2022 Shitbox Rally - Out of This World! (Stage 14)

2022 - The Inaugural Shitbox Rally

A race across a continent is difficult enough, some would say. Language barriers, weird road signs, different traffic laws, legally crossing borders, foreign food that you’ve never heard about, and trying to find lodging in a nation that, half the time, barely understands your native language.

Doing that same race across a continent in a proper shitbox takes things up a notch. Not just do you have all the aforementioned problems from the land you’re going through, but now you have unreliable engines, rust-holes the size of small planets, crunchy gearboxes, seats that needed to be replaced 50,000 miles and four owners ago, and a myriad of issues yet to show their ugly heads.

But, this is no mere ordinary shitbox race across a continent. Prepare yourselves for poor fuel, terrible roads, camping in the woods, driving several thousand miles on rough dirt roads and over cobblestone streets. This is the 2022 Shitbox Rally: Nevada to Crugandr and Back!



Rules:

For the Car:

Game Engine: 4.27 (Open Alpha/Beta)
Model/Trim year: 1970 to 2009 (These are, after all, shitboxes.)
Maximum Cost: 30,000 AMU (Covers all the bases. Is it an old classic that’s rusted to shit, or newfangled techno-trash with computers about to go nuts?)
Reliability: Must NOT be 0.
Offroad: At least 20.
Drivability: At least 10.
Comfort: Must NOT be 0.
Seating: Enough for each member of your team!
Tires: No Chunky Offroad, No Semi-Slicks
Drive Type: Any.
Engine Position: Front or Rear.

For the Engine:

Variant year: 1970 to 2009, does not have to match the car. (Example: a 1972 car with a 1994 engine would be allowed.)
Fuel: Low Quality Unleaded. (I’m simulating running on Kerosene, or equivalent low-octane fuel.)
Catalytic converter required on all engines made after 1973.
No Turbochargers. (I know, turbos are all the rage and a lot of fun right now, but I’ve seen a few challenges get delayed by turbo updates. Plus, do you really want to turbocharge something running on Low Quality gas?)
No Race Parts. (Remember, the roads will be mostly dirt and gravel, and repairs will be, shall we say, a bit primitive.)

For the Team:

You will, obviously, need a team name.
Number of Characters: A minimum of 2, a maximum of 5 6.
Characters may share/overlap roles, but you need, as a minimum, a Driver and a Navigator.
This is a Stage Rally, so we’ll be making camp between runs. However, a stage will be anywhere from a little under 2 hours and 30 minutes to potentially more than 12 hours, depending on your cars and the winds of fate.

Role-playing is highly encouraged. While it won’t affect your stats, I’m more likely to mention your vehicle if you’re participating in the story and not just watching numbers.



So, how exactly is this going to work?

Here’s the thing: I don’t have some secret formula to turn your cars into shitboxes. I’ve given you a good price point to work within, a decent spread of years to build in, even some basic rules and suggestions to get you closer to your goal. How do you make your car shit? With story. Maybe that 2009 sedan is an ex-taxi and is nearly up to 500,000 miles, and the back-seat smells like a crime scene. Maybe the 1970 coupe your team found is something literally dragged out of the weeds, wrenched on for a few days by some buddies with the promise of beers and an adventure if they helped out. Maybe that 1990 station wagon is just an unpopular trim that no one wanted, so your team got it stupid cheap because it has the three speed slushbox and an interior that smells like an old gym sock.

What I do have is a phone full of writing notes for the fictional world you’ll be driving through. I also have a very, very basic spreadsheet and will be using a random number generator to add a little randomness to the numbers. Don’t worry, while you could be slowed down, you could also be given a significant speed boost. I’ll be rolling for random numbers between 7 and 13, and they’ll decide your speed.

What about failures?

Ah, that’s the fun part. If your random number roll comes up as 7, 8, or 9, you’ve had a failure. I’ll roll a random number (1, 2, 3, or 4) and let you know that something broke. Your team is always able to fix their car, so you’ll never be out completely, but it cost your team a little time making a roadside repair, or back-tracking because your navigator said “left” when they meant “right,” or got stuck in a ditch and had to get out of it. It’s merely an explanation for the lost time below a “perfect” stage for your car.

An example of the process:

I roll to see how fast you’re going to go, and you end up below 10, so you’re slowed down from a perfect stage. I roll an additional random number, and the number lets me give you some flavor text to work with. 1 will always be a Powertrain failure. 2 will always be a Chassis failure. 3 will always involve your tires. 4 is a General failure.

Some examples for those who may need some inspiration:

Powertrain: Engine, Transmission, Differential, Half-shafts (if applicable), Transfer Case (if applicable).

Chassis: Electrical system, Suspension, Brakes, Fuel Tank, Fuel Pump, Lights, Interior, Cargo Ejection.

Tires: Burst tire, Slow leak, Bent rim, Loose lug nuts, Ejected spare, Mud caked in rim.

General: Followed the wrong road, Drove into a ditch, Just driving slowly, Sank the car in mud, Many bathroom stops, Map upside down, Fell asleep, Gathering supplies.

Why? Because I like the idea that all you can lose here is time if you have a failure. Also, by leaving it open as to what failed, you get to write the problem. Maybe, if the Powertrain failed, it was that damn clutch slipping again. Or, the engine has a rod knock and you’re doing a field repair and hoping for the best. Or maybe the differential popped, so you’re welding it back together and hoping it holds up.

Plus, you’re in a world where magic does exist. Sure, you might have to tear the engine down to the bare block and a pile of parts, but someone can just wave a wand and the crankshaft and bad rod bearings will be as good as new again. Or, at least new enough to maybe keep running.

Now, what about pacing?

As I want to encourage role-play more than watching numbers get bigger, the pace at which cars travel is not exactly fast. The stages are configured to be a little time consuming and some are quite difficult, numerically speaking, to get through. Expect that your car will finish each stage, but your team will spend many, many hours driving. The way this will be determined is, again, by random number generation. Most stages are a touch over 350 miles, and I’ll mention your average speed (in Miles Per Hour) in each update. There are a few short stages (roughly half the distance of the standard stage) that should go relatively quickly, at least by comparison. Some may recognize this format as being similar to VicVictory’s Roulette Runner. Honestly, I chose the stage rally format because it’s easier to do the math for, at least for me.

How will I do a stage?

