The Kings of the Hill own Voyager, the characters and all things Trek.
PG-13


by Dakota

Kathryn stared at the screen listening to Harry's report about the image. It was not a plasma cloud or dust. It appeared to move with a purpose although it did not appear to be a life form, intelligent or otherwise. But Kathryn knew all too well that life forms came in many forms and that most things that moved at warp speeds were alive, intelligent or both. She glanced at Chakotay. Both had come to the bridge when the red alert sounded. He merely shook his head slightly. Well, evasion was always the best option.

"Tom, set course around the object. Warp 7."

"Aye, Captain.  Warp 7."

Kathryn eyed the screen as the object drifted off to the side as Voyager adjusted course. Then she sighed in frustration when it changed course to intercept them once again.

"Warp 8."

"Aye, warp 8."

The object didn't even waiver at the increased speed. As if finally making a decision, it closed the distance between itself and the ship. Kathryn did not have enough warning to order defensive maneuvers or weapons fire. The object closed around Voyager and just stayed there. Nothing else happened. Stunned by the lack of any change, Kathryn took a full ten seconds to call for reports. No damage, no injuries, no change at all had taken place on the ship. Ten minutes after it engaged Voyager, the object suddenly moved away at high warp.

"Chakotay, I want detailed reports from all departments and diagnostics run on all systems, especially the computer and memory banks.

A week later, Chakotay approached Kathryn in the mess hall while she was finishing breakfast. The look on his face was unsettled.

"I think you should read this before you go to the bridge." He extended his hand with a report from the doctor. "He called me earlier and asked me to make sure you read it right away."

"Now?"

"I think so. It's not very long."

Kathryn shoved her tray aside.  Chakotay picked it up and dropped it at the kitchen before he got them both coffee. Kathryn had already finished the report when he sat down across from her.

"This isn't a joke, is it?"

"No. He's serious. He is still checking but he thinks it was caused by that object we encountered last week."

"I take it you've discussed it with the doctor?"

"Only briefly to clarify a few things." Kathryn glared at Chakotay for not involving her before he discussed any part of the report with the doctor. Chakotay understood full well what the glare meant.

"Then tell me if my summary is accurate. We have twenty pregnant females on board. All of them were impregnated approximately one week ago and are carrying female embryos." Chakotay nodded so Kathryn continued. "Not only are all the embryos female, but each is genetically identical to its mother yet they are not clones. Did he happen to explain that last part to you?"

"Only by example. He told me they were not clones just as identical twins are not clones. I didn't understand any more than that of his explanation."

"What about the rest of my summary of the report?"

"That's how I understood it."

"Did I miss anything?"

"Only the fact that every female the doctor has examined this week is pregnant and that he believes that it's possible that all the females on board are pregnant."

"Where did he say that?"

"He buried it under about fourteen subclauses. Trust me, it's in there. It's one of the points I asked him to clarify."

"And that's why he gave you the report?"

"I didn't ask him that but I think it was a factor."

Kathryn sighed and thought about the report for a few minutes. She was getting ready to rise when she saw Tom leaving to go to the bridge.

"Tom, you have the bridge this morning. The Commander and I will be in conference with the doctor."

"Yes, ma'am." Tom ducked out the door before she could fix a glare on him.

Kathryn and Chakotay stood and made their way to sickbay. At the end of an hour they knew a great deal more about why the pregnancies were not 'normal' but that the women were in no danger. The last topic was how they should proceed.

"I'd like to examine every female member of the crew as soon as possible. At the very least we might be able to eliminate them from the list of expectant mothers."

"Good idea, doctor. Maybe you can learn more about how this happened or didn't happen. Let me know when you finish and we'll go over our options. In the meantime we can all start listing those options."

As Kathryn rose and headed toward the door, the doctor cleared his throat loudly. Chakotay was standing at his side waiting for Kathryn to turn.

"What?"

"Don't you think you should be the first to be checked?"

"At my age? You have to be kidding!" Silence met Kathryn's comment. "You're seriously saying you think I could be pregnant?"

The doctor only nodded as Chakotay spoke.

"Please, Captain. Sooner or later he'll have to check. It's better now before word gets around the ship."

"Right, the word around the ship will be that you and I came in here to talk to the doctor and came out knowing I was or was not pregnant."

