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Frozen Homes Pt 35: A Spiky Boi
Saturday Release! [First][Prev][Next][Wiki] Thanks for taking the time to read the story, Hope you enjoy it. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Commander Soto slammed himself into the wall, dodging a few beams of that ugly laser fire the enemy combatants used. With their weapons unlocked and the idea of prisoners abandoned, the way towards the bridge had been much more manageable. Not to mention the Aasteran soldiers seemed eerily excited to be killing these alien slavers. Watching from his cover as Ranarus charged an enemy encampment with nothing but his shield and grav sword. His eyes widened in amusement as the soldier jumped over a metal barricade and proceeded to tear apart the enemy. Going so far as to skewer two of the aliens with his tail, as he slashed into another three with his sword. "Guess that explains the tail spikes they have." Soto walked down the corridor, lazily holding his shield in front of him as he stalked towards the encampment, contemplating whether to kill the remaining slaver or capture it. Thankfully, his decision was made for him as an Aasteran soldier furiously charged forward, bellowing a primal war cry. Aggressively stomping his right foot and thrusting his tail through the alien, Soto just nodded and looked to his side. "You guys really love doing that." He commented to the nearest Aasteran, who just shrugged and moved on. Ranarus walked up beside Commander Soto and waved it off. "We have a lot of pent up rage against these things." "Hey, I get it. You guys can finally avenge your ancestors, right?" Soto replied, looking at his tac map. "More like my people, these things caused us much suffering. To see them use whatever these diamonds are as some living battery. It tells me more about this civilisation than I would like to know." Looking at the stolen cart carefully filled with the silicon bodies. Ranarus's anger once again boiled. "We can't even tell if they're still alive, they're so weak." "BRACE!" Ranarus leaned against the wall as the ship violently shook, looking at his team report to ensure that none of his party was injured as he gathered his footing. " What was that?" Commander Soto looked over to the cart then back to Ranarus. "Team six took out the weapons storage in the fighter hangar. Well, what they consider a fighter. We have civilian ships with more armour and shielding on them." Motioning for the group to reform, Commander Soto began following his tac map towards the assumed bridge located middle of the ship. Taking point with his shield and grav mace, Soto began following his map points, making sure to keep his team behind him before being pushed aside by Ranarus and his team as they stalked forward ahead of the Terrans. Looking back at his team, Soto decided to take a back seat to the action, figuring he would leave most of the killing to his new allies. They seemed to be pretty good at it and almost needed to get some vengeance out of their system even if he would eventually get in trouble for it. "Hey, there's some atmosphere on the other side of this door!" A marine shouted. Quickly moving over to his scanner tech, Soto looked at the readout and waved at Ranarus, who happened to be busy pulling one of his men off a mutilated body. "Hey, uh, I'm pretty sure what you're going to say. But, did your people have anything with a bio scan similar to this on your planet?" Ranarus looked at the scan in confusion. "Nope, I've never seen blood like that before. I don't even know what kind of metal that blood contains." Soto scrunched his face and waved the entire boarding group over. "Ok, we got some bio signs in this room, oxygen breathers, not these vacuum fucks. Scanners indicate that they're hurt, we think. The plan, we set up a shield to keep the air in, blow open the door, rush in and subdue the bio signs if they're aggressive. It's looking like we won't beat team two to the bridge anyway, so let's bag us some captives." Watching as the team's engineer set up the shield, Soto opened a com so he could listen to the other boarding groups, many of who were venting their anger out on these odd aliens with weapons typically not used inside ships. Thankfully, most of the ship was already under Union control with only the bridge and a few hold outs left, most of which were being utterly decimated by mobile lance batteries. "Shields up!" Reported his team's engineer. Watching as the charges were set, Soto and Ranarus moved up to take point. "Ready pal?" Commander Soto asked, already knowing the response. Ranarus looked at the rest of his team before back to the commander. "I was born to kill my people's enemies, not capture them. I will follow your lead." Soto chuckled at the unexpected answer. "We'll have to work on that." As the charge countdown hit zero and the door blew open, Soto hefted his shield and charged into the room, looking for his target. "Nothing's here." Ranarus rushed in and looked towards the location of the bio signs. "No, they're here." Picking up some fallen debris, Ranarus chucked it at a gathering of three spiky masses. Commander Soto watched as the spiky ball rippled, making off cooing noises before quickly silencing itself. "Is it a porcupine?" Slowly reaching out to touch a quill, his suit began to scream warnings as the point pierced through his armour and into his under mesh. Surprised, he pulled his hand back in shock as the nanites plugged the hole. Soto stared in amazement at the spiky ball as his suit finished up it's complaining. " Holy shit, No way we're cuffing this guy." "You'd be dead if it's quill were coated in poison, you realise." Looking at the tac com updates, Ranarus deflated as the ship was considered subdued and under Union control. "So, what is it, some pet?" Waving his teams medic up, Soto looked back at Ranarus and shrugged, "dunno, the doc will figure it out, for now, let's make sure our diamond friends get plenty of light... Feels like I'm talking about a plant." Watching as the medic waved his hands around and worked his healing magic, Soto was beginning to think he had more bad news heading his way as the doctor started frantically cursing and attempting to get around the quills of the creature. "What's wrong, doc?" "It's a fucking sentient. It's malnourished and dehydrated though... I think... Its blood is filled with some weird metal that's interfering with my scans. The quills, I think they're quills, something is off about them; they're pumped full of the metal too. Overall thoughts, though... I think those fucks were using this guys blood for something, they're all missing a lot, or just.. don't need a lot compared to both Terran and Aasteran." Soto palmed his face and let out a low groan. "What kind of sector of the galaxy is this. We spend two thousand years looking for life only to run into cold snakes and fucking cosmic boogeymen slavers, four-armed balls living in vacuum, enslaving everything they come across? I don't think the people back home are going to like any of this. No offence Ranarus, your people are great, but this is bullshit." Ranarus shook his head and looked at the spiky alien. "None taken, no one asked for any of this." "Got it! I can give them some anaesthetics until we can get them to a secure med bay. Uh, with your permission, commander. I'm sure they'll make it, but its better safe than sorry with the state they're in." Commander Soto nodded and looked down at the trio of porcupines. "Do it if you're sure it won't hurt them. I want to make sure they're alive for questioning." Soto held his breath as he watched the medic pour the medical nanites between the tightly packed quills. Shifting his visual spectrum to get a better look as the quills quivered, as if fighting to stay rigid before completely separating and softening into fine hair. "It's a fucking spiky boy!" Soto shouted. Ranarus looked at the Terrans curiously as they started making all sorts of soft noises at the alien." What's a spiky boy?" "It's not a dog! It's a wolf." Replied the medic. "What kind of wolf is red, its a big ass fox, dumb-ass!" Shouted a marine from the crowd. "They got red dogs on the Kuacog colony idiot!" Came another. "You guys do know it's sentient, right? Like a thinking being." Argued the tech. Regaining himself, commander Soto looked to the medic. "Sedate the other two. I want to make sure these guys get the help they need." Ranarus look on in confusion as the marines quickly quieted, looking at the trio of aliens. "Something wrong here I should know about? Finishing up relaying his information to the rest of the boarding teams, commander Soto looked over to Ranarus. "It's good that most of the aliens are dead. But if you find one alive, kill it before a Terran sees it." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Srettia screamed in horror as Michael skilfully flew through the hull of a wrecked enemy cruiser, a successful gambit at losing the fighter wing that managed to get behind him. " I COULD HAVE DESTROYED THEM YOU, IDIOT!" Rolling the ship out of the wreckage and manoeuvring to rejoining his bomber wing, Michael grinned and looked over to his terrified passenger. "True, but I felt like having some fun." "Well, our guest enjoyed itself." "At least someone's on my side." Michael complained as his bomber wing worked their way towards their target. Srettia turned to look at the being as it chimed a jaunty tune at her, its arms splayed as if it was on some sort of ride. "We need to name this thing." "It has its name; we just need to figure out how to communicate. Incoming forty seven mark three, four interceptors are heading towards the bombers." Srettia turned back to her weapons controls and began to rain anti mater upon the poor ships, chuckling as they broke apart from just the vicinity of the lance fire. "I can get used to this." "We are approaching our target. I am marking it on the display. Torpedos ready, waiting for wing commander's mark." Michael frowned as the visual came up, and he saw the swarm of fighters around the massive carrier. "That's a big guy." "You scared partner?" Srettia fired off a few shots and laughed. "He's scared. Big bad Terran ace pilot afraid of paper fighters." "Har, har. Have a good laugh." Pulling a hard turn to avoid a particularly nasty volley, Michael just shook it off and voiced his thoughts. "I'm more worried about why they are bent on protecting that ship. What's in it?" "Unknown. Fleet command needs it destroyed so Chrarada can take her fleet to secure a captured command ship." Srettia grinned at the thought of Chrarada screaming as her ship charged its target. "Well, lets clear the way for our beautiful leader, shall we?" "I did not know you thought her beautiful." "Well, duh. Her horns are always perfectly polished, and her scales are as glossy as a newborn." Srettia angrily fired some shots into a passing frigate as the squadron pierced the defensive screen and sighed. " It's unfair." "We're coming up on the target, get ready." Rolling under a cruiser with the squad, Michael snuck a look at Srettia and frowned." How about I pick up some moisturiser and polish for you when we get back to Leda. You can take the evening off to relax and let me pamper you for the night." Srettia fought to keep her tail still, at the thought. "We shall do that." "Target in range thirteen seconds, Torpedos ready." Michael looked at the being who began chiming an oddly deep tune and looked back at the ship. "I don't like this." "Firing Torpedos." Michael watched as the bomber squadron unleashed tens of high yield anti-matter torpedos at the massive carrier, observing as they crashed into the hull, ripping it apart and sending pieces splintering through the surrounding vessels, completely breaking the enemy formation. "Invest in better fighters, you idiots." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Charge forward! Breakthrough their lines and destroy all who get in our way!" Changing her fleet formation from a three-pointed claw into an arrowhead, Chrarada bought her ship to the front of the tip as her fleet advanced into the hole created by the Terran bomber squadron. "I'll need to request a fleet of those bombers.." Attempting to keep the emotion off her face as her ship unleashed a vicious broadside into the enemy formation while it crashed through the debris of the massive ship. Chrarada noted that the enemy command ship changed from contested to secure and smirked. " Our males have completed their task, increase speed to secure the target ship, we can't let the enemies destroy it!" Watching as more of the hard light aliens extracted themselves from the debris of the battlefield, Chrarada scoffed in frustration. "What kind of enemy are we fighting." "Ma'am, the enemy fleet is breaking off, looks like a pretty ugly retreat." Chrarada slammed her fist against her console in anger. "FIGHT ME, COWARDS!" Looking around at her bridge crew who had similar thoughts, Chrarada took a deep breath to compose herself and fought off the urge to chase after the retreating enemies. "Take up position around the captured ship, destroy what you can in the meanti-." "Detecting massive energy surge from enemy wreckage!" "Bring it up on visual." Chrarada watched closely as the carrier wreckage seemed to sparkle for a few moments, lights shimmering in multiple locations before merging into a massive hard light alien, twice no three times the size of her ship. "Ah, I can see why they're running." Just as the alien finally finished forming into an odd funnel shape, Chrarada felt a cold chill run down her spine and opened a com to her fleet. " ALL POWER TO SHIELDS, NOW! EVERY OUNCE YOU CAN SPARE!" Just as she finished relaying her commands, Chrarada watched in horror as the alien unleashed a massive beam of energy. One that rushed past her fleet and split into tens of smaller offshoots, shearing ships in half while destroying others. Shaking off her stress, Chrarada opened another com to her fleet in panic. "Stay out of its way. We secure the enemy ship with a tractor and get out of this area, NOW!" Upon finally reaching her target, Chrarada shuddered as the energy readings on the large alien once again began to spike. " Get a tractor on the ship and leave the area immediately. We don't have time!" Holding her breath as her fleet activated their tractors and began pulling the enemy ship from the battlefield, Chrarada watched curiously as another beam of light emerged from the alien, shaking her ship as it passed by to its intended targets. "Relay to the fleet command that our mission is complete." Exhaling in relief, Chrarada authorised docking of the boarding teams into her fleet, tapping her tail angrily as the enemy fleet fled the system. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ranarus walked off the boarding ship with his Terran teammates into the familiar sight of an Aasteran hangar bay as emergency personal flooded into the ships. Taking off his helmet Ranarus laughed as the Terrans threw down their own and rubbed their faces and hair. "Smells like home." Soto walked up beside Ranarus and clapped him on the shoulder. "Good job, friend. It looks like some ladies are looking your way." Soto pointed to a section of the hangar where medical personal and armour specialists were waiting. "Any of them catch your eye? Bet you can finally have the luxury of being the one to claim." Ranarus laughed and pointed at a Cyan female who pushed aside the other females and stalked towards Commander Soto. "Maybe, But I heard you're familiar with that one." Soto palmed his face as the female approached. "Yeah, She claimed me after a demonstration. She beat the crap out of a green one that tried to challenge her for it or something." Ranarus watched as the Female captain got up in Soto's face and began marking him with her tongue. "Well, have fun, commander. I hear the fangs are painless." Soto looked at Ranarus in shock then at the very long tongue rolling around his body. "Ahh fuck it." Ejecting himself out of his armour, Soto effortlessly picked up the cyan female. Walking off happily towards the hangar exit as she clung onto him, ignoring his whooping and cheering team. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
