Storm Door - Horse

TIFU by getting caught masturbating by my mother.

I work nights on tuesdays so I tend to go back to bed during the early afternoon and then wake up and head to work around 5pm. It was around 3, I just woke up still groggy, air conditioner blasting ,TV up loud, husbands already at work and i was kinda in the mood so I reached into my bedside table and grabbed my vibrator, this thing isn’t super loud but I was very focused to say the least lmao.
I was almost there when I let out a moan of relief, my eyes had been closed this whole time but right as I was about to cum I look up to see my mother with a horrified look on her face standing in my doorway.
She was frozen, I was frozen, she quickly apologized and turned around but my adrenaline was pumping and I did the only thing my brain could think to do and chuck my vibrator across the room. This would have been an okay idea if the thing didn’t bounce like a fuckin super ball and bust through my storm window, toppling down below to my sidewalk in the backyard, this is not the worst part, my mother had come with her boyfriend to get their truck out of my garage, we had stored it for them over winter because they didn’t want it to sit in the snow, well needless to say when my very bright purple vibrator came crashing through the window my mothers boyfriend was about 2 foot from where it landed and all I heard was “what the fuck” and some gut busting laughter from outside.
I am mortified and they are supposed to drive me 4 hours away next week to go pick up a new car. This is going to be an interesting ride.
TLDR; got caught masturbating by my mom, chucked my vibrator out of the window and almost hit my moms boyfriend in the head.
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Wrestling Observer Rewind ★ Jun. 17, 2002

Going through old issues of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and posting highlights in my own words. For anyone interested, I highly recommend signing up for the actual site at f4wonline and checking out the full archives.
PREVIOUSLY:
1-7-2002 1-14-2002 1-21-2002 1-28-2002
2-4-2002 2-11-2002 2-18-2002 2-25-2002
3-4-2002 3-11-2002 3-18-2002 3-25-2002
4-1-2002 4-8-2002 4-15-2002 4-22-2002
4-29-2002 5-6-2002 5-13-2002 5-20-2002
5-27-2002 6-3-2002 6-10-2002

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Some of you may have missed last week's post because I didn't do it on Wednesday. Ended up posting it Thursday instead, so it's there in the archives below if you missed it. I know this 2002 series of Rewinds doesn't really have the momentum or appeal that it had back when I was posting them 3 times a week for years on end. Sorry about that, like I said before, I just decided to post these on a whim when the virus started and didn't really prepare for it so it's all kinda haphazard. But just didn't want anyone to miss the one from last week if it flew under the radar.

  • Steve Austin walked out of WWE this week and threw everything into upheaval. As a result, Raw featured Vince McMahon challenging Ric Flair to a match for ownership of the entire company. It was the ultimate final blow-off to a huge long-term angle, and they did it with only 2 hours of build-up. With Vince now in charge of both shows, questions are swirling about whether this spells the end of the brand split, only a few months in. The reason this all happened is because, only 6 hours before Raw went on the air, Steve Austin showed up to the arena and found out he was scheduled to wrestle (and Dave thinks put over, though he hasn't confirmed that yet) Brock Lesner. Dave immediately points out the obvious, that an Austin vs. Lesnar match is something you should build up ahead of time, not throw it on free TV with no build up at all. Plus, he's still so new, he's incredibly green, and he's spent the last few months selling way too much for people like the Hardyz and Bubba Ray Dudley. Hell, before he debuted in WWE, he wasn't even the most over guy in OVW. He's nowhere near the level you'd expect for him to be winning matches with Steve Austin un-hyped on free TV. In fact, Lesnar should probably go through just about everyone else on the roster before putting him against Austin. That's a potential Wrestlemania-level match and Dave seems befuddled that they would just book it for Raw like this.
  • Apparently Austin felt the same way because he and his wife Debra left the building and flew home before Vince McMahon even arrived to the arena, the second time since Wrestlemania that he has walked out on the company. A source who was there when McMahon learned of the news said that, for the first time anyone could remember, Vince seemed to drop his "game face" and there seemed to be genuine panic about what to do. Rock has one foot out the door to Hollywood. Undertaker and Triple H are banged up and won't be around forever (bet). Business is already collapsing. And now the biggest star the company's ever had just walked out the door. Last time Austin walked out after Wrestlemania, he was only away for 2 weeks. This time, there's a feeling it could be much longer. Those close to Austin say he's been unhappy for months and this decision wasn't anything specifically to do with the Lesnar match. That just happened to be the final straw. Austin made news last week when he went on the WWE's Byte This show and voiced his frustrations with the company's creative direction. Plans had been put into motion over the last couple weeks for Austin to feud with Eddie Guerrero and then Chris Benoit, which he was happy about (he was enjoying his recent house show matches with Eddie and Benoit is one of Austin's favorite opponents) but that's out the window now. Austin and Vince McMahon reportedly haven't been on good terms for several months now and word is the night before Raw, the two of them had a very heated conversation over the phone that left Austin pissed off and frustrated even before this went down.
  • And that's the deal on Austin. He has more money than he'll ever be able to spend and doesn't have any financial need to wrestle. He only does so because he enjoys it. And if he doesn't enjoy it anymore, then by all means, it's his right to leave and he doesn't owe the business anything if he wants to hang up the boots. But Dave does feel like Austin owes WWE at least a few weeks to write him out of storylines since he's such an important piece of the company. Walking out from a live TV taping is unprofessional and it leaves guys like Guerrero and Benoit left hanging, thus screwing up their future plans and money-making potential too (yeah, that's something that doesn't get talked about much. Austin walking out fucked Guerrero over pretty hard here. It would take him another 2 years to get back into that main event scene that he would have been involved in here). That being said, pretty much everyone in the locker room sympathizes with Austin and agrees with his complaints about the creative direction of the company, but not many of them were defending the way he walked out. And given that this is the second time he's done it, the feeling is he shouldn't be allowed back without facing some actual punishment this time.
  • So anyway, the day of Raw, they went into panic mode and had to re-write the entire show. And with the feeling Austin won't be coming back anytime soon, Vince felt they needed to do something big. So they went with blowing off the dual-owners angle in a match that was designed to turn Flair babyface again and establish Vince as the heel owner of everything. There was also discussion of turning Undertaker babyface again, since he's been getting more cheers than RVD when they work together at house shows lately but they decided against that for now (they end up doing it in a couple weeks). So now Flair has been abruptly turned back, after only turning heel a few weeks prior. The brand split may or may not be dead. And there we stand.
  • In what would have been a major story during any other week, DDP has officially retired from wrestling at age 46. Unfortunately, Austin's walk-out overshadowed everything. The decision on DDP's retirement was actually made by Vince McMahon and Jim Ross, who pretty much made the choice for him after they got his medical reports. DDP has been advised by multiple doctors that his spine is shot and he needs to retire. For the company's own liability, WWE decided to listen to the doctors and DDP agreed. There has been talk of finding ways for DDP to work the remainder of his contract for the company in a non-wrestling capacity. (He obviously ends up wrestling a handful of matches in the years since, but for the most part, this really was the end of DDP's in-ring career as a full-time wrestler).
  • There were a couple of moments on Raw this week where Shawn Michaels was cutting a promo and made a comment about Austin "losing his top spot" and another comment later about Rock "stealing Triple H's spot." A lot of people in the company backstage were upset, feeling like this was the same ol' Shawn, going into business for himself and trashing on Austin and Rock and yada yada. Not the case. Those comments were actually scripted for Shawn to say because they want to get over the idea that Shawn on the mic is a loose cannon and you never know when he might start "shooting" and say something he's not supposed to. It's all very dumb, you see. Almost like Vince Russo is coming back any day now or something.
  • Dave gives a big preview and rundown of the Jarrett family's new NWA-TNA promotion, which has its debut show next week on PPV. Not all cable systems are carrying it, however. Cablevision and Dish Network both declined to carry it, but DirecTV is. This cuts down on the number of available homes for the show and probably cuts 20-30% off their potential revenue. The main PPV provider in Canada, Viewer's Choice, has also declined to carry it. Steep mountain to climb here. Dave expects them to do decent numbers for their first show but predicts an XFL-like collapse after that. By week 3, Dave is scared for their chances. From here, Dave gives the whole history of other promotions who've tried to make it on PPV in the U.S., with varying degrees of success and failure. UWFI, UFC, ECW, WCW, PRIDE, etc, WWF has even toyed with similar ideas. In 1991, they did the one-off Tuesday In Texas PPV as a test to see if they could run PPVs back-to-back (Survivor Series was only the week prior) and it was a flop. The original concept for Shotgun Saturday Night was for it to be a weekly Saturday night PPV with a similar >$10 price point, but that idea got scrapped before it got off the ground and it became just another TV show. Dave doesn't think TNA is going to make it without a TV deal. This PPV exclusive plan just has too much working against it. The Jarretts have talked about the millions of disenfranchised fans that stopped watching after WCW died, and it's true. Those people are out there. But those millions of fans all checked out between 1999-2001, and TNA isn't going to win them back by using the same people and the same concepts that ran those viewers away from WCW. All your wacky booking ideas, your Vince Russos, your Jeff Jarretts as champion, bringing in guys that even WWE won't touch (Scott Hall), etc. Those are all the same things that ran away those WCW viewers. Dave just doesn't see how this experiment can work in its current form.
  • Vince McMahon himself was the latest guest on WWE's Byte This show and needless to say, it was interesting. Vince denied the idea that the wrestling business is "cyclical" and said it's more like a series of peaks and valleys that have slowly been trending upwards over the years. Vince also admitted WWE doesn't always make the best decisions but says their batting average is good overall. Vince also said he's proud to have the word "wrestling" in their company name, which is a pretty big about-face from all the years he's tried to publicly claim they were "sports entertainment, not wrestling." He admitted things are rough right now but said there are huge changes coming soon that will change the entire industry but wouldn't elaborate on what he had planned (I think time has proven that the answer to this was nothing whatsoever. They had no idea what they were doing during this time and were just making shit up as they went along). Vince acknowledged that Austin has been frustrated lately and said Austin is the most demanding of all the wrestlers in WWE. Vince also said he pays no attention to the internet because everyone thinks they're a booker. He also complained that it's hard to live up to people's expectations because fans all think they know everything now. Acknowledged ratings being down and played it off like, yes, WWE is sick. But it's only a cold, not pneumonia or anything, so don't panic.
  • More notes from Vince on Byte This because huge unbroken paragraphs suck: he hinted at producing movies starring WWE talent. Dave thinks that's a bad idea. "No Holds Barred," anyone? Criticized backyard wrestling, which Dave actually agrees with him 100% on. Was asked about bringing Vince Russo back and said he hasn't given it any thought but he has an open door policy (see you next week, Russo! Jeez, it almost makes you wonder if Vince got the idea from this interview or something). When asked about the recent Jim Cornette/Ed Ferrara incident, Vince basically seemed disinterested but said he admires Cornette's passion for wrestling but felt spitting in Ferrara's face was unprofessional. When asked about NWA-TNA, Vince said he didn't understand how they could do it without television. Trying to get people to pay $9.95 a week for a 2 hour show (a minor league product at that, because anything other than WWE is basically minor leagues at this point), when they already get Raw and Smackdown on free television. Otherwise, he said he has no opinions on it because he hasn't seen it, but Vince seems to share Dave's opinion. He doesn't see this PPV model as sustainable and doesn't seem particularly threatened by it.
  • NJPW's latest Best of the Super Juniors tournament is in the books and was a disappointment, just like everything else in NJPW lately. Koji Kanemoto won a pretty boring tournament. There was only one new name involved, which was Michinoku Pro wrestler Curry Man (Christopher Daniels under a mask). He's talented and charismatic but he's not even that big a star in Michinoku Pro, much less to the NJPW audience. Otherwise, it was more of the same, with no real notable matches.
  • Zero-1 in Japan is hoping to put together a working relationship with NWA-TNA. Specifically, they're hoping they can do a Shinya Hashimoto vs. Ken Shamrock feud, perhaps over the NWA title.
  • While training for his comeback, Kenta Kobashi messed up his shoulder doing bench presses, because of course he did. Doctors have told him not to return too soon but he still plans to be back in the ring by next month. Because of course he does.
  • NJPW's latest show at Budokan Hall was a disaster. From photos Dave saw, he figures there couldn't have been more than 3,500 fans in the building. Even at its weakest after the NOAH exodus, AJPW never fell below 7,000 at Budokan and this show looked to be half that. It's likely the smallest crowd NJPW has ever drawn to that arena. The whole show was said to be terrible because of the depressing atmosphere of a building that was 2/3 empty.
  • This week's World Cup game between Japan and Russia did a 66.1 TV rating, making it the #2 highest rated sports broadcast in the history of Japan. This is notable because by doing so, it surpassed the Rikidozan vs. Destroyer match from 1963, which did a 64.0 rating, knocking it down to #3 (for what it's worth, it's believed that a Rikidozan vs. Lou Thesz match in 1957 was actually watched by even more people, but official ratings weren't kept as detailed back then, so it can't be counted for sure).
  • Dave has read some excerpts from the new Shaun Assael book on Vince McMahon called "Sex, Lies, and Headlocks." From what he's read, Dave says it's a very good and accurate portrayal of how the WWE has grown to what it is today. Vince's former close friend and VP of Titan Sports during the expansion era Jim Troy and Jim Barnett were both interviewed for it, among others. If you're a hardcore fan who's been following the Observer for years, there's nothing new here that you probably don't already know from a major story standpoint, but there's some interesting details at least that were new to Dave. But to the average fan, this should be pretty eye-opening. Dave expects to have a full review soon.
  • CZW held its second annual Best of the Best tournament at the old ECW Arena and the show got rave reviews. Particularly British wrestlers Jodie Fleisch and Jonny Storm, who tore the house down in their match. Trent Acid defeated Fleisch to win the tournament.
  • The Coen brothers, producers of the movie "Fargo", have had talks with Bobby Heenan about doing a movie based on his life (this pretty obviously went nowhere).
  • New Jack is no longer working with XPW and has jumped ship to work with a rival local promoter in Southern California. Perhaps not coincidentally, the last check New Jack received from XPW promoter Rob Black for $800 ended up bouncing. Dave says New Jack probably isn't the guy you want to write bad checks to.
  • NWA-TNA has changed its taping plans and no longer plans to tour, and they will now be live every week. The first two shows will be taped this week in Huntsville and after that, all future shows will be live from Nashville at the 9,000-seat Municipal Auditorium. Apparently the rent for that building is really cheap because a newer, more modern arena was just built nearby, so TNA can afford it. That being said, with as much trouble as they're having selling tickets for the debut show in Huntsville, Dave thinks it's pretty optimistic to start trying to run live tapings in the same 9,000-seat building every week. He thinks they would be much better off running a small 800-seat building every week, with a smaller, more intimate atmosphere that would come across a lot better on TV than a big cavernous arena that, inevitably, is going to be mostly empty (to this day, 18 years later, TNA/Impact has never once drawn a crowd of 9,000 fans. Never even really close actually).
  • Various other TNA notes: Dave runs down the list of confirmed names for TNA's first taping. Rick Steiner, K-Krush (formerly K-Kwik in WWF), Konnan, Steve Corino, The Harris Brothers, Psicosis, and a bunch of others. Don Frye has talked to Jeff Jarrett about coming in to work a match with Ken Shamrock. Jackie Fargo is going to be there doing something. They made an offer to Shane Douglas but he only agreed to come in if they didn't hire Francine (some kind of falling out between them). TNA decided they'd rather have Francine. They're expected to be doing some kind of old school vs. new school angle so....yay. More latter-years WCW shit. Mike & Todd Shane are coming in as a tag team called Dick & Rod Johnson and will have costumes that apparently look like penises, just in case you were still on the fence about whether Vince Russo is involved. The top stars are basically making around $3,500 per week which is a pretty decent salary for one day's work every week. The guys without name value, on the other hand, are getting $300 per show and are covering their own transportation. Just in case you were still on the fence about whether Jerry Jarrett is involved.
