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Delirium League challenges analysis/newbie guide

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1. Gear Up

Very Easy. This challenge teaches you on how to improve your character-basic-stats in this game.

2. Complete Delirium Encounters I

Very Easy. Is an introduction to new player about the new league mechanic, delirium.

3. Complete these Quests

Easy. All of these are side-optional-quests are NOT recommend to skip, because they give valuable reward for your leveling process.

4. Defeat these Act Bosses I

Easy. You'll encounter them as you progressing your journey/quest, these are the first-half of the act bosses, if can't kill just get a party to help.

5. Complete Encounters I

Easy. An introduction of some of the past league mechanic added to core game.

6. Complete Encounters II

Easy. An introduction of some of the past league mechanic added to core game.

7. Use Essences

Essence are very useful to upgrade gear especially at early game, can change item rarity from normal rarity into rare with a guarantee mod. This table will help you understand more about essence tiers.
Easy. They actually make this essence challenge even easier compare to old times(Betrayal League: you need to get tier6 essence), which now you only need using essence on all part of your equipment to complete this challenge which doesn't require much RNG anymore.

8. Defeat these Act Bosses II

Easy. You'll encounter them as you progressing your journey/quest, these are the second-half of the act bosses, if can't kill just get a party to help.

9. Defeat Delirium Monsters

Easy. Delirium monster rarity will start increasing as you venture further away from the start of the delirium encounter, the further you go away from the delirium's mirror the more harder delirium monster you'll encounter.

10. Defeat the Conquerors of the Atlas

Normal. These are the new end game bosses since 3.9.0 update, if you build can't really kill them then just ask for experience player to help you kill them off when u got the map to spawn them.

11. Complete Vendor Recipes

Very Easy. A good introduction of vendor recipe to newbies, the best way to get rich easily in PoE. Also for experience player you can skip some of these easily buy using Gilded Fossil crafting.

12. Craft items using Currency

Very Easy. They make the currency challenge becoming more interesting, from using quality currency only(old) to now using currency that change item's modifiers ... kinda force player to learn the crafting mechanics =P

13. Turn in Divination Cards

Type Best Choice
Scarab Cameria's Cut
Shaper or Elder Item The Lord of Celebration
Six-Linked item The Porcupine, Humility
Stack of Currency Emperor's Luck
Two-Implicit Unique Item Arrogance of the Vaal, Echoes of Love
Unique Map The Encroaching Darkness
Normal. Old player might remember how hideous this challenge is in the old days, not exactly the same but pretty much they improve it BETTER! Nice work GGG!! Also note that this challenge require card that reward SPECIFIC reward type as requested, so those wild reward like The Void won't work on this challenge.

14. Complete Encounters III

Normal. These challenges makes the boss a bit tricky to do, can be done in low tier map so should be no problem. Click the link on their name to learn their fight mechanic.

15. Complete Delirium Encounters II

Normal. Is an introduction of using the new currency from the league mechanic.

16. Use Betrayal Benches

Normal. Betrayal is the least RNG-gated mechanic if comparing to other league mechanic, because of you can control the syndicate position for their rewards. Here's a cheat sheet regarding syndicate rewards.

17. Complete Twinned Maps

Not all maps can have "twinned" modifier, for example Kitava or Innocence boss.
Normal. Surprisingly they change from require specific map to have twinned challenge, to more broad choices ... interesting change GGG, nonetheless some map boss are more tricky to do when two of them in a small room, you can try roll a magic rarity of the map with "Twin" mod so make the fight easier. If still can't, just ask someone else to help kill when u got them.

18. Complete Delirium Encounters III

Easy. None of them are so hard to find, just keep doing the delirium encounter as you farming you gonna complete these monster check list eventually.

19. Complete Unidentified Maps

Going an unidentified rare map is kinda risky but high reward, do ounce per tier. You can obtain unidentified rare map by doing the map vendor recipe which also effect the rarity too, etc: vendor 3 same rare map you'll get +1 tier rare map OR corrupting rare map have a chance turning into unidentified(safer since you know the mods before hand). If your build can't deal most of the map mod then just party up with other people OR invite experienced players to help your Blind Map.
Normal. Surprisingly they make this challenge easier from doing all(16) last few leagues, to only 10 this league .. well thanks GGG! =D

20. Achieve Ascension

PoELAB is a good resource to check whether today is a short/safe layout to be run or not. Also try install LabCompass for more convenient, is a MUST tools for labyrinth camper! Here's are the locations for each trial to obtain before able to enter certain difficulty labyrinth:
OVERALL: Easy. Labyrinth will get easier when you practice more, if your build can't do it, just pay someone to bring you to do it ;)

21. Experiment with Cluster Jewels

Easy. All the new type of cluster jewel are cheap to get, as long you can get access to the cluster jewel socket(outer ring jewel socket) then you can complete this challenge easily.

22. Complete Encounters IV

Normal, most of these are grind are available from Zana's map device modifier, so completing these challenge will be faster if using her map device.

23. Complete Metamorph Encounters

Normal. This challenge inform us how they integrated metamorph mechanic into the core game.

24. Obtain Rewards from Vaal Side Areas

Normal. This challenge inform us how they improve the vaal side area reward that spawn in end game map during this 3.10.0 expansion. 7 out of 9, should be less RNG-gated for this challenge. You can make use of Hidden Vaal Pathways prophecy to proc proc side area in end game maps too.

25. Obtain Rewards from Delirium Encounters

Normal. 19 out of 22, should feel less RNG-gated for this challenge. You also can farm delirium encounter in act zone to proc many different type of rewards.

26. Complete Encounters while in Mist

Normal. This challenges is trying to inform us that delirium mechanic is the very first league mechanic can integrate with other old league mechanic, for the greater reward and also with greater RISK.

27. Complete Delirium Encounters IV

Normal. This challenges is just wanted us to push the limit of using the delirium orb(5 times) on certain map codition, most dangerous would be eldeshaper guardian which delirium will cause the boss to have additional skill and also cause the boss arena ground cover will special ailment, making the whole fight a bit more tense .... thus require a decent build to do, if you're build can't do it then try invite other experience player to help with.

28. Explore the Atlas

Normal. This challenge inform us that they had made some changes on how to get the awakening bonus and also it's reward.

29. Reach Level 90

Normal. This .... require a decent build to do this, require within a month to reach this level. If bad build that die a lot then .... maybe then need around a month+

30. Complete Encounters V

Normal. These challenges makes the boss a bit tricky to do, and much harder because have to do them in high tier maps, try invite experience player if you're build aren't capable to do them. Click the link on their name to learn their fight mechanic.

31. Complete Simulacrum I

Hard. Simlacrum requires a really good build to beat it because of tremendous degen-damage deal from the mob and the delirium boss(11th wave), also the chance of IMPALE from monster ... I'll suggest to invite/join highly-capable player to finish the map for you.

32. Curious Corruption

Outcome Source
Corrupted Implicit Modifier Vaal Orb crafting on item
Two Corrupted Implicit Modifiers Temple of Atzoatl - Corrupting Room(-resistance), or Vaal Orb crafting on item that already have 2 implicit (etc: synthesis ring, gilded item)
Influenced Rare Item Temple of Atzoatl - Corrupting Room(-resistance)
Turn a Unique Item into a Rare Item Vaal Orb crafting on item
White Socket Vaal Orb crafting on item
6-linked Item Vaal Orb crafting on 2-hand weapon OR chestpiece
Additional Gem Level Vaal Orb crafting on gem
Additional Gem Quality Vaal Orb crafting on gem
Vaal Skill Gem Vaal Orb crafting on gem
8-modifiers on a Rare Map Vaal Orb crafting on map
Additional Map Tier Vaal Orb crafting on map
Unidentified Map Vaal Orb crafting on map
Vaal Temple Map Vaal Orb crafting on tier15 map
Unique Jewel Vaal Orb crafting on jewel
30% Quality Bestiary Crafting with Craicic Vassal beast
Normal. Pretty much an RNG challenge from doing corruption, but doing 12 out of 15 is actually sounds pretty fine just skip the temple atzoatl crafting option(2) then the rest of the others option should be pretty cheap and easy to get.

33. Complete Encounters VI

Normal. These challenge are pretty achievable ... just require a bit RNG to get find them.

34. Defeat Map Bosses(40/40)

Hard. This seems another big improvement from previous league map grind challenge(1,500 map bosses), tone down to 500 map bosses with a condition, have to kill them under the delirium effect. You can farm map that have multiple bosses such as Arena Map, or Courthouse Map and so on ... the best one will be Precinct map because of it contain 4~5 bosses as long they're in delirium effect, could try make use of DEADLY TWINS prophecy. Also try make use of Delirium Orb on map to have a permanent delirium effect until the boss room, so that you won't have to backtrack finding delirium-mirror encounter at start of the map then run till the end to the boss room ... Hopefully GGG will fix this soon, will update again if they make any QOL changes on this.

35. Complete Unique Maps

Normal. Do 15 out of 19, with the help of The Encroaching Darkness divination card, this challenge will be slightly easier to complete as you keep grinding end game maps collecting this cards. Even your RNG is sux collecting these card, you could buy some of the unique map at here, most of the unique map are quite cheap.
The least 4 favorite unique map I would skip is ... Hall Of Grandmaster(hard), Perandus Manor(very expensive), The Putrid Cloister(expensive), and Doryani's Machinarium(expensive) depending whose the 4th expensive map is =D

36. Complete the Epilogue Questline

Check out Grimro video on how to obtain watchstones
There's 3 phases on how to upgrade full your atlas:
Normal, this quest is all about killing Sirus, Awakener of Worlds which is when you collected 16 watchstones from conquerors of the atlas. Just invite experience player to help you kill Sirus if you're build aren't capable to do it after spawning the boss.

37. Complete Simulacrum II

Normal. Require a bit of grind on the league-exclusive-unique-map and also a GOOD build to do for the double delirium boss challenge ... Might need to invite a pro player to help you deal with that, the other 2 challenges is achievable with a descent build.

38. Complete Deadly Encounters(40/40)

Hard. Finding these bosses is not a problem in this challenges, the BIG problem is to defeat them .... might require a good build to do these challenges OR invite an experience player to help with after you found these bosses.

39. Leave to Chance(40/40)

All of it can be easily be done but except 4 of it; chancing any weapon, strongbox, map or jewel into unique. By picking 2 out of 4, I'll choose weapon and strongboxes, here's how:
Hard. Because of this challenge, orb of chance price is gonna be fluctuate for this league ... This challenge is very RNG-gated. If you manage to chance any of these 2 type into a unique rarity, then only you can proceed your journey to get the 40/40 golden trophy. Also if you're rich, you can buy the Trash to Treasure prophecy to skip this challenge easily, but expensive.

