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Electronic engineer Jennings cannot remember the last two years working for Retherick Construction. His payment is a bag of clues and essential aids for his future quest for the truth: code key, ticket stub, receipt, wire, half a poker chip, green cloth scrap, and bus token. The Special Police pursue, and he is on the run for his life.

30 pages

First published June 1, 1953

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About the author

Philip K. Dick

1,547 books19.3k followers
Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Dick died on March 2, 1982, in Santa Ana, California, of heart failure following a stroke.

In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, ten of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

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5 stars
366 (18%)
4 stars
763 (38%)
3 stars
722 (36%)
2 stars
132 (6%)
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16 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 170 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
January 5, 2022

First published in Imagination (June 1953), “Paycheck” is a science fiction classic. Although not strictly a tale of time travel (it is really a tale of time “retrieval”), it presents a genuinely original idea of how other time periods might be utilized to affect the present. What makes it such a classic story, however, is that it communicates a revolutionary concept (“time scooping”) through an exciting, straightforward narrative of an almost fairy tale purity.

Computer “mechanic” Jennings returns from two years of working for Rethrick Construction with his two years of memory—as stipulated by contract—permanently erased. When he attempts to receive his paycheck of 50,000 credits, he receives instead an envelope containing: a piece of wire, a bus token, a ticket stub, a piece of cloth, half a poker chip, a code key, and a package receipt. It turns out that he himself requested that he receive the contents in lieu of payment. At first he is appalled, and angry, but, as soon as he exits the front door of Rethrick Contruction, he begins to discover very good reasons to be thankful for his past self’s strange gift.

I wish I could give this story my highest praise, but unfortunately it concludes in a sappy, romantic fashion which, although perhaps suitable for the pulps, mars both its power and folktale simplicity. But still, it is a small blot in an otherwise fine story, and I heartily recommend it.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews869 followers
October 31, 2019
"What the hell have I been doing the last two years?" After being contracted for a job for two years, Jennings’ mind is wiped clean. Had he sold those two years for a 50,000 credit paycheck? Not satisfied with this, he accepts the strange terms of the contract, that he apparently devised, that allows him to exchange that paycheck for a handful of apparently worthless trinkets. Jennings looks to these trinkets as clues that will help him understand what happened during those two years and allow him to profit more than the 50K Credit. “Paycheck” is a quick and interesting short story from PKD. 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Micah (the distracted librarian).
27 reviews91 followers
March 16, 2019
It takes longer to watch the film adaptation of this book than to read the short novella, but it's still a pretty entertaining ride.

This fairly clunky science fiction classic first published in 1953 introduces the concept of a "time scoop", which is a fun idea to explore.

Just don't expect Ben and Uma to come ripping out of each page on BMW Rockstars pursued by cops and helicopters.
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
701 reviews200 followers
July 19, 2017
Ticket for a Ride

Paycheck is an early story by Philip K. Dick, written in 1952 and published one year later, and while it is clearly meant to entertain its readers with its Hitchcockian “innocent man on the run” motif, only to be slightly marred by its jarring pat ending, it also has a somewhat prophetic quality.

Our protagonist, an engineer called Jennings, has just finished a two-year employment with athe mysterious company Rethrick Construction and instead of the huge payment he has been expecting he receives seven seemingly worthless little everyday objects. According to his contract, all his memories from the past two years have been erased from his mind, but he is told that it was actually he who wanted to be given these objects instead of monetary payment. At first, he is dismayed and does not know what to make of it all but he soon finds himself the target of the Secret Police – the U.S. has become an authoritarian state during those two years – who want to force him to disclose what he had been working on. He sees his only chance to find out what he worked on for his former employer, blackmailing Rethrick Construction into giving him permanent shelter from the police, and lo! suddenly those mundane trinkets he received prove of immeasurable value.

Like The Variable Man the story spends a lot of energy on the chase of the protagonist (and I could almost picture Cary Grant in the role of Jennings), but the story is about more than just providing quick thrills. Dick pictures a future in which the individual has lost all his rights and finds himself jammed between an all-powerful state and big companies serving their own interests, the only ones to have resisted the state’s claim to absolute power.

