many blind minds following blind minds on the whim of words. Yes, to Barney so many people failed to read between the lines properly, taking everything said to them for granted without making judgements for themselves.

Barney also honestly believed any good that a bikie did, didn’t receive enough recognition. He also believed that bikies who did good, should be given credit for what they did, not just have it swept aside like yesterday’s garbage. But that wasn’t the reason why Barney visited young Shellteans in the Loonyabbie Hospital, as well as being a regular visitor to the kids in the local orphanage. It was to try and do some good as well as bring some cheer into the lives of kids who didn’t have any, especially the orphans.

Barney walked at a moderate pace over to where his bike was parked, knowing that he didn’t yearn for any acknowledgment or recognition for what he did. He knew that he never had, or never even thought of wanting any. In reality, that had never even crossed his mind for one moment. No! Barney did what he did for these kids because he wanted to do it. To Barney, there was a big difference between wanting to do something and having to do it.

Barney hopped onto his bike and started the motor. He let it warm up for a few seconds, thinking how he got extreme enjoyment out of his visits to see these kids. They were very special moments to him and he treasured them every time he shared them with the kids. He knew that was something no one could ever put a price on.

Barney slowly rode his bike towards the hospital gate, thinking how he felt richness beyond compare once the kids saw him approaching, and how their faces glowed with broad smiles of happiness, especially the orphans. Barney knew that was all the reward he ever yearned for as he rode out of the hospital grounds. It was all that he had ever wanted, or needed, it was more than he had ever hoped or asked for.

Barney turned onto Blueshell Avenue knowing how well he had got to know all the staff through his regular visits to both of those places, the doctors, nurses, and all the care staff, everyone, especially the ones at the Young Shelltean Hospital. They all treated Barney like he was a good friend and made him feel welcome as though it were his second home. He knew how much he really appreciated that. He had always felt deep-seated respect for anyone who looked after people who were sick and needed nursing, especially when they looked after children.

Barney reached the first intersection and turned left into Sandhill Drive. As he rode along, he remembered how he had often shared coffee and a chat with the staff between visiting the kids. Through that, he had got to know the workings of both of those places, the hospital and the orphanage and what the staff’s feelings were, and even what they needed or didn’t need.

But, it was still only through an unavoidable incident that Barney became aware of the hospitals urgent need to purchase that certain piece of medical equipment. And today was when he learnt that no funds of any kind were available to do it. Not even the Oceanic Federal Government, who had been eagerly, and hopefully, approached on quite a number of occasions, had put forward any offer of assistance whatsoever. No! Every government health department that had been approached remained as silent as a graveyard at midnight.

Barney turned right onto Velvet Waters Drive, fuming inside with the frustration of not being able to help the hospital instantly with the shekels that they needed. The frustration that he carried was like an angry Sea Bull rampaging through his stomach, charging this way, then that way, goring every part of him, leaving him with a sickening empty feeling.

Barney turned right into Coral Reef Esplanade and rode past his favourite little fish and chip shop, thinking of the problem facing the hospital. It was constantly with him, like an unwelcome pillion passenger who had hitched a ride on his bike and refused to get off. He slowed down as he came to the beach picnic area, wondering how Poli-Shellteans could put a price on any person’s life, especially the lives of children. That thought reignited his anger and fuelled it to another level.

Barney was all fired up to definitely do something about this situation as he slowly turned the bike into the tree-laden Coral Haven Drive, the street where the Gang’s Hangout was located. As he drove along the street, Barney had all kinds of ideas racing throughout every corridor of his mind. It was churning them out so quickly that he could hardly remember each one before the next one sped into his thoughts.

Barney finally reached the driveway leading to the garage of the Gang’s Hangout. The rage racing through him was like a huge nuclear reactor set to explode, an uncontrollable red hot anger that seemed to be surging flame like from the pit of his stomach to the centre of his chest. He was trying his hardest to control his feelings but they seemed to be reaching new heights. But those feelings were something that Barney knew he couldn’t help. The way Barney felt towards kids and how important they were, the future of our society, was something he held dearly in his heart.

