GAMERA: THE WORLD OF TERA

by Den Valdron


THE WORLD ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SUN


In the Science Fiction and Fantasy movies of the Japanese Daiei film company, there are three films which feature an Earth-like world on the opposite side of the sun from our own world.

The most famous of these is Gamera vs.. Guiron [originally released to U.S. television in 1969 as Attack of the Monsters--CN]. Basically, the plot is simple. After strange radio waves are received, a flying saucer lands. Two little boys enter the saucer, which takes them back to its homeworld, a planet called Tera on the opposite side of the sun. There they encounter Space Gyaos, a silver version of the monster from Gamera vs. Gaos [originally released to U.S. television in 1967 as Return of the Giant Monsters--CN], a knife-headed monster called Guiron, and two cannibalistic alien babes who claim to be the last survivors of their world, and desperate to get off their planet. Luckily for the two boys, Gamera comes back to rescue them.

The next movie is Super Monster Gamera. In this one, as part of his epic final battles, set roughly 20 years after the events of Gamera vs. Guiron, Gamera once again travels through space to planet Tera, to fight Guiron (either the original Guiron or a 2nd Guiron). Itís all stock footage, of course. But in the narrative of Super Monster Gamera, and therefore the narrative of the Gamera series as a whole, this is a second trip to Tera.

The third movie is actually the first chronologically - the Daiei film Warning From Space. The alien race in this series, a race of starfish with eyes in their center, are from a world in our solar system on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. They are quite certain that their world is occupying the same orbit as Earth. The only trouble is, we donít actually see their world. We do see their spaceships and the ships entering and leaving their space station. But we never get to see their homeworld, and the small moon-like disk in the vicinity of their space station is Earth. The Pairans say that they have been observing Earth for several thousand years, and freely acknowledge that their science and technology are far more advanced than the human race of Earth.

The relationship of the Paira homeworld to the Tera of the two Gamera films is unknown. Obviously, two planets cannot occupy the same space. So the temptation is to assume itís the same world in all three films.

So, letís examine the strange world on the other side of the sun, paying special attention to the depiction in Gamera vs. Guiron, which is, of course, the key birdsí eye view of the place.

TERA AS SEEN THROUGH GAMERA

What can we determine about this world? Well, first we know its location and its orbital period, obviously. Opposite side of the sun and 365 days, respectively.

When our protagonists arrive in Gamera vs. Guiron, we do not see the world from orbit, but only after having landed. The sky is blue-gray, full of wind and dust, with small visible clouds. The landscape appears to consist of jagged rocky black or gray forms, resembling igneous basalt, with very sparse vegetation. The jagged rocks frequently resemble tall narrow spires, sort of like stalagmites, and itís not immediately clear how or what geological processes formed these. They jut out of relatively flat, sandy floors.

Itís tricky to generalize a couple of views to an entire planet. Places like Earth or Mars, or even the Moon, have a lot of geological and geographical diversity. Still, this looks like pretty inhospitable terrain to build a major base, not to mention a city, and yet this is the geology and geography that we see cities built in. And we arenít given any reason to think that there was anything special that made it desirable to build in an inhospitable location. So we can assume that most of the planet is like this, and the parts that arenít are much less hospitable for building cities on.

Glaciers are mentioned, so we can assume that polar areas are icebound. Later in the movie, the background rock spires seem to turn white, so I assume that the temperature drops quickly and atmospheric frost covers the rock. This implies wide fluctuation in daytime and nighttime temperature.

The local landscape appears to be terraced, suggesting either a crater, or possibly a water sculpted canyon. The terrain seems to be uneven overall, with deep crevices, highlands, and lowlands. Hills and mountains seem to be visible in the distance.

The air is breathable to the children, and the temperature is within tolerable ranges. There is open water running in rivers and lakes. There are ponds or lakes that appear to be hundreds of feet deep, given that Gamera falls some distance into one, and the floor is jagged. Despite the presence of water, the surrounding rocks are not worn smooth, but are still rough and jagged. So it would appear that water has not been running through the place for too long.

Thereís no sign of agriculture or of roadways, rails, or transmission lines, and no landing platform. Rather, the civilized complex consists of domes or spheres connected by sealed pipelines or corridors. There appear to be at least half a dozen domes of various sizes, connected by straight pipelines. There are also a series of metal towers, also connected by pipelines. Access to and from the domes are through local teleportation chambers, and within the dome through slideways or slide paths. This complex is referred to as the base.