  • Ken Shamrock did an interview and acknowledged that he hasn't done pro-wrestling in a few years and knows he's going to be rusty. He also said he's worried because with only 1 show per week, he won't really be able to get enough matches under his belt to get good again. He also said he's signed a 3 fight deal with UFC and will be fighting Tito Ortiz in September, which turns out to be a pretty huge damn deal.
  • Dave saw the K-1 match with former WCW developmental wrestler Bob Sapp vs. some dude. Doesn't matter. What matters is Bob Sapp is enormous ("makes Brock Lesnar look like Jerry Lynn"). And he mauled this poor guy. In fact, it looked like Sapp was trying to get DQ'd, as he started kicking and kneeing the guy while he was down and just treating it like a street fight, violating lots of rules in the process. He was DQ'd but then K-1 booked Sapp and this other dude for a rematch in July. That leads Dave to think this was planned as an effort to get Sapp over as a lunatic, but if it was a work, somebody should have told the other guy because Sapp fucked him right on up. "This was like everyone feared Mike Tyson would behave, but 1,000 times worse and from a man far more scary." Furthermore, Sapp came out in a full Ric Flair robe and to Ric Flair' ring music, and the arena went insane. Sapp has massive superstar appeal in Japan right now and promoting him as a violent psychopath who has no regards for the rules in a shoot fight appears to be getting over huge.
WATCH: Bob Sapp vs. some dude. Doesn't matter. K-1
  • Edge will not need surgery for his torn labrum injury, so he'll only miss a few weeks of action instead of a few months. Edge is in the midst of the biggest push of his career and this is his chance to finally break through to the next level so needless to say, good news.
  • Notes from Raw: show opened with Vince walking out, which was unexpected since this is Flair's show. He said Austin wasn't there and made a point of saying Austin was too much of a coward to be there. Pretty well buried Austin and buried Raw as a bad show (blaming Flair in kayfabe for all the show's real life problems. Sorta like last year when they actually turned the bad ratings into a storyline by trying to blame it on Corbin. Some things never change). They're doing a storyline with Trish making fun of Molly Holly for allegedly having a fat ass because, again, some things never change. Former Tough Enough contestant Chris Nowinski debuted doing the Harvard grad gimmick like the heel jock in every teen movie. "The heel jock." Never change Dave. Shawn Michaels made his big return, cut his promo joining the NWO and turning heel on the fans before superkicking Booker T out of the group. So theoretically, this should mean Booker T should have to work his way through the entire NWO one by one before getting to Shawn at the end, in what should be Shawn's first match back. "I'm not holding my breath," Dave says. And of course, Vince beat Flair to take control of both shows. Horrible match but considering it was a last minute panic move, understandable under the circumstances. Lesnar ran in and helped Vince win the match.
WATCH: Vince McMahon opening promo with Ric Flair on Raw
WATCH: Ric Flair vs. Vince McMahon for sole ownership of WWE
  • Notes from Smackdown: during a big pull-apart brawl, several agents ran in to break it up. Among them were Dean Malenko and Fit Finlay, appearing on TV for the first time in their new backstage roles, and John Lauranitis who was also shown on TV last week. More gay jokes with Billy and Chuck and Rico, which Dave calls Russo-esque. Not quite yet. Jamie Noble was introduced with Nidia from Tough Enough season 1 as his valet, in a feud with Hurricane. There was a big effort to make Bob Holly a star this week, starting a feud with he and Kurt Angle and they really pushed Holly hard as a star and Angle busted his ass to try and get him over. And they did a show-long angle with Maven in the hospital (he's legit injured) and Torrie Wilson shows up, it's implied that she gives him a blowjob, and then Dr. Tajiri shows up, mists Torrie and beats up Maven. Dave is at least happy that they're trying to make an angle out of Maven's injury so he has a storyline to come back to, which is more effort than they put into most stuff these days.
  • Various WWE notes: referee Tim White suffered a torn rotator cuff in the Backlash Hell in a Cell match and will need surgery that will keep him out of the ring for months. Rey Mysterio is scheduled to debut on WWE house shows this week and, as of now, is expected to be wearing his mask again. Terry Taylor has been reaching out to get hired, but the company won't return his calls (they eventually re-hire him in September).
  • There's been a lot of praise for the new Spiderman comic "Tangled Web" which was written by Raven (I had to research this, but yeah. "Tangled Web" was a Spiderman anthology series that lasted about 2 years and had 22 issues. Each issue was written by different authors. Issue 14 was called "The Last Shoot" and sure enough, it was co-written by Raven alongside Brian Azzarello, who is the mind behind one of my favorite comic series of all time, 100 Bullets. And I had no idea. Wild).
  • The long-discussed plan of having Arn Anderson as Chris Benoit's manager seems to be off the table now. The thought is Anderson has been devalued so much in recent months (they pretty much wheel him out every time they need someone to take a beating for heat in a Flair feud) that he wouldn't be effective as a manager for a strong, serious heel.
  • Tough Enough II winner Linda Miles made her in-ring debut on Velocity, against Ivory. She was accompanied by fellow winner Jackie Gayda, who turned heel on her and cost Linda the match. Dave thinks it's waaaaaay too early to put these 2 women in a feud against each other considering how green they both still are.
WATCH: Linda Miles vs. Ivory - WWE Velocity 2002
  • The Rock, Vince McMahon, Undertaker, Jerry Lawler, Jm Ross, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Shane McMahon were all in Memphis at the Mike Tyson/Lennox Lewis fight last week. Rock could be seen on camera a few rows deep throughout the fight, while Vince was shown on camera as a celebrity in attendance before the fight. The others were never shown on-camera, but they were all there. The PPV is estimated to have done 1.8 million buys and grossed a record $103 million, which are numbers that WWE can only dream of. Prior to the PPV, Rock co-hosted a pre-show party with guests such as Halle Berry and Britney Spears.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: Steve Austin accused of abusing Debra, much more on that situation and Austin's walkout, Jesse Ventura not running for re-election, Rock wrestles in Hawaii, and more...
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[Tales From the Terran Republic] More Fallout—Caw and Karashel Attack the Locus!

Our two favorite councilors do a stupid, get in a fight, and generally be... well...
themselves...
The rest of this series can be found here
***
“Oh my little wiggly jellybean!” a distressed looking baleel exclaimed. “I’ve been so worried! I’ve tried and tried to get through but...”
“Calm down, mom,” Karashel said into the microphone of her incredible new desktop (courtesy of the Xx), “I’m fine.”
“The whole capital is on fire!” her mom cried. “The news isn’t saying much but on those sites you told me about... Fighting in the streets? Orbital strikes? Did we… did we actually...”
“Yeah, we did,” Karashel said grimly. “I’m not supposed to talk about it yet but there are over fifty thousand humans dead in the city alone… Nothing justifies what they did in response but still...”
The pupils of her mother’s eyes fully dilated.
“What did they do?” she asked in horror.
“I don’t have all the details, but the humans have some sort of new ‘terror weapon’, something horrible that they used on the vulxeen homeworld. It’s killed… oh mom you don’t even want to know how many are dead or how they died. It’s awful.”
“They could use it on the capital!” her mom squealed. “Come home! Come home right now!”
“I can’t,” Karashel replied.
“Just quit that silly job,” her mom said imploringly. “You can get a job anywhere!”
“You don’t understand,” Karashel replied, “I can’t. There’s a blockade right now. Nothing is going in or out of the capital. They don’t want the humans sneaking in one of those… things and they don’t want any of the human warriors still here escaping. But don’t worry, I’m perfectly safe!”
“Human warriors? Terror weapons?” her mother cried. “How can you possibly be safe?”
“I’m staying at a friend’s embassy,” Karashel said proudly. “This place can take a hit from one of their fusion bombs!”
THEY HAVE FUSION BOMBS?!?!?
Karashel winced. She shouldn’t have said that.
“Don’t worry! I’m safe in here!”
“Oh, Jellybean! You can’t possibly be safe!”
“Don’t tell anyone,” Karashel said as she leaned in close to the mic and started to whisper, “The embassy that I’m in, it belongs to-”
“THOSE... SIBLINGFUCKERS!!!” an enraged screech echoed down the hall. “IF THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS...”
“Mom, I gotta go,” Karashel said looking at the door. “Something is up.”
“Jellybean!” her mom cried. “Wai-”
Karashel switched off the transmission and quickly scooted out into the hall as the breaking of glass could be heard from Caw’s office.
She cautiously poked her head into the room as Caw pulled out a rather wicked looking carbine from a smashed bookcase and was slamming a black oblong object onto it.
“Caw?”
“What?” he asked in annoyance as an amber light glowed briefly on the side of the weapon.
“What’s going on?” she asked nervously. Caw was many things, excitable, intolerant, pedantic, but one thing he wasn’t was violent, at least she thought he wasn’t.
“Robbery! Plunder! Violation!” he yelled as he started to storm out of his office. “And if they think I’m going to just sit here and let them do it they have another thing coming!” he yelled as he shoved his way past her.
“Wait!” Karashel asked desperately undulating after him. “Where are you going?”
“The Locus!” he shouted.
“But there are humans in there!”
“I don’t give a FUCK!” he screamed steadily leaving her behind.
“Can I come with you?” she shouted.
Caw stopped and turned around, looking at her in astonishment.
“Have you lost your mind? There are humans in there!”
“You don’t care, why should I?” she yelled catching up to him.
“Because I’m an Xx!” he exclaimed. “If the humans are smart enough not to wish to anger the kalent they will almost certainly extend me the same courtesy. You are a baleel. No offense but they could slow roast you over open coals and nothing of consequence would be the result!”
“I’m still a councilor!” she replied. “They can use me as another hostage or something!”
“Compared to who they are holding at gunpoint, you are of absolutely no consequence!”
“Yeah, we suck,” she snapped. “but I still want to go!”
“By the ancient gardeners why?”
“Because I want to talk to them!” she replied. “I’m getting nothing but wormshit from official channels! I want to understand what’s happening and why? Who better to ask than human warriors!”
Caw looked at her in amazement. So great was her hunger for knowledge she was willing to risk her very life! That was so…
Romantic!
It was something right out of dramas, out of ancient history!
How could he say no?
“Well, more than one person has died because of Xvakk’Keen, the knowledge madness,” he chuckled, “but few do it with such style! You can die from this, you know.”
“Possible, but not likely,” she replied. “one thing is certain though. I won’t get another chance like this!”
“Ok,” he replied with a shrug, “I’ll try to protect you with my Xxness but no guarantees.”
“Wasn’t asking for one!” she giggled nervously. This was insane… exhilarating, but insane.
“Well what are you waiting for?” Caw grinned. “Let’s go!”
***
Caw sprinted down the hall, hissing in exasperation as he had to stop every few dozen yards as Karashel “ran” after him.
“Can’t you go any faster?” he shrieked.
“If I could I would!”
An Xx, pushing a hover cart laden with boxes of data crystals, walked around a corner. Caw lunged forward and seized his cart. With a single jerk, he slid all of the boxes off, scattering thousands of crystals across the floor.
The other Xx shrieked and screamed in an alien tongue. Karashel didn’t know the exact wording but from Caw’s grin, it wasn’t nice.
“Get on!” he yelled.
Karashel flopped onto the cart and started wiggling herself onto it. Caw, his patience finally gone, grabbed her, rather inappropriately, and threw her onto the floating cart.
She squealed in surprise as she tried to grip the cart as Caw tore off at a breakneck pace, scattering Xx and other races as he threatened to plow right over them.
She laughed insanely. This was fun. She started making siren noises as Caw laughed, despite his rage.
“Woo Ooo… Wooo Ooooo...” she shrieked as Caw sprinted through the sprawling building.
A rather elaborately dressed Xx and a group of what were clearly guards were waiting for them at the exit.
“Woooo Oooooooooooo...” Karashel slowly tapered off into silence as Caw came to a halt directly in front of the lead Xx.
“What the FUCK do you think you are doing?!?!” the well dressed Xx yelled.
“Stopping a crime, ambassador!” Caw yelled.
“You can’t be serious, Caw!”
“As serious as a blocked bowel!”
“Crime?”
“One of the Eel Lords is in The Locus right now! There is only ONE THING that would have one of them here!”
“...”
“Now get the FUCK out of my way, Kawk!”
“Fuck it,” the ambassador said and started to walk away.
“Shouldn’t we help him?” one of the guards asked.
“Nah,” The ambassador said as he walked away. “It’s just one eel and a few humans. Caw is enough. Don’t reveal what that weapon does if you can help it,” he called out over his shoulder as he returned to his office.
He had a drama to finish watching.
Caw sprinted to his waiting grav-car, Karashel in tow.
***
Karashel squeezed her eyes shut as Caw, switching his grav-car to manual, careened through the capital with breakneck speed.
“By the progenitors themselves,” Caw screeched. “If they have touched so much as ONE THING I will snatch that glowing tally-wacker right off of his scaly head and SODOMIZE HIM WITH IT!!!”
Kalent don’t glow... Karashel thought to herself trying not to lose her rice balls as the grav-car turned on its side and she felt her stomachs being shoved down into her foot.
“What are they stealing?”
“Things priceless beyond measure! Things that belong to all of us, not just to those sanctimonious sperm breathers!”
“Eeeeeee!” Karashel screamed as they plummeted for what felt like forever.
Then, throwing her forward into the restraint webbing that had mysteriously appeared, the vehicle slammed to a halt.
She carefully opened one eye and saw Caw retracting the window. Standing there was a Federation trooper.
“What?!?” Caw snapped impatiently.
“You can’t proceed any farther, sir,” the trooper said calmly. “This is a combat zone.”
“Really?” Caw said in his best patronizing tone. “Is that why there are all these soldiers and tanks? Wow! I would have never guessed. Now get the FUCK out of my way!”
“Sir,” the trooper said pointing his weapon at Caw, “get out of the car, now.”
“Boy,” Caw said glaring at him. “Do you know who I am?”
“No, and I don’t care. Get out of the car!”
“I am Caw Itsheesh, the councilor for the Xx. If you think you have a problem now, fuck with me. Then you will know what a problem really is! Now I’m driving through this barricade. Shoot me if you want.”
“Sir!” the trooper yelled as Caw hit the accelerator.
The air around the car glowed as bolts from the guards’ blasters struck the vehicle’s shields.
“They actually shot at us!” Caw laughed as he quickly turned a corner to get out of the line of fire. “Maybe I should get a diplomatic transciever after all!”
He looked over at Karashel who had wiggled out of the restraint web and was cowering on the floor board.
“Relax, they can’t get through these shields with those toys! They would need… One of those!” Caw yelled as he hit the brakes as a strange curvy… thing… floated down in front of them.”
Caw retracted the window again and leaned out of his ride.
“Get out of my way, eel!” he shouted. “I’m councilor-”
“I am perfectly aware of your identity, Xx!” a loud voice said. ”Go away.”
“I will most certainly not!” Caw yelled at the craft. “I am going to The Locus and you will not stop me!”
”The situation is delicate. We do not need an Xx, especially you, further complicating matters.”
“Barring me from the archives is a direct violation of the accord!” Caw shouted. “Are you telling me that the accord has been broken? If so, there is no reason for the Xx to remain sitting on this spoiled egg you call the Federation! If I leave I’m taking ALL of our toys and we are going HOME!”
The strange craft hovered there in silence for what seemed like forever.
”Proceed but be warned. If you cause harm to our lord, it will not go well for the pathetic Xx!”
“Try it, you prickless bastards!” Caw yelled as the craft floated back up into the sky.
***
Hands tied behind her, Tawnie, glared at the kalent with pure hate as she sat against the wall with one of the Forsaken soldiers standing over her.
