For The Children


christian_icon.gif teo_icon.gif

Scene Title For The Children
Synopsis No American should be alone on Turkey Day, especially if they can barbecue. Conversation starts with blown-up high schools, circles through violence, the morality of it, acclimating to it, whether violence ever gets fun, career decisions, the pretty date that Christian has coming up, and how girls terrify. (Peripherally: some boys may apply too.)
Date November 27, 2008

Cliffside Apartments — Rooftop

From the third story rooftop of Cliffside Apartments, the dirty and gray skyline of Long Island City comes into full view. Surrounded on all sides by industrial complexes, warehouses and factories, this converted mill building views little more than a sea of concrete and glass. To the northwest, the jagged skyline of Manhattan shows the bristling and broken husks of buildings ruined by the bomb, half visible in their gutted states.

The roof itself is spacious, and like man apartment complexes features a small community garden of vegetables in black plastic bins. Tomatos, carrots, cucumbers and an assortment of other easy to grow plants are shared by the tenants, originally planted by the building owner back before the bomb. Some old and worn patio furniture has been brought up onto the roof as well to allow modest relaxation, though much of it is usually occupied by the innumerable birds that seem to gravitate to the building. Ravens, mostly, perch upon the ledges and furniture during most hours of the day and night.

This was actually the first time since he was eighteen that he'd been "home" for the holidays, not that he had ever really minded. So thanksgiving didnt find Christian in Missouri, it found him here on a rooftop with a charcoal grill. A bottle of Grolsch held in one hand, as he lovingly tended to a mixture of steaks and pork ribs slathered with a sauce of his own invention. Granted this wasnt really that abnormal for Chris, day after pork steak and two day fridge preserved ribs were something of a stable for everyone's favorite secret agent. Tonight, he expected company however.

For once, there was no radio, no cellphone and no toughbook anywhere nearby. He hadnt even brought a satchel with him, just beer, meat and the grill it would seem. He sniffled casually, stepping back to settle into an old lawn chair without a word. Watching the occasional lick of flame shoot from the bed of red hot coals, letting his mind wander for the first time in an uncomfortably long time.

Drinking had started some point in the afternoon, alongside college schoolmates who were happy to see he was alive. Some type of pie thing had been involved, except said confections in question had been extremely small, and Teo had eaten his way through three of them before his accumulated inebriation drove him to distraction from the painstaking process of chewing. One half-hearted fistfight and an exploded microwave, and he's discreetly made his way from uptown Manhattan to Cliffside in order to get some actual grub and companionship that didn't involve deafening music or being too sloshed out of one's senses to appreciate the company.

He's put enough distance between himself and the nightmares of dying children that he doesn't need to dull his senses of such other things. By the time he reaches the roof, he's only a little buzzed. It's fortunate that he isn't a sloppy drunk, or he might have been in trouble on the bus over. As it is, he managed not to hit himself on the safety bars or frighten too many women.

Metal jarrs on hinges, cracked concrete cracks further, and he bangs out through the door,d onto the roof. His hood is up underneath the collar of his jacket, and he's grinning like a tired dog, partly because he had run all the way up the firestairs. "Buona sera," he greets, tossing his hand up in a wave.

"Glad to see your not a ghost," Chris offers, with a wry little smile before indicating another lawn chair parked just akimbo to his own. "Sit your ass down, ya'll need to enjoy thanksgiving good and proper."He produces his secret weapon, a large brown paper bag filled with sugar coated ginger candies. They were done right, at least they were similar to the stuff Chris's had when he went to japan back -in the day-. "You wanna beer, or a cup've coffee? I have a thermos."he advises, producing said thermos all the same. It was a particularly large one, big enough to hold maybe an entire pot and covered top to bottom with scars and bad camouflage spraypaint.

Chris sets the pair down in the chair offered to Teo, before immediately turning to inspect the meat. "Goodness gracious, I reckon ya'lls got some sorta timing Teo. Juuuust about ready, maybe another two minutes. This little grill ain't gettin' too properly hot, hope you like your meat medium?"

