Fresh World

Chapter VI:  The Rescue

Written and Illustrated By Adrienne Potter

(background from space photo)

 

      As they flew soundlessly through space Irvana surveyed her surroundings.  They were in one of the stealth cruisers, along with the commando leader and a dozen of his men.  Another dozen were on the other stealth cruiser, and another two dozen on the cloaked transport.

     Irvana looked at the Commando leader.  He had introduced himself as Kevo.  His skin-tight uniform was black with a thin, metallic stripe running down the legs, and it stretched when he moved, as though it were part of his skin.  He wore shiny, black, knee-high boots and a laser weapon in a black holster around his waist.  On his head he wore a tight black cap with a visor and a shiny, silver, Earth Force medallion above it, over his forehead.  This wasn’t his combat uniform, but it was very impressive. He was tall and very muscular, but when Irvana’s eyes reached his face and saw his blue eyes looking at her with interest she sensed his intelligence and commitment.  He was someone they could trust to do his best. 

    “So you’re a mind reader,” he said to her with a slight grin, suddenly breaking the silence of space.  It seemed that he didn’t quite believe what he had heard about this pretty and quiet little girl.

     Irvana flushed slightly.  “I only know what I need to know to help people, like what you ate for breakfast.”

     “Okay, so tell me what I had for breakfast,” he said with a quirky grin. 

     She squirmed in her chair, looked at him sideways, and said, “You had two orange juices, five pancakes, and strawberries with cream which you probably shouldn’t have eaten because you’re allergic to strawberries, but you really like them so you ate it anyway,” she answered in a matter-of-fact tone.

     He stared at her, a little unnerved.

     “And why do you need to know that?” he asked, scratching his forearm.

     “Because you’re starting to get hives and you ought to let Mardee treat you.”

     He looked where he had been scratching, saw the red and white welt that had formed, and laughed along with the rest of the group.  He turned to the Medical Droid, “Okay Mardee, treat my hives.”

     The first day in space they passed playing games and talking, but the second day was serious business.  The next day they would arrive at Pitorgian space, and they wanted to make sure everyone knew their jobs.  The leaders from the other two vessels had been transported to Irvana’s for a strategic planning session.   They all met in a small conference room around a hologram that showed the enemy planet suspended in space.  Irvana felt a chill as she looked at it.  She looked at Darak.  He was feeling the same thing. 

     “The first thing we need to do is scan their security measures,” said Kevo.  “If we know what equipment they have it will be easier to go in undetected.”

     A full Pitorgan weapons report that had been sent by Earth  Force was brought out and carefully studied again.  Kevo’s men had already scoured it for useful information.

    Irvana squeezed in around the hologram.  “Dad, what if the Grisling senses our presence by reading our minds, even though we’re cloaked?”

    All eyes were on her, then on her father.   Darak, who had been standing away from the group, stepped forward at that moment and held out a golf-ball sized crystal in his hand.  “That was Beldan’s concern also, and mine,” he said.  “That’s why I knew I needed to come with you on your journey.  This crystal is a mind blocker.  It takes great energy to sense thoughts across space, so it is doubtful that the Grisling will make the effort to sense our minds when we’re at home, but as we move closer we will need this crystal.  When it is activated crystal energy waves are emitted into space that disperse thought waves and scramble them so that they cannot be sorted out from other types of space matter.”

     “How is it activated?” asked Meltro.

     Darak handed it over to Irvana, saying,  “Only a Crystal Seer can activate it.”  He showed her how to place her fingers on it and his mind told her mind to think certain words.  They were in the difficult Janavran language, but as she repeated them in her head they became easier.  He could have started it himself, but that would reveal his abilities.  Suddenly the crystal started to glow and Irvana jumped, almost dropping it.  Quickly Darak took it from her and placed it on the table.

    “It is activated,” he announced  .

     Everyone stared.  A soft blue light emanated from the center of it and seemed to pass right through them and the walls, out into space.

     “Can the light be seen outside the space ship?” asked Kevo.

     “No,” Darak told him.  “It dissipates immediately upon passing through solid matter.”

     Kevo breathed easier.  He had worked with telepaths before, but never one so young as Irvana.  He had been concerned about the unknowns of this mission—the Evarjans and their abilities, Irvana, and the Grisling thing.  This crystal technology the Evarjans shared would be a big help.  He hated the Pitorgans, an attitude shared by all his men.  Many of them were veterans of the Pitorgan war and some had lost family members. 

