Why 90% of traders fails? I will break it down for you.
Because there is no barriers to being a trader. Want to start trading? Sure! Find a random broker and deposit minimum 10 dollars to start trading forex, stocks, options and futures. Want to be a doctor? 7 years of med school minimum. Want to be a dentist? 4 years of dentistry school. Want to be a lawyer? Pass the bar exam. Want to be an engineer of any sorts? Get an engineering degree in 3-4 years. Want to be a blue collar worker? At least go for an apprenticeship for 6-12 months minimum. Why do 90% of traders fail? Because there is no barrier to entry and all the shitheads think they are gonna make it like they did on their 100000% ROI demo account. Stop dreaming and put in effort and you might have a chance at not getting margin called.
- There are no capital requirements to investing. In fact you should start learning as soon as possible because it takes time to become proficient at investing. - This guide is only for fundamentals as I specialize in fundamentals and not day trading, technical charting, cryptocurrencies or forex trading. - This guide is tailored towards people who want to individually pick stocks, if you solely do ETF's or index investing this guide is still useful to you but not aimed at you. - Investing should be done with disposable income. NOT with income you need such as rent money. - If you aren't willing to put in the time and effort that investing requires to beat the market indexes then you should stick to passive investing and just buy an index fund and forget about it for 20 years. This requires 0 effort but you will never beat 8% a year on average and you because you lack experience you may panic and sell at times when you shouldn't.
1. Getting Started
To start off I would recommend watching this overview video, it quickly goes over the main stuff by legend investor Bill Ackman: Bill Ackman: Everything You Need to Know About Stocks Then you should start reading, lots of reading and no big amounts of investing. You have to read books from other fundamental investors to have an idea of how they did it and the decades of accumulated experience of investing they have poured into that book. It's important to read the right books from authors who have a track record of beating the market, not just anybody. I have ordered this list in terms of ease of reading for newbie investors as well as priority:
These 3 are all easy books for a beginner to get their feet wet and start off with some solid fundamentals. The harder books will come later.
2. Reading Financial Statements
Investing is all about reading financial statements and understanding how to read them such as the 10-k, 10-Q etc. Pick any company, it doesn't matter which one but I recommend that you pick a simple company that you already use and know. Income Statement
The most important part of this section in my opinion. If you understand how to intrinsically value a company then you understand when to buy and when to sell a company based on it's real value. These differ from relative valuations such as the ratio's (PEG, PE etc) because here we are trying to find the intrinsic value to a company and NOT the relative value compared to it's peers. This is an important difference, for example in the 2001 dot com bubble you could have valued an insanely overvalued internet stock with a relative ratio such as Price-Operating-Cash-Flow and you may have found it to be better than it's peers. Just because it's better relatively than it's peers in it's industry does not mean a company is fair value. Discounted Cash Flows Models The reason a lot of people do not like DCF's is because:
They do not understand how to do them properly.
The resources online are absolutely terrible for DCF's, most use CAPM (in my opinion, a completely flawed way to calculate your WACC).
The templates are confusing.
I felt the same way until I watched Aswath Damoradan's course on corporate finance. Here's the short course with 15 min long videos each: Short Course on Valuation (Free) However I highly recommend you do the entire university course (for free) because it's invaluable to understanding how to intrinsically value companies: 2019 Full Undergraduate Valuation Course (Free) 2019 Full MBA Valuation Course (Free) There is a lot of cross-over between the above two playlists so once you do one course you can cherry pick videos from the other course. Here are some resources on how to do your own DCF's: Covid DCF Template Excel Spreadsheet (Free) NYU - All Valuation Spreadsheets (Free) The reason why I like these DCF models are because they are easy to use (Aswath explains how to use the excel template it in his video) and it does not use the flawed CAPM model for calculating the WACC. Dividend Discount Models An alternative way of getting the intrinsic value of a company. I do these very rarely so I'm no expert on them. I hope to up date this section in the future with more details.
You should work on your own psychology to investing as soon as possible when you start investing. This will allow you to not panic sell during dips and crashes or FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) during market rallies. This is perhaps the most overlooked section, most investors never bother to get their psych in order which is a big mistake usually because of overconfidence of their own abilities.
You should learn how to use screeners to narrow down stocks within your circle of competence and to the ratio's that you learned about in section 2. You want to screen for stocks that have below a certain threshold in x ratio, for example `PEG < 1` which will screen all stocks for you that have a PEG of less than 1 (A PEG of < 1 is theoretically undervalued...sometimes). It's best to combine multiple ratio's together to really narrow down to a select few companies to look at. This saves a bunch of time in finding potentially good companies. The ratio's I like to use were all mentioned in section 2. Screeners dump:
The easiest way to make money long term in the stock market is to simple buy undervalued stocks, this ties into value investing. It's a simple concept where if you buy something undervalued then sooner or later the market will realize it's undervalued and correct accordingly (most times, sometimes it can stay undervalued forever). A lot of people mistake value investing for price to book ratio or some trash ratio like that, value investing is simply the concept of buying a stock for less than its intrinsic worth (i.e a margin of safety). You must read the following books:
These are the staples of value investing and what Warren Buffet read multiple times. They are difficult and long books to understand at first which is why I have put them in the 6th section so don't worry if you don't understand everything at first.
To be able to read Financial Statement numbers you really need to know how accounting works, both for GAAP (U.S) and IFRS (Most of Rest of World). The reason why you should know accounting is not only to spot red flags in financial statements but also to understand the downsides of accounting. For example, only recently in 2018 were companies required to include Capital Leases in their balance sheets liabilities. Before then, companies could hide it in Off-Balance sheet statements that few people looked at, grossly inflating the viability of some businesses with heavy lease requirements.
David Krug's courses are an in depth full courses on accounting. You may not have the time to learn accounting in full though so if you do not then I would recommend the Accounting 101 course which fast tracks you to learn only what you need for our purposes. Howard Schilit's book will give you a good overview into the most common financial accounting tricks that you can try and spot.
9. Monte Carlo Simulations & Data/Statistics
This section is completely optional and not necessary but allows you to fine tune your assumptions. So monte-carlo simulations are simulations that run thousands of times on your valuation models (such as your DCF model) to simulate multiple cases in your models. So instead of just doing a bear case and a bull case in your DCF model you can run a monte-carlo simulation and give your boundaries for your inputs (e.g 25% with a std. deviation of +/- 5%) and you will get a range of different outputs, in our case estimated prices per share and then you can use the mean price as your estimated price per share.
Well... if you've made it this far then congratz. It's a lot to learn, basically a full time job to learn all of it. And that's the point, if it was easy everyone would be rich. A final point is that a lot of the above links are from prof. Aswath Damoradan. The reason is that I have found him to be the absolute best source of information in regards to valuation ever and everything he publishes is completely free. Thanks!
10 steps to create a personalized trading strategy
Most beginning traders start their careers by learning the trading strategies of other more experienced traders. But, many traders wonder, how do I get started with my own trading strategy?
10 steps to create a personalized trading strategy
Step 1: Form your own opinion of the market
Step 2: Select a market for your trading strategy
Step 3: Choose a time frame to trade
Step 4: Select a tool to determine the trend
Step 5: Define your input signal
Step 6: Set an objective starting signal
Step 7: Define your risk level
Step 8: Record the rules of your trading strategy
Step 9: Evaluate your strategy
Step 10: Plan how to improve it
We'll walk you through each step below, but before you start, you should know something: creating our first trading strategy is easy, but creating a profitable strategy is hard. First, start with the right expectations. Creating a trading system is easy. We just need to learn some technical analysis tools and indicators, and with this we can start with the creation of a strategy. However, it is unrealistic to think that your first strategy will make you big profits. Finding a methodology that offers an objective sale in the market is difficult. From that, the trader will realize that profitable trading goes beyond a trading system. So why should I worry about creating my own strategy for trading the markets? Why not use the strategy of a successful trader? https://preview.redd.it/glceq8yqkxv91.png?width=723&format=png&auto=webp&s=b6644048640fc0ab83886cd980f4b7dcbcf25267 Many traders can share their trading tools and approaches. But no one can guarantee that their approach will pay off. Every trader is different. Therefore, you can only benefit from a unique and personal combination of trading tools. The best and most sustainable approach is to develop our own trading strategy. Here's a 10-step methodology for creating a custom strategy:
Step 1: Form your own opinion of the market
Before you start creating your own trading strategy you should develop an idea of how the market works. • Form your opinion of the market by reading extensively on the subject. Read as much as you can about technical and fundamental analysis. Avoid anything that promises to get rich quick and with little effort. • Think about demand and supply. Challenge theories that claim that people they are perfectly rational. Your opinion will define each step that follows. Give it the attention it deserves. In any case, there is a rule for newbies: Keep things as simple as possible. that I can In the beginning, a beginner trader should avoid complex strategies that can overwhelm him. Also, a trading strategy with more moving parts is more difficult to manage and improve. Related: Top Stock Investment Newsletters
Step 2: Select a market for your trading strategy
There are many markets in which we can operate. Forex , stocks , commodities , cryptocurrencies , these are all markets where we can apply multiple strategies. • If you choose to trade the Forex market, understand what you are buying and selling when trading a currency pair. Make sure you are aware of the different models of Forex brokers. It is important that you know things like how the trading margin required to open and maintain an open position is calculated. • If you choose to trade stocks, you should know what a stock means and how to trade it. You should know the difference between a blue chip stock and a penny stock. The point is that there is a lot to learn about each market. But can't start Learn in depth until you choose the market to focus on. The only rule is that you must understand the market you choose to trade.
