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Between 1&2 💞 Album Review

2023.06.03 22:56 smolcrackheadenergy Between 1&2 💞 Album Review


Intro

To preface this review, I just need to say that this is going to be a very, long read. Going through it myself just for the fun of it takes around 30 minutes — it's almost 7k words of text, including lyrical references. So for the best experience, listen to the album beforehand to understand what the hell I was thinking when I wrote this review, play the album while reading, and set a good amount of time aside.
And yes, this is 9 months late 😭 I'm not sorry — when I find an album review online it's always around a paragraph per song or even shorter. It makes sense from a journalistic perspective, but I want to do this album justice, hence taking 7 months to write out all my thoughts.
This shit is comprehensive and definitely overanalyzed, especially in Talk that Talk and Trouble. Each song review will compose of my commentary going over the song, noting the details I noticed through months of listening, then a conclusion. Also, mild swearing warning, I like implementing a touch of "French" when I'm very emotional about something. Anyway, onto the review!



Between 1&2 💞

Album Review



TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT
TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED



Talk that Talk 🎙

Lead producer: collapsedone

One of the most perfect TWICE songs.
I think this is one of TWICE’s best-sounding title tracks. Warm modulated synths, a thrumming bass line, distant bells, shimmering synths — the purpose of this song is to be fun and my god is it excellent at it, like… Sana and Chaeyoung are saying knock-knock-knock and beep-beep-beep as if they’re some kind of car. So much fun.
Further along in the verse, Dahyun’s voice sounds so full and smooth with that layered harmony. Tzuyu coming with the Yes or Yes, Push & Pull, and 1 to 10 references — these are 5 years of song references. And Jeongyeon closes the pre-chorus accompanied by a rising synth to drop into chorus one. Jeongyeon slays pre-choruses.
The drums accelerate, the synths start blasting, and Jihyo opens to that party of a chorus with her godly vocals,

Tell me what you want
Tell me what you need
A to Z da malhaebwa
But shijageun ireoke have
Talk that talk ttak han madi
Talk that talk L-O-V-E
deullyeojweo ooh
Now now now now now yeah~

During Sana's Talk that Talk~ lines there’s this gentle ascending synth bell that rings with the descending melody and it sounds absolutely gorgeous. And the choreography during that part of the chorus is so so so so fun: the talking hands bit, spelling L-O-V-E, concluding with the deullyeojweo ooh! Oh my Jihyo the deullyeojweo ooh
Have I mentioned this song is fun?
Speeding through verse 2; Chaeyoung’s part with the cat ears popping in the music video is adorable; Momo her stretching her arms out looks so damn cool; and Dahyun with her replay part sounds so lovely — although I think it sonically sounds a touch random, it makes sense thematically.
And now for this pre-chorus. Mina and Jihyo leading into it sound great BUT JEONGYEON… Now, she is my ult bias, and this pre-chorus sounds almost identical to the first one, but the way she holds that final note, enunciating and holding that now~ for one more beat before the chorus drops sounds so perfect — the song teeters on a cliff edge. Jeongyeon slays pre-choruses.
Dropping into the second chorus and man, Jihyo powered through that first chorus, but the way Nayeon delivers it just hits different. She has this indescribable “pop” voice (I promise this wasn't on purpose) that stands out and shouts this is THE chorus. I think this is especially apparent in how both lead their choruses where Jihyo starts at 120% power while Nayeon waits until [Tell me] WHAT YOU WANT to full-send it. She also highlights “malhaebwa” in a similar way later in the chorus.
Another deullyeojweo ooh! Nayeon travels to Narnia, and Mina the engineer strikes again in this heavenly, underwater-esque bridge,

The simple words “I love you”
That’s all I wanna hear
Without hesitation, I’ll go up to you
I’ll make it simple
And just tell you I love you

The word “love” is said for the first time in the song. There’s a funky keyboard instrument behind Chaeyoung’s part. Jihyo, Chaeyoung, and Nayeon take the initiative in their lyrics, professing their love before closing the bridge.
And now for the pièce-de-résistance: this final double chorus is exceptional — 40 seconds of crack-laced euphoria; Jihyo switches up the chorus and the choreo, Dahyun chimes in with her fluttery “Talk that Talk”, Momo comes out of nowhere with “oh yeah it sounds so good!” — you’re damn right it does, and this is where the song SOARS.

han beon deo~ haejweo
geurae banggeum geu mal~

Nayeon outright shouts “Tell me what you need” and then Jeongyeon sings the above lines in such an ethereal, warm way where the first line ascends while the second line descends, causing a lull in the song before the finale with Nayeon, finishing off the song with the final deullyeojweo ooh! What a party. What a song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

Lyrics and theme-wise, if this were to have been TWICE’s last comeback, they’ve once again built upon the theme they've been doing since debut: a Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story.
This song’s chorus is honest yet simple; it asks the listener, in this case, the other half of the relationship, to be more upfront and open with their love (never be scared of love), that before the relationship can continue and flourish there has to be a foundation and commitment of love between each other.
TWICE debuted with a song about making your crush go ooh ahh. Years later, they started pondering “What is love?” and imagining their crush responding with “yes” when asking them out — and now concluding with the phrase “Talk that talk, [talk that] L-O-V-E”, being upfront with the relationship, wishing their partner to also be happy, to commit to them, to feel the love that they want to impart on them. From gawking like ooh-ahh to talking out your shared love like adults — to having a true relationship between (one and) two.
And can I just say before finishing off Talk that Talk's review that this is such a fun and repeatable song with many little intricacies hidden in the nonet’s vocals and the production. This is the third draft I’m writing about Talk that Talk and its original word count pretty much quadrupled.
Harkening back to TWICE’s roots by combining mature thinking with youthful character, an incredible ending to look forward to, and just simply being a club-banger that’s easy to listen to, TTT is an easy 10/10.



WATCH ME GO WATCH ME GO
RULE THE WORLD



Queen of Hearts 👑

Lead producer: LDN Noise of SM

If there was one B-side to promote in a live clip, this was a solid choice.
Helmed by LDN Noise going headlong into the Western boy-group rock-band aesthetic, Queen of Hearts is a boom-boom-clap song through and through. The drums are very prominent throughout the song, only giving room to riffs of electric guitar in the chorus to drive and continue the momentum of the music.
And speaking of the chorus, vocal line each got a chorus to flex and they did not fuck around,

You ain’t ready for it
Watch me go~ watch me go~
Rule the world
Know you never doubted baby
I’mma go run the whole universe~

Cymbals crashing, drums booming, and 3MIX belting all just so sound so good.

Baby I was born to rule~~
Yeah I’m the queen, I’m the queen
And it’s all because of you~~
That I’m the Queen of Hearts

These long, held-out notes performed by Jihyo and Nayeon are simply exquisite. Along with the shredding guitar, the drum set coming in full, and the interludes by Dahyun, Momo, and Chaeyoung, this is the part of the song that always, always, gives me goosebumps — it sounds so visceral, so energetic, so fun, so triumphant. Boom-boom-clap songs can be hit or miss with people, but there's no denying the payoff from the first part of the chorus to the second part is worth the wait.
The theme of the song so far has been kind of spread around the song. The chorus alludes to it with the line "And it’s all because of you." But Mina shows more sides of it in the second verse, especially with the phrase,

And now that I’m surrounded by all my girls
We be shining bright like diamonds and pearls

It sounds really lovely — in a very cheesy and affectionate kind of way, as it rightfully should — the song is about the girls and their fans. But the bridge is where the song indeed shows its colours

Screaming out my name
See it in the stage lights
Feel so lucky just to have ya
Cause I know deep down I was meant for something bigger! Greater!
I know you’re seeing what I see
Yeah I’ll be everything you need
I know I’m gonna walk the walk
And talk the talk to be~ [the Queen of Hearts]

This is a song CONCEIVED TO BE PERFORMED FOR THE FANS. It’s meant to be loud. It’s meant to be unapologetic. It’s meant to be sappy. And it’s all the more wonderful for it.
This is the TWICEiest shit ever.
Like Talk that Talk, Queen of Hearts also has a killer closer. The production already started to grow from the bridge, but now the guitarist finally went Super Saiyan and instead of supporting the drums, they both take the centrepiece in tandem.
Then finally, the closing moments of the song even manage to squeeze in some more sappiness.

So thank you for the memories
You’re all the ones who made me~
So thank you for the memories
That I’m the Queen of Hearts

I still can’t believe that this banger is a FAN SONG out of all things. Truly, the TWICEiest shit ever.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Life Highlight

I love these types of rock songs with how grunge and head-bang-able they are, there is just a certain nostalgic and cheesy quality to them that feels so cozy. I don’t love putting them on repeat, because in this case, I do believe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Perhaps more shredding, maybe a guitar solo to rock out to, or an accompaniment(!) of ad-libs from 3MIX to support Jihyo’s final chorus? A ONCE can dream of a truly bombastic rock song from TWICE. But then again that distracts from the core of what this song is: a fan song disguised as a rock song.
Queen of Hearts has so much sweetness in its lyrics and message that it's overflowing. The drums, guitar, and vocals can be as loud and intricate as they can, but the theme of this song is what makes it special from TWICE’s other rock songs — it’s a 9/10 for me.



I WANNA WANNA WANNA
TAKE YOU TO THE BASICS



Basics 🌈

Sole lyricist credit: Chaeyoung

Quite possibly the jammiest (pun intended) song of the album.
A song written by the Strawberry Princess herself — an event similar in frequency to other artists' releases with her last song being 2020’s silky Handle ItBasics first starts with an understated and dreamy delivery. After the first stanza, however, a bouncy Miami bass line emerges, revealing the true nature of the song: this is a classic summer bop! Especially in the first rap,

dareun aedeulgwaneun dalla
Ain’t beggin’ for love
nappeun geon anijana ige naraseo
eodiro twilji molla
Like rainbow bubble gum
geureoni nal kkwak butjabadweo

Syllables are pronounced in a relaxed nature, bars often starting with an "ah" sound, flirty lines in English — this rap features a production full of pop with R&B flourishes and, in my opinion, this is Chaeyoung’s bag. Also, the line "rainbow bubblegum" is so adorable and so Chaeyoung.

I wanna wanna wanna take it to the basics
da weonhae weonhae weonhae? seodureuji ma Baby
ppeonhae ppeonhae malhae mweohae da al tende
Ah yeah ah yeah ah yeah ah yeah

That chorus is pure pop with a Miami bass backing; you better be bopping your head to the melody, if not booty poppin' to the bassline. Chaeyoung loves rhyming in the first half of the chorus to enhance its catchiness and it's damn incredible: the “wanna”, “weonhae”, and “ppeonhae” all create these imperfect rhymes that continue momentum without feeling repetitive.
After the very Boy With Luv-sounding “ah yeah ah yeah, ah yeah ah yeah” comes an 8-bar split half and half between Chaeyoung and Momo. Coming from the chorus, the production completely cuts out for the first 2 bars. This adds tension; the song yearns to have that bass beat thumping again and all we have in the audio space in those 2 bars is Chaeyoung spittin' and she delivered.

taneun deut tteugeoun samak wie
yeppeuge pieonan jangmi gata
joshimseure naege dagaol ttae
nado moreuge jjilleobeoril tende

Translating to:

Above the hot, burning desert
It’s like a rose that bloomed beautifully
When you come to me slowly
I will prick you unconsciously

The rap feels slick, effortless, and confident. Her diction remains sharp when enunciating each syllable but she doesn’t let the flow of her rap waver or build as her 4 bars go by, it’s just smooth consistency throughout. Even the lyrics possess an aura of laid-back collectedness that is just so her. The things Chaeyoung can do when given her pen.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

This song is summer bliss distilled into 2:56. It’s dreamy, the raps are satisfying, and the ending is charming. I will say that although the second half of the song adds the stunning “spaceship” post-choruses and a floaty bridge with an incredible drumbeat drop into the final chorus, the raps of the song make it feel a bit front-loaded. And in an album stacked with awesome finishers, it feels more apparent.
With that said, it’s an 8/10 bop for me. This song is so easy to put on and it feels exactly what Chaeyoung would make if given the reins to produce a pop song all on her own. The lyrics are nonchalant but full of conviction, the wordplay is intricate, and the production playful but not too bombastic — it's just a nice vibe. Songs like Basics are the standard for good, simple, repeatable pop music and I’m happy that Chaeyoung got to test her pen in this genre.



BABY WE’RE IN
TROUBLE TROUBLE



Trouble 💃

Sole lyricist credit: Jihyo
Background vocals: Jihyo
Lead composer credit: Jihyo
Vocal director credit: Jihyo (an assumption given her contributions in First Time)

One of the most enjoyable songs I’ve heard in a while.
There is an underlying tension within the first 4 bars of the song, Jihyo and Nayeon confidently open it to a nondescript array of synths and then the stanza ends, Momo announces “Let’s go”, the beat drops and it hits you: this is a club song.
Dahyun's relaxed delivery contrasted with Jeongyeon's staccato flow, the wobbly synth beat with sprinkle of house piano, Sana dramatically slowing down the song only for Tzuyu to build it back up until the chorus drops,


This chorus is perfect. Toronto’s residential market needs this song injected into its veins because god damn this song has SO much house in it. And then, ANOTHER KILLING PART: this rap fucking slaps.

gamchweo bwatja geugeon Fake
ppajin hamjeongeun Sweet cake

During the first 2 bars, Chaeyoung is keeping it calm because that trip of a chorus just ended and the song needs a breather, but I don't think anyone expected her to SNAP this hard afterwards:

You cannot resist this
Cannot miss this, such a bliss
Ima put it down down
Oh yeah, better kiss kiss

Below is the structure of her this portion of the rap, I’m not that well versed in this technical aspect of music theory but I digress, this is all in the span of around 5 seconds where it’s:

Triplet-triplet
Quadruplet-triplet
Quadruplet-doublet
Doublet-quadruplet

Now, 25/5 = 5 syllables per second isn’t groundbreaking, but goddamn it these 2 bars sound so nice — if there is one part in this album that I always repeat, it’s this. The addition of that first quadruplet for “cannot miss this” in the midst of the triplets sticks out and accelerates the flow of the rap while the following doublets and quadruplets destabilize and slow the rap down as the verse closes. And can I just point out:
THE MAIN VOCALIST WROTE, DIRECTED, AND COMPOSED THIS SONG ‼
Chaeyoung of course delivered the fuck out of her verse but THIS is what you get when you have a member not only write the words they’re saying but also the melody and flow with which they sing it, when that member knows the others so well that when they write a song they know how to make the group exceed. This is what you get when the artists you stan love doing artist shit.
And. AND. That's not all — with how much I mentioned I love a good outro to close a song, this outro slaps as well:

Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trouble be-be
Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trouble bay-be
Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trouble bay-beh
Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trou-ble

Like, come on, Nayeon’s imitating a police siren for crying out loud. And this is all after her ad-libs in the final post-chorus; after the pianist going full tilt and playing that piano as if it was their last chance to ever play; after that final T W I C E chant by all the members come these blissful 20 seconds at the very end. What a song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

Need I say more, easy 9/10. The only reason I place Talk that Talk above Trouble is because of what that song represents but besides that, this is one of the best “international” sounds they’ve put out. Actually, I haven’t listened to Eyes wide open in a while but this song is up there with one of the most sonically pleasing pieces of work they’ve done.
Clubbing TWICE has always been a thing since TT was birthed in 2016, and has been a staple of their discography since 2019’s Fancy You and Feel Special mini albums, but Trouble unapologetically dives into and fits the house genre so well you’d think that this is TWICE’s bread and butter sound.
Trouble is Jihyo’s magnum opus. What a song.



BRAVE BRAVE BRAVE
FOR YOU



Brave 💖

Main producer: Slow Rabbit of HYBE

I first thought this was just a good song, then I read the lyrics.
Gentle guitar plucks, shimmering synths, a distant keyboard in the right ear, in the left a glockenspiel, the melodic oohs from the members — this song is PRETTY.

The night that was unusually dark
Above this terrifying world, felt so lonely
The world has grown in the time of wandering
So hard to breathe

Mina and Chaeyoung open the song with how they feel lonely and that it's hard to breathe and now suddenly the song feels bittersweet — I was not expecting the song to be this emotional. Brave describes a situation where the singer is in a darker place in life and it isn't until another person gives them hope by calling them 'brave' that they find the drive to keep going.
Once the chorus hits, the melodies pick up, more guitars get added — there’s even an electric guitar hidden in the mix somewhere, and the song drops the emotional front to reveal a mid-tempo pop song to dance to while crying in the club. The song as a whole still carries this melancholy feeling, but now with the added support of this chorus acting as a light amongst the gloom.
Continuing on in the second verse there's this gorgeous, well-placed break in the song that just lets it settle after that chorus. Only a seasoned producer would risk this much empty space in a song and Slow Rabbit went to fill those shoes.
Back to the chorus, I'll take this moment to once again commend Slow Rabbit with the mixing of the song, because 4MIX undoubtedly sounds good in the chorus, and the interludes from Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Mina also sound really good, but the clear highlight of the choruses are these lines:

Oh na na na neon nal naige hae [Momo, then Tzuyu, then Momo]
On and on and on
Brave brave brave for ya [Dahyun, then Chaeyoung, then Mina]
Oh na na na neon nal sum shwige hae [Sana, then Momo, then Sana]
On and on and on oh trust me babe

Momo, Sana, and Tzuyu form this beautiful, surprisingly catchy, second half of the chorus accompanied by a guitar drop. It should not turn out this well with how conflicting the "na"s are with the guitar melody but it creates this gentle bopping ebb and flow that feels so lush and mellow.
Diving into the bridge reveals that the listener of the song is revealed not only capable of supporting the singer through direct words but also through their thoughts and dreams. As can be discerned, this can be a song interpreted to be about ONCEs, about how they push TWICE to be their best selves despite the breathless hardships they face. It's a very sweet and touching song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

I’m actually spoiled with the TWICE members’ easy-to-understand songwriting that when a song like this pops up where it's not written by a member and the thematic bits are mostly in Korean, I tend to put it aside in favour of the other songs on the album. And, especially for a song focusing on a theme like this where the English phrases don’t do the Korean lyrics enough justice, it does place a bit of a barrier on the listening experience, dropping it down to a 7/10 from an 8/10.
With that anecdote out of the way, this song is just such a vibe, man. I know that sounds super hippy to say but Brave is so mellow and smooth that I can’t help but sway a little when that chorus hits. And then I remember what the lyrics say and I tear up a bit on the inside. This song is so pure, raw, and full of heart — we need more songs like these where they just reminisce about life while putting up an upbeat front. Don't mind me just crying while dancing the night away.
With that said, this isn't the first time this theme has been sung by TWICE either, they've long trodden this path of supportive, confiding, up-lifting songs with Young & Wild, Rainbow, Queen, Go Hard, Depend on You, even this album's Queen of Hearts, and, of course, Feel Special. Brave just adds another on top of an already stacked lineup, unique with its mellow somberness.
Also now feels like a good time to get into my rating system:



I SEE THE LIES
ON THE TIP OF YOUR TONGUE



Gone 💨

Sole lyricist credit: Dahyun

Who the fuck pissed off Dubu this time??
It’s getting quite rare to see TWICE pull off brand new sounds because, with now 190 original songs under their belt, they’ve done so many genres and sub-genres varying from hyper pop, to bossa nova, to whatever 2020’s Go Hard is. So it’s surprising to see they’ve still got tricks up their sleeves and Gone is one of them.
The song starts with strings swinging back and forth and vocal chops dancing from ear to ear, teasing what’s yet to come. Jihyo enters the song with a whisper and the song sets its pace. A stagnant drum pad moves the song along and typical song progression would have Mina continue the build but — it doesn’t. The song simmers, adding a hint of high hat to the pot. And then, Sana and Tzuyu come on and surely the buildup must boil over right?
Silence, until…

I see the LIES on the top of your tongue

The strings emerge again on full blast, the simmer rolls to a boil, and the anger of the song is revealed,

All the fate I had towards you
Fades like a fog, gone, gone
Your flipping mind of doing this and that
I’m tired of it, it’s meaningless
In the beginning, it was hard to believe
With that, hatred increases

The singer is so scorned and burned from this relationship that they reminisce about all the effort they’ve put in since the beginning, but their “partner” is so unconcerned that they’ve just about had enough of the relationship altogether.
This has been Dahyun’s thing since 2020’s Bring It Back, 2021’s Cruel, 2022’s That’s all I’m saying, and even 2023's Don't Blame It On Me — emotionally charged breakup songs that make you feel as if she’s gone through a dozen bad relationships. Dispatch, do your job better, or don't.
Another highlight of the song is the post-chorus going into the bridge. This segment reiterates the structure from the first post-chorus — a barrage of drums supported by the rhythmic strumming of a bass guitar along with a consistent synth filling out the soundscape. But this time, it’s Dahyun and Chaeyoung on the rap:

I can’t stand it anymore [Dahyun]
My patience, invisible
I can’t find it, it’s all gone
Even if I try to turn back, it’s too late [Chaeyoung]
There’s no use anymore
It has left, it’s long gone
You, with flipping mind, you are out [Momo]
I know that you know what I’m talking about [Dahyun]
Nothing you could say that could turn this around
I’m gone

Continuing the disrespected theme of the song, Dahyun notes that she’s finally had enough with Chaeyoung adding that there’s no point salvaging what was once there for all of it is long gone. Momo and Dahyun round it off by telling the listener that there’s no point trying to reason with them or playing naive, they fucked up and there’s no coming back.
Can I just say, it's a bit of a shame that Chaeyoung’s rapping popped off in this album while Dahyun only has this one verse that she shares with Chaeyoung, but it just sounds so good how Dahyun eases in after the chorus with her light rapping tone transitioning into her singing. She even holds the “gone” in a little crescendo for some added pizzazz.
And, there’s no way I’m not going to talk about Momo’s vocals in this bridge. Damned if she only got 1 line to use it in, her lower register is incredible. She sounds so smooth singing in this tone. All of TWICE do in particular and there is nary a weak vocal performance in this album.
To close the song off, a wash of synths gets to have their shine in the spotlight, showered with Nayeon’s belting, signifying the dramatic and drawn-out conclusion of this partnership.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

Going back to that point about the first post-chorus as a whole; songs that have the production continue unchanged into the post-chorus/2nd verse are very hit or miss for me — see TWICE's Don't Call Me Again for an overbearing example. The post-chorus going into the bridge contrasts Dahyun’s light tone nicely with the hard-hitting production, continuing the energy until it slowly fades into silence at the end of the bridge.
Back to the song as a whole, as much as TWICE has been experimenting with their sound for the past 4 years now, I’m happy they’re still finding new ways to explore what they’re capable of. And for that alone, even though I’m not a big fan of songs like these where they rely on sounding “big”, Dahyun’s lyricism and the thrill I receive every time I indulge myself in this song when I listen to it for the first time in a while elevates it to an 8/10. Keep on breaking hearts, Dubu.



INVINCIBLE
SUPERHEROES



When We Were Kids 🧸

Sole lyricist credit: Dahyun

Press play to reminisce, pull up lyrics to cry.
This song is so beautiful. I’m totally not writing this song review, crying on the bus reminiscing about my childhood, while just having turned 21. I don’t know if these are happy or sad tears but this song is so beautiful either way.
Warm synths, muted piano, a gentle high hat, the younger members starting off the song — this has to be up there for one of the softest TWICE songs ever. And as it should, it’s one of the TWICEiest songs ever. And then Nayeon comes in,

Invincible superheroes, we wanted to be adults
To the higher, clearer world

The chords start swelling, the high hat keeps pace, and the harmonies come in,

Remember when we were kids
When we were kids, we didn’t know
If we could go back
I will love it even more
Remember when we were kids

Jihyo takes up the second half of the chorus as it drops, trading the strings for an almost R&B synth production — if choir R&B takes off, this song started it. The song relishes in this cacophony of warm sounds until returning to its sparse and peaceful verses.
This time, the hints of piano are louder, little twinkling synths begin to shimmer, the drum buildup comes and Jeongyeon drives the song straight into the chorus. No time for the strings to build like in Nayeon’s — this song loves its chorus so much.
And I'll just take this time to appreciate the amount of Jeongyeon vocals in this album. Her voice is so clean, stable, and projected — but also more tender and soft compared to the more pronounced tones of Nayeon and Jihyo.
The bridge comes in, repeating the phrase:

I wish that I could meet
Could meet the younger me

Giving the song time to rest, before building back up to the last chorus — this time led by Jihyo, completing the 3MIX trifecta. And interestingly enough, Chaeyoung follows up in the second half of the chorus, rather than another member of the vocal line. She really did pop off in this album.
As the last chorus begins to close, the percussion at its strongest, the harmonies on blast, the background vocals cranked up to their Sunday best, is the song going to end? Of course not! This is an album full of banger endings as if the songs don’t want to end, and When We Were Kids being the album closer very much indulges in that feeling.
After a brief refrain, accented by Nayeon’s high note with a touch of vibrato, the song almost dives back into a fourth chorus. Nayeon and Jeongyeon harmonize — a rare and heavenly moment. And the song repeats the bridge, reiterating that they want to meet their younger selves, this time with the lush chorus production before closing with silence, a few piano notes, and Tzuyu singing the last line of the song:

Oh, we were kids

Reflection, acceptance, hope. What a song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

I wrote the first part of this review in November 2022. Then university, life, and other things got in the way of my headspace for me to feel confident about wrapping all of this up. In a way, I felt like I just didn’t want this review to end because of the joy that writing gives me — I didn’t want the happiness to end. And then it hit me, after watching a YouTuber rank animated movies and them placing Spirited Away at the top and explaining 'why' reminded me of just how important growing up is, and by extension this song.
This theme is important for both the rookie TWICE members in 2015 and the teenagers who would follow their journey and grow up with them, facing life’s obstacles along the way. Hardships that used to only involve family, crushes, and social media, evolve into work, commitments and all the struggles that adult life brings. Being a kid and enjoying the simple things in life is one of the most sought-after moments we want to relive because we took growing up for granted. The only thing we can do now is look back on ourselves with fondness and rose-tinted lenses.
TWICE’s original marketing was to resonate with people through their senses and their hearts. That was during their debut, and I think it still holds up today. In my opinion, touching people through their emotions is what TWICE does best and makes them one of K-pop’s all-time greats. It was never about having the best numbers — it was always about being the best idols. And to think that this journey of maturation and growth would occur from 2015 all the way to this song, being a fitting nod to TWICE’s 7th anniversary, I don’t think anyone at the company nor the group would ever imagine that they would get this far. It’s these nine women or none — 9/10.
This song honestly deserves a 10/10 with how much I noticed other people reminiscing their childhoods after I heard this song, it is such a widely-relatable message, but I am determined to limit myself to one 10/10 song per album and if I were to pick between TTT and WWWK, I'd give it to the one's that's more repeatable — Talk that Talk just has this electric energy about it.



