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I recently caught up to Gintama, and I think you should make it your 2021 goal to at least start it. Here's why I think that.
I know we've all seen Gintama floating around on the internet so often. People saying "watch Gintama!" and posting funny clips of the show all over reddit. I want to take a slightly different approach as to why I loved the show so much. Most of the time you hear, "it's really funny! best comedy!" with the additional "the serious moments are so good!" but I want to share my thoughts on why both aspects of it are so good, and why they work so well together. This post will not contain any major or specific spoilers. So to start things off, how is the comedy in Gintama? I will warn you ahead of time, Gintama is not afraid to be vulgar. If you're turned off by jokes about private parts and poop, it's not the central focus of the humor but there is a lot of inappropriate humor. There is also a ton of pop culture references, by which I mean one episode may reference about 20 different things. Sometimes there will be entire mini-arcs (3 episodes) dedicated to one parody, something like JoJo's Bizarre Adventure or Dragon Quest. There is also a ton of meta humor. They are not afraid to break the fourth wall, talk about the production of the show, voice actors, filler episodes, etc. Do you need to understand all the references to enjoy it? I would say it certainly helps if you have a somewhat strong grasp on Japanese culture, popular game and anime franchises, etc, but it's not mandatory. I've seen people go back and forth on this point, and while having a comprehensive knowledge of everything in Japanese media and growing up in Japan will definitely help the enjoyment, I found that with my limited knowledge it was still very fun. Even if I didn't get a reference it was still a silly moment for me, regardless if I knew who they were talking about or not. Plus, if you really want to, you can look up the references later to have an "a ha!" moment and learn more about the pop culture scene. All of the characters are unique and enjoyable! Everyone has their own personality and their own dynamic with each other. You have the lazy yet (usually) dependable Gintoki, the straight man Shinpachi who's the butt of a lot of jokes, the vulgar overconfident Kagura, the leader of the rebels who is serious to a fault even in ridiculous situations Katsura, I could go on and on. Every character has their own vibe, their own appeal, their own dynamic with other characters, and their own running gags. Every time you see one of them on screen you know what to expect and it always delivers in a satisfying way, to the point where sometimes you'll see two characters interact and you're like, "oh man how will they interact?" It's really fun! So, comedy aside, what is the plot of the show? The show takes place in Edo, specifically Kabukichō which is an entertainment and red-light district of Shinjuku in real Japan. There are host and hostess clubs, shops, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos, you name it. Aliens known as Amanto attacked Japan and took over, starting the sword ban. Samurai are far and few between and those who remain get by however they can. Enter the main character, Gintoki. A samurai who fought in the war against the invading Amanto, he still carries a wooden sword around and runs a business called Odd Jobs where he'll take on any task, from finding a kitten to stopping an invasion. It's a very simple premise but it builds up and pays off in great ways. The more serious aspects of the plot come from leftovers of the war, rebels that defy the current government, the police force (Shinsengumi) trying to keep order, and some darker shadows behind the scenes, the truth of the Amanto, and the teacher that raised Gintoki and a few other of the main characters. It leads to some really serious and oftentimes depressing moments in the series. So, how good are the serious portions? The action portions of the show are a little scarce early on. There's definitely a heavier focus on the comedy. At episode 58 you get your first taste of the true action and plot of the series (yes, I know, that's quite a ways in). From there, there are more mini arcs of about 3-6 episodes each that cover some much more serious topics and push the main plot along and introduce new characters and concepts. There's some really hard hitting backstories for some of the characters as well, often in ways you wouldn't expect. It makes each character feel a bit more real. The choreography, music, and voice acting are all top notch. How do the comedy and more serious topics blend? This is the main point of my post that I want to make, and I thank you for reading this far. The serious moments really let you see the characters in a more serious light (duh), while the comedy segments let you see them in moments of peace. They're allowed to laugh, have fun, do stupid shit, but when shit hits the fan it often feels like they need to power through it to see those peaceful moments again. The show doesn't make a big point of this, but it's definitely the factor that pulled me in. You wanna see our goofy main trio get past this terrifying moment and be able to joke around again. You want to see the side characters persevere and overcome the odds so they can see tomorrow and laugh along with the rest of the cast. You get invested in the characters during the funny moments, so the serious moments have a stronger impact. The action and serious scenes are also littered with silly moments or one-liners that make the fights or moments feel more natural. Like Gintoki will drop a one-liner or do something dumb during a serious moment and it's like "yeah that seems about right." He'll make fun of an opponent's name, complain about getting hurt, yelling at the bad guy for overreacting, make dirty distractions to get away, etc. But it always comes back to a satisfying conclusion. The comedy and the action flow seamlessly. A perfect example would be this moment where he fails to make a serious entrance. There's also this story about a dog who was abandoned by his owner. I feel those are my two favorite examples of blending serious with comedy. Later in the series, especially the last few arcs, the comedy takes a backseat for a much more serious plot. It really makes the stakes feel high and every character feels like a part of this world. It's super well done and I won't say more than that. Have you been convinced to check out Gintama? It's definitely a long series to get into, but it's absolutely worth it. Try sticking to one episode a day or every few days and you'll always have something to look forward to. Just make sure to skip the first two episodes because they were made as a celebration of the manga getting an anime adaptation, and it expects you to know all the characters (and also just isn't that great). Episode 3 is the proper "episode 1" of the series and begins with the characters meeting for the first time. Don't think of it as some colossal hurdle to complete, focus on the journey not the destination. Enjoy your ride through the crazy, hilarious, fun, and heartbreaking world of Gintama and I hope you all end up enjoying it! There's definitely a reason that everyone who's seen it regards it so well and now I can confidently say I do too. I'm really excited for the final movie! Edit: I also want to add that all of Gintama (aside from specials and OVAs) is on Crunchyroll!
Hey, folks, Steve here again. As my name implies, I'm a slot techician, which means I fix the machines and get asked if I can rig it to win so many times, it might as well be a Friday Evening, Pre-Recorded sketch. Like my other stories, any names, brands, amounts, and locations that may appear have been changed for anonymity. Procedures and timelines may be changed if altering them does not break the flow of the story. Industry-standard terms (e.g. "TITO") have been left as-is. This happened a few months ago, so some details are fuzzy. It was a somewhat peaceful night so far in the casino. Calls for doors and other stupid-easy miscellany were down - so far, all save one or two calls were legitimate issues. At about 7:30, I was replacing some of the heads on the thermal printers (and chatting with $sup about the price of tea in China) when the radio crackled to life in my earpiece.
$radio: "I need a slot tech to 2-Charlie-1501 for a patron dispute." $me: "2-Charlie-1501, be there in a minute."
I knew the voice on the radio as Jenny, one of the better attendants. She was one of the better ones out there; she'd troubleshoot and do everything she could before calling us, and if she called in a patron dispute, it almost always meant one of two things: either she herself did not understand (and in such a case she'd hang around while I dug through the game rules and explained it to the patron), or she had already explained it to the patron and the patron refused to believe her. I set the printer parts aside and hiked upstairs to 2-CC-1501, where the patron was rambling on at her about how she saw this and how it did this and why didn't it pay her? Jenny saw me coming and stepped me aside to brief me:
$jenny: "She says she won several times while playing this, but I can't find anything in the game history."
I nod and Jenny goes back to deal with the patron while I check the credits on the game (zero), turn the audit key, and start doing my detective work. The game's history only goes back 20 games, so I start at the most recent and work my way back - there's some little wins here and there, but nothing on the scale that the patron was claiming - just ten credits here, fifteen there, so on and so forth - nothing out of the ordinary since they were playing 3 reels on a penny-denom 5-reel Royalty Mach 6 game. After thumbing through all twenty games, I turn my attention to the game's internal logs. Nothing out of the ordinary shows up, just the usual start-of-play, end-of-play, start-of-play, end-of-play, ticket print, and audit stuff. And then I notice the timestamps.
03 Sep 19:34:36 2020 - Entered game recall 03 Sep 19:33:07 2020 - Audit mode - ON 03 Sep 19:26:51 2020 - Service Request - OFF 03 Sep 19:21:37 2020 - Service Request - ON 03 Sep 17:55:49 2020 - Ticket removed 03 Sep 17:55:46 2020 - Ticket print XXXXXXXXXXXXXX0001 $3.57 03 Sep 17:55:46 2020 - System authorization successful ...
...Huh, that's over an h. I check the game recall screen's timestamps, and sure enough, the last play was a bit over an hour and a half ago. By now, the patron's finished their tirade, so I turn to them.
$me: "How long ago were you playing?" $patron: "A few minutes ago! Can't you see it?"
I turn back to Jenny, lean in, and softly advise her to call her manager. I hear her call for one and I go back to ticking boxes off the Standard Dispute Checklist - button test, video test, touchscreen test, the usual suspects. While I'm checking the logs one last time to make sure I didn't miss anything, Beth - the department manager on duty - arrives. Beth was a good manager. She took care of everyone in the department, and I'm actually disappointed she left at some point between this story and now.
$beth: "Whatcha got, Steve?" $me: "She says she was playing a few minutes ago and was winning - quite a lot - and it never paid her. Last game recall says the last game played was at 5:54 this evening." $beth: "Okay. I'll call Big Brother1 and get them to run back the tape." $me: "Alright. Buttons all tested good, touchscreen's dead-on."
Beth nodded and dismissed me, and I went back to fixing the printers in the tech shop while she did the needful. A couple of hours later, I see her back-of-house and talk shop with her.
$me: "So what's the story on that dispute at 2-Charlie-15?" $beth: "Oh, it was the demo. Surveillance saw her watching the demo for a few minutes before she called an attendant."
Reels turn on, electronic bells ring, and most likely, someone up in the surveillance room was laughing their butt off that day. 1 We use a discreet codename for Surveillance when we're radioing them. We don't actually call them "Big Brother", however - that's just the anonymized name I chose for them.
[OC] The Best MLS Player from Each Country That's Fielded One: Part 1 (UEFA)
Throughout its first 25 years, Major League Soccer has seen players from all different corners of the globe, each with their own career story. Whether it be a guy like Tim Melia or Chris Wondolowski who were scrappy guys that came out of nowhere to be stars in this league, or world famous names such as Zlatan, Beckham, and Henry, the league's history of big names is as diverse as they come. Let's take a look at the best player from each country around the globe. This will be based on national team allegiance. Today, we'll be leading with Europe! Please note that this is my opinion, and in some cases the decisions were tough; I'll be sure to add in honorable mentions where I can, or add notes. Albania: Shkëlzen Gashi ( COL 2016-18) Short list to pick from here, as Gashi's only competition is Jahmir Hyka and Hamdi Salihi. Gashi gets the nod, if nothing else, for his huge 2016 season, where he scored 10 regular season goals (one of which was that year's Goal of the Year) as the Rapids damn near won the Shield. The madlad then went and one-upped that with his absurd equalizer in the playoffs against the Galaxy. His last two years weren't as fruitful, but man, when he was on he could pull something out of nowhere. Armenia: Yura Movsisyan ( KC 2006-07, RSL 2007-09 & 2016-18, CHI 2018) Four choices here, although in the end it's Movsisyan winning out over Harut Karapetyan, who played a couple seasons in the 90s for the Galaxy, San Jose, and Tampa Bay. The fourth pick in a strong 2006 MLS SuperDraft out of Pasadena City College, Movsisyan is mostly associated with RSL, who acquired him in a 2007 trade. With the Claret and Cobalt, he would tally 15 goals in 53 regular season appearances, and in 2009 he'd hoist the club's first MLS Cup. That'd be his last game with RSL until 2016 after some time in Europe with Randers, Krasnodar, and Spartak Moscow (even sharing the Russian PL Golden Boot in 2012/13 with Wanderson). He'd put up a similar clip of 16 in 57 before being waived and finishing his MLS career with four scoreless games with Chicago. Austria: Daniel Royer ( NYRB 2016-pres.) The choice here was largely Royer vs. Andreas Ivanschitz, who was a regular starter for Seattle's first MLS Cup, but I can't say no to a man with over 100 MLS matches played and three straight 10-goal seasons. In all comps, the former Austria Vienna man is just two goals behind Thierry Henry for third on the Red Bulls' all time goal scoring list. Belarus: Sasha Gotsmanov ( COL 2005) Gotsmanov qualifies by default as the only Belarusian player in MLS history. The Minsk native (and son of former Soviet and Belarusian international Sergei Gotsmanov) played one (1) single game for Colorado in October 2005, against RSL. Belgium: Laurent Ciman ( MTL 2015-17, LAFC 2018, TFC 2019-pres.) Shouts to Roland Lamah, who had his moments in Dallas, and Jelle van Damme, who played a season and a half for the Galaxy, but Ciman is the obvious choice. While he's fallen off a cliff as he's gotten older, he's a three-time All-Star and won Defender of the Year in his first MLS season; in his second, he played for Belgium at Euro 2016. At 35, he's lost a step and probably should only be used in emergencies, but at his best he was an elite MLS center back that could also be deployed at right back. Bosnia & Herzegovina: Haris Medunjanin ( PHI 2017-19, CIN 2020-pres.) The first one where I'm not totally confident in my pick, as Baggio Hušidić made this tricky (and as a Union fan I'm afraid of bias). But at his best, Haris is an assist machine (30 in four MLS seasons so far), and a threat on set pieces; the madlad even scored an Olimpico this year. His left foot is probably the best the Union have ever had. While his commitment to defense was nonexistent, give him the ball and he could spray a pass anywhere. Bulgaria: Hristo Stoichkov ( CHI 2000-02, DC 2003) One of three former Ballon d'Or winners to play in MLS (the others being Lothar Matthaus and Kaka, although "playing" is generous for the former), Stoichkov spent the last four seasons of his career in MLS, scoring 22 goals in 72 regular season matches for Chicago and DC. In his first season, a 9 goal in 18 match outing for the Fire, he also won the US Open Cup, scoring the opening goal of the final, a 2-1 win over Miami. (The winning goal, by the way, was scored by our old friend Owen Goal.) Croatia: Damir Kreilach ( RSL 2018-pres.) Mr. Miyagi's favorite MLS player for his crane kick equalizer in the playoffs, the former Rijeka and Union Berlin man has proven to be an excellent utility piece and core part of RSL throughout his time there, scoring 26 goals and chipping in 14 assists in 86 regular season matches and