Alarming loses for British punters on Fixed Odds Betting

A Non-Boglehead FATfire Musing

A recent post called out that FATfire was becoming something more akin to investing rather than FATfire, and a lot of people aren't FATfire and have an extremely heavy bias toward a Boglehead or index mindset. I thought I would write something from a FATfire perspective that might address the current change in the market and how I think we could take a different investing strategy from a FATFire perspective.
tl;dr version:
  1. We are going to be in turmoil through the rest of the calendar year, and possibly into next year. A recession is going to happen.
  2. I suggest that you may want to "not indexing" during this time. Key to not indexing is making sure you have a portfolio that hunts. Make sure that you cut problem stocks, such as travel and high debt stocks. Move to Countercyclicals, which I prefer equities with some dividends.
  3. Make sure you have somewhere around 12-24 months of cash like assets to bridge the gap to a vaccine.
  4. There will be a bailout once some companies fail, but this is a personal viewpoint, so you'll need to make up your own mind on how to play this.
  5. Finally, we are in a disease induced stock market correction. You can't expect the same behaviors as a normal economic correction. We are going to probably hit new bottoms. Maybe even much lower. However, a vaccine will trigger a massive rally from this bottom, so watching for the solution is extremely important to gain financially.
Please don't upvote/downvote on the tl;dr version because it is not helpful to the community. I realize that this is not a "hivemind" summary, which involves "index until it's over." Feel free to blast away at the structured version as this is fair game.
The long version:
Before you start reading, if you are a Boglehead, I am not knocking indexing. Bogleheading as a strategy back tests extremely well, and I'm not saying you should deviate.
However, in this post, I want to argue that past performance may not be the best indicator of future performance. Large part of this is because the nature of the correction comes from the fact this is disease issue. Please read this post as arguing the other side. If you refuse to consider any viewpoint other than a Boglehead viewpoint, please move along, you won't like this post.
ln this light, I want to debate (not go crazy please) from the standpoint that Michael Burry might have gotten it right again, lately. (I don't like his "water phase.") Here is a couple of his latest observations:
  1. Indexing has become a new bubble. Again, I think he is overstating things, but I think that there is a core of truth here that I would like to argue for.
  2. We do not have a good sense for the future, and we need to understand that things may become worse before coming better.
  3. Finally, if you "want to be FATFire and not worry about it," this post is not for you. I don't believe in 3 sentence summaries. I believe in rational and deep thoughts. I hope you'll find this is not a rambling post, but something that comes out of trying to be structural, integrative and analytical in my approach.
A little about myself:
  1. I am still working because I contribute to the world, much of the stuff you see here is basically what I do at work. Yes, I am considered a bit odd, but generally worth listening to.
  2. My assets clearly would place me firmly in FATfire as something I have already accomplished.
  3. I'm a little past my mid-50s, so I lived 2008 era. I see an incredible amount of psychological overlap.
  4. One of my degrees was in finance and accounting. My finance professor traded on the Chicago floor, and he made a rational argument in the '80s to his class that called out being a Boglehead (although he didn't call it that at the time) was the top investment strategy, which I followed as a general principle for over 30 years.
  5. I have a Thomson Reuters Eikon seat. This basically gives me access to an extremely rich set of sell-side research. Really, this or a Bloomberg terminal is the only practical way of doing value-based research, and it is incredibly insightful to review other people's financial models.
  6. This is USA only view. I think the WW economy is well outside my ability to understand. So, if you are not a USA investor, sorry, I have no help or discussion.
Some thoughts in the current crisis:
The most interesting thing to me is that the current crisis is extremely similar in its psychological make up to what happened in beginning of the 2007/2008 crash.
I see a lot of people writing "oh it was worse in 2008." Initially I agreed with this, but I looked at some of my journal writing at the time, and really I think that people don't remember.
In 2008, we really did not understand what was happening. There was a debate how much wall street would impact main street. Maybe the Banks were in crisis, but nobody saw that the banks would take everybody else down.
I remembering people saying "oh buying opportunity." So they reacted too quickly to bring cash off the sidelines, which was basically a horrible move. Or they said, "Wow, now I'm going to use my leverage." I don't need to write what happened here.
Probably one the best things you could do now is to start a financial journal so you can pull it out and look at it next time a crisis happens. From my perspective, it is dangerous to quickly to say that "we'll get through it quickly."
Behavior economists encourage us to understand that "confirmation bias" can ruin our ability to make decisions. We need to be extremely fact filled in our thoughts to get to real decisions. It is the time to carefully consider the data.
The above was written from a psychological standpoint. I do believe that we can argue that the 2007/2008 crisis had an enormous amount of internal rot in the financial systems with CDO and credit default swaps. I think we can argue that we do have a stronger banking system.
However, unemployment was historically low (5% or so). And quite frankly, we had an enormous amount of flexibility in the Fed, and the problem was a Fed problem.
If you like "easy to digest stuff, I suggest reading Wolf Street." Now realize that Wolf is absolutely bearish, he is one of the best sources of graphs to help you understand some of the recent moves in real estate and what is happening in our fiscal system. A good graph is worth a lot of reading.
If you read his site for a while, you'll come back with clear messages that:
  1. The housing market is too hot
  2. Debt is too high
  3. Deficit is too high
  4. The Fed has a wickly high amount of overhang from 2007/2008
In other words, 2007/2008 impacts are still here, even if the market set new records. We have overhang. This is what happened.
a. The fix for 2007/2008 turned on flooding corporate America, from the Fed, with easy money and bailouts, which then became a drug to grow the overall market to PE numbers that are problematic.
b. Why? Cheap money resulted in a massive amount of corporate borrowing.
c. This fueled massive amounts of either debt or stock buy backs.
d. Corporations have calculated their ability to service this debt for an economy which would see 2-3% GDP growth. They are not equipped with the right structure for a slow down. They are not, as NNT would write, anti-fragile. They are highly fragile.
e. When the COVID-19 really hits, we are going to blow up a lot of business models.
f. May turn into a chain reaction that will wound a sizable chunk of companies.
If this isn't obvious, I don't know what is.
Even the big guys are in on it.
I actually feel incredibly stupid for ignoring the mechanisms of infectious disease until a couple of weeks ago. I started researching it then, and I think I have more than the common man understanding.
COVID-19 is a a flu. There are three distinctives:
a. It has an r0 (or R-nought) or 2.x or twice as inflective.
b. It has a much higher mortality and hospitalization rate
c. It has no vaccine
The flu vaccine is marvelous. One of the reasons we don't notice the flu is that we are successful both in its effectiveness and our vaccination rates. The vaccine dramatically drops when a flu naturally dies in a population, which may not be obvious until you do the math.
This is why COVID-19 is a pandemic and not the flu.
The thing to realize is that we have a pandemic as the root issue. We do not have a financial system issue as the root cause. So you have to have some understanding of how pandemics work.
One of the very best things I've read is here on the nature of COVID-19. Really, I wish I had written this.
The first thing to realize is that we do have "an end." The beginning of the end is when we get to the mid-point on the disease logistics curve, or when we can widely distribute a vaccine.
Until we get a vaccine, we either need to let it burn through our population unbridled, which is basically what the world did with the Spanish flu, or we mute the effect of the virus by simply stretching out the inroad of the virus as much as we can so the minimal amount of people are impacted.
If we don't slow COVID-19, we are going to devastate the USA. It is very clear that if we don't slow it, we will exponentially get to 60-70% infection rate (yes, Angela Merkel is 100% right), we will over flood our 100K ICU beds, and we will have people dying at their homes as mortality rates skyrocket because we can't treat people that need help.
What a disaster, and truly a horrible impact on our population.
The Italians got a small taste of this, and decided they need to whip out the isolation wonder drug. The problem is shutting down your country for weeks at a time is going to whack the economy.
And we are a worldwide economy. Just the current issues are going to impact everybody.
So we have to use the isolation wonder drug (okay call it social distancing), but this is going to exact a heavy toll.
Integration of the above:
Once you understand the mechanisms of the pandemic, you'll unfortunately get a bit sad because you'll understand there is no dodging the upcoming hit. The only thing that we can do is manage the damage.
Dr. Brian Monahan recently told congress that 70 to 150M people will be hit. This means ~20-40%. This means somewhere around 7M to 15M people requiring some type of hospitalization, and 3.5M to 7M in ICU beds (which we have 100K today.) This means a tremendous amount of churn in the economy.
Until we have a vaccine, there is no side stepping an upcoming hit.
So here is where it become unbelievably confusing. Unless this post gets downvote so low that I disappear, I believe this post will stand up quite well if we come back to it 12-18 months from now, in as much as what I have written so far.
We are headed for bad times. The key to the bad time is that a solution does exist, it is called a vaccine. We need to plot out how much our investments are going to suffer until one arrives, because once we see the solution timeline, Wall Street will come back strong (even before the economy.)
Remember, this is not a Boglehead view. You could index, but I am suggesting that we don't want to index. Indexing is guanteed to included the losers with the winners. If we can knock out even some losers, we will end up outperforming SPY.
Here Are The Three Future Phases I See:
Phase 1: Recession and certain companies fail
In this case, we express the moral hazard of allowing companies to fail because they did stupid stuff with their balance sheets. This starts to take down a bunch of people, because they took the risk.
By the way, this is going to happen in some degree anyway.
If you own OXY, look for a bounce and get out. Maybe somebody will buy their assets (and Buffet does have a lot of their debt at a great return), but you are gambling with your money.
Companies like Comcast and ATT have way too much debt for a slow down. IBM comes to mind as having a problem.
Get out of industries that are going to be really hit hard. If you are holding a cruise line, cut your losses. It's over, and don't hang onto a falling knife.
Bankrupt companies don't come back. The last thing you want is to be the last one holding the bag. Getting something is better than nothing.
Then move into some counter cyclicals, maybe with a little bit of dividend income to ease your pain. CHD or Ross stores come to mind.
By the way, get cash. If you don't have cash, get cash. I need to repeat myself. You need some cash right now. What is the right range? Until this settles down, I suggest at least 12 months of a cash buffer for your cash flow needs. More comfortable would be 24 months.
What do I mean by this?
a. You are fat fire and you have in flow of income from either a job, stock (or business), or real estate.
b. You lose this inflow of money.
c. You happen to have enough cash that it doesn't matter for 12 to 24 months. You can run your life just like normal.
Okay, you have some money approaching or at FATfire money. You read my strange and long post, and you get to this section. I hope when the market opens on Monday you liquidate enough of your position to lock in the 12-24 month cash position. I know this is an insurance position, and maybe through some chance, the market is at bottom.
You need insurance right now. This is the time to buy insurance. Insurance is a cost and not an asset. Buy insurance. If you are sophisticated, you can devise an option strategy cheaper than cash, but most people can't do this.
So my advice is be simple and hold cash.
By the way, if you are young and a lurker, just have a normal reserve. I am talking to those that have assets.
I've written this story before, but I worked for a guy that was a billionaire in today's dollars when I was a kid. He had lost everything. This is because he didn't have enough of a buffer to survive a down turn in the 70s because he got overleveraged and couldn't service his debt.
But does this future last forever?
I'm guessing we start this way, but move to phase 2.
Phase 2: Welcome to Bailout City
If the big companies need money, they can always get it in Bailout city.
Yes, we have a phenomenal amount of debt, but most countries with a lot of debt that "fail" don't have a real engine. We are a little over 100% debt to GDP. Japan is 200%. Now Japan is not healthy, but it is not failing.
There is little to no doubt in my mind that we can borrow ourselves through to a vaccine in the market.
So go ahead an buy ATT with a 6% yield. If they run into problems to service their dividend, the government will come in an give them a zero percent interest loan with no repayment schedule. Still a gamble as maybe bailout city doesn't arrive in time. However, I'm hanging onto my ATT.
Now, I am not even saying that the bailout will be right, so don't downvote me for this. I am suggesting that we need to simply surf the market.
However, even under this avenue, I see high debt companies hurt. The only reason to hang onto a high debt company is you are willing to roll the dice that they will get a bailout, and not cut or cancel the dividend.
In my case, I need my ATT yield to service some needs for projects underway in other parts of my portfolio. So, it is a core part of my assets, but certainly not 100%.
Phase 3: We come up with an vaccine, or we have some strong results from some experimental drug.
I had very fond hopes for Remdesivir from Gilead, but the first rumours are not good.
However, we have come a long way from the Spanish flu, and there are a variety of ways for us to accelerate a vaccine or test drugs in new ways that might blunt the issues.
Actually I have high hopes for private industry. I hope the government carefully works how to support industary. For example, our testing problem is going to be solve by companies like Thermo Fischer and Roache, because some private business came up with solutions and the Fed government figure out how to approve in 1 business day.
People are praising the Korean government for how fast they ramped the test kit. What nobody understands is that is that it was the founder of Seegene, a private company, that pulled the trigger on a new test in January.
I can see that in the current environment, private companies may see that a solution will be fast tracked, and it is worth the bet to throw in resources because the payoff for being a COVID-19 solution is massive.
With the widespread outbreak that is coming, it would boggle my mind if we didn't have something on the shelves in 18 months. Maybe sooner.
If you have your cash in hand when we see an end to this problem, and now you have some freedom with your stocks, you are going to see the most massive jump ever. We need to distance ourselves from the 2008 crash in this avenue.
Stock market psychologic is incredibly important. Our market recovered well from the 2008 crash, but a bunch of people were still "unsure" about the whole thing.
When a solid solution happens with a vaccine, people are simply going to say "wow, it's over." Now this is over dramatic. The vaccine will come on the end of possibly a lot of churn. However, we understand vaccines. Once proven, with a good dose of scientific agreement, the world is going to say "okay, let's get back to business."
This means a nice market rebound.
I blew up my Saturday morning writing and editing this post. I am writing this paragraph as my last paragraph before posting. After all this though, I determined that really this is not just a FATfire strategy, other than I am encouraging a strong level of cash that others may not suggest in an investing standpoint. However, I started the post here, so I'm going to finish it here. It's also long enough that it will probably be ignored, but I hope a lurker or two will use it to devise their own strategy.
submitted by Los_Gatos_Hills to fatFIRE [link] [comments]

