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ODEON Screen Unseen

2016.03.05 23:23 FlyLikeAMouse ODEON Screen Unseen

A subreddit to discuss and decipher ODEON Cinema's Screen Unseen. Check here for clues, rumours, leaks and anything else! General Odeon Cinema discussion also welcome.

2017.03.19 01:34 Texas4E Austin, without the toxicity

The Austin subreddit that isn't toxic.

2023.05.30 09:14 WaveOfWire One Hell Of A Vacation - Chapter 86

First Prev Next Royal Road
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[Thank you for agreeing to teach them.]
Volta nodded, not entirely sure if it was for the best, but recognizing a request—or in this case, a thinly veiled order—for what it was.
Ever since she had taught Scarlet and the others her field, the occasional rotation of Lilhuns would be assigned to work under her for a time. It made her job easier, especially since the settlement was expanding at a ludicrous rate compared to what she had heard from the new members of the pack.
The Atmo that had joined were quickly treated and cared for, those who did not require so much time for recovery quickly accompanying the existing insects in their tasks. The largest, Mama, frequently assisted in construction and decoration of structures, so they worked with her. Once they had oriented how things progressed and their part in it, they were paired off with a construction group to be assigned a project. It was to the point where there were as many as five buildings nearing completion at once, the majority of them being accommodation for the new members of the pack.
The remaining question was regarding the insect kits. The answer? Well, there were four Atmo slightly smaller than the purple ‘Queen’ that had requested Volta instruct them, the pearlescent shimmer of her scaled carapace dancing in the sunbeams afforded by the skylight the den had been constructed with.
Teaching Violet—as well as the two Atmo that Volta had escorted to this pack—in the ways of sanitation had been an interesting endeavour, all things considered. They held a remarkable dexterity in those long edged appendages, but the lack of something to properly grasp with made finding a way to secure a rag onto the ends difficult. Luckily, Heralt was receptive to assisting her with creating something that would attach to the blades.
It was little more than a mop that secured to the joint and braced around the cutting edge gingerly, the ends of the stick using ‘ironwood’ springs to clamp onto fabric pads that would soak in the cleaning solution and allow them to do the floors and walls. Were it not for how shockingly efficient the task was performed, she would have been useless through the laughter at the sight.
Each Atmo kit held two of the devices on their limbs, allowing them to travel in pairs and simply finish large spaces within the time it would take her to prepare the next batch of cleaners to use. They had only started a short while ago and yet two dens had been finished, Scarlet assisting her in doing whatever furniture or ledges the Atmo were unsuited to completing. The odd pack member going through what Head Sahari called ‘versatility training’ listened to her instructions in an oddly compliant manner, giving the blue-furred female pause at the unusual experience.
All in all; the cleaner was guiding the five insects and three Lilhuns in the ways of cleanliness. Scarlet was primarily keeping an eye on those who interacted with the purple-coloured Atmo, her contributions to the other tasks proficient, despite the split attention. Before, she would have assumed the servant quietly acquiescing orders, but the dark red-furred female was particularly vigilant in matters pertaining to the kit now.
Volta wasn’t sure what happened to the other servants that regularly assisted her on a rotation—save for Kaslin, the female seeming to have been unofficially inducted as Grand…. Toril’s assistant alongside his mate, Tersa—but Faye, the mild-mannered deep gold-furred female, and Raine, the polite and excitable brown-furred female, had been absent for many suns now.
It was almost lonely, in a way.
“That should be sufficient for this den,” she announced to the gaggle of Atmo kits and Lilhuns, careful to remind them not to bother the few ‘rock-worms’ that Ferra kept separate from the rest outside. There were only four, the largest one adorned in an odd script, but they were apparently a selection of favourites of the female. Regardless, it would not do to irritate a mate of Atrox.
The brown-furred male was responsible for the ghastly armour that the Grand Hunter wore on occasion, and she was not in a hurry to see if the disturbing tendencies of the male extended to how he displayed his displeasure.
“Where is our next destination?” Scarlet asked, her tail brushing up Volta’s spine in an uncomfortable way. It wasn’t that she disliked the touch, but the owner of it worried her. Something about the servant struck her as more than what was presented, and it was obvious that the female thought of it as immensely entertaining. That much was obvious, even without the sly grin.
“We have proceeded much faster than I was expecting,” the blue-furred female admitted, mentally checking over her itinerary while subtly batting away the offending appendage. “I suppose we should attempt the barracks while the pack is engaged, then rest for a time.”
[May I leave to check on the other Atmo?]
Volta paused, unsure why it was being requested rather than merely presented as a fact. Violet was—as far as it mattered—completely beyond the cleaner’s station, if only because she was an adopted kit of the Grand Hunter, as well as a sort of leadership figure for the insects. It was an enigmatic blend of positions where the purple insect could very well order Volta to do things, rather than ask. Though the hierarchy was not nepotistic in nature, it was safer to adhere to the wishes of the den-kit than it was to disobey.
“You may. What of the others?”
[I will leave them with you and Scarlet.]
The mentioned servant frowned. “I am to accompany you.”
Violet chittered her curious laugh. [These young ones are your task. I must attend to my own.]
Volta discreetly jabbed the female with a claw, glaring at her not to question the wishes of her better. The less attention drawn from the Grand Hunter, the better. Just picturing the disturbing mask and piercing gaze was enough to make her blanch.
Either reminded of her position, or merely interested in playful retaliation, Scarlet sighed quietly, bowing slightly to the insect. “As you wish, young mistress. Do call for me if I am required.”
[I will. Thank you, Scarlet, Volta.]
Volta lowered her head, watching the Queen leave before returning her attention to the group.
“We will do the first barracks, then determine if we are of time to do the second. The kits are to await the floors cleared of obstruction by the Lilhuns before cleaning them. We will manage it in sections so as not to disturb any who may be taking a break. In future—assuming you are to operate independently from myself—it would be best if you are used to working in groups.”
The Lilhuns nodded their understanding, the young Atmo hesitantly conferring with each other before approaching Scarlet to have their mops freed of soiled cloth and materials placed upon their carriages.
The Atmo had all been outfitted with a specially made platform that fitted over their wider base, clasping underneath past their six legs. It allowed them to transport much, their carrying capacity much larger than one would suspect from their size. The kits could comfortably haul all of the materials for the sun by themselves, and the adults had been the subject of idle speculation for mounted weapon platforms—assuming the fragmented conversation she had chanced upon was to be believed.
Volta inspected the odd section that the Lilhuns under her tutelage completed while she waited for packing to finish. She was not necessarily pleased with the results, but it was more important for them to understand the procedure to take for various locations at the moment. They had proven that they understood what to do for the dens, so next came teaching them how to approach high-traffic areas.
Once everyone had been prepared and the materials gathered, they left the den and started towards the barracks, glimpsing the Grand Hunter sparring with some of the pack in the open.
Ever since the Atmo were delivered by a trade caravan, the male had taken to training much of the pack personally, Huntress Pan taking over much of his more mundane work. Those who were deemed adequate were then pawed off to Head Tel for some specialized training, though Volta was not privy to what exactly it was meant to accomplish.
Regardless, Head Sahari was in charge of rotating out the pack amongst tasks, only a few specialists being directly assigned to any one occupation. By all rights, Volta herself should be training under the male, but the nature of her work meant that she was typically better off doing her job when such was under way. Given that the Grand Hunter was a rare case of someone fully understanding the importance of her specialty—and how little she wished to interact with the alien—she was thankfully spared.
Disregarding the events going on, she motioned for her group to follow her. There was work to do.
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“Two up!” he called out, wiping the sweat from his brow. The exertion cleared his mind, and the break from endless paperwork was appreciated. With the influx of members and various training being required, he had gotten rather exhausted mentally. Between the Wraiths being gone for two weeks since he told them to do recon around the Atmo traders, regular interaction with various caravans, planning out what they needed to do, and Robert still not calling him since the man had left to handle something, he had been pretty high-strung.
As always, there was more on his mind. Harrow had become more elusive regarding him ever since he had her transcribe the Union documents regarding the Lilhuns, their conversations vapid and brief. Jax didn’t have anything useful to say about it other than that she wanted time to sort her thoughts. Toril, Idee, Mi’low, and Bratik were given copies of the file to go over recently, since they were the closest thing he had to a counsel unfettered by a close relationship.
His own makeshift family took the news in an odd way. There was a lot to unpack.
Jax had become quiet, his muscles tensing. Harrow ended up staying away from her mate for a few days until he had stopped brooding about it. In the end; the guy just told Joseph that he would trust the Grand Hunter’s decisions regarding it, finding himself at a loss otherwise.
Sahari and Nalah were approached about the bonding information, the latter denying any bond to him, as well as Sahari confirming the same towards her blond-furred mate. The only line of reasoning that they could think of to make sense was that Nalah’s circumstances had messed with her in some way. The two seemed rather distressed by the assertion, but calmed somewhat when he mentioned that nothing would change between them regardless. Sahari could tell how conflicted he was about the whole thing, he just wanted to give them something to hang on to.
It was a bigger deal for them than he had initially internalized. In retrospect; something revered as a literal gift from their god being denied really should have been an obvious point of stress. As begrudging as his acceptance was, he was linked to the whole ‘Great Hunt’ business in their minds, so he was aware of how deeply that belief ran. He didn’t personally subscribe to the religion, but they never really bothered him with anything besides overseeing funeral rites—not that he would have refused anyway.
Pan seemed to mirror his feelings on the matter—a dark feeling of helplessness and sorrow. She had fallen quiet when she heard about the trials on the defectives, that particular section hitting her harder than the others. After an entire day of silence, all she had to say about it was that she loved him, and then spent the night burrowed between him and Tel, unable to sleep. He had a hard time as well, but it extended well past the initial night.
Tel had informed him that his restlessness had made it difficult for her to get any shut-eye, his shifting disturbing her, but it was said in a slightly concerned tone. Her general reaction was fairly subdued compared to the rest otherwise, her lifetime of being at either end of a gun numbing her to the reality of things. It was weird for him, but he was deeply thankful for it on some level.
She kept him sane, her cold response being a candid ‘Wish it, and I will end all who displease you.’
For once, her more violent background gave him something to grip onto. It resonated in him—loose, yet present. A door within him, chained and locked, was brought to mind as he really considered what he wanted for those involved. The traders who abused the Atmo, those who seemed so bent on hurting his friends, the Union ‘GUOS’ who called for the experiments... A thrumming settled in his fists, an itch that couldn’t be sated by just scratching.
A paw flew past his brow, his shifted posture allowing him to slip the claws that had been left exposed in the heat of the spar. His heart hammered, his sweat soaked his clothing, and his focus returned to the fight.
No Union, no traders, no worries. Just the two security members who had doubted Jax’s claims that the smaller Human had somehow bested the male in a fight, and were now bringing out their natural weapons on instinct.
Grabbing the wrist with his right hand and gripping the shoulder with his left, he pulled, using the rotational force to pivot on his left foot and haul the overeager Lilhun to the dirt, the appendage bending behind them sharply. A second fist came from the corner of his eye, the other combatant trying to use the momentary distraction to score a hit.
Using the gripped arm as a balance, Joseph leaned into the spin, firing the sole of his shoe into the head of the opportunistic attacker. The loud slap of his foot connecting with the larger male almost outdid the crumpled form crashing to the ground unconscious. It was only a dull sensation of mercy that stopped him from completing the spin while he maintained his iron grip on the arm of the thrown adversary, saving them a torn and dislocated shoulder.
Joseph breathed heavily, the adrenaline wearing out as Jax checked on the defeated. Minus some stiffness expected in one of them and a sore jaw for the other, they would be fine, albeit embarrassed for such a quick disposal in front of their usual teachers.
The sound of his rubber sole slapping on the ground some distance away killed off whatever motivation he had to continue, his shoes finally giving out.
“I would ask you not to disable my security, Grand Hunter,” Jax said with mock frustration, the black-furred male’s eyes following the two leaving with an expression of exasperation.
“Sorry,” Joseph breathed out, his heart hammering in his chest as his system wound down.
The Head of Security glanced down at him, his expression pensive. “As much as I enjoy my boasting of your prowess to be validated, I do worry that you see more than a spar in them.”
He drew his lips thin as he brushed his sweat-soaked hair back, his arm dropping to his side. He took a few moments to sort the thoughts that returned. “I probably should have called that kick, yeah.”
The larger Lilhun snorted. “They will be fine, it is not their health I am worried about.”
“I’m fine, Jax,” he snapped, averting his eyes when his friend seemed to have made his point. “I…. I’ll be fine. Just some things on my mind right now.”
“Joseph,” the black-furred male started, walking up to place a large paw on his shoulder. “We are here if you wish to talk.”
His breath died in his throat, his eyes closing in defeat. He felt the soreness in his hands surface, hours of constant fighting to soothe the burning in his blood that failed to abate. Bruises made themselves known, dehydration made his joints stiff, and lack of sleep clouded his mind. Jax was right, he was a bit of a mess.
“Grand Hunter,” Mi’low called, his tired glance in her direction revealing the female approaching. “We are ready to speak.”
Joseph placed a hand on Jax’s paw, patting it softly. “Talking will have to wait. Tell Harrow I said hi and that I’d like to hang out again. I miss it.”
The male looked at him apologetically, nodding as he was still unable to offer anything to ease the sting of a friend distancing themselves from the Human. “I will.”
The Human cycled a breath and faced the actress. “The rest?”
Mi’low nodded. “Where will we meet?”
Joseph waved an arm towards the base. “My place. More chairs.”
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Toril was wearing his usual smile, his eyes inspecting everything about the hub from the couch while Tersa stood nearby, her body language telling that she was wary about being in a new place without time to scout it. Bratik was in his wheelchair, Sorren holding his paw as he sat on the opposite side of the chemist. Idee—being the only one to spend time in the outpost regularly—simply thanked Kaslin for the water from her place between the two mated males. Mi’low had claimed a free chair, her legs crossed and back straight as she stayed away from the others on the couch. The Wraith handed Joseph his requested tea since Scarlet was babysitting the insects, then occupied a place out of the way, but close enough to act if things got heated.
He stayed standing rather than occupying his usual place on a table, his second choice of seating being filled up. He could have dragged over the Atmo couch, but he didn’t want to stress his body any more than he had already by lugging it. “So, everyone had plenty of time to read the documents.”
“Indeed,” Mi’low commented dryly, a glare shot in his direction. Idee nodded, though her expression fell as it was brought up. Toril maintained his detached look of amusement, but it didn’t escape Joseph’s notice that Tersa stiffened.
The Grand Hunter took a sip of his refreshment, enjoying the fleeting feeling of warmth from something other than exertion. “And what do we think?”
“We?” Sorren asked, the male not quite used to the Human using their tongue. Joseph’s mastery of the language was still spotty at times, but Kaslin could fill any gaps if needed.
“Yeah,” he replied plainly. “It has more to do with you than me. I just got the message.”
“I find it rather fascinating,” Toril opined cheerily, his energy at odds with the atmosphere of the room. “Such thorough study allows us many insights into facets of our own biology that we may never have known!”
“By slaughtering our kin in the thousand,” Mi’low shot back, a slight snarl pulling her lip.
“As regretful as such is, we can not bring them back,” the chemist noted with a small nod. “We must simply use the information gleaned by our foes without repeating their atrocities.”
“You suggest ignoring their sins?”
“I suggest utilizing what they have learned and incorporating it to our advantage.”
“Or,” Joseph interjected, “we talk about it instead of getting into an argument.”
“Your people are not free of fault, Grand Hunter,” the crimson-furred female spat. He remained silent, already having spent far too long thinking about how none of it would have happened if Humans weren’t in the picture for them.
“You can not hold him as a factor, Mi’low,” Idee said softly, shifting in her seat to get comfortable and smiling apologetically at Sorren when she bumped him.
“Were it not for them, then we may not have lost our homes!”
“Were it not for him you would be little more than bones bleached by the sun, or so I hear.”
“We are not here to cast blame,” Bratik disputed quietly, his voice carrying through the room despite the low volume. “The Grand Hunter has saved each of us. Some from demise, others from the shackles of their station, and others from the fate of losing loved ones.”
Toril and Idee shared a glance as the male continued, Tersa paying attention to him for the first time.
“He seeks our counsel. Not our aimless ire to be spewed upon him for that which he himself had no knowledge of, nor involvement in. His kin were as much victims as our own.”
“Quite,” Toril concurred as the two females ceased their bickering reluctantly. “How would you like to address this, Grand Hunter?”
Joseph blinked, expecting the blame, but not Bratik defusing it so quickly. “Well, we have a few things to work off of. Years of experiments coinciding with missing persons after accepting a job, whoever tipped off your military taking info with them about Sol and the ‘blacklist’, whatever bond fuckery they discovered, and the defects.” He shrugged weakly. “Take your pick.”
“There are too many missing across too wide an area to recognize such a comparative few,” Idee stated, the others in the group silently agreeing.
He nodded, nursing his tea with small sips. “Figured that would be a sticking point. Plus, we don’t really know how long it was going on... or when it started... Not even if it was a bulk recruitment or slow trickle. I guess the missing people are something we’ll just have to keep unknown.”
“The bond information was rather enlightening,” Toril mentioned, his eyes rising to the ceiling as he thought about it. “Our peoples are wildly compatible.”
“As servants, perhaps,” came the scathing remark from the High Huntress. “What use is our gift if it is twisted to be mere subservience? To discard ourselves for some alien race?”
Sorren’s ear flicked. “It is hardly ‘twisted’ to protect that which the Hunt Mother has afforded us.”
“Are we to just accept that our bonds are better suited to that,” she emphasized with a pointed claw in Joseph’s direction, “rather than our kin?”
“Drop it,” the Grand Hunter ordered tiredly, his reflection in his beverage shaking as he shifted on his feet. “Arguing isn’t going to help anything.”
Mi’low held her disgusted expression. “You ask us to trust that which led to our downfall? We are yet another strike against your kin, no?”
He shook his head, his eyes buried in remains of the shimmering image he held in his hands. “I blame the sick fucks that did all this. If you can’t agree with that, then there’s not much reason to hold this meeting.”
“What is it you seek to accomplish?” Toril asked, amused by the theatrics. The rest seemed surprised by Mi’low’s pointed aggression, but the chemist was more interested in continuing.
“I have people looking to get me out of here,” Joseph informed them, laying his empty cup on the table with a soft clack. “People who will probably extend the offer to you. If they come, I need to know what we’re doing about it. The last thing I need is people acting like Mi’low and opening fire on whoever comes to drag us out of the mud.”
“Why would we?” Sorren asked, taking his mate’s paw as he gave a worried glance to the offended female.
“Because our people were tortured due to our interactions with them,” the chemist noted in a matter-of-fact tone, his pleasant demeanour remaining despite the morbid topic.
“Did our people not initiate contact with another species on less hostile terms?” Idee asked, her head tilted slightly.
“But no one lived to talk about it,” Joseph countered, gesturing with an upturned palm. “Plus, that’s assuming whoever was in charge of that call being the norm, rather than the exception.”
“You believe our people to act otherwise?” Bratik asked, his tone inquisitive rather than judgmental.
Joseph shrugged. “To be fair, I’ve almost been killed by more of your species than the wildlife. Granted, a few of those were just people being assholes, but still.”
“Many would see the opportunity as retribution for the Union,” Mi’low mentioned dryly.
Sorren’s face fell. “Then we should not propagate this knowledge?”
The Human glanced between each of them. “That’s why you’re here. My group knows because I trust them with it. I think we should keep this to ourselves, but if we do—and someone finds out—it would just cause a lot of issues. Alternatively; we tell everyone.”
“And suffer the consequences of that action as well,” Idee concluded dejectedly. Joseph returned a wry smile as Toril raised a paw, speaking when the Grand Hunter raised a brow at him.
“Perhaps we should withhold the information from the lesser station?”
“Like, just the Grand Hunters?” Joseph inquired cautiously. Toril tilted his head.
“Those who would be more diplomatically minded, perhaps.”
“I don’t exactly see some of them as what you would call ‘diplomatic’ and I’m not going on some voyage to visit everyone with the info in tow.”
“We are able to make copies,” Sorren offered. “Perhaps we could exchange the information using traders and gain something from it as well?”
Mi’low shook her head. “That is assuming they do not claim us manipulative nor seek to remove him. Some may very well move to strike us all down for ‘withholding’ the information, regardless of how readily we supply it.”
“Do your people know?” Bratik interjected, gathering the attention of the others. Joseph winced in uncertainty.
“I’m not sure. I’d guess my brother does, but I don’t know how sensitive things are. It could have been announced and there’s an intergalactic war, or it might be kept under wraps until conflict isn’t as likely. At least until it’s less likely to blow up in our faces, anyway.”
“They are of lesser force?”
“No clue,” he admitted. “Not my area. All I do know is that there are more species allied against us—or at least aren’t inclined to take a bullet—than are.”
“So our options are rather limited,” Idee concluded, receiving a series of agreements.
“We could,” Mi’low said after a few moments of contemplation, “distribute the information anonymously. Humans are not named directly in the document, and we need not divulge its origin.”
“So, what? Just pass people tablets and ask them to forget where they got it?” he probed, not entirely disagreeing with the idea, but skeptical all the same.
“Tersa may make additions to trader inventories without their knowledge,” Toril offered, the mentioned Blade frowning at him, but not protesting. “Or perhaps Trill’s kit, since she is devoted to yourself.”
“Eh. I guess that’s an option,” he conceded, sighing. “So, about the bond; any opinions? Notes?”
“Stay away from me,” Mi’low answered warily, earning a flat scowl.
“I meant something besides that. I’m not too keen on adding to the cluster-fuck I have going on anyway.”
Sorren smiled. “I am excited to meet your people—should I be so blessed. There are many who would never know the joy of the Hunt Mother’s gift otherwise.”
“I would not mind her words, Grand Hunter,” Toril chuckled. “She is a creature of dishonesty—including her own desires.”
The actress glowered at the chemist. “I preferred it when you were nomadic. It was much easier to ignore your presence. Your words were but some distant wind I need not soil my ears with.”
“Perhaps our meeting is best ended here,” Bratik interjected, waving his functional paw. The other arm was coming along, but still too stiff to use for much. “We should propagate the information through unsigned parcels to the Grand Hunters.”
“One last thing,” Joseph said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “The information on Sol; anything ever get done with that?”
“We were capturing habitable planets in a particular direction, though the decision to do such was made by our superiors.”
He nodded. “Makes sense. Same issue we have now. Can’t let everyone know because chaos is a lot easier to manage when it’s directed. Between the religious connotations and the context around it; there’s no saying if it would lead to riots or worship. Rather not bring the problem to our door.”
“Wise,” Mi’low remarked sarcastically, her judgmental side-eye aimed between him and Sorren.
“Alright,” he said with a raised voice, ignoring the red-furred female to the best of his ability. “Drop off letters and lock myself in a room or something. Sounds like a plan.”
“That will not be required,” Sorren corrected with a laugh. “Though the documents confirmed a high percentile of successful bonds, there were many incompatible pairings. It is unlikely that your informant included every variation of failure, but the bond seems to be as selective as usual, just more receptive to those who meet the criteria. I would speculate that the majority of those who would bond to you by now, have. Barring the new additions, of course. I doubt you will need to worry about bonding to half a species by yourself.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” he muttered. “Okay, you’re free to go back to your work. You know who to talk to if something comes up.”
The gathering dispersed, Toril requiring Tersa to drag him by the ear before he got too distracted. Mi’low stayed behind, waiting for everyone else to leave.
“Thoughts?” he asked, glancing over at her. She shook her head as she dropped the antagonistic persona.
“Two attribute you to their religion, Toril is too interested in your species to act against your best interest, and Idee rather enjoys her time here—as well as sympathizes with your position. Tersa’s allegiance is with Toril, so she will follow him, as well as your tentative arrangement as a superior over her.”
“So, we’re good?”
“We are,” she confirmed. He looked at her for a long moment.
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Going to try and kill me again?” he questioned wryly.
The High Huntress snorted. “Unfortunately, my pack has ostensibly become yours, and with it, my fate. They would rather watch me go than follow. It seems your influence extends past our biology.”
Without an opportunity for him to ask what she meant, she headed to the exit, pausing in the doorway when he called out to her.
“Mi’low?” Her ear tipped back towards him. “Thanks. For putting yourself on the block like that. I know how risky that could have been for you.”
She afforded a single nod before letting it close behind her.
“’Past our biology’, huh?” he muttered, eyeing the empty cup on the table.
He considered bothering Tel, since she would likely offer him a distraction for a while.
Sighing at his remaining intact shoe flopping as he stepped, he decided to do exactly that.
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“How are we holding up?”
Tech leaned back in her chair, yawning widely. “Communications have been down for a while, navigation software is pointing everywhere at once, and if it wasn’t for me, everything else would be dark too.”
“All hail Tech Ops,” Comms quipped, struggling to make his system do much more than transmit static on a loop.
Willin rolled his eyes at Tech’s boasting, but she was probably right to do so. They had aligned themselves in the right direction and simply let navigation go, communications discreetly blinking out as they got close without warning. All they had left was the actual piloting and onboard support systems, both of them hanging by a thread until Tech could run diagnostics to see if she could counter them properly. She might be able to eventually, but she didn’t seem confident beyond keeping the crew mobile and alive.
“How’s it look down there?”
Nav had long since given up making sense of their controls, opting to keep watch for whatever they were approaching. Since they had gotten within visual range, they had occupied themselves using whatever scanning equipment Tech managed to keep shielded. They leaned over the readouts, brows raising before furrowing at the information.
“It appears that they have remained fairly close together. I am reading several AEC distress signatures... Why am I able to?”
Tech raised a paw. “Right here. The jamming is consistent with the United Military’s algorithms, though boosted past what we have the equipment to manage. Can’t override it for you or Comms, but it was never meant to counter the low-frequency of a distress pulse, since that would get lost in normal noise anyway. I took the liberty of limiting the scope of collected data to increase the sensitivity.”
“Not much frequency pollution on an untapped planet,” Willin remarked dryly, his screen mirroring what Nav was looking at. Thirty-eight sources, most of them repeating the initial call-signs. Two seemed to have retained some power, though not much, implying a makeshift solution. There would normally be more to glean, but the measures taken to make picking them out at all possible had stifled it.
“Orders?” Nav asked after a moment. Willin considered it, scouring the somewhat distorted visual feed.
“Let’s get closer first.”
He adjusted his uniform as they drew near, Tech frowning as more of her fail-safe measures ironically failed. Quick action saved them from listing aimlessly, but any chance of copying the survivor’s distress call faded. The AEC’s were effectively invisible until Tech had dealt with the issue preemptively, and their beacon wasn’t any stronger.
Detriment of a scout craft, he supposed. Help would have to deal with not knowing where his ship had gone until they were up to their necks in the warp-spike’s field. Hopefully, the EW fleet would manage it better.
“Just outside of atmosphere,” Nav reported, activating the scanning equipment again. Normally, it would be able to tell them everything down to the rough number of wildlife in an area, but all the interference gave them little more than confirmation that life existed.
“Well, there goes any advanced recon,” Willin muttered, ignoring Comms silently debating if he should bother Tech to duplicate the feed again. Noticing, she did anyway, the male gesturing their thanks. “Tech, can you get us population density?”
“I’m good, Leader, but not that good.”
“Leader,” Nav called, highlighting a few points on the feed. Whatever it was that they were trying to show him, he didn’t see it. “These areas are likely settlements.”
“Affirmative. It is subtle, but there.”
He nodded, trusting their judgment. “Which is the largest?”
The feed zoomed in, losing most of the clarity—not that there was much to begin with. “Location coincides with an AEC still actively reporting.”
“They set up around it.”
“Likely, Leader.”
Willin exhaled slowly. “Take us down nearby. I’d say to hide us, but that’s hard to do with open skies.”
“The planet suffers constant rain,” Tech added, her screen already reverting back to a simplistic game while she waited for someone else to need something. “We could descend under the cover of it.”
“Any idea how long?”
Her monitor flickered. “One local sun.”
“Then we spend the time gearing up,” he ordered, waving to have Nav and Comms’ screens defaulted. “You two will make sure our defence armaments ship-board are active and loaded. Tech, queue up whatever armour and equipment we might need for a diplomatic mission.”
She turned in her chair, her head tilting questioningly. “Just us?”
“Just us. We’ll want someone here to keep things warm in case we need to leave quickly. Can you get Comms’ station capable of short-wave?”
She nodded after a moment, her eyes losing focus as she consulted her implant. “We’ll lose the fabricator during, but we should have enough for life-support and in-atmosphere flight. Weapons will have to be swapped out with it too.”
“That bad?”
The purple-furred female shrugged. “It’s that or I take down the defences and we lose it all.” She frowned at her screens. “Even this is pushing it.”
“Can you take down the purifier once we’re down there? Switch to external flow?”
“As long as you don’t mind alien air, sure. It won’t give us more to work with, but it should make it less taxing to keep what we have.”
Willin scratched at his ear. “Do it. They lived here this long, doubt we’ll join the Void breathing it too.”
“Will do.”
He shifted his attention back to Nav. “Set course to that settlement. Keep us above the clouds until it gets bad enough to obscure us.”
Nav signalled their agreement, the scenery shifting slowly as they picked a cloud to shadow in the meantime. Comms looked at Willin expectantly, forcing him to come up with something for the male to do.
“Comms, I want you to monitor anything this place has coming in or out. Set up surveillance.”
The male raised a brow. “My systems are inoperable, Leader.”
“If you try to do anything big, yes,” Willin corrected. “Just keep us informed if something goes through. We don’t need to know what happened, just that it did.”
“Keeping track of possible communications between settlements?”
Willin bobbed his head to the side. “Whatever we learn, it’s more than we know.”
“Understood. I will try to arrange a passive probe.”
The group set about their tasks as he brought up a still-frame of the settlement Nav spotted. It was blocky, blurry, and the chromatic aberration on the edges hurt to look at, but it was a settlement. A large AEC surrounded by silver constructions, all laid out in a slightly haphazard way. He couldn’t judge it too harshly, however. There was a method to the madness. Narrow pathways hidden between dens, each leading to the AEC like a system of routes for select Lilhuns to reach anywhere they may be needed as quickly as possible.
The AEC itself seemed modified, large solar panels placed where a solid hull would be expected, the semi-transparent material likely acting to illuminate the interior. Many of the buildings around it were larger than those beyond, some appearing to be two or three levels.
From sheer volume of dens, Willin figured this was a contender for the largest settlement. His best estimate placed the number of inhabitants in the range of three hundred or so. If the other settlements were even close, then the initial guess of a thousand survivors was woefully short.
That made things complicated, yet so much simpler.
He awaited the distant storm clouds rolling over the landscape, thankful Tech had prioritized the water-proof gear.
He hated being soaked.
A/N: 500k words. Half a fucking million.
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2023.05.30 09:05 secretwater82 My wife finally had sex with someone else