40. Complete Endgame Grinds(40/40)

Hard. GGG are pretty tame with the end game grinding number this league, I'm very surprise! In a good way :D ... Do 4 out of 6 of these choices, without a doubt I would skip that Level 100, that's ridiculous grind ... then maybe skip labyrinth by doing other content cuz I know many of yo really hate labyrinth ... I mean only 1% ppl can do labyrinth XD For those who willing to do lab then may wanna skip .... 750 simulacrum because of the big number, or maybe 500 delve encounters if you really prefer simulacrum if it's cheap or you love the content, 500 delve is actually more grindy compare the others options because of the sulphite grind. Well just skip the least content you like the most, overall these end game grind challenge is way more easier compare to previous league, great improvement GGG!
I will still be active updating this page from time to time whenever I got new INTEL untill the league ends ;) Hopefully you guys understand my poor english and also helped new comer try to get 40/40 challenges =D
Change-logs last update 6th June 2020. Hover here to view.
submitted by vironlawck to pathofexile [link] [comments]

[FN] An N.D.A with a Witch by Kathrine Keyes

(Hello everyone this is my first post and my first time on Reddit I hope you enjoy.)
Our story begins where most stories do, the beginning. Well not the very beginning, in fact a variety of things have occurred beforehand of importance, concerning many people, of great renown. However, as those events do not contain to me, I suggest you ignore them. It is what I have done my whole life and it has turned out marvelous thus far.
Who am I, you may ask? Well to the uneducated and ill-informed, for which you must be if you have never heard of me, I am Anastasia Claire Winston-Brook the Third. Yet who I am is a shallow and all together incomplete version of the truth. Another vital piece of information you must know is what I am. To that, the answer is a consultant. A magical being consultant, to be exact. Long ago before your great grandparent’s, great grandparents were even an idea, I tried my hand at consulting for the various magical creatures that roamed the land.
There were many of them back then: ghastly goblins, terrible trolls, greedy dragons, and the occasional mysterious fey. Along with elves, dwarfs, druids and obviously witches. You see back then a couple of nasty humans got in into their heads that the Earth was made for them and them alone. Where did such a maddening foolish idea originate? Well I have not the foggiest, however, what is clear to me is that we have all been a fair bit worse for it. You see my ill-informed reader, it was not long after this idea of earth is from man took place that there was suddenly an infestation of brave warriors, fearless hunters, and wise sages that would adventure out to defeat all manner of magical beings. Dispossessing honest dragons of their hordes of gold - just because they got a little bit peckish around some sheep, ridding the rivers of monsters so that the lazy traders could sail upon them, riding bean stocks to murder cloud giants in their brilliant white halls, along with other overall destructive behavior. If that was not horrid enough, people then began to specialize. Whole professions sprung up just on the basis of hunting, capturing and killing witches. It was not uncommon to see burnings, drownings or other nasty businesses like that in those days.
I was younger then and down on my luck, being totally without a means to provide for myself. Someone suggested I settle down with the brave hero who had just returned to my small town after heroically hacking apart a school of mermaids. The townspeople all agreed that he must have a large sack, of gold for performing such a dangerous task. That is when the idea hit me. If there was a market for hunting down these creatures that frightened farmers and disturbed greedy lords, then surely there was as many magical beings out there who would pay double to make sure that would not happen. That is what I decided to do. To help all the nasty creatures that go bump in the night stay safe from the evils of humanity.
The following is one of my duller adventures. I have written the events down as accurately as I can remember. However, as some of my clients are notorious magical beings, I have changed some of the details in order to protect the identities of the guilty.
The Story Begins with Me
It was a warm day for this time of the year. The cold bite of winter had just departed giving no notice that spring was on its way. There was hardly any snow left to be found except for under the hollows of trees or in the shadows of rocks. I was journeying down a scarcely traveled road far off from the big city, yet I would not describe the road as a lonely road. For that would mean that it required or even craved human travelers to walk upon it in order to be complete. No, I would say that I was traveling on a human adverse road or at the very least a road that was wildly independent. If the road could talk, as some roads could back then, it would politely inform you that it was perfectly happy not being trodden on day in and day out by the likes of you or me. Either way know that this particular road did not see many travelers.
Why you may ask was I walking so very far away wearing my boots down to the nails and soiling my new purple tunic. Well it was at the behest of a one-eyed raven that had flown unceremoniously through my kitchen window the week before carrying a letter attached to its leg and a pink sweet stuck to its back. I read the letter immediately and saved the sweet for later. It was a request for a magical consultation from a poor, old witch in the woods who had a fallen on hard times. As always with these things the directions were terrible. The letter implored me to follow the aforementioned road south until I reached the grey stone river, then to journey forth into the deepest, darkest part of the forest.
Coordinates, key land marks, even the name of the forest would have helped alas like with most magical beings they talked and acted in different and interesting ways. Luckily, I was not just good, but the best in the business. So, asking around for only a week I had located her hut and was only a few more miles from it. This was good since the briefcase I was holding was starting to dig into my hands and my unwilling partner, a chestnut colored horse I was leading that carried all my important business and traveling things, was starting to look awfully hoof sore.
However, that was not a problem since my horse was actually once a brave adventurer who took it upon himself to burn the woods of a very powerful elf prince to drive him way. How I became the master of a human turned horse is a whole other tale. But since this is my story, I will indulge my favorite pastime. Telling a story about myself while I am telling a story about myself. I was there working a job one summer eve for a local leprechaun who had hid his pot of gold under the same rainbow for years and could not understand why it kept getting stolen. As I was walking the leprechaun through the benefits of diversifying one’s wealth into property, bonds, hard currency, magic scrolls and what have you, I saw a man with flowing blond hair wearing a suit of steel armor burnished to a mirror shine bending down to start a fire. Before I knew what was happening the small fire turned into a blaze. Fearing for my life and client’s assets that I had just convinced him to buy, I pitched in to stop it.
That is why I was there when the beautiful elf prince with his raven hair and strong hands road out on a midnight stallion to hunt down the perpetrator. The brave hero had gone less than a mile when the enraged Prince caught up. What came next was a long and drawn out affair where many magical creatures debated what to do next. With most suggesting they simply feed him to the king of the griffins, Bruce, that roosted in the tops of the tall trees he had burned. However, the Prince came up with a more fitting punishment and cursed the brave hero to wander the earth on all fours until he had eaten a seed from every tree, bush and grass he had destroyed. So that was that, the brave hero was a strong tall man one moment and a horse the next. As Elves are very into horticulture, I offered to take the horse with me. I explained to the human turned horse that I often traveled to strange lands and that he would have an easier time of finding all the plants he destroyed with me.
I suspect, however, that that may have been the prince’s plan all along. As he had a heart that was as mischievous as it was kind. Wanting the foolish hero to travel around discovering new places and meeting new beings in order to rid himself of that awful ignorance that made him set the fire in the first place, the whole time suffering from a horribly upset stomach as he invariably ate plants not meant for horses or man. As I had become infatuated with the elf prince during my time there, I was only too happy to play my part and get a free ride in the process.
I chatted absently to the horse who I called Horse as I had never learned his name about all the different plants that may be growing around the witches’ home and he excitedly started to pick up the pace as we walked deeper into the forest. The light from the sun slowly turning from white to yellow then fading into deeper and deeper greens as it filtered down through the leaves of the trees. The path we had been walking became thinner and thinner until I was pushing my way through brambles that caught and snagged on my clothes. Before long though we had made our way through and entered into a clearing with a house made entirely out of candy. My first thought upon seeing its gingerbread roof, candy cane pillars and chocolate-almond wrap around porch was, “Oh my! she is trying a bit too hard isn’t she?” followed quickly by the hope for some gingerbread as it was my favorite.
Either way Horse and I walked up to the front porch and clearing my throat calling out in my most official voice.
“Excuse me Wicked Witch of the Deep Dark Forest”, for that is how the letter that I had received had been signed. “My name is Lady Winston-Brook the Third, the consultation you sent for.” There was a bustling and clattering as if someone was running to the door. With a final bang as if something heavy was stumbling into place a chocolate bar door flung open and an old woman with gnarled hands and a hooked nose stumbled out. She was wearing a lose black wrap around dress and underneath was an old and stained petticoat. However, as she walked closer her clothes began to sparkle and change until she was clothed entirely in a gown of candy made from the finest fibers of gummy rope and studded with sparkling candied pineapple. Her gray hair springing up like snakes and weaving themselves into a cinnamon roll shape atop her head.
“So sorry to keep you waiting my dear, come in come in. I am so excited that you have arrived” crooned the old crone beckoning me forward.
I looked over at Horse and he snorted at me impatient to start sampling the witches garden. Being unable to talk had not dampened his self-expression at all and I patted him on the neck.
“Sorry, Wicked Witch we have some preliminary work to do”, I said as I walked over to the side of Horse and started unpacking him, “May I call you Wicked Witch”. I asked over my shoulder.
“Wicked Witch is fine, but my friends called me Matilda and I do so hope I can become friends with you, won’t you please come in” she said giving me a disarming smile.
“You are a gracious host indeed Madam Matilda, but rules are rules, now if you could come over here and look over this N.D.A we can begin.” I called from over my shoulder as I drew a circle in blue powder around the small desk and chair, I had unloaded from horse and set up in the field.
“An N.D.A?” Inquired Matilda in a curious voice, “What is that?”
Finishing setting everything up I sat down on the other side of the desk and unrolled a long yellow woven scroll made from spider silk and bathed in the River Styx.
“Oh, nothing to worry about, it’s just your standard boiler plate, Non-Devouring Agreement I have all my clients sign it.”
Cautiously, Matilda approached making her way down the lollypop stairs and across the green grass. Yellow marshmallow chicks flapping hurriedly as they scrambled to get out of her way.
“What is that she said” gesturing to the blue powder on the grass.
“A truth circle” I replied nonchalantly, “now if I could direct your attention here, we can begin”.
Eying me warily Matilda finally sat down at the small wooden desk, its deep dark color reflecting the early morning light. She meticulously ran her hands down the runes and calligraphy inscribed on the sides of the table her frown deepening. Her frown morphed into a scowl as she examined the scroll I had just laid down. Its letters scrawled in an ink that glittered like moon beams and marked with intricate stamps that writhed with life on the scroll.
Finally, her eyes shifted to me. “You have set up powerful magics here girl, I misjudged you, few that signed this paper could break the promises that it holds.”
“And those that could, would not say they had the power to”, I smiled back. “Now, let me just run you through highlights of this document and we can begin.”
“Hmmm,” the witch murmured but made no move to interject.
“Agreeing to this NDA you consent to pay me up front the price denoted below which in this case is thirty pieces of silver for a primary consultant fee, while I am working with you, you will take no direct action, inaction, mystic action or demonic action that causes me, Horse or our belongings any harm.”
“What if you have an unforeseen accident on the premises while you are here?” Matilda inquired in a sickly-sweet voice.
“Ahh, yes while accidents do happen if it does result in grievous harm then an inspection by the supreme one and its council will take place, if you are found guilty of orchestrating this accident then your property will be forfeiture to my estate, your power removed from you and your essence fed to Ammit”
“This paper will prevent you from being harmed by anyone or thing with malice in their heart.” the witch said almost to herself. However, after a moments reflection she seemed to brighten up and without a moment’s hesitation pricked her finger on the signing needle and allowed three drops of blood to fall on the paper that swirled into the scripted letters of Matilda.
“Wonderful,” I said in a cheery voice stowing away the document. “Let us begin.”
Proffering my arm for her we walked together to the front porch of her candy house.
“You have a lovely home. Do you live all by yourself?” I inquired as I stooped down to examine the chocolate porch.
“Right now, my house is empty except for me and my familiar, Haverford,” replied Matilda as the one-eyed raven landed on her shoulder.
“I see” I replied eyeing the bird, “and what do you wish for me to help you with?”
“I built this candy house in the woods to lure lost children to me so that I may capture and devour them in order to stay powerful. Here I am safe from witch hunters and may feed in peace.” The witch cackled her voice rising in pitch and thunder rolled in the distance.
“Brilliant!” I exclaimed. “Independent, goal oriented, driven.You have a lot of good qualities already and if we can just refine your methodology, I see no reason why we cannot turn this place around.”
“Would you care to sit down on the porch for some refreshments?” Matilda asked blushing at my compliments.
“Cheers,” I replied as a nougat table descended from the porch’s roof and floated in midair, while a gingerbread man stumbled out the door holding a tray of hot chocolate and sweets.
“No problem dearie” Matilda intoned. “If you would not mind pulling over some chairs from around the way.”
Once we were situated and talking sipping our hot chocolate and breaking pieces off of the table and dunking it into our cups, I began to ask her more probing questions.
“So is the lack of children to consume your only problem?” I asked.
“That is a big one, my pretty, but truth be told I would also like some more money to buy nice things other than candy to eat and wear” she said mixing her drink absently with a piece of chocolate she had broken off from the porch floor.
“Well to quote my mother, ‘let’s start with your biggest problem the total lack of children in your life’” I said with a smirk. “Why a candy house in the middle of the woods?”
“Well, you see children sometimes get angry at their parents and run away into the woods. Then they will get lost and hungry so they will stumble upon my house. Seeing it is made of candy they will come in cold, wet and tired and I can cook them up. After I fatten them up with cake and cookies from my house.”
“Ok let me stop you right there” I said holding up a hand. “If a child is already lost, cold and tired in the woods I would guess that they would enter any house they saw with lights on even if it is made out of wood or stone. In fact, maybe the whole candy house is a bit too much”
“Well yes”, said the witch looking confused. “But then if my house was not made of candy what would they eat in order to fatten them up”
“Could you not just give them the candy you create inside your regular house in order to fatten them up as you say. Then you would not have to live in the deep dark woods to hide from the brave heroes. Since your house would not stick out so much. In fact, I feel more children get lost on the road than in the woods.”
The witch sat their silently for a full minute her eyes wide, then with a gasp she let her gingerbread tea cub slip from her hands and clatter to the floor.
“Oh my Satan” she cried her eyes still wide.
“Pardon?” I asked startled by her outburst.