[OC] The 150 Greatest Characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe FINALE: #10-1
We are here! A lot of people have been saying how much they can't wait to read the top ten, and at last, that day has come. Sorry for the delay since #20-11, I've had a few other things on my plate. But today, on the twelve year anniversary of Iron Man's release, we're finally here! But first, a look back on the top 150 to date: 150.Yon-Rogg 149.Betty Ross 148.Vanessa Marianna-Fisk 147.Trevor Slattery 146.Proxima Midnight 145.Hogun 144.Aldrich Killian (The Mandarin) 143.Jiaying 142.Harold Meachum 141.Jeffrey Mace 140.The Collector 139.Bakuto 138.Willis Stryker (Diamondback) 137.Harley Keener 136.Ivan Vanko (Whiplash) 135.Brock Rumlow (Crossbones) 134.Davos 133.Jane Foster 132.Joy Meachum 131.Christine Palmer 130.Dormammu 129.Lady Sif 128.Thaddeus Ross 127.Alexandra Reid 126.Sharon Carter 125.Erik Selvig 124.Nobu Yoshioka 123.Nakia 122.Sonny Burch 121.Malcolm Ducasse 120.Elena Rodriguez (Yo-Yo) 119.Happy Hogan 118.Stick 117.Amy Bendix 116.Ray Nadeem 115.The Grandmaster 114.Ward Meachum 113.Darcy Lewis 112.Lincoln Campbell 111.Hela 110.Arnim Zola 109.Alexander Pierce 108.Claire Temple 107.Frigga 106.Ulysses Klaue 105.Obadiah Stane (Iron Monger) 104.Wong 103.Jeri Hogarth 102.Yinsen 101.Pepper Potts 100.M’Baku 99.Ego 98.Karl Mordo 97.Ned Leeds 96.Korg 95.Mantis 94.William Rawlins (Agent Orange) 93.May Parker 92.Raina 91.Lewis Wilson 90.Janet Van Dyne 89.Justin Hammer 88.Johann Schmidt (Red Skull) 87.Maria Hill 86.Ebony Maw 85.Lash 84.Trish Walker 83.Curtis Hoyle 82.Ben Urich 81.Pietro Maximoff (Quicksilver) 80.Madame Gao 79.Danny Rand (Iron Fist) 78.James Wesley 77.David Lieberman (Micro) 76.Howard Stark 75.Michelle Jones 74.Misty Knight 73.Calvin Zabo 72.Foggy Nelson 71.John McIver (Bushmaster) 70.Ava Starr (Ghost) 69.Elektra 68.Hive 67.Heimdall 66.Colleen Wing 65.Talos 64.John Pilgrim 63.Bobbi Morse (Mockingbird) 62.Karen Page 61.Luis 60.Cornell Stokes (Cottonmouth) 59.Helmut Zemo 58.Dinah Madani 57.Yondu 56.Adrian Toomes (Vulture) 55.James Rhodes (War Machine) 54.Billy Russo 53.Alphonso “Mack” Mackenzie 52.Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel) 51.Jessica Jones 50.Okoye 49.Quentin Beck (Mysterio) 48.Aida 47.Odin 46.Hank Pym 45.Jemma Simmons 44.Ancient One 43.Luke Cage 42.Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider) 41.Ultron 40.Melinda May 39.Vision 38.Groot 37.Nick Fury 36.Clint Barton (Hawkeye) 35.Sam Wilson (Falcon) 34.Hernan Alvarez (Shades) 33.Lance Hunter 32.Valkyrie 31.Hope Van Dyne (Wasp) 30.Gamora 29.Benjamin Poindexter (Bullseye) 28.T’Challa (Black Panther) 27.Wanda Maximoff (Scarlet Witch) 26.Phil Coulson 25.Leo Fitz 24.Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) 23.Drax the Destroyer 22.Peggy Carter 21.Mariah Dillard 20.Grant Ward 19.Kilgrave 18.Daisy Johnson (Quake) 17.Scott Lang (Ant-Man) 16.Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier) 15.Bruce Banner (Hulk) 14.Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) 13.Erik Killmonger 12.Frank Castle (The Punisher) 11.Nebula #10. Stephen Strange (Doctor Strange) Sometimes, the fans just get it right. Legions of MCU fans were clamoring Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios to cast Benedict Cumberbatch in the role as the Sorcerer Supreme, and when Feige and co relented, the result was golden. Doctor Strange is one of the most powerful heroes in the MCU, going from a crippled shell of himself at the beginning of his first film to a supremely powerful Master of the Mystic Arts by the end. It's usually said that Doctor Strange doesn't have any actual "superpowers" so to speak, but I tend to disagree: I believe Stephen Strange's super power is his iron will, absolutely unbreakable by anyone in the universe. He let himself be killed, over and over again, for what probably amounted to centuries or millennia, if not for millions of years. And he never tapped out, he never relented. Doctor Strange is unmatched not just in his mystical power, but in his pure resolve to protect the physical world from all harm and destruction. #9. Rocket Raccoon Rocket Raccoon has been another member of the 'pleasant surprise' category in the MCU. He was always great, starting as the funniest Guardian and vehicle for a legendary performance by Bradley Cooper. But over the course of Rocket's four film appearances, we've learned about a complex character who's been hurt by everyone he's ever been close to and is grappling with the fact that he was made into something he never asked to be. At the same time though, for all the powerful emotional stuff going on with the character of Rocket, he is still just hilarious. A sarcastic quote for each and every occasion, the insistence that he's the captain of the Guardians' ship, and of course the scene where Bucky picks him up and spins him around killing outriders in Wakanda, which is the greatest scene in the MCU bar none. #8. Thor Thor, Son of Odin, King of Asgard, Guardian of the Nine Realms. The original Thor was the third MCU movie I saw in theaters, and I wasn't expecting much out of it. But like Iron Man before it, Thor was a massive surprise. Thor as a character has had one of the longest, most tumultuous journeys of any character in the franchise, and considering he's lived over 1,500 years old, those thirteen years he's been here have changed everything in the blink of an eye. Thor has one by one lost everyone from his old life on Asgard, leaving him alone in his life, the oldest man on earth by a few centuries and with hardly anyone he can truly relate to. Still, Thor suits up and goes to battle for a planet he's only recently known over and over again, putting his life on the line for people he will outlive by a few centuries more. Thor isn't just the ultimate warrior, he's also a great man and a good friend. #7. Matt Murdock (Daredevil) The first MCU superhero to be adapted to the small screen, the portrayal of Matt Murdock was knocked clear out of the park. Charlie Cox was one of the MCU's greatest castings, and the writing behind the character does true justice to one of the great comic heroes of all time. Matt Murdock is a man defined by his struggle to adhere to his vigorous moral code when the criminals he's fighting are bound by no such restriction. Still, even though every thug he beats up lives to tell the tale, it only serves to spread word about the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, and make the worst of society think twice about what they do in the shadows. Though it's now up in limbo whether we'll ever see Matt don his famous red suit again, should he not return there's still solace in a perfect final scene, where the Daredevil beats Wilson Fisk to a bloody husk and announces, with great authority and possibly even relief, that the Kingpin had been beaten. #6. Peter Quill (Star-Lord) With Peter Quill, Marvel had the unique challenge of having to build a famous movie hero out of an unknown comic character. Only Marvel's diehards had any idea about any of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Quill included, and so when the 2014 team movie became a smash hit, it was a surprise to many. It didn't hurt to have Chris Pratt in the role, bringing a goofy charisma that only a few actors can pull off. But what makes Quill so great is that beyond the wisecracking man-child is a layered character with a lot of internal tumult, mostly suppressed but often appearing when Quill loses control of his emotions. Peter lost his mother at a young age, something he was never taught to deal with, and every time since that he found himself a new family, it wasn't long before death took them too. It was obviously a strategic disaster for Peter to lose his cool on Titan, but doesn't he deserve it at this point? Everyone he's ever loved promptly died, and he finally found the person responsible for one of them. You can't expect him not to beat the crap out of Thanos there. #5. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) Powers can fall upon the strangest people sometimes, and unlike the genius billionaires, norse gods and born war heroes of the Marvel world, Peter Parker was just a kid, one who was really unprepared to be a superhero in any way. Sure he's quite intelligent for his young age, but suddenly becoming the strongest human alive and having abilities on par with the superheroes he admired was a pretty stark change for Peter. Ever since his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War, we've gotten to watch Peter learn just what his role is in this greater universe of superheroes, where someone like him is in position to truly enact positive change. It's of course also worth noting that Tom Holland has been fantastic in the role, especially up against Hulk-sized expectations from people who may have been rooting for Dylan O'Brien or Logan Lerman. One of the MCU's most iconic moments came in that first Civil War trailer when Spidey snatched away Captain America's shield landed in frame for his first appearance alongside the Avengers, right back where he belongs. Spider-Man is home, and this whole big journey wouldn't be as special without him. #4. Thanos Marvel's Darth Vader, teased from the shadows for years and then finally unveiled in grand fashion. Thanos flipped over everything we thought we knew about superhero movie villains when he not only did not die in Avengers: Infinity War, but he actually won. Not in the Helmut Zemo "lost but still won" way, but Thanos won outright. He went to each infinity stone and fought and killed whoever he had to fight and kill in order to take them, and then he did. There's no other MCU villain with that kind of performance. Tony Stark feared Thanos before he even met him, and he was clearly right to do so. Thanos took advantage of a divided Avengers team and walked right past them to achieve his goal and decimate half the universe. While he didn't have the absolute most fleshed-out backstory or the very most sympathetic motivation, Thanos was the perfect blend of being a legitimate threat and layered character. The role of being the villain in the final, ultimate climax of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a task the size of the universe itself, and Thanos rose to the challenge. #3. Loki The first enemy to assemble the Avengers stands behind only Ledger's Joker in the hierarchy of comic movie villains, but as a character he's so much more than just that. Loki's arc from his first appearance nine years ago has been long and winding, and always captivating and heartbreaking. The adopted son of Odin, Prince of Asgard, felt a burden to rule that only he could fulfill, but his (perhaps justified) self-aspiration was met with a blatant preference toward his older brother, and immediately thereafter the revelation he had not been born to royalty at all. After being set adrift in the cosmos, Loki found himself a mind slave to the mad titan Thanos, landing him eventually into an Asgardian prison cell. From there he was shunned by most of his family, with his most cherished relative, his mother, being killed unceremoniously shortly thereafter. When Loki finally achieved redemption, found peace and restored his relationship with his brother, it was not long before the life was squeezed out of his frail windpipe by the galactic terrorist whose clutches he thought he'd escaped. Not only was Loki's character journey well-written and well-executed, you can't talk about Loki without mentioning the masterful performance of Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston brought just the amount of charm that the god of mischief deserves, making it not at all hard to believe that Loki could take over the kingdom of Asgard by merit of his deceptive charisma alone. #2. Steve Rogers (Captain America) The leader of the Avengers, the man with the iron heart, the humanity that tied gods and monsters back down to Earth. Steve Rogers is, in his own words, "just a kid from Brooklyn", but what's inside of him made him so much more. Captain America wasn't just a name to reflect the spangly suit that Steve Rogers wore to battle, it was a symbol of the qualities we as Americans like to strive to reflect: perseverance, fortitude, and the unwavering commitment to do what's right regardless of how hard it is. There's a lot of moments you can point to as the definitive moment of Steve's character, but I can't think of a better choice than when Steve, with a broken body, broken shield, and broken home stood alone against the entire legions of Thanos's army. It didn't matter what the odds were. It didn't matter that he could stand down and bargain for his survival. All that mattered was the mission, and there was nothing in the universe that could stop Steve from fighting for what was right. And when the portals opened behind his backs, ushering in the armies of the world to stand against Thanos's tyranny, a powerful statement was made that those who are willing to lay it all down on the line usually don't do so alone. "The price of freedom is high; it always has been. But it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not." #1. Tony Stark (Iron Man) It all began with one man, one man who wasn't born great, and didn't have it thrust upon him; rather he achieved it, he built it from scratch when all hope was lost. Because Tony wasn't strong enough to punch his way out of that cave, nor could he shoot lasers from his fists, shrink to microscopic size, or run past the speed of light. He used the one thing the terrorists couldn't take away from his: his mind. He didn't have the means to escape readily available to him, so he built them. Tony Stark's superpower is his brain, and his ironclad will. Everything in the MCU, from the very most grounded to the most bizarre and cosmic, all stemmed from Tony Stark's story, the journey he began twelve years ago. Iron Man ushered in a new era of not just cinema, but global culture. Tony Stark has been at the center of this great big saga since day one; he is the most compelling and most complex character with the most impactful presence in the 23 films of the MCU so far. The greatest accomplishment of this great big universe, is the man behind the ARC reactor. And when it all came to a head, the culmination of a decade plus of excitement and joy and tears and laughter, the climax it had all been building up to...the journey of one man, the one that eleven years prior saw him clinging to life in that cave, finally saw its conclusion. The MCU is Tony Stark. He is its heart, its soul, and of course, its greatest character. Thank you all for coming along on this journey with me, I hope you've enjoyed reading these as much as I've enjoyed making them! #150-141 #140-131 #130-121 #120-111 #110-101 #100-91 #90-81 #80-71 #70-61 #60-51 #50-41 #40-31 #30-21 #20-11
I just figured out that you can subscribe to this series by viewing my profile and clicking on "Follow". The next new chapters will now show up in your feed as soon as they are posted.