playing all over the damn place (naturally a central midfielder, he's probably still RSL's best forward). At 31, he still has a lot to give. MLS has seen a huge influx of Croats lately, though; before Kreilach's 2018 signing there had only been four Croatian players in MLS history, two of whom barely played. Currently, there are five on active rosters. Czechia: Luboš Kubík ( CHI 1998-2001, DAL 2001) Czech players have had a good hit rate in MLS. In his lone MLS season, Bořek Dočkal led the league in assists, and Zdeněk Ondrášek was a very solid piece for Dallas, albeit one whose MLS time was brief. But no. We have to go with Kubik. The sweeper was Best XI twice, in 1998 and 1999, and won Defender of the Year in 1998 helping Chicago to a MLS Cup-Open Cup double. He'd win another Open Cup two years later, before being traded to Dallas in 2001 and retiring due to injury. So many lethal counterattacks started on the foot of this man, and he is rightfully seen as one of the greatest defenders the league has ever seen. Denmark: Jimmy Nielsen ( KC 2010-13) I debated going WAYYYYYYY off the board here and throwing out Miklos Molnar. His time in MLS was brief, just the 2000 season before he retired, but the man was the best attacking piece on a Cup winner. He could have balled out if he didn't retire early. But nah. We're going with Casino Jimmy, one of the keys towards Kansas City's early 2010s turnaround. A two time All-Star, Nielsen was Goalkeeper of the Year in 2012, a year that also saw him win the Open Cup with the Wiz (on penalties, because KC and penalties, name a more iconic duo at this point). In 2013, he capped off his career by winning MLS Cup, again on penalties, while playing with broken ribs. England: Bradley Wright-Phillips ( 2013-2019, LAFC 2020) This league, man. The list of English players to have represented in MLS is a long one, full of iconic names. Ashley Cole. David Beckham. Frank Lampard. Steven Gerrard. Jermain Defoe. Wayne Rooney. Hell, even Bradley's brother Shaun. But nope. Many of those guys are the butt of many MLS jokes. BWP, on the other hand, is one of the greatest goal scorers the league has ever seen, with two Golden Boots to his name and well over a century of league goals. He was a part of 3 Shield winning teams, and made CONCACAF's Best XI in 2018. And it all started with a quiet trial in 2013 after Charlton dumped him. This. League. And This. Man. Even as a fan of Philly who doesn't care much for the Red Bulls, I respect this dude and everything he's done. I hope he gets another year after winning Comeback Player of the Year this year. Estonia: Joel Lindpere ( NYRB 2010-12, CHI 2013) The only other option here was Erik Sorga, who could dethrone Lindpere as he came to MLS at a very young age. But it's unlikely, as Lindpere was quietly very solid for the Red Bulls during his time. The Tallinn native was a two-time All-Star, and in 2010 he was named the Red Bulls' team MVP. Finland: Alex Ring ( NYC 2017-2020, AUS pres.) T O P I C A L There's a few fairly talented Finns in MLS right now that could make this interesting (I really like Robin Lod's game, and Lassi Lappelainen would be excellent for Montreal if he'd stop getting hurt). Ring however has proven his worth across 4 seasons, including time as NYC's captain. Over 10,000 MLS minutes, mostly for good teams, as a defensive anchor, he will be a fantastic tone-setter for the new Austin team. France: Thierry Henry ( NYRB 2010-14) Oh man, as an Ireland fan I wanted to give this to literally anyone else. I am still bitter, dammit. His best competition is probably Aurelien Collin, who has a closetful of trophies (including a Best XI and MLS Cup MVP). But no...it's Henry. When a big name comes to MLS, what people want to see is someone who treats the league with respect. Henry did that. Not only was he dominant on the pitch, a three-time Best XI nomination, he also respected the history of the club he played for and gave 100%, even though he was getting up there in the years. He's a Red Bulls and MLS legend...as much as I curse that godforsaken hand Georgia: Valeri "Vako" Qazaishvili ( SJ 2017-20) It looks like the San Jose chapter of Vako's career is done and dusted. While the former Vitesse man struggled for consistency, he did put up 26 goals and 13 assists across four MLS seasons for the Quakes, including 10 while being coached by Mikael Stahre, which should probably get him and Wondo some sort of award. We'll see what's next for him, if he leaves MLS or goes back to Europe. His only competition was Quakes teammate Guram Kashia. Germany: Bastian Schweinsteiger ( CHI 2017-19) I'm...actually not sure about this one. I actually changed this while writing, as I very nearly chose Julian Gressel; the former Rookie of the Year has two 10-assist seasons under his belt, and Kai Wagner has also been one of the league's better fullbacks for Philadelphia; Schweinsteiger was solid enough for Chicago in his advanced age for some very frustrating teams (and even moved positions to center back!)...but man, I don't know. Germany is weird. For a country with such a great footballing tradition, the pickings are fairly slim. Arne Friedrich had one good year for Chicago before injuries claimed his career. Lottar Matthaus was as committed to this league as Schalke are to winning football matches. Stefan Aigner was stifled by Anthony Hudson going galaxy brain. Torsten Frings...existed. I dunno. Greece: Alexandros Tabakis ( ATL 2017) The only Greek in MLS history...and our second one game wonder. Atlanta's FOURTH string keeper in 2017, he managed to sneak into a game against Minnesota with Brad Guzan on international duty, Alec Kann injured, and Kyle Reynish sent off during the match. Atlanta lost 3-2. He's now in USL. Hungary: Nemanja Nikolić ( CHI 2017-19) Dániel Sallói and Krisztián Németh had their moments, but the winner is Nikolić, who came to MLS from the Ekstraklasa and immediately won the Golden Boot. His totals diminished in the three seasons he spent with Chicago, but 51 goals in 96 appearances isn't too shabby at all - it's second in Fire history behind Ante Razov. Iceland - Guðmundur Þórarinsson ( NYC 2020-pres.) Not much choice, 3 guys, all of whom were mostly bench guys. I almost went with Kristinn Steindorsson here on the merits of "he didn't have a penalty saved by Rodrigo Schlegel." Israel: Gadi Kinda ( SKC 2020-pres.) It was either him or Dedi Ben Dayan, really. And I nearly went with the former Colorado left back, but nah, Kinda is very much the superior player. The midfielder born in Ethiopia, Kinda shone brightly in his first season in KC, with 6 goals and 4 assists in his debut season. He'll be a DP next season. Italy: Sebastian Giovinco ( TOR 2015-18) A signing that changed an entire club. Before Giovinco, the Reds were a laughingstock. He came in, won a Golden Boot and MVP right away, led the league in assists, made Best XI three years in a row, led them to their first playoff game, their first MLS Cup final, their first MLS Cup win, and a historic treble. And they damn near won CCL too. The Atomic Ant was must-see from Day 1. It's not just because of him that Toronto is now one of MLS's elite...but he was a huge part of changing that culture. 83 goals in 142 games in all comps. And he dished out his fair share of assists too, with a telepathic partnership with Jozy. Latvia: Raivis Hščanovičs ( TOR 2010) Not much to write about here. 14 games for a bad Reds team. Gets in by default with no other Latvian MLS players. Liechtenstein: Nicholas Hasler ( TOR 2017-18, CHI 2018-19, SKC 2019) Another one by default. 66 games as a utilityman. Won MLS Cup and the Shield, though. Lithuania: Vytautas Andriuškevičius ( POR 2016-18, DC 2018) Only other choice was Edgaras Jankauskas, a forward who played 14 games for the Revs. Vytas played 37 for Portland and zero for DC. Luxembourg: Maxime Chanot ( NYC 2016-pres.) Another one by default but this one's an actually really solid player that finished fourth in Defender of the Year voting in 2019. We take those. Malta: Etienne Barbera ( VAN 2012) 2 games in 2012. Only Maltese player in MLS. Montenegro: Branko Bošković ( DC 2010-12) Pretty much every other Montenegrin player played less than 20 games in MLS. Bošković played 43 before returning to Europe for family reasons. 7 assists in his final season though, which is technically something. Netherlands: Johan Kappelhof ( CHI 2016-pres.) Much like Germany, bright footballing tradition, very shaky MLS history. Which is weird because the Eredivisie exports a lot of guys to MLS. Also, I'm excluding Kelvin Leerdam, as he is probably changing his international allegiance to Suriname. So I'm going with 2017 All-Star Kappelhof, who I think is still fairly solid. But really the choices aren't great. Dave van den Burgh? Roland Alberg scored a hat trick once I guess? Danny Koevermans was decent but injured all the time? Maybe it's a hot take. It probably is. North Macedonia: Oka Nikolov ( PHI 2013) Never actually played, only in a friendly. Watch this space though as North Macedonia is apparently courting LAFC's Danny Musovski. Northern Ireland: Johnny Steele ( RSL 2012, NYRB 2013-14) Another case of shaky opposition, it was either Steele or Steve Morrow, who played 41 games for Dallas in the aughts. Steele played regularly for a Shield winner, the 2013 Red Bulls. Easy peasy. Norway: Vadim Demidov Ola Kamara ( CLB 2016-17, LAG 2018, DC 2019-pres.) Adama Diomande is the main competition here. Kamara's first stint in MLS was a smashing success, scoring 48 goals in 90 regular season matches for Columbus and the Galaxy (he was traded for Gyasi Zardes before 2018). A brief foray to China followed, and while he's back in MLS with DC he hasn't quite been the same. Still a good player on his day, maybe just the Bennyball effect. Poland: Piotr Nowak ( CHI 1998-2002) When I think of early Chicago, Nowak and the earlier-mentioned Kubik are the first two names that come to mind. Kubik held down the back while Nowak was the chief creator in the midfield. Three-time best XI, three-time All-Star, and MLS Cup MVP. ...can I drink my water now? Portugal: José Gonçalves ( NE 2013-16) Gonçalves fell off a cliff in his latter years, but in his first MLS season he won Defender of the Year and in his second he was a key part of a team that made the MLS Cup final and damn near won the thing. Runner up here is Nani who is probably closing in. EDIT: I also forgot to mention Pedro Santos, thanks to the Crew fans who pointed that one out. I still think Gonçalves pips him for his 2013 if nothing else, but Santos is probably closer than Nani. Republic of Ireland: Robbie Keane ( LAG 2011-16) A LOT closer than you think; Time Person of the CenturyJuventus legend Ronnie O'Brien was two-time best XI himself. But nonono. This is Robbie freaking Keane. When we see these big name Euro guys interested in MLS, this is the man we want them to be. Hypercompetitive and holding guys accountable on and off the pitch, and scoring for fun. 83 goals in 125 MLS regular season appearances. Best XI four times. 2014 MVP. MLS Cup MVP in 2014. A closetful of team awards including 3 MLS Cups. This man was a baller, and frankly his departure was the beginning of the Galaxy decline into irrelevance, but that's a story for another time. Romania: Alexandru Mitriță ( NYC 2019-pres.?) Question mark because he's on loan and I have no idea if it'll be permanent, but he was punted out by the Pigeons just as he was really starting to break out. He scored 12 goals in his debut season last year but filled in nicely this year while Maxi Moralez was injured. EDIT: NYC fans have informed me he wasn't punted out, but was loaned out to be closer to his pregnant wife. My apologies. Honorable mention: Alex Zotincă, who played for the Wizards and Chivas USA in the aughts. Brave man. Russia: Igor Simutenkov ( KC 2002-04) Not a lot to pick from here either. 49 games, 12 goals for this forward from Moscow, who now serves as an assistant coach at Zenit. Scotland: John Spencer ( COL, 2001-04) Give Johnny Russell another few years and he'll pass Spencer, but for now I'm leaning the latter. Spencer as a coach was frustrating as hell, but as a player he was Best XI twice and an MVP finalist once. Dude could score goals despite battling injuries in his time in MLS. Just don't let him sign Kris Boyd. Then you lose to Cal FC. No one wants that. Serbia: Aleksandar Katai ( 2018-19, 2020) FROM A SPORTING PERSPECTIVE. And mostly due to a weak pool. Runner up was probably someone like Miloš Kocić. 18 goals in 62 games for Chicago before getting yeeted back to Serbia for Bad People Reasons Slovakia: Albert Rusnák ( RSL 2017-pres.) He has tenure on Ján Greguš, who's the closest competitor, but Rusnák is also good. He followed up a 14-assist debut season (4th in the league) with back to back 10 goal seasons before struggling this year with injury. Slovenia: Robert Berić ( CHI 2020-pres.) Once he got acclimated to MLS, the goals came, and Chicago has its successor to Nikolić up top. He finished with 12 goals in his debut season, tied for second in the league with Ruidiaz and Zardes. Also, from what I saw early on, seems like he's a dark-arts type of guy that gets in your head. That's fun. Spain: David Villa ( NYC 2015-18) I really didn't want to put him here due to recent allegations, and the fact that Pozuelo has already matched his MVP and two Best XI performances.... 77 goals in 117 games though, that's tough to pass on. Sweden: Zlatan Ibrahimović ( LAG 2018-19) It's Zlatan. He pretty much dragged a sorry LA organization to something resembling competitiveness. What the hell did you expect? (Anton Tinnerholm made this hard, though) EDIT: Forgot Gustav Svensson as well in my honorable mentions. Switzerland: Stefan Frei ( TOR 2009-13, SEA 2014-pres.) Pretty self-explanatory, one of the most accomplished keepers in MLS history and with a closetful of hardware. And all it took Seattle to get him was a late first round pick that pinged around so much that it was eventually traded for a coach. Turkey: Sercan Güvenışık ( SJ 2012) 5 games that year. No one else has flown the Turkish flag in MLS. Ukraine: Dema Kovalenko ( CHI 1999-2002, DC 2002-05, NYRB 2006-08, RSL 2008, LAG 2008-10) I'm afraid he'd break my legs if I didn't. One of the most physical and downright dirty players the league has ever seen. Made nearly 300 appearances though, and has one each of the 3 major US trophies (MLS Cup, USOC, Shield), all with a different team. Wales: Andy Dorman ( NE 2004-07, 2013-15) Dorman was a key part of that real good Revs team from the mid-aughts, and just beats out Carl Robinson. He made 112 appearances in his first stint, and played in 3 MLS Cup finals, though they famously lost all three. The Revs brought him back in 2013 after some time in Scotland and England, and was playing semipro in the area as recently as 2018.
This chapter was a labour of love, heists are hard. Big thanks to u/eruwenn for helping tidy up this bag of snakes. First / Prev / Next
“Ranjaz K’Lua, you thieving scumbag!” the Kah’Ree in the purple suit exclaimed loudly as he spotted them across the busy room. “As I live and skral, I never thought you would have the Jolos show your face here again!” Two J’Rami in suits detached themselves from the lobby wall, walking towards the Kittran and his friends. “Alfor, my old friend!” Ranjaz smiled broadly. “No need for the welcoming party, I’ve got your credits” —he gestured to Cygna— “and a sweetener, for all the trouble I caused last time.” Alfor paused, lecherous eyes assessing the Fae’Dan. “You know I have a thing for purple.” He chuckled at his own joke and waved the guards back to their posts. “How about we have a drink, and discuss your forgiveness.” He pointed to Thor and Eruwenn. “Brought your own security, or are these Gal. Fed. goons? Everyone knows about your probation.” The Kittran gave a broad grin. “I got a Tulseria-damned pardon, a new ship and a very lucrative opportunity.” The Kah’Ree smiled. “How’d a thieving cat like you get a pardon?” He gave Ranjaz an appraising look up and down. “Oh? Now, let me guess, you need something from me and my brother?” Ranjaz fired his finger guns. “You were always the smart one Alfor, that’s why you run the casino floor.” The Kittran stepped in close. “The item, do you still have it?” Alfor tilted his head back and away from Ranjaz. “Your little guarantee?” He looked back down at Ranjaz. “We have it somewhere safe. Had some unusual people come by after you got caught. Asked a lot of questions. Made a lot of threats.” His face contorted in anger. “We got audited thanks to you.” The Kittran smiled. “If only they knew you better, they could have simply paid you for the information.” “We give nothing for free.” The Kah’Ree gave a sinister smile. “House rule.” Ranjaz walked forward to put his his arm on Alfor’s back. “Let’s go see your brother. Have a few drinks, maybe gamble a little, and discuss our future riches.”
