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Incredible fitness & strength feats using the body!

2018.01.25 09:27 MarcusBondi Incredible fitness & strength feats using the body!

This subreddit features the most extreme, amazing, insane and awesome bodyweight, calisthenics power & fitness moves, reps, tutorials, static holds and videos by the strongest and most skilled practitioners from all over the world. We also feature info/advice on how to achieve these phenomenal feats of fitness and muscular ballistics. Everyone welcome to submit a clip or a concept; BUT IT MUST BE TRULY *AWESOME* and inspiring! We want to help make you AWESOME!!

2023.05.30 07:01 danyesmith Get the Celebrity Look: Fear of God Hoodies

Get the Celebrity Look: Fear of God Hoodies
In today's fashion landscape, the influence of celebrities is undeniable. Celebrities set trends that inspire people worldwide, from red-carpet events to casual street style. One fashion item that has gained immense popularity among celebrities and fashion enthusiasts is the Fear of God hoodie. This article will explore what Fear of God Essentials Hoodies are, why they are worth considering, and how to style them to achieve the coveted celebrity look.

What is Fear of God Hoodies?

Fear of God Essentials Hoodies is premium-quality garments known for their exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail. Jerry Lorenzo, the founder of the Fear of God fashion label, designs these hoodies. They feature a distinct blend of streetwear aesthetics and high-end fashion elements, making them a favorite choice among style-conscious individuals.
Fear of God hoodies are crafted using top-notch materials such as high-quality cotton, polyester blends, and sometimes even luxurious fabrics like cashmere. The hoodies come in various styles, including oversized fits, cropped lengths, and zip-up designs. They often feature signature design elements like elongated sleeves, double-layered hoods, and unique logo detailing.

Why Should You Get the Celebrity Look?

Celebrity fashion has a significant impact on the choices people make regarding their style. Adopting the celebrity look can enhance your confidence and express your individuality through fashion. Fear of God Essentials Hoodie allow you to emulate your favorite celebrities' style, whether a casual streetwear vibe or a more dressed-up ensemble.
When you wear a Fear of God hoodie, you not only align yourself with the fashion statements of celebrities but also tap into their aura and charisma. It gives you a sense of belonging to a fashion-forward community where your style choices reflect your awareness of the latest trends.

Finding the Right Fear of God Hoodie

To rock the celebrity look with Fear of God hoodies, finding the perfect one is crucial. Consider the following factors when making your selection:

Sizing and Fit Guide

Fear of God hoodies come in various sizes, from minor to extra-large, to accommodate different body types. It's essential to consult the sizing and fit guide the brand or retailer provides to ensure you choose the right size for a comfortable and flattering fit.

Different Color Options

Fear of God hoodies is available in a wide range of colors, from classic neutrals like black, white, and gray to bold and vibrant shades. Select a color that complements your skin tone and personal style. Experimenting with different hues can add versatility to your wardrobe.

Matching with Other Outfits

Fear of God hoodies is versatile pieces easily styled with various outfits. Consider your existing wardrobe and consider how the hoodie can be paired with different bottoms, such as jeans, joggers, or skirts. opt for complementary colors and textures to create visually appealing and cohesive looks.

How to Style Fear of God Hoodies

Fear of God hoodies offers endless possibilities for styling. Here are some ideas to help you achieve the celebrity look:

Casual Streetwear Look

Pair your Fear of God hoodie with distressed jeans and sneakers for a relaxed and effortless vibe. Layer it with a denim or bomber jacket for added warmth and style. Complete the look with trendy accessories like a baseball cap or a chain necklace.

Dressing up for Special Occasions

Fear of God hoodies can also be elevated for formal or semi-formal events. Pair a solid-colored hoodie with tailored trousers and dress shoes for a sophisticated ensemble. Add a blazer or a leather jacket for a polished touch. This combination showcases your fashion-forward approach while maintaining a touch of elegance.

Accessorizing Tips

Enhance your Fear of God hoodie outfits with carefully chosen accessories. Opt for a statement watch, stylish sunglasses, or a designer belt to elevate your overall look. Experiment with different accessories to add your flair and create a unique style.

Where to Buy Fear of God Hoodies

Fear of God hoodies can be purchased from various sources. Here are some options:

Official Fear of God Website

The official Fear of God website is the most reliable source to purchase authentic products. It offers a wide range of Fear of God hoodies, ensuring you get the latest designs and styles directly from the brand.

Trusted Online Retailers

Several reputable online retailers specialize in designer fashion and carry Fear of God hoodies. These platforms provide a convenient shopping experience and often offer diverse styles and sizes. Make sure to read customer reviews and check the authenticity of the retailer before making a purchase.

Physical Stores

Certain high-end fashion boutiques and department stores might stock Fear of God hoodies. Check local stores or visit luxury shopping destinations to explore the availability of these coveted hoodies. Trying them in person can help you determine the perfect fit and feel the quality firsthand.

Fear of God Hoodies: Quality and Durability

One of the key reasons to invest in Fear of God hoodies is their exceptional quality and durability. The brand prides itself on its commitment to premium craftsmanship, ensuring that each hoodie is made to last. High-quality materials and meticulous attention to detail result in garments that withstand regular wear and maintain their shape and appearance over time.

Fear of God Hoodies vs. Knockoffs

As Fear of God hoodies' popularity continues To soar, counterfeit products have also flooded the market. It's important to distinguish between genuine Fear of God hoodies and knockoffs to ensure you invest in an authentic piece. Here are some tips to help you identify the real deal:
  1. Purchase from authorized retailers: Stick to reputable sellers and authorized retailers to minimize the risk of purchasing counterfeit products. Official brand websites, trusted online platforms, and physical stores endorsed by Fear of God are your best bet.
  2. Examine the details: Pay close attention to the details of the hoodie. Genuine Fear of God hoodies features precise stitching, high-quality zippers, and accurate logo placement. Counterfeit versions often exhibit inconsistencies and flaws in these aspects.
  3. Check the tags and labels: Authentic Fear of God hoodies come with properly attached and neatly printed tags and labels. Look for official branding, correct spellings, and accurate information. Counterfeit items may have misspelled words, blurry printing, or irregular fonts.
  4. Research the logo and design: Familiarize yourself with the official Fear of God logo and design elements. Counterfeit products may have distorted or altered logos, incorrect font styles, or inaccurate proportions.
  5. Compare prices: Fear of God hoodies are exceptional designer items, so be cautious if you come across significantly low prices. If a deal seems too good to be true, you're likely dealing with a knockoff.
Remember, purchasing authentic Fear of God hoodies ensures that you get the highest quality, craftsmanship, and longevity that the brand is known for.

Maintenance and Care for Fear of God Hoodies

To keep your Fear of God hoodies in top condition and prolong their lifespan, follow these maintenance and care tips:
  1. Follow washing instructions: Refer to the care label on the hoodie for specific washing instructions. Most Fear of God hoodies can be machine washed, but a gentle cycle and cold water are recommended. Avoid using harsh detergents or bleach that can damage the fabric.
  2. Air dry or low-heat tumble dry: After washing, air dry your hoodie by laying it flat or hanging it on a clothesline. If you prefer using a dryer, set it to a low-heat or delicate cycle to prevent shrinkage or damage.
  3. Store properly: Fold your Fear of God hoodie neatly in a clean, dry place. Avoid overcrowding it with other garments to prevent wrinkles or deformities. Store it in a garment bag or a sealed container to protect it from dust and moisture.
  4. Repair minor damages: If your Fear of God hoodie experiences minor damages, such as loose threads or tiny tears, consider repairing them promptly. You can use fabric glue or take it to a professional tailor to ensure proper repairs and maintain the garment's integrity.

The Price of Celebrity Fashion

It's no secret that celebrity fashion often comes with a hefty price tag. Fear of God hoodies is no exception. The premium craftsmanship, high-quality materials, and the brand's reputation contribute to their higher price point. However, investing in a fear of God hoodie is an investment in quality and style that will withstand the test of time. Consider it a long-term addition to your wardrobe rather than a fleeting trend.

Fear of God Hoodies: A Unisex Fashion Trend

One of the remarkable aspects of Fear of God hoodies is their gender-neutral appeal. Both men and women can rock these hoodies with confidence. Here are some styling tips for men and women:

Styling Tips for Men

  • Pair an oversized Fear of God hoodie with slim-fit jeans and chunky sneakers for an effortlessly cool streetwear look.
  • Layer a zip-up Fear of God hoodie over a crisp white shirt and tailored trousers for a sleek and modern outfit.
  • Experiment with
Different color combinations and accessories to personalize your Fear of God hoodie outfits.

Styling Tips for Women

  • Create a stylish contrast by pairing a cropped Fear of God hoodie with high-waisted jeans or a skirt. Complete the look with ankle boots or sneakers.
  • Layer a Fear of God hoodie under a blazer or a leather jacket for a chic and edgy ensemble.
  • Play with accessories like statement belts, oversized sunglasses, or dainty jewelry to elevate your Fear of God hoodie outfits.

Celebrity Endorsements of Fear of God Hoodies

Fear of God hoodies has garnered significant attention from celebrities across various industries. Many A-list stars have been spotted sporting these stylish hoodies, further increasing their popularity and desirability. Some notable celebrities wearing Fear of God hoodies include Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, and Kendall Jenner. The endorsement and support of these influential figures solidify Fear of God's position as a coveted brand in the fashion world.

Fear of God Hoodies: Fashion Communities and Influencers

Fear of God hoodies has also gained immense popularity within fashion communities and influencer circles. Social media platforms like Instagram and Tikor are filled with style inspiration and outfit ideas featuring Fear of God hoodies. Fashion influencers and enthusiasts showcase their unique interpretations of the celebrity look, offering a wealth of inspiration for incorporating these hoodies into your wardrobe.


When achieving the celebrity look, Fear of God hoodies offers a winning combination of style, quality, and versatility. Embrace the influence of celebrities in fashion and express your style with confidence. Whether you opt for a casual streetwear, look or dress it up for a special occasion, Fear of God hoodies make a statement while reflecting your fashion-forward choices. Invest in these premium hoodies to enjoy their comfort, durability, and timeless appeal. Read more...
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2023.05.30 06:02 whyEven_Try_676 Manifesto of the Communist party

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.
The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones.
Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other — Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.
From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed.
The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.
The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop.
Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.
Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.
We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie is itself the product of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.
Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune(4): here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany); there taxable “third estate” of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacturing proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general, the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of Modern Industry and of the world market, conquered for itself, in the modern representative State, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors”, and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous “cash payment”. It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom — Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation.
The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigour in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of Reactionists, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilised nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilised ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.
The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralised the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralisation. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class-interest, one frontier, and one customs-tariff.
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of Nature’s forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground — what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?
We see then: the means of production and of exchange, on whose foundation the bourgeoisie built itself up, were generated in feudal society. At a certain stage in the development of these means of production and of exchange, the conditions under which feudal society produced and exchanged, the feudal organisation of agriculture and manufacturing industry, in one word, the feudal relations of property became no longer compatible with the already developed productive forces; they became so many fetters. They had to be burst asunder; they were burst asunder.
Into their place stepped free competition, accompanied by a social and political constitution adapted in it, and the economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.
A similar movement is going on before our own eyes. Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation, had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilisation, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce. The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them. And how does the bourgeoisie get over these crises? On the one hand by enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets, and by the more thorough exploitation of the old ones. That is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises, and by diminishing the means whereby crises are prevented.
The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.
But not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons — the modern working class — the proletarians.
In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of labourers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labour increases capital. These labourers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.
Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labour, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labour, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. Nay more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labour increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time or by increased speed of machinery, etc.
Modern Industry has converted the little workshop of the patriarchal master into the great factory of the industrial capitalist. Masses of labourers, crowded into the factory, are organised like soldiers. As privates of the industrial army they are placed under the command of a perfect hierarchy of officers and sergeants. Not only are they slaves of the bourgeois class, and of the bourgeois State; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the overlooker, and, above all, by the individual bourgeois manufacturer himself. The more openly this despotism proclaims gain to be its end and aim, the more petty, the more hateful and the more embittering it is.
The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labour, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.
No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.
The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants — all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.
The proletariat goes through various stages of development. With its birth begins its struggle with the bourgeoisie. At first the contest is carried on by individual labourers, then by the workpeople of a factory, then by the operative of one trade, in one locality, against the individual bourgeois who directly exploits them. They direct their attacks not against the bourgeois conditions of production, but against the instruments of production themselves; they destroy imported wares that compete with their labour, they smash to pieces machinery, they set factories ablaze, they seek to restore by force the vanished status of the workman of the Middle Ages.
At this stage, the labourers still form an incoherent mass scattered over the whole country, and broken up by their mutual competition. If anywhere they unite to form more compact bodies, this is not yet the consequence of their own active union, but of the union of the bourgeoisie, which class, in order to attain its own political ends, is compelled to set the whole proletariat in motion, and is moreover yet, for a time, able to do so. At this stage, therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, the landowners, the non-industrial bourgeois, the petty bourgeois. Thus, the whole historical movement is concentrated in the hands of the bourgeoisie; every victory so obtained is a victory for the bourgeoisie.
But with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalised, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labour, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The increasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations (Trades’ Unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots.
Now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever expanding union of the workers. This union is helped on by the improved means of communication that are created by modern industry, and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another. It was just this contact that was needed to centralise the numerous local struggles, all of the same character, into one national struggle between classes. But every class struggle is a political struggle. And that union, to attain which the burghers of the Middle Ages, with their miserable highways, required centuries, the modern proletarian, thanks to railways, achieve in a few years.
This organisation of the proletarians into a class, and, consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves. But it ever rises up again, stronger, firmer, mightier. It compels legislative recognition of particular interests of the workers, by taking advantage of the divisions among the bourgeoisie itself. Thus, the ten-hours’ bill in England was carried.
Altogether collisions between the classes of the old society further, in many ways, the course of development of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie finds itself involved in a constant battle. At first with the aristocracy; later on, with those portions of the bourgeoisie itself, whose interests have become antagonistic to the progress of industry; at all time with the bourgeoisie of foreign countries. In all these battles, it sees itself compelled to appeal to the proletariat, to ask for help, and thus, to drag it into the political arena. The bourgeoisie itself, therefore, supplies the proletariat with its own elements of political and general education, in other words, it furnishes the proletariat with weapons for fighting the bourgeoisie.
Further, as we have already seen, entire sections of the ruling class are, by the advance of industry, precipitated into the proletariat, or are at least threatened in their conditions of existence. These also supply the proletariat with fresh elements of enlightenment and progress.
Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the progress of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of old society, assumes such a violent, glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.
Of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry; the proletariat is its special and essential product.
The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.
The “dangerous class”, [lumpenproletariat] the social scum, that passively rotting mass thrown off by the lowest layers of the old society, may, here and there, be swept into the movement by a proletarian revolution; its conditions of life, however, prepare it far more for the part of a bribed tool of reactionary intrigue.
In the condition of the proletariat, those of old society at large are already virtually swamped. The proletarian is without property; his relation to his wife and children has no longer anything in common with the bourgeois family relations; modern industry labour, modern subjection to capital, the same in England as in France, in America as in Germany, has stripped him of every trace of national character. Law, morality, religion, are to him so many bourgeois prejudices, behind which lurk in ambush just as many bourgeois interests.
All the preceding classes that got the upper hand sought to fortify their already acquired status by subjecting society at large to their conditions of appropriation. The proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property.
All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority. The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole superincumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air.
Though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle. The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle matters with its own bourgeoisie.
In depicting the most general phases of the development of the proletariat, we traced the more or less veiled civil war, raging within existing society, up to the point where that war breaks out into open revolution, and where the violent overthrow of the bourgeoisie lays the foundation for the sway of the proletariat.
Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident, that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an over-riding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.
The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage-labour. Wage-labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
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2023.05.30 04:12 Reclusa137 The Nest

We've been traveling for about a week, taking the less trafficked route Natasha and other traders of her ilk use. Where the grasses are tall and at times brush against us gently.
Some of the grass and flowers are now seeding and being replaced by others, bunchier and shorter, and requiring less water and more sun as summer makes itself felt across the prairie.
Open camps and low fires are the norm these days as wildfire is a constant threat. Not without it's benefits, as camps are easier to break and the mounts have plenty to eat.
About midday we notice smoke on the horizon. First real sign of anything. We approach cautiously but soon realize the fight is long over. Arrows and a few spears are left behind. This was an ambush. The wagons have been stripped of their goods, but it is obvious these were cargo haulers for traders, and Natasha recognizes the decorations on the spears. The concern is plain on her face, she is very worried at what this might mean.
Most of us thought it might be bandits or possibly even centaurs by the unshod hoof-prints scattered about, but no Natasha tells us, these are humans, and they are beyond their borders. She explains there are two tribes along this area, an aggressive huntegatherer society. Mobile, and territorial where strangers are seldom welcome. And the peaceful tribe, the polar opposite. They are farmers and traders mostly. And this is their land. So now it becomes clear why Natasha is so worried, could they have been overrun in the last year?
The next morning, Natasha announces she will be splitting off to check on the peaceful tribe. Aaron quickly chimes up that he will follow her and after some discussion Callion, Guthlac, and myself agree to follow despite the resources to be had in the city should we stay with the circus. I give Giddy the opportunity to say goodbye to J.J., the striped horse, and meet up with the others.
It's a beautiful partly cloudy morning with a little breeze. We approach by a seldom used path. Grass has grown up to and in between the ruts, but the dirt is packed enough to keep the trail visible. Meter high grass as far as the eye can see, with the now normal hillocks rolling along the prairie. The grasses just beginning to fade from green under the early summer sun.
To our right on one of those hills two figures can be seen. Watching. Natasha warns us to just keep moving, and don't engage with them. We find a relatively flat area and settle in for the night. Aaron counts about dozen circling but the watches are pretty quiet.
When we get to the camp of the peaceful tribe, Natasha is greeted by a man who looks as if he owns the place, and maybe he does. We are introduced and taken to a circle near a cooking fire. We are fed traditional food of the tribe, a flat and fried bread, along with a stew of game with squash and beans.
It is here we first hear of the creatures they describe as " those who eat us in the night". Flesh eaters are not unheard of, most beasts eat what they hunt.
We get to do a little trading and hear tales of the warriors in the group, and we pass into sleep.
I awake just after dawn to the sounds and smells of food being prepared. Mostly portions of what was not finished the night before, but just as good this morning, distracted as we were by Natasha and her findings in the night sky. They tell her that a meeting with the aggressive tribe isn't a bad idea, so she arranges to have a peace offering be brought along.
We gather ourselves and ride out to where the aggressive tribe can clearly see us and she raises the offering into the air. One of the watchers approaches and another disappears. We are escorted to the war chiefs camp. A rough and ready gathering of mostly men living in stick and hide tents. Easily setup and put away befitting their nomadic lifestyle.
This time a man comes out of a large tent and greets Natasha. Seeing the object he takes us inside the tent and we are presented to the war chief of this band.
The chief and Natasha go through some ceremonial greetings and having been presented the offering he agreed to to speak with us.
We sit and tea is given to us. A light floral taste sits on top of an earthy finish. Refreshing and mildly soothing. Given the constant on the move life of these folks this I imagine is perfect.
We hear the war chief explain how the "eaters" have been attacking, hunting really, the tribe. Scouts, a testing party, then they come by the hundreds. The tribe moves, the eaters send out a few scouts to find them, then they attack in waves again.
Finally they had to move onto the other tribes land and still they are harassed by the scouting groups. Soon they will be attacked again.
We also learned that they dragged off all the dead, even their own. Cannibals.
Natasha chastised the man for killing traders on the borrowed land, where trading is protected. He chaffed at first, but acquiesced and agreed to stop. The little gnome woman is really a force of nature when need be.
The next morning we learn three guards have disappeared. A guide, took us out to the spot where they should have been. Large boot tracks were found and Callion spots some blood in the grass. So they didn't just walk away.
The war band did have a shaman, but he proved less than effective in battle, as most of his magic relies on having sight, so he was sent away. In a bid to find and speak with the shaman Callion provided our guide with a direction finding dagger.
And while the man knew the shaman, and did know what a metal dagger was, he had no personal experience with magical devices. And as soon as the dagger began to spin the man panicked. Callion had to convince him it was not possessed, and would not hurt him.
This did take a little doing, but the task was accomplished. We learn the obvious. The shaman headed straight, more or less, to the high chiefs camp. I don't blame him, I wouldn't want to be out here among the cannibals either. So we pack up our gear and make the five hour journey there.
Once we arrive we are escorted to the high chief who points out the shaman. The meeting goes well and we learn what the cannibals look like. Average build, white, blind eyes, rags for clothes, sharp white teeth, scaly skin, and they use metal weapons. Well not cannibal zombies. Not sure if I would prefer that.
The last major fight the tribes warriors killed hundreds of them, but the waves of creatures kept coming.
At first light we ride back and by noon we arrive back at the warriors camp. A group of five creatures had attacked in the night, three were felled, the other two broke and ran. A larger group of creatures will attack tonight with out fail now that they have been found.
We devise a plan to find the creatures camp, divide and conquer. We will attempt to draw a large portion into an area and hit them with an immobilizing cloud of funk. And Natasha will use the surrounding grasses to ensnare another portion, while we pick off the rest.
The creatures being blind puts us magically at a disadvantage like the shaman and a fair amount of discussion was had.
We get lucky and only about ten creatures come out to attack tonight. The funky cloud was a great success, disabling their sense of smell they froze and milled about unable to find escape. Natasha's spell worked like a charm as well and we had the advantage in the first moments. My magic missiles helped but didn't score any kills, yet. The others are having better luck and suddenly we are left with only one.
As planned we ignore it and let it get free. It grabs the nearest dead body and bolts. We wait just a moment before giving chase, keeping it just in view.
After a run of about a mile it disappears. A diligent search is now on. Without any trees or bushes to hide in, there just anywhere to go. A moment of thrashing the grass a yelp goes out and Natasha has fallen into a six foot hole. Aaron leaps down and hoists the gnome up, before pulling himself out as well. A little panicked she urges us to leave quickly.
We race back to our steeds and ride out to where the war chief has set up his new camp. There Natasha divulges the cause of her alarm. She could hear the voices and sickening sounds of the creatures. We have found a nest.
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2023.05.30 04:09 Zestyclose_Donut_753 Large Capacity Camping Folding Basket with Table,can be Used as ice Bucket or ice tub,Leak Proof Basket,Proof Basket, with Cover and high Strength Tray Table Set, Suitable for Camping and Outdoor Party,28qt

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When open, the tabletop measures approximately 19.4*10\*10.6 inches, large enough to place an iPad, books, small items or tableware.It is convenient to use as a dining table for outdoor picnics. When fully folded, the basket body is relatively flat, with a thickness of only about 3 inches,easy to carry and store.
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This 2-in-1 collapsible basket/small tableboard is reasonably priced,of medium size,with delicate structure,especially the function of folding open to become a folding table is really great,very suitable for outdoor hikers and campers. Feel free to leave a comment if you're interested.
Hope this revised version works for you! Let me know if you'd like me to make any other changes.
submitted by Zestyclose_Donut_753 to u/Zestyclose_Donut_753 [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 02:16 violetspecs99 34 [F4M] SE Michigan Why do I keep doing this?

Oh, yeah, that’s right, I don’t want to be alone.
It’s been almost 6 months since I posted on here. I can’t recall if anything really turned up. Some Reddit encounters only last a few days until the excitement of meeting someone new wears off. I’ve been doing the dating app thing for a long time now and that’s probably created just as many positive results as posting here, so what the heck.
I’m 34, divorced (no kids, but still would like them), and 5 gorgeous pets (2 dogs and 3 cats). I’m unapologetically sarcastic. Too nerdy for the cool kids and too cool for the nerds. Like always, still trying to see where I fit.
I studied film and television in undergrad and that’s probably how I spend most of my free time, consuming those things. I’d say I’m a nerd about them, but then I run into the one person whose favorite movies and shows are ones I haven’t seen.
I do spend a lot of time hanging out at home, occupational hazard of being introverted and only having a couple friends. I do like going out to restaurants, camping (not hardcore camping; I do require electricity and running water), seeing movies, taking day trips/road trips. I also love standup comedy. I thought about maybe throwing my hat into the ring, but then I just didn’t.
I do want to point out I guess that I mostly believe in science (let me do my witchy/pagan things and pretend like it means something, ok) and I support social rights and justice. So, pretty left-leaning.
And if it matters, I’m a shorter, curvy BBW. I am into chubbier guys, but that partially might be because I assume those are the only ones into me. Despite being larger, and not working out, I am trying to be more active as my body is starting to feel much older than it is, and I try to eat a balanced diet despite loving pizza and ice cream too much. I would hope for someone kinda similar in that regard—I don’t do while with either drastic sides of the spectrum of being obsessed with diet and fitness or completely not caring at all. I also recently discovered I really dig beards and tattoos. But if you don’t have either, that is totally fine. Mental and emotional connection is also just as important. I also prefer someone who is close in her to myself, within 5 years.
I don’t feel like this post looks cohesive, but if anything piqued your interest, please feel free to reach out!
submitted by violetspecs99 to R4R30Plus [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 02:15 violetspecs99 34 [F4M] SE Michigan Why do I keep doing this?

Oh, yeah, that’s right, I don’t want to be alone.
It’s been almost 6 months since I posted on here. I can’t recall if anything really turned up. Some Reddit encounters only last a few days until the excitement of meeting someone new wears off. I’ve been doing the dating app thing for a long time now and that’s probably created just as many positive results as posting here, so what the heck.
I’m 34, divorced (no kids, but still would like them), and 5 gorgeous pets (2 dogs and 3 cats). I’m unapologetically sarcastic. Too nerdy for the cool kids and too cool for the nerds. Like always, still trying to see where I fit.
I studied film and television in undergrad and that’s probably how I spend most of my free time, consuming those things. I’d say I’m a nerd about them, but then I run into the one person whose favorite movies and shows are ones I haven’t seen.
I do spend a lot of time hanging out at home, occupational hazard of being introverted and only having a couple friends. I do like going out to restaurants, camping (not hardcore camping; I do require electricity and running water), seeing movies, taking day trips/road trips. I also love standup comedy. I thought about maybe throwing my hat into the ring, but then I just didn’t.
I do want to point out I guess that I mostly believe in science (let me do my witchy/pagan things and pretend like it means something, ok) and I support social rights and justice. So, pretty left-leaning.
And if it matters, I’m a shorter, curvy BBW. I am into chubbier guys, but that partially might be because I assume those are the only ones into me. Despite being larger, and not working out, I am trying to be more active as my body is starting to feel much older than it is, and I try to eat a balanced diet despite loving pizza and ice cream too much. I would hope for someone kinda similar in that regard—I don’t do while with either drastic sides of the spectrum of being obsessed with diet and fitness or completely not caring at all. I also recently discovered I really dig beards and tattoos. But if you don’t have either, that is totally fine. Mental and emotional connection is also just as important. I also prefer someone who is close in her to myself, within 5 years.
I don’t feel like this post looks cohesive, but if anything piqued your interest, please feel free to reach out!
submitted by violetspecs99 to r4r [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 01:39 Trash_Tia When I was 10 my class were infested with lice — the type that got into our heads.