Barney stopped his bike in his parking space within the garage, knowing that he was damn well going to do something to help the Young Shelltean Hospital, but what would it be? That question was weighing heavily on his mind as he alighted from his bike and left the garage.

Barney walked slowly down the pathway leading to the front door of the Hangout, his stomach churning with a strangeness he had never felt before today. His four legs seemed to be moving in slow motion at that moment. Anger and frustration were like two common enemies, persistently attacking his being throughout every field of his feelings, using his body like it was one giant battlefield where they could achieve their own victory over all of his senses.

Barney approached the front door, knowing that if he had the solution at his clawtips, the indifferent war of feelings within him would come to an abrupt end. But at that moment, he was at a loss on what to do as he strode down the central hallway of the Hangout. Damn all Poli-Shellteans! They promise everyone the world and everything in it during an election, but how much do they deliver once they get into office?

Barney walked into the large lounge room, realising they had priorities, just like everyone else did, but hell! How can anyone’s life have a price put on it?

“We’ve got to do something,” Barney stressed loudly with a deep growl surrounding his words. The frustration of the situation was still with him and it showed in his voice.

Rocky Barnacle turned his eyes from the magazine and quickly focused them onto Barney. The anger in Barney’s voice had instantly interrupted the ability of Rocky to focus on his reading.

“About what?” Rocky asked in a puzzling manner. He was wondering why Barney sounded so flustered, so disgruntled. It was uncharacteristic of his friend to speak like that.

“About the situation that’s taking place down at the Young Shelltean Hospital, that’s what!” Barney angrily answered in a snapping manner. He didn’t mean his words to sound so abrupt or sharp; they just came out that way like he had no control over them.

“What situation?” Rocky asked with just as much confusion in his words as he had a moment ago. It seemed like he was caught up with asking questions and not getting straight answers from Barney.

“Ahh! The way things are down there. It just seems no one cares about anything that happens there.”

“Hang on,” Rocky interrupted. He felt he should know what Barney was talking about before he could give any solid advice. But at that moment, Rocky was thoroughly in the dark on what Barney was talking about. “What say you just settle down and tell us what you want us to know?”

“Ahh! Yea, look, I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Rocky asked.

“For not explaining about what I’m talking about. I guess that I should have explained when I came in. But I’m feeling so mad, and frustrated with things.”

“Yes, I can see that,” Rocky answered with an affirmative nod of his head. The way Barney spoke was enough to convince Rocky of that fact. But Rocky didn’t dwell on it. He just pushed it aside and then asked in a concerned manner. “Now, what is it that you are trying to tell me?”

“The Young Shelltean Hospital is in dire straits at the moment. They are in desperate need for money to buy things that they need. It seems that the local health system is in a real starved for shekels state,” Barney said at a reasonable pace. But his talking was still fast enough to get the whole sentence out of his mouth in one solitary breath. But, once he did, it made him feel a whole lot calmer within himself, well certainly less angry at the world and everything in it. It was as though a gigantic load had suddenly been lifted off his shoulders. “They need to purchase certain pieces of the latest medical equipment. And they haven’t got the money to do so.”

“Well, I can’t see why you have to worry about that,” Rocky stated in a manner that a father would when giving advice to his son. “I’m sure that if the hospital board put in a request for that, the Oceanic Government Health Department will forward the money to them.”

“I’d like to think it was that simple,” Barney growled out the words. But he knew from what Doctor Crabwell had told him this afternoon, they had been trying for months to get the money out of the government.

“I can’t see why it shouldn’t be. After all, we are paying enough tax at the moment and isn’t it things like this that we pay it for?”