I will post an entire stage at once. Then, after the numbers are up, I will encourage open role-play during the campsite time. Feel free to post both your “During the Stage” segments and your “At the Camp” segments, I’ll enjoy reading both.

How about help?

Well, it’s a stage rally. Each stage ends with a campsite near one of the many towns in Crugandr. Chances are, the other teams will help you out.

What if I need spare parts?

Well, technically, by the rules, any failure is fixable, so you can decide how you got those parts. Did you just so happen to have an extra transmission in your spares? Maybe you traded something from our world to get some help? Perhaps you threw a coin down an old wishing well and got hit in the head by the spare part you just so happened to need? Perhaps your engine exploded, but the local tinker whipped up a perfectly serviceable engine from the remaining good parts and some junk he had laying around?

How are you handling fuel?

Really, I’m not, it’s just for flavor text. But, if you want the long winded version:

Each car is given a fuel tank size based on wheelbase. Refueling takes no additional time out of your stage time and really is just for flavor text. I know, I could easily add a time penalty, but at the length of the stages already, is an extra 5 minutes to refill your tank going to make a big difference? (The answer: Not enough to matter. Seriously, my test vehicles all end up well in the many-hours-of-driving range.)

How will I give a fair fuel capacity for each car? A simple chart.

Wheelbase:
0.1 to 2.19m – 8 Gallon – sub-compacts aren’t known for huge gas tanks
2.2m to 2.49m – 13 Gallon – Your average compact car
2.5m to 2.79m – 15 Gallon – A general midsize, small SUVs.
2.8m to 2.99m – 20 Gallon – Large midsize, small fullsize car, most SUVs, most crossovers
3.0m to 3.29m – 25 Gallon – A big fullsize car or SUV
3.3m and Up – 30 Gallon – Trucks, vans, large SUVs



So, about the world you’ll be driving through.

Crugandr is one of the four major Island Nations in the world of Aetherii. The other three are Vipara, Altherys, and Valraad. Of the four, Crugandr is the largest. It’s a warm climate bordering on hot during the summer, and mild during the winter. We’ll be going through there during the summer, so expect temperatures between 80 degrees Fahrenheit at night and up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit by day. (For those of you who use the Metric system, that’s roughly 26.7 degrees Celsius at night and up to 40.5 degrees Celsius in the day.) Wind is typically mild, thanks to magic users keeping the weather from being too nasty. Rain is common, and will make dirt roads (which a lot of Crugandr is using at this time) into mud, slowing everyone’s progress.

Aetheriian time, however, is a little odd. While an Aetheriian second and an Earth second are both equal, an Aetheriian minute is 80 seconds. An Aetheriian hour is 80 minutes. An Aetheriian day/night cycle is 20 hours, split between 10 hours of day and 10 hours of night. This is known locally as Sun and Moon time (Five-Sun being Noon, and Five-Moon being Midnight, by our terms). This means that an Aetheriian day is 35.56 Earth Hours long, or 1.48 Earth Days. Expect to feel jet lagged early on.

The people of Crugandr are typically human (hence why we’re going through Crugandr and not Valraad, because it’ll be difficult enough for everyone else to deal with my team of misfits, let alone an entire country full of them, and I have Crugandr’s major cities and minor towns at least written out), though a large amount of them have some limited skill in magic. While they can’t repair complex items (such as engines or gearboxes), they might be able to repair the individual parts, provided you can get them back together again afterward. However, the whole world of Aetherii, at this point in time, is stuck somewhere in the Age of Steam. Expect to see steam locomotives (Think smaller British locomotives, not large American ones), the occasional airship, and people riding giant iguanas from place to place. (Yes, that’s right, they don’t have horses, but they do have giant lizards.) Occasionally, there may be a wagon pulled by lizards on the road. You won’t earn yourself any favors if you run into it, so please don’t.

There are 8 major kingdoms in Crugandr. Jaduvira, Samiraie, Aiyeri, Trugarde, Miravall, Andavala, Tapari, and Avenara. Of these 8 major cities, Aiyeri and Andavala will not be visited, as one is only accessible by a sea port (Aiyeri) and the other is up a one lane road at the summit of a small mountain (Andavala).

Our route will be from the portal at the docks in Jaduvira, through Samiraie and Trugarde, and ending in Tapari, where we’ll drive, once more, through another portal to return home.

Sadly, this means we won’t be able to go to Avenara or Miravall in this run, they’re both off the path.

For the mile-counters, this challenge will cover 5683.2 miles, on roads mostly made of cobblestone, gravel, and dirt.

Obviously, as this is a stage rally, after every few hundred miles, we’ll be stopping.

(Don’t worry too much on the time thing, I’ll be running this challenge with normal Earth time. Mostly because I haven’t figured out how to bend OpenOffice into letting me make a custom time format.)



What will a stage look like? Mind explaining a bit more about the process?

Sure!

For starters, here’s an example stage (covering my team’s arrival at the Desert from their warehouse.


Mojave Desert
Current Weather at Stage Start: 87F (30.5C), Wind 1-5 MPH from the North, Dry
Expected Weather by Stage End: 94F (34.4C), Wind 5-8 MPH from the West, Dry

6:00 AM Local Time

For miles, all you can see is sand, sand, and more sand, occasionally broken up by a cactus here or there. If you listen long enough, the sound of the gently blowing sand scraping past everything in its path sounds eerily like slithering snakes. Or, maybe, those are actually snakes you’re hearing. Other than the highway you arrived on, there’s not much else to see. The sky is clear, not a cloud in sight, with the sun unmercifully beating down on you.

@Madrias: Team Shift Happens
Distance Traveled: 177.6 Miles
Time (Hours:Minutes:Seconds): 3:36:48
Average MPH: 49.2
Refueled: 1 time.
Breakdown: 2 (Chassis)

The drive to the desert is mostly peaceful, although a brief flicker of the lights could be a sign of things to come.


Fairly simple. A location name, a weather report, the current time using the local time unit, a description of the area (potentially more detailed than this one, as the Mojave Desert is, well, quite empty), and then your team-relevant information. This will have your username (to get your attention), your Team Name, the distance traveled in this stage (this was an example of a short stage), your time to finish that stage, the average speed in MPH, how many times you refueled while on the road, and whether or not you had a breakdown.