Epilogue

And finally here is the end. If you made it in one sitting then I commend you, because I could not write this mess in one sitting. As alluded to, I started writing this album review sometime in October, after a series of edits the first draft was finished in March, and now here's the final draft in June.
I love this album. It got me through some important parts of my life, both good and bad, and it's just a wonderful listen throughout. Reliving this album again before finally completing the review has been an exciting journey. Brave hit me harder this time, after being overshadowed by the other gems of this album, and WWWK finally got me to tear up and not just be emotionally satisfied.
I feel like there's something for everyone on this album. From the exhilarating thrills of TTT to the anthemic euphoria of QoH, the clubbing dichotomy of Trouble and Brave to the blissful glee of Basics, and the sweet reminiscence of WWWK to the thundering anger that is Gone. Like Eyes wide open, I liken Between 1&2 to a pop music taste platter — there's such an eclectic mix of pop, music in this album that there's bound to be a song that someone will love, like, and dislike.
Is this album perfect? I don't think so, but it's close — it was certainly my 2022 AOTY. Was this review biased? Absolutely. I've been a fan since 2019 and with the themes in this album, I also feel like it was biased towards me as a ONCE. And how would I rank the album in TWICE's catalogue? It's honestly at the top, at least with EPs — I also felt that way towards Feel Special but then this album was birthed so I'm excited for TWICE's future.
Ready To Be was also a stunning album and Eyes wide open frankly also deserved the spotlight that Formula of Love received so I might hit those next but no promises; this album took long enough to bake.
As for the performances, I've only seen Twitter clips (no fancams to not spoil myself) and I am SO EXCITED to finally see them in July. QoH was as glorious as expected, Brave was a delightful surprise, and WWWK, while not being the concert closer everyone expected it to be, paired up nicely with Crazy Stupid Love. And of course the bombastic addition of the dance break to TTT. But, this is not a concert review, and this is where this album review ends.
Feel free to comment with any thoughts regarding the album, other TWICE albums, and any suggestions for my writing in general. Congrats again on making it this far!
God, I love this album.
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2023.06.03 19:00 Daniele86 Odacité California Skin Care Samples W/pouch New, Try Before You Buy 3 Samples

Odacité California Skin Care Samples W/pouch New, Try Before You Buy 3 Samples submitted by Daniele86 to u/Daniele86 [link] [comments]


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2023.06.03 04:11 Aurora_8888 He reminds of Duan Yu of Demi Gods Semi Devil's like this (photos are Hou Ming Hao 侯明昊 BTS photos while filming Shao Nian Bai Ma Zhui Chun Feng the prequel of The Blood of Youth)

He reminds of Duan Yu of Demi Gods Semi Devil's like this (photos are Hou Ming Hao 侯明昊 BTS photos while filming Shao Nian Bai Ma Zhui Chun Feng the prequel of The Blood of Youth) submitted by Aurora_8888 to CDrama [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 23:47 smolcrackheadenergy TWICE Between 1&2 Album Review


Intro

To preface this review, I just need to say that this is going to be a very, long read. Going through it myself just for the fun of it takes around 30 minutes — it's almost 7k words of text, including lyrical references. So for the best experience, listen to the album beforehand to understand what the hell I was thinking when I wrote this review, play the album while reading, and set a good amount of time aside.
And yes, this is 9 months late 😭 I'm not sorry — when I find an album review online it's always around a paragraph per song or even shorter. It makes sense from a journalistic perspective, but I want to do this album justice, hence taking 7 months to write out all my thoughts.
This shit is comprehensive and definitely overanalyzed, especially in Talk that Talk and Trouble. Each song review will compose of my commentary going over the song, noting the details I noticed through months of listening, then a conclusion. Also, mild swearing warning, I like implementing a touch of "French" when I'm very emotional about something. Anyway, onto the review!



Between 1&2 💞

Album Review



TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT
TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED



Talk that Talk 🎙

Lead producer: collapsedone

One of the most perfect TWICE songs.
I think this is one of TWICE’s best-sounding title tracks. Warm modulated synths, a thrumming bass line, distant bells, shimmering synths — the purpose of this song is to be fun and my god is it excellent at it, like… Sana and Chaeyoung are saying knock-knock-knock and beep-beep-beep as if they’re some kind of car. So much fun.
Further along in the verse, Dahyun’s voice sounds so full and smooth with that layered harmony. Tzuyu coming with the Yes or Yes, Push & Pull, and 1 to 10 references — these are 5 years of song references. And Jeongyeon closes the pre-chorus accompanied by a rising synth to drop into chorus one. Jeongyeon slays pre-choruses.
The drums accelerate, the synths start blasting, and Jihyo opens to that party of a chorus with her godly vocals,

Tell me what you want
Tell me what you need
A to Z da malhaebwa
But shijageun ireoke have
Talk that talk ttak han madi
Talk that talk L-O-V-E
deullyeojweo ooh
Now now now now now yeah~

During Sana's Talk that Talk~ lines there’s this gentle ascending synth bell that rings with the descending melody and it sounds absolutely gorgeous. And the choreography during that part of the chorus is so so so so fun: the talking hands bit, spelling L-O-V-E, concluding with the deullyeojweo ooh! Oh my Jihyo the deullyeojweo ooh
Have I mentioned this song is fun?
Speeding through verse 2; Chaeyoung’s part with the cat ears popping in the music video is adorable; Momo her stretching her arms out looks so damn cool; and Dahyun with her replay part sounds so lovely — although I think it sonically sounds a touch random, it makes sense thematically.
And now for this pre-chorus. Mina and Jihyo leading into it sound great BUT JEONGYEON… Now, she is my ult bias, and this pre-chorus sounds almost identical to the first one, but the way she holds that final note, enunciating and holding that now~ for one more beat before the chorus drops sounds so perfect — the song teeters on a cliff edge. Jeongyeon slays pre-choruses.
Dropping into the second chorus and man, Jihyo powered through that first chorus, but the way Nayeon delivers it just hits different. She has this indescribable “pop” voice (I promise this wasn't on purpose) that stands out and shouts this is THE chorus. I think this is especially apparent in how both lead their choruses where Jihyo starts at 120% power while Nayeon waits until [Tell me] WHAT YOU WANT to full-send it. She also highlights “malhaebwa” in a similar way later in the chorus.
Another deullyeojweo ooh! Nayeon travels to Narnia, and Mina the engineer strikes again in this heavenly, underwater-esque bridge,

The simple words “I love you”
That’s all I wanna hear
Without hesitation, I’ll go up to you
I’ll make it simple
And just tell you I love you

The word “love” is said for the first time in the song. There’s a funky keyboard instrument behind Chaeyoung’s part. Jihyo, Chaeyoung, and Nayeon take the initiative in their lyrics, professing their love before closing the bridge.
And now for the pièce-de-résistance: this final double chorus is exceptional — 40 seconds of crack-laced euphoria; Jihyo switches up the chorus and the choreo, Dahyun chimes in with her fluttery “Talk that Talk”, Momo comes out of nowhere with “oh yeah it sounds so good!” — you’re damn right it does, and this is where the song SOARS.

han beon deo~ haejweo
geurae banggeum geu mal~

Nayeon outright shouts “Tell me what you need” and then Jeongyeon sings the above lines in such an ethereal, warm way where the first line ascends while the second line descends, causing a lull in the song before the finale with Nayeon, finishing off the song with the final deullyeojweo ooh! What a party. What a song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

Lyrics and theme-wise, if this were to have been TWICE’s last comeback, they’ve once again built upon the theme they've been doing since debut: a Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story.
This song’s chorus is honest yet simple; it asks the listener, in this case, the other half of the relationship, to be more upfront and open with their love (never be scared of love), that before the relationship can continue and flourish there has to be a foundation and commitment of love between each other.
TWICE debuted with a song about making your crush go ooh ahh. Years later, they started pondering “What is love?” and imagining their crush responding with “yes” when asking them out — and now concluding with the phrase “Talk that talk, [talk that] L-O-V-E”, being upfront with the relationship, wishing their partner to also be happy, to commit to them, to feel the love that they want to impart on them. From gawking like ooh-ahh to talking out your shared love like adults — to having a true relationship between (one and) two.
And can I just say before finishing off Talk that Talk's review that this is such a fun and repeatable song with many little intricacies hidden in the nonet’s vocals and the production. This is the third draft I’m writing about Talk that Talk and its original word count pretty much quadrupled.
Harkening back to TWICE’s roots by combining mature thinking with youthful character, an incredible ending to look forward to, and just simply being a club-banger that’s easy to listen to, TTT is an easy 10/10.



WATCH ME GO WATCH ME GO
RULE THE WORLD



Queen of Hearts 👑

Lead producer: LDN Noise of SM

If there was one B-side to promote in a live clip, this was a solid choice.
Helmed by LDN Noise going headlong into the Western boy-group rock-band aesthetic, Queen of Hearts is a boom-boom-clap song through and through. The drums are very prominent throughout the song, only giving room to riffs of electric guitar in the chorus to drive and continue the momentum of the music.
And speaking of the chorus, vocal line each got a chorus to flex and they did not fuck around,

You ain’t ready for it
Watch me go~ watch me go~
Rule the world
Know you never doubted baby
I’mma go run the whole universe~

Cymbals crashing, drums booming, and 3MIX belting all just so sound so good.

Baby I was born to rule~~
Yeah I’m the queen, I’m the queen
And it’s all because of you~~
That I’m the Queen of Hearts

These long, held-out notes performed by Jihyo and Nayeon are simply exquisite. Along with the shredding guitar, the drum set coming in full, and the interludes by Dahyun, Momo, and Chaeyoung, this is the part of the song that always, always, gives me goosebumps — it sounds so visceral, so energetic, so fun, so triumphant. Boom-boom-clap songs can be hit or miss with people, but there's no denying the payoff from the first part of the chorus to the second part is worth the wait.
The theme of the song so far has been kind of spread around the song. The chorus alludes to it with the line "And it’s all because of you." But Mina shows more sides of it in the second verse, especially with the phrase,

And now that I’m surrounded by all my girls
We be shining bright like diamonds and pearls

It sounds really lovely — in a very cheesy and affectionate kind of way, as it rightfully should — the song is about the girls and their fans. But the bridge is where the song indeed shows its colours

Screaming out my name
See it in the stage lights
Feel so lucky just to have ya
Cause I know deep down I was meant for something bigger! Greater!
I know you’re seeing what I see
Yeah I’ll be everything you need
I know I’m gonna walk the walk
And talk the talk to be~ [the Queen of Hearts]

This is a song CONCEIVED TO BE PERFORMED FOR THE FANS. It’s meant to be loud. It’s meant to be unapologetic. It’s meant to be sappy. And it’s all the more wonderful for it.
This is the TWICEiest shit ever.
Like Talk that Talk, Queen of Hearts also has a killer closer. The production already started to grow from the bridge, but now the guitarist finally went Super Saiyan and instead of supporting the drums, they both take the centrepiece in tandem.
Then finally, the closing moments of the song even manage to squeeze in some more sappiness.

So thank you for the memories
You’re all the ones who made me~
So thank you for the memories
That I’m the Queen of Hearts

I still can’t believe that this banger is a FAN SONG out of all things. Truly, the TWICEiest shit ever.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Life Highlight

I love these types of rock songs with how grunge and head-bang-able they are, there is just a certain nostalgic and cheesy quality to them that feels so cozy. I don’t love putting them on repeat, because in this case, I do believe there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Perhaps more shredding, maybe a guitar solo to rock out to, or an accompaniment(!) of ad-libs from 3MIX to support Jihyo’s final chorus? A ONCE can dream of a truly bombastic rock song from TWICE. But then again that distracts from the core of what this song is: a fan song disguised as a rock song.
Queen of Hearts has so much sweetness in its lyrics and message that it's overflowing. The drums, guitar, and vocals can be as loud and intricate as they can, but the theme of this song is what makes it special from TWICE’s other rock songs — it’s a 9/10 for me.



I WANNA WANNA WANNA
TAKE YOU TO THE BASICS



Basics 🌈

Sole lyricist credit: Chaeyoung

Quite possibly the jammiest (pun intended) song of the album.
A song written by the Strawberry Princess herself — an event similar in frequency to other artists' releases with her last song being 2020’s silky Handle ItBasics first starts with an understated and dreamy delivery. After the first stanza, however, a bouncy Miami bass line emerges, revealing the true nature of the song: this is a classic summer bop! Especially in the first rap,

dareun aedeulgwaneun dalla
Ain’t beggin’ for love
nappeun geon anijana ige naraseo
eodiro twilji molla
Like rainbow bubble gum
geureoni nal kkwak butjabadweo

Syllables are pronounced in a relaxed nature, bars often starting with an "ah" sound, flirty lines in English — this rap features a production full of pop with R&B flourishes and, in my opinion, this is Chaeyoung’s bag. Also, the line "rainbow bubblegum" is so adorable and so Chaeyoung.

I wanna wanna wanna take it to the basics
da weonhae weonhae weonhae? seodureuji ma Baby
ppeonhae ppeonhae malhae mweohae da al tende
Ah yeah ah yeah ah yeah ah yeah

That chorus is pure pop with a Miami bass backing; you better be bopping your head to the melody, if not booty poppin' to the bassline. Chaeyoung loves rhyming in the first half of the chorus to enhance its catchiness and it's damn incredible: the “wanna”, “weonhae”, and “ppeonhae” all create these imperfect rhymes that continue momentum without feeling repetitive.
After the very Boy With Luv-sounding “ah yeah ah yeah, ah yeah ah yeah” comes an 8-bar split half and half between Chaeyoung and Momo. Coming from the chorus, the production completely cuts out for the first 2 bars. This adds tension; the song yearns to have that bass beat thumping again and all we have in the audio space in those 2 bars is Chaeyoung spittin' and she delivered.

taneun deut tteugeoun samak wie
yeppeuge pieonan jangmi gata
joshimseure naege dagaol ttae
nado moreuge jjilleobeoril tende

Translating to:

Above the hot, burning desert
It’s like a rose that bloomed beautifully
When you come to me slowly
I will prick you unconsciously

The rap feels slick, effortless, and confident. Her diction remains sharp when enunciating each syllable but she doesn’t let the flow of her rap waver or build as her 4 bars go by, it’s just smooth consistency throughout. Even the lyrics possess an aura of laid-back collectedness that is just so her. The things Chaeyoung can do when given her pen.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

This song is summer bliss distilled into 2:56. It’s dreamy, the raps are satisfying, and the ending is charming. I will say that although the second half of the song adds the stunning “spaceship” post-choruses and a floaty bridge with an incredible drumbeat drop into the final chorus, the raps of the song make it feel a bit front-loaded. And in an album stacked with awesome finishers, it feels more apparent.
With that said, it’s an 8/10 bop for me. This song is so easy to put on and it feels exactly what Chaeyoung would make if given the reins to produce a pop song all on her own. The lyrics are nonchalant but full of conviction, the wordplay is intricate, and the production playful but not too bombastic — it's just a nice vibe. Songs like Basics are the standard for good, simple, repeatable pop music and I’m happy that Chaeyoung got to test her pen in this genre.



BABY WE’RE IN
TROUBLE TROUBLE



Trouble 💃

Sole lyricist credit: Jihyo
Background vocals: Jihyo
Lead composer credit: Jihyo
Vocal director credit: Jihyo (an assumption given her contributions in First Time)

One of the most enjoyable songs I’ve heard in a while.
There is an underlying tension within the first 4 bars of the song, Jihyo and Nayeon confidently open it to a nondescript array of synths and then the stanza ends, Momo announces “Let’s go”, the beat drops and it hits you: this is a club song.
Dahyun's relaxed delivery contrasted with Jeongyeon's staccato flow, the wobbly synth beat with sprinkle of house piano, Sana dramatically slowing down the song only for Tzuyu to build it back up until the chorus drops,


This chorus is perfect. Toronto’s residential market needs this song injected into its veins because god damn this song has SO much house in it. And then, ANOTHER KILLING PART: this rap fucking slaps.

gamchweo bwatja geugeon Fake
ppajin hamjeongeun Sweet cake

During the first 2 bars, Chaeyoung is keeping it calm because that trip of a chorus just ended and the song needs a breather, but I don't think anyone expected her to SNAP this hard afterwards:

You cannot resist this
Cannot miss this, such a bliss
Ima put it down down
Oh yeah, better kiss kiss

Below is the structure of her this portion of the rap, I’m not that well versed in this technical aspect of music theory but I digress, this is all in the span of around 5 seconds where it’s:

Triplet-triplet
Quadruplet-triplet
Quadruplet-doublet
Doublet-quadruplet

Now, 25/5 = 5 syllables per second isn’t groundbreaking, but goddamn it these 2 bars sound so nice — if there is one part in this album that I always repeat, it’s this. The addition of that first quadruplet for “cannot miss this” in the midst of the triplets sticks out and accelerates the flow of the rap while the following doublets and quadruplets destabilize and slow the rap down as the verse closes. And can I just point out:
THE MAIN VOCALIST WROTE, DIRECTED, AND COMPOSED THIS SONG ‼
Chaeyoung of course delivered the fuck out of her verse but THIS is what you get when you have a member not only write the words they’re saying but also the melody and flow with which they sing it, when that member knows the others so well that when they write a song they know how to make the group exceed. This is what you get when the artists you stan love doing artist shit.
And. AND. That's not all — with how much I mentioned I love a good outro to close a song, this outro slaps as well:

Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trouble be-be
Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trouble bay-be
Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trouble bay-beh
Woo wee woo wee woo
I like this trou-ble

Like, come on, Nayeon’s imitating a police siren for crying out loud. And this is all after her ad-libs in the final post-chorus; after the pianist going full tilt and playing that piano as if it was their last chance to ever play; after that final T W I C E chant by all the members come these blissful 20 seconds at the very end. What a song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

Need I say more, easy 9/10. The only reason I place Talk that Talk above Trouble is because of what that song represents but besides that, this is one of the best “international” sounds they’ve put out. Actually, I haven’t listened to Eyes wide open in a while but this song is up there with one of the most sonically pleasing pieces of work they’ve done.
Clubbing TWICE has always been a thing since TT was birthed in 2016, and has been a staple of their discography since 2019’s Fancy You and Feel Special mini albums, but Trouble unapologetically dives into and fits the house genre so well you’d think that this is TWICE’s bread and butter sound.
Trouble is Jihyo’s magnum opus. What a song.



BRAVE BRAVE BRAVE
FOR YOU



Brave 💖

Main producer: Slow Rabbit of HYBE

I first thought this was just a good song, then I read the lyrics.
Gentle guitar plucks, shimmering synths, a distant keyboard in the right ear, in the left a glockenspiel, the melodic oohs from the members — this song is PRETTY.

The night that was unusually dark
Above this terrifying world, felt so lonely
The world has grown in the time of wandering
So hard to breathe

Mina and Chaeyoung open the song with how they feel lonely and that it's hard to breathe and now suddenly the song feels bittersweet — I was not expecting the song to be this emotional. Brave describes a situation where the singer is in a darker place in life and it isn't until another person gives them hope by calling them 'brave' that they find the drive to keep going.
Once the chorus hits, the melodies pick up, more guitars get added — there’s even an electric guitar hidden in the mix somewhere, and the song drops the emotional front to reveal a mid-tempo pop song to dance to while crying in the club. The song as a whole still carries this melancholy feeling, but now with the added support of this chorus acting as a light amongst the gloom.
Continuing on in the second verse there's this gorgeous, well-placed break in the song that just lets it settle after that chorus. Only a seasoned producer would risk this much empty space in a song and Slow Rabbit went to fill those shoes.
Back to the chorus, I'll take this moment to once again commend Slow Rabbit with the mixing of the song, because 4MIX undoubtedly sounds good in the chorus, and the interludes from Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Mina also sound really good, but the clear highlight of the choruses are these lines:

Oh na na na neon nal naige hae [Momo, then Tzuyu, then Momo]
On and on and on
Brave brave brave for ya [Dahyun, then Chaeyoung, then Mina]
Oh na na na neon nal sum shwige hae [Sana, then Momo, then Sana]
On and on and on oh trust me babe

Momo, Sana, and Tzuyu form this beautiful, surprisingly catchy, second half of the chorus accompanied by a guitar drop. It should not turn out this well with how conflicting the "na"s are with the guitar melody but it creates this gentle bopping ebb and flow that feels so lush and mellow.
Diving into the bridge reveals that the listener of the song is revealed not only capable of supporting the singer through direct words but also through their thoughts and dreams. As can be discerned, this can be a song interpreted to be about ONCEs, about how they push TWICE to be their best selves despite the breathless hardships they face. It's a very sweet and touching song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

I’m actually spoiled with the TWICE members’ easy-to-understand songwriting that when a song like this pops up where it's not written by a member and the thematic bits are mostly in Korean, I tend to put it aside in favour of the other songs on the album. And, especially for a song focusing on a theme like this where the English phrases don’t do the Korean lyrics enough justice, it does place a bit of a barrier on the listening experience, dropping it down to a 7/10 from an 8/10.
With that anecdote out of the way, this song is just such a vibe, man. I know that sounds super hippy to say but Brave is so mellow and smooth that I can’t help but sway a little when that chorus hits. And then I remember what the lyrics say and I tear up a bit on the inside. This song is so pure, raw, and full of heart — we need more songs like these where they just reminisce about life while putting up an upbeat front. Don't mind me just crying while dancing the night away.
With that said, this isn't the first time this theme has been sung by TWICE either, they've long trodden this path of supportive, confiding, up-lifting songs with Young & Wild, Rainbow, Queen, Go Hard, Depend on You, even this album's Queen of Hearts, and, of course, Feel Special. Brave just adds another on top of an already stacked lineup, unique with its mellow somberness.
Also now feels like a good time to get into my rating system:



I SEE THE LIES
ON THE TIP OF YOUR TONGUE



Gone 💨

Sole lyricist credit: Dahyun

Who the fuck pissed off Dubu this time??
It’s getting quite rare to see TWICE pull off brand new sounds because, with now 190 original songs under their belt, they’ve done so many genres and sub-genres varying from hyper pop, to bossa nova, to whatever 2020’s Go Hard is. So it’s surprising to see they’ve still got tricks up their sleeves and Gone is one of them.
The song starts with strings swinging back and forth and vocal chops dancing from ear to ear, teasing what’s yet to come. Jihyo enters the song with a whisper and the song sets its pace. A stagnant drum pad moves the song along and typical song progression would have Mina continue the build but — it doesn’t. The song simmers, adding a hint of high hat to the pot. And then, Sana and Tzuyu come on and surely the buildup must boil over right?
Silence, until…

I see the LIES on the top of your tongue

The strings emerge again on full blast, the simmer rolls to a boil, and the anger of the song is revealed,

All the fate I had towards you
Fades like a fog, gone, gone
Your flipping mind of doing this and that
I’m tired of it, it’s meaningless
In the beginning, it was hard to believe
With that, hatred increases

The singer is so scorned and burned from this relationship that they reminisce about all the effort they’ve put in since the beginning, but their “partner” is so unconcerned that they’ve just about had enough of the relationship altogether.
This has been Dahyun’s thing since 2020’s Bring It Back, 2021’s Cruel, 2022’s That’s all I’m saying, and even 2023's Don't Blame It On Me — emotionally charged breakup songs that make you feel as if she’s gone through a dozen bad relationships. Dispatch, do your job better, or don't.
Another highlight of the song is the post-chorus going into the bridge. This segment reiterates the structure from the first post-chorus — a barrage of drums supported by the rhythmic strumming of a bass guitar along with a consistent synth filling out the soundscape. But this time, it’s Dahyun and Chaeyoung on the rap:

I can’t stand it anymore [Dahyun]
My patience, invisible
I can’t find it, it’s all gone
Even if I try to turn back, it’s too late [Chaeyoung]
There’s no use anymore
It has left, it’s long gone
You, with flipping mind, you are out [Momo]
I know that you know what I’m talking about [Dahyun]
Nothing you could say that could turn this around
I’m gone

Continuing the disrespected theme of the song, Dahyun notes that she’s finally had enough with Chaeyoung adding that there’s no point salvaging what was once there for all of it is long gone. Momo and Dahyun round it off by telling the listener that there’s no point trying to reason with them or playing naive, they fucked up and there’s no coming back.
Can I just say, it's a bit of a shame that Chaeyoung’s rapping popped off in this album while Dahyun only has this one verse that she shares with Chaeyoung, but it just sounds so good how Dahyun eases in after the chorus with her light rapping tone transitioning into her singing. She even holds the “gone” in a little crescendo for some added pizzazz.
And, there’s no way I’m not going to talk about Momo’s vocals in this bridge. Damned if she only got 1 line to use it in, her lower register is incredible. She sounds so smooth singing in this tone. All of TWICE do in particular and there is nary a weak vocal performance in this album.
To close the song off, a wash of synths gets to have their shine in the spotlight, showered with Nayeon’s belting, signifying the dramatic and drawn-out conclusion of this partnership.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

Going back to that point about the first post-chorus as a whole; songs that have the production continue unchanged into the post-chorus/2nd verse are very hit or miss for me — see TWICE's Don't Call Me Again for an overbearing example. The post-chorus going into the bridge contrasts Dahyun’s light tone nicely with the hard-hitting production, continuing the energy until it slowly fades into silence at the end of the bridge.
Back to the song as a whole, as much as TWICE has been experimenting with their sound for the past 4 years now, I’m happy they’re still finding new ways to explore what they’re capable of. And for that alone, even though I’m not a big fan of songs like these where they rely on sounding “big”, Dahyun’s lyricism and the thrill I receive every time I indulge myself in this song when I listen to it for the first time in a while elevates it to an 8/10. Keep on breaking hearts, Dubu.