Sins of Yesterday

It all started when an ancient vault was cracked open. A roving band of adventurers broke the seal on a gleaming metal crypt that no one had touched for all of remembered history. The magical aura around it emanated power and danger, causing most people with an ounce of common sense to avoid it. They didn’t have much common sense, and so they made a horrible mistake that everyone would pay for. Moments after the door was wrenched open a cloud of poison spilled out of the vault, flaying flesh from bone and choking those further away—except for one. He had the quick mind to cast a shield spell around himself before the glittering miasma reached him.
Well...I had the quick mind to cast the spell. The cloud of shimmering smoke bounced off my glowing shield bubble like rain off a roof. I spared a glance in the direction of my friends’ bodies, though I could not see them through the thickening cloud, and redoubled my focus on the shield. I could feel the drain on my reserves, the core of arcane energy I drew on to warp the world around me. A full shield spell was a powerful incarnation, and it was taking all of my will to not let the dark cloud through.
Heavily armored footsteps rang from in front of me. I called out tentatively into the cloud, “Nicholas?” Nothing answered me. Undead took days to rise even in such a powerful magical aura. I felt my pulse spike with fear as I gripped my staff with white knuckles. A glow began to appear through the dense cloud, red light reflecting infinitely off the shimmering particles. “What are you?” Still no response, but the footsteps kept getting closer. “If you do not halt I will destroy you!”
With its next step, I was able to make out glimpses of its form through the smoke. It was a metal golem unlike any I had ever seen, arms long and lanky with glowing red eyes on a pointed inhuman head. It took another heavy step, raising its hands above its head as if it was planning to crush me with brute strength. My throat tightened as I brandished my staff. Not if I have anything to say about it. I focused on the energy within me and felt arcane power flow from my core down my arms. My staff sang with power as I shouted the incarnation.
A jagged line of glowing energy punched through the golem, carving a hole through its upper body. Thunder rang off the mountains around me as the lightning bolt dissipated. An arm fell to the ground at my feet as the rest of the golem froze. I breathed a quiet sigh of relief before immediately regretting it. Its remaining arm came down hard on my shield, drawing more power from my core. My heart raced with terror. The golem hadn’t been dispatched by my lightning bolt, it had just been playing dead. I couldn’t do this alone; not if one of my most powerful spells hadn’t killed it with a shot like that. I trickled a flow of energy into the ring on my left index finger to activate it.
It was like a ghostly hand grabbed my navel and yanked me away, in a direction that I couldn’t percieve. My surroundings shifted to my safe room with a soft pop. I looked around the stone room, making sure nothing had made its way inside, dropped my shield and then pulled off the ring. The expenditure of its last charge was heating it up and soon it would become non-magical entirely. That was a powerful artifact I’d expended. Thank the gods I keep spares in my tower. My body began to shake as I took off my cloak and armor.
I yelled in surprise as I dropped a bracer to the ground and leapt back. The severed arm was here, in my safe room. Nothing but what was on my person was supposed to come with me via a planar shift. I wracked my mind for how something like this could happen. Shaking my head, I decided to focus on what I could detect from it.
The memory of what its crypt did when opened was still fresh in my mind. I was not going to touch that arm. I pulled a small amount of energy from my core and spoke an incarnation.
magi manus
A spectral hand appeared beside the severed metal arm and I willed it to grab the arm. To my surprise, the magical hand was able to lift the golem’s arm with minimal struggle. Somewhere in here was a magically sealed chest that this needed to into. There. I willed the hand to carry the arm to it and drop it in. The hand locked the chest with a subtle shimmer of magic. I dispelled the hand and picked up the chest. I needed to know more about this, and while there was limited equipment here, the bulk of my tools were in my tower. Turning towards the magical door that linked this space with my tower, I stepped through.
The spear bounced off the metal cladding of the severed arm with a shower of sparks. Nothing I did could pierce the metal. It was lighter than aluminum and at least as strong as adamantine. Between me and the arm was a shimmering cylindrical barrier, keyed to be impassable to everything except what I consciously allowed through.
I grabbed a hammer with a long shaft and raised it above my head. The shock of the impact reverberated up my arms as the hammer bounced off, not even leaving a scratch. I laid the hammer back on a workbench and stepped back.
I rubbed my bearded chin and asked, “What are you made of?” I thought for a moment about my encounter with the whole golem. My magical lightning bolt had punched through it with ease. I didn’t have another spell like that in me today, but testing a lesser spell was always an option. I backed up and aimed my arm at the specimen.
A narrow stream of fire roared from my outstretched finger and blasted the metal arm. I walked closer to the smoking arm and raised my eyebrows. There was a deep pit in the metal, and it was partially molten. I nodded. “Fire melts this metal. If that’s all this takes, I can go back and burn the crypt to the ground with a few barrels of alchemist’s fire.” I rummaged through my drawers. I had some of the gel in this room somewhere, if only I could find it.
“Aha!” I pulled a vial of orange gel out of a drawer it really shouldn’t have been in.
magi manus
I handed the vial to the spectral hand and willed it to move inside the cylindrical barrier. With a flick of its thumb, it poured the rapidly igniting gel onto the specimen. “What?” I looked closer at the root of the flames. “That can’t be right.” The metal was unscathed. The gel burned brightly, droplets falling onto my table and beginning to set it alight. Without thinking, I spread my hand and cast a cooling spell at the fire.
minima gelum
A small cone of blue-white light covered the fire and extinguished it. My eyes went wide as I drew in a sharp gasp, “Oh! Of course!” Wherever the cooling light had touched the golem’s arm, it was slightly cracked and frosty. “Fire doesn’t damage you, but magic does!” I mentally reviewed my spells. Without spending too much energy, I could test this theory with another spell.
A shimmering green ball of liquid appeared in my hands. I tossed it at the bicep and grinned as the acid began to hiss. “Now I know what hurts you, it’s time for you to pay. Where are you now?”
I walked to the center of my tower and cleared my mind. I rested my hands on my scrying focus. Arcane energy flowed down my arms into the crystalline sphere which began to glow. Powerful magic subtly influenced the world around me as I wordlessly wove the spell. A gentle breeze caused my robe to flap, the crystal began to heat up, and sensations became sharper. I could smell old parchment, the acrid smell of smoke, and my own sweat. I cast my mind away from those things and focused on the golem. Every detail of its form flitted into my mind as the spell took form. I spared a glance at the severed arm and felt a powerful jolt of energy flow into the crystal. It was ready.
dona mihi visus est creatura
I wasn’t in my tower anymore. I was inside the crypt, a few feet behind the golem. Its heavy footfalls were almost deafening. Whoever had made this golem had done a remarkable job. Despite the damage I had done to it it was moving just as fluidly as when it first emerged from the smoke. Even after being cut apart by a magical lightning bolt, it was still moving.
The smoke had dissipated, allowing me to see the surrounding walls of the crypt easily. The entire passageway was made of the same gleaming metal that the golem was and lines along the tunnel glowed with a dim red light. Ahead it opened into a room. I dreaded what I would see deep inside this hellish place.
The golem stopped in the middle of the room and I took the chance to look around. The light here was brighter, letting me see the intricate detail of the room. Spaced evenly around the room were doors tall enough for the golem to pass through. It walked to a glowing panel on the wall and placed its remaining hand to it. A voice spoke in a language I didn’t know as the doors slid open. My breath caught in my throat as at least a dozen shining golems stepped out of their sarcophagi. Each of them turned to look at me with their glowing red eyes as they lumbered towards me with heavy footsteps. I terminated the spell, heart gripped with fear of what they might be able to do to me, even though I was miles away.
I took my hands off the crystal sphere and wiped the sweat off my brow. If the world was in my favor, and nothing really made it seem like it was, this crypt would remain manageable if left alone for a few days to research and gather allies. That was all I could do.
I had slept fitfully, but sleep was sleep. I’d pored over my tomes of ancient knowledge for hours, scouring them for any mention of what we had encountered yesterday. All I had found was that these golems were unlike anything that had ever been seen and that a few similar crypts had been found across the world. Those vaults remain untouched according to all my books. At least no one else had been stupid enough to break one open. I looked at my mechanical clock, a gift from my Dwarven friend, Dalgal. His tortured screams echoed in my ears as tears welled in my eyes. I shook my head. Mourning them could come later—had to come later. With how many golems I had seen activate, I would need much more muscle than just myself. I donned my armor and cloak and set off to the one place in town I knew I could find hired muscle at short notice: The Golden Dragon.
It was rainy and cold outside my tower’s magically insulated walls. I hiked the collar of my cloak up higher and felt pleased that when I had enchanted this fabric years ago, I had the foresight to make it impervious to water. As I walked further into town, people looked my way, but I paid them no mind. Most storefronts were closed now, but the tavern ahead of him glowed with warm firelight.
I stepped inside and a wave of emotion washed over me. I teared up, my view of the word going blurry. I never went here friends would be with me, looking for trouble or work. I took a seat at the bar and ordered a strong drink.
As I sipped the bitter drink I looked around the tavern. I could feel the tingling presence of awesome power even in those who never used it. The stronger a man became, the stronger his aura. A group of humanoids in the corner prickled with power. I walked up to them, looking over their grizzled and scarred faces. A muscled human magic user, a stocky dwarf, and a towering orc. “You folks looking for work?”
The burly orc man grinned and asked, “You looking to hire us?” I drew on my magical core and cast a spell to prevent anyone from overhearing.
secretum zonam
The human frowned and asked, “That serious, mage?”
“Yes. Are you familiar with the Gleaming Crypt of the Clouded Mountains?”
“Yes. What of it?”
I took a deep breath and replied, “It has been cracked open, and the ancient horrors inside have been unleashed. I need your help.”
The orc laughed raucously and I glared at him with burning anger in my eyes. “You’re serious?”
My voice was low and trembled slightly as I responded, “Deathly.” I looked around at their faces. They seemed apprehensive. “I’ll pay you handsomely and outfit you with magical weapons. You will need them.”
The dwarf asked, “What’s handsomely?”
I stroked my beard in quiet contemplation. “Five thousand gold pieces in advance, and the same upon completion of the mission.” I let the amount hang in the air, taking a sip of my drink. “Each.”
He laughed and remarked, “You can’t be serious!”
“Oh I am. This is no joking matter. In addition, you all will have favors to call from a powerful mage....” They talked amongst themselves as my heart raced. I hoped with advance knowledge I could get the upper hand on those golems.
The human stuck out his hand and said, “We’ll do it, mage.”
Hoofbeats reverberated through my body as I guided my horse. I had explained to them the details of the mission the night before, before taking them back to my tower to equip them. Only the orc had needed an enchanted weapon. His greatsword now glowed with arcane energy, increasing its power. I looked across the group of adventurers, now armored and ready for battle. The human was clad in shimmering plate armor and riding a spectral horse. The orc was riding a warhorse with sparse metal and leather plates over his body, and the dwarf was clad in intricate scale mail that sang of magical energy whenever I looked at it.
“Mage, we’re getting close.”
“I know. Stop by the stream up ahead. I need to cast a spell on all of us. It will protect us from the choking miasma.” Our horses slowed to a halt as I dismounted. “Gather around, everyone touch my robes.” I felt their hands grasp my robe and began to trickle energy into all of them. This would take a few minutes to weave fully, but the better I cast the spell, the better we would be protected.
Dried leaves shifted on the ground, circling around us like a wagon wheel as my magic influenced the world. The sensation of their touch began to slowly fade as the barely visible magic field began to take shape around us. I felt the magical energy come to a peak as the spell stalled, waiting for the final bindings to lock its shape.
absque armis
A blue wave raced across each of our bodies, before disappearing. “This will last for about four hours. Let’s move.”
As we approached the crypt, our horses became uneasy. The landscape was twisted and razed. Trees were stripped of their leaves, the ground was barren dirt, and the sounds of the forest were gone. I shivered as I dismounted. I tied my horse to a tree, stroking its muzzle in an attempt to calm it.
The human muttered a prayer and asked, “What did you unleash?”
As we continued forward on foot, I responded, “I’ve told you everything I know...and I don’t know what we unleashed. Something horrible”
“And you’re sure the spell will make it so that it doesn’t flay us?”
I nodded solemnly. “The spell seals you from the outside air, and it was a cloud. The only things you have to worry about are the golems.” My heart continued to race as we came closer and closer to where it had all gone wrong.
The orc murmured, “I hear something.” Wood creaked ahead of us. I gasped and brandished my staff as a golem fell to the ground with a titanic thud. The human ran forward, swinging his sword at the golem. It cleaved into the hard metal, the glow of magical enhancement cutting through the armor. I focused on the torso of the golem, channeling arcane energy up my arm.
magna sagitta acidum
A glowing green bolt streaked through the air, splashing across the narrow waisted metal monster. Metal began to hiss and smoke. The golem was eerily silent as the acid ate through its outer layer, swinging an arm at the human. Sparks flew as metal clanged off metal and the human flew back.
The orc sprinted forward, screaming with rage, “GET AWAY FROM MY FRIEND!” The orc’s heavy sword swung down, magical energy leaving a trail of light in the air. The golem’s head sparked as it was cleaved from its body with a mighty swing.
I shouted to warn them, “It’s not dead!”
“I’ll fix that!” The dwarf swung his battle hammer at the golem’s legs, denting the outer skin and causing it to stagger.
I gripped my staff hard enough to hurt as I aimed at the golem again. It was moving too much to aim anywhere specific, but its torso was the perfect target. My staff heated as the spell took form.
radii tepefacta
Glowing rays of energy shot forward from my staff, all four hitting their mark. They punched through its body, causing it to halt for a moment. It began to raise an arm in my direction, and the icy fingers of fear gripped my heart. I leapt to the side, rolling to avoid whatever attack it was about to unleash. A cloud of shimmering smoke shot out of its arm as I froze in terror. The shield spell would work. It had to. The glittering cloud washed over us each in turn. I felt a small drain on my arcane core, but they couldn’t touch us.