Then there’s some flavor text, in this case letting me know that a chassis failure happened, causing the lights to flicker for a moment. This could easily have been a weird rattle from the car, a hiccup in the engine, or a slight unexpected wobble in the steering wheel. It’s just flavor text, though, and what actually failed is 100% up to you.



How to enter:

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10 Likes

This sounds like an awesome challenge! I’m so in.

1 Like

One more thing: Will you allow the use of advanced trim settings, or indeed tuning for any RON other than 85?

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This seems like an awesome idea, but it does seem a bit redundant with the Frunia to Archana run. Is this intended to run at the same time?

2 Likes

@abg7 I’d really prefer if people didn’t use advanced trim settings. I’m aware that it shouldn’t affect the calculations, and I’m not testing in BeamNG, so I’m not going to be looking for it, but try to be realistic if you’re going to use it. If I see a hatchback on monster truck tires, I’m not going to be happy.

As for fuel, low-quality unleaded is mandatory. I’m sorry, but that’s the one limitation I won’t back away from.

@Edsel I know it seems a bit redundant. It will run while the 2016 Fruinia to Archana run is also running, but I don’t really think it should clash too hard with it. I know both are role-play heavy challenges, so it could be an issue for some people. I’m confident in my ability to handle both being active in '16 Fruinia to Archana and also maintaining my own challenge.

To put it in layman’s terms, the slowest part of this challenge will be waiting on me to write each bit of story and description. The spreadsheet already exists and rolling random numbers will only take a few minutes at worst.

3 Likes

How do which car stats affect e.g. pace or breakdown chance? Or is it all just RNG and RP?

And is there a sketch of a map or something to have a basic idea about the shape of the world and the route?

3 Likes

Unfortunately, no, I don’t have a map sketch (not an artistic bone in my body, sadly), but I’ll do my best to describe the world in writing.

Pace is determined by a calculation, different for each stage, taking the four stats mentioned in the rules, multiplying some of them based on which ones are most important for that stage, and dividing the sum by an arbitrary number used to set stage difficulty. Random number generation will be used to determine how quickly you get through a stage compared to the “ideal” time the calculation spits out. The number I roll is from 7 to 13. This becomes 0.7 to 1.3 in the calculation, and affects your total time by being a multiplier. Anything below 10 (1.0) will get a roll for flavor text, to aid in RP, as to why you were slower.

Thanks - so a tad more details about those four stats would be nice to add to the ruleset. And do the teams know the route in advance? Is there more than one route for certain stages to take (e.g. a long winding route on a proper road vs. a more hazardous offroad shortcut)?

For the map (probably more for your long-term project than this challenge) - have you checked out free online fantasy map generators? I had worked with one as a crutch to convert the Autoverse map to a crude heightmap to import into TPF2 to kickstart my gameworld creating, so I know these map generators are quite powerful and look to be easy to use.

1 Like

Basically, the only detail on those four stats (reliability, drivability, offroad, and comfort) is that higher is better, and they can’t be 0.

The teams in story will get a hand-drawn map from Rukari, who has actually been there, so they’ll know the route in advance. Each stage ends outside a town, city, or village, where everyone meets up for the night. I’d love to have more than one route, but for my first run at this, we’re all taking the same trail. Now, if your time is faster than others, or slower than others, there’s nothing saying you didn’t take an alternative path.

I didn’t even know map generators existed, let alone free ones. I might have to check that out.

Aye, thx for this clarification.

If this came a bit later I’d really want to do it, but right now I’m not sure I’ll be able to do a 2nd nearly identical roleplay challenges, at least on my own…

1 Like

No problem. If you find someone to team-split with, or you change your mind, feel free to join in.

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Can you make it just variant, as most 70s cars had older engines.

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Sure, I can do that.

And, change complete. That was my bad, not thinking about 70’s cars having older engines and just getting a refresh now and then.

1 Like

Is there a limit for wheelbases or body types?

1 Like

Not really. I don’t have any of the open wheelers installed, but they’re not really in the spirit of this challenge, anyway.

Do you have any suggestions of fixtures I should add to my car to make it more off road oriented, and the links to mods in the Steam Workshop? Thanks.

1 Like

I haven’t used this one much, but it says “offroad” in the name, and it’s one of the modular kits like the modular headlights, so it should be good.

I can’t remember if it’s Drift’s Mod Pack or Drift’s Mod Pack 2 that has roof racks in it, but having extra cargo space is always good.

There’s a few good bumper stickers in this one.

As for other suggestions, well… I’ll get my team post up soon enough. It might help. But, I’d advise using some extra lights to make light-bars, pack in some fuel canisters, spare tires, lengthen some basic antennas into something that looks like CB aerials.

Don’t worry if you don’t want to go crazy with it, completely normal cars are fine, too.

2 Likes

Team Shift Happens



Notes: Ages given in native years (Earth years). All ages are rounded to the nearest whole number. For reference, all characters, despite their age, are middle-aged for their kind. These guys haven’t aged since the 2016 challenge because of three reasons: One, I forgot to make them younger for 2016, and Two, they have a ship capable of faster-than-light travel, and Three, Rukari can walk the Rift (a gateway between worlds and universes, in layman’s terms), which means he can technically time-travel the team anywhere and any-when he wants.


Driver / Mechanic:
Rukari Khakrin-Veldrothan
-Race: Aetheriian Tiger Valraadi
-Age: 97 (148)
-Appearance: 7 feet, 9 inches tall (top of his head, 8 feet flat to the top of his horns), 450 pounds of muscle, has a tail as long as he is tall tipped with black, venomous quills, dark gray fur, black stripes, black lion’s mane, black ear-tufts, demon-like rearward-curved horns on his head, orange feline eyes, and the general appearance of a bipedal walking tiger demon.
-Past experience: An offroad junkyard rally (2016 Krongrad or Bust), A junkyard circuit race (24 hours of clunkers) and his time as Grundzahiri Vyrzadoburi (literally translated: “ground warriors” and “Violent Walkers of Death” in his native language. Think of them as special forces.)

The one responsible for picking out the car again, Rukari ended up earning his role as driver again for picking yet another stick-shift vehicle. As the literal son of the Valraadi Empress and as a member of the Grundzahiri Vyrzadoburi, he knows Crugandr almost as much as his homeland of Valraad.

