Fantastic Four (1st series) #349

Issue Date: 
February 1991
Story Title: 
Eggs Got Legs! …or Love Conquers All!

Walter Simonson (writing), Arthur Adams (penciling), Gracine Tanaka (penciling assistant), Art Thibert (inking – pages 1-3), Al Milgrom (inking – pages 4-24), Bill Oakley (lettering), Steve Buccellato (coloring), Ralph Macchio (editing), Tom DeFalco (editor in chief), Arthur Adams and Art Thibert (cover art)

Brief Description: 

Below the surface of Monster Island, De’Lila reveals her true form. Using her telepathic powers, she manipulates the Mole Man and the new Fantastic Four (Wolverine, Hulk, Spider-Man and Ghost Rider). When they discover her ruse, De’Lila escapes deeper into the tunnel with Reed Richards in tow. Once they begin to give chase, the new Fantastic Four is separated from Mole Man and his minions when a bomb explodes, caving in the tunnel behind them. At Four Freedoms Plaza, Franklin Richards finds his family tied up and releases them. After he does, Sue, Thing, She-Thing and the Human Torch make their way to Monster Isle. Back at the island, the new FF finds the spaceship and, after working together, free the egg inside. After the real FF arrives, they discover that two of Mole Man’s monsters have taken the egg and are treating it like their child. When the egg hatches, the Technotroid inside imprints itself as one of the monsters and stays with them. Realizing that she has lost, De’Lila tries to convince Reed to leave with her and removes his mindblocks as a show of good faith. Free, and after De’Lila threatens Sue’s life, Reed takes De’Lila out and reconnects with his family. After Ghost Rider uses his power to make De’Lila live out all of the bad things she has done, Spider-Man convinces Mole Man to allow them to leave. Up in the skies above, the Punisher prepares to fire upon the island with his armored helicopter but, when he sees that the heroes are there, he decides to abort mission and move onto the next thing on his list.

Full Summary: 

The Fantastic Four are captives back in Four Freedoms Plaza. But right here and now, the Hulk, Wolverine, Spider-Man and Ghost Rider are captives of the Mole Man. So are a bunch of Skrull warriors who are chasing a lady Skrull and she’s hunting for a missing Skrull egg with Reed Richards. (Okay, so he’s not back at FF Plaza. Sue us!) In any case, the Hulk’s about to punch out her lamps!

Surrounded by the new Fantastic Four, the Skrulls, and Mole Man and all of his followers, “Sue” tells everybody to wait. She confesses that it’s true. She’s not Susan Richards, she’s a Skrull. Morphing into her Skrull form, De’Lila states that she’s a fugitive from Skrull tyranny, driven into exile for daring to speak the truth. Not content with that, the state has sent her assassins after her to kill her. She is their victim, but she is their friend. They must believe her. Help her and kill them.

Mole Man tells her that she has touched his heart. He, too, has known the stigma of ostracism. He will help her. Calling out to his subterraneans, he tells them to hear their master and slay the Skrulls. One of the Skrulls tells them to stop, don’t listen to her. She’s a low-level telepath who can influence their thoughts. The captain tells his corporal that it’s no use. She’s enthralled them. Her power won’t hold them long, but it’ll be too late for them. Without hesitation, the subterraneans surge forward toward their intended victims.

Before they reach the Skrulls, Ghost Rider remarks though he felt the force of her call, she has betrayed her evil intent and his mind is still clear. Whatever crimes the Skrulls have committed, the woman seeks their death through treachery. He must not allow it but against so many, what can be done? With that, a ring of fire encircles the Skrulls. As it does, Ghost Rider asks what this is. He feels a power he has not felt before. Flames are leaping forth, as if by his command. And let the fire’s purifying effect cleanse their minds.

Just then, Mole Man asks what happened. Spider-Man replies that he doesn’t know. De’Lila was talking to them and it all seemed so reasonable. He was ready to kill the Skrull himself. Once Wolverine asks where she is, De’Lila implores Reed to quickly get them out of there. Reed tells her at once and they quickly depart the scene on their speeder. While they do, Hulk angrily says that “green bimbo” did this to them. And he hates green. Spidey tries to implore him to wait. They ought to try to take them alive. Grabbing and tossing a boulder at the speeder, Hulk tells Spidey tough luck. He can put them back together with crazy glue.