Ripley stood in the shadows of the staff shuttle bay, watching as the numerous employees of assorted races came and went. Loud laughter caught her attention, and a very strangely dressed Niham broke away from a small group and walked towards her. Ripley tried to maintain her low profile as the scantily clad female strutted towards her in long black boots with pointed heels that clacked loudly with every step. Deliberately avoiding eye contact the Awakened tried to will herself into the wall but it was too late and a voice called out to her. “Hey Darling! You must be the one I’m looking for.” Ripley shook her head. The Kittran had said the contact was an Ashi pirate captain, a master gambler and expert in procuring the unusual. “I don’t-” “Listen cutie,” she interrupted, “you’re the one lurking in dark corners drawing attention to yourself. I’ve got your security card. You tell that fluffy little stud he owes me. And more than a bottle of Fae’Dan wine and a good time, if you know what I mean.” She held up the card between her fingers, just a little out of Ripley’s reach. The Awakened considered the phrase ‘fluffy little stud’ and decided that, despite her hopes, this was probably her contact. “You’re Captain Whiplash?” The Ashi laughed genuinely, the jiggling of tightly squeezed breasts bursting at shiny black restraints making Ripley nervous. “Oh, Darling! Only my little pets call me that! You may call me Sho’Na.” Ripley was momentarily confused. “So, you aren’t a pirate captain?” “I’m anything they pay me to be.” She smiled at the silver-haired woman's naivety. “You really are new to this.” Ripley, caught off guard, simply nodded, then replied, “I’m a quick learner.” “Good for you, Darling.” Sho’Na handed over the card. “Just make sure you get paid up front, and don’t use your real name with clients. Ruins the mystique.” Ripley was unsure of what was being said. Turning the card over in her hands she saw that the holo-image on the front was of a male Arkellian. “This isn’t me?” “Honey, I was given half a cycle to get you a level three security card. Just be glad it’s a biped.” Sho’Na looked Ripley up and down. “Our mutual acquaintance told me you were some sort of master of disguise who could even trick Selva Blaster.” Ripley paused, then smiled. Her appearance had become such an integral part of her identity she had forgotten that it was entirely optional. “It won’t be a problem.” She looked at the card again. “Unless the owner comes looking for it.” Sho’Na gave another bosom-trembling laugh that threatened to spill out at any moment. “Oh, don’t worry, he’s tied up at the moment.” The Awakened considered the risk. “Hmmm, but for how long?” The few strips of shiny black material that comprised Sho’Na’s revealing outfit strained under her amusement. “Don’t you worry, Darling. He paid for the whole night.”
Eruwenn had reassessed her opinion of Ranjaz many times since meeting him. The criminal. The loyal friend. The lazy trouble-maker. All were true, but now she was seeing something new. He sat opposite Toran, the brother of Alfor, in a game of dalcho she wished she could have taken part in, but was equally glad she did not. At first she had thought the Kittran was outmatched, a few reckless mistakes costing him dearly as the Kah’Ree deftly selected his tiles. Toran was clearly a seasoned gambler, using a blend of the Remee Le’Bow Gambit and the Kowals’Kee Analysis she hadn’t seen before. It seemed to be dismantling Ranjaz’s tiles before he could even prepare his cards. A few fortunate dice rolls and he had taken a strong lead from the outset. The Kittran appeared desperate, playing any tile available to try and slow the defeat. It had all been a ruse, she saw it; Ranjaz had saved his best tiles and carefully thrown hands to manipulate the cards. In just a few rounds he would be able to dominate the board and raise the stakes, recouping his losses and changing the course of the game entirely. She had encountered few players who could manipulate the game so deftly, using memory and layers of strategy to corner their opponent. It was magnificent. Eruwenn couldn’t tear her eyes from the board as she stood beside Thor. The Awakened had shown no interest in the game, studiously watching the opposite door as Toran’s staff came in and out. When a waiter entered and began preparing drinks at the small private bar in the executive gambling room, Thor coughed. It was a strange thing for an Awakened to do, and Eruwenn finally looked up from the table. “Are you ok?” Thor nodded. By the time he had looked towards her, she had returned her attention completely to the game. “You don’t seem concerned about your friend?” he asked. The Anatidae watched as Ranjaz used a blind double feint, and the sheer audacity of such a move made her swallow hard. She didn’t look back to Thor, but mumbled a response. “I’m very confident in her abilities.” The waiter was methodically placing drinks by each of the players, but when they stood behind Ranjaz the Kittran surged to his feet, shouting, “Hey! No cheating Toran! Getting your waiter to look over my shoulder? That’s a dirty move I’d expect from your brother!” Thor had reacted faster than Eruwenn, pinning the arms of the Arkellian waiter in a vice-like bear hug. Toran slowly stood. He was big, heavily muscled, and the veins on his neck bulged as his anger rose. “Don’t accuse me in my own place.” He cracked his knuckles and glowered down at Ranjaz. “I run a straight game.” Fearlessly the Kittran walked right up to the Kah’Ree and stared up into his face from waist height. “Don’t try and intimidate me, you son of a Vogel.” Ranjaz puffed out his chest and began pushing the burly casino owner. “Nobody cheats me!” The blow caught Ranjaz across the cheek and sent him sprawling across the room. Eruwenn winced at the impact, but maintained her composure. Toran laughed. “Watch your tongue or I’ll add it to my collection.” He walked round the table and kicked Ranjaz in the stomach, glaring at Thor and Eruwenn, daring them to act. “Know your place trash. You’re at this table because you put credits up front. You are a dishonest thief, begging for scraps, and cosying up to me any my brother to get your little trinket back.” He returned to his seat. “Why would I need to cheat against the likes of you?” Ranjaz stood, brushing himself off. “Fine, fine.” He waved a hand and Thor dropped the Arkellian. Ranjaz tapped him on the chest. “My mistake.” He sat down and picked up his cards once more. “You’re right Toran, you run a clean game. I’m just a sore loser.” He shuffled the order of the tiles that were still face down on the table. “To show my sincerity, how about we double the buy for the rest of the game?” Toran snorted. “Double?” He looked at the Kittran, scrutinising his opponent. The game was already over; he had control of the board and his tiles occupied the three prime positions. Was the thief trying to buy his favour, he wondered? How much was the trinket he wanted truly worth? He decided it was worth testing. “Triple, and I’ll forget you dared touch me.” The Kittran swallowed hard, his ears flat to his head. Toran momentarily worried he’d pushed for too much but a decision seemed to be reached. “Fine. Triple.” The look of defeat was delicious to the Kah’Ree.
Cygna had done her part and lured Alfor to a private room away from his security. She had danced, skipped and side-stepped his groping hands so far, maintaining a playfulness that ensured he complied. This sort of thing was not new to her; she had spent time undercover in the past. Fortunately, there had been little call for it since she had joined forces with Eruwenn. Alfor’s eyes scanned her body once more. “The Kittran has very good taste.” He licked his lips, a small amount of drool escaping and running down his chin. He wiped it on his sleeve. “Now, I brought you somewhere quiet. How about you show me how sweet you can be?” The Fae’Dan smiled coyly and continued her dancing just out of reach, glancing to the doorway where Alfor’s two guards stood watching her. “With an audience?” She raised her eyebrows expectantly. With a sly grin he waved the guards out of the room. “Now come here and let me satisfy you like only a Kah’Ree can.” His eyes wandered over her body once more. Cygna smiled, her own eyes moving from the Kah’Ree’s hands to his shoulders, then up towards his neck. An interesting fact about the Kah’Ree was the thick blood vessels on the side of their neck. They often bulged when a Kah’Ree was angry or excited, like Alfor’s were as he leered at her. She danced closer. Another interesting fact was that their brains were not as efficient as those of other species, hence the requirement for additional blood flow; more oxygen per limited thought. He leaned forward, his eyes locked to her swaying hips. Cygna turned slowly, and his head tilted to appreciate her assets. The third, lesser known, fact about the Kah’Ree was that an interruption to the blood flow while they were in this excited state caused them to lose consciousness rapidly as their brain burned through the available oxygen. “My eyes are up here.” She smiled as he looked up at her with his head still tilted. He sneered. “Who ca-” The Fae’Dan struck the side of his neck with the edge of her hand, targeting the throbbing blood vessel with a powerful blow. The interruption to his brain's oxygen supply worked perfectly and he fell face forward onto the ground at her feet. She let out a sigh of relief and looked down at his unconscious body. “Thank you, that was particularly satisfying.” She walked over to the door and peeked out, finding the guards standing either side. “He said to order us some drinks.” One of the guards nodded and immediately put his hand to his lapel communicator. Back inside the room, Cygna used her foot to roll Alfor to his back and began searching his pockets. She came up empty. Her eyes caught a glimmer from his collar and she found a heavy gold chain, at the end of which was his security key. She removed it just as a knock came at the door. A deep voice from the other side called out. “Your drinks, boss.” The Fae’Dan quickly messed up her hair. Using the back of her hand she smeared her lipstick sideways, and then pulled the strap of her dress down off her shoulder. She opened the door and, to her surprise, was faced with an Arkellian waiter. The bodyguards noted her dishevelled appearance and shared a smirk, and she said, “Oh, I wasn’t expec-” The waiter pushed the trolley into the room. “Don’t keep the boss waiting, lady.” Before Cygna could reply they were inside and the door closed. “Relax, it’s me.” Ripley’s voice sounded bizarre coming from the male Arkellian form, and Cygna’s eyes went wide in shock. Her sharp mind quickly adjusted to this new information. Of course the Awakened could change their physical appearance; she had just never seen it. They all seemed quite attached to their chosen human forms. “Neat trick.” She held out Alfor’s key. “Did you get the other one?” Ripley nodded. “The Kittran played his part well. I didn’t see him take it, and didn’t feel it when he placed it in my pocket. Now that was a neat trick.” The Fae’Dan smiled. “I think I’ll pass on that dalcho game.” The Arkellian Ripley smiled. “Probably wise.” Turning, she slipped the key into her pocket and headed back out of the door.
Ripley entered the elevator to the owner's private offices on the top floor. Thanks to the distractions downstairs, the two large desks in the centre of the room were empty. She walked straight past them to the large leokas painting on the wall and swung it forward. Behind it was a Fae’Dan safe; she took out the two keys and a small homemade device the Kittran had given her. Attaching the device to the bio-lock and standing before the safe, she elongated her arms to reach both key positions at once. There was more than one reason she was the one chosen for this task. The device beeped twice and small lights above each lock lit up. She simultaneously turned both keys, and there was a satisfying clunk. She raised an eyebrow. The device had worked. The heavy safe door swung open and she began her search. Ranjaz had been very specific: while there was one item she had to get, she was to grab as much as possible to obscure their true target. Quickly grabbing as much as she could she retrieved the keys and ran back across the room towards the elevator.
Cygna hauled Alfor back onto the seat, putting him in a more natural position and messing up his hair. She looked away as she began unbuttoning his clothes, pulling his trousers around his ankles and opening his shirt up to bare his chest. From a secret pocket inside her dress she pulled out a lace thong, setting it on his head like a bandana. She also had a small box which she opened, inside of which was a replica mouth with lipstick that matched her own. Cygna carefully applied kiss marks all over his exposed skin before popping the fake lips back into the secret pocket. She took the Fae’Dan wine and partially filled two glasses, making sure to take a long drink from one and leave more lipstick marks. The rest of the wine was poured into the ice bucket. She heard the sound of voices outside the door. The guards were arguing with someone, refusing them entry, but when the name Toran was mentioned it was Ripley who entered, still in uniform but now looking much like her usual self. She smirked at the Kah’Ree in his derobed state. “I can see you had fun.” The Fae’Dan chuckled. “That’s the idea.” She looked at the Awakened in her true form. “You look… better.” Ripley cocked her head. “It would be strange if the waiter came back to deliver a message.” She tossed the necklace key to Cygna, who replaced it on Alfor’s neck. Reclining on the sofa and picking up her glass, Cygna took another long drink. “Get the other one back to Ranjaz quickly. This one won’t be napping much longer.” The Awakened gave an almost Ranjaz-like grin. “You could always hit him again.” Before the Fae’Dan could reply she had ducked back out of the door. She caught the eye of one of the bodyguards and gave a head tilt back towards the room. “The boss is really enjoying himself!” As the suited pair chuckled, the larger of the two got a message in his ear piece. “Hey, silver hair.” He grunted. “Boss has an important guest. Meet them in the foyer and bring them to the dalcho room.” Ripley was relieved – she needed a reason to get into that room. “On my way.”
Toran was seething as he watched as the Kittran flipped his final tile. Why would he have waited so long to play the Wings of Tulseria tile? His stomach sank, and he couldn’t hold back his anger any longer. “Damn you!” Ranjaz gave a full-fanged grin. “Looks like my luck turned at just the right moment.” “Luck!” Toran’s tile snapped between his fingers. Why had he let the damned cat goad him into constantly increasing their bet? The cycle had started with him owing the brothers a million credits plus interest, and now the infuritating Kittran had won nearly forty times that. “Nobody is that lucky.” “Woah!” Ranjaz held up his hands. “I would never cheat, well... certainly not a second time. After you caught me, I’d be a fool to try.” “Hmm.” Toran looked at the two behind the Kittran. The big one would be a problem, but the Anatidae looked to be nothing special. “How about I give you back your little trinket and we call it even?” “My trinket?” Ranjaz shook his head. “I had to convince you it was worth the million I owed. Why would you think I’d trade it for thirty eight million credits? I’ll pay what I owe, take my trinket and my winnings and leave.” Toran folded his arms and looked across the dalcho board at Ranjaz. “And why would I let you do that?” The atmosphere in the room changed as the two security guards changed their stance. “Transfer the credits back to the house.” Ranjaz dropped the grin, replacing it with a defiant glare. “What happened to you running a straight game?” “The game was straight. You won, didn’t you?” He leaned forward, his eyes cold and hard. “You’re just in no position to collect.” The Kittran was about to argue when the door behind Toran opened. He looked up as Ripley entered, and his eyes widened in shock. She wasn’t alone. “Toran, you bastard! You sold me out!” “For ten million credits.” Toran stared hard at Ranjaz. “Care to make a better offer?” Eruwenn’s eyes blazed with anger as the grey-suited Niham pulled up a seat and sat down beside Toran. “Now, now, you lied to me about having the item before. Don’t double cross me.” Sentinel Krast placed his hands together on the table, interlacing his fingers. “I’m not somebody who forgives easily.” He looked directly at Eruwenn. “Isn’t that right, former Councillor? A little far from your new Ambassador position, aren’t you?” Ripley stood back against the wall. She had no idea who the newcomer was, but this most definitely was not the plan. The golden green Anatidae walked forward to stand behind Ranjaz. “Oh, I had a little vacation time saved up, and decided to spend it with my good friend here.” She placed a hand on the Kittrans shoulder. “And what brings a Sentinel here?” Krast’s lips curled in what might approximate a smile. “I’m also acquainted with Mr K’Lua. In fact, we go back a very long way.” He turned to look directly at Ranjaz. “Now, return what is mine.” Toran looked from Ranjaz to Krast. “Yours? You don’t look like the tiara wearing type.” The Sentinel didn’t turn his head. “Ah, so you hid the data chip inside some shiny bauble. As inventive as ever, Mr K’Lua.” The Niham finally acknowledged Toran by looking at him. “Bring. It. Here.” The Kah’Ree sucked air through his teeth. “Well, seems like we have something mighty important, and two very interested parties.” He stood and walked to his two security officers, who drew their weapons in unison. “Now then, I believe you” —he nodded to Krast— “offered ten million. How about it Ranjaz, old friend? What’s your counter offer?” The Kittran had been sitting, silently seething at his double cross being double crossed. He looked at Krast. “Were you the one?” Toran was surprised at being ignored, but before he could reply Krast answered, “The one?” Ranjaz’s eyes narrowed, his ears alert, his tail swishing aggressively. “The one who took my friend!” he snarled as he felt Eruwenn’s hand holding him back gently. Krast’s eyes glittered as he saw the impotent rage in his opponent’s eyes. “Ah, the poor deceased human?” He smiled his mannequin-esque smile. “And if I was?” Toran snatched a pistol from one of his men and fired a blast at the ceiling. “Your quarrel can wait. Let’s settle our business first and you can kill each other after I’m paid.” He paused, then added, “but, not in my casino. Body disposal costs extra.” Eruwenn’s hand gripped Ranjaz’s shoulder harder, and he braced himself. In one smooth move she both threw him backwards and to the right, and kicked the dalcho table up and forward into Krast's face. The Sentinel fell backwards as a blast from Toran struck the table, but Eruwenn was already on the move, sidestepping left and ducking forward into a cartwheel. Toran's gun had been following Ranjaz, but as her leg swept down it knocked the weapon from his grip. Once she stabilized, her fist, already primed with momentum from the cartwheel, struck Toran below the ribs and knocked the wind from him. The guard, whose gun the Kah'Ree had been holding, lunged forward to grab Eruwenn but she simply deflected his hand, pairing his forward momentum with her rising elbow to swiftly render him unconscious. The second guard had just begun to raise his weapon when a huge fist struck him in his chest, sending him careening backwards into the wall. Thor loomed over him, shaking his head as he retrieved the energy pistol. “Too slow.” Ripley helped Ranjaz to his feet as Krast pushed the table off his chest. Toran was coughing and struggling to breathe as Ranjaz pressed the retrieved energy pistol to his forehead. “Double cross me?” He dragged the Kah’Ree forward. “I want to see the item, then I’ll pay what I owe.” The two of them awkwardly made their way back towards Krast, so Ranjaz could point the gun in his face. “Then we can talk about your body disposal fee.” Krast stood, and his phony smile was gone. “You can’t kill me. The Sentinels will tear this place apart, hunt you down and kill you. You think I came alone? My ship is in orbit and waiting for my orders!” Ranjaz grabbed him by the jacket, pulling him down to his level, and struck him in the face with the butt of the pistol. Thor cooly kept his stolen pistol pointed at Toran and the one conscious guard. By the third blow Krast’s face was bloody, his nose broken and he began to struggle against Ranjaz’s assault. A muted boom caused everyone present to stop in their tracks. Alarms began to sound and Toran swore loudly. He pulled out his communicator, ignoring Thor’s pistol. “What the hell was that!” He held the device close as he listened. “My office?” He patted his pocket. Finding his key in place, he looked to Ranjaz and then Krast. “Seal the casino! And where is my brother?” Ripley suddenly understood why the Kittran had told her to leave his device on the safe door. After a brief further moment of shock, which she kept from showing on her face, she realized that she had been carrying an explosive without being told. If they survived, Ranjaz was going to need to explain himself. Thoroughly. Eruwenn, Thor and Ranjaz had backed away to the opposite side of the room, standing by the door. Krast stood alone, holding his profusely bleeding nose. The opposite door soon opened to reveal scrambling casino security, with Toran and his guard standing nearby. The unconscious guard was carried out without comment, and the Kah’Ree turned to Ripley. “Why are you still here?” She nodded and slipped out of the door, leaving one less concern for the remaining three. “Alright, which one of your skrolg-licking bastards broke into my private safe?” Krast spat blood onto the floor, pointing at Ranjaz. “He’s the thief. You and I had a deal.” The Kittran smirked. “I’m a better thief than blowing up a Tulseria-damned safe. If I wanted to steal it, I would have done just that. I would not have announced my arrival and sat down to a game of dalcho.” Toran looked between the two of them. “He’s got a point.” One of his men handed him a pistol, and he continued to talk a little distractedly into his communicator. “Well, check everywhere!” Ranjaz stirred the pot. “He’s the bastard who double crossed me, why would he honour your deal?” Eruwenn nodded. “A government agent can’t be seen working with criminals.” Krast's face contorted in rage. “Don’t be a damned fool, Toran!” He pointed at Ranjaz. “This is clearly some convoluted distraction.” Toran shook his head. “They had the upper hand. You were the one getting your face ruined.”
