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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Rosenbaum is not happy to discover that Niyan Shair has escaped his grasp. The Captain begins to improve but it doesn't help Mistress Barbette's standing with the crew. Natalie and River have a confession to make about Jordan."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1865 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "SECRETS AND LIES"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Zoe/Wash. Kaylee/Simon. Mal/Inara.
STATUS: Sequel to "EQUILIBRIUM".
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
WEBSITE: None. All Firefly stories archived at Fireflyfans.net
SUMMARY: "Rosenbaum is not happy to discover that Niyan
Shair has escaped his grasp. The Captain begins to improve
but it doesn't help Mistress Barbette's standing with the crew.
Natalie and River have a confession to make about Jordan."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
"SECRETS AND LIES"
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Jacob Rosenbaum was having high tea. The best china, most expensive wine, best cuts of meat and freshest vegetables. Thick rich creamy sauces and people waiting to carry out his every whim. The call from the Administrator of the Prison was not simply unwelcome but distasteful. He wanted to demand not to be disturbed except he had left express instructions to be notified the moment they had any new information about Niyan Shair. This could be the breakthrough he had been waiting for.
"Very well, Dr Millenbro. What do you have for me?"
Even on the cortex screen the man looked nervous and Millenbro was the kind that never flinched even whilst performing the most excruciating levels of torture. "*Shifu*, it's our 'guest'. The guard noticed he had not touched his dinner, in fact that he had not moved in four hours. As per your instructions I entered with the guard to check him."
Rosenbaum was never a patient man. "And?"
"He is dead."
Suddenly the exquisite personal banquet lost its' taste. "*Shenme*? How could this happen?"
The doctor was nervous. "We think it must have been a heart attack, *shifu*."
"You think? You THINK! I don't pay you to THINK, I pay you to KNOW."
"Sir, yes sir."
"You are to perform a full autopsy immediately, is that understood?"
Millenbro was about to cut the link when Rosenbaum leaned close to the monitor screen. "I will be scrutinising the results very closely, *dong ma*?"
Wisely, Dr Millenbro did not query what he would do if it really was a heart attack. As the screen faded to black, Rosenbaum sat back and lost himself in thought. Shair had been as strong as a horse. No, this had been no heart attack. What then? Suicide? His eyes narrowed with suspicion. What would a man like Shair want to hide so badly he would rather take his own life? It never, for a single fraction of a second, occurred to the Minister that Shair had not been protecting any secrets. He had been protecting his friends.
Shock. There was no other word for it. Zoe stared at the woman, hardly believing her eyes. "You did what?"
Mistress Barbette did not even blink. "I needed to offer him something he could not refuse."
Shepherd Book had a thoughtful look on his face but said nothing. Simon walked in on the tail end of the conversation having left Inara sitting with the sleeping Captain. He had come for two reasons, firstly to tell the House Mistress that she could see her son and that he was recovering well. And secondly to get himself and Inara a cup of tea. Now, he stood just inside the doorway and stared, wondering what he had missed and why it put that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. His sister was sitting cross legged on the floor with Natalie, Paul for once sitting at the table with the others and not next to her as if the two were joined at the hip. Why did that image disturb him so? Kaylee patted the empty chair next to her and Simon decided the tea could wait. Wash gave him a friendly smile as he took his seat. Jayne didn't look at him, he was too busy scowling at the House Mistress and fingering his knife.
"Tell me again how you thought it was a good idea to trade your son's life for somethin' you don't even have?"
If Cyan was surprised by Zoe's anger she didn't show it. "He didn't know that."
Zoe put her hands on her hips. She was standing a few feet from where Wash was sitting, her own chair pushed back from the table as if she had errupted from it. "You are some piece of work." She growled low in her throat.
The others had never quite heard that tone or depth of anger before. More surprising because they all knew she didn't even like Badger.
"I didn't think he'd poison Stephen."
The Shepherd decided it was time to say something. "How did you intend to make good on your promise?"
Her eyes glittered as she met his, a fiery defiance reasserting itself. "I didn't."
Kaylee put a hand up to her face, her eyes round with disbelief. Simon wasn't sure what he was hearing, and then wasn't sure he was understanding what he thought he heard. He would have asked Kaylee for an explanation but she was staring in shock, unable to keep quiet a moment longer. "You were gonna let him die?"
