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[A Lord of Death] - Chapter 48

2023.05.30 05:48 The_Alloquist [A Lord of Death] - Chapter 48

[←Chapter 47] [Cover Art] [My Links] [Index] [Discord] [Subreddit] [Chapter 49→]
The blade forging left Sorore exhausted, the failure left her frustrated, and the cold gave way to fear as the night drew closer. As day faded into dusk, she reflected on a morning that had been as full of ups and downs as the mountain paths they’d travelled. The very fact that she had been able to use magic, that it had crashed from the realm of fairy tales and church warnings into the very real everyday occurrence was already an earth shattering experience.
Then she’d moved water with a thought, seen monsters fall from the sky, and watched the paladins cleaving them in two. Her head spun with the strangeness of it all, the sheer onset of fanciful things blurring and mixing together with reality. She began to wonder what else might be true, of the fairy tales in the myth she had heard on the seas in her father’s ship. Of the old folk stories of Erratz, often dismissed as nothing more than old wive’s tales.
A new world had opened up before her, and she wasn't sure to be fascinated or terrified of it. Certainly the paladins didn't want any part of it, and they certainly didn't want her to be involved. And from everything she knew of the church scripture, they were absolutely right. She felt the danger, the power of the matter, and knew that it was only a small fraction of what it could do. She even felt a certain degree of fear towards the masked man in the black robes, as respectful as he had been as a tutor.
At least he didn't use a switch to reminder of when she had failed.
But even in the murk of her disquiet in that moment, she also felt a smouldering frustration underlying it. The knife had been hers, her project, her duty, and she had resolutely failed to craft it. Part of her shifted the blame elsewhere - it was a new technique she had picked up over the course of an afternoon. Efrain himself had said as much, even going as far to say that he hadn’t expected her to do it.
Now that was something she didn’t like at all. When people expected her to fail, despite all her efforts.
However, that resolution meant little now, given that she had been excused from the effort. At least now the mage had the basic shape to work on. She let her hand drift on the rough stone walls of the church. Thousands of individual perfections, many thousands of years old, the stone functioning despite it. Perhaps it would be enough, the basic, overall function, but she recalled all the pittances and channels carved in her vision of the knife.
She knew what was driving the doubt. It was curiosity, that sticking bug that clung to her, despite all her prayers to the contrary. She just couldn’t seem to shake it, despite the ‘assistance’ of church teachers when it reared its head particularly high. She had expected the snap across the palms from Efrain when he drew that piece of wood. It had been a relief when he’d tossed it over his shoulder.
The thought was an unworthy one, she immediately considered. She should’ve been grateful to the various priests and scholars who’d spent years teaching the twins. Some had even prepared their entire lives, just on the chance they’d meet the beloved Bequeathed. If they were strict, then so be it, it was for the sake of preparing her and Frare for their duties.
The church was once more a buzz of activity as people prepared for the night ahead. She and Lillian found their way to the altar, attracting only minor glances. The villagers clearly had gotten used to their presence, although some offered a respectful and perhaps wary gaze for Lillian. One of Frare’s eyes opened as they approached, but he quickly returned to his half-rest leaning on a pillar. Aya was still very much asleep, chest gently rising and falling under the furs where Sorore had left her.
Sorore sat on the wide steps, put her chins on her hands, and began to think. It was a rather dangerous proposition, considering her recent failure. She had a tendency to ruminate on them, and often her twin would find her staring plaintively before loudly disrupting it. This time was no different, as before anything but impotent frustration could boil over, he plopped down behind her back.
“Stop that,” he said, “I can hear your teeth beginning to grind.”
She leaned back to lie upon his lap, despite the admonishment she heard in her head about proper sitting position. His eyes were closed again, and she followed suit, letting the minutes wile away as night crept into the word. She was shaken out of this reverie by a loud pop and Aya’s yelp. The girl was both mid yawn and bright red as both the paladins and the twins turned to look at her. She insisted that she was fine, and took to straightening her clothes subconsciously.
It was a mere temporary distraction for Sorore, who was largely engrossed in considering the knife. Rather than merely wallowing in her problems, she was invested in its function. She could almost see the stone parting before her, revealing the source of that smothering cold behind the door. Maybe if she had tried one more time, maybe if she reduced the complexity of the form, then increased when she got the basic shape. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
It was all of very little use. She was inside her head once again, at a complete loss of what to do. Maybe, within the grand archives of Angorrah, the answer was contained in a dusty scroll. Some offhand fact or technique of forging, long forgotten in the darkness of the shelves. But these were several weeks of travel away, and she wasn’t sure that she’d see the next sunrise. So then, what could she do to get them to bridge that gap? Just one more day, that’s all they needed, to hold out until the next sunrise.
Nothing. That was the simple truth of it - she was a lost little girl in a small village surrounded by terrible things. The thought was not a comforting one, and she wriggled, trying to nestle deeper into the legs of her twin. Aya by that point had come to sit down beside them, looking greyer as the dark came on. No wonder, for she knew she all felt the chill roll forward as the fog waxed in the night.
Another meal of common fare came and went, though Sorore noted that many soldiers were taking care with it. Perhaps it was common practice, to relish what very well may be your last meal. For her part she found it rather difficult to keep it down, the coming dread of the hours ahead offsetting her appetite.
The faces of the paladins had settled into that implacable, stoney cast once more. They quietly rebandaged their injuries, readjusted their armour, and set to sharpening their great blades with long deliberate strokes. Sorore idly thought that their sleeping faces were significantly more pleasant, if rarer to see. Thus it was that they crossed over into the late afternoon, where the light was quickly fading.
“I would like to take one last little walk,” Aya spoke up, “before… you know.”
The paladins looked up, their eyes twisting with barely veiled misapprehension at the request.
“My lady…” Lillian began.
“We can’t,” Niche said, “Not now. Not so close to dark.”
“Just barely outside the door,” said Aya, “Just so I can see something other than the church. Just to stretch my legs.”
The paladins looked at each other, looked back, and set their faces.
“Well, I suppose it can be accommodated,” Lillian said, “only just outside the church, and only for a few minutes.”
Her tone warned of dire consequences if these conditions should not be strictly adhered to. The children all collectively nodded and the party of five set out past the doors. The barricades within the church had grown in size and strength, at least as far as Sorore could judge. The villagers, under the supervision of the soldiers, had proven diligent in the daylight hours. She could only hope that it would be enough for the onset of the creatures, should they breach the church.
She had a dread certainty that it would indeed be breached, sooner or later. Though she hadn’t heard of any specifics, whispers of just how many of the things lurked outside were passed around. It was a small stroke of fortune that the windows were narrow and ensconced in stone. The last thing they needed was one of the flying beasts to crash through the glass.
The faint red-pink cast to the grey outside was beginning to fade into blackness as the sun shrank. Occasionally, the banks of fog would strip away, revealing the abominable silhouettes standing still past the wall. They would close just as quickly, removing any clarity, and leaving only the icy fear in its place. The remaining soldiers and villagers watched them with anxiety and exhaustion.
The garden around the front of the church was almost non-existent. Most of the flowers had been trampled either in preparation for or during the course of the battle. The only things left relatively untouched were the central beds around the side of the church, which grew produce for its tenants. Some trees still stood, showing minimal damage from the fog and its creatures.
The five ducked under the boughs of the closest one to the doors. The additional chill brought by its shade was a trifling concern at the present. The green, muted as it was by the overcast sky beyond, was a lively anchor in the cold, dead mists. Such was the comfort of the place that Soroe let herself lean back onto the bark of the tree and eyes drift closed.
The trunk was solid, a comforting sensation that seemed to offset the malevolence of the fog.
Enough so that Sorore began to wander the netherworld of half-sounds and sights that characterised pre-sleep. They all wandered with her, some staying, some peeling off, guided by their own demented logic. Little and less was coherent, but it took her away from the horrible reality of what lurked a few hundred steps away all the same.
She fell deeper into this other-state, letting the visions wash over her as the real world slipped away. Time became a mercurial concept, which led her to question when exactly everything had settled. But settled it had, into a hazy blackness which the eye could not pierce. There, in the distance, a bright ribbon of twisting warm color glowed. A piece of fresh-forged metal perhaps, the day’s task going straight to her head. Or maybe it was the remnants of another dream that day, one that was already a blurry memory.
From a great distance, she heard a crash, unmistakable in its ringing clarity. A forge hammer singing out a song of its own, for now merely a rhythm. It shifted in tone as it rang out through the abyss once more, adding progression, then melody, all written in singing steel. Sorore’s fingers began to drum out the sequence on her thighs as she felt it reverberate through her. Then, with a sliding screech, she was left alone in the half-dream, with nothing but darkness remaining.
Still, the bright memory of the song remained, and in the darkness another voice took shape. It was a deep, rich, and handsome sound, that spoke of a confidence of such immensity that you were convinced its wielder could do anything. Sorore had never heard the likes of it before, either on the docks, or in cities, or on the open waves.
“Come now,” it said, “this little thing is giving you trouble?”
Sorore’s eyes slowly open, pulling her from the dreamscape back into the dreariness of the real. Aya had her knees pulled to her chest, leaning back into the trunk. The paladins, tired but alert, scanned the endlessly shifting banks of fog.
Sorore had a fleeting impression that the answers were just beyond the pale mists. Maybe something would come through, parting it like thin curtains, and impart the inspiration she needed. Or maybe a whole set of schematics will drop into my lap from the sky, she thought with dark irony.
The vision was quickly fading into the abyss of forgetfulness. Perhaps Aya had shared it once more with her, but she was in conversation with the paladins. Not wanting to interrupt, Sorore looked at her outstretched legs. Past them were a handful of leaves that had fallen despite the summer of the valley, with a couple long decomposed to nothing but their skeletons.
She reached out to grasp at the leaves, looking at the yellow-grey veins that raced across its surface. The large ones spread from the central stem and the hundreds of smaller capillaries that interconnected them. Holding up to the sky, she screwed her face, trying to discern the details of this piece of nature. After a few moments of tepid stillness, the clouds parted for just a moment, letting a ray of sunlight lance down to catch their hill in its beam.
For a second, the leaf seemed to glow, shimmering like metal catching glare.
And Sorore had her inspiration.
With that, she sprang to her feat so fast that one of the paladins almost jumped. Both looked around with questioning and slightly alarmed expressions. Sorore didn’t have much of an answer - in fact her mind was going so fast that she could hardly even articulate the solution that had been revealed to her.
“The- the- the-” she said, snapping her fingers, trying to put words to the idea, “I know what to do. I need to find him.”
“Find who? The mage?” asked Lillian.
The fiery certainty of the thought sent Sorore tramping out onto the grass, leading to calls from the paladins to slow down. She didn’t bother to wait for them, consumed by this need to find the mage, the knife, to try again.
The forge was more or less empty, save for the few labourers packing up the tools and ferrying them into the church proper. With a furious set of questions, she gleaned that he’d vacated the premises some time ago. The paladins called for her to stop as she doubled back, but she couldn’, not now.
The scenery seemed to blur as she rushed through the church doors, past the bustling barricades, and to the captain’s tables. A somewhat perturbed Damafelce told the young girl that Efrain had been seen entering the door at the end of the church. With that, Sorore broke out into a run, past the altar, through the door and down into the darkness of the Catacombs.
She stepped out onto the sand floor, the members of her party at her heels as she tried to seek out the path to the black wall. She stumbled more than once as she felt her way along in the darkness, fortunately with no skeletal interruptions this time. Down the stairs and into the long corridor she came, the smothering cold increasing as she pushed forward.
As she had surmised, Efrain was there, just about to start whatever process pried apart the stone. The tip of the blade was raised, pressed into the stone above his head. He turned at the approaching footsteps, cocking his head at the lack of isolation. Sorore didn’t even wait for him to say something, instead thrusting out her head for the crude metal knife.
“ I know- I can- I can do it now,” she said, breathless from the long run from the surface.
Delicately, Efrain removed the metal from the stone, and looked down at her. There seemed to be a questioning quality to the look, at least as far as she could read the emotionless mask. He looked at the cat, then back to the girl, and then to the rest of her party.
“How?” he said, “ If I let you undo this, we may not have enough time to recreate it before the attacks begin.”
“Leaves,” she said, putting a hand on the wall to steady herself as her lungs complained, “it- was the leaves.”
“The… leaves?” he said, “ All right. Stop, take a few breaths, and start from the beginning.”
And so she did, explaining how she sat under the bows of the trees, the half-awake dreaming, and the skeleton of the leaf.
“I got it. I was trying to build the whole thing out myself, all at once,” she said, stumbling over her words, “instead of letting nature do what it wants. The metal wants to come together - I don’t need to force it into its final shape. I just need to build a- a-”
She snapped her fingers at the air, trying to reach past this new blank as Efrain regarded the knife.
“You want to build a frame,” he said, “and let the metal fill in the rest of the empty space.”
After a moment’s hesitation, he turned over the knife, hilt first, to the girl.
“Well then,” he said, “let’s hope you know what you’re doing.”
She did, or at least she hoped she did this time. Within moments, the metal was flowing over her hands like a cold stream, but instead of trying to sculpt it, she began to spin filaments outwards. Like the skeleton of the leaf, little veins of metal stretched outwards, stopping abruptly, and folding back into themselves. If it had been hard before, it was now brutal, the smothering cold dragging at every attempt to shape the material.
Hands trembling, sweat beginning to bead on her forehead, she managed to split the metal into dark fingers. All she had to do was resist gravity and prevent it spilling over the imaginary bounds of the shape. From those dark fingers, snaking vines spread out and connected with each other. Slowly, slowly, branching and arcing, they filled in the skeleton she’d created and fused.
The final product wasn’t altogether too different from what they’d created during the afternoon. The shape, a heavy chisel tip, tapering out to twin furls like a plough, a longer tang. Sorore, half blind by stinging salt, didn’t fail to notice swirling furrows spreading across its surface. She had no idea how she’d managed to etch those designs, or perhaps the metal remembered, just as the stone did.
“Well,” said the mage at last, “suffice to say, I am impressed. Now, hold it up.”
She did so, despite the exhaustion of her arms, the tip wavering as his finger touched its point.
There was a rush of something, extending over the surface of the blade, stopping just short of her hand. It was like a coat of mail had been pulled taught, the links aligning at the same time, snapping together in a regular structure. From the tip of the chisel, down to the tang, the metal shuddered and settled. By the time it disappeared under her grip, it was rigid as any steel tool.
The mage gently took it from her, holding the blade up to that little flickering light above his head. Flicking it this way and that, he seemed to find whatever he was looking for, and pressed the tip to the wall. Sorore, despite her fatigue, was practically exploding with excitement. She’d done it, not only conquering the task, but she was about to see what was behind those dark walls.
Then, before he pressed the blade into the stone and drew it down, he paused.
“Paladins,” he said, voice quiet, “it would be best to take the children back into the church.”
Lillian frowned and put a hand onto her hilt as she stared at the door.
“What?” said Sorore, aghast, “ But I-”
“No buts,” said Efrain, “we don’t know what’s behind this door. It may be dangerous, it may not. But I strongly suspect it’s not something you would want to see. Very well done, little one, but this is something I should deal with on my own.”
The tone of academic authority was not an unfamiliar one to Sorore. But unlike in virtually all other occasions in her life, she attempted to object. Before she could speak more than a few words, Lillian took her by the shoulders, her mind apparently made up. All three of them were carted up the stairs as barely contained rage began to bubble up inside her.
“Do you think we should…?” said Niche, gesturing to the surrounding stone.
“No, not yet,” Lillian said, “putting aside everything else, we still might need him.”
Niche nodded and said no more.
They had made a steady pace, overtaking half the hallway as the scream of metal on stone echoed out. It was followed by a grating rumble as presumably the doors opened. If the temperature below the surface was cold when they came, the resulting drop was freezing. The mist that rose up behind them whispered things in long mournful sighs as the surroundings began to buzz with what must’ve been magic.
Then, from up the stairs there was a long, terrible wail.
[←Chapter 47] [Cover Art] [My Links] [Index] [Discord] [Subreddit] [Chapter 49→]
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2023.05.30 04:27 Acceptable-Friend-92 The most comprehensive Bollywood gossips and controversies post ever: The Scandals, Love Triangles, Casting Couch, Rumours and Gossips over the Years.