INVINCIBLE
SUPERHEROES



When We Were Kids 🧸

Sole lyricist credit: Dahyun

Press play to reminisce, pull up lyrics to cry.
This song is so beautiful. I’m totally not writing this song review, crying on the bus reminiscing about my childhood, while just having turned 21. I don’t know if these are happy or sad tears but this song is so beautiful either way.
Warm synths, muted piano, a gentle high hat, the younger members starting off the song — this has to be up there for one of the softest TWICE songs ever. And as it should, it’s one of the TWICEiest songs ever. And then Nayeon comes in,

Invincible superheroes, we wanted to be adults
To the higher, clearer world

The chords start swelling, the high hat keeps pace, and the harmonies come in,

Remember when we were kids
When we were kids, we didn’t know
If we could go back
I will love it even more
Remember when we were kids

Jihyo takes up the second half of the chorus as it drops, trading the strings for an almost R&B synth production — if choir R&B takes off, this song started it. The song relishes in this cacophony of warm sounds until returning to its sparse and peaceful verses.
This time, the hints of piano are louder, little twinkling synths begin to shimmer, the drum buildup comes and Jeongyeon drives the song straight into the chorus. No time for the strings to build like in Nayeon’s — this song loves its chorus so much.
And I'll just take this time to appreciate the amount of Jeongyeon vocals in this album. Her voice is so clean, stable, and projected — but also more tender and soft compared to the more pronounced tones of Nayeon and Jihyo.
The bridge comes in, repeating the phrase:

I wish that I could meet
Could meet the younger me

Giving the song time to rest, before building back up to the last chorus — this time led by Jihyo, completing the 3MIX trifecta. And interestingly enough, Chaeyoung follows up in the second half of the chorus, rather than another member of the vocal line. She really did pop off in this album.
As the last chorus begins to close, the percussion at its strongest, the harmonies on blast, the background vocals cranked up to their Sunday best, is the song going to end? Of course not! This is an album full of banger endings as if the songs don’t want to end, and When We Were Kids being the album closer very much indulges in that feeling.
After a brief refrain, accented by Nayeon’s high note with a touch of vibrato, the song almost dives back into a fourth chorus. Nayeon and Jeongyeon harmonize — a rare and heavenly moment. And the song repeats the bridge, reiterating that they want to meet their younger selves, this time with the lush chorus production before closing with silence, a few piano notes, and Tzuyu singing the last line of the song:

Oh, we were kids

Reflection, acceptance, hope. What a song.

THE GOOD
Needs Work
Core Memory

I wrote the first part of this review in November 2022. Then university, life, and other things got in the way of my headspace for me to feel confident about wrapping all of this up. In a way, I felt like I just didn’t want this review to end because of the joy that writing gives me — I didn’t want the happiness to end. And then it hit me, after watching a YouTuber rank animated movies and them placing Spirited Away at the top and explaining 'why' reminded me of just how important growing up is, and by extension this song.
This theme is important for both the rookie TWICE members in 2015 and the teenagers who would follow their journey and grow up with them, facing life’s obstacles along the way. Hardships that used to only involve family, crushes, and social media, evolve into work, commitments and all the struggles that adult life brings. Being a kid and enjoying the simple things in life is one of the most sought-after moments we want to relive because we took growing up for granted. The only thing we can do now is look back on ourselves with fondness and rose-tinted lenses.
TWICE’s original marketing was to resonate with people through their senses and their hearts. That was during their debut, and I think it still holds up today. In my opinion, touching people through their emotions is what TWICE does best and makes them one of K-pop’s all-time greats. It was never about having the best numbers — it was always about being the best idols. And to think that this journey of maturation and growth would occur from 2015 all the way to this song, being a fitting nod to TWICE’s 7th anniversary, I don’t think anyone at the company nor the group would ever imagine that they would get this far. It’s these nine women or none — 9/10.
This song honestly deserves a 10/10 with how much I noticed other people reminiscing their childhoods after I heard this song, it is such a widely-relatable message, but I am determined to limit myself to one 10/10 song per album and if I were to pick between TTT and WWWK, I'd give it to the one's that's more repeatable — Talk that Talk just has this electric energy about it.



Epilogue

And finally here is the end. If you made it in one sitting then I commend you, because I could not write this mess in one sitting. As alluded to, I started writing this album review sometime in October, after a series of edits the first draft was finished in March, and now here's the final draft in June.
I love this album. It got me through some important parts of my life, both good and bad, and it's just a wonderful listen throughout. Reliving this album again before finally completing the review has been an exciting journey. Brave hit me harder this time, after being overshadowed by the other gems of this album, and WWWK finally got me to tear up and not just be emotionally satisfied.
I feel like there's something for everyone on this album. From the exhilarating thrills of TTT to the anthemic euphoria of QoH, the clubbing dichotomy of Trouble and Brave to the blissful glee of Basics, and the sweet reminiscence of WWWK to the thundering anger that is Gone. Like Eyes wide open, I liken Between 1&2 to a pop music taste platter — there's such an eclectic mix of pop, music in this album that there's bound to be a song that someone will love, like, and dislike.
Is this album perfect? I don't think so, but it's close — it was certainly my 2022 AOTY. Was this review biased? Absolutely. I've been a fan since 2019 and with the themes in this album, I also feel like it was biased towards me as a ONCE. And how would I rank the album in TWICE's catalogue? It's honestly at the top, at least with EPs — I also felt that way towards Feel Special but then this album was birthed so I'm excited for TWICE's future.
Ready To Be was also a stunning album and Eyes wide open frankly also deserved the spotlight that Formula of Love received so I might hit those next but no promises; this album took long enough to bake.
As for the performances, I've only seen Twitter clips (no fancams to not spoil myself) and I am SO EXCITED to finally see them in July. QoH was as glorious as expected, Brave was a delightful surprise, and WWWK, while not being the concert closer everyone expected it to be, paired up nicely with Crazy Stupid Love. And of course the bombastic addition of the dance break to TTT. But, this is not a concert review, and this is where this album review ends.
Feel free to comment with any thoughts regarding the album, other TWICE albums, and any suggestions for my writing in general. Congrats again on making it this far!
God, I love this album.
submitted by smolcrackheadenergy to u/smolcrackheadenergy [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 23:24 TerrinX8 How to use NoVa/DMV public transport (Bus and DC Metro Guide)

First step, get a 'SmarTrip' card from your closest local metro station. (The cost is only $2 for the card itself and load any amount of money you want, it defaults at 10 but you can lower that, but 6 minimum is best)
You don't need to, but you can log it on the WMATA (DC Metro) website to track how much is on it at home. The card will work on ANY and ALL metro stations and public busses.

I typically use the Fairfax Connector bus service but if you're for example in Falls Church, which is technically independent and outside Fairfax County so it doesn't use the Fairfax Connector, instead the local DC/MD bus system, which is fine because they're all under the WMATA system which is insanely convenient. This also includes Loudoun County, Southern Maryland, etc, so just remember; SmarTrip cards are your friend.

Most WMATA bus fairs are $2 for 2 hours of unlimited rides/transfers between busses. So for example I got on a buss on weds to get home at 12:18 PM, using the 2$ left on my card. So I now had $0.00 on it but I was able to transfer to the bus home without issue, I got home at 1:20-ish.

Then my mom wanted me to drive her home for practice, and it was only 1:40 so I still had a good 35ish left and I caught the bus over to her work free, even though had no money on it, because of the 2 hour grace period. A round trip by bus is typically on $4. (Having a container of change is god tier, lemme tell you, I have fuck tons of quarters just in case. If I'm going to a station where I can use my debit card to load onto my metro card, I sometimes just slap 8 quarters in so I don't have to worry about money being on my card or not and I can add when I get to the station)

Rule of thumb, always be at a bus stop 5 minutes early, because while google maps and the bus schedule text line can be scary accurate, it's always better safe then sorry. Don't let dice rolls hold you back. Same for the metro, always try to go a bit early, just to give yourself more time for stuff like adding money but I'll get into that in a bit.

When on the bus, use google maps and the LED strip that reads out the stop names, once it gets to the stop right before yours, wait till the bus begins moving and then pull the stop cord. The bus driver will stop at the next stop, and not just in the middle of the street. So pulling the cord early just guarantees your stop is selected or they will keep going to save time.

On the metro, it's pretty ez, though prices can be confusing for non-frequent riders. Basically, from 5 am to 9 AM , and 3 PM to 7PM on weekdays, a one way trip can be anywhere from $2.25 - $6.00 depending on how far you go. No idea what "far" is, but usually most trips aren't long enough to reach the 6$ amount. Typically it can be around $3 - $4.25 ish for the average trip distance. 5 or less stops and you'll probably get the $2.25 minimum. - These are "peak" fares.

That leaves 9 AM through 3 PM on weekdays and all day on weekends as "Off Peak" fares, which are $2.00 - $3.85 based on distance. Any time AFTER 9:30 PM specifically are $2 flat.

Also, once you get off the metro after a ride, you still have the 2 hour free bus grace period which hecking dope as hell, so getting around after arriving isn't that bad.

Though I typically walk a lot in DC but I'm spry and full of energy lol, it's tortuous but I don't mind.

When you use your card on the bus and then get on the metro you get like, a 25 cent discount which is negligible but it's just a nice little bonus.

Extra bus tip, if you don'[t have quarters, not enough money on your card, and only like, a $5 bill, you can put in the $5 and then touch your card to the pad, and it will load the remaining $3 dollars onto your card. Hella nifty in a pinch.

Typically my rule of thumb is to have 6 dollars minimum on your card when getting on the metro on weekends and 12 dollars on weekdays. That will be enough to cover you round trip (because the bus fair will be free). Typically this way you often end up with some left over occasionally for bus rides and stuff for when you don't the extra quarters.

Also also if you only have like $1 - 1.75 on you, the bus drivers almost always let you on anyway. So while it's embarrassing, you'll still get where you're going with less issue than you'd realize.
Here's a good resolution map of the DC Metro for convenience too.
Big Circles are stations which allow for transfer between all overlapping lines
Be careful and ride safe! (Please add any extra tips or corrections in the comments!)
submitted by TerrinX8 to nova [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 21:26 Bard_of_Light [Spoilers Extended] LBJ: The Horned Demon of the Trident

Robert's Rebellion Theme Song: The Czar Mastodon
Don't stay; run away He has ordered assassination Don't stay; run away The henchmen are gathered and waiting Don't stay; run away Your role as usurper is found out
This is part of a series exploring the hidden motives and actions of the main players during Robert's Rebellion, named LBJ in reference to the influence of Lyndon B. Johnson and the Vietnam War on GRRM's views and writings on war. LBJ also indicates considerations over whether Lyanna + Bobby B = Jon Snow. Previous installments include:
Previous parts argued that Robert Baratheon was complicit in a plot to overthrow the Targaryen dynasty. This scheme used Rhaegar's mistaken crowning of Lyanna at Harrenhal to form a believable, malicious lie that the crown prince abducted her. Certain members of the infamous STAB alliance, with assistance from the Martells and Tywin Lannister, all secretly conspired together to place a pliable pawn as king, wrestling control from a dynasty that no longer had dragons to enforce their rule. Lurid evidence was given which shows Robert had Rhaegar tortured, as Cersei tortured the Blue Bard, and we also saw more subtle hints that Lyanna herself attempted to avenge her family at the Trident, with the aid of innate skinchanging abilities.
This part aims to provide additional evidence that Robert lived up to his moniker, the Demon of the Trident, casting him as close to black as grey can get. King Robert is an avatar for all the worst flaws of Westerosi culture, a man enabled to wield massive power who yet skirted any sense of responsibility and chose to commit a mountain of moral transgressions in service to his personal desires.
Robert's face was dark with anger. "How many times must I tell you to hold your tongue, woman?"
Cersei's face was a study in contempt. "What a jape the gods have made of us two," she said. "By all rights, you ought to be in skirts and me in mail."
Purple with rage, the king lashed out, a vicious backhand blow to the side of the head. She stumbled against the table and fell hard, yet Cersei Lannister did not cry out. Her slender fingers brushed her cheek, where the pale smooth skin was already reddening. On the morrow the bruise would cover half her face. "I shall wear this as a badge of honor," she announced.
- A Game of Thrones Eddard X

The Horned Demon of the Trident

Next had come King Robert himself, with Lady Stark on his arm. The king was a great disappointment to Jon. His father had talked of him often: the peerless Robert Baratheon, demon of the Trident, the fiercest warrior of the realm, a giant among princes. Jon saw only a fat man, red-faced under his beard, sweating through his silks. He walked like a man half in his cups.
- A Game of Thrones Jon I
tenor.com/view/gaston-antlers-gif-23720815
Robert Baratheon bears a striking resemblance to Gaston from Beauty & the Beast, who imprisons his romantic interest and lies to incite violence against a rival. Gaston is driven by jealousy of the Beast and humiliation over Belle's rejection. Disney’s adaptation of Beauty & the Beast was released in 1991, just five years before A Game of Thrones was published.
Video: Gaston Beauty & the Beast
Video: George RR Martin on Writing for Beauty and the Beast
Martin has shown keen interest in Beauty & the Beast; adapting the tale for TV in the late 80s was a high point of his career. He even named his bookstore in Santa Fe Beastly Books, and named the cinema next door for Jean Cocteau, who also adapted the tale and created an earlier version of Gaston). This concept of kidnapping one’s romantic interest and blaming it on a rival to incite violence also crops up in The Princess Bride, which Martin has stated is his favorite fantasy film after the Lord of the Rings series.
Behaving like Prince Humperdinck from The Princess Bride or Gaston from Beauty & the Beast, driven by rage over the incident at Harrenhal and a family history of Targaryen betrayal, Robert lied about his queen of love and beauty and made Rhaegar out to be a beast, having them both kidnapped (with the help of his allies) but pretending otherwise as a pretext to win the throne. He then had to bury this secret, as he would lose support if it was known that the rebellion was built on such a malicious lie.
Martin is obviously inspired by Disney. In the last part, we showed how the torture of the Blue Bard, ordered by Cersei to extract a confession to undermine Margaery, is meant to reflect the story of Snow White, in which her vain and wicked step-mother is told by a magic mirror that the princess is more beautiful, leading her to send a huntsman to kill her. The huntsman takes Snow White into the deep of the wood but lets her flee, presenting a boar’s heart to the evil queen instead. Similarly, Robert is a huntsman who is killed by a boar, with the aid of strongwine supplied by his evil queen. Additional elements of Disney's Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs can be seen in parallels between Robert's only loss at Ashford and Dunk's trial at the Ashford Tourney in The Hedge Knight.
When Dunk travels to the Ashford Tourney, he recites lyrics from the Seven Dwarf's song Heigh-ho.
Off to Ashford to see the fair maid, heigh-ho, heigh-ho, Dunk thought miserably as he dug.
- The Hedge Knight
Like Snow White had Seven Dwarfs to defend her, Dunk defended himself in a Trial by Seven at the Ashford Tourney, and Rhaegar was accompanied by half a dozen companions when he went missing, enough to defend himself in a Trial by Seven. A troupe of a half dozen comic dwarfs also appear in The Mystery Knight, using pig bladders, like Robert was piss-drunk when he was killed by a pig. Dunk was championed by Robert's grandfather, Lyonel Baratheon, who defeated Robert Ashford during the tourney. Lord Lyonel later rebelled against the Iron Throne, after Duncan the Small betrayed the Laughing Storm by breaking off a betrothal to his daughter, similar to how Rhaegar betrayed Robert by crowning his betrothed at the Harrenhal Tourney. Duncan the Small's betrayal led Egg to arrange a marriage between his daughter Rhaelle and Lyonel's heir, which put Robert Baratheon in the line of succession; this family history would color Robert's perception of Rhaegar's betrayal, driving him to improve upon his grandfather's revenge.
Steffon was the name given to Robert Baratheon's father; Dunk was betrayed by red-apple Steffon Fossoway at Ashford, which led his cousin Raymun to create an offshoot branch, the green-apple Fossoways. A tender, protective Fossoway husband is used at the Purple Wedding to demonstrate how callous it would have been for Rhaegar to intentionally crown another women with his pregnant, delicate wife Princess Elia present. A poison apple brings down Snow White, after the evil queen discovers the huntsman replaced her heart with a boar's heart, conjuring up Robert's death scene which reminds Ned of his promise to Lyanna:
“Serve the boar at my funeral feast,” Robert rasped. “Apple in its mouth, skin seared crisp. Eat the bastard. Don’t care if you choke on him. Promise me, Ned.”
“I promise.” Promise me, Ned, Lyanna’s voice echoed.
- A Game of Thrones Eddard XIII
"The quarrel between Green and Red Apple Fossoway in the Hedge Knight story is another example of 'discordant apples'... At a tournament of all places." - The Blue Rose of Discord by u/Bronze_Age_472
The reason for the Trojan War according to myth, was a beauty contest. Three contestants were seeking someone to judge their beauty; Hera, Athena and Aphrodite. Aphrodite won the contest, but only after she bribed Paris with Helen wife of Menelaus. Paris the judge, votes for Aphrodite by giving her an Apple. The other goddesses were furious and the conflict escalated out of control. The Greeks rallied around Menelaus and went to war with Troy.
The Blue Rose is a metaphorical "apple of discord". Like the apple of discord, it is nothing by itself, but in the right context leads to a larger conflict. It symbolizes how small things can create huge conflicts, how things quickly spin out of control. When Rhaegar gave the crown to Lyanna, nobody was happy... Just like the Judgement of Paris right before the Trojan War.
Like Rhaegar and Lyanna are often compared to Paris and Helen, figures of the mythical Trojan War, Robert is clearly meant to be considered relative to a maiden's fantasy, such as Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs or Beauty & the Beast:
Would that Ned had been able to say the same. Fifteen years past, when they had ridden forth to win a throne, the Lord of Storm’s End had been clean-shaven, clear-eyed, and muscled like a maiden’s fantasy. Six and a half feet tall, he towered over lesser men, and when he donned his armor and the great antlered helmet of his House, he became a veritable giant. He’d had a giant’s strength too, his weapon of choice a spiked iron warhammer that Ned could scarcely lift. In those days, the smell of leather and blood had clung to him like perfume.
- A Game of Thrones Eddard I
In the last part, we used the evil queen's magic mirror from Snow White to provide insight into Robert through Cersei. Like he projected Lyanna onto Cersei on their wedding night, Robert projects his own actions onto Rhaegar, while caressing the cheek of Lyanna's statue and secretly lamenting to himself that he was with her sexually just once:
The king touched her cheek, his fingers brushing across the rough stone as gently as if it were living flesh. “I vowed to kill Rhaegar for what he did to her.”
“You did,” Ned reminded him.
“Only once,” Robert said bitterly.
- A Game of Thrones Eddard I
This subtext is mirrored by Jon Connington's love for Rhaegar, as he laments that Rhaegar ass-ended his tower only once. Connington then states that all the women cried to Rhaegar's music, like Lyanna cried at Harrenhal, reinforcing the link between this passage and the scene in the crypts.
Yet when they parted, Jon Connington did not go to the sept. Instead his steps led him up to the roof of the east tower, the tallest at Griffin's Roost. As he climbed he remembered past ascents—a hundred with his lord father, who liked to stand and look out over woods and crags and sea and know that all he saw belonged to House Connington, and one (only one!) with Rhaegar Targaryen. Prince Rhaegar was returning from Dorne, and he and his escort had lingered here a fortnight. He was so young then, and I was younger. Boys, the both of us. At the welcoming feast, the prince had taken up his silver-stringed harp and played for them. A song of love and doom, Jon Connington recalled, and every woman in the hall was weeping when he put down the harp. Not the men, of course. Particularly not his own father, whose only love was land. Lord Armond Connington spent the entire evening trying to win the prince to his side in his dispute with Lord Morrigen.
- A Dance with Dragons The Griffon Reborn
Robert's false accusation of rape mirrors Lord Mathis Rowan's daughter's lie which landed Dareon, a singer and harpist, like Rhaegar, on the Wall.
It made her angry to see Dareon sitting there so brazen, making eyes at Lanna as his fingers danced across the harp strings.
_
He is a man of the Night's Watch, she thought, as he sang about some stupid lady throwing herself off some stupid tower because her stupid prince was dead. The lady should go kill the ones who killed her prince. And the singer should be on the Wall.
- A Feast for Crows Cat of the Canals
Jon Snow ends up at the Wall as an indirect consequence of Rhaegar being falsely accused of the rape of Lyanna. Jon later betrays the Watch to save (fake) Arya and is murdered as a result, like Arya murders Dareon for desertion; if she understood why Dareon took the black, maybe she'd be more forgiving of his betrayal. She might not be, because of the same conditioning that prevents Ned from showing mercy to Gared after he was chased south of the Wall by a direwolf. Likewise, if Rhaegar told Robert that he crowned Lyanna by mistake, Robert would still be unable to forgive the public humiliation he suffered as a result. And so despite Rhaegar's willingness to defend himself in a Trial by Seven, Robert went along with the rebel's plot to overthrow the Targaryen dynasty, which involved abducting both Rhaegar and Lyanna, and stashing her in a tower for the duration of the rebellion.
He found himself thinking of Robert more and more. He saw the king as he had been in the flower of his youth, tall and handsome, his great antlered helm on his head, his warhammer in hand, sitting his horse like a horned god. He heard his laughter in the dark, saw his eyes, blue and clear as mountain lakes. “Look at us, Ned,” Robert said. “Gods, how did we come to this? You here, and me killed by a pig. We won a throne together …”
- A Game of Thrones Eddard XV
Horny as ever and near the tower of joy, travelling alone to maintain his secrets, Robert sought out his lady love after his only defeat at Ashford; fear of death has a way of driving men back into the womb. Robert claimed Lyanna at the tower she was imprisoned in, and she used his hunting knife, the one given to him as a gift from Jon Arryn, to defend herself.
Remember what Ygritte told Jon Snow, outside of the tower Queenscrown?
“A man can own a woman or a man can own a knife,” Ygritte told him, “but no man can own both. Every little girl learns that from her mother.”
- A Storm of Swords Jon V
https://preview.redd.it/eu2s4590dn3b1.jpg?width=953&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=ccfb8d31abe50ef2b7c5201a7dd3addc95a2f02f
A teenage human trafficking victim who was initially charged with first-degree murder after she stabbed her accused rapist to death was sentenced Tuesday in an Iowa court to five years of closely supervised probation and ordered to pay $150,000 restitution to the man’s family.
Speaking of knives...
King Robert sent the Catspaw by u/M_Tootles:
If blaming a Targaryen for his own misdeeds worked once, why wouldn’t Robert try it again?
This was something else: poison in the dark, a knife thrust to the soul. This he could never forgive, no more than he had forgiven Rhaegar. He will kill them all, Ned realized.
- A Game of Thrones Eddard XII
Sometime after his loss at Ashford, Robert appeared at Stoney Sept wounded and alone, while waiting for Ned to bring reinforcements from the North.
He had lost it all at Stoney Sept, in his arrogance.
Robert Baratheon had been hiding somewhere in the town, wounded and alone. Jon Connington had known that, and he had also known that Robert's head upon a spear would have put an end to the rebellion, then and there. He was young and full of pride. How not? King Aerys had named him Hand and given him an army, and he meant to prove himself worthy of that trust, of Rhaegar's love. He would slay the rebel lord himself and carve a place out for himself in all the histories of the Seven Kingdoms.
- A Dance with Dragons The Griffin Reborn
Robert fathered his bastard Bella in a brothel before the Battle of the Bells, a nod to Belle from Beauty & the Beast. This is just one of many acts that depicts his bestial nature; despite being in the midst of a war he claims to be fighting for Lyanna, Robert still found time to fuck all the whores at the Peach:
As she sat in the common room in her stupid girl clothes, Arya remembered what Syrio Forel had told her, the trick of looking and seeing what was there. When she looked, she saw more serving wenches than any inn could want, and most of them young and comely. And come evenfall, lots of men started coming and going at the Peach. They did not linger long in the common room, not even when Tom took out his woodharp and began to sing “Six Maids in a Pool.” The wooden steps were old and steep, and creaked something fierce whenever one of the men took a girl upstairs. “I bet this is a brothel,” she whispered to Gendry.
“You don’t even know what a brothel is.”
“I do so,” she insisted. “It’s like an inn, with girls.”
He was turning red again. “What are you doing here, then?” he demanded. “A brothel’s no fit place for no bloody highborn lady, everybody knows that.”
One of the girls sat down on the bench beside him. “Who’s a highborn lady? The little skinny one?” She looked at Arya and laughed. “I’m a king’s daughter myself.”
Arya knew she was being mocked. “You are not.”
“Well, I might be.” When the girl shrugged, her gown slipped off one shoulder. “They say King Robert fucked my mother when he hid here, back before the battle. Not that he didn’t have all the other girls too, but Leslyn says he liked my ma the best.”
The girl did have hair like the old king’s, Arya thought; a great thick mop of it, as black as coal. That doesn’t mean anything, though. Gendry has the same kind of hair too. Lots of people have black hair.
“I’m named Bella,” the girl told Gendry. “For the battle. I bet I could ring your bell, too. You want to?”
- A Storm of Swords Arya V
This bestial nature and Ned's willingness to enable it is put on full display when Robert returns to the Trident in A Game of Thrones. Robert allows Lady and Mycah to be killed as vengeance for Joffrey’s injury, despite later admitting he knew his heir was lying. Joffrey sustained this injury at the Trident because he drunkenly misperceived the fight between Arya and the butcher’s boy, and cruelly acted on his ‘chivalric duty’ to defend noble ladies. Likewise, Robert (and everyone else) misperceived Rhaegar’s intent when he crowned Lyanna, and his fervor for vengeance led him to go along with a plot to abduct her and pin the blame on Rhaegar, like Joffrey lied about what transpired during the fight. Both Lady the direwolf and wolf-blooded Lyanna were held accountable for crimes they were innocent of; Lyanna’s crowning may have suggested to Robert that she actively enticed Rhaegar, like rape victims are routinely scrutinized for their attire and other non-sexual behaviors to suggest they somehow invited their rapes. Ned went along with these obviously unjust actions, out of loyalty to his friend and king, and to prevent further harm to his family.
All Ned could do was take her in his arms and hold her while she wept. He looked across the room at Robert. His old friend, closer than any brother. “Please, Robert. For the love you bear me. For the love you bore my sister. Please.”
The king looked at them for a long moment, then turned his eyes on his wife.
“Damn you, Cersei,” he said with loathing.
Ned stood, gently disengaging himself from Sansa’s grasp. All the weariness of the past four days had returned to him. “Do it yourself then, Robert,” he said in a voice cold and sharp as steel. “At least have the courage to do it yourself.”
Robert looked at Ned with flat, dead eyes and left without a word, his footsteps heavy as lead. Silence filled the hall.
“Where is the direwolf?” Cersei Lannister asked when her husband was gone. Beside her, Prince Joffrey was smiling.
“The beast is chained up outside the gatehouse, Your Grace,” Ser Barristan Selmy answered reluctantly.
“Send for Ilyn Payne.”
“No,” Ned said. “Jory, take the girls back to their rooms and bring me Ice.” The words tasted of bile in his throat, but he forced them out. “If it must be done, I will do it.”
Cersei Lannister regarded him suspiciously. “You, Stark? Is this some trick? Why would you do such a thing?”
They were all staring at him, but it was Sansa’s look that cut. “She is of the north. She deserves better than a butcher.”
He left the room with his eyes burning and his daughter’s wails echoing in his ears, and found the direwolf pup where they chained her. Ned sat beside her for a while. “Lady,” he said, tasting the name. He had never paid much attention to the names the children had picked, but looking at her now, he knew that Sansa had chosen well. She was the smallest of the litter, the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting. She looked at him with bright golden eyes, and he ruffled her thick grey fur.
Shortly, Jory brought him Ice.
When it was over, he said, “Choose four men and have them take the body north. Bury her at Winterfell.”
“All that way?” Jory said, astonished.
“All that way,” Ned affirmed. “The Lannister woman shall never have this skin.”
He was walking back to the tower to give himself up to sleep at last when Sandor Clegane and his riders came pounding through the castle gate, back from their hunt.
There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. “No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.” He reached back and shoved the burden off, and it fell with a thump in front of Ned.
Bending, Ned pulled back the cloak, dreading the words he would have to find for Arya, but it was not Nymeria after all. It was the butcher’s boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to waist by some terrible blow struck from above.
“You rode him down,” Ned said.
The Hound’s eyes seemed to glitter through the steel of that hideous dog’s-head helm. “He ran.” He looked at Ned’s face and laughed. “But not very fast.”
- A Game of Thrones Eddard III
Most assume Gregor Clegane is the giant in armor made of stone in Bran’s vision of the Trident… yet he wasn’t present during the events Bran envisions. This dark shadow is a better fit for Robert, a veritable giant who won the throne at the Trident, who is first introduced as having gained eight stone, with a girth to match his height (like a mountain), and whose blood turns black when he is mortally wounded by a boar.
He looked south, and saw the great blue-green rush of the Trident. He saw his father pleading with the king, his face etched with grief. He saw Sansa crying herself to sleep at night, and he saw Arya watching in silence and holding her secrets hard in her heart. There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.
- A Game of Thrones Bran III
It would not be unusual for Bran to see both a person’s physical form and their shadow at the same time; this is how shadows work. Ned undoubtedly experiences inner turmoil in this scene, going along with injustice in service to a cowardly king despite the pain it causes his daughters. So, it's easy to see how the shadow with the face of the hound and the golden shadow are both cast by Ned, depicting a light and dark side at war within himself, representing his competing duties to his king and children which led him to execute Lady and accept Mycah's unjust death. It's not unusual that Ned would have multiple shadows, a dark and a light side making him grey as the direwolf on his sigil; recall, Stannis tells us that some lights cast more than one shadow:
King Stannis pointed a finger. “There you err, Onion Knight. Some lights cast more than one shadow. Stand before the nightfire and you’ll see for yourself. The flames shift and dance, never still. The shadows grow tall and short, and every man casts a dozen. Some are fainter than others, that’s all. Well, men cast their shadows across the future as well. One shadow or many. Melisandre sees them all.”
- A Clash of Kings Davos II
https://preview.redd.it/g7kdw91ycn3b1.png?width=602&format=png&auto=webp&s=a654ddd47e8089aba8f5955974a7080102aee922
Alfie Allen: You know, I asked him about who Jon Snow’s real parents were, and he told me. I can’t say who, but I can tell you that it involves a bit of a Luke Skywalker situation. It will all come to fruition eventually.
This series will conclude next time with a foray into Ned's inner turmoil, examining thoughts and actions which indict his friend and king. To preview where this series is headed, in its full audio/visual glory with greater detail, look here.
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2023.06.02 18:49 Forgetxclosure The Eras Tour: Cardinal Version

