Stake to get losses back RAPID RECOVERY

Incomprehensive guide to asx BNPL companies (Z1P, SPT, OPY, SZL)

Disclaimer: Bought Zip at $2.52, then more at $2.17 for base cost of $2.32, hoped for an entry to the US market via QuadPay as they had a 15% stake. Bought more at $5.50 after announcement. Base cost now $2.93. Will likely buy into Sezzle soon, as well. All information here could be wrong, DYOR. Mkt caps are from Friday's close price.
Splitit and Sezzle USD converted to AUD at a rate of <1 USD = 1.45716 AUD>
TLDR at the end.

Zip Co. ($Z1P)

Mkt Cap: 2.55b
Quarter ending March 31, 2020.  
March Quarter December Quarter Change
Customers 1.95m 1.8m ↑11%
Merchants 22.7k 20.8k ↑ 9%
TTV 518m 562m ↓ 8%
Revenue 45m 38.5m ↑17%


Acquired for 403m by Zip Co.
Quarter ending March 31, 2020.  
March Quarter December Quarter Change
Customers 1.5m ?? ??
Merchants 3.5k ?? ??
TTV 225m 245m ↓8%
Revenue 17.8m 18m ↓1%

OpenPay ($OPY)

Mkt Cap: 257m
Quarter ending March 31, 2020.  
March Quarter December Quarter Change
Customers 250k 206k ↑19%
Merchants 2k 1.8k ↑10%
TTV 45m 49.5m ↓9.5%
Revenue 5.3m 4.6m ↑14%

Splitit ($SPT)

Mkt Cap: 250m
Quarter ending March 31, 2020.  
March Quarter December Quarter Change
Customers 107k 118k ↓9.7%
Merchants 862 720 ↑18%
TTV 34.5m 39.5m ↓13%
Revenue 957k 630k ↑41%

Sezzle ($SZL)

Mkt Cap: 606m
Quarter ending March 31, 2020.  
March Quarter December Quarter Change
Customers 1.15m 914k ↑22%
Merchants 12.7k 10k ↑23%
TTV 173.5m 153m ↑12.5%
Revenue ?? ?? ??

OpenPay ($OPY)

OPY was overpriced at $3.50 (Mkt Cap: 380m) in comparison to its listed competitors for where they are currently. They're only usable where OpenPay is accepted, for which there aren't many places outside of automotive and healthcare. The "big names" OpenPay tout, like Smiggle and Bonds, are what I call BNPL whores. They accept anyone: Afterpay, Zip, OpenPay, Humm, your mum's necklace. At retailers that offer multiple BNPLs, customers will just choose who they're familiar with, and they're unlikely to be familiar with OpenPay.
You should also note that as of their April 30th Update they said that they have a "strong balance sheet and growth funding positions means no immediate need for any equity raising". Of course, one month later after the explosion of their Share Price they committed to an equity raise. This is either a sudden change of course, or an opportune decision to take advantage of a bloated Share Price. New shares priced at $2.40. Either way I don't like it.
Not confident for their long-term survival. But they are showing good growth, and if you're one to bet it all on the small dogs for the mid-term, OpenPay beats out Splitit handily. Personally, I need to have faith in the execs to invest, which I don't, and for that reason: I'm out.

Spitit ($SPT)

If Afterpay, Klarna and Affirm are the Year 12 cool kids, and Zip and Sezzle are the younger, more hip cool kids in year 10, then Splitit is the special needs kid who hasn't realised he's soiled himself until he's told. Splitit operates in the US, uses the Stripe platform with QuadPay, and is partnered with Visa as is Afterpay. I don't think the 'partnerships' are as exciting as they sound. Just provides access to their tools.
Like Sezzle, Splitit can be integrated into retailers Shopify sites if they choose to. Not too sure how long this will last, as Shopify has recently stated they will be coming out with their own BNPL solution called Shop Pay Instalments. Besides, while they're both currently small and relatively unknown overall, Sezzle is more well-known in the states over Splitit. If Shopify merchants choose these integrations they will more than likely go with whichever they're familiar with: Sezzle.
Splitit's "Active Shoppers" has fallen slightly for the 3rd straight quarter, dating back to Q32019, and is only up 2% since this same time last year (Q12019). Pretty poor for a rapidly growing space.
Now for why they're special needs. One of the most 'popular' retailers on the Splitit site is Purple, which was announced as an addition last month. However, Purple doesn't even offer Splitit, Affirm straight yoinked Purple from underneath them and they are now their BNPL solution. Splitit is either too slow to realise, or just don't update their site enough. Their quarterly update listed Scorptec as a new addition, but what's the first thing you see on Scorptec's website? Zip Money. I randomly selected other merchants on their store directory, and it is very difficult to tell if they even offer Splitit in a lot of cases. You've gotta do some digging. Their exposure and branding is trash. It's great that you can offer your services "anywhere Visa is accepted", but you have to have people using your app for that. No one is using your app if they don't know who the fuck you are.

Sezzle ($SZL)

In complete contrast to Splitit, for the most part it's easy to tell when a site offers Sezzle. The logo is subjectively appealing, and can often be seen on the retailers homepage. Also unlike Splitit, the stores in their directory actually offer Sezzle, which probably points to them being aware and updating their page; Splitit could learn something.
Currently, the downside to Sezzle is they only offer their services with retailers who are signed up with them. Although, focusing on retailer expansion should help with brand exposure. BNPL solutions get a good chuck of money from Merchant Fees, fees they don't see when users use their "anywhere" solutions through their respective apps. But, when customers use their 'anywhere' solutions through the app at retailers, the BNPL provider will then approach the retailer to get them to sign up, further expanding their exclusive offerings. Sezzle will be looking to take advantage of this with Sezzle Up. A virtual card will be created, much like Zip and QuadPay do, but with Sezzle rewards and credit integrated. Sezzle looks to be trying to innovate in the space, which is a good look for them.
In comparison, Sezzle's active customer base is up 22% for the quarter, compared to Splitit's %2 for the year. (Period ending March).

Zip Co. & QuadPay ($Z1P not $ZIP)

With this acquisition, ZIP will be looking at a combined annualised TTV of $3b, Revenue of $250m, 26k merchants and 3.5m customers. However, 1Q2020 showed a TTV of 225m for QuadPay, 4Q2019 showed a TTV of 245m and 3Q2019 showed a TTV of 71m. QuadPay was previously the BNPL solution for Amazon US from my previous research late April, which no longer seems to be the case post acquisition news. In my opinion, QuadPay was likely added to Amazon US sometime late Q3 or early Q4, which resulted in the huge TTV jump. If this is true, you should expect a dramatic decrease in performance in QuadPay's 2Q2020 results, which you might not hear about as QuadPay is private and the acquisition doesn't complete until 1Q2021. This should siginificantly impact the pro-forma numbers of Zip+Quad.
The way I see it, Klarna is the big pimp daddy in Europe. Afterpay is the big pimp daddy in Australia. They're both, with Affirm, still fighting for market share in the US with a grand pimp yet to be decided. If they're top 3 in US currently, Zip will be entering the race in 4th place post acquisition.
Both Zip and QuadPay offer their services at any retailer through the use of a virtual card, this is where QuadPay uses the services of Stripe. They also have some big name retailers helping with exposure to drive users to their app. Zip has Amazon AU, and was trailed by Apple in Australia for use on their online store. CFO Martin Brooke thinks the trial was 'successful' and they're currently "taking the next steps". Although Apple does already do similar financing through their Apple Card. QuadPay was exclusively available on Amazon US before the acquisition announcement. Amazon US was likely providing massive amounts of exposure for QuadPay. I emailed Zip's investor email to find out if I'm mistaken that they were Amazon's BNPL provider during my research late April.
For future outlook, Zip has a 25% stake in PayFlex, which is a South African company. Other acquisitions already completed include PartPay, PocketBoook, Spotcap. Their brands are Zip Pay, Zip Money and Zip Biz. Quadpay and Sezzle are at similar stages of growth in the US, and Zip will be looking to leverage the $200m investment from Susquehanna International (100m Convertible Notes & 100m Warrants) to quickly scale their operations in the US to steam ahead of Sezzle.


The downtick in TTV across the board, barring Sezzle, is expected with the March quarter coming off from a busy holiday period in the December quarter.
Everyone's trying to snag the US market right now. Afterpay is one of the last holdouts for the "use anywhere" solution everyone else is peddling through their apps. Klarna, Affirm, Splitit, Zip, QuadPay are going this route, and Sezzle will soon follow. Just have to wait and see if Afterpay follows. Winners will be whoever can snag the big name/popular retailers in with exclusivity deals, to drive exposure and push users to their apps, snowballing retailer on-boarding. Revenue and TTV are more important than Merchant Numbers. It's better to have a few quality, big name merchants with hundreds of thousands to millions of customers, over thousands of no-name merchants with hundreds to thousands of customers on each. Right now Afterpay has Ebay, Zip has Amazon AU (not that big in this country, was expecting them to have Amazon US post acquisition), Affirm has Walmart, Klarna's snagging popular clothing retailers.
I think Afterpay is going to need to join the "Use Anywhere" party, although with the amount of retailers they're on-boarding it's not necessary right now. They encourage their users to message retailers that don't offer Afterpay to encourage them to come onboard. The "Use Anywhere" solution is great, but it brings in less money, and in Splitit's case with no one knowing who you are and therefore not using your app, altogether useless.
Sezzle will do all right grabbing the 'hip' retailers, and will show good growth in the short to mid-term. Zip will be strong in the short to mid-term post acquisition, and have a strong footing in the US out the gate for a potential long-term future. I'm already onboard Zip, but I'll be jumping Sezzle as well. I would be onboard Afterpay, but imo it's too late and you'll see more %capitalgrowth with the first two from here.
TLDR; OpenPay was overpriced at $3.50 but is better than Splitit and should be priced higher than them. Snap decision change within a month or dodgy capital snagging? Who knows. Splitit suffering from very poor brand exposure + poor user growth. Sezzle fresh, innovating in the BNPL space with Sezzle Up but might get outpaced by QuadPay post-acquisition. Will buy them to benefit from short to mid-term growth. Zip on potentially shaky ground, will need to get some big names early for their US push. They're a high risk speculative buy with a lot of potential upside.
After a rocky March, BNPL's across the board are seeing large upticks across April, May and June. Possibly a combination of the stimulus announcements/rollouts and isolation. Might update this once the next quarter results are out.
Other BNPLs are available: Humm, Bundll, LayBuy, Latitude Pay, DivideBuy, PayItLater, PayRight, LimePay, Make it Mine, Shop Pay Instalments, FuturePay, LaterPay, Four, SunBit, (insert your own).
submitted by HussySmurf to ausstocks [link] [comments]

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure OC Tournament #5: Round 1 Match 12 Alexis and Cybil Vs Admiral Pineapples and Rudolph