Colonel Laurent rubbed his bruised eye. For a little slip of a civilian, that girl was a fighter. It took four of them, and one of her boots to his face, to stop her from attacking their hostage.
Thank God she snatched a sabergun instead of an AK. The AK’s safety was a lot simpler to figure out than the control interlock on what she grabbed.
“I am so very sorry for what the Federation did,” the sarcophagus said with a regretful tone.
“Fuck you!” Tawnie hissed as she spat at him, causing his attendants to leap between the two.
“Children, please,” the abyssal lord said calmly, “Human spittle is not dangerous to us.”
“You better fucking kill me!” Tawnie yelled at the kalent. “Because when I get out of here you’re dead! All of you are fucking DEAD!!!”
“Tawnie,” the colonel said still rubbing his eye, “you will get your chance to kill soon enough, I promise. For now, please calm down.”
Calm down?!?” Tawnie shrieked. “They killed my family!… They killed my MOM!”
“And we will avenge her,” Colonel Laurent said calmly.
“How?” Tawnie yelled.
“I think...” The colonel said turning to the kalent. “I think it’s time for you to leave.”
Yeah,” Tawnie hissed. “Let’s fucking do this!”
“The archives!” the sarcophagus said in alarm. “You can’t! We had an agreement!”
“The situation has changed,” the colonel said with a grim smile. “You need to go, now.”
“Sir?” a voice said over the colonel’s communicator. “We have a situation.”
***
“What the hell?” the colonel muttered in French as two figures were brought into the room, an Xx and … what the hell is that thing?
What are you doing here?” the colonel asked.
“I’m Caw Itsheesh, councilor for the Xx,” Caw said confidently.
“And I’m Karashel, councilor for the Baleel,” Karashel added cheerfully. “Hi!”
“I didn’t ask who you were,” Colonel Laurent snapped. “I asked what the fuck are you doing here!”
“I’m investigating a crime against all species!” Caw said in a loud confident voice.
“Well then I suggest going to the human enclave!” the colonel replied with an icy voice. “If you want your crime, you will find it there!”
“And we shall, believe me, we shall!” Caw shouted in reply. “We are outraged by the events of today, the crimes committed by the Federation, and your kind, are unforgivable!”
Our kind?” Tawnie screamed from the corner of the room. “Our kind?!?” she yelled as she struggled to her feet, only to be firmly sat back down by the human standing beside her. “Get off me!” she yelled at him as she bit his hand.
The soldier just smiled. Teeth don’t do much against combat gloves.
“But today I am addressing the crimes perpetrated by them!” Caw shouted as he pointed at the black sarcophagus. “Thieves! Vandals! Looters!”
“We have far greater concerns,” the sarcophagus said gravely. “the humans are going to destroy everything down there… everything.”
“W-what,” Caw gasped in horror. “You can’t!”
“We have the capacity,” the colonel replied. “Shouldn’t be that difficult.”
“What’s down there… It’s priceless!… Beyond priceless!… Please!” Caw begged.
“More priceless than fifty thousand lives?” the colonel asked. “They must be avenged.”
They were!” Caw screeched.
“What?” the colonel asked.
“Oh dear,” the sarcophagus said in a rather shaken voice. “Yes, Colonel, Jessica Morgan exacted a terrible price for their lives. She unleashed what can only be described as hell itself upon the Vulxeen homeworld. They will be avenged several times over before the death ceases.”
The colonel shrugged and turned to Tawnie.
“Tawnie, if we untie you do you promise to behave yourself and get that lift operational?”
“Fuck yeah I do!” she said with a malicious smile. “As long as I get to see it burn.”
Colonel Laurent nodded to her warden who proceeded to pull her to her feet and cut her restraints. She grabbed her tools and sprinted towards the exit, pausing only to flip off the xenos as she left.
“Look,” Caw said imploringly, “Colonel was it? What is down there are treasures for all people, all species, things that-”
“If it’s for all of us,” the colonel said cutting him off, “then why are we just now finding out about it?”
Yeah, Karashel thought as she looked suspiciously at her friend. What are you hiding, Caw?
“It’s… complicated...” Caw said cautiously.
“Is it?” the colonel smiled. “Well it won’t be for long.”
“If you do this,” the sarcophagus said evenly, “It will be war.”
“It will be war anyway,” the colonel replied. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that the kalent, and the Xx won’t get involved anyway? It was a fucking kalent that suggested our genocide in the first place!”
“What she suggested was far from what transpired, Colonel,” the abyssal lord replied from within his sarcophagus. “You have already struck one of the races behind the travesty that befell your people.”
“One that you, both of you,” the colonel said glancing over at Caw, “idly sat back and watched.”
“I didn’t know anything about it!” Caw screeched angrily. “You can be assured that we WOULD NOT have just sat idly by had we known!”
“I didn’t know about it,” Karashel added trying to help. “It wasn’t announced in the council or anything. For the record we are really angry about it too!… not that it matters much...”
“I beseech you,” Caw said his voice shaking, “please don’t do this!… Not this… The kalent does speak the truth, though. If you destroy what is down there, the Xx will never forgive you as well.”
The colonel kept his countenance grim but he was becoming increasingly concerned. Two “elder races”…
“Hey,” Karashel said with a friendly, if a bit disgusting looking smile. “Maybe… maybe we could work something out?”
“Quiet,” Caw hissed. “This is beyond you, Kara.”
“I might not be some big “elder race”,” Karashel said puffing herself up to her full somewhat slimy height. “But I’ve been studying humans! And from reading their history I know two important things. When they are angry begging for mercy doesn’t work.”
She then flicked her eyestalks over to the kalent.
“And neither do threats. Humans don’t give a fuck when they are like this.”
She undulated towards the colonel.
“So, why don’t we make a deal,” she said in a friendly voice. “You have them by the, as you call them, ‘short and curlies’.”
The colonel laughed.
“So, give them a tug,” she said in a friendly voice.
The colonel smiled at the slug-like creature. It had offered him an out, God bless the thing.
“So what would you suggest, Kara was it?”
“Karashel, but Kara is cool.” she replied. “Well first of all why don’t we go see what all the fuss is about?”
She looked back at Caw with a wicked smile.
“I mean, these treasures are for ‘all of us’ right?”
If looks could kill…
***
The lift went down for a good minute before it came to a stop.
The doors opened into a wide hallway, wide enough for small vehicles to drive down it.
“Ok, we’re here,” Caw said as the group left the elevator. “The data center is this way.”
“Yeah,” Karashel said, “That’s nice and all but what’s down that hall over there, the one you are trying very hard not to look at?”
Caw glared at her.
“Let’s go that way!” Karashel said brightly and started scooching along.
I’m going to shoot her, Caw thought darkly, Just as soon as I get my gun back...
The hallway ended at a large doorway.
“If you don’t mind,” the colonel said gesturing at the door.
Caw, cursing under his breath, entered a code into the keypad mounted in the wall.
A door as thick as the entrance to a bank vault silently started to open.
The lights switched on, illuminating huge chamber filled with row after row of books, scrolls, stone and clay tablets… statues…
And some cases that were completely obscured.
The colonel let out a low whistle as he looked around.
“A museum?” he asked.
“A repository of priceless manuscripts and artifacts”, the sarcophagus answered.
“Artifacts of what?”
He smiled as he caught Caw glancing over at whatever was in that black box behind him.
“Um...” Caw said uncomfortably, “Items collected from the various races of the Federation, things from their early history.”
“Annnnnd?” Karashel asked impishly.
“And ‘other stuff’...” Caw mumbled.
“My Xx friend here is quite correct in his accusations,” the sarcophagus said. “We intended to remove certain items for safekeeping. We felt they were no longer safe here. Our current situation is proof of that. Even you must agree, Caw Itsheesh.”
“Tell me about this ‘other stuff’,” the colonel said examining a most unusual statue. It unnerved him.
Caw sighed.
“There are species, civilizations, far more ancient than even the kalent,” he said, “Here is where their artifacts are stored, their writings, everything we could find is in stored here. This… This is why we joined the Federation. To gain access… to this.”
“And why didn’t I know about this place?” Karashel asked, just a bit angry.
“You?” Caw scoffed. “You haven’t even scratched the surface of the archives you can reach! Until a few days ago you didn’t even try. What good would this do for you? You can’t even begin to understand what is in here! If you reached a point where this would be of use then you would have been made aware of it, not that it would ever, ever happen to a society so devolved as yours!”
“Well fuck you too.” Karashel replied. “Maybe if we knew such things existed then maybe more races would be inclined to seek your precious knowledge.” she replied nastily.
“You don’t even begin to understand how foolish you are sounding right now!” Caw sneered.
“And you don’t have the slightest idea how much of a condescending prick you are being at the moment! Do you know why we are so ‘devolved’? You shitheads fucking hobbled most of us out of the gate, do you know that?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Culture shock, motherfucker!” Karashel snapped. “I’ve looked at my history too!” she said advancing on her “friend”. “Blindsided by you ‘siblingfuckers’ before we were even close to being ready! Completely overwhelmed, swallowed up by a galaxy a million times bigger than anything we expected. Slapped around by the vulxeen and the morash, and a dozen other races while you, and you,” she said pointing at the kalent, “just sat there letting it happen!”
Her body started quivering.
“And why? Why?” she said starting to yell. “Pure ‘devolved’ colonialism! A fucking land grab! God forbid the Empire, who takes care of its subjects get to us first! We just got swallowed up! Could the Xx have survived that? Or the almighty kalent? You were free to develop on your own, at your own pace, figure out things for yourself, and when you did enter the galaxy as a whole you did so fully established, able to stand on your own, protect yourself on your own!”
She turned on Caw undulating towards him angrily.
“And you have the fucking nerve to look down at us?” she demanded. “How long did it take you to develop your precious ‘post scarcity society’ huh? How many thousand years, how many hundred thousand years did it take? How many years did you spend just as fucking filthy as us? Did you go from where we were at first contact to your oh so perfect enlightened state in one-hundred and eighty-three years? Did you do it in two hundred and eighty-three, three hundred, four?”
Caw flinched.
“Yeah, that’s what I fucking thought!” Karashel snapped.
“Damn,” the colonel muttered. “I’m just going to look around a little while you guys sort things out,” he said with a smile as he started walking around looking at the strange and weird objects.
“But we didn’t have the archives!” Caw shot back.
“So fucking what?” Karashel replied. “Technological and societal progress are two entirely different fucking things. You can’t expect a society to just magically change just because they have some fancy new toys, you… asshole. We got grabbed and hurled right into the deep-end of this fucked up galaxy, free to ‘chart our own destiny’ right to the fucking bottom!… Fuck you! Our civilization survived, intact! So did all the rest of us lowly little dirty undeserving worms! Until you get hit with something like we did, you can’t say shit to me!”
“You tell them,” the colonel smiled as he admired the most alien thing he had even seen in his life, an obelisk, floating on its side in a long crystal case.
“Amazing,” he muttered and then he froze.
There on the obelisk, was a very familiar symbol, an eight-rayed chaos star… with an… eye?… in the middle. The rays weren’t straight though, they were curved making a spiral and those weren’t arrows on the ends…
They looked like… hands!
Fear gripped him as he started to look at the other symbols more closely. He hadn’t been this afraid since his first battle, so many years ago.
He felt his mind “falling” into that obelisk… there was something in there!
He wrenched his gaze away from it and staggered back.
Pale and sweating, he walked back to the entrance.
He sensed the creature in the sarcophagus looking at him.
“So now you understand?” it asked quietly as Caw and Karashel continued to yell at each other.
“I understand that you really don’t want to lose what’s in here,” he replied.
“I have a proposal,” the abyssal lord said quietly, “How would you like to survive, not just you, your men as well. I can make that happen.”
“Yeah, only to stab us in the back once we are safely away from your little treasure trove.”
“You little boneless slimeball!” Caw yelled.
“You judgmental feathered poo-ball!” Karashel snapped.
“I personally believe that the Forsaken are here to stay,” the ancient fish replied. “The Federation isn’t going to win, at least not completely. How would you like to be their envoy to the kalent? Your men can be your staff. You join me on my ship and we return to our home system. We will prepare an embassy for you there where we can ensure mutual non-aggression.”
“I thought nobody returned from your homeworld.” the colonel replied quietly, their conversation completely overshadowed by the raging argument next to them. It was starting to get ugly.
“They don’t,” the abyssal lord replied. “It will be a one way trip for you and your movements will be very restricted.”
“Sounds like prison. Hard pass.”
“Perhaps,” the creature replied, “but it will be a most pleasant incarceration. Our guests are quite happy and it will be a far better fate for you and your men than your current one.”
“How can you say that?” Caw yelled. “The two situations are completely different! You are comparing a rock with a rock lizard!”
“Really?” Karashel yelled back, “Consider the rise of organized labor in twentieth-century America...”
“Oh here we go with the twentieth century again!” Caw exclaimed. “I wanted you to glance over it as a cautionary tale, not make a fucking religion out of it...”
“Why don’t you address my point instead of bitching about it… bitch!”
The colonel looked at the black sarcophagus with a shrewd look in his eye.
“Here’s the deal,” he said after a few moments. “I go with you. My men get the option between staying with me or evacuation.”
“Evacuation?”
“Yes,” the colonel smiled. “A fleet of transports, completely unarmed, will be allowed into this system. We will then evacuate everyone who wishes to leave, everyone. While that happens I, and a few very well armed and well equipped soldiers will remain here, to ensure the Federation’s good behavior. If anything goes wrong, we start blowing shit up. Once they leave, me and my men will go with you. You can execute us at that point if you want or you can take advantage of the opportunity to start a dialogue with the General, something that you really want to do.”
“I cannot make promises for the Federation, Colonel.”
“Bullshit,” the colonel replied. “That’s my deal. Make it happen or hope you took good pictures.”
The sarcophagus sat there silently for a moment.
“Listen, you little shit,” Caw yelled, “You can claim ‘culture shock’ all you want but does not excuse-”
“It isn’t a fucking excuse, shithead!” Karashel shouted, “It’s an explanation!”
“What’s the difference?”
What’s the difference?!? Listen here, pillow stuffing...”
The sarcophagus moved towards the colonel.
“Alright, we will make it happen,” the creature said. “It will take some time, but we do have pull, perhaps not as much as you believe, but we can exert pressure.”
“No problem, gives us more time to set the charges,” the colonel smiled.
***
An hour later Karashel and Caw were still going at it.
“And you leave the aat out of this!” Caw yelled.
“Why?” Karashel replied. “Just because they are your little pets makes them immune to your pathetic rating scale? How is their ‘post scarcity’ coming along?”
“That is completely unfair!”
“My point exactly!”
“Gah! That’s ‘wormshit’ and you know it!”
“Ok, how are they when it comes to other societal factors, hmm? Public welfare doesn’t require literacy! How about universal suffrage? You mentioned kings, where does feudalism rank in your little grade book?”
“They are still developing!” Caw said defensively. “At their age, your people were likely still figuring out how to rub sticks together!”
“Why would we… nevermind!” Karashel gurgled, the yelling wearing out her voice box. “You love to compare us to you but compared to you we aren’t that much more advanced than your little aat buddies are we?… Or are you not as technologically advanced as you claim to be?”
“SCREEEEEEEE” Caw screeched. “You are without a doubt the most arrogant presumptuous sanctimonious little turd I have ever met!”
“Quit complimenting me and answer the fucking question!” Karashel said spitting up a little bit of phlegm. “Where. Do. We. Compare. To. You. Relative. To. The. Aat? Are we closer to them or are we closer to you?”
Caw just stood there and fumed.
“Thought so,” Karashel said triumphantly. “You give them a pass and shower them with cuddles and kisses only because they have tech that you want. I bet if we had things that you wanted you would be much more forgiving of our little shortcomings as well, us ‘still developing’ and all.”
