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In the year 2025, the best men don’t run for president, theyrun for their lives .

THE RUNNING MANBen Richards is out of work and out of luck. His eighteenmonth-old daughter is sick, and neither Ben nor his wife canafford to take her to a doctor. For a man from the poor side oftown with no cash and no hope, there’s only one thing to do:become a contestant on one of the Network’s Games, showswhere you can win more money than you’ve ever dreamedof—or die trying. Now Ben’s going prime-time on theNetwork’s highest-rated viewer-participation show. And he’sabout to become prey for the masses .

WORKS BY STEPHEN KINGNOVELSCarrie’Salem’s LotThe ShiningThe StandThe Dead ZoneFirestarterCujoTHE DARK TOWER I:The GunslingerChristinePet SemataryCycle of the WerewolfThe Talisman (with Peter Straub)ItEyes of the DragonMiseryThe TommyknockersTHE DARK TOWER II:The Drawing of the ThreeTHE DARK TOWER III:The Waste LandsThe Dark Half

Needful ThingsGerald’s GameDolores ClaiborneInsomniaRose MadderDesperationThe Green MileTHE DARK TOWER IV:Wizard and GlassBag of BonesAS RICHARD BACHMANRageThe Long WalkRoadworkThe Running ManThinnerThe RegulatorsCOLLECTIONSNight ShiftDifferent SeasonsSkeleton CrewFour Past MidnightNightmares and Dreamscapes

NONFICTIONDanse MacabreSCREENPLAYSCreepshowCat’s EyeSilver BulletMaximum OverdrivePet SemataryGolden YearsSleepwalkersThe StandThe ShiningStorm of the Century

THE RUNNING MAN

Stephen Kingwriting as Richard BachmanWith an Introduction by the author,"The Importance of Being Bachman"

SIGNETPublished by New American Library, a division ofPenguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street,New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England Penguin BooksAustralia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 AlcornAvenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182–190Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New ZealandPenguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:Harmondsworth, Middlesex, EnglandCopyright Richard Bachman, 1982Introduction copyright Stephen King, 1996All rights reservedThe Running Man was first published in a Signet edition under the nameRichard Bachman, and later appeared in NAL hardcover and Plume tradepaperback omnibus editions titled The Bachman Books under the nameStephen King. “The Importance of Being Bachman” appeared in slightlydifferent form in the 1996 Plume edition of The Bachman Books.REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADAISBN: 1-4295-7707-XWithout limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of thispublication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical,photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission ofboth the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

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The Importance of BeingBachmanby Stephen KingThis is my second introduction to the so-called BachmanBooks—a phrase which has come to mean (in my mind, at

least) the first few novels published with the RichardBachman name, the ones which appeared as unheraldedpaperback originals under the Signet imprint. My firstintroduction wasn’t very good; to me it reads like a textbookcase of author obfuscation. But that is not surprising. Whenit was written, Bachman’s alter ego (me, in other words)wasn’t in what I’d call a contemplative or analytical mood; Iwas, in fact, feeling robbed. Bachman was never created asa short-term alias; he was supposed to be there for the longhaul, and when my name came out in connection with his, Iwas surprised, upset, and pissed off. That’s not a stateconducive to good essay-writing. This time I may do a littlebetter.Probably the most important thing I can say aboutRichard Bachman is that he became real. Not entirely, ofcourse (he said with a nervous smile); I am not writing thisin a delusive state. Except well maybe I am. Delusion is,after all, something writers of fiction try to encourage intheir readers, at least during the time that the book or storyis open before them, and the writer is hardly immune fromthis state of what shall I call it? How does “directeddelusion” sound?At any rate, Richard Bachman began his career not asa delusion but as a sheltered place where I could publish afew early works which I felt readers might like. Then hebegan to grow and come alive, as the creatures of a writer’simagination so frequently do. I began to imagine his life as adairy farmer his wife, the beautiful Claudia Inez Bachman his solitary New Hampshire mornings, spent milking thecows, getting in the wood, and thinking about his stories his evenings spent writing, always with a glass of whiskeybeside his Olivetti typewriter. I once knew a writer whowould say his current story or novel was “putting on weight”