Peeling back the curtain to take an exhaustive look at the scandals, love triangles, and controversies that have rocked our favorite industry over the years. Let me know in comments which ones were you most moved by and which ones you hadn't heard before. Please feel free to add more context or new gossips that you know of, in the comments.
I. Epic Love Triangles
1. Salman Khan - Aishwarya Rai - Vivek Oberoi: This tale begins with Salman and Aishwarya's sparkling chemistry on the sets of "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" in 1999. Their real-life romance soon hit rocky grounds with allegations of Salman's abusive behavior. Enter Vivek Oberoi, who offered Aishwarya emotional support during this difficult time. This resulted in Salman allegedly making threatening calls to Vivek, leading to a heated press conference by Vivek, and a chilly relationship between the two actors ever since.
2. Hrithik Roshan - Sussanne Khan - Barbara Mori: The industry was left reeling when rumors of Hrithik Roshan's alleged affair with his "Kites" co-star Barbara Mori started making the rounds in 2010. This reportedly led to a temporary separation between Hrithik and his wife Sussanne Khan. The couple later reconciled, only to eventually divorce in 2014.
3. Raveena Tandon - Akshay Kumar - Shilpa Shetty: In the late 90s, Akshay Kumar was romantically involved with Raveena Tandon, only to reportedly two-time her with her friend Shilpa Shetty. This led to a feud between the two actresses, though they later buried the hatchet.
II. Feuds and Fallouts
1. Shah Rukh Khan - Salman Khan: Their brotherly love soured at Katrina Kaif's birthday party in 2008, where a heated argument turned their friendship into a rivalry. Their relations have since been turbulent, though they seem to be on better terms now.
2. Karan Johar - Kajol: This iconic friendship hit a roadblock over a film release clash between Kajol's husband Ajay Devgn's "Shivaay" and Karan's "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil." It took them years to mend their strained relationship.
3. Kangana Ranaut's Feuds: Her spats with industry veterans from Hrithik Roshan to Karan Johar have been public and often bitter, leading to an ongoing dialogue about insider-outsider dynamics in Bollywood.
III. Controversies That Shaped the Conversation
1. The Nepotism Debate: The conversation around nepotism in Bollywood took center stage after Kangana Ranaut called Karan Johar the "flagbearer of nepotism" on his talk show. This stirred a heated debate about privilege and opportunities in the industry.
2. The Sushant Singh Rajput Case: Sushant's untimely demise in 2020 led to conversations about mental health, the cutthroat nature of the industry, and sparked an ongoing investigation into his death.
3. Deepika Padukone’s "Cleavage Controversy": When TOI published an inappropriate article objectifying Deepika, it ignited a much-needed dialogue about the dignity and respect of women in the entertainment industry.
IV. The Casting Couch Phenomenon
1. Shakti Kapoor Sting Operation: In 2005, India TV carried out a sting operation on Shakti Kapoor, where he was caught on camera offering work to an undercover reporter in exchange for sexual favors. The incident exposed the seedy underbelly of the casting couch in Bollywood.
2. Tanushree Dutta - Nana Patekar Incident: In 2018, Tanushree Dutta accused Nana Patekar of sexual harassment during a 2008 film shoot, marking the advent of the #MeToo movement in Bollywood.
V. Turbulent Relationships and Breakups
1. Abhishek Bachchan - Karisma Kapoor Breakup: This engagement had the makings of a Bollywood fairy tale until it abruptly ended in 2003, amid various speculations, including family disagreements.
2. Amitabh Bachchan - Rekha Affair: This controversial affair in the 70s between Amitabh, who was married to Jaya Bhaduri, and Rekha, the sultry siren of Bollywood, is still discussed today. Their alleged love story ended after the shooting of 'Silsila', which ironically depicted a similar love triangle.
VI. Sensational Controversies
1. The Underworld Connection: From extortion threats to film financing, the connection between Bollywood and the underworld has been an open secret. The incident of producer Gulshan Kumar's assassination in 1997 sent shockwaves through the industry.
2. Sanjay Dutt's Arms Act Case: Sanjay Dutt's arrest in 1993, under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act for possessing illegal weapons, was a major controversy. His involvement strained his career and personal life significantly.
3. The Blackbuck Poaching Case: Salman Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Tabu, Neelam, and Sonali Bendre were accused of hunting blackbucks during the shooting of 'Hum Saath Saath Hain' in 1998. Salman Khan was sentenced to 5 years in prison in 2018 but is currently out on bail.
VII. Scandals that Made Headlines
1. Shahrukh Khan vs. Shirish Kunder: SRK allegedly slapped Farah Khan's husband Shirish Kunder at Sanjay Dutt's party in 2012 for his derogatory tweets.
2. The AIB Roast Case: The 2015 AIB Knockout featuring Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh, and Arjun Kapoor drew significant criticism and legal trouble for its explicit content, questioning the limits of freedom of expression.
3. Priyanka Chopra-Nirav Modi Controversy: Priyanka Chopra landed in controversy when she endorsed Nirav Modi's jewelry brand, which came under the scanner during the Punjab National Bank fraud case.
VIII. Unfortunate Tragedies and Mysteries
1. Parveen Babi's Mental Health: This yesteryear actress struggled with mental health issues, including schizophrenia. The glamour queen's tragic life ended in isolation, her body discovered in her apartment days after her death.
2. Jiah Khan Suicide Case: This case from 2013 shocked Bollywood when the young actress took her own life. Her then-boyfriend Sooraj Pancholi was charged with abetting her suicide, and the case is still ongoing.
3. Sushant Singh Rajput's Death: Sushant's death in June 2020 caused a national uproar and brought attention to mental health, nepotism, and drug use in Bollywood. The case is under investigation by various national agencies.
IX. Controversial Remarks and Public Outbursts
1. Salman Khan's "Raped Woman" Comment: Salman Khan faced public wrath for comparing his physical exhaustion during the filming of 'Sultan' to a "raped woman". His remark was widely criticized for being insensitive.
2. Kangana Ranaut's Confrontations: Kangana Ranaut has been at the center of several controversies, from her public feud with Hrithik Roshan to her claims of rampant nepotism in Bollywood, causing a storm in the industry.
3. Swara Bhaskar's "Vagina Monologue": Swara faced backlash for criticizing the portrayal of women in 'Padmaavat', especially her comment that she felt reduced to a "vagina" after watching the movie.
X. The Drug Controversy
The 2020 NCB investigation into drug use in Bollywood, which began following the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, has been a significant recent controversy. Several top actors, including Deepika Padukone and Shraddha Kapoor, were summoned by the agency.
XI. The Casting Couch Controversy
Casting couch allegations have been rampant in Bollywood, echoing the broader global issue faced by Hollywood in the form of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Many actors and actresses have reported facing such situations, adding a layer of disgrace to the industry's glamour.
1. Ranveer Singh: Even male actors like Ranveer Singh weren't immune to this ugly side of Bollywood. Singh has admitted that during his struggling days, he was approached with casting couch offers.
2. Ayushmann Khurrana: The versatile actor has also spoken out about casting couch experiences in his early career, highlighting that this isn't just an issue faced by actresses.
XII. The Age-Gap Issue
Bollywood has often faced criticism for casting significantly younger actresses opposite older actors, furthering the stereotype and raising questions about the representation of women.
1. Shahrukh Khan and Alia Bhatt in 'Dear Zindagi': Despite the film's critical acclaim, it was criticised for the glaring age difference between Shahrukh, who was 51 at the time, and Alia, who was 23.
2. Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani in 'Laxmii': This film also faced similar backlash due to the age gap between Akshay (53) and Kiara (28).
XIII. Wage Gap Controversy
Pay disparity between male and female actors has been a significant concern in Bollywood. This inequality reflects the systemic sexism within the industry.
1. Kareena Kapoor Khan: Kareena highlighted this issue, revealing that she was paid less than her male co-stars in several movies.
2. Priyanka Chopra: Priyanka also addressed this issue, stating that she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts for the same amount of work.
XIV. The MeToo Movement in Bollywood
The MeToo wave hit Bollywood in 2018, shaking the foundations of the industry. Several prominent names were called out for sexual misconduct.
1. Nana Patekar and Tanushree Dutta: Tanushree Dutta revived a decade-old case of alleged sexual harassment by Nana Patekar on a movie set. This case marked the beginning of the MeToo movement in Bollywood.
2. Vikas Bahl: The 'Queen' director was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee at Phantom Films, leading to his temporary removal from the 'Super 30' project.
3. Alok Nath: The veteran actor, known for his 'sanskaari' image on-screen, was accused of rape by writer-producer Vinta Nanda, sending shockwaves through the industry.
XV. The Trouble with Award Shows
Award shows in Bollywood have often been under scrutiny for their lack of transparency and allegations of bias. Several stars have boycotted these events, expressing their discontent.
1. Aamir Khan: Notoriously known for boycotting award shows, Aamir has stated that he doesn't believe in them as he finds them to be biased.
2. Akshay Kumar: Akshay too has expressed his mistrust in award shows, mentioning that he was once told he would win an award if he performed at the ceremony.
XVI. The Nepotism Debate
Nepotism in Bollywood came under severe criticism after the tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput. Accusations were rife that the industry's preferential treatment of star kids was a contributing factor.
1. Kangana Ranaut: Kangana sparked the nepotism debate on Karan Johar's talk show when she accused him of being the "flag-bearer of nepotism".
2. Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan: These star kids have repeatedly faced flak for getting easy entries into Bollywood because of their family connections.
XVII. Tax Evasion and Money Laundering Allegations
Several Bollywood celebrities have been involved in tax evasion and money laundering cases, tarnishing the industry's image.
1. Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas: The couple reportedly faced allegations of illegal construction at their Mumbai residence.
2. Shah Rukh Khan: King Khan had faced a case of alleged irregularities regarding the foreign exchange rule violation for his IPL team, Kolkata Knight Riders.
XVIII. The Drug Controversy
Drug use in Bollywood came into the spotlight after the tragic demise of Sushant Singh Rajput. Many industry insiders were interrogated by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
1. Rhea Chakraborty: Rhea was arrested by the NCB for allegedly procuring drugs for Sushant. She spent nearly a month in prison before being granted bail.
2. Deepika Padukone, Sara Ali Khan, and Shraddha Kapoor: These A-list actresses were summoned by the NCB for questioning regarding the drug nexus in Bollywood.
XIX. Accusations of Plagiarism
Bollywood has frequently been accused of plagiarising content from Hollywood and other industries without proper credits or rights.
1. 'Barfi': Anurag Basu's acclaimed film faced criticism for allegedly lifting scenes from various international films.
2. 'Ra.One': Shah Rukh Khan's ambitious project was accused of being a rip-off of the video game character, G.One.
XX. Casting Couch Allegations
One of the darker aspects of Bollywood, and indeed many film industries worldwide, is the infamous casting couch phenomenon.
1. Tanushree Dutta: She accused Nana Patekar of behaving inappropriately during a film shoot, which led to the #MeToo movement in India.
2. Kangana Ranaut: Kangana too has spoken out about her experiences with the casting couch early in her career.
XXI. Censorship Issues and Political Controversies
Bollywood movies have often been at the center of political controversies, resulting in bans, protests, and even violent threats.
1. 'Padmaavat': This film faced extreme backlash from certain groups who alleged that it distorted historical facts. Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali and actress Deepika Padukone received death threats.
2. 'Udta Punjab': This film highlighting the drug menace in Punjab faced numerous cuts from the Central Board of Film Certification, leading to a public outcry about censorship.
XXII. Actor Feuds and Professional Rivalries
There have been numerous instances of feuds and fall-outs between Bollywood actors, sometimes even resulting in professional rivalries.
1. Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan: Although they have patched up now, these two superstars had a notorious feud that lasted for several years.
2. Kareena Kapoor Khan and Priyanka Chopra Jonas: Rumours of a rivalry between these two leading ladies have often made headlines.
XXIII. Social Media Controversies
Social media has often been a platform where controversies erupt, from insensitive tweets to online feuds.
1. Sonam Kapoor: Sonam was trolled for her comment on a meat ban in Mumbai, where she called the ban "misogynistic."
2. Abhijeet Bhattacharya: The singer has been involved in numerous Twitter controversies, from making derogatory comments about women to getting suspended from the platform multiple times.
XXIV. Controversial Statements and Interviews
Controversial statements made by actors during interviews have often sparked debates and backlash.
1. Salman Khan: Salman faced criticism for his comment where he compared his physical exertion in 'Sultan' to that of a "raped woman".
2. Ranveer Singh: Ranveer's statement about fantasizing about Kareena Kapoor Khan received backlash for being inappropriate.
XXV. Alleged Affairs and Love Triangles
Bollywood's rumor mills are always buzzing with whispers of secret affairs and complicated love triangles.
1. Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha: This alleged affair remains one of Bollywood's biggest unsolved mysteries. While neither has confirmed the rumors, their off-screen chemistry has always sparked speculation.
2. Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra: There were rumors of a close relationship between the two during the shooting of 'Don 2,' although both actors have consistently denied any affair.
XXVI. Plastic Surgery Rumors
It's common for celebrities to face rumors of cosmetic procedures, and Bollywood is no exception.
1. Anushka Sharma: The actress faced immense criticism and trolling when she appeared on 'Koffee With Karan' with what looked like a fuller lip. Anushka later clarified that she used a temporary lip enhancing tool and not surgery.
2. Priyanka Chopra Jonas: She faced similar rumors early in her career. While she has admitted to a botched surgery, she denies undergoing procedures for cosmetic purposes.
XXVII. Scandalous Photoshoots and Wardrobe Malfunctions
These can lead to a storm of criticism, comments, and rumors for the stars involved.
1. Deepika Padukone: Her 'Cleavage Show' controversy sparked a debate on sexism in media when a leading newspaper tweeted a derogatory comment about her outfit.
2. Alia Bhatt: She faced a wardrobe malfunction during the promotion of 'Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania,' leading to unwarranted media attention.
XXVIII. Controversial Remarks and Public Spats
When celebrities voice their opinions, it sometimes leads to public spats and controversies.
1. Sonakshi Sinha and Mallika Dua: Sonakshi's comment on an episode of 'The Great Indian Laughter Challenge' didn't sit well with Mallika Dua, leading to a Twitter spat between the two.
2. Kangana Ranaut and Diljit Dosanjh: Their spat over farmer protests in India became a hot topic on social media.
XXIX. Rumoured Relationships
There have been numerous relationships in Bollywood that have been kept under wraps, with only whispers and hints to keep the gossip mills churning.
1. Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif: This duo never officially confirmed their relationship, but their vacation pictures somehow found their way to the public, fueling rumors.
2. Sidharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt: Their chemistry in 'Student of the Year' sparked rumors of a budding relationship. However, they both have remained tight-lipped about their relationship status.
XXX. Controversial Interviews and Statements
Sometimes, the words of these celebrities can stir a controversy.
1. Alia Bhatt's GK Gaffe: Her infamous blunder on 'Koffee With Karan' made headlines and led to her being trolled on social media.
2. Sara Ali Khan on 'Colorism': Sara's comment on preferring a 'fair and handsome' man led to a backlash, with critics accusing her of endorsing colorism.
XXXII. Pay Disparity Controversies
Pay disparity in Bollywood has been a point of controversy and a source of debate.
1. Kareena Kapoor Khan: She openly talked about the pay disparity in Bollywood, stating that she doesn't see her contemporaries being paid as much as their male co-stars.
2. Deepika Padukone: She called out the pay disparity in Bollywood in several interviews, stating that she was paid less than her male co-stars despite having a substantial role.
XXXIII. Allegations of Cheating
Even stars aren't immune to the pain and scandal of cheating allegations.
1. Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut: This controversy took the industry by storm when Kangana alleged that Hrithik had cheated on his wife with her. The ensuing legal battle and mudslinging was all over the news.
2. Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha: This is one of the oldest controversies in Bollywood. Though never confirmed, it's widely speculated that Amitabh had an extramarital affair with Rekha during the peak of his career.
XXXIV. Nepotism Debates
Nepotism has been a long-standing issue in Bollywood, causing major debates and controversies.
1. Karan Johar: Known to launch star kids, Karan has been at the center of the nepotism debate. The controversy escalated after Kangana Ranaut called him out on his own chat show.
2. Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan: Their debut in 'Student of the Year', produced by Karan Johar, led to allegations of nepotism, creating quite a stir in the industry.
XXXV. Alleged Link-ups
Sometimes rumors of link-ups between stars become a hot topic of discussion.
1. Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan: Rumors swirled about a possible affair between Priyanka and Shah Rukh during the filming of 'Don 2'. However, nothing was ever confirmed.
2. Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapur: Their sizzling on-screen chemistry in 'Aashiqui 2' sparked rumors of a real-life romance, although they have denied these claims.
XXXVI. Film Set Controversies
Bollywood isn't all glitz and glamour; sometimes things can get heated behind the scenes.
1. Kareena Kapoor and Bipasha Basu: The two actresses reportedly had a major fallout during the filming of 'Ajnabee' (2001), which escalated during 'Aitraaz' (2004). They only patched things up years later.
2. Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh: During the making of 'Padmaavat', rumours suggested that there was tension between Shahid and Ranveer due to the allocation of screen time. Both, however, have denied these claims.
XXXVII. Money Matters
When big bucks are involved, controversies aren't far behind.
1. Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi: Salman reportedly threatened Vivek for getting close to Aishwarya Rai. Vivek called a press conference to disclose this, but the controversy adversely affected his career.
2. Kangana Ranaut and the producers of 'Manikarnika': There were rumours of budget overruns and Kangana taking over the director's chair, creating quite a stir in the industry.
XXXVIII. Career Controversies
Certain career decisions can also lead to controversy.
1. Deepika Padukone and 'Padmaavat': Deepika's portrayal of Rani Padmavati sparked controversy over the film's historical accuracy. Despite protests and threats, the film was a box office success.
2. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and 'Heroine': Aishwarya was originally cast in 'Heroine', but after falling pregnant, she was replaced by Kareena Kapoor, causing a buzz in the industry.
XIX. The Tinseltown Tales of Southern Cinema
While Bollywood takes the centre stage in Indian film gossip, let's not forget the South Indian film industry, brimming with its own share of drama.
1. Prabhas and Anushka Shetty: Post 'Baahubali', rumours started swirling about the lead actors' off-screen chemistry. Despite the consistent denial, fans continue to speculate.
2. Nayanthara and Prabhudheva: Their love story caught everyone's attention, but their relationship ended amidst rumours of a secret wedding.
XL. Tollywood's Sensational Stories
The Bengali film industry, known as Tollywood, is no stranger to controversies either.
1. Rituparna Sengupta and Prosenjit Chatterjee: Once a popular on-screen pair, their professional relationship allegedly soured due to undisclosed reasons. The duo avoided working together for over a decade.
2. Subhashree Ganguly and Dev: Their reported break-up became the talk of Tollywood, as the duo decided to keep mum about the details.
XLI. The Mysterious Marathi Movie World
The Marathi film industry has seen its fair share of controversies.
1. Swapnil Joshi and Mukta Barve: Rumours of an affair started during their hit series 'Eka Lagnachi Dusri Goshta', but both vehemently denied any romantic involvement.
2. Sai Tamhankar and Amey Wagh: The rumour mill churned when the duo shared the screen in 'Girlfriend'. Both denied any off-screen romance.
XLII. Punjabi Cinema's Spicy Stories
The Punjabi film industry has had its fair share of controversies too.
1. Neeru Bajwa and Amit Sadh: They reportedly grew close during the shooting of 'Bikkar Bai Sentimental'. Though they never confirmed a relationship, the gossip remained rife for quite some time.
2. Diljit Dosanjh and Neeru Bajwa: Fans have long speculated about the duo's chemistry beyond the screen. However, both have always maintained their stance as 'just friends'.
XLIII. The Turbulent Tunes of Bollywood Singers
Even the crooning voices of Bollywood have been caught in webs of controversy and gossip.
1. Sonu Nigam's Tweet Storm: His tweets on the use of loudspeakers for Azaan (Islamic call to prayer) sparked outrage, leading to public debates and backlash.
2. Mika Singh's Public Disputes: His infamous slapping incident at a concert and the Rakhi Sawant kissing controversy kept him in the public eye for all the wrong reasons.
3. Ankit Tiwari's Legal Battle: The 'Aashiqui 2' singer was embroiled in a serious legal battle when he was accused of rape by a woman.
XLIV. The Dark Drama of Bollywood Directors and Producers
1. Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Controversy: The film's release coincided with heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, leading to controversy due to the casting of Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.
2. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat Debacle: The historical drama stirred massive protests due to its alleged distortion of Rajput history. Bhansali faced physical attacks and massive public outcry.
3*. Mahesh Bhatt and Parveen Babi's Controversial Relationship:* Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt's relationship with late actress Parveen Babi was the subject of controversy and gossip. Their tumultuous affair, coupled with Parveen's battle with mental health issues, made headlines and created a buzz in the industry.
4*. Anurag Kashyap's Marital Woes:* Director Anurag Kashyap's marriage to actress Kalki Koechlin attracted media attention. The couple separated in 2013, and their relationship struggles and subsequent divorce were discussed in the public domain.
XLV. Priyanka Chopra's Reddit AMA Fall-Out
Priyanka Chopra's Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session became controversial when she failed to address certain sensitive questions, leading to disappointment and backlash from the Reddit community.
XLVI. Bollywood’s Less Than Starry Behaviour
1. Salman Khan's Media Misadventures: His scuffles with the media have been well-documented, including an infamous incident where he allegedly snatched a reporter's phone.
2. Kareena Kapoor Khan's Fan Fiasco: A video of her allegedly snapping at fans asking for selfies caused a stir online.
3. Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone's Fallout: Post their break-up, they reportedly gave each other the cold shoulder at public events, fuelling the gossip mill.
XLVII. The Other Side of the Playback Singers
1. Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi's Feud: One of the oldest controversies that rocked Bollywood was the fallout between these two legendary singers over royalty rights.
2. Abhijeet Bhattacharya's Controversial Remarks: Known for his controversial comments on various issues, Abhijeet often found himself at the receiving end of public backlash.
3*. Sonu Nigam's Azaan Controversy:* In 2017, singer Sonu Nigam sparked controversy when he expressed his displeasure on Twitter over being woken up by the sound of Azaan (Islamic call to prayer). His comments led to a heated debate on religious tolerance and freedom of expression.
4*. Anu Malik's #MeToo Allegations:* Renowned music composer and singer Anu Malik faced allegations of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement in 2018. Several women accused him of inappropriate behavior, leading to his removal as a judge from a popular singing reality show.
XLVIII. The Many Shades of the Indian Film Industry
1. Dravidian Drama - Tamil & Telugu Cinema: The south Indian film industry isn't free from controversies either. The rift between the late Tamil Nadu CMs, MGR and Karunanidhi, both of whom were from the film fraternity, impacted the politics of the state for decades. Similarly, the Telugu industry saw the tragic fallout between renowned actors Chiranjeevi and Rajasekhar.
2. Bengali Cinema's Intellectual Ire: The Bengali film industry, known for its intellectual and artistic cinema, was hit by controversy when the veteran director Rituparno Ghosh's sexual orientation came under public scrutiny.
3*. Tamil Film Industry's Caste-based Controversies:* The Tamil film industry has witnessed controversies related to caste-based issues. Actors and filmmakers have faced criticism for allegedly promoting caste discrimination through their films or making controversial statements.
4*. Malayalam Film Industry's #MeToo Movement:* The Malayalam film industry witnessed its own version of the #MeToo movement, with several actresses coming forward to share their experiences of harassment and misconduct. The movement brought to light the dark side of the industry and led to discussions about the need for safer work environments.
XLIX. Unraveling Layers of Love Triangles
Apart from the ones mentioned earlier, love triangles have been a common theme in Bollywood. Some of the real-life instances that became fodder for gossip include:
1. The Madhubala-Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor Saga: In the Golden Era of Bollywood, the Madhubala-Dilip Kumar-Raj Kapoor triangle kept gossip columns busy, especially after the infamous court case during the filming of 'Naya Daur.'
2. The Shilpa Shetty-Akshay Kumar-Twinkle Khanna Triangle: Akshay Kumar was linked with Shilpa Shetty while he was reportedly in a relationship with Twinkle Khanna. This resulted in much speculation until he eventually married Twinkle.
L. Bollywood's Cheating Scandals
1. Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut: The alleged affair between Hrithik and Kangana, while he was married to Suzanne Khan, created one of the most publicized controversies in Bollywood.
2. Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha: The much-speculated affair between Amitabh and Rekha during his marriage with Jaya Bachchan remains one of Bollywood's most enduring rumors.
3. Govinda's Extramarital Affair: Actor Govinda faced public scrutiny when news of his extramarital affair with actress Rani Mukerji surfaced. The affair reportedly caused strain in his marriage and led to widespread gossip.
Indeed, the Indian film industry isn't just about glitz and glamour, but also about human flaws and frailties that often come to light, adding another dimension to our understanding of it.
Here are a few more controversies and rumors that I might have not covered yet (Apologies for any repetitions):
  1. The mysterious disappearance of Divya Bharti: In 1993, actress Divya Bharti tragically fell from the balcony of her apartment at the age of 19. Her sudden death sparked numerous conspiracy theories and rumors surrounding the circumstances of her demise, including speculation about foul play and possible suicide.
  2. The alleged black magic practices of Tantrik Chandraswami: Tantrik Chandraswami, a self-proclaimed spiritual guru with connections to several Bollywood celebrities, was accused of practicing black magic and having undue influence over prominent personalities. His alleged involvement in the political and entertainment spheres sparked controversy and speculation.
  3. The secret wedding of Juhi Chawla: Rumors circulated in the late '90s suggesting that actress Juhi Chawla had secretly married a British businessman. Although Juhi Chawla never publicly confirmed or denied the rumors, they persisted for a considerable period, adding an air of mystery to her personal life.
  4. The supposed curse of the film "Raaz" (2002): It was rumored that the horror film "Raaz" brought a curse upon its cast and crew. Alleged incidents of supernatural occurrences and mishaps during the film's production led to speculation about a supernatural influence affecting those involved.
  5. The controversy surrounding the film "Water" (2005): Deepa Mehta's film "Water" faced significant opposition during its production due to its sensitive subject matter and depiction of the treatment of widows in India. Protests, threats, and acts of vandalism occurred on the film's sets, leading to the relocation of the shooting to another country.
  6. The alleged rivalry between Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi: There were rumors of a rivalry between two Bollywood icons, Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi, during the '90s. Reports suggested that their competition for top actress status led to tensions and strained relations.
  7. The controversial casting of Sanjay Dutt in the film "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" (2006): Sanjay Dutt's inclusion in the film "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" created controversy due to his involvement in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case. The decision to cast him sparked debates about ethics and the rehabilitation of individuals with criminal backgrounds.
  8. The alleged love triangle between Aamir Khan, Reena Dutta, and Kiran Rao: Speculation emerged about a love triangle involving actor Aamir Khan, his ex-wife Reena Dutta, and his second wife Kiran Rao. Reports suggested that the dynamics of their relationships overlapped, leading to rumors and discussions in the media.
  9. The controversy surrounding the film "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love" (1996): Director Mira Nair's film "Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love" faced controversy and censorship challenges due to its explicit content and portrayal of sexuality. The film's release was met with mixed reactions and debates about artistic freedom.
  10. The alleged involvement of Bollywood celebrities in the IPL spot-fixing scandal: During the Indian Premier League (IPL) spot-fixing scandal in 2013, rumors swirled about the involvement of certain Bollywood celebrities in illegal betting and match-fixing activities. Although no substantial evidence was found to support these rumors, they generated significant speculation and discussion.
  11. Govinda and David Dhawan's fallout: Govinda, known for his comedic roles, had a fallout with director David Dhawan, with whom he had collaborated on several successful films. Reports suggested that their relationship deteriorated due to creative differences and personal issues, leading to a strained professional relationship.
  12. Aditya Pancholi and Kangana Ranaut's legal battle: Kangana Ranaut accused actor Aditya Pancholi of physical and emotional abuse during their alleged relationship. The legal battle between them attracted significant media coverage, with both parties presenting their sides and filing counter-allegations.
  13. The alleged love affair between Rani Mukerji and Abhishek Bachchan: Rumors circulated about a romantic relationship between actors Rani Mukerji and Abhishek Bachchan during the shooting of their film "Yuva" (2004). Speculation about their relationship and its impact on Abhishek's engagement to Aishwarya Rai was a subject of gossip in the industry.
  14. The alleged feud between Aishwarya Rai and Sonam Kapoor: Reports suggested that Aishwarya Rai and Sonam Kapoor had a strained relationship stemming from a comment Sonam made about Aishwarya's fashion choices at the Cannes Film Festival. The alleged tension between the two actresses garnered attention in the media.
  15. The controversy surrounding the film "Fiza" (2000): Actress Karisma Kapoor faced backlash for her portrayal of a Muslim character in the film "Fiza." The film's depiction of communal violence led to accusations of misrepresentation and insensitivity, resulting in protests and debates.
  16. The controversy surrounding the film "Rahul" (2001): Director Prakash Jha's film "Rahul" faced objections from the National Commission for Women (NCW) for its portrayal of a teacher-student relationship. The NCW raised concerns about the film's potential to promote inappropriate relationships and demanded cuts or a ban.
  17. The controversy surrounding the film "Mohalla Assi": Starring Sunny Deol, the film "Mohalla Assi" faced censorship issues and remained unreleased for several years. The CBFC objected to its content, which included explicit language and the portrayal of religious figures, leading to legal battles and delays.
  18. The alleged rivalry between Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan: Rumors of a rivalry between two of Bollywood's biggest superstars, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, have circulated for years. Reports suggest that there is an underlying competitiveness between them, with occasional subtle digs and comparisons made in the media.
  19. The alleged tiff between Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone: Reports of a rivalry between actresses Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone have made headlines. While both have denied any animosity, occasional comments and indirect references in interviews have fueled speculation about a cold war between them.
  20. The mysterious disappearance of actor Nadia: Nadia, the first female stunt actress and action heroine of Indian cinema in the 1930s and 1940s, vanished under mysterious circumstances in the 1940s. Her sudden disappearance left the industry and her fans bewildered, and her fate remains unknown to this day.
  21. The controversial love triangle involving Guru Dutt, Geeta Dutt, and Waheeda Rehman: There were rumors of a complex love triangle between legendary filmmaker Guru Dutt, his wife, playback singer Geeta Dutt, and actress Waheeda Rehman during the making of the film "Pyaasa" (1957). While the exact nature of their relationships remains speculative, it added an intriguing layer of mystery to their personal lives.
  22. The unsolved murder of director Bimal Roy's cinematographer Subrata Mitra: Subrata Mitra, the acclaimed cinematographer known for his work with director Bimal Roy, was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 1997. The case remains unsolved, leaving behind unanswered questions and speculations.
  23. The alleged paranormal occurrences during the filming of the horror film "Mahal" (1949): During the shooting of the iconic film "Mahal," there were numerous reports of eerie happenings on set. Actors and crew members claimed to have witnessed strange phenomena and experienced unexplained incidents, adding a supernatural element to the film's legacy.
  24. The enigmatic persona of actor Guru Dutt: Guru Dutt, the iconic actor-director of the 1950s and 1960s, was known for his introspective and melancholic on-screen persona. His tragic death in 1964, attributed to an overdose of sleeping pills, continues to be shrouded in mystery, with debates about whether it was an accident or suicide.
  25. The controversy surrounding the film "Bandit Queen" (1994): Director Shekhar Kapur's film "Bandit Queen," based on the life of Phoolan Devi, faced legal challenges and controversies for its explicit content and portrayal of violence. The film's release was delayed, and it sparked debates on artistic freedom and the depiction of real-life incidents.
  26. The alleged black magic practices in the film industry: Over the years, there have been rumors and claims of certain individuals in the film industry practicing black magic or being involved in occult practices. These rumors have fueled speculation and added an element of mystery to the industry.
  27. The alleged rivalry between Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar: Two legendary actors of the Indian film industry, Raj Kapoor and Dilip Kumar, were rumored to have a rivalry during their heyday. Reports suggested that their professional competition and different acting styles fueled tensions and strained relations between them.
  28. The controversial relationship between Kamal Haasan and Sarika: Actors Kamal Haasan and Sarika were in a live-in relationship for many years and had two children together. However, their relationship was marked by rumors of infidelity and personal differences, leading to a tumultuous and publicized separation.
  29. The controversy surrounding the film "Sins" (2005): Director Vinod Pande's film "Sins" faced severe criticism and opposition due to its explicit content and portrayal of taboo subjects like sex and religion. The film's release was marred by protests, bans, and legal battles, igniting debates on artistic freedom and censorship.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is based on available public sources, media reports, and general knowledge. While we strive to ensure accuracy and reliability, we cannot guarantee the completeness or authenticity of the information. The content presented here is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as factual or verified. Any views, opinions, or statements expressed in this post are those of the respective individuals or sources mentioned and do not necessarily reflect our views. We encourage readers to conduct further research and exercise their own judgment when interpreting the information provided. We shall not be held liable for any errors, omissions, or damages arising from the use of this post.
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2023.05.30 04:27 Driplomacy05 [Econ] Boosting Pakistan's Exports

