Thursday, April 2, 2015

Blue Nexus #20--Sting

            “A date?” asked Luke.
            Kyle stepped up and onto the sidewalk, Luke walking right next to him. Kyle reached down and gripped the two straps of his backpack, holding them while his arms swayed at his side. Luke shouldered his backpack on his shoulder almost in response. Neither of them had much in their backpacks, it was just something everyone did.
            Luke continued to look bewildered at Kyle. Without much to say, Kyle merely shrugged and nodded, pursing his lips.
            “I’m just repeating what he texted me yesterday,” Kyle said.
            “Well he didn’t text me,” Luke said.
            Once more, Kyle shrugged. “Can’t tell you, man. Can’t tell you.”
            They arrived at the front doors of the school, more like gates though, and Kyle yanked he heavy metal door open. It swung slow and the two boys slipped through. Simultaneously, the two of them groaned. It was Thursday, so about five days following the decimation of the baseball stadium, and it still felt like a Monday. Just being at school in general was enough to make them sigh or groan. As seniors, they were almost done. All Kyle had to look forward to was lacrosse season. Luckily, after that, school would basically be over.
            Security was heightened, as they noticed. It was announced that this would be done, but the school so rarely followed through on something like this. Perhaps it was the doings of the town rather than the principal, or perhaps Wintry actually demanded for something to be done. Though the security wasn’t cops, so it wasn’t very intimidating. Just a bunch of big, burly men in polos and khakis.
            Luke and Kyle took a right before the courtyard, walking under an overhang behind the main office. Both of them were looking around for any sighting of Kip, but there was to none to be had. Not that they would interrupt the “date” or anything, it would just be funny for them to see. Kyle just wanted to know how much of a “date” meeting up before school could be, anyway.
            Kyle almost went up the stairs, but remembered that Luke’s locker was downstairs, and continued to follow his friend, jogging to keep up. Luke opened the door just as someone else came barging out, not looking where they were going. Kyle braced Luke, who stepped back startled.
            They arrived at Luke’s locker. A circle of short girls was meeting down the hallway, talking loud and with their hands. It was too early for them to be speaking this loud, Kyle thought as he leaned against the lockers.
            “Really not feeling it today,” Luke muttered as he went through his backpack and locker.
            “Not feeling school any day,” Kyle said. He raised his hands to his face, then pulled them down. Almost like magic, when he removed his hands from his face, Mira appeared in the hallway, moving toward the group of girls.
            Tired, Kyle said, “Hey Mira.”
            Mira looked over in their direction. “Hmm. Tired too. The hell are we even doing here?”
            “Learning, I think,” Kyle said.
            Luke continued to ponder of what he needed and he could just leave in his locker.
            “Nobody wants to be here. Not even the teachers. I vote for naptime,” Mira said, as if going through a complete thought process while speaking. She looked over to the girls, who eyed her rather conspicuously.
            “Seconded,” Luke said facing his locker. His voice echoed off its metal walls.
            Kyle nodded. “I mean, maybe we can get away with like an hour of more clean-up out back and just go home. I wouldn’t mind it. It would suck but it’s better than being here for, like, seven hours.”
            “Nah. Too much work. Really not feeling it, like, really not feeling it,” Mira said. “I’ll just nap during classes. See you guys.”
            Mira lazily waved goodbye. Kyle nodded. The conversation woke up him but not by much. It was Luke’s sudden slamming of his locker that really woke him up.
            “Gah, what the hell?” he asked.
            Luke smiled and shrugged.
            Just after they visited Kyle’s locker, with still no sign of Kip, the bell rang and the two branched off to go to class. Kyle trudged into his, finding he was only the third one in class. He was the most awake, as the other two kids looked pretty much dead in their seats, laying down motionless with only the slightest heave from their back.
            His backpack fell and its impact seemed to reverberate around the room. Kyle waited for a moment before sitting down, and even that made a ton of noise. More people filtered into the room, but still the volume hardly increased. Mondays on any other day really sucked.
            For a moment, Kyle swore he saw someone he knew outside, but they were gone so quickly it was difficult to distinguish.
            The tardy bell rang. Several students were missing. Kyle found himself struggling now to keep his head up. They ran through the normal procedure, and his teacher remained standing.
