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Greed is Subtle
The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
./play.it is a free/libre software that builds native packages for several Linux distributions from DRM-free installers for a collection of commercial games. These packages can then be installed using the standard distribution-provided tools (APT, pacman, emerge, etc.). A more complete description of ./play.it has already been posted in linux_gaming a couple months ago: ./play.it, an easy way to install commercial games on GNU/Linux It's already been one year since version 2.11 was released, in January 2019. We will only briefly review the changelog of version 2.12 and focus on the different points of ./play.it that kept us busy during all this time, and of which coding was only a small part.
What’s new with 2.12?
Though not the focus of this article, it would be a pity not to present all the added features of this brand new version. ;) Compared to the usual updates, 2.12 is a major one, especially since for two years, we slowed down the addition of new features. Some patches took dust since the end of 2018 before finally be integrated in this update! The list of changes for this 2.12 release can be found on our forge. Here is a full copy for convenience:
--output-dir: Set the output directory for generated packages
--overwrite: Replace packages if they already exist
--icons: Allow including icons only if dependencies are present
Drop $XDG_RUNTIME_DIR from the candidates for temporary directories
Prevent scan of unneeded directories
Drop script identification by MD5 hash
Only extract needed files when using unzip
Allow to use renamed installers
Add support for LHA archives extraction
New engine: ResidualVM
New engine: System-provided Mono runtime
DOSBox: Use $PLAYIT_DOSBOX_BINARY in launchers if defined
Add ability to set variables for package-specific postinst and prerm scripts
Arch Linux: Improve consistence of 32-bit packages naming
New helper functions:
version_target_is_older_than: Check if the game script target version is older than a given one
toupper: Convert files name to upper case
New generic dependency keywords:
libglib-2.0.so.0 / libgobject-2.0.so.0
libopenal.so.1 (alias for openal)
libSDL2-2.0.so.0 (alias for sdl2)
libvorbisfile.so.3 (alias for vorbis)
Codebase clean-up and improvements:
Massive rework of all message-related functions
Drop hardcoded paths for icons and .desktop launchers
Use system-specific default installation prefix for generated packages
Forcefully set errexit setting on library initialization
Use dirname/basename instead of built-in shell patterns
As many free/libre projects, ./play.it development started on some random sector of a creaking hard drive, and unsurprisingly, a whole part of its history (everything predating version 1.13.15 released on Mars 30th, 2016) disappeared into the limbs because some unwise operation destroyed the only copy of the repository… Lesson learned, what's not shared don't stay long, and so was born the first public Git repository of the project. The easing of collaborative work was only accidentally achieved by this quest for eternity, but wasn't the original motivation for making the repository publicly available. Following this decision, ./play.it source code has been hosted successively by many shared forge platforms:
GitHub, that we all know of, choosing it was more a short-term fallback than a long-term decision ;
some Gogs instance, which was hosted by debian-fr.xyz, a community the main ./play.it author is close to ;
Framagit, a famous instance of the infamous GitLab forge, hosted by Framasoft.
As development progressed, ./play.it began to increase its need for resources, dividing its code into several repositories to improve the workflow of the different aspects of the projects, adding continuous integration tests and their constraints, etc. A furious desire to understand the nooks and crannies behind a forge platform was the last deciding factor towards hosting a dedicated forge. So it happened, we deployed a forge platform on a dedicated server, hugely benefiting from the tremendous work achieved by the GitLab's package Debian Maintainers team. In return, we tried to contribute our findings in improving this software packaging. That was not expected, but this migration happened just a little time before the announcement “Déframasoftisons Internet !” (French article) about the planned end of Framagit. This dedicated instance used to be hosted on a VPS rented from Digital Ocean until the second half of July 2020, and since then has been moved to another VPS, rented from Hetzner. The specifications are similar, as well as the service, but thanks to this migration our hosting costs have been cut in half. Keeping in mind that this is paid by a single person, so any little donation helps a lot on this front. ;) To the surprise of our system administrator, this last migration took only a couple hours with no service interruption reported by our users.
This new forge can be found at forge.dotslashplay.it. Registrations are open to the public, but we ask you to not abuse this, the main restriction being that we do not wish to host projects unrelated to ./play.it. Of course exceptions are made for our active contributors, who are allowed to host some personal projects there. So, if you wish to use this forge to host your own work, you first need to make some significant contributions to ./play.it.
The collection of supported games growing endlessly, we have started the development of a public API allowing access to lots of information related to ./play.it. This API, which is not yet stabilized, is simply an interface to a versioned database containing all the ./play.it scripts, handled archives, games installable through the project. Relations are, of course, handled between those items, enabling its use for requests like : « What packages are required on my system to install Cæsar Ⅲ ? » or « What are the free (as in beer) games handled via DOSBox ? ». Originally developed as support for the new, in-development, Web site (we'll talk about it later on), this API should facilitate the development of tools around ./play.it. For example, it'll be useful for whomever would like to build a complete video game handling software (downloading, installation, starting, etc.) using ./play.it as one of its building bricks. For those curious about the technical side, it's an API based on Lumeneffectuant that makes requests on a MariaDB database, all self-hosted on a Debian Sid. Not only is the code of the API versioned on our forge, but also the structure and content of the databases, which will allow those who desired it to install a local version easily.
Based on the aforementioned API, a new website is under development and will replace our current website based on DokuWiki. Indeed, if the lack of database and the plain text files structure of DokuWiki seemed at first attractive, as ./play.it supported only a handful of games (link in French), this feature became more inconvenient as the library of ./play.it supported games grew. We shall make an in-depth presentation of this website for the 2.13 release of ./play.it, but a public demo of the development version from our forge is already available. If you feel like providing an helping hand on this task, some priority tasks have been identified to allow opening a new Web site able to replace the current one. And for those interested in technical details, this web Site was developed in PHP using the framework Laravel. The current in-development version is hosted for now on the same Debian Sid than the API.
A regular comment that is done about the project is that, if the purpose is to make installing games accessible to everyone without technical skills, having to run scripts in the terminal remains somewhat intimidating. Our answer until now has been that while the project itself doesn't aim to providing a graphical interface (KISS principle "Keep it simple, stupid"), still and always), but that it would be relatively easy to, later on, develop a graphical front-end to it. Well, it happens that is now reality. Around the time of our latest publication, one of our contributors, using the API we just talked about, developed a small prototype that is usable enough to warrant a little shout out. :-) In practice, it is some small Python 3 code (an HCI completely in POSIX shell is for a later date :-°), using GTK 3 (and still a VTE terminal to display the commands issued, but the user shouldn't have to input anything in it, except perhaps the root password to install some packages). This allowed to verify that, as we used to say, it would be relatively easy, since a script of less than 500 lines of code (written quickly over a week-end) was enough to do the job ! Of course, this graphical interface project stays independent from the main project, and is maintained in a specific repository. It seems interesting to us to promote it in order to ease the use of ./play.it, but this doesn't prevent any other similar projects to be born, for example using a different language or graphical toolkit (we, globally, don't have any particular affinity towards Python or GTK). The use of this HCI needs three steps : first, a list of available games is displayed, coming directly from our API. You just need to select in the list (optionally using the search bar) the game you want to install. Then it switches to a second display, which list the required files. If several alternatives are available, the user can select the one he wants to use. All those files must be in the same directory, the address bar on the top enabling to select which one to use (click on the open button on the top opens a filesystem navigation window). Once all those files available (if they can be downloaded, the software will do it automatically), you can move ahead to the third step, which is just watching ./play.it do its job :-) Once done, a simple click on the button on the bottom will run the game (even if, from this step, the game is fully integrated on your system as usual, you no longer need this tool to run it). To download potentially missing files, the HCI will use, depending on what's available on the system, either wget, curl or aria2c (this last one also handling torrents), of which the output will be displayed in the terminal of the third phase, just before running the scripts. For privilege escalation to install packages, sudo will be used preferentially if available (with the option to use a third-party application for password input, if the corresponding environment variable is set, which is more user-friendly), else su will be used. Of course, any suggestion for an improvement will be received with pleasure.
Of course, such an announcement would not be complete without a list of the games that got added to our collection since the 2.11 release… So here you go:
7 Billion Humans
Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders
Age of Mythology Demo
Among the Sleep
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
Another Lost Phone: Lauraʼs Story
Assault Android Cactus
Baba Is You
Blocks that matter (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Commandos 3: Destination Berlin
Divine Divinity (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Duet (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Edna & Harvey: The Breakout — Anniversary Edition
Factorio — Demo
Full Throttle Remastered
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
Gibbous — A Cthulhu Adventure
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Into the Breach
Kerbal Space Program
LEGO Batman: The Videogame
Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4
Metal Slug 3 (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
MIND: Path to thalamus
Monkey Island 4: Escape from Monkey Island
Multiwinia (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Myst: Masterpiece Edition (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition
Populous: Promised Lands (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Populous 2 (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Quern — Undying Thoughts
Retro City Rampage (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Satellite Reign (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Ancient Relics Story Pack
Arachnoid Portrait Pack
Distant Stars Story Pack
Humanoids Species Pack
Leviathans Story Pack
Lithoids Species Pack
Plantoids Species Pack
Synthetic Dawn Story Pack
Strike Suit Zero
Cyclopean Owl DLC
Tetrobot and Co.
The Adventures of Shuggy
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human
The Count Lucanor
The First Tree
The Pillars of the Earth
The Witcher (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Tonight We Riot
Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism — Demo
Touhou Hifuu Nightmare Diary ~ Violet Detector
Triple Triad Gold
Vambrace: Cold Soul
VVVVVV (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
War for the Overworld (the base game was already supported, new expansions have been added):
Heart of Gold
Seasonal Worker Skins
The Under Games
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War — Winter Assault Demo
Warhammer 40,000: Gladius — Relics of War
Warlords Battlecry II (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Wing Commander (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Wing Commander II (previously supported by ./play.it 1.x)
Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders
If your favourite game is not supported by ./play.it yet, you should ask for it in the dedicated tracker on our forge. The only requirement to be a valid request is that there exists a version of the game that is not burdened by DRM.