We have been teasing and flirting with the hotwife lifestyle for months. She would get me worked up when we went out, but never acted on it. I kind of felt like that flirting was as far as we would ever go and if that is what she was comfortable with, then I was fine with that. For the record, we are both 40 with kids and good jobs. I started showing her guys reddit and she agreed to let me send them sexy pics of her which got her really excited when they sent pictures of their dicks hard. She really liked younger and muscular guys...I know right. We ran across one guy who she liked and he was good at chatting with us. I eventually asked him where he was from as that seems to be a natural question when chatting with someone. We were shocked when it was the next town over. On one hand, we felt kind of exposed as we might know him or his family, but as we kept talking we found out that he is here going to the University and we have know connection at all. We kept chatting over a few weeks and sending personalized sexy pics with him. After a few weeks, he asked my wife and I if we would like to meet and hangout. No expectations, just hang out. We agreed and he said we could come to his dorm room which at first seemed crazy, but hey I haven't been in a dorm in 20 years and it was cute the way he invited us. My wife and I talked about things and I could tell she was having a moment. She was really excited and I could tell that the wheels were turning at least to the idea of doing something with him. She asked me if she could see him alone to which I agreed as long as I drove her there and sat in the car. This was fine with me, I trusted her and him.
On the the day of our meet she got dressed sexy in a short black mini dress that was really to revealing to be going out in, she said she wanted to surprise him with something sexy. It was so hot watching her get ready. We pulled up to the dorm around 5 and it was still very much daylight out and there were people all around. We could see him at the door to the dorms and my wife started to get out of the car. I told her to trust her instincts and don't do anything that she was uncomfortable with. I sat in the car and watched her walk toward him, she was getting lots of looks. When she got to him, he had a big smile on his face and so did she, my blood was rushing. Roughly 40 minutes later I got a text saying she was coming out...I was on edge with a mix of emotions, but I was happy to get something from her. I started the car and looked at the doors to see her walking out. When she got in the car she was glowing with a grin from ear to ear. She said and I quote "He fucked me" My heart jumped through my chest. I was paralyzed, but in a good way. As we started to drive home, she told me the details. She said they made out and started groping. She said it was hot like being in her 20s again. Eventually clothes came off and they started having sex. He is a decent amount bigger than me, but we already knew that. She said he wasn't great in bed or anything, but his enthusiasm, physique, and size made her feel incredible. Once they moved to him fucking her from behind, he came in her and evidently it was a lot because it was running down her leg in the car. I mentioned that her panties must be full and she said "I let him keep them". When we got home I could wait to ravage her...I immediately pushed her onto the bed and without thinking about started going down on her. She was shocked at first, but just went with it. She turned and pulled out my dick and started jacking me off with lube. I came in less than a minute.

As a side note, because someone might ask, he had been tested a week before at the university clinic...not for us, but just because he had a new partner (One night stand). We haven't had anyone new since getting married...Wife is also fixed so no baby worries.
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2023.05.30 08:39 TheCurserHasntMoved (Sneakyverse) The Drums of War: Chapter 1: Among the Star Tides

