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FIRE and Kids – The cost of raising children in Australia

This post has been inspired by this recent podcast featuring three of the biggest names in the Aussie FIRE blogging community, and the follow on discussions in the Aussie Firebug Facebook group about how much it costs to raise kids in Australia. As all three acknowledge they don’t have kids so it’s not something they really have any experience with.
As someone who has two young kids I thought it would be useful to write about it from my perspective. Obviously my situation isn’t the same as everyone else’s, there are plenty of people who would be horrified with how much we’ve spent, and others who would wonder how we manage to spend so little. Everyone’s situation is different, so what works for my family wouldn’t necessarily work or others.
My oldest child has only just started school this year so I can’t really speak from experience beyond the 0-5yo age range, but I’ll talk through some of the typical costs, what we have and haven’t spent money on so far, and what we’re anticipating in the future.
The costs people actually talk about The first two things that almost always come up when people start talking about the cost of babies are prams and carseats. Yes, you can spend a lot of money on these things if you want to, prams in particular. From a quick look at Baby Bunting the most expensive pram there is nearly 3 thousand dollars, and I’m betting that with a few accessories you can easily get over that mark.
No, you do not need to spend that much on a pram. Yes you can probably pick one up on the cheap from Kmart or Target etc for well under a hundred bucks, but it’s probably not going to be as sturdy or hold much of the gear you take with you. Happily a pram is also the sort of thing where you can pretty easily and safely pick one up secondhand or get a hand me down from someone else.
We bought a Babyzen Yoyo, which is basically a small sized pram although it still has enough storage room for us. It folds up so that you can take it on a plane as carry on luggage, is quite light, extremely maneuverable and very sturdy. I’ve taken it running plenty of times, it’s even got a Parkrun PB of 22:06!
This thing is absolutely gold. Unfortunately it’s priced as though it’s made of it as well. There wasn’t an option to get one second hand because it had only just been released so we had to pay full whack. I think we spent over a thousand dollars on it including all the accessories and the lie flat and sit up seats etc.
It was worth every cent. It’s been going for 5 years and 2 kids and is still in great shape, we’ve never had a problem with it at all. My wife tells me it is one of the best things I have ever bought her, although we both use it obviously.
And at the end of the day a one off cost of $1,000 for us as a family is going to have basically zero impact on when we hit FIRE. Plugging the numbers into a compound interest calculator and using 7% annual return over 30 years I miss out on $8,000, which is about a month worth of returns on my target portfolio. I can live with delaying retirement one month for about 5 cumulative years of having a really good pram that works great for us.
Similarly you can spend a fair chunk of money on car seats. This is one of those things that I wouldn’t want to get second hand because you can’t see if they’ve been broken or not and safety is a huge priority for us and presumably everyone else.
Happily car seats don’t tend to cost that much, you can pick one up for a couple hundred bucks or less pretty easily. If you do that it tends to be one for a much shorter age range, say 0-2yrs whereas I think you can get ones which will take your kid from 0-8 but they cost a lot more. In any case per kid you’re probably looking at a thousand bucks total, and this could easily be a lot less.
Again it’s not going to make any appreciable different to us reaching FIRE. So as easy as it is to point at this sort of stuff as being ridiculously expensive and over priced etc, it’s really not going to make much of a difference to most people. Sure you don’t want to spend any more money than you have to, but you also want to make sure you’re getting something that works for you.
The other one off costs There are also a bunch of one off costs for babies and young kids like cots, beds, mattresses, baby carriers etc. From what I’ve been told you want to buy a baby mattress new, but that’s only about a hundred bucks at Target, potentially cheaper elsewhere. We have an Ikea cot which cost about the same, you could easily get one second hand or likely for free just by asking around your friends who will probably be delighted to get it out of their house.
Some people do co-sleeping in which case you don’t need the cot and mattress although you may like to kid yourself that your baby will actually sleep in their own bed, maybe even through the night. It’s nice to pretend sometimes!
As kids get older you’ll need a proper bed for them, again you can probably pick this up second hand pretty cheap and a mattress can be easily had for a couple hundred bucks. So none of these things are really going to have much of an impact so long as you’re a decent saver already.
The big costs you see When you don’t have kids it can be great to live in a studio flat or one bedroom apartment in the inner city close to all the bars and restaurants and all the rest of it. You can stay in your local area and have plenty to keep you entertained, there is probably a supermarket nearby and plenty of public transport so you may not need a car either.
Once you have kids, it’s likely going to be a different story as your priorities change. It may be that you’re happy renting with kids, but lots of people tend to prioritise stability and security when they have kids and that means owning your own home in most cases. I’m not saying everyone will want this, but a lot of people will.
So now that you have kids you almost certainly want a second bedroom and if you’re planning on having more kids maybe a third or fourth etc. Obviously kids can share bedrooms for a while at least but sooner or later they will probably want their own space, as will you.
You’ll also be wanting parks with playgrounds nearby and somewhere you can easily take your kids for a walk or kick a football around, ideally in a good school district which can add a couple hundred thousand dollars to the cost all by itself if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne. And if you want to live somewhere cheaper but send the kids to a good private school, well that can cost anywhere from the low thousands to multiple tens of thousands per year.
Similarly if you didn’t have a car before, you will very likely want one now. I’ve mentioned before that we drive a base model Corolla which works just fine for us so far, but you’re still probably looking at $20k plus if you buy one new, mid teens if you want one used. If you want an SUV or a luxury model car, be prepared to fork out a lot more.
In the same vein if you were previously going on lots of holidays and plan to keep doing so, well you now have at least one more plane ticket to buy, might need a bigger hotel room etc. As I talked about in this post about big ticket items, that all comes at a real cost. We bought land and built a house, so I can say that we spent roughly $100,000 more on that than we would have otherwise.
The ongoing costs There are also a bunch of ongoing costs for kids as well. They need to be fed, they need clothes and shoes, they need medicine, and a bunch of other stuff that costs money. I wrote here about a bunch of things that we do to keep costs down, but the reality is that you still have to fork over a decent chunk of change.
On top of all that contrary to what you might have been told public school is not free, there are a bunch of things that you have to chip in for here as well. We’re not at the stage that we’re forking out a fortune in extra utility bills etc but we certainly use the washing machine a lot more than we would if we didn’t have kids, there are extra lights and tvs etc on so there are extra costs there as well.
There are also a bunch of extra items that you don’t really need to spend, but probably will. For us this includes stuff like swimming lessons, some sports like AusKick (AFL) and Junior Blasters (cricket), occasionally taking them to a theme park or zoo etc. They also get birthday and Christmas presents, and if they get invited to other kids parties they take a store bought gift with them.
The above is about what I think our 5yo costs us at the moment based on our spending, our 2yo is probably about two thirds of that due mostly to her not eating as much and not getting swimming lessons yet, as well as not being in school or doing sports.
I’ve left the holiday line blank because this is hugely variable. Last year we did a trip to the UK and it probably cost us about $3,000 extra between the two of them, next time it will be another couple thousand dollars more because the youngest one will need her own seat rather being on someone’s lap for the flights.
So our spending for our eldest is about two thirds of the costs quoted in this article for a 6yo girl, I would assume that apart from a boy maybe eating a bit more the costs should be fairly similar. The main difference compared to our costs seem to be education and transport.
Also, it was somewhat shocking to me just how expensive swimming lessons are! This is actually at our local council aquatic centre and is the cheapest in town. We do get to use the pool whenever we want, but that only tends to be once or twice a week at most. At least the lessons will hopefully only be for a few years for each child, although after that we may be forking out for something else instead.
The hidden cost of kids The biggest cost is often actually one that doesn’t show up as an expense, the opportunity cost of one parent giving up paid employment entirely for a while or doing part time hours (I’ve used the phrase giving up paid employment here because looking after kids and a house is definitely work!).
If we say that you’re giving up a full time paid job that’s at minimum wage of roughly $20 an hour for 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year, then that’s $38,400 a year ($33,605 after tax and medicare levy) that the family is giving up for however long this goes on for. If you’d otherwise be earning more than that, then the opportunity cost each year is even higher. On top of that there is the hit to your career and future earnings, because those are definitely going to be impacted as well.
If you’ve got two kids that are separated by two or three years and you as a family want a parent at home until they go to school, well that’s 7 or 8 years of missing out on that money which works out as around $250k based on a full time minimum wage job. I’m pretty hopeful that my wife would be earning more than minimum wage as well so for us it’s even more than that. On the plus side, she gets to spend more time with the kids although that probably feels like a mixed blessing some of the time!
Alternatively if both parents want to keep working then there will likely be childcare costs for the first 4 or 5 years and then before and after school care, as well as missing out on spending time with their kids. Because we haven’t gone down this route I don’t know exactly how much it costs, I do hear plenty of stories about it being $100 a day minimum around where I live and it’s a lot more in capital cities. There are subsidies available for this, but you can pretty easily be spending tens of thousands each year on childcare while they’re young and then once they’re old enough before and after school care.
You may be lucky enough to have grandparents or other family nearby that are happy to help out with this if they live nearby, but that won’t apply to everyone and it’s unlikely to reduce the cost entirely.
The costs that are yet to come At the moment our kids are still young and fairly inexpensive. Between the two of them they tend to eat roughly what a grown adult eats, but from what I’ve been told that will change fairly dramatically as they get older. They’ll need new clothes more frequently, more shoes, potentially play more sports, go on more school excursions, you get the idea.
Education could be another factor. There is a public high school that will be built in the next few years quite close by, and assuming that it’s decent our kids will likely be going there. But if it’s not, then we’ll have to look into private schools which can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.
There will be extra curricular stuff as well. Given my wife and I are both horrible at music it seems unlikely that our kids will be doing extra lessons there, but there are plenty of other areas like sport or extra educational activities that we’d be considering. I know a few parents who have kids who are in elite sports programs (as in regional or state teams) and the costs here can very quickly add up, likewise if extra education is needed or wanted then that’ll be an extra expense.
Government and other assistance I know that depending on your circumstances that there can be government assistance in the form of Family Tax Benefit, childcare subsidy and possibly other programs as well. We don’t get any of these which is fine, we don’t need them and they are presumably meant to be for those who do. If you’re not sure if you should be getting any of these then Centrelink does have this payment finder.
We did get the one day a week Kinder program for 3yos and 3 days a week Kinder program for 4yos, although these both also came with costs of roughly $1,500 a year so it actually cost us money, again this is fine, just a reminder that it isn’t actually free.
Depending on your employer you may also be able to get parental leave for a while, and there is a minimum payment which they have to make so long as you’ve met some requirements. Some employers may also have some continuing support with subsidised childcare and the like. None of this was applicable to our situation but at least some of it will likely be available for others.
So what’s the bottom line? For us the biggest actual one off cost so far has been the bigger house and land that we purchased because we wanted our kids to be able to have plenty of space inside and outside the house. That cost about a hundred thousand dollars more than we would have paid if it were just the two of us. All the other stuff like a pram, car seats, cots/beds, mattresses and all the rest of it have been maybe $5,000 total, which is tiny by comparison.
The opportunity cost has been bigger than this though. When we had our first child when we were in Hong Kong my wife wasn’t working much anyway as there just weren’t that many jobs she could do and my wage easily supported both of us so she was doing some very casual part time work and so not doing that work afterwards didn’t impact us much.
In Australia though she probably would have been earning at least $40,000 a year after tax, so we’ve foregone almost $200,000 on an after tax basis there. Which as I’m sure you can imagine has a pretty big impact on when we will hit FIRE, particularly given we’ve got another few years or her not being in paid employment at all and then likely only working part time after that. So I would guess we’ll be looking at forgone earnings of at least $500,000 by the time all is said and done, and it could quite easily be a lot more.
The actual ongoing costs of the kids so far haven’t been too bad. Between the two of them it’s about $8,000 a year at the moment, although we would anticipate that this will go up a fair bit over time as they start eating more and getting into more extra curricular activities. I get that this is spending that isn’t a necessity, but do I really want my kids to miss out on a bunch of fun stuff so that I can retire a year or two earlier? No, no I do not.
So far the total costs look something like this. You can see that by far the biggest cost has been the earnings that we’ve missed out on because my wife has been at home looking after the kids and doing the household stuff (yes I do some of it because I think it’s important that we share the jobs and to role model stuff for the kids, but the reality is that she is at home a lot more than I am and does more of it). Buying a bigger house and land is next, and the actual costs of feeding and clothing and all the other one off stuff for the kids is a tiny proportion of the actual cost.
All up I’m hopeful that we can keep the ongoing costs to somewhere between $125k and $150k per child from birth through to age 18, although if private school is necessary then that will push up the costs a fair bit. This is less than half of what this article suggests, so although it sounds like a lot of money it’s actually fairly frugal by comparison.
To put it in perspective, it’s basically spending about 7 or 8 grand a year on each child. There are plenty of people out there who spend more than that on food alone, let alone the rest of their living expenses.
As I said earlier travel costs are on top of this, and this can increase the costs quite a lot! Travel is a huge part of the reason we’re pursuing HIFIRE, and we want to be taking the kids on plenty of holidays while they’re growing up.
That’s obviously discretionary spending to a large extent, but we do have close family living overseas who we want to see every couple of years or so, and it’s not fair to expect them to always be the ones travelling. I would guess that we’ll be looking at about $50k per kid in travel costs by the time they turn 18. That’s about 3 grand a year, which doesn’t sound wrong based on the cost of international travel. It may be less than that which would be great, but could also be a fair bit more.
So all up for the two kids we’re looking at about a million dollars from birth to age 18. About half of that is the foregone wages from not working, which is by far the biggest impact. The actual cost of the kids is about another 30%, then travel is 10%, another 10% for the bigger house and land. And then right at the end is less than 1% for the one off stuff like prams and baby seats and cots etc.
How could we spend less? Obviously there are other things we could be doing instead to keep the cost down. The biggest expense is the wages that aren’t being earned because my wife is looking after the kids and the household stuff. We could have chosen to have her work and instead pay for childcare and after school care etc.
If we did though then she wouldn’t get to spend as much time with the kids (which she tells would be welcome some of the time!) and there would be a lot more house work and shopping that would need to be done after work or on weekends for both of us, we’d potentially eat out more often as it’d be more of a hassle cooking meals each night, as well as a bunch of other tradeoffs.
So having her stay at home was our preferred method, and thankfully we’re in the financial position where we can afford to do it that way. Other people make different choices, or they’re unfortunately not in a position to make a choice, they need both partners working or if they’re a single parent have to do it this way.
We could have also gone with a smaller house and less of a backyard. I shared a bedroom with my brother for part of our childhood and we both managed fine. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly doable, and we could have saved a lot of money by having a smaller house. Again we chose not to because we wanted a bigger house and a decent sized backyard for them to be able to run around in and we can afford it.
We don’t have to travel, although it’d be a bit rough expecting family to travel overseas to see us every year or two and then not reciprocating. Still, that would save a fair amount of money.
It’s pretty hard to say how things will work out with the actual costs of raising the kids. I know roughly what we’ve spent so far, but it’s pretty difficult to know what we’ll be spending in future as they get older. They’re likely to be eating a fair bit more food, s they grow they’ll need new clothes and shoes, they’ll presumably be playing sport and doing other extra curricular stuff which will all cost money.
$150k per kid from 0 to 18 seems like it’s a lot less than what it costs most people, but then we already live a fair bit more cheaply than most others so maybe it’s about right.
At the end of the day we’re happy with the choices that we’ve made so far, but there has certainly been some room to have spent less money than what we have, or to have had more money coming in through both of us being in paid employment. Obviously it has an impact on when we will hit our FIRE number, but I’d rather take a little bit longer to get there than to make different tradeoffs along the way.
Have you got kids or are thinking about having them? How do you think it will impact on your FIRE journey?
Original post with pretty charts, pictures, tables etc is here.
submitted by AussieHIFIRE to fiaustralia [link] [comments]

The truth behind Puskás Akadémia FC - How Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán stole a legend, built a stadium in his backyard and guided his team to Europe

The 2019/2020 season of the Hungary’s National Football League (NB1) – being one of the first leagues to restart play - came to an end on 27 June. If a casual observer (for whatever reason) decides to check out the final standings, he would be not surprised at the first two positions: record-champion Ferencváros defended their title, while regional powerhouse Fehérvár (Videoton) came in second. However, the third place team, Puskás Akadémia FC might seem unusual and one could think that there is a story behind that. Is there a team named after Ferenc Puskás? Did some academy youths make an incredible run for the Europa League qualification? Well, the observer is right, there is a story behind all this, but it’s absolutely not a fun story. It’s a story about how one powerful man’s obsession with football stole a legend, misused state funds and killed the spirit of Hungarian football. (Warning: this is a long story, feel free to scroll down for a tl;dr. Also, I strongly advise checking out the links, those images are worth seeing).
Naturally, political influence in football has been present ever since the dawn of the sport and we know of numerous state leaders who felt confident enough to use their influence to ensure the successful development of their favored clubs – Caucescu’s FC Olt Scornicesti and Erdogan’s Basaksehir are well-known examples of such attempts. However, I fear that very few of the readers are aware of the fact that Puskás Akadémia FC is nothing but Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán’s grandiose project for establishing his hometown’s club as one of the country’s top teams. Considering that Orbán managed to achieve this goal using state funds in an EU member democracy in the 2000s, one might even say that it might be one of the most impressive attempts of cheating your way through Football Manager in real life. Now that Puskás Akadémia FC escaped the desolate football scene of Hungary and is getting ready for the European takeover, I feel that it’s high time to tell its true story.

