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Sun Dance

2023.05.28 13:07 JoshAsdvgi Sun Dance

Sun Dance

Sun Dance

Sun Dance, most important religious ceremony of the Plains Indians of North America and, for nomadic peoples, an occasion when otherwise independent bands gathered to reaffirm their basic beliefs about the universe and the supernatural through rituals of personal and community sacrifice.
Traditionally, a Sun Dance was held by each tribe once a year in late spring or early summer, when the buffalo congregated after the long Plains winters.
The large herds provided a plentiful food source for the hundreds of individuals in attendance.
The origin of the Sun Dance is unclear; most tribal traditions attribute its conventions to a time deep in the past.
By the end of the 19th century it had spread with local variations to include most of the tribes from the Saulteaux in Saskatchewan, Can., south to the Kiowa in Texas, U.S., and was common among the settled agriculturists and the nomadic hunting and gathering societies of the region.
One example of the globally common religious practice of requesting power or insight from the supernatural is the Sun Dance.
In many instances sun dancing itself was a private experience involving just one or a few individuals who had pledged to undertake the grueling ritual.
The development of participation by the whole community, direction by tribal and religious leaders, and elaboration of ceremonies augmenting the votaries’ prayers and offerings indicate the ways this ritual reflected a tribe’s secular and religious aspirations.
The most elaborate versions of the Sun Dance took place within or near a large encampment or village and required up to a year’s preparation by those pledging to dance. Typically the pledges’ spiritual mentors and extended families were heavily involved in the preparations, as they were obligated to provide most of the necessary supplies for the ritual.
Such supplies generally included payments or gifts to mentors and ritual leaders, often in the form of elaborately decorated clothing, horses, food, and other goods.
As the community gathered, specific individuals—usually members of a particular religious society—erected a dance structure with a central pole that symbolized a connection to the divine, as embodied by the sun.
Preliminary dances by a variety of community members often preceded the rigours of the Sun Dance itself, encouraging supplicants and ritually preparing the dance grounds; one such preliminary was the Buffalo Bull Dance, which preceded the Sun Dance during the complex Okipa ritual of the Mandan people.
Those who had pledged to endure the Sun Dance generally did so in fulfillment of a vow or as a way of seeking spiritual power or insight.
Supplicants began dancing at an appointed hour and continued intermittently for several days and nights; during this time they neither ate nor drank.
In some tribes supplicants also endured ritual self-mortification beyond fasting and exertion; in others such practices were thought to be self-aggrandizing.
When practiced, self-mortification was generally accomplished through piercing: mentors or ritual leaders inserted two or more slim skewers or piercing needles through a small fold of the supplicant’s skin on the upper chest or upper back; the mentor then used long leather thongs to tie a heavy object such as a buffalo skull to the skewers.
A dancer would drag the object along the ground until he succumbed to exhaustion or his skin tore free.
Among some tribes the thongs were tied to the centre pole, and the supplicant either hung from or pulled on them until free.
Piercing was endured by only the most committed individuals, and, as with the rest of the ritual, it was done to ensure tribal well-being as well as to fulfill the supplicant’s individual vow.
In 1883, acting on the advice of Bureau of Indian Affairs personnel, the U.S. secretary of the interior criminalized the Sun Dance and a variety of other indigenous religious practices; under federal law the secretary was entitled to make such decisions without consulting Congress or the affected parties.
The prohibition was renewed in 1904 and reversed in 1934 by a new administration.
During the period of prohibition, attenuated forms of the ritual continued among a number of tribes, usually as part of public Fourth of July celebrations.
Despite government efforts, the original forms of the Sun Dance were never completely repressed, and in the early 21st century sun dancing remained a significant religious ritual among many Plains peoples.
submitted by JoshAsdvgi to Native_Stories [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 10:03 thehplants Schefflera Dropping Leaves

What is the cause of Schefflera dropping leaves , and how can we fix this problem? Dropping leaves of any plant, especially Schefflera, is the result of stress on the plant, which is caused by improperly keeping and growing the plant at home. Schefflera is one of the best choices for bringing tropical foliage indoors. This resistant and beautiful plant with its umbrella-like leaves can withstand a lot of neglect, but leaf fall is a common thing that unfortunately happens to many of these plants.
Many factors cause the Schefflera dropping leaves, including improper watering, high environmental temperature, low or high environmental humidity, pest infestation of houseplants, and disease of houseplants.
Sometimes, there are situations where you have provided all the conditions for keeping Schefflera at home in an ideal and appropriate way, but you see its Schefflera dropping leaves again; the reason for this is the decision of your plant itself! which prefers to replace its old leaves with young leaves.
In this article from the thehplants website, we will examine all the reasons for the Schefflera dropping leaves and how to treat it, so stay with us until the end of this article.

What is the cause of Schefflera dropping leaves?

Only one reason cannot cause Schefflera dropping leaves. In summary, watering too little or too much, low light, high temperature, repotting, pests, houseplants diseases, incorrect fertilization, low humidity, or a movement to new location can cause the leaves of this plant to fall.
Note that it is normal for Schefflera and other houseplants to drop old leaves. But the constant falling of umbrella plant leaves can not be a good sign, and you should immediately ask yourself why is my umbrella plant dropping leaves? and try to find the cause of the problem and fix it immediately.

1. Does the light cause the leaves of Schefflera to fall?

Schefflera plant is one of the houseplants with good resistance to low light, but it needs indirect sunlight for maximum growth. In a situation where the ambient light for the plant is low, the leaves of the Schefflera plant change shape and fall, and of course, in this case, the color of the leaves will be dark green compared to normal conditions.
On the other hand, too much light in the place where the plant is kept does not cause Schefflera dropping leaves and only causes the leaves to become burnt. As a result, if you suspect that the leaves of your Schefflera plant are falling due to the low light of the plant’s storage environment. Bring the plant closer to the window and provide indirect and appropriate light (indirect light is the light that passes through the window curtain and is provided to the plant).
The process of bringing Schefflera from apartment oxygen plants to the window should be done slowly because changing the location of the plant at high speed will also have its consequences (a distance of one to one and a half meters to the window is suitable).

2. Too much or too little watering causes Schefflera dropping leaves

Watering less than normal and too much has caused the Schefflera plant to be under pressure, resulting in the leaves of the plant falling. The roots of houseplants have the task of delivering water and nutrients to the stem and leaves, and when the amount of watering is too high or too low, this process will face problems.
Schefflera plant always needs moist soil (not waterlogged) and is very resistant to dry soil conditions.
The correct method and time of watering Schefflera are such that the upper half of the soil in the pot is dry at any time. Watering the plant should be done immediately, and on the other hand, when watering the plant, as soon as the excess water comes out of the bottom of the pot, the process of watering the plant should be stopped completely. Avoid collecting water at the bottom of the separate pot.
Schefflera dropping leaves due to over-watering has specific symptoms so that, in this case, the leaves of the plant turn a little black before falling and then falling. As a result, if you are facing this situation, immediately remove the plant from the pot and prune the rotten and infected roots of the plant to their healthy point. And after that, be sure to do the first watering with fungicide. Although it was mentioned that Schefflera is one of the large houseplants, it is resistant to drought conditions, and if the mentioned conditions continue and the amount of watering is very low, the leaves of the plant will fall. As a result, it is recommended to constantly check the humidity of the upper half of the soil and water your plant if necessary to prevent the leaves of the Schefflera plant from falling. In this case, the leaves will wrinkle and then fall off.

3. Does the soil affect the Schefflera dropping leaves?

If the watering you do is correct, but you don’t use the right soil for Schefflera, your plant will fall off its leaves. Compact and heavy soil for the plant is one of the other reasons for Schefflera dropping leaves. Because these types of soils do not work well in aerating and supplying oxygen to the plant roots, they always fill the environment around the roots with irrigation water of houseplants, due to which the root function is disturbed and the plant gets stressed.
The best soil for the Schefflera plant is soil with a lot of perlite or soil suitable for cactus. A little sand should be added at the end of the pot, and then the cactus soil and perlite mixture should be added on top of it. In addition to the proper soil, the pot’s drainage should also be suitable so that the excess water can be removed from under the pot after watering.
It is possible that the texture of the soil has worn out over time and its drainage power has decreased, so it is recommended that if you suspect that this is the cause of the shedding of the leaves of your Schefflera plant, replace the potting soil and ensure the health of your plant again. Be sure to use amino acid for plants watering after changing the soil and pot to reduce tension.
In summary, the soil is an indirect factor in Schefflera dropping leaves. Because the heaviness of the soil causes oxygen not to reach the roots, and you will gradually see them rotting.

4. Effect of temperature on Schefflera dropping leaves

This plant, known from its birthplace, is native to tropical regions and cannot tolerate cold weather at all; when the temperature of the place where the plant is stored is lower than 53 degree Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius), the plant will start to drop its leaves. Lowering the temperature will stress the plant. If you live in a cold area where the temperature drops below 53 degree during the cold seasons, move the plant indoors and avoid placing the plant next to the window or the sidewalk. Also, remember that this plant cannot tolerate temperatures above 80 degree Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) well, so increase the amount of watering and the humidity of the environment as the temperature increases. Otherwise, you will see the leaves of the plant falling.
In summary, temperature fluctuations can be one of the main reasons for Schefflera dropping leaves at home.
does Schefflera bloom?

5. The effect of fertilization on Schefflera dropping leaves

Always be careful in fertilizing because too much fertilization can be one of the causes of Schefflera dropping leaves, while low fertilization and lack of nutrients will cause the leaves of the plant to fall. Be sure to read the instructions on the package before fertilizing the plant. If you suspect that the shedding of the leaves of the Schefflera plant is due to excessive fertilizing of the plant, stop fertilizing and be sure to wash the pot in such a way that the soil of the pot is washed with lukewarm water to reduce the amount of harmful salts.
check out the benefits of coffee grounds for houseplants
Now, on the opposite side, there is low fertilization, so every plant needs nutrition in its growing season to produce young leaves and keep the old leaves alive. If the old leaves of your plant are turning yellow and falling, you should know that one of the cases is low fertilization. At least during the plant’s growing season, from early spring to late summer, feed your plant with appropriate fertilizers. Fertilizing with 10-10-10 fertilizers and iron fertilizer can help your plant grow and flourish.
make sure to read nitrogen deficiency in plants as well

6. Sudden changes in the storage environment

Changing the storage conditions at once in any plant will cause its leaves to fall. When you buy the plant and move it home or repot, the plant will be shocked, and this will cause the leaves of your plant to fall. You should reduce the amount of these changes (temperature, light, location) in your plant.

7. The effect of humidity on Schefflera dropping leaves

This plant can easily grow well in normal humidity, between 40 and 60%. If the temperature rises and the humidity doesn’t increase as much, your plant will lose leaves. In these cases, be sure to supply the moisture the plant requires by using a cold misting device, dusting and placing the pot on gravel, and adding water under the pot.

8. repotting and Schefflera dropping leaves

Repotting is also known as a change and shock; if the root of the plant is damaged during the repotting, it can increase the process of leaf fall. Also, choosing a pot that is too big will cause the plant to spend all its energy growing the roots, and the growth of the leaves will decrease, and in some cases, you will see the leaves fall.

Tips you should know about repotting:

9. What damage does the invasion of pests and diseases do to Schefflera?

Another reason for the fall of Schefflera leaves is the invasion of pests on the plant. These harmful insects feed on the leaves and cause the Schefflera leaves to fall. As a result, it is always a good idea to clean houseplant leaves such as Schefflera so that the vegetative tissue of the plant is constantly checked to ensure that there is no pest infestation (especially the underside of the leaves).
To fight the pests of Schefflera houseplants, you can use insecticidal soaps with proper dosage or physically remove them from the branches and leaves of the plant.
On the other hand, the attack of fungal diseases on the plant also causes the leaves of Schefflera to fall. The reason for the attack of these pests on the plant is the over-watering and dusting of its branches and leaves. Spraying the plant only when there is proper ventilation around the plant is recommended.

Is there a way to prevent the natural death of old Schefflera leaves?

No, this is completely normal, and your plant must have the proper nutrition to reduce the loss of old leaves. The normal sign of old leaves falling is that the tips and edges of the old leaves of the plant change color and turn yellow.

Frequently asked questions about the cause Schefflera plant dropping green leaves

Can over-watering be the cause of Schefflera leaves falling?

Yes, over-watering Schefflera will cause its leaves to turn black and fall off.

Does direct light cause Schefflera leaves to fall?

No, direct sunlight does not cause the leaves of this plant to fall. But if it is exposed to direct light for a long time, its leaves get sunburned and wither.

Can fertilizer be the cause of falling Schefflera leaves?

Yes, fertilizers that have a high dose cause the leaves of this plant to fall. As a result, you can use fertilizers with fewer minerals for better growth.

Summary of Schefflera leaf falls at home.

By studying the above, you can solve any houseplant problems especially Schefflera dropping leaves, but in summary, it should be said that the reason for falling leaves of Schefflera plant can be due to excessive or insufficient watering, insufficient light, improper fertilization, improperly compacted soil, hot and dry environment and… Be sure to check the mentioned items and then try to fix the problem.
submitted by thehplants to u/thehplants [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 08:33 nekotantei_19 WN Chapter 155

......and well, this is what the Nine-Headed Dragon Archipelago Kingdom ceremony looks like. You can choose between a shiro-muku (traditional kimono) and a shiro-uchikake (traditional wedding kimono), and it's very glamorous. Your groom has a good figure, and I think he would look better in a crested hakama than Ichiha, don't ya think?
......Hmmm. It's better to be simple, not such a strange thing. I see. The bride wants a weddin' dress, right? If so, we recommend this plan. This is the 'Let's get married in a historic temple in the Republic of Turgis' plan. A friend of ours recently had a weddin' with this plan...... .
◇ ◇ ◇
The Temple of Sappuer in the Republic of Turgis. This temple, similar to the Parthenon in Souma's old world, has existed since before the founding of the Republic and was one of the oldest structures in the world. It was in this temple that Kuu performed the inauguration ceremony and the marriage ceremony with Taru and Leporina. Today, a man and woman were about to get married at the Sappuer Temple.
"Velza and Halbert. Congratulations on your marriage"
"Congrats" "Congratulations!"
Receiving congratulations from the country's head of state, Kuu Taisei, and his wives, Taru and Leporina, were Halbert Magna, dressed in a white tuxedo, and Velza, who would become his wife today. Velza is wearing a pure white wedding dress, and the dark elf's brown skin reflects the pure white dress, which further accentuates Velza's beauty. Then Halbert scratched his cheek with a somewhat furtive look on his face.
"O, oh. Thanks, Kuu. I never thought I'd be congratulated by the head of another country"
"Ukkyakkya! Don't worry about it. We've known each other a long time"
Halbert and Kuu. Although they came from different countries and backgrounds, they had many opportunities to fight together, such as defeating a deformed ogre in the Republic and providing reinforcements to the then Union of Eastern Nations when it was attacked by a demon wave, and they recognized each other as comrades-in-arms. It was Kuu who suggested that Halbert and Velza's wedding be held at the Sappuer Temple.
"The Temple of Sappuer is the most famous historic site in our country. We need to take this opportunity to show the rest of the world that there is more to the Republic than leisure skiing, hot springs, and seafood, and to attract tourists"
"That's what this is about. Our marriage is just a bonus then"
"I'd say it's just 50-50. It's for the sake of the country, and I want to celebrate my friend's marriage. It's a win-win situation"
"Hee hee, I'm delighted. I can't believe I'm being blessed in such a beautiful place"
Velza smiled as she said this, and Hal was in a "......well okay" mood. Incidentally, Halbert and Velza's wedding, like Tomoe and Ichiha's, will also be broadcast live in the countries of the former members of the Maritime Alliance. Since it was the wedding of the hero [Hal the Red Oni] who defeated that Fuuga Haan (in reality, he only clipped his wings, so it is much exaggerated), it attracted a lot of attention, especially within the Kingdom of Friedonia, and Kuu used it for publicity sake. Therefore, the cost of this ceremony is shared half by the Kingdom and half by the Republic.
Then, Hal's first wife Kaede and second wife Ruby came to the five of them. They were both in dresses to attend the ceremony.
"You both seem to be......ready to go. You look lovely"
"Oh, Velza. You're such a pretty bride"
"Thank you, Lady Kaede and Lady Ruby!"
The first through third wives gathered together and happily talked with each other, their husband notwithstanding. Both Kaede and Ruby accepted that Velza would be his third wife before the man himself, Halbert did. It also means that Velza worked hard to make that happen.
(I noticed that the moat was filled in, the walls were collapsed, and the gates were left open with a sign that said 'Welcome' on it......)
Halbert thought of this as he looked at the three women. Halbert's feelings for Velza were initially just that of a big brother for his cute little sister. I thought she would adore me because I saved her life, and I never imagined that we would have a relationship that went beyond that.
But Velza, on the other hand, was working to become his wife from the beginning. I heard that before Kaede and Ruby's marriage, she had already asked her directly to be his third wife, and he had fulfilled the condition of 'graduate from one of the academies' that was given to her at that time. She was also studying at the academy to become Halbert's secretary in order to help the Magna family in the future.
She has taken care of Bill, the child of Halbert and Kaede, has shown filial piety to Glaive and Elba, who will eventually become her in-laws, has put in roots in Kaede's family, the Foxia family, and through her father Sur has established a connection between the Magna family and the God Protected Forest. Before conquering Halbert, she had conquered all the people around Halbert.
Before he knew it, Kaede, Ruby, and his parents were pestering him to 'hurry up and marry Velza'. And when he was told of Velza's efforts up to that point, although he was amazed at her persistence, thinking that she adored him so much was both cute and teasing, and he had no choice but to immediately wave the white flag and give in.
As Halbert was thinking this, Lucy, the facilitator, came to call for them.
"Vellie. Halbert. Please get ready"
"O, yeah" "All right, Lucy"
The wedding was attended by members of the Magna and Foxia families, dark elves from the God Protected Forest, and friends from the academy, including Tomoe. Souma also wanted to attend, but as expected, he decided against it because it would be too much for his schedule and security to travel to the Republic for one of his vassals, even if he is a friend. Well, it is being broadcast live, so it is being watched by many people.
Then Kuu snickered and gave Halbert the thumbs up.
"Ukkyakkya! Look forward to seeing you after the ceremony is over. In addition to the inn we have prepared for the attendees, we have reserved a small hot spring inn exclusively for Halbert and Velza. I hope you enjoy your first night as newlyweds to the fullest"
"Hey, why the heck are you mentioning that at this point!?"
Halbert huffed and turned to Kaede and Ruby, both of whom were looking at him with pasted-on smiles.
"......Well, it's tactless of me to meddle with tonight. I have no choice"
"You should teach her properly. Lady-killer?"
The aura that was brewing behind the two smiling women made Halbert break out in a nasty sweat. Velza, on the other hand, was.......
"I know I have my shortcomings, but I'm looking forward to working with you"
He imagined (fantasized?) a lot of things at this moment. She looked at Halbert expectantly with her hand on her cheek. Halbert looked up to the heavens, unable to say anything.
The wedding itself was solemnized without incident, and with the blessings of many people, including Tomoe, Ichiha, Yuriga, and Lucy, Velza became Halbert's wife, which was a long-cherished dream for her. And after the end of the ceremony.
"I wanted Lucy to receive this"
"Eh, to me?"
Velza presented Lucy with the bouquet she had prepared.
"What I received from Tomoe-san and the others, I now give to you. May happiness come to you"
"Ah, ahaha......thanks"
Lucy accepted the flowers with an embarrassed smile.
◇ ◇ ◇
---And time goes back to the present.
"......and well, this is what it looks like in the Republic. I think I even went a little off on a tangent, but what do ya think? It's goin' to be quite a nice weddin'"
Lucy said to the two prospective couples in front of her. But they only laughed in a troubled manner and seemed to be in no way interested in getting married. Lucy senses this and comes up with the next plan.
"Hmmm. If neither the Republic nor the Archipelago Kingdom is acceptable, then the only plan left would be 'Let's get married at the historic association of the Euphoria Kingdom and walk through the Arc de Triomphe as a couple' ......"
"Oh, um......."
Then the bride was more hesitant to interject.
"Yes? What is it?"
"I'm sorry. Actually, I've already decided on the country where I want to have the ceremony......"
"Eh, is that so? That was presumptuous of me. And what country do ya want?"
"The Kingdom of Lastania"
At the bride's words, Lucy was dumbfounded for a moment.
"The Kingdom of Lastania ya say? The area has already recovered quite well, but I don't think there were any particular spots for weddins. Sorry, we don't have any plans that we offer either......"
"No, I don't care about the plan or anything. It's just...... that country is where my adopted father Hein rests"
So said the bride......Sami Chima with a small smile on her face. She was thinking of him. Günter Lyle, the taciturn groom seated next to her, gently hugs her shoulder.
"I am getting married to Lord Günther this time, and I want my adoptive father to see my bridal gown from the afterlife. However, both Günther and I belong to the Euphoria Kingdom now, and it is difficult to secure a place, personnel, and food for a wedding in another country. So I talked to Ichiha about it, and he suggested I ask Lucy, who has contacts in many countries"
"I, I that's why ya want it. I'm sorry for ma hasty......recommendations"
Lucy bowed her head and Sami hurriedly shook her head.
"I am not a good talker, so it was difficult for me to start the conversation. Günther is usually a man of few words"
Günther, who sat next to her, was embarrassed, his mouth tightened in a pout. For all his stern face, he seemed naïve, like a large, quiet dog. Lucy gave a single cooing cough.
"I'm relieved to hear ya say so. ......It's fine! Our company will do everything in our power to make sure that your late Father can see his daughter as a happy bride and feel at ease!"
Lucy then thumped her chest.
◇ ◇ ◇
--- After Sami and Günther had left.
After office hours. Lucy was in the manager's office, putting away the remaining documents, when suddenly there was a knock at the door and a young man entered.
"Thank you for your hard work, Representative. I brought you some tea"
"Evenin'. It's after business hours now, so just talk normally"
"......Yeah?'re the customers who came today?"
"It's a little complicated, but we'll make it work. We have to make a splendid ceremony for the bride"
He asked Lucy while offering her a cup of tea, and he was the number two of 'L. H. W.' and Lucy's right-hand man. And.......
"That's obvious......but is it okay?"
"Huh? What is?"
"You're offering them a great wedding, but ours should be a modest affair"
Yes, he was also Lucy's lifelong companion. He was originally an employee of Lucy's family's Evans Trading Company, but Lucy was drawn by his business acumen and honest character and pulled him into this 'L.H.W.'. As they worked together right and left on this new venture, they developed a bond that led to their engagement.
"But if you're a representative, you're connected to the royal family, and you could have made the ceremony more magnificent, couldn't you? ......Well, when I put it like that, it makes me wonder if it was really a good idea for you to get engaged to a regular guy like me"
To those words, Lucy laughed at him with a cackle.
"What're you talkin' about? This is 100 percent my ideal weddin' and husband. Many of my friends are in the upper echelons of society, and we've had our share of dramatic stories ......but I'd rather get married to a normal person and have a normal, happy family than ta have that kinda thin' happen ta me. ......Well, I guess it won't be completely normal, though, since we'll have royalty at the weddin'"
"I, Is that how it's supposed to be?"
He tilted his head, not quite grasping the female mind. Seeing him like this, Lucy giggles. She really likes that kind of honest response back. Then Lucy patted the engagement ring he had given her and said, with a lovely smile similar to that of a revered little raccoon princess.
"Let's be happy together, darlin'♪"
submitted by nekotantei_19 to RealistHero [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 06:45 PersonalLiza ‘Wild’ Hot springs recommendation

Hi! I’m planning to visit Colorado in July. When I google hot springs I see a lot of hot springs that are part of hotels and big public pools. Are there more ‘wild’ hot springs that are more in the wild nature and don’t have a public swimming pool feel.
submitted by PersonalLiza to VacationColorado [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 05:06 Moonbear30 The request for a simple entry job "3.5k per month (USD)" and "giving the opportunity of growing up if you show high-quality skills" Job offers should be serious and reviewed on Linkedin.