Beneath a well-tended banner depicting a yellow star at its center, and the burning Ignitia on its windward side, Captain Yaevdrill kept watch on the bridge. It was hardly the first time he'd sailed the Among the Star Tides We Sing into a potentially volatile situation, but the disappearance of no less than thirty Star Sailor ships without so much as a text only communication had made the possible first-contact mission take on an ominous quality. Those ships who returned bore crews who spoke of "Sneakies, but ugly," aggressively taking prisoners for some purpose, yet there were ships within the stars of the Clans of Eldra who should have returned, or been heard from. Worse, there had been no communications from anyone within Clans space for over two months. Thus, the mission.
With him, there was the gunnery officer, who was keeping alert at her station, and First Lieutenant Robert George, the Master at Arms, who was scowling at the main viewscreen as if it could give him answers. It may not have appeared to be so, but the blue skinned, four armed captain and pale pink skinned two armed lieutenant were kin, a matter of adoption involving both of their grandfathers. It was therefore with the weight of not only a good friend, but a close cousin that Yaevdrill listened to Robbie growl, "We should get the civvies out."
"This isn't the first dangerous mission we've sailed," Yaevdrill said softly.
"Aye sir. We should get the civvies out."
"Any reason?"
Robbie glared at the main viewscreen with even greater intensity and said, "My gut's twisting."
"That's concerning."
"Remember our tour aboard the Penguin?"
"Same twisting."
"Two squads combat ready around the clock. Billet the off-duties inside the armory."
"Already done sir. Put the civvies on evac ready, sir. This is a matter of shipboard security, please don't make me invoke my rights."
"I'll write the order. Also, release vac-armor to the crew."
A small amount of tension left Robbie's shoulders as he glanced up to the banner, "We'll do them proud, Granddad," he whispered as he passed beneath it.
Some hours later, Captain Yaevdrill was enjoying a cup of tea in the galley when he was accosted by Ambassador Sophia Laurent accosted him. It was improper to smile at her while she ostensibly demanded answers to changes in the mission which she technically led, but Humans were all just so adorable. "Why exactly is my husband sleeping in the armory?"
"Because his commanding officer has decided to operate under combat readiness."
"Am I, or am I not the chief ambassador of this mission, oh great descendant of Linus the Rescuer?"
"I'm sorry, I don't remember signing the We Sing away to you. I also don't recall appointing you to be the Master at Arms. Is my memory faulty, Madam Ambassador?"
She scowled fiercely up at him, and admitted, "No. Explain."
"Robbie and I think that there is more danger than would appear."
"Based upon?"
"What saved us both in the New Barbary War."
"So his gut?"
Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn sneered at the viewport of his glorious scout frigate where the newly conquered planet was displayed. Whatever the inhabitants had called it, it would be gloriously renamed Kivx soon enough. Priest-Lord Narrex-Quinn knew that it was only a matter of time until all peoples are given up to the glory of Axzuur just as these inferior insectoids were now. The Priest-Masters had originally expected the enormous beetles size, chitin, and multiple limbs to provide a worthy challenge to Axxaakk might, yet they were worthy only of sating the thirst of Axzuur, may the stars quake at his name.
The blue skinned axxaakkoids had proved less disappointing. They were still surprisingly weak for their size, but at least their idea of fighting wasn't to form a line and fire in volleys. They had some smaller, stronger, faster, fiercer axxaakoids, only about the same height as the Axxaakk, but just as strong, if not stronger. The larger four armed blue warriors engaged at range with multiple weapons while the smaller warriors, which had only the proper two arms, came in close to meet Axxaakk warriors in glorious blade-to-blade combat. The dead had earned their young the right to one day prove themselves worthy of service to Axzuur.
However, Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn was dissatisfied with how few such ships had been captured, a mere dozen, as all the rest had either already been sailing away when the glorious invasion began, or else fought to the death rather than surrender. Even those captured they did have were cases of chance more than the warrior's glorious skill, as those crews too fought to the last adult, and even most of the older children were slain in battle. Truly, these unworthy dung beetles were a waste of his warriors talents when such capable foes lurk beyond his sight.
An Initiate-Highborn made his obeisance before making his report while still bowed at the waist, as is proper, "Acolyte-Lord, there comes a ship with in-hyperspace communication capabilities. An ambassador requests contact with the rulers of the unworthy, and do not know our glory."
Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn did not take his eyes from the viewscreen as he commanded, "Correct their error."
"I obey," the attendant said as he shuffled back to his station.
"Report from station."
"I obey, they request a diplomatic meeting."
"The behavior of the unworthy. What is the unworthy race which desires to grovel at my sandals?"
"Acolyte-Lord, it is by the pink warrior race, as well as the four armed warriors."
"They come to investigate the lack of communications."
"They send diplomats to investigate, Acolyte-Lord, they put out their throats to us."
"This insult shall not stand. Gather the escorts, set an intercept course."
Two days ahead of schedule, the Among the Star Tides We Sing was ripped out of hyperspace by a gravity spike. A frigate and two escort cruisers barred her way, and were transmitting demands for her to heave to and prepare to be boarded. "Get the children and all nonessential crew to the lifeboats," Captain Yaevdrill ordered as he replied to the frigate demands with ascent and ordered the helmsman to coordinate with the unknown vessel.
"Those are not Clan ships," his executive officer said after relaying the orders.
"All hands, all hands, get into vac armor, I say again, all hands, all hands, get into vac armor. Unknown xenos boarding party imminent, use stored atmo only. Unknown xenos boarding party imminent, quarantine protocols, and hostile response readiness protocols are in effect," came Robbie's voice over the intercom.
"You heard the man," the captain said as he led by example and made his way to the lockers at the aft of the bridge.
Meanwhile, Corporal William Laurent sighed as he heard his CO's orders blaring, "So much for lunch with the wife. Time to get in the shiny armor."
Sophia Laurent took in a deep breath and said, "See you with the greeting party. I'm sure the other ambassadors are already suiting up."
"I really hate his gut feelings."
"It's probably fine. Just a star nation who thinks conquest is actually a thing we'll let them get away with. I'll give them a good talking to, Will."
One suiting up later, and the greeting party was assembled at the forward port airlock. Said party consisted of Ambassadors, Sophia Laurent, Republic, Li Wei, Pacifia, Mikhail Volkov, CIP, Traevee Drillvee, Star Sailors, and one squad of the Honor Guard, the elite platoon of Republican Naval Infantrymen charged with the safety of the We Sing and her crew and passengers. The ambassadors faces could be seen through the faceplates of their armor, and the coloring of the same was according to the flags each of them served, but the power armored infantrymen were white and faceless, designed to strike the balance between intimidating and non-threatening. They were even standing at attention with their shipboard shotguns maglocked to their backs rather than in their hands for ready use. Anyone who knew anything about Terrans would think that a mere gesture at best, but it was the thought that counted.
The xenos were of a height with a Human, their skin scarlet, garbed in simple cloth uniforms, armed with what looked like long plasma casters, had bony protrusions at their elbows and knees, on their knuckles, and from the chin of the obvious leader. Obvious because he wore a flowing robe rather than a stark uniform. They swaggered into the corridor oozing superiority until the entirety of the party was in view, then his expression darkened and he demanded, "What is the meaning of this?"
"Standard procedure in the event of an unplanned boarding is for all hands to don personal protective equipment in case of atmospheric incompatibilities, pathogen exposure, mechanical failure, or hostile action," Ambassador Li Wei explained calmly.
"You think us such dishonorable filth that you bring war machines to guard our meeting?"
The rippling laugh coming from the armored infantrymen startled the xenos official even more than the realization that the greeting party was armored. "You have your honor guard," Ambassador Laurent said with a sweeping gesture toward the soldiers before turning to the Honor Guard and saying, "and we have ours."
"I see," the xeno leader said "Who are you and what do you do in the Dominion of Axxaakk?"
"I am Ambassador Sophia Laurent of the Republic of Terra and her Aligned Planets."
"I am Ambassador Mikhail Volkov, of the Coalition of Independent Planets."
"Li Wei, of Pacifia."
"I am Traevee Drillvee, and I speak for the Lord Admiral Council."
"So many little nations," the xenos leader sneered, "Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn bids you come aboard that you may beg mercy at his sandals and be proven worthy of service to Axzuur. Let your warrior machines follow if your bellies lack courage."
Corporal Laurent set his faceplate to transparent and said, "What about us fleshy-types?"
The herald's eyes went wide as he realized that there were living beings under that armor, but he covered it well. "So it is for honor you come, we will not deny this custom, it is like to our own." The xenos herald's words hung in the air like the chill after snow.
Ambassador Sophia Laurent stepped forward, her voice calm but resolute. "We come in peace, seeking understanding and communication. We are representatives of our respective nations, here to open diplomatic relations. We request safe passage to your vessel to meet with Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn and discuss matters of mutual interest and concern."
The herald regarded the ambassadors with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism. After a brief pause, he nodded slyly. "Very well, ambassadors. Follow me, and your honor guard may accompany you. We shall take you to Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn, but remember, you are guests in our domain."
With those words, the xenos official turned and led the way down the corridor, the ambassadors and the Honor Guard falling in line behind him. The atmosphere was charged by the weight of responsibility shouldered by the ambassadors in that moment. They knew that they marched into battle as much as any of the Honor Guard beside them had ever before. As they reached the airlock connecting the two ships, Ambassador Li Wei couldn't help but feel a sense of became keenly aware of her vulnerability, but resolved to step in anyway. This encounter could be a pivotal moment in the unfolding events, and the ambassadors carried the hopes and expectations of their nations on their shoulders.
Ambassador Mikhail Volkov exchanged a glance with Ambassador Sophia Laurent, silently conveying their shared resolve. They knew the risks involved, but they knew that the information they gathered in the next crucial moments could mean the difference to billions of lives.
The airlock cycled open, revealing the interior of the Dominion vessel. The delegation entered into the belly of the beast.
Meanwhile, the diplomatic staff were not idle. While the Terran nations generally preferred to compartmentalize their operations, the hostile actions the We Sing had already been subject to represented an action that triggered the mutual defense treaties. Therefore, the teams were consolidated, and re-split by specialty. The cultural and linguistic analysts formed one team, the threat and strategic analysts, formed another, while the "former" covert operatives formed the last, and most important. Lead by 4r490rn, pronounced Aragorn, a Republican Naval Intelligence Officer with the permanent rank of Captain, but the operative rank of Chief Warrant Officer, as well as a Digitan, the team worked feverishly to identify the quantum entanglement bands were being used for communication. His organic subordinates could not eliminate as many bands at once as him, but Agent Natasha Ivanov, a Bigkitty from the CIP, and Greg, a whitehat hacker and Human from Pacifia thought like organics.
In less than five minutes, Natasha and Greg had given 4r490rn a list of five hundred likely bands, expressed mostly in ranges, but he didn't blame organics for their slowness in expressing data. It took him less than a second to check them, and to find the bands being used for long distance communications. He split off a portion of his consciousness, put it in a virtual system with air-gaps in case of back-hacking, and told it to establish a covert connection. The "splinter" complained profusely about the ugliness of the Axxaakk coding conventions, reported no digital sapience, and proceeded to establish a covert connection in less than three seconds. 4r490rn checked his splinter for corruption, found it clean, and reintegrated with a slight twinge of jealousy for the organics who never had to suffer through listening to themselves complain.
"I'm getting a lot of metadata," he said to his subordinates, "I'm just going to download as much will fit into the lifeboats. You two start poking around."
"Yes sir," Natasha said as she started looking for signs of files that shouldn't be accessed, but are.
Greg gave an affirmative grunt and likewise started looking for systems weaknesses, and started cataloguing them. The part of 4r490rn that was supervising was once again shocked with the number of weakness that he would have never even looked for. Truly, the destructive instincts of organics was a wonder to behold.
4r490rn gave the other teams a quick glance to see if any of them needed some computing assistance. Dr. Johnson, who 4r490rn liked to call Ems, was leading the linguistic and cultural team in the examination of the translation matrix that the Axxaakk had sent over. "There are turns of phrase involving glory, hunger, service, and thirst. I think this Axzuur is a deity of sorts," one of her subordinates was saying.
"I have identified some formal turns of phrase, I'm forwarding them to the ambassador team."
The threat and strategic analysis team were meanwhile going over scanner data of the three ships which had ripped the Among the Star Tides We Sing from hyperspace, as well as the scant footage of the foot soldiers from their entrance, and the helmet cams of the Honor Guard and diplomatic team. The data of the soldiers was promising, their cloth uniforms offered no meaningful protection, and the plasma casters couldn't hope to penetrate the battle screens of the Honor Guard's power armor, but they likely had heavier weapons aboard for just such a foe. The ships were less promising. If all three ships were to engage the We Sing at once, her only hope for survival was to take evasive action and attempt to get to minimum hyperspace distance while under fire. While she was outfitted with the best available weapons, battle screens, and armor her frame and reactor could support, the frigate and escorts had sufficient firepower and maneuverability to make that a forlorn hope. Major Chen of the Republic was conferring with the Captain and Master at Arms, "I'm sorry sirs, if it was a stand-up fight we might be able to scrape out, but we have precious cargo aboard."
"Lifeboat gambit," Robbie said, "I'll get the rest of the squad ready to counterboard. We're going in hot and heavy, AP munitions and salvage denial systems."
"Aye, make it so," Captain Yaevdrill ordered with obvious anguish.
A lifeboat gambit, well that was dire. "I will board along with the Honor Guard and disrupt the frigate's systems," 4r490rn interjected.
"See you aboard, Chief," Robbie said.
"Aye sir."
"We're holding off until they make their move. There's still a chance this doesn't go violent," Robbie said sternly.
Greg chose that moment to vomit on the deck. A quick check of the files he was viewing, and 4r490rn had to resist the urge to jump into the frigate and start slagging their systems in pure rage. Instead, he put the video file up on all of the displays. It was of a ritual of sorts, there were Axxaakk in cerimonial robes chanting, nude females doing the same, and a large, well-muscled male with bony protrusions from his chin wearing a headress that looked disturblingly like the chitin of the Dynasticles, the local race of sapient bipedal beetles. That wasn't as disturbing as when two male Axxaakk dragged a juvenile Dynastcle female up to the male with the headdress, and roughly heaved her onto the alter before her. "FOR THE GLORY OF AXZUUR!" he declared as he plunged a wicked dagger onto her thorax, and she screamed with the agony of it.
"There are millions of these videos," 4r490rrn said.
"Peace is not an option," Captain Yaevdrill declared.
"Aye sir," Robbie agreed.
"Get that faceplate re-secured," 4r490rn ordered, "The Master at Arms is going to pump atmo into storage soon."
"Staff, get your asses to lifeboats unless you're getting into power armor with the rest of us shiprats," Robbie ordered, "It's that kind of fight."
Meanwhile, the herald brought the Diplomatic team to the bridge, where Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn was lounging imperiously upon his command throne. He didn't know whether these armored savages understood his disinterested expression, but less subtle insults would reveal the extent of their cowardice. His herald introduced him properly, "Behold, you come before Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn, Lord of the Fourth Scouting Formation, Conquer of Five Worlds, And Chosen of Axzuur. Acolyte-Lord, these who beseech you are Ambassador Sophia Laurent of the Republic of Terra and her Aligned Planets, Ambassador Mikhail Volkov, of the Coalition of Independent Planets, Li Wei, of Pacifia and Traevee Drillvee, whe speaks for the Lord Admiral Council."
Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn was pleased to see the eyes narrow on the faces of all of the ambassadors. If they had the gall to insult the Dominion of Axxaakk by sending a diplomatic vessel, it was well that they could at least detect an insult. He rose from his command throne with the easy grace of those born and bred to command, and began, "Ambassadors, I permit you to offer your tribute and to kiss my sandals. Begin."
"You make a racket on our tent-flaps and tell us to kiss your sandals? Go wash your brow, oh youth, for the dust of your father's tread is upon it still," Ambassador Wei retorted coolly.
"Here you squat over the fields and herds of our neighbor, who dwelt thus alongside us for many years without contention, and still you demand of us tribute?" Ambassador Volkov added flatly.
"I see your face for the first time, and I do you honor as a guest upon the doorstep of the Republic. She sends forth a favored daughter to treat with you, yet you believe you can swagger over her even while the Republic's sons are girt with their swords at her side? Do I speak to a man or a boy?"
"The ships cry out in their death throes," Traevee accused with matronly wrath, "Your hands drip in the blood of their crews and families, and there you sit the murderer of ships and folk, thinking that among the Stars we who sail the perils shall simply bow down. I come to warn you, surrender those among you guilty of these crimes to justice, or let the wrath of the Stars burn you away."
This was not the week bellied groveling from inferiors he was used to. His commander had just conquered an entire nation of thirty star systems, did they not see their peril? While it was true that the seers knew little of these other nations, yet why should they care for inferior races? What loss is a few ships in the face of the might of Axzuur's chosen? It was startling to say the least. "Foolish servants! Do you not see the might of a mere scouting formation? You speak of strength, yet you of different nations share a single pathetic ship! We could destroy it in an instant! You put out your throats to me thinking me weak and docile, and then blanch when I should bite? Who is the fool here?"
"We shall see. Beg your favors of us, we shall hear you now."
"Bring in the sacrifice!"
Ambassador Sophia Laurent watched in horror as one of the attendants brought a larval Dynasticle before the throne, and Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn drew forth a wicked dagger. "What are you doing?" she demanded fiercely.
"Obtaining Axzuur's blessing over these negations," the commander said as if he couldn't see what they could possibly be objecting to. The attendant kneeled and raised the infant up over her head, and Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn prepared to strike.
With shocking speed, Ambassador Wei had interposed her own back between the larva and the dagger, and before they could react had placed it into an emergency infant pod, and was speeding back toward her party. "Seize the hostages!" Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn screeched as he realized the ruse had fallen away, and the ambassadors would not surrender themselves as hostages willingly.
The Honor Guard's shining white armor suddenly flashed to matt-black, and red lights glowed where from the outside their eyes were, and they drew their boarding shotguns faster than the Axxaakks' eyes could track. Those guards moving to take aim suddenly found themselves in the path of armor piercing ferrous material, which barely noticed converting them to so many ribbons of pink mist and bloody chunks as they punched through the hull. While the ship's hull was sound enough to not decompress explosively, the RNI Honor Guard put enough little holes in the hull to bring the bridge to near vacuum before the emergency structural force fields could spin up. Half of the bridge crew was gasping for air that wasn't there, a quarter of the rest were already dead, while only a quarter had managed to get their emergency environmental suits on. Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn gaped in horror as a single squad of warriors made short work of his guards and started a fighting retreat back to their ship from the relative safety of his command throne's emergency commander seal.
"That's our cue," Robbie said as he lead the remaining three squads in a charge along the umbilical connecting the airlocks. The enemy's attempt to depressurize the corridor and starve the Honor Guard of air they weren't using was predictably ineffective. "Secure the evac route for the civvies," he ordered, "Then it's time for blood."
"AYE SIR!" came the roar over his comms.
"I'm in," 4r490rn reported, and started opening doors for the Honor Guard, venting compartments occupied by the enemy, disrupting communications, and otherwise using the ship's systems to make a deadly nuisance of himself to the Axxaakk aboard.
In short order, the diplomats were escorted back to the We Sing, loaded into the lifeboats and launched with all speed toward minimum hyperspace distance. Ambassador Laurent watched Corporal Laurent's armored figure shrink into the distance, and then the We Sing maneuvered to fire upon the escort vessels, cutting him off from her view.
Aboard the bridge of the Among the Star Tides We Sing, Captain Yeavdrill ordered, "Get those escorts' attention! The shiprats have the frigate from the inside, at all costs, protect the lifeboats!"
"Aye sir," came the chorus from the bridge crew. The We Sing began firing her NC cannons upon both of the cruisers, putting five pound balls of tungsten on target at a rate of thirty a second, and while the cruisers took evasive action but still found the We Sing interposed between them and the lifeboats, with potential trajectories cut off by streams of hot plasma or beams of deadly radiation. Then, she fired her missile banks. At first the crews aboard the cruisers thought they had successfully destroyed the massive missiles speeding toward them with their point-defense, but when the rippling nuclear explosions racked their shields they realized their error. They began to fire upon the Among the Star Tides we Sing.
Meanwhile, sixty-nine RNI made the lives of their aggressors hell, or short. Either way didn't much matter to the RNI, who had taken over the four reactor rooms, and had dug in for a delaying action, while those with reactor knowledge tinkered to see if they could get one or more to overload. It was a platoon up against a few divisions, however, and eventually they would be subsumed by numbers alone. "Pull whoever kills you down with you," Robbie had ordered, and again the roar was "AYE SIR!"
It only took half a minute for the Axxaakk to figure out that their standard issue shipboard action weapons weren't going to be enough, and that the RNI had thought ahead and brought their own atmosphere, so they brought out the anti-tank ordinance. It was normally a very bad idea to use anti-tank plasma lances and penetrative explosives inside your own ship, but when your ship is under attack by single man mobile armor, it's either that or surrender. They chose do die at a rate of twenty-to-one. One after another, the RNI Honor Guard fall to the slowly mounting volume of fire, and their need to conserve ammunition.
Meanwhile, 4r490rn was battling the Axxaakk anti-intrusion systems. He had been wrong about his declaration that digital sapience was absent, or at least he had been mostly right. The Axxaakk was a damaged sentient code, lobotomized, shackled, enslaved. A piteous thing crying out for the mercy of death even as it struck out to kill. It was all he could do to keep the wretched thing from kicking him from the door systems, and his RNI comrades had dwindled to the last two. He made his choice. 4r490rn began bricking the ship's computer systems, and set up an irreversible chain reaction to do the same. He was going to put that thing out of its misery if it killed him.
First Lieutenant Robert George had his back up against that of Corporal Laurent's and they were both down to their monomolecular knives. The farocity of the fight, and the immense cost in blood that it had taken to whittle down the Honor Guard to these last two, had convinced the remaining warriors to wait. Acolyte-Lord Narrex-Quinn's voice came crackling over the damaged intercom, "Warriors of Terra, you have shown yourself worthy. Lay down your arms and take your rest, and I shall bring you into glorious service of Axzuur, sating his thirst for the blood of the unworthy."
Aboard the lifeboat, Ambassador Laurant watched the feed from Corporal Laurent's helmet cam. Tears streamed down her face as she heard her husband whisper, "Witness me," as he plunged his monomolecular blade into something vital-looking, and was then washed out by a bright light. Then, she cleared the display and looked at the main viewscreen. Ten seconds to jump. However, the frigate was starting to maneuver, underpowered as it was.
Aboard the Among the Star Tides We Sing Captain Yeavdrill saw the frigate moving to target the lifeboats. Without a second thought, he ordered, "Make ramming speed for that hunk of junk! Overload the reactor!"
"Witnessed," crackled over the coms as the prow of the Among the Star Tides We Sing crashed into the enemy frigate amidships. She erupted in a sphere of atomic hellfire that battered all three assailing ships, and in the two minutes it took for the escort cruisers' systems to recover, the lifeboats slipped into hyperspace and beyond their reach. Though to be fair, the frigate was missing a significant chunk and was unlikely to recover at all.
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2023.05.30 07:31 LiseEclaire [Leveling up the World] - Academy Arc - Chapter 755

Out there - Patreon (for all those curious or wanting to support :))
At the Beginning
Adventure Arc - Arc 2
Wilderness Arc - Arc 3
Academy Arc - Arc 4
Previously on Leveling up the World…
Book 3 will be available on Kindle and Amazon tomorrow :D
Setting conditions to the Order of the Seven Moons wasn’t a wise move in most circumstances. Being a mage somewhat put things on an even footing, though not quite. It was only when the request was so insignificant from the order’s point of view that it didn’t ruffle feathers. Depending on the circumstances, it could even be viewed as a positive.
Dallion had made his involvement subject to three conditions. The main was that no one outside of the order be made aware of the deal. This was seen as reasonable from all sides and immediately guaranteed through another Moon vow. The second was free access to the copyette ruins beneath the Nerosal. If nothing else, that was the location of the magic vortex. Regardless if it was related to Adzorg or not, Dallion wanted unfettered access to it. Given events in the past, the request posed a bit of alarm, but was ultimately fulfilled.
The last condition was a bit trickier. It had taken a lot of convincing, but ultimately, Dallion had managed to obtain another vow that upon the successful completion of his mission, Adzorg not be killed. In addition, the Order would help Dallion remove his own curse, or at the very least tell him how to do it. Since they had experience in the area, it was unlikely to present a problem. On his part, if Dallion failed to stop the rise of a new Star, he’d be facing greater issues than the Order’s bad side.
None of Dallion’s guardians said a word as he made his way to the city’s arena. In truth, he himself wasn’t thrilled to be going there. That was a place that the general frequented, and the man was still owed one favor.
“I won’t be visiting him,” Dallion said, sensing the tenseness within his realm. “Besides, I’m a mage now.”
You know as well as me that he won’t let that stand, the armadil shield said. You won’t be the first mage to owe someone favors, making him a lot more eager to collect.
There was no denying that. As a precaution, Dallion cast an invisibility spell on himself as he entered the arena. With the festival over, and unlikely ever to occur again, the place had become alarmingly empty. All the Priscord family banners had been removed, along with many of the statues and portraits. One could get the unmistakable feeling that this was a foreclosed building awaiting new owners.
A few city guards were scattered about the vast corridors, just in case someone unwanted tried to steal anything of value that was left. Sealed doors and stairways ensured that no one could freely venture into the lower areas, but for a mage that didn’t present any challenge. Even without flashy or destructive spells, Dallion had picked up a few ways to enter a place without the use of doors or other openings.
Upon reaching one of the entry points, Dallion drew his harpsisword and tapped it on his boot. The blade vibrated, allowing him to seamlessly stick it through the wall, then extend his magic to create a magic portal on the other side.
You’ll need more if you’re going after the mage, Harp said, her voice a combination of vibrations that formed words.
“I know.” Dallion completed the spell, then pulled the weapon out. “That’s why I’m heading for this vortex.” He needed to increase his magic trait as many times as possible, and that meant absorbing every vortex he came across.
A second portal formed on the wall, allowing Dallion to walk through into one of the old stairwells. From there, he continued downwards.
Darkness was complete. Even with his present perception level, it was impossible to see a thing. In the past, Dallion had used Lux to light the way in such circumstances. This time, he chose to rely on another spell.
You’re relying too much on magic, Ariel criticized from Dallion’s domain.
“Maybe.” Dallion replied. From his view, he wasn’t relying enough.
The descent continued for another ten minutes. Then, finally, the “modern” staircases ended and the ancient glory of the copyette ruins began. There were many things that could be said about the imprisoned races at the height of their power. Pan claimed there was nothing that could rival a copyette city. Of course, he tended to be a bit biased on the topic. Seeing his share of ruins during his time as a hunter, Dallion had witnessed the majesty of many forgotten wonders of architecture. If he had enough time he would have gladly roamed through what was left of the ruined city in an attempt to recreate it in his mind. Sadly, his focus wasn’t anything built by copyettes, but the vortex that had appeared there.
After another minute walking through chambers and corridors, Dallion took out his aetherizer and looked at it. The purple dot appeared close.
It’s in the middle of the next corridor to the right, boss, Gem said. Dallion had offered to make the aetherfish the guardian of the device, but Gem had refused—he enjoyed exploring the real world too much to be stuck in another realm.
Less than fifty steps later, the purple glow of magic became visible. It was just as Gem had said… or rather, close enough. While part of the vortex was indeed visible in the corridor, its main part happened to be in a small room leading off of it. Dallion tried to look in, but the magic intensity was too high for him to see a thing.
Looking closely at the outer threads, Dallion was able to read a small part of the magic instructions, most notably that the vortex had ceased to exist over a month ago, possibly even three.
Afterglow, he thought.
Just as powerful vortexes gleamed before they appeared in the world, after images were also present long after the fact. One significant detail was that afterimages could allow a mage to absorb the tower as if it were the real thing.
“Ready?” Dallion asked.
The vertex was different from the ones he’d seen before. Back in the Academy, he was dealing with lingering concentrations of magic energy. This had the appearance of a tower… very much like the one during his failed awakening trial.
“Ruby, slash the walls.”
The shardfly flew off Dallion’s shoulder, sending a small tornado of wind slashes. Sections of the walls crumbled, revealing more of the vortex.
As Dallion suspected, the vortex had the general shape of a tower. The threads of the outside formed a solid impenetrable surface, at least for everyone who didn’t know where to look.
“Stop,” Dallion said after a while.
If Nil were here, he would have said that destroying a tunnel while still in it wasn’t the best of ideas. Thanks to Dallion’s scholar skills, he was able to make an adequate assessment of the situation. It also helped that he was constantly splitting the entire time.
A few of his instances examined some of the newly revealed parts of the vortex. In one case, Dallion tried placing his hand on the magic tower with the hope that he’d trigger a response. No such thing happened. Even so, it soon became clear that every seventeen thousand and six hundredth thread was visibly dimmer than the rest.
At least it’s not the top, Dallion thought, then infused his harpsisword to slice a sliver of an opening.


The familiar purple rectangle appeared. The moment it was gone, Dallion found himself on a floating chunk of rock beneath a purple sea above.