There is at least one other complex of civilization. In another shot, Space Gyaos flies across the ruins of a great city, of similar design -- spheres, domes, and connecting passages. It looks as if there are over a dozen domes or spheres in view as the camera tracks Space Gyaos in a straight line. Assuming that the city is not strung out along that line, this would suggest at least several dozen domes or spheres. These domes appear to be as large as, or significantly larger than, those which comprise the base.

Apart from that, the only other sign of engineering are the camouflaged pit that contains Guiron beneath a river or pond, which withdraws water and opens its roof to release the kaiju.

Barbarel and Flobel are the only two inhabitants. They claim that they controlled their world through science, but that their computer ended up creating uncontrollable monsters. We see several of the silvery-skinned ĎSpace Gyaos,í so this may be what theyíre referring to. Did they create these Gyaos? They say that the rest of their people left in a giant spaceship, which exploded or crashed. They say that they have been confined to the base, and are unable to go outside. They say that itís getting colder and colder, taken over by glaciers. The implication is that the planet is steadily becoming uninhabitable Ė i.e., decaying or degenerating. The aliens prove themselves to be liars in other respects, so anything they say should be taken with a grain of salt.

They refer to being completely bound in by glaciers in just five hours. This may be a reference to the rotation period of Tera. Presumably, five hours is a fraction of a day, which will take us into night. Tera is overcast, so thereís no way to tell in which part of the day we see it onscreen. Assuming itís noon, that would give us a 20 hour day.

There are at least five of the ĎSpace Gyaosí on the world, in addition to Guiron. Thereís a brief shot showing a Gyaos flying through a ruined city composed of at least ten domes. There are four Gyaos seen standing around the city as the one flies through it. There may be two Guiron, depending on whether the monster survived its encounter in Gamera vs. Guiron, to fight again in Super Monster Gamera, or whether the one that we see in Super Monster Gamera is a second monster [this, of course, depends upon whether or not one considers the events of Super Monster Gamera to be part of Gameraís Showa Era timeline, as the author clearly does, or part of a separate timeline, as this editor does; the author makes a very strong case for his belief that the events of Super Monster Gamera occur on the Daiei Showa Timeline in one of his previous essays posted on my Guest SectionóCN].

Apart from the Space Gyaos, Guiron, and two humanoid inhabitants, this seems like a sterile world. We see no animals. Vegetation exists here and there, both underwater and clinging to the rocks, but itís very thin -- no forests, no grasslands; itís literally a desert landscape, and pretty sparse for deserts as well.

AN IMPOSSIBLE PLANET IN AN IMPOSSIBLE PLACE

Tera occupies the place on the opposite side of the sun from Earth, so we canít see it. Actually, a lot of planets have been tucked into that location. Both John Normanís 26 book GOR series, and J.T. Edsonís three book BUNDUKU series, have been set there. Marvel Comics has located and destroyed a series of Counter-Earths in that location. A couple of different movies and television series have played with the idea of a reversed Earth, identical to our own but backwards in some way.

And theoretically, itís possible to have something there. Theoretically. A 19th century mathematician called LaGrange calculated that there were a series of stable points where another body could occupy the same orbit. These were the L1 point, directly in front, the L2 point, directly behind, the L3 point on the opposite side, and the L4 and L5 or Trojan points, 60 degrees before and after.

And in fact, the L4 and L5 points, or Trojan points, in our solar system are frequently occupied. Earth has dust clouds called Kondrewski clouds at its Trojan points. Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune all have identified asteroids or clusters of asteroids at their respective Trojan points. A couple of Saturnís moons even have Trojan points of their own. It seems to be a couple of very stable orbital points, into which things naturally accumulate.

Of course, itís not entirely that stable. Earth once had an entire planet as a companion in a Trojan point. This world, called Thea, was a Mars-sized body. What happened to Thea? Well, it was in a stable orbit, but the problem was that the Earth/Thea orbit wasnít perfectly circular. Sometimes, Thea moved faster at its point in the orbit, and got closer to Earth. Also, Thea was a relatively large world, like Earth, so when it moved a little closer, its gravitational attraction with Earth was stronger, which nudged it a little closer. Mars and Venus also contributed to tugging, so that Thea started to wobble in its orbital relationship with Earth. After several million years, Earth and Thea drifted out of Trojan orbits to each other and collided. Ouch! Thea was destroyed, its core sinking into Earth, the surrounding cloud of dust and debris coalescing into the Moon.