“Oh my Satan” she repeated swaying back and forth on her chair so much I reached over to steady her.
“There…there Matilda” I said, “its ok these epiphanies happen a lot when I start working with new clients” but she could not hear anything I said.
“I have been living in a ginger bread house for 50 years for nothing!” she said her voice rising.
“No, no it’s a lovely home, take a deep breath” I said soothingly.
“It’s not! I have been sleeping on a cotton candy bed for years and I could just have been living in a normal house by the road.” She yelled as she got to her feet and flipped the table between us scattering the dishes and table. Having become accustom to these kind of breakdowns in my line of work, I expertly picked up my drink and sat calmly back waiting for her to settle down.
“Do you know what it is like to sleep on cotton candy?” she said to no one in particular. “It was bad when I was young, but ever since I started getting hot flashes and the night sweats, I wake up in a pool of liquified sugar!” She moaned.
“You have my sympathy” I said in my best empathetic voice.
Breathing heavily, she walked over to the side of her house and put her fist through the wall leaving a hole clear into the house. Through it I could see a roaring fire in a sugar cube brick fire place and above it an axe hanging on the mantel.
Raising my eyebrows slightly I continued to sip my cup resisting the urge to reach down to take a nibble of one of the pieces of gingerbread that was formally her wall.
Taking a few breaths to steady herself she calmed down enough to sit back down. Through gritted, sugar rotten teeth, she hissed out “So what else do I need to do now.”
“Well, why don’t we walk inside and I can see what we have to work with?”
With a groan the wicked witch got up and I followed her inside. Her old knees cracking like kettle corn with each step. If I though the outside of the house was gaudy, the inside was worse. Every single thing was made of candy from the drapes to the cutlery. In fact, the only thing that was not candy was a large cast iron oven in the far-left corner.
“Oh my” I whispered as I choked on the sickly sweet odor that assaulted my nostrils. I shifted on the door mat made of caramel my feet sticking to the floor.
“Home sweet home,” she said ushering me in.
“Was that a pun?” I asked.
“Was what a pun?” she replied.
“Never mind.”
“Alright, let’s have a look around.”
“Is everything here owned outright” I asked picking my way through the maze of candy. “Everything, but the oven. I rent it from a family of dwarfs that lives in the mountains behind the house.”
“Why do you rent it?” I asked as picking up a nut cracker made of candied walnuts. Its rock candy eyes shining from the light cast by the candles that littered the room.
“Well it is awfully expensive and the tricky little thing is it never heats up evenly, so I have them come out here and service it for free.”
“Well isn’t that lovely of them” I murmured rubbing my chin.
“Alright” I said sitting down on a jelly bean the size of a pony. We had just finished touring the entire house as well as the surrounding property. “I think I have an idea forming. We can put this house on the market. I am sure there is some Eastern moon fairy with a trust fund that would love to have a vacation home like this. In the mean time we cut back on expenses and look for a tavern or inn to put a down payment on.”
“What expenses? I conjure everything I need.” Matilda said indignantly.
“Well first off, that oven is far too big you could fit in it yourself. If you are only cooking children there is no reason to have an oven that large.” I said gesturing with the quill I had taken out in order to write down notes.
“Also just looking around I see a lot of empty bottles of sasquatches fire water lying around.”
At that she blushed and kicked a half empty bottle of brown liquid under a bubble-gum pink sofa.
“But how will I get to eat children if I am running a tavern all day?”
“I understand your concern” I told her, “We will set you up next to a road just outside the Capital. Children run away from the big city all the time. We will just have to make sure the market can bear another consumer of children in that area. But not to worry I will do my do diligence and make sure there are no trolls or goblins nearby. Nothing kills a new business faster than established competition.”
“I don’t see what is wrong with having my tavern here in the woods, I have lived here for so long” Matilda said getting angry. There was a loud creek from the gingerbread man standing by off to the side.
“I know it’s hard to say good bye, but believe me more children wander off by themselves from the slums of the city than farmers’ children into these woods.” I said as I settled back down into the bean finding it surprisingly supportive for my back and making a quick note to circle back to how she actually made items with her magic. “Besides how many children have wandered into your home in the last five years?” I asked.
“Why do they wander off is there not orphanages or charities” she replied ignoring my question.
“You would think wouldn’t you, but there is absolutely no social safety net in this kingdom.” I said with a forced laugh. “It’s a real systemic issue that needs our attention immediately. Spending for services to the poor has fallen by 60% ever since the Dark Lord returned. It’s a bloody mess.”
“I had no idea, GillgaLoch the Blood drinker was back” Matilda said falling back into a chair of cookies that flew from across the room to catch her flinging chocolate chips across the peppermint tiled floor in its head long dash to support its mistress.
“Yah that’s the one” I said.
“I went to dark magic school with him, total wanker.” She remarked with a sigh.
“Really?” I said raising my eyebrows in surprise. “Because now he seems like he is really driven to spread darkness all over the mortal world. People are saying he could actually do it this time.”
“Oh, pish posh, ignore him, last time he was defeated by some 14-year-old hero throwing his sacred necklace into a whirlpool.”
“Well if you feel that confident about his defeat, housing prices are down because of panic so it’s a buyer’s market now” I said taking more notes, then pausing as I processed what she just said. “Wait, they threw his necklace into a whirlpool. Is that how they did him in?”
“Yes, I know, dreadfully anticlimactic” Matilda said stretching out in her chair and putting her feet up on a gumdrop ottoman. “Is the Dragon Queen of bones still at his side?” she asked picking at her yellow fingernails.
“Oh, my no! You haven’t heard?” I said excitedly. “Get ready for this, it is a wild story”
“I am all ears dearie; I don’t get lots of news out here” Matilda said genuinely intrigued to hear my story. She waved her hand at the table from outside causing it to fly into the room and land between us the gingerbread man by the door springing to life to get us more hot chocolate and biscuits from the kitchen.
“Well you see” I said sipping on my new cup of Hot coco that the gingerbread man had generously put three marshmallows in, wondering if it be rude of me to break a piece of him off without consent. I was still unsure of the rules. “I heard that the Dragon Queen of bones actually eloped with the hero who destroyed him, the first go around years ago.”
“No, Really?” Matilda said in astonishment fully invested now, “But she was married to GillgaLoch for over four centuries. They built the invincible army of darkness together from the ashes up.
“Apparently he was emotionally abusive to her. You know using love potions, casting empathy spells and not letting her talk to any of her friends or family.”
“What a wanker.” Matilda said wrinkling her noes in disgust.
“Spot on” I cheered raising my glass in a salute.
“Well good for her, though after four centuries with someone it must be hard to start over completely.” She said shaking her head as she picked at a sugar cube that studded her chair and dropped it into her drink.
“That’s the thing apparently when she left, she took half of the dark army with her.”
“How do you know so much” she asked narrowing her eyes suspiciously.
“Oh well I am friends with her divorce attorney. Good chap he brought me in to do some consulting after the divorce. He told me she gained full ownership of the castle on the Cliffs of Despair in litigation”
“No” Matilda said in astonishment.
“I swear its true” I said placing my hand over my heart.
“Haha” she crowed with delight; the raven perched on the high back of her cookie chair flapping its midnight wings in alarm at the sudden noise. “That is a nice location especially in the summer, I bet that rankles him” Matilda said letting out a low whistle.
“I know I cannot wait, I just got invited to their baby shower in a few weeks” I said giddy with excitement.
“Oh, when you go you have to find out if she told the young hero how to destroy GillgaLoch’s necklace of power.” Matilda said with a cackle.
“I will try to find out” I said smiling. “I mean they do live together now and are about to have their first kid”.
“Good for them! I wish them the best.”
“I would ask if you could be my plus one but given your history with children I don’t know if that would be wise” I said with a laugh.
“Very cheeky.” Matilda said giving me the same look my grandmother use to when I got in to trouble. “You are a quick one.”
We sat there for a moment laughing at the misfortune of the Dark Lord and enjoying the afternoon and each other’s company.
“Alright now let’s talk about children, is there a reason why you want to only devour them.” I said getting back on topic.
“Because I require human’s soul to maintain my power”
“Oh no I got that, everyone I meet is asking me if I have tried human souls. One dryan I met last week told me it’s the greatest super food out there, so believe me I understand where you are coming from, but why children?” I asked as crossing my legs and leaning forward to hear her better.
“Well, children are easy to trick and control” she said indigently.
“Do you know who is easier to trick and control, drunk people. They come into your tavern they drink until they pass out and bam you have a fresh human right there.”
“Won’t someone miss them if they are gone?” Matilda asked suspiciously. “The whole reason I prey on orphans is because nobody wanted them in the first place”.
“Honestly probably not, we still treat alcoholism as a personal defect rather than a preventable disease that is the result of poor economic prospects, lack of education, family history and a number of other factors.”
“So, humans just assume that because other humans have substance abuse problems it’s their fault and they are cast out by society”
“Yes, that is basically it” I told her.
“Wow, that is…”
“Despicable” I offered.
“No wonderful” she countered.
“Matilda” I said in horror.
“What” she exclaimed. “I eat runaway children, what is it you expect of me?” A growing tone of annoyance in her voice.
“I am weary of this back and forth if I may I would like to summarize what you are proposing. You believe that I should I say bugger all to this candy, ditch the big oven, move to a tavern near the road that runs from the Capital and start consuming the wandering drunks and vagabonds instead of children because not only will their disappearances go unnoticed, but I will have a greater quantity of humans to dine on?”
“That is my plan in a candied nutshell” I said smiling at my own pun.
“Then I have just one final question for you, dearie, would you like some peanut brittle?” Matilda asked barley able to contain her excitement.
“That would be grand, but please don’t put yourself out” I said becoming slightly uncomfortable with her startling burst of enthusiasm.
“No bother it will be safe inside your tummy as fast as I can manage.”
“Lovely may I do anything to help” I said forcing a smile onto my face.
“No, No, you just sit there and don’t move. You have been very helpful” Matilda cackled as the candles around the house began to dim. Then with a wave of her hand the door slammed shut.
Knowing all too well where this was heading, a flicker of annoyance passed through me.
“Oh, that is one powerful draft to slam the door so hard” I said rolling my eyes.
“You think yourself brilliant, but you were foolish to come in to my home.”
“Oh, are you double crossing me already?” I said in mock horror, my tone dripping with sarcasm like the tacky caramel apple chandelier.
“For I am double cro-” she said cutting off mid sentence and looking very surprised.
Before she could continue, I started in. “That’s all well and good but usually my clients wait till the project is almost done before double crossing me, plus there is that pesky matter of the N.D.A you signed” Anansi does not take lightly to broken promises. I said settling into my jelly bean chair and absently picking at the surface of it.
“I built this house by myself and lived alone for 50 years, now that I know your plan you are of no further use to me. I am a student of the dark magic, a consort of Lucifer your N.D.A will not bind me.”
“Pretty sure it will, but carry on” I said a smug expression on my face.
“Foolish mortal, I was old before the seas formed.”
“It shows,” cutting the witch off mid rant. Her face turned scarlet and the chocolate fountain in the corner began to boil over.
“You will not withstand me in my own domain” She cried. With that she conjured up a candy cane that’s tapered into a perfect point. Then with another waver of her hand the life-size gingerbread man started lumbering towards the fireplace. A mighty cackle tore from her lips as she thrusted the deadly stick of holiday joy straight towards my heart.
Yet just before it touched me a blue shield of energy sprang up and stopped the deadly sweet. Where the tip of her lance and the shield met a blinding white light appeared. Bolts of lightning shot out detonating around the room. Splintering lollipops and slagging the peppermint tiled floor. Finally, the candy cane lance shattered in her hand with an explosion of red and white fragments Matilda was hurled backwards into a gaudy white chocolate support pillar accented by gold leaf.
“Honestly this is very unprofessional, if you wish to not work together any longer you could have just said so,” I said dusting off the bits of candy from my jacket.
Her hair still smoking, the Wicked Witch of the deep dark forest staggered to her feet. “I was just the distraction. The paper I signed may have prevented me from harming you, but I have instructed my gingerbread guardians to give you your parting gift in the fastest and most efficient way possible.”
“That is awfully nice of you” I replied starting to get up to leave.
“Do you know the old saying, the fastest way to man’s heart is through their stomach?”
“I believe I have heard that” I said looking for my hat amongst the destruction.
“Well the fastest way to a man’s stomach is through his diaphragm” she yelled waving her gingerbread butler forward. The beast tottered on its stubby legs and as it raised the axe above its head, I confess some worry crept into my mind. The ginger bread man had the spark of joy in its eyes and was grinning from ear to ear. Would her argument hold up in court? Absolutely not! She was knowingly causing me harm through demonic action. However, that being said she may have found a loop hole. That’s the thing about contracts signed on Anansi’s silk, they were tricky and the gingerbread man was not knowingly causing me harm. In his gumdrop heart he was just trying to get the candy inside my belly as fast as possible. The more I thought of it the more I began to worry that she may have found a loophole in our contract.
In that moment I was not absolutely positive that the N.D.A she had signed would protect me from this. I was pretty sure I would escape scot free and silver in hand, yet pretty sure feels very problematic when an axe is barring down towards your chest. My fears were unfounded however as just before the axe hit me, Horse hurtled through the door.
“A horse!” The Wicked Witch yelled proving she was not only an expert in building pointless houses but saying pointless things.
Feeling that this was my time to leave I jumped on to Horse who then proceeded to trample the gingerbread man. Then turning around with a mighty whinny, we galloped out of the house and into the forest. The whole time the witch was yelling at us and cursing me with every word she knew. As she was a very old witch it would be a while before she exhausted her supply.
Horse ran until he was out of the forests and we were safely back by the river. Getting down to stretch my sour legs I patted him on the neck.
“Thanks for the rescue, but it was not necessary. I had the situation completely under control.” I said shading my eyes to gaze back into the forest in case of pursuit.
Horse let out an indignant whinny and nuzzled me on the chest. I looked down and saw my nice new jacket had a long horizontal slash just above my belly button. I checked to see if I was bleeding but it seems that she had saved me in the nick of time.
“I stand corrected and humbled Horse” I said sulking at my misfortune. Then remembering to be gracious in victory and defeat took off my hat and bowed. I will admit your timing was impeccable though I do regret never getting to try any of that gingerbread.
With a snort, Horse leaned down and in his tussled main was a square of perfectly made gingerbread. Picking it out I gazed deep into Horse’s green eyes.
“Thank you brave hero for defending me from the Wicked Witch” I said.
Done with our conversation and wanting to put some distance between us and the house before all the strange plants he had just up set his stomach. Horse whinnied again and let me hop on.
Patting his side, we rode off together. I never did find out if she took my advice. Either way I got paid.
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i don't like doing this but here we are