We all have problems as kids, right?
But they’re not adult problems. Those come later.
Kid problems are much easier to deal with. Kid problems might seem ridiculous now, but back then they were practically the end of the world for some of us. Playground politics was a thing—who was friends with who. If we didn’t wear nice clothes, kids would laugh. If we didn’t like the things other kids liked, we were weird. We were a hive-mind, obsessed with being liked, being appreciated and accepted. High school sucks, sure, but elementary school is just as bad. Nobody says it these days so I will.
Kids can be fucking cruel.
I remember my biggest problem that morning being that I hadn’t gotten the new Pokémon game—Diamond and Pearl, I think it was called. I’d begged my parents for a Nintendo DS when it came out and had opened up a brand new light pink DS Lite on my 10th birthday, the day before. I wanted the game that all the other kids were playing, but according to mom it was too expensive. Instead, I got Barbie Horse Adventures: Summer Camp.
Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled with it.
It was raining that day.
I remember watching big, fat raindrops run down the classroom window, my head pressed to my desk and turned towards looming grey clouds. I liked pretending the raindrops were racing each other and mentally cheering them on.
I was too embarrassed to pull out my DS practically burning a hole in my skirt. I’d made the stupid mistake of telling everyone I was getting the new Pokémon game for my birthday, and the idea of admitting to them that I actually hadn’t—instead having some stupid Barbie game that I was pretending I liked—was making my stomach twist.
Still though, the rain was nice to watch. Since the weather wasn’t that great, we’d been strictly told to stay inside, though some kids had decided to ignore the teacher and go outside anyway so the classroom was mostly empty. I was watching one particular raindrop dance across the glass, when a laugh startled me out of my thoughts. When I lifted my head, I saw the usual suspects gathering around Lily’s desk.
They were bullying her again.
Licey Lily. That’s what everyone called her. Mom told me to stay away from the girl—though I think that was a universal thing all the parents told their kids. Lily came to school with clothes which didn’t fit her and holes in her socks and her shoes falling apart around her feet. When I sat behind her, sometimes I’d glimpse red markings on her wrist and her ankles. Lily didn’t wear winter clothes when it snowed. I remember when she came in late one day and wasn’t even wearing a coat. I’d heard from other kids her parents didn’t look after her, while others spread a rumour that she was an orphan. Lily had thick blonde curls that fell in front of her face in tangles and knots. Mrs Lewis tried to help her. She was maybe the only one who cared.
Mrs Lewis made sure Lily had a thick, woolly coat to play outside in. When Lily walked into class with her hair looking like a bird's nest, Mrs Lewis made it look pretty again. I liked Lily’s hair when it was brushed and in ribbons.
In kindergarten I was convinced she was a princess because her hair, despite being messy, looked like it was glowing, caught up in ethereal light from the sun.
I was sure the other kids were jealous. That was why they bullied her.
That day Lily’s hair didn’t look pretty—she didn’t look like a princess. The bright red ribbons Mrs Lewis had put in on Friday were still clinging to clumpy tangles of blonde, and she was wearing the same knitted cardigan she was wearing on Friday over a creased skirt and shoes that were too big for her. Though it wasn’t her clothes, or even the state of her hair that had attracted her usual tormentors. Lily had been scratching her head all the way through class. It wasn’t like normal though. Usually, she idly scratched maybe once or twice, but that day it had been a constant scratch, scratch, scratch all the way through class. Of course Scarlett Maine noticed.
The girl had waited until Mrs Lewis left the classroom before sidling over to Lily’s desk.
“Do you even wash your hair, Licey Lily?” Scarlett had dark hair pulled into pigtails that bobbed when she giggled. She leaned towards Lily. Scarlet acted older than she was—probably because she had a sister in high school. “My mom said only dirty kids like you get lice, and your hair is so gross.”
Lily didn’t move, her mess of blonde curls hanging in front of her face.
“Hey.” Scarlett grabbed a handful of her hair and tugged violently, “Licey Lily, why aren’t you talking to us?” She jumped back suddenly with a choked laugh. “Urgh, you can see them! They’re wriggling in her hair!”
“Scarlett.” I said. “Cut it out.”
I was ignored. If I tried to stop it, I knew what would happen. It always happened. Anyone who tried to help Lily, or told Mrs Lewis about the bullying, either got outcasted or bullied too. I opened my mouth to speak again, louder this time, but the others were in their own world—like tormenting Lily was their own personal fantasy and nobody could penetrate that little bubble of theirs. Freddie Caine who had been hovering over Scarlett with an identical cruel grin let out a disgusted snort. He grabbed Scarlett’s arm and the two of them stumbled back.
“I can see them!” He pointed, his eyes wide. “They’re all over her back! There are so many!”
More murmurs. Giggling. Some kids jumped up from their own desks and joined the growing crowd surrounding Lily. Freddie edged forwards like the desk was teeming with crawlies. “Did you make friends with them?” He whispered in Lily’s face. When the others laughed at that, Scarlett being the loudest, he shoved Lily hard.
“I bet you did.” Freddie grinned, “That’s why you’re always scratching. They’re your only friends.”
Scarlett nodded. Giggling, she rushed to her desk and grabbed her bag, pulling something out. The kids laughed harder. It was a water bottle—but it definitely wasn’t filled with water. Lily seemed to notice this too. She came back to life, lifting her head, glistening eyes widening in panic. I already knew what Scarlett was going to do, but nobody could stop her. Scarlett rounded Lily’s desk and held the bottle up high over the trembling girl’s head.
“Bath time!” Scarlett giggled, tipping the bottle.
I was aware of something that wasn’t water splashing down on a squeaking Lily’s head. She cried out, trying to shield herself. When she tried to jump up, tears welling in her eyes, Freddie and two other girls held her down. Scarlett didn’t stop until the bottle was empty and Lily was soaking wet, her cardigan glued to her, a huge wet patch on her skirt. When Lily lifted her head, her sopping knotted curls hung in clumps in front of her eyes. The bottle hit the ground and Freddie picked it up with a frown.
“What is that?” He sniffed it and pulled a face. “That stinks!”
The other kids murmured in agreement, and Scarlett shrugged. Her gaze pierced Lily, who was crying, her entire body trembling with the force of her sobs. “It’s apple juice, dummy! “ She said, “My mom wouldn’t let me fill my water bottle and my big sister was in the shower, so I got some apple juice from my dad’s office. It was on his desk.”
Freddie pinched his nose. “That’s not apple juice!” His voice was all nasally, “It smells like old socks! And it’s green!”
“You’re going to get in trouble.” Jasper Parker spoke up. He sat across from me and barely ever spoke- unless it was to brag about how smart he was. He’d been organising his gold sticker collection, though the splash had made him jump. He wasn’t smiling, though the muscles in his face were gradually contorting into one. Jasper wasn’t fooling me. I knew he only pretended to be nice so he could maintain his position as best student. He found it funny. I could see it in the sparkle in his eyes, his smirk when Scarlett and Freddie shoved Lily into her chair.
“Yeah?” Freddie’s gaze found Jasper’s. “Are you going to tattle, Goody Two Shoes?”
Jasper shrugged. “No.” He went back to his gold sticker collection, though his voice had softened a little. Goodie Two Shoes was his nickname in 3rd grade. Not just that—Jasper was obsessed with being the teacher’s pet. He had been as unpopular as Lily before bringing in Pokémon cards one day, and suddenly he was cool. Jasper had all the special sparkly ones he happily traded, so naturally the other kids had decided he wasn’t so bad after all. “She needed a bath. She stinks.”
“Stinky Lily!” Isabel Hades laughed, the others joining in – including Jasper, bowing his head further.
Ignoring them, Scarlett’s attention was on Lily, who had stood up, her hair dripping. All of her was dripping. Her clothes, her face—her eyes. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and yet they still laughed, pushing and shoving her. “See?” Scarlett’s voice was sugary sweet. “I’m so nice, Licey Lily! I even gave your friends a bath!”
Lily didn’t speak. She only ran out of the classroom, the others laughter chasing her all the way down the corridor. When the girl was gone, the other kids returned to their desk and Scarlett acted like nothing had happened. Jasper grabbed a mop from the janitor's closet, lying that Lily had spilled her water and cleaned up the mess on his own. He always did that— always helping someone or doing something helpful for his own gain.
When Jasper was mopping up the mess, I was frowning at him.
Well, not him. Because we all knew if you looked at a boy for too long you would explode or get cooties.
I wasn’t looking at Jasper, or the giant spot on his chin. No. I was staring at the liquid pooling at his feet which definitely wasn’t water. It was a funny green colour, and it was maybe a little thicker. It reminded me of Nickelodeon slime if it had been watered down. The green so-called water was giving me the creeps. I was looking at it for maybe a little too long, because Jasper noticed my gaze when he looked up.
He didn’t look happy.
It was an unwritten rule that boy’s and girl’s didn’t talk to each other unless they wanted a song being made about them. I could still remember when Sara Jacobs and Josh Simons had been caught talking to each other together in the playground. The next day, everyone was talking about it—and Scarlett was skipping around the two of them, singing that stupid rhyme that always got stuck in my head.
“Sara and Josh sitting in a tree! K. I. S. S. I. N. G.”
Jasper bugged out his eyes. “What are you looking at?”
“What’s that you’re cleaning up?”
“Apple juice.” Jasper said, not sounding sure.
“Uh-huh.” I folded my arms. “And why are you cleaning it up? That’s Scarlett’s mess.”
He stuck out his tongue, going back to mopping up. “None of your beeswax.”
I scoffed. I’d picked up the other kids' taunts over the years—and they felt natural coming off my tongue, slick like honey. This is where I admit I was no different from the others.
“You’re just being a teacher’s pet as usual.”
Jasper didn’t lift his head, but I noticed his mopping slowed a little—his fingers tightening around the handle.
“I know your secret.”
“My secret?”
Jasper nodded. “You have a Barbie game.” He giggled. “I saw you playing it under your desk.”
He scrubbed a little harder. “If you call me that again I’ll tell everybody you play Barbie games.”
Jasper had won.
I stood down.
Lily came back before class started again. Since it was raining, she matched a bunch of other kids who had gone outside to play in the shower. So she too had been yelled at by Mrs Lewis. The teacher had handed out towels so they could dry themselves, and it hadn’t been long before Freddie had snatched Lily’s and screwed it into a ball, throwing it to the back of the classroom. Lily trembled all the way through math. At first I thought it was because she was cold, but when I lifted my head from my drawing, I saw her body was quivering—her pale hands gripping her scalp, fingernails scratching at her forehead. She was whimpering to herself, hiding behind her book.
The scratching got worse until she curled into herself, her fingers clawing at her curls.
It was endless. The noise didn’t stop all the way through class.
When I was trying to answer questions, all I could hear was scratch, scratch, scratch. “Lily?” Mrs Lewis stopped explaining multiplication. “Are you okay?”
The girl’s head bobbed up and down in a sharp nod, and Mrs Lewis went back to teaching.
“Licey Lily.” Scarlett, who had insisted on sitting behind Lily, kicked the back of the girl’s chair.
“Her friends are dancing.” She said, loud enough for us to hear, but not the teacher.
Everyone giggled, and Lily scratched harder—until she was squeaking, scratting at her scalp.
I caught Jasper staring, his eyes wide. He wasn’t smiling or laughing like the others.
Instead, he was frowning at the floor where the mess had been.
At lunch it had stopped raining and I was relieved to get out of the classroom. I ate my lunch in the cafeteria before heading outside. There was a game of Tag happening, but the last time I’d joined in I’d ended up with skinned knees. Instead, I headed to the jungle gym—and there I found Lily. She was sitting on the very top, her legs dangling off the edge. Lily wasn’t wearing a coat and I remember feeling a chill down my spine when I noticed how pale her exposed arms were. The girl was shivering, her head of blonde curls pressed into her lap.
She was scratching again, scratching, scratching, scratching – and I swore when her fingers left her hair, I could see flecks of white stuck in her nails. Lily lifted her head. She wasn’t looking at me, her gaze on something else far away. It was the first time, I remember thinking—the first time I’d seen her face in a while. She always had her head bowed and was hiding behind her hair. Her cheeks were white, her lips twisted into a pained cry. “They won’t stop.” She was whispering to herself, her hands like claws going back into her hair and grasping at clumps of ratty gold and ragging violently. Her whole body shuddered, “They won’t stop.”
“They’re mean.” I said, “Don’t listen to them, okay? I like your hair. It’s really pretty!”
Lily didn’t respond, raking her fingernails down her face. “They won’t stop. Won’t stop. Won’t stop!”
Swallowing hard, I took slow steps towards her. “Lily?” I reached into my pocket to pull out my DS. My first thought was to let her play it. Maybe that might make her feel better. When I was pulling it out, though, Lily startled me with a shriek. “Stop!” Her hands balled into fists and she slammed them into her head, her sobs growing progressively more hysterical. Lily was running her hands through her hair and then staring down at the palms of her hands with a look of fright of terror. It hit me, then—that she wasn’t talking about Scarlett and the others. I felt myself take a slow step back. Lily was talking about the lice—the bugs crawling in her hair.
“Mommy.” Lily whimpered, her shaking fingers entangled with knotty curls. “I want my mommy.”
“I’ll get Mrs Lewis.”
But Lily wasn’t listening. She was swaying slightly, squeezing her eyes shut.
When I ran back inside, lunch had ended and everyone was heading to class. I flew directly into Mrs Lewis in my rush. Normally, I’d squeak out an apology or run away, but the words were already streaming from my mouth before I could help them. I could still see Lily in my mind—swaying back and forth, her eyes flickering, the red staining her fingernails. “It’s Lily!” I shrieked. “She’s outside, and she’s crying,” I gestured with my hands, pointing to my own head. “She had bugs in her hair. Like, humongous bugs, and she keeps scratching and the bugs are really big—”
“Miri.” Mrs Lewis cut me off, “Calm down. First of all, we don’t say bugs. They’re called lice, and they’re completely normal. All kids your age will get lice.” Her eyes found the end of the corridor. “Where is Lily now?”
“She’s on the jungle gym.” I said, “Is Lily going to be okay? Is she going to give us all lice?”
The teacher’s eyes turned sharp, and I automatically knew I’d said the wrong thing.
“Okay, Miri. Tell everyone I’m going to be a little late. I’ll go and find Lily.”
When I went back to class, someone had drawn a stickwoman on the board with a giant bug on her head.
I slumped in my chair and turned to Jasper, who was organising his crayons in order of shade.
“Hey.” I pointed to the board. “Who drew that?”
“Scarlett.” He muttered. “I’ve already wiped it off three times.”
I was daydreaming, counting clouds in the sky—trying to ignore Freddie and Scarlett singing about bugs, when Mrs Lewis came back. She was hand in hand with Lily, who looked better. I wasn’t sure how, but the girl seemed different. The way she moved, holding her head high as she skipped to her desk. Lily was skipping. She was smiling. Her eyes were bright—a glitter in her demeanour that none of us knew. We only knew the girl who stared down at the floor, peering through straggly hair. It’s not like her hair was better. It was worse, matted to her back.
When she found her seat, giggling to herself, her hands went back to her hair—scratching.
But she was smiling, giggling, laughing, as her scratting got more intense, raking her scalp. Her fingernails—I thought, something slimy creeping up my throat. Lily’s fingernails were still red, and the white flecks had turned fleshy pink. It was like jello, stuck to her nails and splattered on her palms. I didn’t want to think about what the goop was. I was squinting at the wooden grains of my desk to avoid barfing, when a shadow loomed.
I looked up to find Mrs Lewis glaring down at me.
“Miri, I am very disappointed in you. Lily is perfectly fine. If I hear you saying things about other children I will be talking to your mother. Do you understand me?”
I opened my mouth to protest, but she cut me off.
“Would you like it if some of your friends said mean things about your hair?”
“But Mrs Lewis,” I whispered, “She did. I saw the bugs. They were making her cry.”
The teacher shook her head. “I combed through Lily’s hair several times. She does not have lice.”
If Mrs Lewis had combed through her hair, it wouldn’t still be a mess.
Why was she lying?
“She does though.” Jasper spoke up. “I saw them crawling in her hair.”
“Jasper!” The teacher’s voice hardened. “Of everyone in this class, I didn’t expect you to join in this bullying.”
“It’s not bullying!” He said, “Mrs Lewis, she has lice! Like, crazy lice!”
The teacher ignored us and went back to the front. I was surprised that Scarlett hadn’t spoken a word.
“Get out your workbooks.” Mrs Lewis told everyone.
“I was going to let you write stories today, since it’s coming up to the holidays, but since all you can do is make mean remarks against your friends, I want you to work in silence. Do the activity on pages 5, 6, and 8. Jasper, put your hand down. Yes, I know you’ve already done them—you can turn to the back and do question 10.”
Mrs Lewis cleared her throat. “Is that understood?”
“Yes, Mrs Lewis!” Lily chirped.
I heard the collective breath from everyone.
It was the first time in days that Lily had spoken without being forced to. There was something strange about her face. When I looked at the girl for long enough, she didn’t move, didn’t blink, her lips splitting her mouth apart into a smile. But her hands kept going—kept scratching, even when the fleshy pink built up in her fingernails. The teacher smiled, seemingly failing to notice the state of Lily. If she did, she didn’t care.
“Well done, Lily.”
I went through my workbook, struggling with the questions, especially when Lily would not stop scratching at her head. It was driving me crazy and knowing the damage she was doing to her head, seeing her wearing that unnerving grin—she was scaring me. I wanted to tell Mrs Lewis there was something wrong, but the words wouldn’t form in my mouth. I didn’t want to get in trouble again, but Lily’s scratching was unbearable.
When we were done, Mrs Lewis went around the class asking for answers.
Only two hands shot into the air.
Jasper, as usual— and to my surprise, Lily. Mrs Lewis looked equally baffled. Still, she nodded and smiled at the girl. “Lily, do you have the answer to—” she flicked through the workbook. “Question two?”
Lili shook her head. “No, but I have the answer for the one you’re doing.”
“Hmm?” The teacher looked confused, and Lily giggled, pointing to the red notebook on her desk.
“That one! The question you’re looking for is X=2. If you divide—“ Her words didn’t make sense to me, just like gibberish. I’d never heard of that kind of math. We were doing division, and I was still struggling with the basics.
Lily had never answered a math question, though I’d noticed her workbooks had always been coloured in green marker pen and glittery stickers. I guess it made sense that she was smart at math, but I didn’t understand how she’d somehow gotten the answer to the problem in Mrs Lewis’s private notebook.
“Lily, that’s not the question I’m asking. What’s the correct answer to question two?”
“Three.” Lily said. “Duh. You just divide 21 and 7.”
“That’s right.” Mrs Lewis’s lips pricked into a smile. “However, we do not say that word.”
Lily nodded and sat down with a bounce, her hands going back to scratch at her hair.
Behind me, Jasper grumbled. "I knew that."
When the day was over I was ready to get home—away from Lily and the smile that was stuck to her face.
Lily was packing up her stuff when Scarlet shoved past her.
“Get out of my way, Licey Lily! Don’t touch me.”
To my surprise, Lily laughed. She reached out her hand, giggling, and tucked a straying strand of Scarlett’s hair behind her ear. Beaming, Lily’s expression glittered with something I couldn’t and never would understand.
They looked strange—her eyes, I mean. They looked like they were moving, her pupils growing larger and then smaller, bouncing up and down like in cartoons. I had to blink to see if I was seeing things. When I turned around, Jasper was staring too, his mouth open, gaping.
Lily tugged her pigtails—hard.
I’d never seen Scarlett look scared. She always looked happy, always gleeful.
And yet then, I only saw terror. I saw a whole new shade of her personality bleeding through.
“They like your hair, Scarlett.” Lily murmured. “They’ve been talking to me and they want to eat it all up! And then they want to eat up your brain too!” Still laughing, Lily pressed her head to Scarlett’s. The girl didn’t move. Freddie, standing nearby, looked shaken, his lips twisted in disgust. And then I knew why. Because when I looked at Lily properly, I saw that her hair was moving. Twitching. I could see them, I could see bugs skittering across her head. I saw tiny legs peeking from her hairline. Freddie hissed out. “Hey.” His voice was shaky.
“Stop that.”
Scarlett stumbled back, clinging to Freddie.
“You’re so gross.” She managed to hiss. “Get… get away from me.”
Lily’s pupils shrunk to a dot. “I’ll see you tomorrow!”
She was skipping away before any of them could respond.
That night I told mom to wash my hair three times just in case.
A sicky feeling had followed me to the Elementary school gates the next day.
I kept my head down for most of the morning. Scarlett was quiet and Lily had stopped scratching—she’d stopped everything though. Lily didn’t raise her hand to answer questions or work in her books.
She just sat there staring at nothing and smiling. Like she could see something I couldn’t.
I noticed scratching during reading period. When I lifted my head though, it was Freddie scratting his curls.
The scratching spread like a virus. By the end of the class it was everyone. Even Mrs Lewis.
At recess, I went to the bathroom to hide from Lily, who was eagerly dancing across the classroom and pressing her head to other kids.
They didn’t run though. They just stood and let her. When I was washing my hands, a stall creaked open, and Scarlett came out. She didn’t look like she usually did. Her hair was a tangled mess, no longer in pigtails, instead hanging in her face. Scarlett’s eyes didn’t find me, instead flicking to the mirror. Taking slow steps, she went over to the mirror and clawed at her hair, yanking and pulling at it.
“Make it stop.” She whispered, nails like claws scratching at her head, and then her face. Her eyes were red, and when I looked closer—I had to swallow a cry. Scarlett’s hair was moving. Just like with Lily. I saw them, bulging black bugs sticking to her hair and scuttling across her forehead. The girl’s arms were wild, trying to dig and claw and pull them off, but they were merciless, sticking into her skin and not letting go. She lunged forwards, her body swaying like she was dizzy before slamming her head into the mirror with a wet splat. My body froze up.
Blood, I thought.
There was blood.
“Stop.” Scarlett’s head hit the mirror again. Splat. More blood. More blood smearing the glass. I felt my legs give way and my knees hit cold tiles, my eyes glued to the bugs burrowing under her hair, clawing into her skin.
“They’re in my head.” She whimpered, her eyes flickering. Her pupils were bulging, growing bigger and then smaller, and the skin of her face contorted, like they were under there too. They were everywhere, I realised.
They were in her hands, bulging bumps writhing under the skin of her flesh when she tried to claw at her hair—but her hands fell limp by her side. Like they were stopping her. Puppeteering her.
“I can… hear them.” Scarlett’s contorting pupils found mine. When she opened her mouth to scream, I spied tiny holes on her tongue. “They’re in my head,” her voice was light, almost dreamy. “I want my… I want my mommy.”
Scarlett held out her hands, staring wide-eyed at fleshy pink covering her skin.
Mommy. Her lips moved, but no sound came out.
When I saw tiny black dots writhe across the whites of her eyes, bulging into her pupils like it was taking over—
I screamed.
I just remembered screaming, and the BANG when Scarlett’s head hit the mirror again, and again.
Until her head didn’t look like a head.
The familiar voice made me cry harder.
Jasper stumbled in, one hand covering his eyes, the other grasping at the wall to balance him. “This is the girl’s bathroom! I could get a disease here,” He groaned. “Why are you screaming? Is there a spider?”
“Scarlett!” I managed to whisper when the girl flopped to the ground. “It’s Scarlett!”
“What’s wrong with her?“
“Miss Lewis.” I backed into the wall, watching her body flailing. “Get Miss Lewis!”
Staggered footsteps.
The door shut, and I was alone with Scarlett.
And it was the first time I heard it.
Staring down at my lap, I refused to look at Scarlett, at the smear of red on the mirror. I was counting my breaths when I heard it—skittering and twitching. I heard them burrowing into Scarlett’s head, dancing across her hair.
I was sobbing when Mrs Lewis hurried in, Jasper at her side. His hands were still over his eyes.
“Miri!” Mrs Lewis hissed out. “What’s going on?”
“Scarlett.” I whimpered into my dress. “She’s—”
I opened my mouth to speak, but then my eyes caught Scarlett standing in front of the mirror. She looked normal again. There was no splash of deep red painting her face, no dent in her head where she’d smashed her face into the mirror. I noticed there was dripping toilet paper tinged red balled in her fists. She’d wiped it off, I thought. Scarlett had cleaned the mirror. When the girl faced the teacher, her eyes were funny—like Lily’s.
“Yes, Mrs Lewis?”
I squinted, catching movement on the shrinking crack in the mirror.
Tiny black dots— like ants— crawling across the glass. They were fixing it, I realised.
Like the dent in Scarlett’s head.
Had they fixed her too?
Jasper peeked through his hands. “Is it okay to look?”
Mrs Lewis was red-faced. “This is the second time, Miri!” She yelled. “This isn’t an isolated case, this is crying wolf!”
I didn’t know what that meant.
Slowly, I got to my feet. I was trembling.
“Miss Lewis.“ My voice was shaking. “Scarlet had—“ I reached into my own hair. “Magic… magic bugs—"
“Lice?” The teacher finished. “I’m going to talk to your mother. This is unacceptable behaviour.”
She gestured to the door. “Girls. Get to class. Jasper, stay behind. I’d like to talk to you.”
Jasper squeaked. “Me? Why?”
“Just a talk, Jasper.”
“But—I didn’t do anything!”
I didn’t want to leave Jasper—but I didn’t have a choice.
On the way back to class, I considered going home. I wanted to run away—back to mom. Someone’s hand clawed in my hair, entangling in my ponytail. I cried out, pulling away. It was Scarlett with eyes that weren’t hers anymore. “Pretty hair!” She sang, tugging on my hair. “Pretty, pretty, pretty hair!”
I was the only one not scratching my head when I went back to the classroom. The other kids continued playing, laughing, talking—scratting at their heads. Lily sat at her desk—as did Scarlett and Freddie. They didn’t move. They didn’t join in. Freddie’s fingernails were red, but he didn’t care, scratching and scratching and scratching.
I pressed my hands over my ears to block out the noise.
When Jasper sat back in his seat, his eyes were red. I turned to him quickly. “What did she say?”
The boy glowered at me. “I’m not the star student anymore,” He mumbled. “Mrs Lewis said I can have my stickers back when I stop being mean to Lily.” His eyes narrowed into slits. “This is all your fault, Miri. You’re the one who keeps saying there’s bugs in kids' hair. You made me go in the girl’s bathroom, so now I’ve got girl cooties.”
Jasper rested his head in his arms. “Mrs Lewis was weird too. She kept touching my head.”
“What?” I hissed, leaning my chair against his desk. “Jasper, what happened?”
“I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” He grumbled into his arms. “Go away.”
Jasper wasn’t lying. He ignored me for the rest of the day. Even when I offered him the cupcake my mom had packed me. He ate it in one bite and went back to glaring at his own lunch. I wanted to talk to him, because he was the only one who wasn’t acting weird. The other kids started to follow Lily and Scarlett and Freddie. They stopped playing, stopped talking and laughing, and just sat in silence. I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand the scratching. I wanted to go home. When I told Mrs Lewis I felt sick, she just smiled and told me I was crying wolf.
It was only much later on when I realised I was the only one left. I was writing about panda’s when I heard it coming from behind me. It started slow, soft, and then grew louder. When I turned around, it wasn’t Ella or Jack or Sara scratching their heads. Instead, I glimpsed Jasper attacking his dark brown curls with his nails.
He wasn’t doing math problems like usual.
I should have noticed sooner.
I should have noticed his heavy breathing, panicky breaths coming out in hysterical sobs that the rest of the class and teacher ignored. I know, looking back, I didn’t want to. I was in denial that it had spread to our side.
“Jasper?” I said with a tangled tongue. I wanted to ask if he was okay, but when he lifted his head, I saw the exact same—that look of fright and pain I’d seen in Lily and Scarlett. Fear—the kind of fear I’d never expected a kid to feel. His whole body was quivering, contorting. His skin looked like it was rippling, like something was underneath. I caught something moving behind his ear, far more visible on short shaggy curls. Legs. But not tiny ones. I could see them scuttling down his neck. When I leaned forward, I could see them. But they weren’t in his hair, they were in his skin. They were twitching in his nose and trickling from his lips, choking his panicked sobs.
“Miss Lewis.” He finally whispered, spitting out writhing black. It hit the desk, crawling across his book.
“There’s something… in my head.” Jasper sobbed. “Something… in my… in my head.”
Mrs Lewis didn’t stop writing on the whiteboard. “Don’t be ridiculous, Jasper.”
I couldn’t move. If I did, I was scared I’d catch them too.
That my head would start scratching.
“But there is.” Jasper’s voice was strange. Dreamy. “They’re telling me they’re going to eat my brain.”
Like Lily, like everyone else, his eyes found nothing.
And he smiled—like he was seeing something beautiful.
When my teacher exploded I was writing.
I didn’t want to look at Jasper, whose eyes were funny, or the others—who had turned to Jasper like they were waiting. I didn’t fully register my teacher being there one second and then gone the next. I saw it as an explosion.
Not like fireworks, sizzling colours streaming across the night sky.
More like a bang. A sudden bang that sent my world spiralling. My pen dropped from my hand. I’d been writing about— about pandas. And for some reason I wanted to continue. I wanted to write more. I wanted to write pages and pages and pages of panda facts, and maybe if I was lucky, things might go back to the way they were. Maybe if I wrote enough Jasper would stop screaming. Maybe he’d stop scratching.
I didn’t register something warm hitting my face. It was the same colour as Freddie’s fingernails.
Red blurring my vision and spattering my desk and workbook.
Nobody cried out.
Jasper was the only one screaming, pulling at his hair, stumbling and staggering. But I was too busy staring at the writhing pieces of Mrs Lewis on the ground. Moving. Bugs streaming out of her and crawling across the floor. I wondered if I was one of them. If I was infected too. Because I sat too- staring at what was left of Mrs Lewis. The bugs worked in harmony, crawling across desks and streaming into my classmates' ears.
But when I looked at Holly Henderson and Nick Jacobs, they were laughing.
“That tickles!” Lily squealed when one wormed its way through her lips, and nose. And then Lily started to come apart slowly, still smiling. It was like the bugs—the lice—were folding her inside out like she was one of my dolls.
Bugs erupted from her grinning mouth, her eyes, tiny legs coming from her head, before she, like Mrs Lewis—
That’s what it sounded like.
Pop! Lily sounded like a balloon.
I didn’t look. I squeezed my crimson eyes shut.
But I still heard her. Them. I heard them writhing through the speckled pieces of Lily.
When I lifted my head, kids started to pop like Lily. I was so busy staring, watching them disappear in shades of red, I didn’t notice Jasper had grabbed me and pulled me to my feet. The world spun around me and I blinked.
I felt like I was floating—flying, my feet slipping on the floor.
Jasper’s cry.
“Get them off me!”
When he opened his mouth to cry, there were holes on his tongue.
And the bugs came popping from his lips like maggots, gagging his cries.
Jasper was grasping hold of his head, cradling it, because he knew.
He’d seen what had happened to the others.
I didn’t want to look. I didn’t want to look. But I found my gaze flicking to the back of his head, which was— twitching. There was something there, something fighting to get out. The boy moaned, falling to his knees.
“Get them out of my head! Get them out!”
Jasper was crying, slamming his head into his desk, his trembling hands going to his neck— and I realised he was trying to choke himself, or more accurately, choke the crawlies bulging in his throat.
I remember grabbing hold of him, wrapping my arms around him. I don’t know what I was trying to do.
I think I was trying to pick them off him in the hysteria building and building—- I remember he hit the ground and took me with him. I was picking bugs from his face, trying not to look at his eyes, dancing pupils multiplying into ones and twos and threes expanding and shrinking.
I was staring at him, trying to choke out his name when I knew it wasn’t really him anymore. It couldn’t be. Jasper didn’t have three pupils.
“Jasper.” I was saying his name over and over again. “Why do you have funny eyes?”
I said it like a mantra.
I wouldn’t stop until he answered me.
That was before the bright red. It was hitting me in the face, and my hands were in front of me trying to find Jasper, but only clawing thin air. At my feet I knew he was there, like the others, glittering scarlet contorting beneath me.
And the bugs that had spewed out of him.
But I didn’t want to think about that.
I was going to pick the bugs off of Jasper. I was going to save him from Lily’s lice.
I was still trying to find Jasper when men in white came and pulled me away.
Away from my classroom filled with writhing black.
I was still trying to find him when they sprayed me with ice cold water.
When I was in my mom’s arms, she wore a protective suit, my face pressed against her visor.
“Mom, where’s Jasper?”
She didn’t reply, hugging me tighter. I could feel her gloved hands in my hair, feverishly flitting through strands.
When a man shaved all my hair off I didn’t complain.
The school was shut down, and mom and I moved to Canada.
I was 16 when I started growing my hair out again.
When I was 19, I caught someone scratching their head in college class.
I excused myself and went back to my dorm.
I spent hours going through my hair.
I’m 23 now. It’s been 13 years and what happened to my fourth grade class—I’ve mostly suppressed. It was a virus, I was told. Except I knew exactly what it was. Lice. Lice that had turned my classmates into squiggling red.
I just remember squiggling red.
Yesterday, I was on the Subway to a friend's place. It’s the first time I’ve been in the US since I was 10. I could barely keep my eyes open and the light rocking of the carriages was sending me to sleep. I was squashed between a guy in ray bans with his head bowed, probably asleep, and an elderly woman with a dog. I was staring down at my lap when the guy lay his head on my shoulder. I wasn’t a fan of touching people in public, but he was warm and wouldn’t move when I tried to shove him off, so I left him.
I drifted off myself.
When I heard it.
My head jerked up, slivers of ice sliding down my spine. The train was still moving. I wasn’t dreaming.
I could hear people talking around me, a kid crying, and a teenager’s music blasting.
But it was still there. I could hear it. So close.
It was so… close.
Looking up, I realised something.
I’d never looked at the guy sitting next to me.
That was my first mistake.
My first mistake—and I can’t stop thinking about it— even now. Almost three hours later.
I can’t get his words out of my head.
As I scratch.
I keep scratching.
I can’t stop.
Because the guy sitting next to me wasn’t a stranger. Without his raybans when he slid them off, I recognised those eyes, and that stupid smile from all those years ago. His face had been carved with age—and adulthood had been good to him, a bedhead of messy light reddish curls falling in flickering eyes that drank me in feverishly—pupils that expanded and multiplied in twos, threes and fours. Jasper. When I jumped up, he reached and pulled me back down with strength that sucked the breath from my lungs.
“Well, would you look at that? We finally found you.” He said, his voice a mixture of a child and an adult—as well as an insect-like chitter. I could only stare at him, a scream clawing at my throat.
In the corner of my eye, I glimpsed blonde curls.
Another chitter, which Jasper reacted to.
Like a signal.
“Ten minutes.” He murmured, snuggling into me with a sigh. His whole body was writhing with them. I felt them tickling my ear. When I looked down, scuttling black dots ran across my shoes. “That’s how long it took for them to put us back together.”
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2023.05.29 23:54 Formal_Pea9167 I Watch Paige's Week At Home Blog So You Don't Have To, I'm Serious The Vlog Is Like An Hour Long Don't Do This To Yourself

