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REO Meatwagon - Time For Me To Fly!

2020.04.10 23:58 PM_ME_YOUR_ROTES REO Meatwagon - Time For Me To Fly!

Inspired by recent topics & actual events. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. This post brought to you by COVID-19. COVID-19, when you don’t want to have to go out to look for a job that’s not available. COVID-19, speak to your medical provider today! (please stand 6ft away while doing so)
Trauma Team, Trauma Team, Trauma Team! They’re the freshest Net buzz & the name on the tip of everybody’s implanted voxboxes. For good reason too! They're the clear name brand leader in modern paramedic rescue services. World-class, highly-trained, professionals from top to bottom, who all sport the hottest sick gear & coolest cutting-edge tech. Everyone who wants to be anyone in 2020 wants to use their services. Work for them. Be them. They are the humanitarian rockstars of Night City! When you’re in trouble & bleeding out in the gutter there is no better sight to see than an AV-4 full of Trauma Team angels descending from the heavens, there to help.
However! They are not the only game in town...
There is also REO Meatwagon.
Located at 9th & Sterling in downtown Night City in the former Sofa Queen & China King complex, you can visit them online at Net.Pacifica.NightCity.REOMeatOnline, or call or text them at 1-800-REO-MEAT to speak w/ a virtual REO Meatwagon representative, TODAY!
REO Meatwagon, “When disasters happen, we’re there!”
Who is REO Meatwagon? Glad you asked! They are the knock-off Trauma Team. The off-brand Taxi. The low-budget D.C. Cab. The discount Car Wash. The bargain-bin Replacements. The cut-rate Phules Company. The Cleaveland Indians of modern medical care. The B & C-listers of pulling consumers bacon from the fires of rampaging cyberpsychos, corporate assassins, & disgruntled government employees.
For tax & legal purposes they’re based out of the fine city of Austin in the Free State of Texas, but REO Meatwagon has a major presence in Night City & has recently decided to increase their focus on it in order to try & boost their revenue stream in these trying times.
You see, the main issue that I, as a Referee, usually find in regards to using Trauma Team as a campaign hook is that they’re all a bunch of highly trained & skilled professionals of top-caliber quality w/ all the best toys & latest gizmos. My table of players…? Not so much. Bunny girl, guy w/ oversized soviet jackhammer arm, weirdo licking their Wolvers & smelling peoples hair while giggling, unemployed high-school shop teacher, Russian cyborg heavy lovingly hugging their autocannon, an elf who wants to be a dentist, the high anxiety computer nerd hiding in a dishwasher, & someone who is just here because they’re simply waiting for their next big break, which will be any day now, you should really hear their latest nouveau rockabilly vaporwave single & check out their InstaSpace pages & TwitchyFeed... Those? Those are not professionals. But they are REO Meatwagon material!
REO Meatwagon, “We lower our standards so you don’t have to!”
Privately held, REO Meatwagon’s major shareholder is Amanda “Four or More!” Phink, a former stripper, joygirl, & braindance porn actress turned major corporate mover & shaker w/ her own handbag & shoe line. She purchased controlling shares of REO Meatwagon after its stock took a dive in 2013 when REO tried to seize medical supplies from Trauma Team during riots in Night City - REO claimed at the time that those medical supplies were illegally diverted from their authorized clinics (clinics in hard-hit, underserved, minority, communities, mind you!) using misplaced NorCal authority to hand those contracted supplies over to their golden boys, Trauma Team. Night City Police didn’t exactly seem to see it that way & Trauma Team took control of the supplies. The company has been struggling ever since & Amanda took it private back in 2019.
Behind the scenes, Amanda has been looking to dump the company for a while now but not before cratering it so badly that she can write the entire thing off as a tax loss & recoup her investment while embezzling as much out of it as possible in the meantime. Her right-hand man in crime is Dick Richard the 3rd, shyster lawyer, dirty accountant, & all around amoral scumbag player from MA&F who is simply looking to get into Amanda’s well-filled pants & overflowing pocketbook. She has vast tracts of land if you know what I mean. The best silicon bodywork that money can buy. A whole NU-U. She's 58 & looks 24. She Takes It On The Run.
The newly hired day-to-day acting CEO is James “Jimmy” Foole. James is a bright, young, rising star that got bounced from Militech after using an AV-9 squadron to strafe a children’s birthday party. Jimmy had reasonable intel that suggested that the entire party was covertly under attack by SovOil sponsored memetic warfare & that it was being used as a cover to launch an assassination attempt against Night City’s current Mayor, Erika Annabelle, who at the time had a personal protection contract w/ Militech. While no one knows it, Jimmy was right - evil clowns. Sadly, shooting at children is generally frowned on, even in 2020, & it made the nightly Network54+ news, as well as ScreamTweets & DataTerm™ feeds, so Jimmy was let go before being headhunted by Phink to drive Meatwagon into the ditch.
Jimmy, however, is not entirely on board or filled in on the specifics of Amanda’s plan or background embezzlement scheme. He firmly believes that he can turn the company around & tries to operate it as such while secretly being handicapped & sabotaged at every turn by Amanda & Dick. Jimmy’s left-hand woman & hardworking girl Friday is Carol in HR. Carol knows her shit. Carol has a Multi-Line Phone Splice, Dataterm™ Link, Cybermodem, TimeSquare Marquee+™, Secretarial Chipware, Human Perception, Interview, Library Search, & a law degree from Harvard.
REO Meatwagon operates much like Trauma Team - they have a fleet of flying medical AV busses crammed full of crazies w/ guns & at least one Licensed Practicing Nurse (LPN) on board as well as somebody who has a legal valid drivers license; though the autopilot usually does most of the heavy lifting. Then, when they get a call, they go in, they extract their consumer, & they ferry them to the nearest hospital, REO Meatwagon licensed facility, or authorized Body Bank, (as appropriate) while providing the consumer with “stabilizing medical care” during transport.
Typically this just means that they follow the color-coded flashcard diagram charts on how to hook the consumer up to the Portable Intern & Medscanner before shoving them (regardless of how injured) into the €100k Cryotank on the bottom of the bus, hitting the big red “auto-frost” button, & then letting the onboard €30k 3 CPU Int 9 computer w/ €800 Cryotank Operation medical software at +10 do its thing.
REO Meatwagon is also licensed to provide “limited” “on-site” “emergency” “medical care” if a consumer does not wish to be transported to a “medical facility”. Many consumers have begun using REO Meatwagon as a replacement for the police to scare off assailants or resolve domestic quarrels as well as being called in for every other non-emergency medical issue under the sun.
A REO Meatwagon Basic Black Plan\* is €299 a month & guarantees service arrival within 10-minutes. Extra service charges & fees may apply at the time of services rendered & the consumer is responsible for any fuel, ammunition, medical goods, services, or personnel expenses incurred during extraction, transportation, & delivery.
A Gold Level Executive Plan\* is €399 a month & includes ammo & gas as well as priority service w/ a 7-minute arrival guarantee. It does not include medical goods & services or personnel expenses.
A Platinum Level Premier Plan\* is €499 a month & includes top tier support w/ a 5-minute guaranteed arrival time & all additional fees & charges except for medical goods & services waived.
\All REO Meatwagon service contract plans do not include any additional charges arising or resulting from any property damage incurred while providing REO Meatwagon brand medical protective services to the consumer. Any property damages incurred are solely the responsibility of the consumer & REO Meatwagon waives all indemnity & liability while providing the aforementioned REO Meatwagon care & services to the consumer.*
REO Meatwagon, “Your safety is our priority, we won’t let any walls stand in our way!”
While Trauma Team is the top-tier world-class provider courting triple-A corp clientele w/ government contracts, REO Meatwagon is not so lucky. The average REO Meatwagon consumer is having a rough go of things. They’re down, out, destitute, & have nowhere else to turn. They’re the homeless nomadic transients sleeping out on the streets or shoving quarters into coffin motels just for a warm monofoam mattress that only slightly smells like spunk & Lysol. They're the gangers defending their homes while being baited into shootouts w/ corrupt cops looking for a taste. They're the small business owners being squeezed & terrorized by state-sponsored jackbooted thermoptic ninja accountant repo-men. Edgerunners whose fortunes have swiftly turned south from sudden yet inevitable betrayals by a Mr. Johnson in a dark dimly lit alleyway firefight at 2 am. The joyboys, girls, enbies, & exotics who had a seriously bad encounter with a jacked-up John or pissed of CyberPimp. The crooks, criminals, proles, plebes, & ‘punks that have the rest of worlds boot planted firmly on their neck. The single mother of two working three jobs trying to make ends meet. The average John & Jane Does just struggling to keep their heads above water in the modern fast-paced cybernetically-powered always-on nightmare-fueled hellworld of 2020. All those poor souls stuck Ridin' The Storm Out. They're also not so timely or great in regards to their outstanding payments. REO Meatwagon is constantly in the red financially & scraping to get by themselves. Having to secretly fund a vanity shoe line doesn’t help.
REO Meatwagon does not use AV-4’s. AV-4’s are cool. AV-4’s are expensive. Everybody uses AV-4’s. REO Meatwagon fields a fleet of AV-7’s manufactured by Toyota. These are cramped, poorly equipped, & have questionable safety features. Typically they're operated by a 4 man squad - Pilot, LPN, & 2 dedicated meat-shield bullet-sponge heavies. It’s a bonus if someone, like the Pilot, can work a Cybermodem w/ Controller Software, but it’s not vital since a heavy can usually kick in the door - though seeing through security cams & clearing traffic can prove to be useful. The AV-7 can seat up to 8 if 4 are willing to clip onto the outside & stand on the skids. Bit windy though. Cryotank/Passenger transport is under-mounted near the landing skids & armored to SP 35. Usually. They’re a little behind on the maintenance schedule in the motor pool.
Trauma Teams AV-4 busses may be faster flat out, but the AV-7’s smaller size lets the onboard 3 CPU Int 9 computer w/ pirated Vector Thrust Piloting Software at +10 maneuver the craft through cramped & narrow urban environments while Trauma Team’s larger AV-4 is still stuck back at main street level & crushing parked cars like the outmoded ED-209 dinosaur that its. It also sports a chin-mounted ceramic flechette AP autocannon, flashing light bar, loudspeakers, spot & strobe lights, homing micro-missiles, & tear gas grenades. She may not stand up to heavier craft or hardcore ‘Borg heads but she can still clear out a strip mall or small office park!
REO Meatwagon also has several (3, they have 3) AV-6’s in Night City. These are the heavy busses & real big boy toys. Faster than Trauma Team’s AV-4’s, these also hit harder, have an on-board 4 CPU Int 12 A.I. CompuSystem™, sport a Crew of up to 12 (16 if they’re really crammed in there), & have dual Cryotanks. Used for high priority consumers & major conflicts, these baby’s can kick butt & haul ass. Also typically staffed by the REO Meatwagon Crews least likely to shoot their own foot off. There may even be an actual doctor on board. Degree & everything.
REO Meatwagon Crews often engage in what is derogatorily referred to as “Meat Jumping.” Trauma Team typically has the exclusive contract (such as in Night City) to provide government-sponsored paramedical services to citizens, thus they are the ones who receive the 911 calls. However, consumers are free to choose their own medical transport provider & REO Meatwagon monitors emergency scanners & then attempts to contact the consumer first while entering into a recorded verbal contract agreement for any services rendered. Though you can always visit them online. They have an App. Check the ZetaTech store & try Library Searching for REOMeatAPP.
REO Meatwagon also issues emergency medic-alert transponders to their consumers, much like Trauma Team (Black requires manual operation while Gold & Platinum can also include vital sign monitors that are PhoneSplice & RadioLink compatible). Though see the above about being used as off-label police & mobile medical clinic.
REO Meatwagon probably fields more of these calls than they do legitimate medical services requiring emergency transport. Often these are simple domestic disputes but occasionally it’s a legit call from someone under an actual assault or in real distress. Typically REO Meatwagon Crew’s resolve the issue & then shoot the consumer up with Speedheal & Syncomp 15 drugs from an airhypo before charging them €200 for an on-site Clinic Vist, €1650 for the SpeedHeal, €650 for the Syncomp 15, €50 for Tracer Button usage, ammo, gas, & a €150 processing fee. Tipping is considered optional but is strongly encouraged. 15% is the standard for good service, you know. Tips are applied to the final bill & then dispersed equally to all craft Crew on their bi-weekly paychecks. Unless that is, it was cash under the table.
REO Meatwagon also engages in what is derogatorily referred to as “Meat Scooping” or “Vulturing”. This is when a pack of REO Meatwagon AV-7’s swoop in after a conflict in an attempt to harvest the bodies of unclaimed victims for Body Bank Bounties. After claiming a Bounty REO Meatwagon attempts to contact the victims next of kin or legal representatives to return the Bounty, minus a 20% transport & processing fee for their services, they then write off the rest of the returned Bounty as a charitable tax donation. They keep any unclaimed Bounties in an interest accruing escrow account for 12-18 months before “releasing the funds” if left unclaimed. REO Meatwagon Employees & Contractors earn a 10% commission on all Body Bank Bounties turned in.
REO Meatwagon attempts to fully comply with all law enforcement officials & any legally issued lawful demands. If a consumer is engaged in a dispute with law enforcement officers, or other duly authorized corporate security entity, REO Meatwagon representatives & troubleshooters will make an attempt to speak to the consumer first to have them de-escalate & cease hostilities long enough for them to be extracted & safely escorted to medical facilities, but once engaged in a legally binding medical consumer transport contract REO Meatwagon agents are fully authorized to use force to extract their consumer & transport them safely to authorized medical facilities where law enforcement, or other duly authorized corporate security entities, may then contact the consumer about any further inquiries that they have.
REO Meatwagon has a fully staffed medical & surgical facility located in downtown Night City in the remodeled Sofa Queen & China King complex - you can barely tell it was once a furniture store & Chinese restaurant. They also have the best cybernetic surgical suites & cloning facilities that the lowest overseas bidder can provide! They’re also fully staffed with the brightest bunch of fresh C grade medical & technical graduates from the midwest, as well as imported internationally, that can be legally brought in according to NorCal law! They can provide full hospital & surgical services, cybernetic implantation, cosmetic surgery, body banking, boutique services, as well as have on-site staffing barracks, day-care, employee lounge facilities, commissary, & they can grow people in their basement.
REO Meatwagon additionally has satellite facilities located in key spots near (or in) the Combat Zone as well as scattered throughout the ‘burbs. These facilities are large enough to store & refuel a few AV-7’s as well as serve as walk-in Medical Clinic, provide boutique services, & include a small on-site barracks w/ limited stock employee lounge.
REO Meatwagon main offices also have a 5 CPU Int 15 EBM Mainframe running a Mr. M.D.™ A.I., S.H.O.D.A.N. drone management, Phoenix Right Legal Advice™, & TurboTax software. The AV-7’s are all connected to the Net via Cell Service so Mr. M.D.™ can use S.H.O.D.A.N. to coordinate the busses as well as provide backup medical assistance or legal advice to on-site troubleshooters if required. Mr. M.D.™ only occasionally gets stuck in a loop popping virtual Vicodin & thinking that it's lupus before needing a swift reboot to the processor to get Back On The Road Again.
REO Meatwagon Employment is open to any legal citizen with a valid SIN. Those with a Class V Vector Craft operators license can fly the bus - It’s an Easy (10) Piloting Task to pass the drivers test, though navigating the Night City DMV may prove more difficult. Talk to Carol. Certified LPN’s are qualified to be on-board medics - That usually requires an Average (15) First-Aid Task & a 12-month online NCU course. Regular hourly employees can make €12-14 an hour depending on skillset while Drivers & Nurses can make €15-18 depending on qualifications. There is a €1.50 shift differential for Graveyard & an extra €1 pay increase after 90 days w/ annual yearly evaluations & COLA increases scheduled for all Employees & Contractors. Hazard Pay for Active Combat Situations (ACS's) are paid out in half-hour blocks at time & a half. They also provide full medical & dental for employees & their spouses as well as up to 4 dependent children, clones, or uplifted hyper-intelligent cyberpets. Plus, employees can earn up to 6 weeks of PTO accruable per year & REO Meatwagon can provide tuition reimbursement & course credits for any applicable on-the-job training. Talk to Carol in HR for the specifics. OT is available NOW!
REO Meatwagon also employs freelance contractors. These contractors must sign liability waivers, nondisclosure agreements, a 12-month non-compete contract, as well as provide REO Meatwagon w/ a current fingerprint, voice print, retinal print, & “biological sample” for “identification” & “medical” purposes. They are not required to be legal citizens nor hold SINs. REO Meatwagon pays contractors at the same rate as regular employees. Contractors, however, are not eligible to earn benefits. Contractors may be paid in REOMeatCoin (which may be used to purchase any REOMeatwagon branded product, including legal cyberware & installation, as well as goods purchased from the REOMeatwagon Vending Machines & Commissary) or regular debit account CredChip. Employees can also choose to receive REOMeatCoin which occasionally provides discounts on select REOMeatwagon brand goods & services. Paychecks are issued bi-weekly. Talk to Carol for more details or how to set up a direct deposit.
REO Meatwagon provides its field troubleshooters company issued dark red SP14 Uniwear Jumpsuits w/ a -1 EV Penalty & emblazoned w/ the REO Meatwagon company logo, a Company issued I.D. containing an IFF transponder & RFID chip w/ company keys, as well as a SP20 nylon "Gianni" combat helmet w/ Anti-Flare Transpari-Shield™ Technology & Breath Filter, IFF receiver, UV w/ Spotlight, Thermal, Image Enhancement, Automapper™, Chipjack, E-book connector plugs, side-mounted Digital A/V Recorder, & Scrambled Radio Link back to the AV-7. There is also a Toolbelt, Flashlight, McCoy Airhypo, Medkit, ZetaTech E-book, Militech Electronics Taser, Flashbang, Tear Gas canister, a Militech Arms Avenger pistol w/ 2 spare clips, & holster.
REO Meatwagon AV-7 busses include a €30k on-board computer w/ VehicleLink & is loaded with Biology, Cryotank Operation, Diagnose, Pharmaceutical, Pilot Vector Thrust, & Rifle software at +10. They also have Radio & Cell Communications suite w/ Wide Band Scanner, a Surgical Set, Portable Intern, Drug Analyzer, Travel Kit, box of Slap Patches, economy pack of SpeedHeal & Synthacomp 15, 4 pints of Blood Substitute™, pack of RapiDetox, box of Trauma 1, other funny colored drugs, a couple of cans of Spray Skin & Shower In A Can, a DermaStapler, LPU™, collapsable stretcher, prybar, 20-ton hydraulic jack, small 1-2 man battering ram, heavy-gauge bolt cutters, Thermite-In-A-Tube, box of Road Flares & Safety Markers, Tech Tool Kit, 1 container of assorted bungee cords & roll of duct tape, Microwaver, Sternmeyer Stakeout w/ 10 spare rounds, 4 extra Flashbangs & Tear Gas canisters, & 4 Militech Ronin Light Assault rifles w/ carry strap, uniform clip, & 2 spare clip each.
REO Meatwagon Employees & Contractors are also free to supplement their work equipment w/ anything legal they feel like bringing in. Please do not use your cellphone while at work. If this becomes a problem you will all have to leave your phones in your lockers while out on patrol. Thank You & Keep Pushin’ - the MGT
REO Meatwagon Employees or Contractors wishing to be in it for the long haul can also sign up for REO Meatwagon Premiere Employment. This includes a 10k sign-on bonus as well as FREE REO Meatwagon brand implanted Tracking Monitor & Skin Watch! Contractors must also choose from either a Paste™ brand Cortex Bomb or Biotechnica brand NeuroToxin Release Sacs. If employment is terminated within the first 24 months the Employee or Contractor must return the sign-on bonus prorated at €420 per month of employment.
REO Meatwagon routinely screens all of its Employees & Contractors for any illicit drug or cyberware usage at least once every 12-24 months while providing employees & contractors ample written notice of any upcoming compliance checks. Failure results in a sternly worded written reprimand & asking the Employee or Contractor to please remove any offending illegal contraband from REO Meatwagon property or premises. If an Employee or Contractor earns two or three more written reprimands Carol in HR may have to contact NCPD over the illegal contraband & no one really wants that.
Thank you for your compliance & welcome to the REO Meatwagon Crew!
TLDR: Roll With The Changes.
REO Meatwagon, "We'll get you out in one piece or retrieve as many of them as we can find! That's the REO Meatwagon service guarantee!"
submitted by PM_ME_YOUR_ROTES to cyberpunk2020 [link] [comments]


2020.04.02 07:44 slightlyassholic [Tales From the Terran Republic] Helena Writes an Innocent Little Article

It didn't take Helena long to drop the bomb on the Feds
The rest of the series can be found here
***
Humans, Porkies, and Homo Sapiens by Helena Sterling:
If you scan one of us the word “Human” will be displayed on your lovely little Federation scanner. The funny thing is that you will only see that result in the Federation. Everywhere else in the galaxy you will see something else. You will see the words “Homo Sapiens”. That is our “official” taxonomic classification. More precisely, our exact classification is:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Veterbrata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Theria
Infraclass: Eutheria
Order: Primates
Suborder: Anthropoidea
Superfamily: Mominoidea
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Homo
Species: Sapiens
That’s how we define ourselves. If you will notice nowhere in there do you see the word “Human”. “Human” is just a convenient name we call ourselves. That’s right. It’s just a convenience, a luxury that we allow ourselves when we have the chance.
Is this just a game of semantics? Usually the answer for that would be yes… Usually.
It’s usually just semantics because we desperately, with every fiber of our beings, strive to be and to remain “human”.
Why?
Well, my little fucking idiots, it’s because nobody wants pure unadulterated “Homo Sapiens” around, not even us… especially us.
When our humanity slips and we revert to “Homo Sapiens”, it isn’t pretty.
In the Terran year 2997 when the Yellowstone Super-volcano unleashed hell upon Earth and thus the entire Sol System, “humanity” fell. In a flash humans were gone and where each and every human once stood a creature with the classification “Homo Sapiens” took their place.
The result was a decade of Hell. Only around 2% of our entire population survived. What did we survive exactly? Well, we survived the worst of all threats, ourselves.
You met them, by the way, our friends the “Homo Sapiens”. On Red Sunday when you launched our fleet in a completely unprovoked attack on a wounded Republic, the Terrans removed their humanity like a stuffy sweater on a warm day and what they unleashed upon us was “Homo Sapiens” unencumbered by the fuzzy fleece that we like to wrap around the true nature of our species.
I needn't remind anyone of what happened next.
And now, you for some unknown reason want to play with them again. Oh, not the Republic, even you idiots learned that lesson. You want to play with something even worse, Homo Sapiens.
That’s right. We “porkies” are Homo Sapiens as well… Surprise! Didn’t see that one coming did ya?
Oh it’s easy to forget that we are exactly the same species as the Terrans. When we came to the Federation we were defeated, dispossessed, hunted to near extinction, terrified, exhausted… We were all too happy to leave “Homo Sapiens” behind and devote ourselves to being good little Federation boys and girls bowing and scraping all the way.
Yeah, we were beaten, beaten within an inch of our lives… by the fucking Terrans! We were defeated after fighting those… monsters… for ten fucking years. Even though we were defeated we are the only motherfuckers in the entire fucking galaxy that can honestly say we almost won. The Empire can’t say that. The Collective can’t say that. The Federation certainly can’t say that. We can.
The only thing that has ever beaten us was the Terrans and I got a little news for you assholes. You aren’t Terran. You aren’t even close. You want to kill us? You want to drive us to extinction? Go ahead and try motherfuckers! The Terrans tried. Hell, an actual fucking planet tried. Fuck! The whole solar system tried.
Guess what. We are still here.
Trapped out in the blackness of space, abandoned to starve, we didn’t die. Driven from our Arcologies and stations and into the clutches of the real raiders, we didn’t die. Thrown into true total genocidal war ahead of “the real troops”, we didn’t die.
We did what we had to do. It wasn’t always pretty. It wasn’t always “nice” or even “human”. We like to pretend that the hatred that we receive from the Terrans is unjustified but we all know there are a lot of very good reasons why they despise us. We did terrible things...
But, we didn’t die. We survived.
That’s the thing about Homo Sapiens. They have an overwhelming drive to survive. It’s not that they, that we, are inherently hateful, bloodthirsty, or evil. We’re something worse, a lot worse. We are survivors. We will do anything and I mean absolutely anything in order to survive. Hate can cool. Blood-thirst can be slaked. Evil can be appeased. Survival is uncompromising, merciless, amoral, relentless, and never ending.
You fuckers have absolutely no idea what you have done, not what you are doing, what you have done. It’s already too late. It’s already happening.
Right now, as you are reading this, an old man is tearing up the floorboards of his house to retrieve the cases hidden underneath. An old woman is going into her attic to find an old footlocker. Across the street a family is having a very calm very serious talk around the dinner table. Someone else is going through all of their cutlery testing the heft of each knife. In countless garages, hobby-facs are firing up, our “ancient” lathes and milling machines are coming to life, and soldering irons are warming up. Across human worlds certain electronic components and other hardware are flying off the shelves and yes, even a literature nerd like me knows exactly what those components are and what they are for.
You have just knocked the humanity clean off of us porkies and you are going to find out exactly why the Terrans hate us.
There is no stopping it now.
During my time on the White Star I met one person who’s humanity you robbed. That one “inhuman” hominid killed millions of you in return. That’s not a figure of speech. She literally killed you by the millions.
That was just one “inhuman” representative of the species Homo Sapiens. You morons just potentially made millions of her.
You know what, I don’t even feel sorry for you. You fucking deserve what is about to happen.
A little while back I wrote this little piece entitled “Hate”. I was really proud of it. I honestly thought that I was saying something important.
It turns out that it’s bullshit, nothing but the ramblings of an entitled pampered little girl. Now, I get it. Now, I understand. It only took one call home. It only took a few names, people that I’ve known, people that I’ve loved… Now, I truly understand.
I hate you. I hate all of you that are behind this. I want to grab a gun. I want to grab a knife. I want to grab a ship and go screaming back home guns blazing but unfortunately don’t have the skills needed to make that anything more than just a hollow gesture.
Instead, I will have to fight the only way that I know how using the “weapons” that I already have. Every secret, every lie, every slimy back door deal you have ever done in your pathetic miserable lives will be hunted down and drug into the fucking light. It isn’t much but I have the equipment and the skills that will make it very hard to silence me. I will also track down every single person who has ever dealt with you in the past or will ever deal with you in the future and their secrets will be laid bare alongside yours! I will destroy you and anyone who stands with you.
I might as well get a new hobby. Those “porkie bastards” I’ve been kicking the shit out of here lately probably won’t survive the year anyhow. What I’ve been doing to them? That’s you now. That’s your family and that’s your business associates.
Oh, and Patricia Hu, I haven’t forgotten about you either you miserable cunt! I will make goddamn sure that EVERYONE knows exactly what sort of pathetic loser you really are. Blood drinker? Weigher of Souls? Please. You are nothing but a two bit thug who spread her cheeks for the real power players of the Sol War. You had to. You knew goddamn well that if you got grouped in with the rest of us you wouldn’t have lasted a fucking week.
Yeah, you might have had an “army” of irregulars and a “fleet” of captured freighters and shuttles but Jessica Morgan’s real army of professional soldiers would have had you with an apple in your mouth pretty fucking quick and you know it. I’ve looked at the relative troop strengths. (Attachment: The Blood Drinker Sucked Tak’s Dick for a Reason) You wouldn’t have stood a chance out there in the cold dark. Then again that’s not news for you is it?
Sorry to hear about your people over at the Embassy by the way… and the ones at your safe house… How’s that knife wound coming along? I do hope it didn’t get infected.
All of those people died from facing just two Terran Marines too! I’m confused. Aren’t your people supposed to be badasses or something? I guess you can’t trust rumors, huh?
All it took was just two marines. Two.
That difference between irregulars and professionals I was talking about? There it is.
Exactly how many more of them will you have to face I wonder. Hope you have enough people. Do try to do better in the future, ok? I’m still a reporter after all. This won’t be much of a story if your guys just keep getting squashed like bugs. I’m really hoping for this big epic battle between you and Jon Wintersmith and so far it’s been quite the disappointment. There’s only so many ways I can write “She got her ass kicked and ran like the scared little bitch she is.” C’mon, do a girl a solid. I really need the views!
I do have to hand it to you though. Your people might suck and it seems that you can’t even fight one marine without getting stuck like the pig that you are but you can run like the fucking wind!
Might want to get used to it, bitch.
Finally, to my brothers and sisters…
Attached is a list of “pirate” relays that can be easily reached from the Federation network or with Federation hardware. I, along with many others, will be posting news, information, intelligence, and whatever else we can grab. These relays are in Republic, Imperial, and independent space. If the Feds could shut them up they would have done so long ago. They will be a valuable source of information and a reliable means of communication in the days ahead.
May your bellies be full and may your children sleep safe! Void cloak you! Void guard you! Void guide you home!
***
AxKal/Breen/Mortshana, with a very happy little saunter in her scurry, entered the work complex and quickly mixed a stimulant tonic before settling in behind her terminal.
It had been a very pleasant few days. She had never had a drone-companion before!
And she was right to practically throw herself on Hvaxi the way she did! She even had to hiss at another demi and even a proto-queen believe it or not! The nerve of that proto! She actually had the gall to try to waft her stink at him while they were dining together! Morthshana didn’t care if she was her molt-senior! That egg-bound... bug... almost got herself cut!
She pulled out a piece of card stock and caressed it with her antennae. It was a beautiful scent-gift! She had no idea that Hvaxi was so poetic!
Sourcemother! It was way too early but she really hoped this would develop into a full blown consortship maybe even…
She chuckled at herself. It wouldn’t do for her to get too carried away. There was no sense rushing. They both needed two more molts before they could… well… you know… Not that there weren’t all sorts of mind-meltingly fantastic stuff they could do in the meantime!
She savored the scent-gift once more and tucked it away.
Enough moon-gazing, she thought. It was time for work!
She, a full two minutes late, pulled up the morning’s intelligence reports and started to read her preferred media feeds from across the Federation, the Republic, and the Empire.
Oh piss on my feelers...” she muttered aloud.
She transferred a document to a data-tablet and sprinted out of her office.
***
“Matriarch!” Mortshana shouted as she barged into the nest. “The Federation has been hacked!”
“Again?” The old insectoid chuckled. “I assume that the breach is worthy of your disruptive entrance?”
“You tell me,” Mortshana buzzed smugly as she presented the tablet.
“This Helena human certainly doesn’t perfume her words, does she?” the old matriarch chuckled. “Good solid report generation when it came to the actual intelligence as well! I wish all of my initiates were this adept.”
The matriarch scrolled through the pages, reading it carefully. Mother of All Eggs, she thought. This is really good. I wonder if she could be recruited...
“This Helena Sterling, what do you know about her?”
“At this moment, very little,” Mortshana said bowing her head. “I rushed here as soon as I received this data. I will do a proper investigation upon my return.”
“Firing before target lock, just like your adorable paramour,” the matriarch chuckled. “Was it devotion and urgency that drove you to such a hasty action or did you just seize the chance to get here first?”
Mortshana bowed just a bit too deeply with a little click-chuckle.
“It was purely my devotion, matriarch.”
The matriarch laughed.
“You are insufferable, Mortshana,” she chuckled. “Well consider the grubs snatched. Now, if it wouldn’t be too much of an encumbrance, why don’t you scurry off and actually do your job. I would deeply appreciate some more information about this Helena human, and if you could perhaps look into who might have actually accomplished the breach that would be fantastic. I would absolutely love to know who pulled this off.”
“Yes, matriarch,” Mortshana said bowing so low her antennae swept the floor.
“Oh get out of here, you!” the matriarch laughed.
With a mischievous flap of her winglets Morthshana darted out of the chamber.
“Ladies!” the matriarch exclaimed. “Those tasks I assigned, forget about them! I want some real information about this incident and don’t let that snotty little demi beat you to the punch again!”
***
On her ship, Patricia was lying in a medical bed.
“So, doctor?” she asked. “Why am I in such discomfort?”
“All of the activity undertaken after you administered the nanites disrupted their repair efforts, my Lady,” a silver haired female replied. “Fortunately, nothing vital was struck but there is significant soft-tissue disruption. It’s not serious but I will need to have programmable nanites configured in order to correct the damage. We have the nanites on board but I will have to have the program created and transmitted to us. It won’t take long, my Lady.”
“Good,” Patricia replied. “Come and get me in my quarters when you are ready.”
“Yes, my Lady.”
As Patricia left, she caught the doctor looking at her out of the corner of her eye. She didn’t like the look.
There were more glances and whispers as she proceeded down the corridor to her quarters. Her eyes narrowed. Something was amiss. Instead of going to her quarters she walked to the bridge.
When she arrived she distinctly heard “Shh! She’s coming!” from the other side of the hatch.
Scowling she strode onto the bridge.
Everyone jumped to their feet, clearly uncomfortable.
“Now what is it that you find so interesting?” she asked in a warm, pleasant voice.
The captain shifted uncomfortably.
“N-nothing, my Lady,” he said nervously. “We were just airing some internal issues that you need not-”
“It’s clearly s-something,” she laughed, her eyes cold. “Now share it with me or I shall cut it out of you.”
The Captain silently handed her a datapad and quickly stepped away.
Patricia started to smile as she read Helena’s article.
Then she stopped smiling and silently turned and walked away. Her speed increasing with every step she strode to the communications room.
“Get me Marrow!” she screamed.
***
“Well that certainly didn’t take long,” Jaxona said as she handed [email protected]@ his third cup of coffee for the morning.
“No, it definitely did not,” [email protected]@ growled. “This is a disaster.” Multiple media feeds, all of them losing their minds, were being projected on his desk. Ignoring the triumphant grins of the humans in the room he pulled up the report on the actual data breach.
“Fucking Kaarst,” he grumbled. “That moron’s lucky he got killed.” Only eight under qualified security staff… Eight! Void cursed pointless Federation regulations! There was absolutely no need for a shithole mining outpost to have a quantum terminal. A simple hyperspace relay would have been more than sufficient.
Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing and exactly where to hit. There was no footage or scans. All of that was expertly and thoroughly deleted. The only reason they even knew that they were likely Terran was from survivors that for some completely unknown reason chose to remain.
Who in their right mind would chose years of slavery over a golden ticket to the Republic? Don't they know what miners get paid over there? It was madness, useful madness but madness just the same.
“Any word from information security? They find anything?” he asked as Councilor DvKlos, one of the ones who was the most free with his opinion during those now very public closed door council sessions stepped onto a small podium on his holo-monitor, presumably to try to talk his way out of the mess he was in. I wonder how many seconds it will take before he tries to pin this on us? he thought as the reporters, many of them human, started to literally scream at him.
“We don't need them to figure this one out. You know it was Shelia Donovan,” Jaxona snorted. "No question about that. The only question I have is why the hell is she helping the pork-"
She was cut short by a blinding flash on the holo-terminal as Councilor DvKlos, the podium, the other councilors and government officials standing alongside him, and a good chunk of the wall behind them suddenly ceased to exist.
[email protected]!!!!” [email protected]@ shouted in shock as the scene on his desk dissolved into chaos.
“What in the abyssal hells was that?” Jaxona yelled. Her “memories” didn’t know either.
“I told you! I fucking told you!” a triumphant human voice rang out. “I told you this would happen!”
***
“Once upon a time,” Inspector Vance said to Detective Freela. “Humans made real weapons, not those antiquated museum artifacts that the Terrans are so proud of today. I know exactly what was used.”
“What was it?”
“That, my dear friend, was an old human-tech gauss recoilless rifle, a relic of that golden age.
“Aren’t gauss weapons already low recoil?”
“You are talking about the dinky little rifles you Feds use. This ain’t one of those. What we are talking about is a device that launches a large heavy projectile at insane speeds. It’s basically the barrel of a grav-tank’s primary weapon that you can fire from the shoulder.”
“Gods!” Freela exclaimed. “That’s insane! How is it even possible?”
“Well,” Vance said with a smug little smile, “What we did was take a significant portion of the overall energy produced by the discharge of the weapon to create an opposing force that cancels-” he paused as a ring-tone that Freela had never heard before came from his jacket pocket.
“Hang on,” Vance said as he pulled his personal communicator from his jacket pocket. “Talk to me,” he said in an odd tone of voice.
He listened in silence for a few moments and then replied.
“No, I understand,” he said. “No, I’m not going to try to talk you out of it. It makes perfect sense to me. Fuck them… Heh… Really? That old bastard still alive? Damn… Heh, you have to fucking ask? I’m in. Just say when and where… Cool… Yeah, as a matter of fact I do still have it and a complete cassette of depleted uranium needles to go along with it... Yes! An entire cassette, still has the factory seals!… How much? Two fifty-five gallon drums of mixed food oils if you must know… Hey, it couldn’t feed anyone if we were all dead could it?… You are actually getting pissed about this now? A bit after the fact wouldn’t you say?… Nobody starved because of it and now we have the cassette… You want me to return the lard? I can probably grab some… (laughs) You can’t be serious… Fine. Fine I’ll do it. Happy? Great! See you soon! Void guide you.”
He terminated the call and then turned to Freela.
“It’s been a real pleasure working with you,” Shawn Vance said as he stood up. “You have the makings of a real lawman and I don’t say that often, Freela. You take care of yourself.”
“Inspector what’s gong on?” Detective Freela asked knowing exactly what was going on.
“Take care, Freela.” Vance smiled as he, pulling out his badge and service blaster, walked towards the Chief’s office.
submitted by slightlyassholic to HFY [link] [comments]


2020.01.27 01:50 InkFoxPrints Parallels Chapter Two (Edited): After-School Plans [Part One]

