7 actors who really want to be the next Doctor Who

I Read It So You Don't Have To: Little Kids, Big City (by Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen)

Inspired by the overwhelmingly positive response to my previous 'book report' on Ramona Singer's Life on the Ramona Coaster (seriously, thank you all -- truly supporting other women 🙏🙏), I decided to try my hand at writing up yet another of the embarrassing number of Housewives books in my personal collection: Alex McCord and Simon van Kempen's Little Kids, Big City: Tales from a Real House in New York City with Lessons on Life and Love for Your Own Concrete Jungle.
After reading just the title of this book, I'm already exhausted. It's pretentiously long and awkwardly phrased while somehow still managing to be entirely devoid of meaning. In other words, a perfect encapsulation of Simon and Alex. The summary on the back cover describes the pair as the "breakout stars" of RHONY, an assessment that I would charitably call 'debatable,' before going on to inform me that I can look forward to "informative and often hair-raising stories of life in the urban jungle," and that "Alex and Simon use their own hard-won experience as a springboard to discuss a host of parenting topics." I anticipate that this content will be quite useful to me, the guardian of four cats that I spoil endlessly and treat like my actual children.
One of the pull-quotes on the back cover allegedly comes from our very own Bethenny Frankel. I say 'allegedly' because I refuse to believe that the following passage would ever come out of Bethenny's mouth (or keyboard or whatever):
Alex and Simon don't take themselves too seriously, which seems to be essential to parenting. Their fresh 'he said, she said' perspective on parenting is both humorous and insightful!
Please, take a moment and do your very best to picture mention-it-all, betting-on-horse-races-at-age-five Bethenny unironically using the phrase "fresh 'he said, she said' perspective." To describe Simon van Kempen and Alex McCord. Right, didn't think so.
My experience reading Little Kids, Big City started on an unexpected high note when I opened the front cover to find that my copy (purchased used through Better World Books for the low, low price of $5.31 with shipping) had been signed by Ms. you-are-in-high-school-while-I-am-in-Brooklyn herself, Alex McCord! Truly a gift I do not deserve. Samantha and Debbie (whoever and wherever you may be), thank you for your service. I am forever in your debt.
Unfortunately, as would soon become painfully clear to me, after starting off on such a promising note, I would have nowhere to go but down.
The book, which is written in alternating passages from Alex and Simon, begins its introduction with a chronicle of Alex's "fashionably nomadic" early adulthood. Ever the proto-edgelord, she recalls, "I did all those things our mothers warned us about and had fun doing them." We switch to Simon's perspective to hear the deeply embarrassing story of the couple meeting through a dating app while Simon was on a business trip in New York City. No, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing about meeting someone on a dating app. But there absolutely is something embarrassing about using the profile name "Yetisrule" to meet someone on a dating app. To clarify, this was apparently Alex's username, and I remain hopeful that we will get a more thorough explanation of her connection to the elusive Yeti as this book continues.
Alex tells us that, while she and Simon hadn't initially planned to have children, they eventually started to have "clucky feelings." I have never heard this phrase in my entire twenty-five years of life, but based on context clues and also a Google search, I learned that it means they wanted to have a baby. Don't worry, though! As Alex tells us, "You can be eight months pregnant and wear a leather miniskirt." Personally, this is life-changing news -- I had always believed that I couldn't have kids unless I was willing to compromise my 90s goth aesthetic! Maybe I'll rethink this child-free thing after all.
The next bit of advice seems like it actually could potentially be sort of helpful. "No one is a good parent all the time -- nor is anyone a bad parent all the time," they reassure the reader. "You can become a parent without losing yourself." Unfortunately, as soon as I catch myself nodding along, the modicum of goodwill I'd built up is promptly trashed by a gag-worthy line from Simon: "If you take nothing away but a wry smile after reading our little tome, then we've done our job." I immediately vow not to smile until I'm finished reading this book. Excuse me, this little tome.
The book starts in earnest with Chapter 1: "Does a German Shepherd Need a Birth Plan?" To be perfectly honest, I was not expecting a riddle at this juncture, but I am nevertheless excited to hear Simon and Alex tell us "why childbirth is not an intellectual activity." First, however, we get a passing reference to "Park Slope, home of the ParkSlopeParents.com message board made famous in 2007 with a so-ridiculous-it-got-headlines discussion on gender-specific baby hats and where feminism can be taken to extremes." And despite the lame alarmist allusion to ~*XTREME feminism*~, this line did manage to lead me down an interesting Internet rabbit hole, so thanks for that, I guess?
Jesus Christ, I am on PAGE 4 and I am already so done with Simon. Presented without comment:
With the Park Slope OB-GYN, we had the first sonogram and saw the little blip on the screen -- our child-to-be. They say seeing is believing and as nothing was happening inside me, seeing confirmation on the video monitor that indeed my spermatozoa had penetrated and infiltrated one of Alex's ova made me aware that my days as a footloose and fancy-free guy might be coming to an end.
Y'all, I am currently working on my PhD in Molecular Biology. Which, if you were not previously aware, gives me the authority to decree that Simon is never allowed to use the word "spermatozoa" ever again. And so it is.
I was about to say that Alex's passages are at least more tolerable, but it appears I spoke too soon.
The stats they quoted referenced a 40 percent cesarean section rate in the city, and I wonder how that can be acceptable? Are we heading toward Brave New World, where babies are scientifically created in petri dishes and gestated in artificial wombs? Oh wait, we're already there. Are we heading towards a Wall-E existence, where we ride around in carts everywhere and do nothing for ourselves so that our bodies break down and we're all fat, oozy blobs drinking protein from a straw? Somebody slap me, please!!
Truly, Alex, it would be my pleasure.
As a Type-A person, just reading the story of Alex's first pregnancy and delivery gave me anxiety. She says that she just never really "felt the need to establish a birth plan" and that she "gave in to any craving [she] felt." Don’t worry, though -- "If I had suddenly craved chalk, ecstasy or Elmer's Glue, I'd have thought twice." I feel like there is some symbolism here to unpack (Could the Elmer's Glue be a metaphor for the childlike spirit of connection and unity???). Simon describes himself as "a learn-on-the-job guy" and tells us that he and Alex "failed to attend the last couple of [birthing] classes as by then we both just wanted to let instinct take over when the time came." As someone who has never trusted my instincts even once in my entire life, I cannot relate.
Twelve days after his due date, baby François is born. Except it turns out that he actually was born right on time, but Alex "didn't keep regimented track of [her] periods" and miscalculated. What a bummer that modern medicine hasn't advanced to the point where doctors can guide you about that sort of thing.
I don't even know what to say about this next bit, but God help me, I still have 215 more pages of this book to go.
Although the final stages of labor were very, very painful, I [Alex] never used our code word (tin can) for "game over, give me drugs." I definitely recommend using a code word, because it was kind of fun to scream, "I want drugs, give me drugs" through a contraction and have the midwife, nurse and Simon all know I wasn't serious. Once he [François] was finally out of my body, I experienced a tsunami of endorphins that was almost orgasmic, and I understand completely the stories other women have written about ecstatic birth. Simon was sitting behind me at the point of birth, and later when we untangled ourselves he discovered he'd actually ejaculated though hadn't felt any of the normal lead-up to that. It may seem distasteful to some, and definitely neither of us was thinking of sex at the time, but with the rush of emotion and my lower nerve endings going crazy, it's not too far a stretch to say that it's a profound experience.
Johan is born two years later, although it's unclear from the text whether either parent reached orgasm during the event.
The chapter ends with a top-ten list entitled "10 Things We'll Remember That Happened During Pregnancy." These include useful tidbits like
  1. Best advice I heard: men's genitals grow and change shape regularly, then go back to the way they were before. Don't worry about your female delicate bits being able to retract.
Which is…a lovely sentiment. But one that is slightly undermined by phrasing the first part in the grossest way possible, as well as by the use of the phrase "female delicate bits." I do like the idea that they "retract," however, because I think it's very cool to imagine the vagina as an SUV sunroof. By the grace of God, Chapter 1 comes to a close.
In Chapter 2 (titled "No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn, What's My Name Again? and Who is This Alien?" -- seriously, were they padding their word count with chapter titles?), we get more questionable parenting advice from the McCord-van Kempens. They glibly dismiss concerns about co-sleeping ("Simon and I both slept with cats and dogs our whole lives without squishing them"), which I honestly would be more annoyed about if I hadn't immediately gone on to read Simon's account of "the midnight race to the 24-hour pharmacy to buy a breast pump as Alex's breasts were seemingly engorged with too much milk and she thought they were about to explode and fly off her chest." As it stands, I'm truly too defeated to care. Again, just to be perfectly clear: no shade to having issues breastfeeding, all shade to using the word 'engorged.’ And also for giving me the mental image of Alex's breasts desperately struggling to flee from her body (though to be fair, who could blame them?).
Proving that she does not inhabit the same world as the rest of us mortals, Alex tells us that she expected that her state of sleep-deprivation as she raised two young children would "spur [her] creativity with graphic design." For some reason, this does not seem to be the case. Alex is puzzled.
Finally, we've come to this chapter's top ten list ("Top 10 Memories of Random Things We Did While in the Post-Birth Haze"). While these lists have so far been utterly irredeemable, they also mean the chapter is coming to a close, so I can at least take some solace in that. This particular list ranges from the irritating…
  1. We subversively took sleeping babies to as many non-child-friendly places as possible to prove the point that children can be seen, not heard and not bothersome, such as dinner at the Ritz in London, the Sahara Desert, shopping on Madison Avenue, Underbar in Union Square and film festivals.
…to the truly unnecessary.
  1. While changing François' diaper on day one or two, we both stood mesmerized by the changing pad as meconium oozed out of him. It was really the most bizarre and fascinating thing I'd seen to date.
With the couple's general backstory and credentials now under our belts, Chapter 3 ("The Screaming Kid on the Plane is NOT Mine! (This Time)") focuses on advice for traveling with children, which Alex admits "can be a complete pain in the you-know-what." I cannot describe the rage I feel at the fact that she has -- in no fewer than 50 pages -- forced me to read about both her newborn son's excrement and her husband's ejaculate, but cannot bring herself to use the word "ass." Alex, we're really far beyond that at this point, don't you think?
Not to be outdone, Simon shares a conversation he had with François that is remarkable not for its content, but for the fact that one of Simon's nicknames for his son is apparently "F-Boy." Thanks, I hate it.
This chapter's list ("Alex's Top 10 Travel Memories") includes the entry:
  1. Both boys charging down Saline Beach in St. Barths like something out of Lord of the Flies.
So, like a horde of primal sadists? I'm wondering if Alex and Simon have inadvertently confused Lord of the Flies with the hit 2007 reality show Kid Nation. I really hope that's what's going on here.
Chapter 4 ("'Mommy, Johan is Gone!'") promises to teach us how to handle accidents. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel taking emergency advice from the authors of this particular book, but (in large part due to the fact that I have slept since reading the previous chapter, giving the pain a chance to dull somewhat), I am willing to at least hear them out.
After relaying a story of François needing emergency surgery after a foot injury, Alex tells us that at one point, she and Simon realized they had spent "nearly $5000 on Indian takeout" in the past year. For the mathematically averse, this works out to a monthly budget of roughly $100 worth of Indian food per week, making my quarantine Uber Eats habit seem downright quaint by comparison. The chapter-ending list walks us through the "Top 10 Things We Do in a Crisis," and fortunately, the tips seem pretty benign.
  1. Knowing what calms the children down, such as making silly faces or reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards.
Wait, hang on. What?
reciting Shel Silverstein poetry backwards
I'm sorry, please forgive me if I have missed some recent, paradigm-shifting development in the field of early childhood education, but what?? As in, "ends sidewalk the where?" "Sdne klawedis eht erehw?" I am truly befuddled.
