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2023.06.08 01:01 TexasFSBO Updated Home - 4230 Fallen Oaks Drive, Houston TX
2023.06.08 00:35 AlexTMichas Four Vans
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Four Vans Introduction
I’ve had four vans in my life. A green 1978 bus, a white 1968 bus, a blue 1990 Vanagon, and a white 1990 Vanagon, which I drive today. Despite modern van options, my connection to VW buses and van continues to last. Now in my 40s, and with each year passing, my relationship with vans is an evolution filled with memories all of which are inspired by outdoor adventure and the curve of a road less traveled. As I begin this series of posts regarding my relationship to vans, I wanted to start with an overview of these four vans. Van #1. Europe
When I was just about four years old, my parents decided to move to Europe with us three kids, and a teenage babysitter, who ended up more like a fourth child than the intended caregiver they had planned for. We spent two years there, much of the time in a van, (technically consider a “bus”) traveling across land, visiting relatives along the way. https://preview.redd.it/5gmjy7wg9o4b1.jpg?width=2845&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=3e93a73de5a87b5bdf800b0ec7e5af47692b7c80
The bus was shipped back from German to the United States where after a few years my dad sold it to a good friend in Sacramento.l, CA. Nearly 30 years later that same friend called me to ask if I wanted the bus - it was in perfect shape, having been stored in a garage for all those years. I had to decline… I just didn’t have the space and ability to keep it.
Here’s my dad in the late 70’s - I suspect this photo was taken near Lake Tahoe. https://preview.redd.it/n4jfmjbl9o4b1.jpg?width=3221&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=fcb4c0971ec78217583487132b590652374b3fca https://preview.redd.it/dqmf7nrn9o4b1.jpg?width=3222&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=5076536925ab72fdb2951bcc3c3c8e9ec997bb21 Van #2. High school
In high school, I purchased this 1968 air cooled bus… I think I purchased it for about $1500, and drove it about for a few years - no doubt playing Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin and Cat Stevens on a crappy aftermarket stereo. When I tired my hand at rewiring some electrical which led to a catastrophic electrical problem, or seeing one of my wheels roll past me at a neighborhood stop sign shortly after I changed a flat tired, I realized my time as mechanic was short lived. https://preview.redd.it/wtskyqop9o4b1.png?width=1564&format=png&auto=webp&s=cbf7c68da24de113bb9645e458c51cd6c33b3e5b Van #3. Blueberry
Living in south Berkeley, CA in 2005, I was walking past the Berkeley Bowl, a popular grocery store when I saw a blue Vanagon. Without much thought, my soon-to-be-wife and I purchased what we later named Blueberry, a 1990 Multivan - the roomy van version that sleeps four, seats 7 with belts, but without a kitchen.
On a trip with my dog Cleo, here’s Blueberry, near Mono Lake and the hills along Highway 395. https://preview.redd.it/86a6z3ms9o4b1.jpg?width=4752&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=7dc34f3e531235fe134bc7ffa48b26f8ee3da362 https://preview.redd.it/voj3e89t9o4b1.jpg?width=4752&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=f89fbf96bf6ffbc82174bdcc85fb3b626fce8f08
In La Paz, Mexico, we settled up next to this dilapidated palapa (a traditional Mexican shelter roofed with palm leaves) for several nights, eating fresh fish and snorkeling. You can see our kitchen at the back of the van, and shower bag draped above. https://preview.redd.it/1m3cn3nw9o4b1.jpg?width=2592&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=476c9aa18da59fc66f6c5f772601719920a9beae
A cold night in Yosemite with good friend. The following morning we fished in the lake just beyond. https://preview.redd.it/3m3pe0ly9o4b1.jpg?width=4752&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d0cef680bb776219a2526840919dddced67b37a5
Trip to Idaho with our pup Cleo. One of our longer trips for friend’s wedding in Sun Valley. https://preview.redd.it/osdfitj1ao4b1.jpg?width=2592&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=5be2c8491081350de40926483d397789733c04de
Kiddos in the loft pop top https://preview.redd.it/0jalg224ao4b1.jpg?width=4032&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=474d2fa3db05206d58a607d4ec221c665e71f0ba https://preview.redd.it/bua61qg3ao4b1.jpg?width=4032&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=4876c72e696eb0b5e843595d04e50da9250961af
Russian Gulch State Park outside Mendocino https://preview.redd.it/wlgcuma6ao4b1.jpg?width=1440&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=6511aac936272e16cfe6762a1d09373c2387a502 Van #4: Luna
When I realized I no longer wanted to go longer distances and Blueberry due to lack of air conditioning and limited power in the hills, I started looking for a van replacement. So at the end of 2021, we purchased another 1990 Multivan in white named Luna. Swapping some of the good stuff from Blueberry, Luna can do everything. It has a rebuilt turbo engine - nearly doubling the power, a propane heater for cold nights, a rebuilt manual transmission, and so many other upgrades - it was just easier to purchase the van I wanted rather than spend the money, hassle, and time upgrading Blueberry.
In Tilden Park https://preview.redd.it/ubfugi38ao4b1.jpg?width=4032&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d0af8d014ba7f2154e8d5c8527b8ffabe55fdf61 https://preview.redd.it/2i3e4zxaao4b1.jpg?width=2316&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=d90997a3eb7c032e5ae8b46e490808e95fd99091
A visit to the light house on Point Reyes in Marin https://preview.redd.it/dtgo3nvbao4b1.jpg?width=4032&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=b3e6a680dec550fd7775d5849cb4ce6b02bdafaa https://preview.redd.it/vt4j0b8dao4b1.jpg?width=4032&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=b369acff8177aba364104b4f52716edc3281a231
Muir Beach and a stop at the Pelican Inn in Marin https://preview.redd.it/5ntso42gao4b1.jpg?width=4032&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=ef9a334ff2285d7e7df22d5bcdc765cdbb3faaa0
North of Santa Cruz in Pescadero for a hot chocolate break https://preview.redd.it/gz90tuziao4b1.jpg?width=3024&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=24edf4cd7c98efa5d827abbc69711ebe35fc4009
I could have spent more on a bigger, more modern van, but I decided to stick with what I know. Simply…. there is nothing like driving a Vanagon.
2023.06.08 00:23 sonofabutch Smoked out tonight, so let's remember a forgotten Yankee: Tom "Smoke" Sturdivant
The 1950s Yankee dynasty had some great hitters -- Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Moose Skowron, Hank Bauer, Gil McDougald, just to name a few -- but the key to going to eight World Series between 1950 and 1959 (and winning six of them) was a pitching staff that led the league in ERA in five of those 10 seasons -- and in the top three in all 10!
Whitey Ford was the ace of the staff, going an unbelievable 121-50 (.708 W%) with a 2.66 ERA (140 ERA+) between 1950 and 1959. And that was with Casey Stengel often skipping Ford against weaker teams to save him for tougher match-ups, meaning that most of those wins came against top competition. In 1956, for example, the Chairman of the Board had 10 starts against teams with losing records, and 20 starts against teams with records of .500 or better. He went 7-1 with a 2.27 ERA against the losers, and 12-5 with a 2.59 ERA against the winners!
But behind Ford were some pretty good if less famous pitchers, including Allie Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, Tommy Byrne, and Bob Grim. And another, even lesser known hurler won two rings as a key member of the Yankee rotation: Tom Sturdivant
A hard enough thrower in his youth that he got the nickname "Smoke," by the time Sturdivant reached the Yankees he was called "Snake" because of the way his pitches moved. He threw a curve that broke away from right-handed batters, a screwball that broke away from lefties, a sinking fastball, and a looping change-up. All were good pitches, but none of them was great. Ted Williams was asked how Sturdivant was so successful without overpowering stuff, and he replied:
"Maybe he hasn’t got a thing. But I notice one thing. He keeps winning."
Eventually he did find a thing, though. Particularly later in his career, Sturdivant became known for his knuckleball. He would call it his "money pitch." He also complained about the pitch like an unruly pet, saying "it just won't act right 'til late in the season."
Born in Gordon, Kansas, on April 28, 1930, Thomas Virgil Sturdivant
grew up in Oklahoma City and attended Capitol Hill High School. Sturdivant was signed by Yankee scout Tom Greenwade, who also signed another kid from Oklahoma, Mickey Mantle. Like Mantle, Sturdivant was signed as an infielder. But Sturdivant also was a pretty good pitcher as a teenager, as Greenwade told a reporter:
"Used to be a high-school pitcher in Oklahoma City, you know. And one of the greatest. He set some kind of record. More than 100 innings without being scored on."
Sturdivant struggled to hit his first few seasons as an infielder in the minors, hitting .246 in 281 at-bats in 1950. He then spent all of 1951 and much of 1952 in the U.S. Army, and -- as happened to most major leaguers drafted into the service -- spent most of his time playing baseball for a base team. (As Whitey Ford once said: "Army life was rough. Would you believe it, they actually wanted me to pitch three times a week!") Sturdivant's success pitching in the Army, as well as a leg injury that cost him some of his running speed, convinced him he should ask the Yankees to try him at pitching.
"I knew I wasn't getting anywhere, batting .246 in Class B, so I decided I'd better try something else if I wanted to stay in baseball, which I did, badly."
He returned from the Army in time to pitch 86 innings with the Yankees' Double-A affiliate, the Beaumont Roughnecks, and went 3-3 with a 3.56 ERA. His days as an infielder were over.
Sturdivant went 10-7 with a 2.98 ERA in Double-A the following season, and 8-9 with a 3.57 ERA in Triple-A the year after that. Yankee pitcher Allie Reynolds, a fellow graduate of Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City who had gone 20-8 for the Yankees in 1952, had retired after the 1954 season. That winter, he worked with Sturdivant and told him he might make the Yankees in spring. Sturdivant's hard work that off-season impressed manager Casey Stengel. "We learned that he can be a fighter, and that's what we want with this club," he said.
He made the team out of spring training and made his major league debut on April 14 against the Red Sox at Fenway Park -- Boston's home opener. Bob Grim started the game and was bombed for five runs on seven hits through six innings. Sturdivant entered the game in the 7th, with the score 5-2, and gave up another run. The Yankees battled back in the bottom of the 8th, scoring two runs on back-to-back singles from Elston Howard and Jerry Coleman to make it a two-run game, but Sturdivant gave up a two-run single in the 8th to pitcher Ellis Kinder to put the game out of reach again, and the Yankees lost, 8-4.
In 33 games that year, Sturdivant posted a 3.16 ERA and a 1.302 WHIP, not bad for a rookie. He didn't give up a lot of hits, but he did walk 41 men in 68.1 innings. Stengel didn't mind that, though. In a 2020 article, "Big Walkers"
, Bill James wrote about how Stengel employed a strategy of "pitching around" power hitters. When a slugger was at the plate, pitchers were coached to work the edges of the plate, not giving him anything good to hit. He might chase pitches and strike out... he might hit something off the end of the bat... or he might walk. Any of the three, in Stengel's opinion, was a better outcome than throwing a pitch down the middle to a guy who could hit it 450 feet.
As a result, the Yankees often were near the top in walks allowed -- but also in fewest home runs allowed. And also in double plays. And also, not coincidentally, in earned run average.
In his five seasons with the Yankees, Sturdivant walked 221 batters in 524.1 innings (3.8 BB/9), but only gave up 45 home runs (0.8 H9). He also induced 44 double plays. James, in looking at what made the Yankees successful in the 1950s, discovered that they had a huge differential in HR-GIDP. In 1955, Sturdivant's first year in the league, the Yankees hit 175 home runs, and grounded into 101 double plays (+74). Yankee opponents had 108 home runs, and grounded in 145 double plays (-37). In 1956, the Yankes were +86, their opponents -53.
This is not a typical championship team pattern. In many areas, the 1950s Yankees were just an ordinary team. They really had only one outstanding starting pitcher, while Cleveland usually had three or four. But the Yankees huge advantages in Home Runs vs. Double Plays enabled them to win almost every year.
Sturdivant rode this strategy to back-to-back 16-win seasons, going 16-8 with a 3.30 ERA (118 ERA+) in 1956, and 16-6 with a 2.54 ERA (142 ERA+) in 1957.
After those two great seasons, though, Sturdivant's career went up in... well... smoke.
In Spring Training 1958, he held out for a raise, eventually signing for $18,000, a $4,000 raise from what he'd made the year before. He gave up 10 runs in his first two starts of the year, and then missed a month with a sore arm. When he came back, he was hit hard in his next three starts, and was banished to the bullpen. After a pretty good month (8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K), he was put back into the rotation, and went 3-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 32.2 innings, but his arm still wasn't quite right, and he missed some time in August due to a heel injury. He was on the World Series roster in 1958, but didn't pitch.
All off season there were rumors that Sturdivant was on the trading block, and after another slow start -- 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA, and still bothered by his sore arm -- he was dealt to the Yankees' favorite trading partner in the late 1950s, the Kansas City Athletics. "Snake", along with Jerry Lumpe and Johnny Kucks, was dealt for Ralph Terry and previously forgotten Yankee Hector Lopez
-- a pretty good deal for the Yankees, as Terry and Lopez helped the Yankees to five straight pennants and two championships between 1960 and 1964. Lumpe, a little used utility player with the Yankees, proved to be a solid regular for the Athletics and then an All-Star with the Tigers in 1964. But Kucks, an All-Star with the Yankees in 1956, was done, going 12-21 with a 4.78 ERA (84 ERA+) in two seasons with the Athletics, and was out of baseball after the 1960 season.
Sturdivant would hang around another five seasons, and pitch for six different teams! He went from the Athletics to the Senators -- not the original Senators, who were now the Twins, but the expansion team founded in 1961 that would become the Rangers in 1972 -- then the Pirates, the Tigers, back to the Athletics, and then rejoined Casey Stengel on the Mets in 1964. Over that stretch he went 21-20 with a 4.16 ERA and 1.301 WHIP as a swingman.
The 34-year-old Sturdivant announced prior to the 1964 season he was running for the Oklahoma State Senate and that he'd quit baseball if elected in November. The Mets beat him to it, though, releasing him in May after he posted a 5.97 ERA in 28.2 innings. Maybe more as a campaign ploy, in July Sturdivant signed with the Oklahoma City 89ers. He went 6-3 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.365 WHIP in 74.0 innings. He lost the election, and retired from baseball.
After that, Sturdivant owned a trucking company and tried to drum up support for the Hall of Fame case for his old mentor Allie Reynolds.
In 2000, the 69-year-old Sturdivant was in a serious car accident. Someone -- he never learned who -- found him on the roadside, thrown from his truck after it had rolled five times. When the ambulance arrived, they thought he was dead. They strapped his body to a stretcher and loaded him into an ambulance.
Sturdivant told sportswriter Brian Jensen:
"When we were driving to the hospital, I was in the back and they had me strapped down and I guess when I came to, I raised my head and I said, 'hey could y'all call my wife for me,' and the driver almost jumped out of the van. It just wasn't time for me to go."
He had broken his back, both hips, his pelvic bone, his tailbone, multiple ribs, and had a punctured lung. He never recovered.
"I don't have a life," Sturdivant said. "You know, I have a hard time remembering a lot of stuff and I'm kind of slow. I kind of have little spells where I pass out and have a hard time walking straight."
Sturdivant died on February 28, 2009.
- According to a 2010 article in Sports Illustrated, Mickey Mantle hurt himself while playing golf with Sturdivant in 1957. Sturdivant must have been having a better game than Mantle was, because at some point the Mick threw his putter in frustration. The putter hit a tree and knocked off a large branch, and then either the putter or the branch landed on Mantle's leg, giving him a nasty cut. Mantle missed five games due to what the Yankees told reporters at the time was "shin splits."
- Another key starting pitcher for the Yankees in the early 1950s: Forgotten Yankee Vic Raschi, "The Springfield Rifle." Raschi had one of the all-time great lines about pitching: "My best pitch is anything the batter grounds, lines, or pops in the direction of Rizzuto."
- Sturdivant wore #47 all five years he was with the Yankees. He was, according to baseball-reference.com, the first Yankee to wear the number. The number is currently assigned to Frankie Montas; prior to that, it was worn by Jordan Montgomery. Other #47's include Ivan Nova, Shane Spencer, Dave Silvestri, and Roy Fontenot. Luis Arroyo, the Yankee closer from 1960 to 1963, wore #47.
- In addition to Tom Sturdivant and Allie Reynolds, the other graduates of Capitol Hill High School to play in the majors were 1960s outfielder Don Demeter, 1950s infielder Jerry Snyder, and 1980s outfielder George Wright, though none played for the Yankees. The Yankees signed another pitcher out of Capitol Hill High School, a righty named Bob Shipman, but he never made the majors despite going 32-14 between 1953 and 1955 in the Yankee system.
- Demeter later became a pastor in Oklahoma City, and Sturdivant was a member of his church!
- The Yankees almost released Sturdivant early in the 1956 season. Hoping to sneak him back down to the minors, the Yankees put him on waivers, but Detroit manager Bucky Harris put in a claim for him. Harris had been the Yankee manager prior to Casey Stengel, and after leaving the Yankees went to the Senators, where he had picked up a number of former Yankee pitchers -- Bob Porterfield, Fred Sanford, Tom Ferrick, and Spec Shea. (They also acquired previously forgotten Yankee Jackie Jensen.) For whatever reason, ex-Yankee pitchers on the Senators seemed to dramatically improve. Now Harris was on the Tigers, and wanted Sturdivant. Thinking Harris must know something, the Yankees pulled him back. Apparently Harris did know something, as Sturdivant went 32-14 with a 2.88 ERA over the next two seasons!
- In the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers, Sturdivant started Game 4, and did what he usually did: He gave up six walks, but no home runs, and got a double play. He went the distance and the Yankees won the game, 6-2, to even the World Series at two games each. After the game, the Associated Press called it "the best pitching job in the series." Sturdivant's glory was short-lived, however: the next day, Don Larsen threw a perfect game.
- The infielder turned pitcher because he couldn't hit was a pretty good hitter for a pitcher in 1956, when he hit .313 with a double and a triple in 64 at-bats. Overall, though, he hit just .183/.208/.195 in 364 career plate appearances. Moving to the mound was a good decision!
- No relation, and spelled differently anyway: Tyler Sturdevant, who pitched in the minors for the Indians from 2009 to 2015. He finally made his debut with the Rays in 2016, at age 30, with a not-bad 3.93 ERA and 1.309 WHIP in 18.1 innings. The following year he was in the A's system, but he never got another trip of the Show.
Sturdivant remained a Yankee for life. After his playing days were over and he was living in Oklahoma, he was an early adopter of a subscription service that allowed him to watch Yankee games!
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2023.06.07 23:56 rubyreadit Home health aide hours, costs, duties
My parents are in the independent part of a senior facility. I'm in another state but my sister lives fairly close to them. Mom has these spells where she stops taking her medication and stops eating for a few days and gets increasingly disoriented due to dehydration. She has ended up in the hospital now 5 times over 3 years for this. Dad is mostly independent for himself but isn't capable of managing mom's intermittent issues... I don't know if he doesn't notice her not taking her meds or if he weakly tries to get her to take them but backs down easily. Anyway, the last time mom was hospitalized they discharged her with the recommendation to have an aide come in but I guess the aide would come for 4 hours and I think every day so the cost adds up quickly and they didn't hire anyone. She ended up in the hospital again yesterday.
I don't know if this 4 hours a day thing is just what the aides at their specific facilitiy require or if it's sort of a standard unit of care. I think they could stay in the independent wing longer if there was someone coming in maybe once a day for an hour and then maybe a little longer once or twice a week... mostly to check that she's taken her medication and eaten something. The quote per hour was $29 which sounds reasonable until you turn that into 4 hours a day every day. I guess I want to see what sounds reasonable ... I probably need to start doing more research on it. Also I'm guessing that a trained health aide won't be interested in spending time doing stuff like light housekeeping or helping them remember to plug their cell phones in but I don't know.
Thanks for any advice/ tips/ etc. They are in Houston TX in case that matters.
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2023.06.07 23:43 ZealousidealKoala804 Euclid
I recently lost a non-blood family member. She was a service advisor at the dealership that treated my mom like gold for 30+ years. We’ll call her Lisa. Lisa knew my mom before I was born and watched me grow up, she even coordinated the secret delivery of my first car. That dealership got bought out around the time I started drinking heavily. Fast forward 7-8 years, I’m sober and Lisa found a new job. I land a job at the same dealership Lisa is now working at. She took me under her wing and became my work-mom/mentocoworkea shoulder to cry on. We both end up leaving this job for a few years. But I came back recently in a higher position, and who comes back as well to mentor me again? Lisa. Well, a few months in Lisa gets diagnosed with cancer. 2 months go by, the cancer just gets worse and worse, and unfortunately last week she died. I’m heartbroken over it. Every little thing that happens at work, all I want to do is talk to Lisa. The problem is, I’ve been on anti-depressants for a few months now and have basically lost my ability to cry (it’s for the better, trust me). But the other day I was driving, saw the rays of sunshine shining through the clouds towards the town Lisa lived in, and Euclid came on. While I didn’t cry… the emotions that the song brought me in that moment felt like I could finally get through this pain. I felt sad, angry, but somehow felt relief. The way that song climaxed and the way the sun was shining through the clouds, I know for damn sure that Lisa was with me in that moment telling me that everything will be okay. I love you Lisa & I miss you so much. And I love Sleep Token for helping me through.
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2023.06.07 23:04 ArchipelagoMind [The Archipelago] Chapter 67: Vexids Receives - Part Two
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https://preview.redd.it/n92asqnytn4b1.jpg?width=1024&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=9ab35976d6d1698faf2dfc2023d7a20f16af2f64 previous chapter
/ title card
I tied the boat up to a small jetti, somewhat relieved Alessia couldn’t see the knot I hastily threw together, and pulled myself up onto the platform.
Already I could feel a degree of exhaustion. The short row to the shore had already eaten away at the atrophied muscles in my arms. Still, the impatience in my brain had won out. It needed exercise more than my body needed rest.
While I built up some reserves of energy, I took in my surroundings. I hoped to find an islander on a break, idly waiting by the sea, and who might want to talk about Vexids. But while the port didn’t seem busy, anyone I could see was engaged in a task. Porters carried textiles - mostly wool and cotton - off to waiting traders, sellers and buyers negotiated with the waiting boats down by the dock, but no one was stopped. Usually, beyond trade, ports were a place where you’d find those relaxing, finding peace in the coming and going of the waves. But here, there were none.
“Can I help you?” I turned to see a woman in her mid-thirties bounding towards me with almost excessive enthusiasm.
“Yes. I’m just visiting. I came on the large ship.” I tilted my head towards the Deer Drum boat, floating off the coast like an island of its own
“Ah excellent. Another from Deer Drum. Welcome. Can I introduce you to our island? Maybe give you a tour?” She grinned wide, as though pulling her own cheeks back with hooks.
The woman’s overt enthusiasm felt abrasive against my own lethargy. An ache ran across my back. “I would love to understand more.” The words felt stiff, my vocal chords still stretching into shape. “We may have to move slowly though, I’ve been recovering from an injury.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” the woman replied with the same tone and smile. “Well, if you want to learn more about the island, you’re in luck. My name is Endesha. My passion is sharing the island’s history with others, and I’m on my passion rotation right now. ”
“Yes. Are you familiar with our island at all?” She said, clasping her hands together by her stomach.