if it was going well. In much the same way, my pen-namebegan to put on weight.Then, when his cover was blown, Richard Bachmandied. I made light of this in the few interviews I felt requiredto give on the subject, saying that he’d died of cancer of thepseudonym, but it was actually shock that killed him: therealization that sometimes people just won’t let you alone.To put it in more fulsome (but not at all inaccurate) terms,Bachman was the vampire side of my existence, killed bythe sunlight of disclosure. My feelings about all this wereconfused enough (and fertile enough) to bring on a book (aStephen King book, that is), The Dark Half. It was about awriter whose pseudonym, George Stark, actually comes tolife. It’s a novel my wife has always detested, perhapsbecause, for Thad Beaumont, the dream of being a writeroverwhelms the reality of being a man; for Thad, delusivethinking overtakes rationality completely, with horrificconsequences.I didn’t have that problem, though. Really. I putBachman aside, and although I was sorry that he had to die,I would be lying if I didn’t say I felt some relief as well.The books in this omnibus were written by a youngman who was angry, energetic, and deeply infatuated withthe art and craft of writing. They weren’t written as Bachmanbooks per se (Bachman hadn’t been invented yet, after all),but in a Bachman state of mind: low rage, sexual frustration,crazy good humor, and simmering despair. Ben Richards, thescrawny, pre-tubercular protagonist of The Running Man (heis about as far from the Arnold Schwarzenegger character inthe movie as you can get), crashes his hijacked plane intothe Network Games skyscraper, killing himself but takinghundreds (maybe thousands) of Free-Vee executives withhim; this is the Richard Bachman version of a happy ending.

The conclusions of the other Bachman novels are even moregrim. Stephen King has always understood that the goodguys don’t always win (see Cujo, Pet Sematary, and—perhaps—Christine), but he has also understood that mostlythey do. Every day, in real life, the good guys win. Mostlythese victories go unheralded (MAN ARRIVES HOME SAFE FROM WORKYET AGAIN wouldn’t sell many papers), but they arenonetheless real for all that and fiction should reflectreality.And yet In the first draft of The Dark Half, I had ThadBeaumont quote Donald E. Westlake, a very funny writerwho has penned a series of very grim crime novels under thename Richard Stark. Once asked to explain the dichotomybetween Westlake and Stark, the writer in question said, “Iwrite Westlake stories on sunny days. When it rains, I’mStark.” I don’t think that made it into the final version of TheDark Half, but I have always loved it (and related to it, as ithas become fashionable to say). Bachman—a fictionalcreation who became more real to me with each publishedbook which bore his byline—was a rainy-day sort of guy ifever there was one.The good folks mostly win, courage usually triumphsover fear, the family dog hardly ever contracts rabies; theseare things I knew at twenty-five, and things I still know now,at the age of 25 2. But I know something else as well:there’s a place in most of us where the rain is pretty muchconstant, the shadows are always long, and the woods arefull of monsters. It is good to have a voice in which theterrors of such a place can be articulated and its geographypartially described, without denying the sunshine andclarity that fill so much of our ordinary lives.

In Thinner, Bachman spoke for the first time on hisown—it was the only one of the early Bachman novels thathad his name on the first draft instead of mine—and it struckme as really unfair that, just as he was starting to talk withhis own voice, he should have been mistaken for me. And amistake was just what it felt like, because by then Bachmanhad become a kind of id for me; he said the things I couldn’t,and the thought of him out there on his New Hampshiredairy farm—not a best-selling writer who gets his name insome stupid Forbes list of entertainers too rich for their owngood or his face on the Today show or doing cameos inmovies—quietly writing his books gave him permission tothink in ways I could not think and speak in ways I could notspeak. And then these news stories came out saying“Bachman is really King,” and there was no one—not evenme—to defend the dead man, or to point out the obvious:that King was also really Bachman, at least some of the time.Unfair I thought then and unfair I think now, butsometimes life bites you a little, that’s all. I determined toput Bachman out of my thoughts and my life, and so I did,for a number of years. Then, while I was writing a novel (aStephen King novel) called Desperation, Richard Bachmansuddenly appeared in my life again.I was working on a Wang dedicated word processor atthat time; it looked like the visiphone in an old Flash Gordonserial. This was paired with a marginally more state-of-artlaser printer, and from time to time, when an idea occurredto me, I would write down a phrase or a putative title on ascrap of paper and Scotch-tape it to the side of the printer.As I neared the three-quarter mark on Desperation, I had ascrap with a single word printed on it: REGULATORS. I had had agreat idea for a novel, something that had to do with toys,guns, TV, and suburbia. I didn’t know if I would ever write it