“届けて, 切なさには名前をつけようか ‘Snow halation!’”
The harpoon lodged itself into the Ocean Soul’s chest following a powerful toss from Pork Soda, the beast desperately trying to hit the tether to destroy it and release the harpoon, to no avail. The Ocean Soul had underestimated its opponents, who were currently singing some sort of song, perhaps a sort of war cry, meant to display their superior strength.
“想いが重なるまで待てずに, 悔しいけど好きって純情”
It had to do something! It released the Calamus Root in store within its mouth, ready to spit it out, before Sayonara Kodoku picked the Ocean Soul up, shut its mouth tight, and tossed it over to Pork Soda. With a thrust of its fingers, the porcine stand pierced the Ocean Soul’s eyes, blinding it.
Then, the two stands rushed at it, sending forwards a barrage of blows, breaking bones, claws, and disorientating it, before getting ready for a finisher. Pork Soda picked the Ocean Soul up by its tail and began spinning around, the rapid movement disorientating the fish and sending it closer and closer to its doom.
No, no! It couldn’t let this be! The Ocean Soul was a hunter, and even if its prey had gotten a leg up on it this time, it wasn’t going to give up! It could barely remain conscious under the pressure as the porcine stand spun it around, its already severe wounds getting exacerbated, but it had to do something!
Just one shot! Just one precise shot and it could use the opportunity to escape, to recover! The porcine stand was spinning it around by its tail, so the Ocean Soul could calculate the stand’s position! It just needed to regain its bearings, focus on getting a shot aimed, and it could use its spit to-
With a brutal impact, the Ocean Soul was slammed into a nearby rock. It felt itself sinking in the water as the two stands approached it, its imminent doom coming closer and closer with every movement they made.
It needed to escape, but it couldn’t bring itself to move. The two stands made their way towards it, floating above the ground as they loomed over the barely conscious beast.
Was this going to be it for the Ocean Soul?
“微熱の中 ためらってもダメだね, 飛び込む勇気に賛成 まもなく start!”
Like hell it was.
Gathering the little remaining energy it had, the Ocean Soul spat out the Calamus Root stored within its mouth, mixed with its saliva. Hitting the ground underneath the two stands, two long spikes quickly sprouted out of it and towards their bodies.
Though Sayonara Kodoku’s tough skin didn’t get pierced, the force of the growing spike sent it flying into the air, incapacitating it, if only for a moment. Meanwhile, Pork Soda wasn’t as lucky as it, the spike piercing through the left side of its body, tearing through its left leg and shoulder. The Ocean Soul couldn’t hear anything from underwater, but it was sure that its user was reeling in pain right about now.
Using the remainder of its energy, the Ocean Soul bolted away, desperately trying to remain conscious as it swam away from what it once considered its prey. It didn’t even look backwards, fearing that doing so would give its opponents the time they needed to finish it off for good. It didn’t even keep track of how far it swam, or for how long its opponents had chased it, or if they had done so at all. Its body was searing in pain, broken bones and wounds all over it.
Eventually, it couldn’t bring itself to swim any further, losing consciousness and sinking down into the ocean, not even the searing pain keeping it awake as it began to rest.
The Ocean Soul had lost, but this wasn’t the end of the beast. Though barely, it had managed to escape this encounter with its life.
The results are in for Match 10. The winner is…
‘Agnes’ Bayley and Prince Cosmo, with a score of 80 to the Ocean Soul’s 60!
Category Winner Point Totals Comments
Popularity Players 25-5 The word of the voterbase was clear: the vast majority felt that the Ocean Soul was handily defeated by the players.
Quality Players 23-22 Reasoning
JoJolity Ocean Soul 22-23 Reasoning
Conduct Tie 10-10
“AAAAGH! GODDAMIT, STUPID FUCKING FISH!!” Agnes screamed in pain while clutching his leg, body strewn onto the nearest island, carried by Sayonara Kodoku. “IT STABBED THROUGH MY GODDAMN LEG!! FROM THE FOOT, TO MY WAIST, TO MY FUCKING SHOULDER! AAARGH, DAMMIT, WHERE’S JENNY WHEN YOU NEED HER!!”
“You should be happy we got away with our lives. The Ocean Soul isn’t going to come finish us off any time soon after what we did to it.”
“OH, REAL RICH COMING FROM THE ONE WHO DIDN’T GET STABBED IN THE FUCKING LEG BY THAT MONSTER. DO YOU WANT ME TO STAB YOU AS WELL SO YOU CAN SEE HOW IT FEELS?!” Agnes started rummaging around his surroundings with his right hand, searching for a sharp object to use for his “demonstration”.
“Frankly, you deserve it. Don’t forget that you are the cause for this all. Were it not for your foolishness, Webb would still be alive, and this would not have happened to you.” Cosmo chided.
“PFFF- WHATEVER!” In between his heavy breathing and pained cries, Agnes let out an audible sigh. “Fffffuck this, I’m gonna check my phone to see if there’s any connection here so that we can get the hell out of this place ASAP!” Agnes picked up his phone and pulled it up, taking a look at it.
“That will not be necessary. There is no connection here anyways, and I am certain that a helicopter has been sent out to retrieve us, or at the very least ascertain what might have happened to-” “Shut up, I’m getting a message from Cairo. ‘Don’t worry, Agnes, we have sent your location over to Vitus, and help should arrive in about fifteen minutes.’” Agnes looked at his phone in confusion. “Vitus? Who’s that asshole?”
“Vitus is the man who sent the helicopters out. The one which you indirectly crashed. Nonetheless, let me see that - I have a hard time believing that your phone is capable of picking up a signal when we’re so far away from any cellular towers.”
“And why should I care about what you believe, huh? Here, take a look for yourself!” Agnes shoved the phone in front of Cosmo's face, the dog looking intently at it and seeing… nothing beyond a simple homescreen. “What is this supposed to be. This is your phone’s home screen, and though that horrendous chimera at its center is an affront to anything and everything I believe in, there is no notification here. Could it be that you are perhaps hallucinating from the pain?”
“Wh- you can’t see it?! Don’t fuck with me!” Looking at the dog’s deadpan expression, Agnes could tell that that wasn’t the case. He looked over at the phone, spotting it right there, as clear as day - a notification for an sms from Cairo themselves, containing what he read out loud! “Fuck you, I’m not hallucinating! If anything, you are!”
Cosmo was about to retort, when he spotted something over the distance - a sailboat. It was old and decrepit, seemingly having gone through significant damage and yet still remaining intact, somehow. It clearly didn’t belong to Vitus, and likely wasn’t Cairo’s either. On the boat, he saw a silhouette of a haggard man, but the distance meant that he couldn’t exactly tell exactly what he looked like.
“Someone is coming.”
It wouldn’t be much longer before Agnes and Cosmo were able to get back onland, learn what terrible things they’d missed, even if they still had a wait and a talk ahead of them. Left to nurse grievous wounds, this seaborne menace has seen this chapter of aggression momentarily closed, but further inland, the waters of a laundromat are being braved by a time traveler and a woman in chains.
Sound’s Garden Eastern Strip - A Golden Limousine
The evening was beginning to set in, the lights of the islands of the area beginning to flash on and dot the sky as two women rode through the city, looking out through the windows as they relaxed in luxury. Cybil Antoine was one to travel in style, and now, with a companion in tow, was no exception.
“A strip that absolutely comes alive at night… Makes me feel almost nostalgic for Vegas,” her redheaded travel companion mused as she looked out, “speakin’ of which… you ever play anything like that, Cyby? Cards, slots, so on. We could try Heartache Casino, maybe, if we have time sometime… I bet you’d just have to throw your name around to get up on its higher floors.”
“It’s Cybil,” the wealthy woman emphasized, with an exhaustion begotten by this having been far from the first time, “or Miss Antoine… Either way, I am not a ‘Cyby.’ Get it right next time, alright?”
“Right, yeah, I know you’ve told me… I’m just a nicknamer by heart. Cross my heart, though! It won’t happen again!” Alexis Williams seemed… As serious as she could get about something like that, as curiously carefree, even devil-may-care, as the performer could get.
“Commit it to memory, then. Despite how much a fool you can act, I’m sure you know how much I had to pull to get you onto this stage.”
“Believe me, I do appreciate it!” Alexis answered, focus now turned away from the topic of gambling and onto that. “Putting on a show at one of the biggest stages in Los Fortuna, bigger than anything I’ve done before… I know our group has had some bad luck lately, with Bucket causing that trouble down at the fish market, and how down on herself Leo has been since that dumb show she said she got roped into, but we’re still the freakin’ Judecca Highrollers, right? I want to show the world that, and from their box, I want to show the rest of our team that we’ve got no better option than to face it all with a grin.”
“How very like you,” Cybil answered, neutral in her tone, careful not to betray the affection in such a statement as she pondered their current status, where they would be playing.
Alexis wouldn’t be headlining, unfortunately, though admittedly, her act wasn’t the sort of thing that did that anyway. Rather, a certain piece of immensely beloved local talent, a rocking performer who went by TD/MD, would be having her play immediately before her at the Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater, just a drive over a rapidly approaching bridge away. Cybil had been a little annoyed that one of her statues had been overshadowed by a plane crashing near it, not to mention had a desire to spread further the local influence of their team, and so she had arranged with the heads of the entertainment industry of Los Fortuna to see to it that her personal favorite performer among the allies and associates she’d made was onstage at the best possible place for a person wanting to be noticed.
She curled her lips at a cell phone which found its way to its hand, then, narrowing her eyes at its screen. “No word back from your backing band… Where are they? How inconsiderate not to send word on this, especially at how that Mr. Sins recommended them so glowingly.”
“I’m sure they’ll show,” Alexis answered, “and if not… We can make do, can’t we?”
“Of course,” Cybil answered, only to have her eye finally drawn back out the window by the sight of a vehicle which had pulled into the lane directly next to theirs as their limousine crossed the bridge.
Another golden limousine was directly next to them now, this one almost pointedly bigger, longer, more decked out in jewelry, and it seemed to be headed exactly the same way. Cybil, rather than confused or alarmed at the coincidence, simply thought aloud, “that would probably be Mr. Sins… Speak of the devil.”
“Amazing how quickly his casino recovered from nearly burning down…” Alexis mused aloud. “I heard that one of the people who trashed it sent him to the hospital, too.”
“An overreaction I’m certain, from what I know about the man. Absolutely terrified of a little pain, a little elbow grease… I’m not one to gossip, but I can’t help but wonder how a man like him even managed to become so prominent, so consistently successful.”
“Right,” Alexis answered, smirking and putting her finger up to her lips, “I won’t spread that around, then. I know how to schmooze with that type if the need arises.”
Los Fortuna Canals - The SS Sledge Sister
Admiral Pineapples was more comfortable on his own boat, but as far as the fleet of the Masters of Funky Action went, there was no real reason to send out more than one boat for this right now.
“Man, I can’t believe nobody else is ridin’ with me,” his companion, Rudolf Pavlova, said after downing an entire bottle of water in a single gulp, on the tail end of an hourlong keytar solo. “The rest of the Masters better at least make it to the Alexander! It’d really bum me out harder than when Wrenn shot me down if none a’them made it!”
Sorry, but I’m really more the headlining type! Playing second-fiddle to a man in a speedo opening for some local star sounds fun and all, but, I’d totally just overshadow them, I bet! So I should really probably stay out of it! That sentence, clear in its passive-aggressive scathingness, had put Wrenn Aflight’s declining of this gig pretty succinctly. As the man more or less everybody on the team could tolerate, listen to, and generally have a good time with, Admiral had been tasked with asking the other star performer of the team to join Rudolf on the gig he’d accepted opening up for locally beloved rock star and all-around idol TD/MD.
Not wanting to break Rudolf’s heart, he more or less told him the short version, ‘he couldn’t make it,’ and then volunteered his own services for the younger man. “You won’t be out there with none of your allies, though, Nureyev! For I, Admiral Pineapples, will aid you in coordinating every moment of your work! This will be one of the worthiest usages of my tactical mind in a long time, I’m sure!”
“I hope you’ve gotten those hour-long solos out of your system now, Nureyev,” Pineapples warned with an amused, lax tone, “you’re only going to have thirty minutes onstage before the headliner has to get ready, and there’ll be trouble if you bleed into that.”
“I know, I know,” Rudolf answered, casually, as he slipped into an open-chested bathrobe mainly meant to function as the legal requirement of public decency until it was time to perform, “I’m not one to step on anyone’s toes, let alone the star of the show. Live and let live, yeah?”
“I’m curious, though, and you never told me…” The Admiral asked, cracking open a beverage of his own and taking a sip, “how did you manage to get such a part as this in the first place?”
“Oh, that’s simple!” Rudolf said, the thought to answer having simply not occurred to him.
A few weeks ago - A beach in the Waterfront District.
“Alright! Thank you, Los Fortuna! I’m here all day, and all night, and all tomorrow too, baby! Party never stops!” Rudolf had just finished the latest of his performances to a small crowd of beachgoers, shredding through the end of his one-man keytar rendition of 2112 and transitioning into a truly epic medley of the extended Family Guy, American Dad, and Cleveland Show OPs.
As the crowd dispersed, a corporate suit-looking type of guy, bronze-skinned with neatly-groomed hair, remained, eyeing his keytar curiously and smiling artificially. “That was an excellent show, Mr… Pavlova, I think it was? You have such an undeniable energy about you that I can see when I lay eyes upon you… You’ve star material.”
“Am I being poached?” Rudolf asked, tilting his head, “‘cuz I assure you, I am a free agent! Not about to be scooped up by some label and forced to chill out the party churnin’ out music I don’t feel in my soul.”
“Nothing so abrupt, no… I’m a Manager, representing TD/MD. You can call me Thutmose. Anyway, she has a concert approaching rapidly, and we’re struggling and scrambling to find local, new talent and performers to open for her. We’ve managed to secure a lot of artists already, but the most important spot… Playing right before her… That, still, we have a particular need for, and I think you would serve it perfectly.”
“So I accepted!” In the present day, Rudolf finished, “why not, yeah? I can spread the party to tens of thousands at one of the biggest venues in town!”
“Scouted on the street, hm… That’s awfully lucky.” Something about this struck Admiral as odd, but he supposed it was all the more reason it was good he was backing his friend and ally up. He had a strong hunch there was more to it than appeared.
Rudolf’s party yacht would disembark soon, ported on the central-most island of the places which made up Sound’s Garden, and the party would make their way forward from there.
Sound’s Garden West Side - Outside the Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater
At the same time, a self-important first step was taken out of a pair of golden limousines, one a heel clacking first out of it and a short, stocky woman in pinstripe emerging, the other dress shoes leading up to a tall, lean man in a gold and yellow tux, grinning and running a hand through his slicked-back hair.
Cybil Antoine hadn’t had the “pleasure” of a personal conversation with Tigran Sins before, but had happened to overhear some of him during her meeting with that Thutmose man, and then and there, she had known everything about him, and knew that she had already had the displeasure of knowing dozens of men like him.
Still, though, one needed to be cordial in times like this, so as Alexis came out behind her, and a very strongly built-looking, mean-looking man with brown hair and a nice vest, attached to the lapel of which was a Heartache Casino brooch (a bouncer? A bodyguard?) stood by Tigran waiting to see what he wanted or what he did, she approached the man who dared to try and be more golden than her Stand. “Mr. Sins, I believe… I believe we’ve crossed paths, briefly, but we didn’t really have a chance to speak.”
The man tensed a bit, only to relax slightly again when he saw that Cybil intended only to speak. “Cybil Antoine, right? I’ve heard you’ve been making a hell of a lot of waves around town lately, so I must say I’m excited to meet you too.” He looked back past her, towards Alexis standing and stretching outside of her team’s limo. “Would that be your star you’ve got going on? Certainly she’s got charm.”