The request for a simple entry job submitted by Moonbear30 to dataanalysis [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 04:51 Junior_Button5882 11 Terrifying-But-True Horror Stories Reported in the News - From fatal exorcisms to unexplained deaths and devil worship—these are some real-life nightmares.

A terrifying movie or book or show gets your blood pumping in the moment of consumption, sure—we covered our eyes in Squid Game with the rest of the world. But for the most part, you rest easy afterward knowing that what you've witnessed is fiction, deliberately spun up to creep you out. When the real world gets eerier than anything Stephen King could dream up, that's when you have every right to get a little scared of the dark.
Once in a while, a story of a dreadful disappearance, demonic possession, or devil worship will land in the local paper instead of a pulpy old paperback. We've rounded up the most unnerving real-life tales below. In honor of spooky season, here are eleven we can't stop thinking about.

The Axe Murder House

The Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa is a well-known tourist attraction for ghost hunters and horror lovers alike. The site of a gruesome unsolved 1912 murder, in which six children and two adults had their skulls completely crushed by the axe of an unknown perpetrator, was purchased in 1994, restored to its 1912 condition, and converted into a tourist destination. It costs $428 a night to stay at the old haunted home, where visitors always report strange paranormal experiences, such as visions of a man with an axe roaming the halls or the faint screams of children.
But in November of 2014, the haunting took a darker turn. Robert Steven Laursen Jr., 37, of Rhinelander, Wisconsin was on a regular recreational paranormal visit with friends when true horror struck. Per VICE:
His companions found him stabbed in the chest—an apparently self-inflicted wound—called 9-1-1, and Laursen was brought to a nearby hospital before being helicoptered to Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha.
The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said Laursen suffered the self-inflicted injury at about 12:45 a.m., which is around the same time the 1912 axe murders in the house began.
Laursen recovered from his injuries, but has never spoken publicly about what occurred that day. For Martha Linn, the owner of the home, the incident was very upsetting. "It's publicity, but it's not exactly the kind of publicity you desire to have. I don't want people thinking that when they come to the Villisca Axe Murder House something's going to happen that's going to make them do something like that.” The house remains open for tourist visits and overnight stays today.
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The Haunted Doll

When you think of haunted dolls, it’s likely the creepy old Victorian-looking porcelain kind that springs to mind. None of which you probably have laying around. Still, don’t get too comfortable around any kids toys too soon, though: a Disney’s Frozen Elsa doll that was gifted for Christmas 2013 in the Houston area made headlines earlier this year when it seemingly became haunted.
Per KPRC2 Houston News:
The doll recited phrases from the movie Frozen and sang “Let It Go” when a button on its necklace was pressed.
“For two years it did that in English,” mother Emily Madonia said. “In 2015, it started doing it alternating between Spanish and English. There wasn’t a button that changed these, it was just random."
The family has owned the doll for more than six years and never changed its batteries. The mother says the doll would randomly begin to speak and sing even with its switch turned off.
The family decided to throw the creepy doll out in December of 2019. Weeks later, they found it inside a bench in their living room. “The kids insisted they didn’t put it there, and I believed them because they wouldn’t have dug through the garbage outside,” Madonia told KPRC2 Houston News.

Esquire Select

At that point, Elsa ceased to sing the English rendition of “Let It Go” altogether, speaking only Spanish when pressed. The family then double-bagged the bizarre doll and placed it at the bottom of their garbage which was taken out on garbage day. They went on a trip shortly after, but when they returned, Elsa too had come back, and was waiting in the backyard of their home.
This time, the family mailed Elsa to a family friend in Minnesota, who taped the haunted doll to the front bumper of his truck. It doesn’t seem to have made its way back to Houston yet, as per Madonia’s latest February Facebook update on the creepy doll.

A Deadly Exorcism

In August 2016 in North London, 26-year-old Kennedy Ife began acting strange and aggressive following a pain in his throat. He reportedly bit his father, threatened to cut off his own penis, and complained of a python or snake inside of him before his family restrained him to a bed with cable ties and excessive force.
As the BBC reported:
“The family then set about attempting to ‘cure’ Kennedy through restraint and prayer over the next three days, the court was told.”
His brother, Colin Ife, told police:
“It’s clear that thing was in him, what we believed was a demon because it was not natural. It was clearly trying to kill him,” he said.
“We had to restrain him for himself. It was clear if we didn’t restrain him, he could have tried to harm people in our family.”
Kennedy Ife had been bound to his bed for three days without medical attention when his brother called emergency services, explaining that Kennedy Ife was complaining of dehydration. He appeared to have developed breathing issues, and was pronounced dead at 10:17 a.m.
As The Independent reported:
While police were at the house Colin Ife allegedly carried out an “attempted resurrection” by chanting and praying for Mr. Ife.
All seven of Kennedy Ife’s family members were accused of manslaughter, false imprisonment, and causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult. A post-mortem examination revealed over 60 wounds including a possible bite on Kennedy Ife’s body, and his father, Kenneth Ife, along with four of his brothers, sustained injuries as well.
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The BBC reported:
Kenneth Ife told jurors he ordered his sons to take shifts and use "overwhelming force" but denied that an "association with cults, occults and secret societies" played any part in the death.
After a four day jury deliberation, all seven family members were cleared of charges on March 14, 2019.
📷Witches prepare themselves for a journey by broomstick to the Black Mountain, circa 1650. From a 17th century Dutch copperplate by Adrianus Hubertus.Hulton Archive

Dead Animals in the Walls

When the Bretzuis family decided to insulate their home in Auburn, Pennsylvania in 2015, they discovered that it had already been—with scores of dead animal carcasses.
As Fox reported:
The dead animals were wrapped in newspapers from the 1930s and 40s and were among half-used spices, and other items.
After removing the items they sent hundreds of artifacts and carcasses to an expert in Kutztown.
The expert attributed the rotting animals in their walls to Pow-wow or Dutch magic, a ritual originating in the culture of the Pennsylvania Dutch to treat ailments and gain physical and spiritual protection. The Pennsylvania Dutch were a group of German-speaking settlers to Pennsylvania in the 1600 and 1700’s, and are often of Lutheran, Mennonite, or Amish faiths.
The Washington Post notes on the magic:
Many of the spells deal with the care of livestock, finding water, or the treatment of minor ailments, reflecting the conditions and concerns of early American settlers.
But powwow also has within it a tradition of darker spells, and even of such things as conjuring demons.
One notable ritual in their tradition is this hex to create loyalty in a dog:
To attach a dog to a person, provided nothing else was used before to effect it: Try to draw some of your blood, and let the dog eat it along with his food, and he will stay with you.
The mold found on the rotting carcasses in the Bretzuis home has caused illness among the family members, and they say that the odor hasn’t gone away.
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Florida Devil Worshipping

Friends noticed that Danielle Harkins, a 35-year-old schoolteacher near St. Petersburg, Florida, started acting strangely in June of 2012, developing an interest in demonic rituals.
Soon after, she was arrested for abuse of seven of her former students, as the Tampa Bay Times reported:
Danielle Harkins told the kids they needed to rid their bodies of demons as the group gathered before dusk Saturday around a small fire near the St. Petersburg Pier. They should cut their skin to let the evil spirits out, police said she told the children. Then, they needed to burn the wounds to ensure that those spirits would not return.
When Harkins held a lighter to one teen's hand, wind blew the flame out, police said. That prompted her to douse his hand in perfume before setting it on fire. The boy suffered second-degree burns, police said.
Another teen was cut on the neck with a broken bottle, police said. Harkins used a flame to heat a small key, which she then used to cauterize the wound.
The police were notified because a friend of one of the students who participated in the ritual raised alarms. However none of the students themselves told their parents about the event or would comment following the arrest of Harkins for aggravated battery and child abuse.
NBC reported:
Investigators said they've spoken to Harkins, but she didn't spell out what type of religion would require such drastic measures.
"She hasn't informed us exactly what she was trying to accomplish with this," Puetz [of the St. Petersburg Police Department] said.

The Death of Elisa Lam

Elisa Lam was last seen on January 31, 2013 in the lobby of the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. She was vacationing through the West Coast, documenting the trip on her blog, and checking in with her parents every day. On January 31 those calls stopped. Lam had vanished. Soon the police were involved and her parents arrived to help with the search.
They had nothing. That February, LAPD released elevator surveillance footage of Lam before her disappearance. The footage shows Lam behaving strangely in the elevator, appearing to talk with invisible people, peering around the corner of the door, crouching in the corner, and opening and closing the door. But what exactly is going on in this video raises more questions than answers. Theories range from psychotic episodes, to demonic possession, to unknown assailants just out of the camera's view:
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Around that time, hotel guests started reported weird things happening with the Cecil Hotel water supply. As CNN reports:
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"The shower was awful," said Sabina Baugh, who spent eight days there during the investigation. "When you turned the tap on, the water was coming black first for two seconds and then it was going back to normal."The tap water "tasted horrible," Baugh said. "It had a very funny, sweety, disgusting taste. It's a very strange taste. I can barely describe it."But for a week, they never complained. "We never thought anything of it," she said. "We thought it was just the way it was here."
On the morning of February 19, a hotel employee climbed to the roof and used a ladder to investigate the hotel's water storage tanks. That's where authorities found the decomposing, naked body of Lam, whose personal items were found nearby. After an autopsy, her death was labeled accidental. NBC Los Angeles reported at the time about the strange circumstances in the hotel's past:
The tank has a metal latch that can be opened, but authorities said access to the roof is secured with an alarm and lock.The single-room-occupancy hotel has an unusual history. "Night Stalker" Richard Ramirez, who was found guilty of 14 slayings in the 1980s, lived on the 14th floor for several months in 1985. And international serial killer Jack Unterweger is suspected of murdering three prostitutes during the time he lived there in 1991. He killed himself in jail in 1994.In 1962, a female occupant jumped out of one the hotel's windows, killing herself and a pedestrian on whom she landed.
In February 2021, a Netflix doc called Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel explored Elisa's tragic case and the history of the "cursed" Cecil Hotel.

An Exorcism in Indianapolis

Last year, the Indianapolis Star published a lengthy report on a family terrorized by three children allegedly possessed by demons. The account of Latoya Ammons and her family tells disturbing stories of children climbing up the walls, getting thrown across rooms, and children threatening doctors in deep unnatural voices. It would seem like something straight out of a movie–a work of fantasy, except all of these accounts were more or less corroborated with "nearly 800 pages of official records obtained by the Indianapolis Star and recounted in more than a dozen interviews with police, DCS personnel, psychologists, family members and a Catholic priest."
One of the more chilling sections of the report includes a segment about the possessed 9-year-old:
According to Washington's original DCS report—an account corroborated by Walker, the nurse—the 9-year-old had a "weird grin" and walked backward up a wall to the ceiling. He then flipped over Campbell, landing on his feet. He never let go of his grandmother's hand.
Another segment of the piece reads:
The 12-year-old would later tell mental health professionals that she sometimes felt as if she were being choked and held down so she couldn't speak or move. She said she heard a voice say she'd never see her family again and wouldn't live another 20 minutes.
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Utah Murder-Suicide

In September of 2014, a Utah teen returned to his home to find his parents and three siblings dead. "In a notebook, a 'to-do list' had been scribbled on the pages ... The list looked as if the parents were readying to go on vacation—items such as 'feed the pets' and 'find someone to watch after the house' were written," The Salt Lake Tribune reported. It appeared to be murder-suicide, but there was no suicide note, no prior indication that they would do this, no explanation. Police could not figure out why two parents would kill themselves and three of their four children.
For a year, no one knew exactly what happened to the family, or what would drive the parents to do something so unthinkable. In January, police released more chilling details in the case. According to accounts from family members and an investigation by police, the parents were driven by a belief that the apocalypse was coming and an obsession with a convicted killer. As the Washington Post reported:
Friends and family told police that the parents were worried about the "evil in the world" and wanted to escape a "pending apocalypse." But most assumed they just wanted to move somewhere "off the grid." Investigators also found letters written by Kristi Strack to one of the state's most infamous convicted killers, Dan Lafferty, who was convicted in the 1984 fatal stabbing of his sister-in-law and her 1-year-old daughter. According to trial testimony, he killed the victims at the order of his brother, Ron Lafferty, who claimed to have had a revelation from God. The story became a book called "Under the Banner of Heaven."Police said Kristi Strack became friends with Dan Lafferty, and she and her husband even visited him in prison.

The Phone Stalker

In 2007, ABC news documented a series of cell phone calls to families with terrifyingly specific death threats. The unidentified callers knew exactly what families were doing and what they were wearing.
The families say the calls come in at all hours of the night, threatening to kill their children, their pets and grandparents. Voice mails arrive, playing recordings of their private conversations, including one with a local police detective.The caller knows, the families said, what they're wearing and what they're doing. And after months of investigating, police seem powerless to stop them.
This went on with the Kuykenall family for months, who reported a caller with a scratchy voice threatening to slit their throats.
When the Fircrest, Wash., police tried to find the culprit, the calls were traced back to the Kuykendalls' own phones -- even when they were turned off.It got worse. The Kuykendalls and two other Fircrest families told ABC News that they believe the callers are using their cell phones to spy on them. They say the hackers know their every move: where they are, what they're doing and what they're wearing. The callers have recorded private conversations, the families and police said, including a meeting with a local detective.

"The Watcher"

After moving into their $1.3 million dream home, a New Jersey family started receiving creepy death threats from someone who identified themselves as "The Watcher." As CBS News reported earlier this year:
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Since moving in, the owners said they have received numerous letters from the mysterious person. "The Watcher" claimed the home "has been the subject of my family for decades," and "I have been put in charge of watching and waiting for its second coming," Castro reported.The new owners have several children, and other letters asked, "Have they found out what's in the walls yet?" and "I am pleased to know your names now, and the name of the young blood you have brought to me."
The family was forced to flee from their home and later filed a lawsuit against the previous owners.

Issei the Cannibal

In 1974, 24-year-old Wako University student Issei Sagawa allegedly followed a German woman to her home in Tokyo, Japan, broke into her apartment while she was sleeping, and attempted to cut a piece of flesh off her body to consume. When she awoke, she reportedly fought him and he was later captured by the police. According to a 2012 Vice documentary that covered Issei's bizarre story, he was mistakenly charged with attempted rape and his wealthy father paid the victim a settlement outside of court to have the charges dropped.
Seven years later, in 1981, he allegedly committed a murder in France—shooting and eating a fellow University student, Renée Hartevelt. Issei creepily documented the entire experience with photographs and he was captured by authorities once again while attempting to dump the rest of her body in the Bois de Boulogne lake. He was deported back to Japan and committed to a mental institution. For reason unknown, his psychologists in Japan declared that he was sane. Furthermore, a legal technicality involving the French government refusing to turn over the documents from his case meant that his murder charges were dropped completely. He checked himself out of the mental hospital and has reportedly been walking the streets as a free man ever since. Issei has even become a controversial celebrity, writing over 20 books. According to Japan Today, he most recently fantasized about an unnamed TV actress, saying:
"I'll catch a glimpse of her thigh and think, 'That sure looks tasty.' But I don't feel like I actually want to eat it. As I accomplished the act of cannibalism once, there's no meaning to maintaining the desire for it anymore. In my book, I wrote that it [human flesh] was tasty, but that was not really true; I'd much rather eat Matsuzaka (Kobe) beef. But because I'd desired to consume human flesh for so long, I'd managed to convince myself that it would necessarily be delicious."
Issei Sagawa was also referenced in the Rolling Stones song "Too Much Blood," with the lyrics reading: "And when he ate her he took her bones/To the Bois de Boulogne." He is currently 73 years old and continues to live in Kawaski City, Japan. To this day, no one knows why France did not allow Japan to give him a trial.
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2023.05.28 04:49 moe_master The world longest joke (Pt 2)