If you'd like to see this story get produced, please consider pledging to my Patreon. More details there. The link is https://www.patreon.com/undergroundpoker Thank you for all of your support. Previous: Inside Underground NY Poker #8 Spades — 1.8 Walking into a casino, for the first time, can be quite an overwhelming experience. There’s so much going on — all of the flashing lights, various sounds, the diverse amount of people flowing throughout, the list goes on. No matter where you look, there’s always something going on that can potentially pique your curiosity. Of course, at this time in the midsummer of 2007, I hadn’t a clue of what to expect. I had yet to step foot inside a real casino. When Chris called and invited me to go with him on a road trip up to Turning Stone, my mood was not only of excitement, it was also flowing with curiosity. I figured that making the drive up to Turning Stone would not only be a great deal of fun, but would also be an excellent opportunity to learn more about professional casino poker. During my phone conversation with Chris, we agreed that we would make the road trip up there after we finished our Sunday shifts at Spades. This gave us about 24 hours to gather up our buddies and put together a crew. Our main goal was to crush some live action cash games there, but we also wanted to let loose and party. I didn’t yet know it, but my version of partying was vastly different from Chris’ version. I made some calls and sent some texts, and not too long after, had a few of my closest friends confirm that they were going to come on the trip. I was the youngest of my social circle in high school, still being only 17 at the time. All of the other guys were already 18, so legally, they wouldn’t have a problem at Turning Stone. If you don’t know, Turning Stone Resort & Casino is located on an Indian Reservation, and as such, the gambling laws of New York state do not apply there — the legal gambling age there is 18, as set by the law of the land. Now, since I was still only 17, this presented a potential problem. However, I looked a bit older than I actually was, and I also had a fake ID that I had been using for a while. Chris was also incredibly confident that it wouldn’t be a problem whatsoever — he even offered to lay me a bet with 3 to 1 odds for $100, that at no point would I be unable play because of my age. I declined the bet of course, not wanting to jinx myself. In 2007, Turning Stone was a “dry” casino, which meant that they didn’t serve any alcohol. However, you were allowed to bring your own, and could indulge yourself to your own desire. As of today, this is no longer the case, but that’s the way it was back then. We calculated that the drive would take us about 4.5 hours, not entirely too long by road trip standards, but could be enough of a mental strain that could potentially effect our ability to play poker, upon arrival. Given that both Chris and I would be dealing right up until our departure, we had made arrangements to take two cars in order to accommodate our entire crew. In exchange for each of us paying for the gas and tolls on the drive up to Turning Stone, neither of us would have to drive — this would allow us to rest up a bit. My group of buddies consisted of four of my closest friends — Brian, Theo, Max, and Scott. I had brought Theo around to Spades more than a few times, and he regularly played poker, unlike the others. However, he wasn’t very good, but he was very lucky, and he had no interest in studying the game. He got better the more he played, but was by all means, a fish. He loved to gamble, and blackjack was his favorite game — most likely not a coincidence. I had invited Andy to tag along as well, but he wasn’t interested and declined — he instead made me a standing offer, an open invitation if you will, to go crush poker in Atlantic City, where there was better action and nicer casinos. However, the offer was only good if we would be going to seriously grind poker. This was an offer that I would later redeem. Chris had assembled his boys just as I had — three experienced poker players and gamblers, each in their early 20’s, just like Chris. The youngest of his crew was Rich, who was 21, and the two others were Derek and Joe, either 23 or 24 years old. Finally, our plans were set and the rooms were booked. We’d all be staying for 3 nights and 2 days in two, separate, 2 queen bed suites. I was anxious, yet excited, and I seriously wanted to book a win in the poker room, considering it would be my first casino poker room session. Sunday finally arrives, and I had decided to wake up a few hours early so that I could stock up on booze and weed. My buddies and I had agreed to split the cost of everything — 4 bottles of Smirnoff, an ounce of Sour Diesel, and four 24-packs of Coors Light. In retrospect, this was probably entirely too much for 3 nights at a casino, but what did we know? I wasn’t a big smoker at the time, although I would partake, but I did enjoy drinking when the time was appropriate to let loose. While on my way driving to Spades, I hear my phone ring — it’s Chris. “Hey dude, you on your way to the club?” “Yeah, I’ll be there in about 15 minutes. I just finished running some last minute errands, stocked up on booze and weed for the trip.” “Awesome. I’m good to go on my end, too. By the way, my plan is to splash around in the $1/$2 or $2/$5 games Turning Stone spreads. I’m bringing $10k.” “What?! $10k??? Why?!” “Well, dude, I’m gonna hit the pits too and play some blackjack and craps. We’ll crush some poker first, then afterwards maybe you’ll hit the pits with me.” “I dunno, man. I’m only gonna bring $2k in total, and that’s for all my costs. Maybe I’ll assign half of that to my poker roll for the trip.” “You should probably stick to $1/$2 then, and save some of your roll for blackjack, to try and run it up.” “Alright, sounds good. I’ll see you at the club in a bit.” I wasn’t convinced about hitting the pits to play table games, but then again, I surely wanted to make the most out of my first casino experience. I arrive at Spades, set up for the Sunday afternoon tournament, and put in the hours for my shift. I wind up dealing the final table, and the tournament ends at around 11PM. Chris was dealing cash, but we had both made sure to get Vinny’s approval to leave early and take off for the next few days. It wasn’t really an issue for me, being that once the tournament was over, it meant my job was done, and I was free to have a good night. However, Chris made sure to get another dealer to cover for him, both the rest of the night and until we got back from our trip. Chris and I walk outside to the parking lot — it’s time to go pick everyone up. We each get into our cars and drive off to scoop up each one of our buddies. An hour or so later, I shoot Chris a text letting him know that I’m about to start the drive up to Verona, NY, which was where Turning Stone is located. He responds, telling me that he had already started the journey about 10 minutes prior, and that he’ll call me when he gets there. I have Theo take the wheel and get into the driver’s seat, as I jump into the back to close my eyes to try and clear my head for what’s about to come. Without making any stops, we finish the drive in just under 4.5 hours. We can see the illuminated, brightly colored sign — “Turning Stone Casino”, and my heart begins to pump just a little bit faster. I’m beginning to get excited. At this point, it was around 4:30AM. Sure, I was a bit tired, but the excitement and novelty of my first casino experience was keeping my adrenaline pumping. I give Chris a call, letting him know that we’re about to park our car, and head into the casino towards the check-in area. “Chris, we’re here man! This place is awesome!” “I know dude, we got here about a half hour ago. I’m in my room changing, getting ready to go play some cards. Did you check-in yet?” “Not yet, we’re about to head over to the check-in desk and get our room keys. I’m pretty tired man, are you sure it’s a good idea to go play right now?” “Don’t worry about that, I already scoped out the room. There’s some good action going on in both $1/$2 and $2/$5. I already put our name’s on the lists. Text me when you’re done getting settled in, but drop by room after. Make sure you come alone.” “Okay… I’m gonna tell my boys that we’re gonna play some poker for a little bit, while they hit the casino floor. My buddy Theo might want to join us. I’m not sure though, I have to ask him. My boys will probably want to get nice and toasty before they head out of the room.” “Sounds good dude, don’t take too long. See you in a bit.” My friend Scott handles the check-in, puts the incidentals coverage under his credit card, and I make sure to get a copy of the room key for myself. We head up to the room, we all change into presentable, formal, evening attire, and I crack open a beer, along with everyone else. I ask everyone what they plan on doing for the next few hours, while suggesting that I’ll be preoccupied playing cards in the poker room. This was nothing but expected, they all knew how often I played poker. Everyone unanimously agrees that they want to hit the pits and gamble, of course, after they get hammered in the room. I casually ask Theo if he’s interested in playing poker with Chris and I, but he declines, saying that he’s not in the mood and would rather play tomorrow night, if at all. I finish my beer, but not before forcing everyone to agree to a bet, in order to make things more interesting — whoever comes back to the room as the biggest loser gets $50 each from everyone else. We unanimously decide that it’s actually a decent idea, and everyone agrees. I leave our room and head towards Chris’ suite. I arrive at Chris’ door, and I give it quick, but firm knock. A few seconds later, the door opens, and I find that there’s nobody in the room except Chris. All of his buddies had already gone downstairs, and were gambling on the casino floor. I tell him I’m pretty tired, and then I ask him why he wanted me to come alone. “Chris, I’m pretty tired, man. You sure we should go play?” “100%. I told you, I already scoped out the games that are running. The stacks are big and there’s some good money to be made.” “Alright, fine. But, why did you want me to come here alone, by the way? Is everything alright?” “Yeah, dude. Here, I wanted to give you this. Take two of these, you’ll be in the zone while you play for the next 8 hours.” “What kind of pills are these? What are they going to do?” — I had never really taken drugs or pills before, other than drinking and smoking weed occasionally. I did, however, try Mushrooms earlier during the summer, and that was fun, but was completely inexperienced when it came to pharmaceuticals, or any other drugs for that matter. “It’s Adderall, it’s a stimulant. They’re 20mg each, take two of them. It’ll make you much more focused and able to concentrate on the game for the next 8 hours or so. You might feel a bit more chatty, and it’ll kill your appetite, but I promise you, it’ll give you an edge. All those players down there right now are tired and worn out from playing. These will put you in the zone, if you know what I mean.” “Fuck it, I’ll give it a shot. We came to have a good time anyway. I’m not gonna lose control of myself, am I?” “Hah, no, dude. It’s nothing like that. They prescribe this stuff to people who have trouble focusing and paying attention. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You’ll feel them start to work in about 45 minutes to an hour.” Chris hands me two, orange-colored, oval shaped pills, and I swallow them dry. I had stashed $1k into the safe in my room before I left, and I had the other $1k in my pocket. We leave his room and head downstairs to make our way through the casino and into the poker room. I was in a state of awe. This was by far the biggest poker room I had ever been in, up until this point. There must have been at least 30 tables. There were only a handful of games going during our arrival, but still, seeing everything all neat, organized, and ready for action, made me think about what this place would be like during peak hours. I check out the $1/$2 game that’s going, and I see that the buy-in structure is not at all what I was expecting. It’s a $50 min and $200 max. Sure, there’s a few deep stacks on the table, but I felt like this game was much smaller than what I was used to playing. I decide that it’s going to be far too difficult to make any significant amount of money, unless I end up on the good side of a cooler. Overall, it would be a bad move to sit in this game. On the other hand, the $2/$5 game that was running had a $200 min and $500 max buy-in. This was definitely more up my alley. Several players had stacks with at least $1k, and the average was probably right around the max, conveniently right around $500. With several players sitting deep and a couple of short stacks on the table, I come to the conclusion that this is the game I want to play, as I’m fairly certain that I have a decent shot at making some money at this table. Chris had already put our name’s on the lists for both games when he had arrived earlier, so it wasn’t too long until our names were called. We were going to be sitting at the same table, and of course, made an agreement that if we were to get heads-up in a hand, either of us would make only one bet, and then check it down the rest of the way if the other called the bet. We weren’t there to take each other’s rolls, but if there were other players in the hand, then we weren’t going to soft play each other, nor try and sandwich anyone out of a pot. Finally, my name is called, about 20 minutes after Chris had taken his seat, and I head over to the cage to buy $500 worth of chips — $280 in red, $200 in green, and $20 in white. Something I’ve always liked doing, still to this day, is buying at least a full stack of $1 chips. The poker room had relatively nice chips, and I found them to be most excellent. They had a comfortable weight, handled nicely, and displayed a decent aesthetic design on them. They were definitely of a higher quality than any of the chips that the underground clubs used. That’s not to say that the clubs used cheap chips — of course, a few did, however only the casinos would purchase Paulson chips, which are the industry standard, despite them costing over $1 each chip. I take my seat at the table, and all of a sudden, I feel this intense rush of energy. It felt like someone had turned my brain up to 11. Woah — I felt my eyes widen. I introduce myself to the table, and I notice that I’m much more talkative than my normal self. However, I was able to maintain and participate in a fully-engaged conversation, while not missing a single detail of the action that was unfolding during each hand. I could multi-task like never before. I was faster at thinking through hands, I noticed more tells being telegraphed than ever before, and I was aware of the fact that my observations were razor-sharp. It felt like I had been wearing blinders up until this point, and now they were gone. I was more astute than I had ever been before, accurately being able to predict who was going to play a hand, and who was going to fold, before they even made their action. I was paying attention to the game in the same way I would as if I was dealing it. I’d observe each player in turn, then move on to the next when their action was made. I would also catch things out of the corner of my eye — a player’s posture suddenly becoming erect, while they would then immediately try to look disinterested, as they used their hands to protect their cards in such a manner that was subtle, yet distinct from their normal method of handling their cards. It was blatantly obvious to me now, when a player would deviate from their normal patterns of playing, behaving, speaking, bet sizing, time usage, and so forth. I was playing really well. All of my value bets were getting called, my bluffs were getting through, and alarm bells would ring in my head, either to alert me of a perfect spot to make a squeeze play, or if something about the hand didn’t “seem right”. Something I definitely noticed about the Adderall, was that it made me feel much more confident in the plays that I made. It was much easier to pull the trigger, and when I did, I felt certain that my timing was right. My range was also wider than it normally was. I was playing more hands, going for thin value on the river when I would normally check back, and had no problem laying down strong hands preflop, when I was sure I was behind, but would normally be too stubborn to let it go. My session was going very well. Incredibly well, in fact. I made several huge hero calls, and I applied intense pressure on opponents who I deemed capable of folding, only to pick up pots I could never win at showdown. About 3.5 hours had gone by at this point, and within the last hour a new player had taken a seat. His name was Duke, at least, that’s what other players were calling him. This guy was super aggro. He was opening every other hand, raising every C-Bet a player would make, and would just bully people out of the pot by shoving the river or bombing the turn with a $300 bet. The majority of the table was getting annoyed with Duke. Whenever they would fold, they felt like he was bluffing with air, however, when they would inevitably get frustrated and make the call, he would actually have it, and get massive value. During the course of about an hour, he amassed a stack totaling around $900. He had absolutely no fear, and the money at stake, to him, was evidently insignificant. From his perspective, it seemed as if he was playing for, what you and I, would consider pennies. I folded quite a few strong hands to his preflop 3-bets — AQ, TT, 88, and QJs. I would open to $15 or $20, and he would re-pop me to 4x or 5x. I even open folded AKo on an Ace-high, 3-flush board on the turn when he check-raised me all-in, only to show me complete air. That was enough for me, this wasn’t going to continue — not tonight. I had now decided that I was going to be as patient as necessary, and only get involved in a pot with him if the situation was favorable to trap him. You can’t bully a player when the money at stake means far less to him than it does to you. Subsequently, you can’t get value from that same player who is good enough to recognize that you’re only showing him aggression when you have it — they’ll just fold instead of blasting off, knowing that you’re praying that they’ll come over the top. About an hour and a half later, it was around 10AM now, and I had built my stack up to around $1200. Duke was sitting on just about the same, though slightly less, about $1100. He was still bullying people out of pots, and the majority, if not everyone else at the table was clearly annoyed with him. Low limit players often become angry when they encounter an opponent whose style of play isn’t within the same paradigm as their own. The key is to be capable of adjusting your own style of play. Finally, preparation meets opportunity, and I pick up pocket Aces in UTG+1. I raise to $15, and of course get 3-bet by Duke in the Lojack to $60. The button cold calls, and for a split-second, I almost 4-bet, but I resisted what almost felt like a reflex, and decided to just call. The flop comes A5A — I flop Quad Aces! That was the first time I ever flopped quads, let alone quad aces. I stick to my game plan of trapping, and I check my quads over to Duke, who also checks. The button checks as well, and we see a turn of a black 4. The board now being A5A4 rainbow — every fiber of my being is burning on the inside, trying to tell me to start getting some value and make a bet to build a pot. Again, I resist, and check it. Both Duke and the button check back. The river comes in, a red 9. The complete board run-out is A5A49 rainbow. I check, again, for the 3rd time. Duke fires out $200 into the pot of $187, the button snap folds, and I immediately snap-shove on him for a total of around $1140. He looks completely perplexed, and then goes deep into the tank. Not a single player had yet displayed this level of aggression against him. He’s now been thinking for about 6 or 7 minutes, and he announces to the table that he’s sorry he’s taking so long, but he needs some more time and has a decision here. Some random player chimes in, telling him to take all the time he wants, it’s the biggest pot of the night. Another 3 minutes go by, and I’m starting to get agitated now. It’s been at least 10 minutes, the dealer is clearly annoyed, enough is enough. I call for the clock. The floor comes over and gives Duke the “countdown” speech, informing him that he has 30 seconds to make a decision. Before the floor even begins the countdown, Duke announces, “CALL”. Under the influence of the Adderall, I assume, I inexplicably