"*Ni bu dong*."
"I don't see what you expected to gain." Said Book. "You sent Badger to a man who would happily kill him just to erase the fact that he was related to him, using the spurious excuse that you could get something for him that you did not have. Is that correct?"
Her eyes were adamantine, the glitter so contained it was hard to tell if it was with anger or tears. Perhaps a mix of both. "I wanted him to release my son."
"An' you really think an impossible trade was the way to go?" Wash put in.
For a moment she looked startled. With all the yelling and haranging back and forth the pilot had been silent. From time to time leaving to check their course then returning and seguing into the background again. Now she noticed him properly and the realisation of what he was asking drove home to her exactly what she had done. She had to pause before answering. "I had nothing else to trade."
"You could'a tried the truth."
The House Mistress shook her head at Zoe. "Howard would never have entertained the idea for a second. He isn't an emotional man. If he sees no profit in something then he isn't interested."
"Like father, like son." Muttered Jayne.
She threw the mercenary a glare then looked at all the faces around the table before straightening a little and getting right to the heart of the matter. "For what it's worth *duibuqi*."
"Ain't us you gotta apologise to."
Cyan glanced at Simon. "How is he?"
"Resting. He woke half an hour ago, complaining - naturally - but the chemical toxin is almost out of his body now."
"So it was never going to kill him?"
Zoe shot her a glare. Simon nodded to Kaylee as she pushed a mug of tea in front of him. The Shepherd quietly making sure everybody got a hot drink before reseating himself.
"*Bushi*. If Inara hadn't got him here when she did it would have been too late. Back in the day they were called 'designer drugs', can you believe that? Used for recreational purposes but created wholly in labs. The idea has been streamlined and improved on since then and it won't surprise you to know who the biggest supplier is."
The doctor nodded. "When I was at MedAcad we were taught to distinguish between the chemical copies and the real thing."
Jayne was cleaning his nails with the tip of his knife but no one told him to mind his manners at the table. Not that he was likely to listen with the Captain flat on his back and Zoe distracted by the spat with Mistress Barbette. "What difference does it make where the ruttin' *goushi* comes from? Poison is poison, still kills ya."
"Actually, it isn't and in this case it didn't, though it was a close call."
Zoe interrupted before Simon could launch into a long detailed explanation of something she had no real interest in. It was enough that Badger would recover. The bigger problem wasn't the son but what the mother had done and she wanted it sorted out. Now. Not later when some vengeful Alliance mandarin decided to take them apart for having anything to do with the House Mistress and her odious son. Wasn't like they didn't have troubles enough of their own. "What happens now?"
"I need to speak to Stephen first." Mistress Barbette looked at Simon and waited.
"Can I see him when he wakes?"
There was the smallest hesitation, as if the doctor was waiting for Zoe to insert a proviso. When she didn't he gave the House Mistress a nod. "*Qu*, just don't get him agitated."
Jayne snorted into his mug. When Simon shot him a look the big man didn't return it. Zoe sighed, she felt worn out with all the arguing and at a look from Wash took her seat beside him. He pushed her now cold tea towards her. "You have your talk with him Cyan, then when we come to somewhere safe for us to land you and Badger will be getting off, *dong ma*?"
She opened her mouth to protest then shut it again and nodded. It was more lenience than she could have hoped for. Next to Paul, Jordan had been sitting quietly through the whole heated discussion. The boy was so quiet most of the time that the crew often forgot he was there unless someone drew attention to him. Now Jordan was looking over his shoulder to where River and Natalie were sitting. The two girls stared back and an odd tension crept into the room. Simon opened his mouth to say something, to ask what was going on, but River and Natalie got to their feet and walked towards the table. It was disconcerting to him to see that the two readers were holding hands.
To his surprise it was Natalie who spoke. Usually she let River talk for her. "We have to tell them."
Jordan looked lost for a moment. Natalie let go of River's hand and reached for Jordan's. The boy was expressionless yet somehow carried an air of despondence, a sadness that was accepted like an unwelcome birthright. It made Simon wish there was some spark of life in him. That got an unreadable glance from the boy then Jordan was giving his attention to Natalie as if everyone else in the room was forgotten. River pick up the mental plea from Natalie and turned to face the rest of them.