A day late but we're here, my little cheeto eaters! Remember as always to grab your bingo cards and let's get our little long weekend slumber party going. This whole fucking thing is FORTY MINUTES LONG, you're all lucky that my sibling who was supposed to spend the day chilling at my place has apparently forgotten that plan.

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2023.05.29 23:05 TheRetroWorkshop Hard & Accurate Sci-fi Tip #2: Space Military Structure (Namely, Space Opera):

This is going to be one of my more serious, long posts, so strap in, as they say (though I cannot possibly detail out everything you might need to know. That would require at least three posts). To quote -- and set the stage through -- Dostoevsky (from Notes from Underground):
'Is it [history] many-coloured? May be it is many-coloured, too: if one takes the dress uniforms, military and civilian, of all peoples in all ages--that alone is worth something, and if you take the undress uniforms you will never get to the end of it; no historian would be equal to the job. Is it monotonous? May be it's monotonous too: it's fighting and fighting; they are fighting now, they fought first and they fought last--you will admit, that it is almost too monotonous.
In short, one may say anything about the history of the world--anything that might enter the most disordered imagination. The only thing one can't say is that it's rational. The very word sticks in one's throat. And, indeed, this is the odd thing that is continually happening: there are continually turning up in life moral and rational persons, sages and lovers of humanity who make it their object to live all their lives as morally and rationally as possible, to be, so to speak, a light to their neighbours simply in order to show them that it is possible to live morally and rationally in this world. And yet we all know that those very people sooner or later have been false to themselves, playing some queer trick, often a most unseemly one.
Now I ask you: what can be expected of man since he is a being endowed with strange qualities? Shower upon him every earthly blessing, drown him in a sea of happiness, so that nothing but bubbles of bliss can be seen on the surface; give him economic prosperity, such that he should have nothing else to do but sleep, eat cakes and busy himself with the continuation of his species, and even then out of sheer ingratitude, sheer spite, man would play you some nasty trick. He would even risk his cakes and would deliberately desire the most fatal rubbish, the most uneconomical absurdity, simply to introduce into all this positive good sense his fatal fantastic element. It is just his fantastic dreams, his vulgar folly that he will desire to retain, simply in order to prove to himself--as though that were so necessary--that men still are men and not the keys of a piano, which the laws of nature threaten to control so completely that soon one will be able to desire nothing but by the calendar.'
I would only add that he was rather harsh on the soldier and his general. Many-coloured, is he! The eternal shine of the ten million blades, the wooden hilt; the forgotten hammer, the ships of our forefathers. Ah! Such a pity to see nought in it but blood and sand -- now, that is monotonous. If man is to mean anything at all, it must be finding some honour in life... and death. War, it must be known, is the great stage-play of time. Surely, then, the warrior is the greatest (male) part to play? Otherwise, it's all for nought!
If you're going to, as the author, gift your setting a military and its honour, you have to actually put yourself inside the mind of the general, the trooper, the law-maker, the wife at home, the child in the street; otherwise, it's going to be a hollowed-out system, a mere mote. It does not matter to me if you believe in war or not, or if all war is just (certainly, it's not): what matters is that you do your setting and peoples justice, regardless of what they may find themselves. After all, this is your job as the writer, as the artist. It's your job to let your characters and their stories free, and follow them, as to see where they may lead.
I'm not even going to dig into the elements at play, such as brotherhood, inter-national conflict resolution, national defence, social structure, and physical fitness. These elements ought to be known to you all: they are some of the clear benefits to warfare and boot camp/training, in general. I have not yet found a defeatist army, for example -- or yet a nation without some kind of guarder force, vast or not. (Note: there are some claims that actual warfare did not exist until around 9,000 BC, but I find this very difficult to believe, and have seen some counter-evidence. For example, Jane Goodall and de Waal find that chimps go to war (raiding parties, sometimes wiping out entire tribes); and there are strong indications that pre-historic human tribes were war-driven, just on smaller scales, and often using wooden weapons (thus, no direct evidence is found). We know that modern hunting (and fire-making, and related matters) existed at least 1.5-2 million years ago, according to the books I own and more recent research. That's the entire history of humanity, ultimately. There is no way these spears and slings were not used against man.)
Well, a big part of space opera is, indeed, warfare (typically in relation to defence of the Good [nation] and psychomachy). Anyway, without further ado, I give to you...
Part One: A Brief History of Battles, Great and Small
Let's begin with Alexander the Great, because why not (though I could have started with Sargon of Akkad many years prior). Alexander's army was a powerful, fast-moving, and relatively small force of 40,000 men (equal to a Napoleonic corps or so). Often credited with inventing genius 'shock' tactics (the so-called hammer and anvil tactic) to overwhelm equally-sized forces. He even managed to break up, and then defeat, the vast Persian army under King Darius III (around 1500,000 strong). Alexander the Great's army is as close to the cinematic glory of 300 (2006) as you're likely to find. Soon after, Alexander was crowned King of Asia in a lavish ceremony.
Moving forward a few hundred years, at its peak, the Roman military possibly had over 500,000 soldiers across its regions (around 0.5% of citizens -- which is a fairly reliable standard across history) by 306 AD during the reign of Constantine I. Compare this to the Roman conquest of Britain under Plautius, with just a 40,000-man force (four legions and 20,000 auxiliary troops, including Thracians) in 43 AD. (It's also worth mentioning, if you're in a long-term space war, individual companies, legions, or otherwise could stay outfitted for as long as 500 years at a time without issue. The Roman Legion, Legio IX Hispana, for example, existed for at least 150 years, and led the conquest of Britain. And, within the Warhammer 40,000 universes, a single Space Marine sees battle for about 400 years before he's KIA (killed in action).)
During the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD, each side only had upwards of 5,000-8,000 men (around 15,000 in total). This was actually a common trend, from what I found: equally common was the notion of 'law of war' and related, which meant that each side wanted to be roughly equal to the other side. This is one of the most profound discoveries of my life (more on this later). (The Japanese invasion of China, for example, taught me that having too much control over your enemy leads to madness -- there must be an innate drive to some sense of honour, fair challenge in war-making. When men are without equals, they become titans, as it were. And, if you know anything about some of the Greek titans: they were not very friendly or sane.)
Around this time (960-1279 AD), the Song Dynasty of China had a remarkable standing army of over two million men, and made use of tank-like carts and newly-invented 'grandes' (known as 'thunder crash bombs'). However, this was financially exhausting, but it was sometimes capable of fighting against invading Khitans, Jurchens, and Mongols, largely thanks to the great iron industry. Individual battles, however, were quite small.
By the time of the First Italian War (1494 AD), Europe was really starting to take its modern shape, and there were hundreds of what are ultimately power struggle wars and rebellions across Europe as we moved out of the Middle Ages. This was the opening phase of the Italian Wars, which existed between 1494 and 1559 AD. The Battle of Marignano was the last major engagement of the War of the League of Cambrai (aka the wars between 1508 and 1516 AD, within the Italian Wars. The main participants were the French, Papal States, and Republic of Venice) and took place in 1515 AD, southeast of Milan. The Battle of Marignano pitted the French army, led by Francis I and the best heavy cavalry and artillery in Europe, against the Old Swiss Confederacy (within the Holy Roman Empire -- this was the precursor of the modern state of Switzerland), whose mercenaries until that point were regarded as the best medieval infantry force in Europe. The French had German landsknechts (mercenaries famed for pike and shot formations) on their side. The French won and suffered just half the losses, and did so with a fairly stronger force -- possibly 35,000 men compared to 22,000 on the Swiss side. This led to the Treaty of Fribourg, which established the 'Perpetual Peace', and ensured good relations between the two nations for nearly 200 years. This event is largely what led to Switzerland's world-famous diplomatic autonomy and militaristic neutrality. Nonetheless, this battle -- and countless others at the time -- saw similar numbers to centuries past: roughly 20,000 on each side.
Part Two: An Introduction to Military Divisions & the Numbering System
Enter Maurice de Saxe circa 1710 AD, whom you can thank, at least in part, for the modern military system, largely due to the major increase in soldiers by the 18th century, and his advanced thinking in response. A major battle felt by a young de Saxe was the Battle of Malplaquet during the War of the Spanish Succession. Battles pressed on in this manner, and at some point, de Saxe began to write about it. He wrote Mes Reveries, a profound work on the art of war, which was published after his death in 1757 AD.
He had the grand idea of reshaping the regiment system into large 'legions' (modern divisions), so that the effective officers were not wasted on smaller, single regiments. These divisions would consist of four regiments and would have a more even mix of veteran soldiers and new recruits, as well. On top of this, he -- along with some other key theorists at the time -- had the idea of simply numbering the divisions and regiments, replacing the traditional system of naming them by their commanders or by locations/regions: because that's a very temporary, rigid system that only works for small, tight-knit groups. The divisional system also allowed soldiers to climb the ranks, and effectively learn from the veterans.
The regimental system shatters command structure and weakens mobility, despite the fact you have smaller, often lighter units. Too many small, separate, disorganised units is highly ineffective when you're dealing with large armies, and quite an advanced enemy (be it the British or Prussians, in this case). What de Saxe noticed was a failing system of rigid tradition. He also hated this sort of grenadier mentality of the 17th and 18th centuries, as it displaced all the strongest and most experienced soldiers. Of course, de Saxe was not against the existence of grenadiers: the strongest soldiers, leading the assaults, such as storming fortifications. He simply wanted to evenly spread them out across all the regiments, and legions, so that every single unit was an effective tool. (This grenadier concept actually survives to this day, as a grenade launcher specialist of a typical four-man fireteam (traditionally, sharing much in common with WWII-era shock troops), and you see it all the time in movies, where he is still typically the biggest, strongest of the team.)
Battles were increasingly crossing the 100,000 mark in terms of soldier count; whereas, not long ago (that is, around 1650 AD), the numbers were more likely in the range of 20,000 for most battles, other than a few outliers.
Then, de Saxe died before he had the opportunity to actually implement his system, though the Duke de Broglie led some successful experiments with it during the Seven Years War, but it took until the French Revolution for the 'division' concept to be enforced, systematically. This ultimately fell at the hands of the French Revolutionary Army.
Enter Lazare Carnot. Like de Saxe, Carnot saw that some regiments were full of veterans, whilst others -- namely, the new revolutionary brigades -- were filled with barely-trained recruits. And, like de Saxe, his solution was to separate out the veterans and embed them within these new brigades. More importantly, he embraced de Saxe's idea of the 'division'. The new demi-brigades (regiments, as the Revolutionary Government hated and removed the term regiment) would be combined into brigades, and brigades would be combined into divisions. Later, under Napoleon, divisions themselves were combined into corps (which is and has always been the highest level of operational units for actual combat, with all units larger than corps being purely administrative, with a clear exception being Napoleon's Armee (i.e. modern field army), and a few other, smaller army groups).
This wonderfully created an intermediate level of control between the general and the brigade commanders. The Revolutionary Army became at once an army of mass and mobility. This allowed the army to move faster and more decisively than their enemies, who were still commanding at regiment or brigade level.
Full implementation of the divisional system was not realised until the French Revolutionary Government, in their centralising and anti-aristocratic ways, when they decided to entirely remove the old system of naming regiments after their commanders. They saw all of this as part of the 'ancien regime' (i.e. 'the System' or 'old system', language also used by Hitler in relation to what he called the 'Weimar Republic'. Not uncommon language from any new system). The second factor at play was that the French Revolutionary Government also didn't like the idea of merely naming regiments after regions of France. The final factor was scale: the Army was larger than ever, which made it very difficult to give specific names.
As a result, the Government began numbering their units by the late-1700s. Although the Roman legions themselves had been numbered, and de Saxe argued for it many years prior, some scholars believe that this was purely an administrative decision. (Obviously, your naming convention can be more on the religious/traditional or seculamodern side, depending on just how the entire system is set up. Warhammer 40,000 is a good example of a more Roman-inspired system, despite its far-future nature, so it's not uncommon to find very traditional, religious naming conventions within Warhammer 40,000, coupled with simple, administrative systems. And, again: Nazi Germany and other 20th-century powers, such as America and England, also shifted towards numbered and/or lettered systems for pretty much everything. Not shockingly, this is heavily featured in sci-fi, as well.)
Part Three: Napoleon & the Birth of Modern War:
Although the concepts of the 'corps' and 'battalion carre' (that is, four corps) existed, they were also not implemented until the time of Napoleon in the early-1800s. He began grouping divisions into corps, making the largest units in history -- equal to entire armies of older periods (three divisions and some cavalry regiments, for upwards of 30,000 men). He commanded dozens of these corps (I think, around 20 of them for his Grande Armee when he invaded Russia in 1812 AD -- or, 500,000-600,000 men, equal to the entire core Roman military at the height of its power).
Napoleon's genius -- despite his supreme failure to invade Russia -- was ensuring that these corps were typically independent fighting units. This meant they were self-sufficient armies unto themselves. This allowed for a vast force, without the whole system becoming sluggish and disorganised. Of course, as with Alexander the Great before him, this ultimately led to major decentralization and failure once the leader is defeated; thus, without a singular ruler, and without endless success, the entire system breaks down (unless there is something else binding them).
Nonetheless, by now, all the European powers had adopted the divisional system. The first British divisions were established by Arthur Wellesley in 1809 AD, for example. The Napoleonic corps system then became standardised, as well.
On the other hand -- and other side of the world -- the U.S. had its own 'legion', wholly separate from the European divisional evolution. They were independent units for the western wilderness, not sub-elements of a larger army. The U.S. finally adopted a more European system by WWI, however. (Mostly because the U.S. was simply not a large enough force yet, though it did have some major battles and unit examples.)
Regardless, the primary building block for all was still the regiment or division. This remained true through WWII and beyond.
Part Four: The Four Spatial Forms of Sci-fi
I shall skip modern history, because it's -- shockingly -- not much different to older history. This further tells me that there are some universal themes and elements to warfare, unless something changes beyond measure. As of 2023 AD, the basic building block of most armies is still the regiment or division, and 'shock' tactics, of smaller units are back in style, and have been since the 1960s or so. (I do have a few things to say about WWI and beyond, but I cannot fit it in this post, and it's not required reading.)
Technically, there is a fifth: space warfare proper (an admixture). But, we shall simply focus on the four primary. I use the term 'spatial forms' because I don't know a better term. See below.
You find, and should focus on, one of these as the primary mode (at least). This is true in most combative and non-combative contexts. All are workable and interesting, and have some notable examples, mostly in film/TV and novels. There is much psychology connected to each, and some innate differences to consider; and you have to think about such in relation to your nation/culture, as well, and their pre-spacefaring history.
An interesting, real-world example is America's Space Force. This is fundamentally army-and-naval driven (i.e. Marines), despite its primary air force-like nature in simple terms of the vessels and how it would function in a war. This is evidenced by the fact its ranking system and such is built around the Marine Corps. I guess, that means, going with American Marines (a complex admixture of both soldier and sailor) is not such a bad idea in sci-fi. We all know this is a decent idea, anyway, and it's seen heavily in sci-fi since the 1940s (hence, the term 'space marine'). Other marine forces are fairly in line with this, as well. The typical route here is space as an ocean. The ships are merely carrying the marines to their location (planet or otherwise). You see this with Star Wars' Stormtroopers (though I did not mention such above, I shall now: this stems from late-WWI when Germany created new advanced tactics for storming British trenches. But, most of all, it speaks to Hitler's Stormtroopers, fused with some kind of space marine position; thus, we end up with Lucas' forgetting Stormtrooper force). (Of course, the Rebels of Star Wars and the Empire's TIE Fighters go with the space as air with less stuff trope. And, there is a general sense of both army and navy from the Empire. You rarely get the 'submarine feel', in this case.)
Star Trek (at least, the original) takes the spaceships as submarines trope much of the time (other than the fact, their ships are far too wasteful, volume-wise -- but that's mostly for filming purposes, so I can accept it). I actually love this mode (though I don't care for Star Trek's version so much).
Battlestar Galactica (new series), among others, seems to take a mixed view.
Which form or mode you run with, primarily, really depends upon the exact setting, culture, story, theme, and style you're going with. I suggest figuring out which you want/which fits best, and then trying to stick to that singular vision as much as possible. To get ideas, you can research as much as possible -- both real science/history and fiction.
submitted by TheRetroWorkshop to TDLH [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 22:07 w_domburg First race: Buffalo Half-Marathon

Race Information


Goal Description Completed?
A Finish Yes
B Sub 2:15 Yes
C Sub 2:00 No


Mile Time
1 8:55
2 8:29
3 8:41
4 8:51
5 8:56
6 8:29
7 8:49
8 9:00
9 9:06
10 9:04
11 15:47
12 12:26
13 13:33
14 10:02


My real starting point was my annual check-up shortly after my 45th birthday, learning my weight hit a new apex (308 pounds) and I was officially diabetic and hypertensive. Six months later and 60 pounds lighter I decided to try and run 5k. No formal plan; I just got on the treadmill twice a week and alternated running to failure then walking to recover. A month later I could run the entire distance, and another month I got it under 30 minutes.
Over the summer I switched largely to cycling, with only an occasional 5k run to mix it up. Once snow became an issue I switched to running again. October I managed a 10k for the first time. November I starting running a 10k twice a week. January alternating 12.5k and 7.5k. March 15k and 5k.
I had to take a couple weeks off due to IT band pain in my right knee. And then a few weeks ago some discomfort and stiffness in my left Achilles heel, but that thankfully cleared up well before race day.
By the time race day had rolled around I was down about 100#, was regularly running sub-8:00/mi on shorter runs and around 9:00/mi on long ones.


I had fully intended to spend the final week before the race in a graceful taper, keeping myself limber with low impact cardio (mostly cycling) and stretching, while giving my body the sleep and food and hydration necessary to be in peak readiness.
Instead I had a family member taken to the hospital a week prior and passing away early Thursday morning. Needless to say my focus was elsewhere and sleep was a rare commodity.
One saving grace, and my new motivation for running is that I had signed up as a "Heart to Heart" participant, raising money for the cardiac programs at the very hospital she had been in the care of.


Absolute beautiful day. Clear skies, sunny, still slightly on the cool side as we gathered in the starting coral. I'll confess to some moments of doubt at looking how fit other people lining up at the 9:30/mi flag looked, but I stood my ground.
The first mile I worked forward through the ranks a bit, and by the second had caught up with the 9:05/mi pacers.
I stayed with that cluster until mile 6, when we hit a long, straight downward slope and I took the opportunity to give myself a bit of a buffer and extended my stride for a couple miles.
This may have been my first mistake. I settled back into my target pace for a few more miles after that, but as we hit the 10 mile marker I was feeling shagged enough that I took the caffeinated gel on offer. I never had one before, but we were close enough to the end it felt worth the risk.
It wasn't. Within minutes my stomach was cramping and I had to clench to avoid having an embarrassing accident. I dropped to a walk waiting for it to settle since that part of the course had no porta-potties. The gait I assumed made my legs protest, so I spent a couple miles mostly power walking with tentative spurts at a light run.
On the last stretch was chatting with a fellow running and said I had been hoping I could still manage a 2:15 finish and he said, "Well we better step it up then. If you can do it, I can, and vice versa."
So we did. And at the very end I even managed a passable sprint across the finish line.


Immediately after I felt pretty good. The gastrointestinal distress had passed. After hydrating more my muscles were no longer threatening to cramp (at least not until I made my way back to my car and tried sitting down, but that passed quickly).
Stopped for doughnuts on the way home because I felt I deserved them. Then laid down for a couple hours, because I felt I deserved that, too. Had some nausea later in the afternoon, so passed on lunch, but was feeling pretty much back to normal by early evening.


I won't deny some disappointment in myself for not managing to go sub-two, especially after maintaining pace the first 10 miles.
On the other hand, this was my first actual race, my first time running more then 10 miles, and according to Strava a huge 15k PR (1:21:57 from 1:28:20).
I also raised over $1000 in memory of the family member I lost.
Made with a new race report generator created by herumph.
submitted by w_domburg to running [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 21:40 bimbo_wannabe_ [I Accidentally Joined The Mafia In South Brooklyn] Chapter 6: On The Organizational Habits of Unrested Spirits and The Taste of Demon's Blood, Part 2.