“Honestly, nothing. I know a couple of the islanders have been here. One girl in particular, fifteen years old.” I held up my hand out about Mirai’s height. “I hear she’s visited a lot and likes the place. But no idea beyond that.”
Endesha looked up, searching her memory. “Ah, yes. Mirai. Brilliant young woman. I’ve met her a few times. Fits right in here, a mind like that.” She said, pointing a finger. “Well, maybe we can walk to the town square, it’s only a short walk, and I’ll tell you a bit more about our history on our way.”
I nodded in agreement, and Endesha held up an arm to guide the way. She led me up through the town past beige stone structures till we arrived at a long, thin building. Inside I could hear the thrum of machines, the thudding so loud it threatened to topple the aged and cracked walls. Endesha pointed to an engraving; old eroded numbers that read 7-7-10.
“This is one of the oldest buildings in the work part of town. And it celebrates our most important rule.” Endesha looked at it with reverence. “When The Archipelago formed, those here felt that too many had died living wasteful lives, never doing what made them truly happy. And so beaame the law.” She began counting each point on her fingers. “Seven hours of work, our sacrifice to keeping the island running and ensuring we have food to eat. Seven hours to rest, eat and sleep.” She leaned in, her mouth grinning with delight. “And ten hours to chase our passions, and become the best people we can be.”
“You only work for seven hours? The other seventeen are all yours?”
“To be the best we can be.” She corrected me with a wagged finger. “The whole town is separated into three sectors. Here, near the harbour, is our industry, to the North we have the homes where people live and sleep, and to the east, is the true treasure of the island. The drive sector.” She turned and jolted with purpose, drawn eastwards by the sector’s mere mention. My legs strained to keep up, joints unsteady and unsure. “I’ve spent a fair amount of time pouring over the documents from the island’s founding and how they describe the old world. There are old descriptions of people watching moving pictures, or making men and women move with hand-held controllers just for fun. They use the term *to kill time*. Can you believe that? To kill time.”
I thought of the many times on Alessia’s boat, on a relatively still day, when I would simply sit on the edge, watching peaceful waves roll by. “I… I think we might still do that?”
“Not here.” Endesha said, her arms outstretched, allowing a broad chest to bellow the words out. “Tell me, Ferdinand. When are you happiest?”
“What?” I said, my feet almost tripping on the words.
“When do you feel happy?”
I tried to go through a list. The drunken walk back to our property on Talin Barier with Alessia. Singing songs with the Deer Drum crew. When Alessia gave me my room on the boat. So many came back to Alessia. Too many. “I’m not sure,” I said, still dodging the truth even to a stranger. “People maybe?”
“Even in the old world people spoke of having a calling. Something they wanted to do - not for glory or riches, but for the love of the task. Pursuing that is where happiness lies. Sure, you can be fine sitting about on a warm sunny day…” She waved an arm dismissively. “But real contentment lies in what drives us, what fascinates us. Don’t you agree?”
A small smile flickered across my lips as I remembered my own calling. While the chase of the Citadel on Kadear had been intoxicating, travelling the Archipelago had been more than a want. Happiness that lifted your chest as well as your lips. “I’m beginning to.”
Her already huge smile gained an extra lift at my agreement. “Then is it not the duty of this - or any island, to help you achieve those dreams? To push you to do what you are capable of.” She prodded my chest with a hard finger. “That is what those ten hours are for. To chase what drives you. To become what you are capable of. Not for the island, but for yourself.”
The conversation paused as the road widened out into a large town square. In the middle was a wooden stage made of varnished pine. It was low enough that you could step up to it with a good leap, but wide enough to hold a good thirty or forty people if required.
“We have a bit of a ritual that comes with those passions,” Endesha chuckled, staring at the platform. “I took a while to understand it, I had to go through pages and pages of correspondence among the island’s first council members. However, what they realised is that one of the most important parts of chasing your passions is to acknowledge them. To state your dreams aloud and not cower from them.”
It made sense. So many times I had stared at that map in my home in Kadear. But other than brief conversations with Thomas my wishes of travelling were hidden. Only external events brought that desire out of the darkness.
Endesha walked towards the stage. I could almost see the years of the residents who had taken to the stand in her eyes. “Between the ages of fifteen and sixteen, all residents come here to declare their passion in front of the island. I came here,” she pointed to each individual invisible attendee. “I told them I wanted to learn about the history of Vexids Receives and share it with visitors. And in attending, they told me that they would help me, push me in pursuit of that passion.” She turned to me, her smile reverential. “In a few weeks, the next group will take to that stage. And you can be certain I will be witness to their proclamations.”
I thought about what I would’ve said on such a stage. How much easier would my travels have been if I had had to declare that drive to my fellow islanders, and they in turn were duty bound to help me pursue it?
Endesha meanwhile was telling me about the history of the stage. The details of when it was first built and the repairs done to it over the years, and how it intertwined with the rest of the planned town. But the dates and minutia weren’t the reason for the smile on my face. It was the growing understanding of this place, and the freedom to give yourself not just to your island, or your own greed and vices, but to what called you.
It seemed to shake off some of the lethargy in my bones, and when Endesha asked if I wanted to continue on to the see the passion sector, I obliged.
We made our way east, as Endesha regaled me with the founders’ foresight in the layout. A series of workshops each in their own courtyard, their entrances facing inward. Each one had large wooden shutters at the back and front the entire width of the building save for a small doorway at the end. The lack of warmth in Winter was a price worth paying for the community the openness created.
We turned and entered into one of the courtyards as I was met with the output of people’s hobbies: the sound of sandpaper grated across wood, the tune of an accordion pushing notes through its pipes. I could smell the aroma of old books, in between the wafts of fresh paint.
The sights and sounds were a melody somehow borne of cacophony. No thread connected each space. Each room was home to a different activity. All the island did was give space for them to grow. And yet, the end result seemed harmonious.
I watched a woman placing red hot metal into a great furnace, while next door another folded dough, flour pluming into the air each time the bread hit the table.
Creaking metal snatched my attention. Atop one of the rooms to the left was a small windmill. Rusted iron blades oscillated with each rotation, but still it turned in the light breeze. From its base, a slew of cables ran down the roof disappearing through a hole near the edge. Looking into the shadowy room I could see two figures. A middle aged man, with curly balding hair, and a teenage girl.
“Mirai!” I called out.
Mirai looked up, two wires in one hand, and a tool in the other. “Ferdinand! You made it off the ship.”
“Eir finally let me go.”
Mirai put the wires down on a bench and pointed to the man behind her. “This is Charles. Charles, this is Ferdinand. He helped us move from Deer Drum.”
The man took off a pair of thick, leather gloves and reached out to shake my hand. His face was blotched, and there were a few wrinkles across his brow. But his cheeks were taut and youthful. “Good to meet you. Welcome to my electrical shop.”
“Charles does electrical engineering as his passion,” Mirai said, jumping in to add more information. “He’s built so many things. Small engines, toys… every workshop in this courtyard has electric lights now thanks to Charles.” She pointed to the bulb hanging from dangled wiring above.
“I’m no genius. But I’ve got pretty good over the years.” Charles said, thumbs tucked into the straps of his overalls.
Mirai continued. “He’s currently trying to get a windmill working. He could power the whole island off wind power alone.”
“It used to be a common form of electrical power in the old world,” Endesha added, stepping between us. “I believe there may be the odd island in the Archipelago where it exists, but it would be a serious boon to have it here.”
Charles grinned but bowed his head.
“Charles has been letting me help out for the past few days. Soldering cables, testing currents, that kind of thing,” Mirai beamed.
“She’s been a great help. Hard to try and fix the turbine on the roof and measure the currents down here at the same time,” Charles added with a chuckle.
“It’s amazing. I’ve been sitting on that boat for months just watching the oceans roll by,” Mirai stretched out the words so they were as boring as a flat, windless sea. “I designed that one fish net, but other than that I haven’t got to do anything. But, Ferdinand, I love this stuff.”
“I’m glad it’s going so well,” I smiled.
Suddenly she snapped her fingers. “Here, let me show you something.” She turned, leaping between tables, before returning with a series of wires that connected a lightbulb to a small metal box with a wooden handle. “I made this. Turn the handle.”
I looked at her hesitantly.
It was only the width of my palm, but still, the small pole was hard to turn.
Mirai laughed. “Harder. You’ll have to go faster.”
My muscles were still wasted and weak from the Anmanion islands, and even this small chore was causing my arm to ache. However, for Mirai’s sake, I put in more effort, pushing past the resistance, until the wheel span faster and I saw a small flicker of light from the bulb. The spark invigorated me, and I cranked harder until a soft yellow glow from the bulb rose and dimmed with each shift of my arm. We all watched the light for a few seconds, until the stiffness in my wrist returned and I had to stop.
“Mirai, that’s amazing.” I smiled, shaking off the aches.
“I mean, it’s nothing compared to what Charles has done.” Mirai looked to the side, turning her cheeks. “But it’s a start.”
“It’s an excellent start,” I nodded.
The enthusiasm came back. “I just love this stuff so much. I wish I could do it forever.”
“You could,” Endesha interrupted.
All heads turned to her.
“Anyone can join Vexids Receives over the age of fifteen. It was one of the rules created by the island’s founders. All you have to do is declare your passion during the ceremony.”
I felt my teeth grit, watching this stranger so ignorant of Mirai and her world. Mirai’s face lit up. “When’s the next ceremony!?”
“About three weeks’ time.” Endesha replied, ignoring my grimace.
Mirai’s eyes glossed over, filled with an idyllic vision. “I can keep doing this? I can stay?”
------------------------------------------------------- previous chapter
/ title card
2023.06.07 22:37 Prestigious-Reveal37 [USA - KS and TX] question about Amicus
Amicus visitation KS
High conflict custody battle. Mom lives in TX, custody case in TX, mom was visited at grandmas house (supposedly living there) so was already visited by amicus on last visitation by child in TX in February.
Temp orders finally got signed and include visitation in dads state only, dad lives in KS. Standard possession times with kid living in KS, just visits only happen in KS due to safety concerns with mom.
Amicus has planned and canceled 2 visits to dads since February. We are in our 5th month of having an amicus and dad still hasn’t had a visit from amicus, just one phone call.
- Is this a normal timeframe?
- What happens if amicus hasn’t visited by end of month and moms summer possession comes up? We do not want to pay for half of travel/hotel/car for her visit for an entire month.
- Dad wants to cut moms visits to 1x (instead of 1st,3rd,5th) per month with weekly (instead of daily) phone call with supervised (instead of unsupervised) visits if he can’t get full custody. Mom is bipolar narcissist and already lost custody of her other kid to another dad last year due to violence. She’s been arrested multiple times and has a history of domestic violence with spouses and not taking medication and/or drinking on it and driving.
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2023.06.07 22:20 Random_Trinidadian The Pod....
It had been three days since the S.S. Paria had landed on Catelli IV and despite the circumstances, the crew were still in good sprits.
A few days prior, the Terran owned Freighter had received a Priority 4 transmission from the the Galatic Network. Informing them that a class 3 Ion Storm had been detected and all vessels in that sector of space were to take appropriate action.
Now a Class III Ion storm was not the strongest one could encounter. But it was still poweful enough to to damage or even cripple a large freighter like the Paria. Not wanting to take chances, the Paria had landed on Catelli IV in an attempt to wait out the storm.
While on the surface, the crew did everything they could to pass the time. From inspecting the cargo, a task made easy since the Paria was mostly empty at the time. To running routine maintenance on the vessel. But eventually the crew did have some down time and decided to use their free time to relax.
One group of crew mates, a Vol'Pina female and a pair of Alulians, had just finished cleaning the air filtration units and were now huddled around a small fire they had created outside the vessel. Many of the crew had taken the opportunity to set up small camps to sleep, as it was a nice change of pase from sleeping in bunks fir weeks on end.
Eventually a fourth member joined their group, a Human named "Morri" and technically, he was their senior. But you would never guess that by the way he interacted. Unlike the Corporate operated ships, things like rank really didn't mean much on privately operated ships.
"I wonder how long we will be here planet side?" The Vol'pina asked curiously, her rabbit like ears twitching as she looked up inti the night sky and watched the bolts of energy crack and dance about."
'"The captain said we will be able to leave by the end of the week." Morri replied, as he took another swig of his beer. "I wonder if he is still up there?"
"Who, Morri the human?" One of the Alulians asked, his translator doing it's best communicate to his ship mate.
"Oh .. it's nothing." Morri replied.
"No really, who were you talking about?" The Vol'pina asked, now curious as to what or who her senior was talking about.
"Well.... It's a story may family have been telling for years." Morri began to explained, his eyes now focusing on the fire before then. "I don't you guys would want to hear it."
"I got nothing else better to do!" The female crewman said excitedly, as the two jelly-fish like Alulians nooded. "Yes, please tell us."
"Okay then, if you insist." Morri relented, as he began his story.
'You see, my family has always been involved in cargo hauling, ever since the first Slip Space Drives became available on the civilian market. We have been running freight for generations and I am the latest to carry on that legacy. But my great grand uncle, he was probably thee most famous. He did alot of things during his time, eventually buying his own ship and becoming a private captain. He was the one who originally told this story and from what my family said, if was one of the few times he ever looked scared."
The group were now invested in Morri's story, as they continued to listen attentively.
"This particular story takes place when my uncle had just joined the Merchant and Commerce union. He had been assigned to an older DY-500-class cargo ship, the Madison J. Slowcome as his first posting. This was still years before the Bon'sa rebellions, so the Madison was running cargo to the Civ'a and Bonset Systems. It was during one of these runs they ended up encountering a Class-I Ion Storm, so it was nothing they could not handle. But while in the storm, the communitation officer suddenly announced that he was picking up a destress signal in coming from the storm itself.
"Being who they were and not wanting to potentially leave someone to die, the Captain of the Madison decided to investigate and they soon found the source.... It was a life pod... From a old DY-150 cargo ship."
"DY-150?" The Vol'pina asked, as she had some familiarity with human ship designs. "If I am not mistaken... The DY-150 have not used in well over four hundred years!"
Morri nodded, "That's right, which means that pod had been floating in space for well over a century before the Madison found it. Either way, they brought the thing on board and my uncle and another guy he worked with named 'Smithy' were ordered to open it up and see if there was anyone inside. Weird thing was, that while they were cutting through, my uncle swore he could hear.... Tapping coming from inside. But when they were finally able to open the pod, they found...."
"Nothing..." Morri replied. "There was no one inside."
"So what happen next? The other Alulian asked, genuinely invested in his shipmate's story.
"Well... Nothing at first. Though as time passed, my uncle soon began to notice a change in Smithy. He became withdrawn from the rest of the crew, sometimes the other crewmen could hear him muttering in some alien language, he bagan to miss his shifts. My uncle was very certain the captain was ready to kick Smithy off his ship when they reached the next station. But that never happened."
By now, al three crewmen were listening intently to the human as he told his story. Waiting intently for Morri to finish his story. "What happened...?"
"Well.... It was during another ion storm when Smithy just went crazy. He began to attack the crew, even managed to seal himself in the engineering section and almost destroyed the ship. My uncle and a few others were able to break through before he could though, but Smithy managed to escape to a life pod and jetison himself into the storm."
"They.... They were able to re capture him, right?"
"They couldn't even if they wanted too." Morri explained. "Smithy has managed to do some really bad damage to the reactor. They would have to wait a few days before they were rescued by another freighter. They did try to look for the missing life pod, but they were not able to find it."
The group was now in a stunned silence, as they they were all at a loss for words at this point. But eventually one of them spoke up and asked... "But... But what about that other life pod? The ones they originally found?"
"They ran the serial numbers, turned out it was indeed from a old DY-150. But the ship it came from had actually been decommissioned and scrapped a few years prior. Maybe some other ship had bought it but they never found out.. There were no records."
"So what you think happened... To Smithy?"
"Honestly... I don't know." Morri confessed. "Some said Smithy may have been possessed by the ghost of a dead crewman who was never rescued. Others think it was some kind of alien which was using the pod as some kind of lure. All my uncle knew was that one of his closet friends was now gone and is probably somewhere out there.
"I remember when I first heard that story, scared me when I was a child and it still creeps me out today. Especially when other members of my family said that every once in a while, when the com network is quiet... They swear they heard a faint destress beacon coming through. But then again, my uncle was known as a bit of a joker!"
That more or less broke the mood, as the three xenos were brought back reality.
"So its not true?"
"Who knows?" Morri replied, as he got up from his seat. "But it pretty much was the wild west back in my uncle's time, but who knows? I suggest you guys get some rest, I plan to do a Diog on engine 3 and 4." And with that, Morri left to return to the ship.
"And why did you marry Morri the Human?" The Alulian from before asked the Vol'pina woman.
She just chuckled a bit before she replied, "because he makes me laugh."
Eventually the the storm did pass and the Paria lifted off from the planet surface to continue her trip. It would reach its destination safely and take on its cargo. But there were at least three individuals who would pay a little more attention to the com network when ever they had that duty.
Hoping they would never detect a destress call from a old DY-500 life pod....
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2023.06.07 22:18 aryd23 5 year old daughter took off of the front porch
Hey. My heart feels like it's about to beat out of my chest, adrenaline no doubt. Recently, my 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son met some neighbor kids, another 5 year old girl and her 12 year old brother who is autistic, but vocal. They came over today to play with my kiddos on the front porch, which is enclosed aside from the stairs that go down to the landing. The last few times the neighbor kids came by, they had no problem staying on the porch while I was cleaning the house & constantly checking on them and bringing them all snacks. I have a dollhouse, cushion pillows, and orbeez out there for them to play with to have stuff to do. I take these opportunities to get a quick clean up on the house, dishes, vacuum, toys put away, and every few minutes I am peeking at them through the door or window. I have also let them know to never ever leave the porch without either me, or their dad, with them. I'm in the middle of talking to my 12 year old son, right next to the door of the porch, while cleaning the living room up. Then, noticed that there was no longer loud kid chatter. Silence. I immediately run out to find my kids & neighbor kids are nowhere!!
Of course, I immediately freak out, and start yelling their names out. Silence. No answers. I run around the apartment complex, checking the park, our garage, the neighbor kids house, everywhere. They did not answer and at this point, I'm panicking. The 5 year old neighbor girls' older brother is just sitting on his porch when I yelled up to him if the kids had gone up there, he shook his head, looking around for them too. Frustrated, I continue yelling for them, and listening quietly for any kind of kid noises. Then I see my 5 year old daughter, leading the crusade, running as fast as she can away from me along the back fence of the apartment building. I'm frantic.
She's instructing the 5 year old neighbor girl, and her brother to keep running away from me, smirk on her face while she's running. I book it towards her (thank goodness I am a fast runner) bc she started running through the parking lot where people drive their cars WAY too fast through, and I picked her up in one arm. Her 3 year old brother runs up to me, and her 5 year old friend follows behind. "Run! Keep running!" She yelled at her friend and her brother. "No! Not safe! You aren't supposed to leave the porch." I stated sternly. I have had the outside safety talk with her, many times. She was doing great for a while, but we have always had issues with her taking off outside and convincing her baby brother to follow.
I took her and her brother upstairs, and now they're grounded in their room while I am sitting in here with them. "Go away! Don't talk to me!" She kept saying when I'd ask her what I had told her, mere minutes before she took off on the porch and unsafely convinced her small friend and baby brother to follow, and to not answer me when i called out to them. I told her how many dangers she put not only herself, but her new friend and her baby brother into. How she had ignored all of what I had said about outside safety, about leaving the porch without me or her dad, about how she cannot play on the porch anymore because she convinces everyone to do unsafe things that I specifically told her not to do.
She's a smart girl, started talking in sentences at around 1.5 years old, can rationalize, and understand what is told to her very well. She knows how to load the dish washer, sweep the floor and vacuum with efficiency (she begged me to start doing chores around 4, they say if they wanna learn to teach them) and I know she understood me when I explained to her multiple times today to NOT go anywhere except stay on that porch unless me or her dad was with her.
Even though I was diligent about watching and listening and within eyesight and earshot, all it took was 2 seconds for her to convince her friend and brother to blatantly disobey me, and deliberately do every single thing I told her not to do.
She has ALWAYS taken off on me, to the point where I dreaded taking her in public unless I had her strapped into a stroller or a backpack leash on. She's too big for either of those methods now, and has shown some serious responsibility lately and I really really thought I could trust her for just a few minutes in between checking on her and her brother & friend.
I am in disbelief, shaking and at a loss.
Have any of you dealt with kiddos like this? What can I do to get her to understand just how dangerous this was for her, her new friend and brother?? Holy cow, I am at my wits end. Please, some advice would be so greatly appreciated 😭
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2023.06.07 21:37 TigerMaskVI Anyone have experience opening and/or operating a seasonal driving range?
I live in a resort town in northern Michigan that is a golf destination for lots of people with a large variety of public and private courses, but not a single driving range. The closest range is over an hour away and I've been kicking around the idea of opening one but haven't done much research yet.
Given the long winters up here, the range would likely operate from the end of May through the end of October and I'm wondering if I can make enough in those 5-6 months to make the payments on the land during the winter when there is nothing coming in. I have a full time career that pays enough where I could still make the payments during the offseason if I'm not generating enough from the business itself but obviously I would prefer the business be self sufficient if possible.
I can get 8 acres of cleared land for about $65k
and I'm ballparking that I could get the actual structure to hit from built for about $60k. Beyond that the only major start-up expenses I can think of are for landscaping equipment, the ball retrieval cart, practice/refurbished balls, and the ball dispensing machines... this is all just back of the envelope math but it seems like I could get the whole thing going with a $150k loan... am I way off base here or is this potentially a good idea?
Another thought is to put some of my own money into it too so as to lower the amount I need a loan for, and/or to do a shorter term loan so I'm free and clear on it sooner. Either way the idea is for the business to be a long-term thing that eventually goes to my son if he wants it so owing the bank for 10-15 years isn't the end of the world. Real estate/property is also my favorite investment by a mile so even just building equity in those 8 acres while the business on it breaks even is theoretically fine.
Anyway, if anyone has any experiences or resources to share I would really appreciate it.
Edit: another major expense I just thought of is the parking lot.
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2023.06.07 21:25 Nuerax A slew of religious zealots have entered the Andromeda galaxy after the plot of Mass Effect Andromeda finished. And how would things fare for the Initiative? How would they react to these new threats?
As the Andromeda Initiative starts to expand its operations deeper into the hostile tendrils of the Andromeda galaxy, they soon realise that there is certainly something smack dab in the middle of that spiral that just seems to attract zealots of all sorts and caliber.
Angara, Remnant and Kett aside, fragments of mind bogglingly advanced technology has started to awaken. Pulling in zealous fleets from cornerstones all over the multiverse...
The first fleet to heed the call is an utterly massive Ark Mechanicus Explorator fleet. Seeking refuge from the chaotic storms of the terrifying Grift Rift, the Explorator fleet took a detour from its route to the fringes of the galaxy and through warp shenanigans, ended up in Andromeda.