            When the rather peppy morning announcements were done, courteous of Wintry, his teacher rose, looking bored around the room.
            “So who all came out on Monday to help with the clean up?” he asked.
            Kyle and two other students raised their hands lacking any enthusiasm. The teacher nodded, and folded his arms behind his back.
            “What’d you guys think of that petition, did you see it?” the teacher asked.
            Kyle’s stomach sank, and he realized his hand was still up. His teacher nodded to him. Kyle hesitated before speaking.
            “Yeah, well, I mean, never really thought I’d see a petition about super-heroes,” he said.
            “Ha! Good point,” his teacher said. “Me neither. But, I’ve gotta be honest, I did think they had a good reason being there.”
            “Duh, the stadium was destroyed,” a male student said to Kyle’s right.
            “It’s much more than that, though,” the teacher said. “I’m trying to think…what were some other things destroyed by these guys? I mean, they just shoot laser beams and punch buildings with their big muscles all the time.”
            “So they’re just meatheads?”
            “No, of course not. They’re just extremely reckless. It’s almost as if they think that constantly using superior strength is going to win the day. Just gotta hit the bad guy hard enough, right?”
            Kyle bit the inner part of his lip. Well, he wasn’t particularly wrong, but it was Hood Nexus’s insight that saved the world from Black Nexus, and it was Kyle’s quick thinking that helped contain the fight against the two Tigers. Not to mention all the other times Kyle and Brenda lured evildoers away from civilians. Then they beat the crap out of them if warranted.
            “And because they’re so strong, things are going to get destroyed, and people are going to get hurt,” the teacher said. “And who knows, maybe if they left then the super villains would leave with them?”
            “That doesn’t make any sense,” Kyle said accidentally. Oh boy.
            “Why not?”
            “Because then there wouldn’t anyone left to fight them. They could just take over towns and cities and do as they pleased. Look at what Lightning and Thunder Tiger did during a battle. They could probably do much worse if no one is trying to stop them.”
            “If they were never around in the first place then we probably wouldn’t be talking about all of this, now would we?” The teacher turned around and fiddled with a marker in his hand. “Riko could have gone back to whatever planet he came from, am I right? Who said he had to be here?”
            Kyle, taken aback, simply scoffed at the teacher and rested his head on the desk. Nah, he wasn’t going to take it.
            If only it were that simple for him, though. At his next class, his teacher there was rambling on about the supers. As were the students. And the faculty. And the following teacher. And the following. By the end of the day Kyle wished he’d done some serious damage to the school so he wouldn’t have to put up with everyone’s nagging all day long about the Blue Nexus. First they were enamored with him now that all wanted him gone, what the hell?
            The next day fared even worse for him. Mr. Evart, who Kyle thought would at least be indifferent to it all since he wasn’t at the clean-up and usually didn’t express his opinion, for once broke character. A girl asked him about his thoughts, and he calmly replied, “
            “Well, I mean, they’ve saved us countless times, but, in a way, didn’t they create these super villains? Didn’t they ignite this technological boom for the bad guys?”
            Kyle rolled his eyes. Mr. Evart seemed to notice but looked away, ignoring him.
            “H—however,” he stuttered, “I do think that these threats on our lives are getting too big for us. I mean, giant black balls of death, people who can create craters from the power of an earthquake. Who’s going to stand up to that, the local cop? I don’t think so. We do need them, and everything has a price. Luckily, nobody got hurt.”
            “Yeah, this time,” Mira said.
            Kyle’s heart sank. She leaned over, her hands resting on the table. Her hair was in a cute pony tail but she had a confused look upon her face.
            “True, causalities have happened before, it’s all a part of a battle, though,” Evart remarked.
            “Yeah, but, there shouldn’t even be a battle. Come on, there isn’t a chance we would really be having this conversation if the Blue Nexus never showed up in town that one day,” Mira said. She spoke with her hands a little, Kyle noticed, something she never did before.
            “Well wasn’t it some alien that attacked first or something?” some big kid with long hair sitting in the back corner of the classroom asked. Kyle nodded. It was Gargador indeed.
            “And then who came running to just beat the crap out of him?” asked Mira. Did she really care that much about it? Kyle wondered. Nobody was significantly hurt by the attack. Maybe emotionally damaged for a few weeks but everything was just fine nowadays.