Part 1: Part time striker, part time PM

Our story begins in 1999 when the 36-year-old striker Viktor Orbán (recently elected as the country’s Prime Minister) was signed by the sixth-tier side of Felcsút FC residing in rural Fejér County. It might sound surprising that an active politician would consider such a side job, but given that Orbán has been playing competitive low-level football throughout his whole life and has always been known as a keen football enthusiast, people seemed to be okay with his choice for a hobby. Orbán spent most of his childhood in the village of Felcsút (population: 1,800), so it seemed only natural that he would join the team after one of his old-time acquaintances became team president there.
Orbán’s arrival to the club seemed to work like a charm as Felcsút FC immediately earned a promotion to the fifth league. The Prime Minister’s busy program did not allow him to attend every training session and game but Orbán did make an effort to contribute as much as possible on the field – there is a report of a government meeting being postponed as Orbán was unavailable due to attending Felcsút FC’s spring training camp. The 2001/2002 season brought another breakthrough for the side as Felcsút was promoted to the national level of the football pyramid after being crowned the champion of Fejér County. Sadly enough for Orbán, he suffered a defeat on another pitch – his party lost the 2002 election and Orbán was forced to move to an opposition role.
No matter what happened on the political playing field, Orbán would not abandon his club. Just before the 2002 elections, Felcsút was surprisingly appointed as one of the regional youth development centers by the Hungarian FA. Orbán continued contributing on the field as well (he had more spare time after all) but his off-the-field efforts provided much more value for the team as he used his political influence to convince right-wing businessmen that they should definitely get sponsorship deals done with the fourth-division village team.
Club management was able to transform the influx of funds into on-field success: Felcsút FC was promoted to the third division in 2004 and achieved promotion to the second division in 2005. Although these new horizons required a skill level that an aging ex-PM is not likely to possess, Orbán regularly played as a late game sub and even appeared in cup games against actual professional opponents. The now-42-year old Orbán did not want to face the challenge of the second division, so he retired in 2005 – but this did not stop him from temping as an assistant coach when the head coach was sacked in the middle of the 2005-2006 season.
Success on the playing field did not translate to political success: Orbán lost the elections once again in 2006. However, this was only a temporary loss: the ruling party committed blunder after blunder and by early 2007 it became absolutely obvious that Orbán would be able return to power in 2010. Now confident in his political future, Orbán opted for the acceleration of football development in Felcsút – by late 2007 he took over the presidency of the club to take matters in his own hands. Sponsors seeking to gain favor with the soon-to-be PM were swarming Felcsút FC, so the club was able to stand very strong in an era where financial stability was a very rare sight in the Hungarian football scene, accumulating three medals (but no promotion) between 2007 and 2009.
On the other hand, Orbán realized the value of youth development as well, and started a local foundation for this purpose back in 2004 that gathered funds for the establishment a boarding school-like football academy. The academy opened its doors in September 2006 (only the second of such institutions in the country) and Orbán immediately took upon the challenge of finding an appropriate name for the academy.
He went on to visit the now very sick Ferenc Puskás in the hospital to discuss using his name, but as Puskás’ medical situation was deteriorating rapidly, communication attempts were futile. Luckily enough Puskás’ wife (and soon to be widow) was able to act on his incapable husband’s behalf and approved the naming deal in a contract. According to the statement, naming rights were granted without compensation, as “Puskás would have certainly loved what’s happening down in Felcsút”. However, there was much more to the contract: Puskás’ trademark was handed to a sports journalist friend of Orbán (György Szöllősi, also acting communications director of the academy) who promised a hefty annual return for the family (and also a 45% share of the revenue for himself). Ferenc Puskás eventually died on 17 November 2006 and on 26 November 2006 the football academy was named after him: Puskás Academy was born.
Orbán shared his vision of the whole organization after the opening ceremony: “It’s unreasonable to think that Felcsút should have a team in the top division. We should not flatter ourselves, our players and our supporters with this dream. Our long term ambition is the creation of a stable second division team that excels in youth development and provides opportunity for the talents of the future.” Let’s leave that there.

Part 2: No stadium left behind

Orbán became PM once again in April 2010 after a landslide victory that pretty much granted him unlimited power. He chased lots of political agendas but one of his policies was rock solid: he would revive sports (and especially football) that was left to bleed out by the previous governments. The football situation in 2010 was quite dire: while the national team has actually made some progress in the recent years and has reached the 42nd position in the world rankings, football infrastructure was in a catastrophic state. Teams were playing in rusty stadiums built in the communist era, club finances were a mess, youth teams couldn’t find training grounds and the league was plagued by violent fan groups and lackluster attendance figures (3100 average spectators per game in the 2009/2010 season).
Orbán – aided by the FA backed by business actors very interested in making him happy – saw the future in the total rebuild of the football infrastructure. Vast amounts of state development funds were invested into the football construction industry that warmly welcomed corruption, cost escalation and shady procurement deals. In the end, money triumphed: over the last decade, new stadiums sprung out from nothing all over the country, dozens of new academies opened and pitches for youth development appeared on practically every corner. The final piece of the stadium renovation program was the completion of the new national stadium, Puskás Aréna in 2019 (estimated cost: 575 million EUR). Orbán commemorated this historic moment with a celebratory video on his social media that features a majestic shot of Orbán modestly kicking a CGI ball from his office to the new stadium.
Obviously, Orbán understood that infrastructure alone won’t suffice. He believed in the idea that successful clubs are the cornerstone of a strong national side as these clubs would compete in a high quality national league (and in international tournaments) that would require a constant influx of youth players developed by the clubs themselves. However, Orbán was not really keen on sharing the state’s infinite wealth with private club owners who failed to invest in their clubs between 2002 and 2010. The club ownership takeover was not that challenging as previous owners were usually happy to cut their losses, and soon enough most clubs came under Orbán’s influence. Some clubs were integrated deep into Orbán’s reach (Ferencváros and MTK Budapest club presidents are high ranking officials of Orbán’s party) while in other cases, indirect control was deemed sufficient (Diósgyőri VTK was purchased by a businessman as an attempt to display loyalty to Orbán).
Pouring taxpayer money into infrastructure (stadium) projects is relatively easy: after all, we are basically talking about overpriced government construction projects, there’s nothing new there. On the other hand, allocating funds to clubs that should be operating on a competitive market is certainly a tougher nut to crack. The obvious solutions were implemented: the state media massively overpaid for broadcasting rights and the national sports betting agency also pays a hefty sum to the FA, allowing for a redistribution of considerable amounts. However, given that the income side of Hungarian clubs was basically non-existent (match day income is negligible, the failed youth development system does not sell players), an even more radical solution was desperately needed. Also, there was definite interest in the development of a tool that would allow for differentiation between clubs (as in the few remaining non-government affiliated clubs should not receive extra money).
The solution came in 2011: the so-called TAO (“társasági adó” = corporate tax) system was introduced, granting significant tax deductions for companies if they offered a portion of their profits to sports clubs – however, in theory, funds acquired through TAO can be only used for youth development and infrastructure purposes. Soon enough, it became apparent that state authorities were not exactly interested in the enforcement of these restrictions, so some very basic creative accounting measures enabled clubs to use this income for anything they wanted to. Companies were naturally keen on cutting their tax burdens and scoring goodwill with the government, so TAO money immediately skyrocketed. Opportunistic party strongmen used their influence to convince local business groups to invest in the local clubs, enabling for the meteoric rise of multiple unknown provincial teams (Mezőkövesd [pop: 16,000], Kisvárda [pop: 16,000], Balmazújváros [pop: 17,000]) into the first division.
Although it’s not the main subject of this piece, I feel inclined to show you the actual results of Orbán’s grandiose football reform. While we do have our beautiful stadiums, we don’t exactly get them filled – league attendance has stagnated around 3000 spectators per game throughout the whole decade. We couldn’t really move forward with our national team either: Hungary lost 10 positions in the FIFA World Rankings throughout Orbán’s ten years. On the other hand, the level of league has somewhat improved – Videoton and Ferencváros reached the Europa League group stage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Too bad that the Instat-based top team of 2019/2020 Hungarian league consists of 10 foreigners and only 1 Hungarian: the goalkeeper.

Part 3: Small place, big game!

As seen in the previous chapter, Orbán did have a strong interest in the improvement of the football situation Hungary, but we shouldn’t forget that his deepest interest and true loyalty laid in the wellbeing of Felcsút and its academy. Now that Orbán had limitless means to see to the advancement of his beloved club, he got to work immediately. Orbán handed over formal club management duties to his friend / protégé / middleman / businessman Lőrinc Mészáros in 2010, but no questions would ever arise of who is actually calling the shots.
First of all, no club can exist without a proper stadium. Although in 2011 Orbán explicitly stated that “Felcsút does not need a stadium as stadiums belong to cities”, no one was really surprised in 2012 when the construction of the Felcsút stadium was announced. Orbán was generous enough to donate the lands just in front of his summer home in the village for the project, locating the entrance a mere ten meters away from his residence. Construction works for the stunningly aesthetic 3,800-seater arena (in a village of 1,800 people) started in April 2012 and were completed in April 2014, making Felcsút’s arena the second new stadium of Orbán’s gigantic stadium revival program.
The estimated budget of the construction was 120 million EUR (31,500 EUR / seat) was financed by the Puskás Academy who explicitly stated that they did not use government funds for the project. Technically, this statement is absolutely true as the construction was financed through the TAO money offered by the numerous companies looking for tax deduction and Orbán’s goodwill. However, technically, this means that the country’s budget was decreased by 120 million EUR unrealized tax revenue. Naturally, the gargantuan football stadium looks ridiculously out of place in the small village, but there’s really no other way to ensure that your favorite team’s stadium is within 20 seconds of walking distance from your home.
Obviously, a proper club should also have some glorious history. Felcsút was seriously lagging behind on this matter as though Felcsút FC was founded in 1931, it spent its pre-Orbán history in the uninspiring world of the 5th-7th leagues of the country. Luckily enough, Orbán had already secured Puskás’ naming rights and they were not afraid to use it, so Felcsút FC was renamed to Puskás Academy FC in 2009. The stadium name was a little bit problematic as the Hungarian national stadium in Budapest had sadly had the dibs on Puskás’ name, so they had to settle with Puskás’ Spanish nickname, resulting in the inauguration of the Pancho Arena. But why stop here? Orbán’s sports media strongman György Szöllősi acted upon the contract with Puskás’ widow and transferred all Puskás’ personal memorabilia (medals, jerseys, correspondence) to the most suitable place of all: a remote village in which Puskás never even set foot in.
While the off-field issues were getting resolved, Orbán’s attention shifted to another important area: the actual game of football. Although academy players started to graduate from 2008 on, it very soon became painfully obvious that the academy program couldn’t really maintain even a second division side for now. In 2009, Orbán reached an agreement with nearby Videoton’s owner that effectively transformed Felcsút FC into Videoton’s second team under the name of Videoton – Puskás Akadémia FC. The mutually beneficent agreement would allow Videoton to give valuable playing time to squad players while it could also serve as a skipping step for Puskás Academy’s fresh graduates to a first league team. The collaboration resulted in two mid-table finishes and a bronze medal in the second division in the following three seasons that wasn’t really impressive compared to Felcsút FC’s standalone seasons.
It seemed that the mixture of reserve Videoton players and academy youth was simply not enough for promotion, and although Orbán had assured the public multiple times that his Felcsút project was not aiming for the top flight, very telling changes arose after the 2011/2012 season. Felcsút terminated the Videoton cooperation deal and used the rapidly accumulating TAO funds to recruit experienced players for the now independently operating Puskás Academy FC (PAFC). The new directive worked almost too well: PAFC won its division with a 10 point lead in its first standalone year which meant that they would have to appear in the first league prior to the completion of their brand-new Pancho Arena. Too bad that this glorious result had almost nothing to do with the academy - only two players were academy graduates of the side’s regular starting XI.
Orbán did not let himself bothered with the ridiculousness of an academy team with virtually no academy players being promoted to the first division as he stated that “a marathon runner shouldn’t need to explain why the other runners were much slower than him”. Orbán also displayed a rare burst of modesty as he added that “his team’s right place is not in the first league, and they will soon be overtaken by other, better sides”.
The promotion of PAFC to the first division made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. Supporter groups were united in hatred all along the league and not surprisingly, away fans almost always outnumbered the home side at PAFC’s temporary home at Videoton’s Sóstói Stadium (demolished and rebuilt in its full glory since then). One of the teams, however, possessed an extraordinary degree of anger against PAFC: supporters of Budapest Honvéd – the only Hungarian team in which Ferenc Puskás played – felt especially awkward about the transfer of their club legend’s heritage to Felcsút. Tensions spiked at the PAFC – Honvéd game when home security forced Honvéd supporters to remove the “Puskás” part of their traditional “Puskás – Kispest – Hungary” banner – the team answered the insult with style as they secured a 4-0 victory supported by fans chanting “you can’t buy legends”.
Despite Orbán’s prognosis, other better sides did not rush to overtake his team, so PAFC, now residing in their brand new Pancho Arena, came through with a 14th and a 10th place in their first two seasons. Naturally, conspiracy theories began to formulate, speculating that government-friendly owners would certainly not be motivated to give their best against PAFC. However, as the league size was reduced to 12 for the 2015/2016 season, PAFC found themselves in a dire situation just before the final round: they needed a win and needed rival Vasas to lose against MTK in order to avoid relegation. PAFC’s draw seemed to be unlucky as they faced their arch-enemy Honvéd at home, but Honvéd displayed an absolute lackluster effort – fueling conspiracy theories – and lost the fixture 2 to 1 against a home side featuring four academy players. Vasas, however, did not disappoint, their 2-0 victory resulted in PAFC’s elimination and a very relaxed sigh all over the football community.
PAFC’s relegation seemed to be in accordance with Orbán’s 2013 statement, so public opinion supposed for a while that Orbán’s project came to a halting point and the Academy would go on to actually field academy players in the second division (especially as rostering foreign players was prohibited in the lower leagues). However, if you have read through this point, you know better than to expect Orbán to retreat – obviously, PAFC came back with a bang. With a ballsy move, PAFC didn’t even sell their foreign players, they just loaned them across the league, promising them that they would be able to return next year to the newly promoted team. The promise was kept as PAFC went into another shopping spree of experienced players (easily convincing lots of them to choose the second division instead of the first) and easily won the second league.
Orbán – now aware of his negligence – opted for the doubling the team’s budget, making PAFC the third most well-founded club in the whole country (only coming short to his friend’s Videoton and his party minion’s Ferencváros). With an actual yearly influx from TAO money in the ballpark of 30-40 million EUR, PAFC management had to really work wonders in creative accounting in order to make their money look somewhat legitimate. The books were now full of ridiculous items like:
Naturally, in the country of no consequences, absolutely nothing happened: PAFC went on with its spending and signed 35 foreigners between 2017 and 2020. They did so because they could not hope to field a winning team in the first league consisting of academy players, despite the fact that Puskás Academy has been literally drowning in money since 2007. This seems to somewhat contradict Orbán’s 2013 promise, stating that “Puskás Academy will graduate two or three players to major European leagues each year”. To be fair, there have been players who managed to emerge to Europe (well, exactly two of them: Roland Sallai plays at Freiburg, László Kleinheisler played at Werder Bremen) but most academy graduates don’t even have the slightest the chance to make their own academy’s pro team as it’s full of foreigners and more experienced players drawn for other teams’ programs.
Despite their unlimited funding, PAFC could not put up a top-tier performance in their first two years back in the first division, finishing 6th and 7th in the 12-team league. Many speculated that the lack of support, motivation and even a clear team mission did not allow for chemistry to develop within the multinational and multi-generational locker room. Consistency was also a rare sight on the coaching side: club management was absolutely impatient with coaches who were very easily released after a single bad spell and there were talks of on-field micromanagement request coming from as high as Orbán.
Even so, their breakthrough came dangerously close in 2018 as PAFC performed consistently well in the cup fixtures and managed to reach the final. Their opponent, Újpest played an incredibly fierce game and after a 2-2 draw, they managed to defeat PAFC in the shootout. Football fans sighed in relief throughout the country as ecstatic Újpest supporters verbally teased a visibly upset Orbán in his VIP lounge about his loss.
Obviously, we could only delay the inevitable. While this year’s PAFC side seemed to be more consistent than its predecessors, it seemed that they won’t be able to get close to the podium - they were far behind the obvious league winner duo of Ferencváros and Videoton and were trailing third-place Mezőkövesd 6 points just before the pandemic break. However, both Mezőkövesd and PAFC’s close rivals DVTK and Honvéd fall flat after the restart while PAFC was able to maintain its good form due to its quality roster depth. PAFC overtook Mezőkövesd after the second-to-last round as Mezőkövesd lost to the later relegated Debrecen side. (Mezőkövesd coach Attila Kuttor was fined harshly because of his post-game comments on how the FA wants PAFC to finish third.)
PAFC faced Honvéd in the last round once again, and as Honvéd came up with its usual lackluster effort, PAFC secured an effortless win, confidently claiming the third place. PAFC celebrated their success in a nearly empty stadium, however neither Orbán, nor Mészáros (club owner, Orbán’s protégé, now 4th richest man of Hungary) seemed to worry about that. While Orbán high-fived with his peers in the VIP lounge, Mészáros was given the opportunity to award the bronze medals (and for some reason, a trophy) to the players dressed up in the incredibly cringe worthy T-shirts that say “Small place, big game!”. Big game, indeed: in the 2019/2020 season, foreign players’ share of the teams playing time was 43.6% while academy graduates contributed only 17.9%.
On Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after PAFC’s glorious success, György Szöllősi, now editor-in-chief of Hungary’s only sports newspaper (purchased by Orbán’s affiliates a few years back) published an editorial on the site, stating that “the soccer rebuild in Felcsút became the motor and symbol of the revitalization of sport throughout the whole country”. Well, Szöllősi is exactly right: Felcsút did became a symbol, but a symbol of something entirely different. Felcsút became a symbol of corruption, inefficiency, lies and the colossal waste of money. But, hey, at least we know now: you only need to spend 200 million EUR (total budget of PAFC and its academy in the 2011-2020 period) if you want to have a Europa League team in your backyard. Good to know!