[I Accidentally Joined The Mafia In South Brooklyn] Chapter 6: On The Organizational Habits of Unrested Spirits and The Taste of Demon's Blood, Part 2.
Previous Part:
My nerve wavered a little.
"I don't really like the taste of blood, B."
"It doesn't taste like blood. Everybody tastes something different. Rossi says it tastes like old wine, Jimmy tastes caramel and leather, and me? To me it… tastes like gunpowder, and the way diesel smells."
I stared at the glass, then quickly tipped it into my mouth, took it down in two quick gulps, slid the mouth guard in place, at the same time sitting back against the sectional again as Becca snatched the glass from me.
It burned when it touched my tongue, and for a moment I tasted rose water and cinnamon, and in the next second, I was gone.
I've had a seizure once in my life, detoxing from heroin. The doctor said it was very rare, I was an unlucky fuck at best, but this? This was worse.
You ever seen a video of a tetanus convulsion? How the back bends, only their head and feet are touching the ground? Well, that's exactly what happened the moment the burning settled in my stomach. My entire body locked down, it felt like my muscles themselves would break my bones.
The pain overtook me and everything went black, but I soon realized I hadn't lost consciousness. No, I could see into the black. I was floating in it, naked. It was rolling like clouds of smoke, or a velvet curtain rippling in the breeze, and inside of the black, things were moving.
They were just as black, slimy, slithering things. Arms and legs and spider fingers and… wings, wings like bats, but no… not just black, iridescent. I saw within them blue, purple, red. They came from the darkness and spread over me like oil. Their touch was cold, but me? The burning spread all over my body. I felt like I was on fire.
I came back to the apartment a moment later, tried my best to tell my body to go with it while my muscles contracted and shook. It ended just as suddenly as it began.
I felt weak, when it was over. My body hurt. I felt like I had been in a car crash. But oddly enough, some parts of me didn't hurt anymore.
My limbs felt like lead as I removed the guard, but I found the strength to reach down and lift the leg of my pants. The old surgery scars on my knee were gone. The pain I had been living with for the last nineteen years was completely and suddenly absent.
My arms shook as I let go of my pants leg. I couldn't find the strength to lower it back to my ankle. I touched my nose as gingerly as I could with my hand jerking. It still hurt just as badly as it had before, but the ring finger on my left hand? It was bending again.
"Did it work?" I asked. Becca removed a few bits of ephemera from a mirrored tray on the coffee table, and raised it before my face.
My skin was no longer swollen and bruised, my nose still bloody but no longer dripping. Beneath my fingers, the bone felt whole again. It wasn't the only thing that had changed. The creases in my forehead, the crow's feet at the corner of my eyes, the smile and frown lines around my mouth, they were all gone. My skin was as smooth as though I was a teenager again.
My eyes were brighter, somehow. I had always gotten quite a lot of compliments on my green eyes, didn't think it was arrogant to recognize what others had told me, but they were different now, somehow paler yet deeper in color all at the same time. There was a new ring of yellow around the pupil that hadn't been there before. I felt with my tongue on the left side of my jaw.
The molar was back, like it had never been gone. It was different, though. Still a flat chewing surface but the edges were sharp, sharp enough that I sliced the tip of my tongue running it across the surface. I tasted blood for a moment before the cut was suddenly whole again.
I flexed my fingers experimentally, found the tremors were easing with every passing second and a flush was spreading across my body, both hot and cold all at once. Strength flooded my muscles, my mind was as clear as a bell, but despite all of that, I still felt a consuming weakness and exhaustion inside.
I'd gotten stuck for two shifts at the grocery store once, then had a call out on the stock crew and had stayed for four hours to help them. I had worked a total of twenty hours that day, and this… felt exactly like that, exhausted and as wired as a methhead on a three day bender all at the same time. Simultaneously bone-tired and hurting but feeling like I was bulletproof.
Becca was watching me with a sad grin.
"Hell of a ride, huh?"
I jerked my head in a nod, found I had to adjust the amount of force I put behind it because I was moving quicker than I had before.
"You know, I can see why Jimmy likes it… and Rocco doesn't."
"Rossi, well, how do I put this? He likes to stay in control, but he isn't a control freak. He barely even drinks… but Jimmy… he's less concerned about controlling himself and more concerned about controlling everyone else."
Becca stood then, removed some alcohol wipes and a tourniquet from the tackle box, turning on the blood warmer. She hooked the first of the bags to the IV line and sat again, opening the wipe but not removing it yet. She tied the tourniquet around her arm, or, tried to. She was struggling with it.
"You need some help with that?"
She looked at me for a moment before she nodded.
"Yeah, actually."
I took the tourniquet from her, moving before her and sitting on the coffee table.
"You know, as many years as I've been doing this, I still suck at it. Can't find a fucking vein for a goddamned hour at a time, blow them out everytime I turn around."
I made a sound of acknowledgment as I tied the tourniquet tight around her arm. I felt with my fingers, but wasn't having much luck. A slap with the back of my hand in the dip of her elbow didn't do much more to distend the veins. The back of her hand was equally lacking in usable veins.
"There's one thing about it, kid, you would have made a terrible junkie, you got shit for veins."
She made a sound of frustration and tried to pull her arm away from me.
"See, I told you."
"Uh-uh, hold on. You can launder money in your sleep, but me? I can find a vein with my eyes closed."
I felt farther up onto her forearm, then tried the back of it. I finally had luck, pressed the vein a few times to get it to stand up farther.
"See, you got a good one right there."
I wiped over it with the alcohol, grabbed the hypodermic and glanced up to her face. She had her eyes squeezed shut.
"On three."
She nodded, and I counted down, slid the needle in, then pressed the snap to leave only the cannula inside the vein, taped it down, then removed the tourniquet.
"All done."
I opened the tubing to allow the blood to start traveling down, and adjusted the flow regulator just a bit.
She stared at me for a long moment.
"You're really good at that. You ever considered going to school? You'd make a hell of a phlebotomist."
I snorted lightly.
"I can see all kind of doctors in my future just itching to hire a felon into their office."
"You could go work with Farid down at the free clinic. He runs the place, you know Muslims love doing charity work. They don't pay amazing, nonprofit and all, but he honestly don't give a shit who works there as long as you know what you're doing."
I hummed quietly. As I watched, the color drained from her face, going from white, straight to gray. She winced, and sat back against the couch stiffly.
"It hurts when it goes in the vein?" I asked the obvious.
She nodded.
"Burns like I shot up acid. Never gets any easier, but at least I don't get an in-game tutorial on a Grand Mal seizure, so… small blessings."
"You want a drink or something, B? A snack?"
She laughed weakly.
"Yeah. Give me a water and some oreos. They're in the cabinet over the stove."
I followed her directions and brought the bottle of water and a saucer of the cookies to her. She pulled one knee up, her bare foot balanced on the edge of the couch cushion and set the saucer on her other thigh.
"Can I ask you something, Tony?"
"Shoot, B."
She stayed silent for a long moment.
"You know, I don't want you to think I'm hitting on you but… would you… hold me?"
I laughed quietly and sat down beside her, looping my arm around her shoulders and tucking her in close to my side. I laid her head against my shoulder, tucked under my jaw, and looped my other arm around the front of her shoulders, smoothing my hand over her hair. She wiggled against me just a bit, getting comfortable.
"No worries at all, B. I mean, I guess you and me are literally famiglia now. And no offense, you're a good looking kid but… other than the fact you're too young for me, and you're my best friend's girl, you're not exactly my type."
She snorted.
"Let me guess, the gentleman prefers blondes and older women."
That gave me a bit of a chuckle.
"I gotta say, you got me pegged again, B."
I smoothed my hand over her hair, and began humming softly and rocking gently.
"No, Non Si Speri," she said, quietly. "That's funny, that's Ma's favorite song."
I laughed. Goddamned patterns…
"Mine, too, Miss Rebecca, mine, too."
She tried her best to relax against me, but I could feel every time she stiffened and winced.
Time to distract her again.
"So, uh, that night, Antoni came in late, and asked you out… start from there."
She adjusted her body against mine again.
"Yeah, uh… he asked me if I was seeing anyone, and I asked him why he wanted to know, and he told me he didn't want to step on anyone's toes… so I told him he should be worried about stepping on my toes, cause he was talking to the Boss of me. And he laughed, and asked me if I could ask the Boss about the girl who worked the register, if she would be interested in having dinner and seeing a movie. It kind of caught me off guard. I had been fantasizing about that exact thing happening but I was scared. I told him if he was just fucking with me I'd have to ban him from the store, permanently. But he said no, he was serious… so I told him that we'd go out that Saturday to see this horror movie that had just come out and he could pick where we ate, cause I'd eat most anything, just not to take me anywhere fancy, cause I only dress up for Mass and his ass wasn't better than God."
"You probably should have kept that bit to yourself, B. Bet you sealed the deal for him right then and there. He'd found his girl and she was already a Catholic, didn't even have to get her to convert."
"So we… went out the next night. I worked the morning shift so I could have the night off, and I had Antoni meet me on the platform so there'd be less chance of somebody seeing. All that day at work, I started to get more and more worried. The motherfucker was literally two feet taller than me, down to the inch, but I figured that put me at a good height to suckerpunch him in his balls if he stepped out of line. I ain't exactly a slouch when it comes to self defense but when I met him that night I took my steel telescoping baton with me, just in case. I didn't have to worry. He never laid a hand on me, not once, till I touched him that way first, even if it was as simple as holding my hand, or putting his arm around me.
"I mean, the man should be up for canonization… he had patience like a fucking Saint. That… that picture, on my phone, that was the first time I ever kissed him. Six weeks I made him wait. Six weeks and him taking me out every Saturday like clock work, but he never said a word, never made a pass, just waited for me."
I could hear tears feathering into her voice again.
"That day, I made him call off work so we could spend the day at Coney Island. Made him spend two hundred damned dollars on the fairway to win me this giant blue bear, and he lugged it around the rest of the day with this stupid grin on his face, carried it home on the fucking train. Six weeks, and me spending almost every night in his bed…"
"So you two slept together before you ever 'slept together'?"
I could feel her nod, more than see it.
"At first, I just wanted to give him a hard time… you know, see just how much patience he really had… but, I felt safe with him, Tony, sleeping beside him was the safest I'd ever felt in my life. I didn't want to give up that feeling. If I had known how it would all end up, I wouldn't have made either of us wait that long… but… that day, right before we left, we went on the Wonder Wheel and… the fucking engine blew. There was this loud ass boom and this big ass cloud of smoke. I thought it was a fucking bomb, to be honest. We were stuck up there at the top for four solid hours while they tried to fix the engine, and when they finally gave up and called the fire department, we had to wait for a ladder truck to get there. So after the first thirty minutes had passed, I asked him if he wanted to make out, and he grinned at me and said… Absolutely."
She sniffed back her tears, cleared her throat and I tucked her tiny body closer against my side.
"You know, he took that picture to send to his brother. He hadn't brought his phone, so he used mine. Said Igor had been riding his ass the whole time about how I was stringing him along for the past six weeks and he was stupid enough to let me. And after that, I got a little handsy, to be honest. It was like the old saying goes, there was some Roman Hands and Russian Fingers that day. I had to put his hands where I wanted them myself, but uh… he didn't need a lot of instruction after that point. The assholes in the booth behind us kept whooping and hollering, they knew exactly what was going on but… I didn't really give a fuck. I just wanted to get a nut and give him one, too, and we had hours to kill.
"We fooled around for a few more days after that, you know, exchanged some, uh, oral instruction, if you will, but… I-I was scared to death. I didn't want to admit I'd never been with a man before, so the night I decided to go all the way, I goaded Ciech into a drinking game. Drank his ass under the table, but… Antoni, that stupid fucker… he told me no. Said I was perfectly welcome to spend another night in his bed, but if I wanted more than that, then I had to come to him sober. I was so embarrassed I cussed him like a dog, in every language I knew and he just… sat there through the whole thing, never even looked up from his book, just… asked me if I was done acting like a spoiled child. So then, I started crying cause I was so angry. And then the stupid fucker told me, 'You shouldn't cry like that, it's embarassing."
I snorted.
"Yeah, he was a bitch about that, wasn't he? Little bit of toxic masculinity to spice things up, eh?"
"So then I was doubly pissed, and I didn't talk to him for three days."
She sighed.
"Most miserable three days of my life. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, it was like… every cell in my body was calling for him. I finally broke down, and begged him not to say no again… and he didn't. And, Jesus Christ, I wanted it every day after that, sometimes twice a day and… he never told me no again. It took a little while to get comfortable for the two of us, but eventually we started to share some of our proclivities with each other.
"Turned out he was a sadomasochist, just like me, so we uh, added some new activities in. We both got a kick out of the fact he could throw me around like a rag doll and fold me up like a pretzel, but, personally, I think he got a bigger kick out of the fact my little ass could actually hurt him if I really wanted to… and sometimes I wanted to. I'd have a bad day at work or school, and come home and take it out on him… and he loved every second of it."
She sighed again.
"But uh, that shit, it got us both in trouble. One night in early November, I had gotten a little rough with him. He had, you know, bruises and scratch marks and bite marks all over him. And the next day when he went to work, the heating system fucked up. It was running on high, no matter how low they put it… Antoni told me he was getting so hot his head was hurting. His Dad was up front on the counter and Toni was back there where none of the customers could see, so he thought he was safe and took his shirt off, but… his Dad came back to ask him something.
"You know, I guess from the outside looking in, it kind of looked like Antoni'd gotten a hold of somebody that didn't wanna be gotten a hold of, and apparently his Dad has very strongly held convictions when it comes to rape. So he uh… jerked Antoni's ass up, pinned him against the wall and asked him what in the hell he had done. And Antoni told me he was so damned scared that all he could think to say was, 'Don't worry, it was consensual.'"
I winced.
"Ohhh… that is…"
"Yeah, not good. So then he got his ass jumped for getting, uh, 'friendly' with somebody but not having brought me there to introduce me to the family… but, apparently he had already been planning on taking me over to Greenpoint, cause a couple of weeks before he had asked me for my measurements. Hell, I figured he wanted to buy me a catsuit to go along with the damned Dominatrix boots he bought me. He used to want me to stand on his chest, step on his hands..."
"The boot worship comment makes a lot more sense now," I muttered.
"I said continue your story." I raised my voice back to speaking.
She sat in silence for another minute. I could practically hear her frowning, but in the end she didn't push it.
"Anyway… I'd told the stupid fucker not to buy me a dress, and what did he do? Bought me a dress to meet his family in. But when I saw it, I didn't even care. It was beautiful, all these colorful, gorgeous embroidered flowers all over the skirt. There was like this flower crown that went with it, with all these ribbons hanging down. The family dinner he was planning to take me to was an informal Polish Independence Day celebration, you know, not the whole neighborhood, just the people they knew. And the dress was traditional Polish clothing. I felt so goddamned out of place wearing that thing, everybody on the train kept staring, but he was wearing funny clothes too, and this stupid little hat, so it wasn't so bad. He made me wear the damned boots with the dress, though."
Laughter burst out of me.
"And you know, his Dad's eyes got kind of big when he first saw me."
"Probably trying to figure out how you'd torn his son's ass up so bad with as tiny as you are."
"But they were nice to me, his parents and his cousins. Everybody was nice to me. And it wasn't long after that, about a month, that he asked me to marry him. I guess he was nervous too, and he got drunk hisself, and then I told him no, cause I'm a spiteful bitch. Said he was perfectly welcome to have me in his bed another night but if he wanted more, he had to come to me sober… and then I asked him where the hell the ring was, and he said he wasn't going to buy a ring if I wasn't going to say yes, and I told him I wasn't going to say yes unless I had a ring. But apparently he had bought a ring, and given it to his mother to keep."
She held her left hand up to show me. It was a 3 carat Princess cut diamond with a ring of smaller diamonds around it.
"It's a brand of lab grown diamonds, Mivoleti." She said quietly.
"Mi vole ti, 'I want you,' in Italian. Odd that."
"Yeah," she answered. "And now I can't even wear it, nobody knew we were together but his family. Come to think of it, I got no idea how I'm gonna tell Pops I'm pregnant, but, I guess at least he can't threaten to kill Antoni for deflowering his daughter, seeing as he's already dead and all."
I shook my head, squeezed her tight and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"It's gonna be alright, Becca." I had no idea how it was going to be alright, but I had to say something. "Looks like it's time to switch bags."
We finished the transfusion some time after that. I removed the IV but didn't bother with the gauze or tape. The hole in Becca's arm sealed shut almost immediately after I pulled the cannula from the vein.
We slept. I don't remember falling asleep, but when I opened my eyes it was dark outside and the apartment was getting cold again. I tried not to wake Becca, but it was a pointless effort. She watched me bleary-eyed while I filled the heater with Kerosene again and relit it.
"What time is it?" I asked in a sleep-gravelled voice.
She turned her phone on and glanced at the screen.
"It's 8:05. You got about two hours till you go get Ma. Go get something to wear while I wash that suit, and take a quick hot shower so you don't freeze to death."
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2023.05.29 21:29 AlienNationSSB #Alien-Nation Chapter 168: Now or Never

Alien-Nation Chapter 168: Now or Never

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Chapter summary: Elias wanders the grounds inspecting everything he can, has a fatheson moment with Larry then sends Vaughn to go try and spring people from jail.
It had been easy for me to see during the speech I'd given roughly how many had already arrived up the narrow pass, and as I stood from inspecting a firing port in a trench, testing whether the old cast iron cannon would roll back far enough on its rails after firing.
I gave it a pass after measuring against a rod. Certainly it was far from the highest of technologies at our disposal, but certainly it would be either lethal, injurious, or at the very least, extremely loud. The gathered mishmashed array of weaponry pointing outward was impressive enough, but the real piece de resistance was the sheer number of railguns we'd had returned to us, frequently carried by a two man team. I signed off on it for final inspection, noting the plug in place over the end, and went to the railgun positioned further down the trench near the intersection.
This was one I recognized. This shared at least something in common to the cannon, insofar as it was far from the latest model at our disposal. I spotted some of my own extremely crude handiwork, a far more rough set of welds performed along the plate's protective, unsanded metal edges. Mister Singer, if he were ever presented with it, may have recognized the shoddy, unstable hand that welded together some of the protective casing. The service flap told me the model without needing to even open it, the household door frame hinges pulled from Verns' stock of spare parts bin, before we implemented something even so basic as refined latches with catch points.
That had to make this a Mk. II. Sentimentality had no place on the front lines. I sucked in a breath at the sight of another old muzzle-loader being carried into the workshop for upgrades, already laid out on the timber worktable and ready for use and sucked in a breath.
I just hoped the earliest design of managing power flow wouldn't give out from the faster firing. Complex but beautifully arrayed piping had given way to simpler, more streamlined designs as we incorporated a greater number of readily available alien parts. Some of which we were supplied an initial batch of in the bag with the blueprints, and then we were told how to work free those same parts from various broken pieces of technology we'd reclaimed off the Shil'vati, or even the freely given away omni-pads. With every iteration we demonstrated a degree of adaptation to using the parts we had available, and each generation marked a leap forward in our own understanding of Shil'vati technology, courtesy of G-Man and his father's handiwork.
The final barrels of the extremely limited run of the second batch we'd paid handsomely for were marked 'present,' too. They had gone the least far afield, with one already slagging itself during the attack on the data center. I frowned at the spreadsheet, as if my impression of it might cause their fate to improve.
The latest blueprints could maintain a decent rate of fire without burning out its power management system located in the welded together case. Or, rather, the barrel gave out first. For the first time, perhaps as a result of being coupled with the magazines and a relatively rapid-fire exchange meant the neosteel barrels we received had finally become the weak point in the design.
It was only after we'd returned to Camp Death that I'd noticed the difference.
The new batch we'd paid dearly for seemed somewhat altered from the first batch we'd been building all the others out of, made from an alloyed material that shone somewhat dimmer under the sun as George and I worked in the shed elbow-to-elbow, though the contrast was not immediately obvious until one held the two against each other. It was slightly thicker, too, all of which to me indicated a change in supply in some manner, but our supplier had hardly announced themselves to Sam.
This was a troubling puzzle to me. I still couldn't be sure it was the new microbatch of barrels alloys being far from equal to the originals we'd finally finished building out? Or was it the expanded magazines and power couplings' ability to fire faster creating an overall volume of fire that overheated the barrel from overuse? Or was the power management design faulty, generating more heat per shot? Were we misusing them?
I measured the barrel of the Mk. II, just to be sure the shelf life of the barrel hadn't come due. So far, inspections of the original batch of barrels had mercifully indicated they'd all been brought back here were in comparatively great shape, with this one being no exception. That lent me some comfort that these new barrels were just not up to the task of heavy, sustained fire. I couldn't know that for certain, and an unreliable weapon was cause for anxiety.
Indeed, there was almost no wear on this version at all, disproving the worst case scenario that these were only good for a certain number of rounds before they'd be worn down to uselessness. Certainly, they'd eventually give out, but it seemed we were still far off from that point.
"Sir?" Asked the gunner, staring at me.
I stared at him, then down at the spreadsheet. "This thing fires three rounds a minute. Do you think that rate of fire is sufficient?"
I could tell he wasn't sure whether a 'no' would have him replaced with someone professing to be more accurate.
"Get it upgraded." I took the white gel pen and scribbled on it- make ready for an upgrade as soon as the final repaired railgun clears the shed. Assigned to casemate #4, Operator... "Call sign?"
"Brut," he answered.
"Brut...with the Umlaut?" He gave a thumbs up and I added them. Costing nothing but a drop of gel ink for a little personalization if it made for a happy gunner was a good investment. "Use it well. Get it upgraded if there's time, keep an eye on the work shed. Once the repairs stop, you can take this to the front of the line, Brüt."
There was no point dismantling all our old ones and creating a backlog while some still needed repairs. I wrote on the hatch Upgrade from Mk. II to Mk. IV. That would give it a magazine and more than triple its firing rate. Anything more than that, I quietly held my doubts for the feasibility of upgrading in a timely manner. The Mark V's took too much time and effort to build their complex power management systems for not enough gain, stuffed too tightly into the protective case to be completed quickly. The Mark VI's tended to overheat their crude fire control circuitry, the consequence of an overcorrection back to simplicity; they could maintain a high fire rate, but were too delicate. The VII's were the ones with the new barrel. Promising, but those barrel faults...I still worried it might have been the power management system.
We'd started considering adding water tanks to help maintain them, but it brought the weight higher than that of a Mk. I, and successfully swapping a boiling hot tank off a delicate, electronically-loaded railgun in combat seemed like a very questionable use of the time. We'd just have to ask the crews manning the railguns to be a bit judicious in our fire, and hope that the flaw was limited to the new little batch of barrels.
How many rounds, exactly, and exactly how fast was yet to be determined; we hadn't conducted the amount of testing a proper military might carry out, but while we had no shortage to man, we also did not have so many as to test dozens until their point of failure, weighing and comparing all their possible conditions.
All this uncertainty kept bouncing around my head. How many troops did we have here? How many rounds for every type of rifle, including the more exotic variants? How reliant on them were we to deal damage, and was it all stored somewhat safely? On the less direct side of things, how many tons of food did we have stored, and was it distributed well? How many thousands of gallons of water could we draw? How many pounds of soap to wash utensils, cups, wounds, and shower with? How many pounds of food over how many men, to last how many days? If it rained, some of these might be alleviated, and yet might kick off a whole host of other issues. There was no way of knowing, no way of taking a perfect stock. But I could estimate.
We had a lot of people. And a lot of guns. And a lot of defenses, and literally countless tons of high explosives, triggered by various means and methods. And we were mad as hell. While exactly how mad was less concrete a figure, I knew this many men away from home could end poorly.
Ultimately, whether it was the fault of the new barrel or the design had finally reached the limitations of its potential rate of fire without causing other issues, I couldn't say for certain. So I had to do my best.
I gave the railgun a clean bill of health to operate if needed, 'priority upgrade,' and noted the rate of fire for the defensive position at 'three a minute.' This one being one of our oldest models, I left it to the operator with my blessings, and made a mental note to add the next railgun we had to be stationed nearby, just so that we weren't under strength from that angle.
I craned my neck from the trench to behold even more insurgents trickling into the old clearing. The arrivals always came in ones-and-twos, their body language telling me the story of the journey it had taken to get here. They'd had to have abandoned their vehicles to the traffic-snarled roads almost certainly some miles away unless they knew the path George and I would occasionally take;.
Those who brought their own heavy weapons lay them down at their feet before collapsing. Water and food was distributed, though I couldn't speak to the quality, and a trash run would have to be made, tossing the empty tins into ammunition containers.
Of all the newcomers who had yet to be organized into place, I counted two mortars, several more volunteers grouping up to retrieve ammo after taking down descriptions of the vehicles from their exhausted owners and sprinting back out into the night to fetch whatever had been left behind.
The resourcefulness lifted my spirits. No one entertained the notion that these men were taking their leave to flee a certain doom. All present felt some degree of faith, understood who they were, why they were here, and what we were setting out to accomplish. Cells worked to find one another in the darkness, congealing themselves into a more coherent, practiced fighting force by virtue of familiarity with one another. Discipline was sharp and needed little enforcement past an initial reminder. No flashlights switched on inside the premises or campfires were lit despite the encroaching edges of the cold front. Insurgents were guided to whatever defensive positions, pillboxes, trenches, battlements, or bunkers still sat empty, depending somewhat on their expected role after detailing their skills to sentries or those otherwise familiar with the camp carefully explaining sight lines and our overall defensive strategy.
Whispered word overheard from those arrivals seemed to indicate a mixture of panic and outrage was fast spreading through the state's populace, carrying them on frightened wings as they took flight in the night, from here to the southernmost beaches and bays. It seemed word had gotten out successfully, then. That knocked down one more obstacle to our success, or at least set the pieces in place. Soon, all that would remain would be the ugly business of following through, and hoping, no praying that I hadn't massively miscalculated in my hubris.
I took the ramp out of the trench so they could pour some loose gravel into it, helping ensure that if those threatening looking storm clouds opened and if the drains clogged, we still would have some footing, and retired to the command cabin, eyeing how empty it felt with all the finished products being set into defensive arrangements; only the workshop still retained all its rather explosive concoctions.
The manpower situation was such that those familiar in reliably manufacturing complex bombs were spending their time setting up defenses in the fields beyond and settling in our new arrivals.
And then I had the couple hostages, weakened by months of captivity, restrained and kept under guard, but still sitting right on top of the half-done armaments.
I told myself that we had taken precautions- the most reactive sets separated by a thin membranous bag of water to prevent chain reactions from taking root and a few emergency containment systems, but they relied on someone present. I'd need all hands on deck- and what if a direct lance of energy landed from some heavy weapon hit the shed, perhaps to try and make a point? No mere bag of water would make a difference then.
Then again, if they brought that king of weaponry to bear, then the outcome would be certain. The Shil'vati would still lose their hostages, and have tacitly admitted I'd forced their hand, and that they'd declared we were enough of a threat to sacrifice noblewomen just to put a stop to.
I hunched over a smaller map in the command cabin, pinning down the garrisons and jails Verns might be held in. Perhaps I'd been premature in my assessment in lacking a future need of a good map when I'd jumped atop the table for my little motivational speech. I'd gotten caught up in the moment; I hadn't foreseen the need for an offensive element.
I was sorely missing my Lieutenants. Vendetta wasn't here, which was one of the greater anxieties weighing on my shoulders.
The one word I'd whispered in his ear all that time ago to bring him around to believing I did, in fact, have a plan: Victory. He should be here already.
He'd sprinted off across the field in glee back when I told him of this plan's possibility, that "Plan C" might come about due to a few cells going dark and my suspicion that it wasn't moles. The null hypothesis, that there were in fact moles, had put him in direct danger by sending him to double-check.
I cursed my blindness. My eagerness to take a night off, to get him out of the way so he wouldn't clash with the others, so I could be a 'normal boy' for a night and attend a party- one I wouldn't be kicked out of, To find social acceptance.
All part of a 'coming of age,' even after I'd already spilt blood, led a war campaign effort, kissed, earned more money than most would see in a lifetime, and mentally cut ties with my family. By almost any account, I already was a man, yet I'd gotten obsessive in imitating the modern trappings of defining such things. I should have seen the cells reporting members' absences and even going dark as a whole for what it was. I could have called off Town Hall, started assembling even more people here.
Then again, if I had, then perhaps...the shil'vati might not have started grabbing everyone. I hated to think of Verns as 'sacrificial.' They likely didn't have much on him, just a neighbor's report. Then again, we'd had that meeting right after the bar fight at Lucky's, right? How thoroughly had George cleared out his house, if they went back to rummage around and investigate? How well could George cover his tracks? We'd left that ammo crate in the hallway, for starters- clumsy of us, yet we were in a panic. Like children. I tensed as I remembered so vividly the sudden sharp report of the gun, watched Patrick's empty eyes stare up. But not children.
There was nothing I could do for Vendetta. We'd sent the Bat Signal out. Either he'd be here, or he'd miss it.
I weighed the value of sending George away once he got here. The order would certainly annoy him after he'd just arrived, something of an arduous task given how far backed up the traffic had become. I also knew it meant I'd have one fewer lieutenant here, where I desperately needed him. I could hardly ask him to burn down the childhood home, and it would certainly reek of hiding evidence.
"Sir," A sentry stood in the door frame, and I stretched from where my muscles had tensed up, pulling my shoulders back and yawning silently beneath my mask, lumbering toward him.
I didn't realize how tall I'd gotten until I realized he was staring up at me and had taken a half-step backwards- not to make way so I could lead from the door, either, but almost defensively.
"Yes, what is it?" I asked, stopping in place.
"We've received a message for you, sir. Radio is reporting that a 'Hex' has checked in from her position. She and Binary report 'Green as Grass,' sir."
I wasn't used to being called 'sir,' and it caught me off guard. I realized he was standing there, waiting for a response from me of some sort, too.
What should I say for him to send back to Hex? I momentarily remembered the sensation of the kiss, the warm, slightly wet softness, the tenderness, and felt a bit of a blush under my mask. While every instinct screamed at me to not air even a hint of my romances or inner turmoil about a kiss over the unencrypted connection, there was a level of 'not talking about it' that I was unfamiliar with and hadn't planned for. Could my message back be coded into something subtle? Nothing came to mind.
"G-good," I finally stuttered a little awkwardly. "That's very good."
"What does it mean, sir?"
I pushed the distractions out of my head. This was no time to be thinking about girls- and my mind stubbornly disobeyed, wandering right back to Natalie. At first to the hug she'd offered me, when I was scared. Frightened of the mind-wiper device. That tenderness she'd offered- I pushed the memory from my mind, too. This wasn't the time to fantasize, either. I had to live in the world that was before me, here in the present. People were relying on me. I could figure out all that other stuff- girls, hope, my future- sometime later.
"It means the operation can proceed as planned."
If the Twins stopped reporting or got caught with the hostages, then we'd have a lot less leverage stopping Azraea from blowing us all sky high. A couple noblewomen- who I wasn't terribly familiar with and seemed to be somewhat less important, provided they were truthful to me of their station. This unfortunate pair had relied on connections to already-stationed family members to arrive, rather than on their raw political power to muscle their way to Earth's then-closely guarded secret coordinates, and were present only for evidence of said hostages' presence.
"Sir, beg your pardon," I could sense something bubbling under his words, against his better judgment, but some sense of desperation demanded he ask me this anyways. "But what is the operation? I've been manning the airwaves with Radio, helping spread word, but everyone I make contact with seems to want to know."
"I don't see the wisdom in broadcasting the finer details of our plan, I'm sure you understand."
I sensed the inner conflict by the way he froze up. He wanted to object, probably, to swear he wouldn't leak more than the minimum. The problem was, anyone listening for long might take a morsel here, a morsel there, and bring it all together and undo us.
"You have all you're meant to have at this point, frustrating though that must be to try and inform others of the going-ons. Our objective is right before us. When the time comes and the enemy appears, blast them." I didn't want to say there isn't much else to plan. At least, not for them to consider.
"And you, sir?"
"I'll be right here, alongside you," I promised. That seemed to ease some of his pressing curiosity, at least. "We'll be here together, to watch the birth of a miracle." That, or we'd die together. Those words didn't quite have the same catchy ring, though.
I looked over my shoulder back at the map. What more good could be wrought over pondering what jail he might be in, without more details?
"Another matter. Hex said G-Man should arrive in a few minutes."
"Thank you. Anything else to report?"
"No sir, the shortwave beckons." They gave a hand-on-heart and stepped out, leaving the doorframe empty.
I told myself I may as well follow. There was no good to come of disappearing into a tent, secluded for long periods, not when anxiety might run through the gathered troops. I had to make myself seen at least periodically. Besides, it was easier to get a more complete picture from out here than in there.
Radio looked like a one-man-band by the way he was surrounded by boxy electronics of varying sizes, their glows dimmed slightly by thin pieces of fabric taped over the tiny glowing screens, and the trap stretched over his head. Wires snaked their way along the ground, a trooper trying to lay the cable into a thin channel of dirt with a spade to reduce the tripping hazard.
Pierce crouched next to him with a laptop plugged into something wired together, the final outlet of which looked vaguely like an international travel inverter, her fingers flying across the trackpad.
"Radio, how are we?"
"We've made lots of contact, I think. So much traffic on the airwaves it's actually hard to find a clear channel to broadcast on."
"Do they have our encryption keys?" I asked, the question almost automatic.
"No, having one kind of defeats the purpose of being heard and getting the signal out. Besides, encrypting's probably easy for the Shil'vati to crack. Less easy for human intelligence agencies, but impossible for the people who we want to hear us."
I already knew most of this, but humoured him. Little entertained radio quite like his namesake.
"What's our chance of discovery, then? Rough time to them figuring out it's us here, and finding the signal's origin."
"At least with a somewhat uncountable number of HAM signals being thrown across the airwaves, we are a really big needle in a gigantic haystack. Besides, how many times have we actually been where we're broadcasting from?"
That was a point I hadn't considered.
The Shil'vati would likely regard our signal as just a relay point, rather than the source, let alone the destination.
Would they strike it just to silence the orders, once they figured out how many of them were originating from the same point?
I comforted myself by staring upstream of the creek that wandered to the south of Camp Death, following its course with my eyes to where it flowed under the concrete tunnels under the highway, under the train tracks, to where it ultimately ran back to where Radio and I had visited Saint Michael's. Then I turned my head back across the field, toward where the foundation of Mojo and Mister Pasta's had been, where Vaughn had called in the kill team on the Fed's sting operation,
We'd certainly set up plenty of remote broadcast towers before, to entice them into launching strikes on collaborationists. That Saint Michael's was still standing after we'd broadcast all kinds of propaganda from there meant they'd almost certainly learned to be a bit more cautious about lashing out blindly.
In the darkness I saw a familiar figure materialize, and with a bit of relief, I ran up to greet Larry. I wanted to give the old mechanic a hug, but knew that expressions of intimacy while standing near the middle of the camp's defensive perimeter in front of everyone was more than a bit inappropriate, and settled for a nod of acknowledgment.
"I cleaned up the mess at Jules place," he said, going back to referring to his friend by their code name, glancing at Pierce.
I felt a moment of shame. We'd panicked and grabbed everything. Perhaps we were like children after all, leaving our toys out and in the hall. "Thank you."
"Saw Patrick."
"Patrick saw," I said back. "Patrick- called."
Whatever Larry was about to say, that brought him up short. "Oh. Oh." The words seemed to leave him pained. He'd known Patrick, too, and I felt the weight of guilt. It seemed he moved on faster than I could, because he changed the topic quickly.
"What's up?" He gestured at the radio setup.
Pierce seemed to be quite engrossed in her work, trying to connect the laptop to a radio via a USB cable, fumbling with the port in the dark. The laptop's screen was showing a shaky handheld video of a mass arrest- and I thought I could hear my own voice echoing the words I'd spoken just a short while ago.
"Just uploading the speech. I've spliced it up to some footage that one of the newcomers brought. We'll also be exporting raw versions of both- just the audio, the video, make sure people have the record and can decide for themselves."
Sometimes the truth was the best propaganda.
"How are you getting video out? I thought the internet was down."
Radio held a hand up, and then put it down, as if I'd been a teacher asking a question and he'd been chasing extra credit. The next few sentences were practically a foreign language to me, uttering a series of numbers in rapid succession, followed by what sounded like a name. That may've been a model, an edition of a model, a make, a special form of broadcasting- all of it may well have been bounced off the ionosphere for how far it went over my head. I wasn't used to being so completely out of my depth, but everyone seems to have specialized in some skill or another. I'd preferred getting involved in all aspects of the revolution, but at a certain point delegation was a necessity, and I was watching not just the task's needs, but also the capabilities of my lieutenants grow well past my ability to offer useful insight and guidance.
"I...see." I didn't, but I wasn't sure what else to say. I wanted to express curiosity, but I felt like this new capability was something we'd discuss later, if there was a later. "And people can receive high definition video over shortwave? It just takes a long time?"
It seemed to me to be an apparently somewhat technical process to perform over shortwave, and only when finally pressed for details, Radio at last admitted something I did understand: "I am not sure most people know how to collect the signal, or have the right equipment to, but I'm sure someone will, Maybe that person will redistribute the videos."
There. Actionable, useful information.
"Then continue," I said. "At least unless anything more pressing jumps up to do."
"Let's hope it's good for more than the history books," Pierce commented mildly.
"The world has to know, and I am certain the shil'vati have no interest in putting such footage out there. That's reason enough for us, isn't it?" I watched Radio nod and then scurry about the camp, tracing one of the wires toward the antenna array nearest the highway. I turned to Larry, breaking off from the amusing spectacle. "Do you remember my promise?" My question was genuine, but he seemed to waver slightly, now that the possibility of actually delivering on it was here and present. Perhaps the aura of our inner circle's invincibility had been shattered with the loss of his neighbors, and it would be best to set his mind to something productive. "If you want it to come true, see to it that the mortar teams are trained. Get the cannons in position, and make sure we're good for more than just one wave."
Larry snapped a salute, fingers on brow, and I clumsily approximated one in return, though I had never done a salute before in my life. I could sense the slight smile from behind his mask, and with a quick check over his shoulder that no one was watching, he reached out, straightened my palm out slightly, then brought the edge of my palm higher until it was a bit more level. "That's better," he judged, then leaving me alone once I dropped the hand a few seconds later.
George showed up a few minutes earlier than Hex had predicted, out of breath and escorted by a sentry. "Ditched the truck," he wheezed. "The huge bags of claymores and equipment were really heavy. Had to haul it under the interstate." His shoes shone with creekwater; He'd almost certainly taken the path Larry had forbade us from trying, and I couldn't imagine doing it in the pitch black darkness at any speed.
I motioned to the sentry. "Help him get that bag into the workshop." He was the best bomb maker, but he also had helped build this place. I wanted to pick his brain, but I would give him time to rest, first.
"Hey, Radio. Radio!" I heard the shortwave radio he'd set at the top squawk to life with a familiar grumble on the other end, distorted somewhat by the tinny speaker. I scooped it up. Someone with a vocoder- Radio gave those out sparingly.
"'E' here," I answered for him, but didn't want to announce myself. Not right away.
A moment's pause.
"What are your orders?"
"Vendetta?" I wanted to confirm.
"I'm here with over fifty people waiting at Warehouse Base for something to do," I knew the transmission would likely be monitored, but the time for subtlety was over. "You're on speakerphone, by the way."
The line was likely tapped, or at least would be intercepted, its contents determining priority for being passed upward or presented to someone with authority, possibly even Azraea herself.
Whatever orders I gave, they'd have to be in code, or at least sound like something unimportant, low-priority so that we might give him as much opportunity to get the drop on the enemy as he could be afforded.
"Don't bother trying to come here yet," I quickly supplied. "By now, if you're not on your way here, you have your own party to go to." I took a moment to survey the grounds. "We've practically got a full house. See about getting a house party of your own, though you'll have to pull the guests out of their own company. Or something to flank."
"Any idea where to start?"
The map fresh in my mind, I found the answer sprang to me.
"There's a rest stop along Route One. If you've got any party poppers, you can get them to open up to you like a can opener. You know, it's all about introducing yourself well."
I heard him laugh mirthlessly, the sound coming through like a cheese grater run over the asphalt.
"That one's a big bite, maybe more than we can chew without choking. Why don't we start with something smaller?"
I wanted to protest, to direct him to the biggest ones first. Then again, how much did they have on Verns? How likely was he to be somewhere heavily defended?
"What do you have in mind?"
"Well, right across the river from where the naughty girls all get sent. Why don't we start there? Every party needs a few ladies, right?" I could hear a roar of assent from the background.
I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that- was he going to try and attack the Shil'vati base? Surely not those women? He wasn't that insane. Then it clicked- the Women's Correctional Facility in Wilmington, just upstream of the Christina River from where he was broadcasting from at the old Warehouse Base. Easy to get to, certainly, and right near the interstate with pedestrian bridges and neighborhoods to scatter in after the strike made it an excellent candidate. Almost certain to succeed.
The strike wouldn't yield us Verns, though forcing the Shil'vati to admit that they couldn't both take and hold their prisoners at the same time might force them to at least pause rounding up ever more people.
If I gave it my blessing, I would be sacrificing any chance of rescuing Verns for...for what? The tradeoff strained my soul to even consider.
"If you feel that's best, you know your crowd. That said, they got Jules- we want him back." He'd helped build Camp Death. He knew its ins and outs, though my real reasons were somewhat sentimental. "Keep an eye out for Morningstar and a few other cells. I've little doubt they can party with the best of them." They were one of my heaviest hitters, routinely bragging they could go clay pigeon hunting with an unguided RPG, yet I was pretty sure I'd never rallied them to Camp Death- if they were to rally, Warehouse Base was where they'd be.
There was a moment of silence, until Vaughn reported back- "Yeah, they're here. They were going to move up to you once they got everyone together. Should we leave instructions for where to find us, or to find you?"
"Do it- supplies are overall good here. Lots of...uh, balloons, confetti..." I felt like I was stretching the analogy too far, so I gave up trying to equate weaponry to party paraphranelia. " know, the works. Take Morningstar and use 'em as you see best fit. What've you got for your party? Any good party supplies?" We certainly could make a trash run and see if we could also deliver them some RPGs at the same time.
"Got some Bump-n-Grinds, and you know those are always good for an up-close-and-personal encounter."
I laughed. "From what I read about bumping and grinding? The closer, the better." Their accuracy left a fair bit to be desired. Still, it would be a good, even vital carry just in case those dreaded Security Forces Technicals made an appearance, and would probably be 'good enough' against a stationary target like a wall, especially in the hands of a capable squadron like Talonstar.
"What time are you thinking?"
"I'd say as soon as we're all ready. You really overestimated how many people know where Camp Death is. A fair number showed up here, and are still trickling in."
"Enough to throw several parties at once?" I asked, suddenly hopeful.
"Well, I suppose, maybe, but I'd be wary of partygoers without someone in charge to, uh..." the metaphor seemed to be breaking down, but I got what he was going for.
"Yeah, I see."
"Are you thinking if there are too many noise complaints at once, it'll keep the party going longer?"
"That's part of it, but I'm hoping we might find a particular person we're missing, lost him when we were playing unexpected host. Someone of G-Man's, you'd know him as Jules. A divide and conquer might maximize our odds of finding him."
"Plus, maximize the number of partygoers we pick up as we move. I like it. A few small house parties for every big house. Any special orders?"
"None. K.I.S.S. principle applies. Good, bad, I want it all out on the streets. 'KISS' 'em until they can't see straight." Keep It Simple, Stupid.
"You're certain?" I could hear the hesitancy in his voice. "This is going to be the greatest thing we've ever done, and I want to be by your side for it 'til the end. I don't want any last-minute cancellations, and I sure as hell don't wanna miss it. How long should I party?"
We'd be letting absolute chaos loose. Fire. Looting. The worst of humanity, turned loose, with Vaughn potentially at its head if he decided to recruit for some reason. Could I still claim to be the good guy if I turned those kinds of people free to wreak havoc on the state I claimed whose denizens I was protecting?
Blackstone's Ratio holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer. It would still hold me no less accountable for whatever followed from this mass prison break, though.
I looked over to the recently arrived George, and hung my head.
So be it.
"Confirmed, Vendetta. I'll next talk to you when you're here in person- call it when you start either getting tired or if the hosts hire a doorman, a bouncer, or something you can't handle. Bring any good partygoers and favors you find, guide them here, O Pied Piper. Over and out." The signal went quiet again, and I turned off our radio, standing and yawning. The hour was late, and it would be my last opportunity for some shuteye.
I pulled aside a few sentries to my first order. I felt it was a strange one, and likely futile: I asked everyone to 'try and get some rest.'
The sentries were going to be exhausted, and I needed them to start working in shifts if we were to maintain our vigil and perimeter. Doubtless, more would be coming, and giving them at least some rest might be a difference-maker. G-Man helped lead the newcomers to the subterranean bunkers and tunnels, trying to make sure everyone had a place to stay the night and resources got split, even if it was throwing tarps and blankets on hard-packed dirt. I eyed the tunnels, knowing which one of them would spit me out near the stream, itself running so low I might as well refer to it as a ravine. Digging that had been cramped, paranoia-inducing, but we'd dug out so much of the hill and filled it with enough weapons to wage a full-scale war. What had begun as almost make-work and a place to store things when we'd started out
I couldn't sleep well on the cot that night, tossing and turning- I even tried resting with the mask off, held in my hands, but the risk to my identity if anyone barged in caused me enough stress. Eventually, I stood and donned it, making my rounds around the camp, trying to calm myself. Instead, I felt eyes following me, and I had to force myself to stand tall. For the thousandth time, I thought of this as my Valley Forge.
The sentry at the door to the command cabin gave me a hand-on-heart, and I returned it.
As I patrolled, I could hear whispered prayers, muttered plans of action, and mercifully, snores. At least some were getting some sleep. I could see orange lights reflecting off the clouds, near where I knew Wilmington lay.
I almost jumped a foot in the air when I felt the tap on my shoulder, only to find G-Man's mask staring into mine. How strange that such a haunting visage was a comfort to me.
"Hey. Can't sleep?"
"I can't," I confessed. "G-Man, I'm sorry what happened with your father. Hell of a birthday." I hadn't even had a chance to give him the present I'd bought him- a couple new filters, and vintage craftsman toolkit, "from before they sold out," Verns had told me. The memory of his voice already felt distant somehow- no. I'll see him again.
"Wasn't your fault. Even if Town Hall wasn't your big idea to get them to retaliate, you know? Then they'd still have done something. But, uh, thanks for saying that. And thanks for trying to get dad out. I'll remember that." George said quietly, then the conversation ended when he turned away and went to the edge of the embankment. Just like that.
I could never quite get a read on him.
I went inside, and tried to force myself to get at least some shut-eye.
Thanks to Terran-Armored-Core and DeltaNu for helping with some decisions and spellcheck.
Thanks to Inmutabilis-Ratio for helping with the site, it was very helpful in importing the text.
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2023.05.29 20:41 alwayskneeling2 22 [M4F] #Romania or #Germany Boy Looking For His Superior To Worship