—lots of those “printer notes” never came to anything—butit was certainly cool to think about.Then, one rainy day (a Richard Stark sort of day), as Iwas pulling into my driveway, I had an idea. I don’t knowwhere it came from; it was totally unconnected to any of thetrivia tumbling through my head at the time. The idea wasto take the characters from Desperation and put them intoThe Regulators. In some cases, I thought, they could playthe same people; in others, they would change; in neithercase would they do the same things or react in the sameways, because the different stories would dictate differentcourses of action. It would be, I thought, like the members ofa repertory company acting in two different plays.Then an even more exciting idea struck me. If I coulduse the rep company concept with the characters, I coulduse it with the plot itself as well—I could stack a good manyof the Desperation elements in a brand-new configuration,and create a kind of mirror world. I knew even before settingout that plenty of critics would call this twinning a stunt and they would not be wrong, exactly. But, I thought, itcould be a good stunt. Maybe even an illuminating stunt,one which showcased the muscularity and versatility ofstory, its all but limitless ability to adapt a few basicelements into endlessly pleasing variations, its prankishcharm.But the two books couldn’t sound exactly the same,and they couldn’t mean the same, any more than an EdwardAlbee play and one by William Inge can sound and mean thesame, even if they are performed on successive nights bythe same company of actors. How could I possibly create adifferent voice?

At first I thought I couldn’t, and that it would be bestto consign the idea to the Rube Goldberg bin I keep in thebottom of my mind—the one marked INTERESTING BUT UNWORKABLE CONTRAPTIONS . Then it occurred to me that I had hadthe answer all along: Richard Bachman could write TheRegulators. His voice sounded superficially the same asmine, but underneath there was a world of difference—allthe difference between sunshine and rain, let us say. And hisview of people was always different from mine,simultaneously funnier and more cold-hearted (Bart Dawesin Roadwork, my favorite of the early Bachman books, is anexcellent example).Of course Bachman was dead, I had announced thatmyself, but death is actually a minor problem for a novelist—just ask Paul Sheldon, who brought Misery Chastain back forAnnie Wilkes, or Arthur Conan Doyle, who brought SherlockHolmes back from Reichen-bach Falls when fans all over theBritish Empire clamored for him. I didn’t actually bringRichard Bachman back from the dead, anyway; I justvisualized a box of neglected manuscripts in his basement,with The Regulators on top. Then I transcribed the bookBachman had already written.That transcription was a little tougher but it was alsoimmensely exhilarating. It was wonderful to hear Bachman’svoice again, and what I had hoped might happen didhappen: a book rolled out that was a kind of fraternal twin tothe one I had written under my own name (and the twobooks were quite literally written back-to-back, the Kingbook finished on one day and the Bachman bookcommenced on the very next). They were no more alike thanKing and Bachman themselves. Desperation is about God;The Regulators is about TV. I guess that makes them bothabout higher powers, but very different ones just the same.

The importance of being Bachman was always theimportance of finding a good voice and a valid point of viewthat were a little different from my own. Not really different; Iam not schizo enough to believe that. But I do believe thatthere are tricks all of us use to change our perspectives andour perceptions—to see ourselves new by dressing up indifferent clothes and doing our hair in different styles—andthat such tricks can be very useful, a way of revitalizing andrefreshing old strategies for living life, observing life, andcreating art. None of these comments are intended tosuggest that I have done anything great in the Bachmanbooks, and they are surely not made as arguments forartistic merit. But I love what I do too much to want to gostale if I can help it. Bachman has been one way in which Ihave tried to refresh my craft, and to keep from being toocomfy and well-padded.These early books show some progression of theBachman persona, I hope, and I hope they also show theessence of that persona. Dark-toned, despairing even whenhe is laughing (despairing most when he’s laughing, in fact),Richard Bachman isn’t a fellow I’d want to be all the time,even if he were still alive but it’s good to have that option,that window on the world, polarized though it may be. Still,as the reader works his or her way through these stories,he/she may discover that Dick Bachman has one thing incommon with Thad Beaumont’s alter ego, George Stark: he’snot a very nice guy.And I wonder if there are any other good manuscripts,at or near completion, in that box found by the widowed Mrs.Bachman in the cellar of their New Hampshire farmhouse.Sometimes I wonder about that a lot.