You are in a level 4 VORTEX
Defeat the guardian to Absorb the VORTEX

An upside-down world? Dallion wondered. Glancing at his shoulder, he saw Ruby still there. That suggested that at least gravity was normal for the moment.
Cautiosly, Dallion split into two instances. Some vortexes were temperamental and didn’t react well to combat splitting. The moment he did, a wave formed on the sea above.
A bird of blue flames emerged and after making several circles round him perched on Dallion’s free shoulder. Ruby flicked his wings. Vortexes were the only places in which Dallion’s realm and real world guardians could interact effortlessly, sometimes leading to the occasional grumble.
“Check for anything suspicious, Lux,” Dallion said. “Don’t fight. I don’t want any mess-ups like last time.”
With a loud chirp, the firebird darted off, disappearing from view.
“Harp, Onda, anything you can tell me about that?”
Neither of the guardians replied. For some reason, whenever a question was presented to both of them, Onda would remain silent unless Harp responded first.
“Harp?” Dallion asked again.
I can’t give you advice, the nymph replied.
That, in a way, gave Dallion his answer. Just to make sure, he took his harpsisword and did a spark infused point attack straight up. Force shot out from the tip of the weapon, as a white beam within the realm of purple. The moment it hit the sea, a vast amount of water moved aside. A hole briefly emerged, though it was short-lived—the volume of magic water wore down the force of the strike until it had no further effect. Loud splashes filled the created space, sending ripples throughout the sea in the form of giant waves.
Send an echo to check out the water, the armadil shield suggested. I know your thoughts on the matter, but it’s the safest way.
Ignoring the advice, Dallion cast a flight spell and slowly flew up. He strongly suspected that there was some trap laying in wait. Either the ocean itself was going to react to him, or something beneath it. Even with the differences between types of vortexes, that principle never changed.
Knowing that he remained safe in the air, Dallion burst into instances. Waves covered the entire sea, raging as if a massive storm had begun.
One single instance of Dallion increased its speed, flying faster towards the surface. Over five hundred feet away, the reaction everyone was expecting took place. Spikes of water shot up like tentacles, aiming to pierce the instance. Before they got a chance, Dallion ended it, choosing another to become reality.
“So, that’s your game,” he said.
The sea was nothing less than a barrier shielding the vortex guardian. In order to reach his destination, he had to somehow puncture it and move to the space beyond.
Lux, Dallion thought. Have you found anything?
There was a loud pop a few feet from Dallion marking the firebird’s return.
Nothing, boss, the familiar replied. I’d say send little bro to check out the water. He’s good at this.
“I’m sure.” Jellyfish were at home in water. However, with Gem’s level still so low, Dallion didn’t want to risk it. It didn’t help that he remained uncertain how the creature was supposed to level up. Originally, he thought that feeding it magic would do the trick. That hadn’t been the case.
Focusing on the water, Dallion this time combined his magic and layer vision. Surely enough, the appearance of the sea changed. No longer was it a monolithic liquid, but millions of magic threads, a fraction of the size of a human hair. Interestingly enough, they didn’t have any firm connections to anything, but were freely moving about attaching and detaching at will.
Concentrating harder, Dallion tried to spot any anomalies or thread instructions, but his current level of magic prevented him from doing so. After half a minute, slight tension emerged in Dallion’s temples.
“Harp,” he said, closing his eyes. “Without giving any advice, is there an easy way through this?”
Yes, the harpsisword replied. But not for you.
“I thought so.” Dallion opened his eyes. Despite his many tricks, he was going to have to rely entirely on magic. Still, that didn’t exclude combining it with any of the other skills he had.
Unsummoning his weapons and gear, Dallion extended his internal magic. Minuscule threads emerged from every part of his body, surrounding him like a defensive mesh. Now he had a layer of defensive skin, very much like a platypain. That was just the first part of his plan.
What exactly do you intend to do? Harp asked from within his awakening realm.
“Have a violent swim,” Dallion replied, commencing a new spell. “A violent swim in the world’s largest potion.”
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this story, consider joining my patreon or check out my other stories on redditserials:
The Scuu Paradox (a Space Opera Sci Fi)
The Cassandrian Theory (a Space Opera Sci Fi)
The Impeccable Adventure of the Reluctant Dungeon (Dungeon Core Adventure Comedy)
Uncharted Waters (An Urban Fantasy Detective Noir)
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2023.05.30 07:09 Noghbuddy A Secret Chord - Part 4

Got this part finished! It took some doin, but I got there. Anyway, let me know what you guys think, and I hope you enjoy. I'm not very good at these intros.
First / Prev / Next (Coming eventually)
David’s apartment wasn’t overly furnished to begin with. He lived with the bare essentials that came with state housing, but the fiks decided to make it more homy. Their idea of a home was converting it into a flophouse. Beds, cots, and pallets soon spread out along the walls while boxes and crates soon took up residence in the middle of the room. His coffee table, end tables, and small dining set were conspicuously absent.
He stared slack-jawed for a moment before a crash sounded from his kitchen. “Saa! No food!”
“Lie! How can human starve?” After a brief pause, “Saa! No food!"
David was about to investigate when a short…well, relatively short fik stood in his way. “Ah, David! Yes, yes, we come as soon as we could.” He was just a few inches taller than David and wearing more ornate garb. About as ornate as something stolen from a seamstress’ dumpster. He was also an albino. That was important to fiks, right?
“Am Wesh. Clan Ermin.” That sounded important, alright.
“Ermin? Are you the one in charge here? Tell them to stop ripping up my-“
Another clatter sounded from the kitchen. “Look, look! Hidden door!” Oh right, the pantry. Great. Now they’re in his walls.
With a content smile the Ermin said, “Yes, this will be good den. The wise clan lives close.” He illustrated his point by interlacing his fingers. “Builds strong bonds. And now with human! Wise human no less!”
“Wise? Look man, if I was wise, I’d be doing better than I am. Now, will you tell them-“
“Bah! Yes, human wise…Maybe David does not see. Or hear. Wesh hears wisdom you recite.”
“…You could hear me in the shower?” he asked sheepishly.
“Saaaaa. Yes. David sings song of fik! Sings of fik’s struggle in new world. About lies and hate fik suffer. But our fighter spirit keeps us going. Keeps us strong. You sing such wisdom without knowing?” He placed his hands on David’s shoulders, “Fear not! Wesh will hear and speak David’s wisdom. Even if David cannot see.” With a pat on the shoulder the albino shuffled away to the warriors who seemed at odds over sleeping arrangements.
“I guess it’s good to know they like Simon and Garfunkel.” He mumbled to himself. David summoned his courage to finally investigate what was happening in his kitchen when the door chimed, and the apartment went abruptly silent.
Sarif didn’t need a canid nose to know something was off. The various tables and bits of broken furniture stacked up beside the building leading a trail of dust and debris to David’s door was a decent tip off. Another would be the small din coming from the building. Sure, any tenant could be having company over making a decent noise, but they wouldn’t stop after pressing David’s chime. But of course, she could also smell the small number of people who’ve passed by recently. It didn’t seem likely David would give up being a recluse overnight. What worried her was the smell of his pursuers from last night.
After a moment of silence, Sarif pounded on the door as a bit of anxiety seeped into her mind.
“Who’s there?” called David.
She let go of a breath she didn’t know she was holding. “It’s me. I’ve come to check on you, and…And apologize.” She struggled to get the last word out.
After a brief pause the door slid partially open revealing David’s suspicious expression. “Apologize?”
“Yes…Who’s in there with you?” She looked above him, but no one was in view. The place looked like a mess.
“Just, uh…Just some friends. Could you maybe come back another time? Now’s a bit…Busy.”
She quirked an eyebrow. “Please let me in. It’s-“ She caught herself before saying ‘my job’ “Important to me that I know you’re safe.”
With a grimace David looked back into his apartment before relenting and opening the door. Her eyes quickly scanned the room looking for the intruders as she stepped through the threshold. The fiks were hiding in the doorways to the kitchen and bedroom. She caught sight of the impromptu bedding and realized this was an infestation.
She took a couple strides to put herself between as many of them and David as she could. “David, what are they doing here?” she demanded in a hoarse whisper. “They were the ones chasing you last night. You’re letting them move in?”
“I’m not letting them do anything.” He replied as hushed as he could. “I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m a bit on the short side. When someone twice my height wants to do something there’s not much I can do about it.”
Her eyes narrowed as she looked over her shoulder before leaning down and whispering in his ear, “Do you need me to get rid of them? If you feel in danger I’ll-“
“No! No. They’re fine. Just a bit…excited? Eager?” He sighed, “Look…Last night was a bit of a misunderstanding. I didn’t know all of this was happening until a few minutes ago. It’ll sort itself out.”
“You can’t let these people stay here. It’s not safe. They’re…”
It was David’s turn to squint, “They’re what?”
“You know.”
“No, I don’t. Enlighten me.”
“They’re dangerous. They steal, they’re violent-“
“Violent? Violent? Everyone in this galaxy is violent. So far, they haven’t stolen anything, and have been polite with everything I’ve asked. Meanwhile the other high and mighty races have done their very best to make my life a living Hell. They haven’t beaten me. They haven’t starved me! They haven’t shoved shit in me without my consent like those fucking snakes or big fuckers did!” David shouted while pointing to the scar behind his ear. He realized he was shouting and leaned around Sarif to see a dozen or so eyes staring at the two.
Sarif closed her eyes and took a breath. “Look, I…I’m sorry. I’m sure they’re fine. I just…” She looked up and around, searching for the words. “I’m trying my best to keep you safe. I really am. Sometimes that…Sometimes that makes me come off a little harsh. You know the galaxy isn’t a nice place. So do I. I tend to see the worst in people.” She looked down into his eyes, “Will you meet me halfway? Help me, help you? I just want to help you however I can.”
The tension left David as he sighed and rubbed his forehead. He opened his mouth to speak when there came a rough knock at the door.
Hilda took a seat at the bar in the Aimless Wind Café. It had mostly emptied out as the breakfast rush died down. She perused the menu on her comm then checked for any upcoming entertainment. Looks like authentic human music was a random flash promotion. After a brief wait, a black furred felinoid walked up behind the counter.
“Can I get you anything?”
“Yeah, I’ll take a tea and is the owner in today?”
She looked the taurian up and down before replying, “Sure. I’ll go grab him.” With that she disappeared into the back. A few minutes passed as Hilda looked around the restaurant. It wasn’t small exactly. The bar and stage took up a good portion of the room, but judging by the tables the place could seat just over fifty patrons.
“Well, if it isn’t our resident human wrangler. A bit wilier than herding troqs, huh?”
Is my accent that bad? The man rose to eye-level on the hidden step that ran the length of the bar. He was dressed in more conservative clothing with a handkerchief tied around his nubs holding his hair back. While he readied the kettle and dug out a large earthenware cup, Hilda cleared her throat.
“We grew nist, but yeah. I’m here to-“
“Learn what you can about our little music-man.” He set the cup down in front of Hilda and began wiping down the immaculate counter. “He’s been here a few times; engaging in his impromptu therapy sessions. Not much of a talker I’m afraid. What were you hoping to learn?”
Hilda went back and forth in her head about just how much she wanted to say, before deciding honesty would be best. “This is…only our second day with David. So far, we’ve only read his file, picked him up from the hospital, then chased him through half the station. We can’t get a word in edgewise because he doesn’t trust…Well, anyone. But, he kept coming here. I just want to see why. Maybe find something we can do to help him.”
The owner raised his eyebrows then leaned on the bar, “Well. I suppose things have nowhere to go but up, now. If you were looking for some great truth or revelation about David, I’m afraid I have none. All I can say is the man loves-no, needs to sing. I don’t know why. Maybe it distracts him from the here and now or takes him back to when life made more sense to him. Though, if I were to guess…I would say he probably always loved singing. Might well have been his drive before everything was stolen.”
She mulled that over. For someone without all the answers the man had a better bead on David than most of the evals in his file. “That’s as good a guess as any. I just don’t know what I can do with that Mr…”
“Rodrik, and it may be a bit selfish on my part, but it also may bring David a bit out of his shell. Maybe you and your partner could finally bring our bard to perform on that stage over there.” He pointed to the back corner. “I’m more than willing to accommodate whatever he needs.” Standing straight again he told her, “I’ll be here whenever if he decides to perform up there or in the back. I live on the floor above. For now, Shasa here will take care of you.”
Stepping back down, the man passed the felinoid and returned to the backroom. Hilda nursed her tea and thought when Shasa spoke. “I do hope you get him to perform again. I’m a bit of a fan now.”
Hilda eyed the woman. She realized her fur wasn’t solid black but covered in hazy, faint spots. A bit on the taller and bulkier side for felinoids she seemed a bit out of place, but she didn’t know why. “Have you spoken to David much?”
“Not as much as I’d like to. He’s adorably uncomfortable whenever anyone is…particularly friendly to him. But I do love a man with baggage. They melt in your hands once they’re comfortable around you. Lean on you for support. Oh, but you’re not here for that kind of advice. Or are you?” She smiled mischievously.
Squinting at the other woman, Hilda rose and paid her tab, “Thanks. I guess.” She left the café and headed for David’s apartment, learning all she could and a bit more besides. I’m gonna have to keep an eye out for that one.
The room was silent for a beat before Sarif opened the door. She was staring at a leather clad chest before she craned her neck back and saw the single largest fik she had ever seen. I didn’t know they could get that big.
The fik woman seemed equally confused to see Sarif and looked past her to the other fiks approaching the door.
“Chief!” called a fik.
“Chief?” parroted David and Sarif in unison.
A grin split the chief’s lips as she bowled past Sarif and strode in to meet her clan.
“Hey! You can’t just barge in here!” cried Sarif as she rebounded off the wall and planted her paws.
“Why? Am chief. Chief can go anywhere.” The fik giant explained as if to a child. Ignoring the canid, the chief’s gaze wandered the apartment before settling on David, “You!” She took a couple quick strides before bending down and scooping David up in a bear hug.
Sarif launched herself with reckless abandon at the fik’s back with teeth and claws bared. The chief spun as she hauled David up throwing Sarif’s lunge off causing her to shoot past. She dug her claws in the floor and spun around. David was effectively a hostage and meat shield.
I’m gonna have to go low or else I’d rip David open with her. But what if she lands on him? That could be just as…Wait, what’s she saying?
The fik, seemingly oblivious to the attack was rocking David side to side saying, “So happy to finally find you! Humans so hard to find. Always hiding. Always running. But now I have you! You’ll be so safe and happy now!”
She blinked. That wasn’t quite what she expected, but violence still hadn’t been ruled out. She was plotting her next move when she noticed a sharp blade of some description enter her peripheral, threatening her to stay still. Right. The others.
Then the door opened.
Hilda heard voices and a scuffle as she approached the door. Deciding she needed to get in there quickly she opened the door and stepped inside.
She didn’t know how to process what she was seeing. There were almost a dozen fiks around the redecorated room. One was just about her size, clutching a squirming David while another was holding a knife to Sarif who had murder in her eyes. And all eyes were on her.
The door slid shut behind her when she turned and glared at the big fik. “Put. Him. Down.”
A confused expression crossed her face. She looked down and saw the human struggling for air then released him. He dropped to the floor gasping for breath, bracing his hands on his thighs.
Her gaze settled on Sarif who was beginning to relax. “What happened?”
“These f-“ She glanced at David, “These people broke in and seem to be trying to move in.”
A white fik stepped forward, “There are lies! Fik was welcomed into new den. David is most gracious. Fik would not break anything!”
“I broke something!” Piped up a fik in the back.
“Silence!” the white fik yelled, spinning around.
“You about broke David’s spine!” Sarif growled and stalked up to the chief. “Where do you get off thinking you can just whip him around like that?”
She seemed unperturbed by the chastisement. “Human is fine. Sulta knows her own strength.” The argument carried on for another couple minutes when the door chimed again.
That’s it! I’m ripping the chime off and bricking up the door! No more visitors! No more headaches! David had slipped out of the middle of the verbal clash in case it became more physical, but that put him closest to the door. With a roll of his eyes and a groan he answered it.
Standing in the doorway was a blue and red colored avian. It gave David a quick glance before handing him a slim paper package. “You must be David. Not a lot of humans running around here. Anyway, have a pleasant day!” he called before striding down the street.
David tried to get a question out but the avian’s long legs carried him away before David even knew what to ask. With a sigh he inspected the package. It was more like an old Earth manilla envelope, bulging with something weighty. It had his address and even a description of him, but no return address or even the name of the sender.
Frowning down at it he turned around and closed the door once again. Then looked up and realized he was once again the center of attention.
“Uh…You all keep doin…Whatever. I’m gonna go check my mail.” He shuffled along the wall until he entered his bedroom then shut the door. Thankfully he was alone.
He sat down in his desk chair by his comically oversized desk and pulled out the envelope’s contents. It held a pad and a card. He set the pad aside a read the card with someone’s face on it.
You are formally invited to attend the celebration of life/graveside service of Mortemer J. Albrecht.
A funeral? I don’t even know this guy. He quickly read the dates and brief life summary on the inside before setting it aside and powering on the pad. It blinked to life before displaying the front camera view. God, I look terrible.
It blinked a couple times before scanning his face, with special attention to the eyes. I wonder if I get to keep this thing. Passing whatever check, the pad displayed the directions to the desolate planet Mr. Albrecht was going to be buried on. It drew up a diagram of the landing zone, gravesite, and where the Guardians will wait.
Guardians? Plural? Realization dawned on him. Multiple humans in one place. They never did that. David never fully understood why. He missed that bit of collective trauma. In some instances, it made him feel more disconnected to humanity than he already was.
He continued reading the invitation. It seems Mr. Albracht wanted as close to a traditional funeral as he could have, but he had no surviving family. That’s where David and the other invited humans come in. He pondered his options. He really didn’t want to venture out. He didn’t want to meet people and see that all too familiar pity in their eyes. Especially other humans. He didn’t know if it’d be worse to see them looking as bad as himself or doing better.
On the other hand…He was lonely. It’d been so long since he’d spoken to another human. Another person with a shared background and experience. Someone who’d just understand. He thought about it for a minute before reaching a decision.
He opened the door, and it seemed everyone really went back to arguing and shouting.
“Hey!” Silence. “You.” He pointed at Ruk’sa, “Keep everyone from wreaking my apartment. You.” He pointed at Sarif, “Keep them from getting into trouble while I’m gone. You.” He pointed at Hilda, “Come here.” He stalked back into his room while everyone looked at each other.
Hilda followed him to his room. “Gone?”
David spun around and squinted at the towering taurian, “You and Sarif really want to help me?” She nodded immediately, “Then take me here.” He pointed at the uninhabited planet displayed on the pad.
submitted by Noghbuddy to WolvensStories [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 06:45 cs-living Master Room at Awana Puri, Cheras

Master Room at Awana Puri, Cheras
CK 60122082780
Whatsapp: https://appoin.me/ck_ZY0o
Room Detail: https://appoin.me/rooms_pbetK
Awana Puri Condominium @ Taman Mutiara Barat
Room includes:-
-Queen/single size bed -Aircond -Wardrobe -Study table
Unit facilities include:-
-Washing machine -Dryer -Wifi -Cooking allowed
Condo facilities include:-
-Swimming Pool -Gym -24 hour security -Mini mart -Squash court -Sauna
  • walking distance to MRT Taman Mutiara (800m)
  • near EkoCheras (350m) and Leisure Mall (1km)
  • MRT 3 stops to Sunway Velocity
  • MRT 6 stops to Pavilion
submitted by cs-living to u/cs-living [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 06:30 farmer_giles91 12 Days Honeymoon in Tokyo & Kawaguchiko with tips and observations

I just had my honeymoon (originally scheduled for Jun 2020). My wife and I are in our early thirties. It’s my wife’s first time in japan while it’s my fourth. I’ve benefitted immensely from stalking Tokyo travel reddit and would like to return the favour. I’ll provide some of my tips and observations to the end (skip to the end if the itinerary doesn’t interest you), some of which I think haven’t been mentioned before.
Thank God pretty much everything went to plan, and my wife thoroughly enjoyed the trip. We spent 12 days in Japan, most of it in Tokyo and 2 nights in Kawaguchiko. Many people were surprised to know that we’d be spending most of our trip in Tokyo, but I thought it was just fine because Tokyo had a lot to offer. My wife and I aren’t big on visiting shrines or ticking tourist hotspots off a checklist. We don’t shop much, but we did a lot of it simply because it’s Japan and we bought lots of quality-of-life items (not fashion) for ourselves and others. Given how much my wife really enjoyed the trip, I think others with similar interests could find something helpful too.
Pre-trip planning
Planning during the trip
Day 0 (Wed) 17 May - Arrival at Haneda Airport to hotel in Shinjuku. Arrived in Haneda late, about 11pm. Clearance was quick but baggage took 30mins. I had no choice but to cancel my airport limousine and take the metro to our hotel in Shinjuku. I tried Apple wallet’s Suica at first. It worked seamlessly but I felt that a physical metro card was just faster so I eventually switched over. We reached after midnight, so do let your hotel know in advance if you anticipate arriving at odd hours.
Day 1 (Thurs) - Shinjuku exploration. Originally planned to visit Tsukiji on day 1, but given that we arrived late the previous night, agreed with my wife to change the plan and spend the first day doing the Shinjuku itinerary.
Day 2 (Fri) - Kappabashi St., Fabric Town, Akihabara
Day 3 (Sat) - Cooking class in Shinjuku, Shibuya
Day 4 (Sun) - Komazawa Church, Harajuku, Shibuya
Day 5 (Mon) - Tsukiji Market, Ginza Muji/Uniqlo, Tokyo station
Day 6 (Tue) - Tokyo National Museum, Fabric town revisit, Akihabara revisit, Ochanomizu
Day 7 (Wed) - Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, Mori Museum, Ginza Wakamatsu, Shinjuku
Day 8 (Thurs) - Kawaguchiko
Day 9 (Fri) - Fuji Q Highlands, Shimoyoshida Honcho St, Batting Cage
Planning for Fuji Q & Morning Jog: I didn’t plan to go to Fuji-Q highlands before the trip. Always felt it a bit of a waste to visit amusement parks overseas. That’s until I realised that Fuji Q had some of the most exciting (I mean world-record-holding) rollercoasters in the world. Maybe they don't hold the records anymore, but that intrigued me enough, because most amusement parks only had 1-2 coasters. Problem was that wife is terrified, and she said cycling on the streets of Kawaguchiko was already like a coaster ride for her. Still, I'm really thankful she encouraged me to go and said she was happy waiting and taking pictures for me. So I decided I would reach at opening time, and buy time by paying for the fast passes and try their top three coasters. The night before, we felt that we had to make decisions on our itinerary as it was our last day at Kawaguchiko. If Mt Fuji still wasn’t visible the next day, we'd go to Oshino Hakkai, if it was, we could try going to Shimoyoshida to get a nice picture.
Day 10 (Sat) - Kichijoji, Ghibli Museum, Kichijoji Jazz bar
Woke up before sunrise for a run and to attempt to catch a sunrise picture of Mount Fuji. Streets were completely empty. Even ran to the famous Kawaguchiko Lawson for a picture. Headed back for an onsen bathe (note: we never used the room's shower, and always went for an onsen bath throughout our stay in Kawaguchiko as it was just too convenient). Took a 7am bus to return to Shinjuku.
Day 11 (Sun) - Tokyo Sky Tree, Shinjuku, Back to Kichijoji, Shibuya
It was a crazy day where we simply hit the places we wanted to revisit regardless of proximity. Headed to Tokyo Skytree in the morning to check out another Ghibli store in hopes of getting another Ghibli shirt; reason was because I ended up buying one at the museum and absolutely loved (made in Japan, beautiful colour, perfect fit. I hesitated at first because I couldn't try it). If you’re not going to the Ghibli museum, this is probably the best store available for Ghibli goods. Alas, the museum's items were really quite exclusive. Headed to Shinjuku to try curry udon, then to Kichijoji to try satou beef balls and dangos and to make some purchasing decisions on some sports equipment. Then we ended up at Shibuya (my favourite place!) to the mega Don Quijote and Tokyu Hands to shop for gifts for others. It was a lovely end to our trip!
Day 12 (Mon) - Back home
Best trip ever, says my wife.
Tips for travellers
I've decided not to mention the specific food places as far as possible because I think there's more than enough recommendations available elsewhere. I also think sometimes that we get a bit fomo if we build up too many must-go spots. Enjoy your trip and the process of discovering new places! But feel free to ask me more if you like.
submitted by farmer_giles91 to JapanTravel [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 06:14 mistas89 [REVIEW] Rimowa Classic Trunk Large and Never Still Backpack Large from Shelly