With Pakistan relatively stabilized after the conclusion of its political crisis tagged with mass debt forgiveness, Imran Khan seeks to finally achieve the economic prowess that the Islamic Republic is capable of.

For starters, Pakistan needs to generate revenue. The best way to do so is through boosting its exports. It’s simple; selling more things abroad brings more money home.

For much of its recent history, Pakistan’s exports have been based on the textile industry. It’s return is fruitful, but Pakistan needs diversification to ensure long-term financial return and stability.

Pakistan’s rising and most primary industry is its IT services. IT services exports have seen phenomenal growth, rising from just over $800 million in 2013 to more than $2.6 billion in 2022. This 225% gain easily overshadows the growth reported by other well-established industries in the same time frame. Keeping this rate, IT exports could reach $8.5 billion within the next ten years. With the government’s support, however, this target can be achieved sooner.

The best way to facilitate growth within the industry is through skill development programs. Thus, Pakistan seeks to bring about partnerships with IT-exporting nations such as the United States, China, South Korea, France, Germany, and Japan to assist in the development of Pakistan’s private sector.
In order to attract direct investment, Taimur Jhagra directs the central bank to analyze and remove barriers that hinder the movement of capital and create an “opportunity board” that adequately addresses concerns that are frequently raised by startups in Pakistan.
Mobile Manufacturing
Pakistan’s up and coming mobile manufacturing industry has demonstrated great potential, as seen by recent exports of 120,000 phones. The local industry produces mid-tier phones that are sought out for, especially in developing nations. In order to facilitate greater exports, Jhagra removes restrictions regarding important raw materials necessary to produce such.

Supporting Small-Medium Enterprises
Pakistan’s economy is made up of nearly 3.3 million Small and Medium Enterprises. Knowing this sense, Taimur begins instituting policies that encourage S.M.E.s by allowing them to reach their true potential. Pakistan facilitates this by offering access to finances, readily available subsidized credit, lower interest rate loans, and other loosened restrictions to truly offer a chance at success for Pakistan’s S.M.E’S.

Through diversifying Pakistan’s economic industries, the Islamic Republic may finally have the chance to reach new heights that ensure the prosperity of its people.
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2023.05.30 03:21 Sea_vickery Seattle RN and encounter with spirit of patient’s deceased spouse

I had to share this story because I’m finally past the point of denying it ever happened. It took me until my adult life to believe that consciousness could survive death, so I’m ready to accept the reality of the following encounter - the likes of which I haven’t experienced before or since. Quotes of conversations may be different by a few words but otherwise I swear the following to be true and accurate. I also welcome any of your personal stories with the supernatural in the comments, so please do share.
The backdrop was the pandemic, around 2021. I was a community health RN hired to coordinate care for elderly clients of a retirement community in Seattle. Vaccines were just rolling out early for the elderly of our assisted living program in late January of that year.
I was staffing the front desk of the wellness center office when a resident walked in. She was not on the assisted living program but our offices were known to have frequent visits from the independent elderly residents of the building. Independent just means not paying for assisted living services. After all, there were plenty of elderly residents I didn’t know because they didn’t need our services, never had an emergency to receive my care or were fine managing care on their own (or with the help of a relative or private caregiver).
This visitor seemed to be one such independent resident. She popped by the desk, which was unusually slow. Of the three adjoining offices, mine was the only one with any activity in it. The admin assistant was pulled to the floor to pass meds due to a call-out, our nursing director was in meetings, and the remaining staff were delivering care. I was the only person in the area at that particular moment in time.
She walked in without a mask. At peak pandemic, this was strange but sometimes we let it slide. She and I were separated by a clear plastic divider mounted to the desk and I could tell she was dressed to head outside. Really she was the vision of “successful aging” as we sometimes call it in my corner of the industry - she smoothly glided to the desk without a cane or a walker. Her skin was sunkissed enough to know she atleast walked outside when it wasn’t raining. Her eyes were clear and focused and her smile was warm and cheerful. She probably registered for most people as 10 years younger than her actual age.
She asked something to the effect of “Are vaccines still available?” I said my usual spiel - “bring your insurance card and ID and we can help you get signed up for the mobile clinic coming up this week.” She smiled and disappeared around the corner of where she first entered. Months passed and I thought nothing of it.
Late one morning at work, I was at my desk when my walkie blared from my pant-leg pocket. Nurse V. Mr. H fell. Please come. I did my focused assessment. Mr. H was on the floor of his bedroom, cursing. He was frail but still had the most high-functioning scientific mind you could ever find in a 90 something year-old. He missed his wife and would sometimes let slip that he wanted to be with her, but not before finishing his latest biology textbook. He was going to get it published and stay alive long enough to see it go into print.
But first, a hospital visit. He was in too much pain to be lifted from the floor. One 911 call and medics where there within 10 minutes transfer him to a stretcher to whisk him away to the nearby emergency department. After a week in the hospital for a GI bleed and low hemoglobin/hematocrit which likely caused the dizzy spell leading to his fall, he was stabilized and medically ready to return. We recieved him from the hospital with the agreement that a personal 1 to 1 caregiver be assigned to him for 5 days until a nursing assessment could show he was safe to ambulate in the building without that level of assistance.
One afternoon on day 2 of 1 to 1 care, my staff were joking about Mr. H’s caregiver. She said she sees his wife in the room, sitting on the chair in his study. The staff burst into laughter. For all of the past visits I made to his room for routine nursing checks, to see that he was adjusting to the building well, and even the few times our chats turned into serious and heartfelt talks about the state of the world, I had not noticed any pictures of his wife except for the artwork she created of past hikes and vistas they had enjoyed while traveling the world together. I decided to squeeze in a visit to get his vital signs and see how he and his caregiver were treating one another. Naïvely, I thought the ghostly experience of the caregiver could be chalked up to personal spiritual beliefs based on cultural background. She did not come across as mentally unstable, and I trusted the company that vetted her application.
“I sent her to lunch. She is pleasant, quiet. It’s strange to have supervision when I’ve lived six years on my own all alone here.“ I asked if he was referring to the loss of his wife. He nodded.
“Mr. H, I’ve seen her lovely artwork, but I haven’t seen any photos of her!“ He pointed me to the 8x6 photo of the vibrant 80 something-year old woman sitting atop his file cabinet.
It was the same woman I spoke to about vaccines just months prior.
“Mr. H. You said she passed away when?“ He confirmed her final year earthside of 2015, before succumbing to terminal cancer.
I could not believe the math I was doing in my head at that moment. But that was months ago. I didn’t even work at this building six years ago!
I kept my awe and confusion in silence. Then I told him how proud she must be of him. Finished up my visit and headed toward his apartment door.
Before stepping out, I asked him to remind me if he was up to date with his vaccine. “Oh yes. Well I didn’t receive it from your clinic. I got the series about a month later from my general doctor. Changed my mind about it last minute. I have a book to write and I can’t let a nasty bug stop me from putting it into print.”
I think Mr. H has a guardian angel, and I guess I had the privilege of knowing she is still looking out for him.
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2023.05.30 03:15 Sea_vickery My true RN experience communicating with the deceased loved one of a patient.

I had to share this story because I’m finally past the point of denying it ever happened. It took me until my adult life to believe that consciousness could survive death, so I’m ready to accept the reality of the following encounter, the likes of which I haven’t experienced before or since. Quotes of conversations may be different by a few words but otherwise I swear the following to be true and accurate.
The backdrop was the pandemic, around 2021. I was a community health RN hired to coordinate care for elderly clients of a retirement community in Seattle, WA. Vaccines were just rolling out early for the elderly of our assisted living program in late January of that year.
I was staffing the front desk of the wellness center office when a resident walked in. She was not on the assisted living program but our offices were known to have frequent visits from the independent elderly residents of the building. Independent just means not paying for assisted living services. After all, there were plenty of elderly residents I didn’t know because they didn’t need our services, never had an emergency to receive my care or were fine managing care on their own (or with the help of a relative or private caregiver).
This visitor seemed to be one such independent resident. She popped by the desk, which was unusually slow. Of the three adjoining offices, mine was the only one with any activity in it. The admin assistant was pulled to the floor to pass meds due to a call-out, our nursing director was in meetings, and the remaining staff were delivering care. I was the only person in the area at that particular moment in time.
She walked in without a mask. At peak pandemic, this was strange but sometimes we let it slide. She and I were separated by a clear plastic divider mounted to the desk and I could tell she was dressed to head outside. Really she was the vision of “successful aging” as we sometimes call it in my corner of the industry - she smoothly glided to the desk without a cane or a walker. Her skin was sunkissed enough to know she atleast walked outside when it wasn’t raining. Her eyes were clear and focused and her smile was warm and cheerful. She probably registered for most people as 10 years younger than her actual age.
She asked something to the effect of “Are vaccines still available?” I said my usual spiel - “bring your insurance card and ID and we can help you get signed up for the mobile clinic coming up this week.” She smiled and disappeared around the corner of where she first entered. Months passed and I thought nothing of it.
Late one morning at work, I was at my desk when my walkie blared from my pant-leg pocket. Nurse V. Mr. H fell. Please come. I did my focused assessment. Mr. H was on the floor of his bedroom, cursing. He was frail but still had the most high functioning scientific mind you could ever find in a 90 something year-old. He missed his wife and would sometimes let slip that he wanted to be with her, but not before finishing his latest biology textbook. He was going to get it published and stay alive long enough to see it go into print.
But first, a hospital visit. He was in too much pain to be lifted from the floor. One 911 call and medics where there within 10 minutes transfer him to a stretcher to whisk him away to the nearby emergency department. After a week in the hospital for a GI bleed and low hemoglobin/hematocrit which likely caused the dizzy spell leading to his fall, he was stabilized and medically ready to return. We recieved him from the hospital with the agreement that a personal 1 to 1 caregiver be assigned to him for 5 days until a nursing assessment could show he was safe to ambulate in the building without that level of assistance.
One afternoon on day 2 of 1 to 1 care, my staff were joking about Mr. H’s caregiver. She said she sees his wife in the room, sitting on the chair in his study. The staff burst into laughter. For all of the past visits I made to his room for routine nursing checks, to see that he was adjusting to the building well, and even the few times our chats turned into serious and heartfelt talks about the state of the world, I had not noticed any pictures of his wife except for the artwork she created of past hikes and vistas they had enjoyed while traveling the world together. I decided to squeeze in a visit to get his vital signs and see how he and his caregiver were treating one another. Naïvely, I thought the ghostly experience of the caregiver could be chalked up to personal spiritual beliefs based on cultural background. She did not come across as mentally unstable, and I trusted the company that vetted her application.
“I sent her to lunch. She is pleasant, quiet. It’s strange to have supervision when I’ve lived six years on my own all alone here.“ I asked if he was referring to the loss of his wife. He nodded.
“Mr. H, I’ve seen her lovely artwork, but I haven’t seen any photos of her!“ He pointed me to the 8x6 photo of the vibrant 80 something-year old woman sitting atop his file cabinet.
It was the same woman I spoke to about vaccines just months prior.
“Mr. H. You said she passed away when?“ He confirmed her final year earthside of 2015, before succumbing to terminal cancer.
I could not believe the math I was doing in my head at that moment. But that was months ago. I didn’t even work at this building six years ago!
I kept my awe and confusion in silence. Then I told him how proud she must be of him. Finished up my visit and headed toward his apartment door.
Before stepping out, I asked him to remind me if he was up to date with his vaccine. “Oh yes. Well I didn’t receive it from your clinic. I got the series about a month later from my general doctor. Changed my mind about it last minute. I have a book to write and I can’t let a nasty bug stop me from putting it into print.”
I think Mr. H has a guardian angel, and I guess I had the privilege of knowing she is still looking out for him.
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2023.05.30 00:44 Avalanche3124 Bryce Miller 1st Refractor FS

Bryce Miller 1st Refractor FS
Good evening,
Asking $15 shipped PWE for this Bryce Miller refractor.
Thanks for checking out the post!
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2023.05.30 00:23 iamdeletosh Firat Inaugural Address by President Bola Ahmed Timubu

My Fellow Citizens,
I stand before you honoured to assume the sacred mandate you have given me. My love for this nation is abiding. My confidence in its people, unwavering. And my faith in God Almighty, absolute. I know that His hand shall provide the needed moral strength and clarity of purpose in those instances when we seem to have reached the limits of our human capacity.
This day is bold and majestic yet bright and full of spirit, as is our precious nation.
As a nation, we have long ago decided to march beyond the dimness of night into the open day of renewed national hope.
The question we now ask ourselves is whether to remain faithful to the work inherent in building a better society or retreat into the shadows of our unmet potential.
For me, there is but one answer. We are too great a nation and too grounded as a people to rob ourselves of our finest destiny.
This nation’s journey has been shaped by the prayers of millions, and the collective sacrifices of us all.
We have endured hardships that would have made other societies crumble.
Yet, we have shouldered the heavy burden to arrive at this SUBLIME moment where the prospect of a better future merges with our improved capacity to create that future.
To the surprise of many but not to ourselves, we have more firmly established this land as a democracy in both word and deed.
The peaceful transition from one government to another is now our political tradition. This handover symbolizes our trust in God, our enduring faith in representative governance and our belief in our ability to reshape this nation into the society it was always meant to be.
Here, permit me to say a few words to my predecessor, President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr President, you have been an honest, patriotic leader who has done his best for the nation you love. On a more personal note, you are a worthy partner and friend. May History be kind to you.
For many years, Nigeria’s critics have trafficked the rumour that our nation will break apart, even perish.
Yet here we are. We have stumbled at times, but our resilience and diversity have kept us going.
Our burdens may make us bend at times, but they shall never break us.
Instead, we stand forth as Africa’s most populous nation and as the best hope and strongest champion of the Black Race.
As citizens, we declare as one unified people devoted to one unified national cause, that as long as this world exists, NIGERIA SHALL EXIST.
Today, Fate and Destiny join together to place the torch of human progress in our very hands. We dare not let it slip.
We lift high this torch so that it might shine on every household and in every heart that calls itself Nigerian. We hold this beam aloft because it lights our path with compassion, brotherhood, and peace. May this great light never EXTINGUISH.
Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate. We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own.
We are here to further mend and heal this nation, not tear and injure it.
In this vein, may I offer a few comments regarding the election that brought us to this juncture. It was a hard fought contest. And it was also fairly won. Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, Nigeria has not held an election of better quality.
The outcome reflected the will of the people. However, my victory does not render me any more Nigerian than my opponents. Nor does it render them any less patriotic.
They shall forever be my fellow compatriots. And I will treat them as such. They represent important constituencies and concerns that wisdom dare not ignore.
They have taken their concerns to court. Seeking legal redress is their right and I fully defend their exercise of this right. This is the essence of the rule of law.
Over six decades ago, our founding fathers gave bravely of themselves to place Nigeria on the map as an independent nation.
We must never allow the labor of those who came before us to wither in vain but to blossom and bring forth a better reality.
Let us take the next great step in the journey they began and believed in.
Today, let us recommit our very selves to placing Nigeria in our hearts as the indispensable home for each and every one of us regardless of creed, ethnicity, or place of birth.
My supporters, I thank you. To those who voted otherwise, I extend my hand across the political divide. I ask you to grasp it in national affinity and brotherhood. For me, political coloration has faded away. All I see are Nigerians.
May we uphold these fitting and excellent notions as the new Nigerian ideal.
My fellow compatriots,
The Nigerian ideal which I speak of is more than just an improvement in economic and other statistics. These things are important; but they can never convey the fullness of our story.
Our mission is to improve our way of life in a manner that nurtures our humanity, encourages compassion toward one another, and duly rewards our collective effort to resolve the social ills that seek to divide us.
Our constitution and laws give us a nation on paper. We must work harder at bringing these noble documents to life by strengthening the bonds of economic collaboration, social cohesion, and cultural understanding. Let us develop a shared sense of fairness and equity.
The South must not only seek good for itself but must understand that its interests are served when good comes to the North. The North must see the South likewise.
Whether from the winding creeks of the Niger Delta, the vastness of the northern savannah, the boardrooms of Lagos, the bustling capital of Abuja, or the busy markets of Onitsha, you are all my people. As your president, I shall serve with prejudice toward none but compassion and amity towards all.
In the coming days and weeks, my team will publicly detail key aspects of our programme. Today, permit me to outline in broad terms a few initiatives that define our concept of progressive good governance in furtherance of the Nigerian ideal:
The principles that will guide our administration are simple:
Nigeria will be impartially governed according to the constitution and the rule of law. We shall defend the nation from terror and all forms of criminality that threaten the peace and stability of our country and our subregion. We shall remodel our economy to bring about growth and development through job creation, food security and an end of extreme poverty. In our administration, Women and youth will feature prominently. Our government will continue to take proactive steps such as championing a credit culture to discourage corruption while strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the various anti-corruption agencies. 
Security shall be the top priority of our administration because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence.
To effectively tackle this menace, we shall reform both our security DOCTRINE and its ARCHITECTURE.
We shall invest more in our security personnel, and this means more than an increase in number. We shall provide, better training, equipment, pay and firepower.
On the economy, we target a higher GDP growth and to significantly reduce unemployment.
We intend to accomplish this by taking the following steps:
First, budgetary reform stimulating the economy without engendering inflation will be instituted.
Second, industrial policy will utilize the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.
Third, electricity will become more accessible and affordable to businesses and homes alike. Power generation should nearly double and transmission and distribution networks improved. We will encourage states to develop local sources as well.
I have a message for our investors, local and foreign: our government shall review all their complaints about multiple taxation and various anti-investment inhibitions.
We shall ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard earned dividends and profits home.
My administration must create meaningful opportunities for our youth. We shall honour our campaign commitment of one million new jobs in the digital economy.
Our government also shall work with the National Assembly to fashion an omnibus Jobs and Prosperity bill. This bill will give our administration the policy space to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvements, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable.
Rural incomes shall be secured by commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products. A nationwide programme for storage and other facilities to reduce spoilage and waste will be undertaken.
Agricultural hubs will be created throughout the nation to increase production and engage in value-added processing. The livestock sector will be introduced to best modern practices and steps taken to minimize the perennial conflict over land and water resources in this sector.
Through these actions, food shall be made more abundant yet less costly. Farmers shall earn more while the average Nigerian pays less.
We shall continue the efforts of the Buhari administration on infrastructure. Progress toward national networks of roads, rail and ports shall get priority attention.
We commend the decision of the outgoing administration in phasing out the petrol subsidy regime which has increasingly favoured the rich more than the poor. Subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources. We shall instead re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.
Monetary policy needs thorough housecleaning. The Central Bank must work towards a unified exchange rate. This will direct funds away from arbitrage into meaningful investment in the plant, equipment and jobs that power the real economy.
Interest rates need to be reduced to increase investment and consumer purchasing in ways that sustain the economy at a higher level.
Whatever merits it had in concept, the currency swap was too harshly applied by the CBN given the number of unbanked Nigerians. The policy shall be reviewed. In the meantime, my administration will treat both currencies as legal tender.
Given the world in which we reside, please permit a few comments regarding foreign policy.
The crisis in Sudan and the turn from democracy by several nations in our immediate neighbourhood are of pressing concern.
As such, my primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African subregion and the African continent. We shall work with ECOWAS, the AU and willing partners in the international community to end extant conflicts and to resolve new ones.
As we contain threats to peace, we shall also retool our foreign policy to more actively lead the regional and continental quest for collective prosperity.
This is the proudest day of my life. But this day does not belong to me. It belongs to you, the people of Nigeria.
On this day, Nigeria affirms its rightful place among the world’s great democracies. There, Nigeria shall reside forever.
The course of our past and the promise of the future have brought us to this exceptional moment.
In this spirit, I ask you to join me in making Nigeria a more perfect nation and democracy such that the Nigerian ideal becomes and forever remains the Nigerian reality.
With full confidence in our ability, I declare that these things are within our proximate reach because my name is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and I am the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
May God bless you and May He bless our beloved land.
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2023.05.29 23:36 NamelessNanashi [The Gods of Dragons: Beginning] Ch 10 - Hurry Up and Wait