“Yea! Sure!” Barney exclaimed in a louder voice than he normally would use. He couldn’t help himself for suddenly interrupting Rocky. But what Rocky had just said, regenerated his anger, causing it to rise once more from the pit of his stomach. He paused just long enough to take in a deep breath, held it for a brief second and then regained his composure. “Tell that to the Poli-Shellteans in Parliament. The way they use the money that we pay in tax for their personal whims, I doubt it.”

“That’s a bit unfair, Barney,” Salty interrupted. He had been sitting quietly in his lounge chair listening to Barney talking to Rocky.

“Well, as far as I’m concerned, Salty,” Barney spoke again as he turned to Salty. “It’s true. They all seem to have four faces, one for their colleagues, one to talk to us with, one they use in their private lives, and a fourth one for talking to the media with. Anyway! What do they call fair? Look! When they need money for a trip overseas, or something for their benefit like a new government car, or a party in their’s or someone’s honour! Yea! Sure! The money would be there, straight away, yesterday, last week! But giving money for things that will benefit the general community? Maybe. We’ll take it under advisement. Do you ever get the feeling that the government thinks everybody, bar themselves, are mushrooms?”

Rocky was taken back by what Barney had just said. It was like Barney was a completely different person than the one Rocky had come to know, someone who wanted to take on the world and everything in it by himself. Damn the expense, damn the consequences, and damn anyone who got in the way. Knowing Barney as he did, Rocky began to think that there was something deeper behind all this than just money and hospital equipment.

“Sorry Rocky,” Barney said after a few seconds. There was deep sincerity in his voice as he continued. “I guess I was just taking my frustrations out on you. And on you too, Salty. You see, I was talking to Doctor Crabwell this afternoon about this particular disease that surfaced a couple of years ago.”

“Well, what’s that got to do with all of this, you being mad, and worrying about money for the hospital?”

“Sorry again fellas, I guess I’d better explain the reason I’m angry to you,” Barney replied in a much calmer manner. He took a deep breath to relax himself with, wanting to make sure that he could explain himself to the best of his ability. He walked slowly over to his lounge chair and sat down. “They call this particular disease Shellolightous.”

“I’ve heard of that,” Rocky said from behind a thinking frown.

“It was big news about ten years ago when it was first discovered.”

“Yea, that’s the one,” Barney answered.

“And now they have a cure for it?” Salty cut into the conversation.

“Yea, but only if they have this machine,” Barney stated.

“And that’s what the hospital need here now?” Salty asked.

“Spot on,” Barney answered. He took a slight breath and then continued in a calmer manner. “Apparently, it starts off as a slight ache in your shell, and then advances in stages until it affects your limbs and lungs as well. The strange thing about this disease is that it only affects kids between the ages of four years and their early teens. In its advance stage, when it affects their breathing, and they can’t walk around anymore, their heart can’t cope with the paralyses that seems to set in, and their body gives up. And Doctor Crabwell,” Barney paused for a brief moment as he took in a deep sighing breath, “was a bit annoyed because he lost another youngster this morning. The third one in the past seven weeks.”

“Things happen like that Barney. You can’t stop people from dying.”

“I realise that only too well, Rocky,” Barney declared. The anger from before had suddenly come back into his voice once more. “But this could have been avoided if they had those new pieces of medical equipment.”

“You don’t know that for sure Barney, no one does.”

“Maybe not Rocky, but this piece of equipment, called an Ultra Shellaser Sonar Curator, and which has been available for over two years, might have just made that difference.”

“You sound positive that it could have,” Salty cut in.

“But Doctor Crabwell reckons it could have,” Barney replied.

“And he also said that there is no excuse as to why they haven’t got one yet. He also said that the Government Health Department, of both governments, know this machine is the only thing capable of administering the new intravenous drugs that counter attack this disease.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yea! I’m damn positive, Rocky,” Barney answered in an authorative manner. “And so are the doctors. The drugs have got to be infused at a certain rate over a set period of time.”

