Robotic Heart

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
When love crosses into obsession what happens? When all is said and done what's left but a pile of ash and debris? It all started as a simple project, one little wish to create the perfected robot to take human form. When had it all gone wrong? How?

Submitted: August 25, 2012

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 25, 2012




Ivan Kronski was a thin, lanky man with a crop of mousy colored hair that had since lost all of its dark luster that it had once held in his childhood from working exclusively within the laboratories of his home. His skin had also lost all color it may have once had due to being in the dark by computer light or working exclusively by the fluorescent bulbs above. His assistant, Reni Myers, was a cute little thing, with short hair in a pixie cut and friendly brown eyes. At least they usually were friendly.
Now, as Reni leered disdainfully at the thing that Ivan was busy working on her eyes had lost their gentle nature. The very thing that had driven the man's health into decline as he spent nearly all of his time on it instead of pausing to take a break every now and again stood motionless before her. The object in question was in human shape and very lifelike, if one were to glimpse it passing them on the street they would not be able to discern that it was merely a lab project but merely a human with unique choice in hair coloring. Long unnatural white hair tumbled down the robot's back, bangs brushing her cheeks and in the way of her closed eyes. If one were to touch the skin of his robot it would feel fleshy, but the flesh of the robot held no warmth, even when the object was turned on - and it was often turned on. At the moment it was off, many wires attached to its back spilling down and around the thing's frame and on the floor to the machines they plugged the robot into.
"Reni?" Reni's head jerked up, eyes alight once again as she smiled at Ivan who reappeared around several stacks of filing cabinets. The areas he worked in were never well organized, filing cabinets and tables often littered the area askew and messily placed as if Ivan would rather have them in the area he needed them in as quickly as possible so that he may get to work sooner. Reni, at the start of her working career under Ivan, had often taken it upon herself to neaten up the area, push things against walls that should be and into corners and generally make things easier to find and for objects to take up less space then where they were placed now. By the time that she would come back the next day it would all be in disarray once again so she had long given up trying.
"There you are!" Her grin widened as she strode up to him, hands clasping a silver tray full of quickly made but still healthy snacks upon it and a glass of iced tea. "Mr. Grenish tells me you haven't eaten at all today!"
A brisk wave of Ivan's hand in response told Reni all she needed to know before he even spoke, eyes roving the white haired robot up and down seemingly searching for something. Reni detested the fact that he was paying more attention to the robot already when she was there and attempting to hold a real conversation with him. "Just place it on the table over there, I'll eat in a bit."
Reni spared a curt glance to the table in question, noting the lack of any open space to place the tray. Books, loose papers, folders filled to the brim with print outs, information, blue prints and other such things were scattered over nearly every inch of the table top. Here and there she could spot the occasional tool, a screwdriver there a measuring tape here and several nuts and bolts buried beneath the papers and books. Her gaze turned back to him disapprovingly, though Ivan didn't notice it. "But then you'll just keep putting it off until you collapse from exhaustion again!"
"That's not true." Another curt reply. Ivan didn't even spare her a glance this time as he fiddled with the clothes he had adorned on the robot almost lovingly. Reni's eyes narrowed as he straightened the fur trimmed jacket the robot wore over the dress Ivan had picked for it to wear.
"Of course it is," she jerked her head to another abandoned tray with food still atop it. Flies buzzed around it at their own leisure. "Just eat something, Ivan!"
He was merely trying to shut her up, Reni knew it, but Ivan reached out, grabbed a piece of toast with jam smeared over it and took an overly large bite. The entire time Ivan chewed the food and swallowed he stared Reni down as if daring her to demand more of him. With a huff Reni all but slammed the tray down over the overflowing table beside her before spinning around on her heel and storming away, ignoring the tea that had spilled.
Ivan hurriedly mopped up the mess, using the bottom of his lab coat as a towel and ignoring the fact that it would stain the white clothe if only to save his documents. He was often disheveled anyways, with rumpled and stained clothes so this was nothing new to Ivan. Though he would have to hear Mr. Grenish's disapproving tutting at his daily wear once more.
