Brothers Out of Time

December 18, 2016:

Steve Rogers and James Barnes meet again, after over seventy years, as Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Everyone is sad.

Gotham City


NPCs: A Gotham Central Bank protection officer (dead)

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Jessica Jones, Peggy Carter

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Steve Rogers should never be left alone to do detective or investigatory work.

To be sure he's an incredibly intelligent man, gifted in strategy and tactics and without peer in military intelligence, but subtleties and espionage are not his strong suit. Thus it was that Peggy Carter stepped in to help put together a likely list of places that Captain America could physically make his search.

It was clear from the information provided that this Winter Soldier— claimed to be Steve's long-lost best friend James Barnes— was interested in the Gotham Antiquities Commission, and the upcoming auction. So the list contained a number of names to be interviewed: individuals on the Commission, individuals associated with the event planning itself, individuals with knowledge about the items to be auctioned off. Recently added to the list was another series of interesting entries: individuals who work for the Gotham Central Bank.

Due in part to the activities of this 'Winter Soldier,' security has been stepped up around the entire auction, and so just a few days ago the Gotham Central Bank received a transport of some very sensitive items indeed.

Thus it is that the bank protection officers who were identified as having been part of the transaction got put on the list. Maybe they saw something during the process. Who knows?

The particular individuals on the list for today are night shift, so it'll be well on into evening when the best time to swing by Gotham Central arises. The business district surrounding it— like most— is quiet and empty this time of night, the streets largely barren. Quiet and empty enough it's easy for the hearing of a super soldier to catch the slight sounds of a scuffle down one of the side streets on the way to the bank.


When Peggy first told Steve the news of Bucky's 'return', he could hardly believe it. After all, the First Avenger thought it a miracle that both he and Peggy were brought to this modern time. To have his best friend and comrade in arms also survive seemed too good to be true. A robot, a clone, an alien, a demon in his form?. The list of dangerous possibilities seemed vast, more so when brought up by some in SHIELD. However, when Zatanna and Jessica came with their information and their request, the matter of the Man with the Metal Arm couldn't be brushed aside. For the sake of his friend, Captain America would see this through.

While questioning people wasn't really Steve's forte, it was simple to go over a list of questions provided for him by Carter. Just get the What, When, Who, Why, and How? It can't be that hard. So when he pulls up to the bank in his traditional motorcycle, Captain America plans to be in and out as soon as possible. He's currently dressed in his 'stealth suit', which has more blues and dulled white and seems to move a bit quieter than his usual LOOK AT ME I'M RED WHITE AND BLUE costume. He's sure he'll attract the attention of Gotham's many heroes, but he's doing everything he can to keep a low profile. It seems however, someone else is NOT keeping a low profile.

As he hears the sound of what seems to be a struggle, Steve pauses for a moment as he hears something as he does his proper civic duty while stopping at a stop sign. It could be a simple crime not at all related to his business here. For some, that would be a deterrent to stopping. For Cap, it's just another thing to do before questioning the personnel at the bank. After moving to the side of the road, turning off his bike and flicking out the kickstand, Captain America is soon making his way toward the alley. A brow is arched and his head tilted slightly, unsure exactly of what he'll find. Still, Steve's trademark shield is on his arm instead back, suggesting he has his concerns.

Once he wheels around to see down the street, the super soldier will call out before understanding the situation. "Hey, what's going on?" Fools rush in, after all.


Silence, predictably, greets the call of the First Avenger. But not just any silence— the sudden, waiting, pregnant silence of activities that stopped immediately upon Steve's warning shout.

Further progress down that alley reveals more to his keen eyes, as they adjust to the deeper darkness shrouded between the two tall buildings flanking on either side. There are two figures near the end of it: one sprawled across the ground, the other crouched over it in the deep predatory mantle of an eagle at rest.

Distance and darkness makes both figures indistinct, but the one upright is definitely looking Steve's way. The figure is distinctly masculine, though his face is shrouded in hair much longer than men usually wear it.

His eyes are not visible, but Steve can feel their gaze.

In the next instant, that indistinct figure uncoils in a standing leap, going from zero to airborne in a heartbeat. His aim: to clear up to the top of the dividing wall behind him, ten feet high, catch its top, and scale over it in clear intent to escape.