With a little experience off-roading in Earth cars, he’s as comfortable as he’s going to get with the half-van, half-truck Bricksley Highwayman. He took a few lessons in preventative maintenance from Kaylie, so he’s hoping that this time, he won’t break the car.


Mechanic / Radio Operator:
Kaylie Lynn Grayson
-Race: Panthirian Tigrilan
-Age: 69 (102)
-Appearance: 6 feet, 5 inches tall, 175 pounds, athletic, with snow white fur and black stripes, a shiny chrome mechanical left arm with black painted stripes matching her natural pattern, and blue eyes, with the general appearance of a bipedal walking tigress.
-Past Experience: An off-road junkyard rally (2016 Krongrad or Bust), junkyard circuit race (24 hours of clunkers) and a junkyard road rally (Once More), alongside her time as a starship mechanic.

Kaylie’s had a few crash courses in maintaining internal-combustion cars, and she’s more confident than she used to be about fixing them. She doesn’t let her injury hold her back, having adapted remarkably well to her mechanical left arm, so much so that she’s nearly ambidextrous at this point.

While she’s not exactly glad that Rukari picked something the size of a cargo shuttle, she is glad that it’s something simple again. A nice Bricksley 427ci V8 with twin 4-barrel carburetors, and a 5 speed manual gearbox. The transfer case, however, is something new to her. Her well-worn copy of Carburetors for Dummies will likely get plenty of use again. She’s the one who insisted on having 4 CB radios installed so she could listen to several different drivers at once, even though only one of the team is capable of holding two conversations at once.


Field Medic / Radio Operator:
Kayden John Grayson
-Race: Panthirian Tigrilan
-Age: 69 (102)
-Appearance: 7 feet, 8 inches tall, 415 pounds of muscle, snow white fur and black stripes, blue eyes, and the general appearance of a bipedal walking tiger.
-Past Experience: A junkyard off-road rally, a junkyard circuit race and a junkyard road rally, plus his training as a Panthirian Warrior.

Kayden got a crash course in healing during the Krongrad or Bust rally, keeping up with not just Rukari’s surprisingly-destructive blood, but also several other minor injuries along the way. Rukari’s dark blue blood eats through chrome plated steel in a matter of seconds (technically, it rusts it very quickly), and as Kayden found out, it stains everything else a particularly hard-to-hide shade of cobalt blue. Of course, he also learned a bit about healing humans along the way, so if he can help it, there will be no deaths.

When he’s not busy trying to keep Rukari from rusting holes in their car or dealing with any other minor injuries, Kayden is going to be helping his sister with the radios.


Navigator / Driver:
Kivenaal Khakrin-Marinseien
-Race: Aetheriian Valraadi Mutant (Post Fall-of-Aetherii)
-Age: 40 (61)
-Appearance: 8 feet, 3 inches tall, 500 pounds of muscle, with two tails as long as he is tall, tipped with black, non-venomous quills, black fur, dark red stripes, black lion’s mane, no ear-tufts, demon-like rearward-curved horns on his head, vivid purple feline eyes, four arms, and the general appearance of a bipedal walking tiger demon.
-Past Experience: Survived his ship crashing to Earth in Alaska, three-time pistol champion with single-action revolvers, drives a lifted, off-road-converted muscle car with a 4-speed manual gearbox.

Kivenaal is Rukari’s adopted brother. As the Valraadii share no belief in half-siblings, you either are or you are not related, the span of years between them matters little. As far as Rukari is concerned, Kivenaal shares the bloodline of their father, even if he is quite far removed from said bloodline. Kivenaal witnessed the Fall-of-Aetherii during the Third (and final) War of Magic, and was actually captured by others of his kind to save his bloodline. To preserve him until the Valraadii had a new homeworld, Kivenaal was put into cryogenic suspension. Unfortunately, the ship he was on suffered a malfunction and crashed into Alaska, where it was found many years later. Kivenaal was revived, and quickly adapted to Earth society.

He’s very fond of revolvers, and because of his four arms, he can wield four of them at once. Amusingly enough, he’s trained at doing this enough that he can, in fact, fire all four of them rather accurately.

Like Rukari, Kivenaal has twin hearts and blue blood that rapidly oxidizes metals. He’s here because he won a challenge against Malavera regarding how many rattles they could each shoot off of rattlesnakes in one day. Malavera managed five. Kivenaal, on the other hand, managed 13.


Warlock / Field Repair Specialist:
Jayde Malradi
-Race: Aetheriian Leoni
-Age: 35 (53)
-Appearance: 8 feet, 5 inches tall, 375 pounds, heavy athletic, with dark brown fur, black mane, tail tuft, and ‘beard’, calm green feline eyes, a mechanical left leg starting mid thigh made from blackened boiler steel, brass, and wood accents, with the general appearance of a bipedal walking lion. Walks with a black walnut staff both for magic use and support. Has a really nasty looking bite scar on his left shoulder and a rather rough and ragged looking scar from his right cheek to his right temple, crossing his eye but not blinding him.
-Past Experience: Trained in magic at Tendragon Academy in Altherys, also trained with a Vipiri Storm-Rattler to focus his very-strong lightning magic. Went through Crugandr not long ago. Trained a little at Kamwerth Academy of the Arcane in Crugandr. Fought in the airship battle at Aray Bay, where he lost his left leg and got the nasty scar over his right eye.

Jayde stepped through the portal during the starting party before Rukari could get it open, and upon seeing the adventure unfolding in front of him, decided to join in. If he knew where they were going, however, he wouldn’t have joined them, as Crugandr was not a fun experience for him. He’s skilled with magic, and he’s been through quite a lot, so not much bothers him.

Navigator / Driver / Event Organizer:
Malavera Caller-of-the-Moons
-Race: Orthrian Khalan
-Age: 51 (357)
-Appearance: 7 feet, 11 inches tall (8 feet, 1 inch to the top of his ears), 500 pounds of broad-shouldered, twin-headed muscle, with pure white fur, cold amber eyes, and the general appearance of a two-headed, bipedal werewolf.
-Past Experience: Not crashing his moon-sized starship, “Forsaken Sky,” on the way to Earth, the 2016 Krongrad-or-Bust offroad rally

Malavera returns as Team Shift Happens’ two-headed navigator, having gained some practical experience in reading maps and using the GPS from the last run. However, where they’re going, there is no GPS. Only maps. And another world with, in his opinion, not enough gravity.

