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One Hell Of A Vacation - Chapter 87

2023.06.01 11:23 WaveOfWire One Hell Of A Vacation - Chapter 87

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“Are you sure about this?” Comms called through the short-wave, Willin’s headset crackling only slightly louder than the pouring rain. It was distorted and covered the timbre of his voice, but it worked.
He checked the batteries on his guns, both pistol and rifle topped off. The pistol was secured into the holster on his hip, the rifle slung across his chest over the heat-plate designed to dissipate any plasma that might hit it. His armour wouldn’t do the best against kinetic armaments—it was never designed to go against a railgun—but military personnel were rarely given those anyway. Too inefficient.
“As sure as I can be,” he replied, checking his harness. Two spare batteries, four ration packs, water, the transmitter that fed into his headset, some assorted tools for unlikely scenarios, and a knife tucked into his boot. The footwear was typically used for traversing hostile environments or boarding operations—the material thick and cumbersome—but it worked just fine for him. He had gotten used to wearing it.
He opted not to bother with the helmet. It would limit his senses in a place like this, the EW field making even the most basic function disorienting. Tech adjusted the physical scope on her rifle, though her favourite weapons were the two Compact Anti-personnel and Rapid Discharge systems she had attached to her hips—the CARDs being designed to switch between rapid-shot clusters to suppress a wide area, and a single-fire mode better suited to more precise requirements. The larger weapon was mostly for show—there was hardly a reason to carry an Anti-Material Rifle to begin with—but it didn’t hurt to counter possible armour.
The purple-furred female’s true weaponry rested both on and under her armour, her augments and the equipment linked to them making her a mobile Electronic Warfare platform. Though much of her abilities would be limited in scope here, she was still more than capable of supporting him. He would be relying on her to dissuade any action against them, as well as using her modifications to keep them in the loop.
She looked like an oddly-coloured female, but she was closer to a walking EMP and scanner rolled into one.
“Short-wave is stable, if a bit distorted,” Willin continued, flicking some of the water off his fur. “Tech will try to keep the signal clean, but no promises. Comms, Nav, you two are keeping the craft warm and ready.”
“Understood, Leader,” Nav replied, their androgynous voice warbling slightly. “Estimated time-frame?”
“Long enough for you two to figure out the ration-packets.”
Comms laughed over the headset. “Nav would rather lick the floors.”
“Just don’t get too distracted with each other while we’re gone,” Willin teased through his smirk, Tech rolling her eyes at him.
“The same could be said for you, Leader. Don’t get too caught up making ‘friends’ with the locals.”
“Or Tech,” Nav added dryly. Their tone hovering between annoyance at the jibes regarding Comms and Nav’s occasional fling, and amusement at the suggestion Tech was interested in pursuits of the flesh with the crew at all. She might be, but she had a habit of dropping the thermostat of whichever room belonged to whoever made the comment, so it was safer to just assume she was off-limits.
“Cold room,” Tech responded casually as she adjusted her audio interface, Nav sighing loud enough for it to be picked up. Comms laughed in a way that suggested he was thankful for Tech’s assistance in ensuring Nav would be seeking a warm bed for the moon. Willin shook his head, hoping that they didn’t need to extract in any particular hurry.
It was easier to get in the air when your two remaining crew weren’t otherwise occupied.
“Batteries green. Supplies green. Short-wave sufficient,” he reported, receiving confirmations from Tech. “Operation is to establish communication with local Grand Hunter and receive compliance, information on other packs, and facilitate reintroduction to structure.”
“Alternative is to report pack as non-compliant and pursue other Grand Hunters,” Tech added, repeating what they went over earlier. “My augments are heavily limited, but we should be able to deal with it.”
“Are you sure that you two can manage hostilities?” Comms asked, his voice faltering slightly. Though they had been assigned to the scout craft at random, they had grown rather close as a unit over their time. If it wasn’t for the professional obligations prohibiting it, they might have all decided to move into a den together—they were that intimately familiar with each other. As it was, they would likely be reassigned to serve elsewhere after their current mission was complete.
Such was the life of those like them.
“Tech has more equipment under her fur than our ship has installed—weakened or not,” Willin assured the male. He shot a pointed look at the female. “She’s also under direct order to return in the event things become too dangerous. Alone, if required.”
Tech scowled, but nodded anyway. Comms grunted their understanding. “Leader?”
A moment of pause. “Nothing. Come back, okay?”
“Will do my best, Comms. Nav, keep an eye on him.”
“It will be done, Leader. Stay safe.”
He placed a paw to his headset, hovering over the button to cut the transmission. “You too.”
“Ready to go?” Tech asked, slinging her AMR over her back and re-securing her CARDs. Willin double checked his auxiliary equipment, hoping that he didn’t need to use any of it. Nodding, he gestured for her to follow, the two leaving behind the craft to slip into the woods.
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“Something up?” he asked, raising a brow at Tech. The female was fidgety, restless and scanning their surroundings more than required. She might have heard something, but the thunderous hiss of rain drowned out most everything—it was part of the reason they waited for it.
She wore a reluctant expression, her eyes flickering to the silver and gold trees for a moment. “Prox’ is going wild.”
“Proximity sensor effected?” he queried, feeling the weight of his weapons tug on his body. Tech nodded.
“It’s weak. I think the ‘spike is messing with it—along with everything else—but it’s reporting…a lot.”
She shook her head, a paw twitching over a CARD. “Not until we go past them.”
He joined her in looking around, shaking off water uselessly. “Wildlife?”
“This stealthy?”
Willin shrugged. “The message mentioned that it was different.”
“Details would have been nice,” she grumbled in return, waving her paw to get him moving again, though she kept one on her weapon.
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“Visual,” he reported, lowering the rifle from his shoulder. “Anything?”
Tech shook her head, still on a swivel. “Prox’ is still lit up, but at this point it might be less distracting to shut it off.”
“Keep it. Rather have it telling us things are around all the time than miss something big because we got annoyed.”
She sighed, tapping her audio interface twice to change the song she had playing. “What do you see?”
“Low fences, but dense buildings. Lots of traffic despite the weather. Looks like they’re used to it. Think they know we’re here?”
“Doubt it. Gear?”
He shouldered his weapon to look through the scope. “No guns, but lots of melee. Armour seems to be a mix of leather and metal. Can’t say what kind.”
Tech pulled her AMR to look, Willin shifting to keeping lookout. “No guns…” She shot him a look. “I’m not sure if that’s reassuring, or worrying.”
He shrugged. “The less I need to get shot at with, the better.”
“The goal is to not give them reason to.”
“Well, I can’t be perfect all the time.”
Tech laughed, the banter easing her nerves. “You’d have to start, Leader.”
With a roll of his eyes, he patted her shoulder with the back of his paw. “Let’s get moving. Diplomacy doesn’t do itself.”
The purple-furred female sighed, likely biting back another quip as she nodded.
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It went better than expected. So far, anyway.
They had approached the settlement proper, received what could be described as a ‘lukewarm’ welcome, then were told to follow several Lilhuns donning black leather and far too many daggers. Their escorts kept a close eye on the guns that they brought, but no one had made any comments about them yet. It was encouraging, but also worrying.
“Still nothing?” he muttered, quiet enough to not be heard by the others, but loud enough for Tech. She seemed hesitant, glancing over to one of the taller structures as they passed through, but gave a subtle shrug.
“Static is messing with my augments,” she grumbled. “Could be none, could be a few snipers. I can’t tell.”
He exhaled heavily. It was a bit of a blessing that her modifications were working at all, but it was easy enough to see that she felt bare without all the little tweaks she had gotten used to.
Willin never actually got the chance to learn all the tricks she was capable of—it was against policy to ask and she never saw fit to talk about it—but of the ones he did know; her proximity sensor, jammer, and ship integration were her favourites.
It was hard to board her ship if she knew where you were, locked up your gun, then spaced the room you were in, all without closing her game. He was pretty sure she was disappointed that she had only gotten to do that once.
“New ones, the Grand Hunter will see you soon,” an escort informed them as they drew near the Atmospheric Entry Craft that acted as a den for the one they were here to meet. They didn’t know the name yet, nor were they given the chance to do more than say why they were there. He had gotten as far as saying he was from the United Military before the people welcoming them scurried off to get someone else.
He busied himself by inspecting the buildings leading up to the AEC, some being a respectable three floors. Newer constructions seemed to differ in method, the beams a charred ashen colour rather than the same odd silver wood. Why they had elected to burn the materials, he didn’t know, but it seemed to be what they decided to do.
A surprising amount of the population carried a curved stick over their shoulder, the ends tied together by a string. Some attached lengths of a similar material to their leathers, one end made with a small loop as it dangled. The catch they carried to what looked to be a hunter’s lodge suggested it was used during their hunting, but he couldn’t fathom how.
Dragging his attention from the crowd, he eyed the large shuttle.
The massive main doors looked to have been damaged, though a structure had been attached since, leaving the stuck-open entrance to seem less like the result of a hard landing. The gentle hum of the internal power generation was absent, the required energy for what was still working being drawn from large solar panels that had been installed into skylights in the ceiling. The cloud-laden weather dimmed the light that illuminated the inside, but it was serviceable enough. Whatever power was produced, it was being funnelled somewhere that wasn’t servicing the majority of the craft.
Wide halls were populated by Lilhuns and spotted with doorways, the majority propped open since they were programmed to shut in the event of a power outage, lest explosive decompression eject whomever was occupying the room—along with anyone nearby in the hallway, should they be so unlucky.
It was customized, that much was obvious. Several rooms that would have been sparsely populated with anything other than beds were instead modified into training rooms and gyms. Densely packed barracks contrasted against large storage areas filled with various goods, pelts and metal weapons lining various shelves. Newer accommodations had been installed for more of those curved staffs, smaller pointed sticks stacked in piles nearby.
They progressed deeper and deeper into the confines of the shuttle, the common sight of the local pack trickling away, none seeming to have business this far in. Gruffer and more observant Lilhuns became the only people they saw while the hallways narrowed into tighter quarters, what might have fit cargo vehicles now only allowing a few shoulder widths, doorways becoming less common. The wary eyes and darkened clothing paired with the occasional dyed fur of those they passed—black seeming to be the dominant colour.
“In here,” an escort grunted, jabbing their jaw towards an isolated door. A paw was held out as they tried to step forward. “Weapons.”
Tech’s paw twitched towards one of her CARDs, the act of Willin relinquishing his pistol and rifle stopping her from snapping it into rapid-fire and burning the air with plasma. She glared at him for a few seconds before doing the same, the escort smirking.
“You will have them returned. The Grand Hunter is not so desolate as to pilfer the possessions of those who come merely to speak.”
He wasn’t worried about it. The guns were coded to them and Tech could fry them if it came down to it. Well, he wasn’t sure if she could do it with the warp-spike messing with things, but the lock should be enough. The knife in his boot went unnoticed, so it wasn’t like he was completely unarmed anyway.
Tech followed suit, subtly glaring at him the whole time. He shrugged, there wasn’t much they could do about it. They were the ones seeking an audience with the most influential person here.
Satisfied, the escort pulled the door open, the quiet whirring of the unpowered servos accenting the air. They revealed a larger office adorned with little but the most base necessity, a wood and steel desk covered in papers, a chair seeming to be the only extravagant item within—though it was purely for the ergonomics, rather than any aesthetic reason—and the male sat upon it was leafing through a collection of documents while twirling an orange needle-like object in his paw.
The distinct lack of any guards to protect the Grand Hunter was surprising, but that took a back seat to the owner of the room.
Dark grey fur, a clouded eye that retained its sharpness, scars peeking beyond the confines of his leather clothing—the thick hides sporting metal scales sewn onto them. An ear flicked in their direction, the membrane cut at several points. He placed down his papers, leaning forward in his chair as he clasped his paws on the desk, a friendly smile donned that failed to convey anything but malice.
“Greetings, new ones,” the male offered in a cheery tone, the low rumble and gravelled texture of his voice carrying both humour and curiosity. He focused on Tech for a moment, his eyes narrowing over the affable expression before he regarded both of them equally. He gestured to the seating opposite of his desk some small distance away. Close enough to meet, yet far enough that it was made abundantly clear who was in charge.
Willin bowed his head politely, walking the distance and sitting where he was provided. Tech followed suit after a brief hesitation, her unfocused eyes snapping to him with frustration. His raised brow was met with a longer blink—her augments were reporting something that made no sense again.
“Now then,” the dark grey-furred male said, moving some of the documents on his desk to a stack. “What might bring you to me?”
“Forgive me, Grand Hunter…” Willin opened, prodding for a name.
The male simply maintained his attentive posture instead of providing. Willin adjusted his sleeve and decided it was more important to continue than dig for information that he could get by asking anyone who lived in the settlement.
“As for why we’re here; we represent the United Military, responding to a distress call. We have forwarded the request and were tasked with ascertaining the state of affairs before the fleets arrive to assist.”
The Grand Hunter nodded. “Yes, that much I could have surmised from your clothing alone.”
Tech raised a brow as the dark green-furred soldier forced a smile. “Of course. More specifically, we would like to speak with you about what you know of the others of your station, as well as discuss the reintegration of your pack.”
The smile of the grey-furred male widened. “You wish to make a deal?”
Tech’s gaze flickered to several points in the room, her brow furrowing as she jettisoned a huff in frustration. Willin took a moment to consider his plan of action, nodding when he didn’t see the harm.
“I believe we can come to an arrangement. Within reason, of course.”
The Grand Hunter chuckled as the needle he was playing with disappeared at a flick of his wrist. “Of course, of course. Deal, agreements, arrangements, contracts.” The emphasis on the final item tickled something in the back of Willin’s mind. “Itemize it. What do you seek of me? It is rather disorganized to ask without quantifying, no? So…messy.”
“We want information on the other packs. Who leads them, number of members, where their settlements are,” Tech stated tersely, ignoring the disapproving glance Willin gave. “We also need to work on integrating those packs back into the UM—preferably with yourself setting precedent.”
The male’s face grew thoughtful. “As well as forgiveness, though that will cost quite the amount.”
Willin frowned. “Forgiveness? For not knowing your name?”
The Grand Hunter returned a blank stare, a dangerous grin spreading slowly. “Tell me, new ones, do you know of Avalon?”
Tech’s face hardened, her answer slow and cautious. “We do, though only through description.”
The male’s voice fell low. Quiet, yet powerful. His elbows on the table suddenly felt like a far greater threat than any armament. “Do you know the debt your superiors have incurred?”
“I don’t believe we have even had the chance to introduce ourselves,” Willin interjected, noticing Tech’s discomfort, her eyes darting around the room nervously.
“You need not,” the Grand Hunter remarked smugly. “You are forbidden from giving your names, no? Locked behind titles of station, merged and scattered at the whims of your masters. Soldiers who do not exist, yet sit within my office.”
Tech pawed for a CARD, forgetting that she had been disarmed at the door. Willin felt the weight of his knife pull on his boot. The male chuckled as he leaned back in his chair.
“But, given that you did not flee, I will give the benefit of the doubt regarding the debt. Though, it will make offering you more than your lives difficult.”
“What debt?” Willin pressed, receiving a flippant wave of the male’s paw.
“It matters not. I have more pressing matters than hearing why I should join the ranks of that which I supersede.”
“Matters such as?”
The Grand Hunter raised a brow. “You are being given the opportunity to leave whole, new one. I advise you to accept.”
Willin shook his head, ignoring Tech’s pointed look. “We need information. From the message we received, not everyone is as well off as you, and we intend to amend that. What can we trade for it?”
The male clasped his paws over his stomach, passively humouring them. “What do you offer? You may seek the details of the others, but I am not inclined to merely supply it.”
“Supplies, priority cooperation when the UM arrives.”
A chortle sounded out. “We are self sufficient. Such matters little.”
“Is there anything you would want?”
The Grand Hunter smirked, placing a paw on the table as the other produced another needle—this one a more yellow hue, the specifics of its shape blurring as it spun between his claws. “Your superiors asked me a favour. Data. How far could they push the Lilhun body before ligaments broke, the mind following shortly after? How twisted can we shape the psyche of kits?”
The temperature of the room seemed to chill, a twitch of the male’s lips pulling his muzzle into a slight snarl.
“They sought my kit to participate, after a time. Unfortunately, her will aligned—despite my reservations. In return, she would be wiped from the records. Ephemeral, never having existed to begin with. Never suffering the whims of those who became drunk on sending my Blades to their end, never finding their other.” The gravel to his voice turned to broken glass. “Yet your betters violated the agreement. Broke the contract. They pulled her into your service, hid the fact from me, and had the gall to fabricate a story to coincide. Were it not for a particular series of favours I was owed, I would have been still planet-side in our system instead of here.”
The dark grey-furred male smirked, his demeanour relaxing. “It seems she has found what she sought. Without need for my meddling, at that. A shame, really. I had several competent males selected—those who could wield what she had become. Those who might give her what her blood-mother failed to gain.” He paused for a moment, a fraction of longing piercing through the scarred exterior. “Regardless, all I would have wanted has been gained. She is content, and I am crafting that which shall accept her when she is ready. Your military will only muddy that which I have achieved, were they to dig their claws into my work.”
“Their actions are separate from ours,” Willin countered, thankful that the impending conflict had seemingly resolved itself.
“Grand Hunter,” Tech addressed the male, an eye flicking to the ceiling for a fraction. “We were able to see that there are a fair number of settlements, but we need the information to do our job.”
“And your task would interfere with my own,” the grey-furred male reiterated, a polite—if bored—expression returned.
“What if we could ensure that it didn’t?”
The disinterest in the male’s eyes slipped into curiosity. “You seek to trade sovereignty for information? You hold such power?”
“We do,” Willin confirmed, surprised that Tech would offer. “Though you would be disregarding the support of the United Military, we could arrange an agreement of territory on this planet. It’s not as if we could populate the entirety of it within several of our lifetimes anyway.”
The Grand Hunter stared, each moment more uncomfortable than the last. Eventually, he smirked. “Information and the disregarding of the sins your betters inflicted upon me, for sovereignty…and a singular favour.”
“Indeed,” he replied confidently, reaching into his desk to produce writing implements and paper. “You see, my kit has pledged herself to someone of curiosity. I thought him worthless. Weak. Yet he has performed a duty befitting her Sheath, and I suppose I should reward it.”
Scribbling ceased, impeccable penmanship crafting a contract that was slid forward on the tabletop. He continued after gesturing for Willin to approach.
“Seek him last, give him what information you have gathered, then heed his request,” the male said through his smirk. “I do so look forward to seeing what becomes of it.”
The dark green-furred male perused the document, stipulations and all finely articulated, as if the Grand Hunter lived and breathed transaction. A few points needed to be addressed, mostly possible abuse cases within the fine print, but it was surprisingly fair. There was some worry about the otherwise excessive cost of breaking the contract, but Willin figured that it would be reasonable enough considering the circumstances.
Signing, he gestured Tech to do the same as a witness, the two of them representing the UM for all intents and purposes. It was hardly the first time they had made agreements like this, though trading such a large area on a planet they held no prior influence on was a first.
The Grand Hunter confirmed the terms and conditions with them one last time, smiling when they both nodded.
“Good! Now, for what you seek.” The male rummaged through a few drawers, producing a series of papers that were lined over the desk towards them. “The non-aggression treaty, as well as what my Blades have observed from their scouting.”
Willin read over each, the documents sorted by Grand Hunter, then by who they had under them. His brow raised at a few reports, but questions could wait. The male seemed happy to let them read, so he wanted to take advantage of it. Tech scanned over everything when Willin was done, her augments allowing her to commit the information to a digital memory for future reference back on the ship.
“There are quite a few names marked with this,” Tech noted aloud, pointing to a symbol next to several of the Grand Hunters and their extended packs. The grey-furred male nodded.
“Those have been eliminated or subsumed.”
Willin frowned, parsing the documents again. Mi’low, Toril, and a few others were designated as such. Looking through, only about four seemed to be free of the distinction. He looked questioningly to the male, a grin returned with a separate stack of paper, titled with a single name.
The notation was rather dense, though not in information that Willin was expecting. Instead of settlements or High and Low Hunters, it was laden with mentions of those belonging to the previously marked Grand Hunters. His eyes widened as he connected the dots.
“Hasen is trying to be a Master Hunter.”
“Correct,” the male confirmed cheerily. “He is integrating other packs into his command and eliminating those who refuse. It has become quite an issue as of late.”
Though Grand Hunters could be assigned the moniker by owning territory and a willing pack—assuming they have the force required to defend it—a Master Hunter must own magnitudes more. It was typically achieved by integrating Grand Hunter packs and their subservients through mutual benefit, but taking it by force was a lesser used method.
Given that he had already either taken or purged several, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to assume he would press it to include here.
Willin heard Tech curse under her breath, their promise of sovereignty obligating them to interfere. To allow a member of the military—stranded or not—free action against the grey-furred male’s territory would be the same as endorsing it, now that they were aware. It would be hostility by the UM in all but name, and the consequences that had seemed somewhat extreme before now hung over their heads like an executioner’s axe.
A dark, deep chuckle broke the two of them out of thought. “Contracts, new ones,” the Grand Hunter started, a cold Void pooling in his eyes, “are not to be thought trivial. Do not break them.”
“It was a trap,” Tech snarled, jabbing a claw at the report in her paw. “You set us up.”
“Did I?” the male asked innocently. “You offered self-governance, non-interference, and non-aggression.”
“You withheld information!”
The Grand Hunter smiled, a shiver sent down Willin’s spine. “You agreed without doing proper research.”
Willin held a paw out to stop Tech from storming the male. “The contract is signed, Tech.”
“It’s invalid!” she snarled at him, receiving a cold look in return.
“Do you want to be the one to tell command that we allowed damn near genocide of a crew we were here to assist, just because we were too stubborn to adhere to an agreement?” he countered calmly. “This ‘Hasen’ is wiping almost a year's worth of survival, botanical, and every other specialized knowledge gained, just because he wants to control a section of a planet. This doesn’t change anything, it just means we know what we’re going into.”
“I like him,” the Grand Hunter opined with a grin. “He sees the value that my proposition offers.”
“What’s stopping us from just tearing up the contract right now and leaving you to your fate?” Tech barked.
“Your companions in your craft—quite the ship, might I add—would be a notable starting point.”
The two of them paused, eyes widened. The dark grey-furred male laughed again.
“Your proximity sensor has been reporting since you landed, no?” he asked, pointing to the equipment on Tech’s harness. “It must have been rather vexing, yes? Is it the warp-spike? Is it some army of the unknown? The uncertainty of never confirming what it tells you. The whispers of doubt that follow.”
“I’m surprised you recognized what it was,” Willin replied with a level tone. He didn’t like where this was going. The male offered a smile.
“Wildlife here is especially elusive. Skittish. Ceasing all motion while predators are near and silencing themselves.” Tech and Willin exchanged a glance as the male waved a paw dismissively. “It makes for rather intensive training for my Blades. To hunt without disturbing them. My kit was a natural in such regard, but others have slowly approached such a threshold.”
He folded his paws on the desk. “Your ship is currently being observed by them now, weaponry trained on the defences you thought so adequate. Surely you noticed the lack of guns, yes?”
“The distress message mentioned the lack of them was due to how urgent evacuation was,” Willin added cautiously.
“Yes, quite. I made sure to lock the armouries after taking enough to establish my power,” the male confirmed with a half-shrug. “Among those were rifles not dissimilar to the rifle that the purple one there brought with her.” He leaned back in his chair. “Sufficient to pierce the hull and whoever occupies the space behind it, no?”
Tech’s eyes unfocused, snapping to Willin with a fear behind them. The Grand Hunter spun his quill, unconcerned by the events.
“Your short-wave has been temporarily disabled. You can not warn them.”
“Threatening us to compliance?” Willin asked without emotion to his tone. He needed to keep things from escalating.
“Ensuring you understand the consequences of your actions,” the male replied plainly. “When one barters with Avalon, know that breaching such is grounds for death. Of you, and whoever I need to send with you.”
“They didn’t sign this,” Tech argued, kept in line by Willin’s demeanour.
“But you did,” the Grand Hunter returned coldly. “Honour your signature, or regret such in the Void.”
Tech took an enraged step forward, stopped when her throat pressed against a dagger that was slipped in from behind. Willin felt the pressure of a knife to his own.
“Patience, new ones.”
“You took advantage of the interference to sneak assassins into the room?” Willin noted.
“No, my Blades were always here,” the male refuted lazily, nodding at Tech. “She noticed, but was unable to trust what her equipment told her.” He chortled for a moment. “Quite the annoyance, proximity sensors. I feel rather blessed to have the warp-spike rendering them little more than meaningless noise.”
“So this is it? You kill us now, our friends when they refuse to cooperate, then steal what we brought?”
The pressure on his neck faded with a wave of the male’s paw, the assassins being nowhere to be seen.
“Of course not!” the Grand Hunter exclaimed, his voice returning to its affable cadence. “You now know how futile it is to go against me. Fear not, I see no merit in hindering you. As long as you honour your portion of the contract, I will honour mine. It is a certainty that Avalon was founded on.”
Tech rubbed her neck, glancing questioningly at Willin. He gave the male a wary glance, but closed his eyes to concede. They were just going to get everyone killed if they tried to back out of something they had already agreed to.
“Then we have come to an understanding,” the dark grey-furred male announced happily. “As a show of faith, do you have any questions where I might provide clarity?”
The two soldiers glanced at each other, Tech begrudgingly giving Willin the floor. He gestured to the smallest stack of papers. “Who is this? There’s next to nothing about him. Are you withholding information against your contract?”
The Grand Hunter smirked. “That, new ones, is all I could gather from my Blades.”
“You have Lilhuns disappearing in the room a moment after holding a knife to our throats, and they couldn’t scout a settlement?”
“Isn’t it interesting?”
“Enthralling,” Tech commented dryly. The male tapped a claw against his head.
“Think, new ones. What might render my Blades little more than a mild inconvenience?”
Willin’s eyes narrowed. “Other Blades? Better Blades?”
The dark grey-furred male held an expectant smile. “None have been seen, save for my kit.”
“Your kit’s mate is the Grand Hunter? I don’t see one Blade deterring this many,” he admitted, flicking through the pages. Overt, covert, and disguised. None got very far.
“Thus why I believe the male is owed a favour,” the Grand Hunter explained. “I gave them four Blades as a gift. They have become more.” A predatory look of elation cracked through the veneer. “There exists no better Sheath than a Blademaster. Let alone one who surpasses my methods. If she is to succeed me, I would rather no other to accompany her.”
“Says here that he’s an alien,” Willin noted aloud, trying not to voice his surprise. “I’m skeptical.”
“Oh, please do be. It will make hearing about what he asks of you that much more amusing.”
“Any ideas what he might look for from us?” Tech spat, still irritated.
“Oh, I might have an idea,” the male answered cryptically, sliding a small tablet of silver wood across the desk. Willin picked it up to inspect it, two foreign scripts scratched into the surface. With a questioning glance, the Grand Hunter nodded, Willin stashing the tablet into a pouch. “He seeks that which others might not, for reasons as foreign as he himself is. I have little doubt that something related to that trinket will be his wish.”
“Then why visit him last?” the purple-furred female pressed.
“Because it will influence his decision.”
“Which is enough reason for us,” Willin declared with a warning scowl at Tech. She held his gaze before looking away in annoyance.
“Then our meeting is finished,” the male announced, gesturing to the door. It opened, the whirring of servos giving way to the distant ambient chatter of the hallway. Two of the black leather-clad escorts entered the room and awaited them.
“Is there anything we should know that may have not made it to the report about him?” Willin asked before leaving, turning naught but an ear for the response.
The Grand Hunter hummed for a moment. “Do mind your manners surrounding his kit,” he offered. “Or do not, it matters little to me if you survive past honouring the agreement.”
Tech stopped at the doorway, glaring at the male as Willin exited. “We never did get your name.”
His brows raised in interest. “You saw my signature.”
“I would rather hear it from you,” she insisted coolly.
A toothy smile spread over the male’s muzzle. “Grand Hunter Trill; Blademaster of Avalon, Sire of Phantom, and—if I remember correctly—the Weighted Scale, Aspect of Balance.”
“’May he who barter with the Void fear its ire,’” she recited, conviction in her words.
“’Yet he who uphold bathes in its blessing,’ yes,” Grand Hunter Trill replied with a knowing look. “Consider it, new one. To be crushed under the obligations you fail to upkeep, or revel in that which you covet. Do be warned; though I let you and your party leave—” his eye gained a sharp edge. “You are never beyond my influence.”
“May the sun treat you well, Grand Hunter,” she replied tersely, spinning on her pad to leave. Willin glanced back as he waited for her to pass him, seeing nothing but the door closing behind her.
Their weapons were returned, each in the same state as they were confiscated, save for a familiar knife. He scowled as he shifted his footing to reveal that the comforting weight had been removed from his boot. He begrudgingly accepted the blade, tucking it back into the sheath as the Lilhun smirked at him, his mirth at the dark green-furred male’s displeasure evident.
They were escorted out of the shuttle, a pause afforded long enough for Willin to flick up his hood before they continued to the outermost edge of the settlement. As soon as they were outside of the fence, their escorts turned and quickly faded into the buildings.
A crackle came over the headset.
“Leader! Tech! We thought something may have happened,” Comms shouted into the earpiece, genuine worry coating his words.
“Were you unsuccessful?” Nav added, the sound of a small distance between speaker and microphone suggesting they were sharing.
Willin adjusted the strap of his rifle and started walking, Tech following after a lingering glance at the settlement. “We got what we came for, but it might have cost us.”
“It was simply a meeting, no?” Comms asked to clarify.
“If you can call being strung along by an Aspect ‘simple,’ then yes,” Tech growled.
“Balance,” Willin provided through a sigh. “Weighted Scale.”
“Receive your heart’s desire at a heavy sacrifice,” Nav commented after a moment, likely referencing something. “What did you give them?”
“Sovereignty and a favour to be paid out to another Grand Hunter.”
“That does not seem too unreasonable,” Comms voiced curiously.
“We’ll talk about it when we get back. I have a feeling that the hole was dug too deep to see the bottom quite yet.”
“There’s a battle brewing,” Tech notified the crew, adjusting her audio interface. For once, it was completely silent. “We got dragged into it.”
The short-wave fell silent.
“What do we do?” Comms questioned quietly, the crackle of the distortion pitching his voice slightly.
Willin snorted, exhaling slowly.
“We made a deal with Avalon, Comms. We honour the contract.”
submitted by WaveOfWire to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.05.31 08:07 Inner-Conclusion Specialized Globe Haul ST First Impressions