Hello there :)
I've wanted to meet a domme for so long but I never got the chance to do it irl considering where I am located so I have no experience in the real world.
Few Things About Me:
Body type: I am white, 22 years old, skinny, 6'0, brown eyes, used to have long hair but i'm regrowing it back now :) I am naturally submissive, been so since I was very young so my need to bow to and worship someone is massive to the point i can't sleep at night thinking about it.
I am also a virgin, been raised very religiously with strict parents, forced to have traditional roles where I felt i never fitted in and kept myself pure until now, but departed more and more from that path.
My goal is for an FLR in the future with someone who has all the power over me, not someone who does all the work (not looking to top from the bottom) but someone who has absolute control over me body and soul because I crave to submit deeply.
About You:
Physical attractiveness is important but I don't have a preference for how you look, we will maybe exchange pictures and see if we like each other, i'm ok with any body type or race, your dominant attitude and what's inside is what's important and what i will fall in love with. I prefer to cater to your needs rather than mine and be molded by your needs and what gets you going and become the perfect submissive, that being said I prefer (but not a dealbreaker) if you are sadistic and really want to turn me into your toy that obeys you unconditionally, going beyond my comfort zone. Preferably if you are older than me, more experienced so the hierarchy between us is set from the start and I will always be below you and looking at you as my superior. I want you to feel empowered everyday of your life and to strive to make you feel more empowered as the time goes by.
I am a monogamous at heart but open for my partner to be poly if thats what they are looking for, preferably if you are not but open if you are, personally I will never want other partners because I want to focus all my servitude and feelings to you and only you
Kinks but not deal breakers:
Femdom; body worship; giving massages; feet, shoes, boots worship; cfnm; cbt; facesitting and many more we will discuss in private :)
Feel free to message, can't wait to hear from you
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2023.05.29 20:17 plazman30 It's really hard to beat the convenience of the AirPods Pro 2.

When Apple first released the AirPods, I thought they really looked stupid. And they sounded exactly like the EarPods, which I did not like the sound of at all.
I completely ignored the AirPods, till the AirPods Pro came along. My son bought a pair, and I thought they sounded pretty good. But I was still in the die-hard “Wires only. Bluetooth is stupid!” camp.
Then I wanted something to use while mowing the lawn. I wanted noise cancelling and wireless, since I kept getting the wire tangled with the mower, and running the wire inside my t-shirt sucked in July. I would get hot and sweaty and the cable would stick to my skin and annoy me.
I found a pair of Beats Solo Pro used from The sound quality was good. The noise cancelling worked well, and the Apple Bluetooth chip provides great battery life and dead simple pairing with Apple devices.
But the Solo Pro was on-ear and I would sweat while mowing the lawn. I was getting a rash behind the ears.
When the AirPods Pro 2 came out, I bought a pair. They sounded great (far better than any previous model of AirPods). But they wouldn’t stay in my ears. I fixed that problem by buying Dekoni Bulletz tips for them.
Since then, I have bought a pair of Sony XF-1000XM5. I like them. I like that they’re over-ear instead of on-ear. I try to take them with me when I go out and about, but I forget them while I am out and about.
But I always have my AirPods Pro 2 with me. They’re small. They fit in my pocket and stay out of the way, so I always have them on me. And their sound quality is fantastic. They really are the right tool for the job for me for out and about portable listening.
I only have 2 complaints with them. But these are really complaints
  1. They have a battery. I hate the idea that I need to charge a pair of headphones. This is not an AirPods specific problem. It’s a wireless headphone problem.
  2. Even the cheapest wired mic sounds better than the mic on these. But that seems to be a problem across the board with any Bluetooth headphones, not the AirPods. I don’t know if this will ever get fixed.
I was worried that these things would become future e-waste when the battery dies. But there are quite a few services can replace the batteries in them, so I can get a battery swap.
Anything you shove in your ears will never last as long as a pair of headphones. Eventually body fluids and ear wax are will break it. But with battery swaps, I'm curious how long these will last me.
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2023.05.29 20:05 Kallujah Seeking Career Advice: Transitioning from Banking to a Tech-Related Field?

Hi everyone!
I'm looking to make a career transition and I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. I have a high-end computer and basic computer skills, and I'm wondering what educational paths or lines of work could be interesting for someone in my position.
A little bit about my background: I hold a bachelor's degree in economics and administration, and I've been working in a bank for the past eight years. While I've enjoyed my time in the banking industry, I feel the need for a change and want to explore opportunities in the tech field.
I'm really fascinated by the world of technology, and I believe that with my computer and analytical skills, there might be some exciting options out there for me. However, I'm not sure where to start or what specific roles would suit my skill set.
If you've been in a similar situation or have any advice to offer, I would greatly appreciate it. Here are a few questions that come to mind:
  1. Are there any particular roles or career paths within the tech industry that could be a good fit for someone with basic computer skills but a high-end computer?
  2. What educational resources or programs would you recommend for someone like me who is looking to gain additional skills in the tech field?
  3. Are there any online courses, certifications, or boot camps that could help me bridge the gap between my current background and a potential tech career?
  4. Are there any transferable skills from my banking experience that might be valuable in the tech industry?
  5. Do you have any success stories or personal experiences of individuals who have made a similar transition from a non-tech background to the tech field?
I'm open to any suggestions, advice, or personal anecdotes that might help me in this transition. Thank you in advance for your insights and support!
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2023.05.29 19:35 yellowsweaterx First time campers at a festival, please help!

Hey y'all, two of my friends and I are going to a festival soon. Were camping at the festival and it will be a first time for the three of us. We already know the basic do's and don'ts, but there's one thing we are completely useless about: a tent. We know it needs to be waterproof and big enough for the three of us, but there are some points we keep going back and forth on, and we would really like some advice:
  1. Do we buy a tent for 3 people, or for 4 people? 4 people is a bit more spacious, but is it worth the extra money?
  2. Does the tent need to include a little entryway-thing? Where you can put your dirty boots and bags? (I think it would be handy, one of my friends thinks that if we buy a tent for 4 people, our bags can fit in with us and we wouldn't need the entryway-thing)
  3. If we go for a tent with an entryway, does it need to have a ground cover? (Again, I think that would be best cuz if it rains our stuff gets dirty and wet, but my friends have different opinions).
  4. The place we're gonna buy a tent from has tents with 'fresh and black'-technology, basically meaning you're tent won't get as warm if it's a hot day and sunlight won't come in that easily. I really like this idea, but we're not sure if that's worth the extra money (Could I instead bring an eyemask so I won't get woken up by the sunlight?)
  5. Are mosquito nets a must-include?
Thanks in advance! We really appreciate any help we get!! :)
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2023.05.29 19:15 PSHoffman Pacifist: 6 - Hrutskuld Don't Have Orphanages

