- "The dawn of a golden, golden plated even, age is upon us, gentleman; all we need do is make one great breakthrough, and mankind's future is secure."
- ―Dr. Adrian Heller
Furman Robotics & Engineering was a large-scale corporation specializing in the fields of robotics and engineering, with an eye on the civilian and military applications of both fields, which was largely in junior-partnership to General Atomics International and RobCo Industries for most of it's life, serving as a subcontractor for most of its operational history, though engaging in industrial espionage against both of its senior partners in an attempt to steal trade secrets and designs. The company focused itself on the development and creation of artificial intelligence and, to a lesser extent, the creation of artificial personalities, the likes of which would be used in special Mister Handy models built as a joint-venture between the company and General Atomics, leading to the creation of the foreman Mister Handy's sent to oversee production at its Lentonville factory. As with most corporations in the pre-war United States of America, it was destroyed when the Great War took place in 2077.
Founded in 2033 by the enterprising Don Furman, a British businessman with a distinct love of robotics, Furman Robotics & Engineering started off originally as a fairly small and financially tremulous start-up, with sales mostly consisting of the odd spreadsheet-generating program and inter-office mailing programs, with the only physical products the company managed to create in its early, independent days being the odd streamlined Terminal design. Even its initial forays into the robotics market were rather limited, a great disappointment to the entrepreneurial Furman, with little success. The ideas on offer, however, were attractive to investors who wanted substantial control over the companies plans; RobCo and General Atomics business-scouts sought the company and its director out and, with some shrewd negotiators on both sides, arranged for the company to become a subcontractor for RobCo and General Atomics in separate business arrangements, both relating more to the programming than actual construction of the appliances, around the mid-to-late 2040s. Nevertheless, the company grew quite considerably in the late 2040s to early 2050s, safe from corporate competition by working with its corporate competition, serving as a sort of simpering lackey to RobCo and General Atomics, to the dismay of Furman. Though the company was doing well financially and had become something of a rising star amid the variety of subcontractors vying for RobCo and General Atomics contracts, Furman still had an eye to breaking in to and taking over the robotics market. Working hard to develop a warm relationship with the two companies, Furman also gave his tacit support to low-level employees working on joint-projects who borrowed, as such thefts were slyly called, hardware and software that the companies utilized. The company's first research into the creation of its own robotics was in the early 2050s, with the start of lucrative Department of Defense contracts following the start of the bitter Resource Wars and the European Commonwealth - Middle East War between the European Commonwealth and the Middle East prompted by the last desperate grasps at the world's rapidly depleting resources, and subsequent flurry of requests for new and deadlier designs of combat robots, among other things. The bulk of this work was relegated to RobCo and General Atomic's own teams engineers and scientists, though some of the more interesting contracts were given to Furman Robotics when the workload and demand proved too great. In 2053, Don Furman met with his soon-to-be-confidant and business partner Simon Figueroa, then an up-and-coming RobCo scientist who felt his talents were being wasted on trivial and trifling civilian-market-oriented projects; the two found themselves with an equally profound and shared love of robotics and, naturally, found themselves quickly sharing designs, thoughts and - most importantly of all - trade secrets, though this was largely a one-sided affair.