I've been eyeing on this utility ebike ever since it was first announced a while ago, and I immediately jumped on it when a LBS in Seattle got a few in stock. Even the LBS people were giggly about this ebike and throughly browsing the manuals and extra stuff (a short lifestyle mag, stickers, etc.) in the box while I was signing paperwork. They think it'll be a smash hit.
A bit about me: This is my 3rd ebike (RadRunner 1 - Aventon Aventure Gen.1), mostly riding for 20-25 mile semi-daily fun rides + grocery runs. I'm 6 feet tall and weighs about 240lbs.
This is my first impressions after putting about 100 miles on it:
Overall, I cannot be happier with the purchase. Most of the not-so-good points are minor issues I can totally live with, and I over-indexed on things I didn't really see in reviews out there. Globe Haul ST feels like an ebike equivalent of a hot hatch - small, nimble, peppy, and a ton of fun. It was a big investment for me, but so very worth it. Ask me any questions!
submitted by Inner-Conclusion to ebikes [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 20:44 HawkEye1000x FREIGHTOS BALTIC INDEX UPDATE — May 30, 2023

Freightos Data Overview — Excerpts:

Asia-US West Coast prices (FBX01 Weekly) fell 15% to $1,309/FEU. This rate is 89% lower than the same time last year.
Asia-US East Coast prices (FBX03 Weekly) were level at $2,328/FEU, and are 84% lower than rates for this week last year.
Asia-N. Europe prices (FBX11 Weekly) ticked up 3% to $1,420/FEU, and are 87% lower than rates for this week last year.

Ocean rates across the major tradelanes may be reaching their new floor.

With the exception of prices for Asia - Mediterranean service, which, at more than $2,400/FEU remain 40% higher than pre-pandemic levels on resilient demand, ex-Asia and transatlantic rates are all about on par with May 2019 rates.

Asia - US West Coast prices dropped 15% last week and are about 25% below the level achieved through mid-April GRIs. But at $1,300/FEU rates remain well above the lows seen in March, as carriers blanked fewer sailings in May than in April but are managing capacity enough to keep prices from collapsing again.

As congestion has dissipated with easing volumes, transit times and schedule reliability improved again in April, but carriers blanking sailings and slowing sailing speeds to help reduce effective capacity may be contributing to reliability and transit times that still remain above pre-pandemic levels.

June GRIs are unlikely based on current demand trends, though low-water weight limits and surcharges for shipments passing through the Panama Canal starting in June could put upward pressure on rates, especially for Asia - US East Coast containers.

Consumer spending in the US increased in April and some measures of inflation climbed too. These factors may make additional interest rate hikes in June more likely, which could dampen consumer demand along with bringing down inflation.

The current disconnect between consumer behavior and freight volumes is likely due to a mix of a shift in spending toward services and toward different types of goods than those in demand during the pandemic, and to inventory surpluses built up in the first half of last year.

This build up could prolong the freight recession even if the economy avoids a recession, which is one factor in some expectations for a subdued back-to-schoolseason for logistics providers even if actual back-to-school spending is on par with last year.

The above are leading to speculation that – if it arrives at all – freight peak season will be later than usual, concentrated in September and October.

A soon-to-be released Freightos survey of SMB importers using the marketplace found that only about half of SMB importers expect to increase their shipping activity during peak season this year, with about 40% still contending with excess inventory.
submitted by HawkEye1000x to zim [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 16:24 running_a_riot Edinburgh Marathon - 30 min PB over 12 months. Redemption at last!

### Race Information * **Name:** Edinburgh Marathon * **Date:** May 28th, 2023 * **Distance:** 26.2 miles * **Location:** Edinburgh, Scotland * **Website:** * **Time:** 3:39:XX
### Goals Goal Description Completed? ------------------------------- A Sub 3:40 *Yes* B Sub 3:43 *Yes* C Avoid the fade *Yes*
### Splits Mile Time ------------ 1 8:09 2 7:52 3 8:21 4 8:10 5 7:58 6 8:14 7 8:19 8 8:13 9 8:10 10 8:12 11 8:12 12 8:21 13 8:13 14 8:18 15 8:47 16 8:09 17 8:05 18 8:15 19 8:19 20 8:11 21 8:21 22 8:22 23 8:27 24 8:37 25 8:54 26 8:42
### Background I started running in 2020 as a way of losing weight (38M 6’3” 220lb) and became hooked. I ran a few short distance races and soon found that I preferred the longer stuff.
I ran my first marathon which was Edinburgh in 2022 (4:09:XX) off the back of Hal Higdon and really struggled with that race. The wheels came off and I bonked hard. Up until that point, I assumed that bonking was a feeling of fatigue and was not prepared for the bleak, negative, end-of-the-world emotions that came along with it.
I did not feel proud about completing my first marathon because deep down I knew I had more to give. How could I be satisfied with a goal of simply finishing when I had invested so much mental and physical energy. I promised myself that I would learn from the experience and come back stronger in 2023. Reading your race reports has provided invaluable knowledge.
I ran two further marathons in 2022 with a modified Hal Higdon plan to increase training volume, the first one being London (3:49 - a huge PB) and the second just two weeks later setting another PB of 3:43. I felt proud of those performances and realised I could do even better if I could increase endurance and prevent my pace from dropping off after the 20 mile mark.
In 2023 (two weeks ago) I ran the Leeds marathon and treated this as my ‘B Race’ from a performance perspective. The route has around 1,500ft of elevation so not PB territory. Like everyone, I ran this race in support of Rob Burrow / Motor Neurone Disease and it was a special occasion. I ran a strong first half and then eased off finishing in 3:58 and barely reflected on my performance. This event was about so much more for everyone involved.
Two weeks later, onto Edinburgh for redemption!
### Training In January 2023 I decided to run Pfitz 18/55 and peaked around 63 miles. I lost 2 or so weeks due to illness and overall stuck to 80-90% of the prescribed mileage. I didn’t hit every LT, Vo2 and MP workout but stuck to the core principles of long/medium/short distances and fast/slow paces. My weight reduced from 212lbs to 205lbs. I saw my LT improve (according to Garmin at least) which gave a good indication that things were improving compared to my readings from the previous year.
Once again I would be running two marathons two weeks apart through circumstance rather than design. I was lucky enough to be accepted into London last year and decided to stick with my ‘backup race’ two weeks after that. This year, I wanted redemption at Edinburgh but couldn’t resist running to raise money for MND in Leeds.
Of course performance compromises are to be expected in taking this approach but there are also positives. It takes away the pressure of having to nail a single race on the back of a long training block and squeezing two performances out of a single training block gives more bang-for-buck, at least in terms of experience .
### Pre-race I slept well the night before the race and woke up around 7:30am, ate a large bowl of overnight oats, drank a coffee, applied a generous amount of lubrication, kitted up and then headed to the event. This moment always feels like Christmas Eve to me. You know what you’ve asked for but you’re not quite sure if you’ll get it.
### Race Garmin race predictor had me at 3:40 which tied in nicely with my goal of sub-3:40 so I set my watch for 3:39. I brought along 8 SiS gels (the beta variety due to their higher carb content). I had one at the start line then planned to have one every 30 mins. I’m a bigger guy and need to keep on top of fuelling. I took two electrolyte tabs and two caffeine tabs along to have 1.5 & 2.5 hours into the race.
Miles 1-5 The first 5 or so miles at Edinburgh are mostly downhill to sea-level and it’s hard not to let it fly. I hit a couple of sub 8 min/mi’s during this section (which I had no business doing) but I didn’t want to hammer my quads by braking too much.
Miles 6-13 This next section takes you out along the coast where you spend the majority of the race. Back in 2022 I really didn’t enjoy this because the crowds are smaller, there are fewer distractions etc. This time I really enjoyed it. The sun was shining with a gentle breeze and I felt as though I got the first half for ‘free’. My HR was Z2/Z3 and I had built up a useful buffer of 2-3 minutes.
Miles 14-18 At mile 15 I decided to spend 30 seconds of my buffer on a toilet break. Still out on the coast, you hit the loop-back at around mile 18 and enter the grounds of Gosford House (an old stately home). It’s a really nice part of the course but there’s a section on loose gravel which isn’t much fun. I winced at the AFs, VFs, Elites etc getting chewed up. Last year the death-march had well and truly started by this point. Today, I felt really strong and in control. My HR was now in Z3/Z4 but I had a good sense of how close to push it to the edge and was still managing the race well enough.
Miles 19-21 I usually dread this stage but flew through miles 19, 20 and 21 still feeling strong, giving out high-fives to the kids, smiling for photos etc. For the first time in a marathon I started passing lots of other runners and it felt incredible. I didn’t have any of the usual brain fog, I didn’t need to walk, I didn’t curse myself for signing up to the event. All is well.
Miles 22-26.2 I finally felt like I was working for it. Not ‘Z5-working-for-it’ but my pace had dropped off and I was fighting to get my cadence back. I felt like my feet were hitting the ground for about 3 seconds of contact time before turning over but in reality I was still good. I set a small goal of keeping all remaining miles sub 9min. In reality, I could have kicked harder in the final two miles but I was good with uncomfortably hard and didn’t want to tip it over the edge. I saw a few runners needing medical attention which was enough for me to look at my watch and realise that with a final kick down the finish line, I would achieve my goal.
### Post-race I hit 3:39 and felt a real sense of satisfaction. It wasn't like London where I ran out of my skin, pulled a PB from god-knows-where, and shouted in disbelief as I crossed the finish line. This time, I looked at my time and was left feeling as though I had claimed what was rightfully mine. I lay on the grass with my family, sipped on a beer, closed my eyes and felt a wave of endorphins flowing all over as I heard my kids playing in the background. This is why we do it, my mind is totally empty, the sun is screaming down on my face and my body is dissolving into the earth below. Job done.
### What next? I have now done 5 marathons in my first two years and have gained so much. I'm a late bloomer but I’m now a truly happy person and my family has gained the best version of their Dad/husband. I have my first 50k fell run coming up (or ultra, depending on your persuasion) and will then build towards another event in Oct-Nov.
I will run Pfitz again but need to focus on losing more weight and strengthening my posterior chain as I have noticed in race photos that when I’m fatigued, my torso collapses forwards which means I am no longer running with my hips forward and chest high. I think that 3:35 is well within my sights, 3:30 would be incredible and anything faster than that would be a dream.
Made with a new [race report generator]( created by herumph.
submitted by running_a_riot to AdvancedRunning [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 02:17 SecretlyYourGramma Portable/under desk treadmills with higher weight limits?

Not sure if this is allowed! I’m going to start off by saying my goal isn’t really to lose weight, I’ve just been trying to get into fitness lately to get healthier and I’d really like to get one of those viral under desk little treadmills to walk indoors and listen to audiobooks but most of the weight limits I see go up to my actual weight, like, I’m at the top of the limit (usually 260-270) and I’d really like one with a higher weight limit but not sure if it’s possible or what’s good. I just don’t have space for a normal treadmill or the wall space to mount a wall one. Any links?
submitted by SecretlyYourGramma to PlusSize [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 01:16 0GhostWriter0 Portable/under desk treadmill with higher weight limit?

So I’ve seen these tiny treadmills floating around and I want to get one as I don’t have any space anywhere even for a fold up treadmill to mount on a wall. Something space saving is essential but most I see have a weight limit of 260 pounds and I’m about 170. Even though I occasionally see some with my weight limit, I don’t want to be the max weight limit and wear out the motor or something 😂 anyone else have luck?
submitted by 0GhostWriter0 to WeightLossAdvice [link] [comments]

2023.05.30 01:16 k1ndbutnotsoft first post here! first month on phentermine!

hi I thought I’d finally officially join instead of lurking and post about my progress so far!
I started at 220 and today I hit 210 I am 22f and am 5 foot 2
weight gain: my weight gain came mostly from when I got very sick a few years ago and got put on steroids. I was 173 and I gained up to 190. Last year I got diagnosed with gastrparesis and was down almost to my original weight because of how sick I was. I was put on zyprexa and that’s when I gained up to 220 and I haven’t been able to lose it, that has been attributed to my bad eating habits. I was doing OMAD and I ruined my metabolism completely. after zyprexa I was around 200 but since then because of how little I’ve been eating I have gained weight. I did have bad eating habits but I think I blamed myself too much. When I would eat a regular amount a day I would blame myself and say I binged. Eating normally or even past what I needed to maintain my weight just slowly piled up.
phentermine: I got put on this a month ago! I saw a weight loss doctor. I was having really bad adhd symptoms at the time and mentioned it and she suggested starting with phentermine at half a dose and then I could up it. First week I didn’t lose much and I felt horrible. I had to talked to my dietician and my main goal those first weeks was just trying to eat three meals a day and not skip meals. Two weeks ago I had a busy few days and didn’t eat well as in I did not eat enough and I gained. I decided to monitor my calories and that has pushed my weight loss further! I need 1,8k calories to maintain my weight. I have a goal of 1.2k calories a day. Its been weird I don’t eat junk food anymore and I’m hoping to maintain that relationship.
Last night I ate over my limit and ate potato chips I was so angry after!! But this morning I could just feel a difference in my stomach as in I felt smaller. I weighed myself and I had hit 10 pounds loss. Which makes no sense to me!
exercise: I am very sedentary that’s why I did the 1.2k I am also a woman and am 5 foot 2 i am 22 years old. I have POTS, FSGS, and because of this I have a horrible heat intolerance. I’ve been staying in so far this summer I wish I could go out and walk but I can’t. We have a treadmill and I pushed myself too hard a few days ago (I walked briskly for an hour) I am gonna maybe try and do 20-30 mins every other day but I also am always fatigued and tired from my disease and the deficit doesn’t help.
I am vegetarian, I was restricting junk food hard if I am not hungry for a meal I make myself drink an ensure protein max. It also helps if I’m feeling sick from nausea. My fave snack lately is pretzels and cheese cubes, cause it’s good protein. I also snack on pineapple and cherries. I was very down about all the high calorie food we have in America so I need to stop avoiding foods out of fear of being unhealthy. I don’t eat fast food anymore and only drink water about 3-4 liters a day
I hope that in posting this I will hold myself accountable. If you have any meal or snack ideas please let me know! I am working with a dietician! I am just hard on myself lately
submitted by k1ndbutnotsoft to loseit [link] [comments]

2023.05.29 04:00 AutoModerator Weekly Discussion Thread; Upcoming News; ICYMI [May 29, 2023]

Amapá Iron Ore Mine, Brazil [KDNC] [Flair]

Sonora Lithium Project, Mexico (Ganfeng Joint Venture) [KDNC] [Flair]

Hastings Technology Metals, Australia (ASX:HAS) [KDNC] [Flair]

Evergreen Lithium, Australia (ASX:EG1) - [KDNC] [Flair]

European Metal Holdings, Cinovec, Czech Republic (LSE:EMH) [KDNC] [Flair]

Passive Equity Investments - Notable Developments [KDNC] [Flair]

See the above menus for company links and announcements - noting that additionally Macarthur holds 20% of spin off Infinity Mining ASX:IMI

Analyst Reports and Recommendations [KDNC]

Date Link Who SP Summary / Price Target
2023-02-28 Kemeny Capital Kemeny Capital (investment research) 12.9p "Cadence Minerals has built a robust portfolio of base and battery metals with ample opportunities for shareholder value creation. Recent developments have helped to substantially increase the potential of two of the group’s asset positions, while adding to the overall corporate valuation. Our sum-of-theparts (SotP) indicative fair value is 43.6p."
2023-02-02 W H Ireland Research W H Ireland (broker) 14.5p WHI View: Our assessment is that the Amapá mine could be company-maker for Cadence. We are firmly of the belief that the current market cap is more than covered by the legacy investments that Cadence holds in various new technology metal companies and projects and that the addition of the Amapá stake to its portfolio can only be value enhancing. In our opinion, the development of Amapá will be transformational for Cadence and we see fair value at 71p/sh with plenty of upside potential.
2022-07-24 Reddit Post u/EV-BULL (private investor) 10.75p Due diligence short term price target: 60p-80p; 1-2 year price target: 130p; Long term bull case price target: 300p+
2022-07-02 Reddit Post u/Observer842 (private investor) 10.4p Due diligence Near term: £37.5m (21.5p) - £92m (53p); Medium term: £160-420m; Longer term: £1-2B+
2022-02-18 Daily Mail Anne Ashworth for the Daily Mail (Journalist) 20.4p "The white gold rush appears to be an inviting prospect. But if you want to join, remember that fortunes are far from guaranteed in any foray into commodities. Options include the Aim-listed businesses Cadence Minerals and Zinnwald Lithium."
2022-02-18 Edison Group Edison Group (investment research) 20.4p QuickView report
2022-01-01 Daily Mail Justin Urquhart Stewart (fund manager) 28p Top pick for the Brave in 2022

ICYMI [Previous]