Hulk’s toss is off mark and he misses. Once he does, Spidey slaps his hand to his forehead and points out that he just realized that must have been the real Reed Richards. He’ll bet she used her power on them the first time they met her to get them to try to kill her Skrull pursuers. No wonder his spider-sense was tingling like crazy in their lab. She’s probably got the FF hidden somewhere as hostages against Reed. Wolverine remarks could be. But with her power, maybe he can’t tell she’s not Sue Richards anymore. Or maybe he doesn’t care.

Mole Man says it no longer matters. The two of them are heading into the deepest levels of his domain. Even he cannot effectively control the creatures that dwell there. Who knows what evil they may unleash? After Hulk quips that’s just great, Mole Man asks Spidey if he can track them. Using the device he was given, Spidey replies no problem. Remember that double reading the scanner showed just before she arrived? Well, she and Reed are heading straight for the second signal. Whatever it is, he’ll be it’s the reason she’s there. Wolverine says they need to move it then ‘cause he’d like another shot at that lady.

As they continue down the tunnel, Spidey tells the others to hold it. His spider-sense is going nuts. There’s something… Just then, a bomb explodes and the tunnel begins to cave in. Stopping the boulder from crushing the heroes, Hulk says swell. This just keeps getting better and better. Surrounded by rock on all sides, Wolverine points out that the Mole Man’s cut off and they’re trapped. Hulk proceeds to state that he’s getting a real pain in his arachnophobia. He then asks Spidey that he couldn’t get his spider-sense to kick in a little sooner next time, could he. Spidey quips that he guesses maybe he shouldn’t have skipped that last factory recall – sorry.

Meanwhile, far ahead down the tunnel, De’Lila thinks to herself that the bomb will have stopped pursuit for now, but the Mole Man’s minions will soon be searching for them relentlessly. She needs to be sure of her “husband.” He’s already shown a spark of interest in her. It’s time to fan that interest to a flame.

At that moment, De’Lila asks Reed to stop the speeder for a minute. When Reed asks her what is it, De’Lila tells him that she just wants him to know how much she appreciates what he’s done for her. De’Lila adds that she wants to thank him by giving him everything his heart desires. She has the power. With that, she changes her form to look like Sue. A surprised look on his face, Reed mentions that she’s changed. She looks like Sue again. Cozying up to Reed De’Lila tells him that she’ll be everything she was to him and more. She needs him and he needs her. A woman can always tell.

Reed starts to protest but after De’Lila kisses him, she tells her that he thinks he loves her. Knowing that he is hers now, De’Lila tells him that before they can go any further, she’ll tell him exactly what they’re looking for so he can help her. The inorganic Technotroids are a series of indestructible, synthetic entities, so powerful that only the Empress can control them. They’re hatched under the most guarded and secret conditions but this one was secured at great cost and smuggled out of the Empire. With its powers, she shall shake the Empire.

Back at the ranch, a sweating Hulk remarks that he doesn’t want to seem like he’s losing his patience, but do them clowns think they could get a move on? He’s beginning to get a little bored doing his Atlas impression. Spider-Man tells him that he doesn’t know what they can do. He’s not strong enough to shift tons of rock, and even Wolverine wouldn’t be able to cut his way through.

At that moment, Ghost Rider tells him companions to stand away from the wall. Observing Ghost Rider pull out his chain, Hulk asks for Pete’s sake, what good’s a crummy chain going to do? He then tells Spiderbrain to come over there and hold up the ceiling while he gets them out of there. Spinning his chain with great speed, Ghost Rider tells him there’s no need. They shall be free shortly. Watching him, Spidey says umm, Hulk? Hulk tells him not to bother him. He thinks he’s about to get struck speechless. As Spidey and Wolverine follows Ghost Rider, Spidey says he doesn’t believe it. He’s tunneling right through the rock. Wolverine says yeah, and he’s beatin’ the steam drill too. Once Ghost Rider breaks through to the other side, Wolverine says he’s going to tell big bad John ta dump his load an’ get out. Catching up to them, Hulk tells him to skip it shorty. He’s way ahead of him – as usual.