this should be 10 thousand words
nuance inn abundant dough firefighter crutch separate impress thank appointment pure cunning tiptoe win pedestrian routine evening sunrise alarm period pole sculpture raise architecture authorise fire nest want remunerate flawed restaurant pen soar intensify nature country atmosphere lock nonremittal doubt category obese wing seal aunt withdraw flock score father champion outlet suspect painter explain treatment first-hand feminine radiation go disco game frozen pigeon lodge contrary telephone relinquish feast pilot road policy curriculum hour tension sharp recovery resignation explode snub solve cotton face branch vein complain government jungle see spare grant experience ground appreciate portion food husband adoption capital journal gravel brag projection praise equation surround salt screen welcome settlement volcano federation thirsty basic clash tread twist sodium settle thick agency snatch display look belong ignorant eject folk highway march charismatic review industry chord 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The Good Evil Overlord : Part Two

Dealer Industries : Implant Laboratory : Plus 47 Hours

I'm so foggy right now.
There are numbers and nightmares dancing in my head.
"General Esterhause?"
Yes, that's my name. The nightmares are winning, so many ways we can fail, so few that we may win, how can we find a way through this morass?
The reflex is ground in, even after all these years. I'm on my feet and at attention before I even realize what I'm doing. This turns out to be a mistake, since I immediately start to fade out. I'm caught by two people, and carefully lowered into a chair.
"That was a damn fool thing to do, Dealer."
"We have an issue, so we had to pull you out of implant before the reawakening sequence was completed."
"What's happened?"
"Some of those 'recon' teams have arrived early, and they're invoking diplomatic immunity."
"That sounds like a State Department issue."
"They're talking about allowing entry. We're saying no way in hell. They're talking about using the troops to force entry. We're saying "you really don't want to do that, really you don't." They think we're bluffing. Robert is not answering his phone. That leaves you General. To at least hold off the troops so that we don't end up killing our own people. A civil war is one of the absolutely worst scenarios we have. It's a short ride to global nuclear war."
"Yes, about three years."
"Good! The briefing worked!"
"Sort of, it isn't really there until I think about something, so if I don't know it's there, I can't think about it and I can't pull up the information. You need an index." WOAH! "You have an index!"
"And now we know for certain that the index did indeed work. A very successful beta test, General!"
As General Esterhause comments, "All good, but as you say, we have problems.", he pulls a high-security cellphone out and presses a speed dial. After a short delay, "General Esterhause, authenticator Victor Charlie Seven Seven Seven. ... Son, if you don't have that authenticator, I'm going to come down there and rip someone a new one. Put Colonel Deveraux on the line. ... What. Did. You. Say. ... They did, did they? ... I'm coming out, and if anyone so much as looks cross-eyed at me, you can be guaranteed that I will have them stripped of rank, pension, and dishonorably discharged. You got that?" Esterhause breaks the connection.
"We have an even larger problem. The command structure I had put in place has been arrested and replaced by incompetents that I had removed for cause. How they stayed in the service, I do not know, but I'm going to find out."
"General... That may not be wise."
"It's my job!"
"You cannot do your job if you are dead. Think, I can't reach the President on the secure line that always goes with him, and he has always answered before the fifth ring. Add that to the replacement of your command structure, with as you say, incompetents that you though had been removed from service. What does that spell?"
"Treason, and I'm going to roll their heads into Gehenna."
"Certainly, but let's do this the smart way."
"You're thinking death ray, aren't you."
"Very carefully targeted, yes. We're going to break this coup with precision strikes on the leadership. Come now, into my lair."
"You do that so well that it gives me shivers."
"I've been practicing for some time. If I'm going to be an Evil Overlord, then I'm damn well going to do it right. Which means reading the Evil Overlord's handbook, and not making all those stupid mistakes. Let's step across the road to the computing facility with all the glass walls."

ORA*CLE Display Facility

The center is impressive, but apparently needs very few people to run it. "Doctor? I would have thought that a global intelligence and targeting system would need more people to run it." Doctor Dealer smiles at General Esterhause, "There are over ten thousand people working on the system right now."
"You're... No, you aren't. They're all working from home?"
"For various values of home, yes. The key point is that they are not all located in one spot, but are distributed globally. Any subset of one thousand of them can operate the whole system, although two or three thousand is recommended for efficiency and speed."
"You really are an Evil Overlord; without the Evil."
In all seriousness, Doctor Dealer responds. "I hope to maintain that distinction, but the chances of that happening have been dwindling for the last five years. This is going to push it even closer, but it is essential that this coup not be allowed to succeed. Richard must finish his term as President."