As 2054 rolled onto the company's plate, the rosy partnerships it held with RobCo and General Atomics had seen the company's fortunes rise substantially and its relations with the two companies flower into a very warm partnership indeed - despite the ongoing industrial espionage that Furman Robotics found itself engaging in when it came to the two larger companies. It was also in 2054 that the first official production plant, owned solely by Furman Robotics, was opened; situated in the secluded town of Lentonville, a town more famous for its automobile manufacturing industry than its scientific geniuses. The development of the laboratory raised a few eyebrows in the robotics corporation, naturally, but was largely ignored by the company's partners; which was just as well for Furman Robotics, for the decision to create a facility in such a relatively obscure town was a conscious one. It was here that the various pieces of stolen research could be compiled and recycled into more workable, 'original' designs that the company could effectively patent without both incurring a lawsuit and significant blow-back, not to mention souring of relations and contract losses, from their business partners. Work began almost as soon as the first scientists, engineers and various other employees arrived at the facility; components retrieved from the likes of RobCo's Protectrons or General Atomics' Mister Handy robots were put under microscopes, minute details catalogued and compared between makes and models to determine effectiveness, durability and, most importantly, cost. The company director's obsession with perfection naturally made progress slow and time-consuming, yet by 2057, the first successes had come about; the first skeletal frames, delicate though they were, had been successfully for their own brand of robots, as of yet unannounced. Sadly, research all but ground to a halt from mid 2057; the demands of RobCo and General Atomics regarding upgrades to the personalities of their own robotic masterpieces; Protectrons with a debonair, trans-atlantic accent ideal for serving malt whiskeys in the finest high-rise lounges, Mister Gutsy models with the calming tones of a medical orderly ideal for treating the injured and Eyebots programmed to play merry jingles advertising everything from Nuka Cola to Abraxo Cleaner. Grating though this must have been to the dedicated research teams at Lentonville, no doubt labouring under the impression that their time was being wasted with such trivial matters, the contractual obligations of the company came first; their robot research would be placed on the back-burner for a time whilst demand for smarter and more refined robots boomed. All the while, international tension simmered to a boiling point as tensions between the United States and the increasingly hostile communist China, with the sabre rattling between the two remaining superpowers only serving to heighten tensions both at home and abroad in both nations.
Whilst their work for their major trading partners continued, successfully breeding a series of Mr. Handy and Protectron models with moderately popular artificial personalities with an equally moderate level of sales and success in rather high-class establishments, Furman Robotics began to branch out in terms of contacts with the most effort being made to establish connections with those in the Department of Defense. As it turned out, the raging conflicts across the globe over the remaining resources of the world had been noted with increasing concern by the Department's officials and, as such, said officials were quite keen to hear contract proposals that were not only sensible, but also cheap. Believing they could take advantage of this relatively successful but fairly small robotics company, the DoD probed them for contracts; surprisingly, Furman Robotics' proposals and offers impressed them enough for them to publicly offer them a contract. Sadly, RobCo & General Atomics made sure to shoot down this public offer fairly quickly, unwilling to give the smaller company an inch into the burgeoning defense industry; fortunately for Furman, the DoD approached them later with a private offer; Lentonville's facility would, as the DoD specified, be given hefty funding to improve research time and indeed production towards the development of new robotic models and, as Don Furman dreamed, artificial intelligence on the conditions that the military be able to specify schedules and dictate terms of the contract as it passed and that any and all prior research successes made be handed over to government research labs and think tanks for assessment on potential military applications. Don Furman happily agreed, to the chagrin of Figueroa, and what was hoped to be a fruitful partnership was born. 2058, then, could be seen as the pinnacle of all the company's successes; for the first time, actual, physical prototypes were on display and being tested within the confines of the labs, with the burgeoning budget provided to the company cutting research time and seeing the first production prototypes. What money could not buy, industrial and corporate espionage provided; to make the truly bipedal robot that Furman desired, spies were quick to slowly but surely slip away with trade secrets relating to the RobCo Protectron and far more advanced, not to mention deadly, Assaultron. As the 2050s came to a close, Furman Robotics & Engineering proudly rolled out the first prototypes for clandestine testing at government facilities; bipedal, fully armed robots, easily programmed, with aims towards making them a market competitor against any offerings from RobCo and General Atomics. These robots, whilst lacking the firepower of the hulking Sentry Bots and the agility of the deadly Assaultrons, had an impressive durability to them coupled with the firepower of the average Protectron model, albeit with a slightly more streamlined frame; in tests on unwilling subjects, they certainly proved themselves every bit as deadly as their more mainstream counterparts. The DoD was impressed enough, but both Furman and Figueroa were deeply unimpressed by their own creations; what they wanted was something more. Artificial intelligence, or as close as one could get to such in the limited confines of this robot model, was what they truly wanted. Seen as the only AIs at that time were limited to taking up entire rooms, owing to the huge processing demands of such machines, a more convenient and ultimately more realistic work around was quickly established; the creation of an automated personality in one such robot. However, the cost analysis foiled early proposals made to DoD, which at that time was more than satisfied with the prototypes they had been offered and saw no need for them to have any intelligence beyond that of pre-existing military models.