get the impulse to table my hand similar to the way a blackjack dealer would table their cards. I pull both cards adjacent to each other, now sitting side by side. Using one finger, I flip one of the Aces face up, and then use that same Ace to slide it underneath the other, and flip up the remaining facedown Ace. I somehow managed to pull this off with such finesse, that it all happened in one, smooth, fluid motion. It was most certainly a rare form of poker showboating, and it was an incredibly cocky, and unnecessary thing to do, however I just couldn’t help myself. I had just decimated the guy who was running over every single player. The entire table is shocked to see that I reveal flopped quad Aces. Even more surprised, is Duke. He is absolutely stunned to his core. He tables Jack high. I immediately stand up from my chair, and lean in closer towards the table, while rubbing my eyes to confirm — yes, indeed. Jack high. “You triple checked flopped quad aces.” — the tone of his speech indicating a statement, not even close to what asking a question would sound like, as if he was in disbelief of what had just happened. “Yes, sir.” “I just called you with Jack high.” — again, it seemed as if he was confirming, for himself, the reality of the situation that had just occurred. “Yeah, you did, but why?” “I couldn’t put you on a hand, and I thought that you had finally had enough of me pushing you out of pots. It didn’t make sense, how could you have anything there when you checked the whole way?” “I took a risk, and I just figured that you would eventually try and steal it.” “I’m not even mad, kid. Well played, very clever. I salute you.” The dealer ships me Duke’s entire stack, plus the pot, and I toss him two green birds. I quickly start to stack all of the chips while I fold the next hand, and then I get up from the table, as does Chris. “Dude! What a sick fucking play! What in the fuck! Triple checking quad aces?!!?!?” “I know, right? I was waiting all night for that moment. I got stupid lucky that he called. I have no idea why he called me with Jack high. I mean, I heard what he said, but still, why? How?” “You figured him out, dude. Plain and simple. Really nice play, I’m impressed. I don’t think I could ever have triple checked that.” “Thanks, Chris. I think it was just the Adderall. I just felt like I absolutely knew that he was going to do exactly the same thing that he has been doing all night. Whenever he senses weakness, he bombs the river. I wasn’t expecting him at all to call my shove, but I knew that if I bet into two players while out of position, on an ace-paired board, after calling a 4x 3-bet from Duke with the button cold calling, they would both fold.” “That actually makes a lot of sense. Great play, dude. Seriously, that was just sick. Let’s get out of here and see what the other guys are up to.” Chris and I cash out, and we leave the poker room. I ran $500 up to about $2300. Chris booked a nice win himself, running $500 up to $1.1k. We both tipped the cashier behind the cage $10 each. The two of us are still wired from the Adderall, but now only physically stimulated, and not at all under the influence whatsoever. Sleeping is not going to be an option, so we decide to head back to my room, and get to work on polishing off a few beers. I insert the keycard into my room’s key slot, and slowly open the door, as I hear a circus of ruckus coming from inside the room. All of the guys are inside — Theo, Brian, Max, Scott, Rich, Derek, and Joe — they’d gone through two bottles of Smirnoff, a bottle of Jameson that Rich had brought over, a 24-pack of Coors Light, a ton of the weed, and had now moved on to blow, which one of Chris’ buddies had scored from someone in the casino. As far as I knew, none of my friends had ever done coke before. I certainly hadn’t. Everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves, though, and who was I to judge? I had just played an intensely long poker session on some drug I had never heard of before, I won a bunch of money, all was good, and so I just went with the flow and chalked it up to an isolated incident on a vacation-like casino trip. I asked my boys who had lost the most money, both as a way to settle the bet, and to make a subtle brag about how much I had won playing poker. I wasn’t surprised at all — Brian was the biggest loser, totaling a net loss of a measly, yet exact, $100. He was by far the cheapest person out of all of my friends. He would always argue down to the penny when it came to splitting checks, or getting reimbursed for fronting money for a purchase. Indeed, he sure was cheap, but he wasn’t at all stupid. He made sure that the other 3 guys — Theo, Max, and Scott — lost less than he did so that he could come out ahead on the bet. Of course, he took a gamble by not knowing the status of my winnings, but the worst that could happen was that he would either lose $100 or book a win taking a gamble with it. The 4 of us each paid up, $50 each, and he offset his $100 loss with a $200 gain, for a net profit of $100. We all continued to drink, I tried a few lines myself, and everyone stayed up until the upcoming evening — it was now time to go gamble again. So, what did we do? We drank even more, smoked a blunt, and finished off the 8-ball of blow. The 9 of us were thoroughly bombed. Any and all traces of our decision making skills were completely distorted. Joe was playing $100 flips with Derek — they would cut a deck of cards and whoever cut to the higher card would win. Rich was playing beer pong with Scott for $50 a match, Theo, Max, and Brian were playing $20 rolls of C-Lo with dice that they had bought from the gift shop, and Chris and I were having a pipe dream discussion about how much we were going to win playing blackjack in the next hour. About 30 minutes later, all of us, while undoubtedly lacking full consciousness, head down to the casino floor and make our way into the pits. This time, I brought my entire roll, and so did Chris. The first thing we did was stagger over to a roulette table, only to sloppily introduce ourselves to the dealer. “Hey sweetheart, listen, we need your help. Black or red?” “Are you trying to ask me whether I think you should bet on black or red?” “Ya, of course. You know how you’ve been spinning that ball. Black or red? Which are you feeling?” Chris and I both take out our rolls and count out $1,000 each. “Whatever you pick, sweetheart. If we win, you get 10%. If we lose, you think you could get us a comp for 9 to the Wildflowers restaurant?” “Put it on black, boys. How about we just concentrate on winning for the time being?” “Let’s do it! $2,000 on black!” With a quick flick of her forefinger, the dealer launches the tiny ball into motion, and it begins to spin around and around the track of the roulette wheel. The dealer waves her hand over the table to close the action. “No more bets!” To be continued… Next: Inside Underground NY Poker #10
I originally posted this on Era but I spent a nice chunk of time writing this so I thought I'd share it on Reddit too. I break the game down into big sections. Full spoilers for the whole series including CS4. I originally had written way more than this, but it was too overdone, so I tried to condense my writing. GAMEPLAY: This section has been written from the perspective of someone who already beat CS3. The gameplay systems in CS4 and CS3 are the same. I played the game on Hard difficulty. Coming from CS3 and Kondo’s post-CS3 interview where he noted that Orders are too strong and he wanted to add a progression system for orders, I knew that certain parts of the CS3 battle system were going to be nerfed, and I was fine with that. CS3 was a very broken game, largely due to Orders and overpowered master quartz (MQ). In CS4 Orders are weaker than in CS3 and in some cases cost more BP to use, but you can improve them by completing trial chests (the in-game justification for how your orders got weaker is slightly amusing). MQs also received some nerfs, which include reductions to Sirius’s counter-damage, reductions in Skuld’s break damage, etc. Lastly, the amount of time a boss got delayed for being Broken was heavily reduced, and it’s much harder to Break bosses period. And this worked out pretty well at first. I’d say for the first 1/5 of the game, things are somewhat balanced, though enemies could stand to deal more damage. However the moment Rean rejoins your party, everything breaks wide open. Rean’s overpowered Orders (though overpowered in CS3, there are even more powerful orders in CS3 you can use in comparison) completely decimate the game’s balance; the ability to reduce incoming damage by 40% for only 2 BP, and the ability to instant cast arts for 6 turns with only 3 BP are just too strong. Though the other members do have strong orders, they are usually temporary buffs or healing orders, or raise damage via a set percentage, or just cost too much BP to loop reliably since it’s harder to Break bosses than before. Once you reach this part of the game, you can instacast arts, annihilate an enemy’s health, break them, then regain BP easily by linking attacks after they are broken… basically the same loop as CS3 with Juna and Kurt/Sara’s Orders, just slower. It’s not just Rean’s fault, because after the midpoint of the game where you have more or less a ton of characters at your disposal you can break the game as you wish and everything gets smashed even farther wide open with whatever variety of busted you want. An annoying part of all this is that the enemy bosses have something from CS3 called “Exalt State”, where they gain a buffs (some permanent), big CP/EP gain, a big chunk of health, and take reduced damage for three turns or more depending on how long the State lasts. So if you don’t want a fight to take eons, the game almost encourages you to break it. This exalt state almost feels like a band-aid fix to balance problems, so that people wouldn’t make the same complaint that they made about CS2/3 and annihilating bosses. I haven’t even brought up the incredible link bonuses you get such as healing, blocking attacks (even blocking s-crafts for reduced damage on TOP of having orders reduce damage), and so forth. Linking two casters together almost guarantees an endless pool of EP. It’s the same from CS3, but much worse since you are controlling characters that have way more link bonuses together than before. Enemy bosses now use Orders, but it was implemented in the lamest way imaginable. Instead of having a system of competing Orders with us versus the enemy, the enemy’s Order actually locks out your Order for several turns at the start of the battle, and then after the enemy’s Order expires, they never use an Order again (or do so EXTREMELY rarely). So instead of being something interesting, it became another balance band-aid. The mecha fights are largely just as simple as always. However the ability of boss mechs to suddenly gain a big chunk of health and self-buff (with some of these buffs being permanent, mind you) is ridiculous, basically making matches take way longer than they should be with no real strategic benefit. Since a buffed charactemecha cannot be debuffed in the same category, assist characters that have debuff properties on their arts are useless against big boss enemy mechs. The ability to use Orders with mechs isn’t given until WAY too late into the game, another dimension to battles that is sorely missing for the majority of the game. So like previous CS games, if you don’t mind just breaking them in various ways, you’ll do just fine. UI/UX: Same as CS3. Really enjoy how there are quick shortcuts on the d-pad. There is lag on the character select screen, but it’s not too noticeable. One complaint is no wraparound scrolling on the character select screen. Another complaint is that you still can’t sort quartz by element. When you go to report sidequests there is a big delay before you can actually view them on the computer which is annoying. If you accidentally hit report sidequest, it forces you to sit through a spiel even if you have nothing to report. If you submit notes via ARCUS to other student members and are successful, it will force quit your ARCUS screen even if you have other things on your ARCUS you want to do. If your character is in the corner of the map during battle, it causes crafts and arts to get bugged out where the aiming lines and circles will always set in the wrong direction in the corner by default. A strange bug. After you beat the game, the game makes a separate save and asks you to reload and make a choice to see the “actual ending”. There is absolutely no reason to do this and it befuddles me why they went to such trouble. There is a sidequest that is “only accessible” if you do every sidequest in the game up to that point, and clearing this sidequest it is required to reach the actual ending. But if you don’t unlock the sidequest, don’t worry; the game forces you to beat it if you want to see the true ending anyway. This is rather stupid and it makes me wonder why they didn’t just make this sidequest part of the main plot. THEN, after watching the true ending and watching the second set of credits, you can reload the save AGAIN, to see a “hidden scene”. This feels like a ton of nonsense that’s layered for no real reason. You think you would give me the courtesy of watching such important scenes normally without having to jump through such silly hoops. What is the point of a true ending that’s locked like this, just to say the game has a true ending? GRAPHICS: The opening animation is of such a horrendous quality, that I was wondering if Falcom had lost their minds approving it. Please go back to dramatic “moving” stills if you need to be mindful of budgets. It’s almost like they recognize how bad it looks because they have a “second opening” character reel, but the combination of these things is so cheap looking and awkward that there really is no need to do something like this again. There are a lot of beautiful graphical showpieces in this game and the 60fps is very welcome. Lost Arts in particular are just as pretty as ever and the grand spectacle of scenes is impactful (such as the large airship battles). That being said, my previous complaints about lighting and shadows still stand, I would like to see Falcom attempt more stylish lighting and shadows. The roads are still rather bare, and I would like to see things like rendered grass or more realistic trees. That being said, some areas like the wetlands are very pretty, so no complaints there. I also enjoyed a lot of the graphics in the Crossbell areas like Orchis Tower and Mishelam. Ordis also deserves a special mention for being just as beautiful as always. MUSIC: So I feel like this soundtrack is weaker than the one in Cold Steel 3 and might be the weakest soundtrack in the entire Trails series. The biggest problem is the proliferation of very crappy sounding boss battle themes; Endure Grief, Mighty Urge, Deep Carnival, Blue Stardust, Bold Assailants (why are there so many different boss themes that all suck?). Not only do these boss themes sound terrible, but contextually they have no power or depth at all; can you listen to any of the above themes and tell me which one is the battle theme against Ouroboros members or Jaegers? Bet you can’t. It’s like the exact opposite of Trails SC and Ao, where the “Sora no Kiseki” leftmotif and the “Get Over the Barrier” leftmotif rang proudly throughout many high quality songs, or where the beautiful pacing and instrument choices dictated the emotion of the scene or had a composition texture which reflected the character of the opponent you were facing (e.g. Erosion of Madness and McBurn, Unfathomed Force and Arianrhod). Generally the problem is that Falcom outsourced way too much important music to a dude named Singa who doesn’t have the skill to compose good music, and doesn’t care to put context into his songs either. So there is just this avalanche of shit. Why do I call it an avalanche? Because you will be hearing all of these battle themes A LOT and for a long period of time. To make matters worse, one of the most climactic moments in the whole game (and one of the most emotional, if you’re a big fan of Rean, and I know there are a lot of those) is jarringly ruined by some of the shittiest freestyle rap I’ve ever heard in my life. Meguro this composer is not. Area themes are fine as usual, though I feel that there isn’t a road song as good as CS3’s “Alley of Silence” (though “Witch of the Quiet Forest” comes close). Ordis theme sounds as beautiful as ever, but town themes are largely reused or just basic stuff, which is perfectly fine. Minigame themes sound good, though I feel that the CS3 Vantage Master theme is superior. Dungeon themes are excellent, with “Betting the Fate of the World” and “The End of SAGA” being the pure sugary good stuff. There are some absolute standout battle themes such as Excellion Krieg, Unlikely Combination, With Our Own Hands!!, and Majestic Roar, though Unlikely Combination is played very rarely and Majestic Roar is only played once (for good reason). Give some praise to Unisuga and Sonoda, two long-time Falcom composers, for knowing when to bring the hype. Why am I writing so much about music? Because Falcom is famed for their music and seeing the deterioration of quality in important parts of their soundtracks is very sad. This goes hand in hand with the fact that being the last game in the series, the area, road, and final/major battle/sendoff themes not standing out from the previous entries is a little sad. I do not want to see these games go the way of generic Tales music. The Cold Steel series as a whole has only really had two songs live up to the greats from Sky and Crossbell in terms of memorability, and those are the two sister songs “Decisive Collision” and “Blue Destination”. It’s not a coincidence that these two songs are incredibly popular as they are contextually extremely well composed. There are other weird problems. The place where new songs and past songs are used during scenes is exceedingly odd. The boss gauntlet leading up to the final boss has two groups use “Belief” SAV as their fight theme, which I’ve heard too much for it to have any real impact (and style wise doesn’t feel like it matches the context, unlike how it fit the desperation fight against C in CS1 very well). “Blue Stardust” is used in a fight that does not match the context of the battle. “Sword of Biting Gale” (an absolute crap-tacular screechy song I might add) is used as the cavalry back-up theme even when other dramatic songs which would have matched the characters in question better are available. “Doomsday Trance” plays NONSTOP during one of the last parts of Act 1, for almost two hours straight! The game is entirely devoid of character-specific themes like CS2’s “Altina” or “The Witch of the Abyss”. “Ai no Uta”, sounds like some cheap romance anime breakup song and does not match the context of the ending scene at all (consider that something like CS2’s “Wakare no Toki” is the polar opposite of this situation). I could go on but there is a lot more, and you will notice this when playing CS4, no doubt about it. The two final battle themes, while being good compositions, are probably the most forgettable final arc songs in Trails history. The first has no contextual callback and is simply a generic orchestra which could fit in any game or hell, a movie. The second one has pretty much the same criticism. What kills me is that during the final battle, all the major characters from each arc are fighting, so the fact that despite this huge combination of amazing characters, we could only get a generic orchestra battle theme? Not even an attempt to meld the history of each series together into a beautiful melody? This kills the hype. Now I can already see you reading this review and coming up with some snarky comments as music is usually a touchy subject, so let me head them off at the pass. Peanut Gallery 1: “Why do you care so much about Falcom music? lol just generic rpg shit.” A: I too like 4chan level discourse, oh user who I am sure is a connoisseur of the fine musical arts. Peanut Gallery 2: “All the music from each Cold Steel game sounds the same to me.” A: Apart from being very insulting to composers who work very hard to make memorable tunes for you and generally being insulting to the craft of music composition as a whole, if you honestly think this you can skip this part of the review as well. Peanut Gallery 3: “It sounds fine to me.” A: Your standards are duly noted. Peanut Gallery 4: “The new battle music sounds great, I love hearing crappy guitars, awful violins, cursed freestyle rap, and songs with no emotional depth or context. It’s my fetish to play devil’s advocate at all costs to protect my precious Cold Steel series.” A: I can do nothing for you. Peanut Gallery 