The Eras Tour: Cardinal Version submitted by Forgetxclosure to SwiftieMerch [link] [comments]


2023.06.02 16:17 kittehgoesmeow What A Day: Put THAT In Your Pipeline by Julia Claire & Crooked Media (06/01/23)

"I hear the term 'woke woke woke,'... Half the people can't define it, they don't know what it is." - Disgraced former president Trump taking a shot at Meatball Ron’s favorite boogeyman

Clown To The Wire

We’re all sick of the fucking debt limit. But we’re also less than four days away from a global economic meltdown courtesy of the GOP, so we gotta talk about it. I don’t make the rules.
It looks like Senate Republicans are gearing up to get amendment-happy as well.
It’s gonna be a long night. Next week should be fun, too!

Look No Further Than Crooked Media

The Trans community has been under attack by right-wing politicians across the country. But don’t let their noisy stunts fool you. They’re a loud, wrong minority, like John Mayer fans, or people who blame flight attendants for the delay. In reality, there’s never been more support for gay, trans and queer youth than right now, and it’s up to us to make that true, today and every day.
That’s why Vote Save America has launched their Fuck Bans: Leave Queer Kids Alone fund. This Pride month, Crooked is working to help fundraise $50,000 to support groups on the ground in states that are banning care and targeting trans families including organizations like the Transgender Law Center, the Trans Justice Funding Project, and the Trans Youth Equality Foundation. If you’re interested in chipping in, head to https://votesaveamerica.com/fuckbans to donate!
Pissing off some of the GOP’s biggest creeps is just an added bonus.

Under The Radar

In a frightening harbinger of the climate crisis to come, state lawmakers in Arizona have decided to halt housing construction that has already been approved in the Phoenix area, as well prohibit developers from building some new subdivisions, due to the dwindling water supply. Phoenix and its suburbs reside in Maricopa County, which receives more than half of its water supply from groundwater, while the rest comes from rivers, aqueducts, and recycled wastewater. But unlike some of the latter sources, groundwater is a finite resource, and can take thousands of years or longer to replenish. This halt in housing development will increase real-estate prices, and is likely to continue across the American southwest if climate change continues to go unaddressed and the 23-year drought in the region persists. But yeah, give another trillion dollars in federal funding to the military!

What Else?

The Federal Trade Commission disclosed in a Wednesday court filing that a former employee of Amazon’s Ring doorbell-camera unit spied on female customers for months in 2017 using cameras placed in bedrooms and bathrooms. The company will pay a $5.8 million settlement for privacy violations.
The Supreme Court dealt another blow to organized labor on Thursday in a ruling that will make it easier for employers to sue over strikes that cause property destruction. The (yikes) 8-1 decision sided with a Washington state concrete business, which sued the union representing its truck drivers when they were on strike.
President Biden tripped over a sandbag and fell onstage after delivering an address at the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony (but he got right back up!). Surprisingly agile for an octogenarian.
Speaking of the Air Force, a new report shows that it tested a drone enabled by artificial intelligence to destroy specific targets, but when a human operator tried to override the drone’s mission, the A.I. ordered the drone to attack the human operator so the mission could be completed. Hasta la vista, baby?
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is reportedly planning to give January 6 security footage to far-right conspiracy theorist and avowed election denier Julie Kelly. Man, this guy is a non-stop great-decision machine.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) national security adviser has resigned after the Washington Post reported that he was behind the senator's, ahem, controversial strategy of stalling military nominations in an attempt to stop a new DOD policy that helps ensure abortion access for service members.
The stock market ticked up on Thursday as the bill to avert a GOP-imposed global financial crisis advanced through Congress.

Be Smarter

Russian President Vladimir Putin repeatedly threatened to retaliate against the United States if it crossed an ambiguous “red line” of excessive interference in defense of Ukraine. Nevertheless, the White House persisted. Last month, President Biden announced that the United States would help Ukraine obtain F-16 fighter jets, on top of the missiles, rocket launchers, advanced missile defense systems, drones, helicopters, and tanks it has already supplied or helped Kyiv obtain. So why are our national security officials ignoring Putin’s threats? Because of a general consensus since the war began that Putin’s threats have been all hot air. As Maxim Samorukov, a Russia expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, observed, the Kremlin “has devalued its red lines so many times by saying certain things would be unacceptable and then doing nothing when they happen.” Russia’s demonstrated reluctance to retaliate has been the driving force behind Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s decision to encourage the White House and Western allies to do more. But Western officials know that Putin’s hesitancy is not fixed, and could easily change if the war persists. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley estimated in a recent interview with Foreign Affairs that Russia has suffered as many as 250,000 casualties since it invaded Ukraine.

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Light At The End Of The Email

Billionaire troll and Twitter CEO Elon Musk is accused of insider trading in a class-action lawsuit, which alleges he intentionally manipulated the price of Dogecoin when he replaced Twitter’s bird logo with the Dogecoin logo, leading to a 30 percent jump in the coin’s price. In a hilarious coincidence, he did that riiigghttt before he sold $124 million worth of the currency.
Nine Democratic governors have sent a letter to leading textbook companies expressing opposition to GOP-demanded changes to textbooks and to warn them that they will be watching for the “inappropriate censor[ship]” of “comprehensive and accurate educational information.”
Happy first day of Pride Month to all of our LGBTQ+ pals out there!

Enjoy

jamie loftus 🌭 on Twitter: "the fancier the hotel… the less free waffle in the morning…"
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2023.06.02 12:25 Rhion-618 Just One Drop - Ch 88