As the four head down the tunnel, a world away in New York City…

Ben Grimm calls out “come in, Rangoon.” Johnny asks if that is Ben. Somebody stuck his head inside an asbestos bag or something. Ben remarks ‘bout time somebody else woke up around there. Yes, it’s him. And they’re pretty well hogtied ta boot. Waking up, Sue asks what happened, she remembers Namor…

Sharon informs her that it was some sort of trick. They’ve all been captured and roped together. Maybe she can flex her chest enough to break the ropes. As she does, Ben tells her she’s chokin’ him. Alicia states that she thinks they’ll have to try something else and calls out Johnny’s name. Johnny tells her he’s right there but he’s afraid to flame on. He may burn more than the ropes. Sue tells him that he has to risk it. They’ve got to free themselves. Reed isn’t there and who knows what might be…

Just then, Sue points out that the elevator is moving, going back up. But who…? Just then, the elevator doors open and Franklin looks in. Seeing his family tied up, Franklin asks them why they are all there. Howcum they aren’t out catching the bad guys? Ben tells him because, kiddo, they’re all tied up at the moment. Does he want to give them a hand?

In short time, Sue, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Alicia and She-Thing are freed from their bonds. Once they meet up with Roberta, they ask her what’s going on. Roberta replies she’s not sure but she fears Dr. Richards has been taken and she suspected that they were being held hostage. After Johnny asks where Reed is, Roberta states that Dr. Richards and a duplicate of Mrs. Richards left there some time ago. Dr. Richards said that everything was fine and that she should tell that to all her friends in the Marines. She concluded that the phrase meant something special, as she has no friends in the Marines. Therefore, she referenced it and learned that as a colloquial expression. It means whatever the speaker is saying is untrue. Consequently, she immediately undertook a sensor search of the building, discovered Master Franklin asleep, and eventually located them.

Ben give Franklin thumbs up and tells him “nice going, squirt.” Franklin replies no sweat and asks what about his daddy. Roberta adds that she also undertook to track Dr. Richards’ vehicle and at present, it is beneath an island known as… Seeing the map, Johnny exclaims Monster Isle in the Bermuda Triangle. That’s where they first met the Mole Man. Alicia mentions that whoever it is must be a shape shifter. She appeared to all of them in different guises. She then asks Johnny who he saw. Johnny tells her oh… uh, her honey, who else? As she, Johnny, Sharon, and Ben rush off, Sue tells Franklin to stay with Alicia. They’ve got a pogo plane to catch. Ben tells Franklin that he’ll see him later squirt. And don’t worry, they’ll bring his dad home. An’ remind him ta thank him fer havin’ such a smart kid and fer makin’ such a smart receptionist droid.

Meanwhile, far away and far below, Reed informs De’Lila that their instruments indicate they’re very close. They’ll have to go on foot from here in. Looking at the caverns, he mentions they’re incredible but not natural. These are massive excavations. But who could possibly have…? Bas-reliefs! Noticing a large carving on a nearby wall, he says it must be at least a partial answer. He’s seen similar figure work in some of the Avengers’ records of the Deviant cities beneath the Pacific. Perhaps much of the Mole Man’s domain is the remnant of ancient Deviant civilization from long ago. He wonders – it may be that even the monsters themselves are of Deviant stock.

As they hide behind a nearby boulder, De’Lila remarks big deal. Those carvings don’t look all that different from prehistoric Skrull artifacts. But why doesn’t Reed ask the monster? There’s one of them in the cave in front of them sitting on her egg. She then tells him to think of something quick, they’ve got to get it. Reed states that shouldn’t be difficult. Picking up a pebble and tossing it away from the monster, Reed adds that he doubts very much if they are brain surgeons. Once the monster departs the area, De’Lila excitedly exclaims at last, it’s hers, all hers!

Before De’Lila and Reed can reach the egg, Hulk, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and Spider-Man step in. Hulk proceeds to tell her to hold it right there, it’s the end of the line. De’Lila tells him they’re just in time. He and his friends are going to help her achieve her goal. They must obey her. Hulk tells her forget it sweetheart. She’s not that powerful and he’s too mad. Now he’s going to…

Before Hulk can do anything, De’Lila grabs hold of Reed and places her disruptor up against Reed’s head. After Reed says to her “but sweetheart…,” De’Lila orders him to stand still. He cannot move unless she wills it. She then tells the heroes in front of her to get up there and tear that ship to pieces. And he’d better hurry before that creature returns. Angry, Hulk says why, he ought to… Spider-Man tells him wait. They can’t jeopardize Reed’s life. Not now. They’ll get their chance. De’Lila calls them fools and tells them their chances are over. Just tear open the hatch and be quick about it. Hulk answers all right but tells her to just remember that she can’t hold Richards forever and he can wait just as long as it takes.