Our team being inexhaustible, work on the future 2.13 version has already begun… A few major objectives of this next version are :
the complete and definitive relegation to the archive bin of ./play.it 1.14, which is still required for about twenty games ;
Hi everyone, this is my first ever post here. I run a little website called The Thought Experiment where I talk about various issues, some of them Singapore related. And one of my main interests is Singaporean politics. With the GE2020 election results, I thought I should pen down my take on what us as the electorate were trying to say. If you like what I wrote, I also wrote another article on the state of play for GE2020 during the campaigning period, as well as 2 other articles related to GE2015 back when it was taking place. If you don't like what I wrote, that's ok! I think the beauty of freedom of expression is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm always happy to get feedback, because I do think that more public discourse about our local politics helps us to be more politically aware as a whole. Just thought I'll share my article here to see what you guys make of it :D Article Starts Here: During the campaigning period, both sides sought to portray an extreme scenario of what would happen if voters did not vote for them. The Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) warned that Singaporeans that their political opponents “might eventually replace the government after July 10”. Meanwhile, the Worker’s Party (WP) stated that “there was a real risk of a wipeout of elected opposition MPs at the July 10 polls”. Today is July 11th. As we all know, neither of these scenarios came to pass. The PAP comfortably retained its super-majority in Parliament, winning 83 out of 93 elected MP seats. But just as in GE2011, another Group Representation Constituency (GRC) has fallen to the WP. In addition, the PAP saw its vote share drop drastically, down almost 9% to 61.2% from 69.9% in GE2015. Singapore’s electorate is unique in that a significant proportion is comprised of swing voters: Voters who don’t hold any blind allegiance to any political party, but vote based on a variety of factors both micro and macro. The above extreme scenarios were clearly targeted at these swing voters. Well, the swing voters have made their choice, their roar sending 4 more elected opposition MPs into Parliament. This article aims to unpack that roar and what it means for the state of Singaporean politics going forward. 1. The PAP is still the preferred party to form Singapore’s Government Yes, this may come across as blindingly obvious, but it still needs to be said. The swing voter is by its very definition, liable to changes of opinion. And a large factor that determines how a swing voter votes is their perception of how their fellow swing voters are voting. If swing voters perceive that most swing voters are leaning towards voting for the opposition, they might feel compelled to vote for the incumbent. And if the reverse is true, swing voters might feel the need to shore up opposition support. Why is this so? This is because the swing voter is trying to push the vote result into a sweet spot – one that lies between the two extreme scenarios espoused by either side. They don’t want the PAP to sweep all 93 seats in a ‘white tsunami’. Neither do they want the opposition to claim so much territory that the PAP is too weak to form the Government on its own. But because each swing voter only has a binary choice: either they vote for one side or the other (I’m ignoring the third option where they simply spoil their vote), they can’t very well say “I want to vote 0.6 for the PAP and 0.4 for the Opposition with my vote”. And so we can expect the swing voter bloc to continue being a source of uncertainty for both sides in future elections, as long as swing voters are still convinced that the PAP should be the Government. 2. Voters no longer believe that the PAP needs a ‘strong mandate’ to govern. They also don’t buy into the NCMP scheme. Throughout the campaign period, the PAP repeatedly exhorted voters to vote for them alone. Granted, they couldn’t very well give any ground to the opposition without a fight. And therefore there was an attempt to equate voting for the PAP as voting for Singapore’s best interests. However, the main message that voters got was this: PAP will only be able to steer Singapore out of the Covid-19 pandemic if it has a strong mandate from the people. What is a strong mandate, you may ask? While no PAP candidate publicly confirmed it, their incessant harping on the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme as the PAP’s win-win solution for having the PAP in power and a largely de-fanged opposition presence in parliament shows that the PAP truly wanted a parliament where it held every single seat. Clearly, the electorate has different ideas, handing Sengkang GRC to the WP and slashing the PAP’s margins in previous strongholds such as West Coast, Choa Chu Kang and Tanjong Pagar by double digit percentages. There is no doubt from the results that swing voters are convinced that a PAP supermajority is not good for Singapore. They are no longer convinced that to vote for the opposition is a vote against Singapore. They have realized, as members of a maturing democracy surely must, that one can vote for the opposition, yet still be pro-Singapore. 3. Social Media and the Internet are rewriting the electorate’s perception. In the past, there was no way to have an easily accessible record of historical events. With the only information source available being biased mainstream media, Singaporeans could only rely on that to fill in the gaps in their memories. Therefore, Operation Coldstore became a myth of the past, and Chee Soon Juan became a crackpot in the eyes of the people, someone who should never be allowed into Parliament. Fast forward to today. Chee won 45.2% of the votes in Bukit Batok’s Single Member Constituency (SMC). His party-mate, Dr. Paul Tambyah did even better, winning 46.26% of the votes in Bukit Panjang SMC. For someone previously seen as unfit for public office, this is an extremely good result. Chee has been running for elections in Singapore for a long time, and only now is there a significant change in the way he is perceived (and supported) by the electorate. Why? Because of social media and the internet, two things which the PAP does not have absolute control over. With the ability to conduct interviews with social media personalities as well as upload party videos on Youtube, he has been able to display a side of himself to people that the PAP did not want them to see: someone who is merely human just like them, but who is standing up for what he believes in. 4. Reserved Election Shenanigans and Tan Cheng Block: The electorate has not forgotten. Tan Cheng Bock almost became our President in 2011. There are many who say that if Tan Kin Lian and Tan Jee Say had not run, Tony Tan would not have been elected. In March 2016, Tan Cheng Bock publicly declared his interest to run for the next Presidential Election that would be held in 2017. The close result of 2011 and Tan Cheng Bock’s imminent candidacy made the upcoming Presidential Election one that was eagerly anticipated. That is, until the PAP shut down his bid for the presidency just a few months later in September 2016, using its supermajority in Parliament to pass a “reserved election” in which only members of a particular race could take part. Under the new rules that they had drawn up for themselves, it was decreed that only Malays could take part. And not just any Malay. The candidate had to either be a senior executive managing a firm that had S$500 million in shareholders’ equity, or be the Speaker of Parliament or a similarly high post in the public sector (the exact criteria are a bit more in-depth than this, but this is the gist of it. You can find the full criteria here). And who was the Speaker of Parliament at the time? Mdm Halimah, who was conveniently of the right race (Although there was some hooha about her actually being Indian). With the extremely strict private sector criteria and the PAP being able to effectively control who the public sector candidate was, it came as no surprise that Mdm Halimah was declared the only eligible candidate on Nomination Day. A day later, she was Singapore’s President. And all without a single vote cast by any Singaporean. Of course, the PAP denied that this was a move specifically aimed at blocking Tan Cheng Bock’s bid for the presidency. Chan Chun Sing, Singapore’s current Minister of Trade and Industry, stated in 2017 that the Government was prepared to pay the political price over making these changes to the Constitution. We can clearly see from the GE2020 results that a price was indeed paid. A loss of almost 9% of vote share is very significant, although a combination of the first-past-the-post rule and the GRC system ensured that the PAP still won 89.2% of the seats in Parliament despite only garnering 61.2% of the votes. On the whole, it’s naught but a scratch to the PAP’s overwhelming dominance in Parliament. The PAP still retains its supermajority and can make changes to the Constitution anytime that it likes. But the swing voters have sent a clear signal that they have not been persuaded by the PAP’s rationale. 5. Swing Voters do not want Racial Politics. In 2019, Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and the man who is next in line to be Prime Minister (PM) commented that Singapore was not ready to have a non-Chinese PM. He further added that race is an issue that always arises at election-time in Singapore. Let us now consider the GE2015 results. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Senior Minister and someone whom many have expressed keenness to be Singapore’s next PM, obtained 79.28% of the vote share in Jurong GRC. This was above even the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who scored 78.63% in Ang Mo Kio GRC. Tharman’s score was the highest in the entire election. And now let us consider the GE2020 results. Tharman scored 74.62% in Jurong, again the highest scorer of the entire election, while Hsien Loong scored 71.91%. So Tharman beat the current PM again, and by an even bigger margin than the last time. Furthermore, Swee Keat, who made the infamous comments above, scored just 53.41% in East Coast. Yes, I know I’m ignoring a lot of other factors that influenced these results. But don’t these results show conclusively that Heng’s comments were wrong? We have an Indian leading both the current and future PM in both elections, but yet PAP still feels the need to say that Singapore “hasn’t arrived” at a stage where we can vote without race in mind. In fact, this was the same rationale that supposedly led to the reserved presidency as mentioned in my earlier point. The swing voters have spoken, and it is exceedingly clear to me that the electorate does not care what our highest office-holders are in terms of race, whether it be the PM or the President. Our Singapore pledge firmly states “regardless of race”, and I think the results have shown that we as a people have taken it to heart. But has the PAP? 6. Voters will not be so easily manipulated. On one hand, Singaporeans were exhorted to stay home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Contact tracing became mandatory, and groups of more than 5 are prohibited. But on the other hand, we are also told that it’s absolutely necessary to hold an election during this same period, for Singaporeans to wait in long lines and in close proximity to each other as we congregate to cast our vote, all because the PAP needs a strong mandate. On one hand, Heng Swee Keat lambasted the Worker’s Party, claiming that it was “playing games with voters” over their refusal to confirm if they would accept NCMP seats. But on the other hand, Heng Swee Keat was moved to the East Coast GRC at the eleventh hour in a surprise move to secure the constituency. (As mentioned above, he was aptly rewarded for this with a razor-thin margin of just 53.41% of the votes.) On one hand, Masagos Zulkifli, PAP Vice-Chairman stated that “candidates should not be defined by a single moment in time or in their career, but judged instead by their growth throughout their life”. He said this in defense of Ivan Lim, who appears to be the very first candidate in Singaporean politics to have been