Maybe the next chapter ("'Is Today a Work Day or a Home Day, Mommy?'") will have some applicable wisdom for me, as I will, in fact, be working from home every other week for the foreseeable future. And, I cannot stress this enough, I am a psychotically overinvested cat mom. Alas, we are instead treated to an unnecessarily detailed breakdown of how important it is to delegate, and specifically that Simon cleans up vomit and Alex cleans up "feces in the various forms that come out of children's bottoms at appropriate and sometimes inappropriate times such as the middle of Thanksgiving festivities." As if we needed another reason to consider Thanksgiving problematic.
The chapter takes a brief commercial break…
When an everyday product can do double duty such as Dawn Hand Renewal with Olay Beauty, a dish soap that seals in moisture while I'm tackling cleanup, sure, I'll buy it.
…before closing out with a list of the "Top 10 Things We Do Because We Were Here First." I am happy to confirm your worst suspicions and tell you that item number one is indeed "Have passionate sex."
In Chapter 6 ("I Saw Your Nanny…Being Normal?"), I find myself actually sympathizing with Alex for the first time in this book. Which is mostly just because the chapter starts by talking about all of the awful, catty parental competitions that seem endemic to a certain crew of white Manhattan moms, and it makes Alex come off at least slightly less irritating in comparison.
That is, at least until a few pages later, when she starts to complain about a previous au pair:
She was sullen, melodramatic and kept a blog about how she hated Americans, hated France, hated us and the children but loved New York. I think she must have thought we were idiots, and when she asked us to leave early we were only too happy to get her out of our home.
I would love to meet this woman. I think we could be great friends.
This chapter's list is even more difficult to parse than previous ones, because while it's titled "Top 10 Things Caregivers Have Inadvertently Done to Amuse, Annoy or Thrill Us," it's not at all clear which descriptors apply to which points. When a babysitter "accidentally used a household cleaning wipe when changing a diaper," were the McCord-Van Kempens amused? Annoyed? Thrilled? The world may never know.
In Chapter 7 ("'Putting To Death Is Not Nice,' a Duet for Two Boys and A Guitar"), Alex and Simon share some of their hard-earned childrearing wisdom with us. Which basically amounts to Alex telling us that, while normally misbehavior from the kids incurs a warning followed by a time-out, she has also developed an ingenious new strategy where she actually steps in to intervene when the stakes are higher. Let's listen in:
A third permutation is when there's a behavior that has to stop immediately, say if Johan has a big blue indelible marker and is running through a white hotel suite. I swoop in and grab the marker as to risk a three count [warning] would be to risk decoration of the sofa.
Take the marker from the toddler immediately instead of trying to reason with him? Groundbreaking.
Side Note: At this point in my reading, I am incredibly satisfied to report that I have discovered my first typo in the book, and in one of Simon's sections no less! ("These toads secret [sic] a poison…"). This is wildly pedantic of me and proof that I am a deeply sick person.
We run though a list of "Top 10 Things We Never Thought We Would Have To Explain" ("10. Why hot pizza stones do not like Legos.") before moving right along into Chapter 8, "Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons." Strangely, I have a very vivid memory of Alex saying "I have a chapter in my book called, 'Don't Listen to the Well-Meaning Morons" in some distant RHONY episode or reunion. I guess she was telling the truth.
The chapter opens with a series of passages in which Alex and Simon respond to various comments that have been made about their parenting over the years. I think this device is supposed to be a bit of lighthearted snark on overbearing strangers, but instead just comes off as weirdly defensive and passive-aggressive. A few examples:
"My daughter is perfect. Her table manners are excellent, she never speaks unless spoken to and we've always had white sofas at home since she was a child, with no staining."
-A woman with one preteen daughter, no sons
Your daughter sounds boring. I wouldn't want my sons to date her..
Zing!
"Why are you outside?" - A bagel seller in Montreal, in February
I'm hungry and the stroller is well protected under the plastic cover. Johan is warm and cozy, the others are asleep in the hotel and I'm going stir-crazy. Is that enough, or should I buy my bagel from someone else?
Got 'em!
"Excuse me, your baby is crying." -- Someone said to Simon as they peered into the stroller to try and determine the cause of said noise.
You don't say! Do you think, you stupid idiot, that I don't hear that? Do you think I think it's just loud music? Do you think I don't want him to stop and that I like it???
Sorry, did I say 'passive-aggressive'? Let's change that to just 'aggressive.'
But despite bristling at being the recipient of unwanted advice, far be it from Alex to shy away from giving her opinions on the shortcomings of other parents.
There was a mom at another table who wore all black and told her hyperactive daughter that they had to have a family meeting to decide what to do next. The type of woman who might ask her daughter to "process her feelings" about which color to choose. The type of woman who wanted make [sic] a big huge hairy deal about including her daughter in the decision-making process and "negotiating" the next best step for the family to take in the pottery shop. Pardon me while I shoot myself.
I'm sorry, but I just cannot respect this take coming from a woman who calms her sons by reciting comedic children's poetry backwards.
We next learn that there are "many websites out in cyberspace," some of which offer child-rearing advice. Simon summarizes their useless "vitriol" as such:
They say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, whereas for the 21st century surely hell no longer hath fury, as it's all been hurled at the belittled and scorned Internet mom.
I'm honestly not entirely sure what this is supposed to mean, and my confusion continues all the way through this chapter's "Top 10 Ways We Make Ourselves Feel Better When It's All Getting To Be Too Much." We begin reasonably enough…
  1. Check to see whether the person offering advice has children. How old are they?
  2. Do they have a point? Are they right? It is entirely possible.
…before quickly losing all sense of self-awareness and flying completely off the rails.
  1. Will we ever see this person again? If not, can we get away with unleashing our fury on them? Note, if you're reading this and decide to try it for yourself, go big or go home.
The last few chapters have been a bit Alex-heavy, but never fear -- Simon pops back up in Chapter 9 ("If I Wouldn't Eat That, My Kid Won't Either") to tell us a charming story about how the family refers to his Bolognese sauce as "Dead Cow Sauce," and this is because his children are incredibly enlightened and understand the circle of life and where food comes from. Or something along those lines.
This chapter also provides a lot of really incontrovertible proof that, even though you may swear that your kids say the most hilarious things all the time, you are wrong. I love kids. I can play cool aunt with the best of them. But this "recipe" for "Johan's Concoction" tries so hard to be cute and funny ("whisk violently -- making sure to spill a little out of the top") that I could barely stifle my groans. For anyone who happens to frequent RebornDollCringe, I am strongly and inexplicably reminded of Britton.
A list of "Top 10 Things We Don't Like About Children's Restaurants" culminates with
  1. Where would you rather be? A bistro devoted to race-car driving, with 1950s toy cars on the walls, or T.G.I. Friday's?
Excuse me, ma'am, you must be unfamiliar with the concept of Endless Apps®.
The title of Chapter 10 is "You'll Give in Before I Do!" and although the subtitle lets me know this is referencing "the art and warfare of bedtime," it's hard not to take it as a personal taunt from the authors. Most of this chapter is just transcriptions of 'cute' things François and Johan have said to try to avoid going to bed, but we do get this gem:
Slaying the dragon is our family euphemism for using the toilet (drowning the dragons that live in the sewer) and is fun for the boys to talk about, though probably not forever.
Before giving us a chance to adequately process this revelation, Alex goes on to reflect:
Hmm, perhaps I should delete this -- I don’t want obnoxious classmates getting hold of this book in 10 years and asking the boys if they need to slay the dragon in the middle of geometry class.
Alex, I assure you, you truly have nothing to worry about. Any self-respecting bully will be far too focused on the fact that Simon ejaculated at the moment of his son's birth to pay this comparatively trivial factoid any attention.
The authors shake things up and end this chapter with lists of both "Top 20 Bedtime Stories" and "Top 10 Lullabies," both of which are thankfully inoffensive.
In Chapter 11 ("Children Like Shiny Objects"), we follow Alex and Simon as they purchase the townhouse we see them renovating on RHONY. Although other (read: lesser) parents might store breakables out of reach or limit children's toys to playrooms and bedrooms, Alex and Simon were blessed with two boys whose aesthetic sensibilities are already quite developed:
One kind of funny thing that I noticed recently is that the toys the boys tend to leave upstairs in our red and black living room often tend to be red and black as well. I'm not sure whether that's intentional, but it's funny that the room always seems to match regardless of its contents.
The list of "Top 10 Craziest Places We've Found Objects" is mercifully absent of any orifice-related discoveries.
After reading just the title of Chapter 12 ("Raising Baby Einsteins"), I'm bracing myself for the self-satisfied smugness to come. This preparation turns out to be duly warranted. Baby sign language is dismissed as "a scheme dreamed up by ASL experts who wanted to sell classes to easily influenced new parents," Mommy and Me classes are "not really for teaching anything," and we learn that Alex and Simon have instituted a bizarre family rule that "if a talking toy came into our house, it had to speak a foreign language or speak English in an accent other than American."
We learn that Simon apparently does not know what antonyms are (for the record, Simon, the word you're looking for is homophones) and that New York City is replete with "wailing, nocturnal, type-A obsessed harridans willing to sleep with persons not their spouse if they think it will help their child get into THE RIGHT SCHOOL." Uh, yikes. After a tediously long description of François' pre-school admissions process, Alex informs us:
As a former actor, I've always gotten into play-acting and dressing up with my children. Perhaps a little too much. But I've taken the opportunity to show off a few old monologues, complete with bounding around like a puppy. If you have knowledge, why not share it? If you happen to know Puck's speeches from a Midsummer Night's Dream by ear with tumbling and staged sword play, why the heck don’t you share that with your boisterous boys, who love it and run around shouting, "Thou speakest aright!"
I am suddenly compelled to call my mother and thank her profusely for never making me put up with anything like this. Maybe I'll also get her thoughts on one of the tips listed in "Top 10 Favorite 'Developmental' Things To Do": "if they want something that you want to delay giving them, make them ask in every language they can before giving in." To me, this seems like an effective way to encourage your children to learn how to say "Fuck you, mom" in French as early as possible.
In Chapter 13 ("Urban Wonderland"), Alex and Simon promise to share their unique perspective on "taking advantage of raising a child in the urban jungle." But mostly, we just get a rant about how everyone thinks their kids have weird names, and that makes Simon mad. This chapter's "Top 10 Reasons New York is the Center of the Universe to a Kid" list reminds us what truly matters: "there are more songs with NYC in their titles than any other city."
Immediately after telling us how great it is to live in a city (excuse me, urban jungle), Alex and Simon switch tack and spend Chapter 14 ("'Daddy, a Cow! And It's Not in a Zoo!") expounding on the importance of exposing kids to nature. Sounds great, I'm on board. Unfortunately, we almost immediately take a hard left turn into a story from Simon's childhood where he and his brother are "befriended by this old guy, Dick, who lived on the outskirts of town in a small tin shed." We hear that Dick "occasionally pulled out an early Playboy magazine back from the days when the lower regions were airbrushed out," and that "there had been pretty strong rumors of pedophilia," before promptly returning to the main narrative with no further explanation. I can only describe the transition as 'jarring.'
I can tell how exhausted I am at this point in the book by how hurriedly I skimmed the list of "Top 10 Differences We've Noticed Between City Kids and Country Kids." To be honest, I'm almost annoyed when a particularly bizarre quote manages to catch my attention, because that means I have to think about it for the full amount of time it takes me to transcribe from the page. I'm beginning to think that my initial hope that I could glean some useful cat-rearing advice from this experience may have been overzealous.
Chapter 15 ("You're Such a Great Parent, You Should Be on TV (LOL)") is the only chapter to directly address the family's time on RHONY. It starts with this (attempted) comedy bit in which Alex and Simon pretend to be hilariously self-aware and self-effacing (Alex: "Look up 'Mommylicious' in the dictionary and you will see a photo of me in a ball gown, breast-feeding an infant while making Osso Buco and directing carpenters to build a bookcase for my Dickens and Shakespeare."). This posture would be infinitely more believable if I hadn't spent the previous 205 pages watching these two take themselves deadly seriously.