”When an individual person was defenceless, a business was not. The big economic forces had managed to remain free, although virtually everything else had been absorbed by the Government. Laws that had been eased away from the private person still protected property and industry.”

Sounds familiar?

”’[…] An individual has no place to turn to, anymore. No one to help him. He’s caught between two ruthless forces, a pawn between political and economic powers. And I’m tired of being a pawn.’”

Ditto? One may have the impression that Dick’s story is set in a society the writing of which is on the wall. Add to this Dick’s concept of time scooping and a suspenseful “man on the run” plot, and you have a good example of intelligent and entertaining science fiction. I don’t know whether the movie lives up to the story because Ben Affleck always makes me not to watch the movie.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,030 followers
February 22, 2020
As usual, PKD had a really neat idea that he couldn't quite bring off properly. If you ignore the large holes in the story, it's fun. Since it's short & doesn't get weird, it's better than most of his other works. The best part is the power structure in the world he imagines. The fascist government police force can do what they like to private citizens, but their power is stymied by corporations; the direction we're rapidly heading today. They don't bother the Mafia, either. Corruption still has its place.

The story is dated by the programming of the device. It's back to the days where mechanics ruled the computer world, but that's forgivable & easily ignored as was the method used for memory erasure. The device itself is excellent. It's not omnipotent, but has excellent limits.

Well worth reading in any format. As usual, the movie of the same name (2003 starring Ben Affleck & Uma Thurman) was better.
Profile Image for Alexandra .
864 reviews270 followers
July 7, 2016
Paycheck ist eine Reihe von 12 Kurzgeschichten von Philip K. Dick, von denen nur 8 wirklich gut sind. Wenn Ihr das Buch bereits daheim habt, ist es durchaus mit 3,5 Sternen zu bewerten und lesesenswert, wenn nicht, gibt es eine weitaus bessere Alternative für Euch: Besorgt Euch "Der unmögliche Planet", eine Sammlung von 30 der besten Kurzgeschichten Dicks, denn bis auf zwei Geschichten sind alle guten Stories dieses Buches auch dort versammelt und noch viel mehr guter Stoff als Draufgabe. Aber nun die Übersicht, damit Ihr Euch selbst ein Bild machen könnt:

1. Paycheck - gut - nur in diesem Buch
2. Nanny - grandios - auch im unmöglichen Planeten
3. Johns Welt - mittelmäßig - nur in diesem Buch
4. Frühstück im Zwielicht - langweilig - nur in diesem Buch
5. Kleine Stadt - vorhersehbar, mittelmäßig - nur in diesem Buch
6. Das Vater Ding - grandios - auch im unmöglichen Planeten
7. Zwischen den Stühlen - grandios - nur in diesem Buch
8. Autofab - grandios - auch im unmöglichen Planeten
9. Zur Zeit der Perky Pat - grandios - auch im unmöglichen Planeten
10. Allzeit bereit - mittelmäßig das Ende passt gar nicht - nur in diesem Buch
11. Ein kleines Trostpflaster für uns Temponauten - sehr gut - auch im unmöglichen Planeten
12. Präpersonen - grandios und fürchterlich - auch im unmöglichen Planeten

Also wenn Ihr die Wahl habt, nehmt den unmöglichen Planeten.

Lediglich um Geschichte 7 wäre mir wirklich leid. Diese Story erinnert mich ganz frappant an unsere derzeitige Wahlsituation in Österreich. Zwei völlig verfeindete Lager stehen sich unversöhnlich gegenüber: Die Puristen und die Naturalisten. Das groteske an der politischen Situation ist, dass es vordergründig hauptsächlich um Achselschweiß und Mundgeruch geht, die Naturalisten (eher die Landbevölkerung) lehnen es ab, sich die Schweißdrüsen entfernen und sich die Zähne richten zu lassen. Don sitzt zwischen den Stühlen, denn er lebt nach dem Motto "Leben und leben lassen" und will Toleranz üben. Leider hat er nicht mit dem Fanatismus beider Parteien gerechnet.