"The control device wasn't destroyed."
Mistess Barbette sat up straighter, her eyes glittering with possibilities. Zoe frowned. "What you sayin', little one?"
River glanced at Natalie and Jordan. "They need to know."
Natalie looked scared but Jordan looked resigned.
"*Qing*." Said River softly. "They don't have to understand but you know it's right."
Jordan nodded. "I can retrieve it."
Everyone stared at him as if he had just grown two heads. The House Mother looked as if she was teetering on the brink of hope and devastation. "It isn't destroyed?"
"*Bu*. It can only be unmade if programmed to self destruct." He paused. "Like me."
His words were met with a stunned silence. Kaylee wasn't sure he had said what she thought he had said, because he couldn't be, could he? "Are ya sayin'...?"
"I was made. Created. Put together with the latest technology."
Jayne jumped to his feet. "What? You ain't real?"
Jordan didn't so much as blink. "I am as real as you are, I'm just not human. Not flesh and bone."
"*Wode ma*." Book murmured. "Artificial Intelligence."
There was a long, agonised silence.
"Now," said Mistress Barbette, her voice mild and oddly calm "you know why everyone wants the control device."
Father Luther Ramos was of middling height, an inch or two shorter than Gabriel Tam, with a sparse lean body that spoke more of discipline than lack of sustenance. He was fit and in his early sixties with a lean weathered face, clean shaven, raven black eyes and dark sweeping bushy brows. His hair was dark brown with silver strands hap-hazzardly rioting in and out of the spare strands. A bald patch on the top of his head almost mimicked a tonsure only this one was nature's way of ventilating the top of his nut brown head.
"*Qing*, you will explain to me why you would want to do such a thing?"
Gabriel sucked in a breath to keep his voice calm, his wife standing quietly beside him. It was a wonder she had not rushed in to reassure their guardian that they were not disabusing the hospitality of the monastery or ungrateful. That was a wonder in itself but Gabriel was too impatient to contemplate what it all meant. All he knew was that he was sick of this. The enforced inactivity, the knowing that he and his wife were safely in hiding while his children were... what? In danger? Fleeing the very government he and his wife had spent a lifetime endorsing with their obedience and lifestyles? Complicit in what had happened by their own inability to imagine the Alliance capable of any wrong doing? Every notion stung his conscience like hundreds of sharp clawed pigeons coming home to roost.
"*Wo bu an*. We should have heard something by now, Father Ramos."
He was rewarded with a gentle smile, the kind that he wanted to rip off the man's face. It looked too easy, too quick to appear for it to be genuine. As if he was being placated by a child instead of a man of God. "If there was anything wrong we would have heard, my son."
Gabriel took another breath, deeper this time. His control was slipping and the last thing he needed to do was insult the man. "*Xie xie ninde shenqing kuandai*, father, but please understand. For years I never listened to the warnings of my son. It cost me my daughter and now both of my children are on the run from the very people I once trusted."
"*Fang xin*, they are in God's hands now."
He wanted to rant and rail at the man. How could he calmly tell him not to worry? Fortunately Regan chose that moment to speak. "We appreciate all your help, Father Ramos, and have enjoyed our stay at your monastery but we are parents. It is only natural that we worry about our children, *dong ma*?"
His smile this time was more expansive and reached his eyes. "*Wo dong*, Mrs Tam. Our mutual friend however was very specific about the level of danger and how best to keep both yourselves and your children safe."
Gabriel Tam's lips twisted into a sour expression. "Yes, by running off with a pack of thieves and Rim dwelling pirates!"
The Father's voice was deceptively mild and non judgemental but Regan could sense the steel beneath the outward calm. "Thieves and Rim dwelling pirates who have kept your children out of the hands of the authorities at great risk to themselves. Thieves and Rim dwelling pirates to whom you owe their very lives."
Something in Gabriel's haughty expression began to crumble. His voice less harsh, beginning to break. Regan slipped her hand in his but he barely noticed. "*Wo zhidao*, I... *duibuqi*, it's just we would never mix with such people normally and... we heard such stories."