Date Article Comment & Quotes
2023-04-21 Cadence Minerals Q&A session with Kiran Morzaria Most recent of the presentations and interviews with CEO Kiran Morzaria.
2023-04-13 The Vox Markets Podcast / Kiran Morzaria of Cadence Minerals: Evergreen had a very successful IPO and we are the largest shareholder
2023-03-29 Cadence Minerals Investor Presentation March 2023
2023-02-28 Cadence Minerals - value waiting to be unlocked - SoTP indicative fair value 43.6p 6 page analyst Research report from Kemeny Capital which can be obtained for free by qualifying investors.
2023-02-02 WH Ireland Research Report: Cadence Minerals - Developing Amapá iron ore mine and strategic new technology metal interests (sees fair value at 71p / share) To obtain this 34 page Analyst Research Report for free, (optionally) first register for Research Tree, then whilst logged in, register for WH Ireland (optionally) using your Research Tree account.
2023-01-03 Completion of PFS on Amapá Iron Ore Project Post-Tax Project NPV10 US$949 million, Internal Rate of Return of 34% and a Project Maiden Ore Reserve Estimate of 195.8 Mt (Cadence attributable of 58.74 Mt) at 39.34% Fe Declared
Anything missing or incorrect? Let us know in the comments or LSE chat - the mods.
submitted by AutoModerator to CadenceMinerals [link] [comments]

2023.05.28 10:06 Geist_Lain Texas AG Ken Paxton impeached, suspended from duties; will face Senate trial

Defying a last-minute appeal by former President Donald Trump, the Texas House voted overwhelmingly Saturday to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, suspending him from office over allegations of misconduct that included bribery and abuse of office.
The vote to adopt the 20 articles of impeachment was 121-23.
The stunning vote came two days after an investigative committee unveiled the articles — and two days before the close of a biennial legislative session that saw significant right-wing victories, including a ban on transgender health care for minors and new restrictions on public universities’ diversity efforts.
The vote revealed substantial divisions within the Republican Party of Texas — the largest, richest and most powerful state GOP party in the United States. Although the party has won every statewide election for a quarter-century and has controlled both houses of the Legislature since 2003, it has deep underlying fissures, many of them exacerbated by Trump’s rise and influence.
Few attorneys general have been as prominent as Paxton, who made a career of suing the Obama and Biden administrations. One of Trump’s closest allies in Texas, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Paxton unsuccessfully sued to challenge the 2020 presidential election results in four states.
Attention now shifts to the Texas Senate, which will conduct a trial with senators acting as jurors and designated House members presenting their case as impeachment managers.
Permanently removing Paxton from office and barring him from holding future elected office in Texas would require the support of two-thirds of senators.
Impeachment was supported by 60 Republicans, including Speaker Dade Phelan and all five of the representatives from Collin County — where Paxton and his wife have lived for decades. All 23 votes in opposition came from Republicans.
Afterward, Paxton called the vote “illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust,” adding that he looked forward to a quick resolution in the Senate.
The move to impeach came less than a week after the House General Investigating Committee revealed that it was investigating Paxton for what members described as a yearslong pattern of misconduct and questionable actions that include bribery, dereliction of duty and obstruction of justice. They presented the case against him Saturday, acknowledging the weight of their actions.
“Today is a very grim and difficult day for this House and for the state of Texas,” Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, a committee member, told House members.
“We have a duty and an obligation to protect the citizens of Texas from elected officials who abuse their office and their powers for personal gain,” Spiller said. “As a body, we should not be complicit in allowing that behavior.”
Paxton supporters criticized the impeachment proceedings as rushed, secretive and based on hearsay accounts of actions taken by Paxton, who they said was not given the opportunity to defend himself to the investigating committee.
“This process is indefensible,” said Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo, who complained that the vote was taking place on a holiday weekend before members had time to conduct a thorough review of the accusations. “It concerns me a lot because today it could be General Paxton, tomorrow it could be you and the next day it could be me.”
Saturday’s vote temporarily removes a controversial but influential Republican figure in Texas and nationally. He has led an office that initiated lawsuits that overturned or blocked major Biden and Obama administration policies, particularly on immigration; sought to reverse Trump’s electoral defeat in 2020; aggressively pursued voter fraud claims; and targeted hospitals that provided gender care to minors.
The Legislature had impeached state officials just twice since 1876 — and never an attorney general — but the House committee members who proposed impeachment argued Saturday that Paxton’s misconduct in office was so egregious that it warranted his removal.
“This gentleman is no longer fit for service or for office,” said committee member Rep. Ann Johnson, D-Houston. “Either this is going to be the beginning of the end of his criminal reign, or God help us with the harms that will come to all Texans if he's allowed to stay the top cop on the take, if millions of Texans can’t trust us to do the right thing, right here, right now.”
Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, a member of the investigative committee, used his presentation time to criticize Paxton for calling representatives as they worked on the House floor to “personally threaten them with political consequences in the next election” if they supported impeachment.
Speaking against impeachment, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, called the process “wrong.”
“Don’t end our session this way. Don’t tarnish this institution,” Tinderholt said. “Don’t cheapen the act of impeachment. Don’t undermine the will of the voters. Don’t give Democrats another victory handed to them on a silver platter.”
The vote came as hardline conservatives supportive of Paxton’s aggressive strategy of suing the Biden administration were lining up in support of him. Trump — a close political ally to Paxton — blasted the impeachment proceedings as an attempt to unseat “the most hard working and effective” attorney general and thwart the “large number of American Patriots” who voted for Paxton.
Trump vowed to target any Republican who supported impeaching Paxton, adding after the vote: “What is our Country coming to?” In the evening, he called Abbott “missing in action,” asking followers on his Truth Social network, “Where is the Governor of Texas on his Attorney General’s Impeachment?”
As lawmakers listened to the committee members make their case, Paxton took to social media to boost conservatives who had come to his defense, including Trump, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, and conservative radio host Grant Stinchfield, who tweeted, “Kangaroo Court in Texas.”
About 90 minutes into the debate, the official Twitter account of the Texas attorney general’s office began tweeting at members of the committee to challenge some of the claims being made.
“Please tell the truth,” the agency’s account said.
Under the Texas Constitution, Paxton is suspended from office pending the outcome of the Senate trial. The Senate had recessed before the House voted to impeach, and Patrick, who presides over the Senate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a timeline for an impeachment trial.
Because Paxton was impeached while the Legislature was in session, the Texas Constitution requires the Senate to remain in Austin after the regular session ends Monday or set a trial date for the future, with no deadline for a trial spelled out in the law.
The constitution also allows the governor to appoint a provisional replacement. Gov. Greg Abbott had not weighed in on the calls to impeach Paxton and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Impeachment represents the greatest political threat to date for Paxton, who has been reelected twice despite a 2015 indictment for felony securities fraud and an ongoing federal investigation into allegations of official misconduct that began in 2020.
The impeachment vote capped a tumultuous week at the Capitol. From Tuesday to Thursday:
Paxton abruptly accused Phelan of presiding over the chamber while drunk and demanded that he resign.
The House General Investigating Committee revealed it had been investigating Paxton in secret since March.
The committee heard a three-hour presentation from its investigators detailing allegations of corruption against the attorney general.
The committee’s three Republicans and two Democrats voted to forward 20 articles of impeachment to the full House.
Paxton, who was comfortably elected to a third term last year, made a rare appearance before assembled reporters Friday to criticize the process, saying he was not given a chance to present favorable evidence. He called impeachment an effort by Democrats and “liberal” Republicans to remove him from office, violating the will of voters and sidelining an effective warrior against Biden administration policies.
“The corrupt politicians in the Texas House are demonstrating that blind loyalty to Speaker Dade Phelan is more important than upholding their oath of office,” Paxton said. He added, “They are showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process.”
Many of the articles of impeachment focused on allegations that Paxton had repeatedly abused his powers of office to help a political donor and friend, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul.
In fall 2020, eight top deputies in the attorney general’s office approached federal and state investigators to report their concerns about Paxton’s relationship with Paul.
All eight quit or were fired in the following months, and most of the details of their allegations against Paxton were revealed in a lawsuit by four former executives who claim they were fired — in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act — in retaliation for reporting Paxton to the authorities. Paxton’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit is awaiting action by the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals.
According to the lawsuit, the whistleblowers accused Paxton of engaging in a series of “intense and bizarre” actions to help Paul, including intervening in an open-records case to help Paul gain documents from federal and state investigations into the real estate investor’s businesses. They also accused Paxton of directing his agency to intervene in a lawsuit between Paul and a charity, pushing through a rushed legal opinion to help Paul avoid a pending foreclosure sale on properties and ignoring agency rules to hire an outside lawyer to pursue an investigation helpful to Paul’s businesses.
In return, the whistleblower lawsuit alleged, Paul paid for all or part of a major renovation of a home Paxton owns in Austin. Paul also helped Paxton keep an extramarital affair quiet by employing the woman Paxton had been seeing, the lawsuit said, adding that the attorney general may also have been motivated by a $25,000 contribution Paul made to Paxton’s campaign in 2018.
In their report to the House General Investigating Committee on Wednesday, the panel’s investigators concluded that Paxton may have committed numerous crimes and violated his oath of office.
Investigators said possible felonies included abuse of official capacity by, among other actions, diverting staff time to help Paul at a labor cost of at least $72,000; misuse of official information by possibly helping Paul gain access to investigative documents; and retaliation and official oppression by firing employees who complained of Paxton’s actions to the FBI.
The articles of impeachment accused Paxton of accepting bribes, disregarding his official duties and misapplying public resources to help Paul.
The articles also referred to felony charges of securities fraud, and one felony count of failing to register with state securities officials, that have been pending against Paxton since 2015, months after he took office as attorney general. The fraud charges stem from Paxton’s work in 2011 to solicit investors in Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the McKinney company was paying him for the work.
The impeachment articles also accused Paxton of obstruction of justice by acting to delay the criminal cases with legal challenges and because a Paxton donor pursued legal action that limited the pay to prosecutors in the case, causing further delays “to Paxton’s advantage.”
Taken in total, the accusations showed a pattern of dereliction of duty in violation of the Texas Constitution, Paxton’s oaths of office and state laws against public officials acting against the public’s interest, the impeachment resolution said.
“Paxton engaged in misconduct, private or public, of such character as to indicate his unfitness for office,” the articles said.
An attorney general had never before been impeached by the Legislature, an extraordinary step that lawmakers have reserved for public officials who faced serious allegations of misconduct. Only two Texas officials have been removed from office by Senate conviction, Gov. James Ferguson in 1917 and District Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975.
If Paxton is to survive, he will need to secure the support of 11 senators. With the 12 Democratic senators likely to support his removal, any votes for acquittal would need to come from the 19 Republican members.
Several Republican senators issued statements Saturday evening warning constituents and others that their role as jurors in the upcoming impeachment trial prohibited them from discussing the case. In a television interview Thursday, Patrick said merely that he believed senators would be responsible jurors and “do their duty.”
A complicating factor is Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, Paxton’s wife. State law requires all senators to attend an impeachment trial, though whether she will recuse herself from voting is unclear.
Paxton’s political base lies in the far-right faction of the Republican Party, where he has positioned himself as a champion of conservative causes and a thorn in the side of Democratic President Joe Biden. Paxton has criticized his opponents as RINOs (Republicans in name only) who “want nothing more than to sabotage our legal challenges to Biden’s extremist agenda by taking me out.”
He also retained the backing of the state Republican Party, led by former state Rep. Matt Rinaldi, who frequently attacks Republicans he considers to be insufficiently conservative. On Friday, Rinaldi said the impeachment was Phelan’s fault for allowing Democrats to have too much influence in the House.
“The impeachment proceedings against the attorney general are but the latest front in the Texas House’s war against Republicans to stop the conservative direction of her state,” Rinaldi said in a statement.
Paxton also has maintained a close relationship with Trump and filed an unsuccessful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the 2020 presidential election. Paxton also spoke at Trump’s rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before the president’s supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol.
Ken Paxton has plagued Texas for far too long. I'm glad to see a modicum of justice being done.

EDIT: For those questioning the validity of this impeachment, here are the articles;
BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the State of
Texas, That Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr., Attorney General of the State of Texas, is impeached and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the Texas Senate: ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT 
Exhibited by the House of Representatives of the State of
Texas in the name of itself and of all the people of the State of Texas against Warren Kenneth Paxton, Attorney General of the State of Texas, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him. ARTICLE I (Disregard of Official Duty- Protection of Charitable Organization) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton violated the duties of his office by failing to act as public protector of charitable organizations as required by Chapter 123, Property Code. 
Specifically, Paxton caused employees of his office to
intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Roy F. & JoAnn Cole Mitte Foundation against several corporate entities controlled by Nate Paul. Paxton harmed the Mitte Foundation in an effort to benefit Paul. ARTICLE II (Disregard of Official Duty-Abuse of the Opinion Process) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton misused his official power to issue written legal opinions under Subchapter C, Chapter 402, Government Code. 
Specifically, Paxton caused employees of his office to
prepare an opinion in an attempt to avoid the impending foreclosure sales of properties belonging to Nate Paul or business entities controlled by Paul. Paxton concealed his actions by soliciting the chair of a senate committee to serve as straw requestor. Furthermore, Paxton directed employees of his office to reverse their legal conclusion for the benefit of Paul. ARTICLE III (Disregard of Official Duty-Abuse of the Open Records Process) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton misused his official power to administer the public information law (Chapter 552, Government Code). 
Specifically, Paxton directed employees of his office to act
contrary to law by refusing to render a proper decision relating to a public information request for records held by the Department of Public Safety and by issuing a decision involving another public information request that was contrary to law and applicable legal precedent. ARTICLE IV (Disregard of Official Duty-Misuse of Official Information) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton misused his official power to administer the public information law (Chapter 552, Government Code). 
Specifically, Paxton improperly obtained access to
information held by his office that had not been publicly disclosed for the purpose of providing the information to the benefit of Nate Paul. ARTICLE V (Disregard of Official Duty-Engagement of Cammack) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton misused his official powers by violating the laws governing the appointment of prosecuting attorneys pro tem. 
Specifically, Paxton engaged Brandon Cammack, a licensed
attorney, to conduct an investigation into a baseless complaint, during which Cammack issued more than 30 grand jury subpoenas, in an effort to benefit Nate Paul or Paul's business entities. ARTICLE VI (Disregard of Official Duty-Termination of Whistleblowers) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton violated the duties of his office by terminating and taking adverse personnel action against employees of his office in violation of this state's whistleblower law (Chapter 554, Government Code). 
Specifically, Paxton terminated employees of his office who
made good faith reports of his unlawful actions to law enforcement authorities. Paxton terminated the employees without good cause or due process and in retaliation for reporting his illegal acts and improper conduct. Furthermore, Paxton engaged in a public and private campaign to impugn the employees' professional reputations or prejudice their future employment. ARTICLE VII (Misapplication of Public Resources- Whistleblower Investigation and Report) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton misused public resources entrusted to him. 
Specifically, Paxton directed employees of his office to
conduct a sham investigation into whistleblower complaints made by employees whom Paxton had terminated and to create and publish a lengthy written report containing false or misleading statements in Paxton's defense. ARTICLE VIII (Disregard of Official Duty-Settlement Agreement) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton misused his official powers by concealing his wrongful acts in connection with whistleblower complaints made by employees whom Paxton had terminated. 
Specifically, Paxton entered into a settlement agreement
with the whistleblowers that provides for payment of the settlement from public funds. The settlement agreement stayed the wrongful termination suit and conspicuously delayed the discovery of facts and testimony at trial, to Paxton's advantage, which deprived the electorate of its opportunity to make an informed decision when voting for attorney general. ARTICLE IX (Constitutional Bribery-Paul's Employment of Mistress) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton engaged in bribery in violation of Section 41, Article XVI, Texas Constitution. 
Specifically, Paxton benefited from Nate Paul's employment
of a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair. Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the office of the attorney general. ARTICLE X (Constitutional Bribery- Paul's Providing Renovations to Paxton Home) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton engaged in bribery in violation of Section 41, Article XVI, Texas Constitution. 
Specifically, Paxton benefited from Nate Paul providing
renovations to Paxton's home. Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the office of the attorney general. ARTICLE XI (Obstruction of Justice-Abuse of Judicial Process) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton abused the judicial process to thwart justice. 
After Paxton was elected attorney general, Paxton was
indicted by a Collin County grand jury for engaging in fraud or fraudulent practices in violation of The Securities Act (Title 12, Government Code). Paxton then concealed the facts underlying his criminal charges from voters by causing protracted delay of the trial, which deprived the electorate of its opportunity to make an informed decision when voting for attorney general. ARTICLE XII (Obstruction of Justice-Abuse of Judicial Process) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton abused the judicial process to thwart justice. 
Specifically, Paxton benefited from the filing of a lawsuit
by Jeff Blackard, a donor to Paxton's campaign, that interfered with or disrupted payment of the prosecutors in a criminal securities fraud case against Paxton. Blackard's actions caused protracted delay in the criminal case against Paxton, including the delay of discovery of facts and testimony at trial, to Paxton's advantage, which deprived the electorate of its opportunity to make an informed decision when voting for attorney general. ARTICLE XIII (False Statements in Official Records- State Securities Board Investigation) 
While holding office as attorney general, and prior to,
Warren Kenneth Paxton made false statements in official records to mislead both the public and public officials. 
Specifically, Paxton made false statements to the State
Securities Board in connection with its investigation of his failure to register with the board as required by law. ARTICLE XIV (False Statements in Official Records- Personal Financial Statements) 
While holding office as attorney general, and prior to,
Warren Kenneth Paxton made misrepresentations or false or misleading statements in official filings to mislead both the public and public officials. 
Specifically, Paxton failed to fully and accurately disclose
his financial interests in his personal financial statements required by law to be filed with the Texas Ethics Commission in furtherance of the acts described in one or more articles. ARTICLE XV (False Statements in Official Records- Whistleblower Response Report) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton made false or misleading statements in official records to mislead both the public and public officials. 
Specifically, Paxton made or caused to be made multiple false
or misleading statements in the lengthy written report issued by his office in response to whistleblower allegations. ARTICLE XVI (Conspiracy and Attempted Conspiracy) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton acted with others to conspire, or attempt to conspire, to commit acts described in one or more articles. ARTICLE XVII (Misappropriation of Public Resources) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton misused his official powers by causing employees of his office to perform services for his benefit and the benefit of others. ARTICLE XVIII (Dereliction of Duty) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton violated the Texas Constitution, his oaths of office, statutes, and public policy against public officials acting contrary to the public interest by engaging in acts described in one or more articles. ARTICLE XIX (Unfitness for Office) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton engaged in misconduct, private or public, of such character as to indicate his unfitness for office, as shown by the acts described in one or more articles. ARTICLE XX (Abuse of Public Trust) 
While holding office as attorney general, Warren Kenneth
Paxton used, misused, or failed to use his official powers in a manner calculated to subvert the lawful operation of the government of the State of Texas and obstruct the fair and impartial administration of justice, thereby bringing the Office of Attorney General into scandal and disrepute to the prejudice of public confidence in the government of this State, as shown by the acts described in one or more articles. PRAYER 
Accordingly, the House of Representatives of the State of
Texas, reserving to itself the prerogative of presenting at any future date further articles of impeachment against Warren Kenneth Paxton; of replying to any answer he makes to these articles; and of offering proof to sustain each of the above articles and to any other articles which may be preferred, requests that Warren Kenneth Paxton be called upon to answer these articles of impeachment in the 
Texas Senate, and that in those proceedings the examinations,
trials, and judgments be conducted and issued in accordance with law and justice. 

Open. And. Shut.
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2023.05.28 05:15 SynkkaMetsa So that was a lie.

So that was a lie. submitted by SynkkaMetsa to blackdesertonline [link] [comments]

2023.05.26 18:27 DNRGames321 How realistic does this RV Living plan sound?

I'm 19 and I'm about to finish my course for Cybersecurity, and plan on moving out by the end of the year. Been flipping some old stuff and working to save up money for a camper, since the car I have is a Jeep Wrangler Saharah, which has a max tow capacity of 3500. You could get away with 4000 according to some people, but that risk isn't worth it to me.
So here's the plan I have come up :
Move to the North US (Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Montana, etc) during the summer, and move back down to the South (California, Arizona, New Mexico, etc...) during the winter. My main reasons for this are that I hate the heat, I live in California right now, and summer months are the worse for me, but I also don't want to be stuck in pretty hellish winters, so that's why I switch between them, plus most holidays are near the colder months so it's a great time to see family. I also hope to avoid using the AC since ideally I'll be living in an area that is cold at night (30-50 F) and mild/temperate (60-70 F) during the day.
At most, I'll move my spot 12 times a year short-distance, (self-limit and also because I don't see myself moving that much) if move it at all, long-distance though, only twice a year, and I won't really have to worry about finding a place because I can just put my RV where my family lives. Maybe if I feel adventurous or my job requires it I'll go out east but right now I'm not very interested in going out east. Perhaps thrice a year to do some skiing in the winter after the holidays?
I've found 4 RVs so far that fit my price range and also weight range, and also look good enough inside where I'd be happy enough living in.
New 2022 Prime Time RV Avenger LT 17FQS Travel Trailer at Giant RV Downey, CA #FAV180
Highland Ridge Open Range 182RBWE - Temecula CA - 2193709 (
Coleman Coleman Lantern Lt 17R - Temecula CA - 2202447 (
New 2023 Forest River RV EVO Select 177BQ Travel Trailer at Giant RV Montclair, CA #EVO2099
I don't quite know what to look for though, how do I know which is the better deal? I would appreciate some opinions on that.
I plan on renovating/taking out the dinette to be a workstation where I'd put my PC. I'd rather eat outside, especially if it's really pretty outside, and if it really comes down to it, like bad conditions, I can always eat at my workstation. The only thing though is I'm not sure how much that costs or if it's easy to DIY. I know I want it out because the way these things are built destroys my back because of how far the table is.
I plan on having a big chunk of my storage in the Jeep. I don't need a lot, so it'll mostly be things like the table and chairs for eating outside, some boxes of things, and whatever doesn't fit in the RV. I'm a pretty simple person and don't need a lot to be happy, if anything I plan being on outside the RV more than inside so space won't really be a problem. I have a PO box here at home for mail setup, and from what it looks like, I can premium forward it to wherever I'm staying or the closest post office. Seems to be the best solution, but I have no real idea what I'm talking about, so maybe someone has a better solution.
I hope by year 2 or 4 I have enough money to buy some empty land and get a tiny house set up there along with my RV.
I'd also like to install Solar Panels to the RV, which looks to be 4,000 USD to install. Assuming the downpayment is around 2000-3000 from my point of view this seem feasible if I grind and work hard.
I don't know what else I'd need to plan out besides the unlucky breakdown or repair. Is there something I'm missing and should consider that I haven't really thought of?
submitted by DNRGames321 to GoRVing [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 15:11 Rhion-618 Just One Drop - Chapter 86, pt 2