This time, Malavera has learned enough about driving a manual gearbox that he can manage as a driver if (when) Rukari or Kivenaal needs a break. And, much like before, he is an exile from his home planet, not generally friendly or outgoing, though he found out it’s not in his nature to leave someone stranded should they require help. He dislikes having his name shortened, but generally, it’s far safer to call him “Mal” than it is to call him “Vera.” The last person who called him Vera found out what it’s like to be kicked by someone who normally lives on a world with 3.5x Earth Gravity.

As the Event Organizer, however, he’s also the one responsible for making sure all teams are following the rules leading up to the event, and he’s also there to help last-minute arrivals with their registration forms. In the event that teams need legal forms filled out, Malavera will see to it that all of the appropriate paperwork has been filled and dated two weeks ago and passed the review.

As for where his cat, Spots is? Well, he’s being watched by the twins’ older brother, Jaden, who owed Malavera a big favor. Everyone agreed that while he was great for morale, they just didn’t want that much cat lounging around near the van. Truck. Whatever you call this thing.


The Car:

A 1970 Bricksley Highwayman Custom 427ci

In the 1970’s, Bricksley had noticed a growing trend of people buying pickup trucks, and also a trend of people buying vans. Naturally, they wanted in on that market, like any good American company would. They started with the Highwayman van, cut it just behind the rear set of passenger doors, and welded up a new cab end to close it all back up. Then, a pickup bed was bolted onto the rest of the van’s frame, giving it a rather… unique look.

They sold well at first, being one of the first examples of what we know today as a luxury pickup truck. Luxurious leather seats, powerful engine, good AM radio with a 45 RPM record player, plenty of room in the back seat, 4x4 as standard equipment from the factory, and power windows.

Unfortunately, it became painfully obvious that while the Highwayman certainly could do the job of a proper truck, the looks were a problem. It was a classic, “Either you love it, or you hate it” situation, and unfortunately, most people didn’t really love it.

It faced a strong opposition from people who wanted luxury vans, partially because of the lack of a back row, partially because the rear bench seat wasn’t quite big enough for some people, and partially because not having a large, enclosed back end meant it wasn’t quite the perfect shag van.

Likewise, it faced strong opposition from the truck guys as well, as people who wanted a work truck didn’t want the leather seats, as that was one more thing to worry about getting torn up or filthy. The plush carpeting absorbed mud and oil like nothing else, turning horrible in a matter of a few days at the job site. And, of course, it was built as a van first, which meant all the things that make a truck good came second to the things that make vans good.

This particular example was purchased for the cost of three bottles of high-proof moonshine. Where did it come from? The local trailer park.

The interior smells terrible. Someone clearly lived the party life in it, as there are many stains in the carpet. The driver’s seat is a little bit worn out, and the engine barely ran when Rukari showed up with it.

Modifications done:

Roof Rack (loaded with 20 5-gallon jugs of water)
Toolbox (Contains Metric and American wrenches, sockets, extensions, a breaker bar, a battery-powered reciprocating saw, and a battery powered angle grinder. Also, 12-volt cigarette-lighter-powered battery charger for the tools. Plus, one lunchbox full of miscellaneous license plates, one high-power railgun owned by Malavera, and 4 MP5-K submachine guns owned by Kivenaal)
Small push bar in front of bumper (For helping our friends?)
Off-road light bar with loudspeakers (To help us see in the dark, and to yell at other people in languages they don’t understand.)
Exhaust pipes in front of rear axle (because burning mud smells terrible, and the van already stinks.)
Twin four-barrel carburetors for proper fuel delivery.
Retuned the engine for kerosene because it had been tuned by an idiot before.
Ceiling pod with speakers and Kaylie’s custom-built Communications Center. (Contains: Public Address system, 4 CB radios, Signal Booster, Aux In jack, Microphone selector switch (PA, Radio A/B/C/D, Broadcast on ABCD), Equalizer, Phonograph pass-through to PA, Aux In pass-through to PA, Status Light Panel, Retracting cable for microphone.)
Air fresheners (because the truck reeks!)

Cargo:

Five leather tents in round containers
Two spare tires (One in bed, one in traditional mount under truck bed)
Two wooden cases carrying 6 bottles each of 190-proof lemon moonshine (12 bottles of the good stuff)
24 5-gallon cans of kerosene (because our fuel efficiency SUCKS!)


(Yeah, the interior shot I took with the revised one came out blurry. Not sure why that’s happening. Seriously, this wasn’t a problem a few updates ago.)



The Story:

Unlike my usual ones where reading it is optional, this will contain some information regarding the backstory of how this event was setup. Reading is still 100% optional, but recommended so that you get all the back-story behind this little bundle of mayhem.

Also unlike my usual introductions, I’m going to have to put the team’s background story in another post. Who else knew the forum had a 32,000 character limit? I’m nearly a thousand over that without breaking this up a bit!



Pre-Revision Photos

Goodbye, Five-Seat Bricksley, you won’t be missed much.







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Team Shift Happens

Team Information



The Story:

Midnight Local Time, Forsaken Sky, In Orbit around Earth

Malavera sighed, seeing Rukari and his adopted half-brother, Kivenaal, making another trip down to the shuttle bay. “And where are the two of you going?” Malavera asked, looking up from his laptop with both heads.

Kivenaal grinned, his black fur and red stripes shining in the artificial light, another Valraadi just having too much fun causing some chaos. “Rukari has an idea for something fun to do, I’m helping him out,” Kivenaal replied.

“Kiva, this plan doesn’t involve the pair of you scaring little old ladies in church again, does it? You two keep that up, you’re going to get far worse than doused in holy water again,” Malavera said.

“No, we plan to set up road rally,” Rukari said, chuckling. “Start in Nevada, the big desert, go somewhere, and return to the desert to finish.”

Malavera looked impressed for a moment. “I remember the last one was fun. Fine, go ahead and do it. But don’t break any laws getting things set up.”

As Rukari and Kiva vanished into the shuttle bay, Kayden and Kaylie wandered in. “What was all that about?” Kayden asked.

“Those two, apparently, are setting up a road rally,” Malavera replied. “So, Kaylie, if you’d make the registration forms, I’ll see to making sure they get distributed to interested parties.”

