Project: Phoenix (Neon City Book 3), Chapter 20

Story by Spiders Thrash on SoFurry

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#20 of Project: Phoenix (Neon City 3)

Blargh. I fucked up and posted this as a journal entry instead of a story. Fixed now ... unless I borked it again. My brain seems to be misfiring due to stress and lack of sleep. headdesk

"Keep at it." Jack laughed. "You'll get it eventually."

Poor girl. Taura chuckled despite her effort not to.

Corona paused long enough to stick her tongue out at him before returning her attention to the cuffs and lockpick.

Taura noted the stares from people passing by. She glanced at the pavement and cleared her throat.

"Oh, kinky," a human muttered to another after they'd walked by her and the others. Corona arched a brow ridge.

"That gives me an idea. I should get a collar and a leash for Taura to hold on to while I'm handcuffed." She giggled. "Just to screw with people."

"Hoo, boy." Jack shook his head. "Just what we need when we're on our way to a secluded place we don't want anyone else to find."

"Well, it's something we can keep in mind for another time." Corrie winked. "Just as a goof."

Jack glanced at the sky and chuckled. They continued walking for a few more minutes. Finally, Corona released an irritated growl.

"My hands are just too big for these lockpicks. I can't stop fumbling them before I get them into the locks."

Jack took the key out of his pocket. "I could just take them off, y'know."

"That'd defeat the purpose." Corona shrugged. "Maybe we can ask the three people following us."

What? Taura almost glanced over her shoulder, but stopped herself and tried to find a reflective surface with the proper angle to give her a look at their stalkers.

"They've been a few yards behind us since we left the office. Probably staked it out before we got back from the mission."

"Wonderful," Jack grumbled as he reached under his duster and grasped his gun. He nodded at something ahead and whispered, "Let's lure them into the parking lot behind that store."

Corrie nodded and kept fiddling with the cuffs as she turned the corner and headed for the lot, with the others close behind. Taura crouched beside a parked van. She spotted Corona slipping between the store's rear wall and the trash bin, and Jack rushed around the far corner and took cover.

Three humans, two male and one female, jogged into sight and glanced around.

"Huh," one of the males muttered. "I swear I saw them head this way."

They continued across the parking lot. Once they'd walked past the bin, Corona stood and darted up behind them. She raised her arms, whipped her handcuffs across his throat, braced her right shin between his shoulder blades, and pulled. He let out a raspy scream, tilted backward, and scrabbled at the chain across his neck while Corona kept one knee jammed into his back and maintained her balance on her other foot.

The other two spun around and released startled shrieks.

Taura charged the other male, hooked her left ankle behind his knee, grabbed his right wrist and the front of his shirt, and yanked him off-balance. Jack jumped back into view and aimed his gun at the female.

"Stop right there," he snapped, and all three tried to twist their heads around to stare at him. "Care to explain why you're following us?"

"Easy, easy!" The woman's voice was a terrified, squeaky whisper. "W-we just wanted to ask for your autographs!"

"Are you fucking kidding?" Jack sneered at her. "Stalking us is a great way to get shot."

"We didn't mean to stalk you," one of the males mumbled. "We were just nervous about asking you to sign something for us."

"We've been watching the stream since it began," the other guy said. "We think you guys are awesome."

"Ah. Well, in that case ... let's make sure they're not armed first." Corona laughed softly as Jack shrugged and patted them down. When he stepped back and nodded, Corona released her guy and Jack lowered his gun. "Sorry. You just spooked us."

"Sorry. Didn't mean to." The guy rubbed his throat.

"Next time, contact us through the show's forums or one of the social-media things we use." Jack let out a slow breath. "We were just nearly shot and blown up this afternoon, so we're a little on-edge."

"Sorry. What happened, though?"

"It's related to our job with the Justice Foundation. We can't talk about it."

"Oh. Right. Sorry."

"Well." Corona chuckled. "So, what did you want autographed?"

The woman blushed, shrugged, and aimed a lopsided grin at her. "I'd love it if you could sign my tits!"

Jack stared at her. Corrie giggled.

"Sure, why not?"

"Jesus Christ," Jack said under his breath.

Taura cocked her head. Huh.

The woman slowly reached into a pocket and pulled out a pen. "Here. It's made for writing on skin."