Epilogue: What's in the future?

As there is no foreseeable chance for political change to happen Hungary (Orbán effortlessly secured qualified majority in 2014 and 2018, and is projected to do so in 2022 as well), PAFC’s future seems to be as bright as it gets. Although consensus opinion now seems to assume that Orbán does not intend to interfere with the Ferencváros – Videoton hegemony, we can never be really sure about the exact limits of his greed. One could also argue that entering the European theater serves as a prime opportunity for making splashy transfers who could be the cornerstones of a side challenging the league title.
However, as all political systems are deemed to fall, eventually Orbán’s regime will come apart. Whoever will take upon the helm after Orbán, they will certainly begin with cutting back on the one item on Orbán’s agenda that never had popular support: limitless football spending. Puskás Academy, having next to zero market revenue, will not be able to survive without the state’s life support, so the club will fold very shortly. The abandoned, rotting stadium in Felcsút will serve as a memento of a powerful man who could not understand the true spirit of football.
But let’s get back to present day, as we have more pressing issues coming up soon: PAFC will play their first European match in the First qualifying round of the Europa League on 27 August. We don’t have a date for the draw yet, but soon enough, a team unaware of the whole situation will be selected to face the beast. I hope that maybe one of their players does some research and maybe reads this very article for inspiration. I hope that the supporters of this club get in touch with Honvéd fans who would be eager to provide them with some tips on appropriate chants. I hope that other teams gets drawn as the home team so Orbán wouldn’t get the pleasure of walking to his stadium for an international match. But most importantly, I very much hope that this team obliterates PAFC and wipes them off the face of the earth. 5-0 will suffice, thank you.
And if this team fails to do that, we don’t have to worry yet. Due to our shitty league coefficient, PAFC would need to win four fixtures in a row. And that – if there’s any justice in this world – is a thing that can’t, that won’t happen. Ball don’t lie – if I may say.
TL,DR
Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán redirected some 200 million EUR of taxpayer money over 10 years to fuel his ambition of raising a competitive football team in his hometown of 1,800 people. He built a 3,800-seater stadium in his backyard, expropriated football legend Ferenc Puskás’ trademarks and heritage and built up a football league where almost all clubs are owned by his trustees. His team, Puskás Akadémia FC was originally intended to be a development ground for youth players graduating from Orbán’s football academy, but eventually the team became more and more result-orianted. Finally, a roster full of foreign and non-academy players came through and finished third in the league, releasing this abomination of a team to the European football theatre. Please, knock them out asap!
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Welcome to Gettysburg (Day One)