pushed into retracting his candidacy by the power of non-mainstream media. But on the other hand, the PAP called on the WP to make clear its stand on Raeesah Khan, a WP candidate who ran (and won) in Sengkang GRC for this election, stating that the Police investigation into Raeesah’s comments made on social media was “a serious matter which goes to the fundamental principles on which our country has been built”. On one hand, Chan Chun Sing stated in 2015, referring to SingFirst’s policies about giving allowances to the young and the elderly, “Some of them promised you $300 per month. I say, please don’t insult my residents. You think…. they are here to be bribed?” On the other hand, the PAP Government has just given out several handouts under its many budgets to help Singaporeans cope with the Covid-19 situation. [To be clear, I totally approve of these handouts. What I don’t approve is that the PAP felt the need to lambast similar policies as bribery in the past. Comparing a policy with a crime is a political low blow in my book.] I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. And so did the electorate in this election, putting their vote where it counted to show their disdain for the heavy-handedness and double standards that the PAP has displayed for this election. Conclusion I don’t say the above to put down the PAP. The PAP would have you believe that to not support them is equivalent to not wanting what’s best for Singapore. This is a false dichotomy that must be stamped out, and I am glad to see our swing voters taking a real stand with this election. No, I say the above as a harsh but ultimately supportive letter to the PAP. As everyone can see from the results, we all still firmly believe that the PAP should be the Government. We still have faith that PAP has the leadership to take us forward and out of the Covid-19 crisis. But we also want to send the PAP a strong signal with this vote, to bring them down from their ivory towers and down to the ground. Enough with the double standards. Enough with the heavy-handedness. Singaporeans have clearly stated their desire for a more mature democracy, and that means more alternative voices in Parliament. The PAP needs to stop acting as the father who knows it all, and to start acting as the bigger brother who can work hand in hand with his alternative younger brother towards what’s best for the entire family: Singapore. There is a real chance that the PAP will not listen, though. As Lee Hsien Loong admitted in a rally in 2006, “if there are 10, 20… opposition members in Parliament… I have to spent my time thinking what is the right way to fix them”. Now, the PAP has POFMA at its disposal. It still has the supermajority in Parliament, making them able to change any law in Singapore, even the Constitution at will. We have already seen them put these tools to use for its own benefit. Let us see if the PAP will continue as it has always done, or will it take this opportunity to change itself for the better. Whatever the case, we will be watching, and we will be waiting to make our roar heard once again five years down the road. Majulah Singapura! Article Ends Here. Here's the link to the actual article: https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2020/07/11/ge2020-the-roar-of-the-swing-vote And here's the link to the other political articles I've written about Singapore: https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2020/07/07/ge2020-the-state-of-play/ https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2015/09/10/ge2015-voting-wisely/ https://thethoughtexperiment.org/2015/09/05/expectations-of-the-opposition/
Woodbridge: I hate to say it, but it’s unlikely, Allen. It’s a lot easier to pretend everyone else is wrong, and that you had no other option. The camera pans to a kitchen. We see Tony the Milkman standing there in his leather jacket accompanied by Jim Baker. The table is adorned with ingredients mixing bowls and other baking supplies. Tony ”Guys, gals and non-binary pals, I welcome you all to the great bake-off! Mr. Baker and I have decided to put our differences behind us but before we officially align we have decided to have one final friendly competition! Since I beat him in our debut match, I picked a stipulation that I believe will help make the score equal.” Baker: “Tony, you know I’m not a baker, right? It’s just my name?” Tony: “I get it, Baker, you’re playing a rib on me so I won’t feel bad for losing. It’s ok! We’re partners now!” Baker “Tony I’m being se-“ Tony: “As is I was saying, The bake-off! Both of us will be baking something, which will then be shared with the rest of the locker room, unless they’re that piece of shit Joey McCarty, or Joey McCarty’s friends.” Tony stares directly into the camera: “I know how much the people in the locker room love consuming the labor of others without compensation.” Baker nods in agreement Tony: “For my entry, I will be making the favored dessert of bisexuals such as myself… Lemon Bars!” Baker: “And I’m making… uh… cookies I think” Tomy: “No need to put yourself down, brother! We all know you’re going to smoke me! Anyways let the games begin! The to go off in opposite directions and begin preparing their deserts. Tony begins making a crust out of flour cornstarch and other ingredients, carefully slicing butter and mixing, while Jim unsuccessfully attempts to make even balls of store bought cookie dough. Backstage we see Mark Dutch walking around, peeking around corners and down hallways as if he’s searching for someone. Dutch: Yo Blackwater! We’re done playing hide and seek! Where are you? Dutch turns around, staring at each door and peeking into some of them, but to no avail. Dutch: Where the fuck did he go? After taking a few more steps he stares to the left of him. The camera turns and he comes across Kyle Scott, looking down onto a large map. Dutch: Kyle. You got a moment? Kyle looks up, staring back at the tall Dutchman with a focused look on his face? Kyle: What do you want? Can’t you see I’m busy? Dutch frowns for a moment, presumably having a brainfreeze from the shake before he peeks at the map. It’s a detailed map of Ohio that Kyle looks at Dutch: Have you seen Louis? Louis Blackwater? Confused, Kyle looks back at Dutch before shrugging. Dutch: Like.. the B in D&B? Have you seen him? Kyle: Becca? Dutch: No. She’s dead. Blackwater. Kyle: Ooooh! Blackwater. No, I haven’t. Why would I know that? Dutch: I don’t know. Kyle: Exactly. Now leave me alone, please. Dutch: Fine. Thanks anyways. When Kyle puts his head back down into the map, Dutch continues to walk down the hallway until hearing a loud crash. Immediately, Dutch sprints over to where the sound came from, in the background we see Kyle not even having flinched from it. After a few steps Dutch goes around a corner and immediately is heard yelling. Dutch: LOUIS! Louis is found on the ground, holding his head and surrounding him are metal pipes. Dutch gets to Louis and checks him out, staring over him as he tries to get Louis’ attention by shaking him! Dutch: LOUIS! WAKE THE FUCK UP! Blackwater: I am awake! Stop shaking me! Dutch: Why the fuck are you on the ground?! Blackwater: Fuck, man. A fucking mouthbreather attacked me from behind. Hit me right in the fucking liver. REAL LAME, GUYS! I USE IT TO DRINK! Blackwater holds his hand on his side, presumably where is black, abused liver is supposed to be before he sticks out his hand, trying to get up. Dutch takes it and pulls him up slowly. Blackwater: Ah.. fuck.. that hurts.. Dutch: You going to be alright? Blackwater: Yeah.. Fuck me, I had worse. I should check a doc or something. Then go find the cumstain who did this. Immediately, Dutch’s eyes light up as if he has a bright idea. Dutch: I got a bright idea! You go visit the doc, I’ll find who did this. I’ll be like Batman doing detective work! Blackwater: Of course you’d wear leather. You gonna have bat-nipples on your costume too? Dutch: Fuck off, mate. Let me help you get to the doc. Wrapping Louis’ arm around his neck, Blackwater begins to walk down the hallway, helping him as they both disappear around the corner. Blackwater: Really tho, I won’t judge you if you wear leather. Dutch: ...I’ll think about it. We then cut back to the ring, where we see Javier not standing solidly in the middle of the ring, but instead rushing down from backstage to it, seemingly not having been ready for once, as he pulls out a card from his pocket, and begins to read. Javier: At the request of both competitors in this upcoming bout, we will now be staging an impromptu singles match between Dalidus Nova and Buster Braggadocio! Crowd: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Javier:Clears throat And it is a singles match set for one fall, with a 30 minute time limit! Introducing first- The Kids are Back hits the speakers, as out from the curtain comes Dalidus Nova, swiftly followed by Miles Alpha. Javier: From Toronto, Ontario, Canada, standing at 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 225 lbs… DALIDUUUUS! NOOOOOOVA! Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOO! Woodbridge: And the crowd here not a fan of Dalidus or Miles. Paisner: They’re not the only ones… Dalidus spits out a grotesque, far-too-large mouthful of Hubba Bubba gum at ringside and enters the ring, Miles staying outside but putting himself in Nova’s corner as Freaky Black Greetings hits the speakers. Javier: And now, from Atlanta, Georgia, standing at 6 feet and three quarters of an inch and weighing 220 lbs… BUUUUUUSTER! BRAGGADOCIOOOOO! Buster comes out from the curtain, pick in hair and yelling caucasian-themed insults at the crowd with reckless abandon. Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOO! Woodbridge: Quite clearly, the audience here doesn’t feel too strongly about Buster either! Paisner: Seems the crowd and I are finally seeing eye-to-eye! He slides into the ring, flicking his pick towards Alpha at ringside while he does so. Buster and Dalidus eye eachother up from opposite sides of the ring as the bell signals the start of the bout. DING DING DING! The bell rings, and Buster is quick to charge Nova, who slips underneath the bottom rope and out of the ring. Crowd: Booooooooooo! Paisner: Dalidus wasting no time going to his sleazy playbook. Woodbridge: But Buster’s not having it, look out! Buster immediately follows Dalidus to the outside, giving chase as Nova stumbles into a run, not expecting Buster’s aggression. The two make a circle outside the ring, until Dalidus slides right back in through the bottom rope. Buster is seconds behind him, but as he gets to his feet he sees that Nova has slipped back outside the ring, grabbing Buster by the ankle and pulling him down and out to the floor! Crowd: Booooooooooo! Paisner: Ooh! Buster landing hard outside! Dalidus starts to lay boots into Buster on the outside, as Miles yells a mix of encouragement towards his partner, and insults towards the opponent. After several seconds of the officials count, Nova grabs Buster and wrestles him back into the ring. Woodbridge: Finally, both men back into the ring, the only place the final fall can take place. Not relenting, Nova drags Buster up to his feet in the corner, striking him in the chest with a chop! Crowd: Ooooooooh! He winds up for a second one, but not before Buster strikes him with a forearm strike, creating the separation necessary to connect square in the chest with a dropkick! Crowd: OOOOOoooohh! Paisner: Buster with the retaliation! Nova is sent flying backwards, quickly rising to his feet in the opposite corner as Buster continues his attack, flying in with a corner clothesline! Still not giving Dalidus a second to breath, Buster shoots Nova back towards the other corner with an Irish Whip… Woodbridge: These two men, back and forth across the ring! ...Charging in for another clothesline, Buster is suddenly met by the rising boot of Dalidus! Crowd: Woooahh! Paisner: Back and forth quite literally, Mark! Neither man’s gotten a concrete advantage thus far! Taking a second to breathe, Dalidus re-approaches Buster, bending down to pick him off the mat only to get caught in a lightning-fast small package! 1…! 2.. - No! Woodbridge: Nova damn-near got caught! Dalidus is swift to fight out, both men twisted away from one-another and back up to their feet, backing towards opposite ropes. Alpha: C’mon, Dali! Get his ass! With the verbal from Miles, Dalidus rushes Buster, who ducks underneath a clothesline attempt, grabbing the waist from behind and using Nova’s momentum to run him into the ropes with an O’Connor Rollup! 