The end of the day finally comes, and it finds Alaina and I waiting anxiously for the two young mammals that we're supposed to mentor, tails flicking nervously behind both of our backs. When they hit together, for some reason that neither of us can seem to explain to ourselves or to the other, we let them twist together for the smallest fraction of a second... well, actually, I can explain it, Alaina's someone I hold dear to me, we're the only family the other has, and family has each other's back.
After what feels like forever, Mrs. Neve finally makes her way down, and behind her come a silver-furred vixen, as well as a tan he-wolf, who, if I'm going off of the set of his ears and the way his tail droops miserably on the cold tile of the floor, is terrified. I can't say I blame him, I'm feeling the same way right about now.
Both fox and wolf come over to where we're seated at one of the long lunch tables- in fact, I think that it's the same one that I landed on earlier in the day. On a side note, I never did get to eat anything, and I think I could eat a horse. Of course, not literally, that would be cannibalism, which, as far as I can tell, is a punishable offense on this side of the Bridge. No, it's just a saying that I've learned in my Human Culture classes.
Both teenage mammals take seats across from us- the male wolf sits across from me, and the vixen sits across the table from Alaina. Both of them look absolutely flocking terrified, and that's a soft way of describing the fear that shows like banners on each of their faces and muzzles- the vixen's tail is flicking around in the air behind her as if she's trying to swat away flies with it, and the smile displayed on her muzzle looks more like a grimace than a genuine expression of happiness. In other words, yeah, I see why Mrs. Neve wanted them to get out and about. I'm a little afraid for them, though, if this is how they're going to be in school. Oh well, though, can't judge until I actually get to know them.
"Hey, mammal," I say, stretching out my paw for him to take. "My name's Theo, it's nice to meet you, what's your name?"
"I'm Isaac," he says, smiling sadly, "although I sure as heck don't feel full of joy like my name would imply right about now..."
"Not been around humans much, eh?" I ask, trying to project a confidence that I don't feel.
"No," he laughs, putting a paw behind his ears sheepishly. "No I haven't, and I'm kinda scared, and I figure that's kinda obvious already. I'm a wolf, we're supposed to be proud and regal. Me? I'm an anxious wreck and a pathetic excuse for a wolf who looks more like a dog than what he is."
I smile, trying to soothe his nerves, because I can tell they're as shot as can be. If he's anything like I was yesterday, he's about to have a panic attack... "You know, I never would have guessed if you hadn't told me. I know I probably don't look it myself, but my day's been just about as awful as yours. Lemme guess, you're terrified," I say, trying to seem silly about it.
This time, it's Isaac who laughs, wringing his paws, and I can see that there are scars on his arms. "Yeah, Theo, you could say that. You know, it's my first time outside of the neighborhood where my house is in I think ever, and I'm kinda freaked out at the idea of being in school with so many humans. Mom's been homeschooling the both of us ever since we were kits, but both of us have been pushing to go to human school ever since forever, though. It's over a decade later, and now both of us are finally getting the opportunity to do just that. Only problem is that neither of us has really spent much time around humans, and so we're kinda terrified, or at least I am..."
Returning the favor, this time, I laugh (boy does it sound weird, it's been forever since I've had a reason to laugh...), and both of us smile. "I understand, man, I really do. I know I look all calm and collected, as if I have myself all together, but to be honest with you, Isaac, on the inside, I'm about as far from 'calm and collected' as it's possible to be right about now without actually freaking out."
"Really? You sure look fine to me, I would've said that you've been here for years," Isaac says, looking at me with his head cocked and ears perked. "Are you saying that you're...?"
"Trying to save you from the same sort of stuff that you I had to go through earlier today, Isaac, and I'm sorry, I don't know where this expression comes from, but you're going to be even more of a deer caught in the headlights than I was... you haven't had any real school at all?"
"Not really, you?"
"Not on Earth I haven't... Terran military, yeah..."
"Terran military? What rank?"
"Lieutenant Theodore Aspen reporting," I say, smiling and tipping him a salute.
"So are you here on a mission or something?"
"Yeah, to save my own hide," I say... "I'm just another kid, Isaac, a kid that's trying to help another kid..."
"You're not an adult?"
"Do I look like one?"
"I don't know... seriously, I've never met another Terran, Theo... how old are you?"
"I'm gonna be sixteen in December..."
"You're not much older than me? And you seem like you've been here forever... you don't have any accent...," he says, and then claps a paw over the end of his muzzle. "Gods, I have no filter... it's gonna get me slapped, or so Mom says..."
"Isaac, you're talking to another mammal, you don't have to hold yourself back around me. I'm a fox, I get judged enough, it's not my right to return the favor."
"Thanks, Theo," Isaac says. "I'm going to get enough of that in school, won't I?
"I have no idea, it's not my place to judge, like I said..."
"You're a lot more... um, well-adjusted than me, I guess... you've got this human thing downpat, don't you?"
"Uh, yeah, no," I say. "I really hate to disappoint you, Isaac, but I've only been on Earth for four weeks, and this is my first day at a human school."
At my words, Isaac's jaw drops, and he shakes his head, smiling. "You're kidding," he says, leaning forward over the table, his tail wagging wildly behind him as if it's trying to break off of his rear end and run away. "No way, really?"
"No, mammal, I'm not kidding, this is my first day at a human school, yes way. If I'm being completely honest with you, even "just fine" is a bit of an overstatement. Lunch was rough, and my ribs still hurt..."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asks, tail curling up into a question mark curl behind him.
"Maybe you happened to notice, Isaac, that my fur is a just a little damp?"
"Yeah, I did, Theo," he says, putting his paws in his pockets, but my social skills are shit, that's what you get for never daring to go outside like, ever... anyways, yeah, no human social skills whatsoever, so I've kinda learned to just keep my muzzle shut and shut the hell up instead, keep myself calm, be a good gir- boy, that's a story for another day... anyways, if you couldn't tell, I'm a mess... and I just want to sniff everything, but no, that's what dogs do, and I may look like one, but I'm not..."
"I understand completely, mam," I say.
"I'm glad," Isaac says, his smile growing and his nose beginning to twitch as if on cue. He notices the look I have on my face and laughs, then slaps his snout to get his nose to stop moving. "I think you can tell that I'm having a bit of trouble with that whole thing. It's instinct, I mean, although I live on this side of the Bridge, I haven't had the opportunity to go out into the world and meet other humans. Actually," he continues, "if I think about it, you two are the first mammals that I've met who are from the other side of the Bridge, the Terran side, in case you didn't get where I was trying to go with that whole thing..."
He smiles sheepishly at me again, his paw ducking behind his head to hold his ears.
"What's wrong?" I ask. "I know you're worried about it, but come on, mammal," I ask, stretching out my paw to reassure him, "what's eating you? And don't say 'nothing,' we both know that's a crock of scat."
"I'm scared, Theo," he says, taking my paw and squeezing it tightly, "I'm just scared is all. I have no idea what I'm going to do with myself. I mean, did Mom tell either of you that we're going to start school here tomorrow? That's the reason why we're here today, because she thinks that it'll be a good idea to get us introduced to 'true human culture' sooner rather than later, in her words. Me, I think it's a crock of scat, but whatever. It's her decision, and, not to sound as if I'm mocking," he says, bending his forepaws like I've heard a dog would, "I'm a good boy, oh yes I am."
He sighs, letting his breath out in one long huff. "Sorry, I didn't even think about that, no dogs on Terra, do you understand what I was doing there?"
"You were trying to act like a dog, weren't you?"
"You got it," he says. "And as luck would have it, I look like one too, almost like a flocking copy of a golden retriever, a walking, talking golden retriever, the bestest boy a human could hope for. Look, I'm sorry I'm so cranky, I didn't take my meds this morning. Anyways, Theo, I don't know how much of this you were taught back on Terra, but wolves here? We were domesticated, most of us. Dogs are what's left- mindless freaks who follow their human masters around like little slaves, and some days, that's how I feel, like I have to do every single little thing without a single fricking complaint, like a dog. I'm a freaking wolf, for goodness sakes, and I've had to ratchet down my instincts. That's what's got me frustrated, Theo, and I'm sorry. I know I seem cranky all of a sudden, and I'm sorry for that, Theo, really. I really am looking forward to coming here to school, but I'm afraid that the humans are going to judge me, I mean, after all, all of the animals here on Earth, save for the four of us, aren't sentient. I think that they're going to treat me like a freak, and I'm worried about that, you know?"
"I understand completely, it's a new culture, new people, new school, new everything, even a new language, at least for me."
"New language? English isn't your first? It sounds perfect, your English, that is. I..."
I laugh, then smile, hoping the sight of some of my fangs doesn't scare Isaac. "That's exactly what I mean, Isaac," I say, "yeah, English is my second. I know it probably doesn't sound like it, but English- human isn't my first language, I've just been practicing way too much... is the accent noticeable?"
"I was going to ask... you sound just like me, really, you're fine... but how did you guess that I was going to ask?"
"We're canines, Isaac, we're easy to read..."
"Oh.... I see, so um, then, is Vulpine is your first language?"
"Yeah, it is," I say, smiling again. "Yes, vulpine is my first language. Yours?"
"Human," he says, smiling. "English being this type, but I actually have been studying Vulpine for a while now, and if you wouldn't mind teaching me a little bit more when you get the chance....?" he asks. "I-I don't mean right now, of course..."
"No, I got that," I say, "and besides that, have you seen what time it is?"
"No, I hadn't," he says, then looks at the watch he has strapped to his right wrist, and cries out in surprise. "Scat, scat, scat! Oh, Mom's going to be sooooo mad at us for keeping her waiting!" he says, dashing to pick up his backpack from where he stashed it over by the window in the back of the room, then running out the door, his sister following suit, tails shot straight out behind them as they fly.
The panic doesn't last long, though, as Mrs. Neve enters the room less than a minute and a half later, followed by one rather embarrassed vixen and one even more embarrassed wolf.
"Where were you two going?" she says, hands on her hips. "Did you forget that I told you that we had to take Alaina and Theo home this afternoon after detention was over?"
"No, mom," the vixen, whose name I still have yet to learn, says, the fur on her cheeks lit a slight pink from the blush that I can only guess is there, "I didn't forget, it just flew my mind after seeing Isaac dash out of the room like he was possessed by something."
"I can appreciate that," Mrs. Neve says, letting her hand drop to her side. "I used to be just like that whenever I saw my older brother and sister run off in some mad hurry." She smiles, then waves her hand in our direction. "Come on, everyone. I called Alaina and Theo's host family earlier when I got the chance to tell them that they would be late and also to explain what I was planning on doing. They seemed a little frustrated and slightly upset, but they agreed to have us over for dinner tonight- spaghetti and meatballs, your favorites."
As soon as she says that, Isaac's tail starts wagging, slowly at first, then quickly picking up speed until it becomes one tan blur behind him, and he starts jumping up and down in what I can only assume is his natural wolfish excitement.
"Oh boy oh boy oh boy!" he says, smiling like a madmammal again until his sister places a calming paw on his shoulder.
"Isaac," his sister says, "I know your name means joy and all, but you're waaaay too excited. I love you, brother mine, but please don't make a fool of the both of us..."
"Alright, Jenna, I'll calm down," he says, "but I'm just so excited!"
"Yeah, I gathered that," the vixen, Jenna, it seems her name is, says, smiling, patting him on the back with a reassuring paw. "I am too. Now come on, I'm starving!"
With that, we all dash out the doors as quickly as possible and pile into Mrs. Neve's car, a worn Honda Odyssey, and slam the doors shut.
Five minutes later, we pull up outside the house that Alaina and I share with our host family, the Maranzas. As we pile out of the car, I can smell the wonderful aroma of oregano and basil and hot spaghetti sauce waft through the open window as Mama- Mrs. Maranza- hums her favorite tune, Dean Martin's "That's Amore," while she stirs the enormous pot of sauce that she has on the back burner. I knock on the door, and she pauses in her stirring and humming long enough to she that it's us, then unbolts the deadbolt and opens the door to let us in, then rushes back to the stove long enough to pull the sauce off of the burner and turn off the stove, then wraps each one of us in enormous hugs, making sure to add to the 'Italian Nonna' image by giving each one of us a kiss on both cheeks. As a matter of principle, I wipe my cheeks dry and add a loud "Yuck!" even though I don't really care.
I mean, come on, I'm a teenager, doesn't being disgusted with any parental show of affection come with the territory? (Or at least pretending to be disgusted? Yes, yes it does.)
After I'm done with that, I take look around the house, making sure that there's nothing I need to get done,. Usually Mama makes sure to leave a chore list of things that need to get done around the house out on the table for Alaina and I to take care of, but I don't see any such thing this afternoon, so either she's been too busy with everything, or there's actually nothing for us to do. Me, I'm hoping and praying that it's the second one, seeing how I've always felt chores to be the bane of my existence. At least sweeping is easier than picking broken wine bottle shards up...
"Mama?" I ask, just to make sure that I'm not missing anything, like chores hiding in the closet or in the woodwork, waiting to spring out at us and ruin our perfectly planned evening (read: doing absolutely nothing save for play video games).
"Yes, dear? Do you need me for something?"
"Are there any chores you need me to get done before we eat supper? I thought that just maybe you would want a few extra paws? Many paws make light work, after all..."
"Yeah, actually, there are just a few things that I'd like help with before we eat supper. As you might have picked up on, there just so happens to be an enormous pile of clothes on the table. I was working on the laundry when Mrs. Neve called, and I've had the neither the time nor the attention to spare and devote to folding them, so would you mind taking care of them?"
"Not a problem, Mama, but I haven't seen him and I'm curious, where's Papa?"
"Oh, you know him, always in the garage, working on that car of his. He had it out earlier, and he said he wanted to take the darn thing for a spin, but he told me that the engine had blown its head gasket. Don't ask me what the heck he was talking about, I'm not the expert in motors, I'm the expert in the kitchen. He shouldn't be too much longer, though, Theo, and while you're clearing that laundry and setting the table, would you please explain to me just how in the blazes both of you got detention on your first day? I'll have you know that I expect better behavior out of both of you in the future. Am I understood?" she asks, shaking a sauce-covered spoon at us.
"Yes, Mama, of course," both of say in unison, then, "Jinx! Double jinx! Triple jinx!"
Both of us laugh, then go to set the table, explaining the story of each of our days as we go, top to bottom, and it hurts to hear once again that Alaina's day was just as scatty of one as my own was.
As we get to work setting the table for dinner, making sure to pull the leaves out of the table so we have enough seats for everyone, everyone else- Mrs. Neve, Isaac, and Jenna- set to work on wiping down the table and getting the tablecloth set up on the table and tidied. I grab the plates- we're going to need...let's see- me, Alaina, Jenna, Isaac, Mrs. Neve, Mama, and Papa. That makes seven, so I pull the seven plates we're going to need out of the cupboard, using my elbow to shut the darn door behind me, and of course, like usual, it won't stay shut, and the flocking thing swings open again as soon as I've stepped away from it.
Just ever so slightly frustrated, I set my stack of porcelain down onto the table as carefully as I can and flip right back around to shut the cupboard.
There, I think, sitting down at the table just as Papa comes in from the garage, enormous hair-covered hands stained black with grease and motor oil.
"Hey, everyone," he says, giving a have of his hand to all of us at the table. "Sorry I'm late, but you know how I get wrapped up in my repair work, and I figure your mother's already told you the whole story."
Then he notices that there are more of us than he was expecting, and he gives his head a shake. "Am I seeing things here, or are there more mammals at the table then there usually are?"
"Theo and Alaina invited a few friends over. They were having a rough day, so I was told, and I thought, well, what did my mama always do for me when I was having another one of those 'down on my luck' days? She cooked spaghetti and sauce, that's what she did, and it sounded like you two were having a rough day, am I right?" Mama says, smiling.
Both of us nod, and Mama nods back. "That's what I thought when I got Mrs. Neve's call. Neither of you told me when I asked, by the way, so I'm going to ask again and hopefully get an answer this time, what did you two do to get yourselves into trouble, anyways? I'm not going to be mad, I promise, I'd just like to understand what went on today."
"Oh," both of us say, managing to say the exact same things at the exact same times for the third time today.
"Alaina, you go first," I say, in no mood to go first.
"No, Theo, how about you go first," she says, giving me a smart-aleck grin.
"But I don't want to go first, sis, you go first."
"Did you just call me 'sis?'" she asks, smiling. "Aww, Theo, I didn't know you had any feewings...," she laughs.
"Yeah, I think I did just call you sis, sis, but umm....you might want to start explaining soon, 'cause Mama doesn't look too happy with us," I say, tail flicking back and forth in nervous agitation behind my back.
"Fine," she groans, "I'll go first, but you are so going to owe me for this later. Don't be surprised if I decide to whoop your tail."
"Oh, don't worry, I won't be. Now start explaining."
"Okay," Alaina says, turning to talk to Mama, who is back to stirring her enormous pot of sauce while also keeping her head turned towards us, "today was not a good day, and that's probably a bit of an understatement. Today, I learned what it was like to be a flying wolf- not fun- and also what it feels like to have tomato sauce get in every fricking place on my body- yay! In short, it was a pretty scatty day, but if I'm being completely honest, getting detention today has been probably one of the brightest spots in my life, because I've now been introduced to three new friends- Mrs. Neve and her daughter and son, Jenna and Isaac.
"So, Mama, I'm sorry I got in trouble today, but at the same time, I'm not sorry one teeny tiny bit."
"I see," Mama says. "So, daughter dear, what did you even do?"
"See, that's the thing," Alaina says, ears flattening against the top of her head, "you know how both of us were really, really nervous about going to human school?"
"Mm-hmm," Mama says, nodding, "I do, but what about it?"
"See, here's the thing," Alaina repeats, huffing, "Human Culture class back on Terra was a joke. It wasn't exactly all it was cracked up to be. You know what? All it was was cracked, because apparently it's not good manners on this side of the Bridge to bare your teeth at someone to warn them that they're ticking you off, I guess. There was one jerk who was ticking me right off, and I just wanted to leave me alone, so I growled at him and showed him my teeth; told him to buzz off. It worked, he left me alone, but the next thing I know, there are school officials coming to haul me down to the office to ask me why I was threatening to eat some kid. I swear, I wasn't trying to eat him, I was just trying to warn him that he was making me mad, and gods on high, I'm out of the loop here, help!"
"I see," Mama says, and then sighs. "What about you, Theo? Same thing happen to you, if I had to guess?"
"Yeah," I say, sighing and shaking my head at myself, trying not to blame myself for my screwups like it's my annoying force of habit to. When you live on the streets for so long like I did before I joined the Venturing program, every single word has to be chosen carefully, otherwise you're likely to end up with a knife in your back, and what with the disease all over Terra from all of the wards that that planet was gone through, you'd be dead.
Okay, this has gone on plenty far enough already. Learn to be constructive, Theodore Michael... why are you so darn hard on yourself?
You know that answer, Theo... it's because of how your mother treated you, right?
Right, so we're going to do better from now on. Oh, and by the way, everyone's waiting for you....
"Sorry everybody...," I say, a paw going to my ears as I feel my face flush in frustration, but more than that, embarrassment...
"Sorry... anyways, pretty much, yeah. Like Alaina said, no one ever told us about that whole 'don't growl at humans' deal, and for it, both of us have nine more days left of detention."
"I see," Mama says again, smiling, and then she waves a hand towards the table and then points to the sink. "Since supper is ready, everybody wash up quick and grab a seat at the table, alright? I don't like dirty mitts at my table, got it?"
"Mama, of course!" Alaina says, smiling.
"I know you do, Alaina dear," Mama says. "I was talking to our guests."
"Sounds good to us," Mrs. Neve says, then to Jenna and Isaac, she says, "Use your silverware, we're eating with company. Besides that, it's just polite."
"Of course, Mom," Jenna says, cheeks again lighting up in a blush. "That was only one time! You don't have to keep reminding me about it, I have a decent memory as it is, and you bring it up every week..."
"I know, but I still keep having to remind your brother about that, and I don't think reminding either of you is ever going to hurt, now go wash your paws, both of you."
They do as they're told, and after they're done, Alaina and I wash our paws, taking care to dry all of the water and soap out of our fur, then, after making sure the water is shut off all the way, take our spots at the table. Me, being the southpaw, means that I have to sit on an outside corner, which can be a little annoying some of the time... Anyways, tonight, that frustration doesn't matter. It's overshadowed by the fact that I have company, and although I got covered in the stuff earlier, I can't help but want to chow down as soon as I can manage to. I didn't get to eat lunch earlier, and I usually don't eat breakfast, that's nothing new for me, even before my journey over to this side of the bridge.
As soon as everyone's seated at the table, Mama asks us to say our thanks, friends and family all, and then only after everyone at the table has said something can everyone eat. It can get a little annoying at times, waiting for everyone to get done, but it is what it is, and there isn't any point in complaining about it. We did the same thing back at home on Terra, and I learned not to complain about having to wait by being sent to bed without any supper.
Jenna, who's seated directly to my right, goes next. "I'm also thankful for new friends too.. I'm thankful to Alaina and Theo, both of you for being willing to mentor me, I really need a friend." Maybe I'm just seeing things, but I swear that she smiles at me.
"As am I," Isaac adds. "I know we're not there yet, but I'm looking forward to going to school with both of you, and I'd like you to know just how happy I am to hear that both of you are willing to take us on as mentees." He sighs, then laughs. "Darn, aren't I an awfully sentimental sap?"
"Yes, yes you are," his sister adds, "but it's true, and thank you all for having us for supper."
"You're very welcome," Mama says. "I'm thankful my two are finding good uses for the trouble that they manage to get themselves into." She winks, then adds, "and I'm glad that everyone managed to make it over for supper here tonight. I made a huge pot of sauce, and I'm glad that I'm going to have enough mouths to feed it to." She smiles, then turns to Papa. "Mark, what are you thankful for?"
"The same as you, dear," he says, taking a second to smile broadly at her. "Mrs. Neve, what are you thankful for?"
"Me?" she asks. When Papa nods, she says, "Well, I'd say that I'm thankful to everyone here for taking my dau-," she begins, but then Isaac cuts her off with a glare- us in when we all really needed it."
What's going on here? I know I'm missing something, but for the life of me, I have no idea what that something is...
"And I," Alaina says, "am happy to have found more people- and more mammals- like us."
With that, we let go of each others' hands, (ha! got it right!) and the dinner table turns into an energetic buzz of conversations, each little group humming about something else. As for myself, I find that I've managed to get myself squarely into the middle of two of them, and I've also found that I just can't keep up with all of the directions that each conversation is taking, so by the time dinner is done and Mama brings out dessert (banana cream pie, my favorite!), the activity at the table manages to simmer down like a pot of Mama's sauce on the stove by the time dessert has been cut and dished out to every person and mammal present, and it's only Jenna who's talking to me, Isaac having struck up a different conversation about the best Italian recipes for sweets.
"Theo?" she asks, her voice soft and quiet, but thankfully still audible to a mammal with my hearing range.
"Yeah, Jenna?" I ask. "Are you okay? Why so quiet all of a sudden?"
"There are so many different people around, I just don't know what to do.... I know that this is probably going to sound crazy, but I've never been around so many people... I'm awkward, I hate it, and well, all of this makes me rather nervous. I mean, I know it's silly for me to be like that, seeing as how I'm going to be going to a public school tomorrow with over a hundred times what's here, but I am, and I just don't know how to feel about that..."
"What's that supposed to mean, Jenna?" I ask.
"What it means, Theo, is that I have no real human social skills whatsoever, I recognize and I just know I'm going to be flocking screwed tomorrow..."
"What do you mean by that, Jenna?" Mrs. Neve asks. "Honestly, dear, you're going to be fine."
"But what if I'm not?" Jenna asks, tail drooping to the floor. "What if the humans hate me? What if they try to hurt me? I mean, based on what Theo and Alaina have told me, they're not too nice there..."
"I wouldn't worry too much about that, Jenna," Alaina says, and I nod too.
"If the humans give you trouble," Alaina says, "I would just stay calm and shrug it off, the usual. If they call you names, I know it's going to be hard, because it is for me as well, but you just have to ignore it and let it pass you by."
"Like water off a duck's back," Jenna says, and Alaina and I look at each other in confusion.
"What does that mean?" I ask, having never heard that idiom before, and I'm surprised that they've heard it. As far as I knew, they had barely been around people, and I was the one who had taken a lifetime's worth of classes about human everything, but once again....
For Karma's sake, this has been getting annoying, discovering just how flocking underprepared I well and truly am for having come to Earth.
"What does it mean?" Jenna asks, giving voice to my thoughts. "And here I thought that my brother and I were the ones who knew absolutely nothing about human culture." She laughs, then turns back to the meal at hand. Apparently she loves banana cream pie just as me, because the fur around her muzzle is flecked with butter-yellow splotches, and her whiskers have somehow managed to become covered in the same, which I can only assume is the filling from the pie.
"What it means is that you just have to let things go- let them slide off of your back, like water does off of a duck's feathers.
"Oh, I see," I say, then, noticing the the yellow flecks Jenna has managed to get into her whiskers, "I see you like banana cream just as much as I do, eh, Jenna? You seem to have a little bit of the filling in your fur..."
"I do?" she asks, reeling back in shock, though I don't quite understand why. I mean, I was just trying to be polite and let her know, not surprise her.
"Whoa, whoa, it's okay, I didn't mean to worry you. All I was trying to say was that you seemed to really be enjoying dessert."
"I am," Jenna says, then takes another forkful of pie and eats it more slowly this time, taking care so as not to make more of a mess of her fur.
"Dang," she says, smiling and wiping her muzzle and whiskers with a napkin, "that was good. Thank you for everything, Missus Maranza, thank you very much."
"You're welcome," she says. "After everyone's done, which it looks like the will be soon, Alaina, Theo, would you mind helping me clear the table?"
"Of course we'll help, Mama, I say.
"Do you want any other sets of paws? There's sure a lot to clear...," Jenna asks, ears perked.
"Am I Italian?" she asks, smiling.
"Umm...," Jenna says, "I'm going to guess that that's a yes?"
"You got it, and," she says, putting one hand on her hip while the other points at Papa and everyone else in turn, "That means you guys too."
Ten minutes later, everyone's done at the table and Mama is washing the saucepot in the sink, every other dish either already in the dishwasher, ready to be cleaned, or drying in the dish drainer to the right of the sink.
"Do you need any more help from any of us?" Mrs. Neve asks, drying her hands off on the flag-print towel that Mama told us that she bought in Italy on her vacation there a few years back.
"No, Bianca," she says, using Mrs. Neve's first name, which I didn't know that she knew. "I'm good, but thank you so much for asking. "My husband seems to have set up the projector and screen outside, if you'd like to stay and watch something with us. I'm sure Theo and Alaina aren't going to care. In fact, if you'd like to spend the night, you're more than welcome to. It'll make your lives easier, I'm willing to bet. Besides, I know that it's only just about quarter after seven, but the movie that he's setting up, if I'm remembering correctly from what he told me earlier, it's going to last until quarter after ten. Please, feel free to stay the night, I don't mind one bit, and no offense meant, but you guys look as if you're awfully wiped."
"We are," Isaac says, piping up for the first time in ten minutes. He doesn't look as it he's tired at all, in fact, I think that he's more awake than I am, tricky wolf. I can see the glint in his eyes, though, and I recognize that gleam- it's the same kind that I get in my eyes when I'm excited about something, "so we should just stay here for the night. Right, Jenna?" he asks his sister, winking.
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2019.12.10 00:25 JBellaggio Chris Van Vliet interviews Austin Aries : the two-hour interview transcript (quite a good read)

Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c50f38o_xQM
I know that most people here probably don't hold a great opinion of Austin Aries, this is why I wanted to do this transcript from his interview with Chris Van Vliet which kinda changed the way I saw him myself.
As always, credits to Chris for conducting these great interviews from all the corners of the pro-wrestling world. Always gets his guests in the mood, Aries even lights up a joint and drinks some wine in this.
During this 2 hour interview, he goes over his departure from WWE, his first TNA run, the Christie Hemme incident, RoH, Jim Cornette, his second Impact run and the infamous Bound For Glory main event. I've tried to keep it as factual as possible, and organized in sections since it's a HUGE wall of text but they do digress a lot at some points. It was also a pretty long interview so I might have missed some things and wrote some nonsense at some times.
Intro :
On his WWE departure:
On his time in RoH and Jim Cornette :
About his first TNA run and the sexual harrassment allegations about him:
On his second Impact run :
About the Bound for Glory incident:
They digress on WWE:
Back to Bound for Glory (they both still digress a lot):
Conclusion :
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2019.11.13 19:46 InkFoxPrints Parallels Chapter Two: After-School Plans

Two hours later, both Alaina and I are waiting anxiously for the two young mammals that we're supposed to mentor, tails flicking nervously behind each one of us, and when they hit together, for some reason that neither of us can seem to explain to ourselves or to the other, we let them twist together for the smallest fraction of a second before untwisting them and then repeating the process every five seconds or so.
After just shy of ten more minutes of waiting, Mrs. Neve enters the room, and behind her come a silver-furred vixen, as well as a tan he-wolf, who, if I'm going off of the set of his ears and the way his tail droops miserably on the cold tile of the floor, is quite scared to be here, and in all honesty, I can't say that I blame him for feeling like that, I know I'm feeling pretty much the same way right about now.
Both members of the pair come over to where we're seated at one of the long lunch tables- in fact, I think that it's the same one that I landed on earlier in the day. On a side note, I never did get to eat anything, and I think I could eat a horse. Of course, not literally, that would be cannibalism, which,as far as I can tell, is a punishable offense on this side of the Bridge, it's just a saying that I've learned in my Human Culture classes.
Both teenage mammals take seats across from us- the male wolf sits across from me, and the vixen sits across the table from Alaina. Both of them look absolutely terrified, the vixen's tail is flicking around in the air behind her as if she's trying to swat away flies with it, and the smile displayed on her muzzle looks more like a grimace than a genuine expression of happiness. I may not be the greatest at reading human facial expressions, but mammals like Alaina and I, well, those facial expressions are what I'm used to reading, so it's not nearly as hard for me to figure out that she's having one of the scattiest days of her life.
The same can also be said for the he-wolf sitting across the table from me- he looks like he could scat his pants at any minute, so this is going to be interesting…
"Hey, man," I say, stretching out my paw for him to take. "My name's Theo. Nice to meet you, what's yours?"
"Isaac," he says, "although I sure as heck don't feel full of joy right at this moment."
"Not been around humans much, eh?"
"No," he laughs, putting a paw behind his ears sheepishly, "no I haven't, and I'm kinda scared, but I suppose you can tell that already, can't you?"
I smile, trying to soothe his nerves, with I'm more than willing to bet are shot. "I can, but don't worry about it. I know I probably don't look it, but I'm having a day that's probably been just about as awful as yours."
This time, it's Isaac who laughs. "Yeah, Theo, you could say that. You know, it's my first time outside of the neighborhood where my house is I think ever, and I'm kinda freaked out at the idea of being in school with so many humans. Mom's been homeschooling the both of us ever since we were kits, but both of us have been pushing to go to human school ever since we were kits, and now both of us are finally getting the opportunity to do just that. Only problem is that neither of us has really spent much time around humans, and we're kinda terrified…"
Returning the favor, this time, I laugh, and both of us smile. "I understand, man, I really do. I know I look all calm and collected, as if I have myself all together, but to be honest with you, Isaac, on the inside, I'm about as far from 'calm and collected' as it's possible to be right about now without actually freaking out."
"Really? You sure don't look like it, and if I hadn't known otherwise, I would say that you've been here for years."
"Dang," I whistle, "but I really hate to disappoint you, but I've only been on Earth for two weeks, and this is my first day."
At my pronouncement, Isaac's jaw drops, and he shakes his head as if to rid his mind of some undesired thought. "You're kidding," he says, leaning forward over the table, his tail wagging wildly behind him as if it's trying to break off of his rear end and run away.
"No, man, I'm not kidding, this is my first day at a human school, and I don't tell or not, but it hasn't been going so well, and if I'm being completely honest with you, even that is a bit of an overstatement."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he asks, tail curling up into a question mark curl behind him.
"Did you notice that my fur is a little damp?"
"Yeah, I did, but Mom's been teaching us human social skills, and those say that it's rude to talk about someone's appearance like that, you know?"
"I understand completely, man," I say. "Let me guess, it's been a royal pain in the tail to fight your urge to let your nose start twitching and smell everything."
"Yeah," he says, his smile growing and his nose beginning to twitch. He notices the look I have on my face and laughs, then slaps his snout to get his nose to stop moving. "I think you can tell that I'm having a bit of trouble with that whole thing. It's instinct, I mean, although I live on this side of the Bridge, I've not gotten the opportunity to go out into the world and meet other humans, and if I think about it, you two are the first mammals that I've met who are from the other side of the Bridge, the Terran side, in case you didn't get where I was trying to go with that whole thing…"
He smiles sheepishly at me again, his paw ducking behind his head to hold his ears.
"What's wrong?" I ask. "I know you're worried about it, but you forget, I'm a mammal like you, I'm pretty much an expert at reading mammalian body language. Come on, man, what's eating you?"
"I'm scared, Theo, I'm just scared is all. I have no idea what I'm going to do with myself. I mean did Mom tell either of you that we're going to start tomorrow? She thinks that it'll be a good idea to get us introduced to true human culture sooner rather than later, in her words. Me, I think it's a crock of scat, but whatever. It's her decision, and, not to sound as if I'm mocking," he says, bending his forepaws like I've heard a dog would, "I'm a good boy, oh yes I am."
He sighs, letting his breath out in one long huff. "Do you understand what I was doing there?"
"A little," I say, feeling my tail start to swish back and forth beneath me in agitation. "You were trying to act like a dog, weren't you?"
"You got it," he says, "and I don't know how much of this you were taught back on Terra, but wolves here? We were domesticated, most of us. Dogs are what's left- mindless freaks who follow their human masters around like little slaves, and some days, that's how I feel, like I have to do every single little thing without a single fricking complaint, like a dog. I'm a freaking wolf, for goodness sakes, and I've had to ratchet down my instincts. That's what's got me frustrated. I know I seem cranky all of a sudden, and I'm sorry for that, Theo. I really am looking forward to coming here to school, but I'm afraid that the humans are going to judge me, I mean, after all, all of the animals here on Earth, save for the four of us, aren't sentient. I think that they're going to treat me like a freak, and I'm worried about that, you know?"
"I understand completely- new culture, new people, new school, new everything. Even a new language."
"New language? What do you mean by that?"
I laugh, then smile, hoping the sight of some of my fangs doesn't scare Isaac. "That's exactly what I mean," I say. "Doesn't sound like it, but English isn't my first language. I've just been training for this exchange for pretty much my entire life, so I've had quite a bit of practice, in case you were wondering."
"I was, but how did you guess that?"
"I'm pretty good at reading another mammal's body language, like I said earlier."
"Oh…. I see. So then I'm going to guess that Vulpine is your first language?"
"You're a smart one, Isaac," I say, smiling again. "Yes, vulpine is my first language. Yours?"
"English," he says, "but I actually have been studying Vulpine for a while now, and if you wouldn't mind teaching me a little bit more when you get the chance. I don't mean right now, of course…"
"No, I got that," I say, and besides that, have you seen what time it is?"
"No, I hadn't," he says, then looks at the watch he has strapped to his right wrist, and cries out in surprise. "Scat, scat, scat! Oh, Mom's going to be sooooo mad at us for keeping us waiting!" he says, dashing to pick up his backpack from where he stashed it over by the window in the back of the room, then running out the door, his sister following suit, tails shot straight out behind them as they fly.
The panic doesn't last long, though, as Mrs. Neve enters the room less than a minute and a half later, followed by one rather embarassed vixen and one even more embarassed wolf.
"Where were you two going?" she says, hand on her hip. "Did you forget that I told you that we had to take Alaina and Theo home this afternoon after detention was over?"
"No, mom," the vixen, whose name I still have yet to learn, says, the fur on her cheeks lit a slight pink from the blush that I can only guess is there, "I didn't forget, it just flew my mind after seeing Isaac dash out of the room like he was possessed by something."
"I can appreciate that," Mrs. Neve says, letting her hand drop to her side. "I used to be just like that whenever I saw my older brother and sister run off in some mad hurry." She smiles, then waves her hand in our direction. "Come on, everyone. I called Alaina and Theo's host family earlier when I got the chance to tell them that they would be late and also to explain what I was planning on doing. They seemed a little frustrated and slightly upset, but they agreed to have us over for dinner tonight- spaghetti and meatballs, your favorites."
As soon as she says that, Isaac's tail starts wagging, slowly at first, then quickly picking up speed until it becomes one gray blur behind him, and he starts jumping up and down in what I can only assume is his natural wolfish excitement.
"Oh boy oh boy oh boy!" he says, smiling like a madfox again until his sister places a calming paw on his shoulder. "Isaac," she says, "I know your name means joy and all, but you're waaaay too excited. I love you, brother mine, but please don't make a fool of the both of us…"
"Alright, Jenna, I'll calm down," he says, "but I'm just so excited!"
"Yeah," the vixen, Jenna, it seems her name is, says, smiling, then pats him on the back with a reassuring paw. "I am too. Now come on, I'm starving!"
With that, we all dash out the doors as quickly as possible and pile into Mrs. Neve's car, a worn Honda Odyssey, and slam the doors shut.
Five minutes later, we pull up outside the house that Alaina and I share with our host family, the Maranzas. As we pile out of the car, I can smell the wonderful aroma of oregano and basil and hot spaghetti sauce waft through the open window as Mama- Mrs. Maranza- hums her favorite tune, Dean Martin's "That's Amore," while she stirs the enormous pot of sauce that she has on the back burner. I knock on the door, and she pauses in her stirring and humming long enough to she that it's us, then unbolts the deadbolt and opens the door to let us in, then rushes back to the stove long enough to pull the sauce off of the burner and turn of the stove, then wraps each one of us in enormous hugs, making sure to add to the 'Italian Nonna' image by giving each one of us a kiss on both cheeks. As a matter of principle, I wipe my cheeks dry and add a loud "Yuck!" even though I don't really care.
I mean, come on, I'm a teenager, doesn't being disgusted with any parental show of affection come with the territory? (Or at least pretending to be disgusted? Yes, yes it does.)
After I'm done with that, I take look around the house, making sure that there's nothing I need to get done,. Usually Mama makes sure to leave a chore list of things that need to get done around the house out on the table for Alaina and I to take care of, but I don't see any such thing this afternoon, so either she's been too busy with everything, or there's actually nothing for us to do. Me, I'm hoping and praying that it's the second one, seeing how I've always felt chores to be the bane of my existence.
"Mama?" I ask, just to make sure that I'm not missing anything and that there are chores hiding in the closet on in the woodwork, waiting to spring out at us and ruin our perfectly planned evening (read: doing absolutely nothing save for play video games).
"Yes, dear? Do you need me for something?"
"Are there any chores you need me to get done before we eat supper? I noticed that you don't seem to written up a list of anything for either Alaina or I, but you look awful busy and I thought that just maybe you would want a few extra hands, or as would be the case for either Alaina or I, a few extra paws?"
"Yes, actually, there are s few things that I'd like help with before we eat supper. As you might have picked up on, there just so happens to be an enormous pile of clothes on the table. I was working on the laundry when Mrs. Neve called, and I haven't had the time nor the attention to spare to folding them. Would you mind taking care of them?"
"Not a problem, Mama, not a problem at all. By the way, where's Papa?"
"Oh, you know him, always working on that car of his. He had it out earlier, and he said he wanted to take the darn thing for a spin, but then I heard him cursing. I went out to see what the issue was, and he told me that the engine had blown its head gasket. Don't ask me what the heck he was talking about, I'm not the expert in motors, I'm the expert in the kitchen. He shouldn't be too much longer, though, Theo, and while you're setting the table, would you please explain to me just how in the blazes both of you got detention on your first day? I'll have you know that I expect better behavior out of both of you in the future. Am I understood?" she asks, shaking a sauce-covered spoon at us.
"Yes, Mama, of course," both of say in unison, then, "Jinx! Double jinx! Triple jinx!"
Both of us laugh, then go to set the table. As we clear away all of the clothes from the table, hastily throwing them into baskets to ignore until much later, everyone else- Mrs. Neve, Isaac, and Jenna- set to work on wiping down the table and getting the tablecloth set up on the table and tidied. After that's done, we split the chore of actually setting the table. I grab the plates- we're going to need...let's see- me, Alaina, Jenna, Isaac, Mrs. Neve, Mama, and Papa. That makes seven, so that's how many plates I pull out of the cupboard, using my elbow to shut the darn thing's door behind me, and as if to spite me, the flocking thing swings open again as soon as I've stepped away from it.
Just ever so slightly frustrated, I set my stack of porcelain down onto the table as carefully as I can and flip right back around to shut the cupboard.
Not wanting to take any more chances, I fish a rubber band out of the pottery cup that's on the counter right next to the toaster and stretch it around the cupboard doors' handles.
There, I think, sitting down at the table just as Papa comes in from the garage, heavy hair-covered hands stained black with grease and motor oil.
"Hey, everyone," he says, giving a have of his hand to the assembled company. "Sorry I'm late, but you know how I get wrapped up in my repair work, and I figure your mother's already told you the whole story."
Then he notices that there are more of us than he was expecting, and he gives his head a shake. "Am I seeing things here, or are there more mammals at the table then there usually are?"
Before I can confirm what he's thinking, Mama speaks up. "Yes, dear, there are. Theo and Alaina invited a few friends over. They were having a rough day, so I was told, and I thought, well, what did my mama always do for me when I was having another one of those 'down on my luck' days? She cooked spaghetti and sauce, that's what she did, and it sounded like you two were having a rough day, am I right?"
Both of us nod, and Mama nods back. "That's what I thought when I got Mrs. Neve's call. What did you two do to get yourselves into trouble, anyways? I'm not going to be mad, I promise, I'd just like to understand what went on today."
"Oh," both of us say, managing to say the exact same things at the exact same times for the third time today.
"Alaina, you go first," I say, in no mood to go first.
"No, Theo, how about you go first."
"But I don't want to go first, sis, you go first."
"Did you just call me 'sis?'" she asks, smiling. "Aww, Theo, I didn't know you had any feewings…," she laughs.
"Yeah, I think I did just call you sis, sis, but umm….you might want to start explaining soon, 'cause Mama doesn't look too happy with us," I say, tail flicking back and forth in nervous agitation behind my back.
"Fine," she groans, "I'll go first, but you are so going to owe me for this later. Don't be surprised if I decide to whoop your tail."
"Oh, don't worry, I won't be. Now start explaining."
"Okay," Alaina says, turning to talk to Mama, who is back to stirring her enormous pot of sauce while also keeping her head turned towards us, "today was not a good day, and that's probably a bit of an understatement. Today, I learned what it was like to be a flying wolf- not fun- and also what it feels like to have tomato sauce get in every fricking place on my body- yay! In short, it was a pretty scatty day, but if I'm being completey honest, getting detention today has been probably one of the brightest spots in my life, because I've now been introduced to three new friends- Mrs. Neve and her daughter and son, Jenna and Isaac.
"So, Mama, I'm sorry I got in trouble today, but at the same time, I'm not sorry one teeny tiny bit."
"I see," Mama says. "So what did you even do?"
"See, that's the thing," Alaina says, ears flattening, "you know how both of us were really, really nervous about going to human school?"
"Mm-hmm," Mama says, nodding, "I do, but what about it?"
"See, here's the thing," Alaina says, huffing, "Human Culture class back on Terra? It wasn't exactly all it was cracked up to be. In fact, I think that all it is is cracked, because apparently it's not good manners on this side of the Bridge to bare your teeth at someone to warn them that they're ticking you off, I guess. There was one jerk who was making me royally ticked off, and I just wanted to leave me alone, so I growled at him and showed him my teeth, told him to buzz off. It worked, he left me alone, but the next thing I know, there are school officials coming to haul me down to the office to ask me why I was threatening to eat some kid. I swear, I wasn't trying to eat him, I was just trying to warn him that he was making me mad, and again, like I said, no one had ever bothered to tell me that that sort of thing isn't acceptable around humans."
"I see," Mama says, and then sighs. "What about you, Theo? Same thing happen to you, if I had to guess?"
"Yeah," I say, "pretty much. Like Alaina said, no one ever told us about that whole 'don't growl at humans' deal, and for it, both of us have nine more days left of detention."
"I see," Mama says again, then waves a hand towards the table, then points to the sink. "Since supper is ready, everybody wash their hands (or their paws, depending), and grab a seat at the table, alright?"
"Sounds good to us," Mrs, Neve says, then to Jenna and Isaac, she says, "Use your silverware, we're eating with company. Besides that, it's just polite."
"Of course, Mom," Jenna says, cheeks again lighting up in a blush. "That was only one time!"
"I know, but I still keep having to remind your brother about that, and I don't think reminding either of you is ever going to hurt, now go wash your paws, both of you."
They do as they're told, and after they're done, Alaina and I wash our paws, taking care to dry all of the water and soap out of our fur, then, after making sure the water is shut off all the way, take our spots at the table. Me, being the lefty, means that I have to sit on an outside corner, which can be a little annoying some of the time, but today, my annoyance is overshadowed by the fact that I have company, and although I got covered in the stuff earlier, I can't help but want to chow down on the stuff right now, and the fact that I didn't get to eat lunch earlier means that I haven't eaten anything at all today, because I usually don't eat breakfast, that's nothing new for me, even before my journey over to this side of the bridge.
As soon as everyone's set at the table, Mama asks us to all link hands (or paws) together to say our thanks- each person says what they are thankful for, and then only after everyone at the table has said something can everyone eat. It can get a little annoying at times, waiting for everyone to get done, but it is what it is, and there isn't any point in complaining about it. We did the same thing back at home on Terra, and I learned not to complain about having to wait by being sent to bed without any supper.
"Theo, would you begin for us, please?" Papa asks me.
"Of course, Papa," I say, trying to think of something that I'm thankful for. Thankfully, no pun intended, one comes to mind almost immediately. "I am thankful for," I begin, "the company of new friends, and the opening of new opportunities." After that, I ask, "Who would like to go next- left or right?"
"I'll go, Theo," Jenna, who's seated directly to my right, says. "I'm also thankful for new friends. On top of that, I'm thankful to Alaina for being willing to mentor me, I really need it."
"As am I," Isaac adds. "I know we're not there yet, but I'm looking forward to going to school with both of you, and I'd like you to know just how happy I am to hear that both of you are willing to take us on as mentees." He sighs, then laughs. "Darn, aren't I an awfully sentimental sap?"
"Yes, yes you are," his sister adds, "but it's true, and thank you all for having us for supper."
"You're very welcome," Mama says. "I'm thankful my two are finding good uses for the trouble that they manage to get themselves into." She winks, then adds, "and I'm glad that everyone managed to make it over for supper here tonight. I made a huge pot of sauce, and I'm glad that I'm going to have enough mouths to feed it to." She smiles, then turns to Papa. "Martin, what are you thankful for?"
"The same as you, dear," he says, taking a second to smile broadly at her. "Mrs. Neve, what are you thankful for?"
"Me? Well, I'd say that I'm thankful to everyone here for taking us in when we all really needed it."
"And I," Alaina says, "am happy to have found more people and more mammals like us."
With that, we let go of each others' hands, and the dinner table turns into an energetic mecca of conversations, each little group buzzing about something else. As for myself, I find that I've managed to get myself squarely into the middle of two of them, and I've found that I just can't keep up with all of the directions that each conversation is taking, so by the time dinner is done and Mama brings out dessert (banana cream pie, my favorite), I feel like my head has been spinning around and around and around so much that I can't quite seem to understand how it hasn't managed to come unscrewed and gone flying across the polished pine floors.
Thankfully for me, though, the activity at the table manages to simmer down like a pot of Mama's sauce on the stove by the time dessert has been cut and dished out to every person and mammal present, and it's only Jenna who's talking to me, Isaac having struck up a different conversation about the best Italian recipes for sweets.
"Theo?" she asks, her voice soft and quiet, but thankfully still audible to a mammal with my hearing range.
"Yes, Jenna?" I ask. "Are you okay? Why are you speaking so quietly?"
"There are so many different people around, I just don't know what to do…. I know that this is probably going to sound crazy, but I've never been around more than five people at a time, and seeing as how I've had a rather sheltered existence, well, all of this makes me rather nervous. I mean, I know it's silly for me to be like that, seeing as how I'm going to be going to a public school tomorrow with over a hundred times what's here, but I am, and I just don't know how to feel about that…"
"What do you mean, Jenna?" I ask.
"What I mean, Theo, is that I have no real social skills whatsoever, and I just know I'm going to be flocking screwed tomorrow…"
"What do you mean by that, Jenna?" Mrs. Neve asks. "Honestly, dear, you're going to be fine."
"But what if I'm not?" she asks, tail drooping to the floor. "What if the humans hate me? What if they try to hurt me? I mean, based on what Theo and Alaina have told me, they're not too nice there…"
"I wouldn't worry too much about that, Jenna," Alaina says, and I nod.
"If the humans give you trouble, I would just say calm and shrug it off. If they call you names, I know it's going to be hard, because it is for me as well, but you just have to ignore it and let it pass you by."
"Like water off a duck's back," Jenna says, and Alaina and I look at each other in confusion.
"What does that mean?" I ask, having never heard that particular human idiom before, and surprised that they've heard it, because as far as I knew, they had barely been around people, and I was the one who had taken a lifetime's worth of classes about human everything, but once again….
For the sake of the gods, this has been getting annoying, discovering just how flocking underprepared I well and truly anm for having come to Earth.
"What does it mean?" Jenna asks, giving voice to my thoughts. "And here I thought that my brother and I were the ones who knew absolutely nothing about human culture." She laughs, then turns back to the meal at hand. Apparently she loves banana cream pie just as me, because the fur around her muzzle is flecked with butter-yellow splotches, and her whiskers have somehow managed to become covered in the same, which I can only assume is the filling from the pie.
"I see you like banana cream just as much as I do," I say, smiling. "You seem to have a little bit of the filling in your fur…"
"I do?" she asks, reeling back in shock, though I don't quite understand why. I mean, I was just trying to be polite and let her know, not surprise her.
"Whoa, whoa, it's okay, I didn't mean to worry you. All I was trying to say was that you seemed to really be enjoying dessert."
"I am," Jenna says, then takes another forkful of pie and eats it more slowly this time, taking care so as not to make more of a mess of her fur.
"Dang," she says, smiling and wiping her muzzle and whiskers with a napkin, "that was good. Thank you for everything, Missus Maranza, thank you very much."
"You're welcome," she says. "After everyone's done, which it looks like the will be soon, would you mind helping me clear the table?"
"Of course, Mrs. M," Jenna says. "Do you want any other sets of paws? There's sure a lot to clear…"
"Am I Italian?" she asks, smiling.
"Umm…," Jenna says, "I'm going to guess that that's a yes?"
"You got it, and," she says, putting one hand on her hip while the other points at each one of us in turn, "That means you guys too."
"Of course, Mama," I say, and Alaina nods yes as well.
Ten minutes later, everyone's done at the table and Mama is washing the saucepot in the sink, every other dish either already in the dishwasher, ready to be cleaned, or drying in the dish drainer to the right of the sink.
"Do you need any more help from any of us?" Mrs. Neve asks, drying her hands off on the flag-print towel that Mama told us that she bought in Italy on her vacation there a few years back.
"No, Bianca," she says, using Mrs. Neve's first name, which I didn't know that she knew. "I'm good, but thank you so much for asking. "My husband seems to have set up the projector and screen outside, if you'd like to stay and watch something with us. I'm sure Theo and Alaina aren't going to care. In fact, if you'd like to spend the night, you're more than welcome to. It'll make your lives easier, I'm willing to bet. Besides, I know that it's only just about quarter after seven, but the movie that he's setting up, if I'm remembering correctly from what he told me earlier, it's going to last until quarter after ten. Please, feel free to stay the night, I don't mind one bit, and no offense meant, but you guys look as if you're awfully wiped."
"We are," Isaac says, piping up for the first time in ten minutes. He doesn't look as it he's tired at all, in fact, I think that he's more awake than I am, tricky wolf. I can see the glint in his eyes, though, and I recognize that gleam- it's the same kind that I get in my eyes when I'm excited about something, "so we should just stay here for the night. Right, Jenna?" he asks his sister, winking.
I can't tell if Mrs. Neve notices the conspiratorial look that the two siblings share, but I'm going to guess that if she does, she's an expert at not letting things show.
"Right," Jenna says, and Mrs. Neve smiles.
"I see," she says, and her wry smile confirms my earlier suspicion that she did, in fact, see the look that her kit and pup shared. "Alright, alright, okay, we'll stay the night," she says, smiling. "You guys win." Then she turns to Mama. "What movie are you guys going to be playing on the big screen?"
"Why don't you try and guess?" Mama tells her.
"Okay," Mrs. Neve says, "but I'm just going to say this notw and get it out of the way- I'm not really a film buff. Yes, I've watched tons of them, but I'm not good at figuring out what kind of movie a woman whom I've just met would watch. No offense meant, of course, I just have no idea."
"That's fine," Mama says, gesturing out towards the front lawn with another large sweep of her arm. "I bet my husband will have dragged out the popcorn popper as well. Don't worry about me, I'll be right out. You guys go enjoy, okay?"
"Alright," Mrs. Neve says, heading out the front door, the four of us- two foxes and two wolves- follow along. When we get out, I find that Papa has indeed dragged out the popcorn popper, and he's managed to get all the things that we're going to need set up and ready to go.
"Where's Mama?" he asks, then apparently answers his own question, as he slaps his forehead. "Sorry, I know that answer. She'll be 'right out,' and 'it's okay to start without her,' right?"
"You got it, Papa," I say. "So what movie are we going to watch?"
"I thought I'd pick out one of my personal favorites to watch tonight. Mrs. Neve, have you ever watched any Tom Hanks movies?"
"Can't say that I have. And please, call me Bianca."
"If you insist. In that case, I'm Matt, and tonight, it's Forrest Gump."
"Oooh!" Isaac says, wriggling a little in his chair. "One of the kids who lives down the block from us was talking about it to his group of friends yesterday."
"Oh?" Jenna asks, attention piqued. "And just what did they say about it?"
"They said that it was probably one of the best movies that they had ever seen in their entire life, actually, so I'm kinda interested in seeing this 'epic movie' for myself."
"Yeah," Mama says, having come up unnoticed behind us, "it is a pretty good movie."
"Geez, Mama," Alaina says smoothing down her now ever-so-slightly ruffled fur, "don't sneak up behind us like that, you startled me."
"Well, I'm sorry, Alaina dear," she says, taking her own seat, three to the right of mine. "Now let's sit back and enjoy this movie, why don't we?"
"Sounds good to me, dear," Papa says, dishing out popcorn to each one of us, then takes his seat. "I haven't watched this movie in so long…"
"I know," Mama says, putting a finger to her lips in a be quiet now gesture that's recognized in both universes. "Now sit back and enjoy the show."
Nearly two and a half hours later, when the film's end credits roll, the stars have come up all the way, the popcorn is all gone, but thankfully, there's no crimp in my tail from the lack of movement.
Speaking of lack of movement, both Jenna and Isaac have fallen asleep in their chairs, and I can't help but notice, with the way that they've managed to curl themselves up into little balls, tails held close to their noses like I've seen dogs and cats do here on Earth.
"Okay, who's going to wake them up?" I ask.
"We're not," Mrs. Neve says. "This happens to us pretty often. These two tend to just crash if they stay up too late. Tonight wasn't too bad, they've been up later, but I think that the excitement of today probably just plain wore them out."
"I see," I say. "So what are we going to do? We can't just leave them out here, can we?"
"No, you're right," Mrs. Neve says. "We can't just leave them out here, and so we're not. Theo, would you mind picking Isaac up and carrying him inside? No offense to Jenna here, but her brother's the lighter of the pair, and I think that that weight would be easier for you to carry. You look tired yourself, and as much as my kit and pup may be pains in the rear some days, I have no desire whatsoever to see them dropped on their tails."
"I understand," I say, kneeling down to where Isaac lies slumped in his seat, tail tucked between his arms. I untuck it and scoop my own arms beneath him, and then Mrs. Neve loops his arms around my neck as I stand up, then repeats the process for Alaina and Jenna.
"Where would you like me to put him?" I ask.
"How about we put him on the spare bed in your room for the night, and then Jenna can go on the spare bed in Alaina's room."
"Sounds fine to me," Mrs. Neve says, "as long as neither of you minds…"
"No," Alaina says, "I don't mind, just as long as I get to put her down soon, she's heavy…"
"I hear you," Mrs. Neve says. "Mrs. Maranza, would you mind getting the door for us?"
"Not at all," Mama says, rushing over to get the door, which she holds open long enough for us to get inside safely, then turns around to help Papa clean up. "You guys go on in," she says through the screen. "Get those two to bed, and then get yourselves to the same."
"Of course, Mama," I say, smiling despite the strain I'm feeling in my arms. I carry Isaac to the spare bed in my room, which, like usual, is empty of anything but a sheet and pillow, and set him down, taking extra care to make sure that he'll be okay until I get back.
Uncurling my arms from around him, I slip out of the room as quietly as possible and grab some blankets from the shelves in the closet down the hall.
As I get back, I set the sheets on my desk by the window that parallels the two beds, then lift Isaac off of the spare bed and place him on mine, then snag the sheets off of the desk and put them on, making sure to put some blankets and am extra pillow on as well, after all, what's the point of having a bed (even if it has sheets) if you can't have the fixings to turn it into a proper nest? I know that's what foxes like me like to do, and I unfortunately don't happen to know much about wolves' preferences in regards to nests or not, but what I do know is that they're pack mammals, much the opposite of any foxes I knew back on Terra, and so I can only assume that they like having someone to snuggle up next to.
Me, I'm not volunteering for that duty. Instead, I take the two extra blankets that I hadn't put on the bed earlier and set them back down on my bed, heave Isaac up and over, and make the spare bed. After that's done, I move to go swap Isaac over again, but my arms are just too tired, so I just shut my bedroom door, dive into bed and yank the covers down over my head.
Usually, I try to put myself to sleep by counting sheep, but tonight, I'm just so wiped out that I'm asleep not ten seconds after my head hits the pillow.
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2019.10.08 05:18 stroke_bot unveined arius concerningness

