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About outofgloom

  • Birthday 06/01/1990

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    grad-student | teacher | linguist | LEGO/Bionicle enthusiast | a total nerd

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  1. @Wiriamu: Much appreciated! That was precisely the idea I had for Vakama's role in G2: very indirect, but as an explanation for why there are some similarities between G2 and G1. For example, I thought it was interesting that in G2 the Okotoans wear masks, but it doesn't seem to be a necessity for them, while it IS necessary for the Toa. If Vakama is the original teacher of mask-making, that would also explain why the G2 mask-shapes show some similarities to the originals. Glad you liked the Voporak/Toa Nui clash. It was really fun to develop that battle, since previously in G1 Voporak has been portrayed as a really unapproachable foe. The idea that the Toa Nui would have access to a Toa Seal-like power that could sort of counteract/resist his entropic abilities just seemed to fit into place. =) And as for the ultimate fate of everyone in G1...I don't necessarily think that everyone was killed/absorbed. Spherus Magna still remains...who knows what might have transpired there afterward? In fact, my short story veteran might give a small hint at this... =p JRRT
  2. @Toa of Italy: I appreciate the commentary! You're right that the concept of the story really came before the actual events. An "end of G1" story could either have been an all-out character-fest, or a pared down single-character plotline, and I ended up opting for the latter. Glad you enjoyed it! On the issue of the Great Beings: Earlier versions of the story actually expanded quite a bit on the motivations of the Great Beings and Velika. In a nutshell, the idea was to play once more on the concept of a "world within a world". Spherus Magna doesn't quite "fit" in the universe of the Great Beings in a variety of ways, and the fact that it happened to contain Energized Protodermis--pretty much a universe-breaking substance--seems highly coincidental. My intention was to imply that, just as the MU ended up being a "container" for EP, so was Spherus Magna, originally. The Great Beings came to this conclusion as well, and desired to break free of their "universe", an act which required them (for some reason or another) to have mastery of time, hence the ultimate purpose of the Vahi. As you can see, this stuff starts to get rather clunky, especially when it's inserted into a narrative which is already quite slow. For that reason, I ultimately decided not to include it and instead to focus primarily on Vakama's perspective of the GBs. As for the ending...there are more hints to Okoto than you might think. That link was just an afterthought, really. =p Glad you enjoyed the story overall, and I really appreciate you taking the time to comment! JRRT
  3. Chapter 11 of Mask Maker has been posted, and that's all folks! It's a pretty bittersweet ending...not just for the story, but also for myself, since this is actually the largest piece of Bionicle fanfiction I've completed, and it'll likely be the last (for a good long while at least). In a sense, this story is an attempt at bringing closure to the somewhat open-ended state in which G1 has remained since 2010, as well as a way of transitioning from G1 into G2 and beyond. That's what it is for me, at least. Thanks to everyone who has read it, and thanks to those who took the time to respond. =) JRRT
  4. Chapter 11 of Mask Maker has been posted, and that's all folks! It's a pretty bittersweet ending...not just for the story, but also for myself, since this is actually the largest piece of Bionicle fanfiction I've completed, and it'll likely be the last (for a good long while at least). In a sense, this story is an attempt at bringing closure to the somewhat open-ended state in which G1 has remained since 2010, as well as a way of transitioning from G1 into G2 and beyond. That's what it is for me, at least. Thanks to everyone who has read it, and thanks to those who took the time to respond. =) JRRT
  5. outofgloom

    Mask Maker

    Mask Maker Waves washed the body of Vakama gently ashore. He was awake. The air was cool, and his body felt light. He was on his back, and at the edge of his vision he could see a swaying treeline. He remained still for a moment, resting in the peaceful sound of the sea and the warmth of sunlight shining on his face. A sound roused him. Something moved under the trees. He raised himself on one arm and looked. The trees formed the edge of a dense green forest. Above their swaying canopies, snow-capped mountains loomed. It was all so familiar, and yet still very different. Two glowing eyes peered out from the shelter of the leafy shadow a short distance away. Vakama looked closer, and realized that it was a green-armored Matoran. The Turaga stood slowly, smiling and gesturing in a friendly way. The eyes winked, and the Matoran sauntered onto the beach. It seemed a very natural scene--a Le-Matoran scout keeping watch over the shore. But as the Matoran approached, Vakama realized that something was very different. The figure was larger than the typical Matoran and differently-armored…and it wore no mask. The creature stopped a few bio away and studied Vakama. It held a short spear in one hand, but did not seem aggressive. Vakama saw that the being was nearly his own height. Certainly not a Matoran, but very much alike. “Hello my friend,” he ventured. “I am a stranger here. What land is this?” The creature squinted. It did not understand. Vakama wished for a Rau, but remembered that his own had been destroyed. “Okewi ata?” the creature said, apparently asking a question. Vakama shrugged, shaking his head (hopefully they had that sign in common). He pointed to himself. “Vakama.” “Paka…pakama?” “Close enough,” the Turaga said. The creature leaned on its spear and peered at him intently, then it pointed at his face. “Ma’ata wi?” Vakama repeated the gesture, “This?” “Ma. Ma’atowe?” It pointed again, more insistently. Vakama thought he understood. “This is my mask,” he said, removing the Huna briefly and turning it in his hands, despite the wave of weakness that it caused. The creature reached out to take the mask, but Vakama shook his head. “No, no. I must keep it,” he said, returning the mask to his face. The exchange was interrupted by another rustling in the trees. Three more Matoran-like creatures emerged from the deepening shade of forest. They all wore similar armor to the first, and none of them wore masks. The creature that had spoken ran to meet them, and they conversed for a few moments in their unknown tongue. Vakama stood awkwardly, not wanting to make a bad impression. The sun was just now falling behind the distant mountain-peaks, and the gloom of the forest crept slowly over the beach. Vakama let the sound of waves fill his ears, since he could discern nothing from the muffled conversation, and he felt a pang of loneliness…weariness. This was a strange place to him, and yet he felt as if he were meant to be here. The figure of the mighty Toa Nui flashed in his memory. “You must go forward,” it had said to him, “…make your own path…but do not forget us.” Do not forget us. “I will not forget,” Vakama whispered to himself, staring out at the endless ocean. The creatures had stopped talking, he