“Hi, right in front of you,” Alexis answered, teasingly passive-aggressively waving, “yeah, I’m going up before TD/MD.”
“She’s a very important star around here, you know… So you’d better put on a show that leaves them wanting for more of the best.” Tigran’s attendant spoke, then, sounding dead serious as he looked them over. “A lot of people have come here just for this, just for her sake… It is completely imperative you keep that in mind.”
Tigran simply nodded, concurring, “couldn’t have said it better myself, Fox.”
Shortly after that, the pairs went their separate ways, shifting through VIP areas of the area of the main structure of the amphitheater, series of comfortably shielded stadium halls that it was.
“Still no sign of the band… Still no word from them either. I’m cross now.”
Alexis, then, stopped in her trail, looking at a schedule which had been printed out and emblazoned upon a green room wall. “Uh, Cybil, you’re gonna wanna take a look at this.”
“Hm?” Cybil raised an eyebrow, turning to face what her partner was pointing at, and then glared again. “Who the hell is Nureyev, and why are they listed at the same time as you?”
“There’s gotta be some kinda mixup or somethin’, man… I know about this ‘Alexis Williams’ it talks about, and hear she’s a Vegas Performer, damn fine one at that who can really strut her stuff. But we ain’t in Vegas at all, so what gives?” Rudolf himself was gesturing at a printout version of much the same piece of programming, he and Admiral Pineapples having wandered much the same series of halls.
“Hrm…” Admiral, now, took a look at the sheet himself, combing over the names before Rudolf on the list and speaking names aloud. “‘Arancini,’ ‘Tenacious-er E,’ ‘Guy and the Fieris’ Heavy Metal Barbershop Quarter,’ all as scheduled… What the hell? Yeah. We’re the only acts double-booked like this, and you say you don’t know this woman personally?”
“Not in the slightest,” Rudolf said, “never laid personal eyes upon her! So maybe there’s a typo, yeah… I know! We could track down Thutmose! But, uh… Where the hell’s Thutmose right now?”
A distorted voice shout-whispered, “I heard that he was visiting TD/MD’s green room.”
“Huh? Oh, thanks!” Rudolf accepted that advice uncritically, beginning to make his way, but Pineapples looked, at least, in the direction it came from, seeing then flashes of a short-looking person in a maroon turban, face bandaged but mouth section bulging with something hidden underneath, and a pair of aviator goggles, as well as a tunic, trousers, and many bulky scarves adorned in the forms of climbing stick figures.
Looking at the man, Pineapples couldn’t help but feel suspicious, but hell, there was a lot shady going on here. “Yes, thank you, Mister… Who am I thanking?”
“No,” the figure answered dismissively, “think little of it… I’m just another interested party watching the show. If there’s confusion, then, I want to see it resolved fast! If you’ll excuse me, though, I need to make my way to my box…”
“Strange man…” Pineapples shook his head, not wanting to leave Rudolf alone to deal with this strange situation. He knew from hearsay and rumor that there were some truly dangerous things lurking in the bowels of Sound’s Garden, and Rudolf, more heart than head, was bound to be barreling into it.
Sound’s Garden - The largest and nicest green room in the halls of the Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater.
Metra Doria sat before a makeup chair as assistants fussed and fussed with her hair, her face, her clothes, occasionally being met with polite thanks, compliments, or idle chit-chat, representing a sort of familiarity the team had had with the pale, short-dark-haired girl with a single blue streak through her front left locks. She stared at her own dressed-up eyes in the mirror, one silver, one blue and at once black-striped through the iris. As she sat here, initially clad pretty casually and low-key, she was Metra, but as the outfit she had selected was put together, she would become TD/MD.
She was being cordial before now, but all of the small talk had ended as soon as her manager came into the scene, knocking, being invited to come in, and then doing so.
“How’s the show going, Thutmose? I wish I could see Guy and the Fieris do their thing, but… Makeup, I swear.”
“There’s… People insisting upon speaking, Metra. They’re performers, the ones before you, and they seem annoyed. I tried to shoo them away and tell them to work it out, but that only incensed the old-timers with them, and now they want to speak to you. I tried telling them it was a waste of your time, but-”
“This close to going on?” Metra narrowed her eyes at the reflected form of her manager. Always, it was one thing after another with this guy. Though most of the time, one might assume there was something not worth it going on here, she knew Thutmose well enough to know there might be problems. She sighed, shutting her eyes now. “It had better be important… Let ‘em in.”
And like that, a quartet of two twenty-somethings, a middle-aged woman, and an old man barreled in through the door at once, all talking over one another and expressing confusion with the other’s very existence and presence. It was making the half-prepared girl more uncomfortable than sitting in a chair for awhile just to get ready for a show often did, so she raised her voice, calmly but authoritatively, literally seeming to drown out their babbling in the process. “Quiet down, alright?! One at a time.”
There was a little more whispering among the four, then, and it was the pinstripe-suited woman who stepped forward among them to speak the crowd’s mind. “TD/MD, I presume… This ‘Thutmose’ man, he has made a grave mistake in the scheduling. My associate Alexis here, and this half-nude man carrying a keytar around, they have not met before today, and they certainly did not intend to collaborate before you. Your manager has refused to listen to reason about this, so we are taking the matter straight past him to you… Resolve it at once, and we can be on our way.”
“What?” Metra, facing them all, blinked, shaking her head and glaring at Thutmose. “Again? How does this keep happening? You overbook acts right before me, and it’s such a disaster I’ve started to need to allot extra time to cleanup guys after those sets… It was bad enough before, but it’s seriously getting out of hand, man. I can’t keep dealing with you if you treat everyone else you deal with like this. You’re done working with me. We’re through.”
“B-but… But Metra..!” Thutmose was flabbergasted, looking almost terrified at the prospect. “Please, be reasonable..! I need this job, understand? I’ve got gambling debts, and-”
“Whoa whoa whoa,” the keytarist (Rudolf, or Nureyev, according to the program) interjected then, “let’s not ruin a man’s life over me and Lexy here, yeah? I looked into the history of this place, the Alexander Dickinson… Named after a big dead deal Philanthropist, so basically a dude from the 90's who gave his all to culture in this city, funded all kinds’a stuff! Would a man like that want a man to be fired in his own memorial stadium?”
The logic seemed to confuse nearly everyone there, not least of all Metra, whose response, after a moment, was, “Huh? You… Are you saying it doesn’t bother you?”
“He’s saying that!” Thutmose pleaded. “I am certain he’s saying that!”
“I don’t mind, either…” The redheaded Alexis said next, nodding and looking around at nothing in particular. “Yeah, I think we can work with that… The band he set us up with bailed on us anyway, right? So… Music might help, and it’s not like the things we do step on each other’s toes, yeah? So whatever, I’m sure we’ll still leave a bigger impression.”
Cybil, then, pursed her lips. “If it doesn’t make a difference to you, then, and we’re all on the same page… But still, this is so very inconvenient.”
“Agreed…” Pineapples looked to Thutmose. “Be more responsible in the future, aye? I think even if you keep your job right now, you’re gonna be on thin ice for now. And give up on gambling, if it’s sunken you this far.”
Metra nodded. “Agreed. I can’t guarantee I won’t start looking for a new manager, but… You’ve been good to me, at least. Clean up your act.” Then, she looked over the quartet. “I’m seriously sorry about this… You say you had backup, but they’re not showing up now? I, uh… I don’t know what happened to whoever those were, or why they fell through, but I have something I can do to help both of your shows exist at once: six of the best stagehands I've got.”
At that, the star snapped her fingers, and from the shadowy corners of the room emerged two trios, three men in a pose one well-versed on incidents in the early 20th century Roman Colosseum might compare to Awakening One’s Masters appearing before the Masters of Funky Action, three women in turn also sliding in before the Judecca Highrollers in perfect sync, stepping in with the coordination one might associate with, as a weird example, teenage mobsters jazzed about a dude being sent to the ninth circle of hell.
All six were muscular, clad in black sleeveless shirts, leather gloves, pants, boots, and bandannas over their heads, and all around, they gave off auras of immense reliability.
“Harry, Mark, and John, and Thorn, Dusk, and Luna… I kid you not, these guys can basically do anything and everything you ask of them. If they didn’t much prefer supporting other people to being in the limelight themselves, they would be as big as I am. Treat them well, they’ll learn fast, and they’ll be invaluable to making your bits work. But, uh… I’d hurry it up. Guy and the Fieris probably only have a couple more encores in them, and then you’ll have fifteen to set up. I wish you all luck..!”
Metra Doria had been a bit of a miracle for the grateful performers and put-off older supporters, who had in turn both begun to explain their intended strategies and how those might change to their crew members, who understood alarmingly fast.
“Man…” Rudolf whistled in relief, chuckling. “What a scare that was… But you, Lexy? You’re alright, actually.”
“Thanks,” Alexis answered in turn, still trying to figure this guy out, “you don’t seem bad yourself… I almost kinda feel bad that we’re gonna totally eclipse you out there.”
“Y’think so, huh?” Rudolf answered with a grin, pointing forward with a friendly competitiveness. “Well, the party don’t get drowned out by a damn thing! I’m gonna get all these good people pumped as hell, and they’ll be cheerin’ for me even when that Metra chick goes on!”
“Ooh, I’m starting to feel a bit competitive…” Alexis answered, good-naturedly chuckling and folding her arms. “Wanna see who gets the crowd more pumped? Loser, uh… Buys the winner overpriced concert t-shirts. These things need stakes, right? Heh…”
At the somewhat tongue-in-cheek suggestion, Rudolf nodded. “Sure, yeah! That, and the pride of bein’ one of the best in the city! May the best team win!”
Location: The Alexander Dickinson Amphitheater, one of the biggest outdoor venues in the entirety of the Metropolitan area, in the buildup to TD/MD’s headlining act, wherein both of your teams have had a performer set to open for her. The place is packed at a capacity of tens of thousands of people.
The stage is a competently designed semicircle which is roughly 30 meters across for length and maximum width, with plenty of room all over and the various necessary fixtures upheld off the ground. It is raised up about 2 meters off the ground. Its back half is partially covered by the overhanging roof of the backstage area a dozen meters above.
The backstage area spreads out about 10 meters from both sides and the back of the stage, being somewhat indoorsy and absolutely full of things one could expect an excellent stage production to have, including, of course, sturdy rafters which lead up to the ceiling area overtop the stage. Both sides have had time to arrange for some extra things to be brought in.
Goal: With a leadup of fifteen minutes before acts, and a half an hour where both of your performers are onstage at once, you have a show to put on, and that is not getting ruined by this overbooking. So, with Rudolf and Alexis up on stage, and Pineapples and Cybil each operating their abilities and managing a three-person stage crew, outperform your opponents!
Given the vastly different skill-sets of the competitors, the goal is to execute on your vision better than your opponent executes on theirs. You will be judged and voted on the following criteria, in decreasing priority:
  • Feasibility - Whether your performance is actually within the bounds of what your Stand and Stats would imply.
  • Skill Use - A close second in relevance; how well you integrate your User Skills and Stats into your performance. While your Skills will help in completing this objective, they do not provide an automatic advantage by merely existing and must be woven into your strats, as per usual. Even the best of artists can have abysmal live performances.
  • Stand Use - Similar to the above, and similarly important. How cool, creative, and well-integrated is your Stand use. Put another way, wow the judges, voters, and viewers at home! This is more or less just the same as before.
  • Environment Use - How well you use and integrate the auditorium - its features, its backstage, its stage, and the hearts and passions of its occupants - into your performance.
  • Efficiency - How much quality footage you obtain and how well you use your time. This does not mean that setup for more complex performances is automatically penalized, but do try to minimize ‘deadtime’ and maximize the amount you perform.
Additional Information: There is a huge simp for TD/MD in the audience of the match, and he is connected enough that he will have both of you successfully and canonically killed if you ruin the show before the headliner can go on; therefore, murdering your opponents or audience members (“the ol’ Abraham Lincoln Tech” as they say in the biz) on an audience member is a loss condition. Not at all a moral thing for the record.
Stage Crew members for the respective teams (Harry, Mark, and John on the MFAs, Thorn, Dusk, and Luna on the Highrollers, if you care about their names) have 4s in strength, agility, endurance, Stagehand, and Backup; pretty much, anything their associated team asks them to do, they’ll be able to do, at minimum, competently. Though they won’t, like, murder for you. Generally you can use them for moving props on/off stage, extra bodies or on-stage back up performers, speaker and soundboard control, and/or on-stage camera crew as well as managing any other stage controls. Pretty much everything save for pyronetics and lighting is in their purview.
There are also dedicated lighting guys, totally neutral in your squabbles, who are going to do an entirely too good job adjusting their focus and making things work exactly as is needed so attention is on the stars of the show. They will also be coordinated with a third party camera crew that will be streaming the live feed onto screens for the audience. These feeds can be replaced or split screened with your own crew’s footage, but otherwise they will generally be in control of what is shown on-screen.
Players can be assumed to already have well-rehearsed their plans of action, the in-universe basis for the modified plans of the match, and have knowledge about every aspect of the stage, even if parts of their initial plan obviously need to be modified to account for new challengers also occupying stage space. If something performance related isn’t insanely, “years of training to do competently required” level hard, but would still require some practice ahead of time, they have had it to, at absolute max, somewhere between a 2 and a 3. Players, don’t overly-game this, though; the ‘stars’ of your performances should be the sheeted unique abilities of you, your skills, and your Stands.
All stands can be seen on camera and on the live feed for the audience's viewing pleasure.
Team Combatant JoJolity
Judecca Highrollers Alexis Williams “This one is for the guy who keeps yelling from the Balcony, and it’s called ‘We Hate You, Please Die.’” Gymnastics is a sport of rhythm and pace, this performance should be no different for keeping your momentum. Make as seamless transitions as you can between the acts of your performance!
Judecca Highrollers Cybil Antoine “Prepare to have your minds obliterated by… The boys! And Crash!” You have a whole crew of people working for you here, no need to do any heavy lifting by yourself. This is their job after all, better put them to work since that’s what they are here for. Make the most use out of your stage hands in your performance!
Masters of Funky Action Rudolf "Nureyev" Pavlova “What is with this band? They’ve… changed. Have you noticed they don’t have instruments? Where’s all this amazing noise coming from?” Keeping the audience’s attention for a full 30 minutes should be a piece of cake for the world’s greatest dancer, you can keep the party rocking even between your different acts. Make as seamless transitions as you can between the acts of your performance!
Masters of Funky Action Admiral Pineapples “You and your fireballs and your demon hipster chicks / you’re talking the talk and it’s pretty slick / You think you’re so great, but you’re missing the point / You gotta have friendship and courage and whatever!” You’re all in this show together, you and your crew of stage hand. Everybody should be contributing here, no man left behind. Make the most use out of your stage hands in your performance!
Link to the Official Player Spreadsheet
Link to Match Schedule
As always, if you would like to interact with the tournament community and be among the first to get updates for the tournament, please feel free to PM a member of our Judge staff for an invite to our Official Discord Server!
submitted by Dungeon_Dice to StardustCrusaders [link] [comments]