Step 3: Choose a time frame to trade
Before he gains any experience in the market, the trader must decide on the time frame that he will use in his trading strategy. At first, the person will not know if he is more suitable for scalping trading systems, characterized by fast trades, or for swing trading systems, where the frequency of trades is less but their duration is much longer. Should I trade on the 5 minute time frame or on the daily charts? There is no correct answer to this question. That depends on each. Therefore, you can start by considering your circumstances. If you have time to watch the market for long periods, try intraday trading. When we trade on fast time frames, we get feedback that allows us to shorten the learning time. Even if we end up choosing the longer time frames in the end, what we learn from intraday price action will still be useful. Of course, if you can't watch the market for extended periods, start with end-of-day charts. With sustained effort, you can learn enough to decide if swing trading is for you.
Step 4: Select a tool to determine the trend
The context of the market is essential to decide how we are going to operate. We should not simply enter and exit based on the signals of a technical indicator and price action. For this reason, it is necessary to use tools that allow us to establish the market conditions, especially if it is in a trend or, on the contrary, it moves laterally without a clear trend. For example, you should not enter the market simply because a Pinbar candle appears. It is recommended to look for the opening of a position when the market is rising and a bullish Pinbar candle forms, which serves as a price action signal to activate the operation. In the same way, it is not sold immediately just because a bearish Pinbar candle forms. It is recommended to look for the opening of a position when the market is down and a bearish Pinbar candlestick is formed that serves as a price action signal to activate the operation. Choose a tool that helps you judge the market context. (that is, if there is a uptrend or downtrend or if the price oscillates in a defined price range). You can choose price action tools like pivot points and trend lines. You can also use technical indicators like the moving averages, the RSI and the MACD.
Step 5: Define your input signal
Even with the right market context, a trigger or entry signal is needed objective. This signal will help us enter the market without hesitation. Candlestick patterns , harmonic patterns, and other well-known types of price formations (such as Head-Shoulders) are quite useful signals. If you prefer indicators , oscillators like the RSI and Stochastic Oscillator are also good options.
Step 6: Set an objective starting signal
You need to plan how to get out when things go wrong. The market can move against you at any time, causing you losses beyond your imagination.
Having a stop-loss is an obligation
You should also plan how to get out when things are not going as planned. The market will not move in our favor forever. So you need to know when to get out and take profit.
Step 7: Define your risk level
Once you have determined your entry and exit rules, you need to work on risk management . Remember that there is no perfect trading strategy. No matter how good a trading methodology is, there will always be losing trades and that is why the trader must control and limit the risk in his trades. The main way to do this is by using proper position sizing on all trades, based on the size of the account, the level where the stop loss is placed and the proper money management practices. For a given trading signal, your position size determines how much money you are putting at risk. If you double your position size, you double your risk. Carefully monitor your position size.
Step 8: Record the rules of your trading strategy
At this stage, your trading strategy is simple. You may be able to memorize the rules of your methodology. However, it is best to write in detail the rules of our system. Having a written trading plan is a robust method of ensuring discipline and consistency. It also provides a record of your strategy and can be very useful when we want to refine it. As we have already said, no trading system is perfect and the market is constantly changing, so any system must be modified regularly over time to adapt to changes in market conditions.
Step 9: Evaluate your trading strategy
With your rules written, you can now test the strategy. This is necessary to see what we can expect from the methodology when it is used to operate under real market conditions. Market. If you have a discretionary trading strategy, backtesting applications can be an arduous process. For this, you can use price data from the past, repeating the price action, to simulate trades in the market. The operations carried out must be recorded manually and the results obtained must be analyzed to measure the possible performance that the strategy can generate.
Step 10: Plan how to improve your trading strategy
Your first trading strategy will probably not be profitable. But it's okay and it's part of learning. However, his trading methodology is a living thing. It is not static and with experience you will gradually improve until you can detect its own errors such as: ▪ Never leave to chance ▪ Plan how you will get proper feedback and improve your trading strategy. ▪ Avoid drastic changes in your trading strategy. It is also highly recommended to perform WalkForward analysis and optimization tests of your strategy. Study the results carefully and take careful notes of your market observations. Record your trades carefully and keep your charts in order. Remember that your goal is to achieve a positive expectation with each transaction and in the strategy as a whole. Don't just focus on the profits you can make on all trades, as this can lead you to take too much risk simply to avoid losing trades.
• Follow the 10 steps above and at the end you should have a basic trading strategy. • With this, you will not get the Holy Grail, no system can offer that. But what you will get is a methodology created based on your experience and according to your trading style. • Continually work on the strategy that's right for you and you have a chance to succeed. >>>Access more profitable trading tips joining the Capitalist Exploits Insider Newsletter
Author's note- WARNING, The following chapter contains scenes of a graphic nature, you have been warned. PREV|FIRST|NEXT|ROYALROAD Project Alice Entry log 23.1 "Subject continues to prove the benefits of genetic modification for the Benefactor. The increased neural density as well as increased cognitive functions speak for themselves. However, it seems the gene expression modification we expected to cause a more obedient personality has backfired, resulting in the opposite. The Benefactor will not be pleased. Subject Alice has shown repeated cases of attempting to hide their intelligence and hiding research since arriving at BlackRock under the guise of being hired by the military. Recommend Alice be repurposed for one of the additional projects. ----- Entry log 23.3 Subject Alice seems to have developed an interest in peaceful technological development, keeping inventions that have a military application a secret. The Benefactor has proposed a possible solution-send her to the frontlines in South America, she has a friend in the military, a "Viktor Carlize". Recommend putting them in the same unit and having said friend suffer an accident. The traumatic shock could be enough to change Subject Alice's perspective. ------ Entry log 24.8 Operation Valkyrie was a success. Subject Alice has given up some valuable designs under the pretense of her friend being alive but in critical condition. A series of implants that would "speed recovery and improve resilience" is how the Subject described them. The neural implant, however, is interesting. Recommend testing to see if said neural implant can be used to override Subject Alice's tendency for noncompliance. If so, Project Wonderland is a go. This would help ease the Benefactor's frustration with the A.D.A.M failure. ----------- Project: Wonderland Overview- The research and development of technologies to create a perfectly obedient peak soldier capable of functioning in even non-survivable scenarios for the Benefactor. Description- Subject Alice will be fitted with the full suite of implants, regenerative nanites, nano-ceramic bone enhancement, wetware neural interfaces, inhibitor implant, secondary brain, and Alternative personality has been given the codename: Cheshire. Genetic modifications include increased neural capacity, decreased degradation, increased regeneration, and increased receptiveness to implants. Result- partial failure. Implants were successful, however subject Alice's control failure resulted in a total loss, Cheshire remote termination failed due to an unknown virus implanted in the programming. All previous data subject Alice researched has been wiped. Recommend recapture and disassembly. Project E.V.E. to begin. Start with the Limos AI. ---- A.D.A.M, now Thanatos, read through the files with a thoroughly displeased mental state. He had raided three of BlackRock's sites, but because none of them had the full picture, this was all the data he was able to collect so far on Project Alice and Wonderland. Limos was still recovering from the damage, and Athena was...different. She was still there, but she seemed cold now, more methodical than before. The one question on his mind was, Who is this Benefactor? Who is Executive 0. ---------------------------------------------------------------- "Are we sure the anesthetic will wear off soon, and that the restraints will hold?" "The restraints are made from enough steel even this Uman will not be able to escape." "And the Krultathan?" "Quiet, both of you, it's waking up." Amelia slowly began to come to as the effects of the anesthetic wore off, blinking rapidly due to the bright lights shining directly into her eyes. Trying to move made her realize she was restrained, and with it came a realization of what happened. They had been kidnapped