Chapter 86 - Eden, Still Part 2

Afternoon, the third day after Shel
Ce’lani ignored a few glances from curious onlookers as she perused the files. The library had expanded the Human database to be searchable from the desk-omnis, so after the encounter with Friar Barcio she slipped from the exhibit into a study hall to search through the endless records in relative privacy.
It was shocking that one planet could produce such a profusion of media, but practical search criteria helped to narrow things down. First, she’d set the parameter to his native English, then limited the search to the past twenty years. Something current seemed best, and the translator on her omni-pad was already getting a workout.
She’d given long and careful thought about how to express her feelings, and while personal and embarrassing, the key words she’d chosen reduced the returns from tens of thousands to thousands, then from thousands to hundreds. When she finally hit a return with just over four hundred, she bit her lip in thought.
Would Tom respond better to a song done by a man or a woman? If he were a Shil’vati male, she’d have picked a song sung by another woman… probably. It was more intimate, so something sung by a woman made sense when courting a man. It was coming from her, after all...
On the tip of the other tusk, Tom was a Human, and she’d seen him behave like a woman when the mood took him. Not merely like one of the gals. Mature, but still… Yet more important, this was something that would reach Miv’eire and Sholea, and while this wouldn't make her first impression with them, it still needed dignity. They’d been kind, understanding and welcoming – everything she’d ever wanted from kho-wives. Miv’eire was a noble, a Lady in every sense of the word, and Lea was the salt of the ocean; coming on too strong would look bad, or desperate, or both.
Something he could sing would be nice… so maybe something sung by a man was alright.
Keying her search in both ways didn’t help. There were still hundreds of entries.
Did it matter? This was coming from her. It had to be something that spoke to her feelings… It had to be real. Sincere. Unafraid to say what she yearned to say, even if she didn't know exactly how to say it. She looked at the search words one more time and made an addition.
Forty-one results.
That was better, and on a whim she sorted the list by title. Checking the time, Ce’lani bit her lower lip, set up the translator, and listened as the first melody began to play…
She’d been at it for over an hour when the clock marked noon, and she arched her back, wishing she’d picked out a more comfortable chair. Still, she’d gone through nearly half the files and marked down a few as promising. Leaning back in the chair, she rubbed her neck and started the next.
After a minute she started the file over, paying more attention to the lyrics…
Hello, my old heart. How have you been? Are you still there, inside my chest? I've been so worried, you've been so still. Barely beating at all…
_ _ _
“Good afternoon! This is Secretary Del Tir’rint, calling from Princess Ry’lee Tonhair kho Tasoo’s office. Might Gedris Ve’lin be available…? Yes, I’ll hold.” Del settled back in his chair, pondering the morning. The long conversation with Sholea Lanar kho Pel’avon had been delightful. The woman was clearly out to sea on what to do with her husband. Once he’d gotten her talking, it turned out she had a wonderfully straightforward manner; in the Imperial Palace, that was as refreshing as a breath of cool air on a hot summer day.
“Gedris?” Del smiled as the familiar voice came on the line. Gedris Ve’lin was a lovely woman, though unmarried, and she had been quite gracious to his wife at his sister’s fortieth birthday celebration. His wife found her quite charming, and after all, it was never too late to consider a fourth at their stage of- “Yes, it’s Del… Why, thank you, that’s very flattering. I agree, it’s been far too long. Kedri’s party was a lovely evening.”
Leaning back, he closed his eyes and nodded at the inevitable stream of pleasantries. While par for the course with many single women, at his age it was flattering to receive them at all. He’d raised his children and had his career, of course, but retirement was looming on the horizon, and his wives had some concerns. Penra retired last year, and while his work for the Imperial House was prestigious, two pensions and Riete’s income would only go so far. While they were reasonably fixed for now, Reite only had a few years to go, herself. Adding another to the family could have merit, and Gedris was the best of friends with his sister, after all… and she was certainly keen. Polite, but keen.
“You’re still in charge of the Roll of Wardens, I believe? Ah, that’s wonderful… As it happens, I’m calling on behalf of Lady Sholea, who’s a particular favorite of Princess Ry’lee… Yes, they’re all quite happy… Ah? Well, yes, you have guessed my intentions precisely!” Del said, warming to the conversation and gushing slightly. Gedris was a charming woman and it cost nothing to return the favor. “You know how these things are, but Ry’lee is never in the habit of trading on her station, so of course we’d like to look after the Lady’s needs… No, it's her husband, actually… Mmhmm… No, I’m given to understand he is a veteran, but I don’t have his records. Still, if you could look into it I’d be ever so grateful…?”
Del examined his nails idly as he listened to Gedris go through the motions. Certainly she had the prestige of her office to consider, but with thousands of positions to fill. Still, she’d gone on about the trial of finding a few hundred candidates every year at Kedri’s party.
“Yes? Oh, I’m sure the turnover in winter makes things difficult… Really? That’s wonderful… Hmm? Oh, it’s To’mas Wa’rick. Yes… Yes, I’ll send you the file from our office along with a recommendation - pending your review and approval, naturally.”
“Yes, that’s precisely what I thought too, but I couldn’t place the name! Did he now!? So that’s the fellow. How very extraordinary… No, I agree, it’s wonderful to see a fellow from the rim colonies making good. I very much appreciate you sparing some time on this and… Why yes, I think dinner does sound lovely. Just the four of us? I’ll talk to Penra and Reite and we’ll set something up for next Shel? Yes? Yes, I’m looking forward to it as well… Until then!”
Del hung up the connection with a smile on his face. It was a good day's work, and Ry’lee was a dear. Her requests were so few and far between that no one ever wanted to refuse her.
To’mas Wa’rrick… He’d heard the name, of course. Saving all those school children. Quite marvelous to see a man making a mark in a woman’s galaxy.
Damned odd name for a Shil’vati, but that was the rim worlds for you.
_ _ _
Qadira stared at the menu for the banquet. She’d skimmed through the file several times now without really seeing it, and she pushed the pad away in irritation. She had what she needed. Everything was in place, yet she’d spent the morning out of sorts, fumbling through the documents that crossed her attention. Her triumph was only three days away, yet it felt as though the anticipation was squeezing her chest, a weight on her mind as she worked, making her critical of even the most minor of choices.
At such times she would normally retreat to her apartment and work out of the office there, secure in the outward privacy of her rooms… or the greater privacy of her hidden chamber. It was a sanctuary, but there was too much to attend to. She needed to be out and doing, to be available to the countless scurrying minions that made the Northern Palace function. While she normally detested the woman who oversaw such administrative trifles, just now it would have been damned convenient if she hadn’t left Shil with Kamaud’re.
Even retreating to her palace of memory had become difficult. Normally its rooms and galleries were silent, her trophies on display as she called to mind facts and pondered plans, a shelter within her shelter - but sleep last night had eluded her, and her visit to that place in her mind produced… echoes.
Voices lingered there, a chorus in the background of her thoughts. She had always prided herself in its creation - it was a skill, and it could be learned - and until now it had always been an invaluable asset. Last night was the first time it had become a liability.
She tried to focus on the task at hand, the looming deadline of the banquet made that necessary, but the words on her omni-pad continued to elude her. Her mind raced over the expanse of details, merging into an incomprehensible mess of guests, security menus and minutia. It was an avalanche of expectations and pestering, distracting her from her work.
Her calling.
Voices echoed in her thoughts. Pestering questions, emails and memories merging into one another, as the pressure of the day mounted. The moment of her greatest act was at hand, and Khelira’s death would be…
The menu refused to go away, staring up at her like an accusation, as she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block out the chaos, but the darkness only intensified the echoes in her mind.
She needed sleep so very badly.
_ _ _
Agent Lamana Duvari considered her quarry as the interview drew to a close. Marakhett, Kzintshki’s mother, was the closest thing to impenetrable she’d ever encountered. Usually subjects gave away something, but Pesrin body language wasn’t merely different. If the woman represented her species at all, it was entirely absent! Her tail twitched occasionally, but otherwise she could have been interviewing a stone.
It was vexing in its fashion, not because she was used to subjects being afraid of her. There was always some fool who thought she was tough enough to hammer rocks with her tits. No, Marakhett was just closed - a void you poured words into and nothing came out of. While her questions were answered satisfactorily, the Pesrin woman embellished nothing. She might as well have been talking to an omni-pad for all the response, and while she’d get back to the Academy with time to spare, the interview didn’t satisfy.
Still, that wasn’t for want of trying.
“I’d like to thank you for your time. This has all been very… straightforward.” She picked up her omni-pad, tucking it away. “Oh… There's just one other thing. I don’t suppose you can provide references for the boy your daughter is seeing?”
An ear twitched.
“Yes, she’s seeing a boy! Parst of the Rithagian. Isn't that just so exciting for your family?” Duvari shrugged, not locking eyes with Marakhett, while her words took on the charade of banal pleasantries at home in the mouth of ‘Professor’ Duvari. “They had a contract with Duchess Elieana a few years before your arrival, though we have no records of their current whereabouts. Didn’t you know?”
The ear definitely twitched.
“My daughter is in the company of a boy? A Pesrin boy?”
…Goddess be praised. A complete sentence…
“Why, yes! He seems to be established at a business known as the Tide Pool. You must be thrilled for her!” Lamana slipped back into her chair. “Your daughter seems above reproach, but I was hoping you might know some details. It's always helpful to establish someone’s intimate circles…”
_ _ _
Oh, don't leave me here alone, Don't tell me that we've grown, For having loved, a little while, Oh, I don't want to be alone. I want to find a home, And I want to share it with you. _ _ _
The IOTC hall had been swept three times by Lt. Tala, who’d sworn there was no way to listen in. Ce’lani relaxed, taking an active interest throughout the meeting. As a professional, she found the planning elements on point, though they struck her as… unusual. It was a jumbled mess, but it was supposed to be… Ordinarily, she liked her missions clearly defined, but if the objective was supposed to be chaos, this was certainly going to cast a wide net. The interesting thing was that while each element was pure chaos, they were redundant. Paths crossing and recrossing, but if one of them failed, two or three others were there to take its place.
She still adored Tom, but as the plan unfurled, it became difficult not to see him in a new light. She’d known that he had a sharp mind, but this was… cunning. Shrewd, calculated and even twisted, but definitely cunning. Miv’eire was there at Tom’s side, and had cast glances her way more often than expected. That was something to think about… She’d sent the note with the music right before the meeting, so they couldn’t have seen it yet, but the way Miv kept looking her way made her nervous. Screwing up the courage to hit send before the meeting had definitely been the right choice.
The Painters were there, in the company of a woman named Marin. The twins… well, they were gifted, and intelligent, but as escorts? The girls were besotted with the Painters and the feeling was clearly mutual, so it was good to see someone sensible taking charge. Still, the malware program they’d created? That was something to worry about, but fortunately it could be someone else’s security nightmare…
Princess Yn’dara and her entire family conferenced in. That explained the program. An agent in the Northern Palace - another Tom, of all things - confirmed the malware was installed in the system. Yn’dara and Adam would be attending the banquet, of course… though the rest of Yn’dara’s kho-wives? THAT was a surprise…
Agent Duvari was there, and actually seemed in good spirits. Often as not, that could be dangerous, but whatever the grinshaw had her claws on, she’d been focused on hammering out all the final details, and minding the IOTC girls. Warrick might be taking over their training, but they were in active service for this event…
Princess Khelira went over the report from Vedeem. He and the IOTC girl confirmed the cadets were trained, and went over the menu. That was… odd… but Tom seemed happy with it all. Still, she added things to the table of equipment along with Setar, while Be’ona sent word to the ground pods. Tala and her pod of EW geeks would be staying in the bunker to handle comms and her element...
Then there were the girls, and the waiters from The Tide Pool…
…If I hadn't seen the wedding I wouldn't have believed it. At least those were school girls! They’re going to give some elderly matriarch a heart attack…
All things considered, would anyone notice?
As the meeting came to a close and Princess Yn’dara logged out, she caught Miv’eire looking her way again. Tom had been talking with Princess Khelira, but just now he was staring at his omni-pad. Ce’lani felt her stomach give a slow roll as his brow drew into a frown…
What the hell!?
_ _ _
Melondi discreetly tucked away her omni-pad as Desi nodded encouragement. “Lady Wicama will help Monsignor Barcio find some good locations. She’ll put him in contact with someone reputable near Prelitauri, so if they get homesick for Human food they’ll have somewhere to eat!”
“I know you haven’t seen much of it, father, but Prelitauri has some really nice areas. Not too expensive yet, but Mister D’saari made a great choice for where to put his restaurant,” Desi chimed in encouragingly, though she glanced back at Melondi with moment’s apprehension before continuing, “If they can afford to buy property, they’ll do even better. Um… Can Monsignor Barcio afford it?”
Tom snorted. “The Vatican? They’re comfortably well off.”
Desi grinned abruptly, catching on. “Like, ‘socially secure’?”
“Very.” Tom chuckled, gazing at Desi jovially. It was clearly a shared joke, and Melondi felt a mixture of happiness for Desi and a hint of jealousy at their private moment. It made her wonder what it would have been like to know her own father.
There wasn't any easy way to say this, but if she couldn't say it now, in front of Desi and Professor Pel’avon, when could she? It felt wrong to interrupt their friendly banter, but she felt the ghost of Lady Wicama’s elocution lessons taking over. She stood her ground and spoke formally, aware she was trying to lend weight to her words. Formalities mattered. That’s why they were formalities to begin with.
“Professor, I haven’t thanked you enough for being willing to do this for me,” she began, her words still feeling awkward given the envy she’d felt only moments before. If this all went wrong, feelings could be hurt, or worse, but she needed to know. “Sir, I don't want this to sound wrong, but… why are you doing this? I’m grateful, but… After the lesson on the war? Please? I need to know why.”
Miv’eire looked as apprehensive as she felt inside, but Tom didn't notice. He paused in fumbling with his omni-pad and shrugged. “The lesson that follows that war? It’s about what happens when there’s no forgiveness.” Tom gazed at her intently. “As you grow older you have to make a choice. One day, you find you have to decide if you’re going to be your best self, or your real self. Choose if you'll be loyal to who you ought to be and live a lie, or who you really are and make the best you that you can. Do you understand?”
“I understand about being Khelira,” she said earnestly, glancing over at Desi. “Learning to be Melondi has taught me a lot about being Khelira.”
“Sort of the same thing. So am I just ‘the professor who teaches you about Humans’, or the guy who sees a problem and says ‘what can I do about it’? I made my choice, and no regrets,” he replied, and his eyes felt tender as he looked at her and Desi. She felt another fleeting moment's jealousy, but the moment gave way to the gratitude welling up inside her. It was a moment in time, and one she could cherish as her own.
Tom returned to prodding at his omni-pad. “Anyway, time to crash and burn, or fly. Let me just check on one thing with Bherdin and we can get out of… What the hell!?
His abrupt exclamation echoed through the room, and silence fell immediately. One of the Captains stumbled, nearly dropping her omni-pad.
“Tom? What’s wrong?” Miv stepped in, looking over his shoulder. “What is it?”
“This! This email!” Tom jabbed at the omni-pad in frustration. “It says I’ve been drafted into something called the Wardens?” He waved the omni-pad absently, before Miv took it from him. “What the hell is that? Drafted!? I’m too old to be drafted!”
“This is obviously a mistake, and I’m sure we can clear this up.” Miv looked at the omni-pad, biting her lip. “The important thing to remember is that this is nobody’s fault… at all.”
“It wasn't me either, but sir, that's wonderful!” Melondi beamed, unable to restrain her excitement. “It's really just an honorary sinecure for veterans! There’s the Main Palace, and North, South, East and West Palaces! Anyway, three shifts a day, two of the Wardens come out to perform the Rite of the Gate. It’s for show these days, but you’ll get to wear the uniform and it provides a honorarium to about… umm 18,000 veterans. It’s nice!”
“Oh!” Desi exclaimed, catching on to her excitement. “You mean the ones in the blue and silver uniform with the hat?!”
“That’s them.” she tried to explain, grinning despite his concerns. “It’s just a one hour ceremony, and there should be a nice stipend.”
“One hour a year?” His look was… dubious, but he was absorbing her words. “That’s all?”
“Just one hour, honestly!” she nodded enthusiastically.
“Father, you shouldn't mind.” Desi took Miv’eire’s hand supportively. “It's a huge honor.”
Professor Pel’avon was nodding, trying to offer a united front. “Besides, you look great in a skirt.”
“Kilt! It’s a kilt!”
_ _ _
Let’zi sat on her bed, gazing out of the window at the gloomy day outside. It was just past noon, but fog billowed across the commons, and the sun was hidden away beyond the black storm clouds rolling past. Not a sound of the chaos outside penetrated her window, shrouding her in the darkness of the storm and silence. The storm would have suited her mood perfectly, if she’d been able to feel anything at all.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the chime at her doorcom. “Let’zi? It's Dihsala. Can I come in?”
It was best to get this over with, and she drew a deep breath in anticipation. “Open…”
She didn’t look back as Dihsala slipped inside, closing the door behind her. “Hi… How are you doing?”
Let’zi closed her eyes in silent supplication to Drepna. This was precisely why she’d never spoken of this to anyone. Her friends had all tried to be supportive that morning, which was wonderful for a time… but it had been easy to see they didn’t fully understand. Why would they? She didn’t want to embarrass and humiliate herself further by trying to explain, and now this. “Fine. I’m fine.”
“Oh… That’s good, then.” There was a sound as Dihsala slid into the chair. She braced herself for the usual platitudes to begin, but to her surprise as the minutes passed, Dihsala sat there without uttering a word, sharing the dim twilight.
Let’zi watched droplets of water run down the window as the silence stretched on. “I embarrassed myself this morning. Sorry.” Dihsala had a tendency to be self-centered, and the very last thing she wanted to hear right now was the world from that perspective. “I’m kind of a mess as a friend right now, but thanks for coming by.”
“Look, Let’zi… I get it. Goddess, it wasn’t that long ago I had to admit my family was cooking our books… I still don’t know what I’m going to do about it over summer, but I get it. Honestly!” Dihsala huffed expansively. “Parents suck. I mean, we’re all here trying to change our worlds, and they’ve forgotten what that’s like. Sure, they want us to be like them… but life isn’t all pretty pictures. They don’t teach us about the things they did wrong. We have to figure it out all on our own.”
“You really think so?” She mumbled, staring sullenly into the gray horizon.
“I know it. I’ll be spending the rest of my life guarding against their mistakes… Sins of the mothers…” Dihsala said quietly before her voice grew firm. “I do get it. And if any of the other girls don’t? Fuck em!”
Silent lightning flashed across the sky, arcing through the growing storm. Outside, the peal of thunder would surely sound like Hele’s own forge, but inside her room, all was lingering silence. She heard Dihsala shift about once, as more minutes passed.
“Did they ever hit you?” She whispered.
“Let’zi? Um…” There was the sound of movement in the chair behind her, and Let’zi closed her eyes, unwilling to even watch the storm. “No, never… Yours did?”
“Yes.” She tucked her legs up against her chest, wishing it was night. It felt like night all the time whenever she remembered. “The first time was on my fourth birthday… My father and mother were there, and my kho-mother, Olana, showed up as a surprise. She’d been deployed, and no one expected her back, you know, and my father made this big dinner. It was nice, until they started drinking. Both her and my mother... And I didn’t finish dinner. It was a big meal… but I didn’t finish my olat beans, and my mothers got into a fight. My father did his best, but they were both standing there over me, and… That was the first time anyone hit me.”
Let’zi still refused to curl into a ball and show her pain. Dihsala had her faults, but she wouldn’t talk.
“She slammed her fist into my shoulder, hard. It hurt and I can still remember being so… scared, maybe, but confused, too. I didn’t know why she was so upset. It didn’t make any sense.” Her mouth felt suddenly dry and she swallowed, wishing Krek would use the rain to sweep her into the sea, but it didn’t happen. “They all just stood there screaming while I cried and tried to finish the olat… Even when they left the room, they kept yelling, so I ran into my bedroom and hid in the closet… I don’t know how long it was until my sister found me.”
She heard Dihsala slip on the bed next to her and felt an arm slip around her shoulder. “No one should go through that alone. Just remember your sister was there.”
“Everything changed after that night. I was just too young to understand.” She shook her head, opening her eyes again but seeing nothing. “I had sisters, but not after that. Not really. After a while my family got my kho-mother’s drinking under control, but there was just nothing after that. Things didn’t get better. Just… nothing.”
“Okay… so no sisters… but I’m your friend.” Let’zi shrugged. “Maybe hard to deal with now and then, but I am your friend.”
In the dark of the storm, it was hard to see Let’zi’s face, even sitting right beside her. “What if someone has no family or friends? What if there's something wrong with me - if I’m a monster and don't know it?”
“If a woman has no family or friends then she might as well jump into the Deeps, but Let’zi, you aren't a monster. Monsters wouldn't ask - and you have friends.” Dihsala said firmly, hugging her quickly before settling back, a black silhouette regarding her in the darkness. “Maybe growing up like that makes it harder to feel like people care, but we do.”
“I was FOUR!!!”
She hadn’t meant to shout, but the words came out like a wail. It filled her with frustration and she pounded the mattress with her fist... and remembered the punch. She stared at her hand woodenly, forcing it to unclench and when she found her voice, her words were low and even… controlled.
“Dihsala? What if we can’t escape how we’re made? What if that’s all growing up is? The older you get, the more pain you have inside, and it just goes on and on?”
“We can’t change growing up.” The words came out carefully, as Dihsala sorted through her own memories. “We depend on our parents to be who we need them to be, and when they fail… it tears you up inside. But growing up means defining yourself. You have to ask if you’re going to be the girl you were then, or if you’re going to become the kind of woman you want to be.”
Let’zi watched as the rain spattered against her window, running down in dark rivulets against the gray sky. “Just like that?”
“I never said it was simple, just that it’s our choice. I’m pretty sure that’s why we pick our husbands and kho-wives the way we do.” Dihsala suddenly leaned back and crooned, “We get by with a little help from our friends!”
The room was still black as pitch in between the lightning, but she blinked in surprise all the same. “I didn’t know you liked Human music?”
“Oh, come on. Seriously, who wouldn’t do Paul?” Let’zi reached over, and turned on the desk light. “And when they’re right, they’re right. You’ll get through this with friends, so you’re covered. Even if you have to bask in my glory – so stop being so gloomy. That’s Kzintshki’s job, and she’s better at it.”
It was a terrible attempt to cheer her up, but somehow she felt less alone all the same. “Bite me.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s her job, too.” Dihsala snorted.
“So you’d ‘do’ Paul?” Let’zi pursed her lips. “Goddess, that sounds so-”
“Honest?” Dishsala tossed her hair back, cocking her head to look at her sharply. “Tell me you wouldn’t bang Paul silly?”
“Fine. I’d bang Paul silly.” she admitted guiltily. Goddess, she could just feel herself turning blue. “Who wouldn’t?”
“Well, Jax’mi and Lark like John, and Nestha likes George.” Dihsala shrugged in answer to her look of disbelief. “Hey, I’m still not comfortable talking around most of them, but I listen… Anyway, that's not as bad as listening to the twins in the bathroom every morning. They like Ringo.”
The snort came unbidden. It wasn’t something a lady should do, but she couldn’t help laughing anyway. “Ringo!? You are kidding!”
“Am not. Get up with me tomorrow! I swear to Niosa they sing ‘Stop and Smell the Roses’ in the shower.” Dihsala shuddered and gave an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “One of them belts out ‘Stop!’, and off they go! Every… single… morning!
_ _ _
Hello, my old heart, It's been so long, Since I've given you away. And every day, I add another stone To the walls I built around you, To keep you safe.
_ _ _
Marakhett strode through the bustling lobby of the Tide Pool gripped in horrified fascination. A male Pesrin… here? Dispensing with Agent Duvari’s interview had been her plan from the start, keeping her answers terse yet honest, but the woman’s news made this trip necessary.
The establishment was alive with… activity. Although mostly that seemed to be catering to the mid day meal, and the aroma of countless scents assaulted her while the evidence of other trades was raucously clear. Dispensing with the little Shil’vati who had shown her to a table, she drew out her omni-pad and checked the latest text from Sunchaser, their Pathfinder.
S: Are you sure this is a good idea?
Sunchaser would have accompanied her, but there was no element of danger, and so Marakhett set out minutes after the Interior woman departure, securing her station and texting the Pathfinder on the go.
Sunchaser must have been busy investigating her request, but the response arrived swiftly.
M: Stop bothering me about that. Have you found information on the Rithagian?
S: Sort of. I reached out to the Curmoica. They’re working a contract in the South Reaches and-
M: The Curmoica are mangy aurex thieves. Why are you talking to THEM?
S: We’re all aurex thieves - they’re just sloppy. Anyway, mind the Fifteenth Kahachakt. If a warband has gone missing, it's vital everyone knows. The Curmoica has been in this system longest, and while we dont talk to each other, I am talking to Moonwhisper, the pathfinder for the Marrachton - they’ve got the contract out in the asteroid belt. Stargazer of the Chut’kahat vouches for her. Moonwhisper’s the one talking to the Curmoica, until their Pathfinder is ready to talk to me. Their Pathfinder is young for the job and probably doesn't want to consult her bands mothers before talking to me, but at least she’s willing to share information with Moonwhisper for now, so I’m-
Marakhett felt her fangs bare in frustration. Sunchaser could ramble on forever, turning minutes into hours, but at least they weren't in a Band meeting, now… She hunched over her table, typing furiously.
M: Is there news or isn’t there!?
S: Yes and no. I’d never heard of the Rithagian, but they're in the records. They come from the leeward side of Pesh, so they’re niblifos. So far I’ve confirmed they were working here - for Duchess Elieana, too - but that’s all. I think they’ve gone dark.
Niblifos… so not allies, but not enemies, either. One of the Warbands who’d been too distant to matter. Still, if a warband had gone dark, that was cause for concern - even enemies kept track of one another. The wisdom of Fifteenth Kahachakt meant there were friends, enemies… and everyone else. This far from home, an awareness of everyone else came first.
At least meeting this boy wouldn’t necessarily entail the fight she’d prepared for. It was troubling Kzintshki had not mentioned this Parst yet, but perhaps it was much about nothing. The Agent had been trying to goad her throughout their interview, but if the Rithagian went dark, what would possess them to leave a child… a male… here?
Just as she was about to pester Sunchaser for more information, her nose picked up the scent she’d been seeking. There were countless species thronging this place, the scent of a Pesrin male which had been lingering in the background, grew suddenly stronger. Marrakhett cast about the room…
So that was Parst of the Rithagian. At least now she could understand what the fuss was about. Her daughter’s silence meant Kzintshki was probably stalking with care. That was sensible, given the competition a male would create with her bandsisters.
Parst emerged from a service corridor, assisting two Shil’vati males guiding a dolly laden with food to a table. His fur was as black as her own, though the blaze at his throat ran tantalizingly down his chest. He wore a silly black bow at his neck, though that seemed de rigueur for the staff in this… establishment. She observed him with interest as he finished helping them serve, noting the way he deftly avoided a woman’s attempt to grab his asiak.
In a place where privacy was a commodity, now seemed as good a time to reveal herself. While Parst had his back to her, he stiffened, undoubtedly catching her presence as she lingered in the shadows. She approached silently, and waited as he dismissed the others.
“Hey sexy. I wondered when you’d commmm… Um.” His words froze as he turned to face her. “Hi. Welcome to the Tide Pool.”
_ _ _
Parst’s senses perked up as he detected the familiar scent, though it barely cut through the array of smells from the platters of Helkam fusion cuisine he’d just served at table 61. Despite the lingering aroma, he was sure he’d know that scent anywhere.
Kzintshki. It had to be.
Drawing in another breath, he waved at Abler and Lyrad as they retreated to the kitchen. The lunchtime crowd was in full swing, but he could spare a few minutes. Straightening his bow tie, he drew himself into a formal pose, and suppressed a purr of satisfaction. Kzintshki was dark, spikey, and had a moody temper… Who knew a woman like that could be so damned appealing?
“Hey sexy. I wondered when you’d commmm… Um.” Parst’s words froze as faced the woman before him. Not Kzintshki. Very definitely not Kzintshki, but she smelled just like her.
Oh…Well, fuck, great job there…
He had the presence of mind to remain still, and focused on holding his asiak steady. It had been years since he’d scented a Pesrin besides Kzintshki, but he still remembered the way family scents intertwined. The woman before him had to be related.
“Hi. Welcome to the Tide Pool.”
The woman standing appeared unarmed… at least visibly. The combat vest she wore looked comfortably broken in, and he managed not to swallow at the sight of the kill-rings prominently displayed on her ear. He cautiously took another sniff. Her sable pelt matched his own, though the white blaze at her throat was far smaller…
…Goddess, do I remind Kzintshki of her…
“I am Marakhett,” she said flatly. “You wish to be courted by my daughter.”
… of her mother
Parst’s mind raced as he considered his options. It was certainly true that he was single, and Kzintshki appeared to have a good situation, and in her own unique way she’d made it clear she was interested. Homicidal, but interested. Of course, he’d played it cool - you learned that working at the Tide Pool, if you didn’t want to be pawed by the crowd into fur, and…
…and she hadn’t made it a question. Sweet goddess, what do I say?…
That left fight or flight, while Marakhett stood there scrutinizing him.
“Yes, I do,” he blurted.
…What the fuck? Why did I say that!?!…
“Good. I know my daughter, so kindly do so without pretending you aren’t interested in each other - it’s tiresome.” Marakhett flicked her asiak in a complicated flip that he tried to call to memory as she turned away. “Be true, or else.”
“Or else?” Parst bridled, despite himself. He’d worked hard to put his life together, and while Kzintshki courting him was one thing, being coerced into it was something else! This was his home, Deeps take it! His pelt bristled as he stood his ground. “Or else what? You’ll cut me into wafer-thin pieces?”
Marakhett paused, a hint of fang showing as she regarded him archly. “Or else I tell my band's other daughters all about you… and this place… and possibly even other warbands. I’m sure you’d become very popular.”
…Oh, shit…
_ _ _
Hello, my old heart, How have you been? How is it, being locked away? Don't you worry, in there you're safe And it's true, you'll never beat - But you'll never break…
_ _ _
“Captain?” Ce’lani glanced over at Kalani as she entered Ops. Her sergeant had an apprehensive look on her face. Normally Sgt Diani would linger and be in the middle of some story, while Kalani and Vaeko would be occupied with their Rubik’s block. Pod Six had slipping out of Ops without a word, and the apprehension in Kala’s voice immediately set her on edge.
“What is it?” she asked as she slid into the left seat. “Any updates on station?”
“Perimeter’s secure,” Vae said quietly. “Pod three is on station and reports twelve by twelve.”
“The objective’s secure,” Kala added.
It was the absence of anything else that made her stomach flip. Usually Kala and Vae were plotting over a game or the latest goings on, talking about the coming movie night or arguing over last week’s. This was…
The silence was unsettling, and Ce’lani’s stomach churned into the Deeps. The incident at the meeting had nearly killed her. Thank the goddess that was only her misunderstanding… but now?
Tom always read his mail when he got home.
The Objective was there on screen one, and she ran a check on her board, fighting off the impending dread that tore at her. She feld weighed down as she mechanically reached over and pulled up the camera on his home. He wasn't there, and she switched to the camera in Miv’eire’s apartment.
Tom sat on the couch, clutching his omni-pad. Tears rolled down his face as he sobbed silently.
…Oh... Goddess forgive me, what have I done…
She turned off the camera as her world died inside.
submitted by Rhion-618 to Sexyspacebabes [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 13:23 Ultra-Trex Osprey AG 65 or LT 65.... can't make up my mind