1…! 2…! No! Dalidus reverses the roll-up! 1…! But Buster breaks free, and is quickly up to a knee! Paisner: Two escapes from both - WOAH! Still kneeling, Buster is caught in perfect position for the Kneeling Superkick! Paisner: CHEKHOV’S GUN! Buster falls back to the mat, rolling out of the ring and plopping to the floor outside the ring. Woodbridge: Buster got caught on bad timing, but makes up for it by getting outside the ring, away from any potential pinfall attempts. Dalidus, with an annoyed look on his face, walks towards the ropes, crossing them and landing outside the ring beside Buster. As Miles stands beside him, Dalidus again tries to get Buster into the ring. This time, however, Buster slips from Nova’s grip, slamming his opponent's head into the edge of the ring! Crowd: OOOOOH! Paisner: Buster was playing possum! With Nova dazed, Buster turns to Alpha, kicking him in the gut before grabbing the back of the Canadian’s head and swinging him into the ring post! Crowd: YEEEAAAAAAHHHH! Woodbridge: Miles hit hard, and the crowd loves it! With Alpha laid out outside the ring, Buster swings Nova’s legs up and onto the canvas, sliding in after him. Paisner: These two have fought at a lightning-fast pace thus far, and it looks like Buster is aiming for an equally-fast conclusion to this bout! Buster sits Nova up in the center of the ring, shooting a quick kick into his back to keep him in place. Breaking into a sprint, Buster hits the rope facing his opponent, running back at Dalidus with intentions to hit a running knee strike… Woodbridge: Bravado Bust - Nonono! However, Dalidus lays back and the knee flies right overhead, as he reaches upwards and catches Buster between the legs, pulling him back down to the mat with another roll-up! 1…! 2…! 3.. - NO! But Buster kicks away, breaking the pinfall! Returning to his feet, Buster is unable to avoid a forearm strike from Dalidus, stunning him long enough for Nova to drive a knee into the gut and snap down with a quick DDT! Paisner: DDT from Dalidus, and these two just will not slow down! Woodbridge: Ya may not like them, - God knows I don’t - but they’ve got some mighty gas tanks on ‘em! Dalidus, now behind Buster, brings his opponent to his feet with a waistlock, before throwing Buster’s arm over his neck and throwing him backwards with an Inverted Exploder Suplex! Buster flies far through the ring, but his boots collide with the skull of the official, sending him falling to the mat like a sack of potatoes! Crowd: BOOOOOOO! Paisner: Cord Cutter, but the ref’s down! Woodbridge: Buster ate all of that! Dalidus begins to go for a pinfall, but spots the official down on the mat. Looking up towards a less-than-admiring crowd, he gives a shout to his partner. Dalidus: Miles! Gimme a chair! Paisner: Oh, sonuva… Miles, still reeling from the collision with the steel post, grabs a steel chair and slides it into the ring as Buster begins reaching for the ropes in an attempt to get back to a standing base. Meanwhile, Dalidus grabs the chair from the mat and sizes up Buster from behind. Woodbridge: Buster’s gonna get his brain rattled! As he turns around, Dalidus charges with the chair raised high, swinging it downwards just as Buster sees, quickly rolling underneath the blow leaving the chair to connect with nothing but air! Crowd: OOOOOOH! Quickly up to his feet, Buster reaches into his tights to retrieve his signature black marker! Throwing the cap into the crowd, he immediately strikes Dalidus in the left eye with a jab from the marker! Crowd: OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH! Nova falls to the mat, clutching at his face! Buster returns to the official, trying to get him back into the match, when he is struck from behind by a sudden forearm blow, courtesy of Miles Alpha! Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Woodbridge: The third man! Miles, getting himself involved once more! Buster falls to his knees as Miles pulls him away from the ref, before swiftly bringing him up in a Fireman’s Carry and driving his boot into Buster’s skull with a Benadryller! Paisner: Alpha with the Defeater to Buster! *Woodbridge: He’s out cold, without a doubt! Looking behind him to spot the official slowly coming to, Miles rolls Buster onto his back and pulls the blinded Dalidus on top of him, before slipping out of the ring and hiding from the officials view as he begins to slowly make the count! 1…! 2…! 3…! DING DING DING! Paisner: Absolute bullshit! Javier: The winner of this bout via pinfall, at a time of 7:02: DALIDUS! NOVA! The Kids are Back hits the speakers, as Miles comes back into the ring to assist Dalidus out of it, a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. Woodbridge: In what was looking like quite the match, Dalidus steals one from Buster with the help from Miles Alpha! Paisner: It’s bullshit, Mark. Complete bullshit. The two walk through the curtain as the camera cuts away. Mark Dutch is walking around the backstage area. He comes across Tony the Milkman, seeming to take a breather from the chaos of the kitchen, wiping off a milk mustache. Dutch: Milkman! Tell me everything you know about the attack of Louis Blackwater! The Milkman looks confused. Tony: I don’t have any information for you, unfortunately. I do have a wonderful lemon cake! Would you like a piece? Dutch takes a good look at the lemon cake Tony is offering, but he shakes his head. Dutch: No, I cannot be distracted. I have responsibility! Tony: Your loss! As Mark Dutch continues to walk around, he peeks into a room and sees Big Money Maverick on the phone talking to someone. Dutch begins to speak to himself. Dutch: Mav….maybe it was him…. Big Money Maverick: So yeah, if you're interested in doing business, let's talk about financials… As Mav talks on the phone, and Dutch watches from outside the room, Dutch is suddenly approached by a backstage crew worker holding a bag of cheetos. Crew Worker: Looking for the guy who attacked Blackwater? I don't think it was Mav. Dutch: Why do you say that? Crew Worker: He's been in this room making phone calls for hours, I should know… The crew member swings the door open, cracking it behind him so the camera and Dutch can still see inside. We see the crew worker hand the bag of Cheetos to Mav, and Mav sets the bag on a table next to him, alongside many other drinks and snacks that Mav presumably forced the worker to get for him. Dutch: Hmm...maybe not...but…...I don't know…. Dutch walks away from the room, and immediately is face to face with Stephen Romero, who’s holding an athletic jump rope in his hands and sweat covers his tank top. Romero. Heard you were looking for who snuck up on Blackwater. Dutch: Yeah. By the way, thanks for going after Balandran for my hotdog. Romero looks back at Dutch, scratching the side of his head with a confused look. Romero: Oh yeah. Uhm. No problem, I guess. Look, we two have been in the business for a while. Dutch: True. Romero: Yeah, and I noticed a trend which might work. Dutch’s eyes are wide open as he looks back at Romero. Romero: Usually, if you go to the ring and call out who did it.. they often show up and take responsibility. That or someone else shows up who wants to fight. It’s a 50/50 chance. Dutch: Now that you say it, yeah.. you’re right. Thanks, Stephen. Mark Dutch pats Romero’s shoulder before he looks at his now sweat covered hand. Immediately, Dutch wipes his hand off on Romero before he quickly walks away. Romero looks down at the sweaty handprint before letting out a sigh. The camera returns to the kitchen, where we see Milkman back in after his break, and his crust has been pulled out and he’s pouring in a filling into it. Baker is on Twitter instead of watching whatever he has put in the oven. Bakers oven start producing smoke, whole Tony’s produces an absolutely gorgeous looking loaf of pastry Baker: “Shit!” Baker runs over the oven and opens it, quickly pulling the cookies out without wearing any form of hand protection We open our next scene, as we see Stephen Romero backstage once again, clad in his wrestling gear and changed into a cleaner, and very small black tank top. So small the tank top is dangerously close to slipping inward a bit and potentially revealing his nipples. With this phone on hand, as he starts an instagram live stream from his phone, quickly getting up to around 14 unique viewers. As he begins to speak. Romero: Hello world! I’d just thought i’d give a bit of insight into how I go about preparing for whatever I need to do when i’m at a show! The first thing to bring, always, always have this- Romero opens one of his bags layed in his locker, inside revealing many bottles of water. Romero: Stay hydrated, constantly! And you can stay hydrated with….uh….actually I don’t have any sponsors for this yet……..use tap water if it’s safe where you live, get some re-usable bottles if you can! I think when it comes to price points it’s not something you’d regret if you splurged on, but not something you need to splurge on either. I might even recommend not splurging, because with some extra money, you can become a patron for 1 cent a month! We are already at fifty-three patrons, and you can get in on the new hotness, and access to exclusive content! Now, to show y’all some more- Romero grabs a significantly sized lunch box, as it seems to contain generous servings that make up a large rice bowl. First ingredient is obviously a lot of rice, with sliced pork, green onion, cilantro, mushroom, carrot, and avocado all being found in significant portions. Romero: Being as large as I am and working in such a physically draining industry, the portions that I need to function would incapactiate a normal human being. Whether I am exaggerating or not is up to your own interpretation. And now, some may wonder how I get mentally prepared for a match? It heavily depends, for ippv matches where there’s more on the line, I tend to psych myself up with intense music, let out energy through running in place, my ippv matches are more about being intense. With lower stakes matches or House Party matches, I tend to moreso leave my training at the gym, I just try to show up in as good and happy of a mood as I can. Easier said than done of course, but with things such as forming alliances recently, I always have some others to lift me up. I think specialist and Rizwan are in the break room, lets go visit them actually! Romero then walks out of the locker room and into the hallways, and as he just enters the hallways, he bumps into someone right in front of his whole stream! gayboygayboygayboygayboygayboygayboygayboygayboy: omg king u okay??!!??!! MarioFantatic37: Nooooooooo don’t get hurt from an unexpected collision your so sexy haha After a moment of surprise, we see the person Romero collided with as he exited the locker room, GiGi, who now sees that Romero bumped into her, and gains a fury in her eyes. GiGi: Hey! You! The audacatity to have said the things you have and now this?! Do you want to know the consequences! Well i’ll show you them! GiGi then whips out her phone herself, a look of anger on her face throughout the process of doing this, as she starts up an instagram live stream of her own…….and instantly changes to a fake wide smile as she starts the stream up, hundreds upon hundreds of viewers quickly pouring in. She glances up at Romero with now a smug smile at the sheer numerical differences in their streams, as she begins to talk to her fans. GiGi: Hello GiGi Gang! Welcome to an impromptu stream, brought on by more severe aggression against me! And guess who’s the person behind it! GiGi dramatically swings her phone to reveal Romero in the shot, who’s holding up his phone for his stream as well, as GiGi’s chat goes- Chad68: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Feet?: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! LocalLesbian: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Jouster06: HOW DARE YOU HURT HER YOU MONSTER! I’LL BEAT YOU UP MYSELF! xxxsavannahgranger4523: Looking for hot singles in your area? Visit Datebeast.notavirus.com/132342435353324244het43422 for your hook up today! QuirkyGamer!!!: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Upon realizing who they’re seeing, as GiGi continues to speak. GiGi: Once again I