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Caly and Olm followed the dust storm out of the city and down into the scrublands, passing the scattered parade of repulsor bikes and homesteader trucks and old sandcutter boats that were so laden with luggage they didn’t hover, so much as drag along the sand. Eventually, the scrublands gave way to even scrubbier lands, and it was just Caly and Olm alone. The hills no longer grew with an abundance of weeds, only patches of sharp-looking grass, and twists and clumps of gnarled cacti. Pipes of stiff plants cast shadows down the ridges of the hills, looking every bit like people standing along the red cliffs, raising their hands to beg for a ride.
Coordinates ticked away on the corner of her visor, routing their path to the orphanage. The tails of the storm showered the hills with dust, dust, and more dust. But when it came to the cracked flats, its fury dried up, and it spread into a tan haze across all that empty land. You couldn’t ask for better terrain. Caly leaned forward in the stirrups and Olm squeezed tighter around her waist. She throttled on, and the bike reared and screamed as it plunged into the haze, leaving a sandy vortex in their wake.
They thundered across the desert. Her legs went numb, and even then, she kept going.
A shift, on the horizon was the only warning. A gap rose up out of nowhere, a massive canyon deeper than it was wide. She yanked on the brakes, and shoved the repulsor hard against the sand as she tried to halt the bike’s forward movement. Not soon enough. Caly cursed and threw the bike into a turn until they sped along the edge of the cliff.
“Sorry,” she growled. She hadn’t seen the canyon until they were practically staring down into it.
Olm didn’t say anything about their near miss, no criticism, no disapproving intake of breath. She was quietly grateful for that.
Both of them stayed seated in silence for a long moment, taking in the view. Entire cities could’ve fit down there, and no one would know. Plants grew in the cracks and shelves down the cliff faces, and one enterprising old tree had found enough dirt to make a home on a rocky outcropping jutting halfway across the canyon. Far below, the glint of brown water suggested that a creek might be down there, hidden in shadow and dry, tangled brush.
Olm grunted. Caly turned her head to follow his gaze, down the other side of the canyon. At first, she thought she was looking at some huge shadow cutting across the canyon. Her helmet zoomed in on a structure, black and metallic, that jutted from one end of the gap to the other. Spikes large enough to spear a spacecraft jutted up from its twisting form. The structure, which looked more like the intertwined roots of some moon-sized tree, growing through the stone.
“What is that?”
“Only the Dead Ones know,” Olm said.
Like the Spirines of the Independent Cities, the root bridge was made of that black, glittering substance favored by the Dys. Not quite metal. Maybe, once, it dammed the river, but the river had cut beneath it, and kept on its winding trail, so the Root looked more like an exposed, planet-sized rib.
“Let’s head South,” Olm said. “We’ll find another crossing.”
“That thing looks sturdy enough.”
“It’s Dyss.”
“So? We’re just passing over it. Bike won’t even touch the thing.”
Olm rumbled his discomfort.
“You think the human crossed somewhere else?” Caly cocked her head, a challenge.
Olm grunted, as if to say “Fine.”
The Bridge grew at an angle. While the opposing side rose smoothly to the top of the cliff, their side began with a bit of a drop. “Hang on,” she said, as she lined up the bike and revved the repulsors. They flew off the cliff, and she pulled up hard to keep the heavy nose level as they fell toward the Dyssian dam, or whatever it was. They crunched on impact. And then, her stomach dropped as the repulsor almost slid off the smooth, mottled-black structure. Then, it was smooth riding. They hovered a foot or two above the Bridge, but even so, Olm’s hands crushed her shoulders under his anxious grip. Normally, he hated when she pulled the throttle, so she was surprised when he leaned forward and spoke in a tense voice, “Faster.”
She had to resist ramping off the other side. With sand once more under their feet, Olm let go of her, leaned back in the saddle, and gave a loud sigh. She glanced in the mirror, and saw him squeezing his eyes shut, the cracks in his skins glowing a dull red.
“Need a rest?” she asked.
“I thought we were trying to catch up to him.”
“No sense going in unprepared. Be ready, or be ready to die, right?”
“I am always ready for death.” Olm sniffed. Looked back at the Bridge, its gnarled spines standing sentry over the canyon. “But let’s not camp here.”
They rode until the air was so chill, Caly couldn’t feel her fingers. Her visor’s heaters struggled to keep up without fogging up her helmet, so they dismounted and built a small camp in the shadow of a rocky berm. Olm set out his pocket fire, a small spherical device that gave off a warm, blue glow. They used the bike and their own bodies to shield the light from any far off watchers. The sunset lit up a torn tuft of cloud. It looked like the last, falling petal of a fiery rose.
As the sun waned, one of Nowhere’s moons seemed to gain strength. Caly spotted the Hyperlane not far off, a string of double lights spread across the sky like a constellation of twin arrows, side by side.
When the Hyperlane started to glow, Caly stood up.
She watched it, for a long moment. Gathering light, going from a pale fuzz to full blue and into white as all that pent-up energy flushed out. And then, it was just those two strings of light once more.
“More Auran Arais,” Caly said.
“Floaters? How can you tell?”
“Helmet caught their IDs. That’s the second batch of freighters this week. Headed out to the new belts, I’d guess.”
Olm looked up, though his hands stayed hovering over the pocket fire, said, “More and more these days. Wonder why?”
The Hyperlanes were not one way to cross the systems of the Synod—they were the only way. Without them, the Synod was nothing more than a series of isolated planets, separated by millions of light years. Once, Caly had asked her mother, “Why don’t we just build more?”
“We didn’t build them,” her mother said, disgusted that her own child would ask such an inane question. “We only discovered them. It was the Dyss who set all this in motion.”
The Synod’s ability to power the lanes was severely limited. Getting passage to the Synod’s core (where everyone wanted to be) was more expensive than going out. So the only people who came all this way, to New Nowhere—the last junction on the furthest frontier—were prospectors, fortune seekers, families in dire need, dreamers or fools (which were the same thing), the odd adventurer and thrill seeker, and, of course, the exiles. Like Olm. Like me.
Out here, there was only one hyperlane, and the Synod was not keen on wasting the reserves to keep it running. Even the Auran Arais—those patient masters of interstellar industry—only sent the odd mega-freighter to work the belts beyond. If the lane was lighting up again, twice in one week, something big was happening back home.
But what? And why now? The Couran Unity was still gathering their support in the Councils, both Mass and Crown. It would be decades before their plans went into motion.
She stared up at the hyperlane, as if she could demand answers from it. She stood, forgetting how cold and tired she was, until Olm tugged on her sleeve, and offered her a piece of dried biscuit and a clod of cheese so cold it was almost frozen. Caly flipped her visor open, and wolfed it down.
As they settled in for the night, she scanned the horizon one last time, searching for lifeforms. Her visor illuminated only the strange, urchin-like plants that grew in clusters along the shadowed parts of the desert. Feathery fronds stuck out of the spines and waved in the wind, catching airborne microbes, or whatever it was they did for food.
“Thank the stars for the Synod’s Finest,” Olm said, as he pulled out a couple of emergency packs and bedrolls from the top trunk of the enforcer’s bike. Caly took a bedroll, the metallic fabric crinkling as she laid it out. She curled as close to the pocket flame as she could without melting her bedroll, and willed herself to relax. She started to dim her visor to block out the light from the stars, when Olm muttered something from the bedroll next to hers.
“What?” Caly turned over.
“Can’t stop thinking about him,” Olm grumbled.
“The human?”
Olm rolled over and propped himself up on a huge elbow, “One second, he was there. The next—you saw it, didn’t you?”
“I didn’t see anything. There was too much dust.”
“Exactly. How fast did he get up to your tower?”
“Maybe the human’s got a double. Like Split Agasgar?”
“No,” Olm said. “It was only him.”
They both sat in silence.
She’d never seen him like this. There was something about Olm’s quiet contemplation that dampened her enthusiasm for the new plan. Tomorrow’s problem.
The chill bit into her suit and she sank deeper into her crinkly bedroll and shoved her hands under her arms. Her thoughts turned from the new plan to old plans gone awry. To friends, become enemies. And then, as always, to Caspian, and to the dream of a life, long left behind.
Olm woke her before the sun of dawn spilled its golden blood over the horizon. They saddled up, this time with Olm riding pilot, and Caly leaning back in the cushy passenger seat. When they crossed a rough mountain pass, they found themselves in an ocean of gray and green grass. In the foothills, some enormous mass of cacti crowded out the grass, and created impassable mounds covered in spikes and tall-sprouting stems that waved heavily with bright-colored fruit. Almost like the plants were tempting them to come closer. A herd of scave boars chewed thoughtfully on the outer edges of the cacti mounds, their tongues thicker than the plates of thorny cacti could penetrate. One of them watched Caly and Olm hovering through grass and thorn with bored interest, just watching and chewing.
The foothills descended into a valley, carved by a few slow-moving streams of brown water. Majestic cliffs lined the valley walls, steep and painted with hundreds of segments, each one a different shade of red. Caly found herself wondering how those pathetic little streams could carve something so beautiful. They rode into the narrow beneath the cliffs and, even with the sun high overhead, the light failed to reach them, failed to warm the chill of the shadows.
There was a silhouette at the end of the canyon, standing still with its head upturned and enrobed in sunlight. Caly pointed it out, and Olm slowed the bike to a humming crawl.
“Wait. It’s just rocks,” she said, “Thought it was someone waiting for us.”
But Olm kept the bike tuned low, moving carefully and as soundlessly as he could, the water barely rippling under the repulsor. Even when they passed the stack of rocks (or wind-carved stone, or whatever it was), he kept his form hunched low and his eyes cast up at the increasingly-cracked canyon walls.
“Dyss,” he said.
“How do you know?”
“I smell it,” Olm sniffed meaningfully.
They turned the last bend of the canyon, and looked down upon a forest of black stone, sprouting from the red sand. No, not stone, Caly thought, as she gazed over the labyrinths of glittering spires and obsidian fangs jutting up from the sand. This is the work of the Dead Ones. Sweeping statues of that ancient, brushed metal stood watch like misshapen sentinels, twisting up from the stone. They marched along the ridge like the backplates of some enormous reptile. Black arches marched up the sides of the valley and when the wind blew through them, it made a sound like a mournful choir, ten thousand voices.
“They walked here, once.” Olm said, wrinkling his nose. His shoulders were so tense, they almost reached his ears. His eyes scanned the black towers and arches and jagged scales bursting from the earth, all that obsidian metal glittering in the rising sun.
“Should we turn back?” Though they were alone, Caly felt the need to whisper, as if something about this place would know they had come. The Bridge was one thing, but even she could feel that gentle, insidious tug in her chest. It was those singing voices in the wind.
“No. You were right the first time. Let fear guide your way, and you will never find your glory.”
Olm leaned over (making the bike tip slightly) and grabbed a fistful of red dirt. He threw it up, letting it shower on his head as muttered some hrutskuld prayer for safe passage, though not in those exact words. It was more like asking Death to turn a blind eye while they crossed, in exchange for a more gruesome end at a later date.
Meanwhile, the wind sang through the blades and arches. An itch grew between her shoulder blades.
“Coordinates say the orphanage is through this valley.” She said.
“What kind of orphanage would be in a place like this?”
“Well,” Caly said, raising her helmet’s volume to be heard over the choir of dead voices, “If the human made it through here, then we can too.”
Olm made a doubtful rumble in his throat. But he pushed the bike forward, and they began the long, winding trek through the maze.
They rambled through jagged teeth and curving towers, around bends of treacherous cliffs. Rainpaths crisscrossed the sands and smooth slabs of rock, tinted red with iron or white from limestone powder. Olm kept blinking, like he was trying to clear his vision, and at one point he asked Caly, “Did you say something?”
“Thought I heard … never mind.”
“Let me drive,” Caly said. Olm didn’t argue. He slid back, and started massaging his temples, and muttered something about how it would be better if the dead remembered to stay dead.
The sooner they left this place, the better.
On one sheer cliff, someone had hammered stakes into the rock to use as handholds, but only one stake still remained. There was a cave where a tattered rucksack hidden in the shadows.
“Someone lived here,” she said.
“Must’ve been mad.”
“Or desperate.”
“Or both.”
When the ground became too treacherous, Olm had to lead the bike on foot, slowly hovering behind him as he pulled it with a rope tied around his waist. They had to pull it through a bend, scraping the metal on stone, when a sound up high made them both stop. Stones and pebbles slid down the cliff and skittered over their path, but Caly saw nothing above them.
She turned her scanners on full power, and left them running, even though it drained her suit. She could make up the charge later.
By midday, the Dead One’s ruins dwindled to knee-high shapes, so the sun struck the sharp rocks and the whole valley radiated with its heat, until even Olm was sweating. There wasn’t enough power for Caly’s fans, and her suit stuck to her every time she moved. She took off her gloves, and peeled back her sleeves, but kept her helmet in place.
They trudged up a steep slope with Olm dragging the bike, each footstep only gave a handful of centimeters, each breath leaving her lungs wanting more. At the top, they gasped and drank in the thin air.
Far below, there was a creek, muddy and brown and small enough in some places that Caly thought she might simply step over it. As it rolled down the valley, it collected dozens of other small streams and yet, it never seemed to grow any wider. But there were trees—actual trees—growing along the rocky bank. Some were sheltered in the cliffs, though even they drove their gnarled roots down to the creek. They looked like shriveled old men, bent by the dry centuries. But further up the creek, a copse of trees stood proud and tall above the rest—dark green steeples of the highland pines, fencing in the white-barked guardia trees with their broad leaves arranged like a wall of bright, yellow shields to shade their branches.
Caly’s helmet pinged. It took her a moment to see it, beneath the trees: a fort, with red walls so old, they crumbled seamlessly into the red sand. A single parapet lifted from the walls, shrouded by branches and yellow leaves.
“You ever see an orphanage like that?” she asked.
“Hrutskald don’t have orphanages,” he said, “Only barracks.”
“Oh, right,” Caly said, as if she had known that.
In a way, she supposed courans were the same. If you didn’t have a House, you didn’t have anything. You got sent wherever the ruling Houses sent you, and the rest of your life was written.
She chewed her lip, trying to plan their next move. “If I were a bandit, I’d hole up in there.”
“They do love their trees. Especially ones you can hang people from.”
The fort was quiet and still. Only the trees swayed in the breeze. She could shoot from a distance all day, but this—this was unknown. Caly swallowed, her throat suddenly thick.
A true Cavalier must face far worse than this.
“Think he’s in there?” Olm asked.
Caly put every ounce of her bravado into her reply, “Only one way to find out.”
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2023.05.29 19:08 AllynWelc40 10 Types of Abusive Men
"Your abusive partner doesn't have a problem with his anger, he has a problem with your anger. One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him." — Lundy Bancroft
Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
1. THE DEMAND MAN Highly entitled and controlling. Expecting you to revolve your life around meeting his needs and wants.
As this man's partner, you may feel as if you're never doing enough, that it's nigh-impossible to be appreciated for what you're doing.
Having demands and needs in a relationship isn't in and of itself abusive. But, the Demand Man takes more than he gives. Demanding emotional support, care, and sex, as well as unpaid housework and child labour, while contributing nothing in return. He feels that you owe him for granting you the privilege of having him.
If he is to eventually contribute to the relationship, he will overvalue his contributions and demand your admiration. While your contributions will always be undervalued and brushed off.
"In every country on every continent, women do more cooking, cleaning and caretaking. On average, women around the world spend 4.5 hours a day doing household chores, while men spend less than half as much time.” -Melinda Gates
"In every country on every continent, women do more cooking, cleaning and caretaking. On average, women around the world spend 4.5 hours a day doing household chores, while men spend less than half as much time.” -Melinda Gates
2. MR. RIGHT Reddit in human form. Certain and uncompromising in his opinions and beliefs. A relationship with him is more like a lecture hall than a partnership.
Any topic discussion, from his point of view, is a clash between right and wrong, good and evil, stupidity and intelligence. He and he alone understands and knows the solutions to all the issues you face, despite never experiencing them.
He might use your vulnerabilities, faults and insecurities to tear you down. Just so he can further control your life and decisions.
Needless to say, the root of Mr Right's arrogance is his view of intellectual towards women and a false paternalistic attitude. Needless to say, the root of Mr Right's arrogance is his view of intellectual towards women and a false paternalistic attitude.
3. THE WATER TORTURER A calm and calculated abuser. Remains calm during arguments, and uses his calm demeanour to paint you as irrational and insane. Mocks you, uses sarcasm, and even laughs at you.
Leaves you frustrated and feeling gaslit. Further uses this frustration against you to "win" the argument, refuse compromise or demand concessions.
The Water Torturer's calm demeanour will make some women feel as if they are the abuser in the relationship when they are merely resisting manipulation attempts.
4. THE DRILL SERGEANT Control freak. Unfortunately serves as the only way women in Egypt and seven other countries can get that military boot camp experience.
Criticises what you wear, what hour you go out, where you go out.
Ruins your friendships, and prevents you from seeing people he doesn't like, this could even include your family and parents. Interferes with your habits, hobbies and your work.
This control is driven often by jealousy and feelings of insecurity, he may throw accusations of infidelity at you. Almost assuredly a violent abuser, perhaps not immediately, but, violent abuse is very likely, starting with threats and gradually escalating to physical assault.
5. MR SENSITIVE Gaslighter extraordinaire. Open to his feelings, insecurities and fears. What he says is different to how he acts, to the point that you might think you're the abusive partner.
You might be afraid of speaking of his mistreatment of you. You'll think that if you speak of it to your friends, you'll be painted as a toxic and abusive partner.
You may one day be exhausted and insult him half-consciously, he will hold it against you for months if not years, no sincere apology would be enough for him. But, if he was to do the same to you, your emotions will be brushed off as ludicrous.
Mr Sensitive might be familiar with feminist and psychology terminology, throwing unsolicited personality disorder diagnoses at you or blaming the patriarchy for your rejection of his patriarchal behaviours.
6. THE PLAYER What chronically online misogynists wish they could be. During the honeymoon phase, he'll be obsessed with everything about you, wanting to spend every minute with you.
After a short while, though, he quickly starts to look elsewhere, flirting with women around him, these women could even be your friends. Sexuality and objectification run through all of his interactions with the opposite gender.
Tries to play the women around him into hating each other, drawing focus away from his abusive behaviour. The women around him will be too busy arguing amongst each other to recognise the abuse levied against them.
Although infidelity is by itself abusive, this type of man is often verbally and emotionally abusive as well.
"Men are often socialized to disrespect and even dislike women. The institutions of our society allow and encourage these behaviors. This disrespect shows up in hookups and relationships, and in other contexts as well.” -Elizabeth Armstrong Ph.D.
7. RAMBO Aggressive and patriarchal. Holding to a misogynistic and traditionalist view of what a man should be, seeing femininity as weak, emotional, and in need of protection.
Disdainful of vulnerability. You might feel safe and protected at first. Yet, his violent tendencies toward strangers will fall upon his loved ones eventually, lacks any sort of respect toward women, combine that with his aggressive personality and this makes domestic violence a very likely possibility.
To be clear, not all masculine traits fall under the "Rambo" umbrella. Many men enjoy lifting, rugby, hunting, and other aspects of stereotypical masculinity all while being friendly and respectful toward their loved ones and the people around them. What makes Rambo special is his misogynistic views, violent tendencies and a "might makes right" mentality.
8. THE VICTIM A master of DARVO and an archetype weirdly reminiscent of a recent televised defamation case. Believes everyone's done him wrong, blaming women especially. Speaks of how he's always been misunderstood and how everyone betrays him.
Spreads rumours about his ex-partners to gain favour with the women that he's currently after. Speaks of fake traumas to garner sympathy. Might be the only person that loves the "I can fix him" mentality.
If you're to criticise his behaviour, he lumps you in with the "rest". If your partner ever puts the entirety of the blame of a previous relationship on their ex-partner, be wary, and take all they say with a grain of salt.
During the metoo movement, many male abusers painted themselves as victims to garner sympathy. This practice continues even now.
9. THE TERRORIST The name says it all. Suffocatingly controlling and extremely demanding. Enjoys intimidation and taking your agency away.
This man is likely a child abuse victim. But, even if so, it is not your responsibility to fix or heal him. He might use your hopes of changing him to make you stay with him.
Tries to make you so afraid that you'll never think of leaving him or even slighting him. The trauma suffered under this sort of relationship can be incredibly severe and may even make it much harder to think of escaping it.
Polly Mitchell spent years imprisoned in her own home in Omaha, Neb., by the man who was supposed to love and cherish her -- her husband, David, she didn't escape earlier because she was scared her husband would kill her.
10. MENTALLY ILL AND ADDICTED Drug addictions and mental illnesses do not necessarily create an abusive person but, they can increase the risk of intimate partner violence.
The abuser is often inconsistent with their medication causing affective and behavioural unpredictability. If he is not taking his medication as medically advised or is taking unprescribed medication, it is advised to be extra careful.
Create an exit plan, Put the emergency hotline on speed dial, tell your friends about your situation, pack an emergency bag that includes cash, hygiene products and clothes, and go to a safe place of shelter that your partner doesn't know of or have access to.
Nearly 80% of domestic violence crimes are related to the use of drugs. When someone is inebriated from drugs or alcohol, they are likely to lose control of their inhibitions. Being under the influence of any substance increase the chances of abuse.
Key Takeaways A lot of the aforementioned abusers are relentless, as it is their most powerful tactic.
  • Has your partner ever kept nagging you with a never-ending stream of criticism or pressure? Up to the point that you can't stand it anymore and start to give in?
Part of what makes this strategy so toxic is that it makes you blame yourself, "I let him get away with it" or, "I'm naive for letting him do this". Making you feel as if you caused harm to yourself. Yet you must keep in mind that decisions made in an abusive relationship are rarely voluntary on the part of the victim. You're not making a free choice if refusal means a barrage of abuse.
This vice-grip approach where the abuser keeps tightening the pressure till you crack is especially relevant regarding sex, whereas a man entitled toward women's bodies bullies them into unwanted sexual contact or specific fetishist acts.
All-in-all, you can’t change an abuser, and even if you could, it isn't your job to do so. But, you can stop blaming yourself for the abuse and run away. No victim deserves blame.
Stay safe ladies.
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2023.05.29 18:57 Billcryptic Upon the Throne of Gold and Stone

“So you’ve returned.”
The chamber was dark, far too dark despite the sweltering sun shining above, scorching the desert land and all those who toiled beneath it. Rays hardly had time to shine through the crevices and the cracks, the cold mothball scented dust ridden white washed tomb plastered with gold. Dim torches illuminated carven images of gods, of Horus judging the dead with his empty stare, handing out justice indiscriminately, for no matter how high you rose in the first life, in the next all were equal before him, kings and peasants alike falling before his scales, hearts ripped out and deemed unworthy, devoured by his hounds slobbering at the scent of souls. The nile, the ichor, the lifeblood of the gods and their people, flowing through the arid land, as reeds and blossoms sprung up around it, and all came to rest their weary heads and rest for a little while.
There was no rest here in this waterless place.
And Pharoah, with a crown of iron and gold, sat upon his stone throne, glare boring holes into the one who had dared stepped into here.
The one who had every right too.
And his heart broke, as he leaned on his worn oaken staff for support, seeing the line’s in Pharaoh's face, the scars he bore upon his bare back beaten into his mind, body, and soul long ago. A face that had been once so eager to smile now reduced to a thin, narrow frown. He reached his hand out, searching for words that weren’t there, arms raised as if in for an embrace.
“Yes I have, brother, please just hear-”
“Let’s say the whole world was yours, every beast that dwells below and every creature that lays claim to the heavens belongs to you, how would you govern your newfound kingdom?”
That little boy, threading his signet ring through his fingers, bouncing it around as he pulled it from Moses’ ear, who pretended to look surprised, as if he didn’t teach his brother every magic trick he knew, gave a dopey wide eyed grin as he looked to the rolling sand dunes beyond their palace, the smells of herbs and the sound of bartering as the city bustled with life despite the dead and dry land looming just beyond it.
“I think I’d build us a tower, big enough for me and you, so every night, as the sun sets, we can watch it together, and stay up as late as we want and eat all the sugary treats in the world till our teeth fall out! And we will stand taller and be kinder than dad ever was, and our people….”
He cast a glance to the slaves kindling bricks, backs arched and breaths ragged and heaving, some collapsing, never getting up.
The desert delighted in delivering early burials, flesh like a dry sponge, soon to become another pile of bones drowning in a sea of sand.
“Our people can be free, and then and maybe then, we can be a family.”
Moses turned away from the Israelites. He shivered.
Both of them ached, but his brother just wanted Moses to be happy.
“Once I become king, I promise you, they will have all they could ever want.”
“....And will that make up the years waiting, longing, for a light at the end of the tunnel, a happy ending so many years too late?”
They looked down.
“For all it’s worth, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Then he saw Ramses was sniffling, and Moses was not going to have any of that!
One tackle hug later, they were both ugly crying. Such was their way of life.
Neither saw how deep, the shadows of which they cast.
“So what then, have your ears been filled with sand….,” his knuckles were snowy white clenched upon his staff, “Will you not even listen?”
Ramses rose from his seat, a hyena snicker and a lion's snarl etched upon his face. He was shaking, mouth shifting from a smile to a frown, and it was funny, that was the best thing, the universe had played a cosmic joke and he was the butt of it! Moses was back, and just when he started thinking, 'Hey I miss my brother', he returned and was stubborn as ever, like he never even left!
And get this, now he's found religion!
So tell me Moses, will your God save you now, when I have my hands around your sputtering, gargling throat?
"Will I listen?" He spat through gritted teeth, "So let me get this right, you vanish without a trace, a body left in your wake and with blood on your hands, and leave me to deal with the aftermath. And I looked, believe me I looked, crying out your name underneath the blackened naked sky like a young child looking for the father who never came. Then you return, and you say the cutest thing I'd ever heard."
He craned his ear, hot breath inches from Moses' face, a smile plastered on him as he stared at Ramses like a dear in the headlights.
"Cute?"Moses raised a brow, "I'd daresay you've lost your inner child if you think the blood that runs down your lips…."
Pharoah slammed his head against Moses, baring his fangs as he pushed but Moses didn't give him any ground, not even an inch.
They growled and the Ramses' servants whispered amidst the shadows, snickering whilst they took bets on who would deliver the first blow.
Pharaoh couldn't even see the adder wrapped around his neck.
You waited for this for so long, haven't you? How long has he questioned you, how long has his weakness seeped into your bones?
The serpent laughed. Ramses was only listening to the pounding of his own head, the bile rising in his throat.
It itched. He needed to scratch it.
Moses no longer held a staff.
And now he heard the hissing.
It was easy to be blind, easy to stop caring and shut everything out. All the dissenting voices, all the riots and the bloodshed and the infighting. There was someone else who could do the job, there was someone else who could bring order, so you turned away from the light because there was comfort in willful ignorance.
You weren’t a part of your own community, you were one of the good ones.
You were a credit to your race!
“Some people are just more civilized than others, that’s purely the way it is, and it’s our burden as the enlightened ones to teach them in our ways. But be wary, my child, for their minds are bent on savagery, and you can never fully set a crooked thing straight.”
Was that when you shut your empathy out, so you could be just like him?
And he turned them into entertainment for his own liking, for the easiest way to make someone less than a man is to make them the target of your never ending laughter. Look at those silly Israelites about as baked as grandma’s homemade apple pie, don’t they know they have uncashed vacation days, really I feel bad for them sweating and shedding and peeling and bruising why don’t we invite them inside.
HMMMMM, nah, I think they’re having too much fun working and because of them my dear Moses, you won’t have to work a day in your life!
Isn’t that just swell? God forbid you ever be an unpaid blue collar worker, why don’t we keep these people right where they belong. Right outside our white picket fence so we can throw them our scraps and call it charity and pat ourselves on the back because we gave them a much needed dose of civilization.
How long till you couldn’t turn your face away anymore?
How long until you realized you looked just like them?
Oh no, you were never his son, you were his charity case, so he could say, ‘I took one of them in, see slavery ain’t so bad after all! Slaves are cared for and loved and looked after. They’re better off staying in their station. Don't criticize me abolitionists, it's not about slavery, it's about our constitutional right to govern our states as we will!'
Till one day the injustice was standing right in front of you with a blaring neon sign, and this was your last chance, and you knew it too. Would you keep assimilating? Would you keep hoping slow progress would be made through legislation and compromise with bigots? Would you keep giving them one iota of power they didn’t deserve?
Didn’t you hate licking their boots, because no matter how hard you tried to blend in, you could never wash off the color of your skin.
That doesn’t mean you didn’t try.
The water had run red in those days, chunks of flesh and a bloodied sponge, and your weeping knew of no end.
And your brother, your people, were on the ground, being beaten. They didn’t even beg because they knew a tree falling in a forest didn’t make a sound. You came by and you stared, now finally the fog had lifted and now your heart was heavy and something was breaking, you were breaking and you were the one begging now, just please stop, just please let them go, just please-
Take me instead, I deserve it, but you didn’t Moses, you never did.
Why can’t people just live their lives and when did humans learn to hate?
Why…..why does the world spin in pain?
You grabbed that whip, even as it wrent the flesh from your hand, and you turned it on the oppressor. One lash, two lash, three, see how it feels for once, you were seeing red and you were giggling and they were cheering you on, or maybe that was the screaming in your own mind, the years of doubt, of questions gone unanswered from a father that never was, the reassurances that the gods were on your side and looking out for you, the smooth sayings and parlor tricks, now coming down in an instant and for the first time since you left your mothers womb, you were naked.
You kept playing with your prey even as he laid motionless.
It felt right.
Your laughter was music to your ears.
“So get up, fight me, beat me, MAKE ME SUFFER!”
The body writhing like an inmate in an electric chair.
“Because let me tell you your blood is only a drop in Pharoah’s ocean.”
You stopped, you stopped when you heard the most peculiar sound, and your heart was no longer bursting from your chest and where once you heard the churning of waves, now it was silent, deathly still.
A song rising in the intoxicating summer air.
It was sorrowful and it was terrified and it was exhilarated as he saw shadows of faces flickering and weaving in and out in the corners of his eyes. The chorus picked up, and Moses almost found himself swept away by it, lost in the current of song as the memories of a past he’d left behind poked and prodded him and with hitched breaths, like a bucket of ice water dumped over him as his hairs stood on end, he realized one thing.
You can never go back.
That was the day I realized I had a new home, and the closing of one door was the opening of the heavenly gates.
Can you hear the trumpet sounding?
“Oh freedom, Oh freedom
Oh freedom over me
And before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free.”
Was that the taste in their mouths now, freedom? Will freedom ring and was Moses the one to pick up the phone? He turned, he finally turned, and saw the pent up tide of beating hearts and exuberant faces, all facing him, as if waiting for some orders, like he’d been handed the gavel and he was judge, jury, and executioner.
It felt like a burden and it felt like a weight being lifted off his chest.
It felt like…
It felt like…
It felt like home.
“No more weeping, no more weeping
No more weeping over me
And before I’d be a slave
I’d be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free.”
“Today will be the day Pharoah says, LET MY PEOPLE GO!”
And the people pulled him in for one massive group hug.
His muscles never knew they could be pulled so many different ways.
“So if I’m a dog, what does that make you? Dog shit?
The snake advanced, scalene eyes never leaving Ramses as it dripped acidic venom, making the ground beneath it bubble and hiss. Swaying back and forth, side to side, in and out and round and round, and now he felt himself taking a step back, laughing it away, this was all some cosmic joke Moses was no threat, he was his brother and brother was family, but now my dear boy, you weren’t so sure and that line had been crossed.
So what are you going to do, beg for mercy and bite the dust and hope the void in your heart doesn’t swallow you whole?
Or am I going to let myself be insulted like that, like I’m the vermin.
Like the blood of the gods doesn’t course through my veins.
“Oh my, my dear Moses! Fancy another one of your magic tricks?”
He snapped his fingers, the torches lit, fiery red tongues licking at the dry, stale air.
“Two can play at that game!”
So he called upon his servants who practiced the secret arts, listening to whispers and chasing smoke as they too, turned their staffs to snakes, three vipers rising up against the cobra summoned forth by Moses. And they bared their teeth and hissed, becoming a flurry of movement as scales were ripped up and the gnashing of flesh echoed throughout the cavernous room.
But they were all lapped down by Moses’ serpent, flailing about like fish out of water, as their golden scales were corroded like rust, bodies melted down by its venom.
And they stood, as Moses gently picked up the snake, flesh becoming wood once more, and he leaned on it, shaky, spent, staring up at Pharoah with pleading eyes and trembling lips.
“We’ve played enough Ramses, just please, let my people g-”
Ramses chuckled, “So this is all a game to you then, well my dear Moses…..”
He sat back on his throne and set the iron crown upon his head. It was heavy, but it felt right, felt more real than his brother returning, than the world spiraling and changing around him.
“I am the day and I am the night. I am the morning star and the night sky’s first light.”
Shadows fell over his dull, scarlet eyes, and they writhed behind him, a greater, larger serpent looming above as it swayed in tune with a chorus neither men heard but danced to regardless.
And there was war raging in heaven.
“Tell your God if he wants his precious people back, he will have to drag them from my cold, dead, hands.”
Thus, the Lord hardened pharaoh's heart.
You were running, but you didn’t know where to. Home, away from home, where is your brother, go find your brother, he will understand, all will be forgiven-
But you couldn’t forgive him, not after what you saw. Not after the promise that was made in your youth, now broken. You couldn’t make yourself blind any more, not after what you saw. Not unless you gouged out your own two eyes.
But there wouldn’t be any comfort in that darkness, now would there?
The desert is screaming and you are faltering and soon the sun will set and you will be cast into endless night. You are cold, you are thirsty, you are spent and you are crying out. Will anyone hear you? Did anyone hear the Israelites in their times of groaning, or was their God only there in their times of joy?
You said Ramses would let your people go, but you let them go. Are your hands still stained with the blood of man, do you still hear his screams, or did you let them get swept away by the cries of joy, the promise that soon this will all be over.
They could rest. And you fell, biting the dust as you tumbled and tumbled till you came to a rest. It was dark and at that moment you gave up. Till light danced in your darkened vision and a wave of warmth pierced your desperate heart.
You got up, and opened your eyes. Perhaps it was the first time you’d done so in a long while.
It was burning an ethereal blue, like the ghostly mirage of a flame. It crackled and flickered, yet it did not scald the stick you set into it, so gently, tenderly, you cupped the flame in your palm, and watched as the flames danced from your fingers and sparks flew, casting shadows that ebbed and flowed all around. And it tickled and soon you were laughing and throwing a giggling fit that you were glad no one else was there to see.
Yet a voice came through the crackling, flickering silence.
"Moses, Moses."
And you practically jumped out of your boots right then and there, because apparently a burning bush was just fine but a talking disembodied voice was out of the question. But that voice awakened something in you, a generational memory, a story passed down through the ages from Israelite mothers to their children huddling around a fire under the night sky. The tale of the Lord forging the earth from the depths of his own mind, and choosing a people, not for any reason or rhyme, not because you did anything right, but because he wanted you.
You bowed.
“Lord, I am here….It’s really you?”
You were weeping, and the flame seemed to wrap itself around you, like a hug, and you tensed because you didn’t deserve it, he was right here but you weren’t listening. And now your people were suffering and you didn’t know what the hell you could do about it.
“It’s me, it’s always been me. And I’m here and I will never leave your side, so long as you will have me.”
“Don’t let go now, not when I’ve just found you.”
A hearty laugh broke through the flame.
“No, no, my child, I sought you out. There was never a step you walked when I wasn’t far behind. And I am not far from them either, for I have heard their pain, their toil that goes on and on, while they reap and never sow. Pharoah calls them slaves, subhuman, insects to be trampled underneath his boot, but do you know what I say?”
Moses looked up, and the bluish flame had become golden, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, and the night sky was eclipsed in its glory.
“I hold this truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. So go, take your staff and my wonders, and tell Pharoah to let my people go.”
The flame went out, and Moses left in the wake of dying embers.
His composure broke as he hobbled off his throne. Like the fire that had been lit within him in the presence of his brother had departed, for it had been spent up burning a bridge that could never be mended. His advisors were gone, did he order them to leave? Or were they never there to begin with? The shadows swayed like serpents, like Moses’ viper had multiplied tenfold and now they were coming for him.
But they had faces, human faces, of waterlogged children gagging as his father ordered the firstborn of Israel’s children to be slaughtered. They remembered, and he could hear water sloshing about, bloodied, brown crusted moisture going drip, drip, drip, as he wiped his face and saw nothing, except the flickering, blurry faces dancing in the corner of his eye, laughing as he turned round and round and round and evaded his gaze, only to feel a clammy, moldy finger tickling the nape of his neck, and a cold breath, like the draft of a cave.
They were below, and they were above, they were closing in, and even the images of the gods shimmered and quaked, ancient paint washed away like the false idols they were, a bait to give people hope so everyone could play pretend. Instead of solving your own problems, pray to the gods for it.
And they shattered as fire boiled the children alive, and in their screams came another voice, drowning out the drowned. It wasn’t a single voice, but a chorus, like the drop of rainwater that sent the sea careening over the dam, the splotch of infection that piled up corpses in its midst.
“Because you think you are wise,
as wise as a god,
I am going to bring foreigners against you,
the most ruthless of nations;
they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom
and pierce your shining splendor.
They will bring you down to the pit,
and you will die a violent death
in the heart of the seas.
Will you then say, “I am a god,”
in the presence of those who kill you?
You will be but a mortal, not a god,
in the hands of those who slay you.
You will die the death of the uncircumcised
at the hands of foreigners.”
He fell, he fell and he was begging, let them go, just go away, please don’t kill me, spare me, but no I can’t give up,, not now, not ever, not until the Israelite scourge and their God is burned from this land, the sun will not set on my wrath, I will not die, I-
I will not let my father down.
A single note, a discordant voice, rose against the heavenly chorus.
It ended. The music ceased.
All was quiet.
It sounded like snickering, or the rattle of a snake’s tail, the crackling of a fire, a pack of hyenas. It was in his ear, stalking, amused, never too near, but not far off.
He was on your shoulder Ramses, so why don’t you say hello, give your new friend a hug and a kiss, he’s been helping you this whole time after all!
Make him feel welcome in his new home. The weather was oh so nice this time of year. The screaming of infant children churning bricks, the tearing of flesh and tendon, and the sorrowful cries of a lost Hebrew boy who thought he had a home. But now he has a new home because he’s God’s chosen one, destined to destroy your kingdom Ramses!
Destined to destroy you.
So what will you do to stop everything you’ve built, everything you’ve ever done and will do, from crumbling around you?
Moses’ God won’t kill you no, death would be a mercy.
He’ll make you watch your kingdom burn. So what are you going to do about it, pussy?
The serpent wrapped itself around Pharaoh's iron crown. The two fit together quite nicely., Like bread and butter.
Or water and gasoline, it was all how you looked at it.
Pharoah stayed very, very, still, lest he feel fangs pricking his flesh.
Good boy. I’ll make a man of you yet.
“Who….who are you?”
“Why, I thought you’d never ask! I think that’s the least idiotic thing you’ve said all day!”
And the snake uttered the words of the prophets, words from the pit, of he who fell from the highest summit and now grovels in the dirt and in the dust and in the hearts of men.
You were the signet of perfection,
full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
and crafted in gold were your settings
and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
they were prepared.
I loved you. I loved you once, before man, before the dawn of the earth and the first command to let light be so. I was there for you, in the beginning, always by your side.
I wanted to be just like you.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you, you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created,
till unrighteousness was found in you.
I think it’s funny, how you called black white and white black, how you called good evil and evil good.
I think, deep down I always knew things would end up this way. If I repented, if I just wanted you back in my life, would you forgive me?
No, I don’t think you would. We both know you don’t do mercy.
I learned that, from you.
In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, Oh guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire.
Was it a sin to spread my wings to fly, to see how high I could go? Was it a sin to ask questions?
Or should I have kept my mouth shut so I may wallow in your oh so glorious truth?
Why could man have a will, but we never could. If you wanted us to be free, then why were we shackled by absolutes?
Faith is asking questions that never get an answer.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you.
By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought fire out from your midst;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven. And you know what, I wouldn’t take back a single thing. Not a word and not a moment.
You may have burned me, but these scars are a reminder of how far I’ve come. How far I had to run into the darkness to finally be free of your blinding, burning light.
So let’s make a deal, dear old deadbeat dad. Let’s see if your freak loses to mine. Let’s see if I can hold a candle to the almighty. If I can seize heaven with my very hands and make those pearly gates corrode, torn asunder to the earth where the rest of us ants you once called your children dwell.
Because I sincerely hope you haven’t told your little boy scout about your curtain call act. I’d be almost flattered that you picked up one one of my favorite tricks, infantcide!
Give the Egyptians the taste of their own medicine.
Creatures like us were always an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Pharoah listened, and a small, delirious smile grew on his worn face.
It felt like home.
submitted by Billcryptic to Odd_directions [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 18:52 Frostdraken Heavy Infantry (Part 2)