Thatís the trouble with these stable points. Theyíre fine, if youíve got perfectly circular orbits, if the mass youíre putting in them is negligible, and if thereís no other sources of gravity to throw things off.

Take the L3 point, opposite the Sun. Itís not quite in the exact opposite spot as Earth. Why? Because Earthís gravity is added to the Sunís, and that moves the spot just a little bit closer. Earthís orbit is elliptical, so an object in that spot is moving faster or slower depending on position. And of course, Mars, Venus, and Mercury are all supplying their own gravitational tug, and theyíll come within 40, 20, and 60 million miles at their closest approaches respectively.

So if you put a planet the size of Earth or Venus, or even Mars or Mercury, at that point opposite the Sun for well over millions of years, it would slowly wobble off its stable point. And then youíve got two planets sharing the same orbit, moving at slightly different rates...well, thatís going to end badly.

And of course, such a planet could never really remain hidden. Its gravity added to the Sunís would have a tiny but measurable effect on Earth. Weíd calculate that as part of the gravity of the Sun, but once we calculated the effect of the gravity of the Sun on other planets, weíd have a discrepancy that would suggest a hidden planet. Plus, thereíd be measurable effects on the orbits of Mars, Venus, and Mercury. So the jig would be up pretty fast. And itís likely that given the different orbital speeds, thereíd be occasions when weíd be able to spot our ĎCounter-Earthí at the edges of the Sun.

So we canít have an Earth-sized planet in the L3 spot opposite the Sun. Can we have anything there? Certainly. So far as we know, thereís nothing there right now (and we have checked). But the spot could theoretically contain space dust, meteorites, asteroids, and maybe a little bitty planet, as long as itís negligible mass.

But what, exactly, is negligible mass? I read this somewhere, but frankly, I lost the attribution, so Iím basically pulling it out of nowhere, but I believe that youíre good for up to one fortieth or 2.5 per cent of the mass of the primary. So you can have a planet in the L3 spot with some vague hope of stability, and some possibility of not producing significant gravitational effects on Earth or other planets, as long as itís about one fortieth the size of Earth.

Thatís not very big. But then again, how not very big are we talking about? Mars, about half the diameter of Earth, is one sixteenth of the volume of our home planet, and maybe one twenty-fifth of the mass of Earth. Too big for the L3 spot, but within a stoneís throw. The Moon is one sixty-fifth the volume of Earth and roughly one eightieth its mass. So it might easily fit into the L3 spot.

Thatís not too bad. So basically, something roughly two thirds or half the volume or mass of Mars, or maybe half again larger than the volume or mass of the Moon. Not great, but not too bad.

Letís say a world about 2000 to 3000 miles in diameter. That would give you a surface area between 15 and 30 million square miles. Less than the total land area of Earth, but between two and four times the land area of North America. Thatís not too bad.

What kind of gravity would that world have? Well, thatís a factor of size and density, how much mass, and how tightly packed that mass is. Mars is 4200 miles in diameter, with a density of 3.3 because itís mostly rock. But Mercury is roughly 3000 miles in diameter, with a density of 5, because it has a huge iron core, and its gravity is about the same as Mars. Almost 38% of Earthís. Iím ballparking here, and you can look up the specific figures if youíd like.

So if we had a 3000 mile diameter world, with roughly the same composition as the Moon, weíd expect a gravity in about the same ballpark, 15 to 20% of Earth. On the other hand, if we had a 2000 mile diameter world, with a density similar to Mercury or better, weíd probably see a gravity between a quarter and a third of Earth.

Mercury has an iron core which is 3/4 of the planetís diameter, and itís basically a giant ball bearing with a thin shell of rock, so itís hard to get something denser. Earth has the same density, due to a large iron core and gravitational compression. But for a small world, Mercury is probably the upper limit of viable density.

All of this is seat of the pants stuff, Iím roughing and rounding off like crazy, and if anyone wants to sit down and do the math, theyíd kick my ass.

