We were now well out of the house and in a fairly unpopulated imitation of a Central Park-like backyard. Gazing down, I took in her well-above-the-knee-length dress.
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"202?" she said it like she didn't hear the last four times I called her.
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I folded my arms. This should be good.
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"I didn't notice you before!" she said. Like hell. "What a surprise! Fancy seeing you here!"
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Right. Because I was the one partying in a frat house.
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I tried to smile, but gave up after the first few muscle tearing efforts of attempting to lift the zygomaticus majors of my mouth.
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"How are things at MIT, Miss Reynolds?" I couldn't go as far as smiling, but you could bet I managed a smirk.
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Her face paled, rewarding me with slight satisfaction, but the next time she spoke, she sustained the the artificial tone in her voice. "Sorry?"
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"MIT, Gemma. MIT. You're a college student, right?" My eyebrows lifted in amusement.
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"Whatever do you mean?" She even added a giggle. "I left that place a year ago."
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Funny, how she had just referred to a world class university as "that place."
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"Really?" I gasped.
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"So... uh, how did you find me?" There was bitter honey in her voice. "Not that I had anything to hide in the first place; I'm here on important business matters," she quickly added.
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"I'm sure. Nothing to do with the fact that you haven't yet graduated, or anything."
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Her face contorted. Finally. Some realism. "What are you talking about?"
"I think you know what I'm talking about," I sang copyright protection5ＰＥＮＡＮＡzgeosdQ0Zn
"Okay." She looked as though she took in a furious breath. "Look, I don't know who fed you this nonsense, but it is a well known fact that I graduated from college last year."9Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡlWu6TpDj7J
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Lying clearly came as a second nature to her. I, however, believed it was her first nature; my girl Gemma probably learned how to lie before she could speak. Hold on, that wasn't right. She couldn't lie if she couldn't speak... That's it, case closed. Gemma must be immortal. I always had a feeling— going off topic! Focus, Emerald!
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"Really, Gem? Then, you don't mind me asking what you are doing in a frat house of all the places in this small, small world?" I smiled a smile that, I was sure, would sting. "So small..."
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"I told you," she practically bit at this point, "I'm here carrying out a longitudinal study on the life of young adults living on college campus. My father's associates assigned me to it."
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Definitely first nature.
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I placed my my fingers on the corner of my eyebrow and looked, as if in deep thought. "Oh. I just remembered," I looked back at her, "I don't care!" I laughed.
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The scornful look she gave off demonstrated bluntly that my humour wasn't appreciated. Perhaps toying with the only person who has the potential to save your life isn't very wise, Emerald? I didn't really understand what was up with me. This was supposed to be a serious conversation after all.
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She narrowed her eyes. "What do you want?" she asked in a more serious tone.
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Fun's over. Time doesn't come unlimited, I reminded myself.
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"I need something from you," I confessed.
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She raised her eyebrows. She already knew what. "Oh, really? What's that?"
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I struggled. "You..." I scratched the back of my head, "...created a thing for a thing," I spoke deliberately vaguely. "And, I need that thing."
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"Specification would be appreciated," she replied, clearly amused, a glint playing in her eye. "And speak up, I can't hear you quite well over all this music."
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I mentally groaned for the second time, revolted by the idea of having to ask her for something.
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Here goes nothing.
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"You... created a cure. For..." I released a breath. "202," I let out, and as soon as I did so, her eyes widened, a juxtaposing her previously narrowed eyes.
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"So, it's true?" Her voice dropped at least octave.
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"Is what true?" I played dumb, just in case she really didn't know. Although, the chances were thinner than hair.
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"You know what I'm talking about. 202, the drug. They got it wrong, didn't they?"
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Something about the slight triumphant in the way she asked the question made me briefly contemplate whether telling her, or drowning her in that pretty pool, would be better. And, truth be told, I wasn't very keen on giving her the satisfaction that 202 was, indeed, wrong. I mean, she already knew, but it didn't feel exactly safe, either, to confirm it, especially with her of all people. And if I did, the stakes of her belittling me would be as high as her company's skyscraper. But, I had to. How stupid to choose ego over my life. Over everyone's lives.
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I took a deep breath. "Yes." One small word, that held one measly syllable, made my stomach flip.
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Her eyes widened even more than they already were.
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I pulled a face. "Stop it. That's scary."
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She ceased the notion immediately, blinking, as she did so. "I always knew – which obviously is why I developed my cure... but understandably the Front always told me otherwise. But hearing it from you, 202, that's something else. That proves... my invention works."
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"Yeah, yeah, listen, I need your cure," I deadpanned.
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Now, she definitely looked triumphant. Amused, even. Such a sickening sight.
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"Oh, you mean, GOD?" she blabbered.
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I stared at her. "What?"
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"GOD?" I repeated, blinking a few times.
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"GOD. It's the name of my cure."
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"Yes," she responded somewhat impatiently. "Gemma Olivia Drug."
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And now I was really confused. "You what now?"