"No, the word around the ship already is that twenty of our crew are pregnant and don't know who the father of their babies are. No one has to know this meeting was about anything other than those twenty people now. By the end of the day that could change."

Kathryn yielded with a definite lack of grace. The doctor was unsurprised by the results of the scan but Kathryn was nearly in shock. Chakotay had been preparing himself for the result for several hours, but was still slightly surprised to actually hear the doctor's words. "You're pregnant, Captain. The embryo is approximately one week old and is genetically identical to you."

Chakotay led a stunned Kathryn to her quarters. He got her a cup of herbal tea from the replicator and handed it to her where she sat on the sofa. The taste of the tea brought her attention back to the present. She shook her head as if that could clear the taste from her mouth.

"What is this?  And why did you bring me here?" Kathryn grimaced and shoved the cup back at Chakotay.

"I didn't think you were quite ready to go to the bridge. I thought a few minutes to think quietly might be helpful." Kathryn had started to bristle at the idea that she was not fit to stand her shift on the bridge but calmed as he finished speaking realizing that he had only given her some time to deal with what she had just learned.

"Thank you. We need to decide how to handle this."

"This meaning the ship and crew?"

"Yes. Once we have the doctor's full report we'll officially have half the crew on this ship pregnant. We are going to have some problems at some point and we'd better start planning now."

"I think the first thing we should do is get some more opinions. Who would you like me to include, Kathryn?"

"Tuvok, Tom, Harry, B'Elanna and Sam Wildman. Anyone else you think we should add?"

"No, I would have suggested Sam if you hadn't. She'll be very useful."

"Well, I think I'm ready to go to the bridge now. Would you get copies of that report to the others and then join me there?"

"We should both just about be at our stations for lunch. Would it be all right with you if we ate in your ready room and started coming up with options?"

"Good idea."

"I'll tell the others we'll be meeting after lunch then."

They left her quarters and went in opposite directions.

Three days later they had an explanation of sorts. During the Gamma shift they received a text only message from an unidentified source but which originated from the general direction the object had headed when it left Voyager. A reluctant Harry Kim awakened Chakotay to report they had received the message. When he had read it through, Chakotay decided not to wake the captain.

The next morning, knowing the best defense is a good offense, Chakotay was at the captain's door just before she was ready to leave for the mess hall. He carried a copy of the message and handed it to her.

"This came in at 03:40 hours. I decided not to wake you. There was nothing you could do and I thought you needed the sleep. The ship was in no danger and they were already doing as much as they could to track the source of the message. There was no planet, star or ship at or near the source."

Kathryn accepted his explanation pending her evaluation of the contents of the message. She read it though quickly then once again more slowly.
 
 

Greetings:

I want to apologize for any distress Oooga may have caused you. The nearest word in your language to what she is to me is 'pet' though she is much more than that. Normally she would not have wandered so far from me, but she is going to become a mother soon and is quite excited. Her excitement has made her curious and that curiosity led her to you. Evidently she wanted to make sure everyone enjoys her pregnancy as much as she does. From what I can understand of her visit, she found many of you less than happy. She was hoping to make you all happier while she visited you, but she could find no way to communicate. She said she shared something very valuable with some of you but could not explain what. Since I have no knowledge of your species I do not know how that sharing may have affected you. I hope she has caused you no harm. Again, you have my most sincere apologies.

Olkra'm.

After reading it for the third time, Kathryn looked at Chakotay. "I think I was happier not knowing this. Should we tell the crew?"

"Most of Gamma shift knows we received a message already. There's no point in hiding it from the others. Shall I make it available to the crew."

"I suppose you're right. The women have a right to know. It's good that the creature was trying to be kind but I'm not sure knowing that makes me feel any better and I doubt too many of the others will either."

"At least you know the babies are not the result of some experiment or malicious manipulation."

"True. Go ahead and make it available to the crew. Right now, I need some coffee." Kathryn glared at Chakotay daring him to deny her a cup of coffee. He smiled at her calmly as they left her quarters and headed to the mess hall.

"Of course, one cup while you're eating your breakfast."

Both more comfortable with a familiar debate, they made their way to the mess hall.

Four weeks later, the doctor called the captain to sickbay. Chakotay was there when she arrived. Jumping to the obvious conclusion, Kathryn spoke before either of them could even greet her.