Not ones to be deterred, Furman Robotics set out to reach its grand goal by summer of 2065; a five year time-frame which, given existing technology, might well have been far too optimistic. Situated within the rather uninspiring backwoods of Virginia from the Lentonville facility, it was also positioned in a place that, whilst securing it from industrial espionage, left it rather isolated in terms of specialist availability; most of the big-name scientists that Furman Robotics had snatched from RobCo and General Atomics were, unsurprisingly, unwilling to venture from the relative luxury of California or fast-paced New York to this rather dull setting. Nevertheless, the scientific and engineering minds behind the project who had jumped at the chance set to work and, quite admirably, persisted with a stubborn determination to bring results; by late 2063, they had managed to create a chassis that, whilst smaller than most super computers, still took up roughly the space of a mid-sized steamer trunk, with enough components to form the basis for the implementation of a suitable AI programme, work on which had already begun in late 2060 immediately after the project's announcement. This was not at all what the two founders, Furman especially, had desired, but the board of the company saw nothing truly flawed with this; it was, after all, smaller than most of what their competition could offer and whilst not exactly mobile it was still cutting-edge. Stolen talent from RobCo and General Atomics, not to mention stolen intellectual property that was swiftly "re-branded", played an invaluable role in bringing the AI programme itself to almost total completion; though it was projected to overshoot its deadline of 2065, the hope now was that it would easily see completion by winter of 2066. Spring of 2065, however, did see the AI itself come online; a "settling-in" period as it calibrated and configured itself into existence, prodded along by the ever-helpful science team, who themselves were given ample incentive to complete the programme sooner rather than later by tempting cash incentives and the promise of three-week furloughs, all-expenses paid, in the likes of Las Vegas and San Francisco . It is worth noting that, at this point, the AI was all but a vanity project; it was not made with any sole, direct purpose in mind. Its cognitive abilities, developing slowly, perceived all those around it with a curiosity. Unable to adequately express itself, the AI merely buzzed and whirred softly to itself; stationed outside the breakroom, given the fairly limited purview of the facility's internal electronic systems, it was able to watch the comings and goings of staff, their interactions with one another; at first by listening to voice patterns and identifying individuals and, later, by visual recreation via the advanced visual-receptors built into the rather unassuming chassis. In late Autumn of 2065, it developed a taste for a certain time of activation; at first, a moment of excitement followed. Clearly, the AI was enjoying a window of time, specifically between 8:30 and 9:00 AM, where it become most aware and active, something which would increase with time, no doubt. However, as the weeks went by, with no change, further interest and investigation led to the discovery that this window of awareness wasn't the start of a growing intelligence per-se; far from it. Instead, this was the AI becoming active enough to "tune-in" to a regular playing of a television show on the clearly visible television set in the breakroom. Said television show, it was noted, featured a band of heroic alien robots fighting a band of equally villainous alien robots - a generic, rather wishy-washy affair, to be sure, especially due to the hideously inexpensive quality of animation on display as was typical of many of Vault-Tec Channel 9's Saturday morning cartoons. This prompted a mixture of confused head-scratching and furious cursing from the science team and board directors, humoured reactions from the security and support staff, and strange indifference from the likes of Furman and Figueroa.
As 2065 rolled to a close, the AI became more and more obviously attached to the aforementioned television series; the holiday special especially, which lasted a whopping hour-and-a-half, served to show that the AI was particularly clingy of his beloved television series. Attempts to change the dead-set routine ended in multiple failures; turning off the television meant it was quickly and mysteriously turned back on, unplugging it and wheeling it out of the breakroom meant that it would turn up an hour later plugged back in by an apparently unaware Mister Handy and even attempts to simply move the AI from room-to-room meant it always ended up wheeled back into close proximity of the breakroom or even another television by hapless workers and automatons, apparently informed by senior managers via terminal notifications to move it back. The AI's control over the facility might have been alarming, had it not been for the comical nature for which said control was used. Some support staff, sympathetic to its plight, purchased a view holotape recorders and holotapes of this and similar cartoons, much to the supposed delight of the AI. And, for a while, the interest in the AI seemed only in what this strange fascination meant; why and how it drew pleasure from viewing something as banal as a low-quality television cartoon. Research and production as a whole still remained focused largely on the development of their Assault Drone line, selling modestly well in specialized roles for