Still, it just possibly gives us a chance to have a relatively small world, with a gravity strong enough to hold a viable atmosphere. So letís assume a heavier high-density Moon-sized body, with a total mass of 2.5% of Earth or less. Any larger, and itís not stable at all, and its gravity would start mucking up the rest of the inner system.

So if Tera exists in the Gamera/Showa Daiei Universe, this is probably what it is -- a Moon-sized body, very dense, roughly 15 million square miles surface area, with a high local surface gravity of maybe .25 or .33 that of Earth, holding down an Earth-like atmosphere.

In the long run, Iíd think that it would still be at major risk of wobbling off the stable point and going crash. But it might remain stable for at least several million years. But stable for hundreds of millions or billions of years? Not so likely.

Thereís other problems, too -- the Moon and Mercury are baked airless rocks. Mars barely has an atmosphere. Although the gravity of Mars once held a heavy atmosphere, heavy enough to sustain liquid water and oceans, it couldnít hold it over the long run. So in the long run, hundreds of millions, or billions of years, a planet in Earthís orbitólike Tera--should have become as dry and baked and airless as the Moon itself. Any atmosphere Tera could have had should have dissipated long ago.

But it didnít. So, what conclusions can we draw? Thereís no possible way that Tera could have been an original part of the stable Sol solar system. If it had been there as long as Mercury or Mars, then at best it would be an airless rock, and at worst it would have drifted off and eventually collided with Earth. This meanís that it must be a recent entry to its position in the solar system, no more than a couple of million years, and probably much less. And thereís no natural way it could have drifted into its position--a stable orbit at the L3 point--within any kind of reasonable time frame.

If Tera exists in the Showa Daiei Universe, then someone had to put it there. And not long ago, either.

THE WORLD OF TERA

So what would produce this strange landscape? Why would there be these endless narrow spires of rock, in defiance of apparent gravity?

I would say these could be products of volcanism, under a lower gravity than that of Earth, with possibly magma welling up through cracks or holes in a crust or regolith, with the regolith eventually being worn away, leaving behind the hard basalt.

It may be that the regolith upper layer was partially mud or water, which eventually boiled away or evaporated into the atmosphere, falling as rain and washing away the rest of the detritus, leaving the volcanic spires exposed everywhere, jutting out from a flat floor, which is the residue of the original crust or regolith.

If this is the case, then weíre looking at a very rapid, relatively short duration volcanic episode. Literally a fast surge of underlying magma upwards, seeking entry through crevices or weakness, but not lasting long enough to completely melt the upper regolith, or combine into a lava plane. Iím thinking a catastrophic geological event.

If this is correct, then we can work our way backwards to what Tera originally looked like. There would be an outer layer or crust -- a regolith layer, a mixture of light rock and ice, possibly volatiles, frozen carbon dioxide ice, regular ice, gravel, sand, silica, etc. Given the height and distribution of the spires, Iíd say this layer would be tens or hundreds of meters thick, perhaps a kilometer or more at the maximum.

Beneath this would be a mantle or layer of rock, essentially heavy basalt, probably not highly compressed, and likely not uniform given the way the spires formed. Heat or magma seems to have moved up quickly into the regolith layer forming a kind of short-lived thin magma sea between the mantle and the regolith crust, which continued up to form the rocky spires. If heat hadnít been able to move quickly through channels in the mantle, then the whole mantle would have heated up evenly, and the crust would have boiled away entirely, leaving a flat lava plane like the lunar mares, rather than the spiky landscape we saw onscreen.

A non-uniform mantle implies possibly a relatively smaller, relatively younger world. Or a world whose internal differentiation and internal activity ceased before the process was completed. Again, this suggests a relatively smaller world with less active internal heat -- its core fire ran down fairly fast. Prior to the consolidation of the mantle.

Finally, there would be a probably clearly differentiated, well-defined large iron core. Given the non-uniform state of the mantle, it looks like it lost its internal heat relatively quickly. Or that the mantle accreted very slowly, and the regolith accumulated even more slowly.

So what do we have? A small planet, possibly Mercury- or Moon-sized. Heavy iron core that lost its heat, a non-uniform rocky mantle, and an outer layer of light material. The iron core suggests something that formed in the inner solar system. Basically, thatís where the heavy stuff--the rocky planets--formed. Further out, planetoids, the big moons, and other moderate-sized celestial bodies seemed to be like dirty snowballs--low density, with lots of water and volatiles.

