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Unleashed pt. 45

Some words from u/eruwenn and I. Enjoy?
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  Chae’Sol stood at the centre of a large command deck, meticulously peeling the protective film from his new captain’s chair. The sensation of the slow but steady yielding of the film, the sweeping line following the contours of the seat in flowing curves; it was incredibly satisfying. Finally, with one last gentle pull, the last of his chair was uncovered and he stood back to admire his throne. Aside from the freshness of the seating itself, there were shiny new holo displays, touch sensors, and comms relays that were within easy reach of his seated fingertips. This ship would be the jewel in any fleet, a prototype Dreadnought made by the infamous Bardul of Shi’an. The Gowe Military faction had run into financial problems, and it had been left unpaid and unclaimed. What sorcery Kadir had used to find it, and purchase it, he did not know.
His comms unit beeped and Danyd’s voice came through. “Chae’S-” -He grumbled incoherently- “Captain, we’re ready to get underway.”
The Niham turned and sat back on his pristine chair, swinging his long legs over the armrest. “That was quick, Chief Engineer Ef’Yto
Danyd grunted at the use of his title. “Aye, these Awakened are efficient bastards.” The Satryn looked around at the enormous engineering bay. The entirety of the Porkchop Express could comfortably sit inside, and two of them could likely squeeze in. “Plus, this thing has never been used; feels weird not having anything to work on. It’s state of the art, and I’m having to read the manuals on half the new systems.”
Chae’Sol laughed, looking around at the Awakened as they were preparing their workstations. “Yeah, this command deck is a little intimidating. Even the Niham Armada didn’t have ships like this. There are fifteen weapons stations here, what in Tulseria’s name were the Gowe planning to do with this thing?”
“No idea.” The chief engineer walked to the large seat in front of his new work terminal, and hopped up onto it. The protective covering squeaked. “This thing has more firepower than half their fleet, it must have been something big. We’re lucky Kadir found out about the graveyard of unclaimed ships from one of his contacts.”
The newly-minted captain swung his legs down and sat up, straightening his black uniform and white collar. “That’s another thing: how does he have so many contacts? I was in the Tulseria-damned military, and I had no idea they would sell us fighters and weapons.”
“I know the feeling.” Danyd watched a junior engineer – Lily, an Awakened who wore a headband in her silver hair that sported long Kittran ears on it – begin running diagnostics on the Hoban Field Generator. “I'm aware he got the automated weapons for the system port from my people, somehow. As for how he accomplishes all he does, I think his time working with that fancy Anatidae councillor opened more than a couple of doors for him.”
Chae’Sol stood, running his fingers through his perfect hair. “Doors, windows, rear entrances and damned secret portals, all leading to a dark realm of shady deals and supplies. We have an Imperium Capital Ship for Tulseria’s sake! Nobody knows where he got it, or where he’s now hidden it.” He looked at his holo display, noting the specks springing blinking into existence as the other ships of Federation origin came to life. “Let’s just be glad he’s on our side.”
The chief engineer tugged at the green collar to his uniform. “Our side used to be a damn sight smaller.” Lily had finished her diagnostic tests and sent the results to his console. Her report included an adjustment that would create a potential three percent increase in crystal efficiency, and a small drawing of a smiling leokit with a crim-bar. He groaned, then reported back with, “We’re ready to go when you are.”
The Niham strode confidently across the command deck, stopping to stand in front of the huge vid screen at the front of the room. All around him were his crew, made up mostly from the Ashi, Awakened, and Kasurians. “Let’s get this show started.”
 
 
Jaym sat with a bowl of Tony the leokas cereal in front of her. It wasn't just a catchy advertising slogan - it really was great. She and Elizabeth had worked together so much in the engineering section of the Porkchop Express that they had become close, often spending their free time together. Indeed, Elizabeth currently sat opposite her, carefully rebuilding a power coupling and occasionally tapping at her datapad. Shortly after the results of her most recent tap played out, Elizabeth paused her work on the power coupling. Without speaking, she held up her datapad so that Jaym could see.
On the screen was Tony and his mate Jolie, and Skeena’s voice could be heard excitedly talking about collecting urine samples from the female. Jaym screwed up her face at first until Skeena announced the pregnancy test was positive. Tony was going to be a father! She couldn't contain her joy and screamed loudly, grabbing the screen and running all the way to the bridge to show the others.
Ranjaz was stretched out across the captain’s chair as Jaym burst in, and didn’t open his eyes until she began shaking his leg. Even then he didn’t pay much attention. “I told you not to let Elizabeth play with any more systems till after the mission.”
She blushed slightly, as their last improvement had inverted their water treatment system and blown six power couplings. "It's not that!" she said, holding up the datapad and starting the video. "Look!"
At the first syllable of Skeena's voice, Ranjaz sat bolt upright. The video held his full attention, and when Tony's impending fatherhood was announced the Kittran's whoops of delight could be heard all through the Porkchop Express. He reached underneath his seat and retrieved a small, fluffy bed, then picked up Aiov. Ranjaz led his unusual dance partner in a quick spin of joy before replaying the GalacTube video for her. “You’re going to be an Aunty!”
Eruwenn leaned back in the large seat that had once been Embar’s. “I didn’t think they were related?”
The Kittran nodded. “Aiov is Tony’s sister. Aaron adopted them both, and that’s how human families work. They just keep adding members, like a Dular adding shells to its burrow. Family is family.”
Cygna pressed a few buttons on her Navigator terminal, moving the video to the main screen as well as starting it over. “I still can’t believe you keep one of these under your seat. I mean, it’s a leokas!”
Ranjaz held Aiov up and they briefly rubbed noses. “Just a little one!”
The Anatidae laughed. “I can see living with the human has had quite a profound effect on you.”
With one of his trademark grins he held Aiov out towards Eruwenn. “Wanna nose rub?”
"Ah," the councillor said, shrinking back from the offer, "despite her size she is still a predator, and I am not quite ready for such a close encounter.”
From the pilot seat Ripley stood, taking Aiov from Ranjaz. “She is not a toy.” She briefly snuggled the tiny leokit to her chest, then passed her to Jaym. “Take her for food and exercise; she must grow up strong.”
Jaym also cuddled the wriggling Aiov close, and not just because the little leokit was adorable. Aiov had tripled in size, and was becoming a bit of a handful. “Thor was preparing her food; I’ll take her down to him.”
Once the junior engineer had left, and Ripley returned to the pilot seat, Ranjaz began tapping on the console in front of him. “Looks like we’ll be free to take the shuttle down to the surface with the next group.”
Cygna drummed her fingers on the arms of her chair. “I didn’t realise it would be so busy.”
Ranjaz shrugged. “There was a quake on the fourth planet, so mining colonies are shut down while the nerds poke around. Along with that, we got three big freighters waiting for resupply. That’s a lot of bored folks looking to kill time.” Ripley grunted, prompting a chuckle from the Kittran. “You don’t approve of their choice of leisure activity?”
After their few cycles together Eruwenn was already learning a lot about her shipmates. Ripley, for instance, wasn’t one for talking. She decided to interject before the Captain irritated her too much, as they would need her focus soon enough. “Gambling and pleasure palaces are not to everyone's taste, of course, but these sorts of things are covered under local governance.”
Without skipping a beat Ranjaz replied, “I know that’s the official line, but you sure as shit have tax codes for all of it. If you want to look down on folks, don’t pretend you aren’t profiting from it.”
Cygna, ever defensive of her mentor, jumped in. “That’s a bold statement for someone who never paid a credit in tax until it was automatically deducted from his Galactic Federation pay.”
Ranjaz laughed, then continued, keeping his voice care-free. “Taxed on what? I never owned anything.”
Eruwenn could see the trap her junior was walking into but decided to let this be a learning experience. The Kittran was wily, and the Anatidae found him entertaining. Cygna, as she had predicted, scoffed at his claims. “I’ve read your file. When you were arrested you had a ship, five shuttles and thousands in valuable goods confiscated.”
“Exactly!” His eyes lit up as he cornered her. “It was confiscated because it was stolen, so I didn’t own it. Imagine a world where you can keep stolen goods if you pay tax on them. Even I think that’s crazy.”
The Fae’Dan paused, and the anger evaporated from her voice as she realized what he had said, replaced by a slightly impressed tone of surprise. “Well, maybe, but… Really? You stole all of it?”
Ranjaz shrugged. “Or won it. I’m pretty good at Dalcho.”
Cygna perked up. “I play Dalcho myself, we shou-”
“No,” Eruwenn interrupted. Some lessons were too expensive. “Do not play Dalcho with someone who can get free priority entry permits to a casino.”
The former operative shook her head. “I’m a great player, you’ve seen me in the council chambers. I took that Ley’Rulian trader for five hundred credits.”
The Anatidae smiled kindly. “And he had five shuttles when he was arrested.”
Cygna slowly turned from Eruwenn to Ranjaz, noticing his grin and the sparkle in his eye. It was most definitely the smile of a predator. He gave a little chuckle. “Don’t worry, it’s been a long time since I played. No gambling on Galactic Federation ships, you know.” He laughed again. “Oh wait, you read my file.”
The Fae’Dan nodded. “Perhaps we should focus on the mission.” She gave a slight bow to Eruwenn before returning her attention to her console.
Ranjaz looked at Eruwenn and stuck out his tongue. “Don’t ruin my fun!”
The Ambassador smiled. “I don’t play Dalcho, but there is a human game called chess I quite enjoy. Perhaps we could play sometime?”
The Kittran gave a nod. Keeping his voice neutral, he replied. “I don’t know that one, but there’s another human game we could try. Poker?”
"We have permission to dock at the holding ring and send down a shuttle," Ripley abruptly called out. "Let’s get this whatever it is and make the rendez-vous.”
Both of Ranjaz’s fangs showed as he grinned. “If we’re going to pull a job on Chisola Prime, first you’re going to need to look the part!”
 