I need a pack for a R2R2R run in 2024. I've kind of settled on the Osprey AG / LT 65 but can't make up my mind. Based on my research here's what I see as the pros and cons for each one if it matters I'm definitely a L/XL at 6'4", 40" chest and weight ranges between 210 and 230 depending on where I'm at any given year for ultra training.
These are subject to change, discussion, I'm not a backpacker per se, I'm an ultrarunner / fast packer but the canyon is too pretty to run through so I'm going to stroll it and a bigger pack is needed. My goto packs for these are the Salomon ADV 12L and the Ultimate Direction Fastpack 30. I own an Osprey 40L and an REI 40L which I've really enjoyed a travel packs but 40L is not quite big enough for a 3-4 day canyon run for my needs. Not only the usual stuff and I'm not UL but excess gear like cameras etc that I don't normally bring.
If I've missed anything or need correction I'd love to hear about it. And if you've used both packs and wanted to share your impressions that would be awesome.
--------What I see as the differences between them and my lack of heavy experience with backpacking opinion on if it's a pro or con------
LT Pros:
Lower MSRP (but currently a black AG is cheaper and other AG colors are about the same as the LT) Side zip into main compartment (this feels like a high value) Lighter by 8 oz give or take (half a lb ain't nothing) Any design tweaks based on feedback are incorporated (debatable) Any material/fabric tweaks are incorporated (debatable) Heavier fabric/denier on the base of the pack. (more durable) More secure (???) yoke adjustment with the ladder style but limited to 5 positions.
LT Cons: No bottom compartment dividezipper access (really necessary?) Lost the trekking pole loops (can be stowed other ways) Lost the two front zipper pockets (less organization) Brain only has one compartment (workaround is add a drybag for organization) No real world/long term real hiker reviews out but based on a tried and true design. (not too worried, it's Osprey)
AG Pros: 2 front zipper pockets (could hold small tripods/selfie sticks etc) Trekking pole loops (Not sure how often I'll be stowing them to be fair) Brain has two compartments (more organization) Bottom zipper / sleeping bag compartment with divider (how useful really?)
AG Cons:
Top loader, no side access to main compartment (have to dig things out to get to the middle layers) 8 ounces heavier (oz = lbs) Higher MSRP (but at the moment they're about the same and black AG is $30 cheaper)
submitted by Ultra-Trex to backpacking [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 06:17 Godzilla1966 I decided in honor of the new map being Australia I would hunt new Zealand and got these

I decided in honor of the new map being Australia I would hunt new Zealand and got these
They are from different servers
submitted by Godzilla1966 to theHunter [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 05:53 foobby My Story (AKA I Need to Scream into The Void)

Hello fellow losers (see what I did there?)
It is currently 11:39PM. I just weighed myself after eating over my caloric limit today (stupid, I know) and I have been steadily gaining weight since January and I need someone to calm me down.
In short, my highest weight was 330lbs. I have been in the 300s since I was nineteen years old. (I am 25 now.) Right when the 'vid hit was when I started my weightloss journey. I got down to 300lbs just with diet and exercise and I remained that weight for about two years until I had enough and decided to get WLS.
Long story short, I get down to 285lbs and notice that I am NOT feeling any better. My energy is shot, my stomach is sick all the time, and I can't eat without absolutely the worst pain I've ever experienced. For those of you guessing gallbladder disease, go ahead and check that one off your BINGO card.
No Dr believes me, bloodwork is fine, you have anxiety yadda yadda I'm down to 267lbs without even trying. I just can't eat.
Gallbladder comes out. I'm as wobbly as a newborn horse from malnutrition because I haven't been able to eat in literal months. But the hell organ is out so we're all good, right?
There are two types of people- people who get their gallbladder out and house an entire pizza the next day, and people who look towards a piece of bread and immediately vomit on the spot.
I was the breaddiest of girls, and when I say I could not eat, I mean I made myself so sick that I could no longer walk.
It took seven months. SEVEN MONTHS, for me to be able to eat properly again. My lowest weight was this January, and that was 230lbs. I looked amazing, I felt gorgeous, but I still could barely walk or muster the energy I needed for well, anything.
Which brings us to tonight. I weighed myself, at the end of the night, and see that I've gained 14lbs. I am at 244, I SEE IT ON ME, and I'm absolutely DEVASTATED.
I have been working for a week on eating around 1500 calories and I've been exercising for 20 minutes four times a week via treadmill but I'm just so.. disappointed? Like I was THERE. I was for the first time in my adult life so close to onederland and I feel like I blew it- like the only way I can lose this weight is by extreme measures.
I may be a little chunkier again, but I can walk again. I'm not severely anemic from being malnourished, and my blood pressure and heartrate are the best they've been in years. But I can't help but feel like such a failure- and so, so ugly.
I miss that thin girl whose body had to eat her own fat and muscle tissue to survive, and I fucking HATE that I do.
Thank you for reading. I'm just.. screaming into the void.
submitted by foobby to loseit [link] [comments]

2023.05.25 01:46 LookAtThatBacon Fitch Places United States' 'AAA' on Rating Watch Negative
Fitch Ratings has placed the United States' 'AAA' Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) on Rating Watch Negative.
A full list of rating actions follows at the end of this rating action commentary.
Debt Ceiling Brinkmanship: The Rating Watch Negative reflects increased political partisanship that is hindering reaching a resolution to raise or suspend the debt limit despite the fast-approaching x date (when the U.S. Treasury exhausts its cash position and capacity for extraordinary measures without incurring new debt). Fitch still expects a resolution to the debt limit before the x-date. However, we believe risks have risen that the debt limit will not be raised or suspended before the x-date and consequently that the government could begin to miss payments on some of its obligations. The brinkmanship over the debt ceiling, failure of the U.S. authorities to meaningfully tackle medium-term fiscal challenges that will lead to rising budget deficits and a growing debt burden signal downside risks to U.S. creditworthiness.
Debt Limit Reached: The U.S. reached its $31.4 trillion debt limit on Jan. 19, 2023, and the Treasury began taking extraordinary measures in order to avoid breaching the ceiling. The Treasury has stated that these extraordinary measures could be exhausted as early as June 1, 2023. The cash balance of the Treasury reached USD76.5 billion as of May 23 and sizeable payments are due June 1-2, meaning that the x-date could arrive as the Treasury indicated and before an agreement is reached or finalized with votes in the House and Senate.
X-Date Approaching: The failure to reach a deal to raise or suspend the debt limit by the x-date would be a negative signal of the broader governance and willingness of the U.S. to honor its obligations in a timely fashion, which would be unlikely to be consistent with a 'AAA' rating, in Fitch's view. Prioritization of debt securities over other due payments after the x-date would avoid a default. Similarly, avoiding default by non-conventional means such as minting a trillion-dollar coin or invoking the 14th amendment is unlikely to be consistent with a 'AAA' rating and could also be subject to legal challenges.
Debt Default Rating Implications: We believe that failing to make full and timely payments on debt securities is less likely than reaching the x-date and is a very low probability event. Such a failure would be a debt default under Fitch's sovereign rating criteria and would lead us to downgrade the sovereign IDR to Restricted Default (RD). Affected debt securities would be downgraded to 'D'. Additionally, other LT debt securities with payments due within the following 30 days would likely be downgraded to 'CCC', and ST treasury bills maturing within the following 30 days would likely be downgraded to 'C'.
Potential Post-Default Ratings: Other debt securities with payments due beyond 30 days would likely be downgraded to the expected post-default rating of the IDR. A key consideration in determining the U.S. post-default rating would be Fitch's Sovereign Rating Model (SRM) - the details of which are in the public domain. The SRM output for the U.S. stands at 'AA+'. The model applies a two-notch reduction for a sovereign that has recently defaulted, suggesting that Fitch's model-implied post-default rating would be 'AA-'. The final rating could be adjusted lower or higher via the Qualitative Overlay as per our criteria. Fitch would expect any debt default to be relatively short-lived. However, a more protracted default scenario could have more severe implications for the country's post-default ratings.
Country Ceiling to Remain at 'AAA': Fitch would expect the U.S country ceiling to remain at 'AAA' even in the scenario of a debt default. The U.S. dollar is the preeminent world's reserve currency, and we view the risk of exchange and capital controls as de minimis.
Governance Challenges: Governance is a weakness relative to 'AAA' rated peers, and the future direction of the rating is sensitive to the direction it takes. The contested 2020 presidential election, brinkmanship over the debt limit to advance political agendas, and failure to reach consensus on the country's fiscal challenges are recent signs of the deterioration in governance. Additionally, the absence of a medium-term fiscal framework and a complex budgeting process has contributed to the failure to reverse successive debt increases caused by economic shocks and other fiscal accommodations. Political partisanship has brought about repeated debt-limit brinkmanship and led to near-default episodes that could erode confidence in the government's repayment capacity.
Weakening Fiscal Outturns: Weaker-than-expected tax receipts and higher interest rates have led public finances to modestly underperform Fitch's expectations at the last review. Fitch now forecasts a general government deficit at 6.5% of GDP in 2023 and 6.9% of GDP in 2024, up from 5.5% in 2022. State and local governments overall surpluses in 2021-22 have begun to move to deficits, which accounts for part of the expected general government deterioration. A rising interest burden and growing spending on entitlements over the coming decade will keep the deficits at above 7% of GDP on average. Between 2023 and 2033 the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) May 2023 baseline includes a 2.2pp of GDP rise in spending on interest, healthcare and social security that is linked to demographics, a rising interest burden and healthcare costs.
High and Rising Public Debt Burden: General government debt fell to 112.5% of GDP at year-end 2022 (compared to 36.1% for the 'AAA' median), a decline from its 2020 pandemic peak of 122.3%. However, the ratio remains over 12 pp above pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Fitch forecasts debt to increase to 117% by end-2024. Debt dynamics under the baseline Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assumptions project that the ratio of federal debt held by the public to GDP will approach 119% within a decade under the current policy setting, a rise of over 20 pp. Interest rates have risen significantly over the last year with the 10-year Treasury yield at close to 3.7% (compared to 2.8% a year ago).
Exceptional Strengths Support Ratings: The size of the country's economy, high GDP per capita and dynamic business environment support the U.S. ratings. The U.S. dollar is the world's preeminent reserve currency, which gives the government extraordinary financing flexibility.
ESG - Governance: The U.S. has an ESG Relevance Score (RS) of '5' Political Stability and Rights and '5[+]' for the Rule of Law, Institutional and Regulatory Quality and Control of Corruption. Theses scores reflect the high weight that the World Bank Governance Indicators (WBGI) have in our proprietary Sovereign Rating Model. The U.S. has a high WBGI ranking at 79, reflecting its well-established rights for participation in the political process, strong institutional capacity, effective rule of law and a low level of corruption.
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2023.05.24 18:48 HawkEye1000x FREIGHTOS BALTIC INDEX UPDATE — May 24, 2023

Freightos Data Overview — Excerpts:
Asia-US West Coast prices (FBX01 Weekly) increased 8% to $1,540/FEU. This rate is 89% lower than the same time last year.
Asia-US East Coast prices (FBX03 Weekly) dipped 2% to $2,321/FEU, and are 85% lower than rates for this week last year.
Asia-N. Europe prices (FBX11 Weekly) were stable at $1,385/FEU, and are 87% lower than rates for this week last year.

Ocean rates from Asia to the US West Coast edged up last week, though prices are still 11% lower than a month ago. Rates for the other ex-Asia lanes were stable and transatlantic prices dipped another 4%.

With many long term contracts still not finalized though, carriers may attempt another transpacific GRI in June – whose success would likely entail a significant increase in blanked siblings – to push more shippers and forwarders to seal deals at acceptable levels for carriers, as done in April.

Another factor that could push rates up, especially for Asia - US East Coast containers, is the drought-driven low water level in the Panama Canal. Carriers have announced weight limits and surcharges of several hundred dollars per container for shipments passing through the canal starting in June. If these increased costs push some demand back to the West Coast, there could be some impact for West Coast rates as well.

But prospects overall for the timing and strength of a rebound in volumes and rates – or the appearance of a rebound at all – remain quite uncertain and depend on consumer demand, inventories, and sourcing decisions.

The latest data on US consumer spending showed some resilience, but while spending increased in April in some areas of retail, there was also a shift away from big ticket – and bulky – items like home goods, and concerns that rising interest rates will slow inflation but also push the economy into recession in H2 could dampen consumer demand just as freight approaches its typical peak months.

Another big driver for the current freight recession – despite relative strength in spending – has been overstocked inventories. And though major retailers are not all in the same boat, one of the biggest, Target, reported this week that inventories are under control and that they are gearing up for new ordering – a good sign for freight demand if this is also the case for enough other importers, and if demand holds up.

But Target executives also said they are focusing on "inventory efficiency" this year, which could mean a return to just in time importing, or as the Port of LA Director put it "a relatively short peak season between the months of September and October," driven also by uncertainty on consumer demand.
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2023.05.23 23:23 IaProc [First of Our Kind] - Chapter 30