But rather than share any juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits (or, indeed, convey anything of substance at all), Alex and Simon spend exactly 3.5 pages blustering about how it wasn't harmful for their children to be on TV before giving us a list of "Top 10 Hilarious Things The Boys Have Done While Filming or at Photo Shoots." Spoiler alert: none of them are 'hilarious.'
Chapter 16 is literally titled "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," which makes me feel like this whole experience may have just been Alex and Simon playing some sort of twisted game with me. Alex tells us this is "the chapter of hope," but given that she then tells us about a time when she "spent one full hour discussing why magic markers cannot be carried around with the caps off, particularly in a hotel suite with white couches and walls," I'm not sure exactly where this hope is coming from. Also it seems like this markers-in-a-hotel-room thing happens weirdly frequently. We are then treated to Alex and Simon's "Top 10 Moments of Getting It,'" which includes
  1. Apropos of nothing, Johan said, "You give us time-outs because you are teaching us to be good grown-ups."
This is a thing I'm sure Johan said completely organically and not in response to hearing his parents say "we're giving you a time-out so that you learn to be a good grown-up" approximately seven zillion times.
This brings us to the book's Epilogue (a mercifully short two pages) featuring the line "If you made it to the end of this book, we salute you." Honored to accept this hard-earned accolade, I can finally close the book and start figuring out a way to erase the memory of Simon busting a mid-childbirth nut from my aching brain. Wish me luck!
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Posting the script to a Simpsons episode everyday till I get bored or forget. Day 17. S2, ep4

So, kids, caught anything? -Not yet, sir.
-What do you use for bait? -My brother's using worms...
...but I feel tranquility outweighs catching fish and use nothing.
-I see. What's your name? -Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?
I'm Dave Shutton. I'm a reporter who's on the road a lot.
In my day, we didn't talk that way to elders.
Well, this is my day, and we do, sir.
All right! We eat tonight!
Wait a minute.
One. Two. Three.
Leave it to old Mary Bailey...
...to finally do something about that hideous mutation.
Mary Bailey! If I was governor...
-...I'd find better things to do. -Such as?
Getting Washington and Lincoln's birthdays as separate holidays.
President's Day! What a rip-off! I bust my butt day in and--
-You're late. -Someone will punch in for me.
Don't spill anything.
-Keep the mutants coming! -I'll mutant you.
Oh, man! Plain cake donuts.
Thanks for taking all the fancies, guys!
Why can't I ever get here on time?
Hi-ho, faceless employees.
In a few moments, the government inspection team will be here...
...so look busy and keep quiet! That's all.
Very stirring, sir. Here they come.
Hold me, Smithers.
Okay. Geiger counters on.
That's normal background radiation.
You'd find it in any nuclear facility...
-...or for that matter, hospitals. -Sorry.
Gum used to seal crack in cooling tower.
I'm as shocked as you.
-Plutonium rod used as paperweight. -Now that shouldn't be.
Yeah, well, that's always been like that.
-Just resting my eyes! -Well done.
A rested employee is a vigilant employee.
Monitoring station unmanned.
Look here, inspector, could I speak to you privately in my office?
Mr. Burns, in 20 years, I have never seen such a shoddy, deplorable--
Oh, look! Some careless person has left thousands of dollars...
...just lying here on my table. Smithers, why don't we leave...
...and hopefully, when we return, the pile of money will be gone.
The money and a stupid man are still here.
If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to bribe me.
Is there some confusion about this? Take it! Take it, you poor schmo!
Mr. Burns! I'm gonna overlook this felony.
However, I will not overlook the 342 violations I have observed today.
Either bring this place up to code, or we'll shut it down. Good day.
Oh, well. A little dab of paint here, a little spackle there.
How much could it possibly cost to fix this place up?
-Approximately $56 million. -56 million?!
-Don't hit me, sir. -Oh, that I had the strength to.
Now please go. I would be alone.
Empty.
Just resting my eyes!
Holy moly! 9:30.
Hi, Marge. Sorry I didn't call, but it's been a madhouse here!
Yeah, these 12-hour days are killing me.
Echo!
Mr. Burns?
Sorry, sir. It's me, Homer Simpson.
-Is everything all right? -Working late, Simpson?
-Yes, sir. -You and I are a dying breed.
I'll share something with you. Hop in.
Cushy!
They're trying to shut us down. They say we're contaminating the planet.
-Well, nobody's perfect. -Can't they just get off our backs?
If I was governor, I'd do things a lot differently.
You know how much it costs to run for office?
-More than any honest man can afford! -I bet you could.
Don't get me wrong. You're an honest man.
I just meant you could afford to run for governor.
I'm just rambling because you keep staring at me, but it's true.
If you were governor, you could decide what's safe.
-Where are we going, sir? -To create a new and better world.
If it's on the way, could you drop me at my house?
-He's got my vote. -Homer, we're a Mary Bailey family.
Mary Bailey won't fire me if I don't vote for her. I'm for Burns!
A political discussion at our table. I feel like a Kennedy!
I don't see how that despicable man has a chance against Mary Bailey...
...our state's most beloved governor.
Now, here's the problem as I see it.
While Bailey is beloved by all...
...98 percent of the voters rate you as despicable or worse.
So we got the finest campaign team money can buy.
This is your speech writer, joke writer, spin doctor...
...makeup man and personal trainer.
Their job: to turn this Mr. Burns, into this.
Why are my teeth showing like that?
-Because you're smiling! -Excellent!
This is the kind of trickery I'm paying you for.
How do we turn Joe Six-pack against Mary Bailey?
With this team. Your muckraker, character assassin...
-...mudslinger, garbologist. -Hello.
Their job is to turn Mary Bailey from this, into this.
Visual aids help so much. Thanks.
But first there's a burning issue that we need to neutralize.
I hate that fish!
Thank you for watching Movie for a Dreary Afternoon.
Next, a political announcement from the friends of Montgomery Burns.
-Burns? Change it. -You do it.
I did it last week.
Fine. Be a jerk. We'll just sit here and watch it.
Oh, no! An election? That's when they close the bars, isn't it?
Sorry, Barney.
I wonder if he'll talk about that fish.
Oh, Marge. I bet before the papers blew this out of proportion...
...you didn't even know how many eyes a fish had.
-Thirty seconds. -Remember to smile.
-I am smiling. -You'll have to do better than that.
-How's this? -There you go!
-I'll be sore tomorrow. -We've done all we can.
-The rest is up to you. -Don't worry.
When this announcement's done...
...every Johnny Lunch-pail in this state will be eating out of my hand.
Hello, friends. I'm Montgomery Burns, your next governor.
I'm here to talk to you about my little friend Blinky.
Many of you think he's a a hideous mutation.
That simply isn't true. Don't take my word for it.
Let's ask an actor portraying Charles Darwin.
-Hello. -Hello, Charles.
Tell them about your theory of natural selection.
Glad to. Every so often, Mother Nature changes her animals...
...giving them bigger teeth, sharper claws, longer legs...
...or in this case, a third eye.
If these changes are an improvement...
...the new animals thrive and multiply and spread across the earth.
So this fish might have an advantage over other fish.
It may be a kind of super-fish.
I wouldn't mind a third eye, would you?
No. You see, friends...
...if our antinuclear naysayers and choose-upsiders...
...came upon an elephant next to our power plant...
...they'd probably blame his ridiculous nose on the nuclear bogeyman.
This fish is a miracle of nature, with a taste that can't be beat.
So say what you want about me, I can take the slings and arrows.
But stop slandering poor, defenseless Blinky. Good night and God bless.
Only a moron wouldn't cast his vote For Monty Burns
Wow! Super-fish!
I wish the government would get off his back.
That Burns is just what this state needs, young blood!
I hope we can count on your support.
-Homer, I'm a Bailey booster. -Oh, yeah? Well, I'm a Burns booster.
Congratulations, Mr. Burns, the polls show you're up six points.
-Giving me a total of? -Six. We're on our way.
My worthy opponent seems to think that the voters are gullible fools.
I'll rely on their intelligence and good judgment.
Interesting. Good luck.
And I say taxes are too high!
Have you found any dirt on Mary Bailey?
-We went through her trash. -Talked to her maid.
The only dirt we've got is from a guy who dated her at 16.
-And? -He felt her up.
Not good enough!
We're gonna send a message to those bureaucrats...
...down there in the state capital!
-Is your boss governor yet? -Not yet, son. Not yet.
-The voters see you as godlike. -Hot dog!
But the downside is you're losing touch with the common man.
-Oh, dear! Heaven forefend! -So the night before the election...
...we want you to eat at the home of one of your workers.
I see. Every Joe Meatball and Sally Housecoat in this godforsaken state...
...will see me chow down with Eddie Punchclock.
The media will have a field day.
The only question is, can we find someone common enough?
Well, I knew there would be sacrifices.
Great toast, Marge! Oh, by the way, the night before the election...
-...Mr. Burns is coming to dinner. -What!?
-And some camera crews. -Cool, man! A media circus!
-Absolutely not! -Come on, Marge!
I'm ringing doorbells for Mary Bailey.
Kids, please leave. I don't want you to see this.
Please, please, please, please!
We'd like one of the children to ask a question.
Can you memorize this?
"Your campaign's moving like a runaway freight train.
-Why are you so popular?" -Very good.
Can I ask him to assuage my fears that he's contaminating the planet...
...and making it uninhabitable?
-The card question's fine. -I think her question is valid--
Don't worry. I'm sure she'll be able to memorize it by tomorrow.
Finally, Mr. Burns wants you to appear very affectionate to him...
...but remember, he hates being touched.
-Marge, get back in bed. -No, I'm fine right here.
-I just wanna snuggle. -I don't feel like snuggling.
-What's that got to do with it? -You don't let me express myself.
You express yourself in the home you keep and the food you serve.
Okay, Homer. Fair enough. You got it.
All right. Good. That's how I'm going to express myself. Good night.
-Well, what do we think? -Hey! Hello, handsome!
Get that off his face.
We're eating with the common man, not Tyrone Power.
Latest polls are in. It's dead even: 50-50.
This stunt will put us over the top.
He's here!
Hello, Homer. Marge, you look dazzling!
And look, I've brought noodle kugel.
You bad dog! Bad neighbor dog! Here, let me help you up.
I love dogs. Babies too.
-Kitty, kitty. -Are you all right, Mr. Burns?
Of course. A little roughhousing with the pets is good for the appetite.
The way you handled the pets put you over the top.
You're ahead 5 1 to 49. Congratulations, Mr. Governor.
-Excellent. -Bart, would you say grace?
God, we paid for all this ourselves, so thanks for nothing.
Only a child could get away with such blasphemy.
God bless them all. Amen.
He's smokin'.
You know, Mr. Burns, my family and I feel that taxes are too high.
Where do you stand on this controversial issue?
I didn't realize this was going to turn into a charged political debate.
-I was only reading-- -I agree. If I am elected governor...
...I'll lower taxes whether bureaucrats in the state capital like it or not!
Lisa, do you have a question for Uncle Montgomery?
Yes, sir. A very inane one.
Your campaign's moving like a runaway freight train.
-Why are you so popular? -A tough question, but a fair one.
There's no single answer. Some voters respond to my integrity...
...others to my incorruptibility and determination to lower taxes...
...and the bureaucrats can put that in their pipes and smoke it!
-Oh, Mom, that felt awful. -I'm sorry. It will all be over soon.
But we've become the tools of evil.
You're learning lessons tonight...
...and one of them is to give your mother the benefit of the doubt.
--or even a square deal.
Smells delightful.