Featuring legions of rad soaked Skitarii under the harsh hands of the Tech Priests and their Magos of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The fleet seeks to build Mars anew in this isolated galaxy. Oh and quite possibly build their own empire away from the Imperium so no Astartes or Imperial Guard coming.
The second fleet would be an entire Covenant battlefleet that had seemingly been pulled through slipstream via a cunning experimental bomb made out of a slipstream drive.
Curious at the new development and furious at underhanded human treachery, the Covie bastards under the command of the few Prophets decided that the best course of revenge was to wipe humanity off Andromeda and claim it for High Charity.
The third fleet are the Firstborn children of the Gods. The grandest beings whom have walked the surface of Aiur. Some of these great and ancient beings had fled Khala for verdant pastures.
Sailing with the blessings of their gods and seeking new territory to grow their numbers away from Terran and Zerg threats, the Protoss have decided to learn from their mistakes and take no chances with humanity even in a new galaxy.
The forth fleet to arrive in Andromeda are a horrifying, advanced yet incorrigibly archaic even in a time of high technology. With swirling worms ritually festering within their bodies and grand Tombships blessed by their dark gods, the Hive have arrived into Andromeda.
Seeking purity and refinement through battle, the Hive almost immediately started picking fights. Soon they would conquer Andromeda by force, and the gods would finally be pleased by the ample slaughter presented to them.
The fifth fleet? Psychic signatures going haywire, proxy species going mad, signs of humanity seemingly reaching apotheosis way ahead of time. Anomalies had triggered many many psychic warning bells in the home of the the Elders.
Perhaps or because of this sudden surge of psychic activity, an entire fleet meant to retake Earth had been accidentally diverted to Andromeda much to the curiosity of Thin Men and their bulbous headed grunts.
By hook or by crook their realms would have to survive, for the Elders have decreed so. Even if the Chosen have to subjugate out every other competitor in Andromeda so as to safeguard their bastion.
The sixth fleet consisted of many significantly smaller yet no less dangerous fleets that arrived into the fold of the Andromeda Galaxy silently. Oddly silent compared to the frothing zealotry of everyone else yet insidious by itself.
With command bridges lit by screens of flashing holocrons, riding on ominously angular hulls that cut against the darkness of space. The refugees of the original Sith empires have decided to gamble their legacies by throwing caution into the wind and riding hyperspace to uncharted lands.
Naive from enlightenment, the new arrivals and even the Angara of Andromeda have shown no aptitude to the Force and the Dark Side. So much potential bared here just waiting to be used by any Sith with the idea of having a dynasty of their own.
So, the main idea of this is to ponder on how the Andromeda Initiative handle the influx of religious fanatic themed empires into their new Galaxy. Would empathy, tolerance, diversity, science and progress be their salvation? Or would the races of the Citadel crumble under the onslaught of those old and cynical enough to be cruel.
Malfunctioning multi dimensional technology have lead to erroneous severing of trans dimensional holes. The closing of portals are not always cleanly cut, and it have lead to strange energies metastasising all over the Andromeda Galaxy.
Some of these energies have been categorised as very beneficial to Initiative progress by scientists. Introduced to the public as Argent energy, more research is currently underway to harness this potential.
Yet there were things coming out from those portals. Strange, illogical things that made no sense whatsoever. Dark things whom acted with a temperament that was almost...biblical.
Arcane figures clad in white combat forms and golden masks have also been spotted giving counsel to affected worlds. Claiming to be the true Maykrs of the Angara, these beings speak with honeyed promises of salvation. Though curious minds have wondered about how timely their convenient arrival was.
Yet if those seams were Andromeda's cancer, the alien influx were its sickness then what of its mental illnesses?
The radio waves that bled just under these louder energies have been infected by a haunting memetic that echoed through the dark void as a siren song would through a dark ocean.
Make us whole.
Make us whole.
MAKE US WHOLE
A new trend was starting to pop up in almost everywhere advanced enough to manufacture machinery. A strange urge by many to unite despite their differences and be made whole. To show that they are united by a singular cause, many believers have begun fabricating strange Markers to show their devotion.
And who the fuck were these giant rats popping up in green flashes of light whenever a strange deposit of green stones were found?
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2023.06.07 21:01 Trash_Tia Camp Redwood is running out of counselors! These children ARE NOT CHILDREN. Update: So, you're telling me it's NOT 2018?
Welcome to Camp Redwood!
Are you ready to fight to the death with age regressed forty year olds with the faces of adorable little kids?
How about coming to terms with your entire life, or at least five years of it, being one big fucking lie?
We are so excited to announce our 2018
group! Where you will undoubtedly FIND
yourself here. Your true self.
The self you did not know existed.
SO, jump in that military bunker, grab that blunt object to fight against our little campers disembowelling our counselors, and get yourself down to CAMP REDWOOD. WHERE WE START EVERY DAY WITH A CAMP REDWOOD SMILE.
Application end date: 05/02/2018
It’s been a tough few days.
So, I think I will be posting this update in two chunks so I can get everything down and clear my head. I am alone right now.
Yes. I am the last survivor of Camp Redwood 2023 (?). I’ve been unsure how to start this and end this because I really just want to get into the meat of what has been going on.
But… I must ask. I have to.
What year is it?
That doesn't matter right now. I'll continue where I left off.
Teddy did leave us alone in the end. But his screams were still haunting me hours after the thing with his voice had left. I don’t even think I could call it his voice.
It sounded like him but there were pieces of him missing. Like someone had reached into the boy’s mind and pulled out the skeleton of his consciousness, the bare bones of his being—and cruelly stuffed him into a metal shell.
That is what Teddy sounded like.
He sounded like a wounded animal, confused why he was alive. Terrified. I now know what he is the product of. Teddy is a victim of horrifying, unethical experiments our campers have been forcing on kidnapped counselors after taking over the camp. Have you ever heard of the sound of crying which isn’t human?
That is Teddy. He is the product of forcing life into the dead, and leaving it to suffer with its consciousness. Which, in my opinion, is a fate far worse than death.
You’re probably wondering where my two companions are.
Well, that is why I am writing this.
I want to tell you what happened so I can wrap my head around it myself, and choose between killing all of us and sending these psychopaths to hell, or coming to terms with our truth and fighting back. Well, it’s their truth. I wouldn’t say it’s mine. It took us three whole days to get the guts to risk leaving Allison’s secret bunker inside her cabin, and attempting to find a way out of this hell-hole. Harry and I were the ones to do it, leaving a still-not-completely-himself Rowan to guard our safehouse. I didn’t want to leave him alone for a multitude of reasons but due to Harry actually having a soul and a semblance of empathy, I was overruled.
Despite being heavily under the influence of age-regressing animal crackers which had mentally turned him into a toddler, Rowan was still himself to a degree. Which meant he was back to being our leader. I was sceptical at first, because no matter how many times he insisted he was in fact okay, I couldn’t seem to shake off the feeling that the childish parts of him, the warped parts of his mind which had turned him into a child, were still there.
Even if they were very subtle. I caught him doodling on his clipboard, and much later on, singing to himself with an odd smile on his face he had successfully gaslit Harry and I into believing it was just a coping mechanism. Say what you want about Rowan Atlas, he is damn good at swaying your opinion. Even when we were 100% sure Rowan was not his original self, the guy we had both met at the start of camp.
It was almost like him having two minds. The mind of a child, and the mind of a teenager.
For example, he still ordered us around and attempted to take back his role of leader— which had at least secured some normality back into our lives. But he also hated loud noises, and freaked out every time one of the littles tried to get in. There was also the incident we had agreed not to talk about, because talking about it meant facing the fact that our friend was no longer himself.
It was a hours after Teddy left us in peace. Harry was sleeping, and I was on the cusp of slumber, slipping through more files. Rowan had been oddly quiet. Which wasn’t a Rowan thing. Whether he was mentally a child or a teenager, he was still being loud and obnoxious. I sat up to find him cross-legged, playing with something.
I thought it was a worm at first, but no. It was exactly like what I found at the start of this, an eye attached to a nerve. But this time it was undoubtedly human, and now Rowan’s plaything. When I questioned him, he said he was “studying” it. Though there was definitely a difference between studying something and playing with it. The scary thing was, he saw no wrong in it, holding it in his hands and stripping off the metallic pieces cruelly attached to it.
In the end, I took it from him and stamped on it. Rowan didn’t have the reaction I was expecting. Because he was still hiding behind the façade that his mind hadn’t been warped by de-aging animal crackers.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Eleanor Summers had given me a 24 hour deadline to hand over the boys, and we were well over the limit so an ambush was likely imminent.
I still had so many questions. Why were Rowan, Harry and Carmel so important while the rest of us were seen as nothing but spare parts?
That is what the little bitch said. Now physically eleven years old with the mind of a deranged forty year old scientist, Eleanor told me I was nothing to them but spare parts. God, it’s so weird calling her what she is after looking after her kid self, her fake self, for weeks.
Little Eleanor with her golden pigtails and obsession with teddy bear picnics was in fact a complete fucking sociopath. That much of one in fact, that her and her equally psychotic colleagues who engaged in these experiments had been regressed into little kids inside a rehabilitation camp (Nicknamed: Project Spearhead) which was supposed to fix them and had failed spectacularly. Because they’ve taken over. And this time? We’re the fucking lab rats.
The counselors here at Redwood.
I had seen her adult self being interviewed by mysterious Agent Lemrac, a face behind Project Spearhead, the girl who was far too young to be an agent, and have that kind of authority. Also, someone with a soul—who had a clear biased opinion against the experiments.
Part of me wondered if Lemrac still existed. Maybe she was behind the odd phone calls we kept receiving on an old fashioned rotary phone. With Eleanor’s deadline in mind, the two of us made our journey quick. It wasn’t hard to leave the camp itself. There were guards in the form of Callen and Olive, brainwashed and turned into the kid’s muscle, but they were easy enough to get past as long as we distracted them with something shiny.
They were mentally six-years-old so literally anything grabbed their attention.
I quickly realized my mistake once we managed to escape the camp—Harry in front of me, with me lagging behind. We moved slowly, ducking behind trees and throwing ourselves into the dirt. Very cloak and dagger. It didn’t take us long to slip into the woods. Just past the lake were the exit gates to Redwood which led to a road.
Not exactly civilisation, but I would take it over having my body taken apart for “parts” in these so-called experiments.
When we got to the gate, however, I realized I had given the adults too much fucking credit.
Whoever was in charge of Spearhead clearly did not care about lingering survivors, as long as they were successfully cutting us out from the outside world. And that’s what the giant wall I found myself staring at was, an impossible foot monster towering over us and cementing my earlier thoughts. We were screwed. The woman on the phone had made it clear we were being abandoned, and yet some of me naively held onto them maybe still rescuing us.
“Fuck.” I didn’t know what to do, but kicking the damn thing felt like the right thing. I did, and then regretted it half a second later.
This thing was impenetrable. Impossible to climb unless we had a fucking death-wish.
Blinking at it through fraying sunlight blinding me, the thing almost resembled a mirage. It stood under the sun, a giant roadblock completely blocking us from any form of help.
The sun wasn’t helping, scorching through my shirt. I swiped at my sweaty forehead, unable to resist a frustrated scream I had to muffle-gag with my hand. I risked a look behind us. Thankfully, we were around ten minutes away from the main camp. The lake was nearby glittering under a late afternoon sun, and all I wanted to right then was to wade into the shallows and let the murky water swallow me up. The little shits couldn’t swim, maybe I’d be safe.
“This is bad.” Harry Carlisle broke the silence after my frustrated cry. With his eyes glued to the wall, he took off his hat and ran a hand through dark brown curls which were catching the light of the sun, setting strands alight across his forehead. None of us were in great shape after spending days hunkered down in a secret bunker. Harry was no exception.
His short sleeved camp Redwood shirt was still covered with vomit, discoloured with days’ worth of sweat stains and lack of showers.
He bent over, grasping hold of his knees. “What do we do?” I could tell by the tone of his voice he was freaking out, and I didn’t blame him. But Harry was still on my mind.
His signature was undoubtedly all over every Project Spearhead file, despite him repeatedly insisting he had nothing to do with it. At that moment, I could almost believe him. The boy looked exhausted and frustrated, pained.
He surprised me by slipping to his knees and burying his head in the dirt and screaming into rough soil. I was struck, then, by the sudden memory of flames. I had been sitting around campfires for weeks at Redwood, but this one didn’t feel like it took place at camp.
Instead, it felt more personal. I could almost see it, flickering orange sparking at the backs of my eyes and the sour taste of beer in my throat. Like the memory was trying to push itself to the surface. This moment felt nostalgic and yet close—as if it had happened yesterday. Like both the past and present had entangled in one.
If I concentrated I swore I could hear the murmur of voices, phantom laughter in my head and a cool night breeze grazing my cheeks.
“Earth to Josie?”
I snapped out of it quickly. “You’re asking me?” I kicked the dirt again. “I thought Rowan was our camp leader.”
Harry lifted his head after a moment, his eyes flicking to me. “You know he can’t make rash decisions right now.”
“Exactly.” I said. “We both know he’s not back to his normal self. He’s both right now. A little kid, and a teenager.” I shuddered. “I’m sorry, did I forget to mention our so-called head counsellor was playing with a human eye like a fucking cat?”
“Well, why aren’t you taking it seriously?”
Harry’s gaze skated the horizon, cotton candy colored clouds blurring into twilight. “Becauuuse the sun is going to your head.”
I could practically hear his eyes rolling. Harry took three strides towards the wall and pressed his face into rough brick. “So, this is it, right?” He muffled into rough cement. “We are really going to die at fucking summer camp.”
“I’m going to die,” I corrected him. “They want you two and Carmel because apparently you’re special.”
Harry made a scoffing noise into the wall. I was starting to think he was setting up camp there, planning to tell all of his grievances to the cement. “Oh yeah, because that’s a good thing? You’ve seen—no—heard what they’ve done to Teddy and the others, and you think them wanting us for something else is special?” his voice broke a little. “I’d rather have your fate.”
The boy’s words made me realize how little I was compared to the others. While they and Carmel were part of some grand, psychotic scheme, I was just needed for extra bulk. “Why don’t you talk to your friends?” I said, after letting the boy throw several punches into the soil. I wasn’t going to comment on his hits being surprisingly strong enough to shake the ground.
Harry didn’t look at me after calming down, resorting to tracing the earth with the toes of his shoe. “Who?”
I was surprised by his retort, even if it was equally sarcastic. “Oh, you think I’m in the CIA?” He stepped closer to me, his breath in my face. “In case you haven’t noticed, this is bigger than the CIA. Whoever is in charge of this project is way higher up.”
“So, you’re admitting you’re a sleeper.”
“No, that’s not what I—”
“Then what?” I demanded, cutting him off. “Why are your fingerprints quite literally all over this?”
Harry folded his arms, his expression darkening. "You're still talking about this?" He groaned. “Josie.” He planted his hands on my shoulders. “I am not a spy, okay? Yes, my writing being on those documents was weird, but we’re also dealing with animal crackers which turn us into littles.” His lips curved into the slightest of smirks. “I’m pretty sure it would be easy for a group of scientists to use my writing as some kind of red herring. They’re trying to turn us against each other, obviously. And that’s not going to happen.” He squeezed my shoulders and I felt momentary comfort. I was so tired.
I hadn’t slept properly in days in fear of Eleanor coming to smoke us out—and the urge to just sink into the boy’s chest was suddenly overwhelming. Luckily, I had self-control. I took a step back, and he dropped his arms. “That's sobering, yes,” I said. “But I’m still going to try waking you up with those trigger phrases we found.”
When he tried to speak, I shook my head.
“Like it or not, you’re our only way out.”
I had made it clear several times to the two of them that I had no intention to use the trigger phrases we found taped to the back of the door in the bunker, when searching for more intel. But the more I was really thinking about it, if there were sleeper agents capable of taking down a group of forty-year-old tweens, I had no choice but to at least try. Because it was either that, or I gave the littles what they wanted. The boy’s. Whatever they needed, Rowan, Carmel, and Harry were the keys to their plan.
We needed a miracle, and those trigger phrases were our best shot.
Harry, of course, was against this idea.
He did that thing he always did when he scrunched up his nose and curled his lip. It reminded me of a toddler not getting their way. I saw it exclusively when the littles were taking advantage of his piggybacking service. “Josie, I’m not a fucking spy!”
"You could be." I said stiffly. "And until we figure out what is going on with you, I don't trust you. You said it yourself. Your writing was all over the kid's files, so at some point, regardless of you remembering or not, you have been part of this project.”
“So, why did you bring me out here?” He inclined his head. “You don’t trust me and yet you bring me on your little mission to find an exit.”
I shrugged. “I was partly hoping we would be attacked and your natural instincts would kick in.”
“So, I’m your lab-rat?”
Harry did the scrunchy-nose thing again. “What the fuck, dude?!”
He looked like he was going to argue before deciding against it. Instead, he slipped on his raybans and gestured behind me with a sigh.
"We should probably get going before those little freaks come looking for us and realize we’ve left our safehouse.” I didn’t know how to explain and put into words that to survive we had to try everything—and if there was a slither of a chance that Harry really was some kind of sleeper agent, I was going to take advantage of that. I hadn’t forgotten about Carmel, Callan, and Olive. Rowan too, no matter how screwed up he was. I was counting on getting all of us out. I turned on my heel and started to head back to camp. I didn’t look at him because doing that would make me weak.
“Right. Let’s go.”
There was something going at the camp when we got back. I was startled by an intense blue light illuminating from the lunch cabin, and I had half a mind to turn and run. Then the screams started. Just like Teddy, they sounded both human and not, a horrifying mix of man and machine wailing for death. I found myself paralysed, crouched behind Cassie’s cabin, their phantom screams rattling my skull sending my thoughts into overdrive. “Josie.” I felt warm fingers wrap around my elbow and pull me back. Harry was thankfully there, dragging me away before I could expose us. It was enough to snap me out of it. Enough to drive me into fight or flight.
When we made it back to Allison’s cabin, Rowan was sleeping. He had conked out halfway through a pack of gummy worms. I spent the next few hours going through each trigger phrase written on the yellow sticky note we found taped to the door. I figured if we were going to try and wake Harry up, he would have to be restrained in case he was triggered to hurt us or even himself. “Is this really necessary?”
“Yes.” I said, squinting at the third trigger phrase. The two of us were sitting cross-legged in front of each other. Harry, breathing heavily, and me, trying to make myself calm. Harry pulled gingerly at the jump-rope restraints we had managed to loop around his wrists. I was expecting something out of him, but all I got were his wide eyes staring back at me.
The latest phrase was twisting my brain. It sounded like a kid’s book. I took a deep breath.
“Green Tigers Do Not Live Independently.”
Harry didn’t move, making a deal of blinking rapidly back at me. “No, I mean,” he gestured to his arms pinned behind his back. “Why did you have to make them so tight?"
“Because you’re a spy, dude.” Rowan had woken up, intrigued by my attempts to wake up a possible sleeper. He was pretending to go through the Eleanor Summers footage again, but the boy was clearly invested in what we were doing. Sitting slumped in the spinning chair, he leaned his fist on his chin. There were various things about Rowan I wanted to point out, but I was too scared to. The tips of his fingers were still stained red, and I had no idea if it was new or old. Rowan Atlas used to be the one guy at camp I used to think looked older than he was—and acted older than he was.
Instead of taking part in camp activities, he chose to sit on a branch and read pretentious classics. Yeah. He was one of THOSE guys. The slight stubble on his chin would definitely get him served alcohol, and his intelligence and quick-thinking would easily sway you if you were sceptical. Now he was the complete opposite. Maybe I was imagining things, but he had definitely gotten younger in the face, even if it was just a year or two.
I am not talking about his appearance, however. Rowan’s mentality was drastically different from the guy who held crisis meetings and ordered all of us around like we were his own children. This guy had a certain childish twinkle in his eye when I happened to catch it, a twitch in his lips which was constantly a wide smile like he was constantly seeing butterflies. Before being force-fed animal crackers, the guy had maintained his hair and hygiene no matter what happened. Now, he looked like he’d been dragged through a forest. Literally. There was still grass and leaves caught in his sandy hair, his camp Redwood shirt torn in odd places.
He yawned, curling up on the chair, apparently getting comfy. “No hard feelings, but we gotta keep you under investigation. Like Josie said, your name was all over those shady documents.”
Even his voice was different. I couldn’t call it a squeak, but it was close enough to one.
“I’m not a spy,” Harry grumbled, ducking his head. “I think I would know if I was—what, some kind of government agent?”
“That’s the whole point of them,” Rowan, still with lingering childish traits, winked at him. “They don’t know either.” He raised his hand and mimed the finger guns, protruding them into his temples and pretending to pull the trigger. Adapting a storytelling tone, he lowered his voice to a whisper. Like he was talking to the kids.
“They can live their whole lives without realizing.” I could tell from his tone he was getting excited with the idea of sleeper agents. Maybe it was a kid thing. Rowan sat up straight with wide eyes. “Cruelly brainwashed by a secret organisation at a young age and turned into super soldiers, these guys have no family. No friends.” His gaze flicked to Harry, his lips twitching into a teasing grin. “Only the insatiable urge to kill and follow orders. They don’t have brains to feel or emotions. And that?”
He did a dramatic spin on the chair. I could tell he was revelling in the look of horror on Harry’s face. “That is the most dangerous thing about them. The inability to have free will. Because what happens when they come face to face with people they used to love? People from their old life?”
With both of us enthralled in his speech, the boy smirked. “They kill them. Family members and friends. With one simple order? BAM.” Harry jumped, and I am ashamed to say I did too. Rowan blew his imaginary finger guns. “With one single and yet perfect headshot, it’s allll over. There’s blood EVERYWHERE. There’s brains!” He giggled. “Brains! And it’s like, sooo gross.”
With the way he kept adding to his story, getting progressively more excited and practically vibrating in the chair, the boy was reminding me more and more of my little sister. Which terrified me. Because if this was him back to himself, was this his new normal?
“Rowan, stop.” It took every ounce of my being not to yell at him. “You’re acting like a fucking child.” I was frowning at a sign on the wall warning us to ‘mind our head’. It wasn’t even a low ceiling, and yet that was the fourth time I had seen that sign.
Harry looked mildly horrified. Usually, he was the one who told the ghost stories. I could tell even he was questioning his own identity at that moment, and I paused interrogating him with phrases. “I’m sorry, but who out of us ate our weight in animal crackers?”
“Against my will.” Rowan yawned again, doing another spin on the chair. I had to turn around and shoot him a glare. “That’s the second time you’ve thrown me being turned into a kid in my face. Which is not fair. Did I ask to be stuffed full of poison?"
“Well, you didn’t exactly fight against Eleanor.”
“I was tied up, asshole—and I’m pretty you were in la-la land at that point.”
“I’m allergic to peanut butter, so no,” Harry rolled his eyes. “I snapped out of it when my body reminded me.”
“That sounds like a you problem, dude.”
Harry groaned, tipping his head back. “Holy shit, Rowan. You used to be cool and now you’re like an annoying little brother.”
“Shut up. Both of you.” I found my voice, grabbing a pen and scribbling out the first line of trigger phrases which were a no-go.
“Rowan, annoyingly, is right.” I said, ignoring the guy’s noise of glee. If he kept spinning around on that chair, I was going to kill him.