     He hadn’t told Commander Bergan, but he had a sister who had been kidnapped years before and he had longed for a chance to retrieve her.  But was she still alive?  He felt eyes on him and turned to see Irvana staring at him intently.  Was she sensing his thoughts?  She quickly looked away, towards Darak, who had been watching him too. 

     There was something unnerving about the Evarjan but Kevo couldn’t pinpoint what it was.  He seemed like a reliable sort, and very attentive to Irvana.  But Kevo had a sixth sense that had helped him in many risky situations.  He seemed to get an instant feeling when danger was around the corner and it gave him a split-second to prepare.  He didn’t sense danger with Darak, it was something else, but he had no idea what.  He walked towards Irvana and whispered with a smile, “So what are you thinking, little telepath?”

    She looked up at him with big, brown eyes that had suddenly gone very sad and whispered urgently,  “Your sister is alive, but we have to get her out!”

     So she had read his thoughts!  This kid was amazing!  Suddenly he felt more of her words in his head, without hearing them—“I won’t tell.  Your secret is safe.”  He shot her a grateful look.  If anyone knew about this they might question his ability to keep his emotions from clouding command decisions.  But how did she do that?—Put thoughts inside his head.  Anyway, he knew his emotions wouldn’t influence his logic—they would sharpen it.  From past experience, when he had a personal stake in a mission it was a guaranteed success.  On the Milfari mission he hadn’t revealed that his fiancée's wealthy uncle was one of the passengers, and that certainly hadn’t interfered with his logic or the adrenalin rush that he felt while carrying out the rescue.

     On another mission he learned that one of his team members had a brother involved.  They were making a risky night drop behind enemy lines inside a dictator-controlled Earth province to free a half-dozen of their captured comrades.  Kevo had kept that a secret too, knowing it would help his team member work harder towards their goal. This mission, the Pitorgan slave rescue, was to be his last mission before leaving military service to marry his fiancée.  He wasn’t going to make any mistakes.

     On the morning of the third day Irvana awoke early and stayed near the viewer.  She knew they were getting close.  She had been informing the pilot if they drifted off- course from the planet.  He had tested her a few times, not believing that he could trust an entire commando mission to a young telepath, but each time she had caught him and he soon learned to listen to her every word.  She was helping him make a beeline to this Pitorgia and their scanners had already found it on their screens. 

     Another meeting was called, this time without the other team leaders physically present.  Transporting was no longer an option.  They would beam the meeting to the other ships on a scrambled, undetectable, low wave.  The scan showed that  the enemy had extensive security on the planet that would detect the ships the instant they de-cloaked.  They would have to transport and exit with lightening speed, and if anything went wrong they could lose soldiers and prisoners, unless they could deactivate the security system. 

     Darak had been waiting for their thought processes to reach this level.  Again he stepped forward and brought out a crystal.  This one was shaped like a cone.  “This will deactivate their energy sources and take their security offline.  If you obtain the coordinates of the detectors I can activate this.  It doesn’t require a Crystal Seer.”

     Meltro observed, “Won’t the Grisling suspect something the minute all his security measures are down?”

    “Good point,” said Kevo.  "But hopefully we'll be gone before he can do anything."

      Darak was thankful for Kevo.  The Evarjans had the most sophisticated technology in the galaxy, but the earthlings had combat experience, Pitorgan experience, and they had a defensiveness that he admired—a willingness to risk everything in order to protect their planet and their liberty.  This was something he could easily relate to.

************* 

     On Pitorgia the Grisling was eating something that would be disgusting to humans.  He was contented that all his battle plans were progressing.  The slaves were being forced to work harder to produce more weapons, and his troops were nearly trained.  But there were still some lingering doubts about his plan.  He thought about the little being who had tried to penetrate his mind a few weeks back.  Someone tiny and helpless compared to him, yet with unbelievable mind power.  He had had to work twice as hard to block her thought probes and was forced to begin daily mental exercises.  It wouldn’t happen again.