Where "Rumble Down Under" went wrong and how I'd go about fixing it

I actually like "Rumble Down Under." It's an episode in my favorite video game, it introduces my favorite character in the series, the hub is unique in how naturalistic a lot of the landscape is, and it has some of my favorite missions like "Unleash the Guru," "Lemon Rage," and "Dark Caves." But it is admittedly very flawed. I still think the idea behind it is sound. Sly 3 did this polarizing thing where, with a few exceptions, it really tried to expand and redefine what a villain of the Sly Cooper series could be. The previous two games both dealt with gangs of specialists, but in Sly 3, not only are all of these villains unconnected, but some of them aren't even "human" (so to speak) or even real. Octavio, Tsao, Lefwee, and Dr. M (the best villain in the series IMO but I digress) are all still traditional, so it's not like the series took a full left turn as to what the villains were supposed to be, but the Mask of Dark Earth (MDE) and the Black Baron are a floating, silent, mask and a costume respectively. And while the Black Baron still had a fun personality and unique voice actor that made his overall nature work more like a traditional villain, the MDE didn't have any of that, and so it feels like the true outlier of the game.
Not only that, but the structure of missions is also uninspired compared to other examples. Again, in theory I like how this chapter goes. The group is going up against a group of miners as opposed to one unifying presence, and midway through the entire plan has to shift around to deal with the arrival of a malevolent force that has thrown everything out of order. But the thing is, the missions tend to follow this haphazard nature of throwing every plan at the mask rather than building to a unified conclusion. Part of the charm of an episode in a Sly Cooper game is building up to that heist at the end. Every mission serves that thread in some way that isn't always clear to the player until the plan is laid out. For example, let's look at Holland. First Sly disguises himself to learn the location and eventually obtain the flight roster so that the team knows who they're dealing with. With this knowledge, the next set of missions involves sneaking around to make the two teams Sly is flying against angry at each other, giving his one lone plane a chance, all while protecting the Cooper Hangar from others' sabotage. Next, the goal is to even the odds for this next round, and this naturally involves taking out the competition. The Guru thins out the Black Baron's ranks, Bentley hacks into the Black Baron's communications towers so that he can't cheat, and Carmelita is tricked into taking out Muggshot so that it will basically be a one on one between Sly and the Black Baron. This leads to the final operation in which all of these various jobs pay off, and we watch as the gang beats the Black Baron at his own game due to working under his nose the whole time.
Australia doesn't have this. It starts off somewhat like this. Sly searches for the Guru eventually finding out he's been captured. The Guru requests his walking staff and Moon Stone and also wants to talk with the other members of the gang. So Sly steals back his gear while Murray creates a shortcut up to the Guru, finding out about a big mining operation at Ayers Rock that the Guru wants stopped. Once that's done, Bentley is able to deliver the gear to the Guru where he breaks out and takes out two different mining hotspots in the hub, dealing a massive blow to the miners. But things aren't so great after this. The lemonade bar mission is still good. It sticks with the goal of driving the miners away and having the MDE show up unexpectedly is a good way to sell its intimidation factor as a force rather than an individual. Then we have...Murray feeding guards to a crocodile so that it ends up eating the guards and hopefully eating the MDE in the process...only it doesn't do that, the mask gets away and we never see the croc eat anyone again. Then Bentley has Sly and Murray gather radioactive oil to slather on Murray to attract the MDE for the operation. And that's cool...but this ends up not mattering at all because that plan also fails immediately when put into effect during the operation. And this leads to a final operation that, aside from the initial segment as the Guru, is like one long boss fight against a possessed Carmelita that ends in a disappointing way: with two uncomfortable climbs up her enlarged body leading to her guards finally destroying the mask in a cutscene. Aside from the initial steps taken to free the Guru, none of the missions really play into the operation. The crocodile never comes out to try and eat the mask again. The mask doesn't go after Murray, it goes after the Guru, and Murray is able to thunder flop on the mask which, again, does nothing. It's all very disconnected, and doesn't make for a memorable or tight episode.
So how should we go about changing this? I've seen people completely rewrite the chapter to have a more traditional baddie at the head of the miners, but I don't want to do that. I think the MDE is an idea that could work and be uniquely threatening, and I want to see how I can work with what we have rather than writing my own characters and basically doing "Rumble Down Under" fanfiction. So first, the best aspect of the MDE is its unpredictability. It can possess anyone at any time, and the missions where you initially have some other goal and the mask makes an unexpected appearance are some of the best uses of it. So I would increase this by having the mask as a roaming hazard. After the mission "Unleash the Guru," Bentley would give the news that the mask had officially been unearthed due to all the mining. See, I always thought it was weird that Bentley said the Guru warned that the miners could accidentally unleash the MDE but we never actually hear of or see the moment they unleash it. It's just suddenly showing up in cutscenes. So marking this moment as a clear turning point in the level when the goal of the operation changes I feel is critical. From this moment on, the MDE roams the hub, latching onto guards randomly. These guards are more aggressive and much stronger. You can still pickpocket and sneak around them, but if they see you they do double damage and can't be defeated, so running is the best bet.
That is, until you complete "Hungry Croc." then, this crocodile will also be walking around, and it is especially drawn to the enlarged miners possessed by the mask which it can defeat in one chomp. Basically, this change would not only make the mask feel like a more present threat that needs to be dealt with, but it would give the crocodile mission some more impact, showing the player's effect on the world in a gameplay-related way. But the biggest changes would come to the operation. The Guru would still start off destroying the gyrocopter, but now the rest of the missions would have added importance. The MDE would emerge onto the scene, drawn to the area by the radioactive substance on Murray. The guard it's possessing would then be taken out by the crocodile, forcing it to leap to another guard...and another...and another. The crocodile has basically made it so that the mask has no safe host to latch onto, and this part could even be controllable maybe if they wanted to have the Guru riding the crocodile to speed things along or something. Either way, the mask, out of options, turns to Murray. Drawn to his disguise and aura (due to the claw mission) it latches on and enlarges and enrages Murray, leading to Bentley's sleep dart part of the operation. Once Murray has been subdued, the mask leaves him behind to search for a new host. It is at this point that Carmelita shows up with her squad, only she doesn't get to interact with anyone because all she sees is chaos.
The mask's next host is Bentley, in retaliation. Rather than the sleep darts "somehow" interacting with the mask to make it larger (like seriously, how does that make sense?) the mask grows desperate and uses more of its power to make Bentley into a giant. Sly and the Guru wake up Murray to drive the big truck as they run away from the massive Bentley, who begins tossing his bombs at them. Carmelita, thoroughly confused but not wanting to lose track of them, calls in a helicopter to follow behind. After the claw section where you're tossing Bentley's bombs back at him, the mask once again leaves behind its host and begins searching for a new one. While the gang frantically tries to come up with a plan, the mask sees the Guru, the one who imprisoned it long ago, and latches onto him. Through the Guru's connection to the same magic within the mask, it is able to speak through his body, finally conveying some form of a plan and personality. It declares its plans to overrun Australia with dark spirits to gain enough power to eventually spread its magic across the world, and says that it finds it funny that the one who sought to seal it away is now its tool for achieving its goals. Bentley says that when he was under the mask's control he felt it struggling, and its line about waiting to gather power means that it isn't yet at full strength. He reckons all of the rapid hopping back and forth between hosts has worn it down, and if they knock it loose one last time it may be stunned long enough to take it out once and for all.
This initiates the legitimate boss fight in which Sly, with the help of Bentley and Murray, faces down a possessed Guru. It calls back to the fight in the lemonade bar with Bentley and Murray using their skills to give Sly an opening to attack. Each time the health becomes 1/3rd lower, the Guru becomes larger, making his attacks harder to dodge. Finally, the mask is knocked loose and the Guru shrinks back down. Carmelita shows up in her helicopter and she and her guards let loose on the mask. Maybe you could even control Carmelita here, acting as foreshadowing to her final fight in the game. After this, a cutscene plays in which the Guru weakly stands up and swirls around his Moon Stone, causing shadowy hands to burst out of the ground and drag the broken pieces of the mask down below.
This new operation achieves several things. First, it makes every mission matter with both the crocodile and Murray's disguise playing into how the operation works out. Second, it makes the stakes more personal by having nearly every member of the playable Cooper Gang come under the mask's control and forcing you to fight your friends. Third, it gives the mask a brief moment to establish some form of a personality and actually lay out any sort of plan that the player is acting to prevent beyond just "the mask is evil." Fourth, it creates an actual boss fight out of this story beat which also thematically fits the rest of the chapter by having the player match up against the Guru's magic power. Fifth, Carmelita seems to show up for a purpose beyond just being possessed immediately, and the ending defeat of the mask is more personal and player-based than just watching a cutscene of nameless mooks destroy it. And sixth, this is just a fun detail, this would now mean that Sly ends up fighting all of the new members of his gang at some point. He fought the Panda King in Sly 1 and in the flashback coming up, he fought Dimitri in Sly 2, he fought Penelope as the Black Baron, and now he fought the Guru under the influence of the MDE.
submitted by Koala_Guru to Slycooper [link] [comments]