            Mr. Evart watched with interest as the debate continued. It was a minority of the class that really got into it, everyone else kicked back and watched, including Mr. Evart. Kyle worried at first that he would be suspect to not pitching it, even being accused of the Blue Nexus. Luckily, that wasn’t at all the case.
            It irked him, though, that Mira was taking the stand against the supers. What had triggered it? Was it perhaps some feeling that they were all helpless compared to the Zanderia and others that they would one day turn on them? The government didn’t sound too worried about the Zanderia—then again, they remained relatively quiet on all of it—and no super heroes had become evil, not even thought about it. The only really shady one was Hood Nexus because he didn’t align specifically with anyone and he was never around except in crisis situations. It was probably the notion the townsfolk would want Blue Nexus to take should he be “exiled.” Then again, all Kyle had to do was just keep going to school and patrol another city in the area.
            The debate took up about half of the class time until it petered out with neither side getting an advantage on the other. Mira looked pretty mad by the end. She still wanted to keep going even though she’d only been repeating the same arguments over and over toward the end. Everyone else had solid counter arguments, but every time a new point was raised, Mira brought it right back to one of her points somehow. She was bright, yes, but Kyle was glad she wasn’t on the school’s debate team. It wouldn’t be pretty.
            She calmly walked out of the class, and Kyle ignored two of the boys whispering things about her. They were a little insulting and Kyle did want to detest to them, but feared sparking an argument. Perhaps soon he could confront Mira about what was truly good about the supers, since he could best attest to their stand on the side of justice, but not wasn’t a good time. Or, probably until the petition were to just go away into memory.
            The end of the day was upon them all. Kyle didn’t have any practice or conditioning—no one did, since the field was still torched up pretty well—and could enjoy a nice walk home, preferably with Brenda. Apparently Kip had another date after school and Luke liked to walk home alone as well.
            Kyle reached his locker, sighing as he arrived and turned the locks. He opened it, only to hear someone clearing their throat. He looked around, and when he turned about, there was Sandy, standing there in normal, civilian clothes and looking not at all insane.
            “Hey, Kyle,” she said softly.
            “Oh, uh, hey, Sandy,” Kyle said, summoning his inner-Shatner on accident. “What, uh, hey, what’s up?”
            Sandy raised an eyebrow. “Why are you so nervous? I’m the one that should be nervous. I screwed you up.”
            “Uh, what?”
            “Friday, at the game. When I sorta tried to get into the fight against Thunder Tiger…I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry.”
            Sandy bowed her head. Kyle looked around, knowing how strange this probably looked. He whirled around, red in the face, and began going through his post-school locker routine.
            “Yeah, you’re fine. Don’t worry about it…just don’t it again, okay?” asked Kyle. He shut his locker and turned around. “And, you know, let’s not talk about it at school. Half the people in town already want to exile me.”
            “Well, me,” he said, subtly pointing to the Nexus bracelet.
            Sandy nodded in realization. “Oh. I missed a lot, didn’t I?”
            “Were you in jail that whole time?”
            “I was recommended to stay home by my parents; so, basically, I was grounded until school got back. I’m both glad and not so glad that it started up again soon, because, I would probably still be at home.”
            “Practicing archery?” Kyle asked smartly.
            Sandy laughed, the unexpected reaction. She patted Kyle on the chest. “Oh, you’d think, right? So funny, aren’t you, Mr…you-know-who?”
            “Or were you practicing with your magic?”  
            Sandy seemed to lose the color in her face. She turned away, shouldering her backpack. “Thought we weren’t supposed to talk about that at school?”
            “Where did you learn it, who taught you?”
            “It’s none of your business.”
            “It’s all of my business because…!” Kyle bit his lip. A couple of freshmen girls walked past him, staring down at their phones first before looking up strangely to him, as if he called them a funny name. He clenched a fist. “Damn it, Sandy.”
            He looked back. She was gone, hardly a sign of her even being there.

Kyle addressed the problem to Brenda, who had no idea where she could have gotten any magic power on Earth. Eclipse wasn’t sure either, though he knew of a few places that did not allow entry by anyone not connected to mages, past or present.
            Sandy was at school the next day, Kyle noticed, acting fine. Well, sort of. She didn’t follow Kyle around and wasn’t using every opportunity that she could to try and talk to him. It was a bit out of character, but it wasn’t something Kyle particularly missed.