"Not all tales are true, Mr Tam."
"Yes, but... *deng*, what are you saying?"
"I have known Shepherd Book for many years and he is a good if slightly unorthodox man. He would not travel with anyone he did not put his trust in. He trusts Captain Reynolds, I trust Shepherd Book. Both of your children are of the same opinion. Do you not trust your children, Mr Tam? Is their safety worth unleashing your impatience to act?"
For several moments Gabriel Tam stared at Father Ramos, his hand tightening around Regan's. She squeezed back, but more gently. Her silent support grounding him more than anything he was hearing but it gave him enough pause to actually absorb what had been said. Shoulders sagging he nodded reluctantly. "*Wo daoquian*. I just find this waiting so hard. "*Wo meishir, dong ma*?"
Father Ramos nodded, he did understand. Gabriel Tam was used to solving problems, his business brain used to finding efficient ways to overcome obstacles in his work. He had never thought he would have to apply such a strategy to his home life and now to find that he had to stand helplessly by while strangers did for his children what he had failed to do - it burned. It hurt. And the guilt was eating away at him even though at the time he could not have known that there was anything wrong. Later, when his son begged for his help he could have stretched forth his hand. Used his money and position to support him. Instead he had grown angry and warned his son he would not come for him again if he persisted in this obssession over River. From there everything that followed had been a downword spiral and when the truth finally was irrevocably revealed to be even uglier than Simon had hinted at, everything came crashing down on him.
"Perhaps you could help in gardens?"
Gabriel blinked stupidly at him. Gardens? Him? A gardener? It was laughable, a ridiculous idea. Then he felt Regan gently squeeze his hand and realised that doing nothing would drive him crazy. He was already halfway there. At least this way he could keep occupied and in some small way show his gratitude to these people. "*Dang ran, xie xie ni*."
"Come, I will take you to Brother Elias. He has the greenist fingers in all of Christendom."
He woke slowly. Mind a sluggish fog that took its' time clearing. The first thing he noticed was a beeping sound, not loud but regular. The scent of antiseptics and some such told him he was flat on his back in the infirmary and with that realisation all the blanks filled themselves in like an incoming tide. So quickly that he was inundated with images and memories that he would have slowed down a mite if he could have. It took a moment for his heart rate to settle, didn't want that gorram monitor going off and half his crew rushing in. Especially not now. He blinked slowly, his swollen eye not so bad as it was, his good eye roaming until it fixed upon the angelic face half hidden from him because it was resting upon his hand. Inara Serra, fast asleep and holding on to him as if she could not bear to let go. It made something deep inside ache.
He didn't want to wake her. Didn't want the usual adversarial status quo to kick into gear. He liked this better. The simple acceptance of being in each other's orbit without any rancour. Her touch on the back of his hand a comfort he could get used to, her tilted face so placid and peaceful in repose. A coughing sound interrupted his reverie and Inara stirred, her eyes instantly locking on his as if she expected to find him fighting for breath or some such.
"*Wei*, you okay?"
Her smile made his heart go pitter pat. Fortunately the monitor didn't give away his secret. "That was going to be my line."
"Yours is it?" He drawled, humour tinging the words with warmth. She wished she could wrap his words around her and never feel cold again.
"I should get Simon."
Inara paused as she was rising to her feet. Mal gave her a lop sided smile.
"He ain't near as pretty as you."
She retook her seat and laid a hand over his, the same one she had rested her head upon as she slept. "I should tell him you're awake, Mal. He's been so worried about you."
Mal raised his eyebrows. "An' you ain't?"
The tug of humour on her lips told him she knew he was fishing for compliments but Inara wasn't about to get into that game. "*Ni juede zenme yang le*?"
"*Leisile* but gettin' better. No need to fuss."
"Can I get you anything? Food? Water? A Psychiatrist?"
"*Zhen you yisi*. Really. You ever get tired of companionin' you could be a comedian. Have people pay to split their sides laughin'."
Inara turned her head and noticed that not only was Badger awake but he was trying to sit up, his face red with effort and annoyance coming off the little man in waves. Much as she would like to ignore him she knew that Badger wouldn't stop making a nuisance of himself until someone paid attention to him. "Do you need me to get Simon?"