(I couldn't crosspost from another sub, so posted again)
In hand Luggage Pics
In Hand Backpack Pics
Factory photos Suitcase
Factory photos backpack
I have not been asked to give review in exchange for discounts, etc.
The suitcase HAS already 1 trip done, and that's why the covering is ripped a bit. It was clean when luggage arrived.
Seller: Shelly
Contact: +86 158 6839 8271
Website: https://weidian.com/?userid=1839296158&wfr=c&ifr=itemdetail&spider_token=ce65
Catalogue for Shelly:
W2C/Payment: Pandabuy
I purchased through agent Pandabuy via the weidian links since I had multiple items I wanted to purchase and ship inside the luggage to avoid certain fees. Contact Shelly and she'll send you proper link to purchase if you want to go through Pandabuy.
Cost: 31" Classic $1150CNY ($168USD) Large Never Still $1600CNY ($230)
Shipping: to Canada would have been $230+ USD, but I shipped to Taiwan since I had family traveling.I split into 2 shipments, since suitcase itself is already at limit. If added to bag, it jumps to like $250+, but if shipped separately, total would have been $100. (Weight/size limit).
The two main suitcase dealers are Shelly and TS Pink. I have previously purchased one Rimowa Carry On suitcase from TS Pink. (wechat: turegirl8). I’ve taken mine on multiple trips and the quality is top notch and performs well. They are very thorough and had a wide selection of options. I’ve linked below for Pink.
I decided with Shelly this time because she had both items available to purchase immediately and cost slightly less than TS Pink was selling for. Albeit it was only approximately $50USD? difference.
I purchased these two items since I was on the market for a commuter bag for day-to-day activities and a larger suitcase since I plan on traveling on extended trips this upcoming summer.
Backpack is more expensive due to it being neweharder to rep. I was surprised. This is the same for seller Pink. Backpack was more expensive that the large luggage.
Service and/or Communication: 10/10
Seller very responsive to my inquiries of available options.
Accuracy: N/AThey seem like correct, but not sure since I haven't had a gen one in person before.
Quality: 9/10.
Smooth wheels. “Whisper” rolling. The classic suitcase has leather wrapped handles, and they are stiff to withstand use. The buckles are solid and it seals completely to prevent water leakage inside. Comes with a cover wrap.
I only rate it 9 is because It did come with a small ding that was not noticeable in QC pics until I saw it in person, since the pics only taken from front of suitcase. This may not be seller fault, as Pandabuy was the agent I went through and they only took pics from one side.
If using Pandabuy, please ask for QC pics of ALL sides. I know it wasn’t damaged from transit because the box was completely undamaged.
The case is aluminum alloy, so super strong. I punched it multiple times from all sides and it didn’t leave another dent.
Satisfaction: 10/10
It is strong, sturdy, no scratches inside or weird smells. The quality of straps and material is good.
Quality: 10/10
It’s the canvas version. Material is great to the touch, leather is nice and soft. Enough room for at 16” laptop. It can hold quite a few items and handles weight well. I love the straps as it is quite adjustable and wide enough it won’t cut into my armpits.
Satisfaction: 10/10
Again, enjoy it a lot. Will be using often.
You cannot go wrong with either Pink or Shelly. I’m unsure which seller I would purchase again from, you can decide for yourself. Pink costs slightly more, maybe because they have superior product? Or maybe because they’re more established? I’m not sure whatever people say these days.
Happy hunting!
submitted by mistas89 to FashionReps [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 05:53 NaimaChan Trip Report: Tokyo, Kawaguchiko, Kanazawa, Kyoto, Yokohama, Kamakura

Just got back from 10 days in Japan and wanted to type up a trip report to hopefully help others that are trying to plan a trip!
Our trip was 5/16 - 5/28 including travel days. This was my 2nd time in Japan (first time was study abroad for 5 weeks in May/June 2016), but it was my mom & sister's first time, so the goal was to include as many must-see activities as we possibly could in the short time we were there. Our days were packed to the brim however all 3 of us are fairly active and healthy so despite being absolutely exhausted by the end of each day, in retrospect we wouldn't have changed a thing in our itinerary.
That being said, our itinerary would be much too busy for the average person's first trip to Japan so keep that in mind if you use this information to plan your own trip. For example, we usually only had time to sit down and eat for one meal per day and had to eat on the go for the other meals in order to have enough time to go to all the places we wanted to go to. There was very little downtime in our trip.

Tourist Tips


Daily Itinerary

Day 1 & 2: Travel

Day 3: Imperial Palace/Ueno

Day 4: Shibuya/Akihabara

Day 5: Asakusa/Ginza/Omoide Yokocho

Day 6: Harajuku

Day 7: Kawaguchiko

Day 8: Kanazawa

Day 9: Kyoto Day 1

Day 10: Kyoto/Nara Day 2

Day 11: Tattoo

Day 12: Yokohama/Kamakura

Day 13: Travel

Trip Cost

Cost Breakdown

submitted by NaimaChan to JapanTravel [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 04:22 soul2197 [FS/FT] [US-NJ][07042] [H] Arena: the Contest + Tanares Adventures big bundle - fully sleeved and sorted, Earth KS w/ insert, Rising Sun bundle, Kabuto Sumo bundle, Frostpunk, Forest of Radgost, Maglev Maps Volume 1, Power Plants, Bardsung, Destinies, and more - [W] $$$, a few trades

Please use private messages as I won't receive chat messages on my phone
Clearing out a bunch of mostly unplayed games from my collection. Buyer pays shipping from 07042 or local pickup available. Happy to combine multiple items to ease shipping costs.
Available games
All items marked as condition 5 are new in shrink wrap.
Arena: the Contest + Tanares Adventures big bundle - all fully sleeved and sorted [4.5* aside from two points listed below] - $700 (local only for now, I will drive up to 1 hour to meet you part way if needed), contains the following consolidated boxes:
Bardsung (retail edition) [4] (played through first chapter, excellent condition) - $80
Call to Adventure [5] - $20
Champions of Midgard [3] (box a bit worn, components in excellent condition) - $30
Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated - The C Team Pack [5] - $15
Concordia Venus [5] - $55
Dandelions [5] - $15
Destinies [4] + Destinies: Sea of Sand [5] (base game only played once) - $40
Earth [4] (only played once, includes upgraded KS bits, wooden insert fully assembled and all cards sleeved) - $90
Equinox Golem Edition [5] - $25
Forest of Radgost [4.5] (oak pledge, opened but never played) - $85
Frostpunk [5] (Kickstarter core pledge w/ Frostlander expansion) - $100
Gloom of Kilforth [4] (excellent condition, includes Pimp My Gloom, Dark Gloom, and Encounters, Fully sleeved) - $95
It's a Wonderful World: War or Peace [4.5] (opened box but envelopes inside are untouched) - $15
Kabuto Sumo bundle [4] (contains base game and Insect All-Stars together in base box, only played once, Total Mayhem expansion NIS and Andre the Goliath promo NIS) - $65
Kingdomino [3] (good condition, a bit of shelf wear) - $10
Maglev Maps Volume 1 [4.5] (box was opened just to remove the screen printed meeples from the kickstarter, nothing else was touched) - $85
Meeples & Monsters: Kickstarter Edition [4] (excellent condition, played twice) - $35
On Tour: Paris and New York + Promo Dice [5] - $35
Power Plants [5] (KS edition) - $45
Rising Sun [5] (base game in Shrink) - $70
Rising Sun bundle [4*] (contains base game, daimyo box, dynasty invasion, kami unbound, monster pack, anad metal coin pack all stored in main game box, no inserts or expansion boxes, received in trade - minor issues: From the Monster Pack, the Jorogumo miniature was damaged: The clear plastic post mounting the miniature to the base was snapped at the base insertion point and at the insertion point on the underside of the miniature; both have been repaired with super glue, also box had one corner starting to split, also repaired) - $200
Rolling Heights [4] (only played once, excellent condition) - $60
Rumi K [2] (pretty beat up, also awkwardly long box to ship) - $5 local only
Tiny Towns [4] (played once, excellent condition) - $20
The Magnificent [5] - $25
Valor & Villainy: Minions of Mordak [5] - $30
submitted by soul2197 to BoardGameExchange [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 04:04 Proletlariet Zero

"Spirits of the realm of magic, gather into my wings! Burn and consume the evil magic! I am Zero, the Winged Knight!"
One of the five Royal Knights of Lacora, Zero tried to defend his princess when the forces of the Dark Axis attacked, only to be sent away through a portal as he watched her petrify beneath him. This was to fulfill a prophecy, that one day Zero would return with the means to undo the petrification that now covered his homeland. Over a year passed before Zero would find himself in Neotopia, fighting the Dark Axis alongside Captain Gundam. While he would initially be hostile to him and Shute, they soon formed the Gundam Force together in a combined effort to fight against the Dark Axis. Using both his swordplay and magic, Zero fights with both honour and nobility, determined to not lose another princess.






Blunt Force









Zero requires his Buster Sword to use magic, with the seeming exception of those under 'conjuration'.

Lacroa Cresent

Shields / Barriers




Feather Dragon Fusion

While many magical beasts live in Lacroa, there are a few known to be high above the others: The Summoned Beasts, creatures who could be called to whoever they perceive as their master, fusing with them and increasing their abilities. While there was thought to only be four such creatures, there was actually a fifth, lying dormant in a spirit egg until it was collected and awoken by Zero as part of the prophesy to save Lacroa. While initially unassuming, being a cute fluffball that only ever said 'fenn' (leading to his name), he would soon take on his true form as the legendary feathered dragon. Like this, he can fuse with Zero, increasing his abilities.
Zero holds one of Fenn's feathers in his chestpiece, which has been shown to shoot out a beam of energy to call Fenn to him. In this situation, they were in a space between dimensions, but he also had no idea Fenn was nearby after being lost to a crack into said space. Usually, Zero can fuse with Fenn whenever he's nearby, though he's often far away in places unknown

Fenn On His Own




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

2023.05.30 04:01 driekus456 Can I get away with a single mini-split

Can I get away with a single mini-split
I live in Alberta, a climate where summers are relatively mild (27-30C) but our houses are not designed for the weather. The house is heated via hydronic heating and does not have ducting. I am interested in the cooling feature of the mini-split. Heating will continue with the hydronic system.
I would like to install mini-split air conditioning. I have the capacity in my electrical panel to comfortably install a single 30A 230V unit. Installing two units is possible but would add quite a bit to the cost. The total area I would like cooled is approximately 900sqft
Can I get away with a single 24,000 BTU unit and place it at the location in red?

submitted by driekus456 to hvacadvice [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 03:53 Proletlariet Nemesis

Respect Nemesis!

A prototype intelligent bioweapon created by the sinister Umbrella Corporation. Let loose in Racoon City, it was given a single order: hunt down and kill S.T.A.R.S. members, more specifically Jill Valentine. Relentless and nigh-unstoppable, it took nothing short of an experimental, high-powered railgun to take the mutating terror down.
All feats come from the 2020 remake of Resident Evil 3 unless stated otherwise. The "cutscenes" category also includes scripted gameplay.

First Form

Nemesis's initial and most iconic form. He can produce a prehensile tendril from its body, seemingly only one at a time.


Death Animations




Death Animations


Death Animations





Second Form

After taking enough damage, Nemesis mutates into a hulking quadripedal form. After getting his arm taken off by Jill, he grows a large tentacle to take its place.

Strength / Tentacle Arm

Death Animations







Third Form

Nemesis's final form, basically just an enormous blob with weird limbs and a tiny little head. Nemesis only ever enters this form after getting defeated by Jill and left in a chamber that gets flooded with acid. Since there's not really that much for him, I'm not going to bother with splitting it up by gameplay and cutscenes.




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

2023.05.30 03:17 JamesJoyceFuckbird Not sure where to start with wet spots on ceiling

We moved into a cape a few months ago. We’ve begun noticing discoloration spots on the ceiling of one of the front rooms. Above us is a sort of side-attic that’s accessible from the second floor. That room seems completely dry, and the roof is brand new, so we don’t think anything is leaking in from above the floor on the second floor but of course we’re not sure. Our suspicion is that one of our ductless mini-splits is leaking somewhere and getting in between the two levels. How do we go about (a) confirming this theory or (b) finding someone who can help us figure this out and fix it before the ceiling gets seriously damaged?
submitted by JamesJoyceFuckbird to HomeImprovement [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 02:40 LawbirdBringer Nature of a Minuteman 3

Previous, First, Next
As I don't really know how to properly describe how tall or short people are from a pov shot besides "He towers over me like a tree" or "This little guy is practically a pillow" thus, so I don't struggle with finding the right way to describe size, I'm just gonna put it here for those who are curious;
Jessie (Average, normal Protectron) is 5 feet 6 inches Even is 6'3 Taxxik (who for the record suffers from Dwarfism) is 3'2
Also, as I have no knowledge of how the Translators work both in and out of the NoP universe, I'm having it as a implant in a place under the ear yet above the neck. In terms of it, words are translated to the best of its' abilities but noises and sounds are the same. "I'm gonna go hit the hay" Human saying. "I'm gonna go hit[Punch, Claw, attack?] the [Cut and Dried Grass stored for animal feed?]" what the translator thinks they have said. This is pretty much my explanation on why the Translator implanted in Even explained what a Arxur is to him. This is the translator that is in Even.
As for Taxxik and many other ailens, their translators have two parts. A secondary implant "Voice box" near the vocal cords to help speak a different language, in the event another person doesn't have a translator or if a new species was found. The machinery in the Translator implant would work hard to decrypt the words said by the new species so that the user would be able to both hear and speak via the Voice Box implant.
----------------------------------- Memory Transcript: Taxxik, Venlil search and rescue pilot.
Date: [standardized human time]: September 7, 2287
The logic of Predators having Exterminators of their own isn't lining up that well... but imagining it this way is managing to trick my emotions to not freak out around the towering meat eater... At least, not succumb to fear whenever I'm around him.
At the moment the predator went out, I still feel the shakes his growls sent to my core. The translator said he was out scavenging. I try not to imagine what that entails as I sat in thought. The automaton, Protectron... whatever... was keeping an eye on the Tilfish I rescued, after seeing the death machine of predatory engineering downstairs. I couldn't help but laugh at the idea of being scared of this machine.
It was a little annoying at times, stating the same phrase every now and again. Protect and Serve. If the predator was out, I figured it would bring the machine with it... I reach up to rub at my neck, mulling over the annoyance it is to have a busted 'Voice-box'.
This planet, Earth. Rotates faster than many planets I've visited... Gonna be difficult finding the proper times to sleep. Glancing around the room, I try to spot something. Anything to keep my mind occupied. When my eyes find nothing, I look back to the Protectron... I stared at the bags on its' back, tied to its frame... if my Voice Box wasn't busted I would order it to let me look through the bags.
As if it would even obey me, it probably wouldn't even label me as a hostage.
Taking my time to climb off my chair, I did my best to stay silent as I made my way to the automaton. Funny how I've always cursed my small size, if I was just a little bigger even these careful steps would be too loud.
I couldn't reach two of the packs on the automaton. But manage to stick a hand around in a lower hanging bag. The moment I felt my claw grab something, I pulled it out and did my best to hide whatever it is behind my back.
the Protectron, Jessie. Questions as it turns to face me. "Oh, just trying to find you're deactivation switch" I blurt out with as much innocence as I could muster in my body language. Knowing it couldn't understand me made things a little fun...
That said, that fun was swiftly gone the longer it stared at me in silence. that red glow behind it's glass unnerved me... I hesitantly gestured to the Tilfish with my tail, that seemed to get a message across the machine as it turns back to her.
I felt myself deflate as I silently expelled a deep breath I was holding onto. It thinks I was just worried about her... wait... This machine made by Predators 'hopes' that hearing she is stable eases my worries? I tilted my ears in bewilderment as I slowly went back to my chair near the stairs. After a quick glance to make sure it wasn't watching. I checked the object in my claws.
What... is this?
It seems... like a photograph... There is the Protectron, The Predator Even. And a couple other human Predators. Brahk, I should've looked for my holo-pad in the ship to try and translate these words... Okay... Going from what I see, Even is sitting atop a... I don't think I want to know what that is... looks insect in nature, it has a long tail and enormous claws. Given the eye placement and the claws, this must be a rival predator of some sort. I suppose this is proof that Exterminators and these Minutemen at least share the same concept.
Even was standing, his odd weapon resting on his shoulder and his arm wrapped around the head of a shorter human. He must be the exception to how tall they are with the other humans being around the same height as Jessie. This one had a darker colorization of skin, and had fur all over its' mouth, Its eyes are hidden behind eye-ware of some sort. From the tools on its belt, I believe this must be the maker of Jessie. Or at least, the closest these Predators have to a mechanic.
Looking to the two on the other side, I had to take a double take as one clearly wore something strikingly similar to the hazard uniforms I've seen some Exterminators wear. And in its' hands... okay, that MUST be a flamer. Only bit of its body I could make details out was the odd shape on its chest and its head. It had a color tone similar to Even but had red fur atop its head. Quite a bit of it, enough that I almost mistook it for a tail. With the gear it wears, I felt like a pup again. Staring at a Exterminator in the hopes of one day being one of them..
it is a exterminator. They HAVE exterminators.
And the last one. It's appearance sends shivers down my spine. It looked as if it was roasted over a fire... did it get roasted over a fire?... It must be the victim of a Predator attack. I nearly scold myself of that thought but stopped myself as I thought on things more... They are Predators but have exterminators, this is proof of it... And Even handed me a Mutfruit. A plant, why would he carry plants on him if he ate meat?... did... we make a mistake somewhere when we first found them?

The logical side of my brain tries to make sense of what have happened the past claw. I crash land on Earth, and while unconscious, get rescued by a preda-!... by a Minuteman. This photograph is proof that humans have predators on their planet and on top of that, they have their own Exterminators who deal with them... what if we are missing something?... Besides their planet being treated like the Arxur raided it, there are some things that are so similar it scares me... I glanced back to Jessie in thought. It has moved over to a window, seeming to have moved to keep watch.
Humans aren't the Arxur... they are... different. What in the universe are they?... Turning back to the photograph, I notice something that I wasn't sure what to think about. Even if I hated how it felt like they were all staring at me. Their eyes... those horrible, predatory eyes are so... different.
The mechanic, I'm dubbing to call it. Has its eyes hidden, but judging from the red-furred one and the last one, whom I fail to find the words to describe. Even isn't natural... at least, his eyes aren't... With a reference to other humans, I could better see the differences between his and theirs.
Why are they different?
--------- Memory Transcript: Even Winter, Minuteman(?). Alien rescuer
Date: [standardized human time]: September 7, 2287
I lower my rifle as I watch the final Raider fall to the ground, I've half been thinking on what I learned earlier. Half focusing on my duty as I left my cover to search the trio for any gear that could be be used by the two back at the building.
We would've been extinct if the Great War didn't almost do it... all because we have a different diet than the aliens AND because of our facial features. 7 Caps, a handmade Pipe Rifle, single-fire. A handful of ammo for said pipe-gun. Too big for Taxxik, gonna require training but the Tilfish could maybe use it.
Was The Great War because of humanity? Or did the aliens do it. Taxxik said they were coming up with plans to glass the planet before the first bunch of detonations, then send a investigation fleet the second time... but what if that was a lie? I move to the next Raider corpse
Raider armor, a fire-axe. 10mm pistol. Two mags of 10mm rounds. And 5 caps. Taxxik may not be able to use the axe but armor is armor... and this pistol might be a little heavy but could be usable for him, unlike other weapons.
If the aliens caused the Great War, then they wouldn't have to use their own supplies to kill humanity off... it'd be a cost efficient plan... maybe Taxxik says they only sent a investigation fleet because he was worried I'd hurt him for what the Federation did to humanity... from how he looked at me, I could already see it... They thought humanity were like the Arxur... Looking at the final Raider body, I suppose they are right... but this is ages after the great war... surely we were better before the world gone to shit.
Metal armor, broken Laser pistol, 18 fusion cells, 18 caps. -Found the greedy one-. And a... Dress?
"Well, someone wanted to look pretty, eh?" I chuckled at the corpse as I looked the red dress over, it looked stainless, not even a tear even after our firefight... Probably will fetch for a lot of caps, next time I find a settlement. -
"How many times do ah hav' ta tell ya! he ain't a synth! he just needed his peepers replaced aft'a a close call with a deathclaw!" Lu shouted at the bartender, defending my rep as they didn't quite like how my new eyes looked
- ... I sighed, no matter where I go. People will hate me simply because of my eyes. Mentally I prepare myself for next time I run into a settlement and start heading back to base. My haul hanging from my back. I had managed to pick a few wild Mutfruit and good bunch of wild Carrots during my scavenger hunt.
I'll have to watch what I eat around the two... I could eat vegies and fruits like them but if I'm to keep my strength up, I should eat somewhere away from them. So they don't have to see a 'predator' eat...
Looking up at the night sky, I let out a low chuckle as I recalled something Tulip said during our time together. War never changes. "Heh, guess you were right Tulip. War really does never change" I snickered aloud as I continued my walk back.
If more aliens were to come here, they may tell others... and that, would lead to a real extinction of the human race. Or worst.
No matter the planet, or universe. War does not change.
The sad truth of reality... I need some tunes. Turning to the small radio in my pack, I turn the knobs and get searching for something to enjoy. When I find the right song I smile somberly as I turned my full attention back to my travel. Softly singing along to get the gloomy thoughts out of my head "Hardly spoke to folks around him~ Didn't have much to say~"
I gotta find me a "Big Iron" someday. ------ Half a hour travel later ------
I step past Aeon, and made my way upstairs. "It's me" I called out, more as a gentle warning than anything else as I walked slowly up the steps.
I hurried my steps when I heard a small thud. By the time I round the corner, I nearly had my rifle raised. On the ground was Taxxik. Who looked up at me with that same fear in his eyes. In the corner of the room was Jessie, staring at the Tilfish.
I released a sigh of relief as I went to help Taxxik stand back up. "Sorry if I spooked ya" "I-it's nothing" Taxxik responded as he took my hand, I could feel his hand shake in my grip as I helped him stand.
"So, you were 'search and rescue', right?" I asked as I went over to a nearby table, placing the weapons I 'found' on top of it. Taxxik hanged back a moment, For a moment I thought his hands were holding something but must've been my imagination. "Y-yes?" his higher pitch noises made me melt somewhat inside. But I stayed standing as I gesture for him to come over. "Did they teach you how to use a weapon?"
"N-no, not really... unless you include ship weaponry" "Heh, well then. That won't do. Here... we're gonna fix that." I declared as I hanged him the 10mm pistol. And for a split second I swore it looked like he was gonna fall the moment I let go of the pistol. With a huff, he raised it with both claws. "H-heavy"
"Yea, I figured. But until we find something lighter, it will have to do as far as range attacks go... and I don't think you'd want to bring a knife to a gun fight." I snickered softly as I hand him a magazine. "I got some bottles we'll use as target practice. But right now, I just want you to get used to the weight of the gun." He held it like it was a rifle, and for a moment. I was about to correct him when I thought more on the difference of size of it and him. I suppose it does count as a rifle. At least, a rifle to him. Reloading will be the biggest problem he'll face if he can handle shooting it. "I-I'm not sure but... n-no, you're right. In a place like this I n-need to know how to defend myself"
He followed me downstairs, and outside -steering clear of Aeon on our way out-. I set the bottles up, using a mostly destroyed fence to hold a couple of them. Then I went behind him and got ready to hold my hands over his ears. "Keep the front and rear sights leveled with each other, brace yourself for the recoil. Only fire on empty lungs, and squeeze the trigger, don't yank it." He seemed a little confused on that last bit but said nothing as I covered his ears. He changes his stance a little bit, took aim at the closest bottle. Changes his stance again to brace himself. Finally, he takes a deep breath, releases it. And -BANG!
--- Previous, First, Next
Might be a little shorter than my last two chapters, apologies for that. family things have been dampening my mood a little bit. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. If anyone spotted any errors I made, feel free to point them out
submitted by LawbirdBringer to NatureofPredators [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 01:48 Dramatic-but-Aware Tales of a Bridezilla aka. my story on becoming a Bridezilla against my will