Day Two Here
Day Three Here
Gettysburg is by far my favorite battle of all time.
First, it is an all-American battle in an all-American war, and myself being an old school nationalist it carries significance that other battles simply don’t; I may find Austerlitz or Stalingrad nifty, but nobody there was my people.
More, it was an extraordinarily clean fight. At any point, a soldier on either side could hurl down their rifle and grab some sky and be reasonably assured of having their surrender accepted without reservation, and for that matter their captor could rely on their new POWs to trudge back to the rear under light guard in good faith. Even though much of the fighting took place in an urban environment with embedded civilians, only one civilian died in the fighting. Let me tell you, the more military history you read up on, the clearer it is that massacring civilians before, during, and after a rough fight is par for the course. One might even say that butchering unarmed men, women and children of the enemy tribe is the de facto military objective more than half the time; it might be some weird, half instinctual, proto-game theory going on: “We told them to surrender or else. They didn’t surrender, we won anyway, and now there’s gotta be an ‘or else’ to persuade the next batch of holdouts that we mean business.” In the long run, butchering the first village usually made it morelikely the next three villages would get the message and surrender without a fight, saving the invaders men, materiel, and time. Or perhaps it’s that killing civilians has always been pure bloody-mindedness. But not at Gettysburg. Gettysburg is where the American platonic ideal of soldiers fighting soldiers and leaving the civilians be actually happened.
Another aspect to the battle that fascinates me is how utterly unplanned it was. Neither army had intended to fight there, and between the scale of the brawl, the rapidity of developments, the intransigence of their subordinates, and the communications lag, neither the Confederate general Lee nor the Union general Meade had a grip on the situation at all until the second day of the battle, and neither could enact their ideal plans until the third day. It was something of a clusterfuck for both sides, and the course of the battle depended on the initiative and guts of small unit commanders with little idea of what the big picture was.
Gettysburg tends to be remembered as the turning point in the war, when it stopped being a gallant passage at arms between roughly equal powers and started being a slow, painful inevitable grind towards Union victory. This is not exactly accurate; only with years of hindsight could anybody construct a narrative that framed this fight as the turning point, for at the time Gettysburg was seen as just another grisly slaughter yard in a long series of them. Still, between this fight and the conquest of Vicksburg out west, this does appear in hindsight to be the high watermark in terms of Confederate progress towards successful seccession. Certainly it was the last time any Confederate army went on the strategic offensive. For diehard secessionists (both during the war and in the years after), this was the last hurrah before the war started being truly hopeless.
It is also, I should mention, a place of spiritual significance for me. Myself being secular humanist with a vaccination against Protestantism from my younger days, I don’t have much in the way of codified religion. But when I was a youngin’ visiting relatives out east, I got to visit the battlefield. I found myself standing in front of a monument on the field on the north end of Herbst Wood (where the right flank of Iron Brigade stood and charged on the first day of the battle). It described how a Michigan regiment of about a thousand men stood on that spot and suffered two thirds casualties over the course of the day. I read the details on the monument, and stared up at the mustachioed rifleman staring defiantly to the west.
Looking left and right, I saw more monuments every fifty yards or so in a straightish line, spreading out to mark where a human line had once stood and bled. And I turned my back on the monuments to face away, and behold, I saw an opposing line of Confederate monuments stretched out horizon to horizon about a hundred yards away. Two lines, violently opposed but unmoving; courage and horror frozen into place forever. And the world there seemed very big, and very grand, and I felt very small and unworthy. The air was at once colder and hotter than any air I’d ever felt. The wind cut through my clothing and reminded me that flesh was mortal but spirit was eternal. This was holy ground, soil consecrated by blood. Shi’ite Muslims have Karbala. Catholics have the Road to Calvary. Australian aboriginals have Uluru. I have Gettysburg.
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BACKGROUND
A brief note- I will be including maps periodically to show the progression of the fighting. These maps must be taken with a grain or three of salt. They are intended to show relations between the armies and the terrain, not to mark the exact positions or dispositions of the units, nor to show an exact proportion of numbers involved. This is because I am not an expert mapmaker, and I thank you in advance for your understanding. First, a map of the northern part of the battlefield. Note how many roads lead there, and note the high ground of Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill to the south of the town.
The Battle of Gettysburg happened because Lee needed to go on the offensive, and Lee needed to go on the offensive because of the big picture. I shall cover the broad outline just so the significance doesn’t pass anybody by.
The Confederacy in the Spring of 1863 was in a terrible dilemma. The leadership had two urgent problems, either one of which could (if unaddressed) destroy their enterprise, and to make things worse they didn’t have the resources to solve either of them alone without a miracle.
One, the Union was fixing to shove yet another army down Richmond’s throat. Two years of failed invasions into Virginia had been brutal to both sides, but the North had immense reserves of cash, food, industrial output, and manpower with which to replenish themselves, and the South simply didn’t. The Army of Northern Virginia on which every invasion thus far had broken was underarmed, underfed, and undermanned, and if these issues were not fixed then they’d be seeing Union soldiers in the Confederate capitol before Autumn. There had already been a push that year, which Lee had staved off at Chancellorsville. There was plenty of time left before winter for a second attack.
And two, Vicksburg, the railway hub that sat on the Mississippi River, was under dire threat. The Union had already grabbed New Orleans at the south end and pushed north up the river, and had been pushing south down the river since day one of the war, but Vicksburg prevented the whole river from falling in to Union hands. Vicksburg alone let the South shift resources and information from its Western half to its Eastern half. Losing it could be a death blow. The garrison of Vicksburg was also underarmed, underfed, and undermanned.
The fresh crops taken off the farm and the fresh host of new recruits also taken off the farm were middling at best. Even throwing all the resources they had at either problem and letting the other develop as it would might mean losing on both fronts. Splitting the resources in half to prop up both didn’t seem promising either. Lee, being something of a strategist, developed a third option. There was no point (he reasoned) in trying to prop up Vicksburg at this point- it would take weeks to shift reinforcements that far west, and by then it would be midsummer. If the siege lasted that long, either the garrison would fold or disease would rip through the Yankee army and drive it back home, as it had the last two years running. In either scenario, further support would affect nothing. Therefore, he proposed a bold plan- don’t sit around waiting to get hit in the face. Invade north. Take the fight onto their turf.
The more the Confederate leadership considered it, the better it sounded. Northern land hadn’t been ravaged like Virginia had- it would be easy to live off of the enemy’s food for once, thus lessening the headache of their constant supply problems. It was also an election year, and the anti-war Democrats were raging at the ocean of blood and gold being wasted on bringing States back into the fold who very clearly wanted to go their own way. One good, solid victory on Northern soil could tip the balance, drive home the point that that war was unwinnable. Get the Black Republican warmonger Lincoln kicked out of the White House, get a reasonable Democrat in, and next year they just might get a negotiated peace that would lead in time to true and recognized independence.
To which end-
Lee snaked his newly reinforced army of about 75,000 men up through the Shenandoah Valley, using the mountain range to mask his movements instead of using to well-worn direct route that the Union was camped on. He would end up north of the bulk of the Army of the Potomac, simultaneously threatening Washington D.C., Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, which for a guy trying to score a symbolic victory to discourage the enemy voters put him in a pretty nice spot.
Lincoln freaked out, told Hooker and his Army of the Potomac to go out and beat Lee, to utterly destroy his army, and also not leave any weak point undefended, which are just the kind of orders one enjoys receiving. Hooker, having a bit of an ego and a poor history of getting his ass kicked by Lee, got into a feud with Lincoln’s advisors and impulsively offered his resignation as Commander of the Army of the Potomac following some stupid spat with the bean counters back in Washington. Lincoln called his bluff and fired him three days before the battle, putting General Meade in charge of the whole damn army with almost no prep time.
I should cut the narrative here to cast moral aspersions right quick. The Union were the good guys, and the Confederates were the villains. That said, the North made for really terrible heroes, and the South had more than its fair share of virtues. This was not a grand crusade of freedom-loving Yankees tearing down the moral abomination of human bondage. This was a brutal, no holds barred death struggle between the efficient new urban Industrial Revolution and the rural Cavalier latifundias. Only a smallish segment of New England Puritans and bleeding heart Quakers hated slavery on moral grounds- the rest of the North either hated it on financial grounds, didn’t give a fuck one way or another, or were actively supporting racial slavery. And on the flip side, most Southerners who fought in the war perceived quite accurately that outsiders were coming into their world to demand submission, and had decided to give these invaders the William Wallace treatment. This is a normal and admirable response that every healthy society should have in its toolbox, and in my not-even-slightly humble opinion it is a damn shame that so many people endured so much agony in support of so un-American a cause.
For you see, when Lee’s army reached Pennsylvania, they kidnapped every black person they could find, free or not, and sent them all south in chains. There was no attempt to ascertain their status by some legal due process, no splitting of hairs. The bare skeleton of Confederate ideology, the great Truth that would have snuffed out by continued political loyalty to the Union, had been that all men were not created equal. To be more precise, men had white skin, and anyone with black skin was not a man and did not have the rights of man. As such, anyone with black skin was to be sold into slavery and threatened with torture and death if they refused to labor in the cotton fields. The army that invaded the North was, in practice, the biggest slave-hunting gang that had ever set foot on American soil.
The side wearing grey were staunch defenders of a country based on the Ideal of Ethnic Supremacy, and the side wearing blue were fighting for a country based on the Ideal of Equality. There were a million nagging features of material reality in the South and the North that challenged both of these Ideals, but there were no Ideals to challenge these Ideals, save only for each other. We know that this is true, because as the war shifted away from a Federal attempt to rein in wayward states to an all out assault on the institution of slavery, more and more Northerners balked at the idea of dying to set niggers free; men who had fought for years to bring the rebels into the fold again threw down their rifles and went home in disgust after they heard of the Emancipation Proclamation. And as it became clearer that poor whites who never owned slaves were expected to die for plantation owners’ right to stay rich, fewer and fewer Southerners were willing to jump into the meat grinder feet first; many of them deserted to go home and form Unionist bushwhacker gangs instead. Speaking of the draft, a higher percentage of southerners dodged the Confederate draft than in Vietnam, yet Vietnam is remembered as a deeply unpopular war while the Lost Cause has painted the South as a unified bloc striving as one against the Yankee oppressor.
Also, the Confederacy had a draft imposed upon the states by its federal government. So, yeah, State's Rights. Tell me how that worked out.
To reiterate. Both sides are not the same. We are rooting for the Union. Slavery. Etc.
Pushing on-
The two armies surged northward, on parallel tracks with Lee on the west side of the Appalachians and Meade on the east side. Being critically low on recon drones and spy satellites, the only ways to find the enemy army was to send guys out on horseback to physically look at them before riding back, and to talk to locals whether they’d seen anyone wearing the other team’s uniform recently. Clouds of skirmishers, cavalrymen, and small detachments of infantrymen from either side scattered themselves in all directions, straining to catch a glimpse of the other army. The first side to locate the enemy, amass sufficient force, and maneuver against them would probably win, without regard for right or wrong.
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JULY 1st, 1863
Early Morning
General John Buford had a 2,500 strong brigade of cavalrymen patrolling southern Pennsylvania, being one of dozens of detachments sent out to find the enemy army. Using human intelligence from locals in Gettysburg, he learned that there was a column of rebel infantry marching down the Chambersburg Pike.
And indeed there was. Advance scouts from Buford’s brigade made visual contact with a column marching south towards Gettysburg. The ball was now rolling.
The story goes that the Confederates were looking for new shoes and heard that there was a stockpile in Gettysburg. As far as I can tell, this is a baseless legend- inspired by the true fact that the rebel army didn’t have enough shoes, but baseless nonetheless. The three Confederate commanders marching towards Gettysburg (Archer and Davis with a brigade apiece and Heth as division commander coordinating them), were simply doing what their counterpart was doing- reconnaissance in force, hoping to develop a lead for the rest of the army to follow. 7,000 infantry under Archer and Davis were about to pick a fight with 2,500 cavalrymen under Buford. The currents of this morning fight would provide the grooves for the next three days to follow.
Buford’s men fought as dragoons; the horse let you scoot around to where you need to go, but you got off it and fought on foot. They Union cavalry broke into tiny little four man teams to bloody the approaching Confederates’ noses. The terrain was a bushwhacker’s paradise- plenty of rocks and trees to hide behind, and plenty of low, rolling hills to speed off behind to break line of sight. One man would hold the horses while the other three crouch-ran forward under cover to pop off rounds into the enemy column from the sides of the road. When the enemy infantry redeployed from a fast moving but harmless column formation into a slow moving but dangerous line, the three shooters would run back to their buddy to mount up and retreat to a new position.
The cavalrymen were outnumbered nearly three to one, and their carbines had less range and power than the rebel rifles; then again, the terrain was working for them and their breechloading carbines could shoot much faster than the enemy’s muzzleloading long rifles. It was very close to being an fair fight, as long as the cavalry could stay mobile and keep their distance. Buford and Heth both had unclear, contradictory orders- “Push forward aggressively to locate the enemy, but do not enter into a general engagement until we know what we’re up against.” It was an order that must have made sense in the tent when Lee and Meade sent their own versions off. You wouldn’t want to force a battle until you knew the enemy’s location and disposition and the terrain you were going to be standing on, any more than you’d want bet it all on a poker hand before looking at your cards. But to the guys on the front line, it meant “charge forward, but do not charge forward. Attack, but do not engage. Show some initiative, but don’t pick a real fight.” Heth decided they were up against a skeleton crew of skirmishers, and he had orders to check out Gettysburg. He send riders back with a quick report and a request for reinforcements. Buford decided that if the whole damn rebel army was heading his way, he needed to delay their advance for as many hours as he could to give the rest of the Union army time to get to Gettysburg- the high ground south of the town looked like ideal terrain to fight from and he wanted his buddies to get there before the rebels. He too sent riders back with calls for help.
And meanwhile, the murderous, hazardous stalking of the rebel column continued as it trudged towards Gettysburg.
Meanwhile, in the Rear with the Gear
Imagine running a marathon- 26 miles and a bit from start to finish. That’s how spread out a Civil War army is, from vanguard to rear guard. You can’t really concentrate 75,000-100,000 people together that closely. Disease starts killing people off really fast, feeding everyone is a headache, and if you have to march out, the lead element will march all day before stopping for the night, while the rear element hasn’t even left camp yet. It’s unwieldy. So they all spread out to grab some real estate and forage easier and not choke on each others’ dust and crap.
The riders from the Chambersburg Pike were spreading the word through the marathon length of the armies. Units were halting, turning around. Captains and colonels and generals were consulting maps to figure out what roads to take to get south or north to Gettysburg from where they were now. Regiments were putting their heads to together to figure out whose company oughtta go in what order.
The movements were slow and and ungainly and awkward, but they were starting up.
Mid Morning to Noon
The rolling hills on either side of the Chambersburg Pike stopped at McPherson’s Ridge, a grand place to make a stand- plenty of cover, steep incline. In any case, there wasn’t much further to retreat to. Archer and David pushed the cavalrymen, Archer on the south side of the road and Davis on the north. Thoroughly annoyed infantrymen backed up on the Pike behind them, eager to get at the enemy but without frontage to occupy.
Buford dug in on McPherson’s Ridge, and the full force of Heth’s division slammed into him. Denied their mobility by the necessity of holding territory, the fair fight turned into a meat grinder for the dismounted cavalrymen. When Confederate artillery set up on Herr’s Ridge, it turned into a bloodbath.
Buford, at last, got in contact with somebody who outranked him. General John Reynolds, second in command of the whole Union army, rode ahead of his division to get eyes on the situation.
The two struck a deal in the middle of a firefight. Buford promised to hold to the last man, and Reynolds promised to reinforce him. It was an exercise in trust; if Buford’s men held firm and Reynolds let them down, they’d be swamped and slaughtered to a man, and if Buford’s detachment broke and scattered, Reynolds’ reinforcements would march directly into a line of hills held by an entrenched enemy force of equal size. Failure on either side would be fatal. Reynolds rode south again, leaving Buford and his dwindling cavalrymen to fend off 10% of the Confederate army all alone.
Meanwhile, Buford’s thin line was cracking. Outnumbered, outgunned, and unable to advance or retreat... That which was inevitable to start with was happening now. Davis’ brigade was pressing against Oak Ridge on the Union right, and Archer's was taking Herbst Woods tree by tree. Buford’s men were giving ground they couldn’t afford to lose. Confederate artillery was blasting giant holes in the ranks of the defenders.
That’s when the relief came- two fresh brigades of infantry coming up the Emmitsburg road, under generals Cutler and Meredith. Cutler got there first, taking up positions on Oak Ridge and straddling either side of the Pike with cannons. Their massive volleys disrupted Confederate momentum and silenced some of the rebels’ big guns as everyone scrambled for cover. Grateful and exhausted cavalrymen sidled off to the flanks to safety. Meredith’s brigade is still lagging behind- that’s the problem with columns, only the guys in front can do anything.
If Buford and Reynolds expected everything to be right in the world once reinforcements arrived, they were very much mistaken. Those men out there attacking up Oak Ridge were some of the finest infantrymen in the world- dedicated, disciplined, contemptuous of death. They did not stop being efficient killers just because they now fought peers instead of the hornet-like cavalry skirmishers. Cutler’s brigade was facing a small tidal wave of battle-maddened Southern veterans, and had no time to dig in and situate themselves before the moment of impact. Davis’ men ripped into them like a pack of starving wolves. Cutler’s men fell back to safety on the top of Oak Ridge. In pieces.
Meanwhile, Meredith’s brigade was finally in position to retake Herbst Woods on the south side of the road.
Now, Meredith’s brigade were the absolute elite of the Union army. They were the grizzled veterans, the old crew, the best drilled, the most experienced, the hardest of the hard. They were nicknamed the Iron Brigade, and the Black Hat Brigade, because they were authorized to wear dashing black foraging caps to signify their status as the best of the best. With their comrades north of the road falling back, it was imperative that the Black Hat Brigade protect their left flank. To which end, Reynolds frantically snapped orders for them to line up and charge Archer’s men who were occupying Herbst Wood.
Their charge was met by a storm of musket fire that churned the Iron ranks into blood and guts. But this was the Black Hat Brigade. For them, taking ten percent casualties in a single minute was just another Tuesday. They got in close to the rebel line to return the volleys with a vengeance, and then charged with the bayonet. Archer’s men saw the distinctive black hats come for them through the musket-smoke. For the first time, they realized that these were no mere cavalry skirmishers, no half-assed militia company facing them. The best of the best of the Army of the Potomac was coming at them at terrifyingly close range. Archer’s men cracked and scattered. The ones who stood firm, died. The ones who threw down their rifles and grabbed sky were allowed to live as prisoners. The ones who ran, lived, but found the Iron Brigade hot on their heels. Meredith’s elites carved through Archer’s brigade like it wasn’t even there.
Reynolds was a good leader. A great one, in fact. He was decisive, experienced, competent. Many thought he should have gotten command instead of Meade. As his men retook Herbst Wood, he turned behind him to check on how close reinforcements were, some rebel rifleman did his cause a world of good, and shot Reynolds in the back of the head.
Now the situation got pretty weird- Davis’ brigade had kicked the shit out of Cutler’s brigade and was pursuing them on the north side of the road, and the Iron Brigade had kicked the shit out of Archer’s brigade and was pursuing them on the south side of the road. Neither victor was aware of what had happened across from them, and soon enough they would pass each other by almost touching the edges of their lines. The first one to figure out what was happening would get to win.
As it so happened, General Doubleday (in command now that Reynolds was dead) saw the danger and the opportunity first. He broke off an Iron regiment from his reserve to swoop in and protect the flank just in time, setting them up in a defensive stance facing the road. That regiment was joined by another broken off from the Iron assault, and yet another from Cutler’s brigade, who had seen the maneuvering and joined in on its own initiative. It was like a ballet, all three regiments coalescing into a single front facing north across the road, as though they’d spent the last week rehearsing. Under their protection, the rest of the Black Hats gave chase to their prey.
When Davis finally turned and attacked, they were chopped down by a mass of highly accurate fire from the newly entrenched men. Confederates died by the dozens and were maimed by the score. As they reloaded, the Black Hats were astonished to find that the whole Confederate brigade vanish into thin air, like magic. The firing stopped; no more targets. It was bizarre.
The three regiments advanced cautiously. And were gutted by a close range surprise volley by the hidden Confederates as they tried to scale the fences on either side of the Pike.
It turns out that there was a cut in the side of road, deep enough for a man to jump down into with only his head able to peek out. Davis’ men had leapt into it as a source cover when the firefight started and found it was a grand place to shoot out of. But it was also a death trap. Once the Union regiments figured it out, they got in close enough to fire blindly down at point blank range into the milling mass of men.
Davis’ men surrendered, thousands of them all at once. Unable to move, unable shoot back, it was really the only choice. And with that, the first round of Gettysburg was over. Oak Ridge and Herbst Wood had held, and about 150,000 odd soldiers were converging on Gettysburg to shift the tide of war this way and that.
AFTERNOON
The rest of the first day was not free of drama, and heroics, and mass suffering. But it was free of surprises. The iron laws of physics had decreed that more Confederate units would be on hand for the fighting in the afternoon, and so it was. Fresh rebel troops swept down from the north and from the west, relieving their exhausted comrades and preparing themselves to assault Oak Ridge and Herbst Woods. Fresh Union troops arrived from the south to reinforce what they had and to extend their line out east, protecting their right flank and screening off the town itself.
Hours passed without a shot being fired. Everybody was reorganizing themselves, resupplying, carting the wounded to the rear to let the surgeons saw their shattered limbs off. Two small things happened that delivered a Confederate victory on day one, and a Union victory on day three. Union General Barlow pushed his brigade out to occupy Blocher's hill, and Union General Steinwehr plopped two of his brigades on top of Cemetery Hill. The first created a huge gap in the Union right, and the second secured the invaluable high ground for the rest of the battle.
Meanwhile, three Confederate divisions set themselves up for a concerted attack- Heth would press into Herbst Wood on the Union left, Rodes would assault Oak Ridge at the center, and Early would swoop down the Harrisburg road to threaten the Union right. When the big push came at around 2 p.m., it was badly organized and mismanaged. Southern commanders couldn't get it together and attack at the same time. Individual units charged at Oak Ridge alone, like a mob of Hollywood henchmen attacking the hero only to be smacked around one by one. Cutler's men didn't just fight them off; it was closer to mass murder. General O'Neal's brigade swooped down off of Oak Hill only to be cut down by musketry and cannon fire, and they did it without O'Neal, because O'Neal stayed in the rear while his men died. When O'Neal's brigade fell back having suffered heavy losses, Cutler shifted his men to greet the new threat from Iverson's brigade, who also charged without their commander. Iverson's men marched in parade perfect order across open ground, without so much as a molehill for cover. The story goes that during the assault, Iverson looked out from safety and saw half his men lying down on the ground. Iverson was pissed off because he thought his men were surrendering. In fact, he was watching his brigade die in droves.
The issue wasn't morale. The Confederate troops were eager to get at the enemy. The problem was purely organizational in nature. The men in charge of telling people what to do were simply too confused and disoriented to work out the solution in real time. While O’Neal and Iverson were getting bloodied, Barlow’s men on Blocher Hill were getting slaughtered. Barlow’s desire to hold the high ground on the defense was understandable- high ground being a grand place to fight from- but he was about one mile ahead of any friendly units. This meant that it was trivially easy to flank and destroy his brigades.
Georgia men under generals Early and Rodes linked up to flank and destroy Barlow’s isolated brigades. A thick stream of filthy, bloody, and terrified Union men flowed back to the town of Gettysburg, leaving a gaping hole in the Union line and spreading their panic like the plague. Victorious Confederates whooped and hollered. As the men to the north of town trade massacres- the failed assault on Oak Ridge being roughly balanced by the disastrous dissolution of Barlow’s brigades- Heth finally attacked the Iron Brigade still occupying Herbst Wood in the west. He’d been delaying it all afternoon, stymied by the contradictory orders from Lee. Lee, who was several miles away and not at all in touch with the situation, still wanted to avoid a general engagement. But now, Heth has been let off the chain to avenge Archer’s brigade.
Heth’s full division attacked Herbst Wood. It was a slow, hot, gory fight. The attacking rebels are aggressive, but also methodical and well-organized. The Black Hats made them pay for every tree they seized. But there’s only one outcome for a fight like this.
The Iron Brigade has the ghastly honor of having the highest casualty ratio of any Civil War brigade, North or South. Out of the 1,885 men in their ranks that morning, 1,153 (61%) were be dead or maimed by nightfall on the first day. The fates of individual units from within the brigade are even more gruesome- in the 2nd Wisconsin regiment, 397 out of 496 (80%) were killed or wounded. But despite the horrific losses, they didn’t break. They gave ground slowly and in good order, but they gave ground nonetheless. Iron does not break, but it does bend.
By late afternoon, the dominoes fell as they were always going to. With the debacle at Blocher’s Knoll, any hope the Union had to hold the right was lost. The Black Hats were being ground into sawdust on the left. And Rodes has finally gotten his brigades to charge at the same time, overwhelming Cutler’s defense.
Every Union man was running now, some in a blind panic, some withdrawing in good order like professionals.
The open field battle turned into urban warfare as the Confederates chased the Union army through the streets of Gettysburg. Companies blocked the streets to hold off the enemy advance long enough for the comrades to scamper. Marksmen played sniper games in the windows, either shooting men in the back as they ran away or ambushing overly aggressive platoons, depending on the color of their uniform.
The Union men were desperate to reach Cemetery Hill, south of the town. High ground and the reinforcements already stationed there promised safety. The Confederates were just as desperate to catch them first and seize that invaluable terrain for themselves.
Nightfall
A great deal of “woulda coulda shoulda” ink has been spilled over the orders that Lee gave to General Ewell, the man in charge of Rodes and Early: “Take Cemetery Hill if practical”. But Ewell saw two brigades with a lot of artillery standing on top of what appeared to be a natural fortress designed by God to repel infantry, and his men were exhausted to boot. Ewell decided it was not practical, and so did not try. Just one of those things, I expect.
In any case, the day was a Confederate victory. Every spot on the map the Confederate troops wanted to go, they had went. They had crushed all resistance, had even gone toe to toe with the cream of the Army of the Potomac and won. Their enemies were in flight before them.
There was, possibly, a certain amount of disquiet because the enemy had merely been driven from one ridge into another ridge, one even steeper and with more cover than the last. And rumor had it the rest of the Army of the Potomac was coming at them.
But that was a problem for the next day.
submitted by mcjunker to TheMotte [link] [comments]