—Stephen KingLovell, MaineApril 16, 1996

THE RUNNING MAN

Minus 100 and COUNTING She was squinting at the thermometer in the white lightcoming through the window. Beyond her, in the drizzle, theother highrises in Co-Op City rose like the gray turrets of apenitentiary. Below, in the airshaft, clotheslines flapped withragged wash. Rats and plump alley cats circulated throughthe garbage.She looked at her husband. He was seated at thetable, staring up at the Free-Vee with steady, vacant

concentration. He had been watching it for weeks now. Itwasn’t like him. He hated it, always had. Of course, everyDevelopment apartment had one—it was the law—but it wasstill legal to turn them off. The Compulsory Benefit Bill of2021 had failed to get the required two-thirds majority bysix votes. Ordinarily they never watched it. But ever sinceCathy had gotten sick, he had been watching the big-moneygiveaways. It filled her with sick fear.Behind the compulsive shrieking of the half-timeannouncer narrating the latest newsie flick, Cathy’s fluhoarsened wailing went on and on.“How bad is it?” Richards asked.“Not so bad.”“Don’t shit me.”“It’s a hundred and four.”He brought both fists down on the table. A plastic dishjumped into the air and clattered down.“We’ll get a doctor. Try not to worry so much. Listen—”She began to babble frantically to distract him; he hadturned around and was watching the Free-Vee again. Halftime was over, and the game was on again. This wasn’t oneof the big ones, of course, just a cheap daytime come-oncalled Treadmill to Bucks. They accepted only chronic heart,liver, or lung patients, sometimes throwing in a crip forcomic relief. Every minute the contestant could stay on thetreadmill (keeping up a steady flow of chatter with theemcee), he won ten dollars. Every two minutes the emceeasked a Bonus Question in the contestant’s category (thecurrent pal, a heart-murmur from Hackensack, was anAmerican history buff) which was worth fifty dollars. If the

contestant, dizzy, out of breath, heart doing fantastic rubberacrobatics in his chest, missed the question, fifty dollars wasdeducted from his winnings and the treadmill was speededup.“We’ll get along. Ben. We will. Really. I I’ll ”“You’ll what?” He looked at her brutally. “Hustle? Nomore, Sheila. She’s got to have a real doctor. No more blockmidwife with dirty hands and whiskey breath. All the modernequipment. I’m going to see to it.”He crossed the room, eyes swiveling hypnotically tothe Free-Vee bolted into one peeling wall above the sink. Hetook his cheap denim jacket off its hook and pulled it onwith fretful gestures.“No! No, I won’t won’t allow it. You’re not going to—”“Why not? At worst you can get a few oldbucks as thehead of a fatherless house. One way or the other you’ll haveto see her through this.”She had never really been a handsome woman, and inthe years since her husband had not worked she had grownscrawny, but in this moment she looked beautiful imperious. “I won’t take it. I’d rather sell the govie a twodollar piece of tail when he comes to the door and send himback with his dirty blood money in his pocket. Should I takea bounty on my man?”He turned on her, grim and humorless, clutchingsomething that set him apart, an invisible something forwhich the Network had ruthlessly calculated. He was adinosaur in this time. Not a big one, but still a throwback, anembarrassment. Perhaps a danger. Big clouds condensearound small particles.