Zum Cover möchte ich dieses Mal auch etwas schreiben. Selten ein so deplaziertes, schlechtes Bild gesehen. Auf der Vorderseite prangen doch tatsächlich wie bei einem Filmplakat die Gesichter der Hauptdarsteller von Paycheck: Ben Affleck, Uma Thurman und noch irgendein Schauspieler, den ich nicht kenne. In Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass Paycheck genau ein Zwölftel des Buchinhaltes ausmacht, weil sie einfach nur eine unter vielen anderen Kurzgeschichten ist, stellt somit dieses fürchterliche Cover nicht nur eine Beleidigung für mein Auge, sondern auch noch eine glatte Themenverfehlung dar. Da lobe ich mir die uni-färbige Heyne Ausgabe der restlichen Dick'schen Romane (leider bereits vergriffen).

Profile Image for Miloș Dumbraci.
Author 20 books76 followers
April 23, 2023
This collection holds 12 of PKD's 121 short stories.
To be honest, these are mostly in the "just OK" and "hadn't aged that well" area, and far from his best.
Or his second best.
Or even his third best...
Profile Image for P.E..
762 reviews529 followers
March 25, 2020
Un recueil de nouvelles dont certaines ont inspiré des romans !

Liste des nouvelles :
La clause de salaire = Paycheck
Nanny = Nanny
Le monde de Jon = Jon
Petit déjeuner au crépuscule = Breakfast at Twilight
Une petite ville = Small Town
Le père truqué = The Father-thing
Là où il y a de l'hygiène = The Chromium Fence
Autofab = Autofac
Au temps de Poupée Pat = The Days of Perky Pat
Le suppléant = Stand-by
Un p'tit quelque chose pour nous, les temponautes = a Little something for us tempunauts
Les pré-personnes = The Pre-Persons
Profile Image for Deacon Tom F.
1,772 reviews133 followers
June 29, 2022
A shorter story that was built on a good concept. However, it was a bit predictable
27 reviews
July 12, 2009
Too funny! Didn't realize this was a collection of short stories and was wondering how the different parts would eventually come together. Figured out the truth on chapter 5 - duh!
Profile Image for Nicole.
Author 6 books38 followers
November 27, 2020
I saw the movie based on this story when it first came out and liked it. I recently watched it again; and although Uma Thurman's character was sillier than I remembered, I still enjoyed the movie.
The movie took the basic ideas of the story and made things more complicated and tense. This story is more cynical than the movie version; the main character is much less likeable. The story's narrative is repetitive, which reflects the way people think; but the repetition started getting on my nerves. And then there's the casual sexism typical of something written in the 1950s.
Profile Image for Wolfkin.
238 reviews27 followers
July 29, 2020
great fun little short story. I love a good mystery myself so this was right up my alley
Profile Image for Jairo Fruchtengarten.
217 reviews2 followers
May 22, 2020
É bom iniciar essa resenha assumindo que não sou um entusiasta de livros de ficção científica, e não gosto muito de livros de contos. Acho que um conto não consegue desenvolver a complexidade de nenhum personagem nem de qualquer trama a ponto de te envolver muito na narrativa, resumindo-se a uma estória bem contada ou não; e ainda, tenho certo preconceito com a temática de ficção científica, que não desperta grande interesse (culpa de Star Wars...hehehe).

Apesar de tudo conspirar contra, a sinopse de “O Pagamento” me fez apostar nesse livro, uma coletânea com outros 11 contos de  Philip K. Dick que abordam temas como viagem no tempo, implementação de inteligência artificial, e a vida num mundo pós-guerra, onde a presença dos robôs é uma realidade.

Posso dizer que essa série de contos mostrou-se um bom livro de ficção científica pra quem não gosta de ficção científica! Algumas estórias são bem interessantes (talvez por não se aprofundar muito...), e mostram uma visão criativa de um futuro distópico. Não têm personagens marcantes nem desfechos surpreendentes, mas te fazem refletir na crítica social sutilmente incluída ou pela competente abordagem de curiosos conflitos éticos.