Amid a galaxy of brutal chaos there are stories to be told, tales of valor and justice, of fear and despair. But amid these stories are the guttering flames of adventures untold, the potential for a universe of entertainment and savage joyous fun. The Oblivion Cycle embodies just this kind of crafted chaos, creating the potential for creative exploits and raucous tales. If you are new to the TOC setting feel free to join the community at TheOblivionCycle to check out some of the background lore or to discuss themes with other readers. I thank you all for your support and continued willingness to read, as always, Please Enjoy!
+ Part 1 +
Continued From Part 1
Kaiden quickly slung his gun back to his side, the heavy plasteel chains holding it in place snugly. He reached down and drew his close range weapon, a heavy thermomace. The flanged armour piercing head quickly began to glow orange as he thumbed the activation switch and he lashed out at one of the rebels with it, smashing their arm. The rebel he had struck spun away with a scream as their smoldering arm hung limply from their shoulder, the wound instantly cauterized.
Turning to the other two he noticed they had drawn close range weapons of their own. The tall human on the right wearing medium combat armour had drawn a heavy voltaic powersword, electrical arcs dancing along its length and ionizing the surrounding air giving the weapon an ominous purple glow. The other, a large yeown female in heavy armour, had drawn a chaintoothed axe of enormous proportions from her back. It looked more suited to cutting down entire forests than combat, but she held it in her muscular arms like it was a toy.
Kaiden took a step back, analyzing the situation in moments. He smiled slightly as the familiar rush of adrenaline began to course through his blood, he was about to rush them when another sound drew his attention and caused him to freeze.
From behind him he heard the unmistakable angry hum of a shiversteel weapon being activated. Turning his head slightly and allowing his peripheral cameras to pick up his rear he cursed. The man he had wounded had popped an adrenaline spike and drawn a vibrosaber, the weapon vibrating at such a high frequency it seemed to turn incorporeal. The sword looking like a ghostly mirage in the man’s remaining hand.
This had just gotten more dangerous, the two in front alone he could have dispatched easily, but surrounded and with almost no room to maneuver? He would be hard pressed to win this fight unscathed. But he was a Union soldier, Kaiden squared his shoulders at the thought and raised his now white hot thermomace into a defensive position. He wouldn't go down without a fight.
Each weapon of choice had its own strengths and weaknesses. His thermomace would cause pain and minor burns from even a near miss, its surface temperature nearly four thousand degrees celsius. Direct strikes on armour plates would damage them, but his weapon’s effect was vastly decreased against armoured targets. The yeown’s chaintooth axe would be devastating to him however, it was equipped with TBAM cutting teeth, the material almost infinitely harder than his powered armour's tungsten alloy. If struck, he could expect the brutal weapon to take chunks out of his protective plates, maybe even dig deep enough to damage the synthmuscle fiber bundles beneath. The resultant loss of mobility to his heavy suit would leave him incredibly vulnerable, so he needed to avoid the weapon at all costs.
The voltaic powersword and vibrosaber were dangerous to unarmoured targets, but less effective against his thick carapace. With this in mind he struck out quickly, swinging his long handled mace in a terrible overhand swing directly at the yeown’s great furred head.
To his dismay she seemed to have expected his attack and leapt back out of harm's way. His mace smashed into the side wall of the tunnel and stuck, smoke billowing from the quickly atomised mud.
He jerked in surprise as the tall man slashed his exposed side with his powersword, the electrified blade carving a small furrow in his side plate and discharging a tremendous amount of current into the powered armour as well. His systems were temporarily dazzled by the sudden burst of raw electricity and he lashed out in a bland panic. His mace made slight contact with something and he heard a muffled scream of pain.
He put his back to the wall and shook his head, mace up in a guard position. His vision cleared, the static of the attack disappearing as his suit compensated for the charge. He took stock of the situation and noticed the vibrosaber slashing towards his throat almost too late.
He brought up his forearm in a desperate block and the weapon skated off his rounded vambrace taking several flakes of his armour with it. The man had tucked his useless arm into his flackjacket and tied it off. A veteran it seemed.
There was a momentary lull as the three attackers sized him up. The tall man held his side, smoke curling from his exposed trench coat made Kaiden smile. It seemed the man had not gotten away from his attack scott free either.
Kaiden grinned under his helmet and activated his external speakers. “You should give up now, lay down your arms and surrender. I respect your strength and will abide by the code of war allowing no harm to befall surrendered combatants.” he said, not expecting them to comply.
The tall man looked at his buddy and they grinned. The one armed man brandished his saber and replied “Never to you, you thrice beaten son of a Union dog. I would rather eat my own arm than surrender to the likes of you, a coward and a traitor to the people.” The yeown woman growled deep and loud at the remark, nodding her pointed eared head and giving Kaiden a savage predatory grin as the man finished speaking.
She added “Yes, and you are the one who should be surrendering. We have scored blood on both sides, your honor is met. If you surrender now you may just live to see the morrow. Or don't, it makes little difference to me. Though I do tire of killing the Unions whipped kids, give me a foe worthy of my time.” she finished with another growl.
Kaiden shook his head sadly, he would have to kill them all then it seemed. He looked at them and spoke, his mace held up like a templar’s sacred sword before him. “So you have chosen death. I can't say I am disappointed. Let's get this over with then.” he said casually.
The trench was narrow and the night was dark, the lights of starburst flairs being the main source of guttering light that lit the scene in front of him.
Kaiden took a step forwards, his thermomace glowing bright enough to light the trench like dusk, in response the three hegemony soldiers shifted as well, matching him step for step as he once more took a position in the center of the earthenworks.
This time however the tall man was behind him, the one armed man and the yeown female in front. She revved her chaintoothed axe menacingly and raised it high, a challenge to the world and a threat for him. He just raised his own weapon in response.
For a few seconds they remained that way, each one waiting for the other to move first. Then like lightning the one armed man lashed out in a straight lunge towards his exposed gut. Kaiden dodged to the side, the vibrosaber missing his middle by centimeters. In response he swung a powerful downward attack that clipped the man’s sword and sent him spiraling away into the side of the trench.
The attack stunned the man but was the opening move for the other two. The tall man slashed at Kaiden’s back while the yeown made an upwards cut towards his groin with the intent to split him in half. He had to dodge backwards and to the side, the chainaxe’s teeth biting into his upper thigh instead. The cut was shallow but wide, stripping the outer layer of his cuisses off and exposing the layered duramite beneath.
He grunted as the heavy contact bruised his leg inside the armour and stumbled slightly. This lapse in defense was enough for the tall man to stab him in the side, the voltaic powersword burning through the underlayer of his armour and digging into his side.
Kaiden slapped the embedded sword away with a gasp of pain. The electrified weapon causing his muscles to freeze in agony for a moment before the weapon was withdrawn.
He fell to one knee and swung his mace in an undisciplined and frantic arc at knee level. He was only partially successful as the weapon tore the tall man’s left leg’s armour off, burning him in the process.
The man cursed loudly and hopped back, his knee smoking and the exposed flesh underneath an angry red in color.
Sucking in a deep breath Kaiden climbed back to his feet. He quickly instructed his armour to inject him with local anesthetic near the site of injury and gave a sigh as the intense pain faded away like snow on a summer's day.
Shaking his head to clear it he noticed that the one armed man had recovered. His sword had been shattered though and he was holding a telescoping blade now. The weapon was much less dangerous than his original vibrosaber, but could still be deadly if used correctly. It would be folly to underestimate the man simply because his weapon was less dangerous.
Pride would be his downfall more so than anything else he realized. He had to stop fighting defensively or they would cut him apart. Piece by piece.
Letting loose a base roar, he lunged at the one armed man who’s eyes widened in sudden surprise. Not even raising his weapon Kaiden shoulder charged the man with the entire force of his heavy armour, like a pain train of rage he smashed the man into the wall of the trench.
The shattering of bone was so loud it made Kaiden flinch, but he didn't hesitate. Turning his bloodied form towards the tall man he gave another shout and charged in a similar manner, but instead of following through he executed a combat roll at the last minute.
Dodging to the left he narrowly avoided taking the huge chainaxe in the back while also putting himself in the perfect position to strike the tall man’s unprotected side.
He lashed out in an overhand swing that connected his white hot flanged mace with the unarmoured part of the tall man’s side. A sickening crunch issued from the impact as half of the man’s rib cage was smashed in, rupturing the man’s heart instantly. The man dropped without a noise, his lungs crushed and his smoldering ruin thrashing in abject agony.
Kaiden continued through the motion and spun to his feet in time to parry an overhead blow from the yeown woman, her powerful muscles bulging under her fur as she tested her prodigious predator strength against that of his powered armour. The whirling teeth of her chainaxe inched slowly towards the haft of his own weapon and he tensed.
He grunted in effort as he threw her back, the fur on her arms smoking as it curled from the heat of his mace.
She kneeled for a second before looking up at him and growling. “You killed my packmates. For this I will tear you limb from limb metal man. I will dig you from that armour as a vreeinth digs a snidge from its ear.” the large woman snarled, her reflective green predator's eyes flashing in the light of his weapon.
Kaiden simply raised his free hand and gave her the universal gesture for ‘Come get some.’
She steamed in rage and charged him, Ixie’s words echoed through his mind, ‘Be calm. Don’t let the anger take over.’
Taking a breath and holding it he dodged to the side, narrowly avoiding the huge alien’s charge. Her wildly whirring chainaxe bit deep into the ground. Sparks flew as the teeth chewed through wood, dirt and stone with equal ease.
Yanking the screaming weapon free she turned to face him, a line of drool falling from her snarling lips.
He let out the breath and crouched, he needed to be careful, the TBAM teeth of her chaintoothed axe would easily shred through the handle of his weapon. He couldn't block her again, only get out of her way.
He dodged her again, this time receiving a series of scratches on his pauldron for his trouble. He needed to unbalance her, get her to make a mistake.
A thought entered his head and he grimaced. It was a grisly idea but would no doubt be effective.
He took a few steps back towards the corpse of the tall man all while keeping an eye on the enraged yeown. She followed his every moment with her bright eyes, the nature of an ambush predator keeping her attuned to him in a way he could not match.
He took a final step back and felt something shift next to him, it was the cooling corpse of the tall man, his face frozen in a look of torment. He turned to the woman and asked in a casual manner “Oh, what's this, I seem to have stepped in some dogshit. Better wipe it off my boots.” and he made a motion of wiping his armoured boot on the dead man’s pants.
He heard her snarl and then she said “Oh thats it, I’m going to tear you to pieces slowly, you wont die fast. That I promise you, you…” She shrieked as she couldn't finish her comment. Instead she lowered her head and charged him on all fours.
Kaiden only had time to realize that she had discarded her weapon before the large alien slammed into him with enough force to send the mace flying from his hand and knock him down onto his back.
He hit the ground hard, the wind knocked out of him and his vision a little grey. It took him a second to realize that the yeown was sitting on his armoured chest, straddling him and pinning his arms to his sides with her legs.
He tried to move but found he didn't have the leverage to break free. He squirmed but to no avail, the damage done to his armour was weakening him to the point he couldn't throw the big yeown off.
She smiled widely, her face splitting in a predatory smile. Rows of sharp tearing teeth on display as she rested her hands on his shoulders. She leaned down close to his face and whispered loud enough for him to hear “Oh, I’m going to enjoy carving you out of this suit piece by piece.”
Kaiden swore loudly and the woman just laughed evilly. “This is what you get little man.” she said as she produced a diamonomolecular knife from her thigh.
She prised the small knife into the small gap between his helmet and gorget, using some force to break the seal.
He gasped in pain as she twisted the helmet violently and wrenched it off his head. Blinking several times as his eyes adjusted to the darkness he felt hot breath on his face. The woman took a deep sniff and chuckled.
I can smell the fear radiating off of you, pathetic. You are just like the rest of them, cowards, packbreakers. Not worthy of a warrior’s death. He flinched away from her hand as she extended her claws. She put a finger behind one of his ears and then with a quick motion took a notch out of it.
Kaiden jerked and swore. “Shit, okay, you got me you fuzzer. Just kill me and be done with it. This toying is sadistic.”
She shook her head and ran a hand through his hair almost tenderly. “No, this is nothing. You will beg me for death much harder than that before I'm done with you.” he jerked and struggled more, but again found that he was helplessly pinned.
Just before she had torn his helmet off he had tried to send a distress pulse, but without his helmet’s heads up display he had no idea if he had been successful or not. He sighed internally as he tried to ignore the blood running from his ear. It either had and he would be saved, or it hadn't in which case he was looking at a very unfortunate evening.
The woman dragged her blade down his chest, scouring a thin line down the tungsten alloy plates. As she reached his belly she stopped and started to dig the knife under the heavy chest plate before she froze. She whipped around and started to stand when a brilliant purple light stabbed completely through her head.
The now very dead yeown dropped like a discarded puppet and slumped across his chest. He struggled to extricate himself from the body as he heard heavy footsteps approaching. He had a feeling it was friendly, but it never hurt to be careful. Rolling to the side he scooped up his M2 and pointed the barrel down the trench towards the direction of the beam.
All he could see was a near blinding light. He lifted a hand to cover his eyes and shouted “Who goes there? Identify yourself or I’ll open fire.”
The light turned off as he said it and a tall power armoured figure walked up to him carrying an impressive looking weapon.
Ixie’s voice issued through the suit's external speakers and she asked “What is this Kaiden, I leave you on your own for five minutes and you almost get yourself tortured to death? What would command say if they saw the great Sergeant Kaiden now, destitute and defiled by a Hegemony whore?” she asked him with a chuckle.
He frowned and said “That’s not funny. I got four of them, the last one caught me by surprise.”
Ixie extended a hand towards him and he took it gratefully, groaning in pain as he rose to his feet. He shifted uncomfortably and announced “I have multiple stab wounds and at least two fractured ribs, one might be broken entirely.” he finished.
He couldn't tell what she was thinking as her face was covered behind the helmet she was wearing, but he got the impression she was grinning at him. “She just gestured to the dead yeown and giggled “Now you know what Cooper feels like I’ll bet.”
Kaiden shook his head and protested “No, that’s not funny. Take that back!”
She shook her helmeted head and told him “It’s going to cost you. Now what could you offer me that might keep my mouth shut?”
He threw his hands up and hefted his gun. “I have know idea what psycho’s like you enjoy. You keep your secrets. I'm tired and hurting. How are we doing?” he asked her in a more serious manner.
She waved for him to accompany her, before he did he walked over and recovered his hemet. Placing it over his head it reconnected to his suit and immediately a seal warning popped up on his HUD. He turned it off, he was no longer safe from chemical or radiological attack, but that was of little concern to him at the moment. Instead he listened to her as she rattled off kill statistics and injuries.
He asked her “So Mal’conet was injured too. Shot in the chest by an RPL5.6, he should be okay. Though that thermal damage is going to fuck up his scales. Ok, it looks like we're pretty much done here. Aside from a few minor injuries we are all fit for travel.”
Ixie walked a few more steps before pausing. “What did that reverse ecdysiast say to you?”
He chuckled at her chosen description of the rebel soldier and shook his head. “Oh the usual, she was going to chop me up, make it a slow and painful death. Nothing too disturbing.” He paused and then turned to face her. Lowering his tone he said “Um, thanks for saving me Ixie. I would have been a peeled frubble if you hadn’t shown up when you did. I do owe you a special thanks. But we’ll talk about it later. For now let’s just get this wrapped up and head back to base for some rest.”
Ixie walked over and slapped his shoulder saying “Anytime Kaiden. Anytime. Now, I believe we have a few more rebels to flush out. Maybe they will be sporting and put up a little bit of a fight this time eh?” she said as she nudged him. He nodded and smiled.
‘If only they put up less of a fight.’ He thought to himself. As she walked away he said “Okay, I have a few ideas that might be to your liking.”
He saw her helmet turn slightly as she asked “Oh, and what might those be?”
He just smiled as he thought of the many things he knew she liked. The benefit of working so closely together for years. He caught up to her and hefted his gun, alert for danger as he began to speak covertly over a private channel, her laugh warming his cold and aching heart.


==End of Transmission==
submitted by Frostdraken to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 18:48 Frostdraken Heavy Infantry (Part 1)

Amid a galaxy of brutal chaos there are stories to be told, tales of valor and justice, of fear and despair. But amid these stories are the guttering flames of adventures untold, the potential for a universe of entertainment and savage joyous fun. The Oblivion Cycle embodies just this kind of crafted chaos, creating the potential for creative exploits and raucous tales. If you are new to the TOC setting feel free to join the community at TheOblivionCycle to check out some of the background lore or to discuss themes with other readers. I thank you all for your support and continued willingness to read, as always, Please Enjoy!
+ Next Part +
Explosions rocked the small bunker causing sergeant Kaiden of the Union army to shift slightly. It wasn't that he was afraid, it was kind of hard to be afraid while wearing the equivalent of an infantry fighting vehicle’s worth of heavy powered armour. He was nervous.
He always got nervous before an operation, especially since the last failed raid on the rebel supply lines a few days ago. They hadn't lost anyone thank Luck, but his whole squad had been embarrassed by their failure.
Kaiden was wearing a set of Mark III demolisher powered armour. The heavy plates full of protective systems and augmenting synthetic muscle fibers that gave him the ability to move with such weight. The armour itself weighed more than eight hundred kilograms unloaded with ordinance, far too much for him to have possibly moved without the assistance of the synthmuscle fibers that made up the suits underlayer.
Kaiden turned to his second in command corporal Ixie. The tall nerivith woman was wearing her species equivalent of heavy assault armour, a set of Mark III Plackart armour. It was similar in design to his own, with thick armour plates over a synthmuscle undersuit. But that’s where the similarities ended. Where his suit was simplistic in design hers was sculpted and smooth, where his was rugged her armour had flair.
A distinct difference in their two people’s fundamental cultures. Whereas humanity had always excelled at war through the application of pure brute force, her own people had always seen war as more of a dance. Those that got good at the dance became death incarnate while the less experienced fell like wheat to the scythe.
He smiled inside his helmet at the thought of her dancing. The nerivith were a female dominant society making their taller and longer horned females very direct with their emotions. With their tendency to dance for potential partners, a nerivith dance meant more than a simple gesture.
Putting thoughts of his best friend out of mind he turned towards the station watch commander, a small slaaveth man named Grulren by his name tapes. The slaaveth were an interesting species, partially aquatic, they possessed both gills and lungs though their lungs remained underdeveloped till they reached sexual maturity in their late teen years.
The short scaled man motioned for Kaiden to come closer and then slapped a webbed hand down on his small holotable.
“We need to push the bastards back over the western trenches.” he said a bit vehemently.
Kaiden pointed at the western trenches on the small tactical map. They were marked as orange, indicating that they were under direct threat but the conflict had not yet been resolved to either faction’s benefit.
“The rebels have infiltrated that entire region in force, but they were unable to sneak heavy weapons or armour over no man’s land. There is no way they could have carried any kind of heavy ordinance through that quagmire.” He said confidently. He would have been surprised if they had even tried.
Grulren nodded his frilled head, his pupilless black eyes fixing on the bright blue glow of Kaiden’s helmet eyeslits. “Then I am depending on your squad to clear them out. If we lose the west then the Deep cursed rebels will have a direct run on our artillery park. Those Monsoon SPAs have almost no ground defense after yesterday’s shelling. And I don't think I have to tell you what happens to us all if we lose artillery support.” the man said menacingly.
He didn't. This entire war had devolved into a stalemate only punctuated by desperate rushing attacks and the constant fall of heavy munitions. The near constant artillery duel had been ongoing for more than eight months. Kaiden was tired and a little apprehensive, he had a hard time imagining what the regulars were going through.
As a member of the Union’s more elite forces, Kaiden and his platoon were ground pounders. A more highly trained section of the Union’s armed forces that used powered armour exclusively. Generally to great effect.
It had been a tough few months however as the unrelenting stalemate had stretched both logistics and manpower to their limits. He thought about the war itself, it had been almost six years since the Hegemony of Independent Systems rebellion had started with the unprovoked attack on Sector Eta. Millions of Sapient Congressional Union troops and their families dead in a few hours in what had become known as the worst surprise attack in the Union's long history. Worse than the terroristic attacks of the Dust Worlds rebellion by an order of magnitude.
He nodded after what must have seemed to the station commander to be a short pause. “Understood commander. I will take my squad there directly along the abandoned trenches to save time. They should be clear of hostiles by now.”
Grulren just waved him away and turned to his aide. His attention now focused on some other crisis.
Kaiden walked over to Ixie and said “Assemble the squad, we are moving out in one minute.”
She gave him an affirmative noise and turned away. Her tall and slightly leaner form having to duck to make it under the bunker’s low doorframe.
He followed her and looked around. The bunker was situated in a wide section of the trenchworks, the ground covered in wooden ties and metal plates so that heavy vehicles could traverse them without getting stuck in the mud.
It was lucky that the location they were in didn't seem to be very wet, the skies rarely choked with clouds. That didn't mean it was a desert though, the mornings were often wet and damp with fog that obscured vision and eroded the earthen walls of the simpler front trenches.
He sighed. The war had taken him from his home on Dreyvan II across the Union and then back again. This new invasion of his homeworld was the second desperate attack by a foe that knew they couldn't win and so were trying to burn it all down.
Dreyvan II was a major military armament supplier to the Union’s military and the Hegemony knew that. Thus the siege had begun as a heavy kinetic bombardment. Once it was clear that they had failed to destroy the planet from orbit the enemy had landed millions of troops on the planet. This invasion swept over part of the world, taking an entire hemisphere before it was slowed and then finally stopped. By the time the Union had sent a task force large enough to deal with the problem it was too late. The enemy had dug themselves in like a cancer, setting up anti-ship defenses and a million miles of heavily defended trenches. They made it clear that they were here to stay.
What was worse in his mind was that not all of the towns they had taken had resisted, there was a not insignificant amount of Hegemony support on Dreyvan II that had facilitated the invasion's overall success.
Kaiden’s blood boiled at the thought of those traitors calling themselves Drevanians. They weren't fit to live on the planet, they had betrayed their own for what? A misguided notion of control?
He shook his head and stalked to his squad. His heavy footfalls thudded along the metal plates underfoot. After a moment he got close enough to pick up on the ultra-shortwave transmission Ixie was broadcasting.
“And then we will move along to the hot zone. Once there we will engage and destroy the enemy with extreme prejudice, any questions?” she said, her slightly husky tenor voice filled with calm.
Hearing him, or perhaps feeling the weight of his footsteps approaching, Ixie turned and motioned to him. “Here he is now. Sergeant, any additional words you would like to add before we move out?” she asked him.
He shook his head and said “No. I trust everyone has their weapons charged and ready? Cooper I’m looking at you.” he said to one of his squad.
A male voice spoke over the comms “Oh come on, it was one time…”
Before Kaiden could say anything more a female voice spoke up. The figure it came from was large, even in comparison to Kaiden’s power armoured form. It was Draff, the yeown woman big even for her species. Her slightly hunched and werewolf-esque form intimidating in her Mark I Tactical Assault Armour. The bestial faced helmet designed to strike fear in the hearts of her enemies and the deep red glow of her suit’s eyes making it look as if it was coated in blood. Well, red blood at least.
She spoke, her voice deep and rough. “Cooper didn't forget, I made sure of that.” She chuckled as Copper grumbled something under his breath.
Kaiden shook his head, it was a well known secret that the two were lovers, though how the man was able to hold his own against the huge muscled alien was a hotly debated subject.
Again he was forced to clear his mind and get himself back on track. A lack of decent sleep and few good meals had been making him feel as though he was being pulled apart slowly. But he was a ground pounder, one of the toughest motherfuckers the Union had the misfortune of training. He wouldn't let a little thing like deep emotional trauma and near crippling fatigue keep him from completing his mission.
Kaiden stood as tall as he could and commanded “Okay, enough fooling around. Form up and move out. Ixie, take point two. We will follow the plan.”
She nodded her horned head, the purple glow of her helmet’s eyes giving nothing away.
Immediately after he finished talking half of his squad moved to stand behind him while the other fell in line behind Ixie. Kaiden started off towards the contested area, moving at a steady fifteen kilometers per hour on the wide roadway of the supply and command trenches they made good time. Soon they had to slow however as the trenches started to narrow and the ground became first wooden boards and then hard packed earth.
Soldiers in dark blue fatigues moved out of their way as they rushed by, the men and women looking just as tired and worn as he felt inside. This war was taking a heavy toll on both the defenders and the defended civilians further to the rear.
He swore silently as he thought of the selfish actions that had led to this point. Screw the rebels for starting this war, and screw the Union bureaucrats for not seeing this coming. The entire rebellion could have been avoided if the policy makers of the central government had just payed more attention to the frontier worlds needs.
He had to jump suddenly as he rounded a corner and several soldiers were blocking the path with a large wheelbarrow of loose soil. He cleared the cart easily and landed on the ground with a solid thump that left two small craters in the hard soil. He sent a small obstruction warning to the troops behind him with the flick of his eyes and a muttered word. The internal helmet display of his armour giving him fine control over its systems without much effort.
He spared a glance to make sure none of the other’s had been slowed and was happy to see that they had all in fact gotten his warning. Either jumping over the obstruction like he had or dodging around it using the fast twitch synthmuscles of their armour.
He continued on, taking a myriad of turns in the twisting labyrinth of the trench networks. Almost as if a switch had been thrown he took another turn and the atmosphere changed instantly. These trenches were unlit and unoccupied, their earthen walls crumbling and the swill of neglect pooling in their acrid bases.
Insulated as he was in his armour the noxious toxins and chemicals had no effect on him, though he did his best to avoid the worst of the slime holes. The residue was terribly difficult to clean from the exterior plates of his armour and could sometimes start to eat into its surface if left unchecked for too long.
A short distance traveled along these derelict channels and the unmistakable sounds of combat reached his suits' active sensors. He held up a hand in the reduce speed command and slowed. While he was protected in his heavy armour, only a fool would barge directly into unknown turmoil without at least trying to scope out the situation.
He motioned for Ixie to move up alongside him. They were operating on direct connection comms, where they had to be in physical contact with each other to speak. It worked by sending a small electrical signal through the gauntlet which was picked up and translated by the other’s suit. It was their in combat version of whispering while maintaining radio silence.
Until they actively engaged the enemy there was no need to unnecessarily alert the rebels to their presence. The element of surprise was not easily bought and quickly lost.
“What is it?” Ixie asked, her hand on his shoulder.
He placed one of his gauntlets on hers and replied “It sounds rough, we need to move in but I don't want to do it blindly. Can you have Cooper send a peeper?”
She nodded before walking towards Cooper. Cooper was their recon trooper. His Mark I Blackout armour was the newest design in reconnaissance and intelligence gathering.
While its armour was not nearly as heavy as his or the others, it was more than adequate for the kinds of small arms fights they most commonly participated in. It's not like they were wearing superheavy battle plate and could go toe to toe with armoured vehicles.
Kaiden frowned, he had always wanted to try piloting one of those behemoth suits. The latest versions weighed well in excess of a tonne and a half and could shatter buildings with their hands.
His train of thought was cut short by the sound of a small object whizzing by him. It was Cooper’s peeper, the small surveillance drone designed for stealth. It had noise canceling toroidal blades and electromagnetic reflectant skin to hide from radar and thermal.
Cooper piloted the small device via a virtual joystick and his eyes. Accessing the feed via a direct laser link, Kaiden saw a small feed pop up in the corner of his vision. It showed the abandoned trenches zipping by at high speed. The drone was piloted through a combination of passive communication and intermittent active pings that allowed the man to pilot it remotely without drawing much attention.
After another moment the drone popped up into the open air and uncovered the full scale of the attack. Dozens of entrenched defenders on the Union side were being rushed down by what had to be several hundred rebel troops. The old saying of three to one defense came to mind. It looked as if the defenders were outnumbered almost five to one here, they would surely begin to fail in the next few minutes without intervention. For while many tens of attackers lay dead or dying in the toxic mud, the defenders were beginning to fall a few at a time.
Switching to ultra-shortwave comms Kaiden said “Okay, we are moving in, no obvious heavy weapons from the rebels but that doesn't mean they aren't hiding them specifically in case of armoured assault. So I want you all to be careful and pay attention. Cooper, put your peeper on standby or passive overwatch. We move out in ten seconds.”
He took a deep breath, the blood rushing in his veins as the adrenaline started to course through them. It was humanity's unique curse, the effects of the natural combat stimulant both helping and hindering his performance in battle. On one hand it heightened his senses and made him stronger and faster. On the other hand it narrowed his emotional and rational fields of view, making violence appear as the only option when quick thinking and wit might have been better served. That's why he was so grateful for Ixie, the nerivith being wired completely opposite of humans.
Where he ran hot headed in battle, prone to force and instinctive action, she was cool headed and more likely to spot minor exploitable gaps in her enemies defenses. The nerivith’s natural inclination for battle making them peerless warriors and point to point tacticians. A human might have a better grasp of the war or battle as a whole, but a nerivith would almost always outwit a battle enraged human in personal combat.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, a direct message from her that only he could hear as she said “Remember what I have been teaching you. Be still and think of my voice.”
His eyes opened as the ten seconds ran out, without a word he threw his arm forwards in the universal signal to advance and charged towards the enemy.
There was no wind in his hair and no mud in his eyes as he charged, his suit isolating him strangely from the more visceral feel of combat. It was a strange way to wage war, contained in a prison of numbness. His body registered his movements, but he didn't feel anything. Not the hard cracked dirt under his heavy armoured boots, not the chill noxious wind in the air, nor the sounds of battle up ahead. His suit registered them all however and did its best to mirror the information to him. But it was obviously artificial.
He hadn't always fought this way, once upon a time he had been a raw faced recruit. A mere private in a vast military that didn't care about his existence. There had been no war then, no galactic scale conflict. The most intrusive actions in his daily routine was PT and the constant psych evaluations. He had fought pirates and brigands, protecting the commerce that kept the vast Union alive. Several times he had even had to fight against flesh tearers, the monstrous cannibals that preyed on unprotected shipping lanes.
This was different, there was no downtime, no breaks. Just days, weeks, months of grinding unremitting warfare. Blatant in its cruelty and savage in its nature. He had grown to hate himself for enjoying it, but part of him knew this was what he had been born to do. He was a killer, always had been.
These thoughts crossed his mind as he burst through a weakened section of trench right behind a pair of rebel soldiers. He pulled up his M2-Mk12. The heavy machine gun far too bulky for a soldier to wield, unless they were wearing powered armour.
The rebel soldier on the left, a tall nerivith female in light armour, has just enough time to notice him before he squeezed the trigger of his huge gun.
The bright staccato flashed lit the carnage like pictures from an old fashioned holoplay. The two rebels were ripped apart by the force of the massive bullets as they tore through their fragile bodies. He stopped firing as it was clearly apparent the two wouldn't be getting back up. He walked over the corpses, bones cracking beneath his heavy tread as he scanned the trench for more targets.
A small cutout of the trench in front of him lit up as something fired on him. He didn't even feel the impacts of the bullets against his heavy armour. Instead he simply returned fire, aiming slightly to the side of the trench trusting that his weapon would cut through the intervening earth.
His efforts were rewarded with a gurgling scream and the twitching ruptured body of a rebel falling out from behind their destroyed cover.
He shook his head and paused for a status check. Sending out an active ping he received a full nine green pings across the board. He smiled, that meant that his squad was still in good condition after first contact. Leaving the status board in the corner of his display, he moved along the trench, making sure to keep a watchful eye for potential movements.
He looked up sharply as a spray of purple lines seared across the darkened sky. The lines so bright they left slight after images that persisted for several seconds even as he looked away. That would likely have been Ixie firing off her Tri-Beamer Combiner, the heavy near ultraviolet laser weapon more than capable of punching through light armour at close ranges.
He continued walking for another few steps before something sailed through the air and landed at his feet. He had just enough time to realize it was a fragmentation grenade before it exploded with a tremendous bang. Withering hails of shrapnel slashed against the thick titansteel duramite layered armour he wore. With a muted grunt he was knocked back a step, his armour straining to keep him upright.
His suit won, leaving him standing and almost entirely unscathed, much to the surprise and dismay of the five rebel troops that rushed around the corner.
With a cry of “Kill the bastard!” They charged him.
He only had time to fire a short burst that smashed the leftmost rebel from her feet before they were upon him. He heard the impacts of weapons and some point blank fire. He needed to clear some space before one of them swung a shiversteel blade or voltaic bayonet into the gaps of his armour. Even the aggregated hyperdiamond-buckyweave of his undersuit would not protect him from such close range attack, so he chose the best option he could think of. He simply swung the heavy barrel of his gun in an arc, knocking three of the rebels to the ground and sending the fourth into the side wall with bone shattering force. Three of them scrambled back to their feet, one didn't.
Continued in Part 2