Nightwatch : Location Unknown

"Well Mr. President where is your great friend Doctor "Death" Dealer now? How will he rescue you without killing you on this aircraft."
"Will, you were an excellent chief of staff. I made sure you knew that I appreciated your efforts on my behalf, and the country. Can you explain why you are doing this now?"
"The Death Ray you idiot! How could you let him launch it! You are either his puppet, or you've been brainwashed, I've got to find out which it is, and deal with you appropriately. This ... this utterly unwise, illegal, impossible association of the Presidency with an Evil Overlord!"
"Will, I know you're not going to believe me, but absolutely everything that Doctor Dealer has done has been for the betterment of mankind and the protection of the United States of America. In short, he's a patriot doing whatever he has to, to save this country from annihilation."
"You're right, I don't believe you."
"Will, look it up for yourself. Every last thing that he's done. Go ahead, we've got time."
"Brainwashed, you have to be brainwashed, how could a Death Ray be for the betterment of mankind and the protection of the United States?"
"As horrible as it may sound, there truly are people who are "better off dead". Doctor Dealer could have used it two years ago. He could have eliminated all those bureaucrats who had formed a shadow government. He could have used it to enforce his will. Now, you tell me what he actually did."
"Will, you have to answer. Either that, or I shall have to consider one of the best chief's of staff that I've ever dealt with to be irrational."
"Will... Answer Me."
"Oh, All RIGHT! Yes, he used the legal system. Did not even once step outside the law. Let the process that we have depended on for over 200 years do it's job. There. You happy now?"
"No... I'm not, because you are not. This has been very closely held, Will. Doctor Dealer's original projections when he first realized the possibility, showed that global nuclear war was 75% probable within 20 years. After that, it would rise every year, reaching 100% in 30 years."
"But why a death ray!?!"
"Despite the improvements in the human condition, or perhaps because of them as totalitarian states realized that they could not stop the tide of improvement, the projections, which were fully shared with me, along with all his plans and ideas, showed that without the death ray, without humanity knowing that the death ray was there, the probability of global nuclear war rose steadily to 45% over the next ten years, spiking to 100% two years after that.
With the death ray? The probability is 20% over the next 50 years. Steady, unchanging, buying time for more improvements to change the probabilities, protecting us because everyone will think that either we're preparing to take it from Dealer, or prevent anyone else from getting it."
"So why doesn't he just turn it over?"
"First, because by holding it, the Office of the President will not be considered an evil overlord, or a threat to every other country in the world. We will be as much in his target sights as anyone else. He's fully prepared to allow the entire world consider himself an evil overlord."
"He's... he's taking that mantle? Is everyone insane? What... What are the other reasons?"
"Will, do you think that those bureaucrats two years ago are the only internal threat to this country?
Look at yourself, right here, right now, seizing power in an act of rebellion and treason, all from the best possible motives. You've chosen to disregard the Constitution, and take acts that will have the history books calling you either the greatest hero of the millennium, or the worst traitor in the entire history of the United States.
Will, for the people of the United States, let us end this insanity together. We'll find some way to at least keep you alive ... maybe even clear your name ... but you will have to face trial, and you will have to take the consequences. Even on that front, we will claim to have put you into an unnamed prison under an assumed name to protect you from retribution. What will actually happen is that you will go to Dealer and become part of the team trying to save this country; and the entire world."
"Mr. President... If what you say is true... I think I would prefer to be dead."
"Nope. You've helped make this mess a bit worse, it's only justice that you have to help clean it up. Now let me get on the hotlines and get this straightened out."

ORA*CLE Display Facility

In Like Flint hotline ringtone.
"Thank God! That's Richard's ringtone!"
General Esterhause is struggling to not bust out with a belly laugh.
"Richard! Where... Will? ... You did what? ... I see. Well, in your favor, you are willing to take the consequences, and yes, if you wish, we can find you a place here at Dealer Industries.
... Yes, please. Put Richard on the line. ... Richard? It's good to hear from you! Hang on, I've got Esterhause with me, I'll put it on speaker so that he can hear too.
You're on speaker now Robert."
"Good! Glad you made it to Dealer, General Esterhause."
General Esterhause looks at Dealer, "Mr. President? I'm not sure it's such a good thing right now."
"Yes, Mr. President. The entire command structure of the force surrounding this area has been replaced. By incompetents that I thought I had removed from the Army, for cause. It's going to be interesting figuring out who's responsible for them still being in the Army."
"I see. So they're not recognizing your authority."
"No, Mr. President. My authenticators have been wiped from the system."
"That requires ... very high level access."
"Yes, Mr. President. Army Chief of Staff or higher can authorize the change, but it would be implemented lower down. The authentication office could have been compromised, but as soon as higher found out about the changes, heads would start to roll."
"Very well, let's see if we can get you reinstated", speaking off handset, but still audible, "Operator, get Sec Def on the line, and hold General Esterhause in mute conference mode until I indicate otherwise."
"Secretary of Defense's Office, how may I help you sir or madam?"
"You can put the secretary on the line right now."
"Mr. President?"
"Yes. Now get him on the line."
"I'm sorry, Mr. President, but we'd heard that you had been taken by unknown but presumed hostile forces. I'll need an authenticator."
"I understand. Authenticator Whiskey Bourbon Sour Three Two."
"To whomever may be listening, the President has just confirmed that he is under duress, and has ordered the immediate destruction of whatever vehicle or craft he is currently traveling in. Your only chance for survival is to land immediately, and surrender to the local law enforcement agency. This communication is terminated."
Off handset again, "tell the pilot to land NOW! It doesn't matter where, but get this bird on the ground ASAP or we're all dead. Shoot on sight order has been given."
"Robert! Find out from the pilot where you're going to land! We'll get someone there to cover you!"
"Who General! You're cut out, and so is everyone else we might call."
"Dealer, I'm betting Dealer can get to you anywhere in the country", Esterhause looks at Dealer, who is nodding furiously, as he directs the search for Nightwatch, and the nearest airports that might be able to handle it. "He says he can. He's looking for you right now, and trying to find the nearest airport that can handle Nightwatch."
Off handset again, "Pilot! Have you selected an Airport!" In the distance, "Sir, IAD."

Dulles Airport: Office of the Airport Operations Manager

"Who the fuck are you and what do you mean my airport is closed!"
"Sir, there is a classified military emergency flight coming in, it has absolute priority. There may also be fighter craft attempting to shoot it down. Get your people under cover immediately."
"Bullshit! I'll do no such thing."
"Fine. This is Death Dealer. You will comply or you will be dead. Your choice. I note that you have a lovely wife and three kids. I'd hate to leave them fatherless, but if you don't comply you will be dead within the next 60 seconds."
"You're bluffing."
"45 seconds."
"That Death Ray is a joke."
"30 seconds."
"You can't possibly target me."
"You're in your office, top floor, standing adjacent to the window looking out over the landing strip. You're wearing a gray suit with a white shirt and a red tie. You just turned away from the window. ... ten seconds."
"ALL RIGHT! Whatever the fuck you're doing, the Federal government is going to destroy you."
"Not when I'm trying to save the life of the President of the United States."
"The President. Another flash NOTAM went out that an aircraft claiming to have the President on board was actually a bomb plane looking to crash into a convenient international terminal. Care to comment?"
"Not me. There's a coup happening, and I'm trying to put a stop to it."
"Death Dealer, trying to stop a coup?!? Now I know your bullshitting me."
"Look out your window, about 350 degrees."
"An E-4B? Those things haven't flown since 1990!"
"Unless there was an 'emergency'. That particular craft is 'Nightwatch'."
"Shit... You got jets closing in fast from 340."
"We see them. We're waiting until the debris will most likely hit open ground. As to the Death Ray, I suggest you put a pair of sunglasses on, the darker the better. Targeting... Targeting... Lockon... Lockon... Optimal!" A brilliant white light lances down from the sky, and the fighter jet closest to the President's aircraft has it's tail neatly cut off. The pilot ejects safely, as soon as he's clear, the lance returns and shreds the plane into confetti. The remaining parts land mostly in open ground. Given the built up nature of the area, this constitutes a minor miracle. The other two jets, startled by the bright beam, veer away from IAD and the President's plane.
"Mr. Swatter, some emergency services vehicles are about to enter your airport. Please do not interfere, they will be meeting the aircraft, taking the passengers and crew off the plane, and departing as quickly as possible. Once they clear the field, control of the airport will be returned to you.
I greatly regret the disruption of your operations, but it really was essential. Oh, we'll also be picking up the pilot from the jet. We have fully capable medics on our emergency vehicles, so he'll be receiving the best possible care until we can get him to hospital.
As far as any expenses are concerned, bill Dealer Enterprises, we're good for it."
"Dealer, you are the strangest 'Evil Overlord' I have ever heard of."
"Mr. Swatter, it's only going to get stranger from here."
"Should I go survivalist?"
"I can't advise you personally, but I can say we're trying to avoid scenarios where large numbers of people are going to have to go survivalist."
"Um, Thanks?"
"You're Welcome... The emergency craft have cleared your airport, the NOTAM will be canceled in 5 minutes, I suggest you use that time to alert the airport handlers, and... yes, we have the fighter pilot. A bit banged up, pissed as hell, but otherwise unharmed. There have been no reports of casualties on the ground, or significant damage to structures. Good Day, Sir." click

ORA*CLE Display Facility

Whew... "Now all we have to do is get the President back into control."
"Only he says."
"Heh, it's a SMOP! No problem for Dealer Enterprises!"
"Small Matter of Piloting?"
"Small Matter of Propaganda."

IAD/Dealer Access Tunnel

"Welcome to Dealer Interstate Transport, Mr. President. I'm Kate, your driver for this trip."
"Thank you Kate.
My Chief of Staff, William, and the crew of Nightwatch."
"Gentlemen. Mr. President, we need to get moving. It's possible that someone tracked our vehicles, so we need to get out of the area as fast as we can." The President looks a bit puzzled while the pilots are looking grim, "what can they possibly...", breaking off as the pilots grab him under the arms and move him rapidly to Kate's vehicle. "In now sir! No arguments, we've got to MOVE."
Used to being handled by the Secret Service in emergency training, the President obeys, everyone else piles in to the other six vehicles which start accelerating. Tops for a Porche 911 Turbo is just under 3 seconds for 62 mph. This is at least double that at the start, and keeps going up as they move faster. They see all the other people in that section of the tunnel moving in similar vehicles. It finally clicks for the President, "they wouldn't use nukes!? That's a heavily built up area!"
Kate answers, "we're not going to take that chance. Even if they don't use nukes, they might use a bunker buster. In some ways, that would actually be worse." The acceleration continues, peaks at 3 G and in less than two seconds they're moving 120 mph. The vehicles slam through a section marked with yellow/black diagonal stripes. When the last vehicle passes, heavy blast doors drop into place, sealing the tunnel behind them. "There are matching doors on the other side, and pressure reliefs built in to the system. Damage should be contain..." BADOOM! The ground trembles, "That was a bunker buster, for which everyone on the surface can be very grateful."
The pilots look at each other, the Captain looks at Kate and says "go faster. Much faster." Acceleration increases to 5 G, for one second, they're now moving 240 mph. It's a good thing that the tunnels are mostly straight, with long curves every so often. Kate is paying attention to the driving, but asks, "a follow-on nuke after the penetrator?" The pilots look at the President, he nods, "do it!". The Captain responds, "The penetrator itself is the carrier. If it decides it's in the right location, the nuke detonates."
Kate mutters, "we need to make it to the next blast door, and warn everyone." Fortunately, one of the pilots is riding shotgun, with the President and the others in the back. "Pilot, center console, squawk 5555. Everyone else, get your heads back into the rests." It's not just the MiB who have unusual vehicles, after all, it's Dealer Transit Enterprise that provides them with their vehicles. Various aerodynamic surfaces extend from the craft via nanotechnology and mimetic metals.
"Full autopilot in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... GO."
It's utterly insane.
Absolutely cannot be done.
Sustained Mach 5 inside a tunnel.
The shock-wave reflections off the tunnel sides are enough to give any craft fits, much less the transformed automobiles following the President's craft. Yet... and yet... it does work. The transformed craft take up precise positions relative to each other. Positions that create a single shock-wave surrounding the craft, serving both to protect them from the reflections, and reduce the friction. Highly capable and efficient pumps start drawing air out of the tunnel segments on either side of the sealed section. The next yellow/black segment is coming up, and the one beyond it is already sealed. A pinprick of intense light is seen in the rear views, followed by the image of a shock-wave catching up to them. They slam through the blast doors, which drop just a split second too late. The nuclear shock-wave warps them, and they come down out of the bottom tracks that would lock them perfectly into the bedrock surrounding the tunnel.
The oncoming shock-wave is reduced, but not completely damped out. The protective shock-wave that the craft are forming does nothing for a chasing shock-wave. Under normal circumstances, you would turn so that the shock-wave was not coming up directly from behind, but this is hardly normal circumstances. The pilot of the trailing craft, seeing that they cannot outrun the shock-wave, makes a desperate choice. The craft moves out of the protective formation, taking up a position directly behind the remainder of the craft. Timing the move carefully, the pilot attempts a 'parachute' maneuver. It turns the car into something that resembles a metallic parachute. At these speeds there is a very high likelihood of the craft simply disintegrating. If it works, it will turn the craft into a reflector for the attenuated shock-wave closing from behind. The remainder of the flight will likely survive. The pilot's craft? Survival probability is so low that the manual simply states 'unsurvivable'.
Kate, seeing this maneuver begin, whispers "Godspeed, Becky." The flight is closing on the second blast door at over 1.7 KPS, and the pumps have made a serious dent in the atmosphere. Perhaps this will be survivable. The shock-wave reaches Becky's craft, and she does the parachute. Her craft is shredded, but not before attenuating the shock-wave a bit more. Perhaps enough...