Chapter 88 - From All I Believed

Morning, Two days before Shel
Captain Setar suppressed a smile as she watched the Ops door close. “Well, that was interesting… Ce’lani is a little cranky.” The last vestiges of sleep clung to her as she settled down into the command chair. She felt worn out, but it was the cusp of dawn, and Pod Seven had only just turned over control. “Report on station?”
“The perimeter’s secure,” Jelki replied crisply, pulling up the map of the campus on the main screen. “Pod One is on station and reports twelve by twelve. Sgt Ma’reis is already complaining about janitor duty.”
“Ah, first pod problems.” Setar shook her head, rubbing her eyes and blowing gently on her mug of tea. “What about the objective?”
“The objective’s secure,” Re’lan piped up, already sounding chipper. The woman could have been priestess of Jrafell. Her unwavering cheeriness would have been a character fault if she weren’t so devoted. As it was, it was a damned penance for everyone else at this time of day.
Jelke finished running the obligatory shift change checks and stretched. Things wouldn't get interesting until breakfast, but watching the perimeter was a given. It didn't keep the curiosity out of her voice, as she cocked her head and glanced over. “What was interesting with Captain Ton’is, Ma’am?”
“Mm! Well… it appears she’s expecting a call from Professor Warrick today,” Setar drawled out, taking a moment to savor their reaction. “She felt a need to remind me she’s devoted to Hele, and that if Be’ona or I let her sleep through the call, she’s going to ‘fuck us up the ass with a lasrifle and pull the trigger’.”
Re’lan was probably blushing like a cadet, but Jelke shook her head ruefully. “I expect there's a ‘but’ in there somewhere, Captain?”
“Well, yeah, she said that’s where the rifle would go…” Setar sniggered before taking a long sip from her tea, and slid a bit lower in the command couch. Her eyes wandered to the traffic on the board. “She also made it clear what’ll happen if anybody listens in.”
Thoughtful silence descended. Setar almost counted to twelve before-
“We’re going to anyway, right Captain?” Jelke asked nonchalantly. “You know, for security’s sake?”
“Sergeant, that would be a base infringement of Captain Ton’is’ privacy, which is in fucking short supply for everyone in this bunker.” She rubbed her chin thoughtfully, watching the steam rise from her mug. “Deeps right we are.”
_ _ _
Lady Wicama regarded her guest with interest as their autocab plied its way about the outskirts of Prelitauri. While she’d been free and cheerfully able to accommodate Khelira’s request, Monsignor Santino Barcio, or Friar Barcio, as he preferred, was not at all what she’d been expecting. She supposed it was a matter of exposure…
The Palace had never quite been the same since Princess Yn’dara’s wedding. Yn’dara was one of those odd Royals who, though well-regarded, was seldom in the public eye. A perennial favorite of the Empress, indulging her unexplained absences passed as a matter of course for the Court. Widely known to be estranged from her mother, Princess Arduina, no one enquired either deeply or often, so when she suddenly resurfaced, her return would have equally passed without comment… if not for the wedding.
Yn’dara had shocked the entire Nobility.
While it was common for any woman to marry into an established family and become a kho, the wedding should have been singular for a Princess. Princesses didn’t marry into families, Princesses formed them. And while Yn’dara technically had done so, she’d taken on three unmarried women at the same time as her husband, who was a Human! Favorite or no, the wags in the court were agog that the Empress accepted Adam so readily! The Empress, however, had been adamant; Yn’dara and her family had her blessings, and were to be left alone.
However, time had proven to be on Yn’dara’s side as well as the Empress.
After a wedding seen across the galaxy, Yn’dara’s family settled into a life of public duty. They spent long trips away from Shil, and while quietly dismissed as ‘pleasure excursions’, her trips often showed the throne to the outer provinces. Although her public engagements were few, she’d become a vocal advocate of the Empress’ reforms against graft and corruption, and, gradually, the jealous mutters about scandalous excess and Human debauchery faded away. Her marriage remained an unusual footnote, but time had demonstrated the value of Yn’dara and her wives to the throne.
Then there was Prince Adam.
Rumor held the Prince had made a favorable impression on the Empress years before, at an event hosted by Yn’dara’s mother. While details had never been forthcoming, a more significant story about Adam wafted briefly through the ranks of the Golden Glaives.
Both stories had been effectively silenced, but Wicama knew who to talk to, and being Khelira’s guardian carried a certain clout all its own. Though that influence waxed and waned over the years, raising Khelira required being aware of events that could shape her future, and she’d proven herself to be discreet. Over time, doors had opened and words had flowed.
Time had been on Prince Adam’s side, as well.
As the years passed, she’d had an exposure to Prince Adam that few of the court and none of the public enjoyed. She’d been wary at first, but he’d been a good friend and mentor to Princess Khelandri before she joined the Marines, and however infrequent his presence, he always displayed a keen mind, a loving heart, and a steadfast duty to his wives. Privately, he absolutely doted on young Khelira and possessed a loyalty to the Empress that you could bend battlesteel around. The two got along famously - after all, he was a veteran.
Not Navy, mind you, but you couldn’t have everything.
And so, as Humanity began making forays upon the galactic stage, her first impression of the species had been favorable. She’d witnessed Adam mature into his role with the court, and while the issue of children remained unspoken, that faded as well. At the time, Yn’dara had been sixth in the line of succession. A year after the wedding, Kamaud’re became an adult, followed a year later by Khelandri, and the matter became largely moot.
As for a second impression on Humans, Khelira had provided enthusiastic reports about Thomas Warrick. While the Princess thrived at the Academy, Warrick seemed to be something special.
The absence of a father in her life had been a void that no woman could properly fill, but she’d done her best. Although she’d entertained a few qualms, as the months passed by, Warrick remained a positive influence. Khelira’s messages were infrequent by necessity, but she’d written about her distress over Warrick’s family and clearly been moved. Prince Adam carried his own scars, but what veteran didn’t? He hid them carefully around Khelli, and if Warrick had chosen not to, he’d provided a useful sense of perspective, instead. It was time for Khelira to grow up, and that meant facing the grist of differing opinions and ugly realities. That was what education was actually for, and Warrick seemed to be doing admirably well as a grindstone.
All of that was before the library incident, which settled her opinion once and for all. While erratic, irreverent, and capable of violence, Humans clearly could be a positive influence when channeled in the right direction. Yn’dara had shown what a good Shil’vati woman was capable of with Prince Adam, and Lady Pel’avon was following suit.
And at least the wags at the Palace wouldn’t speak of Yn’dara’s state wedding again. As a subject for spectacle, Miv’eire Pel’avon’s had put it to shame.
Still, it was good to see Warrick married. While Professor Ha’meres scandalous exploits had faded from the public eye, older wo… more mature women didn’t forget such things. The man had been a daring adventurer - and an inveterate gadabout - and an unmarried man around that many young women was too tempting for some girls. A wife or two… preferably more… resolved such idle fancies. If the Pel’avon ceremony had been somewhat… questionable in taste, compared to Adam’s, it remained legally binding. Warrick was willing to settle down, and by all reports his wife had a proper sense of decorum.
Human men seemed to be a trial from the Goddess, but hopefully she and her kho-wife could sort him with time, love, and kindness.
While exposure to only two Humans was not what she’d call a comprehensive sample, in both cases her impressions had been quite positive. And so, when Khelli asked her to escort a Human Priest about the city, she’d been entirely willing.
Thus far, it had been an enjoyable morning. While there had been occasional missteps, their conversation had been delightful as they traveled from property to property. Even so, she hadn’t expected to meet such a kindred spirit.
Admittedly she’d stammered a bit when he mentioned eating the flesh and drinking the blood of his redeemer. On the other hand, she compared it to the first time she’d bled into the ocean, mingling salt in her blood with the seas. He’d turned shockingly pale, so she changed the subject. It was a purely symbolic act to Drepna - just a cut on the thumb, for goddess sake...
She’d taken extra care afterwards. Barcio could be clearly a sensitive male, but diplomacy was part of her work. Even calling her role ‘work’ was deceptive. She’d raised Khelira in every way an Empress could not.
It was easy for other women to appreciate the prestige of her position, but few understood the depth of it - or the satisfaction.
During her career in the Navy, her flotilla had provided direct support for the Empress, and they’d come to work closely over three tours. After Khelira’s birth years later, the invitation came from the Royal Household to act as her guardian, and she’d never looked back. Competition had been fierce for the prestigious position, but applying had been the best move of her life.
Empress Kamilesh loved all her children and had spent as much time with each of them as she could, but her work was all-consuming, and after her husband’s act of… Well, the Empress had been there, but she’d born her pain privately. She had lost herself in her work for many years before recovering a semblance of her former self, and her absence had taken a toll on her children. Kamaud’re had taken it the worst. Khelandri had bounced back, while everyone doted on Lu’ral. Barely more than an infant, Khelira had been far too young to remember. Wicama had been there through all of it.
It was a good life, and the princess was a delightful girl. For Wicama, the absence of a man in her life was something she’d felt now and then, but she invested her life in Khelira. The Empress treated her as a member of the family in all but name… and in a very real sense, the child you raised was your child.
Looking back, some women might insinuate she’d given up her personal life to raise another woman’s daughter. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
She had her calling - just as Friar Barcio had his.
Yes, he was a priest, and his religious strictures were very unusual. A male priest in any of the Shil’vati faiths would never be placed under such restraints, and for a man to go unmarried was noteworthy…
But she understood having a calling. Oh yes, she understood that as few others could.
After discussing his needs, they’d set out to examine three properties around Prelitauri. The Friar’s individual requirements were deceptively difficult when taken as a whole. A complex coupling a generous auditorium, ample administrative space, and he clearly needed substantial grounds to properly convey a sense of aura. Such accommodations were seldom on the market, and since he expected his colleagues to arrive in weeks, his need was immediate.
Thankfully, urban renewal moved in waves. The tides of such fashions meant Prelitauri was once again an up-and-coming area. While difficult to find, three older structures had the potential to be suitable, and so it was that she’d enjoyed learning about her guest as they explored the tiny district.
The Monsignor spoke four other Earth languages fluently. He tended to break into his native tongue and hadn’t mastered contractions yet, but his Vatikre was passable and he listened carefully, seldom needing to ask about a word. After limiting her contractions when she spoke, their conversation flowed easily.
Barcio had shown little enthusiasm for the first two properties, but their conversation regarding other matters never waned. She expanded on her devotion to Drepna, Shil and the roles of each goddess while asking careful questions of his faith. His own inquiries proved thoughtful, and he was as avid in politely asking after her beliefs as explaining his faith.
After their second hour together, she’d taken the liberty of calling Prelate Hi’meta Merlamiss. As a priestess of Drepna’s second circle, Merlamiss had proven a valuable contact over the years. Well connected, she enjoyed a good relationship with many other prelates of the Divine Halls; she also got on well with Xinfess, the Rakiri’s Speaker of the Dark Mother on Shil. A meeting with Barcio would readily open doors for his group that might otherwise prove difficult to attain, and while Barcio’s accent strained now and then, it was clear the Monsignor and the Prelate shared a questionably low sense of humor.
Given a chance, they’d probably get on famously.
Certainly, that would be a blessing. Their hunt for a suitable facility had not gone nearly so well, and while Barcio had been conciliatory toward the first two facilities, she could tell he wasn’t taken with either. The last property wasn’t high in her expectations, so she found herself casting her head to the side when it swept into view and he clasped his hands in excitement.
”*È bella!* This is beautiful,” he exclaimed. “It reminds me a bit of my childhood home in Sacile!”
She looked out at the complex with its low gabled roofs, as their cab wound up from the entrance. Beside the drive, a small river meandered through the campus past the main buildings. She tapped the console to slow their ride and considered the place in a new light. “I’m… well, a bit surprised to be honest, Friar.”
“Please! We have been traveling for hours now, and I am not holding a service.” The Friar spared her a warm smile, before gazing back at the premises. “I would take it as a great kindness if you would call me Santino.”
“Very well - on the condition you call me Wicama.” It had been some time since anyone called her by anything but title or rank, and the informality was pleasant. Still, as their autocab closed on the end of the lane, she let such thoughts go and considered the location properly.
The buildings were low, sensible cubes, but that was largely an end to it. The architect had made some unusual choices in Helkam motifs that strained understanding. A long colonnade bordered the river, and that seemed nice enough, but the buildings! Forgoing purple was one thing, but they were beige! With unusual elements and the repressively bland color scheme, it was small wonder the clerk handling the property confessed that the space had lain vacant. Its original owners went into foreclosure. The exotic design had proven unable to attract interest, laying dormant ever since.
Barcio… Santino… seemed delighted, however, and she pulled up the specifications on her omni-pad. “This site has two smaller auditoriums besides the main one, while the central building has four floors. One is underground, but all the floors face an interior atrium.”
As the cab gently halted in the car park, she climbed out to hold the door but Santino had already scrambled out and was examining the gardens with evident interest. Tall stands of parago trees were losing the last of their fronds for the year, but she had to admit the grounds were substantial. Yesterday’s storm had left the morning air cold and crisp, lending the gardens an appealing aspect. Untended since the last owners, much could be done with them.
She had given up trying to escort the Friar anywhere after their first two stops, and now they fell into an easy pace side by side as they strolled toward the main building. She turned back to the property itself. “So, this reminds you of your home?”
It wasn’t exactly Helkam architecture - domes weren’t covering every possible surface - but the builder had clearly been nodding in that direction. A promenade wound to the entry, supporting white chevrons that arced into the sky. The bright morning sky shone through clever cutouts, making the unusual design at least look light, rather than oppressive and unappealing. With a decent renovation, the facility had possibilities, and the price was comparatively low.
“*Si!* Oh, not so much like home, but there is the sense of it. I was born near the sea, and this feels… similar.” He gave her a depreciating smile before rolling his eyes. “It may not please everyone who is coming, but ‘everyone’ is not here, so I am allowed some indulgence! Better to have something waiting than nothing at all. I confess, some of my colleagues thought we’d only manage when the bridge to Messina is finished.”
“You should not have been sent ahead alone! Surely your colleagues were not that worried about a poor reception,” she tutted. Priest or no, there were decencies about a man traveling alone to be observed. “You shouldn't need a bridge to find a place for your mission. I don’t know where Messina is, but I’m certain Prelate Marlemis wouldn’t stand for it!”
“Tch! Excuse my poor efforts! The older I get, the more I remember things like yesterday. Unfortunately, the yesterdays I remember so well were thirty years ago!” Barcio smiled wryly up at her as they walked. “The ‘bridge to Messina’ used to be a saying… People dreamed of building a bridge to Sicily, and it became something that never happened. My English friends would instead say ‘when hell freezes over’. *Un'espressione volgare*, but very much to the point.”
“Ah… I’m sure we can manage something, and this could be made presentable. Maybe change the beige to a pale violet?” she offered helpfully as she made it to the door first, holding it open. “The aura inside isn’t so bad.”
“You’ve said that several times, but I do not know what you mean?” He paused in looking around the entry, which had an open foyer exposing the two floors above and led out to the atrium beyond. “What is ‘aura’? I do not think I know the word as you mean it.”
“Aura is… Hmm…” Wicama paused thoughtfully and gestured at the atrium. The interior was in better shape than the grounds, and the architect had done something clever. Not yet noon, a bevel along the top edge filled the space with sunlight. “Have you ever walked along a beach and wanted to save a shell? When you are there, that is aura… When you take the shell home and think of the beach, that is aura, but… less focused. Diminished. You sense the beach because of the shell, but you are not at the beach. Places can have aura, but it is more than character. If you move through a place and find yourself experiencing it? That is aura.”
“Mhm! *lodevole!* I like this idea very much. It would be right at home in the Vatican. Not everyone understands a space can move the spirit, or lend power to a message.” He nodded thoughtfully as he cast his eye about the open space. “With the right advice, perhaps we can lead others to these halls.”
“Perhaps. If you tour the Palace, I hope you’ll allow me to show you about? A lot of the real gems are hidden from the public.” She watched as he wandered toward the double-helixed stairways bordering the room. Those were definitely Helkam; walking up one side without meeting someone coming down the other was an interesting experience… once. After that, they could be an absolute nuisance. Spotting the elevators, she called him back. “The nice thing is this place is inexpensive! That will pad out your funds for a good remodel.”
Wicama quietly thanked the Goddesses that the builder’s had the good sense to install normal Shil’vati-style elevators. The sides were open, granting a wide view out over the atrium. The grounds were terraced to create a small park; that could make the underground space bearable, and the plans made them seem spacious enough. Not to everyone’s taste, but pretty. “I feel bad for asking, but can you afford the building? If the price of the first two bothered you, we can find others.”
“I would not hear of it! Thank you for your concern, but we are economical with our funds, and were sent with a generous sum. This is an important venture to everyone involved,” Barcio clasped a hand over his chest, as he shook his head. “I can not thank you enough for your help! You have surely spared me weeks, and I might not have found something half so suitable. As it is, the grounds are enough to gain me converts. Father Roscio and Pastor Weber will surely plant a vineyard before the inside is half done!”
“It’s not a problem. I have plenty of time,” she replied, dismissing the matter as inconsequential. “I work at the Palace, but with the Court away and my daughter at school, I’m a bit at loose ends just now. At the very least, I insist on helping you through the paperwork. I wouldn’t put it past some realty clerks to try and overcharge you… Someone from outside Shil, that is. I’ll ensure they stick to the listing.”
“To someone not from Shil… or someone who is not Shil’vati, perhaps?” His head canted slightly to one side, but he smiled as he said it. “*Certamente!* I would not dream of preventing you, though Rabbi Kleinbaum will be bitterly disappointed she has nothing to moan about.”
“I hope you won't take this badly, as I’ve only met one Human.” Wicama gave him a smile. She was long past girlish uncertainty, and the Navy had taught her a generous measure of professional poise to go with her skills as a markswoman. “You aren’t what I expected.”
“You know the professore, then?” He sucked in a breath and pursed his lips. “I am still deciding what sort of man he is.”
“No, actually, I know another Human but I’ve not… I have not… met Professor Warrick.”
“So. You mean that I am not *un barbaro*? I am here to make sure that we are seen as something more than savage warriors, *capisci*?” He studied her expectantly. “While the Imperium is doing good work on Earth, some still live in want. The Imperium provides enough for all to survive, but not all live in plenty. We need to present ourselves well.”
”That seems like a very secular outlook.” She offered, as they rode up to the third floor. Barcio asked for an explanation of the word, and by the time they’d made their way through the first offices he had the idea.
“My church has not always troubled itself with such things, but our holy father is greatly concerned with such inequalities. He takes it upon himself to address such matters with the Governess, when their time allows.”
“Your church has a good relationship with her?”
“È straordinario! The Governess adores our food, and while she was adamant about taking quarters in the Vatican, she has taken pains not to disturb us.” He shrugged dismissively. “*Cosa sai fare?* It seemed a small price, and we have endured far worse.”
“I used to hear terrible stories about red zones on Earth, though the Humans I’ve met don't seem the sort. It is good that your… pulp?” She tried the word and was rewarded with kind laughter and a gentle correction. “It is good that your pope concerns himself with the full welfare of the people and works with your governess. Our prelates share the same concerns.”
“I thought the Empress was the head of your church? Now, I find you have many…” he groped for a word, frowning, and gave up. “*Questo accento è una prova di fede!* ‘Denominations’ is not the right word, but she is the one revered, yes?”
“Of course! The Empress has to show all of our virtues and none of our faults, but that’s part of her role. To favor any divinity over the others could cause divisions. She has her personal preferences, of course, but never lets them be known.” Wicama explained carefully. “It would be in poor taste.”
“And poor politics, I think?” Santino gave her a long look. At his height it was difficult, but he managed. “This makes sense to me now, that the Imperium leaves matters of faith alone. *Una benedizione inaspettata.*”
Despite the serious topic, his fervent reply brought a smile back to her lips. “It seems your pope considers politics as well as economics.”
“People will always defend economic theories which assume that growth will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice. This has never been confirmed by the facts, and expresses a crude trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.” He said, stopping to clasp a hand over his cross. “Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
“That doesn't sound like scripture.” She offered cautiously, as they made their way into a wider suite of offices on the second floor.
“*Esattamente.* The words of Pope Francis, a good and blessed man who appointed me to my position. His successor, his holiness John Paul the Third, is much of the same mind,” Santino said quietly. “Our savior washed the feet of others and urged all to do the same. The hardest step is to be involved. To work together for change, as well as to pray. That is why I am here.
“*I pigri di cuore trovano sempre una scusa* Some Humans, they are yet angry with the Imperium. Now they have enough, they are bitter not to have plenty. For some there is never enough - the true poverty lies within their hearts,” Santino said a bit testily. “Our faith teaches us to find salvation in eternal life, but others? *Pigrizia!* They see it as an excuse from taking agency in themselves. Jesus washed the feet of others - he did not lay down and wait for someone to wash his!”
Wicama turned the unfamiliar metaphor over in her mind but decided she had the sense of it. “Sham teaches us that helping our families and one another is the same as helping ourselves. ‘The rising tide bares us all from the reefs’.” It was a matter of faith… but that was why it was faith in the first place. On the whole, it seemed like a mature perspective that explained the changes she’d seen in Prince Adam over the years. “You’re here to meet with others, but this seems as much about knowing yourselves.”
“*Sì, non è una brutta cosa avere umiltà davanti a Dio.* Human beings, while we are capable of the worst, we are also capable of choosing the good. Of rising up to make a new start. We are entering the galaxy.” He gestured out the window at the world beyond. “If not now… when?”
_ _ _ “So, when are you going to explain this masterpiece you four have been cooking up?” Marin asked. Sammi and Sam were barely awake but the twins had already arrived, bright-eyed and enthusiastic, and Marin cursed the resilience of youth. The room was acceptably warm, but Ayen had complained about the cold and used the excuse to slip back into bed. She was considering her options for joining him.
Somewhere, somehow, Sammi had found their rabbit pajamas again. “Sam, explain it to her? You do it better.” Sammi yawned, but Marin suspected it was an act. Once something got their attention, sleep was usually an afterthought.
“What, now?” Sam had barely stumbled into the room and blinked. Bleary-eyed and barely awake, he looked like he’d been ambushed, which was exactly the case.
“Pllllllleeeease…?” They sat back pulling the ears, giving their best Roger Rabbit impression. Luminous green eyes peered out at Sam, imploringly.
“Alright… I need coffee, but fine.” Sam trudged over to the kitchenette and poked listlessly at the instant coffee. It was getting perilously low, but Marin was sure he’d brought more on the ship. Eventually Sam gestured at the K’herbhal sisters with his mug. “So the girls want to create an artificial topological soliton. It's like a black hole, except where it isn't… It's sort of a kink in space-time.”
“Made you say kink!” Sammi grinned impishly and the girls blushed. Marin shook her head but paid attention. It felt far too early after another late night, but once everyone was up you had to hang on for whatever came next.
“So, what's that got to do with this… hole you want to use for power?” Marin raised her voice just enough to drag the conversation back on track.
“It’s more like a side effect. If it cuts the right angle, it goes into a realm of space-time we can tap for power. Think of it as an obverse of an energy drain, so it's like a white hole.”
“Let me guess.” Marin shook her head and grinned, holding up a hand to forestall the inevitable. “Except where it isn’t?”
“Ummm… pretty much.” Sam grumbled, blowing at his coffee. Marin glanced back at the twins. With Sam busy, the twins had gravitated to either side of Sammi. There was room left on the couch, and she wandered over to settle in beside one of them.
The Sams had been complaining for years about a lack of ‘focal power’ for their mass compression technologies, and while a rubber duck inside a diamond was impressive, they’d wanted to do something more - a lot more. She suspected if the twins were providing the means, then they already had something about to surface from the depths of their imaginations. Over the years she’d learned to pick a bit, rather than take their answers at straight value. “And if things don’t cut at the right angle? You remember how long it took to get rid of the Navy, when you started talking about making black holes?”
“It's not our fault they didn’t understand,” Sammi said defensively, crossing their arms and pouting at her before the rabbit ears fell over their face.
“Who didn’t understand what?” Akeimei yawned at the door. She cast a wink her way before wrapping her arms around Sam and gave him a quick hug. “What did I miss?”
“Umm… a parallel universe, if the math is right,” Sam mumbled from the depths of his coffee cup.
“What? Like identical versions of us?” Marin watched Akimei’s nose wrinkled at the smell before she slipped away from Sam. Slipped down beside her, they rubbed shoulders a moment. “Tell me, is there one where I get more sleep?”
“More or less identical… though it's not like you need to go into a parallel universe for that sort of thing. There’s already a ‘you’ out there somewhere right now, to say nothing of past and future ‘you’.” Sam scratched his cheek idly for a moment “It's just the math. The universe is so vast that there are exact physical cosmic twins of us out there somewhere, not to mention even more almost-twins.”
“Sam’s right!” Sammi perked up excitedly, bouncing on the sofa. “Then there are quantum cosmic twins - which gets weird because particles exist in multiple states and you’d sort of overlap… but the easiest one is probably just another us elsewhere in the universe right now! That's sort of the point where the universe is bigger than you can imagine!”
“So exactly the same… or almost.” One of the twins giggled. “Just like us!”
“Pretty much,” Sam nodded, slowly emerging from the depths of his coffee. “Another you out there on another Shil, or another me on a whole Earth, even - just a little bit different.”
“What? Like an Earth that never met the Imperium?” Marin canted her head, tossing out the obvious. It was hard to remember her life before, and she didn’t want to contemplate the alternative.
“Oh, I don't like that idea.” One of the twins stuck out her lip. “We want to come to Earth!”
“Yeah,” her sister nodded, though she suddenly looked glum. “I don’t know if Professor Warrick would mind though. He’d be with his wife and daughter, there.”
“Oh…” her sister's face crumpled. “I didn’t think of it that way.”
“Well, don’t…” Sammi hugged them both a moment, though they held the first twin a bit tighter. “The point is, somewhere he’s with them right now!”
“Wow, I guess so.” she brightened. “Just imagine! A whole Earth that never met the Shil’vati!”
“I wouldn’t worry, sis.” her twin nodded. “I think Professor Warrick is pretty happy right now.”
_ _ _
“I am not happy about this!” Tom glared at his omni-pad before tossing it down in frustration.
Miv looked up at her husband.
“It’s an honor!” She tucked her chin in and gave him a long, considered look, “What is it that’s bothering you - really? It wasn't Monsignor Barcio. Are you certain this isn't the same sort of thing?”
“Yes, I’m sure!” he growled, looking away like a guilty child. “Alright, maybe… but this uniform is the silliest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ll look like a mushroom, and the hat only makes it worse!" Tom grimaced at the omni-pad accusingly, "They won’t take ‘no’ for an answer, so now I’m on the rolls as a Warden Captain - whatever that is - and this ceremony is ridiculous!”
“The ceremony is traditional. Very symbolic... Besides, they don't make wardens out of anyone below the rank of captain - I looked it up. You were one before, so it's appropriate to make you one instead of a Warden Major or Warden Colonel.” She smiled at him serenely. “Surely, it can’t be the worst thing you’ve ever done.”
He turned to wag a finger her way. “I’ll take that bet!”
“Worse than our wedding reception…?” She crooned, teasing him. “Or maybe pre-term night? I swear by the Goddess no one will pinch your ass, except for Lea and I.”
“Fine…” Her smile grew wider as he grumbled, but he was calming down already and there wasn't heat in it. Still, he stubbornly clung on to the point a while longer. "It’s in my top five.”
“I’m sure you’ll survive, husband. Now then, I have meetings all afternoon, so why don't you finish reviewing the menu? You’ll feel better when all this is over and you can go back to cooking, chess, or starting that eeeyiy club… You might even give Ce’lani a call or message her?” She gathered her coat and smiled demurely, though it harbored nothing innocent. “If I’m not here you’ll have perfect privacy… Just don't promise anything you wouldn't promise to me.”
“It’s iai-do…” Tom groused, but he was already picking up his omni-pad.
She blew him a kiss and made her way toward the commons. Tom would probably stew a while, but he’d make the call.
There would be time to meet with Ce’lani on the common, before she had to come home for dinner.
_ _ _
Tom looked over the banquet menu as if it might reach out and bite him. The words stared up at him with perfect innocence.
Appetizer: Fruit and Cheese Platter - Slices of various cheeses and fruits on a platter providing a delicate mix of sweet, tangy and creamy to invigorate the dining experience. Serve with a selection of sweet and semi-sweet wines.
Soup: Choice of Tomato or French Onion Soup - Served with a piece of baguette and cheese.
Salad: Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing -- an assortment of greens and fruit with a balsamic grain dressing to cleanse the palate.
Entree: Cornish Pasty - This herb-infused meat and pastry dish provides a counterpoint to the tangy taste of the salad and soup. Served with a creamy buttered mashed potato (a vegetable, humanely prepared!) with chives (also a vegetable). Served with a selection of wines or ales.
Dessert: Chef’s Sorbet Surprise - A sweet treat complemented by a palate cleanser, ending the meal on a piquant note.
His last call with Bherdin had been a trial and a half. Omni-pads were the definition of ‘high fidelity’, and hearing the little Shil’vati hyperventilate for ten minutes over the plan was pointless. At least Melondi had easier going with Vedeem on her side... one way or another this was happening.
As a final consolation, he relented on wearing matching suits. Bherdin frequently bemoaned Tom’s 'lamentable' fashion sense, and he perked up at that, promising to get him some appropriate formalwear for the occasion.
Privately, he suspected his Shil’vati friend was looking for a convenient alibi if a riot started.
In fairness, it probably wasn't a bad idea.
“Too late to use it myself…” he muttered. It wasn’t quite noon, and Miv was probably right. Instead of Chess Club or starting Iai-do practice or just cooking out at Human Food, he was stuck here at home. Miv’s place was bigger, but most of his stuff was still in boxes; it left him listless and climbing the walls. If this worked, at least things could get back to normal.
…Mostly normal…
He flipped back to the picture of the Warden uniform on his omni-pad. It was bad enough, but the hat made the whole thing look like a blue toadstool in silver filigree.
He swiped the picture away like an act of revenge, but didn’t toss the pad back on the table.
…Miv was right... and I promised to call Ce’lani…
Tom centered himself, pulling up the number. The universe was always in motion and a good Taoist accepted their part in what came. That was the lesson of ‘the Vinegar Tasters’, and it held true… The painting showed three men standing around a vat of vinegar. Each has dipped his finger into the vinegar and tasted it. The expression on each man's face showed his individual reaction.
The painting was an allegory for Confucius, Buddha, and Lao-tse. Confucius wore a sour look on his face. He believed life was out of harmony with the universe. As the second figure in the painting, Buddha had a bitter expression. Like the vinegar, life was painful and filled with attachments and desires that led to suffering. The last man, Lao-tse, was smiling at the taste. To him, harmony existed naturally and could be found by anyone at any time in any experience.
He thought about his buddy Dave. The old Marine would probably shake his head and tell him to ‘embrace the suck.’ It pretty much boiled down to the same thing.
Not that he was against calling. Miv and Lea had practically taken turns urging him on and giving their views on why it was a good idea. They hadn't harped about it, but he knew which way the wind was blowing. And Ce’lani’s message had been short, sweet in the literal sense, and the sound file she’d offered up had been…
…Pretty nice, really…
If he still said no, or decided he didn't like where this was going, they’d back his choice, of course. He didn't have a doubt in his mind… But with everything else in his life turned upside down, calling Ce’lani seemed like a calm in the eye of a storm.
…It's just a phone call. Leave the chaos at the gate…
He settled down on the couch to check his messages before giving her a call. It was nearly lunch…
submitted by Rhion-618 to Sexyspacebabes [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 20:30 TXRattlesnake89 #KMSDozen

Kirk announces a contest to attend a Watch Party for Team Minihane's next matchup in The Dozen Tournament. To enter use the hashtag "#KMSDozen" on Twitter. Winners will be selected on tomorrow's show by Trivia Jesus himself. Jeff D Lowe checks in to discuss the tournament & Mut runs away from answering the tough questions about the Anywhere in the World raffle. The Dozen - Watch Party 📍 Capitol Theatre - Arlington, MA 🗓️ June 5th, 2023 from 7-9pm
submitted by TXRattlesnake89 to kirkminihaneshow [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 12:49 GreaterBlueEvil [Event] Mountain Home Open RP, Year 6 of the Rule of King Artys VIII. Arryn

Starting 1st Month 7114 AL (After the Landing)/Year 6 of the rule of King Artys VIII. Arryn

The Eyrie

Floorplan of the Eyrie and the mountain below
Various additional information, including the Eyrie residents
The Eyrie is a unique castle, built of white stone on top of the mountain Giant's Lance. It is quite small, especially compared to seats of other Great Houses, and considered impregnable due to its location. The castle consists of seven main towers, each with a different purpose.
Summons and Petitions Thread
Previous Eyrie Open RP Thread
Dragonstone Open RP Thread
The Vale Calendar

Meta

Teleportation is currently allowed in the Vale, so feel free to stop by - but make sure to come in properly:
To get to the Eyrie, one must pass first the older castle, Gates of the Moon, and then navigate along a narrow mountain path through the three Waycastles, Stone, Snow and Sky, before finally arriving to the castle of House Arryn.
The journey can be RP'd, or doesn't have to be, but the appropriate people must be tagged.
Gates of the Moon: GreaterBlueEvil & t3m3rair3
Waycastles:
Stone: [WAYNWOOD]
Snow: GreaterBlueEvil
Sky: [WINGED KNIGHTS]
Eyrie (Crescent Chamber in Warrior's Tower): GreaterBlueEvil & lagiacrus2012
Only 10 MaA can be allowed into GoTM, no MaA can be allowed into the Eyrie. This doesn't apply if specifically given exception.
Access to Moon Tower, Smith's Tower and Maiden Tower is restricted to those actually residing in these towers. The Mountain Below is generally not accessible to visitors.
Arryn household guards (wearing sky blue cloaks) and Winged Knights (wearing white cloaks with stripes in the colour corresponding with their rank, and winged helmets) man the castle and protect the residents.
Rookery use is possible, but requires Arryn permission.

Arryn PCs

King Artys VIII. Arryn (36)

The Eyrie
The monarch of the Vale, more comfortable on the throne as years go by. He had learned to rely on his advisors and his closest family in managing the affairs of the Kingdom, and once again found time for some more entertaining pursuits.

Crown Prince Aladore Arryn (16)

The Eyrie
The heir to the Kingdom. Quiet and pensive boy, Aladore prefers books to people, and does not enjoy the attention that comes with his prominent position.

Alisabeth Arryn (13)

The Eyrie
Young girl, first daughter of the King. Feels a little forgotten amongst her siblings, and often wonders whether she is invisible. Likes to paint.

Alysanne Arryn (10)

The Eyrie
Little girl, second daughter of the King. Cheerful and attention-seeking, and the favourite of her father. Collects crowns, or aspires to.

Oswell Arryn (6)

The Eyrie
Little boy, second son of the King. Named after Queen Myranda's father, he has a big legacy to live up to.

Ambrose Arryn (34)

The Eyrie
The King's younger brother, raised to follow and aid the eldest. Doing what he can for the Kingdom, taking up some of the duties of his brother and still hoping for a family of his own one day. Helping teach the Crown Prince.

Arwen Coldwater née Arryn (31)

Coldwater Burn
The only daughter of the late Queen Myranda, Arwen is a beautiful woman, stubborn and intelligent, ambitious, even ruthless if need be. Enjoying married life, Arwen is still most smitten with her husband, the charming Lord Criston Coldwater, and adores the pair's two children with all her heart.

Albar Arryn (21)

Heart's Home
Youngest of Myranda's children, Albar felt the loss of their mother the most. The boy focuses on playing his lute and taking care of his pet, a little red shoulder-bear called Scarlett. A squire to his cousin, the Lord Corbray, he is slowly learning how to be a knight, but his future plans include more dancing with bears than swordfighting.

Alyssa Arryn (54)

Tyrosh
Adventurous, rebellious and rainbow-haired, Alyssa lives in Tyrosh, having refused to return to Westeros to a life at court she hated and husband she felt no love for. Instead, she lives with her lover, Lucas Ruthermont, and the only thing she regrets is the time away from her elder children, Shiera and Friedrich.
Or perhaps at some point, a mysterious woman by the name of Nalyssa could be found in Westeros, for whatever occasion that might happen. She is, however, most definitely Not Alyssa.

Shiera Durrandon (34)

Borrowed character
Dragonstone
Daughter of Alyssa and Monfryd Durrandon. Adventurous and free like her mother, Shiera dreads growing old or having to act her age. Currently spending time on Dragonstone along with her best friend Meera Grandison. Shiera loves animals and bright colours and despises the very idea of marriage. The only relationship worth keeping is friendship... even if it feels like something more. She has a very grumpy cat named Barracuda and a brightly coloured parrot she taught to say "Help, I was turned into a bird!"

Alfrid Arryn (40)

The Eyrie
The only son of Osric Arryn, Alfrid is deeply religious, and strives to prove himself in the eyes of Gods and men, as a knight, and as man of the Seven. He had married lady Lorra Templeton, though still couldn't rid himself of thoughts of another... Which led to some rather curious consequences.
SCC'd by garintheadequate

Mylenda Arryn (10)

The Eyrie
Daughter of Alfrid Arryn and his wife Lorra. Little girl, talkative and bright.

Myrielle Arryn (10)

The Eyrie
Child of Alfrid Arryn and his lover, Cassandra Bracken. The girl was passed off as a trueborn daughter of Alfrid and his wife, as a twin to Mylenda. She is the gloomier of the twins, with a more negative attitude and a fear of animals.

Alicent Royce née Arryn (36)

Runestone
Married to her complicated love, Royland Royce, and fiercely protective of her young Royce sisters, Alicent is doing what she can to help Lady Ayla with rulership, and lady Eugenie with courtship - one appearing significantly more problematic than the other. Raising her little daughters Roslin and Rowena, she wishes that Royland would stay in Runestone with them, or at least accept her choices that led to the pair leading their lives apart.

Amallia Corbray née Arryn (34)

Heart's Home
Once wild and rebellious, Amallia seems to have settled down with her marriage to Lord Lyonel Corbray, content to protect and raise their two sons and little daughter. After the loss of her first child, she is ultimately grateful that her children are safe and healthy.

Aveline Grandison née Arryn (31)

Grandview
Beautiful and kind-hearted, Aveline might not be the brightest, but she does her utmost to bring light and cheer wherever she goes. Married to Beric Grandison, she couldn't be any happier - what more could she ever want for than having a loving husband and two wonderful children? A part of her little family is also her dog, Socks, named for a fondness of chewing people's clothes, and Periwinkle, the stubborn and finicky cat.

Garrick Arryn (70)

The Eyrie
Feeling the effects his advanced age is taking, not even his wife and children seem to make Garrick feel any better. His children were all grown now, soon to be married and gone from his life, and what then? He spends more time with his sister Cynthea, reminiscing of the old times and people long gone.

Septa Cynthea (34)

Oldtown?
The only child of Garrick from his first marriage, Cynthea the Younger was sent to the Starry Sept in Oldtown when she was ten, and had since taken her vows upon the Seven-Pointed Star as a Septa of the Faith.

Helena Prester née Arryn (28)

Feastfires
Eldest daughter of Garrick and his second wife, Helena is a confident young woman, stubborn and determined. Married to Triston Prester - a man she chose against the wishes of her family - she struggles between the girl she used to be, and the woman she is now, or at least that she feels she should be. The duties of a wife and a mother don't sit so well with her, even though she loves her two small children dearly.

Jeyne Arryn (27)

The Eyrie
Daughter of Garrick Arryn and Andrea Talon. Beautiful and curiously still unmarried.
Borrowed by banterisdrunk

Andrew Arryn (24)

White HarbouThe Paps?
Son of Garrick Arryn and Andrea Talon, doted on by both his parents. Squire to Ser Jayce Manderly, and perhaps visiting a certain island off the Vale's coast?

Cynthea Harroway née Arryn (69)

The Eyrie
The Dowager Lady of Harroway's Town is a kind, loving woman, who enjoys baking sweets and playing the harp. She cares dearly about her children and her grandchildren and various other kin, family always being the light of her life.

Waltyr Harroway (50)

Borrowed character
Winterfell
Waltyr travelled around the world only to find that what he desired most was home and family, which he found with the Princess Sylvia Stark. He couldn't be happier, married and with twin children.

Lucas Stark (Harroway) (15)

Winterfell
Waltyr and Sylvia's son, twin of Lily. Training with a sword, though he is still letting his blond locks grow long, and diligently shaving the few whiskers sprouting on his upper lip. It is getting harder to look like his twin sister (and best friend), but that doesn't stop him from trying.

Anastasia Manderly née Harroway (49)

Borrowed character
White Harbour
A beautiful woman in her youth, Anastasia finds it difficult to make peace with the fact that she is getting older, and her children are growing up so fast. She is content with her husband, Ser Jayce Manderly, and most of all wishes for more time with her family.

Alysia Harroway (31)

The Eyrie
The youngest child of Cynthea Arryn and Howland Harroway had never known her father, growing up in the Eyrie after her mother and siblings escaped from Lord Harroway's Town. She is raised as a noble lady of the Vale, serving as lady in waiting to the royal Princess Arwen Arryn.
SCC'd by dbone256

Meredyth Arryn (61)

Sunspear
The life of Meredyth Arryn was never short of dramatic twists and turns. After eloping with the love of her life who also happened to be the Crown Prince of Dorne, Meredyth gave birth in secret to his daughter. Forced to fake her death to escape the arrangements her family had planned for her, Meredyth watched over young Alarra under the guise of a mysterious Septa Marissa. When terrible news came about the death of Nymor, she had to suffer in silence. But when the time was right, Princess Meredyth Arryn re-emerged triumphantly from the shadows as she appeared at the court of Sunspear in the company of the heiress to Dorne, Alarra 'Silverdove' - or, as she is now known, Her Radiance Nymeria Nymeros Martell.