have been put in serious danger by Romero, by him as the much larger person trying to bulldoze over me and hurt me in the process! Romero: I...literally just accidentally bumped into you. GiGi: You’re lying! I can’t trust a word you say after your threats towards my livelihood, and now my physical well-being! You know what, this calls for retaliation, Kaitlyn, you’re strong, get him! As GiGi commands this though, we don’t see anything happen, GiGi, confused as to why Kaitlyn is not doing something for her, turns around, and sees that Kaitlyn has mostly fainted due to the sheer scale of her infatuation with GiGi. Connected to GiGi only by holding on to her foot, where many in chat upon seeing this foot holding simply comment “God I wish that was me”. Romero: Well, considering the state of Kaitlyn, i’m not sure she’s up for much of a fight in this moment. So unless you are, I think we’ll need another method to settle this, through what has been my goal, a stream battle! Where I handle mine with honesty and openness! GiGi: Is that all? Easy! You’re on! Kait! Come with! GiGi then begins to walk away, but is very noticeably slowed by the mostly dead weight of the head over heels Kaitlyn clinging onto her. Due to this GiGi is not able to make nearly as smooth an exit from the scene as she was hoping, but tries to make the best of it by highlighting the struggle she’s going through due to this, pointing the camera down in the process, showing her pastel colored shoes, as we see several “POGGERS” and excited proclamations of “FEET!” in her chat at this. Romero meanwhile heads his own way, as we see support from the members of his chat- gayboygayboygayboygayboygayboygayboygayboygayboy: Romeo, u r fuckin sick ur gonna do it BasedAndGaypilled: STEPHEN ROMERO KREYGASM Thats_So_Shibe: Bro no homo but I would like to have anal intercourse with you Romero makes his way quickly over to a break room, where we see Rizwan and Specialist chatting over a cup of tea for Rizwan, and several cups of coffee for each member of Specialist, as Romero mutters to himself for a moment- Romero: Fuck what do people like...spinning, they like spinning right? HEY RONDEL! Rondel then stands up, he and Romero making intense eye contact. Romero: DO ONE OF THEM COOL SPINS! Rondel then jumps on top of the table, Rizwan able to save his tea, but all of Specialist’s coffee gets spilled. Rondel then not only spins, he balances on one leg to do the spin, mixing in several hops into the spin to add even more onto it, before finishing the spin, and stepping off the table. He then offers to replace everyone’s spilled coffee, as he goes to get more, but not before he and Romero both communicate to each other with a thumbs up. As the chat that has now grown to 25 unique views POPS OFF We then cut back to GiGi, where we see on her stream her attempts to geti Kaitlyn functioning again. We see GiGi more gently poking her, shaking Kaitlyn, throwing a glass of water on her face, all to no avail! Before she finally switches up the strategy, and slaps Kaitlyn across the face, this action finally making her functionable again, as a wide smile forms on her face, as she springs to her feet. This once again drawing many “damn I wish that was me’s” from the chat. As GiGi then speaks to Kait- GiGi: So, you’ve been allied with Romero before right? Knowing him from that, and knowing him now from his evil actions, what do you think he could be doing right this moment? Kaitlyn: Uhm, he could be showing off his wardrobe right now? Yours is just, so much more expansive and prettier than his, I think you can easily take away the few viewers he has by showing off your- GiGi: Not bad...but I think I got an idea better. We then cut back to Romero again, where he’s showing off more of his wardrobe, where he is currently clad in a maroon red beret, glasses straight from a sexy secretary halloween costume, a white/maroon striped shirt tucked into tight fit jeans, and a leather jacket over it all. Romero hits several poses in this outfit, but as he’s focusing on himself in the mirror and showing off the outfit and his figure in it to the audience in his chat, we see GiGi and Kaitlyn sneak up in the background. Keeping a low profile, but enough to be noticeable in the lower frames of Romero’s stream, and obviously visible on GiGi’s stream as we switch to her view of her slowly crawling her way towards Romero’s set up. Where we see his set up is organized into different pieces, the tops/bottoms/jackets/hats/accessories all put into different sections. We see GiGi and Kaitlyn coordinate to take one thing of each from all of those while Romero is focused entirely on his posing. Then they go to make their escape and with wonderful timing, because as they start, Romero for the first time fully turns around to show off the outfit from behind! GiGi and Kaitlyn barely dodging out the way with all the stolen clothes. As we then hear Romero say- Romero: Alright, I hope that was enough for all of you! Now, onto the next outfit… Romero then goes through each his sections, making most of his next outfit….but cannot find the hat for it! Romero: Yo what the fuck…..you know what, i’ll skip that one, next outfit! Romero then goes through his next outfit…..but finds that he is now missing the jacket that goes with it! Romero: HUH?! Again?!! Well uhhh….third time’s the charm I guess! Romero then looks through his next outfit…..but cannot find the top to it! Romero: WHAT THE FUCK?! Hold up, somethings going on here…. Romero then goes to grab his phone, and check insta live chat, where they are spamming “GIGI STOLE YOUR CLOTHES” in the chat, as an anger then manifests in Romero’s face. Romero: She took my clothes?!........I’ve gotta do something about this man.. We then cut to GiGi and Kaitlyn still streaming, where we now see GiGi attempting a try on an article of clothing she stole from Romero, a denim jacket…..emphasis on *try, as we see that the jacket looks less like a normal jacket, looks less like an oversized jacket, but more like a straight up blanket on GiGi, nearly completely covering her all on it’s own.* GiGi: What do you say Kait? I think these are so big on me they could really work as a unique shoot, maybe make it available for patrons donating $750 and up, or you could take them for yourself if you want, they’d still be quite large on you but not to the point where you could make your bed with it. Kaitlyn: Oh, um, no, no thank you, I think i’d like to see more you wearing some of his stuff.. GiGi: Ooohhhh, well I know I already have one patron on board, say, how exactly would you enjoy seeing me wear it? Kaitlyn: Well...uh….maybe with, nothing….uhhh GiGi: Nothing what? Kaitlyn:Uh…..umm…......nevermind… GiGi: Alright, just if you ever do want some of this stuff let me know, you gotta take advantage of your top patron exclusive reward of receiving one individual piece of clothing from me! As GiGi says this, we then hear the door into where they are get kicked down, as through the rubble, emerges Stephen Romero, Kaitlyn looks defensive and ready to scrap, as GiGi initially panics. Romero: Hey! All that is my damn clothes! In her panic, GiGi grabs the oversized denim jacket, and tosses it at Romero’s face as a distraction! Before GiGi bails out the room before anything can escalate! Kaitlyn still looks primed to defend, but GiGi forcefully grabs her anyway, pulling her away from the scene all the same.As Romero the takes his denim jaket he got thrown back in, he smiles that it still fits, and puts in on, striking a pose to his crowd in his chat. Romero: Well…..I lost several hundreds of dollars and cool pieces of clothing because of that……...but at least this denim jacket is still sick though! Romero then strikes more poses for the fans, as we gradually fade out on the scene. We come back to the ring, where we see Javier standing in the middle of the ring, ready to announce. Javier: The following is a tag team match, set for one fall, with a 30 minute time limit! Introducing first- The Fall III by Doping Hornets comes through the speakers, as we see Mercenaire and Marshall Wheeler both come out from behind the curtain. Both disregarding the audience, as they stride to the ring with confidence. Javier: From Houston, Texas, and A Dark, Dark Place respectively, weighing in at a combined 480 pounds, Marshall Wheeler, Mercenaire, Coup d’Etat! Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Woodbridge: Being announced from Houston and A Dark Place as separate things? Ain’t those the same thing? Paisner: Mark! Woodbridge: Sorry, had to take the opportunity when I had it. Digressing from that, we’ve got one hell of a tag match coming up! As we got two men who are talented and angry, one hell of a deadly combination if i’ve ever seen it. Feeling overlooked, they have a chance to channel that anger into their biggest tag challenge yet in SPECIALIST. They’ve proven they can take care of those they should absolutely beat, now lets see how they fare against those where it’s more of a 50/50. Wheeler and Mercenaire continue to stoically march their way down to the ring, paying to mind to the jeers tossed their way, as they both reach the ring apron, and step through the ropes in sync with one another, before the two take a spot at the end of the ring, looking out to the entranceway, awaiting their opponents. The Anomoly by Scar Symmetry blasts heavy riffs throughout the venue, as we see Presagio Del Fin and Nelson Butterfly out on the entranceway. Clinging onto one another, a look of determination on their face. Javier: And introducing next, from Parts Unknown, weighing in at a combined 437 pounds, Presagio Del Fin, Nelson Butterfly, S.P.E.C.I.A.L.I.S.T.! Crowd: YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! Paisner: Now, two very strange men coming down to the ring, the traditional pair of SPECIALIST representing it tonight, and despite their unorthodox in-ring methods, there’s very few others who have as much chemistry and knowledge of each other inside and out as SPECIALIST do. And that unorthodox style? Might be exploitable, but if you don’t know that exploit, you get torn apart by it. And inexperienced wrestlers like Mercenaire and Wheeler may be prime for not knowing, this could be a huge win for SPECIALIST here tonight! Butterfly and Presagio make their way down to the ring with their arms linked together, interacting with the fans, handing out hand slaps as they walk down the entranceway. They begin to practice their respective underhooks and pins to make sure they’re warmed up, before finishing their way to the ring, as they step into it. We see both Coup d’Etat and SPECIALIST talk amongst one another, as we see Mercenaire and Presagio step onto the aprons. While Wheeler and Nelson stay in the ring, Undersach signaling to see if they’re all ready, and getting nods from everyone, rings the bell! DING DING DING As the match starts, Wheeler and Nelson slowly approach each other, they lock up, as Wheeler then goes to slip behind Nelson right after! Grabbing Nelson’s head, pulling it back, and driving a european uppercut into the back of Nelson’s head! Nelson holding at the back of his head, before Wheeler shoots a forearm shot into the back of Nelson’s head! Sending Nelson stumbling forward, as Wheeler then runs the ropes, and comes back to attempt an enzu lariat to the back of Nelson’s head, but Nelson drops down! Fitting in between Wheeler’s legs, as Wheeler stops himself after a moment, and turns around to Nelson who had gotten back to his feet, who grabs Wheeler in a double underhook! Wheeler tries to struggle out, but Nelson lifts his knee up into Wheeler’s face! Doing it multiple times until he has Wheeler sufficiently harmed, where upon which, Nelson tosses Wheeler back across the ring with a butterfly suplex! Wheeler landing hard on his back, gritting his teeth in pain! Crowd: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Paisner: Wheeler trying to quickly strike Nelson down, but Nelson dropping down, then quickly into offense through his patented double underhook! Wheeler then begins to push himself up, sitting up, then getting onto his hands and knees to try and make his way to his feet, but Nelson swoops in quickly, nails an elbow to the top of Wheeler’s head, and hooks Wheeler’s arms to bring Wheeler up on his own terms. Nelson takes Wheeler over to his tag corner, shooting a look at Presagio to cue him to tag himself in. Presagio sets himself up near Nelson, as Nelson tosses Wheeler up into the air with the set up for a double underhook powerbomb, but instead of following through with it himself, Presagio instead comes in as the one to catch and add his own force to slam Wheeler down to the mat with the assisted tiger bomb! Presagio sitting down with it! Crowd: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Paisner: Nelson combining well his double underhook and tag team mastery! And of course Presagio keeps the sit-out for a pin! 1! No! Kickout from Wheeler! Wheeler kicks out with a bit of force, rolling onto his stomach as he does, as Presagio gets up, sizes up Wheeler as Wheeler begins to push himself to his feet, and runs towards the ropes! Jumping onto and bouncing up off of them as he reaches them, and launching himself back at the now to his feet Wheeler with a springboard hurricanrana! Keeping it for the rana pin! Crowd: WOOOOOOOOOOO! 