while staying in Krultatha! Looking around, she could see that Hal wasn't on her arm and panicked. She panicked even more when she realized she wasn't even wearing her clothes anymore but a simple medical gown. The real fear though, started when her eyes adjusted and she could see three Axon around her, and what looked like a medical, or torture, room. She tried to say something, but her mouth was gagged. She couldn't see Viza or Hal anywhere, and she didn't like this room. It was just like, just like. No, nonononononono- "Good, you're awake. You'll forgive us if we wear these masks, don't want to have an accidental dose, after all. Are you surprised? Shocked? Fearful even? Maybe you are wondering how we found out where you were heading? Well, not that any of that will do any good." One of them said while rummaging around a table filled with instruments, settling on a syringe. "The only thing you need to know," It spoke as it pushed the needle into Amelia's arm, causing her panick to rise as it started drawing blood from her. "Is that you now belong to the Axon Empire. You are property of the Matriarchy." It took the needle full of blood and injected it into a vial before sealing it and stepping away. Another one comes up to take his place. "You humans will make a fine addition to our farms. Just having one or two of you will increase the production of the Krultathan stock." It started as it injected something that felt like fire into her veins. It burned, painful, like alcohol injected directly into a wound and he had to bite the gag to keep from screaming. After a few moments, the fire dissipated and the creature frowned. "A shame, it seems the heat inducer won't work. We will have to find another way to increase the pheromones produced then." He turns away and exits the room as the first one returns, this time with a much longer needle that he jabs into her thigh. The pain was agonizing as she felt it bury down to the bone, but it kept pushing, kept trying to pierce through to no avail. Pulling the needle out caused even more pain as the now bent needle tore more flesh, making Amelia scream into her gag. "What are their bones made of? It bent the needle!" "Stop complaining and figure out how to get the sample. We'll put the subject under again." Amelia felt the gas being forced into her, realizing they had tubes in her nostrils to keep her from avoiding it as she fought to stay awake, but with no success. Some time later, Amelia awoke again. In the same room, with the same three Axon. One of them grabbed her arm roughly and jabbed a needle in it."What did you do?! the blood sample disappeared!" Amelia tried to say it was her nanites by being gagged, she couldn't respond. Instead the creature took another sample, and the second one tried for another bone sample and failed. He pulled out an even thicker needle and practically jumped on it to try and get a sample, managing to finally get just a tiny chip of bone, no more. They fed a different gas through her this time, but the tube was so far back she couldn't smell what it was. It did have a calming effect though, strangely enough. They kept feeding it into her lungs for over half an hour, getting progressively more disappointed as the time went on. Eventually they stopped, giving her a moment of reprieve during which one of them tried to remove her artificial eye. Fortunately he couldn't figure out the release since it's a mental command from Amelia. One of the Axon wrote something down, and then the sleep gas was forced back into her. The third time she awoke was different. She could see the track marks of dozens of injections into her arms, and several more she could feel on her legs. Across the room, she could see Viza, tied up just like her, and various marks across the body. They had been torturing him, and from his expression of fear, he had been awake. She tried to look at him with comforting eyes, to try and calm him down even just a little but, but she didn't think it was working. "Now, since procuring a sample has been so bothersome, we are going to do a practical test. I even persuaded them to use your little Krultathan toy for it, isn't that nice? Proctor, remove the Krultathan's mask." Fear shot in Amelia as she realized what was going on. Viza fought them to try and keep from having his mask removed but to little effect. Despite how hard he shook and turned and twisted his head, eventually they managed to remove the mask. Afterwards he tried holding his breath as long as possible but eventually, he had to breath. "Hmm, yes. Results are positive, the Krultathan has started producing pheromones as well, and in greater quantity than usual, excellent. Proctor, you can replace his mask now, the Test is done." The mask was put back on Viza, who looked to be holding onto his sanity but just barely. Amelia was burning with rage and fear and panic as he was rolled out of the padded medical room. How dare they treat him like that, how dare they take Viza away! The Axon just smiled at her and said. "From what I've been told, your toy there hasn't mated yet. Perhaps next time as a gift I'll undo his binds, Uman. Be sure to give us a good show." Amelia felt herself drifting back into wakelessness as the Axon laughed. ------ When Amelia awoke the last time, Viza was once again there, mask off. Amelia started panicking as they undid his straps and rather than run, Viza locked onto her with an almost predatory look. He stepped forward slowly, as if fighting himself,and Amelia worried the worst would happen. Instead, by some miracle, she noticed two things. One, She had found Hal, hiding above and she hoped had a plan as he wasn't responding to her implant and two, the tuft on Viza's back wasn't raised. It didn't help the fear though, seeing him like that, but it did help give way to anger. As Viza finally got close enough to touch, Amelia felt a strange calmness was over her, like back when Viza held her after her episode. Viza hid her behind his back, then she heard the voice, his voice, in her head, though Hal's channel. "Be ready." Viza removed the gag from Amelia's mouth, and without hesitation, she shouted the command. "C-combat mode! Confirmation t-tango22b!" Instantly her implants whirred to life, removing limiters as close to the safety margin as possible, and pumping her full of chemicals to keep her moving as long as she had to. Hal dropped down from his spot above the lights and used his laser cutter to free her bindings. The Axons were utterly surprised and took a step back, not expecting to see Amelia freed nor to see an AI frame. "Give me access." Hall commanded. The Axon, shocked at everything else, were not expecting to be charged by Viza, not in a full blown rage mode. Amelia, trying to process everything, shook her head. She wouldn't do that, wouldn't let Hal become a- "DO IT MOM!" She...she didn't have a choice, he was right. "G-Gaia defense p-protocol....2001." Hal's Frame, previously either in stealth mode or deactivated mode, switched to active combat mode. Folding from his arms and on his pack were three gauss guns, along with the laser cutter mounted on his face. Calculating the angles and trajectories in less than a second, 3 shots were fired, and all three Axon died. Amelia was still in shock over everything, unable to move. Viza held back the door as Hal prepped for whatever his plan was. "Bypassing security measures, redistributing power. Initializing purge." he said, as the same knockout smoke used on Amelia started pouring out of the facility's vents. Viza and Amelia both quickly grabbed masks, while Hal slipped outside the door. Shots could be heard as well as a multitude of screams, but Amelia wasn't really there for all of it this time. The situation, the seeing Viza in front of her, bound like that..The little bit of sanity Amelia had left finally broke. ---- Hal had Been in low power mode whe Amelia and Viza were kidnapped an taken aboard the shuttle. Thinking quickly, he had managed to detach himself from Amelia before they took her to the holding cell of the massive complex. He needed to act, figure out a plan, recover his mother, his creator, and Viza from these Axon asshats that dared to harm them! But he had to be patient. They had taken Viza and Mother to different rooms. If he went after one, he would doom the other, and he still didn't know what they were after. Logically, Hal knew waiting was the best chance for survival for everyone. Emotionally though, he could feel the fear and pain his Mother was experienced through the data her implant was still feeding him, and he could only imagine how bad it was for Viza. He downloaded the schematics for the complex discreetly, he played with their orders here and there, manipulated them into getting Viza and Amelia in the room together, and the first time it worked! But there were too many people watching, it was too risky. No, he would have to try again. Luckily he didn't have to set that up. As he was crawling through the ventilation he heard the sickening words the Axon lead scientist, a disgrace to the name of scientist, said about taking Viza's will from him like that. he liked Viza. Viza was good for Mother, he helped calm her when she was upset, and he was niceto Hal too, for an organic. And so for the first time, Hal felt rage at someone not only threatening his mother, but for another organic, Viza, as well. When they tried the little experiment, he managed to hack into Viza's implant and add a few lines of code that would dull his sense somewhat, allowing him to keep enough reason, and sent a single message. 