Badger flopped back down on the bed. "Where the *diyu* is everyone?"
The Companion gave Mal a warning look when he scowled, patted his hand and went over to see what Badger wanted. "Are you in pain?"
The look he gave her made Malcolm Reynolds want to get right up off that bed and shove him wholesale out of the nearest airlock. Fact that it was Badger's fault that he couldn't did nothing to calm his temper. If the mean spirited little man hadn't shot him in the first place they wouldn't be in this predicament. Some of that rising blood pressure must have set off the alarm on the wires and do-dads he was hooked up to because within seconds Simon was running into the infirmary with what looked like everybody else on the ship following him. He quickly checked on the Captain, Mistress Barbette taking the opportunity to check on her son. Badger's plaintive voice like chalk on a blackboard as he complained about nobody taking no notice of him. Fortunately his mother silenced the whining voice.
Inara wanted to go back and sit with Mal but with the infirmary overflowing with people and Badger awake she didn't feel comfortable staying. Kaylee caught her eye. "He alright?"
"*Qu, Mal just got agitated when Badger started shouting for someone to take notice of him."
Kaylee rolled her eyes. Jayne huffed behind them. "Want me to silence him, permanent like?"
Zoe's voice cut in before anyone could give in to the temptation. "He's not worth it, Jayne. Soon as we hit the next planet with atmo they'll be gone."
"Why wait for one with atmo? Can't talk in a vacuum."
She pinned him with a quick but hard look. "Jayne!"
"Just sayin'." He mumbled. "Don't see why we're keepin' him alive when he caused all this trouble."
The first mate sighed but Jayne had a point. Still, getting rid of Badger would upset the Captain because of Mistress Barbette. How she wished she could untangle that little piece of past history. Simon turned around after checking on the Captain and began to shoo them all out. To everyone's surprise he asked Jayne to stay behind and did not tell Mistress Barbette to leave. After all, he had promised that once Badger was awake again she could see him. It would have been churlish to go back on his promise just because the man irritated the *goushi* out of him.
Once the infirmary was relatively quiet again the Captain couldn't help but query why Simon had asked Jayne to stay. Lowering his voice, Simon pretended to be checking the monitors, not wanting Badger or his mother to hear. "I told Mistress Barbette that she could stay and sit with her son once he woke up." He did not add that he didn't trust either of them but the Captain was nothing if not quick on reading between the lines when he wanted to.
"Ain't no need for Jayne to stay."
"Oh Jayne's not staying for them." Simon lied easily as he poured some water into a glass then put a straw in it.
Jayne looked puzzled. "I ain't?"
The Captain echoed his confusion. "He ain't?"
"*Bu*. Jayne will be here to see to it that you don't try to get up."
Mal and Jayne stared at him. Was this a joke? Simon kept a surprisingly good poker face. "You realise," said the Captain slowly. "I can't stand on my feet let alone walk, *dui*?"
"You're still *wangu*, Captain, which means anything could happen."
"I ain't Superman, Simon."
"*Shei*?" Asked Jayne.
"A mythical character. Goes around doing good deeds."
"You forgot to tell Jayne he can also fly."
Jayne scowled. "Always knew you was *shenjingbing*. You sure you got him on the right drugs, doc?"
Simon helped the Captain to sit up slightly and let him take a few sips of water then eased him down again. Simon addressed Jayne while injecting something into the Captain's iv. "I just want you here to keep the Captain calm, Jayne."
The look on Jayne's face was a near mirror image to the one on Mal's. Before the Captain could query his logic a blank look slid over his face. Jayne looked worried until he saw the small self-satisfied smile slide across Simon's face. As the Captain lost his battle to stay awake, Simon put the syringe on the tray and looked at Jayne. All humour gone. Simon waited a moment, making sure that neither Badger nor his mother were paying them any attention but lowering his voice just in case. "He should sleep for the next five or six hours, Jayne. I want you to sit with the Caotain and make sure nothing is administered or given to him except by me, *dong ma*?"
"Where you gonna be? I ain't a doc."