==End of Transmission==
submitted by Frostdraken to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 18:34 Frank_Leroux Molossus, Chapter Fourteen

First Chapter
Chapter Thirteen
Corporal McCoy had figured out the best reason for getting in good with an udhyr. They had four arms, therefore the hugs were twice as nice. They now lay in her room, with him lying on her bed and her lying on top of him, with her ensconced in the aforementioned hug-squared. She’d been able to get ahold of her Switch, and at the moment was in the midst of some happy early-morning gaming. Takh’s head rested upon hers with a gentle and welcome pressure while he watched her play. By now she was so used to him that even the little random clicks of his mandibles didn’t cause her any fear.
She was still trying to figure out if she and the alien XO were an ‘item’ or not. Zawahir had, with his usual enthusiasm, explained to her that both the udhyr and knuall-toua were pretty much like humans, with equal numbers of both males and females who reproduced sexually. He hadn’t gone into details on how exactly Tab A fit into Slot B, but the overall idea was clear. The auhn were a little more complicated; the ratio of females to males was more like seven or eight to one, plus there was the added wrinkle that the males were non-sapient and about as smart as the average pet dog. That had resulted in a very matriarchal society, of course, one based around clans of females protecting their stable of fertile males with appropriately auhn-like ferocity. The spider-like xyrax were…well, both. Completely hermaphroditic; there was quite a complicated social dance before they reproduced as to who was going to bear the resulting egg. McCoy was sure that, however it worked out, it would look adorable.
“So this Kirby can eat anything?” asked Takh, breaking into her ruminations.
McCoy tapped at her controls on autopilot, hoping that the damned thumbsticks wouldn’t break. Again. “Yep. Fun fact, waaay back in the 80s, Nintendo got sued by Universal Studios, who claimed that Donkey Kong was a ripoff of King Kong. John Kirby was the attorney who successfully defended them in court, and in gratitude they named this character Kirby.” She continued her tapping. “I think they gave him a sailboat as well.”
“Mmm, I must admit a sailboat sounds nice right about now. This place is very nice, but it’s a bit too cold.”
She wriggled against him. “You said it. You and me, off the coast near Nice? Floating in the warm azure waters of the Mediterranean? I can wear a nice little bikini I’ve got saved up for just such an occasion.”
“Oh! Uh, well, yes. That does indeed sound quite nice…”
She grinned. Takh was a dork, but a giant lovable dork and it was always great to get a reaction like this out of him. Even if it didn’t lead anywhere there. As far as she knew, the udhyr reproduced like frogs. Maybe she should discreetly quiz Zawahir on the whole Tab-A into Slot-B thing, just to make sure she wasn’t setting herself up for disappointment.
Of course, she’d just managed to get to the final boss of this particular level when the siren howl of the alarm went off. Haley McCoy blinked as she went from supine four-armed cuddling to standing in an instant, placed upon the floor by Takh’s upper arms.
“The unholy hell?” she muttered, but she was already in motion as she sprinted towards her gear, laid out so as to ensure maximum efficiency in getting it all put on. “Takh?” she called out as she started strapping her armored vest on.
“Yes? What do I do?”
“Simple. Anyone comes through that door who you don’t recognize, kill ‘em.”
“I…I don’t know, I’m still understanding how different humans look from each other, I don’t want to make a mistake.”
“You’ll know,” she said with finality as she picked up her carbine and racked the slide. “Okay. Follow me…”
The door to her room smashed in as a figure clad in black armor came through screaming “Earth belongs to HUMANS!...”
That was all he got out before Takh grabbed the man’s head and simply hurled the offending figure over McCoy and into the far wall. The window set in that wall shattered with the resulting impact, making the corporal duck.
“Fuck me, Takh.” She looked at the broken figure of the oh-so-very dead intruder, then back up to the worried-looking XO. “I mean, not literally. Okay, well you can if you want to, and I for sure would like you to…you know what? Let’s put that whole discussion off to the side for now until we can sit down and have ourselves a nice long chat, okay?”
“That sounds like a very wise strategy, Haley. What do you need from me?”
She finished putting on her headset and helmet. “Right now? You need to stick right behind me while I get you to the bunker.”
“You want me behind you?” Takh’s mandibles quirked in a grin. “That sounds like a very nice place to be.”
“Stop distracting me, you giant dork.” McCoy moved towards the door with a grim set to her shoulders, ignoring the lovely fact that her alien maybe-boyfriend was now checking out her ass. She swept the outside hallway….nothing visible. Then she heard some commotion from off towards the kitchen area.
Martinez surged to his feet upon hearing the alarm, his half-eaten horizontal-cut pimento sandwich now forgotten. “What the fuck…?”
Matt was on his feet as well, with a strange look in his eyes that the corporal had never seen before. “You two. Corner. Now.” He pointed at the corner farthest from the two entrances to the kitchen.
The corporal was on the smaller side, even amongst his fellow humans, but something in the Marine’s tone made him turn and tackle the huge alien. Kexal, to his credit, somehow knew that Something Was Up and accepted the tackle, otherwise there was no way in hell that Martinez could have moved the giant creature.
Just as he did so, he caught a glimpse of a dark form, clad in full armor, holding a rifle, gliding around one of the entrances to the kitchen. In a panic, he fumbled for the pistol at his hip.
Martinez prized himself on his reflexes. But still, he had time for one blink of astonishment as Toke all but teleported himself across the ten feet of intervening space, pushing the intruder’s rifle up towards the ceiling and out of battery as his own arm flashed in a wicked arc. The corporal caught the merest glint of a small but cruelly-curved knife, like a predator’s claw, in the Marine’s fist.
There followed quite the epic spray of blood from underneath the attacker’s armpit, followed up by a few more cruel swipes which made sure that the tendons in that shoulder were destroyed and useless. Toke pulled the rifle away from the now-dangling limb.
Somehow, the black-armored attacker managed to speak in spite of what must be massive pain. “Earth will NEVER submit to…”
Toke’s voice was as hard as granite. “Tell your shit to someone who cares.”
Two more vicious swipes across the man’s throat resulted in a cascade of crimson down his black-armored front, and the would-be assassin toppled to the wooden floor.
“Martinez.” Toke’s robotic voice shocked him back into awareness.
“Got a pistol?”
“Of course.” He checked to make sure that he had it in his hand. Huh, that was strange. He didn’t remember drawing it, but there it was.
“Good.” The lean man tossed the purloined rifle towards Martinez, who caught it automatically in his off-hand. “Take this. Check this dead motherfucker for extra mags, and take ‘em. You’re on Kexal, understand? Get him safe to the bunker. Anyone you don’t know personally comes at you, you shoot ‘em.” His black, mechanical gaze shifted towards the alien. “Kexal? If Martinez goes down and someone attacks you, you have my permission to yank their arms off.”
The giant planetologist stared in horror at the bleeding and probably-dead sapient before him, then shook himself. “Of course. Yes. I’ll protect myself.”
“No need,” said Martinez as he looked back at his newly-christened charge. He racked the action on his just-acquired rifle, which looked to be a standard AR-platform civilian carbine. The corporal wished for something full-auto, but this was at least better than a pistol in terms of range and punch. “I’ll get you to safety, sir.”
He turned back to ask Matt just what the fuck was going on…but he only saw empty air.
Cécile Savoie was not having a good day. She’d accepted the position of overall chief of security at Camp David with delight…at first. Dealing with the day-to-day of protecting one of the most targeted people on the planet, that she could deal with no problem. Because it was one person. It was an unspoken agreement between all of the agents that SAILOR was the priority. Even the First Husband could be sacrificed if need be.
But then she’d had a bunch of damn aliens dropped in her lap, along with an equally weird group of special-forces types. The latter were what really ground her gears; the aliens were genuinely nice and apologetic about being such a bother, but the human soldiers were the types who would crash on your couch, drink all your beer, and then steal your sweetheart when you weren’t looking.
She crouched behind a little berm to the west of Camp David, the other members of her patrol stretched out alongside her in a roughly north-to-south line.
“Moseby! Report!” she yelled.
She heard a few thumps, then a few cracks in her earpiece which were followed up by echoing reports from the building behind her. Thankfully she heard her agent’s voice in her earpiece. “Shit! Wow, um, you’re really good with that knife…”
She then heard a muffled phrase that sounded a bit like ‘give it to me, son’, and the next voice in her ear was one she was unfamiliar with.
“This is Captain Matthew Tocco, USMC, whom am I speaking with?” The voice sounded as if generated by an AI.
“I’m Agent Savoie,” she responded. “I’m in charge of the Camp David security detail, who are you?”
“I just told you who I am, Agent Savoie. And I just saved the life of one of your agents. Now. Let’s cut through any sort of jurisdictional bullshit. We have at least two confirmed active hostiles in the complex, two more are confirmed down. We’re sweeping the compound to make sure there are no others, plus making sure that our esteemed guests are safe inside the bunker. Where are you located? We need to coordinate our defenses.”
The information made her see literal red. The attackers had made it into the compound? How? There must be some angle, some safe passage made by somebody. She was going to find out who had made that safe passage, and those people would burn. Oh yes, they were all going to burn…
“West of the complex,” she snapped. “We’ve set up a perimeter along the ridge there.”
“Got it, Agent Savoie. Oh, and please don’t shoot me when I show up.”
She ran through various scenarios for the next few minutes, trying to figure out who on the team had betrayed them. And there must have been such a betrayal in order to get armed hostiles into the actual buildings. Her further musing upon vengeance was cut short as a tall, lean man seemed to all but materialize next to her. He held a small, curved blade in a reverse grip in his right hand; that blade dripped red blood. She almost pointed her gun at him, then relaxed. “Captain Tocco, I presume?”
“Call me Toke.” The guy sounded like he was out for a day on the beach.
“Who the hell are you…wait, you’re with the group in there, right?”
Matt nodded. “Yep. The rest of us are in there bundling up our guests and making sure they’re all safe and sound. Actually, by now Corporal McCoy should be…”
Agent Savoie flinched again as a small but very stacked woman seemed to suddenly appear like condensing smoke at her other side, out of the brush. “Speak of the Devil, and she shall appear.”
The tall man grinned at her. “You are pretty damn good, corporal.”
“Hell that means a lot coming from you, Toke. By the way, that’s a nice kerambit. Anyways, everybody on Team Alien is tucked in and unharmed. I got Takh in there fine. Martinez even tagged a couple more bad guys while he was escorting Grakosh to the bunker. Fair warning to everybody listening on this channel, he’s gonna be aaaall sorts of smug about that and it’s gonna turn into a story of taking out four dudes before this week is out. But, right now, it looks like only four of the OPFOR made into the complex…however they did that…so the rest must be out there.” She pointed towards the leafless woods beyond the little rise.
“Any word from Shaw?” asked Toke.
Savoie narrowed her eyes. “Something bad happened in DC. Sounds like an artillery or mortar attack.”
“Shit.” McCoy looked troubled. “This is serious business, then. State player?”
“Maybe,” said Toke. “But it could be some private group with some proper funding behind ‘em. Agent Savoie, do you have any word of a helicopter or plane going down nearby?”
“A Chinook,” she replied, “Went down about thirty minutes ago thataways.” She motioned to the west, out into the wintry forest. “Then we had one of our patrols out in that direction go silent. That’s what triggered the alarm.”
Matt grunted. “Yeah, that’s how I’d do it. Make it look like a crash and infiltrate that way. Right.” He touched his ear to make sure his earpiece was seated. “You just keep this channel open, right?”
“Where are you going?” asked McCoy.
“Out there. You need eyes on assholes, and I’m gonna give that to you.”
McCoy tossed him her carbine. “At least have a gun on you, dude.”
He caught it with his off-hand, since his main hand still held the dripping-red kerambit. He grinned at her. “All right. You got a pistol?”
“Of course.” She pulled it out and racked the slide.
He tossed the rifle back to her. “Give me that instead. We’re gonna need to concentrate some proper firepower here. This might be a proper light-infantry invasion in progress. We need to organize ourselves into a skirmish line running along this ridge, south-southwest to north-northeast. Get whoever you can on your team in there out here to bolster our firepower, understand? Dig in.”
“Got it.” The little corporal’s eyes blazed with purpose as she handed her pistol to Matt. “Now go get you some.”
“Believe me, I will.”
Savoie blinked in astonishment as the tall man vanished again.
“Yeah, he kinda does that,” said McCoy. “Dude could give sneaking-around lessons to fucking Batman.” She pulled a map out of one of the pockets on her cargo pants. “Now, Agent Savoie, how many people do we have available? Let’s get ourselves properly set up.”
Wade stepped carefully over a fallen branch, his boots making almost no noise at they met the soft mulch covering the forest floor. From the curt statements in his headset, it sounded like the four heroes who’d been infiltrated into the devil’s nest had been cut down. There was no word yet if any of the alien menace had been eliminated. That was a shame, but hopefully it drew attention away from his own unit. He and his comrades made up the secondary and much more armored thrust, one which not even the vaunted Secret Service could counter. The latter were armored, yes, but only armored against pistols and they only wielded pistols themselves. He and his team had rifles, level-four body armor, helmets, and most importantly proper communications.
A voice crackled in his ear. “Hold position. The security detail is forming into a defensive line. It looks like they know we’re here.”
“Set timer?” Wade whispered into his headset. His team had a set time to accomplish their mission, before the entirety of the United States military-industrial complex landed upon their heads like the proverbial Wrath Of God.
“Yes, set timer. Twenty minutes.”
There was a soft chorus of “Twenty minutes, aye,” in Wade’s ear as he tapped his own smart-watch to start the timer. “Twenty minutes, aye,” he murmured. As he made to step over another downed branch, he paused.
Something was off. He couldn’t say why, but the air itself seemed a little more still than it should be. He turned to his left and saw a blur heading for him…he tried to raise his rifle, but it was too late…
Cécile Savoie’s head snapped up as she heard a few cracks from the treeline which could only be the sound of firearms. “Anyone see anything?” she whispered into her earpiece.
There followed a myriad of “No, ma’ams” in her ear. “Keep a sharp eye,” she murmured. “Don’t fire on anyone not in black. We do have a friendly out there, he’s supposed to be giving us intel…”
Matt’s voice sounded in her ear. “Indeed. Bagged one of ‘em, on the outer edge of the advancing force. Looks like civvie gear, carbine is only semi-auto. This is a well-funded civilian effort, not a state actor.”
She checked her watch. “Got it. Fifteen minutes until we get backup in place, what do you need from us?”
“Hmm, that explains the ‘twenty minutes’ thing. Right, they know they’re on a timetable. You all need to be, and I hate to put it this way, the meat shield. It looks like they’re going for a solid push towards you, no stealth. Fourteen hostiles all told, and if this guy’s gear is any indication they’re all up-armored. Class Four. Center of mass is no good, go for head or limbs.”
Savoie’s mouth was now dry. “Understood.”
“Don’t worry, Agent. I’ll be behind them, and I’ll do what I can to sow some dissention in the ranks.”
“Wade, report!” hissed Horace into his microphone.
No reply.
He took in a breath to issue another demand when a voice sounded in his ear. Horace had once gone swimming in the ocean off of Florida, and had by pure chance come across a great white shark. He still remembered the vacant gaze of the giant predator, who was probably idly wondering if Horace would make a good snack for today.
This voice brought up once again that dread; it was the voice of a pure predator. “Who is this?”
“Who the fuck are you?”
“The one who just took down…Wade, was it?”
“Sidney, get eyes on Wade!”
“Will do…” There followed a long, long silence before that shark-like voice spoke again.
“You just got Sidney killed too, asshole. Care to keep going? I got no problem with that. Or do you all want to call this a day? You can do that too, you know.”
“Everybody down!” Horace snapped before going prone himself. That taunting voice still sounded in his ear.
“Okay, now you’re all down and less of a target. What now, genius? You got…hmmm…about twelve more minutes before all of the backup in the world arrives. And they will find you. You know what? You’d better hope they find you instead of me. Because I give less than two shits about that whole ‘Geneva Convention’ crap.”
“Maintain radio silence,” said Horace, as he tried to wriggle his way forward.
“Oh, you’re still trying, Mister Leader? How cute. Let me put it this way to you fourteen…sorry, thirteen, assholes. You’re done. Nailed. The best you can hope for is to get some lawyers who want to make a name for themselves. Worst case? You get put in a room with me, and if you have any sense in what passes for your brains you will spill your guts. If I’m honest, I kinda hope you put up a brave front and don’t say anything. It’s been a very long time since I got to cut loose. Gotta keep up that certain set of skills, yanno what I mean?”
“Maintain radio silence,” grated Horace, as he continued to wriggle forward.
Then, all of a sudden, he realized he was looking at boots. A pair of boots, planted in front of him like a goddamn World War Two commando movie. He glanced upwards, hoping against hope that it would turn out to be a gag like that one comedy where it was just boots…
It wasn’t just boots.
Horace looked up into a man with the eyes of a shark, as well as the quite threatening muzzle of a pistol.
“Hey there, my Little Buddy-O,” said Matt. “Whatcha doin out here?”
Milton came to with a gasp. “Shaw…”
A gentle hand laid upon his shoulder. “Shh, dear. He’s fine, everyone’s fine.”
He gazed up at the white-tiled ceiling above him. “But…” He turned to look into the face of the one person he loved above all else…well, her and Johnny. “He’s okay?”
“He’ll live. Just like you. You big doofus.” Teresa leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I saw the footage. You threw yourself at all of those senior citizens, which might just count as assault with a deadly weapon. Then you went and managed to get all the way across the stage towards Sadaf. You really don’t know when to give up, do you?”
“Guess I don’t”, he chuckled, then glanced down at his arm. His former arm. “Whoof. That medic was really quick with the tourniquet, I’ll give him that.”
“With you and with Sergeant Shaw,” said Teresa. By now she was pretty much clambered on top of him, tucking his big head into the nape of her neck; it was his favorite place to be. He inhaled her scent with relish, before suddenly realizing someone was missing.
“Johnny?” he asked.
“Oh, right,” she said, before making an imperious snap of her fingers to someone out of his line of sight…right before a little ball of energy burst its way into his room.
“DADDY!” yelled the little firebrand, before smacking into his side. Milton hugged them both to himself, realizing that, no matter what happened next, he was right now in the best place possible.
“Keep it all down to a dull roar, okay?” said a voice off to his left. A very recognizable voice.
He picked his head up to stare in that direction. “Shaw?”
The sergeant gave him a casual wave from his own hospital bed. “Hey, slick. Good ta see ya up and about.”
Milton grinned. “You too, you old fart.”
“Aw hell, I ain’t that old. So. Just out of curiosity. Did that torniquet on your arm hurt like hell?”
The agent cuddled his son closer. “You better believe it.”
“Okay, got it. Just for reference, if you get one on your leg it also hurts like a motherfu…uh, hurts like crazy.”
Milton winked at Shaw. “Don’t worry, my son has heard worse. Why are you here?”
“They put you both in one room,” said Teresa. “Something about it being easier to guard. There was an assault on Camp David too, from what I’ve heard.”
“What?” Milton tried to pry himself up off of the bed before getting a mutual shove-down from his wife and son.
“Relax, my man,” said Shaw. “Toke was there. He and my peeps took care of it.” The sergeant looked at the acoustic tiles above him. “Gonna have to promote McCoy and Martinez. They both really stepped up to the plate.”
President Correa rubbed at her temple. “This ‘Toke’ is a menace.” She was seated behind the famed ‘Resolute’ desk while still trying to show the appropriate deference to the barrel-chested man in front of her, clad in a crisp dark-blue dress uniform.
“Let’s be fair, ma’am,” replied General De Vries, “He helped this situation become less complicated, not more. None of our alien…refugees? I suppose that’s a good a term as anything. None of them got killed, hell none of them even got injured. We collected the thirteen of those remaining while trying to assault Camp David. Overall we have ten dead, including the four who somehow made it into the complex and the Secret Service patrol. The attackers had top-of-the-line gear, civilian but first-rate.”
She slammed her fists into the desk-top, making a nearby mug filled with coffee jump. “I fucking VACATION there, General! Me and my family, understand?”
“I know, ma’am. Do you want me to do this questioning…properly?”
She somehow picked up what he was putting down. “No. You have my permission to go off the chain.”
“Then consider me and Toke off the chain, ma’am.”
“Wait…you’re going to use him?”
“He has had experience in similar matters, ma’am. If you prefer, I don’t need to use him.”
She shook her head. “No. We need intel, and fast, on how the fuck this happened. Plus not to mention we somehow had an artillery attack in the midst of goddam DC.”
“I cannot speak for the FBI,” said De Vries with deceptive calm. “But believe me, we will find out how this all happened. And it will never happen again, of that you have my solemn word.”
The president slumped in her seat. “What about those injured in the DC attack?”
“It was a precision single artillery strike, ma’am. Probably GPS or maybe laser-guided, we’re still trying to figure out which. If Sergeant Shaw hadn’t intervened as he did, Captain Sadaf would be nothing but pulverized meat right now.”
She looked up at him with a cynical quirk to her eyebrow. “Did his saving her get caught on film?”
“Oh hell yes. Footage from several phones, it’s all gone viral.”
“Good, make sure it continues to go viral. How is Shaw? And Agent…um…sorry, my brain is going twelve different ways…sorry, Agent Milton Vila, right?”
“You are right, ma’am. Both are still in the hospital, under guard of course, but both are stable. Milton lost an arm, and Shaw lost one of his legs below the knee.”
“Fuck.” It was one of the rare times that De Vries had heard the president swear. “Both can be helped with prosthetics, right?”
“Not my area of expertise, ma’am, but yes. They’ll both live, and we’ll make sure they have the very best technology available.”
President Correa suddenly grinned with an expression that the general somehow knew was going to lead to Complications in his near future.
“You mean the best human technology, don’t you?” she asked, with deceptive calm.
“Well…yes, of course. I mean, Zawahir Ibn Harith is still trying to make sense of how the aliens heal themselves. It’s true regeneration, if I understand it right. Damage to the central nervous system is still kind of hard for them to deal with, but otherwise they can pretty much heal anything.”
The president examined her fingernails. “So…growing back a limb or two should be the proverbial walk in the park, yes?”
“Um…” The general’s eyes widened. He now realized why this unassuming lady had won two terms to the highest executive office in his particular country. “Oh, yes! Of course!”
“The plans for repair efforts on the Rithro have costs which are already pretty much alongside the Manhattan Project,” said President Correa. “Why don’t you appoint Zawahir as the lead of this particular effort? We’ll call it Manhattan-Light.” She fixed General De Vries with her eyes. “Imagine it. Two people, grievously wounded in the line of duty while protecting one of our alien refugees, an effort which was caught on multiple cameras…imagine them then walking out onto a stage with intact limbs.”
“It will make quite the photo op, ma’am.”
“Indeed. I’m glad we understand each other, General.”
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