            Instead, an old friend came to visit him during the break between class and lunch. Kyle was coming from his locker hallway when he recognized a chiseled face to match an equally muscular, male body. He halted just a few steps beyond where they crossed. He held his breathe as he turned around to make sure. The other boy did the same.
            “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Kyle said under his breath.
            “Classmates again, isn’t it glorious?” asked Gargador in his human form. It was slightly altered to the point where memory would mask the identity, but Kyle could see right through it. Only he would have the gall to advance on Kyle while he was alone at school.
            “You know, you seem to enjoy being a teenager, you are a strange person,” Kyle said.
            “I’m a god.”
            “And I’m the ginger-bread man,” Kyle mocked.
            Gargador laughed. “Confidence in the face of danger? That’s cute. You already know that this human form would pulverize yours in an instant, though.”
            “Do I, though, do I really know that?” asked Kyle, again mocking Gargador. “What do you want, Gargador?”
            “Not you, surprisingly enough,” Gargador said. “For now, anyway. Once this mission is complete, or maybe even during, I’ll come for you.”
            “At least buy me a drink,” Kyle said.
            Gargador clenched a fist. “You truly do have a death wish.”
            “You say eight months after I push the black ball of death toward the planet-sucking psycho? Dude that was so last semester,” Kyle said.
            “Hmph. I’ve learned that humans use humor as a defense mechanism, so, I’ll take that to heart in this situation. Hide while you can, Blue Nexus.”
            Kyle looked around, curiously. “Whose hiding?”
            Angrily, Gargador swung his fist out. He hit the metal railing with a loud DING and made a noticeable, though not large, dent in it. People below looked up, but couldn’t see the two boys. Kyle crossed his arms.
            “If it’s not me you’re here for, then who is it?” asked Kyle, finally getting serious. Gargador really wasn’t kidding about his strength, then, and wasn’t afraid to show it off.
            “Like I would tell you,” Gargador said. “From what I can tell, this environment is pointless in my efforts, but the day isn’t quite over yet.”
            “Whoever it is, you won’t get them,” Kyle said.
            “You’re going to stop me?”
            Kyle smirked. “This is the twenty-first century in America. Cameras are everyone. You don’t think someone is going to notice you making off with someone? Even if you slip away, I’ll find you, and I’ll beat you again.”
            “Again, I say: adorable.”
            Gargador turned and continued to walk down the open hallway. He was probably sporting some stupid grin as he did so. Kyle’s face was stone solid, on the other hand. Great, now he wanted to beat the crap out of Gargador.
            Which would only further the argument that Mira and all the others had against him. Before moving forward, Kyle breathed. Instead of getting worked up about Gargador, he tried to think about it. Who would he be after? The only logical choice was Sandy. Whoever he worked for—which it sounded like he did even though he often was too damn proud for his own good—might have either heard of or been at the game to learn there was another person with super abilities there. Sandy was in extreme danger if that were the case.
            Kyle noticed Gargador climb down the stairs. He looked over to the lunch area. Sandy wasn’t around, nor did he even think she ate at this time. So far so good, then.
            As he expected, it all came down to after school. He waited anxiously for the rest of his classes to finally end. As soon as the final bell rang, Kyle raced to his locker. There was a certain pressure he became aware of as he made his way there, and even at the locker. It was a familiar one, but one so very distant at the same time.
            The hallway cleared out, and the pressure continued to bug him. Putting on his thinking cap, Kyle decided to investigate. He cleared the first two upstairs hallways in the building before moving over to the next building. Nobody was in there, and the pressure was still the same. He consciously kept his finger away from the Nexus bracelet. If he jumped at something on accident, there went his secret identity. That’d be nice and dandy in this time of civil unrest, wouldn’t it?
            He walked into the next hallway over, and suddenly, the pressure stopped. Now he was even more suspicious. The door opened and closed loudly, instantly giving him away. Still, he held off from the bracelet as the doors had large glass windows. Anyone who came peeping would also learn the truth.
            Thus, he moved slowly, with his hands raised slightly in a fighting position. That way, he would be ready to go in the blink of an eye. Hopefully. His backpack could provide a slight inconvenience.
            Mainly, his thought was of just wanting to go home and be able to track Gargador.