We Are Coming For You – Part 2

Start|Previous Part| Next Part
Here's part 2 I hope you enjoy it.
Just a quick warning there is some light nsfw content towards the end of this part.
Sitting around a table in the private room that had been given to them Tucker groaned as he held his head in his hands.
“One of these days you’re gonna learn moderation.” Thatcher said as he and Vic played cards together.
“I got challenged to a drinking match.” Tucker groaned “The dignity of the whole human race was at stake.”
As Thatcher smirked at him Vic said “You know half the stuff you drank has probably never been consumed by a human before?”
“You hear that Thatch? I’m a pioneer.” he lifted his head up to grin at his boss only to immediately regret it.
“Here.” Thatcher said taking pity on him and pouring him a drink. “Have some hair of the dog.”
Mumbling his thanks Tucker downed the drink in one gulp making Thatcher shake his head. “So where’s Asami at?”
“No idea.” Thatcher replied as he examined the cards he was dealt. “Hopefully doing her job.”
“Speaking of which, what’s the plan here boss? We sticking with these guys or what?” Vic asked.
Giving him a nod Thatcher said “This group is as good a place to start as any. We’ll see how they operate, their relation to other gangs in the system, the kind of fire power they usually run with. If they’re useful we’ll hang around otherwise we’ll jump ship if and when a more serviceable option presents itself.”
“Sounds good to me.” Tucker said as he reached for the bottle only for Thatcher to pull it out of reach.
As the door to their room opened the three of them looked up to see Asami enter and make her way over to their table. “Morning Fellas.” she said loudly into Tucker’s ear as she passed making him wince and groan.
Frowning at her as she put her feet up on the table with a smirk Tucker asked “So where have you been?”
“Oh, you know. Just improving relations with humanities galactic neighbours.” She grinned as she grabbed Thatchers bottle and took a swig.
Blinking at her Tucker said “What, with Captain Furball?” getting a nod from her he turned to look at Thatcher and gestured to Asami with his thumb “How come she gets to fuck the aliens but I don’t?”
“Because the ones she screws don’t try to eat her.” Vic said dryly.
“Well, I wouldn’t go so far to say there was no eating involved.” she snickered.
“Don’t cats have barbs on their-” Tucker started only for Thatcher to interrupt.
“Enough.” he silenced Tucker before looking to Asami. “At least tell me you got something out of it.” He said only to hold up his had to forestall the predictable response “Something pertaining to the mission?”
Pulling a datastick from her pocket Asami tossed it to Thatcher who caught it out the air. “Pulled this directly from Artum’s computer. Seems like our new friends are pretty low on the totem pole but the captain’s the ambitious sort. He’s got oppo research on most of the other gangs in this part of the system and if I didn’t know any better I’d say he’s thinking about making a power play and working his way up the ranks. With a little bit of help he might even get a seat at the big boys table.”
“This Tucker,” Thatcher said as he skimmed through the data Asami had pilfered “is why she gets to fuck the aliens.”
“I found out some important stuff too.” he huffed “For example I bet you didn’t know that Kreeduds can’t hold their liquor for shit.”
“I’m sure that’ll be very useful to know.” Thatcher said absently as he turned off the datapad and tucked the datastick away for safe keeping. “Let’s get something to eat and see if we can find out if Asami’s boyfriend has decided if he wants be a social climber or if he’s content where he is.”
Getting to their feet the four of them left their room and headed to a cantina. They had found out the day before that Artum’s gang controlled the entire station and the area they were in was reserved solely for the use of his crew which numbered in the hundreds. As soon as they entered the mess hall Artum spotted them and called out “There you are my friends! Come, come join me!” he said as he shooed away the men who had been sitting at his table to make space for the humans. “You can come sit on my lap my dear.” he purred at Asami who simply gave him an amused smirk and sat in the seat next to him. “I trust you’ve found my hospitality acceptable?”
“You’ve been more than generous.” Thatcher replied.
“Think nothing off it. I like to think I have an eye for talent and when I see it I’ll go to no ends to see they become mine.” he said as he took a long pull from his bottle before offering it to Asami. “I’ve been asking around about your species. No one this far out seems to know much about you, just rumours and third hand accounts from the war. Most Union races seem to agree that you Humans are little more than savages; you should hear how the Draastrekians talk about you, you’ve become the bogeyman for an entire galactic power. Oh, they’ll grandstand and declare they’ll tear you Humans limb from limb and feast on your entrails given the chance but they’re all pissing themselves at the thought of another war with your kind.”
“And how do you see us?” Thatcher wondered.
“Draastrekians may not be the smartest creatures in the galaxy but their military might is undeniable. And any race formidable enough to give them pause shouldn’t be so easily discounted as savages.” he said, his golden eyes examining the four of them closely “Did you truly burn their brood-worlds to ash?”
“Not personally.” Tucker said as he reached for the bottle only for Asami to slap his hand away.
“We humans tend to take a very pragmatic approach to warfare.” Thatcher said “You come at us once we’re damn well gonna make sure you never come at us again.”
“And we can be pretty inventive when we have to be.” Asami added as she leaned back in her chair and brought her hands behind her head, drawing Artum’s gaze towards her chest.
Grinning hungrily at her Artum said “I think the four of you will be a great asset to my crew. And I seem to be in the market for some new lieutenants.”
“Your men going to be cool taking orders from us?” Vic asked “As Thatch said we’re not looking to step on any toes and I can’t see them being too pleased with us being here all of five minutes and already outranking them.”
“You’re underestimating how useful your species reputation can be in this part of the galaxy and in this line of work.” Artum said as he reached out to squeeze Asami’s thigh “Especially after they all saw how Asami handled Dren.”
“Just so we know what you want us to do, are you looking to expand your territory or are you just interested in maintaining what you have?” Thatcher asked.
“First why don’t you tell me what you think of my operation.” Artum replied.
“Haven’t really seen much enough to give an opinion.” Thatcher shrugged.
“From what I’ve seen it seems pretty second rate if you ask me.” Asami said idly.
“Oh?” Artum narrowed his eyes at her “We control this entire starport; anyone entering or leaving the system has to pass through us not to mention this is where all the minerals that are mined in this part of the asteroid belt are processed.”
“And that all sounds very impressive.” Asami replied “Until you realise that means when the Union finally decide to get off their asses and retake the system through force you’re the one whose gonna take the brunt of their fleet at full strength. As for the asteroid mining I can’t imagine that’s anywhere near as profitable as mining planetside. I mean, if you own the whole planet it’s not like the miners have any choice who they sell it to, up here if they don’t like your price they can simply fly to the next port and try their luck there.” she explained “So all in all you’re just a backwoods crew happy to pick up scraps while acting as cannon fodder for the rest of the gangs that are set up towards the centre of the system.” she said as she brought the bottle up to her lips only for Artum to slap it out of her hands.
Letting out a snarl Artum roughly grasped her wrist and yanked her towards him “Just because I took you to bed does not mean I shall tolerate such disrespect straight to my face!”
Unfazed by his sudden rage Asami smiled as she leaned in closer to him “I’m sorry baby.” she purred huskily as she moved her unrestrained hand to his thigh and began slowly sliding her hand up and down. “I was just teasing. Forgive me?” she asked seductively as she moved her hand higher.
Feeling himself stiffen at her touch Artum’s anger started to subside and began to loosen his grip on her arm only to gasp when he felt something sharp poke him. Looking down his eyes went wide as he saw Asami was holding a knife to his groin.
As he whipped his head back up to look at her he found her smiling pleasantly at him. “You ever grab me like that again and I’ll geld you, understand?” giving her a nod Artum released her wrist. “Good boy.” she smiled as she affectionately patted his crotch before stabbing the knife into his chair making him jump in his seat. “I’m gonna go grab some food.” she announced as she stood up.
“Get me some while you’re at it.” Tucker called after her only for Asami to flip him off over her shoulder without even turning to look at him.
Staring after her retreating form in abject fascination Artum grabbed the knife and yanked it out from his seat and tossed it on the table as he looked at the three humans opposite him who seemed unperturbed by what had just transpired. As a grin tugged on the corners of his mouth Artum let out a throaty laugh and said “I love human women! Are all your females like her?”
“Asami’s one of a kind.” Thatcher replied with a small smile.
“Do you have any idea how long it’s been since anyone has even dared to threaten my life? And in less than a day she’s held a gun to my head and a knife to my groin!” he roared with laughter “You humans truly are a fascinating species. I’m sure you’ll be very useful to me.” he grinned.
“You still haven’t told us your goals.” Vic pointed out.
Letting out a grunt Artum replied “What do you know of the power balance in this system.”
“Just that the Praxian government lost control of it and is now being run by pirate gangs.” Tucker said.
“That’s right.” Artum nodded his head “A few years ago someone began uniting and organising the larger gangs in they system. They co-ordinated attacks and raids on such a scale that by the time the Conglomeration realised we were all working together it was too late; we had already taken over every starport and blockaded every planet until they surrendered control to us. And once we got our claws into the system they were powerless to oust us.” he grinned.
“Who’s this ‘someone’ who got everyone working together?” Thatcher asked.
“No idea.” Artum shrugged his shoulders. “Never met him in person. The heads of the biggest gangs, the ones now running entire planets and calling themselves Pirate Lords are the only ones to have ever been in contact with him and from what I’ve heard they don’t even know his species.”
“Sounds like a fairytale to me.” Tucker said “Some shadowy puppeteer pulling the stings from behind the scenes that no ones ever seen.”
“Believe what you will but trust me when I say there’s no way those gangs would have started working together of their own volition. Without him to control them they wouldn’t have been able to stop stabbing each other in the back long enough to present a united front against the Conglomeration.”
“And where do you fit into this?” Thatcher asked.
“As much as I hate to admit it Asami was right.” he begrudgingly said as the woman in question returned to the table carrying a tray of food.
“I usually am.” she said as she slid onto Artum’s lap as if she hadn’t just threatened to castrate him.
Raising an eyebrow at the woman Artum looked towards the other humans who seemed not to take any notice of her perplexing behaviour. Chalking it up as another human idiosyncrasy Artum shook his head and began stroking her thigh as he continued “Compared to the self-entitled Pirate Lords who took over the colonies we are a lot smaller and joined up later. Which is why we are relegated to this ‘backwoods’ corner of the system as Asami so eloquently put it.”
“And I take it you want to change that?” Thatcher asked.
“That thought had occurred to me.” he admitted as he reached out towards Asami’s plate only for her stab her knife into the piece of meat he had tried to pick up. Staring into his eyes Asami brought the meat up to her mouth and tore a chunk off with her teeth before proffering it to Artum. Returning her stare with glowing eyes Artum took a bite of his own “You are a thrilling creature.” he declared with a lustful growl as he squeezed her thigh and moved his hand higher.
“mmm, down boy.” she said breathily as she slapped his hand “We’re talking business, there’ll be time for fun later.” she smiled as pulled the rest of the meat off of the knife with her teeth.
Seeing their new boss enthralled by the woman on his lap Thatcher cleared his throat and said “So you’re looking to expand and take one of these mining colonies for yourself? I think we can help with that.”
“Oh?” Artum asked with a raised eyebrow. “And how would you go about doing that?”
“Well for starters your outfit is too small. We make a play for the colonies as we are now any one of the bigger gangs will crush us before we set foot planetside. So we need to swell the ranks before we move against them.” Thatcher said “Tell me, what’s your relationship like with the other crews in this part of the system?”
“We’re pirates.” Artum said amused. “We tolerate each other so long as we don’t infringe on another’s turf.”
Nodding his head Thatcher said “There are two ways we can go about this. The first is we absorb the smaller gangs. We offer them a bigger piece of the pie if they’re willing to work for us. Those that reject us we kill the guys in charge. Either the guy who replaces him is a lot more amicable to working with us or the group will be splintered in the power vacuum and we’ll just pick up the scraps. We’ll only have to do this two or three times before word gets around and they start lining up to join us. Of course this comes with its own risks. The smaller gangs could band together to fight against us much like you all did against the Praxia Conglomeration or one of your larger rivals could take note of our expansion and try to poach them from us or even stage a pre-emptive strike against us and start a war to curtail our growth before we become to big for them to deal with.”
“And the second?” Artum asked as he accepted another mouthful from Asami.
“The second is we go after your biggest rivals first.” Thatcher replied “Taking them out would be difficult but if done right would be the quickest way to expand. Of course if we end up in an open war with them it’d leave us vulnerable to any of the smaller factions who have a shred of ambition as they’d see their biggest rivals weakened regardless of if we win or lose. But should we come out of it unscathed the smaller gangs would have no choice but to fall in line.”
“And which way would you recommend?” Artum asked as he thoughtfully drummed his fingers against Asami’s thigh.
Looking among themselves for a moment Tucker said “Go big or go home I say.”
“Who are the biggest competition?” Thatcher asked.
Thinking for a moment Artum’s lips curled into a grin “That would be Kranii. His is the second largest crew after mine which has always grated against his scales.”
“He Draastrekian?” Thatcher asked.
“Him and all his lieutenants. While the rank and file can be any species he only promotes Draastrekians to any position of command. I trust that won’t be a problem?”
“Not at all.” Vic replied.
“Us humans have had a lot of practice killing lizards.” Asami added with a smile.
“Let’s say you pull this off. What would you want in return?” He asked.
“We get you one of the colonies we get a share of all the profits. In perpetuity.” Thatcher said.
Narrowing his eyes at him Artum replied “You ask a lot.”
“We’re promising a lot.” Thatcher retorted “Look at it this way, you don’t get your planet we don’t get paid. Any gains you make between now and then is pure profit.”
Seeing him wavering Thatcher made a subtle gesture to Asami who tilted her head slightly in acknowledgement before leaning back into Artum’s chest and reached up to scratch him beneath his chin “Trust me baby, we’re worth every penny.”
As a throaty purr rumbled from his gullet Artum looked to Thatcher and said “What would you need to get it done?”
“A ship and any intel you have on them.” Thatcher replied.
“That’s it?” Artum asked with a raised eyebrow “His crew is comparable in size to my own.”
“The four of us will be more than sufficient.” Thatcher assured him “As Asami said, we’ve had a lot of practice killing lizards.”
A Month Later
Sitting in his private quarters Artum drank deeply from a bottle as he watched the two women dancing for his entertainment. One was Praxian, her glossy ashen fur which covered her slender body shone with an alluring lustre as her body swayed with the music. Her partner was an Oran, a cousin of the Draastrekians her kind was more humanoid than their brutish relatives; their green scales soft and smooth to the touch, her face more human than reptilian with a series of long hollow spines sprouting from her head in place of hair. As they ground their bodies together the two women began to strip what skimpy clothing they wore all the while casting seductive glances towards Artum.
Setting aside the bottle Artum snapped his fingers at the two women and let out a growl as they approached. Pulling them against him Artum forced his lips against the Praxian woman as his hands roamed their bodies. For her part the Oranian woman leaned in and kissed his neck as she started to pull off his shirt. Running her fingers through the fur on his chest the scaled woman started to kiss her way downwards when a voice called out “Not interrupting are we?”
Pulling his lips away from the woman his was kissing Artum looked passed them and saw Thatcher, Tucker and Asami standing in front of him. “How did you three get in here?” he frowned as he pushed the two woman off of him making them scowl at the interlopers.
“Your security’s not exactly the greatest in the galaxy.” Tucker smiled as his eyes roamed the near naked aliens still clinging to Artum. “An important guy like you might want to look into that.”
Letting out a grunt Artum grabbed the bottle and started to fill three glasses for them “I expected to hear from you sooner. I take it you’re here to requisition some of my men?”
Raising an eyebrow as he accepted the drink Thatcher asked “Why would we do that?”
Blinking at the man Artum said “To help you take out Kranii and his lieutenants?”
“That won’t be necessary, we’re just here to discuss who you want us to go after next.” Thatcher said with a smile.
“Do you mean to tell me you’ve taken over Kranii’s crew in a month?” he asked sceptically.
“It was two weeks actually.” Asami smiled as she moved to sit across from him “One week to track them down and another to do them all in. We spent the rest of the time stabilising the gang and hunting down the remnants of the command structure we missed. We left Vic behind to run things until you decide how you want to incorporate them into your crew.” she said as she brought her feet up onto the table between them.