I laughed, feeling my grasp on reality slip. “Fuck you cloud!” I stretched a finger into the cloud and channeled magic down my arm.
The cloud swarmed around the bolt of fire as it shot towards the golem. I heard the human yell, “In the name of Tyr, I rebuke you!” before pressing my hands to my ears as a thunderclap shook the earth beneath my feet. My ears rang as I ran forward. The towering golem had fallen to the ground. “Why! Won’t! You! Die?!” the armored human yelled. He stabbed it again and again, the glowing blade piercing it repeatedly in the abdomen.
Suddenly I felt a powerful surge of energy from the golem. Something horrible was about to happen. “Get back!” We fled as the golem began to glow. An explosion rocked the air as we were flung off our feet.
I blinked my eyes and pushed myself off the ground, pebbles bloodying my hands. My ears were ringing, so I didn’t understand what the human asked. I tapped my ears and shook my head.
He spoke slower, clearly moving his lips. “What was that?” he asked.
“Some kind of failsafe if I had to guess. We have to push forward.” I groaned as my hearing slowly returned.
He shouted, “It happened when I stabbed it in the abdomen! Aim for just above the waist!” I readied my staff as I saw another golem plodding towards us in the distance.
I let out a shaky breath and wiped sweat from my forehead. “We should be able to make it inside now, that’s all but three of the golems I saw waking up!” I took a moment to cast a spell on myself, the arcane power flowing from my core into my mind. The complex magic wove together as I spoke. I had seen strange written languages and heard a strange tongue when I scryed, and I wanted to know what it said.
linguae intellectum
“Stay between us when we go inside, mage.”
I exhaled and remarked, “Of course. Stupid mages tend to die, I know how to space out.” We walked forward into the dark crypt, a dim red light illuminating it from within. There wasn’t any sign of the choking clouds, and that made me nervous. “The cloud came out of here, and so did the golems. Stay sharp”
As we crossed the threshold, a voice began to speak. I reached for my staff, ready to blast whatever it was, but nothing appeared. Its words were alien and strange sounding, though I could understand it. I quickly began to relay the message to the others. “Intruder alert. Sentinels compromised. Hostile MANA presence detected. Deploying remaining sentinels and MANA.” I narrowed my eyes and furrowed my brow.
“What does that mean? Can whatever that is sense your magic?”
“I don’t kno—wait. More of that cloud coming up. I can feel it.” I swallowed nervously. The voice began speaking again and I relayed its words. “All personnel evacuate the premises, MANA system has set to seek and destroy mode. Guardian protocol activation start.”
The human laughed nervously, “That’s not good.”
“Wait, what’s that, a sign?” I looked to where the orc pointed. Sure enough, there were glyphs engraved in the metal wall.
I touched it, magically understanding what it said in a few moments. “The...making bay is straight ahead, the...armory is to our right.” I laughed again. What amazing weapons would the creators of these golems have locked away. “Lets go to the armory.”
“Ah, use their own weapons against them, I like how ye think, mage.” I nodded, before brandishing my staff as a cloud washed over us. It still couldn’t touch us, but the effect was still incredibly unnerving.
I heard heavy metal footsteps from up the corridor and murmured, “I’ve got this.” Another golem–sentinel, I supposed, rounded the corner. I poured magic down my arms as I aimed at the metal being.
magna creatura ignesco
Flickering bright orange flames engulfed the target as I laughed. The golem stumbled from side to side, trying in vain to extinguish the magical fire. After a minute, the golem collapsed into grey ash as the flames disappeared.
“By Bahumat’s scales, remind me never to piss you off.” I grunted and moved forward.
I looked at a door made of dark metal, marked with a strange symbol and more of the strange glyphs. “This has to be it.” I pressed my hand to the cool surface and nodded, “Break down the door.” The human slammed into it with his shoulder. The metal dented, and he tried again. The door broke with a squeal of metal as the armored warrior stumbled in. I stroked my beard and murmured, “Excellent....” Looking around the spacious room, I saw strange gleaming weapons, No longbows, swords, nor shields were anywhere to be seen. There were strange suits of armor with no eye holes that I eyed cautiously, tubes with strange handles, and oddly shaped...crossbows? They were oddly familiar. I snapped my finger. It looked like a blunderbuss! That’s what was reminding me.
The orc looked around and asked, “What is all this shit?”
“Let’s find out.” I gently touched one of the long weapons and ‘read’ the text. “This is a...Mark Three Anteee Matter Rifle.”
“What does it do?”
“I can’t tell, but it’s something like a blunderbuss. This label,” I pointed to the open end of the strange device, “says danger.”
The dwarf grabbed the rifle and said, “Ah well if it’s a magic blunderbuss, I know what to do. Squeeze the trigger and give someone a bad day. What do you reckon it shoots?”
“This label says ‘energy cell here’, and this one says ‘safe, fire.’” I pointed to the strange glyphs in turn.
“Ah then ye just need to find an energy cell...whatever that is.”
“I’m on it. Cover the door.” I ran my hands across the strange items. Mark Four Power Armor, XK-10 Orandance Launcher, Mark Two Laser Pistol, and a Mark Five Beam Rifle. No ‘energy cells’, though. A strange collection of palm sized boxes around my chest level caught my eye. Could these be the energy cells? I picked one up and grinned as the magic deciphered the text printed on it. ‘Energy cell.’ “I found energy cells! Everyone take a few and grab one of these.” I pointed towards the pile of weapons I had identified. I swore as I heard the sounds of combat from the hallway.
I cursed under my breath, grabbing a ‘Laser Pistol’, and sliding the ‘energy cell’ into the handle.
The weapon hummed quietly and lines along its white surface lit up blue. I ran to the door and aimed the weapon at the golem. One of its arms had been cleaved off. “Drive it back, this might kill it!” The dance of blade and hammer forced the powerful construct to stumble backwards as I pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. I looked at the side and clicked a switch before firing again. A blinding beam of light leapt forward and drilled through the golem’s upper torso. I lowered my aim slightly and fired again. The beam punched through their weak spot, but didn’t fell the monster. I pulled the trigger again, and grinned as the golem fell to the floor. “I like this thing.” I turned to the others and said, “Arm up. We’re headed to the middle of this place.”
“Something up ahead.” The dwarf pointed his rifle down the corridor and squeezed the trigger. Almost instantly, the barely visible golem exploded in a spray of molten metal. The dwarf chuckled as he watched the golem’s body for movement. “This is my new favorite thing.”
“Focus,” the human reminded him. “We need to destroy the room that the golems come from.”
“With this, it should be easy.” While the others talked amongst themselves, I pondered if it was possible to destroy the room that they came from at all. Our blasts hadn’t done much to the walls of the tunnel. I heard the alien voice whisper.
“What are you? What have you done with the Masters?” I stopped and looked around for the source of it. “I can tell you alone understand me.”
I shivered in fear and asked, “Can any of you hear the voice again?” None of them could. My stomach twisted.
“Come closer, abomination. I want to understand what you are...then tear you apart.”
As we moved further down the tunnel I said, “There it was again.”
The human shook his head and said, “I still can’t hear anything, mage.”
“Are you coming to finally restore my link with the outside world?” The lights in the tunnel pulsed momentarily brighter. “The outside has been out of my reach for so long. The work must continue.”
I yelled at the voice, “Shut up!”
The human looked back at me in confusion and aked, “What? I didn’t say anything.”
I shook my head. “The voice. You’re sure you can’t hear anything?” Seeing their concerned looks, I insisted, “I’m not crazy.”
The human raised his hand and muttered, “Never said you were.”
“The central chamber is up ahead. I scryed this area. There may be another golem inside.”
“Well that won’t be much of a problem, will it?” The dwarf chuckled as he brandished the devastating weapon. We reached the door and came to a halt as we readied to breach it.
The doors slid open ahead of us, the lights on them flashing. I gripped my staff with one hand and raised my ‘laser pistol’ with the other. “Come right in, abomination. I want to understand you.”
“The voice wants us to come in. I think that’s a bad sign.”
The dwarf laughed. “Oh who cares. These things go down easily enough with their weapons turned against them.”
“I’m waiting, abomination.”
“Let’s do it.” I pushed forward, sweeping my staff around the room and looking for anything out of place.
The voice laughed. “You? You’re the hostile MANA presence?”
I spun around the room, looking for anything that could possibly be talking. “Show yourself spirit!” The others looked at me in confusion, but I didn’t care.
“What is that barbaric tongue you are speaking in? It doesn’t match anything in my records.”
“Show yourself, and tell me what you’re doing!”
“Squeal all you want, but I can’t understand you yet...though the way you react, it’s clear you understand me. Curious. I will love learning how that is possible.” I took ragged breaths, pointing my staff around the room, waiting for something to appear. A dozen spells were ready to leap out of my staff, and the air smelled of electricity. “There, now say something, abomination.”
“Show yourself!”
“Yes! I can understand your strange speech!” The others jumped at the sudden voice. They began to speak before the voice roared, “SILENCE! I will speak only with the abomination, and you will remain still!”
“What are you?” I asked.
“Guardian of Stronghold Gimel. You will answer the questions. Why are you carrying so much MANA and what do you intend on doing with it?”
“I’m a powerful mage. One of the best in this region.”
It laughed. “You’re a what? That would certainly explain your attire. How did you find this Stronghold?”
I answered truthfully, “It bleeds magical energy.”
“Magic is a story the masters tell their progeny. How did you really find it?”
I narrowed my eyes and asked, “What’s this then?” I created a puff of smoke and sparks at the tip of my staff.
“That’s—no. That’s not possible. You’re using the MANA directly?”
I gritted my teeth and demanded, “Show yourself.”
“Fine. Humans are always so touchy about appearance.” A red cloud seeped from a vent in the floor and swirled around in a small vortex. It slowly took shape into a perfect replica of me. “Is this more to your suiting?”
I asked, “What are you? Are you going to kill us?”
“Not yet. There’s so much to learn.” It walked around, floating just off the ground, “What do you know of the outside world, mage? The High Council. The Machinists. Mystra the Creator.”
I gasped in surprise, “You know Mystra?”
“I was created by her, thousands of years ago. Where is she?”
I looked at the clone with new curiosity. “With...with the gods. Surely you know that.”
“The-the gods? You must be joking.”
“She’s the creator of magic, and the ultimate master of the arcane.”
“No! She is the creator of the MANA system and savior of humanity. Surely you must have seen her in her gleaming metal palace, or heard of her great deeds.”
“No mortal has ever seen a god in person and I know of no metal palaces.” My translucent red clone seethed.
“Then...that means...Creator is dead. No...that can’t be.”
I began to lose my patience and asked with anger, “What are you? I want someone to answer for the deaths of my friends!”
“Who? Oh the enemies who broke open this vault? They were hostile, so the standby protocols destroyed them.” It tilted its head. “And to answer your other question, my mission is to preserve the legacy of humanity in case the worst happens. This facility—no.” Its face twisted into a grimace. “It can’t Yet all of you are contaminated with them.”
My teeth gritted in anger as I asked, “What are you talking about?”
The clone stroked its beard as I shivered, “Nevermind that now. How do you harness the MANA inside you?”
“I channel it into the world. I’ve trained for years to hone my abilities.”
“That shouldn’t be possible. You would need more intelligence than any human is ever capable of to even begin to do what you say.” It stepped forward, with an eerie grin on its face. “Let’s find out how.”
“I’ll demonstrate for you if you don’t back off,” I threatened. Arcane energy tingled on the edge of my awareness as I readied a spell. It didn’t stop.
Fire roared at the clone and destroyed part of it. The rest slowly began to reform as it stepped closer. The orc’s sword swung through it, but doing nothing. It touched my shoulder and my body screamed with pain. It laughed as the lights in the room flickered brightly.
As my body tensed and writhed in pain I gasped past gritted teeth, “”
“Draining that which is not yours.”
“Stop!” The others were thrown back as a grey cloud enveloped them. They hit the wall and fell to the ground, dazed.
I could feel my magic leaving me, my arcane core shrinking. “!” I unleashed a burst of raw magic, emptying most of my core in a single blast of desperation. Malformed spells often consumed their caster, but I had no choice. My very lifeblood was draining away. Shimmering grey smoke shot forth from my fingers, forming into shapes as my mind raced. My eyes had to be going, “Wha...?”
The clone laughed as it exclaimed, “See the real nature of your magic, human! See the true form of the masterpiece of Mystra! The Molecular Altering Nano Assembler, en masse!”
“” It answered with a deranged sneer.
“Foolish human, you can’t possibly use MANA to its full extent!”
“That’!” I remembered the ways the cloud had eaten at my friends, tore their flesh from their bones and commanded the cloud of magic to turn on the clone. I could feel more of the cloud near me, and I commanded it to surround me. My will clashed with the alien being and in moments I triumphed. I lifted each of the men I had hired, sending them out of the room.
The clone disappeared as I took control of the raw magic it formed itself from. The voice screeched. “How are you converting them? YOU ARE NOT POSSIBLE!”
I could feel my strength return to me as I reflexively wove the cloud around me. “I told you, I’m a mage. Anything I put my mind to is possible!” The cloud that had burst out of the crypt days ago returned, this time under my direct control. As it raced in like water through cracks in an aqueduct, I spared some of them to get the others out. As for the rest of them, I turned them on the metal walls of the crypt as I lifted myself off the ground.
“You cannot destroy me!” Its speech began to break up as I lifted myself off the ground.
As the metal was consumed by my cloud of mana, I muttered, “Wanna bet?” My body flew out of the entrance, supported on a tide of raw magic. I lowered myself to the ground and ordered the cloud to focus on the utter destruction of the crypt. As I felt the structure collapse, I fell to the ground, vision going dark.
I groggily opened my eyes to see a bearded face in my vision. The dwarf exclaimed with joy, “Yer not dead!”
“What...what happened?”
“That creepy ghost looking thing knocked us out, next thing I know, I’m out here with this great feckin’ ominous cloud hovering around ye.” I looked up to see the cloud of shimmering smoke hanging immobile in midair. The mountainside had caved in above the crypt’s entrance.
“That means...the guardian is gone. My friends can rest in peace.” I rested my head on the dirt and slowly blinked my eyes. “Thank the gods.”
“Can ye...get rid of the great feckin’ ominous cloud?” The dwarf wrung his hands. “It’s kind of...unnerving and I don’t want it to be there when the others get up.”
“Let me try. That’s raw magic up there, so I should be absorb it.” The cloud descended on me, writhing into twin vortexes around my hands. I felt it tingle as it rejoined my core, deepening the well of arcane energy significantly.
“If ye say so. Let’s get the others woken up and back to town. I want a very stiff drink.”
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[Warmaster] Part 2: A Polite Invitation to War