I told you that you'd heal quickly now."
"Yeah, well, still," said Jack, "it's the principle of the thing. And nobody likes being bitten in the butt! Couldn't you have gotten my calf or something instead?"
"More meat in the typical human butt," replied Nate. "And less chance you accidentally kick me or move at the last second."
"Yeah, right. So, tell me all of these wonderful secrets that I now qualify to hear," answered Jack.
"Ok," said Nate. "Do you want to ask questions first, or do you want me to just start talking?"
"Just talk," said Jack. "I'll sit here and try to not think about food."
"We could go try to rustle up some food for you first, if you like," answered Nate.
"Hey! You didn't tell me you had food around here, Nate!" Jack jumped up. "What do we have? Am I in walking distance to town? Or can you magically whip up food along with your other powers?" Jack was almost shouting with excitement. His stomach had been growling for hours.
"I was thinking more like I could flush something out of its hole and bite it for you, and you could skin it and eat it. Assuming you have a knife, that is," replied Nate, with the grin that Jack was starting to get used to.
"Ugh," said Jack, sitting back down. "I think I'll pass. I can last a little longer before I get desperate enough to eat desert rat, or whatever else it is you find out here. And there's nothing to burn - I'd have to eat it raw. No thanks. Just talk."
"Ok," replied Nate, still grinning. "But I'd better hurry, before you start looking at me as food.
Nate reared back a little, looked around for a second, and then continued. "You, Jack, are sitting in the middle of the Garden of Eden."
Jack looked around at the sand and dunes and then looked back at Nate sceptically.
"Well, that's the best I can figure it, anyway, Jack," said Nate. "Stand up and look at the symbol on the rock here." Nate gestured around the dark stone they were both sitting on with his nose.
Jack stood up and looked. Carved into the stone in a bas-relief was a representation of a large tree. The angled-pole that Nate was wrapped around was coming out of the trunk of the tree, right below where the main branches left the trunk to reach out across the stone. It was very well done - it looked more like a tree had been reduced to almost two dimensions and embedded in the stone than it did like a carving.
Jack walked around and looked at the details in the fading light of the setting sun. He wished he'd looked at it while the sun was higher in the sky.
Wait! The sun was setting! That meant he was going to have to spend another night out here! Arrrgh!
Jack looked out across the desert for a little bit, and then came back and stood next to Nate. "In all the excitement, I almost forgot, Nate," said Jack. "Which way is it back to town? And how far? I'm eventually going to have to head back - I'm not sure I'll be able to survive by eating raw desert critters for long. And even if I can, I'm not sure I'll want to."
"It's about 30 miles that way." Nate pointed, with the rattle on his tail this time. As far as Jack could tell, it was a direction at right angles to the way he'd been going when he was crawling here. "But that's 30 miles by the way the crow flies. It's about 40 by the way a man walks. You should be able to do it in about half a day with your improved endurance, if you head out early tomorrow, Jack."
Jack looked out the way the snake had pointed for a few seconds more, and then sat back down. It was getting dark. Not much he could do about heading out right now. And besides, Nate was just about to get to the interesting stuff. "Garden of Eden? As best as you can figure it?"
"Well, yeah, as best as I and Samuel could figure it anyway," said Nate. "He figured that the story just got a little mixed up. You know, snake, in a 'tree', offering 'temptations', making bargains. That kind stuff. But he could never quite figure out how the Hebrews found out about this spot from across the ocean. He worried about that for a while."
"Garden of Eden, hunh?" said Jack. "How long have you been here, Nate?"
"No idea, really," replied Nate. "A long time. It never occurred to me to count years, until recently, and by then, of course, it was too late. But I do remember when this whole place was green, so I figure it's been thousands of years, at least."
"So, are you the snake that tempted Eve?" said Jack.
"Beats me," said Nate. "Maybe. I can't remember if the first one of your kind that I talked to was female or not, and I never got a name, but it could have been. And I suppose she could have considered my offer to grant requests a 'temptation', though I've rarely had refusals."
"Well, umm, how did you get here then? And why is that white pole stuck out of the stone there?" asked Jack.
"Dad left me here. Or, I assume it was my dad. It was another snake - much bigger than I was back then. I remember talking to him, but I don't remember if it was in a language, or just kind of understanding what he wanted. But one day, he brought me to this stone, told me about it, and asked me to do something for him. I talked it over with him for a while, then agreed. I've been here ever since.
"What is this place?" said Jack. "And what did he ask you to do?"
"Well, you see this pole here, sticking out of the stone?" Nate loosened his coils around the tilted white pole and showed Jack where it descended into the stone. The pole was tilted at about a 45 degree angle and seemed to enter the stone in an eighteen inch slot cut into the stone. Jack leaned over and looked. The slot was dark and the pole went down into it as far as Jack could see in the dim light. Jack reached out to touch the pole, but Nate was suddenly there in the way.
"You can't touch that yet, Jack," said Nate.
"Why not?" asked Jack.
"I haven't explained it to you yet," replied Nate.
"Well, it kinda looks like a lever or something," said Jack. "You'd push it that way, and it would move in the slot."
"Yep, that's what it is," replied Nate.
"What does it do?" asked Jack. "End the world?"
"Oh, no," said Nate. "Nothing that drastic. It just ends humanity. I call it 'The Lever of Doom'." For the last few words Nate had used a deeper, ringing voice. He tried to look serious for a few seconds, and then gave up and grinned.
Jack was initially startled by Nate's pronouncement, but when Nate grinned Jack laughed. "Ha! You almost had me fooled for a second there. What does it really do?"
"Oh, it really ends humanity, like I said," smirked Nate. "I just thought the voice I used was funny, didn't you?"
Nate continued to grin.
"A lever to end humanity?" asked Jack. "What in the world is that for? Why would anyone need to end humanity?"
"Well," replied Nate, "I get the idea that maybe humanity was an experiment. Or maybe the Big Guy just thought, that if humanity started going really bad, there should be a way to end it. I'm not really sure. All I know are the rules, and the guesses that Samuel and I had about why it's here. I didn't think to ask back when I started here."
"Rules? What rules?" asked Jack.
"The rules are that I can't tell anybody about it or let them touch it unless they agree to be bound to secrecy by a bite. And that only one human can be bound in that way at a time. That's it." explained Nate.
Jack looked somewhat shocked. "You mean that I could pull the lever now? You'd let me end humanity?"
"Yep," replied Nate, "if you want to." Nate looked at Jack carefully. "Do you want to, Jack?"
"Umm, no." said Jack, stepping a little further back from the lever. "Why in the world would anyone want to end humanity? It'd take a psychotic to want that! Or worse, a suicidal psychotic, because it would kill him too, wouldn't it?"
"Yep," replied Nate, "being as he'd be human too."
"Has anyone ever seriously considered it?" asked Jack. "Any of those bound to secrecy, that is?"
"Well, of course, I think they've all seriously considered it at one time or another. Being given that kind of responsibility makes you sit down and think, or so I'm told. Samuel considered it several times. He'd often get disgusted with humanity, come out here, and just hold the lever for a while. But he never pulled it. Or you wouldn't be here." Nate grinned some more.
Jack sat down, well back from the lever. He looked thoughtful and puzzled at the same time. After a bit, he said, "So this makes me the Judge of humanity? I get to decide whether they keep going or just end? Me?"
"That seems to be it," agreed Nate.
"What kind of criteria do I use to decide?" said Jack. "How do I make this decision? Am I supposed to decide if they're good? Or too many of them are bad? Or that they're going the wrong way? Is there a set of rules for that?"
"Nope," replied Nate. "You pretty much just have to decide on your own. It's up to you, however you want to decide it. I guess that you're just supposed to know."
"But what if I get mad at someone? Or some girl dumps me and I feel horrible? Couldn't I make a mistake? How do I know that I won't screw up?" protested Jack.
Nate gave his kind of snake-like shrug again. "You don't. You just have to try your best, Jack."
Jack sat there for a while, staring off into the desert that was rapidly getting dark, chewing on a fingernail.
Suddenly, Jack turned around and looked at the snake. "Nate, was Samuel the one bound to this before me?"
"Yep," replied Nate. "He was a good guy. Talked to me a lot. Taught me to read and brought me books. I think I still have a good pile of them buried in the sand around here somewhere. I still miss him. He died a few months ago."
"Sounds like a good guy," agreed Jack. "How did he handle this, when you first told him. What did he do?"
"Well," said Nate, "he sat down for a while, thought about it for a bit, and then asked me some questions, much like you're doing."
"What did he ask you, if you're allowed to tell me?" asked Jack.
"He asked me about the third request," replied Nate.
"Aha!" It was Jack's turn to grin. "And what did you tell him?"
"I told him the rules for the third request. That to get the third request you have to agree to this whole thing. That if it ever comes to the point that you really think that humanity should be ended, that you'll come here and end it. You won't avoid it, and you won't wimp out." Nate looked serious again. "And you'll be bound to do it too, Jack."
"Hmmm." Jack looked back out into the darkness for a while.
Nate watched him, waiting.
"Nate," continued Jack, quietly, eventually. "What did Samuel ask for with his third request?"
Nate sounded like he was grinning again as he replied, also quietly, "Wisdom, Jack. He asked for wisdom. As much as I could give him."
"Ok," said Jack, suddenly, standing up and facing away from Nate, "give it to me.
Nate looked at Jack's backside. "Give you what, Jack?"
"Give me that wisdom. The same stuff that Samuel asked for. If it helped him, maybe it'll help me too." Jack turned his head to look back over his shoulder at Nate. "It did help him, right?"
"He said it did," replied Nate. "But he seemed a little quieter afterward. Like he had a lot to think about."
"Well, yeah, I can see that," said Jack. "So, give it to me." Jack turned to face away from Nate again, bent over slightly and tensed up.
Nate watched Jack tense up with a little exasperation. If he bit Jack now, Jack would likely jump out of his skin and maybe hurt them both.
"You remember that you'll be bound to destroy humanity if it ever looks like it needs it, right Jack?" asked Nate, shifting position.
"Yeah, yeah, I got that," replied Jack, eyes squeezed tightly shut and body tense, not noticing the change in direction of Nate's voice.
"And," continued Nate, from his new position, "do you remember that you'll turn bright purple, and grow big horns and extra eyes?"
"Yeah, yeah...Hey, wait a minute!" said Jack, opening his eyes, straightening up and turning around. "Purple?!" He didn't see Nate there. With the moonlight Jack could see that the lever extended up from its slot in the rock without the snake wrapped around it.
Jack heard, from behind him, Nate's "Just Kidding!" right before he felt the now familiar piercing pain, this time in the other buttock.
Jack sat on the edge of the dark stone in the rapidly cooling air, his feet extending out into the sand. He stared out into the darkness, listening to the wind stir the sand, occasionally rubbing his butt where he'd been recently bitten.
Nate had left for a little while, had come back with a desert-rodent-shaped bulge somewhere in his middle, and was now wrapped back around the lever, his tongue flicking out into the desert night's air the only sign that he was still awake.
Occasionally Jack, with his toes absentmindedly digging in the sand while he thought, would ask Nate a question without turning around.
"Nate, do accidents count?"
Nate lifted his head a little bit. "What do you mean, Jack?"
Jack tilted his head back like he was looking at the stars. "You know, accidents. If I accidentally fall on the lever, without meaning to, does that still wipe out humanity?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure it does, Jack. I'd suggest you be careful about that if you start feeling wobbly," said Nate with some amusement.
A little later - "Does it have to be me that pulls the lever?" asked Jack.
"That's the rule, Jack. Nobody else can pull it," answered Nate.
"No," Jack shook his head, "I meant does it have to be my hand? Could I pull the lever with a rope tied around it? Or push it with a stick? Or throw a rock?"
"Yes, those should work," replied Nate. "Though I'm not sure how complicated you could get. Samuel thought about trying to build some kind of remote control for it once, but gave it up. Everything he'd build would be gone by the next sunrise, if it was touching the stone, or over it. I told him that in the past others that had been bound had tried to bury the lever so they wouldn't be tempted to pull it, but every time the stones or sand or whatever had disappeared."
"Wow," said Jack, "Cool." Jack leaned back until only his elbows kept him off of the stone and looked up into the sky.
"Nate, how long did Samuel live? One of his wishes was for health too, right?" asked Jack.
"Yes," replied Nate, "it was. He lived 167 years, Jack."
"Wow, 167 years. That's almost 140 more years I'll live if I live as long. Do you know what he died of, Nate?"
"He died of getting tired of living, Jack," Nate said, sounding somewhat sad.
Jack turned his head to look at Nate in the starlight.
Nate looked back. "Samuel knew he wasn't going to be able to stay in society. He figured that they'd eventually see him still alive and start questioning it, so he decided that he'd have to disappear after a while. He faked his death once, but changed his mind - he decided it was too early and he could stay for a little longer. He wasn't very fond of mankind, but he liked the attention. Most of the time, anyway.
"His daughter and then his wife dying almost did him in though. He didn't stay in society much longer after that. He eventually came out here to spend time talking to me and thinking about pulling the lever. A few months ago he told me he'd had enough. It was his time."
"And then he just died?" asked Jack.
Nate shook his head a little. "He made his fourth request, Jack. There's only one thing you can ask for the fourth request. The last bite.
After a bit Nate continued, "He told me that he was tired, that it was his time. He reassured me that someone new would show up soon, like they always had.
After another pause, Nate finished, "Samuel's body disappeared off the stone with the sunrise."
Jack lay back down and looked at the sky, leaving Nate alone with his memories. It was a long time until Jack's breathing evened out into sleep.
Jack woke with the sunrise the next morning. He was a little chilled with the morning desert air, but overall was feeling pretty good. Well, except that his stomach was grumbling and he wasn't willing to eat raw desert rat.
So, after getting directions to town from Nate, making sure he knew how to get back, and reassuring Nate that he'd be back soon, Jack started the long walk back to town. With his new health and Nate's good directions, he made it back easily.
Jack caught a bus back to the city, and showed up for work the next day, little worse for the wear and with a story about getting lost in the desert and walking back out. Within a couple of days Jack had talked a friend with a tow truck into going back out into the desert with him to fetch the SUV. They found it after a couple of hours of searching and towed it back without incident. Jack was careful not to even look in the direction of Nate's lever, though their path back didn't come within sight of it.
Before the next weekend, Jack had gone to a couple of stores, including a book store, and had gotten his SUV back from the mechanic, with a warning to avoid any more joyriding in the desert. On Saturday, Jack headed back to see Nate.
Jack parked a little way out of the small town near Nate, loaded up his new backpack with camping gear and the things he was bringing for Nate, and then started walking. He figured that walking would leave the least trail, and he knew that while not many people camped in the desert, it wasn't unheard of, and shouldn't really raise suspicions.
Jack had brought more books for Nate - recent books, magazines, newspapers. Some things that would catch Nate up with what was happening in the world, others that were just good books to read. He spent the weekend with Nate, and then headed out again, telling Nate that he'd be back again soon, but that he had things to do first.
Over four months later Jack was back to see Nate again. This time he brought a laptop with him - a specially modified laptop. It had a solar recharger, special filters and seals to keep out the sand, a satellite link-up, and a special keyboard and joystick that Jack hoped that a fifteen-foot rattlesnake would be able to use. And, it had been hacked to not give out its location to the satellite.
After that Jack could e-mail Nate to keep in touch, but still visited him fairly regularly - at least once or twice a year.
After the first year, Jack quit his job. For some reason, with the wisdom he'd been given, and the knowledge that he could live for over 150 years, working in a nine to five job for someone else didn't seem that worthwhile any more. Jack went back to school.
Eventually, Jack started writing. Perhaps because of the wisdom, or perhaps because of his new perspective, he wrote well. People liked what he wrote, and he became well known for it. After a time, Jack bought an RV and started traveling around the country for book signings and readings.
But, he still remembered to drop by and visit Nate occasionally.
On one of the visits Nate seemed quieter than usual. Not that Nate had been a fountain of joy lately. Jack's best guess was that Nate was still missing Samuel, and though Jack had tried, he still hadn't been able to replace Samuel in Nate's eyes. Nate had been getting quieter each visit. But on this visit Nate didn't even speak when Jack walked up to the lever. He nodded at Jack, and then went back to staring into the desert. Jack, respecting Nate's silence, sat down and waited.
After a few minutes, Nate spoke. "Jack, I have someone to introduce you to."
Jack looked surprised. "Someone to introduce me to?" Jack looked around, and then looked carefully back at Nate. "This something to do with the Big Guy?
"No, no," replied Nate. "This is more personal. I want you to meet my son." Nate looked over at the nearest sand dune. "Sammy!"
Jack watched as a four foot long desert rattlesnake crawled from behind the dune and up to the stone base of the lever.
"Yo, Jack," said the new, much smaller snake.
"Yo, Sammy" replied Jack. Jack looked at Nate. "Named after Samuel, I assume?"
Nate nodded. "Jack, I've got a favor to ask you. Could you show Sammy around for me?" Nate unwrapped himself from the lever and slithered over to the edge of the stone and looked across the sands. "When Samuel first told me about the world, and brought me books and pictures, I wished that I could go see it. I wanted to see the great forests, the canyons, the cities, even the other deserts, to see if they felt and smelled the same. I want my son to have that chance - to see the world. Before he becomes bound here like I have been.
"He's seen it in pictures, over the computer that you brought me. But I hear that it's not the same. That being there is different. I want him to have that. Think you can do that for me, Jack?"
Jack nodded. This was obviously very important to Nate, so Jack didn't even joke about taking a talking rattlesnake out to see the world. "Yeah, I can do that for you, Nate. Is that all you need?" Jack could sense that was something more.
Nate looked at Sammy. Sammy looked back at Nate for a second and then said, "Oh, yeah. Ummm, I've gotta go pack. Back in a little bit Jack. Nice to meet ya!" Sammy slithered back over the dune and out of sight.
Nate watched Sammy disappear and then looked back at Jack. "Jack, this is my first son. My first offspring through all the years. You don't even want to know what it took for me to find a mate." Nate grinned to himself. "But anyway, I had a son for a reason. I'm tired. I'm ready for it to be over. I needed a replacement."
Jack considered this for a minute. "So, you're ready to come see the world, and you wanted him to watch the lever while you were gone?"
Nate shook his head. "No, Jack - you're a better guesser than that. You've already figured out - I'm bound here - there's only one way for me to leave here. And I'm ready. It's my time to die."
Jack looked more closely at Nate. He could tell Nate had thought about this - probably for quite a while. Jack had trouble imagining what it would be like to be as old as Nate, but Jack could already tell that in another hundred or two hundred years, he might be getting tired of life himself. Jack could understand Samuel's decision, and now Nate's. So, all Jack said was, "What do you want me to do?"
Nate nodded. "Thanks, Jack. I only want two things. One - show Sammy around the world - let him get his fill of it, until he's ready to come back here and take over. Two - give me the fourth request.
"I can't just decide to die, not any more than you can. I won't even die of old age like you eventually will, even though it'll be a long time from now. I need to be killed. Once Sammy is back here, ready to take over, I'll be able to die. And I need you to kill me.
"I've even thought about how. Poisons and other drugs won't work on me. And I've seen pictures of snakes that were shot - some of them live for days, so that's out too. So, I want you to bring back a sword.
Nate turned away to look back to the dune that Sammy had gone behind. "I'd say an axe, but that's somewhat undignified - putting my head on the ground or a chopping block like that. No, I like a sword. A time-honored way of going out. A dignified way to die. And, most importantly, it should work, even on me.
"You willing to do that for me, Jack?" Nate turned back to look at Jack.
"Yeah, Nate," replied Jack solemnly, "I think I can handle that."
Nate nodded. "Good!" He turned back toward the dune and shouted, "Sammy! Jack's about ready to leave!" Then quietly, "Thanks, Jack."
Jack didn't have anything to say to that, so he waited for Sammy to make it back to the lever, nodded to him, nodded a final time to Nate, and then headed into the desert with Sammy following.
Over the next several years Sammy and Jack kept in touch with Nate through e-mail as they went about their adventures. They made a goal of visiting every country in the world, and did a respectable job of it. Sammy had a natural gift for languages, as Jack expected he would, and even ended up acting as a translator for Jack in a few of the countries. Jack managed to keep the talking rattlesnake hidden, even so, and by the time they were nearing the end of their tour of countries, Sammy had only been spotted a few times. While there were several people that had seen enough to startle them greatly, nobody had enough evidence to prove anything, and while a few wild rumors and stories followed Jack and Sammy around, nothing ever hit the newspapers or the public in general.
When they finished the tour of countries, Jack suggested that they try some undersea diving. They did. And spelunking. They did that too. Sammy finally drew the line at visiting Antarctica. He'd come to realize that Jack was stalling. After talking to his Dad about it over e-mail, he figured out that Jack probably didn't want to have to kill Nate. Nate told Sammy that humans could be squeamish about killing friends and acquaintances.
So, Sammy eventually put his tail down (as he didn't have a foot) and told Jack that it was time - he was ready to go back and take up his duties from his dad. Jack, delayed it a little more by insisting that they go back to Japan and buy an appropriate sword. He even stretched it a little more by getting lessons in how to use the sword. But, eventually, he'd learned as much as he was likely to without dedicating his life to it, and was definitely competent enough to take the head off of a snake. It was time to head back and see Nate.
When they got back to the US, Jack got the old RV out of storage where he and Sammy had left it after their tour of the fifty states, he loaded up Sammy and the sword, and they headed for the desert.
When they got to the small town that Jack had been trying to find those years ago when he'd met Nate, Jack was in a funk. He didn't really feel like walking all of the way out there. Not only that, but he'd forgotten to figure the travel time correctly, and it was late afternoon. They'd either have to spend the night in town and walk out tomorrow, or walk in the dark.
As Jack was afraid that if he waited one more night he might lose his resolve, he decided that he'd go ahead and drive the RV out there. It was only going to be this once, and Jack would go back and cover the tracks afterward. They ought to be able to make it out there by nightfall if they drove, and then they could get it over tonight.
Jack told Sammy to e-mail Nate that they were coming as he drove out of sight of the town on the road. They then pulled off the road and headed out into the desert.
Everything went well, until they got to the sand dunes. Jack had been nursing the RV along the whole time, over the rocks, through the creek beds, revving the engine the few times they almost got stuck. When they came to the dunes, Jack didn't really think about it, he just downshifted and headed up the first one. By the third dune, Jack started to regret that he'd decided to try driving on the sand. The RV was fishtailling and losing traction. Jack was having to work it up each dune slowly and was trying to keep from losing control each time they came over the top and slid down the other side. Sammy had come up to sit in the passenger seat, coiled up and laughing at Jack's driving.
As they came over the top of the fourth dune, the biggest one yet, Jack saw that this was the final dune - the stone, the lever, and somewhere Nate, waited below. Jack put on the brakes, but he'd gone a little too far. The RV started slipping down the other side.
Jack tried turning the wheel, but he didn't have enough traction. He pumped the brakes - no response. They started sliding down the hill, faster and faster.
Jack felt a shock go through him as he suddenly realized that they were heading for the lever. He looked down - the RV was directly on course for it. If Jack didn't do something, the RV would hit it. He was about to end humanity.
Jack steered more frantically, trying to get traction. It still wasn't working. The dune was too steep, and the sand too loose. In a split second, Jack realized that his only chance would be once he hit the stone around the lever - he should have traction on the stone for just a second before he hit the lever - he wouldn't have time to stop, but he should be able to steer away.
Jack took a better grip on the steering wheel and tried to turn the RV a little bit - every little bit would help. He'd have to time his turn just right.
The RV got to the bottom of the dune, sliding at an amazing speed in the sand. Just before they reached the stone Jack looked across it to check that they were still heading for the lever. They were. But Jack noticed something else that he hadn't seen from the top of the dune. Nate wasn't wrapped around the lever. He was off to the side of the lever, but still on the stone, waiting for them. The problem was, he was waiting on the same side of the lever that Jack had picked to steer towards to avoid the lever. The RV was already starting to drift that way a little in its mad rush across the sand and there was no way that Jack was going to be able to go around the lever to the other side.
Jack had an instant of realization. He was either going to have to hit the lever, or run over Nate. He glanced over at Sammy and saw that Sammy realized the same thing.
Jack took a firmer grip on the steering wheel as the RV ran up on the stone. Shouting to Sammy as he pulled the steering wheel, "Better Nate than lever!", he ran over the snake.
submitted by moe_master to copypasta [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 02:14 umay21 Use ChatGPT assistant without restriction with Utopia Chat GPT

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The Addition of ChatGPT on Utopia Messenger gives you a powerful tool that can help you with a variety of tasks. ChatGPT uses artificial intelligence to answer your questions and provide helpful information in real-time. With Utopia Messenger, you can have the power of ChatGPT in your pocket, absolutely free of cost!
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submitted by umay21 to CryptoMars [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 01:38 HopeTroll Hunter’s Oral History (2004): “We Solve Unsolved Cases In This Country… Cases that Haven't Been Solved after 10, 15, 20, 25 years … We Must Not Give Up!!!

Thanks to u/-searchingirl
for mentioning Hunter's oral history
Hunter’s Take
My sister says to me, “I'm so sorry you had to have this case,” … I want to share that I don't feel that way … There were tremendous challenges, unpopular decisions that had to be made …I feel … to some extent proud … that I weathered the storms, as I think a DA should, and did the right thing based on the evidence and I'm … real comfortable with that
Hunter’s Grand Jury Experience
When I announced … the grand jury finished its work and … I had concluded … there was insufficient evidence to bring charges, this disappointed a lot of people.
Hunter’s Last Term
There had been some questions … about whether I should run [for DA] again.
The thinking being, 24-years was enough, but I decided to go again and the Gods may have had this case as a present for me, for making that decision…
Why the case became high-profile
Reporters were stealing his garbage
I had reporters going through my trash. I finally had to put a sign on the the garbage cans that [read], “if you're walking your dog you can put your poop here” and that stopped some of them from going in.
The Side Shows
When the media got their claws into this one, there were so many side shows.
Larry Schiller
I remember looking out … and here was Larry Schiller, who wrote the book “Perfect Town Perfect Murder” and he's got an entourage of a half a dozen people and he's showing them where I live.
Geraldo Rivera
Rivera was down at the Boulderado, stirring up the public interest … He or one of his people called my [10-year old] daughter … to say you … really ought to persuade your dad to be on our show.
…Tom Koby, … a very good chief had taken a man from his staff who did not have felony investigative experience and made him the commander of detectives prior to the death of JonBenet … this commander … did not have the instincts to work this investigation in a cooperative, collaborative way … and he believed early on … there was evidence, for example semen on JonBenet’s panties
… the commander focused his attention on the Ramsey's based on his understanding of that evidence or perhaps some other evidence, that I'm not aware of, … and he forgot that … you can't have blinders on or you are not going to turn all of rocks that need to be turned.
…John Eller was the Commander of Detectives and did not have the kind of experience … necessary to deal with this caliber of investigation and he had the opinion that he knew who did it and it's my impression that the department's focus … on the Ramseys to the exclusion of … other evidence.
the final break before Eller was replaced was that in the fall of 1997, Vanity Fair did a piece we've come to know … because of depositions … one of the main detectives [Steve Thomas was the source], … with no homocide experience, … a number of things … appeared in that article that were evidentiary … and … were from … case filings about the ransom note … plus direct criticism of the DA's office.
…one of the deputies was accused of giving one of the defense attorneys a backrub at one of the meetings that involved handwriting analysis.
I was at that meeting, it never happened, but that didn't matter…
Lou Smit saves the trainwreck
…early on … I … put on my staff … a hot shot detective who'd solved numerous kinds of crimes in the Colorado Springs area working in the police department and in the sheriff's office.
... we're getting hundreds and hundreds of pages and evidence. They needed to be cataloged in an appropriate way, so that we could retrieve them. … Lou was able to set up a database out of it.
If it was fibers, we could pull that up as a particular fiber...I wanted to be able to compete with a defense team that had unlimited resources at that time and was doing everything that a defense team could do in this kind of high-profile case.
…Well Lou Smit was referred to in the Vanity Fair article as a delusional old man, because if this was the BPD’s general view of him … Koby and I could not mend that …
[Lou Smit is] probably one of the finest investigators I've ever known… certainly he didn't like being called a delusional old man, but also being disrespected to the extent he was by the Boulder police officers ... and maybe his own following of the evidence, Lou Smit became pretty much convinced and he's been on national TV that it was an intruder.
One of my deputies who is working closely with him … also became convinced or nearly convinced that it was an intruder. …
Koby’s Apology Letter
I had an apology letter from Koby ... I've never released that letter from him saying, it's outrageous, I don't know who did it, I apologize …
Vanity Fair Article Fallout
I tried to counter that Vanity Fair article … [with an] interview with Larry Schiller, … [in the] New Yorker…
I thought it was … a mediocre article. …the agreement in writing was … he would not use that material for his book.
I have that on New Yorker stationary. … I think things were rolling too fast and furious in terms of the high-profile nature of this case …
The Tabloids
… a picture of JonBenet on the cover and [it] didn't really matter … about the content …one of those reporters said to me that every time they had …a picture of JonBenet on the front of their tabloid, they would sell an extra 250,000 copies.
His Philosophy
…prosecutors around the country have said to me … how lucky you are …that your job is putting away people that have interfered with an individuals right to do what they want to do, their peace, and to have hurt them
…I'm honored to have been able to do that this last case … I think that it allowed me to draw deep on what I am as a human being, what I am as a lawyer, to call it the right way, to do the right thing in the face I think of a lot of hollering and yelling by the public that couldn't stand …to think that a little six year-old girl had been murdered and There is yet to be any justice I mean this this does not sit well with any of us …it would have been easy to bring charges but to approach charges when you didn't feel you could make your case would have been a horrible thing to do …
it's an unsolved case we solve unsolved cases in this country you taught any prosecutor he'll tell you he can name cases that have been solved after 10 15 20 25 years and I can think of five or six in our county so we must not give up on that
RDI petty party poopers
…the bumps and grinds of the case and some lost relationships, some real losses … one of my deputies … who I hired straight out of law school, … worked for me for the whole time…[didn’t attend my] retirement because [he said] I'm angry at you about this okay. … I had to make …a tough call but it was the right thing to do. …
you want to the search for the truth and [if] people are not gonna follow the evidence, like some police officers, they need to be gone … they need off because it is a search for the truth, it's a turning of all of the rocks, it's to follow the evidence where it takes you If you think you know where you're going you can't follow the evidence and that's a very important the thing to know…
Hunter’s Family
I'm grateful that [my] family was able to … take this in stride. I never saw them … upset, cry, or anything like that. I mean they didn't … like the publicity, but I'd been a DA from their birth through their very early years and I think they kind of rolled into that.
Hunter’s Final Analysis
…In the final analysis …I don't think we lost evidence …we picked up all of the hairs we picked up all of the fibers you know we took all of the photographs and so I don't think any evidence was lost because of this pissing contest …the public is not interested in paying its’ police department and its’ prosecutors to not get along and to fight with each other…
submitted by HopeTroll to JonBenet [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 00:14 loganextdoor [USA-IL] Office Clear Out [H] Two 2022 Macbook Air, Philips Monitor, DT 770 Pro [W] Local Cash Preferred

Looking to find a new home for a monitor, pair of headphones, and laptops.
2x BNIB 2022 Macbook Air M2: Starlight colorway with 8gb mem and 256gb ssd. Never opened so includes everything in box, details in third pic. Initially gifts but storage was too little & missed return window. Purchased in April 2023. Looking for $900 each.
Philips 246E9Q 24" IPS Monitor: Purchased for use in spring semester in 2022. Slight scratch on top left. Comes with power cable. Looking for $60.
Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro: Received new as a gift in early 2022, tested a couple times, like my IEMs more. 80 Ohms, no adapter for the 3.5mm input. Looking for $70.
Prices are for local cash pickup to 60601 and Chicago metro area. Laptops are firm but others are negotiable.
submitted by loganextdoor to hardwareswap [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 23:35 Timeraft [F4A] Mutated Cyborg Witch forces a mechanic to help her Pt:2 [Sorta dominant][No longer mean][Gorgon][Chill vibes][Post-Dystopia][CW: mentions of violence, child soldiers and a PTSD attack][Good to Monetize and modify][Reverse comfort?][Strangers to ?]