"Chakotay, have you been complaining about the amount of coffee I drink to the doctor again?"

"No, he hasn't but he should be if your temper is any indication. This is about something different, something that affects all the women on board." The doctor's comment cut off further complaints.

"This is not good news, is it?"

"No, it's not. Let's go into the doctor's office and let him tell us both." Chakotay led Kathryn into the next room where they sat facing the doctor. The doctor talked for about thirty minutes filling his presentation with highly technical details. When he was finished Kathryn and Chakotay were more than a little confused.

"Could you just summarize that, Doctor?" Chakotay was not afraid to ask for clarification.

"Remember that my original report stated that each embryo was genetically identical to the mother? Well, there are nine for which that is no longer true. In fact, five of those embryos are now male. All are now carrying the DNA of a male member of the crew. Each of the mothers has been physically involved with the father of her child so was not surprised at the identity of the father, only that he became the father after she was pregnant. I cannot explain it further.

"There is more. The embryos are slowly becoming unstable at the genetic and cellular levels -- all of them except for those nine. Those nine are still stable. I believe that unless they are stabilized by DNA from a male that all the embryos will continue to destabilize until they trigger a miscarriage. I am limited in how much I can project, but my best estimate is that this will happen by the eighth week of pregnancy. Of course it could happen sooner or later and will probably depend on the health of the mother and various other factors."

Chakotay broke the silence as the doctor finished speaking.

"We have to tell them, Kathryn. We have to tell all the women what will probably happen and how to prevent it."

"I know. Doctor, can you stabilize the embryos using male sperm artificially?"

"That should work as well as the natural way, Captain. How do you propose we obtain donors?"

"Ask for volunteers. The volunteers could see you privately. The mothers can choose to stabilize either artificially or naturally or not at all."

The three discussed details for a few minutes, then Kathryn stood. "Doctor, I'll leave it to you to explain this to the mothers. Chakotay, would you post the request for volunteers? Have I missed anything?"

"Kathryn, I think you should send a brief notice to the crew making it clear that all the decisions are entirely up to the individuals involved. I also think you should make it clear that all the babies are welcome on Voyager."

Kathryn nodded and left knowing Chakotay would have the notices posted before the end of his shift. When she reached the bridge she went directly to her ready room to write her note to the crew.

The next day Kathryn and Chakotay sat talking about the long-term impact of having half the crew not just pregnant at the same time but due within the same week. Kathryn had been involved more personally with the situation and was dealing with it more on a day-to-day basis. Ever the efficient first officer, Chakotay had thought further ahead.

"Kathryn, we are going to have problems down the line if more than half of the women decide to keep their babies."

"Why? This ship was designed to handle almost one hundred more crew than it has. We can provide for all the babies if we have to."

"Yes, we can house and feed them. But I can't run this ship with that many people on reduced duty schedules and on maternity leave for weeks. I used Sam Wildman's pregnancy as a guideline and ran some projections on when I would have to start reducing shifts and when women could be expected to be ready to return to duty. Asking seventy-five of the crew to run Voyager for at least six weeks isn't even smart. There are too many things that can go wrong. We'd have to go twelve-on, twelve-off and run every shift with the bare minimum of staff even if I shut down non-essential departments."

"I take it you have a solution to this problem?"

"If we have more than forty women decide to keep their babies, I recommend we find an uninhabited M-class planet and land Voyager until we can go back to our regular duty schedules."

"You want us to land Voyager and stay on a planet for nearly a year?"

"It's the only safe thing to do. Any option that keeps us in space puts the ship and entire crew at risk."

"Do I have to decide this today?"

"Of course not. The decision only has to be made if and when forty women have had their pregnancies stabilized."

Two days later, Tom and eleven other men asked Chakotay if they could speak to him. Knowing that large a group meant something that concerned the entire ship, Chakotay agreed at once to meet them in the mess hall. Chakotay was surprised at the combination of those who were waiting for him. Only Tom was from the bridge staff and only two were from engineering. The others were from various departments and each shift had at least two representatives. Tom seemed to be the appointed spokesman.

"Thanks for meeting with us, Commander. What we talk about here will be shared with the rest of the men on the ship so I guess you could say we represent the men on Voyager. Most of us have questions about this volunteer project you posted. I know you've probably heard a lot of us joking about it but we all know how serious this situation is. A lot of us want to help but we want to know exactly what will be expected of us now and a few years down the line. Your message didn't mention whether the volunteer donors would know they had been chosen or whether the women would pick who their donors were."