After punching a hole in the ship, Hulk notices a large orb and determines that must be it. When he notices that it’s held in place by magnetic fields, he remarks there’s nothing he can’t move if he feels like it. As the orb falls out of the ship and onto the ground below, De’Lila says that, now with the magnetic locks broken, the vault will self-destruct in two minutes. When Ghost Rider asks why they should stop it then, De’Lila tells him because otherwise, they will abruptly become the center of a crater 1200 kilometers in diameter. It must be stopped by deactivating the trigger deep within it. She adds that the outer protective layer around the vault is a third-level anti-matter ectoplasm, maintained by transcendental generators. Only a mystical instrument can strip it away.

Just then, Ghost Rider uses his chain and magically removes the outer protective layer. Spider-Man notices they can see a hatch now but there are also laser beams. De’Lila tells them that the lasers are powerful enough to cut through anything that penetrates their orbit. But they can be shut down. She then tells Wolverine that the locking mechanism rotates within the shell and his claws can jam it. Popping his claws, Wolverine asks how he is supposed to do that. Not everybody has X-ray vision. Spider-Man tells him that he thinks his spider-sense can help. On his signal – ready, set, now.

With that, Wolverine jams his claws into the orb. Spidey happily states that Wolverine did it but it’s getting ready to blow. The lasers are still on but they’re not rotating any more. He can see the trigger. All he has to do is adjust his web shooters to maximum viscosity. There’s time for just one shot. Leaping off of the orb, Spider-Man remarks bullseye, he jammed it. Wolverine tells everybody to get back, the shell’s starting ta crack.

As the outer shell cracks, and the egg inside is revealed, De’Lila excitedly exclaims “yes, yes, yes.” At last, the egg is hers. Hulk tells her sorry, but this is the end of the line. He still doesn’t know what that thing is, but anything that carefully protected has got to be powerful. And she’s the last person who ought to be getting it. If Richards was in his right mind, he’d agree with him. De’Lila replies that he is in his right mind. And he’s the last person in the world to stop her. She then tells Hulk that he has lived too long already, monster.

Just then, De’Lila blasts the Hulk with her disruptor. Losing his shirt and tie, Hulk tells her strike three, he’s not even scratched. Holding her disruptor up to Reed’s head, De’Lila tells him to stay back or she’ll kill him. Hulk replies tough. Everybody’s number comes up sometime. And now he’s going to… Before the Hulk begins to attack De’Lila, Spider-Man tells him to hold it; he thinks they’ve got some company.

Turning around, Hulk and the other heroes see Mole Man and his horde of minions standing behind them. Mole Man informs them that it took them a while to circumvent the cave-in but he has put that time to good use. He has persuaded the Skrulls to tell him what is going on. He now knows the secret of the egg and he wants it. With that, he gives the command to his subterraneans to kill them. The egg is his!

Preparing for battle, Wolverine tells his teammates that it looks like this is it. He never thought he’d be buying it three miles underground. Hulk tells him next time, they’ll get the Easter Bunny to give everybody his own egg. Now what do they say they go out in style?

Just then, a blast of fire hits the ground from above, coming from the Human Torch. He says nobody’s going out anywhere, not until they get a few answers. Looking up, Hulk, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, and Spider-Man are shocked to see the Thing, Sue Richards, She-Thing and the Human Torch. The Thing exclaims don’t look now, but it’s clobberin’ time! Spidey says it’s the rest of the FF, for real he thinks. Flying by, Human Torch tells him they don’t get any realer. But he’ll be his allowance he’s glad to see him this time. Spidey tells him that he might be right about that match-head. Standing back to back, Hulk asks Grimm if he’s lost weight. He’s happy to see him alive; it means he’ll still get to beat the tar out of him someday. Ben says they can skip the chit-chat and then asks what in blue blazes is goin’ on. Hulk replies beats him, he just works there.