He gestured at the bedroom. “How about her in anunmarked pauper’s grave? Does that appeal to you?”It left her with only the argument of insensate sorrow.Her face cracked and dissolved into tears.“Ben, this is just what they want, for people like us,like you—”“Maybe they won’t take me,” he said, opening thedoor. “Maybe I don’t have whatever it is they look for.”“If you go now, they’ll kill you. And I’ll be herewatching it. Do you want me watching that with her in thenext room?” She was hardly coherent through her tears.“I want her to go on living.” He tried to close the door,but she put her body in the way.“Give me a kiss before you go, then.”He kissed her. Down the hall, Mrs. Jenner opened herdoor and peered out. The rich odor of corned beef andcabbage, tantalizing, maddening, drifted to them. Mrs.Jenner did well—she helped out at the local discount drugand had an almost uncanny eye for illegal-card carriers.“You’ll take the money?” Richards asked. “You won’tdo anything stupid?”“I’ll take it,” she whispered. “You know I’ll take it.”He clutched her awkwardly, then turned away quickly,with no grace, and plunged down the crazily slanting, illlighted stairwell.

She stood in the doorway, shaken by soundless sobs,until she heard the door slam hollowly five flights down, andthen she put her apron up to her face. She was still clutchingthe thermometer she had used to take the baby’stemperature.Mrs. Jenner crept up softly and twitched the apron.“Dearie,” she whispered, “I can put you onto black marketpenicillin when the money gets here real cheap goodquality—”“Get out!” she screamed at her.Mrs. Jenner recoiled, her upper lip rising instinctivelyaway from the blackened stumps of her teeth. “Just trying tohelp,” she muttered, and scurried back to her room.Barely muffled by the thin plastiwood, Cathy’s wailscontinued. Mrs. Jenner’s Free-Vee blared and hooted. Thecontestant on Treadmill to Bucks had just missed a BonusQuestion and had had a heart attack simultaneously. He wasbeing carried off on a rubber stretcher while the audienceapplauded.Upper lip arising and falling metronomically, Mrs.Jenner wrote Sheila Richards’s name down in her notebook.“We’ll see,” she said to no one. “We’ll just see, Mrs. SmellSo-Sweet.”She closed the notebook with a vicious snap andsettled down to watch the next game.

Minus 099 and COUNTING The drizzle had deepened into a steady rain by the timeRichards hit the street. The big Smoke Dokes forHallucinogenic Jokes thermometer across the street stood atfifty-one degrees. (Just the Right Temp to Stoke Up a Doke—High to the Nth Degree!) That might make it sixty in theirapartment. And Cathy had the flu.A rat trotted lazily, lousily, across the cracked andblistered cement of the street. Across the way, the ancient

and rusted skeleton of a 2013 Humber stood on decayedaxles. It had been completely stripped, even to the wheelbearings and motor mounts, but the cops didn’t take it away.The cops rarely ventured south of the Canal anymore. Co-OpCity stood in a radiating rat warren of parking lots, desertedshops, Urban Centers, and paved playgrounds. The cyclegangs were the law here, and all those newsie items aboutthe intrepid Block Police of South City were nothing but apile of warm crap. The streets were ghostly, silent. If youwent out, you took the pneumo bus or you carried a gascylinder.He walked fast, not looking around, not thinking. Theair was sulphurous and thick. Four cycles roared past andsomeone threw a ragged hunk of asphalt paving. Richardsducked easily. Two pneumo buses passed him, buffeting himwith air, but he did not flag them. The week’s twenty-dollarunemployment allotment (oldbucks) had been spent. Therewas no money to buy a token. He supposed the roving packscould sense his poverty. He was not molested.Highrises, Developments, chain-link fences, parkinglots empty except for stripped derelicts, obscenitiesscrawled on the pavement in soft chalk and now blurringwith the rain. Crashed-out windows, rats, wet bags ofgarbage splashed over the sidewalks and into the gutters.Graffiti written jaggedly on crumbling gray walls: HONKYDON’T LET THE SUN SET ON YOU HEAR. HOME FOLKS BLOWDOKES. YOUR MOMMY ITCHES. SKIN YOUR BANANA.TOMMY’S PUSHING. HITLER WAS COOL. MARY. SID. KILL ALLKIKES. The old G.A. sodium lights put up in the 70s bustedwith rocks and hunks of paving. No technico was going toreplace them down here; they were on the New Credit Dollar.Technicos stay uptown, baby. Uptown’s cool. Everythingsilent except for the rising-then-descending whoosh of thepneumo buses and the echoing clack of Richards’s footfalls.