Sharra Arryn (49)

Starfall
The only legitimate child of Prince Benedict Arryn, Sharra keeps many secrets, involved in an elaborate life-long scheme by her aunt Alerie. Former regent to her daughter, the convenient rightful ruler of Dragonstone, Sharra spends much time with her close companion and secret lover, Alayne Hunter, in their new home in the far South of Westeros.

Rhea Targaryen (30)

Dragonstone
The Princess of Dragonstone took over her lands after the Vale's conquest. Presumed daughter of Sharra Arryn and Jaerys Targaryen, she rules the Island as her father's rightful heir. Married to her love, Nymos Dayne, who provides invaluable support as the young woman tries to balance the tasks of a ruler and a mother.

Jaenara Targaryen (10)

Dragonstone/Eyrie
Daughter of Rhea and Nymos, heiress to Dragonstone. Owner of a blue-and-silver dragon egg that used to belong to her mother, and to her grandfather before that. Bright and inquisitive little girl. Staying in the Eyrie to learn about life at the Arryn court.

Daenys Targaryen (8)

Dragonstone
Daughter of Rhea and Nymos. Owner of a violet-and-gold dragon egg.
Played by House Dayne of High Hermitage, ranger_from_th_north

Marq Arryn (55)

The Eyrie
A promising tourney knight in his youth, Marq's life was marked by misfortune and tragedy. He loves his wife and sons deeply, seeing them as his anchor in the storm of circumstances, but he still feels a crushing amount of guilt for the pain he caused, especially since his wife almost died giving birth to their second son. An excellent warrior - one of the best on the entire Continent - though he takes little pride or comfort in that skill, and rarely ever enters tournaments anymore.

Rupert Arryn (28)

The Eyrie
Marq's firstborn son, struggling to live up to the shining example of his sire and eager for his approval. Rupert had already proven himself capable in melees and jousts, and recently he was knighted and bestowed the right to bear the Valyrian sword Iridescence, and take his father's mantle as the famed Iridescent Knight.

Yoel Arryn (24)

The Eyrie
Second son of Marq Arryn and Ysilla Royce. Somewhat socially inept, but close with his elder brother.
Borrowed by thinkbrigger

Alannys Manderly née Arryn (54)

The Eyrie/White Harbour
Identical twin of Alerie, she was always the wilder, more adventurous of the sisters. Alannys was knighted at her wedding (by her husband, no less), and with Loras by her side she had gone through a multitude of adventures. She holds a resentment for her brother Marq for being respected for his prowess where she needs to hide. However, after her husband's death in the battle of Dragonstone, she had not quite been herself, her strong spirit nearly broken with the love of her life lost forever.

Alerie Waxley née Arryn (54)

The Eyrie
Identical twin of Alannys, Alerie is the more delicate of the sisters. Deaf, but sharp of mind, Alerie was able to find her niche, prospering in the shadows and manipulating events of the world without being seen behind the schemes. She is married to Willam Waxley, Keeper of the Gates of the Moon, and cares for their son, whom she considers the perfect little boy, though she worries he will grow apart from her as he grows older. In addition to manipulating the events of the world, she also found herself able to control animals to a certain degree, and works to gain more control of this ability.

Harold Arryn (40)

The Eyrie
Eldest son of Luceon Arryn and his second wife. Functioning alcoholic and once a child soldier, Harold is maybe a little disappointed he didn't die in any war. Married to lady Jowenna Egen, Harold might be starting to find a place for himself in the world with the help of his wife and children.

Alaric Arryn (38)

Longbow Hall
A knight in service to House Hunter, Alaric had forgone his royal title to marry a girl by the name of Sybell, a commonborn daughter of a merchant, whom he had loved dearly ever since he saved her from some bandits many years ago. Serving as a Marshal in Longbow Hall, he is determined to earn his place.

Matthos Arryn (33)

Eyrie
Formerly warded in the Stormlands, Matthos returned to the Eyrie to marry lady Alyssa Azure. He was not happy with the arranged match and the control the head of House Arryn exerts over his life, but he does genuinely care for his wife and their little daughters.

Argella Arryn (4)

Eyrie
Daughter of Matthos and Alyssa, little girl.

Aemma Arryn (1)

Daughter of Matthos and Alyssa, little girl.

Alester Arryn (32)

The Eyrie
Lonely, stubborn and somewhat spiteful towards his family. Married to Mya Finch, but in love with her brother, Ser Mychel.

Martyn Arryn (28)

Feastfires
The youngest of Luceon's many children, he is perhaps the only one to have truly loved and respected their father. Squire to a western knight, he is not quite sure where his home lays and where he would feel at peace.

Petyr Stone (38)

Dragonstone
Former squire to Prince Marq Arryn, who tried to remedy his older brother's misdeeds, now a promising warrior and a knight in his own right. Petyr serves as the Captain of Guards on Dragonstone.
SCC'd by klrpizza

Arielle Stone (35)

Eyrie?
Daughter of Prince Benedict Arryn and Gwen Storm. Sent to Strongsong to be raised and tutored by lady Ursula Belmore, along with her half-sister Deidre. Astonishingly beautiful and appropriately arrogant. Occasionally following around her aunt Alerie.
Played by House Toyne, principality_of_pan

Beric 'Blackmoon' Storm (33)

Grandview
Son of Prince Benedict Arryn and Gwen Storm. Benedict was unaware of his existence, as Gwynevere left him before he could learn she was pregnant. The boy lived in Braavos with his mother, terrified of her drunken excesses, before lady Lucinda Grandison saved him and took him with her.
SCC'd by ranger_from_th_north

Elyse Greywing (29)

Winterfell
Daughter of Benedict Arryn and Olivia Prester. Utterly disappointed by her mother, she and her brother Edrick had ran away from their family, and found refuge on Bear Isle in service to Queen Talia Stark. They followed Talia to Winterfell, only to be kept there for reasons they don't quite understand. What is even happening in her life these days, where is she heading?

Celene Featherfield (29)

Grandview
Daughter of Benedict Arryn and Margret Snow, a Woolfield bastard, though legitimised through the kindness of House Grandison. Celene stays in Grandview and learns from her aunt what it means to be a proper lady. Close friends with Edmund Prester, a person who shows her kindness not usually seen towards one of illegitimate birth.

Nathaniel Stone (26)

Dragonstone
Son of Benedict Arryn and Ella Ryston, along with his cousin Alec Stone sent to Gates of the Moon to be raised after his mother joined the Silent Sisters. Formerly squire to Ser Petyr Stone, whom he admires greatly, Nathan was recently knighted for his service.

Vorian Blackstone (26)

Gulltown
Son of Benedict Arryn and Cissy Blackstone. Staying in Gulltown with his mother.
Played by lagiacrus2012

Myranda Blackstone (24)

Gulltown
Daughter of Benedict Arryn and Cissy Blackstone. Somewhat rude and blunt, Myranda is taking after her mother in many ways.

Steffon Storm (18)

Grandview
Last of Benedict's bastards, son of the Stormlander lady Joy Redaxe. Staying in Grandview with his mother.
submitted by GreaterBlueEvil to crimsoncentury [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 10:37 nameless7982 Hailee Steinfeld

Hailee Steinfeld submitted by nameless7982 to celebrities [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 06:00 Analypiss Respect Juggernaut! (Marvel, 616)

Respect Juggernaut

This won’t hurt me! Nothing can!
♫Theme
Cain Marko was the son of nuclear scientist Kurt Marko, who worked in Alamogordo, New Mexico with Brian Xavier. After Brian died in a lab accident, Kurt married Brian’s widow Sharon for her family’s money, resulting in Cain becoming the stepbrother of the Xavier’s son Charles, the eventual founder of the X-Men. Kurt proved to be an abusive father to both Cain and Charles, which combined with Cain’s jealousy over his brother’s telepathy, fostered a lasting resentment between the two of them. After Kurt died saving them from another lab accident, Charles and Cain would end up serving with the army together in Korea. During their service, Cain would stumble across a cave that had a temple dedicated to the powerful mystic being known as Cyttorak. Touching a crimson gem at the heart of the temple, Cain was transformed into Cyttorak’s avatar on Earth, an unstoppable human Juggernaut. Shortly after, the cave collapsed, with Xavier barely managing to escape. Years later Cain would dig his way out and seek revenge on Charles for the perceived slights he had inflicted upon him. In doing so, Cain would come into conflict with the X-Men, Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, Doctor Strange, and many other superheroes before eventually burying the hatchet with his brother. However, despite joining the X-Men and later Thunderbolts, Cain would return to being a villain each time. Throughout his life and various goals and motivations, only one constant has remained for Cain Marko. No matter the obstacle, he will never stop.
This respect thread is abridged due to Juggernaut’s large number of appearances. A full version is available on the Juggernaut Mega Respect Thread, with links to the unabridged sections posted where appropriate.

Key and explanation of periods where Juggernaut was stronger or weaker than normal

Strength

Unabridged Force Field and Advancing Sections

Force Field

Advancing

Unabridged Striking and Lifting Sections

Striking

Lifting, pushing, pulling, throwing, grip, etc.

Unabridged Durability Section

Durability w/ Force Field/Armor

Blunt

Piercing/Cutting

Sound

Heat

Cold

Electricity

Light

Energy

Chemical

Adhesive

Biological

Matter Manipulation

Phasing

Magic

Soul/Life Force

Power Absorption/Nullification

Mental

Durability w/o Force Field/Armor

Blunt

Piercing/Cutting

Sound

Cold

Heat

Gravity

Light

Energy

Chemical

Biological

Mental

Unabridged Endurance, Speed, Skill, and Temporary Powers Sections

Endurance and Regeneration

Speed

Skill

Temporary Powers

Telepathy

Mystic Abilities

Trion

Captain Universe

Kuurth

Once upon a time, there was a man. A man who got everything he wanted. In the end it wasn’t enough. In truth, it could never be enough. No amount of power could change who he was. It could never quench his thirst for power. He was now and forever the Juggernaut. And he would never stop.
submitted by Analypiss to respectthreads [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 05:12 RegalLegalEagle Made of Mud