 
Aaron walked down the corridor of the Hive ship, the strange spiderlike creature trailing behind him as he followed one of the corpse vines as it receded deeper into the ship. He turned and watched the creature, which shrank back from him and crouched low to the ground. “I’m sorry I kicked you. You simply startled me; you don’t have to hide.”
The lighting never changed in the endless corridors of the ship, and only the most uninteresting of doors deigned open for him. At this point, he had lost track of time completely. Through perseverance he’d made several important discoveries. The bulbous shapes in the flower vase room were seats; he was fairly certain of that after finding another room with bodies sitting in them. The vines that came for them were the ones he was now following, and by now he must have seen hundreds of dead Hive.
The second discovery was that the Hive came in a variety of shapes and sizes. There were two main ones, as far as he could tell, and the first were the four legged kind that had so kindly thrown him in the rejuvenating jelly bean. The second was bipedal, and looked a hell of a lot meaner. While the ones he deemed workers looked somewhat like ants to him, in shades of reds and browns, the second type looked much more commanding. Their carapace had thicker layers of armour in green, gold and red, and was spiked at the shoulders and joints. Even their legs had spines and to top the look off their heads were much more angular. Whether they were soldiers, commanders, or something else, he didn’t know. Through observation of the corpses he had discovered the most confusing feature yet: a strange section in the centre of their abdomen that was filled with what seemed to be a grey fluid.
Ahead of him, not skittering away like the rest, was an aphid that no longer emitted a pale green glow. Something whooshed overhead towards the slow and sluggish aphid, and Aaron instinctively threw himself to the ground before he realized what it was. "That's how you get kicked!” He stood up, brushing himself off. “Fuck, that scares the ever-loving shit out of me every fucking time.”
The huge creature looked up at him and whined as it munched on the sick aphid. He was probably imagining the apology in its eyes, but Aaron still shook his head. “I know, I know. It’s your job. They clean the floors, you keep their population healthy. Just stop leaping over me like that, fuck. I’m going to have a heart attack.” It whined and backed away from his angry words, and he tried to keep his voice to calmer tones. “Don’t be like that. I’ve told you enough times.”
When he looked down the corridor again, the retreating corpse vines had disappeared around a corner. Aaron began to jog after them, and after he'd put some distance in he heard the pattering footsteps of his terrifying shadow. He tried to pay it no mind. Once the vines were back in sight he slowed and followed behind them, singing his direction song quietly to himself. “Left, right, straight. Left, left, right. Straight, straight, left, left. Right, right, straight, right, right.”
The ship was massive and, other than some areas smelling funkier than others, there was no variation in lighting, decoration or layout. The song was his map back to the rejuvenation pod, which was his only safe source of hydration. His companion padded along behind him, a friendly nightmare to accompany him on his seemingly endless journey. “We really need to give you a name.” He wished he had his phone with him so he could channel all his nervous energy into making a video. “The audience demands a name. Plus, I won’t be able to sell merch without one.” He turned and looked at the creature. “I’ll probably have to create space-halloween first, or maybe I’ll get lucky and find that you’re cute to some species.”
Aaron returned to following the corpse vine, waving a hand high as he spoke, gesticulating to the heavens. “The name is what matters: a good name makes all the difference.” He began seriously pondering the naming matter. “Aragog, Shelob; you know, lean into your size for a characterization. But then again, that's not really going to make people like you.” He looked back over his shoulder as the unnamed beast trotted happily behind him. He assumed happy, at least. It now tended to make an odd gurgling noise after eating, and it roamed closer to him than before. “You know, I never got to name Sassie – she’s my dog. I told you about her yesterday, or the day before.” He really was losing track of the days he’d been here. “I got her from a rescue. She was skinny, and so damn angry, with scars on her legs and under her fur. I had to have special visits before I could keep her. Prove I was worthy.”
Talking helped take his mind from the gnawing emptiness in his stomach. Hydration and nutrients osmotically obtained from some weird pod were nowhere near as satisfying as a burger and a cold beer. “Her first visit, she had a rubber ball. It was her only possession, and she loved it.” There was a touch of pride in his voice. “Took me an hour before she gave it up to play. The lady from the rescue centre said I was the first.” He choked up, blinking back tears. “Anyway, couple more visits and she got to stay. Crazy dog was such a handful. She once tried to climb a tree to chase a squirrel. Got her legs over the first branch and just dangled, kicking her back legs.” He began chuckling to himself. “She once tried to jump through a car window; some guy was parked at the lights as we walked past.”
He was just chatting now, lost in his memories as he walked. “You know the type, loud radio, windows rolled down on a sunny day, annoying the shit out of everyone in the town. He tossed some litter out of his window and she just launched herself at him. Scared the life out of me at the time - funny as fuck now, of course.” He laughed again. “Then there were the swans. Man, were they not ready. She loved to swim – I told you that before – swimming and splashing was her favourite release. Well, that and chasing rabbits which is, kinda, how I ended up here. Anyway, she would just swim up and down, right past the ducks and stuff, somehow never interested in them. Then one summer these swans came along...” He paused, realising his new friend didn’t know what a duck or a swan was, or even summer, probably. Before attempting to explain, he realised they also didn’t understand english, so it really didn’t matter. “Anyway, swans being belligerent bastards, I called her out of the water straight away. Those mean white fuckers chased her all the way to shore.”
He turned around, now grinning broadly. “But, once her feet hit the ground in the shallow water and she was able to stand, did those sons of bitches turn and swim away as fast as they could.” He paused, trying to remember his original point. He really was very hungry. “Oh yeah, so trying to stop her fighting everything that moved meant I didn’t have time to teach her a new name. Figured it would be confusing to her. Sassie she was, and so Sassie she stayed.”
There was a tightening in his chest as he thought of her missing him. “Took a lot of years and a lot of time for her to get where she is now. I know Alexa will take care of her, but still, it’s my job, and I need to get back to doing it. She won’t understand…” He choked up completely, taking a moment to compose himself before clearing his throat and returning his monologue to its original course. “Anyway, names. Names matter.”
“Maybe you’re a girl monster. Charlotte?” He shook his head. That name just didn’t seem fitting. “We could call you Peter Parker? Although, you’re more of a man-sized spider than a spiderman... Parker Peter? Then again, big, scary spiders say one thing to me. Australia. You like to jump, we could call you Roo? Or, how about Ozzy? Or Bruce? Hmm, that’s a sharks name though… can you swim?”
His train of thought derailed suddenly as he saw an open door ahead of them through which the vines were receding. The pair of them continued walking behind the vine until it disappeared into the doorway and Aaron ran forward, pulling something from his pocket. He’d been saving the foil wrapping from the ration bricks, folding them together to form a wedge. He jammed his makeshift door stop under the bottom corner of the door as it began to slide shut. It ground to a halt. “Boom! Told you it would work.”
He stood and finally looked into the vastness beyond. Through the doors was, somehow, a rolling meadow, complete with trees, giant mushrooms and plants he had no name for. Vines were also everywhere, receding further across the great wilderness. “What the hell? I thought I was on a spaceship? Am I underground?”
Staring intently at the sky, he stepped onto the deep moss beyond the door. He looked at the wall around the interior and saw it was rock, and more plant life clung to every crack and crevice. As he walked slowly forward his eyes followed the vine as it headed for a large, colourful, monolith. He approached and saw that its shape was similar to the vase flowers. He watched as the corpse vines deposited their cargo on top of the monolith. Not on, he corrected himself;they were dropping inside.
He looked back to the door, nervous that it might close and lock him in. A large black shadow lurked just beyond the door, and he was torn. Should he explore this 'outside' world, or retreat to the place where he at least had the rejuvenation pods? He looked up at the sky, basking in the warm and invigorating embrace of the sunlight. He blinked at the brightness, being cautious to not look at the sun directly, and something else suddenly caught his eye. It was, incredibly, a door. A door that floated in the sky.
The thing about human eyes is that they might be easily fooled, but a shift in perspective can easily change what you see to something entirely different. Aaron was looking up at a ceiling, like the one in the Atrium back on the Azrimad, but a hundred times more convincing.
Once back inside the doorway he watched the spiderling he was beginning to think of it as a friend dancing back and forth a short distance away. It seemed… happy. “Ok buddy, I’m back.” Aaron’s stomach made a loud gurgling sound and he rubbed it, trying to squeeze the hunger away. Fingers found muscle easier than usual, and he knew he was definitely losing weight. “We should head back. I need sleep.” He thought for a moment and made a final decision, bending down to pull the foil wedge clear. “I doubt there’s a communicator or command deck in there. Let’s go home, Ozzy.”
The trip back was uneventful, Aaron sang his direction song as they navigated the labyrinth. A few more aphids were snacked on by his leggy companion, but his own legs were heavy by the time he was almost back to the jelly beans. Despite being exhausted he had made two stops to create another pair of flower vases for the aphids, as well as scattering a ration brick as he passed by. The aphids waited, as they always did, till he and Ozzy were far enough away before enjoying his bounty. Still, the human derived satisfaction from their presence.
Exhausted and weary, Aaron was glad to finally make it back to the room he was reluctantly calling his temporary home. As the door to the rejuvenation pod slid open he was met, forcefully, by the barrel of an energy rifle. Unfortunately for Aaron, due to a considerable height difference, the barrel had struck him squarely in the groin, and he instantly fell to his knees. He came face to face with his attacker with tears in his eyes, clutching his tenderness and coughing. From the other being came incomprehensible yelling, as well as a lot of gun waving. Also, there was coughing.
Aaron, eventually mustering enough self-presence to do something other than deal with the after effects of the gun-to-groin encounter, wiped the moisture from his eyes and tried to butt in to the one-sided conversation. "Relax! I'm the one who just got snookered in the fucking balls, here! Why in the world are you so mad?"”
The gun was pressed to his forehead by the tiny attacker, who shouted something unintelligible with their black eyes focused on him. They paused to cough, then stepped back, glaring at Aaron until they seemed to feel comfortable enough with the situation to take one hand off of their weapon and pull out a datapad. They held it up, and Aaron frowned at the familiar but still unintelligible colours that swirled on the screen. Then a small vent at the bottom of the device squirted out a puff of sickly sweet scent.
Aaron pulled back from the odour. "What the fuck was that?"
With some distance between them, the human finally got a good look at his opponent. They were barely waist-height, furry, with a long nose and dark banding across their brown fur. The banding was heaviest across their eyes and although that’s where the similarities ended, it was enough for the human’s brain to forge a connection. “Listen, Rocket, there’s a virus on this ship. You need to get in the jelly bean. Trust me.”
The rifle was thrust at him shakily in one hand, the tablet again was raised and a swirl of colours and shapes greeted him. “I don’t speak fucking winamp plugin!” On the wall behind his captor Aaron spotted a dull orange aphid, struggling to climb the wall. He smiled as he slowly leaned to one side. “Have you met Ozzy?”
The huge arachnid leapt over them both, causing the newcomer to blindfire at the wall. Aaron seized his chance and snatched away the weapon. He grabbed the newcomer by the front of their armoured uniform and slammed them to the ground. They cried out in pain and began their incomprehensible yelling once more. The accompanying coughing fit was bad, and Aaron dragged them to their feet. Realising that his solitude had caused him to revert to English, he switched back to galactic standard to offer a warning about the disease. “You’re going to die!”
A shocked look crossed their face as the human effortlessly lifted them and slam dunked them into a blue jelly bean. Ozzy gurgled happily through his aphid crunching. Aaron snatched up the energy rifle, but found it was difficult to hold due to its small size. He leaned over the jelly bean, noting the occupant drifting off to sleep.
Hunger and tiredness were forgotten as adrenaline flooded his system. There was no way the newcomer was alone. He left the pod room to begin searching, and Ozzy seemed to pick up on his intention and followed behind, keeping close to the human. “Good boy!” He had no idea what prompted it, likely some automated response, and it was as though he watched his movements from outside of his body as he reached back and gently scratched the arachnid's head. He was rewarded with happy gurgles, or at least that's what he hoped the noises were. “You did good back there.”
He made his way along the corridor towards the same airlock he had once chosen as his final exit. His recent suspicion proved correct as he heard a strange sound up ahead, as if someone was running a wet finger around the rim of a glass. He carefully leaned around the curve and saw another figure, dressed in the same uniform as the first. No fur on this one, although they were equally small in size, and they somehow looked like they were made of glass which couldn’t decide on a colour.
This time he remembered to use galactic standard. “Keep your hands where we can see you. We’ve got you surrounded!” The figure was clearly startled, as the ambient resonating noise began varying wildly in pitch at the same moment as their colour shifted to a solid blue. Aaron cursed. He didn’t have a translator, having instead opted for learning standard and winging everything else. The whole federation knew standard, so he hadn’t truly considered getting the implant. “Something is wrong with our translators,” he continued to bluff. “Do you speak galactic standard?”
A datapad was hastily pulled from a pocket, and as buttons were pressed the resonating sound became more rhythmic. From the datapad sprung noises. No, it was a voice! “Why do you speak Procyon? Where is Commander Bertolannixostraphes?
Aaron began relaxing at the situation he found himself in, but inside he was brimming with joy. Finally, he could talk with someone! “There is a virus on this ship, and many are dead. If your commander is the raccoon-looking guy, I got them into a healing pod. They’re going to be fine.” Under his breath he added, “probably.”
The resonating began and shortly afterwards the voice translated, “Who are you? Why did you not answer our communications.”
Opting for honesty in the hopes of leniency, Aaron stepped into view. “I’m a passenger. I don’t have access to the ship's systems.” The newcomer was looking at the tiny gun, so the human tossed it forward. “I didn’t know if you were friendly. I can take you to your friend, and you should probably get treatment as well.”
The now-orange alien walked forward, their movement accompanied by the strange sound of ceramic plates rubbing together. “That won’t be a problem, we Tricinic do not catch meat diseases. I am Tsy'lo, take me to the commander.” They turned to look behind them. “Where are the others?”
Aaron pointed to Ozzy. “It’s just us two.”
Colours swirled and the small glass person thrummed. The datapad spoke, “You are the last human, the Ambassador. Correct?”
Turning and gesturing to be followed, he began to lead the way to the rejuvenation room. “I am the first human, Ambassador Aaron Cooper, professional bounty hunter. Just call me Aaron. Are you the rescue party? Is Alexa here? Did she bring Sassie?”
It took a moment for the translation to come back. “I don’t know those names. We are the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad and we responded to distress calls and found this ship. Adrift.” They had walked a little way when Tsy'lo stopped and regarded Ozzy, who was still faithfully following behind. “Why does the achalo follow you?”
“Ozzy?” Aaron shrugged. “I think he was lonely. So, were you sent into Hive space to find me, or are you on some top secret mission? You aren’t with the Sentinels, are you?”
“Lonely? But it is an achalo.” Tsy'lo was confused and their colour visibly swirled. “Why would a rescue mission be secret? And, we weren’t sent, we were already here.”
Now it was the human who was confused. “Like spies behind enemy lines? Is that why you are in Hive space?”
The Tricinic hummed at a higher frequency. “It is our space. We are the Hive!”
 