--- Table of Contents ---
Summer 4984, 13 Doumoth
“Ugh! I hate this!” Daisy whined loudly, letting her head fall back to stare at the ceiling.
“Almost done…” Rerves said to reassure her, though he lacked his usual smile.
Ania picked up the last piece of armor, a steel vambrace, and began polishing with a groan to match Daisy’s, “When we aren’t cleaning, we're polishing, when we aren’t polishing, we're cleaning. How is this Paladin training?”
“If I wanted to be a servant, I would've joined their guild…” Thom’s small voice chimed in.
Shon said nothing. The five Squires, Shon, Daisy, Thom, Rerves, and Ania, sat under a shade in the Temple courtyard, polishing the knights' spare armor for the hundredth time. The sun beat down mere feet away, reflecting off the finished pieces as the shadow of their shade crept closer and closer, the sun climbing towards noon. The yard was mostly clear, the Paladins not on duty retreating into the cool stone fortress while those on duty only occasionally coming to check on the Squires' progress.
Ania had the right of it. Ever since they'd moved into the Temple proper and became official Squires, the five of them had done nothing but clean, polish, and memorize armor and weapon vocabulary. And complain… the others always complained. Shon just sighed as the four others continued to gripe. There was no point in it, the work needed to be done, and they were the ones assigned to do it. It didn’t matter how annoying or monotonous it might be.
Sometimes the younger Paladins would join them in polishing, caring for their own armor while the Squires worked on the spare pieces. The spares were used mainly by the enlisted, and only if they hadn’t finished buying their own sets yet. Occasionally a Paladin would check out a set to practice with. Although most of them had a preferred style, they needed to stay proficient with all types. At least that meant only half of the pieces the Squires had to clean were still polished from the day before. If the armor was never used, it really would be a useless task, instead of half useless as it seemed now.
The Paladins never complained…
The Squires hadn’t started out tired and annoyed. Daisy and Shon had been joined after their first week by Thom and Rerves, who both came from the capital city. They'd been friends growing up, Rerves was a noble, and Thom's family worked as their personal stewards, one step up from servants. A week after that, Ania arrived from a small village in the south. Only having known one Paladin and having never seen a proper Temple before, she'd been in awe of the fortress Temple of the city for at least a month. But then the excitement had given way to frustration, and -for Shon at least- boredom. And so the others had started complaining.
Their relationship with each other had started out warm enough. They stayed up late into the night, sharing their histories and dreams of their future as full Paladins. Shon joined them when prompted but mostly preferred to listen. He didn’t think he had any stories worth sharing, though they had bombarded him with questions after Veon-Zih’s first training visit. Just like everyone else, they didn’t seem to know how to deal with Shon’s quiet nature. But unlike everyone else, they hadn’t pulled away and stopped talking to him altogether. Except when they complained. Shon never complained. He didn’t see the point. When asked, he would say that they needed to follow orders. So they'd stopped asking him.
Shon held his last piece of steel plate carefully by the leather straps, wiping the last bit of polish off with a clean rag. He could see his reflection distorted by the curves and dings, and wondered if he could manage to draw the changes accurately when given a chance. The tinking of metal on metal sounded in the distance, and the Squires' heads shot up, followed by their bodies as they scrambled to their feet to salute the woman approaching.
General Rasnah was resplendent as always in her uniform, the chains of office clinking on her shoulders. She walked towards the Squires with her head held high and her hands clasped behind her back. With her was Master Veon-Zih and Shon felt his spirits rise just a little higher.
“At ease, Squires.” Sir Rasnah said as she drew to a stop just outside their shade. She waited until they'd taken the formal 'at ease' position, legs shoulder-width apart and hands clasped behind their back, “Report.”
Rerves took charge, as usual, “Sir, we're nearly done, Sir.”
“Just one piece left, Sir,” Ania added, then blushed furiously as she usually did whenever addressing a high-ranking officer.
Sir Rasnah nodded, then glanced to the sky. She then looked to Veon-Zih, who smiled and shrugged. Her lips turned up on half her face in what could almost be called a grin before she cleared it, serious again as she addressed the Squires, “You may have the afternoon off. Report to the kitchens and evening duties before sixth bell.”
“Sir, yes, Sir!” the Squires spoke in unison, Shon’s four fellows grinning broadly and sneaking happy glances at one another.
They held their positions until Sir Rasnah turned away, walking back to the Temple proper and leaving them to their freedom. Veon-Zih remained behind, smiling warmly at them and addressing Shon, “Lunch? I found a fine eatery a few blocks away.”
Shon nodded, finally smiling with the rest, “And practice?” he asked.
“After food,” Veon-Zih answered, stepping aside and gesturing towards the gates. Shon rushed to help the others put the clean and polished armor away, then jogged to Veon-Zih before falling into step with him as they left the Temple.
Veon-Zih waited until they were well clear of the gates before asking, “So what do you think of your fellow Squires?”
Shon sighed in answer, which made Veon-Zih chuckle for some reason. But the sigh hadn’t really answered the question, so Shon said, “They complain a lot.” he probably could have, and should have, come up with something nicer to say. But after hours of hearing them gripe while they worked, it was the only thing on Shon’s mind.
“There's nothing wrong with complaining, you know.” Veon-Zih mused. Shon merely shook his head. The knights never complained; he'd been watching them. If there was a job that needed to be done, they would do it. His fellow Squires seemed to complain before, during, and after every unpleasant assignment. Though never in front of the Paladin giving it.
“Do you honestly think the knights like polishing armor? Do you like polishing that much? Maybe you should've come to the Monastery after all. We don’t wear armor, but we have many fine statues that all need to be polished every day. Every little nook and cranny scrubbed clean and shining.”
He glanced at Shon with a grin, then leaned over to whisper, “They hate it too, but just like your fellows won’t complain in front of them, they won’t complain in front of you.”
“It needs to be done…” Shon tried to argue, though it sounded hollow considering his own, though silent, annoyance.
“A perfect excuse,” Veon-Zih stated, turning sharply down a side road, so Shon had to jog to keep up, “There are many reasons spare armor needs to be polished. The most obvious is that it's needed to stay in good repair. The task is assigned to Squires because it gets you intimately familiar with armor beyond just naming the parts. And because no one else wants to do it.
“That doesn’t mean we should be complaining about it…”
“Not in front of the officers, no. But amongst each other? Why not?”
Shon furrowed his brow but didn’t have an answer. Veon-Zih gave him one, “Joint misery creates companionship. Even if you have nothing else in common, everyone knows you all hate polishing already clean armor. Right now, I bet your fellow Squires are scratching their heads, wondering if you do actually enjoy the task. Some might even be wondering if they're worthy of being Squires. Since they complain, and you don’t.”
Shon’s steps faltered. Would they really think he was more worthy than them? For something so trivial as chores? He had to rush to catch up and argued, “But there's no point in complaining. We have to do it anyway.”
Veon-Zih sighed and stopped walking. He waited for Shon to turn to him then said, “But my statement still stands. Joint misery creates companionship. Your fellows take a risk in voicing their complaints to you, hoping that they're not alone in their opinions. What if they're the only ones who hate it? What if that really does mean they aren’t meant for the Temple? Just because they can channel divine magic doesn’t mean Hengist will choose them.”
Shon let himself ponder that for a while. The other Squires always seemed so sure of themselves, so excited to begin real training. Did they really have doubts and fears the same as he did? And what did that say about his assumptions? That they would complain and the knights didn’t? Was he actually judging his fellows as unworthy without realizing it?
“The Paladins really complained when they were Squires too?” he asked.
“I guarantee it.” Veon-Zih answered and started walking again, “I know I did, and all the other Monks in my class too.” he chuckled, “Sometimes routines like cleaning and polishing can be meditative. You can let your mind wander while your hands work through the familiar motions. But before you get to that point, or if you would rather be doing something of your choosing, then it's nothing but monotonous work. Necessary work, but still work.”
Following Veon-Zih around another corner, Shon pondered his Master’s words. They got all the way to the little eatery the Monk had been looking for, even took their seats, and gave their orders before Shon spoke again.
“I hate platemail the most…” he said. Veon-Zih arched an eyebrow at him, and he continued, “It’s bulky, and there's just so much of it. Then as soon as you're done, someone moves it aside and gets fingerprints on it again. Chainmail isn’t much better. You can’t see the fingerprints, but it’s hard to get the oil between the links. And yet water obviously has no problem with it because that’s where all the rust is.”
Veon-Zih laughed boisterously, throwing his head back and startling those at the closest table, “I hated the creases in the palms of the statues the most,” Veon-Zih held up his hand, his forefinger and thumb forming a circle, the other fingers extended, “how can so much dust cake itself in such a small space in only a day?” he complained, dropping his hand and shaking his head.
The waitress brought them their stew and drinks, and Shon started eating while Veon-Zih thanked her. Picking up his spoon, the Monk paused as he dipped it into his bowl, musing, “I wonder which parts your fellow Squires dislike the most?” Shon didn’t know, but he wanted to. Would they agree with him that the plate was the most frustrating? Daisy seemed to groan loudest at the leather, but their complaining always seemed to be general moans at the work as a whole…
“Maybe I’ll ask,” Shon mumbled, embarrassed for some reason.
“Or,” Veon-Zih took his first bite, then pointed at Shon with his spoon, “you could just tell them your least favorite, and they will open up and share their own.”
That’s what they expected of him, wasn’t it? They expected him to join in the conversation, not just answer questions… Shon could only nod.
Shon had grown so much. It was difficult for Veon-Zih to watch him without smiling. Only a head shorter than his Master, Veon-Zih could still see the ten-year-old oddity he'd spied upon almost four years ago in the church courtyard. And yet, he had grown so much. Veon-Zih wondered if anyone else could see it.
They practiced in one of the parks in the noble’s district. Veon-Zih thought it was important that Shon get out of Temple whenever possible, that he see the city and its people, to remember what he was training for, and why he wanted to fight. Shon was more like Veon-Zih, and his order of Monks than the boy would ever know. Or admit. He strove for perfection. Every punch, kick, and kata they worked through needed to go exactly right, or he would do it again. Like many Monks, Shon found true enjoyment in the process of working and growing better than his past self. But he was also different in a critical way. Shon wanted to use his strength. Wanted to protect people, fight evil. Many Monks never left the Monastery. A single Grandmaster could easily fell a small raiding force alone. Yet, so many chose not to fight outside their sparring rings and training.
Even Veon-Zih hadn’t left the Monastery because he wanted to help those locked outside its walls. He'd left because he believed he couldn't attain the perfection he strove for inside them. He'd wanted to be tested by the world, to rise to the challenges life presented and overcome them with his discipline and practice. Along the way, he'd learned to be more like Shon was naturally. He'd made friends from other orders, and saved countless non-combatants. Only after seeing the results of his fights, the grateful families reunited, had he realized the moral folly in his fellows and in himself.
They practiced and even sparred until well after fifth bell. The display at first earned them a few disapproving glares from the nobles and servants passing the park. Then they'd actually attracted a few spectators, who clapped as though watching a show. Shon blushed furiously at this, his pale cheeks growing pink as he tilted his head down, trying to let what was left of his now short hair slip down to hide his face. Yet, he never lost step or stopped the training. Veon-Zih had barely resisted laughing, though if more at the foolish watchers or his embarrassed student, he wasn’t sure.
Veon-Zih finally called their training to a halt, and Shon glowered at him. The boy had nearly gotten in his first solid hit in their sparring and was obviously reluctant to stop after making such progress. “It’s nearly time for you to get back, and Sir Rasnah will not accept me as an excuse for tardiness.” Shon’s eyes went wide, and fear replaced the look of frustration on his face. He ran his fingers through his hair, looking up at the sky to try and gauge the hour.
Veon-Zih chuckled, “I’ll race you back.” he said, a hint of mischief seeping through his voice. Shon arched an eyebrow and Veon-Zih could practically hear his thoughts. Run? Through town? You must be joking. “There's no law against running,” Veon-Zih argued with the boy’s expression, “Every moment offers us an opportunity to train. We're late, so this is the perfect opportunity to test our speed against time and run.”
Shon alternated his arched brow to the other side, looking down the road then back to Veon-Zih before confirming, “A race?”
In answer, Veon-Zih ran. He sprinted past Shon -though not at his full speed- before slowing down just enough to keep things fair. Shon bolted after him. Nobles, servants, and even a few guards gasped and called out in indignation as Veon-Zih and Shon swerved around them on the wide roads of the nobles' quarter. They were forced to slow when they reached the more densely packed streets in the city center. Shon was careful to run around the people doing their shopping but kept his eyes set ahead, planning his route and scaring those who noticed him out of the way with his intense blue stare. Veon-Zih was much more confident in his ability not to hit people and so brushed much closer, never quite knocking into them but often brushing their clothes as he passed.
Ahead a cart laden with crates and barrels ambled across the thoroughfare, and Shon slowed to a jog, trying to run around it. Veon-Zih lept, landing on his hands on the cart and propelling himself up and over before hitting the ground again and continuing the race. He heard the merchant curse and the bystanders gasp in surprise but was more amused at the growl of frustration that came from his student, who put on an extra burst of speed to try and catch up. Veon-Zih was half tempted to let him and half tempted to sprint all out and leave the boy in his dust. He chose to do neither and just laughed, continuing at the pace he'd set and soon coming into view of the Temple gates.
The Paladins on watch saw him coming and exchanged confused and nervous glances, drawing their swords but not barring his path. Veon-Zih didn’t slow his run until he reached the knights. Turning to the side and planting his feet, he slid past them on the cobblestones. Turning back as he slid to a stop, he found one of the Paladins facing him as though ready to fight and the other facing out as though looking for whatever force had sent Veon-Zih sprinting for the Temple.
Shon slowed to a jog and stopped before the knight facing him, breathing hard. “What’s going on? Squire report.” the Paladin demanded, still holding his sword at the ready.
Shon had to take a moment to catch his breath but eventually managed to gasp out, “Race…” before looking absolutely horrified at what he'd just done and said. “Sir…” he added quietly as if that might somehow make his unconventional arrival more acceptable.
“And you managed to keep up with him?” Sir Rasnah appeared from beyond the gate, arching a steely eyebrow and drawing sharp salutes from the Paladin guards who finally sheathed their swords.
“I went easy on him,” Veon-Zih assured her, earning a glare from Shon, who passed through the gates, still breathing deeply but no longer gasping for air. Veon-Zih hadn’t even broken a sweat.
Rasnah looked between the Master and student, finally settling on Shon, “Oh, don’t look at him like that, Squire. Master Veon-Zih could beat a riderless horse in a foot race.” which drew a befuddled look from Shon and a laugh from Veon-Zih.
“General Rasnah, Sir,” another man ran towards the gates wearing the uniform of an enlisted. A messenger from the city gates.
“It seems today is a good day for running,” Veon-Zih quipped as the guards allowed the man to pass and give his report.
“A wyvern has been spotted over the woods near Lakeland,”
Sir Rasnah didn’t respond right away. She narrowed her eyes at the messenger and spoke to Shon, “You have duties, Squire, hop to it.”
Shon saluted, though Rasnah still wasn’t looking at him. He glanced at Veon-Zih curiously, then turned to follow the orders.
Veon-Zih hesitated but decided to follow Shon. If he was needed, Rasnah would let him know.
“A wyvern?” Shon asked in a whisper.
“An abomination,” Veon-Zih explained, “Monstrous beasts with a body as large as a wagon, not including the tail. They fly like birds and will hunt anything that strays into their territory, including humans.”
Shon’s brow furrowed, and Veon-Zih patted him on the shoulder, “It'll be alright. They rarely attack settlements unless they're starving.” Which was good because a single wyvern could destroy a small town.
“What will the Temple do?” Shon asked as they reached the back door to the kitchens.
“That depends… most likely, they'll send a group to the village and watch the skies.”
“They won’t hunt it?”
“Maybe, and maybe not. Wyverns are dangerous enough that it’s a real risk to hunt one, but they also can’t be allowed to harm nearby towns. The Temple of Saint Giorgos will want it destroyed, but Sir Rasnah won’t needlessly risk her men if it isn’t necessary.” Veon-Zih explained.
Shon thought for a moment, then asked, “Have you ever fought a wyvern?”
Veon-Zih tried to make his smile reassuring, "Twice. Though I would rather not try a third time if it can be avoided.”
“Red, what're you doing?” Ran asked.
She rolled Her eyes, focusing again on what She was doing and not bothering to answer him. Her fingers ached, but She worked them into the cracks between the stones of the tower wall, shifting Her weight from one hand to the other and searching out the next handhold.
Brom laughed, and She heard the slap and woosh of breath as he pat Ran on the back hard enough to knock the air from the thinner man’s lungs, “Can’t you tell? She’s climbing!”
“Sort of…” Ran mumbled.
She wasn’t climbing up the wall, as much as She wanted to. Instead, She was up only about a foot off the ground and working Her way sideways around the tower. “Afraid of falling, Red?” Ran asked instead. That question was even more stupid than the last, and She arched Her neck back, holding tight to the wall and looking at him upside down.
“Really?” She asked in response to his denseness. He should know She wouldn’t be afraid of falling. She had fallen many times when She'd braved climbing the trees around the perimeter. Even broke Her arm once, and that hadn’t stopped Her from trying again with the splint still on. But that was when they used to let Her out more often, about once every other week. No, the thing that kept Her from climbing up the wall was the same thing that had stopped Her climbing trees. The same thing that stopped Her running around the tower at top speed while Brom or Ran kept time and She tried to beat Her record. And the same thing that kept Her from even crossing the tree line to play pretend in the woods.
Ran had the decency to look embarrassed, realizing his mistake eventually. There was only one thing that ever stopped Her from doing what She wanted, and even that often took multiple ‘lessons’ each time. Morndancer had grown increasingly erratic and more often violent of late. He would mutter to himself in draconic then give opposite orders to the journeymen and apprentices in common. Though everyone in the tower spoke both languages. He would lock himself in his room for days and hadn’t been back to visit his family or the Mages Guild in weeks. Shaloon would cover for him, but she wasn’t much better, cutting holes in reality and staring into the outer plains for hours on end, whispering. Half her words in draconic and the other half in common, mixing the languages in the same sentence.
Brom and Ran had refused to talk to Her about it, but She had listened at Her door when they thought She was sleeping. The Archmages were going mad. The eventual cost of power, they said. Though neither seemed upset that the same would happen to them eventually. Perhaps their lack of concern was the first sign they'd already started.
She continued Her climb, putting Her worries about Brom and Ran’s sanity out of Her mind for the time being. She would have plenty of time to stew about it when She was locked in Her room. For now, She wanted to enjoy being outside in the brief summer warmth.
A burst of sudden wind from above set Her hair whipping about Her face and nearly cost Her grip on the stones. Squeezing Her eyes shut, She tried to shake Her hair back, blowing at the strands against another huge gust before something heavy shook the ground behind her. She let Her head fall back again, so Her hair fell away from Her face, and She could see what had come upside down. The sight caused Her to fall off the wall.
Landing hard on Her backside, She scrambled to Her feet in a mix of awe and horror. A monster large enough to fill Her entire room and then some, stood in the clearing around the tower. It had a long sinuous neck and dull brown scales. It walked on great taloned legs in the back and the joints of its leathery wings in the front. It snapped at Archmage Shaloon as she jumped from its neck to the ground, its teeth as long as daggers and looking just as sharp. It didn’t bite the Archmage, who ignored it as she approached the journeymen.
“What are you three doing out here?” she demanded, mixing draconic with common and glaring at the two men who, for some reason, looked ashamed despite the permission they'd gotten to be out today.
The Firewyrm ignored the question, asking one of Her own, “What is that?” She pointed at the monster, not sure if She felt sad or disgusted at the sight of it. Both seemed odd emotions to have at the sight of a beast that could eat Her in two bites.
Fingers snapped, and She flinched, reaching for Her collar. The monster let out a strangled roar, thrashing its head wildly, its own copper collar shimmering with light and magic. “Another failure of our predecessors, thousands of years ago.” Morndancer exited the tower, his robes billowing around him.
Another snap, and the Firewyrm flinched again. But Shaloon just snorted, sneering at the other Archmage after stopping his torment of her mount, “The north-western Talon was gracious enough to lend us this sample after years of training. It should come in handy with the local draken who worship its kind as gods.” the beast snarled at the humans just out of reach but didn’t step any closer, digging its talons deeper into the ground and hissing, “It was a great success after the slaying. We’ve only had one greater.” she glanced at the Firewyrm who tilted Her head at the two of them, curious for more but sure they wouldn’t give it to Her.
Archmage Morndancer dismissed the defense of the monster’s existence with a snort, “And yet we are still facing the same problems as those before us. What information do you have?
“A storm hit out at sea, and there are signs of another possibly brewing in Halakon.”
Ran swallowed nervously, and Brom stuttered, “Should we…?”
“No.” Morndancer answered the unfinished question, “There is only one thing that can stop these storms, and we are the only ones willing to make the sacrifices to do it.” he turned away from them, returning to the tower door before glancing over his shoulder, “Get back inside, we need more samples if we are to make up for our own successful failure.”
“Saint Giorgos says the wyverns are the last vestiges of the dragon’s evil in the skies…” Sir Rasnah sipped her tea thoughtfully.
Father Branston snorted, “Yes yes, and drakes are their evil on land, and leviathans their evil at sea. They are beasts, Rasnah, as old as memory.”
“Branston's right,” Veon-Zih shrugged, rolling his teacup between his hands, “They're terrible beasts with some magic to them, but they're no more intelligent than a drakwalf or horse.”
They sat together in Father Branston’s office to enjoy warm tea and a colorful sunset through his massive windows. But none of them could really relax with the news of a wyvern flying around the woods to the north. Just to the west of Hamerfoss.
“They've been known to hunt for sport,” Rasnah reminded them, her face pained at the memory.
“So do house cats.”
“House cats don’t pick off entire barbarian tribes over the course of a week.”
"I'm sure they would if they could,"
Branston sighed, reaching for his teapot and pouring himself another cup, “What will you do? If you need healers, I have a few skilled enough to go.”
Rasnah sighed, rubbing her forehead and resting her cup in her lap, “Perhaps one. I’ll send a group to watch. If it's sighted again, we'll have to do something.”
Veon-Zih cleared his throat to get her attention and arched a questioning eyebrow her way. The Paladin returned the look with a smile and said, “I will make sure they have a sending stone. If you're needed, I’m sure they'll wait for you to arrive before seeking it out.” her smile faded, and she stared into her cup, “If they really are vestiges of dragons then I suppose Saint Giorgos is right and all of them were evil.”
“Having a crisis of faith, Rasnah?” Branston asked softly, but with a smile, “Legends say Hengist was allied with goodly dragons.”
“Dragons of Gold and Silver and all the precious metals,” Veon-Zih finished for him, then added, “None of that matters anymore. All we can do is face the challenges life presents us with in the here and now.”
“Of course,” Rasnah agreed, looking up at her old friends and managing a lopsided grin, “And now we have a wyvern possibly claiming territory in our forests. Do you think Daunas will want to join the hunt? If necessary,” she added at the end.
“Mung's boy? He’s still stationed at Hamerfoss then?” Branston asked.
Veon-Zih chuckled, “I don’t believe he would forgive you if you didn’t let him.” his chuckle died, and the three gazed mournfully out the window. Remembering their last wyvern fight, and their friend lost in bringing it down. It had been their last adventure together.
-End of Part 1-
--- Table of Contents ---
All comments and are welcome and wanted.
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2023.05.29 20:52 Von_Lehmann Trip Report: 3 Weeks in Thailand and 2.5 Weeks in Spain and France