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"GOD, you dense girl, it stands for Gemma Olivia Drug," she clarified in a patronizing tone.
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Irritated, I narrowed my eyes a bit. "I knew that. What the hell is Olivia? And, don't call me 'girl' as if we're aren't the same age," I scolded, pointing at her.
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"Olivia is my middle name. Also, it's sort of a play on words. O–live–ya. Get it? Because my drug lets you live after you take the catastrophe that is, 202."
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My eyebrows frowned, relaxed, frowned, relaxed and frowned again. "Gemma O-live-ya Drug?" I repeated, slowly. "You didn't... somehow inhale any... nitrous oxide whilst naming your cure, did you?"
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"Say what you want, but I'm not the one named after a drug," she sang.
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"The name's emerald. Like, you know, Em-er-old," I mocked. "And, don't you think you're going to piss off a few billion religious believers by calling your drug GOD?"
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She scoffed. "Please, they'll worship my drug once your train wreck of a medicine is released."
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Your existence is a train-wreck in itself.
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A thought provoked me, then, to ask. "How has someone who's created a powerful cure for a test subject gone wrong, still not graduated university?"
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Something flashed in her eyes. Or maybe it was just my delusion, I was feeling a little light headed now, for reasons unknown. Whatever it was, she covered it up quickly. "I told you, I'm here on a longitudinal–"
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"Oh, put a sock in it. A reliable source has already told me all the gory details. How Reynolds Corporation isn't technically run by a special someone at this current moment of time, because a special someone hasn't graduated from MIT yet," I said smirking. I spared Arya's name out, because judging by the expression on Gemma's face, Arya probably wouldn't have lived to see the sunrise tomorrow, if I hadn't.
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"Who?" Gemma demanded in a tone that proved my hypothesis.
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"You're drifting away from the subject," I said. "You've just been confirmed a vital piece of information, that the Front wished to be kept hidden from the world. 202 doesn't work. The least you could do is speak truthfully. There's no point in denying it anymore – as humiliating as it is," I added, with grin. "How, Gemma? Regarding all the fortune you've got, something like going to university must be minute. And you haven't even accomplished that. So tell me. How has someone who's discovered one of the most powerful cures for an already powerful – but incorrect – drug, still not have managed to finish school?"
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That was a complexly phrased question.
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She regarded it for a moment. "That's..." and then, she looked away. "Don't worry, it's not important."
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I was about to argue, when I realised, she was right. It wasn't important. What was important, was getting her cure. Or, GOD, I guess I should say – as embarrassing as it was.
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This was either going to be easy or painfully hard. For her, if she didn't give it to me willingly, that is. I took deep breath. "I need you to give me your cure."
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"I figured you'd come back to that," she said gleefully.
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"Really? Because my other opinion was to obviously tell you that I'm going to die, for the fun of it, and then enjoy the rest of this party."
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"If I were you, I'd have realised by now that sarcasm wouldn't be the best option to approach the only person who can save your life."
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She had a point, even if she went about it in a self-centered way.
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"I'll keep that in mind," I muttered for the sake of her pathetically named cure. "So, is that a yes or a no?"
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"It's not as simple as that."
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"It's a closed question. So, uh, a yes or a no?"
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She smiled an unsettling smile. "Why do you think I developed the cure in the first place? What do we do at Reynolds? We do exactly what the Front does: we research and create herbal and clinical drugs. I invented a cure, alright. But, it was not for cancer. It was for the mess the Front made. Do you know why I did that?"
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I knew the answer to all of these, but I wanted to hear her say it. "Enlighten me."
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"To ruin them."
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By "them", I was quite sure she meant the Front. Frankly, I couldn't care less what happened to them, by now.
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"But that's not all," she continued. "Once 202 is released, undoubtedly there will be issues." That part, I did care about.
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I scoffed. "Don't you think referring to it as "issues" is quite an understatement?"
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"Alright then; it will cause chaos, it will cause suffering," her expression contorted into a maniacal one. "But, it's going to put me in the spotlight."
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It was like she was reciting exactly what I said told Leonardo Sterling in his office, from a fine piece of parchment. I hate to say I'm always right. But I'm always right.
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"When people realise what the Front has done," she went on, with a sickening glint in her eye. "I'll be their salvation," she glanced into nothingness, smiling slightly. "You see, father went about it all the wrong way. Instead of physically destroying the Front with fire, all he had to do was let the Front destroy themselves."
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My jaw clenched at her her words. No, Emerald, you don't want to tear her eyelashes out, Amanda's ghostly voice calmly advised me.
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She's not like her father, they said. You can't judge her based on Robert's evil, they said. God, this was precisely why those idiots should have listened to me!
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I had half the heart and fully the fury to tell her that the cure actually had been found, and would have remained found if it weren't for her nails-on-blackboard father, but I chose suppressed it for Everest's sake. Knowing the Reynolds' rich history with explosions, it wouldn't be a surprise if they decided to light up Everest himself in order to destroy the Front's original cure. Although, it occurred to me that his coldness would pose quite a challenge to the idea.