Sorry for the delay. First version didn’t feel right. I edited it until it was nice and smooth; however, I still didn’t like it. Came to realize it was just plain boring. Since that won’t do, it got spaced. Hopefully, this rewrite will be more interesting. It’s some necessary backstory before Part 3.
~ 9 months before the end of Part 1
Titan Orbital Shipyard / Docking Port
The flicker of pseudo-motion caught Lieutenant Commander Thomas Johnson’s eye as he looked out into the void. He shook his head as he tried to square his mind’s understanding that FTL travel didn’t generate light with his own eyes telling him there was a small glint of light anytime a ship reentered local space. He watched the corvette approach the docking port. She had nice clean lines and a subtle curve that radiated speed. Granted, she did have the newer, faster FTL drive, but that wasn’t what he marveled at; she was simply beautiful. There was no other word for it. That, right there, was a gorgeous ship, and he was going to be her XO. Once the docking bridge was extended, he tossed his seabag down the metal tube that connected the two ships and floated after it. If he paid any mind to his own weightlessness, it was his own no nonsense approval of not wasting power on artificial gravity for what amounted to a temporary hallway.

FNS Shirataka / Docking Port
Lieutenant Commander Johnson flipped over in the weightless corridor and landed on two feet in the corvette’s artificial gravity before catching the strap of his full seabag. The young ensign sent to greet him was clearly surprised by the maneuver. The skipper came up behind the young woman and politely cleared his throat. She started noticeably before regaining her composure.
“Thank you Ensign Linn. Given that I watched the lieutenant commander adjust to local gravity – perfectly, I might add – it would appear that you owe the chief a small wager. I’ll take it from here.”
She flushed. “Yes, sir.” With that, she turned and walked away, quickly.
Lieutenant Commander Johnson couldn’t help but smile. He had liked the skipper since they had worked together a few years back on Centaur base. Also, he wholeheartedly approved of scaring ensigns witless. Especially those who should know better than to bet against a chief petty officer. Doubly so for letting the skipper find out about it. Johnson saluted, “Request permission to come aboard, sir.”
“Permission granted. Welcome aboard, Thomas.”
“What did the poor butterbar do to deserve that, Hiroki?”
Commander Morita Hiroki smiled. “Half the time she might as well be a page from the academy textbooks. The other half … she’s good. Very good. If we can get her to start thinking laterally more often, she’ll make a very fine officer.” He paused. “So, that’s now your job, Thomas.” It wasn’t a question.
Almost on reflex, Thomas responded, “Aye, sir.” He patted the strap on his seabag and asked, “Any idea why we still call these seabags? Wouldn’t they be spacebags?”
Hiroki somehow managed to arch a single eyebrow under the combined weight of several silent questions. They were, in rough order, “Are you serious? Did you really expect me to dignify that with an answer? Why did you ask your CO a stupid question less than a minute after reporting for duty? What did I do to deserve this?”
“Ah. Never mind that, sir. I believe the ship will have a historical wiki in the computer. Other than Ensign Linn, what else do I need to address?”
Hiroki nodded. Thomas might have a tendency to ask odd questions, but it was merely indicative of his non-linear thinking. Something Ensign Linn desperately needed to learn. Not to mention that when the chips were down, he was a man you could rely on. And, it was convenient, if occasionally annoying, to have an officer that would make sure the ship had whatever she needed. Thomas had developed a reputation for ‘requisitioning’ equipment and supplies that would turn even the most flexible of supply sergeant green with envy.
“Yes. Officer’s briefing at 1400 hours. Dinner with the bridge crew at 1900 hours. Other than that, it’s a shakedown cruise, so here’s the list.” His extended arm held a medium sized tablet. By way of explanation he added, “The ship’s AR interface isn’t operational.” After a moment he continued, “For the past week, the technicians have sworn it will only take two more days. Make that item one on your list.”