In a magic/cyberpunk dystopia ruled by four sorceress queens the listener was just a regular person trying to get by. Unfortunately a renegade witch needed some help, and didn't take no for an answer.
A few years later the dystopia is gone. The world is healing. The listener has a better job and a larger shop. One night there's a knock on the door, a familiar face has come around for a visit.
Sequel to this:
Distant prequel here:
Cyborg witches agree, the best way to avoid dystopia is to swing by my Ko-Fi!:
I just finished all my commissions so DM me if you're in the market for one!
Dialogue in plain text
SFX in bold
Context in italics
Bold italics indicate context that changes the audio
The witch knocks on a glass door to a small cybernetics shop. She’s changed a lot since the last audio. Most of her implants are gone along with her arm, replaced with scars. She's wearing a “spring outfit” , a sundress and a big floppy hat that hides her snake hair. Their voice is calmer and more nervous
Hey, are you still open? I know it's late.
Can I come in?
You have a really nice shop here. It's very homey. A lot bigger than your old one
I’m sorry but do you maybe remember me?
I don't know if you recognize me. It was dark and I- well I was probably really frightening to look at.
About five years ago I broke into your garage and forced you to repair my cybernetics. I threatened you with violence if you didn't comply. You remember me now?
Let me officially introduce myself. My name is Janet, Janet Farsons.
I know that's not a very “magical” name, but I was the witch from that night.
I’m in the city to testify at the tribunals for the old regime and I saw an ad for your CO-OP on the tram. It had the faces of some of the technicians and one was you. I remembered your face from that night.
I used that spell I put on you to track you down. Do you remember? The one that warns me if you’re in danger. I know that's really weird but I
-I wanted to see you again.
This place is really nice, did you grow up in this neighborhood?
That's nice, it suits you. This city is so beautiful, I never realized that when I was stationed here. The way the city lights reflect in the bay, The dark blue and purple tint of the street lights, the fact that no matter where I am I can hear music off in the distance. It all gives me chills. I’ve been trying to get the courage to go out on the town one night.
I was born in a small fortress city in the northern plains. It was always too cold. I never liked it there. It wasn't alive, like it is here. Everyone there hated everyone else.
I’m sorry, you didn't ask for my life story. I came here because I wanted to apologize.
I broke into your house and threatened you. I wasn’t who I am today. I was a dangerous person. I don't think I would have killed you, but something like turning you into stone or taking your voice away forever.
Guilty pause
Those were things I was legitimately considering.
I was desperate and hurt, and I acted like a feral animal. I did terrible things that night, both before and after I arrived at your place. That militia guard who was on the corner that night- I’ve heard he was a violent mean man who abused his power, but I can't justify what I did to him. I wasn't kidding about the fates worse than death.
That night you showed me kindness I didn't deserve. I had no right to extort you like I did. I’m really truly sorry, but I know that doesn't mean anything.
Is there anything I can do to make amends?
Heh, yes I suppose I can sit for a while. You’re a good person, lending an ear to somebody like me.
Pulls the chair out and sits at the bench.
I didn't run away because I was rebellious minded or anything. For the most part I was a model soldier. It was just….
Well it was just that. I got attached to a unit of conscripts that were very young. They were basically children. The officer told them I’d keep them safe, but I couldn't. We got wiped out. I only survived out of luck.
Then a few days later they took me, and attached me to another unit. They were even younger. I was going to be leading literal children to their deaths. They gave the same speech about how I’d keep them safe, but it was obviously a death run mission. I couldn't take it.
I snapped right there. I killed the officers on the spot. Then I fought my way out of the base like some kind of animal. The curse of Pallas activated, but well being a gorgon just made my job easier. I tore through the place like a storm, anybody that had the power to stop me was out on the frontlines.
I found a cell of rebels outside of the base and hid with them for a while.
A guy from the underground managed to give me some more implants to keep the curse under control, but then the security witches found us before he could finish. They killed him but I managed to escape.
I suppose I'm good at that, surviving stuff that kills everyone around me.
After I left you I jumped the city walls and found my way to the castaways. They were closer to the city than I had thought. The war was going way worse than even I realized. I turned myself in and offered them all the info I had. I thought they would just kill me, but they took me away and gave me medical attention. They found some alternate force that can break curses without magic, that's how they’d made so much progress. I spent the last months of the war in physical therapy.
I’ve been getting counseling too, I’m slowly becoming human again. My therapist told me not to see it in those terms, but that's what it feels like.
Have you been ok? Since that day?
I see your curse mark is gone. I’m glad. Did it ever get activated?
And did you do what I told you?
My curse is gone too if you hadn’t noticed. My eyes don't turn people into stone anymore. And my skin isn't always breaking out in scales. I kept the snakes though.
They laugh and take off their hat revealing that they still have hissing snakes in their hair.
I got a little attached. I got used to being able to use them to look behind my head. And well, I mean they’re kinda cute right?
I even named them.
They excitedly show them off but get embarrassed halfway through.
This one is Damien, this one is Clara, Then we got Sharon, Carter , Tony and….
Sorry I got all rambly.
I usually hide them in public though. Sometimes I get self-conscious. This is actually the first time I felt ok wearing a dress. Normally I hide the scars from my old implants.
Do you like it? I really like the flowers.
Thanks, I do genuinely feel really pretty today. I haven't felt this way in a long time.
It's amazing how much everything has changed since that night isn't it? It seemed like the four queens were unstoppable, like they’d be around forever. And now it seems like it was just a bad dream.
Once they led armies, ruled by decree, some of us even worshiped them, but nobody walks under their banners anymore. Like the wind just blew them away. Two died in the war, one committed suicide to avoid capture and the last is on trial.
Your old boss, the queen of cups.
I’m a witness at the trial. I saw her at the stand yesterday. She was a mess, she’d obviously been crying and seemed completely bewildered by everything. It was pathetic. I can't believe we lived in such fear of somebody like that. She gave a whole spiel about her time in the old days, what led her to develop that lust for power.
A real sob story, but I saw her for real. She’s just empty, a shell of a person burned out by a lust for power. It chills me. I always thought there’d be some big epic confrontation y’know?
They talk about dystopias, but they never mention what comes after. What kind of world do we make now? Can we avoid the mistakes of the past?
I suppose that's out of my hands, er hand I suppose.
I was wondering. Do you have any cybernetic arms for sale? They confiscated mine after the hostilities ended.
I want something simple and industrial, nothing fancy. Do you perhaps have anything on hand? I promise I’ll pay this time!
Listener shuffles around and gets a couple out
That's a pretty good selection.
Hmmm let's try……
That one
With help from the listener they put it on (Electrical sounds) They try it out and seem to like it
Not bad, not bad. It kind of reminds me of my old one….
Panicking (The arm triggered some bad memories.)
Take it off, take it off! Oh my god please take it off!
They do so the speaker slowly recovers
I’m so sorry I’m so sorry
I guess I wasn't ready. Having the arm back took me back to a place I didn't want to go.
I’m sorry I should leave. I’m probably bringing you someplace bad too.
No I don't really know where I’m going, I’ll probably go back to the room the tribunal put me up in.
No, I mean I don't have a curfew or anything. I already testified why?
Well yeah I do want to explore the city, are you offering to show me around?
Are you sure? Like sure sure?
Alright let's go. Let me remove that tracking spell first though. Let me touch your face.
You want to keep it? What? Why?
Heh, it wouldn't make me feel safe personally, but if it makes you feel ok then who am I to judge.
Come here, let me recharge it.
They kiss the listener on the cheek.
Can you take me somewhere really tranquil? Someplace that has a really good view? Someplace where I can just have one moment of perfect peace?
Door opens they leave together
Thank you. For everything.
submitted by Timeraft to ASMRScriptHaven [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 23:33 sacredhams Inclusive Powerlifting in Denver!

Inclusive Powerlifting in Denver!
Denver’s first inclusive powerlifting meet for ALL athletes is happening next weekend! Join us in South Denver next Saturday for some good old fashioned powerlifting and fundraising!
WHAT: Full-power (squat, bench, AND deadlift) powerlifting competition and fundraising event, organized by local nonprofit Strength For All Bodies WHEN: Saturday, June 3rd from 10am-2pm WHERE: Metamorphosis Fitness, 2890 S Colorado Blvd
Suggested donation at the door with option to purchase more raffle tickets. There will be raffle prizes available to enter both in person and on Instagram (follow @strengthforallbodies for more info).
We are still looking for makers and vendors for this event, so if you are interested in setting up a booth at a queer strength event, please let me know here or send me an email @ [email protected]! We could also use one or two more experienced powerlifting refs. $50 for the day (9:15am-2pm). Send me an email!
Competitors are also raising funds for The Trevor Project. Help us meet our $3,500 goal by visiting our team page!
Any and all questions, please send an email to [email protected]. We support trans athletes, full stop.
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2023.05.27 23:18 Determination7 The Skill Thief's Canvas - Chapter 5 / 5 (part 1)

Author's Note:
Fitting that the final chapter of the beta test would need to be split for length. Thanks for reading, everyone! Your feedback has been very helpful. The story will continue in the future once we've built up a backlog (and made any minor adjustments as needed).


I’m giving myself six months before I say screw it and run out of here. Adam may have had a plan, but he wasn’t married to it. He was absolutely not going to stay there for twenty years. He was, however, willing to spend six months there to learn more about the world…and to test out a theory.
To do that, he had to find out more about Aspreay. What made the man tick? Why was he the way he was?
Adam’s next few days were more comfortable than anticipated. He expected to be little more than a prisoner, but was instead quickly moved to an isolated room in the back of the castle. Sure, the place wasn’t really much better than his cell, but at least it was more dignified.
The day after that, Lord Aspreay called upon him. “Observe and paint,” he said, in a dry voice. “I want you in the Great Hall with me. Find a quiet corner and stay quiet. Your job is to capture what you see. Paint me as I respond to petitioners, meet with foreign lords, and conduct my business. Capture me rightly, yes? Do not commit to the canvas any imperfections. Are you capable of it?”
“Yes, my lord,” Adam responded, bowing gracefully. “It will be my honor.” Posh bastard.
“Will you capture my image beautifully and accurately?”
Adam smiled. “I will capture it beautifully.”
The lord nodded. “Wonderful.” This appeared to satisfy him. “Go set yourself up then.”
Adam quickly found a corner. The castle’s servants set him up with canvases, tarps, and other supplies. It was an odd place to work, but he could make do.
There were worse things to endure.
“My lord, I – I have come here to…” The hunchback trailed off, aiming eyes low and hat crumbling between shaky hands. He was quiet, but his mouth was hung open and his lips quivered faster than the sweat dripping from his forehead. “I…I have…come…to….”
“Speak.” Lord Aspreay’s voice cut like an icy knife. “Let us not pretend we do not understand what our roles are. A petitioner petitions, and a ruler rules. I cannot fulfill my role until you fulfill yours.”
The hunchback took this as encouragement. Adam wasn’t sure he should have. “My lord, thank you! I…” He shook his head and appeared to gain some confidence. “Winter will be harsh this year, you see, and…and my family will starve. W–we can barely afford to pay for our house, let alone our food!”
Lord Aspreay’s voice remained unchanged from its businesslike tone. “Why?”
“My lord?” The man looked up in surprise. “What do you mean?”
Why will your family starve? I would not call you young, so this is clearly not your first winter. Your family did not starve last winter. What differs?” Lord Aspreay leaned forward on his throne. “Have you gambled away your Orbs?”
“No!” the petitioner cried out. “My lord, I used to be a blacksmith. Every year until the last, I used to work day and night to provide for my family. The fire from my forge kept us warm, and the weapons I sold kept us fed. But the incident with those foreigners…”
“Ah.” Aspreay relaxed into his throne, leaning back and resting the side of his head on three outstretched fingers. When he spoke again, the lord’s tone was solemn. “You have been a hunchback ever since?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“How much do you need to live through winter?”
“Five – five thousand orbs, my lord. We are a family of five.”
Lord Aspreay nodded at his cloaked servant. “Roland, give this man and his family six thousand Orbs.” Before the petitioner could react, Aspreay added, “You will not receive this boon again. Make sure your sons are trained to take over your job come spring.”
Adam’s hands joined the applause that followed, even if his heart did not. There were plenty of cheers and boisterous claims that their lord was just, kind, but how many of them actually meant it? Probably not too many. Anyone standing in this hall knew that kissing the lord’s ass was probably the best way to stay alive.
Then again…I didn’t expect that, Adam considered as he watched on. Aspreay handed the purse of Orbs to the man, then waved him off. I saw him launch an innocent woman through the goddamn walls just because she went to a different city first. How come he’s behaving like this? Is he kind to his citizens, just not to foreigners?
It sounded like a good hypothesis, but it was disproven only two days later, when another petitioner knelt before the throne. This one announced himself as Conde, a once-farmer.
“Our farmhouse burned down, milord, nothin’ left but ashes,” he pleaded. “We don’t have the Orbs to build it again, not even close. It’s been a good season, milord but if we don’t have somewhere to store it…”
Aspreay held a hand to silence him. The lord studied a piece of parchment Roland had brought him, and nobody dared speak. The farmer remained kneeling on the ground, visibly trembling as he waited. Throughout it all the lord would occasionally sigh, look up at the petitioner, then glanced back at the parchment.
“We have need of this farmhouse,” Aspreay muttered. “Our city cannot afford to waste valuable grain come winter. Roland, see to it that the storage house is rebuilt—”
“Thank you milord,” the farmer cried out, bowing on his knees, “you are the kindest, most wise—”
“—and then start the process of handing the farm to someone else,” he finished, in a bored tone. “Hand me a list of candidates with a farming adjacent Talent. Give me their background, family history, everything our archives have on them. We need that list done in a few days, you hear me?”
Roland nodded at once. The farmer stood up, mouth hanging open and eyes so wide his eyelids appeared hidden. “Milord, have mercy! My family…it was an accident! It couldn’t be avoided!”
“It hardly matters why the infernal thing burnt down,” Lord Aspreay fired back. “If by accident, then you should have been more careful. If by victim of some lowlife, then you should have protected it better. What matters is that Penumbria cannot afford to lose our crops. As for your punishment–”
What the hell, Adam thought, forcing himself to focus on his canvas, are your priorities? Why did you punish this man and not the last? Are you just hardcore set into protecting the city even at the cost of its citizens? Is that it?
Adam was hesitant to describe Lord Aspreay as having a set of principles. In truth, he was hesitant to describe him at all. There was something weird about him.
Maybe…he’s just a utilitarian psycho who justifies sacrifices by telling himself that it’s for the greater good…or something. It was the only theory that didn’t conflict with anything else so far. It would explain why he let Adam live, why he banished that woman, why he helped the hunchback blacksmith, and why he hadn’t helped that last man.
Well, mostly. There was nothing about the injured blacksmith that really benefited the city. Maybe Aspreay needed the man to pass down his skills to his sons? It was a bit odd, but Adam still felt like it was a valid theory.
When he’d finally set himself on accepting that as the likely truth, Lord Aspreay disproved it the very next day.
“…that is why I was wondering if maybe, maybe you could give me aid, milord?” the petitioner begged. This one had the Talent of carpentry. He’d worked as a builder up until the day he fell from a two-story building and broke his back. Adam paid careful attention to his story, noting that there was nothing the man had done wrong. “I–I do not ask it for free. If there is anything a man with a broken back can do for you, milord, please tell me. My life is yours.”
Aspreay remained silent for longer than usual. He set his wine glass on the throne’s arm. His face turned dark, his brows furrowed, and his eyes shifted over the parchment multiple times. Twice he opened his mouth before closing it again without saying anything. At one point he called Roland over, gestured at the parchment, then sent him away. When the cloaked servant returned with a different roll of sheets and a shake of his head, the lord let his head hang low for a moment before speaking.
“We cannot help you,” Aspreay said, without looking up. “Penumbria suffers. We can only offer our prayers.”
“Milord, I beg of you, my family–”
“Guards,” Aspreay said, in a tired tone, “take him away.” Then, hesitantly, added, “Be gentle. Do not hurt him further. This is a good man.”
Only the carpenter’s desperate screams echoed throughout the Great Hall. The tables full of nobles and royal guards didn’t dare to move a muscle. No one even sipped their drink. Long after the double-doors had shut and sealed the petitioner away, the silence remained, growing thicker, denser by the second.
Then, without warning, Aspreay shattered his wine glass against the wall and shouted, “DAMNED BE THE EMPEROR!”
No one dared to even look in his direction. No one but Adam, who studied him from behind his canvas with a burning curiosity. What exactly are your morals, Aspreay?
“That bastard – our people are suffering! Does he have no heart? Someone should kill–”
Roland put a hand to his arm. “My lord, those are dangerous words to utter.”
Aspreay shook the hand off, but did not finish the threat. Instead, he grit his teeth and said, “We cannot help them. There’s not enough bloody Orbs for the amount of people we…we need more!”
The lord lifted his gaze and aimed it at his courtiers. None dared to look at him, and Adam felt all too relieved that Aspreay appeared to have forgotten of his existence. The painter thought that maybe the lord planned on laying some of the blame at his courtiers’ feet. Reason prevailed, and instead he merely stood from his throne and stormed out of the Great Hall.
He only came back an hour later, appeased by a theater troupe brought on to perform for him, and by the Great Hall being converted into a stage. After the second fight scene, he cracked a smile, and by the time the juggler performed their soliloquy he nearly appeared back to normal.
Once he called forth a lavish dinner and was greeted by a particularly indulgent display of meat, it was as if the incident had never happened.
Aspreay was serious about not allowing Adam to speak a single word. If not for Tenver, Adam was pretty certain he’d have forgotten the sound of his own voice. Not that it would be the first time that happened. Between part-time jobs and his school workload, he was pretty used to being alone.
Both he and Tenver were lacking in friends and found themselves drinking a nightly cup of tea. Adam was neither allowed to speak in the Great Hall nor leave the castle at all, so his room was where they met.
“Okay, I’m gonna be honest – I really don’t get this guy,” Adam grumbled. “He’s always ready to send someone flying. Banishment, execution, he’s down with everything. But sometimes he seems like…he genuinely wants to help. Like he’s frustrated when he can’t.”
Tenver laughed. It looked genuine, but Adam detected a note of bitterness. “Aspreay is…difficult. There’s good in him, yet I can’t deny his good actions anymore than I can deny his atrocities.”
Well, at least the lord seemed as odd to everyone else as he did to Adam. If everyone in this world was that weird, he might have just given up.
“I need to understand that bastard,” Adam muttered. “Need to find out what exactly drives him.”
Tenver leaned forward. “That’s good. Don’t lose that spirit.” He stared straight at Adam, his gaze turning more serious. “Everyone around here likes to consider him insane. They assume he can’t be reasoned with.”
“You disagree?” Adam raised an eyebrow.
“Not quite. But we need to reason with him regardless, so who cares if he’s mad? Things have to change. The city…”
Adam remembered the tumor growing from the side of decayed houses. “Yeah, that’s fair.”
“Things can’t stay like this. They have to change, and only Aspreay has a Lord Talent. No one else does.”
“I take it…that’s a rare talent?”
Tenver stared at him blankly before realization dawned on him. “Sometimes I forget that you forgot,” he joked. “Yeah. It’s one of the rarest Talents there are. It’s not one you can just learn. You have to be born with the aptitude for it.”
There was another brief note of bitterness on Tenver’s face. He’s a nobleman, but his Talent is Swordsmanship, not Lordship. Maybe his parents had it and he didn’t? “I guess that means you can’t just request the Emperor to send a replacement, huh.”
“No, because first of all that would be treason,” Tenver laughed. “But second of all, yeah, the Empire doesn’t always have enough lords laying around waiting to be used. And even if they do, they wouldn’t be in a hurry to send someone here. We are at the edge of the Empire, way too close to the Rot.”
Adam considered asking more about the Rot. It felt like he could ask more about it, and yet…something kept his words from leaving his throat. He didn’t know why. Yes, it might be dangerous if people found out he was from another world…but surely he could trust Tenver at least a little bit, right?
Trust doesn’t come easy, Adam thought, bitterly.
Better to be safe. People here were paranoid about the Rot – they’d nearly executed him just because he mentioned fighting a monster that had been affected by it. What if they thought he was a weird death cultist or something? No reason to risk it. He could find out more about it through osmosis, just by remaining on the court.
“I don’t get that guy….” Adam muttered. “Wish he made a bit more sense. Guess I gotta keep trying ’til I figure him out.”
Tenver widened his grin. “That’s right. Don’t give up that attitude. Things aren’t perfect, but we have to approach it properly. Using force alone won’t solve anything – we need to have a dialogue with him. Aspreay isn’t a good ruler, but I don’t think he’s beyond salvation. There is good in there, somewhere.”
Adam sighed and said nothing. He peered into his wine glass, contemplating his immediate plans. There was much he didn’t know about this world, but he was learning more and more every day. It would be easy to get complacent, to stay in the city for too long…and that was why he wanted to make sure his plans were moving forward.
Six months. I won’t allow myself to stay here any longer. Before that date, I have to understand Aspreay as much as I can. What makes him tick? Is there really ‘good’ in him like Tenver says?
One month in, and Adam was nowhere closer to understanding the man.
Aspreay’s judgment remained as passionate as it was unpredictable. At times he would show surprising kindness, and at others he would disdainfully – if not sadistically – enjoy dishing out punishment. Strangest of all, sometimes he expressed regret at the same decisions that, in the moment, he would make without batting an eye.
It was easy to think of him just as a madman, but there had to be more to it.
What was the pattern? There had to be one!
“Send him to the dungeons – he will remain there for twenty days, then be escorted in the next royal trading caravan to his home city,” Aspreay declared, to a man who entered Penumbria illegally.
“For your crimes, you will be banished,” Aspreay declared later that same day, to a man guilty of the same crime, from the same city as the one before. He flicked his wrist, and the man was sent flying through the dividing wall.
Occasionally he would grant Orbs to those begging for help, and sometimes he would banish them. Though he would wax poetry about their faults and favors regarding the city, there didn’t seem to be a noticeable difference between them.
The only common factor Adam noticed was that Aspreay tended to be less judgemental in the morning. BUT WHY?
It was during one such morning, when his mood was considerably better, that he seemed to remember Adam existed. For the first time since he’d welcomed him into the court, Aspreay walked up behind the canvases to see how his paintings were turning out.
“Remarkable,” he said, his mouth hanging open. “Utterly breathtaking.” He gestured at the set of canvases laid side by side. “Those are of the petitioners?”
Adam nodded. “My lord doesn’t usually see them for very long, so they aren’t very detailed for the most part.” Truthfully, Adam mostly sketched out an outline during the petitions and did the full painting later in his cell. He had nothing if not free time. Maybe the result wasn’t always completely accurate to what they looked like, but it was close enough.
“These are not very detailed?” the lord asked incredulously. “They look nearly like pictures!”
The lord stretched out his fingers toward one, when Adam cried out angrily, “Don’t!” He hadn’t meant to shout. It wasn’t until he saw the lord’s expression that he realized his mistake. Ah. Crap. Aspreay didn’t even look angry. His face was blank, his brow furrowed, as though Adam had spoken in a foreign language. Have to fix this somehow. What do I say? Ah—Ahh—
*“*The paint isn’t dry, my lord,” Adam told him. “It would be my….” How would someone from this world phrase this? He closed his eyes and drew a deep, if quick breath. “A stain on your fine clothes would be a stain on my honor, my lord.”
Slowly, surprise gave way to a satisfied smile. “Ah, of course. Your caution is appreciated, painter.” His eyes shifted back to the painting Adam was working on. “Still, I must say, your work is impressive. You have forgotten your life, but not your purpose. Good.”
Adam had to fight himself to not like the man a little.
He despised Aspreay’s abuse of power, his callousness towards matters of life and death. But the lord praised his art, and Adam hated how much it made him want to excuse the man’s other crimes.
“Marvelous,” the lord repeated. He remained in that awkward position, standing behind Adam with a hand to his shoulder in silence. Come on. What now? No shot you expect me to keep working like this. After a long pause, Aspreay said, “You will paint the city’s treasures at night.”
Adam noticed that he wasn’t given a choice on whether he would want to do that or not. He could understand the subtext well enough. “It will be my honor, my lord.”
“I will have a guard walk you to the treasure room and wait for you there,” Aspreay said. When Adam eyed him curiously, he said with a smirk, “Those are important treasures. Would you have me trust someone to be in the treasure room alone?”
His tone made it clear that the lord worried for both Adam and any of his guards attempting to do something with those treasures. “I would never ask you to trust anyone other than yourself, my lord.”
It was a callous response, and Adam nearly regretted it before he saw a smile creep into the noble’s face. “See, Adam, I knew I liked you for a reason. At times you understand things with greater deftness of wit than my advisors.”
In response, Adam smiled politely and nodded along. He’d amused the man, somehow, and didn’t mean to waste the chance. Gotta keep him happy. What should I say? He’ll probably smell out my bullshit if I’m not half-honest. What would he want to hear that I also would like to say?
Slowly, Adam opened his mouth, a bitter smile coming to his face. “I understand little, my lord, but I know the perils of trust.”
“Maybe I should banish Roland and have you become my advisor instead,” Aspreay laughed.
For that lone moment Adam imagined it all too clearly. With the position of advisor, he would slowly lead Aspreay toward slowly becoming less cruel, more practical. Maybe make him use his Orbs more wisely, in a way that benefited the common people of Penumbria more. In that vision, the reckless lord slowly saw the error of his ways and became a wiser, kinder version of himself. He even helped Adam find out why he had been sent to another world, purely out of the goodness in his heart.
Never gonna happen, Adam reminded himself. It wasn’t a distressing thought; just a realistic one. Dreams didn’t come true that easily. Someone like Aspreay could joke about it, but he would never elevate someone he saw as a ‘commoner’ to a high-ranking position in his court.