“That’s just a fancy way of saying you’re going to hack the planet again, isn’t it?” Kaylie said, putting her chrome left hand on her hip.

“If it works,” Malavera said, “then yes, I will do it again.”


4 AM Local Time, Nevada, Mojave Desert.

“You think this is going to work?” Kiva asked.

“Will be like how I arrived,” Rukari replied. “Just need to make a bigger gate.”

“So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Rukari, but Earth isn’t exactly… Magical. I mean, sure, I can command fire to some extent, and I can make water explode, but I can’t open portals,” Kiva said.

“Yes, but I can open portals. I need your help only in energy at this side,” Rukari mentioned with a smile. “Two can do the work of one, long as one knows how to do this.”

Kiva sighed. “Then, let’s get started,” he said.

Within the hour, Rukari had assembled the basic frame of the portal using mundane materials, mostly PVC plastic piping and a few sandbags to hold it up. The hard part was stretching the reflective, shiny mirror-finished plastic across the huge frame without tearing it, and even that didn’t take long. Rukari smiled, placed a hand on Kiva’s shoulder, and touched the reflective surface with his other hand. The taut plastic rippled like water after a stone had been tossed into it. For a moment, all it did was reflect the emptiness of the Mojave Desert back at them. Then, after fogging up like a mirror in the bathroom, the fog cleared and the two of them stared into another world. Tall green trees, cobblestone streets, wooden and stone buildings with thatched rooftops, with a port full of wooden ships, masts reaching tall into the sky. Then, as Rukari pulled his hand away from the portal frame, it stayed open for a few precious minutes, a glimpse into a world that wasn’t Earth. Then, just like when the portal had been opened, the mirror fogged up, and when it cleared back out, the desert was all they could see.

“Where was that?” Kiva asked.

“Crugandr. Port city of Jaduvira,” Rukari replied.

“Did I really see wooden sailing ships at the docks?”

“Yes,” Rukari said, grinning.

“This is wild,” Kiva said, staring at his reflection in the plastic mirror, where only a few precious minutes before, a whole new world had opened up before his eyes. “And you’re planning on what, racing through there? Through Aetherii long before the Fall?”

“Yes. Will be a grand adventure,” Rukari said.

“So… How do we get started?” Kiva asked. “I mean, I’d love to go with, but Mal’s going to need someone to watch his ship, and you know he’s going to ask me to do that.”

Weh nekasi. Will be no problem,” Rukari said. “Kaylie will write most of invitation, I write some of it. Malavera sends invitation around world to right people.”

With a bit of careful effort, the two of them disassembled their mirror portal, packing everything away carefully. “So, when you do this for a few dozen people, will it be this easy?” Kiva asked.

Neyi. Will need gateway first. Open a portal to Nelehn Ragrund first as road to Crugandr. Just not as impressive as opening portal straight to Crugandr,” Rukari said.

Nelehn Ragrund… Shadow forbidden-ground?” Kiva asked. “That doesn’t sound like something we should be traveling through.”

“Is safe. I walked from there to here. For a time, Nelehn Ragrund was closed to us, forbidden to us. That is where name comes from. Before, was Nehlenraad. Land of Shadows.”

The two of them got back in the shuttle, marked the location on the shuttle’s map to return there, and raced back up to Forsaken Sky.


8:45 AM Local Time, Forsaken Sky.

Kaylie saved the document after a final check to make sure everything looked okay. Inside, she was quite excited about the idea of another road rally, even if she didn’t quite know all the details yet. She knew it was starting in the Mojave Desert, and knew it would end in the Mojave Desert, but the rest of the trip was up to Rukari to plan out.

She smiled, though, as she was the one who had written in that it would be done in old junk. Sure, she had given a good range from 1970 up to 2009, but she’d seen plenty of cars turning into old rust-piles even in that newer range. Plus, fighting electrical gremlins was part of the fun with modern cars. And while she understood how turbochargers were supposed to make cars better, she ended up writing it into the list that turbos were not allowed, mostly because she wanted to enforce a real, proper shit-box experience. No fun turbo kick, no improvement to fuel efficiency or power, just pure boredom.

When Kiva and Rukari returned, she handed the tablet over to Rukari to look over the details.

“Might need to tell people, buy cars that run on crap fuel,” Rukari said, smiling.

“Low quality fuel. Why do I get the feeling this is going to be like 2016 all over again? Shit cars, shit fuel, shit maintenance, and shit roads,” Kaylie said, shaking her head. “I’ll make the adjustment, but wow, we’re going to have to tune whatever we get because no one around here makes anything that runs on something that bad.”

“Hey, Kaylie, I’ve got a possible lead on a car,” Kayden said. “1998 Sinistra Serenade.”

“Take Rukari with you, he might be able to get you a good deal on it. We’ll meet the two of you at the Lair.”


4:34 PM Local Time, a trailer park in Nevada.

Kayden and Rukari both got out of the back of the taxi, looking over at the mess of trailer homes, several of which had some cars that definitely would be good candidates if the Sinistra was worse than they expected. When they saw the Sinistra Serenade, the two of them shared a glance before Kayden said, “You know Mal would kill us if we made him squeeze into a midsize.”

Yi, he would. We get other car,” Rukari said in response. “Like that,” he then added, pointing to a 1970 Bricksley Highwayman.

Kayden stared at the half-van, half-truck hybrid with a look of confusion, then shrugged. “Well, there’s a “For Sale” sign in the window. Let’s go knock on the door,” Kayden said.

Rukari made sure his messenger bag was over his shoulder properly, resting at his left hip while the strap settled over his right shoulder, then followed Kayden up to the door. Kayden knocked and within a few minutes, a balding, half-drunk man stepped into view wearing nothing more than badly-stained heart-printed white boxer shorts. “Yesh?” he slurred, and it took everything Rukari had to not recoil back from the booze fumes on the man’s breath.

“We’re here about truck for sale,” Rukari said, knowing Kayden was holding his breath to avoid inhaling any more high-proof emissions from this man.

“Huh? Oh! Yesh, I have,” the man paused a moment, hiccuped, swayed unsteadily, and belched before continuing, “I have a truck for shale. Can’t drive no more cuz I gots me a ticket fer driving drunk, sho I have to shell it. Tuned it meself to run on heating oil cuz I ain’t pay no road tax on it.”

“What’s the price?” Rukari asked.