   He thought of his mate, the first female Pitorgan to evolve into his state of being.  True, he had accelerated the process after picking her out of all the Pitorgan females and nearly damaged her in the process, but she was necessary for his plans to get back what was rightfully his.  She was gone at the moment.  He had sent her on a delicate mission with one of his star battalions to obtain a rare ore needed to power his new weapon, and he eagerly awaited her return.

********

 Irvana suddenly cried, “That’s it!”  Everyone looked at the viewer.  A green and yellow planet had come into view.  The other ships were notified and soon they were orbiting secretly above it.  The viewer began scanning the installations below and Irvana stood with her hands touching the screen, sensing the locations and the emotions of the slaves.  Darak was behind her, his hand on her shoulder.  His touch was reassuring to her and it seemed as though her powers were sharper when he was near.  Without his quiet strength the intensity and volume of incoming emotional information would be too much. She was sensing the thoughts of all the slaves at the same time.  She felt Darak gently tell her, "Try to focus on only one or two," and she found that she could.

     Her heart sank as she realized the gravity of their situation.  There were slaves on every base they passed, some human, some Evarjan, and others from various alien races unfriendly to the Pitorgans.  She voiced her discovery to the others.

     “Dad, how can we transport prisoners from so many bases all at the same time?”  Irvana asked in a despairing tone.

     Meltro looked at Kevo, new concern in his face.  Kevo took a deep breath and replied, “We have some options that we haven’t yet considered.  First, we can land, still cloaked, and access the bases without using the transporters.  Second, the stealth cruisers can transport and carry a certain amount of prisoners.  They don’t all have to go directly to the troop transport.  It will be crowded, but when we get back into deep space we can transport them to the larger ship.  Third, we can implement our back-up scenario; meaning, we thought about this possibility and came up with a plan on Earth.  This plan requires each stealth cruiser to go after a different base simultaneously, instead of sending everyone to one base.”

     Irvana looked relieved.  She was thankful for Kevo’s planning ahead and the hours of time Earth Force had spent analyzing the situation.   Five bases had been identified, all with slaves.  Each of the four teams would take a base.  A few members were bled from each team and a fifth team was formed to take on the fifth base.  Meltro, Ridge, Darak, Irvana, and Leena were each assigned to a team, because now they were short-handed.  Mardee would stay on board to monitor their physical status.  Ridge was very concerned about Leena but Darak reached into his pocket again and produced a tiny crystal on a silver chain.  He put it around Leena’s neck.

     “Don’t worry.  She’ll be safe with this,” he said to Ridge.  To Leena he said, “It will protect you.”

     “I wish we all had one of those,” observed Kevo.

     “They only work on innocent little ones,” replied Darak.  “We used these to protect the children when the Pitorgans came to our planet.  This is not to say that you are large and guilty, (chuckles came from Kevo’s men) but some crystals only work on light, gentle energy.”

     Meltro didn’t like being separated from Irvana, but there was no turning back now.  Ridge and Leena were assigned to two underground bases where their geologic and explosives skills would be utilized.  When the commando soldiers tested Leena on her  knowledge of physics, detonation, and mineral components, they found she knew nearly as much as third-year cadets at the academy knew, and so it was decided they couldn’t do without her.

      Attack uniforms and equipment were passed out to the new recruits and very quickly everyone was dressed in full combat gear, including Irvana, Darak, and Leena, although their uniforms had to be adapted for size.  They were wearing black helmets with visors and com units inside, which fit their heads snugly.  Also, they were blast-proof.  They wore black, stretch, turtle neck shirts with pockets full of tools, and flak vests with more pockets for tools, explosives, and ammunition.  Their pants and the vest were camouflage gray and black, stretch-synthetic fabric that adapted to the surrounding temperature, with numerous zip pockets for more ammo.  They all wore shoulder holsters for rifles and waist holsters for hand-held laser weapons.  Leena grinned at Irvana.  “Can you believe us?” she asked.  “I mean, are we for real?”

     The girls’ weapons were required by Earth Force regulations, as they were for all ‘new recruits,’ and they were not difficult to shoot.  They had no kick, as primitive earth weapons once had, and once the laser locked in on the target the weapon would hit it, even if the target or the shooter moved.  Irvana had herself assigned to the base where she sensed her brother’s presence and since it was the same base where she sensed Kevo’s sister, she made sure it was also his team.