Told to sit in the chair, Teo looks at the chair as if it owes him money, eyes narrowed, teeth bright. Squashes the expression away into a grimace, the next moment, checking that his face hasn't gone too stiff from the cold. He flattens a rough palm on his cheek and rubs, twice, abrading warmth back into it with enough gusto to take a few layers of skin from someone of a fragiler complexion. "I'll sit when you sit," he says. He chooses, instead, to turn a leggy stride around the chair and the grill, studying the contents where they're cooking first, the candy second. As secret weapons go, the latter does look dangerously effective. "I'll eat anything.

"It will be my undoing, someday. That looks really good, amico." He isn't lying. Despite that altruism was partially responsible for the fact that he forewent the company of college drunkards, Phoenix comrades, and his morbidly fatalistic crush in favor of hanging out with his asocial Fed, he does honestly appreciate a good grill. "There's something endearingly barbaric about putting a dead animal on a fire and eating it before winter bites your nose off.

"This country is awesome." He wafts a long-fingered hand above the caged coals.

"You look just as right as rain I reckon, how ya feel bud?" It was one of those little round grills, and positively packed with meat it was. "Yeah, it tastes different when you kill it yourself though. Animals deserve a shot at escape, or revenge yaknow?"he glances up. "So how're you handling this, kids are never easy."neither is shooting them, well ok so it was sort've easy.

About as discreetly as a skunk rooting for garbage, Teo slides a callused hand by into the bag of candied ginger. Buries it to the knuckles in, though most of the pieces tumble out by the time he retracts it and thumbs one into his mouth. "Beer would be good," he notes, belatedly, without taking his eyes off the dull incandescence of barbecue flames, the round fragments of fuel accumulating ash. Every time he shifts his gaze, even a little, fractional distances, saccadic, the light leaves green smudges, reverse-colored as if burned into his corneas. He finds that mildly amusing. Christian's query somewhat less so, though that's more the nature of the subject matter than the big man's fault.

He ducks his head momentarily, glancing into darkness, and the artificial green fogs all of his sight for an instant before fading. "I don't have a good adjective for that. I'm so angry that I feel like throwing up every time I think about it, but if I wasn't, something would probably be wrong. I guess I'm handling. You know?" Candy bulges his cheek round for a moment, before he gnaws down, sawing herb and crystals apart in his molars.

Its a quiet nod that he offers in return. "Its the smell, right?" He pokes at the pork a moment more, before he starts moving it over to a plate. He knew hate all to well, it's all that kept him warm these days. "So anyway, it'll be very interesting to see how things evolve from here. Would you find it bothersome, if I said what I thought in clinical terms?" He trades pork steaks and pork ribs on over, before splitting it between two plates. Offering Teo plastic knife and fork, with a Grolsch coming soon after.

Shortly after, Teo realizes he doesn't have enough hands to manage a fork, knife, plate, and Grolsch all at once. He winds up accepting meat onto his plate, impaling his knife into a rib like Excalibur, and then accepting the Grolsch in one hand with he closes his teeth on the prongs of the plastic fork so that it dangles from between them straight and creased down the middle like a lizard's tongue. Finally, then, he does accept a seat. Shoves his lawn chair out with one foot hooked around the leg, and tumbles over with admirable grace to lodge himself between armrests. "Nnh?" A companionable inquiry. He spits his fork out and takes a pull of beer.

Chris takes his time to get settled, using a heavy boot to nudge the grill closer to the pair. "You know, I was looking at things. Everyone is of course going to claim this was Pariah and whatnot, but ya know what I don't think that's who did it."he starts cutting in. Neatly cutting rib bones from his ribs. "if I were a counter terrorist, I'd call this a false flag operation."

"But anyway, whats going to be really interesting is how the administration will handle this. They can't clamp down, and they can't outspend the enemy because they're doing this for free." He pauses to chew. The pork had been prepared lovingly, cold-cycled in a deep soup of juices and spices. Wine, beer and then just a pinch of vinegar to give the idealized fully-textured flavor that pork so often.

"Sounds like a Hell of a deductive leap. Maybe you ought to be counter-terrorist, amico," Teo offers in an amiable tone of voice. His face is turned down in order to watch himself embark on the process of eating meat, having installed the remaining pieces of candied ginger in a tiny patch of clean dish between meat slabs with a careful nudge of fingertips. Inevitably, he's going to get vinegared juice smeared on the sweets before he's through sawing all these ribs and chops, but there's no need to be careless so early in the procedure.