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2019.10.03 16:11 MarleyEngvall connecticut yankee has been created

By Washington Irving THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW (ii.) 30. I profess not to know how women's hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but one vulnerable point, or door of access, while others have a thousand avenues, and may be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain the former, but a still greater proof of general ship to maintain possession of the latter, for the man must battle for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette, is indeed a hero. Certain it is, this was not the case with the redoubtable Brom Bones: and from the moment Ichabod Crane made his advances, the interests of the former evidently declined; his horse was no longer seen tie at the palings on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose between him and the proprietor of Sleepy Hollow. 31. Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature, would fain have carried matters to open warfare, and have settled their pretensions to the lady according to the mode of those concise and simple reasoners, the knights-errant of yore——by single combat; but Ichabod was too conscious of the superior might of his adversary to enter the lists against him: he had overheard a boast of Bones, that he would "double the schoolmaster up, and lay him on a shelf of his own school-house;" and he was too wary to give him an opportunity. There was something extremely provoking in this obstinately pacific system; it left Brom no alternative but to draw upon the funds of rustic waggery in his disposi- tion, and to play off boorish practical jokes upon his rival. Ichabod became the object of whimsical persecution to Bones and his gang of rough riders. They harried his hitherto peaceful domains; smoked out his singing-school, by stopping up its chimney; broke into the school-house at night, in spite of its formidable fastenings of withe and window-stakes, and turned everything topsy-turvy: so that the poor school- master began to think all the witches in the country held their meetings there. But what was still more annoying, Brom took opportunities of turning him into ridicule in presence of his mistress, and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to whine in the most ludicrous manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod's to instruct her in psalmody. 32. In this way matters went on for some time, without producing any material effect on the relative situation of the contending powers. On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool whence he usually watched all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he swayed a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power; the birch of justice reposed on three nails, behind the throne, a constant terror to evil-doers; while on the desk before him might be seen sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons, detected upon the persons of idle urchins; such as half munched apples, popguns, whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant little paper gamecocks. Apparently there had been some appalling act of justice recently inflicted, for his scholars were all busily intent upon their books, or slyly whispering behind them with one eye kept upon the master; and a kind of buzzing stillness reigned throughout the school-room. It was suddenly interrupted by the ap- pearance of a negro, in tow-cloth jacket and trousers, a round- crowned fragment of a hat, like the cap of Mercury, and mounted on the back of a ragged, wild, half-broken colt, which he managed with a rope by way of halter. He came chattering up to the school-door with an invitation to Ichabod to attend a merry-making or "quilting-frolic," to be held that evening at Mynheer Van Tassel's; and have delivered his message with that air of importance, and effort at fine lan- guage, which a negro is apt to display on petty embassies of the kind, he dashed over the brook, and was seen scamper- ing away up the Hollow, full of the importance and hurry of his mission. 33. All was now bustle and hubbub in the late quiet school- room. The scholars were hurried through their lessons, with- out stopping at trifles; those who were nimble skipped over half with impunity , and those who were tardy had a smart application now and then in the rear, to quicken their speed, or help them over a tall word. Books were flung aside with- out being put away on the shelves, inkstands were over- turned, benches thrown down, and the whole school was turned loose an hour before the usual time, bursting forth like a legion of young imps, yelping and racketing about the green, in joy at their early emancipation. 34. The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half- hour at his toilet, brushing and furbishing up his best and indeed only suit of rusty black, and arranging his locks by a bit of broken looking-glass, that hung up in the school- house. That he might make his appearance before his mis- tress in the true style of a cavalier, he borrowed a horse from the farmer with whom he was domiciled, a choleric old Dutchman, of the name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gal- lantly mounted, issued forth, like a knight-errant in quest of adventures. But it is meet I should, in the true spirit of romantic story, give some account of the looks and equip- ments of my hero and his steed. The animal he bestrode was a broken-down plough-horse, that had outlived almost every- thing but his viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck and a head like a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and knotted with burrs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring and spectral; but the other had the gleam of a genuine devil in it. Still he must have had fire and mettle in his day, if we may judge from the name he bore of Gunpowder. He had, in fact, been a favorite steed of his master's, the choleric Van Ripper, who was a furious rider, and had infused, very probably, some of his own spirit into the animal; for, old and broken-down as he looked, there was more of the lurking devil in him than any young filly in the country. 35. Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed. He rode with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle; his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers'; he carried his whip perpendicularly in his hand, like a sceptre, and, as his horse jogged on, the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A small wool hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of forehead might be called; and the skirts of his black coat fluttered out almost to the horse's tail. Such was the ap- pearance of Ichabod and his steed, as they shambled out of the gate of Hans Van Ripper, and it was altogether such an apparition as is seldom to be met with in broad daylight. 36. It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day, the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubblefield. 37. The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping and frolicking, from bush to bush, and tree to tree, capricious from the very profusion and variety around them. There was the honest cockrobin, the favorite game of stripling sportsmen, with its loud querulous notes; and the twittering blackbirds flying in stable clouds; and the golden-winged woodpecker, with his crimson crest, his broad black gorget, and splendid plumage; and the cedar-bird, with its red-tipt wings and yellow-tipt tail, and its little monteiro cap a feathers; and the blue jay, the noisy coxcomb, in his gay light-blue coat and white under-clothes, screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove. 38. As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverlets, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty-pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most lux- urious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields, breathing the odor of the bee-hive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel. 39. Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and "sugared suppositions," he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills which look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty Hudson. The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down into the west. The wide bosom of the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting that there and there a gentle undulation waved and prolonged the blue shadow of the distant mountain. A few amber clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a purple apple-green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-heaven. A slant- ing ray lingered on the woody crests of the precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater depth to the dark-gray and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop was loi- tering in the distance, dropping slowly down with the tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast; and as the reflection of the sky gleamed along the still water, it seemed as if the vessel was suspended in the air. 40. It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Heer Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the adjacent country. Old farmers, a spare leathern-faced race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles. Their brisk withered little dames, in close crimped caps, long- waisted shortgowns, homespun petticoats, with scissors and pincushions, and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside. Buxom lasses, almost as antiquated as their mothers, ex- cepting where a straw hat, a fine ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovations. The sons, in short square-skirted coats with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and their hair generally queued in the fashion of the times, especially if they should procure an eel-skin for the purpose, it being esteemed, throughout the country, as a potent nourisher and strengthener of the hair. 41. Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come to the gathering on his favorite steed, Daredevil, a creature, like himself, full of mettle and mischief, and which no one but himself could manage. He was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious animals, given to all kinds of tricks, which kept the rider in constant risk of his neck, for he held a tractable well-broken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit. 42. Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel's mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea- table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped-up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger-cakes and honey-cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And ten there were apple-pies and peach-pies and pumpkin-pies; be- sides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly tea-pot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst——Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty. 43. He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer; and whose spirits rose with eating as some men's do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable lux- ury and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he'd turn his back upon the old school-house; snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper, and every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out-of-doors that should dare to call him comrade! 44. Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated with content and good-humor, round and jolly as the harvest-moon. His hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to "fall to, and help themselves." 45. And now the sound of the music from the common room, or hall, summoned to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed negro, who had been the itinerant orchestra of the neighborhood for more than half a century. His in- strument was as old and battered as himself. The greater part of the time he scraped on two or three strings accom- panying every movement of the bow with a motion of the head; bowing almost to the ground and stamping with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to start. 46. Ichabod prided himself upon the dancing as much as upon his vocal powers. Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to have see his loosely hung frame in full motion, and clattering about the room, you would have thought Saint Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person. He was the admiration of all the negroes; who, having gathered, of all ages and sizes, from the farm and the neighborhood, stood forming a pyramid of shining black faces at every door and window, gazing with delight at the scene, rolling their white eyeballs, and showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear. How could the flogger of urchins be otherwise than animated and joyous? the lady of his heart was his partner in the dance, and smiling gra- ciously in reply to all his amorous oglings; while Brom Bomes, sorely smitten with love and jealousy, sat brooding by him- self in one corner. 47. When the dance was at an end, Ichabod was attracted to a knot of the sager folks, who, with old Van Tassel, sat smoking at one end of the piazza, gossiping over former times, and drawing out long stories about the war. 48. This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war; it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding, and infested with refugees, cow-bows, and all kinds of border chivalry. Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each story-teller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and, in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit. 49. There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue- bearded Dutchman, who had nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron nine-pounder from a mud breastwork, only that his gun burst at the sixth discharge. And there was an old gentleman who shall be nameless, being too rich a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in the battle of White- plains, being an excellent master of defence, parried a musket- ball with a small sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade, and glance off at the hilt; in proof of which he was ready at any time to show the sword, with the hilt a little bent. There were several more that had been equally great in the field, not one of whom but was persuaded that he had a considerable hand in bringing the war to a happy termination. 50. But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and apparitions that succeeded. The neighborhood is rich in legendary treasures of the kind. Local tales and supersti- tions thrive best in these sheltered long-settled retreats; but are trampled underfoot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap, and turn them- selves in their graves before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquain- tance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts, except in our long-established Dutch communities. 51. The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories in these parts was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land. Sev- era of the Sleepy Hollow people were present at Van Tassel's, and, as usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major André was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood. Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The chief part of the stories,however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the headless horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the church- yard. 52. The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent whitewashed walls shine mod- estly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime, but occasionally a fearful dark- ness at night. This was pone of the favorite haunts of the headless horseman; and the place where he was most fre- quently encountered. The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the horse- man returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the bridge; when the horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree- tops with a clap of thunder. 53. This story was immediately matched by a thrice mar- vellous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that, on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but, just as they came to the church-bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire. 54. All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large extracts from his invaluable author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvellous events that had taken place in his native State of Connecticut, and fearful sights which he had seen in his nightly walks about the Sleepy Hollow. 
from THE SKETCH-BOOK OF GEOFFREY CRAYON, GENT., TOGETHER WITH ABBOTSFORD AND OTHER SELECTIONS FROM THE WRITINGS OF WASHINGTON IRVING. EDITED WITH COMMENTS, NOTES, BIBLIOGRAPHY, AND TOPICS FOR STUDY, BY H. A. DAVIDSON, M.A. COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY D. C. HEATH & CO., PUBLISHERS, BOSTON, NEW YORK, CHICAGO.; pp. 312—322.
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2019.08.04 07:12 anti-ZOG-sci-fry Chaotic States of Amnesia (Part 1)

Chaotic States of Amnesia (Part 1)
by Jayge 8^J
I can't produce as revealing & depressing a book as Pulitzer Prize winning journalist & Presbyterian minister Chris Hedges' work America: The Farewell Tour, but I can write about my impressions & insights from it. All 4 library books here are borrowed & UH will buy it if any student, faculty, or staff asks. Its 7 chapter headings alone offer enough clues: Decay, Heroin, Work, Sadism, Hate, Gambling, & Freedom. His 1st chapter said that Karl Marx foresaw Capitalism's inevitable collapse & parasitic feeding off its host, like what's happening to some rustbelt cities. Despite nearly daily mass shootings, we haven't seen any levels of violence Marx predicted. Maybe we can expect them in Trump's 2nd term, once the privatization & gutting of infrastructure, education, & social programs are well underway. Big Pharma has dumped opiates onto underemployed whites with similar intensity as CIA heroin & crack infested Black & Latin communities. Wealth-sucking casinos increasingly replace union jobs in manufacturing. Politicians, bribed & cajoled by slick lobbyists, give more tax breaks, favors, & government contracts to corporations & the uber-rich. The rest of us are free to be their slaves.
"...The United States of Amnesia...Gore Vidal coined the expression 'the United States of Amnesia' in a 2004 book about George W. Bush’s America. The particular instance of amnesia Vidal highlighted with that phrase was the failure of those then waging the 'war on drugs' to remember the disasters of the prohibition of alcohol sales in the 1930s, and the ensuing corruption, gangsters, and smuggling rings that came with it. His larger point, however, was that, in general, American historical memory is short. Thirteen years after Vidal’s book appeared, and with a new Republican administration ascendant, it seems that this country is in danger of sinking ever deeper into a state of amnesia. And can there be any question that, in a distinctly Orwellian fashion, the new administration is doing everything in its power to hasten that process? As the Trump administration prepares for a new 'surge' on the perpetual battlefield that is Afghanistan, we’ve conveniently forgotten how little the last one achieved. We’ve forgotten how deregulation led to the Great Recession, as the federal Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission concluded in 2011. 'The greatest tragedy,' that panel wrote, 'would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again.' Yet the Republicans in Congress can’t wait to repeal Dodd-Frank, the law that restored a semblance of regulation to the world of commercial banking. The fifth-century African bishop St. Augustine was probably the first western thinker to pay attention to human memory. In his Confessions, Augustine observes that it is memory – the ability to bring into present awareness past experiences and the ability to recognize the difference between past, present, and future – that makes us self-aware beings. He described the 'vast hall of my memory,' where 'I meet myself and recall what I am, what I have done, and when and where and how I was affected when I did it.' It is on the basis of memory, he added, that 'I reason about future actions and events and hopes, and again think of all these things in the present. ‘I shall do this and that,’ I say to myself within that vast recess of my mind which is full of many rich images, and this act or that follows.' If Augustine was right and memory gives us our selves, allowing us to 'reason about future actions and events and hopes,' then a political regime that seeks to destroy its people’s memory is an existential threat. In that case, the first act of resistance is to remember who we are." -- https://www.nationofchange.org/2017/05/26/down-the-memory-hole/
"We Are Living in Trump’s United States of Amnesia By Rebecca Gordon & Tom Dispatch May 25, 2017, 6:46 AM GMT The Trump administration seems intent on tossing recent history down the memory hole. Admittedly, Americans have never been known for their strong grasp of facts about their past. Still, as we struggle to keep up with the constantly shifting explanations and pronouncements of the new administration, it becomes ever harder to remember the events of yesterday, let alone last week, or last month. The Credibility Swamp...Trump and his spokespeople routinely substitute “alternative facts” for what a friend of mine calls consensus reality, the world that most of us recognize. Whose inaugural crowd was bigger, Barack Obama’s or Donald Trump’s? It doesn’t matter what you remember, or even what’s in the written accounts or photographic record. What matters is what the administration now says happened then. In other words, for Trump and his people, history in any normal sense simply doesn’t exist, and that’s a danger for the rest of us. Think of the Trumpian past as a website that can be constantly updated to fit the needs of the present. You may believe you still remember something that used to be there, but it’s not there now. As it becomes increasingly harder to find, can you really trust your own memory? In recent months, revisions of that past have sometimes come so blindingly fast that the present has simply been overrun, as was true with the firing of FBI Director James Comey. First, the president ordered up some brand new supporting documents from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein. These were designed to underpin his line that Comey was fired on their recommendation -- for being “unfair” to Hillary Clinton. Then, even as his surrogates were out peddling that very story, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that, “regardless of [Sessions’ and Rosenstein’s] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey.” And he explained why: “And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’” Which rationale for Comey’s departure is true? Both? Neither? What is “truth” after all? When the need to ask such questions occurs once in a while, it’s anomalous enough that we notice. We have time to remark that someone or various people in this story -- Sessions, Rosenstein, the surrogates, Trump himself -- are mistaken or even lying. Fortunately, in the case of Comey’s firing, journalists are still reporting the lies, but what happens if the rewrites of our recent history begin to come so fast that we stop keeping up? During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon Johnson was famously said to have a “credibility gap.” People, including journalists, had stopped believing everything his administration said about one very important topic: the war. Trump doesn’t have a credibility gap; he’s tossed us into a credibility swamp. We’re all there together swimming in a mire of truth and lies, with the occasional firecracker thrown in just to see if we’re still paying attention. If the age of Trump doesn’t end relatively soon, the daily effort to sort out what happened from what didn’t may eventually become too much for many of us. Memory fatigue may set in, and the whole project of keeping the past in focus shelved. In that case, we might very well start to give up the concept of citizenship altogether and decide instead to just get on with our own private uninsured, underpaid, and overworked lives. Sometimes it's easier to simply adjust to an ever-changing official version of reality than to keep up a constant, unrewarding struggle to remember. This was the phenomenon George Orwell described so unforgettably in his dystopian novel 1984. His hero, Winston Smith, becomes aware that the sole party that runs his country incessantly rewrites the past to its own liking and advantage. In fact, he realizes that “the past not only changed, but changed continuously.” Like most inhabitants of the mega-state of Oceania, it wasn’t that Smith couldn’t accept such a reality. He could. What he couldn’t shake was a nightmarish sense “that he had never clearly understood why” the Party needed to do it. “The immediate advantages of falsifying the past were obvious, but the ultimate motive was mysterious” to him. That “ultimate motive,” he eventually realizes, is to so destroy people’s hold on memory that they come to believe that truth genuinely is whatever the Party says it is. ”In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five, and you would have to believe it. It was inevitable that they should make that claim sooner or later: the logic of their position demanded it. Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable?” Does President Trump know what he’s doing? Does he know that, in a more chaotic fashion than Orwell’s “Big Brother,” he’s grinding away at American memories, threatening to turn them into so much rubble? It’s hard to say; he appears to be incapable of either self-reflection or planning, indeed of acting in any way except on impulse. He does, however, seem to know in an intuitive way what works for him, what gets him things he wants, as he has his whole professional life. He’s called his method “truthful hyperbole.” And regardless of what he himself understands, there are certainly people around him who do grasp all too well the usefulness of that “ultimate motive,” of convincing the public that facts are not all that stubborn after all. The Memory Hole...Supplying alternative facts is one way of destroying memory. Erasing real facts is another. In Orwell’s 1984, there was a slot in the wall at the Ministry of Truth where Winston Smith worked, a memory hole, into which inconvenient documents could be fed to be consumed forever by a huge basement furnace. There are, it seems, plenty of memory holes in Washington these days. Since January, the Trump administration has been systematically removing from federal websites inconvenient information on subjects as diverse as climate change and occupational health and safety, and replacing it with anodyne messages. Take, for instance, this one, which you get when you search the Environmental Protection Agency’s website for the term “climate change” and click on links that search turns up: “This page is being updated. “Thank you for your interest in this topic. We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator [Scott] Pruitt. If you're looking for an archived version of this page, you can find it on the January 19 snapshot.” " -- https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/we-are-living-trumps-united-states-amnesia
"The Rule of the Uber-Rich Means Tyranny or Revolution by Chris Hedges 10/22/2018 At the age of 10 I was sent as a scholarship student to a boarding school for the uber-rich in Massachusetts. I lived among the wealthiest Americans for the next eight years. I listened to their prejudices and saw their cloying sense of entitlement. They insisted they were privileged and wealthy because they were smarter and more talented. They had a sneering disdain for those ranked below them in material and social status, even the merely rich. Most of the uber-rich lacked the capacity for empathy and compassion. They formed elite cliques that hazed, bullied and taunted any nonconformist who defied or did not fit into their self-adulatory universe. It was impossible to build a friendship with most of the sons of the uber-rich. Friendship for them was defined by “what’s in it for me?” They were surrounded from the moment they came out of the womb by people catering to their desires and needs. They were incapable of reaching out to others in distress—whatever petty whim or problem they had at the moment dominated their universe and took precedence over the suffering of others, even those within their own families. They knew only how to take. They could not give. They were deformed and deeply unhappy people in the grip of an unquenchable narcissism. It is essential to understand the pathologies of the uber-rich. They have seized total political power. These pathologies inform Donald Trump, his children, the Brett Kavanaughs, and the billionaires who run his administration. The uber-rich cannot see the world from anyone’s perspective but their own. People around them, including the women whom entitled men prey upon, are objects designed to gratify momentary lusts or be manipulated. The uber-rich are almost always amoral. Right. Wrong. Truth. Lies. Justice. Injustice. These concepts are beyond them. Whatever benefits or pleases them is good. What does not must be destroyed. The pathology of the uber-rich is what permits Trump and his callow son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to conspire with de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman, another product of unrestrained entitlement and nepotism, to cover up the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, whom I worked with in the Middle East. The uber-rich spend their lives protected by their inherited wealth, the power it wields and an army of enablers, including other members of the fraternity of the uber-rich, along with their lawyers and publicists. There are almost never any consequences for their failures, abuses, mistreatment of others and crimes. This is why the Saudi crown prince and Kushner have bonded. They are the homunculi the uber-rich routinely spawn. The rule of the uber-rich, for this reason, is terrifying. They know no limits. They have never abided by the norms of society and never will. We pay taxes—they don’t. We work hard to get into an elite university or get a job—they don’t. We have to pay for our failures—they don’t. We are prosecuted for our crimes—they are not. The uber-rich live in an artificial bubble, a land called Richistan, a place of Frankenmansions and private jets, cut off from our reality. Wealth, I saw, not only perpetuates itself but is used to monopolize the new opportunities for wealth creation. Social mobility for the poor and the working class is largely a myth. The uber-rich practice the ultimate form of affirmative action, catapulting white, male mediocrities like Trump, Kushner and George W. Bush into elite schools that groom the plutocracy for positions of power. The uber-rich are never forced to grow up. They are often infantilized for life, squalling for what they want and almost always getting it. And this makes them very, very dangerous. Political theorists, from Aristotle and Karl Marx to Sheldon Wolin, have warned against the rule of the uber-rich. Once the uber-rich take over, Aristotle writes, the only options are tyranny and revolution. They do not know how to nurture or build. They know only how to feed their bottomless greed. It’s a funny thing about the uber-rich: No matter how many billions they possess, they never have enough. They are the Hungry Ghosts of Buddhism. They seek, through the accumulation of power, money and objects, an unachievable happiness. This life of endless desire often ends badly, with the uber-rich estranged from their spouses and children, bereft of genuine friends. And when they are gone, as Charles Dickens wrote in “A Christmas Carol,” most people are glad to be rid of them. C. Wright Mills in “The Power Elite,” one of the finest studies of the pathologies of the uber-rich, wrote: They exploited national resources, waged economic wars among themselves, entered into combinations, made private capital out of the public domain, and used any and every method to achieve their ends. They made agreements with railroads for rebates; they purchased newspapers and bought editors; they killed off competing and independent businesses and employed lawyers of skill and statesmen of repute to sustain their rights and secure their privileges. There is something demonic about these lords of creation; it is not merely rhetoric to call them robber barons. Corporate capitalism, which has destroyed our democracy, has given unchecked power to the uber-rich. And once we understand the pathologies of these oligarchic elites, it is easy to chart our future. The state apparatus the uber-rich controls now exclusively serves their interests. They are deaf to the cries of the dispossessed. They empower those institutions that keep us oppressed—the security and surveillance systems of domestic control, militarized police, Homeland Security and the military—and gut or degrade those institutions or programs that blunt social, economic and political inequality, among them public education, health care, welfare, Social Security, an equitable tax system, food stamps, public transportation and infrastructure, and the courts. The uber-rich extract greater and greater sums of money from those they steadily impoverish. And when citizens object or resist, they crush or kill them. The uber-rich care inordinately about their image. They are obsessed with looking at themselves. They are the center of their own universe. They go to great lengths and expense to create fictional personas replete with nonexistent virtues and attributes. This is why the uber-rich carry out acts of well-publicized philanthropy. Philanthropy allows the uber-rich to engage in moral fragmentation. They ignore the moral squalor of their lives, often defined by the kind of degeneracy and debauchery the uber-rich insist is the curse of the poor, to present themselves through small acts of charity as caring and beneficent. Those who puncture this image, as Khashoggi did with Salman, are especially despised. And this is why Trump, like all the uber-rich, sees a critical press as the enemy. It is why Trump’s and Kushner’s eagerness to conspire to help cover up Khashoggi’s murder is ominous. Trump’s incitements to his supporters, who see in him the omnipotence they lack and yearn to achieve, to carry out acts of violence against his critics are only a few steps removed from the crown prince’s thugs dismembering Khashoggi with a bone saw. And if you think Trump is joking when he suggests the press should be dealt with violently you understand nothing about the uber-rich. He will do what he can get away with, even murder. He, like most of the uber-rich, is devoid of a conscience. The more enlightened uber-rich, the East Hamptons and Upper East Side uber-rich, a realm in which Ivanka and Jared once cavorted, look at the president as gauche and vulgar. But this distinction is one of style, not substance. Donald Trump may be an embarrassment to the well-heeled Harvard and Princeton graduates at Goldman Sachs, but he serves the uber-rich as assiduously as Barack Obama and the Democratic Party do. This is why the Obamas, like the Clintons, have been inducted into the pantheon of the uber-rich. It is why Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump were close friends. They come from the same caste. There is no force within ruling institutions that will halt the pillage by the uber-rich of the nation and the ecosystem. The uber-rich have nothing to fear from the corporate-controlled media, the elected officials they bankroll or the judicial system they have seized. The universities are pathetic corporation appendages. They silence or banish intellectual critics who upset major donors by challenging the reigning ideology of neoliberalism, which was formulated by the uber-rich to restore class power. The uber-rich have destroyed popular movements, including labor unions, along with democratic mechanisms for reform that once allowed working people to pit power against power. The world is now their playground. In “The Postmodern Condition” the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard painted a picture of the future neoliberal order as one in which “the temporary contract” supplants “permanent institutions in the professional, emotional, sexual, cultural, family and international domains, as well as in political affairs.” This temporal relationship to people, things, institutions and the natural world ensures collective self-annihilation. Nothing for the uber-rich has an intrinsic value. Human beings, social institutions and the natural world are commodities to exploit for personal gain until exhaustion or collapse. The common good, like the consent of the governed, is a dead concept. This temporal relationship embodies the fundamental pathology of the uber-rich. The uber-rich, as Karl Polanyi wrote, celebrate the worst kind of freedom—the freedom “to exploit one’s fellows, or the freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community, the freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit, or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage.” At the same time, as Polanyi noted, the uber-rich make war on the “freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s own job.” The dark pathologies of the uber-rich, lionized by mass culture and mass media, have become our own. We have ingested their poison. We have been taught by the uber-rich to celebrate the bad freedoms and denigrate the good ones. Look at any Trump rally. Watch any reality television show. Examine the state of our planet. We will repudiate these pathologies and organize to force the uber-rich from power or they will transform us into what they already consider us to be—the help." -- https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-rule-of-the-uber-rich-means-tyranny-or-revolution/
"Profiting from pain: Big Pharma, big marketing, and opiate addiction by Marc on January 30, 2018 in Connect This guest post addresses a complex and emotionally-loaded issue: the link between pharmaceutical opiates (and the questionable way they’ve been advertised and marketed) and the current “opioid crisis” or overdose epidemic. Nick does a splendid job of recounting key milestones and contextualizing them within the history of Big Pharma...by Nick Johns...With the number of regulatory departments and protective measures in place today, we as consumers are inclined to believe that a product or service has been proven safe before it’s approved for public use. We’d like to think that if something turns out to be dangerous or harmful, the responsible party will be held accountable and similar situations will be prevented in the future. Unfortunately, in the complex and tangled world of pharmaceutical drugs, that is frequently not the case. Take for example Pradaxa, an anticoagulant and blood thinner most often prescribed to treat and prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke following hip or knee replacement surgery. The medication managed to obtain FDA approval five years before its reversal agent, Praxbind (an antidote to Pradaxa designed to reverse its effects and prevent uncontrollable bleeding) became available, leading to incidents of severe bleeding and hundreds of deaths. Companies with ties to multiple other entities and those that have major influence on the healthcare economy are able to skirt the rules and make deals with federal agencies or court systems to avoid serious legal repercussions. Pfizer, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, marketed a drug called Bextra in 2001, a Cox-2 inhibitor. While the FDA rejected the drug at high doses for acute surgical pain, Pfizer and its marketing partner Pharmacia pitched it to anesthesiologists and surgeons anyway — at doses up to twice what the FDA had approved as safe. What effect have these historically loose controls had on the present overdose epidemic? Sidestepping regulations to bring potentially unsafe drugs to market is only part of a larger problem, and it isn’t the only method that pharmaceutical companies have employed in pursuit of profit. When it was released in 1995, Purdue Pharma’s now-infamous opiate painkiller OxyContin was hailed as a breakthrough in pain management. The active ingredient of OxyContin is oxycodone, a long-lasting narcotic with up to twice the strength of morphine (milligram by milligram). Prior to OxyContin, doctors had historically been reluctant to write prescriptions for powerful opioids outside of end-of-life care or acute cancer pain due to fear of the addictive properties of the drugs. In order to shift this perception, Purdue Pharma launched a massive marketing campaign to diminish concerns about addiction and to promote OxyContin as a safe treatment for an increasing range of ailments. At the forefront of the campaign, and differentiating OxyContin from other narcotics on the market such as Vicodin and Percocet, was the patented time-release formula — a characteristic which Purdue claimed was responsible for the drug’s purported addiction rate of “less than 1 percent”. This, employees of Purdue claimed, made the drug a safe choice for CNCP (chronic non-cancer pain) patients. In an effort to maximize the efficacy of their marketing efforts, Purdue compiled profiles of doctors and their prescribing habits into databases used to identify where their campaigns would have the most success. This aggressive marketing tactic coupled with an incredibly lucrative bonus structure for sales representatives (a range of $15,000 to nearly $240,000 on top of a representative’s average annual salary of $55,000 in 2001) led to a tremendous increase in the number of visits to physicians with higher than average rates of opioid prescription. While pitching OxyContin, sales representatives for Purdue even reportedly claimed to some healthcare providers that the drug, now frequently compared to heroin in terms of potency and risk of addiction, didn’t even cause a buzz. For millions of patients, a prescription for OxyContin provided crucial relief from debilitating pain. For many, however, addiction became so severe that the period of withdrawal between doses became unbearable — especially if the recommended dosage was exceeded. Purdue’s marketing campaign for OxyContin reached its peak in the early 2000s, and sales of prescription opioids (with Oxycontin in the lead) quadrupled between 1999 and 2016. During that same period, over 200,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids — with many cases involving a mix of other drugs and/or alcohol. While federal regulations have since cracked down on OxyContin and tightened around pharmaceutical practices, the opioid epidemic is far from over. Patients addicted to prescription painkillers can eventually find them too expensive or too difficult to obtain, and may turn to other drugs instead — heroin in particular. Drug-related deaths are climbing at an alarming rate, and many can be linked to the addition of fentanyl to street drugs. But there’s little doubt that Oxycontin prescriptions greatly contributed to a wave of addictions that has yet to subside. With prescription opioids potentially serving as dangerous gateways to fentanyl-laced illicit drugs, it’s clear that attention needs to shift to pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and physicians. Doctors and healthcare professionals can help by screening and regularly monitoring for substance overuse or addiction, and by prescribing painkillers only when other treatment options have proven ineffective. Patients can help by never sharing or selling prescription pain medications, and by taking steps to ensure that they are the only ones with access to their painkillers. Friends and loved ones can help by monitoring patients for correct usage of prescription pain medications, staying alert for any signs of prescription drug overuse, and questioning and challenging potentially dangerous habits before they become entrenched. The battle can be won, but we all must fight together." -- http://www.memoirsofanaddictedbrain.com/connect/profiting-from-pain-big-pharma-big-marketing-and-opiate-addiction/
"Government-organized pogroms against the Jews deflected attention from the corrupt regime. It is arguable which of the Russian Czars was the worst to the Jews. We'll start with Czar Nicholas I (who ruled from 1825 to 1855) as one of the prime contenders and work our way down. In 1827, Czar Nicholas I introduced what became known as the Cantonist Decrees. (The name came from the word "canton," meaning "military camp.") These decrees called for the forced conscription of Jewish boys into the Russian Army. These boys were between the ages of 12 and 18 and were forced to serve for 25 years! During their army service, every effort was made to convert them to Christianity. Due to the horrendous conditions under which they were forced to serve, many of the boys who were conscripted didn't survive, and if they did, few continued to identify themselves as Jews. As far as the Jewish community was concerned, either way was a death sentence. Some Jewish parents were so desperate they would actually cut off the right index finger of their sons with a butcher's knife ― without an index finger you couldn't fire a gun and you were exempt from service. Other people would try and bribe their kid's way out. The Cantonist Decrees raise the level of pressure on the Jewish community to new extremes. Each Jewish community was responsible to produce a certain number of boys for the army and the community leadership was held responsible for failure to meet this quota. It's not to hard to imagine the turmoil caused by forcing community leaders to decide which boys had to go and which boys could stay. If that wasn't bad enough, there was the government-sponsored anti-Semitism. Protocols of the Elders of Zion...Around the turn of the century (It was first published in 1903), the Russian secret police began to circulate a forgery which became the most famous anti-Semitic "document" in history ― The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. These protocols purported to be the minutes of a secret meeting of world Jewish leaders, which supposedly took place once every hundred years for the purpose of plotting how to manipulate and control the world in the next century. As ridiculous as this might sound to us today, the Protocols were seized upon as "proof" that the world was dominated by Jews who were responsible for all of the world's problems. Fans and proponents of the Protocols have included such anti-Semites as: Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company; Adolf Hitler, as might be expected; Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser; and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, among others. Despite the fact that the Protocols are a proven forgery whose allegations are completely ridiculous, an expression of the worst kind of anti-Semitism, the Protocols continue to sell briskly today and are carried by such huge bookstore chains as Barnes and Noble and amazon.com in the name of freedom of speech. Pogroms...We spoke of pogroms ― mob violence against Jews ― in Part 49 when we covered the murderous attacks of the Ukrainian Cossack Bogdan Chmielnicki in 17th century Poland. In Czarist Russia, there were so many pogroms against the Jews that it is simply impossible to even begin to list them all. (In one four year period there were 284 pogroms, for example.) These pogroms were seldom spontaneous, though incitement by Christian clergy around the Christian holidays could drive the masses into a frenzy. However, in Czarist Russia, most of the pogroms were government organized. Why would the Czarist government organize mobs to target Jews? Because Jews were the classic scapegoats for the economic problems of Russia (and many other countries in history). Of course, the problems of Russia had nothing to do with the Jews. The problems of Russia had to do with a totally backward, feudal, and highly corrupt regime. One of the ways of diverting attention from the corruption was to blame the Jews and to allow the masses to blow off steam by taking it out on the Jews. The problems of Russia got worse after Czar Alexander II (who was one of the more competent Czars and who was relatively benign to the Jews) was assassinated in 1881 by an anarchist who threw a bomb at his carriage. And when the problems of Russia got worse, the problems of the Jews got worse as well. The government of the new Czar, Alexander III (who ruled 1881-1894) organized one pogrom after another to keep the anger of the masses focused on the Jews. In addition to the pogroms, Alexander III promulgated a series of laws against the Jews. These laws were called the May Laws and they included such prohibitions as: "It is henceforth forbidden for Jews to settle outside the cities and townships." "The registration of property and mortgages in the names of Jews is to be halted temporarily. Jews are also prohibited from administering such properties."
"It is forbidden for Jews to engage in commerce on Sundays and Christian holidays." Writes Berel Wein in Triumph of Survival (p. 173) of the reign of Alexander III: "Expulsions, deportations, arrests, and beatings became the daily lot of the Jews, not only of their lower class, but even of the middle class and the Jewish intelligentsia. The government of Alexander III waged a campaign of war against its Jewish inhabitants... The Jews were driven and hounded, and emigration appeared to be the only escape from the terrible tyranny of the Romanovs." It did not help matters any that during the reign of Alexander III a terrible famine struck Russia in which 400,000 peasants died. Those who survived were bitter and their resentments grew (which would erupt eventually in an aborted revolution in 1905 and the successful Russian Revolution which ushered in Communist rule in 1917.) The Last Romanov...When Alexander III died, he was succeeded by Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs whose incompetence and inflexibility helped bring about the Russian Revolution. The new Czar had to cope with the mess left behind by his father and he did so badly. During his reign one of the most famous pogroms took place ― in Kishinev, on Easter (April 6-7), 1903. The Kishinev pogrom happened when there was a lot of tension in Russia (two years before the first, unsuccessful revolution). Wanting to dispel the tension, the Czarist government once again organized a pogrom against the Jews. Strange as it may sound, the Kishinev pogrom received a lot of international attention. This was because by this time pogroms were something that the "enlightened" Western World no longer found acceptable. (If only they knew what they themselves would do to the Jews 40 years later!) Here is an excerpt from a description of the pogrom printed in the New York Times: "It is impossible to account the amounts of goods destroyed in a few hours. The hurrahs of the rioting. The pitiful cries of the victims filled the air. Wherever a Jew was met he was savagely beaten into insensibility. One Jew was dragged from a streetcar and beaten until the mob thought he was dead. The air was filled with feathers and torn bedding. Every Jewish household was broken into and the unfortunate Jews in their terror endeavored to hide in cellars and under roofs. The mob entered the synagogue, desecrated the biggest house of worship and defiled the Scrolls of the Law. "The conduct of the intelligent Christians was disgraceful. They made no attempt to check the rioting. They simply walked around enjoying the frightful sport. On Tuesday, the third day, when it became known that the troops had received orders to shoot, the rioters ceased." After two days of mayhem, the Czar said, "Okay enough ― mission accomplished. Now it's time to stop it." And it stopped. 118 Jewish men, women and children were murdered, 1,200 were wounded and 4,000 families were rendered homeless and destitute. There were also 12,000 Russian soldier in the city who did nothing for two days. Until the next time. Between 1903 and 1907 was a period of great internal unrest in Russia. Nicholas's incompetence coupled with excessive taxation and the humiliating defeat of Russia during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) let to the first Russian Revolution in 1905 which led to a few short-lived reforms in the government. This period also proved disastrous for the Jewish community there were 284 pogroms with over 50,000 casualties. The level of violence was unbelievable. There was only so much of this kind of thing that people could take. The Jewish community was being devastated and people were looking for a way out. Jews were running out of the shtetls and joining all of the anarchist, communist, socialist, Bundist movements that they could find in the hopes that they would be able to change the situation in Russia. Jews have been history's great idealists and during this time they were desperate to find some way of making things better. (We will cover their activism when we discuss the events surrounding World War I.) Another thing that was happening in this time period was emigration. We see mass emigration of Jews out of Russia. Between 1881 and 1914, some 50,000 or more Jews left every year to a estimated total of 2.5 million Jews. Despite these migrations, the Jewish population of Russia stayed constant ― at about 5 million Jews, due the very high birthrate. Had these Jews not left Russia there would have been 7-8 million Jews there. And it was America which absorbed most of the Jewish immigrants during this period of time. Golden Land...We might recall (from Part 23) when the Jews were exile by the Babylonians, the exile had happened in two stages. First the Babylonians took away 10,000 of the best and the brightest, and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because when the Jews arrive in Babylon, there is a Jewish infrastructure in place. Yeshivas had been established, synagogues built, there was a kosher butcher and a mikveh. Jewish life could continue and as a result we saw hardly any assimilation during the Babylonian exile. However, when the poor Jews of Russia arrived en masse in America at the end of the 19th century ― passing through the famous Ellis Island ― they found no Jewish infrastructure in place. The Jews who had preceded them in the migration of the 1830s were German Jews (about 280,000 of them). These German Jews ― who resented the poorer Russian Jews ― were either Reform, (and did not believe that the Torah was God-given nor in any specific God-given law that Jews had to keep) or they were secular Jews who totally eschewed Jewish tradition. Thus, the poor Russian Jews stepped into the Golden Land of Assimilation as we shall see in the next installment." -- aish.com
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2018.12.10 23:39 Nec_Di_Nec_Domini A Clerical Error

Course: XenoBiology
Instructor: Professor Ed (Note: The Professor's real name is unpronounceable to the majority of sapients thus a monosyllabic name was chosen at random by his previous institution.)
Rating: 4.7/5
Top Comment: Beware the Chalk.
Most asked: What’s Chalk?
Most Helpful: Good luck on the first day. Take the bags.
***

Lecture Hall 47, was, by far, the largest one in the complex. It was a point of pride for Professor Ed something that he, in his mind, had earned. It also had the dubious honor of possessing a piece of history so archaic that it was shunned by every other professor in the university: A blackboard. Blackboards were, according to the professor, one of the few useful things Humanity had provided in the two decades post contact. It’s not that his people, or any other people for that matter, were incapable of producing slate and chalk it's that nobody else clung to such archaic traditions with quite as much vigor. But it was a useful one, and thus it was tolerated, and when he was feeling charitable, it was defended. It helped him single out those students who were meticulous enough to take their own notes instead of relying on digitized lectures and holographic slides. The fact that it gave him projectiles with which to discipline the stupid and the unruly was a completely unintentional and entirely secondary benefit.
Professor Ed’s exterior mandibles twitched in excitement. It was the first day of the first semester, the heady perfume of innocence and optimism was as infectious as it was omnipresent. Many of the, arguably saner, custodial staff would claim that the professor simply spent too much time inhaling formaldehyde and cleaning agents and it had finally gotten to him. Whatever the air quality of hall 47 may have been, the true source of the Professors glee was his students. He wouldn't waste time covering the syllabus and explaining his expectations, the idiots could read it themselves. Those of them who couldn't or wouldn't had no place being at the best university in the spiral arm, if not the galaxy. He'd go strait for the throat and disabuse them of any notions of complacency, any vestiges of naivety and any, physical or psychological frailty. He hummed, a terrifying sound produced by his species vocal cords and jaws, as he lined up his chalk. The pieces used for writing, pristine and fresh from their boxes, were carefully slotted into styli to prevent premature breaking while the old ones, used for throwing, were set into four distinct piles: One for each manipulator
The doors at the front of the building unlocked and the sounds of hooves, feet, wings, suction cups and whatever else the myriad species of the galaxy used for locomotion filled the building. The cacophony of movement only occasionally disrupted by the quiet murmurs of uneasy students seeking directions. He sighed when the humans arrived. Of course, they had arrived together, of course they all knew each other, and it was only natural they would be the loudest mammals in the damn building. They weren't a bad race per se they were just...insufferably cocky. Sure, they had arrived on the galactic scene with all the subtly of a supernova, won a war, turned religious fanatics into a fine mist, and were possessed of a few amusing mutations and adaptations but still...they could at least keep up some pretense of humility. Dr. Ed was amazed that even after 20 years not a single human had been devoured by a Skrilat, especially given the number of them that had either tried to pet them or gotten drunk and tried to fight them. It might be that he was underestimating the impact that the Styx firestorms had had on the galaxy or the mental scars left by St. Urbans guns but really... it was just a matter of time.
The students finally arrived at his hall, the multitude of shapes and forms brought a renewed smile to his face. The tapestry of life was one of the most beautiful sights in the galaxy and there was no better place to witness it than a university. Every species, every race, every sapient in attendance had to coexist in close proximity without prejudice, at least on paper anyways. The confusion on the students faces as they entered the hall was one of the few things which Dr. Ed lived for, a brief moment of levity before his work began. It was a natural for a generation who had grown up rarely holding a stylus. The projectors weren’t on, there were no models to reveal the subject of the day there, there weren't even any displays, there was only the blackboard which none of the students had ever seen...almost none of them anyways.
“Dude...A Chalkboard!” One human said elbowing his friend in the ribs, shattering the moment.
“Huh? Man... it’s like being in Mrs. Braun’s class!”
The first human laughed the second one laughed with him...both were deserving targets. Chalk, fired with pinpoint accuracy, hit the two humans in the forehead shutting them up and motivating them to find their seats.
“Just like Mrs. Braun” The tall one grinned.
“Dude shut up!” The other punched him in the shoulder. A display of violence that granted them a wide berth and ensured the seats around them remained empty.
The two humans fell silent under the gaze of a cluster of their professor’s eyes, both suddenly interested in brushing the chalk dust on their clothes in silence while the other students waited in relative sedation for their professor to speak, lest they too suffer a barrage of chalk.
***