Based on a Dream
FDF Resolute, Sanctum Class Battlecruiser, en route to NT-2125 deep Fringe.
Mary had been rather intrigued by the concept of an observation deck on a ship. Curator ship designs didn’t even have windows let alone a whole deck. Yet, deck seemed a bit of a grand exaggeration now that she was standing in the room with the large window dominating one wall. The room was empty aside from herself. Though there were tables and chairs enough to fit a few dozen people easily. No doubt it was more in use if the ship should be hosting dignitaries over some important planet, or picturesque astronomical feature. En route to NT-2125 however they were instead enveloped in the Ink, a sight no one seemed keen on viewing.
Her education had of course touched on the existence of the Ink, but that was about it. She had no idea how it really was used to facilitate FTL travel. What she did know, now that she was looking at it, was that it was rather unpleasant to look at. She had seen purest black. The concept of looking at entirely nothing but a void was fine with her.
The Ink however… While she watched it slowly move around before her eyes it was like a vast ocean of some kind. An ocean of… incredible depth. When she had first stepped into the room and seen it dominating the large window she had thought it to be a mixture of blues, purples, and blacks. But the longer she watched the bubbles and lines slowly moving around she wasn’t sure if she were seeing color at all. Maybe she was seeing not the absence of light, but something opposite to it. As if the Ink gave off… anti-light.
She had no basis for this thought of course. No training, education, or experience to make her believe it was a real thing. Yet, if matter had anti-matter why couldn’t light have anti-light? After all the longer she looked the more if felt like she wasn’t really seeing anything. Nothing real anyway. More like… if she closed her eyes and rubbed against the eyelids and saw the attempts of her brain understand the shadows. Then there was the thought maybe she really was seeing something. Something just under the waves of its vast deep ocean of anti-light. After all, what was causing it to move? Were the waves, ripples, and bubbles purely random? Or was there something making it move?
As unpleasant as her line of thinking was, at least watching it gave her some small alone time on the otherwise crowded vessel. It also gave her an excuse to keep her headset muted. She would much rather deal with staring out at a vast ocean of anti-light than listen to the ship around her at this point. Yet, the moment she began to consider that she saw a flash in the bottom of her vision. Door opening. With a flick she started the program to let her headset gradually increase volume as her ears began to work again.
First sound, click of hard heel on metallic decking. Second sound, sharp intake of breath likely indicating surprise, anxiety, unease, or combination. Third sound, a tongue flicking against teeth before making a disapproving sucking sound. Fourth sound, fabric on fabric rubbing was very low and soft indicating luxury stitching and material. “Hello Director Obli.”
“Translator.” Came the curt reply, though said at a perfectly reasonable volume for normal speaking Mary winced a bit. Going from total silence to even the muted sounds she was getting now was rough at times. Especially as more just kept building. Even at this low level the sound of the ships began to return to her. The groan of metal, the hum of electricity, the distant murmur of people going about their tasks. She had no idea what she’d do without the headset to at least partially mute the world around her.
“Your bodyguards aren’t joining us?” Mary glanced over at the Huul’Rav in his custom suit. She couldn’t see his guards, but she could hear them just outside. She recognized Hrue from his breathing pattern, as smoking had done a number on his lungs. Based on the jingle of grenade tabs the other was Juul.
“If the Curators wanted me dead I highly doubt they’d create you just for the task. They’re more than powerful enough to have no need for subtlety or subterfuge.” Even though the director was talking to her he was looking out the window at the Ink. She could see the disdain on his face rather obviously. A hand moving up to nervously brush his furry chin, even as he tilted his horns side to side.
While he seemed focused on the Ink her mind returned to his curious comment. Did the Curators need to employ subterfuge? Of course they were powerful, but surely there was also use in subterfuge. Regardless, she had not been sent to kill the Director. Or anyone for that matter. She had no training in combat or related topics. He seemed to also be thinking about this though as he looked at her. “You aren’t here to kill me right?”
“No. I’m not here to kill you or anyone else.” She assured him. “I’m just here to facilitate communications during the negotiations.”
“It is curious though. Why the Custodians sent anyone at all…” He trailed off and while she was about to answer he turned and spoke first. “Actually do you mind if we talk somewhere else?” At the end his eyes darted to the window and the swirl of the Ink beyond.
“Certainly.” She nodded, and gestured to the door letting him go first.
“I appreciate it.” He commented and even as he stepped through the door Hrue stepped in front of him to lead, while Juul stepped up behind Mary to follow. “I will admit it spoils my plans a bit. I wanted to talk with you in private a little. But uh… I do not particularly enjoy looking at the Ink.” She could hear his breathing pattern change just being in the hallway, out of sight of the swirling anti-light.
“I’m sure we can find privacy elsewhere. Though I am unsure what kind of private chat you would like. I’m here strictly as a neutral party to facilitate negotiations.” She reminded him.
“As you’ve said many times.” Obli waved off her remark. “Anyway, since you’re new to this sort of thing I just want to introduce you to my underling since you’ll be working for him during the start of the talks.”
Mary frowned at this sudden revelation. “First, I don’t work for you, or your subordinate. I-”
“Are a neutral translator provided by the Curators.” He waved her off again as they walked. All around her she could hear the ship and its crew going about keeping the ship alive as it were. It was an older vessel and every creak and groan of stressed metal, or electrical spark continued to heighten her anxiety. She could not wait to get off this vessel and onto a planet. “I meant work for him in a more metaphorical sense. I know you likely expected to work with me throughout these talks but it’s just not how labor talks to management. They don’t get to start by talking to a Director. They’ll start with someone just important enough to garner attention but with no real power. If he fails, I swoop in and save things. If he succeeds I get to take credit in the end and talk about how I knew he was the man for the job.”
The further they walked from the observation deck and the Ink the more confident and in fact arrogant Obli got. She wasn’t particularly keen on his behavior but she had at least grown accustomed to it on the trip so far. “Why then did you spend most of this trip testing my abilities as a translator?”
“Because I was trying to figure out your angle.” He replied with a glance back over his shoulder as they reached a lift. The four of them filtered into it before Juul hit the button for the hangar deck.
“I don’t have an angle. I was instructed to come here and facilitate-” She began but he yet again waved her off.
“Neutral yes yes. But why? We’ve never needed nor requested Curator assistance for anything like this. We have a proven history of successfully ending labor disputes and organization efforts. So why have the curators bothered to send you? Shouldn’t you be trying to help keep the FDF from falling apart? Or spreading the word of the Curators to the masses or something? That is something they do right? Proselytize?” Mary was fairly confident Obli tried to be dismissive about the Curators just to make himself more comfortable. It was a minor enough annoyance to overlook. Though she wondered if it actually helped ease his fragile ego.
“The Curators do not proselytize no. They have no need. They exist. They act. They do not need the approval of others, nor belief in their correctness. I am here because I have been ordered to be here. I was told I must assist in negotiating between the belligerent parties on NT-2125 and observe the outcome. That is all. If the Curators have a deeper reason for sending me here I do not know it.” While she spoke she could already hear Obli clicking his tongue in disapproval. Hrue was trying, and failing, to breathe quietly. Juul was running her hand over a smooth metallic object in her right pocket, slowly turning it over.
“I know you are flesh and blood, but you’re more like your creators than I find comforting.” Obli very bluntly commented.
“I do not exist for your comfort.” Mary pointedly replied, which made Obli click his tongue in disapproval once more. By that point the lift stopped and the doors opened. The rush of sound from the hangar deck made her wince a moment as she had to deal with the sudden volume as she lowered her headset sensitivity.
“I don’t think you exist for your own comfort either.” Obli remarked, now smirking a little at her obvious discomfort. There was little she could do but cast a glare in his direction as the pain subsided and the sounds took on a more muted level. Looking out across the hangar she could see dozens of people moving around and working on the ship’s complement of shuttles, and fighters. No one was expecting combat, but that didn’t stop the captain from preparing anyway. While she was told most of the machinery operated at frequencies most species couldn’t hear it always gave her a headache to be around so many buzzing, grinding, churning machines.
“Regardless.” Obli continued. “I want to make it clear I have been authorized to extend to the Curators our most sincere intent to be friends. If there is anything we can do to make your job more comfortable let me know. And if you see fit to pass on anything you hear from the labor organizers direct compensation is on offer.”
“I am here as a neutral party.” She reminded him yet again. But he just spread his hands and smiled.
“We’re willing to pay for even what you would consider banter and gossip. Anything you hear. My subordinate is also authorized to compensate you but I’d prefer a direct copy.” He held out an encryption cylinder. While she had no intention of passing along anything she did take it. It might be useful for other reasons.
“I don’t have a bank account, you know. Or any credits.” When she told him this he looked entirely confused. “I am not paid for my efforts. Curators do not use currency of any kind. Resources are simply provided as needed.”
Director Obli’s look of pure disgust was even more obvious than when he’d been in the observation deck. “And here I thought they were civilized… But it’s then all the more important for you to start building up your own nest egg!” He began to pull a credit chip from his pocket but she waved him off.
“I’m not chipped nor do I have a slate.” This time he scoffed and looked confused even as he held it out.
“You can take the whole thing. How do you expect to pay for anything on the planet without credits?” He seemed genuinely baffled.
“I don’t expect to pay for anything on the planet. Your company has extended their most sincere intent to be friends after all.” As she tilted her head a little while looking at him Obli just snorted.
“Ah… This is why my assistant was babbling about an expense waiver. Yes… There are limits to it, you know. Food, drink, necessities only.” Mary just stared at him until he finally sighed and tucked the credit chip back into his pocket. “Fine. It’s best for you to go change now then, the shuttle will be leaving as soon as we hit real space.”
She was wondering why he’d brought her here directly. “And why am I changing?”
“Well, you can go as you are if you like. But this isn’t a Curator ship. The Resolute has to drop further away from the planet so the shuttle will be in space to close the gap to the planet. And, I mean clearly Curator tech never breaks or has any accidents but our poor mortal hands make poor mortal vessels.” Obli spread his hands as if to highlight his own soft, well manicured hands.
“Fine.” While her suit wasn’t as comfortable as her normal clothes she didn’t intend on being the only one killed by some sort of accident on the way to the planet. It would set a terrible precedent. So she walked away from Obli and his guards then towards the hangar’s locker room.
As she strode across the deck, stepping over fuel and coolant lines she tried to make some sense of the mass of sound around her. Obli no doubt thought she was beyond earshot when he spoke to his guards. “Strange bird. Easy on the eyes though.”
Hrue cleared his throat a moment to reply in a gravely, raspy voice. “Think the Curators made her to be attractive to most species somehow? Robot magic or something?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I still don’t know why they sent anyone at all. I don’t trust those damned machines.” Obli replied. She had expected this sort of reaction. It was in line with their comments during the trip.
Other than that most of the technicians, mechanics, and pilots moving around the hangar seemed much more focused on their work than anything else. Grumblings about the captain’s standards, and an apparent lack of spare parts. Based on the overall comments it seemed to be more about not wanting to do so much work rather than serious concerns over abilities to keep ships functional. Or so she hoped.
Once in the locker room she made her way to the back where a special case had been installed for her suit. While she would have preferred to travel on a Curator vessel she was glad to at least get a Curator suit. They didn’t have many organics, but the suits they made for her and the other Lifted were absolutely the best in terms of survivability, durability, and protection. Just not… comfort.
Since the locker room seemed to be empty she quickly stripped down, setting aside the encryption cylinder Obli had given her. For a moment she examined herself, along the deep red feathers of her head and neck, gradually turning to a sunburst yellow down her torso, and finally a rich deep blue along her legs and tail. Did species find her attractive? If the Curators had intended for this they likely would have included it in her training surely. Must just be Obli and his guards.
Stepping up to the Curator case she hit the activation button and then held perfectly still as the case opened, arms moving out to begin affixing the suit to her body. First she felt the snap of metal rings around her ankles, wrists, neck, hips, and ribs before the rest of the exoskeleton was built up around it. Then came the cool mesh of the inner suit pulled up underneath it and against her feathers. Next was the composites slotted into the outside, layered and overlapped for maximum coverage. Finally she prepared herself for the final step as two hoses connected to the metal collar around her neck. She hated this part.
When the liquid began to pump into the lining between the mesh and the composite layer it was ice cold and caused her to gasp and shudder as it filled in. It took a few minutes while she tried to carefully control her breathing and push past the cold. Once it was finally full the suit activated and the liquid turned solid, controlled by the sophisticated Curator chip in her skull. Her temperature quickly began to return to normal now and she took a slow deep breath in relief before taking the helmet the case offered last.
She refrained from putting the helmet on yet though, it wasn’t quite big enough for her taste and always rubbed her eartips. Walking back out into the hangar she could feel the suit somewhat flowing around her movements. It would turn liquid to move, then solid when it didn’t need to. She was also told it would go selectively rigid to deflect projectiles. A feature she hoped to never test.
Looking around a moment she saw Obli near the closest shuttle, speaking to someone wearing an executive pattern suit. Luxurious and comfortable, but she’d prefer the Curator suit in an emergency. Next to him was a human in a deep blue armored suit with steel accents. As she watched he draped a travel cloak over the shoulders of the suit. An interesting touch. Walking towards them she had to stop a moment to let a rumbling hangar tug pass. Several technicians rode in the back, carried to their next task.
Judging on the whine of the back left wheel she figured their next task might be to fix the tug itself. Either way she continued on up to Director Obli. “Translator. I’d like you to meet Kingus.” Obli gestured to the figure in the executive suit. Up close she could see through his helmet’s faceplate and examine the Nikvic inside. Rather stubby bone ridges. Rather young then for an executive.
“Translator.” He nodded to her.
“Kingus, it’s nice to meet you. My name is Mary, though translator is just fine as well.” She took an amicable approach for now.
“Yes. This is my bodyguard, Eli.” He gestured to the human next to him, who made for an imposing figure in his armor. With his helmet in place the steel visor reflected a distorted reflection of herself back at her.
“Ma’am.” He nodded and extended a hand out from under his cloak. Shifting her helmet to her left hand she carefully reached out to shake his hand in return.
“Eli, it’s nice to meet you.” The first human she’d found in the employ of the company. Though she knew most of the problems on the planet were related to their human miners. Allegedly at least.
“Nice to meet you as well ma’am.” His shake was firm but not aggressive. “We should be ready shortly. They’re loading the last of some food supplies and then we’re waiting on the marines.”
“Food supplies… I don’t even know what we’re taking down there. Argyle is a full fledged city. The problems its facing are related to labor terrorists. Not famine.” Kingus mentioned with a huff.
“It’s likely my food.” Mary answered. “The Curators were unsure how long I would be here and sent me with a full complement of prepared meals.”
“Oh.” Kingus coughed lightly. “Well… that’s fine then. I wasn’t aware you had special dietary needs. But the marines at least should be here. What’s taking them so long?” He tried to deflect a little and looked around.
As if summoned by his complaint she saw a group of human soldiers approaching the shuttle. The few times she had seen soldiers so far they’d been in smart uniforms and moving with purpose and sharp specific gestures. These… did not look nearly so impressive. Or poised. Instead the group just walked casually towards them, in a mixture of armor sets. Most had a haphazard drab olive green coat of paint but much of it was chipped and worn. Not to mention much of it was also covered in writing, drawings, and decals that she doubted were officially sanctioned.
Only the man in the lead looked to be in a truly official uniform set of armor. “I’m Lieutenant Barrow. I assume this is the shuttle we want?”
“Barrow, this is Kingus our Executive Labor Liason.” Director Obli introduced them. “This is our translator Mary.”
“Never seen one of you before. What species are you?” Mary turned to look at the soldier who’d spoken to her. He was just next to the officer, and his armor looked particularly beat up. She also noticed signs of scorch marks in several places. Unlike the single smooth faceplate of Eli’s armor his helmet looked more like a scowling face with golden lenses in the eyes.
“I am not an official species. I was Lifted by the Curators to act as a translator.” She informed him directly.
“Interesting. So you’re a bird. But you’ve got ears. What’s with the headset?” He gestured up at it as she reflexively reached up with her free hand to touch the side.
“There was a slight miscalculation in my creation and I find most settings to be… uncomfortably loud. The headset is to regulate the volume of my surroundings to prevent damage and discomfort.” She explained.
“What… wait. The Curators made a translator who gets hurt by sound? Am I understanding that right?” Mary frowned at his comment.
“That’s somewhat reductive.” She tried to deflect.
“Is it wrong?” He pressed.
“It’s not entirely inaccurate.” Disparaging on the work of the Curators wasn’t something she was comfortable with.
“That’s a fancy way of saying I’m right. So your job, which is listening to things, actively hurts you. Man… sucks to be you.” A few of the other marines snickered and giggled behind him as Mary frowned.
“Gunny, that’s enough.” Barrow finally waved off the other marine.
“Where’s the rest of your company? And the Major?” Obli asked now, thankfully moving things along.
“Elsewhere. He said if you’re not going to the planet yet he doesn’t see a reason to go either. My platoon and I are sufficient at this time. Once you’re ready to head down then the rest of the company will deploy.” Barrow shrugged. “You send your flunkey first he sends his flunkey too.”
“We have concerns about possible terrorist strikes on civilians during the labor talks. Are you sure a platoon is really sufficient?” Kingus asked.
The officer sucked in a breath, likely about to answer but Gunny cut him off. “Isn’t it interesting. All across the fringe you corporate types like to talk about how safe and secure your mining colonies are. Biding everyone to bring their families and get to work. Yet, the moment a union starts to form you start screaming about terrorists and how you need the military to keep order.”
“Gunny.” The officer hissed at him. Gunny waved it off a moment as the officer cleared his throat. “Your own reports suggest corporate security is robust enough to secure the city. We have no intel to suggest any threats of terrorist strikes by the miners are really valid. A platoon will suffice for now. If the situation changes the rest of the company can deploy very quickly I assure you.”
“Fine. But remember just because the miners in question are human doesn’t mean you can give them free reign. The FDF and by extension the marines rely on our funding to keep functioning.” Kingus replied.
“You never let us fucking forget.” Gunny muttered that barely under his breath. Neither Kingus or Obli seemed to pick up on this but Mary did.
“Many species across the Fringe have been generous enough to accept many human refugees. We obviously seek a future of cooperation and mutual success. This is not about humans being singled out. They have been given the same rights and contracts as all other species who join our corporate family.” Director Obli smiled and spread his hands in a friendly gesture. “We ask only that you protect the talks because they’re so important to our continued wellbeing as united front here on the Fringe. The Tide comes for us all and we must be ready. Together.”
“Well said Director.” Kingus nodded in support.
“Fucking please…” Gunny muttered and made some sort of gesture with his fist making a pumping motion in front of his hips. From the reports the Curators had given her, really what it seemed like was the humans massively increased their productivity, but in exchange wanted better treatment from the various industrial consortiums. The executives like Obli enjoyed the productivity but felt treating them better would set a bad precedent.
Across the fringe however humans had been getting their way more often than not. NT-2125 was by far the biggest, most high profile case, but she didn’t imagine it would be anything special. “Yes, well, we are here to keep you safe and make sure no one kills anyone. On either side.” The officer assured them and then gestured at the shuttle. “Shall we?”
“Have a nice flight Translator. Remember to call me.” Obli smiled and nodded at her.
“I’m sure we’ll be in touch, Director.” She finally pulled her helmet up and on, feeling it settle into place with a click and a soft hiss at it pressurized. The very tips of her ears were lightly pressed in by the sides which was why she’d waited this long to put it on. The marines began to board the shuttle first, shuffling along rows in the center to get into seats with metal shoulder restraints that would help hold them in place.
“Hey, so you’re a Lifted? What do the Curators want you here for? What’s the deal?” Gunny asked as he waited near the back for the others to shuffle in.
“I am not at liberty at this time to discuss the Curators or their work.” Mary’s forehead felt slightly warm as she answered him.
“Oh come on. There’s got to be something special the Curators want you here for.” Gunny insisted.
“I am not at liberty at this time to discuss the Curators or their work.” Mary’s forehead felt a bit warmer still.
“Gunny leave her alone.” Barrow instructed.
“C’mon why a translator at all? We’ve got earpieces! I’ve never seen a translator before, let alone a Curator one!” By now the other marines were seated and Mary began to shuffle up the row looking for a free seat.
“Ma’am you’ll need to take one of the jumpseats up front. These harnesses aren’t made for your Curator suit.” Barrow tapped one of the set of shoulder restraints. So she kept shuffling past the row of marines towards the front.
“I don’t rely on machine translation. I am fluent in over six hundred languages and forms of communication. I listen to all parties and ensure nothing is lost in translation.” She assured them.
“Only six hundred? I knew of a guy who was fluent in over six million forms of communication.” Gunny’s voice had a slightly different tone to it. Was he joking?
“Six million seems excessive. I assure you I am well trained for my job.” Now at the front of the shuttle she found the jumpseat in question. Yet, when she went to pull the seat down the dangerous whine and groan of the metal hinged did not inspire her with confidence. Still it was her mission so she settled into the seat and went about trying to figure out the harness.
Barrow approached her and pointed to the straps in order to help her out. “You’ll be fine. This is really just a precaution.” The Lieutenant nodded and gave her shoulder a pat. She smiled up at him then, her faceplate clear unlike their armor. It was thought to be better for non-verbal communication cues if people she spoke to could see her face. Kingus and Eli were the last to settle in seats nearby.
“Hey! Corpse!” Gunny called out as Eli settled into his seat and set the shoulder restraints with practiced ease.
“Excuse me?” Eli looked across the aisle at Gunny.
“You’re corporate security right? Corp-sec.” Gunny more carefully pronounced. But Mary was positive he hadn’t made a mistake earlier.
“I’m a private bodyguard. I work on contract.” Eli corrected him.
“Oh well anyway the fuck is with the cloak?” Gunny gestured at the deep blue cloak draped over Eli’s shoulders and body. “You’re in a suit right? Kind of the point of a space suit to be waterproof and somewhat heat proof and shit yeah? Kind of defeats the point of a cloak right? So what gives?”
“It’s about looking stylish. Something you clearly have no concept of Gunnery Sergeant.” Eli’s response seemed to take Gunny by surprise. The Gunny? Was Gunny a nickname or a title? Either way the marines around snickered and chuckled a bit though she could hear Gunny snort.
Barrow took the jumpseat next to her instead of one of the more secure seats. Possibly to help set her at ease. Which she appreciated. “So, Lieutenant. Do you expect this mission to be dangerous?”
“What? Protecting the talks? No. We’ve done this a few times so far. It’s pretty boring. No one has actually done anything. Usually there are some protests. Corp-sec shove people around. Both sides are upset. But no one dies. The talks advance. The miners get a bit more pay and benefits. Both sides are mutually annoyed with the other. And I’m sure in a few years it’ll all happen again.” Barrow shrugged and seemed entirely unconcerned.
“Don’t be so flippant.” Kingus said even as Barrow seemed to dismiss any concerns. “We’ve had some communications troubles from NT-2125. The work of labor agitators no doubt.”
“Communications troubles? Why are you telling us that now?” Barrow asked, showing some concern.
“I thought it was common knowledge?” Kingus sounded genuinely confused that Barrow was unaware of this. “Is it not? Executives on the ground have spoken of damaged communications systems, and delayed reports from outlying facilities.”
“Have there been delays in ore shipments? Or minerals or whatever?” Barrow asked.
“No. In fact due to our exemplary corporate structure we’re seeing increases across the board.” Kingus nodded, clearly proud of this fact.
“So… in your mind the labor agitators are breaking lines of communication. But not… the ore shipments which you find significantly more valuable?” Barrow asked, clearly not buying the idea.
“Don’t be complacent! Just because labor organizers have been rarely violent in the past doesn’t mean it will always be the case! I want your men on their highest alertness lieutenant!” Kingus stressed.
“Yes sir, I’ll be sure to pass that along.” Barrow assured him, even though Mary could tell by his tone that he had no intention of doing anything.
“What’s the planet like?” She asked next.
“The locals have called it Argyle.” Kingus answered. “It’s our largest mining operation and a highlight of our terraforming technology. A dozen zones have been established across the surface and ten of them are already fully habitable without a suit. We expect work to be done on six zones within the solar cycle, and shall open up another dozen to be finished within the next three solar cycles. Mineral and ore outputs are quadruple expectations. Mostly thanks to our unequaled refinery efficiency.”
“Or maybe cause you’re exploiting the shit out of your workers.” Again Gunny muttered this quietly enough to be missed by the others. Mary was settling into her seat as best she could when she heard the engines spool up. Inside the armored cockpit behind her she could hear the pilots flipping switches.
“Systems check complete. Echo shuttle requesting clearance for departure.” She wasn’t sure if that was the pilot or co-pilot. Deeper, possibly male.
“We got a flight plan?” Lighter possible female. Maybe that was the pilot?
“Yeah.” Navigator. Younger, more youthful. Not clear if male or female. “Not much to it. Follow the automated beacons. Their spaceport is big enough for Tagmax freighters so it should be easy peasy lemon squeezy.” Human definitely.
“We’re clear.” Co-pilot.
“Okay.” There was a moment where Mary’s hearing seemed to echo as she heard both the pilot in the cockpit and over the speakers in the hold at the same time. “We’re in real space and disembarking now. Remember to keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times until we come to a full and complete stop. We know you’ve got no choice in airlines today so suck it up because we’re all you got.” Also definitely human.
Gunny seemed to wiggle and settle in his seat, as if to take a nap. In general the marine chatter in the hold seemed very relaxed and calm. A good sign. The most nervous person was likely Kingus whose breathing she could tell was getting a bit quicker and more nervous. After another few seconds she heard the engine spooling get more intense and the shuttle picked up off the deck. Kingus tensed at this as his hands gripped the seat’s armrests more tightly.
While Mary wished she was in a superior Curator craft she was relatively relaxed. She’d flown many times, especially in her training to make sure she could translate even in stressful situations. Part of her wanted to mute her headset for now, to free herself of the need to listen to every jostle of the shuttle and the people within it, but she knew it was more important to maintain her ability to listen to the flight crew.
For several minutes however she mostly had to fight her growing desire to take a nap. Gunny’s breathing shifted into a soft and consistent snore so he already fell asleep. The gentle rumble of the ship around her and her secure nature also lent itself to a desire to nap… “Hey did we check the sensor calibration before we left?” Navigator.
“Yeah, total systems check. Everything cleared. I’m not seeing any problems.” Pilot.
“Uuuhhh… Okay.” Their tone implied things were not okay. She turned her head a little, and began to dial up her headset, ignoring the other sounds and focusing on the cockpit. Another minute went by as she just had the hum of the engines and marine chatter around her. “We’re sure the sensors were checked?”
“Yeah. Why what’s wrong?” Pilot.
“It’s just… uh… doesn’t make sense. I’m reading like… aaa lot of different atmospheres?” Navigator.
“Yeah. They’re terraforming it. So, a lot of different atmospheric readings.” Co-pilot.
“Sure but… some of these are… bizarre.. Like a… nitrogen? Maybe? And uh… ammonia.” She frowned as the Navigator said this.
“Maybe those are the natural planetary atmosphere. Listen, everything else I’ve got is reading fine.” Pilot.
“Ask ground maybe? Terraforming… accidents?” Navigator.
“Resolute this is Echo Two. Do we have any direct communication with Ground? Over.” Co-pilot. Pause. “No direct comms at this time. But the nav beacons are loud and clear.”
“Probably just some interference. I mean if they’ve had a terraforming accident it’s probably hell on comms.” Pilot.
“Yeah… probably.” Navigator, entirely unconvinced. As she listened she realized Barrow was staring straight at her. Did he suspect something? Was he on their channel?
“Something up?” He asked.
“The navigator thinks there might have been a terraforming accident on the planet.” She explained.
“What? How do you know that?” Barrows looked from her towards the armored door between them.
“I can hear them.” She explained simply.
“Did you say a terraforming accident?” Kinugs looked her way now.
“They say there’s strange atmospherics on the planet.” She revealed.
“I knew it! Labor agitators!” He huffed. “Tell your men to be ready for all manner of terrorism Lieutenant!”
“Mmhh…” Barrow's answer was noncommittal but seemed worried as he focused on Mary. She was still focused on the cockpit however.
“Was there a cruiser in orbit somewhere?” Co-pilot.
“The uh… Tartar or something. At least on the mission brief. We tracking it anywhere?” Pilot.
“I… no. I’ve got us, the orbital refinery platform, and the Resolute.” Navigator.
“Freighters? Shuttles? Corporate Yachts? Anything?” Pilot.
“Nnnnno.” Navigator.
“They aren’t seeing any other traffic in orbit.” She relayed to Barrow.
Barrow cleared his throat and seemed to trigger a mic in his helmet. “Guys, shut the fuck up. Gunny wake up.” A marine besides gunny slapped the man’s shoulder causing him to jerk in his seat and a knife seemed to appear in his hand.
“Wah?” He looked around.
“Something’s up.” Barrow mentioned. “No traffic, planetary comms are down, and terraformers are fucked up.”
Mary expected some smart comment but Gunny tucked his knife away and just listened. “Wait. A… freighter is taking off.” Navigator. “And I’ve got one leaving the orbital platform.”
“Ping them?” Co-pilot. Pilot must have nodded because he continued. “Pinging.” Pause. “Both are automated. Both report… systems are fine. No issues.”
“Nothing from ground? Emergency beacons? Distress? Nothing?” Pilot.
“Nothing.” Co-pilot confirmed.
“I mean… they’d be loath to stop shipping ore. Maybe it’s just really comms trouble and they aren’t flying anything right now. Cruiser might be on the far side assisting with some kind of… recovery effort? I don’t know.” Pilot.
“That might be the case…” The co-pilot did not in fact think that was the case. “Resolute, this is Echo two. Uh… do we have any further… mission details? Are we still go on landing? Over.” He sounded nervous. “We’re still go… they think it’s just comms trouble. But they’re prepping more shuttles now for possible rescue or support efforts.”
“I mean everything I’m seeing is clear. Not even rain clouds.” Pilot.
“They’re saying there’s comms failure on the planet. They’ve found automated traffic only. No distress calls.” Mary relayed. A moment later the pilot keyed in a direct channel and she heard the voice through Barrow’s helmet comm.
“Hey eltea. Just a heads up. We think there’s some kind of comms failure on the planet. And maybe a terraforming accident. No signs of hostile action though. Still prepped to land shortly. But uh giving you a heads up.” So they could talk to him but hadn’t.
“Appreciated. I’ll relay.” He acknowledged. Then she had to try and focus a bit harder as Barrow began to speak to his marines about the situation but the flight crew was still chatting.
“Entering atmo now. Any change in sensor reading?” Pilot.
“No. Area around Argyle looks… okay. Wait, that's the city right?” Navigator.
“Yeah. Uh. Maybe.” Pilot. The shuttle began to shake a bit harder though from what she had experienced before this was just normal for entering atmosphere. They were quiet as the shuttle rumbled. But after another minute the rumbling seemed to get worse instead of better. She was much more acutely aware of the groaning of the metal and just shuddering of everything around her. Kingus’ teeth were rattling and clicking especially. “Okay what the fuck.”
“Yeah… Yeah… Uh… fuck.” Co-pilot. What were they seeing? Just describe it outloud!
“I can’t turn it off. Ground has us locked into our corridor.” Navigator.
“Override!” Pilot.
“I can’t! I’m trying!” Navigator. The shuddering of the shuttle intensified further as it seemed to be moving around, like the pilot was trying to shake them out of whatever their path was and kept getting pulled in. “It’s not using any normal code! I’ve got no fucking clue what this is!”
“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT!” Mary winced at how loudly the Co-pilot yelled that. So far their voices had been full of stress and anxiety, but not fear, nor had they been loud.
“Jesus!” Pilot. What? What was it? “Look at it fucking move! Chaff! Flares! Dump everything!”
“Brace!” Mary cried out as she clutched her harness. She could hear the deployment of flares and chaff in a rapid series of bops and clanks. Then she could hear something hit the shuttle… But it wasn’t an explosion? Just a meaty metal crunch. Her body jerked hard in the harness as the shuttle around her began to spin, or jerk, or she had no idea but it was twisting violently!
“Fuck!” Pilot
“Watch it!” Co-pilot. Red lights immediately came on in the hold of the shuttle, she could hear as well as feel the violent collision as the port wing slammed into something. For a brief instant she could hear the shattering of glass before her hearing was just overwhelmed by the rest of the crash and the screaming around her. The force yanked her hard against the harness as she heard the terrifying screech of metal being pried apart as the hold and the cockpit sections of the shuttle seemed to detach.
Strapped to the jumpseat she could only watch in horror as the marines before her were suddenly spun in a different direction while Barrow and her were tumbling on the now suddenly exposed outside of the cockpit section. She was screaming as loud as her lungs could bear, but he was oddly quiet. As if resigned to their fate. She could see the city spinning around her, and the straps holding her began to give way as they were never intended for this. Barrow reached out and for a moment she reached towards him but then they hit something hard and her body was sent flying free of the seat.
[Continued in Comments]
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Chapter 2

“Hazardous? I’ll show that manipulative, misanthropic, anti-establishment cretin just what hazardous means if he thinks I’m going to fold on this!”
The sound of vigorous guitar riffs made a fitting accompaniment to the angry tirade despite originating on opposite sides of the communal area. Ama was glaring at a laptop that sat on a stained oak desk shoved against the large table near the kitchen. She tapped a fingernail on the wood as she read through the alert.
“And what violation of basic human dignity has her royal prudishness’s undies in a bunch?” Em demanded with an affected sneer without looking up from his guitar scales.
“Oh you’ll agree with this one tree-hugger,” Drake muttered from where he sat oiling his work boots.
“Yeah,” Donny piped up, “Finney is trying to kill a perfectly healthy fir.”
“What!” Em demanded, carefully placing his battered old acoustic guitar down in its case and darting over to look at the computer screen. “You mean apark tree?”
Despite her simmering frustration Ama allowed a small smile to flicker across her face as she continued to type.
“Get out of your pajamas and I’ll tell you,” Drake ordered pointing towards the bathroom door with a stained rag. “School starts in forty-five minutes and you still have breakfast and chores. That goes for you too Pip-squirt.”
“I hope you washed your hands before you touched our food,” Em said with a frown.
“Boot grease makes a great source of fatty acids.” Drake retorted. “Now go!”
The two smaller boys muttered in annoyance but stumbled off to follow orders.
“So what is up?” the youth asked as he bent his head back over the smooth leather of his boots.
“Mrs. Finney wants that tree down that’s blocking her perfect view of Crescent Lake.” Ama replied in a dry tone.
“One that’s clearly on park property?” Drake asked.
“Indeedy-do.” Ama replied giving the paper in front of her a glare.
“So how’s she justifying it?” Drake asked.
“As a safety hazard to her house.” Ama replied.
“And?”
The biologist groaned and rubbed her face.
“As far as I can tell the trunk is perfectly healthy. There is an old trash can lid grown into the trunk and a little discolored sap is leaking out there.”
“Frass?”
“Watch your language!” Donny interjected as he darted up to the table.
“Frass is not a bad word,” Drake stated. “Have you let the chickens out?”
“Yes, what does frass mean?” Donny asked as he started piling stir-fry onto his plate.
“Look it up.” Drake ordered him. “Emerald! Breakfast ends in ten minutes! Get your tukus down here!”
“It’s bad health to rush meals,” Em snapped out as he came down a narrow stairway with deliberate slowness.
“It’s even worse for your health to skip meals altogether,” Drake growled threateningly.
“Shut it and give me some eggs.” Em snapped back.
“Emerald Waters Undersun,” Drake hissed out through gritted teeth. “You are going to get your own eggs.”
The boy threw himself into a chair and glared at Drake with challenge in every line of his body.
“Emerald,” Ama said in a calm tone. “I think you should apologize to your cousin now.”
“Sorry I disturbed you Ama,” he offered without breaking eye contact with Drake.
“Not me, him,” Ama said.
“Sorry you had to hear that Donny.” Em said.
Ama heaved a sigh and closed her computer.
“Emerald,” Ama said.
“Do you want to eat or go hungry?” Drake demanded.
Ama glanced at him with a familiar uneasy look in her eyes and Drake fought down a wince.
“Now, Em.” she said in a patient tone.
“I’ll go hungry,” Em snapped, jumping up and stalking over to the couch.
Donny kept his eyes fixed on his plate. Ama heaved a sigh before turning back to her computer. Em wriggled on the couch for several minutes before skulking back to the table. Drake moved to intercept him but Ama stopped him with a look and he let Em serve himself. Drake cast irritated glances at the wall clock as the time crept more and more into school time.
Ama closed her computer and stood, then sighed, sat and opened it again.
“I need to pick out their report topics,” Ama muttered.
“I could do it,” Drake offered.
“You do quite enough,” Ama replied briskly, as she scanned the news. “Here you go. For Donny, malfunctions at the Lewis- McChord Air Force Base air show.” A frown creased her face. “Wow, this is pretty serious. It looks like the F-16 demonstration team nearly got killed.”
Drake whistled and leaned over her shoulder.
“Multiple system failures,” he read out loud. “I am pretty sure that isn’t supposed to happen.”
“Nope,” Ama agreed. “Here is a topic on big game management for Em.”
“Reports due by next week?” Drake asked as the old printer on the desk began to squeal and grumble as it powered up.
“Same as usual,” Ama confirmed.
Drake put the printouts on top of the homework pile and moved to wash up the breakfast dishes.
“I need to get to work early today so you two be good for Drake,” she called out placing a quick kiss on top of the smaller boys’ heads and giving Drake’s shoulder a friendly squeeze.
“Good luck with Mrs. Finney, and stay safe.” Drake called out as she went into her room.
The table was cleaned off and wiped down and the clink of forks gave way to the steady scratch of pencils on paper. They broke for a recess after religion and then lunch after history and math, and by the time the Grandfather clock in the corner struck two the younger boys twitching with energy. Drake made certain the internet was disconnected at the router, and chased Donny and Em out into the garden.
“And don’t come in until dark,” he ordered tossing two snack bags out after them.
Donny as usual snatched his food and disappeared into the small orachard. Low grumbles about troglodytes and the Amish wandered out into the high corn following Em and Drake shook his head in exasperation wondering, not for the first time how the dark haired princeling came from the same gene pool as his little brother. The kitchen being mostly ordered Drake was turning to put the last random dirty sock in the hamper when a gnarled hand clutching a cane head appeared in the corner of his eye, causing his heart to make a valiant attempt to bolt out of his throat.
“Abuelita!” he gasped forcing his hands down from the guard position. “Where did you come from?”
Smoldering black eyes ran searchingly over the tall youth. An impossibly long mane of streaked silver and black hair was barely contained in a thick braid. A sharply pointed nose perched over a small wrinkled mouth. A vibrant red horse-hair serape hung over her shoulders concealing everything except her brown and gnarled hands which currently clutched the old tree branch she used as a cane. Drake had been more than a little comforted by the fact that both Em and Donny had admitted to having the thought ‘witch’ every time time they saw her as well.
“From the hand of God by the bodies of my sainted mother and father,” she replied after a long, uncomfortable silence.
She always spoke in a low husky voice that suggested years of smoking, though Drake had never smelled even stale smoke on her.
“Right,” Drake blinked and grinned at the response; the one she always gave. “So you are here for their Spanish lesson? I have their grammar books ready and-”
The narrow end of the tree branch rapped against the concrete of the floor causing Drake to jump. Abuelita glared at him, locking his gaze and holding him in place with it for a moment.
“I am here for their lessons,” she finally stated, “and you are there for my payment.”
Drake thought longingly of the repair and maintenance manuals in the cab of the truck and the new tool he was itching to try, but he forced a grin on his face.
“Yes ma’am,” he said. “What can I get you today?”
Abuelita pulled out a bag of woven grass from under her serape causing the indistinct patterns on the cloth to shift and change.
“Take this,” she ordered him, “and collect me the cobalt blue berries that grow on a single stalk close to the ground. They must come from the mountain to the south east of here by the crystal brook.”
Drake nodded, and took the little bag, he didn’t quite manage to infused his gestures with enthusiasm he supposed. The old woman, probably wouldn’t have noted it anyway. She turned and moved towards the garden door without waiting for any other reply. However she called out over her shoulder as he turned to find his own way out of the rambling structure.
“Don’t dawdle little one. A storm brews in the distance.”
He tried not to roll his eyes at that, the weather forecast was clear and eighties for the next week according to the morning fire report Ama had printed. The youth only nodded and slipped around the corner. He circled the barn and pulled a set of loose tan pants and tunic out of the cubby. The soft worn leather almost perfectly matched the forest floor for color as did the moccasins he pulled on after them. His morning running clothes were modern stuff that wicked the sweat away from him and let him speed through the forest. These were his free day clothes. The ones that let him disappear into the forest and wander. Abuelita, for all of her demands, would tend Em and Donny until he returned no matter how late that was, and with the Park’s yearly budget talks still under way it was highly unlikely Ama would be home until long after the sun had set. Despite still hearing the call of the half restored truck he felt something lossening in him already. The soft cotton and smooth leather rested easily against his skin and Drake slipped into the forest.
Freedom; for the moment at least, blissful freedom. Pushing aside the guilt that accompanied the thought as well as any lingering worries about his charges the youth let his legs carry him through the trees. He shunned the man made paths, following the faint animal trails. This close to the barn they were as clear to him as if they were named city streets. Being animal trails, they invariably led him to water. Today he stopped at a trickling stream, took off his moccasins, and rolled up his pants legs. The youth turned and followed the thin flow of icy water upstream, letting it steal the heat from his body through his feet.
Some distance upstream, the stream widened and pooled under a boulder. There Drake paused and pulled an old black compass out of his pocket. Behind him he knew every trail and tree. Ahead was a broad swath of National Wilderness he would have to cross, or possibly Bureau of Land Management or even state managed forests where he more rarely wandered. It was hard to tell where the boundaries were from the ground. The clearing he wanted for the berries was solidly in BLM land and he still had quite a ways to go to get there. The stand of timber that stood between him and his goal was dense with young tree and branches that frequently formed impenetrable hedges he had to track around and he checked his compass regularly as he climbed in elevation. Even so the youth found he had wandered too far off his route and had to correct when he spotted the boundary fence. However he was in no hurry and he reached the clearing long before the sun told him it was time to turn around.
Sometime in the past some unknown force had carved a shallow trench across the side of one of the small mountains that that dotted the wilderness. It had puzzled Drake at first. The scour was at the wrong angle to be an old rock slide, and terminated in a near perfectly circular clearing at the lower end. Centuries old Douglas Firs abruptly gave way to a second ring only a few decades old. Those were in turn beginning to produce cones and a smattering of knee high saplings. The rest of the space was completely given over to wildflowers. No matter what season Drake visited it he found a riot of life.
There had been an early spring and many herbs that normally would have waited a month or more were already in full bloom in the mountain meadow. A white wave of foamflower washed in from the deep forest surrounding the clearing, sending up knee high stalks covered in the delicate white blooms. Late trillium hid close to the roots of the great firs, many having shed their white corollas and begun to put forth their bulbous seed heads. Fuzzy white baneberry blossoms nodded gently in the breeze. A riot of yellow and purple spread across the ground as vetch and buttercups and a host of clovers competed for space in the open sun. Great stalks of lupine as high as his head thrust up their purple and blue proudly from thick clusters of palm shaped leaves. Pink shooting stars and violet harebells crouched under the protection of the larger plants. Indian paintbrush lit the scene with flames of red and orange. Where a spring seeped into the meadow elephant’s head flared neon pink and corydalis bushes put forth blushing blooms. Pale green wild orchids stood along the wet spot and the swarms of bees danced from them to the glacier lilies.
Sometimes, as he bent over a tiny blossom and traced the intricate network of veins in the petals, drank in the scent, and felt the smooth surface of the leaves an otherworldly feeling would come over him. It was as if there was another world just out of range of his senses. If he could only really look, the thin illusion that was blocking him would slip away and reveal the real world underneath it.
Look Awiegwa,” his father would whisper, pointing at a deer mouse perched on a fallen log. “What does it see?”
Awiegwa would screw up his face and squint. Trying to find the answer to the question.
Awiegwa had often wondered how so many flowers had come to be in the relatively small area. He had identified dozens of species and there were more he had yet to determine. The clearing was always the first place to bloom and the last to go dormant. Many of the flowers seemed to utterly defy their usual blooming patterns. However, as time passed he had simply come to accept it. It was one of the small good things that brought back the memories of his father. If it didn’t quite follow the rules Ama had taught him, well an impossible clearing in the mountains wasn’t a place for rules.
The particular bloom that Abuelita had requested had taken full advantage of the early sun and had already put forth a few cobalt blue berries; easily spotted at the edge of the clearing in the delicate sea of white flowers.
However before he left the shade of the forest for the meadow the youth paused and closed his eyes. Bole wasn’t always here, but he was often enough that Awiegwa always checked for him. Carefully he reconstructed the clearing in his mind; marking every tree and boulder on the edge. Three years he had been coming here and each time it was easier to recreate the clearing. Breathing evenly he opened his eyes, letting the mental image merge with the actual. There was a brief moment of confusion as details like the play of light through branches and the trembling of small clusters of flowers fixed themselves but there was only one truly jarring note. Awiegwa didn’t let his eyes focus on the disparity; he never did anymore, but a warm smile spread across his features as he slipped silently into the meadow.
He was here. As the youth moved in a low crouch, gathering the first fruits of the Queen’s Cup, he let his peripheral vision linger on a particular snag. There was nothing obviously interesting about it, other than the fact that it had not been there the last time Awiegwa was here. He had named the wanderer Bole, because it most often appeared as a thick tree trunk; sometimes living, sometimes dead. Occasionally it would be a boulder or simply a mound in the dirt. Often it wasn’t in the clearing at all. If the youth moved forward and tried to closely examine it he could never find anything to suggest it was something other than a tree or rock.
He had thought about taking a sample occasionally, had taken his knife out to do just that more than once, but something always held him back. Bole was a part of this place. Dissecting him would be too much like attempting to dissect his sense of his father’s presence here. The youth had never told anyone about this place, not even Ama with who could get most things out of him easily enough. Down at the house, in town, when he was Drake; solid, reliable, first up in the morning, two grades ahead in school with a penchant for science Drake, a productive member of modern society with a promising future and his mother smiling at him. Here he could be Awiegwa. Here he could believe in the ancient medicines his father had dug out of dusty old tomes and brought to life from the forest litter. Every time Awiegwa left the clearing and headed back towards home reality would reassert itself. Bole would resolve back into a figment of his imagination, created from pride in a somewhat better than average memory and what the social workers had called an “intriguing imagination”. When he reached the house and become solidly Drake again flickers of embarrassment would begin eating at him for letting his senses trick him like that, but as long as the blooms nodded around him in this garden Bole could exist even on a Thursday.
The little woven grass bag filled up with the berries fairly quickly and Awiegwa soon stretched out of his crouch and let his gaze wander contentedly over the clearing. As it always did, the warm space was working its special magic. Worries about Em getting out of his schoolwork, of not paying enough attention to the quiet Donny, of letting Ama see his petty resentments: it had all melted away from his muscles, thoughts of college costs and abandoning his duties dissolved into an acute sense of the now. The leaves rustled softly in a barely-there breeze, the heavy scent of some unidentified blossom filled his lungs, a dozen shades of green framed the rainbow of flowers, and over and above it all the creaking of the firs as the wind played over them. It was at times like these that he felth he could almost see into heaven; that something wonderful that existed just beyond his senses, and all he had to do was reach out and claim it.
The youth took a deep breath and let himself fall backwards onto a handy rise in the forest floor. His path had taken him to the foot of the snag and he shifted slightly to align himself with the gnarled roots. One hand gripped a time smoothed root.
“Ama trusted me enough to go out of state,” he murmured. “That’s the first time she’s done that. Usually she has Abulita stay with us to fend off the Harsh, but she said it’s long past legal now.”
It was his imagination of course that made him think the root vibrated in his hand in response. Many a long hour he had spent in this clearing with the wanderer. He had poured out his frustrations and anguishes over life’s injustices, had shared his secrets as he grew, and had shouted his triumphs. Sometimes he felt closer to Bole than to any of his human friends. However, something that sounded like his mother’s voice warned him that there was something odd about this and that awareness was the main reason he had kept this place secret from Ama. Their mother hadn’t exactly liked stuff like that. She had never objected to his father’s digging up the old stories of her people. Making cross generational connections between elders, who more often than not lived isolated lives, and the next generation, was an admirable goal in of itself in her eyes; objectively a social good. Storytelling was only the natural course for these relationships to take, but subtle looks had warned even a very young Drake that it was best to cautious what he shared with his mother. At least of those things that couldn’t be placed on a microscope slide. So this was Awigewa’s place, and while his father’s spirit wanders the flowers with he had never felt his mother here.
He let his focus drift up, and up. Dark blue Lupine nodded over his head framing the faint crisscross of jet contrails that threw a light haze over an otherwise cloudless sky. His clothed grew deliciously hot from the spring sun. The ground too had eagerly accepted the energy and now it conducted the heat into the muscles of his back. Bole’s wood beneath him was warmer even than the surrounding ground and an idle thought traced across Awiegwa’s awareness; something about it being odd for the light colored wood and relatively dry wood to retain more heat than the darker soil surrounding it. His mind was filled with the impression of a goal. He had been meaning to do, something. Something fun, yes, exploring, he’d meant to see if whatever had dug that den by the second boulder was cubing this year. He would just get up and do that in a minute. His back was so warm and comfortable.