realized, and he shook himself from his reverie, looking toward them. But they were not looking at him. They were looking past him, down the beach. A familiar sound thrummed in his mind, like a wordless voice, and he turned. Golden-orange it lay, half-buried in the sand, but now its glow was fading with the sunlight. Only the top half remained, Vakama saw. The lower portion was gone, but even, so it was the Vahi. The Mask of Time had come with him after all. He was not alone. === His new companions led him into the shadow of the forest, down narrow trails carved through the underbrush. They spoke little, except to guide him along. He was clearly an oddity to them, but even so they seemed to treat him with a kind of reverence. Many times in their conversation he heard repeated a phrase that he had thought was his name, but now he was not so sure. Ma…paka ma, they said, and whispered. Vakama held the Vahi close. Soon they arrived at a campsite nestled at the base of a cliff-wall. The Matoran-like creatures busied themselves about the task of preparing for the night. The forest was full of sounds, and Vakama saw that his companions always kept one eye on the trees. It had rained a little, and the firewood was damp when one of the creatures began the process of making a fire. Vakama crouched down beside him, almost without thinking, and placed a hand within the pile of firewood that had been gathered. A small burst of elemental energy soon set it alight. It seemed such a natural thing to do… And yet the creatures gasped and fell back, eyes wide. Clearly they had never seen such a thing. One of them even brandished a spear, and Vakama feared that he would have need of his Huna in a moment. But then the first creature—the one who had met him on the beach—put a hand to his comrade’s shoulder and said something that eased the tension. “Wa mu o’eka na! Paka ma!” The fire glowed brighter as the wood began to dry out. The creatures stared at Vakama with something like awe, and perhaps a little fear. Vakama did not know what had been said, but the feeling that his presence here was no coincidence was again unmistakable. He sat slowly before the fire and beckoned them to do the same. Smoke wafted up and stung his eyes, but it was a familiar feeling. Somehow, the small wood-fire that burned before him was as good as any Sacred Flame, and longing for the past struck him once more. Tears filled his eyes, and they were not only because of the smoke. The creatures watched silently, expectantly. A great desire to communicate rose up within Vakama, and suddenly he was back in Ta-Koro, in the old days, and it was time for the telling of Legends around the Amaja Circle. He knew that there was a barrier of words between him and his audience now, but that could be overcome, in time. “Li’i wi paka,” one of the creatures said, and somehow there was understanding. Tell us of your journey. “Li’i ma,” another continued. Tell us of the mask. Vakama plucked the Mask of Time from the ground beside him and peered into its gold-orange surface. Then he leaned back and breathed in the smell of ash and fire. His eyes wandered upward. There in the surface of the cliff, he imagined a familiar shape could be seen. An ancient mask…the elder part of the Mask of Time—his Vahi—as if the stone of the cliff had simply formed in that shape, uncarved by any hand… But then the shadows shifted, and the vision was gone. Vakama set the Mask of Time down again and cleared his throat. "Very well,” he said, speaking perhaps more to himself than to those who were listening, “I shall tell you a Legend.” “In the Time Before Time..." he began, but then stopped. "No, no, I've told it that way too many times…" He scowled and scratched his head, struggling to invent new words. Then he began again, gesturing wide for his still-attentive audience: "Past into Present," Turaga Vakama intoned. "Present into Future," the Mask Maker continued... "That is the way of the Bionicle." The End
  6. As with anything, the fanbase has calmed down quite a bit with the end of G2, but it's hardly dead! Tumblr is just one outgrowth of it, and I'm glad that the blog was an encouragement to you in some small way. =)
  7. Sorry for another long gap! Chapter 10 has now been posted. Only one chapter remains... JRRT
  8. outofgloom

    Mask Maker

    Goodbye The shadows had grown long in the Temple of Fire. The Sacred Flame sputtered as it burned low within the ring of stones, and pungent smoke floated upward toward the domed ceiling. No sound intruded except the crackle of fuel in the firepit, and even that was almost at an end. For a moment, the twisting pattern of flame seized together, burning against the encroaching darkness, and then it finally released. The tongues of fire hissed and retreated downward, and only embers glowed there now. Turaga Vakama breathed in and out, still staring into the remnants of the fire. He was alone. The temple was cool. No light shone through the high windows or the rounded doorway. It was all dark. Night must have fallen upon the world as he meditated in the vision. How long had he sat here, undisturbed? At last he shook himself, felt his limbs creak. A light layer of dust fell from his mask as he stood up, and he coughed, blinking the sand out of his eyes. It must be very late. For a moment, he considered rebuilding the fire and simply staying in the temple for the night. He was tired, and it would be an easy thing…But no, somehow he felt that had stayed long enough. He had better return home. Home. The thought pierced through him sharply as memories raced through his weary mind. Pain. Sadness. Fear. Anguish. Defiance. Wonder. Never before had he experienced a vision of such power and vividness, a vision that absorbed him so completely that he came away…changed. It frightened him, but, after all, he had sought it out, hadn't he? He had desired it above all things, to see the future again. But not now. Not anymore. He had had his fill of visions, of masks and destinies, of betrayal and despair, of Great Beings and death. He strode down the length of the temple, between the stone pillars. It was over now. It was done. Now all he wanted was home. He increased his pace as he neared the temple entrance, and a strange lightness rose in his spirit at the thought of leaving the Sacred Flame behind. No more visions. No more fear. Almost running now, he plunged through the doorway, out into the calm night. And there was Nothing. === He fell for a long time, or what felt like a long time. There was nothing to measure by anyways. There was only…Nothing. There was no more temple. No more street. No more light from the Sacred Flame. No more smells or sounds. Nothing to touch. Nothing to feel. After a while, the Nothing began to seem solid to him, but he knew that this was only his mind grasping for something real. Even the sensation of falling was soon lost, and he imagined that he stood now in a dark place, with the eternal emptiness seeping into his bones. His mind wandered and departed and returned, but it didn’t matter. Was this death? Perhaps that didn’t matter either. He simply remained, and the nothing went on forever. He even began to wonder if he truly existed anymore, or if he had ever existed...the void was so complete. But then there was another presence with him, and he knew that he did exist, for he was separate from that presence. Small lights veered into focus above