Hearing a horrified gasp from the Oranian next to him Artum followed her gaze to Asami’s feet where his golden eyes went wide at the sight of the leather boots she was wearing. Noticing their attention Asami wiggled her foot back and forth to show them off. “What do you think? Nice aren’t they? I had Vic make me a pair. He’s good at fiddly stuff like this.” she explained “You can’t get stuff like this any more since the war ended, well not legally at least. Genuine Draast leather, nothing finer.” she said proudly. “Oh, speaking of which I had Vic make something for you too. Think of it as a parting gift from Kranii.” she said with a grin as she reached behind her and pulled out a box.
Reaching out with shaking hands Artum accepted the box and opened it to reveal a long leather duster. Lifting it out of the box made the Praxian woman gasp and cover her mouth in horror while the Oranian’s green skin had turned pale and she seemed like she was about to throw up. Taking pity on the two women Thatcher said “You girls can go now.”
Not needing to be told twice the two women scrambled to gather their clothes before fleeing the room. Watched as they ran away Tucker made to follow after them only for Thatcher to grab him by the collar and yank him backwards before he had taken more than two steps. Looking at the humans Artum said “I’m sure you’re aware this is going to spread all over the station in an hour?”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Tucker grinned.
“Put it on. I wanna see how it fits.” Asami insisted.
Reluctantly doing as she asked Artum slipped on coat made from his former rival. “I’m not sure how I feel about wearing the skin of another sentient, even if Kranii only barely counted as such.”
“If nothing else it sends a message.” Thatcher replied. “Wearing the hide of your defeated rival; I’d certainly think twice about wanting to be on your bad side.”
“I think it looks great on you.” Asami purred as she stood up and pressed herself against her chest, her hands running over the leather coat “I can’t begin to tell you the things it makes me want to do to you.” she said as she seductively bit her bottom lip.
Enjoying the warmth of her body against his Artum stared down into Asami’s smouldering eyes as he grabbed hold of her waist “You are as captivating as you are terrifying my dear.” he declared as he leaned down to kiss her only for her to push him backwards.
“uh-uh, business first, fun later.” she grinned at him as she returned to her seat.
Letting out a growl Artum said “So how did you do it? How’d you take over Kranii’s crew so quickly?”
“Draastrekians aren’t the smartest around; they rely on brute strength and numbers to overwhelm their enemies.” Tucker said.
“They’re also proud and arrogant.” Thatcher continued “Once we found out where they called home it was easy enough to draw them out. We had Tucker hit all the bars in the station making sure to let everyone know that there was a human around shit talking the Draastrekians. They might be scared shitless of us humans as a whole but there’s no way they’d let a single one of us run his mouth on their own turf.”
“So Kranii got all his lizardmen buddies together for a good old fashion lynching.” Asami added.
“How did you know he wouldn’t sic his entire crew on him?” Artum asked.
“You remember how eager your pet lizard was to get a chance to maul one of us? We figured it was a better than even chance that they wouldn’t want to run the risk one of their men taking Tucker out before they got their hands on him.” Thatcher replied.
“Just want to reiterate that me being chased by a horde of angry lizards isn’t one of your better plans.” Tucker huffed as he sipped his drink.
“I don’t know about that. Seemed to work out well enough. And you had Vic following you at a discrete distance if something went wrong.” Asami smiled dismissively.
“And what if they just shot me in the back?” he asked with a frown.
“It wouldn’t have been a great loss.” she said with a shrug. “Besides I doubt they’d settle for something that quick. They’d want to play around with you first.”
“Anyway,” Thatcher said “Tucker led them to an empty storage hanger where Asami and I were already set up and waiting for them. It never occurred to them that they were walking straight into an ambush.”
“We took out half of them after we tossed a grenade right in their faces.” Asami said with a grin “Those that survived that tried to retreat but Vic came up behind them and cut off their means of escape. Sandwiched between us it didn’t take more than two minutes to finish them all off.”
“You make it sound so easy.” Artum muttered as he shook his head. “It must have been quite messy not to mention loud.”
“It was.” Thatcher agreed “It wasn’t long before the rest of his gang showed up.”
“And how did you deal with them?” Artum wondered.
With a small smile on his face Thatcher said “Kranii liked to rule with a ‘might makes right’ style of management. It was pretty well ingrained in them that only the toughest have the right to run things.”
“And when they walked in and saw Asami halfway through skinning Kranii himself it was abundantly clear who the biggest badass around here was.” Tucker grinned as he held out his fist to Asami who smirked and bumped her own fist against his.
Blinking his golden eyes as he stared at Asami Artum asked “You skinned him yourself?”
“Of course. Thatch and Vic were busy planning our next move and I wasn’t going to trust Tuck to do it.” she smiled “You have any idea how much Draast leather goes for back home? There are people who’ll pay a fortune to get their hands on Draastrekian hide and there no way I was going to let Tucker butcher it. Don’t worry, I saved the best cuts for us.” she said with a wink.
As Artum stared at the woman sitting proudly across from him his gaze was filled with equal measures or terror, disgust and wonder. He had heard stories about the war between the Terran Empire and the Draastreks Imperium, the Draastrekians in particular couldn’t shut up about it. He had heard about the savage ferocity these apes had displayed on the battlefield, the acts of barbarism they perpetrated against any unfortunate soul they captured, the righteous fury they rained down on planets leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake as they burned their way through the galaxy on their way to enact vengeance for the Draastrekian’s transgressions. It had gotten to the point where even the proud Draastrekians had to come begging for help from the Union.
It took the full might of the Union armada to give the humans their first major defeat in the war. In their arrogance the Union believed that after such a defeat the humans would come begging for peace. All it did was make them change their tactics. Avoiding full scale engagements the humans began guerilla warfare, never amassing in one place they forced the Union fleet to disperse opening themselves up to being whittled down as they were led into ambushes, the fractured command structure inherent in a fleet composed of many different nations hampered communication never allowing them to achieve a decisive victory against the humans. And with every battle they won they became all the more dangerous.
Like scavengers picking clean a carcass they salvaging the destroyed ships and stole technologies that would have taken them generations to develop independently. This rapid scientific advancement enabled them to field even deadlier warships and soon the gap between the Unions technologically superior fleet and the humans narrowed. Faced with superior tactics and now equatable technology the only advantage left to the Grand Fleet was their numbers.
That’s when the terrorist attacks began.
Not content with chipping away at the Grand Fleet the humans began targeting Union controlled space; raiding and demolishing any spaceports or shipyards they found, destroying any non human ship they encountered regardless of whether it was a civilian or military vessel. Entire harvests of agricultural worlds were poisoned or burned if not outright pilfered, mines were bombed and industrial centres sabotaged. The humans infiltrated scores of Union worlds, sowing discord and terror among the aliens as they targeted the planets infrastructure; destroying power plants plunging them into darkness, planetary defences were undermined leaving them defenceless should a hostile fleet arrive all the while all levels of government were targets for bombings resulting in chaos as their leaders were killed. The humans they managed to capture never lived for long, almost all taking their own lives but not before delivering a chilling message.
We Are Coming For You.
The weaker members of the Union could no longer afford to keep contributing to the Grand Fleet, not while their own space was ravaged by human privateers and so withdrew their ships in order to police their own domains though the humans didn’t let such an opening go unpunished. Without the protection of the Grand Fleet the humans were able pick off the retreating ships, harassing them all the way back to their own space weakening them further.
Finally faced with the prospect of their own planets coming under attack the Union reassembled the Grand Fleet and flew it straight to Earth. Ignoring any human settled worlds along the way they barrelled through Sol’s system defences to orbit the human homeworld where they delivered an ultimatum; surrender or Earth would be destroyed.
In an act of suicidal defiance the humans had dared them to open fire; delivering the warning that should Earth fall they had best be sure to kill every last human in the galaxy because they would Never Stop Coming for Them. As the leaders of the fleet consulted amongst themselves about how to react to this shocking display of indifference in the face of planetary annihilation a transmission was blasted from the planets surface in all directions before they block it. The message was simply this:
Destruction of Earth imminent. Do not return. Avenge Us.
Within days reports came flooding in to the Grand Fleet of an increase of attacks all throughout Union controlled space. These attacks were on a different sale and intensity than the ones meant to divert the Grand Fleet with civilian population centres being targeted indiscriminately and without mercy, ships were discovered filled with the desecrated and mutilated bodies of massacred crews. Even surrendering proved fruitless as the humans gave no quarter as they enacted their revenge.
As the full extent of what a Total War against the humans would entail became apparent to them the Union members were finally driven to seek peace, ultimately resulting in the Terran Empire joining the Union not as a subjugated species but as a member of equal standing to even the Unions founders.
Tales of these suicidal barbarians had spread throughout the Union but Artum had thought them mere exaggerations, not believing the Union would allow them membership if such atrocities were true. But hearing the three humans in front of him discuss selling the hide of a fellow sentient as if they were livestock with such callous indifference made his blood run cold as he wondered just what he had gotten himself into working with these humans. But despite this trepidation Artum couldn’t help but feel a thrill of excitement. This was a species feared the galaxy over, capable of single handedly bringing the greatest galactic power to it’s knees.
And they wanted to work for him.
All of a sudden he found possibilities he only dreamed of before were now within his grasp. Their reputation alone made them more valuable than the entirety of his crew but this display of savage efficiency in taking over Kranii’s crew would only enhance their infamy and his own by association. With their backing none would dare stand against him. Even the self proclaimed Pirate Lords squatting in their colonies would pause before antagonising such fearsome warriors.
As his fur rippled with exhilaration Artum he lifted his glass to them and said “My friends, you are even more impressive than your reputations led me to believe. I’m sure our partnership will be long and mutually beneficial.”
“Here here!” Tucker grinned as they downed their drinks.
Refilling their glasses Artum said “You haven’t told me how you plan to get me a colony.”
“What’s the matter sweetie, don’t you trust us?” Asami smiled as she slowly ran a finger around the rim of her glass.
“The four of you managed to accomplish a feat that would have required a long and bloody war in less than a month.” he returned her smile. “You can’t blame me for being curious about what you’ll do next.”
“You know what curiosity did to the cat don’t you?” she asked teasingly as she moved to sit next to him and press herself into his side.
Seeing the confused look on his face Thatcher said “I don’t think that idiom has made it this far out yet.” Giving him a shrug Asami snuggled closer to the Praxian, her hand slipping beneath his new coat to stroke his chest as he wrapped his arm around her waist. “As for how we plan to take over one of the colonies we’re going to have to tread carefully. We need to assimilate every crew unaffiliated with the Pirate Lords in order to build up our military strength in order to be taken seriously but we need to do it quickly and quietly. If we’re discovered too soon they may perceive us as a threat and move to crush us before we threaten their position.”
Nodding his head Artum asked “And once we have absorbed all the other gangs?”
“There are two options we can take.” Thatcher replied as he held up a finger “First we find out which one of them is the biggest asshole among them. Then we approach his rivals and make a deal with them; we’ll deal with the prick and they give us their support in exchange for a share of the profits from the mines.”
“You want me to give up even more shares?” Artum frowned.
“We could try to do it without their help but that’s risky. For one we don’t know how fraternal these guys are; they might not take kindly to one of their own being attacked. They may decided to come to our targets aid and put us down to send a message to the whole system that they are untouchable so don’t even try coming at them. If they get something for doing nothing they’re less likely to act against us.”
“And what if we succeed in taking the colony but they decide we are an easy target in our weakened state?” Artum asked.
“Which is why we need to pay them off. If they get cash for doing nothing they’re less likely to get greedy and come after us as it would leave them open to attack themselves.” Thatcher explained.
Letting out a grunt Artum asked “And the second option?”
“The second option is we go for the weakest guy.” he said holding up a second finger “Instead of attacking them we ingratiate ourselves with them; offer to add our might to theirs. Adding our crew to theirs will help consolidate his power and make his position more secure.”
“And what if he rejects our offer?” Artum wondered.
“Then we let him know we’ll be offering our services to one of his rivals. Right now the Pirate Lords hold each other in check. They can’t afford to attack one another as it would leave them open to assault while their fleets are distracted. Our crew has the potential to tip the balance of power in favour of whoever we side with. There’s no way they’d turn us away if it means one of his bolstering his rivals forces. If nothing else our added might would make them unassailable.”
“You’re assuming their mystery backer can’t keep the peace.” Artum pointed out “So far he’s kept them from tearing at each others throats. If they believe him capable of restraining the other gangs they may not see the need for our crew.”
Giving him a smirk Thatcher leaned forward and said “If I was a pirate who somehow lucked into owning an entire planet I’d do everything in my power to keep it. And I certainly wouldn’t rely on the benevolence of this man behind the curtain without making a contingency plan.”
Conceding the point with a nod Artum said “So now you’ve indentured me and my men to one of the Pirate Lords how do we take the planet from him.”
“Mining colonies are far from the safest places in the universe.” Tucker grinned “Lots of machinery and explosives; accidents happen all the time.”
“And, god forbid something happens to our new boss, someone high up in the organisation will have to take his place.” Asami purred as she rubbed his thigh “Someone who has experience running such a large organisation.”
With a grin spreading across his face Artum chuckled and said “I don’t know who is more insane; the three of you for proposing such an outlandish strategy or me for believing that you could pull it off!”
“Have we given you cause to doubt our abilities?” Thatcher asked.
“Not at all.” Artum shook his head “But even you must admit it’s an ambitious plan.”
“And you’re an ambitious man.” Asami grinned up at him. “Seems like a match made in heaven.”
Grinning down at her as he caressed her hip Artum said “Very well then. What’s the next step?”
“First you choose who you want running Kranii’s gang so we can free up Vic. Then we go on the offensive; we need the latest intel you have on the rest of the gangs specifically where to find them. With any luck our reputation will precede us and they’ll fall into line easily enough.”
“I’ll see that you get what you need.” he said as he stood up only for Asami to grab him by the wrist.
“There’s no rush is there? We can sort all that stuff out tomorrow.” she proposed with a suggestive smile.
Staring down at her with a hungry look in his eyes Artum nodded his head and sat back down next to her “I’m sure you could all use a break after working so hard. We’ll go over the details in the morning.”
“Great.” Tucker grinned “I’m gonna go see if those girls Asami chased off are still around.” he said eagerly as he made his way to the door.
“And I’ll go make sure he doesn’t do something stupid.” Thatcher sighed.
“Have fun with that.” Asami replied absently all the while staring deeply into Artum’s eyes. Once her two companions had left Asami pounced on top of Artum; straddling his lap she grabbed hold of his head and forced her lips against his. Feeling his hands slide over her hips to squeeze her shapely ass Asami moaned into his mouth and breathily murmured “mmm, that feels so good, Pirate Lord Artum.” seeing his eyes widen and feeling him pull her harder against his body Asami grinned and said “You like that baby? You like me calling you Pirate Lord Artum?” Getting a throaty growl in response Asami grinned and pulled off her shirt to expose her breasts to him. “Good, because I’m going to be screaming it later.” she promised as she pulled his head against her chest, giggling as his fur tickled her before gasping as his lips found her nipple. Seeing him start to pull off his coat Asami grasped his wrists and pushed him back against the chair. “Don’t even think about removing that coat.” she growled lustfully.
Seeing the intensity in her eyes Artum removed his hands from the leather duster and returned them to Asami’s body. Picking her up Artum carried her towards the bed intending to throw her down on top of it only for her to swing them around at the last minute so that she lay on top of him. Running her fingers through the fur on his chest Asami grinned down lewdly at him and said “I hope you don’t have any early morning appointments tomorrow. Because you’re not going to be in any condition to make them.”
submitted by Saiga123 to HFY [link] [comments]