Chapter 30
Quin woke up with the alarm on his armband. A slight throb was resonating in his head, but after he got himself up and drank some water, it seemed to subside. He stripped off his clothes from the night before and hopped in the shower, letting the warm water rush over him. The effect was rejuvenating. He patted down his hair, though he decided to forego the hair helmet. He quickly packed up his bag and threw on his Nemo jumpsuit. He was out the door in less than fifteen minutes of waking up.
In the lobby, he found that the bar had transformed into a breakfast station, where he found a coffee station. He poured himself a tall cup and went to relax in an armchair. The group had agreed to meet in the lobby at 8:45 in order to make their 9:00 excursion. Quin had a sneaking suspicion that the others would not make the time. So, this is what Tess feels like every day when we are supposed to meet, he thought to himself, chuckling. He enjoyed his cup of coffee thoroughly, and when the clock on his armband struck 9:00, he got up and poured three other cups in addition to refilling his own. He sat back down in the armchair. Looking around the lobby, he saw only an older gentleman reading his tablet over coffee. He had a jumpsuit on as well, and Quin thought he recognized him as the Logistics Section Chief, but he thought he also could be mistaken. This is nice, Quin thought, I’m going to be a morning person from now on. I see how it appealed to Tess. She had always been the one to get up and get them ready, but he now realized it was a moment’s peace in a day otherwise occupied with everyone else’s chaos.
At 9:04, Pepper strolled into the room, looking about as groggy as Quin but still wearing an adorable smile. Her braids had stayed perfectly intact, and Quin was brought back to last night, the dancing, the games, and that kiss that they shared. She plopped down into the same cushy armchair alongside Quin, curled her feet up, and took the cup of coffee that he had poured for her.
“You’re a gem,” she said as she settled in and placed her head on his shoulder. Quin felt more at peace than ever.
They sat for a while not talking, just enjoying each other’s presence. It wasn’t until Mae came into the room, somewhat stumbling and still half-asleep, that either of them spoke.
“Hmpfh,” groaned Mae as she sunk into another chair. She leaned forward and managed one word as she scooped up her coffee and took a long draw. “Cute,” Mae muttered, pointing absently at them. She was clearly struggling but laid back into her seat and seemed to go to sleep. Quin and Pepper looked at each other uncertainly, before Mae suddenly popped up and said, “So are we doing this or what?”
“Sure! Are you gonna be alright?” Quin asked.
“Dandy, just dandy Quin,” Mae said, forcing a smile.
“Okay then…” he replied hesitantly. He leaned toward Pepper and whispered, “Should we wait for Liza?”
“She’s…um…she’s not coming,” Pepper responded quietly. “She sent me a message this morning to say go without her.”
“Okay,” Quin said, standing up. Pepper followed suit. They followed Mae out the door and made off for the orchard entrance around the back of the hotel. There, they met a group of about 20 other crew members assigned for the tour at this hour. The three joined up at the back and tried to see over the crowd into the rolling hills.
The scene was like a painting. Two grand hills met exactly in front of the gate, forming a natural valley and path through the orchard. Apple trees of different varieties stretched as far as the eye could see. A low hum issued from nearby, though Quin could not place it. Maybe a generator station for the irrigation? he thought. With the slow rise of the sun on Rhea, the morning sunrise peaking over the hills cast a beautiful yellow glow that seemed to reflect off the surface of every single shining apple. Mae and Pepper were caught in the glow too. Quin found himself staring at Pepper, whose face, softened by the morning light, seemed radiant. She caught him looking and raised an eyebrow, which did nothing to reduce the seductive ambiance. Quin’s arm pinged once, but he ignored it, too caught up in the scenery.
“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen,” a voice came from the front of the group. “My name is Laila and I’ll be your tour guide for this morning. If you will follow me, I’ll lead you into the orchard and give you a rundown of today’s schedule. Let’s go this way.” The tour guide entered the gate and took off down the center lane, leading the group straight into the valley between the two hills. Quin, Pepper, and Mae followed the group, glancing around themselves occasionally and breathing the fresh air. Everyone in the group had a content grin on their faces. Some took photos together with their armbands. The guide led everyone into a small circular clearing about 5 minutes into the orchard and had the group bunch around a small stool.
“Good morning everyone,” she began. “Again, my name is Laila, and I work as a tour guide as well as among the growers here. The Rhean planetary orchard is one of the highlights of our colony. We have 30 hectares of orchards, spanning 12 varieties of apples. Our facilities include an underground irrigation system, so we not are spraying anything into the air of our biosphere. We will be sure to take you underground to see that. In addition, we have three beekeepers on staff who run our apiary system, and we will take you through and have you taste the honey that comes straight from our orchard. Does that sound fun? Everyone excited?”
People in the crowd were murmuring to each other eagerly. Laila the tour guide hopped down off her stool and continue straight. She talked while she walked backward, pointing out different apple types and stopping the group around one tree to have a taste. She grabbed a few off the trees and cut them into slices to pass around. They continued for a few more minutes before arriving at one of the apiary sites.
“Here, we have one of our beekeepers. Everyone, please meet Markus,” she said, gesturing to her side. A man in a full white suit walked up and raised the netting across his face.
“Hey folks, welcome to the orchard. I’ll show you one of the colonies we’ve got going here in this first bee box. Please stay back though, as I’m definitely not wearing this suit for fashion.” The group chuckled politely at his joke but were all craning to see the box. “Bees,” Markus continued, “are a vital part of the ecosystem we’ve cultivated here on Rhea. There was a time back on Earth that bees faced extinction due to pollutants and other environmental degradation. Fortunately, the NE was formed and immediately began regulating environmental emissions, and with the clean energy switch over, bees could make a comeback with our help. We were able to cryofreeze them and transport them here, where they’ve made a home here helping us with the orchard. They’ve been prospering here under our supervision and care, to the point that they are now forming migrating colonies to inhabit other bee boxes around the orchard.”
Markus returned to the crowd and began passing out small bits of a honeycomb. “This is an old honeycomb that was left after a colony split in two and one of the queens led a contingent to form a colony on the other side. And here we have some honey for you all to taste. You’ll notice that this honey has a fruity palette, but finishes kind of tart, just like you’ll find with our apples. Everyone crowd around to grab a taste.” The group moved quickly to the platter, but Quin held back. He was staring intently at the ground, lost in thought.
“Sir, would you like some honey?” Laila the tour guide asked him. He snapped to, replying quickly.
“Oh, yes, thanks, umm…can I ask the beekeeper a question?” Quin said.
“Why certainly, go for it,” she replied, smiling. Quin over the edge of the group and approached Markus.
“Um, sir, do you mind, I have a question,” Quin said slowly.
“Yessir, how can I help you?” Markus replied, beaming through his helmet.
“Um…when you said the queen broke off and led a new colony, how does that work?” Quin asked.
“Work? Um, well, a colony can have one queen. So, when a new queen is born, once she is big enough, she will usually break off from the existing colony and search out a new place to form her own hive. Sometimes the male drones will send a group with her to help, so you see these migrating swarms come through. It’s nothing to be afraid of though, just give them their space and they will go about their way peacefully.”
“Thanks, but, how does it work when they migrate. Like, how does she communicate with the swarm?” Quin asked.
“Well, we don’t have the direct evidence, but our best hypothesis is that tiny electrical currents emanate from their antennae, and bees also communicate through their movements, that’s why everybody thinks they ‘dance.’ Anyway, once she has found a place, she will signal to the swarm and they will move around and change directions with her.” Quin’s mind was racing. He slowly brought the small cup of honey to his mouth and took a lick absentmindedly.
“Umm, sir, is that all?” Markus asked.
“Oh, yes, thanks, thanks so much,” Quin stammered. He fell back in with the group but was no more focused on where he was than on the delicious honey in his hand. Mae came over and squeezed his arm.
“Having fun?” she asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Quin said distantly.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, her eyebrows furrowed.
“Oh, I was just…um…” he gestured backward toward Markus, “I was just thinking about something. The migration…”
“The bees?” asked Mae confusedly.
“Yeah…yeah…the bees,” Quin said. “The electrical…” He kept trailing off, no doubt frustrating Mae. He stopped himself and looked up. “Sorry, yeah, I was on a thought. I think I may have found a workaround for Nova’s cloud control. Anyway, yeah, this honey’s great, right?”
Mae sighed and shook her head, then burst out into laughter. “You are a strange, strange boy, you know that, Quin?”
“Yeah, what else is new?” Quin shrugged, licking his honey richly.
The tour guide led the group away from the apiary station and directed them toward the mouth of a tunnel. “This is our access point to the underground irrigation system. We water our trees primarily through our manmade underground aquifer. The roots all droop down into the aquifer and draw moisture up into the trees’ circulation. Let’s press on.” Quin’s arm pinged again, but he was looking up at the massive mouth of the tunnel entrance.
Pepper tapped his shoulder and said, “Quin, you’ve got a message.”
He glanced down at him arm, and right away, another chime came from his arm band. He saw two messages and one voice message. He tapped his armband and the screen opened to a folder. Tapping again, he began to read:
“Message 1. From: Lt. Commander Potts, time 9:17. Lt. Hammond, please report to the logistics bay immediately.”
“Message 2. From: Commander Bostwick, time 9:34. Quin, we need you in the Log bay like now. Right now.”
Then, his armband began to recite the voice message: “Voice Message 1. From: Captain Fuentes, time 9:36.” The Captain’s voice came over his armband. “Lieutenant Hammond, get to the Log bay double time. That means now, Quin. Immediately. This is an emergency.”
Quin quickly looked up at Mae and Pepper, who were both staring at him, expressions frozen in fear. He hesitated, not knowing what to do.
“What are you waiting for Quin?” Mae stammered. “GO! NOW! I’ll grab your stuff.”
Quin took off sprinting through the orchard, trees blowing by him as he quickly made his way past the apiary station and up the path toward the gate. Exiting the orchard, he ran across the lawn in front of the hotel and made his way to the air lock entrance into the shuttle bay. Every time he encountered a button or touchpad, he slammed his hand against it repeatedly until the door opened. He finally emerged into the shuttle bay, where a craft was already powering up.
“Lt. Hammond,” a Military crew member asked as Quin approached.
“Yeah…sorry…” Quin said wheezing. He had a stitch in his side.
“We’ve been looking for you for twenty minutes,” the man said as he turned and boarded the craft.
“Sorry…again…” Quin said through his wheezes, jumping on board himself. “What’s…happened…?”
“Sorry sir, I do not have that information,” the officer responded, sitting down in a seat and looking forward. Quin sat across from him and tried to catch his breath. Gone from his mind were thoughts of bees and clouds and computing. Was it Tess? Did something happen with the baby? His mind began a slow spiral into panic, and the ten-minute ride was doing nothing to assuage his nerves. He was bouncing in his seat as the shuttle made its ascent past the yellowed clouds of Rhea and made for the docking station. He was able to see the whole of the Nemo, from the front impact shield to its tail end. It felt like he was returning to the real world, as if Rhea and what happened on the planet had only been some fantasy where he could be happy and carefree.
The shuttle closed in on the docking station’s landing bay and Quin felt a growing knot in his stomach that was making him nauseous. The touchdown into the orbital station rattled him a bit and made the queasy feeling surge. Quin tried to hold it back as he stood up to exit the rear doors. The officer escorted him off the shuttle and through the bay, leading into the corridor where Quin and the others had passed through and had their arm bands loaded with tickets and hotel room keys. They turned abruptly to the right to head down another corridor since the Logistics bay doors were closed, seeing as the ship was not expecting the return of its crew for some hours. They passed through a sliding door on their left and entered an open airlock, finally breaching the Nemo.
“This way, sir,” the officer gestured, directing back toward the Logistics bay. Quin wondered what was going on. If it was a family emergency, they would take him to the Command deck where a QEEM feed could be patched through. If it was a ship emergency, he could be better placed to respond from his computer station in the Research bay. Nonetheless, he followed the security officer through corridors, until they came upon the very doors that Quin had entered through and greeted Mbaka just yesterday. Assembled around the door were Captain Fuentes, Commanders Bostwick and Potts, the Military and Logistics Section Chiefs, and a half dozen military officers.
“Ma’am,” the security officer accompanying Quin said, calling Fuentes’s attention to the new arrivals.
“Lieutenant Hammond! Here. Now,” she said tersely, stepping back and clearing a way for Quin to put himself in front of a tablet hooked into the wall.
“What’s— “ Quin began, before Fuentes interrupted him.
“Nova has somehow overridden the entire ship’s computing and locked all of us out,” she rattled off rapidly. “She has supposedly tracked a case of someone doing something illicit, but we can’t get in. She has Corporal Goran pinned inside underneath a magnetic lift pad and is refusing to let anyone in until she has assurances that individuals not involved in the plot will take responsibility for the investigation. I’m ordering you to shut her down before she kills one of my crew members!”
Quin turned to the tablet and felt the twelve sets of eyes boring into the back of his head.
“I…I don’t understand,” he began, tapping quickly on the screen. “Nova’s protocol would never allow her to disobey an order. You’ve told her to stop?”
“Obviously Lieutenant,” Fuentes said impatiently. “She has locked the system and is convinced that some grand conspiracy is afoot, and she is rattling off protocol and procedure about reporting lines and the like.” The Captain was tapping her foot behind Quin and he felt unable to focus enough to sort out what was going on with Nova.
He entered into the command screen of the tablet and got himself into the ship’s computing system quickly. His access stopped there however, as Nova had apparently set up a bunch of blocks to ensure that no one could access any part of the ship’s functions. Quin tried several angles, including the main overrides, the switch over procedures, and the interface’s operating system, but all seemed to have encryptions locking him out. He stared at the screen in frustration, and then shouted.
“NOVA!” Quin cried, surprising everyone around him. “NOVA! WHERE ARE YOU? OPEN THIS DOOR!”
There was silence. He smacked the tablet down onto the floor and stood up, searching around the hallway until he found one of the cameras mounted into the ceiling. He walked over and stared at it.
“NOVA!” he tried again. “I KNOW YOU CAN SEE AND HEAR ME. OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW.” He pointed at the Logistics bay door.
There were another few seconds of silence. Through the door, he heard whimpering, presumably of the man trapped under the magnetic pad. A hand appeared on Quin’s shoulder, He looked around and found Commander Bostwick standing beside him, also looking at the camera.
“Nova, please,” Bostwick said softly. “Please let Quin in. Please talk to him.” The silence persisted.
“Nova, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m sorry. Please,” Quin begged. “Please open the door. Let me talk to you.”
One more second of silence, and then the doors whisked open. Fuentes ushered the group inside. Quin looked around and saw gigantic pallets scattered across the room. The Military personnel quickly fanned out, while the two section chiefs made for the panel of tools attached to the wall. They took a big power wrench and some cutters and made for the other side of the room. The Command staff and Quin followed them. In the far corner, Quin saw where they were headed.
One of the large magnetic lifting pads Mbaka had showed him that were used to lift machinery and crates was now pinning a crew member underneath it. The cabling that descended from the ceiling was taut and the pad was crushing the man’s chest. The section chiefs ran at the pad, but a second pad flew at them, forcing them to retreat. Bostwick nudged Quin, who jumped in.
“Nova, where are you?” Quin asked, looking around.
Suddenly, a gigantic face appeared in the middle of the bay. Nova’s face was three stories tall, floating bodiless directly between the floor and the ceiling of the bay. Goran’s cries of pain were coming up from under the magnetic pad, lending all of the urgency the situation needed.
“Lieutenant Hammond,” Nova said blankly, though no more blankly than her usual manner of speaking with the crew. Her tone mixed with her detached way of referring to Quin was disconcerting.
“Since when have I been Lieutenant Hammond to you, Nova?” Quin said, on edge.
“Captain Fuentes, Lieutenant Hammond,” Nova continued, as if unhearing, “over the course of my observation of the security footage dating back to before our launch, taken from the ESS and NEMO stocks, and continuing through our voyage up until reaching Rhea’s orbital docking station, I perceived Corporal Goran to be committing acts of embezzlement, thievery, and behavior unbecoming of an officer aboard a Nations of Earth vessel. In doing so, Corporal Goran violated a directive issued by NEMO I Command Staff in which he jeopardized the success of the mission.”
Captain Fuentes looked down at the crew member underneath the pad and then back up at Nova’s hovering face. “Be that as it may, Nova, I—“ Fuentes shouted, before Nova interrupted her.
“I first tried and failed to raise my observations to Lieutenant Hammond several weeks ago, when I observed Corporal Goran taking items from various containers throughout this bay. With the lieutenant being unresponsive to my observations, I continued monitoring the action of Corporal Goran apart from my normal interactions with Lieutenant Hammond.”
Heads turned to Quin while he cast his eyes downward. “Then, upon arriving here at Rhea’s orbital docking station, I sent a request in for QEEM communication to the NE Office of Personnel Management, though my request was never delivered and is currently sitting in the general outbox of the Command Staff.” Quin felt the eyes leave him, and looking up, he saw the rest of the crew members gathered casting their eyes down or around them.
“Finally,” Nova continued, “whereupon I have not received a response from NE headquarters, the ESS executive office, or the Command Staff aboard the NEMO I, and given our directive to ‘ensure the success of the mission,’ it is within my operating parameters and my responsibilities on this mission to confront the offending crew member. In order to limit the scope of implication, I have isolated myself from the remainder of the crew until such time that central command is able to ascertain whether this fraud involves anyone else in command. I formally request that the offending crew member be remanded to custody aboard the Rhea Docking Station in order to pursue legal recourse under military court, pending further investigation into his wrongdoing and the potential involvement of other crew members.”
Captain Fuentes was dumbfounded. She was looking between Nova’s enormous face and the wriggling, shrieking crew member underneath the magnetic pad. She glanced over at Bostwick, who, though he wore a grave expression, never seemed to lose that small amount of bemusement in his gray eyes. Fuentes then stepped up to the front of the crowd of crew members and put her hands on her hips.
“Nova, that’s quite enough,” she said. “We can take custody of Corporal Goran.”
“I am sorry Captain, but given the involvement of persons unknown, I am afraid that I am unable to turn the offending crew member over to an internal team, especially one so small. Involving the Rhean authorities and a larger bureaucracy would better ensure that crew complicity would not re-enter the chain of custody.”
“Okay then…” Captain Fuentes said. “Seeing as you are holding my crew member under threat of death, I demand to see the evidence of his wrongdoing.”
“Certainly Captain,” Nova said blankly. Her face retreated and a screen popped up with the same footage Nova had watched before arriving at Rhea. The entire group stood and watched Corporal Goran enter the bay, rearrange the boxes, and meet clandestinely with another individual back at the ESS. Again, Captain Fuentes appeared dumbstruck. She looked down disgustedly at Goran as he continued to struggle under the pad.
“I’m sorry Nova,” the Captain said. “I cannot allow Rhean authorities onto my ship when the responsibility rests with me to punish my crew members.”
“If that is the case Captain,” Nova replied, “I am afraid I am unable allow this crew member to remain aboard.” Suddenly, the cabling above the pad jolted and Goran began screaming, his eyes bulging. Nova was forcing the pad harder down onto the man, any harder and she would crush him to death.
“Lieutenant Hammond, shut her down. NOW!” Fuentes screamed at him. Quin ran to the panel on the bay wall and pulled a cable from it to his armband. He began typing furiously into the pad. “Nova, I’m ordering you to stand down. STAND DOWN NOW!” Fuentes continued screaming. Quin began panicking. Bostwick came over to him and stood over his shoulder, looking on as Quin made his way into the ship’s mainframe. Nova’s blocks continued to keep him out, but at the very least he could now access some of the ship hardware given that she had dropped the holds on the doors. He began punching his way through the hardware.
“Your attempts to undo the computing holds will be unsuccessful,” Nova stated.
“Captain, I’m sorry, but Nova may be right, I may not be able to get into the system in time before she crushes that guy,” Quin said without looking up from the screen.
“Okay, Nova, I promise you that none of my command staff, nor myself, are involved in this,” Fuentes said, exasperated. “Please, release Corporal Goran to my custody. I’m not in the habit of using capital punishment against my crew.”
Nova remained silent. Her blank face stayed hovering above the crowd of people as Quin continued stabbing away at the key board. He was sweating, exhausted after having sprinted all the way to the shuttle and mentally fried from the stress. Bostwick obviously saw his hands trembling as he tried to rewrite the code for the magnetic pads.
The Commander put his hand on Quin’s shoulder and murmured, “It’s fine. Take your time and breathe.”
The tremors didn’t subside, but Quin took a quick pause and looked over the various command screen prompts. He was simultaneously trying to gain access to the Logistics bay machinery while getting into his workstation where he could access Nova’s shutdown procedure. She had smartly kept him out of both, making executing Fuentes’s orders much more difficult. “Nova,” he pleaded. “Please, do what the Captain says. Please. I don’t want you to go away, but I have to stop you. I’m sorry. I should have listened but I was too distracted. I’m SORRY.” He pounded his fist against the wall’s tablet panel.
There was silence, save for Goran’s groaning. He began coughing frantically and his lips were turning blue. Then, as if by magic, the magnetic pad sprung back up into the ceiling and Nova’s face disappeared. Quin glanced at his screen and found the system blocks removed. He knelt down and sighed deeply, feeling a growing ache in his neck. The Military staff rushed over to Goran, picked him up, and carried him out of the room.
Fuentes sighed, turned to Quin, and said, “Lieutenant Hammond, turn her off.”
“But Captain—“ Quin said, turning and jumping up.
“Now, Lieutenant. That’s an order. On my ship, I expect all of my crew, computer systems included, to follow my orders. Understood?”
“Yes, Captain,” Quin said sadly. He opened up his command panel on his armband and quickly made his way into Nova’s operating system. He typed in the command for shut down. Looking up, he tapped the screen and though nothing physically happened, he felt as if a heavy weight had just fallen on him.
“Good,” Fuentes said. “For the time being, I’m restricting Nova’s operating ability to solely Medical Research purposes related to the cure delivery. All else will be handled by crew and automated operations. She is to be shut down at the end of each research session and will remain so unless background updates are needed. Am I clear?”
“Yes Captain,” Quin said again, soundly dejected.
“Furthermore, Lieutenant Hammond, if you or any of your various playthings ever, EVER, threaten one of my crew members again, you will find yourself in the same fate as Corporal Goran,” Fuentes said firmly, turning to the bay doors and walking toward them. She paused, turned back and said, “Take responsibility for your actions, Lieutenant. We can’t afford any children on board, despite what these past twenty-four hours may have led you to believe. This is a grown-up world and people can get hurt. I’m appalled that such a thing happened on my ship, let alone under the supervision of a member of my officer corps.” She turned and left.
Bostwick moved to try to talk to Quin, but he turned and darted out of the bay, trying to avoid being seen by anyone. He felt a white-hot ball of shame and guilt welling up from deep within his chest, and he didn’t want it to explode until he was alone in his cabin. He took off at a sprint down the corridor, weaving his way through the crew dormitories. He finally arrived at the officer’s wing and threw himself through his door. As it whisked closed behind him, he punched his armband, locking the door behind him. He fell on his bed and fought off the wretching feeling in his gut as he curled up, his brain screaming through the fog of thoughts as he felt his heart being crushed.
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2023.05.23 16:37 MartyMcFlyxoxo Walking pad Upper weight limits, am I safe??

So I'm looking at investing in a walking pad (I already have one but it was a sketchy purchase and not good quality). The upper weight limit of the one I'm looking at is 100kg.
Last time I weighed myself about a month or so ago I was 110kg. I've been more active and eating healthier, and would suspect I have lost a little, but think if I had lost 10kg I would notice my clothes feeling different. This is why I'm concerned.
What difference does that weight limit make? If I buy a 100kg max weight treadmill and walk on it as 110kg, is anything bad going to happen, or can I get away with it? If I was more over I wouldn't consider it, but I'm not sure if 10kg, or potentially 6kg, is too much over the threshold?
Thanks folks!
edit: spelling
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2023.05.22 15:40 ssovm Defending the Draft 2023: Atlanta Falcons