'Pretend to lose reason, remove mother's gag, I'll do the rest.' It worked! His plan worked! Viza managed to remove Mother's gag, and Hal cut her free, but he could feel it. This was too close to her past memories, she was frozen. Hal panicked, thinking of a way to save them, he had no choice. He begged her to release his morality limiter so he could defend her, even though he knew what he had to do would hurt her, it was the lesser pain than that of her having to live through this. And when it was released, when he could finally let loose, Hal felt nothing but pure, unadulterated, rage at the Axon. How dare they hurt his family! How dare they make Mother and Viza suffer! Activating his gauss guns he immediately calculated the optimal shots and killed the three in the room with them. He then hacked their mainframe and turned their own weapons against them, releasing the knockout gas used for containment across the entire station. Existing the room, Hal began to mercilessly kill anyone left standing. He had to watch his power bank, choosing optimal firing lines with minimum power to be able to conserve energy as long as possible. In the back of his mind the death count rose. 20 Axon, 30, 40, one fired off a plasma bolt that managed micro-fractures in his fram, he shot that one twice for damaging the body his mother gave him! 50, 60, another tried a laser weapon. It heated up his right forearm but it held as he shot that one through the sight on the weapon. 70, 75. He got to the last 3 awake, one of them the leader of this station, and Hal let all of his viciousness out on them. He fired into their kneecaps, then their arms, crippling them. He pulled their masks off letting them succumb to the gas but not before grabbing one of their drugs, one which increases sensitivity and blocks numbness, and forcing it into them. They deserved to pay for what they did. ----- After what felt like an eternity, Hal returned, covered in blood and shouting to Viza to pick Amelia up and escorted them through the facility. Several new blemishes could be seen on his frame now, which struck another knife of pain into Amelia. They started moving however, passing by piles of either knocked out or dead Axon on the way to wherever Hal was leading them to. Partway through however, Amelia and Viza both froze in their tracks and stared through a glass window. It was a lab, crude in design, filled with birthing cribs with Krultathan children...And almost every single one of them were dissected like a science experiment. Organs removed, bodies dismembered, vials with flesh floating in them. It was a gods-damned nightmare factory. "Hal?" "Yes mother?" "Get me to a terminal, and take pictures of what the Axon did to those kids." Hal led Amelia over to a terminal and, rather than using conventional means she didn't have time nor the mental fortitude for, activated her blackbox instead. It allowed her to directly jack into the mainframe using VR and in her native language where she found what she needed, the reactor controls. Setting it to go critical, she de-jacked and looked Viza and Hal. "We need to leave, now." Hal, the hero of the day, had already downloaded the schematics of the base and was heading to a bay, with them following. It took a few minutes, but surprisingly Viza was able to read the controls and fly the ship away from the base before the reactor went critical. It had been an asteroid base. One somehow still in Krultathan space. It shouldn't have existed, and now it no longer did as the asteroid cracked and the base exploded.They flew for a while after that, Amelia halfout of it, though apparently they were stopped by a Krultathan ship further in the system. "Axon Shuttle you are trespassing in Krutathan space, respond or be shot down." "Krultathan cruiser, we are escapees from an illegal Axon research base that was in that mine. We have the Human representative with us who arrived earlier to have talks with the Queen-Matriarch. We were abducted in Krultathan soil." "One moment while we verify biometrics...Confirmed. The Krultathan starcruiser "Fangkiller" will escort you back to the embassy." All during the return, Amelia was silent, unable to talk, unable to react. Viza was worried for her, as was Hal. To be honest, Amelia wasn't processing much of anything right now, everything around her a blur. her combat implants had already shut down, she remembered numbly getting back to the Embassy, something about reimbursements for destroying an Axon research facility, but all of it washed over her without entering her mind. She had frozen, she had frozen and been unable to help Viza or Hal. Hal had to kill because of it. Her kid, her boy, had to kill because she froze. Dimly she was aware of Kixix talking, but Amelia just held onto Viza with Hal back on her arm, still in a gown, and numb to everything. Eventually Viza just walked away from Kixix without saying a word either, and went back to their room. Viza quite literally dragged the dresser in front of the door before falling onto the bed with Amelia, where she curled up in a ball next to him and cried, him holding her and letting his own tears fall as well. No one said anything about the cries and scream that echoed that night. --- The next morning, Amelia still felt numb, but a bit better. Viza had stayed with her throughout the night, and she, he, and Hal all held each other. She didn't get much sleep, the situation replaying in her head over and over. Viza made them some food, and she tried to eat but had no appetite despite knowing she should be starving. Kixix had attended the meeting with the Queen-Matriarch in her stead, most likely for the best given her current state, and after trying and failing to eat she just laid back down in bed, viza coming to sit beside her and try to calm her. He had taken his medication with breakfast, and slowly the effects of his being exposed to Amelia's scent was dissipating, but he was still being careful. They still had a day before Amelia needed to meet with the Queen, and spent most of it laying in bed, trying to recover. All of them needed it. "I...I fucked up, I'm sorry." Amelia said quietly after a while. "You couldn't have known that would happen, no one could have. No one even knew that station existed." "No, not that. I..I froze. I saw you, hurting, and I...I froze." "No one is unbreakable, my dear Huntress." "But, but you were hurt, just because you were near me! Why aren't you mad, why don't you blame me?! You should blame me!" Amelia shouted, though even she didn't know why she was saying what she was. Viza however just held her gently. "How could I? If i hadn't simply rushed out when they knocked you out, I could've defended you better. You remember what I said? The past is unchangeable. All we can do is survive in the present. Right now that means dealing with this, and moving forward." Amelia broke down again after that, crying in Viza's arms for several hours. Eventually the tears stopped, and she passed out asleep again. When she woke up, she got a shower, dressed herself finally, and ate some more, her appetite returning a bit, though she still wasn't back to normal. Whatever normal would be after this. Later on there was a knock at her door, shocking her, before Kixix's familiar voice informed them that they would be meeting with the Queen in an hour and to prepare. PREV|FIRST|NEXT|ROYALROAD
Thanos in Marvel Snap, My Thoughts After 100+ Games
Hello All, For some background on my account, I've been playing since the very beginning of closed beta, and my current CL sits at 3,323. I have every card from pool 1-3 unlocked, and have purchased Thanos and Bast from the token shop (still waiting on She-Hulk). I've been wanting Thanos since he was datamined 8+ months ago (even writing in the beta surveys how much I wanted it, and advocating for something similar to token shop), and now that he's finally here I've taken the plunge to figure out what he works with, what he doesn't, and some different possible decks. I lost the equivalent of 10+ ranks playtesting him, hopefully I can help you avoid that fate. Here's my findings, take them as you will, hopefully we can get some good Thanos discussion in the comments? Thanos is a 6 cost 8-power card that shuffles the 6 infinity stones into your deck at the beginning of the game. There's no animation for this, there's no indication that it has happened (at least from my end), and this is very surprising. I understand keeping it secret from the opponent, but I'd love to see the namesake of the game get a little bit more of a flashy animation at least for the person controlling it! Key Takeaways from the card itself and his mechanics:
You can start with stones in your opening hand, they are shuffled in before you draw. If this wasn't the case, I think he would be damn-near unplayable.
The Power Stone (purple, 1 cost 3-power) has it's ongoing effect to give Thanos +10 power, if you care about Thanos as a body, you must keep this stone safe from carnage, killmonger, enchantress, and any deck building ideas you have. If this stone is not on the field at the end of the game, he doesn't get the power during final calculation.
The Time Stone (green, 1 cost 1-power) is arguably the most important stone you get due to the +1 energy next turn effect. Plan around it accordingly, getting to play two 6-drops during a game can be game changing. The time stone must stay on the field in order to get the +1 energy!
The Mind Stone (yellow, 1 cost 1-power) is the most important draw engine in the deck. Since it specifically draws two stones, you can thin you deck before cards like Lockjaw, and you can get closer to the +10 Thanos power (if you even care).
The Reality Stone (red, 1cost 1-power) is good for fixing bad locations. Despite the "Space Throne" being Thanos' iconic location, it's actually really really bad to get it in most Thanos decks.
Thanos having 18 power is surprisingly not the real value of the deck, having six 1 (or 0) cost cards that replace themselves is the value. Thanos at 18 power is a once in a while benefit.
Quinjet reduces the cost of the stones to zero, absolutely crucial. However they only cost 0 while in hand, Jane Foster Thor will not draw them :(
The major downside of the deck is killing consistency, so we need an engine powerful enough to make up for it.
Decks: ordered best to worst in my opinion. Every deck uses Quinjet, no exceptions.
Lockjaw with buffs
Death, Wave, Destroy Package (hugely improved with She-Hulk, which I sadly can't test)
Lockjaw with bounce or destroy
Devil Dino Hand-Size (Moon Girl, Falcon, Beast etc + Angela/Bishop) - more of a Zoo approach
Thanos + Galactus (Electro, Psylocke, Time Stone to cheat out Galactus early, then Death + Thanos or some other big chump on last turn.