São nesses contos que o livro te ganha, como “O Pagamento”, “Mundo de Jon”, “Cidadezinha” e “Café da Manhã no Crepúsculo”. Pena que nem todos os contos mantêm o ritmo - sendo alguns deles bem ruins.
Profile Image for Peter.
680 reviews47 followers
September 12, 2017
Read as a part of Minority Report and Other Stories

I have watched the movie of the same name that's based on the premise in this short story, but I only vaguely remember it now. It wasn't the best of movies and I think it might have been due to a similar issue as this story: it's hard to have tension when you know that every step the protagonist makes has already been planned for. While it was fun having the protagonist figure everything out, it was just hard to feel worried for him knowing from quite early on that his past-self set him up to succeed.

The core idea is once again very clever though and I can appreciate why this author is regarded as one of the best sci-fi writers ever. However, his execution of the story and especially the weak ending here were disappointing. The story otherwise was fun as we got to experience the solving of the puzzle of the trinkets, despite some plot holes and a lack of information behind the sci-fi elements.
Profile Image for Stephen Cagle.
28 reviews5 followers
April 8, 2012
This is a very short story, so it will be a short review.

Paycheck is clear, clean writing. It actually fits in quite comfortably with The Minority Report by PKD as both deal with the ability to see events that have not occurred yet. I suppose the technology in Paycheck exceeds that in Minority as they are also capable of "reaching" into the future, not just observing it from the past.

The book was a little dry. Anachronisms littered the story like punchcards in a modern data center (terrible). It also suffers from the Deus Ex Machina problem of having a guy who knows the future providing you tools to deal with the present. Whatever. It is good, very short, and a fun read. Nothing profound, but fun.
Profile Image for Jacques Bezuidenhout.
382 reviews17 followers
November 4, 2017
Read as part of Minority Report and Other Stories.

Another short that had a movie based on it. First published in 1953.
I think one has to understand with these shorts that not a lot of time is spend on developing characters. There is a plot, and limit time to get through it.

With Paycheck (don't think I've actually seen the movie) there were quite a few twists, which was nice. The whole short reads like a puzzle. And that is exactly what it is.

Very enjoyable.
Profile Image for Alice.
Author 35 books42 followers
August 22, 2018
Some of these stories are a little dated and predictable now, but still a pleasure to read. Standouts were the title tale, Paycheck, a pacy time travel adventure; The Days of Perky Pat, in which adult survivors of a global crisis use the technology given them by kindly aliens not to rebuild their planet, but to re-enact the past with dolls; and The Pre-Persons, which I can recall from a collection I gave my dad years ago and impressed us both at the time.
Profile Image for Alexis Rogers-Esparcia.
106 reviews4 followers
January 1, 2018
I needed something quick to listen to on the way home from work. I was so surprised by how awesome this was. I got wrapped up in the story immediately. It was a fun and exciting read. Great if you want something short and fun. I love science fiction so this was perfect!
Profile Image for Grace Crandall.
Author 6 books52 followers
April 9, 2021
I had vague memories of watching (and enjoying) the movie they made based on this premise. I still enjoy the premise quite a bit, but couldn't get past the way the narrator really, really sounded like Zapp Brannigan.
Profile Image for Nicolò Grasso.
104 reviews4 followers
August 26, 2022
My first foray into the sci-fi works of Philip K. Dick, and it was a lackluster first impression. PAYCHECK is a novella with intriguing concepts but without a clear idea of what to do with them. A blend of time travel and visions of the future make for a fun enough thriller, but its themes of free will and choice do not amount to much and will be explored more in-depth with THE MINORITY REPORT. Also, the ending is too sappy even for its time!
May 24, 2019
4 stars might be generous since I don't love the majority of these short stories, but I'm just biased because, strangely enough, I really enjoy Philip K. Dick's works!