This battlefield only lights up at night. In the day it is adeserted gray silence which contains no movement but thecats and rats and fat white maggots trundling across thegarbage. No smell but the decaying reek of this brave year2025. The Free-Vee cables are safely buried under thestreets and no one but an idiot or a revolutionary wouldwant to vandalize them. Free-Vee is the stuff of dreams, thebread of life. Scag is twelve oldbucks a bag, Frisco Push goesfor twenty a tab, but the Free-Vee will freak you for nothing.Farther along, on the other side of the Canal, the dreammachine runs twenty-four hours a day but it runs on NewDollars, and only employed people have any. There are fourmillion others, almost all of them unemployed, south of theCanal in Co-Op City.Richards walked three miles and the occasional liquorstores and smoke shops, at first heavily grilled, becamemore numerous. Then the X-Houses (!!24 Perversions—Count ’Em 24!!), the Hockeries, the Blood Emporiums.Greasers sitting on cycles at every corner, the gutters buriedin snowdrifts of roach ends. Rich Blokes Smoke Dokes.He could see the skyscrapers rising into the cloudsnow, high and clean. The highest of all was the NetworkGames Building, one hundred stories, the top half buried incloud and smog cover. He fixed his eyes on it and walkedanother mile. Now the more expensive movie houses, andsmoke shops with no grills (but Rent-A-Pigs stood outside,electric move-alongs hanging from their Sam Browne belts).A city cop on every corner. The People’s Fountain Park:Admission 75 . Well-dressed mothers watching theirchildren as they frolicked on the astroturf behind chain-linkfencing. A cop on either side of the gate. A tiny, patheticglimpse of the fountain.He crossed the Canal.

As he got closer to the Games Building it grew taller,more and more improbable with its impersonal tiers of risingoffice windows, its polished stonework. Cops watching him,ready to hustle him along or bust him if he tried to commitloitering. Uptown there was only one function for a man inbaggy gray pants and a cheap bowl haircut and sunkeneyes. That purpose was the Games.The qualifying examinations began promptly at noon,and when Ben Richards stepped behind the last man in line,he was almost in the umbra of the Games Building. But thebuilding was still nine blocks and over a mile away. The linestretched before him like an eternal snake. Soon othersjoined it behind him. The police watched them, hands oneither gun butts or move-alongs. They smiled anonymous,contemptuous smiles.—That one look like a half-wit to you, Frank? Looks likeone to me.—Guy down there ast me if there was a place where hecould go to the bathroom. Canya magine it?—Sons of bitches ain’t——Kill their own mothers for a——Smelled like he didn’t have a bath for——Ain’t nothin like a freak show I always—Heads down against the rain, they shuffled aimlessly,and after a while the line began to move.

Minus 098 and COUNTING It was after four when Ben Richards got to the main deskand was routed to Desk 9 (Q-R). The woman sitting at therumbling plastipunch looked tired and cruel and impersonal.She looked at him and saw no one.“Name, last-first-middle.”“Richards, Benjamin Stuart.”

Her fingers raced over the keys. Clitter-clitter-clitterwent the machine.“Age-height-weight.”“Twenty-eight, six-two, one-sixty-five.”Clitter-clitter-clitterThe huge lobby was an echoing, rebounding tomb ofsound. Questions being asked and answered. People werebeing led out weeping. People were being thrown out.Hoarse voices were raised in protest. A scream or two.Questions. Always questions.“Last school attended?”“Manual Trades.”“Did you graduate?”“No.”“How many years, and at what age did you leave?”“Two years. Sixteen years old.”“Reasons for leaving?”“I got married.”Clitter-clitter-clitter“Name and age of spouse if any.”“Sheila Catherine Richards, twenty-six.”“Names and ages of children, if any.”

“Catherine Sarah Richards, eighteen months.”Clitter-clitter-clitter“Last question, mister. Don’t bother lying; they’ll pickit up during the physical and disqualify you there. Have youeverusedheroinorthes

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