 
Admiral Pelar of the third fleet stood in the centre of the training mat. On the floor around her were four tough looking Ashi, while a fifth was now squaring off against her. She blocked the jab and the surprise knee strike that followed, turning effortlessly to bring her elbow to her opponents ribs. With another deft turn she was behind him and kicking his knees forward. He tried to roll clear but she had anticipated the move and, as he rose, her spinning boot struck the side of his head.
“Nice try gentlemen.” She walked away and caught a towel thrown by the drill instructor. “That last one has potential,” she said, and the drill instructor nodded. “Next time, I expect at least one of them to land a hit. If not, I’ll have you in the ring instead, to make sure you still have what it takes.” She saw the fear in his eyes. “I accept nothing but the best from the Third Fleet.”
The medics ran onto the mat as she dabbed at her forehead, and she spotted Jar’Bek sitting on a bench nearby. She walked over to him and he stood, straightening what was no doubt an extremely expensive suit. “From one disappointment to another.”
The lawyer smiled. “Imagine only seeing your son when he is paid to be in your presence,” he countered.
She smirked. “Your tongue is still your most deadly weapon.”
He nodded. “Ah, but it must make you proud to see me make use of the things you taught me.”
Her face twitched. “I taught you to be a true Ashi, a soldier. I taught you to respect-”
Jar’Bek held up his hand. “I’m here on my client’s business, not yours. And, as I am paid a considerable sum per gal, let us not waste their money on matters that are concluded.” He enjoyed the irritation on her face. “I am here to finalise the amnesty treaties, and conclude your membership as citizens of Earth.”
The Admiral held up her hands, looking down at her combat training clothing. “I must shower and change first. Please, wait for me in my private office.” She smiled politely.
“No.” His smile seemed to hover as if it was a mask that could slip at any time. “You may have disowned me, but I still remember your tricks. You knew the time of our meeting; you had me brought here so you could intimidate me with this display of aggression. Then you ask me to wait in your office amongst your memorabilia and trophies.” He watched the anger behind her eyes. “You really think these tired old tricks will work on me?”
She sneered. “At least you remember something.”
“Oh, I had the scars removed, but I kept the lessons.” He walked away. “My client's time is valuable and I have scheduled a meeting with the other fleet Admiral’s for later this cycle. Since we have no time for your games, let us go to the briefing room. My team is already set up. If you wish to shower, know that it is more of your negotiating time you are wasting, and I do so hate waste.” He collected his briefcase and walked out of the room.
Captain Loring hurried after Jar’Bek, catching him as he entered the elevator. “You sure you want to antagonise the Admiral like that?”
He leaned back against the wall of the elevator and relaxed, letting out a small sigh. “A little negotiating trick a Kittran taught me. Anyway, she is no longer my Admiral.”
Elora’Tan leaned back on the opposite wall. “She is your mother, Jar.”
“Ha.” Jar’Bek laughed. “She disowned me. This is the first contact we’ve had in I forget how many celes. Her first thought is to try and intimidate me with that display. She likes to beat on cadets, she likes to cause pain, and she wanted me to watch.”
Loring gave a weak smile. “It forges strong soldiers. We can’t afford weakness.”
The elevator stopped and Jar’Bek took a step closer to Elora’Tan. “You think it was weakness that made me leave?” He didn’t let her answer, turning and exiting into the hallway. His voice now resonated with authority as he growled, “In case you people have forgotten, the Ashi will operate under the same rules as the rest of the colony. My mother is not the law... I am the law.
 
Next
submitted by Sooperdude24 to HFY [link] [comments]

WATCH LIVE: Gov Edwards COVID-19 Press Conference at 2:30 PM on 11/24

Louisiana is backed in Phase 2 (modified)

LINKS TO WATCH
This conference was announced last Thursday

Pre-Conference Question - What do you think he'll announce?

Summary

NOTE: The summary of this press conference is transcribed LIVE. The summary may contain spelling and grammatical errors which until it is able to be corrected once the conference concludes.
NOTE: The summary may contain spelling and grammatical errors.
Gov JBE
Dr Kanter

Questions for Dr Kanter about data

Related to Halloween? Seems people are willing to gather for Thanksgiving. Are we going to see a worsening 2 weeks after Thanksgiving
We are already seeing just about as steep of an increase as we can get it really can't get much steeper than that. I don't know, looking back to Halloween, it was part of it. I think increases from other states was bleeding over into our particularly in Northern LA. Plus we are tired, COVID fatigue is real, and it's easy to get complacent. Even without Thanksgiving coming ahead we will continue to get worse. I don't know how much worse it gets with Thanksgiving. I cannot emphasize this more than enough if you need to make a decision for your family talk to someone who has had it, experiencing the disease, or someone who has worked in the affected healthcare facilities during those two surges.
How much is being driven by small gatherings indoors and if so it doesn't seem restrictions matter than much
Small gatherings have been a larger component than months ago, there is no question about that but that is just one slice. We continue to see a lot of cases tied to bars, restaurants, events, and churches as well. Mitigation measures are going to be significant in their effect but not absolute. The other side is that people really need to make responsible decisions when no one is looking. No one will police who parities but I want families to take it seriously and know what the real risks are and make an informed decision. The more families are informed the more they will be likely to say for this year, for my family, it is just not worth it.
Gov. JBE

Questions

Epidemiologists in Louisiana say we may be getting diminishing returns on our introduction of restrictions than what we previously saw. Are you concerned that the impact of the introduction of these restrictions will be more gradual and the implications that may have
I am concerned about an awful lot as it is related to COVID19 and this pandemic. There is not one easy decision I have made nor one that has brought me joy. I am convinced that if the people of Louisiana will embrace these mitigation measures and restrictions, be patient and selfless, and ensure compliance that we will flatten the curve again. That is what I know. There are no magic tricks to be worked here. The only way to stop a surge is with restrictions and mitigation measures. So with the numbers increases here and around the country as they are the sense of urgency that you see coming out of leaders in Washington right now, as seen with Vice President Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force the other day, everyone should understand that this a very very serious situation. We have to do our part in order to slow the spread. It has to be a collective effort. No one should say is 99% of the people do it that's good enough I don't have to personally do it... that doesn't work. We all have to see it as a common effort that we all play our part. If someone would have presented a better option to flatten the curve I would have taken it. I know we have COVID fatigue here and around the country. If there was something other than wearing masks, washing your hands and staying home when you are sick, and so forth I would embrace it. It doesn't exist. That is why you hear this coming out of Washington and all the other healthcare workers how important these are. So let's do it. Let's flatten the curve again. I feel very comfortable that in several months, not sure when we will have enough of our population vaccinated that I believe we can start putting in the rear view mirror. Until now and then we have to do what is necessary. I do not know if there is another surge after this one, I pray not, but we know we are surging now.
Are you trying to change the way enforcement has been handled on these public health issues. Obviously the problem is people aren't following previous guidelines.. so are you making changes to enforcement?
We will continue to work with businesses of all types and venues to ensure that they understand that the restrictions are what rules they have to abide by. Individuals and businesses can get more information at opensafely.la.gov and you will get more information. Will there be enforcement? Yes, there will be, but I am going to say what I've said back in March and every time since then, if the people in Louisiana insist we enforce our way through this we are doomed to failure. There are 4.66 million Louisianas and 10s of thousands of business and quite frankly we cannot enforce our way through this. We are going to be asking people to comply, do compliance visits, respond to complaints, and where people refuse to come int o compliance you can expect enforcement. That will not get us through this surge. That will not protect the health of our fellow Louisianans, it is better than not doing any enforcement. We need to have people doin this because it is the right thing to do. They need to embrace it, not because it is pleasant but at the end of the day this about people's lives are talking about. We are doing our very best to strike the balance between lives on one hand and livelihoods on the other. When it comes to economy, to business, to employers, to livelihoods, the best thing we can do is put this virus behind us.
Are the rules for temporary conditional permits allowing bars to operate as restaurants remain in effect?
Yes and we currently have 372 bars using conditional permits to operate as restaurants. They are not a hybrid, they are not part bar or part bar. They operate as restaurants if they are operating properly and they follow all rules for restaurants. For other establishment that continue to operate as bars they need to follow the way we outlined bars operate today.
What are you doing for your Thanksgiving celebration. You have a son who is coming home from college because LSU is going virtual for Thanksgiving
Yeah I have a son who actually lives here in Baton Rogue and he will likely be coming home to spend some time with us. I will tell you we will stay in baton Rogue at the mansion and have a Thanksgiving meal that consists of the immediate household. We will gives thanks because even during this pandemic which has been so tough on people, even after the 3 hurricanes that hit this year, we have so much to be thankful for. God has truly blessed us. Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks and that is important to me and my family and we are going to do it, but last year I remember my 84 year old mother came, my 6 siblings all came with their spouses and children and grandchildren. We had 80 or 90 people. You will not be seeing that this year and you will not see it at Christmas either. I hope and pray that if you are with me on Thanksgiving Day of 2021 you will see that. I believe that you will, but between now and then we all have to do our part.
Did you tell Legislative leaders about these new restrictions before you came out here today? What was their response?
Yes, I did. You need to know that I routinely send data and information to the Speaker and to the President. We have complete transparency on the data we are relying on because we update it every day aside for Saturday. We also have sent Legislative leadership, and I believe every member of the Legislature, every White House Coronavirus Task Force report whenever we get them. This morning in a addition to those things we presented all gating criteria slides to the Speaker and the President. We talked about where we were especially in light of our hospital capacity and our need to go back to a modified Phase 2 in order to flatten the curve again. They asked some questions, expressed concerns to makes sure whether the Fire Marshall or ATC will work with proprietors and bar owners to maximum extend possible so they can know hat is expected of them and be given an opportunity, if they are operation in good faith -- of which the overwhelming majority of businesses are -- to come into compliance. That has been our approach throughout the pandemic. We have always bent over backwards to make sure individuals know what the rules give them every opportunity to come into compliance and only after persistent shortcomings/refusal to do any real enforcement actions like citations take place. I assured him our approach would not change.
Does the influx of new vaccines change our prognosis at all
We have a draft plan in Louisiana that we continue to update and revise daily. The reason it is a draft plan is that we still don't know the day that we will get the first vaccines nor the number of doses that will be there. I have every expectation that around mid-December we should receive some doses of the Pfizer vaccines first. We don't know how many it could be as few as 30,000 or might be 60,000 we do not know for sure. We think the first doses of the Moderna vaccines would come weeks later, perhaps with a smaller number available initially. We continue to work with our federal partners. We were on the phone with Azar yesterday and talked about the logistical aspects of Project Warpspeed. Once the vaccine gets the EUA from the FDA we will have the vaccine in route to our location(s) of choice in 24 hours. The first shipment will be prioritized to healthcare workers, then high-risk groups (nursing homes, assisted living centers, congregated shelters), then the list expands from there out. Ultimately we want to get to a place where we put a call out to the general population they can go to their health unit (hospital, doctor's office, or pharmacy) and get the vaccine. This is not a one and one vaccine, it requires a second dose, depending on the manufacturer that could be between 21-28 days later. More vaccines may come only over time and some of these things may change. I do not want talk of the vaccine, it is critically important and no one is more excited than I am, but I do not want the talk of the vaccine to cause people to not pay attention to what is imperative right now. That is why you hear Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, Azar, talking about the term of bridging to the vaccine and needing to double-down on measures until the vaccine is widely available. The vaccine will not be here in the numbers we need soon enough to reverse the trajectory and numbers we went over today.
I do want to mention I have every confidence that when the FDA issues that EUA that that vaccine will be safe and effective. I hope my fellow Louisiana will embrace the vaccine. A vaccine saves 0 lives but vaccination can save a lot of lives. The vaccination requires the vaccines and an individual to receive that vaccine in two injections. So please understand the FDA has not cut out any steps required to evaluate the safety and efficacy of these vaccines. In fact, the trial sizes were 5x-6x more than one would normally see in a trial. They took steps consecutively instead of sequentially to make this vaccine thereby shortening its time for production. They started the mass production while trials were still happening. So if that authorization comes they have the vaccine to distribute and more to be distributed and you don't have to start that manufacturing process up from the beginning. So I really want people to embrace this and understand they will be safe and effective once the call goes out to start vaccination.
Does the state have enough cold storage for the vaccines or does the state have to put in some money for that?
We've identified the cold storage capacity that we need pursuant to our plan to administer the Pfizer vaccine. Its a combination of cold storage capacity and dry ice. We will be in good shape there. This is why you have to have really good hard work going on hard in advance. That way working with hospitals and universities you are able to identify all the cold storage you have, where is available for these vaccines and then you plug that into your plan. That will not be a limiting factor in terms of receiving the vaccine. Logistically it makes it more complicated because you have to receive it at those sites and distribute it from there. They are still evaluating how long the vaccines remain stable once they thaw out. We will be all over that so we will make sure if that vial falls out it will be administered while it is stable and making sure that people come and get the second dose as well.