ORA*CLE Display Facility

"Oh, dear god."
"Dealer? Is there anything we could or should be doing?"
Dealer gives a shake, and his voice becomes stronger, "Yes. We'll operate on the theory that the President has survived. We need to get our propaganda rolling NOW, before the Coup can get theirs running." Dealer, again, rapidly types, and speaks on a conference call, laying out the plan, such as it is, "Get all of our news subsidiaries in the area to the airport. There will be a lot of witnesses. Especially the airport manager. They're going to try and claim that the nuke was our death ray, I know he had a very good view of it, so he's our best 'man on the spot' interviewee.
Push this story hard, the President was taken to Nightwatch due to a false emergency message, enemy fighters attempted to shoot Nightwatch down, but were dissuaded by the Death Ray. Leave it vague exactly who had control.
Play up the fact that no one on the ground was harmed, the pilot ejected safely, the other two jets left the area unharmed, make sure you get plenty of shots of the debris field, and get a Dealer Hazmat team on the blast hole. Make sure there's no radiation escaping. Run the locals through decontam if they show the slightest contamination.
Dealer Enterprises is on-the-job and making sure that no one got hurt. That's the key. We're doing our very best, at no charge, to ensure the safety of the public and the President.
When they start asking about the President, inform them that he is in transit to an undisclosed medical facility for a checkup after the assassination attempt. YES! I said assassination! BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT IT WAS! ... Oh, right... Transferring the conference call recordings now.
No, we don't have the black box recordings. They would have been with the recovery crews. No, we don't have word yet. Last ... Last data recordings showed Rebecca pulling a 'parachute' maneuver at Mach 5. ... I know, and when we have time, we will. Now get moving, I'm quite sure that our opponents are already in motion. They had that bunker nuke ready on the spot."
"Okay, that's the SMOP up and running, let's check in with the rescue crews." Dealer punches in another number, "Status?" An exasperated voice responds, "Doctor Dealer, stop calling! We'll get farther along without interruptions!" Dealer raises an eyebrow at that, pushing another button on his console, dropping the call into the PA system. "Rescue Three One, authenticate Delta Delta Five Niner Zero". The voice responds, "That's enough Doctor, I'm not going to authenticate again." Dealer's voice goes hard, and so does his face. "Authenticate or be considered hostile."
At that, the room explodes into action. The few who had been directing the rescue efforts insist on validation. As the validations come in, all but one team goes green on the board. Rescue Three One is not responding on the override frequency. Dealer's voice, still hard, and now icy, "Never mind, and I don't care who you are. You're all dead now." Dealer snaps the link off.
"Joseph! Declare Case Zulu in the IAD/Dealer transit system, zones 25 through 40. Get our troops moving."

IAD/Dealer Interstate Transit, Zone 32

"Oooohhh...", the pilot riding shotgun wakes up, and wishes he hadn't.
"Oh, good, someone else is alive to suffer with." Kate, the drivepilot, is sounding entirely too chipper, in a very painful way.
"Mr. President?", a faint moaning, "Mr. President!" A muffled voice, "Don't yell... please...". With a great deal of relief, "I'm glad you're still with us, Sir." That same muffled voice, "I'm not so sure about that. How many survivors?"
Kate answers, "You, Sir. Myself, and ... I never did ask your name."
"Captain Rogers."
"Please, do not tell me your first name is...", Rogers interrupts, "Not my first name, my middle name, or my nickname. They tried to make it my call sign, but I stuck them with Twiki." snort giggle "ooooh ouch, please don't make me laugh."
The muffled voice asks, "can either of you see Will, my Chief of Staff?" Carefully, they both turn, Captain Rogers answers, "I'm sorry Mr. President, I don't think he made it. I'm not sure that Bobby made it either. Hang on, he's still breathing. Bobby?" ... "Bobby?" ... "Okay folks, hang onto your heads, it's about to get loud." ... "BOBBY SOX YOU GET YOUR BUTT IN GEAR RIGHT NOW! Ouch..."
There is a muffled reply from under the other side of Will, then the sound of cursing and the name of Rogers. "Okay Mr. President, that's four out of five. Time to check the others." While this has been going on, Kate has tried the radio on several different frequencies, no response. "The radio is dead, looks like the aerial must have gotten damaged... try completely broken off."
"Yes, Mr. President?"
"I can see one of the windows, why is it so dark out there?"
"I know Mr. President. We seem to be buried under debris, fairly deeply too. Either that, or our headlights are gone, and the tunnel lighting is gone too." Rogers speaks up, "I have a flashlight, I'll check the outside with it." He goes silent... dead silent... "Captain Rogers?" In a quiet voice, "Yes, Mr. President."
"I assume that you have seen some others of our personnel and that they are dead."
"You could say that Mr. President."
"Captain, don't make me pull it out of you."
"Sir, they've been shot, execution style. I can just see beyond the debris pile through one crack, and their bodies are laid out in a row."
"I see. Captain, are you and your co-pilot armed?"
"Yes, Sir, but with limited ammo."
"With the damage we've taken? I'll see what I can do." Kate starts working another portion of the console, while Captain Rogers watches the outside. "Kate... Do your rescue teams go armed, with 9mm Makarov pistols?"
"Absolutely not, we depend primarily on armor, since taking a gun to a disaster zone would be ... provocative at best."
"Their badges read Rescue Three One."

IAD/Dealer Interstate Transit, Zone 34

"Damn, a lot of debris, I though we built better than this."
"This is what happens when you detonate a nuke inside the tunnel. These things are designed to withstand a blast from outside. Report in."
"Dealer HQ, Team 15, Zone 34, much debris, no sign of flight."
"Team 15, Dealer HQ, confirm Rescue Three One is rogue repeat rogue, shoot on sight."
"Copy, Rescue Three One Rogue. Restoring power to this segment. Stand by."
The engineering team following along with the combat team have been clearing debris from a junction, they open it, and connect the power lines to jump the damage from the last junction. The lights come up, as do the cameras. This also jumps the power into Zone 33; and then into Zone 32.

ORA*CLE Display Facility

"Damn... General, take a look at this."
"That's part of the crew from Nightwatch. They've been ..."
"Executed. Yes. And that's Rescue Three One, wearing our uniforms, wielding our equipment, and armed with ..." The General finishes, "9mm Makarov pistols. Russian. You'd better tell your military team to get in there fast, if there's anyone still alive, those bastards are going to try to kill them before anyone else can get in."

IAD/Dealer Interstate Transit, Zone 34

"Team 15, Team 15, Expedite Zone 32 repeat 32, hostiles executing prisoners."
"Engineers! Target Zone 32! Expedite! Blow the doors!"
In each of the blast doors, there are smaller portals designed to move people and sometimes individual vehicles. These doors can be operated electrically (fast), manually (slow), or with explosives (very fast). Using the explosives has another bonus, the doors will fragment. They have to, to clear the portal completely. One door down, a combat vehicle race to the next blast door, a quick plan (kill anything with a weapon that isn't our team), and blow the door.
The fight is short and bloody. No one on either side is interested in prisoners. The only ones who survive, are the engineers, the combat team, plus two people who weren't armed and got their hands up fast enough. Shooting people who have already surrendered, even if you aren't interested in prisoners, is not a good habit to pick up.

IAD/Dealer Interstate Transit, Zone 32

WHAM "The blast door just blew a chunk out! Knocked the Tangos on their asses!" Rapid gunfire is heard, precise controlled bursts. Pistols are double-tapping, but the combat team has armor that Dealer never sells to anyone else. For one thing, it's twice as expensive as an Abrams tank, so no one else is willing to spend that much money to protect their troops. Dealer figures it's worth it so that his troops know he values them more than the money the armor costs.
"Kate? Is Dealer willing to sell that armor? I just saw someone shot in the face twice with a 9mm, and not even blink." Kate smiles, "You couldn't afford it." Rogers looks at her skeptically. Kate responds, "it's $12.5 million dollars per unit. Repair costs after action can easily run over a million per panel that takes fire." Rogers twists around to look at the President, who has, with the help of Bobby, moved the unfortunate Will off of their faces. "Mr. President?" In such hopeful voice... "Captain Rogers? We will discuss this at a more appropriate time."
Captain Rogers, realizing what he's just done, "Sorry, Sir. No disrespect meant."
"Accepted, Captain. That said, I'll talk with Dealer. There may be a less expensive version available, I'm sure that the Secret Service would appreciate it, and the Air Force officers who are now my official pilots." Captain Rogers' face is a study in contrasts. Becoming the President's preferred pilots is a serious promotion, regardless of the rank they currently hold. Yet there is the rest of their crew, none of which have apparently made it; and Will, still lying across the President's lap. "Noted, Sir."

ORA*CLE Display Facility

"Dealer, any sign of the President?"
"Not yet, General, but the smoke is still clearing. Sensors now active in that Zone. We have... five vehicles visible. The remains of Becky's vehicle. No sign of the vehicle that the President was in. ... One moment, General."
"Team 15, Dealer Actual, crank your sensors up to max and fan out over the debris. At least one of you on top of the big pile."
"Yes, Sir. ... You heard him, max it and spread."
Dealer is watching the screens closely, but it's one of the technicians used to operating the equipment at maximum enhancement that spots the hidden vehicle first. "15 Alpha 3, FREEZE!"

IAD/Dealer Interstate Transit, Zone 32

Rogers is watching the action. "Dang it! They don't know where we are! Start hammering. They're spreading out and some of them are headed our way." While pounding away, the President asks, "Captain? Do you think they're actually going to be able to hear us under this pile of rubble?"
"Mr. President, if Dealer's armor doesn't have sensors that can pick up a gnat fart at 100 yards, I'm going to beat him senseless." They continue pounding, "Hey! One of them just stopped right in my field of view!"
"Engineers! Up Here! There's a vehicle under this debris! The sensors are picking up multiple banging sounds."
It takes time, and the arrival of another rescue team with the right equipment, but the vehicle is extracted. While it is good to know that the President is alive, as well as the others, the loss of so many good people still hurts.