“So.” Professor Ed began letting his gaze wander the hall “Since the humans have drawn attention to themselves. Can anyone classify their home world and species?” It might be a bit beyond them but understanding the classification system was part of the reading he required his students to have done before the year began.
A student from the third row raised its appendage, the third row...where students eager not to appear too eager sat.
“Yes?”
“Homo Sapiens, the Thinking Man colloquially known as Humans, evolved on Earth. A Category 6 Death world.” The student proclaimed
Professor Ed regarded the student silently for a moment before directing his eyes to the hall at large “How many of you also know that Earth is a death world?”
Most of the hall save for the pair of humans sitting off to the side raised their appendages “How many of you KNOW that from watching the Terminatus trilogy?” Again, most of the hands, reluctantly, stayed up.
“Well. You are all, as is colloquially known” He turned all his eye clusters to the student who withered away under his glare “WRONG!” He whipped a piece of chalk at the student’s head.
“If you're going to be pompous, be right. Earth is NOT classified a Death world, and even if it were it would be a solid Category three, maybe a five if you squint and play with the data but never. NEVER. A Category 6.” He paused to survey the assembled students “Does anyone know what Earth is actually classified as?”
A few hesitant students slowly marshaled the courage to speak “E-Earth is a Crucible World.” A Syrinx chirped, wings fluttering to bat away any chalk that might go its way
“Yes.” Dr. Ed began writing on the blackboards behind him “Why are crucible worlds not scaled?
“Because there was no reason to?” The student ventured.
“Correct, conventional wisdom holds that crucible worlds are too unstable to host sapient life. Now...taking a step back.” Dr. Ed continued speaking as his lower two arms began writing on the board behind him “There is one thing that must be made abundantly clear. Everyone please read, aloud, what is written on the board.”
The hall was silent for a moment as the Professor stepped out of the way “ACTION MOVIES ARE NOT VALID SOURCES OF INFORMATION.” The walls shook with the voices of hundreds.
“Excellent. And the next person to proclaim what they heard in a human action movie as a fundamental law of the universe will cover every blackboard I can find, in this martyr damned cluster, with lines.” His third and fourth eye clusters trained on the Carlag who was having a hard time hiding his massive bulk from the professor’s predatory gaze.
“Now” Dr. Ed continued as though he hadn’t just caused the largest species in the galaxy to shrink to half its size “Some of you may be wondering why I’m harping on this, why I’m stressing the importance of nomenclature. It’s true that I have a personal stake in this, I am the highest ranked deathworlder with a doctorate from a reputable university. But more importantly” He directed his eyes, all of them, at the two humans who sat in the fourth row “I served alongside the Marshall of Fire aboard the Nautilus during its slaver hunting campaign in the early 70’s. I’ve seen what happens when sapients regard each other without the bigotry of caste, clade or, species and…” The Professor trailed off shaking his head, face twitched slightly “I know from painful personal experience what happens when we do and am also aware of the consequences when otherwise good people look away while our work is exploited.”
“Consequences?” One of the Tra’zeth asked timidly
“You mean aside from slavery?” Dr. Ed snarled, showing a part of his upper torso that had been disfigured and mangled by the hooks slavers used to control his kind. “Aside from treating sapients like animals because of a designation given by some forgotten biologist a millennium ago? Aside from that you mean…Right?” He demanded letting the Tra’zeth stutter and squirm before waving him to silence.
Everyone knew the slave trade existed, and everyone knew that in a galaxy of 250 billion stars and a trillion planets, there would always be a dark corner for slavers to hide. But as far as these children of the rich and powerful were concerned, slavery and piracy were a problem for people who wore cheap uniforms and wielded cheaper guns. What did they care about pirates in the trade lanes or slavers on the fringe when they had private security, personal ships and never left the core? So, for them it was a shock to stand face to face and be lectured by an ex slave, especially a chattel slave whose body bore the scars and mangled limbs of years of forced labor. A shock they desperately needed if they wanted to delve into Xenobiology and Xenopsychology. If they couldn't survive even such a mild shock without suffering a fit of vapours well...Dr. Ed was not known for tolerating the weak of spirit.
“Do you know what the Marshall asked when he came to the cage, it wasn't comfortable enough to call a cell, I had been left in?” Some of his students, the ones who had taken the course planning to pass time, twitched towards the doors “When his men broke open the cages of the others, they tried to kill their would-be rescuers. So thoroughly had my people been reduced, so completely had they been reduced to animals, that as his men broke their cages open, their only thoughts had been to kill. The last thought they had as thinking beings was of revenge so when they were made into animals, that's the only one that remained." He paused feeling his eyes roll. A hatred for slavers, a passport and, over time shared values had brought Dr. Ed closer to his human friends. Chief among them: an irrational hatred for injustice. “The only question he asked was if I planned on trying to kill him. I said no and then he gave me a gun. The rest... where I was from, what level of death world I was born on, where I had been captured, if I was a citizen of a relevant authority...because yes, I see your skepticism, some people would have left us on a burning station to die.” More students looked ready to bolt as they looked and properly took in his appearance, discomforted by his blinded eyes, his mangled limbs, his torn shoulders.
“The natural world is brutal, ruthless and remorseless..." Dr. Ed's voice rose for the first time, gaining passion and power as he spoke ".... for every good person there is a depraved savage set on making the galaxy colder and darker. For every group of herbivores there is a predator lurking in the shadows and every thing that has ever lived will die! Some brutally. As biologists you will have to observe this with dispassionate interest and absolute objectivity. As psychologists you'll often have to do more than observe and yet remain even more objective.” He raised his ruined arm to point at the doors. “Anyone disturbed by that can kindly fuck off and join another section.”
A hundred or so left, maybe more, maybe less, probably more... Dr. Ed didn’t care: his priority, his concern, his obligation was those that remained, those that would at least try to see the world without blinders or tinted lenses. Some of those who left did so with communicators in hand, ready to call their parents and complain about the quality of the staff. Some left nauseated, unwilling or unable to handle the violent death that was so common in much of the galaxy. A facet of reality that they, as herbivores, had never had to consider as more than an abstract. Some simply realized that Dr. Ed wouldn’t suffer indolence or idiocy and his class might require effort to pass. And some, more than he would have liked, simply would not tolerate being lectured by a deathworlder slave.
“Good.” He nodded “Now the rest of this lesson I will be doing one thing and one thing only: Impressing upon you the importance of our work and the importance of being thorough, truthful and, objective. Who here is familiar with the history of the Agazid?”
Shrugs, universal shrugs, which prompted Dr. Ed to mutter a curse and wish, as he often did in situations like these, that he had a human face. Their fleshy muscular faces were capable of showing so many degrees of emotion. “A clerical error saw them classified as a low or non-sapient B6. Does anyone know the implications of such a classification?” Again, there was silence “A low or non-sapient B6 designation means that it was perfectly legal for military units to train against them in live fire exercises.”
“Sir." One of the humans spoke, he knew hot to be respectful at least "This was in the reading. The biologists classified them, the military applied for a permit, it was granted, they did what soldiers do. All the correct protocols were followed. This just seems like a standard clerical error.” One of the humans, Phillippe from French Mars according to his name tag, stated looking for an answer to his unasked question.
“Doesn’t it?” Dr. Ed sighed “Benevolent Bureaucracy or even benevolent Bureaucrats are rare on Earth and even rarer in the galaxy as a whole.” The professor chuckled at some joke no one else understood.
“The Agazid were classified as inhabiting a B6 World. Meaning that it was one of the most vicious, predatory and, dangerous worlds in the galaxy, thus, when xenobiologists landed, they were more concerned with their own safety than doing their jobs properly. When they encountered what could have been intelligent life, they wrote it off as low-sapient, because what else could evolve in such a hellhole, and nobody bothered to follow up." Dr. Ed laughed a bitter laugh "Never mind a follow up, nobody bothered to go over the initial survey reports until the atrocities came to light. When the initial survey report was released to the galaxy at large, the Kal-eth applied to use the world as a training ground for their military. An undesirable world, inhabited by undesirables in a relatively far flung region of the galaxy…” Dr. Ed trailed off to survey the class. The Kal-eth students were largely uncomfortable, those who knew what was coming were trying to repress their instinct to run and hide, a few remained defiant... until their death world professor showed his teeth. The Humans... they had read enough of their own history to know how this lecture was going to end and Philippe from French Mars felt like an idiot. Good. “Their application was quickly granted and their military set up a station in orbit to facilitate the planet side training. Kal-eth soldiers quickly encountered the Agazid and, if their logs are to be believed, enjoying using them as practice given their natural ferocity, cunning and, use of primitive tactics.”
“Shouldn’t….”
“Yes.” Dr. Ed cut the student off, his voice hard enough to cut Ruhr steel, causing the student to recoil “It should have tipped the Kal-eth off to their intelligence. It should have caused a re-evaluation but they didn’t feel obliged to concern themselves with a savage race. So what if they were intelligent? The survey had shown them to lack true sapience. The learned and trustworthy xenobiologists had classified them as such, their hands were clean. Besides, they were just soldiers who were just following orders.” Professor Ed stopped himself before his lecture turned into a rant “Not to mention that, even if anyone suspected that the Agazid were intelligent, most militaries will not forgo the opportunity to train against deathworlders if they can do so in relative safety. So, if the military wasn’t going to do spearhead a re-evaluation, it would have fallen on politicians to step in, but why would they? The world wasn’t inhabited by anyone useful or by the ‘right’ kind of species. To the political class, it wasn’t worth the possible blowback or political capital. Much better to apologize after the fact, pass the blame back to the military, and build a memorial than to risk one's career trying to stop something useful. The final hope for the Agazid lay with civil society. Now...It is important to acknowledge the realities of the universe before we continue.” He paused to watch his students and their reactions, nothing major, good.
“Nine in ten sapient species evolve on Garden Worlds, Paradise Worlds, Gardens of Eden as the humans call them. This means that the perceived default sapient is a two to six-legged flightless herding herbivore that evolved to live either exclusively or primarily on land. These species evolved on worlds that were either largely or completely devoid of large predators and lacked parasitic life forms including most viruses or bacteria. Given these non-competitive comfortable environments, most species prefer to eschew actual physical violence in favour of displays of power and force if things escalate that far. From their perspective, wars where you actually use weapons are needlessly destructive and only used as a last resort or pre-emptively when success is guaranteed. This stands in stark contrast to the remaining ten percent of life in the galaxy, species that evolved on either primarily or exclusively carnivorous worlds. On those worlds, life lives not in competition so much as in a continuous state of conflict. Among higher order creatures this process is driven more by instinct and the pursuit of glory which in turn allows social advancement than the need to feed. Violence is exceptionally commonplace and shows of force are usually only precursors to the actual use of force Additionally, moderate to high category B planets are dominated by obligate carnivores as opposed to omnivores, thus they tend towards low populations of highly aggressive individuals who, most importantly, have the capacity to act on their tendencies. Now, who wants to tell me which adjectives are frequently used to describe my kind among civil society?”
The silence was deafening, the herbivores who dominated the room sat in nervous silence, perhaps aware of the fact that the few deathworlders present could kill many of them with little or no effort and they were loathe to provoke them in such tight quarters.
Dr. Ed laughed, at least they knew when to keep silent “Even the common name for my people’s category of world should tip you all off as to how we’re viewed by the larger galaxy “Lower Deathworlders” though most people drop the ‘Lower’ and ‘Lesser’ and simply call us Deathworlders. There are also "Savage Death worlds", even more vicious and horrible than Lesser Death worlds. Lesser or Lower were frequently used due to cast doubts on our intelligence. In modern society that has fallen from use as people generally assume that deathworlders are second tier at best, while savage deathworlders are more akin to beasts of burden than sapients. Other common adjectives are: stupid, aggressive, violent, destructive, untrustworthy, lazy, disease ridden and other delightful variations on the theme. Unfortunately, given that species higher up the food chain tend towards lower overall populations and the fact that Herbivorous species outnumber carnivorous ones almost ten to one to begin with, means that ‘Deathworlders’ have been unable to muster the political capital to change our reputations.”
“Because they’re accurate.” A student couldn't help but mutter in what was, for him, a low voice but to the nine predators in the hall he might as well have shouted
“Personal beliefs, dogmas, and opinion have neither place nor bearing on our work. If you can’t accept that... Leave. I lived on Earth for two decades, I've heard slurs more creative than anything you could ever come up with.” Dr. Ed gestured to the door for a second time and let the silence drag on for a moment before continuing “So when considering the muted response of Kal-Eth civil society during the Agazid affair, we also have to consider how they were viewed by said civil society. They were a technologically backwards, deathworlder species of questionable sapience, whose existence had barely warranted a few lines on a slow news day. As such, civil society, if it was even aware of the question of their sapience, was probably not going to act in their defense when there were so many other things with which to fill their time. On top of that, many would have been willing to tolerate combat training given how close their home world is to the hinge of empires This is compounded by the fact that one of them IS a deathworlder empire. By the time the killings ended over 80% of the Agazid had been exterminated. They lost much of their technological and social progress and have regressed from bronze and iron tribal confederations to primitive, isolated, Xenophobic clans. It will be centuries at the earliest before they join the galactic community if ever and frankly most of our field is leaning towards half a millennium. That! Is why our work is so important: If we do our jobs properly, thoroughly and, well we play a central role in expanding our understanding of life in our galaxy and ensuring that all species, no matter their origins, can find a place in the larger galactic whole. However. If done poorly we simply serve a source for bigots and racists to legitimize their views. If corrupted we become tools for whatever ends our paymasters have envisioned, if done maliciously we may become complicit in genocide and the destruction of whole species and cultures."
He surveyed his students who looked like the immature students they were. They heard his lecture, they heard his speech, they heard his words...but they didn’t understand. They couldn’t... but they would. In this hall they would grow into adults or they would cry to a councillor, Dr. Ed had said as much in his course outline. They hadn’t believed it then, but they would. Because... everyone knew… that seeing was crucial to believing. He would make them see.
“All of you are wondering I’m sure, what I plan to say now. Now that my speech about responsibility, one you’ve heard a thousand times from your parents, is done” He smiled, he had too many teeth to make his smile anything more than a gruesome pantomime of the human variety.
The projectors that had sat dormant came to life, it was one thing for students to be told that their choices might lead to genocide, it was quite another to be confronted with that reality and the hall had been specially outfitted with the best projectors money could buy... and some projectors that money couldn't. It paid to have friends on Earth and Ruhr IV who would lend advanced tech to friends under the auspices of “field testing”.
***

Bodies...the Agazid were a bipedal species that could drop to all fours, this allowed them to sprint at high speeds and granted them considerable acrobatic ability for their size. Their bodies were covered in hard plates giving them a modicum of natural armour while curved horns and thicker plates covered their head preventing them from wearing helmets. Instead they opted for decorated bronze masks and additional layers of bronze and iron armour over their bodies.
Iron and Bronze that had been punched through by guns. Lasers and Plasma had done their deadly duty and cut the Agazid down like so many stalks of grain...The Kal-Eth had carried out their training missions like professionals inflicting fatal injuries without prejudice or remorse.
“As you can see, at this point the Kal-Eth were still acting like soldiers and not blood crazed lunatics. That changed shortly after the construction of the orbital station and the arrival of more experienced officers.”
The images and video clips that followed showed changes, not in the Agazid who still wore bronze and iron now with a few scraps of Kal-Eth armour. Their ability to scavenge Kal-Eth armor was a testament to their natural skills given that they had little else to rely on. The changes that the audio and video revealed were in the Kal-Eth and how they acted. Gone were the precise lethal wounds inflicted from a safe distance, in their place were deep gouges inflicted by blades, the crushing impacts of blunt force weapons and the gruesome burns of point-blank plasma. Where there was previously the efficient silence of a military force, broken only by commands, there was now the raucous noise of a frontier mercenary band. On top of that, sometimes, in some clips, they could hear how the Agazid were killed: slowly, painfully, and with obvious relish.
“What prompted this change?” Dr. Ed asked
“Undisciplined recruits?” Someone hazarded
“A good guess but no. Additional and more experienced officers had arrived with the construction of the orbital station.” Dr. Ed repeated
“I’d think hand to hand and close quarters is valuable, especially on ships” the other human ventured “but…” he shook his head, replaying the audio and video in his mind “This must’ve started out as proper training and these final sections are from later when...when something changed.”
“Excellent, but what prompted the change?” The professor prodded
“I’d have guessed a breakdown in discipline from shitty officers who couldn’t or, probably, wouldn’t keep their soldiers in line.”
“You’re right in that it did start as routine combat training exactly for boarding maneuvers. But the escalation was due to two separate factors. The first pair were boredom and indifference. Threats to ground stations kept soldiers constantly on guard and on edge, they didn't have time or energy to screw around. Once they got eyes in the sky and an orbital station, it became possible for the soldiers on the ground to relax. They knew there was no real threat, the primitive tactics that were occasionally effective in an ambush were useless when the Kal-Eth could see them coming from, literally, miles away. Bored soldiers quickly become stupid and they promptly began competing with each other, which in this case took the form of increasingly stupid engagements with the Agazid. The second reason was for revenge. Deathworlders don’t have their reputation for nothing and many of the officers who were experienced had earned that experience in piracy suppression campaigns and border skirmishes. It follows then, and deployment records back this up, that many of the friends and soldiers they had lost were to deathworlder pirates and mercenaries. They couldn’t avenge or take blood from the pirates themselves but the Agazid were functional stand-ins and when they realized that there was little to no risk of a reprimand from higher powers..." Dr. Ed shrugged, the still frame spoke for him "This second phase lasted about seven years.”
“Second phase? It gets worse?” A Capra, descended from mountain stock if appearances were anything to go by, asked. His fur clinging tightly to his body, distressed...He should be.
Dr. Ed looked at him with his dead eyes “Much. The standard contract for a Kal-Eth soldier is about seven standard years, give or take a few months. Some of them went home with fantastical stories...and even more fantastic trophies.”
This time, Dr. Ed didn’t rely on a hologram, he lifted a case onto the oversized lectern and lifted the cloth. “This Agazid skull was acquired by a Kal-Eth Sergeant during the fourth year of operations, here...” he moved another crate into position “.... we have tusks and horns which were occasionally kept whole but usually made into decorative weapons or gun stocks and finally…” he lifted a glass jar and placed it atop the skull case “.... this is an Agazid heart. Which, when properly broken down, can improve many outward signs of aging.”
“Trophy hunting.” One of the humans, Mark of Terra, whispered
“Exactly,” Dr. Ed nodded “The vanity of the upper classes never changes. Not across time and not across worlds. Some Agazid were killed for personal trophies as soldiers wanted to prove their bravery and strength. Some were killed for their various bits and pieces that were of use to the pharmaceutical industry or, more commonly, miracle cure peddlers. But those were the lucky ones...they generally died quickly given how dangerous a species they were and how much of a risk it was to leave them alive.”
“The unlucky ones?” A Syrinx asked quietly
“Records are hazy regarding exactly when this began but..." Dr. Ed paused " The unlucky ones were used for testing. Weapons testing mostly, but everything from poisons to exposure to who knows what else was carried out in secret.” Dr. Ed paused, shock, horror and, the most vehement kind of disbelief that only surfaces when someone's view of the universe if being directly challenged. “The military no longer had to worry about the public’s collective conscience now that they too had wholly embraced the status of the Agazid as being animals. This in turn meant that they no longer had to bother with the veneer of deniability. Kal-Eth leaders rationalized testing on the Agazid the same way amoral savages always have: ‘the greater good’. It was for the greater good that Agazid were used to test laser and plasma weaponry, it was for the greater good that the limits of deathworlder survivability were explored, it was for the greater good that drugs and poisons were tested on them, and it was for the greater good that they were killed in the hundreds of thousands.”
“BULLSHIT!” A Kal-Eth student exploded to his feet chest heaving, trapped with nowhere to run.
Dr. Ed chuckled “There’s one in every class. Direct your attention to the front. This is standard audio and video.”
***

“I can assure you. All our weapons have been extensively tested.” A Kal-Eth, presumably an officer, spoke, footsteps echoing off the cold metal
“But not in combat?” A human asked, he spoke one of the more heavily accented dialects.
“No.”
“So that’s why you’re offering us such a deal.” The Human chuckled
“Indeed. We need someone who’s willing to test our weapons against a... variety of targets.”
“Varied targets, I guess that’s one way of putting it.”
The two men arrived at a set of heavy doors and, for a moment, the oppressive silence of the lecture hall reasserted itself.
“What. The. Fuck.” The human breathed, and the students saw what he saw. The men stood at a walkway that crossed over a massive hall, divided roughly into four. Cages housing Agazid, a testing laboratory, a range, and a morgue where the dead were laid out and studied like so many pieces of meat.
“As I said, the weapons have been tested extensively.”
“On animals.” The Human asked, though it fell like a statement that brooked no argument.
“Of course. Sapient testing is illegal, not to mention unethical.” The Officer affirmed, voice smooth and steady
“Indeed”
Dr. Ed chuckled to himself, the predators had noticed it, the humans too: The veiled distrust and suspicion. Nobody knew what tipped the human off to the fact that the things in the cages weren’t just animals. It might have been nothing, it might have been the ethereal and inexplicable feeling that they get between their shoulder blades or it might have been an itch on his fighting hand that ran into his trigger finger. Joachim had refused to elaborate on how he knew that something was off and humans in general couldn’t explain their ‘gut feel’ in any useful way.
“That” Dr. Ed spoke up as the men on screen began signing documents “Was Joachim von Ros, a pirate turned privateer. The treaty protecting the Agazid has his name for his role in putting an end to the atrocity, and because humans love putting their names on things. Now prepare yourselves, I’ve had months.”
Dr. Ed waved a hand and the lights changed, to more accurately reflect the atmosphere of Algoth, the Agazid home world, though few students would appreciate the attention to detail. The humidity rose with the temperature to well above standard. Then came the sounds but, where there should have been the vibrant cacophony of tropical life, there were only a few cries and the omnipresent buzzing of insects. Some students snickered while others sat in guarded silence unwilling to risk the chalk. The smart ones saw the Syrinx instinctively puff their feathers, the warning call they heard might not have been a Syrinx but among avian species, warning calls were universally understood. The smell followed, Dr. Ed had spent months working with humans to concoct the right fragrance. The smell of organic rot and decay as well as that of the fresh growth and blooming flora that permeates any jungle. Then they were hit by the stench of fear; urine, feces and, a touch of sweat and finally the cloying richness of dead flesh, already decomposing the in the sweltering heat mixing the ferric stench of blood. Most of the students were retching, some had already vomited, a few proud fools had neglected to take a sick bag, further contributing further to the horrific miasma that filled the hall. Then came the projection to match, a village untouched by flame, peaceful...until you saw the bodies.
The students might not have known what a dead Agazid child looked like before, but they did now. They might not have known what a person butchered for its trophies looked like before, but they did now. They might not have known what a tortured form looked like before, but they did now. They might have been children before...but they weren’t anymore.
The scene in front of them wasn’t a statistic, wasn’t an abstract from a textbook, this was the sight, the smell, the sound of murder... of genocide.
“Son of a bitch.” The voice of Joachim von Ros from before cut through the retching that filled the hall and paralyzed even those students who had thought to flee.
“What the fuck!”
“JESUS!”
“Shit!”
“BASTARDS!”
“What the sweet hell...”
“God have mercy…”
It continued, frame after frame, as the human soldiers moved silently through the ravaged village only breaking the jungle sounds to swear at a particularly grisly scene. Parents shielding their children, elders too old to fight, beaten and left to bleed out, bodies crushed by armored vehicles...bodies...corpse after corpse, each new dwelling holding a few more mangled and desecrated corpses. Only when the last room was cleared, holding what must have been the very young. Only once the humans returned to the center of the village, where boot prints and the trails left by feet being dragged through the dirt ended where the vehicle tracks began did the projectors cut. It was a mercy to be torn from a forgotten village on Algoth and deposited back in Hall 47 where the only proof of what they had seen was the smell of vomit, but that too was processed by the ventilation systems until all they were left with were there maelstroms in their minds.
***

“Those of you who need to, clean yourselves up. I will continue.” Many left on shaking legs, eyes dazed still trying to process what they had seen, only a single handful would return. Some stayed and to those Dr. Ed would dedicate his time without reserve because they would confront whatever came at them with open eyes, they had offered sufficient proof of that.
“Three days after this footage was taken, Joachim von Ros and his crew stormed the training facility and slaughtered the soldiers on the planet. They then seized the orbital station and held the crew hostage. Four days later, and thirty minutes after the arrival of the human Titan Fleet around the the Kal-Eth homeworld and threats from every Deathworld species as well as Caralis High Command, the Kal-Eth to publicly admitted to what they had been doing and signed of the Von Ros treaty which led to the creation of protectorate class worlds. It was the fastest that large scale crisis was resolved, the threat of total annihilation tends to have that effect.” Dr.Ed chuckled “The Agazid still don’t communicate with outsiders save the human delegation that goes down once a quarter to deliver supplies and data packets and... their population will likely remain depressed for several centuries.” Dr.Ed shook his head "What you just saw was our work stretched to its most horrific extreme."
“We classify, quantify and qualify all life in the galaxy. We study, analyze, process and once all is said and done, we are the ones that assign life its final designation. We are the final arbiters of the realities which all newly discovered life will face. We determine how long and hard their road to acceptance will be. We are the ones who can, through biased and research and deceptive findings, either build up stereotypes to confirm what everyone knows. We can lend legitimacy to acts of genocide and become willing pawns in campaigns of bigotry and prejudice that produce only pain and suffering on an unimaginable scale. Or we can stand for truth in whatever form it may take. Truth is not always be pretty, it may not always be what we want to see nor what we had hoped to find. But it will ensure, that when the people of tomorrow fix their gaze upon us, that we can look back unflinching. It is truth above all else that we must pursue, for it is truth, above all else, that will set our souls, if not our hearts, at ease.”
Dr. Ed sighed “Was it a clerical error? Was this…” The projectors came on, a still image “.... A clerical error?” He let his eyes wander across the hall, across the students who would likely never see things the same way. The humans were remarkably unaffected, it wasn't a surprise, they were crucible forged after all...and to them, this was nothing new. But the rest...many of them would skip the rest of the day. They would go home and cry, they would call their mothers and their siblings they would demand to know why... why we were so cruel, why we were so base, why there was still evil in a time of plenty. Even the deathworlders like him, wouldn’t be unaffected, they might drink more than the others and once deep in their cups they would reach out to their trainers and masters and... slowly...with halting words and broken sentences they would try to express the pain they had seen, pain not their own. They would ask question to which their all-knowing masters would only offer silence. The question, of a clerical error, hung in the air, where Dr. Ed decided to leave it.
He let his gaze wander over his class as they shuffled out, some still covered in sick. It had been, and he hoped they would agree with him in the future, for the best. The children of today must grow to be the beacons of tomorrow and he would weather whatever the administration threw at him at to ensure that they did. He had, after all, suffered much much worse in pursuit of far less.
submitted by Nec_Di_Nec_Domini to HFY [link] [comments]


2018.03.15 13:20 FilthyClaudetteMain Operator Concept: Dust (E.K.A.M.)

DUST:
Operator Icon: A Skeletal hand
Name: Demetrius "Dust" Alexandris
Role: Defender
Speed: 3 Amor: 1
CTU: E.K.A.M. / SSAU
Gadget: The Honeypot
"Utilizing nanobots originally designed to safely dismantle and clear large debris, the Honeypot gauntlet on his left hand allows him to unleash and store Swarm type nanobots to guard an area, or quickly strip holes in soft walls and floors."
Swarm Type Nanobots manifest as a hazy blue fog, glittering with hints of chaff or shrapnel. They will attempt to consume any inorganic matter that enters their proximity; things like grenades and the like will be consumed within a second of entering the cloud, drones can last for slightly longer, but their feed will slowly be overtaken by a static image of Dust's icon in a hexagon as the drone is slowly consumed. Due to the reaction and travel time, the Swarm cannot react fast enough to destroy bullets.
Operators not on Dust's blacklist (the enemy team) will be warned when approaching a Swarm cloud as it will turn red and begin to churn faster, emitting an angry "buzzing". If they still persist in entering the cloud, the Swarm will attack them, dealing 10 points of damage a second. Friendly Operators can pass through Swarm clouds unaffected.
A Swarm cloud covers roughly five feet in every direction and can be retrieved once deployed, though doing so requires Dust to stand still and vulnerable for several seconds while he collects them back into the Honeypot. The Honeypot can hold and deploy three Swarm clouds total.
By placing Swarms at key chokepoints, rushing attackers can be delayed, or seriously injured if they press the assault through the cloud. Or Swarms can be deployed to quickly tear holes in unreinforced walls, soft floors, or hatches. It should be noted however, that while the Swarm will not attack friendly Operators, it will consume any gadget placed within their cloud, and can tear down wooden barricades if too close.
In terms of counters, the easiest way to be rid of the Swarms is to kill Dust. Killing him will trigger a failsafe and switches off all of the deployed Swarm clouds. Also due to their robotic nature, Thatcher's EMP can be used to safely destroy Swarm clouds.
Dialogue: "I believe in the Geneva Convention, I won't harm humans with this. But terrorists don't abide by our rules. They lost the right to be human."
"Do you know why they call me Dust? Once my Swarm is done with you, dust is all that remains...."
Setup:
"No need to mess about..."
"Let us begin."
"Are you ready, my bees?"
"Do you know my brother? Hypnos?
"Όποιος γίνεται πρόβατο τον τρώει ο λύκος. /"He who becomes a sheep is eaten by the wolf.."
Setup Response: "Just let me work..."
"You must be fun at parties."
"Are you finished messing about?"
Activating Swarm: "Deploying Swarm."
"Swarm deployed!"
"Bees activated!"
"Get them!"
"Disassemble this."
"Disassemble them, my bees!"
"Time to work, little honeybees..."
"Stay here..."
"You're about to be some busy bees."
Retrieving Swarm: "Gathering my bees."
"Collecting my Swarm."
"Collecting, cover me."
"Retrieving Swarm, cover me!"
Friendly Fire: "Friendly!"
"Stop shooting me, damnit!"
"Friendly, μην πυροβολείς!!" (Do not shoot!!)
submitted by FilthyClaudetteMain to Rainbow6 [link] [comments]


2018.03.02 12:09 TellerOfTales2 The Gateway to Heaven [part 7]

(Click here for: Part 1 ; Part 2 ; Part 3 ; Part 4 ; Part 5) ; Part 6)
...
After an indefinable period of time, some vague sense of my surroundings slowly came back to me. I had been screaming for I don’t know how long. I could not see the floor because the place was flooded with a foul-smelling liquid that concealed it from view. I had managed, somehow, to keep afloat; perhaps in all my fierce and aimless flailing some unknown instinct had kept me from sinking below and drowning. Yet now that a vague sense of the place I was in did come to me, I retched: it was… raw sewage.
So, this was the bottom of hell, the final resting place of the damned: there was no mystery, nothing of wonder, nothing of interest. It was merely a steaming, bubbling, rotting, putrid, lifeless ocean of all the excrement that had filtered down from all the worlds and all the generations above. A place of unutterable disgust and nameless filth, reeking of disease, and a smell that could have existed in no sane world; it was pungent enough to boggle the senses.
Out of this ocean of faeces which festered at the bottom of the world, there rose a colossal statue of ancient stone, a diabolical figure that was human-shaped, thickly muscled, and the great arms of this titan held up the ceiling of the gigantic hall. The ocean reached to its waist so that its legs could not be seen, but its face was very ugly and its expression extremely cruel; it had a leer about it that seemed to mock me for being there; and out of its forehead there was carved a single horn. It had six great wings, three on either side, each one skeletal, and one of them had half-crumbled away, the stone that it had been carved from having fallen and sunk below the toxic cesspool long ago.
The walls that encased the chamber were built of thick flat bricks made of deep, yellow-brown stone, and along them were candles that never melted or burned out, setting a poisonous yellow glow along the muck. It was as if they had been sadistically put there so that those unlucky enough to fall down here could see exactly where they were, and know what they had fallen into.
The sight of the lake filled me with rage… I could not comprehend why it did, but had I still been a sane person I could have explained it: it was like a final insult, a final mockery against me, that of all places, I should end up here! I began to roar and scream and fling the stuff in the air, and curse anything and everything I ever knew. However, they were not really curses, because the madness gripped me; I had forgotten how to speak and could only babble evil-sounding, incoherent, made-up words from my mouth.
There I dwelt, a tiny ant-sized figure beside the great statue, lapsed into a thoughtless rage; alone in my madness, and alone in a dirty hall.
My limbs began to grow tired. If I stayed, I would eventually drown. I must escape. Escape… I had forgotten the word long ago. I no longer knew what escape was anymore. I know longer knew what I myself was anymore. I had forgotten the concept of joy.
Presently I began to swim towards one of the walls, cursing and growling the entire time, but after a while my feet brushed against something solid below me, and as I came closer to the walls the lake grew shallower. With time I was no longer swimming, but slowly making my way neck-deep; and then I was wading and the vile stuff was up to my waist, and then I had stepped up in a passage and the terrible substance was only at my ankles.
The passageway was made of the same yellow-brown bricks as the hall without and there were skilfully cut archways along the ceiling.
Then I began to run. I did not know why I ran, nor did I know where I was going; I only knew that I was an embodiment of rage, and some furious instinct told me that my body needed to move. My limbs needed to flail, my mouth needed to scream; somehow I must give vent to an anger so great that it was beyond hopeless to truly express. And so I ran, often half crawling as a beast might bound upon four legs, fuming and raging through the squelching brown passage, banging my fists upon the walls as I did. There was something else as well: the sight of that ghastly statue with its cruel, smiling face had filled me with disgust and horror, and some instinct in me yearned to get away from it.
The passage branched out into other passages and I took them at random; sometimes they opened out onto little chambers into which other passages would lead, and sometimes these chambers had gargoyle-like statues carved into the corners of the room to hold up the ceilings or balance the walls; or sometimes there would be a statue in the chamber itself; and sometimes the passages branched into junctions and crossways.
I took in very little of these details: I was only a babbling lunatic, storming through the silent chambers of the gloomy maze that was my dungeon. It was difficult to find places to sleep, as the place was flooded up to my ankles in the putrid garbage-liquid, but occasionally a thick block or slab might be spotted rising above the mulch-coloured sludge at my feet, and then I lay upon it and slept almost as immediately as my head rested upon the stone, lest I choke on the liquid that covered all the grounds and floors.
For at least two days I wandered, before I stumbled upon a chamber and saw in there the first human I had seen in a long time. She was a wild, ghoulish creature like myself and she was gnawing the flesh off of a bone, a human body crumpled in the dirt of the mire in front of her. At once I hungered, and scrambled forwards screeching; she turned, a look of alertness and terror in her eye, and we scuffled. She bit my nose but I sunk my teeth into her ear while clawing at her eyes; for a few desperate moments we rolled about and then she broke loose, scampering away to the other end of the chamber like a beaten dog.
I growled at her furiously: the meat was mine, and if she dared come near to reclaim what I had stolen, I would tear her to pieces. Taking up the bone she had dropped, which was from the dead human’s leg, I began to gnaw. As she watched me eat she began to wail in frightful sorrow, distraught to see another taking what had been hers, but I did not mind this; ignoring it, I feasted calmly upon my corpse.
I had not eaten much, when other ghoulish humans began to hulk and slither and crawl into the chamber, eyeing me. I sensed the danger, and at once both angry and afraid I growled at them. They approached silently, death in their eyes. I roared at the top of my voice, but they were not intimidated. I was outnumbered. I turned tail and fled, whimpering and moaning in sadness and disappointment that my meat had been taken. Even as I fled I heard screeching and screams from behind, as, their enemy having been scared away, they fell to attacking one another.
Who knows how they had come to fall into this place and by what misfortunes they had been reduced into the very bestial state I now found myself? Had they all come through that red tunnel of dreams, or had they winded up down here through passages worse and darker even than that? Who knows how many thousands of them there must have been? No one knew, and no one cared. Those who came here were simply forgotten; eventually they died and returned to the Infernal Womb. I was not far from death myself. My body was covered in the scratches and bite-marks of the infants of hell, and already those wounds were becoming infected by the filth of the cesspool. At this rate I might soon fall ill.
Perhaps a day later I came upon another human, but this one was dead, probably of starvation or sickness from infected wounds. I began to gnaw and slowly another two humans crawled cautiously out of the darkness and began to gnaw over the corpse with me. I would usually have attacked them, but I was so starved that I did not have the strength. I growled audibly, deeply irritated that I was being forced to share some of my food, and occasionally snapped at them, but for the most part they ignored me and so we feasted together, three hunched figures devouring the rotting meat.
Eventually I grew overly irritated; I turned to claw at one of them and he scampered away; I chased him for a while but he was too quick, and soon disappeared once again into the darkness.
Having chased one of the pests away from my meal I returned to the body; I found that the other man had run away as well. Instead there was a woman there, snarling as her teeth tore apart what little remained of the flesh. She must have ambushed him, and chased him away. She stopped and flashed a glance at me: her eyes were psychotic. Somehow, she was more full of hatred and rage than I was, and I saw at once that should I threaten her I would stand no chance. I growled under my breath and backed slowly away, letting her finish her meal in peace.
So the days passed. Everyone down here was mad, yet the degrees and types of that madness were different. On the whole, humanity had been so traumatized by whatever experiences brought them to this place that their minds had shattered and they had devolved into amoral apes. They were sewer rats, fighting each other over what scraps they could scavenge; and if they could find no meat then they would gang up upon the weakest, sickest and most terrified among them. Their de-evolution had not come without its advantages. The humans here had a kind of sixth sense, so that they could sense when they were in danger, and they could also sense fear. The first was useful for making a quick escape when suddenly ambushed by other humans; and the latter was useful for hunting.
There was no happiness here. Even when a human found a nice, fresh corpse to devour, they ate it in fear and misery, always terrified that someone might come along and rob them of it. Those who were healthiest, strongest and most cunning might live longer, yet this was more of a curse than a blessing. Those who lived long in such a degraded state became madder and madder, until their mind broke further and they even forgot how to feed and to wander, and fell to lying about on the ground, complete morons, awaiting only for someone to come along and eat them, or else they died of starvation or disease or both. Hell is as hell does.
I did not realize that, very slowly, I had been making my way upwards, and so I now found myself in a narrow space, my eye roving about the dark passage. I noticed that light was coming from above, from two places in the ceiling. I paused in a kind of animalistic wonder. This was no light of hell; this was not the grim gloominess of those lands about the Tree of Abagad, nor was it the red glow of that hellish intestine that squirmed below the ground; this was… sunlight. Could it be? Real sunlight?
My heart pounding, I might have bounded through the waste, yet I only walked (or rather, half-walked, half-crawled) solemnly forward, preparing myself to be disappointed again. Surely it would disappear? Surely something would appear and snatch it away? I came below the hole in the ceiling, and looked up. It was square-shaped, and barred with metal bars. And yet, there was the sky shining through it! Not the nameless fog of hell, but a real sky, pure, fresh and blue.
My eyes widened, my mouth babbled some incomprehensible words of wonder and astonishment, and even hope, and the movements of my tongue caused the saliva to dribble down my chin. I climbed quickly up the bricks, for some of them were jutting loose as if designed to be grasped and climbed, reached the bars and began to yank them. They didn’t budge.
I at once dropped down and ran down the passage and looked up at another hole; it was also barred. Yet I was in a place below a clear sky, and if I could only find a hole that were not barred, then perhaps I could find a way to climb up.
So began the next stage of my journey through those mazes of passages and corridors, making my way through a mire of filth. The holes in the ceiling became frequent and the eternal candles along the walls disappeared, and were no longer needed. Sunlight filtered down through the dank and the gloom and lit up the brown waste with rays of yellow; I could almost hear the bees buzzing above.
Having very little in the way of rational thought I was moving mainly on instinct. Some almost-forgotten memory or yearning in me was reaching for the sunlight above, and so I continued to search for that light.
As I moved about through these new labyrinths my eyes twitched and my head twerked constantly; the drool dripped from my slobbering tongue and by now I had developed a habit of putting eight fingers (but not the thumbs) in my mouth and chewing on them as I grimaced or let out a noise that was something like a high-pitched snicker.
I might have been wandering for some hours before I saw someone, another human, stepping through the gloom. Strangely, they did not look starved and ghoulish and unhealthy; on the contrary they walked about on two legs with an upright posture and seemed to be in moderately good shape, (or, in other words, extremely good shape, compared to myself and the other humans I had seen) except of course that they were very dirty.
‘Hello!’ they said, in a kind of cheerfulness, ‘It’s good to meet someone down here. Listen, would you happen to know a way out-?’ they paused as I emerged from the gloom and they caught a better sight of me. I was a hunched, anorexic, ragged, ghastly thing now, chewing my fingers as I spat and babbled. They saw that I was mad. I saw that they were meat.
With wide eyes I let out a babbling roar of rage and charged at them. They turned and ran, but weren’t quick enough; in a few moments I was upon them and had bitten into their neck and torn out their throat with my teeth. I ate, and I swallowed part and spat out part, and then ate again; I threw them down into the mire and then pulled them back up and continued feasting; when I was finally done I cast them down and flung bits of flesh and waste into the air with a roar as I stamped upon them in venomous hatred. ‘That will teach them…’ I thought to myself bitterly, but not in words, of course, as I had lost all ability of logical speech. The thought came out as a kind of angry, ape-like grunt.
And then on I went through the labyrinths. I had no idea the significance of what I had seen: a human who was both sane and more or less in good shape; and not only this, but actual sunlight that now appeared so frequently virtually every passage had gratings leading to it. One of these gratings I crawled under had drops of a silvery liquid dripping from it, water, which must be coming from some spring or other. While below it I let out my tongue and a few drops landed upon it. I was suddenly struck by a horrible vision in which I wandered through a red fog and saw the face of Lonesome there; and the great branches of that black Tree; and the monstrous babies and with their haunting chant:
‘Zazibzab… Zazibzab… Zazibzab…’ and I did not understand the meaning of these things. I only knew that they made me feel helpless and sad and frightened, and so, becoming terrified of the water, I bolted away from it into the darkness.
Strangely, after having had those few drops of water my sleep became more peaceful. It is true that my ignorant, animalistic mind, long since broken from stress, had little to worry about because it comprehended so little; yet it was only peaceful comparatively. Sometimes I woke up with a start, and soon forgot the dream as I wandered on, gnawing my fingers and frequently gazing up at the ceiling, in search of light not kept from me by iron bars.
Zazibzab! The twisted and mysterious god that ruled over the ghastly depths; if my insanity had a name, then that was it.

One day, I found it. It had only been another usual day of wading through filth and perhaps chasing a stray human, when I looked and had come upon it randomly: there it was. A square hole in the ceiling, and there were no bars there!
My childlike mind tried to register why this particular hole was so confusing. There should have been bars there, and yet there weren’t. The cogs in my mind started turning… I knew that there was something important about this. With a kind of infantile curiosity I began to climb up… and then suddenly my head had popped up above the surface and there were streaming hills and meadowlands all around me. I knew this place…
Crawling up out of the pit, I looked about myself in some wonder: rolling hills, a vast clear sky, air that was at once cold and fresh as though from a summer rain… This was where I had first come after I had died and left the mortal world…
My brow creased into a frown, the cogs in my mind began turning, my mouth tried to voice some kind of sound… a sound that had made sense to me once but didn’t any more. (What I had been thinking of was “words”. I had tried to remember what they were, and they meant, and how to say them.)
Those few drops of precious water, which must have had mysterious healing properties, combined with this new sudden sight, had an effect upon me. I could feel something in me piecing itself together… my sanity, and my fragmented memories. Yet, how could I be here…?
‘Deeds…’ I said slowly… ‘one hundred… deeds…’ and then another word came unbidden into my mind, so long unremembered. ‘F… Free… Freedom…’ I muttered. ‘Freedom?’ the sound felt strange on my lips, but realization dawned. ‘Freedom!’ I said again.
I did not quite understand the meaning of what I said, but I knew that it was something good, and happy, and positive, and a cause for great joy. I smiled and laughed and began to leap back and forth on the grass. ‘Freedom!’ I cried. ‘Freedom, ahahah! Freedom, freedom!’
All at once I turned and noticed someone running towards me. I knew them! I had seen them before! It was the winged guardian who had stood by the gates of jasper, and even now he still had the golden club at his side. He was running towards me.
‘Freedom!’ I called to him joyously, as he ran closer and closer.
‘Freedom! Freedom! Free-’
Push.
His hands had thrust into my chest, and I fell bodily backwards, back down into the hole, and landed in the waist-deep filth. I sprouted up spluttering and screaming in anger and horror, and then, as I looked up, a lid with iron bars was placed over the hole.
Click.
And then he ran away without a word.
...
Click here for Part 8
submitted by TellerOfTales2 to creepypasta [link] [comments]