Closing remarks

submitted by WizardMama to Coronaviruslouisiana [link] [comments]

The wish list. A comprehensive list of issues that need to be addressed.

Before I get started I want to make it clear that I like the game and only want to see it improve. This isn’t a post/thread to bash the game in anyway. My goal is to be as constructive as possible and maybe provide some possible solutions.
The Important:
Quality of Life.
Trivial stuff.
Things I’m not addressing at this time. Bots and simulation of PCC MTT’s.
Let me know what you think the game currently needs.
submitted by benit59 to pokerclubgame [link] [comments]

Gambling Tips for Online

To gamble is to risk but there are options to help cut back the risk.
Set your limit
First and foremost important is to remember, gambling is for fun! Do not gamble if you cannot afford to lose. Have a specific amount set aside for gambling and stick to it. Don't borrow money to gamble and don't ever go past your set limit.
Take Frequent breaks.
Don't attempt to play at a casino if you are under stress, depressed or troubled in any way. All distractions can cause you to lose your concentration and obviously result in losses you may not incur otherwise. Bright lights and loud noises are created to the casinos benefit. If you are gambling online, ensure that you are not going to be distracted and if you are, stop play until another time.
Slots Tips
Tip #1. Always play the max coin amount on progressive slots. It is best to play max regardless of whether the slot is progressive or not but how painful would it be to hit a jackpot on less than max bet?
Tip #2. Know the payout schedule before sitting down at a slot machine. Just like in poker, knowledge of the odds and payouts is crucial to developing a good strategy.
Tip #3. If you are not having luck at a particular machine, then move on to another one. Don't play it all night, hoping for it to finally pay off.
Tip #4. Always ensure your bet registers in the machine prior to pulling the bar or hitting spin, you will not be given the max coin winnings if the machine doesn't record a max coin bet being placed.
Tip #5. Never leave your machine until you are done playing. There is no worse feeling that someone taking the machine you were playing at because you went for a drink or to use the restroom. Make sure you take care of personal business prior to choosing your slot. There are waitresses for drinks.
Blackjack Tips
Tip #1 The most obvious is to ensure you know the rules of blackjack. It is always a good idea to have a strategy when you play blackjack. All winning systems are based on a basic strategy which consists of statistically speaking, there exists only one best action a player can take for each of the possible hands he can receive versus each possible upcard the dealer may have.
Tip #2 Learn about the house rules of each casino, the better the house rules, the more money you can expect to win in the long run. And yes, house rules do vary between casinos.
Tip #3 Learn the proper way to use your bankroll. There are statistically proven methods to keep control of your balance and the amount of bet you should place based on your total bankroll.
Tip #4Never drink alcohol when you are playing and always leave the game once you start to feel fatigued. You may start to make mistakes that you won't even notice.
Poker Tips
Tip #1 The best tip for poker playing is to read up on the game play, the variants of the game and ensure you know the rules of the game.
Tip #2 When you first start, it is a good idea to sit out and watch the other players prior to starting your game. Watch how they bet and how much they bet.
Tip #3 As you advance as a player, learn how to bluff. You must know the game well and bluff only when you feel secure that the other players will not call your bluff.
Tip #4 It is also a good idea to try to play against less skillfull opponents. Obviously, you will have a better chance at the game if you have more knowledge and experience.
Tip #5 Most important is what many of us have heard before, "Know when to hold 'em and when to fold "em". Mistakes are made quite often in poker when players want to stick it out with hands that have no value. That is a guaranteed loss. And stick with the no alcohol while playing rule.
Video Poker Tips
Tip #1 Just as with poker, you must know the game of video poker. There is a wide variant of video poker games, with each having a different set of winning card combinations. It is a good idea to pay attention to whether or not a machine uses one 52-deck of cards or more than one. The more cards there are, the less likely the player will win.
Tip #2 There is no such thing as a loose or tight video poker machine. They do not operate on reels like a slot machine, each card has an equal chance of showing up on any hand.
Tip #3 Always play the maximum number of credits allowed on progressive video poker, if you hit a royal flush, you will want that jackpot.
Tip #4 Until you are a master player, play at the lowest coin denomination amount possible. This will give you more cash to play on and learn as you go.
Tip #5 It can be very helpful to play a handheld video poker game (like you can get at any store with board games), this will also give you experience and a good knowledge of how the games will play.

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submitted by shomesrobery to 2021safeMalaysiancasi [link] [comments]

Spookiness of Magia Record: Yukika's Fear Factory

Previous: The Humanity of Kanagi (Vampire)
Fear is a concept that we're all accustomed to. As humans, we move toward things that move us toward feelings of pleasure and away from those that inflict pain or misery. Some things are ingrained into us, for example, snakes and spiders tend to arouse an automatic response related to anxiety, while it's common for us to avoid extremely high places or paths full of sharp objects.
As was the case of Little Albert, the baby used in the (questionably moral) experiment that demonstrated conditioning an individual to fear something (in this case, fuzzy objects, something that stuck with Albert as he got older), fears can be "taught", either through personal experiences or second-hand. Interestingly enough, the concept of fear and hesitance develops early in our lives, as demonstrated in such experiments as this that observes infants who, at the start of learning to crawl, will not slow their pace when traveling over glass platforms, but begin to slow as they become more experienced with moving around, something that can be explained as a result of "trial and error", as infants fall and tumble.
Easy enough, right? Us avoiding things that certainly will harm us can be justified without much thought required...but what about individuals who chase risk, these so called "daredevils" that would appear almost suicidal from most of our perspectives?
Yukika happens to be one of my favorite characters in Magia Record, both in design and also her character background. As is the case with most characters in this series, Yukika has motivation behind her (reckless) behavior, which makes reading into her more interesting. With that all being said:

Yukika in Wonderland

I'll say it again, but Yukika's aesthetic is really fantastic to me, in that, as some of you might recognize already, it is based off of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. What is amazing is the fact that this isn't a random choice in design, rather, it's based on the reckless/brave choices of the main character, Alice. From the start of the story, Alice spots the famous rabbit and immediately decides to chase it, even going as far as falling through a rabbit hole. This situation would coin the term "falling down the rabbit hole", which describes one moving (usually willfully) into a situation that is difficult, but very tempting.
Another famous scene involves Alice finding a suspicious potion with the label "Drink me" attached to it, to which she responds:
“Well, I'll eat it. If it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!”
Most of us here would, hopefully, not be so open with drinking some random bottle that we found in a random spot, especially with the innocent but foreboding message to "drink it". Alice, however, chose to take a gamble and chug the thing as if it were lemonade. Coincidentally enough, Yukika's nature and effect of her wish bares semblance to that of Alice's adventures, where it is revealed in her respective event that Yukika tends to teleport or be drawn to difficult situations that can only be solved with her own wit (gambit).
Looking at Yukika's appearance, she is modeled off a popular interpretation of casino-workers, which includes fancy suits and, err...bunny ears. Sometimes. This, of course, fits Yukika's theme as a gambler and her inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, but her artist is just really into bunny-girls and takes a lot of pride in Yukika, hence him being so active on his Twitter. Most of the content is SFW, but tread carefully, as he has drawn Yukika more perversely.
Bunny's are a symbol of luck, being popular for their feet, in particular, but are also rather impulsive animals. In addition to this, they are also rather fearful little critters who show fear of heights, closed in spaces, my niece, and even cuddling, despite our desire to want to hug the furry little things. It's common for animals, especially of the small variety, to show fear, however, rabbits are most known to panic and can even die of literal heart attacks if placed under too much pressure.
Hanging from Yukika's neck is her heart-shaped soulgem, which is chained to her choker. The heart is, of course, is pretty vital to us, so Yukika having it out and dangling by a chain is meant to demonstrate how her life is constantly hanging over danger...literally, considering that a magical girl's soulgem is what keeps them up and moving. To demonstrate this, Yukika wields a basic rapier, which, in of itself, isn't remarkable. But here's the thing: rapiers are not at all intended to be brought to real fights. They're just not suited for real combat when you consider the fact they're smaller than other blades/melee weapons and not at all good against an onslaught of opponents. In older times, rapiers would be used for duels, much like how cowboys would famously duel with handcannons, where the first person to land a hit would often be the winner, while the other loser gets a free ticket to the afterlife.
Put into perspective, Yukika would be really outmatched in a straight sword-fight against, say, Momoko, as a major advantage she'd have, speed, is rather moot, as Momoko is strong enough as a magical girl to swing her giant sword around without much trouble. Yukika does, however, have precision, and if by some lucky chance she got a clear stab at Momoko's soulgem, that would be all she wrote. In other words, much like how Yukika's in-game abilities surrounding an emnity effect, are high-risk, high-reward, so is her combat ability.
So just why is Yukika like this?

An Addiction to Thrill

As you probably know already, there are real-life people out there who are similar to Yukika. Some people jump from planes, bridges, mountains, others wrestle with apex predators, and then there are those who are foolish enough to throw money at gacha games for a...a small chance to...err...
...before I get a bit too real here, there are plenty of real live daredevils with different motives. Some like money and fame, but that doesn't explain why non-famous individuals are willing to risk their lives, even when they payoff is not at all equivocal to the risk/danger.
Yukika has a very high-quality upbringing, where she receives a very good education and would easily be considered pampered. With such a lifestlye, one doesn't have to be too concerned with most stresses that afflict commonfolk, paying bills, providing resources for a family, otherwise climbing the ladder toward a better life, considering people like Yukika are already there. This sounds extremely comfortable on paper, and I'm pretty sure we won't see Touka complaining about inheriting a few of her dad's private jets when she gets older. To Yukika, however, a life without any risks is boring and unfulfilling, made even worse by the fact that she isn't even at the top of her own food chain.
So where does a girl like Yukika get her thrills? Apparently through legally and morally questionable game centers that would make EA reevaluate their sales tactics. Although we are designed to avoid potential harm, some activities, especially gambling, feel so damn good. This is something I think a lot of us here can relate to. Think about all the times you've rolled the "free gacha" in Magia Record or any other mobile game and compare it to rolling the premium gacha. Odds are: you probably find doing so a lot less exciting (outside specific examples) as it lacks "grand" rewards, but also a large degree of "risk" since we're using a less limited resource.
Rolling, in general, is meant to make us feel excited, and this goes from audio/visual cues that indicate a "grand prize" HIT to our favorite word: "limited". Same can be said for standard casinos, there are details everywhere that make us want to keep on rolling, and this is perfect for a girl like Yukika, as these sorts of thrills affect just about anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status/wealth. Granted, some of us can afford risk more than others, of course.
This can all be explained by adrenaline, the fight/flight juice that kicks in our bodies when experiencing high levels of stress. This reaction was originally supposed to help us run from dinosaurs by allowing our bodies to achieve superhuman-like levels of strength and endurance, but because we're all clear of most those dangers, adrenaline pops for circumstances that revolve less around getting eaten. Needless to say, this "high" feels rather pleasant, and gambling, in general, already toys with the reward centers in our brain.
There's a bit of a catch to this. As humans, we tend to be impressively resilient, and the more we're exposed to negative stimuli, the faster we build a tolerance to it. This applies to spicy/bitter foods, horror movies/scary things, violence/indecent imagery, and, of course gambling/danger. In terms of defense, this is awesome, but in terms of wanting to be stimulated and often, it's a bit of a killjoy. Also very dangerous for people like Yukika whose response would be to seek even greater danger.
There's a quite a bit more to this, and I only covered gambling, as that's the most recognizable example for us gacha players. If you're interested but want an easy-to-digest source, Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji and Kakegurui toy around with compulsive behavior. Admittedly, though, I'd suggest the latter after the former, despite Kakegurui having one of my favorite, modern anime characters who is also voiced by my favorite Japanese voice actress.
Otherwise, Poker Alice can tell us more about Yukika's behavior:

Poker Alice, The Doppel of Boredom

The Doppel of boredom. Its form is a daredevil. The master of this emotion feels a great and terrible boredom towards her peaceful life, spent sitting atop an easy chair. This Doppel imitates the form of an imaginary monster known as a “Dare-Devil,” and constantly covers its master’s eyes to prevent her from becoming aware of the danger in front of her. The Doppel currently boasts an undefeated record in battle, and is beginning to feel the same dangerous boredom as its master at the fact that no enemy powerful enough to overwhelm it has yet appeared. As a result, it’s been fighting more and more perilous battles by the day… but since her vision is obscured, its master still peacefully allows it to guard her back even as we speak.
As if Karin's doppel didn't have a surprising reference, Poker Alice is a direct reference to an old, western movie that followed the main character, Alice Moffat, played by the lovely Elizabeth Taylor. As you would expect from the trailer, Alice is a gambling gal who, like Yukika, desired to escape her life as comfort for one that was a bit more dangerous and exciting. The movie takes its name from "Poker" Alice Huckert, a real live Englishwoman who worked/managed a casino and brothel ring.
Alice was always fond of poker, but this hobby became more serious after her husband died from a mining accident. Since then, Alice would splurge all of her winnings on luxuries such as clothing. Along with being a famed poker player, Alice was known for seducing men/opponents to get an edge in-game, as well as carrying a gun at all times and being constantly drunk. But it is said that she did not play on Sundays, so as we could see, Alice was a woman with high moral values. Eventually, at the age of 60, Alice's life of craziness would catch up to her, as she would be arrested for prostitution and bootlegging.
Alice, the Doppel, is a strange being with hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades tattoo'd on its body. We know these as parts of the suit we see on playing cards, with hearts symbolizing love (romantic and/or sexual), clubs as desire (for knowledge), diamonds as a passion for obtaining wealth, and spades as a forewarning for danger, most particularly death--otherwise known as the 4 components of human nature.
Alice and Yukika sit atop a rocking chair, something that is normally comforting and practically free of danger, however, such a thing can become dangerous if one were to wildly swing on it. It's form is that of a monster which plays on the term "daredevil", or people who are aggressive risk-takers. Alice represents the idea that humans tend to gradually become more and more resistant to fear as they experience such stimuli.
As such: it is layered in nature, which we can describe by observing Yukika, Alice, and the chair they sit on:
Alice is a very mouthy Doppel, which reminded me of the Album Always Open Mouth by the band "Fear". However, this band is an extremely unlikely reference, given how underground the band is, so I'm about 99% sure that this is just pure coincidence.
After every battle, Alice becomes stronger, but this is more a curse than it is a blessing, for Alice desires a constant stream of challenge and risks. In response, this Doppel seeks out more dangerous foes, unknown to Yukika, who has lost her sense of danger. For all intents and purposes, Alice is very compatible with Yukika, a girl who is at her best (namely during gameplay) when she faces imminent danger.
As a final note, I know I stretched this to be part of my Halloween series, despite it not being very spooky, so, uhh...ooga booga!
Next is the conclusion to my Halloween series, featuring Holy Momoko. After that, I will continue my normal schedule with the Kazumi girls and then move on to Mikage, a character I've actually been working on on/off for a month now.
submitted by Genprey to magiarecord [link] [comments]

General feedback (pt 1)

I labeled this as "pt 1" not because I immediately have a part 2 coming any time soon, but because I haven't actually played the game a ton yet, but I plan to play it quite a bit more and expect to have more feedback. I love SimAirport, and SimCasino had been on my wishlist for a while, so I'm glad it has finally made it to early access.
This will largely be a list of (hopefully constructive) criticism. I am enjoying the game. And to be clear, almost all the feedback I have are things I view as pretty minor and not greatly impacting my ability to enjoy the game so far, but definitely some areas that can use some polish.

I'm going to stop here for now. Like I said, there will be more in the future. I am enjoying the game and am exciting to see it develop. The three comments to discuss in detail will come a bit later as I have a few things I need to do at the moment.
submitted by nhgrif to SimCasino [link] [comments]

I miss poker nights

I grew up in a very poker heavy family. I’m talking basement parties with 20 adults and kids. I grew up watching and learning and then when I was old enough to play (16) I could drop money at game nights. We would save all our change and dollar bills and meet up as much as schedules allowed, birthdays, and holidays. When we weren’t having big get togethers I would just play cards with my parents plus a couple random friends or cousins. I haven’t lived at home and moved about an hour away a couple years ago for my fiancé and my job and shit happens so my family doesn’t get together as much as others got losers and grandkids happened etc.
I’ve tried teaching my fiancé to play and don’t have a lot of friends so I’m pretty solo in terms of poker. I play WSOP on my phone but it’s not at all the same experience and I can’t afford to play at a casino or something. Not to mention COVID.
I just miss playing cards and especially with people who understood and were good at it without me having to explain things.
submitted by toledotrev to Vent [link] [comments]

Today I signed the first few pages of hiring paperwork for my dream job.

I started learning how to play poker when I was 11 years old. One of my favorite uncles (Mind you, they were all pretty much my favorite. I have a wonderful extended family.) came into town one holiday and sat me down and taught me the basics of Texas Hold ‘Em. I played off and on in person and online for the following years to come.
When I was 16, my mother remarried a man who hosted a “dealer’s choice” quarter game every Sunday and had done so for 30 years prior. When I was 18, I was finally allowed to play in that game. I played with those old heads for three or four years before I moved to another part of the state.
After high school I had absolutely zero idea what I wanted to do with my life and I had accrued debt long before I realized how that would negatively affect my life. So I did a lot of various entry level jobs, bouncing across various cities and states trying to find myself.
After a bit of soul-searching and a series of random (and some unfortunate) events, I found myself, giddy as all get-out, to be in a blackjack dealer training class. After six weeks of unpaid training and a lot of practice, the day before Thanksgiving 2017 I started my career of dealing cards. It was a start for me, but from day one I said “I became a dealer to deal Poker.”
With my love for card games, it wasn’t hard to see from day one how much I absolutely adored the casino atmosphere, especially on the weekends when the bands are playing and people are dancing and drinking and having a good time (pre-COVID I mean, things are weird now) and I was never afraid to dance around and have fun on any table while dealing whatever game that I was scheduled on.
In my previous casino, every dealer was required to deal Blackjack and core games like Let-It-Ride, 3-Card Poker and 4-Card Poker. Dealers could take additional games if they wanted, like Roulette, Baccarat, Craps, and Poker, but regardless of the additional games that you take, every dealer is still required to deal Blackjack or core games if needed at any time.
With that being said, for the last three years in my casino every player, coworker, floor, pit boss, manager knew I was there for the poker room and dealt poker every single chance I got. My passion for poker and my desire to travel the world and become the greatest poker dealer that I could become in this life was never a secret.
Well in August, due to a very horrible series of life events, I left the casino that I had loved for so many years and had to move out of my apartment and back in with family to get my bearings back and figure out the next steps to take. I decided to try something that I wasn’t sure I would be able to do. Go from my tiny town casino where I dealt Poker and Tables Games alike to a Poker Room where I would be dealing Poker and Poker only.
So! After all of that backstory and introduction (Sorry, I don’t get out much) I’m writing this today because I had gotten the call from my first choice casino today and I found out that I had passed my audition and they were extending an offer of employment to me and I was to start the onboarding process as soon as possible! From what I’ve gathered, this Poker Room is one of the best on this side of the country. So.. I’m telling you, internet, because I thought maybe in this horrible, crappy time you guys may enjoy hearing a story of a girl receiving the job of her dreams today. I’m pretty stoked. Holy cricket this is happening!
submitted by MightMakethRight to CasualConversation [link] [comments]

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submitted by amirkhoso to u/amirkhoso [link] [comments]

[noir-vember] Indecent Proposals <2020-11-29>

Name of Run: Indecent Proposals


Background
Meant to be the culmination of Casino Royale's 'high rollers' scene.
Meet
Matrix meet.
Run
Runners make it to Vegas with three vehicles. Segmentation checks out the hotel room on a burner PCC SIN, and proceeds to start digging in to the two subjects. The ground team begins surveilling the tournament area at the Planet Horizon, keeping a low profile while surveilling Mr. Hu gambling.
They recognize Mr. Hu meeting with Corroleone; tailing them back to the Mandalay Bay penthouse level. Rigger inserts a flyspy to check security; discovers both items in the apartment. Team stacks yup for hostile insertion while the rigger uses the flyspy to nudge the McGuffins into the automated laundry chute present in the suite, passing stealth and pilot checks even through the drone's batteries were pretty much drained.
Night Train snags the items out of the laundry chute and disappears back out onto the streets of Vegas, eager to do the handoff.
Aftermath
gains for Krime and Skraacha in Las Vegas. New plotlines developing.
Expenses
Drug usage, favors for burner SIN.
submitted by coy-coyote to NeonAAR [link] [comments]

PowerPlay Casino $7.77 no dpeosit + 100 free spins bonus

PowerPlay Casino $7.77 no dpeosit + 100 free spins bonus

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In total, the library at PowerPlay Casino is made up of over 250 games. The casino’s lobby has several sections dedicated to table games, live dealer games, as well as slots – their biggest category. We were pleased to see that most of the games come from top developers such as Microgaming and Pragmatic Play, not to mention they have a full live casino from Evolution Gaming.

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When it comes to table games, roulette and poker reign supreme at PowerPlay. Players will quickly find a handful of roulette options such as American and lightning roulette, plus plenty of poker variants to choose from. We were also pleased to see quite an impressive array of blackjack games. The selection isn’t huge, but we think the games library has enough to satisfy players that want a break from spinning the reels.

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submitted by freespinsbonus to u/freespinsbonus [link] [comments]

What are some reasons to play poker online?