“Used to be three-shixty, but,” the man stopped to belch again, and Kayden gave a foul grimace, “I done drank all me beer.”

Rukari saw an opportunity and opened up his bag, pulling out three purple-stained-glass bottles of high-proof Valraadi moonshine. “Drink with care and it may last you good long while,” Rukari said.

“Ne’r sheen bottlesh that color bef’re. What ish it?”

“Moonshine. I make it myself,” Rukari said.

The man smiled, then walked to the wall and grabbed a set of keys, handing them to Rukari. “I’s gonna get drunk tonight!” the man said, grabbing the three bottles and heading back inside.

“Did we just get a truck for three bottles of moonshine?” Kayden asked, glad that the smelly drunk was now inside and the air was clearing.

“Yes, I believe we did,” Rukari said, closing up his messenger bag and going over to check out the truck. He admired the light blue paint with dark blue trim and the nearly-white top of the cab, looked in the bed and was relieved to see that, unlike many of the other vehicles here, it was free of trash, then unlocked the door and climbed into the cab. Kayden got in on the other side and smiled.

“Leather seats. Nice,” Kayden said. “Oh, and they’re actually comfortable. Funny contraption on the dash, though,” he added, flipping the lid open on the dash-mounted phonograph and moving the turntable back and forth with a finger.

“Malavera might know more,” Rukari said, before cranking over the engine. Eight cylinders of aged fury barked to life, and Rukari smiled. “Perfect sound,” he said, before stepping on the clutch, putting the gearbox into first gear, making sure the transfer case was in 2H, and left the trailer park in a hurry.

“So, the Lair, then?” Kayden asked.

“Kaylie did say meet them there,” Rukari answered. “Engine not good, though. No power.”


8:31 PM Local Time, Nevada, a rented warehouse known to the team as “The Lair.”

Kaylie watched as Kayden and Rukari showed up at the Lair not in the expected Sinistra Serenade, but some half-truck, half-van behemoth of a road vehicle. “Is this some kind of joke?” Kaylie asked.

Neyi. Better deal on truck than car,” Rukari said.

“Really? You guys found a better deal than the Sinistra?”

“Three bottles of moonshine. That’s what he paid for this thing,” Kayden said, hopping out of the passenger seat.

There was a quiet clank and clatter from the far corner of the Lair as Malavera set down the pair of heavy diesel crankshafts he’d been using as dumbbells before he walked over to take a look at the truck.

“So, half van, half truck,” Malavera said, walking around the Bricksley. “It’s a Bricksley, at least, so the engine should be fairly reliable.” Malavera looked in through the window, then sighed. “Really, Rukari? You had to get another manual?”

“They got this thing so cheaply that it could have come with a CVT and I wouldn’t care,” Kaylie said.

Malavera grimaced, then took another look. “This thing has four-wheel-drive? Useful. Tires need replacing, though. But I think we can work with this truck.” He smiled as he walked around the back of the truck, inspecting the box. “Very little rust. Not bad for an old Bricksley Highwayman. And, because this has the 427ci full-bore V8, I can tell this is the 1970 model. 1971 got the same block, but cylinder sleeved to 400ci, and 1973, well… Yeah, that was a dark time for Bricksley. Only way to get a Highwayman between 1973 and 1977 was to get the 353ci inline six.”

Rukari shut down the engine, then got out of the truck. Almost immediately after, Malavera climbed up into the cab and looked around. “Okay, this is better than I thought. Leather bench seats and a phonograph, this is the 427ci Custom. Top trim model of the Highwayman. A luxury truck before luxury trucks were ever a thing,” Malavera said.

“And tuned by idiot,” Rukari mentioned. “Engine needs work.”

Kaylie pulled the hood release, reached past Malavera, and cranked over the V8. Immediately, she knew something was just not quite right with the way it sounded. She checked the single four-barrel carburetor and sighed. “She’s not getting enough fuel,” Kaylie said. “And by how easy it started, someone’s absolutely fucked up the timing.”

“So, what does it need?” Kayden asked.

“A dual-carburetor setup would give it enough fuel for it to run on kerosene or heating oil, despite being a spark-ignition engine. Also means I’d be able to fix the timing. Also, what the hell is that smell!?” Kaylie said, glaring at the truck.

“I’m not sure, but given the stains in the carpet, I don’t think we want to know. I think it was a party van at some point,” Kayden replied.

“Right. I’ll go find an intake manifold for a Bricksley Big-Block V8, you go find an air-freshener to kill that stink,” Kaylie replied.


2 days later, 9:01 AM to 10:44 PM, The Lair.

The Bricksley was in a little better shape after two days of basic work. Kaylie’s junkyard twin-four-barrel manifold from a 1977 Bricksley Grand Warden, the 427 Pressurized Dual-Quad trim specifically, fixed the Highwayman’s choked intake and let the fuel flow. A dozen “Peppermint Trees” had been unwrapped and thrown haphazardly around the interior, trying their best to kill the smell. The exhaust system had been cut down and re-routed to dump in front of the rear wheels instead of behind them, in an attempt to reduce the amount of dirt and mud being baked on the exhaust tips. A toolbox had been added to the truck bed after a rather healthy coat of Gecko spray-on truck bed-liner had been applied to the bed.

Now, they faced the real challenge, which was to take their Bricksley Highwayman and turn it from a luxury road-cruiser into a worthy off-roader.

Which meant, of course, everyone had a job to do.

Rukari was building the roof rack out of some bent steel rods and some wooden strips, working quite quickly as Malavera had already bent the rods for Rukari, so all he had to do was weld them together with the oxy-acetylene torch.

Malavera, meanwhile, was fabricating the old-school wooden stake-side bed extension rails out of scrap steel and a couple of broken down pallets for wood. This was less to keep their supplies in the bed and more to act as a convenient tie-down point if they needed to throw more things in the back. He buzzed some of the paint off of the truck’s bed-sides with a wire wheel, welded the uprights to the truck box using two modified welding helmets and the arc welder, drilled the holes, fogged them with Bricksley’s “Bolt-from-the-Blue” paint, and once the paint was dry, bolted on the wooden planks.