Cygna watched nervously as Alfor began to stir. Things were taking a lot longer than expected. Finally, her signal came; it was not as subtle as she had been led to believe. As soon as the explosion went off the two bodyguards quickly came into the room, glancing from Alfor’s sleeping body to her. She staggered forward, wine bottle in hand. “We need more drinkshh!” The guard ignored her as he saw the condition of his boss. “Not again,” he groaned. “Toran will kill us for letting him get like this.” The second guard stepped out into the corridor. “I’m not dressing him! Last time he tried to kiss me!” Cygna paused, not having expected it to go this way. The first bodyguard walked out as well. “He pissed on my new shoes the time before that. I’m not moving him.” Their communicators went off and their faces became more serious. Bodyguard two spoke first. “Damn it. Toran wants him.” The first turned to look at the increasingly bewildered Cygna. “You!” He smiled. “You got him undressed. You can dress him.” Cygna spotted Ripley running down the corridor towards them, causing her confusion to grow further. The Awakened shouted one word. “Sentinels!” The Fae’Dan’s mind raced. The plan was clearly blown, and they had to get out. Fast. As the guards were now facing Ripley, she took the opportunity to kick one in the back of the knee. He fell forward, and as the second turned he was met with the upward swing of a wine bottle. The first guard discovered first-hand the shocking truth of how hard the knee of an Awakened could be, and both were unconscious by the time they hit the ground. Cygna smiled at Ripley. "Thanks." The Awakened gave a swift nod of acknowledgement. “A Sentinel turned up, so Ranjaz set off the diversion he promised. The other brother is busy trying to figure out whether it’s us or the Sentinels robbing him.” Cygna took on board the new information quickly, knowing she needed to help the others. “I have an idea. Lie over there and look dead.” She ran back into the room, where Alfor was groaning and starting to move. She slipped the chain from his neck and dropped it into the ice bucket, where it sank out of sight below the dark Fae’Dan wine. She began to slowly shake him. “Huh,” he grumbled, and slowly opened his eyes. “Wha.. what happened?” Cygna clung to him tightly. “Oh thank goodness! I thought they killed you!” “Killed?” Alfor’s head was pounding, his memory blurry. “Who-” He caught sight of his downed guards in the open doorway. “What the hell happened?” He began pulling at his clothes, and swiftly checked that his trousers were dry. “While we were.. You know…” He nodded; he was buttoning up his clothes. He didn’t remember, but he knew. “Some scary men burst into the room and shot you! I was so scared.” She hugged him tight, pressing herself against him. He put his arm around her. “What men? Be brave, and tell me what happened.” She looked up at him, trying to make her eyes as big as possible, adding a lip tremble to really sell it. “I don’t know! They wore grey suits. And one of them took your necklace!” “My necklace.” He clutched at his chest where it should have been. “Damn Sentinels! I told Toran we couldn't trust them!” He stepped into the corridor, where Ripley lay on the ground with a terrible energy weapon burn on the side of her face. He pulled out his communicator. “Toran.” He instantly got hold of his brother. “I didn’t answer because I was knocked out. Damn Sentinels took my key, killed some of our guys.” He looked around. “Nobody important, just some waiter.” He finally pulled the underwear from his head. “I’ll go to the security room and look at the video.” He ended the call and turned back to Cygna. “You stay here.” She smiled. “Sorry, we can’t let you check the security footage.” “Wha-” Ripley struck him from behind and he crumpled to the ground, her fake burn melting from her face. The Awakened looked around, rechecking that all was clear. “I think that’s all we can do; we should get out of here. Come with me, my shuttle is in the staff bay.”
Toran closed his communicator and motioned to a guard. “Search him.” Eruwenn wished she had some way to capture the look on Krast’s face when the remote detonator was pulled from his pocket. She'd have to hug the light-fingered Kittran later. The Sentinel grit his teeth. “That’s not mine.” “Sure, sure,” Toran agreed, while simultaneously shaking his head at the Sentinel. “Looks like you really didn’t come alone.” Krast was furious, yelling, “I’m telling you-” He broke off when Ranjaz shot him in the leg, falling to the floor. The Kah’Ree pointed his pistol at the Kittran. “Can’t let you kill a Sentinel in my casino, even if they did just rob me.” Ranjaz was surprised the Kah’Ree had believed them so easily. “What about us?” Toran sighed, lowering his weapon. “Take your winnings and get out. If you stole the thing once, I’m sure you can steal it again.” Eruwenn and Thor both made to leave. Ranjaz paused, knowing he might not get another chance. “And him?” The Kah’Ree looked at the Sentinel holding his wounded leg. “We’ll send him back to his ship. As much as I hate it, the Sentinels are untouchable.” Ranjaz raised his pistol. “He took my friend.” “And we’ll get him back,” Eruwenn said softly. “Then we’ll all deal with him, and the rest of the Sentinels.” Krast sneered and spat blood once more. “Your human is dead.” Ranjaz fired. Krast screamed and grabbed his other leg. “You bastard!” Toran and his men raised their weapons as the Kah’Ree yelled, “Get the hell out of here!” Ranjaz turned and followed the others out of the door, but just as it was about to close he poked his head back in. “Oh, one last thing.” Toran could be seen looking up just as the Kittran fired again, but he ducked out of sight before the true outcome of his shot could be seen. The shrieks of agony, however, followed the trio down the corridor as they broke into a run. Eruwenn spared a glance down at Ranjaz during their retreat. “What did you do?” The full-fanged grin had never been larger. “Made sure we’ll see him again.” On the floor of the dalcho room Krast was screaming in agony. He turned over to stare at the closed door. “I’ll kill you! I will hunt you down and kill every last one of you!” Toran spoke into his communicator. “Tell the Sentinel ship to come get their man. And, bring a doctor. A really good doctor.” He nudged one of his guards and finally let out a chuckle. After all, the Sentinels had just robbed him. “You double-crossing scum always get what you deserve.” The J’Rami guard raised an eyebrow. “Not sure anyone deserves getting shot in the balls.”
EXTENSIVE write up on Missing and Murdered Indigenous women- Is there a serial killer on the Yakama Reservation?
Missing and Murdered Indigenous women If you have spent any time reading about true crime, you probably know that American Indian/ Native American women go missing from the United States and Canada at alarming rates. On some reservations, women experience violence and are victims of homicide at 10x the rate of women in other communities. It is a complex issue with prejudice and jurisdictional issues playing major roles. If you want to know more about the root of these issues, I suggest Missing and Murdered” podcast by Indigenous Canadian journalist Connie Walker, who explains the issues much better than I ever could; that podcast is linked below. Today, I want to highlight the stories of some of these women, specifically those missing from the Yakama community. Background Washington state is home to the fifth largest Indian reservation in the United States, the Yakama reservation, which is home to the Klickitat, Palus, Wallawalla, Wenatchi, Whishram, Wanapum, and Yakama people. According to the US Census Bureau, only the Osage, Puyallup (also in Washington state), Navajo, and Choctaw reservations are more populous. The Yakama reservation is located in South Central Washington state, just south of the city of Yakima. Of the 31,000 people who live on the reservation, 11,000 are enrolled tribal members. Most people who live on the reservation claim Hispanic/Latino, white, or mixed-race ancestry, but Hispanic is by far the most common ethnic group. There are also small Filipino, Japanese, and Korean communities nearby. The Yakama reservation is located just south of the town of Yakima, Washington, a large farming community of 100,000 people. Apples, cherries, peaches, pears, and hops are all grown in the dry surrounding region. Harvest time brings thousands of migrant workers to the area, so the population is always in flux. Outside of Yakima is the town of Union Gap (Pop. 8000), which is partially on the reservation, and partially off it. There are two other proper towns on reservation, Toppenish (pop. 8000) and Wapato (pop. 5000). Other small communities such as Satus, Harrah, White Swan, and Granger all boast several hundred residents each. All in all, the Yakama nation consists of 2,200 square miles of sprawling, rural land stretching from south central Washington nearly to the Oregon border. But from this unassuming patch of high desert and grassland, more than 30 Native women have gone missing/were murdered. If we add Native men to the equation, the number jumps to nearly 50 unsolved disappearances, deaths, and murders. If we add the deaths and disappearances of non-native people missing from the reservation, the number grows yet again. Although the land is vast, the tribal population is small. From my estimates over .5% of native people on the reservation are missing or murdered. Like many tribal communities, unemployment and poverty is common, appropriate housing is scare, and according to the tribal council "disregard for the rule of law and general civil unrest" as well as gun violence and substance abuse is common. In 2019 a youth curfew was instated after a particularly bad shooting. According to the Washington State Patrol, the Yakama nation has the highest percentage of missing people of any Native community in the state, even though they are not the most populous. The FBI created a task force in 2009 to investigate the possibility of serial killer among the Yakama, but the investigation determined that a serial killer was unlikely, but not impossible. This was because the causes of death were so different from victim to victim. The investigation did close two cases on the reservation after DNA on both women linked them to a man serving life in an Oregon prison, but the man is not believed to be responsible for any other crimes in the inquiry. Whether a serial killer is loose on tribal land or not, this issue is complex and long standing and demonstrates how much substance abuse, domestic violence, and random crime affect the Native communities in this county at 10x the rate of other communities. Some progress has been made such as state bill 2951 which allows Washington state authorities to track cases and help investigate and search for missing individuals on tribal land. Because tribal lands are usually under federal jurisdiction, state authorities are not able to help, despite being more familiar with the area than the FBI. This is only one small step in the right direction and although awareness is growing, the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous people will not simply go away. The mystery of vanishing people still stands. Many people have heard of this epidemic, but few know the names of the victims; today it is time to change that. Below are the profiles of 35 women who are missing, murdered, or who have suffered mysterious deaths. For some of the women very little information is available. The list below is not necessarily complete. If you know of other unsolved cases let me know in the comments below. Quick guide: Yakima- large town near, but not on, the reservation Yakama- the tribe and people group NOTE: all cases organized most to least recent and are broken down into missing, murdered, and mysterious categories Missing Tiana Cloud went missing from Yakima on April 7th, 2018. She was 17 years old at the time. She may be in local area, and she may have been located. She is a Native female, 5'4 ft, 162 lbs., brown eyes and brown hair. She has large dimples. Tiana was last seen Yakima WA. Very little information is available. Yakima police are investigating. Freda Knowsgun or Knowshisgun has been missing since October 18th, 2016. Freda was from Montana and was registered with the Crow Agency. In the months before her disappearance her family reported that she was acting strangely and began drifting around the Northwest and spending time in southern Washington state. Freda was still close to her aunt and talked to her children sometimes, but was distancing herself from the rest of her family. Freda was last known to be at a customer service desk at a Walmart in Kennewick, Washington. Freda used her cell phone to call a friend to ask for money. She wanted to travel back home to Montana to spend Halloween with her children. Freda’s friend sent her the money but the money was never picked up. When she called Freda 15 minutes later, Freda’s cell phone was disconnected and no one has heard from her since. She did not return to Montana for Halloween or for her aunt’s funeral in November and she was reported missing. Freda’s family believes that she was abusing drugs at the time of her disappearance and they believe that Freda’s new friends in the drug scene may be involved with her disappearance. Law enforcement has reported that Freda’s new friends have not cooperated with the investigation into her disappearance. Freda may have been seen in Billings, Montana in December 2016 and she may be traveling with a black male named Mike. Freda is reported to be a 34-year-old Native American female with dark brown hair that is waist length which she wears in a ponytail or high bun. She has brown eyes, a scar on her right elbow, weights 160 lbs. and stands 5’5” in height. She has the following tattoos: the names "Lyrical", "Trinity" and "Mason" on her back between her shoulder blades, the cartoon character Mickey Mouse with a basketball on her right calf, and a flower on her right shoulder. She may use the last name "KnowsHisGun" and many accounts refer to her by that name. Her case is being investigated by Crow Agency Bureau of Indian Affairs. Rosalita Faye Longee disappeared from her grandmother’s home in Wapato, Washington on June 30th, 2015 at 10 pm. Rosalita who went by Rose was 18 years old at the time. She is an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana but had lived with her grandmother on the Yakama reservation since age 2. Rose visited her grandmother on the night of June 30th asking to stay with her but her grandmother refused as Rose was high on drugs at the time, and she had a rule that Rose could only live there when she wasn’t using. Rose may have been with friends at the time. Rose had struggled with addiction for years and had been in and out of rehab centers since age 16. This was the last time Rose was ever seen alive. Rosalita is described as a Native American female, 5’6”- 5’8” in height and about 130-140 lbs. She has black hair, brown eyes, pierced ears and lip, and scars on both wrists and both her chest. At the time of her disappearance she enjoyed taking photos and posting them on her Facebook page. Yakama Nation tribal police are investigating. Roberta Jean Raines, 19 was last seen in Toppenish on July 10th, 2001. Roberta was with a man named Jose Merced Zamora at that time. In 2002, this man killed a teenage boy and fled the county going to Mexico. Roberta was apparently with him at the time. It was around this time that Roberta’s family realized they had not seen her in a while and they reported her missing. Jose was arrested in 2007 in Idaho and taken it custody for the murder of the boy. Jose Merced Zamora told the authorities that the last time he saw Roberta she was in Mexico and that they parted ways. Authorities do not believe this story. Roberta is described as Native American female, 5’2”-5’3” in height and 120 lbs. She has very arched eyebrows. Toppenish Police are investigating. Karen Louise Johnley, sometimes referred to as Karen Johnley-Wallahee, was reported missing November 7th or 8th, 1987 by her cousin. She was last seen by a friend at the Lazy R Tavern in Harrah on the Yakama reservation. Karen’s cousin describes Karen as a 29-year-old female, five feet tall and 100 lbs. She was last seen wearing pink barrettes in her hair, a pink tee shirt, a Levi’s brand denim jacket, and white tennis shoes. She had long black hair and brown eyes. Her cousin expressed worried about the person Karen was last seen with. No pictures are available of Karen and she does not even have a Charley Project page. Tribal police are investigating. She remains a missing person. Daisy Mae Tallman or Daisy Mae Heath age 29, was reported missing on October 29th, 1987. When her family was questioned it came to light that no one had seen Daisy since the end of August, 1987. Daisy’s sister remembers her as very independent, often leaving the reservation to visit friends and family on a different reservation in Warm Springs, Oregon, or leaving the area to go fishing. Daisy was a high school basketball player and was the youngest of 6 sisters who were all raised by their maternal grandparents. At the time of her disappearance, Daisy was staying with relatives in either Toppenish or White Swan. A year after she disappeared a set of keys and a backpack believed to be Tallman’s/Heath’s were found in a closed area of a reservation called Soda Springs. 