Thanos + Valkyrie to make stones more potent
Before jumping into the decks, let me preface with the following: Thanos has incredible potential, and the draw engine he adds into the deck can be abused in so many ways. But with Snap relying on 12-card decks, adding 6 cards into the deck lowers your consistency immensely. The real goal is to find a way to abuse the stones themselves, and somewhat ignore the actual Thanos card itself. No matter which of the above decks I played, the game flow was very similar: Early game: Stones, stones, more stones, cheap cards that bounce stones or do something with them Mid game: Prepare for late game now that you've presumably drawn the pieces you need Late game: Drop whatever bomb you need to turn the tides. Lockjaw, the mighty Slobberchops: The best Thanos deck I've built so far In all my testing, Lockjaw is the clear winner with the inclusion of stones. Useful at any point in the game, especially with Quinjet you can use him to fish for better cards in your deck and reactive powerful stones like Time and Mind. Also, you can get extra procs of Lockjaw past the 3 initial ones by using space stone to move lockjaw to another location, or just by having Lockjaw pull out cards that can move (Nightcrawler, Vision). In the case of my current 'best' list, the big guys you want to pull out with Lockjaw are Vision, Thanos, Giganto, and The Infinaut. Each of these cards aren't awful to draw either since you can really alter your gameplay to drop them from hand late game if needed. The activators for Lockjaw are Sunspot, Nightcrawler, Quinjet, Psylocke, who either have powerful on-reveal effects or are not awful when pulled out of deck with Lockjaw. Here's where the deck starts to vary based on what you want to do with the stones. I've found that buffing the stones instead of destroying them is more consistent, although I still haven't settled on the best way to do so. The list I found with the highest winrate filled the remaining spots with Okoye, Kazar, and Blue Marvel to try and make stones less of a hinderance in the final power count. Many decks (aside from Arnim Zola etc) plan to win locations by narrow margins, so these buffs can stack up.
1: Sunspot, Nightcrawler, Quinjet
2: Psylocke, Okoye
5: Blue Marvel, Vision
6: Thanos, Giganto, The Infinaut
Replacing some of the above cards (like Okoye, Kazar, Blue Marvel) with destroy effects like killmonger, carnage, and Death is the second best list I've found so far. The biggest issue with this version is inconsistency, as accidentally pulling Carnage out with Lockjaw is hilariously awful. Using just enough kill effects on stones allows you to use Wave for some Thanos + Death shenanigans on turn 6. Instead of using destroy effects, if we use bounce effects we get some double procs on stones. Falcon is a clear value here, and beast is solid too, but with a similar downside to carnage from the previous paragraph. Death Thanos: Most thematic feeling of Snap
1: The Hood, Nova, Quinjet, Yondu
2: Bucky Barnes, Carnage
3: Killmonger, Wave, Deathlock
I don't own She-Hulk, so I had to replace this with some other cards, unfortunately I think this is what pushed this deck down as She-Hulk + Death + Something in last turn is incredible. I also tested this deck with Bucky replaced with another large card, to middling results. The goal of this deck is fairly straight forward, play stones early to draw through your deck, then turn 5 use Wave to activate a powerful final turn of Death + She-Hulk + Thanos. With some intelligent play, this final turn can seriously win games, and since you will almost always be losing after turn 5, it's immune to Shang-Chi (at least until Ghost comes out). The biggest issue with this deck was consistency, I found it very difficult to get the combo of Wave + Death + Big Drop in time, the loss of consistency with the stones was just too much. With She-Hulk I think this deck gets a huge boost. I will be absoutely revisiting this once I get She-Hulk (shop just refreshed into Galactus... so tempted...). u/GenesisProTech provided the following list, similar to my above, but includes Magik. After he posted I tried about 10ish games with it and found it very solid!
1: The Hood, Nova, Quinjet
2: Bucky Barnes, Carnage
3: Killmonger, Wave, Deathlock
5: Magik, Aero
Moon Girl Devil Dino: A deck so consistently inconsistent it hurts. Having free* cards that draw more cards is Devil Dino's dream, and Moon girl to copy the Dino almost guarantees two huge power boys. This deck fails due to consistency, if Dino is on the right side of your hand when you want to play moon girl, tough break, enjoy duplicating all those stones. If you don't find Quinjet early this deck just falls apart, would not recommend. The best version I found is a mix of bounce, destroy and hand-size, a middle-ground zoo-like approach.
2: The Collector (+1 instead of +2 kills this guy), Beast, Carnage, Falcon
3: Bishop, Killmonger, Deathlock
4: Moon Girl
5: Devil Dinosaur
Despite it being the 'best' version, it's still inconsistent and frustrating to play, often making you wish for one specific card that you just can't seem to find. Tech Options for any of the above decks (within reason): Each of the above decks have some pretty set cards that must be run in the deck, for example the first deck requires Thanos, Quinjet, Lockjaw, and then enough Lockjaw activators/big boys to make him worth it. This leaves most Thanos decks with between 2-4 'tech' spots that you can mess around with. It's not just to tech against enemy decks, but also to find what works for you.
Bounce Tech: Falcon, Beast
Growing Tech: Angela, Bishop
Buff Tech: Okoye, Kazar, Blue Marvel
Move Tech: Nightcrawler, Vision
Destroy Tech: Killmonger, Carnage (not deathlock, he's pretty much only good in direct-destroy decks)
Solidify Midgame Tech: Crossbones, Miles Morales (Space Stone, Nightcrawler, Vision all activate this)
Normal Tech: Enchantress, Shang Chi, Cosmo, Armor, Juggernaut
Surprising Tech: Adam Warrior, Mojo, Viper (give them worthless stones), Magik (Takes some very fine tuning to make it worth it)
Final thoughts: Thanos is hugely fun to play, requires near constant engagement/strategizing to perform well (at the bare minimum you need to know which stones you've played), and can pull off some completely whacky stuff. However the consistency is, as everyone else knows, the huge downside, and so finding a engine that makes up for it is wildly important, which is why I think Lockjaw is our best friend here. Let me know what you think in the comments, have you played with him? Against him? Try or see anything I've missed? Have questions? Lets chat about it :) ~Chris EDIT: As u/yoggenfogger pointed out, I didn't include that Time Stone must remain on the field in order for it's +1 energy effect to take place. I've edited it into the previous post, but thanks for pointing it out! EDIT2: u/GenesisProTech provided his list for Magik DeathWave version of the deck, I have added into the appropriate section above. I enjoyed it for about the 10ish games I tried it before adding here. Thanks for sharing :)
When the topic of land recognition statements came up on the podcast, Katie made what I thought was the most important point: they don't actually do anything. They don't help right the wrongs of the past, they don't do anything to support indigenous people, and their accuracy is dubious at best anyway. There are many, many criticisms of land recognition statements, but their ineffectiveness to better the life of native peoples is the smoking gun of what is really happening here: white aspiring middle class people identifying themselves as being the right people thinking the right things and trying to do the right thing. In this sense, it can be best understood as a politeness gesture and, in the world of linguistics, as phatic communication. And ignoring the content of the statement itself, we can begin to diagram the communication act with the following participants doing the following speech acts:
Speaker of the statement - Asserting being on the right side (i.e., an urban well educated professional) and not on the wrong side (a rural Trump voter).
Institution employing the speaker - asserting it is on the right side (i.e., we're not the MyPillow guy).
The listener - being invited to see the speakeinstitution as being on Team Blue, so the listener can then affirm they're also Team Blue (and thus on the same team as the land recognition statement speaker and the institution it employs) or, if they aren't Team Blue (importantly, this doesn't mean the listener is Team Red), they can either choose to ignore it or be annoyed/offended enough to disengage.