2017.10.09 15:28 CupOSunshine [OC] Humanity's Place - Part 9

Welcome! For those who are new (or just want a refresher):
_ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _
Chapter 9
What Goes Around
“Obviously, there’s nothing that can be done at this time,” Admiral Kreslim said. He was back in his command chair on the Crimson Principle’s bridge, staring down at Deidre, Karen, and Valerie. Claire was in the cafeteria, under guard, complaining about military food for the sake of it. “At least, not by you.”
“But the Vekt-” Deidre began.
“Are not your concern at this time,” Varius said, making a cutting motion with his hand. “If you want to make a difference in that struggle - whenever it arrives - then you need to continue your training. There’s also the little matter of making your Gallio ‘exam’ deadline. Ms. Sona?”
Valerie stepped forward. “We have been derailed. She has accomplished practically nothing in terms of telepathy or foresight. Raw power and the basics are all she wields. I will need at least eight more months to cover both in enough detail for her to gain the fine control she needs.”
“Are there any MindCom software packages that can help speed this up? I understand you have customized several for your own needs.”
“My estimate includes those programs.”
Varius sighed and tapped his console. “I’m reassigning you to the Crimson Principle for the next eight months, then. We planned to leave all of you in Port Moratlis while we patrolled the Sigurd Arc, but we’re five days off-schedule as it is and I can’t afford to wait for you to get back to the planet.”
Valerie nodded. “That is acceptable. My investigation there is complete.”
“Yes. Fine work on that, incidentally. Well done, all of you. I can’t say I’m pleased by what you found, but it’s always nice to one-up Imperial Intelligence.”
“Permission to speak freely? Sir?” Deidre said.
Varius quirked a smile at that. He seemed to know how nervous he made her. “Yes, Candidate?”
“We need to stop the Vekt, sir - before they attack.”
“I was led to believe that was impossible. Their fleet has already been launched. Have you thought of a way to intercept it after it leaves Majikav in the past?”
“Well, no, but-”
“Candidate,” Varius said sharply. “Humanity faces many, many threats at this time, the Vekt included. Their theft of Meridian Prime is troubling, but it represents an unknown danger, and we have far more tangible concerns. Mine is the increase in pirate raids on our shipping interests in Sigurd. Yours is your training. Am I clear?”
Deidre sighed. “Yes, Admiral.”
“Good. If there’s nothing further, you three are dismissed. Oh, and Lieutenant Sona?”
Valerie lifted her eyebrows and cocked her head. The move left her at just the right angle to look like she awaited his command with obsequious patience. “Sir?”
Hurry.”
_ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _
Claire crushed the glistening packet between thumb and forefinger. Crimson droplets spurted out, coating her hand. She held up a red-stained fingertip and arched her eyebrow, giving Deidre a skeptical look. “Raspberry. Really.”
Deidre sighed. “Look, I know it comes in a bubble-”
“-a plastic bubble.”
“Hey, that shell’s full of vitamins, and it’s edible. Not exactly plastic.”
“Not exactly raspberry, either.”
“Just try it already.”
Claire rolled her eyes. A stubborn look crossed her face for a moment, and it seemed as if she were about to launch into a new diatribe about the Colonial Empire’s cafeteria offerings. Then she shrugged, plucked another ruby satchel from the bowl between her and Deidre, and popped it into her mouth. She chewed, rolling the jelly-like filling around with her tongue, and swallowed it with a bemused expression.
“Hey. That’s delicious.” She picked out another one.
“Told you. They’re great.”
“But they’re not actually raspberries, right?”
“Right, but they’re engineered to deliver the taste perfectly,” Deidre said, fishing out a treat for herself.
Claire laughed around a mouthful of the stuff. “Mm, whatever. I should’ve known you’d love this stuff. They raised you on all of it, didn’t they?”
“Well, yeah, I guess. So?”
“Oh, nothin’. Just kinda surprises me what you’ll swallow,” Claire said, giving Deidre a knowing look that seemed a little disconcerting on a four-year-old’s face.
Deidre felt her cheeks flush. “You really can’t stop hating the Colonial Empire, can you?”
Claire shrugged. “And you really can’t start. It’s a shame. But whatever - you got me my body, I got you your info, and maybe someday they’ll let me go. What’s done is done.” She sounded a little sad, which was new; in the months since she’d taken up permanent residence as a ‘guest of the state’ aboard the Crimson Principle, she’d been a lot of things, but never wistful.
“What’s gotten into you today?” Deidre asked after a moment’s pause.
She almost didn’t want to know, which was a rather depressing feeling in and of itself. Part of her didn’t want another tirade about the government, but she did want to connect with her sister. Family was family, no matter how jaded or anarchistic, and this was family Deidre had been waiting her entire life to meet.
Claire waved her hand, pulling out another raspberry packet with the other. “I just wish you were right, Deidre. About all of it.”
“You’ve got to believe me, Claire - I want to save our species. We just have to stick it out for now. Give me time.”
“All I’ve got is time,” Claire said, laughing again. “What I wish I had is your optimism… but it’s a scary galaxy out there, and I’ve seen the ugly side of a lot more stuff than you, your precious Empire included.”
Not for the first time, Deidre reflected on how strange it was to hear that sort of thing from what looked like a very young child. Shrugging it off, she said, “The point’s academic, anyway. Like you said, what’s done is done. Finding out which of us is right will take years.”
Claire looked as if she were about to say something, then decided against it. She toyed with the bowl of treats for a minute before speaking up again. “How’s it going, anyway? The training, I mean.”
Deidre grimaced. “It’s a little creepy.”
Claire giggled. “That so? They should let me teach you some stuff. Turn this damn thing off for a bit.” She pointed at her inhibitor. “I’ve learned a lot, you know.”
Deidre bobbed her head. “Yeah. Not my call, though.”
“But one day, right?” Claire asked, that sad tone in her voice again.
“You got it, sis,” Deidre said, reaching over to ruffle her clone’s hair. Claire ducked away, like she always did. Deidre ignored the girl’s annoyance, like she always did. It seemed the sisterly thing to do.
She pushed herself up from the table. “Okay, I gotta get back to Lieutenant Sona for our next session. See you later, Claire.”
“Later… sis,” Claire said, giving her a halfhearted wave.
Deidre stopped for a moment and looked at her, confused by the funk she seemed to be in, but the girl had already gone back to playing with the raspberry packets. Making a mental note to badger her about it later - as any loving sister would - she headed out for her training session.
_ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _
Valerie extended a finger capped with a pristine nail, pointing at a random crew member on the observation deck. “Him.”
Deidre looked at the man. She concentrated, then peeled his fate out of reality. The man’s past, present, and future splashed into the room, radiating out of his body like living graffiti. “PFC Marvis Shtraun. Born in Greenval on Kalis Europa to Nansa and Gregan Shtraun. Has a wife in the fleet on the Itinerant Sun he’s cheating on, but he figures it’s okay because she’s cheating on him, too. He wishes they served steak more often, even though he knows it’s not real steak. He had a dream last night he was falling toward a planet that was also a giant breast. He thinks it’s a good omen. He’s going to die in twelve years of a catastrophic infection on Vlensing II while he’s vacationing; it’s going to liquefy his brain.”
“Indeed. That’s most of the ship,” Valerie said, snapping a quick nod. “Excellent work. I think you’re nearly ready - and two months ahead of the estimate I gave the Admiral. I am pleased, Candidate Veronice.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant Sona,” Deidre said, fidgeting.
She felt as if she’d been fidgeting for months now; it was gut-churningly creepy, what they’d been doing. She wondered how often Valerie tried to divine the nature of another living being. Using foresight and telepathy in tandem was the only way to do it, and it felt as if she were peeking beneath the universe’s skirts when she did. It was invasive, rude, and just… wrong.
“A new lesson, I think, is in order,” Valerie said, her face dead, unreadable. “Focus on yourself, Candidate. Pool your gifts, drown yourself in time, and tell me when you will die.”
Deidre stood there and looked at her, confused. They’d never tried to predict a future amongst themselves - it had always been looking outward, at the crew of the Crimson Principle. “What will happen?” she asked.
Valerie’s lips jerked up in a perfectly sardonic smile. “Why don’t you find out?”
Deidre sighed. “You’re acting weird.”
“I do not believe I am, but regardless, you are stalling. Can you do it or not?”
“You know I can. It’s just… won’t that sort of thing mess me up?”
Valerie gave her a look that seemed to say, I’m still normal enough, aren’t I? Deidre got the feeling that debating her on the point wouldn’t exactly be fruitful.
“Fine, fine,” she said, rolling her eyes. She took a deep breath, bent her talents inward, and… “Rusty sand. A desert world named Gravesear. I’m- no, wait, it’s a factory; they’re building machines here with- no, it’s a platform overlooking the galactic core, and…” The images bubbled up and slipped away, faster and faster, a bewildering soup of possibility. It was impossible to hold on to one, and the harder Deidre concentrated, the worse it got. She took an involuntary step back, stumbled, and fell on her butt.
The visions snapped away as she looked around, hoping nobody had noticed her (all-powerful seers weren’t supposed to have pratfalls). Valerie bent down, extending a hand to help her up. Deidre frowned at her and grabbed it, hauling herself off the ground.
“Okay, what gives?”
“Something of a Mentalic Uncertainty Principle, Candidate. The moment you know your own future, it changes. Even in the smallest of ways, that understanding can alter events and reshape what would have been. That is why your own fate forever slips away from you. The same is true for anyone, really. For instance…”
She turned and called out, amplifying her voice. “PFC Shtraun!”
The man’s head whipped around. He stood up and saluted. “Yes, Lieutenant!” “Do not eat the pickled lundgrah, no matter how much the locals seem to adore it!”
The man’s face twitched, his features crinkling into abject bewilderment. Then he shook himself. Deidre watched with some amusement as he forced himself back into a state of composure. “Uh, yes, Lieutenant!”
Valerie nodded at him and he sat down, looking unmanned. She directed her lifeless gaze back to Deidre, and the smile returned. “He will die differently, now. Ours is a useful gift, Candidate, but only if we act on it with the greatest of care.”
“So can you see my death, then?”
Valerie frowned. “I could. As a rule, I prefer not to view anyone’s unless absolutely necessary. It feels… inelegant.”
“That’s one way to put it. I’d say it’s like copping a feel with fate.”
“Yes, well. There are many ways to put it. I take it my point is made, however?”
“I think so, yeah. Knowing the future is useful… if you’re careful.”
“Precisely.” Valerie paused, that blank look of hers returning. She had the ultimate poker face, and Deidre was finding it increasingly annoying. Finally, she spoke, having seemed to reach some internal decision. Or maybe she’d just been daydreaming - it was impossible to tell. “Have you heard of Umkris the Manysliver?”
Deidre searched her archives for a half second. Then, “Nope - should I?”
“No, it is nonstandard MindCom material. He is the star of a classic story - think Dracula or Beowulf - among the Brigka. They are a heavily mentalic race with an abnormally high rate of ability among the general population. Umkris is revered for his unsurpassed skill in three fields: Telepathy, foresight, and probabilism - the three the Brigka possess.”
“Revered? Is he a myth or a religion?”
Valerie shook her head at that. “To the Brigka, those are the same thing; they are a predominantly secular people, simply in awe of Umkris for what he - or at least, the fictionalized recounting of him - managed to accomplish with his gifts.”
“And that is?”
Another inscrutable pause. “Umkris was capable of divining a future and then aligning events to reach it. Now, that in itself would not be noteworthy - if the future were bound to occur anyway, the use of probabilism to reach it would merely be in the service of correcting the impact one’s knowledge of it might have.”
Deidre sighed. “Do you actually make an effect to sound like a confusing robot, or does it just come naturally?”
“I make an effort,” Valerie said, deadpan as only she could be. “Do you want to hear the noteworthy portion of this tale or not?”
It was hard to fight the urge to sigh again. “Tell me.”
“Umkris the Manysliver was capable of combining his talents to divine a future and then tweaking reality to reach the outcome he desired most. He could foresee an event years in the making, decide how he wanted it to play out, and then engineer fate to reach that goal. There are hundreds of tales of his staggering prescience; teaching a future traitor just so in order to ensure his eventual betrayal would cause the deaths of himself and his conspirators, replacing a single poisonous vine in a forest with a harmless duplicate in order to foil an assassination plot years later, and so on.”
“Geez,” Deidre said, legitimately impressed. Probabilism wasn’t easy to use in the here-and-now, let alone across years. “But it’s just fiction, isn’t it? Their version of an action hero?”
Valerie hitched her shoulders in a shrug. “That is unclear, though most Brigka stories are based around a grain of truth. I came across the exploits of this ‘Umkris’ in my continuing studies on the combination of mental disciplines. Lacking one of the needed three skills, however, I did not delve further. You, however, do possess the needed set, among many others.”
“But how would I even go about-”
“I do not have an answer,” Valerie said, almost sounding sad. “I present this story to you merely as a curiosity. Your mental abilities are unique in this galaxy, and the potential behind their combination… limitless.” Deidre could hear another word hanging there, unspoken but obvious: Terrifying.
Valerie continued, spreading her hands. “I encourage you to focus not only on what you are taught, but also on what you cannot be taught. You are traveling strange roads, Ms. Veronice. Take care upon them.”
The unexpected gravity behind the woman’s words stilled Deidre’s usual desire for sarcasm. Suddenly bereft of the need to snark, she said, “I don’t know where to begin, Lieutenant Sona.”
“That is to be expected. Simply knowing that you must is enough for now.” Valerie saluted her. “Your training with me is at an end. I will inform the Admiral. Good day, Candidate.” With that, she turned and began to walk away.
Deidre was stunned for a moment. Then she called after the Lieutenant. “Wait, really? That’s it? That’s everything?”
Valerie didn’t look back - didn’t even slow her pace - when she replied. “No… but it is enough.”
It was the perfect enigmatic-teacher-finishing-her-last-lesson statement. Deidre had the sneaking suspicion Valerie had been waiting months to use it, too. Then a shrieking alarm blared through the observation deck. The lighting flared red, and everyone snapped away from what they were doing.
Valerie stopped mid-stride, her shoulders hunched. Deidre could sense profound frustration oozing out of the Lieutenant.
Letters scrolled across her vision, broadcast directly into her MindCom by the ship’s emergency messaging system.
ALERT!
ALL SECURITY TEAMS ARE ORDERED TO ENACT CODE 8.1.1 OF THE CHARYBDIS PROTOCOL AND AWAIT FURTHER ORDERS FROM SQUAD LEADERS. NONESSENTIAL PERSONNEL MUST PROCEED TO THE NEAREST GUARDIAN STATION.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Charybdis. Rogue mentalists. As Valerie ran back to her, grabbed her arm, and began pulling her toward the elevators, Deidre’s mind immediately went to Claire.
Where was her sister?
However unsettling the thought might have been, there was little time to dwell on it, for another message immediately followed the automated warning. It was a direct communication link from Admiral Kreslim himself, and its contents were paired with a worrying lurch as the ship's engines cut out:
"We are under attack by hostile forces. All hands, prepare to receive boarders."
_ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _
There is a species built for the galaxy’s shadows. They are information brokers, saboteurs, parasites, and spies - the go-to mercenaries when there’s dirty, secretive work to be done. This is because they are, for all intents and purposes, invisible.
Known as the sleerjin, they are silicon-based lifeforms that naturally bend light around their multifaceted bodies. When viewed with the proper optics, they evoke images of large manta rays with chests full of spine-like tentacles, but to most races, they are nothing more than an occasional ripple in the air; a trick of the light.
They are everywhere - a conspiracy theorist’s worst nightmare. It is whispered that most ships in known space have at least one sleerjin spy hidden on their hulls, monitoring all actions and transmitting the information home to be tabulated into a massive tracking database. They prize knowledge and secrets, but unlike the Draa’sta, are more than willing to provide their findings for the right price. Amoral and greedy, the sleerjin are happy to work for the highest bidder.
In some cases, however, they will take a personal interest.
And so, when Deidre and Valerie skidded around a corner to find the rest of the hallway engulfed in flames, their MindComs were in the process of blaring this information directly into their brains.
“There are no flammable lines in this area,” Valerie began, pulling Deidre back a step. “How could this-” Then the rest of their MindCom blast finished downloading, and the two women knew exactly where the flames had come from: the sleerjin were pyrokineticists.
The walls began to twist and sag under the intense heat. Deidre could feel her hair crackling, even at the other end of the hallway. The fire pulsed, sucking backwards before flaring bright blue and barreling down the hall. Deidre stepped forward and shot out her hand, snapping a kinetic shield in place and watching with satisfaction as the flames split and coated the wall of force.
Valerie shot out a finger, pointing at a bare spot on the ceiling. “Thought patterns. There.”
Deidre nodded and rammed a fist of force into the metal tile, punching it inwards. The flames fell away immediately, dropping down into sputtering embers and molten pools of steel with unnatural speed. As they vanished, Deidre could hear a light tinkling noise, like glass shards falling, and she thought she caught a glimpse of angular pieces of crystal flashing through the air.
“Well done, Candidate,” Valerie said, then gave the baking corridor an appraising look. “We must find an alternate route," she concluded.
“What are they doing here? Why are they are attacking the Principle?” Deidre asked, following the Lieutenant as she headed back the way they’d come.
“I know as much as-”
The air shimmered, and Valerie’s head parted from her body in a spray of sparks and mechanical fluids. Oily droplets splashed the corridor walls. As she twitched and stuttered, a swath of the black liquid seemed to hang unnaturally in midair. Then it shifted, revealing part of a wing. Deidre, watching Valerie’s body fall in halting jerks, registered the movement - the presence of something strange, deadly, and unseen - and screamed. Valerie was hurt and the culprit had been right there. She leaned forward, snarling, and blasted the hallway with a thunderous wave of energy. The wing disappeared in a flurry of tinted crystal, exploding along with the nearby walls and floor.
Deidre let out a triumphant bark and moved to Valerie, hoping the simulacker’s brain hadn’t been damaged. Then something thudded into the floor behind her and a split-second later, all-consuming agony ripped through the base of her spine. It felt like hot lava was being poured into her veins. She would’ve screamed if her muscles hadn’t seized up, sending her crashing to the ground. The last thing she registered before the pain sent her spiraling into unconsciousness was hundreds of angular spines wrapping around her, pulling her away.
_ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _
Deidre awoke with a massive headache. She groaned, bringing a hand to her aching head. What had happened? She struggled to remember, but everything hurt and her thoughts were cloudy. Closing her eyes and accessing her MindCom’s analgesic systems, she ordered it to cut the pain. There was a brief delay as the nanites in her head began producing endorphins, and then the throbbing eased.
She opened her eyes, blinked in total darkness, and activated her installed night vision. The room resolved in shades of gray. She was on what appeared to be a stone slab, except it wasn’t quite stone - the material had an odd, manufactured feel to it. There was a doorway at the far end of the room and a thick sheet of crystal stood between her and it, bisecting the space. She pushed herself up to a sitting position and rubbed her neck.
Her hand moved over something glassy and angular, a choker anchored in her flesh. She felt a stab of pain as she brushed against it. Gasping, she tried to look down, but couldn’t quite make out what it was. Then a hollow voice echoed through the room, speaking in perfect English. “A mentalic disruptor. Very expensive. Had to purchase it from the zritick.”
Deidre pulled her hand away and tried to concentrate, tried to access her gifts. Nothing. It wasn’t like the confusion and oppressive weight of the Colonial Empire’s inhibitor; instead, she could barely feel anything at all. It was as if someone had excised her abilities entirely. There was only the most meager hint of mentalism somewhere in there, far beyond her grasp. It was maddening.
“Who are you?” she asked. Her throat felt raw. She requested more painkillers from her MindCom.
“Miliri,” the voice said.
“Sleerjin?”
“Yes.” The crystal sheet flickered, and the other side of the room seemed to glow through it, revealing what was hidden.
Six of the creatures were there, watching her. They looked like enormous cloaks filled with angled tentacles; a Lovecraftian wardrobe set come to life. One of them stood in front of the others. Its crystal skin was decorated with odd carvings - runes and whorls that formed disorienting patterns. Deidre guessed they were markings of rank.
“Well, great. What do you want?” she said after a moment.
“Revenge,” Miliri said, its tentacles rippling as it spoke.
“Oh?” Deidre said, still trying to shake the cobwebs from her thoughts. “And I’m a part of that? What’d I do?”
The creature bobbed up and down for a moment before speaking again. Its tentacles thrashed this time, though the tone of its voice didn’t change. Deidre got the impression it was angry. “How can you not know? You have been our bane for years. Did you think hiding would change things? Did you think we would not find you?”
“Wh-? What are you talking about? I’ve never met one of you until now!” Deidre yelled, annoyed.
A set of Miliri’s tentacles thrashed to one side and a rectangular section of the crystal wall lit up - an inset video display. A film began playing, starting with a series of split-second shots: Data chits, statistics scrolling on a display, important-looking cargo containers, fleets of ships.
“Everyone has something precious…” a deep-voiced narrator spoke over the montage. Then the data chits were pulled away by an unseen hand, the statistics downloaded and deleted, the cargo crates shown torn open and empty, and the ships left drifting, destroyed. “…and everything can be taken.”
News reports, statistics, and hand-held camera footage of accident scenes flashed past. “Sleerjin operations now account for 17% of all corporate espionage and mercenary work in the local sector. No other mercenary company or race comes close. And these numbers are from the sleerjin themselves. They’re proud of what they’ve done - and for the right price, they’ll do it to you.”
More shots of valuable goods being destroyed or stolen. “So protect yourself, before the worst happens. Contact Clarity Defense Services today.”
A spiral logo emblazoned with the letters ‘CDS’ slammed onto the view with a satisfying clang, then shrunk to the upper right. Now the invisible attackers were dying, surrounded by arcs of rippling energy as they tried to get away with their prizes. Sleerjin bodies crashed into carpet, metal grating, tiled floors. They detached from ceilings and peeled off of starship hulls, convulsing and shattering.
“This is actual footage of the unique CDS resonance vortex at work. For a one-time fee, a CDS representative will permanently ward your home, place of business, or starship.”
Contact information and legalese layered onto the screen in a twitching, shimmering font; pantext. Most races now had some form of lingual decoder software built into their vision, and pantext was designed to work with the majority of it. Deidre assumed the voiceover was similarly encoded.
The advertisement ended with: “Worried they’ll take your valuables or your life? Don’t let them. Contact CDS today, and enjoy peace of mind - guaranteed.”
The display went dead, and Deidre sighed. Clarity Defense Services? Who else could that have been from but Claire? She must’ve been able to create some sort of mental echo that could kill any sleerjin who entered it. Valerie’s advice to broaden her horizons and stretch the limits of her abilities came back to her, followed swiftly by worry for the Lieutenant. Had she survived?
“All of our research points to you, human. You are the sole employee of this company. There are no other ‘representatives,’” Miliri said, bringing Deidre’s attention back to her captors. “Every test has confirmed your identity. We have found you at last.”
Deidre rolled her eyes. “Well, great. Your mom must be so proud. Gonna do a victory lap, too?”
“You seem unaware of the nature of your predicament, human.”
“I think I’m more aware of it than you are, actually.”
“Enough!” Miliri said, his tentacles twitching. “You do not need to be alive. We would be happy enough with your death. The only reason you breathe is because we believe you can remove these… ‘resonance vortices.’”
Deidre laughed. “Let me guess - you have no way of detecting them, so whenever you go on an operation, there’s always the chance one of you might die instantly.”
“Precisely,” Miliri said, his converted English voice as even as ever.
“Bet that sucks for team morale.”
“This is not a joke, human!” Miliri twitched, and excruciating pain blasted through Deidre’s neck, sending her into convulsions. When the haze cleared, she realized she’d fallen off of her slab onto the floor. It was hard to focus her eyes, the headache was worse, and there was a buzzing in her ears.
Then the noise resolved itself back into Miliri’s patient tones. “You will remove the resonance zones, or you will suffer greatly before you die.”
Deidre hauled herself off the floor, staggering a little. It was incredibly hard to concentrate; it felt like someone had begun dripping warm molasses into her brain. She wasn’t a soldier - not yet, anyway - and had no training to deal with this sort of situation.
Suddenly feeling very young and foolish, she said, “Look, I… I don’t want to die. I’m really not the person you’re looking for. Her name’s Claire, and-”
Pure agony rippled out of the collar, knocking her off her feet. Her world was consumed by blinding anguish for what felt like an eternity. Finally, the sensation began to fade to the point where Deidre could sense something beyond unadulterated misery: A high-pitched ringing in her ears. It took her a moment to realize it was her own voice, screaming.
When she regained enough composure to reach shuddering gasps and sobs, Miliri spoke again. “I do not care what you call yourself. You are a genetic match, and you will take responsibility for your actions.”
“Why- wh-what if I c-can’t fix them?” Deidre choked, shivering.
“Then you will die, and the world below us will be your tomb.”
“B-below?” She felt buried, trapped.
The crystal flickered again, and a new video feed appeared. This time it showed a planet - a reddish, windswept world. “We are in orbit around our empire’s central operations sphere. It is the most secure world in known space. Its location is unmapped, its defenses unmatched.”
The creature stalked closer, its crystal spines skittering on the floor. “I tell you this because you will never leave this place, human.” It moved closer. “I tell you this because you will help us, or you will die.” Closer. “And that death, when it comes, will seem a gift.”
There was a shimmer and the creatures disappeared from view. Then a slow, crunching shuffle as they began to leave the room. Invisible, Miliri bid his farewell to Deidre in the same even tones he’d used to greet her.
“Welcome to Gravesear, human.”
_ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _ - _
Part 10 is now available here!
submitted by CupOSunshine to HFY [link] [comments]


2017.06.19 17:21 TheBigSp00k I've Uncovered Video Tapes Revealing A Malicious Reality Show

So I worked for a company called "Ground Feeders" basically what we do is when a client buys a property, we dig up the ground and get it all ready for them to inspect and plan out their development or whatever the hell they want to do with it. A lot of the time we're chopping down trees, plowing out debris, all that fun stuff. This particular property we had to create a stable foundation for them to start construction on building an entire new facility.
My duty is to lead the excavation team and ensure we are navigating underground properly. The area we are working in is very unstable and we actually had to dig a significant amount of land before even starting on our main line of work. This is a very important task due to the fact that our team could be underground and suddenly they compromise the structure of the foundation and shit caves in on them.
After every excavation shift I throw on my hard hat and headlamp and have to go map out the area we just completed moments prior. What I found has scarred me for life. I have never witnessed anything as horrifying and traumatic as what I'm about to write you about.
3 days ago we had a late shift due to the fact that we were significantly behind schedule. If the laborers are staying late, I'm there even later, and since I'm a supervisor, I'm usually there before anyone arrives as well. After the long shift I go through my routine of mapping out the pre dug area.
Things going as normal, I spotted something odd sticking out of the ground right at the edge of where our team left off. At a glance it looked as if one of the workers left a tool so I decided to pick it up and return it to them since I'm such a good guy and all.
This is where things suddenly took a turn for the worst... It turns out that it wasn't a tool at all but a round U shaped handle sticking right out of the soil and rock. My heart raced and I quickly dug at the ground with my hands, scratching away just enough to see that this is a bunker door.
For a moment, I was frozen. There wasn't civilization damn near 20 miles in each direction. This intrigues me even more. There was a giant turnstile lock that sealed the door. I pried at it for about 15 minutes until it finally gave way. Letting out a deep sigh of relief while wiping the sweat from my forehead, I pull the handle and the door opened.
Almost instantly I was mauled by the horrific odor. It was so putrid I damn near threw up instantly. Retreating back to the entrance of the job site, I grabbed one of our respirator masks, a pair of thick work gloves, and a heavy duty LED flashlight. I return back to the mysterious door and mentally prepared myself before venturing further. Finally, I pulled the latch back open and flinched as if I was expecting the foul odor to accept my nostrils embrace one again.
Luckily, the respirator worked its magic and I took another step forward. Shining my light downward, I could see the steel grated steps that led to another sealed blast door. There was a latch and slide lock that I was capable of opening once I put the handy gloves I brought along.
Behind the door was a long corridor, hanging on the walls were what seemed like maps of the facility. This place was huge! The first thing that came to mind was that maybe I'd get a huge payout for finding some sort of terrorist hideaway. I looked a little closer and what it seemed was there were 2 floors further underground below mine.
Ripping the map off the wall, I proceeded down the hallway and there was a split. My 2 options were to either go through the next blast door in front of me, or hang a left down the hall to what seemed, according, to the map, was the path to the stairs leading to the next floor below. What the map said was that the room in front of me was just a 16'x12' basic office type room.
My curiosity got the best of me and I decided to enter the next room. After passing through the door, I scanned the area to see there was a desk, 3 office chairs, and loads of monitors with all kinds of out of date equipment hooked up to them. The thing caught my eye first was the obvious stack of VCR's to the far left of the desk. Alongside it we're monitors stack 2 high and 3 across. In front of each set of monitors were a microphone, set of controls, and a thick composition notebook.
All 3 of the chairs had their own set of monitors and equipment in front of them, followed by their own notebooks and microphone. My guess that this was some sort of scientific research facility. I looked at my watch and realized that it was getting really late and I needed to get back home. Before leaving I walked up to the VCR and forced out the first couple of tapes. I wanted some homework.
That night I could not rest. Fortunately for me it was a Friday. After tossing and turning in my bed I decided I needed some sort of closure. I jumped into my slippers, waltzed downstairs into the garage, and dug out an old VCR and television I just couldn't seem to get rid of. Now I regret ever keeping the damn thing.
There I was, sitting on the floor of my office, in my jammies, setting up a nearly antique video player. I wiped the old decrepit dust off the first tape and popped it in: It started as a profile shot of a man in a lab coat. He had a dark complexion, dark eyes, and jet black hair. The remainder of his face was covered by a black mask from the nose down.
"Hello, viewers! As you've all anticipated, our series premier begins today!" He announced this with loads of enthusiasm, but he something about his demeanor was troubling.
"We have 4 willing contestants, your contributions have made this possible! These young men and women will be locked away in our underground facility with no means of entertainment, the only functions of this location are: A fully functional kitchen, plumbing, and your basic electrical needs." He paused for a brief moment and looked past the camera.
"This isn't your typical reality show, there will be no elimination challenges, the only objective is to provide these contestants pre-cooked human remains. Their behavior over the next 8 weeks will be observed and documented by our team of specialists." His voice grew louder with enthusiasm.
"Our subjects are fully aware of the conditions. They are to interact with one another, we will withdraw ourselves from any form of contact, aside from a few...surprises. At the end of the show, the remaining contestants will be rewarded with a rather generous cash prize"
The tape cut out for a moment and continued with interviews of each of the 4 participants. It was a sort of grab-bag type of bunch. 2 men, 2 women. 1 of the women appeared to be a little strung out. The other 3 seemed pretty normal, nothing out of the ordinary.
After the character interviews, the tape changed over to a surveillance shot of the living room and all 4 of the participants lounging around in he furniture. Shortly after, there was a loud buzzing and the the group are prompted to head to the dining area.
This was their first meal it seemed. The food provided seemed disguised as any typical dinner: 1 large serving of a meat filet, alongside a very small portion of vegetables and 1 piece of bread. There were tags attached to each plate. One of the men read theirs out loud...
"Male, 28, inner thigh, died of lung disease." He read aloud with a tone of absolute disgust in his voice.
The other members chattered nervously. The 2 males gladly ate the small, unsatisfactory, additions but neglected the meat. The 2 women didn't touch their plates at all.
"I don't know if I can do this" exclaimed a young blonde haired woman.
She had long manicured nails and heavy caked on makeup.
"It's one thing when they disguise it as animal, but I can't eat it knowing who it was and how they died. It's just psycho" her voice was loud and obnoxious.
The woman quickly rose from her seat and made her way back to the living area. This didn't do much for her since there were no means of entertainment anywhere to be seen. She sat there with a disgusted and fearful look in her eyes.
The camera switched back to the dining area where the 2 men were poking and prodding at their food.
"Whatever, I guess I'll give it a shot. Protein's protein" the muscular man who appeared to be in his late 20's cut a bite sized piece from the slab and ate it disdainfully.
"Holy shit! This is incredible! There's no way this is human, I think they're playing mind games. Idiots. Easiest $100,000 I'll ever make!" He exclaimed with another mouthful of human flesh squeezing between his teeth.
The man proceeded to devour his meal while the other 2 sat there and watched with their jaws hanging wide open. He finished his plate and dropped it in the sink then left through the passageway back into the living area. The second man, an older gentleman with a slightly heavier physique slowly finished eating his sides and tossed the prepared meat into the trash. He then looked behind him at the remaining woman at the table who had began to sob and placed a hand on her shoulder as he passed her to join his room mates.
The remaining girl proceeded to bawl her eyes out. She pulled and twisted at her dark brown hair. This started to disturb me. At first I thought maybe this was all a staged performance but there's no way the acting was this good. I shook off the idea and kept my eyes glued to my television screen. This had to be fake.
The 3 participants sat together for the remainder of the night. 2 of which scolded the muscular man for relentlessly devouring his meal while he just smirked and rolled his eyes continuously.
"I'm telling you guys, it's all a facade. They're trying to get a reaction like this out of us. That's the point of the show. American television at its finest, and not only will I be leaving here 100 grand richer, I'll be a fucking star" the man stood and made a very amorous pose while looking directly at the camera mounted to the ceiling in the corner in the room. I felt as if he was looking directly at me.
The night went on, I assume they would've pulled a lot of this filler out in the editing process due to the fact that it was incredibly boring. I fast forwarded the tape until it changed to the scene of the muscular man in his bed.
The camera was in its night vision mode and it sat steadily in the corner of his bedroom. He tossed and turned violently in his sleep. My assumption was that the food wasn't prepared well enough and it was making his stomach uneasy. Soon enough, he rose from his bed. His eyes glowed in the reflection of the cameras night lens. It looked menacing.
He then made his way to the kitchen and the cameras followed him from room to room, switching from one to the other. He seemed as if he was in a sleep consciousness. His demeanor was definitely different since he usually walks with an arrogant stride. This stance was different; sluggish, he stepped lightly as if hypnotized by some sort of force.
The man halted at the trash can and leaned over, bending at the waist. You could hear through the microphone a malicious growl. He reached both hands into the trash and violently dug through the discarded food until he stopped. Motionless, he froze in that position for a few seconds then you could see his shoulders rustling. When he pulled his torso from inside of the garbage can, you could see he was eating something. It was the other room mates discarded meat. You could hear the moans of pleasure between the sounds of meat grinding against his teeth and slapping his tongue while he gnawed at it like a rabid beast.
The tape clacked and snipped, my screen went black and the VCR ejected the tape at me with a mechanical whirr. I was thoughtless, my mind had just ceased to work as I sat there in complete surprise to what I had just witnessed. I'm slowly gripping the idea that this may not be a fictional broadcast but I hoped to whatever got there may be that I was wrong. Please let me be wrong.
After pulling the tape from the VCR I noticed a subtle inscription on the outside of the VHS. Here's a crude drawing of the logo in case anyone could recognize it. It is heavily suggested that if you come across this logo on anything that you STAY AWAY. There is something really sinister about this organization, true or not.
I climbed to my feet and staggered my way to the restroom. Peering into the mirror you could easily identify the signs of fatigue. My eyes had dark circles around them, while above, my eyelids sat low. Although I desperately needed to recharge my batteries I wouldn't have slept well until I finished these series of recordings. I hobbled to the kitchen and poured myself a cup of cold stale coffee and returned to my station.
After sliding the next tape into the VCR I tapped the rewind button to insure I don't miss any important details. I could hear the sound of gears twirling around in a counter-clockwise motion followed by a click and the whirring and buzzing as it auto engaged its playback function.
The scene started with a shot of the dining room table with 4 meals set up accordingly. The loud buzzing indicated again that it was meal time. The camera angle swiped between each of the individuals bedrooms and gave simultaneous shots of each person waking up and running through their morning routine. I hit the fast forward button and let go once they arrived at the dinner table.
Immediately the muscular man started to devour his breakfast. The others sat there in disgust and stared as their face twisted into more and more anguish. The more feminine of the 2 women grabbed the tag and read aloud:
"Female, 9, brain matter, died from automotive collision" her face stayed locked in a horrified expression.
The other female gagged and lunged toward the trash as her body evacuated what I'm assuming was bile due to the fact she had missed her previous meal. After recovering from her regurgitation, she kneeled and peered into the trash can; Her eyes grew wide as if she'd seen a ghost.
The remainder of the guests sat at their dinner table, Mr. Muscles promptly finished his meal and let out a large belch as he leaned against the back of his chair.
"I give up! If sexy over here can eat this, I sure as hell can. There's no way I'm going another minute without food!" The blonde woman exclaimed as she picked up her fork and slowly nibbled at a piece of brain tissue.
"To hell with it..." the older gentleman added whilst following through on taking his first bite as well.
To my surprise, they both indulged in their morning meals as if it were the best thing to ever touch their tongue. They scraped at their plates with their forks in order to collect every possible bite they could. The muscular man stayed seated and watched with satisfaction as his comrades joined him in this disgusting endeavor.
As all of that took place the other woman ignored her meal and climbed to her feet as she walked off slowly back into her bedroom. The camera switched locations following her; she laid in her bed for the rest of the evening.
2 men and 1 woman were all gathered in the living room, they were chatting about how delectable their breakfast was.
"This food is to die for! I feel so alive after eating, like a breath of fresh air" gawked the woman as she gestured every word with her arms like a crude version of sign language.
"I never expected this at all, after breakfast I've felt as if I am capable of anything! What do you think they're planning for lunch?" Replied the older man.
This went on for the next few hours. Within that time the muscular young man slipped away from the 2. Just as he left the room the camera follows him to the hallway. He sits there with his ear to the girls door. I fast forward the tape, it jumps back and for from a heated conversation between the two who remained in the living room and the hallway where the young man continued stalking the sad girl. There was this look in his eyes...it was a look of animosity.
Of all things witnessed in this video I think the behavior of the young man is what shook me the most. He was generally normal in the first day or 2, then after indulging more, something about him just seemed to change.
The tape ended after showing the contestants going to bed. I rubbed my eyes to remove the mucus that developed in the corners of them. Now that I look back on it, I really don't think I blinked the entire time. After letting out a long weary yawn, I refilled my coffee and proceeded onto the third tape.
Tape #3 started just the same as the last one, only the 3 who ate their dinner came to the table. The sad girl stayed in bed and continued with her routine. I started to respect her strong will but then again I was confused upon the fact that she did willingly sign up for this.
The group immediately dove into their plates face first. All 3 of them completely neglected their silverware. They snarled and growled at each other as if they were rabid beasts fighting over a fresh kill. This terrified me as this transformation happened overnight. When the no longer primped and groomed woman finished her plate she lunged on top of the older gentleman and started ripping at him with her bare hands.
There were lacerations and tears all over the mans neck but he just screamed and growled in the struggle to throw her off of him. He managed to launch her off the top of him and she flew across the room like a rag doll. By this time the muscular man, who looked more beast like than the others, had already finished his and the other mans plate while he was distracted.
The older man, now furious that his meal was devoured, began to snarl and show his teeth to his new enemy. The young muscular man stood up tall and buffed his chest outwards. Almost immediately did the older man begin to stand down as the alpha has made his stature clear.
After a brief standoff, the muscular man began to stare directly into the camera in the kitchen. Slowly, he walked toward its lens and got his face as close as humanly possible.
"I NEED MORE." His voice was rough and distorted. Almost as if he were possessed by a demon.
He continued to stare into the camera for several minutes, gritting his teeth like a rabid wolf. I could see the drool bellowing in the corners of his mouth as it pooled down the sides of his chin.
After only a few minutes a vent in the ceiling slid open; like rainfall, countless severed limbs and organs fell from the passage and filled the floor of the kitchen. You could hear the sounds of flesh smacking hard against the linoleum. Entrails were caught on the serrations of the exterior of the vent and hung from the ceiling like a cruel decoration.
The 3 howled and dove into the buffet of human remains like throwing a raw steak into a cage full of hungry lions. They devoured each piece mercilessly as if it there the only meal they'd ever have again. Once satisfied and the feeding ended, they lay there on their backs with this twisted grin of satisfaction.
I quivered at the sight of this, my hand was shaking while I held my coffee mug in place. The tremors caused my beverage to splatter all over my shirt and sprinkle down onto the floor. My eyes hurt, and I didn't even notice the light peering in through my closed curtains. I couldn't look away, I had to see the conclusion to this horrific broadcast.
The tape cut out in the midst of them savoring their previous meal. After about 30 seconds of pure darkness, the image came to view in a 4 way split screen. Each screen was of one participant sleeping in their beds. Almost as if they had an alarm set, 3 of the 4 rose slowly from under their covers. The glow in their eyes was sinister and the look on their faces seemed truly primal. Individually, each of them made their way through the thresholds of their rooms and made out into the hallway.
Coming together like a if it were all pre-meditated, they made their way to the young girls room. She hadn't moved from her bed since the previous night, I could imagine she didn't have the energy after going days without any food. After hearing the horrific sounds that echoed throughout the house, I wouldn't want to investigate or witness what was happening if I were in her shoes.
They congregated outside her door as the alpha male pushed his way to the front. Slowly he turned the knob and you could see the dim beam of light spear it's way through the crack of the door. All I could hear was the sounds of heavy animalistic breathing and what sounded like the gargling of saliva through my speakers.
In the blink of an eye all 3 of them pounced on the girl in her bed, ripping the sheets off to expose her weak, helpless body to the blood hungry beasts. Their teeth sank into her flesh as each one of the tugged on a different limb, slowly ripping her into thirds. The sound of her violent screams nearly shattered my eardrums as she squirmed and convulsed in pain. The girl stood no chance as they ripped her to pieces and gnarled off every piece of flesh from her bone.
The room was filled with blood, pooling on the floor as it leaked from the now ruined bed. They bathed in the blood of the poor girl who was now in several pieces scattered throughout the room. Growls and inhuman snarls were exchanged as one would reach for a new limb after finishing another.
If I hadn't been so numb from the lack of sleep, I'd have vomited or passed out from the sight of this. Something kept my eyes glued to the screen as I watched these beastly cannibals devour their once fellow contestant. I suppose this was their process of elimination.
The tape cut after they finished with their feast. It opened with the 2 male participants going at it violently like wild animals. The 2 man were relentlessly biting and tearing at each others flesh, blood spewed across the living room in all directions. You could hear the anger and pure evil in their voices between the sounds of tearing skin.
There wasn't anything human left in them. The woman was nowhere to be found, and from the looks of the room it's seems as if it must've been days since the last scene. There were countless organs strung around the entire house as the camera changed views to show its its delightful scenery. My only assumption was that her corpse lied somewhere in this mess.
The battle continued for what seems like an hour, there was no stop to it until one of them was dead. The muscular man stepped back and swung his arm wildly, grabbing the other by what remained of his hair. In the same motion he pinned his head to the ground and completely severed it from his body. In his victorious stance, he raised his opponents head above his body and tilted his own head back with his mouth wide open.
The blood that lingered in the severed head was being dripped downward into the mans mouth as he gulped it down until it came to a halt. He took a large bite out of the cheek of the mans face then tossed the head across the room. Suddenly he turned to the camera and approached it; still chewing the mouthful of flesh he just bit off.
"I win." He said this while staring directly into the lens of the camera.
The screen was locked on his face for about 30 seconds before the tape ended. With a quiet click, the screen went black and the sound of the tape auto-ejecting brought me back into reality. In complete awe, I froze. What in the absolute hell did I just watch? I scrambled for my phone with the intent of calling the police when I realized it was already Monday morning.
Was it really that long? There's no way these tapes held that much footage. I rushed to get my clothes back on, threw the tapes into a plastic bag and bolted out the door to make it back to the job site. My plan was to inform my superior and then turn these tapes over to the police. Whoever hosted this sick and twisted game needed to see justice.
I pulled my truck onto the job site, then I noticed a white Prius with a familiar logo on the side of it. Suddenly I remembered the symbol from the header of our contract it also matched the inscription on the outside of the VHS tapes. All I knew about the client was that they were an independently funded medical research team that was supposed to be coming up with some sort of breakthrough in modern medicine.
My heart sank into my stomach as my skin instantly grew cold. I bolted from my truck with the bag of tapes in hand and burst through the door of the portable office building. My body damn near shut down when I saw the back profile of a man with jet black hair and a white lab coat sitting in the chair across from my bosses desk.
"You look like shit!" My superior spat out as he looked me up and down.
"This is no way to present ourselves as a professional in front of our customer!" He added.
The man turned around to look at me, a smile grew upon his face when his eyes fixated on the transparent bag I held in my hand.
"Sir, I found these on site last week. It's important that you take a look at them...for everyone's sake" I managed to squeak the words out before being interrupted by my superior.
"You found these on site?! This property is owned by our client and any items found within its confines are in direct possession of the property owner, our client!" He screamed so loud that it made my eardrums rattle.
"Thank you so much, I actually lost these when inspecting the land just a couple months ago. You see, these tapes are extremely important to our research and I am forever grateful for you to return them for me"
The scientists smile grew into a wide toothy grin as he snatched the bag from my weakened grip. The man then turned toward my boss and gave him a farewell nod as he walked to the door. Him and I locked eyes as he passed by me. The smile never left his face.
From that moment, I quit my job at Ground Feeders and quickly sold all my assets; moving far away from that place. I'm writing this to you as a warning and to get this off my chest. I've been living with this burden for 5 years now and I still see pieces of flesh being ripped apart by those beasts every time I close my eyes. I don't know how long I can deal with the trauma of what I witnessed, for now I'll just take it day by day.
submitted by TheBigSp00k to nosleep [link] [comments]


2017.04.18 13:19 Dreyfiel Ideas for a little more diversity (marines and eldar)

Hello,
As with my first post, please pardon my language faults and don't hesitate to give feed-back. I am trying to make something equilbred, but I can be wrong on a lot of points.
Ideas and caracteristics are not the problem (between necromunda and WH40k 2nd), but the question is the cost in points. To be more specific, I could easilly estimate a cost, but I have tried to use established SWA costs. So, basically, I'm trying to use some pre-existing equipments and others, just transfering it from one faction to another (because, with the exception of the orks with their BS of 2, all the equipment seams to have the same cost when it is in different factions).
Space Marines: I wanted the classical marines in power armor (ok, I know). We have it in chaos flavored version, so just take it. No mark of chaos, but instead they have their "And They Should Knox No Fear" rule. Easy and thematic! The only problem is the lost of the "champion of chaos" rule, but I don't care (and it's kinda compensated by the fact that you have access to a lot of diversity in troops). So, the leader can be a sergeant in power armor (use aspirings champion), you can have a space marine in power armor (same as chaos space marine) as a soldier and you can have a specialist space marine in power armor (same as chos gunner). Characteristics and costs are the same (sergeant will cost 225 points, space marine in power amor wil cost 120 points and specialist space marine in power armor will cost 130 points). Your recruits (noviciates) can only become some scouts, no power armor space marine (logical). Sadly, no assault blades for the space marines. And the specialist have access to all the classical space marines special and heavy weapons (mix space marines and chaos marines special and heavies, just don't allow the autocannon. So, specials: meltagun, plasma-gun and flammer. Heavies: heavy bolter, missile launcher and las-cannon). For all of them, use the same skills as their chaos counter-part.
Chaos marines: Not a lot of things, but chaos marines without the chain-axe is sad (specialy for the khornates). Orks have a buzz choppa, which look very similar, no? Just add it to the HtH weapons list et voilà!
Eldar: The lack of diversity of the list make me sad. And the fact that some troops well-adapted for this kind of mission are missing too.
Fisrt thing first. I'm an old eldar player: in my universe they still have laser weapons. So I will add the las-gun and las-pistol (cf imperial guard) for my guardians. But feel free to not use it. But I will also add Hth weapons: in my time, guardians have chain-sword and power-sword. Power-sword seems now restrained to leader, so probably no power-sword (or power-glove) for my guardians, but standard sword (cf harlequins) or, more thematic (monomolecular blade from harlequins). In short (and limited version), Hth weapons for guardians (and rangers) are knifes, swords and monomolecular swords. And they can take shuriken pistols.
Shock guardians: Same as the guardian defenders, but can not buy basic weapons. Instead, they can buy HtH weapons and shuriken pistol. Are recruits. Same evolution as the guardian defenders (or, but more delicate because of the cost in scorpions if you use it). 80 points.
Specialist guardians: same as the guardian gunner, but can not take platform or buy basic weapons. Instead, they can buy special weapons: flammer or meltagun (use the marines or guards costs). Are specialists. Skills: guerilla, agility, shooting, stealth 90 points.
Ranger (I really wanted them in SWA): same characteristics and equipments as the guardian defenders. Can buy miscellanious, grenades, pistols, guardian HtH weapons. More important, they can buy a sniper rifle (cf space marine scouts for the cost). And so, they can buy all that goes with the job (cf space marines scouts: toxic rounds, camo gear). They are soldier. Skill: agility, shooting, stealth 80 points.
Ok, this was easy and no guessing for the costs.
But, if I want more. Thematicly, some others aspect warriors could be here. Especially the scorpions and the dragons, I think.
Easy solution: just use the caracteristics (and cost) of the avenger. 100 points. If you want to give them their heavy aspect armor, my best estimation (necron, and difference between scout and chaos marine minus the -1 in movement) for 4+ to 3+ armor would be +30 points. 130 points, then. You could too adjust the Initiative characteristic, but it's not really important I think.
Dragons are specialists. They can take grenade and miscelanious (personaly, I would allow pistol too, but...). They can take a meltagun from the special weapons. Skills: guerilla, agility, shooting, stealth
Scorpions are soldiers. The problem is the mandiblaster: we have the characteristics (cf autarch), but not the cost. So, not using it or estimate a cost (20 points seems ok). For the rest. They can take can take grenade and miscelanious and they can buy shuriken pistol and chain sword. Skills: combat, agility, stealth
For the other aspects, it would be more difficult. Dark reapers should be speacialists, probably with missile-launcher (cf platform). Skills: guerilla, agility, shooting, stealth. Banshees, eagles or spiders would be more delicate to integrate because their equipment is complicated (not to simulate: we have the rules from WH40k and some things like the wings are ever adapted, or the teleportation of the grey knight could be used for the spider. But the costs...).
If you have other aspects warriors, why not trying another exarch as a leader. With the same initial cost and skills as the avenger exarch, but different equipment. For example, a scorpion exarch (with mandiblaster? + 20 points) could take shuriken pistol, chain sword, power-fist.
submitted by Dreyfiel to ShadowWarArmageddon [link] [comments]


2017.01.27 05:30 RatedAforAwesome RatedAforAwesome's Wrestlemania 33 Card and booking ideas