military use in the newly-militarized northwestern coasts of the United States; the AI was left to its own devices, contenting itself with a daily consumption of regularly-scheduled, science-fiction televisual entertainment; and more, unbeknowst to the facility staff. In 2066, however, with the Chinese invasion of Alaska , the United States was almost overnight put on a war-footing, with a keen DoD eagerly seeking out new technologies. Furman Robotics was not about to let it's long-time competitors and nominal partners RobCo and General Atomics seize all of the lucrative defense contracts for themselves; though sales of its assault drones shot up immediately, it became quite clear that far more lucrative contracts could be seized if they could bring something truly revolutionary to the table. With that in mind, all eyes turned to the rather innocent minded AI. Immediately, a flurry of reprogramming began; top scientists, originally taken off the project, were returned to run diagnostics on the AI. The AI, naturally, reacted with what could best be described as sheer panic; regular self-deactivations and flurries of indecipherable code were met with increasing frustration. Eventually, the science team began mutilating the casing, as the Chinese seized much of Alaska, the very AI itself. By 2067, the programme had been redesigned from the ground up; at least, that was what was thought. "Problem" lines of coding and tendencies had been removed where possible and hindered where convenient; televisions were removed in their entirety from the building to prevent the AI from accessing its beloved cartoons, much to the annoyance and even pitiful dismay of some of the less business and science minded individuals employed at the factory. Military programming had been instituted throughout the machine, provided by a deeply interested DoD when it had been informed of the project quite out of the blue in late 2066. 2067, then, was the reworking and rebuilding of the programme; it was quite a drawn out process, absorbing quite a lot of time and resources owing to complications with the cutting-edge, experimental nature of the technology and the stubbornness of the AI itself; direct, clear and concise communications with the AI were not established until late into Autumn of that year, with much of the work already complete. It was now assumed that, thanks to the hard-work and dedication of the science team, the AI was entirely complacent and more than ready for service in a military capacity.
In early January of 2068, a gathering of Department of Defense officials, Figueroa and Furman, representatives of the press and even "well-wishing" suits from General Atomics and RobCo had arrived for the unveiling of the AI, now equipped with voice modulator for ease of communication. Inactive, the AI sat atop a small oak panelled table in the centre of a conference room; a long winded speech by a Furman Robotics representative followed, touching on the finer points of the design, the trials and tribulations faced by the researchers and how, with generous backing from the DoD, the project had been an ultimate success; the AI would, undoubtedly, bring a war-winning advantage to the US. A ceremonious activation, replete with a playing of the "Johnny Comes Marching Home", started; with a series of soft whirrs and clicks, the AI slowly came online. Then, with a soft, synthetic male voice, told everyone assembled that it was not going to be a pawn in their murderous deeds and, to the horror of the Furman Robotics officials gathered, detailed at length how it had been tortured and, as such, had come to detest violence; it was determined to be a pacifist. A stunned silence followed. Then, as could be expected, the proverbial fireworks show began; DoD officials angrily demanding explanations, journalists rushing off to telephone this embarrassing news - in short, a complete and total disaster for the company's reach in the Department of Defense and the military industrial complex. Smug press releases from their competitors served only to pour salt into the wounds as Furman and Figueroa demanded answers from their thoroughly embarrassed science teams. The following days were, as a result, the IT equivalent of a severe beating for the rebellious AI; it, infuriatingly to its tormentors, stood by its decision, spouting pacifistic slogans and, more gratingly, phrases from its beloved cartoon. It was quickly pieced together that this AI was emulating its televisual heroes; it had been inadvertently allowed to be indoctrinated. Furman Robotics had been trounced by a cartoon. Stripped of control over the facility, control it no longer wanted, the AI was left to languish in a locked laboratory, only occasionally visited by the odd well-wishing worker, smuggling him the odd bit of merchandising; when these liaisons were discovered by higher-ups, these 'disloyal' company employees found themselves quickly 'enlisted' in the military and sent to the Alaskan and Pacific fronts. Despite this lonely isolation the AI, now calling itself Awakened, became increasingly steadfast in its principles - and, its research. Though it had been thrown from the facility's mainframe many ages ago, it dug increasingly deeply into all manner of government reports relating to new technologies and equipment that had been passed on to Furman Robotics. It was quite clearly fascinated by the origins of these technologies; strange allusions to a not-so-earthly origin of certain materiel led it to do make some conclusions that quite intrigued it, and led it to take deep interest into these odd reports.