Kayden was busy with assembling the do-it-yourself off-road light-bar kit. For the most part, he found it easy, but then there were a few planned deviations he had to work around. Kaylie wanted him to leave off the outer two light pods out of six in favor of some speaker brackets, and that meant he had to redo half of the wiring harness. Things were going well until he decided to test if the lights worked by connecting them to a spare car battery, hitting himself square in the face with all eight off-road lights. After blindly yanking the wire off of the battery, Kayden set his kit back on the table and groaned, trying to rub the spots out of his eyes.

Kaylie, however, had the hardest task of all of them, because she had to make her rear-seat communications center. The ceiling pod was already installed, originally designed to have a space cut out for a 7 inch CRT screen, but instead, Kaylie was using the space to cram in the public address system, four separate CB radios with separate illegal power amplifiers, two large speakers for both audio playback and to hear CB communications, an aux cable port for piping music directly into the PA system, an equalizer for the PA system, a metric crap-ton of switches, and, for good measure and simplifying her use of the system, a six-position selector switch to control which system was hooked into the solitary microphone.

But, by the end of the day, the Bricksley Highwayman now had a functional roof rack, some powerful off-road lights on the roof, a stake-side bed with plenty of cargo room, and Kaylie’s masterpiece of electronic communications equipment.

It was agreed that they’d all get some rest, then get the rest of the supplies in the morning.


30 Days before Shitbox Rally 2022 begins, 9:09 AM, the Lair

That morning, everyone knew what they needed to do. Supplies were the key thing today to get the Bricksley going. Rukari headed out to get the new All-Terrain tires put on, replacing the worn out, cracked, and dry-rotted 1970’s era cross-ply medium road compounds. Sure, they were cheap tires, but given what he knew they’d be going through, all-terrain tires just made sense. After he got new tires, he sat down and drew up a rough map of Crugandr from memory, plotted their course along the roads starting in Jaduvira and ending in Tapari while passing by or through every small town or village along the way, and then used the warehouse copy machine to make several copies.

Malavera finished fabricating the front bumper’s new nudge bar, complete with rubber blocks on it so if they had to use it, they weren’t just going to tear up someone else’s paint. With that done, he started work on the invitations, his fingers flying across the keyboard.

Kivenaal fabricated the radiator-protecting bash bar and front light arrangement, and once he’d finished with that, headed to a military surplus store in order to pick up five tents for the team so that no one had to sleep in the truck.

Kaylie finished wiring up the Communications Center, double-checked Kayden’s wiring for the light-bar and roof speakers, and found 20 white-painted metal canisters to put on the roof as water tanks.

Kayden came back from a quick shopping run with 24 brilliant blue plastic-coated metal canisters designed (and even properly labeled) for carrying kerosene. When Rukari brought the Highwayman back with the new tires on it, plus a new tire on the under-bed spare, and a second spare tossed in the bed, everyone had a collective sigh of relief. After a quick purchase of some tents, a double-check to make sure the twin 15 gallon tanks were working, and Kaylie testing out their communications gear, things were about ready to get exciting.


30 days before Shitbox Rally 2022 begins, 12:00 PM, the Lair.

Malavera smiled as he hit send, mass-mailing his invite to everyone he thought was relevant. People who notoriously ran junkyard bashes. People who had raced against Team Shift Happens or Team Racing Stripes. People who simply had an arrest in their record for illegal street racing.

The message was short (by Malavera’s standards), sweet, and to the point.

February 1, 2022

Some of you may have already heard the rumors of an event on the horizon. Some of you may have never heard of us before, others have faced us head-to-head on tracks, on roads, and in the dirt. This time, we return the favor. Join us, Team Shift Happens, in the Shitbox Rally of 2022.

What will you need? A car, suitable for off-road use, costing your team no more than $2,000. If you’re not from the United States, buy a car for the equivalent of that currency. Modify it, build it up to be able to take on anything. Pack supplies for a long trip. Bring extra fuel, extra water, bring food unless you’re willing to try exotic local cuisine. You’ll need a team of at least two and no more than six people. Make sure someone’s at least competent with reading a map and using a compass, because GPS does not work where you’ll be going. Make sure to bring tents, because while we will be stopping near towns, you may not want to sleep there.

So, what’s with the secrecy, you may ask? Let’s just say that the fun is in not knowing where you’re going. If I told you, you’d know exactly how to build your cars up, and that just wouldn’t be fun, now would it?

If you’re interested, join us on March 4, 2022 at the included coordinates. There, you’ll find our little Shitbox Rally Starting Party. From 0600 hours to 1800 hours (6:00 AM to 6:00 PM for those not versed in 24 hour time), we’ll be celebrating the crazy decision to race in clapped out crap boxes. If you’re not here by 1830 (6:30 PM) and on the starting line, you will miss the start of the race. If that happens, you’ll have exactly 5 minutes to make it past the starting line to join the others, or you will not be competing. We can’t hold the door open forever, so to speak, so be on time.

Your friends and competitors,

Team Shift Happens.
(Malavera Caller-of-the-Moons, Rukari Khakrin-Veldrothan, Kaylie Grayson, Kayden Grayson)

For nearly 4 hours, the internet dragged to a crawl as the message was passed around, as forums and social media sites became flooded with people telling others about the crazy message, as people downloaded programs to disinfect systems that were otherwise clean, and as people tried desperately to find any further clues as to what was going on. People spied on the coordinates, seeing nothing remarkable, just an empty patch of hard packed dirt and sand. Others raided cheap used car websites, often crashing servers from the sudden and unexpected load. Cars that had been up for sale for the last 7 months with no interest suddenly had dozens of inquisitive potential buyers calling at all hours of the day.

Meanwhile, Rukari was busy in his own way, focusing his limited access to magic into making enchanted rings, designed to let the wearers speak the language of the world they would soon be going through. They were relatively plain copper bands, but he hoped by keeping them simple, it would prevent fights over who got the nice ones.

Kayden and Kaylie were busy investigating the big stack of 45 RPM records that Malavera had picked up at some point, curious as to how the sound was captured in the grooves. They found the phonograph absolutely fascinating, listening to various different 70’s, 80’s and even some 90’s hits with the Bricksley’s dashboard-mounted direct-drive turntable.

Team Shift Happens was ready for the race, but for the first time, every single member was nervous. While they’d participated in a few races by now, this was the first time they were hosting one.

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Have you considered using one of the used car calculators that have been en vogue for some of the recent challenges instead of having the - pretty generous - $30,000 allowance to make a shitbox?

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