With a sigh, Ivan stood, glancing at the tea soaked notes he laid over the tile floors to dry safely without dampening his books and other documents before turning back to the thing that preoccupied his mind night and day for the past two years. It had started as a passing whimsy, if he could create the first human looking robot he would be praised by the scientific community, one that thought and felt as a human did. But as he had gotten further along in his project it had consumed him until he was at the point he was now. No more did he regulate between work, hobbies and sleep instead focusing all of his spare time on the robot he had molded within the female shape. He didn't eat healthily oftentimes being forced to eat by Mr. Grenish or Reni or when he was hit by particularly bad dizzy spells. Long gone were the days when he at least made an effort to get an hour a day in where he spent time outside even if it was just reading on his porch swing. Project HEART had completely taken over his life.
Ivan observed the robot, codenamed "Loto", for several long seconds before he nodded to himself in satisfaction at her appearance once again. While he fussed with the major flaw that he had yet to fix within Loto he oftentimes found himself searching for outward flaws that would instantly, with just a look, tell her apart from a human other than her snowy hair. Seeing none he moved to the computer where she was hooked up to. The program was already pulled up and only a few mouse clicks were needed before Loto was turned on (or as Ivan liked to think of it 'woke up').
He turned to watch proudly as Loto began to move, slowly as always, her eyes roving through the lab she was in to take note of her surroundings as she had been programmed to do. The wires plugged into her back under her jacket popped out with a hiss of their own accord and clattered to the floor at her bare feet.
"Good morning, Loto!" Ivan greeted cheerfully moving back to her side with arms outstretched as if for a hug. Loto turned to him, blank expression adorning her facial features, features he had so carefully arranged for her. 
"It is not morning. It is 12:03 in the afternoon in this area of the world, Ivan."
Ivan's face fell as he gazed into Loto's deep purple eyes. They were still rather life-less looking, holding no real emotion behind them. Nor did her facial features. This program had been a failure, too. Loto could still not comprehend how to feel.
"What is wrong?" Loto's voice, computerized in quality and harsh to his ears. He forced a strained smile, placing his hands over her shoulders. She blinked at him and Ivan pretended that it was the beginnings of some sort of emotion, the beginnings of showing curiosity over someone's actions. If he pretended that he could also pretend that all of his work for the past year on building a program to simulate the heart and feelings of humans was making progress.
"It's nothing, I promise. I just have more work to do later." Loto blinked again before inclining her head to show she understood. He wound his arm around hers, leading her out of the lab for the time being. "Why don't we enjoy the day outside?"
"If that is what you wish, Ivan." Ivan heaved a heavy sigh, shoulders sagging. It was hard to pretend he was making any progress when the computerized voice lacked all feeling. Up a set of stairs and down a long carpeted hallway found the two in front of the thick wooden door with an oval of ornately decorated glass set in the center to allow people to see in and out. A hand on the knob Ivan was halted by the familiar voice of Mr. Grenish.
"Ah, I am glad to see you up out of the labs for a change, Mr. Kronski."
Ivan glanced up, blinking owlishly at the thick man that served as his butler. Mr. Grenish was a squat man, with stubble lining his chin though he oftentimes kept himself clean shaven. He was a professional sort of person, often dressing himself up to look presentable in button-up shirts and slacks. Thinking back on it Ivan couldn't remember a time when he had ever seen Mr. Grenish in jeans or a t-shirt.
"I figured Loto could use a change of scenery maybe get the program a kick start!" Ivan grinned, though it was feeble. He honestly had little hope for this theory. The look on Mr. Grenish told Ivan that he was less then approving of this idea as well.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Grenish." Loto's voice interrupted, staring unblinkingly at Mr. Grenish who nodded back.
"And to you as well, Miss Loto." His gaze returned to Ivan, further ignoring the robot. It's not like Loto could feel slighted over this act, after all and he was well aware of it, though it would insult Ivan even if the man didn't show some attention to Loto now and again. "Have you eaten the food I had Reni bring to you? She stormed off in quite a hurry just a bit ago and would not say why."
Ivan's mind flashed back to the tray that Reni had slammed down onto the table before storming off, scattering the food atop it and toppling the tea glass over his work. Out of all the food on it he had only eaten the piece of toast to keep her quiet so as to continue work. "A little."
"Ivan." It was a clear warning, that if something wasn't done to regulate his eating habits Mr. Grenish would no longer stand for it. Ivan wouldn't put it past him to do something drastic, too.