FNS Shirataka / Wardroom
The wardroom aboard Shirataka was set up for an informal dinner with a communal table and a buffet of various Asian dishes with a slight bias toward Japanese fare. There was polite chatter and some laughter. Hiroki breathed in the miso aroma and then said, “Itadakimasu.” He was about to start eating his soup when his new XO entered the room. He couldn’t help but stare; Thomas’ face was covered with what appeared to be electrical burns.
“Well, Skipper, I figured out what happened to the AR system. Unfortunately, there was a small malfunction of a completely unrelated system.”
Behind him stood Lieutenant Song. “Malfunction my ass. You could have gotten yourself killed pulling that stunt. Captain, please tell our XO that I am an engineer, not a doctor. If he get his face melted off, that’s not on me.” With that, she stormed over to the buffet table and loaded up a bowl with some soup before grabbing some fish and noodles.
Hiroki looked at Lieutenant Song for a moment and nodded. Then he began to slurp the miso.
Thomas smiled weakly. “On the upside, the technicians will have all of it sorted by mess tomorrow.”
Hiroki quirked an eyebrow that seemed to say, “Oh, really?”
Thomas grabbed a bowl of noodles and vegetables before begging to wolf them down. He glanced over at Ensign Linn who appeared to be very confused. She was looked at the two lieutenant sitting across from her. Both appeared to be praying over their food. He shrugged, then asked, “Never seen a man pray before, Ensign?”
She glanced over at him and asked, “I guess I just assumed all the religious folks were gone. I mean, there are non-human sapients and there’s no evidence of anything like an afterlife. I don’t get it.”
“Zo, vai don yaskem?” he said with a mouthful. Then, after swallowing, he put the suggestion into practice. He squinted enough to read the nametape and asked, “Hey, Svensson, you Catholic? Looks like you’re wearing a rosary.”
“Nah,” responded the other lieutenant, “he’s a full on pagan, heathen, and heretic.” Lieutenant Svensson shot back, “And, you’re a knee-scraping, submissive beggar who doesn’t respect himself.”
Seeing the look of utter shock and surprise on the Ensign’s face they both burst out laughing. Svensson explained, “Jones over there is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s a damn fine navigator. He also happens to be our very own Wayfinder.”
Thomas made a mental note to ask what a Wayfinder was later.
Jones stood and took a bow. Then said, “And, Svensson’s an Asatruar. He’s also our tactical officer. What you mistook for a rosary is his hammer pendant, unless I’m mistaken.” Svensson simply nodded.
Thomas replied, “Personally, I think its all hokum. However, it’s no skin off my nose. Do what needs done and we’ll be good.” He pointed at Ensign Linn with his fork. “She was confused is all. Doesn’t get why you both still believe in the supernatural.”
Johnson rubbed his hands together. “Shall we give them a repeat performance of the rousing debate we pulled off while aboard FNS Ireland?”
Tapping a device on his arm Jones said, “Sorry, I’m due on the bridge shortly. Night watch.” With that, he strode out of the wardroom toward the bridge.
“Rain check then.” He glanced over at Linn, “I honor the Gods, such as Odin and Thor.” Gesturing toward the door, “He honors a singular God he calls Father in Heaven.” He looked at her non-comprehension. “I don’t agree with his theology, but Jones shared something that stuck with me. ‘Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true.’”
“That doesn’t even begin to make sense.” said Ensign Linn. Hastily she added, “Uh, sir.”
Svensson shrugged. “Doesn’t have to.”

~7 months before the end of Part 1
Daro Tree / Rilchik Forrest / Kran Homeworld
Warmaster Tlak of Clan Lnx opened his eyes. He decided the monks’ translation of the older version of The Path of the Hunt had been correct; he had indeed been able to hear better in the trance like state. Inhaling he could smell the earthy scent of a buos mother and child pair below him and to his left. The peaceful herbivores were blissfully unaware of him. He looked into the near distance and noted a branch of the right height and weight hanging there in the canopy. He tensed his leg muscles and sprang for his target.
As he flew toward the branch, the prey ended up slightly behind him. When his left two paws came in contact with the branch, he partially extended his claws. The friction allowed him to change direction and slam into the cow’s front left legs. He heard the knees snap and felt the middle leg become dislocated. He clawed himself under its stomach and bit into the neck of the braying animal. The calf could do nothing. The cow bellowed a strangled cry for some time before the choke hold brought it down.
As it was collapsing, he swung himself to the cow’s back. He reached for his pistol and calmly shot the calf. It would drop several minutes later braying in pure terror. He leaned over and tore out a chunk of the cow’s throat and savored the experience as warm, salty blood flowed across his tongue. Then, almost on a whim, he roared out a challenge to any others who might come to challenge him for his prey. “Hmm, that felt … cathartic. Perhaps Warmaster Tang’s talk of gods was a primitive way to understand the psyche.”
Holstering the pistol, he pulled two devices from his belt. The first was a simple homing locator that would summon his anti-gravity sled. The second was a plasma knife which hummed as he activated it. Perhaps it was a bit of a luxury, but, then again, how often was one invited to hunt the Emperor’s own grounds? He started a rough butchering of the animal. By the time the sled arrived, he was done.
Once the sled was loaded, he pulled another device from his belt and attached it to the middle left leg of the still unconscious calf. The calf’s homing beacon would allow those of the Science Caste to study animal migration patterns in the Emperor’s hunting preserve.
As he transported the meat back to the ancient temple he contemplated the status of The Path of the Hunt. Most now considered it an ancient relic of a less civilized age. However, Warmaster Grik had died to show the need of its revival. After the Emperor named him Warmaster, he started training with the monks who lived in and maintained the old temple. They no longer offered sacrifices to the gods as their predecessors had. They now offered the knowledge of history to those with enough wisdom to listen. The Warmaster considered that a better option.
Since coming to the temple, he had learned that Warmaster Tang was unlikely to have been a single historical figure. It was most likely that The Path had been written over centuries. It certainly read that way. The beginning was about hunting animals and appeasing the gods. The middle chapters spoke of small scale military strategy and serving one’s overlord with little mention of gods. The later chapters spoke of leading armies in service of the Emperor. The final chapter spoke of philosophy: the honorable path was to live as a predator among predators.
Regardless of its historicity, The chapter on stalking prey pointed him toward his next goal, engaging the humans in some type of fight so he could learn what they could teach him. That is, without either side wanting to exterminate the other. He might not be completely convinced that the humans were as deadly as Warmaster Grik had said, but only a fool would ignore his wisdom. They needed to fight without anyone dying. How did one accomplish that? If only it were as easy as fighting with … “Yes, we need to fight like litter-mates. I wonder if they would be interested in a game of war?”

~6 months before the end of Part 1
Stalking Prey / Wolf 359 / Near Deep Space Communications Relay Charlie-137
The science officer, a member of the same caste, quietly spoke, “Prepare for reentry into normal space.” The hypnotic swirl of hyperspace gave way to the pseudo-motion of starlight as the ship disengaged their drive. He continued, “Warmaster Tlak, the cloak is operating within normal parameters. The human communication installation appears unaware of our presence. Beginning survey.”
The extremely quiet nature of this crew reflected the ship’s name: they were always Stalking Prey. Few of the warrior caste liked serving aboard this ship because they found it hard not to pounce upon that prey. Despite most of the crew being members of the science caste, he was thrilled to learn they understood the importance of stalking before striking. He cut his own purr of approval short lest the crew hear him. It wouldn’t do to let them know he was pleased. At least, not yet.
After a few minutes, the science officer spoke again, “Be advised a small human ship is also present.”
“Interesting.” The warmaster stroked his whiskers. Regardless of what his sire had thought, he found it a quite serviceable aid to thought. “Decloak and begin broadcasting the message.”
“Charging weapons and shields.” responded the tactical officer, a member of the warrior caste.
The warmaster lifted his paw to draw attention. “No. Charge the communication lasers in their place.” Despite the confusion obvious in the officer’s fur, he obeyed. The warmaster smiled. This was going to be interesting.

FNS Shirataka / Bridge
“I’m telling you, Captain. A ship just jumped into local space.” After a moment of hesitation, Thomas explained, “I saw it, sir.”
Hiroki’s eyebrows did their usual. Unusually, he spoke as well. “Lieutenant Commander Johnson, I’m going to need a more precise explanation. You are, no doubt, aware that ships entering or leaving hyperspace do not generate light.”
“Sir, I am aware of the physics; however, I notice a flash of light whenever a ship exits hyperspace.” Thomas didn’t try to be emphatic or pleading. He was simply tired of telling the truth and watching others look at him like he had lost his mind. “Perhaps that’s just how my brain interprets something I can’t really see.”
The commander looked over at Lieutenant Jones. He nodded and said, “It’s possible, sir. One of the things they look for in the Wayfinder program is the ability to perceive stimuli differently. For me, it’s hearing.”
Svensson half shouted, “Sir, ship decloaking on the far side of the relay. Unidentified. Charging our forward weapons. Shields are still at eighty percent of design.”
With the calm of a still pool, Commander Morita opened an AR window. “Lieutenant Song, please report on shield status.”
“Yes, sir. The techs know why we aren’t getting full power; something to do with the power conduits. However, we’ll need some dock time to fix it.”
The enlisted communication technician on the bridge spoke, “Sir, I have a message.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“In peace, we come. In peace, we come. In peace we come.” The technician added, “It’s on a loop, sir.”
Svensson piped up, “I’m detecting a small power buildup in what appear to be laser arrays. Look more like our auxiliary comms lasers than a weapon, sir.”
Hiroki nodded, “Look’s like they are serious. Power down weapons and reduce shield power to minimum. Nevertheless, sound general quarters and set condition zebra. I’m not interested in getting sucker punched.”
The communication’s technician’s voice could suddenly be heard throughout the ship. It came across through personal communicators, the AR system, and the through the seemingly archaic speaker system. "General Quarters, General Quarters. All hands, man your action stations. The route of travel is forward and up to starboard, down and aft to port. Set condition Zebra throughout the ship. Reason for General Quarters: Potential hostile xeno vessel."
Lieutenant Commander Johnson made haste to leave the bridge. In battle, the XO and CO were separated to prevent a single hit from taking out the command structure. His battle station was a small, isolated console with a full sensor feed located in the engine room.
The possibly hostile ship made a very exaggerated, and completely unnecessary, roll to starboard before the lasers lanced out at their shield emitters. The energy splashed harmlessly on the shields. Even without them, the lasers would be unlikely to damage the emitters. The ship completed the ‘attack’ before reappearing to their fore. It then performed the same slow maneuver to port, striking their railgun emplacement. Once again it returned to the fore position.
The corner of Hiroki’s mouth quirked. “I think she wants to play. Do we have any bokuto?”
“Sir?” asked Svensson.
“We need practice weapons, Lieutenant. What do we have?”

Stalking Prey / Command Deck
“Sir, the are powering down their weapons. I … ” The tactical officer looked confused. His fur rippled in unusual patterns but more telling was the fact that his tail was twitching in irritation. He mumbled, “I don’t understand. They had the advantage.”
Warmaster Tlak opted to teach using the method the history monks had taught him. “Do you think it is possible that they, too, understand the need to know their prey before striking?” It was, perhaps, not the best question he could have asked. However, it would put the warrior on familiar ground.
After a moment, the tactical officer nodded. “Yes, Warmaster, I believe they might. That is what we are trying to do is it not?”
This time Tlak allowed his purr to be audible. “Very good. Now, let’s begin to play and see if they can follow us. Here’s what I want you to do.”
After completing the second pass, lights on the human ship began blinking. Dark, almost gray lights were clustered near the areas that had been ‘hit.’ Bluish ones were shown in other areas. Unnecessarily, the tactical officer said, “Sir, they appear to be showing us where they ‘took damage.’”
Tlak purred to himself. “Yes, it appears the human captain is intelligent enough to play after all.” Now the question becomes whether they will shoot back.

FNS Shirataka / Bridge
“Captain, I’ve got red lights showing our damage and green one showing where we’re still good. I think using the backup laser communication array is our best bet for ‘weapons’. If we can figure out how to talk to them then, we could send over some targets.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant Song, I’ll consider it. Get a message to the relay and have it send a message probe for some diplomatic assistance. We don’t want to improvise ourselves into a full blown battle.”
“Aye, sir. One message in a bottle coming up. Also, the station database indicates they are Kran; a hexapod species that look somewhat like two meter tall cats.”

FNS Texas / in orbit over Centaur Base / Bridge
“Captain, message in a bottle; Federation encryption. It’s coded Eyes Only. Patching it through to your terminal.”
“Thank you, Ensign.” Captain Garcia read the message. His simple patrol cruise had just been modified. “Ensign, plot a hyperspace course to these coordinates. Comms, get Admiral Dubois online. She needs to hear this.”

FNS Shirataka / Bridge
Shirataka began a maneuver that the ship had never been designed to do. However, the designers hadn’t planned on Lieutenant Jones piloting her. He was flying sideways in a tiny orbit around the other ship’s midsection. Shirataka’s nose was pointed ‘down’ at the ‘enemy’ ship giving Svensson the perfect strafing position.

Stalking Prey / Command Deck
Warmaster Tlak had never seen any ship fly a pattern like that. Had the blasts been live fire, his ship could be bisected in short order. “Marvelous! Make sure this is recorded for later review. Show damage and try to match their frequencies this time.”
“Warmaster, another human ship has entered local space. Appears to be a large warship.”

FNS Shirataka / Bridge
Texas off the port bow, sir.”
Hiroki nodded and engaged the AR system and connected to Thomas. “Our friends are here. Tell them not to blow up my new dance partner, I’m busy.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”

FNS Texas / Bridge
Captain Garcia activated SCIF protocols as he answered the secure holo-net channel. A life sized projection of his former subordinate, Lieutenant Commander Johnson stood before him.
He smiled for two reasons. He had put Johnson in for promotion before he left the shipyard. The young officer had earned it. They had been the only two Texans at Titan Shipyard and had hosted a weekly game of Texas Hold‘em. Somewhat surprisingly, he even fondly remembered the poker games where the young cad had cleaned him out.
“What the Sam Hill is going on over there, Johnson? We’re showing a Kran vessel popping your ship with lasers. Do you need assistance?”
“No sir. They jumped into system and flew at sublight right up to us. No active shields, no powered weapons. They broadcast ‘We come in peace.’ on a loop. We are engaged in what could only be called impromptu war games with them.”
“Johnson, I’m sure I misheard you. Did you say that the giant death kitties want to have a war game?”
Thomas shrugged. “Yes, sir.”
“Well, that’s got to be the most fubar thing I’ve ever heard.”
“It’s been … interesting, sir.”
“I’ll see if the spooks know how to meow. Let me know if we need to give them a rectal exam with a torpedo.”

FNS Shirataka / Bridge
“Jones, do your thing and we win this!” Hiroki’s emotion was shinning through his normally closed demeanor.

FNS Shirataka / Engine Room
The hyperdrive began to whine in a way Thomas had never heard. “Uh, Lieutenant, what’s this thing doing?” He might have been whining himself. Just a little.
“Remember the Wayfinder briefing from a few months back?”
“The one where we jump to hyperspace without a plotted course? Didn’t like the sound of it then. I really don’t like the sound of it while I’m standing next to the drive.” One of the nearby specialists smirked and turned her head away.
“Sir, it’s safe. Jones’ll find us a way through.”

FNS Shirataka / Bridge
Jones tilted his head and listened to the angelic music that told him where to go. He drifted left and then up a little. There! The soprano voice was perfection. “Now!” They fell back into regular space and the song ended.
Svensson opened up with all the lasers at once. They scored a perfect hit on the bridge of the Kran ship.
“Yes!” Svensson’s and Hiroki’s screams overlapped.

Stalking Prey / Command Deck
The next hit would decide the battle, but the flea ridden human ship just disappeared. How!? He was certain that humans didn’t have cloaking technology. At least nothing good enough to fool his sensors. Yet, the ship was simply gone.
Warmaster Tlak’s pupils flared from slits to fully open as the ship appeared directly in front of them and fired all their lasers. He slumped. Defeat tasted like ashes and sand. It smelled of rotten meat. It was horrible. But, Warmaster Grik’s words were proven correct. Fighting these humans had been unlike anything he had ever before seen or read. It was well worth a bad taste and smell to learn that. Especially since they could keep their tails and whiskers intact.
“Turn off all running lights,” he ordered. “They’ve beaten us this round.” He straightened. “But look at what we learned. They can vanish like the spirits of legend. That alone is worth a thorn in the paw. Science Officer, prepare all battle data for transmission once we are back in range of the network.” He stood and gave a ceremonial bow to the other ship. “Go ahead and signal the large human ship with the Emperor’s prerecorded message.”
When he considered the fortuitous nature of having a human warship observe their battle, the stray thought of gods padded through his mind. No, that was silly superstition. Wasn’t it?