-All right! Three-eyed fish! -Can I have your plate?
-I don't believe it! -He's blown it!
Ruined before it hit the ground.
Here's your headline, "Burns Can't Swallow Own Story."
Burns' popularity has plummeted to earth like so much half-chewed fish.
You must have a few tricks left up your sleeve.
Make coffee. We're not licked yet.
-Yes, we are. Come on. -Wait! Come back!
You can't do this to me! I'm Charles Montgomery Burns!
-Smithers, tip over this table. -Yes, sir.
Make them stop.
Mr. Burns....
Shut up and wreck something!
I hardly see what destroying our meager possessions will accomplish.
She's right. Take me home, Smithers. We'll destroy something tasteful.
Ironic. This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes...
...cost me the election, but if I had them killed...
...I'd be the one to go to jail. That's democracy.
You're poetic in defeat, sir.
Simpson, I shall make it the focus of my remaining years...
...that your dreams will go unfulfilled.
You're busted, Dad.
My dreams will go unfulfilled? I don't like the sound of that.
That means I have nothing to hope for. Marge, can't you make it better?
When a man's biggest dreams include seconds on dessert...
...occasional snuggling and sleeping in on weekends...
...no one man can destroy them.
Hey, you did it!
submitted by WHT_Spacenut to teenagers [link] [comments]

I'mma head out

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submitted by TastyUdders to OneWordBan [link] [comments]

[PI] After superpowers start appearing around the world, businesses realize the use of these abilities. People with x ray vision are practically forced into being doctors and people with heat vision work as cooks. You are starting to get tired of your superpower-based job.

Original prompt by u/8panckakes4ever
Not long after I first got my powers I read about Superman. He was a creation of the comic book industry. After the second world war, when real powers began to manifest, comic books transitioned to pirates and zombies and the like but back in 1938, when superman was born, they still included stories about ordinary people with extraordinary powers.
Superman fought crime. Practically everyone with powers in early comic books fought crime or committed it. Superman had the perfect AIM power set that’s now considered a basic necessity for an effective individual combatant: Attack Invulnerability Mobility.
But even superman wouldn’t have been that great a force for justice all by himself.
Superman’s invulnerability was nearly perfect. No reasonable amount of force would break his skin. He couldn’t be poisoned. He didn’t seem to need oxygen or a survivable temperature or pressure to remain perfectly comfortable.
But he was vulnerable to both special glowing green rocks and magic. So if anyone found an ever-sharp blade, or a ritual dagger, or even some of that kryptonite he’d be a goner. All someone would have to do was nick his aorta with such a weapon and he’d slowly but surely bleed out. You can’t stitch skin that you can’t pierce and you can’t apply a tourniquet to a man of steel. Worse yet, Superman would have made it easy. He used to just stand there and let bullets bounce off his chest. Baldr could have told him why that’s a bad idea for a man with any weakness no matter how obscure.
I have no idea if anything like that happened to Superman. As I say, the comic didn’t have a particularly long run. It ended in the mid-fifties when the things it imagined started to become a reality. Magic only started to come back into the world at the turn of the twentieth century, so it wasn’t all that common by 1955. It might have been overlooked by the authors of the comic.
In the real world, Superman would be flying satellites into orbit. A reaction-less flier like good old Supe can make tens of thousands of dollars per trip just lifting something out of the atmosphere. It seldom makes sense for them to do anything else with their time. If he couldn’t fly his x-ray vision would have allowed him to become a brilliant surgeon. His laser vision might have allowed him to become a welder, or for more money than that, an underwater welder. With his strength, he might have replaced any number of pieces of heavy equipment in construction.
He might have fought crime if he was only bulletproof. The police departments are happy to hire anyone who isn’t bothered by a gunshot to the face, and who doesn’t have something better to do with their time. But he still would’ve fought with proper backup, training, and support. Criminals are way less interested in tracking down that magic knife they need to kill you if they know there are 10,000 other cops at your back, and your investigative results are backed up in the central database.
I guess my point is you’ve got to make smart choices when you’re deciding how to use your powers. Lord knows I wish I had.
* * *
“Mike, dude, smell this!”
I looked up from my chemistry homework to my roommate Eddy who’d just burst into the small apartment we shared. Whatever he wanted me to smell I was already smelling. I could smell everything in the apartment and a pretty good selection of the stuff outside of it.
I tuned in on my nose for a moment and picked through the endless data it shovels in my direction. The McDonalds down the street had just finished a new batch of fries. Traffic was lighter than usual. Eddy had a dime bag of pot in his pocket. He was probably talking about that last bit.
“The weed,” I asked.
“I’m glad my high-school principal couldn’t do that, man.
Privately, I suspected that if Eddy’s high-school principal had a super nose he would’ve realized Eddy smoked less than he had assumed. My roommate was possessed of a natural dopiness and a fondness for the word ‘man’ that bordered on the pathological. However, he only smoked a couple of times a month. He wouldn’t have been my roommate if he was always walking around reeking of smoke. As it was, I could still smell the smoke from weeks ago on his clothes, but I can smell a lot of things.
“OK, brah, is it good shit? This hot chick in my econ class figured I had the hookup and I want to impress her. Nudge says this is his premium UltravioletVoodoo Dank.”
That posed a moral dilemma. Whatever Eddy had in his pocket it wasn’t that great. I could smell the THC and CBD, or at least I could smell the same unique things I always smelled around marijuana. I could also smell plant stuff: chlorophyll, cellulose, dirt, and the like. The relative potency of the smells told me this was OK, and the plant parts of it smelled pretty fresh. Still, I could’ve gotten a whiff of something better just by walking around the campus for an hour or so.
Should I tell Eddy? If he really had a chance of impressing some girl with his connections then I owed him his best shot. On the other hand, I’d hate to set him up for failure if he was just being scammed out of his weed by a pretty face. Was it really possible anyone would actually be impressed by pot connections?
Yeah, maybe.
This was Purdue University right in the heart of Indiana corn country. They might have legal artisanal hand-grown marijuana salads at the foodie restaurants on the coasts, but the Boilermakers still had to work a little for a fix even if no one cared that much. Plus there was a chance this was an excuse the girl had come up with to get close to Eddy himself.
I’m not a connoisseur of men’s looks, but Eddy looks good. There’s even something about this whole “woaw man, far out,” vibe that works for at least some women. I’d once asked a mutual female friend about it and she said he was like a big goofy labrador and you can’t resist scratching behind his ears at least once.
If little green men with three heads breathing methane through their belly buttons land on earth tomorrow I expect their aesthetic sensibilities to make more sense than that. The fact remained that there was a real chance this was just a pretty girl finding an excuse to smoke up with Eddy. That tore it for me. I owed him his best shot.
“It’s fine. It could be better.”
His face fell. He really did look a little like a disappointed lab. “Ah, bummer dude.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m sure it’ll still be fine.”
“Um, well, if you’re OK with it you could maybe help me out.”
I raised my eyebrows. I didn’t see how. I didn’t smoke. I avoid any sort of fire whenever I can. Was he planning to just run around campus asking people where they got their drugs? That wouldn’t end well.
Eddy looked really embarrassed and hesitant. “When I asked Nudge for his good stuff he said he was getting low. That’s why I asked you to sniff this. He told me he could get me in touch with his supplier. She doesn’t really sell, but she’d be interested in meeting you.” Eddy rubbed his neck and looked away. “You know, man, let’s not do it. I shouldn’t have said anything, man.”
I gave Eddy a suspicious look wondering if he was trying to manipulate me. He looked uncomfortable and started to move towards the kitchen, “I’m gonna nuke some pizza from last night. You want any?”
I didn’t think he was. He wasn’t that good of an actor, and he didn’t smell nervous. I asked a stupid question, “Why would she want to meet me, and how would this go exactly?”
* * *
“Pretty incredible isn’t it?” I only knew the speaker as ‘The Nose’ or Jane Doe. And she’d winced when eddy called her The Nose, so I was mostly thinking of her with the obviously fake name she’d used for our reservations.
“I can’t smell any of them,” I heard the amazement in my own voice and it made me sound like a bit of a rube, but I couldn’t help it. I nodded subtly at a 50-something woman with huge hair a few tables away. “She’s clearly a ‘too much lavender’ but I’m not getting any of it.”
“A too much lavender,” Eddy asked as Jane covered her mouth and tried to stifle what could only be called giggles. She wasn’t at all what I’d pictured when nudge had set up this meeting. She was somewhere in her upper 20’s or lower 30’s and she wore the years lightly enough she could’ve been a pretty doctoral student. Her clothes were ordinary business professional. High end, I thought, though I’m no expert.
“Sissssh, not so loud,” I scolded Eddy without looking at the woman. “She’ll notice. But yes. Her shampoo, lotion, laundry detergent, soap, perfume… hell toothpaste maybe. I don’t know what drives these people. Something would have too much lavender and I’d be trying to eat while huffing the stuff.”
Jane got control of herself and nodded. “It’s true. It ain’t easy to eat with enhanced senses. Even if the oders don’t put you off your feed it’s still like trying to listen to music in a noisy room. This place has some sort ah crazy air filtration system. Those vents,” she gestured above our heads, “are feeding cool filtered air that falls to those vents.” She pointed down at a small grate under the table. We’re eating in our own little column of clean air. The owner of this place made a bundle off his enhanced senses and then started it. I think it's been more successful than they’d expected.” A southern accent had crept into her voice. Rural southern, not the accent of the debutant set.
The waitress arrived interrupting the conversation for a moment as everyone ordered. Acting on Jane’s advice I got something spicy. Smell has a huge impact on taste and ever since I got my powers I’ve found spicy foods to be kind of unbalanced. Here, along with the pure air, the kitchen could adjust foods for super noses and tongues.
As we waited for the food to come, I picked up the previous conversation. “I’d like to know how you make a bunch of money with just enhanced senses or an enhanced nose at least.”
Jane took a sip of her water and gave me a measured look. Her accent was practically gone when she spoke again. “Well, I do have some ideas on that front. I take it you’re going the test lab route?”
I must have reacted to that because she gave me a smile with a lot of white teeth and explained, “Nudge said you were majoring in chemistry.”
“Yeah, that’s my plan.”
“The test lab route,” Eddy asked. I was a little surprised he didn’t know. We’d been roommates for two years, but I supposed I’d never asked what he intended to do with his marketing degree.
It was actually Jane who answered the question, “You know how superpowers are generally pretty valuable, right?”
“Hellz yeah! Wish I could teleport, man.”
“Right. Well, a super nose doesn’t get you that much all by itself. At least not if we’re talking about a nose of the quality that might exist somewhere else in the animal kingdom. If you can smell the Higgs field or something all bets are off. The problem isn’t that it’s not useful. We can smell a lot of important things: early-stage cancer, high blood sugar, a pool with a messed up Ph. It’s just that there are chemical tests for basically everything we can smell and they offer a more precisely calibrated and less fallible result. If you want to use your nose in your career you need a skill-set that dovetails into the work. With a chemistry degree Mike here could be running a whole testing shift at a Quest Diagnostics lab or water treatment plant in a few years. He might make as much as 6 figures.”
Jane didn’t say “six figures” as though it was a sum that impressed her.
Then she winked and reached into her purse and pulled out several foil packs of what looked to be Folgers coffee. They didn’t smell like coffee. “Or, maybe, he could find a way to test something that doesn’t typically get sent to official labs. But we’ll talk about that after you find your buddy the 100% pure arabica beans he gets to take home as a finders fee for introducing you to me. What do you say?”
* * *
Three weeks passed after I ate with Jane. Eddy got the girl, or maybe the girl got Eddy. Emma proved to be this hot little stone and she also barely ever smelled like drugs. They were kind of perfect for each other in a “too cute to stand” way.