"I'll eat when I come back in. I promise." He waved a hand at the man as if to dismiss him as he finally swung the door open, gesturing for Loto to step outside, which she did, rather gracefully as she had been programmed to move. As he swung the door shut behind him he heard Mr. Grenish call out, "I'm holding you to that, Mr. Kronski."
Ivan blinked against the bright sunlight that assaulted his eyes having grown much too used to the dim lighting in his home and lab. Beside him Loto remained perfectly motionless, staring straight ahead without a care in the world. Ivan's heart throbbed painfully at this. It was his ultimate dream to see Loto smile, to hear her laugh and enjoy life... with him.
He shook his head, placing a hand on the small of her back and urging her forward, towards the apple trees on his property. She moved without complaint as she always did when Ivan took her outside or out of the labs in general. She never looked around curiously, she never smiled.... She didn't do anything a normal human would and each time it happened Ivan had to tally out another failure of replicating a heart for Loto.
Would his prototype ever become so realistic it'd blow the minds of the world away? At this rate that was a solid 'no' but he refused to give up. Not until he was dead.
Under the apple tree Loto sat, of her own volition and Ivan sat beside her, content for the time being that at least the rest of her programming ran smoothly. She looked around her and Ivan once again pretended that it was in disinterest, but even then the lump in his throat told him he was only lying to himself. She reached out, plucking a few flowers and twirling them around in her delicate looking fingers. Her movements held no other intent behind them other than the program telling Loto to do these things. She didn't do them because she liked to. This thought, not for the first time, filled Ivan's heart with dread and his shoulders sagged. Loto glanced up at him, staring, and he forced a strained smile on his face.
"My programming says that Ivan is happy." Loto blinked and paused. Once again his shoulders sagged at the wording she chose to use. She thrust out the little flower in her hands at him unceremoniously, though it was lacking a smile to complete it - a smile that Ivan would never see.... "Would Ivan like this flower?"
He took the flower from Loto gently, before affectionately running a hand through her hair. She allowed this, and Ivan's heart broke further as the Heart program he had worked so hard on this week continued to fail. She continued to go along her actions, actions Ivan had programmed into her to do. But if that was the case then that meant Loto may never feel, may never smile at him.... All of her 'hobbies' and actions that Loto held now were only those that Ivan thought were cute or fitting for his prototype robot and those that he liked himself. She held no interest in them and may never be able to. But how was one supposed to program a heart for Loto to feel? One does the things they like because it brings them joy not because they are expected or told to.
Would he have to authenticate feelings for her? If Loto did action X then Loto should smile; if Loto came across event B then she should cry.... But those were false, not what he wanted. Ivan wanted it to be as real as he could be and programming Loto to do such things under what he thought she should like would only make it insincere.
Loto turned to gaze at her creator as he leaned his forehead against her shoulder, watching as his shoulders heaved up and down as he sobbed. He remained like that for a long time, even after the tears had stopped, unable to bring himself to pull away from Loto who remained where she was for him still playing with the flowers she plucked around them. Finally, Ivan picked himself up, ignoring the grass and dirt that clung to his clothes instead offering a hand to Loto. As programmed she took it in his and he forced himself to ignore the cool temperature from her hand in his as he led the way back inside and to the labs. He would keep her turned on for the time being, unable to bring himself to turn her off too soon or leave his heart aching further as she just stood there, motionless and waiting for a heart.
A heart that may never come....
Ivan had worked as hard as he could for the rest of that day and night before Mr. Grenish forced him to turn Loto off and plug her back into the main computer and head off to bed. He did so grudgingly, grumbling under his breath about how unfair it was in a rather childish manner though Mr. Grenish had ignored this and watched him to make sure Ivan wouldn't go back to work the instant the man's back was turned to him. In many ways, Ivan really was like that of a child that had refused to grow fully with his body. But resentfully he had gone up the steps, casting mournful glances over his shoulder only to witness Mr. Grenish's stern expression which kept him moving forward despite his wishes.