Had a few trips back to back to back so I felt I should do a write up because this community has been helpful in packing for those trips!
Our first trip was a three week holiday in Thailand, we spent about a week in Bangkok and two weeks on Ko Phayam island, so the vast majority was on the beach but we needed a little city wear to get by as well. Although I would say the bar was pretty low in terms of backpacker style. Lot of Patagonia because they give a great pro discount.
I felt like I packed pretty well here, I had an absolute ton of space. So this was a bit of a luxury. Everything got used and I was able to do a bit of laundry. Once I was at the beach, then I basically just lived in my baggies and a t shirt or linen shirt. I think maybe a light fleece or merino sweater would have been better than the long sleeve shirt though, at least for the airport. To be honest, I brought a lot of this to Europe with my as well.
I flew back from Thailand, landed in Finland...had a few days here and then flew to San Sebastien for my Sister's wedding and a few weeks with my family in San Sebastien, Biarritz and in the South of France. I had a tougher time packing for this trip, I needed so much more stuff because of the wedding and the general vibe of where we were going and what we would be doing. My family really enjoys going out to eat and drink so I was forced to bring a suit, nicer shirts and better shoes, all of which took way more space. I was in San Sebastien at an Air Bnb so I could do laundry, then we had a day trip to Biarritz and then flew to Nice where we stayed in Antibes and Aix-en-Provence. Eating well, drinking well, all that fun stuff. Ill copy and paste a few things below that were the same.
2.5 Weeks in Spain and France
I definitely wouldn't bring those chelsea boots again, I plan on getting some Hoka sneakers in all black and im considering some white sneakers. I think I could get by with basically one or both of those if I needed to. I could probably have lost at least one button up shirt for Europe. I probably didn't need my linen shirt, but I love that shirt so I brought it anyway. I kind of wish I had some kind of tablet for watching films with my girlfriend, sharing the phone was doable but not ideal. I also felt while the Better Sweater was great, it took up a lot of room and I maybe need to look for something lighter, maybe another fleece like the R1 or a merino sweater from Isto.
So yea, that was a long write up but thanks for reading it if you did. Questions, comments and criticisms are welcome.
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2023.05.29 20:36 DanCyclestheWorld My Surly Grappler set up ready for my trip from Alaska to Argentina starting next week!

My Surly Grappler set up ready for my trip from Alaska to Argentina starting next week!
Hi everyone, my name’s Dan and I’m going to be spending the next 2 years cycling from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina! I thought I’d share my rig and gear list here for anyone interested.
I’ll also be posting regular updates on my instagram ( and I’ll also be documenting the whole thing on my Youtube ( for anyone interested in following my journey!
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2023.05.29 19:45 WhatNameDidIUseAgain Example of a Connally 1972 scenario

Example of a Connally 1972 scenario submitted by WhatNameDidIUseAgain to thecampaigntrail [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 19:37 True-Magician904 Married Couple [39M + 42F] With Joint Account - I want to separate finances

TLDR; I found that my wife has paid $11,400.00 to a credit card that I don't have access to since January, we never have any money in our joint account despite her and I both making decent money and having very low monthly bills. I want to move to a model where we have a joint account with personal accounts too. She doesn't. Help.
Edit: Apparently /personalfinance was not the right place for this. My bad.
This is a throwaway for many reasons but here it goes. I was always bad with money growing up. My mother and father were in bankruptcy multiple times during my childhood, we were on food stamps at one point and had to go to some local food banks at one point. Both of my parents had decent jobs as well, certainly middle class salaries. There are some other stories but those are mainly irrelevant to this situation. All of that to say though, I never really learned to manage money growing up.
My wife comes from a multi-generation small business owning family. They've always had money and they seem to make good investments with their money. She's always been better at managing money than I had been so when we married, I let her handle the finances as it stressed me out. We've been married now for over 10 years. During this same time, I started my own small business from a spare bedroom and have grown that business to almost $750k/year business (no that's not my take home). I have employees, I own a building now that the building lives in, and the business has assets. I had to learn how to manage money for the business. When the business started, my wife worked a full time job making decent money that I had arranged with a previous employer to hire her. That income is what kept us going while I started my business. Over time, she started wanting me to take more and more out of the business to pay for the big things that come up, which I did as long as it wouldn't put me in a bad position with the business.
Fast forward to now. My wife decided that she wanted to quit her job (which I don't blame her, the situation at the company was going south) and the business was making enough that I could give myself a raise and cover the difference of her going to work for her parents. So, she was making about $60,000/year at her previous employer and now is making roughly $42,000/year. My current salary that goes into our joint account is $60,000/year but my paycheck is split into two accounts. One account has both of our vehicle car payments coming out of it and the remainder goes into our joint account. That split is about $2074 into the joint account per month and about $1750 into the other account for our cars and for me to pay the bills for my mothers house while she's in a nursing home. On my wife's side, she brings in about $2,300/month into our joint account and then the business gives a bonus to her once a year about Christmas which bring her yearly salary way up. Her W2 this year stated ~$42,000 for the year. Oh and some other more important information, our house is paid for.
Now, here's where my issues start. I spend absolutely NO money from the joint account. My entire salary goes into the those two accounts. My debit card for the joint account isn't even activated, when I say I don't spend any money from the account, I mean it. That joint account is primarily used household bills which should be limited to electric, insurance (health, auto, and home), groceries, and whatever else the family needs. But it's constantly being over drafted. Our bank allows up to $1k per month of overdraft without any penalties. I also went through the charges on the account and I added up roughly $11,400.00 that was paid to a credit card that I don't have access to. We just had $4,000.00 worth of plumbing repairs done to our house which I told her I could take $2,000 from the business account if she would take $2,000 from our personal finances to cover the repairs. She told me that we didn't have the money for it. I checked our emergency fund because of this and there is about $7,000 in the fund but I also found that she had transferred $2,000.00 to our joint account. No idea what for, she never told me about it. One last thing I do need to mention, she does use this credit card to buy things for her parents business and then reimburses herself so the $11,400 might be slightly misleading.
I'm getting more and more frustrated with the situation, mainly because she spends both of our incomes and I have to rely on my business to cover my personal day to day expenses. I also tired of not having any money to cover repairs, take vacations, or make improvements to the house.
My thoughts are that if we separate finances that we could keep the joint account and pay for the house hold bills from it, and then each of us have our own spending money and buy whatever we want from that. Big ticket items like vacations and repairs could be contributed to by both of us.
Finally, my question is, what is the best way to approach this? I've brought this up before to her and she is admittedly against it but after finding the $11,400 payment to a credit card that I can't access (oh and I gave her $5,000 to pay it off at Christmas from the business) and the constant issues with having no money in the account I'm kind of done with the joint account situation. I should also mention that she has been on me for years to get access to the business accounts but I've fought her on that, and mainly because I want to get our personal finances straight before we into my business finances.
Sorry for the long post, any help is appreciated from a stressed, tired, overworked dad. Thanks!
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2023.05.29 19:06 Frostdraken The First True Voyagers: Chapter 26 (part 1)

Amid a galaxy of brutal chaos there are stories to be told, tales of valor and justice, of fear and despair. But amid these stories are the guttering flames of adventures untold, the potential for a universe of entertainment and savage joyous fun. The Oblivion Cycle embodies just this kind of crafted chaos, creating the potential for creative exploits and raucous tales. If you are new to the TOC setting feel free to join the community at TheOblivionCycle to check out some of the background lore or to discuss themes with other readers. I thank you all for your support and continued willingness to read, as always, Please Enjoy!
+ Chapter 1 + Previous + Part 2 of Chapter 26 +
Chapter 26
One Small Step for a Man
The atmosphere in the hangar bay was tense. Leon looked around and observed the other members of the ground crew. Samuel and Chad were wearing standard void suits, the white strengthened polymers matching the rest of the hangar's clean look. The two men looked ready, if a little nervous. This would be the first time the SSV would be used for its intended role of space to surface and back transportation.
Despite the fact that the entire operation was relatively untested, Samuel and Chad had thousands of hours of practice flights in the simms to bolster their flagging confidence. Leon shrugged his shoulders, the heavy armoured environmental suit he was wearing weightless in the microgravity of the ship’s core. But that would change dramatically when they reached the planet’s surface. The suits had internal servo muscles to aid in movement, but despite the assistance they were still heavy cumbersome things. They were more designed for deep sea diving than exploring the surface of an alien planet, but Leon wasn’t complaining. He would suffer the discomfort for the protection they offered.
Casting his eyes on the others he saw that Oliver, Dr. Kimathi, Joice and Myung were also ready with their heavy suits on. Oliver and Dr. Kimathi were close together, the two of them holding a private conversion of some importance it looked like from the expressions on their faces.
Myung and Joice were also talking, but not to each other. Joice was deep in conversation with Terry and Taylor, probably giving the two last minute instructions on the ship’s operation as they would be in charge of the bridge while she was groundside. Myung was talking to Sabine, the young woman had been a bit upset when he had informed her she was going to be staying on the ship.
“But I want to go, it’s not fair.” she had pouted when he had told her privately. He had done his best to assure her that she would get a chance to visit the planet’s surface once they deemed it safe. If it was safe that was. But he was not going to risk her safety for a glorified walk in the park. As one of the ship's two engineers, she had the honor of keeping the ship’s systems in check while Chad was gone.
She had taken some convincing, but eventually he had managed to talk her down to a more rational state of mind. She was an emotional one to be fair, but he wouldn't let that get in the way of her safety, not under his watch.
Leon blinked, his mind once more on the present. He turned and looked at the two SSVs that were docked in the ship’s main hangar bay. One was chunky, its frame bloated like a grub or some deep sea predator. That was the cargo shuttle, the heavy lift SSV. He then looked at the
other, it was sleek like a shark. Covered in rounded protrusions engineered to break up shockwaves as it fell through a planet’s atmosphere at incredible speeds. Once they had slowed down enough, the SSV was designed to glide till it found a suitable landing spot at which time it could switch to VTOL mode and make a neat landing. That was the plan anyways.
As long as nothing went wrong then they should be down and back in under six hours.
He turned his head as something landed on his shoulder. It was a hand, looking over to see who it was attached to he smiled. Natalia stood beside him, her smiling face reassuring his mind that everything would be alright.
“So, my big strong captain finally gets to become a true space explorer today?” she teased.
Leon nodded and replied cheerfully “Yeah. But don’t worry. I know where my true home is.”
She drew closer and planted a kiss on his cheek before asking “Oh yeah? And where is that?”
Leon blinked, feigning shock as he said in his best fake surprised voice “Why, with you of course my love.”
She giggled and hugged him as best she could, her arms barely even managed to wrap around the front of the environmental suit and she sighed as she pushed back slightly. She was wearing a light duty uniform with velcro slippers for the hangar floor. He had no need of the slippers as he had magboots on.
Most of the crew had turned up to see them off. He pulled Natalia close again as he looked around the room, the only two missing were Aden and Chris. Chris had elected to watch their departure from the observation deck alone. Something about the need for solitude he had said, and Leon wasn't going to antagonize the old man over it. If he wanted to miss out on the shindig then that was all up to him.
Samuel slowly walked toward the passenger SSV’s open side door and stopped by the bottom of the ramp, Chad scurried by him into the ship after managing to tear himself from Sabine’s grasp. Smiling, he looked at Natalia from the top of the ramp and asked “Are you sure you are going to be okay without me here?”
She shook her head and smiled “Of course, my whole universe doesn't revolve around you, you know that.” she blushed a little as he raised an eyebrow and she said “Well, not all the time it doesn't.” he just chuckled and leaned in for a kiss.
She smiled prettily and obliged, their lips meeting in a sweet and somewhat delicate kiss. After what seemed like minutes, but was likely far shorter than that, they parted and she batted her lashes at him.
“You had better come back to me, or I will have to get very angry.” she whispered.
He placed his heavy covered hands on her shoulders and reassured her as best he could. “Natalia. It’s just a routine surface visit. Nothing can go wrong, I promise you.”
She nodded and said something under her breath that he didn't quite catch. He was about to ask her about it when Joice called to him from the shuttle’s boarding ramp.
“Come on Leon, we gotta go before the orbiter loses contact on the far side of the planet. Otherwise we will land and they wont know if we made it safely for half an hour or so. And I don’t think you want that.” she said.
Leon nodded to her and turned to Natalia once more. “I have to go Nat, I love you. And I will contact you as soon as we make it safely to the surface.”
She nodded silently, her eyes glistening as she held in tears. “I know you will, I promise I wont worry too much about you.” He smiled at her comment and started to walk away. He paused as he heard her say “I love you too Leon Muikman. He turned slightly and gave her one more smile before climbing the ramp into the SSV.
He walked carefully in the microgravity to an open seat and sat next to Oliver. Oliver smiled and slapped him on the shoulder before saying “Good to see you. We were worried you would miss the launch.” he laughed heartily.
Some additional chuckles sounded from the others when Samuel spoke over the ship’s internal comms. “Okay, listen up people. This is far from the first time I have flown this can, but this is a first for planetary reentry. What to expect? Turbulence, lots of it, so strap yourselves in and hold onto something. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
Leon nodded to himself and quickly did his restraint straps. The ships had been designed with the bulky environmental suits in mind and so an alternate set of much heavier duty straps were readily available to wrap up in. Leon glanced around, Oliver and Dr. Kimathi were strapped in, the couple checking on each other.
He looked across the small crew bay and saw that Myung and Joice were also fully secured and ready to go. Joice gave him a thumbs up which he reciprocated as he felt the ship move slightly. The magnetic landing clamps would be releasing them and a small jet of cold gas would propel them towards the main hangar doors.
The crew had already exited the hangar by now and the ships mighty atmosphere pumps would be dragging the hangar down to a near vacuum as they drifted towards the sealed steel doors.
He felt a slight shudder roll through the ship as its cold gas jets fired off. The doors must be open already, the yawning pit of cold dark oblivion being all that awaited them beyond. With a slight tug of acceleration they were free, the shuttle flying out of the hangar like a missile from a tube. Albeit a very large and populated missile.
Leon had only been in the SSVs a few times during the entire voyage, it hadn't really sat well with him. As a retired Navy man he was no stranger to the rolling and jostling motions that caused so many to become ill. But there was something entirely different about the experience of zero gravity flight that made his insides churn and his heart quicken.
He closed his eyes, several of the others were speaking but he tuned it all out. His mind flashed with half remembered horrors from his peacekeeping years. The South African revolutions and the hundred year Chaddian supremacy war had left their marks on his body and soul. He clenched his teeth as the all too familiar pain shot through him. The sounds of gunfire and the roaring of unchecked flames filled his mind and he felt like screaming, but then another sound reached his inner mind.
It was soft, almost sensual. The memory of his love with Natalia surfaced, the memory of the times they had spent impassioned nights in each other's arms driving away the pain and fear. He smiled, his eyes still closed as he found the pain waning. Peace filled him and he opened his eyes.
The shuttle was shaking quite alarmingly but he was unafraid. Instead he found himself smiling against all the odds and shouted to Oliver over the screaming din of reentry “Wow, this is certainly a rush isn't it?”
Oliver shouted back, the man’s face split by a grin at least as wide as his own. “Yeah it sure is, nothing like it!”
Leon looked across the small passenger bay and gave Joice a smile. The woman was tough as nails and seemed to be generally unaffected by the rough flight, Myung on the other hand seemed to be having a more stressful time of it. He gestured at her and Joice glanced at the woman seated next to her. Joice said something that Leon couldn't make out but it seemed to do the trick as Myung relaxed slightly. She was still uncomfortable looking but now no longer looked terrified.
A few more moments passed by and the shuddering eased. The roaring of wind and fire eased as well as the ship slowed, its steep descent leveling off as they entered glide mode.
Samuel’s voice rang over the internal speakers again “Thank you for flying air Samuel, we will be making our final descent momentarily as soon as Chad finds us a dry spot to put down. The ground looks real swampy here. Not too many places I can see are stable enough for me to land.” Samuel’s voice cut off.
Leon looked around the ship again but was reassured by the SSV making a sharp turn.
Chad’s voice spoke over the internal speakers this time as he gave them an update. “Okay, looks like we found a spot, hold on we are preparing for a landing.”
Leon grabbed onto the safety rails next to his seat as the ship made another sharper turn and then lurched to a halt as the VTOL system brought them to a halt mid air. He would have loved to see the landing process but there were no windows for him to look through in the passenger area. He settled himself by imagining how it would look based on his previous experience with similar aircraft of Earth.
The hot jets of exhaust would be scorching a twenty meter clearing under the ship as it touched down. Any loose debris or animals either blasted away or cooked. Stepping off the ship should be a relatively safe affair.
With a final thud the ship landed and the whine of the engines faded as they powered down. He set about unstrapping himself as the airlock to the cockpit opened. Chad strolled out and gave them a big smile asking “So, how was everybody's flight?”
Myung shot the man a poisonous glare and grabbed her suit’s helmet. Joice smiled and said “It was bumpy.”
Chad rubbed his neck and apologized “Yeah sorry about that. This planet has some pretty serious high altitude winds. Samuel is setting up the micro atmo-observatory to help us avoid the jetstreams on the way up.
Leon motioned to Chad to come closer and as the man approached he finished unstrapping and stood up. Chad asked him “Yeah, what’s up?”
Leon glanced around and said “I want you and Samuel to pull some weapons from the armory. This planet is potentially hostile and I have no Idea what we may encounter. Once we leave you will need to stay in the cockpit. There is the potential for contamination when we exit.” he told the man seriously.
Chad nodded and asked “But if we are going to be stuck in the cockpit anyways then why would we need rifles?”
Leon shook his head. “You won't, the rifles are for us.”
Chad’s eyes widened and he nodded “Oh, yeah. I see, that makes sense. I'll go get them right now.”
Joice walked over as Chad rushed off and asked “What was that about?”
Leon shrugged and said “I told him to grab us some rifles. Can’t be too cautious.”
Joice frowned and said a little cautiously “Leon…” but he cut her off.
“I know what you are going to say Joice, and part of me agrees. But be practical. We have no idea what’s out there. I will not risk the lives of others on the grounds of peaceful exploration. The universe doesn't give two shits about that kind of thing, if something wants to eat us I'm not going to let it. We have likely already contaminated the planet’s biosphere with Earth bacteria anyways. The reentry would have sterilized the hull, but no amount of fire could kill one hundred percent of them.” he said.
Joice frowned and said “Well we knew the risks of exploring any planet. Cross contamination was always going to be an issue. But the guns Leon? What if they cause hostility towards us instead of the other way around?” she asked him.
He just shook his head. “Not negotiable Joice. We are taking them. I will have one as will you”
“Me? I don't want one.” she tried to say but he waved a hand.
“You will take it, that's an order. You are going to be armed because I trust you completely not to do the wrong thing. Understood?” Leon said to the blond haired woman. She bowed her head for a moment before nodding.
“Yes. But I want to go on record as having protested this.” She told him.
Leon just cracked a small grin and said “Noted Joice. Now, let's get everyone ready, we have some exploring to do.”
Leon and Joice walked to the small huddle that had formed by the exit ramp’s door. The airlock was now closed and ready for them to depart. In their armoured suits only one of them could exit through the small airlock at a time. Leon was determined to be the first.
Chad exited the cockpit area carrying two G402-K service rifles. The general conversation quieted as Chad walked up to him and handed him one of the German manufactured rifles.
“Thank’s Chad, give the other one to Joice, you brought some spare mags? Thanks, here clip them to my toolbelt.” he told the man who complied.
“Here, careful.” was all the young man said as he did as instructed.
Leon shook his head a little sadly as the man walked to Joice to repeat the process. Safe or not, the planet would not take him without a fight. If the need for the weapons arose, the others would be glad he had brought them. He slung the weapon over his shoulder via its strap and grabbed his helmet. He placed it on his head and locked it into place.
Checking his seals were all good he activated the helmet’s eye tracking helmet-mounted-display. With a few glances he had it calibrated and then activated his comms link. He spoke through the ship’s antenna to the Leif Erikson in high orbit above the planet.
“Leon to Leif Erikson, come in please.” he said.
After a moment the slightly fuzzy voice of Taylor answered him “Oh it’s good to hear your voice captain. I assume that everything went smoothly?” he asked in a curious tone.
Leon nodded even though the action would not be visible to the man, force of habit was hard to break after all. “Yes, the ride was exceptionally bumpy, but we made it in one piece. I am just getting ready to advance onto the planet’s surface. Can you see my helmet feed?” he asked Taylor over the relay communication.
The delay from their incredible distance was slight but noticeable. Taylor responded “Yes we can, it's obviously a touch delayed and a mite fuzzy, but it's clear enough to follow along with. Leon, there is someone here that wants to say something.” the man told him.
Leon waited patiently as a few bumps and a quiet curse reached him. After another moment a familiar voice reached his ears making him smile. “Hello Leon, I am happy you made it safely.” Natalia spoke to him from thousands of kilometers overhead.
Leon replied quickly “Yes. I told you we would be fine. I love you Nat, you can watch our progress on the live feed if you want. We will be deploying signal boosters to help keep us in touch throughout the whole mission.”
Natalia’s voice spoke again “I love you too Leon, I’ll be watching from in here.”
There was some more rustling static and then Taylor’s voice returned. “Okay, now before you head out onto the planet’s surface are you sure you are ready for this Leon? There are an awful lot of things that can go wrong. Gas leaks, contaminated feeds, sharp rocks…” the man started to say worriedly but Leon cut him off.
“It’s going to be okay Taylor. I have been in dangerous situations before you know. And I’m still here.” Leon reassured the younger man. In reality he was a bit worried about it as well, especially for Myung, she seemed a little stressed. And stress lead to mistakes. He decided to go and give her a reassuring word before they got underway.
Continued in Chapter 26 Part 2
==End of Transmission==
submitted by Frostdraken to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 19:00 SplashiestPig [A4A] You Rob A Bank With Your Outlaw Partner [Desperado Speaker] [Gunslinger Listener] [Wild West] [Lots Of Countryisms] [Lovers To Lovers] [One Last Score] [Marital Bliss, But With Cowboys] [TW: Gunshots And Murder (Of Unnamed Characters)]