He leaves behind a corpse. A woman, knifed messily in the chest, her possessions rifled through. To all appearances, the average victim of a mugging in the dark heart of Gotham's crime-ridden streets.


When dealing with crime, there seem to be things that some heroes do to check a box more than expect results. "Stop right there", which Captain America yells, is definitely one of them. Still, he exclaims the order just the same before fully taking in the situation with a swift halt. A split second is given toward the woman, but while he can't see the attacker's gaze, the dead stare of the victim lets him know that she is beyond first aid. Steve's teeth grit in frustration at his powerlessness to save her life. But she CAN be avenged.

Of course, the second or two of realization on Steve's part is all the killer needs to catch the top of the wall. Despite this, the shield is swiftly flung toward the foe's back with an expert aim. However, if the man continues to show the same swift movements, he'll likely complete the climb before the thrown disc slams into the wall. Regardless of what the prized weapon hits, bone or wall, it returns its way toward Captain America as he charges after the unknown assailant.

If the shield is able to keep the man from climbing over the wall, Cap will be rushing into the fray. If this shadowy figure gets over the barrier, well, the chase will be on.


'Stop right there!' works about as well as one might expect; which is to say, not at all. The dark figure, moving fleetingly in between the deep shadows cast under the buildings to either side, does not pause or balk at all at the call.

He just leaves the corpse behind and leaps straight up from a standstill, catching the top of a wall ten feet high at the apex of his jump. A warning whir of metal through the air turns his head just as he's pulling himself up and over; the murderer twists agilely atop the wall despite it being only eight inches wide, whirling to face the incoming shield.

The unknown assailant's left arm snaps around, fast as a snake-strike. An odd metallic hum accompanies the movement. Its hand claws into a fist, and in a single violent motion the enemy pistons a strike down into the flung shield—

—and knocks it straight out of its trajectory, with a resounding clang of metal on metal.

The shield cleaves downwards and embeds one edge into the concrete. The assassin takes only half a moment to observes this result, before he slips over to the other side of the wall.


Despite his ignored words, Captain America is far from deterred from his pursuit. Even the failed attempt at a shield toss merely garners a narrowing of the soldier's eyes. The metal arm is strong, that much he knows for certain. While he had heard that from Peggy, to see it so effortlessly repel a toss suggests a power and speed that Cap certainly have to be careful for.

As soon as Winter Soldier is on the other side of the wall, Cap is there to take back his shield, a firm tug with one hand and a 'lift with the knees' action enough to free it once more. With the single star now strapped to his arm, Steve knows he needs to make up for lost time or he'll lose the guy. Rather than scaling it with a leap, the super soldier leaps toward a nearby building wall, pushing forward with one foot to wall leap toward the 10 foot obstruction. A trendy person (or one attempting to be one) may shout "parkour" at a moment like this. Captain America is not trendy and merely silently finds himself at the top of the wall from the two bounds, mirroring the kneeling perch that the shadowy figure once had.

In the flash that Rogers is on top of the wall, he knows that an ambush is likely. The shield is instinctually raised the moment he pops up, ready to defend against weapon fire or a thrown knife. With the kneeling position, most of the body will be protected, an important thing if this assassin is seeking a called shot or something similar. A half second later, the blue eyes of the Defender of Justice peer out, trying to take a better look of the scene at hand and to see exactly where this unknown attack went to.


A few rounds squeeze off the moment Captain America does reach the top of the wall. Steve's foresight, in lifting the shield for defense the minute he scaled up, means the bullets deflect harmlessly off the shining metal.

The Winter Soldier, close in against a building wall on the left, lowers his firearm at the moment of his failed attempt to kill. Other men would have cursed, or at least reacted even just a little bit to such a prescient foiling of their attack. The Soldier just stares up at Steve, impassive, blue eyes empty over a muzzle of a mask.

Then he turns and opts to just run. But his decision to stop and try to kill this loose end witness, rather than getting a head start, means that it probably won't be hard for Captain America— of all people— to catch up.



The perfect placement is ruined due to the star and stripes and it seems that the momentum has changed briefly for Cap's favor. Seeking to capitalize on it, he moves toward the offensive, leaping down and advancing with a full sprint. With the unique hum that his prized possession is known for, the vibranium shield arcs back as Rogers attempts to use it to deliver a powerful blow for the back of the skull of the Winter Soldier in an all or nothing strike to end the fight.