I'mma head out

a abandon ability able abortion about above abroad absence absolute absolutely absorb abuse academic accept access accident accompany accomplish according account accurate accuse achieve achievement acid acknowledge acquire across act action active activist activity actor actress actual actually ad adapt add addition additional address adequate adjust adjustment administration administrator admire admission admit adolescent adopt adult advance advanced advantage adventure advertising advice advise adviser advocate affair affect afford afraid African African-American after afternoon again against age agency agenda agent aggressive ago agree agreement agricultural ah ahead aid aide AIDS aim air aircraft airline airport album alcohol alive all alliance allow ally almost alone along already also alter alternative although always AM amazing American among amount analysis analyst analyze ancient and anger angle angry animal anniversary announce annual another answer anticipate anxiety any anybody anymore anyone anything anyway anywhere apart apartment apparent apparently appeal appear appearance apple application apply appoint appointment appreciate approach appropriate approval approve approximately Arab architect area argue argument arise arm armed army around arrange arrangement arrest arrival arrive art article artist artistic as Asian aside ask asleep aspect assault assert assess assessment asset assign assignment assist assistance assistant associate association assume assumption assure at athlete athletic atmosphere attach attack attempt attend attention attitude attorney attract attractive attribute audience author authority auto available average avoid award aware awareness away awful baby back background bad badly bag bake balance ball ban band bank bar barely barrel barrier base baseball basic basically basis basket basketball bathroom battery battle be beach bean bear beat beautiful beauty because become bed bedroom beer before begin beginning behavior behind being belief believe bell belong below belt bench bend beneath benefit beside besides best bet better between beyond Bible big bike bill billion bind biological bird birth birthday bit bite black blade blame blanket blind block blood blow blue board boat body bomb bombing bond bone book boom boot border born borrow boss both bother bottle bottom boundary bowl box boy boyfriend brain branch brand bread break breakfast breast breath breathe brick bridge brief briefly bright brilliant bring British broad broken brother brown brush buck budget build building bullet bunch burden burn bury bus business busy but butter button buy buyer by cabin cabinet cable cake calculate call camera camp campaign campus can Canadian cancer candidate cap capability capable capacity capital captain capture car carbon card care career careful carefully carrier carry case cash cast cat catch category Catholic cause ceiling celebrate celebration celebrity cell center central century CEO ceremony certain certainly chain chair chairman challenge chamber champion championship chance change changing channel chapter character characteristic characterize charge charity chart chase cheap check cheek cheese chef chemical chest chicken chief child childhood Chinese chip chocolate choice cholesterol choose Christian Christmas church cigarette circle circumstance cite citizen city civil civilian claim class classic classroom clean clear clearly client climate climb clinic clinical clock close closely closer clothes clothing cloud club clue cluster coach coal coalition coast coat code coffee cognitive cold collapse colleague collect collection collective college colonial color column combination combine come comedy comfort comfortable command commander comment commercial commission commit commitment committee common communicate communication community company compare comparison compete competition competitive competitor complain complaint complete completely complex complicated component compose composition comprehensive computer concentrate concentration concept concern concerned concert conclude conclusion concrete condition conduct conference confidence confident confirm conflict confront confusion Congress congressional connect connection consciousness consensus consequence conservative consider considerable consideration consist consistent constant constantly constitute constitutional construct construction consultant consume consumer consumption contact contain container contemporary content contest context continue continued contract contrast contribute contribution control controversial controversy convention conventional conversation convert conviction convince cook cookie cooking cool cooperation cop cope copy core corn corner corporate corporation correct correspondent cost cotton couch could council counselor count counter country county couple courage course court cousin cover coverage cow crack craft crash crazy cream create creation creative creature credit crew crime criminal crisis criteria critic critical criticism criticize crop cross crowd crucial cry cultural culture cup curious current currently curriculum custom customer cut cycle dad daily damage dance danger dangerous dare dark darkness data date daughter day dead deal dealer dear death debate debt decade decide decision deck declare decline decrease deep deeply deer defeat defend defendant defense defensive deficit define definitely definition degree delay deliver delivery demand democracy Democrat democratic demonstrate demonstration deny department depend dependent depending depict depression depth deputy derive describe description desert deserve design designer desire desk desperate despite destroy destruction detail detailed detect determine develop developing development device devote dialogue die diet differ difference different differently difficult difficulty dig digital dimension dining dinner direct direction directly director dirt dirty disability disagree disappear disaster discipline discourse discover discovery discrimination discuss discussion disease dish dismiss disorder display dispute distance distant distinct distinction distinguish distribute distribution district diverse diversity divide division divorce DNA do doctor document dog domestic dominant dominate door double doubt down downtown dozen draft drag drama dramatic dramatically draw drawing dream dress drink drive driver drop drug dry due during dust duty each eager ear early earn earnings earth ease easily east eastern easy eat economic economics economist economy edge edition editor educate education educational educator effect effective effectively efficiency efficient effort egg eight either elderly elect election electric electricity electronic element elementary eliminate elite else elsewhere e-mail embrace emerge emergency emission emotion emotional emphasis emphasize employ employee employer employment empty enable encounter encourage end enemy energy enforcement engage engine engineer engineering English enhance enjoy enormous enough ensure enter enterprise entertainment entire entirely entrance entry environment environmental episode equal equally equipment era error escape especially essay essential essentially establish establishment estate estimate etc ethics ethnic European evaluate evaluation even evening event eventually ever every everybody everyday everyone everything everywhere evidence evolution evolve exact exactly examination examine example exceed excellent except exception exchange exciting executive exercise exhibit exhibition exist existence existing expand expansion expect expectation expense expensive experience experiment expert explain explanation explode explore explosion expose exposure express expression extend extension extensive extent external extra extraordinary extreme extremely eye fabric face facility fact factor factory faculty fade fail failure fair fairly faith fall false familiar family famous fan fantasy far farm farmer fashion fast fat fate father fault favor favorite fear feature federal fee feed feel feeling fellow female fence few fewer fiber fiction field fifteen fifth fifty fight fighter fighting figure file fill film final finally finance financial find finding fine finger finish fire firm first fish fishing fit fitness five fix flag flame flat flavor flee flesh flight float floor flow flower fly focus folk follow following food foot football for force foreign forest forever forget form formal formation former formula forth fortune forward found foundation founder four fourth frame framework free freedom freeze French frequency frequent frequently fresh friend friendly friendship from front fruit frustration fuel full fully fun function fund fundamental funding funeral funny furniture furthermore future gain galaxy gallery game gang gap garage garden garlic gas gate gather gay gaze gear gender gene general generally generate generation genetic gentleman gently German gesture get ghost giant gift gifted girl girlfriend give given glad glance glass global glove go goal God gold golden golf good government governor grab grade gradually graduate grain grand grandfather grandmother grant grass grave gray great greatest green grocery ground group grow growing growth guarantee guard guess guest guide guideline guilty gun guy habit habitat hair half hall hand handful handle hang happen happy hard hardly hat hate have he head headline headquarters health healthy hear hearing heart heat heaven heavily heavy heel height helicopter hell hello help helpful her here heritage hero herself hey hi hide high highlight highly highway hill him himself hip hire his historian historic historical history hit hold hole holiday holy home homeless honest honey honor hope horizon horror horse hospital host hot hotel hour house household housing how however huge human humor hundred hungry hunter hunting hurt husband hypothesis I ice idea ideal identification identify identity ie if ignore ill illegal illness illustrate image imagination imagine immediate immediately immigrant immigration impact implement implication imply importance important impose impossible impress impression impressive improve improvement in incentive incident include including income incorporate increase increased increasing increasingly incredible indeed independence independent index Indian indicate indication individual industrial industry infant infection inflation influence inform information ingredient initial initially initiative injury inner innocent inquiry inside insight insist inspire install instance instead institution institutional instruction instructor instrument insurance intellectual intelligence intend intense intensity intention interaction interest interested interesting internal international Internet interpret interpretation intervention interview into introduce introduction invasion invest investigate investigation investigator investment investor invite involve involved involvement Iraqi Irish iron Islamic island Israeli issue it Italian item its itself jacket jail Japanese jet Jew Jewish job join joint joke journal journalist journey joy judge judgment juice jump junior jury just justice justify keep key kick kid kill killer killing kind king kiss kitchen knee knife knock know knowledge lab label labor laboratory lack lady lake land landscape language lap large largely last late later Latin latter laugh launch law lawn lawsuit lawyer lay layer lead leader leadership leading leaf league lean learn learning least leather leave left leg legacy legal legend legislation legitimate lemon length less lesson let letter level liberal library license lie life lifestyle lifetime lift light like likely limit limitation limited line link lip list listen literally literary literature little live living load loan local locate location lock long long-term look loose lose loss lost lot lots loud love lovely lover low lower luck lucky lunch lung machine mad magazine mail main mainly maintain maintenance major majority make maker makeup male mall man manage management manager manner manufacturer manufacturing many map margin mark market marketing marriage married marry mask mass massive master match material math matter may maybe mayor me meal mean meaning meanwhile measure measurement meat mechanism media medical medication medicine medium meet meeting member membership memory mental mention menu mere merely mess message metal meter method Mexican middle might military milk million mind mine minister minor minority minute miracle mirror miss missile mission mistake mix mixture mm-hmm mode model moderate modern modest mom moment money monitor month mood moon moral more moreover morning mortgage most mostly mother motion motivation motor mount mountain mouse mouth move movement movie Mr Mrs Ms much multiple murder muscle museum music musical musician Muslim must mutual my myself mystery myth naked name narrative narrow nation national native natural naturally nature near nearby nearly necessarily necessary neck need negative negotiate negotiation neighbor neighborhood neither nerve nervous net network never nevertheless new newly news newspaper next nice night nine no nobody nod noise nomination none nonetheless nor normal normally north northern nose not note nothing notice notion novel now nowhere n't nuclear number numerous nurse nut object objective obligation observation observe observer obtain obvious obviously occasion occasionally occupation occupy occur ocean odd odds of off offense offensive offer office officer official often oh oil ok okay old Olympic on once one ongoing onion online only onto open opening operate operating operation operator opinion opponent opportunity oppose opposite opposition option or orange order ordinary organic organization organize orientation origin original originally other others otherwise ought our ourselves out outcome outside oven over overall overcome overlook owe own owner pace pack package page pain painful paint painter painting pair pale Palestinian palm pan panel pant paper parent park parking part participant participate participation particular particularly partly partner partnership party pass passage passenger passion past patch path patient pattern pause pay payment PC peace peak peer penalty people pepper per perceive percentage perception perfect perfectly perform performance perhaps period permanent permission permit person personal personality personally personnel perspective persuade pet phase phenomenon philosophy phone photo photograph photographer phrase physical physically physician piano pick picture pie piece pile pilot pine pink pipe pitch place plan plane planet planning plant plastic plate platform play player please pleasure plenty plot plus PM pocket poem poet poetry point pole police policy political politically politician politics poll pollution pool poor pop popular population porch port portion portrait portray pose position positive possess possibility possible possibly post pot potato potential potentially pound pour poverty powder power powerful practical practice pray prayer precisely predict prefer preference pregnancy pregnant preparation prepare prescription presence present presentation preserve president presidential press pressure pretend pretty prevent previous previously price pride priest primarily primary prime principal principle print prior priority prison prisoner privacy private probably problem procedure proceed process produce producer product production profession professional professor profile profit program progress project prominent promise promote prompt proof proper properly property proportion proposal propose proposed prosecutor prospect protect protection protein protest proud prove provide provider province provision psychological psychologist psychology public publication publicly publish publisher pull punishment purchase pure purpose pursue push put qualify quality quarter quarterback question quick quickly quiet quietly quit quite quote race racial radical radio rail rain raise range rank rapid rapidly rare rarely rate rather rating ratio raw reach react reaction read reader reading ready real reality realize really reason reasonable recall receive recent recently recipe recognition recognize recommend recommendation record recording recover recovery recruit red reduce reduction refer reference reflect reflection reform refugee refuse regard regarding regardless regime region regional register regular regularly regulate regulation reinforce reject relate relation relationship relative relatively relax release relevant relief religion religious rely remain remaining remarkable remember remind remote remove repeat repeatedly replace reply report reporter represent representation representative Republican reputation request require requirement research researcher resemble reservation resident resist resistance resolution resolve resort resource respect respond respondent response responsibility responsible rest restaurant restore restriction result retain retire retirement return reveal revenue review revolution rhythm rice rich rid ride rifle right ring rise risk river road rock role roll romantic roof room root rope rose rough roughly round route routine row rub rule run running rural rush Russian sacred sad safe safety sake salad salary sale sales salt same sample sanction sand satellite satisfaction satisfy sauce save saving say scale scandal scared scenario scene schedule scheme scholar scholarship school science scientific scientist scope score scream screen script sea search season seat second secret secretary section sector secure security see seed seek seem segment seize select selection self sell Senate senator send senior sense sensitive sentence separate sequence series serious seriously serve service session set setting settle settlement seven several severe sex sexual shade shadow shake shall shape share sharp she sheet shelf shell shelter shift shine ship shirt shit shock shoe shoot shooting shop shopping shore short shortly shot should shoulder shout show shower shrug shut sick side sigh sight sign signal significance significant significantly silence silent silver similar similarly simple simply sin since sing singer single sink sir sister sit site situation six size ski skill skin sky slave sleep slice slide slight slightly slip slow slowly small smart smell smile smoke smooth snap snow so so-called soccer social society soft software soil solar soldier solid solution solve some somebody somehow someone something sometimes somewhat somewhere son song soon sophisticated sorry sort soul sound soup source south southern Soviet space Spanish speak speaker special specialist species specific specifically speech speed spend spending spin spirit spiritual split spokesman sport spot spread spring square squeeze stability stable staff stage stair stake stand standard standing star stare start state statement station statistics status stay steady steal steel step stick still stir stock stomach stone stop storage store storm story straight strange stranger strategic strategy stream street strength strengthen stress stretch strike string strip stroke strong strongly structure struggle student studio study stuff stupid style subject submit subsequent substance substantial succeed success successful successfully such sudden suddenly sue suffer sufficient sugar suggest suggestion suicide suit summer summit sun super supply support supporter suppose supposed Supreme sure surely surface surgery surprise surprised surprising surprisingly surround survey survival survive survivor suspect sustain swear sweep sweet swim swing switch symbol symptom system table tablespoon tactic tail take tale talent talk tall tank tap tape target task taste tax taxpayer tea teach teacher teaching team tear teaspoon technical technique technology teen teenager telephone telescope television tell temperature temporary ten tend tendency tennis tension tent term terms terrible territory terror terrorism terrorist test testify testimony testing text than thank thanks that the theater their them theme themselves then theory therapy there therefore these they thick thin thing think thinking third thirty this those though thought thousand threat threaten three throat through throughout throw thus ticket tie tight time tiny tip tire tired tissue title to tobacco today toe together tomato tomorrow tone tongue tonight too tool tooth top topic toss total totally touch tough tour tourist tournament toward towards tower town toy trace track trade tradition traditional traffic tragedy trail train training transfer transform transformation transition translate transportation travel treat treatment treaty tree tremendous trend trial tribe trick trip troop trouble truck true truly trust truth try tube tunnel turn TV twelve twenty twice twin two type typical typically ugly ultimate ultimately unable uncle under undergo understand understanding unfortunately uniform union unique unit United universal universe university unknown unless unlike unlikely until unusual up upon upper urban urge us use used useful user usual usually utility vacation valley valuable value variable variation variety various vary vast vegetable vehicle venture version versus very vessel veteran via victim victory video view viewer village violate violation violence violent virtually virtue virus visible vision visit visitor visual vital voice volume volunteer vote voter vs vulnerable wage wait wake walk wall wander want war warm warn warning wash waste watch water wave way we weak wealth wealthy weapon wear weather wedding week weekend weekly weigh weight welcome welfare well west western wet what whatever wheel when whenever where whereas whether which while whisper white who whole whom whose why wide widely widespread wife wild will willing win wind window wine wing winner winter wipe wire wisdom wise wish with withdraw within without witness woman wonder wonderful wood wooden word work worker working works workshop world worried worry worth would wound wrap write writer writing wrong yard yeah year yell yellow yes yesterday yet yield you young your yours yourself youth zone
submitted by TastyUdders to OneWordBan [link] [comments]