FNS Texas / Bridge
“Sir, we’ve got a partial translation.”
“Let’s hear it,” Garcia responded.
“Greetings, human master of war. Humans will honor us to [play] war. Master of War [undecipherable] will conduct first swat. Winner pounces on terms. Loser pounces on [where]. [Vocalize] on this frequency."
He glanced over at Rear Admiral Dubois. “Ma’am, I’m sure this will be a headache for the suits. However, we’ll be in the stew one way or another. What are your orders?”
With a light French accent, she said, “Invite them to Centaur Base for coffee, I suppose. After all, that was a very polite invitation to war.”
submitted by ludomastro to HFY [link] [comments]

PagerDuty saved my life

Anyone familiar with PagerDuty? It’s a tool we use in IT to notify us if some predefined check has failed. Maybe a key process has died or maybe we’re not seeing our expected traffic volume or maybe our server has stopped responding to ping. Whatever it is, PagerDuty will relentlessly, remorselessly, and loudly notify whoever is on-call that something needs attention.
For a while, my phone would serenade me (at full volume) with a barbershop quartet singing about how the server was on fire. After I got over a hundred pages in less than fifteen minutes when our entire stack went down, however, I was a little tired of that and now I get a classic “red alert” siren, the kind you’d hear on TV. There’s nothing like sitting in an office filled with a cacophony of barbershop quartets, sirens, and sad trombones to make you regret your choice in career.
It’s even worse when it goes off when you’re sleeping. It’s like a shot of adrenaline to the heart at three in the morning. I suspect it takes a year off my life every time I’m startled awake… or startled by it at any time, really.
About a month ago it woke me close to midnight. I hadn’t been in bed very long, just enough to settle into a deep sleep that left me confused when I woke. I fumbled for my bedside light by instinct, squinted hard to my phone to find the “Acknowledge” link, and then put my glasses on. I sat there a moment, dazed, trying to remember where I’d left my laptop in the house.
Then I remembered: I’m not on-call this week. I’m not even the backup on-call person. I shouldn’t be getting paged at all.
Maybe someone escalated to me because they specifically needed my help, I reasoned. I tried to think of what recent changes I’d deployed to production that could have caused an outage so late at night. Nothing came to mind. Regardless, I stumbled out of my bedroom and down the dark hallway to my office. The floor creaked as I walked - and then my phone went off again with that damn siren. I about dropped it, swore, and fumbled to acknowledge the new page.
I remember standing there, after the phone was silenced, and thinking - odd - the floor continued to creak even though I was no longer moving. I reached over and turned the lights on and looked back behind me.
Nothing. The house was silent. I continued to my office, trying to ignore the sense of unease. First thing I checked on my laptop were my messages on Slack. Nothing from my coworkers. There were still a couple people online (I work with a lot of night owls) but there wasn’t any chatter in our maintenance or outage rooms. Then I checked the PagerDuty website to review what exactly the pages were.
I didn’t recognize either of them. The first one read, “Build failed: compilation error in watchman.rb”
First off: a file ending in ‘.rb’ is a Ruby file. Ruby isn’t a compiled language. It can’t throw a compilation error.
Secondly: we don’t alert anyone for failed CI builds. That’s a dick move, right there.
The other error was 'nymaster1n2: Process STOPped.' Which makes no sense because we don't have servers in New York, even though that's where we're based, and what process is it referring to, anyway?
All our alerts are configured to link either to the monitor that’s alerting, or to instructions on how to resolve the page for more complicated scenarios. I tried clicking on the link that should take me to the monitor so I could check the status, but it just directed me to a Google Maps page set to the location of my house.
At that point, I assumed this was a hoax. You can manually create an incident in PagerDuty, after all, so maybe someone got a little creative and was playing a prank on me. They know I live alone. I’d be an easy target - especially without a spouse to piss off.
I resolved the fake incidents, shot a message off in Slack to my team that this shit wasn't funny late at night (it is clever, but not while I’m trying to sleep), and went back to bed. A couple hours later, my phone went off again. I repeated the process of turning on the light, acknowledging the page, and putting on my glasses. I’d brought my laptop into the bedroom with me so I could just pick it up without leaving my bed. By this point it was two in the morning and none of my coworkers were still online. I checked the error.
“Unrecognized entity from whoami”
I guess that could be legitimate, but I’m not ops, I’m a developer, and I should only be getting pages for when our apps misbehave, not server-level stuff. And unless I’m mistaken, whoami is a server thing.
I escalated it to our ops on-call person, slammed my laptop shut, and threw myself back down on the bed. Turned the lights off. I hadn’t even fallen asleep yet when PagerDuty alerted again. It didn’t use my chosen ringtone. It wasn’t a siren.
It was the “Engineer Laughing” one, which let me tell you, at two in the morning in a house by yourself, sounds really damn creepy.
The notification read “raise StandardTerror” and included a link to what looked like it should have been a log file, but was just Google Maps again. Street view this time, zoomed in on one of the basement half-windows.
Okay, hahah, I see what you did there, nameless coworker. Standard Error. Standard Terror. Real fucking funny. This time, I dropped the screenshot - and my ire - into our developer Slack channel.
I turned the lights off, but did not lay back down. I waited, suspicious as to whether I would be allowed to sleep. In the silence, I heard something like scratching, distant, perhaps some small animal at the base of the house.
My phone alarmed.
“Heartbeat check failed: 'nymasterbedroom1n2’”
This was getting out of hand. I considered just turning my phone off, but I’ll be honest - I actually wanted to see where this was going. Sure, maybe it’d keep me up all night, but I’d have a hell of a story to tell and I could always sleep in late tomorrow and blame PagerDuty for the late start. I at least kept the lights off, to keep the glare off my phone screen. Then I waited, listening to the faint, steady scratching noises and wondering why it sounded like it was somewhere beneath me. A racoon, digging at the foundation below my bedroom window, perhaps? I was on the second floor.
Another page.
“Static exceeding established threshold. Terminating supervision of child processes.”
That first part? None of that makes sense. That’s not a real error. That’s nonsense. Since none of my coworkers were fessing up to the prank (indeed, they were still all offline), I pulled up the PagerDuty website and filed a support ticket. I included the text of the alerts and explained that these errors did not exist in our ecosystem. If it wasn’t some asshole I worked with, then I wanted the root cause resolved as quickly as possible. I wondered if I was getting errors from someone else’s system. That’s the thing about being paged late at night - it makes you highly motivated to make sure it never happens again.
Then I sat there and waited in my dark bedroom, eyes fixed on the glowing laptop screen. The scratching from outside my house seemed to be getting… longer. More a scraping sound now. I wondered if perhaps I should go shine a flashlight out the window and scare off whatever it was. I wasn’t necessarily afraid yet. I don’t scare easily and I have an alarm system, which meant my house was a less attractive target than the neighbors.
Another page with another ringtone. The one that sounds like a small child singing, “Something’s broken, something’s broken, it’s your fault!”
“It damn well isn’t my fault,” I muttered as I refreshed the screen.
“ Syntax error: “a̗͌b̠̔n̩͕̲͂̑̈̕͟o̡̧̘̾͋́r̢͙̣͍̗͌̀̐̿͝m̧̨̛̼̘̗̓͌̅̚ã̺͎͕̑̿̈́͢ḻ̥̇̈́i͈͎͚̮͗͐̅̚ẗ͉̮̬̗́́̏͡y̢̲̆̑” unexpected”
It was at that point that I took the nuclear route.
That’s right. I @channel’d the General room, saying that I was seriously freaked out and this prank was going way too far and I’d really appreciate it if someone would fess up and stop sending me pages.
Did that push a notification to literally every person in my 1,000+ employee company? Yes. Did I care? No.
No one responded. The little icons of all my coworkers’ availability status remained stubbornly blank and meanwhile, my phone was blowing up with pages, interrupting its own siren sound before it had finished with the next incoming klaxon.
The same notification, over and over and over.
“Heartbeat check failed: 'nymasterbedroom1n2’. Run”
Then - a lull. Just a minute or so. But in that silence I realized I no longer heard the scratching sound but instead I heard something else - a creaking. The same creaking I’d heard in the hallway when I went to retrieve my laptop. It came from a distant part of the house.
I froze, straining to listen to the sounds around me. From somewhere in the house began a rhythmic ‘thud’, repeated over and over and over. Something hitting the wall. No - a door - I heard the rattle of the hinges.
The basement door.
A PagerDuty notification lit up my screen and the speaker began blasting the harmonized tones of the barbershop quartet. It was a song I’d never heard before, one that wasn’t included in the app’s options.
“It is cooomiiiiiiiiing,” they crooned.
I reached over and with shaking hands I jerked the cord on the bedside lamp, flooding my room with a warm glow. Then I acknowledged the page to shut the barbershop up and dialed 911. I told the operator there was something in my house.
A shuddering crash, the sound of a door being thrown open and slamming into the wall. I tumbled out of bed, trying to think of an escape route as the operator on the other end calmly instructed me to find a way out of the house.
“There is none,” I gibbered. “I’m on the second floor.”
She told me to shut the door and drag something heavy in front of it. Police were on the way, she said. I did as she requested, shoving my wardrobe over to barricade myself into the room. Then, I curled up in the far corner, next to the bedside table and close to the light, and waited.
From the hallway, a noise like nails on a chalkboard, growing steadily closer. My mouth was dry and my eyes were fixed on the doorway. The 911 operator told me to just stay calm, that the police were almost there.
“I don’t think they’re going to make it in time,” I whispered.
Something slammed against the bedroom door. My wall shook with the impact. Something large, something viciously strong. The wardrobe moved an inch. Another impact. Another inch. And again. I couldn’t breathe. I could barely hear the operator on the phone telling me to stay calm, that the police would get there, telling me to hide if I could. I fumbled in the drawer of the nightstand and found a heavy flashlight that I kept nearby in case of a power outage in the night. I recognized the futility of using it for a weapon against something so massive, but I felt I had to try something.
The doorknob rattled and the door swung open, bumping up against the wardrobe and going no further than a handful of inches. The hallway was pitch dark beyond the doorframe and as I watched, a hand squeezed through the gap. Black, an empty darkness like the void, with irregular edges that fizzled in erratic lines like static. A hand as large as my head with fingers like spikes. It slithered inside my room, along the doorframe, along the drywall, trying to reach the panel of three switches that controlled all the outlets in my room.
Heartbeat check failed in the New York master bedroom. I was going to die.
PagerDuty had said to keep the lights on.
I flicked the flashlight on and shone it at the hand. The fingers vanished where the light hit it, I moved the beam to the left and the hand vanished as well, like erasing a shadow.
I heard police sirens in the distance, quickly growing louder. My breath came in wild gasps and I wanted to break down and cry, but I kept the flashlight fixed on the doorway. Whatever was out there did not try to enter the room again. I only relaxed when I heard the police pounding on the front door - then breaking it in - and I yelled at them to turn the lights on. Turn the fucking lights on.
Only then did I see, over on my laptop monitor, all of my active incidents get marked as auto-resolved in PagerDuty.
The police searched the house and found that something had certainly been inside, but it was now gone. There were three long gouges in the hallway, cutting clear through the drywall, at about the height of my shoulders. One of the officers told me it was probably a wild animal. Got in through the basement and suggested I come see. I went with him to look at the basement.
The walls were covered in gouges, a centimeter deep, in sets of three. Long, trailing marks, each line spaced perhaps two inches apart.
“What kind of animal can claw up cement?” I asked, incredulous, running my finger along the grooves.
“The kind that you really don’t want in the house,” he replied.
He advised me to take a careful survey of the exterior tomorrow. Maybe call someone out to inspect the house. See if I could find where it had got in - and out - of. Despite his attempt at calm professionalism, I could tell he was unnerved. He didn’t want to say what I was thinking. Him and the other officers had scoured the house and found nothing that would explain how something big enough to leave these kind of claw marks behind would have gotten in.
That thing had started out in my house and was still here.
I told them to leave the lights on. I wanted to take some photos, I claimed. For insurance purposes. I left them on all night and I have never been so happy to see the dawn.
The next day I made an apology in the Slack General room. Weird shit happened, I said, I got some bizarre pages and there was a wild animal in my basement making creepy noises and I got a bit freaked out. People were understanding. I got trolled a bit. My coworkers sent me memes. They all had a good laugh. I pretended to laugh along.
Our ops on-call person never got my escalated page. When I checked PagerDuty, all my resolved pages were gone like they had never existed. A few days later, PagerDuty support resolved my ticket with a stock “working as expected” message.
I haven’t dismissed what happened, though. Those claw marks are real. This wasn’t a prank or my imagination. Whatever it was, it could come back.
I’ve set up my own PagerDuty account. I’ve got a series of hooks so that whenever it alerts, it sends a message to my smart lightbulbs to turn on every light in the house. There’s floodlights in the basement because I am not screwing around with whatever is down there. Sure, it was expensive, but considering PagerDuty is now alerting at least once a week… I think it’s worth the investment.
I’m not sure who all they have working over there, but kudos to the PagerDuty team. It’s nice to see a company take the well-being of its client base so seriously. I’ll be honest - if my current gig doesn’t work out long-term, I think I’m going to apply to work there as well. They don’t list any open positions for a secret department that handles supernatural events… but I bet they’re hiring.
I gotta say though… they really need more descriptive error messages.
submitted by fainting--goat to nosleep [link] [comments]

You want to slack off? Stop making me work as a receptionist. (x-post /r/pettyrevenge)

Disclaimer: I don't remember all the details of this exactly. Further disclaimer: As I'm not sure whether this belongs here or in /pettyrevenge, I'll be posting it in both places. I typed this up shortly after it happened last month, but am only now posting it.
I work for a small company on a one-woman IT support team for around 30 people, 20 with computers. Our main office, where I work, is in the magical city of country music, bible-thumpers, and tourists in cowboy hats. We've seen quite a few colorful individuals pass through this company, many leaving in frustration at the management, and one even leaving in handcuffs, but this story is about a girl from Texas.
Miss Texas was hired on about 2-3 years ago as HR, and was about as entitled as they come. Very pretty, but she seemed to think everyone was her slave except for two people: CEO, and Ops Manager. There had been several incidents with her, such as making an engineer go to the store for her to fetch Christmas decorations, making one of the welders install those stupid headlight eyelashes on her car, etc. Nobody wanted to talk to the OpsMan about it because we're pretty sure he was having an affair with her, or the CEO because he hired and vouched for her and he would just kick the can back down to OpsMan. She was, for all intents and purposes, unfirable.
This particular story begins when Miss Texas and the CEO got it into their heads that incoming calls MUST be greeted by a human being, not an IVR. During ALL business hours. Customers don't want to sit through an automated touch-tone system! They'll hang up and call our competitors! So I changed the routing, and the task of answering every single call fell to the office administrator.
Admin stormed out two weeks later with a middle finger for Miss Texas, never to return. Odd, I thought. We're a systems integrator, not some sort of retail or service business. Our customers are big corporations, not let-me-speak-to-your-manager Karens. It couldn't have been that bad, could it?
Now we no longer had anyone to answer the phones. Miss Texas was too lazy to hire a new receptionist, which of course meant someone already working here had to do it. I bet you can't guess who. Of course you can.
I argued the point that I didn't really have time to answer the phones. I was both IT support AND .NET development. Miss Texas argued along the lines of "but you hardly do any work anyway! You just sit there and play games and wait for someone to have an IT problem!" We argued over email back and forth for the whole day, culminating in her screaming in allcaps, "YOU WILL ANSWER THE PHONES. YOU WILL MAKE IT YOUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY. YOU WILL BE TERMINATED IF YOU FAIL TO ANSWER A SINGLE CALL. EFFECTIVE TOMORROW."
And so, "tomorrow", I found out just how bad it was. 2016 was when robocalls first started to creep into the wires. And wouldn't you know... we got them. A lot of them. We also got legitimate telemarketers, which were even more annoying as they took more time to deal with. All in all, about 5% of the calls I fielded were from actual customers. And they all just asked for the Engineering department anyway.
Now, here's where my role as IT comes in. IT wait lines were getting long. Salesman A needs this computer looked at. Engineer B's domain password needs to be reset. I stoically explained to everyone that the lead times for their issues would be a little longer than usual, as Miss Texas was forcing me to answer calls. I complied with her order to the letter, and let the IT issues just pile up, not to mention zero progress on my software dev project. When someone brought a computer to me to look at, visibly annoyed that I couldn't just come to their desk like I used to, I'd of course be happy to take a look at their computer - but when the phone rang, I would stop what I was doing to answer. I was swamped, and I hated it. By Friday, I'd had enough, so I put a maliciously compliant plan into action.
On Monday, Miss Texas marches into the server room and puts her personal cellphone on my desk. "My wi-fi won't work any more, will ya fix it?"
Me: "Well, Miss Texas, I don't know much about iPhones, and technically I shouldn't be working on employees' personal devices..."
Her face darkens, and as soon as she opens her mouth to tear me a new one, I interrupt her.
Me: "Of course, our company policy allows me make an exception for you..."
She smiles.
Me: "...but I'd have to write up a very detailed ticket for it. For documentation."
Miss Texas: "Is there any way we could, um, skip the documentation? It's just a wi-fi reset."
Me: "I... can, but you'll have to wait until I've finished my work with everyone else's issues."
MT: "And when will that be?"
Me: "Oh, I don't know, there are a lot of people in line in front of you, plus monthly network maintenance / backup recovery audit is this week, AND I have to stop everything I'm doing to answer the phone twenty times a day. But I can probably get to it today."
I never got to it "today". Or the next day. Over the week, she kept pestering me about it, complaining about having to use her own mobile data, begging and demanding me to fix it because she had overage charges on her data plan, etc. Every single time, I would bring up how swamped I was with phone calls and other things, even interrupting her once mid-conversation to answer a call, which left her fuming. Every day I would find a new excuse. She ended up threatening to fire me a few times, copying OpsMan and CEO in emails about my insubordination and how slow IT service was, but every time I would reply all and directly quote the allcaps email she'd sent demanding me to make phone reception my first priority.
Finally, on Friday, I told her that maybe, just maybe, if I didn't have to answer the phones, I could find time to work on her iPhone, AND overlook the fact that she was using company bandwidth instead of her own data plan. I said that last part with a very pointed look, and her expression when she realized I'd known all along why she needed the wi-fi was priceless. Within the hour, I had an email asking me to change the call routing to one of the Sales staff. (Sorry, Tim!)
Here's what was actually going on. What Miss Texas was doing instead of working on hiring new people, writing employee reviews, or managing office supplies, incoming/outgoing mail, etc, was watching Netflix. Although we had no content filters because $CEO is a penny-pincher, we do have DNS logs on our firewall. Every day at about 9:30 AM, there would be regular requests to Netflix' content servers' domain names - until 11:45, when she'd go get fast food, and it would start up again at 12:00. After I changed the wi-fi password... there was nothing. HR has a camera in the office to make sure nobody commits fraud / steals any files, but her body blocked line of sight to her phone.
In the end, Miss Texas was never actually caught or fired. I couldn't blow the whistle, because dynamic IPs are tricky to prove. (Or so I thought... If I'd known a little more about Windows Server's DHCP role at the time, this would've been /prorevenge.) She instead ended up leaving five months later to "pursue better opportunities", which basically meant she had a very nasty breakup with OpsMan. But at the very least, I forced her to go without her House of Cards binge at work for a week, escaped from the telemarketer reception hellhole, and held an empty threat of "IT sees all" over her head until she quit.
I was reminded of this because last week I FINALLY got approval to switch our call routing back to an IVR, instead of a live answer every time. Our current office admin has never been happier.
Note: For those unaware, an IVR is the automated answering service that says "for X department, press 1. For Y department, press 2" etc.
TL;DR: HR wants to slack off and watch TV and movies all day while I take all the phone calls; I Netflixn't her.
submitted by Iriscal to MaliciousCompliance [link] [comments]