"Okay." Corrie grinned. "Whip that girl out, then."

The woman handed her the pen, lifted her shirt, and tugged her bra up to expose the ... area she wanted signed.

"Jack, hold that steady for me, would you?" Corona glanced at him and snickered. "Come on, these cuffs don't give me much range of motion."

"How about I just take the cuffs off so you can grope her yourself?"

"It'd be faster this way." Corrie giggled again.

"This is too fucked-up," Jack grumbled as he stepped forward and cupped a hand to either side of the woman's left breast. Corrie signed it with a flourish and passed the pen to Taura.

I can never tell which human behaviors are normal and which aren't, anymore. Taura shrugged, scrawled her signature hurriedly, and handed the pen over to Jack.

Corrie held the breast next and grinned as Jack rushed through his own signature. He returned the pen to the woman and frowned at the two men.

"I am not signing your dicks. Or your ass checks."

"Don't worry, we brought something normal to sign." One of them held out a mini-poster and another pen. "Promotional stuff for the show."

Jack signed it and passed it to Corona. Once all three of them had autographed it, he arched an eyebrow at the other guy.

"Um ... here. Heh." He handed over an eight-by-ten of a group shot of all seven of the stream's "stars." They signed it and passed it back, and the guy grinned. "Thanks!"

"Any time." Corona smiled.

Jack strode across the lot to the street and turned the corner. The girls hurried to catch up with him.

"Damn," one of the guys mumbled, "I almost shat myself!"

"At least that was pretty mild compared to most of the weirdness we have to deal with every day." Jack sighed.

Corrie laughed, shrugged, and glanced into the store's window as they passed. She gasped and stopped abruptly.

"Oh! It's a sex-toy store! Might as well see if they have the leash I was talking about." She pushed the door open and ducked through.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Jack snarled. He hesitated, shook his head, and followed her in.

Taura chuckled and squeezed through the doorway after him.

"Don't be a sourpuss," Corrie said as she took a look around.

"I'm just not comfortable being in places like this."

"I thought you were making some progress, but you're still pretty repressed."

"Yeah, well, not too long ago, I was even more repressed." He shrugged and tossed off a lopsided grin. "Small steps, I guess." He raised an eyebrow. "Now that I think about it, maybe we can find you some cheap handcuffs so you won't break any more of the real ones."

Taura smiled and glanced around. Wow. Dildos, dildos, and more dildos. She tugged on her shirt collar and began searching for leashes. The ... devices ... became larger as she walked along the shelves, until finally she found herself staring at an arm. Not a marital aid the size of an arm - an actual silicone arm with a clenched fist.

"Oh," Jack mumbled as his stare caught on the same object, "that shit ain't right."

"If you think that's bad," Corona said, "you should see the price tag."

"No, I shouldn't." He shuddered and moved on.

Taura walked around a human in torn jeans and a wife-beater and continued her search. A set of oddly-shaped objects caught her attention and she cocked her head.

"Huh. What're these?"

Jack glanced at them and grimaced. "Buttplugs."

"And how would you know that?" Corona nudged his shoulder.

"Back when I was delivering pizzas, one night I had a naked guy come to the door with one of those sticking out of his goddamn ass."

"Gyaaah!" Corona shook her head. "Somehow, imagining what that looked like wasn't as funny as I thought it would be."

"I couldn't possibly guess why." Jack snorted, turned to inspect another shelf behind him, and then walked around the end. "Ah, here are some fuzzy handcuffs."

"Do they have any big enough to fit my wrists?"

"Here's one that looks the right size, but they're not padded. I want to find some that won't hurt you."

"Aww." Corona smiled and leaned over to nuzzle him.

Taura glanced at the handcuffs and walked around the end of the next shelf.

Jack sighed. "Y'know, I've never understood the thing with handcuffs and ropes and whatnot. I can't stand being helpless, I just don't get it."

"I trust you, so I'm not worried about it. You might need something to hold me down, anyway, given how ticklish I am."

Taura continued her examination of the shelves, found more items she couldn't identify, and decided she was better off not knowing what the hell they were.

"Well, then," Jack said, rubbing his hands together, "if you insist on keeping this up, I'll investigate every square inch of your body until I find the most ticklish spot."