But the trouble with the inner system rocky planets is that they bake fast. They lose most of their volatiles and low-density stuff. So the regolith layer, the dirty snow or slush outer cover, should have boiled away in the inner system. By all rights, something like Tera shouldnít have an atmosphere at all; it should be an arid dry landscape like the Moon or Mercury, or at least no better than Mars. Itís just too small to hold onto a volatile atmosphere for billions of years. Certainly itís too small to accumulate a slush outer layer, especially this close to the Sun. For it to have that slush layer, itís got to be much further out.

So...we have an inner system body that moved into the outer system, and out as far as the gas giants, or perhaps even further out? Possibly. The early solar system was like a game of billiards, with planets crashing into each other or flinging each other all over the place. Itís more than possible that a small planet got flung way out in some peculiar three-body interaction.

Itís possible that the journey to the outer solar system affected development, causing the mantle to accrete and form more slowly and unevenly. After all, thereís just a lot less matter in the outer solar system to accumulate, and then with a long, slow period of accumulating a regolith of frozen gases and ices.

Of course, this should put Tera way out there, somewhere past the orbit of Saturn, possibly past the orbit of Pluto. Which poses the question of what itís doing so close to home. How did it get there? And what caused the sudden heating event that seems to have reshaped its service into spiky crags everywhere?

If you want my guess, I would say that the planet has been moved. The Pairans have relocated it from the outer solar system to its current location on the other side of the Earth. The side effect of the relocation sparked the heat event that warmed up a portion of the mantle to magma and sent it up into the regolith, producing the spiky landscape.

The atmosphere and the water are the remains of what was formerly an outer regolith layer of gravel, ices, and frozen gases, possibly engineered and balanced by the Paira for temporary Earth-like conditions.

Eventually, over several million years or so, the exotic geology of Tera will be worn away to smooth mounds and low hills of gravel, sort of like Mars. In another couple of million years, the water will evaporate away completely. A few million years after that, the atmosphere will be gone, and Tera will be just another baked rock, a moon without an Earth.

At a guess, I would say this is probably a geologically young landscape, the towers/spires and stalagmites appear to be raw, rough stone and havenít had time to wear down or be worn smooth, and Iíd guess it was less than a million years old, possibly as young as only a few hundred thousand or tens of thousands of years.

Even so, it would seem that the Pairans have invested a lot of time and energy into building a hidden base to watch the Earth, possibly even before humans had civilization. Possibly before humans evolved. Given their level of interest, it may well be that the Pairans uplifted human civilization, or even uplifted humans themselves [if the Pairans had such advanced technology even prior to the birth of the human species on Earth, one would imagine that by the modern era they would now be so advanced that they would appear to be truly god-like by human perception--CN].

If Iím correct about the formation of the spires, and that the mud regolith was carried away downstream, I would venture to guess that in the lowlands of Tera the seas are literally silty mud. However, when Gamera falls hundreds of feet into a local lake or pond, the water seems quite clear. So perhaps the water cycle drains silt from the highland crevices. Either that, or the silt has worked itself out of the water in other ways.

If you want to look for extensive vegetation and life on Tera, my bet would be the mud seas. The surface of these large bodies of water should be thick enough and nutrient rich enough to support a heavy green grassland or brushland, but likely still too thin to walk on or build on. The closest you would come to recognizably terrestrial ecology would probably be on the shorelines of these seas, where rain shadow or river drainage would produce enough watered soil for trees, forests, plants, and animals.

In its way, Tera is a beautiful and striking world, with shining polar caps, highland landscapes of endless arching spires or spikes, and tall, thin mountains that are punctuated by racing rivers, chasm lakes, and mighty waterfalls, with most of it as dry and Spartan as a desert, except for the forest regions around flat green-blanketed mud seas. The human-habitable portions are probably all together no greater than the surface area of Canada or the United States, which would amount to no more than a quarter or third of the small planetís total surface area. The Pairan water habitat would amount to perhaps a sixth to a quarter in addition to that.