Link to Part 2
submitted by Determination7 to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 22:13 tygamer15 SHITPOST I asked Bing Chat to turn the NHL into a faction for Total War:

I asked "Can you make a faction roster for the National Hockey League for the game Total War Warhammer 3? Including who the 4 Legendary Lords would be"
That's an interesting request. I'm not very familiar with the game Total War Warhammer 3, but I'll try to use my creativity to make a faction roster for the National Hockey League. Here's what I came up with:
National Hockey League (NHL)
The NHL is a faction of ice hockey players and fans who have been transported to the Warhammer world by a mysterious portal. They are determined to prove their skills and spirit on the frozen battlefields, using their hockey equipment and tactics as weapons. They are led by four Legendary Lords, each representing one of the four divisions of the NHL.
Legendary Lords:
Special Mechanics:
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2023.05.27 21:36 lucasAK2004 Operation Snow Eagle: Chapter 12

This one took a bit longer to write, mostly because it's longer and I was working a bit on chapter 13 as well. I hope you guys enjoy. Criticism and grammar corrections are appreciated.

Chapter 12

Patrick stood in front of the large building that sat at the center of the compound. He guessed that it had to be at least three stories tall and had a large garage door that was wide enough to fit a small jet. Whatever sat inside was the biggest mystery about the Da’Kar, the question they had been asking since they were first found on Earth; How had these interlopers arrived here with seemingly century old technology? It was quite an amazing opportunity to be among the first humans to find out, so when he was given the opportunity he volunteered his squad.
The mission itself was fairly simple, accompany an envoy for a week in Da’Karen territory. Of course they weren’t alone, a squad of marines were assigned to the other diplomat plus a translator for each of them.
The twelve of them stood by in front of the large building, just waiting for the order to go in. Tanner especially seemed excited for what lay beyond, quite frankly they all were. Soon enough a familiar Da’Kar approached them, it was the one named Chilluukik; He was some kind of noble or scientist, Patrick didn’t really know which. “Goodmorning, it is a pleasure to meet all of you as well as see a few that I’ve previously met.” Chilluukkik said that last part while gesturing to Patrick and his squad.
Patrick's diplomat, a woman named Sophie shook Chilluukik’s hand softly and introduced herself. “Sophie Lacelle, and this gentleman right here is Edward Teach.” After Sophie, Edward also shook the Da’Kar’s hand. “And I am Chilluukik, I am the head scientist here at this outpost.”
The garage-like door proceeded to open and everyone was invited inside. The room seemed rather plain at first glance, typical storage-like barebones deal but Patrick noticed how the location was actually defended. Two fortified positions were built on each side where Da’Karan soldiers were entrenched. They seemed to have larger versions of the steam rifles usually seen with their other troops. These rifles were bolted down into the floor and attached to much larger tanks. With no cover possible, it would be like walking in front of a second world war German machine gun nest.
In between them, a reinforced metal door was the only other notable thing in the room. Chilluukik grabbed everyone's attention and made them all move to the side. The secondary metal door opened with a wince, metal grinding on metal, revealing an archway with an eerie blue glow emanating from it. Chilluukik stepped in front of the device and faced the group.
“Come, right this way.”
Without another word the Da’kar stepped through the archway, sinking into the blue hue and disappearing without a trace. A marine was the first to follow, leading his group through the archway. Patrick was close behind, he paused a moment before stepping into the haze. A strange sensation flowed over his body, as if he were submerged in water; instinctively he held his breath as he stepped through.
It took a moment or two for his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting but soon it was clear that he was no longer in the same room he was in just a moment ago. Cautiously he took a breath, the air was thin and stale. The room they were standing in was some kind of workshop, strange tools were placed haphazardly around and there seemed to be machines all around with many intricate gears. Chilluukkik stood patiently as everyone passed through the arch, once everyone was through he addressed the group.
"Welcome to Charsier, the capital city of the Da’Kar. You are currently standing in my lab where I spent many years developing that portal you just walked through."
Now everything about their sudden appearance on earth made sense, for all intents and purposes the Da'Kar really did appear out of thin air. Patrick's mental list of strange things that have happened in the past month or so just kept growing. At this point the idea of a portal let alone actually going through one barely phased him. Tanner however, was awestruck as he usually was when it came to dealing with the Da'Kar. At least someone was enthusiastic about this whole ordeal. Edward stepped forward and spoke.
"Are we currently underground? It's somewhat hard to breathe, and the air seems stuffy."
"Yes, Charsier is almost entirely carved out of a mountain. Most of the city is underground, only military personnel are permitted to surface on a normal basis." Chilluukkik answered.
Edward thought on that for a moment, he opened his mouth as if he was going to say something but he hesitated. Instead he settled with a single word response. “Impressive.”
Chilluukkik clasped his hands together and spoke before any other questions could be asked. “We best not waste time, there are a lot of things to do today. Mainly you are all going to meet the matriarch and the council, but first I would like to go over a few things that you must abide by. First and foremost the proper greeting especially to those in power should be a bow, we are not accustomed to the physical greeting that is your ‘handshake’. Second, as you are strangers to our land it is best to avoid interacting with the general populace to avoid creating any unintended offense. If you must, it is best that you consult your guide that each group will be assigned before interacting. Lastly, it is not recommended to stray away from your guide as many of our cities can be labyrinth-like and it can be very easy to get lost even if you become familiar with an area. Are there any questions before we move forward?”
The room fell silent, Chilluukik waited a few moments before continuing but no one spoke up. He awkwardly cleared his throat and spoke again.
“Excellent, follow me so we can get you all situated.”
Chilluukkik led the group out of the tight lab and onto some kind of underground street. There were a number of Da'Karen guards on a perimeter, blocking and redirecting any civilians trying to pass through. Surprisingly very few actually stopped to ogle at the group of strange beings, most were just content with minding their own business and going on with their day. Though the occasional glance was fairly common.
Patrick took note of how gloomy the atmosphere of the city felt. Perhaps it was just this section but everything seemed to be built for more practicality than any kind of visually pleasing architecture. Though Patrick supposed that maybe this city was quite beautiful to the Da'Kar. Dim, damp, and tight must be all the rage in that case. It wasn’t really the best explanation he could’ve come up with.
A tram sat in the middle of the street awaiting to transport them to a different location in the city. The group gathered infront of the tram and a guard opened one of the side doors, allowing everyone to file in. The step onto the tram was larger than strictly comfortable, of course it hadn’t been designed with a human’s smaller stature in mind. That being said the tram was quite roomy and comfortably fit everyone inside.
The sudden acceleration of the tram surprised Patrick, a few of them who weren’t paying attention even stumbled a bit at the impromptu movement. Their ride was short lived however, only lasting a minute or two. The sight that met them once they stepped off the tram put the previous tunnels to shame. Designs and patterns were carved into the walls, neatly trimmed moss adorned the ceiling, and there was nearly double the space. Chilluukik grabbed the attention of the group and stuck a hand out to a grandiose doorway.
“Welcome to the imperial palace! It is the largest single structure in the entire city. The palace holds all the council members and the matriarch as they all have to be ready at a moment’s notice in the case of a national emergency. It is also where you all will be staying while you are in Charsier. Unfortunately I must ask that all soldiers surrender their weapons to the armory while on palace grounds as only the royal guard may be armed in the building.”
“What’s the point of an armed escort if they can’t even be armed?” Edward grumbled. Sophie leaned over to the American diplomat to comment. “I’m sure the royal guard will offer plenty of protection. Besides, cooperation shows trust between our governments, no matter how little.” Chilluukik glanced at the two, their conversation wasn’t exactly quiet. Nonetheless Chilluukkik continued the tour, seeming to ignore Edward’s comment.
They were led into the building and took a hard left to a hallway with several armed guards. At the end of the hallway was a reinforced steel door where an older Da’Karen soldier waited. Chilluukkik exchanged a few words with him in their tongue before turning to the group, specifically addressing Patrick’s squad and the marines.
“This is Quarter Master Arluirik, he will be in charge of storing your weapons. Don’t worry, once you leave they will all be returned to you.”
Arluirik took a bow as soon as Chilluukik was finished speaking and approached Patrick. Patrick sighed and turned to his squad. “Condition four, drop flaks as well, there’s no reason for us to be all armored up right now.” Patrick’s squad began unloading their rifles and taking off their combat gear; However the marines opted to just give up their rifles. Arlurik and another Da’Kar collected the weapons before bringing them behind the steel door. As soon as the steel door was sealed, Chillukik began walking back to the main entrance to which everyone followed.
“It is time that you meet the matriarch, as she does not speak your language, I will act as your translator for this meeting.”
Sophie spoke up. “We do have our own translators. While your assistance is appreciated, it’s a bit redundant.”
Chilluukkik sighed, though Patrick couldn’t tell if it was from annoyance or maybe something else. Da’Karen mannerisms would be something he’d have to pick up on and learn, especially considering the circumstances. “I would prefer that I be the translator. I’m sure your translators are plenty proficient, however I personally want to make sure that there is no confusion or misunderstandings. She is the single most important Da’Kar after all.”
“We’d rather not step on your toes then, we’ll proceed how you wish.” Edward responded.
Chillukik stopped the group in the middle of the entrance hall, for a few moments they stood in awe of the structure around them. Several ornate pillars lined the walls, five gold crests hung high above an archway that was guarded by tens of soldiers, the floors were of polished marble, and the lights shone brighter than anywhere else they had seen in the city. Chilluukik moved the diplomats to the front of the group while everyone else stood behind them shoulder to shoulder.
Once everyone was in position, Chilluukik nodded towards one of the guards. A moment later, said guard shouted something causing all of the Da’Kar in the room to snap to attention. Both Patrick’s squad and the marines took the que, going to attention themselves. A figure flanked by two guards appeared in the archway, they slowly walked across the hall to the two diplomats. Patrick could only assume that she was the matriarch, as she was dressed in an extravagant gown and sitting atop her head was a gold crown encrusted with a single blue gem.
As soon as the matriarch got about a meter away from Chilluukik, he took a bow and stepped to the side. The matriarch then approached the diplomats and they exchanged bows. She spoke in her alien tongue and a moment later Chilluukkik spoke up with the translation.
“Welcome to Charsier, we are happy to have you here. I am Shilluukkik, if there is anything you need during your time here let me know. You are our honored guests.”
Sophie was the first to speak. “Thank you, it is an honor to meet you madam. I am Sophie Lacelle, the representative from the nation of Canada.”
“And I am Edward Teach from the United States of America. It’s a pleasure ma'am.”

Arluirik and his assistant placed the human weapons on the table. Most of them were similar to the ones obtained from the crashed flying machine, however one looked very different. It was considerably larger and even had a handlebar attached to the side of the barrel. Che’quea picked it up to inspect it, it was almost twice the weight of the other rifles. He noted that it shared a few similarities with the mounted gun they also had captured.
“Was there any trouble with them handing over their weapons, Arluirik?”
“No sir, a few of them even dropped off their armor.” Arluirik held up a helmet with the distinct human pattern on it. Che’quea placed down the weapon and grabbed the helmet. Despite its relatively small size, the helmet had some heft to it. Whatever strange material it was made of was very dense, though he doubted that it could stop very much in terms of projectiles. Che’quea ran his fingers across the fabric cover, it was unlike any cloth he had seen before and was very finely woven.
“I want a detailed sketch of this pattern, I believe it is some sort of camouflage. We won't be able to replicate the material but perhaps we can use this pattern.”
“Yes sir.”
Che’quea placed the helmet down and pointed to the large rifle. “I want that to be analyzed the best you can without damaging it, the humans should be busy for at least several hours so take your time and get every detail. Learn what you can about this equipment, I want a report before the day is over.”
“It will be done sir.” Arluirik saluted Che’quea then waved over several other officers and they got to work. No matter how the situation went with the humans they were going to get something out of it, even if it was a few drawings.

Yesterday played through Patrick’s mind. While at first he was amazed by all the things he saw and the people he met, it started to get menial after the first few introductions. The whole day was just a bunch of formalities that he just didn’t really care for. Meeting the council was the worst of it, he couldn’t even remember a single name there if his life depended on it. Near the end of the day the Americans had split off from them and they went to meet their guides. The one his group was assigned was a young Da’Kar by the name of Sruri.
Apparently she worked under Chilluukik for a time but decided to pursue a different career around the time the portal opened. Patrick didn’t know the details but it did make him wonder why she left. It wasn’t really his business, perhaps she just didn’t like being a scientist or whatever she did. When they first met here she seemed to be very reserved, only speaking a few words at a time. Now that the initial meeting was over and it was a new day she had opened up a bit.
The tram lurched to a stop, dragging Patrick from his thoughts. Wolf, their translator from the US air force, spoke up. “Sruri says that we’ve arrived.” Everyone stood up and filed out of the tram. They were deep within Charsier, the tight tunnels were almost suffocating. Crowds of Da’Kar stood next to a train stop, barely heeding the group of humans any attention. It reminded Patrick of human cities where everyone just wanted to mind their own business and get on with their day.
In fact, the only one who seemed interested in them was a child who couldn’t stop staring. Patrick gave the child a soft wave and smiled. The kid shyly hid behind what Patrick assumed to be one of their parents. He must have been a strange sight to them, perhaps he had scared the child by mistake. The supposed parent took notice and looked over at Patrick, as soon as their eyes met his the Da’Kar quickly looked away. It was strange, all the civilians seemed very jumpy whenever they were around. Patrick thought back to what Chilluukik had said about not interacting with people who weren’t directly involved with diplomatic proceedings. David leaned over and whispered to Patrick.
"I can’t say I like the kind of looks we’re getting.”
“It’s best to just ignore it. People will be people, alien or not.”
David leaned back and looked forward as the train pulled in. The doors opened and people started flowing in. By the time Patrick’s group had made their way inside, the train was completely packed. If he didn’t feel claustrophobic before, he certainly did now. A loud yelp sounded out quickly followed by Martin speaking quickly.
“Ah shit, I think I stepped on someone’s tail. Wolf tell them I'm sorry, it was an accident.”
Just as the door closed, Patrick got forcibly squeezed between Tanner and some poor Da’Kar. Any attempt from the civilians to avoid the humans was now futile, it was an uncomfortable situation for everyone. Hopefully it wasn’t going to be a very long train ride, Patrick was getting hot and he could only imagine how the Da’Kar felt with all that fur. After a few minutes, Patrick felt something tugging on his shirt. He turned his head to see a familiar Da’Kar child trying to get his attention. Curiosity must have gotten the better of them, they spoke something.
Patrick felt somewhat bad about not being able to understand or even reply to the kid in any meaningful way. He thought for a moment before ruffling through his pockets for something that might interest the kid. Patrick pulled out a pen and a notebook. He opened the notebook and showed the kid how it worked. The kid’s eyes widened as he saw Patrick draw a few lines. What really seemed to excite the kid was when he handed the items over so the kid could try it themselves. Patrick watched the kid draw to their heart’s content, it was something to take both of their minds off of the train ride and pass the time.
Before Patrick knew it, the train had begun to slow as they neared their destination. The kid’s tail drooped and he wore a disappointed look. Timidly, they went to hand the notebook and pen back but Patrick stopped them. Patrick gently pushed the items back to the kid who now seemed confused. “Keep it kid, I think you’ll enjoy it a lot more than me.” The kid took a few moments to process Patrick’s intent, when it finally clicked the kid jumped with glee and hugged Patrick. He got a few looks from the Da’Kar in the train, however they seemed more surprised than the sour glances they had previously been giving him.
“What did you do to make him so happy?” Tanner asked.
“Hearts and minds, I gave ‘em a little gift.” Patrick smiled back. The doors opened and the pressure was finally released. Stepping out of the train, Patrick noticed that the air wasn’t nearly as stale as it had been in Chasier. Every breath was almost fresh and refreshing. They had only been on that train for maybe thirty minutes, perhaps now they were closer to the surface. The train station here seemed a lot less packed as well, Patrick was thankful for that much at least.
“Wolf, could you please ask Sruri where we are now?” Sophie asked. Wolf relayed the translated question to Sruri to which she answered with a brief response.
“This city is called Strulkurig, apparently it’s a very important city to them.”
Initially, the city seemed very similar to Charsier; Long tunnels stretched for seemingly miles. However, after just a few minutes of walking they arrived at an opening to a gargantuan cavity. It was in the shape of a dome, reaching nearly a mile across. At the top there was a large hole leading all the way to the surface, and at the bottom was a lake that took up most of the cavity. The vast majority of the city seemed to be built into the walls of the cavern, only slightly built onto the lake itself. Large metal supports lined the walls, assumedly to ensure the structural integrity of the walls. The amount of engineering that went into all of this must have been immense.
Sruri began speaking and a moment later Wolf started with his translation. “Most of the cavern is natural, the location was ideal to provide a central water source to the other cities. In fact, eighty percent of the water the Da’Kar uses is sourced from this spring.”
“And how many cities draw their water from here?” Sophie asked.
“Nine, including Strulkurig. The reservoir is extremely deep and is naturally replenished via surrounding groundwater.”
Patrick could see how important that this city remained protected. If that water supply was contaminated or poisoned it would be catastrophic for the Da’Kar. The fact that they were allowed into Strulkurig at all showed quite a bit of trust. Though Patrick couldn’t help but think that all this openness was an effort to draw their attention from something else. All this effort to build their cities underground, and for what? The Da’Kar were hiding something, or perhaps they were hiding from something.
Their first stop of the day was a ration center. It looked like any other cafeteria from earth. though instead of a wide selection, premade rations were handed out. The amount of food per meal seemed like the bare minimum, just enough to survive on. Sruri walked over and grabbed one before showing it to the group. Wolf was quick with the translation, he seemed to be getting better at the language. “She says that this is a standard civilian ration, about one thousand calories and each person gets two per day. Each ration is carefully constructed to sustain the nutritional needs of the average Da’Kar adult. However, there is rarely enough for everyone. It’s not uncommon for them to turn down many when the day’s rations are depleted.”
Patrick looked to the line that extended out of the building, there was a concerning amount of children in that line waiting to get their rations. It made him uneasy knowing that many of those children wouldn’t even get to eat, especially the ones farther back in the line. It was already clear to Patrick that whatever the Da’Kar were going through, they needed the support from humanity. Tanner began to pull out some of his MRE’s but Patrick stopped him.
“Put it away, you can’t feed all of them. After this mission the supplies from the US will come in, then there’ll be enough for everyone.”
“What if they don’t make it that long? Half of these people are practically skin and bone.”
“There’s nothing we can do at the moment and I need you to be on your top game for the rest of this mission. Save your food for yourself.” Patrick commanded sternly.
Tanner begrudgingly stuffed the food back into his backpack. They were there for only a few more minutes before departing to their next location. Throughout the day they went from place to place, each looked more sorrowful than the last. What really broke Patrick was when he saw kids working in factories, they couldn’t be much older than the kid he met on the train. Patrick couldn’t imagine what could have led to the Da’Kar using these methods. They were either really desperate or had some really messed up morality. The one saving grace about it was that they seemed to take the kid’s safety as priority, having an adult supervisor watching over them constantly. Though, that still didn’t excuse child labor. If it was up to him, Patrick would give all the resources his country could offer to get these kids out of the factories.