     The hour, minute, and second arrived, and the three ships landed and deposited soldiers near their assigned bases, still cloaked.  Two of them rose again and landed again, dropping off soldiers until all five bases were being approached.  Pitorgan insects and rodents saw dark soldiers emerge from mid-air and descend upon them, and they scattered.  A Pitorgan guard a half mile away from Irvana’s target base saw Pitorgan vultures ascend and circle and heard the insects hum.  He reported it to his superior and was told that pragwolves had been seen nearby and they were no doubt responsible for the disturbance.

    Irvana, directly behind Kevo, saw the dark green glow coming from the guard tower of the base ahead before anyone else.  They quietly moved through the gray, muddy dirt.  If they had not been wearing space helmets they would have breathed in the foul, dank air of a planet that had nothing but contempt for nature and no concern for ecology.

     They were at the base in minutes and using silent explosives, had penetrated the outer wall.  A guard saw the commotion from a hundred yards away and was instantly dispatched by a sharpshooter with a silent laser rifle.  They had killed an enemy!  The realization shocked Irvana, but she forced it downward to be dealt with later.  Adrenalin pushed her on.  She was leading now, guided by the thought waves of the slaves.  

     Suddenly she sensed her brother close, around the next corner.  He knew she was coming! He was ready for her!  All the slaves were ready! 

    As they rounded the dark corner, seeing with their nightlights, she heard, “Over here! Over here!”  Quickly she ran to the cell and used a small, quiet explosive to blow the door open.  It was near midnight and the slaves were supposed to be asleep, but unbeknownst to the Pitorgans they were all awake.

     “Are you Jeremy?”  she whispered.

     “Yes!  Are you Irvana?”

     “Yes, but how did you know my name?”

     “I had a dream vision months ago that you would come,” he whispered. 

      “You mean you’re a telepath?”

      “Yes!  You too?

      “Yeah,” she giggled, in spite of the adrenalin.  “Mardee will love this!”

Quickly, all the doors were quietly blasted and the slaves were ushered out into the corridors and told to follow Kevo.  A girl was with Jeremy who stayed close to him.  Irvana knew it was Kevo’s sister and she wondered what the girl meant to Jeremy.  As quietly as possible the group of seventy-four slaves followed the soldiers through the blasted wall and out to the waiting cruiser.

     They were the first group out due to Irvana’s ability to quickly locate the prison and hurriedly they rose to orbit.   Meltro’s group had used scanners to locate the prisoners and soon freed fifty more and herded them to another cruiser.  They had encountered a team of Pitorgan soldiers and the commandos had quietly dispatched them before any more of the enemy became aware of their presence.

      The transport picked up the third group of soldiers and refugees and hurried to pick up the next group at the fourth base.  They weren’t yet free of the prison.   The transport waited for five minutes that seemed like an eternity, but soon the group of sixty or more straggled through a swamp and were ushered up the ramp.  Quietly it rose up and moved to the fourth base.  The commandos had been detected here! Shots were fired! Instantly Darak, back on the command cruiser, sensed the need and activated the anti-energy crystal ,and in that instant the base went dark and silent.  Shouts were heard and they could hear the tramp of footsteps as people approached the ship.  

     The soldiers in the transport hurried down the ramp to help the wounded, but soon everyone was loaded.  The third cruiser ship moved fast and quiet to the fifth camp, which was also dark thanks to Darak.  Again, the commandos were detected when one of the prisoners ran back to her cell to retrieve food for her baby, and laser shots were heard.  The third and fourth team commandos quickly disembarked and hurried to the base just in time to even the odds on another laser battle.  This time the wounded, children and the elderly were carried on the backs of running soldiers to the waiting transport and they were off! Mardee was in the transport setting up triage and attending to the sick and wounded with the aid of the commando medics.

     Meanwhile, Jeremy, Irvana, and Meltro, who had had no time for a reunion but were quickly ushered back to the hologram, were again in combat conference with Kevo.  He pointed to the ten Pitorgan ships that had appeared near the image of Pitorgia, precisely blocking their escape route.

    “What in kamchunkpo is that?!” he demanded.  Kevo never swore, out of respect for Earth Force language protocols, but he sometimes used colorful words from an alien language he had studied at the academy.  Darak and Irvana had been so involved with thought patterns on the planet that they hadn’t had time to discern any mental activities outside the planet. 