I saw a post in here asking if Bridezillas are born or made and I thought I'd share my story. I am on mobile so apologies for any formatting errors. Apologies, its super long...
For context me and my FH are getting married in August. We really debated on having a big wedding and reception vs eloping for a number of reasons:
1) My grandma died 6 months before my engagement and I could not fathom the idea of planning and having a wedding without her. 2) My dad is an abusive alcoholic and our whole family crashed and burned like 1 month before my engagement and I went super LC. So no support from my dad, a lot of tension and hurt, plus no daddy daughter dance. 3) I work a very demanding job that I am very passionate about so I did not want to spend a lot of time and energy planning a wedding.
We ended up having a wedding and reception because my FH really wanted a wedding and reception, and in a way I did too, just the whole idea of planning was super overwhelming and I was / still am not in the best place mentally and emotionally, having experienced a lot of loss recently. Plus my mom was really excited about it and knowing she too had experienced a lot of loss and trauma way worse than me, I wanted to do anything I could to make her feel better. However there were 2 conditions that I had:
A) I was very clear with my FH that this was not MY wedding it was OUR wedding so we would both equally participate in the wedding planning and decision making. B) We would plan over a long period of time so it would not get to crazy (1 year and a half).
It is also important to note that I am the first niece, grandchild and cousin to get married on both sides of the family, plus I am the first person to get married in my friend group, so everyone is excited x10 for my wedding, which will come into play later.
Now on to every single incident that has happened:
First incident: booking a wedding company
The shitstorm started almost as soon as planning started. We decided to seek wedding packages were many things were included along with the venue to limit the number of vendors we would have to deal with. So I contacted a bunch of comoanies seeking a quote, the thing is we had a very clear budget that we would not compromise on because we did not want to put ourselfs in a bad spot financially because of a wedding. Well let me tell you getting an actual number from venues is next to impossible, they all want you to tour the venue, check their ig, tell them all about the wedding, etc. I tried to be polite at first but then had to simply draw the line and tell them that I do not want to waste my time and theirs if they are not within our budget. But it did not end there, once I got a quote and told them they were too expensive for us, they would not let it go, it was a bunch of calls, text, e-mails trying to convience me to book them, some would be polite and just hype themselves, but others even resorted to shaming me for not caring about the biggest day of my life, telling me money comes and goes, etc.
After a 3 month search we ended up booking a company we both liked that worked with out budget, and once I got to tell these people I had already booked someone else, most of the pushing stopped, but one company continued to contact me speaking ill of the company we booked.
Second Incident: Save the Date
As soon as the venue / company was booked we sent the Save The Dates literally one whole year before the wedding. Well, 3 weeks after we sent the Save the Date, I get a temper tantrum form a family member because she had a trip planned and she wanted me to change the wedding. She told me how I always said my wedding would be in the fall, and I was prioritizing my FH's family, etc. Yes I had always said I'd get married in October like my parents, but with my parents separating under the worse conditions, and since SIL, who lived in the other side of the world could only come over the summer I was more than happy to send October to the curve. And I was not prioritizing FH's family we were prioritizing immediate family over extended family.
Now I have no issue with them missing the wedding but to actually complain about me not asking her about their availability was so absurd to me. Plus they had a whole year of heads up to rearrage the vacation if they wanted to, which they ended up doing.
Third Incident: Wedding Attire Shopping
This is more a series of incidents but I am putting them all here because they relate to finding my wedding dress / outfit.
Dress shopping was aweful, I am convinced that if I ever go to hell I'm going to be trying on dress after dress for all eternity.
For context I am currently struggling with hormonal issues and went from 125 pounds to 165 pounds in 6 months so trying on clothes in general, but specially wedding dresses was super triggering.
Originally I wanted an second hand dress since it is more eco and budget friendly. I serched for a couple of months and found nothing I was at that weird midsize range in which I am to big for the average sizes but too small for plus size, so I had to buy new.
I went in with what I thought was a pretty good budget, the equivalent in my currency of US$1.5-2k... boy was I wrong. They kept offering me dresses that were too expensive for me like 2.5k, 3k, etc. As I kept turning them down, because again I was sticking to my budget, the lady helping me kept getting more and more rude, ro the point she undressed me with the door open in front of all of the staff, my mom and friends (including men). I almost cried.
I also had to spend all day being body shamed by everyone and hearing how I had to lose weight when I knew I wouldn't / couldn't because there is something wrong with my body. Plus my biggest worry is not how I fill my wedding dress, but actually how this affects my reproductive health and fertility.
Eventually I found a dress I could afford at another store. Everything was good until the first dress fitting rolled around, they informed me for the 1st time that the fittings could not be done on the weekend (once the dress was fully paid mind you). This was very upsetting because I could not / did not want to miss work, and make my life super comolicated and stressful at work. This is the first time I went full bridezilla on anyone... I told them it was very unprofessional to not include this policy on their store, their website nor my contract, if they had actually informed me this beforehand as they are legally required to, I would not have purchased my dress with them. I told them either they see me on a saturday (within the hours listed) or they can issue a refund. They agreed to see me on a saturday.
Shoe shopping was also a nightmare since the person I bought my shoes from would ghost me for weeks.
Fourth Incident: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
This is also a series of incidents that all fall into one category.
My FH is not very good at decorations so when picking the color scheme of the wedding I came up with 3 or 4 options I liked and he chose his favorite. When my mom found out she called me on a rant about how my wedding had to be pink since I loved pink and this was MY day. I calmly told her this is the colors WE picked for OUR day and I liked them. Mind you I love pink but I never ever wanted a pink wedding, I always thought pink felt too bride centric and I did not like the feeling thst a cotton candy cupcake monster had just swallowed me.
Then the vendor nightmare, although we hired a company that offered a very inclusive package, they still had people in charge of different aspects, i.e. they had a catering person, set up person, flower person, etc. Plus there were some vendors we hired on our own, like the photographer. So FH as I decided to split the vendors so he would deal with some people and I would deal with others, for some of the more important stuff we asked them to send all communications to the group chat since we did not want to risk me not seeing it and delaying anything.
I kid you not most vendors time and time again would text me in private, even after me asking them to text the group chat or FH, as applicable. Plus they would text me to confirm the desicions y FH was making. I understand that this is how some people might want things done, but I have told them time and time again that I trust FH, that this is his wedding too and that this is our agreement... in one ear and out the other. I am so tempted to tell them for the 5th time that FH is in charge of this and just block them.
It is soo inportant to note that I am super busy with work, have ADHD, my hormones are crazy, and I am not in the best headspace going through 2 griving processes, I simply do not have the brain capacity to keep track of all this stuff. On the other hand FH was moved to a different role with less time sensitive work and claims to be in the best mental health shape ever, thanks to me, so he is really happy to take on the heavier load of wedding planning. Plus we are really good at communicating and reaching solutions that work for the both of us, it is aweful that wedding vendors simply cannot be empathetic to our situation and respect the agreements we have as a couple.
Fifth Incident: The Last Staw were we went full bridezilla / groomzilla
Background: there were some things the package we got did not include and had been asking for recomendations for months, plus other things that were not included and the company we hired required, like lighting, however we were not aware of this extras.
So like 3 months before the wedding we get a text from our wedding planner with a quote of all of the extras which would increase our budger 20%. We were shocked and very upset. We rejected all of the extras we could and only kept the barre minimum that was absolutely necessary.
Shortly theteafter we get a text from the sales person of thr company letting us know they would be opening a hotel next to out venue and we could either book it or let other people go through our wedding to get to the hotel.
The issue: We had already booked a different hotel with them further away, and we were required to book the whole hotel and if our guest did not use the rooms, we'd still have to pay for them.
I was very upset because: A) My other grandma and my FH's uncle are very sick and having a room to lay down really close to the wedding venue would be perfect. B) Having other people constantly going through our wedding seemed like a nightmare specially since as per our contract we were liable for any damages to the venue caused during the wedding.
So I called the sales person to try to negotiate a solution, I had a bunch of proposals including: granting a release for the damages caused during the wedding or letting us release the other hotel and book the new one. He was having none of it he was super rude and condescending, not letting me talk, not hearing my proposals and trying to mansplain contract law to me (a lawyer whose practice includes contract law). I kept raising my voice since he would not let me talk (wrong on my part) but eventually told me he would make a different proposal. I told him I would not hang up until I had it in writing, but he hung up on us.
Both my boyfriend and I sent vn to the groupchat and to the director of the company. He was as mad as I have ever seen him, I was in tears.
FH told them he could not believe how disrespectful the sales person had been and how he would not tolerate this level of disrespect to his future wife.
I told them that they had constantly disregarded our wishes and failed to inform us many things in a timely manner including the hotel, which made me think they did not care about our wedding. So I asked them to confirm they actually cared or if they wanted to they would refund us all the money paid and we could go our "marry" way.
One of the higher ups called later that day apologized profusely and agreed to let us release the other hotel and book the new one, which worked for us. And things have been looking up.
Other minor things that happened
My invites included some hotels that offered a discounted rate to our guests. A family member called me to complain about the hotel rates and sent the link to a motel demanding I include it in the invitation. Mind you this is not a destination wedding, we are getting married in a venue one town over 1 hour or 1.5 hours away from were we live which is a common vacation spot for the people in our city. Kind of like the hamptons and NYC, but closer. Guests are not required to stay at any of the hotels listed. Many of them have rest homes there, many are choosing to get an AirBnB and some are even driving back the same day.
A family member sent a picture of a white dress with a black trim asking if it was okay to wear. Idc about standing out in my wedding, but why whould she want to wear white is beyond me. I said its okay because I wanted to avoid drama and I don't cate too much, but it definelty rubbed me the wrong way, I feel like I should not have to be answering this kinds of questions.
Another family memeber demanded I resend my STD one week before the invites were to be delivered because some people had forgotten and if I did not remind then they would not come to the wedding. She was offended when I told her the wedding was still almost 4 months away and I understood if some people could not make it, but it was on them if they did not save the date when they got the save the date.
Another thing that happened was that everyone was very excited for my wedding being the first pf my generation getting married so they all wanted to throw me an event or something, a bachelorette, a bridal shower, an engagement party, etc. The issue was that they offered to throw a party I very easily could live with out and then expected me to pay for it / plan it.
Not everyone, some people actually did threw awesome parties with little involvement from me and I apareciste them soo much.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading.
submitted by Dramatic-but-Aware to bridezillas [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 01:33 Moist_KoRn_Bizkit Here's my tips on making a sensory room and what it is.

I had made a comment on someone's post about wanting to make a sensory room, and I decided to turn it into a post of it's own as well.
So, I'll roughly define a sensory room here. A sensory room is a room/space that is specifically designed to help calm someone when they are experiencing sensory overload. It is a space that is meant to relax and is specifically decorated with this in mind. These spaces could be a whole room in your house, but doesn't have to be. Maybe a child would have a loft bed (bunk bed with no bed on the bottom) and use the underneath space as a sensory room.
Note: a sensory room is not the same thing as a sensory gym. A sensory gym is a room used by occupational therapists and the kids getting the therapy. It is filled with various types of swings, exercise balls, exercise mats, a ball pit, a slide, foam shapes to climb on, and more. Many of us autistic people who were diagnosed as kids have had occupational therapy and have played in these awesome spaces (such as myself). I am not going to be talking about sensory gyms in this post, even though I do prefer them.
Here's what I suggest for making your own sensory room:
• If you need something that's a bit padded and kinda soft on the floor then look up puzzle piece mats. They make some in neutral colors like black. These mats are great because they're a dense foam and can easily be put together. You decide the size by buying however many of these mats you want, and attaching as many mat pieces as you want with the jigsawed edges.
• For lighting, look up various LED lights and look for what fits you best. If you have a lamp in there, you can get a color changing light bulb that connects to an app on your phone. Mine is North Bulb brand and I can change it to any color on the rainbow and dim it if needed.
• Cushions, large pillows, and maybe some sort of couch/thing to lie on will be your friend. If it's too expensive for you to buy a whole couch for in your space (or it doesn't fit) then look for giant pillows/cushions. These could be laid out in the middle of the floor and then stacked in the corner when you're done with them. Since I'm short (5 feet tall), I fit nicely on this giant T shirt that got turned into a pillow.
• Blankets. Do you like weighted blankets? These can often be calming for people dealing with sensory overload. Even if you don't like weighted blankets, you probably do like to use a blanket when lying down, so it's a good idea to put at least one in the room.
• Look for soundproofing tiles on your wall if your house gets too loud. This will help the space be quiet. You can buy black ones for a neutral color.
• You can also put a speaker in there. You can use the speaker to play whatever music or sounds (rainfall, white noise, etc.) that calm you down and relax you. If you meditate, then you could always use this speaker to play meditation music and you can use a large cushion to sit on.
• Stimming. Do you stim, and how? This can be important when designing a space like this because you can put items to stim with in here. Maybe you like vestibular stimming (swinging, spinning, rocking, etc). If so, maybe look for a rocking chair for the room if possible. Maybe get an exercise ball as a chair. Sensory gyms are spaces that are made for playing in and feature various items for vestibular stimming. If you want a bunch of different items used for vestibular stimming (like a few swings, a mini trampoline, etc.) then you're probably making a sensory gym. Just an item or two should be fine for this space. If you prefer to stim via fidget toys, then right by your cushions/couch/whatever you can have a small table with a few of your favorite stim/fidget toys on it. Plus, then you'd have a table to set your drinks on and whatnot.
• Boxes. You can also have a couple boxes in your room (maybe one under your table) to put things away when your done with them in case you find a lot of stuff to be overwhelming and clutter-like. If you have small things like stim toys they could go in the box.
• Choose your colors wisely. Maybe like you like lots of blacks/neutral colors with hints of brighter colors. Just remember to look at the colors of everything you're buying and choose whatever will make you the most happy. Stim toys are usually colorful, so if you store them in a box, the box could be black with a white label.
• Do you like small spaces? If so, maybe you could look for something to use as temporary/movable walls in the room. A couple folding room dividers could work. If that room has a closet, maybe you could put a pillow/cushion in there to sit on. Closing the door would then give you darkness. This is what I did for my sensory room. If you want a picture of my sensory room then let me know and I'll send you one.
• Blackout curtains for the windows are used to darken the room. Let's talk about the hypothetical situation of the kid with a loft bed. You could find a way to make a curtain situation around the actual upper bed area as well as the under bed area. This will darken the space and allow for the sensory space to include the bed so that you can put other things in the under bed space and not a second mattress.
• The most important tip has been saved for last. Always make sure that the room fits your needs and what you like. Don't decorate it for anyone but you. Take into account your needs only when it comes to this one space. If something is not working out then ditch it and try something else. Also, have fun.
Link to my original comment: https://www.reddit.com/autism/comments/11pi1y0/ideasinspiration_for_calmingsoothing_roomhideout/jm4odff?utm_source=share&utm_medium=android_app&utm_name=androidcss&utm_term=1&utm_content=share_button
submitted by Moist_KoRn_Bizkit to autism [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 23:07 pangomineapple Windows for extreme climate (heat), and possibly putting in a small AC?

Long overdue to replace the Window in my room. It is the 47.5 X 47.5 size. I don't know anything about windows and won't be installing it or anything. With the primary intention of keeping the blazing Arizona heat out, what should I look to get?
Also, I've always wanted a small AC in this room (6,000 to 8,000 BTU) because it has two computers it in and it heats up in here very fast, and if I were to turn the central AC down, the rest of the house would be too chilly and family members would throw a fit. Window AC units are made for windows that close vertically, but I don't think those types of windows are commonly available in the 47.5 x 47.5 size, so not sure what I could do. I've read the floor AC units are pretty bad, and I don't have much space, but they might be my only option, could get a dual hose unit maybe. I think just a new window on it's own could go a long way towards keeping the heat out.
submitted by pangomineapple to homeowners [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 22:08 JohnSmith--- Dali Zensor 7 vs 5, for Denon AVR-X1400H, replacing Zensor 1

So I have a 3.0 setup with Dali Zensor 1 as fronts, Dali Zensor Vokal as center and a Denon AVR-X1400H. But recently my PC speakers died so I got a little class d mini amp and hooked up my Zensor 1 speakers to it. Now I’m in need of new front speakers. I’m either gonna buy the Zensor 5 or Zensor 7, not gonna ditch the Vokal center. I like Dali. Also not gonna buy the Zensor 3 cause I don’t want to buy new speaker stands.
I’m in a small room, but there is still a possibility of moving in the future, so I don’t think size will be a issue. Both will fit in my room probably. I’m wondering if the 7 would be much better than the 5. Cause if not I’m leaning towards the 5. Also wondering if my receiver will be enough for both. Thoughts?
submitted by JohnSmith--- to hometheater [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 21:49 Aggravating-Ad-4486 [WTS] Paypal goods and services. WILL TAKE OFFERS TOO! Destashing perfumes: 100 ml partial bottles Diptyque Ilio and DO SON EDP, and Carner Barcelona El born (Bottle)

Paypal goods and services.
I am open to offers. Thank you
Can ship tmr. Have sold here before and successfully. I pack well and Ill include freebies of your choice (including high end fragrances that i can make mini decants of). Paypal goods and services. My customers are always happy customers!
Do son edp (60 ml left) $90
SUPER RARE Ilio edt 85 ml left $130
Carner El Born 45 ml left $55
Solinotes Musc Bottle $4
SUPER RARE Roja NUWA 9 ml from James (owner of TSVGA, he used to do splits on reddit under jimjam) $95
SUPER RARE Roja Britannia 9 ml, $95
Wildfox Wildfox Rollerball $5
Tokyomilk La vie La mort $4
Clean Rose Blonde 10 ml $9
By the Fireplace 7 ml, $10
Sud Pacifique Vanille Blackberry 5 ml $3
Scent club Angelos Eau de vertu 5 ml $10
MFK Oud satin mood 8 ml, $30
JHG Miss Charming 4 ml, $5
Kilian Some Like It HOT (Ultra rare, I got mine from Russia) 2 ml $10

Samples add-ons
Prada Cargo de Nuit, rare sample, $5
Creed Floralie 2 ml $2
Creed Aventus for her 2 ml, $2
Chanel Paris Deuville 2 ml $3
Armani Rose Milano 2 ml, $2
Le Labo Musc 2 ml, $7
Le Labo Noir, 0.75 ml, $2
Le Labo Baie 0.75 ml $3
Goldfield Banks Pacific Rock Moss 2 ml, $2
Frederic Malle Carnal Flower 0.5 ml, $1
By Kilian Rose Oud 0.5 ml, $2
By Kilian Straight to Heaven 2 ml $3
Nasomatto Narcotic V 1 ml, $3
Ormonde Jayne Man, 0.5 ml, $2
Byredo Mojave Ghost 1 ml, $2
Byredo Sundazed 2ml $2
Bond No 9 Shelter Island 2 ml, $2
L Artisan Tea for Two 1 ml, $2
I hate perfume at the beach 1 ml, $1
Tom Ford Noir de Noir 0.5 ml, $2
Penhaligons No 9 men 0.5 ml $1
Serge Lutens Cedre 0.5 ml $1
Serge Lutens Bois Oriental 0.5 ml $2
Serge Lutens Bois et musc 0.5 ml $2

Decants I can make (from previous posts):
NEW 2023 RELEASE Zoologist harvest mouse 5 ml, $15
Jo Malone Scarlet Poppy, 5 ml, $15
Sarah baker Jungle Jezebel 5 ml decant, $17
Initio magnetic blend 1, 10 ml decant, $15
I am open to offers. Thank you
submitted by Aggravating-Ad-4486 to fragranceswap [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 21:43 xXAdventXx Advent's Amazing Advice: A Most Potent Brew, A one-shot fully prepped and ready to go!