Jane must have spent her time doing some sort of background check on me. She was quiet for two weeks and then she contacted me with an offer of, “A quick four-day road trip where I could learn about her business and ask any questions I had.”
I like to think I would never have taken her up on it, but I spent my time failing chemistry. Well, that’s overly dramatic. I was pulling a high D in my majors classes and pulling my overall GPA up to a high C or low B with my gen ed work. With my nose, and maybe retaking a couple of my worst classes, that would be enough for a lot of jobs.
The problem was I was beginning to realize I neither got, nor liked, chemistry. The professors and more competent students could see connections I missed. Now and then, someone would say something was beautiful or elegant and I’d have no idea why they thought so.
The depressing reality of the situation was, if I stayed on my current path, I’d spend the remainder of my life smelling more talented people than me doing dull things. That was why I took Jane up on her offer.
The drive from Indiana to New Mexico took us two days. At first, we talked about her business about which she was stunningly candid. She purchased drugs from a manufacturer or someone close to one and sold them to a retailer or someone up the chain from one. From a business perspective, she was a simple wholesaler. What made her special was she knew the quality of the product at a sniff and had made a name for never trading in anything other than 100% pure whatever. That was plenty valuable in an industry where most of the product was cut several times before it reached the end consumer and nobody trusted anyone else.
I asked her if she, “Sold to kids,” which was probably a line I’d gotten from some piece of fiction somewhere. I could practically hear a drug dealer in an episode of Law And Order humanizing himself by saying, “I don’t sell to no kids.” He was probably talking to Ice-T.
Jane had laughed. She said she sold to people who sold to drug dealers. She didn’t know of any eight-year-olds with a gang of guys pushing crank, but if she met one she expected it was going to be hard to say “No” to such a little go-getter.
Then she’d gotten serious and told me that what she sold could cause harm. I shouldn’t try to convince myself it was just candy. But, then again, candy could cause plenty of harm. Diabetics eat candy and slowly die.
“Plenty of people say, ‘High fructose corn syrup is basically a drug.’” She’d gestured at the fields of green corn we were driving past, “Would you like to hop out and set those on fire?”
It was some sophomoric moral equivalence but try as I might I couldn’t pop it. I wasn’t in possession of a compelling reason people shouldn’t use drugs if they chose and, at the time, I was having a hard time figuring out why I shouldn’t get rich figuring out the quality of drugs.
Two days was too much time to talk about Jane’s fairly simple business. Two hours was more time than we would’ve needed, really, and we soon drifted to other topics. I learned Jane had grown up in what she called ‘the trade.’ In fact, Her family was practically gentry.
Her great, great grandfather had been a rum-runner and fairly successful at it. Then alcohol had become legal again and he’d lost nearly everything trying to go legit. Her great grandfather and grandfather had gone into pot at the point it was being criminalized to a greater extent. The 60’s and 70’s had been another low point for the family as that drug became more widely accepted, and they’d experimented with other substances before finally settling on cooking amphetamines right before all the good nasal decongestants got locked up behind the pharmacist’s counter. When Jane had come into her powers she'd gotten pulled into the family business making sure the product was pure and equipment was running well. The remainder of her business snowballed from there.
“How’d you get your powers anyway?” I asked. The question is slightly personal, but it gets asked so much that everyone with a power has some pat answer to it even if they don’t want to tell the real story.
“Oh, I’m a Snap,” Jane answered.
That raised more questions than it answered. A Snap is the class of powered individuals who just “snapped” during a stressful situation and ended up with superhuman abilities. “Wait, what? How’s that possible? Was someone trapped under a burning car and you had to smell it off them?”
I was driving at that point. Jane blushed and became very interested in something out of the passenger window. I barely heard her mumbled reply, “My cat got lost.”
“And?”
She turned back to look at me. The accent was back in her voice, “When ah was 13 ah had this kitty named boots. Well, I still have the old furball actually. But when I was 13 he got lost and I was terrified he was gonna git et by a cyot. I started to think if I could smell him like a bloodhound I could go git him and he’d be safe. I guess I just wanted that more than anything else and before long ‘Snap!’ I did find him.”
“Huh, well, I guess I’m glad it worked out.”
We drove in silence for about a mile and then Jane said, “Well alright you gotta dish now. How’d you come by enhanced offaction?”
“Ah, I’m the sacred protector of a lost Amazon tribe.”
“Seriously?”
“Cross my heart! When I was still in high school my folks decided to take my sister down to Brazel to do some ecotourism - see the rainforest before it’s gone. That type of thing. For about a week that’s what we did. But after we’d hiked our fill we spent some time in Sao Paulo. We went to the beach, did some shopping… whatever. During the shopping part of that, I got separated from my parents. I mean, we were all on the same street in a touristy area and we all had cell phones, but I wasn’t with my mom or dad when this old lady came up and started waving a kabob in my face and shouting at me in Portuguese.“
“I figured she was with one of the restaurants. You know, just handing out some free samples to drum up business. I still didn’t want the mystery meat on a stick, but I ate it to get her to leave me alone.”
My mouth tingled just a bit at the memory. “It was the hottest thing I have ever eaten. I’m not kidding. My mouth burned for three days! My nose ran the entire time. When it finally cleared up I could smell… everything.”
I sort of trailed off at that point prompting Jane to ask, “And then?”
“Then my high school guidance counselor recommended I consider a chemistry degree.”
Jane gave me an annoyed look. She was cute when she was annoyed. “When did you learn about the whole, ‘sacred guardian,’ thing?”
“Oh, five minutes after I ate the nuclear kabob of doom. This guy, still kind of old but younger than the woman runs up and starts to pull her away. Then he sees me standing there dying and realizes I ate her food. He tells me it’s safe, just spicy. He explains the lady is his mother and she’s the wise woman of a rainforest tribe trying to find the guardian of the tribe and do some ritual. Only the kicker is the tribe is long gone. They were run off their land by logging or farming or something way back in the 80’s. Brazilian social services integrated them into the population and that was that. But mom’s getting Alzheimer's. She’s forgotten the last 30 years and just remembers the tribe has a problem so she does this every time she gets out of his sight.”
I shrugged, “By the time I knew the meat had something other than ghost pepper to it I was back in the states and didn’t even have their names. I goggled a bit, but short of just going back down there and shouting, ‘I am the chosen one,’ in the street I’ve got nothing.”
“Wow, why do you suppose it worked on you?”
I shrugged again. “No idea! Maybe that time she remembered some ingredient she always forgot before. Or I had some special gene that got activated. Or I really was the chosen one. Or it worked every time and I have a hundred brother guardians out there and someday we’ll rise up and avenge this tribe I don’t even know the name of.”
“With your powerful sense of smell,” Jane winked at me.
“Well, yeah, that’s a problem. But the smell thing would’ve worked for a jungle tribe. You could smell dangerous animals lurking around the village, find food or medicinal plants, and if any kid wandered off I could track the heck out of them.”
Jand considered that for a moment. “I suppose you’re right.”
I stiffened in my seat and spoke in a monotone while staring straight ahead, “Which is why my brothers and I will tear this all down and return the land to wilderness.”
Jane looked at me for a moment then burst into giggles when I cracked a smile. That made me realize two things. First, she had a very cute giggle. And, second, I was developing a slightly age-inappropriate crush on a drug mule.
* * *
We meet Jane’s contact, Luis, in Las Cruces New Mexico at the Si Senior restaurant.
I suppose you could call Las Cruces a small desert town, but I wouldn’t because I come from Indiana. At nearly one hundred thousand people Las Cruces would’ve been our fifth biggest city.
I know this because I googled it.
If I had to pick one word to describe Luis I’d say “twitchy”. Actually, if I had a hundred I might still just say twitchy and keep the other 99 as change. Luis was a short, thin, Hispanic man who looked slightly unkempt. His hair was a bit too oily and his clothes didn’t fit that well. But mostly he was twitchy.
At first I thought that was normal. This was a drug deal, right? So he was probably worried that the cops were on to us, or that he couldn’t trust Jane, or something like that. I was plenty nervous myself. But Luis wasn’t looking at the other people in the restaurant. He hardly even blinked when Jane introduced me. I would have expected some hesitance on his part just because I was a stranger, but no. His eyes kept darting to every dark or shadowed place we could see from our table. There was one heating vent that seemed to bug him more than the others and it was almost as though he was listening to our conversation past some other noise. I eventually decided he must be using his own product.
Si Senior had pretty good food even if it wasn’t balanced for my unique offaction. They also had a lot of food, and by the end of the meal I was no longer nervous. I was ready to roll under the table and go to sleep.
But life, and illegal commerce, must carry on so it was Jane that moved us to the next phase of the festivities. “So, are you parked out back?”
“Yes,” Luis said. Actually he almost hissed it
“Riiiigh, well, I’ll pay and meet you there.”
Luis scurried off into the bright sunshine of the New Mexican desert. Jane set out cash for our bill and a generous tip, then she looked at me, “Were you getting an odd vibe there at the end?”
“Yesssss masssster,” I hissed.
Jane rolled her eyes, but otherwise stayed serious which worried me a bit.
“I think he’s fucking using. That is not OK. When someone comes out messed up is when things go wrong and people get hurt. I’m half tempted to just drive away now, but he held it together for lunch and I didn’t smell any gunpowder on him so he hasn’t handled amo recently.”
She thought a moment and seemed to come to a decision, “We’ll go ahead with this, but you hang back in case Luis gets stupid or he brought official friends.” She bit her lower lip for a moment, “If he did bring friends this is just a mini-vacation for you. You don’t know why we’re here. You’re just young and stupid and trying to get into my pants.”
“Hey!”
Jan winked, “Well you aren’t drunk and college guys have two main reasons for doing irrational things.” Then she headed for the door without giving me time for more argument.
I trailed after her worrying. The cover story seemed hella thin. Maybe it could hold, but only if the cops didn’t care much at all about me. Still, would someone suddenly start talking like Renfield because they were wearing a wire? It was a stretch. Not that drugs did that either unless maybe your drug of choice was absinthe out of a skull goblet.
The Las Cruces sun hit me in the face like a hammer when I walked outside. Back in Indiana it was early soggy spring but here the days were already in the seventies and the clear blue vault of the sky looked like it had never met a cloud. I walked toward the back of the restaurant trying to blink my eyes back to some sort of correct function. Jane pulled ahead of me and marched quickly across the parking lot while I found a shady spot close enough to observe, but hopefully far enough back to stay out of anything unexpected.
Luis waited by the back of a silver Nissan Altima. He and Jane talked for a moment too quietly for me to hear and then he popped the trunk. The car was low enough to the ground that I could see in and I caught the top of what looked like a gym bag. Jane leaned over and I assume she checked it because she recoiled almost as though she’d been struck.
Her next words were accented again and loud enough for me to hear clearly. “What the fuck Luis? I would even expect shit this low-grade if I were paying in blowjobs! Do you think I’m looking to open a cake shop?”
Luis threw up both hands in a sort of defensive pose and said something. The words were quick and quiet. I only caught, “not for you” “look the same.”
Was he claiming he’d grabbed the wrong bag of crack on his way out the door?
He raised his hand, gave his head a slightly puzzled scratch, and then said something else. This time I caught, “go get.” He put his hand on Jane’s shoulder as though he intended to guide her over to his car. But it was all off. He was moving too fast and every line of his body was hard and tense. I was getting that creepy vibe again.
Jane slapped away Luis’s hand like he’d draped something disgusting across her shoulder. Luis seemed to come to some sort of decision at that point because he didn’t hesitate. He grabbed her hard and tried to push her towards the car.
Jame twisted and lashed out like a mule with a hard kick right into the side of his knee. There was a crack and Luis went down with his leg bent in a way that hurt to look at. Jane shot one look in his direction but didn’t linger. Instead, she started to hurry in my direction while digging in her purse for something.