Marketing teams are very careful, and decisions like these aren't taken lightly when there's an organization with a large marketing team involved. So when Microsoft does it, I am convinced it's on a very tactical calculation trying to estimate how many people will listen and be Team Blue, what percent will listen and not identify with Team Blue upon hearing it, and of that percent what percent will be offended enough to disengage. As Microsoft's target audience is tech workers in a woke-dominated sector, I'd suspect the percent who will be offended enough to disengage would be seen as marginal. For a firm like Disney, however, the calculation is very different--which is why even its wokest webpages, which exist for a specific audience but are deeply buried so a broad audience won't find it, lack land recognition statements. Ofc Disney has many other woke issue calculations to make, most of which are a lot tougher decisions to make than these statements, which is why I think the trend of land recognition statements has a lower ceiling and life cycle than other woke trends. What about small scale land recognition statements, like from an independent content creator? The same phatic communication effort is happening, but the players and dynamic are slightly different. The ultimately goal, of urban white people trying to convince other urban white people that they're not bad people, seems the same, though. This puts me in a quandary, largely because of my own personal obsessions with language, linguistics, and rhetoric. I don't think the statements themselves are a good idea (Katie's take is 100% right here), and the logical rational part of my brain wants to deconstruct and dispute these statements for their logical fallacies, geographic inconsistency, ahistoricity, and anachronistic washing over various other historical tragedies to focus on 450-year old European imperialism. But that's not the point of these statements and such a response would be irrational, however internally logically consistent it may be. The desired responses are much simpler and, well, dumber: respond that, yes, you see the person is woke and say that's good, that's bad, or idgaf. So lately I came across a land recognition statement in the most unexpected place ever. A small and not very popular Australian comedy podcast that I subscribe to and listen to every once in a while popped up on my player, I played it, and it began with a land recognition statement--but perhaps the stupidest one I've ever heard. He begins by saying he recognizes the previous generations of peoples who lived on the land where he is recording without stating the names of any of these tribes or talking about who he was talking about or when they lived there. Really, for all I know he could've been talking about his European grandparents! But a clumsy, bad, awkward land recognition statement is kind of par for the course for a podcast that itself is often clumsy, bad, and awkward (he has had a lot of comedian guests I love, hence why I started subscribing). And when I heard this I immediately thought of the speech act model described above and thought, "okay he's trying to say he's one of the good guys because he only wants good guys to listen and Trump supporters to tune out. He's doing it in a really dumb and awkward way, which kinda of makes sense if his worldview is also as dumb and awkward as thinking there are good people who like land recognition statements and bad people who don't." And that made me realize there is another group to add to the three above--one that is so small and insignificant I might be the only one:
The meta-listener - seeing the speaker try to establish social relationships with an in-group woke crowd and an out-group Trump crowd, the meta-listener is encouraged to either approve of this rhetorical effort and continue listening, see the rhetorical effort and think nothing of it, or see it and disapprove of it.
Well, upon realizing that I removed the podcast. Phatic communication that actively attempts to create greater division between peoples, EVEN if you think one of those groups is deplorable (I can't say Trump supporters evoke much compassion, but I also can't say I've met any in real life), is immoral and unethical in all instances. I've seen how propaganda and rhetoric have been used to turn the world into the good people and bad people for reasons that seemed valid at the time; it never ends well.
No Separate Peace - Part 4 Chapter 35 - Turn and Face the Strange
So I'm at something like 325 pages and almost 200,000 words according to my word processor. Wow. Anyway, my already slow publication pace is likely to slow even further for the next few months, so fair warning. Other chapters –—– Part 4: Bite Chapter 35: Turn and Face the Strange –—– It was hardly a change at all, really. The new room was the same size and layout as the brig, except the window was on the other side of the building and it could, in theory, open. Not that Rivatsyl was likely to do that; springtime in the mountains still dipped below freezing most nights, and even during the daytime the air was unpleasantly chilly. Still, she had a door that she could lock or unlock at her leisure, she no longer had to wear a restraint, and she had her datapad back. Hrust’s expression when she had to hand over the deck of Human playing cards was a memory she would cherish forever. That was it. She was free, more or less, within the bounds of helping the I-TAD agent track down her parents. Despite not really caring whether she kept her position in the House of Tebbin, she meant to hold to her oath. Of course, she had also negotiated a generous compensation package along with remuneration for the destruction of her restaurant. The House Vow might be a relic of her noble lineage, but her skills at arranging a contract were straight from her schooling as a Vetts. If she survived, if her parents were brought to justice, she would have enough credits to start over and then some. Her time in custody had given her a lot of time to think, and she realized there was nothing left for her on this planet. Jim was gone, Theresa was gone, her restaurant was gone, her friends, such as they were, likely assumed she was dead. The Resistance had never really been her cause, even though she believed in it. She was just an orc who had gone native; she would never be a Human however good her language skills or her cooking. Her gaze drifted out the window and down the steep slope into the valley below, miles of evergreen trees stretching out in the morning sun. She loved Earth, but without her family, without Jim, it was not home. She turned her eyes back to the datapad in front of her. Aretho said Chalya had been with the Resistance before he left the planet, and the right way to go about this would be to put the call out on one of the radio bands the Humans used for point-to-point voice communication. Her datapad could function as a transmitter, if she was in range of a long enough piece of metal to use as an antenna, but without a code book, she had no idea how to get a message out. Her code book was written into the margins of The Art of French Cooking Volume II, in her apartment above the Baked Eggplant. She dreaded going back to North Ryalsburg. She wanted to see the Muellers again, and she thought she would, at least to say goodbye. But she was not ready for that. Anyways, she doubted that her code book would be there if she did return. She trusted Ryan with her life, and she trusted that he destroyed her book along with anything else that might link her to the Resistance when she was captured, one way or another. That chapter of her life was closed. That left the Internet. She had no way to track down Ashley, or Alice, or that creepy man who was always just off to the side of Alice. But there was one person she thought might be able to help. If he was still in Boston. If he was still alive. She remembered him distinctly, despite only meeting him twice, because he reminded her so much of a Shil’vati man. His impeccable clothes, his carefully arranged hair, even the waxed mustache and beard somehow reminded her of the smooth-cheeked boys her mother had occasionally matched her up with during their infrequent stop-overs on stations or planets where she had business to attend. His mannerisms were clear in her mind, the precise way he pulled a pint or mixed a cocktail, aware his body and his actions were being scrutinized. He was very unlike most Human men. Even his name had a Shil’vati sound to it. Ambrose. –—– Alice was silently cursing at herself while Ashley explained about the ham radio network that the Resistance used for urgent communications. The sheer expanse of her oversight sickened her, made all the worse because Central Command had apparently been using it, or at least monitoring it, for years. Another little thing Pete had decided to keep from her, but one she should have figured out on her own. Anger kept her from being overwhelmed by embarrassment and shame. Beside her, Ashley was at the wheel of the ancient hatchback, driving north and out of the city to a safehouse Alice knew about. It had been late in the night when Ashley arrived at the bar, and now the sun was well up in the sky. “The orcs monitor it, so everything important is sent via frequency knocking—that’s when you send a tone out on several different frequencies in order—and single-use cyphers. Anything less secure is sent out in code. There’s a few central hubs that have a bunch of code books, and anything they pick up that they think needs to be passed on gets sent via courier, or a separate, hub-to-hub code.” The older woman was still struggling to integrate this new process into her existing web of systems. “But surely the orcs have captured the code books? They have quantum computers, they should be able to break anything less than a one-time-pad.” Ashley shrugged. “Maybe. There’s a lot of ham operators out there, more now than at any time even before the invasion. The orcs used to jam it on occasion, but it takes a shitload of power to jam it all and we figured out that when they did it, they were planning a major operation, so they stopped. Most of it’s just bullshit. We blend our codes into the bullshit. They’d need a human operator to turn traitor to figure out what is a message between cells, and what is just two people bitching about the weather. And even then, the operator would only know his sector. We keep it compartmentalized.” She paused. “At least, we did.” Ashley fell silent, brooding. Alice prompted her. “You did. Past tense?” Ashley sighed. “After the raid on the nazi bar, we dispersed. Like I said. It was only supposed to be for a few days, maybe a week. But apparently, we kicked the hornet’s nest. Fucking Interior,” she spat. “Don’t give a fuck about children being snatched up or towns being destroyed by drugs, but some humans kill some of the fuckers responsible? Send in the cavalry. Things got hot. I gave the order to go to ground. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t check in. They’re supposed to check in. All I’m getting is reports from the valley where you just were up by the Canadian border, and stuff from the Mid-Atlantic and the Lakes region. Vermont, New Hampshire, most of Maine, all of Quebec, it’s been nothing. At least, nothing I have the codes for.” Alice nodded, though she had no idea what to say. The Resistance had moved on without her. It did not need her. Maybe it never had. Her mind traveled over long-worn paths that offered her nothing. Every time she went to open her mouth, the words died in her throat. For years, for decades, before the Shil’vati even came to Earth, she had defined herself by her work. Her value was her value to her country. She was an analyst, and later a handler, sending people into dangerous situations for the greater good of the United States, long before she did the same for Humanity. Now, here she was, at the age when most people were already retired or at least looking to do so, watching everything she thought she had built crumble around her while others were fighting the fight she should have been fighting all along. Tears threatened to well in her eyes, but she blinked them back. She could still help. She still had forces and resources she could muster. If she had to give up being a general to be a foot soldier, that was still worth doing. Alice recognized the mechanic’s shop that was their destination. The place she, Pete, and Chalya had spent the night in on their drive to meet Jim. Ashley pulled into the lot and parked around the side of the building, where the car was mostly hidden from the road, and where an overhanding bough from a big oak tree shielded it from the sky. It was strange to think that she had been here only five weeks ago. As hard as the winter had been, spring had arrived with equal fervor. The snow was gone, and tiny white and purple flowers were already blooming in the boxes hung on the building’s windows. They sat in silence for a few minutes with the engine off before Alice spoke. “I can arrange some fighters, and transports. Not much, not as much as I would like, but whatever I can muster, whatever I can do, I will put it at your disposal. Though I don’t think Jim is going to want to see me again, whatever help I bring.” Ashley nodded. “That’s fine. We’re not going after Jim, not yet.” She got out of the car and walked towards the door to the shop’s small office. Alice quickly stepped up beside her. Ashley opened the door, then held it for her companion. Inside, a thin, balding man in jeans and a flannel shirt sat behind the counter reading a trade paperback. He glanced up when the door opened, his eyes went back to his book, then back to the pair of them and went wide. He stood quickly, a bony finger marking his place in the book. “Can I help you? “Oh good, you remember me. We just need to use your radio. You have a radio, don’t you?” Alice smiled and tried again to remember the man’s name. To his credit, the man followed protocol and instead of leading her into the back room, challenged her. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I know you. Could you elaborate yourself?” Alice hated this part. She recognized the challenge, she had designed it, after all. If she was going to do it properly, she should find some way to work the countersign into natural conversation. But to hell with that, she was busy. It was the 26th day of the month, and 26 was even but not divisible by three. “Monadnock.” The man, whose name Alice still could not remember, put down his book and nodded to a door behind the counter. The room beyond was where they had slept last time. It still had cots and sleeping bags set up, along with a small card table and a couple of chairs. The man locked the front door and followed them. Alice turned as soon as the door closed behind him, and asked the question that had been gnawing at her. “When I came here last time, you didn’t mention the radio. Why?” The man looked confused. “The guy in the suit? He asked about it as soon as you and the orc were situated. I thought you knew.” Alice nodded, her suspicions confirmed. “Good, good. Your discretion is an asset to the Resistance. My colleague and I will need to use it now, in private. Vaibhav, right?” She felt proud for remembering the man’s name at last, then felt it evaporate as he glanced down to the nametag over his shirt pocket. He smiled at her. “That’s fine. My husband will prepare some lunch, and I will make chai.” –—– Grag’cho surveyed the sorry lot of Human mercenaries she had pieced together to augment her pod of Vetts Cartel guards. There were twelve of them, and all claimed to have been in one or another of the primitive militaries of the pre-liberation nation. She did not know or care what Delta Force was, or Seal Team Six, though several of the Humans claimed to have been in one or more of the so-called ‘special forces’ of the pre-war Human military. Either they were lying, or they had spent the ten local years since the conquest of Earth working on their beer guts rather than their muscles. In any case, this bunch at least came with their own weaponry, and seemed to know how to handle the rock-throwers they carried. The convoy was half a dozen vehicles strong, mainly Human pickup trucks with the beds loaded with crates of bourbon hiding the processed mint underneath. Two Shil’vati former Marines were in the lead truck, and she was in the rear with a pair of Humans. The final ex-Marine rode ‘shotgun’ in the middle of the caravan, in a large SUV that was transporting their talisman, a Vetts trade representative who had official export paperwork for the shipment, and an explanation for why the convoy was traveling north to meet their shuttle when it would be so much quicker to fly the shuttle south and pick it all up. The explanation was in the form of credits, to be distributed liberally should anyone question them. Unless the questioner was Human, in which case the explanation would be more… decisive. Grag’cho felt like she was babysitting a shipment of high explosives with pyromaniacs as her support team. The first fight had broken out before they even departed, over vehicle assignments. Two men wearing leather vests covered in patches of skulls and swastikas came to blows over which one would drive the first portion of the journey. The others circled around, cheering them on, and Grag’cho was satisfied to let them work out their differences until one pulled a knife. Then, she and the other Shil’vati waded in with stun batons, which they applied with little restraint. Their departure was delayed until the next day, and Grag’cho mentally extended their timeline for arriving in the valley. The first fatal incident occurred the third day of their actual travel. They were keeping to back roads, using maps and schedules provided by her employer. They were going perhaps half again the distance, and only driving for a few hours at a time, to avoid Imperial patrols and checkpoints. On the road, they kept a mile or between each vehicle, only gathering at predetermined rally points where satellite footage was impeded by overhead cover or they had assurances of safety from their employer. That was usually parking garages or campsites. It was at one such campsite, after they had crossed two states, that the same two men who had delayed their departure went for another round. Grag’cho did not bother to learn what had precipitated it this time. She arrived when one of the pair was on the ground, groaning and bleeding from his gut, while the other stood with a wild look in his eyes and his knife and hand covered in blood and gore. Without hesitation, she drew her laser pistol and shot him down, then put another beam between the eyes of the injured man. The rest of the crew were gathered around now, the other Shil’vati only just arriving, so she did not have to raise her voice to be heard. “Do any of you else have a problem still?” She held her pistol at her side. One more perk of moving up in the ranks. She was glad to be armed with proper weaponry once more, even if it was quite not up to Marine standards. The crowd started to disperse, and Grag’cho spotted two men she remembered being particularly vocal during the first fight. Grabbing each by the front of their shirts, she pulled them in close. “You will get the thick plastic bags. The dead shit pieces go in bed of your truck tonight, and you will put them to the garbage place tomorrow when we are going. Understand?” When they were slow to agree, she lifted them until their feet were off the ground, her biceps bulging. She kept the strain off her face, and when their eyes got wide with fright and they nodded, she dropped them immediately. Only once their backs were to her and they were retreating towards their truck did she grimace and rub her muscles. She had to project strength if she was going to make this work. The next day, she roused the convoy early, and they left with the first light of dawn. Losing two of her Humans meant changing travel arrangements, which she did arbitrarily and without listening to any arguments. Fortunately, she had enough reserves to avoid any Human being alone in their vehicle. She resolved to change the Human’s driving partners every time they stopped from here on out, and she was not stupid enough to allow a Human to be alone in any of the vehicles. They had two days until the rendezvous with Oleg, and she did not want to deal with another incident. The more bodies she had to intimidate the cowards in that backwater excuse for a village, the less likely she would have to rely on the combat skills of these primitive idiots. Losing any more would make either outcome less certain. –—– James came back into consciousness slowly, at first only aware of the dull throb in his skull that pulsed with every heartbeat. He turned his head slightly, and wished he had not, the pain becoming a sharp stab. He groaned, and then he realized he was not alone. His limbs were draped over another body, and he wondered if he had crawled into bed with Rachel last night. He shifted to a slightly more comfortable position, eyes still closed. It was no use. As tired as he was, he knew he would not be able to fall back asleep. The body beside him moved, and something immediately felt wrong. He was used to sharing a bed with Rachel; they did it often enough that the positions they ended up in together, the way her hair felt on his chest and neck, the feel of her legs against his, all felt natural to him. This was different, yet strangely familiar. He was far too hot, for one thing, and the bed was too hard. Grudgingly, he opened his eyes and was greeted with a wall of blue. His mind was too fogged to make sense of this new input. He closed his eyes, then opened them again. Understanding slowly filtered through the hangover. Bits and pieces of the previous night arose in his brain. He had been talking to Amos. There had been a bottle. He decided to get to bed, he remembered reaching the staircase, then nothing. Well, fuck. Whatever happened after that, happened. Slowly, he pulled his arm and leg off of Chalya and extracted himself from her pallet beside his bed. She rolled over, fully nude, and looked at him with a smile. He still had his boxers on, at least, and he had definitely been too drunk to do… that. She opened her mouth to speak, and he held up his hand. “Later. We can figure this out later.” He did not want to think about it. He did not want to think about anything except emptying his bladder and drinking about a gallon of water, with a few tablets of ibuprofen tossed in. His head swimming, he pushed himself to his feet and slowly made his way to the bathroom. Of the many blessings Samantha’s engineering genius provided, hot water on demand was his favorite. The medicine cabinet held a new, unopened, economy-sized bottle of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pills. Given the amount of physical labor