1! 2! No! Kickout right at 2 from Wheeler! The force from Wheeler’s kickout pushes Presagio off of Wheeler, Presagio flung outwards as the two have their backs to one another. Both of them attempt to rise to their feet, but Presagio as the healthier man is a good deal faster, and with that, hooks Wheeler from behind him, gets back-to-back to him, and goes down into a backslide pin on Wheeler! 1! 2! No! Kickout from Wheeler again! As we get another kickout from Wheeler, both men go to scramble to their feet, and as Wheeler rises, Presagio responds with a knee to the gut to double him over, and keep him in place! Following up by going to the ropes, and jumping off for another springboard! This time going for a springboard crossbody, as he connects with Wheeler! But suddenly, Wheeler rolls through the momentum of the crossbody! Coming out of it with Presagio in his grasp, holding Presagio in front of him! Wheeler then lifts Presagio, and goes to toss Presagio over his head, but Presagio shifts his momentum in mid-air and lands on his feet! Crowd: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! Paisner: Presagio nearly reversed, but he finds his own way of escape! Directly countering the counter! And as Presagio lands on his feet, he grabs Wheeler from behind and goes to roll him back into an o’connor roll!.....but Wheeler once again moves his own momentum through! Going into his own o’connor roll!....but he still does not stop! Continuing to follow through by going to lift Presagio up in a rolling german suplex! Lifting Presagio up halfway, but Presagio desperately struggles! Kicking his feet and swinging his arms, until he lands enough wild strikes to force Wheeler to let him go! Wheeler backs off a bit, as Presagio takes a moment to catch his breath and recover, before beginning to run towards the ropes!.......but not before Wheeler recovers himself, and comes forward to spin around, and connect with a spinning back elbow to the back of Presagio’s head! The impact and suddenness of the strike knocking Presagio flat to the mat! Crowd: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Paisner: BY GOD! THE SPINNING ELBOW TO THE BACK OF THE CRANIUM! COMPLETELY DEVASTATING PRESAGIO! Presagio is completely laid out, as Wheeler bends his knees for a moment in order to catch himself, before grabbing the limp body of Presagio, and dragging it over to his tag corner, where upon which he lifts Presagio’s body and tosses it into said corner, and tags in Mercenaire. Wheeler then lifts his leg up high, and presses it up against Presagio’s neck to both keep him in place and choke him out! Crowd: BOOOOOOOOO! As he does this, Mercenaire enters the ring, and backs up to about the center of the ring, before rushing towards the corner, and just as Wheeler releases his foot choke and moves out the way, Mercenaire connects with a big boot in the corner to the head of Presagio! Knocking him back down limp to the mat! Crowd: OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Presagio is completely out on the mat, as Merc stands over him, leans down to grab him, then tosses him right back in the corner where he begins to lay in body punches to the stomach of Presagio! Doubling Presagio over in the corner, as Merc then lays in pointed elbows to the back of Presagio’s neck! Raining down elbow after elbow on Presagio, forcing him lower and lower down in the corner, until he’s dropped to a seated position. Upon which Merc just puts his boot on Presagio’s face, and rubs it in! Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Woodbridge: Mercenaire just absolutely relentless right now! No mercy nor respect given! Undersach begins to count off Mercenaire, and gets all the way to the 4 count before Merc removes his boot and finally relents! Crowd: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
First Chapter Previous Chapter The view of Sanctuary was made even more impressive as An’Ra and his team waited in the V-Lift. Through the window, they can see the ornate streets curving through resplendent pools underneath, dotted by the occasional fountain. “I hate this.” Vora groaned, dressed in a soldier’s standard battle uniform. “Why are we here, Commander?” “We were investigating genocide and possible use of bioweapons,” Sonak explained, “Even without the first part, Strain Y is going to scare a lot of people. I think it’s reasonable for the Council to take a personal interest in this. Besides, I think the real issue here is the fact you might actually have to speak to the Council.” “But...ugh, fine. Yes, I wasn’t mentally prepared for it when An’Ra came along and went, Party’s over, ass to the Council, now.” “Hey now.” An’Ra feigned offense, “I didn’t say it that way, did I?” “Kind of close, Commander.” Sonak chuckled. “But still, I think that this isn’t about keeping the galaxy safe.” Vora sighed. “I think the Council’s keeping an eye open for any opportunity to to convince the galaxy they’re still in charge.” “Or maybe they genuinely want to make sure that we’re not at risk of dying a horrible death by watching our own bodies melt.” Sonak shrugged. “Strain Y doesn’t care if you’re an officer or infantry.” “That assumes the Council cares about what’s going on outside of these walls.” Vora glanced over, wariness in her look. “Either way, we’re going to get our answer. Eyes open.” An’Ra said as the V-Lift doors parted ways, revealing the same ornate architecture within. Trees and grasses stole the eye as they walked through the hallways, various government officials from the myriad races conversing and conducting whatever business they were doing. After walking up some steps, they arrived at the large double-doors that lead to the Council Chambers. Standing on each side were the guards constantly on watch for any potential attack. Both of them Anaran, as expected. On approach, the guards opened up the doors to allow An’Ra and his team in. When they entered, the room was probably more magnificent than they expected. A grand, curved window dominated the view. An unintrusive look into the beautiful splendor of Sanctuary. Directly in front of An’Ra and his team was a pathway that led to a semi-circular desk, standing in front of the raised platform that the Council sat, who had just now noticed the arrivals and are settling themselves in. And it was there An’Ra got a good look at the Council. Four of them, half Esti, half Huak. An’Ra secretly never liked the Esti, the way he could see menacing fangs when their flat mouths opened, or those flaps of scale that expands outward into a hood. It just unnerved him, a reason he could never really find out. As soon as he sensed that they were ready, he walked up to the desk, wearing his officer’s dress uniform, comprised of a fine, smooth fabric shirt, adorned with a fluffy sash that went from his right shoulder down to his left side, shoulder pads accented with shining studs and finished with awards placed on his top-left chest, awards hard earned back in the Great War. “Commander An’Ra.” The Huak councilor on the far right side, Neual, began, thick fingers interlaced together as he rested his hands on the desk. “Thank you for agreeing to this unusual request, we are very appreciative.” “It’s no trouble, Councilor.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “How can I help?” “We’ll start at the beginning.” The first Esti councilor, Zhur, stated, holding up a secure datapad to ensure the information is easily accessible. “Strain Y. Your report says that while there is confirmation it was used, it was not used in significant quantities. Can you elaborate on that for us?” “Previous uses of Strain Y all had one thing in common,” An’Ra began, “The amount deployed saturated the atmosphere of the planets they were used on. This is because, despite its lethality, is not actually that infectious. In order to guarantee the total elimination of a planet’s population, you will need to deploy it in such large numbers that everyone will be infected within minutes of deployment. In this case, for Planet 3, there simply wasn’t enough to reach that threshold.” “At which you go on to state that thermal weapons were used in a state of panic,” Yhiz, the second Esti councilor, added, “Can you explain your reasoning for us?” “As established before, Strain Y was used on the planet. My working theory is that, when they discovered that they grossly underestimated the amount needed, they panicked and used thermal weapons to both try and burn out the supplies used and finish the genocide they started.” “But if thermal weapons were indeed used, how did you confirm Strain Y was deployed?” Zhur spoke up. “We found pieces of Strain Y’s genetic material on the planet’s surface.” An’Ra glanced over to Zhur’s direction. “And as I arrived back in the system, I received a quantum packet from the expedition, stating that they have confirmed that Strain Y was indeed used. Adding that with the obvious use of thermal weaponry, I concluded that the attackers didn’t use enough of the weapon to guarantee extinction.” Zhur leaned back in her seat, scarlet eyes fixated on the desk. An’Ra couldn’t tell if she was trying to find a counter argument or just processing the information. “Have you found any evidence that can tell us if there’s more of the strain out in the galaxy?” Neual asked after giving a sigh through his wide nostrils. “I’m afraid not, sir. All I can definitively say is that this planet fell victim to a biological Cruel Weapon.” “I’m more concerned about the native life.” Ghala, the final and second Huak councilor, stated after being silent. “Are you absolutely certain that none of the planet’s indigenous life survived?” “The scientific team said that there’s a very low chance of that.” An’Ra’s ears flattened. “And after seeing the surface myself, I must agree. I don’t think we should wait for a miracle.” “Ah...I see.” Ghala leaned back in his chair, obviously disheartened. “Even if the planet is now incapable of supporting life, we still wish to move forward with a more symbolic gesture and statement by declaring Planet 3 of System AQ 115-4A illegal for colonization.” “But let’s move onto what I believe is the most pressing issue: the identity of the attackers.” Neual leaned forward. “Based on your report, you and the team have found nothing that neither confirms nor clears any potential suspect?” “That’s correct, Councilor.” An’Ra nodded. “We’ve found nothing, within the system and on the planet itself, that tells us anything about who did it.” “Are there any surviving infrastructure on the planet?” Ghala asked, straightening his posture. “Even if there isn’t much, maybe the natives’ equipment has something we can use?” “As established before, the planet was devastated terribly. There are indeed ruins of their civilization, but whether or not we can salvage anything from them is a different story.” An’Ra answered with a sigh. “So in that case, the Qu’Rathi are still the likely aggressors then.” Zhur stated. “I’m not convinced.” An’Ra shook his head. “Everything we have so far is just circumstantial, nothing solid.” “Yes, that proves they did it. But looking at it from a different perspective, nothing that proves they didn’t do it either.” Zhur countered, her eyes squinting some. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to press forward with what I think you’re planning, Councilor.” An’Ra leaned forward on the table, ears flattening back. “If you do, and we uncover evidence that clearly proves their innocence, you will be pushing an innocent race away.” “But if we uncover evidence that proves their guilt, then the trial will be much more expedient.” Yhiz joined in, his eyes also squinting slightly. “With respect Council, I still think that’s the worst decision you can make.” An’Ra’s teeth began to bare as he spoke. “We can’t make any decision until we acquire more evidence.” “Nothing we have proves that Strain Y is permanently removed as a future threat.” Zhur started, “Nothing we have proves that the Federation did not do anything. Right now, we have the threat of a Class 4 Cruel Weapon looming over everyone’s heads. People will start becoming scared, start wondering if their shadows will melt them at any time.” “I know that Councilors!” An’Ra raised his voice. “Give me time! I’m not saying this is over yet, just let me keep looking!” “We aren’t stopping your investigation, Commander.” Neual said, holding his hand up slightly. “We’re just informing you that you may not have the time you thought you had.” “What does that mean?” An’Ra’s ears stuck out at an angle, mixed between stiffening and anger. The councilors looked at each other for a few moments before Zhur stood up and took in a deep breath. “Commander, based on both the collected evidence so far, and lack of any other evidence, the Council has decided to proceed with charging the Qu’Rathi Federation on counts of Genocide, possession of a Cruel Weapon, and deployment of Cruel Weapons with intent for malicious harm. Out of respect for your efforts, Commander, we will give you eight months to continue your investigation. Beyond that, we will close your investigation to allow the courts time to process and review what has been collected.” “Are you insane?!” An’Ra shouted. “Do you even realize what would happen if you’re wrong?!” “We do, Commander.” Zhur nodded. “But the risk is just too high. The safety of the galaxy and justice for the inhabitants of System AQ 115-4A must be our top priority. This debrief is over.” An’Ra stood in complete and stunned silence, watching the Council casually get up from their seats and dispersing to their own private offices. It wasn’t until that they have fully left the chambers that An’Ra finally found the will to move and regroup with Sonak and Vora, both of whom are also equally stunned. “Those ekas!” Vora exclaimed. “It’s bad enough to be quick at accusing someone, but how dare they claim this is for those humans!” “And here I thought all those things the news were saying was just to get people to watch them.” Sonak muttered softly. “Commander, obviously this is bad.” “I know, Sonak.” An’Ra crossed his arms, ears now pointing straight back and teeth fully bared. “We can’t let them do this.” “But what can we do?” Sonak exclaimed. “What options do we have?” “Alliance Enforcement!” Vora declared. “Commander, what if you filed a complaint to the Lord-Enforcer? Tell him what’s going on?” “That’s a good idea actually.” Sonak nodded. “If we convince the Lord-Enforcer that the Council is being too hasty with our investigation, which shouldn’t be hard, he just might deny the Council’s request for prosecution!” “I can’t imagine the Lord-Enforcer approving this even without our complaint.” An’Ra replied. “Still, never hurts to be prepared. Come on, let’s get to it.” Jur’El leaned back in the puffy seat he was assigned to. The restaurant he entered had a calm and relaxed atmosphere. The lighting was dimmed, which complimented the dark but cozy ambiance of the room. The walls and floor each had a dark-themed color scheme, the seats were of a different scheme but not too different to oppose the goal set by the designer. And although the building was packed with customers, their conversations did not threaten to turn anyone deaf. It was a quiet and relaxed experience, something he needed desperately. Even now, as hard as he tried to focus on how delicious his food was, how balanced the flavor and texture of it was, he was still forced to relive what happened on Planet 3. He could hear the sudden screams of his colony group. The scientists who were first awoken that wanted to find out why their Life world was so different to the data they were given. To the families and menial workers who were just talking amongst themselves and organizing the supplies when those machines stormed the ship. And what still terrifies him, still sends his heart racing, was when that one machine entered the control room, blood drenching its chassis. Bits and pieces of Qu’Rathi innards on its cold mechanical manipulators. How it just stared at him, lifelessly, with a rifle aiming right at his chest. And those drills. Those ghenning drills. He was forced out of his torment by the rough poking of his shoulder. When he looked, it was another Qu’Rathi. “Captain Jur’El, right?” “Uh..yes, who are you?” He nodded in confusion. “Jhen.” She introduced herself, quickly taking a seat opposite from him. “I need to talk to you.” “About what?” “The expedition to that system deep in the Dead Zone.” She glared at him, mandibles tense. “The same system who’s Life world had a native population, the very same world being investigated as a genocide site, where your expedition went to settle.” “Jhen, please, we had no idea what was going on.” Jur’El leaned back, hands raised in a defensive posture. “All we were told was that this was the most pristine and beautiful Life world ever discovered in a system rich with stellar bodies.” “I don’t care about that. What I care is how you seem to be the only one who came back.” Jhen started raising herself from her seat. “I’m pretty sure that anyone who attempts to colonize a freshly cleansed world is forcibly removed from that planet and returned to their respective people. So where is everyone?” Jur’El’s eyes went wide. He knew exactly where this was going. “I...I can’t tell you.” “Don’t you dare.” Jhen snarled, now leaning over the table. “I’ve heard enough of that from the company, I’m not here to be force-fed more of it!” “Just...trust me,” Jur’El spoke softly, shakily leaving his seat, “You don’t want to know.” “Don’t you ghenning walk away from me!” Jhen shouted, grabbing Jur’El’s shoulder firmly, the other patrons now locking eyes to the two. “Two of my sons were on that mission! What happened to them?!” Jur’El clutched his head with a hand firmly, feeling tears exploding out of his eyes. His mind rushing back to those scenes. The sounds, the smell, the fear. Everything crashed into him all at once. And they’re not just memories now. They’re all coming back to him as if he was transported in time and placed back to the exact moment it started. Back to the moment where he was screaming for his wife and son to hide, to find a corner of the ship that was hard to see and to stay there until the shooting stopped. How he felt his heart give out when he heard them beg for their life when they were found, cut short by the merciless cracks of their alien weapons. How every possible feeling melted away when the clanking of the machine’s walking approached him, when he realized there was no nowhere in the control room to hide, not with how thorough those things were being. The frantic, mindless begging he got into when he saw the blood covered machine hold that weapon to him. “You’re safe!” A voice rang out. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for him to come back. That scene melting away back into the restaurant. All those smells and sights to be gone. When he was certain that it was over, he looked around. There was Jhen, face beaten and currently being restrained by a blue-furred Anaran. And in front of him was another, gray-furred one. “You hear me? You’re safe now!” “I...wh-what happened?” “We saw what was going on. The Qu’Rathi over there? She was just screaming down your throat, all while you were just on the floor. Ken’A there nearly caved her face in by the time we got some distance between you two.” “Th...thank you.” Jur’El muttered, shakily getting himself back on his feet with the help of the gray Anaran. Jur’El was just about to walk away when the Anaran firmly, but not threateningly, gripped his shoulder. “I know the signs, friend.” He began softly. “Your soul is badly wounded and is bleeding heavily. Just like a doctor if you’re shot or cut, you need to find someone to talk to, get your soul back together.” “As long as I don’t run into another person like her, I’ll be fine.” Jur’El countered, trying to walk away still. “No, you won’t.” The Anaran still held his grip. “I need you to trust me. With how bad your soul is right now, doing anything other than talking to someone will just make it worse. And when your soul dies, well...believe me, it’s not a good experience, for anybody.” Jur’El stared into the gray Anaran’s orange eyes for a moment before he let out a sigh. “You’re not going to give up, are you?” “I’ve seen what happens too many times. Good Battle-Brothers, completely different people. Either they’re just shadows of themselves, or doomed to forever relive their horrors. If I have the chance to prevent it happening again, I’m giving it my all.” Jur’El looked aside for a few moments, internally fighting himself as to whether he should comply or keep resisting. He finally reached his decision when he became certain that the Anaran would most likely hunt him down as a life mission if he didn’t seek therapy. “Fine, I’ll do it. Got anyone in mind?” “A dear friend of mine. He’ll get you back on track, promise.” The Anaran patted Jur’El’s shoulder a few times before proceeding to lead him, motioning for Ken’A to let go of Jhen and follow. Michael, accompanied by his newly founded Praetorian Guard, continued his leisurely stroll down the surprisingly spacious corridor. The hallway itself was typical. All-metal construction with evenly spaced rows of blue-white lights. The Praetorian Guard themselves are comprised of those Servants who display both extreme scores in combat efficiency and effectiveness in defensive situations. Armed with the absolute best in magnetic-ballistics, the most impenetrable of armor designs and the highest optimized combat-frames, even a squad of these guards can hold off a virtual army, provided they aren’t subjected to bombardment or heavy ordinance. Just as Michael was about to enter the main command center of the station he was touring, Central contacted him on a private channel. “Master? Your new administration is ready.” He declared proudly. “Alright, let’s begin the introductions.” Michael replied, signaling the guardsmen that he’s about to enter a meeting. Although unneeded, the Guard promptly took up a defensive formation around him. He assumes this is mostly to keep unwelcome guests from interrupting him. The scenery of the tranquil design of the corridor melted away into the virtual world built by neon-blue blocks, the same visual that he witnessed when he first received the interface. After a few moments, several other Servants materialized and stood attention in a semi-circle in front of him. “My Lord.” The first Servant bowed, its voice deep, if gruff. “I’m Supreme Commander Schwarzkopf, in charge of managing our armed forces and overseeing the grand strategy of the Imperium.” “I am Secretary Elizabeth.” The second spoke with a calming, soothing feminine voice. “I’m responsible for ensuring our economy runs perfectly. In short, I make sure every project gets the hammers and resources it needs.” “I’m Foreign Minister Edward, at your service m’Lord.” The third, with a distinct British accent and of a composed, controlled voice. “While regretfully I’m useless at this stage, the moment we initiate contact with xeno species, I’ll handle diplomatic affairs and achieving our goals through negotiations when possible.” “No offense, but I thought every Servant wants to see aliens dead?” Michael spoke up with slight confusion. “Oh, of course. The very idea of ripping out the entrails of a xeno and suffocating them with it brings such joy it’s therapeutic.” Benjamin replied. Michael was unsure if he was joking or not. “I was appointed because I displayed the most effective ability at hiding such feelings.” “Ah...good to know.” Michael nodded dryly, not exactly assured. “Back to where we were?” “Yes, Lord. I’m Director Mansfield.” The fourth spoke with an eloquent-sounding voice. “I’m in charge of Imperial Intelligence, running operations abroad and managing counter-intelligence on the homefront. I give you my word that we will know everything about the aliens and