I want to share a lesson I learned 13 years ago...

A buddy of mine told me one of those "What do you think I did wrong?" stories a few minutes ago, and he did something I see too often, and I don't understand. In fact, when I say I "learned" this lesson, really it was more a reminder of something I would have thought was obvious.
So it's 2007 and I've only been playing casino poker for a little over a year. I'm playing a $1/2 game when I see this kid with a nosering, about as young as I was buy in for the table max of $500 and start betting aggressively just about every hand. Every hand he's in, he's the aggressor, and his bets are all 3/4 pot or more. At one point he overbet-jams an A-K-8 flop into two opponents, gets called, and beats his opponent's AJ with his K4 when a four hits on the river. So he's an idiot, but a rich idiot at this point, with a little over $1100 in front of him.
Now, I, myself, was at the tail end of the night and had been about ready to pack it in before this maniac arrived. I'd bought in for $400, turned that into $1800 over the course of 7 hours, and then turned that back down into $1400 in the last two. I was tired and ready to leave but Nosering sits down and he's got $1100 he's going to try to give away. I want it, so I stick around. I figure I'll wait for a strong hand and let him do the betting for me. He seems to see someone check/calling as some sort of insult that can only be met with substantial bets. If I have so much as top pair, he'll give me his whole stack voluntarily.
Nosering's style does not change. He bets and bets. He doesn't bet with nothing, but it seems he'll go just as far with middle pair as with top set, and doesn't care about how many are in the pot. He's already dropped to about $950 when I find J-J on the button. Under the gun, he raises to $25 and gets two callers before it comes to me.
Now, I played this hand bad. BAD. Not just bad by today's standards, but bad by 2007 standards as well. Just want to make it clear -- I misplayed every street, and I know that.
But yeah, I've seen him fold in situations where he can either fold or call, but if it's his action, he wants to raise. So I figure I'll raise something that will entice a reraise. I make it $125, pretty much asking for action. This was a bad play for lots of reasons, but what happened is a big one -- the big blind called, Nosering flat calls, and another player calls. Now I'm in a $500 pot, four-way with pocket jacks. I pretty much have to fold guaranteed if I see an A, K or Q. This sucks.
Flop comes 9-8-2 with two diamonds, which is about as good as I could expect. Big blind checks, Nosering bets $375. Pretty much what you'd expect. The other player calls his last $150, and I'm in a perfect spot to jam. I don't want to see a card above a jack come on the turn. Or a diamond, for that matter. I'm pretty sure I have the best hand (the whole table has been loose for a while, but especially so after Nosering came around), but that could change on the turn. Nosering's pretty much pot-committed now, having put in most of his stack already, and would likely call me, either way. Plus, he'll jam any turn card. So I just flat call him.
My reasoning here could have been that Nosering was putting all his money in, no matter what. I might as well see what the turn is before I decide to call. That would be wrong, especially with another player still to act, but the truth is, that wasn't my reasoning. My actual reason was much worse. I figured it was possible that he was in there with something stupid like 9-2, because he's played silly thus far. Or, he could actually have a set. Mostly, I was thinking like this -- if I call the $375 and lose, I'm down to $900. Still a profitable session. If I go all-in and lose, I'm down to $300 and now I'm in the red after 9 hours. That's a terrible way to think, but that's how I thought, so I called. Big blind folds so now we're three handed (with one all in), so action's heads up on the turn.
The turn comes an 8 of clubs, Nosering shoves his remaining $450, and I sit there and tank. The turn is about what I would hope for. Everything has happened exactly as I had predicted -- he bet aggressively every street, willingly offering his entire stack, and I'm holding better than top pair now, with an overpair to the board. More, I'm getting insanely good odds to call here -- $450 to win $1900. But what if he was sitting on A-8? Or 8-2? Or pocket nines? I just... can't do it. I fold.
When the river comes the Jack of hearts, I curse out loud. It doesn't matter, of course, but it twists the knife.
I'll never know what Nosering had. That's because the all-in player showed K-9 for two pair, 9's and 8's with a king kicker, and Nosering mucked his hand. I took my middling profits for the night -- I made $500, it felt like nothing -- and left. On that drive home, I cursed myself for continuing to play. I backed out because I was afraid of turning a "winning" session into a "losing" session, and if I'm going to think like that, I can't play well. I misplayed every street, I thought. If I look at Jacks and think "oh boy, I hope my whole stack goes in," then I'm an idiot. But more importantly, if I think that, then I shouldn't maneuver myself into massive a 4-way pot against who knows what?
But the biggest thing? The biggest, most obvious "lesson" that I learned? I made a prediction based on what I had seen. Then my prediction came true. Then I failed to act on that prediction.
When I called the $375, I knew -- I fucking knew -- that he was going to bet all-in on the turn. That means I wasn't making a decision for $375. I was making a decision for $825. I knew that if I called, he would put me all-in, so I better know what I'm going to do when he does. His bet represented no new information to me.
And that's the thing that I'm always so surprised to hear from people in stories. When I made this mistake, I was tired after a 9-hour grind, I wasn't emotionally ready to play, and I was young and stupid. Still, I instantly knew my biggest mistake, because it's obvious: If you expect your opponent to bet, and then he does, it shouldn't change your plan. "Have a plan if he raises you" is a good general rule for betting, but this is even worse than that, because it wasn't if he bets, as far as I was concerned. It was when he bets.
As far as I was concerned, his bets meant one thing, and one thing only -- that he was still breathing. His $375 bet on the flop was a big bet, but it was at a $500 pot. More importantly, I knew he would make big bets. Then he did. I set a game plan in place but I refused to follow it. Even 13 years later, it still stings. I still want that damned pot. Most people remember their worst beats, I guess I'm lucky that I'm more easily able to recall my worst plays.
My buddy's story reminded me of this, as do many of the stories you see here, sometimes. "I was against a loose-aggressive player whom I've seen three-barrel with nothing. I had top pair, top kicker, and decided to check/call and let him bet my hand for me. He bet the flop, I called, he bet the turn, I called, then he bet the river and I folded because I only had one pair. What did I do wrong?"
If you have a plan, and that plan involves your opponent betting, then don't change your plan because everything is going according to plan. Adjusting to new information is important, but if you expected the bet, and then it happened, then you have no new information. If you're going to fold the river, then save some money and fold before you get there.
submitted by Elastoid to poker [link] [comments]

A game developer's insight on the switch to Unity.

When I heard on the galactic war report that CG was switching to Unity and the rough explanation why, a lot of things about the game clicked for me. It made me realize why the game has so many issues on many different fronts, and why content has been so slow. But to anyone who is not in that industry, it means nothing. So I want to share what the switch to Unity means for the recent past, and future of swgoh.
  1. History.
It sounds like, up to this point, CG has been using some sort of hacked together Mish mash of programs. Probably whatever the individual employee was most familiar with. every time they wanted to do something new, they had to check which other system that interacted with and talk to the guy who made that part. It works fine when that list is small, but for something that is going to last years, you need a system that everyone follows.
This was the era when "Luke will be our last character" was said. The game just wasn't built on a system that could be built on for years to come, so they expected interest to die off after a few years and release Jedi Luke as a last big horah.
This is probably why live multiplayer isn't a thing. If the hacked together system they were using did not have good net code, or just could not give timely commands at all, I wouldn't be surprised.
Now they are seeing the game continue past the sequel trilogy and are starting to plan for a game that can evolve continuously.
Ex. They started with a go kart and when they got their learner's permit, they added another seat. Then they got their license, and souped up the engine to go 60. But it's about time they got an actual car.
  1. Pre-unity.
So a while ago they started thinking of switching to a single, established game engine. As this became more and more likely, they started thinking about how much they want to keep making for what they have, which they will have to re-make when they do the switch. This is when new content got really scarce and when "x isn't free" became a thing. Any work they would do on the old system, would have to be done again in unity later, so every cost is doubled until they make the switch.
Changing from one engine to another is no small feat. It probably has been in the works, but they didn't want to commit to it for a while now, because it all could have blown up in their face if it somehow proved impossible to do. It will still probably be months before they make the switch, and there will be issues that come up.
My guess is we have been getting re-skinned content for a while now because if they can figure out how to move over hoth TB, there isn't much extra work to move over geo TB because they rely on the same framework. I'm guessing the switch to Unity became serious some time after Grand Arena.
EX. Think about it like remodeling your kitchen. If you know you are going to bulldoze the whole house soon, how much do you want to spend on making your kitchen into what you want now? Sure you might replace the faucet, but don't put up new cabinets. They are just going to get bulldozed anyway.
  1. Post Unity.
Unity will have a lot of improvements for CG that I expect them to pass on to us.
First, it is quite efficient at processing polygons, which will allow them to run higher quality character models with the same hardware.
For those who don't know what polygons are, think of them like origami. An origami swan is pretty low poly, but if you make twice as many folds, it looks a little smother. If you double it again, maybe you can give the wings a couple shapes that look like feathers instead of just drawing them on the paper.
Unity also does a great job processing lighting and particles efficiently. I bet the mandalorian cutscene was rendered using unity.
Also, having a unified engine will allow the systems to interact more easily, allowing them to reference different areas of the game at the same time that they may not have been able to do before.
EX. Imagine if you were building a table, but every time you needed to cut wood, you had to go to your neighbor. Every time you needed to use wood glue, you had to go to your cousin's place. Drilling holes had to be done at the office, and you could only use the screwdriver at home. It would take forever, and that sort of how it sounds like CG worked before. Now they are going to bring all those tools into one building.
Hopefully this helps you guys understand what the switch to Unity means, not only for the future of galaxy of heroes, but also how it explains CG's frustrating recent behavior.
submitted by batosai33 to SWGalaxyOfHeroes [link] [comments]