5: “The title screen song in CS4 is based.” A: Agreed! WRITING QUALITY: I’ve wanted to write this category for a while. As most people who are astute enough noticed, the writing quality has taken a serious dive since the beginning of Cold Steel 1 (despite XSEED’s best efforts at pruning away a lot of nonsense), but Cold Steel 4 has reached the apex. Almost every scene in the game where there is a past event that the current cast doesn’t know about starts and goes like this. Altina: “This was recorded during my time at the Intelligence Division. [Launches into long expository dialogue].” Other character: “Oh yeah, I think I heard a rumor about that. [Launches into even more expository dialogue].” AND/OR Rean: “Oh yeah, I heard about this (you) from [insert character(s)]. This was [launches into long expository dialogue].” This is seriously jarring because there are many characters and events that are extremely unlikely for any of these people to actually know. But it’s such a transparent attempt to catch people up or remind people of previous characters (hell, they do this for events that happened in the same game!) and the expository dialogue is so out of place that it feels extraordinarily cheap and bad. There is so much time wasted on this junk dialogue and sepia tone flashbacks that I have to wonder how much time would actually be saved if events and characters were merely accepted as they were instead of writing this crap. Freaking GILBERT is reintroduced like this, and I couldn’t believe it. It robs so much joy of rediscovery, and kills the intrigue for those who haven’t played the older games yet. Cold Steel 3 had a pretty similar problem which is one big mark against that game but this is a CS4 review. I never want to see sepia Lloyd cocking his head like a rooster ever again. The next thing I want to talk about is how much dialogue is wasted with very unnatural platitudes. It’s gotten so bad that even Japanese players are starting to beg Falcom to stop doing it. There is confluence between written language and spoken language which creates strange jarring effects during dialogue. The whole of the text needs to be refined and shortened into more natural language. And before you ask, yes the “Rean echo” makes a comeback. That and the listing of every character’s name whenever something emotional happens. No, that’s not natural Japanese. STORY: Here we are, the big meaty stuff. There are so many problems, I don’t know where to start. I originally wrote a far more detailed review, but even then I couldn’t cover everything I wanted to say. So I opted for a more general and condensed style of writing. There’s a lot of dissatisfaction, but at least we can say Cold Steel is over. In my personal opinion, the power of Trails games lies in the characters. The better the characters, the better the character interactions and character stories, the better the game. Well-developed characters are the strong foundation of memorable stories. If you divorce character development from the main plot and the fabric of the main plot development, you risk having a main plot that feels “empty”, with little consequence. And that’s the main problem with CS4. It feels like an empty game. There is no sense of accomplishment or exhilaration. The stakes are almost never there. Even during moments where character developments in the plot puts forward a chance for characters to shine, the majority of things fall flat on their face or never live up to the potential set to them by the previous games. I’m not just talking about heroes either, but also villains. The main reason for these failures comes down to the cast size. There are just way too many characters, period. This includes all the “guest” characters from other arcs that suck up the tiny remaining oxygen in the plot, and act like cardboard cutouts that were purely inserted into the game for nostalgia marketing grabs. There are so many loose ends from Cold Steel 1 through 3 (especially 3), that making Cold Steel 4 an “Everyone is Here” game was actually a big mistake because it acts like a logjam for plot movement. Old Class VII is merely just background characters, New Class VII happily joins them on the plot sideline soon after, and Rean returns to his blank-faced self-insert self. But that doesn’t excuse the game from failing to address or build on so many things built up to this point. The villains either fight us for the most inane reasons, or fight for us for unbelievable reasons, or fight us because the curse dictates them to do, but we just merely handwave it off regardless. Shirley is probably the most jarring example of this, but the scene with Irina and Schmidt’s excuses was so unbelievable I well, couldn’t believe it, especially considering what they had done up to this point. Cao attacks New Class VII under contract and the game handwaves it off later, in a section with such perplexing writing that I couldn’t believe what I was actually reading (and before some dude pops in here with B-B-BUT SKY SC, the battle context in that game was handled 1000% better than this nonsense). Just like in CS2 with Vita, making every villain sympathetic and “totally on our side dudes” or “never did anything wrong, really” without even an attempt at developing and providing acceptable and believable context is just Falcom saying “we didn’t really properly develop this idea at all but we need these characters to be kept in the flow because we don’t want to write anything difficult so lol yeah just ignore all that past stuff”. Or “the curse did it” or “we were just testing your resolve” (the last one is especially weird from characters that have no business saying it???). This results in so many scenarios where I wonder why the hell we are even fighting to begin with and gives me the uncomfortable feeling that despite being part of the main plot, there is a ton of wasted time here and ideas that go nowhere. And one more thing I wanted to mention. Falcom’s disrespect of the dead. Every single character that gets killed in CS3 revives in this game, and the only people that are allowed to die are Franz (I literally cannot bring myself to care about him, and I doubt anyone else did either) Rutger (a character whose motives are so open and who fought us as often as he pleased that it is VERY difficult to care about him) and Arianrhod (probably the only well-executed death in the game, even if the way she died was a bit contrived). All of the incredibly convenient revivals, including the slow roll fanservice moment where Millium is wearing more or less a skin-tight bikini, undercuts all the themes that Falcom has been promoting since the beginning of Sky (saying goodbye and moving past death to save your world and not give in to hatred or despair). It also undercuts CS4 extremely hard as there are quite a few touching scenes where Crow has to accept his upcoming “death”. This unbelievably convenient resurrections, restorations, and such completely kill the punch of everything set up from CS3. Is there any point in caring at all in the rest of the series if someone dies (or is about to die), no matter how important? In an unbelievable end to this section, Falcom shows their total regret at actually allowing Loewe to die by letting him talk AGAIN, which is why I mention Falcom’s disrespect of the dead. They refused to let Loewe rest in peace. Can’t wait to revisit Loewe’s grave in every future Kiseki game so I can call him back from the dead like a 1-800 phone call! I almost feel like if Falcom could think of a stupid enough reason to revive Loewe from the dead for real, they would do it without hesitation, that’s how bad they’ve gotten with dealing with the concept of life and death. Gilbert is one of the highlight returning characters from Sky but he is used way too much. I think I go against him no less than 6 times including (big) sidequests. I think he’s funny, but his comedy was repeated so much that Falcom ruined his shine, just like any repeated joke. At the very least his final scene is amazing. Regarding the conclusion to the game. Osborne is magnificent as always, but the Olivier vs. Osborne rivalry from the 3rd never pays off, as the two never truly and properly engage each other after Olivier is revived. Rean does get a good conclusion with Osborne in the end, but Teo Schwarzer is never really introduced into the whole drama other than an explanation for how Rean was handed off to Teo. Which is 1 lost chance of 1000 of introducing some juicy family drama into the game, just like how the Alisa / Sharon drama was a complete dud (what awful writing for those parts of the game!). Ouroboros has devolved into a joke organization. I’m not sure how I can make this much clearer. That’s largely the fault of Vita and Mariabell. I feel pretty bad for them nowadays, I remember fondly when they used to be a mysterious and threatening organization with awesome power. But who really cares about mysterious power and technological strength when Rean is literally Goku, ARCUS is a catch all powerup, everyone has orbal net and laptops, the Glorious got its ass kicked, and the Courageous II cannon can kill an Aion like it’s nothing? What’s Ouroboros going to do; send some tiny archaisms after our next heroes again for target practice? Cedric joining them is kinda poetic since Ouroboros became so pathetic. On the same topic, McBurn actually turned out to be a real awesome character, and his scene gave me Sky vibes with how interesting and fun it was implemented. Like the rest of the characters in the game, he is really denied proper screen time due to character volume, but at least his scene was super cool and kinda endearing. I look forward to seeing him in the future. A huge war breaks out due to the curse as Rean and company go to the final dungeon, and there is an awesome scene of the war beginning, but the fast conclusion to the war and the bringing of peace thanks to the killing of the curse is relegated to the plot cleanup monologue, which reminds me... ...tons of plot cleanup occur at literally the last minute, with Rean monologuing a drama CD script after you finish the true ending. This includes Rufus getting arrested (why the hell can Rufus get arrested but we are completely unable to arrest anyone else?). Stuff like the noble uprising (thus meaning that the whole “finding the answer to the noble and commoner divide” is more or less a failure; not like it was ever a focus again after the midpoint of CS3), the Crossbell Independence movement that has been teased for so long is completely wrapped up with some intensely described scenes that we never even got a chance to participate in... all of this is relegated to a few lines during this monologue… the whole time I was listening to this, I was incredibly sad that all of these interesting plot ideas that could’ve taken the place of filler was instead placed into a black screen readout. Such a huge disappointment. I absolutely loved seeing the Schera and Olivier wedding, but I didn’t really like how Cold Steel characters took the spotlight in the final photo. It should have been a true, huge group photo with every character you can squish into the shot, with Olivier and Schera in the middle (Schera’s face is blocked by a tree!); after all, it is a big celebratory event in the whole Trails universe. And Rean being surrounded by girls and all the guys shoved to the side or back… like, really? How indulgent is Falcom really? OK, I’ll stop here before I keep writing nonstop. But if someone wants me to write more leave a comment and I will cause there’s a lot to talk about and I definitely didn’t address all the characters and events, like the final boss being Ishmelga, Osborne’s Divine Knight who is the originator of the curse on the empire. Or you can tell me to stop writing. :) FINAL THOUGHTS: For those of you who scroll to the end of reviews to find a rating number or something, sorry, I don’t have anything for you. All I have is my final personal ranking for Trails games. 3rd > Zero > Ao > SC > CS3 > FC > CS1 > CS4 > CS2 CS4 like CS2 becomes more of a disappointment the more I think back to what I played. I’m not here to dissuade anyone from buying the game, after all it’s the “conclusion game” so if you’re already invested this far into the series, there's no way you’re not going to buy it lol. If you don’t really care about the details and you don’t mind if context is all messed up, you should probably have a good time. You can enjoy it as a generic RPG, just like CS2. People docked a lot of the game for the harem aspect, but I accepted that it was going to be part of the game since it was part of every Cold Steel game. You either accept it or you don’t. Yeah, it’s shitty, but that’s a consequence of the bonding system being shitty too. It’s not like the bonding events are bad, in fact they’re usually quite good when the characters in question are not sucking Rean off, but the very way they exist by nature is flawed, and everyone knows why by now. CS4 has really tested my patience though, I won’t deny this. Trails games are no longer an automatic purchase for me. I’m going to be taking a good hard look at the next game… and who knows? If it doesn’t meet my liking, I have no problems stopping here and only playing Ys games from now on. I’m not gonna make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past like where I kept buying tickets to every successive Hobbit movie even though each one was awful. Falcom has a lot of refining to do and a lot of junk to throw out. End review, catch you on the outside.
<IFirstI> Chatter from the Paragrin forces and the Seed Captains filled the radiowaves. Updates on the enemies’ movements, calls for backup or clearance, and general status updates were filtered through the proper channels as the fight raged on. Out in space, the Lamayens had had their failing numbers bolstered by reinforcements. The Paragrin could handle the ships with their superior firepower, but a few of their key crafts had been boarded and rendered immobile. It became a chess game, each side trying to flank, outmaneuver, and throw off the other. The Lamayen crafts attacked with pulses of energy that incapacitated the Paragrin forces, followed by heavy physical projectiles that dented and tore through them. The Paragrin responded with their heavy railguns, devastating and fast, but requiring a cleaner approach. The Gideon mowed down enemy ships like bugs until it found the Lamayen’s flagship. They traded salvos that would decimate New Conchord if pointed the wrong direction. Within New Conchord, the Seeds had made use of the combat information gathered by those in the dropship. They set up a perimeter, driving off the Lamayen forces with flash grenades and heavy fire. One of them confirmed Valentina’s lung strike theory, and the information was quickly spread. If they were able to achieve the proper angle, even a knife could bring down the hulking horned creatures. The survivors were cordoned off and defended with grim determination while more were ferried to the growing safe points. The Lamayen forces began to focus in groups, having previously roamed the settlement either alone or in a pair due to the low risk. Elsewhere, the search and destroy cohorts had split into squads and began clearing their way through the settlement. Multiple techniques were tested in the dense fighting, from gassing and fire to breaking the pressurized walls behind the Lamayens. The creatures were hardy; not a single one of them weighed under fifteen hundred pounds. The gravity on Mars seemed to be giving them trouble, making them more cautious than they apparently would be in their native environment. One of the Captains figured out the location of two blind spots based on their physiology and shared the information. Connor jogged into the energy source room, guns blazing as he took in the structure of the generator. It looked like a modified version of the Infinity Drive, though in the back of his head he knew that Paragrin had gained the technology from the Lamayen in the first place. It was quite large, housed multiple coil heads, but was missing the cascading attachment on the bottom half. Connor spoke over the comm to his troops. “We need to find a way to put that thing out of commission without blowing ourselves up in the process. Any ideas?” He took cover as his squadmates fired over his head, then popped up and provided fire for them as they advance past. The Lamayens were being driven back. “Commander. If we disconnect the- heck, we could just shoot it- the coupler that monitors the inflow, the main engine will wind down and die. It might spark a bit when we disconnect it, but without that connection the inflow will halt and go into lockdown.” Connor nodded. “Right. Focus fire on the coupler. Kaitu, identify.” “The thing that looks like an hourglass.” “Now!” As one, his three squads popped up and focused fire on the coupler. It snapped out, and an arcing explosion shot out from the back and blew out the back half of the room. “Spark a bit- you’re full of crap. All right, we’re going to head up and assist Captain Konstantin. Double time, flares at the ready!” * A man in a dark suit poured himself a drink and reclined in his chair. The other gentlemen in the room were chatting amiably, barely noticing the contents of the huge screen before them. The battle scenes on New Conchord played out at a low volume setting, as not to disrupt the more important events of their meeting. The man with the drink raised it to another. “Xerxes, although I’m not fond of you, you do put on a riveting show.” He dipped his head. “I do my best. Years of planning for this one moment… it’s quite beautiful, I feel. Always a pleasure to see where we can take the art of war next.” The men in the room continued to speak to one another, only four of them watching the screen with any sign of interest. The rest spoke of the future. “As it is, it seems we’re doing well. The donations are paltry but several respectable companies are pledging their resources to the cause.” “That’s good to hear; I was afraid that the situation would stir up more of a ruckus than it already has, but it seems to have peaked with that riot in LA. I’m sure the public will be more susceptible to a new direction.” “...taken an interest in this Connor boy, I’m partial to him. Maybe we could come to an agreement?” “The boy’s not for sale, Saul. At least not at the moment. I made it well known that none of the operatives would be available until after the main operation- you know that.” “You made an exception with the Maestro, though.” “That’s because the Maestro is exceptional. Leave it be.” “-taking leave of the planet and moving to my new purchase. I’m sure you understand.” “What I don’t understand is why you only acquired rights to two of the new territories. What happened to your previous zealotry?” “And of course, they can’t understand the need for all the new alloys. They’ve always been a bit thick-headed though.” The Maestro cleared his throat. “Gentlemen. I’m assuming you’re all prepared for the pruning process we went over. It’s time to discuss and revise our plans for the next several years.” The men in the room began to take seats and started their pointed discourse. The screen continued to rage in the background at the situation these men had put it in. * Connor dragged the last body into their continental-class ship. If he ever found out who was responsible for all this, he would kill them. Eleven of the seeds that he’d grown up with and trained with for the past three years were dead, with four more seriously wounded. He simply accepted it, immediate and without contesting. They were dead, and he was responsible. He carried one of the bodies fireman style over his shoulders. “Get the dead to the coolers- begin evacuation. All hands to the ship, pilots ready the engines for a burst.” A voice flicked on in his head. “Commander, we’re pinned down. They’re advancing on the perimeter and have set up some kind of turret system. Two down.” Connor swore and dropped the body into a cooler. He’d been so busy at with the dead he’d forgot about Rico’s situation outside. He started to run out the door- Konstantin fell into step beside him. “Situation?” “Rico’s pinned, can’t get to the ship. We need to cover for him as he retreats.” Konstantin grabbed a band of shock grenades as they ran by. “Rolling fire?” “Good idea.” Connor got on the comm again. “I need six people to man the external guns and blow out the approaching forces. Focus on the heavier concentrations, and posted turrets, fire at will.” Connor and Konstantin ran out of the ship and chucked the grenades ahead of Rico’s line of defense. Connor paused and fire a concussive blow, then Konstantin passed and did the same, and so on until they had cleared a section of the attackers. “Pull back, Captain! You two, with us, covering fire!” The Lamayens