In his large bed he lay for seemingly hours, tossing and turning in an attempt to fall asleep faster so that the next day may come and he would be able to work on Loto again. Maybe tomorrow he'd have a helping hand if Reni wasn't still angry at him. Sleep eventually came fitfully and he remembered none of his dreams though he was sure they involved Loto as he awoke happy even though he didn't feel rested enough. He hurried out of bed, ignoring the messy sheets and comforter and the fact that he was still dressed in the same clothes as yesterday (actually they were the same clothes he'd been wearing all week.). He hummed merrily as he swiftly descended the stairs to his lab, another piece of toast in hand that Mr. Grenish had thrust at him to at least eat for the time being until he had Ivan's proper breakfast finished (food that would probably go wasted.).
Ivan paused halfway down the steps, however, toast held in midair on the way to his opened mouth as he froze, listening intently. He was sure he had heard something reach his ears from the lab. But what was it? If someone had broken in before Mr. Grenish had awoken (he always woke up long before Ivan) and turned off the alarm system they would have known about it. Was it Reni? If it was it was unusual in itself as she usually didn't come until later. Ivan double checked his watch for the time; 8:16 a.m.. Reni wouldn't usually arrive until at least ten....
A crash resounded out below and Ivan's heart skipped a beat, eyes widening. The toast fell from his hand to lay abandoned to the steps as he bolted down the remaining stairs, nearly tripping over himself in his rush to find out what was wrong and if Loto was alright. His heart hammered loudly in his ears like a deafening drum beat and he jumped over the last few steps , sliding over the tiles in his socks and nearly losing his balance. Once inside his lab his widened eyes roved swiftly around the area, searching for what had been broken and the culprit behind it.
Movement caught his eye and he jerked in that direction spotting Reni standing there, her hands wrapped around a long wooden handle as she blinked owlishly at him, mouth ajar. She looked very much like a deer caught in the headlights. Ivan stood breathing heavily and most of his fear ran out of him, relief washing over him at the appearance of Reni, his mind not working rationally or putting pieces together just yet. "Reni, it's just you, I thought...." He shook his head as if to ward off the horrifying thoughts that had plagued him in those few horrifying minutes. "You're here early. Usually when you get here this early you come to make sure I'm up before coming down here."
Ivan paused again, looking around for Loto and not spotting her. Though on the rare occasion Reni would surprise him by waking Loto up for him and let the robot wander about the lab as they worked. "Did you wake Loto up? You don't usually do that, either."
Reni's mouth opened and closed wordlessly reminiscent to that of a goldfish, eyes still wide as if she couldn't believe she had been found. Ivan's brow furrowed as this continued for several long seconds, wariness apparent on his face. "Reni...?"
"I-I thought you'd st-till be asleep," she muttered, her voice quiet as if afraid she'd be yelled at. "I w-w-w-was just do-oing it for your benefit! I swear!"
As she spoke, Ivan's narrowed gaze watched her, observing her stance and her fearful expression. Her hands were still loosely wrapped around the thin wooden handle, whatever was attached to the end was obscured by the overflowing table separating them but she was in the area Loto was always stationed at when she was 'asleep' and plugged into the computer to charge her battery pack. Fear gripped his heart once again and he rushed forward, ignoring Reni's stuttering and stammering. At her feet were the pieces that made up Loto and now it became clear what Reni was holding. A sledgehammer. A duffle bag nearby told Ivan that she must have snuck the tool in past Mr. Grenish's nose for he wouldn't have allowed something like that inside without questioning it, knowing how important Ivan's work was to him.
Loto was in pieces on the floor around Reni and the large hammer. Large pieces and small ones alike. The larger pieces were dented in where Reni had smashed into Loto's body but had not been able to break through the metal frame that made her up. Ivan's eyes widened as he stared, horrified at the creation he had spent so much time on now destroyed by his assistant, one he had thought of as a friend. Loto's head remained in tact, eyes closed peacefully as they always were when she was 'asleep' and charging. Reni's shaking hands released the hammer and it clattered to the floor loudly as she held up her hands as if to defend herself in his eyes while Ivan slowly moved around the table and closer to her and Loto's remains.