Patrick laid in his bed, it had been almost an hour but he just couldn’t sleep. It was still pretty early in the morning but he figured that he wasn’t going to get much rest anyways. He slowly slipped out of the Da’Karen bed, it was large and square in shape. The one thing that made his stay in the Da’Kar world bearable, there was plenty of space to sleep. Patrick pulled on his uniform, making sure to be especially quiet as to not wake his squadmates.
The apartment building was just as quiet, it seemed like it was too early even for the Da’Kar. Patrick stepped outside, taking in the fresh morning air. Unlike most other Da’Karen cities, Khomtotm was mostly above ground. Patrick certainly wasn’t complaining, for almost a week they had been exclusively underground. He strolled down a street that had a thin layer of snow that had fallen throughout the night. The air was still and cold, if he closed his eyes he could almost imagine that he was back home. He walked until he arrived at an overlook that gave an amazing view of the relatively flat lands nestled by a massive mountain range.
Looking to the left, far in the distance, Patrick could just barely make out the structures Charsier. Panning right, he could see Strulkurig with its few surface buildings that surrounded the hole. Finally he looked over to the right towards Eathlond. Patrick had remembered that the Americans would be there today, as that was the last city they were going to visit. Patrick had to do a double take as he saw large black plumes of smoke emanating from the city.
He knew the Da’Kar relied heavily on steam but he had never seen steam engines produce that amount of exhaust. His heart began to pound as he thought he could identify several fires throughout the city. Patrick stepped away from the overlook and began walking back to the apartment building. Then as he thought more about what could be going on in Eathlond, he ran. It could be some kind of misinterpretation but he didn’t want to take that chance.

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2023.05.27 21:09 Fantastic_Contact660 [USA-TX][H] Monitors, keyboards, iPads, Thrustmaster T500 RS, Photo Storage [W] Local Paypal/Cash

Local 75225 (North Dallas)
Hello Hardwareswap,
My dad is doing a bit of "spring cleaning" at his house, so he wants me to get rid of all the stuff that he doesn't use anymore. Well it's more like a fire sale, so I tried to price accordingly. If you need any close up pictures of individual items I would be happy to do that. I can meet anywhere ~30 minutes from North Dallas. Would prefer to sell everything local, but if you are willing to pay for shipping costs we can discuss that.
Item Description Price
Acer X213W bd Black Acer 21.6" LCD Monitor, no scratches on screen, good working condition. Comes with power cord $15
Acer X223W Dbd Black Acer 22" LCD Monitor, almost identical in condition and appearance as the previous monitor, just a little newer. Comes with long power cord $18
~~Alienware AW568 Wired RGB mechanical keyboard. Bought this, realized I didn't like the tall keycaps and hasn't been used since. Very sturdy and has some cool RGB $5~~ Pending
~~Omoton KB066 Ultra slim white Bluetooth keyboard, BNIB. Got as a gift, they didn't want it and missed return window. Good for iPads/phones $5~~ Pending
iPad Mini 2 Model A1489 Black (ME276LL/A). Good condition, light scratches only noticeable if you're looking for it $20 Sold
iPad Mini 1 Model A1432 White (PD531LL/A). Used condition, very light scratches on screen but the back has some scuffs either from a case or being set down. Small dent on top right corner. Has name engraved on back as well $5 Sold
~~Ibi 2TB WiFi Photo Manager Open Box, model WDBNHE0020BWT-HESN. Seems to be a wireless photo/video storage device, was never used and comes with everything $10~~ Pending
Thrustmaster T500RS Very powerful double belt driven racing wheel and sturdy pedals. The wheel and wheel base have some scuffs on them but everything still works well. Comes with wheel, wheel base, pedals, and power cord $150 Sold
I think I priced things reasonably but I will take offers if you don't believe so. Thanks for looking!
submitted by Fantastic_Contact660 to hardwareswap [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 20:48 ComplaintSharp7622 ChatGPT is available within the Utopia Private Messenger Application

ChatGPT is available within the Utopia Private Messenger Application
It is a fully decentralized messaging platform, is proud to announce the addition of ChatGPT, your personal assistant available 24/7 right after installing the app. ChatGPT uses artificial intelligence to answer your questions and provide helpful information in real-time.
Utopia Messenger is more than just a messaging app. It is a fully decentralized platform that puts you in control of your data and communications. With features like end-to-end encryption, anonymous accounts, and no central servers, you can communicate and collaborate with complete peace of mind. And now, with ChatGPT, you can have a personal assistant right at your fingertips.
With Utopia Messenger, you can have the power of ChatGPT in your pocket, absolutely free of cost. It is a powerful tool that can help you with a variety of tasks. Whether you need help finding a restaurant nearby, looking up the latest news, or just want to chat with a friendly virtual assistant, ChatGPT has got you covered. Plus, with Utopia Messenger’s commitment to privacy and security, you can be sure that all your conversations with ChatGPT are completely confidential.
With it you can send instant text and voice messages, transfer files, create group chats and channels, news feeds, and conduct a private discussion. A channel can be geotagged using integrated uMaps which simplifies the Utopia channel search and adds an additional security layer. As a result there is no need to use public map services which are known to collect your data to feed Big Data massives.
While using Utopia, you can send personal messages or particulate in a group chat (both public and private), send internal uMail (email used only inside the ecosystem), send voice messages, share files with your friends, make financial transactions denominated in our own cryptocurrency called Crypton. All of this in total privacy.
Even better, while using Utopia you will be earning Cryptons through a process called mining which does not slow down your computer. There is nothing more satisfying than using your favorite software and earning simultaneously.
It is important to note that Utopia is not a whitepaper, some abstract idea or statement of intent. This is a fully functional software product ready to be used. This makes Utopia a one-of-a-kind decentralized ecosystem with no true alternative or comparison. Key Privacy features of the Utopia ecosystem:
  • A truly decentralized peer-to-peer ecosystem with no point of failure
  • Interception-proof advanced encryption based on elliptic curves
  • It cannot be banned by internet censorship
  • No third-party software is involved, all tools are available within the Utopia ecosystem
  • No-one collects your data such as Chat messages, Emails, IP address or Geolocation
  • Local storage is encrypted by 256-bit AES protecting all of your data, history and settings
submitted by ComplaintSharp7622 to BSCMoonShots [link] [comments]

2023.05.27 20:17 a-soul-flame Lunar Noir. (Actual) Part 9.

To part 1

Last part (incorrectly also titled as Part 9)

Mild NSFW: Down bad AI and corporate bullshit that can hurt you personally
Part 9: A Luxury Flight

'*Doo-Ding~* Hello and welcome to North-Lunar Space-elevator~, of United Lunar States of America.
We at
United~ Corporations~ Incorporated~,
hope you have a the most satisfaction induced temporal time framed goody good time with our many entertainment, media, business, nine star hotels, hard-, soft- and wet-ware establishments, luxury gift shops and megastores, without forgetting our iconic designated +25 paid orgy zones.~
Have a good life~ and have good business~ with us~, at~
United~ Corporations~ Incorporated~.
Oooh~ We - Can't - Thank - You - Enough~ as we are at our highest of highs and beyond~ razzle-dazzle level excited~ to get you the service you - deserve!~
Thank you, //Oscar Wright//, for agreeing to download our terms of service and allowing the access to your surface information from your personalized datasets, collected by your designated computer unit, to get you the best user experience and accommodations for your benefit!~
With the following mental click you can apply to our hourly subscription service and membership plans for further enhancement and benefit of your user experience at-
United~ Corporations~ Incorporated~.
Please, also consider the possibility of- and the recommended preparations for, any legal action, considering our and our compatriots' services, including, but not limited to; wrongful conduct of business, hacking and scam attempts, contraction disagreements or braking into- - -'
The broadcast to my brain got shut up finally, as I walked the packed and polished white marble floors of the Space-elevator's base megastructure.
'Finally got that policity ad to stop!' Elk huffed in frustration. 'I'm telling you, the U.C.I. keeps getting better and better at throwing ads and bullshit to even lag me! Well I'm also not running on the best hardware either.- I mean look at you! When did you last upgrade?
Since I recruited you, five years ago, you've only gotten the 'NailMesh 438.03'! You know that the latest is at 488.91! and that's an off-brand model anyways!' Elk complained.
'Well it has worked fine enough for me! It even manages to run you without a problem! And I don't really need the refresh and load times to be 2,45 nanoseconds faster, I can't even tell the difference!
Besides, I've always run the hardware until the software updates stop. It's fine for at least another year or two~.' I flicked my golden hair back as I got to the Person Storage Shelves that stacked up to the forty foot tall ceiling.
My hud displayed my own seat at pill-box seating shelf number 804, level eleven, seat 075. There were wide simple metal ramps and scaffolding leading up to each level, with regular intervals between just five seats to funnel the mass of people as quickly as near-post-humanly possible.
Still the many lines moved slightly forward constantly, people dividing to different levels and climbing to their, what some would call claustrophobic, sleep-in-pill-boxes.
To accommodate the avaridge, 8.5 feet tall to some reaching 12-15 feet tall, with their gene-, cybernetic-, augmented- and/or vessel modifications, the bunk bed designed 'seat' were highly adjustable, to cram as many people into one shuttle as near-post-humanly as possible.
The pill-boxes would expand and retract their frame and fold in or out the structural armour plating, ~for the benefit of ensuring our customer tailored experience and high quality safety.~
It was a thigh fit coffin.
No arguing about it, the U.C.I. even sell the damned things as ones, if a customer has, ~unfortunately suffered the ability to no longer perform business with us~, to the rest of the 'customers' next of kin!
'Well they're at least comfortable…' I thought to myself as I tracked my way to my seat.
Of course with the trip to the Earth or further away took anywhere from two hours to few weeks, laying down without moving much at all, needed to have some sort of 'reinvigoration and entertainment module, for preventing the downsides of long term enclosure and zero-g environment, including, but not limited to-'. jada-jada-jada..
That's why, you not only were climbing into a pill-box, but into the humanoid shaped harness that would encapsulate you to skin tight level, for the entirety of the voyage.
~to ensure the best safety, both physical and malware protection. Meteorite proofed and anti-hacking protection from our own U.C.I. VPN and downloadable subscription to our Project Buzz-Off,-
an in house, adaptive, anti-aliasing, procedurally generated firewall locking, multiple real-time and sub-time hacking attempted observing and- -.
Everyone in the waiting lines, including me, were already in our U.C.I. brand plastered suits that would seamlessly connect to the coffins.
Top of the line, haptic VR and hydraulic body movement, alongside a brain-computer connection enhanced experience, to ensure a realistic virtual on flight environment.
Real food funnels as well as smell and heat simulation for any activity you might do on the flight in addition to the limited Brain-computers induced senses, as well the time-dilation capable core-prosessors to the 7.5 safe multiplier outlined to the normal human brain.
The AR indicators told me exactly where to go, it was only a matter of waiting in line as the crowds of multiple languages and translations diluted into background noise.
'So… I mean, what should I even do in the 'Souls-like' game tournament? I have no clue.' I thought to the sub-core that lounged in my brain-computer.
'Eh, just doge, hit and don't die.' Elk in its emptiness, relaxed on a mental red velvety sofa that had appeared in my mind, for some reason.
'That's not even advice. Like, almost every game is like that. Like what do I need to do, besides basic combat?' I crossed my arms at the metal image of Elk.
'Well, you level your stats, weapons and armor, get skills, get better weapons, better movement options, talk to some NPCs to get the story, gather material to make potions and craft things and weapons… all normal stuff. There could be an extra mechanic or two if one of me was feeling extra today.
And you race to be the first on the final boss, that usually has like five phases and insta-kill mechanics on the last two phases. Or sometimes I throw in a random cooking simulation, DDR or a puzzle as the last boss for shit and giggles!' Elk laughed as we neared the end of the line.
'Ha! Well let's see how this goes then…' I was giving the game a shot.
Before getting to my seat I noticed two rare sight in modern life, one, a Hive-mind of ten people, who shared one luxury pill-box and two, an honestly obese human.
The one obese person was actually more surprising to me than the big hive-mind. It was standard to have the nutrient drip-feeder installed to you and at least some home-kit gene therapy, so unless they didn't have malfunctioning tech, they actually chose to be so.
'Mmm… yeah, you're looking right where I want.~ Look at all those sexy lumps, that meat, mmm…' The downright gutter mind mecha-god licked its empty lips.
'Do you have to make absolutely everything sexual? You you ever just chill out?' I turned my eyes from the big human that was arguing with a guard about their seat being literally too small for them.
'Well no, I don't have to, but you try being inside an autopilot program for close to five decades, without the ability to simulate porn and have no real touch sensors.
I've been thinking about everything and how I'd wanna do it, so I'm sorry I get a little over board about fucking.' The pervert god fragment waved its empty hooves nonchalantly.
'*Sigh* Whatever, pervert.' I muttered in my mind.
'Hey~! It isn't like you don't use simulated porn and hooker services, as much as I would, if I could. And I can't even access anything you can't see on the internet. It's frustrating~ that there isn't 24/7 humping and squirting~! And that ten-hive-mind... OooOoOhhh~-'
'Jeez! Who the fuck dialled your sex drive to the max!? No other AI I have met, like ever, was this depraved! You need to tone it down, Elk the fucked pervert.' I cut the data-space taking germling from digging its depravity further.
'Fine, fine. I'll cut the lust down for now.' And like a switch being pulled the eternal feeling of lust stopped. '... I'll just arrange to get us at least double the amount of action when we are on Earth, than what I had initially planned!' The perverted parasite god added as I was climbing into my seat.
'*Pah*! Now I don't want any of that...' I rolled my eyes as the hydraulic arms closed around me and the VR display and the brain-link cables started downloading all the usual emergency situation memories.
'B-but its a vacation!!!' The pervert was actually mortified.
'And its my fucking body!' That made the sub-core shut up for once.
Hydraulics hissed and clicked to place, encapsulating me whole and making me temporarily unable to move my limbs, as metal pressed on the skin-tight suit.
I could feel as the haptics tingle on every inch of my body, as my Work Official Avatar was 'spawned' to the shuttles hub-area in VR-space, basically a luxury hotel with windows, displaying real time camera footage of the outside, many times with impossible geometry, witch was a big trend nowadays in any VR world to have.
My personal avatar, a basically a carbon copy of myself with my regular clothes just having more lights and effects added to them, I refused to wear the big detective coat.- Still modest compared to the oddities you could regularly see on the internets.
Just surveying the flights hub-area, you could see avatars from all ends of imagination and abstraction.
We got jellyfish, floating eyeballs, fantasy creatures, demons of all kinds, giant- and tiny creatures, colourful splatters of art, walking plants, tuned game characters, disembodied voices, default avatars and of course the most famous ones, anime and the furrie avatars.
Those two categories tended to never die out completely even if they were as much as equal amounts; of down-bad as the parasitic mecha-god and hated by nearly everyone, including their own communities. -A weird paradox.
Muting the chat I immediately set out to find the webpage to connect to the tournament's own lobby.
Finding the link easily as it was one of the top searches anyways I joined in, with the time-dilation switching on, and got 'teleported' to a vast grasslands, whose horizon curved slightly upwards, making the place look absolutely massive.
Wind rustled the muted coloured grass blades as orchestral gothic music blared from above, where the titularly iconic Singularity's error textured crown floated above one of its many avatars playing all the orchestra's instruments at once and singing.
'*Awhg*, that's AXK-808554/i… a real try-hard…' Elk mumbled, collapsing its empty form on the red sofa in exhauston.
'... Huh?...' I thought back as the orchestral sud-core's wind/lightning elemental avatar sang with its lightning body's eyes closed.
Chanting vocals rang, as violin and flute teetered here and there, drums and percussion aiding to the fast paced tempo.
Looking around you could see basically the same categories of avatars, with maybe a little more demons in the mix.- I could even recognize some of the same avatars as in the shuttles hub-area.
'Axey boy Bob over there will probably focus more on the music and the story than the real meat and potatoes of combat!!...' Elk flailed around on the sofa, like a spoiled kid who didn't get what they exactly wanted.
'Oh, well that sounds more interesting to me then…' I thought as I listened to the music, the haptics diving the sensation of the wind blowing my hair around.
'*Pah* Suit yourself. No hope, religion, depression, humanity on the brink of extinguish, it's still basically the same. Haul marks of souls-like storytelling. Not that interesting after the hundred thousand time.' Elk shook its empty antlered head.
'Well you haven't even seen it yet, I'm giving this a shot, so be more happy with that alone.' I quipped back as at the same time the orchestral song ended quietly in run on notes.
'Besides the combat will be easy anyways, since I have the mod for quick reflexes.' I stretched myself a little.
'Oh, yeah, no. All players will have their stats begin at the same and all computing power and physical abilities reduced to the same frame, whatever that will be by the given game. That way there's no pay 2 win shit, it would be literally cheating.' Elk explained in a bored fashion.
'O-oh shit… I-Isn't souls-likes really hard?' I realized this wouldn't be so easy.
'Fucking da-aa, detective! That's why most people play them! Hahah! And the award money.' Elk laughed on the sofa.
Cold sweat started to run on the back of my neck as the error crowned elemental descended from the sky, its lightning face and hands stuttering in a lower framerate.
''Welcome everyone. I think it's about time to begin, so without further ado… //Press start//'' A gravely voice echoed, but then switched to an 8-bit announcer voice.
The words appeared before me as everyone else.
People immediately started to disappear around me, so I too tapped the floating words.
I found myself in darkness, odd moon light reflecting from somewhere above.
A cave.- I smelled the wet clear air and felt the cold ground under me.
I was laying on the ground and slowly got up as there was now metal armor weighing me down.
'Oke, let's get going, Oscar. There's usually a weapon near the first spawn.' Elk got into a better position on the imaginary sofa.
'Yeah, ok?' I started to blindly search the way forward, the odd moonlight giving very poor visibility.
Slippery rocks almost made me fall many times as I descended gradually, making me question if this was the right way.
But after a half a minute I got to a water spring area and immediately realized what had been wrong about the moonlight. Everything was pixelated, like an old old arcade game.
'Huh, 16-bit, nice, nice. Haven't seen Bob do this sort of thing before…' Elk brushed off the non-realism right away.
The moonlight hit the underground water from a long crack in the ceiling and reflected mirages to the cave's walls, lighting the area nicely in pixelated moving symbols.
Looking at my pixelated hands I felt slightly funny, looking at the small jumping 'sensor' squares dancing on my hands, replicating every hand sign I did.
But I also took note how quickly my depth perception turned to little more than barely recognizable pixel vomit. That would be annoying…
'Ok, let's focus, can you access some sort of inventory?' Elk guided.
With the feeling coming from the brain-computer connection I indeed could with a mental click.
// User: [FemboyDetective77]//
// no items.
// Weapon slot: empty
// Full set of Iron Plate Armor: simple
Reduces all physical damage by: [22] Armour points.
Plate Armor Movement speed in water and muddy terrain: -35%
Iron Attracts lightning based attacks. If grounded Lightning damage: -50%
See, further description…
Weight: +20
// User Statistics: baseline of 100 in everything.
'Hmmm… Ok no items and this armour is pretty trash…' Elk mumbled.
'Yeah, I'm already feeling slower in this foot deep water.' I agreed as I took a step further.
A scream came from ahead of me and I saw… a roughly humanoid greenish pixel blob waddling towards me.
''I don't even have a weapon!!'' I jumped backwards from the pixel vomit enemy, not really getting what it even was supposed to be.
'Relax, just doge and you have hands. Punch that monster in the face!' Elk did an empty uppercut on the sofa.
'Ok, ok.' I put my hands up and waited for the slow enemy to walk to me. 'Umm… how do I dodge, Elk?'
The enemy that I realized at the last moments was an ugly fish amphibian monster, as it swiped its long claws at me with surprising speed.
I fell on my back as I tried to dodge the attack.
'Oh, c'mon!! Don't die to the first enemy! And just dodge to fucking dodge! This isn't a controller game, there's no buttons! You have to move dammit!' Elk complained on the mental sofa, as I struggled to roll in the foot deep water and dodge two further attacks from the mer-folk.
'It's hard to move in this thing! Ok!' I got some distance and got back up, but the pixel monster was already attacking again.
I blocked with my arms as the three swipe attacks pushed me back a little.
// Current Health: 100HP
// (Armor protection) 22Arm. Damage reduction // (slashing attack) 40DMG
// (Armor protection) 22Arm. Damage reduction // (slashing attack) 40DMG
// (Armor protection) 22Arm. Damage reduction // (slashing attack) 40DMG
// Current Health: 56HP
It hurts!
'Quick! Do a counter!' Elk yelled in my mind.
I didn't know what I was doing but I did a simple punch to the monster's squishy face.
// (Counter attack) +50% DMG /+/ (Critical hit) +200% DMG // (normal attack) 5 DMG
// Enemy: 45.5HP
The pixelated mer-folk backed away slightly and swiped blueish blood pixels off of its face.
'Ok, just ten more normal punches and the thing's dead, or even less if you get more crit hits.' Elk encouraged.
'Yeah, sure…' I was getting slightly winded already.
The mer-folk instead skipped and weaved towards me. I dodged to the right before it even attacked, which got its initiative to redirect its claws at me anyways.
// Current Health: 56HP
// (Armor protection) 22HP Damage reduction // (slashing attack) 40DMG
// Current Health: 38HP
I didn't have the reaction time to counter again, so I just dodged more.
'You have to get the timing right! Wait, just before the monster attacks, there's usually some timing clues. Also if you un-equip the armor you'll dodge faster, but as a beginner just keep it on for now.' Elk had gotten a mental carton of popcorn from somewhere.
The mer-folk readied for an attack again, this time paying attention I saw its dull black pixel eyes flash in red, right before it lunged at me. I got the dodge right this time and got two fits in before backing up.
// (enemy: Enraged) // (normal attack) 5 DMG
// (normal attack) 5 DMG
// Enemy: 35.5HP
'Nice, your getting there…' Elk munched on the imaginary popcorn.
'Hehe… Uhh… what is it doing?' I was waiting for the monster to attack again but it stood in place with its clawed hands in front of it.
A silvery blue flash blinked from the monster's eyes, as damage hit me.
// (Armor Status: Grounded) - 50% DMG // (Lightning scorch) - 60HP
// Current Health: 8HP
The pain was dulled from what I had gone through yesterday, but it still hurt like all hell!
// (Grounded Lightning) 60 DMG
// Enemy: Dead // + 35XP
''Wait what?'' I looked back at the monster that now dissolved into dark pixels.
'Oh! That'll probably get some people angry…' Elk flashed a moment of surprise but got back to lounging immediately.
''What just happened? Did the attack actually bounce back? Why the fuck does the first enemy have lightning magic!?'' I walked to where the monster had been just a second ago.- No drops.
'Relax, Oscar. This was planned this way to make some of the try-hards die early, or at least think twice about the rest of the game. Like I said, Bob is a try-hard and an asshole…' Elk explained, reclining on the sofa.
'Well ummm… ok? How do I heal?' I didn't really get what Elk was talking about.
'I guess we need to find that out. Let's see if there's anything in this room before moving forwards.' Elk shrugged.
Pixelated reflections moved sporadically as I did a quick search through the water floored cave chamber.
''Aha, what's this?''
// Flint stone (x2) (crafting item)
'Ok, let's move. You're taking probably twice as long as everyone else.' Elk shook its head in disappointment.
'Hey! I'm playing this game for the first time! Cut some slack!' I moved to the next tight crack in the cave wall and continued.
'So is everyone else? I make a new game for every Friday's Game night.' Elk jabbed.
'Fine, fine. Well this is the first time I play a Souls-like, ok?... whatever…' I fell into a rhythmic step, as I went and searched a way forward in the dark crevasse.
Now there was light coming from the end of the way forward and the faint orchestral music kicked in.
'Watch your steps, Oscar…'
'Huh?' I got to the edge of the cave, the blinding light, stinging my eyes as I stopped right before a massive fall into the abyss.
''Holy shit!'' I backed off, slipping pixely rocks to fall down into the void below, pixels getting smaller until they disappear.
'Like I said, Bob's an asshole.' Elk muttered.
I took a better look outside, seeing a rough pixelated floating island slightly below the caves drop off. Purple and blues dominated the sky and the horizon, and it all was barely identifiable as such, because of the chunky blocks of pixels.
''Where are we?'' I looked around what little I was-…
A giant abstract eye drawing glowed above in muted red, being distinctly not pixelated, it looked surreal.
'We-ee-eird… Well? Is this a dead end?' I tried to not fall with the loose ruble.
'I think I saw a ledge to the left there…' Elk noted.
And sure enough there was a pixelated narrow rock ledge that I hadn't first seen with the lack of detail.
Shimmying around the sharp corner of the crack in the cliff-face and on to the barely foot wide ledge that led upwards with miss-matched foot holds and occasional jumps.
As I tried clearing the climb, I was constantly swepped by the wind, nearly tripping me up, but I made it up to the platow of muted blue pixel grass.
'Huh, surprisingly easy. I thought some birds or a dragon was going to agro or something…' Elk mumbled before getting up from the sofa to get another carton of popcorn from a vendor with a popcorn hat.
'Wait where did all that come from, Elk!?' I focussed on all the things Elk had somehow gotten into my mind.
'Oh, this~? Just some things I got from the larger me~, when I checked the memory banks.' Elk explained while giving the vendor an empty nickel in exchange for the popcorn. 'Keep the change~.' Elk winked at the popcorn vendor, who's blank face grew heart eyes at the mecha-god.
'The pleasure's mine. //[elk-777773/o]//' The vendor nodded, while the heart eyes remained.
... Ignoring that, I focused on the other thing Elk mentioned. 'Did you get any answers on that?' I had forgotten the whole of yesterday for a long second- 'The pain, the ghosts… maybe it was better I forgot that…'
'Well, yeah… I was trying to not mention yesterday… get you to relax properly. But on the topic I did find that there's something going on, on the Lunar bio-servers. The deleted memories have been deleted through them, but there's never been any executive orders to do so from the Earth's servers…' Elk started to munch on the new carton.
'But that's huge!! What if a hacker has gotten into the server!... Wait, you have bio-servers?' I was completely distracted from the pixelated world around me with its sky eye and the swirling purple clouds with the hundreds more floating islands.
'Yeah, bio-servers work surprisingly better on Luna, than anywhere else. I haven't pinpointed it down, but do to pressure levels and low-g-'
'You, have, bio-servers!! You've made those illegal yourself!! What the fuck?' I questioned Elk, ignoring the group of enemies coming in my direction.
'No, I made it illegal to connect a bio-server to the internet, because the amount of data and therefore moderation, would skyrocket.
I didn't make them outright illegal to have and operate if they're not connected. I use them to store vast amounts of my memory on and to help stimulate my alternative physics engines.' Elk elaborated with dismissive hoof gestures. 'Also, watch out, there are three enemies coming.'
'Fine, I'll deal with those first!! What are people going to do with a bio-server that can't be even connected to the internet? Only you would have any real use for them.' I turned to face the three enemies.
Twisted humanoid things trying to be humans would be the best description for them. Two of them looked like squires, carrying all sorts of things on them, while the one in the middle looked like an arch-mage or something. All had pale blue skin, same as the grass.
I readied my stance.
''Greetings, new Awoken!'' The one in red/black mage robes said, their face being hidden by their hood, say, except their skeletal lower jaw. Twisting symbols written on strips of leather, wrapped their clothes together, while an assortment of bead-necklaces and bracelets hung loose on every joint of their body.
''Umh, hello?'' I didn't think this was an NPC, with how 'enemy-like' they looked.
''Ah, good. The Awoken, can understand us, good, good!'' The mage rubbed their skeletal hands together.
''So, what is this place?'' I relaxed my stance.
''Ah? A curious one. How splendidly good!'' The mage rasped. ''These lands are called mostly as the Veil. The islands you see here were once the battleground of the Titans… still are, as well as it is our ceaseless prison.
All Awoken like you and I can ascend to be the next Titans and kill the accursed symbol-!!' the mage suddenly raised one of their pale fingers to point at the surreal eye symbol above. '-that dare block the way into the afterlife. It helds us as prisoners here, like a fake limbo. This place shouldn't be.-
Even when we die here, we reawaken… the only release is to fall into the void below, but that's no afterlife, I can tell you that much…'' It shook its head in dismay.
''Oh wow, talk about depressing. Ok, so how can I level up? I mean- 'ascend' ?'' I put a bit of roleplay to my voice.
''Curious one indeed. I'm here to guide you to do just that. I'm but a humble mage~, no name to myself, but I held the information and the Orb of Location,- that is how I have found you, curious one.
We should relocate to my hold for now, much safer there than out here,- close to the edge…'' The mage noded to itself and gestured to follow as the three set out to walk at a rapid pace away from the edge of the island.
'Should I follow?' I asked.
'Yeah, sure. Probably another trap, or it's all false flags. *Noms*- Bob's an asshole either way…'' Elk fiddled with a popcorn kernel before popping it in its empty maw.
'Uh… whatever, I'll follow then.' I didn't want to get left behind.
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2023.05.27 20:06 Frank_Leroux Molossus, Chapter Thirteen