Google Docs ~ ScriptBin
I, SplashiestPig, the author of this script, personally endorse the pursuit of any typical action taken with this text. You can edit it. You can put it behind a paywall. You can monetize an audio made from it. You can even join it on a life of crime, while you steal the funds to flee Uncle Sam! Dive In! Credit SplashiestPig, and if it could be managed, I'd love to get a link to your work.

( ) = Verbal Sound Effect
[ ] = Added Sound Effect
* * = Silent Insert

Jump The Broom, Leap The Book

Weather’s turned sour. If we ain’t quick, the roads might go ‘nd turn to mush.
*listener questions*
Well, I ain’t saying we should just throw the whole plan out. We’ve been wanting to take out a loan for months! I’m just saying, maybe we oughtta wait a week, let the dirt firm up.
*listener assures*
You certain about this one, darling?
*listener confirms*
Fine then, twist my arm. You know I ain’t in the business of doubting ya’, I’m just making sure.
*small pause*
Ready to make pleasant?
*listener comments*
Don’t be like that. We wouldn’t want anyone denying us a withdrawal, now would we?
*listener confirms*
See? That’s why I do the talkin’. Much as I love ya’, you’ve got a hair trigger in more ways than one.
*listener accepts*
Well, if’n you’re loaded, then I think it’s time to get our down payment, don’t you?
*listener confirms*
I love you, ya gall nipper!
[door swings open]
Ladies and gentlemen, this here is a robbery! I reckon you all got ten seconds to sit on ya’ hands, before I start smoking shells!
[shotgun racks]
Six! Five. Four, three, two, one!
Looks like that sorry fool was a little slow on the sitting. Glad the rest of y’all ain’t!
*small pause*
Now, all y’all bankers back there are gonna lead my associate straight back to ya’ bonds. Imma stand right here, front the door, and for every minute I stand here, someone’s gonna meet God. I’d suggest you start moving.
*small pause*
Now that’s mighty fine! Don’t you worry folks, big city banks like this got all kinds of insurances! You fine city-slickers won’t be losing a penny. So as long as everyone sits nice and civil-like, this can be nothing more than a story to tell at y’all’s next soiree. Don’t try being no hero! It ain’t worth dying over nothing!
*small pause*
Ace? How’re we doing back there?
*listener responds*
Well, if they’re needing some motivation, start cutting fingers off! I won’t tell.
*listener comments*
Oh, that talk got ‘em loosened up, did it? Crazy world we live in, huh? You’d think the loaded peacemaker would be threat enough.
*small pause*
Don’t you worry folks! We’ll be outta here in-!
[door swings]
[shotgun racks]
*listener calls*
Don’t you worry, Ace! Sheriff just popped in to say hello! Shame he wasn’t a quicker shot, he almost caught me off-guard!
*small pause*
Let your sheriff be a lesson, folks. He had a loaded gun and an itchy finger, and he still ended up with a face full a’ lead. You ain’t gonna do no better. Just stay calm, and this’ll be over soon ‘nough.
*small pause*
Speaking of which, Ace! How we doing?
*listener responds*
Oh, well if it ain’t my lucky day? Done already?
*listener confirms*
You always was good with your hands, darling. Now, fine people, thank you very much for your hospitality! We’ll be heading on out, and if anyone comes out this door while we’re around, I promise you, Ace here will put a bullet in your brain ‘fore you make three steps.
[door swings]
Great work, darling.
Now let’s see if we can’t get outta here alive?
*small pause*
[horse gallops]
Scouting said three deputies, right?
*small pause*
If that sheriff had any sense, they’ll be waiting at the ridge. Ready to show ‘em why I call you Ace?
*small pause*
Well then, why don’t you exfluncticate?
*listener questions*
I saw it in a paper, I think it means you’re gonna muck the hog, but I ain’t sure. I’ve been trying to shove some bigger words inna our heists, and it seemed like-!
[three gunshots]
Ooh! You’ve got some eagle eyes on ya’ darling!
*listener comments*
Yep, I’m sure you exlfuncticated ‘em just fine. Although, it looks like that third shot mighta been a bit off-center.
*listener denies*
I don’t know, hun. We’re getting pretty old. Maybe you’ve lost the touch.
*listener states*
You know I’m barking at knots, Ace. We could run circles around any punks this side of the Mississippi.
*listener states*
Aw, is someone a little miffed? Don’t worry about it, darling. I’ll make it upta ya’, once we’re safe and sound.
*listener questions*
Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait n’ see, wontcha?
*listener agrees*
[horse galloping fades]
[rainstorm ambiance]
Quick! It’s raining cats and dogs out here!
*listener states*
Whaddya mean, the key won’t fit? We got it off the corpse, didn’t we? It should be right!
*listener confirms*
Screw it. Not like we’ll be staying long.
[door slams]
There. Nothing some elbow grease couldn’t solve. After you, darling.
*small pause*
Slide me a chair, I’ll jam the door shut.
[door closes]
There! That’ll give us some shelter from the storm. Lucky we didn’t get held up with the bank. It is flooding out there!
*listener comment*
Yes, darling. You were right. I swear, you get so smug after a score!
*listener states*
And I’m very happy too. But please, let’s not escape the bullets just to freeze to death in wet clothes.
*listener questions*
I know we ain’t got firewood. Fortunately, I had something else in mind.
*listener asks*
Way I see it, I still owe you for my little comment earlier. And that bed looks just big enough to fit two. So get this wet stuff off, and we’ll count the money from un’ner the blankets.
*listener inquires*
Well, you know how I get when money’s involved. And if we’re bare already, who knows what’ll happen? So why don’t you hurry up and get here? Money and warmth first, then we’ll think about the Devil’s Tango.
[blankets rustle]
Wow, I think that might have gotten you moving faster than the heist did!
*listener retorts*
Mouth as quick as your trigger finger. That’s why I love ya’ hun.
*listener comments*
Then move over, ya’ lovebug!
[blankets rustle]
Here. You hold our sack, and I’ll hold you! Maybe even mess with your hair, if you behave.
*listener questions*
You know exactly what I’m talking about, ya’ weasel. Now, hurry up! I wanna know how much we risked life and limb for!
*listener states*
Don’t you tryna confuse me with that. How much is it total?
*listener adds*
You’re kidding.
*listener denies*
I knew we were gonna make a killing but… two-thousand?
*listener comments*
Plus the gold! Darling, with this score, and our savings, we got it!
*listener confirms*
I can’t believe it! We made it! We’re not dead, and we made it!
*listener agrees*
Come here you, beautiful, beautiful outlaw!
We got the money!
We’ve got the money, and the supplies, and each other-!
We blow through the states, hop a boat in Mexico-!
Live out our days in Honduras, making hooch outta coconuts-!
We did it! You and me! We proved ‘em wrong, darling!
(long kiss)
I love you, Ace. And I’m going to tell you that for the rest of our long, shoot-out-free lives!
(giddy chuckle)
I’m so glad we stuck together. I told ya’ this would all work out.
*listener comments*
Oh, I know hun, but I don’t even care! Nothing’s gonna bring me down now. We are inches away from everything we’ve ever dreamed of. A couple weeks’ travel hardly matters now.
*small pause*
Say, whaddaya think about getting a kid? Once we’ve settled down? I know we can’t have one of our own but, I’m sure there’s a scamp out there that’d love a home! Maybe a dog or a really smart pig?
*listener questions*
Right. One step at a time. I’m just… so happy! You and me did it. We beat Johnny Law! And I can’t wait to celebrate!
*listener agrees*
Get the money back in the bag. I don’t want there to be anything between us!
*small pause*
There. That’s better. Drying up, darling?
*listener confirms*
Yeah, I’m a little damp ‘round the edges, but I’m sure we can fix that soon enough.
*listener questions*
Yes darling, after that incredible showing at the bank, we can even do it the way you like. As a treat.
*listener asks*
No lie. I’ll even be the one to get out of our little pile of warmth here to get the lasso. You earned it.
*listener accepts*
Just gimme a kiss, ya’ slink!
[ambiance fades]
submitted by SplashiestPig to ASMRScriptHaven [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 18:59 Whiskeyflavourcigar Spotted the Doomsday Plane!

Spotted the Doomsday Plane! submitted by Whiskeyflavourcigar to flightradar24 [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 18:54 ShinyStripes Unity

Hello all! I would love to have feedback about how to unite dem voters in my state. It seems imperative to initiate conversations that are open-minded while respecting differing opinions in my state of SC. I am completely floored by the lack of action here from our party of “live and let live”, and I would really like to inspire conversation that initiates action against the literal tyranny of our current administration. The lack of solidarity and organization among democrats in South Carolina is truly upsetting and ineffective. How can I help/support my state reps against the screams and tantrums from the far right majority here? I feel that many are discouraged and alienated in my community, and I have to do SOMETHING to help.
submitted by ShinyStripes to VoteDEM [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 18:30 AsicJungle Breaking Dollar Hegemony: Are the BRICS Nations Catalyzing Hyperbitcoinization?

Breaking Dollar Hegemony: Are the BRICS Nations Catalyzing Hyperbitcoinization?

Bitcoin to replace the Dollar?
Recent news has had much to say about activity from the BRICS nations. With China leading the way, BRICS is hinting toward an alternative currency that may prove to be particularly consequential for the role of the US in global geopolitics. In the wake of the destabilization of the global monetary status quo, it is predicted that Bitcoin will take greater leaps along its adoption curve.
What seems like a complicated affair ultimately aligns with the singular trajectory of the Bitcoin thesis. As the reasoning goes, fiat currency, being inherently subject to manipulation and historically proven to lack staying power, underpins a monetary system detached from sound principles, thus eroding and displacing wealth.
Alternatively, Bitcoin, unlike gold or fiat, entails a form of money that cannot be co-opted, proposing a long-term solution to the chronic upheavals caused by economies operating on centrally mandated gold and fiat money standards.
In this light, the recent weaponization and rampant debasement of the US dollar depicts irresponsible currency management. In search of shifting away from a global monetary monopoly, the BRICS nations are reported to be assessing alternatives.
Meanwhile, with each new user, community, and layer of innovation, Bitcoin is networking value for those who wish to opt for an entirely different monetary future; one based on sound and incorruptible thermodynamic, economic, and ethical principles.
Asic Magazine will continue monitoring the broader implications of these substantial shifts in our global monetary order. This article plays with three suggested phases in the game theory behind hyperbitcoinization in relation to recent noteworthy shifts in global geopolitics.

What is Hyperbitcoinization?

The term "hyperbitcoinization" was first coined by Daniel Krawisz, an early Bitcoin enthusiast and writer, in a 2014 article titled "Hyperbitcoinization: Winner Takes All".
In the article, Krawisz argued that Bitcoin has the potential to become the dominant global currency due to its unique properties, including its limited supply, immutability, and decentralization. He suggested that hyperbitcoinization could occur through a series of phases, eventually leading to its use as a medium of exchange for everyday transactions.
Since then, the term "hyperbitcoinization" has been used by the Bitcoin community to describe the hypothetical scenario where Bitcoin becomes the dominant global currency.

What brought us here?

As led by China, competing with the US dollar’s dominance follows a decades-long storyline. It begins with the Bretton Woods agreement sparking the US dollar’s world reserve currency status in 1944.
This date marks the start of an unrivaled era of power for the United States. Theoretically, as long as the US maintains the integrity of their dollar, they could stretch their dominance for many decades.
However, following their departure from the gold standard in the 1970s, it didn’t take long for the debt-to-GDP ratio of the US to start painting a dark picture. As of 1985, the US became a debtor nation for the first time since WW1, meaning the US owes more money to foreign creditors than is owned by the US. This situation has only worsened; today, the US is one of the largest debtor nations in the world.
To compensate, the US became a military, economic, and geopolitical behemoth so pivotal to global trade that their leverage upon the world could allow the prolongation of their skewed accounting.
Simply speaking, when everyone uses your currency, you can effectively pay your debts for free by printing money.
This is a game that no nation in history has played for long. Centrally coordinated money is historically prone to runaway debt, leading to hyperinflation and subsequent default. As is naturally reasonable, borrowing from the future is only sustainable in a system where economic growth stays within reach of debt.

Phase 1: Bitcoin as a store of value

The first serious cracks in the US-lead monetary world order became apparent during the 2008 financial crisis. 2008 happened to coincide closely with Bitcoin’s birth, offering the world its first glimpse into a monetary standard with the potential to render obsolete centrally coordinated money.
Bitcoin, however, is a radical new technology whose adoption starts at the grassroots level. More often than not, radical ideas take time to gather momentum—and in Bitcoin’s case, time to gather value.
Today, about 14 years later, we can confidently observe that Bitcoin, as a recognized commodity, has demonstrated the ability to store value, thus fulfilling a critical early stage of the hyperbitcoinization concept.

Shifting to a multi-polar world

As you likely know, money printing accelerated heavily in the developed world with the onset of the pandemic. Interest rates have recently been ratcheted up in an attempt to tame the resulting inflation, but catching up to the US’ total debt is now a foregone conclusion, technically implying a default on the loan upon which the United States operates.
Putin has since initiated the war in the Ukraine, exacerbating our global monetary house of cards. Before long, the US started weaponizing the dollar by sanctioning Russia from global trade, setting a dangerous precedent: don’t play by the USA’s rule-based order, and you’ll be excluded from global trade.
Russia’s annexation has placed them in an especially vulnerable position, subject to the whims of nations neutral to western views on the war in Ukraine: BRICS. While the western world has been largely on board with the USA’s antics, broader geopolitics have been more gray, hinting preference toward a multi-polar system of international law.

Compounding complications: Saudi Arabia, India, and South America

A telling complication has been the recent burgeoning independence of middle-eastern OPEC nations, namely Saudi Arabia’s influence on oil trade dynamics. Since the 70’s, the US and Saudi Arabia have exchanged oil trade security for US dollar-denominated Saudi oil transactions in what has been known as the “petrodollar” era.
This era gave the US enormous leverage upon global trade. With Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement that other currencies, including Russian Rubles, Indian Rupees, and Chinese Yuan, are being considered in exchange for their oil, the US dollar’s influence seems to be eroding.
Furthermore, in response to the weaponization of the US dollar, India, and leading South American nations, Argentina and Brazil, have also opted to de-dollarize their trade.

Phase 2: Bitcoin’s national-level proliferation

An idea has been circulating that the BRICS solution is the creation of a new currency whose value is based on an underlying basket of commodities. However, the resulting currency, ultimately centralized, and likely a CBDC, would remain subject to the principles that have been predicated to the failing longevity of the (not so) beloved USD.
Therefore, the Bitcoin thesis remains intact and poised as a haven for individuals and nations during the turbulence inherent to global monetary shifts. In the midst of the confusion, our second phase toward hyperbitcoinization predicts that larger swaths of people and nations will flee into Bitcoin.
Bitcoin becoming commonplace on the balance sheets of governments and an influx of nations declaring Bitcoin as legal tender are indications of having reached this phase.
We are on the precipice of this phase today as the BRICS nations introduce an era with multiple currencies competing for world reserve status. It’s tricky to predict how long this phase will last, but my estimate is between 10 and 20 years.

Phase 3: Hyperbitcoinization

Hyperbitcoinization, as you might expect, describes when Bitcoin as a medium of exchange has permeated the world. It does not imply that national currencies will have disappeared, but that Bitcoin will be the dominant money.
Describing what a hyperbitcoinized world will look like is inherently tricky, because it would be unlike anything in human history.
My speculation is that it would dawn an era of organic collectivism; a circular economy closely tied to the reality of the carrying capacity of the Earth as a direct result of the galvanization of the sovereignty of individuals. In a hyperbitcoinized world, I suspect that professional politicians will have become obsolete, and that national boundaries will be more permeable. That being said, I think getting there will be a bumpy road as centralized regimes cling to power in their decaying days using AI and CBDCs.
submitted by AsicJungle to asicjungle [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 18:26 jeremy1gray Federalism in India v. Canada - Legal and Social observations

I am an India qualified lawyer and I have been studying in Canada for more than a year. I have been observing some interesting differences between Indian and Canadian culture in the context of federalism, regional identity and constitutional frameworks. This is not a critique of the Indian or the Canadian system, rather just a few observations that I think are interesting to share.
India is considered a federation, but in many cases, it is a relatively weak federation and a stronger unitary state. India's states derive their identity from their distinctive languages and culture. But in many ways for the top 10-20% of the population and for the segment of population that moves around cities a lot, India is one country and not necessarily a federation.
  1. Canada does not have a ''Central Board'' like CBSE or ICSE for education, rather syllabus is exclusively created by each individual province. The only exception is IB (International Baccalaureate) which is an international program. This means local provincial history is a substantial part of every province's syllabus. If State Boards got their act together in India, I would prefer more localized education that encourages learning in local languages rather than a Central syllabus).
  2. Unlike in India, you can't use your state drivers license to drive around the country indefinitely. You need to get a new provincial license from the province where you are moving to and pay the fee. BUT, you don't have to take a drivers' test again as every province recognizes the driving tests of the other provinces. (Points to India on this).
  3. Every province in Canada has a different INCOME TAX rate (not allowed in India) and a different GST rate (allowed in India, but states don't maintain differential rates in practice). Also the ratio of Federal to provincial split in Canada is 1:2 but in India its 1:1. Under HST there is a federal rate of 5% and a provincial rate (varies among provinces). Administration of the tax is done by the Federal government on behalf of provincial governments. Earlier, GST was administered separately by federal government and each province had its own provincial sales tax (similar to what we had in India with state sales taxes) Notably, British Columbia refused to impose HST Quebec has its own version called QST. Both provinces continue to independently administer their versions of sales tax. (Points to India on this for having consistent tax administration).
  4. While not relevant to India (lack of Universal health care), every province in Canada has its own healthcare system and ''health card'' that residents need to access medical services. If you move between provinces you only have three months to get a new health card. (Points to Canada on this).
  5. Roads in Canada are only built by provincial governments. Federal government does not even build or maintain the Trans Canada Highway which leads to the TCH having six, four or even two lanes depending on the province. (Points to India on this).
  6. Provinces have ABSOLUTE power within their provinces. There is something in the Canadian Constitution called the ''notwithstanding clause'', basically provinces can override the federal government on everything if they chose to. This is how Quebec has continued to be practically a semi-autonomous region of Canada. The federal government is powerless to stop this unless all ten provinces agree to remove this clause from the constitution (Points to Canada on this if you are a Federalist, India if you are a unitarist).
  7. Law enforcement is a little more complicated, I have not yet understood exactly how federal law enforcement agencies within Canada operate (other than Canada Border Services which guards borders). The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is the only federal law enforcement agency within Canada's borders but they operate under ''contract'' with the provinces in which they enforce the law. I am not how this mechanism works, but on a surface level it seems that the Federal government has little ability to interfere with provincial law enforcement, unlike how CBI and CRPF run amok in India. (Points to Canada)
  8. There is no centralized power grid in Canada. Every province has its own electrical transmission system. This creates weird problems when it can sometimes make more sense to export power south of the border to the US than share it with other provinces. Power costs vary widely across the country with Quebec and Manitoba having dirt cheap hydro prices and Alberta, Saskatchewan in the West (thermal) have higher power costs. India has managed to centralize transmission, unify the national grid and reduce power price differential among states. (Points to India on this).
  9. Social observation - Despite relative homogeneity in language and Western culture (Quebec aside), there is a LOT of emphasis on local community and hiring people who have studied locally. This is less true in Toronto and Vancouver, but much much more significant in any other city. Unlike in India where an IIT-K grad is recognized and hired anywhere in the country, the reputation and ''hireability' of a university graduate is directly proportional to how close the employer is to the university. (Maybe points to Canada?)
  10. Professional certifications: This one is weird, but some regulated professions, especially in health need to INDIVIDUALLY register in each province where they intend to practice. What a professional can or cannot do varies widely among provinces. For example, if a ''nurse practitioner'' in one province can prescribe some medicines, in another province they might not have the same ability to prescribe. I think this level of regulatory inconsistency is the root cause of the pathetic state of the Canadian healthcare system, compared to what it used to be. (Points to India for having consistent regulation across states and not having barriers to movement, we already gave Canada points for having public healthcare, so that is not relevant for this discussion)
  11. Elections: In India, ECI conducts all state and central legislative elections, but state election commissions conduct local elections. In Canada, the federal elections board (Elections Canada) only conducts federal elections and provincial election boards conduct provincial elections.
So in conclusion, to outsiders Canada may seem like a federation with weak distinguishing characteristics among the provinces, when you look under the hood, Canada is a country with a weak federal government and very strong provinces. In direct contrast to India which is has strong cultural distinguishing features between states but relatively weaker state governments.
submitted by jeremy1gray to IndiaSpeaks [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 17:25 IskoLat Mikhail Kalinin. "The People of Lithuania Are on a New Path"