"Is there any reason knowing makes a difference?"

"Yes, some of us want to be involved in our child's life. Others of us would only be doing this to help but don't feel able to make the commitment being a father would entail. As for the women choosing the donor, we can't really be anonymous if they have a choice. If they can choose who fathers their child, why shouldn't we be able to choose who is the mother of our child or children?"

"You make some good points. We could make the entire thing anonymous and have the doctor randomly select the donor for each woman. But I have the impression that most of you would rather have a bit more information so that won't work for everyone." Chakotay thought for a minute or two trying to come up with a solution that would satisfy every one. "I'll have the doctor prepare a list of donors for each woman and she will see only her own list. Each list will have two groups of names. One group will be the names of those who do not want to remain anonymous and the other will be for those who do. If you volunteer to be anonymous your name will be on every woman's list as Anon01, etc. You will be asked to contribute sperm as soon as you volunteer for the doctor to use if you are selected but you will not be told whether your contribution was used. The only reason the doctor will ever disclose the identity of a child's father will be for medical purposes to save the child's life or yours. Those of you who choose to be selective and who are selected will be asked to contribute sperm when the doctor is ready to use it. Does that sound reasonable?"

Tom and the others glanced around the room. A few people had questions about the specifics of the preparation of the lists and the doctor's records but once discussed they generally agreed to the proposal. Chakotay took the opportunity to address an additional point.

"Don't forget that you can make arrangements directly with any woman you choose and you only need to involve the doctor if you require his assistance. I urge you not to consider making any long-term commitments for at least three months. Everyone on board has been unsettled by this situation so this is not the time to rush into major decisions."

Tom spoke next. "I want to share something with you all. I have already approached one woman directly and told her I was willing to be the father of her child by whichever method she preferred. I wasn't expecting an answer as to method or even as to whether she wanted me to be the father so I was taken aback when she told me she'd be pleased to have me as the father of her child, but she hadn't yet decided whether she wanted to keep the child. She said she'd let me know when she decided. I was so shocked and angry I couldn't say a word. She thanked me and walked away.

"I just stood there wanting to ask why she wouldn't want to keep the baby. It made me look at things from her perspective. She had no part in the decision to have a child and that child was going to change her life. I had had time to think about taking on the responsibility of a child with the child's mother and specifically with her. She had not had that time and had not known until I approached her that I was even interested in being a donor for anyone much less for her.

"My anger was a reflection of the hurt I felt that she hadn't jumped at the chance to have me as the father of her child. I shouldn't have expected her to accept immediately. I shouldn't be expecting her to accept my offer at all. I'm not the only man on this ship and I may not be the only man who makes the same offer to her. I can think of quite a few who would be better fathers than I would. I guess I just want to say that you should be prepared for similar responses if you approach any of the women."

"Tom, you make several good points. Are you suggesting that the personal approach is a bad idea?"

"No, of course not. If it could work for everyone, I'd say it was the only approach we should use. I'm just saying that if there is someone you feel strongly enough about to approach personally, then you probably have feelings that will allow you to give her some time to consider your offer. Just be prepared to wait."

Tom's comments sparked a discussion that lasted about ten minutes before Chakotay asked if they needed him for anything else. When assured that he had answered their questions, Chakotay excused himself and left the men to continue their discussions. He wanted to tell the doctor about the change in the paperwork for the volunteers.

About the same time Tom signaled Chakotay, Kathryn received a call from B'Elanna asking if she could meet with some of the women to discuss the situation. Kathryn agreed to meet them at 1130 hours in the ready room and suggested they bring their lunches.

B'Elanna arrived a few minutes early, followed closely by Sam Wildman and the rest of the group. Sam had been designated the speaker since she had already experienced an unexpected pregnancy on Voyager.

"Captain, we wanted to talk to you about the decisions we are going to be making in the next day or two. Some of us would like the father of our child to be involved in raising the child. I know from personal experience that another adult who is a regular and constant part of a child's life is important to the child and was a blessed relief to me. Neelix has filled that role for Naomi, but he isn't going to be able to do it for more than seventy babies.