"No, but I can't think of anyone better to make sure that no one messes with the Captain while I'm gone. I need to speak to my sister and Zoe."
Something clicked in the mercenary's brain. "You think they'll try somethin'?"
"I'm not willing to take that chance. In the unlikely event that the Captain wakes before I get back don't give him anything to eat or drink - nil by mouth. And don't let anyone touch this glass of water or fiddle with the iv line, *dong ma*?"
The serious set of Jayne's mouth matched the hardening look in his eyes. "Nobody's gonna get passed me. *Hao yao shenme*?"
"No, I think that's it."
Jayne hesitated. When Simon paused to see what he wanted, the big man seemed somewhat subdued. "He really gonna be alright?"
Simon hid a smile. Jayne was big, bluff, coarse and often rude. Had as much subtlety as a sledge hammer but he also had some surprising depths. Little things giving away the fact that for all his bluster he really was one of the crew and took his duties seriously. If anything happened to the Captain, Jayne would be adrift. Mal was his compass and where the Captain pointed he would follow. Not that he would ever admit as much but Simon could see it clearly now in the worry barely hidden and the need for reassurance he thought he would never witness. "Yes, Jayne. It'll take a few months but by this time next year the Captain will be stomping around and yelling at everyone just like he always does."
A big grin flashed across Jayne's face and all the tension went out of him. "Shiny. Best you get goin'."
Over the other side of the infirmary, Mistress Barbette and Badger were having a secretive discussion of their own. When Simon left the infirmary, Badger looked across to where the Captain lay, Jayne sitting in a chair by the Captain's bed and facing them. The mercenary seemed to have all his attention focused on the sleeping Captain which suited Badger just fine. He gave his mother a searching look. "What you really up to, *muqin*?"
Mistress Barbette ran a hand through what was left of her son's hair. He wasn't bald but when he had been arrested by the Alliance the first thing they had done was shave his head. Would have been less amusing for everyone else if it would grow back at the same rate all over but it didn't, little wayward tufts sticking up in patches as if someone had attacked his head with a pair of scissors. His mother patted at the tufts making him both embarrassed and annoyed. Not that he dared say as much. Her attempts to soothe him had the opposite effect. It was all manner of creepifying having her acting the concerned mother. Made all his alarms start ringing and the hair on the back of his neck stand on rutting end. "*Fang xin*, everything's going to plan and that's all you have to know."
His eyes narrowed. "I could'a died."
"No, my son, you could not."
He stared at her as if she were stark raving mad. Come to think of it, she probably was. "*Kai wanxiao*! It was a gorram poison! 24 hours he said."
The curve of her lips confused him. "Stephen, when will you learn to trust me?"
"Maybe start when you stop playin' gorram roulette with my life."
"You were never in danger." She said softly.
"*That's a *shuipan shi* an' you know it."
"Your father likes to play games, that's all."
Badger didn't have anything to say to that, his mind a-whirl with everything that had happened and the deep unsettling feeling that the mother he was coming to know was an even bigger stranger than he imagined. It left a dark hollow feeling in his gut that whatever game she was playing it would not end well for him.
* * * * * *
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*shifu* = sir *shenme* = what *dang ran* = of course *dong ma* = understand?
*ni bu dong* = you don't understand *duibuqi* = sorry *bushi* = not so
*goushi* = crap/dog shit *qu* = yes (lit. go) *bu* = no *wode ma* = mother of God
*qing* = please *wo bu an* = I'm worried *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart)
*xie xie ninde shenqing kuandai* = thank you for your hospitality *diyu* = hell
*wo dong* = I understand *wo zhidao* = I know *deng* = wait *wei* = hey!
*wo daoquian* = I apologize *wo meishir* = I have nothing to do *bei zoule* = don't go
*xie xie ni* = thank you *leisili* = exhausted *zhen you yisi* = very funny
*ni juede zenme yang le* = how are you feeling? *qu* = yes (lit. go) *dui* = correct
*wangu = stubborn *shei* = who *shenjingbing* = crazy *muqin* = mother
*hao yao shenme* = anything else? *kai wanxiao*! = you're kidding!
*shuipan shi* = piece of shit
Friday, February 27, 2009 10:03 AM
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