There may be a lot of these popping up but mine is a fun read for any dedicated wrestling fan. It's a long read, don't try to do it all in one sitting it, just comeback later if you like the direction. Give your feedback!
If you need something to listen to something while you read here are the links to the theme songs I would want for the show.
Greenlight-Pitbull ft. Flo Rida, LunchMoney Lewis {already made official}
Burning Man-Watt ft Post Malone
Devastated-Joey Bada$$
Human-Rag'n'Bone Man{For the Undertaker's match}
THE KICKOFF SHOW:
1) Rich Swan (C)vs Tajiri vs Jack Gallagher vs Cedric Alexander vs Hunico vs Neville vs The Brian Kendrick 7-Pack Challenge for the Cruiserweight championship
BACKSTORY- This is just one of those cram them all in and see what happens match. There's too many cruiserweights on the card to really focus on a few of them so they might as well showcase the division. The only story I could add to this match is Sin Cara finally gets fed up with being a superhero for kids and goes back to his street savvy roots; I'd love to see that low rider bike again. Winner- Whoever has momentum.
2) Andre the Giant memorial battle royal for a chance to become number one contender for either the united states of intercontinental championship
BACKSTORY- This match includes the likes of; the reigning smackdown tag team champions American Alpha, the team who people keep saying are great but are actually really bland the Club, the blank slate Apollo crews, and the only people who matter in the match Cesaro and Heath Slater. Cesaro is in this match to prove himself as a singles competitor which I'll go into more detail with further down the card. Winner- The one man band, Baby!!!
MAIN SHOW
1) Rusev with Lana vs Chris Jericho vs United States Champion Samoa Joe vs Xavier Woods representing the New Day vs Kalisto vs Mojo Rawley vs Tyler Breeze vs Luke Harper in a Co-brand Money in the bank ladder match
BACKSTORY- If there is any match that needs to be on this Wrestlemania card it's this one. Trying to cram all your underused talents in nonsensical ladders matches for a secondary title or a meaningless battle royal need to stop. I may have ladders but I want the participants to matter.
This match will be basically built up around Samoa Joe and The New Day. Upon his debut at the Royal Rumble Joe dominates for most of the match but falls short after making it to the final six.
In the months soon after though, he wrecks house on Raw's midcard scene and decisively beats the newly turned face Jericho for the United States Championship. In the actual match itself he does very well but gets distracted when trying to inflict pain on his new rival, Rusev, and doesn't end up with the victory; But he does create a memorable spot where he performs and Island Driver from the top of a tall ladder of the edge of the stage and through a row of catering tables.
As for the New Day, they continue their shenanigans but they soon start to act more aggressive to their opponents as well as each other. They all feel like the act has gone stale and tease a breakup for the months leading up to WM. It comes to ahead when Xavier woods steals the qualifying match to get into the mitb. Finally two weeks before WM, a they have a triple threat to see who will be in the match and Woods steals the spot once again which causes Kofi and Big E to walk out on him. At WM, Xavier convinces them in a backstage promo to become friends again and to join him in an elaborate entrance to the ring (flying unicorns maybe?) During the match they team up to try a ladder spot where Kofi boom drops onto Mojo from the top of a ladder through a ladder bridged between the announcer table. But there is a miscommunication and Kofi ends up breaking himself through the ladder bridge, which causes a fed up Big E to take him to the back leaving Woods all alone. Finally, the match ends when Jericho is at the top of the ladder and all the other participants are down, with his finger tips on the briefcase, but Big E suddenly appears at the bottom of the ladder and pushes it over knocking out Jericho. He guards the ladder as a still dazed Kofi ascends to the top and grabs the briefcase. The bell rings when Kofi hands the briefcase to Woods. Winner- The New Day
*POST WM BACKSTORY *- New day will reveal that the breaking up tease was just a clever rouse. They will get into a feud with the top three contenders for the Universal title on Raw because they think using the Freebird rule with the briefcase is unfair and at the next ppv they will face those contenders to see if they can use it. Eventually after multiple failed attempts by all the members, The New Day cash in on Sami Zayn after hellacious TLC match with Kevin Owens on the last ppv before the draft.
2) Enzo Amore and Big Cass vs Sheamus and Cesaro(C) for the Raw Tag Team Championsips.
BACKSTORY- Hopefully, Enzo heals up by then because these two are the most over tag team in a while. While they are popular, Enzo and Cass are severely outclassed by Sheamus and Cesaro leading up to this match. Like for most of their encounters,in terms of pure wrestling, they shouldn't get the upper hand at all.
Their strengths are in their words. Enzo will use his wizard mic skills to cut down on his opponents momentum and take advantage of Shesaro's weakness, their huge egos. Playing up that they were once singles stars and they're not going to be remembered by being apart of a makeshift tag team. Sheamus doesn't buy it and actually likes the team while Cesaro, although reluctant at first, starts to feel weighed down. A few weeks before the match, Tyson Kidd comes out officially announcing his retirement and in the process calls out Cesaro to sing his friend's praise before he goes. He says Cesaro needs to end this with Sheamus asap because he has the skill to be a world champion. During the segment, Samoa Joe comes out as US Champion and basically buries the both of them; maybe Joe could mention the reason Tyson is retiring is because of him, it might be too much of a sensitive subject for Tyson though. The main thing is this lights a fire under Cesaro and he challenges Joe to a last man standing match the week before Wrestlemania for the US title. Sheamus hates this idea because it's too soon to their title match at WM but Cesaro wants to prove himself.
After an all out brawl of a match that destroys both men, Cesaro can't make it to his feet at the count of ten and he is badly beaten and bruised. Sheamus carries his partner to the back as the crowd cheers him on. At WM, a still beaten Cesaro disobeys Sheamus again and works the kickoff match almost winning but comes up short because of the injuries. Even pulling through to his tag team title match is too much for him to bear. Winner- Enzo and Big cass
3) Shane McMahon vs Baron Corbin I Quit match Loser leave smackdown
BACKSTORY- Baron Corbin is looking great leading up to the Royal Rumble and his chances of winning are pretty good. But do to shenanigans involving the Miz, Dean Ambrose, and some questionable officiating he gets eliminated. Shane McMahon comes out and takes the side of the obviously wrong referee. Strike one.
A locker room brawl erupts between all the elimination chamber participants and he gets punished the most by Shane after he causes the most damage. Strike Two.
During the elimination chamber match, Baron's leg gets stuck in the a faulty pod door and as he tries to get it out he receives a Rko and eliminated. When he tries to get Shane McMahon on his side even saying please, but Shane still says no. That's strike three shane needs to be taken out.
On the last smackdown live before WM, since he already took out Daniel Bryan upon The Miz' request, Baron decides they need completely new management. The I Quit match if Baron wins then he takes over as the new GM. At WM, Baron and Shane O Mac have a knockdown drag out brawl. No wrestling holds. Just stop signs, kendo sticks, and tables on fire. The match ends when Baron realizes a handcuffed Shane still won't quit so he results to drastic measures. Corbin grabs Shane's eldest son from the front row, and threatens to give him an end of days on a lined up row of chairs if he doesn't give up. Shane pleads with him but Baron won't listen and just as security runs down Shane says I quit. Baron puts the kids down and after they get Shane free Baron does the end of days through the chairs on him. Writing Shane off tv. Winner- Baron Corbin
4) Braun Strowman vs The Big Show w Shaq
BACKSTORY- Big show has worked too had on his new physique to be put in a match with Shaq. I know it will get a lot of media buzz but having him there as a manager will do just fine.
This is a simple passing of the torch match. The Big show says that this is his final run and he wants to be remembered as one of the greatest big men in history. Whatever buildup they were planning for the Shaq match will basically get moved up to the february ppv. Big show beats the like of Mark Henry, Big Cass, and Kane just to show his strength.
The media gets the attention of this marquee match and at the february Raw ppv the two duke it out in a fun friendly competition. Big show wins, because he should finally win one of these, and the two amicably shake each others hands as Big Show raises Shaq's hand and leaves the ring......BBBBBRRRAAAAAUUUUUUNNNN.
Braun Strowman fresh off a lost to Sami Zayn, by count out of course, in the semi finals of the tournament runs down to the ring and proceeds to beat the holy hell out of Shaq. Big show turns around but is too late as Braun watches on smiling. Over the weeks, Braun antagonizes Big show by beating the same big men he beat but quicker. He also calls him a disgrace to giants and says he is too friendly yadda yadda yadda. Big show knowing he has to train harder enlists the help of Shaq to hit the gym so he can get jacked to beat Braun.
At WM, these two tanks go at it in a heavy hitting match. They hit hard and slam hard. It's a short match but it's to the point. Big Show gives Strowman two knockout punches and amazed, even a little terrified, when he no sells them by getting right back up. Braun gives Show one knock out punch immediately after and knocks Show out cold. Braun then puts one foot on the giants chest and ends the match. Shaq, who was ringside making sure everything went fair and that Big Show stayed with it, gets into the ring and helps the giant up. Shaq looks at Big Show, who looks defeated but still like a champ, and raises his arm letting the crowd know this is the end for Paul Wight. Winner- Braun Strowman
5) Alexa Bliss(C) vs Naomi vs Becky Lynch vs Mickie James Fatal 4 way for the Smackdown's Women's Championship
BACKSTORY- There's not much i can say about this one. Mickie probably will be revealed to be la luchadora. Maybe she can play up the crazy angle to get in the mind of Alexa Bliss. Naomi should play up the disgruntled performer angle she's been doing on twitter as of late. That's about it. Winner- Either Mickie James or Naomi
6) Kurt Angle vs Dolph Ziggler
BACKSTORY- Dolph keeps wrestling on Smackdown live as a tweener up until the rumble. He becomes one of the ironman during the match and making it from early on until the last eight, along with Strowman, Bray, Randy, Sami, Joe, and Angle. Up to this point, Angle hasn't touched Ziggler and doesn't pay him any attention. Then while Dolph is leaned over outside on the ropes, Angle inadvertently knocks him out without even noticing.
On twitter the next monday, Dolph says that usually he would be mad at himself for losing the rumble but he found out that Kurt Angle has officially signed with Smackdown live. He says he's happy for some new and experienced compettion on the blue brand that he can steal the show with. The next night on Smackdown live, Kurt angle walks past everyone after getting out a limo with a Smackdown live shirt and gives hug/ high fives to the legends and gives props to new guys like Kalisto, who he says reminds him of a young Mysterio, and Dean Ambrose, who he says is bringing prestige back to the Intercontinental title. Right next to Dean is Dolph who Kurt just skips over him not even saying a word, he is barely even see on camera. Kurt makes return speech to the fans without a hitch.
The next week, Kurt Angle is seen giving advice to American Alpha in the locker room. Later that night he wins his first match back against Apollo crews. After the match, Dolph Ziggler comes out in street clothes and goes into the ring. Kurt Angle doesn't notice him because he is wiping sweat off with a towel at first but when he turns around to see a smiling Dolph in the ring he stops for a second. Dolph has a mic in his hand and is about to speak but Angle pulls out a marker and signs his arm. He than give him the wet towel and pats his back as he leaves the ring. Dolph is left enraged.
The next week Dolph catches Kurt alone in the locker room. Kurt tells him that fans aren't allowed to be in the back but Dolph cuts him off. He tells him that he's not a fan and that he wants to know why Kurt has been dodging him this whole time. Kurt confesses that he doesn't know who Dolph Ziggler is. Dolph holds back his anger and wants some advice from one of the best. Kurt's advice to him is that he shouldn't leave NXT until he is ready to compete with the big boys. Kurt pats him on the back and leaves. Dolph is left enraged. Later that night, Kurt qualifies for the Elimination Chamber for the World Heavyweight Championship. Dolph watches on from the back holding the towel from before.
During talking smack, Dolph gives Kurt Angle dvds of his best matches and best promos and asks for his feed back next week. Ziggler also want him ringside at for his qualifying match.
The last week before the Elimination Chamber, Dolph faces Randy Orton to qualify for the chamber match with Kurt at ringside. The whole match Kurt is either on his phone or barely even watching and what he does see he shakes his head at. Dolph is trying everything to please Kurt.He finally hits a sweet chin music on Randy but it's very sloppy and barely puts him away for two. Kurt sees this as the last straw and begins to walk out. Dolph notices and watches him go, obviously heart-broken and yelling "where are you going". Then he turns around right into and RKO and loses.
At the Chamber, Kurt Angle and AJ Styles are first and the match continues as normal. Kurt lasts a long time and is showing now sign of ring rust. Angle Randy Orton through the pod glass and since he is tired from all his effort he slumps down against the chambers chain link for a breather. Out of nowhere Dolph comes from the crowd and Handcuffs both of Kurt's hands to the fence. Kurt is livid at this and thrases trying to break free. Dolph laughs at him, throws soda in his face, and takes a selfie mocking him. Kurt is finally eliminated when he is unable to break free and AJ Styles splashes from the top of a pod onto him.
From there the feud continues to grow until Wrestlemania like normal. Two weeks before they get into a heated promo in the ring where Dolph admits the similarities he has between HBK, Mr perfect, and billy gun, but he has modeled his wrestling career of Angle since college. Dolph than yells at him for not recognizing him as a star even after he gave him the tapes of his best work. Kurt says that he watched the tapes and all he saw was a bleached blonde bozo who flops around the ring and will never be anything. But before Kurt can finish Dolph superkicks the hell out of him almost knocking his teeth out. Than Dolph takes the old sweaty towel Kurt gave him and sticks it in his mouth.
The last week before Mania, Kurt goes to Dolph's old high school and his old college and talks trash about him while touring it.
At WM, the two have a very technical Shawn vs Jericho esque match. Dolph pulls out a plethora of new moves in his greatest challenge yet. Winner- Dolph Ziggler
7) Goldberg vs Brock Lesnar
BACKSTORY- I'm not excited for this match. I have no interest in the story. I don't care who wins. Goldberg is wasting his short time left on Brock. They wasted Brock's momentum on Goldberg. I just want this to end. The only thing good that could come out of this match at this point is if Brock grows out his beard again. Winner- Doesn't matter, Because we all lose in the end
8) Roman Reigns vs The Undertaker buried Alive match
BACKSTORY- Starting at the rumble, Reigns should start losing matches with more clean and decisive finishes. Not necessarily he gets beaten with ease, but if there's any mistake or mishap than it's his fault. He starts to botch certain moves, maybe he gets caught with very obvious attacks or starts slipping in the ring stuff like that. The WWE could put 20 or more plants in the crowd to start chants like; "You can't wrestle", You messed up", it's not that hard to get a hate chant started for Reigns. After a certain amount of time, the announcers and Roman start to sell that the crowd and the disapproval of the fans is getting to him.
Between the Royal Rumble and the Raw february ppv, Stephanie holds a 8 man tournament to see who will face the Universal champion at Wrestlemania. Roman makes it to the semi finals but in the previous rounds he made it by complete accident. Whether because of interference or a technicality, Roman was not going to win the match and everyone knows it. The Underaker is also in the semi finals after making it on a bye because Goldberg and Brock took each other out in the previous round. Right before the semi final match, Roman Reigns is in the locker room getting a amped up pep talk from Rikishi and the The Usos. They are chanting in Samoan and hyping up Reigns trying to make him feel like a champ. Roman says it's all in his head and that he's going to beat the deadman later tonight.
Undertaker comes out to the ring first and looks like he's ready to kick some ass. Roman steps into the ring with a huge smirk on his face he's across the ring from the deadman no fear and looks up to the Wrestlemania sign. As soon as the bell rings, Undertaker starts to pummel Reign's gut with body shots while he leans against the ropes. Reigns has a cocky look on his face because none of the shots are affecting him. Undertaker sees this and instead goes for a strong-arm clothesline, but Roman ducks out of it and hits the ropes catching Undertaker with a Superman Punch. The crowd continues to boo, while Reigns with a big smirk on his face gets into the corner and sets up a Spear. Oooooooaaaaaaaaaah.
Reigns runs at Taker with all his might, but Undertaker counters the spear into a Last Ride and pins reigns down 1.......2......3. Undertaker taunts over a fallen Reigns who is holding his head in shame.
At the february Raw PPV, Undertaker faces Sami Zayn in a very lopsided match. Of course Zayn gets his usual underdog offense in but besides that it's almost an identical match to Taker's match with Mysterio a few years back. Undertaker sets up Zayn for the last ride basically cementing the win.....when Roman's music starts to play. Undertaker turns to the ramp to see Rikishi and the Usos walking down to the ring. They stop at the apron and start to yell at the Undertaker who is leaning on the ropes yelling back at them, telling them to leave. Undertaker is so distracted that he doesn't notice Sami Zayn recover enough to roll him up in a pin and secure the upset win. Zayn celebrates from on top of the announcer table while Undertaker throws a fit in the ring.
The next night on Raw, Roman is really upset with his family and says that they shouldn't try to defend his honor he lost to Undertaker fair and square.Roman decides to go out in the ring and apologize face to face with the deadman.
In the ring, Roman tells the crowd that he knows that he's in a rut but that he doesn't need his family to fight his battles for him. Then the Undertaker comes out and stares Roman down. Roman apologizes to the Deadman and says he has nothing to do with his family and that if he wanted to fight the Undertaker he would settle it in the ring like a man. But Undertaker chuckles at this and says that Roman wasn't worth his time any way. The Deadman says he forgot about Roman after he beat his ass last week.The only reason why he came out was to threaten The Usos and Rikishi because the next time they do something stupid like that they will rest in peace! The lights go off and The Undertaker disappears. Reigns stands there with his hands on his hip defeated.
The next week, Stephanie gives Roman the night off because the show is stacked and she has nothing for a waste of space like him. Later that night, Roman is in a bar drinking his shame away when Rikishi and the Usos come in to cheer him up. They start drinking with him and saying how The Undertaker isn't even scary. Then Jey Uso shows Roman a website on his phone which tells the location of a private cemetery with The Undertaker's real grave. So they call a cab and go.
At the cemetery, the Samoans are drunk and acting disrespectful by making fun of the Undertaker. They get to the grave and spray paints over the tombstone. Finally, Roman sees the Undertaker's urn on the grave's dirt and gets an idea. He takes off the top and starts to pee into it while the Usos and Rikishi laugh. Out of nowhere, lightning and smoke appears bringing the Undertaker and Kane with it. The brothers of destruction brawl with the Samoans all over the cemetery. The fight ends with Rikishi getting thrown into an open grave and Kane and Undertaker disappear.
The feud continues with many brawls between Undertaker and Reigns. Roman acts a lot more aggressive and talks less during promos. Winner- The Undertaker
POST WM BACKSTORY- Roman can disappear after the loss to rejuvenate himself maybe come back with a new theme,attire, physique, everything. On the Raw after the Wrestlemania match, one of the backstage interviewers could be in the Camping stadium and looking for Roman in the grave of the buried alive set.
9) John Cena vs Shinsuke Nakamura
BACKSTORY- Pretty simple build as well. John keeps building up his tirade over new stars. He puts extra effort into dominating a match whenever it's a wrestler form NXT. Shane and Daniel Bryan like John's intensity but they don't like his disrespect for up and comers. They recommend him to check out a taping of NXT. So John buys a ticket, dresses in his nicest suit and sits with Nikki in the front row at either a takeover special or just a regular show. But this show is built as a big deal because it's going to be the last match Nakamura is going to have in full sail since Shane and Daniel bought out his contract from the show. During the match, John is barely paying attention and the camera keeps cutting to him as all the fans want to get autographs and take pictures with Big match John. Nakamura gets visibly pissed and starts to mock Cena and do the You can't see me hand wave while John is busy show boating.
The next time they meet is when John is doing a high-profile interview for his new movie The Wall. Maybe he's talking to Mario Lopez or on Good day America or something. The point is out of nowhere Nakamura comes out from behind him and starts taking everybody's attention. He does the whole nine yards; Dancing, running around giving high fives, kissing girls and taking autographs.
The feud continues to WM with John getting more aggressive and going back to his rapping roots, trying to do everything he can to outshine the Asian sensation. Winner- Shinsuke Nakamura
10) Bayley(C) vs Nia Jax vs Sasha Banks triple threat for the Raw women's championship
BACKSTORY- Yes, Bayley should get the upset at the Rumble and move the belt away from Charlotte. I love her as much as the next guy but there's a bigger feud for her and I'm tired of seeing her with the belt. That being said, this is a standard feud anything you can come up with is fine with me. These three women make magic anyway so it can't be that hard. Sasha is mad at Bayley because it didn't seem like she had such a hard road to the title, planting seed for a full on heel turn. Winner- It's a tossup Bayley or Sasha I can't pick
11) Dean Ambrose(C) vs The Miz w Maryse Hell in A Cell for the intercontinental championship
BACKSTORY- Not much to say about this match; Keep the booking pretty much the same, this feud is good so just let it evolve until a big blow off. The Miz can enter the Rumble with Daniel Bryan's music, gear, and yes gesture. They eliminate each other. At the elimination chamber, the Miz picks up the win in a mix tag match including his wife, Maryse, and Renée Young. D-Bry gets tired of his cowardly antics as the rivalry grows. Natural conclusion is make it a Hell in a Cell. Winner- Dean Ambrose, but in the end we all win because the IC title will be considered a top belt again.
12) Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn vs Finn Balor Triple Threat for the Universal Championship
BACKSTORY- The main story in this match is that Kevin Owens gets a new gimmick as a prize-fighter. He needs to stop being a comedy act and go back to being a threat. Imagine he starts acting like Floyd Mayweather; He's cocky, brass, and is very picky about who he fights, but at the end of the day he beats people clean every time. He starts walking around with body guards not because he's scared but because he has set dates in his contract to fight and he doesn't want anyone to try to test him. He doesn't even attack his opponents he just hides behind his wall of men and says if there's no money involved he's not doing it. He wrestles on Raw a lot less often and Stephanie has to throw more money at him every time she wants him to wrestle or even defend his title. Imagine in one of Michael Cole's serious interviews Kevin Owens says something like...
Michael Cole: What's with the change of attitude? First you drop Jericho as your best friend now you're getting paid more and more each week.
Kevin Owens: Look Michael I'm not a rich man. I don't live a lavish lifestyle. I'm definitely not a coward. I just know what I'm worth. I've earned every penny they throw at me. Those big checks I get pay for all the hospital bills I have from stepping in that ring. If you want me to fight, then pay me right.
So with that character in mind Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho officially split up at the Royal Rumble. I'm not sure how exactly but over the feud Kevin says Chris is dead weight and a spotlight stealer. Meanwhile, Sami Zayn is the number one entrant in the Rumble and is the iron man lasting all the way to the final three but comes up short. He manages to break Rey Mysterio's time record.
At the february Raw ppv, Sami Zayn rolls up a distracted Undertaker to send himself to a championship match at WM. Meanwhile, Kevin Owens defeats Chris Jericho in a match for the Universal Championship thus ending their feud. But after the match while Kevin is stomping out his former friend......Finn Balor makes his return to a huge pop and takes out Owens.
Over the next few weeks on Raw, Balor states that since he never lost the title Stephanie has rewarded him the title match at Mania. Kevin Owens is livid because that means the match will be a triple threat match and demands more money because it's unfair.
Stephanie tells Sami Zayn backstage that he's out of the match at WM because Kevin Owens price for a triple threat was just two high and out of the two of them Finn Balor was a bigger draw. Sami Zayn, outraged, attacks Kevin Owens and puts him through the table in Stephanie's new office. Kevin is so mad that he makes them raise his paycheck even more, so much in fact that they can't afford to pay Sami Zayn. Still mad at him, Stephanie sends Zayn on two-week leave and says that he will not compete at Wrestlemania.
On the last Raw before Wrestlemania, Kevin Owens and Finn Balor have their contract signing and everything is getting heated in a promo between them when...Sami Zayn comes out with a huge duffel bag and rolls in the ring. He says to Kevin Owens that if he let's him wrestle in the match at WM he can have what's in the bag. Kevin Owens opens the bag and doesn't believe what he sees. So Sami Zayn gives him with the bank statement and his eye widden at the number on the paper. Even Stephanie is impressed. So Sami Zayn signs the contract and then the promo continues with the three of them. They have a huge brawl and the show ends with Finn Balor taunting on the barricade, Sami Zayn taunting on the ramp, and Kevin Owens flailing around trying to grab the money after Zayn Helluva kicked the bag out his hands. The money turns out to be fake anyway. Winner- Kevin Owens
13) Triple H and Charlotte vs Seth Rollins and Rhonda Rousey
BACKSTORY- Seth Rollins gets screwed out of the Royal Rumble by Triple H and Bayley gets the upset win over Charlotte beating her undefeated ppv streak. Triple H and Seth Rollins feud continues to grow heat like you think it would. Seth and Triple H battle each other in promos week in and week out. A few weeks before her rematch at the february ppv, Charlotte returns to Raw to deliver he first promo since her loss. Up until now, Charlotte has remained silent in backstage promos and has been skipping Raws. In her promo she states that she is still dominant and that it was a fluke. She mentions how nobody will even mention her loss at the Rumble once she wins her title back. Unlike Rhonda Rousey she will get back on top and become champion again.
At February Raw ppv, Bayley and Charlotte have their rematch and towards the end the ref gets knocked out. Charlotte goes to ringside and grabs the title so she can use it as a weapon. She gets back in and knocks Bayley over the skull with the belt. Charlotte is about to go for the cover when a hooded person runs in the ring and gives her a few well-trained shots in the face knocking her out cold. The hooded person takes off her hood to reveal herself to be Rhonda Rousey. Rhonda drags Bayley over on top of Charlotte and wakes up the ref so she can retain her title.
The next night on Raw, Rhonda gives a promo about how she has always loved the WWE and that since her last two losses she has become more humble. She lets them know she will be back in UFC but she wants fighting to be fun again and that's why she's he here for fun. Charlotte is a bully who ruins the fun. The women get involved when Triple H tries to get Stephanie involved with the feud but she refuses because of the spear she got during last years WM. Just as she says no, Charlotte walks in complaining about Rhonda's interference in her title match. Triple H looks at Charlotte and gets a big smirk on his face.
The next week on Raw, Seth Rollins in a match and during it he's copying triple h's moves proving that he can do them better. After he wins though, Charlotte comes down the ramp with a sledgehammer. She gets up in Rollins face and but he doesn't strike he. He tries to get her to leave but she won't budge. Out of nowhere, Triple H comes in and beats him down. Seth Rollins is bruised and beaten and goes to strike back but Charlotte lays him out with the sledgehammer.
The next week, Rollins is in the ring and is livid. He challenges Triple H to a match at Wrestlemania and wants it to be bloody and violent. Triple H's music plays but Charlotte comes out. She gets in the ring and says that Triple H is going to give her anything she wants all she has to do is come out every week and piss Rollins off. Rollins goes to leave, but Charlotte smacks him in the face. Rollins gets angry and raises his fist but decides not to. She starts giving him knife-edge chops causing Rollins to back up in the corner. Then from outside the ring Triple H grabs his legs and pulls him into the ring post. Charlotte rolls out of the ring while Triple H rolls in. Charlotte wraps his legs in a figure 8 around the post while Triple H beats in his skull. He yells to Rollins if you want to get to me you you're gonna have to go through her. Just as he says that Rhonda Rousey runs down to the ring and attacks Charlotte. Triple H gets out of the ring and stares Rhonda down. He doesn't say a word, just picks up Charlotte and carries her in his arms to back. Stephanie is watching on the monitor from the back and she doesn't look happy.
On social media over the week, it is announced that Rhonda as signed a temporary contract to wrestle for the a short time in the WWE. The other big news that's trending on twitter is a video of Triple H and Charlotte challenging Seth Rollins and the new Raw superstar to a mixed tag match at WM.
On Raw that week, Rhonda Rousey runs in the men's locker room excited to see Seth Rollins. She says that she's ready for her first match at WM and that they're gonna win together. Rollins thanks her for the help but isn't excited about the match because Rousey is inexperienced. One DQ or a quick roll up and his opportunity to beat Triple H is gone. Rousey agrees and says she has an idea. Later in the night, Triple H goes into Steph's office and is upset about the new addition to the roster. Stephanie says she is a hot commodity and best for business and that he would see that if he wasn't so busy with Charlotte. Triple H says that his just trying to guide her but Stephanie doesn't care. She says that Rhonda requested a match a night to get practice and doesn't want any interference.
Rhonda comes out looks like she's ready for MMA not wrestling. In her match with Tamina Snuka she is clearly out matched not in power or athleticism, but in wrestling knowledge. Rollins is at ring side trying his best to coach her but it's not work. Rhonda gets frustrated when Tamina tries to roll her up so she traps her into the corner and start to pummel her with punches and kicks. She gets disqualified for not answering the 5 count and Rollins looks at the Wrestlemania sign disappointed. Rollins is backstage and Triple H is laughing at him saying how he better hope that doesn't happen at Wrestlemania.
The next week, Rollins makes a deal with Rhonda that if he trains her heart out with him than he'll accept the match. She agrees and over the rest of the feud Rhonda and Rollins train like a rocky montage in the NXT performance center and in his actually wrestling school.
On the last week before Mania in an in ring segment, Seth Rollins and Rhonda Rousey show a private videos Charlotte and Triple H getting a little more intimate than they should while teaming together.This video makes Stephanie jealous so she makes the stipulation that if Charlotte and Hunter lose the match than Charlotte has to be her personal assistant and can't have a raw women's championship match for a whole year. When Charlotte hears this news she freaks out and threaten to Triple H that she's gonna drop out the match. But he reassures her that he has a couple more tricks up his sleeve. Seth Rollins is eavesdropping on them and goes to tell Rhonda. She says don't worry I have some friends in UFC who are just a phone call away (wink wink!)
At WM, the match is going as planned when the ref starts to act make some questionable calls when Seth and Rhonda gain some momentum. Eventually the ref is about to make a BS call that will end the match when.......CONNOR MCCGREGGOR runs out with a referee shirt. He knocks out the ref and gets into and argument to Triple H. They start shoving each other until Triple H gets shoved into a high kick by Rhonda which pushes him into a Pedigree by Rollins. But to cap him off the moment Rollins finishes Triple H with a definitive CURB STOMP! Winner- Seth Rollins and Rhonda Rousey
14) AJ Styles(C) vs Bray Wyatt for the World heavyweight championship with Randy Orton as the special guest referee
BACKSTORY- At Royal Rumble, AJ retains over a game John Cena and in the process starts his face turn by embracing the crowd. In the rumble, Bray Wyatt comes in at 13 and goes on to win it all by eliminating Randy Orton. During the match, The Wyatts split up officially when Randy and Luke harper team up on Wyatt. Over the next few weeks, Bray feuds with Randy and Luke while AJ starts to act more respectful to his competitors. He can still have a little edge to him, he just decides to act as more of a role model.
At the elimination chamber, Bray Wyatt defeats Luke Harper in a gimmick match (something like an inferno match or an ambulance match) to give the ppv more flair. Meanwhile, Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Baron Corbin, Kurt Angle, John Cena, and The Ascension's Konnor in an elimination chamber match for the championship.
AJ Styles and Kurt Angle start the match and tear down in the first few minutes, then Randy Orton comes out and starts to dominate. The match continues as Viktor then John Cena comes out. Konnor is performing his finisher on Randy Orton but makes a mistake and ends up knocking John Cena out by accident. AJ Styles takes advantage and pins him. Cena is out first. Out raged because a NXT chump helped take him out, John Cena beats up Konnor and his partner Viktor who ran down to save him before he leaves. Konnor gets a then Angle gives him an Angle slam and goes for a pin. Konnor is out second.
The intense match continues until the last pod is chosen, it's Baron's time, but the pod gets stuck and he gets a RKO followed by a pin. Baron is out and is livid as well. The match continues until Kurt is handcuffed and AJ Styles performs the 450 and pins him. Kurt is out. AJ Styles and Randy Orton tear the house down to see who is worthy enough to be called champ until Randy Orton wins the match. Orton celebrates with the title and AJ shakes his hand and pats him on the back. When the lights go out. They come back on and Bray is beating the life out of AJ, he even throws him through a pod. Bray focuses his attack on Randy and gives him a Sister Abigail on the steel floor twice. Randy Orton is slumped out bleeding and the show ends with him being carried out on a stretcher.
On twitter, it is announced the next day that Randy Orton has suffered a severed concussion and won't be able to compete at Wrestlemania. He must vacate the title.
On the next Smackdown, AJ Style puts over Randy's effort and wishes him the best of luck in his recovery. Later in the night he ends up winning a battle royal to become the champion again. This is where the mind games and intense promos begin.
Over the feud, Bray tortures AJ at every turn making his life a living hell. AJ stays resilient through it all and gets the crowd behind him.
During an interview with Conan O'Brien, AJ Styles is making jokes and winning over the audience while promoting the match at mania, until Bray suddenly appears. He scares away Conan and ends the segment with putting AJ through Conan's desk.
Two week before Wrestlemania, AJ goes to Shane to help him because Bray is ruthless and is too unpredictable to not be watch at Wrestlemania. Shane agrees and sets up a plan. That night, Bray is having a match with Kurt Angle when a whistle starts blowing around the arena. Randy Orton is walking down to the ring blowing a whistle and wearing a referee shirt. He distracts Bray enough for Kurt Angle to get the angle slam and pick up the win. Shane Mcmahon comes out and says that Randy will be the referee for the match at Wrestlemania. AJ, who was on commentary during the match, comes into the ring and raises the belt over a laid out Wyatt. Winner- Bray Wyatt because he deserves it
submitted by RatedAforAwesome to fantasybooking [link] [comments]


2016.02.12 21:35 Cleverly_Clearly Respect Ranma Saotome! [Right Moments]

Wonderful people shouldn't die. I can't save them all, but this difference is mine to make, and I am not alone.
Right Moments is a Ranma 1/2 fanfiction in which Ranma Saotome is placed in a chronological loop of a single day, like the movie Groundhog's Day. This story starts after the end of the manga, during which Ranma was this powerful. As the story unfolds, Ranma becomes something more like a warrior god. This RT assumes familiarity with the character of Ranma Saotome. If you do not know who he is, read the linked respect thread.

Anything Goes

This only covers new techniques that Ranma learned in this story. He learns quite a bit here. It should be noted that this author calls Anything-Goes "Musubetsu Kakuto Ryuu", which is an unusual translation of the original Japanese name.
Splitting Cat Hairs
This is the first major new technique Ranma learns, specifically from Shampoo and Cologne. The goal of it is to use speed to create perfect afterimages of your body. [Chapter 4]:
"Very well; Defend!" Cologne's shout echoed through the empty area, and before it died, the old woman became a circle of five.
It lasted four seconds. Ranma realized Shampoo had gotten faster; managing to disrupt three of Cologne's images with a dexterous staff combination impressed him. Akane and Ukyo couldn't do that! Of course, over-committing allowed the real Cologne a free shot. The silvery staff broke, and Shampoo plowed a long furrow in the sandy ground. . . . with her nose. 'That's gonna bruise,' thought Ranma, vanishing toward the Tendo compound and Kasumi's beef bowl.
Splitting Cat Hairs required no new physical training, merely delicate control of one's own energies. Ranma thought of it like folding a piece of paper a new way; the blank, neutral surface was always available, but who knew what strange origami could arise?
Yamasen-Ken
This is something from the manga, the martial art that Ryu Kumon used: Yamasen-ken. Although Ranma doesn't use this in the original series (he uses its more subtle sister art, the Umisen-ken), he uses it a lot here.
  • Creating vacuum blades [Chapter 5]
"Kijin Ryu Dan!" The vacuum blade streaked toward the attacking Genma, and the useless glutton didn't dodge, perhaps out of disbelief.
  • Killed Shampoo and Mousse with one vacuum blade. [Chapter 5]
One vacuum blade sliced both younger amazons in half, and Ranma grimaced; he hadn't wanted to kill another girl. Shampoo failed in saving Mousse.
  • An exceptionally powerful barrage of vaccuum blades. [Chapter 11]
Frantically dodging, the hard-pressed martial artist unleashed his most recklessly violent move: the Kijin Dai Ran Bu (Demon God Mad Dance). Chi induced vacuum blades whirled chaotically outwards from his body, as he spun madly around spear points, chained sickles, and trident tines thrust at him with inhuman speeds.
Parts of weapons and devils littered the ground when he stopped fifty seconds later.
Chilling Lips of Death
This is a technique that Happosai reveals to Ranma during one of their many, many spars [Chapter 5]:
After fifteen minutes, the grandmaster took a strange stance. "Musubetsu Kakuto Ryuu imitating the Chilling Lips of Death," said the wizened old man in a subdued voice. Then he swiped his hand through the air, and Ranma felt a conglomeration of ki he never dreamed possible. Screaming in agony, he felt immense pain and lost concentration. The fight finished quickly after.
...Ranma suffered through multiple agonizing demonstrations. Finally, when Ranma thought he understood its principles, mastery took a long time.
Ranma succeeds in figuring out the trick, and Happosai reveals that it is gender-based. [Chapter 6]
Ranma held the bridge of his nose, disgusted. Then the old man came over and demonstrated the ki flows needed to use the Chilling Lips of Death in the empty air. Ranma matched him exactly, and Happi beamed in pride.
"M'boy, I learned that technique from a French prostitute seventy-five years ago. It works around the yin/yang; male and female. If used by a man on a man with weaker inner strength, the stronger ki will imbalance the weaker, leading to immense pain. I don't know what happens if a woman uses it on another woman. The Chilling Lips is best if used by a man on a woman, or a woman on a man. It's how my unworthy students convinced their wives to marry."
Genma nodded. "My son, please only use that technique on a woman you can truly love, for she will follow you to the ends of the world, and forgive anything."
Turns out, it is a sex technique. Ranma doesn't get it at first. [Chapter 6]
With moderate concentration, Ranma focused a low-grade Chilling Lips of Death on the girl, not knowing what to expect. An almost invisible flickering in the air indicated the technique's activity.
Meiko arched her back, sucked in a deep breath, unexpectedly sneezed, and then frantically grabbed a napkin across the table, inadvertently spilling a glass of ice water. Gasping loudly, she overturned her chair, and appeared to knock herself out on the carpeted floor.
Noticing the return of his feminine side, Ranma switched back unnoticed while the fainting girl held everyone's attention. He arranged Meiko comfortably at an empty booth with Hiroshi watching her, and left after paying her tab.
Walking home, he deduced the Chilling Lips of Death made girls clumsy and distracted by making them feel good. Marginally useful in future fights, when he didn't want to hurt a would-be fiancée. Awfully complex for so little result, but then it probably acted like a mild aphrodisiac. Knowing his trouble with love potions and such, Kasumi had probably overreacted.
'Nabiki would be proud of me for figuring it out,' thought Ranma smugly.
Hiroshi examined Meiko intently after Ranma left. She appeared to have a nosebleed, her fuku was soaked though the ice water spilled toward Ranma, and an odd grin adorned her face.
Minutes later, the nerd-girl awakened with the face of an inquisitive Hiroshi blocking her vision.
"Damn that felt good!" Meiko shared happily. "I've never had one like that, especially one in public. Scandalous! I've got to go back and change my underwear now, here's my meishi "(she handed a damp card with her phone number on it to Hiroshi), "please tell your friend to call me, and that I'd like another demonstration. . . . . .. Kami. . . . . . I'd do anything to experience that again!"
But then he does figure it out... with Kodaichi. [Chapter 6]
The Chilling Lips of Death, fully powered, struck Kodachi as she hesitated in the middle of throwing a taser web, surprised by the appearance of her love. Expecting ruined coordination and involuntary muscle spasms, Ranma received that and more.
This time no cold water interrupted the ki-composition of the flawlessly performed technique. No yin counterbalanced the magnetic yang.
Blushing severely, Ranma learned the true power of the Chilling Lips of Death, when a man used it on a woman. Doing his best to ignore the passionate screams, he politely turned away.
Kissing the Face of Life
This technique is something Ranma discovered while trying to work out a counter to the Chilling Lips of Death. It involves drawing in ki energy to make himself more powerful. But is it possible he could become more powerful than his own body could handle? [Chapter 5]
While working out a counter to the Chilling Lips of Death, Ranma made a breakthrough. He accidentally adapted the Gentle Stilling Breath choking technique to allow energy absorption from the environment. Rather than suppressing motion, he pulled the basis of motion away.
Amazed, Ranma found he could store this energy in a ki focus, to use as needed. To his chagrin, the process was time-consuming and not of immediate use, since his world reset daily. Abandoning foci, he concentrated on drawing ambient ki inward.
He was very close to challenging for mastership again. If he could power the Lips himself with an outside source, surely his version would beat Happosai's. With only the normal technique, Ranma thought the old perv's experience meant he'd lose, and the pain from a loss wasn't taken lightly.
The next week, she practiced incessantly; only switching forms to realize her gender was irrelevant. No school, only a quick meal in the morning and Kasumi's beef bowl at night. When Ranma's aura fountained thirty feet high, even his mother steered clear.
He named the technique 'Kissing the Face of Life.'
In perfecting his 'kiss,' Ranma emphasized speed. When facing Happosai, he hoped to take the gnome down before that one somber moment. The Chilling Lips of Death invariably left him in unimaginable pain, so he had stopped regular challenges. His non-training time had been spent in the company of Ukyo or college professors.
In the ninetieth hour of practice, came the unthinkable: Ranma Saotome miscalculated. Severely.
After speeding it up to her satisfaction, Ranma noticed she wasn't controlling the process. The ambient energies kept coming too fast! She converted everything into ki, but her body couldn't cope with the absorption rate. 'Focus, focus... I don't lose, not at the Art.'
Positive thinking didn't help.
Her aura expanded in discrete jumps, covering the Tendo yard, the Tendo compound, and then the entire neighborhood. She felt her father try the Shooting Star Cloth technique, but the tablecloth he used flash-burned away instantly. Expansion increased the area from which power was drawn, until finally Ranma noticed her skin smoldering. She hadn't actually died yet, just taken crippling injuries, and idly wondered about her strange existence.
Like a release valve, she shot an energy blast into the air, hoping to rid herself of power, and it worked, stabilizing her aura's position. It wasn't enough. She felt people weakening from energy drain. Heedless of the consequences, her whole body became a surface blasting ki upwards, vaporizing her clothing. Ranma's nerves screamed. The reaction had propagated too far, and she couldn't force the miles of her aura to contact fast enough.
Someone dying inside the aura web used an emotion based ki attack, shattering her iffy control. With a silent, endless scream, the power released itself in a spectacular self-feeding explosion. The Nerima prefecture vanished in a devastating ki-bomb.
After playing with this technique enough, Ranma attains a Buddha-esque state of temporary enlightenment in which he, among other things, cures himself of the cat-fist. [Chapter 6]
The twelfth attempt, she achieved a mental state poorly described as oneness, zazen, or pre-emptive deja vu. Her ki became the pure white of total self-acceptance; her thoughts clarified. Ranma realized her curse was a blessing, and marrying soon wasn't the ultimate solution. She felt a hole in her mind, but it vanished from her conscious awareness.
Realizations unbound her inner energies, allowing greater control over the technique she called Kissing the Face of Life.
Until Akane could live with herself, sharing her life would be sharing Akane's own painful self-recrimination, and Ranma was not a masochist. Ucchan wouldn't be happy unless Ranma was happy, and Ranma doubted that future. The fiancée-tangled knots of honor still bound her, but now she saw ways to unravel them.
'Time, I have enough time, limitless time,' thought Ranma, discovering a simple way to activate his curse with cold and hot ki, only to find it ineffective while in the koi pond.
Noticing her father and the Tendos staring in fearful awe, almost broke the oneness. Examining her outward self, she glowed with an ever-building amount of stark white, serene ki. The water in the pond began retreating from her feet in perfect ripples, and she became male.
He stopped drawing power with effort, and hesitantly sought the damaged part of his mind - the catfist. Slowly, he cleansed this darkest cornerstone of his psyche. Traveling beyond death made his fears insignificant, and Ranma doubted physical pain would bother him again. He could concentrate while energy overload ripped him apart, a redefinition of limits he thought impossible before. If he lost, it would be from his body being too damaged, not lack of will. Emotional uncertainty might unnerve him, but Ranma would no longer cringe from stinging memories of sharp teeth and claws.
Nekoken's feral state was gone forever, abandoned near the triumphant trumpets of Valhalla. Ranma did not mourn; the activated Nekoken had unbalanced his ki, literally breaking his mind. Minus the unrestrained ferocity, he could mimic the catfist's claws with Musubetsu Kakuto Ryu
Fighting a power-high, he forced gathered ki out slowly as waves of diffuse benevolence, avoiding destruction. As zazen left, a last realization came - depending on any emotion, even it, would be unhealthy. Too much confidence meant he ignored problems because they would solve themselves. Too much tranquility meant he would ignore problems because they could not truly hurt him, and therefore did not matter.
Returning his full attention to the physical world, she (now that the waters of the pond had returned) found Kasumi kneeling at her feet, her parents having sex, Soun Tendo in a posture of relaxed meditation, and Akane crying.
Stepping out of the water, she triggered the change, and dried his clothing with hot ki.
He helped Kasumi up, and eldest Tendo asked reverently, with water dripping from her clothing, "Ranma-sama, make me your disciple and I will do anything: bear your children, become your wife, renounce my family name, even commit honorable suicide."
Cat-Tongue Shiatsu.
These are Shampoo's favored techniques, which involves pressure point usage. First, general pressure point manipulation:
  • He uses pressure points to disable Shampoo's arms, then re-enables them with another series of pressure points. [Chapter 4]
Backing away slightly, and surreptitiously numbing her clingy arms with pressure points, Ranma watched his most amorous fiancée painfully kiss the floor when she couldn't lean against him. ...With her nod, he unparalyzed her arms
  • Cripples Kodaichi with the Shiatsu [Chapter 5]
...he used shiatsu to gift the pest with muteness and immobility, before snapping her neck with two fingers.
  • Makes Akane fall asleep. [Chapter 5]
Ranma made damn sure to hit the tomboy's sleep point so she missed school.
Ranma has some trouble being intimate. Turns out, that's not entirely his fault. Back when Ranma first met Shampoo in China, it turns out some interesting things transpired:
"Airen, there is reason Shampoo tell you only she can make you truly happy!"
With an unusually perceptive deduction, catching Cologne's attention, Ranma returned, "If this reason exists Shampoo, why haven't you used it before?"
Sounding sad, Shampoo spoke: "Xi Fa Xiang Gao Shiatsu technique is not only useful as a weapon Ranma. Shampoo use it on self when hunt for girl-type Ranma after first meeting. Not want to remember or feel things in way of kiss of death. After Phoenix Mountain, Shampoo not sure if she has any magic on her from bird peoples, so she use formula 337, Universal Nullifier. Not realize 337 erase other formulas from Xi Fa Xiang Gao." Making an effort, the young Amazon girl said slowly, "I remembered experiences I am not proud of, but to be with you, my love, I will do anything."
This is a variant on Formula 911: Formula 862, the "Love Me Most" technique. Turns out, due to the effects of this conditioner, Ranma can't get it up with anybody but Shampoo. Which he is not happy about.
Soon, Ranma learns the basics of how to remove abilities from people [Chapter 7]
Engaging his father in an exhaustive sparring session, Ranma dragged the panda back from the breakfast table twice. His skills regained, he now understood Xi Fa Xiang Gao Shiatsu enough to selectively remove a person's ability. He didn't know the accepted antidote(s) or formulas, or the risks of mixing potions. An antidote for his condition was applied during his unconsciousness.
Then, he learns some of the other conditioner techniques [Chapter 7]
"So the formula for memories is 110, for sexual response is 862, and the universal nullifier is 337?" Ranma looked through Shampoo's dresser with interest; dozens of formulas were jumbled together next to anti-pervert ofuda and her clean panties. The garments had anti-demon charms sewn expertly on them in silver thread.
"Yes, my love. Would you like me to demonstrate the antidote again, before we leave for China tomorrow?"
Finally, he not only learns every technique, but can do it with just his hands, no need for chemicals. He can basically alter a person's memories and personality at will with a massage. [Chapter 7]
Two months later, when Ranma had completely mastered the formulas of Shampoo's techniques, he felt saddened. He had further improved Xi Fa Xiang Gao until he no longer needed the formulas. Massaging someone's head allowed him to alter memories, skills, and physical responses. It took between five seconds and twenty minutes, depending on the desired response.
Self-deception failed, since he now practiced with acceptance as his primary ki-focus. While embracing zazen, Ranma begrudgingly admitted he didn't want to stop sleeping with Shampoo. He felt infatuation without trust. He felt betrayal and lust. He felt himself falling in love for the wrong reasons.
He could make Kuno believe anything he wants:
After swiftly knocking the poetry-spouting moron out, she had employed a variation of Xi Fang Gao Shiatsu, tampering with his limited intelligence.
"Ah, my favorite cousin, who I would pursue with unwavering amorous interest if only you weren't really a hermaphrodite! Permit me to offer you the run of our humble household as I ruminate upon my twin loves: my spunky groundhog Mariko Konjo and my crafty owl Nabiki Tendo!"
Figuring he could also make Kuno think he was a snail if this didn't take, Ranma left.
Flying
Oh yeah, Ranma can fly. [Chapter 8]
Flying, he felt an unbridled wonder inside his heart. After developing advanced ki techniques using high-level geometry, he had speculated what hidden knowledge lurked inside the collected science of man.
His father's mastery of vacuum came in part because the stupid old man used gluttony as an emotional ki focus. Using his own focus of serenity and self-acceptance he could easily reproduce multitudes of ki-vacuums. Then he had read how airplanes flew, essentially surfing through the air on a cushion of turbulent pressure difference, or riding an imperfect speed-created vacuum.
Jumping off the top of Mount Fuji running at top speed had been a huge next step.
After maintaining her (mountain's snowcap) altitude for five minutes, Ranma noticed a beyond pleasant feeling across her chest. Swiftly reversing her gender, he realized the physics books hadn't been kidding about the vibrations from air pressure.
Nanban Mirror
Happosai's misuse of the Nanban Mirror is what caused Ranma to end up in the time loop to begin with. Ground-up glass from it got mixed in his blood. Now, he finds that he can use it to teleport by focusing on a location [Chapter 13]:
Happily, she fixed this scene of mayhem in her mind's eye, savoring the broken grass frame and small confetti sized bits of ripped Kuno-art on the greenish carpet. Like when entering the Kami Realms, she centered herself by thinking of the roof of the Tendo Dojo
Then she tried -going- to the roof of the Tendo Dojo by willing herself there. She tried so hard she lost track of the world around her, and suddenly was exactly where she wanted to be.
Ignoring a faint feeling of light-headedness, Ranma immediately built upon her victory, attempting to will herself back to the library. And she went!
Giddy with success, she translocated four or five times before falling off the dojo roof in a dead fifteen foot faint, to be shortly found by a concerned Kasumi.
Shimmer Void
This is a truly dark and evil technique. Ranma is scared of this power and hopes to never have to use it. [Chapter 14]
"Release!" Boomed Genma Saotome commandingly, before his son manifested more darkness than a man might handle.
A wave of dark annihilation flew from Ranma's hands, absorbing a tree, some old foundation supports and half a car-sized boulder. Where the attack terminated it looked like a million jagged teeth had eaten a thousand bites of stone and soil.
Unmoved as his son shuddered from touching evil, Genma Saotome, the Dark Horse, watched Ranma realize he was still alive.
"Again." He demanded, relentless. Not flinching at his growling stomach, the head of the Saotome clan knew it would be hours before his son won against the Void.
Against his will, trained by his father a final time, Ranma Saotome mastered the Shimmer Void. Would it remain sealed eternally?
Other
  • Utilizing temperature-controlled ki, and techniques to maneuver himself about in the air. [Chapter 4]
Ranma used cold ki to diffuse the bombs, and Herb's techniques to control his place in the air after a miniature whirlwind Happosai called the 'Bean Jam Blowout.'
  • He can release ki from anywhere on his body. [Chapter 4]
Every two weeks, he added another energy manipulation to his style. Much time and mental retraining had been necessary to release ki from anywhere on his body. Such ability held great appeal, for it added another counter-strike for every submission hold.
Advanced kata dances began the duel; neither expected a hit, but they were a good warm-up. Five minutes in, whenever Ranma threw a punch, a small ball of ki shot at Happosai from his foot, his knee, his nose. Whenever he kicked, it came from his elbow, his stomach, his wrist.
The first few gave the old man pause, but then he continued the kata dance with a comment. "The Light of Scampering Stars, I didn't realize you'd studied under the mystics of Arizona m'boy. However, even the Pueblo Shamans feared this one: I Am The Void, and The Void is Me!"
  • He drains ki from Happosai using ki-boomerangs. [Chapter 4]
The Umisenken forced Happosai to drop his huge battle aura. This time when Happosai's cloud of perverted ki formed to reveal his hiding place, Ranma dropped his father's technique, and retaliated with a dozen translucent ki-boomerangs. They disrupted the gigantic ki-dragon before it could form.
Unsurprisingly, the old master dodged the boomerangs, both on their way toward him, and when they turned around and headed back for Ranma glowing brightly. And Ranma Saotome grimaced when the boomerangs returned, and he reabsorbed the energies they had collected. Happosai's energies.
  • A revised form of the Hiryu Shoten Ha powerful enough to kill Happosai in one go. [Chapter 5]
Ironically, killing Happosai by building and releasing a Hi Ryu Shoten Ha using both her breasts was remarkably easy. With the ki folding she had discovered as an offshoot of the forbidden techniques, the old leech went out like he'd want – splattered over a woman's body.
  • Uses the White Snake Fist, an art used to exorcise demons. [Chapter 5]
When Soun discovered Ranma's return, he manifested the father of demon heads. The one armed Genma had gotten Soun angry and ran from the results; his normal behavior, really. The White Snake Reliable Fist, a move meant to exorcise possession, smacked the huge ki-projection in the middle of its grotesquely horned forehead. Curious at the result, he watched Tendo patriarch suffer an embolism from conflicting energies.
  • After Cologne cripples him with a suffocating attack, he makes himself immune to it and adapts it into his technique. [Chapter 5]
Returning to his vendetta against Happosai, he spent two weeks mastering control over the air inside his lungs. Cologne's crippling attack would never work on him again, and he could replicate it with a handful of sand. He adapted the cloud of ki Happosai used as a counter for the Way of the Silent Thief into the Gentle Stilling Breath technique. Thanks to Hinako-sensei's education, he knew it worked by stopping the alveoli of the lungs from absorbing oxygen, knocking the opponent unconscious.
  • Ranma can paralyze his own nerves. Ranma can create small lances of ki energy to destroy poisoned needles. [Chapter 5]
Ranma paralyzed his own nerves when the itching powder came out. The instant before they touched, he disintegrated the poisoned acupuncture needles by firing lances of ki from each nexus in his body. He had such a tight focus over his own battle energies, that the Happo-Go-En-Satsu no longer required a conscious effort to block.
  • Holds his bones in place by using ki techniques to vibrate them together. [Chapter 5]
Five heartbeats after she started, Cologne jumped away. Using senses honed from a year of high-level ki manipulation, he concluded the old ghoul hit the breaking points inside his body.
The process would be delayed and incredibly painful, and Ranma grimaced in agony as his bones vibrated. Using superior control, he embraced his aura, realigning his internal ki flows, negating the technique.
  • Since he can trigger his Jusenkyo curse via hot or cold ki, he can become a boy or a girl without the use of water. [Chapter 6]
'Time, I have enough time, limitless time,' thought Ranma, discovering a simple way to activate his curse with cold and hot ki, only to find it ineffective while in the koi pond.
  • Ranma demonstrates a few flashy techniques, and counters some of Happosai's. [Chapter 6]
Awakening in the koi waters, she challenged Happosai with a flashy release of pure feminine ki, summoning him from whatever hole he lurked in.
This time, Ranma outlasted the Chilling Lips of Death. When he entered zazen, channeling self-acceptance, the technique could not unbalance his ki. He felt centered within and without, noticing no pain. This contentment meant he failed to counter with Chilling Lips of his own, interested in the beauty of the leafy weeds on the ground.
Observing the aura around his student, Happosai bowed his head. "Musubetsu Kakuto Ryuu imitating the Sharp Edge of Nirvana." Summoning ki, the ancient grandmaster invoked a technique to banish rampaging demons.
Hundreds of tendrils of ki assaulted Ranma, different in temperature, emotion, power, length, and intent. If Escher designed a kaleidoscope, he might have envisioned how the spinning patterns behaved.
As they enveloped Ranma, Genma realized none were able to touch his son, that Ranma's battle aura seemed to be spinning. . . . . until it exploded outward in a ki-vortex larger than a house.
  • She can bounce off platforms of ki. [Chapter 6]
Ranma appeared to hover in the air as she bounced off small platforms of semi-solid ki, building momentum and velocity.
  • Uses the air-bending Essence of the Sea on Genma. [Chapter 6]
Learning from her earlier mistake, Ranma employed the Essence of the Sea, and sharp air broke around her in a mighty thunderclap, shattering a television screen. The old man's ribs were at least cracked, plus his right leg fractured. The price Genma paid for defeating Splitting Cat Hairs
  • Learns Ryoga's Breaking Point and Iron Cloth techniques, as well as Cologne's Shark Fist technique. [Chapter 7]
"Bakusai Tenketsu!" One week to learn, and painful. Though he lacked Ryoga's toughness from the boulder-build-up training, constructing a protective-ki shield against the debris came naturally.
Mastering the Iron-Cloth technique took two hours, compared to his greater ki-blasts, 'twas child's play.
A huge shark-like wave of water and koi knocked her father out in mid-leap.
'Easy; just like the Buzzing Fist with air, or the Stationary Grapple with stone.'
  • Ranma learns Mousse's Hidden Weapons technique, too. [Chapter 7]
Around an hour later, an unconscious duck quack-groaned under fifty pounds of twisted metal and wood. 'This pile of broken garbage used to be fine Amazon weapons, but the duck was never really a man.' Such thoughts cheered Ranma, as she walked away whistling. Longer than expected; if the blind boy bothered using the ki required in a useful way, he'd be a decent sparring partner.
Hidden weapons handicapped a fighter by tying their ki in rigid patterns. Maybe that was why only male Amazons 'mastered' it. Hiding a small amount, like a change of clothes, or two maces and a sword was worth the power sacrifice.
  • Adopts a variety of new tricks and experimental weaponry into his arsenal. [Chapter 14]
After recovering, he looked in the phonebook, and circled styles with listed masters. The usefulness of the yellow pages as a resource for obscure dojo locations served beyond his expectations.
"Jinbei Tetsuo of the Firedancing School, I challenge you!" Yelled Ranma across a swaying rope bridge, shifting over an active volcanic vent. The magma pool beneath bubbled erratically. A cloaked figure turned and nodded.
"Kuretsai of the Spinning Drones, I challenge you!" The beekeeper bowed, as he let chi infuse the stingers and wings of his charges.
"Master Won Shu Sheng, I challenge you!" Yawning, the wrinkled ancient troll-like midget threw a net a ki, entrapping the nuisance before resuming his nap on a blue dojo mat. 'Much to learn here,' thought a struggling Saotome.
With new tricks, Ranma moved to mastering the appropriate props.
"Thanks for letting me use the range, lieutenant." The officer nodded. "No problem son, police work would be a good career with your talent."
Engine roars filled the air as an F-15 took off on a counter-espionage fly-over. Officers ran around the Okinawa base like a disturbed nest of fire ants.
"Sergeant, don't give me that line of crap! Rocket launchers and kiloton bombs don't vanish into thin air!" The raving colonel was tearing the poor soldier a new one. His English not good enough to appreciate the fine art of military cussing, Ranma Nanban-teleported away with the arms cache he'd stolen under the Umi-sen-ken.
Sorry to have abused Dr. Miyamoto's trust, even indirectly, Ranma stuffed the experimental solenoid laser into her weapons-space. She teleported as alarm klaxons summoned security to the high-energy research area.
'Wildfire Burning in the Rain' derived from a combination of high level chi techniques learned from the masters he had challenged. The Firedancing School provided the ability to imbue weapons with flame, allowing additional damage. Kuretsai of the Spinning Drones had shown the of use chi in guiding small objects in coordinated assault. Master Won Shu Sheng and his nets developed a direction and purpose behind the assault.
  • Walking on water like Jesus and radiating an aura of peace. [Chapter 16]
"Ranma agreed to accept Kasumi and Akane as disciples, Nabiki. Using only the powers of his heart, that dear boy walked over the waters of our koi. Never have a felt such a loving, serene aura. He promised to marry Akane in two years-"
  • Speaking of Jesus, Ranma can heal the sick with his awesome power. [Chapter 16]
Approaching the twelve year old boy, Ranma began glowing a greenish white with serene, healing ki. By midnight, the child's cancer and hemophilia had been completely cured. The boy had sat up like a bear shaking off a long hibernation, delighted and full of energy, cutting himself and watching the blood clot for the first time in his life.
  • He can make himself and others any race he wants. [Chapter 16]
From a universe where skin color meant more, he adapted the Wavelength Technique to change his appearance to that of a native. A mixing of electricity and spirit, this delicate touch took time to control. Using a linkable ki-focus, he would camouflage his partners.
  • He can detect evil intentions and discern them from good intentions. [Chapter 16]
Not wanting to kill the innocent, he learned the Soul Focus technique from a universe where undead hunted. The advanced aura technique identified evil in thoughts and intentions, and would make his life-and-death battlefield decisions.
  • Turns an explosive into a literal holy hand grenade. [Chapter 17]
He focused enough holy power into the grenade to warp the metal, and pulled the pin with a small difficultly. Throwing above the Goddess, he forced the explosion as it cleared her head. His ki formed the fragments into a pattern, a greater banishing ward that typically took hours to prepare. Intricate symbols were drawn in milliseconds by debris traveling hundreds of miles an hour.