bulled forwards, but were cut down by the rearguard coming back to life. Bodies hit the floor as Rico’s squads pulled back into the ship, firing until their boarding protrusions sealed off and pulled back into the ship. Turrets began blasting out blistering covering fire meant for space- the concussive blasts nearly knocked Connor down and left his ears ringing through the audio dampening filter of his helmet. The salvo blew away the Lamayen forces that had been gathering for a charge, allowing Connor, Konstantin, and the other two Seeds to duck into the ship. Sealed and primed, the giant screw on the nose of the ship began to turn, grinding through metal and alien alloys as it began to shift through the internals of the ship. Connor turned a corner and nearly collided with Valentina, who smiled savagely. “The bay is in ashes. We found a way through.” He nodded appreciatively. “Good work. Now we just have to get out of this thing and keep it from crashing into New Conchord.” He switched command channels as the ship ground through the Lamayen vessel, bolstered by thrusters that boiled everything in their wake. “Commander Roman, main dropship neutralized. Any news?” The Commander sounded almost exactly the same as he normally did. “It’s a bit rough, but we’ll make it through. Since the Lamayens don’t seem to want to destroy New Conchord, we don’t have to worry about them hitting it, but that just means we’re being targeted in full. We’ll take ‘em for a ride though.” “Any advice on how to deal with this dropship? We took out the bays, energy core, and bridge. Now it’s just sitting here- afraid it might hit the city.” “Let me know when you’re in the clear and I’ll see what I can do.” Connor nodded and stayed on the line- Konstantin and Valentina trailed behind him as he made his way to the bridge. “Stall once we’re two hundred meters out. We need to make sure we have their attention.” The ship screwed through the rest of the dropship, twisting, grinding, and burning. Finally it broke free and slid out the lower quarter of the craft; burners activated and tore the ships apart, pushing them away, until the ship pulled to a hover where Connor had directed it. “Commander Roman, we’re clear.” There was a moment of silence, and then a pulse rocked their ship. It was as if lightning struck. The atmosphere surrounding the ship lit up like a bright light in fog as a bright white line was suddenly connected to the dropship from high above. In an instant, the damaged and reeling ship pulsed, twisted, and burst into thousands of static fragments that hung in the air as if frozen. Valentina drew in her breath beside him. Connor looked on, unable to even be surprised. The one thought in the back of his mind asked, why didn’t they do that earlier? The pilot of the ship spoke. “Sir, a distress beacon is being sent out from the outskirts of the city. They’re requesting assistance.” Connor made a note of it and got on the comm with his captains. “Status updates, now.” “Non-combatants are secure, no safe points breached. Attacks are coming in frequently, but we’re handling it.” “Escorts coming along. We’ve established six routes and are still locating survivors. Enemy forces beginning to coalesce in groups.” “East and South sections of the city secured, moving to assist.” “Make sure it stays clean, Captain.” “Sir.” “Tracked and tagged the troops the ships have been dropping- thanks for taking out that big one. We’re bottling them up over here; minimal losses.” Connor switched to the overhead radar view that tracked friendly and enemy forces. There was a massive amount of them underneath the northwestern dropship, surrounding the ping formed by the distress beacon. “Commander Roman, Northwestern dropship?” “Stalled our forces as they tried to board, had to make an emergency landing. Saw what you did to the main one, immediately scrambled all their forces instead of fighting on the ship.” Connor gritted his teeth. An entire dropship, that meant… He estimated the numbers, then got on the line. “Captain Paul, Captain Darcy. You two mobilize and meet us at the Northwestern corner- high influx surrounding a distress beacon. We’re going to get them out of there. Captains, if you have any redundant squads, send them out to join the search and destroy teams. We need to clear this place out.” A chorus of affirmatives met his ears as his ship made its way towards the beacon. Across the settlement, squads of Seeds began to break away from their cohorts and join the extermination efforts. Civilians were ushered from their hiding places by Paragrin troops that dropped in fresh and swept through the settlement behind the Seeds and shock troops. High in the sky, the aerial battle was slowly turning against the Lamayens. Back on Earth, the crowds watched with ever increasing optimism. They cheered when the Paragrin ships struck home, booed and raged when Lamayen ships got in a lucky shot, and held their breath at the close quarters fighting within the settlement below. The battle had technically been going for the past sixteen hours, since Paragrin’s contact with the outer defenses, though the invasion itself had started a full day and a half ago. People looked on with bags under their eyes, exhausted by emotions and lack of sleep. Relatives of the New Conchord Pioneers wept when they saw the bodies of their families, prone and stiff on the ground. Others made signs in support of the aliens and were set upon by furious spectators. Savvy investors bought share in Paragrin and the Vineyard Initiative as their value skyrocketed; others looked to the future and began investing in other industries, purchasing shipyards or empty plots of land to sell as shipyards; everything that could be monetized, was. Others didn’t care. Locked in their rooms or at their jobs, they went about their days in empty buildings as if it would pass, as all things did. They would get the juicy details later; as of right now, they were busy. Bets were made on how much longer the battle would last. Pools started in casinos, people betting on the odds of certain Paragrin or Seed soldiers dying. Estimates on how many of the New Conchord colonists would survive. Through it all, there were constant updates and breaks that would run over the history of one of the Seeds or squads, with highlights from their lives thus far. Short videos of them interacting with the other members, hard events during training, endearing moments. The crowd already had favorites- signs were made and fanbases burst into existence, only to be crushed a moment later when the soldier in question was killed and their admirers devastated. They lived on hopes and prayers, watched the unfolding events with a sense of urgency as these new celebrities fought for the future of Humanity in the form of this settlement. Through it all, the crowds grew closer to the struggle, it becoming a more and more personal topic as parallels were drawn and certain events held up as examples. Connor Boxton lead a rescue attempt on a desperate man’s holdout signal on the outskirts of the settlement; one final battle before the Lamayens were thwarted. Earth would never be the same again. ----- Author's Note: Team Konstantin for the win. Going to have to do something about those guys in suits eventually. Over onPatreon, Chapter 44 has been released. <IFirstI>
I. The the sun drifted carelessly over the sky. Green fields beneath, blue skies above. House on a hill, cold G&T. You get the idea. Well, a small interjection, as I say that but, to be entirely fair on you, dear reader, the precise minutia will have to elude you for the moment. It's sufficient to say that should I reveal to you my true form, intent and raison d'etre that fragile thing that you call “consciousness” would go, with the ferocity of a thousand exploding suns...lets say bangpopsmoooshle.. and quite possibly make a little bit of brown come out. So accept the narration as wrote, thing's will proceed much quicker if you don't ask questions. So Gin, porch, blue skies, sun shining, green fields of whatever... Look its not easy being omnipotent. I mean it is for me, but all this bending the fabric of existence just so I can just make myself understood is real a pain in the ass. And by now I'm sure the pedants out there are already in the throes of apoplexy over the existence of power far beyond their comprehension, I'll fire out a couple of answers and then its on with the show. Yes, I'm really omnipotent. And No I wont prove it. Do you think I evolved to this status of perfection just to do parlour tricks for any Tom, Dick or Harold? Piss off. Yes. I have an ass. It may not register legitimate pain but you try sitting down without one. Yes, I like Gin. Though only with slimline or low sugar tonic, somehow it just doesn't taste right unless its slimline. That's just my personal taste not a commandment, so don't go setting it in stone, I know what you lot are like. Right. The story. All true events. Trust me, I am Forever. II. The gin was cold, the sun hot, the sky blue and the green fields of whatever were... green. This is not pertinent to the story at all but I thought you all would appreciate a familiar environment on to which these events unfurled. And just like that, an old friend appeared. He goes by many names. Don't ask me why. Currently, he's calling himself “P”, though if I really want to wind him up I'll call him “Patricia”. Mostly because the first name he chose for himself was “Patrick” and the infantile son of a bitch that I am decided that “Patricia” sounded funnier and although it doesn't pain him physically to be called this onomatopoeic moniker, it does infuriate him, which centuries later I still find mildly amusing. When you're eternal you really have to make your own entertainment. Anyhoo...We go way back me and him... which for beings who don't have a linear existence to begin with is quite a long time. Or no time at all depending on how you look at it. That's the trouble with you lot, linear existence's and all that, you're all too preoccupied with beginning, middles and ends. It's a damned nuisance. “Gin?” I asked and willed one into creation before he had a chance to refuse. He took a hefty sip, flashed me the look that said it was divine (as if it would be anything less) and eased back in the chair opposite me. “I....I....Gotta tell you something” he said, confessionally. “I know” . Nothing to do with omnipotence, we've just been friends that long the look on his face was enough. “What. Did. You. Do?” I sounded each word coyly and, for the first time in centuries, felt genuine interest. “Remember that solar system you did with the second planet from a sun, just the right distance away...not hot, not cold....the little blue and green one with those funny reptile things running about on it...think you put it next to a red planet so it would stand out?” “Awww yeah” I smiled “I've been meaning to check up on them...I wonder how they're getting on?” It was one of those pet projects you understand, I'd made up some of these lizard things but gave them a few disadvantages. Like the apex predator had teeny tiny arms so had to compensate through other means, some could breathe in water and on land whereas others could only do one or the other and for some reason of which I can't at this moment recall there was at least two species who were monumental in size but entirely vegetarian. I guess my plan was to start of with these foundation models and pop back in a few years and see what work unmolested evolution could do. Though I admit now that I did indeed, lets say, forget about it, it was one of those solar systems you cobble together and always intend to go back and finish but inevitably get distracted by some celestial whatnot or another. Nevertheless, I won't lie, I was pretty interested to be rediscover this lost treasure, it was like putting on an old coat and finding money in the pocket..... (Look I really am trying to make this understandable to your mortal sensibilities, I have as much need of a five pound note as a smoke alarm needs a snooze button but I thought I would keep the metaphors mostly two dimensional for your benefit).... and after a quick bit of cosmic counting I figured there had to have been a few, possibly more, million years since I bothered to check up on them. Time flies when you have no corporeal concept of the thing. P is many things, a joker, a rouge, a mountebank, a little bit boorish but to spin a metaphor most carbon based lifeforms would grasp; his cardiovascular system was in the appropriate location. But what he said next surprised me, again, for the first time in centuries. “I........” P said confidently. “.........broke it” He quickly mumbled the last part, looking very much like a second rate ventriloquist in the process. “Whaaaat in the name of baahloody hell?!? What. Do. You. Mean...You broke it?” The sky, previously a serene sapphire blue cracked eerily into a silvery granite grey maelstrom, swirling thunderclouds exploding electric arcs in bangs and crackles like an atmospheric tree felling. In the distance the peak of a solemn mountain erupted in protest, the ground shook then became morbidly still. “I worked... my fingers... To. The. Bone on that planet!” I lied. III. P was already waving one hand nonchalantly at me in mock surrender and trying (but failing miserably) to stifle a laugh with the other. Composing himself (terribly) “Look snort ...looook...listen...just giggle Just listen a minute will ya? God, you were always one for over reacting (more giggling) I may...MAY...Have broken your funny green lizard things...Butbutbuuuuut...I mended it...in a manner of speaking.” A rare grin had noticeably crept along my face which in turn set P off again, and involuntary set me off as well, not so much laughing out loud more of a deep set chuckle. Raising an eyebrow “Explanation please, dumbass”. Sensing a story coming on, rambling prose of non sequiturs and partial resolutions, soaring tapestries of barely linear and often rambling streams of conscious, I willed into existence a fresh drink for the both of us, leaned back in my chair, crossed one leg over the over and cupped my chin with my left hand. I was in my “listening” position. P could be accused of many things. Being boring was not one of them. IV. “Remember I was really into this girl and -” Tutting, “and here we go...” It was a recurrent theme with him. “Which one was it this time?” “Vena. And stop interrupting. I hope you appreciate how difficult it is keep this story linear just so it can be understood by lesser mortals. Bloody lazy if you ask me. You...are too giving. Why cant they have the patience to wait a few aeons and evolve like normal people.” “Get on with it” Though I do agree he has a point. (No offence dear readers) “Anyway...Vena and I met at a binary pulsar surfing social, it was all the rage for a while remember? You'd surf the gravity between the two suns and who ever pulled off the best figure eight was the winner. Well, me and her bumped into each other quite literally and once we put the pulsars back where they ought to be.. well long story short, I thought figured why not ask her out sometime. And we did. And we start hanging out more and more. Sooooo..After a brief courtship, we agreed it would be beneficial for both if we're to team up....maybe raise a civilisation or two.. We'd stopped off at that reptile planet of yours ….she was happy enough with the size of it but she just could not sanction the noise the flying ones made. So, I figured to impress her...as you do...I'd surprise her with a planet of our own near by. You did intend for that right? Awful lot of empty space in that solar system? You'd left quite a bit of space between the first planet and the second so... I thought...it would be okay and that you wouldn't mind...if I sort-of of made one for her in the middle of those two. So I threw together one of equal size to erm...whatever yours was called and...Hey, don't look at me like that! I even made it orbit in the opposite direction from yours just so people would know I wasn't plagiarising your workmanship. Kept it pretty rustic. Gave it one of those atmospheres where we gaze out and enjoy the universe in private without anybody else being able to see in. Lush so t'was. Named it Venus... after her.” “How original...I mean “romantic.” just a little more sarcastic than was necessary. Taking a casual sip of my G&T I motioned for P to continue. “Well she loved it!” he added enthusiastically, slapping his knee for added effect. “At least at first anyway. Then she wants to remodel the place. Wants me to put in a planetary magnetic field. Then nothing but constant visitors and God, did she ever stop trying to matchmake everyone. I swear she did it compulsively. The last straw came when she sat me down and gave me an ultimatum...we settle down...just....” P stopped abruptly and took a very large drink from his glass. Sensing it was likely my cue to say something, waving my glass in a circular motion I offered “Surely that's not...... sooo.. awful? I mean you'd already spoke about raising a civilisation or two and..” P cut me off after the first syllable of “raising”. “I wasn't finished. Just me and her. And her Bloody Mother! Well I'm having none of it, you're only immortal once and I did not fancy spending it with some misanthropic succubus bent on complaining about everything. On the occasions I have endured her company “The orbit is too slow” “The gravity is too light” “Why isn't there a magnetic field”...Then Vena would pipe up “I told you we needed a magnetic field”...It was relentless mate. On and on and on and on. Anyway I decided enough was enough, I would put them straight and that would be it. No such luck. Huge argument ensues and we call it quits. Not before...now get this....”He shook his glass at me as he said this, the remains of the ice dancing musically in the now empty glass, “...she picked up and hurled some bloody great rock at me...her plan being to... what?” At that he trailed off into thought for a moment. “How big was this rock?” I asked “I dunno, about 6 miles?...” P replied, non-committally. “...hang on, what bloody difference does it make how big is was?!?” Without waiting for me to answer he continued “Anyway.. and stop interrupting”, he scolded “ I swept it into space without a second thought, didn't give it a first one even. Told her “That's it! Done! WE. ARE. OVER. Take your demented mother and haul ass! Good-bye, so long etc. Don't let the magnetic field hit you on the way out. Last I heard from her she running a matchmaking service somewhere in the multiverse, as if that's ever going to catch on. For the love of...really...what's the point, you know it's true what they say....” He pronounced “true” as TA-ROO. Sensing that this was an indication I was about to be lead down a rabbit hole of P's often explosive yet utterly irreverent views on relationships, I interrupted. “Skip to the end.” P shot me a faux pained expression but found it within himself to continue this (confession) explanation. “Anyhoo.....there I am, sat just sun gazing and considering myself lucky for the near miss when I hear a faint “pfftum”. Turns out I deflected that pebble pretty well and it might have....(sotto voce) bumped into that blue planet. And broke it.” V. My mind, of possibilities infinite and sublime, coalesced into two distinct thoughts. The first being, “Well at least he was mature enough and admitted his transgression” melted with considerable effortlessnesses into “That silly cunt broke my planet”. “I can't believe you broke my planet dude, I spent...” “Bull.Shit” P said in such a way that both words stood out like exclamation points. “You spent exactly SIX days fannying about down there and got so fucking hammered on the 6th day you threw a ring around a gas giant and fell asleep, literally, in the Sun. You even called us all up first thing on the 7th day to insist we all call this day “Sun-day” from now, jack ass.” Patrick had a point. I was a lot more careless in my youth, which again is a surprising confession from me considering I've already mentioned I don't have the concept of linear time. “Alllllllllso......” Clearly Patrick wasn't finished with his assessment of my celestial construction. “Also also also, who didn't back up his work? Shoddy workmanship my friend, I looked and I looked but no no no did you leave any clue as to what your original plan was? Did thee buggery mate. So anyway, I tidied the place up for you... you're welcome by the way...and did my best in putting a dominant species in place of your reptilian non starters.” He was chuckling to himself at this point. I looked up at Patrick and saw that charming smugness he often showed when he was particularly proud of himself was hanging all over his face like a pair of cheap curtains in a whorehouse. I sighed. “There's more?” There was.