If you developed as much native technology as they have, sure, we would be much more ‘forgiving’” Caw replied, “But you haven’t done shit and the aat had even more of your ‘culture shock’ than you did.”
“Wormshit,” Karashel snapped back. “The aat are protected by their bulletproof minds! They are so far behind most of it went clear over their heads… and they have been protected by you since you found out about all of their goodies! Nobody is going to fuck with them!”
“But they were the targets of the injustices you cry about before that!” Caw replied with a sneer. “And they came out of it the winners, unlike the baleel. If you want to try to pull in another race in a pathetic excuse to distract, do take care not to use one that completely outclasses you in every single way!”
“Listen here you piece of...”
“It is done,” the abyssal lord said, “The Federation has agreed to an evacuation of the capital in exchange for you sparing the contents of this room.”
“If you are intending to fuck us on this you do realize that you will have to deal with whatever the General considers worse than what she has already deployed as well as what I do here, yes?”
“If the Federation ‘fucks’ you they have us to deal with as well.”
The colonel gestured to one of his people
“Sir?”
“Get me a connection from here to the hyperspace relays. I need to speak with the General.”
“How can you not see the complete lack of validity your argument holds?” Caw screeched.
“If it is so invalid, prove it! All I hear is screeching and insults!”
“I can’t disprove a ghost! Your argument is indeed valid,” Caw screeched, “if your presumptions were true. You have yet to prove a single one of them!”
“Oh, really...”
“Should we tell them that we are done here?” the sarcophagus asked.
“Nah,” the colonel said with a smile. “We got plenty of time and I want to see where this goes.”
“Indeed,” the sarcophagus replied. “It is most gratifying to see an Xx get it’s rectum stretched over its head like this. What is that creature?”
“I think it’s a baleel?”
“Interesting...”
***
“Ok,” Karashel gasped. “I will agree to forestall this ‘discussion’ until I ‘acquire knowledge’ concerning some of your points and verify some of your less asinine statements.”
“Yes… yes… We are going around in circles,” Caw sighed in complete exhaustion, “And we are running out of new combinations of slurs. I will also investigate some of your outlandish statements.”
As the anger and the baleel equivalent of adrenaline faded she started to realize what she did, what she said.
Oh Creators what have I done?
“So...” Karashel asked looking down at the ground, “are we still friends?”
“What?” Caw looked at her raising his crest in confusion. “That is the absolute dumbest question you have ever asked, and that’s saying something. Of course we are! I haven’t had that much fun in ages!”
“That was fun?” Karashel asked in shock.
“Well,” Caw replied with a smile, “Wasn’t it?”
“...”
Karashel looked him with a combination of shock and horror.
“By the Creators themselves, it was… Void take me it was...” she gasped.
“Now we both retreat, gather fresh information, and then do this again!” Caw said happily. “You have chosen a most intriguing position, an invalid and doomed position, but an intriguing one. I look forward to the fresh thoughts this Xvakk’Lok, knowledge battle will create!”
“And I look forward to kicking your ass!… Not that I have feet...”
“I hope you will accept your defeat with the same amount of grace as the foolish confidence with which you approach it!”
“Oh bite me.”
“Bite you?”
“It’s a human term.”
“You two kiss and make up yet?” the colonel asked.
“We are taking a break to reinforce our positions,” Caw replied, smoothing his feathers.
“You do realize the exact circumstances in which you two decided to have your spirited debate?” the sarcophagus asked. “The extreme gravity? The potentially dire circumstances?”
“Silly me,” Caw replied. “I was so engrossed in teaching my silly little sidekick a lesson that you were the only one who had to make concessions. Don’t worry, if you had gotten in over your head, I would have come to the rescue.”
“...”
The colonel snickered.
“However, the fish is right. This is a rather unique situation,” Caw said to Karashel. “Since we are here there are some things I would absolutely love to show you...”
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Inheritors of Eschaton, Part 36 - What Little Remains

First | Previous
“The few surviving records that reference the vinesavaim assert that they are comparable in their gifts across regions, if not nearly identical. It is interesting, then, that they should be perceived so differently. We Sjocelym know Maja as our protector and keeper, and rightly give our thanks for His sheltering grace. The Aesvain treat Tija with a more familiar love, like an honored elder and teacher. The Gadhun Draatim associate Dija with the ocean more than the land, holding equal measures of respect and dread for Him. As for the Setelym, what little we know from their forbidden vale hews uncomfortably close to Lysvarun heresy, which I will not speak of here.”
“Now, at this point is when some precocious student with more books than sense will usually interrupt me and point out that there should be more than four vinesavaim - but as we are limited in time please congratulate yourself on your brilliance after the lecture. The heptinity of the vinesavaim is well-attested in literature, but all that remains of the three who were lost is dry sand and death. If ever you meet someone who questions Maja’s grace, point them to the desert so they may see what rewards wait for heretics and apostates.”
Vumo Ra, address on comparative theology, The Archive.
The heavy bar came loose from the door in a cloud of dust, the wood light and brittle with age. Mark laid it carefully aside and stepped back to stand with Jesse. Both men leveled their rifles at the doorway.
“Open it and stand clear,” Mark said.
Jyte nodded, then made a sharp gesture. The halberdiers pulled the doors open and scattered to the sides, shielding their eyes from the bright sunlight that streamed through the opening.
Only silence greeted them.
Mark stepped forward cautiously, holding up a hand to shade his eyes and squinting into the daylight. Unlike the Sjocelym Sanctum, this facility opened up into a broad, gently-sloped area with a dry creekbed and a scattering of sickly-looking trees. The village of Aesvain gold-cloaks had sprung up at a respectful distance from the entrance, forming a ring of small huts and gathering areas.
Few were left standing. Most of the buildings were gutted shells, their timber and stone frames blasted across the dry grass or reduced to smoldering ash. The overgrown flagstone of the Sanctum’s surrounds was discolored with scorchmarks and dried blood.
Jyte walked up to stand beside Mark, his face hard. He took in the ruined village for a long moment before looking down in the grass at his feet. He crouched to pick up a short blade, its fullers choked with a crust of black blood.
“At least they died fighting,” he muttered, turning the blade over. “They’d have been elders and youth, most of them. The old resting after a long career, passing down their skill to those who’ve never seen battle.” He looked up, then carefully slid the blade through his belt. “No more. Jaa tseve, they’ve even taken the bodies.”
Mark looked around. The glint of metal revealed where the odd weapon or scrap of armor had dropped, but none of the battle’s dead remained. He could even spot depressions in the grass where the weight of a now-absent body had left it matted down, fixed in place by drying blood.
“Seems like they’ve totally cleared the place out,” he muttered. “What do you think, half on perimeter and half in the village?”
Jyte nodded. “Sensible,” he said, turning to motion to Ajehet. The scout jerked his head in acknowledgement and peeled away from the group silently with four of his men in tow. The remainder accompanied Jyte, Mark and Jesse as they approached the ruined buildings. The largest structure still recognizable was some form of barracks, with one wall fallen away to reveal neat rows of beds and chests.
The corner of the building had been torn away forcefully. Splintered timber hung down over the foundation stones, which had an oddly fluid shape to them. Jesse crouched to inspect them, then turned to the others with a grim look.
“Lightning,” he said, tracing a circle around a blackened, fused patch on the rock. “Probably just like what we saw in Sjatel. Took out their warding stones, then their shelters.”
“There’s only one structure around that could even hope to stand up to that, and the doors were sealed,” Mark said, bending down to take a look. “Yeah, I can’t see what else that would be. Must have blasted straight down through the frame, the wood just disintegrated.”
The neighboring structures showed similar damage where there was anything left to bear a sign of the blasts. There was little remaining that had not burned down or mysteriously vanished, and the Aesvain grew noticeably subdued as they reached the farthest extent of the village. The land sloped upward somewhat, and Mark turned to get a better view on the Sanctum surrounds.
The building was vastly different than its sister installation in the mountains, lacking any of the large blackstone ramparts and yawning openings. Instead, it nestled into a low spot between hills, its edges subsumed under years of eroded soil from the slopes around it. The main building was blocky and utilitarian like much of the construction they had seen, and was surrounded by a broad, flat plaza of black stone steadily encroached upon by washed-in hummocks of dirt and brown grasses. The overall effect was that of a dark mass sinking into the land, scored here and there with the remnants of massive lightning strikes.
Now that they were slightly higher and farther off, the view past the building showed a gradual descent in the terrain over several miles that terminated in a thin slice of seafront barely visible through the haze.
Mark squinted. There was a large dark smudge visible against the seashore, too distant to make much out. “Is that the city?” he asked. “Mosatel?”
Jyte looked and nodded, his grim expression hardening even further. “What’s left of it,” he said. “Though it looks much the same from here as it ever did.” He took a few steps upslope and shaded his eyes, looking out over the vista. “I wouldn’t hope to find a single survivor, if the attack on Sjatel serves as a guide. From what we’ve heard most of those who escaped the city proper did so from the docks. Those who made their way overland are mostly from parts outside, smaller villages and farms along the coast. Anyone too slow to find a boat didn’t leave.”
“Sounds like they pushed in all at once to take here and Mosatel,” Mark mused. “Took their time moving on from there. I wonder if that means they can only do the storm trick every so often or if there was something they were busy doing?”
Jyte snorted. “Doesn’t matter how often they can make the storm,” he said. “The abominations haven’t yielded taken land yet. One storm each day or several, any delay is just that - a delay. The end doesn’t change.”
“Cheerful,” Mark replied. “But you’re not wrong.” He clapped Jyte on the shoulder and turned to walk back to the village. “Come on, we’re not going to be able to send a party further out until morning. Let’s meet back up with Ajehet and see if they found anything.”
The Aesvain captain nodded but did not immediately follow, lingering to take in the image of the vast, empty city by the shore.
---
“They’re not a happy crowd,” Jackie noted, sweeping the tablet over the nearest wall. “But anyone would get a bit down looking at the ruins of your home. I poked my head out earlier, the entire place just has this sort of eerie quiet to it. The air is dusty, the plants are dying. Ajehet said these hills are normally green, covered in grasses and flowers.”
“Hard to believe,” Gusje said. “The air out there tastes like the desert, but even the desert had a sense of life to it. This place… everything is melting away but the bare rock. The soil will crumble to dust and blow away, with sand to take its place.”
Jackie gave her a close look, frowning. “You seem like you’re not doing so well either,” she noted. “More than I’d expect from just the general hopelessness of our situation. Something on your mind?”
Gusje shook her head. “It’s nothing,” she said, walking several paces away. Jackie stayed quiet for a few moments, waiting.
“Caretakers,” Gusje said, turning back to face her. “Maja and all of the old documents call us Caretakers. We had some task, some responsibility that was given to us before all memory.”
Jackie nodded. “Looks that way,” she agreed.
“So what was it?” Gusje asked, her voice breaking with sudden emotion. “What were we supposed to do? None of my people know this. If one did then the other Madim would know, and if my father had known he would have told me.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “But we’ve forgotten,” she said. “Whatever the task was, we’ve failed. The Aesvain talked to me the other day, shared what they knew of the man who lived here. They told me that he had helped them, and that they were grateful to my people.”
“But what if it was our fault to begin with?” she asked. “What if things fell apart because we forgot?” She met Jackie’s eyes with a torn expression. “What if they have more reasons to curse my people than praise them?”
“Hoo boy,” Jackie said, rubbing a hand over her eyes. “I mean, it sure does seem like some stuff got lost along the way,” she admitted. “But that can’t all be on you guys. Society fell apart, everyone died! It’s hard enough to do this shit when you’ve got a functioning civilization and don’t have to worry about when your food and water are coming from. And even if one of your distant ancestors did fuck it up, that really doesn’t have much bearing on you.”
Gusje shot her an annoyed look. “It matters,” she insisted.
“Of course it matters,” Jackie said, waving her hand dismissively. “You should know this stuff, it’s important! But you’re looking at this all wrong - whatever your ancestors did or didn’t do, that’s always been there. You’re just the first person who’s doing something about it. That’s something to be proud of, even if what you learn isn’t.”
“If you say so,” Gusje responded, flushing. “All I’m doing is looking for answers.”
Jackie smiled and reached over to tousle Gusje’s hair. “Having the will to look for uncomfortable answers is not a small thing,” she pointed out. “Many people just exist, hiding from change. Just because you had change forced on you doesn’t make how you deal with it any less important.”
Gusje scowled and stalked forward down the hall, filling the silence with footsteps. She stopped when she reached the junction, turning to speak once more - then stopped, stiffening.
“Jackie,” she said urgently. “Come here.”
“What’s up?” Jackie asked, grabbing her radio. “Trouble?”
Gusje shook her head. “It’s the room with the door,” she said. “The one that recognized my hand. Only…” She trailed off, looking pale.
Jackie hurried to look around the corner. “Oh, fuck me,” she muttered.
The hallway was a near-exact copy of the door before the elevator room at the Sjocelym sanctum, complete with handprint-pedestal and inscribed arch. Where there had been a door, however, there was instead a melted shaft bored through the stone from above. Dusty daylight filtered in from the top of the ruined doorframe, lighting the stone beneath with a wan glow.
Hesitantly, the two approached the door to look at the hole burned into the stone. No voice prompted them to verify themselves. The stone around the doorframe was twisted and warped, shiny where it had melted and flowed like water to puddle on the floor. The shaft had bored through several meters of twisted rock, leaving jagged edges limned with stalactites..
“It looks like they just hammered down from above with lightning,” Jackie said wonderingly, twisting her neck to look at the thin spot of sky visible at the far end. “Over and over again until they wrecked the door.” She looked nervously down the hallway on the far side of the threshold. “They wanted to let someone in.”
“The control room should be past here, then,” Gusje said. “Come on.”
Jackie shook her head. “We should report in first,” she said. “Modran isn’t far away, we can get him. If they busted the door then we can count on unfriendlies making it inside.”
“Tell them, then,” Gusje said, reaching into her bag and taking out her gauntlet. “I’m going to go ahead and see. If there are any answers to be had here, there’s a good chance they’re in that room.”
“Gusje, just-” Jackie frowned and hurried to keep up with her, talking in hushed tones over the radio as they moved down the dark hall. There was no elevator down this time - the hall turned once, twice, then opened into a modest space with a familiar raised dais at the center. The high ceiling came together in a great dome, although the arched interior was ruined by a jagged hole crusted with yet more stalactites of previously-melted stone. The blast that had broken through the dome had sprayed small chunks of rock everywhere through the control room, and their steps crunched lightly as they approached the dais.
The control panel was inert, dim. Half of the circular structure was in ruins, collapsed to one side of the dais in a chaos of thin stone fragments and glass shards. Several other spots throughout the room had received similar treatment, although none so thoroughly as the slagged area by the dais.
The room was quiet and still but for the low sighing of wind across the hole in the roof. Jackie turned to take in the rest of the interior, freezing when she noticed an irregular shape near the side wall. She tapped Gusje on the shoulder to draw her attention, and the Cereinem girl snapped her hand up with the gauntlet pointed directly at the indistinct object.
“Doesn’t look like a body,” Jackie muttered, feeling her heart pounding. “Ideas?”
Gusje shook her head, relaxing her arm a bit. “Doesn’t look like it’s going to move,” she said. “Let’s get a little closer.”
The two women inched forward slowly. They had closed the distance to half before Jackie straightened up with an expression on her face that was equal parts amused and annoyed. “It’s a chair,” she said, walking over to it and nudging it with her foot.
A simple wooden-framed chair lay on its side, the low back covered by the remains of a blanket that mostly dissolved into dust when Jackie touched it. Scattered around it were small bits of wood and stone, as well as a splintered frame that might have belonged to a table before a rock from the ceiling bounced through it.
Jackie ran her fingers over the dry wood of the chair. “Doesn’t seem original to the building,” she said. “Want to bet this was our Caretaker’s doing?”