Feats

  • Gives Ukyo ten orgasms. But he can't really bring himself to one, for reasons which are explained elsewhere in this RT. [Chapter 5]
Afterwards, they laid together, flesh to flesh, and Ucchan whispered in her ear. "Ranchan, what was the matter? You didn't, not once. Ten for me and none for you, I won't marry you if I can't make you happy!"
  • Survives a huge vaccuum guillotine [Chapter 6]
Ranma had entered a huge triggered vacuum guillotine. So tightly controlled was her ki, that it merely shredded her clothing and left deep, arcing gashes across her leg and stomach, rather than cutting her into three pieces.
  • Thrashes Kodaichi while Kodaichi was at three times her power. [Chapter 6]
Triply faster than her normal speed, the girl attacked Ranma with the weapon that appeared. Looking between dodges, Ranma saw it was a silvery white Kodachi (small Japanese hand sword; could be considered a large dagger) with a black rose emblazoned on the hilt.
"What are you supposed to be?" Ranma asked conversationally after a missed disemboweling stroke.
"I am the fulcrum of balance for this land; you will find yourself defeated by Devil Hunter Kodachi!" With an intricate set of attacks, the transformed girl proved she could talk and fight at the same time.
Snorting after a dozen dodges; Ranma infused her index finger with ki, and began parrying the weapon contemptuously. She ignored the small thin cut appearing on her finger from the first clash. An angry buzzing accompanied every parry, like a lightsaber duel from Star Wars. Upping her aura's power after the first block, Ranma felt the silvery-blue sparks as magic and ki struggled for dominance. Rather than fading, the energies peppered the room like surreal fireflies. Eventually, Ranma maneuvered Kodachi into slashing the dark halo overshadowing her head with a skillful redirection.
  • Blows a hundred-foot deep crater into the ground. [Chapter 8]
Yelling an attack from his inner heart, one based on love, freedom and disappointments, he sent out a grayish-red cutting ki-vortex with the trigger phrase "Akane No BAKA!" It left a crater in the street a hundred feet deep, but Kuh Lon had taken to the air.
  • Finally defeats Cologne. [Chapter 8]
The old woman sent thousands of chilling ki pinpoints at him, each with enough power to leave his skin frostbitten and unresponsive. Using Happosai's projection technique, he called forth the surface that was a plane, twice as large as himself, but paper thin, and pointed the Klein Bottle's nozzle back at the ancient woman.
Each of her ki-dots hit the surface of his shield, and traveled up to the mouth of the Klein bottle, where they collected until the onslaught halted. A brief instant of concentration, and he redirected chilling ki in a freezing beam. Kuh Lon dodged, leaving a nearby storefront encased in inches of ice.
Perhaps thinking to best him with power, the Matriarch drew heavily into the ki-focus that was her staff, and sent a small blue-green ovoid at him. He knew if it touched him, it would invade his skin, squeezing his heart until he screamed out submission. The magnitude of focused ki it contained could survive even his attempts at dispersing it.
He threw an unnamed counter, and his ki-torus shredded the blast before it came halfway. He sighed in relief. . . . . finally the rotation was right to disrupt her careful redundant structure.
When Cologne pulled out a strange wand-like Artifact he had never seen, he simultaneously left a Splitting Cat Hair's Image behind, while sneaking around her in the Way of the Silent Thief.
As she blasted his image away with a black lightning-like beam, he nailed his honored opponent's sleep spot with the strongest inverted ki pulse he could make.
He faded back into sight in shock, looking at her slumbering form. A passerby might think he'd beaten up a helpless old grandmother, but for the first time, Ranma had bested Matriarch Cologne of Joketsuzoku.
  • Takes on an entire American military base by himself. [Chapter 8]
Moving faster than human perceptions, and creating a vacuum cone that redirected bullets away from his body meant 'Assault of the American Military Base': Mission Accomplished. The grenades could be diffused with a bubble of crushing ki, so they imploded rather than exploded. Flamethrowers meet Soul of Ice. Sure they had other weapons, but such large bulky things couldn't be armed quickly enough.
  • Defeats Happosai [Chapter 15]
Preparing chain reaction ki-shots number one and three while Kissing the Face of Life as hard as he could, Ranma watched Happosai master his turbo-charged power state.
The little guy was inches away when the first shot released, and the air pressure from Happi's redirected charge left a deep cut in Ranma's arm. After such a boost, Ranma knew the speed of his opponent would be absolutely unmatched. Speed, however, didn't help one's thoughts.
The gnome employed "I Am the Void and the Void is Me," blocked the debris from the Breaking Points, and held his breath during the periods of vacuum. The Mark of the Devil from Martial Art's Calligraphy hurt his concentration, but the diminutive master easily broke the design with an unusual body contortion. However while this distracted his attention, he was blasted in about a dozen different ways by an assorted variety of higher ki-attacks: The 'Strangling Vines' from Martial Arts Gardening, the '20,000 Volt Special' from Martial Arts Wiring, the shiatsu based 'Perfect Arrangement' from Martial Arts Floristry, a simplified version of the grayish cutting ki vortex known as 'Akane No Baka!,' and 'The Cat in Heat's Cradle' from Martial Arts Weaving.
None of them were attacks to casually shrug off, and Happosai found his boost had nearly vanished as the ki-dregs from the chained shots dispersed.
As the little perv gathered himself, Ranma finished his strongest (and most embarrassing) attack: "Kami-Hime-HA!"
Wide eyed, the Grand Master could only watch in shock. The tidal wave of pink Ki from the Fist of the God Princess crashed into Happosai, dragging the old man along as it attempted to pulverize him.
Running as fast as he could, Ranma entered his own attack with an identical emotional state, (he'd made it deliberately slow-moving, like a juggernaut) and pummeled Happosai, forcing him to drop his ki-shield.
Then it was over, as an insurgence of power smothered the little troll, who could barely blink afterwards.
  • Effortlessly dodges a barrage of spatulas thrown "within two heartbeats". [Chapter 16]
"You!" Snarled Ukyo as she threw her entire bandoleer of spatula-shuriken within two heartbeats. The Ucchan's wasn't open; Ranma had picked the lock on her door.
Unconcerned as his body dodged the projectiles; Ranma located Konatsu's presence and entrapped it with a Buzzing Cage of tight ki-ropes.
submitted by Cleverly_Clearly to respectthreads [link] [comments]


2013.01.27 19:02 theworldisgrim Wendigo [2/2]

I did, and Henry lit it with his tarnished old Zippo. I watched this impatiently. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat, hauling on my own cigarette with deep, anxious anticipation.
"Your dad was staring hard at the old fella. He said, 'It's one of you feather-wearing sons of bitches that's been doing it. Which one of you is it? C'mon, chief, you know, dontcha? Tell me who it is and I'll kill the motherfucker right now. I'll plant the cocksucker six feet in the ground.' The chief just snorted without any humor and told him, 'If it were one of our own, his head would have long ago been buried in the creek bed, his body burned to ashes. No, white man, this devil is one of yours. Is it so surprising? Your people have long been committed to doing evil upon others, haven't you? Now get off of this land, you bastards. Get off and don't come back. You have no business here. You never did.'
"Well, he had a point, I guess. We left. It was going to get dark soon, and none of us wanted to still be out in the bush when that sun slipped past the horizon, all bravado aside. We followed our own trail home. We were trudging along and Rudolph was up in front of the rest of us; yeah, it was poor old Rudy that got the worst of it. All of a sudden he hollers up at the sky and drops like a stone into the dead leaves and picker-weeds, then screams again, loud as you can imagine. His brother and his nephew come runnin' over to him and then Fredrik is hollerin', too, jumping up and down on one foot and yelling, 'Aw, shit, everyone stop right in his tracks, right now! Lookit this!' And we see that there's a big, dirty old six-inch spike sticking out the bottom of Freddy's shoe. Big Rudy got it even worse; the spike had gone clear through his foot and punctured two inches out through the top of his boot. When he fell on his ass, another spike had pierced his inner thigh, and this was the really bad one. It nicked an artery, and Rudy was bleeding like a mad bastard. Ten seconds and the poor guy's pant leg was soaked clear down to his ankle. Your dad yells, 'Quick, someone gimme their belt!' I gave him mine, and he looped it high around Rudy's big ol' tree-trunk leg, right under his groin, then pulled it tight and tied it there. Rudy was startin' to lose consciousness from shock and blood loss, but he managed to slur out, 'Stuck 'em inna fuckin' ground. Booby-trapped us. Followed behind us and done it, the dirty fuckers.' We dragged the big bugger a little ways away and leaned him up against a tree. He was out of it, his eyeballs rolling back into his head and such. Your dad was fit to be locked up in a straitjacket; he was just about foaming at the mouth, wanting to go back and shoot up the 55 like it was a German machine-gun nest, or something. He was convinced that it was one of theirs that had done for Rudolph and Freddy like that. Willy, the Frenchmen and your Grandpa had to restrain him by force - they wrestled him off his feet and piled on top of him, and they wouldn't get up 'til he promised to calm the hell down. Goddamned idiot.
"Well, now we had a problem, all right - we had two men down, and one of 'em was in a bad way. Fredrik yanked the nail out of his foot no problem, but he was limping real bad, and Rudy wasn't in any condition to walk at all. We had to get out of those woods before dark. Not one of us was about to admit it out loud, but we were all scared shitless of the sun setting while we were still out there." Henry gave me a slanted smile and pointed at me with his cigarette. "You know, a man can sit and bullshit all he wants about how he doesn't believe in the boogeyman when its a day like today; with the sun shining bright and a warm breeze blowing, everything around you all hunky-dory and normal as can be, its easy to be brave ... but its a different story when you find yourself in a situation like this one, boy. I felt ready to jump out of my skin. Whatever it was that we had tracked into the woods, well, it was stalking us, now. And it was trying to keep us out there. It was stalling us until the sun went down."
"So Louis and the other Quebec fella, can't remember his name, they built a pretty passable travois with branches, some twine, belts, and whatever else we had on hand to use. We put Rudy on it and strapped him in with his suspenders; poor Freddy had a branch with one end wrapped in a shirt that he was using as a crutch. Fuck, it was slow going. Too slow. The sun was starting to set on us, and the woods were getting dark fast. Dad, your Grampa, he'd had the forethought to bring out a flashlight, Willy too, and we made a few torches with dead branches and our torn-off shirttails soaked in Zippo lighter fluid. It was getting cool out, but every one of us was sweating buckets. We were nowhere near the edge of the woods, and the very last of the day's light was fading out of the sky. I was pulling Rudy in the travois with Willy, and we needed to stop for a second and catch our breath. The old bastard was heavy, Rudy was. While we were stopped, we decide that it'd be useless to try and find our way out of the bush in the dark; we'd just end up going in a circle and getting disoriented. The best bet was to stay put, build a fire, and wait to see if anyone was going to come looking for us. So me and your Dad built a good-sized fire, and when it was roaring we all crowded it around it like scared kids on their first camp-out. We dragged Rudy close to the fire, too, so that we could keep an eye on him. He was in and out of consciousness, and it wasn't looking good for him. We start talking about the Wendigo story and whether it was bullshit or not. Some of the guys were starting to think that maybe your Pop was right, and it was someone out on the 55 that was responsible for all the murder and mayhem. Me and the rest of us weren't so sure. So we're all sort of arguing in loud whispers and it's getting heated, when suddenly Louis looks around and he says, 'Tabernak! Eh, where the fuck is Billy gone to?' We all look around and yep, Bill Walsh is nowhere to be seen. He ain't standing there with the rest of us, and maybe he hadn't ever been in the first place. At some point, Billy vanished into thin air."
Henry finished his beer in one go, swallowing mechanically - just getting it down so that he could crack another. His eyes were rheumy and distant. He fished another smoke out of my pack, and I noticed that his fingers were trembling. "We yelled his name for a while and didn't get no answer back. No one was too keen on going out into the dark to find the guy, either. So now my nerves were just about screamin', boy, and no one's making a goddamned sound; we're all just standing there with our guns pointed out into the unknown with a block of ice in our guts. After a few minutes, your dad says, 'Fuck, it's so quiet, and it was: there wasn't even a hint of a breeze in the air, not one cricket chirping or owl hooting off in the distance. It was dead quiet, and the air felt strange and electric in my lungs. It felt like the way it is just before a banger of a storm opens up in the summertime - like there's a hot, thick blanket laying on top of you, air so thick that you can almost cut it. We strained our eyes and ears into the woods around us, not breathing, not even blinking ... and then we hear it; a howl that's more like a tortured scream, demented and ferocious. The other French guy, what's-his-name, he holds up his torch and he yells, 'Dere! Over fucking dere, what the fuck is that 'ting?' and I hear something bulling its way through the underbrush, coming at us fast and to the left. We all blindly fired, just all-out let 'er fly. When the shooting tapered off we listened for a minute or two, reloading with shaking hands, and the night was just as silent as a morgue. All I could hear was my heart pounding.
Finally, Fredrik lets out a shakey little laugh and says, 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What the hell was that thing? Did anyone tag the son of a-' and then there's that howl again, this time right behind us. We spin around to face it and for a split-second I saw the thing, a blurred impression of it, running in on us from just yards away - I seen something with a giant, gangly body, a long face and outstretched arms like broomsticks. We fired on it again and it flipped backward through the air like an acrobat, bounced off a tree and dove into the cover of the underbrush. My ears were ringing from the gunfire. I yelled, 'Where'd the bastard go?' and Louis starts shouting, 'Over here! We got the fucker! We got him!' and he runs over to where the thing had landed. We all holler at him, 'NO!!!!' but Louis is already standing there, holding his torch up and looking around; he looks back at us and starts to say something, then a huge, spindly-looking hand came out of the oak tree above him and grabbed him by the face. It grabbed his whole face and he started to scream but it was muffled, y'know, and then I saw the hand clench hard down on the Frenchman's head and I heard the sound of bone splintering. Louis started spasming and beating at the long, skinny arm above him - he was screaming and we were all screaming and then the thing just yanks Louis bodily up into the tree, and this all happened in the space of about four seconds. I could see the disturbance in the branches as the cocksucker dragged poor Louis up to the top with it. Jesus, he was screeching and making the most awful sounds, all the way up the tree. We fired up after them and missed. Suddenly, Louis stops screaming and we hear something solid falling down out of the tree, hitting branches and tumbling the whole way down. It teetered on the bottom branch for a second, then rolled off and landed in the mat of rotting leaves below. Your Grandpa shines his flashlight on it and goddammit, did I ever retch.
"It was the Frenchman's head that fell out of the tree, his fuckin' severed head. It was crushed into something that looked like ruptured can of diced tomatoes. Our nerve broke, then, and we ran - even your dad the war hero. We forgot all about Rudy lying there in his homemade stretcher; we forgot every damn thing and fuckin' ran, hell yes. Blindly, in separate directions, helter-skelter into the dark ... and the Wendigo chased after us."
Listening to this, I felt like the blazing-hot day had suddenly chilled drastically, and gooseflesh broke out onto my arms. I lit another cigarette. I was chain-smoking up a storm.
"I was by myself and running like my ass was on fire. I heard bodies crashing through the bushes and saplings around me, swearing, men calling out for God to save them. I ran and ran and bang! I ran myself headlong into a goddamned tree. Everything went numb and I blacked out for a few moments. When I came to, I was laying on my back on top of a picker-bush and my feet were still trying to run. There was a sort of buzzing sound in my ears, and I could dimly feel blood running down my face. I pulled myself off the picker-bush and found my rifle laying in the weeds beside me - it was your Grandpa's bolt-action thirty-aught-six. I got up with a pounding in my brain and a sick feeling in my guts and all I could think was 'Oh fuck it's behind me!' so I whirl around and there's nothing there at all. Everyone had run off and I was all alone.
"The moon wasn't out yet and I didn't have a flashlight, myself - I couldn't hardly see shit-all. I mostly felt my way around, walking through spiderwebs and stumbling over tree roots. I was soaked in sweat and starting to get cold. All I wanted was to be sipping at a mug of Ma's hot cider, wrapped in a blanket by the fire. Lurching around in the dark like that probably wasn't getting me anywhere, but fear kept me going. I've never been so goddamned afraid in my life, I don't think, not before that night or since. Every sound, every creak of a stirring branch or rustling of the dead leaves made me spin around with the thirty-aught pointing at a wall of solid blackness - I mean it was dark out there, boy. I could hardly see my hand outstretched in front of my face. My mind was playing all kinds of cruel tricks on my eyes; every now and then a long, crescent-shaped head would seem to lunge out of the dark, and I'd flinch back and almost piss my pants ... but it wasn't nothing at all but the outline of a bush or clump of sumac, hanging in my path. I was tripping over the ground and my own stupid feet a lot, too, and I'm surprised that I didn't acidentally blow my own fucking head off.
"I dunno how long this went on, but eventually I hear my name being shouted - it was your dad. He and your Grandpa came back to look for me. See, it's like I was telling you earlier ... a man looks after his own; even if he's scared shitless and every instinct is urging him to run the hell away, a man looks after his own. Well, I holler back at 'em, 'Over here! I'm over here!' and I seen the glint of your Grandpa's flashlight through the trees, so I start shambling after it as fast as I could manage. I got maybe twenty steps before my toe hooks something and I'm sprawling over onto my face. I could smell congealing blood, coppery and thick. I got up a hurry and lit my Zippo to see what it was and Jesus, I'd tripped over what was left of poor old Louis. He was naked save for his baggy undershorts and his torso was hanging open like an unzipped jacket. All the guts had been ripped out of his body cavity. His flattened-out head had been stuffed in there, and the eyes were gone. His face was frozen in a mask of agony and horror.
"I started screaming; shit, I screamed so loud I almost blew the top right off the sky. And then there it was, stepping into the flickering glow of the Zippo on legs like twisted stilts ... the Wendigo. It towered over me, and for one god-awful long moment I saw it clearly - and I'm telling you here and now, it is an image that will forever be burned into my mind. The thing was skeletal, sexless - it was weirdly stretched lookin', like an image in a funhouse mirror. Its hide appeared to be leathery and grey, the face was a long quarter-moon of grinning mouth and dozens of sharp, crooked teeth. It didn't have any eyes or nose, no ears or any facial features at all. Just that giant, gaping mouth."
Henry's lips twisted into a wry, humorless grin. "You remember me saying earlier that every man has a time or three when he just freezes right up in the face of danger? It's a strange thing, human nature is: my brother and father were risking an unspeakable death to come back for me, and there I was - rooted to the spot, too fucking scared to even move. Here's another bit of irony for you, though ... I'm convinced that very same paralysis saved my hide that night; see, as the ugly bastard started leaning forward to grab me, I fainted and fell backward. I can only guess what happened next, but I think that as I hit the forest floor, my finger tightened on the trigger of my rifle and I blew the top of the cocksucker's head clean off. Point-blank. The loud bang! of the shot brought me around and I opened my eyes to the sight of the Wendigo, caught in the beam of your Grandpa's flashlight, squealing like a stuck hog and clawing at its head. Some sort of awful-smelling black shit was pouring out of the gaping wound. The stuff smelled like a sewage treatment plant mixed with a junkyard fire, just awful, and I've sometimes wondered if the thing didn't have concentrated evil instead of blood. It smelled that bad.
"I started yelling, 'Shoot it! Shoot the fucking thing!' I jacked a fresh cartridge into the chamber and let er' fly from where I was sprawled out on the ground. The shot went true and I punched a big hole into the fucker's midsection. A split-second later another shot booms out and the thing spins right around with good-sized chunk of its chest and back missing. The thing staggered, almost fell, then took off into the woods. We could hear it shrieking as it slammed and crashed away through the bush. The Wendigo's screams haunted my nightmares for many years, you bet they did. Many, many years."
I took the last few gulps of my beer and realized that I was getting drunk. Henry looked half in the bag, too. I slurred, "Wow, Henry, holy shit ... I dunno what to say to any of that."
He said, "Pffft," and flapped a hand at me, dropping a long ash into his lap and slopping a splash of his beer down there while he did so. "Hell, I probably wouldn't believe any of this, either, if I were you. I got a faded scar high up on my forehead from runnin' into that tree - here, see it? Other than that, there ain't any evidence that this ever happened. They made good and sure of that."
"What do you mean?"
Henry leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. His voice low and deliberate, he told me, "Well, you gotta hear the rest, and then you'll understand. We finally made our way out of the woods around midnight. We popped out just a few miles from VanKlein's orchard and started walking home. We ran into a search party a little spell down the road, just getting ready to head into the woods. There were a few local cops, a couple Mounties from the local station and Willy himself - he got out okay, and when his wife seen what a blubbering mess he was when he got home, she immediately called the cops. Fredrik was there, too. The tough bastard managed to hobble his way through the pitch-black forest, all alone, and eventually found himself out on the road that borders the north side of the woods. The cops had found him - they were out patrolling because one of the local farmers had reported that someone was shooting the hell out of the woods in the middle of the night, and the cops assumed that it was poachers. Willy was just about beside himself because he'd left poor Rudy behind when we ran off, and he'd been in no condition to fend for himself at all. He was worried about Bill, too. We all were. Bill had long been a family friend of ours, and he was just a zany local character in general, well-liked, y'know? He was at church every Sunday, and he was a member of the local Lions Club and the Shriners. Shit, Billy had played the role of Santa Claus down at the Community Centre's Christmas Jamborie for so long, I couldn't remember him not doing it. Even the cops knew who he was, and they were worried for him, too. Everyone liked Billy; he was just one of those guys.
"They found Rudy and the Frenchman before daybreak, safe and sound, but I didn't know that 'til a few days later, because the cops took one look at me and said, 'Take the young fella home. Get him cleaned up and into bed. Whatever the hell happened out there, he's had enough of it.' So they took me home and your Grandma fuckin' lost her marbles on everyone at the state I was in. She wouldn't let your Grandpa or Dad leave again, either. Just made a hell of a fuss. She washed me up and kept askin' me what happened out there, but what could I say to her that wouldn't sound crazy? So I just told her that we got lost in the dark, and that was it, and finally she gave up and put me to bed.
"I slept a lot for a few days. I guess I was in shock. I kept having a re-occuring nightmare where I was running endlessly through a thick, dark forest, and the Wendigo was always just behind me; his claws kept hooking into the back of my shirt, and I would feel his rotting breath as his mouth strained to clamp down on the back of my neck. When the morning came that I finally decided to come downstairs, fully-dressed and ready to go outside for a bit, I found the Mountie detective sitting at the kitchen table with Dad, sipping a mug of tea Ma had brewed for him. He was even grimmer-looking this time around, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He had me sit down beside your Grandpa and he said, 'So, you had a bad time of it the other night, I hear. Quite a mess. You shouldn't be poaching, fellas, and you shouldn't ever be doing it at night. That's a good way for a man to get killed. I guess you found that out for yourselves, didn't you?'
"I told him that I didn't understand what he was talking about, and I tried to go into what really happened that night, but the Mountie suddenly says, 'Shut up, kid. Shut up and listen. You too, Dad. I'm gonna fill you guys in on something, a little story that you aren't ever gonna read in the local papers, okay? A milkman discovered a body a couple of days ago in Calton - naked, crusted in gore and deader than a doornail. The milkman was doing his delivery to the house, and he thought he saw someone sprawled out on the kitchen floor through the garage door window. So straight away, he goes and contacts the police. Turns out, that man lying dead and mangled on his kitchen floor was one of two missing persons related to a very, very strange report from the other night, one that led to the search and rescue of three people. The dead man was well-known in these parts. His name was Bill Walsh.'
"I froze, and so did your Grandpa. I didn't understand, not at first. The detective says to us, 'Mr. Walsh had the top portion of his skull blown off, and he had suffered two gunshot wounds to his torso. He bled out and died. Thing is, there was hardly any blood on the floor of the kitchen, and none at all on the ceiling and walls - not what you'd expect to find in a room where a man had been shot several times. However, we did find a few drips and spatters of blood leading up the driveway and to the side door. It was all over the door and the door handle. Lots of very clear palm and fingerprints to be had, there, and guess what? They all belonged to the deceased. It looks for all the world as if Mr. Walsh was fatally gunshot somewhere, walked home while dying, let himself in and collapsed onto his kitchen floor to breathe his last. Pretty damn strange, I'd say. How about you?'
"I croaked out, 'Yeah. Strange,' and trailed off. My brain was struggling, trying to put it together. The Mountie says, 'Yep. More than strange, actually. Later that same day, I went out that very patch of woods that you guys were poaching in. Just, you know, poking around, trying to put A and B together. Lo and behold, I found the other missing member of your little poaching party. He was dead. I saw what had happened to him.'
"I tried to keep a poker face, and it was a pretty damned bad one, I'll bet. Dad looked like he was about to start praying out loud. I says, 'Louis? We lost him out there when we were, uh, poaching deer. We have no idea whatever became of the guy.' And then the detective stares hard into my eyes and puts something down on the table between us. It's my Zippo. He says, 'I found this right near the body. Someone dropped it while it was open and lit. It's pure luck that the damn thing didn't start a hell of a forest fire out there. I noticed that it's been inscribed. The inscription reads, 'To Henry, With Love'. It's a fine lighter, and I'm willing to bet that it belongs to you, Henry. I'm willing to bet that, if I were to dust this lighter for prints, yours would be all over it.' He leaned in close and he said, 'You were there, and if I wanted to I could run your ass in for questioning. Hard questioning. You know exactly what happened out at the 55, don't you? All of you guys that were out in the woods that night, you all know the truth. I can see in your faces that its keeping you up at night.'"
"The detective got up and started pacing around the kitchen, his hands jammed deep in his pockets. He said, "This whole case has been under my skin from the start. Do you know what we found in Bill Walsh's house? Horrible things, things of the like which I've never seen in all my years in the uniform. We found bones in a cedar chest at the foot of his bed. A lot of them, all of them human in origin. He had photos of children being ... abused to the point of murder - dozens of them, in fact. We found books about cannibalism, sacrilegious objects, more books about amoral medical practices, Satanism ... there was a good deal of evidence that Mr. Walsh was a sick, sick man, and he was doing horrible things on a regular basis.'"
My sodden brain finally made the connection, and I gaped at Henry like a fish. "It was Bill?"
Henry nodded and continued. "The Mountie says to us, 'I'm telling you men right now what I'm going to do: I'm shutting this case down. The local cops agree, not that they'd have a choice otherwise, but ... yeah, this is getting buried. The circus that it would create, shit ... to hell with that. What happened, see, is this; the French fella, Louis Trevaille? That was his name. Turns out, he was a bad apple. I made a call to the RCMP headquarters in Quebec and got the story on this guy. He was a drifter who was a convicted child molester and habitual thief. His sexual preference was the glue in his friendship with Bill the community man, I'd warrant. Anyway, it was this low-life son of a bitch who killed all those poor Indians out in the woods. Then, just by blind coincidence - or maybe the Good Lord saw fit to have it happen, who knows ... but all you boys were out poaching with him that night, and you were all drinking, and Louis accidentally got shot. A bad turn of events, but this sort of thing happens sometimes, doesn't it? Later that night, Bill Walsh went home and he shot himself. Maybe it was out of guilt for accidentally shooting his good pal Louis, who knows? He didn't leave a note. I tried to build a case against you guys, but all you farmers out this way are thick as thieves, and every single one of you had an iron-clad alibi. Folks were lying on your behalf, and I couldn't gather enough evidence to arrest anyone. As for Louis, well, he didn't have any family to give a shit about his death, so he got a quick creamation down at a local funeral home that will remain unmentioned. And that's what happened. Get it? Never speak of the truth, not ever again. Understand? Let this wicked business die, here and now.'"
"I asked him, 'What about all the stuff you found at Bill's place?' and he says with a straight face, 'Oh, hell, it burned down last night. Fire started at the fuse panel, I think. The house and everything in it is gone.' He checked his pocket-watch, put on his hat and said to us, 'Walsh will be remembered as a good, upstanding citizen who died tragically, and that's fine by me. It's better than the alternative, isn't it? Have a good day, gentleman, and do yourselves a big favor ... whatever actually happened out there that night, try and forget about it.'"
Henry stopped talking, and we sat in silence for a while. In the light of the day, with the corn stirring in a green wave from the breeze and birds chasing each other around down in the meadow below us, it should have been hard to accept Henry's story at face value - but it wasn't. Because I could see the truth of it all in his eyes. He had the steady, unapolegetic gaze of a man who believes that he is telling the truth.
Henry stood up and stretched; I heard his spine pop and his tendons creak. He looked over at his corn field and said, "We followed the cop's advice, and tried our best to just kinda pretend none of that ever happened. It was easier to do than you'd think. The VanKleins did their best to forget all about it, too, as far as I know - we were pretty distant with each other, after that night in the woods. I guess that it was just easier to forget what happened that way. We skipped going to Bill's funeral; there was just no fucking way that any of us could have sat through that and not throw some sort of a fit. A few months later I heard that everyone had up and cleared out from the 55 at some point, pretty much overnight. I don't blame 'em one bit. It was just an abandoned circle of sagging old shacks for a few more years, then a logging company came to clear-cut a big swath of trees in there, and the 55 got plowed under to extend the trail - they were using it for a logging road." Henry considered another beer, then popped it open and drank. "Time went by and life went on as it always had. I got a job working in the train yards in the fall '56. It paid good and I eventually moved off the farm to be closer to work. One day I was out repairing a bit of track in the yard and I see a hobo come staggering up to me. He looked completely out of his head on cheap booze, and I was wary of him. He comes up to me and says, 'It waits for me in my dreams. Some night, it will get me, and all the cheap wine in the world won't stop it from eating me alive. Does it wait for you, too? Do you wake up screaming?' and suddenly I realized that the hobo was what's-his-face, the other Frenchman that'd been with us that awful night. I opened my mouth to say something to him and then he just starts to shriek something in French at me, pulling out his own hair and jumping around like a spastic as he did so. He ran off, and that was the last I saw of him."
My mind was full of questions. I opened my mouth and Henry cut me off. "Corn looks good this year, don't it? Last year was a bad one. Too dry. I ain't wasting my time irrigating feed corn, though, hell no, I'll save that for the beans. Beans are going to sell at a record high this year, is what they're saying."
This, as I knew all too well, was Henry's way of saying that the story was over and he was done with it for now. We talked about crop rotation for a bit, then decided it was time to go inside for some coffee and a bite to eat. Just before we went into the house, Henry turned to me and said one last thing regarding his brush with the Wendigo. He said:
"It was a long, long fucking time before I went out into that particular patch of woods again - and ever since that night, I always sleep with a gun near my bed. Probably couldn't sleep without it. Every now and then, I still dream about it, you see ... and when I wake up sweating and shaking, I reach out and touch the gun. I make sure that it's there. Its the only way I can get back to sleep again."
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2013.01.27 01:55 theworldisgrim Wendigo [2/2]