AFTERTHOUGHT: PAIRA AND GAMERA

While the two aforementioned Gamera films are clearly of the same continuity, itís not so clear that Warning From Space is also part of the Showa Daiei continuity. After all, the Pairans never appear directly in the Showa Gamera series. The Pairans and Gamera may exist in two entirely separate continuities, and the overlap of planets described above may simply be a coincidence.

On the other hand, if the Paira do not actually appear in the Showa Gamera series, other aliens who have more than a passing resemblance to them do indeed appear there. The Pairans are aliens resembling Earthly sea creatures--in this case, starfish. But they do not just resemble starfish, they appear to be genuinely aquatic creatures, or at least amphibious. In the movie, their saucers dive into and leave lakes, and the Pairans emerge from the water, coming to shore or climbing up onto docks. They never take kaiju-size, unless you are willing to accept movie posters. But they are able to assume human form and can control humans.

In Gamera vs.. Viras [originally released to American television in 1968 as Destroy All Planets--CN], we encounter an alien race resembling sea creatures-- squids in this case--who seem equally at home on land and sea, and who are able to take human form. They also have hypnotic powers over humans. The Virasians are also able to combine themselves into a kaiju-sized creature.

In Gamera vs.. Zigra, we encounter yet another sentient aquatic alien, in this case a sort of shark-like creature, equally at home on land and sea. This one does not take human form, but is able to control humans, and it does expand to kaiju-size.

The Virasians and Zigrans, although apparently separate alien races, definitely have some connection to each other. In Super Monster Gamera, the alien Zannon employs both Viras and Zigra, suggesting some relationship between the three, as well as the Zannon operating on Tera.

So weíve got two amphibious sea-creature aliens, the Viras and Zigra, who are definitely related in some way to each other, and possibly to the Zannon as well, who share a lot of overlaps with the Paira, and who have some further connection with the world on the opposite side of the Sun.

Of course, the Paira are benign aliens, while the other aliens are unquestionably malevolent. Are we looking at different species or factions from the same cultural complex? The differences between Pairan, Zigran, and Virasians may be no more significant to us than the differences between members of the human race who live in separate nations on Earth.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that the Paira may be related to or connected to the three Gamera races -- Viras, Zigra, and Zannon -- and that their world is the same world that Guiron occupies. Itís not definitive, but itís pretty good.

Of course, this raises some interesting points. If Tera is actually the world that the Pairans identify as their base, they must have abandoned it some time after Warning From Space. By the time of Gamera vs.. Guiron, the world is empty except for a handful of monsters and two inhabitants who clearly seem to be human women. At no point do the women in Gamera vs.. Guiron ever revert to alien form; rather, they claim to be fully human at all times.

This would seem to imply that the Pairan transplanted humans to Tera, and employed them as assistants or support. Tera was a human/Pairan world. The humans of Tera, however, were culturally indoctrinated or influenced by the Pairans to the degree that they could provide no insight to the Pairans on the subject of trying to make contact with Earth in Warning From Space.

The human women left on Tera would seem to be fairly criminal by Pairan standards. These women are highly amoral, even predatory. The Pairan set great stock in ethics and non-violence. Itís not clear what they are doing left behind on Tera, or whether they are representative of the humans who originally lived there in presumably larger numbers.

Interestingly, the trio of space women who watch over Earth in Super Monster Gamera share the Pairansí commitment to ethics and non-violence. Perhaps they were human agents of the Paira, originally from Tera? We might assume that with the departure of the Paira, there was also a departure of the human agents or population on Tera.

In Super Monster Gamera, one of the benign space women remarks that the Zannon who now invade Earth have destroyed the womenís own world. Is this why Tera was abandoned? The Paira were driven off by other, more violent factions of their culture, like the Zannon, Zigra, or Viras? Did the Zannon eventually take control of Tera between Warning in Space and Super Monster Gamera? [If so, then one might surmise that the mainstream Pairan faction didnít possess such advanced technology over a million years ago, since the level of technology they possessed in the mid-20th century as we reckon time, while considerably more advanced than Earth technology, wasnít so advanced that the Pairans appeared truly god-like in the manner of the Preservers from the Star Trek Universe.óCN]

Perhaps that may be why the Terans in Gamera vs. Guiron were so desperate to escape. And perhaps the evil space woman in Super Monster Gamera is another Teran who joined the side of the Zannon.

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