            “You mocked me,” Gargador’s voice echoed in the hallway.
            Found him.
            “You ridiculed me, thought you my better. You haunted me for eight months, you punished me for just as many. My subordinates have seen me frail because of you and your kind. You’ve tried to expose me as something less than a God. All of which has done nothing but anger me!”
            Suddenly, the wall to Kyle’s right exploded, and out leapt human Gargador. Kyle was barraged with some brick and dust until he was slammed in his side by Gargador. He crashed into the lockers, dropping immediately. Gargador picked him up by his throat and cast him to the side.
            Kyle rolled, not helped the dizziness. He struggled to get up. Three Gargadors—two blurry and one clear—slowly made their way toward Kyle. He was bleeding on his leg and was covered in dust from the bricks. Kyle blinked twice, trying to straighten out his vision. Gargador approached him, and stooped down to be at eye-level with Kyle.
            “Where is she?” asked Gargador.
            She? So it was Sandy he was after.
            “Probably nowhere near here,” Kyle said stubbornly.
            Gargador stood up, then kicked Kyle in the side, putting him against the lockers again. Kyle, in response, groaned. He hoped it sounded more heroic than just that, though. He reached up and grabbed onto a lock, beginning to pull himself up. Gargador watched as he did, cracking his knuckles in waiting.
            “I know my target isn’t supposed to be you, but, this is just too perfect,” he said, and threw a punch at Kyle.
            Kyle ducked under it, and thrust himself forward, wrapping his arms around Gargador’s torso and pushing him back, slamming him against a wall. Kyle then pulled back and punched Gargador in the face, not at all drawing blood. Gargador retorted by pushing Kyle away. He flew into the lockers, bounced off, and was shouldered right back into them.
            Somehow still able to breathe and move, Kyle spun his legs, trying to take out Gargador, who only side-stepped as a result of it. Kyle rolled away from a punch, rolled-back, and was on his feet. He spat out blood, and hopefully not a tooth.
            “I’m honestly impressed you can take these hits as well as you are,” Gargador remarked. “I’m also surprised you haven’t transformed. Oh, wait.”
            Kyle looked down. The flow on the bracelet was a bit scattered. Even if he were to transform, it wouldn’t be too reliable. And if Gargador was this strong just like this…
            Four red lines appeared like a square around Gargador, until they shot up, pulling squares with them, making a cube around the monster. Surprised, Kyle whirled around.
            Brenda stood at the entrance of the hallway, eyes glowing red and face burning with anger. Kyle sighed in relief. Thankfully, he wouldn’t have to transform this time. Brenda would easily handle Gargador.
            With a shout, Gargador punched right through the red square, shattering it.
            “Gotcha, mage!” exclaimed Gargador.
            Brenda quickly tried to make another cube but wasn’t quick enough. Gargador cast four darts at an extreme speed toward her. Kyle dove, trying to block them. One snagged his finger and went off course, ricocheting down the hall. The other three dug into Brenda’s upper chest, just above her heart.
            She stepped back, shocked, then began to wheeze as if she couldn’t breathe. Gargador laughed when Brenda suddenly began seizing and foam pouring from her mouth. A red aura flicked around her. Kyle managed to catch her before she his the ground. Blood ran from her eyes and nose and her hands were beat red, either from swelling or from her magic.
            “You’ve seen a mage with their magic, now look at them without it,” Gargador stated proudly while Brenda turned pale. Panic rose within Kyle. Brenda’s hand shook as she struggled to reach out to him.    
            “What did you to do her?” Kyle shouted, confused. What was he supposed to do, he didn’t know anything about magic! He turned her on her side as the foam flowed better but the bleeding and shaking didn’t stop.
            “I rid her of her magic,” Gargador said. “That way, the kill would be easier!”
            With a roar of laughter, he was back into his dark orange, scaly monster form. His voice deepened while he transform and he continued to laugh. The pressure Kyle felt before was now back. Damn it, he thought. He couldn’t leave Brenda to fight like this, she wouldn’t be able to breathe if he did.
            “Now, you both will die!” Gargador exclaimed. Heavy footsteps shook the Earth as he dashed toward them. Kyle pushed them away, toward the opposite wall. Gargador narrowly missed them.