Corona let out a slow, shaky breath, and rustled her wings.

Taura chuckled and kept looking. Maybe she could find some feathers or something else that would increase the efficiency of said tickling.

"Huh," Corona said. "What the hell's this? It looks like a big, rubbery mouth attached to a tiny vacuum cleaner."

"It's for masturbating." Jack shook his head. "The vacuum-cleaner thing can't be a good idea. What if it malfunctioned?"


"Yeah." He laughed and pointed at the picture on the box. "There's a job I'd never want - posing for the cover photo."

Taura snickered. "Imagine the guy walking down some random street and the pedestrians recognize him."

"Oh, yeah, that'd be unfortunate. When they have someone modeling for pictures like this, they should at least crop the face out of the photo."

"No kidding."

Corona shrugged and plucked a set of padded, fuzzy cuffs off the shelf. "I think this'll do."

"Great. Now, would you please let me take the real cuffs off?"

"Okay, fine." She laughed again as Jack unlocked the cuffs and dropped them into his pocket.

The guy in the wife-beater squeezed past Taura, picked up a set of anal beads, and headed for the front counter.

What. Taura turned back to the shelf. Eh, don't wanna know.

A thumping sound, accompanied by a man grunting, came from behind her. She turned and found a man descending a staircase with a full-size "companion doll" that looked like an anime character in a maid's uniform. It didn't appear to be an actual sexbot. It was more of a doll with limited mobility. He dragged it up to the front counter.

"I'll take this one."

The woman behind the counter gaped at him. "That's a display model. You're supposed to tell us which one you want, and one of us will bring up a packaged one from the storage room."

"Oh. But I already tried it out."

"Wha - oh, for - augh! We've got signs all over the showroom telling people not to touch these!"

He shrugged. "You're gonna give me a discount because it's a display model."

"I'm not giving you anything at all. You're leaving." She pointed at the door.

"Not without this."

"That stays here so we can send it out for a thorough cleaning. You're banned - permanently. Get out or I'll call the cops."

He leaned the doll on the counter and jabbed a finger at the register. "Ring this up!"

"Get out!" The woman picked up the phone - and the guy swatted it out of her hand.

"I'm your customer and you'll do what the hell I tell you to do!"

Jack strode over to him and pulled his badge from his pocket. "Hey, back off, buddy."

The guy whirled on him. "You mind your own fuckin' business or -"

"Or what?" Jack held his ID in front of the guy's face, which caused him to freeze with his wide, crazed eyes aimed straight at the badge. "You've got one chance to leave and never come back. One more word out of you, or if you don't leave by the time I count to three, we'll throw your disgusting ass into jail. One. Two."

Taura and Corona stepped up behind Jack and flexed their muscles. The guy backed up to the door, fumbled for the handle, and pulled it open.

"Three." Jack lunged at him.

The guy let out a squeak and ran down the stairs. He made it almost to the street corner before he tripped and plowed face-first into the pavement.

"Thanks." The woman behind the counter sighed.

"Glad we could help. I kinda take it personally when I see a fuckstain like him bullying employees."

"Well, I'm grateful you were here. Most people won't do anything, they just stand there and watch - including certain members of Management."

"Well, hopefully he won't come back. But if he does, call the police right away. We'll set it up so a log of the call gets sent to us at the Justice Foundation, and we'll pay him a visit if the cops don't take care of him."

"Much appreciated." The woman grinned. "Is there anything I can help you find?"

"Nah, we were just here for this." Corona placed the handcuffs on the counter, having apparently decided not to stick around long enough to find the leash and collar. The woman scanned the cuffs and Corona slid her debit card through the reader. The woman smiled as she bagged the cuffs and handed them over.

"Thanks again. Have a good evening."

"You, too." Smiling, Corona held the door open for Jack and Taura, then followed them out.

Jack chuckled. "I think we're gonna have a good evening, alright."

"We promised not to misbehave in front of Otto and Shakira," Taura said.

"Oh, I almost forgot they were gonna be there." Jack shrugged. "Well, we can have a good evening on the roof, then. Or down in the warehouse."

"That could be interesting." Corona grinned at him. "I bet our moans and screams will really echo in there."

Jack's face turned red. "Uh, that might disturb our guests."