Online poker games are the next big thing under the area of card games. This game has been around for as long as forever. One of the significant reasons for its survival and thriving it its ability to adapt and evolve. There was a time when games of card were played in small groups, and most people had no access to it.
However, with the rampant popularity of virtual games, online poker in India is more famous than ever, uniting the participants from across the world. If you are of two minds concerning playing online, here are some genuine reasons to try and play them –
Money on the line
Although there are free poker games as well, poker itself is a term used to refer to different card games played for making money. So, whether you are a beginner or a professional, there is always the benefit of winning big. Naturally, this has a lot to do with the experience and skills you possess. You should also consider the bankroll for combating the risk of playing for real money. Still, money is always up for grabs.
Convenience factor
There was a time where if you wished to play poker, you would travel to your nearest casino or gambling parlour physically. Still, there was no guarantee about how many hands you get to play or the available variations. The authenticity of the games was mostly questionable. However, nowadays, owing to the genuine virtual poker rooms available, you can play the card games from the comfort of your home or workplace with the highest standards.
The community
Those who enjoy being participants of vibrant virtual communities, online poker in India is the fix you need. As you play on platforms with hundreds and thousands of participants, you are bound to meet several players passionate about the game who are like-minded as you, forming real friendships online. You can chat and compete against them. There are plenty of virtual forums where you discuss the game with experienced professionals and gain their feedback. This helps you learn about the game and its different variations for competing further.
Conclusion
Irrespective of your goals, there is always a schedule for you to follow concerning real or free poker games. Once you register yourself with an authentic portal, the journey from there is simple. You can pick the variations of your choice, select between tournaments, and cash games, and then contend in the stakes of your choice. If you have any queries, you can get them cleared by the support team, which is available to you for contact round the clock.
submitted by ranveerjaffrey to u/ranveerjaffrey [link] [comments]

[NOIR-Vember] The Hand You Cannot Bite, Kiss 2020-11-07

Overview
Background
Johnson wants the runners to find out who Prince Tahani is meeting with and record the conversation for him.
Meet
Runners meet with the J to learn about their job at The Blue Note in Tacoma. He lets them know that a Moroccan prince will be meeting with a rep from SK and he needs the runners to record that conversation and get info about the SK rep. After some haggling, the runners agree and make plans to head to North Africa.
Run
The runners head to Morocco through Sunflower’s Meistersinger contact and the team is whisked to the area via sea-magic means over the course of a day. While traveling, Lacuna does some research on the prince and some of his contacts in SK and finds two potential targets the prince might meet with. Once on land, the team heads first to Casablanca to stake out the first target: Heinrich Goetz. Lacuna is able to get info off his comm and determine he will be meeting the prince at the Coastal Winds Casino that night. The team heads there, scouts the area and decides to buy into the high-stakes poker game the price and Goetz will be playing in. Bubblegum manages to distract the other players and win a few hands while Sunflower plays the role of a board date and manages to get into the prince’s good graces. While the royalty is distracted, Lacuna is able to hack his comms and find out the time and location of the meeting, as well as some other goodies.
While Sunflower keeps the prince busy over the next few days, the rest of the team heads to Marrakesh and starts planning for the meeting. They rent a nearby hotel room and make plans to infiltrate the Four Seasons and bug the room. Bubblegum poses as a wealthy traveler looking for accommodations for his party and Tide plays the role of bodyguard. While the day manager is distracted by this high roller (and his magical disceptions), Tide sneaks off to the room that will be used the following day for the meeting. Tide manages to slip in and out of the suite unnoticed and does an excellent job of hiding the cameras. The next day, the meeting goes forward as planned with the prince and his partners unaware they are being recorded. The party later gathers the cameras and heads back to Seattle. A job well done.
Aftermath
The team successfully records the meeting and gives the J the info. They also are able to gather additional information about Prince Tahani, SK and their plans to have the AAA and the prince take a larger role in Morocco going forward. Information which the J rewards the for handsomely.
Expenses
2665 for various pieces of gear, Rating 4 favor owed to the Meistersinger (paid off by team).
submitted by someguy_339 to NeonAAR [link] [comments]

Do You Have to Pay Taxes on Slot Machine Winnings?

We all love to read stories about big wins and imagine ourselves in the shoes of those winners. But, have you ever thought about what happens at that very moment after successfully beating the slot machine? Usually, the slot machine locks up and, in most cases, you hear the music and see the flashing lights on top of the machine. But one of the first questions every player asks is whether they have to pay taxes on casino winnings? Well, you’re about to find out!

Taxes on Slot Machine Winnings in USA

In the USA, when a lucky player hits a jackpot, there’s the option of receiving the winnings in cash or check. In case it’s a large sum, it’s usually paid by check. However, the IRS only obliges the casinos to report winnings that are larger than $1,200.
Of course, all winners are obliged to show a proper identification— a valid ID or passport. When the casino checks for your identification they also look at your age to make sure you are officially and legally old enough to play. As the minimum legal age for gambling varies from state to state, be sure to check it out before you decide to play.

Do I Have to Report All Winnings?

All gambling winnings received from slot machines are subject to federal taxes, and both cash and non-cash winnings (like a car or a vacation) are fully taxable. Apart from slot machines, the same applies to winnings from lottery, bingo, keno, poker or other games of chance. So, if the amount won on a slot machine is higher than $1200, the casino is required to report it. In other words, all your gambling winnings have to be reported on your tax return as "other income" on Schedule 1 (Form 1040), line 8.

Slot Machine Winnings in W-2G Form

In case it happens to you and you snag that big win (which we hope one day you will), it’s useful to know that casino or other payer must give you a W-2G Form, listing your name, address and Social Security number. So, if the winnings are reported through a W-2G Form, federal taxes will be withheld at a rate of 25%.
If, however, you didn’t provide your Social Security number (or your Tax Identification Number), in that case the withholding will be 28%. Either way, a copy of your Form W-2G should be issued, showing the amount you won alongside the amount of tax withheld. One copy needs to go to the IRS, as well.
Aside from slot winnings, Form W-2G is issued to winners of the following types of gambling activities like:
However, not all gambling winnings are subject to IRS Form W2-G. For instance, W2-G forms are not required for winnings from table games like blackjack, baccarat, and roulette, whatever the amount. You’d still have to report your winnings to the IRS, it’s just you won’t need to do it through W-2G Form.

Are My Slot Losses Deductible?

The good news is that you can deduct your slot losses (line 28 of Schedule A, Form 1040), while the bad news is gambling losses are deductible only up to the amount of your wins. In other words, you can use your losses to compensate for your winnings. So, let’s say you won $200 on one bet, but you lost $400 on one or a few others, you can only deduct the first $200 of losses. Meaning if you didn’t win anything for a year, you won’t be able to deduct any of your gambling losses.
In order to prove your losses, you need to keep good records and have suitable documents. So, whenever you lose, keep those losing tickets, cancelled checks and credit slips. Your documentation must include the amount you won or lost, a date and time, type of wager, type of your gambling activity, name of each casino/address of each casino you visited and the location of their gambling business. You may as well list the people who were with you.

Do State and Local Taxes Apply Separately?

Yes, you are required to pay your state or local taxes on your gambling winnings. In case you travel to another state, and snag some huge winning combo there, that other state would want to tax your winnings too. But don’t worry, you won't be taxed twice, as the state where you reside needs to give you a tax credit for the taxes you pay to that other state.
Keep in mind though that some states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Ohio don't allow gambling losses.

Online Slot Taxes

Whether you usually spin the reels of your favourite casino games in land-based casinos in the US, overseas casinos, or online casinos, all income for the citizens of the US is taxable. As a US citizen, you are required to send Form W2G for all winnings from a slot machine (not reduced by the wager) that equals to or is more than $1,200.

Taxes on Slot Machine Winnings in UK

As a resident of the United Kingdom, your gambling winnings won’t be taxed. Unlike the USA mentioned above, you’ll be allowed to keep whatever it is that you have won and earned in Britain, even in case you are a poker pro. Then again, you won’t be able to deduct any losses you might collect.
It doesn’t really matter if you win £5 or £5 million playing online slots, your winnings will be tax-free as long as you reside anywhere in the UK, be that in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland.

Taxes on Slot Machine Winnings in Canada

If you are a recreational player who lives in Canada, we have good news for you. When it comes to gambling, you don't have to pay taxes as your winnings are totally tax free. According to laws in Canada, gambling activities don’t fall under the category of constant source of income, therefore your winnings will not be taxed.
Canadians don't even pay taxes on their lottery winnings. The only exception here are professional gamblers who make a living from betting and are, therefore, obliged to pay taxes. Keep in mind though, this is the current situation - laws in Canada change frequently, which may also include tax laws.

Taxes on Slot Machine Winnings in Australia

In case you reside in Australia and like to visit casinos from time to time, you’ll be happy to find out that your winnings in Australia will not taxed and here are 3 core reasons for that:
Of course, taxation varies from state to state.

Taxes on Slot Machine Winnings in New Zealand

Unlike in Australia, where even professional players can claim they are recreational, in New Zealand slot machine winnings (and any other winnings from casino games) are considered taxable income, in case the player has little income from other resources.
But, apart from professional gambling, it is very unusual for winnings to be taxed in New Zealand. Most often, gambling is considered recreational and not income, so players can enjoy their gameplay as they do not have to pay taxes on their winnings.
submitted by askgamblers-official to onlinegambling [link] [comments]

Best Cities for a 1/3 - 2/5 NL cash game grinder (redux)

Piggybacking off of this thread : https://www.reddit.com/pokecomments/323yek/best_cities_for_a_25_510_nl_grinde which had a ton of great information.
I am currently in NOLA playing poker at Harrahs, but they only have 1/3 and the games are 5-handed. They are seemingly the only major city still in phase 2 of Covid although that may change in a few days. The games are juicy here I guess although i don't have much to compare them to as I've been dormant for the past few years. I have earned >$30/hour playing 1/3 so far in about 50 hours here though and I believe I have been receiving below-average holdings pre-flop overall so there might be some more run-good in the near future.
My schedule is open and I'd like to grind poker for a month or two. I was in Scottsdale a few weeks ago and Talking Stick was fantastic, but the accomodations close to the casino are a tad too expensive for my liking and now I'm out further east. I was in Texas for a few weeks looking at houses but I didn't play. I like to be able to live <1mi from the casino for $1k/mo rent or less or a vicinity with cheap real estate.
FWIW There's a nice hostel here in NOLA down St. Charles that has bunks for ~$30/ni and theres usually only one other person in my 4 bunk-room, although 3 nights out of 9 I was alone in my room - which was obviously great. Regrettably they only allow 2-week per year maximum stay so I need to look elsewhere.
I may want to move up to $2/5 but I don't really know where the juiciest games are in a relatively inexpensive city. BravoPoker wasn't updating as much afaik due to covid etc, Harrahs NOLA was shown as closed on there last I checked even though they've been running for weeks/months.
Would love to hear how the $2/5 games are anywhere in the SE USA or anywhere else.
submitted by Riot_is_Dogshit to poker [link] [comments]

Coastguard #9 - Those Whose Sins Mark Their Bodies

DCNext Proudly Presents…!