7 years after her disappearance she was declared legally dead. One source mentions that one of Daisy’s sisters was murdered before her disappearance but I could find no corroborating source. Daisy is described as a Native American female aged 29 with black hair that extended down her back and brown eyes. She was 5’5’ and weighted 185 lbs. She also has given birth in the past. No pictures are available of Daisy and she does not even have a Charley Project page. The FBI is investigating. She remains a missing person. Janice Marie Hannigan a sophomore at White Swan high school was the oldest of 7 children. In 1971 Janice’s parents had recently separated and Janice was living with her father in Harrah, Washington but visited her mother and younger siblings often. Janice was nominated to be Queen of the Veteran’s day parade in November 1971 and the newspaper even ran an article about her and the other nominated girls. According to her interview in the paper, Janice enjoyed beadwork, cooking, and watching football. A few weeks later on December 21st Janice was admitted to the hospital for the treatment of contusions on her head and torso. On December 24th she was released from the hospital in stable condition. The cause of Janice’s injuries, as well as the location she was treated at is unknown. Janice never made it home from the hospital; this was the last time anyone ever saw Janice alive. Strangely, this was not the first time Janice had been reported missing. Janice may have been reported missing in February or March of 1971, although she was determined to be visiting relatives in Idaho with her father at that time. Because of this some agencies report that Janice went missing March 1st 1971 but that is not accurate. Some agencies report that Janice is a possible runaway as she was upset about her parent’s separation, although Janice had never runaway before. One Law Enforcement office reports that Janice’s father is a person of interest in her case, but Janice’s sister Traci Clark denies this notion and says it is “not possible.” Traci was only 8 years old the last time she saw Janice, but she still looks for her big sister any chance she gets. Murdered Angela Marie Heath of Toppenish, aged 41 died on April 5th, 2019. Her death is an unsolved hit and run. Very little information is available. Washington state patrol is investigating. She may (key word may) be related to Daisy Tallman-Health located above. Rosenda Strong a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon, was last seen on October 2nd, 2018 climbing into an acquaintance’s car, reportedly an older Nissan, heading to Legends Casino in Toppenish. Legends is an alcohol-free resort and Casino on the reservation popular with locals and tourists alike. Rosenda never returned from the Casino and sadly her body was found in a discarded refrigerator nine months after she was last seen in July 2019. Her death was ruled a homicide but no other details have been released. Rosenda’s sister said that at first tribal police did not take the disappearance seriously as Rosenda had past problems with drugs and they believed she would come home soon. Rosenda’s sister, Cissy Reyes nee Strong, believes that the murderers are the fellow tribespeople Rosenda was last with and complains that she still sees them “walking the reservation free” and refusing to talk. Cissy remembers her sister for her big, loud laugh and she hopes that someday Rosenda will get justice. The FBI is investigating. Jedidah Moreno was last seen alive in September, 2018 by her family in the city of Yakima, which is not on tribal land. The 30-year-old was reported missing in late November 2018. Her body was found in early December and she had been dead at least a few days. She had died from a gunshot wound in a rural part of the reservation that was closed to non-tribal members. One report (a blog) claims that Jedidah was a member of the Yakama nation but no other sources state this, so take this information with a grain of salt. Her case remains unsolved. City of Yakima police and the FBI are investigating. Little information is available. Linda Dave 39 of White Swan, was last seen alive in late 2016 or early 2017. On February 15th 2017, a woman was found dead under a bridge in Toppenish. It was determined that the woman died from a gunshot wound to the stomach and had been dead approximately six weeks. The woman was identified via DNA as Linda Dave. Linda was a mother and grandmother who enjoyed spending time with family, cooking, and dancing. She is the niece of Janice Hannigan, the first woman detailed in this piece. One local funeral home called Heggie’s has a website where people can share condolences to the family or stories about the deceased. In a cruel twist of fate one of the messages on Linda’s page is from murder victim Rosenda Strong. The FBI is investigating Dave’s case. Minnie Andy was a 31-year-old Yakama woman who enjoyed fishing and swimming. Minnie was found beaten and close to death near 70 Egan Road in Wapato, Washington on July 9th, 2017. She had been badly assaulted earlier that morning and she tragically succumbed to her injuries at Astria Regional Medical Center in Yakima several hours later. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma. Christopher Lagmay was indicted for her murder shortly thereafter but he would be released from jail in 2019 without prejudice, meaning if new evidence arises, he could be re-tried. Her murder is still unsolved. Destiny Lloyd, aged 23 disappeared on Christmas day 2017 from her home in Wapato. Her body was found in Harrah, Washington four days later. Initially, it looked like Destiny had died after slipping and falling on the concrete, causing a head wound but a full autopsy would reveal that her death was a homicide and that she died from blunt force trauma. Destiny worked at Legends Casino as a childcare worker. Her co workers remember her fondly and hope her case will be solved. The FBI is investigating. Naoma George mother of six from Wapato, Washington was found dead in 2013 from trauma to her abdomen. Her death was ruled a homicide. Naoma was a traditional Yakama who did bead work and gathered traditional plants to keep the Yakama culture alive. Naoma was laid to rest in a traditional ceremony at the Longhouse surrounded by friends and family. Her case is unsolved and little information is available. Yakama Nation tribal police and the FBI are investigating. Barbara Celestine aged 44 was a tribal member who lived in Wapato, Washington. She was found dead of blunt force trauma outside a housing project in town in 2013. Her death was ruled a homicide. The Yakama Nation police and the FBI are investigating the murder. Very little information is available. Skeletal remains found in late 2008 in a remote part of the Yakama Reservation are believed to be those of a murder victim. The Doe was unknown until the FBI Seattle office mentioned the remains in early May 2009, when announcing the results of the FBI's approximately two-year-long analysis of reservation deaths which was spurred on by a March 2006 meeting with then-United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Until that point the fact that a doe was found was not public knowledge. The bones were found in a remote area near the backpack of missing person Daisy Mae Heath (Tallman). In early May 2009, Special Agents were awaiting mitochondrial DNA test results on those remains, which they said then might be those of Daisy Mae Tallman/Heath. The tests were inconclusive and there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the bones belonged to Daisy. The FBI has not released further information on the remains. This Jane Doe is on no public databases (NAMUS, Doe Project) as far as I can tell. The FBI is investigating. The triple homicide of Charmaine Sanchey, 47, Toni Marie Green, 43, and Steve Alvarado, 52 is still unsolved. Their beaten and stabbed bodies were found in a small trailer outside Toppenish on Jan. 16, 2003 by their landlord who came over to collect their rent check. He found the women dead in the bedroom and Steve dead in the main living area. The trailer was on the reservation but it is unclear which victims (if any) were tribal members. Authorities say that they have few leads and few suspects. Later, Charmaine Sanchey’s brother, Arthur Joseph Sanchey, was the primary suspect, but was acquitted of charges in July 2004. The brutal triple homicide is still a mystery. Sandra Lee Smiscon did not die on the reservation but I believe her case deserves a spot in this piece. In the year 2003, Sandra was a 45-year-old mother of 3 children who split her time between Wapato and Seattle. After high school, Sandra got a job in a nursing home and mothered three children. After her personal relationships fell apart Sandra became lost and her children were placed in the custody of their fathers and other family members. She often traveled to Seattle and did odd jobs but was basically drifting around. According to her brother Walter, Sandra was a “party animal” who loved having a good time but sometimes let the drinking get the better of her. Despite her flaws he remembers his sister as a somewhat shy individual with a huge, bright smile who taught her younger daughter the art of traditional dance. Sandra traveled home regularly for family events and holidays but never stayed for long. One day Sandra and her companions were sleeping near 4th and Yesler streets in Seattle when a man, angered by nearby fireworks shot into the homeless camp aimlessly, injuring a few people and killing Sandra. Her 2003 murder is still unsolved. Sandra’s name is part of the Fallen Leaves memorial, a place of remembrance for deceased homeless individuals as a way to give them dignity and a place to be remembered. Her case is still unsolved. The suspect is described as young man in his 20-30s with a dark complexion but of unknown race. Seattle police department is investigating. Shari Dee Sampson Elwell age 30, had not been seen for weeks when her battered and sexually mutilated body was found in a remote area by hunters near White Swan. Her body was found during February 1992 in the middle of a blizzard. She had been beaten, mutilated, and strangled. Little has been done to solve her case and very little information is available. Skeletal unidentified Native woman believed to be in her late 20s or early 30s were found on Feb. 16, 1988, near Parker Dam in Union Gap. Her cause of death has not been determined but her case has been ruled a homicide. She had been dead from 2-10 months. She is described as a Native female, 25-40 years old with dark brown hair that had been bleached light brown in the front. She was wearing lavender colored pants, a long sleeve shirt with a Mexican label, and brown bowling shoes, one with a black sole and one with a white sole. She was slight and short 4’11” to 5’1”. She is not Daisy Tallman/Heath or Karen Johnley. Despite her heritage she is NOT believed to be Yakama; she may be from Mexico and perhaps a migrant worker as her clothing had Mexican labels. JoAnne Betty (Wyman) John the 44-year-old mother of eleven children, was reported missing on August 1st, 1988. A partial skeleton was a discovered in February 1991 which was determined to be John’s. Her cause of death was ruled “homicidal violence.” Little information is available in her case. The FBI are investigating. Rozelia Lou (Tulee) Sohappy, 31, of Brownstown was last seen alive New Year’s Eve of 1988. Her partially clothed body was found March 13, 1989, in a remote ravine along the south slope of Ahtanum Ridge north of Brownstown. She was identified through dental records, and an autopsy concluded she had been strangled. Very little information is available. Jenece Marie Wilson was 20 years old in August 1987. The young woman who lived in Toppenish, when to a party one night and then left the next morning to hitch hike to her boyfriend’s place in Sunnyside, Washington but she never made it. On August 9th a farmer found the body of a woman in his orchard which was so severely beaten it was hard to establish her identity. Dental records confirmed that the body belonged to Jenece and she had died from a blow to the head. In 2009, twenty-two years later DNA evidence was run through the system and there was a hit. The DNA matched an Oregon convict, Samuel Posada. Samuel had attended the same high school as Jenece but the two did not appear to know each other. He was arrested and charged with murder and rape. Strangely, Posada waived his right to jury trial but was acquitted of all charges by the judge in his 2011 trial. Jenece’s case has been cold ever since. Babette Crystall Greene was 26 years old and lived in the town of Toppenish but was last seen in Yakima, Washington in October 1986. A member of the Warm Springs tribe in Oregon, her skeletal remains were found during the summer of 1987 off North Track Road near Wapato, Washington. Her cause of death is listed as “homicidal violence.” Very little information is available. Clydell Alice Sampson age 25 of Klickitat had not been seen alive since sometime in 1984 when her skeleton was found by hunters near Hambre Butte, south of Granger, Washington in December, 1986. Her death was ruled a homicide and she died from a gunshot wound. Very little information is available; there are no pictures available of Clydell. Mavis Josephine McKay was a member of the Confederated tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Oregon. She was 33 years old when she was found murdered in an irrigation ditch on August 13th, 1957 in Satus, a very isolated area of the reservation. Because her case is so old, very little information is available. Mysterious deaths Echo Kay Littlewolf was 31 years old when she was last seen alive. Echo is described as a tomboy who loved camping, animals, and being outside. Echo was homeless at the time of her disappearance and lived in a tent on the reservation but contacted relatives often, at least twice a week. She would pop into her parents’ or grandparents’ house to shower and do odd jobs for money for friends and relatives but always returned to her nomadic lifestyle. On August 15th, 2017 Littlewolf’s grandmother had not heard from her in a week and contacted Echo’s mother, Jeanette Osborne, who drove to her daughter’s campsite. As soon as she smelled decomposition, she called tribal authorities who found the body of Echo Kay Littlewolf. Her body was badly degraded due to the hot weather. Her death was ruled “natural causes” and Echo was cremated. Jeanette believes little investigation was done because Echo had used drugs in the past. According to Jeanette, her daughter’s body looked like she had been standing and then fell over after being hit with an object, nevertheless an autopsy was never ordered by authorities. Echo’s family now wishes she was buried and an autopsy could have been performed. Her suspicious death has never been solved. Angela Babette Billy, 41, of Pendleton, Oregon was an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation. She also is known as Angela Shippentower and Babette Shippentower. According to the one article I could find Angela who went by “Babette” was a victim of domestic violence. Right before she went missing Babette confided to family members that her boyfriend was abusing her. Right after that her boyfriend left her to be with a woman he had been seeing on the side. Babette’s body was found in late May 2013 in the Umatilla River near Mission, Oregon. She had been missing for over a week. She was found by two people on horseback while they were conducting a private search for her. The area was accessible only by foot, horse or four-wheelers, from one side of the river. The area in which she was