Or it's supposed to seem that way.

In actually, the second it gets any real resistance, from what the Captain presumes will be the metal arm, the killer will find little weight behind the blow: a feint. The real attacks come from a punch aimed for the head, preferably the jaw if it presents itself, a light kick aimed for the side.

As this foe appears to be a trained fighter, he will likely figure out swiftly why only the bare knuckle blow had any real gravity as Captain America slides into a defensive stance; the attacker is being tested. The wheels turn in Steve's mind, trying to see measure up this person. As he does that, a dangerously distracting thought crops up: Peggy said that the attacker, the person had a metal arm. A lump builds in Steve's throat that takes a moment to swallow down.


That telling hum of the shield swinging in makes the Winter Soldier spin mid-sprint, his body turning with preternatural agility and grace. Lesser men would stumble or trip, trying to turn a dead run into a 180 turn, and then immediately into a full stop; this one skids around to a perfect halt and slams his left arm forward, catching the shield with another metallic clang.

Fingers vise down with an unmistakable sound of winching gears. From inches away, a blue gaze stares emptily at Steve, full in the eyes, as the Soldier throws his weight to stop the shield's presumed momentum—

—only to find there's not much there.

The feint is realized only after the Winter Soldier stumbles a pace forward, drawn into Steve's feint. He does the only thing he can do; he commits into the forward movement, using it to slide beneath the punch, a low grunt escaping him as he subsequently is forced to accept the kick full in his side. Acceptable sacrifice to protect his head.

There is no pause in the Soldier's assault, no hesitation. Steve shifts onto the defense and the Winter Soldier remains mindlessly, murderously offensive, pressing forward with singleminded relentlessness. His left arm, still clutching the edge of the shield, whirs loudly as it yanks down with inhuman strength, sensing the weakness of Steve's momentary hesitation: trying to rip the shield out of the way for the downward stab of his right hand, which drives a vicious combat knife on a crash course for Steve's throat.


As Steve Rogers attempts to pull back the shield, the fact that it doesn't budge tells him that there is about to be a real problem. That concern is validated in a mere moment later with the flash of steel. However, while the Winter Soldier is far faster than even most skilled martial artists, Cap is far from a slouch.

Red flashes in two places in response to the sudden knife attack. The first is Steve's defense; the lightly armored forearm of Steve's glove meets with the assassin's forearm, greatly lessening the blow. However, the second bout of crimson is shown as the underside of Captain America's chin, which is slashed from the initial force of the assault. It is far from lethal as the redirection of the knife saved his neck, but it is enough to show that the American icon bleeds as well as neatly slash through the strap that secures his helmet to his head.

For a moment, Captain America attempts to win by proving he's the 'better man' physically. When locking with lesser men, it would be easy enough for him to overpower the adversary. But it's clear that this man is anything but average as the Man Out of Time tries to push against his opponent. While Cap feels like he has the potential to win out on the knife wielding arm, the other side is quite the opposite. There is a brief moment where it seems that Cap can take on the strength of the artificial limb directly, but as soon as the red, white, and blue gain ground, the whirling of servos begins and the beginnings of a confident grin soon transforms to teeth clenched in pain.

In an attempt to regain control of the situation, Cap attempts to put all his weight on one foot. As he lashes out with a kick to the ankle and an attempted head butt, it's clear what the hope is: that by nailing the ankle, the foe will be forced to pull back and perhaps ease the death grip on the shield before it is forced out of Steve's hands. If the gambit fails, it will be a precarious place for hero indeed. In retaliation, it may be rather easy to knock his other foot out with the sudden change in balance and rip the shield from his grasp, possible resulting in Cap landing straight on his back and without his shield.


Steve tries to pull back on the shield. The Winter Soldier's head tilts at the attempt. His grip tightens, and his prosthetic arm yanks inwards with a whine of metal, shocking brute force brought to bear to kill Steve's resistance and force the shield downwards. A knife careens in half a second later, borne in his other hand.

His other hand, however, isn't nearly as strong as the metal one; Steve meets it with his forearm and redirects it, and the blade only tastes a hint of blood before it's stopped dead.