     Jeremy broke in, “I know what it is.  It’s a battalion the Grisling sent to collect energy for his new weapon.  His mate is commanding it!”

   “His mate!” exclaimed Irvana.  She looked at Darak.  “Why didn’t we sense her?”

    “You couldn’t have,” interrupted Jeremy.  “The Grisling always has her shielded.  Has she sensed our presence?”

     “She knows something’s up because every ship has put up battle shields,” answered Kevo.

     Suddenly  Darak shot a message to her in the same instant that she grasped it herself. “She’s a telepath!” cried Irvana.  He needed to keep his abilities hidden.  “Are we still cloaked?!” asked Irvana urgently.

     The pilot answered in the affirmative.

     “We have to act quickly!” cried Darak.  “She knows we are here but she doesn’t know where!   She can’t fire unless she knows where we are!  Irvana!  Activate the thought-blocking crystal towards her!”  She instantly did as she was told.

     In the same moment Kevo ordered all ships to light speed and they quickly responded, flying directly in-between the Pitorgan ships, a little too close for comfort.  In that instant the Pitorgan ships about-faced and gave chase!

     “She sensed Kevo’s new heading before the thought crystal blocked her!  Change course!” Cried Darak.  Kevo instantly did so, and their new heading was blocked from the Grisling’s mate by the crystal.

     “Jeremy, Irvana, come with me!” said Darak, now somewhat calmer.  “We have to mind-blend quickly or she will sense us!” These last words were placed in their minds rather than voiced.  They met in his quarters and he ordered them to link hands.  The feeling was sharp and instantaneous!

     Irvana had never felt anything like this!

     It was like a group hug with your best friends, except that it was in your mind, and amplified a hundred times.  She sensed Darak’s thoughts, and Jeremy’s.  Darak was so knowledgeable about the forests of Janavrah, and the animals, and human nature, and the crystals, and Jeremy was so fearful, yet suddenly so full of hope—and he was in love with Kevo’s sister!  

     And Darak was totally committed to her.  Darak intruded into her discernment and told them, “We must concentrate on the thought-blocking crystal. Visualize it, feel it, know it.  This is how we can block her now, because when it is far from the target person it loses it’s power.”

   They continued in their meditation for almost an hour, until Darak felt it was safe.  At this distance he knew he could block himself alone.  Jeremy had had years of practice blocking himself from the Pitorgans, so he was not a worry, and Irvana was already known to them.  She continued to block her thoughts though, just in case.

    When they emerged from the room Kevo and Meltro were waiting.  “What was that all about?”  they demanded. 

     “Jeremy is a telepath,” blurted out Irvana, “and we were jointly blocking the Grisling's mate so she won't find us.”

     “Two telepaths in the same family,” declared Meltro.  Suddenly he went to Jeremy and enveloped him in a big bear hug.  “Sorry I didn’t have time for this earlier.  It’s incredibly good to see you again--and to have you back with us!  We tried for years to find you.”

    “Same to you Dad,” said Jeremy, and then he collapsed in his father’s arms.  Mardee was transported to the command cruiser to treat him, and the cause was found to be malnutrition, sleep deprivation and exhaustion.  He had asthma too.  He was forty pounds underweight and suffering from oxygen deprivation, and he hadn’t slept for a week in anticipation of the rescue.  Mardee treated him as well as he could without the supplies of Med Lab, but they all knew it would be awhile before Jeremy would fully recover mentally and physically.

    When Irvana appeared at the Main Deck she found Kevo and his sister, who was named Charma, softly conversing, Kevo’s arm around her shoulders.  Irvana told her about Jeremy’s collapse and as she looked into her face she saw that Charma had only slightly more flesh on her than Jeremy.  Charma started to cry.  “He gave me his extra food, because he said he didn’t need it.”  It was then that Irvana noticed the slight protrusion in Charma’s belly and realized she was going to have a baby.  Irvana was going to be an aunt.  Charma told Irvana and Kevo that she and Jeremy had married themselves in the only way allowed the slaves, by making promises to each other.  In the slave camps it was agreed that these marriages would be honored just as any legal marriage on Earth or other planets. 

    Mardee was called to treat Charma and her fetus and pronounced them both malnourished, jaundiced, and suffering from rickets.  He immediately administered injections of food and vitamins for the infant and the mother, something he had also done for Jeremy.