The wood was crudely shaped, but seemed sturdy enough for its rough make. There were knife-marks over the exterior where it had been carved, and the brittle cord wound around the joints was laid with obvious care. The wreckage of the table displayed a similar style.
“I think it might be,” Gusje agreed, bending down to look at the scattered bits of wood and stone on the floor. Carvings, she realized. An inexpertly rendered tari, a man, a woman, a boat. There were dozens of them scattered over the floor. She reached down to pick one up, brushing the dust away from the carved face of a sajhavasja, its tusks worn and cracked.
She was no woodcarver, although she had some minor knowledge of it from watching others in Ademen Tacen work with a knife. She could plainly see the days of fine work that went into the detailed sculpture. She swept an appraising glance back over the innumerable small figurines, adding up how much time they all represented.
“We found where he slept, before,” Gusje said. “I think this is where he spent most of his day. Here with Tija, finding ways to pass the time.” She shook her head. “Even he didn’t find anything more constructive to do than just… existing. Hiding, as you said. He would have known what our task was, he’d have heard it first-hand. Does that mean he knew it was pointless, or-”
She paused, feeling a wave of dizziness pass over her. “I - Jackie,” she mumbled, the words feeling heavy in her mouth. There was a pain against her wrist, sharp and burning. The asolan she had found on the Caretaker’s body felt red-hot against her skin, but she was having trouble moving her arms. “Wrong,” she slurred. “Something’s-”
She collapsed, her vision fading as Jackie rushed over towards her.
---
There was blackness, a void. Gusje felt as if she was standing, but there was no body to stand with, no eyes to see with. She simply was, and she was - not alone, she realized. Something nebulous and formless swam in the darkness around her, and it brimmed with a question.
Samo?
Gusje recoiled from the inquisitive dark, frightened and puzzled. It kept repeating the word over and over, overlaying echoes of itself. She could not clap her hands over her ears, for she had neither. There was only the sound, growing deafeningly loud until she wanted to scream with the pain.
There was a pause. The darkness withdrew.
Samo?
It asked again, quieter, and did not repeat the question. The not-word trailed off in the void. Gusje could not speak to respond even if she understood the question. She struggled against her nonexistence, mentally screaming out her frustration and terror.
The darkness withdrew further, and she felt an odd sensation shivering through her.
“Gh-,” she said, surprised to hear a sound. “Aaah.” She still had no mouth, but there was speech - after a fashion. “Where am I?” she asked, her voice sounding thick and dull. “Who are you?”
The darkness swirled, and a profound wave of sorrow washed over her. There was a long, long pause.
Not Samo?
Compared to before the question was whisper-quiet, but suddenly Gusje understood. A name, and only one person it could belong to. Only one person who would be asking. “No,” she said. “I’m not Samo.”
There was another interminable, questioning silence.
Where is he?
Gusje’s heart sank. She hesitated, and the darkness whipped around her in increasing agitation. “He’s gone,” she said. There was a sudden stillness around her, and a climbing tension that sparked a thrill of danger in the back of her mind. “He’s been gone a long time. He died, Tija.” She could not look at the darkness, but she focused on it as much as she could. “You both died.”
The darkness roiled and shivered, a wordless scream shuddering from the void surrounding her. It built upon itself until Gusje was once again wracked with pain, trying to stand against the maelstrom of rage and grief that whirled around her.
“Tija!” she screamed, her voice lost in the storm. “Tija, stop! Please!” The winds buffeted her mercilessly, tearing at her until she could stand no more and simply screamed, screamed, screamed-
And then there was silence. Gusje’s consciousness wavered, her mind in a fog from the relentless assault she had just endured.
Hurt?
It took her a long time to summon the strength to reply. “Yes,” she hissed. “You hurt me.”
There was another discontinuity in the dark, a pulse of distress that made her fear the storm would start once more - but then it was gone, and the stillness returned.
Hard to think. Hard to stop thinking. Mind is missing pieces.
A pulse of terror cut through her, sharp and cold like a sword passing through her gut. Her thoughts fogged up once more. Panic nibbled at the edges of her vision.
Missing pieces. My self. I am less. No, no, no no no no no no no
The horrified realization shaded into incoherence, blind panic whipping up the storm once more. Gusje cried out as it raked over her again. The winds recoiled from her, retracting back into the darkness.
When the voice spoke again, it was deliberate and slow.
“I’m sorry,” Tija said. The voice was much more distinct, and came with the sense of great effort behind every word. “It’s so hard to think. So hard to keep my self in order. There were walls between me and the whispers before, I think. Bindings that held me back. Or down? I don’t remember things very well from before I was - was mutilated.” Her voice fuzzed into echoes, a pulse of distress punching through the calm before it was clamped down.
Gusje didn’t trust herself to speak, trying muzzily to focus on the new clarity of Tija’s voice. “What - why are we here?” she asked. “What’s happening to me?”
“My mistake,” Tija said. “I was disordered. I had holes in my mind. You felt familiar. Reminded me of my Samo.” Her voice shuddered and caught. “He used to talk to me. Make me little things. I felt his asolan, and you were holding a carving, and I thought...”
The dark around Gusje shuddered, and the voice trailed off. Gusje tried to collect herself somewhat in the lull, still aching from the pain of Tija’s mindless anguish moments before.
“Samo and I were of the same people,” Gusje said. “He was a Caretaker, and although we’ve long ago forgotten it - I think I am as well.” She hesitated. “Even if I don’t know what that means. I’d like to try and help you, though.”
There was a sense of scrutiny. “You look-” Tija began, halting her speech with a strangled noise of anguish. The void grew sharp and violent around her.
I can’t remember his face. His face. They took it from me. They took my Samo’s face.
Gusje could do nothing to shelter herself from the winds as they stirred themselves once more, lashing with pain, fear - but now also a hot thread of anger, tinting the void with unbridled rage. The winds stilled quickly this time, seeming to crystallize around her. Everything was hard-edged, sharp, vibrating with tension.
She took his face.
The change in phrase jolted Gusje, and she spoke through the pain jabbing through every mote of her being. “Who?” she grated out.
The one who fell. My sister. Eryha. She took his face.
Gusje reeled, unable to process the implications through the haze of agony around her. “We’re fighting the same enemy,” she hissed. “The ones that did this to you, they also threaten my people. Samo’s people.”
Tija’s interest sharpened on her. The voice returned, measured and cold.
“I cannot reach her, as I am,” Tija said. “I am lesser than I was.” Her voice crackled with barely-restrained fury, and Gusje felt the white-hot glare of her focus once more. “But even for my diminished state you are not an adequate medium.”
“What does that mean?” Gusje cried out, writhing. “Please, you’re hurting me again. I want to help you, but I can’t-” Her voice fuzzed into indistinctness as another pulse of pain shot through her.
“You cannot hold what is necessary and live,” Tija spat. “You may survive long enough to locate an acceptable vessel, however.”
“Wait!” Gusje shouted, feeling a stab of terror that was entirely her own. “Slow down, explain what you need! I’m sure we can find something that will work!”
“What could you do?” Tija asked scornfully. “Even Samo could not free me from this place. If this was easy, he would have done it.” Her tone softened. “He would have.”
“But you, lesser echo. You cannot hold what is required of you, nor could you build an appropriate vessel. Even fallen, my sister will require a great power to subdue. I could etch every bone, cut into your skin, twist your form to hold so much script that your flesh would slough off before you had taken a step. It would be inadequate, you cannot hold enough.”
Gusje tried to shrink away from Tija’s cold, deliberate words but found herself pinned in place, bare to the vinesavai’s flensing attention. “Don’t do this,” she gasped. “You’ll kill me.”
“Not just you,” Tija said. “Let’s begin.”
Panic muddled her thoughts as she racked her brain for something, anything to say. A sudden, searing fire burned at the core of her, and she screamed in agony.
“The tablet!” she cried. “Look at the tablet!”
Tija paused, and the fire subsided.
“Please,” Gusje sobbed, rambling. “If all you need is to store script, there’s a device we have with us. I don’t know how it works, but I know it can hold a lot, a lot-”
Her voice was forcefully stilled as Tija’s attention shifted elsewhere. “Interesting,” she said. “Complex. Intricate. But not useful. Perhaps I knew how it worked before my sister crippled me, but as I am now I cannot use it.”
“We can figure it out,” Gusje insisted, trying to keep her talking. “Give us a little time. We’ve solved a lot of problems before, there are others who know how it works better than I do. We can ask them. We don’t have to be enemies!”
“Others,” Tija said, surprised. “Yes, I almost didn’t see her there with you. My senses are very limited, and she glows so dimly - but you say she knows how this tablet works? She’s touching you, so this should be simple enough.”
There was a pause, and Gusje felt a dawning horror. “Wait, I didn’t mean-”
“I will talk with her instead,” Tija said. “Goodbye, lesser echo. You are not my Samo, but you have been more helpful than I expected.”
Tija left her, and then there was nothing - not even the void.
---
Mark - Page 14
Whoops, Gusje should have stopped to hear Jackie out - after all, Jackie would have known that the final room of creepy abandoned temples always has traps waiting for the unwary explorer. Tune in next week for this arc’s antagonist, Giant Boulder.
submitted by TMarkos to HFY [link] [comments]

Ranking every PM Chapter/World before TOK releases: #11

Ranking every PM ChapteWorld before TOK releases: #11
It still doesn't feel real to me that I'm already at the 11th to last chapter. I started the project for a few reasons, one of which was to pass the time before the release of The Origami King. Now, the Origami King will be out in ten days, and when it is, this series will come to it's end. It's been a wild ride, and by the time you all read this, there'll just be my Top 10 (tm) Paper Mario Chapters left to go.
If you're just now joining us, more information on the project can be found on the the first write up, at Rank #36. But as the general basics, this list is based entirely on the opinions of me and u/ulk96 who helped put the list together with me. Please be civil about any potential differences in opinion.
With that, introducing the runner up of the chapters, the one just shy of the Top 10....
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Okay, but does your religion serve orange soda in the afterlife? No? I thought not.
Chapter 7: The Underwhere, Super Paper Mario
So, I want to highlight the fact that only in Super Paper Mario would they be brave enough to try a depict a PG version of Hell, only to be zany enough to make it a freakin' underwear pun. I'm almost glad that shifting a certain Paper Mario 64 chapter up kicked this one out of the top ten because I feel immature just making this write up.
A lot of people commented in today's other write up ( Rank #12 ) that they felt I was too easy on Sammer Kingdom's gameplay flaws and lack of development. u/TopHattedTroopa, like always, was super insightful in that he referred to Chapter 6 as not quite a chapter but as a build up to this Chapter. I really like this take, even if I don't think the placing needs adjustment. Part of why Chapter 6 got a pass for it's bad gameplay was because it wasn't trying to be a chapter, and in serving a different role in the structure, it both felt more stand out, and accomplished what it set out to do better. By virtue of being called a chapter, it had to be included on the list, and that really worked to it's benefit.
Part of why Chapter 7 is so strong, by extent, is because of Chapter 6 leading into it. Chapter 6 ends with Dimentio killing off Mario, Peach, Bowser and even Mr. L, which really added to the whole intensity of the situation of having lost all control over predicting what's about to happen. When the screen goes back and fades in with the first scene of Chapter 7, you really have no idea what to expect at all. Even if it makes sense in hindsight... you probably weren't expecting to *actually* go to hell. I mean, jeez Super Paper Mario. First you show me killing off a world, then you send me to hell, then you tell me that is in danger of getting unmade too? Say what you will, Super Paper Mario is willing to take all kinds of risks.
Let's talk about the hell itself. The Shaydes here are played for all kinds of dark death comedy, and use of the phrase "game over" instead of "death" allows for the game to get away with all kinds of delicious implications. Queen Jaydes, a beleaguered managerial devil expy, is an absolute joy with very amusing dialogue, who's both played seriously and comedically, and is an excellent NPC. Helping you restore the Pure Heart and letting you come leave back to where you came from after finding that you aren't dead but teleported just shows that even hell can have benevolent management, and I loved that take. The atmosphere is likewise phenominal, and I appreciate all the mythology references (River Styx, Charold, Underchomp, etc.)
We also unlock Luigi here, and this was honestly the best way to resolve the Mr. L subplot that I could think of. He's only in your party for two chapters, which is kind of a disappointing, but he's more than welcome and his stint as a villain was very enjoyable. I appreciate the way Dimentio killing him off really makes you question his motivations. He claims it's on behalf of the Count punishing L for his failure, but well, it's Dimentio and this is when you start to suspect there might be more to him. Dimentio's eventual reveal is better foreshadowed than say, Beldam, so ultimately I do appreciate that.
And then we're back to filler again.
With Luigi in tow, Mario returns to Flipside and opens the way to Chapter 7, ending up back in the Underwhere. This surprises no one, as they've introduced a level and left multiple plot hooks behind like Luvbi, so obviously Chapter 7 was going to be re-explored. Especially since the "7-0" phase already had more depth than Chapter 6 did. And of course, if Mario was teleported here, then Peach and Bowser would've been as well and they still need to be found.
Queen Jaydes recognizes Mario and Luigi as two of the four heroes this time and tells them that Grambi in the Overthere has the Pure Heart, and that Luvbi needs to return to the Overthere to rejoin her father. So you begin the journey to escort Luvbi to her father, and admittedly... these levels aren't the greatest in the world.
7-2, Underwhere Road, is better. There's a few Dorguys that give off similar puzzles to Paper Mario's Guard Doors, and the level is fairly dynamic, getting less and less hell-like as you climb. It's a fairly dynamic level, even if some of the darkness mechanics are frustrating and you fight Bowser again. It's an amusing misunderstanding, but ultimately his bossfight is a carbon copy of the original, which boils down to flip and Boomer.
But ultimately, this level does have fun moments. The Dorguys keep you from going too long without something of interest and Dorguy the Third brings in the Underchomp, a Cerberus-expy who is absolutely fantastic with a creative RPG-Simulated battle that has some very witty lines. Ultimately, it's one of the better filler levels in the game.
The same can not be said for 7-3, the Overthere Stair, which boils down to some fairly awful mechanics, a lot of back tracking, and feeling even less necessary. Unlike Bowser who is confused and needs his senses beat back into him, Peach is cursed a sleep and needs to be reawoken with apples this time. As opposed the last time she was unconscious and needed soup. Why is this a recurring mechanic again?
The downside to this is that there are a lot of apple trees, spread across a maze like cloudy environment, and almost all the apples are duds who do random nonsensical effects that torture Peach. The result is that you're left in an unfun maze that, like a lot of Super Paper Mario's levels, really really makes you want to look up the answers rather than deal with it. I'm looking at you, Jasperoid and Rubee Vault. Ultimately, Overthere Stair has very little going for it. It's designed much more standardly than the actual hell section, and there's much less going on in terms of plot and events.
You never thought you'd cry over her, yet here you are, huh?
In 7-1, it's briefly mentioned that Luvbi needed an escort because a monster escaped from the Underwhere. The D-Men in 7-2 imply this was Bowser, but when you arrive at the Overthere, you find it under attack by Bonechill. You're tasked with rescuing and rallying three major angels in order to storm the palace and save the day as usual. I honestly think that 7-3 could've been cut and 7-4 expanded into two levels, starting the invasion when you first arrive at the Overthere, because while what we have is actually fairly good, Bonechill is in the end a very lackluster villain due to how randomly he shows up, anticlimactically he's defeated, and how little context he has to existing. Giving him some time in 7-3 to establish himself could've gone a long ways.
But ultimately, it's water down the bridge because the real highlight of the chapter is the Divine family depicted above. Luvbi as a character is a shining example of how Kersti as a character archetype could've been done right. Luvbi is a complete and utter spoiled brat from beginning to end, but ultimately, she never crosses the line into being full on abusive. She's child like, annoying and mean spirited but on many instances shows somewhat sympathetic moments and ultimately human desires. You tend to tolerate her bedgrudgingly until you ultimately realize that she has to die.