found was behind the home of her boyfriend’s new romantic interest. This woman, who remains unknown to the public, also had a reputation for drugs and violent behavior. Billy’s cause of death was drowning and while her death has not been ruled a homicide it is considered “suspicious” and not simply an accident. According to family members police did not take her disappearance very seriously at first- a mistake that may have cost Babette her life. Alice Ida Looney, 38 of Toppenish was reported missing after she was last seen in Wapato in the early morning hours around Aug. 16 or 17, 2004. A hunter found her body Nov. 30, 2005, wedged under a tree on a small island in Satus Creek, about 12 miles southeast of Toppenish. Looney had family on the Cowlitz and Puyallup reservations. The FBI lists the cause of her death as inconclusive. High school and college athlete Rosy Fish, a distance relative of Looney’s, ran four races at a state track tournament (and won 3). Each race was dedicated to a missing or murdered female native relative of Fish’s, which shows the breadth of this issue. Fish’s actions have spurred other native athletes to do similar tributes. Looney’s death is still unsolved. Looney’s family also says they were never interviewed by law enforcement. Teresa R. Stahi age 25. July 27th 1987 marks the day Teresa Stahi’s body was found drowned in a canal. Her clothed body was pulled from a fish screen in a diversion canal off Toppenish Creek south of Granger. An autopsy concluded she drowned and had been in the water less than 12 hours. The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office said it ruled out foul play. However, an FBI memo listed Stahi’s case as a “mysterious death matter.” Law enforcement now says her death is “inconclusive.” Very little information is available. Sara Dee Winnier age 24 had recently moved back to the reservation after living in California. She was found at 3:30 a.m. July 22, 1985, sitting upright in the driver’s seat of a burning car off McDonald Road about half a mile from U.S. Highway 97. Her body was badly burned and the coroner used dental records to identify her. Winnier lived in a remote part of the reservation and worked at the Save More Grocery in Wapato. Her death is suspicious and unsolved. Little information is available. Celestine Spencer, 21 sometimes called Celestine Yallup, of Wapato had been missing two weeks when her body was found at the bottom of a gully in a field off McCullough Road along the north slope of Ahtanum Ridge. She was found Nov. 11, 1982, at the bottom of a hill near a field. Her death while somewhat suspicious was determined to be hypothermia was deemed a probable accident. Celestine’s aunt was awarded custody of her son, Roland, who had some disabilities and various medical problems. Tragically, less than two years later Roland (age 3) disappeared in a child abduction in Wapato and has not been seen since. His Charley Project page is here- http://charleyproject.org/case/roland-jack-spencer-iii. Lesora Yvette Eli was only 19 years old when a farmer found her fully clothed body along Parton Road near Toppenish on Feb. 2, 1982. She was face down in a drainage ditch. While the County Coroner’s Office listed the death as accidental drowning, FBI investigators claim it is a possible homicide. Her death has never been solved and very little information is available. Sheila Pearl Lewis, a 33-year-old social worker who worked at DSHS in Yakima was found dead in August of 1980 near Parker Dam in Union Gap. An autopsy showed that she died of massive internal injuries most likely from being hit by a large car or truck. Even though her death is most likely a hit and run, it is classified as suspicious rather than a homicide. Sheila lived on the reservation. Very little information is available in her case. What happened to these people? Is there a serial killer on the loose? Or simply an epidemic of violence towards women? Hopefully, these cases can one day be solved. I have been thinking of writing up the stories of missing men and boys on the reservation, if you would be interested in a write up on that let me know in the comments below. If you are interested in this issue as a whole, I suggest this podcast by Canadian journalist Connie Walker who explains and dives deeply into the issues discussed in the piece. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/findingcleo/missing-murdered-who-killed-alberta-williams-1.4556030#:~:text=Sparked%20by%20a%20chilling%20tip,in%20British%20Columbia%20in%201989. If you are interested in the cases of other missing Native Americans, my write ups on the Teekah Lewis and Bryce Herda cases can be found here on my reddit profile. https://www.reddit.com/useQuirky-Motor Special thanks to these sources: https://www.yakimaherald.com/news/local/murdered-missing-and-mysterious-deaths-of-native-girls-and-women-on-and-around-the-yakama/article_46068a45-4f5f-5f8e-b37d-198fd98ac5a5.html https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/we-have-so-many-missing-people-coroner-tests-remains-found-on-yakima-river-island-as-families-wait-hope/ https://kimatv.com/news/local/over-one-third-of-missing-indigenous-women-in-wa-disappeared-from-yakima-county-wsp-says http://lostandmissinginindiancountry.com/Newsletters/July2019.pdf https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/seattle/press-releases/2009/se050609-1.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakama_Indian_Reservation http://www.yakamanation-nsn.gov/ https://www.thesciencehippy.com/health/mmiw-the-women-she-represents http://charleyproject.org/
Chae’Sol stood at the centre of a large command deck, meticulously peeling the protective film from his new captain’s chair. The sensation of the slow but steady yielding of the film, the sweeping line following the contours of the seat in flowing curves; it was incredibly satisfying. Finally, with one last gentle pull, the last of his chair was uncovered and he stood back to admire his throne. Aside from the freshness of the seating itself, there were shiny new holo displays, touch sensors, and comms relays that were within easy reach of his seated fingertips. This ship would be the jewel in any fleet, a prototype Dreadnought made by the infamous Bardul of Shi’an. The Gowe Military faction had run into financial problems, and it had been left unpaid and unclaimed. What sorcery Kadir had used to find it, and purchase it, he did not know. His comms unit beeped and Danyd’s voice came through. “Chae’S-” -He grumbled incoherently- “Captain, we’re ready to get underway.” The Niham turned and sat back on his pristine chair, swinging his long legs over the armrest. “That was quick, Chief Engineer Ef’Yto” Danyd grunted at the use of his title. “Aye, these Awakened are efficient bastards.” The Satryn looked around at the enormous engineering bay. The entirety of the Porkchop Express could comfortably sit inside, and two of them could likely squeeze in. “Plus, this thing has never been used; feels weird not having anything to work on. It’s state of the art, and I’m having to read the manuals on half the new systems.” Chae’Sol laughed, looking around at the Awakened as they were preparing their workstations. “Yeah, this command deck is a little intimidating. Even the Niham Armada didn’t have ships like this. There are fifteen weapons stations here, what in Tulseria’s name were the Gowe planning to do with this thing?” “No idea.” The chief engineer walked to the large seat in front of his new work terminal, and hopped up onto it. The protective covering squeaked. “This thing has more firepower than half their fleet, it must have been something big. We’re lucky Kadir found out about the graveyard of unclaimed ships from one of his contacts.” The newly-minted captain swung his legs down and sat up, straightening his black uniform and white collar. “That’s another thing: how does he have so many contacts? I was in the Tulseria-damned military, and I had no idea they would sell us fighters and weapons.” “I know the feeling.” Danyd watched a junior engineer – Lily, an Awakened who wore a headband in her silver hair that sported long Kittran ears on it – begin running diagnostics on the Hoban Field Generator. “I'm aware he got the automated weapons for the system port from my people, somehow. As for how he accomplishes all he does, I think his time working with that fancy Anatidae councillor opened more than a couple of doors for him.” Chae’Sol stood, running his fingers through his perfect hair. “Doors, windows, rear entrances and damned secret portals, all leading to a dark realm of shady deals and supplies. We have an Imperium Capital Ship for Tulseria’s sake! Nobody knows where he got it, or where he’s now hidden it.” He looked at his holo display, noting the specks springing blinking into existence as the other ships of Federation origin came to life. “Let’s just be glad he’s on our side.” The chief engineer tugged at the green collar to his uniform. “Our side used to be a damn sight smaller.” Lily had finished her diagnostic tests and sent the results to his console. Her report included an adjustment that would create a potential three percent increase in crystal efficiency, and a small drawing of a smiling leokit with a crim-bar. He groaned, then reported back with, “We’re ready to go when you are.” The Niham strode confidently across the command deck, stopping to stand in front of the huge vid screen at the front of the room. All around him were his crew, made up mostly from the Ashi, Awakened, and Kasurians. “Let’s get this show started.”
Jaym sat with a bowl of Tony the leokas cereal in front of her. It wasn't just a catchy advertising slogan - it really was great. She and Elizabeth had worked together so much in the engineering section of the Porkchop Express that they had become close, often spending their free time together. Indeed, Elizabeth currently sat opposite her, carefully rebuilding a power coupling and occasionally tapping at her datapad. Shortly after the results of her most recent tap played out, Elizabeth paused her work on the power coupling. Without speaking, she held up her datapad so that Jaym could see. On the screen was Tony and his mate Jolie, and Skeena’s voice could be heard excitedly talking about collecting urine samples from the female. Jaym screwed up her face at first until Skeena announced the pregnancy test was positive. Tony was going to be a father! She couldn't contain her joy and screamed loudly, grabbing the screen and running all the way to the bridge to show the others. Ranjaz was stretched out across the captain’s chair as Jaym burst in, and didn’t open his eyes until she began shaking his leg. Even then he didn’t pay much attention. “I told you not to let Elizabeth play with any more systems till after the mission.” She blushed slightly, as their last improvement had inverted their water treatment system and blown six power couplings. "It's not that!" she said, holding up the datapad and starting the video. "Look!" At the first syllable of Skeena's voice, Ranjaz sat bolt upright. The video held his full attention, and when Tony's impending fatherhood was announced the Kittran's whoops of delight could be heard all through the Porkchop Express. He reached underneath his seat and retrieved a small, fluffy bed, then picked up Aiov. Ranjaz led his unusual dance partner in a quick spin of joy before replaying the GalacTube video for her. “You’re going to be an Aunty!” Eruwenn leaned back in the large seat that had once been Embar’s. “I didn’t think they were related?” The Kittran nodded. “Aiov is Tony’s sister. Aaron adopted them both, and that’s how human families work. They just keep adding members, like a Dular adding shells to its burrow. Family is family.” Cygna pressed a few buttons on her Navigator terminal, moving the video to the main screen as well as starting it over. “I still can’t believe you keep one of these under your seat. I mean, it’s a leokas!” Ranjaz held Aiov up and they briefly rubbed noses. “Just a little one!” The Anatidae laughed. “I can see living with the human has had quite a profound effect on you.” With one of his trademark grins he held Aiov out towards Eruwenn. “Wanna nose rub?” "Ah," the councillor said, shrinking back from the offer, "despite her size she is still a predator, and I am not quite ready for such a close encounter.” From the pilot seat Ripley stood, taking Aiov from Ranjaz. “She is not a toy.” She briefly snuggled the tiny leokit to her chest, then passed her to Jaym. “Take her for food and exercise; she must grow up strong.” Jaym also cuddled the wriggling Aiov close, and not just because the little leokit was adorable. Aiov had tripled in size, and was becoming a bit of a handful. “Thor was preparing her food; I’ll take her down to him.” Once the junior engineer had left, and Ripley returned to the pilot seat, Ranjaz began tapping on the console in front of him. “Looks like we’ll be free to take the shuttle down to the surface with the next group.” Cygna drummed her fingers on the arms of her chair. “I didn’t realise it would be so busy.” Ranjaz shrugged. “There was a quake on the fourth planet, so mining colonies are shut down while the nerds poke around. Along with that, we got three big freighters waiting for resupply. That’s a lot of bored folks looking to kill time.” Ripley grunted, prompting a chuckle from the Kittran. “You don’t approve of their choice of leisure activity?” After their few cycles together Eruwenn was already learning a lot about her shipmates. Ripley, for instance, wasn’t one for talking. She decided to interject before the Captain irritated her too much, as they would need her focus soon enough. “Gambling and pleasure palaces are not to everyone's taste, of course, but these sorts of things are covered under local governance.” Without skipping a beat Ranjaz replied, “I know that’s the official line, but you sure as shit have tax codes for all of it. If you want to look down on folks, don’t pretend you aren’t profiting from it.” Cygna, ever defensive of her mentor, jumped in. “That’s a bold statement for someone who never paid a credit in tax until it was automatically deducted from his Galactic Federation pay.” Ranjaz laughed, then continued, keeping his voice care-free. “Taxed on what? I never owned anything.” Eruwenn could see the trap her junior was walking into but decided to let this be a learning experience. The Kittran was wily, and the Anatidae found him entertaining. Cygna, as she had predicted, scoffed at his claims. “I’ve read your file. When you were arrested you had a ship, five shuttles and thousands in valuable goods confiscated.” “Exactly!” His eyes lit up as he cornered her. “It was confiscated because it was stolen, so I didn’t own it. Imagine a world where you can keep stolen goods if you pay tax on them. Even I think that’s crazy.” The Fae’Dan paused, and the anger evaporated from her voice as she realized what he had said, replaced by a slightly impressed tone of surprise. “Well, maybe, but… Really? You stole all of it?” Ranjaz shrugged. “Or won it. I’m pretty good at Dalcho.” Cygna perked up. “I play Dalcho myself, we shou-” “No,” Eruwenn interrupted. Some lessons were too expensive. “Do not play Dalcho with someone who can get free priority entry permits to a casino.” The former operative shook her head. “I’m a great player, you’ve seen me in the council chambers. I took that Ley’Rulian trader for five hundred credits.” The Anatidae smiled kindly. “And he had five shuttles when he was arrested.” Cygna slowly turned from Eruwenn to Ranjaz, noticing his grin and the sparkle in his eye. It was most definitely the smile of a predator. He gave a little chuckle. “Don’t worry, it’s been a long time since I played. No gambling on Galactic Federation ships, you know.” He laughed again. “Oh wait, you read my file.” The Fae’Dan nodded. “Perhaps we should focus on the mission.” She gave a slight bow to Eruwenn before returning her attention to her console. Ranjaz looked at Eruwenn and stuck out his tongue. “Don’t ruin my fun!” The Ambassador smiled. “I don’t play Dalcho, but there is a human game called chess I quite enjoy. Perhaps we could play sometime?” The Kittran gave a nod. Keeping his voice neutral, he replied. “I don’t know that one, but there’s another human game we could try. Poker?” "We have permission to dock at the holding ring and send down a shuttle," Ripley abruptly called out. "Let’s get this whatever it is and make the rendez-vous.” Both of Ranjaz’s fangs showed as he grinned. “If we’re going to pull a job on Chisola Prime, first you’re going to need to look the part!”