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"Listen, I'm not asking you to give me seven billion dosages of it," I clarified. "I need one.
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"Yeah, but we've got a problem there," she replied casually. For her next sentence, her voice plummeted down a few notes, all sinister-like. "Why do you think I came to 202's launch evening?"
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"Sometimes," she said, "I understand where your anger comes from. Yes, my father blew up the Front. Not his wisest decision." Although the pool was a while away, that steaming barbecue seemed close enough.
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"He didn't even manage to destroy the 202 drug," she continued, and at that moment, I realised something: Gemma thought 202 was the only cancer cure the Front made. She didn't know that her kind father did manage to destroy Original Cure. She didn't even know that the Original Cure had ever existed! In other words, she knew nothing about Everest. She had been told the story in the twisted way that I had been told it. But why? By who?
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However there wasn't time to be contemplating futile details. I came here for her cure and that was all. I decided to ask her something else, instead. "How did you know that there was error in 202?"
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She expression leaked a hint of pride. "Us Reynolds, we have eyes everywhere, Emerald," I assumed she chose to call me by my actual name, not out of courtesy, but to avoid confusion. "It was few of years back, when I was rummaging through my father's old work, that I discovered 202 was wrong. Of course my father knew there was a fault with 202, for as long as the Front had known. But I had only found out that year. I bet you didn't even know. I was younger, ignorant – didn't really care about any of it. But only last year, it just so happened that the quaking announcement of the launch of 202 on the news."
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The Front announced the launch evening of 202 a year before it actually took place. A little bit of heads up for the scientists, hospitals, media. But a part of me provoked the idea that Director just wanted to be able to rub it in their faces for an entire year. Why someone would take pride in a failed project, I wouldn't know.
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"People treated it as if it were the second coming of Jesus, or as if Michael Jackson were coming back from the dead. It rocked the world. That was it. That was the motivation I needed. I fell in love with it. That...that..." power, I thought, with iron certainty. That was what she fell in love with. But the word never came.
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Instead she abandoned that unfinished sentence, and continued, "the whole world saw 202 as a miracle. Only we knew it for what it really was. A failed experiment. My father and I worked until our bones cracked. We made our employees work until their bones cracked. And we made GOD."
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In a sense, I didn't know who were the bad guys; the Front – who were willing to release a deadly drug which they have the nerve to call a 'cure' – or, Reynolds Corporation – who started the fire by destroying the Front. However, the world's last hope lay in the palms of the latter company.
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"It's a terrible name," I responded simply. But, honestly? I didn't know to respond. Because, admittedly, there wasn't a single sentence I could have made out courageously. And although her very existence made me want to tenaciously strangle and decapitate her, simultaneously, anything I could said or did would have ended disastrously. And inefficaciously, I had no more rhymes. Wait, why am I rhyming? What is the point of this, I wonder curiously.
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But what Gemma said next promised me that both organisations were just as bad as each other.
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"I can't afford to have you cured, just yet," she spoke. "You're the only one, asides us at Reynolds, who knows about the truth about 202. Once you're cured, I'd bet you my Louboutins that you are going to head on back to the Front and stop them from releasing 202."
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I folded my arms. "Naturally."
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She stepped close to me. Her height levelled with mine. "That is the problem. I need to keep you occupied. I want 202 to be released."
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My heart was pounding. "I advise you to step away. I have a lot of upper body strength and I'm betting you don't."
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"Please," she scoffed, "you couldn't do anything even if you wanted to. That is, unless you want to kiss your life goodbye."
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"By the looks of this conversation, giving me the cure doesn't sound like your number one motive. So, I don't think there will be much to lose on my behalf."
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"Oh, I'll give you GOD," she said, suddenly. "Think of it as an apology for what happened to your parents."
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I already knew there was more.
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"But I should probably tell you that I only plan on giving you GOD around the same time I release, to the world, my father's reports on the formula and effects of 202. The fabric of 202, he called it. You'll get GOD after the truth comes out."
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"In other words, Emerald, I'll save your life after 202 is released. Less than a month, is it?"
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She was... she was... an evil genius. And I was beginning to get dizzy. The alcohol!
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"I can't have you ruining my plans. So let's make a deal; you go about your life, and I'll consider giving you the cure if everything goes as I plan it to." Gemma clearly was the kind of girl who thought 'deal' and 'blackmail' were synonyms.
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I stared back at her expressionlessly. I tried being nice; I guess I would just have take the cure by force.
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She read thoughts. "Oh, and don't try breaking into my building. My father had been studying you for as long as you have lived, right up until his passing."
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I was getting uncontrollably dizzy now. In fact, Gemma's own face kept blurring.
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"He had double agents, medics, former Front employees..." she went on. "We have mapped out every nanometer of your genome. It would be within your best interests to not break into a building that's been made one hundred percent 202 proof." With that she flaunted away, and I didn't stop her.
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I used about seven puns in this chapter.ns18.104.22.168da2