him...or was it below? The lights were like stars, but far clearer than he had ever seen. They stabbed his eyes like knives, but it was like sustenance after enduring long hunger. The figure was beside him. He could see its outline where it blocked out the starfield. It was larger than him...the same size as...as... Eyes blazed out of the figure's face. It was the being that Velika had called by a strange, ancient name. Marendar, he had said...But no, not Marendar. Not anymore. He began to remember everything again, though he didn’t want to. Voporak struck down...Velika destroyed...the terrible approach of the Great Beings...He had hoped that it was all just a vision, not real. All that suffering and loss. How could one endure it all? “Vakama,” the Being spoke his name, and its voice was many voices, “forgive us.” “Forgive you?” Vakama’s voice sounded dry and weak from disuse. “Why?” “Forgive us for leaving you in this place. We became separated on the journey, and only now have we found you again.” “What journey?” he asked. “What has happened? How did I…we…come to be here?” “You are the one who made it possible, this fulfillment of the desires of our Creators…” “Me? How…” he trailed off for a moment, then another thought impressed itself upon him: “Tell me what you are,” he said. The Being did not reply at once. It stared at him out of the darkness. Did it know what it was? A suspicion had grown in Vakama’s mind from the time that he witnessed the being’s full power on the beach. A story from his earliest days as a Matoran, one of the oldest stories, perhaps, that he could recall… “We are…together,” the being said at last. “Are you a Toa?” Vakama asked. “We are,” it replied. “Are you a Kaita?” “No.” Vakama should have known this. A Kaita would not say ‘we’. The spirit of a Kaita was a melding of its members, but it had its own distinct designation. “Then what are you? What is your designation?” “There is no designation. We are not a thing ordained by the Great Beings.” “But you are a Toa.” “This is true…but we are greater.” No doubts remained to Vakama now. He stood in the presence of a Legend incarnate, all the power of the Toa somehow embodied in one form, focused and unified. “I know what you are,” Vakama said. “You are Toa Nui.” It had been an abstract concept whispered with uncertainty and doubt, a product of the Matoran imagination gone wild. The Toa Nui was never destined to exist--not by the Great Beings, at least. But perhaps imagination made its own destinies, after all. It was fitting, then, that the creature that the Great Beings had designed to end Toa-kind had been the catalyst for a new creation. The Toa Nui stared at Vakama for a lingering moment, and he felt the weight of its eyes, as if it were processing this new designation and what it signified. Then it turned its mighty gaze back to the star-filled void, inscrutable. It struck Vakama quite suddenly that there was no floor beneath them, and yet somehow he was grounded, stable. After all the madness, they were far away, standing in the void, and the void could not touch them. He was safe—more than safe. He felt that now he had gone further than any of his kind had before. He doubted that the Great Beings had planned this. It was a fearful thought, to go so far, beyond destiny itself, but perhaps he could bear it, for he was not alone. His eyes returned to the face of his companion, and he perceived that it still wore the Vahi Nuva. Time passed—he couldn’t be sure how long—and he felt that he should speak again. “Surely…” he said, haltingly “Surely there must be a way…a way to go back.” The Toa Nui turned toward him again. It did not speak. “The Mask of Time has brought us here, has it not?” “This is true,” the Toa Nui said. “Then why can’t we go back? With such power, we could change things. Undo things. Undo…all of this.” The Toa Nui blurred, and its mask altered. A gray Suletu stared at him now, and the voice that whispered softly from it was familiar—a Toa named Krakua. Vakama remembered him. “Is that what you desire, Vakama?” Krakua said, “To change what has gone before, bend it to your will? “Maybe…yes,” Vakama said. “If I could, I would make things right.” “Well then…perhaps it is possible,” Krakua replied. The Toa Nui raised a mighty arm, and the Vahi Nuva blazed through the features of the Suletu. An image appeared in the dark space, indistinct at first, but slowly clarifying. A cliff-face towered into view, robed in mist above and below. A tiny speck of color stood out against the vastness of stone, clinging to the jagged rock, and with a shock Vakama recognized the titan Voporak staring out across the waters of a silver sea. His friend was still alive! He wanted to cry out to the titan, but somehow could not. The image seemed to wash over his senses, and he was helpless before it. Far below, he saw another figure break the surface of the sea. It was Toa-sized, and its armor was deep red. In one hand, it held an object that glowed orange. In that moment, Vakama realized what he was seeing. It was himself. Himself as he had been long ago—a Toa, still young in mind, still burdened with destiny and self-doubt… He was seeing the past. It was the time when he and his fellow Toa had been traveling to their new home on the island of Mata Nui. He had departed from them for a time, drawn inexorably to retrieve something that he had lost…the Vahi. Even then it had been calling him, trying to guide him back to his original destiny. He could see the threads of destiny clearly now, tying everything together, binding him to one purpose, one function within the grand design of the Great Beings. It was inescapable. The image changed again. Now he saw himself crouching in a dim place. His face was obscured by something…something that was mask-like, but which pulsed as if alive, clinging over his eyes. It was horrible, he remembered, the krana-like creature which had taken control of him. But then he also remembered what had happened next. The creature had shown him things…more visions. Had that been a part of the Great Beings’ plan, or was it an aberration? He had seen Toa Krakua, spoken with him. Could it be that after all this time, the two moments had finally converged? There was more to be said. So much more. He could change everything, stop his visions from coming true. By the power of the Mask of Time, he could thwart the destiny ordained by the Great Beings, sever the threads that had bound him and all his kind. He would do it. Yes! Vakama moved closer to the image, placing a hand on the Toa Nui’s arm. “Can I communicate with myself?” he asked. “Perhaps,” the Toa Nui said, and its voice had changed. It turned its gaze upon him, and its face was no longer the face of Krakua. It was Gali now, and her eyes were sad. “What will you do, Vakama?” Gali asked quietly. “I will save all of you. Somehow it can be done. The Mask of Time has the power to do it, I’m sure.” “You will make a new future for us, then?” “Yes!” “A better future?” “Better, yes! Anything would be better than this.” “A future that you have ordained.” “Yes. It’s the right thing to do.” “Then you are aptly named, Vaka-ma,” Gali replied. “Master of the Future, Ordainer of Destinies…” The Toa Nui raised mighty hands to its face, and Gali’s mask vanished. “Wait…” Vakama said. With a click, the Toa Nui removed the Vahi Nuva. The image wavered, but remained. The Vakama of the past