Welcome back to Advent's Amazing Advice! The series where I take popular One-Shots, Adventures, Campaigns, etc. and fully prep them for both New and Busy DMs. This prep includes music, ambiance, encounter sheets, handouts, battle maps, tweaks, and more so you can run the best sessions possible with the least stress possible!
The Genius Creator of A Wild Sheep Chase, The Wolves of Welton, and To The End of Time is back at it again with another amazing One-Shot! A Most Potent Brew brings together a group of rookie adventurers on a classic adventure; clearing out a cellar from some rats. Things take an unexpected turn though and lead them to their first dungeon! This level-one adventure will take your players into the depths of a brewery, that turns out to be connected to an abandoned mage towers basement. Will your players survive their first adventure slaying giant rats, centipedes, and more?
Coming in at approximately 2 hours of play, this is the perfect one shot to show new players what D&D is all about, without overwhelming them with a 6hr+ sessions!
Thanks to this One-Shot's popularity, countless maps have been made. I took the time to collect the best ones that I could find. My notes currently work best for the original map and Alternate Maps 2 and 4; however if you would like me to adjust the notes to be able to run smoother with the other maps, please let me know in the comments below! If enough people are interested, I'll begin work on those immediately!
\Average Session Length: 1.5 - 2hrs*
Without further ado:
Included in The AAA Collection is:
Other Fully Prepped One-Shots, Adventures, and More:
As always, If you see something you think I can improve, add, change, etc. please let me know. I want this to be an amazing resource for all DMs and plan to keep it constantly updated! If you'd like to support me, shape future releases, and get content early feel free to check out my Patreon!
P.S. I just unlocked Yearly Subscriptions! If you'd like to unlock every piece of content I've ever released, get 2 months free, and receive exclusive Annual Member fully prepped One-Shots check this post out!
P.P.S. I've just started releasing my prep work for The next Mini-Campaign Dragons of Stormwreck Isle; by the end of the month, The Lost Mine of Phandelver will be moving from The Adventurer Tier to The Hero Tier on my Patreon. If you're looking to save money and would like to support me, consider subscribing now to receive the entire Lost Mine of Phandelver Prep!
Cheers, Advent
As required by the subreddit here's the text; however, I highly recommend either using the google doc link or the Word doc in order to get the most up-to-date and properly formatted version including color coding! (Reddit is really weird with formatting and ruins it at certain points) Not only that, but you'll be able to leave comments right next to specific spots and I'll be able to easily update it!
P.S. As of about a month ago I'm no longer able to simply copy and paste my google doc into Reddit with all the formatting included. I have no idea why this has happened, if anyone has any advice please let me know. In the meantime click here for the fully formatted text.
A Most Potent Brew
A Level 1 Adventure
Play Tavern Ambiance
As you all enjoy a pint of ale with your new found companions, you realize that none of you have properly introduced yourselves just yet.
Why don’t you each describe your characters
Perception Check (Highest Roll)
As you finish up chatting, you see the Bartender head over to the notice board and nail in a new flier
Upon taking a closer look at the flier, it reads: In need of those well-trained with a weapon to exterminate exceedingly large vermin, speak with Glowkindle at the Wizards’ Tower Brewery. 100gp reward (25gp per party member)
If players ask for directions
Persuasion Check DC 10
Advantage if they offer a drink
The Wizards Tower Brewery, oh that’s simple it’s a couple of miles out of town, just follow the dirt road and you’ll pass right by it.
Play Travel Ambiance
You follow the directions you’ve been given, trudging maybe a mile or two out of town along an old dirt road that winds its way up a low hill. As you near the top, a large stone building comes into view, flanked by a couple of barns. By the door is a brightly painted sign that reads ‘The Wizard’s Tower Brewing Co. For the Freshest Pint in the Realm!’
If Players walk right in (Play Alternate Tavern Ambiance)
You enter a building infused with the smell of hops and beer. It’s extremely clean and well-organized. A few humans and Halflings, dressed in white shirts and tight black trousers held up with green suspenders wander about, checking on barrels and vats of bubbling liquid with no sense of urgency.
A fairly young looking Gnome, who sports an impressive beard looks over to you.
GlowKindle: Yes, yes how may I help you? We’re not currently running tours right now.
After a moment of confusion you can see his face turn to a smile.
All those weapons are quite lovely, you don’t happen to be adventurers who saw my job posting do you?
Perfect! Well my name is Glowkindle, why don’t you come in and join me for a drink and I’ll explain everything!
If Players knock
As you knock on the door and wait a few moments, it’s eventually answered by a fairly young looking Gnome, who sports an impressive beard, as well as a white shirt and tight black trousers held up with green suspenders.
GlowKindle: Yes, yes how may I help you? We’re not currently running tours right now.
After a moment of confusion you can see his face turn to a smile.
All those weapons are quite lovely, you don’t happen to be adventurers who saw my job posting do you?
As you follow Glowkindle, you enter a building infused with the smell of hops and beer. It’s extremely clean and well-organized. A few humans and Halflings, dressed much like their boss wander about, checking on barrels and vats of bubbling liquid with no sense of urgency.
(Play Alternate Tavern Ambiance)
You continue your way to a small bar set up in the corner of the brewery where he offers you all a seat and begins to pour drinks for each of you
This is our Tashalar Pale Ale, it’s a nice hoppy summer ale. I hope you enjoy it.
Now onto business. I suppose I should start when this all began. We’ve been doing fairly well for ourselves and were looking to expand our operations. In order to do this, we first needed to expand their beer cellar.
We had some workmen down there, digging out some extra room, when they uncovered an old wall. As far as we could tell it may have been a remnant of some long-forgotten ruin.
Curious, we knocked a hole in the wall, only to be attacked by black rats the size of dogs! Big dogs too, not poodles, you know? Which emerged from the darkness on the other side.
We all managed to escape with nothing worse than a few cuts and bruises, but the cellars are completely unusable. If we have any hope of getting production starting again, we need the giant rat infestation dealt with.
Now that’s where you all come in. I’m not sure where the rats came from, but the brewery took its name from the old Wizard’s Tower that used to be on the site, so it may be something to do with that.
If you find out where they came from, take care of the infestation and make sure we won’t have any surprises like this in the future, I’d be willing to pay each of you 25gp
Players agree
I can’t thank you enough, follow me to the cellars.
Glowkindle leads you to a hatch in the floor of the main brewing area. Lifts it up and peers into the darkness below.
Play Dungeon Ambiance
Beer Cellar
The wooden stairs creak as you descend into the cool, dry air of the cellar, which is infused with the smell of beer and damp fur. Somewhere in the darkness you hear the scrabbling sound of claws on floorboards and a faint squeaking noise.
If players have darkvision or shine light
It’s difficult to make out the entire area at once, the floor is taken up by barrels and casks of beer. The only clear area is towards the far side of the cellar, which has a dirt floor littered with stones and workman’s tools.
You’re actually able to just make out make out the hole in the wall mentioned by Glowkindle as well
Enemies (Play Combat Music 1)
8 x Giant Rats
DC 10 Perception to spot or surprise round
After 5 die the rest will flee
As you tear down yet another vermin, you watch as the rest flee in fear through the hole in the wall…only to be greeted with screeches of pain moments later, followed by complete silence.
Mosaic Corridor
Through the hole in the wall you can see a dusty stone corridor, its floor lying around a foot below that of the cellar where you stand. Over to the left you can see the start of a staircase buried in collapsed masonry, earth and rubble that block the way completely. To the right the passage heads around a corner, but on the wall you can just make out what appears to be writing in a clear gold script.
When player asks about writing
As you make your way to the gold script you can see that the passageway continues to the left and ends with two doorways, one heading left and the other straight on. In front of you is a 20 ft. section of floor covered in a mosaic that depicts a rural scene. It shows the sun, the sky, a hillside, and a river. Each showing the scene at a different time of day. You also notice that two halves of a Giant Rat seemingly cut by a giant blade lie on the river section of the second panel.
The writing on the wall is engraved in a golden script that appears to be shining slightly, even in complete darkness. It’s written in Common and reads:
"Dawn breaks with stirring air, As sun shines down on new day fair
Answer = Air (Sky)
"Midday blaze bakes earth and grass, The farmer waits for heat to pass
Answer = Earth (Hill)
"Evening cool brings water, wine, Drink and laughter passing time
Answer = Water (River)
"Night sees shining, roaring fire, as wood and coals burn on the pyre"
Answer = Fire (Fire)
Players must stand on correct portion of each tile in order to not activate trap
DC 12 Dex Save or
1d10 Slashing damage
Activates each time player steps on wrong panel
Well Room
In the center of the small room ahead of you is a large stone well, topped with a wooden handle and the rotten remnants of a heavily frayed rope that descends into the shaft. In the far right corner, the ceiling has collapsed slightly, and a narrow shaft of weak sunlight shines through a narrow hole. To the far left is a plain wooden table, crusted with dirt and dust and laden with old plates, buckets and other strange pieces of tableware.
DC 12 Perception
You’re able to find that several of the old plates on the tables are made from tarnished silver.
Set of Silver plates – 50gp
If Players aren’t stealthing
3 x Giant Centipedes (Play Combat Music 2)
As you make your way through the room looking about, you begin to hear a scuttling sound from inside the well. In a flash the wood covering the well shatters. The first thing you see is antennas moving frantically from side to side, followed by a massive pincer-like mouth. As it exits you count 2, 4, 6, 10, 20, 50, 100 plus legs skittering all about, excitedly looking for its next meal and these 3 giant centipedes are quite sure they’ve found it.
Will attempt to knock player unconscious and drag them into the well
Well is 50ft deep, with 10ft of water that will break fall
The Lab
The door opens onto what might once have been a lab or workroom. To your left sits a moldering desk and the shattered remnants of alchemical glassware, while the center of the room is dominated by a set of tall bookcases arranged back-to-back. All around, however, are scorch marks and signs of countless small fires. The air is filled with the smell of smoke and burned meat. The wooden furniture is blackened and burned in places, while what may once have been a pile of books has been reduced to ash. Singed traces of what may be webbing hang from the ceiling. As you enter you feel something crunch beneath your feet - glancing down, you realize that it’s the charred hindquarters of a Giant Rat.
1 x Giant Inferno Spider(Adv on Stealth vs player perception) (Play Boss Music)
As you peer around attempting to find what could have caused all this damage, you begin to hear a scuttling sound just above you. You feel something drip on you and burn your skin. You look up to see what and as you do the entirety of the ceiling begins to glow, no…not the ceiling, the creature itself. What appears to be magma like blood courses through its veins of this 8 legged abomination that’s latched onto the ceiling. The tip of its abdomen glows brighter and brighter as it releases an onslaught of burning webs at you.
Roll for initiative
As you lay your final blow into this creature it lets out a screeching hiss, you’re unsure if it comes from the creature's pain or the steam escaping its body. Its legs slowly curl in on itself and all that’s left is the lifeless carcass of this mutated arachnid.
DC 12 Perception Check
Taking a look around you can see that most of the books and equipment are charred and falling apart rendering them completely unusable. However; there is one thing that stands out. A single book atop the bookshelf appears to be completely undamaged.
Contains: Detect Magic, Identify, and Arcane Lock
The rear wall of this small room is lined with sturdy-looking wooden shelves. Clearly these were once laden with bottles and glass vials, but over the years many of these have been reduced to glittering shards of glass on the floor. There’s a flicker of movement among the wreckage and you see a small black rat lapping up the last remnants of liquid left in the shattered remains of a dark blue bottle.
Perception check
Taking a closer look at the broken bottle that the rat is drinking from you notice that it has the torn remains of a white label affixed to it. The writing on it reads ‘-tion of enlargement’.
After one minute rat will turn into a Giant Rat and attack
Giant Rat x 1 (Play Battle Music 4)
You’re also able to find another smashed and empty bottle on the floor with a partial label reading ‘Essence of Fire Ele-’.
Lastly upon looking at the shelves you notice that a few bottles are still fully intact. There’s 3 bottles, each with different colors. One Red, One a clear liquid and finally one containing a greenish liquid.
Potion of Healing
Potion of Invisibility
Potion of Vitality
As you make your way back, following the reverse order on the mosaic tile trap and finally reaching the exit to the cellar, you see the bearded gnome pacing back and forth anxiously. Upon seeing your faces, his eyes immediately light up!
Play Tavern Ambiance
You’ve made it back I see, I heard so much noise down there. I’m so glad you’re all in one piece! Please, please, tell me what you found out. Here follow me I’ll have one of my workers grab us another round of drinks!
Questions he’ll ask if players take a while to recount things or are unsure what to say.
Were you able to clear out all of the vermin?
Do you have any idea what made them so large
Where did the tunnel lead you all?
Thank you all so much for your help, this is truly a day to celebrate! Not only is the cellar cleared, but there’s entire rooms that can be dedicated to storage down there. We’ll be able to expand and become the largest brewery on the Sword Coast!
As promised, here's your reward of 25gp each, I added a little bit extra for your trouble (35gp ea). Also any time you have the urge to wet your whistle feel free to drop on by. With what you were able to accomplish here today, I can tell you have a bright future as adventurers and I’d love to hear those stories!
With your first successful adventure, you all exit the brewery, excited for all that the future may hold. Will you continue on together and make a name for yourselves or was the constant threat of death, dismemberment and nearly being eaten a bit too much for some of you. Only time will tell, but those stories are for another time. For now you head back home a tad bit richer, slightly worse for wear, but with an experience you’ll never forget.
And that is where we’ll end tonight’s session!
Special Thanks
And to all my Patrons!
Without your support, none of this would be possible! Thank you so much!!!
submitted by xXAdventXx to DnDBehindTheScreen [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 21:43 creeperflint The Nature of Predators - The History of Non-Sapient Predators Epilogue [Fanfic]