"Ah. Okay, we won't get too wild, then." Corrie winked and put her arm around his shoulders. "We're still gonna have some fun, though."

He grinned and slipped his arm around her waist. "I was thinking about hitting a coffee shop or ice cream stand on the way home, but maybe we should just bypass them and get to the good stuff."

"Well, I could go for some ice cream." She giggled, squeezed his ass, and glanced at Taura. "Dessert first. We can get to the main course later tonight."

Taura took a slow breath to steady herself, tugged on her shirt collar, and increased her pace. "Yummy."

Jack and Corona burst into laughter. When he'd caught his breath, Jack said, "I think we should try to get home before someone asks us to autograph his sack."

Corona laughed explosively.

Gah. Taura chuckled and said, "Where's the nearest ice cream place?"

Jack checked his phone's GPS app. "About five blocks straight ahead." He sighed. "And another seven miles to the warehouse. It didn't seem that far away when we still had a car."

"Hmm. It'd take all evening to get there, and you'd be too tired to have sex." Corona arched a brow ridge. "Taxi, then? We can just have the driver drop us off a couple blocks from our place, so we can still keep the location to ourselves."

He nodded. "Ice cream, then taxi."

She nodded back, maneuvered herself between him and Taura, and put an arm around each. "Sounds like a plan."

"This is nice." Otto sat on the mattress with his feet tucked under him, gazing at the fading sunset. Since the warehouse sat in the middle of a vast, isolated part of the city with few other buildings around it, none of which had any outside lights on, he and Shakira had a clear view of the darkening sky from their spot on the roof. In a few minutes, they would be able to see more stars here than they could have almost anywhere else in the city. The temperature had been a little on the hot side all day, but it had cooled down to a comfortable level, and if the weather forecast was correct, it would remain a tad above room temperature all night.

We could actually spend the whole night here on the roof and not get cold.

"It sure is," Shakira said softly. She sat beside him, propping herself up on her right hand, close to him but still keeping a few inches of space between them. "It's so quiet here. Can't even hear any traffic."

"Yeah. It's hard to find a place in the city that's as peaceful as this. Anything would be a step up from the party Dale's got in the works, but I'm glad we ended up here instead of an empty office or storage room at the Foundation."

"Me, too."

From the corner of his eye he noticed her other hand moving toward him, stopping, and then returning to her leg, as if she didn't know quite what to do with it. Or maybe like she wanted to touch him, but still wasn't comfortable with today's development in their relationship. He wanted to tell her that it was okay, wanted to turn his head and lean over and kiss her, but he didn't think pushing too hard would be a good idea. It was probably best to give her some time to adjust.

She raised her hand again, almost touched his shoulder, and then it veered off and brushed a few of her dreadlocks away from her face.

Guess I should distract her with something that won't sound like it could turn in a romantic direction. "You said something about your uncle Walt earlier today that piqued my curiosity. You said he was one of the weirdest motherfuckers you've ever met." He arched an eyebrow. "Do I even wanna know? He hasn't, like, named a cow Edgar and kept it trapped in a glass-covered hole in his living room floor, or anything like that, has he?"

Shakira burst into laughter and flopped over on her back. "No, not that kind of weird. Nothing psychotic. I've just never been able to figure him out." She raised her let arm, slipped her hand behind her head, and shrugged. "In the text he sent me, he bitched at me about your age, but then he spent just as much time going off on me because you're white. I keep forgetting racism is even a thing, these days. I run into it every now and then, but more often I hear about humans and anthros getting into it, I guess because we're more different from each other than various human ethnicities. I ran into old-school racism a little more often when I was a kid, but not that much anymore."

"I've never understood that kind of thing, anyway - people hating each other just because of their skin color. Just doesn't make any fuckin' sense."

"Yeah. It was really bad around the middle of the previous century, from what I've heard. It kind of gradually faded out over the decades, but I guess there are still a few people who can't let it go. Maybe I've just been lucky and haven't encountered as much of it as other people have."

"At least people seem to be outgrowing it, finally." Otto shrugged. "Or maybe they're just finding other groups of people to hate instead."

"That's probably what it is. I'd like to think we're capable of achieving the kind of future you see on Star Trek, but if we ever do, it'll take a long time."