crouched, frozen, in the grip of the mask-like creature, seemingly waiting for something to happen. Vakama sensed that there was something about this moment—something unique and different—that provided an access-point across time. If there was any change to be made, it would be made here. He only had to take the opportunity. The Toa Nui held up the Mask and offered it to Vakama. Its face was the face of Krakua once more. “Take it,” Krakua whispered, “and do as you have said.” Vakama took the Mask—his own creation—in his hands, and felt the infinite power that surged from it. This was the culmination of all the Great Beings’ efforts. All their plans and designs had led to this one point, and now it had been taken away from them. Now it was his decision to make. The Mask called to him, sang to him. Make the choice. You must choose. He raised the Mask to his face. But then he stopped. He did not put on the Mask. Something seemed to release deep inside him, all grief and anguish. Finally he wept, his tears falling upon the surface of his creation. He wept for all the loss that he had seen, all the disappointment. Now the power to undo it was his to command, and yet something stopped him. It was a simple thing that stopped him, but perhaps the most painful realization he had yet dealt with in his long life. “I cannot do this,” he said at last to the Toa Nui. “I can’t.” “Why, Vakama?” The words seemed to spill out of him: “I am a creature of the Great Beings. That is what I am, though I hate them now for what they’ve done. They shaped me and formed me to their purpose, and no matter what I chose, I was always drawn back to it. Always, without end, until my purpose was fulfilled, and so it was for everyone else. All of us, the creatures of the Great Beings. We are bound by our destinies. We cannot overcome them, and it has all led to this. Death and separation and loss…I can hardly bear it.” Vakama drew breath. The Toa Nui listened on. “But…something has changed now. I am free. I have fulfilled my destiny, and yet it is not the end. I am a paradox. We all are. We are more than what the Great Beings intended. We have grown and learned. And although I want to go back and change everything—I want it more than anything—that is exactly what the Great Beings would wish. To start over, to unmake their mistakes. That was what they wanted, wasn’t it? To go beyond Time…” He trailed off again, squeezing his eyes shut against more tears. The voice of Gali fell upon his ears. “And so, Vakama, I ask again: What will you do?” He opened his eyes. “I am a creature of the Great Beings,” he repeated, “but I am not bound to follow in their footsteps. I will not become the same thing as they are. I will not bind up the threads of destiny to suit my desires. I cannot do this, though it is my greatest desire.” Vakama offered up the Vahi Nuva, saying: “You are something outside the plans of the Great Beings. You are something new. Take the Mask and do what you will.” “Very well.” The Toa Nui took the Mask once more, gripping it on both sides. With a shock, it pulled the mask apart, and the Vahi Nuva was no more. The image of Toa Vakama vanished, and a sudden lurch of movement made Vakama’s stomach churn. The stars began to wheel around them slowly. “Now,” said the Toa Nui, “we shall make a new thing.” The Toa Nui handed Vakama one of the halves of the Mask of Time, and Vakama took it once more with trembling fingers. A pang of sadness went through him, knowing that his creation was undone, even though he knew that it was right in the end. “It is over,” the Toa Nui continued, “We are far beyond the reach of the creators, but you cannot remain here forever.” “Where am I to go?” Vakama said, clutching the remaining fragment of the Mask. “You must go forward,” the Toa Nui said. “You shall make your own path.” Gali’s face wavered before him again “…but do not forget us, Vakama. Hold us in your mind, and know that we endure.” The Toa of Water faded into a sea of faces, a sea of voices speaking to him, almost chanting: “When the need arises, we shall aid you. This is our purpose, our duty--to appear when times are dark and all hope seems lost. In that time, call upon us. Evoke the power of past and future, and look to the stars for an answer. We are timeless, and so we shall remain. United, the elements hold the power to defeat evil…” “…United, but not one. Never again." Vakama stood before a small fire. Around the fire sat many figures. Six sat closest to the fire. Blue, White, Green, Red, Black, Brown. He knew them all. They smiled at him. "Goodbye, my friends." And then there was only the brightness of the Toa Nui's eyes, and a rushing noise all around him. The stars flashed from points into sharp lines as he sped away toward some new destination. A blue point reared up in his vision, expanding to a vast sphere. Was it Spherus Magna? Had he come home at last? review
  9. As a final act in 2016, I've posted an epic entitled Mask Maker. It's a final take on the Bionicle G1 storyline that has been taking shape for a few years now. Here's the main topic and the review topic if you're interested in reading and/or commenting. It'll also be on my tumblr blog. See ya '16. Updates: CH 1 Labor CH 2 Deadline CH 3 Last CH 4 Embrace CH 5 All Wrong CH 6 Ages CH 7 Invert CH 8 No CH 9 Door CH 10 Goodbye CH 11 Mask Maker (Final)
  10. Hmm...well, it may have been, but the result was certainly unexpected. =) Maybe Chapter 9 will shed some more light on the subject...? JRRT
  11. outofgloom

    Mask Maker

    Door Vakama had witnessed the exchange and the battle on the beach, and his mind still rang with the voice of the now-imprisoned Velika. The light blinded him, and he shrank back, trying to draw up enough energy to activate his Huna once again and escape Velika’s notice, though he knew it was hopeless. A rush of thoughts filled his mind. Who was the titan who had come out of the sea? For a moment, he had thought it was a Toa. It wielded the elements, and the flash of silver power was so very familiar, almost like a Toa Seal. Even so, he knew that such power was beyond the strength of a single Toa. A memory stirred in Vakama's mind--a legend that he had thought to be only a Matoran fabrication. Could it be? No…Velika had said that the Toa were all dead, and he had called the creature by a different name…Marendar. Was it true, after all? He had no time to wonder further, for in an instant, as the light resolved upon him, Vakama felt another will take hold of him. It was unlike the times when Velika had controlled him before. That had been like a command which he had obeyed involuntarily, but under his own will. Now, as the mind-voice of Velika battered at his thoughts, there was a definite sense that an external power was struggling to wrest away control of his body, force him out. It was agony, but he could do nothing to escape the assault—not even cry out for help. His eyes dully registered the scene before him, a sharp-edged snapshot. There was the crystal column piercing out of the sand. Beyond it stood the figure of the titan from the sea, standing almost listless, frozen, watching. Would it not help him? Behind the titan and the column, the orange spark of the Mask of Time still shone clear, despite the blaze that threatened to swallow everything else in its deadly radiance. And beneath it all, the voice of the terrible multitude of the Great Beings thrummed on. Vakama