The blur of movement at the corner of my eye was driving me mad. Focusing on Harry, I took a break from the trigger phrases for a moment, poking him in the cheek. It was supposed to be light-hearted, but the guy looked offended.
“For the third time, we can’t ignore that at some point you have signed off on all of those files, which means you were part of Spearhead.” I shrugged. “I’m not saying you are, but we have to be smart if we’re going to survive against a group of deranged scientists.”
Rowan chuckled. “What she saiiiiiid.”
"Why aren't we paying attention to the guy who clearly has allegiance to those freaks?” Harry stuck out his tongue at Rowan, which was surprising on multiple levels. Wasn’t he supposed to be the normal one? “Aren't you their favorite counselor?"
"I was literally mind controlled by preservatives, asshole," Rowan shot back. "And I'm not the only one. You and Carmel are on their radar too."
"Yeah, but we’re not the ones playing with eyes.”
"I'm too tired to argue with you." The boy responded in a yawn, cuddling into the chair armrest like a cat. “Also… you’re a noodlehead.”
“Ignore him.” I told Harry. “Just focus on me, alright? You have to look at me.”
“It’s time to make the donuts.” I articulated it perfectly.
Harry surprised me with a laugh. “That one can’t be real.”
“It is. Shush.” I cleared my throat. “The strawberry moon will rise in July.” When nothing happened, I frowned. “Maybe I’m not saying them right.” I peered at the next one, mentally speaking it and then muttering it to myself to get an idea of the tone.
“Or,” Harry shrugged, pulling at his restraints. “I’m just spit-balling here, but maybe I’m NOT a secret government sleeper agent after all?”
“Be mindful of the deep ravine.” This time I practically shouted it in his face, only to get his wide smile in return.
“Josie, this isn’t working.”
“It will.” I was growing increasingly more frustrated. “Just try and listen to them, okay? Don’t push them out.”
I tried one more time, leaning close and scrunching up the sticky note in my hand. Harry’s expression stayed stoic, though from the contortions in his forehead and the twitch in his lips he was trying so hard not to laugh. “It looks like it will rain tonight.”
I was surprised, then, when Rowan jolted in the chair suddenly. He lifted his head, his eyes wide. I was seeing him back to his usual self for the flicker of a second, his expression contorted with fright, lips curling into a scowl. “Do you guys smell that?”
“Smell what?” I sniffed the air, but there was nothing which was out of the ordinary. I had grown used to the combined stink of our body odour.
Rowan wrinkled his nose. He sat up straighter. “That.” He whispered. “It smells like… burning.”
I opened my mouth to ask what he meant before Harry went stiff suddenly. I sensed his entire body seem to brace itself. His eyes hardened. “Untie me.” He said in a croak.
When my shaking hands went to the boy’s restraints, his were balled into fists. I glimpsed muscles bulging through the back of his shirt and forearms. His demeanour reminded me of an animal growing territorial. “Something is… wrong,” he said in a sharp breath. Harry’s frightened eyes found mine. “Wrong.” He said again, blinking rapidly. “Something is...wr–wrong. ” When I pulled the last of the rope from his arms, Rowan shocked me with a piercing cry which sent him tumbling off of the chair, his trembling hands planted over his ears, lips carved into an O.
His eyes were wide with terror, with agony I couldn't understand. Childish terror. Which catapulted him back to his real age.
Before I could hesitate, I was crawling over to him, attempting to snap the boy out of it. But he was inconsolable, his eyes almost unseeing, his body contorting with every shriek. It took me a moment to realize Harry was the same. But instead of a piercing shriek of a scream, he was wailing into his knees, as if to escape something.
His body seemed to jolt left and right, like he was being electrocuted. When I saw glimpses of sharp red pooling between his fingers and down the back of his neck, something sickly crept up my throat. Rowan was somehow worse, his whole face contorting like it was it's own separate being, rivulets of intense red dripping from his nose and mouth, and staining his hands desperately pressed over his ears.
It was a synchronised cry, I realized, after concluding that no matter what I did, I couldn't save them.
It was a sound only they could hear, a high-pitched screech like a dog-whistle which was only affecting them. It was the kids, I thought. Surely. If they could disembowel counselors, I was sure they would have no problem engineering a sound which would only affect certain people.
Stumbling back, I had two choices. I could either try and help them, try and block out this phantom noise slowly killing them-- or I could leave them and find a safer place. With that choice in my mind, I barely noticed the phone begin to ring under Allison's desk.
That same old fashioned trilling rang in my head, and I managed to reach under and grab the receiver, my heart in my throat. "Please." I managed to squeak out, trying to ignore Harry, who was trying to rip out his hair, his eyes rolling into the back of his head. I saw the whites, blood vessels popping one by one.
When he crumpled to the ground, I thought he was dead. But his wails continued into the floor, and I wanted them to stop. I wanted him to die because I couldn’t stand hearing him screaming for help which wasn’t coming. I couldn't help them, and it was killing me. The kids were clearly trying to smoke us out, this time targeting the boy’s. Still though, I had my secret weapon. The Spearhead project.
"There are three of us left," I panted down the phone. "You have to help us. I am at Camp Redwood. You need to get us out of here. Do you hear me? You need to get us out–"
“Attempts to fix the current situation have been unsuccessful, Miss Greenfield," the woman with the British accent's voice came through in a rush of static, cutting me off. Her voice was monotone, and I wondered if she was in fact a programmed bot.
"All efforts for manual activation have failed from the disaster zone. The signal appears to have been sabotaged. I repeat. The E.485 frequency has been sabotaged. Designated models 0115, 0116, and 0118 are now officiated as being faulty and are no longer needed for protocol 9AXC5. Please stand by for standard protocol deactivation. Thank you for your service. Agent Salta. Agent Elsilrac. Agent Lemrac.”
My grip loosened on the phone, and I felt my legs started to give-way. "You're the one doing this to them?”
When Rowan dropped to his knees, blood dripping from his nose, my stomach jumped into my throat. There was no way. I figured it was an attack from the kids, but I was wrong. Instead, this sound, this frequency, was coming from the phone.
I thought back to the video footage. Agent Lemrac interviewing Eleanor Summers. Harry's signature on the paperwork. “Can you… say that again?” I heard myself say in a breath. But the dead ringing tone was already clanging in my skull, a robotic countdown laced within the static. I grabbed the pen I had been writing with, scribbling those names down, my hands shaking.
“Preparing emergency shutdown protocol. Thank you for your service, Agent Salta, Elsilrac, Lemrac.” The voice continued, which was just another stab in the gut. I heard Salta before. I heard Lemrac. But writing them down, I realized what they meant.
I was a fucking idiot. No wonder the littles wanted them and Carmel— why they were so important to their plan. Slowly, I could feel myself start to crumble. The phone slipped from my clammy hands, but I could still hear the woman beginning an emergency shut down.
I didn’t feel the impact when my knees hit the ground, but I did start to sense something twisted and sour tickling the back of my nose and throat. By the time I had noticed it, it was already choking the bunker. But somehow, I didn’t care about the stars in my eyes or my own blood being projected onto my hands with every wet sounding cough exploding from my lungs. I could still hear their names, and every time I said each of them, more and more of me shattered.
Laying on my back while my head spun, I was partially aware the boy’s screaming had cut off.
Instead, they were just sitting there, eyes wide and unseeing, the blankest I had ever seen them. There was so much blood running down their faces, and I imagined something rooted inside of them tearing their minds apart from the inside. Letting out another strangled cough, which was definitely biological warfare courtesy of the kids (not enough to kill, but definitely a warning not to fuck with them) my gaze flicked across the bunker, taking everything in. The paperwork we had been going through. The chair Rowan had been spinning around on. The ropes Harry’s arms had been entangled in. I was frowning at the walls, and then the ceiling. “Please mind your head when you step down the stairs.”
Drinking in the words slowly, my cotton candy thoughts imploding into one blurry mess.
But then I was a little more awake, this time turning my gaze to the wall where the same sign had been taped to the wall. Please mind your head when you step down the stairs.
And… there it was again, taped to the desk, and underneath the laptop. Hidden in plain sight. It had been there all along, and yet I only realised when I wasn't thinking about it, when my mind was being suffocated. Something seemed to snap inside of me, and I sat up, driven by pure adrenaline. With one hand pressed over my mouth and nose, I forced myself into a sitting position and dragged myself to Harry, whose head was lolled at an unnatural angle, his eyes closed.
Part of me wanted to smash up the phone, knowing what these bastards had done to their sleeper agents now they were no longer usable. The boy almost resembled a doll. Was this the so-called sleeper which had been planted inside Redwood? Empty eyes, empty everything. He was like a shell with a human face. No better than Eleanor's experiments.
When I grabbed hold of his arms, I had to hold him steady, his body cut from these puppet strings which had held him. “Harry.” I could barely speak, my voice more of a croak. I knew he was awake and aware, but a singeing, almost burning smell was coming from directly inside his head as blood ran from his nostrils in shades of red and pink. Now I knew what the burning was when I pressed my face against his and sucked in a lungful of poisoned air. It was him. He was a defect being set alight from the inside. “You need to look at me, okay?”
When he didn’t, instead crumbling in my arms, I struggled to hold him upright. Twisting my head to Rowan, he seemed in a better state—kind of. At least he was still sitting straight.
My last words were barely audible. “Please mind your head when you step down the—” no sooner had the words left my mouth before the sounds of footsteps coming from above, the unmistakable murmur of giggling getting closer and closer. Harry dropped to the ground like he had been severed from his puppet strings.
I wasn’t aware when I slipped to the floor, whatever had filled my lungs finally taking its toll. Through flickering eyes, I could see our barricade being blown through, the ground rumbling beneath me, throwing me into something warm.
His body was curled up against the wall, haemorrhaging from the ears.
It was only when I was truly taking in the stink curling in the back of my nose and throat as Eleanor Summer’s mechanical grin popped out of nowhere, when I realized I had smelled it before. I had choked on it before. The circle of kids looming above me let out a shrill squeak of, “Found you!” while I found the dark, and beyond that, a memory I thought was a dream.
Firelight flickered in the backs of my eyelids. The blur of orange and shadowy smoke was mesmerising. I stared real hard at the fire like I was told to, at smouldering shades of yellow and orange colliding, thick black smoke billowing into the air while our faces illuminated the circle. I tightened my grip on my beer, swallowing another mouthful. It was cheap shit, but had just enough burn to get me tipsy. I felt good at that moment. Relaxed.
My head was starting to spin, but it was the good spinning, like I was going round and around on a carousel. I wasn't sure why I felt apprehension at the moment.
It was just a game, right? So, why did I want to jump up and go home? Why did I want to squeeze my eyes shut? Milo's words rattled in my skull as I squinted into the fire. "Come forth, those who are no longer with us." Ghosts weren't real, I thought dizzily. They couldn't be.
Not when science and logic existed. However, when the flames began to grow increasingly more erratic, I couldn't resist leaning forward, and... there. Something warm crept its way up my throat.
There was a shadow twisted in the smoke, a very human-like thing stepping directly from the trees, from the hollowed darkness I had been too scared to fully take in-- finding solace in flickering and illuminated sparks spitting from the fire. The others started to murmur to each other as the thing took a step out of the trees. Clea shuffled back with a cry, and Milo and JJ turned twin shades of sickly pale. It was a guy.
Older, by maybe a year. Shaggy reddish hair tied into a loose ponytail. His clothes were a simple leather jacket and jeans, but looking at his face, he was bruised, every part of him exhausted and battered. His eyes, when I caught them, were nothing but twin pools of oblivion glaring back at us.
"Holy fuck." Milo hissed out. “I didn't think that would actually work!" Downing his beer, he whooped. "Alright! Name, age, occupation, and..."
His lips quirked into a grin. "How you died, man!”
The guy inclined his head, his mouth curling into the start of an amused smile. "I'm not a ghost, Jackass."
His British accent was jarring.
"And?" Milo leaned back, crossing his legs. "Play along, bro. Or I call the cops and tell 'em a grown ass man is fucking with some minors."
"But he looks our age," Clea hummed. "And he's kinda cute."
"I don't give a fuck," Milo's eyes were hard. "State your truth, or I get my dad on the line."
The guy rolled his eyes, raising both arms like he was surrendering. "Samuel Joseph Wilder," he surprised me by responding. Now that I looked at him, this guy definitely was not dead. Unless dead people carried a gun latched to their belt, and a cheap iPhone sticking from their jeans pocket. "Nineteen years old." He shrugged. "I guess you could say I'm an ex-student."
He paused, and I caught emotion flicker across his face, his hands balling into fists. "I was killed– no, murdered, by my town."
Milo leaned back, cracking open another beer and taking a sip. Clea leaned closer to him, her eyes wide. “Playing along, huh? I like it. State your truth."
The guy nodded, lowering his arms. His dark eyes flicked to each of us, drinking all of us in. “I just escaped from a secret government facility doubling as a summer camp which has converted half of my town’s kids into mindless super soldiers.”
There was a pause, before Clea burst into nervous giggles. Milo cocked his head. “I said state your truth, not plagiarise The Hunger Games.”
Ignoring Milo, the guy turned his eyes to me. "Josie Greenfield?" He took a step forward before seemingly deciding against it. I didn't move or speak, my heart in my throat. I didn't have to reply. This strange boy continued, his lips curling. "You're going to die tonight, Josie."
At that moment, I realized why I had been feeling nauseous all night. Why my mind had been anticipating something all day, and why, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't brush off his words. Maybe part of me was expecting this.
The stranger's tone was too cold to ignore, the state of him too real to brush off as a joke.
Suddenly, it was just me, him, and fate itself glaring down on us, my life as I knew it exploding into nothing in the charred remains of the dying fire.
His voice echoed in my head, collapsing into white noise, when I noticed how truly inhuman he looked. I fully took him in, illuminated in firelight. "If you don't get the fuck out of this town, you are going to have the same fate as me."
I’m going to go out on a whim and say it’s… not 2018 and I’ve been at Camp Redwood for way longer than I realized?
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2023.06.07 20:49 Stories-With-Bears Am I wrong? I feel like we're on the same page, he feels like we have fundamental differences
My boyfriend and I have been dating for about 6 months (25M/31F). On our second date, I told him that being a mom is never something I've felt a calling for or a strong desire for. He said that having kids is something he's always wanted. We both enjoyed going out and getting to know each other, so we agreed to continue dating and keep talking about this.
Over the past several months, I have really taken a long, hard look at why I don't feel a pull towards motherhood. I've talked to lots of people (family, friends, people with and without kids including one friend of mine who is a regretful parent), I've read a lot of posts here as well as other blogs and articles online, I purchased and read The Baby Decision, I took a lot of time to reflect on what I want in life, and I even got a fertility test at my annual check-up. I've been taking this very seriously.
The place where I've landed is a very firm middle ground. My ultimate goal is to have a happy and fulfilling life. I don't want to grow old and look back on my life and feel like I didn't get to have the experiences that I wanted. I can clearly see how either life with or without kids could fill that. I could have no children, but also not really do anything of value, just go to work and watch tv, and have a very empty life. Or I could be childfree and my partner and I could volunteer, travel the world, be involved in our community and have very rich lives. I could have kids and completely lose my identity and sense of self, pour everything into them, and then feel lost and directionless when they leave the nest. Or I could have kids and share my hobbies and passions with them, show them new and exciting things, and watch them grow into themselves. I see the pros and cons of both lifestyles. For me, the question isn't "do I want kids?" The question is "How can I have the most rewarding and fulfilling life?" With the right partner, I think either way can be wonderful, and with the wrong partner I think either way could be miserable.
My boyfriend feels like this is a fundamental difference. He says that at the end of the day, having a family is something he inherently wants. He says "I don't want it only if x, y, and z conditions are met. I want it as a concept." He also says "I can't control the outcome, so if you only want kids if you feel like it will add to your fulfillment in life, I can't promise that." I told him "I'm not asking you to control the outcome. It's not about knowing how things will play out. It's about having the hope and the optimism to take the jump. For me, the question is 'I need to have X factors met to feel like having kids is something that can add to my joy. I know he wants kids. Does he have X factors?'"
I feel like we both want the same thing (to have a meaningful life). For him, that MUST include kids and for me it COULD include kids. But I feel like he wants me to want it the same way as he does, with the same motivation and drive and passion. Are we completely out of sync here? Or are we on different pages, but still reading the same book? Curious to hear from others who may be in the same place with their SO (one wanting kids, one on the fence) and how you discuss it. Also curious to hear from anyone who was in a similar boat and did take the leap towards parenthood and how your experience has been.
submitted by Stories-With-Bears
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2023.06.07 20:43 lady-of-hell Midnight Train: Origins [Part 3] - Funhouse
My name is Billie and I was a passenger of the Midnight Train. Last time I ended up in the nightmare of an unborn child. In this part I get to leave the train at least for a short while.
Things calmed down after Nyxia left the train – well, at least as calm as a place like this could reasonably get. I stayed close to John, with whom I got along better than I had expected, and we spent our time making plans that focused more on survival than on actually getting away. John showed me his notes, a list of rules for dealing with the train's entities, and I was confident that as long as we were together, we could survive encounters with them.
The problem was, our other goal – leaving the train despite not having a ticket – still seemed impossible. Even after days, we hadn't been able to come up with even the semblence of a plan.
"We could kill it", I suggested once. "Get to the driver's wagon and murder the damn train itself. Then we'll get out of here, right?"
"Or we end up stranded in this abyss forever", John replied, gesturing vaguely to the dark swirls of colour outside of the windows.
"A risk worth taking?"
"Absolutely not." And that was the end of this. We fell into a weird routine of spending our days in the common wagons, eating dinner in the dining wagon, and occasionally running from the threats the train threw at us. For almost an entire week, the Cinder Queen didn't show her face and everything else was easy enough to avoid. Life was almost peaceful – at least when we didn't run from faceless waiters.
And then the train reached one of its destinations, allowing us to explore the world outside.
"I still don't see what you hope to achieve with this", John complained as I dragged him through the hallway, towards the wide open doors. "I've seen people stay out too long and none of them came back alive. Running away isn't an option."
"We're not running away, we're looking for something that could get us out of here", I corrected him.
"And what, pray tell, could that be?"
"You know... I hope I'll just recognize it when I see it." With a bright smile, I tightened my grip around his wrist and started walking faster.
But before we could go outside, there was someone waiting for us next to the door. Probably the only entity I would ever be happy to see. "Hey!", I greeted the black-eyed Distributor. "I haven't even thanked you for the dagger. That thing saved my life in that nightmare world... though I kind of left it in there? Sorry if you wanted it back, but..."
The child didn't say a single word, just reached into his bag like it had done last time and pulled out a small object.
"Oh? Another present? That's really nice, buddy, thank you! What...?"
He didn't let me finish my question, just pushed the object into my hands and walked away.
"Okay then." I turned to John again and showed him my newly acquired object. "We've got a compass. Oh my god, do you think we have to go on a ship? I've seen enough water in the nightmare for the rest of my life. Did I mention that I drowned twice?"
"You're missing the obvious solution to this problem, Billie."
"Now that we have this little thing?" I waved the compass around. "Absolutely fucking not. He just gave us what we're gonna need to survive."
John sighed. "You're basing this assumption on one single event", he reminded me.
"Well, then we're gonna test this assumption right now and prove it. Like an experiment. That's how scientists do it, right?" Once again I grabbed his hand. "Come on, Kira", I told my dog and we finally crossed the threshold.
It was surreal. There was grass under my feet, an overcast sky above me, wind brushing through my hair. "I'm outside!", I exclaimed. "And there's fresh air and real light and... oh my god, I think I hear birds! Birds, John!" The euphoria was overwhelming, I couldn't stop myself from laughing and if I hadn't been holding John's hand I would have spun around like a small child.
"Don't get too excited", John replied without any enthusiasm. "We'll be here for a few hours at most."
"Buzzkill." I rolled my eyes dramatically, but still with a smile on my lips. "I'll take these few hours and I'll be fucking excited. I mean... look at that! No water! Isn't that amazing?"
"There's someone waiting for us", John pointed out instead.
Only then I took the time to really look at my surroundings. So far I had focused on what wasn't there, making sure that I wouldn't end up drowning or falling off a skyscraper again, but only now I saw it for what it was. And, well, it was a hill. We stood close to the top of a hill, the train's tracks impossibly floating behind us, and all that might have been around this hill was hidden in thick fog. Just like John had pointed out, there was a person waiting for us on the hill, a man standing right next to an empty door frame.
Now if I had one thing in the nightmare, it was that one should follow the most obvious paths in impossible places like this. Someone – something – wanted us atop this hill and if I was perfectly honest, I was kind of curious what kind of man was waiting for us up there.
"Let's go say hello then", I told John with a bright grin. The hint of a smile appeared on his lips and he didn't complain as I pulled him along again.
We reached the top of the hill in no time and the waiting man watched as we approached him. He looked perfectly normal, though he seemed to have stepped straight out of an old movie, with his hat and trenchcoat and the cigarette between his lips. "There you are", he greeted us. "I've been waiting for you."
John frowned and wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me closer. "And just how did you know we would come here?", he asked, clearly suspicious.
The man shrugged. "I think your kind calls it... instinct?"
John didn't seem relieved in the slightest. "What exactly did your instinct tell you?"
"I'm working on a case", the man in the trenchcoat answered. "Some children disappeared and they're behind this door." He pointed at the empty doorframe.
For a moment I wondered if I was back in the dreamworld. On the other hand, nobody ever said that the train stopped at ordinary places. "Okay, lost kids. Sure. Maybe this thing will help", I said, showing off my compass. "We're on a bit of a time limit here, so... let's go, Mr. Detective!" Still holding John's hand, and with Kira right by my side, I walked through the doorframe.
I didn't actually see my surroundings change. In one moment, I saw the grass of the hill on the other side, and then just a second later I was standing in a hallway. A long hallway with an atrocious red carpet, mirrors in golden frames on the walls, and warm yellow light from the circular lamps on the ceiling.
I turned my head to look at John and the Detective, only to find that the door had disappeared behind them.
In retrospect, we really deserved this for walking through strange doors without thinking.
"Did you know this would happen?", John asked our new companion urgently.
Now before one of us could point out that this was absolutely not good, a voice echoed through the hallway. "Guests! Oh hello! It's been so terribly long", it said, high and shrill like fingernails on a blackboard, sending an unpleasant shiver down my spine. "Can you help me look for my three sisters? They wanted to come to me and then they got lost. Please!"
"Are those your missing kids, Mr. Detective?", I asked instead of answering the voice.
He nodded. "I assume they are."
"Okay, nice. Hey, invisible voice person! We find your sisters and you make the door appear again! Deal?"
"Oh, sure, you'll get your door, Sybille", the voice agreed. "You'll get sooo many doors..." And with that, the voice faded.
"You know... if I had a dollar for every time I ended up in a weird place with a disembodied voice talking to me...", I joked.
"You're awfully calm, considering we're stuck here", John interrupted me harshly. "You do understand that we have no way out of here and that we are going to die?"
"What? I just made a deal, didn't I? We go and find the three kids, then we can leave. And we find them with the help if this!" Once again, I presented my compass.
"Excuse me, but I don't see how knowing where north is will help us here."