Because she was facing the wrong way, she didn’t see Luis. At first, he reacted like a normal person. With one hand he clutched at his knee, with the other he scrabbled around for something on his back. That hand found it’s target - a knife.
The knife, it wasn’t any modern weapon or tool. It was jagged, crude, and appeared to be chipped from some form of black stone. I couldn’t guess if it was flint, obsidian, or something else, but it certainly wasn’t metal. Just the sight of the blade made the bright sunlight feel a bit colder, and the utterly pedestrian parking lot seemed unclean somehow.
“Look out!”
Jane was fast on her feet. She didn’t ask, “What,” or stand still looking around. She jumped to the cover provided by one of the few cars scattered around the mostly empty back of the lot, crouching behind its rear tires on my side of the vehicle.
That saved her. Seconds after my warning while he was still laying on the ground, Luis whipped the knife forward in an arc parallel to the ground like he was trying to flick water off of it. Instead, the blade seemed to snag shadow out of thin air and a wave of it washed out to where Jane had been standing.
The arc of the shadow passed through empty air there. But it had spread out as it traveled and it hit the car she was behind as well. I couldn’t see the actual impact, but there was a screech of rending metal and the car heeled over as though its driver’s side front tired had been cut out from under it.
The shadow continued out across the parking lot moving from the empty back half to the more heavily occupied section where I stood. It weakened as it spread. It cut gashes into the first few cars it hit. Then it ripped strips of paint off another few ranks. Then it hit me.
I know I shouldn’t have stood there like an idiot and let it, but it took far less time for the black energy to travel across the lot then it does to describe and I was stunned by its appearance. I had thought Luis might throw the knife - not use it to call up death magic.
Fortunately, by the time it hit me the strike was weak enough it only felt like I’d been hit with a switch. It stung and I’d have a bruise but I wasn’t cut in half.
The worst part was the smell. What I’d been thinking of as shadow reeked. It was bloated corpses and bad meat. I felt like rotten blood had been sprayed directly into my nose. I don’t know if it would’ve been so bad for a normal person, but anyone with a sense of smell would’ve recoiled.
When I managed to look up again Luis was getting to his feet- which really shouldn’t have been possible. There was something dark wrapped around his knee. At first, I thought he’d managed to fashion a binding from some cloth, but the blackness wasn’t moving right. It was too fluid and clug in an almost form-fitting way without showing wrinkles. It was the shadow, I realized.
A movement from Jane called my attention back to her. She had edged along the car until she could lean past it and draw a bead on Luis with a huge gun she’d apparently produced from somewhere.
I stood frozen as she aimed. Should I warn him? Could this mess somehow be decelerated?
I was too late. Something must have warned Luis. His eyes flashed black for an instant and he whipped the dagger up. Black rolled off of it again just as a sharp crack cut through the relative quiet of the lot and I could see a deformed bead of metal bouncing out of sight across the empty half of the lot practically all of its momentum lost to the shield.
There was another crack and another jingle, but Luis was apparently done playing. With the square of solid shadow still hiding most of his body, he rushed forward across the four yards that separated them. As he broke around the car, Jane tried to move backwards to give herself a bit more space, but her crouch rendered her ungainly and she tripped. Her gun spun out of her hand and slid under the car.
Luis saw that and dropped his shield. Jane kicked out at him. Her foot caught him in the shin and he hissed with pain but he didn’t back off. Instead, he flipped the stone knife in the air, caught it by the blade, then cracked her on the head with its handle. I don’t know if it was more of the knife’s magic or just that she'd gotten hit on the head with a rock, but Jane crumbled.
Luis shifted the knife and then leaned down as though he intended to grab Jane and drag her away. I hadn’t known what to do up until that point. I hadn’t run over to help Jane fight Luis. First, she’d had a gun and was doing just fine on her own. And second, I didn’t really want to fight Luis. I just wanted to get away.
But I wasn’t going to let him drag her off. I shouted and charged him. It went poorly. He did that “flick away water” thing again with his knife and a scythe of darkness washed out toward me at about mid-chest height. I dropped under it, but not in a cool action star kind of way. I just leaned too far backward and fell.
It saved me, but I hit my head in the process. Then I was swallowed up in the rotten blood stink of the magic and for a minute or two the world was just lost to pain and foulness. Luis could’ve killed me then. I guess he was more interested in getting away. When I got a grip on myself, he was gone.
To a very very limited extent I can track a car via smell. The grades of gasoline, tire compounds, interiors, and cargo of a car smell different but cars move too fast to leave much of a trail.
I gathered up Jane’s stuff, ran to her car, and tried to sniff out the trail of the Altima starting from where I knew he’d been parked. I got as far as the interstate, which was only three turns out of the restaurant, before I was fairly sure I was following my imagination rather than a real car. I might have turned back then, but I was headed toward El Paso, TX and there was very little between the two cities.
I had time to catch them. I drove like a nut swerving around cars and speeding as the in-town traffic fell off. I figured if I got stopped by a cop I could tell them what was going on and it would be in their hands, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to call them because if the whole story came out Jane would be arrested along with Luis.
In retrospect, I might have been hoping for that random traffic stop. It didn’t materialize. Around 10 miles outside of town I caught up to Luis. He was driving fast, but not “please arrest me” fast. I considered trying to pull a PIT maneuver on him, but that would’ve been stupid. I’d only ever seen videos of that and I think cop cars have specially reinforced fenders to make it work.
Instead I passed the Altima because I thought it would put Luis at ease if he’d noticed me coming up behind him. If someone is following you they wouldn’t pass, right? He’d assume it was just another vehicle of the same make. He couldn’t see me; Jane’s windows are fairly darkly tinted.
Next, I fell in behind a slower car and let him pass me back. When he did that I had one of the rear windows down and I got a good nose-full of the Altima. I let it fall away into the distance until I was just about to lose that scent, which was far enough away I couldn't make out many details on the car visually. Then I followed.
(continued in comments...)
submitted by crumjd to WritingPrompts [link] [comments]

[Tales From the Terran Republic] Crimson

The rest of the series can be found here
***
Sasha Blake lounged near a Starsprinter, a small fast “courier class” Terran freighter. She tried to at least look calm. A Terran Intelligence operative just standing here with her tits hanging out with the fucking Feds on the way? Not smart.
She took a long slow hit on a vape pen taking in a lungful of bliss, a mild relaxant and euphoric, something she would normally never do on a mission but her nerves were shot. They had slaughtered over a hundred Fed agents not that long ago.
Hell, she had pulled the trigger on a few of them herself. They had to be dying for payback.
Helen had better fucking know what she was doing.
A nondescript pale gray cargo van pulled up and a very nervous looking pol-ka got out. Sasha winced. He was so fucking obvious… and scared. He actually looked worse than she did. It was the opposite of reassuring. There were way too many raw nerves and itchy trigger fingers in one spot for her comfort.
The pol-ka, his crest fully deflated and looking around constantly, spotted her. She raised her hand and brushed her hair over her left ear, the signal. He walked up.
“Excuse me, is this ship the Green Greyhound?” he asked.
“No, it’s the Silver Slipper,” she replied.
“I see,” he replied swallowing back a mouthful of nervous mucus. “I am very sorry for your loss, ma’am.”
“Eh, I never really did like the miserable fuck. Good riddance to bad rubbish,” she replied completing the passphrase.
The pol-ka nodded and returned to the van. He opened the back and guided a floating coffin over to where Sasha was standing.
“Sign here, please,” he said producing a tablet. She scrawled a couple of nonsense words. “So, is this as strange for you as it is for me?” he asked with a little smile.
“Stranger,” she replied returning his smile. “I was half expecting a stun bolt and a neural inductor.”
“And I,” he said still looking about, “am expecting to be gifted with an extra orifice any second. Let’s hope things go back to normal soon. I am much more comfortable stabbing your kind in the shadows.”
“Likewise,” she laughed. “Nice meeting you, peckerhead.”
“Have a good trip, Terran animal,” he replied finally relaxing a little. He, trying not to trot, quickly walked to the van and drove off.
Sasha just shook her head as he drove off. “Can’t believe I’m fucking doing this...” she muttered as she guided the floating coffin into her ship.
***
Jaxona was standing in Jon’s office swinging back and forth anxiously in her globe while Jon drank a cup of coffee and reviewed some reports.
“Great!” Jaxona said with a happy little swirl. “Just got word that the, um… package… has been delivered!”
“Good,” Jon replied with a smile, “Glad that’s over with. Thanks for not shooting our agent.”
“Oh we would never do that!” Jaxona exclaimed. “We had a deal and everything!”
“Yeah,” Jon chuckled, “And you actually kept it. We have have some scientists just dying to tear into the little present you just gave us.”
“Super!” Jaxona exclaimed. “I hope you guys have better luck than we did cause we didn’t find out a darn thing!”
“No promises,” Jon replied. “We’ve been going over some pretty detailed scans for a little while now. I have to hand it to her. The vampire has really done it this time. I know you have your hopes up because of our reputation but what she has achieved… fuck. It’s years ahead of its time.”
“Vampire?”
“A Terran monster legend from the days of old, a quite fitting title for our mutual friend.” Jon smiled.
“Oh neat! I will read up on them!” Jaxona exclaimed bouncing up and down happily. “Well, I should probably scoot! Bye!” Jaxona said as she started backing out of his office. “Bye!… Bye!...”
“Bye!” Jon replied smiling despite himself. He liked the little fish. He was, however, disinclined to buy her whole “nice fish” act. You don’t get to be a Kalent Forum anything by being all sweetness and light especially at her age and she was “innocently” wheeling and dealing corpses like it was everyday business. He really wished he could bring Republic Intelligence to bear on that little eel, find out what her deal actually was.
Still, despite more than a few suspicions, he liked her. Didn’t trust her any further than he could throw her bot but he liked her.
***
Mark Black sat at the yacht club with his wife Shelly.
“You’re staring again,” she said with a smile on her face.
“I can’t help it, you’re beautiful,” he replied. She was. She was just as beautiful as the day he bought her. He was just a young raider back then. Not only did she cost everything he had he had to kill two other people just to keep her.
On the bright side, the killings catapulted him into a leadership position among the Long Shanks. Over the years during both the Sol Wars and the years that followed he built upon that, clawing, biting, and killing his way up the ranks until he finally sat on Grant Shanks right side.
After Mr. Shanks’ untimely demise he was the one who wound up on top. Now, with the fall of the Red Teeth they were poised to become the single most powerful human organization, both legal and illegal, in the Federation.
And he owed it all to her, his muse, his princess. The fight to obtain her and to keep her was what put him where he was today. He took a sip of wine and smiled at her again.
She was just too beautiful.
Shelly smiled back at him fondly. He wasn’t exactly what one would call ravishingly handsome but he certainly wasn’t ugly and what lurked between his ears was rare, a combination of intelligence, ruthlessness, and yet at the same time warmth and love… well for her anyway.
And after all isn’t that what matters?
He took her from a slave pen, starvation, and rape to a safe warm cabin. After she met him she was never hungry (well starving anyway) or afraid again. After the wars, their prospects steadily rose higher and higher as they climbed a blood soaked stairway all the way to the top. What he couldn’t outsmart he simply crushed beneath his feet. He was the perfect man, warm and caring to his family and utterly ruthless to everyone else. Back in the day she ruled the station. Few dared challenge her when all she had to do was snap her fingers and Mark would kill.
She looked down at her hands, the hands of a young woman! This was unbelievable, truly miraculous.
She frowned. She just wished that they didn’t have to make a deal with the literal devil to get it.
“What’s wrong?” Mark asked, “Did they screw up your steak again? If they did...”
“No, it’s fine,” she replied slicing it and holding up a piece for inspection. “Look. Perfect medium-rare.” She took a sip of some truly excellent wine and tried to smile. He wouldn’t buy it. He always saw through her fake smiles.
“Then what is it?”