"Or maybe theories like that are exactly why you aren't, and your agency has put you exactly where you have the intelligence and the temperament to be. Making diplomatic overtures at harmless anarchists." If he'd had a little less to drink, he wouldn't have been able to say that with a straight face. As it is, he's deadpan enough about it. Two ribs, flayed of their edible parts, vanish into him and he grins his appreciation.

"Terrorism is about economics. Your a terrorist because your cause cant afford soldiers. You embark upon acts, which imbue your cause with the most effect for the smallest expenditure in terms of effort and risk. This bombing, does not help PARIAH. Especially when there are a number of soft infrastructure points along the city, some that could have significantly hindered law enforcement efforts to find them. No, they hit the most emotionally reprehensible one. This helps the Humanis punks, not PARIAH."

He pauses, sipping at his beer before heading back after meat. "You see, it's really pretty interesting. If your Humanis, you see an Evolved-friendly president elected so how do you bind his hands? How do you keep him from being pro-Evolved, you keep him busy and you make people scared. No Pariah are murderers, but this is the wrong target for them. If they were this stupid, they'd have been caught. Only proper response, from a political end of things is to go the opposite direction. They need to make this backfire, which they wont but they should. Fuck, they should have never done it in the first place but now we're preaching to the choir."

It isn't Humanis. It sure as fuck isn't Humanis, but it could be close. Teo scoops sauce onto pork chop and begins to hack a piece free, slides it on it's fork perch around the bottom of his plate before biting down on the morsel. He looks at the older man intermittently while Christian talks, acknowledging the economics with a blink of surprise, the criticism of the overall helpfulness of the bombing with a skeptical furrow of his brow, mention of murderers and backfires reflecting a detached sort of aggravation that comes of somebody having watched too much of the news and experienced too many of the events therein to want to locate the subtleties of gray amid all the red, red, sloppy chunky red.

"My best friend used to be a soldier," he answers, eventually, removing beer bottle from his mouth. His voice is quiet, blank with something that isn't indifference. "He says you never get used to the violence, but I think he might be the stark minority of that opinion. Too many people doing it for their career track. Building bombs, flying fighter planes, wearing Kevlar. Do you? Get used to it?"

Now that's a simple question." That's simple, I never took it personal after the first two times. Soldiers have a duty, to do their job. To effectively do your job, you shouldn't have an emotional investment in it. You're more likely to die in other, more dangerous occupations. Look at the statistics, but we have soldiers coming down with PTSD and freaking out. Why, because we tell people that war is romantic and tragic and whatever else. Intellectually, every soldier hates war. When we remove our emotional involvement, we let the body do it's thing. The human body is built for combat, we just let our hearts get in the way."

Chris shrugs. "You get emotionally involved in things that require it, war doesn't care if your sad or angry. Your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your husband, your friends whatever do care and thus they deserve an emotional investment."

This is doing nothing for his appetite, but Teo continues eating anyway. By rote. He's a twenty-six-year-old man who goes a little off in the head whenever he isn't doing something, so he's worked the processes of eating pretty far into his muscle memory. Stab, cut, chew. He might well be able to accept that there's something faintly, vaguely, inherently violent about that simple act of nourishing oneself. After all, the creatures whose muscle strings and sinew he's splicing apart used to be alive, once.

It occurs to him more than once that Christian and Alexander are nothing alike. Where one divides the acts of war between emotion and intellect, the other has his duties and his nightmares; that neither really, existentially questions the blood on their hands anyway. Obscurely, Teo hopes he's more like one than the other, underneath. He isn't sure which. Christian probably sleeps better. Alexander comes off more righteous. There's nothing particularly righteous about any of it. And then, "Does it ever get to be fun?"

Goodness. Chris takes a moment, working through his pork steak. "Yes, it does. It's like fucking your sister though, how much fun you have has no bearing on how right or wrong it is." He shrugs. "So anyway, I think I got a date." He leans back, working casually at his ribs. "She's beautiful, intelligent, kind and thinks I'm simply wonderful." He pauses for beer again. "But, you know it would be positively terrible for me to date a woman like that at this point in my life though."