Aaron walked down the corridor of the Hive ship, the strange spiderlike creature trailing behind him as he followed one of the corpse vines as it receded deeper into the ship. He turned and watched the creature, which shrank back from him and crouched low to the ground. “I’m sorry I kicked you. You simply startled me; you don’t have to hide.” The lighting never changed in the endless corridors of the ship, and only the most uninteresting of doors deigned open for him. At this point, he had lost track of time completely. Through perseverance he’d made several important discoveries. The bulbous shapes in the flower vase room were seats; he was fairly certain of that after finding another room with bodies sitting in them. The vines that came for them were the ones he was now following, and by now he must have seen hundreds of dead Hive. The second discovery was that the Hive came in a variety of shapes and sizes. There were two main ones, as far as he could tell, and the first were the four legged kind that had so kindly thrown him in the rejuvenating jelly bean. The second was bipedal, and looked a hell of a lot meaner. While the ones he deemed workers looked somewhat like ants to him, in shades of reds and browns, the second type looked much more commanding. Their carapace had thicker layers of armour in green, gold and red, and was spiked at the shoulders and joints. Even their legs had spines and to top the look off their heads were much more angular. Whether they were soldiers, commanders, or something else, he didn’t know. Through observation of the corpses he had discovered the most confusing feature yet: a strange section in the centre of their abdomen that was filled with what seemed to be a grey fluid. Ahead of him, not skittering away like the rest, was an aphid that no longer emitted a pale green glow. Something whooshed overhead towards the slow and sluggish aphid, and Aaron instinctively threw himself to the ground before he realized what it was. "That's how you get kicked!” He stood up, brushing himself off. “Fuck, that scares the ever-loving shit out of me every fucking time.” The huge creature looked up at him and whined as it munched on the sick aphid. He was probably imagining the apology in its eyes, but Aaron still shook his head. “I know, I know. It’s your job. They clean the floors, you keep their population healthy. Just stop leaping over me like that, fuck. I’m going to have a heart attack.” It whined and backed away from his angry words, and he tried to keep his voice to calmer tones. “Don’t be like that. I’ve told you enough times.” When he looked down the corridor again, the retreating corpse vines had disappeared around a corner. Aaron began to jog after them, and after he'd put some distance in he heard the pattering footsteps of his terrifying shadow. He tried to pay it no mind. Once the vines were back in sight he slowed and followed behind them, singing his direction song quietly to himself. “Left, right, straight. Left, left, right. Straight, straight, left, left. Right, right, straight, right, right.” The ship was massive and, other than some areas smelling funkier than others, there was no variation in lighting, decoration or layout. The song was his map back to the rejuvenation pod, which was his only safe source of hydration. His companion padded along behind him, a friendly nightmare to accompany him on his seemingly endless journey. “We really need to give you a name.” He wished he had his phone with him so he could channel all his nervous energy into making a video. “The audience demands a name. Plus, I won’t be able to sell merch without one.” He turned and looked at the creature. “I’ll probably have to create space-halloween first, or maybe I’ll get lucky and find that you’re cute to some species.” Aaron returned to following the corpse vine, waving a hand high as he spoke, gesticulating to the heavens. “The name is what matters: a good name makes all the difference.” He began seriously pondering the naming matter. “Aragog, Shelob; you know, lean into your size for a characterization. But then again, that's not really going to make people like you.” He looked back over his shoulder as the unnamed beast trotted happily behind him. He assumed happy, at least. It now tended to make an odd gurgling noise after eating, and it roamed closer to him than before. “You know, I never got to name Sassie – she’s my dog. I told you about her yesterday, or the day before.” He really was losing track of the days he’d been here. “I got her from a rescue. She was skinny, and so damn angry, with scars on her legs and under her fur. I had to have special visits before I could keep her. Prove I was worthy.” Talking helped take his mind from the gnawing emptiness in his stomach. Hydration and nutrients osmotically obtained from some weird pod were nowhere near as satisfying as a burger and a cold beer. “Her first visit, she had a rubber ball. It was her only possession, and she loved it.” There was a touch of pride in his voice. “Took me an hour before she gave it up to play. The lady from the rescue centre said I was the first.” He choked up, blinking back tears. “Anyway, couple more visits and she got to stay. Crazy dog was such a handful. She once tried to climb a tree to chase a squirrel. Got her legs over the first branch and just dangled, kicking her back legs.” He began chuckling to himself. “She once tried to jump through a car window; some guy was parked at the lights as we walked past.” He was just chatting now, lost in his memories as he walked. “You know the type, loud radio, windows rolled down on a sunny day, annoying the shit out of everyone in the town. He tossed some litter out of his window and she just launched herself at him. Scared the life out of me at the time - funny as fuck now, of course.” He laughed again. “Then there were the swans. Man, were they not ready. She loved to swim – I told you that before – swimming and splashing was her favourite release. Well, that and chasing rabbits which is, kinda, how I ended up here. Anyway, she would just swim up and down, right past the ducks and stuff, somehow never interested in them. Then one summer these swans came along...” He paused, realising his new friend didn’t know what a duck or a swan was, or even summer, probably. Before attempting to explain, he realised they also didn’t understand english, so it really didn’t matter. “Anyway, swans being belligerent bastards, I called her out of the water straight away. Those mean white fuckers chased her all the way to shore.” He turned around, now grinning broadly. “But, once her feet hit the ground in the shallow water and she was able to stand, did those sons of bitches turn and swim away as fast as they could.” He paused, trying to remember his original point. He really was very hungry. “Oh yeah, so trying to stop her fighting everything that moved meant I didn’t have time to teach her a new name. Figured it would be confusing to her. Sassie she was, and so Sassie she stayed.” There was a tightening in his chest as he thought of her missing him. “Took a lot of years and a lot of time for her to get where she is now. I know Alexa will take care of her, but still, it’s my job, and I need to get back to doing it. She won’t understand…” He choked up completely, taking a moment to compose himself before clearing his throat and returning his monologue to its original course. “Anyway, names. Names matter.” “Maybe you’re a girl monster. Charlotte?” He shook his head. That name just didn’t seem fitting. “We could call you Peter Parker? Although, you’re more of a man-sized spider than a spiderman... Parker Peter? Then again, big, scary spiders say one thing to me. Australia. You like to jump, we could call you Roo? Or, how about Ozzy? Or Bruce? Hmm, that’s a sharks name though… can you swim?” His train of thought derailed suddenly as he saw an open door ahead of them through which the vines were receding. The pair of them continued walking behind the vine until it disappeared into the doorway and Aaron ran forward, pulling something from his pocket. He’d been saving the foil wrapping from the ration bricks, folding them together to form a wedge. He jammed his makeshift door stop under the bottom corner of the door as it began to slide shut. It ground to a halt. “Boom! Told you it would work.” He stood and finally looked into the vastness beyond. Through the doors was, somehow, a rolling meadow, complete with trees, giant mushrooms and plants he had no name for. Vines were also everywhere, receding further across the great wilderness. “What the hell? I thought I was on a spaceship? Am I underground?” Staring intently at the sky, he stepped onto the deep moss beyond the door. He looked at the wall around the interior and saw it was rock, and more plant life clung to every crack and crevice. As he walked slowly forward his eyes followed the vine as it headed for a large, colourful, monolith. He approached and saw that its shape was similar to the vase flowers. He watched as the corpse vines deposited their cargo on top of the monolith. Not on, he corrected himself;they were dropping inside. He looked back to the door, nervous that it might close and lock him in. A large black shadow lurked just beyond the door, and he was torn. Should he explore this 'outside' world, or retreat to the place where he at least had the rejuvenation pods? He looked up at the sky, basking in the warm and invigorating embrace of the sunlight. He blinked at the brightness, being cautious to not look at the sun directly, and something else suddenly caught his eye. It was, incredibly, a door. A door that floated in the sky. The thing about human eyes is that they might be easily fooled, but a shift in perspective can easily change what you see to something entirely different. Aaron was looking up at a ceiling, like the one in the Atrium back on the Azrimad, but a hundred times more convincing. Once back inside the doorway he watched the spiderling he was beginning to think of it as a friend dancing back and forth a short distance away. It seemed… happy. “Ok buddy, I’m back.” Aaron’s stomach made a loud gurgling sound and he rubbed it, trying to squeeze the hunger away. Fingers found muscle easier than usual, and he knew he was definitely losing weight. “We should head back. I need sleep.” He thought for a moment and made a final decision, bending down to pull the foil wedge clear. “I doubt there’s a communicator or command deck in there. Let’s go home, Ozzy.” The trip back was uneventful, Aaron sang his direction song as they navigated the labyrinth. A few more aphids were snacked on by his leggy companion, but his own legs were heavy by the time he was almost back to the jelly beans. Despite being exhausted he had made two stops to create another pair of flower vases for the aphids, as well as scattering a ration brick as he passed by. The aphids waited, as they always did, till he and Ozzy were far enough away before enjoying his bounty. Still, the human derived satisfaction from their presence. Exhausted and weary, Aaron was glad to finally make it back to the room he was reluctantly calling his temporary home. As the door to the rejuvenation pod slid open he was met, forcefully, by the barrel of an energy rifle. Unfortunately for Aaron, due to a considerable height difference, the barrel had struck him squarely in the groin, and he instantly fell to his knees. He came face to face with his attacker with tears in his eyes, clutching his tenderness and coughing. From the other being came incomprehensible yelling, as well as a lot of gun waving. Also, there was coughing. Aaron, eventually mustering enough self-presence to do something other than deal with the after effects of the gun-to-groin encounter, wiped the moisture from his eyes and tried to butt in to the one-sided conversation. "Relax! I'm the one who just got snookered in the fucking balls, here! Why in the world are you so mad?"” The gun was pressed to his forehead by the tiny attacker, who shouted something unintelligible with their black eyes focused on him. They paused to cough, then stepped back, glaring at Aaron until they seemed to feel comfortable enough with the situation to take one hand off of their weapon and pull out a datapad. They held it up, and Aaron frowned at the familiar but still unintelligible colours that swirled on the screen. Then a small vent at the bottom of the device squirted out a puff of sickly sweet scent. Aaron pulled back from the odour. "What the fuck was that?" With some distance between them, the human finally got a good look at his opponent. They were barely waist-height, furry, with a long nose and dark banding across their brown fur. The banding was heaviest across their eyes and although that’s where the similarities ended, it was enough for the human’s brain to forge a connection. “Listen, Rocket, there’s a virus on this ship. You need to get in the jelly bean. Trust me.” The rifle was thrust at him shakily in one hand, the tablet again was raised and a swirl of colours and shapes greeted him. “I don’t speak fucking winamp plugin!” On the wall behind his captor Aaron spotted a dull orange aphid, struggling to climb the wall. He smiled as he slowly leaned to one side. “Have you met Ozzy?” The huge arachnid leapt over them both, causing the newcomer to blindfire at the wall. Aaron seized his chance and snatched away the weapon. He grabbed the newcomer by the front of their armoured uniform and slammed them to the ground. They cried out in pain and began their incomprehensible yelling once more. The accompanying coughing fit was bad, and Aaron dragged them to their feet. Realising that his solitude had caused him to revert to English, he switched back to galactic standard to offer a warning about the disease. “You’re going to die!” A shocked look crossed their face as the human effortlessly lifted them and slam dunked them into a blue jelly bean. Ozzy gurgled happily through his aphid crunching. Aaron snatched up the energy rifle, but found it was difficult to hold due to its small size. He leaned over the jelly bean, noting the occupant drifting off to sleep. Hunger and tiredness were forgotten as adrenaline flooded his system. There was no way the newcomer was alone. He left the pod room to begin searching, and Ozzy seemed to pick up on his intention and followed behind, keeping close to the human. “Good boy!” He had no idea what prompted it, likely some automated response, and it was as though he watched his movements from outside of his body as he reached back and gently scratched the arachnid's head. He was rewarded with happy gurgles, or at least that's what he hoped the noises were. “You did good back there.” He made his way along the corridor towards the same airlock he had once chosen as his final exit. His recent suspicion proved correct as he heard a strange sound up ahead, as if someone was running a wet finger around the rim of a glass. He carefully leaned around the curve and saw another figure, dressed in the same uniform as the first. No fur on this one, although they were equally small in size, and they somehow looked like they were made of glass which couldn’t decide on a colour. This time he remembered to use galactic standard. “Keep your hands where we can see you. We’ve got you surrounded!” The figure was clearly startled, as the ambient resonating noise began varying wildly in pitch at the same moment as their colour shifted to a solid blue. Aaron cursed. He didn’t have a translator, having instead opted for learning standard and winging everything else. The whole federation knew standard, so he hadn’t truly considered getting the implant. “Something is wrong with our translators,” he continued to bluff. “Do you speak galactic standard?” A datapad was hastily pulled from a pocket, and as buttons were pressed the resonating sound became more rhythmic. From the datapad sprung noises. No, it was a voice! “Why do you speak Procyon? Where is Commander Bertolannixostraphes? Aaron began relaxing at the situation he found himself in, but inside he was brimming with joy. Finally, he could talk with someone! “There is a virus on this ship, and many are dead. If your commander is the raccoon-looking guy, I got them into a healing pod. They’re going to be fine.” Under his breath he added, “probably.” The resonating began and shortly afterwards the voice translated, “Who are you? Why did you not answer our communications.” Opting for honesty in the hopes of leniency, Aaron stepped into view. “I’m a passenger. I don’t have access to the ship's systems.” The newcomer was looking at the tiny gun, so the human tossed it forward. “I didn’t know if you were friendly. I can take you to your friend, and you should probably get treatment as well.” The now-orange alien walked forward, their movement accompanied by the strange sound of ceramic plates rubbing together. “That won’t be a problem, we Tricinic do not catch meat diseases. I am Tsy'lo, take me to the commander.” They turned to look behind them. “Where are the others?” Aaron pointed to Ozzy. “It’s just us two.” Colours swirled and the small glass person thrummed. The datapad spoke, “You are the last human, the Ambassador. Correct?” Turning and gesturing to be followed, he began to lead the way to the rejuvenation room. “I am the first human, Ambassador Aaron Cooper, professional bounty hunter. Just call me Aaron. Are you the rescue party? Is Alexa here? Did she bring Sassie?” It took a moment for the translation to come back. “I don’t know those names. We are the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad and we responded to distress calls and found this ship. Adrift.” They had walked a little way when Tsy'lo stopped and regarded Ozzy, who was still faithfully following behind. “Why does the achalo follow you?” “Ozzy?” Aaron shrugged. “I think he was lonely. So, were you sent into Hive space to find me, or are you on some top secret mission? You aren’t with the Sentinels, are you?” “Lonely? But it is an achalo.” Tsy'lo was confused and their colour visibly swirled. “Why would a rescue mission be secret? And, we weren’t sent, we were already here.” Now it was the human who was confused. “Like spies behind enemy lines? Is that why you are in Hive space?” The Tricinic hummed at a higher frequency. “It is our space. We are the Hive!”
Admiral Pelar of the third fleet stood in the centre of the training mat. On the floor around her were four tough looking Ashi, while a fifth was now squaring off against her. She blocked the jab and the surprise knee strike that followed, turning effortlessly to bring her elbow to her opponents ribs. With another deft turn she was behind him and kicking his knees forward. He tried to roll clear but she had anticipated the move and, as he rose, her spinning boot struck the side of his head. “Nice try gentlemen.” She walked away and caught a towel thrown by the drill instructor. “That last one has potential,” she said, and the drill instructor nodded. “Next time, I expect at least one of them to land a hit. If not, I’ll have you in the ring instead, to make sure you still have what it takes.” She saw the fear in his eyes. “I accept nothing but the best from the Third Fleet.” The medics ran onto the mat as she dabbed at her forehead, and she spotted Jar’Bek sitting on a bench nearby. She walked over to him and he stood, straightening what was no doubt an extremely expensive suit. “From one disappointment to another.” The lawyer smiled. “Imagine only seeing your son when he is paid to be in your presence,” he countered. She smirked. “Your tongue is still your most deadly weapon.” He nodded. “Ah, but it must make you proud to see me make use of the things you taught me.” Her face twitched. “I taught you to be a true Ashi, a soldier. I taught you to respect-” Jar’Bek held up his hand. “I’m here on my client’s business, not yours. And, as I am paid a considerable sum per gal, let us not waste their money on matters that are concluded.” He enjoyed the irritation on her face. “I am here to finalise the amnesty treaties, and conclude your membership as citizens of Earth.” The Admiral held up her hands, looking down at her combat training clothing. “I must shower and change first. Please, wait for me in my private office.” She smiled politely. “No.” His smile seemed to hover as if it was a mask that could slip at any time. “You may have disowned me, but I still remember your tricks. You knew the time of our meeting; you had me brought here so you could intimidate me with this display of aggression. Then you ask me to wait in your office amongst your memorabilia and trophies.” He watched the anger behind her eyes. “You really think these tired old tricks will work on me?” She sneered. “At least you remember something.” “Oh, I had the scars removed, but I kept the lessons.” He walked away. “My client's time is valuable and I have scheduled a meeting with the other fleet Admiral’s for later this cycle. Since we have no time for your games, let us go to the briefing room. My team is already set up. If you wish to shower, know that it is more of your negotiating time you are wasting, and I do so hate waste.” He collected his briefcase and walked out of the room. Captain Loring hurried after Jar’Bek, catching him as he entered the elevator. “You sure you want to antagonise the Admiral like that?” He leaned back against the wall of the elevator and relaxed, letting out a small sigh. “A little negotiating trick a Kittran taught me. Anyway, she is no longer my Admiral.” Elora’Tan leaned back on the opposite wall. “She is your mother, Jar.” “Ha.” Jar’Bek laughed. “She disowned me. This is the first contact we’ve had in I forget how many celes. Her first thought is to try and intimidate me with that display. She likes to beat on cadets, she likes to cause pain, and she wanted me to watch.” Loring gave a weak smile. “It forges strong soldiers. We can’t afford weakness.” The elevator stopped and Jar’Bek took a step closer to Elora’Tan. “You think it was weakness that made me leave?” He didn’t let her answer, turning and exiting into the hallway. His voice now resonated with authority as he growled, “In case you people have forgotten, the Ashi will operate under the same rules as the rest of the colony. My mother is not the law... I am the law.”