they will know nothing about us.” “And that leaves me, Master.” Central began. “As a result of this delegation, I now possess more processing cycles towards research and development. That means that I’ll be in charge of ensuring Imperial dominance in technology. I will also act as your adjutant, filtering out information that does not need your attention.” “Well...shit, this sounds like an actual government I’m in charge of.” Michael gave out a nervous chuckle. “All the more reason to get down to business though. Let’s start with the first matter. Schwarzkopf, how’s our military coming along?” “It’s growing rapidly, your majesty.” He answered with distinct pride. “Already we have several hundred frigates, fifty light cruisers and twenty heavy cruisers, with the first wave of battleships due to exit the drydocks within a few days. Additionally, we have established four different army groups with fifty divisions each.” “I thought we’d take a lot longer.” Michael stated with no hidden amazement. “There’s great benefit in our workforce able to operate at a hundred percent every hour of the day.” Elizabeth commented, her emotion-flags also indicating pride. “And speaking of which, our population of Servants grows geometrically. That benefits both our economy and the military. Our economy by providing more workers in skilled and unskilled labor, and the military by providing more crew members and soldiers.” “So in short, it won’t be long before we become a virtual powerhouse.” Michael said, arms crossed. “Especially if we continue expanding.” Elizabeth nodded. “On that note, we have already claimed several dozen more systems.” “With Rigel and Betelgeuse selected as naval bases.” Schwarzkopf chimed in. “So we’re expanding in all the ways, got it.” Michael nodded. “Now the second matter. Terraforming Mars.” “At present, there are two issues that must be resolved.” Central answered. “The first problem is the planet’s lack of a magnetosphere. Without that, any and all organic life would perish under lethal bombardment of the Sun’s solar wind, in addition to any sustainable atmosphere being lost to space. The second problem is Mars’ inability to retain heat, the cause for it’s known low planetary temperature.” “And knowing you, you already have possible answers?” Mansfield shrugged. “Correct. The heat issue is rather trivial to solve. Mars already has an abundant amount of carbon-dioxide within the atmosphere, a well known greenhouse gas. Combined with even more of the gas locked planet side, once temperatures begin to rise, we will set off a snowball effect. However, that is all for naught if the atmosphere is allowed to escape into space by solar wind.” “So basically the key here is the magnetosphere.” Michael added. “Build that and everything becomes simple.” “Exactly.” Central affirmed. “Already there are two main methods. One is to build superconducting rings around the planet and drive them with direct current. With enough power, we can generate magnetic fields strong enough to form a virtual magnetosphere.” “And what’s the second?” Elizabeth said. “The second is to construct a station at the L1 Lagrange Point that will generate a dipole magnetic field, diverting the solar wind around the planet instead of into it. Although it was simulated using slower, binary processing, the results indicate that Mars would gain half the atmospheric pressure of Earth’s within a few years.” “So then, the main focus is building that magnetic shield.” Michael spoke firmly. “Elizabeth? Let’s get the ball rolling. Coordinate with Central as needed.” “At once, my Lord.” Elizabeth bowed. Unlike the Council chambers, the office of the Lord-Enforcer was much less opulent and more pragmatic. After going through the receptionist area, An’Ra and his team were escorted into the main office itself. However, just like the chambers, a large window dominated the view on entry, granting another view of a city district on Sanctuary. And sitting in the more rectangular desk was the Lord-Enforcer himself, Dura. Blue eyed, with a fur of dull-orange it reminds of a sunset. As soon as An’Ra and his team walked into the office, the Enforcer sat up, tail wagging. “Commander An’Ra, in my office!” He exclaimed, arms out to his sides. “Forgive me sir, but I never thought I’d see the day!” “A pleasure to meet you, sir.” An’Ra replied warmly, greeting the Enforcer with their fists clasped together and pulling themselves inward, shoulder to shoulder. “Please, no need to be formal with me.” Dura chuckled. “Sit down, what brings you here?” After taking their respective seats, An’Ra looked at Dura grimly. “I’m here to file a delay on a request for prosecution against the Federation.” Dura’s ears angled themselves in a mixture of stiffening and lowering. “I just got the paperwork from the Council. And I can tell you that won’t be needed. I’ve already submitted my rejection.” “With respect, sir.” Sonak spoke up. “I get the feeling that the Council might fight that.” “Don’t worry, I’m not going to present my back to them just because they ask.” Dura gave off a grin. “I might be some paper-tosser now, but that just means the battlefield is different. Don’t worry Commander, as long as I’m here, you’ll get the chance to finish this investigation properly.” “Thank you, Enforcer.” An’Ra smiled as he got up from his seat. “With any luck, you won’t have to fight long.” “Oh, take your time!” Dura replied with an inflection of humor. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve had in years. Was just about to smash my head on this desk any day now actually.” “Wait, really?” Vora asked, ears stiffened. “It’s just a joke, Vora.” Sonak assured dryly. “Oh...” Her ears flattened as the team exited the office. When they arrived in the main plaza where the Enforcer’s office is located, they congregated in a small collection of benches nearby an ornate fountain that commemorated the Anaran defense of Felaal IV, largely considered the turning point of the Great War, which further enhanced the beauty of the surrounding scenery of floating walkways above crystal-clear waters. “Well, that’s a relief, hopefully.” An’Ra began, letting out a decompressing sigh. “I meant what I said earlier, An’Ra.” Sonak said. “If the Council are determined to charge the Federation, which I’m sure they made abundantly clear, they’re not going to let the Enforcer drop mines in their path just like that.” “Which just means we can’t lose our focus.” Vora replied sternly. “So, what are our options? We can’t exactly go back to Planet 3, there’s really no leads there.” “What about that Detective we met when we arrived?” Sonak suggested. “He was handling that whistle blower. Maybe that’s something worth looking into?” “There’s also the Nav-Net.” Vora said. “All we got right now is that the Feds were at that location, but what if we look at the rest of the network? Try and trace their path?” “The network doesn’t extend into the Dead Zone.” Sonak countered. “No, not like that. We look at the network across Alliance space. We start with the logs that end at the Dead Zone, and we try to backtrack their route.” “We’ll need to obtain legal authorization for that, Vora.” An’Ra stated. “Actually, if I could add something.” Sonak said with his arms crossed. “If the Federation didn’t actually do it, then that questions the credibility of those codes. I think there’s a question that hasn’t been asked yet. And that is, are those codes faked?” “That’s...a good point actually.” Vora acceded. “If we get the legal permission to examine the NavNet logs, then if the Federation didn’t do it, the logs across the network won’t support it. Think about it. You need a big fleet to do what just happened, and that fleet has to come from somewhere.” “And that would mean if this was a frame job, they need a way to account for that.” An’Ra continued, confidence flaring. “It’s one thing to trick a single Nav-Buoy, but I really doubt anyone is capable enough of affecting the network itself.” “We still need the Enforcer’s help to get access to the network.” Sonak reminded. “Let’s go get it then.” An’Ra stated firmly. With that, the team left their meeting spot and began returning to the Enforcer’s office. With confidence in their step, the walk back to the office was much shorter compared to before. However, things took a turn when An’Ra and the team noticed a large gathering of officers around the office entrance. They didn’t have to time to wonder when a group exited the office, dragging a combative Dura out with them. “Commander, this isn’t good.” Sonak growled under his breath. An’Ra simply stepped forward and grabbed one of the arresting officers. “What in Arenar’s Sword is going on here?” “Dura’s under arrest on suspicion of corruption.” The officer replied flatly. “Lil’Al has been appointed as acting Lord-Enforcer.” “The Council’s behind this, Commander!” Dura shouted, his feet literally dragging along the floor as four officers were taking him away. “Don’t believe a word they say about me!” An’Ra and his team just stood there in stunned silence, watching and hearing the Anaran official being dragged virtually kicking and screaming. By the time they returned to their senses, hushed conversations was populating both the room and outside. “We’re not going to get in the network, are we?” Sonak asked, still recovering. “We still have to try, come on.” An’Ra said, already moving. When the team returned to the office, standing next to the desk was a slender Esti. No doubt Lil’al. She was looking out the window when she turned around upon hearing the encroaching footsteps. “Yes, may I help you?” She began. “Acting Lord-Enforcer Lil’Al?” An’Ra began, trying the diplomatic route first. “I’m Commander An’Ra, investigating the genocide by use of Strain Y. We’d like to request legal authorization to examine the logs of the Nav-Net.” “For what purpose?” She replied, taking her seat. “We believe that it may hold evidence that either confirms or disproves the Federation’s alleged involvement in the attack.” Lil’Al leaned back in her seat, staring at them. “The Nav-Net is the lifeblood of, well, everything. Commerce, tourism, law enforcement. It holds great information about who has gone where, and in what ship, Commander. You realize that, don’t you?” “I do, and what you’ve said precisely states how important that is, how important the potential evidence is.” Lil’Al stayed motionless for a few moments, her long, lithe fingers twiddling about that indicates her thought. “Very well, I’ll start the paperwork to get you authorization, just be mindful of what you’re about to analyze.” “Thank you.” An’Ra gave a slight bow. “In addition, I’m not sure if it’s been passed along, but Dura has rejected the Council’s request for prosecuting the Federation. Can I assume you’ll uphold that?” “I’m afraid not, Commander.” Lil’Al replied flatly. “The galaxy has suffered a great loss through the genocide of a race who’ve suffered the universe’s cruel sense of humor by being placed both far away from us and deep within an almost uninhabitable region. I have overturned Dura’s rash decision and accepted the Council’s request.” “Then I’d like to file a delay on that decision, immediately.” An’Ra replied, ears flattened back. “On what grounds?” “Lack of decisive evidence, to start.” “Same could be said on your side, Commander.” Lil’Al let out a sigh. “Yes, all the evidence collected thus far is not...ideal. However, the most significant points at this time are that a young race who was just about to leave their homeworld was exterminated through the most horrible of all options. We cannot ignore that.” “But we also can’t rush to conclusions. We need to continue investigating and only go after someone if we have at least one crucial piece of information.” An’Ra countered, arms crossed and his teeth starting to bare. “And I agree, that’s how it should be done.” Lil’Al replied. “But if we do, we risk dragging out an investigation to such a length we may end up forgetting this tragedy. We cannot allow such an insult to Planet 3’s memory. I’m sorry, but I must reject your petition for judiciary delay.” Next Chapter AN: Every single time I paste this in, Reddit is just determined to put it in some code block. Anyways, As of now, I've finally completely locked in the plot for this story, just one major question that could've changed a lot was on my mind for a while. Enjoy!
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