"I was only doing it so you can be healthy again! You were so obsessed with this thing! You can't be in love with something that's not human, Ivan! And Mr. Grenish was worried-"
Ivan ignored her rambling, her justifications for what she had done as he knelt beside Loto's destroyed body. His eyes roved around, spotting each piece nearby. Just under her collarbone he could make out the black stamp 'PROTO' he had initially put on her to symbolize her as being what she was, a prototype and nothing more. But over time he had become attached, consumed by his unending need to make her as real as he could. Was Reni right? Did he end up loving Loto and thus commit some sort of a taboo? The more he thought about it, the more Ivan realized that yes, he had fallen in love with his own creation but did he really care what others thought of it? That it may be forbidden and certainly may make many religious folk damn him to Hell? No. Because his love had been real to him, and if he had finished a working program for Loto it would have been to her, as well.
Now he would never be able to see her smile or hear her laugh, even if he had to have resorted to his last ditch idea of programming feelings for certain events. It would have been better than nothing.
But now Loto was gone, gone by his assistant's hand so brutally and swiftly. Sure, he could rebuild another robot in a similar appearance to Loto but in his heart he would know it wouldn't be the same, not ever. His precious Loto was gone forever, no matter how many robots he recreated in her original imagery. Clothes shuffling drew his attention though he didn't look up from Loto's peaceful face as Reni kneeled beside him, placing a hesitant hand over his shoulder as if to console him after what she had done. Rage flared through him at her touch but he held it at bay as best he could, allowing it to fester and burn in his chest.
"Ivan? Are you okay?" Reni's voice was soft and gentle to the ears, worry filtering through her words though Ivan cared little for them. His fists clenched and tears prickled his eyes at the grief of Loto being gone. "C'mon, you'll be okay. I'll be here for you." There was hope in her voice and now Ivan knew why Reni had destroyed Loto so callously, so cruelly. His rage flared again, like a hungry beast ready for the kill. His breath hitched and his glare turned to Reni. Her face paled at the murderous look Ivan sent her and she removed her hand hastily from his shoulder as if he burned to the touch. "I-Ivan?"
He lunged at her, hands wrapping around her throat tightly as she flailed backwards, falling and landing on her back hard with Ivan over her, hands still clasped around her neck and squeezing as hard as he could manage. Her lungs burned with the need for air, he could see it from the reddening on her face and the way Reni attempted to pry his hands from around her throat as quickly as she could. Her mouth gaped open, gasping in air futilely as tears leaked from her eyes. Her painted nails dug deep into his wrists though he paid them little attention as he ground his teeth together, pressing down harder on her wind pipe despite her attempts to stammer something out, to deter him. No longer could he see the cute assistant that he loved to converse with during work. Reni had become ugly and pungent to his eyes, having been the one to kill the thing he loved most.
"P-ple-ease!" she managed, as she continued her weak struggling.
"Please?" Ivan repeated, his grip loosening just enough to allow a short gasp of air to pass through her lips and down through to her lungs. "Please? Did you think I'd let you just get away with killing Loto?"
His hands moved, too quickly for Reni to process in her dazed state from lack of oxygen, to grip the sides of her head painfully and she winced and cried out in pain. "Ivan!" That was the only word she managed as Ivan brought her head up before smashing it back painfully against the tiles with as much force as he could muster. He did this again and again ignoring Reni's cries of pain that filled the labs. Mr. Grenish would be in the kitchen on the far end of the house, he wouldn't be able to hear Reni's cries as he continued his homicidal ministrations. Blood began to leak from the back of her head, splattering every which way as he slammed her head own into the pool of blood that began to form. It covered his hands, making them slick so that he had to grab her hair to keep a hold of her head adequately though he kept going ignoring the minutes that ticked by.
Ivan continued this horrible act of violence long after Reni grew silent and limp, her eyes unseeing and clouded over in death. He didn't stop until his rage had petered out, leaving him broken and shaking over Reni's still form, laying in a pool of her own blood. Blood which covered his pallid hands. He stared at the liquid that hardened and crusted over his fingers and began to shake in horror, sobs wracking his body hard and without warning. He ground his teeth against the whimperings that threatened to leave his mouth. Tears flowing down his cheeks without an end in sight as Ivan turned his helpless gaze to Loto's detached head once again. A hiccup escaped him and his shattered mind came to only one revelation, only one way he could find to get out of this mess....