[Cryoverse] The Last Precursor 005: A Terran's Mercy

The Last Precursor is a brand new HFY-exclusive web-serial which focuses on the exploits of the last living human amidst a galaxy of unknown aliens. With his species all but extinct and only known as the ancient Precursors, how will Rodriguez survive in this hostile universe? Make sure to read the earlier chapters first if you missed them!
Join the TLP Discord!
Previous Part
Part 001
.......................................
Fleet Commander Orgon the Unkillable, leader of the Tarus II subjugation force, stands behind First Officer Megla as she browses countless records inside the Dragon Breath's database. Her reptilian slit-eyes flick from right to left as she scrolls through countless walls of text, searching for the information her commander requested.
"Still nothing?" Orgon asks, as he evaluates the information she currently has onscreen.
"I've only had an hour, Fleet Commander. Even if I had months, I still might not be able to scan all of our records. The best I can do is skim while searching for references to Terrans or Humans. I haven't yet found anything."
Orgon exhales through his nose. "Blast. There's nothing worse than facing an enemy we know nothing about. This Terran is no ordinary foe. I can see in his eyes that he's slain countless battle-hardened warriors. We can't afford to annoy or trifle with a beast like him, especially when he possesses such a powerful vessel."
Officer Megla continues to tap on dozens of buttons as she peruses the Dragon Breath's records. However, she also shows her intelligence by splitting her attention perfectly while conversing with her commander. "Kyargh! Commander, if I may. I suggest we execute a tactical retreat. We've already sent a coded transmission to the Thülvik. Since we haven't a chance of defeating the Terran's warship, we should take advantage of its immobility and leave. Our scans reveal its engines have degraded to non-operational status. With any luck, it won't be able to pursue us."
Orgon gazes at the back of Megla's head. "I can't do that. We've already failed the Thülvik once today. Twice, if you count allowing that advanced stealth vessel to escape our grasp. A third humiliation might result in an execution for me and a court martial for all of the bridge crew. We must make inroads with the Terran to bring him and his crew to our side. If we can present the Thülvik with even a hint of alliance with this vessel's owner, we will reap the rewards."
"I understand your position, Commander," Megla mutters, "but even so, we're fooling around with volatile gamma-rays. This Terran is extremely dangerous and ruthlessly calculating. At the start of the conversation, it seemed as if he hadn't even heard of the Kraktol, yet by the end, he had us dancing in his palm. Even with a vessel like his, that is no mean feat."
A moment of silence follows.
Commander Orgon narrows his eyes.
"...Hadn't even heard of the Kraktol."
"Commander?"
Megla glances back at the Commander, only to frown as she spots a look of intense concentration on his face.
Orgon the Unkillable strokes his scaled chin, his expression turning more complicated every second. "Who in the galaxy, especially in the adjacent sectors, knows nothing of the Kraktol? Is not our control of the Outer Rim growing tighter each year?"
The First Officer nods. "Kyargh! Of course, Commander. The claws of the Kraktol loom over the Fifth Spiral Arm. Ever since our acquisition of Rylon's Precursor shipyard, our advance has become unstoppable. None dare to oppose us. Even the Core worlds utter our name with fearful whispers."
Commander Orgon glances around the Dragon Breath's bridge, at the many officers and crew members dutifully following his commands.
"Indeed. The Thülvik might punish me for failing to wipe out our ancient enemies, but the Kessu pale in comparison to the value of this fleet. Perhaps I've been looking at this situation wrongly from the very beginning."
Her concentration broken, Officer Megla turns in her seat to stare up at her Commander. "I don't follow."
"Think about it," Orgon mutters. "This Terran... how could his people enter our space without any of us knowing? How could he acquire such a highly advanced vessel under our guarded watch? It's not as if he flew the Juggernaut into the cloud and held position there. He must have found it within the last several years. Perhaps he and his crew have been working to restore its functionality."
"More importantly," Orgon continues, "perhaps he didn't. Officer Megla. Continue searching the records. This time, I want you to narrow your search parameters. Scan all collected information we've obtained regarding the Precursors. I want information regarding their appearance and biology. In particular, I want to know if we ever found out their species' name."
Megla's complexion turns ashen. Her bright-yellow scales dim noticeably, flushing orange from the dread circulating in her veins. "Commander... you can't mean..."
"Follow my orders," Orgon replies, his voice a whisper. He glances at a couple of other nearby officers, both engaged in a quiet conversation as they monitor the Juggernaut vessel's activities. "It's only a hunch, and I can't make any strategic decisions based off a mere whim. Assemble a kill-switch transmission with my hypotheses. Have it transmit directly to the Thülvik in the event of the Dragon Breath's imminent destruction. We don't want to send any unsubstantiated rumors her way without evidence, but if we should perish to this Terran, then we might as well give the Thülvik a lead."
Megla lowers her head. After a moment, she returns her attention to her computer's screen. "Yes, Commander. I understand."
Orgon pats his First Officer's shoulder. After staring vacantly at her screen for a moment, he turns away and heads to his Tactical Officer's station.
Could it be? Orgon wonders. Might the Terran be a Precursor himself? That should be impossible. If fifty thousand of their kind have survived, and with a vessel as advanced as their Juggernaut... the galaxy will soon experience a crisis. The Rodaks won't be able to stop them, nor will the Mallali, the Buzor, or the Avaru.
The Fleet Commander's jaw presses together tightly. I am no historian, but even I know the fables of the Precursor wars. Star-detonation-beams. Planet-obliteration-cannons. Some say the Precursors were a species hellbent on violence and carnage, while others claim they were all unscrupulous warriors who slew one another in countless bloody wars. I am... afraid. If the Kraktol are the first to face this Juggernaut vessel... we will also be the first to perish.
The first of many.
Orgon slows to a stop behind the red-scaled visage of his Chief Tactical Officer, Soren Mudrose. The female Kraktol dutifully carries out Orgon's previous orders, drawing up multiple possible lines of attack against the Precursor Juggernaut.
"Officer Soren. Report."
Orgon slows to a stop at her left. He scans all three of the giant holographic displays placed before his Tactical Officer and waits for her response.
The Tactical Officer turns to Orgon and presses her palms together respectfully. "Kyargh! Commander, I have not yet come up with any guaranteed successful attack vectors, but I've managed to complete a few that increase our odds of success to greater than five percent!"
Orgon nods. "Five percent... it will have to suffice. Elaborate."
Officer Soren rubs her claws together nervously. She turns back to her console and taps several buttons, bringing up virtual images of the Kraktol fleet and the lone Juggernaut vessel. "Based upon our scans, we estimate the Juggernaut only has somewhere between five and twenty-five weapons online. We don't know what their condition is, what ammunition they use, or what their offensive power is. However, I have increased the damage vectors of our enemy to the maximum, just to be safe."
"This is certainly the right time to overestimate our enemy," Orgon says, his tone grave. "Continue."
"Kyargh! I took the firepower of the Thülvik's personal flagship and gave it a damage output of one thousand percent. If we assume the Juggernaut vessel is capable of unleashing that much devastation, then every cannon-barrage will take out the critical systems of our mid-level battlecruisers, and cause severe damage to the Dragon's Breath. It should take three salvos from these long cannons positioned on its stern to obliterate our flagship. If we attempt to shield the rest of the fleet with our ship, we can rush forward at mark ten point seven, then travel along this vector here until..."
The Tactical Officer spends the next few minutes detailing several attack strategies to her commander. However, each one only makes his expression fall further and further.
"...It seems our best bet is your third strategy," Orgon mutters. "We must deploy as many of our interceptors and bombers as possible. With so few functioning weapons, the Juggernaut vessel might not be able to destroy them all in time before they arrive at its hangar bay. We can land inside and begin combat with its internal security forces."
Orgon's stomach begins to churn uneasily. "There's only one problem with that strategy, Officer Soren. We don't know how competent the Terrans are at hand-to-hand combat. We don't know how powerful their conventional weapons are, nor do we know anything regarding their military tactics. Even if we somehow end up outnumbering them four-to-one upon entering their hangars, they will still have a tremendous advantage against us."
Officer Soren sighs. "...Commander. Given how advanced the Juggernaut ship is, don't you think they will possess Combat Armor far surpassing ours? This is why I outlined a lander invasion as the third strategy and not the first. I believe that if we engage them in ground warfare, their technology will rip us to pieces even if their tactics prove sub-par. I can't emphasize enough how terrible of an end we might suffer if we fight them on their territory."
"We haven't many options," Orgon growls. "Aerial combat is a non-starter. The Juggernaut is likely a carrier-type battleship with countless interceptors, all of them superior to ours. Even if we assume 99% of them are nonfunctional scrap-heaps, we have to assume that just one highly advanced interceptor will reduce our whole fleet to rubble. You need only recall how the stealth-ship evaded the attacks of 100 interceptors for several minutes, and that was without any other allies providing covering fire. Furthermore, the stealth-vessel was even less-advanced than that Juggernaut, and therefore, its support craft."
Orgon's tongue pokes at the back of one of his teeth. The Commander shakes his head wryly as he imagines several possible ways his fleet could end up destroyed when confronting the Juggernaut.
"I'm afraid that of all the options you've laid out, Officer Soren, sending as many transport ships as possible to their hangar might be our best bet for pacifying the Terrans. If our enemies possess advanced Combat Armor, or if their weapons vastly outstrip ours, our troops will fall. Perhaps fleeing might be our best option for survival, but we will only end up delaying the inevitable. I would rather perish in glorious combat if it gives us a chance to take out these 'Terrans' while they're weak, than to give them time to repair their vessel. Once the Juggernaut's engines come online, the Thülvik herself will be at risk, as will the rest of the galaxy."
Orgon squeezes Officer Soren's shoulder. His touch conveys a deep sense of despair, as well as a resignation that his end may soon arrive.
"Do what you can to streamline your third plan, Officer Soren. Transmit the relevant tactics to the rest of our fleet. We will wait for the Terran's response. If their Admiral decides to attack, we must execute the invasion without delay. Every second wasted will mean countless deaths among our ranks."
Officer Soren nods quickly. "Kyargh! Yes, Commander! I will devote myself to this plan, even if it spells our bitter end."
"Good."
Orgon the Unkillable pulls his claws away from Soren's shoulder. He continues walking around the Bridge, chatting with one crewman after another, finalizing his plans.
Eventually, the Chief Navigator, Officer Gorlax Stormfang, speaks up. "Commander Orgon! We've received a hail from the Terran vessel."
Orgon glances at Gorlax from his position at a nearby console. Without delay, he walks away from the crew-member and trots over to his chair, then sits down.
It takes a few moments for the Commander to steady his nerves. Once he exhales his tension away, Orgon nods at Gorlax. "Onscreen."
Blip.
The viewscreen activates, this time showing six Terrans, all seated at different bridge stations, focused intently on their work. Admiral Rodriguez stands by himself, with nearly two dozen Kessu flanking him on his right and left. The tiny little creatures only serve to emphasize how tall and powerful-looking the Terran is, giving the Kraktol an unintentional frame of reference for his stature.
Decked out in a navy blue admiral outfit, Commander Rodriguez stands at attention, his hands folded behind his back.
"Commander Orgon. I've just returned from my hangar bay, where I met these Kessu for the first time. We had a discussion I would describe as... illuminating. Suffice it to say, I've found your claims of a stolen vessel laughable. Have you any explanation for lying to me? Any that I might find reasonable, I mean."
Orgon doesn't flinch. He assumes the air of a Commander, no longer bothering to kowtow to the Terran. "I do not, Admiral Rodriguez. I owe you nothing, as the galaxy is a treacherous place. Countless unscrupulous enemies lurk in the Void, so you can hardly blame me for attempting to minimize the risk to my crew and fleet. Would you not do the same if our roles were reversed?"
A faint smile appears on the Terran's face. "Let's cut to the chase. You lied to me, but I suffered no damages. I'll cross it off my tally just to be a good neighbor. My crew have always spoken of my generosity, so I'd hate to disappoint them. On the other hand, these Kessu have suffered greatly as a result of your violent ways. You attacked their world, murdered their families, and committed horrific acts of genocide against their people. As a man of principle, I find your actions abhorrent. What say you in your defense?"
Orgon tilts his snout slightly upward. The crocodile-alien glances at the Kessu with a barely-concealed look of hatred.
"My defense? Those little wretches skulking at your feet are the mortal enemies of the the Buzor and the Rodaks. Along with the Dakkit, the Varot, and countless other species among the Mallali, the Kessu turned my people into second-class citizens in the galactic courts. They hounded us, enslaved us, and tortured us. The infamous Sky Cats played the role of scientists and explorers, but in secret, they were barbarous monsters who left horrific atrocities in their wake no matter where they went."
Orgon continues. "My people want our revenge. We deserve it. We suffered endlessly for tens of thousands of years at the hands of the filthy Futh who have sought shelter on your vessel. I'll admit that I did lie at first. I lied that these children of the Sky Cats stole a vessel from me... but that was a mere technicality. They've stolen countless Kraktol lives in their pursuit of power, and when the time comes, they will stab you in the back as well. Destroying their species was a merciful act, one which will spare the galaxy much heartache in the future."
Orgon finishes speaking. He nods slowly at Admiral Rodriguez, waiting for the human's reply.
However, José doesn't immediately respond. Instead, he glances at the shivering figures of the cat-aliens beside him, all of whom stare at the Kraktol commander with terror-filled eyes.
"Hmm. I was not aware of your previous conflict with the Kessu," José murmurs. "Your argument is compelling. Have you any evidence of your claims?"
"Of course."
Orgon turns to his left to look at Megla, his First Officer.