"Oh come on, do you really think the Distributor gave us something useless?" I ran a hand through my hair, frustrated with his lack of understanding. "The compass will lead us to the kids. Isn't that right, Mr. Detective?"
The Detective chuckled. "And how would I know, kid?"
"Instinct, maybe?" I shrugged and turned back around. "Whatever. Come on, let's go rescue some kids!"
"I sure hope you're right", John said. "Because otherwise you doomed us all."
I was well aware of this, I just didn't allow myself to think about it. Maybe I was an optimist, maybe just insane, but I firmly believed that we would make it out of here again. And in the best case scenario, we would return with something that would help us escape the Midnight Train for good. I was unlikely, sure, but how likely was it to walk through an empty doorframe and end up in a fully furnished hallway? How likely was it to enter a train full of inhuman entities? At this point I simply considered everything to be possible.
And so we walked down the hallway, following the needle of my compass. John was right next to me, Kira and the Detective behind us, and none of us talked any more. The atmosphere was tense, despite my best attempts to stay cheerful. There was a lot on the line, after all.
I was nervous when we reached the end of the hallway and there were two identical paths to choose from, one to the left and one to the right. My compass, however, started to spin and eventually the needle settled on pointing to the left. "It works!", I exclaimed. "It works! The Distributor is the best entity ever! No offense, Mr. Detective!"
"None taken, kid", the Detective chuckled.
We continued our way until we reached a threshold and when we crossed it, we found ourselves in the most horrifying room I had ever seen. There were dolls, small porcelain dolls in elaborate dresses, filling the shelves to the point that the walls were entirely obscured. The dim lighting cast shadows on their painted faces.
And as soon as we entered, they all turned their heads in unison, focusing their lifeless eyes on us.
I grabbed John's arm and held onto him as I waited for the dolls to stand up and attack us, but they didn't move any further. All they did was stare.
"Now that was mildly unsettling", John commented, which was probably the understatement of the century. I gave him a no shit look and turned my attention back to the dolls, looking around the room.
"Fuck", I whispered when my eyes fell upon a certain spot on one of the shelves. "There's the first one."
Right there it was, hidden between the porcelain faces. Decaying flesh and crumbling bones, old clothes fused with rotten skin. They held a small doll in their frail arms, not a porcelain one but one made of fabric, holding onto it for dear life while the remains of their face was distorted with fear.
"I thought they would be... I didn't...", I stuttered as I slowly approached the child's corpse. "They must have been so scared."
John sighed. "Let's just focus on not ending like them."
He put a hand on my shoulder. "We can't do anything for them, Billie."
I knew he was right, but it was still a lot to see a dead child right in front of me. Though I had to admit, as tragic as this was, it wasn't quite as bad as seeing Derek turn into an ash monster right in front of me.
"Hey, kid!", the Detective called and I turned around to look at him. "Your dog disappeared", he informed me matter-of-factly.
And indeed, Kira was nowhere to be seen.
"What? Where is she? Hey, you... whatever you are! Where's my dog? Where did you take her?", I screamed at the entity that was in charge of this place.
Again, the dolls snapped their heads around, staring in our direction. "You're taking to long", they spoke with the shrill voice I had heard before. "It's getting boring. Hurry, Sybille, hurry and I'll give her back to you."
"Alive and unharmed!", I demanded.
"Alive and unharmed", the dolls agreed. "Now go. One has been found, two are missing still."
With shaking hands I lifted the compass again, waited for the needle to settle for one direction and finally left the doll room, John and the Detective following right behind.
Now with a time limit looming over us, we hurried through hallway after hallway, only stopping at crossroads as we waited for the compass to adjust. Everything looked the same, always the same after every turn, red carpet and yellow light and golden framed mirrors until I thought I'd lose my mind. The mirrors were the worst part, because every now and then, I caught a movement in the corner of my eyes that didn't belong to me or my companions.
Traversing the mazelike corridors felt like an eternity and it was maddening to the point where I felt relief when we reached a new door. I threw it open and crossed the threshold quickly, only to stop dead in my movement as I took the impossible room in.
It was bottomless. Or maybe it had a bottom, I certainly wouldn't know, because finding out would mean trowing myself into the pitch black abyss. And in said abyss were platforms that were bathed in blinding lights, colourful and erratic like the ones you'd see at a carneval. It was dizzying to look at – rainbow coloured platforms floating above the pit, and a red door on the opposite side.
The compass, of course, pointed at this red door.
"You guys go first", I told my companions with a shaking voice. "You get to the next platform and I'll hand the compass over before I jump."
John raised an eyebrow. "Why..."
"Look at me!", I cut him off, gesturing at my body. My rather short, slightly overweight body. "I'm the least likely of us to make these jumps. And this little compass is the only thing that's keeping us alive, so we can't risk losing it in this pit, so... you go first. And I'll hand you the compass."
They agreed and the Detective jumped first, followed by John. The distance between the platforms wasn't all that huge, so I could carefully hand the compass to John before taking the leap. I made it – although barely – and the Detective grabbed my arm as soon as my feet touched the platform, pulling me away from the edge.
And so we crossed through the room, jumping from platform to platform, making sure the compass wouldn't be dropped. My heart was racing the entire time, so fast that I was afraid I'd just faint everytime I had to jump. The adrenaline was the only thing that kept me on my feet. With every leap I saw myself fall into the gaping abyss, and I found myself surprised whenever I landed on solid ground.
But it worked. Slowly, but with a steady pace, we advanced through the room, always towards the red door.
Until it didn't work, of course. Until we inevitably failed.
Until I failed.
We were close to the door already and I could see a small figure right beside it; relief flooded through me as I realized that the second child was right there. I had just handed the compass over and took a few steps backwards, ran towards the edge like I had done several times before, and jumped.
I could feel my feet slip the moment I leapt.
My scream cut through the absolute silence like a lightning strike. In the fracture of a second I saw myself falling, being swallowed by the void until the blinding lights were nothing but a far memory, shattering on the ground somewhere deep down in the pit where no one would ever find my broken body. I reached out, desperate to hold onto something.
My hands clung to the edge of the platform.
"Pull me up!", I screamed at the two men. "Pull me up, please, don't let me fall!"
"Give me a moment!" John sounded almost equally panicked as he fumbled to tuck the compass away.
"I don't have a moment, my fucking hands are slipping!" I was quickly losing my grip, wether because the surface was slick or because I wasn't strong enough to keep holding on. And I was nauseous, oh so very sick to my stomach as I was seconds away from falling. I desperately tried to dig my fingers into the metal, but I was barely able to hold on anymore.
Cool hands wrapped around my wrist just before I lost my grip entirely. "I've got you", John exclaimed.
"Pull me up!"
"Fuck you!", I spat, though my shaking voice didn't carry my annoyance.
A second pair of hands grabbed my other wrist then and I turned my head slightly to look at the Detective. "Got you, kid", he reassured me.
"I take everything back, you're the best entity ever!"
The two men pulled me up then, up to the security of the platform, and as soon as I had solid ground beneath my feet, I wrapped my arms around John and hugged him tight as I tried to calm my racing heart. "Thank you", I whispered over and over again.
"You're welcome, Billie", he replied, sounding almost as out of breath as I did, while he held me and let me cry.
The final three jumps were the most terrifying thing I had ever been forced to do, but we made it with no further incident. When all three of us stood safely on the final platform, I took the compass back from John and approached the corpse that lay next to the red door. Another young child, half rotten, cowering with its back against the wall and its arms wrapped around its knees. "We found the second one!", I announced to the voice.
A high pitched giggle echoed through the air. "Too slow, Sybille! You're too slow!", it taunted.
"No!" I spun around, afraid of what I would see, and indeed, only the Detective was standing on the platform with me. "No, not him! Give him back to me!"
"You'll get him back if you hurry up", the voice replied. "I won't warn you again..."
"Okay. Okay. We'll hurry." I reached for the red door and opened it – of course it revealed yet another hallway – when the Detective touched my arm.
"You alright, kid?", he asked.
"Nope. Far from it, to be honest." I flashed a bitter smile. "Shall we?" And with that, I grabbed his hand – like I had usually done with John, and I hated how the Detective's cold skin felt so different from his – and we ran.
Another set of unchanging corridors later, the compass led us to a new door and this time all I felt was dread. After porcelain dolls and bottomless pits, I had no desire to find out what was waiting for us in the supposed last room of this maze. However, we had to hurry if we wanted John and Kira back.
Whatever I had been expecting, it certainly hadn't been a mirror maze.
I saw myself countless times, sometimes distorted, sometimes as a crystal clear reflection. I let go off the Detective's hand and stepped further into the room, closer to one of the mirrors, and looked at my compass, hoping that it would guide us through the labyrinth. But the needle was spinning, with no sign that it would settle soon.
"Fuck!", I cursed. The compass, my lifesaver, was absolutely useless in here. Fine, whatever, it was just a single room. We could manage that. "Stay close to me, Mr. ..." The words died on my tongue as I turned my head and found myself all alone.
"Too slow, Sybille", the voice taunted again. "Last chance, our you'll stay forever."
"Go fuck yourself!" I started to run. With no idea where to go, I ran straight forward until I hit a mirror, where I turned to another direction and repeated the action. After a short while though, I wasn't sure wether I was running in circles or not. Nothing changed, except for the increasing fear on my reflection's face.
Tears rose in my eyes and I tried blinking them away. I stopped in front of a mirror before choosing a new direction, staring at my crying self, when I noticed a movement in the background. I spun around, but there was no one behind me, yet when I looked back at the mirror, John was staring back at me.
"John!", I screamed and tapped against the glass. "John! Can you hear me?"
If he could, he didn't show it, but he lifted his arm and pointed left.
"Oh my god, thank you! Thank you so much!" And I ran off, into the direction he wanted me to.
He was there at the next crossroad. And the one after that. Always there, pointing me in the right direction. And I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, praying that I would make it in time.
Until I found it. The small corpse, surrounded by mirrors, curled up on the floor. I stopped in front of the body and wondered if it was wrong to feel relief at the sight. I didn't matter though. I had made it. "I found it, asshole!", I screamed at the voice. "I found your siblings, now let me and my friends go!"
"As I promised I would", the voice agreed. A cobweb of cracks spread through the mirrors around me and before I understood what was happening, they shattered all at once and glass was raining down around me. I stood between the glittering shards, and in front of me were two doors. One black, one white.
"Which one leads where?", I asked.
"The black one leads outside, where your friends are already waiting", the voice explained. "The blue-eyed man, the Detective, and the dog. All alive and well, like I promised."
"And the other?" Though I couldn't imagine anything I would choose over my friends.
"The white one leads to my hallways. You'll stay, Sybille, keep me company. And in exchange, my three siblings can go home."
"The kids are dead!", I replied.
"I can bring them back", the voice informed me. "I'm a god in these corridors, I can bring them back to life, it wouldn't be a challenge." It giggled. "Think about it, Sybille. Three children, returned to their parents... the Detective would be so happy, wouldn't he? To have a happy ending for his case. And what difference would it make for you, you're stuck either way. Nothing in my corridors would try to kill you. Not like the Midnight Train."
And it was right, maybe it made no difference which prison I'd stay in. I could be a hero. Three lives for one – it should be an easy choice, really. But it would also mean giving up the tiny sliver of hope I still had, that I could find a way to leave the Midnight Train and go home.
I looked at the white door for a moment, then took a few steps forward. "I'm sorry, asshole", I said to the voice. "That's not the kind of person I am."
And so I stepped through the black door, only to find myself on top of the hill again, with John, Kira, and the Detective already waiting for me.
Kira tackled me immediately and I let her, combed my fingers through her fur and reassured her that everything was alright, I was back and we were okay. The next thing I did was throw myself at John and hug him. "I'm so sorry!", I sobbed into his shoulder. "You saved me twice back there, I owe you my life."
"It's okay, Billie", he promised me. "And we're never going outside again."
"Deal!" I let go off him and turned to the Detective. "I'm sorry about the kids."
He just shrugged and took a drag of his cigarette – which was still the same length as it had been when John and I had arrived. "Not your fault, kid."
I didn't correct him.
"We should go back to the train", John said. "Before it drives off without us."
I nodded and grabbed his hand, weirdly anxious that he would just vanish again, even though we had left the corridors behind. Kira was by my side, as always, but what was curious was the fact that the Detective followed us too. "You're coming along?", I asked.
"My case is closed", he answered, as if that explained anything. I didn't question it any further.
The Conductor was waiting for us when we arrived back at the train. "Welcome aboard, sir", he greeted the Detective politely, before turning to us. "Welcome back, sir, ma'am. I hope you had a pleasant trip."
"Sure. Whatever." Now that the adrenaline was leaving my body, I felt nothing but exhausted. I leaned my head against John's shoulder as we walked down the hall, towards our compartments. Although I had never expected to feel this way, I was happy to be back in the train. My resolve to escape the Midnight Train, however, had only hardened. If only to justify my decision back in the corridors.
This is all for now, I guess. Next time, everything goes to shit and more decisions are made.
Until then, be careful which doors you open.
You never know where they lead.
- To Be Continued -
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2023.06.07 19:01 IllustratorOk4631 Lost in the fine print of a situation ship
I have found myself and what could be classified as a Situation-ship but it’s not. I connected with a guy who I’d already known by extension of friends just after Valentine’s Day when I had given up on dating. For the first few weeks we clearly had strong feelings, but didn’t officially go on our first date until about a month in. Things were going really well, we were sharing meals together packing our weekends full of activities together until 2 months in. Even though we were spending a lot of time together, we hadn’t actually defined our relationship. There were a lot of complexities that could get in the way that neither of us wanted to discuss but had hinted at. Proximity, work, emotional availability. We were sitting in his truck talking after going out fishing on his boat for the evening, and the conversation landed on him claiming we weren’t dating after him rambling about how most girls he dated did “these things” “acted this way” “caused this drama” and me replying that I was not like any of those girls. I composed myself well but left in a fluster. And patience got the best of me, so I confronted him on a call on my drive home. He said he wasn’t ready to date again after his last break up, but liked me and still wanted to spend time together. I said I was OK with that and I still think I am. I’m not really looking for a committed relationship right now either, and spending time with him is a blast. But now I’ve kind of found myself in this weird situation-ship and I don’t exactly know what to do. We go on dates fairly often. I’d say at least once a week. We plan adventures together trips lasting one to two days once every couple weeks. We do nice things for each other and we really care about each other, that’s evident to our friends and family. And it’s not like hook ups where it’s kind of a secret. We know each other’s friends, family and see them often. But every now and again we end up talking late at night and he said some things to the ring of “I’m a hopeless romantic” but I’m waiting till I find someone who’s worth it to do the romantic things with. Which begs me to question why am I not worth it? And then sends me into an ego questioning spiral. If he’s holding out for “the one” and I’m not it, why does he want to do all these things with me? Why does he introduce me to his friends and family? It’s confusing at best mind-boggling at the worst. I guess what I’m asking for advice on is what do I do about this feeling I’m having that screams not enough? I knew the terms of the relationship when I signed onto the relationship two months ago. But now I’m feeling like we’re both flirting with the fine print and creeping into what appears as dating, while still calling it a friendship. I am feeling fulfilled in the relationship and I do get a lot out of it. He’s really fun to be around and there are obviously other physical benefits as well. But I don’t super love the parts that leave me feeling less than, not enough, yearning for a full size relationship in exchange for the economy version I’m living right now. To make matters more confusing, he keeps suggesting that we do things in the future together. Like going on trips abroad together, having dinner next week, joining him for double dates, going to a concert with him and his family, and even going with him to adopt a dog. All of which seem very much like girlfriend tasks yet he assures me I am not a girlfriend, and we’re not dating, and he’s waiting for someone who is worth it to come along.
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2023.06.07 18:13 Fit-Way-2893 Chance me (Asian Male Texas)
Chance Me (Asian Male, TX) Asian (South Asian, Indian), male, Houston, Texas, Mid-Upper Class -Class Rank: School doesn't rank GPA: 97.8/100 (weighted) -SAT: Took June 3 2023 AP Course Load: (Courses till junior year) AP Physics 1, AP Bio, AP Chem, AP Language, AP Computer Science Principles, (Courses senior year) AP Calc BC, APES, AP Gov, AP Lit, AP Macroeconomics, Academic Awards-
Presidential Academic Excellence Award 2x Gold Presidential Volunteer Service
Award District Academic Achievement Award
-National Honor Society Extracurriculars
-Stem Cell Research Intern -Genetics Research at UT Austin
- Lead coordinator of blood drive with donated blood to communities in need (HOSA)
- Emergency Medicine Internship
-Black Belt Taekwondo
-Personal research project for a potential treatment ive created for a disease I have, created a website and blog for the treatment
-Volunteer at low income hospital for a year
-Over 200 hours of community service in hospitals
- Shadowed Dentist
-Shadowed ER Doctor
- Neuroscience Research at U Penn (IVY)
- Getting CPR certified
UT Austin (Biology or Neuroscience) U PENN (ED) (Biology or Neuroscience) Texas A&M ( Biology or Neuroscience) Berkely (Biology)
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2023.06.07 18:02 MjolnirPants Jerry and the Adoring Fans: Part 2
"You're right," I said. "I hate it."
"You got a better idea?" Inanna asked. I shook my head. "No, and no time, either, let's go."
"Dude, you need like, a sergeant or something. I got you," the man said as he and his girlfriend or wife followed us back to the lounge.
"What kind of leadership experience do you have?" Inanna asked him.
"Uh, nothing like your husband," he admitted. I couldn't help but smirk. "Good, you've got the job," I said.
"What?" he asked.
"I know how the show portrays things, but in reality, Jerry's less of a leader and more a guy who's just kinda good at planning and really well liked. He's actually more of a lone wolf, really."
He looked at his girlfriend, who looked back. Both of them looked worried. I didn't blame them one bit.
"Okay," Inanna said as we reached the door. "This is on you, babe. Maybe turn your aura on a bit, and give your voice some extra volume."
I felt my cheeks burning. This was even worse than going on stage a few hours ago. At least then, there was some structure, and I had Inanna with me to take some of the attention.
I opened the lounge door and stepped in, the others hot on my heels. I stared at the crowd and felt my heart begin to flutter. Everyone here could die if I failed. So no pressure.
I followed Inanna's advice and let my natural aura slip a little loose. I could feel the weight of the woman's gaze change as it reached her. A second later, a few people, mostly women, nearest to us turned to eye me.
Inanna took my arm in her hand. "Remember, you want to be a little bit arrogant, babe. You don't have to be a dick about it, you just have to be straightforward. Acknowledge who you are and what you've done. Speak straight to them, and above all, act as confident as you can. Maybe work up a little righteous indignation. You're always a lot more confident when you're angry."
I nodded, accepting her advice. I put a little magic into my voice and cleared my throat. The sound was loud, but only a few people noticed in the din inside. People continued to talk and speculate and cry all over the room.
"Excuse me," I said. Nobody really paid me any mind. "Can I have your attention, please?" I asked. Still, nobody noticed. I glanced at Inanna, who shook her heard slightly. I decided to take a different approach and channeled Gary.
"EVERYBODY LISTEN UP!" I shouted, goosing the magic on my voice a bit. My words carried through the large room and a silence fell as all eyes turned to me.
"Okay, that's better," I said. I began to pace back and forth, hands on my hips, trying to strike a confident-looking figure. I was probably failing.
"Most of you probably recognize me from the talk just now. For anyone who doesn't, my name is Jerry Williams. I'm the man whom the character of Jimmy Waters in the television show The Legend of Jimmy
is based on. Not everything in the show is accurate, but the broad strokes are.
"I killed Astoram. I led the takedown of the Cult of Blood. I led the way in the fight against the primordials, and I was the one who killed Sarisa and saved the Sixteenth World. Those parts are all true."
A ragged cheer went up from the crowd, which made me blush again. This was not an appropriate time to cheer.
"As you all know," I continued once I thought they'd be able to make out my words again. "This ship is under attack. For those who didn't see it, it's a kraken. As it turns out, they're much bigger in real life than Hollywood ever prepared us for. The kraken is hunting, and it plans to eat us-" A collective gasp rose from the crowd, but I pushed on.
to. But it's an animal, and I'm a human being, so I'll put my plans against its, any day. But to make my plan work, I need everybody who can to help. As many people as possible. I can't kill or drive this thing off myself, at least not without sinking the ship in the process. But with your help, we can fight this thing off.
"My wife here is going to be producing some weapons. What I need is for everyone who can swing a sword or shoot a rifle to make an orderly line right here and get your weapon. We don't have a lot of time, folks, so it's important that you remain calm and orderly. An old maxim of combat is 'Slow is smooth, smooth is fast,'. We'll finish much faster by remaining orderly than by rushing. So please, start lining up now. Together, we can fight this thing. We can drive it back into the depths, and go home with a story to tell our families."
This time, the cheer was overwhelming. It startled me with its ferocity. Despite my admonition, almost every young man and quite a few middle-aged men, along with a surprising number of women of all ages surged forward, eager to be the first volunteers.
Inanna rushed over to push a couple of square tables together, along with the couple from outside. They got them laid out and got behind them just in time. I had never understood why Inanna kept an entire arsenal of weapons in hammerspace until then. I'd told her many times that there was no way she could use hundreds of slightly-enchanted swords or almost a thousand gen-1 through gen-3 assault rifles and a similar number of handguns she regularly collected from the DCM group in lieu of retiring them (depending on the exact sub-generation, they couldn't always be upgraded to the latest standards of enchantment). But now I understood. She'd been preparing for a day like today.
I wondered idly why it was that people felt the need to look to me as the hero, when really, Inanna was the one they wanted. She was smarter, more experienced, and a better leader than me, no doubt. But she seemed content to be an intimidating figure standing at my side.
I was jealous.
Inanna began producing weapons and handing them out. She didn't let the volunteers choose their weapon, but assigned them as she saw fit. She had quite the variety of weapons, too. Shorter folks got polearms, mostly large Dane axes with six-foot hafts. Larger folks got swords, either knightly sword or viking swords, but the largest folks got longswords and -in the case of a six-foot three woman with broad shoulders- a zweihander, not unlike Inanna's own blade.
The guns were also distributed to anyone who professed any military or other shooting experience. These, she passed out purely by request, asking if they'd prefer a rifle or handgun. I was initially surprised at the number who chose a handgun, until I remembered that a lot of people would have experience shooting those at gun ranges and in large, rural back yards. She quickly got the couple involved, so they could serve three people at a time. With each interaction taking only four or five seconds, we were arming several dozen people a minute to start with. Inanna was even smarter than I originally thought, though, and she began hauling out weapons by the armful and dumping them off, grabbing the occasional newly-armed volunteer and pulling them behind their impromptu counter to help assign weapons.
Soon, she was off the line entirely, letting the others do the assigning as she continued to add to a pile of swords and a pile of guns. A dozen people stood behind the table two minutes in, each one assigning a dozen weapons a minute.
The ship shook three more times as we passed everything out. I had each person join me outside after they'd retrieved their weapon. A few of the people with guns took potshots at the giant tentacles, but I had them lower their weapons. For this to work, we all had to attack at once. We needed to surprise the beast with pain.
Finally, Inanna joined me outside, letting me know she was there by slipping a hand between my legs to fondle me. I turned to face her and planted a kiss on her forehead. "You ready?" I asked.