So, the stories in this collection are:
"Jon’s World"
"The Little Movement""
"Breakfast at Twilight"
"Small Town"
"The Father-Thing"
"The Chromium Fence"
"The Days of Perky Pat"
"A Little Something for Us Tempunauts"
"The Pre-persons"

And my favourite stories were Paycheck, Nanny, Jon's World, and The Pre-Persons. Why do I like these?

Paycheck is a clever look at time travel - or in this case, time scooping, where on could use a special mirror device to look forward into the future and then use the special claw device to scoop up something from that point. I love it. The story not only gives us action and tension, but also brings forward the question of having the power and ability to look forward into the future. It's definitely PKD all over it.

Nanny is not my favourite because I love it. I like it because the ending notes frustrate me. It's a thought provoking story about the consumerism, marketing practice, the violence loving/competitive nature of some facets of society, and materialism. The problem with this story is I kept thinking, what about the children? How will they deal with attachment when their Nanny is constantly in a live or die situation??? And the amazing thing is, parents don't consider this for their children - a great contrast to society now where we're deeply concerned with who we leave our children in the care of - instead they're more concerned off buying bigger and better. In doing this, they do in some ways protect their children, but risk having to buy another. It becomes almost barbaric!

Jon's World is a sad little story. It's also about time travel, but also about a father who lobotomises his own child (there is so many socially unacceptable things about this) child before he goes on a mission back in time to save the Earth from technological apocalypse (not unlike Terminator's Judgement Day). He does it to his child because Jon is getting worse - his vision's, or his father thinks--hallucinations. But when he goes back in time and with his partner completes the mission, while accidentally killing an important key figure, and then returns back to the future. It's in the new present that he realises he had made a mistake. That the world that they had come back to was the world his son had been seeing all along. He attempts to go back, but he's stopped by his partner.

And The Pre-Persons is obviously a statement about abortion, the age acceptable for killing an unborn child, and what it means. I like this one because of this statement. Especially the part when a highly qualified man with a Stanford degree makes the pound van take him to the pound along with all the other children who don't have a D card - as if they were merely stray cats or dogs (in this stories, stray cats and dogs aren't even collected, just killed, while loose children are designated as 'strays' that have to be collected for a price). He does it to make a statement, and it does, getting into the papers the same day.

But, as always, I enjoyed PKD's works. They've always got something to say, even the not so great ones - I didn't really have much to say about Perky Pat or the Father-Thing.
Profile Image for Jeffery Moulton.
Author 2 books12 followers
June 23, 2014
It always amuses me when I hear people talking about Philip K. Dick movies. They often assume, usually incorrectly, that he was able to foresee this amazing future and they stand in awe of his prescience. The Minority Report was a good example. After seeing the movie, I heard several people talking about how amazing it was that Dick imagined such advanced computer technology way back in the 50s and 60s, never realizing that the computers in the original story actually generated punch-cards and were... well.. computers from the 50s and 60s. They were nothing like what viewers saw in the movie.

Paycheck, which is one of many short stories written by PKD, is similar. It is incredibly dated, especially its attitudes towards government and the sexes. PKD was very much a product of the 50s, and his bias and suspicion towards government in general comes through his stories. The one is no exception. Even more, his attitude toward genders is very apparent. It makes for some interesting reading from an historical perspective, but it can also be just a little uncomfortable when the male characters make overtly chauvinistic comments and references that just wouldn't fly in today's world. He's writing from his worldview in the context of the time, so you have to cut him some slack, but it made me glad that we've come a least a little further than that.

That being said, the story is interesting. Like every PKD adaptation I've ever seen, the movie is significantly different from the written story. While maintaining the core of the idea, it expands and goes places PKD never imagined. Also, like other PKD adaptations (notably The Minority Report), the ending flies directly in the face of the ending in the story. As if the filmmakers decided to do the exact opposite of what PKD wrote. Again, this is a product of the times. Dick's endings are often more forgiving of corporations and other entities that are not in vogue these days. Keeping the original endings just wouldn't work today, so the filmmakers have to make changes.