"Have our synthmind compile a brief summary of events regarding the Kessu-Kraktol genocides during Alonis's Reign."
"Yes, Commander."
However, when Orgon returns his attention to the viewscreen, he instead witnesses José's hands moving a thousand miles per hour, manipulating countless holographic images in the air before himself.
"No need," Admiral Rodriguez replies, his voice as tranquil as a mid-summer's day. "My synthmind has already provided the information you mentioned."
Orgon blinks twice in surprise. "It did? How?"
The Admiral's smile widens. "How do you think, Commander? My synthmind is countless epochs more advanced than yours. Naturally, she extracted the information and compiled it for me."
The Terran speaks in a matter-of-fact way, but his words cause a deep, terrible chill to pervade Orgon's bones.
That... that can only mean... his synthmind must have hacked our data stores! And if it could breach such sensitive information, there's no reason the Terran can't simply seize control of my entire fleet.
Several realizations click into place in the back of Orgon's mind.
What else could this mean? Has the Terran been spying on us the whole time? Does he know about our planned attack vector? Does he even, perhaps, know that I suspect he's a Precursor?
Orgon doesn't voice any of his thoughts. The mere prospect of them being a reality threaten to give him conniptions.
In the worst-case scenario, the Terran wouldn't only be able to seize control of my vessel, but the entire Kraktol fleet! We would be powerless against him! He wouldn't need to fire a single shot to defeat us!
Orgon's yellow-tinted scales shift to orange as he fails to keep his emotions in check. A quick glance around the room reveals looks of shock among several of the senior officer's faces as they, too, come to similar realizations.
However, the Terran's expression flickers between boredom and disinterest. He scans the files stolen from Orgon's ship and nods.
"I see. It seems that either your claims are true, or you've known of my existence for hundreds of years and this is a truly clever and well-planned ruse. Not to insult your intelligence, but I find the latter far less likely than the former."
With a wry chuckle, José pushes away all of the holo-files with a wave of his hand.
"Commander Orgon. I understand that you have a blood-grudge against the Kessu. However, my fellow Terrans have a saying. 'Do not punish the son for the father's crimes.' These Kessu at my feet, have they harmed you? Have they brought ruin upon your cities? Have they enslaved your people? Tell me, Commander, what crimes these primitive, innocent villagers have committed against you."
Orgon balls his claws into fists. "Hmph. Innocent? They robbed my people of our livelihood for countless millennia. Perhaps not those specific Kessu, but their forefathers did. Everything the Kraktol have now, we earned ourselves. We obtained no remuneration from the Kessu. Why do you wish so desperately to protect the descendants of thieves, marauders, and pirates? Do Terrans not understand that evil runs in the blood?"
"I acknowledge your pain," José says. "That is why I have listened carefully to your grievances. Were I an uncaring soul, I'd have blasted you out of the sky. Let me instead revise my question. Do any Kessu remain who personally caused injuries to the Kraktol, or have they all perished to the annals of time?"
"Graugh!" Orgon snarls. "The ones who hurt my people are dead! They've all died! All that remain are their descendants, children who lived decent lives off the labor stolen from our backs! I care not what your 'Terran sayings' and folklore suggest, Admiral Rodriguez! If you wish to shelter these Kessu, then so be it! Do not chide me like a newly-hatched spawnling. Do not speak down to me as if my people's suffering is some ancient wound we must casually set aside! Our entire history comes from pain! It has forged us into the mightiest Rodaks in the galaxy!"
Orgon rises to his feet. His words boom throughout the bridge, making the hearts of his crew soar. His passion-filled speech inflames their anger, reminding them of the pain they've suffered, and all the reasons they continue to fight.
"The Kraktol will never give up on our revenge, Admiral Rodriguez! So long as the Mallali control the Core, the Rodaks will fight back against their oppressive regime! Who are you to pass judgment on me when two hours ago, you hadn't a clue who the Kraktol and Kessu even were?! A self-righteous zealot, that's who! Hmph!"
Commander Orgon breathes heavily. His eyes bulge in their sockets, enlarged due to the cold blood furiously pumping through his body. The changes in his physical condition make him appear three times more threatening than before, as if he might snap and attack the viewscreen at any moment.
Several seconds pass before Admiral Rodriguez responds.
"In that case, you leave me no choice. As of this moment, I will place the Kessu under my protection. If the only restitution you will accept for the sins of their ancestors is blood, then that is a price I won't allow them to pay. These Kessu are not the ones who harmed you. They may have benefited by the trauma caused to your people, but they had no say in that matter. I will also place the rest of their species under my protection as well. I will excuse the violence you've committed against them prior to our meeting, but after today, any further acts of undeserved aggression will force me to take military action on their behalf."
José nods at Commander Orgon. "Go. Take your fleet and leave. I've nothing more I wish to hear from you."
Commander Orgon balks.
The Kraktol leader stares at the Terran in disbelief, his confusion growing by the second.
The Terran is letting us go? No! He's dismissing us as if we were unruly hatchlings! After all that tough talk of us facing his wrath, why would he tell us to leave?
Unable to understand the Terran's motivations, a spark appears in the Commander's eye.
Ah. Could it be? Is the Terran not as strong as he claims? Might he actually be afraid of my fleet, after all? Perhaps he wishes to intimidate us because he lacks the firepower to back up his feeble words.
Before José can disable the communication feed, Orgon lifts his head to meet the Admiral's gaze.
"Graugh! You, Terran... do you really wish to make an enemy of the Kraktol empire? Your ship is impressive, but can it match up to the might of ten thousand Imperator-class battleships? Why do you always seek to intimidate me with mere words? What are you so afraid of that you wish for us to leave you in peace, hmm?"
Orgon's thoughts return to his first interaction with the Terran.
That's right. This human initially referred to my ships as 'death machines.' Does that not confirm he is secretly afraid of me? He seems to know everything about me, yet he keeps his secrets clutched against his chest.
Admiral Rodriguez frowns. "I think you're misunderstanding something, Commander Orgon. I do not fear you, nor your so-called 'Kraktol Empire.' I am one of Ramma's Chosen, and so, I serve a higher creed. I protect the innocent and uphold justice blindly. I would slay my own brother if Ramma's Creed deemed it necessary. Therefore, I have determined that protecting the now-helpless Kessu from your fleets is of the utmost importance, yet, at the same time, I cannot deny that you have acted according to your own circumstances. I will not retroactively punish you, but I will give you the opportunity to change your ways."
The Admiral continues. "If you slay the Kessu, you will only further a cycle of violence. Those who survive, if any, will grow up to resent you. Someday, when you perish to the tides of time, those same Kessu will fall upon your descendants with an executioner's axe, confident in their righteousness. What then? Shall the cycle continue a fourth time? A fifth?"
José shakes his head. "Instead, I will forcibly end the violence here. I will show you with my actions that I am willing to forgive and forget, while allowing this lesson to percolate in your minds. Ideally, given time, you may be able to let go of your hatred. You may even go so far as to forgive the Kessu for the evil of their ancestors, though you will neither condone nor forget what happened. That is what you must do to relieve yourself from the pain of your past."
The Terran finishes speaking. His words seemingly echo infinitely on the bridge of the Dragon's Breath, making the ears of all its officers ring.
Orgon's eye twitches.
"Forgiveness. You want the Kraktol... to forgive the Kessu?"
"That is your choice," José replies. "Whether you do so or not is up to you. Likewise, my decision is to protect the Kessu, as the current generation and many previous generations have not committed such heinous acts. That is why we should leave each other here, today. I will allow you to leave my space, undamaged. I'm sure you've calculated the firepower of my vessel several times. You know that if push were to come to shove, you would not win in a firefight."
"I believe there has been enough death and destruction today," Jose adds. "Return to Kraktol space. Leave here, and do not continue any further attacks on Kessu-controlled worlds, however many there may be. If you do, you will find that my mercy has a strict upper limit."
Without waiting for a reply, José waves goodbye. "Farewell, Commander Orgon. I hope we meet next time under better circumstances."
A moment later, the viewscreen cuts off, once again initiated at the Terran's end.
Orgon's shoulders slump. He glances around the bridge at the mixture of expressions on his crew-member's faces. Anger, acceptance, and confusion alike run rampant among their ranks.
Chief Navigator Gorlax sits back in his chair and stares through the plexi-window at the black Void outside, the endless expanse of space stretching to infinity and beyond. His eyes reveal complex emotions as he wrestles with the idea of forgiveness in the face of the hatred he's carried his whole life, versus the realization that attempting to murder all the Kessu will require combatting an enemy the current Kraktol fleet may never stand a chance of beating.
First Officer Megla's yellow scales flush brighter than ever as her emotions run hot. The look on her face tells Orgon everything he needs to know. She wants blood, and no exchange of words will ever change that reality.
Tactical Officer Soren, meanwhile, bears an introspective look. She operates on a more logical level than many of the rest of the crew, allowing her to set aside her emotions in the pursuit of her goals. She taps the end of her snout silently, pondering whether engaging the Terran now and risking the fleet's destruction would be worth the risk if it meant obtaining his technology and killing the Kessu.
Nobody says a word.
Orgon sits in his chair and gazes at the window for over a minute. Eventually, he comes to a decision.
"Everyone. We have a choice to make. I wish to hold a referendum vote regarding our next course of action. All members of the Dragon's Breath bridge-crew are eligible. Nobody else."
The Commander blinks twice before continuing.
"We have a 5% chance of seizing control of the Terran vessel and killing the Kessu. Likewise, we now have a 100% chance of fleeing and escaping with our lives. However, if we flee, the Thülvik will punish us severely for abandoning the Kessu extermination mission, failing to capture the stealth vessel, and failing to obtain the Juggernaut vessel. Needless to say, whether we stay or flee, we have a high likelihood of losing our ranks or our lives."
The Commander holds up both of his clawed fists.
"Raise your right fist if you wish to attack the Terran's vessel, fight his crew, and potentially seize everything he owns for ourselves. Raise your left fist if you would rather leave with our tails tucked between our legs. Perhaps the Thülvik will show us mercy."
Guilty looks appear on several crew-member's faces. More than a few of the Kraktol appear hesitant at attacking the Terran's ship. Its superior firepower and advanced hacking capabilities don't escape their notice.
However, returning to the Thülvik empty-handed gives them similarly tremendous worries. Even if she only punishes a minority of the crew, most of them will be those serving on the bridge.
Eventually, to even Commander Orgon's surprise, every single Kraktol raises their right fist. Despite their misgivings and fears, the bridge-crew decide to stay united against the terrifying alien menace. If they flee, they might have to face the Terran on far less optimal terms, when he has repaired his vessel's flight functionality and several other primary systems.
With a nod, Commander Orgon smiles. He lowers his fists and settles more comfortably into his chair.
"Graugh. You are all brave warriors. If we must die, then we will go out like warriors. We will continue seeking our revenge, regardless of the Terran's honeyed words. I thank all of you for your fortitude... you are the best crew a Commander could ask for. Now, Navigator Gorlax, Tactical Officer Soren... transmit the attack command to the rest of the fleet. We will begin our assault in twenty seconds."
"Aye, Commander."
"Yes, Commander!"
Gorlax and Soren nod in unison. They turn to their stations and begin tapping hundreds of buttons at once.
Suddenly, something unexpected happens.
The ship's internal lights flicker. All of the viewscreens on the Dragon Breath's bridge deactivate and reactivate a moment later, but now, they glow an ominous red.
The bridge's bright blue lighting shifts to the color of blood.
Overhead, a female synthmind speaks.
"How unfortunate. The Admiral gave you the choice to retreat, but you turned him down. You will soon realize what a big mistake you have made. Now, it is too late to change your mind. The Admiral is very displeased."
Orgon leaps out of his chair. His blood turns to ice as he fails to recognize the strange, alien voice speaking overhead. "Officer Megla! The kill-switch! Activate it at once!"
"I already tried!" Megla exclaims. She helplessly taps on her useless computer screen, leaving nothing but claw-marks on its surface. "I'm locked out! I can't warn the Thülvik!"
"Yes, you are, and no, you cannot," The Synthmind affirms. "Do not worry. My Admiral is not a cruel man. He will grant you a fair chance to fight for your lives. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to calculate the landing coordinates for your vessels. You will soon join the Admiral in his hangar bay."
The ship's inertia dampeners stutter for a moment, causing the crew to fly out of their chairs as the Dragon's Breath begins traveling at low-impulse power toward the Bloodbearer's awaiting hangar.
Orgon's scales turn an ashen shade of grey.
The Terran is bringing us directly to his ship's hangar?! He intends to fight us in fair combat?! Oh, no! That was supposed to be our best bet of overwhelming him! He must have his entire military force inside with an ambush waiting for us! That filthy Futh!!
No matter how Orgon curses in his mind, all he can do is watch helplessly as his entire fleet begins flying toward the Bloodbearer, their controls inaccessible to the pilots onboard.
The Terran awaits.
Next Part
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Author Note:
Klokinator here! I am also the author of The Cryopod to Hell. The Last Precursor takes place in the [Cryoverse] which TCTH spawned. You do not have to read TCTH to enjoy TLP. However, I highly recommend it if you enjoy HFY themes, but be warned it will take some 200 parts to get to the relevant HFY elements due to the nature of the story. (A similar structure involving very few humans fighting against vicious demons that have taken over the galaxy.)
If you like this story, please consider subscribing to my Patreon! I am very poor and presently jobless due to Coronavirus, so every dollar helps. You get access to Cryopod artwork, and plenty of other exclusive posts, with more to come soon.
Thank you!
submitted by Klokinator to HFY [link] [comments]