At the end of the day, Jaydes, Grambi and Luvbi are a loving family, even if they wish they couldn't be. The act of turning a Pure Heart into daughter to disguise it ultimately filled a void in what was otherwise an empty relationship. Now, however, the metaphorical and powerful "God" and "Satan" of this after life have to reap what they sowed and are ultimately as helpless to their fate as any human would be: the fate of letting go of their own daughter.
Luvbi ultimately takes this in stride in the way only a child good, even a child who might've been a brat. She tries to save her parents feelings by lashing out against them comically to get them to hate her, before ultimately caving and admitting that she loves them and accepting her fate anyway. It's such an innocent and well intentioned screw up that it casts all of Luvbi's previous bratty behavior in a different light. Every time you raged at her, you were getting pissed at a socially awkward, terminally ill kid. You actual monster.
I really can't say enough how much Chapters 6 and 7 do for Super Paper Mario, even if they're flawed. From establishing the stakes with such a powerful moment by interrupting your adventure in Sammer's Kingdom, to just as suddenly damning you to hell, you're offered a sheer roller coaster of emotion that sets up the finale of the game perfectly. You're offered both the stakes, as well as a fantastic and wild chapter to directly compare and contrast what's at risk. You have an ultimately human arc with Luvbi that restablishes how much needs to be protected. And your team is finally put together, all four heroes and all eight pure hearts. It's a fantastic lead up to the last chapter of the game.
Hey, u/nouuua, I included the whole game today after all!
This two Chapter arc ultimately has a number of flaws in gameplay, 6 more so than 7, but they're so intertwined that I really can't imagine separating them on a list like this. 6 leads directly into 7, and it wasn't designed to stand alone. Can you fault it for being weak on it's own when it was never meant to stand on it's own? I'd argue that Chapter 7 would be lower as well without Chapter 6 to tie Luigi into it and introduce the concepts of death and the difference between death and total erasure.
These chapters are the actual backbone of Super Paper Mario, even if they aren't it's best designed Chapters. They take risks, not all of which pay off. Which is ultimately Super Paper Mario's purified essence, really. Daring set ups that don't always pan out but look spectacular when they do, coupled with some moments of serious bad game design, and stories that grab your (pure) heart and refuse to let go.
For the sheer amount that they do for the game, Chapters 6 and 7 of Super Paper Mario in the 12th and 11th places, just shy of the Top 10. And I think they've earned that, not alone, but together.
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We're now officially entering the Top 10. To recap what's remaining, we've got 2 Chapters from Paper Mario 64 (3 and 7), 2 Chapters from Super Paper Mario (3 and 8), 2 Paint Stars from Color Splash (Purple and Orange), and 4 Chapters from Thousand Year Door (3, 4, 5, and 6).
I'm giving no more hints, as there's not really enough left for them not to be total giveaways. Bet with your own daring!
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submitted by ToadBrigade5 to papermario [link] [comments]

UPDATE on Entitled (dog) Parent who yelled at me.

Hey!
So this is an update on the Entitled dog parent who yelled at me because I told her that her pit bull needed to be muzzled.
https://www.reddit.com/entitledparents/comments/hbfm0o/entitled_dog_parent_yells_at_me_because_i_told/
So they lady (S) had her appointment today. It didn't go so great...
Like many businesses these days, due to everything that has been happening, we have a no mask, no service policy. This means I am supposed to kick someone out if they aren't wearing a mask, we have a small supply for the staff but we arent really supposed to give them out. We also have limited staff ( Vet, one Vet Tech and I). When I saw (S) get out of her car without a mask I knew she was going to be difficult. I didn't want to have to fight with her about it so I get up and meet her at the door with the box of masks. This is how the conversation goes.
Me-"Hey! how are you? Due to everything going on currently, we require that everyone wears masks inside! If you don't have one, we can provide one for you!"
S-"No it's fine I don't need one, mine is in my car."
Me-" Oh Okay great! If you want I can hold Dog while you go to get it?"
S-"Um no. Actually I won't be wearing one." (She then proceeds to try and move past me through the door way)
Me-"Ma'am, we have a 'no mask, no service' policy. You cannot come in without a mask."
S-"This is bullshit. Jesus Christ. Hold Dog." (She shoves Dog's leash into my hands and storms off to her car to get her mask.)
When she comes inside I start checking her in, and I see the note on Dog's file that said he was aggressive at a past appointment. A lot of comments said that I shouldn't phrase it as the dog being 'aggressive' because it can upset the owners.
Me-"Hey so it looks like Dog was a bit nervous at his appointment about two years ago, and nipped one of the Vet Techs. So he is going to have to wear a muzzle during the appointment."
S-"I went through this last time with that last receptionist. He doesn't need a muzzle. He was good at his last appointment."
Me-"Ma'am, he nipped a Vet Tech in the past, so he is going to have to wear a muzzle."
Suddenly a car comes tearing into the driveway, and a guy gets out with this tiny, limp puppy in his arms. Obviously, I immediately go and get the Vet. Vet comes out and meets the guy at the door, takes the puppy, and starts asking questions while they go to the back room. Meanwhile her Dog starts flipping out and pulling at its leash toward the puppy. Once the Vet gets into the back, and Dog calms down I start talking with her again.
Me-"Oh my god, I hope that puppy is okay. Ma'am, I am sorry but you're going to have to wait for a bit. That looked like a pretty serious emergency. We can reschedule for later today or tomorrow if you would like"
S-"I had an appointment"
Me-"Yes ma'am but an emergency case just came in and we only have one veterinarian in right now."
S-"How long is this going to take? I have to go to work."
Me-"I have no idea ma'am, that puppy looked like he was in rough shape. We can reschedule you if you would like?"
S-"Well Dog's appointment is today so I want to see the Vet now."
Me-"Ma'am, you will not be seeing the Vet right now. He is working on a critical patient. I do not know how long it will take but it is probably going to be a few hours so if you have to go to work, you should probably reschedule."
S-"I cannot believe this. My dog had an APPOINTMENT and your office isn't going to see him. I bet if he were as cute and little as that puppy you would. It is just because he is a big scary pit bull isnt it?"
Me-"Would you like to reschedule? We have an opening for this time, tomorrow?"
S-"No! I don't want to RESCHEDULE MY APPOINTMENT THAT I AM AT RIGHT NOW! I cannot believe I am being discriminated against AGAIN because Dog is a pit bull!"
S proceeds to literally storm out like an actual giant child who didn't get her way, after telling me she was going to find a new vet. She later called, and scheduled her appointment for tomorrow but luckily I am not working. I am reading this over and honestly it sounds fake, but I swear I can't make this stuff up. Sometimes I feel like I could write a book about the people that I meet being a receptionist.
For those worried about the puppy, the guy who brought it in had found it under his car in the 100 degree weather and the poor thing was very overheated. Luckily, she should be okay and the guy is probably going to keep her.
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[Tales From the Terran Republic] The Fallout Settles Part Three — So what has Brenda and Helena Been Up To?

Jessica makes a few phone calls...
The rest of this series can be found here
***
A much leaner and well-toned Brenda pressed herself into the grass as sensor information was fed into her eye.
He was close.
He had given her the slip six times…
Six!
That was a record. Six missed kills. It was no longer professional...
It was personal! She never missed!
And now, she had… Six times!
Today, it would end.
That fucker was going down!
She winced as she opened a small case and started to silently assemble a slender weapon… A weapon! That is what she had been reduced to, crawling in the mud with a fucking energy weapon
Every trap had failed. Every snare… evaded…
A “cockroach” transmitted a brief signal. It had caught the scent!
She smiled and interfaced with her weapon. Its (ugh) targeting reticle appeared in her vision.
Her roach sent another signal… Movement!
She zoomed in on a small stone outcrop as he poked his head cautiously around a small crack. He knew he was being hunted.
Slowly he started to creep into the open, nervously looking all around.
She smiled.
I got you, you little shit... she thought as she pulled the trigger.
The weapon vibrated slightly but made absolutely no sound as her target spasmed once and then collapsed motionless upon the stones.
She smiled as she lept to her feet and started to sprint. Seconds later she was standing over him.
Everyone falls in the end… everyone.
She pulled out her scanner to confirm the hit.
“Plestiodon fasciatus…” she giggled. “You, my friend, are officially unextinctified!”
The lizard was already starting to wiggle a little. Wasting no time she pulled out her knife and lopped off a few millimeters of his bright blue tail and, using tweezers, quickly put it into a sample vial.
Seconds later the lizard blinked, flipped over, and darted back into the rocks.
She stood there admiring her prize. This little snippet was going to keep her in beer and chocolate for months!
***
The next day Brenda threw one hell of a party at a nearby lodge. Gene-prospectors came from hundreds of miles away to admire the footage and fill up on free food and booze.
“Keep them coming, Harry!” Brenda exclaimed as another group wandered in.
“I still can’t believe it, Brenda,” a grizzled old woodsman said shaking his head. “A lizard-zapper… Never seen that one before.”
“Yeah,” Brenda said as she took a big gulp of beer. “Rub it in...”
“What you mean?” the old man asked. “You hit a fucking skink at thirty yards.”
“Yeah, but I still had to use a fucking gun, slippery little bastard.”
“What’s your deal with guns?” the old man asked. “It’s damn near unpatriotic!”
“Noisy, messy, and totally lacking in imagination,” Brenda scoffed. “Where is the creativity? Where is the fun?”
“You’re an odd one, Brenda,” the man chuckled, shaking his head. “Damn good prospector, but fucking weird!”
“This from a man who has a poop collection?” Brenda laughed.
“Hey! Do you know how many samples I’ve gotten from shit? You kids and your fancy degrees and high-dollar scanners and you literally walk past a fucking gold-mine holding your delicate little noses all the while. I’ve gotten twenty varieties of edible plants all from scat.”
“Really?!?”
“Yup. You should take time to stop and ‘smell the roses’ every now and then.”
“Gross, dude,” Brenda laughed.
“H-hi Brenda!” Jason said as he rushed up.
The old man grinned and got up to leave ignoring Brenda’s pleading glance with a wicked little smile.
“C-congratulations!” Jason exclaimed as he sat down next to her. “A skink! That’s amazing! I had no idea they were so beautiful!”
Brenda just sighed. Jason had been “tracking” her ever since she decided to take up gene-prospecting as her latest cover. (She had really enjoyed camping during her last job.)
“Um… Thanks,” Brenda replied, a little flustered. Jason was cute, exactly her type, and super nice.
And that was the problem. Sooner or later, maybe next year, maybe tomorrow, she would disappear, suddenly and without a trace, and he didn’t deserve that.
Neither did she.
You could always ‘retire’, that little voice piped up in her head. She could. Lord knows she had the cash, millions of credits.
But she didn’t keep at it for the money. I mean, that last job… The fucking head of Federation Intelligence!… What a rush! No, there was no retiring for her, at least not yet.
For example, there was Patricia Hu to consider. She normally didn’t do “bounties”. She felt them to be beneath her but Holy Jesus on a Popsicle stick! That was a lot of money…
But how would you even do it? She has to be off world, hiding in one of her bases, surrounded by her people…
How would you even begin to track her?
She felt her pulse rising.
Then you would have to get in, grab her, alive no less, and get her out. I mean, yeah, you could kill her, but oh the challenge
It would be a little “shady” since she was her last client but she wouldn’t have to kill that many people to ‘bury’ that little detail and nobody would fault someone going after such a big score…
Would they?
Something touched her arm. Her hand instinctively slid into her pocket as she exhaled slowly taking care not to swivel her head overmuch.
It was just Jason.
He was still talking.
“Can I see the rifle?”
“What?” Brenda asked as she let the adrenaline wash away and her hand left her pocket.
“The rifle you used on that skink. Can I see it?”
“It isn’t a rifle,” Brenda replied. “A rifle is a projectile weapon that imparts a spin on the… Nevermind,” she smiled. “Sure. You can see the weapon, but don’t call it a rifle. It hurts me.”
“O-okay!” Jason said excitedly.
The pair headed towards the exit.
“Keep everybody full and get them drunk!” Brenda yelled over her shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”
Harry just grinned and gave Jason a little thumbs up.
Brenda pretended not to notice. The only thing Jason was getting a peek of was her lizard-zapper.
It wouldn’t hurt to have a little fun, that voice said.
Yes, it would, she replied to herself.
***
As Brenda and Jason stepped outside Brenda came to an abrupt stop.
Outside, at the edge of the parking lot, was a grav-limo, a nice one.
One of these things is not like the others... she sang in her head as she took a quick glance at the hover-trucks and RV’s.
She threw a quick “eye” over it as her hand slipped into her pocket and grasped four large bright yellow marbles, each one bearing a cheerful smiley-face.
Armor… shields… cloaking…
Fuck.
“Wait inside,” she said to Jason.
“Is something wro-”
I said wait inside,” Brenda hissed, her mask slipping.
“I’ll… I’ll wait… inside...” He said quietly as he opened the door.
“Probably just a silly ex who doesn’t know what’s good for him,” she added with a winsome smile. “I’ll be right back.”
“O… Okay...”
Jason went back inside with chills running up and down his spine.
“Now who might you be?” Brenda asked cheerfully as she walked towards the limo, marbles in hand.
As she approached, the cloak switched off revealing one occupant, no other life signs.
The rear passenger window retracted…
And she burst out into a goofy grin.
“Markie!” she shouted with a cheerful wave, still holding the marbles in her off hand.
Marcus Delacroix carefully kept his eyes forward and his hands where she could see them. Approaching Brenda unannounced was a very, very good way to wind up dead.
He noticed a flash of yellow in the corner of his eye and wondered what other cheerfully colored toys were in the area.
When she was about fifteen meters away he slowly turned his head to face her.
“I’m leaving the vehicle,” he said in a cultured Imperial accent.
“Don’t.” Brenda said in a light cheerful tone.
She’s pissed… and completely unconcerned about this floating tank...
He carefully inhaled and slowly exhaled and consciously lowered his pulse. He had a reputation to maintain and it wouldn’t do if he looked as… “concerned”… as he actually was.
“It’s great to see you Markie!” Brenda enthused as she stopped a meter from the side of his ride, “What a completely unexpected surprise.”
“Likewise,” Marcus replied. “I must say that you look especially lovely this time. The blonde hair suits you.”
“You like?” Brenda said with a goofy smile. “Not over the top?”
“Absolutely not! You look ravishing!”
“Flattery will not save your life if you don’t start talking… Now...” Brenda said in a sweet voice. “What the fuck are you doing here, Marcus?”
“I have a client who wishes to speak with you.”
“So why didn’t you use a dead-drop… Markie?” she hissed, her eyes blazing.
“Because you aren’t answering them, Brenda.” Marcus said in an annoyed voice as he met her gaze. Ohhhh she’s Pissssedddd…. Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck…
“And that should tell you what?” she asked in a rather pointed tone.
“I would normally respect your desire for some down-time but this is an extraordinary situation.”
“It better be,” Brenda smiled. “It better be extraordinary enough for me to overlook that there exists a person who can find me when I don’t feel like being found. I don’t like that which means I don’t like you anymore.”
“At least hear them out before you unleash the… marbles?”
“I like marbles. They’re fun, especially these,” Brenda said with absolutely no expression. “You have ten seconds before you find out exactly how much fun they are,” she said, Marcus already turning into a fine red mist in her mind’s eye.
“One billion credit retainer,” Marcus said calmly. “Guaranteed one-hundred million credits a head after the first ten, if it comes to that. I would appreciate it if you at least talk to them before dispatching me.”
"Ruin my vacation? Want me to talk to your client? One million. Now.”
“(sigh)… Fine,” Marcus grumbled. “Can I reach for a transactor?”
“Do it slowly,” she smiled as she opened her hand and all the marbles turned to face him.