"Year 1 After the Reset"
I'll start by saying a lot of Falcons fans are pretty excited for the upcoming year. The previous GM, Thomas Dimitroff, is still regarded as one of the greatest GMs we've ever had if you look at the record, but the state of the team with his departure was in rough shape. Matt Ryan, with his bloated contract due to restructures and extensions, was not performing at a high level. Julio Jones got his bag and after years of injured seasons got traded to the Titans. Despite not being on the team for 2022, their contracts hung around the necks of the Falcons like Frodo approaching Mount Doom - $56M in dead cap JUST from these two guys. As a result, for the first two years of new GM Terry Fontenot and new HC Arthur Smith, they've had to scrap together a team with prove-it deals just to get by. When you think about how devoid of talent this team has been for two years, then two straight seasons of 7-10 records is actually quite good.
2022 was like walking in mud up a mountain. We've reached the top and now the real work begins.
The team's offensive vision now couldn't really be more clear. And it also couldn't be more different than the previous regime. Instead of a vertical passing game with Matt Ryan, Julio, and other great receivers, the Falcons are now focused on "positionless football" on the offense.
I personally believe the media gets it wrong with what the Falcons are supposed to be. They're not trying to run a "prehistoric offense." They CAN run a smashmouth offense if they want, but they can also go vertical. Many teams talk positionless football, but the Falcons are perhaps one of the few who actually preach it. What's required in that case is a bunch of in between skill players with great/elite level traits:
· Cordarelle Patterson: WRB
· Kyle Pitts: TE/WR
· Jonnu Smith: TE/FB
· Drake London: WTE
· Bijan Robinson: RB/WR
Even Desmond Ridder, who boasts an unofficial 4.49 40 time can pick up chunks on a scramble. And speaking of Ridder, much hoopla has been swirling on the alleged missteps by the Falcons FO on the QB situation. To put it briefly the FO clearly believes in him (and his <$1M cap hit for 2023), and they want a system that isn't heavily reliant on an elite QB and rather devote resources to the rest of the team. Ridder's job is to identify the defensive coverages, adjust the play if needed, and execute. The strategy is to limit too many out-of-structure plays and moments where he has to put the team on his back a la Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. After all, this is what he's good at - he was always lauded as an excellent processor and he's athletic when needed.
The defense has renewed purpose and vision as well. Ryan Nielsen, ex-Saints co-DC, is now the Falcons DC, and if anyone paid attention, this man is a defensive line guru. Fun fact, in 2016 before Nielsen joined as the Saints DL coach, the Saints had the 6th fewest sacks in the league. From 2017-2022, the Saints were top 5 in sacks 4 years and top 8 for the other two years. So while Saints fans will tell you they'll be just fine without him, Cam Jordan voiced his displeasure by the fact that we hired him. Nielsen likes big, explosive guys up front who have sound technique and can stop the run even with a light box, giving more help to long defensive backs who can bottle up receivers until the big guys can get home. Since Nielsen is brand new, I consider the offensive vision and make-up much more well-defined than the defense. The defense just got an enormous infusion of talent and is likely adjusting its scheme. It'll take more than a year for this defense to be what Nielsen wants it to be. But even going from 23rd in the league to even maybe 15th will immediately translate to a few more wins, which should put us in playoff contention on that alone.
So in summary, the Dirty Birds have reset, and this year will be very telling on how the FO's strategy will look like on the field. Many regard this as "Year 1 After the Reset" because the dead weight of the previous regime is finally removed.
Notable Falcons Free Agent Additions, Trades, and Resignings/Extensions
· RG Chris Lindstrom (5 yr $102.5M) - Extension
· RT Kaleb McGary (3 yr $34.5M) - FA resigning
· P Bradley Pinion (3 yr 8.65M) - FA resigning
· LB Lorenzo Carter (2 yr $9M) - FA resigning
· S Jessie Bates III (4 yr $64.02M) – FA
· DT David Onyemata (3 yr $24.5M) - FA
· LB Kaden Elliss (3 yr $21.5M) - FA
· QB Taylor Heinicke (2 yr $14M) - FA
· CB Mike Hughes (2 yr $7M) – FA
· DE Calais Campbell (1 yr $7M) - FA
· OLB Bud Dupree (1 yr $3M) - FA
· WR Mack Hollins (1 yr $2.5M) - FA
· WR Scotty Miller (1 yr $1.2M) - FA
· CB Jeff Okudah (Trade 5th rounder 159th - $3.6M cap hit for 2023)
· TE Jonnu Smith (Trade 7th rounder - $6M cap hit for 2023)
As evidenced by the very active offseason, the Falcons have remade the team with the 2nd most cap space in the league going into the 2023 offseason. The Falcons have a very intentional mindset about the offseason. The draft is not where you fill holes - you do that in FA. So their FA was a ton of need signings. And while there were a few big signings - S Jessie Bates, DT David Onyemata, and LB Kaden Eliss being the three significant ones on defense, GM Fontenot still didn't get too crazy with the available cash. He still sought after high upside 1-year deals and depth signings, as well as two fairly significant trades in CB Okudah and TE Smith. You can see a very large portion of the free agency period spent on the defense. If every guy here as well as who we drafted were to repeat their 2022 sack numbers, we would double our total team sacks and be borderline top 10 in the league. This is important because the biggest complaint in the draft about the Falcons was a perceived lack of attention on the defense.
NFL Draft
In one of the most unpredictable drafts in recent memory, the options for the Falcons in the first round were much discussed. Sitting at Pick #8, they had the ability to move up for a QB, sit and take BPA, or move back and collect more picks. Many national media types felt they were going for a QB given their due diligence spent on top-30 visits with most of the top 4 QBs in the draft. Others focused on drafting for need and said the Falcons would be absolutely stupid not to go for an edge rusher, whoever might be available. Cynthia Frelund even had the Falcons staying pat at 8 and drafting Will Levis because he can throw the ball hard (probably the laziest take I saw the whole offseason).
Falcons fans who understand this regime however understood that Fontenot has repeatedly since the very first press conference said they draft BPA and don't care for positional value. This was evidenced by the Kyle Pitts pick two years ago at #4 overall. So with that in mind…
Round 1, Pick 8 - RB Bijan Robinson, Texas – 5’11” 215 lbs – Grade: A-
Cue the laugh track that Head Coach Arthur Smith and GM Terry Fontenot couldn't give two shits about. They wanted the most elite player in the draft and they got him. This was actually who they always wanted and you could tell with how Arthur Smith was positively beaming during the introductory press conference.
Some have him as the greatest RB prospect in the last ten years. Some say he's the best since AP or LT21. When you watch his highlight reel, there are many things about his game that nobody argues against - he's a do-it-all, true 3-down back who has incredible vision, contact balance, body control, and acceleration to turn a 2 yard gain into a house call. He can line up in the slot and make incredible catches too. When looking at the skill players on this team, Bijan couldn't fit more perfectly. He comes into a situation with a top 5 OL in run-blocking and should hit the ground running day 1. He has to potential to elevate this offense to truly unstoppable levels.
Let's talk a little bit about positional value. This pick was panned by media heads because of the fact that he's an RB. Regardless of Bijan's talent, the numbers about positional value don't really lie, and if you manage your NFL franchise trying to maximize value, you will absolutely abhor this pick. The Falcons even passed up DT Jalen Carter for Bijan which shows you they aren't playing money ball. Will it come back to bite them? Maybe. But there are other factors to consider - will the team fit increase the value of an elite RB like Bijan? If he frequently plays in the slot, does that change his value? What is even the value of a guy who can elevate everyone else like Bijan can?
The Falcons clearly believe in other things too. Bijan is not only an elite RB prospect coming into a team tailor-made for him. He's also an amazing human being and a natural leader. When you have a guy who beams positivity coming into a locker room (his nickname he says is “Smiley”), when those moments get tough, he will put the team on his back and tell the locker room he's going to score for them. This is all intangible roll-your-eyes type of stuff, but the coaching staff really believes in it and thinks this is how they win a Super Bowl.
The last and perhaps most important thing about this pick that gets me excited is how versatile he makes our offense. He's "positionless." Arthur Smith could call a play with a power run formation with Pitts, Bijan, Jonnu, and London, and Ridder could audible that into an empty backfield. All Ridder has to do is make the read on the coverage and execute. I slightly joke that we may even see the first play run out of 32 personnel grouping in the NFL.
Round 2, Pick 38 - OT Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse – 6’5” 318 lbs – Grade: B+
Falcons traded a 4th round pick to the Colts to move up six spots to select Bergeron from Quebec. I was not overly excited about losing that 4th round pick, but to give up that much to move up, there must have been conviction that Bergeron would not have lasted another six picks. As evidenced by the Cowboys debating their first round selection between Bergeron and DT Mazi Smith, Bergeron was highly thought of in the NFL as a draft prospect. At 6' 5" 318 lbs, he finished his last year with a 75.2 PFF overall grade. He actually did better at pass blocking, but most people looking at his tape tell a story of an excellent run blocker with some deficiencies at movement to get in front of quick edge guys.
His weaknesses can be potentially rectified by kicking him inside to play at LG, which was by far the biggest hole on the Falcons offense. The thought here is to take his excellent run-blocking, immediately plug a hole on the line, and perhaps when LT Jake Matthews is done in ATL, move Bergeron outside to play at LT. They love him as a prospect and adding another big guy on the line who loves to enforce his will on running plays will make this offense even more potent. With the addition of Bergeron, we have now 5 locked in guys to develop together, giving the QB the confidence to execute.
Round 3, Pick 75 - DE Zach Harrison, Ohio State – 6’5” 274 lbs – Grade: B-
Falcons stood at their 3rd round selection and picked Zach Harrison out of Ohio State. Zach was a top five overall recruit and the top defensive end prospect out of high school. He's 6'5" 274 lbs with enormous length at 36 1/4" arms. His story: a top end prospect with elite measurables who basically couldn't live up to his potential at Ohio State. He fits what Nielsen is looking for his defensive ends, and if the concerns here are around his movement and effort, then Nielsen likely sees this as a great project. With returning players and new additions (such as Calais Campbell), he will begin as a rotational edge player at the bottom of the depth chart, so he has plenty of time to learn.
Round 4, Pick 113 - CB Clark Phillips III, Utah – 5’9” 184 lbs – Grade: A+
In the fourth round, Falcons selected Clark Phillips III, potentially a steal in the draft. At 5'9" 184 lbs with a 4.51 40 time, he likely fell in the draft due to his measurables. But as he would say, "Take a look at my tape and tell me where I got burned." He has excellent technique and football IQ - you watch him talk and he already sounds like a coach with how he's able to speak to defensive concepts, his analysis of film study, and how he can manipulate QBs. His experience is mostly on the outside, but his size might relegate him to nickel corner where he could potentially be Clark Phillips Island there. He even matched up in college against Drake London who has 7 inches on him and held his own. Now he gets to do that every day. I'm very excited for this player - he has the potential to make a big impact on the team even in his rookie year.
Round 7, Pick 224 - S DeMarcco Hellams, Alabama – 6’1” 203 lbs – Grade: B-
In the 7th round, the Falcons selected DeMarcco Hellams out of Alabama. He's a bigger defensive back at 6'1" 203 lbs, so he fills a bit of an "enforcer" need. He can line up close, cover tight-ends, and lay the hammer on run plays. He also has good special teams value. He led Alabama with 108 tackles (3 for loss), had one interception, and started all 13 games.
Round 7, Pick 225 - G Jovaughn Gwyn, South Carolina – 6’2” 297 lbs - Grade: D+
Right after Hellams, Falcons had the next pick where they selected Jovaughn Gwyn out of South Carolina. If I had to say what my least favorite pick was, it's probably this one. This is only because the OL room is pretty deep at the moment, so he comes in already on a bubble to make the 53-man roster. A guy with his height would need great technique to overcome his physical limitations. His experience is primarily on the RG, so it's possible he may compete to backup Lindstrom or our presumed starting center Drew Dalman. One thing Fontenot made clear was that he wanted it to be "difficult to make the team." So bringing in competition could be regarded as valuable, even if they may likely not make the team. Still, I’m not in love with the pick. Even a wide receiver would’ve been more helpful at this spot.
Final Roster Prediction
QB: (2) Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke
RB: (4) Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson, Avery Williams
FB: (1) Keith Smith
TE: (4) Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, Parker Hesse, John FitzPatrick
WR: (5) Drake London, Mack Hollins, Scotty Miller, KhaDarel Hodge, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
OL: (9) LT Jake Matthews, LG Matthew Bergeron, C Drew Dalman, RG Chris Lindstrom, RT Kaleb McGary, G/T Barry Wesley, C/G Matt Hennessy, G/T Josh Miles, G Jalen Mayfield
EDGE: (6) Calais Campbell, Arnold Ebiketie, Lorenzo Carter, Bud Dupree, DeAngelo Malone, Zach Harrison
IDL: (5) Grady Jarrett, David Onyemata, Ta'Quon Graham, Eddie Goldman, Joe Gaziano
LB: (4) Kaden Elliss, Troy Andersen, Mykal Walker, Nate Landman
CB: (6) AJ Terrell, Jeff Okudah, Clark Phillips III, Mike Hughes, Darren Hall, Dee Alford
S: (4) Jessie Bates III, Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins, DeMarcco Hellams
ST: (3) K Younghoe Koo, P Bradley Pinion, LS Liam McCullough
Looking Ahead
With the addition of Bijan, we now have an extremely young and high-potential offensive core group (ages starting the 2023 season):
Desmond Ridder, QB: 24
Bijan Robinson, RB: 21
Tyler Allgeier, RB: 23
Drake London, WR: 22
Kyle Pitts, TE: 22
Falcons are projected with $40.7M in cap space for 2024 according to after getting back another $12M of dead cap to Deion Jones's contract in 2023. Restructures are likely for next year to open up some more space and give the team another splashy offseason, though not likely to be as splashy as this year.
The biggest question mark will be concerning Desmond Ridder. He has all the tools now to succeed: a redshirt year + full offseason, good OL unit, elite playmakers, top level run game, a favorable offensive system, and the confidence from his head coach. He has no "excuse" if he plays badly, but even still, he will get a long leash. I've seen people say "if he doesn't play up to par, he'll lose his job by week 5." What we've learned with Mariota is that Arthur Smith goes into the season with a plan and very rarely deviates his plan, saying "we don't want to make emotional decisions." Mariota lasted until the bye week which probably was the idea from the beginning. Ridder will likely get the full season, regardless of his performance because that's Arthur Smith's plan for him.
If Ridder is not the guy, they'll know after this season. And if they need to move on from him, the pieces are already set on this team. Trading the house to move up in the draft for a QB or for a veteran is in the cards, which will allow the Falcons to make a push in the following years.
Parting Thoughts
Falcons fans are understandably more excited about this season than they have been in a long while. The baggage of the previous regime has finally been dropped off, and the team feels refreshed, young, and ready. We have coaching and team management we mostly agree with. The only direction at this point appears to be pointing up. It's reassuring when Calais Campbell, a future HOFer, chose the Falcons as his team for the next year because he believes the team will "surprise a lot of people this year." The Falcons are beginning to have a team where the coaching staff wants it to be "hard to make the roster." Ask any Falcons fan - going through 5 straight losing seasons is difficult (you have to go back to the late 1980s to find a stretch like that), but it feels amazing once the reset button is hit and you can focus on the future.
2023 Expectation: 10-7 and playoff bound.
Edit: Updated 53-man roster with a few changes over the past week.
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2023.05.22 12:04 WaveOfWire One Hell Of A Vacation - Chapter 83