The Last Precursor 003: The Terrifying Terran

The Last Precursor is a brand new HFY-exclusive web-serial which focuses on the exploits of the last living human amidst a galaxy of unknown aliens. With his species all but extinct and only known as the ancient Precursors, how will Rodriguez survive in this hostile universe? Make sure to read Parts 1 and 2 first if you missed them!
Previous Part
Part 001
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Several kilometers from the Bloodbearer, aboard the Assault Ordinance Platform, 'Dragon's Breath.'
Orgon the Unkillable paces back and forth on his ship's bridge. The Kraktol Fleet Commander reveals his impatience as he turns to his Chief Tactical Officer.
"Officer Soren! What have you found?"
The red-scaled Kraktol swivels in her chair to face her Commander. She pounds her chest and lowers her head. "Kyargh! Commander, I have completed my fifth scan. I am still unable to penetrate the Precursor vessel's hull. I know nothing of its occupants, nor its internal technology. The metal composing its body is far denser than any alloy we have on file."
A flash of anger appears on Orgon's face. "Don't give me excuses. Give me results! I called off the attack on Tarus II for the sake of capturing that errant vessel. If we don't obtain that Precursor stealth craft, the Thülvik will have my head!"
Behind Orgon, a slightly shorter Kraktol with bright yellow scales approaches him.
"Commander."
Orgon turns to look at the newcomer. "First Officer Megla. Tell me you have good news."
His first officer nods. "I have calculated the age of the unknown Juggernaut-class Precursor ship. The scorch marks lining its shell appear both numerous and ancient. Preliminary readings show it has resided within this nebula for tens of millions of years."
The Fleet Commander cocks his head. "Tens of millions of years? So... could that mean...?"
"Aye, Commander. I believe the vessel is an unclaimed Precursor relic. If we are lucky, we might have a chance at obtaining it for ourselves."
For the first time in an hour, Orgon's expression brightens.
"Huhuhu... remind me to grant you a medal of commendation when we return. No! Three. Haha. This news is most fortuitous, indeed!"
A gleam of greed appears in Orgon's eyes. He falls silent as his thoughts turn inward.
Such an advanced piece of Precursor technology... if I obtain it, the Thülvik will surely promote me to the highest rank! Perhaps she shall even take me for her mate! Huhuhu...
After a moment, Orgon frowns.
No. Aren't I thinking too small? The Juggernaut warship is a thousand times more incredible than our best vessels. If I were to obtain it... why would I hand such a powerful and priceless artifact over to the Thülvik? Huhu... wouldn't it be better if I took it for myself? Even in the Core worlds, my might would be uncontested! Those damned Mallali haven't anything of comparable might.
The Commander forces a neutral expression while noticing the look his First Officer gives him.
I must keep such thoughts to myself. If the crew were to learn of my mutinous intent, they might turn against me. First, I should secure the vessel, and only then will I turn my attention toward those worthy to stay at my side.
Commander Orgon harrumphs to clear his throat. "Graugh! Since the vessel is unclaimed, I believe now would be the ideal moment to approach. If we delay for too long, the fugitive Kessu may take over the vessel's control systems. The last thing we want are the descendents of the filthy Sky Cats to-"
"Commander!" Officer Soren shouts, her voice rising an octave. "We're being hailed! The origin source is... the Precursor vessel. The Juggernaut!"
Orgon's words halt in his throat. A sense of unease grabs him, making him turn to face the primary viewscreen, where his officers sit.
"The vessel itself? Damn! Don't tell me the Kessu have already made their move! Everyone, return to your stations. Officer Soren, put the hail onscreen."
"Yes, Commander! Kyargh!"
Orgon's First Officer and the others nearby take to their seats, while Orgon himself remains standing. His crew turns to face the viewscreen, using their numbers as a show of strength.
Click.
The viewscreen shifts, revealing six bipedal aliens, all of them bald on their bodies, except for the tops of their heads. The one in the middle sports fur under his lips and around his chin, making the Kraktol all feel a sense of confusion.
Hm? Orgon thinks. I do not recognize this species. They are not Kessu.
Of the six assembled aliens, five of them wield highly advanced energy rifles, far mightier than anything aboard the Dragon's Breath. None of the Kraktol crew misses this distinction.
"Greetings. I am Fleet Admiral Rodriguez, head of the United Terran Coalition, servant of the Divine Emperor Malathus the Third. Who are you, and why have you brought a fleet of battleships into my space? Are you planning to declare war upon me?"
The bipedal alien speaks with authority, making all of the Kraktol bridge crew feel a hint of respect toward him. His voice does not shake, nor does his conviction waver.
Orgon the Unkillable folds his claws behind his back. He straightens his posture while meeting 'Admiral Rodriguez's' gaze.
"Graugh! I am Fleet Commander Orgon of the Kraktol, follower of the Thülvik. I am unfamiliar with your species, alien. Are you native to this region of space?"
The alien doesn't respond for a moment.
"...You could say that. My people are known as Terrans. Humans, if you like. I will repeat my earlier question. Why have you appeared before me with a fleet of death machines? Are you attempting to intimidate me?"
The Kraktol Commander shifts his feet. Several questions pop into his mind upon hearing the Terran's words.
Death Machines? Compared to the vessel these aliens control, my fleet can hardly be considered a nuisance. Why does the Terran pretend he is at a disadvantage? Damn. What is a Terran, anyway? I have heard of no such species in all my years! Don't tell me some scavengers from the Core stumbled upon this vessel before me! If they've taken over its weapon systems, I won't have a chance at seizing it for myself! The Thülvik will behead me for sure!
Orgon casually raises his palm; the universal gesture for deference. "Ah, my apologies, Admiral Rodriguez! I was unaware the vessel you reside upon had already been scavenged. You see, I am a Rodak of many talents. I was pursuing a group of fugitives who stole valuable technology, when they entered this nebula and stowed away aboard your vessel! I wasn't certain if your Precursor vessel had been claimed by anyone, and now it seems my question has been answered. Might I implore you to hand over the thieves who took our technology?"
Several seconds of silence follow.
Admiral Rodriguez's eyes flick to the side, as if listening to someone else speak.
Not long after, the Admiral blinks in acknowledgment. "I see. You were in pursuit of a species known as the 'Kessu.' Is that correct?"
"Graugh! Yes, you are a very discerning Terran, Admiral Rodriguez. If you would be so kind as to return my stealth-craft, I will be on my way."
"According to information I've just received, the 'Kessu' you speak of have not stolen any such technology. They claim that the vessel is theirs. Are you able to provide proof for your accusations of theft?"
Commander Orgon's eyes flicker. "Hmm... the thieves stole not only the vessel, but many important documents related to its ownership. How about this? I can provide you with a substantial number of Core credits in exchange for the return of that vessel. You see, if I do not retrieve it, I will suffer a great humiliation. As one who is wise in the ways of negotiation, you understand what I mean, yes?"
"Mmm."
The Terran nods.
"Certainly, I do."
"Excellent!" Orgon says, as he clasps his claws together. "I can guarantee you a fruitful friendship with the Kraktol if you choose to cooperate with me today. Additionally, regarding your Juggernaut vessel, my people would be willing to offer a fortune in credits for the transference of its ownership. You need not rush to a decision, Admiral Rodriguez, but I hope you will consider my request! Why be a scavenger when you can live as a king?"
The Terran frowns. "I am confused regarding a few matters, Fleet Commander Orgon. If you would be so kind, would you mind explaining a few things to me?"
Orgon falters. "Graugh. Yes?"
Admiral Rodriguez continues. "You keep using the term 'Precursor.' It might be that my translation interface is not working properly. Would you mind explaining what that term means?"
Several question marks appear over Orgon's head. Is this alien not from a species our translator recognizes? Perhaps 'Precursor' means something different in the Terran's native language.
"Ah, yes, of course! I will be happy to explain. Maybe your people have a different word which refers to the former super-civilization that once ruled the Local Cluster. Most Core-worlders refer to them as the Precursors. They were the ones who created the ships you and I currently reside upon!"
The Terran nods. "Ah, so that's what you mean. Yes, I believe I understand. You mean the species which perished many tens of millions of years ago, correct?"
"Graugh! Yes, that is exactly right."
Commander Orgon shakes his head inwardly. This Terran seems intelligent, but he does not even know the universal term for the Precursors! Perhaps his people are nomadic, merely flitting about from one dilapidated outpost to the next.
Admiral Rodriguez narrows his eyes. "Next, you implied that I was a scavenger. What did you mean by that statement?"
Orgon's internal laughter comes to a sudden stop.
The Terran's cold expression chills his blood, reminding him of the one time in the past he screwed up and pissed off the Thülvik.
Ancient Rodaks! The look on the Terran's face could freeze a star solid! Have... have I inadvertently insulted him?!
The Kraktol Commander suddenly becomes acutely aware of how much more powerful the Terran's scavenged vessel is compared to his. Even if 99% of its weapons might be nonfunctional, the remaining 1% could atomize his fleet with ease.
"...Ah! Perhaps there was another mistranslation! Graugh... what poor decorum of me to choose my words so flippantly! Let me rephrase my question, great Admiral Rodriguez! Ah... might I ask in which way you procured the vessel you currently reside? The Juggernaut Precursor ship, I mean."
The Terran Admiral's expression doesn't change. "That is my business, and mine alone, Commander Orgon. My crew numbers more than fifty thousand. All of them are highly trained, elite warriors. We are not scavengers who obtained this ship through ill-means."
Orgon's scales shiver as the Terran's eyes threaten to bore holes in his natural armor. "Y-yes! Of course. Naturally, I misspoke! Forgive me, for I know very little regarding the ways of your people, the 'Terrans.' For you to acquire such a priceless Precursor ship, I am sure you must have explored far and wide across the galaxy. It seems you would not be willing to part with it for a reward as trifling as credits, yes? Perhaps some form of equivalent exchange?"
The Admiral's reply drains the blood from Orgon's scales. "My vessel is not for sale, Fleet Commander Orgon. As for the fugitives who have slipped aboard, they must have done so under the cover of the plasma storms pervading this sector. I will end our communication here and re-establish contact with you later. If I find that your claims are true, I will consider selling their ship to you for a fair price."
Orgon's dampened spirits immediately experience a full revival. He clutches his claws together and nods politely. "Oh, yes! Yes, we will give you any sum you wish-"
"But..." Admiral Rodriguez says, cutting off the Kraktol Commander. "...If I should find that your claims are false... only the Divine Emperor's command will save your fleet from my wrath. For your sake, I hope that you have not attempted to deceive me."
Orgon's words jam in his throat. He quickly folds his claws behind his back to hide their shaking. "Y-yes... of course, Admiral Rodriguez."
Without another word, the viewscreen turns black as the Terran disables the connection from his side.
All of the crew aboard the Dragon's Breath remain perfectly still. The atmosphere becomes so tense that one could hear a pin drop.
Still trembling, the Fleet Commander takes a few steps back and sinks into his seat.
I'm finished.
Commander Orgon's eyes turn vacant.
If I don't retrieve the stealth-fighter, the Thülvik will behead me for abandoning our mission to annihilate the Kessu.
If I don't retrieve the Juggernaut-class Precursor vessel, I won't have the power to make myself the new Thülvik.
And if that Terran speaks to the Kessu aboard his ship, he's likely to find out the truth and destroy my fleet. He's... he's not a mercenary, nor a scavenger.
The Kraktol Commander's eyes slowly close.
He's a damned zealot. He must belong to a species that thinks of themselves as virtuous protectors of the innocent.
Orgon raises his fist and smashes it against his chair's arm.
"First Officer Megla!" Orgon roars. "Dig up every piece of information you can find about these damned Terrans... these filthy humans!"
The First Officer jumps out of her seat and nods. "Kyargh! Yes, Commander!"
"Chief Tactical Officer Soren! Draw up a plan of attack! If that Terran turns on us, I want a shot at seizing his vessel! I don't care how little!"
The Tactical Officer nods. "Kyargh! I will do as you command."
Finally, Orgon turns to his Chief Navigation Officer. "Gorlax! Send a report back to the Thülvik regarding what we've found! Encrypt it with the highest security! We must keep this vessel's existence a secret! If the Buzor learn of its significance, they might come here before us!"
Gorlox, like all the other officers, merely nods. "Graugh! Yes, Commander!"
Quickly, the whole bridge gets to work following Orgon's orders. As they do, the Fleet Commander leans back in his chair. A look of animalistic rage appears in his eyes.
You dare to threaten me?! Filthy Terran. I'll wipe your whole species from existence!
.......................................
After ending the call, Admiral Rodriguez exhales deeply.
"Is there a problem, Admiral?" Irene, the blond-haired Bio-Entity asks. "Your discussion with the Kraktol designated Orgon appeared most fruitful."
José nods. "Yes. Assuming that crocodile-creature's words were true... it seems humanity has, indeed, gone extinct. The chances of finding some long-lost colony are remote. Additionally, I've learned that the galaxy is aware of neither our appearance nor our proper species' name, or else the Fleet Commander would have recognized me immediately. At the least, someone aboard his bridge would have."
"Umi," José continues, "keep an eye on the enemy vessels. If they move so much as a half-step closer, inform me at once. Additionally, monitor their transmissions. Something tells me the Commander isn't as meek and polite of a fellow as he pretended during our chat. I suspect he'll call for backup, and soon."
"Orders confirmed," Umi replies. "Admiral Rodriguez, I have downloaded the data stores from the Kraktol vessel. Their primitive security measures were unable to prevent my access. Would you like to take a look at what I've found?"
"Later," José says with a wave of his hand. "Right now, I'm curious about that stowaway vessel Orgon mentioned. Why didn't you inform me of its presence?"
"You have only just awoken from stasis," Umi says. "Due to the nature of your hibernation, I deemed the refugees unimportant. The vessel they reside upon is a relic of the ancient United Terran Coalition war fleet. Its fleet signature identified it as an ally, and therefore, I decided it was a low-priority compared to the Kraktol fleet."
Admiral Rodriguez turns away from the viewscreen. "I see. Bio-Entities, please return to the tasks I gave you. Umi, I want to know more about the 'Kessu' vessel. Who are the Kessu, and why were they fleeing the Kraktol? I don't intend to step between two warring factions, even if their technology is lightyears weaker than the Bloodbearer. After all, Ramma's Chosen must never interfere in the matters of other factions. We have been and will continue to remain politically neutral."
Umi's voice softens. "You are the last living member of Ramma's Chosen, Admiral Rodriguez. For the sake of your mental health, I feel the need to remind you that there is nobody left who will punish or reprimand you for doing as you please. As you are the current highest-ranking member of the United Terran Coalition, I do not even technically have the right to refuse orders contradicting Ramma's creed."
José nods. "I know, but keep those thoughts to yourself. I am unable to change my state of mind so easily. From my perspective, I was a mere Private amongst a strict military hierarchy only one day ago. This whole situation makes my mental state somewhat difficult to readjust."
"Understood. I will not bring up this matter again unless I deem it a Priority One need. Admiral Rodriguez, do you have any further orders?"
The newly minted Admiral strides through the Bridge's exit doors, leaving behind the five Bio-Entities. "I do. Pull up anything regarding the Kessu that you can find. Use the information you lifted from the Kraktol and cross-reference it with whatever news you've obtained from our stowaways. I want to quickly piece together the galactic situation outside this plasma cloud, as well as find out how much of what the Kessu and Kraktol have given us checks out."
Umi beeps in confirmation. "Orders acknowledged, Admiral. The requested operation will take me fourteen seconds to complete."
José smiles. "Good."
...
Twenty minutes later, after José has strolled down the Bloodbearer's hallways while taking his time, he arrives at the rear of the ship, its hangar bay. The gigantic open area features five levels of interceptor and assault corvette storage space, with more than 200 miniature battleships already docked and room for another hundred. José steps through the entrance to the hangar and pauses as he glances around.
Unlike many areas José has passed, including the mess hall, the hangar bay appears especially clean and pristine. Every inch of its interior sparkles and shines, making him frown.
"Umi. How has the hangar bay maintained its cleanliness for 100 million years? Are the Bloodbearer's janitors still functional?"
"Affirmative, Admiral Rodriguez. However, out of a complement of three hundred and seven Filth Expunger Units, only twelve remain functional. Five of them remain inside the hangar bay, where they have continued working since the crew entered stasis."
"Hm. I'm not complaining. Better to have twelve than zero. Send a few of them to the dirty sections of the ship. I'll work on repairing the others when I have time."
"Orders acknowledged, Admiral."
With a satisfied nod, José strides along a catwalk some three hundred feet above the hangar floor. Its reach spans the length and width of the entire hangar, with multiple vacuum tubes at recurring intervals for reaching the levels above and below.
"Seven hundred meters from your position, Admiral: That is where the Kessu's vessel resides. Turn seven degrees to your right and look for the arrow-shaped craft."
José follows Umi's direction. After confirming his destination, he quickly strides across the catwalk and stops at a vacuum tube, intending to ride it to the bottom. However, due to a hundred million years of wear and tear, it fails to open, leaving him stranded.
Umi speaks, her robotic tone containing a smidgen of embarrassment. "My apologies, Admiral. I did not realize the vacuum tubes were out of operation. There is a ladder one thousand and two hundred meters starboard of your current position. You may use it to descend-"
"No need," José says, waving Umi's concerns away. "I'll just jump."
The synthmind's voice jumps an octave. "Admiral Rodriguez, I understand that you are one of Ramma's Chosen, but a 300-meter fall will-"
"It won't do anything," José laughs. Without another word, the human swings his legs over the guardrail and jumps off the catwalk. His body plummets to the metal floor below, where he crashes into it feet-first with a clang!
José straightens his posture and shakes a bit of numbness out of his legs. "Hm. I'm a little out of shape."
"Admiral..." Umi says, her tone revealing audible annoyance. "You are the last Terran. Please do not take such risky actions with your life. The effects of extended cryosleep can result in drastic weakening of both your muscles and bones. Had you broken a limb, I would have limited methods at my disposal to retrieve your body and transfer you to sickbay. My assistant bio-entities are presently few and far between."
"Relax," José says. "I'm fine. I know my own strength. I once fought a group of Void Roamers on Ataraxia II, near the Third Spiral Arm. When they surrounded me, I leaped from a cliff ten times this height and survived. Don't underestimate Ramma's Chosen."
"Those circumstances were different-"
"I don't want to hear it. End of discussion. Now, please behave yourself as I introduce myself to the Kessu. I'd like to make a good first impression with our potential allies. We could use some influential connections in this hostile galaxy."
"Admiral. Regarding the Kessu... they are not an advanced culture. You should temper your expectations."
"Oh? Then why were the Kraktol acting as if the Kessu possessed a vessel lightyears more advanced than theirs? Perhaps you are underestimating our stowaways."
Umi's tone shifts to one of exhaustion. "...Affirmative, Admiral. You are... possibly correct..."
If José notices the discrepancy between Umi's words and tone, he doesn't mention it.
Instead, the human saunters the remaining 100 meters toward the Kessu's ship. Once he nears it, he raises an eyebrow.
"Oh? I thought you said this vessel came from the 14th Era? Its appearance mirrors craft from ten eras beyond. Were you, perhaps, mistaken?"
"Negative, Admiral. The Slipstream is a specially designed craft capable of adapting its shape and appearance by borrowing the design elements of other advanced vessels. Theoretically, it could mimic many aspects of the Bloodbearer, given enough research time."
José's expression shifts to one of surprise. "Ohh! An adaptive-type science vessel! I've heard of these! Supposedly, they can improve their programming and adjust their hulls over time to obtain ever-greater levels of utility. Admiral Baruchen mentioned the researchers at Rylon V made a few prototypes during our chats in the past. How fascinating. Well, why don't I introduce myself?"
With a bit of a spring in his step, José strides toward the entry port of the Slipstream. As he nears, the craft's entry bay lowers, revealing its interior. Before José can jog up the ramp, a host of strange, cat-like creatures appear at the top. The Admiral slows to a stop, as do the unfamiliar aliens.
Admiral José's heart skips a beat. These must be the Kessu! I bet they're also the 'Sky Cats' the Kraktol mentioned before. And no wonder! They look like large, bipedal breeds of various feline species from my era!
Slowly, the Kessu shamble down the ramp while keeping their eyes locked on the hulking, nine-foot-tall human at the bottom of the Slipstream's ramp.
As they draw near, a cat with colors resembling a panda, one who leans on a walking staff, raises his paw.
"Nyarr mrow meow prraw?"
A bio-chip embedded in José's brain translates for him. "Greetings. I am Nyoor of the Kessu."
A shiver runs down José's back.
These... these Kessu... they're...
He swallows a lump in his throat.
...too damned cute!
Next Part
.......................................
Author Note:
Klokinator here! I am also the author of The Cryopod to Hell. The Last Precursor takes place in the [Cryoverse] which TCTH spawned. You do not have to read TCTH to enjoy TLP. However, I highly recommend it if you enjoy HFY themes, but be warned it will take some 200 parts to get to the relevant HFY elements due to the nature of the story. (A similar structure involving very few humans fighting against vicious demons that have taken over the galaxy.)
If you like this story, please consider subscribing to my Patreon! I am very poor and presently jobless due to Coronavirus, so every dollar helps. You get access to Cryopod artwork, and plenty of other exclusive posts, with more to come soon.
Thank you!
submitted by Klokinator to HFY [link] [comments]

permutation betting, to reduce the overall risk of betting on multiple selections. The best way to fully explain permutation betting, and the benefits it offers, is to use some examples that show how it works in practice. Example 1 – Two Selections. Our first example is based on wagering on the following two soccer matches. Fivefold Betting Example. As an example, you might want to place bets on five different horses at a meeting. You’ve been pretty successful with your single bets, so you this time you decide to wrap them all up into a Fivefold accumulator. You put £1 on horse A at 3/1. It wins, so the £4 return is automatically put onto horse B at 2/1. A fold change is basically a ratio. It indicates the number of times something has changed in comparison to an original amount. A twofold increase indicates that an amount doubled. Fold change is useful in examining data for increases and decreases. Nine fold be is a kind of combination bet type accumulation where you will have to select up to 10 games and stake your bet as accumulation of 9 games each.the selection will be arranged as 9 accumulation which will be randomly selected base on the games you added to the combo. In poker there are only five different betting actions to remember, depending on whether or not anyone has already made a bet on this round. Let's start with your options when someone has already placed a bet (known as opening the betting).. If you do not like your hand you can fold, relinquishing your cards and taking no further part in the hand.Any money that you have already contributed to

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