VI. Patrick begun roughly at the beginning. “Look old chum, as soon as I arrived I tidied up...nice and neat, gave them all a good send off...” Interrupting, “You just buried it under that planets crust didn't you?” “As I said...and stop interrupting... I gave them all a good send off and tidied the remains away out of sight so the new life could flourish. Once I got rid of the smell I had a looky look at what was left and since you were obviously so slap dash and ham fisted composing it in the first place....I didn't exactly have a lot to work with so....I thought, nay, I figured....”What would YOU do in this situation?” Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The Bastard. VII. The design process apparently was quite straight forward . He kept the apex predator a bi-pedal life form, kept it carbon based because it works fine as it was (you can be a little too prog in my opinion – silicon based life is just...well its just showing off for showing off sake) but Pat being Pat couldn't wait to tell me about his “improvements” a term I've often considered misleading. Ambitious but Rubbish would be a closer analogy. There was some teething trouble during the initial deployment of what Patrick called “Genesis”. The initial specifications for the dominant species included four separate genetic properties, a male, a female, a genderless and a multi gendered. For reasons undisclosed all four couldn't integrate effectively at this point in their evolution so one was removed, “And then there were Three”. Three soon gave way to two as apparently according to the wisdom of Pat only bad things come in threes. The properties of these test subject was accumulated and divided amongst the two, and because Patrick was a bit of a hustler he cheated and sped up the natural evolution of this species. The rest was apparently quite simple. An omnipotent variety of “copy & paste” was deployed, the damage hidden under oceans and landscapes, spread out the land masses and add resources. Think of it as planting a garden except this particular garden will home billions of life forms that will evolve over millennia and with luck prove to be a meaningful distraction to people like us who made it. Having explained this and the fact he even named them, “Human” I was actually becoming impressed at Patrick. Usually his milieu would be the occasional gas giant that rained diamonds or nebulae that resembled genitalia, just petty parlour tricks, graffiti over a masterpiece, but this....this endeavour was indeed ambitious, but so far it was far from rubbish it was almost noble. What could possibly go wrong? VIII “So...you renovated the place (tastefully for you Pat)...followed up with a binary reproductive, bipedal dominant species and even added in a tastefully decorated moon to work the tides and deflect spacial debris? Credit where credit is due old friend, it certainly looks like you've done good work on the ol' fixer upper. But why in the name of Me do I have the feeling there's something you aren't telling me?” His grin, part smug, part impish but completely good natured answered that question before he opened his mouth. He'd blatantly interfered with their development. Not a big deal to us and by our standards but most life forms go through a period where they believe, beyond all other beliefs that they are the wisest and smartest and bravest and whatever else species in existence. Then as they grow and learn and evolve they discover forces of nature far superior than they knew and if they are really clever they learn that there is energy and power in the universe they will never understand. Doesn't stop them trying though, silly buggers. Pat will another drink into existence, told me to relax (which he pronounced REE-LAWX) and then he continued. IX. It was all going so well. .“So bud here is the deal” Pat began, “They were all getting on pretty well without any interference from me. Ticking along nicely you could say. Just a bunch of organised, carbon based, bi pedal lifeforms just spending their days rocking round the sun on their own little rock. But the same way one turd can ruin a whole swimming pool, it took one defective human to cock it up for the rest. And I'll tell you this for free...crazy spreads like wildfire with that lot. They have the potential to conceptualize infinity but if they come up against something they cant fathom they basically pitch a fit and before you know it you are up to here in batshit crazy humans.” “The whole mess was down to a rural simpleton, his pet snake and a tree you know? Having discovered that some of the fauna wasn't compatible with their primitive physiology someone, I forget who, got it into their little mind that not only could the snake talk, that it was feeding them some crap about invisible sky fairies, apple trees of knowledge and bizarrely, the concept of “shame”. That was all that was needed, they got it into their heads that an invisible sky fairy loved them, made the planet just for them to live on but with the caveat of please don't eat the apples. Why apples? I'll never know. “Were the....were the apples poisonous P?” “Not a bit chum, they just perpetuated the notion they were up until the moment someone with an iota of sense had the idea to actually taste one!” “....And that dispelled the myth?” “If only” Pat sighed. “Placebo effect the likes of which you would have to see to believe.” In quick succession they put down the discovery of language, mathematics, music, art and everything else down this damned tree. In their own little way grasped some of the fundamental philosophies of life, grasped at the universe and really didn't too bad for a species created as an afterthoughts afterthought. Pretty soon (by our standards anyway) they were grappling with the very notion and nature of life itself. But as is often the case when things take a turn for the worse, they got religion. After all these achievements you'd think it would unite them as a species from the get go but oh no, of all the things that could have fractured them they went and invented religion. Not just one either though from time to time one comes to the front as a market leader, and near enough every brand they came up with has the same problem. They'd have rules to follow, but those rules were more often than not bent to buggery when it suited them. Their invention was almost admirable if it wasn't tearing them apart. They'd do something terrible, ask forgiveness, believe they were forgiven and then it was just wash, rinse repeat. So I thought I'd step in …. give a few pointers and see what I could do, bring them together, unity all that crap. Bring them out of the dark, give them gentle guidance to the wonder of the universe and give them every tool they'd need to succeed as a species.” “And what happened?” Pat had me hooked on this story, I hadn't even noticed I'd unconsciously moved my omnipotent butt right to the edge of my chair. “They fucking crucified me!” X. I fell of my chair. Take from that what you will. Considering I am eternal and haven't felt more than general ambivalence for longer than most stars have burned in the sky, to fall off a chair due to something as funny as my good friend being crucified by his own creation was nothing short of hilarious. I guess it's the sort of humour you can only really appreciate when you happen to be omnipotent. Picking myself off the floor was a singular pleasure, a delight in fact!It was worth having my reptile people decimated by a space pebble for just for the sheer newness of being awestruck and surprised by the image and the physical after effect. “I'm going to guess you cast them all out, smote them or something equally unpleasant?” Giving me a look that indicated he had considered it Pat continued the explanation. “Left the fuckers to it actually. Honestly I washed my hands of them. If that's the way they were going to behave when faced with just some gentle criticism and divine guidance well they don't deserve even the acknowledgement of punitive retribution. And left them to it I did. And....and....do you know what they went and did next?!?” (EDIT well yes I did know what they did next only because I'm omnipotent and non linear but also no, for pragmatic story telling. This is just for the benefit of corporeal beings who have to rely on causality to rely a story,you know who you are) “Next thing you know....and I'm jumping forward a bit is diversify and diversify again. They'd go on crusades, subjugate their fellow species, commit wanton destruction, genocide and get this....they used the liquefied remains....I'm not kidding here....the liquefied remains of your lizard people for a fuel source...despite...when they used the stuff it poisoned the very air they breathed! A planet mostly made of water and they didn't have he wherewithal to develop something clean....dig it out of the ground of course it makes more sense!” I was loving Pat's faux-rage and as ever he did have a point. Even the most basic of lifeforms follow the evolution edict ”Don't Shit Where You Eat”. “Surely you had to have felt some sympathy for them?” Posing the question as a finished my drink. “As a matter of fact I did.” “See.” I said. “They were just slow developers, I bet the next intervention sorted things right out?” “Not exactly. Another drink?” Two more Gins appeared from nothing, the ice clinking as they did so. Raising our glasses, feeling more divine than godly, Pat began again. XI. “This time I decided to be a little more discreet in my interference. It was clear as a species they no more had the ability to comprehend my divine majesty any more than a patio heater needs to comprehend algebra. So, at a completely random point in time, I picked three people completely at random again, and imbued them with the ability...the potential to unite humankind as one, a unification that one day could see them be a dominant species in their part of the universe. Gifted them the wisdom to create, inspire and lead. All that shite” “Sounds good” I said, “how did that work out” P sighed. “One started World War 2, One was responsible for the most brutal genocide in the planets history and the third invented instant mashed potato. All said, it was a bit of an omni-shambles. For a moment they showed true potential with the instant mash, which some say is better than the real thing, but they never followed up on it.” “World War Two? How many did they have? What for?” I asked “Beats me, two and a bit by my reckoning. They seem to enjoy or at least be good at it. Keep vowing never to have another one but they cant help themselves.” A momentary silence passed between us. It was an odd little planet after all was said and done. A planet of ambitious, but generally not all that impressive carbon based life. “So, think we should do anything about them?” P asked. I shrugged. “No idea mate. Sounds like we'd need a miracle to unfuck that lost cause, leave them to it. No sense creating time just to waste on the ungrateful.” A pause. “Pub?” “Pub.”
VETTING: Vetting is the relationship strategy where a man takes a list of values and qualities he prefers in women and uses it to assess the viability of the woman he is currently dating so that he can know if she is worth committing to over the long term. The quintessential strategy for the type of men who readily identify with being traditional and conservative within a modern and liberal society. Note, these are little ‘l,’ and little ‘c.’ This isn’t about tribal politics, this is about men. The vetting strategy is thrown around as if its the same strategy men have used throughout history, when in reality it’s a horrible mental model; a narrative guys use to provide comfort for the grim reality that relationships all end, and most end well before the man is ready to move on, or his children have had the full biological father experience. Vetting is a horrible strategy for the following reasons:
Men do not know what they want in life. Men have a wonderful ability to rationalize what the world offers, transforming it what men wanted all along. A vetting list is guesswork and post hoc rationalization.
Vetting a woman is vetting for values. The question is, whose values? Men today are instilled with feminine values, created by and for women to meet their own needs, not his.
Vetting only works if everyone is doing the same and is immunized from everything else.
Vetting for values is a narcissistic fantasy, and serve to hide the true nature of women and men in order to live in the narrative it presents. By the time the masks come off it’s too late.
Vetting creates an ego investment, where a man ignores anything that is outside of his vetted criteria. If the list is wrong, it’s an attack on a mans ego, and he will fight tooth and nail to protect it.
Even if the masks are off, and humans are naked and honest in their interactions (which they aren’t) vetting offers a snapshot into someones values, not a longitudinal assessment. It has the same longevity as an MBTI assessment; it’s astrology for the educated.
Vetting is often done to the exclusion of actual relationship strategies. Boundary enforcement is far superior and doesn’t require a lifetime of instilling feminine values in a man in order to understand them.