ORA*CLE Display Facility

Dealer finally gets to breath again. General Esterhause says a small prayer. The trouble is just beginning.
submitted by spindizzy_wizard to SpinningStories [link] [comments]

Roark's Blunder: Non-Mainline Story

Ten years. One hundred and twenty months. Three thousand, six hundred and fifty days. Almost ninety thousand hours. It was a long time for Commander Samuel Roark. Not as long as the twenty years the keel plate owner Admiral(ret) Sera Keraski had, nor the thirty that Vice Admiral Jana Johannsen had command. But for Commander Roark, who had initially inherited the sixty-year-old Peregrine as a Lieutenant Commander, the duty had been interminable. Initially, the light cruiser had been conceived as a recon in force vessel. Overengined, overweaponed, overpriced, underarmored, and understaffed, the Birds of Prey line were a relic of wars past. Only four were ever completed, the fifth hull was mothballed at 80% completion. The planned destroyer version, and upsized battleship version only ever made it just past initial trials. Two of the former: (Tawny and Harpy), and one of the latter(Condor) were ever put into service. They were, in a word, unnecessary. There were no more wars to fight. No more titanic clashes between nation states. Endless SAR missions, in-system pirate “pacification” patrols, all of these tasks could be completed by cheaper, more modern and efficient ships. Nothing needed the degree of self reliance, stealth, and assault capability that the BOPs had. Roark had had enough of it. He wanted something new. Something different. The thing he hated most was the VIP transport. The BOPs were still among the fastest military vessels in the galaxy, and Peregrine was the fastest of the 4.
“Absolutely Ambassador Jerkens. It was our pleasure. We wish you success in your negotiations,” Roark’s smile belied his internal disgust.
“Oh, thank you Commander. You have been more than hospitable for this trip, and you are a credit to the uniform,” the Ambassador to Wabash Landing smarmed.
“I appreciate that. Please, don’t hesitate to let the UCN know if you need anything else.”
“I will! Mission clear.”
Peregrine clear.” Roark turned to his XO, Lt. Commander Amir al-Halab, “Amir, set us a course to take us back to Avon. I believe we’re a bit overdue for refit and resupply.”
“At once Commander,” LCDR al-Halab said in his clipped tones. He thought for a minute, doing the complicated math in his head. Amir had a talent for astrogation that was unparalleled in the fleet. “Helm, bring us about to heading two six eight mark eight three dec. Best in-system speed.”
“Yes sir, two six eight, mark eight three dec.” the young ensign on the helm responded, entering the correct commands. Peregrine broke orbit and headed out into the black once again.
“Warning. Reactor temperature approaching critical limits. Recommend immediate emergency shutdown,” the cool female voice sounded in CPO Wade Smith’s comm-plant. “Coolant pump malfunction. He3 pump malfunction. Possible blowout and quench imminent.”
“Lord above Wanda, tell me something I don’t already know,” the chief said to Lieutenant Wanda Romansk, the ship’s transferred intelligence. He then turned to look at his panel. “Attention all hands, prepare for emergency shutdown. All hands to action stations. Suit up, get your hats on!”
Skinsuited members of the engineering bay scrambled over and around the reactor spaces, attempting to make critical repairs to the heart of the ship. Wade nearly tripped over a rating lying in the hallway next to an open panel.
“Dammit Jensen, what are you doing down there?” he barked.
“Chief, Wanda informed me I was KIA when I opened that panel. So, I’m being a good corpse and playing dead.”
Wade narrowed his eyes and continued down the hallway.
“Chief Petty Officer Wade Smith, You have been designated KIA. Reactor two has gone subcritical. Power to inertial compensators has failed. Drill complete. Ship lost with all hands.” said Wanda, the ship’s TI.
“Thank you Wanda. Please have the report prepared and delivered. Damnit.” Chief Smith kicked the nearest bulkhead.
“So Chief, tell me, how did that go so pear shaped, so quickly?” Commander Roark glared at his chief engineer.
“Sir, Once we lost the coolant pump assembly, reactor two was no longer receiving the levels of He3 and GPB that it required to run properly. Those devices were run through the same runs. Wanda simulated a strike amidships, and our fire suppression crews were unable to reach the electrical feeds in time. The coolant pump is supposed to have a manual override, but on the Avonex 2387-D’s, that override has never worked very well. They were going to upgrade to the dash-G model, but that was delayed by more pressing needs for the Citadel class. In short, it happened because this ship is sixty years old, and was cutting edge when she was built.”
Commander Roark’s eyes had glazed over a bit while his ChEng was talking about things he didn’t particularly care about. He knew that there were no ships out there that could score such a hit on his ship, much less cause the kind of damage that Wanda had predicted. In fact, he believed the TI was just being paranoid, and coming up with these ridiculous scenarios to waste his time. What Roark didn’t know was that in his ChEng’s opinion, the ship was being held together with wishes and rainbows, as most of the technology on Peregrine was not compatible with the new components that were being manufactured by the UCN. Hell, some of the stuff on her wasn’t compatible with the other three ships of her class. They didn’t have the problems that he had to deal with. Bleeding edge, and obsolete. That was the story here. Chief Smith had his hands full keeping the three unique fusion turbines running at anything approaching serviceability. More often than not, Peregrine was running on two while the third was being serviced in an ongoing dance of maintenance. What they couldn’t requisition, they had to make. What they couldn’t make, they had to adapt, and what they couldn’t adapt, they had to force. Chief Smith knew that Peregrine would be lucky to have 60% of her original combat effectiveness, and if it came to blows... Well, Father Smiley would still kick the snot out of any and every pirate vessel she came across, but he sure as hell wouldn’t want to look at the repair bills afterwards.
“Thank you Chief. I’ll peruse the report at my leisure. I am sure it is as comprehensive as it should be,” Roark stood, and dismissed the flashing icon on his display. “That will be all.”
“Yes sir,” Chief Smith stood, saluted his commander, and exited the briefing room.
When the chief had left, Roark waved and the flashing file moved itself into the engineering reports folder. Roark sighed and shook his head. “That man will be the death of me. Death of boredom. Wanda?”
“Yes Commander?” The Peregrine’s TI chirped.
“What’s our ETA for Avon?”
“Commander, at our current speed, we are approximately 4 days, 21 hours away from Avon Local Space. It will take an additional 23 hours to clear local traffic, assuming patterns remain consistent.”
Roark snorted. “Used to be, a navy vessel had priority routing into Avon space. Now its lousy with bloody civvies floating around, clogging up the travel lanes.”
“Yes commander. Priority routing was discontinued 16 years ago when the Tau Ceti Compact was signed, and the last conflict came to a close.”
Roark waved his hand irritably at the TI, “Yes yes, I know that. No need to remind me.”
“Yes commander. Do you require anything further from me?”
“No Wanda. Return to your duties.”
“Thank you commander.”
“Avon, Peregrine,” Lieutenant Timothy Kronen spoke into the pickup on his console.
Peregrine, you are directed to alter course and respond at once to the vicinity of 54 Leonis. FTL Comm has detected a distress beacon from the Perez-Harnsteiner Transtellar. Pirate activity suspected. Last known coordinates and final zipsqueal transmission to follow.”
“Acknowledged Avon. Peregrine out.” Lieutenant Kronen turned to Lt Commander al-Halab. “Commander, we have received a priority transmission from Fleet. It looks like Pop’s Hotel lost another barge round abouts 54 Leo.”
“Thank you Lieutenant. Ensign Ries?”
“Yes Commander?”
Al-Halab thought for a moment, “Set us a course, two seven five mark, um one nine asc.”
“Aye Commander, two seven five mark one nine asc. Eta 54 Leonis two point three hours.”
“Thank you Ensign. Commander Roark?” Amir waited the prerequisite seven and a half seconds, calculated precisely to annoy Roark. “Wanda, please state the location of Commander Roark.”
“Commander Roark is asleep in his cabin. His comm-plant is set to do not disturb.”
Very well, Thank you Wanda. Lieutenant Williams, you have the conn. I have to go wake up the Commander.”
“Aye Commander. I have the conn. Wanda, transfer command function to the tactical station.”
“Yes Lieutenant. You have command function.”
With that, al-Halab stood, and walked off the bridge.
“Wanda, you are sure the Commander is in his quarters?”
“Yes Commander. His implant shows him in bed. Alpha wave monitors indicate he is awake.”
“Indeed. Thank you Wanda.” Amir pressed the door chime again, “Commander Roark, we have a situation that requires your presence.” He waited for an answer.
About three minutes later, Roark came to his door clothed in the traditional fluffy white bathrobe that he had replaced every six months from a supply he had brought on board. “Amir, can you not handle this?” The aroma of Jovian Whiskey wafted out. “Its just a barge distress call. I’ll bet you a hundred credits its the same as the last three we were sent on. A holed freighter, missing crew, loose cargo floating in the ether, picked clean of anything valuable.”
“Commander Roark, that would be against protocol. The captain is always on deck during SAR operations, unless operations have been ongoing for greater than sixteen hours. In that event, crew members are entitled to a four hour rotating rest period, or in the event of incipient attack, stim...”
“Yes, all right Amir. Fine.” Roark snapped somewhat testily. “I will be on the bridge presently.”
“Yes sir,” al-Halab replied, and almost got out the sir before the door closed in his face.
“Commander on deck!” the sergeant at arms barked as Roark shuffled his way into the presence of his command staff.”
“As you were,” he grumped. “Tacco, talk to me.”
“Yes sir, transferring command function to your station. We are currently seventeen minutes from translation into 54 Leonis local. From there, we have two options, we can stealth and microjump to the last known location of the deeb, or we can coast in using sublight. I recommend a stealthy approach in the event there are hostiles still present. It has only been approximately three hours since the zipsqueal.”
“They won’t be. And even if they are, I am sure we can handle them. Plot us a sublight course and intercept. That will give us more time to get sensor data.”
“Aye commander.”
Peregrine flickered into subjective space approximately two point six million kilometers from the last known position of the Maria Delgado, Klaus Dietrich, and Wilhelm vonSchmidt.
“Commander, we are approximately 9 light seconds from the LNP. What are your orders?”
“Begin standard search pattern. Warm up the mark nines. Let’s see what we can see.”
Terawatts of energy lashed out from the Peregrine’s mark nine sensor suites. Approximately twenty seconds later, the rapidly expanding globe of information blinked three red dots.
“Commander, I have our hulks. They’re three point nine em out, twenty seven mark oh three dec. Drifting away at point oh two c. Sir, they look like they’re maintaining course and heading. Target designation pogies one, two and three”
“Are they? That’s different. Humph. Helm, lay in an intercept, and take us in sublight.”
“Aye Commander. Course plotted, intercept in sixteen minutes.”
“What the hell are they doing Scratch? That’s not standard Uke procedure.”
“Coming in fat, dumb and happy Talon, about what I’d expect from the Ukes. Hey boss, IFF says that’s Peregrine. Samuel Roark commanding. There’s nothing nice on him in the files we boosted from Harrithan. Says he’s only got this command because of his parental connections, and he’d be on the beach if it weren’t for his mommy.”
“Interesting. Very interesting. Peregrine and Roark you say? She’s one of the Ukes’ old stealth recon cruisers. We need to play this cool, and everything has to fall perfectly, or we’re toast. Her secondary armament would cut us to ribbons in a heartbeat. To say nothing of her primaries. Warm up the batteries, but don’t open the outer doors. I don’t want them to see what we have. ” the older pirate grinned at his younger subordinates.