“I just wish we weren’t in bed with that monster.”
Mark sighed. They have had this conversation before, several times.
“Grant wasn’t much better, darling,” he replied as he sipped some more wine. “Dark days require dark deals, remember?”
“But are they?” Shelly asked. “Are they dark days? We have everything we ever wanted. We’re even legitimate now… mostly…”
“Slowly dying of old age make for some pretty dark days in my book,” Mark chuckled. “It’s nice not hurting every goddamn morning and being able to properly make love to you without throwing out my back is worth another dance with the devil or two. You have to admit it’s nice.”
“Yes, dear, but at what cost?” Shelly asked scratching her arm uncomfortably.
“It’s still itching?” Mark asked with concern.
“A little,” she replied. “The doctor says that it’s a normal reaction to the treatment. According to him it will pass.”
“Great!” Mark replied. “And as far as dealing with her is concerned, she may be evil incarnate but she respects strength. It will work out just fine. You’ll see! We will have everything we ever dreamed of!”
“We already did,” Shelly said in a less than happy voice.
***
Late that evening Jon was laying awake in bed at the embassy. Skippy had gone back to her home system to handle council business. Christ, he missed her. It was only for a few days but it felt like forever.
He chuckled. He was pining away like some lovesick kid. He pulled out the latest message from her and played the little video she attached for what was probably the hundredth time. It was just her walking through some very normal looking woods doing some foraging and identifying various plants and strange looking animals for him. Nothing tawdry but he just loved watching it. Her toothy grin just lit up the whole room.
It sucked when she was gone but he did enjoy going to the noodle shop without her. The owner was much freer with the disapproving glances when she was gone. He decided that he was going to try to learn their language. There was no way in hell that he could ever speak it but he would just love to know what that ratty hare was muttering under his breath when nobody else was around.
He bet it was funny as hell.
As he was drifting off to sleep the communicator he kept under his pillow issued a series of tones in a particular sequence. It was their code for “incoming”. He reached into a pocket that he had next to his mattress and pulled out his sidearm.
Just as he got himself properly positioned and the pistol properly concealed the door to his room silently opened and a slender figure entered completely without a sound.
“Easy, there,” a familiar voice purred. “I just came to chat.”
Oh shit, Jon thought, Crimson. He was more than a little concerned. He had read her file. She was bad news. If she made a move he wasn’t entirely sure he could stop her. Red-tips only work if you actually hit the target.
“Ok, so talk,” Jon replied standing up no longer bothering to hide his sidearm. His people were on the way. He didn’t have to stall her for long.
“Just wanted a few minutes with the man who denied the queen bitch herself,” Crimson said with a smile as she plopped onto a couch intentionally putting herself in a vulnerable position. “You’re the only one who has, in case you didn’t know.”
“She send you here to give it another try?” Jon asked with a smirk. “Hang on,” he said pulling out his communicator. “Stand down,” he said into it.
“Sir?” Toby’s voice replied.
“We’re good here,” Jon said. “Just hold position for now.”
“Yes, sir.”
Crimson smiled. “Thanks for calling off the death squad.”
“Didn’t feel like getting my bedroom shot to hell for no reason,” Jon replied.
“Returning to our conversation, she didn’t send me,” Crimson replied, “And while I would love to have a taste of what she couldn’t get I’m pretty sure you won’t let me get close enough to try.” she chuckled. “Besides, your heart belongs to another doesn’t it?”
“What?” Jon asked as nonchalantly as he could. He could hear his heart beating in his chest. If they know...
“It’s the only logical conclusion,” Crimson chuckled. “When Patricia visited you the night before you absolutely humiliated her,” she said her eyes gleaming with delight, “she dosed you with a pretty nasty poison.”
“Did she now?” Jon replied calmly.
“Before she entered the room she bit into one of these,” Crimson said putting a small capsule on the coffee table. “The vapors trigger an avalanche of hormones and neurotransmitters in the victim. It causes something akin to the combination of love at first sight, your wedding day, and seeing your newborn child all at the same time but several times more powerful. When she hit you with that and then did something to imprint herself in your mind it should have locked her in as the sole object of your… well your everything. It’s pretty nasty stuff.”
Jon nodded silently. That explained a lot.
“There are only three ways that you could have shaken it,” Crimson said. “The first is that you just happened to have an antidote and even we don’t have a good one. We can only treat the effects. The second way is that you simply have the will of a god.” she chuckled. “Even then it would still be eating you up inside. Unless you are the actor of the century that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
“I did take theater in high school,” Jon snickered.
“The third and only way that I consider remotely possible,” Crimson smiled, “Is that you already had someone you already were bonded to. For a normal person, it wouldn’t be enough. That bond would be overwritten by that snake. However, if the victim has a strong enough will and their feelings for their mate were deep enough it is possible that the poison would drive them into their arms instead of the clutches of our favorite bitch. You have someone we don’t know about, don’t you?”
“That sounds like the plot of a really bad romance novel,” Jon said dismissively as he planned the shot he was about two seconds from taking.
“You left the embassy not long after she dosed you and were gone the entire night,” Crimson said, “We couldn’t follow you because we were being hunted but we do know when you left and when you returned… in a much better mood.”
Jon frowned. That meant they had eyes in the front of the house.
“Ralph Jessup,” Crimson said with a grin. “You are wondering who told us, he’s one of ours now.”
Jon didn’t reply. He just snarled. He had known Jessup for years. She could be lying but he knew deep down she wasn’t.
Crimson pulled out a slip of paper.
“Here is a list of everyone we have turned here in the embassy,” she said as she dropped it on the coffee table alongside the capsule.
“Awfully nice of you,” Jon said narrowing his eyes at Crimson. “Why the gift? I’m pretty sure the vampire wouldn’t be too happy with you if she found out.”
“Short answer,” Crimson replied, “I hate her.”
“And the long answer?”
“I assume you have a file on me?” Crimson asked. “What did it say about how I joined her merry little band of psychopaths?”
“It said that you were a member of a raider gang they hit and that your final stand was so impressive that she recruited you.”
“Heh,” Crimson chuckled darkly, “That’s one way of putting it. Do you know why my last stand was so ‘heroic’?”
“That wasn’t in the file.”
“My epic last stand was in a corridor. There were… people behind me… people very important to me.”
“Oh,” Jon said grimly.
“Yeah, out of ammo, using one of their swords… I was holding my own… Until she walked up. She… toyed with me… I was nothing but a joke to her, Jon. It was like fighting… nothing… a shadow. She just laughed and knocked me down… again and again and again… taunting me… Each time she knocked me down she just laughed and reminded me who was behind me… Told me what they were going to do to them… Over and over and over till I couldn’t get up anymore… Then she… she… just kicked me to the side and walked past me with her men and they… they… I could hear them… the begging… the screams…”
“Christ...” Jon muttered.
Crimson trailed off into silence for a little while.
“Then they came for me. I thought I would be next but no. I was brought in front of her. They had a… a table laid out… She told me that I had proven my worth and that I had a choice. I could sit at the table and live or I could join my friends and family on it… alive… I… I should have spit in her face… or attacked her… but… I wanted to live, Jon. There was nobody left to defend, no lives to protect anymore except my own so I… I ate. I ate my own… God… I just wanted to live, Jon. I should have… well it doesn’t matter now does it?”
“Crimson… I’m sorry...”
“Don’t be. I don’t deserve it. I was a coward… am a coward… Anyway, I had just done the absolute worst thing I could have ever done… it broke me. For a long time I didn’t care anymore. I was a horrible person running with horrible people and doing what I needed to in order to survive. I was in hell and if I was in hell I might as well become one of her demons. She was… is… very good to those who please her so that’s exactly what I did. No matter what she asked, no matter how fucked up, how evil, I did it without hesitation. Wasn’t long before I died inside and it became easy and I was just another of her lieutenants, and later a Bloodlord.”
“So you are saying that you didn’t have a choice?”
“No. I had a choice and I made it,” Crimson replied calmly. “I chose to do whatever I had to to survive and prosper. And it paid off. After the wars we became a business and political organization and I had wealth and power and all the nice things that came with it. For most of the last hundred and fifty years I’ve handled paperwork and less than above board deals. I was a businesswoman, mostly. Aside from the sacrament we were just like any other mega-corporation.”
“The sacrament?” Jon asked dubiously.
“Yeah, her ladyship likes to ‘remind us of our roots’ by having the upper echelon engage in ritual cannibalism on a regular basis. Well, that and she enjoys it.”
“Christ...”
“It’s mostly porkies,” Crimson said dismissively. “Well that and people who cross her. Your little mouse hasn’t been brought to the table yet, by the way, but she will. Her ladyship has her sights on that poor little rodent.”
“Dawn?” Jon asked in alarm.
“Yeah, poor kid,” Crimson replied. “She has no idea what she is about to get into. Soon, very soon, she will be given the same option we all had. Sit at the table or be on it.”
Jon took a deep breath and with a little effort kept his composure.
“If anything happens to her...”
“You have much bigger worries than the mouse, my friend,” Crimson replied. “Right now her ladyship has bigger concerns but once the next phase of her plans are underway she will be coming for you and your sweet little girlfriend. She had dreams of adding you to our fold but those dreams have been dashed and you are now a threat not to mention the fact that you humiliated her in front of her men. Too many of us know exactly what happened. We don’t dare speak of it but we know she was defeated. She can’t let that stand. She is also a petty vindictive bitch. You need to be ready and if there is someone that you love here in the capital you need to get them the fuck away, far away.”
“Since you are in a talkative mood,” Jon said sitting down on the edge of his bed, “feel like letting me know what her plans are?”
“Sure,” Crimson said with a smile. “Her endgame goal is complete control of the Republic and to remake it into her vision of what humanity should be. It might come as a surprise that her vision of humanity doesn’t have a lot of humanity in it. She is going to tear the whole Republic down, plunge it into anarchy, just like the good old days.”
“Fuck me,” Jon said quietly.
“Yeah, she wants to bring the Sol Wars back and this time she is planning on winning. Patricia Hu will be the Zeus Corp of the thirty-second century and the Republic will be just a memory if she pulls it off.”
“Easier said than done.”
“True, that’s why she has been planning this for decades, putting the right people in the right positions, stockpiling materials, supplies, food, and weapons, funding research, development, exploration… you name it. Looking back, I believe she has been thinking of this ever since the Sol Wars ended.”
“As much as I want to say this would be impossible I have studied history,” Jon said grimly. “How is she planning on doing this?”
“War,” Crimson replied. “She is going to cause total war with the Federation. Originally it was supposed to be a war with the Empire but after the Great War she altered her plans. After our last little dance the Federation isn’t going to fuck around. They will mass their entire fleet and their entire army and they will won’t be trying to ‘liberate’ or subdue us. They will be coming to destroy us. Their fear of us will turn them into exactly the tool that she wants them to be.”
“Even then,” Jon said, “even if they send their entire fleet it will just be one big shooting gallery. Our system defenses and our navy-”
“Will be compromised,” Crimson said. “She has people everywhere. Our defense stations and our ships will be sabotaged. Ideally it will be civilians and just enough military left to put up a valiant, doomed, resistance.”
“How?” Jon asked his blood running cold. At any other time he would laugh something this ridiculous off but considering the source it sounded entirely too possible.
“I’m not involved in that part of the planning,” Crimson replied. “From what I’ve gathered it is going to be a combination of good old fashioned bombs, even the Retribution can’t survive if one of it’s nukes goes off inside, and malware that will knock out the controls of the numerous smaller craft like the shrikes or cause a premature detonation of ordinance. Pretty much the entire navy will go down. Then, it will just be the civilians and whatever few naval vessels that can slip the noose. It will still be one hell of a fight but we will tragically and heroically lose that first decisive battle. It will then be revealed that ‘traitors’ inside the Republic’s own government were responsible and a coup under the guise of eliminating those ‘traitors’ will take place. The coup will be intentionally very messy and result in the engineered collapse of the entire Republic. From the fires, death, and chaos a new leader will rise. People will be afraid, enraged, grief-stricken… hungry… They will be screaming for revenge and who better than the Horde Mother of old to offer them exactly what they will want, fire, blood, and death. She never trusted peace. She never trusted the Republic. She never trusted any other race except Republic humans, just like anyone with any sense should. She will have supplies, ships, weapons, medicine, everything the Terrans will need. She will be their salvation.”