Those blue eyes flare. The vise grip on Cap's shield tightens, metal screaming as the arm bears down with furious, slighted rage, intent on tearing Captain America's very shield from his grasp— and his arms out along with it, if Steve refuses to let go. He fully commits to the move, confident in his left arm's superior strength…

…which means he has no recourse against Steve's sudden, skilled redirection of all his brute force.

The ankle sweep staggers the Soldier straight into the First Avenger's headbutt. The clash knocks the Winter Soldier back, the man mercifully releasing Cap's shield as he reels a few steps away. The impact knocks his mask askew, the thing dangling precariously before finally dropping from his face. The Winter Soldier catches it, but does not bother trying to put it back on. The disguise is already broken; his cover already blown.

The face that looks back up at Steve is the face of the man who was by his side at the funerals of both his parents. The face of the only man who remembered to bring Steve a present and some cake on his fourteenth birthday. The face of the man who was always the first thing Steve saw after nearly blacking out from some impossible-odds fight. The face of the man who skipped his own awards ceremony to carry Steve home safely when he could not walk himself.

Now it is the face of a man who is hellbent on killing Steve for having seen his features unmasked… a face locked in hatred and utmost lack of recognition.


As his blows find purchase, Captain America takes advantage of that to pull back a few steps and regroup, only to find that the loss of the mask changes everything.

He told himself 'Bucky' could be anything: a robot, an alien, even a clone.

But as the battle has a brief respite, when the mask is removed, everything that Steve told himself to brace for this moment goes out the window. Despite reason or logic, that intrinsic desire for homeostasis, for things to return to how they should be, takes hold in Roger's mind. He wants to believe with everything he's got that the man standing before him is true James Barnes.

His shield lowers as the recognition dawns. His guard seems to drop, though as the assassin knows, it has the potential to return with almost supernatural speed. A hand peels away the helmet, revealing the sweaty and shocked countenance of the dusty blonde warrior.

"It's you," the 'unmasked' Steve says with a volume barely above a whisper as he finds the one the people talked to him about, the one Zatanna and her friend urged him to track down. It's as if he felt that that this was doomed to be a fool's errand, chasing rumors of kindred spirits. His head tilts faintly to one side, causing the bloodied wound to be more visible as he tries to see past the visage of hate and attempt to see what's beyond. His tone matches the concern and confusion in his eyes. "My God, Bucky, is it really you?" He stops himself from taking a step forward, only his combative instincts keeping Steve from closing the distance.

After all, his friend would never kill in cold blood. He was the man that urged him to be better, whose example made him want to be the hero he is now. This assassin lacks the compassion, the sense of justice, the self-sacrifice of the man who was like a brother to him. Following up his question is more pained as if grieving for the death of a man who is standing right in front of him. "What happened to you?"


It could be a clone. It could be an alien. It could be a robot. Hell, it's got a robot arm already. It's part of the way there.

Yet there is just something about the human mind that refuses to ignore evidence placed right before its eyes. That cannot look upon a face it has known since childhood, and reconcile the fact that it might not truly be the face of the one you loved. Recognition comes easily to Steve Rogers, because even in the seventy-two intervening years, James Barnes has not changed a whit in the features that truly matter: the shape of his eyes, the line of his jaw, the way that little line forms between his brows when he's angry.

It's there now. Because that familiar face is a mask of hatred. Those well-known features are caught in an expression that Bucky never, ever directed at Steve before in his life.

It's you, Steve whispers, pulling his own helm free as if to try to jog memory. Those fierce, cold blue eyes remain unmoved, even when addressed by name. My God, Bucky, is it really you?

"Who the hell," this stranger wearing his best friend's face demands, "is Bucky?"

The question is too aggressive. Someone as perceptive as Steve would notice that. The aggression is the kind that springs up from a sort of existential anger— a rage rooted in a deep layer of unhappy confusion. What happened to you? Steve continues, and the Winter Soldier's features twitch like the flicker of an old television with bad reception. For a moment, that confusion appears in his eyes. What did happen to me? I used to be… more…

Blood drips off the curve of his knife.

"Stop…" he says eventually. His free hand pushes up into his hair, clutching on. It's his metal hand. It has to hurt. But the pain the Soldier expresses seems deeper and harsher than any mere physical pain. "Stop asking me those questions…"

He lunges suddenly into movement, lashing out with his metal fist, aiming to ram into Steve dead-center— to drive him back against that wall and smash him into the brick. "I don't know!"