[Tales From the Terran Republic] Aftermath III

Sorry for the delay. Stuff happened. Back in the saddle.
The rest of the series can be found here
Patricia Hu’s limo, surrounded by police grav-cars, slowly prowled the capital city streets. Inspector Vance, following the impromptu motorcade, smiled grimly. They had the bitch. There was nowhere for her to go now. There was no escape this time.
“What are we waiting for?” he grumbled.
“Well, arresting a foreign diplomat is not something done lightly,” Detective Freela replied. “They are probably trying to figure out how to do this without starting a war.”
“We are well past that now,” Inspector Vance replied. “Biological weapons? Sounds like the war has already started.”
“We don’t know that,” Detective Freela said wearily. “All we have are some pretty wild claims from a wanted murderer and traitor.”
“Jon Wintersmith is plenty of things but a traitor? No way. That asshole bleeds Republic blue. I am much more inclined to believe his version of things,” Vance said as he checked his tablet. “What makes more sense, some ‘terrorist group’ that we have never heard of before or the fucking Horde Mother?”
“Inspector,” Detective Freela said cautiously, “I don’t think you are exactly unbiased in your assessment of this situation. Ever since that woman showed up you’ve been… well...”
“Because I fucking knew something like this would fucking happen!” Inspector Vance snapped. “I fucking knew that-”
He was cut off by the vehicle’s communicator. The call had been made to bring her in “for her protection”.
“Finally!” he exclaimed as the police vehicles surrounding the limo closed in on all sides and slowed to a stop. The limo, with nowhere to go, had no choice but to do the same.
As [email protected]@ watched the events unfold on his monitor Jaxona walked up with yet another cup of coffee.
“Bet you a box of Powerbar Extremes that she isn’t in there,” Jaxona said cheerfully as she handed him the coffee.
“If she is I’ll be very happily surprised. No bet,” [email protected]@ chuckled. “Hopefully we will be able to at least squeeze something out of the driver.”
“Would you look at that,” Jaxona said as she squeezed in next to [email protected]@ and looked at his monitor. “The door override commands actually worked. I would have figured that they would have… oh,” she laughed.
They had a great view of Inspector Vance looking into a completely empty limo. “Oh he does not look happy,” [email protected]@ giggled as he sipped his coffee. “Jaxona, grab all the data we have from following that damn car and run it over to The Spider. They had to ditch the thing somewhere along the way. Let’s see if the AI can find something that we missed.”
“You got it, boss.”
Patricia Hu rubbed her shoulder as she went through a chest of fine clothing in a dusty warehouse. She smiled. It had been a while since she dove from a moving vehicle.
It was fun even if she did hit the ground a bit hard. Everything was starting to be a little fun, actually. She had been taken a little off guard at first but now that her blood was pumping and her brain was firing on all cylinders she was really starting to enjoy this. She thought of Jon as a wistful smile played across her lips. Oh how she wished she could have witness his charge through the embassy. It must have been magnificent!
Just like he is.
She sighed as she thought of him. She was already a bit taken with him before the poison. That was the big danger of that elixir. It was a sword that cut both ways. Even after everything she still wanted him so very badly.
No, it wasn’t just that! Jon was an amazing man! Oh the things they could achieve together! Today’s events only further proved it. He was a man of the most amazing power and resolve. He turned Crimson with just a glance and with one masterful stroke cast all of her carefully constructed plans into complete disarray, stripping her bare. Not only that but he fell upon her best warriors like a lion tearing them asunder.
She blushed as a smile played on her lips. He was the one! He was the one that she had been waiting for all this time.
She had to have him! He was a prize worth as much as the entire Republic, no. He was worth more than the Republic! With him at her side they could rule the entire galaxy and their line would dominate the entirety of space for generations to come.
If only she could make him see the light, share her vision. How wonderful that would be!
Her smile grew. She could! It was entirely possible. Jon clearly demonstrated his resolve today. He showed just how far he would go.
She wondered if she could help him go just that tiny little bit further. Her green eyes sparkled wickedly.
Yes, she thought with an evil smile. He just needs a little encouragement.
She had been going about things all wrong. She had tried to overpower him, to crush his resolve with her own. That had almost been quite literally a fatal error. No, this required a different approach. He didn’t need to be crushed. He needed to be fed. He needed to have his resolve strengthened, hardened, sharpened. He needed to be encouraged to become the man that he could be. Isn’t that what someone should do for the people they care about? Bring out the best in them? Yes! She could do that, for him. She would do that, for him. Such a wonderful gift! Such wonderful things she will bring to him, such wonderful things she would show him, such wonderful things she would do to him, no… for him.
The things he will have to do to win his “war” against her… She grinned wickedly… His resolve will drive him to do so many wonderful things, become so many wonderful things. He will have to if he is going to win.
And he will win, she thought with delight. He will rip, tear, and burn through her previous little silly girlish plans and her weak pathetic thralls. Oh she will array them against him and try her very best (he deserved that, her very best) to kill him but it won’t matter. He will triumph.
He’s going to win and she would be a fool to believe otherwise. But his victory, oh yes… that victory will be ever so sweet. She laughed a delighted happy laugh as she spun around in her dirty and torn dress. The darling believes that his war isn’t against the Republic but for it. The wonderful beautiful fact was that her conspiracy now was the Republic, all of it! Her thralls were everywhere, in everything! She continued to laugh as she spun and danced.
She didn’t need the Federation anymore! Jon! Jon will do it for her! He will tear it all down! Her wonderful shining star will burn it all down… for her! This was the stuff of legends. Their epic of war, blood, rage, fire, hate, passion and love will be sung for a thousand years! Yes, love! Love love love love! It was love! Oh how she missed this feeling!
She loved Jon Wintersmith… and it felt wonderful!
It was just a shame that he didn’t feel the same way… at the moment anyhow. Oh how she wanted to run to him but she was no fool. Right now the fires of their love burned too hot. It would consume them both just like it almost did this morning. (How romantic was that?) She would have to wait, wait until the fires had cooled a little and he had become what she was going to make him become if he wanted to win.
She smiled a truly beautiful happy smile that lit up the room. Her hand drifted down her belly and slid into her skirt.
Then they would be together...
As her hand slid under her panties she moaned and fell to her knees.
In another room Dawn paced back and forth. What the fuck had happened? The Colonel turned traitor and tried to kill them? It was unbelievable. It was beyond unbelievable. Colonel Wintersmith would never become a traitor! Never! Trying to kill the Deputy Ambassador? That she could believe. The Colonel hated her from the start but traitor?
It didn’t add up. It wasn’t just the Colonel but him, Gunny, and everyone at the embassy suddenly becoming traitors? She made a little nervous squeak. The Colonel a traitor? Gunny a traitor?
Bullshit! a voice inside her, a voice that had fallen silent for a little while, suddenly exclaimed. What would drive the Colonel to just snap like that? Was it on that document that had Ms. Hu so upset? She wished she had been able to read it. She had asked one of the other guys if they knew what was going on but they just told her to mind her own business and that “Her Ladyship” would tell her what she needed to know.
“Mouse!” Jade snarled as she lounged on a crate, “Quit with the fucking pacing! You’re driving me nuts!”
“Sorry!” Dawn yelped.
“Try to relax, squeaks,” Jade rumbled in a reassuring manner. “We’ve been in tight spots before. Been a while, but we’ve been in plenty of them. Her Ladyship will figure something out. Besides, we have numbers on our side.”
“Wait. What?” Dawn asked very confused. That made absolutely no sense.
“Yeah,” Jade smiled. “She’s down to just three of us. We are probably safe.”
“Safe?” Dawn asked. “We have the Colonel plus God knows how many marines hunting us not to mention probably all of Fed Intel. Just three of us won’t-.”
“Oh who cares about them,” Jade laughed. “No, I mean we are safe from her.”
“W-what?” Dawn asked in a tiny voice.
Before Jade could respond Nguyen walked in.
“So?” Jade asked, her almond eyes smiling at him.
“Starport’s out of the question,” Nguyen said as he set down two huge bags of Chinese take-out on a cheap folding table. “Whole place is crawling with embassy goons. Thought I spotted a few Feds lurking around too.”
“Figures,” Jade chuckled as she helped him unpack the food. “Ah, cheap faux-Chinese… one of the universal constants.”
“Found a good place too,” Nguyen said with a smile. “Actual bamboo shoots and fresh bean sprouts!”
“Excellent!” Jade exclaimed happily. “At least we won’t get gunned down on an empty stomach, right?”
“Something smells absolutely delightful!” Patricia exclaimed as she entered the room.
Dawn did a double take. Instead of an elegant dress Patricia was just wearing a pair of faded blue jeans and a simple gray button-down shirt under a loose plain black cardigan. The usual stiletto heels were replaced by a pair of sensible laced boots. Instead of long and flowing, her hair was just tied behind her in a simple ponytail. Her face was scrubbed completely clean, no makeup, just her freshly washed skin.
She looked like a completely different person.
The biggest change however, were her eyes. They were… strange… almost reptilian. They terrified her.
Her two veterans, however, were overjoyed.
“Snake-eyes is back!” Jade cheered.
“Snake-eyes is hungry!” Patricia laughed. “Did they have garlic chicken?”
Jon, trying to keep a low profile, maneuvered through the star-town crowds and made his way to the noodle shop. It was risky as hell but it was the only way he could possibly leave a message for Skippy. It might be risky now but it was only going to get harder as time passed. He had to take this opportunity. God only knows when he would get another.
He tried to plan out what he was going to write. I mean, what do you say? “Sorry, I’ve decided to be a complete moron and take on just about the entire Republic. I’ll probably bite the big one but before I do I just wanted to let you know that I am completely and totally in love with you. Well, later, fuzz-butt. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
His heart ached. If only he could see her, just one more time, hold her, just one more time. This sucked. He left people he cared about before, comes with the job description, but this time it was different. He honestly didn’t think he was coming back. Even during the Great War part of him believed that he was going to make it. That it wasn’t “good-bye” it was just “see you later”.
This time it was probably good-bye. Fuck.
He reached the noodle shop and the owner gave him even a bigger stink-eye than usual.
“Hey!” Jon said as cheerfully as he could muster. “Can I leave a message for Skippy here? Do you have a notepad or tablet I could-”
“She’s… waiting... for you…” the owner said glaring at him.
“She’s here?!?” Jon exclaimed happily.
Ignoring him, the owner simply walked into the back and unlocked the metal door leading to the private rooms.
Jon rushed into the back.
Standing there, next to the mysterious conference table, was Skippy. Jon started to rush to her and then stopped.
She did not look happy.
“So,” Skippy said, her arms crossed, “You were just going to blow yourself up without even saying goodbye? What the fuck, Jon?” Her voice quivered slightly.
“Skippy… I...”
“You what?” she snarled advancing towards him. “What? You just going to flush your life down the shitter and to the Abyss with me and anyone else who loves you? Over what? Some bitch?”
“Love?” Jon asked slightly stunned.
“Yeah,” Skippy said shook her head, flopping her ears side to side. “Stupid me.”
“I love you, too!” Jon exclaimed.
“WELL YOU HAVE ONE FUCKED UP WAY OF SHOWING IT, ASSHOLE!!!” Skippy yelled as she shoved him.
“Skippy, there wasn’t any other way. If you only knew what was at stake you’d-”
“I know what is at stake you dumb fuck! Billions of people’s lives in the balance... possible total war with the Federation… Plague… Conspiracy… Your very Republic in danger... So what does the fucking Ambassador to the Federation do? Shove a grenade up his ass and go skipping over to that bitch’s office to throw his life away, abandon his position, his troops, his people… me… Fuck you fucking… fucking... hero!” She shoved him again. “Fuck Jon! They needed you and you just decided to abandon them and for what? To be a suicide bomber? Seriously?!?!? And what about me, not even a fucking goodbye?!? Not an email or a phone call… not even a go and fuck yourself, just… nothing!?!? What? I was going to just hop my happy ass over there expecting to go to lunch only to see them bring you out in a fucking bucket?!?! Fuck you!”
“You weren’t supposed to be here yet and I left a letter for you,” Jon replied. “Toby was going to give it to-”
“Oh that makes everything better, hero!” Skippy snarled as she shoved him again. “Don’t even get me started on abandoning your men, Colonel!”
“Things were evolving very rapidly and there was no time. I had to act!”
“No fucking time to think, apparently,” Skippy snorted. “I don’t know what’s worse, you planning to blow yourself up with a grenade or the fact that you failed… to blow yourself up... with a grenade...”
“The situation evolved. It turned out that-”
“Yeah, I know, the bitch got the drop on you,” Skippy said disdainfully. “Maybe if you, I don’t know, secured the perimeter, deployed your forces, you know, actually used your head for more than a grenade holder, maybe she wouldn’t have gotten away. You fucked up, hero.”
Jon flinched.
“Hey!” he snapped. “I had every reason to believe that I had a clear line of fire. It was still just hours after-”
“Well you were wrong, weren’t ya? A team at the exit, that’s all it would have taken. You could be taking tasteless photographs with her corpse as we speak.”
“I didn’t want to risk tipping her off. Look, it’s easy to second guess a failed mission,” Jon said in a tired voice. “A team might have done the trick or it might have triggered a massive firefight resulting in widespread casualties and her still getting away. I made a call and I took action. Was it the right move? Probably not. Was it a bad move? No.”
“No?!?!? NO?!??!” Skippy shouted as she shoved him against the wall and held him there. “It WAS a bad move, fuckwit! You don’t just throw away your life, ever! Risk it? Sure. Go on a mission with an incredibly low chance of survival? Fine. Part of the job. Throw it away?!? Never!” She started shaking him. “You don’t profane a life that way, especially your own! You are the commanding officer! You are the ambassador!” She shook him harder. “Your men need you! (shake) Your embassy needs you. (shake) Your Republic needs you. (shake) I (shake)… I (shake)… I...” Skippy trailed off as she continued to shake him.
Jon just wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close. She squeezed him and started making little hiccuping squeaking sobbing noises as she held him tight.
“I almost lost you, you fucking idiot.” Skippy muttered as they held each other.
“I’m sorry, Skippy,” Jon said stroking her head. “I was an idiot. I did kick some ass at least. Not bad for an old man, right?”
Skippy just laughed a little.
“Yeah you did, old man,” Skippy chuckled. “You might be a fucking moron but at least you’re good at it.”
Jon leaned in to kiss her. Skippy smiled and put her paw on his face.
“Slow down, hero,” She laughed as she handed him a data crystal. “Work before play. Tablet and communicator are on the table,” She said as she walked towards the door. “I’m grabbing some lunch. Hungry?”
Joyce Sidibe was sitting at her desk with her face buried in her hands. On her monitor was the latest mass email that was sent to everyone in the embassy.
This was a nightmare. She read the email again and Jon’s document which was attached. She shook her head. This madness pushed the very limits of credulity. Everyone knew that Patricia Hu was the Antichrist but this?
This was beyond the pale even for her and if half the names on the list of alleged conspirators were true?
The Republic was in trouble.
She was dying for a coffee but that would require her leaving the safety of her office. There was no way in hell she was going out there. She tried accessing the hyperspace link again. Nothing.
There was a knock on the door.
“Go away,” she shouted.
“Joyce, I really need to talk to you,” Susan’s voice called out from the other side. Joyce frowned. That was the last person she wanted to see.
“I’m busy!” Joyce yelled.
“Joyce, I’m unlocking the door,” Major Bryce announced.
“Don’t you dare-”
The door opened. Susan and Major Bryce walked in.
“Good morning,” Susan said pleasantly.
“Your definition of a ‘good morning’ and mine seem to differ,” Joyce said stiffly.
“I brought you a coffee,” the major said with a smile as he set a cup on Joyce’s desk. She took it.
“Thank you,” she said as she took a sip. Her eyes widened as a terrible realization took hold.
“No, absolutely not!” she exclaimed in horror as they both smiled at her.
“Joyce,” Susan said with a pleasant smile. “Jon Wintersmith is wanted for treason. The Deputy Ambassador has abandoned her post...”
“Not just no but fuck no.”
The major laughed.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you curse,” he grinned.
“I prefer to save obscenity for special occasions, like this one. Let me repeat myself. No. Fucking. Way.”
“You are the highest ranking member of the diplomatic corps remaining, Joyce. That makes you-”
“That makes me nothing!” Joyce snapped. “Find someone else, maybe one of your traitors.”
“That’s overstating it a bit,” Susan smiled. “I prefer the term ‘loyal citizen of the Republic’.”
“Well whatever you call it,” Joyce said firmly, “Get one of those.”
“Joyce,” the major said, “you are the senior diplomat and the only person with the chops for this. We need you.”
“You keep saying diplomat. I’m not a ‘diplomat’. I’m a bureaucrat, a happy dumb little cog. I write reports and make spreadsheets. Fuck, I don’t even make the spreadsheets. I just fill them out.”
“Well, now you are,” Susan replied. “We need someone and you are it.”
“Nope. Get someone else.”
“Ok,” Susan said beginning to lose her patience, “Who? We have all holy hell breaking loose. We have a morgue literally stuffed full of corpses. We have a biological weapon being released into the Federation by a Republic diplomat any second now. We have two very dangerous Republic citizens running loose, each with their own death squad, trying to kill each other on the streets of the capital as we speak. God only knows what they are going to do next. And, last but certainly not least, we’ve already had one Federation representative quite literally jump over the wall demanding answers.”
“What?!?!” Joyce spluttered.
“Don’t worry,” Susan replied with a grin. “I handled the situation.” She paused to let that sink in. “Yeah, that’s right. I handled it, me. Think about that one. Do you really want me or the major here dealing directly with the Feds especially now?”
“Joyce, we need you before we start a war by accident,” the major said matter of factly. “It’s either you or one of us and do you want an old warhorse or well… Susan… doing the job?”
“Shit,” Joyce muttered as she wracked her brain desperately trying to come up with someone else, anyone else.
“Joyce,” the major said, “you are the only one who has any real experience dealing with them.”
“Yeah but I only go to bullshit that is not important enough to send the Ambassador. I’m an official snub, nothing more.”
“We aren’t asking you to negotiate a peace treaty here,” the major said reassuringly. “We just need someone to make sure that nothing else happens, and when it comes to making nothing happen we couldn’t think of someone more qualified. Your delightfully obstructive ass is exactly the one we need sitting in the big chair right now.”
“If and I mean IF I do this it doesn’t mean that I’m supporting your little revolution here,” Joyce said firmly as she crossed her arms.
“Absolutely,” Susan replied. “That’s the last thing we want you to do. You are the voice of reason. The personification of stability. Both the major and I will testify that we are behind whatever is going on around here and you were just trying to keep it from getting any worse.”
“Yup,” the major said nodding his head. “We are the baddies. You are just the luckless bitch who got saddled with trying to keep the Feds at bay.”
“Fuck me...” Joyce grumbled.
“Deal!” Susan grinned. “Which one of us do you want?”
Joyce just snorted.
“I want both of you in my new office, fully clothed, in one hour for a briefing, nothing else.”
“… And while I deeply appreciate the vote of confidence, I wouldn’t be in too much of a hurry to label yourselves traitors,” Jon said over the communicator Skippy brought him. “You guys with the exception of the truly epic Captain Vincent haven’t done anything clearly ‘traitorous’ just yet. All you have to do is let her keep transmitting and to be perfectly honest I am not sure how you would stop her if you wanted to. We made it a point to have nothing on hand that can breach that space. I would keep up appearances until the decision to mutiny was forced on you. I have it on good authority,” Jon looked over at Skippy who grinned back at him, “that the Federation is locking down the borders. It will be a while before the Republic can send anyone at all so all you have to do is lay down a good line of bullshit and since the only way you can officially communicate with them at all is out of commission you don’t even really have to do that. Just play it cool for now until there is a clear need for you to act otherwise.”
“Sir, you could return,” the major replied. “The vast majority of people here support you and most of the rest are willing to just sit this one out.”
“I come back and you will be traitors,” Jon said with a smile. “No, it looks like you guys have everything in hand and I have full confidence in you, Susan, and Joyce. Congratulations on the promotion by the way, Joyce. I know you will be a great ambassador.”
“This is only temporary. As soon as things settle down I will happily step down.”
“There is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution,” Jon laughed. “Get comfortable, Joyce.”
“Bite me.”
“I see that you are already settling in nicely,” Jon laughed. “That’s a great phrase to use on the councilors, by the way. They are already familiar with it. Don’t worry too much, Joyce. I’ve set the bar pretty low.”
“Any advice on handling the bio-weapon, amb- I mean Jon,” Joyce asked.
“Well, I recommend giving them a choice. Tell them that they can either call it an act of war by the Republic or that they can call it a vile criminal act by a single monstrous individual,” Jon said as he sipped some broth. “I’m pretty sure they will happily pick the most convenient narrative. When they demand that you hand her over tell them that she abandoned her post, and have them direct all such inquiries to the Republic where she is definitely going to flee provided we don’t get her right here and now.”
“Makes sense,” Joyce replied taking notes.
“Well, if there is nothing else I am going to burn this communicator. I’ll grab another from time to time and check in. Good luck you guys.”
“You too, sir. For the Republic!”
“For the Republic. Wintersmith out,” Jon said and then handed the communicator to Skippy who pressed several icons in sequence. There was a sizzling sound as she tossed the communicator into a wastebin.
“There, boss, work is done,” Jon said with a smile as he walked towards her.
“Yeah, good for you,” Skippy said smiling back as she rose to meet him. “What? You expecting something?”
“I was hoping...” Jon replied taking her into his arms.
“Keep hoping, hero.” Skippy said putting her paw in his face again. “I can’t just shift gears that quick.”
“But, I don’t know when I am going to be able to see you again.”
“You’ll see me plenty,” Skippy said with a grin. “It’s clear you need adult supervision. I’m coming with you.”
“You heard me, hero,” Skippy smiled. “You don’t deserve it, but you have yourself a cobalt archer.”
“But you’re a Federation councilor!”
Was a Federation councilor,” Skippy chuckled. “I resigned.” She snuggled in close. “The council is bullshit. It isn’t real. What you’re facing is real. What the Xvli will face if this isn’t stopped is real… “ She looked deeply into his eyes. “We are real. My man is heading right into the fires of Hell and if you think I’m letting him go alone you have another thing coming.”
“Shh,” Skippy said as she kissed him. “I’m coming and that’s final. Besides, you pap-mouthed idiots need me.”
“I think I said that right,” Skippy said wrinkling her brow. “Pap? Fecal pap? You know, what a momma feeds her babies to get their guts right? I’m calling you babies.”
“We don’t do that and what do you mean babies?”
“Then where do your infants get their microbes from?”
“I think they get some of it from the womb and the rest from nursing… I think...” Jon said thoughtfully.
“Your women squirt pap from their tits? You’re disgusting!”
We’re disgusting?” Jon laughed.
“You got something to say, hero?”
No, dear,” Jon said in a comically whipped voice.
They both laughed.
“And what exactly do you mean we need you?” Jon asked. “We can take care of ourselves.”
“You need me sweetheart. I have a clean van out back and can get more,” Skippy said matter of factly. “Then there is the matter of that power armor that you guys failed to hide. The cops got tipped off concerning its location just a little while ago. I wonder by who.”
“Don’t worry,” Skippy chuckled. “I got contacts in Fed Intel and have already arranged for it to go missing during transport. All of your goodies are going to wind up in another storage building across town tonight. We don’t have to lift a single finger.”
“Damn! Thanks!”
“Then there’s the matter of a ship. You are going to want one of those, right?”
“Already taken care of,” Skippy grinned. “It will be here in a couple of days. It’s a nice 'light freighter', fast, plenty of room, military grade cloak, massive fuel tank that will last a long time, good jump drive, a nice concealed weapons package… the works. The crew are all former special ops. Oops... I mean ‘pirates’.”
“H-how?” Jon stammered completely shocked.
“Well,” Skippy grinned as she snuggled him. “It’s about time you find out what this table is all about.”
In a dusty warehouse surprisingly close to where Skippy was “shifting gears” surprisingly quickly Jade eased up to Patricia.
“Hey, Snak-… Sorry, my lady,” Jade started.
“You of all people can dispense with the formalities, my unyielding pebble,” Patricia laughed. “There are very few people remaining that can call me ‘Snake-Eyes’. You should take advantage of that privilege more often. Besides, there is hardly anyone left. For now, I do not need the mantle of royalty.”
“Very well,” Jade smiled. “I’m worried about the Mouse.”
“She seems unsteady. I don’t like the ‘vibe’ coming off of her. I’ve felt it before and it’s never good,” Jade said quietly.
“I understand and agree,” Patricia said laying her hand on Jade’s shoulder. “I think it’s time we brought her to the table.”
“Are you sure?” Jade asked. “I’m not certain she is ready.”
“Neither am I,” Patricia said with a smile. “That’s exactly why we must do it. We no longer have the luxury of dragging along someone who isn’t fully committed. She either needs to fully join us or we need to rid ourselves of her.”
Jade nodded.
“As always, Snake-Eyes, your wisdom is beyond compare,” she said bowing her head.
“Would you and Nguyen see to obtaining the sacrifice? Keep it alive if you can. I want Dawn to perform the ritual herself.”
“Of course,” Jade smiled. “We will handle it immediately.”
“I have every faith that you will,” Patricia said as her eyes glittered in the light. “And to address the concerns of which you dare not speak I have it all in hand.”
“The gods have spoken to you, like they used to?” Jade asked.
“In a matter of speaking,” Patricia smiled. “I know what to do in the short term, and I know how to adjust our plans moving forward. This small setback is of little consequence. I will discuss the adjustments to our longer term plans later, but in the short term our goal is pretty clear.”
“And that is?”
“We get the fuck out of here,” Patricia laughed a beautiful laugh. “Jon holds all the cards here in the Federation. We are outnumbered and he has the cooperation of the government. Each moment we spend here is one moment closer to death. Once the sacrament is complete we find a way off of this deathtrap. We contact our operatives distributing the virus in other systems, and pull one of the teams here with a ship to extract us. In one of many adjustments we also have that team bring some of the virus here, to the capital, to release it here as well including the Terran embassy if possible.”
“Why the embassy, Snake?”
“Spite,” Patricia laughed a musical laugh. “Pure malice. They wish to kill us? Let us return the favor.”
“Won’t that undermine our position at home?”
“Who cares,” Patricia laughed. “We are already exposed and It’s only a matter of time before everything is confirmed. We may be driven underground as a result but our thralls are already in position and will do exactly as they are told. It’s a minor inconvenience at worst. Besides, many in the embassy are close friends of Jon’s. Killing them horribly works in our favor long term.”
“It does?”
“Yes,” Patricia laughed a happy little laugh. “My beautiful Jon needs them to die. It will be the first of my many gifts to him. Part of my dowry if you will.”
“Snake?” Jade said dubiously. “I know the gods speak to you but which god in particular gave you that little nugget?”
Patricia just laughed and spun Jade around as if they were dancing.
“Allow me to explain my lovely little pebble...” Patricia said as she started to waltz, leading Jade around the room.
After Patricia finished Jade just looked at her with wide eyes.
“That,” Jade said after a few moments, “is a truly disturbing mix of true genius and pure unadulterated madness.”
“You disapprove?” Patricia asked with a lovely laugh.
“Not at all,” Jade smiled. “It is exactly the sort of thing I have longed for. It’s just so wonderful to have you back, Snake-Eyes! I was getting really worried there but I now see that there is no cause for concern. You are truly back after all this time! I’ve missed you so much!”
Patricia twirled her and then briefly leaned her back in a dip before bringing her back to her feet.
“Mwah!” Patricia exclaimed as she kissed her on the forehead and then released her. “Now go and get us a nice little sacrifice, preferably a child. We need to really push our little mouse. She needs to be broken and devoured or forged anew as one of us.”
“Yes, my lad-… I mean you got it, Snake!” Jade said and then with a little spin turned and walked from the room.
submitted by slightlyassholic to HFY [link] [comments]

Staking plans won’t transform your bankroll overnight. Profiting from sports betting is a long-term slog. The right betting strategy simply reduce the risks and helps maximise your future ROIs. Individual staking plans won’t always offer years of success. As with all aspects of betting, adaptation can be crucial as your bankroll and There are plenty of staking plans that seem to offer the chance of recouping your losses after a losing bet, take the Martingale for example, but you need a super healthy betting bank and absolute balls of steel to continue betting £97 to win just £7.50, or even worse £220 to win just £9. Ouch! This staking method can be quite aggressive and as such is probably best to individuals with an intricate knowledge of value. So, Which is the Best? Ultimately, there is no absolute standout staking method that can be prescribed to punters. Staking plans are dependent upon individual risk tolerance, betting preferences, and knowledge of the game. Recovering losses is something that worries all punters. Get too far behind and the prospect of trying to recoup becomes a mountain of problems. We’ve talked in PPM over many years about various plans for keeping losses under control, and ways and means of recovering losses and getting back into profit. SCRIBD BETTING SYSTEMS LINKS 1-3-2-6 System - The System of a Positive Progression 10 Mini-Systems for the Week-End Punter 1326 Staking Plan 7 Gambling Truths 77.7 Winners Run Buster A-z of

[index] [4416] [2681] [3412] [13202] [306] [6310] [7855] [6716] [2784] [13036]