As two large monsters arrive and the battle begins, Spider Man remarks that while they’re all running around like headless chickens, De’Lila’s trying to reach the egg. No telling what’ll happen if she manages to get to it. He has to stop her. Once he lands on the ground in front of her, De’Lila tells Spidey he’s no Hulk. She’ll fry him where he stands. Spidey tells her it’s more of a squat, really, but what’re a few niceties among friends? Grabbing her right arm, the one with the disruptor on it, Spidey says to her why don’t they just disable that wrist shooter before she hurts someone?

Changing her appearance from that of Sue Richards to Mary Jane, De’Lila tells Spidey that he’s hurting her. Surprised, Spidey says to her that she can’t be there. “Mary Jane” tells him but she is and she loves him. Kiss her… now. Thinking to himself, Spidey knows that it can’t really be her. But he’s losing control of himself. He’s got to make a move before… Just then, once Spidey lets go of her wrist, De’Lila shoots him with her disruptor. As she does, Spidey instinctively shoots his webbing at the egg behind her. When he flies backwards from the force of the impact, Spidey flings the egg into the air.

As the egg flies through the air, everyone ceases to fight and watches it, eventually landing in the hands of the giant female monster who has just returned. Mole Man calls her an overgrown excuse for a mother and tells her to quit hugging that egg and hand it over. When the monster does not do as she is ordered, Mole Man orders his subterraneans to seize the monster and take the egg from her. When the subterraneans leap to obey and rush the female monster, they are held back by a shower of rubble.

Just then, Mole Man sees the source of all of the falling rubble. He then points out that the female creature’s mate has returned home and he’s angry. He’s attacking everyone. Hulk remarks ohhhh man, another big monster. Maybe he’ll die of boredom before they can kill him. At that same time, the Skrull captain tells his troops that everyone’s attention is focused on the creatures. The day of their destiny is here.

After one of the Skrulls tells him that they will be true to their oath, the captain tells them that he will proceed. The inorganic Technotroids are the empress’s ultimate bodyguards. They are birthed in her chambers when she is alone and as they are imprinted by the first living thing they see and they live to serve only her until they are recycled. But the stolen egg was taken to become the perfect assassin, infiltrating her identical bodyguard and slaying her. Their company swore to recover the missing egg or destroy it and now, they have no choice. The device he his holding in his hand will obliterate everything within the great cave. And unlike the egg’s protective devices, it cannot be deactivated. The empress will be safe.

After hearing what the Skrull captain had to say, Thing asks his friends if any of them catch any of that. Hulk replies enough to make him wish he was back in Vegas. Wolverine adds that he s’poses it’s too late ta rethink this.

Just then, a loud noise makes everybody turn around and look at the female monster. Once they do, they notice that the egg is hatching. When the egg hatches and the Technotroid emerges, it imprints itself on the monster much to the shock of the Skrulls and De’Lila. De’Lila exclaims that it can’t be. After Reed tells her too late, it’s done. She angrily states that she’s been robbed.

At that moment, the female monster points at the Skrulls. One of the Skrulls remarks oh no, she knows about the bomb. Leaping down from the female monsters hands, the Technotroid tackles the Skrull Captain and they bore into the rock floor. After the bomb explodes, the heroes notice that its mom is really upset that the Technotroid is gone and her going for the rest of the Skrulls. Before she does so, the Technotroid emerges from the hole in the ground. Once it does, the monsters pick it up and begin to coo over it like it’s their first born, much to the surprise of the heroes.

Away from the two monsters, De’Lila grabs hold of Reed’s arm and tells him that it’s time to wake up. She thinks they need to leave before anyone notices they’re gone. When Reed says “but…,” De’Lila tells him no buts. Remember, she can be a better Sue to him than she ever was. He does want to come with her, doesn’t he? Reed responds “well…” Changing from looking like Mary Jane to Sue Richards, De’Lila tells Reed as a show of her good faith, she shall release the mindlocks that block his power. Able to stretch again, Reed wraps his arms around De’Lila, kisses her passionately, and tells her that she’s made him the happiest man in the world.