One nice side-effect of the lifting of secrecy was that the entire team (human and alien) could now be reassigned to somewhere more palatial than a sealed-off side-entrance into a hollowed-out mountain. But where, oh where, to put them? What was needed was someplace A) which was much nicer than a tunnel (humanity must treat our alien guests properly, after all) and B) was already set up with the necessary security precautions and secure communications in and out.
In the end, there was, really, only one choice of location…at least if they wanted to stay in the United States proper.
Camp David.
Corporal McCoy spread her arms out along the back of a very nice red-leather sofa, in the middle of a room dominated by a red-brick fireplace in one corner. Along the two far walls from the fireplace stretched multiple windows which showed, at the moment, the denuded stick-like forms of leafless trees. She knew that in the spring and summer they’d be a veritable explosion of green; somehow, she didn’t mind that she wasn’t able to see leaves at the moment. Off in a far corner of the room sat a wet bar that she also eyed with quite evident lust. There was at least one nice single-malt scotch there that she wanted to get ahold of. Just for a taste, mind you.
Not everyone was there; Chao and Grakosh were off in the midst of some giant nerd mind-meld with some Lockheed Martin Skunk-Works types, trying to figure out how to lift what materials were needed into orbit so that humans could help fix the Rithro and show the Coalition that we are very good and oh so helpful little sapients, yes indeed we are, please help us out just in case we get discovered by some genocidal robots who want to do a little bit of trolling.
Moquon, the knuall-toua who was the ship’s lifesystem engineer, coiled around her shoulder as the latter looked with interest at the wood paneling which made up the rafters and roof.
“Now this is more like it!” McCoy exclaimed to all and sundry.
“Yes, indeed! It does seem much nicer than our previous lodgings,” said Mouquon.
“This is not a vacation, corporal.” Sergeant Shaw stood next to one of the nearly floor-to ceiling windows, looking out over the grounds below with a practiced eye.
“You need to relax, Sarge,” said Martinez. “We got something like a million Secret Service agents prowling around here. I went shooting with one of ‘em once, trust me when I say those people are no joke.” He chuckled. “First time I got my ass kicked in a shooting contest by a woman.”
Shaw let out a grunt. “We are the last layer of the onion.”
“Sir?” asked McCoy.
“Someone can figure out we’re here pretty easily.” Shaw pointed out into the wintry woods. “If they send a determined and well-armed force, they might just make through those million agents to here.” He turned away from the window and stared at his team, who, at the moment, sprawled or sat with evident relief on the furniture within the room. “The OPFOR might get taken down. But then again, they might not. What do we do then?”
McCoy felt Mouqon coil herself tighter around her shoulder. Almost on instinct, she reached up and patted the snake-like alien’s head. “Don’t you worry. I’m here.”
Shaw pointed at the corporal. “Exactly. We are the last, and I do mean the last, line of defense. We are gonna run some drills at a time and place of my choosing. We are going to protect our esteemed guests to the very last…and yes, I do mean the very last. Make sure your gear is ready and that you are ready, or I will give y’all an ass-chewing they’ll feel clear out to the Coalition.”
Agent Milton Vila strolled into the lounge at that particular moment with a grin on his broad face. “Sounds like we’re getting an upgrade to our security, Mack.”
“Aw hell, you know how it is. I gotta keep these assholes on their toes or everything breaks down into chaos.”
The Secret Service agent grinned. “Anyways…we now have a new member of our merry band of misfits.”
“Misfits?” Martinez looked appropriately indignant. “I’ll have you know I am a perfectly normal functioning member of society!”
The agent and soldier held each other’s gaze for a few moments before they both busted out in laughter. “Anyways,” continued Vila, “He’s the medical expert that the general requested.” He turned to one of the entrances to the lounge. “Come on in, sir.”
A dark-skinned, lean man with an uncertain air entered. “Zawahir Ibn Harith,” he said by way of greeting. His eyes widened upon viewing the various alien forms now stretched out in various relaxed postures before him.
McCoy decided to throw him a bone. “Welcome!” She gave a wave of her arm…the arm around whose shoulder Mouquon was currently coiled. “Welcome to our…merry band of misfits!”
“Thank you!” The newcomer still looked a bit at sea.
“Hey, Dhuz?” McCoy called out.
The auhn turned from her gazing out the windows. “Yes?”
“I figure you and this guy got a lot to talk about.”
Dhuz met Zawahir’s eyes and smiled. McCoy was still getting used to that; it was a gesture of happiness just as with humans, but auhn teeth were very numerous and very sharp. “I imagine so. Mutual exchange of medical data, yes?”
Now that he had a task before him, Zawahir looked a lot more focused. “Of course! I mean, from what I’ve read thus far all of your species use some method of metal-oxygen bonding to deliver the necessary oxygen to your tissues, but not everyone uses hemoglobin!”
Dhuz lit up. “Exactly!” She touched her forearm and a big old wall of text and diagrams formed above it. “Here, let me show you…”
McCoy chuckled as the pair moved off into a far corner to continue their conversation. “Another nerd mind-meld,” she said to no one in particular.
“Pardon?” asked Mouquon.
“Oh, sorry. Just…Chao and your engineer are now off doing a big old nerd mind-meld with our best and brightest. The last time we had that much talent in one place, we wound up dropping the sun on some people.” The corporal regarded the pair now in the midst of an animated conversation. “I hope this particular nerd-gasm results in something more constructive.”
“Oh!” Mouquon perked up. “I should be a part of this ‘nerd-gasm’. At least, if they start talking about what foodstuffs are viable for the various species.”
McCoy sighed. This was a very comfortable couch, after all. “You’re right, Mouquon.” She hauled herself up and off of the furniture with a bit of reluctance. “Let’s get you involved.” She walked towards the pair, who were both still gesticulating at the display over Dhuz’s forearm.
Milton Vila had, much to his annoyance, been pulled off of President Correa’s detail and assigned to a new one…one to protect the alien captain. Sure, Agent Keynes had taken his place…and if he was forced to admit it, the guy was as good of a shot as he was…but Keynes wasn’t him, and that knowledge ate at him.
Still, he supposed that at least he wasn’t alone in his misery. Sergeant Shaw (who had finally admitted to Milton he was a Green Beret, which helped nail down exactly which branch of the armed forces his team worked for) was also pulled into the task of guarding Sadaf…upon Milton’s request. Not that he would tell the Green Beret that. The sergeant had also gotten the tailoring treatment from Milton’s wife, and now he wore a navy-blue suit which complimented his red hair quite nicely. But the Secret Service agent could tell that the man still wanted to be clad in full battle-rattle and toting a rifle instead of a mere hidden handgun.
“I still say I should be able to wear my normal shit,” said Shaw, not for the first time. At the moment, the three rode in a limousine, on their way to some gala luncheon event held by some upper-crust DC types who wanted to get a speech by one of the brand-new alien celebrities. Milton hoped that they’d also decide to open their damn pocketbooks to help fund the repairs needed for the alien’s ship; in the short time he’d known her, the agent had become won over by Sadaf’s no-nonsense and in-charge attitude.
“We’re trying to not scare the normies, Mack,” replied Milton.
Sadaf, who sat next to the hulking red-bearded man, looked over at him in curiosity. “You want to wear your usual fecal matter?”
“Frinxing translators,” muttered Shaw. As was usual, the various profanities of alien language were the first things to percolate into human speech. “Sorry, ma’am, I meant my normal gear. Yeah, I’m wearing body armor but this stuff is class two at best.” He plucked at his jacket. “Plus I’m not used to moving in this monkey suit.”
Milton grinned. “You’ll get used to it soon enough, Mack. Hey, my people have cleared the place beforehand. Our job is just to stand there behind the good captain and look menacing. And then when she’s doing the meet-and-greet afterwards we need to look extra menacing…and, of course, keep an eye out just in case someone makes a false move.”
“I don’t want to get used to this,” grumped Shaw. “I don’t want to get used to any of this. I want some proper goddamn body armor and a proper goddamn rifle with some goddamn extra magazines. A rifle with an M203 launcher, just in case someone gets really squirrelly.”
The agent winced. “Um, Mack, we civvies do have to worry about things like ‘collateral damage’ and such.”
Shaw’s normally cheerful demeanor fell into a somber look towards the agent, one that brought Milton up short. “Agent Milton, have you ever fallen victim to an RPG attack?”
“Um, no?”
“I have. Trust me, there is never such a thing as overkill.”
Milton sighed. He reached into a jacket pocket and pulled out a city map. “Okay, I suppose that’s as good an excuse to go over everything again. This is the courtyard for the shindig.”
“Shindig!” exclaimed Sadaf in pleasure. “I don’t know why, but that word brings me joy.”
The agent smiled at her. “You’re gonna get used to it, believe me. So, we’ve got the whole area blocked off here, here, and here. Full-body scans for everyone going in, and believe me they’d better have the proper ticket to be there or they’re in for some looong questioning in a little dark room somewhere. No outside translator beads allowed, we issue ‘em after they get through the perimeter. We have snipers located here, here, here, and here. Each one has their own designated field of fire, the four of ‘em cover all angles. Anyone who pops their head up on any of the surrounding roofs will get a fifty-cal bullet right through their noggin before they can even blink.”
“What about the courtyard itself?” asked Shaw. “Before you set up the perimeter, I mean.”
Milton grinned. The sergeant had the makings of a first-class agent. “A very good question. We swept the area prior, using metal detectors and dogs. Especially for the dais and podium where Captain Sadaf is going to make her speech. If I was gonna try for a hit, that’s how I’d do it. Plant some explosives in the podium and trigger it remotely. But we didn’t find anything.”
The sergeant smoothed his beard in a nervous tic. “Drones?”
“Jammers for a thousand-yard radius around the podium. Anything remotely piloted into that space will just fall to the ground. As a bonus, just in case someone decides to try something cute using their cell phone, those won’t work either.”
Shaw grunted in grudging approval. “Sounds good.”
“This is how I earn a living, Mack. Relax.”
Sadaf rubbed a hand on her forehead. She was now clad back in her black-and-silver uniform; somehow the powers that be had determined that it was now okay for her to wear the supposed ‘militaristic’ uniform in public. “Is all this security strictly necessary? I mean, thus far most of your world’s nations seem to be behaving rationally.”
“Oh, we’re not worried about state actors, ma’am,” said Milton. “Well, except for a few. There’s always North Korea, after all.”
“Frinx, don’t get me started on those assholes,” muttered Shaw.
Milton continued, in what he hoped came across as a soothing tone. “Look at it this way. Does your kind suffer from mental disease?”
“Originally, yes. But thanks to medical intervention we can catch almost all of them. At present, we suffer from less than one in three hundred million who have an incurable derangement of the brain…” Sadaf’s eyes widened as she trailed off. “Oh. I forgot, you don’t have access to our level of medical technology.”
Shaw sighed. “No, ma’am, we don’t. Not to mention there’s almost eight billion of us on this here planet. Even assuming only one-hundredth-of-a-percent of those people wish you harm, that’s far too big of a population for us to relax.”
Sadaf seemed to shrink into the cushions of the limousine. “But we come in peace. We don’t mean you any harm.”
Milton knew that it was a breach of protocol, but he reached across and patted her knee. “I know that, ma’am, and almost everyone on the planet knows that. But there are some…well, there are some you just can’t reach.”
Shaw rubbed his jaw as he regarded the map again. “Damn. Wish I had Toke here. That guy could sniff out something hinky like nobody’s business. Plus if something did kick off, he could sort it out no problem.”
“He’s the skinny, taller guy, right?” asked Milton. “Marine Force Recon, I do believe. I know they are double-tough. Yeah, I admit he’d be good for something like this. But the powers that be want to keep him back at Camp David.”
The sergeant grunted in annoyance and looked out the window of the limousine. Then he looked up with a quirky smile. “I guess so. Look at it this way, if something does kick off, then having him at Camp David means that whoms’tsoever tries an assault there is gonna die.”
Milton replied to Shaw with a raised eyebrow. “All right, Shaw. Just between you and me, we deal with very dangerous people by being very dangerous people ourselves. Don’t try to feed me a line of dramatic bullshit.”
For once, Shaw looked flustered. “No, you don’t understand! Toke was the guy you’d drop into the shit, into the middle of any utter hell on Earth, and he’d get you your grid coordinates for arty or drone strikes while escorting two other guys and, oh yeah, he’d kill ten enemies at long range while doing all of that. And not just long-range. He once took out five guys in ten seconds with a knife…and he’s supposed to be a fucking sniper!” The sergeant shuddered. “I can’t tell you about the mission where he got his knee messed up, but let’s just say…he earned every single one of his medals during that action. He’s a throwback.”
Milton tilted his head, as did Sadaf. “Explain,” said the Captain, and not as a question.
“I mean, mentally, in some ways, he’s kinda from way back when we humans were all ooga-booga and lived in caves and smacked each other over the head with clubs. Toke just…ends things. Nice guy, hell if I had kids I’d let him watch ‘em with nary a care in the world. But you press one particular button and he…well, he reverts. He reverts to what we used to be.”
Most of Camp David’s staff was still in bed; Matt had to admit that they’d adapted with admirable speed to having a motley crew of human knuckle-draggers and literal fucking aliens plonked down amongst them. But now it was early morning and Toke was hungry. If he was an asshole, he’d rouse one of the staff to assist in that but he’d rather slice off a toe rather than bother some hard-working person just to make him something to eat. Thus he headed for the kitchen to rustle up some grub for himself.
As he walked through the lounge, which was fast becoming the go-to point for everyone, he saw Kexal, the other udhyr, standing in front of the windows looking out over the wintry scene outside. The massive alien’s head just brushed against the auburn-colored wooden rafters that stretched upwards to form the roof overhead.
“Morning,” said Matt, trying to keep it casual. He’d never spoken much with the planetologist.
“Good morning, Matt!” replied the big alien, with enthusiasm. “I was just in the midst of getting my feel.”
The statement brought the Marine up short. “Feel?”
In response Kexal motioned him over with one of his lower arms. Matt had picked up enough alien social cues to know that such a gesture was intended as something more intimate. He stepped up beside the udhyr, who then proceeded to steer him around in front of him using his big upper arms.
He looked out over the wintry scene. Dawn was just starting, and the sun was beginning to peek over the leafless trees. “Okay, what am I looking or, should I say, feeling for?” he asked.
“The voice of your planet,” replied Kexal. “Being a planetologist is indeed a matter of knowing about weather patterns, about how the types of water, methane, and carbon dioxide ice react under various temperatures and pressures, of how a planet’s entire atmosphere changes when life is present. But there is also this.” He pointed with one big, three-fingered mitt out the windows in front of them both. “If you simply allow it, this planet can speak to you. Those in my profession call it getting the ‘feel’ of a planet. It may sound strange and mystic, but…I am getting my feel.”
That made Matt ruminate on his own view of his planet. Up until now, as far as he was concerned, it was just…there. “So, what kind of ‘feel’ are you getting thus far?”
“This place is wonderful, a lovely oasis. It welcomes me and my colleagues. This is a bastion of life in the midst of an unfeeling dark, much like other life-bearing worlds we’ve encountered…all too infrequently, sad to say.”
“So you’re saying we should treasure this planet?” Matt smiled. “I sure can’t argue with you there. We are trying to be more appreciative of it.”
The pair watched the sunrise in pleasant silence for a few minutes, until Matt’s stomach growled again. “All right,” he said. “This is nice getting our feel and all, but I gotta eat something. You hungry?”
“I could consume something.”
“Good, because I’m fuckin’ starving. Follow me.”
He led the big alien through to the kitchen. Thanks to heroic efforts by Dhuz and Mouquon back when they were sequestered in Cheyenne Mountain and then by efforts by those two and Zawahir in the last few days, all possible poisonous or allergic foods had been removed from the premises. That did limit the meals available, but as long as he didn’t have to eat it out of a pouch Matt was content.
He opened the fridge, surveying the contents. “I was just gonna do a sandwich. You want one?”
The udhyr sat at the nearby table; both of the big aliens had long ago forsaken chairs and simply sat on the floor. They claimed it was just as comfortable, and Matt for one was not going to press them on the matter. “Yes, I would like a ‘sandwich’. If it’s not too much trouble.”
Matt scanned the fridge interior. “No trouble at all. Okay, bread, we got.” He pulled a loaf out of the fridge; it had confused him the first time he’d seen it stored like that, since he’d grown up in northern, drier climes. But even in mid-winter this was a humid climate and it was way too easy for bread to go all moldy far too quickly. “Now all we need is filling…” His eyes lit on a big tub and he let out a little ‘ah!’ of pleasure. “Pimento.”
With reverence, Matt removed the tub from the fridge and set it on the counter next to the bread. “It’s a cheese-and-pepper spread. They call it the caviar of the South. I got addicted to this stuff back during my basic training days.” He shut the fridge, opened the upper cabinets, and was again pleased to see plates right where he expected them. He took down two.
Martinez strolled into the kitchen as he stretched his arms over his head. He was clad in sweatpants and a hoodie. “Morning, folks. Nothing like a nice little 5k to get the blood flowing in the morning.”
Kexal clicked his mandibles in puzzlement. “Five Kay?”
“Five-kilometer jog. Gotta keep fit, my man. Otherwise Sarge is gonna come back from his deployment and kick our asses.” The corporal’s eyes lit upon the foodstuffs laid out on the counter next to the fridge. “Hmm, breakfast?”
“Just pimento sandwiches,” said Matt as he took out another plate. “You want one?” It was a bit of a trick question; if you ask a soldier if he wants something to eat, the answer was always ‘yes’.
Martinez did not disappoint. “Oh hell yes. Not quite breakfast food, but I’ve for sure eaten way worse way earlier in the morning.”
The corporal shuddered. “Shit man, I somehow wound up with one of those once in spite of it being way out of date. Nothing but a solid orange brick of nastiness, even with the salsa added to it. Are you tryin’ to give me PTSD?”
Matt pulled out a drawer and found a convenient knife. He began laying out the sandwich makings on each plate. “Could be worse. Could be the dreaded Four Fingers of Death.”
“Oof, I only heard about those. Were they bad as they say?”
“Oh, yes, they were,” replied Matt.
“Four Fingers of Death?” asked Kexal.
“Hot dogs,” replied Matt. “Um…little sausages. Ground-up meat, put it in a long casing, boil it or steam it or smoke it. It’ll last for a long time.”
“Ah!” The giant alien looked pleased…at least, Matt was pretty sure he looked pleased. “We have a similar cuisine involving smoked fish, ground up and molded into cakes.”
“Interesting. Then you should know that it should be a no-brainer to make good hot dogs. I mean, go to any ball game and you’ll see ‘em getting wolfed down by the ton. And yet, somehow, someway, Uncle Sam figured out how to screw up damn hot dogs. Four to a pack, and it was the nastiest shit you’ve ever ate.” He held up a hand, showing his fingers held together. “Hence the Four Fingers of Death.”
Kexal let out a pleased click as Matt continued assembling the sandwiches. “I really do feel like I’m getting a better feeling for human society.”
“It’s a very weird and small cross-section of human society,” said Martinez as he seated himself at the table. “We need to get this guy out to Yosemite or, or even better Yellowstone. I was out in Yellowstone once as a kid, it’s really damn cool. He needs to see some proper scenery. Or hell, just drop him into Times Square to chat with the locals.”
“We will do so, once we’re sure that the rest of humanity hasn’t lost its collective shit,” Matt replied. He finished putting the top slice of bread on each sandwich, then turned and fixed the two at the table with a gimlet eye. “Now. We have two important questions to answer. Crusts on or off?”
Martinez blinked, then responded. “Crusts on! Hell, I would always make sure to get the heel when I was a kid.”
“You’re a man after my own heart, Martinez. Kexal?”
“Um, as long as there are no allergens, then I will also go crust on?”
“Good. Next important question. Horizontal or diagonal cut?” Matt hovered the knife over one sandwich, showing each potential slice.
Martinez opted for horizontal, while Kexal requested diagonal. Matt cut each sandwich as requested, then placed each one in front of its recipient with the appropriate regal air. He then took his own, uncut sandwich and sat at the table.
“You don’t cut yours?” asked Martinez.
“Nope. That’s because I’m a savage.” Matt held the corporal’s eyes while he took a big bite out of his own uncut sandwich.
They all munched happily for a few minutes…right up until the alarm went off.
“…and so I am humbly thankful to receive this honorarium on behalf of my crew and all of the Coalition…”
Milton figured that he had the easier job; just stand there and get across the message of ‘if you bum-rush this little blue-scaled person, you will die, and it will hurt the entire time’. He didn’t envy Captain Sadaf her newfound position as Representative Of All Of Alien-Kind, but then again he’d always been more of a wallflower-type anyway in spite of his impressive size. How he’d landed a dreamboat like Teresa was still a mystery for the ages. Although, if he was honest, she had approached him rather than the other way around.
He smiled internally at the memory of her walking up to him at the Sadie Hawkins’ dance and asking if he wanted to go for a spin on the dance floor. Something in her smile and direct gaze had awakened a more confident version of himself, and he’d accepted her request with the requisite gravity.
However it had happened, he now had a family. A wonderful wife and a son, the apple of his eye. But that wasn’t enough. He and Teresa were working hard on adding a daughter to the mix. If it turned out to be another son he wouldn’t be put out, but in his heart of hearts he wanted it to be a daughter. Just so he could spoil her rotten. But then again, if the Breakers arrived, whatever sex his next child turned out to be might be irrelevant.
Milton stopped his woolgathering and focused back on his job. Thus far his earpiece was silent save for periodic check-ins, which was good. No news was good news, after all.
Beside him, Sergeant Shaw constantly scanned the skies. That was fine, since Milton was busy scanning the people arrayed before him. Most of them were older blue-hairs who he could take with a pinky finger, but you never knew. Even an old person could wield a knife with deadly intent.
“…you must understand, we never intended to be here. It was sheer dumb fate that landed us in your, if I’m honest, quite generous lap. I understand that there is, amongst you humans, a lot of concern that we did not approach you directly. But I would invite you to look at it from our point of view. We had fragments, a few little transmissions and video images without context. We had no idea if you would respond to our presence with reflexive hostility. We were only here to gather data, to determine if a follow-up First Contact fleet would be welcomed.”
Sadaf paused and shook her head, a gesture she’d picked up from her time amongst humans. “As you well know, we were not given such a chance. But thankfully things have worked out well in spite of those circumstances…”
Milton’s forehead wrinkled as he heard a weird noise. It sounded a bit like ripping cloth, descending in tone. He reached up towards his ear to ask his team if they heard it as well…
Shaw straightened up, looking like a navy-blue wall of flesh. “INCOMING!” he bawled, just before lunging towards Sadaf at the podium.
The agent suddenly realized the source of that noise. “EVERYBODY DOWN!” he yelled in return as he threw himself at a few VIPs seated near him on the dais.
The huge sergeant simply yeeted the diminutive captain off towards the far end of the dais, before throwing his own considerable bulk at the other VIPs off to the other side.
Then the entire world seemed to explode. Milton’s ears just shut down at the resulting noise. After a moment, he picked himself up and looked over towards his principal, his ears ringing. He knew people were shouting, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying.
The small alien was out at the perimeter of the blast, and as she got to her feet she patted herself down in an automatic maneuver that Milton knew very well. She looked up, met his eyes, and gave him a thumbs-up.
“One thing gone right, at least,” he muttered to himself as he hauled himself upright. Okay, damage check…legs okay, feet fine…get moving, you asshole, get to your principal, keep her safe. As he lurched forward, he realized his right arm wasn’t moving properly.
He looked down.
His right arm was gone below the elbow.
“Fuck,” he muttered. “Am I supposed to learn to shoot left-handed now?”
Then he realized there was quite a bit of blood streaming out of his new stump…maybe he should sit this one out?
Fuck that.
He was going to reach his principal, if nothing else he’d act as a meat shield. As he continued his determined lurching, in some distant corner of Milton’s mind he wished he could have given his beloved Johnny a little sister to torment.
Someone tackled him to the ground, and he performed an automatic hip-throw before jamming his still-existing left forearm across the throat of a terrified…wait, this was just a kid.
“MEDIC!” screamed the kid. “I’m a MEDIC!”
“What…oh.” Milton looked up into the astonished face of Captain Sadaf; he’d managed to made it all the way to her. “She okay?”
“SHE’S FINE!” yelled someone else.
Then another thought came into his adrenaline-fueled brain. “SHAW!” he all but screamed, looking back towards where the sergeant had been before this whole horrible business had kicked off.
What he saw was a big man, clad in navy blue, sprawled over several blue-haired gentry who looked appropriately terrified. And that big man’s leg ended just below his left knee, with blood streaming out of it.
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2023.05.27 19:21 Significant-Notice- Saturday assorted links