Mr. Grenish heaved a sigh, recalling the gaunt form of his employer. He really did hope that Ivan would finish Loto's programming before it drove him to an early death. Over the years of working for Ivan Kronski he had come to enjoy the man's company as well as working for him. The pudgy man only had Ivan's best interests at heart even if Ivan sometimes seemed to follow his suggestions grudgingly. He scraped the scrambled eggs onto a plate, wondering if they would go to waste like most of the other food he prepared now-a-days. Mr. Grenish hoped this would not be the case today. Ivan was already unhealthily thin, he needed all the food he could get. Really he should have fully been working on Ivan's breakfast, but he had taken breaks between items, to get the laundry started and to fold the clothes he had left in the dryer the day before.
Alarms rang out, filling the silence that had permeated through the kitchen causing Mr. Grenish's head to snap up in shock. Those alarms belonged to the fire detectors. His heart began to race as he bolted towards Ivan's lab where he holed himself up for hours at a time. Mr. Grenish had no doubt that Ivan would push the alarm bells to the back of his mind, far too preoccupied with whatever he was working on. It had happened before, long before Loto had been created. If it had happened then it would surely happen now, when he was so obsessed on his project.
He flung the door open to the labs, smoke pouring out from the top crack of the door already. How long had the fire been burning before the fire detector had gone off? He pulled his button up shirt up over his nose and mouth, in an attempt to help filter some of the smoke out as he crouched and hurried down the steps, trying not to pitch forward and fall. Mr. Grenish's mind raced wondering why Ivan was not rushing out. Was he trapped?
The heat blasted Mr. Grenish full force as he rounded the corner at the bottom of the steps and he was forced to pause at the force it pressed upon him with, blinking as his eyes dried out. He shook his head, as his frantic eyes darted here and there in search of Ivan. A sound reached his ears, amidst the crackling of the flames. It sounded like a strange mixture of sobbing and deranged giggling.
Mr. Grenish hesitantly stepped in, despite every instinct screaming at him to turn and run away. Self-preservation yelled at him to get to the neighbors and make sure the fire department had been alerted to this mess. His eyes roved, doing his best to ignore the blistering heat in search of Ivan. After what seemed like an hour Mr. Grenish found him, rocking back and forth on the floor, ignoring the flames licking at his clothes and hair and how the conflagration was drawing in closer to him.
"Ivan?" Mr. Grenish eased closer, crouching and holding out a hand as if to touch Ivan's shoulder and shake him into awareness and out of his shock. He stopped however as he grasped the full scene behind the table that had obscured much of his view of Ivan.
Ivan was cradling the head of Loto in his arms, the mix of sobbing and giggling emitting from him as he rocked back and force. Blood covered his hands and speckled over his face while tears filled his eyes. He wasn't in his right mind and it was obvious from one glance, his eyes wide and unseeing to anything but Loto's head. Around him were the scattered remains of the rest of her body and nearby, even more disturbing was the broken form of Reni, in a pool of blood and unmoving.
Fear like he had never known forced Mr. Grenish to jump back, retracting his hand away from his employer. Ivan had been so sweet and kind but his obsession had been his undoing. Mr. Grenish didn't know exactly why Reni had broken Loto - he wasn't often around when Reni was working with Ivan to see how the two interacted on a daily basis - but it was obvious she had been the one to do it and thus Ivan's descent into insanity.
His breathing coming in short, quick gasps Mr. Grenish shook his head sadly, turning away from Ivan and hurrying back out of the lab and up the steps to escape the conflagration himself. Tears prickled his eyes and streaked through the soot that covered his face once he was outside, silently mourning the loss of his employer who he had come to like and for the woman who had gotten caught up in her misguided attempt at helping Ivan.
By the time the fire department had arrived a large chunk of the large house was already up in flames, spilling black smoke into the clear blue skies. Paramedics tended to Mr. Grenish as he remained silent, contemplating the losses. Police inquiries came next which he solemnly answered as best he could, omitting certain things.
While Ivan Kronski had been driven to murderous and suicidal madness, Mr. Grenish could not bring himself to allow Ivan's name to be dragged through the muck if he could help it. If evidence was found proving Reni had been murdered in any autopsy that may come from her charred body (if it would even be found or if it had turned to unusable ash) then there would be nothing he could do. But he would not do it willingly and so he remained as passive as he could while he was interrogated on the nature of the fire.
Mr. Grenish did know one thing, however; love could be quite a dangerous double-edged sword.

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