"Then there are a some of us who would rather not have another person involved in our child's life and who don't even want to know who he is.  A few would like to know who the father is but aren't sure whether they want him involved in raising the child. Are we going to have any say in who fathers our child if we use the doctor's services?"

"Yes, right now the plan is to let you pick from among the volunteers."

"We've heard from some of the men that they want to have some input into whose baby or babies they father. While we can't really argue that they have no right to be restrictive, it's not very pleasant for one of us to have the entire ship know that no one wants to father their child."

"Let me talk to Chakotay about this. He's the one who is good at sorting out things like this. Can I get back to you and the others, Sam?"

"Of course. My next question is as devil's advocate. I've already decided to keep my baby and have made plans with one of the men to stabilize my pregnancy. One of my biggest concerns, after Naomi, was how I would be perceived if I kept this child. I already have one on a ship that wasn't designed to carry children. Are we really allowed to make our own decisions based solely on what we want? We're so used to putting the good of the ship ahead of our personal considerations that this is slightly difficult to believe."

"Sam, I understand completely how you feel. I have to make the same decisions you all do. None of us had a choice about becoming pregnant. It just happened. But it is completely your choice whether to keep the baby. If you do choose to keep the baby by stabilization, then you choose whether to use the services offered by the doctor or work it out the old fashioned way with one of the men. The doctor isn't even going to tell me who is on the list of women who have terminated their pregnancies or stabilized them until the lists are complete though he will be providing a running total to me every day. He is never going to tell us which method a woman chose. Once everyone is on one of the two groups, he will give the list of names to Chakotay to work on duty schedules."

B'Elanna interrupted. "Come on, Captain. We can all do the numbers even if we can't do the duty shift schedules as well as Chakotay. You can't run this ship if very many of us keep our babies. We're going to be off duty for at least six weeks and some of us for at least eight weeks after delivery. That doesn't take into consideration being put on reduced shifts before delivery. And most of us will deliver within a week of each other. How can you say we aren't under any pressure to make a particular decision?"

"You aren't being pressured but you are right in that Voyager needs you able to stand your duty shifts. Chakotay already brought this to my attention along with a solution. I can't say I like the solution but it is a solution to the problem.  If more than a certain number of you decide to keep your babies, we will land Voyager at the first suitable uninhabited M-class planet we find until we have sufficient crew back on duty to resume our journey through space safely. We'll probably be on the ground about a year Earth standard. I'm not going to tell you what that number of pregnancies is so you won't feel pressured to be the one to trigger the landing or to avoid landing depending on which you deem the less desirable choice."

The rest of the room was silent.  Never had they expected the Captain to accept a one-year delay of their journey. Kathryn gave them time to think of other questions before she spoke.

"Do you have any more questions or concerns?"

"I do, " spoke Corsan from one of the labs. "How do we tell one of the men that we don't want to stabilize our pregnancy the 'old fashioned' way?"

"Is there a reason you think 'no' won't be sufficient?"

"He outranks me and is in my own department."

"And you're afraid of repercussions in the future?"

"Yes. I would not want his genetic coding in my child much less let it be put there the 'old fashioned' way. Yuck!"

Everyone chuckled including Kathryn. "I think many in this room sympathize with you. I'll have Chakotay make it clear to the men that 'no' is the only answer they can expect and that they will accept it. Any explanations will be completely at your option. I would suggest that you let Chakotay know privately immediately after you tell any man 'no'. If there are problems down the line, he will be able to deal with them more efficiently. Telling him now eliminates any future claim that the issue never came up between the two of you."

They continued discussing various ways to tell a man 'no' but every suggestion had at least one hypothetical man who would not accept it. Finally they broke up and headed back to their various departments. B'Elanna lingered.

"Captain, could I speak to you privately for a minute?''

"Certainly, B'Elanna. Would you like something to drink?"

"Tea would be fine." Kathryn retrieved coffee for herself and tea for B'Elanna and they moved to the couch to talk.

"What's the problem?"

"Well, I guess there are two problems. The first is the one I mentioned earlier. I'm not just another member of my shift -- I'm the chief engineer. I just don't feel right having a baby when so many others are not going to be able to cover their shifts. I know Joe is more than able to run Engineering without me but I am a better engineer than he is. I know it sounds conceited but there are just some things I can do better than he can. He isn't one of those people who can come up with imaginative solutions quickly."