***
A million credits richer, Brenda slid into Marcus's limo.
“Oooo!” she said happily. “This is nice!”
“I’m glad you approve,” Marcus said never taking his eyes off of the four little faces staring at him.
How can marbles look suspicious? he thought.
“Fucking stupid, but nice!”
“Excuse me?”
“High dollar ride in this neck of the woods?” Brenda said in a scolding tone. “Shoulda rolled up in a camper or something.”
“I couldn’t find an armored camper on short notice,” Marcus replied.
“Really?” Brenda asked. “Call me next time. I know a guy.”
“If I could have called you I wouldn’t have… Nevermind,” he said as he slowly and very carefully moved his hands to activate a holo-screen.
“I’ll give you some privacy,” he said as he carefully reached for the door.
“Nuh-huh!” Brenda said cheerfully. “You keep your ass right here where my little buddies can keep an eye on you. I trust you but those little guys don’t like weebs very much. You give them a loving home, try to raise them right, and they still turn out to be little racist shitheads. It breaks my heart. It really does.”
“Very well,” Marcus said in an amused tone as he activated the limo’s encrypted transmitter.
A minute later Brenda sighed in exasperation.
“That million credits wasn’t for all fucking day, you know.”
“Patience, please, my client is very busy.”
“So was I,” Brenda scoffed. “Those beers ain’t gonna drink themselves.”
Much to Marcus's discomfort, Brenda started humming to herself as she started making the marbles play leapfrog, and balance on each other’s heads as she waited.
An eternity later Jessica Morgan’s face appeared.
“Well fuck me running!” Brenda exclaimed. “Hi Jessica!” she exclaimed as she waved happily.
She snapped her fingers and the marbles jumped into her pocket, much to Marcus's relief.
“Brenda!” Jessica replied. “Love the hair!”
***
Roberts had fled the cabin and taken shelter at one of the bars in the cruise ship they were taking to their refuge in the Empire.
When Helena was writing she could be testy on a good day. These days? Hoo Boy! The latest news that Daemon managed to snatch from whatever that “chatroom” was had Helena foaming at the mouth.
As well it should, over fifty thousand dead in the capital alone. Jesus. Porkies weren’t Roberts’s favorite people, not by a long shot but still…
That was pretty bad. The fact that Jessica exacted a pretty terrible revenge did little to placate Helena either. If anything, it made her even more enraged.
Nope. He was sitting right here until it was time for dinner.
***
Helena was typing up a storm when the intercom pinged.
It was the captain. What the hell?
“Excuse me, Ms. Sterling?” he said in a polite tone.
“Yes?” she asked wondering exactly what the fuck she had done. They had been behaving themselves the whole time… mostly…
“You have an, ahem, priority communication from the Federation.”
“Wha?” Helena wittily replied.
“Yes, they are waiting for you.”
“Well, okay,” Helena said, more than a little confused, “Put them through.” She felt a moment of panic. Had something happened on Zaran? Oh God! Had her parents been infected, or worse?
“Ah… It’s not something we can route to your cabin, I’m afraid. Please come to the communications center, we have a private lounge there.”
What the fuck?
“Ok, I’m on my way.”
“What’s that all about?” Daemon asked as the communication ended.
“I have no fucking clue,” Helena responded as she headed towards the door.
***
“Oh you gotta be fucking kidding me!” she exclaimed as the holo-screen in the private lounge switched on.
“I wasn’t prepared to jest,” Jessica said with a little chuckle. “Have you heard the one about the two nuns and the eggplant?”
“What the hell do you want?” Helena replied caustically.
“Well first of all I wanted to say that I’m quite the admirer of your work,” Jessica said with a pleasant smile.
“Oh I’m sure,” Helena said rolling her eyes.
How the fuck does she know we are on this ship? Helena suddenly thought in alarm. That wasn’t good. That was really not good.
“That piece you did on Gwendolyn Shay? Marvelous! She was screaming for your blood for weeks! And don’t even get me started on your expose’ on hidden monopolies and price fixing! God! That one stung! Do you have any idea how hard that one hit? Cost me millions!”
“Glad to be of service,” Helena said in a snarky tone.
“Oh! And the one about corruption in the counsel and the reconstruction contracts? How did you ever find out?” Jessica asked with admiration.
“Wouldn’t you like to know.”
“Actually, I would,” Jessica laughed. “If you only knew how much trouble that one caused! I was looking down the barrel of an actual indictment! Good thing I know where the bodies are buried. Not literal ones, of course.”
“Of course,” Helena said rolling her eyes.
“I do want to set the record straight on one thing,” Jessica laughed. “I have NEVER slept with Cyrus Red! Ever! That man repulsed me. I’m glad he’s dead.”
“Is Cyrus Red dead?” Helena asked leaning forward.
“Oh absolutely,” Jessica said with a smile. “He pissed off the wrong person, or, if we are being precise, the wrong fish.”
“Who killed him?” Helena asked fumbling for her phone.
“Axlea, director of Federation Intelligence,” Jessica said quickly before she could get the recorder switched on.
“Seriously?”
“I would say to ask her yourself but, even with your considerable skill, that’s almost impossible.”
Almost?!?
“Sorry,” Jessica smiled as Helena finally managed to switch on her recorder, “I misspoke. Impossible… Definitely impossible...” Jessica said with a wolfish grin.
“Hmm...” Helena said looking at her suspiciously. “Why the fuck are we talking?”
“Because, my intrepid reporter,” Jessica said with a warm smile. “I want to offer you access.”
You’re joking!
“Most certainly not,” Jessica replied. “I like having the best and you have definitely proven yourself to be among them. Relentless, fearless, and most importantly, effective, all things that I admire. You are definitely a valuable resource, one that I would be foolish to ignore, not that ignoring you is easy, mind you,” she added with a rueful laugh. “I would like you to join me.”
“There is absolutely no way in hell that I would ever come to work for you!”
“And I wouldn’t expect you to,” Jessica replied with a smile. “I just want you to embed yourself with the Forsaken. I offer complete access, total freedom of movement, and absolutely no interference or censorship. I just want you to come over here and do what you do best.”
“Be a pain in your ass?”
“Report the truth,” Jessica said emphatically, “as you see it, both the good and the bad, no punches pulled, no stone unturned. Just do your thing.”
“Why?!?”
“Propaganda I have,” Jessica replied. “I have an entire cruise ship filled with artists, writers, musicians, video producers, marketing teams… I’m sure you have seen their work?”
“Yeah,” Helena said sourly, “I have.”
“And it reeked of bullshit, because propaganda is by definition just that,” Jessica smiled, “You know it. I know it, and, most importantly, so do a LOT of other people. Right now it’s a bullshit contest. My bullshit artists against the Federation’s.”
Jessica leaned forward and grinned a wicked smile.
“So I want to do what I do best,” she chortled. “Cheat. There is one thing that the Federation is definitely NOT expecting, the truth, the pure unadulterated unvarnished bloody ugly hard stuff. The truth is a weapon that hits as hard as a sabergun and as far as the monsters and fiends of this galaxy are concerned, myself included, there is little more that we fear than a light shining under our particular rock. I want to bring the truth, the real honest to God truth, into the mix. Lay it all out there, for the whole galaxy to see, both the good and the bad. History is being written and I think it would be very interesting for it to be penned by an actual unbiased observer for once.”
“Bullshit.”
“I can assure that I am completely serious,” Jessica replied. “I want the truth of this whole mess laid bare and put out there for everyone in the galaxy, Imperial, Terran, and Fed to see. Let them see what you uncover and let them make their own decisions. Let’s see the Federation spin doctors handle that!”
“And your spin doctors?”
“They will do what they are hired to do,” Jessica said, “They will twist the truth and spin it and weave shit into gold, exactly as I demand. However, they will be at least a little constrained since they will have my royal bard up their ass, at least I hope that they will. They also have the advantage that we honestly are on the right side of this.”
“Are you?” Helena asked. “I’m not so sure.”
“Well, I’m inviting you to find out for yourself,” Jessica replied with a smile. “Go wherever you want. Talk to whoever you want. Dig. Find the dirt.”
“And I’m sure you will just let me print it when I do.”
“Absolutely,” Jessica replied. “With one little restriction. We are at war. I am unwilling to allow you to compromise active operations. It’s the same with any war correspondent. Other than that, you have a completely free hand and anything that is deemed to be operationally sensitive will be yours to publish the moment that it is no longer so. Let history judge me fairly.”
“And how do I know this isn’t a trap? What’s keeping you from tossing my ass out of an airlock the second I drop by?”
“And prove that every single thing you have ever written about me is true?” Jessica scoffed, “Please. People who kill the press are fucking idiots. Why the hell do you think an assassin hasn’t already come calling?” Jessica asked. “Because I told all of my less enlightened comrades to keep their fucking hands off, that’s why. You ignore the press. You discredit the press. You don’t kill them. That’s just plain stupid. I’m a lot of things, Helena, as you will have the opportunity to find out. I’m a whole lot of things, but I’m not stupid.”
“So a ‘tragic accident’ happens then?”
“Those have a nasty way of coming back to bite you in the ass,” Jessica replied. “If anyone knows that things won’t turn out the way they definitely should it’s me,” she said ruefully. “Besides, you have a guardian angel.”
“I do?”
“Shelia motherfucking Donovan!” Jessica exclaimed. “If there is ONE person I do not want to add to my list of troubles it’s that bitch! No thank you! I fuck you over and I have her to deal with and I don’t want that. She took the White Star with no casualties, except for one ding-a-ling who refused to wear their armor, and she’s perpetrated the biggest security breach in Federation history only then go and break her own record? That’s one big pile of ‘nope’ if I’ve ever seen one. I’m in no hurry to tangle with that.”
Helena angled her recorder towards the screen.
“Is that why you haven’t sought revenge for your grandson, Councilor Morgan?”
“Shit, why did you have to remind me?” Jessica groaned. “I gotta address that. I mean she did save me the trouble but-”
“Saved you the trouble?!?”
“Oh yeah,” Jessica replied, “You think he was just hiding from the Feds on that ship? He was going to cut a deal where he was going to reveal… well… a whole bunch of things that no longer matter, actually.”
“You were going to have your own grandson killed?”
“I guess you would need to interview me to find out wouldn’t you?” Jessica smiled. “If you agree to hang out with us I promise I’ll give you the story, along with a whole bunch of others. I mean, a lot of it no longer applies. I’ve killed half a million and counting! I am no longer concerned with a lot of shit and the other people involved are either dead, dying, or in the process of committing crimes that make all that old stuff pale in comparison. Hell. I’m willing to bet a lot of my ‘confederates’ would just love to brag about most of it.”
Jessica leaned back and spread her arms wide.
“So, whadda you say? Feel like enjoying some bardic immunity?”
***
Helena staggered into the bar where Roberts was enjoying a gin and tonic.
He looked up at her as she stumbled in.
She looked rough.
“You ok?”
“Paul,” Helena said with a confused and troubled look in her eyes. “I just think I made a deal with the Devil...”
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[The Extramundane Emancipation of Geela, Evil Sorceress at Large] --- Chapter 6: A Tour of the Town in Search of One Jane Arlington (Fantasy, Comedy)

Sorry for missing Friday's update!! I ran into technical difficulties and missed the update. So here's the next one, one day early! I'll continue my 3/week post cadence on Wednesday. Thanks for reading!
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Patreon ||| TalesByOpheliaCyanide
Eleven Jane Arlingtons. Eleven invites to meet up at eleven different shady locations at eleven different times.
All the invitations had been, naturally, extended by one Angelia Fantasimus.
Despite his emotional malaise, Darkos had a begrudging look of respect on his face. “How did you get them to buy it? Can you actually shapeshift like that?”
“Well sure but that’s…” She waved a hand. “Difficult. I didn’t actually invite any of the women.” Geela grinned. “Not directly. I just put on my worst makeup and did a little glamour charm to make my hair that gross shade of red she’s got going on. Did you notice it was dyed?”
“I did.”
“Exactly. So simple enough to fake.” It had actually been disturbingly easy to find where each of them worked. “Did you know that occupation is public information in the Swampy Region?”
“I did not.”
“Right, so not only can you find someone’s house if you know their name, you can also find what their job is and where they work.”
These kinds of garbage policies made Geela a real stickler for privacy. Her castle hadn’t been guarded by hydras, hexed caves, lakes of lava, and, of course, that damned kraken, for nothing. Visitors usually wanted to kill her.
“So you went to their workplace?” Darkos asked, listless.
She narrowed her eyes. How to keep him engaged… “Well, yes. I tracked down their schedules, not hard if you ask the right person the right questions, and was sure to leave my message when she wasn’t there.”
~~~
A redheaded woman with garish lipstick arrives at the Legion Gate Cafe at 11:15. The patrons sit around, sipping their drinks, either late-to-rise tourists or elites with nothing better to do. She walks up to a bespectacled man, washing a dainty teacup behind the counter.
“Excuse me,” Geela purrs. “Might you happen to know when a Jane Arlington will be on shift?”
“Oh dear, Jane? Hmm, yes, let me think.” The man peers at her, as if expecting the cafe’s schedule to appear on her face. “I think she’s in at 1. Maybe 1:30, to be safe.”
“Oh my.” Geela clasps a hand over her mouth. “I think I’m busy then. Can you leave a message?”
‘Jane,
She’s coming for you. That bitch Barney always talked about. You know the one. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t urgent but I have important information that I need to disclose. Meet me at The Quilted Hen/Baker’s Best Goods/The Cracked Turnip/Silver Spoon at exactly 11 AM/12 PM/1 PM…
It’s absolutely essential that we meet before you leave. A matter of life and death.
Angelia’
~~~
“That’s perfect.
“Isn’t it just? And I’m willing to bet that half of them will just straight up ignore it. Some might show up, curious, but one of them is just going to go ‘wait a minute, you’re not Angelia!’” Geela closed her eyes, reveling in the imagined voice of the befuddled woman. Maybe she’d have another screech like old Angie. Or maybe a simpering mewl.
Darkos nodded, lips still pursed in a glum pout. “So why the disguise if she wasn’t even supposed to be there?”
Geela shrugged. “If the coworker says ‘oh some beautiful blonde stopped by asking you to meet her’ no way is Ms. Arlington going to meet. But if he says, for example-”
“-lady with heavy makeup and auburn hair-”
“-bingo.” Geela inhaled deeply. “I just need to make all my stops. It’ll be tight but manageable. And who knows? Maybe she’ll bring Barney with her.”
“You’ll have to tell me about it when you get back in.”
His words sucked Geela’s glee away like an alchemical siphon cleaning up yet another one of her failed potions. “You’re not coming?”
He looked up at her with baleful eyes that would look more at home on their sad pack-mule than on a person. “I can’t. I’ll just be glum and ruin the whole thing.”
Geela wanted him there but couldn’t really argue with this. A grumpy peon just looked lame. It would make her look petty to have a minion whose heart clearly wasn’t into his mistress’s cause. Maybe for the ordinary folk, revenge was petty, but for a dark mistress such as herself, she needed the conviction of all present parties to really sell it.
“I can… delay the meetings?”
He laughed at this, a short, sharp sound, accompanied by no smile. Then, after a moment of silence, he did smile. “You could but you shouldn’t. It’ll be too much work. And I don’t know when I’ll feel better.”
He was absolutely right but that didn’t mean Geela had to like it.
“Well alright,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Sit around and mope. Try to at least get out of the suite though, once or twice. Go buy yourself a pastry or something.” She checked her pocket watch. “I have to get my beauty sleep now. First meeting is 7 AM.”
---
The nice thing about being an all-powerful being is that you got to make your own schedule. Of course, the downside to this is that when you’re forced to break it, it’s miserable.
Geela was not a morning person.