could still feel it under the crushing weight of Velika’s mind, but it was no comfort. We are at the door. We are at the door. Vakama felt his will falter at last, like a metal bar that had reached its melting point in the forge and could not help but yield to the hammer. We are at the door. Open the door. It was all over. He let go... Something changed. The burning light was cut off, eclipsed by a larger shape. The pressure ceased in one sickening moment and Vakama felt his entire body spasm, seize, and then he finally drew breath. Another visual snapshot registered in his mind. A shape crouched between him and the white light, shielding him from it and somehow shielding him from the mental assault as well. Was it the being from the ocean? No...Vakama recognized the silhouette—broad and bestial. The light began to fade, and the figure went from silhouette into color, and Vakama knew who it was. The titan Voporak turned weakly toward the Turaga and fixed him with eyes now dimmed by age. He did not speak, but, as before, there was understanding. “Why have you saved me?” Vakama asked, and Voporak answered, in a way. “Because I have failed,” he said. “Failed? How?” “My destiny is unfulfilled.” “My friend,” Vakama replied, “the old destinies are done. Have you not seen it?” “I have seen it, in my mind’s eye, but I cannot accept this vision. No, I am lost, and I have failed, for my destiny is before me, and I cannot decide to follow it. I have not the strength…” “Do not worry—” “—but we are of the same system. We are brothers. You may choose where I cannot. When I am gone, you will remain.” “What do you mean?” “When I am gone, brother...you...must choose.” The exchange lasted only a fraction of a second, but it was enough for Vakama to understand two things. The first was that he and Voporak were two sides of the same coin. Vakama was meant to create the Mask of Time, and Voporak was the key to unlock the return of the Great Beings, to deliver the mask unto them. This was all true. The second thing Vakama realized was that Velika’s assault had not ceased—only changed its target. Voporak’s eyes rolled back, and a shudder went through his massive frame. His heartlight died, and then winked back on—no longer a deep red, but white. Voporak’s arm shot out and seized Vakama by the neck, and Vakama thought that the titan would end him, but then Voporak’s eyes came back into focus, dim, but still red. Not quite under Velika’s control, it seemed. “When I am gone, brother...” Voporak lifted Vakama bodily and flung him away down the slope, toward the tideline. The Turaga struck the sand and rolled over, winded, trying to orient himself. There was the crystal formation, much nearer than before. He looked back, straining to see what had become of Voporak. Dimly he registered the presence of the titan from the sea—Marendar—a short distance away, still motionless. Moments passed, and Vakama’s heartlight pounded in his ears. Then the glow from within the crystal vanished at last, and the shape of Voporak stirred. The aged titan staggered up, slipping in the loose sand, and turned. Vakama winced as he realized that one of the titan’s arms had half crumbled away…but the eyes in the bestial face were still clear, shining white with a newly-installed mind. Voporak was gone. Only Velika remained. The body of Voporak/Velika straightened up and seemed to shrug slowly, then with a clank and a crunch the outer layer of the titan’s age-crumbled armor fell off. The titan started forward, still menacing despite its decayed appearance. Apparently Velika’s regenerative powers were at work even in his new shell. The air shimmered once more with a deadly entropic field, and Vakama heard Velika in his mind again--a voice still raw with rage. “I am the last of the Great Beings,” the voice threatened. “I alone shall transcend.” Vakama fell back a step, unsure of what to do. The field advanced, and he knew that if Velika caught him, it would be the end. Trapped between his enemy and the dark water, he looked around desperately for some weapon to defend himself, but found nothing. Then Marendar was there, moving between him and Velika. It had grown once more, dark and gigantic, and it was no longer idle. A silver glow surrounded it like a shield, shedding angry sparks as it met the entropic field that now protected Velika, and Vakama felt the aura of elemental power. It was a Toa Seal—pure crystalline protodermis, timeless and eternal. A shield against the ravages of time. A spiraling Rhotuka formed in Velika’s remaining hand, and he attempted to strike the titan with it, but Marendar was too fast. The Rhotuka fired wide and fizzed on the sand as Marendar caught Velika’s hand and twisted, raining blows with the other fist. Vakama sought cover as the beach shook and the sound of battle echoed on the water. Dust choked the air as strange energies flashed from Marendar’s limbs and either died out under entropic suppression or scorched jagged lines in the earth. The sea roared and the clouds cracked with thunder as lightning flashed upwards. At last, the titans locked limbs, grappling at close quarters. Marendar twisted abruptly, hand whipping back, and then it drove forward with incredible speed, piercing Velika’s armor at the shoulder. At that moment, the shield protecting Marendar seemed to falter against the onslaught of the aging-field, and Marendar lost its footing in the sand. Velika roared in pain and rage, tearing away from his foe and landing a solid blow to the torso. Marendar was flung back toward the water, smashing into the column of crystal. Seconds passed as Marendar rose. Something dropped from the dark titan’s massive hand—a piece of machinery—and Vakama sickened at the realization that Marendar must have torn it from Velika’s body. But there was no time to think about that. Velika staggered forward, ready to continue the battle, but Marendar looked hesitant, eyes shifting through different hues, as if fighting once more for unity. Vakama became aware of a high-pitched noise that was slowly increasing. It seemed to be proceeding from the body of Velika, but it also seemed to be of the same quality as the voice of the Great Beings which still echoed: We are at the door. We are at the door. Vakama realized that the twisted module that Marendar had dropped was a kind of power regulator…and now it had been removed. The whining noise rose to a deafening crescendo as Vakama opened his mouth to cry out, whether in warning or grief, but no words came. For a split second, the eyes of the aged titan flickered back to their original red color and fixed Vakama with a look that was at once exultation and profound sadness. And then Voporak…one-time enemy, now Vakama’s brother…the scourge of time, succumbed to his own time-rending power… …and he opened the door. A look of shock crossed Velika’s face as the entropic field buzzed angrily and shrank inward. The titan’s body buckled and warped as something like a hole tore open in the air of the beach. The opening yawned wide for a moment, and then it swallowed the crumbling titan whole. Velika’s scream of rage carried on horribly, and Vakama clutched his head, trying to block the mind-voice out. But then it was gone…silenced in the face of a thousand clamoring voices. A thousand distorted shapes flickered in the gap—not just a gap now, but a gateway. A thousand voices began to command, reaching