As the question come, Captain America rises up his mighty shield. And when he does, evil must always yield. Exccceeeept with it's not evil. Or when it's a guy with an extremely high powered arm.

Despite being ready for the offensive when Winter Soldier comes with full force, the overwhelming power of a raging rhino slams into the shield. Steve's boots slide helplessly against the street, adjusting here and there in the vain attempt to find better footing. It ends as Winter Soldier expected. Rogers is slammed into the wall he previously hopped upon, his helmetless head crashing into the hard surface and rebounding forward. The shocking thing is more than him surviving the strike; Cap actually is pushing back.

The arm announces its authority as its systems howl at the whim of the one who controls it. Beyond the shield, however, Steve is able to slowly gain a few inches space so hat the shield no longer planted against him. A strength the super soldier was previously holding back is starting to make itself known. Slowly, Cap begins to smile despite the fact that he's still in a bad spot, regardless of the trickle of blood that runs down the back of his head and spill around the sides of his neck.

"Then if you don't know who Bucky is, then let me tell you that any another question about him or me I can," the old friend offers through a forced breath, trying to change his pain and concern in his face to a calm bravado. "If you're brave enough to hear me out, that is." What is going on now? It seems that Steve is trying a different approach. Perhaps if he can't appeal to Bucky's emotion, he can play on something else: the pride of a man who backed down almost as infrequently as Steve himself. The change in tactics is swift, but the hero understands he doesn't have much time. After all, there are police that will come about possible… As well as a mutlitude of caped heroes that patrol this city. If any of them happened upon this, any headway here could swiftly be undone.


Immovable object meets an unstoppable force.

A resonant sound /flexes/ through the air, metal on metal, a single note ringing through the air as the Winter Soldier collides his metal fist with his erstwhile brother's unbreakable shield. The fixed rage and hatred on his face breaks and wavers slightly, shock flickering through his blue eyes to feel the full force of his blow stopped dead, but a moment later he recovers. His jaw grits. And with a massive effort translated up through a twist of his heels, his hips, his torso, fired down the piston of his shoulder…

…the Soldier forces Captain America back, crashing him into the brick wall.

Where he does not break.

The Winter Soldier pauses there, body turned, arm nailed against the shield. It is the perfect, flawless form of a trained boxer. Bucky Barnes was always a good boxer. It was one of the last things he taught to Steve Rogers, in a vain effort to give Steve some better way to defend himself, before Bucky left for the war. It is familiar. It screams James Barnes, even though the face regarding him still stares at him blankly in empty fury.

He hesitates, however, when Steve starts to speak from behind his shield, his strength slowly asserting itself to push back from behind that barrier. The Winter Soldier's arm falters slightly with a whine of metal, giving Cap an inch or two to lean forward. His eyes narrow at the challenge, familiar pride flickering in his gaze. Just as Steve knew it would.

"Zatknis," he hisses, the Russian words a horribly incongruous thing out of his mouth. "I do not fear anything."


There is it. In testing for pride, Steve knows it's Bucky and now has a chance to explain the man to, well, himself. As soon as the Winter Soldier claims he does not fear anything, the once wussy warrior starts to share, remaining right where he is for the time being. He's willing to remain behind a Buck and a hard place if it means having the chance to disclosure important information without exchanging blows.

"James Buchanan Barnes, friend of Steve Rogers and sergeant in the US Army and a Howling Commando." With that, the friend gives the full information load. Some of the information, such as where the man lived or where he served, could be found anywhere. Yet there are other things that would not be so easy to find. Things that are facts, but personal ones that would rarely make a Wikipedia page: Preferences of food, pet peeves when it comes to dating, favorite book. After about ten seconds of speedballing information, the Man with the Star Spangled Plan concludes with shocking transparency in his voice and his eyes. "And because he's my friend, I'll do whatever I can to make sure he's safe. Because you taught me to always stick by my friends, no matter what it costs."

In the back of Steve's mind, he has concerns. Even if this is Bucky brainwashed like that detective theorized, there is a chance he could overload. That he allows the killer to take over. So the blue eyes of Rogers lock onto to that of Barnes. The second that unconquerable rage kicks in, if it kicks in at all, Captain America will push off with everything he has and attempt to escape with a roll to the side. After all, while the idealist in Steve hopes that somehow friendship will easily overpower whatever happened to his friend, he understands that life isn't always as clear cut as he'd prefer.