“You sound like you know exactly what you’re talking about,” Salty said.

“I was told by one of the doctors today,” Barney said. “He also told me that this machine does that as well as sustaining life while it does.”

“Well,” Rocky said. “I’m sure the hospital will get one very shortly.”

“I would like to think so,” Barney answered flatly.

“Look, Barney, maybe there’s just a hold-up in production. After all, you said yourself that they are relatively new on the market.”

“Two years,” Barney growled in an angry tone. “They’ve been out for two years now.”

“That’s new for the medical market Barney,” Rocky said.

“And…”

“No!” Barney stated in an abrupt knowing manner, cutting off the last part of Rocky’s sentence. He leant forward then continued in a voice that had suddenly changed from the tone of anger to one of frustration. “That’s what Doctor Crabwell thought too until he rang the supplier. There have been quite a number of these machines available for over twenty months in this country. But, no order has been received from the Federal Oceanic Government. And the guy from the Medical Supply Company, according to Doctor Crabwell, was a bit surprised about that.”

“Barney, we all know how long it takes for government departments to work.”

“Not one and a half years Rocky,” Barney replied in an abrupt manner. “That’s how long ago the Medical Supplier said they notified the Oceanic Government Health Department that the machines were available in this country for purchase.”

Barney looked from Rocky to Salty for a few seconds as if he were waiting for them to say something about that; then he continued when they didn’t. “Dammit! Young Ralphie would still be okay right now if they had of had one of those machines at the hospital.”

“Young Ralphie died today, didn’t he?” Rocky said, more like he was taking a calculated guess than he was asking a question.

“Yes,” Barney answered with a flat, depressing tone surrounding his words. “The poor little guy didn’t stand a chance to ever experience life. He was just too young to understand anything about it.”

Barney was still trying to hold back the sorrow that had been surrounding his being since he left the hospital. At that moment, Barney’s emotions were running wild, alternating between high and low. Sadness, rage, emptiness, anger and frustration, were all surging through him like an out of control tidal wave speeding across an endless ocean. And his mind was the shore too far away.

Rocky leant back in his chair, staring at Barney in an understanding way. Now he knew the reason behind the rage that Barney was carrying, the source of his grouchiness had finally come to light. Rocky could only take a guess at how Barney was feeling at losing a close friend like Ralphie had been. Rocky could remember only too well the feeling of emptiness he went through when he lost both his father and mother at the same time. It had been something that took Rocky a long time to get over, feelings that he never, ever wanted to experience in his life again.

“Like I said before, Barney,” Rocky started, trying to remain calm. He had to pause as memories of his mother and father were causing a lump to come into his throat. “You can’t blame the government entirely for not supplying the hospital with that machine. You know that they have a lot of huge responsibilities to fulfil.”

“Like what?” Barney asked. He wasn’t thinking straight at that moment and it showed in the way he had asked that question.

“Well,” Rocky replied as he stroked his chin with his right claw. “There’s education, emergency services, defence, health and other things that they need to fund. It all takes money.”

“I realise that,” Barney answered.

“Look, Barney,” Rocky said before Barney could continue. “We all know how you felt about young Ralphie. We all felt the same way about the kid. I can still remember the joy in his eyes the day you pulled up outside the Hangout with him on the back of your bike. It always amazed me just how Ralphie always remained happy throughout all the diversity surrounding his sickness.”

“Yea, me too,” Salty said. “He sure was one tremendous kid.”

“Yes, he was,” Barney replied in a calm manner; then his anger visited him once more and it showed in his voice. “But… No! Dammit Guys! That machine is important. Doctor Crabwell reckons he could have saved young Ralphie if they had one when he first entered hospital with that disease last month.”

“That’s just an opinion, Barney,” Rocky said. “Doctors aren’t always right. Anyway, you can’t blame the Poli-Shellteans for that either.”