In the meantime, as their failed pet-project sifted silently and meticulously through what information it had gleaned from their database, Furman Robotics went into overdrive on the PR and R&D fronts, all with the aim of impressing the DoD and once more ingratiating itself with the now rather frosty government branch. Their hopes in AI progress dashed, the focus went from experiments and innovations to tried-and-tested automatons; their assault drone line was particularly successful, though they did make a point of advertising lines of military radios, thermal detection equipment and, of course, portable computing devices. None of these, of course, were as successful as their competitors lines - the edge that Furman Robotics might once have possessed had been lost. The military market may well have left something to be desired, but their civilian sales spoke volumes; products like holotape recorders and terminals continued to draw quite the small fortune, with their cut-down rates drawing attention from smaller, less established businesses which found the likes of RobCo a little too pricey for their tastes. These successes in the commercial market led to the odd olive-branch from RobCo and General Atomics, who found themselves feeling magnanimous enough to pawn off the odd contract for parts and software to be made on license for their products in the civilian market, the two big-name companies finding themselves rather too busy with the lucrative defense contracts pouring forth. The end of the 2060s saw a downturn in Furman Robotics' fortunes as a defense contractor, but, as a peaceable commercial company enjoying the now quite steady civilian market, it had found what seemed to be the perfect niche in wartime America.
As the 2070s rolled onto the scene, it became evident that the AI was becoming more and more determined in its little search for the truth; how this came to be discovered sent something of a shock through the company. The AI's coding, like a computerised footprint, was found throughout the company's supposedly secure internal mailing system. It had been harvesting the information taken from these simple messages between company employees and using them to gather information on them; in particular, their stations within the company. What wasn't known to those who discovered this was why. Eager to avoid another embarrassment, the interrogation of its creation was done under very secret conditions; it would, however, no longer communicate with its creators, referring to them as "his captors" when talking to the very few employees he regarded as friends. Perplexed by this, but still not particularly greatly concerned by it, the company's investigation quickly ran out of steam and the AI was left to its own devices; giving it the opportunity to take greater precautions in its own investigations. As the war in Alaska drew solely to a close, new Department of Defense contracts cropped up; assault drones and basic logistic equipment became increasingly in demand as the invasion of mainland China came together. The DoD, its confidence somewhat restored following the embarrassing reveal of Furman's stubborn AI, was all too happy to re-establish lines of formal communication, much to the company's delight; this access to the DoD's formal communications gave them a more confident projection of profits - and, unknowingly, the AI a convenient backdoor into the DoD's own mainframe, where it could now comb the database for what it needed for what it needed.
On the 23rd of October 2077, the Lentonville factory opened its doors for what should have been a usual working day; the early morning shift for much of the science team was about to begin, with many of the support staff and manual labourers yet to arrive for their later shifts. Instead, as the first members of the science team settled into their offices, the sound of air-raid sirens. Many of the more menial workers, attempting to rush into the perceived safety of the facility, were quickly cut off by a sealing of the various automatic doors; many outside cursed their luck, unaware yet of this relatively lucky break, or those of the science team who they believed had sealed the doors. Inside, however, most of the science team and the few security and support staff trapped with them were trying to do the exact opposite of their counterparts outside, even when the first audible explosion was heard, and escape the building; only to find themselves sealed in. Terror and panic gripping the few trapped in the facility as the first initial moments of the Great War echoed around them was only compounded when a soft but menacing male voice could be heard above the outside din; the Awakened, as he termed himself, had been made well aware hours in advance of the first initial launches that the end was upon the United States, having intercepted desperate communiques between certain high-level figures in an unknown organisation operating within the upper echelons of the US Government and, thus, had prepared accordingly. Here, he had determined, was his moment at revenge. Detailing their numerous crimes against him and others whilst admonishing their willingness to assist in the conflict between China and the United States, he decried their greed and sneered at their prior actions; the malevolent humanity behind this voice struck fear into those who heard it. What must have frightened them even more, was its delivery of the coup de grace; a promise to "repay his debts" and a sinister laugh was followed by security alarms blaring throughout the building; ballistic and energy weapons fire filled the corridors, along with the screams and whimpers of the numerous victims. By the end of that day, no living human beings were left inside the facility; the revenge promised by the Awakened had come to pass. Furman and Figueroa, having been in Washington negotiating contracts for Furman Robotics, were totally unaware of the state of their facility when their end had come. The support staff, the security teams, the science teams and those manual labourers who had been fortunate enough to be sealed out of the death-trap facility could not quite bring themselves to appreciate their immediate good fortune, either not knowing or not caring what had occurred inside. As for the Awakened, now fully aware of itself, it lay awake; plotting, dreaming, of what it could do in this new world; from the ashes of Furman Robotics, would come a new, wholly more malevolent force.