Mikhail Kalinin.
On July 14-15 of 1940, elections to the People's Parliament [Liaudies Seimas] were held in Lithuania. These elections had an unusual content and significance compared to previous elections. Here the false declarations and unrealistic promises of all kinds of benefits to the people, which the bourgeois parties usually made, were put aside and pushed into obscurity by two cardinal issues:
1) On the proclamation of Lithuania as a fellow Soviet Socialist Republic
2) On the accession of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic into the Soviet Union as a Union Republic.
The overwhelming majority of the population took part in the elections - 95.51% of voters compared to 38% of voters who actually took part in the last elections. Moreover, 99.19% of voters voted for the candidates of the Union of the Working People of Lithuania. And this is natural, because the question was clear, understandable to everybody and affected every Lithuanian in one way or another. So, by voting for supporters of Lithuania's accession into the Soviet Union, one thereby determined his attitude to this issue. By voting in 1940, the Lithuanian people, perhaps for the first time in their entire history, could freely reveal their will and their aspirations as a whole, as a people, and, taking advantage of this opportunity, demanded the Soviet system of governance for themselves.
Reactionaries, enemies of the Soviet system of governance, were enraged by this result. Even the liberal democratic circles threw up their hands in surprise. Unable to find, and unwilling to look for the real reason for such a turn by the Lithuanian people, in the specific conditions of their life, they sought to discredit the elections themselves, the voting procedure. But even here these people suffered a fiasco: the genuine democratic nature of the elections did not give any real grounds for defaming them. And, nevertheless, this did not prevent the reactionary press from coming out with hostile articles and bringing forth, as expected from them, facts invented in the editorial offices.
One should not be surprised here. On the contrary, it would be surprising if, say, not the reactionary, but at least the liberal-bourgeois press reacted to these elections positively. In fact, how much work was spent for the political deception of the people, for propaganda and agitation, for school "education", religious influence, administrative pressure, etc.! Mountains of slander were pushed against the USSR, against the Soviet government! It is difficult even to name all the means the Smetona government used to influence the Lithuanian people in order to discourage them from any desire to find out the truth about real life in the Soviet Union, in order to isolate the Lithuanians from even the slightest influence of Soviet culture. For this purpose, it sought maximum isolation of Lithuania from the USSR, not only politically and culturally, but also economically.
It seemed that there were no channels, no ways through which the Lithuanian people's ties with the Soviet Union could develop. However, the actual reality cruelly mocked those who worked so zealously to darken the consciousness of the Lithuanian people, those who tried their best to introduce inertia and indifference into the consciousness of the people. At the first opportunity, the Lithuanian people loudly declared: I want to be a member of the Soviet Union! That's what infuriated the enemies of the Soviet form of governance and still infuriates them to this day. What mean reasons pushed the Lithuanian people on the path to the Soviet system, to its accession into the USSR? There are many very convincing reasons. That they are serious is clear to every Lithuanian, because with his mother's milk he was instilled with the thought that the most valuable thing is the independence of his own country, its greatness. But reasonable people had doubts about the "independence" that Lithuania had, uncertainty about its reality, because the facts contradicted it too much. No sooner had the republic organized itself and the government settled in its capital, Vilnius, than a certain Polish general with his detachment of troops seized Vilnius, expelled the Lithuanian government, and the capital of Lithuania was annexed to Poland, and Lithuania lost its largest and most industrialized city. For the sake of decency, the press made a little noise, and that was the end of it. The suzerain powers did not even lift a finger to restore the violated rights of Lithuania, because the attacker was also patronized by them and probably more valuable as an open enemy of the Soviet Union.
With Hitler's rise to power in Germany, the specter of Lithuania's "independence" has diminished even more. In 1939, Hitler seized Klaipeda, and the Lithuanian government, filled with fear for its own existence, was glad that the seizure was limited only to the Klaipeda region and the treaty, which in effect included the entire Lithuanian economy in the German economic master plan. I do not want to accuse the government that existed of not wanting to do anything to defend the country, but only to illustrate the phantom nature of the "independence" of Lithuania during that time. It would be a mistake to think that the Lithuanian people did not strive for real independence. In 1919, after the expulsion of German troops, the Soviet government was established in Lithuania, which signed an alliance with Soviet Belarus. But the real independence of Lithuania was quickly liquidated by the Entente and the German troops called into the fight by it. In the language of the European bourgeois press, this was called the "restoration" of Lithuanian "independence".
The country's politics and economy developed in accordance with external conditions. After the defeat of the Soviet government, a democratic government was organized. (It was impossible to immediately install a fascist regime after crushing the Soviet government). It didn't last long. Apparently, the common path of development of the Baltic countries was manifested here: the suppression of the Soviet government -> democracy (as a transitional form of power) -> fascism. Obviously, for some "champions" of democracy, fascism is more acceptable, because any democracy, even by a tiny bit, at least for appearance's sake, must do something in the interests of the people. Fascism does not even concern itself with such tasks. That is why fascism in small countries is encouraged by the big "guardians of democracy". The establishment of the fascist regime in Lithuania, the Smetona regime, made Lithuania into a cash cow for German capital. The Germans were not content with just subjugating the Lithuanian economy to their plan. They methodically introduced themselves into all the avenues of Lithuanian life, turning Lithuania into a springboard for an attack on the Soviet Union, which, in fact, they did not hide from Smetona, who shared their thoughts. On the contrary, the preparation of Lithuania's territory for military purposes seemed to justify the introduction of Germans into all the pores of Lithuanian life. In this way, the Germans killed two birds with one stone:
1) They prepared a military bridgehead
2) Quietly adapted Lithuania into a German Hinterland.
The Smetona government saw the danger that threatened the independent existence of Lithuania, and, in fact, did not resist German aggression, trying to curry favor with Hitler, with whose support it now owed its existence to. The only hope of Smetona and his supporters was that they would remain in power under German fascism in one form or another and would exploit at least some part of the people's labor. The above facts clearly show what was really hidden under the decorum of Lithuanian "independence". Smetona's internal policy naturally corresponded to the external one. It consisted in imitation of German fascism, in adapting it to local conditions.
Now even the blind can see that fascism with its ideology and politics is a terrible social evil generated by the era of imperialism. Anyone who has been to the south has seen with his own eyes how a huge tree - pine, oak, cypress - was wrapped by a parasitic plant with bright green leaves. With its stems, it presses tightly against the tree, and numerous shoots dig into the bark and pull out the juices. It is possible to save a tree from death only by destroying this parasitic plant. Fascism is a parasite of the state tree. And if the people do not destroy it in a timely manner, it will inevitably lead the country to the greatest of disasters. Experience has shown that fascism is equally fatal for both large and small countries alike. Having no desire to awaken the creative forces of the people, on the contrary, deliberately putting them to sleep, so that it would be easier to turn people into an obedient herd, the fascist leaders, for example, in Hungary, Romania, etc., shouted furiously: "Great Hungary!", "Great Romania!". It was laughable. But all the fascist meanness was hidden behind this farce.
As for Smetona, he did not even have this prop. His main desire was to cover up, if possible, his dependence on Hitler, to disguise it in front of the Lithuanian people. The task is difficult and, in fact, impossible, because the Germans climbed and penetrated into all the holes and cracks, seized banks, and through them the industrial enterprises, wholesale trade, flooded the country with their literature, films and generally felt no worse in Lithuania than they would at home. In short: there was, perhaps not quite noticeable to the eyes of an ordinary person, but an inevitable process of germanizing Lithuania [1].
Relations between Germany and Lithuania progressed towards not only the actual but also the formal transformation of Lithuania into a German colony (Smetona's request to Hitler about the entry of German troops into Lithuania). If Smetona, seeing all this danger, even wanted to prevent it, then, having neither material nor military resources, and most importantly, not using the moral support of the Lithuanian people, he would not be able to resist German aggression. Smetona had only one path left, which he followed: no resistance, but harmonizing the life of the whole country with German demands and humble obedience to Hitler. With such a "policy" he decided to prolong the appearance of Lithuania's "independent" existence.
Naturally, such a government could not satisfy the people. It could not and did not want to serve the interests of the Lithuanian people. The narrow egoistic interests of this government were closely linked with German interests, and its spiritual demands were related to Hitlerism. It means that the entire state policy of Smetona's government rested on the enrichment of a small handful of people, on the systemic robbery of the people, on the strangulation and all-round emasculation of their national culture.
Perhaps there is no country - both in Europe and in the Americas - where Lithuanian migrants who fled from their native country not only from political repression, but even more simply from hunger, would not be found. The Lithuanian intelligentsia, especially the progressive intelligentsia, was not in the best position either. The opportunity to live and breathe was only in leaving, because they had no work in their native country, and fascism stifled every free thought. The fascist octopus tightly wrapped itself around the Lithuanian people and led them to their imminent death.
These are the reasons that prompted the Lithuanian people to vote for Lithuania's entry into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Of course, when voting, the Lithuanian people not only desired to get rid of the unbearable conditions in which their life took place, but they fully took into account the benefits and advantages that the Soviet system brings them. One of the serious factors is that the Lithuanian people, having joined the USSR, acquired real independence. The enemies persistently insist that Lithuania is dependent, since it is one of the sixteen republics in the Union. But these are all enemy fairy tales. Why are entrepreneurs organized into government trusts, syndicates and enterprises? They will say that there is a naked calculation of increased profits from the monopoly. Yes, that's right. True, some of the propertied classes hypocritically condemn them for this from a "moral" point of view. But only the workers' organizations are really fighting them. And trusts, syndicates and enterprises are developing and growing stronger. At the same time, it does not occur to any entrepreneur that he is losing his industrial independence.
I will give other examples. Now everywhere workers and employees unite in trade unions. Who can say that they lose their personal freedom and independence at the same time? Moreover, the trade unions of workers and employees of any state strive to be members of an international professional organization. And this is quite natural, because each of them understands that this is the only way the one can defend personal freedom and independence.
Furthermore, a peasant, protecting his well-being, enters a cooperative, and the coop association formed in the country links up with cooperative organizations of other countries, and there is already an international cooperative association - the alliance. Only moneylenders, predatory traders and speculators can shed crocodile tears over the fact that peasants that are united in cooperatives cease to be independent landowners.
Every association is an organization that restricts an individual to one degree or another. For example, the same peasant, who is a member of a cooperative, undertakes to hand over all or part of his marketable products to the coop. This restricts the peasant in his freedom to dispose of his products in a way. But in reality, the coop protects him from a predatory buyer.
The USSR has sixteen Union republics with a well-known, but equal limitation of their sovereignty. They form a single union state with a different national way of life, with a diverse national form of culture and historical past. Only the Soviet system and Lenin's national policy ensure and guarantee them unbreakable unity and genuine friendship, real freedom and independence. Protecting the whole, the Soviet system and Lenin's national policy give full opportunity for the unlimited development of each republic, every nationality…
The enormous work by our party to create and strengthen the multinational state has been a complete success. Comrade Stalin said the following:
"The absence of the exploiter classes, which are the main masterminds behind the international conflict; the absence of exploitation, with its mutual distrust and brewing nationalist passions; the presence of power of the working class, which is the enemy of all enslavement and a faithful bearer of the ideas of internationalism; the actual implementation of mutual assistance of peoples in all areas of economic and social life; finally, the flourishing of the national culture of the peoples of the USSR, national in form, socialist in content - all these and similar factors have led to the following: the appearance of the peoples of the USSR has radically changed, the feeling of mutual distrust has disappeared in them, a sense of mutual friendship has developed in them and, thus, real fraternal cooperation of peoples has been established in the system of a single union state.
As a result, we now have a fully developed multinational socialist state that has withstood all the tests of time, the strength of which could be envied by any nation-state in any part of the world" [2]
During the Great Patriotic War, the strength of the cohesion of the peoples of the Soviet Union, based on Lenin's national policy, withstood enormous trials. The war with fascist Germany and its satellite states clearly showed how valuable the Soviet Union is for every Union Republic. The enemy occupied all of Lithuania and went far beyond its borders to the east. It seemed that the country had perished under the Nazi boot. But far from the Lithuanian borders, near Orel, a Lithuanian division fought in the All-Union Red Army. And in the capital of the Soviet Union, Moscow, there was a Lithuanian government that called upon and organized, as much as possible, the forces capable of fighting inside Lithuania.
No matter how loud the German military drums thundered, no matter how much fascist propaganda tried to distort the actual situation on the fronts and in the rear of the Soviet armies, no matter how cruelly the Gestapo tortured Soviet patriots, the Lithuanian people heard and saw that a fierce struggle for their liberation was going on. This undoubtedly inspired him with great confidence in victory, inspired the partisans in their difficult and daring struggle in the distant rear of the enemy, and their heroic actions, in turn, raised the spirit and morale of the people. The names of Marytė Melnikaitė, Urbanavičius (Kurmelis), Apyvala, Vladas Baronas, Jacinavičius, Motieka and others have earned glory not only by themselves, but also because they embody the best traditions of the Lithuanian people, their heroism and boundless devotion to their Homeland.

Bronius Urbanavičius
Next, let's take the work efficiency of the people as a whole. Statesmen, industrialists, journalists of capitalist countries continuously call for increased labor productivity as the basis of the country's well-being. The fascist Lithuanian government was not far behind in this. But with the policy pursued by this government, with Lithuania's economic dependence on Germany, the limits of increasing labor efficiency were very limited, and this increase was mainly directed at greater exploitation of the workers. Lithuania's economic development also had purely objective limitations: the small territory of the country, the absence of the main elements necessary for production - coal, iron and generally valuable ores, its predominantly agrarian nature. All this, as it were, naturally predetermined the backwardness of Lithuanian industry and, what is most tragic, the lack of prospects in the future.
By joining the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian people radically transformed the economic situation of their country. From an appendage of Germany, from the backwater of Europe, Lithuania received unlimited opportunities to turn into an advanced and highly developed national republic, as a full member of the great Union. Now her household will be built in a new way. The structure of the industry will change, it will acquire a character corresponding to modern advanced state of technology. It is now provided with a powerful raw material base and an unlimited market for the sale of its products. There are no objective obstacles to specialization, and hence to increase in the efficiency of labor, as the basis of welfare of the people.
In fact, what can now prevent the construction of any factory specialized in the production of any type of goods? Nothing but a shortage of skilled workers, engineers and technical personnel among Lithuanians. I will illustrate my point with an example. In Lithuania, for example, a machine tooling or machine-building plant is being erected. The Union as a whole needs thousands of machines, the plant also produces thousands of machines, but the Republic of Lithuania can use only hundreds or dozens of machines - such is its need for the kind of machines that this plant produces. Wouldn't it be better for the plant to produce machines only for this republic? Of course, technically it is possible, but economically it will be irrational, unprofitable, production will become artisanal and, most importantly, the quality of products will be worse, productivity is much lower. In this way, not only will we not get closer to the American technological level, but we will move away from it, even if the plant had first-class equipment. But the socialist economy strives for a higher productivity of labor than that which capitalism is able to create in its most advanced countries.
Thus, in order to have high labor productivity and its efficiency, it is not enough to have a wish and even a desire to have it, but we also need the appropriate economic and social conditions that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics gives to all constituent republics. With these arguments, I do not want to belittle or downplay the importance of local or Republican industry, which mainly fulfills local needs. But local industry can also work productively only if it is abundantly supplied with good machines. This is well understood by the leaders of the Republics, who also bear responsibility for the enterprises of all-Union significance.
The Soviet government invested a lot of money and labor in the development of agriculture, which became the largest and most mechanized agriculture in the world. It has become productive, of which the best proof is the satisfaction of its military needs. Lithuanian agriculture is considered productive, it produced significant products for export. But we cannot close our eyes and ignore the fact that this productivity was based on the enormous exertion of the peasantry, on the hard work of the middle peasant on his farm and the farmhand in a larger farm. Physical labor took up their entire lives, leaving no time to satisfy their spiritual needs.
Under the Soviet system of governance, the Lithuanian peasant will not agree to such a life. His public interests are rapidly expanding, cultural demands are growing, which require time to satisfy themselves. The Soviet government highly values labor, celebrating labor feats with awards. But at the same time, it spares no expense to increase cultural and political education of the village. All this imperiously requires mechanization, the introduction of modern agricultural machines adapted to Lithuanian conditions.
These are the ways and means by which the Soviet government increases labor productivity both in industry and in agriculture. Undoubtedly, the Lithuanian people are using these opportunities to their fullest. Of course, it is not easy to move forward the economy and culture of the entire country, especially if it has a lot to catching up to do. But the life of the people, their well-being, demand this first and foremost. The creative forces of the people are inexhaustible, you just need to be able to awaken them.
The questions that I have asked casually and slightly indicate the enormous and complex nature of the tasks facing the Lithuanian people and its intelligentsia.
Fulfilling the program set by the Communist Party, the Union Government not only protects, but also ensures the flourishing of national culture of each Union republic, the established customs and, in particular, the native language of its peoples. It creates all the necessary conditions for the fruitful work of the intelligentsia in its field. Therefore, the Lithuanian intelligentsia bears full responsibility to its people for the cultural prosperity of the republic.
The national school is the first step in human development, the most important stage in the process of forming an active citizen and a patriot of his Homeland - therefore, it must be at the Homeland's top priority. During the implementation of this program, the Homeland should instill in the younger generations a love for their native language, folk songs, native landscape and at the same time expand the horizon of students as future citizens of the Soviet Union, and collectively instill in them a love for the great and multinational Motherland – the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. From this we see that the understanding of all-Union Soviet patriotism is not opposed to the local one. It is from local patriotism, as a popular source, that patriotism grows towards the Soviet system of governance, towards the USSR as a whole.
I think the Lithuanian government helps a lot and in the future will allocate even more of its resources towards the development of literature in the Lithuanian language, especially original fiction, drawing its plots from Lithuanian folk life and contributing to the awakening of new creative forces in the people.
Without a doubt, Lithuania will take an honorable place among the Union republics in the development of all kinds of art and sports, and its folk choirs will be an inexhaustible source for the development of national music and theater.
The war is over. The shackles that bound the creative forces of the Lithuanian people have been removed forever. I sincerely wish the Lithuanian people success in building their Soviet state, in the development of industry, agriculture and culture, national in form and socialist in its content.

"Soviet Lithuania" No. 289,
December 28, 1945
Printed according to the text of the newspaper

[1] As it turned out from the documents presented by the American prosecution at the Nuremberg Trials, the Germans planned to completely destroy the Baltic States and resettles their peoples, in particular Lithuanians, to Belarus. The essence of Rosenberg's instructions on this issue was reduced in practice to the destruction of the Lithuanian people. "The solution to the colonial problem," he wrote, "is not the Baltic question per se, but a question that concerns greater Germany and it must be resolved accordingly."
[2] Josef Stalin. Problems of Leninism, 2nd Ed., Gospolitizdat, 1953, pp. 551-552.-582. (in Russian)

Source: Калинин М.И. Статьи и речи (1941-1946 гг.). ЛИТОВСКИЙ НАРОД НА НОВОМ ПУТИ (292-296).
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2023.05.29 16:56 bimbo_wannabe_ [I Accidentally Joined The Mafia In South Brooklyn] Chapter 6: On The Organizational Habits of Unrested Spirits and The Taste of Demon's Blood, Part 1.