"To be the first to ever fight off a kraken?" she asked with a laugh. "Fuck yeah."
I nodded and added more magic to my voice.
"Okay, listen up! I need to group you up into units! I need a hundred people per unit, that's about one for each of the eight tentacles-" I was interrupted by one of the ship's massive smoke stacks being ripped free by one of the tightening tentacles. As soon as it finished collapsing, I continued.
"Start grouping up now! We don't have a lot of time!"
The man -I still hadn't caught his name- from the couple who'd been helping us rushed forward and began grabbing people, assigning them the task of leading units. Huh, that was quite inspired. Maybe he should be leading.... I glanced over to see Inanna giving me a slight shake of the head, having figured out what I was just thinking. I shrugged and looked back to the crowd, which was now showing some divisions as people clumped up. I waited a few more seconds for the scattered people still not in a group to get into one before I continued.
"Okay, You guys are team one," I said. "Head all the way aft, to the very last tentacle. Start attacking as soon as you hear the rest of us shooting. The folks with swords will chop the bottoms of the tentacles, the folks with guns will shoot the tops. Try to get your people into the best positions to do the most damage possible. Go."
The group turned and began to jog aft.
"Okay," I said, gesturing to another group. "You're team two. Same instructions, just pick the next tentacle up. Go."
The other teams began to follow, not needing any more instruction.
"How much time do we give them?" I asked Inanna.
"Three minutes," she said without hesitation. I nodded, as that sounded about right. Still, it was going to be a long three minutes. The ship continued to creak and groan from the strain of the tightening tentacles.
"This is gonna be close," the woman said. I took my chance. "Hey, what's your name?" I asked.
"I'm Charlize, and my brother is Jason," she said.
"Your brother? Oh, I thought you two were, uh..." I stammered. She flashed me a grin. "We're from Alabama, but not that
part of the state."
"I uh, just didn't expect a... A brother and sister to take a cruise... I mean... Ugh. Sorry. It's fine, apologies if I offended you."
The woman looked at Inanna, an eyebrow quirked. Inanna nodded. "Always. It's a part of his charm."
I watched the last team get into position near the closest tentacle. "Okay," I said. "Let's join them."
We all ran over. I decided to use my sword, summoning Godslayer from hammerspace. As the blade appeared in my hand, the magic caused everyone around me to turn and look. The shimmering air around the blade raised a lot of eyebrows.
"Wow, I can feel
that thing," one woman muttered.
"I've been layering enchantments on it for years," I explained.
"Did you name it? All cool swords need a name," a younger guy who looked to be a fellow after my own (nerdy) heart asked. I pursed my lips and balked at the ridiculous question.
"Of course," I said. "This is Godslayer."
"Holy shit!" he said, his eyes widening. A few others turned to check it out.
"Yes, this is the sword I killed Sarisa with. I also took Tysrane's hand with it, but that's... I'm not exactly proud of that," I said.
"Bet Tysrane isn't, either," the nerdy guy said. The woman who'd first spoken looked at him and said, "Bet Tysrane makes a point of not pissing off Jim- er, Jerry."
"Fuck yeah," the nerdy guy mumbled. I blushed.
"Is everyone ready?" I asked loudly. A ragged chorus of agreements greeted me. I realized I should be more inspiring, so I tried again, adding the magic back to my voice.
"Are we all ready to show this thing what happens when it messes with us?!" I shouted. A harsh cheer erupted.
"Lets go, then!" I yelled at the top of my lungs and rushed forward to the giant mass of glistening flesh before me. Gunfire erupted behind me as me and dozens of others began slashing into the tentacle.
As the assault picked up in pace, a new sound emerged. It started as the crackle of broken parts of the ship's superstructure, the tentacles writhing in response to the sudden pain. But it changed into a gurgling roar that grew louder and louder.
Suddenly, the roar grew more hoarse and I glanced aside to see a massive shape rising behind the structure to my left. Using a bit of magic, I jumped onto the roof and rushed to the edge.
The kraken's body had broken the surface. I could see where the tentacles joined the body, and in between them, the beast's mouth. It didn't have a beak like an octopus or a squid, but a massive, gaping maw full of sharp, pointy teeth. As the mouth rose above the water, the sound grew deafening, drowning out even the gunfire.
I stared at the thing as the mouth closed and sort of drew back into the body, the roar dying out. With a sudden loud hissing sound, the mouth shot back out, almost like a goblin shark's jaws, opening wide and releasing an enormous spray of a steaming black liquid.
The fluid splashed over the ship, smoking and bubbling where it landed. A few people were splattered with it, and each and every one of them screamed and began to try to wipe the sticky substance off themselves.
"Get them to the pools!" I shouted. "Get the injured to the pools!" A few people heard me and I watched as one burly older gentleman grabbed a flailing young lady, tossed her over his shoulder, and rushed to the pool. He splattered himself with the fluid, which bubbled and smoked as it struck him, but he paid it no mind. When he reached the pool, he jumped in with the woman, and I saw him drag her under and start stripping her clothes. More bodies splashed into the pool, and I nodded in approval. Taking off whatever clothing was soaked in the stuff was a good idea.
I turned back to see the beast sucking its jaw back in again. This was no good. It had already knocked about one in ten people off the line, either suffering from whatever kind of acid this was, or helping those so afflicted. If it kept this up, it would stop us.
That's when I realized that my first plan was viable now. Its body was out of the water. I could target it, right now, and end this.
I rose into the air, charging my strike. I dismissed Godslayer and, having learned from my efforts against the primordials, dismissed my clothes as well. I really liked that T-shirt.
I flew up and away from the beast, reaching a point about two hundred yards away from the ship. I could see the ends of tentacles in the water below me, really speaking to the size of the creature, as those tentacles were currently still wrapped around the ship.
I closed my eyes and prayed. "Please let go, please
let go." I opened my eyes back up and waited.
The beast spat more acid onto the deck, but it had already splattered the people nearest to its mouth, and those near to them had helped. Only a few people caught some of the acid, and a few more stopped to help them get in the water.
The beast was thrashing now. I could see the ship rocking back and forth, and the tentacles were coming loose and tightening down. I watched, waiting for my chance.
Finally, blessedly, it happened. Six of the tentacles lifted up, the ends slipping out of the water. They were no longer grasping the ship, having pulled back to end the pain our ragtag army was inflicting.
I drew in as much power as I could manage and shot forward, my shield forming a shell around me.
---- Charlize Mayberry, Totally Not Fucking Her Brother, Jesus Christ, They're Just Best Friends, I Mean, it's Her Brother For Crying Out Loud
Charlize watched as Jerry made the inhuman jump to the structure to her left to survey the battle. She could see the kraken's body, and she could see Jerry's shoulders and head as he regarded it.
He looked even more impressive than his counterpart in the show. Magic that she could see and feel surrounded him, making him crackle with strange colors she couldn't give name to. His sword shimmered, the blade a thing of immense gravity, drawing the eye to it. His shoulders were firmly set, and even from behind, she could sense the grim determination. She remembered a scene from the show, where Karen had watched him and whispered "Angel of Death," and she decided right then and there that that scene had actually happened.
When the kraken spat some kind of burning black bile over everyone, she heard him shouting, as if he'd been prepared for this. She found a man screaming to her right, trying to get the stuff off his face. "Come on!" she yelled, grabbing one of his hands and rushing him to the pool. By the time she got there, the water was gray and muddy, and partially or entirely naked people with serious-looking burns were climbing back out. She shoved the guy in, watching him go under. A few seconds later, he emerged, scrubbing at his face.
"Oh god, oh god, oh god... Thank you," he said, his eyes still squeezed shut. She could see the wound on his cheek where the acid had eaten into the skin, but he had managed to rinse most of it away.
"Come on," she called, "Get out." He blinked his eyes open, then swam to the edge. More people were coming in, and she worried that the pool water might get saturated with enough of the acid to become acidic, itself.
Charlize helped the man out of the pool, then turned to look back down the ship. The tentacles were rising, one after another, trying to escape the pain of gripping the vessel. Those armed with guns continued to fire, pouring lead into the savaged appendages as those with melee weapons caught their breaths.
She watched as all but two of the tentacle lifted off the ship. Hope swelled in her breast and she glanced over at a burly, older man with no shirt on, leaning on his knees and catching his breath, next to a younger woman in nothing but a pair of panties, laying on the deck with burns all over her legs and torso.
The man caught her gaze and flashed her a grim smile. "Almost," he said. Charlize nodded and raised her rifle, shooting at the distant tentacles that remained attached to the ship.
She had only fired once or twice when the entire ship shuddered and a deafening crack caused her to look up. She saw a golden streak flash into and through the beast's body, which was more clearly seen from her current position on the pool deck.
The kraken simply exploded.
Chunks of wet, slippery flesh flew outward with enough force to bowl over anyone they struck and leave dents in the metal sides of the ship. The two remaining tentacles on the ship let go, pulling back under the water as the six in the air flopped down, sending a cleansing wave of seawater over the deck.
The water ran red with the kraken's blood as it swept over the sides, carrying chunks of monster and a few people who'd been caught off guard with it. Charlize grabbed one guy and helped him catch his footing before the flow subsides.
She straightened up and looked over to where the dead beast was sinking beneath the surface. A gold-glowing figure emerged from the water, and Charlize recognized Jerry.
He was naked. His body was hard and tightly muscled, but lean and agile-looking. His skin glowed with a golden light, and she could see red lightning playing about his skin as he rose into the air and then glided over to the ship and sat back down.
The crowd, who had begun cheering at the beast's death, fell into a hush of awe as the all turned to the glowing figure. He exuded power, commanding every eye to look at him. His feet settled down on the deck and he walked forward.
With a sudden rush of heat in her cheeks, Charlize realized that he was rocking an enormous hard-on. Like, impressively big. If she'd seen one like that in a porno, she'd have assumed it was CGI or a prosthetic. If she'd been able to think straight, she'd probably have found it a little ridiculous.
He walked past her, turning his head and clasping her shoulder. "Thank you," he said with a smile. Her knees went weak as his touch and she began to reflect upon the fact that, at least in the show, Ishtar loved to bring women home for herself and Jimmy.
She watched him thank everyone he passed, until he finally found his wife. They embraced, and then a few seconds later, they vanished.
Charlize caught her breath and let her heartbeat slow down. A woman approached her, and she recognized her as the last person whose question Jerry had declined to answer during the talk.
"Do you know where there cabin is?" she asked. Charlize shook her head. Another woman approached, holding hands with an effeminate-looking man carrying a handgun. "They're in the Princess Suite, it's in the big stack up fore," she said with a gesture.
"I'm gonna go see if they're there," the first woman said breathlessly. The couple nodded, and all three of them took off. Jason put his hand on her shoulder and she looked at him.
"I'm, uh..." Charlize said, making up her mind right then and there. "I'm gonna go do something. I'll be around in a bit."
She hurried inside, found an elevator to ride to the top floor and the hurried down until she saw the door labeled "Princess Suite". She knocked on it.
A second later, the door was opened by a naked woman that Charlize didn't recognize. Looking past her, she could see a tangle of limbs. Moans and gasps already filled the air.
The woman stepped aside as Charlize stepped in and immediately began tugging at her shirt.
---- Jerry Williams, Just Wants a Quiet Vacation For Once In His Life
The next morning, I sat on a deck chair on the upper observation deck as the ship pulled into port for repairs. We'd all been given vouchers for a new cruise, as compensation for the one cut short by the attack. The captain of the ship had come to personally thank me for rallying the defense. Unfortunately, she'd done this during the orgy Inanna had organized right after the attack, and it had taken the bridge crew over an hour to locate her when she failed to return.
I winced, thinking about that.
Inanna had turned her chair to face mine and had her legs on my lap. A few other people were also laid out with us. Mostly women, but a few men as well. All of us had come up here from my cabin. All of us were naked, and though this wasn't a nudist cruise, nobody seemed inclined to complain. The staff had recognized Inanna and I, and we were being waited on hand and foot.
I took a sip of my champagne and rubbed Inanna's shin.
"See?" she said. I glanced over to see the sun glistening off the light sheen of sweat coating her dusky skin. God, she was so beautiful.
"It wasn't so hard, was it?"
"I'm still not so sure I'm cut out to be a leader. And I'm still not convinced that the risk of me turning in the asshole from my visions is past," I said.
"Bah," she replied dismissively. "You are a leader, whether you like it or not. You're a hero
, like it or not. I know you wouldn't have chosen this position, but it's been chosen for you, and the best thing you could do is be the best damn hero you can be."
I thought about that for a minute, and honestly, I couldn't argue the point. Maybe she was right, and I should do a bit more in terms of being a good hero, instead of just keeping my head down and trying to help where I could.
"Besides," she continued a moment later. "Emperor Gerald had sixty years of Sarisa whispering in his ear to get that way. You've got me. I'll keep you on the straight and girthy."
I laughed. "Straight and narrow," I corrected.
"It's anything but narrow," she replied mildly. "Although, now that I think about it, I prefer when I'm the one on the straight and girthy." She reached down to grab my hand and pull it up to her pubic hair. I gave it a little tug, then ran my fingers along the stretch marks at the base of her belly. Those were possibly the sexiest part of her whole body, and even the least sexy part of her was jaw-dropping. She opened an eye to frown at me, until her gaze roamed down and noticed the effect that touching them was having on a different part of me. Her feet shifted over to that part and I felt that old familiar thrill as she touched me. It was just as intense this time as it had been the first time.
"Ready for another?" she asked.
"I think we should relax for a bit," I said. Inanna smirked and her eyes focused past me. "They don't," she said. I glanced behind to see two of the women from the orgy walking over.
"You forgot to turn your aura off, love," she said as she set up and moved to sit on my lap.
"Here we go again," I groaned as hands and lips began to touch me.
Don't tell anyone, but in all candor, this was the part of being a hero I enjoyed the most.
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2023.06.07 17:56 uggsandstarbux Defending the Draft 2023: Minnesota Vikings
2022 was a dangerous year to be a Vikings fan, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition. While a season of 13 wins -- tied for the most since 1998 -- may seem like the team is in a position to make a Superbowl push, the actual quality of the team is a lot more... well, mediocre.
The 2022 Vikings ranked 19th in offensive EPA per play, 25th in defensive EPA per play, 27th in Overall DVOA, and 15th in Pythagorean Wins (with 8.4 expected wins). Kevin O'Connell always preached the performance of the team in priority situations. The team finished 12th in 3rd down conversion rate and 8th in red zone conversion rate. And the team led the league -- by far -- in the number of 4th quarter comebacks and game winning drives. When it was time to put up or shut up, the team put up hard. Except for in the playoffs.
All of that made the future of the Vikings tough to read. But Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the rest of the front office told us what they thought of the team with their free agency moves. In a league where teams are trading the farm for Hall of Fame QBs and giving $20M/Year deals to nose tackles and guards, the Vikings' big free agent splash were a one year deal on an injury-prone DE and a good-not-great corner that doesn't even crack the top 20 highest AAVs at the position. Concurrently, the team parted ways with half of the team's 2022 captains to try to get under the cap. All of this while the team is not done with transactions -- Dalvin Cook still presents as a cut candidate due to his age and contract structure. Notable Departures:
- WR Adam Thielen ($6.4 Saved / $13.5 Dead)
- LB Eric Kendricks ($9.5 Saved / $1.93 Dead)
- CB Patrick Peterson (Unrestricted Free Agent)
- DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Unrestricted Free Agent)
- EDGE Za'Darius Smith (Post-draft trade)
Other Notable Transactions:
- CB Byron Murphy (2Y / $17.5TOT / $8.1GTD)
- EDGE Marcus Davenport (1Y / $13TOT / $10GTD)
- TE Josh Oliver (3Y / $21TOT / $8.2GTD)
- DT Dean Lowry (2Y / $8.5TOT / $4.2GTD)
- Re-Signed C Garrett Bradbury (3Y / $15.75TOT / $5.15GTD)
- Re-Signed RB Alexander Mattison (2Y / $7TOT / $6.35GTD)
- Re-Signed FB CJ Ham (3Y / $5.6TOT / $3.3GTD)
- Re-Signed All-Pro LS Andrew DePaola (3Y / $4.025TOT / $1.515GTD)
The other major change that influenced how the team addresses the draft was the shift from Ed Donatell's Cover 2 shell defense to Brian Flores's aggressive man defense. Compared to the 2022 Vikings, Flores's 2021 Dolphins blitzed over twice as often and played with light boxes at roughly half the rate. On top of the front seven, one of the biggest changes in scheme is the Cover 2 alignment, which Donatell employed on nearly half of all defensive snaps compared to just 12% for Flores's 2021 Miami team. With one crop of rookies and free agents brought in to play in a Fangio style scheme, the defense would have to undergo a massive shift to succeed in a scheme that can only be described as the complete opposite of what was run in 2022. Cornerback
- Arguably the Vikings' biggest need, the team was without a true CB1. Byron Murphy comes aboard as the most experienced player. Pegged a slot-only player through his first three years, Murphy spent most of his time in 2022 outside and had a career year. After that, the team looked to rely on improvements from their 2022 draft class with Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, two players that combined for fewer than 300 defensive snaps last season primarily due to injury. You can see how KAM and crew, confident in their scouting ability, are betting on health to affect the secondary for the better. But taking another bet on a young player is a smart move at a position where depth is always a good thing. Interior Defensive Line
- The loss of Dalvin Tomlinson -- who played 551 snaps last year and compiled 14 pressures -- leaves issues next to Harrison Phillips. Jonathan Bullard was third on the IDL with 319 snaps last season and returns on a one year deal. Tonga and Lynch had some flashes, and the team brought in Lowry. The rotation (optimistically) can get to competent. But finding a true winner on the inside of the line was viewed by many as a priority. Wide Receiver
- The Vikings starting personnel at WR heading in to the draft was Justin Jefferson (stud), KJ Osborn (decent), and... Jalen Nailor? Brandon Powell? Oh dear Lord don't tell me it's Jalen Reagor. The loss of Adam Thielen was expected, but nevertheless leaves a gaping hole next to JJ and KJ in the lineup. Keenan McCardell is arguably the best WR coach in the league, and playing with Jefferson would give one-on-one opportunities for any receiver. But having somebody that can actually win those one-on-ones remains a question. Inside Linebacker
- Eric Kendricks's jersey change marks the true end of an era at LB. Kendricks struggled in Donatell's scheme last season, as did most players. But he was a longtime leader on the defense and a valued community member. Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah, and Troy Reeder sit atop the depth chart. Hicks can be solid and Asamoah had flashes, but counting on this group as every down players is a risk to say the least. Offensive Guard
- Ed Ingram was one of the worst starting guards in the league last season. But he's a rookie. Maybe he gets better in year 2. Maybe he stays terrible. Even if you're optimistic there, Ezra Cleveland is entering a contract year at left guard. Adding interior offensive line depth is always smart. Quarterback
- This offseason, reports surfaced that the team and QB Kirk Cousins could not finalize a contract extension. That means for the first time in his Vikings tenure, Cousins is entering a contract year. Cousins has been an above average QB during his time in Minnesota. Last year saw him finish 4th in yards, but he was painfully mediocre at efficiency stats like TD percent (17th), ANY/A (18th), and ADOT (20th). Entering his age-35 season, it would be wise to look for a successor even if the team plans on retaining Cousins past 2023.
*Indicates measure is taken from Pro Day 1.23 WR Jordan Addison, USC Profile: Jr 5'11 173lbs 31.5 Arm\
8.75 Hand 75.125 Wing* 4.49 40 1.57 10 34 VJ 10'2 BJ 4.19 SS* 7.05 3c 5.95 RAS* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 59 Rec 875 Yds 8 TD 2 Drops Steve Smith Sr
: "Addison has one of the highest ceilings among WRs in this draft due to his blend of route running chops and his all around athleticism. He is a three level route runner: intermediate, deep, and short... The way he can get in and out of his breaks is so natural. He uses leverage. And he manipulates the DB consistently"
Addison -- a Biletnikoff Award winner during his Pitt days -- is one of the highest floor players in the class. He is a route running technician with proven dominance playing inside and outside. He had more than 3 yards per route run in two different offenses. He understands how to marry his athleticism and quickness with the breaks in his routes. He finds the DB's blind spot and forces them to lose. Addison is a bit on the small side, but not abnormally so given this draft class. He does have some concerns with his hands -- his drop rates as a freshman and sophomore were 14% and 10%, respectively -- but he showed improvement in this as a junior.
The need here is clear. As mentioned earlier, the WR depth past JJ and KJ is abysmal. Even with Thielen and Osborn on the roster in 2022, the Vikings needed juice in the WR room. The 2022 Vikings had one top 5 WR in yards per route run (Jefferson). There was no other receiver in the top 100. Teams were not worried about Thielen or Osborn. Teams could put two or three defenders on Jefferson without any fear of what anyone else might do to their defense. Hockenson fixed this a bit down the stretch, but an outside playmaker was still needed.
The real question here is why the team opted not to go for CB Joey Porter Jr, who filled what many considered to be the team's biggest need and was a higher ranked prospect for Lance Zierlein, PFF, Danny Kelly, Matt Miller, and Dane Brugler. The answer here -- if I can take a guess and stretch my logic a bit -- is that the need at WR2 was greater than the need at CB. Patrick Peterson was the biggest loss in the secondary, and the team brought in Byron Murphy to try to fill that role. On offense, Minnesota had not brought in a replacement for Adam Thielen. The depth chart past Jefferson and Osborn was filled with bodies that might not make a 53-man roster on a lot of teams. Trade: SF gives 3.87 to MIN for 3.102, 5.164, 7.222
| ||Jimmy Johnson ||Rich Hill ||Fitzgerald-Spielberger ||Harvard |
|Total give ||155 ||48 ||737 ||115 |
|Total get ||117.7 ||45 ||1334 ||197 |
|Absolute Diff ||-37.3 ||-3 ||+597 ||+82 |
|Percent Diff ||-24% ||-6% ||+81% ||+71% |
The biggest thing to consider when evaluating this trade is that the Vikings came into the draft with 5 picks, only two of which were in the top 100. In my biased opinion, this was a home run trade, even if the traditional charts disagree. To take three swings at the bat instead of one is a humble and wise strategy, especially for a team with limited draft capital. The move looks even better in hindsight because there were no CBs taken between 87 and 102. 3.102 CB Mekhi Blackmon, USC Profile: 6Sr 5'11" 178lbs 31" Arm 9.25" Hand 74.625" Wing 4.47 40 1.47 10 36 VJ 10'5" BJ 11 Bench 7.44 RAS 2022 Stats: 14 Gm 66 TKL 2 TFL 1 FF 15 PD 3 INT
Brett Kollman: "Feisty, physical press corner who definitely has to play more under control in the NFL to avoid flags, but he has all the competitiveness you want to see from a potential CB1 at the next level. Never backs down from anyone. Has easy gas to stay in control of a route from top down, even against true burners. Legit 4.4 speed and gets up to it quickly. Outstanding ball production... Held up extremely well despite being targeted often. Battle tested, aggressive, and confident... Very similar to Desmond Trufant."