            Kyle’s finger hovered over the Nexus bracelet. He only had one option.
            Gargador swung down at them again, and once again Kyle pushed them away. The talon dug into the back of Kyle’s leg but that hardly mattered. He swiped his finger over it, and transformed to a static-y aura. Gargador shouted in excitement.
            Nimbly, Kyle set Brenda down, then charged Gargador with all of his power. He shouldered him, knowing it wouldn’t do very much, then punched him across the face with an energy beam at the ready. That sent the monster flying through the door and out into the courtyard. With little time, Kyle scooped Brenda into his arms and flew through the opening, just dodging Gargador’s swinging talon.
            He set a mental course for the Moon and dug into his space-jumping speed to break through the atmosphere into the cold emptiness of space. His aura flickered momentarily but he was fine. The foaming and wheezing from Brenda came to a stop, but the blood was still flowing—slowly—and she was breezing very deeply, probably still struggling.
            Without looking back, if Gargador wanted to take on the whole of the Zanderia on their base that was fine, Kyle finished his flight to the Moon base. Thankfully, Riko was there as well.
            “Riko, quick, call Eclipse or something, I need help,” he said.
            Riko’s expression changed from happiness to see Kyle to complete shock that Brenda looked so frail in his arms.
            “Goodness, what happened?” asked Riko. Kyle set her town on the medical table, then placed his hand on her heart. It was beating extremely slowly.
            “Gargador attacked me at school. Apparently he was looking for her and was using me to draw her out…anyway, he hit her with some anti-magic darts and she suddenly started seizing,” Kyle said, worried. He placed his hand on his chin worriedly when he realized her blood was all over his hand.
            He was about to remove the darts from her chest when Riko halted him. “Wait, hold on. I’m not a magic expert, you’re not a magic expert. We don’t know if removing the darts will do more harm than good.”
            “How so?”
            “I’ve seen, in some cases, people have the ability to remove poisons only by using a poison. Almost like a vaccine.”
            “That doesn’t make any sense.”
            “And magic is supposed to?”
            Kyle rolled his eyes. “Okay, well, what the hell are we supposed to do, then? Just leave her like this! She’s probably dying!”
            “Probably? No, she is dying,” a female voice said. From another corner of the room, Lalay approached them. She and Kyle had only met twice previously and didn’t converse very much while on the missions, as she mostly just talked with Brenda.
            “Can you help us?” asked Riko.
            “I can,” Lalay said. “And we’ll start, in fact, by removing the darts.”
            She plucked them out. When the last one was out, Brenda suddenly spat out blood, and took a deep breath in.
            “They weren’t spreading any poisons like they normally would. They were pretty much suffocating her magic, stopping it at the core,” Lalay said. “I’ve seen this type of weapon before, and it’s never a pretty sight. Consider it a mage’s worse nightmare.”
            Kyle hesitated. Brenda wasn’t looking any better. Lalay sure did make it sound like the darts were the only thing harming her, and those were gone.
            “So, then, why does she still look like that, why isn’t she looking better?” asked Kyle.
            Lalay sighed and shook her head. “Most of the time, people are too late. Either the seizure, blood drainage, or just the cut-off from the magic is what kills them. I’ve never seen someone survive it. I don’t know what happens next.”
            “I imagine that now the magic is going to start circulating through her body to restore her strength,” Riko said. He noticed Kyle was still shaky, and placed his hand on Kyle’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, she’ll get better. She’s in our care now, after all.”
            Kyle nodded. “Do you mind if I wait here while she gets better?”
            Riko smiled and nodded, then turned and got back to whatever he was doing previously. Lalay remained by Kyle’s side.
            “She will indeed get better, Blue Nexus, it’s simply a matter of time. But, whoever did this has the ability to take away magic, and isn’t a foe to be trifled with. Or, were you simply caught off guard?”
            Kyle shook his head. “Yes.”
            Lalay waited for more, then, knowing she wouldn’t get anything, left Kyle to stay at Brenda’s side. He wiped away the blood on her with his cloak, then let it drop to his side, and sat down lazily. All that time taunting Gargador, all those stupid insults…and this was the result.

Next time: Kyle takes on brand new territory as a lake town is under attack, but by what? Might this be the work of the Benefactor? Find out in "Blue Nexus #21: Black Lagoon!"


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