Obnoxiously, Teo can sympathize with that. Not the fucking his sister part, thankfully. The taste for violence, maybe a little. But the dating. So he laughs, somewhat absurdly, shaking his head. At this point in my life. "That's a shame. She sounds like a keeper, and not someone who'd be wise to wait until you got past 'this point in your life,'" he remarks in a light tone that indicates, clearly, he's aware he has little material to base his remarks on. "Still, you're young. Date's just a date, eh? I think you should have fun. Where are you going to take her?" His gaze dips, rises, at a conversational cadence.

"Nowhere," he advises. "I'm not gonna take her out so she can get attached to a ghost. I'm not gonna do that, just so I can have her break it off when I'm stuck in some shithole in South America." He frowns some. "It's not fair for either of us, when I retire I guess. I'm gonna be so beat to shit by then, it ain't even funny." He sets an empty beer bottle. "I've never been able to make a relationship work for very long anyway, you have no doubt noticed. I'm not very good with people, it's a small town curse." He tosses his empty paper plate on the grill, letting it brown and smolder before it bursts into flames.

Teo leans his jaw on his hand and his elbow on the table, having hacked up his meal enough that he can sort the rest out with the fork alone. By now, his candied ginger has started adding an interesting flavor to the existing fluids, but it's not a bad one. The sauce itself had had more complexity than straight-up savory or salt. All this and more, he notices distantly, as if in third person. The amusing revelation that they're actually talking about things other than radio or bikes, too. He is grateful. That Christian had asked how he was doing, and that shit. "Just have to find the right person, maybe.

"I've seen that happen all of — once." Once, and it was unforgettable. "Other people seem to just muddle through for long enough that it sticks. I'm thinking specifically of my parents." A grin flashes brief over his face, bright with irony, before his brow furrows under the weight of consternation. "You said you got a date, or think you did. If you're not taking her out, what's that mean? You're going to stand her up?" That's terrible! That's the kind of crap he pulled when he was seventeen.

No, standing her up would be even more uncomfortable. He takes a long inhale, before finally giving a sigh. "Ok so I'm gonna take her out, I was thinking this Chinese place I found. I'm trading in the RMZ for a Ural, and then I'm gonna put the Katoom in storage. So I think I'll take her for a long ride in the sidecar, to this place and then who knows." He sniffles, rubbing his ear nervously. "I don't know, Teo. Most people do this job for four years, I been doing it since two thousand two."

"You should try," comes from the least qualified source on the planet, half a grin on the visible half of his face, sincerity making his eyes a little less inward and dark than they had otherwise been despite the pleasant superficial fuzz of imbibed alcohol. "It could work out, or at least you'll make a friend. You can never have too many of those. Small town or no. You actually choose really good Chinese restaurants, or else I'd definitely be recommending Italian. And, uh, afterward, if you want, I know some college girls on the rebound who don't necessarily need a meal first, and probably find that whole—" Stoked firelight flares a brief reflection off Teo's fork as he defines amorphous shapes in the air. "Ex-military older guy thing attractive."

And cue the awkward silence. "College, what. " He starts a thought then, yeah the train derails. "Do I need to kick you again?" And then with a shake of his head, he breaks out in a fit of barely-subdued laughter. "Jesus God Almighty, ya'll are tryna set me up with pups? Man I'm to the point where really, no foolin' or nothin' I'm just after like a girlfriend. If this were Blade Runner, and she was a android and I. You know what." He quietly turns to fuming laughter. "I'm not having a discussion about robot sex with you, Teo. I draw the line there."

Two hands up, surrender: Teo was just trying to do his friend a favor. Really. "I don't judge anybody who hooks up on a casual basis," he says. It's kind of a lie, but only kind of! He means it right now, but sometimes he can't help it. "But your point is taken. The offer's there if you ever change your mind.

"I have a few friends at Columbia, and you'd be doing nobody a disservice unless it's yourself. They'd probably really like to hear your stories. Christ, you're as bipolar as the next guy when it comes to women. One moment, it isn't the time in your life for a lady like that, the next moment you're not in it for a quick tumble, and now you're only looking for a girlfriend if you're looking for anything at all. I guess that makes you— human," he finishes, awkwardly.

It's more than some people would say for an Evolved. Teo's eyelids drag a little weary. He draws breath and glances off the edge of the roof, into the incessant twinkle of Cliffside's dystopian neighborhood. "Robots would make things easier," he decides, snorting.