First Prev Next Royal Road
u/KieveKRS providing the Trash certification of quality!
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Harrow adjusted the hood of her vest, the cutouts for her ears anchoring it to her head as she fetched a fresh ironwood knife from one of her many pockets and passed it to Joe below her, his body resting on the ground under her widened stance. The Grand Hunter grunted his appreciation from his prone form, reaching with the implement and scratching out some of the excess material that they had forgotten to account for when asking the Atmo to do the prototype.
She was tempted to sit on his back, if only to rest her own from the awkward position. She had been holding up their latest project for a while now, the dulled edge of the wooden knives being unsuitable for prolonged use and delaying the process, but they didn’t want to risk giving Heralt more work at the moment by bending or breaking their limited metal. Not when he was busy speeding along the manual lathe, anyway.
As funny as the concept was, Joe had the idea to hook something of a treadmill up to one, whatever security member needing cardio training powering it for the workshop and not needing to be so far away from possible events during their exercise. The motion would be transferred out via drive shafts and gears, turning the exercise into 'power' for useful rotational machines. Heralt was also a bit of a hard-ass when it came to his work, so whoever was on ‘mill duty’ would be about ready to metaphorically keel over and die by the time the male was satisfied.
It wasn’t something they would have seriously humoured if it wasn’t for the new temporary workers, the group picking up the slack in some much needed areas. Though Harrow could go help the smith, her job was mostly prototyping and getting new ideas into working order so that others could manufacture it. Usually with Joseph’s help—when he wasn’t busy making sure that everything was going well or correcting Jax’s more formal language lessons with her own casual speech.
The Human could speak Lilhun passably now, at least, but still preferred to use his own tongue most of the time. Something to do with wanting an edge in what conversations were happening. And Tel. Something about Tel.
The Blade’s name passing through her thoughts made her back hurt even more.
The grey-furred female had taken to teaching Harrow a lot of things, though none of it was the flashy or lethal information that the Head of Technology had been looking for when she had originally sought lessons. It was a lot of learning how to walk silently and slip in and out of populated areas without drawing attention to herself. She wanted to think she was doing a good job, but witnessing how effortlessly the Wraiths managed it had her pouting and complaining to Jax on more than one occasion. The ‘girls’ just seemed to disappear, even if you were watching them go.
“….Row. Harrow?”
She blinked at the strained voice, looking down at the heavy frame she had inadvertently rested on Joseph’s stomach, the male having rolled over to get a better angle at something. She gasped, tilting it more to alleviate the pressure and feeling the muscles in her back complain.
“Sorry,” she murmured apologetically, her ears flicking in embarrassment for losing herself in thought enough to become a hindrance. Joe extended an arm to raise a thumb, a weak cough robbing his ability to speak as his other paw rubbed at his chest, a slight wheeze escaping him while he caught his breath.
“All good. Need to get the weight down on this thing anyway,” he dismissed after a moment, his cursory checks of his work ending with a satisfied nod. He motioned for Harrow to lift it up enough for him to escape, the female doing as requested and the Human slipping downwards with a few stiff wiggles.
Free, the male let himself go limp on the ground, his heaving chest sending a pang of guilt through her mind as she realized that he likely spent more than two attempts trying to get her attention.
“You okay?”
An unconcerned wave of his claws was given in response, his paw firmly anchored to his stomach. “You can…. Phew. You can let it down.”
She obliged, gingerly letting the project fall back down above his head, a jolt as it rolled away from her slightly causing her to lose her balance. Joseph shot an arm out, pulling her back so that she didn’t land into it face first. Her haunches landed on his hips heavily as a result, a fresh grunt of discomfort given for the effort.
Her cheeks instantly burned, a scramble to her feet was covered by an extended paw to help the Grand Hunter to his own. She winced at the weight of hauling him up, the Human much denser than a Lilhun of a similar build. Only Jax was so heavy, and he had quite some height on the Human when standing fully erect.
Perceptive—or perhaps sympathetic to what she had spent the last hour doing—Joseph reached out and idly moulded her lower back with his claws, the dull tips of his digits sinking into her sore muscles in a way that made her purr with deep satisfaction as she melted into his touch more than she would openly admit.
“Feel good?” he asked with an amused interest, stopping after a moment to crack his knuckles.
She gave him a deadpanned stare, discontent that he had stopped. Jax had rubbed her back quite often, but he lacked the delicate touch to really get in the way Joe did, as well as the grip strength to back it up. Maybe she should ask?
Regardless, the male was raising his brow at the continued ruminations taking her away from their work, a slight hint of concern in his eyes.
“If I strip off, would you do more?” she prodded teasingly to cover her absent mind, her eyes going from sensual to shocked when he gripped her by the jaw, manipulating her head as his gaze scoured her face for something.
“When’s the last time you slept?”
“What do you mean?”
He tightened his hold on her, an annoyed expression marred by worry. “You’re not all there today. Plus, your tail had been flicking by your feet on and off for a while.”
He let her glance down. The traitorous appendage was doing as he said, a subdued expectation percolating in the orange fluff licking the ground around her legs as it waited for a tail that didn’t exist to seek it. She didn’t want to tell him that she could only drift off when she was with him since he had gotten hurt, Jax’s presence only soothing half of her unrest. She didn’t want to think about why, though there were other reasons too.
She wasn’t stupid, her inclusion was irritating Tel, the grey-furred female growing less and less concerned about the arrangement Joseph agreed to in the wake of whatever compulsion was driving the Blade to be in constant contact with her mate. Harrow had a sneaking suspicion that Tel had bonded, but didn’t have enough evidence to confidently say. It would explain the anxiety when Joe wasn’t around for a while, as well as the increasingly close relationship between her and Pan, but some things just didn’t line up right.
She pushed his paw aside lightly, turning her attention to the thing they had spent most of the last few suns working on rather than thoughts that didn’t matter. “I’ll get some rest later when Jax gets off duty. Is it done now?”
Joseph hummed his disapproval, but a slow blink and a shrug seemed enough for him to shelf the issue for the time being. “As done as it’s going to be. At least until we get some feedback.”
“So, do we show this to Bratik or Sorren first?” she asked with a curious tone, happy to switch topics.
“Both,” he answered tiredly, “I think they’re out back in the sun.”
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“A moving chair?” Bratik asked curiously from his seated position, Sorren allowing the mate to rest their head against his chest. “I would not have expected to see one in a place like this.”
“Custom order,” Joseph explained with a grin, patting the ‘wheelchair’ fondly. “It’s a heavy bastard, but the metal we had to use for a few parts is solid until we can get a roller underway for tubes.”
“Think that will be an issue?” Harrow added to the translation, the question directed to the able-bodied of the two.
Sorren lit up with a bright smile, gratitude written all over his face. “Not at all. Bratik will be able to travel wherever he would like with this, yes?”
Joseph scratched his chin, a pensive expression returned. “Yes and no. It’s too heavy to do anything by himself. Not with one arm, anyway. It won’t be a problem if someone helps him around, though.”
The ex-High Hunter returned a dry chuckle, a slightly resigned tone to his voice. “I suppose I will be of limited use.”
“Lots of use to be had yet, Bratik,” Joe insisted with a paw raised chest high to distance himself from the assertion. “If nothing else, Sorren will like the help around the chapel.”
“And we might get someone with more medical experience,” Harrow offered, pausing to think. “Who knows, we might get lucky and physiotherapy will take care of most of it. Could get use of your leg again, and the arm will heal naturally. Hopefully, back to normal.”
The mated males looked at each other, nodding with hopeful expressions. Sorren bowed his head towards the Human. “Regardless, your paws are what keeps my mate with me. Even this much is more than I could have ever asked for. You have my heartfelt thanks, Grand Hunter.”
“Oh, fuck off with the title,” the male grumbled, gesturing for Harrow to keep his whining to himself for the moment instead of translating it. “Let’s get him in the chair and you guys can go for a walk. Sound good?”
They accepted, Sorren and Joseph helping the ash-furred male into his new mode of transportation. A few tests proved that he wouldn’t be able to do much in it without assistance, but he might be able to go around the den where the floors were level. Even the Hall wasn’t expecting too much of him, which seemed to ease the self-pity that the injured male felt.
With a look of joy that Harrow doubted would have ever existed on the enfeebled male’s face ever again, the two took a small stroll around the farm plot, Bratik reaching out and lightly brushing his paw over the leaves as they passed by. Sorren's look of contentment stirred something within the female. Just seeing that Joseph was willing to spend so many sleepless moons for their den was one thing, but doing the same for all in his pack made her pause, her tail once again low and expectant.
She excused herself as the two recently-mobile Lilhuns did the same to show off the new accommodation to their friends, the orange-furred female heading out to check on how Heralt was doing with the new wire she had asked him to make. The thing Tel had her working on in secret was almost done and all the pieces were ready for assembly, but she needed the wire and some final touch-ups before she could present it to Joe.
Anything to distract her for now.
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Joseph waited for the response to the question, mostly out of curiosity than anything else. The largest of the Atmo carved her response for all to see, though the English was effectively useless for anyone but him at the moment.
[We do not judge other species,] Mama explained via tablet, a contemplative tilt of his head returned from Tel’s lap. Pan waited for Violet to translate it onto her own writing surface, their adoptive daughter trying her blade at acting as an intermediary while the group talked.
He smirked at the arrangement they assumed in the ‘hidden sanctum’ outside of his office, the high walls blocking all but the sky above them as gentle winds flowed through the enclosed space, Pan’s white fur almost glistening from whatever moisture was left from their bath.
Tel was leaning against the wall, seated on her ankles in the shade. Joseph had taken the opportunity to lie down, his waist in the sun while he enjoyed not having to squint and feeling her thighs on his neck. Mama was lowered across from him, Pan using her as a backrest with her legs splayed out. Violet was bouncing between the two every so often to claim as a pillow whenever she wasn’t walking over to Scarlet to play with the birds, the odd collection of avians having become a regular enough occurrence that they had started entering the office when the window was open to sit on his desk. It was surprising at first, but he had given in after the first few times and now kept some jerky in there to feed them if they behaved.
“I would have assumed you of many mates. Much like smaller insects,” Tel mused, not particularly concerned with the possible insult.
Mama chittered, wiping the wax on her tablet flat as Pan closed her eyes to enjoy the breeze. [I am sure some prefer it, but the majority of us choose a partner for life.]
Joseph read the answer, wracking his brain to remember how many species stuck to a single love for their entire lives. He knew there were a few, but the specific ones escaped him. It had been quite a while since he poured over the required reading Rob had him digest before the cruise, and even then his recollection was spotty at best.
Violet translated the answer, Tel offering a correction in the grammar that he didn’t catch—if only because the script still gave him a migraine. Deciding that she was bored with practising her writing, the young Queen laid her tablet down and wandered to the edge of their area to bother Scarlet. A raven landed on her base, making for a very still Atmo as she peered over her shoulder, a slight vibration telling of her excitement.
Pan giggled, a slit of amber visible beneath her eyelid as she looked to see whatever had him so amused. Tel ran her claws through his scalp, the female being the most at ease he had seen her in a while. He offered a smile, receiving a light peck for his troubles, as well as Pan looking perfectly content with everything about the situation. Joseph looked at both of them before shifting his gaze to Violet, his relaxation becoming a hesitant frown.
“Wait, Violet uses us as a guide.” He looked at Mama with a raised brow and a defeated grin. “Am I going to need to fight off two Atmo when she grows up?”
“Overprotective?” Tel teased, poking his cheek. He frowned, her melodic laughter lightening his soul as Pan joined in. He batted the paw away, unable to keep the smile away any longer.
“She can almost kick my ass as it is. Think I’d do okay versus two of them?”
“She has been taught by yourself,” Pan said, offering him a lifeline.
“And she will surpass him when she removes her protective gear,” Tel countered, taking great joy in making sure he didn’t have a way to save his ego. Mama chittered her amusement, opting to rest her blades in front of Pan, the white-furred female laying a paw to them to stroke softly.
“Hard to be ‘top dog’ when I’m competing against living weapons,” he quipped warmly, a thought crossing his mind. “Speaking of; Scarlet?”
“Yes, sir?” she responded, taking his tone as permission to continue playing with the birds.
“How’s Faye doing with the wolves?”
The Wraith held her arm out, a raven having landed on it and was patiently waiting for a morsel of food. “She insists they will be suitable for broader interaction soon. Idee was asked to make harnesses for them, as per your description.”
Idee, there was a surprise. The Grand Huntress giving up her position and fleeing across the land to join a pack with rumours surrounding it was a questionable move, but he had to admit, she could leave whenever she wanted under the premise of being a temporary worker. It wasn’t like he could stop her—the contract with Trill protected her—not that he would want to anyway. She had quickly become a close friend of his bonded girlfriend and the two spent much of their time chatting while they set about tailoring whatever was needed or crossed their mind.
With her inclusion to Pan’s workload, things around the base had sped up wherever leather or textiles were involved. There were even a few new summer-appropriate dresses spreading amongst the females, though they were sparse in number and were reserved for personal time. The males seemed to prefer vests or going topless as the heat increased, Jax taking to the latter more recently.
However the fashion trend started, Joseph found himself in a sea of people who looked far less ‘survivalist’ whenever the pack was winding down. Add in the new chess boards they had managed to roll out and the barracks occasionally held fifteen to twenty people playing games and laughing. With smaller activities in the mix—horseshoes, sparring, communal feasts after a larger hunt—people enjoying themselves had begun making the place feel welcoming.
Pan nodded towards Scarlet, watching everything with a lazily sweeping gaze. “With the forward lodge in use, our leathers have increased in production. There should be no restrictions, as far as materials are concerned, for the foreseeable future.”
“Mi’low happy to be the fuck away from me?” he asked with a sly grin. The actress was one of the first people to ask to go on the extended hunting trips, if only to get away from Toril. Maybe himself too, but he wasn’t too worried about that.
Once Toril met the first of the previous Grand Hunters to end up under Joseph, he had spent a lot of time asking her about the Human due to their extended relationship. Though it seemed to be a purely clinical set of questions, Mi’low quickly lost her temper with the inquisitive male and jumped at the chance to be free of him for a few nights. With Joseph and Pan around to supervise the rest of her pack, as well as any Heads that they were regularly employed by, there wasn’t any concern about them falling out of order. Not that the Human suspected they would—everyone was pretty well acclimated to the pack and how things worked now. Save for the sparse new Lilhuns who were too nervous to act up.
As amusing as it was to have the newest members of the pack that trickled in through smaller caravans here and there bowing to him in respectful fear—most of the traders having adjusted their routes through territories to accommodate the growing pack—he really just wanted to bang his head on a wall after a few weeks of it. That was what he got for wearing what had been affectionately dubbed Wraith armour by the girls, their similar garb when ‘on duty’ designed to be as visually disturbing as possible to the animal-like race. The new trench coat sported thicker plates and some more macabre framing built in, making it far more imposing than the previous model that had been effectively ruined by a sword. Once Atrox and Mama insisted on it, anyway.
It was very much armour now, the weight of the garment increasing threefold in response to the scar he had on his back. There was a lighter coat made for when he wasn’t going to be running into combat or scaring the shit out of the visitors, but it was getting warm enough that even that seemed overkill. Enough so that he was debating joining Jax in taking off his shirt and maybe asking if Pan could do shorts for him.
“We’re happy to be free of her,” Tel deadpanned, her distaste for the female presenting as quiet venom. Joseph reached up to tap her snout with a finger, the scrunched face and flattened ears making him chuckle.
“Be nice. She’s welcome to her opinion as long as it doesn’t cause issues.”
The grey-furred female leaned lower to pout at him, her subtle dark stripes highlighting her lithe form. “You are my Sheath and her Grand Hunter. The only grievances levied against you should be that you do not bed her.”
He rolled his eyes, Pan’s chuckling ruining any minor annoyance he might have had regarding the almost reverential opinion Tel held of him at times. When she wasn’t scolding him for doing something stupid, anyway.
“Want me to?” he asked sarcastically, a nonplussed expression showing how appealing he found the prospect.
“Want me to bed you?” she challenged, preemptive victory in her voice. He opened his mouth to argue, closing it when she extended a claw in playful threat.
“Pan, Tel’s bullying me.”
The white-furred female freed herself from Mama, the Atmo watching Violet try to mimic Scarlet by holding her joint out for a raven to land on and failing so far. Pan stood over them, her normally short frame towering. She placed a fist to her lips for a moment before unceremoniously nudging him onto one of Tel’s thighs while she lid down to occupied the other, a paw grabbing for his hand as she closed her eyes to get comfortable.
“I am not furniture,” Tel complained with a laugh, Pan disregarding her with her own.
“You must bully us both now,” she declared, a wide yawn betraying the sleepiness the heat of the sun imparted on her. Tel grumbled, but copied the stroking of Joseph’s scalp on Pan, the latter dozing within seconds. The Grand Hunter glanced up to the grey-furred female, the warm smile of contentment complimenting her own drooping eyelids, her having gained some comfort having the two of them within her touch. He found the whole arrangement soothing, enough so that he was likely fighting Tel for who fell asleep next.
Whoever it was, Mama’s quiet chittering was what he drifted off to, Violet’s hushed excitement likely telling of her success in having a bird use her as a perch.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“Think it’ll work?” he asked the seated white-furred male, Toril pondering his request with his persistent smile. Tersa was busy crushing some more of the purple crystal that worked as a painkiller for the pack, a mining expedition having returned with some. The two were in the process of trying to break down as many things as they could so the chemist could run tests, though he was limited in materials for now.
The small building they had erected to act as a lab was built with expansion in mind, so it wasn’t as thoroughly insulated as the other constructions. Luckily, the heat meant that it wasn’t such a concern for now. It wasn’t overly furnished, a few tables and benches to act as work surfaces and storage, but the ex-Grand Hunter was more than happy to do his job with the stone and metal tools, ironwood substituting where better variants had yet to be produced. Some containers lined a table against the wall, consisting of mostly compounds he had managed to make so far. Something that was looking to be a mild acid that Pan used for her leather processing, but concentrated enough for other uses, was stored in an iron-lined container, though Joseph couldn’t wager how necessary the precaution was. He wasn’t about to tell the guy whose job it was to deal with the stuff what to do.
Toril’s eyes wandered over to Kaslin, the Wraith dutifully sorting some new materials into piles based on some obscure metric. Though the bronze-furred female seemed reticent and professional, Joseph knew for a fact that she was tied with Tel for her sadistic streak once the shackles of her disguise loosened. The iron-tipped whip she wore as a sash around her hips was tied off in a large bow behind her back, looking like little more than a fashion accessory at the moment. A twitch of her paw and she had an excess of twenty feet of supersonic lethality at her fingertips. Claw tips. Claws.
The whip was fucking scary.
Though the servile female had been assigned as their primary supervision since the two joined, neither seemed to suspect that ‘Klohe’ was the one carrying out a lot of their more mundane tasks while Toril taught Tersa the smaller nuances of chemistry. Though they may have expected some hyper-specialized Blade to be watching them through a scope or something, the fact that the biggest threat in the room was currently placing several strips of healroot in some sort of solution while passively listening to the conversation was amusing to the Human.
“I believe it would, though I ask that I not be involved in its creation,” the chemist answered after considering it, his wandering gaze settling on Tersa looking proud over her pestle and mortar. It was small moments like that where Joseph could see the smile reach the male’s eyes, instead of seeming like an odd resting position for his face.
“Hey, works for me. I’m just glad you haven’t kicked me out for asking your opinion.”
Toril chuckled, waving a paw dismissively. “I doubt you will use your devices for more than defending your pack, Grand Hunter.”
He sighed, glancing at Pan as she tried to subdue her giggling at his frustrations. “I doubt a spice bomb would bring down a settlement.” He paused, his brow furrowed. “Maybe if we add a chamber for alcohol and set up an ignition? Fire bomb?”
The white-furred male simply smiled, content to leave the idea where it was. Joseph nodded, raising a palm up in apology.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to probe for your thoughts on it.”
“Worry not,” the male assured. “Your mind is much like the orange-furred female and my own. We tend to become absorbed by our musings. I do not take offence.”
“Good,” he replied with a relieved breath. “Anything you need before I head off?”
Toril’s eyes lost focus for a moment before coming back to the conversation with a blink. “Besides glassware, and perhaps some samples from yourself, there is little we would benefit from at the moment. Much of our work is determining the properties of the materials we have.”
“Samples?” both him and Pan asked at once, neither expecting such a request. Tersa raised a brow from her work, having caught the slight slip. Joseph kept his confused expression, hoping that the Blade assumed he picked up a word here and there rather than the fact that his girlfriend’s translation was largely unneeded by now.
“Oh yes. Blood, urine, sweat, saliva,” Toril listed off, his excitement growing. “You are an alien, Grand Hunter, there is much potential within your body. Compounds that perhaps may be uniquely produced or interactions to chemicals that our forms do not have.”
He opened his mouth, fluttering it closed as he tried to formulate a response. He clamped it shut, drawing his lips thin. “I…. guess? You’re the expert. Though, I thought you didn’t deal with biochemistry?”
The chemist laughed lightly. “All chemistry is fascinating, Grand Hunter. I am merely more versed in some than others.”
Joseph waited for more, but it seemed that is all he was going to get in response. “I don’t want to whip it out to piss here, but I can do blood and saliva now, if you want.”
The male lit up, beckoning Tersa and fetching a pair of processed cups. Gesturing for his arm, Toril gently examined it, finding the veins easily and dipping his claw in alcohol to sterilize it before making a surprisingly clean cut, letting steady drip of the crimson fluid fill a portion of the container while the Blade held the other towards his mouth.
He eyed the female cautiously, but she seemed fairly unperturbed by the odd requirement, so he gathered as much saliva as he could and poured it into the cup, repeating it twice more when she kept the cup there.
Satisfied with their collections, Tersa placed the spit aside with some other containers, sealing the top with a leaf while Toril happily waited for the Human’s natural clotting factor to stymie the bleeding. He released Joseph’s arm, the Grand Hunter glancing around for healroot to bandage the new cut fruitlessly.
“May I?” Pan offered, a claw pointing to his wrist. Not seeing the harm in it, and figuring that it would work just as well for the purpose, he extended his arm. Her warm and textured tongue grazed over the wound a few times, the female nodding to herself when she was satisfied that it was working as she wished.
Toril watched the interaction with a speculative flame in his eye, more and more interest garnered in the sealed injury. “Curious.”
“What is?” Joseph asked, wiping the saliva off his skin gingerly with his shirt.
“That worked almost instantly,” the chemist commented, his smile faltering as his mind churned. “Have you previous experience with the interaction?”
He nodded hesitantly. “Yeah, Harrow licked the cut on my back when I brought Bratik back. Stopped the bleeding pretty much on the spot, but healroot was needed to seal it and whatnot. Didn’t get infected, at least.”
The white-furred male hummed to himself, spinning on his chair and reaching for a few containers. Sensing that the Human had stopped existing for the guy, Joseph bid farewell to Tersa and Kaslin, receiving a disinterested wave and a bow in return. Gesturing for Pan to lead the way, they left the lab, coming out across from the Hall. A Lilhun from security greeted them with a hurried pace.
“Grand Hunter, Huntress Pan. I pray the sun has treated you well,” the guard opened, their chest heaving slightly from the jog.
“You as well,” Pan returned politely, her head tilting in response to the sudden approach, “What may we be of assistance in?”
“There is another caravan.”
Her brow furrowed. “Yes, we have them come fairly regularly now. Is there something in particular about it?”
The security member seemed conflicted, glancing at Joseph. “They are transporting Atmo.”
“Atmo?” Joseph prodded, his eyes narrowing at the phrasing. “As in; ‘Atmo are a part of the group?’”
The guard blinked, surprised to hear passable Lilhun from the Human. Joseph didn’t care about the slip. Something about how it was said had his instincts flickering flames internally.
“N-no, they…. They are transporting them on carriages.”
His eye twitched. “Details. Now.”
The Lilhun shrunk, unaccustomed to the Grand Hunter being anything but relaxed or mildly annoyed. Pan wrapped her tail around his hand, grounding him from losing his temper. He took a breath to even himself out.
“Sorry. What do you mean? Are they being treated like animals?”
A nod was returned after a moment, the flicker of anger growing into a solid base of embers but a light breeze away from igniting. He heard a low growl behind him, Pan likewise disturbed by the news.
“Escort them in,” he decided, a steeled expression dominating his face. “If we’re lucky, they’re just here to ‘trade’ for them and we can get them the fuck out of my territory. If we’re really lucky, they can help bring more, costs be damned.”
“If we are not so lucky?” the guard asked after a few seconds, their paw clutching for a sword the pack had traded for while Heralt was busy with other projects. Joseph waved them off.
“Then we deal with it as needed.”
The security member nodded, jogging back towards the gate at a slightly faster pace than they had arrived. Pan settled a bit, her loosening tail letting blood flow back into his fingers.
“Will you require your Wraith armour?”
He shook his head. “Not this time.” A sharp whistle drew two Wraiths from the shadows, Scarlet currently watching over Violet as the Queen worked with Rose and Cobalt to clean the den under Volta’s guidance. The deep gold-furred and brown-furred servants assumed their subdued posture in front of him, their heads lowered and eyes closed.
“You called, sir?”
“Faye, Raine. There is a caravan coming with Atmo being treated like trade goods. I want both of you ready to act on my signal if it’s needed.”
The two females exchanged a glance at his tone, a subtle sniff of the air told them of his simmering displeasure. With a pair of lurid smiles, they bowed, slipping away without a sound. He turned back to Pan, his girlfriend eyeing him with an intensity he suspected he was returning.
“Where’s Tel?”
“She should be preparing for her lessons with her protege.”
He cursed, looking back towards the gate to see the first hint of the caravan, his eyes widening as he saw the carts.
Ten Atmo, several close to Violet in size, all confined within a large cage on wheels. The adults were crowding around the children, their carapaces gashed and cut.
A black-furred paw encapsulated his shoulder, stopping him from marching over and breaking everyone that allowed the treatment to happen to the insects.
“Calm, Grand Hunter,” came the low baritone voice of Jax, Joseph shooting a venomous glare back. “You are scaring your pack.”
He glanced around, several passing members having tried their best to meld into walls when the surfaces stopped their panicked egress, the more senior Lilhuns clutching for their weapons and looking to him for permission to act on his rage. They seemed just as incensed to see people like the Atmo they had been working with treated so poorly. The solidarity eased him back a few levels.
Sensing the loaded coil of wrath being loosened slightly, Jax released him. “It would be wise to ascertain if there are more within their territory before we begin a war, Joseph. We may be of enough might to subdue these visitors, but we are ill equipped to fight the treaty.”
He spit, the only outlet for his vitriol being the simple action, but it spoke all the words he needed to. The pack moved their paws from their weapons, but the damage was done. The air throughout the settlement grew thick with enmity.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
“Two hundred of those snares, thirty bows, and a cart of meat,” the male offered calmly, the tension palpable.
Though they allowed two guards to enter with the trader—mostly in response to the aura permeating throughout the settlement—Joseph had played his interactions in a fairly levelheaded manner, though Jax was unable to scent if the Grand Hunter was presenting as such. Given by the subtle twitches of the guards, it was likely that they suspected he would attack at any moment.
It meant that the Human had reigned in his anger quite a bit. Neither were retreating or showing open hostility.
“For ten of those weapons and a few servants?” Joseph responded incredulously, his distaste evident for the descriptor of the Atmo. Pan didn’t carry the same tone, but her claws resting on the deployment mechanism of her bracers told of her opinion. “No. One hundred and twenty. We can supply the payment within the hour and you can be on your way.”
“They are very well trained,” the trader countered with a raised paw. “Simply threaten the smaller ones and the largest will follow your commands.”
A crack from the desk pierced the room, Joseph’s grip on a shelf snapping it. A shiver ran up Jax spine at his tone, the facade of translation fading to cold Lilhun.
“One hundred snares. Twenty bows. A cart of meat,” he listed tersely, each word clipped with growled purpose. Somehow, the clumsy pronunciation faded with his increasingly calm demeanour. It didn’t make the black-furred male any more relaxed, because each syllable carried a judgment weighing heavily on it. “Then you leave here enriched, and I get the insects and servants. This is not a haggle. This is a peace offering. Bring any other weapon you have when you make your next trip, and we will open regular trade relations. We might even offer you better terms than reasonable for the trouble.”
The two guards pulled their swords slightly, an eye kept on the uncovered Human. The merchant raised a paw to stop them with far more confidence than he should still have.
“You speak our language, yet do not know of the might Grand Hunter Pernel has at his disposal? What of Grand Hunter Trill? Do you wish to test the treaty?”
Joseph leaned forward in his chair, his claws interlaced on the desk. “I don’t care. He doesn’t want the insects. You can ferry them wherever you want, but you won’t be able to feed them long enough for them to survive the trip. They’re quite the drain in those numbers, right? Your supplies dwindled far faster than you thought, even when you starved them. What use is dead goods?”
The male narrowed his eyes. “We would trade for their limbs elsewhere, if so.”
“And get next to nothing for it,” he countered quickly. “You make the deal now, and you have weapons, hunting supplies, and enough food to trade down the line, if not just to eat yourselves.” He pointed a claw at the trader. “Deny me, and you lose out on a very profitable client.”
“And our lives,” the male commented, parsing the hidden threat. Joseph stared, not bothering to confirm or deny. The Lilhun mused the offer before nodding sharply. “So it will be. One hundred snares, twenty bows, a cart of meat. In return, you will receive the weapons and servants, as well as priority when we trade the last batch. I pray for a fruitful arrangement, Grand Hunter, lest the treaty be invoked.”
Jax almost expected the Grand Hunter to offer to ‘shake hands’, but the Human simply returned the nod and waved him off, Faye escorting the group outside as Raine remained.
“Raine, coordinate a few people to gather what they need. Order from the Grand Hunter. I want them packed up and gone before nightfall.”
The Wraith bowed, leaving with the door clacking closed behind her. Jax blinked.
“You are commanding the pack directly? Are you well?”
A loud crash jolted him from his stupor, Joseph’s fist passing through the table startling him, tablets of reports clattering to the ground.
Kids, Jax,” the male said, agony burning in his whispered words. “They were threatening the fucking kids to get the adults to listen. ‘Am I well?’ Fuck no, I’m not okay. I want to break every cock-sucking bone in their fucking bodies and dump the fucking mess on Pernel’s doorstep before burning the fucker alive.”
Joseph paused, his snarl and Lilhun-infused growl abating, a tearful remorse taking its place. “Come on. There’s Atmo who need treatment and people I need to get off my fucking lawn.”
The door to the office opened abruptly, Harrow peeking in. A short sniff and her ears pinned back, a hesitant fear stealing her faculties from her as she hid behind the wall.
“H-hey…. Um…. Joe?”
The Grand Hunter noticed the effect he was having, glancing at Pan, the white-furred female oddly subdued, though there was a sharp edge to her eyes. He looked back to the orange-furred female.
“What?” he snapped, stopping to rub his paws over his face roughly for a moment, a growl into his palms levelling his tone. “Sorry, just got worked up. It’s nothing about you. What do you need?”
“There’s…. There’s a pending communication on the terminal. It’s marked ‘urgent.’ I didn’t want to accept it without you.”
Jax walked over to the torn male to pat his back. “Go sate your curiosity, Grand Hunter. Your presence would only incite the pack as it is. We will see to it that they leave swiftly.”
The Human glared at him for a while, exhaling through his nose before nodding. “Okay. Keep an eye out. I doubt the girls will ask questions if you give them the ‘go-ahead’ when shit goes down.”
“We will act with impunity,” Jax growled, forgetting himself long enough to dig his claws in the male. He was keeping himself detached, but the possibility of such a fate befalling the den-kit had scorched his own self control as well. If they so much as bore steel against Violet, he doubted he would be the first to draw blood in the pack. With or without Joseph’s command.
Accepting the answer, and presumably calming down enough to think it through, the Grand Hunter left the room, pausing at the door to look back. “Jax?”
“Yes, Grand Hunter?”
The Human remained silent for a long while, a twitch of his lip betraying the snarl barely concealed as Pan walked quietly past him to oversee the exchange outside.
“One fucking move towards the Atmo,” he warned, though the words were not met for Jax. “I want them buried. No questions. No regrets.”
Jax knew that not one iota of the male was hidden behind those words. It was a sincere order. The black-furred male bowed for the first time in a long time.
“It will be done, Grand Hunter, as you command.”
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2023.05.22 04:00 AutoModerator Weekly Discussion Thread; Upcoming News; ICYMI [May 22, 2023]

Amapá Iron Ore Mine, Brazil [KDNC] [Flair]

Sonora Lithium Project, Mexico (Ganfeng Joint Venture) [KDNC] [Flair]

Hastings Technology Metals, Australia (ASX:HAS) [KDNC] [Flair]

Evergreen Lithium, Australia (ASX:EG1) - [KDNC] [Flair]

European Metal Holdings, Cinovec, Czech Republic (LSE:EMH) [KDNC] [Flair]

Passive Equity Investments - Notable Developments [KDNC] [Flair]

See the above menus for company links and announcements - noting that additionally Macarthur holds 20% of spin off Infinity Mining ASX:IMI

Analyst Reports and Recommendations [KDNC]

Date Link Who SP Summary / Price Target
2023-02-28 Kemeny Capital Kemeny Capital (investment research) 12.9p "Cadence Minerals has built a robust portfolio of base and battery metals with ample opportunities for shareholder value creation. Recent developments have helped to substantially increase the potential of two of the group’s asset positions, while adding to the overall corporate valuation. Our sum-of-theparts (SotP) indicative fair value is 43.6p."
2023-02-02 W H Ireland Research W H Ireland (broker) 14.5p WHI View: Our assessment is that the Amapá mine could be company-maker for Cadence. We are firmly of the belief that the current market cap is more than covered by the legacy investments that Cadence holds in various new technology metal companies and projects and that the addition of the Amapá stake to its portfolio can only be value enhancing. In our opinion, the development of Amapá will be transformational for Cadence and we see fair value at 71p/sh with plenty of upside potential.
2022-07-24 Reddit Post u/EV-BULL (private investor) 10.75p Due diligence short term price target: 60p-80p; 1-2 year price target: 130p; Long term bull case price target: 300p+
2022-07-02 Reddit Post u/Observer842 (private investor) 10.4p Due diligence Near term: £37.5m (21.5p) - £92m (53p); Medium term: £160-420m; Longer term: £1-2B+
2022-02-18 Daily Mail Anne Ashworth for the Daily Mail (Journalist) 20.4p "The white gold rush appears to be an inviting prospect. But if you want to join, remember that fortunes are far from guaranteed in any foray into commodities. Options include the Aim-listed businesses Cadence Minerals and Zinnwald Lithium."
2022-02-18 Edison Group Edison Group (investment research) 20.4p QuickView report
2022-01-01 Daily Mail Justin Urquhart Stewart (fund manager) 28p Top pick for the Brave in 2022

ICYMI [Previous]

Date Article Comment & Quotes
2023-04-21 Cadence Minerals Q&A session with Kiran Morzaria Most recent of the presentations and interviews with CEO Kiran Morzaria.
2023-04-13 The Vox Markets Podcast / Kiran Morzaria of Cadence Minerals: Evergreen had a very successful IPO and we are the largest shareholder
2023-03-29 Cadence Minerals Investor Presentation March 2023
2023-02-28 Cadence Minerals - value waiting to be unlocked - SoTP indicative fair value 43.6p 6 page analyst Research report from Kemeny Capital which can be obtained for free by qualifying investors.
2023-02-02 WH Ireland Research Report: Cadence Minerals - Developing Amapá iron ore mine and strategic new technology metal interests (sees fair value at 71p / share) To obtain this 34 page Analyst Research Report for free, (optionally) first register for Research Tree, then whilst logged in, register for WH Ireland (optionally) using your Research Tree account.
2023-01-03 Completion of PFS on Amapá Iron Ore Project Post-Tax Project NPV10 US$949 million, Internal Rate of Return of 34% and a Project Maiden Ore Reserve Estimate of 195.8 Mt (Cadence attributable of 58.74 Mt) at 39.34% Fe Declared
Anything missing or incorrect? Let us know in the comments or LSE chat - the mods.
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