In the end, I thought the story was worth reading. It is rife with interesting tidbits that appear anachronistic in today's world but paint a fascinating picture of that time period. The 3-star rating was mostly because... well... I just didn't love the story. Like I said, it made me a little uncomfortable sometimes, but more than that, I got to the end and asked "so what?" without a good response.

I recommend the story to any PKD fan and to anyone interested in that time period and classic science fiction.
Profile Image for Alex Shrugged.
2,197 reviews21 followers
March 24, 2021
This story has about as much to do with the movie as the short story "The Adjustment Bureau" had to do with it's own movie, that is, the same general ideas were carried through, but the exact events in the short story did not map very well into the movie. However, both the short stories and the movies were really good in their own rights.

The story: Jennings finds himself unemployed after his contract, but he is also missing his big paycheck to compensate for 2 years of his life gone and his memory erased. Instead he has an envelope with trinkets. They are certainly not worth the paycheck he was due. Yet, as the story progresses, he finds that each of the trinkets has a special purpose, and in fact, they are each saving his life as he tries to figure out why he sent himself this stuff instead of his money.

Any problems with this story? Yes. This is a classic science fiction story. That means that an "electrician" is more than simply a guy who wires up lights. He can wire up a spaceship, a computer. He is in essence an engineer.

Secondly, what he does to worm his way back into the company would not make sense unless he believed that the company (and especially those running it) were basically good people.

Thirdly, the science part of the science fiction didn't make a lot of sense. Of course, it didn't make much sense in the movie either so I guess that is a wash.

Any modesty issues? None that I recall. Jennings did have a girlfriend that he was depending upon to make his plan work, but I don't recall it being a very close relationship. It was getting there, though.

I'd read this story again.
Profile Image for Matt Pfarr.
121 reviews1 follower
October 3, 2020
A man is hired to work as a mechanic for two years and as a precaution to their secrets his mind is wiped clean when he is done. He finds that instead of receiving pay he opted to receive a bag of random items but he doesn't know why.

I really did not enjoy this. It seemed to slog along pretty slowly and there was really no suspense. The idea was pretty interesting but lost its interest. The items from the bag were called "trinkets" and I couldn't take it seriously; some of their uses were pretty bad. The story just wasn't executed well and then the ended was horrid. Not very believable. Which is sad since the ending is not at all crazy. It got worse when he basically made a comment that the female interest would be bearing his children. They didn't have an established relationship. If he really made that leap in his mind, he is pretty psychotic.
Profile Image for Rick Presley.
468 reviews12 followers
July 20, 2019
Granted, this is one of Dick's earlier works, but I am still mystified as to how he became so popular. I'm reading Ray Bradbury's "I Sing the Body Electric" and it's a night and day difference. Dick has intriguing ideas that he never develops either via plot, character development, or dialog. Bradbury takes the most mundane of things and turns them into poetry.

Once again, I'm forced to conclude that I like movies based on Dick's work far better than I like the source material. Unlike The Expanse or Lord or the Rings, both the video version and source material hold up very well in their own right. So sad that Dick didn't have the benefit of being a good writer. He didn't need as many words as Neal Stephenson, but he could certainly use more than the average comic book.
Profile Image for David.
1,630 reviews105 followers
January 8, 2019
Jennings goes in to collect his pay and is offered a cash amount or a collection of odds and ends that may be clues to something worth even more. His last two years working for a secretive company as their most talented engineer are a complete blank to him. This is even more disconcerting when he finds that the Secret Police are pursuing him to learn what goes on at his recent employer's company! Another short story page turner from one of my favorite authors, Philip K. Dick. As far as I know, this one has not been turned into a movie like some of his other works. But it was certainly entertaining in my opinion! Whether you're already a PKD fan or not, find a copy of this read!
Profile Image for Austin Wright.
1,187 reviews21 followers
February 12, 2018
This short story is incredibly dense. It comes off as proto-cyberpunk in the sense that corporations or state-police are the character's only two options.

But, they thing that really resonated with me, aside from the haunting universe of contracting away years of your life with no memory, was the theme of the main character loving himself and being his own best friend. 5-stars, highly recommended.
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