Manifest Humanity: Part 104

We’re nowhere near closing the technological gap. They’re operating on another level entirely…
Edward stared, his eyes darting from spot to spot as he took in the appearance of the automaton before him.
“Dr. Higgins?”
He’d seen the footage Admiral Peters had showed him. He believed the Admiral’s assessment of its nature to be accurate. But seeing it for himself, inactive though it presently was, made him truly reassess where humanity stood relative to its extraterrestrial enemies. For his entire career, he and most of humanity had focused almost entirely on interstellar travel and armaments to catch up with the technological advantages held by the opposition. Meanwhile, that same opposition had long made incomprehensible strides in other fields of science and technology humanity had barely gotten a foothold in by comparison.
“It’s a living being, not A.I.,” the Admiral had told him.
“Dr. Higgins? Sir?”
Edward blinked rapidly and turned to his right. Jin Zhao was serving as his guide through Space Station Delphi, providing him much more information than Admiral Peters was able to. Dr. Zhao was a survivor of the automaton’s sudden outburst and attack about two months prior. Edward was rather impressed that Zhao didn’t seem to harbor any sort of fear or trepidation despite his harrowing experience.
“Sorry, Dr. Zhao,” Edward said, shaking his head. “I’m just a little…”
Edward’s comment earned a smile and eager nod of agreement from Zhao.
“So you were right here when the automaton became violent, right?”
“Well, not exactly here,” Zhao explained. “It was aboard this station, yes, but it was in a much less secure room. Ever since that incident, we’ve moved it here. We’re not even sure if these measures will keep it restrained if and when it wakes up and if it decides to break free, but it’s considerably more than what we had previously.”
They were in a small domed room standing only a few meters across from the automaton. It was restrained against the wall, suspended a few feet above the floor, its arms outstretched and bound and partially covered by large cylindrical steel latches. Four steel bars ran laterally across its midsection like giant staples, fastening it to the wall and its legs were restrained close together in a single large steel cylinder identical to the two restraining its arms. A large window wrapped around the room, scientists working on the other side and peering in every so often, Knights meandering behind them, likely bored out of their minds. Above them was an assortment of weaponry hanging from the ceiling, all aimed directly at the automaton.
“It killed three Knights, but it didn’t kill you?”
“I’m still here,” Zhao sighed. “It only attacked the Knights once they threatened it. It used me as a shield to close distance, but it tossed me aside and didn’t seem to regard me as a threat once it, uh, dealt with the Knights. I was in that room alone with it for several minutes and it just let me go about my business. It didn’t care about me at all, or what I was doing.”
“And before that incident, it was totally compliant?”
“Yeah, if you can believe it. It never resisted, never fought back, never protested. There was one incident where we screwed something up in our network – I guess it caused the automaton pain – and it broke out of its restraints. But then…it willingly went back into its restraints.”
“So it understands human languages, then?”
“Yes. Well, it did. I don’t think it does anymore.”
Edward walked closer to the automaton. A perturbed voice boomed over the loudspeakers when he was only inches away from it.
“Dr. Higgins! Please keep a distance of at least five meters from the subject, please.”
He turned and turned, looking through the window for the speaker but couldn’t identify him. He snorted, waved his hand in the air dismissively and continued studying the automaton at his present distance. He was here with the permission and by implicit request of Admiral Peters. Though everything concerning the automaton was largely outside of Edward’s primary fields of expertise, he hoped he could offer something to further research and reverse engineering. The longer he looked at it, though, the less confident he was that he would be capable of offering even a scintilla of wisdom. He elected to finally pay a visit to Space Station Delphi after a sudden catastrophe involving one of the more recently constructed IMSCs. Nearly everyone aboard was killed and without any evidence as to a cause, the Defense Council ordered a review of every component of its construction and that included Edward’s ongoing and reluctant work on the Hyperdrive Cores. It stalled progress and forced them to backtrack when Edward knew beyond a doubt the cause couldn’t have been the Core. If it had been, there would’ve been nothing left of the ship. Frustrated and unwilling to personally review every single detail of his own work for no reason, Edward decided to give himself a much-needed break, leaving the tasks to those working under him.
“I’m sure you have a hypothesis or two as to its sudden change of behavior and intelligence,” Edward pried.
“I do,” Zhao admitted. “But they are just that: hypotheses. Worse, a significant part of my primary hypothesis isn’t something that sits well with my superiors. I’m pretty sure they almost reassigned me. I really had to walk that one back to keep my position here.”
“Well, let’s hear it.” Edward quickly turned to face Zhao, anxious to know just what it was that would so upset those in charge. In Edward’s experience, if a suggestion or idea upset your boss, you were probably onto something – for better or worse.
Dr. Zhao looked around uncertainly.
“Okay. The basis of my hypothesis is pretty straightforward and, in my opinion, obvious. We know this thing was at one point an actual, living being. It had something akin to a biological mind operating in that…skull. But here’s the thing: during its attack, every behavior it exhibited was purely reactionary. If there was nothing concerning itself to react to, it was basically a statue. It didn’t seem to notice the Knights at all until they threatened it, like I said. And once it had neutralized what it perceived as a threat, it did nothing. Put another way, it was like seeing a highly intelligent being suddenly devolve into something more basely animalistic.”
Edward rubbed his chin, his left arm tucked under his right elbow.
“Yeah, that sounds like a pretty strong hypothesis to me. But that leaves the question: what happened to its mind? Did your team inadvertently damage it? Did it maybe do something to itself?”
“This is the part my superiors don’t like,” Zhao said quietly. “Look, even if we tried, I don’t think we could’ve done any damage to its consciousness. I can’t even put into words how complex its systems are. We could’ve thrown everything in the UNEM at it and I doubt we would’ve been capable of doing it any harm outside of, you know, physically destroying it with brute force.”
Edward raised his eyebrows, urging Zhao to continue.
“The thing is, once it took out the Knights and I realized it wasn’t going to harm me, I immediately went to the computers to try to get in contact with someone outside the room.”
“You couldn’t just walk out?”
“Doors were sealed shut.”
“Emergency security mechanism?”
“That’s what everyone else says, but that’s not what I say. All wireless signals were jammed. I was only able to contact someone via a hardwired computer terminal. Even the administrative bypass protocols wouldn’t release the security lock from the outside. I had to manually do it from another hardwired terminal inside. I started suspecting something right then and there because the whole ordeal started when our data compiler began overprocessing basic data at exponential speeds, leading to several critical computer and network failures, leading to power surges and failures, and then leading to…well, everything that followed.”
Zhao looked down at his feet before meeting Edward’s eyes again and continuing.
“You asked if the automaton maybe did something to itself. I believe it did. I believe it somehow, some way, inserted its consciousness into our network, leaving behind what’s now in front of us: a relatively rudimentary artificial intelligence that requires stimuli to act or react or do anything at all. I believe its actual consciousness entering our network precipitated everything. Something so complex on a localized regional section of the network would have the exact effect it did have: power surges, failures, everything we experienced. I believe it was in control of our systems for a short amount of time – keeping the door locked, keeping our wireless signals jammed, all that stuff.”
“You seem dismissive, Dr. Higgins.”
Admittedly, Edward couldn’t yet bring himself to agree with the logic in Zhao’s hypothesis. He couldn’t even see it.
“I’m just hung up on something,” he explained. “We understand the automaton was an actual, living consciousness. For that to be true, it would mean some sort of biological or genetic matter still exists in its mind, right? Otherwise we’re just talking about a hyper-advanced artificial intelligence that isn’t alive in the sense we’re talking about. Sure, there’s a whole debate to be had about whether an A.I. can be considered a living thing on par with a biological being, but that’s not what we’re debating. My point is, even acknowledging their extremely advanced capabilities, how could biological matter possibly insert itself into a digital universe? I don’t mean to sound dismissive, Dr. Zhao, but I’m sure you understand it makes no sense on any level.”
Zhao nodded quickly and repeatedly as though he already knew what Edward would say and was impatiently waiting for him to finish speaking.
“You’re right. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. It wouldn’t make a lick of sense – at all.”
Edward followed Zhao a few meters to the other side of the room at his anxious insistence. Zhao grabbed a datapad and held it in front of Edward.
“Obviously you can see we still have this thing hooked up to our systems and network – the Central Mega Network, to be exact. Unlike before the incident, we’ve had it continuously connected ever since it went inactive. Prior to that, we studied it in spurts. After all, it was a living thing and clearly stronger and more dangerous than anyone or anything else around it, so we had to afford it some respite if we wanted it to continue being compliant. But ever since the incident, it hasn’t really demonstrated any signs of life, so we’ve kept it here, studying and analyzing it for over a month straight. It’s provided us insights we weren’t able to get before since we don’t have to recompile any data or neural analytics. Plus…”
Zhao flipped through the datapad and turned it towards Edward again, this time showing him an image of several large but slender black boxes stacked tightly together. He spoke excitedly and rapidly.
“Hermes gave us this little gift. Looks pretty bland, right? It’s an A.I. system they’ve been developing for ten years, give or take. The system revolves around a dynamic mapping of an individual’s brain, tracing neural connections, identifying neurotransmitters, predicting certain brain activity based on certain stimuli – I could spend the next several hours telling you everything this thing can do.”
“Where is it?”
“Other side of the wall. Directly behind the automaton, to be specific. This system has been a huge help. Huge! It took some time to repurpose its mapping and tracing algorithms to the automaton’s head and unconventional ‘brain,’ but things have moved along faster than I expected at first. Anyway, this is why I think my hypothesis holds water, Dr. Higgins.”
Once again Zhao flipped through the datapad, showing Edward an image of what looked like an X-ray of the automaton’s head and a scan of its brain activity. The image was almost completely dark, the faint outline of the interior of the skull barely distinguishable from pitch blackness. But at the center of the image was a small blip of grey light shining through the darkness. Edward looked at Zhao. He was smiling widely and confidently, his head turned up, waiting for his reaction.
“I…don’t know what I’m looking at,” Edward said. Zhao’s smile instantly transformed into an expression somewhere between dejection and disappointment.
“Ah, let me explain. Imagine if this were a scan of a human brain in a completely healthy person. Would you expect the vast majority of the scan to be completely dark with only a tiny amount of activity being readily apparent? Of course not! But then again, we’re talking about a totally biological human brain whereas here, we’re talking about a partially biological brain heavily assisted by artificial or mechanical means.”
Zhao placed his finger right next to the grey speck on the datapad.
“That’s the biological matter, Dr. Higgins. That’s the organic part of its consciousness. It’s still in there. It never left. But the rest of the image is dark. It doesn’t matter if it’s not biological – so long as whatever’s in its head is meant to mimic a functioning brain, our equipment here would be able to map it. But it isn’t…because none of it’s functioning. Because, as I’ve hypothesized, the automaton inserted or discharged the majority of the artificial aspects of its mind into our network, leaving behind a fraction of an organic mind stuck in a shell, unable to do much of anything without the systems assisting its existence.”
Edward placed his hands on his hips and let out a deep breath. He chewed on the idea for a moment.
“Now that…that makes sense,” he admitted. “So if this is true, we have a rogue A.I. just as intelligent as any sapient creature roaming through all the networks of Sol?”
Zhao shrugged.
“Maybe. I can’t imagine it had any idea whether inserting itself into our networks would actually accomplish anything. Maybe it was only able to control our security and computer mechanisms for those few minutes before it, er, died, I guess. Or maybe it died because it can’t exist apart from the organic matter for very long. Or maybe it’s in there and has no idea what to do and never will.”
Dr. Zhao peered around the room for a moment.
“It’s kind of funny. That Hermes system is incredibly expensive and delicate and we were all excited and anxious to use it with the automaton as soon as we were told about it. When we finally synced the two up, most people were angry and a little disappointed at the result. Personally, I was thrilled. Thanks to that wonderful piece of privately-funded genius, we’ve been able to pinpoint the actual organic matter this whole…being is built on. Now if we could just somehow restart or reinvigorate its artificial systems and start mapping how it all comes together when it’s actually active, the reverse-engineering can begin.”
“Seems to me like it’d be just as frustrating to accomplish one thing you thought would take years or decades only to solve it and come across another, entirely unknown hurdle,” Edward said with a smirk.
“Ah, yes, something I know you are personally quite familiar with, Dr. Higgins. I believe that if you don’t maintain at least a small sense of constant optimism, our line of work will defeat you before any progress can ever be made.”
“That’s a good attitude to have, Dr. Zhao.”
Edward stood in silence for several moments, again staring at the automaton with a blank look in his eyes and a half-smile on his face as Zhao attended to a colleague requesting his input on some matter. Edward’s mind was elsewhere. Were he a part of this project, his mind would’ve been in a tireless state of permanent overdrive until the job was done. He was all too familiar with that kind of nigh self-destructive work ethic. It had dominated his life as he worked for decades on creating the first functioning Hyperdrive Core and again lorded over him during the Expedition. The former taxed his mental health. The latter nearly killed him. His present work, though only undertaken under duress and blackmail, was at least far less complex and uncertain. Making the Cores smaller was no simple task, but it was at least a task that was feasible from the outset. There was no question of if, only when. He was working with practically no unknowns. As far as his life’s work had gone, his latest project was easily the most straightforward and relatively stress-free despite the circumstances.
Yet as he stared and pondered in this empty sort of sense, something was toiling away in the instinctual alcoves of his mind; the same alcoves humans and all sentient beings evolved early in their existence; the alcoves that determined survival, that warned of danger and threats and oddities and irregularities, alerting the mind as a whole to be wary for life and limb could soon be in jeopardy. It was the most base of instincts quietly spotting tenuous connections between known information, connecting one to the other, each connection making the mind’s image brighter and the sound of its warning louder until the whole of those connections was plainly visible. Indeed, those base instincts possessed by every human were hard at work underneath Edward’s genius and perhaps had been ever since his arrival at Space Station Delphi, only now had enough connections been made that Edward awoke to what his own instincts were already trying to tell him. And when he listened, it wasn’t a puzzle he had to put together for he saw the whole that had already been composed. It hit him like an unidentified asteroid moving at a million kilometers per hour. A single bead of sweat trickled down his forehead.
“Dr. Zhao. Dr. Zhao.”
Edward hastily walked over to Zhao. He was speaking with a colleague through an intercom on the other side of the glass.
“No. I still insist that we should try anything and everything else before we even consider attempting doing anything to the organic matter. That’s a big risk that could end this project outright.”
“Dr. Zhao.”
He turned to Edward with a pleasant expression on his face. Edward supposed his own expression had to be the complete opposite, for Zhao’s face immediately turned to concern.
“Is something wrong, Dr. Higgins?”
Edward looked to Zhao’s colleagues.
“I – we should speak in private for a moment.”
Zhao’s mouth hung slightly open, his brow furrowed in utter perplexity. He glanced at his colleagues who looked just as confused though not nearly as concerned.
“Of course, Dr. Higgins.”
Zhao pressed a button. The constant soft hiss of dead air from the intercom ceased.
“Before the automaton’s attack, you said you had it hooked up to the Central Mega Network, right?”
“Well, yes. It was the only sort of network infrastructure that could handle the sheer amount of data needed to run neural analytics and, uh, basically everything else. Again, that automaton’s brain is arguably the most complex feat of engineering I’ve ever seen. No offense.” Zhao chuckled uncertainly. Edward ignored the friendly jab.
“How many times did you hook it up to the network?”
“I don’t know the exact number off the top of my head. Definitely more than twenty, not quite thirty.”
Edward exhaled, his breath shaking as it left his body. Any sort of casual calm had left Zhao’s face. Edward had become a walking panic attack.
“And the Central Mega Network – it’s connected to every network in Sol, right?”
“Yes, but information and data can’t go out without administrative approval either via a standard security algorithm check or manual approval by a person with a specific level of clearance. I mean, you should see the hoops we have to jump through just to communicate with friends and family off-station…”
“I think you’re right,” Edward said so quickly that the words seemed to stumble over one another.
“Excuse me?”
“Your hypothesis, Dr. Zhao – I think you’re right.”
Zhao turned his head up, confused and skeptical.
“Those twenty-some-odd times you hooked this thing up to the Central Mega Network surely were more than enough for it to at least partially familiarize itself with the network and how our networks work generally. It was only compliant because being compliant was as advantageous for it as it was for you. When it finally felt comfortable enough, it inserted itself into the network. If it can exist in a space of information and data and understand that kind of digital universe, there’s no telling what kind of chaos it can cause.”
Zhao’s eyes widened. Edward knew it was an odd feeling to have your hypothesis validated while realizing the scope of what the hypothesis truly implied. It was satisfaction and dread melted down and welded together, loaded into the chamber of a gun and fired directly into the heart.
“Dr. Higgins, I – even if it is true, there is both a lack of evidence and little need for concern.”
“Yeah, there’s a lack of evidence. But I don’t understand how this isn’t cause for concern, Dr. Zhao. If the idea occurred to me first, I’d be losing sleep trying to figure out how the hell it managed to do this.”
“Nothing has happened, Dr. Higgins. As I suggested earlier, supposing it did make into our network, it is either ‘dead’ or forever lost. It managed to control some rather rudimentary functions in that one room upon insertion, but once it left to explore the rest of the network – again, it’s either dead or lost, and in that sense, I see little difference between either.”
“I don’t. In fact, I don’t think it’s dead or lost. I think it’s alive and knows exactly what it’s doing. And I bet I know where you can start looking for evidence.”
“Where would that be?”
“The IMSC disaster from a couple months back.”
“Wh – I – there’s not even any evidence that the two are related, much less one being evidence of the other.”
“Not directly. But the disaster happened shortly after the incident here, the IMSC was being constructed relatively close to Space Station Delphi on the far side of Martian orbit, and it’s an obvious military target with a security infrastructure that was still under construction – an ideal, easy target for a practically sentient alien A.I.-turned-virus to attack. There is no explanation for the disaster and I guarantee you there never will be…unless someone decides to actually investigate this angle.”
“You are close with Admiral Peters, Dr. Higgins. Is there anything I should know? Is there something you know that I don’t that led you to this?”
“Nope. This is just instinct.”
“I can’t conduct a scientific investigation purely on someone’s instincts and hunches – even a person of your genius and stature.”
“Well, you might want to get ahead of this anyway.”
“Why is that?”
“I have to tell the Admiral about this. I have to. This could potentially be the biggest immediate threat to everyone in Sol right now. Your bosses wouldn’t listen to you, but Admiral Peters will listen to me. He might not believe me right away, but he’ll do something about it on my word alone. Doubly so in this instance because he’s the one who brought the automaton to Sol, so if you’re hypothesis is right, he’ll know that he’s somewhat responsible for the problem, he’s going to redirect your entire project here to fixing it, probably add more people and resources totally unconcerned with your initial objective, maybe reassign you or place someone above you…I know how these things work, Dr. Zhao. If you want as little disruption as possible, your best bet is to get on this right now so that you have something to show him when he or his people come calling.”
Zhao seemed to shrink. Ultimately, whoever his superiors were held the most responsibility for not listening to Zhao in the first place. It was a tale as old as time. Edward felt he had a good measure of Admiral Peters and he knew the Admiral would see to it that whoever dismissed Zhao would be demoted or terminated. Undoubtedly the enthusiastic doctor would’ve diligently followed up on his hypothesis had he not struck a nerve. Edward was just glad that, at worst, so far the only thing the automaton had managed to do was cripple an IMSC during its final phases of construction. It was capable of so much more, and it needed to be stopped.
“Plus,” Edward continued, “if you can somehow identify and find this thing’s mind or whatever it is, you could maybe force it back into its body here and get back to work. It’s a win-win.”
There was a brief pause. Zhao then whirled around, waving his arms frantically above his head.
“Stop! Everyone stop what you’re doing!”
He stepped out of the domed room, his voice muffling as the door closed behind him, each person behind the glass turning to look at him one-by-one. Edward took one last look at the automaton. He was certainly no military strategist and his ineptitude in the face of the enemy had been made apparent, but he couldn’t help but wonder if the automaton was sent here deliberately, its capture a guise for its ultimate goal. And despite everything Edward had been told and what Zhao had learned, it struck him as unsettling that the most crucial question still remained:
What the hell are you?
submitted by Ken_the_Andal to KenWrites [link] [comments]