out. Identify, unit. Identify and verify our command. The mental noise of them assaulted Vakama just as Velika’s had before, compelling him to obey. He felt very small, almost incapable of understanding what was being asked of him. He stood before the Great Beings an insignificant thing. A piece of matter that they had granted life for a time, but nothing more. What worth did he have except in fulfilling their demands? But then ten millennia of experiences seemed to break open in his memory all at once. A lifetime of existence…surely there was value in that, value beyond mindless obedience—not just for him, but for all his kind, whatever was left of them. And in the face of those memories, he came to the final, terrible conclusion, a conclusion that he felt he had known ever since this great ordeal had begun: The Great Beings did not care, as Mata Nui had not cared before he had been cast down to live and breathe among his subjects. For the Great Beings, all of their creations were simply tools—to be used and then discarded. Unity, Duty, and Destiny...these were cheap things to them. Quotas to be fulfilled. Identify, unit. Identify and verify our command. Deliver up the Mask of Time. Somehow, whether it was an influence from Velika or Voporak, or an inner strength that Vakama had never tapped into before, he chose a different path. “I defy you,” Vakama said, wavering on his feet before the gods of his universe. “I will not obey.” Boiling silence poured from the gateway. Confusion. Annoyance. Anger. Vakama looked away, searching the sand at his feet, searching for the one thing that had been the cause of all his turmoil, but it was not there. He turned his back on the doorway that hung in the air, and instead of fear he felt relief. He would not give up the prize to them. He would make something new. Marendar towered over him, its body still half-covered in silver light. In its hands it held a bright orange thing that glowed like fire. Vakama stood stock still. Another flurry of screams and commands poured from the gateway, and the opening distorted horribly, widening like a mouth. Shapes approached, resolved. Tall figures, draped in brightness. Eyes bulged. Arms reached out. Minds clawed their way into reality as the Great Beings finally returned to the universe of their birth. But the titan paid no attention. Calmly, it raised the Mask to its face. review
  12. Well! After an unexpected hiatus, we are back on track with Chapter 8 of Mask Maker. It's probably the most action-packed chapter so far. There shouldn't be any more serious delays with the remaining few chapters. Enjoy! JRRT
  13. outofgloom

    Mask Maker

    No A final fragment of vision: “I am alone," Vakama said to those who sat around the fire of his mind’s eye, "Can I not remain here? I am not meant to be alone." "You are not alone, Vakama," voices replied. "It is we who are alone—we who have reached the end of our purpose. You remain, and it is you who will make a way for us—all of us—in time. Goodbye, Vakama." "No! I will not say goodbye." "Goodbye..." === Thrum. The Mask of Time called out. I am here. Thrum. The answer came. We approach. We will claim what is ours. Thrum. It was a low wind playing over the scene, moaning through the knotholes of the Vahi Nuva like a sad flute, beckoning. Thrum. It was a sound of footsteps. Footsteps drawing ever nearer. They were here. They were at the door. Would the door open for them? The two figures stared at each other, neither moving, as the seconds ticked by. The air hummed and strained with suspense. A struggle seemed to be occurring. Two minds touched and probed for intention, but no battle was joined. Thrum. The sound increased in urgency. We approach. We approach. Could they both hear it? Velika’s eyes flashed, and at last he inhaled. How long had he not been breathing? Lungs were such inconvenient things. His jaw released, articulators fell into place, and a verbal command lashed out into the air. “Verify identity, designation MARENDAR, and report.” The command was spoken in a language far older than the tongue of the Matoran, and yet somehow familiar. The dark giant responded, shifting its position. Its eyes dimmed as if processing the input, then brightened. A lifeless, modulated voice proceeded from the titan’s blank face: “Command received,” it said. “Reporting directives fulfilled. Identity confirmed, designation—” the voice dissolved into a wash of static. “Error. Identity unconfirmed. Designation unconfirmed.” “Diagnose,” Velika said. More seconds passed. The titan wavered in the buffeting waves. “Diagnosis…failed. Error unknown,” it said at last, its voice distorting oddly. “Diagnose!” Velika said again, his voice strained with impatience. Then, he quickly followed up the command: “Disregard command, unit. Directives fulfilled. Stand down. Deactivate.” Audio-distortion covered the titan’s reply. Velika sighed as another wave jostled the Mask of Time from where it had settled. He started forward, wincing as his feet slipped in the wet sand, eyes still fixed on the dark-armored giant. He was almost there. The Mask glowed and pulsed before him. It filled his vision now. No more beach. No more titan. He breathed and bent forward, fingers stretching out to grip the mask. At last. Thrum. At last. At last. We approach. We are at the door. Thrum. At long last… “Error…directives…designation…” more words broke through the distortion of the titan’s voice. Velika flinched and cursed with annoyance, not even raising his eyes, so intent was he. His good hand went up, clawlike. "Deactivate!” he hissed, and there was danger in his voice. “No.” Everything stopped. Velika’s eyes snapped upward. Marendar still faced him, but something had changed. It took a moment for Velika to realize. Only a single word had been spoken. One syllable. No. And yet, it had not been spoken in the tongue of the Great Beings, as before. This time, it was said in the common, everyday language of the Matoran. The voice echoed in Velika’s mind. No. One voice, and yet many voices. Countless voices, all speaking as one. No, it had said. No. No. No! Colors blossomed in his vision, almost blinding him before he deactivated his eye-circuits, bracing for whatever was to come. Other, more arcane, senses kicked in, and the fragile façade of his Matoran-form seemed to fall away for a moment as Velika called up reserves he had not yet had to tap—the secret art of traveling quickly by moving very slow. Red, green, blue…lights flashed and surged angrily toward him, but in that moment, it was a small matter to be wherever he was not. A crater smoked upon the sand where Velika had once stood—“So, it means to attack then,” he observed—and energy lingered in the air, elemental energy. He breathed deep of it, letting it aid his regeneration process. Questions rose in his mind. What could have caused this transformation? What event had altered the original programming? Another flaw in the plans of the Great Beings? How typical. Velika reappeared off to the left of the thing which had been Marendar, but which was now…something greater. Power swelled within it, but there was still discord. The initial onslaught had been wild, unfocused. Even so, the Mask still lay unperturbed in the sand, waiting for him to take it. He would take it. This one last barrier stood in his way. Marendar’s head swung around, catching sight of him, and the light blazed up again, but Velika