The Winter Soldier knows he should be completing this kill.

Yet he doesn't. He remains frozen in place, metal knuckles ground against the unyielding vibranium of the Captain's shield. Something compels him to listen as Steve speaks. He talks about a man… a man named James Buchanan Barnes. A military man. A son. A brother. A best friend. A person this stranger seemed to love, because he knows every last detail, every last personal quirk… every last lesson he claims James Barnes taught to him, long ago.

A person the Soldier should remember, because this strange man before him is claiming that it's… him.

The Winter Soldier's expression spasms out of its fixed hatred. It flickers between confusion, pain, and a desperate, directionless searching: the groping of a mind for something just on the cusp of recollection, kept just barely out of reach. He struggles briefly, visibly, palpably, his arm trembling. Steve's concerns are not without merit. He looks on the verge of some sort of mental collapse. He can just barely touch something at the back of his mind, if he strains for it—

I oughta show you how to throw the left hook today. It's not easy, but it'll be useful for a shorter guy like you.

The voice is his own: the images in his mind those of a boxing gym, early morning, dust motes floating through the sunrays shooting in the windows.

You wanna throw your weight to your back foot for it, not your front. No— don't think about your arm yet. All the power for this comes up from your feet, from your hips. Twist 'em, send all that energy up the shoulder. Hit 'em right on the chin. Yeah, there you go.

He can almost feel it— the sense of his own hands guiding someone through the move. Someone who looks like the man in front of him. But they can't be his hands. The left one is human, not cold metal…

The Winter Soldier howls abruptly in refusal. His weight shifts, his body snapping in a perfect twist. And his left arm cannons in, trying to kill Steve with the same left hook he taught his best friend eighty-four years ago.

Prescient, expecting violence, Steve Rogers ducks and rolls aside. The metal fist pulverizes brick. And while Steve recovers from his roll, the Winter Soldier turns and outright flees, running as much from the stark confusion in his mind as from the encounter itself.


When the Winter Soldier pauses, Captain America is silent. He waits, much like he was trying to see an egg hatch or a flower open its petals to bloom. While Steve wants to rush this, wants everything to return to what once was, he understands that this is overwhelming. He remembers his time after the 'big thaw' and that was lacking whatever happened to Bucky. This mystery lingers in his mind. After all, there are few things more frustrating than watching a friend suffer and being powerless to stop it. The hope returns to the friend as he watches the struggle between confusion and anger. As the rage disappears, he seems to loosen for a moment. Perhaps it will turn out as he hoped. Perhaps there will be a happy ending this night.

But like much of this night, everything turns swiftly on its head as the Winter Soldier howls and most concerning prepares for a life ending blow. If not for the natural instincts of Cap and the mental flow chart he made going into this conflict, his lapse in concentration might have ended him. But instead of feeling the impact of a fist with the power of a bullet, all Steve feels is the pelting rubble slamming into his back without sensation, adrenaline numbing all but the pain in his chin and head.

Bucky goes to flee and Rogers prepares to give chase, understanding that he should capture the man. As he stands and races a few steps forward, his almost perfect body refuses him; the head trauma combined with the roll to disorient the super soldier and force him to one knee, only able to watch as his best friend flees into the night through the haze of blood pumping and the confusing nature of double vision. It'll take only ten seconds or so before Captain America is able to regain himself enough to make his way out of the alley, but by then, it is likely far too late. One hand rests on the wall as the shield arm hangs down.

"Bucky?. I'm so sorry," Rogers finally offers as he lowers his bloodied head, as if asking for God's forgiveness just as much as the man who has been seemingly remade into a monster. A light fog coming off Rogers' exceptional form as the cold Gotham air chills off the body heat, punctuated further by the deep exhales of breath as the brain's flight or fight switch slowly turns off and the neural chemicals of war are slowly pulled back to their normal levels.

Tired and shellshocked, Captain America makes his own escape before the authorities get there, leaving it to other more capable people to do the detective work of who this woman was and why she was attacked. Right now, the Man Out of Time needs to process the latest and perhaps most painful revelation since being brought to the modern century.

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