“And why not!” Barney exclaimed loudly. He stood up and held his arms out in front of him as though he wanted to accentuate the point he was talking about. “Look how they’ve been channelling large amounts of shekels into private health funds, private schools, private everything. It’s alright for all the Pollies or anyone else who’s rich enough to join a private health fund, and can keep it going. And there’s not many Shellteans doing that.”

“You can say that again,” Salty stated with a shake of his head.

“The fund is just out of my reach I’m afraid.”

“Me too,” Barney replied. “And it’s a well known fact that around seventy percent of the population still use the public health and education systems, you know? But do the Poli-Shellteans listen to the facts or even know about them? No! They just sit up there in their ivory towers and go about their lifestyles and damn the ordinary people, the mainstream population, the ones that vote for them. To me, it seems that they don’t give a damn about anyone or anything but themselves, their family and friends, and the upper class. In my opinion, there are too many blind minds leading blind minds on the whim of words within government circles.”

“That’s a bit unfair Barney,” Rocky stated. He then thought about what Barney had said and put that thought into words. “But, what you just said can be true in a lot of cases, in every walk of life, not just for people in the spotlight.”

“Yes, I’m sorry I said that. It was just a thought that I had before when I was riding home on my bike.”

“That’s okay, Barney,” Salty cut in. “You’re allowed to have an opinion.”

“You sure are, after all, it’s supposed to be a freedom of speech world that we live in,” Rocky added.

“So they reckon,” Barney said sitting down once more. “But, that still doesn’t do anything to help the kids in need within the public systems.”  

“Ahh! I think I know where you’re coming from now,” Rocky said with a genuine hint of complete understanding in his voice. And he did understand his friend. He hadn’t shared all this time over the past number of years with Barney for nothing. “You think the government is concentrating solely on the private systems and giving nothing to the public ones. That’s why you’re so mad.”

“Maybe,” Barney said with a shrug of his shoulders. “But it’s true that a lot of Poli-Shellteans don’t realise what the average person on the streets needed, or wanted.”

“Look Barney,” Rocky said and then he paused a few seconds. He wanted to get away from the debate over the Poli-Shellteans. Talking about them was making Rocky feel uncomfortable. “I know that young Ralphie was a favourite of yours.”

“He was like a young brother to me.”

“I understand, Barney,” Rocky continued. “But, you’ve got to remember that he was sick for a long time. He was in and out of hospital on a number of occasions. Sometimes things like what happened today can’t be helped.”

“And sometimes they damn well can be,” Barney growled the words out in an angry tone. “I know he was sick with some other disease, and then he caught this!” Barney paused. He took a deep breath and run his claw across his mouth before continuing. “I suddenly realised, on my way home, just how close I was to young Ralphie. The kid had reminded me of myself when I was younger. That’s why, if I have my way, getting this machine will become a factual reality.”

“You sound like you’re determined to do it,” Salty stated.

“You bet I damn well am.”

“Well Barney,” Rocky replied then he asked. “Have you got any ideas on how you are going to raise some money to help them out?”

“Well, I tossed a few ideas around while I was riding home.”

“Let’s hear them?” Salty asked. He was interested in this now and wanted to hear what Barney’s ideas were all about.

“Maybe we could organise some sort of fundraising drive. Like maybe, a raffle, or a door knock appeal, maybe even hold a charity day of some kind somewhere. Anything to raise money for the Young Shelltean Hospital.”

“It seems like you’ve put a lot of thought into doing this,” Rocky said. He then started to have thoughts of his own about it.

“I sure as hell have. And I intend to carry it through,” Barney stated in a determinate manner.

“I can see that,” Rocky replied. “And, after hearing all about it, I would certainly like to help in any way I can.”

“Count me in,” Salty declared. He then added as an afterthought. “But before we do anything, how many shekels are we talking about?”

“At least eighteen thousand shekels.”

“That’s a hell of a lot of money for medical equipment, Barney,” Salty quickly stated in a matter-of-fact manner.

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