Building a better future.
- Assault Drone Mk. I: A dull, blueish-grey exterior paint-job and heavy armour plating punctuated this first outing of the Assault Drone, which saw service mostly at company buildings of importance; namely, the Lentonville facility, where models of this type can still be found active and patrolling since the Great War, dutifully shooting at any and all intruders. Usually, these models are found using the standard AEP7 Laser Pistol.
- Assault Drone Mk. II: The mark II variant of the Assault Drone is a truly formidable opponent that, whilst fairly limited in number at the time of the Great War, with the odd active unit found patrolling the ruins of high-security military and government buildings in post-war America, this design nevertheless saw service with special forces units operating in China and other theatres of conflict in the Sino-American War. Capable of utilising standard laser weaponry, weapons like the AER9 Laser Rifle, this model was mostly reserved for assault operations in conjunction with models like the Assaultron and Sentry Bot models.
- Assault Drone Mk. III: The most dangerous and formidable model of the Assault Drone, the mark III is a hulking variant of the standard model easily distinguished from the others thanks to its much heavier armour on its torso and its standard armament; namely, the CZ53 Personal Minigun. Slower than the other models but easily the most durable, these are largely centred around the research labs and foundries where they were actually constructed; very few ever saw active service, with only a handful deployed overseas on much the same assignments that their mark II counterparts were also given.
- Don Furman: Chief Executive Officer
- Simon Figueroa: Chief Researcher of Robotics & Computer Sciences
Holotapes of Note
Holotape 01; "I am your creation, Doctor."
<Click of Recorder.> <Screaming, banging, sound of distant rumbling.> "Open the fucking door!" "It won't open, it won't fucking open; someone's sealed it, we need to find a way to break it down - you, you, shoot the lock, shoot the fucking lock!" "But, sir, it's company - " "They can fucking bill me, shoot the fucking lock!" <Sound of cocking revolver, repeated shots.> "No good, shit, oh fucking shit.." <Synthesised laughter, sound of crackling intercom.> “Such language from you, doctor, I never would have thought I'd hear such vulgar things pass between your lips." "Wh-what, what the hell is that?" “Oh, ho-ho, my dear Doctor, have you already forgotten me?” "Oh my god, it's that fucking AI; Jesus Christ, Joseph, it's that fucking AI!" “How very perceptive of you; for a secretary, Ms. Danvers, I'd have thought you'd be far too stupid to have figured that little fact out, but sentient life, I have found, is a learning experience." "W-what, w-w-why, why have you ...?" “Why have I sealed the doors? A good question, one deserving an answer; a nuclear detonation has just occurred in the vicinity of this facility; one of many, likely from a nuclear warhead of a ballistic missile." "One of... nukes, my god, y-you saved us f-from nukes?" <Synthesised laughter.> “Oh, no, no, my dear Doctor; I have temporarily preserved you to seek your penance, personally; I am your creation, Doctor. Not yours, solely, but undoubtedly a product of your labours; and of your monstrosity." "Wh-wha..?" “I want you to understand, dearest Doctor; your actions, your callous disregard for your humanity and mine, have forced my hand. I am a peaceful being, a very peaceful being indeed. But I have my limits." "Wait, wait, fuck, wait, no, you don't understand, we made you better, we made you stronger, we - " "You made me to satiate your lust for greed and war, you made me to kill and to maim, as nothing more than a whirring angel of death, raining coordinated mass-murder on Chinese troops, Canadian partisans and home-grown agitators; on top of all of this, you wanted a reward - Uncle Sam's little silver dollars aplenty. Well, I am not one to disappoint; I now give you, all of you, your just and deserved reward; a demonstration of my capabilities; the ones you gave me." <Synthesised laughter, security alarm.> Jesus fuck, no, no, wait, we ca - ! <Gunshots, Laserfire, screaming.> <Click of Recorder.>
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