COASTGUARD

Issue #9: Those Whose Sins Mark Their Bodies

Written by Fortanono
Edited by dwright5252, AdamantAce
<< Previous | Next >>
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
Meet-and-greets were always Marc Silvera’s favorite part of the day. Back in his youth, he loved the thrill of heroism, the adrenaline that came with fighting against dangerous people and bringing them to justice. Now, it was much less about adrenaline as it was before; he got his enjoyment from knowing that he made others’ lives just a little bit safer, helping them sleep more easily. Luckily, Josiah Power’s booths in the Polynesia Resort’s cafeteria boiled that right down to a science.
Dan and Courtney would always get the most fans, considering that they ran their own media platforms at one point; Helga and Curtis would occasionally hang around his booth for the fans. Ray and Thunder each had their own devoted lines, with their fans from Tulsa and Metropolis often making pilgrimages to New Coast to visit them. The ceremonially empty booth to the left of Marc was there for Vibe, who had attracted a lot of people placing down flowers and mementos, paying their respects. It was still hard for Marc to believe that he was really gone.
Marc’s was always the shortest line. He knew why; for a long time, the second Commander Steel was a small-town urban legend whose existence was unconfirmed. The name was also associated with a military group that many disapproved of or outright loathed, Marc himself chief among them after all these years, who was a willing participant in it. Finally, there was the third reason: Commander Steel was not a welcoming figure to most. His helmet kept out any sign that he was even a human, which was no longer a valid assumption for superheroes. In a lot of ways, he understood why children would even be scared of him. He liked to pretend that this didn’t bother him, but he knew deep down that it did, just a little.
Even still, he did have several people who came over to meet him. A tall woman with red hair and excessive amounts of makeup walked up to him, her young son in tow. He couldn’t have been more than seven years old, Marc thought. He sat down on a wooden chair nearby and smiled behind his mask.
“Hello there,” Marc chuckled. “What’s your name, young man?”
“Collin,” he smiled, hiding his face in his hands, his dirty mop of red hair covering his eyes.
Marc laughed heartily, almost as if he were a mall Santa. He felt like the kids needed to know that he wasn’t as scary as he seemed behind the mask, and laughing was the best way of doing that. Collin couldn’t see how wide he was smiling behind the visage, the tear of joy running down one of his eyes. “Now Collin, why don’t you sit on my lap and we can take a picture together?”
“Yeah!” Collin said. “I love you, Commander Steel. I want to be a superhero like you when I grow up.”
“Oh, is that so?” Marc said joyfully, smiling as Collin climbed up into his lap. He hid a grimace; as much as he enjoyed the job, seeing someone so young determined to be someone who put their life on the line was very off-putting to him. The camera flashed, taking a picture of Collin with his hero, and Marc just let the moment rush over him.
“Remember to enjoy your stay at New Coast Polynesia Resort!” he called out behind them as they left the line. He always felt weird saying that, but Josiah told them to, and it wasn’t like he didn’t want them to have a fun vacation.
The next person moved forward in the line, a teenage boy wearing a camo button-down shirt. “Hey, Commander Steel,” he said gleefully. “You’re so awesome. It’s so cool that I get to meet you.”
Marc went through the rounds, but he wasn’t focused on the boy anymore. Instead, Marc stared transfixed as the next woman in line, a middle-aged Black woman with a short bob of shoulder-length grey hair, wearing a black dress with grey and blue accents. His stomach dropped as he finished up with the kid in camo, turning to the woman in front of him.
“Jenna,” he said, coming out as little more than a breath. He stood up from his chair. “Why are you here?”
“Trust me,” she said with her lips pursed. “I didn’t want to come just as much as you probably don’t want to see me. Something came up.”
Marc stared at her, not saying anything.
“Richards’ sentence is up,” Jenna muttered coldly. “I was hoping he’d changed, but he’s on a bus straight to New Coast. I just wanted to warn you and your team, knowing what he’s capable of.”
“Yes, of course,” Marc said as his former wife left the line. He turned to her and called out as she walked away. “Hey, hey, you have a fantastic rest of your life, whatever you’re doing.” She didn’t respond.
Marc turned to the next guest, his mind not fully there. As his experience with Jenna faded from his mind, he realized that something much worse was about to happen, and he had to warn the team about it.
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
“Okay,” Curtis said, his back against the wall of Room 103. The members of Coastguard were gathered in their costumes, having come back from the meet-and-greet minutes earlier. “A quick recap on the Phosphorus situation for Courtney: We’ve been able to take out some street-level guys who were peddling narcotics, but none of them claimed they had ever seen the man’s face. He apparently keeps very little company; only those he trusts ever see who he truly is.”
“By the way,” Anissa said, “Congrats to Courtney for the awesome work she’s done in Opal City! We’re starting to see headlines roll in, and it’s very impressive.” Immediately, everyone in the room around them began to clap and cheer, turning to Courtney who was sitting in her new red-and-green costume.
Courtney looked between her teammates and smiled. “Thanks guys,” she said. “It means a lot.” She turned to Curtis, her expression turning more serious. “Anything on ThirteenthFloor? That seemed like a really big deal when I left, but no mention of it so far.”
Curtis nodded. “Yeah, yeah, that’s a thing. Helga and I are working on reverse-engineering the tech in the buildings, but no results yet. Anyone else have pressing concerns?”
Helga raised her hand. “As you may recall,” she began, “Acrata managed to escape from New Coast after arrest. I recently received word that she may be returning to the city, planning something big. If you spot her, do not be light when apprehending her, and bring her to me as soon as you can.”
“Dammit,” Dan said. “I was hoping I’d never have to see her again. That fight kept me sore for days. We’ll be on the lookout if she returns.”
“Anything else?” Curtis asked.
Marc removed his mask and raised his hand slowly. “Yes,” he said meekly. “Unfortunately, there’s… someone else has shown up here. An old enemy. Curtis, bring up records for Mark Richards, also known as the Tattooed Man.”
Curtis turned to a nearby monitor and began searching the web. He pulled out a mugshot of a tall, bald man with a tattoo of a dragon coiled around the top of his head. On the side of one of his cheeks was another tattoo, a small piece that resembled a rose with a thorny stem. “This your guy?”
“Yes,” Marc said. He stood up and took a deep breath, addressing his teammates. “A long time ago, I lived in a small town in Maryland called Liberty Hill. Standard small-town fare; most of the criminals were just normal people who had a bad run. This man was different. He showed up, and within months he had killed any gang members who didn’t work for him. With every man he murdered, he got a new tattoo, and these weren’t ordinary tattoos. They gave him powers, and every time I fought him he had a new trick up his sleeve.”
He sighed and paused before continuing. “I became obsessed with him. It was unhealthy, and it cost me my marriage. Finally, 15 years ago, I caught him. He served his time, and now it seems like he’s come back for revenge. I'd like to humbly request your help in finding him and making sure he doesn't cause further harm. Mark Richards is incredibly dangerous, and we need to treat any encounter we have with him with utmost caution. He will kill us if we don’t.”
The room fell silent for a few seconds before Curtis broke the silence. “Okay,” he said. “The Tattooed Man, Public Enemy Number One. Don’t worry, Marc; we will make sure that we stop him before he can hurt us.”
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
Mark Richards knocked on the door of a townhouse in what looked like any other upscale neighborhood. This development was designed by one of Josiah Power’s friends, he had remembered, but it had never seen use as the designer’s company went down for fraud several months ago. Even though it looked like an ordinary housing development, a far cry from the tourist trap in New Coast’s city center, it was also the home of many of New Coast’s more sinister elements. With the development never having been in use, it was the perfect place for shadowy figures to hide in such a bright city.
The skull on Mark’s forearm sensed some sort of danger. Mark willed it to be quiet as a young woman, tall and lanky with blonde hair and blue accents, opened the door. She seemed to have a lot of tattoos herself. “Wow,” she said, staring at him up and down. “I’m going to need the name of your inker. That is some good art.”
“I’ve had a lot of inkers,” Mark chuckled. “My first tattoo was from a slave-driver in Moldora. The second one was from a serial killer. I tend to get them from the worst of the worst, and it pays off.”
“Ooh, nice,” she said. “I take it you’re here to see the big man? I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you. You should hope so, at least.”
Mark nodded. “I believe we already had an appointment scheduled.”
“You are correct,” she laughed. “He's been talking about you all day.”
Mark walked into the house and down the corridor to a room at the end. If an ordinary homeowner lived here, the room he entered would probably be furnished as a dining room, possibly as a playroom for their children. However, the New Coast crime lord that lived here had turned the room into a sort of makeshift casino; slot machines padded the sides of the walls while a poker table served as the room’s centerpiece.
In the far corner were two couches, on one of which sat the man Mark presumed to be Phosphorus. He looked young and arrogant at first glance, reminding Mark of a cocky kid who thought he could run a business back in Liberty Hill, but who would always fall to Mark in the end. The heart tattoo on the left side of Mark’s chest came from him; his sins were driven by his heart rather than his brain, and that’s why Mark had defeated him. It was a fitting tattoo to remember him by. The major difference between Phosphorus and that kid was abundantly clear, though. Phosphorus wore an unbuttoned white jacket with no shirt; across his chest and extending down his left arm, his skin glowed a brilliant red-orange. Underneath the glow, Mark could see his ribcage, lit up by the man’s special ability.
“Heh, on time I see,” Phosphorus chuckled. “I knew I could count on you.”
Mark took a seat on the couch across from the crime lord. “Of course,” he said. “This business is always about impressions, and I’ve come to know that that means dependability as well as fear. Meet your opponents first, before you destroy them. And I believe that in a couple of months, I may have to destroy you.
“So it’s true then,” Phosphorus said. “You’re gonna hang around a while? That’s unfortunate. Oh well.”
“Nice to meet you. I’d shake your hand, but I’ve been told that’s not really a good idea.” Mark stretched out on the couch, throwing his arms behind his back. “So you’re the Phosphorus, huh? I expected someone a little older to have been behind the work you’ve done. It’s impressive.”
“Call me Alec,” Phosphorus said. He paused for a second. “I’m old enough. Besides, I’ve got a damn good reason why I’m doing this. Pardon the wordplay, but it’s a fire in my heart, so to speak, y’know? A drive.”
Before Mark could respond, Alec’s breathing started tensing up. He turned his head to the doorway of the room. “Melanie! Food!” he shouted. The blonde woman from before quickly came over with a man in a suit, tied up and restrained. She dropped him at Alec’s feet before leaving, not saying a single word.
The man’s expression turned frantic. “No, wait, please. Do anything. Ta--take my kids, instead. My wife. I can help you!” He was quickly shut up by Alec’s searing-hot left hand on his mouth, as the man quickly vaporized into thin air. Only a skeleton remained of where he was once standing.
“Wow,” Mark said, shaking his head. “That is impressive, I have to say. Not exactly a good dude there, either. Guess you know how to pick ‘em.”
“Yeah,” Alec laughed. “I only eat the rich types, people who have no spine or soul. That, and people who disappoint me, of course.” Alec paused for a second. “You know, I never wanted to be a criminal. I started this because I had to; if I don’t feed, I’ll die, and feeding ain’t exactly something you want to do in the open. But now? I’d say it feels pretty good. Not perfect, y’know? But it’s getting there.”
Mark nodded. “I get it, I really do. You know, you and I have the same power, so to speak.”
Alec gave him a confused look.
Mark cleared his throat. “I was on deployment in Moldora several years ago. I was a young soldier, about your age, and I had just killed a few men for the first time. Every day, their voices screamed in my head. So we were taking down this horrible waste of a human being; he had enslaved thousands of men, women and children to work for the worst kind of people. And the night before the raid, I asked him how he did it. That man showed me the art of sin-grafting; for every sin he committed, he added just a bit more ink to his body. He kept the memories of those he killed in the tattoos. Well, I thought it was bullshit, but then he tattooed this dragon onto me.” He pointed at his first and favorite tattoo, the dragon that coiled around his bald head.
“From that day on, whenever I kill someone, I tattoo myself with something to remind me of them. And I always use this special ink, which gives the tattoo life. Power. Doesn’t make it right, but it makes it damn near worth it. Now you, you have to kill people to live. I dunno how you got into that predicament, but you realized the same thing I did. If you get power from your sins, then it’s more than worth committing them, don’tcha think?”
Alec’s expression soured. “I think you’re fucking wrong about me,” he said. He stood up, towering over Mark. The skull on his shoulder sensed that he was in an incredible amount of danger. Mark said nothing; he wanted to see where this would go.
“I’m not a monster,” Alec huffed. “I was a good kid who wanted to do the right thing, and this bitch made me into who I am now. And my father just lets her stay by his side. He doesn’t notice shit. He doesn’t realize who that woman is. And so I’m here to fucking destroy the city he’s created, to burn it down to the bedrock on which it stands.”
Mark raised an eyebrow. “Your father is Josiah Power? I see it. I think you’ll realize you’re a lot more like him than you imagine.”
Alec lunged at Mark, nearly putting a hand on him. Acting quickly, Mark summoned the dragon from the tattoo on his head. Immediately, the ink turned into a violet energy construct of a serpent, lunging forward at Alec and releasing a sonic blast. Alec flew across the room, landing among the slot machines on the other wall.
“See, you’ve got this terrifying power,” Mark chided. “But I got so many years on you it’s hard to imagine. That, Alec, is why I will take this city.”