     Irvana was in heaven.  She had a brother!  And she had a sister-in-law!  And she was going to be an aunt!  And they were all free and heading home.   

    All the freed slaves had been teleported to the large troop transport except Jeremy and Charma, who stayed together with their families, and in a few days they were back in Evarjan space.  Commander Bergen was on the comscreen congratulating them while they were still light years away, which was actually only a few hours, and telling them that Earth was celebrating as it never had.  They were all heroes!  There was a fleet of doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, groceries, and luxuries headed to Janavrah to treat the rescued slaves, and ships from other planets were notified to come and pick up their respective refugees.  Janavrah was going to be a madhouse! 

     When they landed at Othis the colonists, the Evarjans, and Starbase personnel were there ahead of them, jumping up and down and cheering.  Signs had been erected, red, white, and blue, non-popping balloons were floating above the signposts.  Small, non-flammable fireworks were shooting everywhere!  At the head of the crowd was Kaylar, waiting to see her long-lost son.  She had been informed about his wife and the expected grandchild and she simply could not contain herself.  She hugged Irvana, who was first off after Kevo, then Meltro, then Jeremy as he lay on his gurney, then  Charma in a wheelchair, then went back to Irvana.  Dacron was jumping and dancing around Irvana and Meltro, then he stopped to sniff the gurney and the wheelchair. 

     Music was playing, and a large screen had been erected so the Earth Force President could personally congratulate the rescuers and welcome the refugees.  There were a total of 325 from various planets, including 190 from earth and 20 from Janavrah.  The Evarjans were hugging and kissing their long-lost relatives, and conversing in the fascinating Evarjan language. 

     Mardee was able to commandeer the soldiers for one last mission: to see the wounded safely to Medlab without being mobbed.  In the quiet of the lab, which everyone at Othis had worked feverishly to enlarge when they learned the condition of the rescued slaves, Irvana could once again collect her thoughts.  She sat in an empty wheelchair, exhausted mentally and physically, trying to sort out the events of the past week.  She fell asleep sitting up, and Kevo carried her home, Kaylar and Meltro leading the way.    

     Her giltran was overjoyed to see her and slept on the pillow.  Darak walked home and away from the celebration with his parents, muttering to himself, “You’d think we won the war.” He had sensed the fury of the Grisling as they blasted away from Pitorgia and the knowledge that the battle had just begun was heavy in his mind.

     Fate was going to allow just one night for celebration.  By the time Fenshar, the Grisling’s wife, returned to him he had learned of the invasion and was wild with rage.  He had destroyed their living quarters and executed several of his servants.  She hurriedly informed him of the success of her mission in an effort to appease him.  It worked.  His eyes glowed green as he remembered his new weapon and what he planned to do with it.  The hideous, pitiful, humans would pay for their insurrection.

     The following morning Irvana was called to the Evarjan village for another dream session.  This time she looked at Darak and he winked at her, something he had learned from Kevo.  He didn’t do it quite like Kevo, but Irvana got the idea.  She remembered what he had taught her, and this time she didn’t pass out, but remained in an upright, sitting position.  Beldan was surprised at how quickly this little earthling learned. 

     When the crystal was activated by Beldan and her father Irvana immediately soared into the galaxy, riding her mind wherever it took her.  She was seeing the world before it was made, when it was still in particles.  She saw its formation as the waters stirred and the wind blew over its face, then saw the first night and day, the first plants growing, and the first molecules of life stirring.

      She felt herself in the womb and remembered vague images of light, soft, muffled sounds, and the comfort of the water around her.  Then she was abruptly pulled from this carefree state and was looking down on Pitorgia.    She saw Fenshar and understood why the Grisling had kept her secret.  Why was she seeing this now when she couldn’t before?  She didn’t know, but she did know that now that she had seen and breathed and touched Pitorgia nothing could stop her probing mind.  Her mind had the key to Pitorgia, and no one could take it away.  It was then that she saw and understood the weapon that the Grisling had so carefully guarded. It was then that she could stand no  more and wanted to  wake up, but Darak was with her in her mind saying, "You mustn't leave yet! There is more information that we need!"

Chapter 7  Excerpt: "... But the Kendlian hadn't left the house.  He was, at that moment, hiding in Irvana's closet."

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