"Everyone loves my stories, damn it." He's not getting grumpy, oh no not Chris. "Yes, Robots would. I don't know if I'm bipolar about women, just nervous. I had a really steady thing down in, uhm, well, it was mostly Mexico. The CIA liaison and I, well it was a pretty good thing we had. I don't know, maybe six months? I was pretty head over heels, you know how it goes. It was the first time since like I was sixteen that I ever entertained the thought of settling down and getting married. You know we both knew what the other one was going through, like cops marrying cops." He pauses, stretching out to knit his fingers behind his head.

"She wasn't as faithful as I expected, turns out she had already married and had a kid back in the states. I was just recreation, so yeah I'm me so you can imagine how well I took that. Went to Columbia, buried myself under so much SIGINT that I almost drowned. Vowed I would never consider getting romantically involved with another woman until I retired."

More proof that love doesn't work. Teo wouldn't believe in it at all, if it hadn't been for that one instance that remains burned indelibly in his sensory memory, ethical conscience, and pretty much every other aspect of his life. An awkward subject to bring up. He doesn't. Merely says, "Not exactly," when Christian says you know how it goes, grinning ruefully as he listens, until the expression is effaced from his features with gentle regret for scenarios preserved only in the watercolor of recall.

He hadn't really had much prior exposure to this part of Christian before, and the story is some tentative explanation for that. A beat's pause. "SIGINT," he repeats, before his aptitude for linguistics filters that through, himself, leaves a spate of clarity, an expressive nod. "Signals intelligence. Buried yourself in the work. That makes sense. I've never had a relationship that lasted more than a month, myself. I figure I'll wait for spring," he says, crooked grin, one-shouldered shrug. "I like your stories anyway.

"Oughtta toast to them. Gimme a new beer." He motions expansively toward the cooler.

"There are three kinds of intelligence."he explains"Signals intelligence which should be obvious. Then there's Observed intelligence, satellites and shit. Lastly you got HUMINT, like when you seduce someone or you shove bamboo under their fingernails. "he leans back to snag another beer, before handing it over.

"I was devastated, ya know I'd been pretty fortunate. Never had a family die, I never even had a girlfriend break it off. I just didn't know how to take it, I was twenty seven I think. I just went out of my mind, got into a really nasty bar fight and almost got put in a Mexican prison. That incident, and the fact I'm evolved is why I'm here. I'm damaged goods to a few jerk-offs way high on, it's not bad enough I'm supposedly emotionally unstable. No I had to be a freak too, so if I come here and I fail nobody gets hurt. They cut me, and I go back to wearing a uniform every day and suffering in some dead in post listening to pirates off the Ivory Coast. I am, entirely disposable you understand?"

Accepting beer into hand, Teo is pleasantly reminded that his hands aren't cold when they contact the water-beaded bottle. He opens this one on his own, bracing cap against the edge of table, knocking it down with a hand before taking a swing. The drink goes down noisy in his own ears, but not loud enough to drown out the painful notions that Christian is articulating. And they are, that. Unhappy to think about, almost uncomfortable to share. His fingers curl against the soaked-through bottle label, nails finding purchase somewhere in the wrinkle of paper and waterproof adhesive.

"You don't have to stay, do you?" he asks, after a moment. "You never talk about your job as if you like it and it seems like it's fucked up your head pretty good over the years. You know enough about bikes to make a living doing something with that. Unless it's— the money. I don't know. Tell me to shut up if it's prying, but…" Seized by the desire to do something with his hands, he stabs himself a final stray fragment of pork. "I didn't think they had anything on you, so to speak."

Did they have anything on him, oi. "No, they don't have jack fucking shit on me. If I quit though, if I fold then they get to paint everyone else with the brush. They get to say 'Oh those evolved, they're all fucking quitters.' No, I can't give them that. This is the militarized variation of civil disobedience, I can piss them off by doing my job well. " He rolls his shoulders.

"I don't need the money, I don't get paid much. If I went civilian I'd make more than twice as much, I could live anywhere in the country. Aside from the aforementioned issue, there's also that whole duty. I'm in a good place to make a difference, to defend my country against enemies foreign and domestic. If I cant do this Teo, then all of this. Every fucked up day in a third world shithole, is all for nothing."