was already moving, had already moved. He stood upon the water close by the titan’s side and touched the jet-black armor. The titan recoiled as an unseen force flung it forward, out of the waves, onto the wet beach. Velika laughed cruelly, drinking in more energy. The titan struggled up, turning to face the Matoran, but Velika was gone. He was behind Marendar now. Another touch, and sparks ran up the titan’s body and arms. The smell of fried metal permeated the air, and the titan collapsed, shuddering, mighty hands clenching and unclenching. The discord was greater now, Velika could feel it. Something was at war within the mind of Marendar, struggling to achieve control, to achieve unity. The titan’s eyes flickered intermittently. It could not rise. Perhaps at one time Velika would have been interested in seeing how this struggled played out—how the riddle resolved itself—but not now. Velika put forth his hand once more to finish the job… Marendar’s eyes snapped back into focus, many colors aligning momentarily into one—a cool, calm, silver light. White lightning lanced out from the titan’s body in all directions, one bolt catching Velika in the chest. The Po-Matoran was flung backward, spinning. He landed on all fours in the sand, bracing to process the pain and regenerate the damage…but with a shock he realized that there was no damage. A substance covered his chest where he had been struck. It shone like ice, but it was not ice. He knew what it was. It was… No. A sound like a roar emitted from the titan that had been Marendar as silver light poured from the crevices of its armor, from its eyes, from its hands, welling up and washing over the beach, over the sand and over the water, over the blazing, thrumming Mask of Time, and over the screaming, wide-eyed Velika. In that light there seemed to be a mixture of colors, all perfectly aligned together until they had become one—an unbreakable radiance. The light flashed up and vanished, and darkness roared over the scene again. Where once there had stood a twisted Po-Matoran, now there was a swathe of protodermic crystal. Translucent. Delicate. Indestructible. Smaller shards littered the beach, and they all seemed to vibrate with the same frequency as the Mask of Time, amplifying its call to a cacophony. Thrum. We approach. Thrum we are here. Within the largest shard, the shape of Velika could still be dimly seen, completely immobilized. The titan stepped forward as the seawater foamed behind it, and it was no longer Marendar, no longer a dark giant, at war with itself. For now, it was a many-colored thing, and its face wore many masks, but then it settled on one form: lithe and blue. It looked upon its creation and seemed unsure. But then two points of white opened within the crystal and brightened into spotlights, scattering angrily through the shards of protodermis and throwing the blue figure’s shadow huge upon the sea. "Fool," a mind-voice roared out, tinged with pain and brimming rage. "You imprison me in crude matter, but I am no mere creature of this universe. I alone am transcendent. I alone shall endure!" The psychic scream thundered louder, and the blazing white eyes within their prison veered away from the blue figure, bathing the distant slope in razor-edged light, narrowing to a single focused point where a weary Turaga raised mask to face once more… review
  14. outofgloom

    Mask Maker

    Invert Another fragment of vision. Familiar darkness. Stars. Firelight. "How have you come to be here?" Vakama asked the six apparitions which knelt before the fire of his mind’s eye. "How has this fate come to pass?" The blue shape replied: "No fate is at work here, Vakama. We have passed beyond destinies now, all of us. Even you." "Have I fulfilled my destiny, then?" "I do not know, but still we must forge ahead. The paths of the future are infinite, Vakama. Destiny obscured all but one of those paths--like a mask--leading you toward some pre-ordained ending..." "And now?" "Now destiny has fallen away, and you must choose your own steps. Now you must be the mask maker." The apparition bowed down its faceless head, and its weeping was the sound of crashing waves. Waves rolling. Waves rising. Receding. === "Unit 99, designation VO-PO-RAK...Invert." It was too late. Vakama had no time to react, not even time to cry out a warning. Voporak staggered backwards, dropping the still-glowing Vahi Nuva. The mask sparked when it struck the glassy sand and skittered down the slope, toward the water. The titan fell heavily to the ground, eyes roving to and fro. The air around Voporak warped, and Vakama watched helplessly as the titan's entropic power seemed to turn inward, aging Voporak mercilessly. In an instant, the titan's armor went gray and then began to crumble, his eyes dimming. Then he collapsed completely. Vakama staggered forward, feeling sick. He had to help Voporak, but knew that he could not approach without suffering the same fate. He slipped in the loose gravel as he tried to move along the incline. "No use, my friend." The Not-Matoran stood a short distance away to the right, breathing heavily. Vakama stopped, staring. He knew the voice, and the eyes were the same, but the appearance of the Not-Matoran had changed. Before, Vakama had been walking in a cloud of confusion, but now everything was clear. A Po-Matoran stood before him, a Komau, now cracked, still affixed to its face. The Not-Matoran was strangely bent, one leg twisted at an angle, and it appeared to have lost the use of its left arm. That must have happened when the earthquake hit, or perhaps it had always been that way? Vakama could not say. "Why have you done this?" he asked, pointing to Voporak. The Not-Matoran shrugged. "He violated directives." "Whose directives? Yours?" "It doesn't matter. I'm afraid you've violated directives as well. Did you think that you had fulfilled your duties?" Vakama was standing a short way down the slope, with the Not-Matoran slightly above him. The broken crest of the ridge was between them. A sudden thought occurred to Vakama. He winced, putting a hand to his side, and feigned weakness. The Not-Matoran began to move forward, still limping, but for a moment, as Vakama sagged down toward the hillside, he was out of sight. "Well,” the Not-Matoran continued, “duty takes its toll, I’m afraid. Doesn't it, Tura—" The Not-Matoran stopped as he reached the top of the ridge and looked downward toward the water. Voporak still lay motionless to the right, but Vakama was gone. A glow caught his eye down below. The Vahi Nuva lay close to the tideline. Hesitation... A small fireball flashed into existence and struck the Not-Matoran in the shoulder, knocking him off-balance. He cursed, noting the slight visual distortion that preceded the attack’s appearance. He should have anticipated this. The Not-Matoran struck out mentally, seeking his opponent even as he twisted to stay upright. There! "Neutralize" he hissed, and Vakama’s Huna deactivated. "Seize." Vakama felt his muscles and joints obey, locking tight in mid-stride. He fell heavily on his face, jarring his mask, and slid halfway down the slope in a small avalanche of shale. At last he came to rest, helpless, staring up the slope through skewed eyeholes. There was dust in his mouth, but his jaw couldn’t move. The Not-Matoran approached carefully. His breath was still labored, and the armor of his right shoulder was scorched