"B'Elanna, I understand exactly what you mean. I have the feeling that the number it takes to put this ship on a planet changes as soon as we know you have become one of the women who is keeping her baby. There are one or two other women who would have a similar impact on that number. That's why I didn't mention what it was. What it comes down to is that we land the ship as soon as we think we are at risk in space. Is that enough to put your mind at rest and let you choose based on what you want?"

"Yes, I think it is. My other question is more personal. I was approached my one of the men who wants to be the father of my baby. The offer was either with or without the doctor's assistance."

"What did you tell him?"

"That I hadn't decided to keep the baby. I think I shocked him with that answer, but it was the truth. I was worrying about engineering. I'm still worrying about engineering but not so much now. I trust you and Chakotay to look out for the ship and to tell me the truth, but back to this man. He is one of the only two men I would consider as the father for my baby and the other man won't offer. Even if he did, his heart wouldn't be in it so I would turn him down. So this offer is the one I want to accept and I don't want to involve the doctor. My problem is I think I made him angry when I didn't accept his offer right away. What do I do if he has changed his mind?"

"Somehow I don't think Tom will have changed his mind?"

"How can you know he won't have changed his mind and how did you know it was Tom?"

"I know he won't have changed his mind for the same reason I knew it was Tom. I know my senior staff.  I watch all of you." Kathryn hesitated before adding a suggestion. "Why don't you ask him to dinner tonight. After you've eaten just tell him you'd like to accept his offer if it's still open but you don't want to involve the doctor. Tom will take it from there."

B'Elanna was ready to leave when she commented. "You know the other man I mentioned? Well the reason his heart wouldn't be involved with my child is because he would rather be involved with your child. Everything you told me applies just as much with you. The only difference is that Chakotay will never put you under the pressure of suggesting himself as the father of your child; you'll have to go to him."

"Dismissed." Kathryn's whispered words echoed quietly through the room long after the doors had closed behind B'Elanna.

A week later Kathryn asked Chakotay to come to the ready room. When he entered she was staring out the port. He walked to her side and waited until she was ready to talk.

"How many on the stabilized list?"

"Forty-seven this afternoon and ten more are scheduled for testing tomorrow."

"Go ahead and start looking for a nice M-class planet tomorrow. There is no point in putting it off any longer."

"Is that everything?"

"No. I need to talk to you about something else, too. The last few weeks have been difficult for the whole crew. I've had to make nearly half of them make decisions no person should have to make and the other half had to decide whether to help them. Now it's my turn. I have to decide whether I take active steps to keep my baby. To do that I have to make it someone else's baby, too. I think it was easier when it was going to stay 'my' baby."

"Kathryn, you know I'll support whatever decision you make."

"I know. If I had the doctor abort this baby, you'd be right there with me even though you'd be grieving at the loss. But you don't have to worry. I've decided I want this baby. I would never have chosen to have a baby this far from Earth but if I had chosen there is only one man I would have considered as the father. I'd like you to be the father of my baby."

"I'm honored, but I'm not on the donor list."

"I know. I'm glad in a way because that makes this next part easy. There is only one way we can make my baby your baby."

"You don't know what you're asking. I can't just father a baby and stand back and watch it grow up."

"I do know what I'm asking, but I'm not sure you do." Kathryn hesitated before finishing. "I want you to be the father for this baby genetically and socially. I don't just want you involved at a distance. I want us to raise our child as a family."

"Why, Kathryn? Why me out of all the men on the ship? If it's because of how I feel about you, then my answer is still no."

"It is because of how you feel about me, but not just that. You're my best friend. You loved me once but I'm not sure that's true anymore. What I am sure about today is that I need you. Yes, to keep my baby but also for myself. I love you, Chakotay. I've been able to avoid admitting that to myself and to you for years, but it's true just the same. I guess I'm really asking if you still love me."

Chakotay sighed in relief as he enveloped Kathryn in his arms and pulled her close. "I love you, Kathryn. I have for a very long time. So my answer is yes, I would be honored to father our baby."

Kathryn sighed in relief. Her world had been turned upside down seven weeks earlier. Now all was right in her world again. She looked forward to it being turned upside down again in seven months time because the man who now held her would be there with her to turn it right again.
 


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