Hello fellow stoners, I just killed a spliff & im trying to make new frends on socialmedia
Hello lads I'm a male 21 years old. I used to work as a telemarketer and always showed up high to work, I was really tired from work once and I was going back home, whilst waiting for the bus I was doing my daily routine, rolling myself a fat hash spliff. Before I yeet the butt into oblivion my co-worker told me that he wanted to smoke, I passed him the joint, he took about three puffs handed me the spliff back and got up on the nearest bus next to where we were standing. He took the wrong bus and he had to take another bus back to the city and get on the right one, on the way home he slept until the bus driver woke him up, he missed his stop again. a 30 min ride home became a 3 hours bus tour. He never asked me for hash again. I played alot of basketball in highschool ( smallforward if u wondering ) and I smoked shit tons of hash since i get it for about .50$/g. I dropped out of highschool because I was attending school high, skipping classes to play bball and to hang out with my oldecollege friends. now I work at a casino and I run a small business too. I lost my brodie in a car crash and my cat, both in the past fortnight. I got back into poppin pills, my head's in all kinds of a mess and I think I've hit rock bottom. I would be glad to hear about you and your stories, pm me ur ig or twitter. thanks and stay seshed ps im long time lurker first time poster
High all! I really recently fell in love with the Fallout Universe, with all its complexities and unique stories. In particular, I very much enjoy the subjectivity of interpretations of the games and their outcomes, and I wanted to create my own personal contribution by writing a story specifically set after the Second Battle of Hoover Dam. The Courier is referenced once in passing and there's no mention of a next of kin for the Courier. The story is completely original with entirely unique characters that I've made and it takes place after a non-specific timeline in which Mr House wins the fight for the Mojave Desert. I wanted to share some of my work with my fellow Fallout fans and see what you think. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Beginning: After the guns fell silent during the Second Battle of Hoover Dam, the world was forever changed. Mr House’s City State of New Vegas gained full sovereignty and control over the Mojave Desert, and his Securitron Army pushed the exhausted NCR and broken Legion out. In the following years, Mr House rapidly expanded the city of New Vegas, and reignited the production of old Pre-War Technology automobiles, bus lines, and a high speed train line appeared. The Strip itself expanded beyond the Three Families; Strip clubs, pubs, casinos, all you can eat buffets filling the area, with some residential apartments and houses now beginning to be sold to the highest bidder, just as it was in the old world. The expanded city of Vegas outside the Strip itself however is a slum, crime, inequality, and denigration is all but abundant, and unrest is growing. Following the removal of President Kimball, his Vice President Donald Watson took over and inherited a State in crisis. Faith in the government had rapidly deteriorated, and the economy of the NCR began to suffer as many relocated to the Strip to live a life of luxury and excess. The NCR is now a shadow of its former self, with Military Police now required to keep order on the streets of its towns and cities. The poverty level is rising. In the East, Caesar’s Legion too is changing, and not for the better. With the Western Campaign a failure by all accounts, resources dwindling, questions about the strength of their Leader Caesar are cropping up in the minds of those closest to him. By 2295, the pieces had fallen into place. The fate of these States and the people who uphold them is uncertain. One thing is for sure. Whatever happens, the Wasteland will be changed unlike it has ever been before. ‘I appreciate your respectful and restrained response to my contact. It is a pleasure to interact with the less agitated members of your State.’ Aminta barely heard Mr House, and instead stared out the windows of the Lucky 38. The skyline of the Strip extended seemingly forever, pushing away the surrounding darkness with neon light. Just beyond the city outskirts, the silhouette of Mr House’s newly created Launch Pad. It was one of five, and she could just see the other four, each slightly further away from the city than the last. She scrutinised them, and was struck by the boundless possibilities of such technology; the opportunities provided. How exciting it would be! Mr House’s voice then cracked her thoughts and brought back to the present. She listened, without comment. ‘Roughly 18 hours ago, a team of five extraordinarily skilled individuals ascended Hoover Dam from the base of the structure,’ The ostentatiously large screen in which Mr House’s face sat suddenly changed to show grainy footage. ‘This was captured by one of our cameras on the perimeter of the dam. I apologise for the bad quality, it has been surprisingly difficult obtaining improved camera lenses, and As you can see, they used some kind of Grapnel Launcher and ascended via the rope.’ On the screen, it was possible to just make out five distinct figures at the base of the dam. They were clearly dressed in dark clothing, though the quality was too poor and the camera was too far away to make out any of the fine details of the material. Aminta scrutinised the footage, watching intently as the five figures used an oblong object, reminiscent of a hunting rifle to fire a rope, or cord up the side of the dam; high enough to catch the top. The operator of the device then disconnected it from the gun, and pressed it into the ground. It appeared to stick. They then ascended the rope. The camera feed then cut to show three of the attackers subdue and restrain two security guards. Due to the light, it was clear that the clothing the criminals were wearing was Recon Armor, though there were no insignia or identifiable characteristics. The two men were then held down by two and clubbed across the face by the third member with the butt of a 10mm pistol. He then turned to the computer and retrieved something from his pocket. Then the screen went black. ‘At this point, at roughly 1:27 am a Trojan was fitted onto the system. It temporarily disabled all the security cameras in the sector. It was one of the strongest Trojans I’ve ever come across, but I was able to get the system back up and running within 15 minutes. Unfortunately we cannot recover any footage from the corrupted data files that detail how the robbers escaped. I hope you can understand why I decided to contact you.’ Aminta pondered to herself. Why would Mr House, a man who controlled Rockets and owned and governed an entire city and it’s enterprises, would need to contact the New California Republic for assistance in a robbery? From where they were standing, he appeared to be in a position any high ranking NCR official would kill for. She didn’t say anything. There had to be more to this meeting than what Mr House was implying. She looked to her left, trying to be casual. Sitting next to her with an overexaggerated grave look on his face was Political Officer Neville Dawson, and next to him was Dennis Crocker, former Ambassador to the Strip. They too were quiet, their faces frustratingly hiding what they were thinking. Not sure where to look, Aminta turned back to the screen Mr House’s caricature face was on. She had to say something. ‘Mr House, why exactly do you think these people targeted Hoover Dam? There are many casinos and places full of money on the New Vegas Strip. Is there anything of massive value at Hoover Dam?’ ‘Well Chief Aminta Marr, no, ostensibly speaking, there is nothing there of real value to anyone, unless they have the ability to take and control the Dam and source it’s hydraulic generated electricity,’ ‘Then why would someone do this?’ Aminta said curtly. She tensed up, not meaning to sound dismissive. ‘Well Aminta, they did take one thing from what we've deduced,’ Mr House said, appearing to ignore her tone. ‘And what was that Mr House?’ Neville cut in. He was leaning forward, hands clasped tightly together. He was trying - and failing - to ease the tension in the room. ‘Well, before I contacted you Neville, and to answer your question Aminta, I ran through my storage records from 2285 to the present. I had Mr Harvey Shwarze, my ‘Representative in Government’ review them in paper form in our archives. Three things - completely inconsequential things mind you, were missing. Three Platinum Chips.’ ‘Three Platinum Chips?’ Neville said concertedly, as if he knew exactly what Mr House was talking about. ‘That’s right. It’s a data storage device, well it was a data storage device. Designed by me before the Great War of 2077. Perhaps once upon a time this would’ve been valuable to somebody, but after the Second Battle of Hoover Dam I had access to all kinds of ruined facilities all over the Mojave to reform to working order. I began reprinting hundreds of Platinum Chips which were variations of the original Platinum Chip. They continuously upgrade and encrypt my software to prevent any outside programmers from accessing my highly sensitive data. I have no idea what a group of hooligans would want with three. I can easily replace them, and since they’re only usable on my systems, well they would simply be useless.’ ‘Perhaps they wanted to sell them,’ Aminta proposed. It wasn’t impossible, she thought. People pay top dollar for things with perceived value, isn’t that the cardinal rule of the Strip? ‘To whom?’ Mr House replied. ‘The point still stands. Nobody has any use for them but me.’ ‘Well, perhaps they thought they were valuable.’ Dennis remarked. ‘In any case, they will soon learn they are not valuable.’ ‘If you have no problems with this Mr House,’ Aminta cut in. ‘Why do you need us here? The NCR has its own problems, big problems, and from where we’re standing, you seem to have everything under control.’ ‘That’s precisely the issue!’ Mr House exclaimed. ‘The very fact they managed to steal anything from me at all is deeply disconcerting! I spent days and nights running statistical simulations for all possible scenarios in and formulated the best plans for countering every scenario I came across!’ ‘I guess my point is, I do not understand, in any capacity, why you, YOU of all people would need to call us for assistance in a matter that you - whether intentional or not - have spent the last fives minutes telling us it isn’t an issue.’ The room fell quiet. Aminta pulled her hands back from the table and into her lap, and looked down at them, pretending to be occupied analysing them. She had exposed the true, unspoken meaning of this meeting, and they all knew it. She bit her lip. Dennis wiped the sweat off his face. Neville breathed in deeply, as though he was going to speak. But Mr House did first. ‘As I understand it, the NCR has fallen on hard times since the Second Battle of Hoover Dam. My Lieutenant after the battle was admittedly curt in regards to handling our relations, and since then it seems your economy is really struggling with extremely poor unemployment and satisfaction levels,’ Mr House paused. Neville looked at Aminta with a look of understanding, and regret but he didn’t say anything. Mr House was right. Of course he was right. ‘It just so happens that while it may look from the outset I’m doing well, with the occasional launch of one of my experimental rockets, crime in Greater New Vegas is extraordinarily high. To be clear, the Strip is not, but the extended city state with the newly constructed buildings - those areas are. I want to make a proposition for the mutual benefit of the NCR, and New Vegas. Neville, think carefully about what I’m about to say.’ Neville spoke up. ‘Alright, I’m all ears.’ ‘Dennis Crocker here can once again become the Ambassador to the Strip, and the NCR can once again have an Embassy. I will also give the NCR access to some of my technologies to help your state re-stabilize after everything that’s happened. In return however, I would like Aminta here, who is your Chief and Commander of both your military and normal police forces, to assist my Securitrons in patrolling Outer Vegas. Securitrons don’t make the best police, and security guards are in short supply and are not equipped, in any sense, to be police. I also would like your help in tracking down the culprits of this robbery; that being an extension of the aforementioned policing stipulation. Such a breach of security cannot happen again. Neville Dawson, I’m willing to sign a treaty pertaining to these terms, or any terms the NCR may propose, unless of course it does mutually benefit both states.’ Aminta felt her twang strike her deep in her heart. For years, the NCR Police Force had been absorbed into the Military Police Unit, and they could barely contain black market dealings of Chems and military grade weaponry on the streets of NCR’s cities. They did not have the resources or power Mr House seemed to think they did. For nearly 3 years straight she had been bombarded with evidence of killings by her own subordinates, illegal incarcerations, and illicit behavior between colleagues within her own chain of command, with no power to rehabilitate or prosecute those involved. Meanwhile, those that had the money to escape fled to New Vegas, desperate to find a life of comfort. It was possible that through re-establishing trade and mutual respect with Mr House, they could rebuild the NCR’s respectability on the international and internal level. She found herself hoping the treaty would be signed. ‘This... is a huge proposition. I hope you can understand the overwhelming nature of what you’re telling us, it’ll take a bit for us to come to a conclusion.’ Neville exhaled, as though he had been holding it for the last minute. ‘I understand.’ Mr House responded. ‘Maybe I ask,’ Donnie piped up. ‘What specific kinds of technology will you provide to the NCR?’ Mr House ran down a checklist. ‘Vehicles. Remade pre-war cars. Excavation machines. Cement mixers. Would provide jobs and improve your infrastructure in the process, whilst also giving me business and improving the situation here. Mutually beneficial for both sides.’ ‘I see.’ Aminta struggled to contain her happiness. She had become a police officer to enforce safety and protect those who abide by the law. This was a way back to such operations, in which she could help those in need, rather than sit idly while their situation worsened. ‘I’ll also be willing to give 10% of the electricity produced by Hoover Dam to the NCR. It produces more than I need.’ Mr House offered. Dennis shifted his weight, and opened his mouth. It was a second before anything came out. ‘15% would be great, if possible.’ ‘Done.’ Mr House concluded. ‘Well, we’ll definitely have to confer this back to President Watson. As previously said by Mr Dawson, this is a huge offer.’ ‘I understand. Aminta, I can only hope you also support this.’ Aminta smiled. ‘I am willing to establish a NCR Police Force here in New Vegas, and assist in establishing prosperity and stability, for the benefit of both states.’ ‘Excellent. I’ll arrange for a Taxi to take you back to the border.’ ***** Nobody said a word in the ride in the elevator down to the entrance of the Lucky 38. There was a perpetual sense of being watched, and listened to, and Aminta supposed they probably were. She sensed from the stiffness of Donnie and Neville’s postures they felt the same way. As the three left through the ground level of the building, the desolate casino indicated a time long past, preserved in pristine condition yet uncannily lifeless; inhabited only by robots. Aminta felt a shiver flow throughout her body, prompting her to hurry outside. Upon exiting, Aminta was greeted by the fantastic lighting she had seen from the Lucky 38. Buildings stretched high into the now night sky, perpetually lit up and calling for you to spend a few short hours in their luxurious suites and lose all the money you have without knowing it. She had visited the Strip a couple of times before the Second Battle of Hoover Dam. Back then, whilst still grand, its exterior walls felt cobbled-together, layered pieces of steel to preserve what glory the pre-war days had. Now, the Strip felt open, almost a complete return to complete pre-war glory, though there was no way of her knowing what such a time looked like. Polished, beetle like cars with extravagant interwoven pieces of silver and gold making up their hubcaps cluttered the road, filled with nicely dressed young women chattering incessantly. Boys, ranging from teenagers to old men stumbled around, drunk and happy, their legs falling beneath them as though they were wet noodles. To the left, the Ultra Luxe Casino hotel stood at the far end of the street, intoxicatingly ostentatious and alluring for any hoping to climb the social ladder, despite the many rumors of cannibalism attempting to tarnish the brand. The fountain outside the front sprayed sparkling water into the night air which caught the light of the strip and reflected it like the jewels the building it was in front of was embroidered in. However, Aminta was not taken by the hotel, and watched two NCR troopers, still in their military uniforms be forced to dance in front of a crowd of onlookers. They were pushed and shoved as they struggled to dance, their arms and legs barely keeping to any rhythm as they fell to the ground, vomiting a putrid yellow substance onto the asphalt. She looked away in disgust and embarrassment for the two men. A man in an expensive looking suit and bowtie greeted the three. Behind him stood a long polished black car. ‘Shall I take you to the crossing point?’ ‘Yes.’ Donnie answered. Aminta and Neville followed his lead. He had more experience on the Strip than the majority of the tourists around them. She started the car once they were all inside, the engine barely kicking as it began to drive. Aminta marvelled at its power, it’s sleekness, at the strength and confidence of its movement and the luxury of it’s exotic wood plated interior. The chauffeur drove to the large South Gate of the Strip, passing multitudinous buildings of similar grandeur and spectacle, all the same though uniquely different, until they all blurred into one mix of different colours and moving forms. The chauffeur leaned out of the side window, showed an identification pass to a Securitron, and the gate opened. Aminta’s car was the only car that left. As the gate closed, the car picked up speed and tore through the rest of Vegas. Immediately outside the Strip, the buildings were noticeably more dilapidated. Aminta watched as the varied prosperity of the Strip curtailed rapidly into a mess of buildings, barely recognisable as residential or industrial, though they were unmistakably new creations. She almost didn’t notice it at first, but they were all the same. Row after row of buildings with the same geometric exterior, though placed at odd angles to each other, as if a child had been playing with them and haphazardly threw them into where they now stood. As the car moved further and further away from the Strip, lights in these buildings became scarce, and the brickwork became exposed to reveal pipelines and shreds of electrical appliances, some still spitting sparks. When the light of the Strip was nothing more than a flicker of light on the night horizon, the copied buildings were replaced with houses, roofs sagging, walls crumbling. As the car zipped passed, Aminta caught wisps of figures; people moving about the ruins and the darkness like ghosts, until they passed the last house, and all that could be seen was the night sky and desert shrubbery.
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