“I’m worried about the slave circuits boss, I don’t think they’re sophisticated enough to hit her if she gets her shit together. ”
“You’re right. Let’s assume she will do just that at the worst possible moment. Feed plot weedraptor to the slave circuits. We set our trap for a rabbit, and caught a mongoose. This may not be pretty. ”
Maria Delgado, UCN Peregrine. Please respond over,” Kronen’s hail was answered only with silence. “Sir, they’re not answering. All channels open.”
“Commander, we’re not close enough to get life signs yet. Especially on something as large as they are.”
Crew complement for the three point four million ton freighters was minimal. They didn’t register much life support at the best of times.
“Helm, roll us on our back, give the sensors a better look,” Roark ordered.
“Aye sir, rolling ninety degrees port, adjusting attitude fifteen degrees dec..”
Lt. Williams watched his console nervously. “Sir, there’s something odd about those barges. They’re not reading right.”
“Hard to say sir. They look like they’re under power, but I can’t tell if they’re just running quiet or if they’re all damaged. In addition, records say Maria is an Atlas class bulk transporter. Its hard to tell from this distance, but she’s not reading like an Atlas. Also, I am getting something in the EM sensors though. It reads like there’s a couple of dozen petawatt class capacitors powering up.”
“Horseshit. There’s no way a merchie has that sort of anything on it. The other is probably just poor recordkeeping. Transtellars aren’t noted for their thoroughness. Wanda, I need a diagnostic run on the primaries. Cut over to the backup if you have to. Nothing new. Take us in. Once we’re close enough, I want a hull map. We’ll see if they have anything we need to worry about. ”
“Sir, recommend we activate ECM,” stated the tacco.
“Unnecessary. There’s no way a merchie has the targeting systems to hit us at this range,” Roark waved his hand irritably.
“Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly.”
“Really boss? You’re going with that old cliche?”
“Nothing wrong with the classics Scratch,” the old pirate sighed. “Kids these days. Execute weedraptor at 250k.”
“Alright boss, This just might work, and we might get out of here with our asses intact.”
“More or less son. More or less.”
Peregrine slowly closed the distance to the trio of merchant ships. At 250k kilometers the profile loaded into the pirates’ slave circuits executed the plot they had been given. Titled weedraptor, it prepared to open fire through the laminated plastic hatches built into the merchant containers.
“Status change! Commander, they’re turning to port. Why would they.. Oh god, I’m detecting a huge spike of energy in Pogy Three! Redesignating Hotel Three”
“Repeat that Lieutenant! Are you saying they’re hostiles?” Roark was astonished.
“Hostile confirmed! Charge spike detected! Cloak engaged, condition one! Activating ECM! Calculating firing solutions!” Wanda announced over the commnet.
“Weapons tight! I will not have my command usurped by a TI!!” Roark thundered
“Energy spikes in pogy one and two, Commander, they’re armed, and firi...”
Three tenths of a second after Wanda detected the charge pulse in the pirates’ cargo bays, the ECM was up and functioning at sixty three percent efficiency. Five tenths of a second after, the cloak was nearing activation. Seven tenths of a second, and Peregrine had just initiated a roll to starboard to minimize their profile. Five tenths of a second later, invisible beams of highly charged energy slammed into Peregrine.
Wanda’s frantic activation of the cloaking and ECM systems saved the ship from being destroyed outright. The eight forty centimeter capital class xlasers on board each of the “freighters” stabbed out under slave control as the target locks were lost almost immediately. However, six of the twenty four focused petawatt weapons found their marks. Two reduced the rotating sensor mast to useless scrap, one flashed across the port small craft bay, opening it to space and killing half a dozen crew members, one more severed the starboard LAP cannon’s power runs, and the remaining two beams penetrated the bridge, and permanently ended the careers of Commander Samuel Roark, Lieutenant Timothy Kronen, Lieutenant J.G. Jason Williams, and Ensign Jenken at the helm, as well as the sergeant at arms, and a steward that happened to be in the space below the bridge.
“Hull breach. Bridge section. Hull Breach, port small craft bay. Starboard LAP cannon, offline. Port LAP cannon, offline. Life support, offline. Communications, offline. Quantum cypher connections, offline. Initiating emergency communications protocol. Fusion Turbines one and three, offline. Fusion Turbine two, online at seventy three percent. Containment, stable. AS300 launchers, offline”
“Lord above Wanda, you’re just a barrel of good news,” the ship rocked again as a second salvo struck the Peregrine. “Who’s in charge?”
“Chief Smith, Commander al-Halab is still showing life signs, but he is trapped in the lift going to the bridge.”
“Commander, are you still conscious?”
“Affirmative Chief. I’m pinned under some substantial amount of debris, and I can feel air moving.”
“We’ll get a crew there to...”
“No time Chief. You have to get us out of here. We still have our cloak, barely. We can still form a singularity.”
“Yes sir. We’ll do what we can, “ Peregrine shuddered again as another xlaser found its mark.
“Hull integrity to sixty three percent. Fusion Turbine two at seventy and holding. Cloaking system failing. Chief... they can see us,” a note of worry had crept into Wanda’s voice. Chief Smith knew he had Wanda’s full attention, and wasn’t talking to one of her subroutines.
“Chief Smith, your heading is,” al-Halab coughed, and a grimace had crept into his voice. “one oh four mark sixteen asc.”
Wanda, transfer bridge func..”
“Already done Chief, get us the hell out of here.”
Peregrine limped around on its thrusters and formed the artificial singularity that allowed FTL travel. and vanished as twenty four beams of high frequency energy lashed the space where she was a moment ago.
“Sixty eight lost from a complement of one hundred twenty. Forty three more wounded. Twenty six and a half billion credits in damage to Peregrine. Lieutenant Romansk, as the surviving senior officer aboard, would you mind telling us what the hell happened?”
“They weren’t freighters Admiral Johannson. The pirates there had some sort of heavily armed q ships. They looked like freighters, floated like freighters, but they bit like battleships. I detected the power spike from eight forty centimeter Arnesson mark seven petawatt xlasers a moment before they fired upon us. I activated our cloak and ECM eighteen milliseconds later under defense protocol. Two of the initial lasers missed, the other six hit. Fortunately, the ECM and cloak were as effective as they have ever been, and the other two salvoes from the other “freighters” missed completely. It appears that the slave circuits were not as sophisticated as they could have been. Top end Civillian units instead of the military slave circuits we use. The only vessel to score hits on us was the one squawking Maria Delgado. We believe that to have been the command ship.”
“Very well. Please download your sensor logs, and all other pertinent data to the Invincible. We are sending you a tow. Please rendezvous at these coordinates. Best speed.”
“Yes Admiral.”
“Also, please pass on my appreciation to your Chief Engineer for keeping the ship in one piece. I understand you lost two turbines and better than forty percent of your hull integrity?”
“Yes Admiral. It took Chief Smith almost a week to get the QC back online so we could call for help. We’re still six weeks out from Avon at our current best speed, and that might be pushing it. We’re not in good shape.”
“Very well Lieutenant. Carry on.”
“Thank you Admiral. That’s what we do.”
* * *
Grizzly Falls is going to miss you Lieutenant Commander. You have been a superior Exec.”
“Thank you sir. I couldn’t have asked for a better captain. these past five years have just flown by.”
“Do you know where you’re being posted Amanda?”
“No sir. I have to report to Avon in a week, and I will receive orders there.”
“Cherish this opportunity. You can never get another first command.”
Amanda Jessik laughed at this, “You are right about that sir. I dearly hope its one of the new Augusta class. They’re a sexy piece of hardware.”
“Whatever it’ll be Amanda, it’ll be yours.” Captain Hollingworth raised his glass, “To your future!”
“I’ll drink to that sir!” the newly frocked Lieutenant Commander (command select) Amanda Jessik clinked glass and savored the champagne.
Subject: ORDERS
  1. Having attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the United Confederation Navy (UCN) on 1 February, 2445 you are hereby granted fifteen (15) days advanced leave, in accordance with the authority and instructions contained herein.
  2. You are hereby transferred to the UCFS Peregrine, 6th Fleet, Trafalgar Station, Avon System, and are directed to report to the Shipyard Commander not later than 0800 TST 21 APR, 2445, for duty. This is a permanent change of duty station.
  3. You are directed to conduct yourself with proper decorum befitting your station while on leave. You have not been released from duty. Any misconduct is punishable by disciplinary action.
  4. You will notify your current logistics officer immediately to procure transportation via military or commercial craft in accordance with your local regulations.
  5. Aspects of this deployment are hereby classified and may only be disclosed in accordance with CFN regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
It had to be a nightmare. Peregrine. The ship that went nowhere but downhill from the war 60 years ago. It was a joke command. Had been, ever since Admiral Johannson stepped off of it. Roark almost lost her with all hands, lost over half the crew in an instant, and twenty more over the next three weeks. The previous XO was lucky and only lived on as the TI for Chaparral. It was strange that there were no personnel dossiers attached to her orders, but not entirely uncommon. She had been in dry dock for over a year, hell it was 3 months before they decided not to scrap her. Amanda had no idea why they decided to keep her, she was a relic of an age long past.
And yet... it was still her first command. She would be in charge of eight and a half thousand tons of fighting metal, one hundred and sixty men and women willing to fight and die for her and her navy. She had no idea whether or not the rumors surrounding Peregrine were true, that she was bad luck, that the ghosts of her former crew lingered in the halls, that she killed three dockworkers out of spite when they were installing the new, upgraded fusion turbines in her... It went on like that for hours. Hopefully she would have a good, solid crew around her. She looked out the station window and saw the sleek black form floating at stationkeeping half a dozen miles off, silhouetted against the system’s primary.
Well, at least she’s pretty. That’s something.
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PPS (for Mobile) 9. Vault-Hide SMS Pics & Videos 10. Al-Moazin Lite (Prayers Times) << Contents 11 Top 10 battery drainers – Run at start up Analysis 1. AllShareCast Dongle S/W Update 6. Facebook 2. ChatON Voice & Video Chat Path 3. Beaming Service for Beep’n’Go 4. magicApp: Free Calls 5. the system with this browser we do not guarantee it will work 100%. Current level 2 browsers would be Firefox 3, Opera 8, Sea Monkey, Konqueror. Level 3 Support This means older or niche browsers such as PDA/Mobile phones that we do not test the system on. This is not to say the system won't work as it might do depending on your browser settings. In this game there will be 3 cats and 2 dogs placed alternatively. The object of this game is to move the cats and dots so that they are separated, i.e. 3 cats and then 2 dogs consecutively in a row. Each time you move, you must move a pair of cat and dog that are adjacent to each other together, if there is a space between the cat and the dog Categories NFC beaming . Auto Added by WPeMatico. Recent Posts. Lidar helps uncover an ancient, kilometer-long Mayan structure </> However I tried this solution and it didn't resolve the issue. I then paid a closer look to the other headers I was passing and noticed that on the website I was passing as the User-Agent header the same value as the current users browser e.g

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