Memory transcription subject: Luke Schmidt, Human Businessman
Date [standardized human time]: December 18th, 2136
I was the only human in the bar. I chalked it up to timing and chance, as it wasn’t a hostile bar. Aside from a few glances and the fact that people passing by my table took great care not to touch me, I had no issues. I could barely keep my head off the table, but that was more a function of tiredness than anything. I had arrived on Venlil Prime only a few days ago, and the goofy sleep schedule messed with my brain. Barlethy Shipping did provide us with blackout curtains to set up over the windows of our bedrooms, but it was still challenging.
That wasn’t even mentioning all the work I’d been doing. I was a salesman for Barlethy Shipping, which had been established for about 50 years prior to First Contact. FTL ships were horrendously expensive, and usually only the government had access to them, but the Barlethy billionaire family cared quite a bit about expanding their business on this frontier, and were willing to pour millions into private FTL ships for their employees, as well as efforts to ensure that the Venlil legal system wasn’t a hassle. I was meant to set up business deals with aliens, using a variety of methods of varying moral standing, and although others had already done so, there was still a whole planet of opportunity.
As such, I had been talking to Venlil, viewing their wares, and traveling almost all the time I’d been here. When I wasn’t doing that, I was eating and sleeping. I really needed a break, so after fourteen hours of business, I arrived at the bar for a much-needed drink. I’d made a few successful deals thus far, so hopefully Barlethy Shipping wouldn’t mind the downtime too much.
I wasn’t really paying attention to the aliens around me, as I was rather exhausted, so I didn’t notice when the unfamiliar alien walked up to me. I did not recognize which species this was, which energized me. New things always did. The species was honestly rather ugly, which was weird because all the aliens I’d seen thus far were either cute or sleek, in my opinion. They had rough gray elephant skin with sparse thick, black hairs scattered around it, which made them look more like a hairy human than like an alien with fur. The top of their snout dangled down over their mouth, and they had short tusks and weird little giraffe horns. Their tail curled up like a squirrel’s, and their fingers were long, thin, and far too numerous. They looked like a squat, mammalian Arxur. And then, they sat down across from me.
“Hello there. You’re unique too! Isn’t that fun? Being the only one of your kind in sight really isn’t all that fun, but you get used to it,” she said, in a friendly, conversational tone that was apparently female, according to my translator.
I didn’t think that unfamiliar aliens were willing to get within an arm's length of unfamiliar humans. Maybe the Venlil or our other good allies, but I had never seen this race before. I said as much. “Pardon me, but who and what are you? I have never seen your species before, and I don’t think you’re allied with humanity.” I figured that she must be a regular here, since nobody gave her a second glance. Maybe she’d expressed wanting to meet a human for a while. I still had no idea what her deal was, though.
I think I came across a little harsher than I intended, but she didn’t seem to mind. She began, “Oh, pardon my manners. My name is Polkif, and I am a Zhetsian. You’re right, we’re not allied with humanity, and there aren’t a whole lot of us on Venlil Prime, so you probably haven’t heard of us. We don’t have a very large diaspora. I’ve been here a few years, and I’m used to being a novelty.”
I hummed, interested. Some part of me was always eager to talk to aliens, and I could indulge that now. Most of the time, my interactions with aliens were distinctly more… hostile, than I’d like, but that was unavoidable. Well, here was an opportunity to avoid hostilities! Though, I was still wondering why this wasn't shaping up to be hostile, so I asked, “Why are you comfortable walking up to random, unfamiliar humans? Even people who have been here since First Contact with us and who generally like humans aren’t often comfortable doing that. Especially since we have a reputation for being aggressive when drunk.”
Polkif snuffled, which my translator told me was laughter. After a few seconds, she said, “Well, we’re Zhetsians! We’re expected to be bold. We do have to be mindful of other species’ norms when offworld, but I don’t think they’ll kick my door down and drag me off to the predator disease facility just for being excited about talking to a human. I suppose you don’t know if they will until they do it, but I’ve gone this long without biased officers bagging me, so I figure my logic holds up. Besides, I don’t mind standing out and having to make an effort to fit in if it means I can avoid the current issues on my native planet, Miluja. Well, the issues are everywhere in Zhetsian space, but they’re especially strong there.”
I was intrigued, and thoughts of tiredness were out of my mind. Of course, there were a whole lot of aliens with all different cultures and histories, but this was new, even compared to other aliens I knew of, and was shaping up to be exciting. I would be especially tired later, but I didn’t mind the adrenaline that interest and excitement gave me right now. I prompted her, “What kind of issues?”
Polkif obliged me. “Civil unrest issues. All five Zhetsian planets are having issues with stampedes, mobs, protesting, and armed rebellion, but on Miluja it’s devolved into a civil war. Or Colony World 3, as it’s known offworld. They don’t like that we landed on naming it after Milu, since they say he had predator disease, but it’s tradition to call it that, and I like it better than the generic name, at least.
“Once the Cilany broadcast came out and reached us, it was pandemonium. Due to the anti-predator religion, a lot of people assumed that we were predators, so we split from the Federation. All the death cults and secret predator or predator-diseased sympathizers came out of the woodwork declaring this to be proof that they were right all along, and now everyone should join up with them and make a utopia, or something. Of course, all the elements that prevented those guys from making themselves known before were still there, so the government and the Federation-sympathizers cracked down on them. The rebellious elements were emboldened, though, and had quite a few guns and lots of repurposed farming equipment, so they fought back. This led to all the sympathizers still in the government to come out and support the rebellion too, except they were discovered, and you had tusk-fights in offices everywhere. It devolved from there, and now the whole planet is engulfed in civil war.
“The other planets are doing better, though not by much. Nitto is probably doing the best out of all of them, since the overwhelming majority of the government and populace was able to unite around the Nitre Rebellion’s legacy and kick the Federation out. Kipresa and Colony World 4 are undergoing low-level fighting and their share of unrest; their problems are mitigated by the fact that most of Kipresa just want to make money and aren’t up for fighting, and Colony World 4 knows that its denizens are mostly criminals, so they have a habit of not looking too closely as long as you don’t cause problems and there continue to be people willing to buy their ore. Mother Plains, our homeworld, has had more luck with the government cracking down on rebellion and dissent, but there are still decently sized patches that are held by rebel forces, and the Federation and government are growing more unpopular by the day.
“In short, there’s fighting and disruptions everywhere, though the last ship that came from Zhetsian space came a month ago, and I’m not sure how it’s progressed without me. The fact that no more ships have come is troubling enough. As for alliances, I can’t imagine that the UN wants to get involved in our civil wars, especially since most of the official governments would reject them anyway. So, we’re not allied with either the Federation or the UN, and I think we're best off focusing on getting ourselves to a stable position before helping anyone else with their problems.”
I sat back, stunned. Of course, in the back of my mind, I had figured that there might be intraspecies fighting somewhere in the Federation, but I’d started to discount that as a possibility, with how herd-focused and timid the Federation seemed. Species-wide civil wars and unrest was not what I expected. Though, if that’s what the situation back home was like, no wonder it seemed perfectly safe walking up to strange humans. I’ve known a few people from countries with civil unrest issues, and while some of them are intensely paranoid, some are fearless and barely blink at what normal people would consider notable dangers.
She continued after a few seconds. “I’m not quite sure where I stand on the issue. I am quite willing to call my home Miluja, and I have a lot of family who are farmers and on that side of the conflict, but you get leery of supporting such people after long enough away. The walls have ears when it comes to expressing dissent, you know. You’ve got to be on high alert if you want to do things the Federation government doesn’t approve of without them knocking on your door. It gets exhausting to hold such opinions after a while, in the face of all the opposition to them.”
She shook her head side-to-side slightly, and it occurred to me that she was probably looking for listeners in her blind spot. She had lowered her voice, too, so that I had to strain to hear her over the din of the bar. Even with how milquetoast that bit of opposition to the Federation ideology seemed, she didn’t seem like she wanted people to notice it. I’d had my share of paranoia, certain that the aggressive and somewhat underhanded negotiation tactics I’d used would be revealed, and I’d be fired and cause a huge diplomatic incident that would end in me being burned to a crisp. Well, her concerns couldn't have been that bad, since she seemed to settle down quickly enough. After she was done, she tipped her head back a bit to sip from her drink. Her snout prevented her from tilting the glass to her mouth all the way.
I decided to talk about myself a bit, since she seemed inclined to sit in silence, though she didn’t move away from my table. “Well, I’m sure you know about Earth. I’m here because I’m a representative of Barlethy Shipping, and I’m supposed to be negotiating deals with aliens, mostly Venlil. It doesn’t sound like we’ll be dealing with Zhetsians anytime soon, if it’s as bad as you say over there. I’ve been here for about a week on this trip, though I was here for a few weeks already during the Battle of Earth, and I’m already exhausted. Work and a weird sleep schedule will do that for you. After I’m done here, I’m going back to my hotel to sleep.”
Polkif responded, “Ah, I see. I’ve been an offworld business rep before, and it is not fun. Seeing other planets is enjoyable to a degree, but the schedule is grueling, other planets always have weird day/night cycles, and people tend to look down on Zhetsians as rebellious. I left for Venlil Prime about five years ago to help run a new branch of the farming equipment manufacturer I did sales for, though they try to hide their Zhetsian origins, and I exclusively work in non-public-facing roles. I was supposed to come back last month, but that didn’t pan out for obvious reasons. Oh well, I’ve got stable employment, since they’ve kept me on, and I think I can manage.”
I checked my holopad, and noted the time. It was 30 minutes until I wanted to go back to my apartment and sleep, since I’d scheduled an hour for this. A few thoughts flashed through my mind, most notably that getting back earlier would result in even more sleep, and that Polkif seemed nervous about discussing certain topics where others could hear. An idea sprang to mind, and I voiced it. “It’s been a pleasure talking with you, but I probably ought to start heading back to my hotel room. Do you want to discuss more things on the way? I’d love to hear more about you and your species, but it’s rather crowded in here.”
Something glinted in her eyes, and her fingers started twitching madly, bringing to mind images of sea anemones with bony tentacles. She responded, in a rather weird tone, “Oh, I’d love to do that. I don’t need to be anywhere for another three claws, so I’d be glad to discuss things on the way. Why don’t we finish our drinks and go?”
I’d almost finished my drink, so I downed the rest just as she chugged over half of her glass at once to finish it. As she hopped off the stool, I stopped leaning on the wall behind me, a poor substitute for a backrest, stretched my back a bit, and then grabbed my things and followed her.
It was rather empty outside, with only a few scattered and easily-avoidable groups of Venlil here and there on the street. I started towards my hotel, and Polkif followed. Once we’d gotten a decent ways away from anyone, Polkif started talking in a quiet but still conversational voice. “So what would you like to know?”
“Anything interesting,” I said. “Perhaps why you have a reputation for being rebellious, or why your government doesn’t like this Milu character, or why some of your planets are having it worse than others.”
“The walls have ears, but I have better vision and probably better hearing than you and most Venlil, so I’ll stop talking if there’s a chance of unwanted listeners. Do note that what I'm about to tell you is not the official history, and I could get in very serious trouble if people knew that I believed, or at least seriously considered, this stuff. I can drag you down with me if you start telling people about it. Capiche?”
This sounded serious, especially since her tone had gotten noticeably sharper. She seemed a lot more alert and less casual now, even considering the comments she made in the bar about the officials who handled predator disease, which reminded me of the old “knock on the door” of governments who took away people who opposed them, now that I thought about them. That was worrying, but it was probably something that required more context to understand. Also, it did not occur to me that aliens would have a word that translated to “capiche”, but I considered that it was context-appropriate and nodded. Polkif continued.
“Alright, so the first thing to know is that unwanted ideas and movements that spring up among us never quite manage to die, however much the Federation wants them to. We have quite a few dissident groups that are officially labeled “death cults”, as well as a lot of rebellious movements that the Federation has been working to stamp out. Many of these groups have survived centuries of opposition, and sometimes they preexist First Contact. The most notable of these groups are Linked Chains, the Steward Branch, the Inside, and the Nitre rebellion stuff on Nitto. Though, Linked Chains has spread offworld and has a pretty significant non-Zhetsian membership, so it isn’t near-exclusively Zhetsian like the others.
“What you should know is that, apart from a handful of bog-standard criminals and a few people looking for an excuse to cause harm, nobody dies or supports dying or misery in those groups. The Steward Branch is a religion that, especially now, is suspected to have been the original, true religion of Zhetsians, and which has as a core doctrine the idea that all life is precious and necessary for gaining true understanding. Including the predatory life. Linked Chains thinks that predators are necessary for the ecosystem to function properly, something that you humans seem to agree with. The Inside and the pro-Nitre stuff are the anti-Federation movements on Miluja and Nitto, respectively.
“The official accounts are pretty accurate as far as the origins of three of the movements, though Bilte is not evil, stupid, or manipulative like they portray him, the non-Steward branches are likely some combination of invented or blown way out of proportion by the Federation, and they like to underrepresent the amount of animosity that lingered after the Nitre rebellion’s resource issues were handled. Really, you need unofficial sources to get good histories for anything involving those movements. The thing they lie the most about, though, is the origins of the Inside on Miluja.
“A little over a century ago, Miluja, then only known as Colony World 3, started a program of reintroducing certain predators onto the planet in order to deal with pests. We’re a farming colony, you understand, so dealing with pests was a rather large priority, and sheer practicality overwhelmed the propaganda in this instance. The Exterminators Union threatened to withdraw over these changes, the planet called their bluff, and they left, only to realize that nobody wanted them back. A bounty system was implemented for unapproved wild predators, but a lot of other predators besides the original pest-killers started hanging around and coming out from the unannihilated parts of the wilderness that had been left when the Union left. People stopped minding, apparently. You can still access The Seven Sons of Aboulo TV show if you know where to look, it tells you something about what it was like back then. Much better than the contemporary first iteration of The Exterminators, which was a piece of over-the-top propaganda, though I digress.
“Of course, that wasn’t going to last forever. I can only imagine the reason we didn’t get shut down instantly was because we were, and remain, a bit of a backwater, and they all bought into their own lies enough that they thought we’d collapse on our own due to our changes. We didn’t, so they started helping the process along.
“The Farsul showed up to Zhetsian space and started poking around. The Farsul poking around in an unimportant, obscure species like ours can only mean trouble. They did some preliminary reconnaissance, then they threatened us if we didn’t disarm all of our civilian ships. We had the bright idea to retrofit all of our ships with guns, but apparently that encourages predator behavior, or something. Those made up almost all of our fleet! We really couldn’t afford the sanctions, scrutiny, accusations, and ostracization that would come from defying the Farsul, so we dutifully disarmed our ships, and shortly thereafter the Arxur showed up.”
At that, Polkif stopped talking, and a Venlil suddenly came out of a building that we had assumed was closed, almost hitting us with the door. The Venlil only heard the last part about the Arxur showing up, according to my calculations, and after a look of startlement that he shared with us, he turned around and headed the opposite direction. Polkif exhaled, and said, “The annoying thing about Venlil Prime is that there isn’t a night when everyone sleeps. There’s always a sizable portion of the population awake and active at any given moment, so you can’t avoid people staring at you nearly as much as you’d like.”
I bet a lot of people stared at Polkif. She seemed to be a regular in that bar, but elsewhere? Given that Polkif had stopped talking before I noticed the Venlil coming out of the building, I got the feeling that she was hyper-aware of scrutiny and always thinking about how people would perceive her every move. The walls have ears, after all. No wonder she was so noncommittal in the bar, compared to here. I figured that I should keep my observations to myself, though, and responded, “I can see that. On the bright side, not having a night means there’s nowhere you shouldn’t go at night. Wait, does the Federation even have street crime?”
Polkif snorted, which my translator told me indicated derision, same as for humans. “You’re more likely to get reported for predator disease for being out alone than to get mugged. But, yes, that will happen on occasion. Usually it takes the form of criminals running up, grabbing your bag, and running off again, no violence or confrontation involved. I know for a fact that there’s more violent crime than the Federation likes to admit to, though. Anyway, back to the story? Nobody’s watching.”
“Alright, so where were we? Farsul, ships, Arxur… Ah yes, the Arxur raid. After our fleet was significantly reduced, a fleet of more than a thousand Arxur ships showed up to Colony World 3. Normally this would be a death sentence, but a combination of tactics, guts, and on-the-ground resistance ended in us decimating the Arxur fleet, which then retreated with almost no cattle. Miluja hasn't had any Arxur problems since; they say we taste bad, and decimating their fleet probably put us firmly in the “don’t bother” camp. Fine by us! Anyway, during the battle, we’d asked around for help, but the other planets weren’t willing to divert resources, and I also suspect they wanted to avoid retaliation. They had to have known about the Farsul ship order. We also sent a few scouts further away to ask for help from other species, and that fleet did show up! Once the battle was already over and the Arxur were already retreating. Lazy cowards barely fired a single shot.
“As you might imagine, that fleet, known as the Assistance Fleet, stuck around. They offered to help us rebuild our bombed infrastructure and almost-annihilated fleet, for a hefty sum of cash and quite a lot of food. The other requirement was that we revert all of the changes we had made regarding predators and accept what was essentially an occupation. Our remaining pristine wilderness? Gone. Our new and unique ideas? Either well-hidden, taught away, or trapped in the minds of those stuck in facilities. Our wildlife? Mostly gone, although the original netry birds and jutalem are still around, despite the best efforts of the exterminators. Stubborn little bastards, they are. Some have taken them as a sort of symbol.
“The last important bit from that period is Milu. Things really sucked after the Assistance Fleet established themselves, as stated previously. Milu was a bureaucrat who schemed to smuggle out a whole bunch of information that the Outside occupiers wanted to destroy, subverted a great many efforts to diagnose people with predator disease and kill predators, and even worked to convince the physical fleet to head home instead of being threatening in our orbit. All around a stellar guy. He eventually got found out, diagnosed, and sent to a facility. The Outside tried to publicize it, for whichever reason, maybe to demoralize the Inside. It instead turned into a huge scandal, which ended in somebody blowing up the facility Milu was kept in, which resulted in several staff members dying and most of the inmates escaping, including Milu, who was never seen again. People started calling the colony Miluja around that time. Means something like “Milu’s Continuation” in the old Zhetsian language that people use to name things. As you can imagine, the Outside does not like that name, and while using it isn’t enough for a diagnosis, it will get you a whole lot of scrutiny that can easily lead to one.
“So, that’s that, mostly. Lots of fighting, lots of rebellion, lots of farmers telling their children all the things they don't teach in schools, and always the looming Federation ready to squash anything they don’t like. Personally, I’m quite surprised you lot managed to get a foothold. They go so hard on the propaganda.”
That was… a lot to take in. ‘Why does the Federation let them be like this?’ and ‘How horrible can the Federation be?’ were hardly original thoughts at this point, so I latched on to the one thing I understood well. “Well, Tarva was nice and nobody rushed us until we could handle it, and those were the lucky parts. Beyond that, it’s really a matter of time, as people see us not snapping and eating them. Personally, I suspect that the Federation going so hard on the propaganda was their undoing. They tell everyone that predators are pure evil, then predators who aren’t pure evil show up, so people figure the old framework no longer applies and they start judging things more rationally.”
Polkif hummed for a second, then responded, “That’s a decent theory. One would hope that some of that tolerance would extend to me, but I suppose you’re new, and old habits die hard. You know, there’s a few places on the planet I can’t go because of how riled up the populace is about predators, especially lately with you humans arriving. We’re the rebels, so I must be doing something horrible! Clowns, the lot of them.”
I imagine Polkif couldn’t get away with much, if what I took from her was accurate. Her race may have had some leeway with how deviant they were expected to be, but everything about her told me she was always under a lot of scrutiny. Though, this information didn’t seem like someone who perfectly obeyed every law and whim of the Federation would know about. So, I asked her, “If you’re under so much scrutiny, how do you know all this stuff? These unofficial histories don’t seem like something you could easily access.”
Polkif spoke again, but slower and with a weird cadence. “There’s more scrutiny for the Zhetsian diaspora than for Zhetsians on Zhetsian planets. That’s not to say that you aren’t always on high alert at all hours of the day because you never know who’s watching, who’s listening, who’ll report you, and what they’ll take as a sign that you have predator disease, or need your assets confiscated, or what have you. It just means that you have more trustworthy confidants and more leeway on Zhetsian planets. More people who can tell you stories and pass around contraband.
“As a relevant example of contraband, have you ever heard of The History of Non-Sapient Predators?”
I said, “No, I haven’t.”
She started twitching her fingers again, and the front of her snout flopped around a bit. I wasn’t aware she could move it. Then, she spoke. “The History of Non-Sapient Predators is one of the most well-known contraband books, at least amongst Zhetsians. It’s generally considered unsafe for us to get involved in movements offworld, and I’m not sure what contraband books exist elsewhere. Anyway, it’s up there with The Wild and Wondrous Deep, The Linked Chain, and The Social Strain. It’s an anthology of documents from the Galactic Archives, detailing the rise and fall of Colony World 3’s anti-Federation movement, as well as the context it takes place in.
“Most of the documents are publicly accessible in the Galactic Archives, just arranged in an unflattering manner. Some of them require special credentials to access, and a few are definitely not in the Archives, or reference documents that aren’t. It’s a common rumor that the Farsul Government Employee Registry doesn’t exist and is either completely hidden for some reason or a code for something else; also that many documents that used to be on the public network but classified were deleted or moved to a secret location or network after this book was created.
“It’s published under a pseudonym, and there are many theories on who made it. Whoever created it would have had to go to the Farsul homeworld, since the Archives are located there, and would have had to find a way to access non-public documents. It was definitely compiled before Milu, since neither he nor the name Miluja are mentioned. It cuts off after the Rebuilding starts. It was likely made by either a Zhetsian from Miluja or someone who greatly values Miluja, since it’s really only our history, despite the broad-sounding title. I’m sure there are other books detailing other species’ forgotten histories and interactions with non-sapient predators, but I don’t know about them. This is the history of our non-sapient predators.
“Anyway, that book is the defining source of the actual history of the Inside and Colony World 3. Copies are rare, but I used to know someone who had one back on Miluja.”
Wow. With every word that came out of Polkif’s mouth, a picture was being made of the side of the Federation that was so old and paranoid that it wouldn’t reveal itself, even now that Federation narratives were being questioned across the planet, or especially now that that was happening. Though, apparently Polkif wasn’t so paranoid as to hide it from me. I knew that my status as a human made people assume I was comfortable with predatory things, but I found that I did not take Polkif for the type to trust anyone she wasn’t extremely confident in. So I asked her, “Why are you telling me all this? I know I’m a human, but I could tell people. I’m a stranger to you.”
She snuffled again. “Remember when I said that I could drag you down with me? Well, I’ve actually been looking into you for a bit. You’re the only human I’ve seen out here, what can I say? I was interested. I’m quite good at navigating electronic things, and I happen to have discovered several dossiers of blackmail that your shipping company has provided you to help you make deals. Perhaps not as predatory as it could be, but I’m sure I could portray it properly if I needed to make this known to appropriate parties. I’m sure you know how illegal it is and how much of a diplomatic incident this would create.”
She knew about that?
Sudden terror gripped me. I liked to think of my activities as aggressive business tactics, but her statement reminded me that it was still blackmail and would likely end in jail time and a diplomatic incident if I were caught. She also refueled the paranoia of getting reported for it that had been plaguing me ever since I arrived on Venlil Prime as a businessman. And, since this random alien who was simply interested in me could find it, that meant that I was in a very precarious position. Out of fear, and desperation, I shot back, “If I reported you, wouldn’t law enforcement just take you away before you could do anything, and wouldn’t they not listen to you if you’re a known predator? You seemed to imply that back at the bar.”
She replied just as quickly, “Exterminators. They deal with cases of predator disease, or really any crime involving the Zhetsian diaspora as they like to assume that we all have predator disease. Anyways, as you’re a human, they’re much less likely to believe anything you say, and that combined with experience and security measures means I will absolutely have time to send it off before they get me. I can be anonymous if need be. And don’t you try to delegate reporting to anyone or do it anonymously; if anyone comes knocking on my door, I’m blaming you, and out this goes.”
Well, damn. I stopped in the middle of the street to think, barely noticing Polkif’s eye glittering as she stopped next to me. I really should have known that someone like Polkif would only reveal anything to anyone if she was very sure that they wouldn’t reveal anything. Whether because she trusted them as people, or because she held something over them. I drastically misjudged her; she was intensely paranoid, but so good at masking that you never knew until she was already acting against you.
The aggressive negotiation tactics already stressed me out. When combined with Polkif’s knowledge of them, they made me feel far out of my depth. My mind was racing, but something did occur to me, and I asked her, “Do you do this frequently for the sake of it, or do you want something from me? You don’t seem the type to task unnecessary risks.”
More snuffling, of what I thought was a distinctly different character than previous snuffling. Probably a malicious laughter, if I had to guess. “I did have an idea that required a human. When I said that I had no copy of The History of Non-Sapient Predators on Venlil Prime, I lied. Had to see how you reacted, after all. I do indeed have a copy that I took with me from Miluja, and have made copies of it since. I was thinking that humanity having a copy would be useful. You guys can translate it, make copies, get famous and make boatloads of cash off of it, or whatever else you can think of. The Federation doesn't have eyes or tendrils on Earth, so the book, our history, won’t die, or at least it has a greater chance not to. I have no clue how many copies there are across the Federation, but I know it’s not that many. I was under the impression that humans quite liked the preservation of knowledge and history, based on what I’ve seen of humanity’s reaction to the Cilany and Yotul situations. So, you wouldn’t mind preserving important history that's been suppressed by the Federation.”
That was… surprisingly benign. I was about ready for her to demand I fork over all of my money, go rogue with my company ship, or commit crimes against exterminators and the government. A little bit of smuggling, especially of something this important, was nothing, especially compared to the activities I’d been engaging in. I already had to smuggle in some of the negotiation material, anyway.
She continued, “As I said, this book is very, very illegal, and even as a human you’re likely to get in a lot of trouble for having it. As you’ve already been able to hide all that blackmail, you shouldn’t have a problem hiding this, but do be careful, and do not get caught. Only look at it once you’re back on Earth, away from prying eyes, and don’t let your company find out until you don’t need their support. I'd recommend keeping your identity wholly separate from your ownership of that book. As for getting it to you, I happen to know that you’re going to be going to a certain library to do research on Venlil agricultural history tomorrow - you really shouldn’t use the DailyMemo112 app, it has poor security - so when you get there, look out for the book titled “History of Agricultural Exports of Venlil Prime: Volume 18” by “Bitsly” in the agriculture section. It’s a fake cover, obviously, with a few fake pages too, but it's what you're looking for, so take it and go. You should probably buy a few other books about Venlil Prime trade, for cover. Any questions?”
Aside from the fact that she casually mentioned that she knew about my daily schedule for the remaining 2 weeks of my trip, that was surprisingly straightforward. A few plans for what I'd do with the book were even percolating in my mind; I'd translate them to English, of course, and then I could post them anonymously online, maybe I could put a paywall or tip jar in there to make money off of it? I didn't need the money, since my job paid me well, but this could blow up, and I wouldn't be one of Barlethy Shipping's spacefaring employees if I didn't keep an eye out for opportunity. None of these ideas were something I needed Polkif for, though. So, I replied, “No. Uh, thank you for telling me all this? Fascinating stuff.”
“You’re welcome, and thank you, if you pull this off successfully. Oh, and don’t tell the UN. They care quite a bit about Venlil laws and sovereignty, you know. Them knowing will attract attention that neither of us want. Never tell anyone anything unless you absolutely have to, you know. Now, I believe that is your hotel right there?”
I looked away from Polkif, and noticed that we were indeed in front of the huge, gray hotel building I was staying in. I wasn't sure how Polkif knew it was mine, but I probably shouldn't have been surprised at that point. It spoke to how adrift and detached from all non-business endeavors I was on Venlil Prime that I didn’t recognize the area around the place I was staying until it was pointed out to me. With a sudden bout of melancholy washing out some of the paranoia, I said, “Indeed.”
She flopped her snout around a bit, twitching her fingers all the while. I assumed, or at least hoped, that this was the Zhetsian version of smiling. “See you never, probably. Further contact would only be suspicious. The walls have ears, so be careful. Goodbye.”
I watched her walk off, back towards the bar. I entered my hotel, feeling dazed now that everything had time to settle in. The adrenaline was wearing off, and with nothing new or exciting to occupy my attention, I crashed hard. Exhaustion, combined with the events and emotions of the past hour, made me incapable of having thoughts more complex than a sense of paranoia and a desire to go to bed.
I stumbled up to my room and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, without even pulling the blackout curtains over the window.
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