An unrecruited high school positionless player out of high school that signed with JuCo San Mateo, Blackmon followed up four seasons at Colorado with a breakout 2022 campaign as one of the best defenders on the USC defense. The Trojans played a man-heavy scheme, which let Blackmon shine. He has great anticipation and instincts. His production this year says as much. He plays bigger than his size, and he has inside-outside versatility. He will have to clean up some of his physicality to avoid flags at the next level. He will also have to refine his technique to stay with the more complex routes he'll see. But he is a strong culture and scheme fit for what Brian Flores is bringing to the defense.
The need at CB was obvious even before hiring Flores. The Vikings ranked 31st in passing yards allowed, 26th in Passing DVOA, and 24th in EPA allowed per pass attempt. Bringing in Byron Murphy helps. So do the healthy returns of Booth and Evans. But Murphy has not yet shown that he can be a consistently great player (or at least not markedly better than what we got out of Patrick Peterson last year). And Booth and Evans are unproven. Blackmon -- taken with the last pick on Day 2 -- is not expected to come in and be Jalen Ramsey or Sauce Gardner. But in a shift to a more aggressive man-coverage defense with a thin CB room, Blackmon is an upside player that will have every chance to take a starting spot on a porous defense. Trade: MIN gives 4.119 to KC for 4.134, 2024 5th\
| ||Jimmy Johnson ||Rich Hill ||Fitzgerald-Spielberger ||Harvard |
|Total give ||56 ||24 ||578 ||88 |
|Total get ||58.4 ||24 ||898 ||133 |
|Absolute Diff ||+2.4 ||0 ||+320 ||+45 |
|Percent Diff ||+4% ||0% ||+36% ||+34% |
On top of entering the weekend with a mere 5 draft picks in the current year, the Vikings also entered with a mere 5 draft picks in the 2024 class (3rd rounder traded for Hockenson, 5th rounder traded for Reagor). Dropping 15 picks in a relatively flat part of the draft while adding a mid-Day 3 pick is good business given this team's lack of capital.
*Here we assume a future pick in round n
is valued at the middle pick of round n+1
, not accounting for compensatory picks. In this case, a 2024 5th is equated to pick 176. 4.134 S Jay Ward, LSU Profile: Sr 6'0.5" 188lbs 32.5" Arm 8.25" Hand 76.875" Wing 4.55 40 1.54 10 34.5 VJ 11' BJ 4.35 Shuttle\
7.31 3c 16 Bench 6.70 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 60 TKL 2.5 TFL 5 PD 1 INT 2 FR TD
Nate Tice: "A ton of fun. I just like this fit because of Brian Flores's defense. Just picture all of those mixture guys that the Patriots have used over the years... Jay Ward can be that"
A three year starter with reps at safety, slot, and outside CB, Ward is one of the most versatile players in the class. He possesses excellent length and movement skills. His experience at CB make him a fluid player in coverage. In the run game, Ward's size is a concern. His 188lbs Combine weight puts him in just the second percentile for safeties. This translates to issues with taking on blocks. He is a very aggressive player, beelining to the ball as soon as it's out. But his size coupled with his impatient playstyle lead to a lot of missed tackles. He was also flagged seven times last season.
In his final season in Miami, Flores was extremely creative with how he employed his safeties. Jevon Holland had the 2nd most blitzes in the league at the position. The number 1 player? His teammate Brandon Jones. With the defense taking on Flores's amoeba identity, an aggressive player with experience at multiple positions has the potential to find a role early on. The defense will look to utilize him similar to how Jevon Holland was used as a rookie. And with Harrison Smith well into the twilight of his career, Ward is a timely pick as the team attempts to thread the needle in their competitive rebuild. Trade: MIN gives 5.158, 6.211 to IND for 5.141
| ||Jimmy Johnson ||Rich Hill ||Fitzgerald-Spielberger ||Harvard |
|Total give ||32.4 ||13 ||722 ||103 |
|Total get ||36 ||15 ||492 ||74 |
|Absolute Diff ||+4 ||+2 ||-230 ||-29 |
|Percent Diff ||+10% ||+13% ||-47% ||-39% |
It's a bit strange to see Adofo-Mensah move away from the analytics charts in favor of the traditional ones, but the value swap here is not absurd. The real question with this trade will be if Roy ends up being a true contributor. 5.141 NT Jaquelin Roy, LSU Profile: Jr 6'3" 305lbs 32.75" Arm 10.125" Hand 78.125" Wing 5.13 40\
1.82 10* 26" VJ* 8'5" BJ* 5.00 Shuttle 8.01 3c 30 Bench 3.72 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 49 TKL 3.5 TFL 0.5 SCK
Lance Zierlein: " The more you watch, the more you like the way Roy plays the game... Despite limited starting experience at LSU, he already displays signs of a rush plan and the athletic talent to execute it. Roy is an ascending talent with the potential to become a quality starter. "
After a 30 tackle, 1.5 sack campaign as a rotational player in 2021, Roy shifted from a penetrating 3T position to more of a traditional nose tackle under new HC Brian Kelly. This transition let Roy shine as a run stuffer. He eats space and is incredibly tough to move from his spot. He averaged almost 52 snaps a game in 2022 and his motor never let up. He has some work to do if he wants to be a three down player, particularly as a pass rusher. His bend and balance in this front are especially lacking.
The Vikings' front office seems to be a lot more comfortable with the current IDL room than I am. Harrison Phillips is a plus starter. Past that, the roster is filled with unproven youth or proven subpar players. As a 5th round pick, Roy has an uphill battle to separate himself from that group. But he's a good lottery ticket at this price. His positional versatility ensures that the defense can simply put their best players on the field. 5.164 QB Jaren Hall, BYU Profile: RSr 6'0" 207lbs 39.75" Arm 9.5" Hand 71.875" Wing 4.63 40\
1.59 10* 4.19 Shuttle* 7.06 3c* 7.96 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 248 Comp 376 Att 66% Comp 3171 Yds 31 TD 6 INT 86 Rush 789 Rush Yds 9 RUsh TD
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah: "We added a really talented player that has a ton of upside... The ability to make decisions, throw the football accuracy, deal with conflict when it comes his way, and sometimes try to make a play outside the framework of the playcall. He does all those things at a really great level... That's an outstanding young man. I'd like to see him lead my team or any organization I'm a part of."
Despite being the third oldest prospect in the QB class, Hall only has 24 starts under his belt due to two years on religious mission and one year with a hip injury. But when Hall took over for Zach Wilson in 2021, he hit the ground running. BYU went 10-3 in that first year with Hall compiling a 4:1 TD:INT ratio. He is a two time team captain, and all reports of his character are off the charts.
Hall is a poised pocket passer capable of extending plays and picking up yardage on the ground. He was only sacked 12 times in 2022, which is a testament to both BYU's offensive line and Hall's ability to create under pressure. There are conflicting opinions on Hall's upside and arm strength, with Lance Zierlein calling his arm "unimpressive" while Kyle Crabbs claiming that hall has a "live arm with the ability to throw with juice off platform". Where there was near-universal agreement was in his understanding of the scheme, as Hall operated BYU's RPO-heavy offense like a machine. He has a clean release and quickly gets into a rhythm. His largest universal concerns are his age (he turned 25 in March) and his injury history (missed 20 games in the last 4 years). He also has ball security issues with 13 fumbles over his career.
I expected the Vikings to draft a QB in this class. The only question was if it would have been via a trade up on Day 1 or a flyer on Day 3 (or a falling Will Levis). With his age, size, and injury history, there are plenty of questions about what Hall can be. He will have a year in practice to put together his audition tape to be Kirk Cousins's replacement -- it's certainly a viable path for this team to take a RiddeHowell/Mills-esque year to evaluate Hall while they continue retooling the defense. But the more likely path is that Hall becomes a long-term backup for the team. Cousins has been the model of health, but that doesn't mean that QB2 is an unimportant position. Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond, and Nick Mullens have manned that position to various degrees over the past few years. None has shown that they can be a competent plug-in player if needed. There is some hope that Hall -- who operated the BYU offense with a mechanic efficiency -- can be that player. 7.222 RB DeWayne McBride, UAB Profile: Jr 5'10" 209lbs 30.625" Arms 9.5" Hands 73.125" Wing 20 Bench\
* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 233 Att 1713 Yds 19 TD 7.4 Y/A 2 Rec 10 Rec Yds
Dane Brugler: "Overall, McBride is unproven as a pass catcher and blocker, which might restrict his NFL role, but his contact balance, vision and lateral agility are among the best this running back draft class has to offer"
In an era of advanced metrics and Combine showmanship, perhaps the trait that has gone underappreciated more than any other in RB scouting is balance. McBride may have the best balance in the entire RB class outside of Bijan Robinson. He comes from a heavy outside zone scheme at UAB, where he led the FBS in yards per game and set school records for single-game and single-season rushing. McBride absorbs contact like a sponge. His short area burst is strong, and he makes defenders miss with power and finesse. McBride has ideal size and toughness. His concerns are simple. He was not utilized as a receiver in college, and he had more career fumbles than catches in that time. McBride profiles as a two-down player at the next level. Although Adofo-Mensah has voiced his belief that McBride's passing game usage was a product of scheme rather than ability, McBride still has to prove that he is more than just a short yardage runner in the NFL.
After spending a pick in back to back years on RB and re-signing Mattison to a modest contract, RB was a bit of an unexpected pick for this regime. Dalvin Cook still seems to be movable (a likely cut candidate at this point), which would make this pick more logical. Chandler struggled with injuries as a rookie, but both he and Nwangwu profile more as speedy scatbacks than true between-the-tackle runners like Mattison. Even Mattison has never been a true three-down back. McBride plays much more similarly to Mattison than the other backs on the team. He will try to carve out a role behind him as the future thunder to the lightning provided by Chandler and Nwangwu.
UDFA FB Zach Ojile, Minnesota Duluth Profile: 6Sr 6'0" 241lbs 31.5" Arms 8.5" Hands 75.5" Wing 4.78 40\
1.79 10* 31" VJ* 9'1" BJ* 4.40 Shuttle* 31 Bench* 4.15 RAS* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 12 Rush 53 Rush Yds 3 Rush TD 25 Rec 289 Rec Yds 5 Rec TD
A Twin Cities native, Ojile was a late addition to the roster, joining after a May rookie minicamp tryout. Ojile played LB, QB, FS, and RB in high school but found a role as an H-Back at UMD. He served as a team captain the past two seasons and finishes his collegiate career with over 1100 total yards and 24 total TDs. He was an All-Conference player for the DII NSIC Bulldogs. Whether Ojile participates at FB or TE, he'll need to prove his versatility to beat out the veterans on the depth chart. Working in his favor is Kevin O'Connell's shift to a more base-heavy offense in 2023. WR Cephus Johnson, Southeastern Louisiana Profile: 6Sr 6'4" 223lbs 33.25" Arm\
8.5" Hand* 78.625" WIng* 4.57 40* 1.59 10* 36.5" VJ* 10'1" BJ* 4.39 Shuttle* 7.25 3c* 18 Bench* 9.48 RAS* 2022 Stats: 11 Gm 184 Pass Att 65% Comp 1354 Pass Yds 10 Pass TD 5 INT 89 Rush 488 Rush Yds 5 Rush TD
Johnson is making the fulltime switch from QB to WR as he attempts to latch on to an NFL practice squad. He earned the starting role for South Alabama as a redshirt junior before transferring to SE Louisiana, where he took some snaps at WR in spring games. Johnson's stats were unimpressive as a starting QB, notching just 1354 yards and a 2:1 TD:INT ratio in 11 starts. He has good size and instincts as a runner, but he has basically no experience playing WR. WR Lucky Jackson, W Kentucky / XFL DC Defenders Profile: RSr 6'0" 179lbs 9.624" Hand\
32.25" Arm* 75.875" Wing** 2023 Stats: 10 Gm 36 Rec 572 Yds 5 TD 1 Fmb
Jackson last put on a college uniform before the pandemic for Western Kentucky, where his 2019 season saw him put up over 1100 yards on 94 receptions. Following his college days, Jackson spent time in the CFL and the Spring League before joining the XFL's DC Defenders and becoming an All-XFL receiver. WR Malik Knowles, Kansas St Profile: RSr 6'2" 196lbs 32.25" Arm 8.75" Hand 77.625" Wing 2022 Stats: 14 Gm 48 Rec 725 YDs 2 TD 8 Rush 164 Rush Yds 3 Rush TD 23 KR 592 KR Yds
Knowles is a vertical threat with good size and length. He offers value as a kick returner and leaves Kansas State with a top 5 rank in all-purpose yards. Knowles is an undeveloped route runner that struggles with quick change-of-direction. He also has trouble with press coverage. He'll need to prove his value on special teams, where he has plenty of collegiate experience as a kick returner. WR Grant Maag, North Dakota Profile: 5Sr 6'4" 206lbs 9.25" Hand\
31.875" Arm* 77.625" Wing* 4.49 40YD* 1.60 10YS* 40.5" VJ* 10'5" BJ* 4.34 Shuttle* 6.90 3c* 8.50 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 41 Rec 540 Yds 5 TDs
Maag was brought in following the announcement of Ben Ellefson's retirement. He is an Inver Grove Heights native and a graduate of St Croix Lutheran in St Paul. He leaves North Dakota with over 2000 yards over his five years and served as a team captain the past two seasons. His size gives him an advantage with a shorter WR group ahead of him, but Maag is a far cry from a roster lock. WR Thayer Thomas, NC State Profile: 6Sr 6'0" 198lbs 9" Hand\
30.125" Arm* 73.5" Wing 4.56 40* 1.63 10* 37" VJ* 10' BJ* 4.03 Shuttle* 6.93 3c* 15 Bench* 7.85 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 57 Rec 642 Yds 4 TDs 2 Rush Att 44 Rush Yds 1 Rush TD 17 PR 128 PR Yds
A multisport athlete that was drafted by the Red Sox in 2019, Thomas walked onto the Wolfpack football team and got onto the field any way he could. In 2018, he saw work as a receiver, punt returner, and passer. Thomas has good hands (a career drop rate of 4%) and a high work ethic, but he is an undeveloped route runner that struggles to create much after the catch. He will need to prove his worth on special teams if he wants to make the roster. TE Ben Sims, Baylor Profile: RSr 6'4" 250lbs 33.125" Arm\
9.5" Hand* 80.125" Wing* 4.58 40YD* 1.56 10YS 36" Vert* 10'2" Broad* 4.41 Shuttle* 7.46 3c* 15 Bench* 8.40 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 31 Rec 255 Yds 3 TDs 2 Drops 1 Rush TD
Sims projects as a blocking tight end with limited ability as a receiver. He's a patient run blocker with good balance and toughness, but he is still cleaning up some technique. He isn't a creator with the ball in his hands and his tape fails to demonstrate the explosiveness that his testing suggests. OL Alan Ali, TCU Profile: RSr 6'4" 301lbs 32.875" Arm 9.5" Hand 77.625" Wing 5.23 40\
1.89 10* 26.5" VJ 8'5" BJ* 4.91 Shuttle* 7.94 3c* 3.80 RAS*
A 5 year starter for TCU and SMU, Ali is a fundamentally sound center prospect with good body control and core strength. He has experience playing at all 5 OL positions but spent most of the past 4 years at center. His lack of athleticism and length are likely the reason he went undrafted. OT Jacky Chen, Pace Profile: RSr 6'5 1/4" 299lbs 10" Hand\
34.5" Arm* 80.75" Wing* 5.41 40* 1.81 10* 29" VJ* 8'10" BJ* 4.74 Shuttle* 7.90 3c* 24 Bench* 5.39 RAS*
It's hard to find very much information on an undrafted lineman from a DII school whose toughest opponent was the University of New Haven. Chen is an OT prospect that is viewed as a ball of clay. Chen's 40 yard dash and 3 cone were underwhelming to say the least, but he was an above average tester in burst and explosiveness drills. That combined with his length make him an interesting project. EDGE Andre Carter II, Army Profile: Sr 6'6.5" 256lbs 9.375" Hand 33.275" Arm 81 Wing 4.91 40\
1.65 10* 30" VJ 9'1" BJ 4.36 Shuttle 6.97 3c* 11 Bench 6.29 RAS* 2022 Stats: 10 Gm 41 TKL 7 TFL 3.5 SCK 2 PD
The highest profile UDFA signing of the class, Carter was getting 1st round buzz this time last year
. At that time, Carter was coming off an 18.5 TFL / 15.5 sack season. However, Carter struggled to repeat his production as a senior, notching just 3.5 sacks. Carter finished out the draft cycle with lackluster testing, failing to run under a 4.90 in the 40 yard dash and weighing in at a mere 256 lbs -- a big concern given his 81 inch wingspan and towering stature. Carter has a ton of upside, but he doesn't have the frame to be a real NFL player right now. After 4 years training to be an officer in the US Army, he will need at least one season (maybe more) in an NFL weight room where he can focus on building muscle mass. He'll look to follow the mold of fellow Army player Alejandro Villanueva, who added 43 lbs to his 277 lbs frame entering the league before becoming a 7-year starter. Luckily, he joined the team with one of the best training facilities in the league. EDGE Junior Aho, SMU Profile: 6'2" 260lbs 9" Hand 33.875" Arm 79.875" Wing 4.58 40\
1.66 10* 33.5" VJ* 10'3" BJ* 4.90 Shuttle* 7.38 3c* 9.38 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 23 TKL 2 TFL 2 SCK 1 FF
Quite simply, Aho is an athletic freak that should find his way onto the team thanks to the International Player Pathway roster spot. He takes pride in his speed and athleticism, but he also understands the limitations to his game. Aho was a solid rotational player for SMU. He will look to follow in the footsteps of other International Pathway players like Efe Obada and Jordan Mailata. DT Calvin Avery, Illinois Profile: RSr 6'1" 343 lbs 10" Hand\
32.5" Arm 81.87" Wing 5.37 40* 1.84 10* 30.5" VJ* 8'5" BJ* 8.01 3c* 31 Bench* 3.12 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 23 TKL 2 TFL 1 PD
Avery is a former four star recruit out of Texas, earning snaps in 12 games as a true freshman. He started 12 games in 2022, primarily at nose tackle. He has a wide, large frame that makes him hard to move. However, he is an underwhelming athlete to say the least, and his statistical production is nearly non-existent. LB Abraham Beauplan, Marshall Profile: RSr 5'11" 241 lbs 9.25" Hand 31.75" Arm 77 1/4" Wing 4.62 Shuttle 35.5" VJ 9'9" BJ 7.33 3c 22 Bench 4.52 RAS 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 66 TKL 6.5 TFL 1 SCK 3 PD
Beauplan started the draft process by making an appearance on Bruce Feldman's Freaks List, reportedly squatting as much as 565 lbs and benching as much as 285. The few reports that exist on Beauplan suggest he's an urgent, downhill run defender that will look to carve out a role on special teams early on. LB Wilson Huber, Cincinnati Profile: 6Sr 6'4" 241lbs 9.75" Hand 32.375" Arm\
80" Wing* 4.70 40* 1.66 10* 35" VJ* 10'4" BJ* 4.45 Shuttle* 6.91 3c* 18 Bench* 8.34 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 54 TKL 6.5 TFL 1 SCK 1 PD
A 3 star recruit out of Indiana, Huber started his career at Cincinnati as a TE. He played a hybrid role in his first 2 non-redshirt seasons, earning snaps on offense, defense, and special teams. He made a full role switch to the defensive side of the ball in 2020 and eventually earned the team captain moniker in 2022. Huber had some solid testing despite profiling as more of a thumper. LB Ivan Pace Jr, Cincinnati Profile: Sr 5'10.5" 231lbs 30.25" Arm 9.5" Hand 72" Wing 4.59 40\
1.70 10* 35" VJ 9'8" BJ* 4.40 Shuttle * 7.18 3c* 22 Bench* 5.71 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 137 TKL 21.5 TFL 10 SCK 3 FF 4 PD
Ranked the 11th best LB for Daniel Jeremiah, 9th for Dane Brugler, and 7th for PFF, many thought Pace could have gone as early as Round 3. Pace was a one year starter for the Bearcats after transferring from Miami (Ohio), and he hit the ground running. He led the AAC in tackles and TFLs. He is a smaller player (although not abnormally so in today's game) that plays with his hair on fire. He gives tremendous effort on every play and is always around the ball. Pace is a super tough player that loves to tackle. His size is a concern; he gets washed out of plays too easily. He is also lacking in coverage skills, struggling to stay connected in man coverage. Still, it's incredible that Pace went undrafted. He's an easy special teams projection as a rookie with the upside to be put in position to win under Flores. CB CJ Coldon, Oklahoma Profile: 6Sr 5'10" 186lbs\
8.375" Hand* 31.125" Arm* 75.125" Wing* 4.60 40* 1.58 10* 37 1/2" VJ* 10'5" BJ* 4.24 Shuttle* 7.31 3c* 3.92 RAS* 2022 Stats: 12 Gm 42 TKL 2 TFL 4 INT 6 PBU
Coldon is an instinctual football player that relies on his feel to create ball production. He spent 5 years at Wyoming before transferring to Oklahoma and leading the team in INTs and PBUs. In zone, Coldon watches the QB and looks for the right cue to understand when and where the ball is headed. CB NaJee Thompson, Georgia Southern Profile: 5'10" 200lbs 9.125" Hand 32.75" Arm 76.625" Wing 4.57 40\
1.63 10* 32" VJ* 9'8" BJ* 4.56 Shuttle* 7.40 3c* 13 Bench* 1.59 RAS* 2022 Stats: 13 Gm 37 TKL 1 TFL 11 PD 1 INT
Thompson's love for the game is undeniable. After struggling to latch onto the Georgia Southern WR room, Thompson approached his head coach asking to be exclusively a special teams player. He relishes being a gunner on punts. He eventually got moved to CB in 2021, logging 557 snaps at the position in 2022. He's undeveloped at the position, but his special teams prowess gives him a good shot at the roster. CB Jaylin Williams, Indiana Profile: RSr 5'9" 184lbs 9.125" Hand 29.875" Arm 71.75" Wing 4.43 40\
1.58 10* 34.5" BJ* 9'11" BJ* 4.20 Shuttle* 7.01 3c* 13 Bench* 5.54 RAS* 2022 Stats: 10 Gm 40 TKL 2.5 TFL 7 PD 1 FR 1 BLK
A longtime role player for the Hoosiers before becoming a fulltime starter in 2019, Williams's 6 career INTs were the most amongst active players on the team last season. He earned second team All-Confernece honors in 2020 and was an honorable mention in 2021. K Jack Podlesny, Georgia Profile: RSr 6'0" 195lbs 29.25" Arms 9" Hands 74.75" Wing 2022 Stats: 31 Att 26 Made 50 Long 109 Kickoff 72 Touchbacks 74 PAT Att 73 PAT Made
Ranked as Dane Brugler's 4th kicker and Lance Zierlein's 3rd kicker, Podlesny enters Vikings camp following a career that saw him walk on to Georgia's football team and finish with an 82% hit rate. He hit all but one extra point last season for the national champion Bulldogs. A concern with Podlesny is his leg strength. His accuracy beyond 40 yards falls to just 54%. His clutchness may also come into question as he missed two kicks in the national championship semifinals against Ohio State.