Otto nodded and then stretched out beside her. He slid his left hand over, found hers, and intertwined his fingers between hers. He lifted her hand up for a moment and smiled.

"Well, I've always liked the contrast in our skin colors." He shrugged and lowered their hands. "I dunno, I just think it looks cool."

"Heh. Yeah, I guess it does." She smiled and then stared up at the sky for a few minutes as the stars gradually became more visible. "Y'know, I can't even remember the last time I sat outside and just looked up at the stars. It's been years."

"This is the first time I've done more than just glance at the sky occasionally. Now I wish I'd actually paid attention to it."

"I was an astronomy nut when I was younger. Always had plans to buy a fancy telescope that I could hook a camera up to and become an astrophotographer." She sighed. "Then everyday life completely derailed me."

"It has a habit of doing that, doesn't it?" Otto glanced at her and smiled. "It's not too late to pick up your hobby again. Maybe sometime we can find a nice telescope and each pay half of the price. Same for a good camera to attach to it. Then we could go outside the city, where there aren't any lights to drown the stars out. I've seen photos of the night sky taken in deserts and similar places, and I couldn't believe how many stars there were. The entire sky was covered with them." He sighed. "I'd love to see that with my own eyes, not just in a photo."

"Me, too." She grinned. "If nothing else, it'd get us away from all the cameras in the house."

"Yeah. And Dale and his alcoholic buddies and their parties."

"Oh, hell. Yeah, that right there is more than enough motivation to give this a try." She laughed.

"We'll have to start making plans, then. Get the telescope and camera, and also some camping equipment. Set up a tent and spend the night way outside the city, just taking in the sky." He grinned and arched an eyebrow. "And fucking like rabbits."

She burst out laughing, tried to take a breath, and snorted, which made her laugh even harder. Once she'd finally caught her breath, she turned to him, smiled, and shrugged.

"Maybe by then I'll have had enough time to get used to the idea of ... um, us ... that I won't be all nervous and awkward about it."

"I was worried that if I backed off, it'd make you think I suddenly didn't want to, or wasn't attracted to you, or whatever. But I don't want to put any pressure on you. Whenever it happens, I want you to be okay with it." He reached over to stroke her cheek. "So, I'll wait until you're ready."

"Oh, that's sweet of you." She chuckled. "I'm kind of surprised, though. With a libido like yours, waiting any length of time has got to be a hell of a strain."

He laughed. "Yeah, I'm gonna be doing a lot of whackin' off until you're ready to do the deed."

"What, even more than you usually do?" She snickered.

"With the hottest woman in the world as inspiration, yes. And if you want to watch, I won't object." He grinned.

"Hah. Don't tempt me." She fanned herself with her hand. She stared into the sky for a moment, then she faced him, extracted her right hand from his, and propped herself up on her elbow. She started to reach out, hesitated, and finally touched the front of his shirt lightly. He grinned and leaned closer to her. She did the same, her eye opening wider and her breaths coming faster. Her hand trembled ever so slightly against his chest. She hesitated again and finally whispered, "I still feel like I shouldn't be doing this."

"Like I said, I can wait until you're ready." He smiled, stroked her cheek, and then gave her a gentle kiss. His lower region had begun reacting predictably and he had to adjust the front of his pants as he and Shakira parted. "I might need to crank one out right now, though."

"Oh, hell." She snickered again.

He grinned and slowly unzipped his pants. She sat upright, held both hands up and shook her head while laughing.

"Oh, no you don't!" She turned away and held her hand up beside her face like a blinder. "We don't want Jack and the girls coming home and finding out you blasted your man-pudding all over their roof."

He burst into laughter and pointed at his duffel bag, resting against the waist-high wall surrounding the roof. "Well, I can use one of my condoms for that. Besides, Corona did offer to let us use this place for sex, so ..."

He noticed the faint sounds of footsteps on gravel and glanced over his shoulder. Shakira stared toward the front edge of the roof. Otto sighed, crept up to the wall, and peeked over.

Something's always interrupting us at the exact _wrong moment._

The footsteps came closer over the next few seconds, followed by Taura's voice.

"I'll unlock the gate."

"Hey, guys," Otto called out. "We're on the roof."

The gate opened and Corona poked her head through the widening gap. She glanced up at him and fired off a mischievous grin.