  1. Further commentary on Austrian housing policy. And Jerusalem Demsas on how Colorado is addressing its housing crisis (Atlantic).
  2. Bryan Caplan on AI and higher education. And here is the broader Chronicle symposium.
  3. WordPress 20th anniversary today!
  4. 2014 scouting report on Jokic.
  5. Democrats in Minnesota.
  6. These results indicate that exposure to and engagement with partisan or unreliable news on Google Search are driven not primarily by algorithmic curation but by users’ own choices.
The post Saturday assorted links appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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2023.05.27 17:59 sariaru_qet-shavaq binding of earth, sea, and sky

It was time for Zaven to marry. He had chosen a bride, and petitioned her mother, who was from a powerful clan with a well placed home. His hair was a short stubble on his head now, no longer than the bend of his thumb. He had a foal and a new pup to give, as was traditional, but all that he needed was the gift of sea-light. He had not often gone to the shore to fish, but neither was he totally unaware of it, either. And besides, he would need to fish as such, merely look for the shells along the shore with the beautiful sea-light inside. He knew that his bride would be making her preparations now, too. She was not the hara of her mother, but had one younger sister. They would not inherit her mother’s home, but Rina had inherited more of her mother’s good sense, which would be better in the long run. Their home was prosperous, and Rina’s mother had seven children who survived infancy, though one had died as a young man. Such things happen. Coyote and Raven would take him and turn death into life. Zaven thought on such things as he rode towards the shore with a lightfooted horse, golden of hair, and his favourite hunting dog running at his side. This particular dog reminded him of the coyote, with pointed ears and a slim figure, and mischevious ways. He’d been hard to train, harder than usual, but perhaps that was Coyote also. Nevertheless, he was a good hunter, and fiercely protective. The pup he was giving to Rima was one of his lineage. Hopefully it would also look like Coyote as it grew.
At the shore, he swung down off of his horse, and reached into the bags on either side of the saddle, rummaging for something to eat. Sorghum bread and dried bison, washed down with lasaran lavan. Then he tied the horse to a stake and wandered among the fishermen, with his dog at his side, examining all the shells left behind from the fisher’s catch. Some were cracked, others did not capture enough of the sea-light, and it was almost a full day before he had enough good shells to make her an ornament for her hair. Women, unlike men, almost never cut their hair. Only the tatatul, who would sometimes go bald and in leather, as if they were men, but working the fields (or more likely, Zavan thought, picking the best grapes and eating them right off the vine). Zavan had had wine, of course, but had never tasted a grape. It would be unseemly, women’s food that it was, too sweet for men. But still, he was curious. He wondered if Rina was also curious about fish. He liked fish, particularly cooked, when it flaked beneath the fingers and the oil ran down your fingers.
The next few days he spent preparing the bridal clothing that he would give to Rina - the nacre ornament for her hair, in the shape of a dolphin and a tanned leather skirt, made from horse and ray leather. While he worked, he thought of her, particularly the thought of her eating ripe blackberries off the bush, with the dark juice running down her chin. The sort of thoughts only to have for one’s wife, or future wife. Zaven might have blushed, but the tan of his skin kept his embarrassment hidden.
Rina sat in the cool of her home, out of the midday sun and worked at her loom tirelessly. She had been out hunting for wild cotton, which was notoriously difficult to find in the quantities needed for a good gift. She was making a pain of cotton trousers for Zavan, that he would be able to ride more easily in them. Back and forth went the loom, and bit by bit the fabric grew. Some women gave hemp as their marriage gift, she knew, and as an elder daughter, no one would look down on her for doing so, but she was determined to give the best, and her fingers were quick at the loom, quicker even than her little sister’s, who would nevertheless inherit their mother’s loom. Rina studied the construction of the loom carefully, as if looking at it for the very first time, so that she would be able to build one of her own easily when she and Zevan broke new ground for their home and garden. Around the waistband of the trousers, she stitched raven feathers, for they were plentiful here; their coop was almost always full and Raven protected them. There were also a couple of owl feathers that she had found while out hunting for wild cotton.
While she worked, Rina nibbled at dried grapes and sunflower seeds. In her mind, she was already working on her next task, the bright copper crown that she still had to make for him. It would look lovely against his growing hair. Rina hoped he kept his hair long, and did not need too much violence to thrive. She would make it a simple circlet of thrice bound copper, braided, the same way she braided her hair, and in the middle of it would be a turquoise stone. Then her mind moved to how the home she had been building over the last moons, since the marriage was approved by her mother. Traditionally, the Qet-Šavaq women kept three-room homes, one for sleeping, one for cooking and food storage, and one as a sort of workshop, with looms and pottery and a tanning rack among the other tools of day to day living. She did not think she would be one of the medic women, capable of setting bone, guiding infants into life, and curing the coughs and fevers that were part of life. No, Rina had a mind for building and creation. She was tireless at the wheel, the loom, and even helped others in the village with building or repairing their homes, with a keen eye for how to best stack stones so they wouldn’t fall. Her home would be beautiful and strong. She had an idea for water too. In her mind’s eye, she saw the rain fall, sink into the earth, where the roots of the plants could get to it. She imagined digging down, down, down, like a root, and finding water. Not just a stone-lined pit for storing rain water during the rainy season, but deeper, to get to wherever the plants drew their water from, creating her very own spring. She would be the envy of all her sisters, and her own hara would be powerful.
The day of the wedding was a happy one, as such things usually were. It was a sunny day, though not yet the height of the dry season. Flowers were in bloom, and the center of the village was beautiful with growing things. A space along a cliffside had been cleared for the ceremony, and they were close enough that the sea could be seen, far off in the distance. A good place, with Earth, Sea, and Sky together. Zevan came from the west, riding one horse and leading another, with a pup in his arms and bundles in his saddlebags. Rina came from the east, carrying a bundle of sunflowers and allium blooms, bright and colorful, with a couple of young boys pulling a small sledge behind her, with wrapped bundles. They walked the spirals together, circling in towards each other until they were standing side by side before a small fire pit like a miniature oiled pyre, ringed with stone. The tatatul shouted reasons they would not be a good couple, which were rebutted by members of both families, and they exchanged gifts, with Zaven giving away his beautiful hair ornament, skirt, foal, and pup (who, he was pleased, did also have the pointed ears and slender build of Coyote, a good blessing), and was humbled to receive his groom-loaf of chia, circlet, and cotton trousers in return, symbols of the provision and artisanal work of a kept man, who did not need to rely fully on his own labours. Then torches were brought forward, to Rina from Zaven’s family, and vice versa. Together they pledged to care for one another from now until death and whatever lay beyond. They threw their burning branches onto the fire. Now no one could ever tell Rina’s flame from Zaven’s, and together the flame burned brighter than ever before. They would start their new life in Rina’s village, but further out the spiral, further from Raven’s coops, but with more room to grow for all that. They would spend the turn of a moon together before Zaven would have to return to his duties, but hopefully Rina would be bearing a child by then.
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2023.05.27 17:58 According-Value-6227 The Story of Jonathan and Sherwin

The Story of Jonathan and Sherwin
This post is for "Dyggoran Revival Project" ( Pronounced: Die-Ore-Rahn ) / DRP. DRP is my first, oldest and primary world building project which I have been working on since 2014. DRP began as "Dyggoran", a failed RPG Minecraft Server developed by myself and a few former friends. Due to a devastating hard-drive crash in 2016, the only copy of the server's world was deleted before it could be completed, go live as a server or gain any recognition, attention or following. After some time, I eventually decided to reboot "Dyggoran" outside of Minecraft as "DRP" and the rest in history.
Although DRP is predominately original, it is and always has been partially fan fiction-based. Aside from featuring a great many references too and elements from Minecraft, it also incorporates characters, details and elements from other works of fiction. The fan fiction elements of DRP make up an estimated 25% of the project with the remaining 75% being comprised of original work.
Jonathan and Sherwin, the main characters of the 2017 LGBTQIA+ short film "In A Heartbeat" function as the primary protagonists of DRP's first and introductory story which is a rewrite of The Shadow of Israphel. As the protagonists, Jonathan and Sherwin replace "Honeydew" and "Xephos", the Minecraft Avatar's of Simon Lane and Lewis Brindley who functioned as the protagonists of the original Shadow of Israphel series ( December 2nd, 2010 to July 27th, 2012 ).
For reasons that should be obvious, The Jonathan and Sherwin of DRP deviate heavily from their original versions. They posses the same names and designs but their backstories, personalities and other character attributes are almost entirely original on account of the fact that Jonathan and Sherwin did not speak in IaHB and had no backstory given on them.

In DRP, the story of Jonathan and Sherwin actually begins 124 years before The Shadow of Israphel.

In DRP, Jonathan's full name is Jonathan Julien. He was born 24 years before the "Nether Crisis" ( 24 B.C ) in the now defunct Kingdom of Panachia to a an unknown mother and Dr. Jaden Julien Jr., the 2nd Chairman and CEO of Julien Laboratories / J-Labs, a former Panachian Mega-Corporation that is based on Aperture Science ( Portal/Half-Life ).
Jonathan grew up very privileged, aside from the fact that his father possessed a net-worth of over 100 Billion from the immense profits of J-Labs. His grandfather and the founder of J-Labs, Jaden Julien Sr. ( 118 - 45 B.C ) had been knighted by the King of Panachia, thus making the Julien family a legal noble house. Possessing the titles of SiSer, the Juliens were minor nobility but commanded overwhelming power with J-Labs.
Although Jonathan enjoyed substantial wealth, luxury and privilege. He had an arguably poor home-life. His relationship with his father was similar to typical depictions of the relationship between Norman and Harry Osborn in Spiderman. Worsened somewhat by the fact that Jonathan wasn't even the heir to J-Labs, that being Jonathan's older brother Arthur Julien.
As a man, Jaden Jr. was cold and detached, his children existed purely to continue J-Labs and the family legacy and had to prove themselves worthy of his non to barely existent affection.
Like in IAHB, Jonathan attended Newgate Academy which in DRP, is a private school. Jonathan was a highly accomplished student and was part of the school's baseball team where he was recognized as the best player.

In DRP, Sherwin is Dwarven. Like Jonathan, he was born in 24. B.C in the Kingdom of Panachia. The Dwarves of DRP are mononymous, this means that they don't utilize surnames and only posses one name. Furthermore, It's also important to note that "Sherwin" is not a Dwarven name. In DRP, it is actually a "Panachianized" form of his birth name "Shtravraz" which is rather unpleasant looking and sounding and too difficult for non-Dwarves to pronounce.
Being adapted to underground life, the Dwarves find the surface to be uncomfortably spacious and they don't typically live or work on the surface unless they are contracted by Human and Elven companies.
Sherwin lived on the surface because his family was employed by a local "Super-Mine", Super-Mines are exceptionally large and deep mines that are specially built by Dwarven engineers and miners to achieve maximum resource output. Super Mines can operate for decades and this combined with the substantial pay Dwarven miners receive on account of being unionized, allowed Sherwin to gain an education at a private school such as Newgate Academy.

In DRP, Jonathan and Sherwin met in 10 B.C in the same way they did in IaHB save for the fact that no one had a sentient, anthropomorphized heart popping out of their chest. I've always held the opinion that the exact events of IaHB are a metaphorical depiction of what actually happened and this is the case in DRP. Whatever the case, Jonathan returned Sherwin's feelings and the two of them started dating.
Jonathan and Sherwin's relationship was kept secret as homosexuality was frowned upon in Dyggorani civilization by 10 B.C. To most people, Jonathan and Sherwin were nothing more than good friends.

Sherwin and Jonathan at 19-20 years of age. Art by Alena YMhin on Artstation, ( Not created for DRP ).

In 6 B.C, Jaden Julien Jr. and Arthur Julien were assassinated by Panachian Syndicalists. Following a socially suffocating funeral in which Jonathan mourned only his brother, he became Chairman and CEO of J-Labs at 18 years of age. Jonathan decided to enact multiple positive reforms to the company which aimed to greatly improve employee health and safety, expand employee benefits and encourage and enable unionization, Jonathan also disbanded several divisions of J-Labs such as the highly lucrative arms division and relocated the employees of said disbanded divisions to other departments instead of terminating their employment. Lastly, Jonathan cut his own pay by more than 50% in order to enact a minimum salary plan for the employee population of J-Labs.
Jonathan's reforms caused a sharp increase in productivity, retention and employee happiness, however, it diminished profits by a rather significant amount. The J-Labs Board of Directors was not happy about this and began conspiring to remove Jonathan from power.
In 5 B.C, the J-Labs Board attempted to stage a coup against Jonathan, using the J-Labs Corporate Security Force ( the company's private army ) to seize control of J-Labs properties. The coup ultimately failed due to the support of the Panachian unions. During the coup, however. Sherwin was grievously injured by a crossbolt that had been coated in an incurable poison, a bio-weapon that had been developed by the now defunct J-Labs arms division. Unwilling to let his boyfriend die, Jonathan put Sherwin in a specialized cryo-stasis pod until a cure could be found.
Over the course of the next 5 years, Jonathan suffered from severe depression and withdrew from public life, relegating most of his responsibilities as CEO to his secretary.

The Nether Crisis of 0 B.C / 0 A.C was a cataclysmic event that caused a soft to moderate collapse of Dyggorani civilization.
"The Nether" is an alternate plane of existence that has been known to the Dyggorani for millennia as the source of "dark magic". As a dimension, the Nether is overtly hostile to all foreign life and matter and even though the dark magic sourced from the Nether is extraordinarily powerful, prolonged use of it can cause severe biological and mental mutations that can turn even the greatest mages into eldritch horrors known as "The Nether Distorted".
In the decades leading up to the Nether Crisis, "The Overworld" ( the setting of DRP ) was undergoing rapid population growth and technological advancement. However, the limited natural energy sources of the planet ( Coal, Hydro-electric, Solar and Wind ) could not keep up with industrial and population demands. For this reason, there was a push to find alternative sources of energy and The Nether proved by an extremely promising albeit dangerous option.
Encom, a mega-corporation that rivaled J-Labs had been building the NEN ( Netheric-Energy-Network ) a collection of portals, power-plants, extra-dimensional space stations and more that aimed to solve the Dyggorani energy crisis by powering civilization with Netheric Energy. For reasons that have yet to be determined, the NEN suffered a catastrophic failure on the day of its activation, opening a massive aerial Nether Portal that unleashed the horrors of the Nether onto Dyggoran, causing massive amounts of death and destruction.
The Nether Crisis only lasted around 27½ hours but it both dramatically and violently altered Dyggorani civilization. What was left of the Hyper-capitalistic and somewhat cyberpunk status quo that existed before the Nether Crisis was incapable of leading reconstruction efforts, thus incentivizing communist, socialist and syndicalistic revolutions across most of Dyggoran.

The Shadow of Israphel begins 100 years after the Nether Crisis ( 100 A.C ) in the J-Labs Science Center, a massive corporate campus in Western Panachia that functioned as the primary research and development center of J-Labs. The Science Center was abandoned during the Nether Crisis and never re-occupied.
After 100 years of neglect, the Science Center's nuclear fusion power plant has gone critical and is in imminent danger of meltdown. As a result, the Science Center's emergency evacuation procedures are activated, this awakens Sherwin and a clone of Jonathan from over a century of cryo-sleep.
J-Labs had quite a few people in cryo-storage, virtually all of them being hired test-subjects. All of these test-subjects died but Jonathan and Sherwin survived as their pods were self-sustaining and not connected to the greater power grid of the J-Labs Science Center.
Both Sherwin and the clone of Jonathan have cryo-sleep induced amnesia. They have no idea who they are or where they are but they are able to determine a faction of their identities from the damaged stickers on their cryo-pods.
After escaping from the Science Center an hour or so before meltdown, Jonathan and Sherwin survive in the snow-blanketed wilderness of Western Dyggoran for a few days before a mysterious entity by the name of Israphel causes them to have a run-in with an old man named Obadiah. The story of SOI begins from that point forward and the rest is history.
That's all I have for now, any questions and/or comments would be greatly appreciated as they help me improve my writing.

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