Projected Depth Chart
Pos (Projected 2023 Rostered Count / 2022 Rostered Count): Starter
QB (2/2): Kirk Cousins
, Jaren Hall,
RB (4/4): Alexander Mattison
, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride,
FB (1/1): CJ Ham
WR (5/5): Justin Jefferson
, KJ Osborn
, Jordan Addison
, Jalen Nailor, Brandon Powell,
TE (3/3): TJ Hockenson
, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt,
OL (9/10): Christian Darrisaw
, Ezra Cleveland
, Garrett Bradbury
, Ed Ingram
, Brian O'Neill
, Chris Reed, Austin Schlottman, Oli Udoh, Blake Brandel,
DT (7/6): Harrison Phillips
, Dean Lowry
, Jonathan Bullard
, James Lynch, Esezi Otomewo, Jaquelin Roy, Khyiris Tonga,
EDGE (4/5): Danielle Hunter
, Marcus Davenport
, Pat Jones II, DJ Wonnum,
Andre Carter II
ILB (4/4): Jordan Hicks
, Brian Asamoah
, Troy Reeder, Ivan Pace Jr,
CB (5/6): Byron Murphy
, Andrew Booth
, Akayleb Evans
, Mekhi Blakmon, Joejuan Williams,
S (5/4): Harrison Smith
, Lewis Cine
, Jay Ward, Josh Metellus, Camryn Bynum,
K (1/1): Greg Joseph
P (1/1): Ryan Wright
LS (1/1): Andrew DePaola
KR: Kene Nwangwu
PR: Brandon Powell
2024 Needs Starters Needed:
QB, OG, EDGE, DT -- Whether due to expiring contracts (Cousins, Cleveland, Davenport, Hunter) or overall suckitude (Ingram, Lowry), we need to find new starters at this positions in 2024. Could we go on with average-level free agents? Maybe. Should we? Maybe not. We'll see how the group plays:
CB, LB, RB -- These are positions where the front office is counting on young players (Booth, Evans, Asamoah) to fill the roles of departed starters. If those players take that step up, these positions drop on the needs list. Otherwise, we're in for a rough season. Depth needed:
WR -- The depth after Jefferson, Osborn, and Addison is not great. And Osborn is entering a contract year. Unless Keenan McCardell works some magic with Jalen Nailor or Trishton Jackson or Thayer Thomas, this should be a position we add to next year.
Final Thoughts Versatility.
When we look at this Vikings draft class, that's the first word that comes to mind, and it comes in big bold letters. Addison has inside-outside versatility. So does Mekhi Blackmon. Jay Ward is the most versatile of the group, capable of playing every DB position plus some spot snaps at LB. Roy has been productive everywhere from 0T to 4i. And the team has talked about how much they believe McBride can contribute as a pass catcher on top of his bruiser mindset as a between-the-tackles runner.
On offense, this shift seems to stem from a philosophical change following the TJ Hockenson acquisition last year. O'Connell's unit went from trying to copy-paste Sean McVay's outside zone scheme (largely a 3WR offense) to Kyle Shanahan's outside zone scheme (largely a TE-FB offense). And in that mold, O'Connell was looking for players he could use to create the illusion of complexity. That is, how can we employ versatile players to present defenses the threat of multiplicity?
On defense, the answer is a lot simpler. By bringing over Brian Flores, the team is hoping for a jolt in tenacity and an overall move to a hybrid amoeba scheme. You can look historically at how Bill Belichick has utilized flexibility in his defenses to maximize his gameplan for whatever offensive scheme is next on the menu. You can look at players on the line of scrimmage that have experience in both 43 and 34 schemes (Hunter, Phillips, Lynch, Bullard). And in the secondary, look no further than the selection of Jay Ward as an attempt to clone players like Jevon Holland and Kyle Dugger.
As Adofo-Mensah has repeatedly said, he approaches his job with humility. He listens to those around him and he finds the point where stories marry data to make informed decisions. And in O'Connell, he found someone who shares that mentality. With the emphasis on versatility, that mindset can now be applied on a weekly (and play-by-play) basis to opponents. We'll see how successful that strategy is as the team continues to straddle the line between competitive and rebuilder, but there is certainly an energy around the fanbase with the continued success of the offense and the addition of Brian Flores.
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2023.06.07 17:34 Chrome-13 For some reason, I am not a fan of the main characters and I have no idea why.
Let me get this out of the way, I beat the entire msq up to this point, I have not skipped a single cutscene and I have bought no story boosts.
I hear many people talking about how moments during the story will have made them cry or tear up a bit, whether it be Haurchefant’s death, 6.3’s story after you beat the trial, shadowbringers and endwalker in general. But I never really did, and it’s not like I don’t ever cry at fiction. FFXV’s ending made me cry, playing through Stranger of Paradise I cried a little bit near the end of the base story, man I cried watching Cars 3. But for some reason I never felt that same level of emotional investment playing through this game.
I’ve never been the biggest fan of the game’s combat, tab combat in general is just a bit dull and not engaging to me, and I have not gotten through a single alliance raid without feeling like falling asleep. But it serves its purpose. However in regards to characters and the story, I have no such concrete explanation.
I thought maybe it was because they weren’t as tightly knit as other FF parties, the scions do have a tendency to feel less like actual friends and more like work colleagues, despite how much the story tends to have them call the WoL ‘friend’. But even then, I have no problems with stories featuring characters who share only a professional relationship. When comparing the scions do the boys from FFXV, where a character in the game says to Noctis ‘they aren’t your bodyguards, they’re your brothers’, which I’d say is pretty accurate, they drive around the land together, stopping by places just to explore, ride chocobos or even just to take photos together. Meanwhile I cannot think of a single instance where we have fun with a member of the scions, it only ever seems like work, which I guess makes sense since it’s an mmo and the online friends you go into trials and dungeons with are your WoL friends.
Then I thought maybe it was because their lack of any sort of diversity, and I don’t mean the whole white hair thing. No what I mean is that, for a large portion of the story, before you’re the warrior of light, you’re just a random adventurer they plucked off the street. Meanwhile the main cast are all archons from sharlayan, they’re essentially doctors and masters of their given field, meanwhile you’re just a random chucklefuck they have have to do exposition for. That part in the shadowbringers msq where you deliver them archon bread, that’s something THEY can all relate over, but the player, the WoL, me, I cannot relate to that. On many occasions I just sorta felt out of the loop. It’s kinda hard to relate to and like these characters when they’re all established as way smarter, essentially having degrees and doctorates, and better than you and being the best at various shit. But I’m not sure on this either because… Kung Fu Panda, in the first film Po is quite literally some random guy and he ends up being put alongside literal masters.
Even when you get characters like Estinien and G’raha Tia, he’s the greatest dragoon in the world and he’s hundreds of years old with knowledge of another timeline. It feels like all these characters peaked long before you, there are no amateurs you can watch grow. I mean the twins literally are not allowed to age. A big part of any ff game I’d say is watching the characters go from fighting small spiders and cows to killing gods, watching them level up. But in this game it is just you who has do the levelling up. But with this explanation I’m not sure on it either because there are plenty of games and filmed media with genius characters who you may not be following for the story but you can still connect to them. Going back to XV, look at Cor Leonis or Aranea Highwind, both are well established to be way better and more experienced than the main party, but they are still likeable characters.
Next I thought maybe it was because misinterpretation. There’s a scene in endwalker where Alisaie is going on about why it sucks that the WoL has to be the one to fight alone and potentially sacrifice themselves. But to me it just sounded like she was salty that she couldn’t be the main character and fight the big bad. When Urianger is going on about how he doesn’t like keeping secrets from his friends, I’m just like ‘well sucks to be you, it’s your own fault’ seriously. I can understand the whole going undercover in the warriors of darkness, but with the crystal exarch, if he just came out and told everyone where the exarch was from and what we saw, what the hell would be the consequence. Then there’s Y’shtola’s skepticism and questioning everything, but when it gets to a point where she’s questioning Emet-Selch’s account of ancient history and denying the possibility of the universe’s heat death, it just makes her seem like a bit of know-it-all. But even knowing the true meaning and context of these situations it still doesn’t really make me like the characters anymore.
Then I thought ‘maybe despite being a British person, I don’t like the British voice actors and am making up reasons to hate them’ which made sense at the time since no other ff game had british voice talent…But I figured that’s bullshit because it’s not like I don’t engage in British films and media. And what the hell would it say about my real life if I made up reasons to hate characters just because they sound British.
Then I thought maybe I dislike them because they’re popular, but man I like some of the most popular characters around. Popularity doesn’t make me not like Spider-Man, Cloud or Sephiroth.
So I am really lost for any potential reasoning here, I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is about the characters in this game that makes me not like them. But there must be something these characters have or don’t have compared to other FF characters that makes me not connect with them and like them all that much.
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2023.06.07 17:16 Coogrrr94 Good golf coaches in Sugar Land/Houston TX area?
1st time poster, thought I would give it a shot, can anyone recommend a good golf coach preferably in the Sugar Land TX area, or if not, the Houston area in general?
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2023.06.07 17:11 endersgame69 Kayobi's Days Off C17
Following humans is really easy. I can be a bird, a bug, a man or woman… I can be anything I wish to be, when I wish to be it, and with their ignorance of the wider Universe beyond their own world, and a total lack of magic in their hands… What do I have to worry about? What hope have they of keeping me out of where I wish to go, of keeping me from following who I wish to follow?
Exactly. Mind you I’m not one to abuse this ability, I don’t stalk Jin or Suki or the rest of the neighborhood, I would never abuse these gifts.
I just do what has to be done. So, I followed on, it was evening, it was dark, and I was miffed about my needing to do this instead of watching ghoul boy struggle through learning to use his new powers in yet another hero fiction that is surprisingly better than one would think.
I did have the relief of knowing that these were professionals, and so when they realized their phones were broken and their car wouldn’t stop ‘properly’ they actually didn’t drive with reckless disregard for anyone else.
Based on how the car slowed down on the road, they must have simply taken their foot off the pedal, then let the car ‘coast’ to a stop in a nearly empty parking lot.
To make a long story into a short one, when they’d borrowed a phone and called for help, I had an even easier time, because ‘that’ car would definitely belong to their specific organization. Professionals are predictable, they follow rules, even if only internal ones, and since the Yakuza were sort of ‘legal criminals’ it wouldn’t be that hard to figure out which gang was trying to extort my little town. Just find the organization who the car is registered to.
And if I had to go up one more level after this, I would.
Inside the vehicle I was following as it drove into the city, I could hear their conversation, in all its glorious consternation.
“...The tires were popped and the brakes were cut, one is one thing, but four tires and a brake line? Someone did that.” The driver. I recognized his voice.
“Nobody could have gotten around us, so then how…?” The passenger. He still believed it was an accident. I don’t blame him. And also, I couldn’t be blamed for mentally smirking. My current bird beak wouldn’t do that, but it was fine. I smirked inside my head and that was good enough.
The building they parked under was dark, and frankly a little dank, the rain from before left some moisture behind, I supposed. But more importantly, just to be cautious I landed behind a pillar, returned to myself, and cast my spell. [Y’tilibisivni] And then I sauntered out from behind the pillar and watched them exit the car.
They were still arguing with each other, the two idiots, that is, as I followed behind them and watched them get into the elevator.
A wicked impulse came over me, looking down at the glowing elevator button. I could have just disabled it, but… Instead I just pushed the button.
The doors were just about to close, and I got them to open.
They ceased arguing, looked around, saw nothing, and the taller of the two pushed the ‘close door’ button.
I remained outside and pushed the ‘up’ button again.
Again the doors began to open.
“Really?” He asked the Universe.
“Really.” I thought, and as the door closed again, I pushed the button a third time.
Until his face grimaced and he punched the panel with a shout. “Damn it!” He snarled, “Come on, we’ll take the stairs!”
“It’s a hundred twenty floors up!” His companion squeaked.
“And we’d have done twenty of them in the time it took to make that decision. Come on! The damn thing is busted.” He said as I… pushed the button again, forcing the doors to part one more time.
I, of course, had no intention of taking the stairs. I waited until they stormed into the stairwell, then stepped through the elevator, hit the button for the top floor, and leaned against the wall with my arms crossed and humming contentedly with a real smirk on my invisible face that held all the way up there and to through the very moment when the two emerged from the stairwell huffing and puffing and hunched over, with sweat dripping from their faces and staining what were admittedly very nice dark suits.
I crinkled my nose at the smell, but went into step as they walked over the rich scarlet rug that lead to a polished black set of double doors.
I slipped in behind them and watched as they approached a middle aged man in frankly much better shape than the old guy from before. He was at least as well dressed and was sitting on his heels with his legs curled beneath him in front of a low table that was fairly common in this part of the world.
In front of him was a bottle of expensive wine that was already half empty, and a paper he was writing on by hand. ‘A little more traditional than I expected but… tastes are what they are.’
“Why are you two here? What happened, eh?” He tilted his head back and glared at the sweaty pair, his nose crinkled just as mine had when the smell of sweat hit his nostrils.
“And why are you sweating? We have an elevator!” He snapped and pinched his nose shut.
“Didn’t… work…” The larger of the pair said and they descended to their knees, then down to all fours.
They then explained what happened, the tires, the breaks… I kind of thought the boss would lose his temper a little when they explained, but to my surprise, he was very calm about it.
“We’ll have it towed tomorrow, good work avoiding an accident I guess but… how did all that happen in the first place?!” He groused, mixing praise with visible annoyance.
I sat down at the table and waited until they were done. “I’ll get some other people out there tomorrow. You two… just… get out.” He rubbed his forehead and the pair hastened away as fast as they’d entered… perhaps a little faster, now that they’d had a few minutes to rest.
I waited until we were alone, just he and I, and until he rose to his feet and had his back to the door, approaching his desk near the window.
Last time I chose another world’s warbeast. This time, I decided to go with something more… local.
I stood, shifted into the form of a towering werewolf, something bigger, larger even than their myths, and the first moment he knew I was there was when my long furry fingers and sharp claws were coming around from behind him… and he saw my reflection in the glass.
He opened his mouth to scream, my free hand came up and I pinched his tongue with clawed thumb and forefinger, denying him the ability to do so. “Gahawahh gawhaaha” Was all he managed to get out, he shook his head, but bound by his tongue, he couldn’t really even properly protest. My dark fur was so close he couldn’t not see it, even in the dim light of his office. My hot breath wafted over his face and made him try again to tear himself free.
I squeezed, I could feel his body ‘crack’ just a little. ‘Hey! I brushed my teeth, damnit! My breath doesn’t stink!’ I thought, and now I was really annoyed. Bad enough they were taking up my free time, but now they add insult to injury.
“Stay. Out. Of. Shinjai.” He growled. “Did my message not reach you? Shinjai belongs to the devil. Did I come to your house, disrupt your day, make things inconvenient for you?!” I shouted and shook him around like a ragdoll. I released his tongue so I would not tear it out, and held him up so that he was level with my bright yellow eyes.
“You-” He started to protest, I shook him around again until he shut up.
“Did I?!” I demanded in a wolfish, rough, gravely voice.
“N-No.” He grimaced as I squeezed tighter.
“You may come to Shinjai… as people. Spend money, patronize their businesses. But commit no crimes, and never come as Yakuza. In the house of the devil… you do not demand water.” I then straightened, putting the claw on my thumb just beneath his chin, grazing his vulnerable throat.
“If I must repeat this to your boss. I already know where he is, I will bring down these buildings on your heads. The devil does not deal.” I growled, and squeezed again, his legs began to kick and flail… I was bluffing of course. With what I already had, and with a little help from one of our satellites, I was pretty sure I could get everything I needed to in short order.
“Tell me you understand… human?” I growled.
His head bobbed up and down, “Yes. Yes! I understand!” He gasped and wheezed as my grip tightened.
“Good.” I dropped him to crumple in a heap, and he remained on all fours while he hacked and coughed and his body trembled in a mix of horror and disbelief.
“What… does the devil… want with Shinjai… anyway? It’s just a poor backwater…” He asked and began rubbing his throat where my claw had been not but a moment before. The little red dot on his hand where he rubbed would serve as a fine reminder, I should hope.
But even so, he was braver than I expected, to be at a werewolf’s feet and still question me? I chose to reward his courage.
“A vacation. I work hard. I want to relax. Shinjai is good for that. Do not disrupt my vacation again.” I don’t know what compelled me to say that, I mean, I meant to reward him, so it wasn’t an accident, but even so, I could have come up with a better excuse.
But I got that little chilly feeling in my spine that warned me I’d just done something that would have unexpected results.
“I… understand. I will… make sure… everyone knows… Shinjai, is the place where devils rest… no one… will disrupt it.” The way he said it felt ‘off’ to me.
But I wasn’t quite sure why.
I dismissed it, the matter was settled for now, and if it got worse, so would I.
“Good.” I gave a generic answer as if I were pleased, and then gave him a fairly gentle thump on the head, putting him to sleep.
After I was ‘myself’ again, I went to the paper on his desk and scrawled a little reminder note. ‘Remember, do not disturb the devil’s rest.’
With that, I teleported away, and flopped on my couch and began watching high school girls fleeing zombies as the world began to burn around them. I fell asleep to their screams before the first episode ended.
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2023.06.07 16:37 The_Sportsologist Taking a look at the Sixers' cap sheet
Hello friends, today I thought it would be fun to take a look at the Sixers cap sheet and the many paths they could take moving forward. Daryl Morey has a lot of tough decisions to make, but most of those will likely depend on James Harden's decision this summer. Let's take a look at some possible scenarios.
Here is the Sixers' cap sheet going into this summer:
The italicized salary for James Harden's 2023-2024 season is the key. Harden can opt into that salary, opt out and re-sign a long-term deal in Philly, or opt out and decide to go to another team in free agency. His decision will be the pivot point for the Sixers roster building moving forward so let's take a look at a few different scenarios and see what they could look like.
Scenario 1: Harden leaves in free agency
Let's say the Houston rumors are legit and it's soon confirmed that James will be on his way back to Texas. The Rockets can sign him outright using their cap space meaning that the Sixers face the possibility of losing him for nothing. What do they do to replace the lost talent? The best route might be to utilize cap space and explore free agency. Let's see what the cap sheet looks like without Harden and with the addition of the cap holds for McDaniels, Melton, and Maxey so we can determine what their cap space could look like:
So, for this summer they would have about 5.7 million in cap space to use in free agency, but they could increase that to almost 10 million if they renounce the cap holds on Reed and McDaniels. Or, if they found a way to move Harris' contract, they would have 45 million to spend in free agency and could still re-sign Reed and McDaniels after they hit the cap limit. Considering that Harris's deal is expiring this may be possible, but given the severe lack of tradable picks that Morey has to work with it won't be a guaranteed possibility. If they aren't able to move him then it could be in the best interest of the Sixers to aim for the summer of 2024 when they are set to have about 48.5 million in cap space even after accounting for Maxey and Melton's cap holds. They can make a couple splashes in free agency, re-sign Melton and Maxey, and should still have room to utilize the taxpayer MLE. They also can free up another 4 million by declining Springer's contract this October.
Free agency is a risky path considering that you are never guaranteed to land anyone. These days with extensions and the ability to demand trades, stars tend to enter unrestricted free agency less than they did before. And planning for the 2024 offseason might not sound good to Embiid, who the Sixers are no doubt wanting to keep happy. It could be that Daryl Morey and company don't want to go down this path, but I think that it's nice that they at least have the option if Harden does decide to walk.
Scenario 2: Harden demands a max and gets it
Let's say the recent Houston rumors serve as effective leverage for Harden, he demands a full max contract to come back to Philly, and Morey can't resist keeping his old friend around. Well unfortunately, that will lead to this roster becoming very expensive, perhaps too expensive to keep their high-end talent as well as quality depth. Maxey's new contract will kick in next season and will be a third big salary on the books going forward even as Harris' finally comes off.
The point of this post is not to speculate about what players are going to get in free agency, but we need to make some estimations to analyze what their cap sheet might look like going forward. Let's use Tyler Herro and Jordan Pool’s recent contracts of 120 and 128 million to estimate Maxey’s next deal. Let’s just say that he gets 125 million over 4 years, or 30.125 million per season. Let's also say that Paul Reed and Georges Niang re-sign under short term deals for 7.5 and 4 million respectively and the roster is filled out with a few minimum contracts. Here's what their cap sheet potentially looks like for the next 2 seasons:
As you can see, for 2023-2024 the Sixers would be set to go pretty deep into the luxury tax, deeper than they ever have before. While the ownership and front office might be okay with that for this upcoming season, they are going to be much more hesitant in the coming years when the second apron penalties fully kick in along with the increase in luxury tax penalties.
For 2024-2025 and beyond they would have 3 players taking up the vast majority of their cap. Adding in Tucker and Springer's salaries along with the theoretical contracts for Reed and Niang, the Sixers would have just around 33 million to fill out the remaining 8 roster spots before going over the dreaded 2nd apron. Unless they have a plan in place for going well over the apron and dealing with its penalties, they don't really have a way to fill their roster out with quality depth while paying 90% of their cap to Embiid, Harden and Maxey.
Scenario 3: Harden re-signs to a more team friendly deal
Let's say that the Houston rumors are overblown and Harden's desire is to come back to Philly long-term, even if it means settling for less than a max contract. What kind of deal would he be okay with? Who knows, and I do hate to speculate, but I also love to make cap sheets, so let's just say 35 million per year over 4 years and check out what the sheet looks like for the next 2 seasons:
|Player ||2023-2024 ||2024-2025 |
|Joel Embiid ||$46,900,000 ||$50,652,000 |
|Tobias Harris ||$39,270,150 || |
|James Harden ||$35,000,000 ||$35,000,000 |
|PJ Tucker ||$11,014,500 ||$11,539,000 |
|DeAnthony Melton ||$8,000,000 ||$15,200,000 |
|Furkan Korkmaz ||$5,370,370 || |
|Tyrese Maxey ||$4,343,920 ||$13,000,000 |
|Danuel House Jr ||$4,310,250 || |
|Montrezl Harrell ||$2,760,026 || |
|Jaden Springer ||$2,226,240 ||$4,018,363 |
| || || |
|total ||$159,195,456 ||$129,409,363 |
|expected salary cap ||$134,000,000 ||$143,000,000 |
|expected cap room ||$0 ||$13,590,637 |
Suddenly the tax owed for the 2023-2024 season doesn't look so bad. They could move Korkmaz to duck the tax entirely, or possibly utilize the taxpayer MLE to add another depth piece. The nontaxpayer MLE likely won't be a feasible option unless Harden re-signs for 30 million or below.
The 2024-2025 numbers are very interesting if the Sixers decide to hold off on Maxey's extension since they could have a little cap room to play with. Theoretically they could open up a max spot by moving Tucker and waiving Melton's cap hold, we but already saw how tough it would be to fill out the roster with 3 huge salaries on the books. Instead, they could keep Melton and Tucker and still afford to sign a free agent using cap space and then sign another using the taxpayer. It might end up that they pay players like Paul Reed and Jalen McDaniels this summer and don't have any free cap space in 2024, but again, it's nice to have the option.
So, if anyone's still reading this, I want to know what you think. What do you hope Harden decides to do? How do you hope to see Morey pivot in response? Did you have any interesting takeaways from the cap sheets? Let me know in the comments and thanks for reading!
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