"We're not interrupting anything, are we?"

Well, if you'd arrived a minute or two later, you would've been. "Nah. We were just doing a little stargazing and talking about buying a telescope and doing a little amateur astronomy."

Shakira stood and leaned over to grab her shoes. "We'll meet you in the loft."

Otto let his gaze stay locked on to her generous curves until she tugged her shoes on, stood up, and stretched. He sighed again and zipped his pants back up.

Oh, well. Maybe another time.

"Uh!" Ramirez collapsed on Hiro's chest and gasped for breath. He put his arms around her and she snuggled against him and continued sucking in long breaths. They held each other for several minutes before her pulse had slowed and she'd regained her composure. She laughed softly, smooched the tip of Hiro's beak, rolled over on her back, and heaved one more sigh.

Well, I'm definitely in it now. She'd planned to just wait here for Kim to come home, but then one thing had led to another, and ... here they were. Sooner or later, this'll get me into serious trouble.

"Ow," Hiro muttered, and something under her twitched.

Oops, I'm laying on his wing. She lifted herself up long enough for him to pull it from under her, and then she flopped back down. "Sorry."

"S'okay." He chuckled, draped his arm across her chest, and nuzzled her cheek. She slipped her arms around him, rubbed his back, and smiled.

Well, what the hell. He's worth whatever hot water this eventually lands me in.

"That was amazing." He laid his head on her shoulder, moving at an angle to keep his horns from jabbing her, and closed his eyes.

"Sure was." She beamed and stroked his hair. After letting a few more seconds pass, she reached over to the bedside table, picked up her phone, and checked the time. Whoa. We've been at it for a while. She grinned and put the phone back down. Kid's got some serious stamina.

"I love you, Lola."

"I love you, too." Several more seconds passed before she realized what they'd just said. Uh-oh. Her heartbeat revved up again. They'd known each other for only a few days. She'd heard about it happening that fast, but had never believed it.

Yet she meant what she'd just said.

Well, shit. She took another breath and let it out slowly. This ought to be ... interesting.

Neither of them spoke for a long time. Simply holding each other was enough.

Ramirez had started to doze off when her phone vibrated. She twitched, blinked, and fumbled for the phone. She glanced at the name on the screen to be sure the call was worth answering.

"Hope it's not an emergency," Hiro said.

"It's Kim. Probably wants me to give her a ride home." Smiling, she accepted the call. "Hey, Kim, how's -"

"Mom!" Kim's voice - sort of a high-pitched half-whisper. Ramirez's pulse spiked again, and she bolted upright. Hiro slid off her as she rose, and stared with wide, glowing eyes.

She's scared. "Kim? What's wrong?"

"We're in Skyview Park. Someone's following us! I haven't gotten a good look at him, but I ... I think it's that guy who was stalking us a while back. The one we hired Corona to scare off."

Ramirez launched out of bed, grabbed her pants, and put them on. "If there are any people nearby, stay close to them."

"There's nobody else here."

"Then get to the nearest street - a brightly-lit one, if possible. It's not that late, so there should still be traffic and pedestrians." Ramirez shifted her phone from one hand to the other as she put her bra on, slipped her shirt over it, and strapped her hip holster on. "I'm on my way now. Call Corona while you're heading for the street. And the police - call the police." She made sure her hand cannon was loaded and the safety was on, then she shoved it into the holster and charged out the bedroom door. "Call them right now!"

Project: Phoenix (Neon City Book 3), Chapter 19

"Terrific." Ramirez stared at the police cars and the four officers at the door as she drove around to the parking lot. She clenched her teeth around her cigar, zipped into the first empty space, and heaved herself out of the car with a weary sigh....

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Project: Phoenix (Neon City Book 3), Chapter 18

A new text message reached Otto's phone and he twitched at the notification sound. A message came through to Shakira's phone at the same time, but she groaned and left it on the conference table. Otto stopped pacing, took a slow breath, and dug the...

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Project: Phoenix (Neon City Book 3), Chapter 17

"Well," Ramirez muttered around her cigar after a quick glance at her watch, "I guess we should get going." She started the engine and eased out of the underground parking lot. Most of the debris from the recent battle had been pushed to the sides,...

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