Alec writhed in pain as Mark stood over him and left. This was not the pain he felt when he hadn’t fed in a while, nor was it the pain he felt from Mark knocking him into the wall. No, this was omnipresent, coating every nerve of his body like it did when he was hungry, but ten times stronger. He cried out, bringing himself to his feet and stumbling out the door of the room. He had someone he needed to see.
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
“Help,” Alec gulped, grabbing Helga’s wrist in the hallway of the New Coast Polynesia Resort. He was wearing gloves, of course; he couldn’t let anyone else know about his abilities. Nearly collapsing, Alec straightened himself using Helga’s body as a support.
“Alec,” Helga said, faking a smile. “You know, you are the last person I expected to see today. I have to say, I am very impressed with what you’ve managed to accomplish with your abilities. Seems like they’re treating you better than I had expected.” She paused for a second, looking around for bystanders. There were none. “Come into Room 104 with me, and we can talk. I don’t want to have to do to any others what I did to you.”
The two of them walked further down the hall, entering Helga’s personal lab as Helga closed the door behind him. It was just as pristine, Alec thought, as the one Helga had imprisoned him in, although it was considerably smaller. Alec had only seen the inside of this lab from the small glimpse he had gotten when he had asked Helga to help save the day. The worst mistake of his life, Alec thought. He cared about his father for one moment, wanted to help save his life, and it cost him gravely.
“I take it you have questions about your newfound powers?” Helga turned to the door and latched it shut. “Don’t worry; I’ve soundproofed the room much better since our last encounter. I could yell at the top of my lungs that you were Phosphorus, and Curtis in the next room wouldn’t do so much as to look up from his computer.”
Alec nodded. “You said that this power would kill me. Everything’s starting to hurt like a bitch; I fed on my way here and it didn’t help. I need answers.”
“Well,” Helga said, “I wish I could give you all the answers you need. Primer is a very imprecise science, and it reacts differently for every person that it works on. That being said, none of the powers triggered by your specific primer have killed anyone in less than 6 months. Trust me when I say I’ve done extensive research on this one.”
Alec winced. He imagined Helga Jace, the kind hearted TV personality dedicated to treating people with metahuman conditions, giving hundreds of people the same treatment he had. It made so little sense, but with what he had seen of Helga in the past few months, it still fit perfectly.
Helga continued as Alec sat himself down on a nearby hospital bed draped in thin paper. “That being said, any sort of pain you might experience is par for the course, and none of it is a sign of your impending death. Most of it will make you want to die, but you’ll be fine for several more months at least. Now, unfortunately, I still have work to do that my team can’t know about, so curing you would not benefit me. But so far, you’ve been exemplary in your discretion about these matters. Not to mention the immense distraction you’re providing for them; they barely have time to think about anything I’m doing.”
Alec nodded. He resisted attacking Helga outright, as he knew she was his only chance at salvation. That did not mean that he wasn’t ready to do so. Instead, he looked her in the eyes and weakly spoke. “Will this new pain go away?”
“Hard to tell. I could help run some tests, but as hard as it may seem to imagine, I don’t know everything about every power that comes my way. Most likely, though, there will be high points and low points, as there are with every disease. I can tell from your demeanor, for example, that you’re feeling significantly less pain than when you literally grabbed me, even if it doesn’t feel that way. By the way, don’t scare an old lady like that, especially with your specific ability.” Helga chuckled wildly. Alec felt sick to his stomach, even though these past few months had hardened him. This, he thought, was what true monsters looked like.
“Fine,” Alec said, standing up. “You know what? I don’t need any more help. I got money, I got power, I got ladies, and it’s all because of your experiment. When the power does start to kill me, I’ll be here. But until then, I’m not coming through this door again.”
Alec left Room 104 and began to leave the hotel. Helga was right; as he got up, the pain had begun to fade. After a few seconds, it had all but disappeared for the time being. He got to the lobby, where he immediately noticed a new complication. Josiah Power, his father, was standing over the desk, talking to the receptionist. Before he could turn the other way, he saw Alec standing there. He fell silent, his gaze softening.
“Alec,” he muttered, coming closer. “I thought… I thought you left the city.”
The rage that Alec felt that first night in the hotel began to bubble up again, but he kept it down. “Hey, Dad. Yeah, I was gone for a while, but I’m… I couldn’t leave.” He paused, considering his next words carefully. “I think I’m ready to talk to you again.”
“That’s fantastic,” Josiah smiled. “Take your time; you don’t owe me anything. But if you want, maybe we could get dinner sometime?”
Alec nodded. “I think I’d like that.” It was a lie, he told himself; he had to come up with something on the spot. But it worked in his favor; if he had a relationship with his father again, the betrayal would be much sweeter when he got to that point. He couldn’t wait to see Josiah’s face as he realized who he truly was. But that had to wait.
As he left the lobby, he smiled. The pain may come back, but those who deserved it would also feel his pain in due time.
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
”Alright,” Curtis said through his microphone. ”We’ve spotted the Tattooed Man in Kim’s area. Anyone currently in the field, converge on 44th Street and H. We need to take him down sooner than later.”
“Got it,” Ray said, hovering high above Josiah’s central shopping district in New Coast before taking off due west. Below him, Thunder, Blue Devil and Commander Steel patrolled the streets; each of them began to make their way to the location in question through a series of Dan’s portals. As he arrived on location, Ray began to take in the sites around him.
The area of the city that one of Josiah’s associates, Terrence Kim, developed felt much more like a normal city than a theme park. That said, it still felt like a theme park, if only because of how sleek and untouched the buildings were. Towering white-and-blue skyscrapers surrounded the wide streets of this area, with tropical foliage in planter boxes along the sidewalks. Palm trees dotted the curbsides, which featured parking spaces where the cars would face the curb. What took Ray by surprise the most, however, was how empty this part was. Not all of Kim’s territory was available to the public yet; only the bare minimum was completed.
Ray landed on the street as Dan, Anissa and Marc portalled in behind him. Several blocks ahead of them, the Tattooed Man was smoking a cigar. He quickly noticed them and put it out before turning to them.
The Tattooed Man let out a hearty chuckle as he took a few steps forward. “Well, well, well. You finally found me. Hey Marc, how’s the missus doing? You know, I could tell that she was stalking me when I got out. I served my time, why do I need to get harassed for what I’ve already done?”
“Seems like it was well worth it,” Commander Steel said. “Considering where you ended up, Mark, you can’t take the high ground here..”
“This small talk was never my favorite part. Let’s get this over with.” Two violet wings of energy sprouted from the Tattooed Man’s back, allowing him to tower over the other heroes. Ray immediately met him in the sky. From a sword tattoo on his left arm, he summoned a blade of energy that he immediately gripped with both hands before charging at Ray.
Ray dodged the Tattooed Man’s first attack, responding with a barrage of light blasts. From the ground, Commander Steel fired his own bolts of energy from the wrist-cannons Helga had designed for him. The sword dissolved and was replaced by a shield that grew from a small tattoo on the back of the criminal’s left hand. For several seconds, the Tattooed Man sustained the heroes’ continuous fire, but it was interrupted when the Blue Devil portalled onto the shield and began punching at it over and over again. The Tattooed Man dissolved the shield and dived out of the way, flying higher to avoid further attacks. Ray chased after him and Dan portalled himself back onto the ground.
“Now this, this is fun,” the villain chuckled to himself. “Marc, why couldn’t you learn to fly, or build some glider or something? Sky battles are awesome!” The dragon on the top of the Tattooed Man’s head came loose, chasing after Ray. He fired out a concentrated beam of light while flying away, but the dragon kept going. Before he could stop it, the dragon screamed, letting loose a powerful high-pitched sound, and Ray fell to the floor.
The Tattooed Man landed on the ground, his wings dissolving as he stood over the fallen hero. “Now this will be a fun one to ink. I wonder, how should I remember you by? I’d do a lightbulb, but I don’t think you’re that bright to begin with.”
A bolt of energy from Marc’s cannon stopped the villain from finishing Ray off, hitting his right shoulder and making him turn to the other heroes. Thunder leapt up onto the side of a nearby high-rise, tackling the criminal from behind as he was distracted. She began to force a pair of handcuffs onto him, but the Tattooed Man quickly summoned his wings again, knocking Thunder down as he turned to the skies.
The lightning tattoo on the villain’s right arm began to let out a violet glow. From the skies, he fired powerful beams of lightning. The first hit Anissa, knocking her down; the second and third were fired at Commander Steel. A metal shield expanded from the hero’s own right arm, protecting him. As the Tattooed Man flew down, a portal from the Blue Devil intercepted him and brought him face-to-face with the two heroes left standing.
The Tattooed Man readied another bolt, knocking Dan clean out. “Now,” he chided, “it’s just the two of us. Like old times, isn’t it?” He resummoned the sword and began exchanging blows with the soldier. Commander Steel quickly discharged another energy blast, which knocked the Tattooed Man a few steps backwards as he began to charge up another lightning bolt.
He stopped. The skull tattoo on his shoulder began to sense another presence nearby.
From above, another hero flew down, clad in a pristine silver costume with glowing accents. In the center was the letter “T” in a circle, clearly the symbol of the hero Mister Terrific. He glided on what looked like two green glowing disks that appeared to be made of pure energy. He looked down at some sort of holographic console emanating from his wrist. The Tattooed Man quickly recognized that this must be the Blue Devil’s associate, the one who once worked for Mister Terrific. The villain was used to recognizing Commander Steel’s body language, even behind that mask of his, and he knew that his enemy was just as surprised as he was.
The new hero’s drones quickly surrounded the Tattooed Man, opening fire with green laser-blasts all around him. The Tattooed Man couldn’t take it, and quickly fell unconscious himself.
”Hey,” Curtis said as he flew down. ”I noticed you needed help.”
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
“So, wait,” Ray began to say as the heroes converged in Room 103. Helga had just finished performing medical care on the three members of Coastguard who were knocked out during the battle, and they were now calling a meeting to discuss what had happened. “You’re--you’re a hero now? When?”
Curtis nodded. “Not always; I’ll be on comms for a lot of the time. But when you guys need it, Helga and I developed this suit. I’ll be calling myself the Technocrat.”
“Cool,” Ray said. He poked at the Technocrat suit, which was standing up in the corner of the room, connected to a charger.
“I’d have to disagree,” Anissa said. “Curtis, you’re incredibly important to us. We can’t risk something happening to you.”
Curtis nodded. “Well, unfortunately, it’s not really your choice. I’ll make extra sure to choose my battles; don’t worry. But it’s important to me that you are all safe. The Tattooed Man would’ve killed all of you if I hadn’t come out there. And with Courtney in Opal half the time and Cisco… you know… we need more hands on deck.”
“He would’ve killed you, too, if he had known you were coming,” Anissa remarked. “And now, everyone who comes to New Coast will know about you. Nothing’s changed; you just had the element of surprise this time.”
Dan, who was sitting in the corner, finally spoke up. “Look,” he said. “I get why you’re worried, Anissa, I really do. I’m worried, too; like, really terrified outta my mind that my friend’s gonna get hurt doing this. But if there’s someone who can pull off this stuff, it’s Curtis. I wouldn’t try and stop him, either; he’s a very stubborn man.”
“Alright,” Anissa huffed. “But I’m not gonna like it.”
“The only question,” Marc laughed, “is what flavor of ice cream he’s gonna be. I can’t think of any grey ice-creams.”
“That’s for Josiah to figure out,” Curtis smiled. “If I had to pick? Probably mint chocolate-chip. All of your weird fruit flavors are upsetting to the palate.”
Everyone laughed around them, except for Anissa. It still didn’t feel right for Curtis to be going out there, and she knew that feeling wouldn’t change. But they were right; she had to deal with it.
≈≈≈≈≈ 🔱 ≈≈≈≈≈
Mark Richards woke up. His surroundings didn’t feel familiar, but they clearly weren’t any sort of prison. The building he found himself in was some sort of makeshift cabin made of wood. He was tied to a wooden chair on a grass floor. He looked at the ceiling; above him, the panels of wood were ornately painted in patterns of green and silver.
“Where am I?” he asked, dazed.
A man walked over to him in a red-and-brown robe. Draped over him was a green cape decorated with one glowing red gemstone on it. The first thing Mark noticed about his face was his two piercing green eyes, which seemed to see into his soul.
“Greetings, Mark,” the man said. “I know you have many questions, but trust me when I say I am not an enemy.”
Mark chuckled dryly. “When I’m tied to a chair like this, that’s usually hard to imagine.”
“We both know that those bindings would not hold you if you did not want them to,” the man said in a monotone voice. “We simply had to restrain you, as you tended to flail around when unconscious.” He walked over to Mark and untied the knots that kept him tied to the chair. “My name is Samuel, and we have the same goals: to destroy Coastguard and to rule New Coast City. I am gathering people close to the Coastguard, people with vendettas against their members. You fit these criteria easily; another one of these people has already been clamoring to meet you.”
A tall, thin man with pale skin and dark hair walked over to him. He wore a suit and tie that had clearly been hastily put on. Mark stood up and shook his hand.
“Hi,” he smiled, speaking in a nasal voice. “Michael Clarion, occultist extraordinaire. Pleased to meet you. I also just got out of prison. Now, I have a lot of questions about your tattoos. They are mystical in origin, correct? I’m very interested to discuss the finer points of this with you.”
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