“But what about the Federation?” Jon asked.
“Even if they win and win big at first do you honestly think they can hold Terran space? If the Juon Empire at its worst couldn’t take Sol what chance does the Federation have? New forces will be raised and new ships built at the Grand Shipyards all under the ‘immortals’ that have taken power in the chaos. They will then put her in charge and under her leadership the Federation will be driven off. Then, with the Terrans bloodied and screaming for payback the war will be taken to the Federation and it won’t stop. The more bloody and costly the better, at least at first.”
“She can’t possibly think she can destroy the entire Federation,” Jon said quietly.
“Never underestimate the Terran people, Jon,” Crimson said with a grim smile. “With the Grand Shipyards untouched, the rapidly recovering economy completely mobilized, and the entire remaining population as potential warriors we can field an amazing force in a very short time and we can keep pumping out the next generations of cannon fodder as we go. If raised to fight from birth you can field a warrior at a very young age especially if they are flying a fighter or crewing a warship. Child soldiers are unthinkable now but when the survival of the ‘real’ human race is a stake? Of course that also involves indoctrination from birth doesn’t it? In a few short decades mankind as you know it will no longer exist, replaced by a species where their very humanity has been replaced by ‘resolve’. The genocidal rise of the Terran Empire will begin. She has a flag and everything.”
“She’s insane.”
“You just figuring that out?,” Crimson laughed. “She's bugshit crazy but it doesn’t mean it won’t work. The details are chilling.” She reached into a pocket and pulled out a data crystal and set it on the coffee table next to the slip of paper and capsule of love poison. “I wrote down everything I know about it on there including lists of all known conspirators.” She smiled sadly. “Unfortunately I don’t have a complete list of those in the Republic. Aside from her ladyship only Monarch and Marrow knows all of them. I do, however, have a complete list of those in the Federation and that will be very important very soon.”
“I’m afraid to ask.”
“To answer that we have to ask another question,” Crimson said with a grim smile. “You’ve never asked how she is so sure that her people will do exactly what she tells them to do and will hand over power to her without any issues.”
“I was wondering about that.”
“There is an old saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.’ Her fountain of youth is a perfect example,” Crimson said with a dark chuckle. “Let’s just say that if I had an option I wouldn’t have taken advantage of it.”
“Oh?”
“It isn’t a cure for old age, it’s a treatment,” Crimson said with a smile. “And once you start that treatment you really really don’t want to stop. You stop the treatment, you die… badly. Your cells start to mutate and die and you go from young and beautiful to necrotic and cancerous. They don’t realize it yet but every single person who has taken her up on her wonderful generous gift is now completely dependent upon her for the rest of their lives. She is, of course, in complete control of the formula. She isn’t happy with you, you get cut off and die. She dies or becomes imprisoned, everyone dies. Of course she also offered the treatments to their spouses and other family members as well.”
“How did she manage to pull that off?”
“The formula is in several parts all of which are encrypted. Only she has the codes. Each of her labs has no idea what they are making and someone as fanatical as Marrow himself is present during the entire synthesis. The doctors know how to assemble the retroviruses and other components and administer the treatment but they are just following a recipe and scanning is not the best idea because once again, one of her mindless zealots is standing right there. The actual researchers are sequestered at a very secure site and sorry, I don’t know where it is. From what I understand it’s quite lovely but they are never leaving. You would have to ask Marrow or maybe Monarch but I don’t think they will be very forthcoming. Besides, the researchers are still very very busy for a very good reason.”
“Do tell.”
“It may not surprise you but we are very big on innovation but not quite so big on ethics,” Crimson said with a wry smile.
“Shocker,” Jon replied calmly as he tried to process everything he was hearing.
“You know all those pesky regulations when it comes to human trials? Yeah, we skipped those,” Crimson chuckled. “Funny thing about all of those guidelines and regulations. They do slow you down, a lot, but they also enforce good research, good science. They keep you from cutting corners.” Crimson grinned with genuine pleasure. “In this case, maybe cutting all those corners wasn’t the best idea.”
“Are you saying what I think you are saying?”
“Yep, this wonderful magical fountain of youth?” Crimson laughed, “It’s flawed. We’re all dying... slowly... but dying just the same.”
“No shit?” Jon asked happily.
“No shit,” Crimson chuckled. “The treatments still work but we are having to slowly but surely increase the frequency of them to prevent degradation. What was supposed to be a yearly treatment became every ten months, then eight… It’s still a little less than eight months but we are doing them twice a year now. The increased frequency seems to slow down the underlying issue but it’s not stopping it. We are young and pretty but our lifespans definitely have not gone up, quite the contrary actually. We probably only have a few years to fix this, if it can be fixed, and our research team has, despite very strong encouragement, not made much progress.”
“And she’s still planning on this whole Terran Empire bullshit?”
“Not until she fixes the treatment,” Crimson smiled grimly. “That’s where the porkies come in.”
“What do the porkies have to do with this?”
“Do you honestly think Patricia fucking Hu would ever work with the porkies?” Crimson laughed. “She hates them more than any person that I know. Seriously, take the worst hate-monger you have ever heard and multiply it by a hundred. I think it’s why we were so fucked up back in the day. She just hated them that bad. And speaking of fucked up, what she has done to them this time is one of the worst things she has ever done to our little curly-tailed friends.”
“I take it that their ‘treatments’ have a little less treat in them?” Jon asked dreading the answer.
“You got it. Our favorite psychopath decided that what this little problem required was a larger sample size. The treatment that they have received is rapidly degrading, designed to last just long enough to look good before it turns to shit.”
“That’s a lot of trouble to go to for just a few more lab rats,” Jon replied.
“Not just a few more lab rats,” Crimson said grimly. “There is another difference between our treatment and theirs. Our treatment relies heavily on retroviruses. Their treatment, however, has a true viral stage.”
“Oh fuck me...”
“Yep. It is becoming very very contagious, like bio-weapon contagious. It will spread like wildfire targeting the people in closest proximity first, namely the other movers and shakers. In one fell swoop she will start to wipe out the porkies from the top down. From country clubs to boardrooms they will all start to sicken and die horribly as the effects of end stage degradation sets in immediately. Both the rapid spread and the status of the first victims will immediately have researchers across the Federation, both human and non human on the case within days. Fearing its spread the Republic and the Empire will undoubtedly follow suit. Instead of one research team working on her little problem she will have the entire galaxy. Think of it as enforced crowdsourcing. We may even get lucky and someone will wind up to be immune to the effects.”
“If she wants a war that will do it,” Jon said grimly.
“Way ahead of you,” Crimson chuckled. “A manifesto from an as yet unknown porkie terrorist group is about to be released calling it retribution for the rich corrupt “porkie slime” starting the war that destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones. They will of course be found only to discover all of them dead from the same killer virus. Their research logs will indicate that the virus was not intended to be easily transmittable. Quite the contrary in fact. It will look like they screwed up big time and that the porkies unleashed the plague on themselves,” Crimson said with a dark laugh. “We can’t have civilization ending just yet. We need them to fix our fuck up first. When they come up with a cure for the bio-weapon we will be able to use that to either completely fix or at least treat our degradation problem. At the very least we get centuries of extra man hours worth of research. As a plus she gets to kill a shitload of porkies.”
“I would shoot her myself but I have to figure out a way to fix this,” Jon muttered.
“You don’t think it hasn’t been tried?” Crimson laughed. “She’s… inhuman. It’s like she can smell the bullets and now that this ball is in play she is going to be well protected by some very good people.”
“You mean people like you?”
“No.”
“No?”
“You think I’m walking back there after this little visit?” Crimson laughed. “I’m walking right out the front door and then I’m going to run and never look back. The degradation can claim me. I deserve it. I’m done with this, all of this. I… I just can’t… not anymore… Not again… I can’t… I won’t.”
“Why?” Jon asked, “Why now?”
“Because you have given me hope,” Crimson replied. “When you overcame the poison, overcame her, it showed that you are stronger than she ever will be. I’ve never seen that before. Nobody has ever been stronger than she is. I didn’t think anyone could stop her, ever, but you… You just might. I have long thought that I was only ever going to get one shot at bringing her down. I’ve just taken it.” Crimson pointed her finger towards the back of the embassy and said, “Bang.”
Jon looked into her exhausted eyes and nodded.
“I will stop her,” Jon said evenly, “Nobody fucks with my Republic, nobody. Hey, instead of turning tail and running how about actually standing up to that bitch? We could use you. You know more about her organization than anyone. While you are waiting to die why not take a few more shots at them?”
“You would actually trust me?” Crimson asked hopefully.
“Fuck no!” Jon laughed. “I’m envisioning a safe house with a nice heavy locking door and some really nice Terrans who are very skilled at getting the truth out of people.”
Crimson just laughed… then cried… and then just nodded.
“Right,” Jon said, “Keep your ass right on that couch.” He picked up his communicator.
“Toby.”
“Sir.”
“I need the security van and an armed escort team, our people. Tell them to be ready to play.”
“Yes, sir.”
***
Once the hallways had been cleared and secured and Crimson handcuffed and led away Jon walked to his office with all of the items Crimson left behind. He brewed himself a cup of coffee and paged through the contents of the data crystal that Crimson gave him.
This could work. God help us. This could actually work, he thought in horror then after a moment he smiled wickedly. All he had to do was fuck things up. He was good at fucking things up.
Speaking of fucking things up… Command decision time!
He picked up his communicator and dialed a number.
“Wha?… ” a very sleepy kalent voice answered.
“Having a good evening?” Jon asked.
“I… I...” Jaxona said really groggily.
“Well wake up, I’m about to ruin it. We need to meet. Now.”
“It had better be fucking important, cockbite.” she growled in a very odd yet strangely familiar tone of voice.
“What the fuck?!?!”
“Wha?… Sorry… still waking up… Sorry! Forgive me! I didn’t mean it! I was just...”
“No problem,” Jon said as a grin slowly started to spread across is face. “Are you awake, now?”
“Yeah! Sorry! What do you need? Sorry!” Jaxona exclaimed in a nervous squeaky voice.
“I need to meet with you, both of you, right fucking now!”
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I am about to post the 3000 most common words in the English lexicon. Wish me luck...

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Colman is now third in the betting, behind Tilda Swinton. The Beach Actress had been favourite in recent weeks, but her 7/2 odds have now drifted to 5/1 following the Marshall activity. With plenty of hints and suggestions that the new Doctor may well be female, Colman and Swinton have been joined at the sharp end of the market by Phoebe Waller It has been reported that only 10 people know the new Doctor's identity, as bosses attempt to keep it a secret. Bookmakers suspended betting on The Thick Of It star Peter Capaldi taking the role James Bond is known for being ruthless when dispatching his enemies and exacting when he's ordering his cocktails, but, historically, he's also pretty good with a sword. And if the latest casting rumor about the next 007 turns out to be true, Daniel Craig's replacement will have plenty of swordplay experience. Actor Richard Madden is reportedly in the running to trade his chainmail armor for a While Jason Statham, Alan Davies and James Nesbitt have also been tipped to step into the Time Lord's shoes, Carlyle is the new frontrunner, according to bookmakers. A leading UK bookmaker has suspended all betting on Death in Paradise actor Kris Marshall becoming the next Doctor Who now that Peter Capaldi has hung up the keys to the Tardis.

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