She had just enough courtesy left in her, waking up at the miserable hour of 6 AM, to not slam the door behind her while storming outside for her first meetup. No sense in waking Darkos, who was slumbering enviably in his soft little cloud of a bed. Meanwhile, Geela hadn’t had the time to comb her hair or wash her face and was the perfect picture of tragedy.
“Hi, welcome to Miss Teapot’s, can I get you a seat?” The dead-eyed stare of the hostess at the location of Geela’s first destination matched Geela’s near identically.
“Yes, table for two. Ideally somewhere out of the eye of other customers.”
The hostess glanced around the little pink shop with precisely six tables, all arranged in a circle around a big porcelain teapot. “Yeah, ok, uh. Hold up.”
Geela watched at the young woman walked over to one of the tables. Giving a big sigh, she grabbed it and dragged it, squealing, across the floor, over to a little window alcove. She repeated this action with each of the two chairs. Then she headed back over to Geela.
“Will that do?”
“Um.” Geela peered at the table. “It’s kind of noticeably out of the way. Maybe you could just adjust the other tables so it’s not as clear that one is missing?”
“Um. Ok, yeah. Sure.” If looks could kill, this waitress would be hailed as the greatest hero in the realm.
As it was, Geela felt perfect safe making a few more reasonable requests before she was satisfied with the positioning of the table.
“If a Jane Arlington arrives, tell her ‘Angelia’s over here’ and bring her to me, won’t you?” Geela tossed the woman a honeyed smile before taking her concealed seat. She’d give this Jane half an hour to arrive. If the woman wasn’t here by 7:30, odds are she wasn’t Barney’s Jane.
It was a crummy wait but at least they had tea and plenty of it. Geela needed something strong, with caffeine so she ordered black coffee, extra black, with two tea bags on the side. She didn’t play around when she needed a wakeup and the unfortunate hostess got the distinct pleasure of serving Geela’s particular tastes.
At 7:30, Geela shotgunned the rest of her tea, slapped a few coins on the table, and walked for the door. She noticed the hostess staring at her, thunderous eyed and jaw slack.
“I guess she couldn’t make it,” Geela said. The woman’s outrage was a better pick-me-up than any coffee would be, and despite being one Jane down, Geela was pleased with how the morning had started.
She met her first Jane at the 8 o’clock meeting place. Geela had arranged the spots to be close to each Jane’s house, to increase the likelihood of her showing. That meant this next one was clear out to the edge of town and Geela had had to run. The little store, hilariously misnomered ‘Uncle Ben’s Country Living’ was far from the hick hay-and-hitch farm she’d expected. It was the swamp after all, so hay didn’t exactly grow out here, but she wasn’t anticipating that it’d be a bait shop.
She arrived at the shop, panting and hoping that the highly sought after Jane wouldn’t be here. Geela was in no fit state to intimidate. She had a little transformation routine prepped, complete with flashing lights and barely concealed clothing change, but still didn’t want to be all out of breath.
It was a tick shy of 8 when she slammed open the door. The place smelled of bugs and slime mold, souring Geela’s mood further. Behind the counter, a portly man took her in, lips lopsided with disapproval and surprise.
“Don’t normally get people this excited ‘bout bait. You got the right place, ma’am?”
Geela waved him off. “Looking for Jane,” she said, steadying herself.
“Oh that’s me?” a tentative voice ventured. The owner of the voice was a young woman, if woman was even appropriate. Geela was a bad judge of ages but she’d wager this woman wasn’t a day above 18.
“If you aren’t the wrong person, then I’m really giving that bastard a piece of my mind.” Geela grit her teeth. Barney wouldn't dare. Not with this little thing.
“Um, I’m just here cause I got a letter saying something about life and death?” the girl looked nervous now, fiddling with a little charm on her necklace. “Are you Angelia?”
“Uh, kinda.” Geela straightened up and looked her over. “You seem moderately respectable. You wouldn’t happen to be hiding a dangerous, duplicitous man in your house, would you? Older guy. Balding. We’re talking 70s.”
“I live with my parents,” the girl said. “My dad can be a jerk but he’s not that old and… I’m just here cause the message said something about life or death.”
Not her, not a chance in hell. “It’s possible I have the wrong Jane Arlington.”
The girl wrinkled her nose. “Well, you aren’t the first, lady. At least Angelia’s kinda unique. You’re lucky.”
And that was that.
The nice part of the meeting being on the short side of short was that Geela had plenty of time to make her next destination. But the Waterfront Bakery didn’t yield any Janes and neither did the 11 o’clock meeting at Baker’s Best Goods.
12 o’clock, Silver Spook, Geela found a table in the far corner. This place, though sophisticated with its titular fine silverware, several spindly candles, and even halfway decent classical musicians, understood that some customers just didn’t want to be seen.
The Jane that joined her this time, moving to the table, eyes darting anxiously, was a much better candidate. With high cheekbones and silvery blue eyes, her face was easily pretty enough. She was a scrawny thing, though, looked like maybe she’d never seen the inside of a restaurant, and her dress, though well made, lacked any ornamentation. She just didn’t seem Barney’s type, but who knows?
“You’re Angelina Fantasia?” the woman said, voice a whispery slither. “You left a message with Brian. I’m not sure who Barney is, but if he’s the contact, then I’m ready with the goods at any time.” She fingered the smooth edges of her sleeves and jerked a sharp eye over her shoulder.
“Oh.”
“Has the dropoff zone changed? Or does Lord Regar know? Please tell me and I’ll move the weapons asap.” Her voice was almost too quiet for Geela to hear, but Geela had heard enough.
“Erm, I’m not sure this is what I came for,” she said. She pushed away her glass of wine (it was a bit too early to be drinking and Geela didn’t much care for the drink, but she always felt sophisticated sipping it). “It was lovely meeting you.”
“No! No, I’m serious, Ms. Fantasia, please. I’ll have them ready for you. I even have the sparkle noodles, ready to go. Three pounds of it. Please, I won’t let you down.”
The woman’s voice grew higher, if not louder, as Geela grabbed as many breadsticks as she could, not having had time for lunch to come. “Nope, actually, I’m good. Sorry to have wasted your time.” Sparkle noodles were nasty drugs, especially when crafted by hands as unsteady as this Jane’s. No doubt all her customers would be tripping on some hellish cloud for hours upon taking some.
“Please!”
“Look,” Geela hissed, shoving the last of the bread into her bag, “I’m not Angelina. The name was Angelia—I’m not even sure how you mixed that up—and really, that’s not even my name. You are a terrible smuggler and I hope Angelina fires you before you blow up her whole operation.”
The woman’s face blanched at Geela’s words. “Oh no. No no no. Damnit. What do I do?”
“Really not my business. Have a nice day, Ms. Arlington.” Geela rose from her seat, bristling as she walked briskly to the door. Of all the things she’d stooped to back at school, drug dealing was never one of them.
The next business was The Crusty Crust. Geela had so wanted to avoid this place on its name alone, but sadly, it couldn’t be helped. It one of two businesses close to Jane #5 and the other one, the Gentleman’s Scissor, was a men’s only barbershop.
The streets around the pie shop smelled of sewage and the lingering dampness was already unbearable before she even entered the damn place. The pie shop smelled even worse. The stench was somehow stronger than the bait shop earlier and Geela held back a gag. How someone could even purchase something edible here was beyond Geela. Maybe the barbershop upstairs would have been the better option.
Please please don’t let this be the place.
“Wait a minute, you’re not Angelia!”
Damnit.
Geela rounded on the woman, eyes still watering a bit at the stench. “I’m not surprised that such a sorry excuse for a woman would live in the worst part of town,” Geela said. She raised her hands with a flourish and immediately her shoddy disguise, the red melting from her glittering blond hair, which arranged itself in a majestic sculpture atop her head. The rough-hewn dress turned to vivid green embroidered with silver and as the makeup washed off her face, revealing flawless golden skin, a delicate blue and green mask manifested, resting on the upper half of her face, to prevent her visage from being revealed.
Jane staggered backward. The woman was definitely younger than Angelia, probably in her 20s, short and curvy. Her plump, saucy lips dropped open in shock. She fell to her knees, quaking.
“Who-who are you?” Her voice was neither the brassy drawl nor the simper that Geela had expected. It was a pathetic whine and Geela was starting to wonder why Barney associated with such irritating women.
“Does the name Ja’Eel Scilatia bring anything to mind?” Her own voice now was a higher, crueler sound, one that might better accompany a haughty queen. This was among her favorite costumes.
“Oh dammit. Oh kitten of heaven protect me.”
Hidden behind her mask, Geela’s nose wrinkled. “Then you know why I’m here.”
“Yes.” The woman fell onto her face, a position so submissive that it soothed Geela’s ego a bit. “If I had known, I never would have let him stay. As soon as he told me who his ex-wife was, I gave him the boot.”
“You gave him the-” Geela caught herself before swearing. “So he isn’t here anymore.”
“N-no m’lady. I kicked him out as soon as I knew.” Jane peered up at her from the ground.
Geela sighed. “Your integrity is commendable,” she said, her voice flat. “If irritating. Would you happen to know where he is now?”
“No. I apologize, I’m so sorry, I didn’t think to ask. I was outraged. I didn’t even know he’d been married when we—” the woman stopped at the poison in Geela’s eyes. “Oh forgive me, dark lady, I didn’t know! I didn’t know! Oh sweet Purrmow, God of Heaven, protect me.”
So, this was another of Barney’s little toys. This woman’s common sense and bare-bones integrity, however, now stood in Geela’s way. Why had Jane’s sole display of moral fiber spurred her to banish Barney?
“So you enabled a dirt bound sod to betray his mistress? It seems that alone is worth punishment if you cannot provide me with something more.” Geela was lashing out needlessly and she knew it but it just felt good.
Jane wailed. “He didn’t tell me he’d been married til he arrived! I didn’t know!”
Geela resisted the urge to massage her temples. “Did he give you any hint?”
Jane sobbed freely now. “He said that he was seeking out a figure from your past. One whose name you would remember well and quake in fear of. I can only imagine a queen of your stature would have many such enemies.”
“You think that someone of my stature would have many enemies that leave me quaking in fear?”
Just when Geela thought the woman couldn’t grow more pitiful, she began beating her back in a sign of some kind of penance.
“Alright, no, stop that. That’s not helping anything.” Geela’s mind turned from the weak-willed waif to a more pressing concern. One that you would remember well and quake in fear of. Regardless of what Jane thought, there were precious few that fit that bill.
Could it be Noirela? Geela shook her head sharply, banishing the thought. Even letting her mind slip to the fiend’s full name was enough to rake her body with shivers. Noire. It could be Noire. Oh please don’t let it be Noire.
Jane had quieted a bit by now, still whimpering. Geela really ought to curse her, find some way to leave her mark, lest the woman boast at surviving unscathed…
“I hope that you remember this time, this place, well. For the next month, you will be plagued by its smell.”
It wasn’t much, given the pie shop was only slightly worse than the rest of her neighborhood, but it was enough to make the woman choke back another sob. “Oh please no.”
“Oi, what’s wrong the smell of me pies!”
Geela turned, forgetting all about the storekeeper. The man crossed his arms, apron stained with any number of unnervingly unidentifiable liquids. He shifted uneasily under her gaze.
“Some folks like ‘em, is all I meant. I can leave you with one if you’re interested?”
Geela opened her mouth for a moment, trying to find a way to word exactly why this was a terrible time to push a product. Then she closed it. There was no fitting punishment for this man. His lot in life was enough.
“I take my leave of this place.” Geela strode to the door, opening it with a flourish.
She walked down the road until she was sufficiently out of eyesight. Then she ducked into an alleyway and changed back to her simple dress, minus the red hair and makeup. Alone now, except for a few rats, Geela leaned her head back against the wall. Really, if Barney did reach out to Noire, it’s possible, likely even, that the void fiend would fully consume his soul, feed it to its spawn, before Barney got a single favor out of the deal. After all, Barney wasn’t particularly strong, strength-wise, constitution-wise, intelligence-wise, wisdom-wise… He was charismatic, apparently, but that was it. And he was old now. Unlike Geela, he never stopped aging. Not that Geela had ever cared. Looks mattered when it came to her or someone whose visage she had to compete with, but otherwise, it was a nonissue. Certainly a nonissue with spouses.
No, it’s just as possible that Barney sought out one of her long defeated foes that had given her a run for her money. Hell, maybe he summoned up old Berta and died in a pool of his own blood. The image made her smile. This new information called for a reconvening at her castle. She could call up some of her minions and have them keep an eye on her past enemies. Of course, she’d have to get in touch with Berta, but the two had parted on alright terms, if a showdown with a barely twenty-year-old apprentice, mad with power, that blew up half the academy could be considered good terms. Still, Berta hadn’t really been involved, so maybe that conversation could be civil.
Geela spent the rest of her walk back to the Broken Drum pondering over which ‘old friends’ she needed to ‘catch up’ with.
She found the suite in some form of disarray. Darkos must have taken her advice to ‘get out of the suite once or twice’ because there were books everywhere and even more pieces of parchment, strewn with messy ink. Darkos lay on the floor, snoring loudly, face resting on a long sheet of drying ink, stains all over his face. Sympathy and irritation battled each other in Geela’s mind before she sighed and began stacking the books. The words ‘alerion?’ and ‘god of peace’ and ‘healing’, ‘prayers’, ‘temples’ were scrawled all over the room.
She’d just finished the first stack when Darkos woke with a jolt. “Alerion?”
“Not here, I’m afraid.” She dusted her hands off, looking at the cleaner room. “You wanna finish picking up this mess? I found Jane Arlington, by the way.”
He nodded, sniffing and rubbing his eyes. “Sorry, sorry, I was trying to induce a state of—wait you said you found her?”
Geela smiled, straightening her shoulders. “Yes. I’m going to go take a shower, clean off some of the swamp smell, and then I’ll tell you what I found. Just… clean this up while I’m in there and put the kettle on, won’t you?”
The mess continued inside the washroom. Geela stepped in, face contorted in displeasure, looking at more papers and ink spilled. There were even words and runes and little prayer verses scribbled on the walls. She kicked the door shut behind her and looked up at the mirror, to see what damage the humidity had done to her hair.
What she saw froze her in terror. Not her hair, not the mess in the bathroom, not even the sweat stains under her arms.
No, what froze her were the words written on the back of the door.
NOIRELA
Her chest seized and for a moment she was struck breathless.
“Darkos!” she shrieked. “Darkos what the hell are you doing? Get in here right now!”
The room spun a bit as she stared at the reflection of the door, of the name of her once loathed Patron staring her straight in the eyes. She could feel the void inside her shifting to greet it and shut her eyes, blinking rapidly.
“Geela?” Darkos opened the door and for a moment the cursed name was out of her vision. “I’m sorry. Back at the temple, we’d induce frenzied states of studying so I kind of lost myself.”
“And that spurred you to write cursed words across this room?” The words held so much venom that Darkos’s face crumpled in shame.
“I’m not sure what you mean. They’re just verses-”
She slammed the door, never breaking eye contact with Darkos. “Tell me what that is doing on the door.”
He looked at the door and then back at her. “I don’t understand.”
“I’m not surprised. Understanding has been the absolute worse thing you were ever good at. But scrawling that into the door, when you know my history, when you know—you know—I don’t even know how you know that word-”
“Geela, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She took several deep breaths, grabbed the sides of his cheeks, and forced him to look at the door.
“That…” her words died down in her throat.
On the back of the door read the word ALERION.
The two stared at it. Then back at each other.
Then, slowly, to the mirror.
NOIRELA
Back to the door, back to each other, back to the reflection.
Back to each other.
“Darkos you are so fucked.”
To all of you who theorized that there was something up with 'Alerion' (especially godofwoof who called that it had something to do with his name)...
Yup! XD
Next Chapter
As always, huge shout out to vren, my beta reader. He's responsible for more than just line edits, he helps me keep my plot straight and my characters developing. If you like this story, you'll love Fractured Song, his serial!
Love y'all.
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