"I guess I can understand that," Teo says after he's had a short time to think about it. "Join things to do something miserable. It's what you know. I guess, if you ever feel like trying something different," terrorism, freedom-fighting, "either you'll find it or it'll find you." He slumps slightly in his chair, shoes draging their toes noisily against the grain of concrete. "It's good you stand for something. Takes stones that a lot of people don't have, I think.

"Even if you don't like it. Teaching is that way with me." Yep. Teaching is that way with him. Fuck. "I like to think that it means something, that you know you have other options." Don't they all? It's occurred to Teo before, more frequently now. This isn't where he should be. When he exhales, his breath shows translucent white in the air and he sits back against the lawn chair, his shoulders bending against its plastic embrace. Vaguely, he wishes he hadn't drank so much; he'll have to wait until sobriety finds him before he makes any serious moves toward the revelations he's been considering sharing with Conrad.

Teo runs blunt fingernails down his jaw hard enough to make him blink once, hard. "You should take her down the shoreline. Your date," he clarifies, with a bit difficulty that comes of burping; he hammers himself in the chest to finish that off. "Air's cleaner, she won't end up with a patina of New York City's gaseous offal down her front. And she might like the view, and going really fast."

"You have the most important job of anyone I've met in my life, Teo. I respect you as a man for doing it. I don't know 'bout this chick, I think we'll do Chinese and just see where we go from there. I'd thought about the shoreline, but I don't know." He shrugs, uncomfortable suddenly. "Women are scary," he concludes finally. "So you wanna stay here tonight? I got a really awesome couch." Chris slept in a sleeping bag, on an old camping cot. He still didn't like the feel of a proper mattress.

When Teo sleeps on couches, he tends to roll off and onto the floor. He likes sleeping on the floor well enough, though. Sitting on it, too. At least, until his ass or neck start cramping up from odd angles and the stability of it begins to conflict with whatever fundamental inclinations have always compelled him to head to sea. "People are scary," Teo mumbles, correcting.

He could be referring to the fact that he was recently almost blown up in a school. He is referring, instead, to the fact that Alexander bugs his shit as much if not more than any woman ever had before. "Yeah, I'd like to stay. I don't think the buses are running anymore and I think if I take off across Manhattan now, I'm pretty fuckin' likely to end up in a bar-fight or hazing freshmen somewhere." A quaver-beat's pause, and his eyes shift, playfully furtive, and furtively hopeful. "Unless you wanna go do that..?" It could be fun. His conscience would nag him to death about it later, but he is overconfident in proximity to death these days.

Christian snags an empty beer bottle as he rises. "Naw. I'm too old for that sort've foolishness. Now, young man, get on your boots and lets get downstairs. My ass is freezin', and I want a cigar and some pie. "he pours the ice and water from his cooler onto the fire, before he slowly continues towards the door. "wanna see the Ural stuff I already got, it's pretty wicked. Two wheel drive sidecar hack, machine gun mount!"

Foolishness? It isn't… It is, Teo acknowledges with an appropriately juvenile grimace, that makes him actually look his age for the first time in a little while. He's pathologically foolish, really. His two new roommates have made a terrible mistake. "'Chine guns are cool, amico," he acknowledges, dragging his corpus upright and after the older man, running four steps to catch up. "Wait— slow down, rallantare," he says, beer crashing noisily inside bottle to herald his approach. "Here."

Abruptly, two densely-clad arms appear around Christian's mammothian shoulders, squeezing with all the effervescent gratitude and affection of someone who got stuffed so fat with food that they want you to drag them the distance to the stairs before they're willing to walk on their own power. "Happy Turkey Day, Christian."

Hugs are— new. Chris tightens for a moment, before wrapping his arms around Teo in a return hug. A good squeeze, before he eases up. More comfortable now, it seems. "Happy Thanksgiving Teo, I'm glad you came. Now come on, you're missing out on pie." Chris steps back, smiling ever so softly. "And yes, you wanna meet my old girlfriend?"


[OOC] Christian says, "Only his is covered with paint from like 9 different spraypaint camo jobs. It's all chipped, scratched and worn down to the metal in places. Very hard use."
[OOC] Christian says, "And her name, is Florence."
[OOC] Christian says, "And we can assume there's like, a Hello Kitty sticker on there."

November 27th: Return To Sender

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 27th: Said The Spider To The Fly
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