As they embrace, Sue, Thing, Johnny Storm, and She-Thing are shocked by what they are witnessing. Breaking her embrace from Reed, De’Lila turns around and tells the rest of the Fantastic Four that it isn’t just possible, it’s true. Richards is hers forever. Sue responds that she doesn’t know what she’s done to him, but she’s going to see that she regrets it for the rest of her very short life. De’Lila tells her wishful thinking. But for the moment, none of them can move. And her husband is about to become a widower. Holding up her right fist, De’Lila tells them that she will see to it that Reed doesn’t even remember them in his dreams. Her disruptor will rearrange their…

When nothing happens, De’Lila looks down at her hand and is shocked to see that her disruptor is gone. Reed tells her that it really isn’t gone (he has it) but their engagement is off. He’s taking back the ring. And, as much as he hates to do it, they really can’t risk her using her telepathic powers again. With that, Reed punches De’Lila across the face, knocking her down. Reed states that should be that. Once he realized she was a low-level telepath, he put a lot of effort into thinking thoughts that would appeal to her to hide his deeper concerns. Sooner or later, he was certain she’d slip. And thanks to the love of his wife, she did. Freezing the FF broke her hold on her. Embracing Sue, Reed tells her that he loves her. From the first time they met, he always has and he always will.

Changing back into her Skrull form, De’Lila remarks they’ve forgotten her but they’ll pay in a moment. Reed Richards will kill his own wife! Standing behind her, Ghost Rider tells her he thinks not. He then tells her to turn and gaze into the penance stare of the Ghost Rider. Vengeance is his! When she does, De’Lila screams out no, falls to the ground, and begins to convulse. Seeing her in that state, Spider-Man asks Ghost Rider what he just did. Ghost Rider replies that she has committed many acts of terror in her life. Now, she must live them forever.

As the Skrulls help De’Lila to her feet, one of them tells her “stand coward.” The bravery of the Skrulls shall be unquestioned. He then asks what will happen of them. Wolverine tells him to get her outta there. Nothin’ they’re gonna do ta her’s gonna be worse’n what she’s livin’ through now.

Just then, the Mole Man asks if they have forgotten about him. The prize has eluded him but they are still his. Spider-Man tells him to face it, the party’s over. What does he have? A few million subterraneans? And what do they have? The FF, the Hulk, Wolverine, Ghost Rider? How much damage does he think they could do there? And tell him the truth, hasn’t he ever seen the Hulk when he’s really mad? He wouldn’t have a kingdom left to rule. Pondering it for a moment, Mole Man tells Spider-Man that he and his minions will guide them back to the surface with dispatch.

Shortly, in a helicopter in the skies above Monster Isle, the Punisher follows a flying monster as it descends for the island below. He thought it would head home if he followed it long enough. After arming his warheads and locking his smart bombs on the target, Punisher prepares to fire his weapons. Before he does, he sees the Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, the Hulk and Wolverine on the surface of the island below. Seeing that his help isn’t needed there, the Punisher changes course and looks at what’s next on his list – an appointment with a salesman in Medellin, Colombia.

Characters Involved: 

Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), Invisible Woman (Sue Storm), Human Torch (Johnny Storm), She-Thing (Sharon Ventura), and Ben Grimm (all Fantastic Four)

Alicia Masters (Johnny Storm’s wife)

Franklin Richards

Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider (New Fantastic Four)

De’Lila (a Skrull who has taken the form of Sue Richards and also Mary Jane)

Various unnamed Skrulls. Only one named is captain.

Mole Man, Giganto, and various unnamed Moloids

Various unnamed monsters from Monster Isle

Unnamed Technotroid

Roberta, the Fantastic Four’s robot receptionist

The Punisher (Frank Castle)

Story Notes: 

De’Lila took the real Fantastic Four and its allies captive back in Fantastic Four (1st series) #347 and was able to convince Ghost Rider, Hulk, Spider-Man, and Wolverine that they were dead.

Considering the use of a female Skrull impersonating loved ones of the Fantastic Four, it is interesting to note that the Alicia Masters in this story will be revealed to be a Skrull herself 8 issues later in #357, having impersonated Alicia for years.

It’s possible that the Punisher’s “salesman” in Medellin, Colombia is actually famed drug lord Pablo Escobar, who indeed met a violent end at the hands of the Colombian National Police in 1993, two years after this issue’s publication.

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