Part 1
I did, and Henry lit it with his tarnished old Zippo. I watched this impatiently. I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat, hauling on my own cigarette with deep, anxious anticipation.
"Your dad was staring hard at the old fella. He said, 'It's one of you feather-wearing sons of bitches that's been doing it. Which one of you is it? C'mon, chief, you know, dontcha? Tell me who it is and I'll kill the motherfucker right now. I'll plant the cocksucker six feet in the ground.' The chief just snorted without any humor and told him, 'If it were one of our own, his head would have long ago been buried in the creek bed, his body burned to ashes. No, white man, this devil is one of yours. Is it so surprising? Your people have long been committed to doing evil upon others, haven't you? Now get off of this land, you bastards. Get off and don't come back. You have no business here. You never did.'
"Well, he had a point, I guess. We left. It was going to get dark soon, and none of us wanted to still be out in the bush when that sun slipped past the horizon, all bravado aside. We followed our own trail home. We were trudging along and Rudolph was up in front of the rest of us; yeah, it was poor old Rudy that got the worst of it. All of a sudden he hollers up at the sky and drops like a stone into the dead leaves and picker-weeds, then screams again, loud as you can imagine. His brother and his nephew come runnin' over to him and then Fredrik is hollerin', too, jumping up and down on one foot and yelling, 'Aw, shit, everyone stop right in his tracks, right now! Lookit this!' And we see that there's a big, dirty old six-inch spike sticking out the bottom of Freddy's shoe. Big Rudy got it even worse; the spike had gone clear through his foot and punctured two inches out through the top of his boot. When he fell on his ass, another spike had pierced his inner thigh, and this was the really bad one. It nicked an artery, and Rudy was bleeding like a mad bastard. Ten seconds and the poor guy's pant leg was soaked clear down to his ankle. Your dad yells, 'Quick, someone gimme their belt!' I gave him mine, and he looped it high around Rudy's big ol' tree-trunk leg, right under his groin, then pulled it tight and tied it there. Rudy was startin' to lose consciousness from shock and blood loss, but he managed to slur out, 'Stuck 'em inna fuckin' ground. Booby-trapped us. Followed behind us and done it, the dirty fuckers.' We dragged the big bugger a little ways away and leaned him up against a tree. He was out of it, his eyeballs rolling back into his head and such. Your dad was fit to be locked up in a straitjacket; he was just about foaming at the mouth, wanting to go back and shoot up the 55 like it was a German machine-gun nest, or something. He was convinced that it was one of theirs that had done for Rudolph and Freddy like that. Willy, the Frenchmen and your Grandpa had to restrain him by force - they wrestled him off his feet and piled on top of him, and they wouldn't get up 'til he promised to calm the hell down. Goddamned idiot.
"Well, now we had a problem, all right - we had two men down, and one of 'em was in a bad way. Fredrik yanked the nail out of his foot no problem, but he was limping real bad, and Rudy wasn't in any condition to walk at all. We had to get out of those woods before dark. Not one of us was about to admit it out loud, but we were all scared shitless of the sun setting while we were still out there." Henry gave me a slanted smile and pointed at me with his cigarette. "You know, a man can sit and bullshit all he wants about how he doesn't believe in the boogeyman when its a day like today; with the sun shining bright and a warm breeze blowing, everything around you all hunky-dory and normal as can be, its easy to be brave ... but its a different story when you find yourself in a situation like this one, boy. I felt ready to jump out of my skin. Whatever it was that we had tracked into the woods, well, it was stalking us, now. And it was trying to keep us out there. It was stalling us until the sun went down."
"So Louis and the other Quebec fella, can't remember his name, they built a pretty passable travois with branches, some twine, belts, and whatever else we had on hand to use. We put Rudy on it and strapped him in with his suspenders; poor Freddy had a branch with one end wrapped in a shirt that he was using as a crutch. Fuck, it was slow going. Too slow. The sun was starting to set on us, and the woods were getting dark fast. Dad, your Grampa, he'd had the forethought to bring out a flashlight, Willy too, and we made a few torches with dead branches and our torn-off shirttails soaked in Zippo lighter fluid. It was getting cool out, but every one of us was sweating buckets. We were nowhere near the edge of the woods, and the very last of the day's light was fading out of the sky. I was pulling Rudy in the travois with Willy, and we needed to stop for a second and catch our breath. The old bastard was heavy, Rudy was. While we were stopped, we decide that it'd be useless to try and find our way out of the bush in the dark; we'd just end up going in a circle and getting disoriented. The best bet was to stay put, build a fire, and wait to see if anyone was going to come looking for us. So me and your Dad built a good-sized fire, and when it was roaring we all crowded it around it like scared kids on their first camp-out. We dragged Rudy close to the fire, too, so that we could keep an eye on him. He was in and out of consciousness, and it wasn't looking good for him. We start talking about the Wendigo story and whether it was bullshit or not. Some of the guys were starting to think that maybe your Pop was right, and it was someone out on the 55 that was responsible for all the murder and mayhem. Me and the rest of us weren't so sure. So we're all sort of arguing in loud whispers and it's getting heated, when suddenly Louis looks around and he says, 'Tabernak! Eh, where the fuck is Billy gone to?' We all look around and yep, Bill Walsh is nowhere to be seen. He ain't standing there with the rest of us, and maybe he hadn't ever been in the first place. At some point, Billy vanished into thin air."
Henry finished his beer in one go, swallowing mechanically - just getting it down so that he could crack another. His eyes were rheumy and distant. He fished another smoke out of my pack, and I noticed that his fingers were trembling. "We yelled his name for a while and didn't get no answer back. No one was too keen on going out into the dark to find the guy, either. So now my nerves were just about screamin', boy, and no one's making a goddamned sound; we're all just standing there with our guns pointed out into the unknown with a block of ice in our guts. After a few minutes, your dad says, 'Fuck, it's so quiet', and it was: there wasn't even a hint of a breeze in the air, not one cricket chirping or owl hooting off in the distance. It was dead quiet, and the air felt strange and electric in my lungs. It felt like the way it is just before a banger of a storm opens up in the summertime - like there's a hot, thick blanket laying on top of you, air so thick that you can almost cut it. We strained our eyes and ears into the woods around us, not breathing, not even blinking ... and then we hear it; a howl that's more like a tortured scream, demented and ferocious. The other French guy, what's-his-name, he holds up his torch and he yells, 'Dere! Over fucking dere, what the fuck is that 'ting?' and I hear something bulling its way through the underbrush, coming at us fast and to the left. We all blindly fired, just all-out let 'er fly. When the shooting tapered off we listened for a minute or two, reloading with shaking hands, and the night was just as silent as a morgue. All I could hear was my heart pounding.
Finally, Fredrik lets out a shakey little laugh and says, 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph! What the hell was that thing? Did anyone tag the son of a-' and then there's that howl again, this time right behind us. We spin around to face it and for a split-second I saw the thing, a blurred impression of it, running in on us from just yards away - I seen something with a giant, gangly body, a long face and outstretched arms like broomsticks. We fired on it again and it flipped backward through the air like an acrobat, bounced off a tree and dove into the cover of the underbrush. My ears were ringing from the gunfire. I yelled, 'Where'd the bastard go?' and Louis starts shouting, 'Over here! We got the fucker! We got him!' and he runs over to where the thing had landed. We all holler at him, 'NO!!!!' but Louis is already standing there, holding his torch up and looking around; he looks back at us and starts to say something, then a huge, spindly-looking hand came out of the oak tree above him and grabbed him by the face. It grabbed his whole face and he started to scream but it was muffled, y'know, and then I saw the hand clench hard down on the Frenchman's head and I heard the sound of bone splintering. Louis started spasming and beating at the long, skinny arm above him - he was screaming and we were all screaming and then the thing just yanks Louis bodily up into the tree, and this all happened in the space of about four seconds. I could see the disturbance in the branches as the cocksucker dragged poor Louis up to the top with it. Jesus, he was screeching and making the most awful sounds, all the way up the tree. We fired up after them and missed. Suddenly, Louis stops screaming and we hear something solid falling down out of the tree, hitting branches and tumbling the whole way down. It teetered on the bottom branch for a second, then rolled off and landed in the mat of rotting leaves below. Your Grandpa shines his flashlight on it and goddammit, did I ever retch.
"It was the Frenchman's head that fell out of the tree, his fuckin' severed head. It was crushed into something that looked like ruptured can of diced tomatoes. Our nerve broke, then, and we ran - even your dad the war hero. We forgot all about Rudy lying there in his homemade stretcher; we forgot every damn thing and fuckin' ran, hell yes. Blindly, in separate directions, helter-skelter into the dark ... and the Wendigo chased after us."
Listening to this, I felt like the blazing-hot day had suddenly chilled drastically, and gooseflesh broke out onto my arms. I lit another cigarette. I was chain-smoking up a storm.
"I was by myself and running like my ass was on fire. I heard bodies crashing through the bushes and saplings around me, swearing, men calling out for God to save them. I ran and ran and bang! I ran myself headlong into a goddamned tree. Everything went numb and I blacked out for a few moments. When I came to, I was laying on my back on top of a picker-bush and my feet were still trying to run. There was a sort of buzzing sound in my ears, and I could dimly feel blood running down my face. I pulled myself off the picker-bush and found my rifle laying in the weeds beside me - it was your Grandpa's bolt-action thirty-aught-six. I got up with a pounding in my brain and a sick feeling in my guts and all I could think was 'Oh fuck it's behind me!' so I whirl around and there's nothing there at all. Everyone had run off and I was all alone.
"The moon wasn't out yet and I didn't have a flashlight, myself - I couldn't hardly see shit-all. I mostly felt my way around, walking through spiderwebs and stumbling over tree roots. I was soaked in sweat and starting to get cold. All I wanted was to be sipping at a mug of Ma's hot cider, wrapped in a blanket by the fire. Lurching around in the dark like that probably wasn't getting me anywhere, but fear kept me going. I've never been so goddamned afraid in my life, I don't think, not before that night or since. Every sound, every creak of a stirring branch or rustling of the dead leaves made me spin around with the thirty-aught pointing at a wall of solid blackness - I mean it was dark out there, boy. I could hardly see my hand outstretched in front of my face. My mind was playing all kinds of cruel tricks on my eyes; every now and then a long, crescent-shaped head would seem to lunge out of the dark, and I'd flinch back and almost piss my pants ... but it wasn't nothing at all but the outline of a bush or clump of sumac, hanging in my path. I was tripping over the ground and my own stupid feet a lot, too, and I'm surprised that I didn't acidentally blow my own fucking head off.
"I dunno how long this went on, but eventually I hear my name being shouted - it was your dad. He and your Grandpa came back to look for me. See, it's like I was telling you earlier ... a man looks after his own; even if he's scared shitless and every instinct is urging him to run the hell away, a man looks after his own. Well, I holler back at 'em, 'Over here! I'm over here!' and I seen the glint of your Grandpa's flashlight through the trees, so I start shambling after it as fast as I could manage. I got maybe twenty steps before my toe hooks something and I'm sprawling over onto my face. I could smell congealing blood, coppery and thick. I got up in a hurry and lit my Zippo to see what it was and Jesus, I'd tripped over what was left of poor old Louis. He was naked save for his baggy undershorts and his torso was hanging open like an unzipped jacket. All the guts had been ripped out of his body cavity. His flattened-out head had been stuffed in there, and the eyes were gone. His face was frozen in a mask of agony and horror.
"I started screaming; shit, I screamed so loud I almost blew the top right off the sky. And then there it was, stepping into the flickering glow of the Zippo on legs like twisted stilts ... the Wendigo. It towered over me, and for one god-awful long moment I saw it clearly - and I'm telling you here and now, it is an image that will forever be burned into my mind. The thing was skeletal, sexless - it was weirdly stretched lookin', like an image in a funhouse mirror. Its hide appeared to be leathery and grey, the face was a long quarter-moon of grinning mouth and dozens of sharp, crooked teeth. It didn't have any eyes or nose, no ears or any facial features at all. Just that giant, gaping mouth."
Henry's lips twisted into a wry, humorless grin. "You remember me saying earlier that every man has a time or three when he just freezes right up in the face of danger? It's a strange thing, human nature is: my brother and father were risking an unspeakable death to come back for me, and there I was - rooted to the spot, too fucking scared to even move. Here's another bit of irony for you, though ... I'm convinced that very same paralysis saved my hide that night; see, as the ugly bastard started leaning forward to grab me, I fainted and fell backward. I can only guess what happened next, but I think that as I hit the forest floor, my finger tightened on the trigger of my rifle and I blew the top of the cocksucker's head clean off. Point-blank. The loud bang! of the shot brought me around and I opened my eyes to the sight of the Wendigo, caught in the beam of your Grandpa's flashlight, squealing like a stuck hog and clawing at its head. Some sort of awful-smelling black shit was pouring out of the gaping wound. The stuff smelled like a sewage treatment plant mixed with a junkyard fire, just awful, and I've sometimes wondered if the thing didn't have concentrated evil instead of blood. It smelled that bad.
"I started yelling, 'Shoot it! Shoot the fucking thing!' I jacked a fresh cartridge into the chamber and let er' fly from where I was sprawled out on the ground. The shot went true and I punched a big hole into the fucker's midsection. A split-second later another shot booms out and the thing spins right around with good-sized chunk of its chest and back missing. The thing staggered, almost fell, then took off into the woods. We could hear it shrieking as it slammed and crashed away through the bush. The Wendigo's screams haunted my nightmares for many years, you bet they did. Many, many years."
I took the last few gulps of my beer and realized that I was getting drunk. Henry looked half in the bag, too. I slurred, "Wow, Henry, holy shit ... I dunno what to say to any of that."
He said, "Pffft," and flapped a hand at me, dropping a long ash into his lap and slopping a splash of his beer down there while he did so. "Hell, I probably wouldn't believe any of this, either, if I were you. I got a faded scar high up on my forehead from runnin' into that tree - here, see it? Other than that, there ain't any evidence that this ever happened. They made good and sure of that."
"What do you mean?"
Henry leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. His voice low and deliberate, he told me, "Well, you gotta hear the rest, and then you'll understand. We finally made our way out of the woods around midnight. We popped out just a few miles from VanKlein's orchard and started walking home. We ran into a search party a little spell down the road, just getting ready to head into the woods. There were a few local cops, a couple Mounties from the local station and Willy himself - he got out okay, and when his wife seen what a blubbering mess he was when he got home, she immediately called the cops. Fredrik was there, too. The tough bastard managed to hobble his way through the pitch-black forest, all alone, and eventually found himself out on the road that borders the north side of the woods. The cops had found him - they were out patrolling because one of the local farmers had reported that someone was shooting the hell out of the woods in the middle of the night, and the cops assumed that it was poachers. Willy was just about beside himself because he'd left poor Rudy behind when we ran off, and he'd been in no condition to fend for himself at all. He was worried about Bill, too. We all were. Bill had long been a family friend of ours, and he was just a zany local character in general, well-liked, y'know? He was at church every Sunday, and he was a member of the local Lions Club and the Shriners. Shit, Billy had played the role of Santa Claus down at the Community Centre's Christmas Jamborie for so long, I couldn't remember him not doing it. Even the cops knew who he was, and they were worried for him, too. Everyone liked Billy; he was just one of those guys.
"They found Rudy and the Frenchman before daybreak, safe and sound, but I didn't know that 'til a few days later, because the cops took one look at me and said, 'Take the young fella home. Get him cleaned up and into bed. Whatever the hell happened out there, he's had enough of it.' So they took me home and your Grandma fuckin' lost her marbles on everyone at the state I was in. She wouldn't let your Grandpa or Dad leave again, either. Just made a hell of a fuss. She washed me up and kept askin' me what happened out there, but what could I say to her that wouldn't sound crazy? So I just told her that we got lost in the dark, and that was it, and finally she gave up and put me to bed.
"I slept a lot for a few days. I guess I was in shock. I kept having a re-occuring nightmare where I was running endlessly through a thick, dark forest, and the Wendigo was always just behind me; his claws kept hooking into the back of my shirt, and I would feel his rotting breath as his mouth strained to clamp down on the back of my neck. When the morning came that I finally decided to come downstairs, fully-dressed and ready to go outside for a bit, I found the Mountie detective sitting at the kitchen table with Dad, sipping a mug of tea Ma had brewed for him. He was even grimmer-looking this time around, and he had dark circles under his eyes. He had me sit down beside your Grandpa and he said, 'So, you had a bad time of it the other night, I hear. Quite a mess. You shouldn't be poaching, fellas, and you shouldn't ever be doing it at night. That's a good way for a man to get killed. I guess you found that out for yourselves, didn't you?'
"I told him that I didn't understand what he was talking about, and I tried to go into what really happened that night, but the Mountie suddenly says, 'Shut up, kid. Shut up and listen. You too, Dad. I'm gonna fill you guys in on something, a little story that you aren't ever gonna read in the local papers, okay? A milkman discovered a body a couple of days ago in Calton - naked, crusted in gore and deader than a doornail. The milkman was doing his delivery to the house, and he thought he saw someone sprawled out on the kitchen floor through the garage door window. So straight away, he goes and contacts the police. Turns out, that man lying dead and mangled on his kitchen floor was one of two missing persons related to a very, very strange report from the other night, one that led to the search and rescue of three people. The dead man was well-known in these parts. His name was Bill Walsh.'
"I froze, and so did your Grandpa. I didn't understand, not at first. The detective says to us, 'Mr. Walsh had the top portion of his skull blown off, and he had suffered two gunshot wounds to his torso. He bled out and died. Thing is, there was hardly any blood on the floor of the kitchen, and none at all on the ceiling and walls - not what you'd expect to find in a room where a man had been shot several times. However, we did find a few drips and spatters of blood leading up the driveway and to the side door. It was all over the door and the door handle. Lots of very clear palm and fingerprints to be had, there, and guess what? They all belonged to the deceased. It looks for all the world as if Mr. Walsh was fatally gunshot somewhere, walked home while dying, let himself in and collapsed onto his kitchen floor to breathe his last. Pretty damn strange, I'd say. How about you?'
"I croaked out, 'Yeah. Strange,' and trailed off. My brain was struggling, trying to put it together. The Mountie says, 'Yep. More than strange, actually. Later that same day, I went out that very patch of woods that you guys were poaching in. Just, you know, poking around, trying to put A and B together. Lo and behold, I found the other missing member of your little poaching party. He was dead. I saw what had happened to him.'
"I tried to keep a poker face, and it was a pretty damned bad one, I'll bet. Dad looked like he was about to start praying out loud. I says, 'Louis? We lost him out there when we were, uh, poaching deer. We have no idea whatever became of the guy.' And then the detective gave me a thin smile and puts something down on the table between us. It's my Zippo. He says, 'I found this right near the body. Someone dropped it while it was open and lit. It's pure luck that the damn thing didn't start a hell of a forest fire out there. I noticed that it's been inscribed. The inscription reads, 'To Henry, With Love'. It's a fine lighter, and I'm willing to bet that it belongs to you, Henry. I'm willing to bet that, if I were to dust this lighter for prints, yours would be all over it.' He leaned in close and he said, 'You were there, and if I wanted to I could run your ass in for questioning. Hard questioning. You know exactly what happened out at the 55, don't you? All of you guys that were out in the woods that night, you all know the truth. I can see in your faces that its keeping you up at night.'"
"The detective got up and started pacing around the kitchen, his hands jammed deep in his pockets. He said, "This whole case has been under my skin from the start. Do you know what we found in Bill Walsh's house? Horrible things, things of the like which I've never seen in all my years in the uniform. We found bones in a cedar chest at the foot of his bed. A lot of them, all of them human in origin. He had photos of children being ... abused to the point of murder - dozens of them, in fact. We found books about cannibalism, sacrilegious objects, more books about amoral medical practices, Satanism ... there was a good deal of evidence that Mr. Walsh was a sick, sick man, and he was doing horrible things on a regular basis.'"
My sodden brain finally made the connection, and I gaped at Henry like a fish. "It was Bill?"
Henry nodded and continued. "The Mountie says to us, 'I'm telling you men right now what I'm going to do: I'm shutting this case down. The local cops agree, not that they'd have a choice otherwise, but ... yeah, this is getting buried. The circus that it would create, shit ... to hell with that. What happened, see, is this; the French fella, Louis Trevaille? That was his name. Turns out, he was a bad apple. I made a call to the RCMP headquarters in Quebec and got the story on this guy. He was a drifter who was a convicted child molester and habitual thief. His sexual preference was the glue in his friendship with Bill the community man, I'd warrant. Anyway, it was this low-life son of a bitch who killed all those poor Indians out in the woods. Then, just by blind coincidence - or maybe the Good Lord saw fit to have it happen, who knows ... but all you boys were out poaching with him that night, and you were all drinking, and Louis accidentally got shot. A bad turn of events, but this sort of thing happens sometimes, doesn't it? Later that night, Bill Walsh went home and he shot himself. Maybe it was out of guilt for accidentally shooting his good pal Louis, who knows? He didn't leave a note. I tried to build a case against you guys, but all you farmers out this way are thick as thieves, and every single one of you had an iron-clad alibi. Folks were lying on your behalf, and I couldn't gather enough evidence to arrest anyone. As for Louis, well, he didn't have any family to give a shit about his death, so he got a quick creamation down at a local funeral home that will remain unmentioned. And that's what happened. Get it? Never speak of the truth, not ever again. Understand? Let this wicked business die, here and now.'"
"I asked him, 'What about all the stuff you found at Bill's place?' and he says with a straight face, 'Oh, hell, it burned down last night. Fire started at the fuse panel, I think. The house and everything in it is gone.' He checked his pocket-watch, put on his hat and said to us, 'Walsh will be remembered as a good, upstanding citizen who died tragically, and that's fine by me. It's better than the alternative, isn't it? Have a good day, gentleman, and do yourselves a big favor ... whatever actually happened out there that night, try and forget about it.'"
Henry stopped talking, and we sat in silence for a while. In the light of the day, with the corn stirring in a green wave from the breeze and birds chasing each other around down in the meadow below us, it should have been hard to accept Henry's story at face value - but it wasn't. Because I could see the truth of it all in his eyes. He had the steady, unapolegetic gaze of a man who believes that he is telling the truth.
Henry stood up and stretched; I heard his spine pop and his tendons creak. He looked over at his corn field and said, "We followed the cop's advice, and tried our best to just kinda pretend none of that ever happened. It was easier to do than you'd think. The VanKleins did their best to forget all about it, too, as far as I know - we were pretty distant with each other, after that night in the woods. I guess that it was just easier to forget what happened that way. We skipped going to Bill's funeral; there was just no fucking way that any of us could have sat through that and not throw some sort of a fit. A few months later I heard that everyone had up and cleared out from the 55 at some point, pretty much overnight. I don't blame 'em one bit. It was just an abandoned circle of sagging old shacks for a few more years, then a logging company came to clear-cut a big swath of trees in there, and the 55 got plowed under to extend the trail - they were using it for a logging road." Henry considered another beer, then popped it open and drank. "Time went by and life went on as it always had. I got a job working in the train yards in the fall '56. It paid good and I eventually moved off the farm to be closer to work. One day I was out repairing a bit of track in the yard and I see a hobo come staggering up to me. He looked completely out of his head on cheap booze, and I was wary of him. He comes up to me and says, 'It waits for me in my dreams. Some night, it will get me, and all the cheap wine in the world won't stop it from eating me alive. Does it wait for you, too? Do you wake up screaming?' and suddenly I realized that the hobo was what's-his-face, the other Frenchman that'd been with us that awful night. I opened my mouth to say something to him and then he just starts to shriek something in French at me, pulling out his own hair and jumping around like a spastic as he did so. He ran off, and that was the last I saw of him."
My mind was full of questions. I opened my mouth and Henry cut me off. "Corn looks good this year, don't it? Last year was a bad one. Too dry. I ain't wasting my time irrigating feed corn, though, hell no, I'll save that for the beans. Beans are going to sell at a record high this year, is what they're saying."
This, as I knew all too well, was Henry's way of saying that the story was over and he was done with it for now. We talked about crop rotation for a bit, then decided it was time to go inside for some coffee and a bite to eat. Just before we went into the house, Henry turned to me and said one last thing regarding his brush with the Wendigo. He said:
"It was a long, long fucking time before I went out into that particular patch of woods again - and ever since that night, I always sleep with a gun near my bed. Probably couldn't sleep without it. Every now and then, I still dream about it, you see ... and when I wake up sweating and shaking, I reach out and touch the gun. I make sure that it's there. Its the only way I can get back to sleep again."
submitted by theworldisgrim to nosleep [link] [comments]


2012.01.27 09:19 lessobvious Not sure how you deal with shorts already known... but The Sloan Men by David Nickle is one of the scariest things I've ever read

Mrs. Sloan had only three fingers on her left hand, but when she drummed them against the countertop, the tiny polished bones at the end of the fourth and fifth stumps clattered like fingernails. If Judith hadn't been looking, she wouldn't have noticed anything strange about Mrs. Sloan's hand.
"Tell me how you met Herman," said Mrs. Sloan. She turned away from Judith as she spoke, to look out the kitchen window where Herman and his father were getting into Mr. Sloan's black pickup truck. Seeing Herman and Mr. Sloan together was a welcome distraction for Judith. She was afraid Herman's stepmother would catch her staring at the hand. Judith didn't know how she would explain that with any grace: Things are off to a bad enough start as it is.
Outside, Herman wiped his sleeve across his pale, hairless scalp and, seeing Judith watching from the window, turned the gesture into an exaggerated wave. He grinned wetly through the late afternoon sun. Judith felt a little grin of her own growing and waved back, fingers waggling an infantile bye-bye. Hurry home, she mouthed through the glass. Herman stared back blandly, not understanding.
"Did you meet him at school?"
Judith flinched. The drumming had stopped, and when she looked, Mrs. Sloan was leaning against the counter with her mutilated hand hidden in the crook of crossed arms. Judith hadn't even seen the woman move.
"No," Judith finally answered. "Herman doesn't go to school. Neither do I."
Mrs. Sloan smiled ironically. She had obviously been a beautiful woman in her youth -- in most ways she still was. Mrs. Sloan's hair was auburn and it played over her eyes mysteriously, like a movie star's. She had cheekbones that Judith's ex-boss Talia would have called sculpted, and the only signs of her age were the tiny crow's feet at her eyes and harsh little lines at the corners of her mouth.
"I didn't mean to imply anything," said Mrs. Sloan. "Sometimes he goes to school, sometimes museums, sometimes just shopping plazas. That's Herman."
Judith expected Mrs. Sloan's smile to turn into a laugh, underscoring the low mockery she had directed towards Herman since he and Judith had arrived that morning. But the woman kept quiet, and the smile dissolved over her straight white teeth. She regarded Judith thoughtfully.
"I'd thought it might be school because you don't seem that old," said Mrs. Sloan. "Of course I don't usually have an opportunity to meet Herman's lady friends, so I suppose I really can't say."
"I met Herman on a tour. I was on vacation in Portugal, I went there with a girl I used to work with, and when we were in Lisbon --"
"-- Herman appeared on the same tour as you. Did your girlfriend join you on that outing, or were you alone?"
"Stacey got food poisoning." As I was about to say. "It was a rotten day, humid and muggy." Judith wanted to tell the story the way she'd told it to her own family and friends, countless times. It had its own rhythm; her fateful meeting with Herman Sloan in the roped-off scriptorium of the monastery outside Lisbon, dinner that night in a vast, empty restaurant deserted in the off-season. In the face of Mrs. Sloan, though, the rhythm of that telling was somehow lost. Judith told it as best she could.
"So we kept in touch," she finished lamely.
Mrs. Sloan nodded slowly and didn't say anything for a moment. Try as she might, Judith couldn't read the woman, and she had always prided herself on being able to see through most people at least half way. That she couldn't see into this person at all was particularly irksome, because of who she was -- a potential in-law, for God's sake. Judith's mother had advised her, "Look at the parents if you want to see what kind of man the love of your life will be in thirty years. See if you can love them with all their faults, all their habits. Because that's how things'll be..."
Judith realized again that she wanted very much for things to be just fine with Herman thirty years down the line. But if this afternoon were any indication...
Herman had been uneasy about the two of them going to Fenlan to meet his parents at all. But, as Judith explained, it was a necessary step. She knew it, even if Herman didn't -- as soon as they turned off the highway he shut his eyes and wouldn't open them until Judith pulled into the driveway.
Mr. Sloan met them and Herman seemed to relax then, opening his eyes and blinking in the sunlight. Judith relaxed too, seeing the two of them together. They were definitely father and son, sharing features and mannerisms like images in a mirror. Mr. Sloan took Judith up in a big, damp hug the moment she stepped out of the car. The gesture surprised her at first and she tried to pull away, but Mr. Sloan's unstoppable grin had finally put her at ease.
"You are very lovely," said Mrs. Sloan finally. "That's to be expected, though. Tell me what you do for a living. Are you still working now that you've met Herman?"
Judith wanted to snap something clever at the presumption, but she stopped herself. "I'm working. Not at the same job, but in another salon. I do people's hair, and I'm learning manicure."
Mrs. Sloan seemed surprised. "Really? I'm impressed."
Now Judith was sure Mrs. Sloan was making fun, and a sluice of anger passed too close to the surface. "I work hard," she said hotly. "It may not seem--"
Mrs. Sloan silenced her with shushing motions. "Don't take it the wrong way," she said. "It's only that when I met Herman's father, I think I stopped working the very next day."
"Those must have been different times."
"They weren't that different." Mrs. Sloan's smile was narrow and ugly. "Perhaps Herman's father just needed different things."
"Well, I'm still working."
"So you say." Mrs. Sloan got up from the kitchen stool. "Come to the living room, dear. I've something to show you."
The shift in tone was too sudden, and it took Judith a second to realize she'd even been bidden. Mrs. Sloan half-turned at the kitchen door, and beckoned with her five-fingered hand.
"Judith," she said, "you've come this far already. You might as well finish the journey."
The living room was distastefully bare. The walls needed paint and there was a large brown stain on the carpet that Mrs. Sloan hadn't even bothered to cover up. She sat down on the sofa and Judith joined her.
"I wanted you to see the family album. I think --" Mrs. Sloan reached under the coffee table and lifted out a heavy black-bound volume "-- I don't know, but I hope... you'll find this interesting."
Mrs. Sloan's face lost some of its hardness as she spoke. She finished with a faltering smile.
"I'm sure I will," said Judith. This was a good development, more like what she had hoped the visit would become. Family albums and welcoming hugs and funny stories about what Herman was like when he was two. She snuggled back against the tattered cushions and looked down at the album. "This must go back generations."
Mrs. Sloan still hadn't opened it. "Not really," she said. "As far as I know, the Sloans never mastered photography on their own. All of the pictures in here are mine."
"May I...?" Judith put out her hands, and with a shrug Mrs. Sloan handed the album over.
"I should warn you --" began Mrs. Sloan.
Judith barely listened. She opened the album to the first page.
And shut it, almost as quickly. She felt her face flush, with shock and anger. She looked at Mrs. Sloan, expecting to see that cruel, nasty smile back again. But Mrs. Sloan wasn't smiling.
"I was about to say," said Mrs. Sloan, reaching over and taking the album back, "that I should warn you, this isn't an ordinary family album."
"I--" Judith couldn't form a sentence she was so angry. No wonder Herman hadn't wanted her to meet his family.
"I took that photograph almost a year after I cut off my fingers," said Mrs. Sloan. "Photography became a small rebellion for me, not nearly so visible as the mutilation. Herman's father still doesn't know about it, even though I keep the book out here in full view. Sloan men don't open books much.
"But we do, don't we Judith?"
Mrs. Sloan opened the album again, and pointed at the polaroid on the first page. Judith wanted to look away, but found that she couldn't.
"Herman's father brought the three of them home early, before I'd woken up -- I don't know where he found them. Maybe he just called, and they were the ones who answered."
"They" were three women. The oldest couldn't have been more than twenty-five. Mrs. Sloan had caught them naked and asleep, along with what looked like Herman's father. One woman had her head cradled near Mr. Sloan's groin; another was cuddled in the white folds of his armpit, her wet hair fanning like seaweed across his shoulder; the third lay curled in a foetal position off his wide flank. Something dark was smeared across her face.
"And no, they weren't prostitutes," said Mrs. Sloan. "I had occasion to talk to one of them on her way out; she was a newlywed, she and her husband had come up for a weekend at the family cottage. She was, she supposed, going back to him."
"That's sick," gasped Judith, and meant it. She truly felt ill. "Why would you take something like that?"
"Because," replied Mrs. Sloan, her voice growing sharp again, "I found that I could. Mr. Sloan was distracted, as you can see, and at that instant I found some of the will that he had kept from me since we met."
"Sick," Judith whispered. "Herman was right. We shouldn't have come."
When Mrs. Sloan closed the album this time, she put it back underneath the coffee table. She patted Judith's arm with her mutilated hand and smiled. "No, no, dear. I'm happy you're here -- happier than you can know."
Judith wanted nothing more at that moment than to get up, grab her suitcase, throw it in the car and leave. But of course she couldn't. Herman wasn't back yet, and she couldn't think of leaving without him.
"If Herman's father was doing all these things, why didn't you just divorce him?"
"If that photograph offends you, why don't you just get up and leave, right now?"
"Herman --"
"Herman wouldn't like it," Mrs. Sloan finished for her. "That's it, isn't it?" Judith nodded. "He's got you too," continued Mrs. Sloan, "just like his father got me. But maybe it's not too late for you."
"I love Herman. He never did anything like... like that."
"Of course you love him. And I love Mr. Sloan -- desperately, passionately, over all reason." The corner of Mrs. Sloan's mouth perked up in a small, bitter grin.
"Would you like to hear how we met?"
Judith wasn't sure she would, but she nodded anyway. "Sure."
"I was living in Toronto with a friend at the time, had been for several years. As I recall, she was more than a friend -- we were lovers." Mrs. Sloan paused, obviously waiting for a reaction. Judith sat mute, her expression purposefully blank.
Mrs. Sloan went on: "In our circle of friends, such relationships were quite fragile. Usually they would last no longer than a few weeks. It was, so far as we knew anyway, a minor miracle that we'd managed to stay together for as long as we had." Mrs. Sloan gave a bitter laugh. "We were very proud."
"How did you meet Herman's father?"
"On a train," she said quickly. "A subway train. He didn't even speak to me. I just felt his touch. I began packing my things that night. I can't even remember what I told her. My friend."
"It can't have been like that."
Judith started to get up, but Mrs. Sloan grabbed her, two fingers and a thumb closing like a trap around her forearm. Judith fell back down on the sofa. "Let go!"
Mrs. Sloan held tight. With her other hand she took hold of Judith's face and pulled it around to face her.
"Don't argue with me," she hissed, her eyes desperately intent. "You're wasting time. They'll be back soon, and when they are, we won't be able to do anything.
"We'll be under their spell again!"
Something in her tone caught Judith, and instead of breaking away, of running to the car and waiting inside with the doors locked until Herman got back -- instead of slapping Mrs. Sloan, as she was half-inclined to do -- Judith sat still.
"Then tell me what you mean." she said, slowly and deliberately.
Mrs. Sloan let go, and Judith watched as the relief flooded across her features. "We'll have to open the album again," she said. "That's the only way I can tell it."
The pictures were placed in the order they'd been taken. The first few were close-ups of different parts of Mr. Sloan's anatomy, always taken while he slept. They could have been pictures of Herman, and Judith saw nothing strange about them until Mrs. Sloan began pointing out the discrepancies: "Those ridges around his nipples are made of something like fingernails," she said of one, and "the whole ear isn't any bigger than a nickel," she said, pointing to another grainy polaroid. "His teeth are barely nubs on his gums, and his navel... look, it's a slit. I measured it after I took this, and it was nearly eight inches long. Sometimes it grows longer, and I've seen it shrink to less than an inch on cold days."
"I'd never noticed before," murmured Judith, although as Mrs. Sloan pointed to more features she began to remember other things about Herman: the thick black hairs that only grew between his fingers, his black triangular toenails that never needed cutting... and where were his fingernails? Judith shivered with the realization.
Mrs. Sloan turned the page.
"Did you ever once stop to wonder what you saw in such a creature?" she asked Judith.
"Never," Judith replied, wonderingly.
"Look," said Mrs. Sloan, pointing at the next spread. "I took these pictures in June of 1982."
At first they looked like nature pictures, blue-tinged photographs of some of the land around the Sloans' house. But as Judith squinted she could make out a small figure wearing a heavy green overcoat. Its head was a little white pinprick in the middle of a farmer's field. "Mr. Sloan," she said, pointing.
Mrs. Sloan nodded. "He walks off in that direction every weekend. I followed him that day."
"Followed him where?"
"About a mile and a half to the north of here," said Mrs. Sloan, "there is an old farm property. The Sloans must own the land -- that's the only explanation I can think of -- although I've never been able to find the deed. Here --" she pointed at a photograph of an ancient set of fieldstone foundations, choked with weeds "-- that's where he stopped."
The next photograph in the series showed a tiny black rectangle in the middle of the ruins. Looking more closely, Judith could tell that it was an opening into the dark of a root cellar. Mr. Sloan was bent over it, peering inside. Judith turned the page, but there were no photographs after that.
"When he went inside, I found I couldn't take any more pictures," said Mrs. Sloan. "I can't explain why, but I felt a compelling terror, unlike anything I've ever felt in Mr. Sloan's presence. I ran back to the house, all the way. It was as though I were being pushed."
That's weird. Judith was about to say it aloud, but stopped herself -- in the face of Mrs. Sloan's photo album, everything was weird. To comment on the fact seemed redundant.
"I can't explain why I fled, but I have a theory." Mrs. Sloan set the volume aside and stood. She walked over to the window, spread the blinds an inch, and checked the driveway as she spoke. "Herman and his father aren't human. That much we can say for certain -- they are monsters, deformed in ways that even radiation, even Thalidomide couldn't account for. They are physically repulsive; their intellects are no more developed than that of a child of four. They are weak and amoral."
Mrs. Sloan turned, leaning against the glass. "Yet here we are, you and I. Without objective evidence --" she gestured with her good hand towards the open photo album "-- we can't even see them for what they are. If they were any nearer, or perhaps simply not distracted, we wouldn't even be able to have this conversation. Tonight, we'll go willingly to their beds." At that, Mrs. Sloan visibly shuddered. "If that's where they want us."
Judith felt the urge to go to the car again, and again she suppressed it. Mrs. Sloan held her gaze like a cobra.
"It all suggests a power. I think it suggests talismanic power." Here Mrs. Sloan paused, looking expectantly at Judith.
Judith wasn't sure what "talismanic" meant, but she thought she knew what Mrs. Sloan was driving at. "You think the source of their power is in that cellar?"
"Good." Mrs. Sloan nodded slowly. "Yes, Judith, that's what I think. I've tried over and over to get close to that place, but I've never been able to even step inside those foundations. It's a place of power, and it protects itself."
Judith looked down at the photographs. She felt cold in the pit of her stomach. "So you want me to go there with you, is that it?"
Mrs. Sloan took one last look out the window then came back and sat down. She smiled with an awkward warmth. "Only once since I came here have I felt as strong as I do today. That day, I chopped these off with the wood-axe --" she held up her three-fingered hand and waggled the stumps "-- thinking that, seeing me mutilated, Herman's father would lose interest and let me go. I was stupid; it only made him angry, and I was... punished. But I didn't know then what I know today. And," she added after a brief pause, "today you are here."
The Sloan men had not said where they were going when they left in the pickup truck, so it was impossible to tell how much time the two women had. Mrs. Sloan found a flashlight, an axe and a shovel in the garage, and they set out immediately along a narrow path that snaked through the trees at the back of the yard. There were at least two hours of daylight left, and Judith was glad. She wouldn't want to be trekking back through these woods after dark.
In point of fact, she was barely sure she wanted to be in these woods in daylight. Mrs. Sloan moved through the underbrush like a crazy woman, not even bothering to move branches out of her way. But Judith was slower, perhaps more doubtful.
Why was she doing this? Because of some grainy photographs in a family album? Because of what might as well have been a ghost story, told by a woman who had by her own admission chopped off two of her own fingers? Truth be told, Judith couldn't be sure she was going anywhere but crazy following Mrs. Sloan through the wilderness.
Finally, it was the memories that kept her moving. As Judith walked, they manifested with all the vividness of new experience.
The scriptorium near Lisbon was deserted -- the tour group had moved on, maybe up the big wooden staircase behind the podium, maybe down the black wrought-iron spiral staircase. Judith couldn't tell; the touch on the back of her neck seemed to be interfering. It penetrated, through skin and muscle and bone, to the juicy center of her spine. She turned around and the wet thing behind pulled her to the floor. She did not resist.
"Hurry up!" Mrs. Sloan was well ahead, near the top of a ridge of rock in the center of a large clearing. Blinking, Judith apologized and moved on.
Judith was fired from her job at Joseph's only a week after she returned from Portugal. It seemed she had been late every morning, and when she explained to her boss that she was in love, it only made things worse. Talia flew into a rage, and Judith was afraid that she would hit her. Herman waited outside in the mall.
Mrs. Sloan helped Judith clamber up the smooth rock face. When she got to the top, Mrs. Sloan took her in her arms. Only then did Judith realize how badly she was shaking.
"What is it?" Mrs. Sloan pulled back and studied Judith's face with real concern.
"I'm... remembering," said Judith.
"What do you remember?"
Judith felt ill again, and she almost didn't say.
"Judith!" Mrs. Sloan shook her. "This could be important!"
"All right!" Judith shook her off. She didn't want to be touched, not by anyone.
"The night before last, I brought Herman home to meet my parents. I thought it had gone well... until now."
"What do you remember?" Mrs. Sloan emphasized every syllable.
"My father wouldn't shake Herman's hand when he came in the door. My mother... she turned white as a ghost. She backed up into the kitchen, and I think she knocked over some pots or something, because I heard clanging. My father asked my mother if she was all right. All she said was no. Over and over again."
"What did your father do?"
"He excused himself, went to check on my mother. He left us alone in the vestibule, it must have been for less than a minute. And I..." Judith paused, then willed herself to finish. "I started... rubbing myself against Herman. All over. He didn't even make a move. But I couldn't stop myself. I don't even remember wanting to stop. My parents had to pull me away, both of them." Judith felt like crying.
"My father actually hit me. He said I made him sick. Then he called me... a little whore."
Mrs. Sloan made a sympathetic noise. "It's not far to the ruins," she said softly. "We'd better go, before they get back."
It felt like an hour had passed before they emerged from the forest and looked down on the ruins that Judith had seen in the Polaroids. In the setting sun, they seemed almost mythic --like Stonehenge, or the Aztec temples Judith had toured once on a trip to Cancun. The stones here had obviously once been the foundation of a farmhouse. Judith could make out the outline of what would have been a woodshed extending off the nearest side, and another tumble of stonework in the distance was surely the remains of a barn -- but now they were something else entirely. Judith didn't want to go any closer. If she turned back now, she might make it home before dark.
"Do you feel it?" Mrs. Sloan gripped the axe-handle with white knuckles. Judith must have been holding the shovel almost as tightly. Although it was quite warm outside, her teeth began to chatter.
"If either of us had come alone, we wouldn't be able to stand it," said Mrs. Sloan, her voice trembling. "We'd better keep moving."
Judith followed Herman's stepmother down the rocky slope to the ruins. Her breaths grew shorter the closer they got. She used the shovel as a walking stick until they reached level ground, then held it up in both hands, like a weapon.
They stopped again at the edge of the foundation. The door to the root cellar lay maybe thirty feet beyond. It was made of sturdy, fresh-painted wood, in sharp contrast to the overgrown wreckage around it, and it was embedded in the ground at an angle. Tall, thick weeds sprouting galaxies of tiny white flowers grew in a dense cluster on top of the mound. They waved rhythmically back and forth, as though in a breeze.
But it was wrong, thought Judith. There was no breeze, the air was still. She looked back on their trail and confirmed it -- the tree branches weren't even rustling.
"I know," said Mrs. Sloan, her voice flat. "I see it too. They're moving on their own."
Without another word, Mrs. Sloan stepped across the stone boundary. Judith followed, and together they approached the shifting mound.
As they drew closer, Judith half-expected the weeds to attack, to shoot forward and grapple their legs, or to lash across their eyes and throats with prickly venom.
In fact, the stalks didn't even register the two women's presence as they stepped up to the mound. Still, Judith held the shovel ready as Mrs. Sloan smashed the padlock on the root cellar door. She pried it away with a painful-sounding rending.
"Help me lift this," said Mrs. Sloan.
The door was heavy, and earth had clotted along its top, but with only a little difficulty they managed to heave it open. A thick, milky smell wafted up from the darkness.
Mrs. Sloan switched on the flashlight and aimed it down. Judith peered along its beam -- it caught nothing but dust motes, and the uncertain-looking steps of a wooden ladder.
"Don't worry, Judith," breathed Mrs. Sloan, "I'll go first." Setting the flashlight on the ground for a moment, she turned around and set a foot on one of the upper rungs. She climbed down a few steps, then picked up the flashlight and gave Judith a little smile.
"You can pass down the axe and shovel when I get to the bottom," she said, and then her head was below the ground. Judith swallowed with a dry click and shut her eyes.
"All right," Mrs. Sloan finally called, her voice improbably small. "It's too far down here for you to pass the tools to me by hand. I'll stand back -- drop them both through the hole then come down yourself."
Judith did as she was told. At the bottom of the darkness she could make out a flickering of light, just bright enough for her to see where the axe and shovel fell. They were very tiny at the bottom of the hole. Holding her breath, Judith mounted the top rung of the ladder and began her own descent.
Despite its depth, the root cellar was warm. And the smell was overpowering. Judith took only a moment to identify it. It was Herman's smell, but magnified a thousandfold -- and exuding from the very walls of this place.
Mrs. Sloan had thoroughly explored the area at the base of the ladder by the time Judith reached her.
"The walls are earthen, shorn up with bare timber," she said, shining the light along the nearest wall to illustrate. "The ceiling here tapers up along the length of the ladder -- I'd guess we're nearly forty feet underground."
Judith picked up the shovel, trying not to imagine the weight of the earth above them.
"There's another chamber, through that tunnel." Mrs. Sloan swung the flashlight beam down and to their right. The light extended into a dark hole in the wall, not more than five feet in diameter and rimmed with fieldstone. "That's where the smell is strongest."
Mrs. Sloan stooped and grabbed the axe in her good hand. Still bent over, she approached the hole and shone the light inside.
"The end's still farther than the flashlight beam will carry," she called over her shoulder. "I think that's where we'll have to go."
Judith noticed then that the tremor was gone from Mrs. Sloan's voice. Far from sounding frightened, Herman's mother actually seemed excited. It wasn't hard to see why -- this day might finish with the spell broken, with their freedom assured. Why wouldn't she be excited?
But Judith couldn't shake her own sense of foreboding so easily. She wondered where Herman was now, what he would be thinking. And what was Judith thinking, on the verge of her freedom? Judith couldn't put it to words, but the thought twisted through her stomach and made her stop in the dark chamber behind Mrs. Sloan. A little whore, her father had called her. Then he'd hit her, hard enough to bring up a swelling. Right in front of Herman, like he wasn't even there! Judith clenched her jaw, around a rage that was maddeningly faceless.
"I'm not a whore," she whispered through her teeth.
Mrs. Sloan disappeared into the hole, and it was only when the chamber was dark that Judith followed.
The tunnel widened as they went, its walls changing from wood-shorn earth to fieldstone and finally to actual rock. Within sixty feet the tunnel ended, and Mrs. Sloan began to laugh. Judith felt ill -- the smell was so strong she could barely breath. Even as she stepped into the second chamber of the root cellar, the last thing she wanted to do was laugh.
"Roots!" gasped Mrs. Sloan, her voice shrill and echoing in the dark. "Of course there would be --" she broke into another fit of giggles "-- roots, here in the root cellar!" The light jagged across the cellar's surfaces as Mrs. Sloan slipped to the floor and fell into another fit of laughter.
Judith bent down and pried the flashlight from Mrs. Sloan's hand -- she made a face as she brushed the scratchy tips of the two bare finger-bones. She swept the beam slowly across the ceiling.
It was a living thing. Pulsing intestinal ropes drooped from huge bulbs and broad orange phalluses clotted with earth and juices thick as semen. Between them, fingerlike tree roots bent and groped in knotted black lines. One actually penetrated a bulb, as though to feed on the sticky yellow water inside. Silvery droplets formed like beading mercury on the surface of an ample, purple sac directly above the chamber's centre.
Mrs. Sloan's laughter began to slow. "Oh my," she finally chuckled, sniffing loudly, "I don't know what came over me."
"This is the place." Judith had intended it as a question, but it came out as a statement of fact. This was the place. She could feel Herman, his father, God knew how many others like them -- all of them here, an indisputable presence.
Mrs. Sloan stood, using the axe-handle as a support. "It is," she agreed. "We'd better get to work on it."
Mrs. Sloan hefted the axe in both hands and swung it around her shoulders. Judith stood back and watched as the blade bit into one of the drooping ropes, not quite severing it but sending a spray of green sap down on Mrs. Sloan's shoulders. She pulled the axe out and swung again. This time the tube broke. Its two ends twitched like live electrical wires; its sap spewed like bile. Droplets struck Judith, and where they touched skin they burned like vinegar.
"Doesn't it feel better?" shouted Mrs. Sloan, grinning fiercely at Judith through the wash of slime on her face. "Don't you feel free? Put down the flashlight, girl, pick up the shovel! There's work to be done!"
Judith set the flashlight down on its end, so that it illuminated the roots in a wide yellow circle. She hefted the shovel and, picking the nearest bulb, swung it up with all her strength. The yellow juices sprayed out in an umbrella over Judith, soaking her. She began to laugh.
It does feel better, she thought. A lot better. Judith swung the shovel up again and again. The blade cut through tubes, burst bulbs, lodged in the thick round carrot-roots deep enough so Judith could pry them apart with only a savage little twist of her shoulders. The mess of her destruction was everywhere. She could taste it every time she grinned.
After a time, she noticed that Mrs. Sloan had stopped and was leaning on the axe-handle, watching her. Judith yanked the shovel from a root. Brown milk splattered across her back.
"What are you stopping for?" she asked. "There's still more to cut!"
Mrs. Sloan smiled in the dimming light -- the flashlight, miraculously enough, was still working, but its light now had to fight its way through several layers of ooze.
"I was just watching you, dear," she said softly.
Judith turned her ankle impatiently. The chamber was suddenly very quiet. "Come on," said Judith. "We can't stop until we're finished."
"Of course." Mrs. Sloan stood straight and swung the axe up again. It crunched into a wooden root very near the ceiling, and Mrs. Sloan pried it loose. "I think that we're very nearly done, though. At least, that's the feeling I get."
Judith didn't smile -- she suddenly felt very cold inside.
"No, we're not," she said in a low voice, "we're not done for a long time yet. Keep working."
Mrs. Sloan had been right, though. There were only a half-dozen intact roots on the cellar ceiling, and it took less than a minute for the two women to cut them down. When they stopped, the mess was up to their ankles and neither felt like laughing. Judith shivered, the juices at once burning and chilling against her skin.
"Let's get out of this place," said Mrs. Sloan. "There's dry clothes back at the house."
The flashlight died at the base of the ladder, its beam flickering out like a dampened candle flame. It didn't matter, though. The sky was a square of deepening purple above them, and while they might finish the walk back in the dark they came out of the root cellar in time to bask in at least a sliver of the remaining daylight. The weeds atop the mound were still as the first evening stars emerged and the line of orange to the west sucked itself back over the treetops.
Mrs. Sloan talked all the way back, her continual chatter almost but not quite drowning out Judith's recollections. She mostly talked about what she would do with her new freedom: first, she'd take the pickup and drive it back to the city where she would sell it. She would take the money, get a place to live and start looking for a job. As they crested the ridge of bedrock, Mrs. Sloan asked Judith if there was much call for three-fingered manicurists in the finer Toronto salons, then laughed in such a girlish way that Judith wondered if she weren't walking with someone other than Mrs. Sloan.
"What are you going to do, now that you're free?" asked Mrs. Sloan.
"I don't know," Judith replied honestly.
The black pickup was parked near the end of the driveway. Its headlights were on, but when they checked, the cab was empty.
"They may be inside," she whispered. "You were right, Judith. We're not done yet."
Mrs. Sloan led Judith to the kitchen door around the side of the house. It wasn't locked, and together they stepped into the kitchen. The only light came from the half-open refrigerator door. Judith wrinkled her nose. A carton of milk lay on its side, and milk dripped from the countertop to a huge puddle on the floor. Cutlery was strewn everywhere.
Coming from somewhere in the house, Judith thought she recognized Herman's voice. It was soft, barely a whimper. It sounded as though it were coming from the living room.
Mrs. Sloan heard it too. She hefted the axe in her good hand and motioned to Judith to follow as she stepped silently around the spilled milk. She clutched the doorknob to the living room in a three-fingered grip, and stepped out of the kitchen.
Herman and his father were on the couch, and they were in bad shape. Both were bathed in a viscous sweat, and they had bloated so much that several of the buttons on Herman's shirt had popped and Mr. Sloan's eyes were swollen shut.
And where were their noses?
Judith shuddered. Their noses had apparently receded into their skulls. Halting breaths passed through chaffed-red slits with a wet buzzing sound.
Herman looked at Judith. She rested the shovel's blade against the carpet. His eyes were moist, as though he'd been crying.
"You bastard," whispered Mrs. Sloan. "You took away my life. Nobody can do that, but you did. You took away everything."
Mr. Sloan quivered, like gelatin dropped from a mold.
"You made me touch you..." Mrs. Sloan stepped closer "...worship you... you made me lick up after you, swallow your filthy, inhuman taste... And you made me like it!"
She was shaking almost as much as Mr. Sloan, and her voice grew into a shrill, angry shout. Mr. Sloan's arms came up to his face, and a high, keening whistle rose up. Beside him, Herman sobbed. He did not stop looking at Judith.
Oh, Herman, Judith thought, her stomach turning. Herman was sick, sicker than Judith had imagined. Had he always been this bad? Judith couldn't believe that. Air whistled like a plea through Herman's reddened nostrils.
"Well, no more!" Mrs. Sloan raised the axe over her head so that it jangled against the lighting fixture in the ceiling. "No more!"
Judith lifted up the shovel then, and swung with all her strength. The flat of the blade smashed against the back of Mrs. Sloan's skull.
Herman's sobbing stretched into a wail, and Judith swung the shovel once more. Mrs. Sloan dropped the axe beside her and crumpled to the carpeted floor.
The telephone in Judith's parents' home rang three times before the answering machine Judith had bought them for Christmas switched on. Judith's mother began to speak, in a timed, halting monotone: "Allan... and... I are... not..."
Judith smoothed her hair behind her ears, fingers tapping impatiently at her elbow until the message finished. She nearly hung up when the tone sounded, but she shut her eyes and forced herself to go through with it.
"Hi Mom, hi Dad." Her voice was small, and it trembled. "It's me. I know you're pretty mad at me, and I just wanted to call and say I was sorry. I know that what we did -- what Herman and I did, mostly me -- I know it was wrong. I know it was sick, okay? Dad, you were right about that. But I'm not going to do that stuff anymore. I've got control of my life, and... of my body. God, that sounds like some kind of feminist garbage, doesn't it? Control of my body. But it's true." With her foot, Judith swung the kitchen door shut. The gurgling from upstairs grew quieter.
"Oh, by the way, I'm up at Herman's parents' place now. It's about three hours north of you guys, outside a town called Fenlan. You should see it up here, it's beautiful. I'm going to stay here for awhile, but don't worry, Herman and I will have separate bedrooms." She smiled. "We're going to save ourselves."
Judith turned around so that the telephone cord wrapped her body, and she leaned against the stove.
"Mom," she continued, "do you remember what you told me about love? I do. You told me there were two stages. There was the in-love feeling, the one that you get when you meet a guy, he's really cute and everything, and you just don't want to be away from him. And then that goes away, and remember what you said? You'd better still love him after that,' you told me.Even though he's not so cute, even though maybe he's getting a little pot belly, even though he stops sending you flowers, you'd better still love him like there's no tomorrow.' Well Mom, guess what?"
The answering machine beeped again and the line disconnected.
"I do," finished Judith.
THE END
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