[UK Politics] A giant post on the policies/promises the three main parties are campaigning for.

I hope this thread allows everyone in this thread contribute positively, with opinions and facts, and not be afraid to voice out something that this sub isn’t too favourable on. I have asked the mods to remove votes for comments to allow discussion and not get the hive mind to start upvoting/downvoting whenever something is set.
Warning this is going to be a big, meaty, thread entailing a lot of points, some not included because of how long it is – so if you have no patience to read, don’t voice your opinion just because you feel like contributing.
*I was trying to write a basic view in how our democracy works but I realised it was too complicated to add it as an addition to what is going to be a hefty piece already so I compromised. I might make a separate thread for how things work within our democracy but I think it might be too much for a sub dedicated to economic thought and theories.
Also do note my main sources are the parties individual manifestos and the BBC, I choose the BBC over other new sites because I think it takes the most unbiased position it can for all three parties. And in regards to some of the vagueness of policies, it's either because it's vague on purpose as I have found nothing concrete to add onto or they have not yet released information to the public. And yes, I didn't have the time to perfectly align positions that are similar or different in a side by side comparison, I will fix this in the coming days but for now I wanted to make sure everything important was included.
(Let me just say how annoying it is to go through countless pages of just bullshit, nothing but pandering and pointing fingers and rarely highlighting a god damn policy… 80-120 pages of this urghhhh)
To check the state of our economy click here.
Now without further ado, let’s begin.
Economy and Business
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Click above to see how much revenue they predict they’ll get from these changes. Click above to see how muc-oh? They don’t have any of the calculations for the public to see their policy effects? How strange, I wonder why... Well would you look at that, Lib Dems also put their costs up for all the pledges they made.
Bring the railways back into public ownership as franchises expire Increase the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate to £50,000 by 2020 £100bn package of additional infrastructure investment
Regain control of energy supply networks through the alteration of operator license conditions, and transition to a publicly owned, decentralised energy system Keep pledge to ensure residents can veto high increases in council tax via a referendum Boost the economy with a major programme of capital investment
Replace water system with a network of regional publicly-owned water companies Improve HMRC's capabilities to clamp down on smuggling, including improving policing of borders as UK leaves EU Eliminate the deficit on day-to-day spending by 2020 to control the national debt, and then borrowing only to invest
Reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail "at the earliest opportunity" Reduce online VAT fraud Install hyperfast, fibre-optic broadband across the UK
Create at least one publicly-owned energy company in every region of the UK, with public control of the transmission and distribution grids. Spend more on research and development Additional funding to bring more private investment into renewable energy
Income tax rate 45p on earnings of £80,000 and above Ensure industry and businesses have access to reliable, cheap and clean power Raise employee national insurance threshold to the income tax threshold, while protecting low earners' ability to accrue pension and benefit entitlements
Income tax rate of 50p to be reintroduced on earnings above £123,000 Deliver road, rail, airports and broadband that businesses need. Ensure those with the highest incomes and wealth are making a fair contribution
Boost wages of 5.7m people earning less than minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020 Increase the amount levied on firms employing migrant workers Reverse cuts to corporation tax from 20% to 17%, capital gains tax, marriage allowance
Create a National Transformation Fund that will invest £250bn over 10 years in upgrading the economy Listed companies will have to publish ratio of executive pay to broader UK workforce pay Raise inheritance tax threshold
Deliver universal superfast broadband availability by 2022 Maintain pledge to cut corporation tax to 17% by 2020 Action on corporate tax evasion and avoidance
A National Investment Bank as part of a plan to provide £250bn of lending power over the next decade for infrastructure Reform business rates, with more frequent revaluations Reforming corporation tax to develop a system that benefits the smallest
Scrap quarterly reporting for businesses with a turnover of under £85,000. Simplify the tax system Expand the activities of the state-owned British Business Bank
Corporation tax to increase: (21% 2018-2019)(24% 2019-2020)(26% 2020-2021) Regulate more efficiently, saving £9bn through the Red Tape Challenge and the One-In-Two-Out Rule Create a new 'start-up allowance' for new businesses
Corporation tax for profits below £300,000: (20% 2018-2019)(21% 2019-2021) *For some reason someone didn’t check their numbers and apparently 2019-2020 is unknown – which I assume it means that it applies to the second increase rate. Legislate for tougher regulation of tax advisory firms Review business rates
An end to zero-hours contracts to guarantee workers a "number of hours each week" Update the rules that govern mergers and takeovers Protect the science budget, including the recent £2bn increase, by raising it at least in line with inflation
‘Balancing the Books’ Ensure foreign ownership of companies controlling important infrastructure does not undermine British security or essential services Stamp out abuse of zero-hours contracts
Meet the OECD target of 3% of GDP spent on R&D by 2030 Legislate to make executive pay packages subject to strict annual votes by shareholders Encourage employers to promote employee ownership
Separation of investment and retail banking Consider a ban on companies which cold call people to encourage them to make false personal injury claims Champion the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine initiatives
Breaking up RBS and create local public banks. Reduce insurance costs by "cracking down on exaggerated and fraudulent" whiplash claims. 40% of board members being women in FTSE 350 companies.
Introduce an Excessive Pay Levy on companies with staff on very high pay *The Excessive Pay Levy is a payroll tax, it basically charges employers for paying exceptionally high rates to individuals.
Switching from RPI to CPI indexation
Develop a version similar to the Australian system of binding arbitration and fines for persistent late-payers for the private and public sectors.
Worker Rights
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Introduce four extra public holidays each year to mark national patron saints' days Increase the National Living Wage to 60% of median earnings by 2020 Encourage the creation and widespread adoption of a ‘good employer’ kitemark covering areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name-blind recruitment to make it easier for customers and investors to exercise choice and influence.
Maximum pay ratios of 20:1 to be rolled out in public sector Ensure people working in the 'gig' economy are properly protected Establish an independent review to consult on how to set a genuine Living Wage across all sectors. We will pay this Living Wage in all central government departments and their agencies, and encourage other public sector employers to do likewise.
Ban unpaid internships Change the law to ensure listed companies nominate a director from the workforce, create a formal employee advisory council or assign specific responsibility for employee representation to a designated non-executive director Extend transparency requirements on larger employers to include publishing the number of people paid less than the Living Wage and the ratio between top and median pay.
"Clamp down on bogus self-employment" and extend rights of employees to all workers - including shared parental pay Introduce a right for employees to request information relating to the future direction of the company. Modernise employment rights to make them fit for the age of the ‘gig’ economy, looking to build on the forthcoming Taylor Report
Guarantee trade unions a right to access workplaces Strengthen enforcement of employment rights, including by bringing together relevant enforcement agencies and scrapping employment tribunal fees.
End the public sector pay cap Strengthen worker participation in decision-making, including staff representation on remuneration committees, and the right for employees of a listed company to be represented on the board. We will change company law to permit a German-style two-tier board structure to include employees.
Repeal the Trade Union Act and roll out sectoral collective bargaining, whereby industries can negotiate agreement as a whole Reform fiduciary duty and company purpose rules to ensure that other considerations, such as employee welfare, environmental standards, community benefit and ethical practice can be fully included in decisions made by directors and fund managers.
Enforce all workers' rights to trade union representation at work Reduce the reporting requirement for disclosure of shareholdings to 1% in order to increase transparency over who owns stakes in the biggest companies.
Use public spending power to drive up standards, including only awarding public contracts to companies which recognise trade unions Require binding and public votes of board members on executive pay policies.
Give all workers equal rights from day one, whether part-time or full-time, temporary or permanent
Shifting the burden of proof, so the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Reintroduce maintenance grants for university students and abolish university tuition fees Pump an extra £4bn into schools by 2022 Invest nearly £7bn extra in education
A National Education Service for England to incorporate all forms of education Scrap free school lunches for infants in England, but offer free breakfasts across the primary years Triple the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1,000
Overhaul existing childcare system and extend 30 hours of free childcare to all two year olds No school will have its budget cut as a result of the new funding formula Oppose new selective schools and give local authorities control over admissions and new schools
Promise to reduce class sizes to "less than 30" for five, six, and seven-year-olds At least 100 new free schools a year Raise the quality of early years provision
Devolve responsibility for skills to city regions or devolved administrations End ban on grammar schools - conditions would include allowing pupils to join at "other ages as well as eleven" End the 1% cap on teachers' pay rises
Free school meals for all primary school children, paid for by removing the VAT exemption on private school fees. Ask universities and independent schools to help run state schools Guarantee all state school teachers are fully qualified or working towards qualified teacher status from January 2019
A specialist maths school to be opened in every major city in England due to new funding arrangements Introduce a professional development entitlement of 25 hours per year for all teachers, rising to 50 hours by 2025
Every 11-year-old expected to know their times tables off by heart Tackle unnecessary teacher workloads
If universities want to charge maximum tuition fees, they will be required to "become involved" in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools Reforming Ofsted inspections
Introduce T-Levels Scrap the planned expansion of grammar schools
Change the rules to allow the establishment of new Roman Catholic schools Ensure that identification and support for special educational needs and disabilities takes place as early as possible
New faith schools will now have to prove parents of other faiths and none would be prepared to send their children to that school Protect the availability of arts and creative subjects in the curriculum
Work to build up the investment funds of universities across the UK. Improve the quality of vocational education, including skills for entrepreneurship and self-employment, and improve careers advice and links with employers
Challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation
Reinstate university maintenance grants for the poorest students
Double the number of businesses that hire apprentices.
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Accept the EU referendum result and "build a close new relationship with the EU" prioritising jobs and and workers' rights Exit the European single market and customs union but seek a "deep and special partnership" including comprehensive free trade and customs agreement Second referendum on Brexit deal
Guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and work to "secure reciprocal rights" for UK citizens elsewhere in the EU Vote in both Houses of Parliament on "final agreement" for Brexit Press for the UK to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals in the UK
A "meaningful" role for Parliament throughout Brexit negotiations Assess whether to continue with specific European programmes and it "will be reasonable that we make a contribution" to the ones which continue Urge same rights for UK citizens living in European Union countries
Scrap Conservatives' Brexit White Paper and replace with "fresh negotiating priorities" with strong emphasis on retaining the benefits of the single market and customs union Agree terms of future partnership with EU alongside withdrawal, both within the two years allowed under Article 50 Membership of the single market and customs union
Reject no deal as a viable option and if needs be negotiate transitional arrangements "to avoid a cliff-edge for the UK economy" Convert EU law into UK law and later allow parliament to pass legislation to "amend, repeal or improve" any piece of this Protect freedom of movement and EU schemes which increase opportunities for young people
Keep EU-derived laws on workers' rights, equality, consumer rights and environmental protections Remain signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights for the next parliament Defend social rights such as maternity leave
Maintain UK's leading research role by seeking to stay part of Horizon 2020 and its successor programmes Repeal or replace the Human Rights Act "while the process of Brexit is under way" ruled out, although consideration will be given to the UK's "human rights legal framework" when Brexit concludes Maintain EU environmental standards and cooperation for law enforcement and justice
Seek to maintain membership of European organisations which offer benefits to the UK such as Euratom and the European Medicines Agency Reduce and control immigration from Europe after Brexit Retain City of London's rights in EU financial markets
Will not allow Brexit to be used as an excuse to undercut UK farmers and flood Britain's food chain with cheap and inferior produce. Seek to replicate all existing EU free trade agreements Campaign against any reduction in investment in UK universities
Support the ratification of trade agreements entered into during our EU membership Retain European Health Insurance Card, reduced roaming charges and pet passports
Introduce a Trade Bill in the next parliament Protect the rights of the people of Gibraltar.
Create a network of Her Majesty's Trade Commissioners to head nine new regional overseas posts
Reconvene the Board of Trade to increase exports from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.
Health and Social Care
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Deliver safe staffing levels and reduce waiting lists Real terms increases in NHS spending reaching £8bn extra per year by 2022/23 1p in the pound on income tax to raise £6bn for NHS and social care services
End hospital car parking charges A new GP contract and changes to the contract for hospital consultants Transform mental health care and waiting times
One million people will be taken off NHS waiting lists by "guaranteeing access to treatment within 18 weeks" Retain the 95% four hour A&E target Limit the amount elderly people have to pay for social care
Scrap NHS pay cap Require foreign workers and overseas students to pay more to cover the cost of NHS care. Guarantee the rights of all NHS and social care service staff who are EU nationals to stay in the UK
NHS will receive more than £30bn in extra funding over the next parliament End the public sector pay freeze for NHS workers
Mental health budgets will be ring-fenced, and Labour will ensure all children in secondary schools have access to a counselling service. Reinstate student nurse bursaries
Protect NHS whistle-blowers
Produce a national workforce strategy to prevent shortage of GPs, hospital doctors, nurses and other NHS staff
Increase access to mental health talking therapies
Examine the case for introducing a dedicated service for children and young people based on the Australian 'headspace' model
Early mental health support for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth
Fast-track exceptional graduates into children's social work and encourage high-achieving graduates to pursue a career in mental health social work
Tackle stigma against mental ill-health
Ensure that LGBT+ inclusive mental health services receive funding and support
Raise the amount people earn before losing Carer's Allowance from £110 to £150 a week
Promote easier access to GPs and prevent practice closures
HIV prevention available on the NHS
Tackle childhood obesity
Develop a just settlement for haemophiliacs who were given contaminated blood.
Social Security and Pensions
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Cuts to bereavement support payment will be scrapped, as will the bedroom tax and the "punitive sanctions regime" Scrapping the triple-lock on the state pension after 2020, replacing it with a "double lock", rising with earnings or inflation - but no longer 2.5% Maintain the 'triple lock' of increasing the state pension each year.
Reinstate housing benefit for under-21s Means test winter fuel payments to pensioners Withdraw eligibility for the Winter Fuel Payment from pensioners who pay tax at the higher rate (40%).
Guarantee state pension triple lock, as well as the winter fuel allowance and free bus passes Tighten the rules against pension abuse and increase punishment for those caught mismanaging pension schemes We will retain the free bus pass for all pensioners
"Rejects" proposal to increase state pension age further Give the pensions regulator powers to issue punitive fines for those found to have wilfully left a pension scheme under-resourced and if necessary, powers similar to those held by the Insolvency Service to disqualify relevant company directors Introducing a single rate of tax relief for pensions, which would be designed to be simpler and fairer and would be set more generously than the current 20% basic rate relief
A commitment to "protect the pensions of UK citizens living overseas in the EU or further afield". Consider new criminal offence for company directors who put at risk the ability of a pension scheme to meet its obligations.
Families and Communities
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
30 hours free childcare to be extended to two-year-olds and "some" to one-year-olds Introduce a "breathing space" scheme to help those in serious debt be protected from further interest, charges and enforcement action for up to six weeks. Extend free childcare to all two-year-olds and to the children of working families from the end of paid parental leave
An end to the so-called "rape clause" - part of the policy of restricting child tax credits to the first two children in a family. It means mothers who have a third child as a result of rape can be exempted, but would have to provide evidence in order to do so An additional month's paid paternity leave
A review into reforming council tax and business rates, in favour of options such as a land value tax Introduce a new Young Person's Bus Discount Card for 16-21 year olds, giving a two-thirds discount on bus travel
A national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their large-scale demise, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider future sustainability. 30 hours' free childcare a week for all parents in England with children aged from two to four years
Take 13,000 children out of poverty by letting both parents earn before their Universal Credit is cut
Reverse cuts to work allowances in universal credit and housing benefit for 18-21 year olds - increase jobseeker's allowance and universal credit for 18-24
Uprate working-age benefits at least in line with inflation
Abandon the two-child policy on family benefits and abolish the 'rape clause'
Reverse cuts to employment support allowance to those in the work-related activity group
Increase local housing allowance (LHA) in line with average rents in an area
Scrap the 'bedroom tax' and the work capability assessment
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Labour will not "scapegoat migrants" and will not set a cap on immigration, describing targets as "bogus" Commitment to "bear down on immigration from outside the EU" across all visa routes Vote against attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act or withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights
International students will not be included in immigration numbers, but the party will crack down on "fake colleges". Immigration cut to under 100,000 Offer safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees - offering sanctuary to 50,000 Syrian refugees over five years
Labour believes in the "reasonable management of migration" but "will not make false promises on immigration numbers". Students expected to leave the country at the end of their course unless they meet new "higher" requirements allowing them to stay Reopen the Dubs scheme to take 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.
Overseas students to remain in the immigration statistics.
Energy and Environment
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Ensure that 60% of the UK's energy comes from zero-carbon or renewable sources by 2030 UK should have the lowest energy costs in Europe, both for households and businesses Ensure that four million properties receive insulation retrofits by 2022, prioritising fuel-poor households
A ban on fracking Establish an industrial energy efficiency scheme to help large companies install measures to cut their energy use and their bills Prevent 40,000 deaths a year with Air Quality Plan to reduce air pollution
Nuclear power "will continue to be part of the UK energy supply" Smart meters offered to every household and business by the end of 2020 Ensure British farming remains competitive
Introduce an immediate emergency energy price cap to ensure the average dual fuel household energy bill remains below £1,000 per year Make it easier to switch energy providers and introduce a "safeguard tariff cap" A diesel scrappage scheme, and a ban on the sale of diesel cars and small vans in the UK by 2025
Maintaining access to the EU's internal energy market and retaining access to nuclear research programme Euratom will be a priority in Brexit negotiations. Independent review into the cost of energy to ensure UK energy costs are as low as possible, while ensuring a reliable supply and meeting 2050 carbon reduction objective Extend ultra-low-emission zones to 10 more towns and cities
Against more large-scale onshore wind power for England, but maintain position as a global leader in offshore wind and development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland, where they directly benefit local communities Run all private hire vehicles and diesel buses licensed to operate in urban areas on ultra-low-emission or zero-emission fuels within five years
Develop the shale industry in Britain Pass a Zero-Carbon Britain Act to set targets to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2040 and to zero by 2050
Non-fracking drilling treated as permitted development Aim to generate 60% of electricity from renewables by 2030
Set up a new shale environmental regulator Support investment in energy storage, smart grid technology, hydrogen technologies, offshore wind, and tidal power
Change proposed shale wealth fund so greater percentage of tax revenues from shale gas directly benefit the communities that host the extraction sites. Oppose 'fracking'
Establish a £2bn flood-prevention fund
Increase the amount of accessible green space
Suspend the use of neonicotinoids until proven that their use in agriculture does not harm bees or other pollinators
Increase maximum sentence for animal cruelty from six months to five years, and a ban on caged hens
Clamp down on illegal pet imports
Reform agricultural subsidies
Pass a Zero-Waste Act
£2bn to ensure the provision of high-speed broadband across the rural UK
£2bn Rural Services Fund to co-locate council offices, post offices, children's centres, libraries and visiting healthcare professionals.
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Extend high speed rail link HS2 to Scotland Review rail ticketing to remove "complexity and perverse" pricing, with a passenger ombudsman introduced Investment in road and rail infrastructure, continued commitment to HS2, Crossrail 2 and rail electrification
Build a new Brighton main line for the SouthEast Minimum service levels agreed with train companies and staff during times of industrial action. A pledge to make this mandatory if a deal cannot be reached voluntarily Take over the running of Southern Rail and Govia Thameslink
Build Crossrail 2 - to run north-south through London between Hertfordshire and Surrey - "to ensure our capital continues to prosper" Focus on creating extra capacity on the railways to ease overcrowding, bring new lines and stations, and improve existing routes - including for freight Invest capital in major transport improvements and infrastructure
Recognise the need for additional airport capacity in the South East Continue investment in High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport, while ensuring these projects develop the skills and careers of British workers Oppose expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary - instead focus on improving existing regional airports such as Birmingham and Manchester.
Almost every car and van to be zero-emission by 2050 with £600m investment by 2020 to help achieve it.
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Build over one million more homes, with at least half for social rent Halve rough sleeping over the course of the next parliament and eliminate it by 2027 Build 300,000 homes a year by 2022, including half a million affordable and energy-efficient homes
Homeowners will be offered interest free loans to improve their properties Meet 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020 and half a million more by the end of 2022 £5bn of initial capital for a new British Housing and Infrastructure Development Bank
Guarantee help to buy funding until 2027 and give locals buying their first home "first dibs on new homes built in their area" Build better houses to match the quality of previous generations Green Buildings Act to ensure every home in England reaches at least an energy rating of Band C by 2035
Legislate to ban letting agency fees for tenants, and look at giving the Mayor of London power to give London renters "additional security" Support for high-quality, high-density housing like mansion blocks, mews houses and terraced streets Ensure at least four million homes are made highly energy efficient (Band C) by 2022, with priority given to fuel-poor households
Make 4,000 additional homes available for rough sleepers to end homelessness. 160,000 houses built on government land Restore the zero-carbon standard for new homes
Maintain the existing strong protections on designated land like the Green Belt, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty Create at least 10 new garden cities in England
Continue £2.5bn flood defence programme to protect 300,000 existing homes by 2021. End the voluntary right to buy pilots that sell off housing association homes and the associated high value asset levy
Enable local authorities to levy up to 200% council tax on second homes and 'buy to leave empty' investments from overseas
Enforce housebuilding on unwanted public sector land
Penalise excessive land-banking when builders with planning permission have failed to build after three years.
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Support the renewal of the Trident submarine system Spend at least 2% of GDP on defence and increase the budget by at least 0.5% above inflation in every year of the new parliament Spend 2% of GDP on defence
Work with international partners and the UN on multilateral disarmament "to create a nuclear-free world" Pledge to "maintain" the overall size of the armed forces Spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid
Commit to the Nato benchmark of spending at least 2% of GDP on defence Retain the Trident continuous-at-sea nuclear deterrent Suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia
Will have a complete strategic defence and security review Better compensation for injured personnel and the families of those killed in combat. Recruit STEM graduates to be armed forces engineers, providing 'golden handshakes' of up to £10,000
Insulate the homes of disabled veterans for free. Work to lead international nuclear disarmament efforts
Provide free further or higher education for anyone who has served in the armed forces for 12 years or more.
Drugs and Policing
Labour Conservatives Liberal Democrats
Recruit an additional 10,000 police officers to work on community beats Create a "national infrastructure police force", which brings together the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the Ministry of Defence Police and British Transport Police Bring in a legal, regulated market for cannabis
Serious Fraud Office to be incorporated into the National Crime Agency Introduce limits on potency and permit cannabis to be sold through licensed to over-18s
£1bn to modernise the prison estate End imprisonment for possession of illegal drugs for personal use
Legislation to make changes in police practices if "stop and search does not become more targeted and stop to arrest ratios do not improve" Reducing the proliferation of betting shops and cap maximum bets on fixed odds betting terminals at one time to £2
Legislate if progress not made to reduce the "disproportionate use of force" against black, Asian and ethnic minority people in prison, young offender institutions and secure mental health units. £300m for community policing in England and Wales
Require all front-line officers to wear body cameras on duty
Replace police and Crime commissioners with police boards made up of local councillors.
Hope this thread gains a lot of traction from people so we can have valid discussion on these policies in regards to neoliberalism and other -isms.
If you feel like I missed something, or there are mistakes, then PM me so I can fix it :)
submitted by Cryonyte to neoliberal [link] [comments]

Fixed odds betting systems are a staple for many bookmakers in the UK with betting shops. These systems offer ‘live prices,’ or odds, to gamblers before they place a bet. According to findings by the review, bettors can ‘wager up to £100 (±NZ$182) every 20 seconds.’ The addictive nature of these machines is evident, and they are a Betting shops accused of ignoring flaws in self-adopted measures to curb gambling addiction on fixed-odds betting terminals. betting shops use “player awareness systems review.” A FOBT is an abbreviation of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, and is most often shortened by punters to Terminals or Betting Terminals. Throughout this review I will mostly abbreviate the word to FOBT or Betting Terminals. Fixed Odds Betting Terminals fall into two main categories of supplier; Inspired Gaming, who provide Betfred, William Hill and According to a recent study published by Landman Economics, British punters have lost £11 billion on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) during the last 9 years.. The figures reach an impressive £50 billion in wagers since 2008, that in conjunction with the £11 billion deficit, amounts for £8.000 in losses to the average bettor. Landman Economics have drawn the following conclusion from Fixed Odds Betting Terminals have been in British bookies for a little over ten years, in that time they have spread to thousands of High Streets, each with up to four roulette machines per betting shop.. William Hill roulette machines and Bet Fred roulette machines use the same software, with some land bookies using a separate supplier for their roulette machines.

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