it took to keep the homestead running, painkillers were one of the essential purchases any time they ventured into civilization, and one of the first to be used up. Rachel made tinctures and salves that worked well enough, but there was something to be said for the convenience of modern pharmaceuticals. James swallowed a trio of brown pills along with a cupful of water and started the shower. Moments later he stood under the almost-scalding stream, his head forward, letting the water run over his scalp and through the hair hanging down in front of him. He was already feeling, if not good, at least better. Now, at last, he could think. It had only been two days since he told Chalya to give up on him, that she would never be anything to him but an icon of the Empire that killed the ones he loved. Two days, and what seemed like a lifetime. He shook his head. He was not in the habit of lying; it was one of the stories that made up his sense of self: I do not lie. Stretch the truth, or omit it, certainly. Even with the Marines he had hunted, he had never blatantly lied, though he had often tortured the truth within an inch of its life. He thought of the woman who had been sharing his bedroom, if not his bed, for over a month. Two days ago he resented her, and felt ashamed that he and the family needed her. Spending time with her had become routine, mundane even, but if he ruminated for even a moment, the blind anger returned. Now, she was just… a woman. Not an orc, not a painful reminder of his past, just… Chalya. So what changed? The answer was obvious. If Rivatsyl was alive, that was a death he could no longer place at the former Interior agent’s feet. Losing his wife and daughters had broken him. Losing Theresa nearly drove him to suicide. Those deaths were easy to blame on the Imperium. But it was Riva’s death that haunted him the most. She was just a teenager. A kid. And he had taken her into a dangerous world that killed her. Blaming Chalya had been the only way he kept from blaming himself. The realization was so unexpected that he grunted. For a moment, he stared blankly at the water running into the drain, unable to do anything but turn this new ground truth over and over in his mind. He arched his head back and let the water brush the hair out of his face, then reached for the soap. The sun had been shining for the past few days; the batteries were fully charged and the reservoir should have plenty of hot water. No one was banging at the bathroom door. He could take a little longer. I can’t live a farce. The words ran through his head along with the broken look on Chalya’s face when he said them. He thought of the naked body on the floor by his bed. He was not attracted to Chalya, but then, he was not particularly attracted to Rachel, either. He looked down at his hands. They were covered in callouses and old scars. His hair was going gray, and his left knee clicked and ached when the air pressure changed. He still woke up from nightmares in a cold sweat a few times a month, or found himself unable to sleep at all. He was not exactly a prize. They were both too old for this romance novel bullshit. Whatever, he thought. There was nothing to decide. He would do what he always did and stumble into the future until he was forced to make a choice, and he would do what he thought was the right thing when that happened. If past performance is any indicator, I should probably find someone else to make my choices for me. He rinsed himself and shut off the water. He had no idea what time it was, but the sun was peeking through the window, so it had cleared the ridge and was well on its way into its daily journey. People would be getting up soon, if they were not already, and he had to make breakfast. Between the hot water and the ibuprofen, his headache was receding. He felt a lot better. –—– Bin’thri stalked down another corridor in the maze-like mansion the Militia leader had commandeered as her private residence. She was following the path highlighted in her HUD, in full battle gear and leading a pod of heavily armed Marines, one with an antiarmor rifle and another with a heavy plasma projector. Between the two of them, they could take down a medium EXO and a berserk turox at the same time. After debriefing with Sutropa, Yavil’ota, and Pilot-Captain Turshiayl, she had no illusions about how Nilv was likely to react to her arrival. Like most noblewomen, Nilv had her own personal guard, separate from the Militia under her command but on the payroll of the regional governess. Sutropa had lured most of the bodyguards to the motor pool area with a few words about the Human men they had rescued, promising details of the mission and videos from their medical evaluations. Yavil’ota, along with the remaining Marines and the Militia that Sutropa declared trustworthy were covering the exits, while the flight of gunships was hovering just out of sight nearby. Bin’thri figured there might be three bodyguards still with Nilv, maybe four. Five if she was truly unlucky. Falling afoul of the Interior might convince one or two of them to stand down, but when dealing with nobles, legal standing was a foolish thing to rely on. Instead, she was depending on intimidation and the credible threat of overwhelming violence. Her helmet display indicated Nilv’s office was directly ahead, and the woman’s datapad signature was active within it. One last time, she considered whether to knock or break down the door. Rationally, she should be diplomatic. She was a commoner; her only protection came from her rank in the Interior. Nilv was a noble. If Bin’thri ever lost her commission, her family would try to extract vengeance, sooner or later, and embarrassing their scion by treating her like a common thug would only make it worse. On the other hand, she had not heard from Corbin for over a day. He could be dead. She was not feeling particularly rational. The woman with the plasma projector was the largest of the remaining Marines. She was periphery-born, with a thick accent and some very unusual tattoos on her face and hands, not that they were visible at the moment. She was also tall enough that she could not pass through most Human doorways without ducking. Bin’thri gestured to the door, and the woman kicked it hard enough that the heavy wooden frame splintered. The three Marines rushed in before the occupants could react. Inside, three Shil’vati were seated around a desk. The two on the door side had their chairs tipped backwards by the incoming Marines and guns pointed at their heads. The last was Nilv, behind the desk, a stack of pastries by her hand and a datapad in front of her. The Marine with the antiarmor rifle moved to allow Bin’thri into the spacious office, then moved outside to cover the hall. ”What in the Empress’s name is the meaning of this?” Nilv recovered from her initial shock quickly, her expression changing to outrage. She was opening her mouth to speak again, but Bin’thri held up a hand. ”Nilv Thruskandrist, by the Empress’s authority, you are under arrest. Stand, step back from your desk, and place your hands above your head.” The noblewoman looked unimpressed, and remained seated. Bin’thri drew her sidearm and pointed it at the woman. ”I do not have the patience for your fucking arrogant noble turox shit. Stand up, put your hands up, or I will shoot you and have the medics patch you up after I have secured the evidence I need.” Glaring, the noble put her hands on the desk and pushed herself up slowly. ”Hands away from that datapad,” Bin’thri growled. Nilv obeyed, stepped back from the desk, and raised her hands. ”Put them in restraints and take them to the transport.” Bin’thri moved around the desk to where Nilv had been sitting as the Marines led the noblewoman out into the hall, then herded her two subordinates after her. She connected her datapad to the one on the desk, copying over its contents and sending it to her orbital team for analysis. This was far too big for her to do on her own. Then she took off her helmet and began looking through the antique wooden desk’s drawers. There were some interesting artifacts: a Human weapon she recognized as a revolver, large enough that it fit comfortably in her hand, along with a box of ammunition for it. An ornate device chased in silver and gold that, after a little experimentation, turned out to be a complicated mechanical cigarette dispenser and lighter. She smelled the cigarette that came out, unsurprised to detect menthol. A crystal decanter filled with an amber liquid that, on sniffing, she decided was probably rum. She poured a measure into one of the accompanying glasses and sipped as she continued her search. One drawer held a twenty or so small plastic devices that she recognized instantly from her abbreviated Interior onboarding training. USB drives, used by Humans to transport data covertly. She pulled the drawer out and dumped the contents on the desk top, then set the empty drawer beside the drives. She did not have the equipment to read the contents here, but that cute contractor boy who worked at the Militia base probably did. She scooped up the drives and dropped them into a pouch, then stood, glancing around the room one last time. She would request a team to go over the place with a keen eye and a tusk brush, but she was determined to find what she could quickly, before that shuttle had a chance to leave the system. She was about to leave when she took another look at the empty drawer on top of the desk. She picked it up, then measured the distance to the base with her hand, and compared it to the overall depth. There were two inches unaccounted for, even assuming the Humans were more wasteful than usual with the thickness of wood. She put her helmet on, switched to a wide-spectrum, and examined the box from all sides. The hidden compartment blocked all electromagnetic radiation less energetic than a neutrino. Well, that is certainly interesting. She examined the base more closely, but could find no gap or obvious mechanism for opening it. Entangled keys were expensive, but then, Nilv was a member of a particularly wealthy noble family. She smiled. This was a gift from the Goddess herself. She barely even cared what was stored in the hidden compartment. Given that she had eyewitness accounts testifying that kidnapping victims were on that shuttle, and the demonstrable connection between Nilv and the criminals running the operation out of the mine, the lives of Imperial citizens might depend on the contents. That gave her incredible leeway. Interior protocol would allow her to do whatever was necessary to extract it. If Nilv refused to open it, Bin’thri would be forced to use conventional methods. If the data inside were destroyed or rendered inaccessible in the attempt, or even if it merely delayed her, she could hold Nilv guilty of a capital offense. The conviction would be trivial given her noncompliance. It would only need the approval of her superior officer, which at this moment was the head of Interior operations for the North America sector. Nilv might be rich, and she might be nobility, but there were a lot of rich nobles on Earth at the moment. Interior Director Gavon Vrinks had more important things to worry about, and the request would go to one of her overworked subordinates to act on her behalf. There was an idiom the Humans used for when bureaucracy worked like that: the Rubber Stamp. She rather liked it.
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