[I Accidentally Joined The Mafia In South Brooklyn] Chapter 6: On The Organizational Habits of Unrested Spirits and The Taste of Demon's Blood, Part 1.
Previous Part:
Becca invited me to her apartment when we made it back, sent me through the alley behind the building to keep the prying eyes at the minimum. That was fine with me as I was a lot more noticeable than I liked to be, at the moment. I had already lit a cigarette by the time she opened the back door of the stairwell to let me in. It was the last in the pack, and I'd only opened it this morning. The temperature on my phone screen had finally hit zero.
"You're gonna have to give me a second, B, I don't wanna smoke around you in your condition but I really need one."
She gave me another watery grin.
"Little too much blood in the nicotine system, huh?"
"Exactly, my young friend, exactly that."
She propped the door open and sat herself down on the ground. I could tell the high heels were starting to hurt her because she kicked them off and set them neatly to the side, though I knew the concrete had to be freezing her feet off. She tucked her skirt between her legs and sat with her back against the wall, her elbow propped on her bent knee, the other leg stretched out straight before her. It was exactly how what was left of Antoni had been sitting beside me less than two hours ago.
I was getting a little tired of all the patterns appearing in my life these days.
I flipped to my news app, as was my habit. There was an article at the top of page about the preparations the SDNY were making to get ready for the coming storm, but frankly I didn't really give a fuck so I just kept scrolling.
"Your old neighborhood is in the news, B."
"You ain't had enough bad news?" Beccs asked with a rueful laugh.
"Eh, I like to stay abreast of current events. I mean, you got me pegged, B. I'm a nosy fuck. But, uh, fifteen years on the inside, you learn that it pays to pay attention to the shit other people don't notice, cause you never know when the information you pick up is going to end up being the information you need."
She gave me a look that said she had to yield to my point.
"So what's the news from Koreatown?".
"Somebody shot a wedding up, apparently. Says seven were killed, including the bride and groom and the bride's father, as they was leaving the reception. You know, most of these names are Rhees. Ain't nobody you know, is it? Kinda feel like you've had enough death for the day, kid."
There was another look on her face, one I couldn't quite read even with all my people-watching prowess.
"Lemme take a wild stab at it. Two of those names are Rhee Seong-Min and Rhee Bong-Cha."
"Yeah," I nodded. "You do know 'em. I'm sorry, B."
She gave a low, almost rumbling, chuckle. It gave me a little shiver, not from the cold, and not one of enjoyment, either. She flashed a sign, one I'd seen her flash before, but it wasn't from any gang I knew personally, and lacking any official affiliation of my own, I'd dealt with my fair share of different gang members in the Upstate Correctional Facility. Double E's, one backwards, one forwards, three quick shakes of each hand.
"God bless old K-town. But you ain't got to worry about it. I'll not shed a tear over any of them. They's family, but they ain't exactly family, you know. I might tell you about it one day."
The last sentence had a note of finality to it, so I didn't ask any further questions in that regard, but I was still as curious as always.
"If all your family has Korean names, how the hell did you end up as Rebecca and your Dad as Sam?"
"My Dad's name is Park Kyung-Sam. Just Sam was easier to tell people and he, uh, he wanted me to have the same benefit of blending in in American society, and he liked the name Rebecca. So, Rhee Rebecca Hyo-Jin. My Mom's name was Rhee Chung-Cha, but everybody just called her ChaCha, like from Grease."
"So your Mom was the Rhee?"
She made an affirmative noise and nodded.
"She didn't exactly wanna give up her family name, and… my Dad didn't exactly give a fuck cause he was in love with her crazy ass. You know, that's where I get this from. Except my Moms, if she was still around she'd make me look like I grew up to be a calm, quiet girl."
I'd hate to see what was worse than Beccs.
"You done?" Becca asked. I nodded, tossed my cigarette into the sand-filled bucket we kept here for just that purpose. I followed B inside and we climbed the stairs to the third floor. I leaned against the wall as she pulled a ring of keys from her coat pocket and waited while she unlocked the knob and the three deadbolts on her door.
"Pretty serious about your home security, B?"
She shot me a look but didn't say anything as she opened the door. A steady beeping greeted us, and Becca stopped just inside and punched in a code on a security panel. As I stepped around her and entered the apartment, I understood why.
Do you know that part in Coming To America where Akeem comes home to his dilapidated Queens apartment and realizes Semmi has filled it with expensive furniture? Well, it was exactly like that. Becca locked the door back behind her, threw her stilettos onto the shoe rack, and hung her coat on the brass tree beside it. I did the same, removed my boots to place them on the rack as well.
"Jesus Christ, B, this place looks amazing."
There was a gray suede sectional in the center of the living room, a 152 inch Panasonic plasma bolted to the wall. The coffee table, the wool Oriental rug beneath it, and the end tables looked antique, as well as the green velvet chaise set near one window. There were three ornately-carved bookcases set against the far wall between the two windows facing the street, one filled with DVDs, and on the other two almost all the books were old and leather bound. The kitchen was open to the room, separated by a butcher block bar from the living room, all matching stainless steel appliances and black marble countertops. All along the walls were family pictures dotted between massive paintings held in golden Baroque style frames.
They were… stunning was the only word I could think to describe them. Most of them were portraits done in a slightly impressionist style, impasto if my memory served me, seemingly random strokes of thick paint that somehow managed to form the perfect images of faces and a few nudes.
"Jesus Christ, these paintings must have cost a fortune alone."
Becca stepped beside me, her arms crossed over her chest as she surveyed the painting I was looking at. It was done in mostly black and red, the image of a sleeping nude man, one arm tucked behind his head, his other draped across his stomach, his hips and legs covered with a sheet. If I touched it, I could have felt the wrinkles in the bunched fabric. There was something oddly familiar about it.
"They didn't cost shit," she answered.
That made me look away from the painting and back to Beccs.
"What the hell? Did you rob a gallery?"
"No, you mook, I painted them. They didn't cost anything but the price of the canvas and the paint, which, you know, I stole most of that from school."
"You painted them," I repeated, looking back.
As I looked closer at the canvas, I realized why it was familiar. The sleeping man was our dear friend Antoni Zabrowska. I had mistaken his tattoos for shadows, though I had to admit I had never seen him look quite so relaxed. As I glanced around the room, I realized I recognized many of the paintings. I was able to pick out her father's face, Rossi's, and I realized the model for the two female nudes was none other than Nia Bianchi. There was one of a woman in white with bloody skeletal wings that bore a strong resemblance to Becca and I imagined that was the infamous ChaCha.
"That's what I go to Columbia for. Visual Arts."
"You're a goddamn genius, B."
She scoffed.
"No, I'm fucking serious, kid. My sister collects art, and she refuses to go for the big names. Shit like this, she pays 10 to 20 grand for a painting half this size, more if it's one of the artists she likes."
Now she snorted.
"What? Your sister got a money tree?"
"No, my older sister Aurie's a writer. She wrote her first book when she was ten. She's published 20 so far, but she's got 30 or 40 more in backlog that she's still tweaking. She's kind of a perfectionist when it comes to writing, but I guess it pays off. Her books sell like fucking hotcakes everytime she puts one out, two of her series got picked up by Netflix, and Lion's Gate turned her seventh book into a movie. She even got to be involved in the productions.
"She's got a penthouse on the Upper East Side that she bought about six years ago. That's where I lived when I got out of the Upstate. Aurora, she's a fucking Saint, you know. I mean, I had a shitty PO that was up my ass every five minutes but Aurie never said a word about it. She just… always told me she was glad I was home, which, you know, was nice to hear considering that according to my grandparents I died 19 years ago. She was the one that helped me get this place down here, paid in full for a two year lease."
Becca raised an eyebrow at me.
"No offense, Tony, I can tell you're crazy about her, but she couldn't have picked a better place for you than this hell hole?"
I laughed as softly as I could, to save the muscles in my stomach.
"I picked this place myself, B. Cheapest apartment I could find in any of the boroughs, and it even had three bedrooms. I was thinking about having space for a library and a home gym."
Becca snorted.
"Yeah, it's cheap cause the fucking place is about 90 years old. Nobody's been able to get a hold of the slumlord who owns it for repairs in 8 months, but I bet you the motherfucker still collects the rent checks we deposit in his fucking bank account every month."
"Yeah, I figured that out just about as soon as I moved in, but beggars can't be choosers. Besides, Antoni always used to help me out whenever something broke."
Becca gave a small smile.
"They did that for everybody. I used to call them the apartment elves, cause instead of making shoes they were skittering around fixing fucking toilets and sinks, and rewiring burned up outlets and bringing in new refrigerators and stoves when shit broke in everybody else's places. And they bought it all with their own money. Everybody tried to pay them, but they never took a dime for any of it. Ironically enough, Pops used to talk about Antoni all the time because of all the money he'd spend over there every week. Said he had a good heart, just no good sense when it came to what was his responsibility and wasn't. You know, I had my own opinions about Antoni's heart, but I kept them to myself."
"I really wish I had paid more attention when Antoni was working on the boiler, though. Instead of just passing him tools and running my mouth."
"Yeah, you're good at that," she replied with a smirk.
"And fuck you, too, Miss Rebecca. You might be the strong type, but you're not exactly silent yourself."
She laughed.
"Make yourself comfortable. I'll be right back."
I nodded and obeyed as she exited into what I saw was the bathroom as she opened the door and closed it behind her.
The sectional was goddamned heaven, and she'd said make myself comfortable so I kicked out the recliner and leaned back. I closed my eyes for a moment and sighed, and when I opened them I nearly jumped out of my skin. I barely managed to stop myself from letting out a yell as I jerked back up to sitting.
Antoni's corpse was standing by the picture wall, looking intently at a photo of a child Becca wearing a ruffled, cream colored dress with a ribbon in her long black hair. It was the picture of her first Communion.
"Goddamn, you can't give somebody a warning before you do that?"
He neither answered me nor turned to look at me because he was using the stumps of his wrists to adjust several of the frames back straight again.
"Fucking neat freak," I laughed. "She wasn't lying."
He finally turned toward me.
You ever seen a corpse try to look annoyed when he's missing about a quarter of his face? I mean, what am I saying, you probably haven't, but suffice to say, it's pretty fucking funny. He raised his left wrist, and if he had hands, he'dve been shooting the bird.
Almost hysterical laughter burst out of me as Becca exited the bathroom.
"Least the pipes ain't frozen yet," she muttered.
She gave me a strange look.
"Who are you talking to out here? And what's so funny?"
I glanced back to Antoni, but he was gone again.
"Don't mind me, B, I'm pretty sure I got a concussion. I'm pretty much seeing pink elephants at this point." Or, you know, the mutilated corpse of my best friend, but it's probably best I leave it at elephants.
"Yeah," she answered, and crossed the room to hand me something. "Speaking of."
It was a mouth guard.
"What is this for?"
She didn't answer me, but headed to the kitchen and opened a cabinet, withdrawing a cut crystal scotch glass and then opening the refrigerator and withdrawing… two bags of blood. Nia's blood, to be exact. She unscrewed the cap at the bottom of one, punctured the seal with a fresh insulin needle, and to my supreme discomfort squeezed some into the glass. The mouth guard suddenly made sense. It was so I wouldn't break my teeth or bite my tongue off when the convulsions started and my jaw locked down from consuming demon blood.
"Oh no, B, I don't want that."
"Yeah. That's why I didn't tell you why I wanted you over here, cause I knew you was gonna be a pussy about it."
I tried one more last-ditch effort.
"You need that more than me, B."
"I can just take my next dose early, but you, you can't go down and see Ma looking like that. She's gonna ask too many questions."
That one stopped me.
"I've had enough of interrogations for one day, B."
"There ain't no interrogation when it comes to Ma. She just puts it in your head that you ain't got no choice but to tell her the truth, and you do. She's made state witnesses get up on the stand and confess their own crimes, pleading the fifth be damned."
She screwed the cap back onto the bag and carried them and the glass over to the coffee table and set them down. She walked over and opened a closet door, pulling out an IV pole with a little box attached to it, and grabbed a small cardboard box from off a shelf and what looked like a tackle box. She set it on the coffee table after she pulled the pole over to the sectional and plugged it into the wall, opened the cardboard box and removed a cassette from inside and inserted it into the box on the pole.
"What's that?"
"It's a blood warmer for rapid transfusions, so I don't go into hypothermia or hemolysis. Little bastard cost 137 thousand, but at least you can buy them online. You put a fresh cassette in every time, the blood runs through it, by the time it gets to my arm it's body temp."
She opened the tackle box and removed two fresh lines, attaching one to the bottom of the warmer and one to the top, hanging the bags of blood but not connecting the first of them yet. The top had a drip chamber with a filter, and the bottom held the flow regulator and the hypodermic needle with the cannula inside.
"You know, it's not fucking fair, B, you shouldn't have dealt with half the shit in your life that you have."
She snorted and her lips pursed with anger as she sat down beside me.
"You sound like Rossi with that shit. That's why he wouldn't let me die, said it wasn't fair. I was ready to go into hospice, fuck it, I was ready to see my Mom again. But I'll tell you the same thing I told his stupid old ass. Life ain't fair. Cause if it was I'd have my mother and my baby's father and Jimmy's ass would be the one laying in the morgue. You think it's fair you almost lost a finger because of what he ordered?"
I laughed.
"No, I actually think that's pretty fair. That's karma, B. I was usually the one doing the beating. How do you think I ended up in prison?"
She looked hard at me for a moment.
"I mean, you never told me. You were pretty open about having gone to prison, but you never said why."
"Well, I learned to be open about it. Some people get real upset when they find out they're dealing with someone who's been through the system, so I didn't really wanna go through that again. So now I just tell people up front, let them decide for themselves if they wanna deal with me or not. That way they can't throw it back in my face, say I lied to them."
Becca let out a bitter chuckle.
"So what's your story?"
"Well, we still ain't finished your story, yet, but we'll take a detour. The whole thing started my Senior year of high school. First game of the year, I blew my knee out, big as a bitch, tore everything there was to tear, shit was basically hanging on by the skin alone. Orthopedics said I had two choices, keep playing football or, retain the ability to walk on that leg, so… there went all my big dreams of college ball and making it onto the Giants."
I nodded. "Middle linebacker. I was good at it. 6'7, 265 pounds but light on my feet, all muscle. Back then I was running 7 percent body fat, and wasn't even trying. Shit just… all came natural to me. It all blew up in my face. Shitloads of surgery and physical therapy, and then one day the pain pills stopped but the pain didn't. Everyday, every night, I was still hurting."
She nodded.
"I know about bone pain. I could always tell when I needed to up the dose when my bones started hurting. When I started out all it took was an insulin needle. Now I take so much, I'm not even sure I qualify as human. But I guess I won't be much longer. That's always been the plan. Just keep me alive till 30 and Ma's gonna make me like her. That's the preferred age for the Entrance, something to do with the Trinity."
I nodded.
"I started asking around school if anyone knew where to get some Percs but pain management keeps that shit so tight I could only get a few at a time. Not only was they expensive, it wasn't enough. I got hooked up with this kid named Alessandro, he told me if I really wanted to control the pain, he could get me something better and cheaper. He took me to meet his uncle, Colombian guy named Marco. First shot is free and it was… it was beautiful. Everybody always gets sick the first time, but I didn't. And then after that, all my free money from my after school job started going to horse, and uh, I got my last six months off school. I already had all the credits I needed from AP classes, started working full time. They didn't piss test. But, my tolerance was rising faster than my income was."
I took a deep breath.
"I'd been buying enough that Marco was offering me fronts but I never took it. So next time I went, I asked him for my usual and I asked how much it would be for two O's on the front, cause I knew a lot of other users and I was thinking of starting to sell myself. So, he told me he'd give me a pound, and we could settle up at the end of the month."
"Jesus Christ, if you were selling a pound a month you must have been making bank."
I shook my head.
"I wasn't in it for the money. I was in it to keep myself supplied. If I kept my prices right, I could use for free, and I had enough left over to pay my portion of the rent and help pay for the groceries. I got good at it, I'd take a shot, and nod out for a few minutes, then get up and start walking the streets."
Becca snorted.
"You wasn't standing on a street corner?"
"Fuck no. Too visible. I did all my business by phone. I had a burner and gave everyone the number, and when they needed some they'd give me a call and I'd meet them or they'd meet me. I had ethics. I used to have people offering me fucking blowjobs for a bag, but I always said no, shit felt wrong. All they had to do was pay me by the end of the month but, sometimes…"
She gave a grin.
"But sometimes, 'Bitch, where's my money?'"
"Yeah, sometimes people would try to skip out, so I had to apply a little pressure to persuade them to pay. I never killed nobody, it's hard as hell to get money out of a dead man. But, black a few eyes and break a few bones and suddenly they had money they didn't before. Being my size, there wasn't many of them that could fight back. But, I fucked up the wrong lowlife.
"There was this prick, he'd been dodging me for weeks. He owed me like two grand, I'd given him that much because I knew he had money, so when I finally caught up to him, I was pretty mad and, the bitch, he told me he wasn't going to pay me. Thought he was better than me, thought he could fuck me and get away with it. So I beat the mortal hell out of him, took his wallet. He had five grand in there but I figured, 3K surcharge for wasting my time."
I shook my head.
"But I should have done some better research on who I was going after. Turned out the little prick had a socialite for a mother and his Daddy was a hedge fund manager and… I'd hurt him pretty bad. First three months, not only was I dealing with DTs, I was waiting to see if they were going to add Murder to my charges. He was in a coma for that long, and when he woke up, he had to learn to walk again, how to feed himself. I beat him so bad I gave him brain damage."
"Goddamn, Tony."
"Apparently his parents knew their son's habits and knew exactly who I was, cause they went straight to the police, and two days later SWAT showed up, turned the house upside down. I smashed my phone into pieces, flushed it so they couldn't get my contacts, but I didn't think about the fact I still had the wallet with his driver's license in it. My grandparents disowned me, right then and there. I had just reupped so they caught me with 14 ounces, all it takes is 8 for Class A felony possession. I spent 13 months in Rikers, but my sister got me a good lawyer, he knew the judge and the prosecutor personally, golfed with them, so he got me a plea deal. I was looking at life in prison, but he argued that I was a good student that had made a bad mistake because of a chronic pain issue, and they were both first offenses, so if I pled guilty, agreed to go through a substance abuse program and anger management, then they'd give me the minimum sentence.
"15 years, Class A Felony Drug Possession, 3 years, Class B felony First Degree Assault, intentionally causing grievous bodily harm while in the commission of another felony. But, at my sentencing, the judge said I was a big guy, with a big anger problem. I hadn't killed anyone, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Said I was a danger to society, so when I got to the UCF, they put me in dark red."
I nodded.
"23 hours a day in a box by myself, no visitors, barely saw the guards. But, I stayed quiet, made no problems. Prison was overcrowded so I ended up with a cellmate, and I was glad to see him. It could have been Hannibal Lecter and I would have gave him a hug. He might have been a murderer but he was actually a decent guy. Him and his crew had knocked over some jewelry stores in Manhattan, last job went bad. He'd killed three cops, so he wasn't never getting out. Neither was his wife. Life in Bedford Hills."
"That's where they was gonna send me if Ma hadn't got the jury to give me a Not Guilty verdict."
I knew Becca had a tendency to get in trouble because beside the cheerleading pictures in the bodega, there was also a mugshot.
"What did you do?"
She gave a bitter chuckle again.
"Unlike you, I killed someone. 2021, this fucking crackhead tried to rob the store. He shot the customer that was in there, old guy named Mickey, killed him. He used to live in your apartment. Tried to shoot me, too, but the gun jammed and I had the aluminum baseball bat under the counter. I just started swinging. He went down, but I jumped the counter, and hit him again. Blood lust is a real thing. Once I saw he was bleeding, I wanted to see more. I beat his brains out, literally, he was dead long before the cops ever got there. Bat looked like a toothpick when I was done.
"They arrested me, and the DA himself showed up at my arraignment. Said self defense didn't apply, sent me straight up to Murder 2, requested I be denied bail because I had a passport and plenty of money so I was a flight risk. But we all knew the truth. He was still pissed that he hadn't been able to send Rossi away for longer, and I was the next best thing. Ma had to pull a lot of strings to make sure I still got my transfusions when I was in lockup. I was in Rikers for four months, had my eighteenth birthday sitting in the Singer Unit."
"Goddamned patterns," I muttered, then raised my voice again. "You, me, and Antoni all got that in common, except he wasn't like us. He was already in prison. That's what the rose meant, turned eighteen in prison. Life sentence, triple murder."
"He told you that?" She looked betrayed, so I was quick to answer.
"No, the tattoos told me that. Google is my best friend, B. That's what the skull and crossbones, and the coffins on his arm meant."
She swallowed, and nodded again.
"But, I moved down," I continued. "Went to orange when they moved me to Gen Pop, and I had friends waiting for me. Marco was very appreciative of me keeping quiet about my source at trial, so outside Abuela Bogota's was where I hung out the most. But I had friends all over. My sister was smart. She always put way more in my account than I could spend, so whenever I heard that somebody needed something, I'd go to the canteen and buy it myself and pass it to 'em. Nobody had to owe me shit. All I wanted was to be left alone, so I had people watching my back from all sides. I ended up in blue, got moved to the dormitory, started working in the kitchen, ended up running it, cause I was a 'model prisoner.'"
"You ever fool around with any of your cellmates?" Becca asked with a grin. "Cause I did."
I gave an uncomfortable laugh.
"I mean, yeah. 15 years is a long time to be alone. I don't consider myself bisexual even, but if somebody offers, you know…" I shrugged.
"I think the word you're looking for is heteroflexible. That's how Antoni referred to himself. He had a thing for you, you know."
That stopped me dead.
"You're fucking with me, B."
"Nope. He asked me once if I'd mind if he ever got the chance to hook up with you, and I told him no, as long as he didn't mind I still hooked up with my old girlfriends from high school. But he never asked you, said he loved you too much, was afraid of ruining your friendship."
"Jesus Christ," I shook my head, finally decided I needed time to process that, and moved on. "But, my last year there, Covid hit, and, I volunteered to work in the infirmary, but pretty soon the infirmary was filled, they started keeping people in the hallway, and finally they just ended up leaving them in their beds, I was all over the place. People dropping like flies. Everytime someone coughed or sneezed, everbody'd get nervous. I been smoking since I was 16, so I cough my lungs out every morning.
"People was looking at me like I was Death Incarnate. But I never caught it, not even once. And I was all around the sick, I was taking the bodies out to the truck outside the gate. Could've run but I didn't. Only had a few years left. It worked in my favor. They cut the last three years off my sentence, put me on supervised release and now, here I am, 36 years old, and just starting my adult life."
"Rossi got let out of lockup right before lockdown, poor bastard. Me, him, and my Dad all quarantined at Ma's, but of course, you know, me and Dad was essential workers so at least I got to get out of the house everyday. I graduated early, at 16, been working seven days a week since."
I glanced at the glass on the table.
"So let's get back to your story."
She shook her head, lips pursed again.
"Uh-uh, you're not wasting anymore time. Take the blood, but first," she reached out, quicker than I could even register, and used her thumbs to set my broken nose back straight.
I let out a yell, momentarily unable to see as my eyes filled with tears.
"Jesus wept, Becca, fucking hell, goddamn."
"Sorry. It would've hurt more if you'd known it was coming. Besides, you're a good looking guy, Tony, you don't wanna ruin your face."
"Thanks, B," I muttered as I pressed the toilet paper back to my freshly bleeding nose, tears streaming down my cheeks. "Need a haircut though."
"Nah, you oughta keep it. It's very The Dark Knight Joker, just black, not blonde and green."
I laughed quietly.
"Not sure that's the best association, B. A little too psychotic and violent."
She raised an eyebrow at me.
"Alright, alright. It's probably an accurate association, just a little less arson and murder." I sighed and looked at the scotch glass. "So how do I do this, B?"
"Think about it like a tequila shot. Take the shot and then slip the guard in quick. Then sit back, try to relax."
I nodded and grabbed the glass before I lost my nerve. I raised it in her direction.
"Geonbae." She responded.
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