black. Closer he came, until he stood over the fallen Turaga, then he stooped and reached down with his good hand. Vakama tried to close his eyes… Click. Crunch. Vakama felt all the strength go out of him, followed by a wave of vertigo. But then his seized joints released, and he gasped, eyes fluttering shut and then open again. Eyeholes no longer obscured his vision. He tried to sit up, but could only manage to raise his head a little. His mask…his mask was gone. His eyes cleared, and there was the Not-Matoran sitting in the gravel beside him, a Huna at his feet. He appeared to be nursing his burned shoulder, and his legs did not look so twisted anymore. Was he repairing himself? “Yes, I’m repairing myself, Turaga. It’s been a long day, you see, but we’re almost at the end.” The Not-Matoran lightly kicked the Huna away, and smiled as Vakama’s eyes followed it. "Really, my friend, what do you hope to gain by resisting me now? Do you think things can go back to how they were?" Vakama said nothing. "Oh, of course you do. That’s how you were made. Your purpose was to maintain a system, so it makes sense that you would always be trying to get back to how things were. Before all…this.” The Not-Matoran gestured around. "I know you have questions for me, Turaga. Why not ask, while I’m in the mood? It’s just you and me, after all. We’re all that’s left, I suppose." Vakama started. What did that mean? "It means, Turaga, that we sit now upon the ruins of New Atero. I expect most of those you once knew are now soot on the wind, or silt beneath this young sea." The Not-Matoran tilted his head casually toward the body of water. No. It couldn’t be true. "It’s very true, I’m afraid. A slight wrinkle in the plan that I did not anticipate, for all my foresight. You’ve missed a lot." Vakama felt sick. It couldn’t be, he told himself. It was a trick…but memories of darkness and faceless apparitions told him otherwise. He had seen this. He had known. Desperately, he forced down the terror and the grief for now. Then, swallowing, he spoke: "Are you really one of the Great Beings?" The Not-Matoran chuckled, "That was a brave effort, Vakama, internalizing all that torment. I congratulate you on accepting reality as it is. As for your question, it’s not a simple one. You see, the title of ‘Great Being’ is just that—a title. Many have claimed it in the past. Artakha, Karzahni…even Mata Nui, on occasion, although that may be apocryphal." "You know what I’m asking." "Of course I do, but you should also know that I’m not one to give a straightforward answer. It’s not in my nature—" The Not-Matoran stopped abruptly. "But how silly of me," he continued. "Of course you wouldn’t know that. You never even met me until a few days ago. How could I have forgotten? I’m really slipping in my old age." "I don’t understand." "Don’t worry, it’s normal. Hmm...you might as well call me Velika. That's the name I’ve used since before you were ever fabricated, and it says all there is to say." "You still haven’t answered my question," Vakama pressed. "Your question? I thought I had answered it. Ask another one." Vakama frowned, trying to wrangle his thoughts. "How did you...how did you know my destiny?" "Your destiny? It's my business to know, and it’s all there if you know where to look." "Then...you know the future? You are one of the Great Beings." Velika scoffed. "Ah, Vakama, but you see knowing the future was never a great challenge. Many of the Great Beings manifested that power." Velika leaned over suddenly and tapped Vakama’s bare forehead with a smirk. "You've a touch of that power yourself,” he said. “That was the whole point. Does that make you a Great Being?" Vakama was at a loss. The moment stretched. "Nothing?" Velika leaned back again, looking surprised. "You disappoint me. I do love to hear things from your perspective, Turaga." He shifted, testing his legs. The burned patch on the Po-Matoran’s upper arm looked smaller now. The brown armor was regenerating. "But..." Vakama said at last, still frowning. The Po-Matoran stopped expectantly. "I don't understand. The work of Mata Nui...his restoration of this world...Was that not the will of the Great Beings?" Velika's face now broadened into a mischievous smile. "Honorable elder," he said with mock deference, "we have touched the heart of your confusion. Do you really believe the Great Beings valued this planet so much that they would invest all of their mighty resources in its salvation alone? I am afraid they were not so nostalgic as that." Velika gestured around with his good arm, continuing: "It is true of course that Spherus Magna held the key to their desires. Of all the worlds they had ever explored, this was unique. A fitting place to begin a last, greatest experiment. You see, Vakama, this world is no natural formation of the universe. It breaks all the laws, from its size-to-mass ratio to its age compared to a too-young sun. I don't expect you to understand these things, but Spherus Magna is a foreign entity, a design originating from..." Velika paused dramatically, and his eyes flashed. "...somewhere else. A higher plane, another level of existence. The Great Beings became convinced that the stuff of Protodermis--which, you've no doubt been informed by the Agori, was first discovered within Spherus Magna--was put there for a reason. This world is merely a container, as is, perhaps this entire universe...a container waiting to be breached. But how to breach it? We used to be bound by physical limitations like form and distance, but we have transcended those. Now, all that remains..." Velika trailed off, and Vakama felt distinctly that he had lost interest in the monologue. The Po-Matoran shifted abruptly and raised himself to his feet, then began to limp away down the slope. Maskless, Vakama had only enough strength to lift himself up on one arm, watching with dim eyes... A spark of gold-orange glowed on the beach in the afternoon light. The twisted figure of Velika shambled down the slope toward its goal, eyes burning with intent. The glow of the Vahi Nuva seemed to pulse with living rhythm, still sending out its cry of power. The light shone upon Velika as he approached, and he no longer appeared as a mere Matoran. Something began to show through the fragile facade of his body and mask, something brighter, more terrible. At last Velika reached the place where the mask lay and stooped to claim it with his still-functioning arm, fingers trembling, face exultant. There was a rush of noise, and water foamed around his ankles. Velika cursed as the mask tipped up in the current and floated free of the sand, moving away as the water receded. Velika struggled to keep his balance as the tide pulled against his legs. His eyes remained fixed on the mask as it was carried a few bio and then settled down again. The surge of water melted into crashing surf as it met another incoming roller. It was then that Velika saw he was not alone. A figure stood before him, waist-deep in the waves of the angry sea, yet unmoved. Tall, with shining ocean-blue eyes. Blue eyes met white, and all that stood between them was Time. review
  15. The role of Voporak in the MU has always intrigued me, since he simply seems to want to gain possession of the Vahi. Thank you! Very interesting...we'll see how close the resemblance remains now that Chapter 6 has been posted.
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