I. Men do not know What they want in life. The idea of taking a man at his most inexperienced and encouraging him to develop a list of qualities that give him the best choice in a long term relationship is naive. Vetting is touted as mitigation of risk, but risk is a wonderful container word that we can fill with whatever feelings we want. What exactly is a man risking? Is it financial risk? Most men will parrot the line of divorce bisecting a mans fortune, but this is post hoc rationalization, not the core reason. The kind of man who is able to build a fortune has the tools to build two. The kind of man who is unable to build a fortune doesn’t have the fortune to lose. Clearly it isn’t about financial hardship. Is it about the risk of losing so much time to a poor connection? Men age well, and assuming their lives have been a constant path of improvement in the ways that matter most, we don’t lose so much time that our lives will end alone in a house of cat food at boxed wine. A strong theme is that men are being raised as defective women, and the idea of men aging like women, approaching that wall where we transform from young virile men into cold angry spinsters is a female insecurity. Men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, with the assumption that putting in a modicum of effort are constantly growing into more valuable men, have many options throughout their lives. If a woman were to pull the plug, men are in a far better position to trade up in life. The amount of women who desperately search for high value men is at an all time high, we only need to reach out. A large part of having longevity in a relationship relies on a man being a womans best option. If you are one woman’s best option and she forgets, you can be another woman’s best option. A real risk exists, in that a man can lose access to her children. Men cannot have children, they can only sire children. We get to be involved in the child's life at the behest of their mothers. And while this sounds callus, one of my mentors in this space gave me a wonderful piece of wisdom. “The majority of time you spend with your children will be with them as adults.” I should hope a mans primary concern with life isn’t his ability to babysit the kids, or coach a little league game for their sake, since we know it’s to soothe his own soul. The risk is in not being able to watch them grow up, or to be unable to raise them in the way you wish you were raised as a child. You weren’t raised that way and you turned out alright, which makes my point. Many of us had fathers who didn’t get to watch us grow up, and made up for lost time when we got older. I never got the privilege, my father died just before I turned eighteen. I’ve never held that chip on my shoulder, I turned out alright The risk is ones ego. Most men who tout vetting as a relationship strategy tend to be early into their relationships. It’s not that a man knows it works, it’s that he hopes it worked, even though it was largely guesswork and coming to terms with the person that took interest in him. Our ego tells us that this one of a kind girl is the kind of girl that we carefully observed and concluded that she was one of a kind, one in a million of her kind. For most men, the one of a kind girl wasn’t one of a kind, she was the one girl who kind of showed us any affection at all. The girl we were the kind of man that she was able to attract, he was her niche. She had a specific type of man she could attract, and we let life happen to us. And this is why vetting does not work. Vetting implies we are taking control over our lives, and in reality, most men are letting life happen to them, and vetting provides a narrative that allows a man to pretend he doesn’t sail to wherever the winds decide to take him. For the inexperienced man (most men) he doesn’t get to decide, others will decide for him and he has to come to terms with that, hence, vetting. II. It doesn’t help that men are attached to wonderful container words such as: valor, honor, sacrifice, hardship. Military men are familiar with the phrase ‘Embrace the suck,’ as much of a military mans career is about enforced hardship in order to achieve a higher goal. It feels good, so many civilian men love to pretend their ability to keep a woman is akin to fighting the Nazis in Normandy. “Sure, I would have served if it wasn’t for these flat feet, embrace the suck, Susan.” Those container words are filled with values. A list used for vetting is a checklist of values, and those values did not come out of a vacuum. Men are not born with values inherent to them, they have to be taught, they have to be instilled in him. Who are the gatekeepers to values? Increasingly this is the pervue of women. Women create values, values by women, and for women. They may benefit a man, but in any situation where the values that benefit a man contradict the values that benefit a woman, the womans values win out, always. The values in a mans life, the ‘should wants,’ or the ideological structure (not root words idea, ideal, logical.) Find me a social structure that creates these values that isn’t heavily influenced by women, and I’ll show you one that is about to. Women have invaded every male space and taken it over, often to the thunderous applause of the thirsty men who are happy to have the validation of their feminine gods to shine upon them. Paleolithic men loved to have structures that encourages women to join them, since women meant tribal longevity. That primal instinct is totally unprepared for a world of almost nine-billion people in peaceful societies removed from all natural threats. A mans deference to the female imperative is the diabetes of our value system, too much of a good thing is bad for us. Men aren’t able to teach men anymore. The decimation of the family unit over generations has all but removed the man from the household, replaced with a substitute teacher father, who has Damocles sword over his head should he want to establish boundaries. “You’re not my real dad!” Right, his job was outsourced to cheap dad 2.0 labor. Pedophilia has pushed our removed many male teachers for young children. When I was a child I had a half a dozen male teachers before I got to high school, my nephew has none. Of the fathers that remain (half of the biological and step fathers) a great many are emasculated to the point of being wonderful feminist allies, codependent men who aren’t in a position to lead themselves, let alone lead the next generation of men to some measure of happiness. I know this because my generation wasn’t lead, and now we are in the position to pass on the lessons we didn’t learn to the generation that won’t stand a chance. I have a feeling a lot of dads will disagree with this and it warms my heart. You’re part of the solution, and this isn’t about you. The kind of person who reads this is so rare as to be a statistical outlier. I also know many of those dads are insecure, class conscious patriarch wannabes, the emperor wears no clothes, but one desperately needs him to be in a parka in order to convince himself that he’s happy. There used to be other institutions that offered guidance outside the household. Church used to, though the pastors are now pastoresses. The church is running out of spaces for men so they coddle the women. It’s a common trope that the worst of women seek the church for absolution, and the church promises to get the flock to ‘man up and marry those hoes.’ Can you tell me that the church will fill mens heads with virtues that benefit him above all? So without the influence of men, a cadre of women are spending the child's formative years instilling their feminine values onto him. It’s not malicious, they don’t know any different, nor should they. Men are raised as if they are women, is it any wonder they come out defective? The emasculated dads, the 2.0 not my dads? They are the cheerleaders, the allies. They parrot the same feminine attitudes and may as well grow breasts and own the role. And many do. So the needs of women are preached to men when they are young children, unencumbered by the needs of men. They are increasingly being removed from the household, the schools, and the churches. More and more women are spending more and more time around children, and raising men as if they were defective women, instilling the values that most resonate with women. We cannot expect any vetting to overcome the underlying values that created it. Though it does make women have a much easier time identifying these plow horses, looking to hardship and sacrifice for their next fix. First hit is free. III. The thing about insecure men looking for assurances in their women is they don’t have the confidence in their own criteria. I’d suggest there’s something in our DNA that nags us, in the back of our head, a feeling that something is wrong, but not able to pinpoint exactly what it is. Mans ego soothes that, instead looking for the herd to reinforce and validate the values that were given to them by their women, codified in a list that is largely guesswork, in hopes of avoiding a risk that is poorly thought out, which is really the search for permanence in an impermanent social structure. We all die alone, the only difference is the spread between death and alone. A man raised by men or influenced by men would be more accepting of the responsibility that comes with this. Female values search desperately to insulate responsibility, offload it onto authority, onto consensus, onto the rules. The modern relationship is like a virus set upon the traditional conservative values. Mind you, the thing about traditional conservative values is that they aren’t traditional, nor conservative. Modern men pretending they are traditional, based on advertisements from the Donna Reed show and Norman Rockwell Americana paintings, used to sell cigarettes and vacuums. Consumption culture doesn’t conserve, and the tradition was an aspirational one that actual tradition had to be convinced was the norm. A man isn’t the traditionalist, he is Norman, the symbol of relationships from a fictional time. Vetting doesn’t work because it requires a cartel in his society. Everyone has to play by the same rules, and women just don’t. They don’t have to, it’s codified into law. Most family breakups aren’t from infidelity, or abuse, or some very reasonable criteria for their dissolution. They are broken up because, most of the time, the wife isn’t haaappy. Remember that sacrificial nobility referenced earlier? Those are his rules, not hers. Cartels never work, the instant one party can break the rules for personal gain, they do. Vetting can’t work when only half the society respects the values. Normans aspirations only work when Norman is the norm. Does anyone know what one of the biggest indicators that a woman will divorce/separate are? It’s whether she has divorced friends. No one can vet a girl based on whether she has friends who will divorce in the next 5 years, or whether you’ll be required to move to a city and all new new friends and co workers are divorced women. As much as we like to think we are impervious to the influence the people around us give, we aren’t. I just wrote down the multitude of ways men have been raised with female values. Women are more prone to follow the herd then a man will ever be. It’s as large a difference between the sexes as there is the disparity in testosterone production between the sexes. Thats the thing about vetting, or the vales checklists. Not only do I argue they aren’t effective, but it’s clear even the people who swear by them don’t have confidence in their efficacy. The mathematics of our world work whether it’s daytime or night, whether you’re in Africa of Asia. The value checklist only works if everyone has the same values, and homogeneous social groupings are basically extinct. I’d argue the Mormons, the Amish, and some of the backwater cultures on the dark continent are the last vestiges of it, but that doesn’t help anyone. A mass exodus will only water down what they have curated for themselves. This all implies that the players are acting in good faith and honesty with each other. IV. In reality, vetting only serves to obfuscate the real people involved, encouraging masks, slowing down the period of getting to know the real person behind them. By the time the masks come down, it’s too late, the vetting has done its purpose already and it’s too late. Earlier, when I suggested that the values that underlie a vetting checklist are build by women, for women? This couldn’t be any more clear than in seeing them work in practice. A man who is vetting a girl for a relationship doesn’t hide the fact he’s vetting a girl, in fact most men can’t shut up about their damned checklist. Two types of women will hear it, the first kind is the woman who has options, she sees one guy with a huge list of what she has to do, a shopping list to which the common answer is ‘you can’t tell me what to do!’ And she’s right. Any decently attractive young woman today doesn’t have to listen to a man ever, and no man has the ability to incentives her otherwise. The only tools he has are his value, and the tall buff guy on Tinder is much hotter, and has a much shorter list of criteria and he will win. Even chasing him will win, a mans list just isn’t any fun. However, once a woman has gotten to the tail end of ‘I wasted my 20s’ and wants out of the sexual marketplace (or worse yet, the sexual marketplace asks too much of her to continue) those same guys are sitting there with their lists. Clearly they are really good lists, look at how many women didn’t meet their criteria? No worries, girls have known whats on that list since they were seventeen. They throw away the bar dresses, grab a sun hat and a summer dress and take a few Tinder phis in a wheat field. Make sure she braids her hair and always stare: Down and to the left, down and to the left. That’s a Kennedy assassination joke, and I worry it’s too obscure for anyone to catch. Every man who played the field in his 20s and 30s knows these women. He’ll scroll through social media and see the girl he used to call up when he struck out on a Friday night, all of a sudden her bio looks like the Little House on the Prairie. “Wait, is this the same girl who I watched deep-throat a whiskey bottle last month?” No, it’s the virginal good girl who just wants a relationship, to settle down and have a family. And Norman will look at his list, look at her, and be so impressed with his luck. “She is exactly what I’ve been looking for, she meets the list 100%” of course she did, when you follow the recipe you generally get the same dish as the one on the picture. She may believe that’s her now, shes highly invested in believing it, so why wouldn’t she? And for a year, two at most she will be. But the thing about masks is people cannot wear them forever. At some point she reverts back to her normal self, and the guy looks at someone who doesn’t resemble the girl on his list anymore. His ego will hide that from him, for a little while, but you can’t keep that up forever either. How do I know this so well? Hundreds of these guys are finding their way to this space via a Google search that has some variation of: ‘Hey Google, why won’t my wife have sex with me anymore?’ And it’s not just the girl wearing a mask either. The guy has his own mask, the one of the great guy with high standards, he’s loyal, he’s committed, and his greatest goal in life is to be the father of her children. It’s a narcissistic fantasy. He doesn’t want to raise a happy child into a functional adult, he wants to be a dad, and those aren’t the same thing. It’s OK if you don’t know the difference, because your kid will. Meanwhile the man gets to live his narcissistic fantasy, for a little while. He spent his adult life searching for this perfect woman, that value list stapled to his head like a party game. Read my wishes, fit the mold, and get what you want. Once a guy gets there, it all starts to sink in. His identity was created by women, for women. It’s not natural feeling. He may not know why he has this narcissistic fantasy, but after a while others go off script, others start to act like they have their own desires, their own values, and their own incentives to act in their own best interest. This isn’t supposed to happen! After the first child, maybe before, maybe after, the girls honeymoon phase, or her mask comes off. Once it comes off she looks at that man beside her and realizes he doesn’t measure up to the kind of man that got her wet. She just doesn’t feel like it anymore, so she stops being his fantasy, his symbol to fetishes. The sun hat is replaced by a pixie cut, the cunt dressed replaced with a moo moo, the sweet femininity is replaced by a nagging battle Axe. The marriage is often replaced by a wealth transfer via divorce and accusations that he abused the kids. Never mind it’s not true, the courts have to act in the child's best interest, best not to take any chances! And once all this sinks in, the guy passes by any opportunities to take his balls back and start becoming an advocate for his own best unrests, once it’s too late, he finds out he’s been Zeroed Out. This is narcissistic rage. It’s not pain, pain is when you drop a hammer on your foot. It’s not anger, anger is when someone else drops the hammer on your foot. Rage doesn’t make it to the frontal love, narcissistic rage is the limbic brain realizing that others aren’t adhering toe the narcissistic fantasy, they aren’t acting as the symbols of that fantasy, and the man can no longer fetishes them as set pieces in his one man play. Norman: The musical, no longer showing. This rage manifests in many ways. A man turns to the bottle, a man turns to nose candy, or turns to a barrel in the mouth. The lucky only rewrite their narcissistic fantasies, plume the women for daring to have agency and looking quickly for her replacement. Repeat until dead, free sandwich if you get the marriage card stamped 4 times. Vetting doesn't work because vetting isn’t an action. It’s building a narcissistic fantasy wherein everyone gets to play their part until they get what they want, then the masks come off, we meet the real person bend them, and potentially have the narcissistic fantasy turn into narcissistic rage. V. The man who gets married 2, 3, 4 times, he avoids all this by his ego investment. The mask comes off but his ego puts it right back on. She isn’t lying about working late, when she comes home to immediately have a shower it’s because she’s tired and it helps her sleep better. She isn’t texting someone else, you can trust her because you vetted her properly. Clearly you’re the best man in the world, she wouldn’t dare leave you for another man. Oh that guy? Yeah, you’re way better than him, so she couldn’t be lying about just being friends. Vetting doesn’t work because our egos will work overtime to ensure anything and everything a woman does outside that list will conform to that list, the alternative is to admit we were wrong, the list is wrong, and that we were living a lie. We can’t have that, so it must be some other convoluted explanation! So we have a list of values that were largely guesswork, put together by a man who lets life happen to him and rationalizes it as a preference. The values that underlie the list are created by women, for women, and increasingly with less and less male influence when it matters the most. It vets for values that only have meaning if the social groups we belong to act as a cartel, which they never do. The list is really just a script for an unrealistic play that two people agreed to do for a year or two until it becomes too hard to pretend, and even when it happens, a man will most likely pretend it’s everyone else's fault but his own that anything went wrong. For some men they rewrite the narrative on the fly, their ego defends them against living in a lie by changing the lie. Miller lite masculinity, named after the flavorless beer is a great safeguard against coming to terms with a false fantasy crashing down. Instead of exploding outward, raging against the failed scripts outside, they go inside. The man isolated himself in the man cave, isolated from the family he vetted for. He turns from chasing women and family to chasing fantasy football, growing a beard, driving a truck, drinking beer, smoking a pipe, jerking off to fine leather, doing anything and everything to hide from the fact that his narcissistic fantasy is a lie. Norman 2: Electric Boogaloo is born. VI. Even if all of that isn’t true, and everything happens in the exact opposite way, it wouldn’t make any difference. People could be honest, cartels could work, the list could be foolproof and the values congruent with a mans best interest and it still wouldn’t matter. Vetting is about as useful as MBTI, astrology for the educated. It offers a snapshot into a persons life instead of the longitudinal assessment everyone hopes it to be. What is MBTI? The Myers Briggs Type Indicator. It’s a pop-psychology form of astrology. Instead of Sagittarius there’s introversion, instead of Scorpio there’s sensing. How does this relate to vetting, or value lists? It’s because they don’t predict anything, they merely assess a person at a moment in time. People change, relationships change people, and the person you were with 5 years ago isn’t the same person you are with now. We can be generous and call it growth, or we can not and call it divergence. The point is, the values you vet for are not the values she will have after your first child, after you put a ring on her, or after the divorce papers are served. MBTI has a half life of 6 weeks, that means that if you give a hundred people an MBTI assessment, in 6 weeks half of them will test differently. Now it is pop-psychology, on par with phrenology, it’s got more rigor than your damned list. What do you think the half life is of your value assessments? What do you think your skill is when it comes to accurately assessing a girls values? People shed their cells and replace them all the time. The person you knew seven years ago is almost entirely a completely new person, a Ship of Theseus in real time. When a man vets a girl, he isn’t assessing her long term commitment to his fantasies, he is assessing her ability to fulfill them today, right now, and merely hopes that it will carry onto the future. I’d say the divorce rate is a good indicator as to the longevity of vetting, but it’s no longer very good at it, people know the jig is up, and stopped even testing their lists. I don’t blame them, I consider myself among them. Do you really think you were smarter, more rigorous, a better judge of character than half the men that came before you? Maybe you are, are you also better, smarter, more rigorous than the ones who beat the odds and live out quiet lives of desperation inside of their marriage? Any smart man shouldn’t have that same level of certainty. If the list, the values, the qualities you measured today have no guarantees of being there tomorrow, why even bother with the list, it’s just a crap shoot. Oh, so it increases the odds? OK, and betting on red or black instead of a specific number has better odds in roulette, the house takes it all in the end. Surely men are smart enough to figure out a better way.
Since most tracks have a $2 minimum bet, below is a handy chart to look up the payoff for a $2 bet at various odds. Remember, your actual payoff may differ from this chart, as the odds on the tote board are rounded off, so 2-1 odds on the tote board may actually be 1.9-1 or 2.2-1. Wit a ‘put’ bet you can then put a bet on the pass line with the appropriate betting odds. However, this bet loses the advantage a pass-line player has before the point is established, so it has gone unused in most craps games. In today’s times however, casinos are offering 5X, 10X and 100X odds on pass line bets. The Odds. The Odds is like a side bet in craps made after a point is thrown. It pays if the point is thrown before a seven. The odds on the Odds are exactly fair, which zero house edge. To be specific, the Odds pays 2 to 1 on points of 4 and 10, 3 to 2 on a 5 and 9, and 6 to 5 on a 6 and 8. Learn About Decimal Odds. Lay betting odds on exchanges are often displayed as decimals, rather than fractions favoured by most British bookmakers. Decimal odds are used because they are more accurate than fractional odds and offer more transparency to the user. If you are not used to dealing with decimal odds, they can look a little confusing. The craps table features countless proposition bets of varying complexity, but here are a few examples of bets with bad odds in craps. The Big 6 and Big 8 bets offer a house edge of 9.09%. That’s absurd when you consider that you can place the same bet as a “place bet” and only face a house edge of, at most, 6.67%.
Today I discuss the Truth about Free Odds in casino craps. Is it a good bet or a bad bet to add additional odds behind your pass line bet? I describe how the... Increase your Odds at Casino Craps is a craps betting strategy that uses the Pass and Come bets along with odds. As a player, makes points you increase your odds from single to double to triple ... The odds bet in craps is a side bet with a zero house edge. I show a craps simulator and explain the payoff ratios for the various point values. If you want ... This Excel spreadsheet simulates a 400-bet session of the craps Pass bet taking maximum odds 3X-4X-5X, which is the best craps strategy. You can easily win o... Craps Odds Bet Strategy, Zero House Edge: Part 3, Laying the Odds on Don't Pass - Duration: 5:20. G Chang 7,090 views. 5:20. The Rules and Maths Behind Slot Machines - Duration: 3:16.