Flying Sparks”
Another foray into the lives of Drake McCarty, Ama Love, and the rest of their siblings as they discover that something alien is out in the forest around their home.
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flying-sparks-a-novel-of-dragon-bear-and-boy/coming_soon
#FlyingSparks #ScienceFiction #Scifi #Story #novel #book #DrakeMcCarty #AmaLove #Donny #Em #Bard #Bole #Aliens #Spaceships #Crystals #fireflies #NPS #NationalPark #Doctor #Sever #family #storm #writing #reading #drama #literature #author #BettyAdams #DyingEmbers #Dragons #ThingsThatGoBoomp #Indiegogo #CrowdFunding
submitted by Betty-Adams to ChristianAuthors [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 04:13 Betty-Adams Flying Sparks Volume 1 - A Novel of a boy, a dragon, and an alien. Avaliable for preorder on Indiegogo Now.

Flying Sparks

Pre Order Now


https://i.redd.it/vub83em8fb3b1.gif

Chapter 2

“Hazardous? I’ll show that manipulative, misanthropic, anti-establishment cretin just what hazardous means if he thinks I’m going to fold on this!”
The sound of vigorous guitar riffs made a fitting accompaniment to the angry tirade despite originating on opposite sides of the communal area. Ama was glaring at a laptop that sat on a stained oak desk shoved against the large table near the kitchen. She tapped a fingernail on the wood as she read through the alert.
“And what violation of basic human dignity has her royal prudishness’s undies in a bunch?” Em demanded with an affected sneer without looking up from his guitar scales.
“Oh you’ll agree with this one tree-hugger,” Drake muttered from where he sat oiling his work boots.
“Yeah,” Donny piped up, “Finney is trying to kill a perfectly healthy fir.”
“What!” Em demanded, carefully placing his battered old acoustic guitar down in its case and darting over to look at the computer screen. “You mean apark tree?”
Despite her simmering frustration Ama allowed a small smile to flicker across her face as she continued to type.
“Get out of your pajamas and I’ll tell you,” Drake ordered pointing towards the bathroom door with a stained rag. “School starts in forty-five minutes and you still have breakfast and chores. That goes for you too Pip-squirt.”
“I hope you washed your hands before you touched our food,” Em said with a frown.
“Boot grease makes a great source of fatty acids.” Drake retorted. “Now go!”
The two smaller boys muttered in annoyance but stumbled off to follow orders.
“So what is up?” the youth asked as he bent his head back over the smooth leather of his boots.
“Mrs. Finney wants that tree down that’s blocking her perfect view of Crescent Lake.” Ama replied in a dry tone.
“One that’s clearly on park property?” Drake asked.
“Indeedy-do.” Ama replied giving the paper in front of her a glare.
“So how’s she justifying it?” Drake asked.
“As a safety hazard to her house.” Ama replied.
“And?”
The biologist groaned and rubbed her face.
“As far as I can tell the trunk is perfectly healthy. There is an old trash can lid grown into the trunk and a little discolored sap is leaking out there.”
“Frass?”
“Watch your language!” Donny interjected as he darted up to the table.
“Frass is not a bad word,” Drake stated. “Have you let the chickens out?”
“Yes, what does frass mean?” Donny asked as he started piling stir-fry onto his plate.
“Look it up.” Drake ordered him. “Emerald! Breakfast ends in ten minutes! Get your tukus down here!”
“It’s bad health to rush meals,” Em snapped out as he came down a narrow stairway with deliberate slowness.
“It’s even worse for your health to skip meals altogether,” Drake growled threateningly.
“Shut it and give me some eggs.” Em snapped back.
“Emerald Waters Undersun,” Drake hissed out through gritted teeth. “You are going to get your own eggs.”
The boy threw himself into a chair and glared at Drake with challenge in every line of his body.
“Emerald,” Ama said in a calm tone. “I think you should apologize to your cousin now.”
“Sorry I disturbed you Ama,” he offered without breaking eye contact with Drake.
“Not me, him,” Ama said.
“Sorry you had to hear that Donny.” Em said.
Ama heaved a sigh and closed her computer.
“Emerald,” Ama said.
“Do you want to eat or go hungry?” Drake demanded.
Ama glanced at him with a familiar uneasy look in her eyes and Drake fought down a wince.
“Now, Em.” she said in a patient tone.
“I’ll go hungry,” Em snapped, jumping up and stalking over to the couch.
Donny kept his eyes fixed on his plate. Ama heaved a sigh before turning back to her computer. Em wriggled on the couch for several minutes before skulking back to the table. Drake moved to intercept him but Ama stopped him with a look and he let Em serve himself. Drake cast irritated glances at the wall clock as the time crept more and more into school time.
Ama closed her computer and stood, then sighed, sat and opened it again.
“I need to pick out their report topics,” Ama muttered.
“I could do it,” Drake offered.
“You do quite enough,” Ama replied briskly, as she scanned the news. “Here you go. For Donny, malfunctions at the Lewis- McChord Air Force Base air show.” A frown creased her face. “Wow, this is pretty serious. It looks like the F-16 demonstration team nearly got killed.”
Drake whistled and leaned over her shoulder.
“Multiple system failures,” he read out loud. “I am pretty sure that isn’t supposed to happen.”
“Nope,” Ama agreed. “Here is a topic on big game management for Em.”
“Reports due by next week?” Drake asked as the old printer on the desk began to squeal and grumble as it powered up.
“Same as usual,” Ama confirmed.
Drake put the printouts on top of the homework pile and moved to wash up the breakfast dishes.
“I need to get to work early today so you two be good for Drake,” she called out placing a quick kiss on top of the smaller boys’ heads and giving Drake’s shoulder a friendly squeeze.
“Good luck with Mrs. Finney, and stay safe.” Drake called out as she went into her room.
The table was cleaned off and wiped down and the clink of forks gave way to the steady scratch of pencils on paper. They broke for a recess after religion and then lunch after history and math, and by the time the Grandfather clock in the corner struck two the younger boys twitching with energy. Drake made certain the internet was disconnected at the router, and chased Donny and Em out into the garden.
“And don’t come in until dark,” he ordered tossing two snack bags out after them.
Donny as usual snatched his food and disappeared into the small orachard. Low grumbles about troglodytes and the Amish wandered out into the high corn following Em and Drake shook his head in exasperation wondering, not for the first time how the dark haired princeling came from the same gene pool as his little brother. The kitchen being mostly ordered Drake was turning to put the last random dirty sock in the hamper when a gnarled hand clutching a cane head appeared in the corner of his eye, causing his heart to make a valiant attempt to bolt out of his throat.
“Abuelita!” he gasped forcing his hands down from the guard position. “Where did you come from?”
Smoldering black eyes ran searchingly over the tall youth. An impossibly long mane of streaked silver and black hair was barely contained in a thick braid. A sharply pointed nose perched over a small wrinkled mouth. A vibrant red horse-hair serape hung over her shoulders concealing everything except her brown and gnarled hands which currently clutched the old tree branch she used as a cane. Drake had been more than a little comforted by the fact that both Em and Donny had admitted to having the thought ‘witch’ every time time they saw her as well.
“From the hand of God by the bodies of my sainted mother and father,” she replied after a long, uncomfortable silence.
She always spoke in a low husky voice that suggested years of smoking, though Drake had never smelled even stale smoke on her.
“Right,” Drake blinked and grinned at the response; the one she always gave. “So you are here for their Spanish lesson? I have their grammar books ready and-”
The narrow end of the tree branch rapped against the concrete of the floor causing Drake to jump. Abuelita glared at him, locking his gaze and holding him in place with it for a moment.
“I am here for their lessons,” she finally stated, “and you are there for my payment.”
Drake thought longingly of the repair and maintenance manuals in the cab of the truck and the new tool he was itching to try, but he forced a grin on his face.
“Yes ma’am,” he said. “What can I get you today?”
Abuelita pulled out a bag of woven grass from under her serape causing the indistinct patterns on the cloth to shift and change.
“Take this,” she ordered him, “and collect me the cobalt blue berries that grow on a single stalk close to the ground. They must come from the mountain to the south east of here by the crystal brook.”
Drake nodded, and took the little bag, he didn’t quite manage to infused his gestures with enthusiasm he supposed. The old woman, probably wouldn’t have noted it anyway. She turned and moved towards the garden door without waiting for any other reply. However she called out over her shoulder as he turned to find his own way out of the rambling structure.
“Don’t dawdle little one. A storm brews in the distance.”
He tried not to roll his eyes at that, the weather forecast was clear and eighties for the next week according to the morning fire report Ama had printed. The youth only nodded and slipped around the corner. He circled the barn and pulled a set of loose tan pants and tunic out of the cubby. The soft worn leather almost perfectly matched the forest floor for color as did the moccasins he pulled on after them. His morning running clothes were modern stuff that wicked the sweat away from him and let him speed through the forest. These were his free day clothes. The ones that let him disappear into the forest and wander. Abuelita, for all of her demands, would tend Em and Donny until he returned no matter how late that was, and with the Park’s yearly budget talks still under way it was highly unlikely Ama would be home until long after the sun had set. Despite still hearing the call of the half restored truck he felt something lossening in him already. The soft cotton and smooth leather rested easily against his skin and Drake slipped into the forest.
Freedom; for the moment at least, blissful freedom. Pushing aside the guilt that accompanied the thought as well as any lingering worries about his charges the youth let his legs carry him through the trees. He shunned the man made paths, following the faint animal trails. This close to the barn they were as clear to him as if they were named city streets. Being animal trails, they invariably led him to water. Today he stopped at a trickling stream, took off his moccasins, and rolled up his pants legs. The youth turned and followed the thin flow of icy water upstream, letting it steal the heat from his body through his feet.
Some distance upstream, the stream widened and pooled under a boulder. There Drake paused and pulled an old black compass out of his pocket. Behind him he knew every trail and tree. Ahead was a broad swath of National Wilderness he would have to cross, or possibly Bureau of Land Management or even state managed forests where he more rarely wandered. It was hard to tell where the boundaries were from the ground. The clearing he wanted for the berries was solidly in BLM land and he still had quite a ways to go to get there. The stand of timber that stood between him and his goal was dense with young tree and branches that frequently formed impenetrable hedges he had to track around and he checked his compass regularly as he climbed in elevation. Even so the youth found he had wandered too far off his route and had to correct when he spotted the boundary fence. However he was in no hurry and he reached the clearing long before the sun told him it was time to turn around.
Sometime in the past some unknown force had carved a shallow trench across the side of one of the small mountains that that dotted the wilderness. It had puzzled Drake at first. The scour was at the wrong angle to be an old rock slide, and terminated in a near perfectly circular clearing at the lower end. Centuries old Douglas Firs abruptly gave way to a second ring only a few decades old. Those were in turn beginning to produce cones and a smattering of knee high saplings. The rest of the space was completely given over to wildflowers. No matter what season Drake visited it he found a riot of life.
There had been an early spring and many herbs that normally would have waited a month or more were already in full bloom in the mountain meadow. A white wave of foamflower washed in from the deep forest surrounding the clearing, sending up knee high stalks covered in the delicate white blooms. Late trillium hid close to the roots of the great firs, many having shed their white corollas and begun to put forth their bulbous seed heads. Fuzzy white baneberry blossoms nodded gently in the breeze. A riot of yellow and purple spread across the ground as vetch and buttercups and a host of clovers competed for space in the open sun. Great stalks of lupine as high as his head thrust up their purple and blue proudly from thick clusters of palm shaped leaves. Pink shooting stars and violet harebells crouched under the protection of the larger plants. Indian paintbrush lit the scene with flames of red and orange. Where a spring seeped into the meadow elephant’s head flared neon pink and corydalis bushes put forth blushing blooms. Pale green wild orchids stood along the wet spot and the swarms of bees danced from them to the glacier lilies.
Sometimes, as he bent over a tiny blossom and traced the intricate network of veins in the petals, drank in the scent, and felt the smooth surface of the leaves an otherworldly feeling would come over him. It was as if there was another world just out of range of his senses. If he could only really look, the thin illusion that was blocking him would slip away and reveal the real world underneath it.
Look Awiegwa,” his father would whisper, pointing at a deer mouse perched on a fallen log. “What does it see?”
Awiegwa would screw up his face and squint. Trying to find the answer to the question.
Awiegwa had often wondered how so many flowers had come to be in the relatively small area. He had identified dozens of species and there were more he had yet to determine. The clearing was always the first place to bloom and the last to go dormant. Many of the flowers seemed to utterly defy their usual blooming patterns. However, as time passed he had simply come to accept it. It was one of the small good things that brought back the memories of his father. If it didn’t quite follow the rules Ama had taught him, well an impossible clearing in the mountains wasn’t a place for rules.
The particular bloom that Abuelita had requested had taken full advantage of the early sun and had already put forth a few cobalt blue berries; easily spotted at the edge of the clearing in the delicate sea of white flowers.
However before he left the shade of the forest for the meadow the youth paused and closed his eyes. Bole wasn’t always here, but he was often enough that Awiegwa always checked for him. Carefully he reconstructed the clearing in his mind; marking every tree and boulder on the edge. Three years he had been coming here and each time it was easier to recreate the clearing. Breathing evenly he opened his eyes, letting the mental image merge with the actual. There was a brief moment of confusion as details like the play of light through branches and the trembling of small clusters of flowers fixed themselves but there was only one truly jarring note. Awiegwa didn’t let his eyes focus on the disparity; he never did anymore, but a warm smile spread across his features as he slipped silently into the meadow.
He was here. As the youth moved in a low crouch, gathering the first fruits of the Queen’s Cup, he let his peripheral vision linger on a particular snag. There was nothing obviously interesting about it, other than the fact that it had not been there the last time Awiegwa was here. He had named the wanderer Bole, because it most often appeared as a thick tree trunk; sometimes living, sometimes dead. Occasionally it would be a boulder or simply a mound in the dirt. Often it wasn’t in the clearing at all. If the youth moved forward and tried to closely examine it he could never find anything to suggest it was something other than a tree or rock.
He had thought about taking a sample occasionally, had taken his knife out to do just that more than once, but something always held him back. Bole was a part of this place. Dissecting him would be too much like attempting to dissect his sense of his father’s presence here. The youth had never told anyone about this place, not even Ama with who could get most things out of him easily enough. Down at the house, in town, when he was Drake; solid, reliable, first up in the morning, two grades ahead in school with a penchant for science Drake, a productive member of modern society with a promising future and his mother smiling at him. Here he could be Awiegwa. Here he could believe in the ancient medicines his father had dug out of dusty old tomes and brought to life from the forest litter. Every time Awiegwa left the clearing and headed back towards home reality would reassert itself. Bole would resolve back into a figment of his imagination, created from pride in a somewhat better than average memory and what the social workers had called an “intriguing imagination”. When he reached the house and become solidly Drake again flickers of embarrassment would begin eating at him for letting his senses trick him like that, but as long as the blooms nodded around him in this garden Bole could exist even on a Thursday.
The little woven grass bag filled up with the berries fairly quickly and Awiegwa soon stretched out of his crouch and let his gaze wander contentedly over the clearing. As it always did, the warm space was working its special magic. Worries about Em getting out of his schoolwork, of not paying enough attention to the quiet Donny, of letting Ama see his petty resentments: it had all melted away from his muscles, thoughts of college costs and abandoning his duties dissolved into an acute sense of the now. The leaves rustled softly in a barely-there breeze, the heavy scent of some unidentified blossom filled his lungs, a dozen shades of green framed the rainbow of flowers, and over and above it all the creaking of the firs as the wind played over them. It was at times like these that he felth he could almost see into heaven; that something wonderful that existed just beyond his senses, and all he had to do was reach out and claim it.
The youth took a deep breath and let himself fall backwards onto a handy rise in the forest floor. His path had taken him to the foot of the snag and he shifted slightly to align himself with the gnarled roots. One hand gripped a time smoothed root.
“Ama trusted me enough to go out of state,” he murmured. “That’s the first time she’s done that. Usually she has Abulita stay with us to fend off the Harsh, but she said it’s long past legal now.”
It was his imagination of course that made him think the root vibrated in his hand in response. Many a long hour he had spent in this clearing with the wanderer. He had poured out his frustrations and anguishes over life’s injustices, had shared his secrets as he grew, and had shouted his triumphs. Sometimes he felt closer to Bole than to any of his human friends. However, something that sounded like his mother’s voice warned him that there was something odd about this and that awareness was the main reason he had kept this place secret from Ama. Their mother hadn’t exactly liked stuff like that. She had never objected to his father’s digging up the old stories of her people. Making cross generational connections between elders, who more often than not lived isolated lives, and the next generation, was an admirable goal in of itself in her eyes; objectively a social good. Storytelling was only the natural course for these relationships to take, but subtle looks had warned even a very young Drake that it was best to cautious what he shared with his mother. At least of those things that couldn’t be placed on a microscope slide. So this was Awigewa’s place, and while his father’s spirit wanders the flowers with he had never felt his mother here.
He let his focus drift up, and up. Dark blue Lupine nodded over his head framing the faint crisscross of jet contrails that threw a light haze over an otherwise cloudless sky. His clothed grew deliciously hot from the spring sun. The ground too had eagerly accepted the energy and now it conducted the heat into the muscles of his back. Bole’s wood beneath him was warmer even than the surrounding ground and an idle thought traced across Awiegwa’s awareness; something about it being odd for the light colored wood and relatively dry wood to retain more heat than the darker soil surrounding it. His mind was filled with the impression of a goal. He had been meaning to do, something. Something fun, yes, exploring, he’d meant to see if whatever had dug that den by the second boulder was cubing this year. He would just get up and do that in a minute. His back was so warm and comfortable.

https://i.redd.it/9sde27n9fb3b1.gif
Flying Sparks”
Another foray into the lives of Drake McCarty, Ama Love, and the rest of their siblings as they discover that something alien is out in the forest around their home.
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flying-sparks-a-novel-of-dragon-bear-and-boy/coming_soon
#FlyingSparks #ScienceFiction #Scifi #Story #novel #book #DrakeMcCarty #AmaLove #Donny #Em #Bard #Bole #Aliens #Spaceships #Crystals #fireflies #NPS #NationalPark #Doctor #Sever #family #storm #writing #reading #drama #literature #author #BettyAdams #DyingEmbers #Dragons #ThingsThatGoBoomp #Indiegogo #CrowdFunding
submitted by Betty-Adams to AspiringAuthors [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 04:13 Betty-Adams Flying Sparks Volume 1 - A Novel of a boy, a dragon, and an alien. Avaliable for preorder on Indiegogo Now.

Flying Sparks Pre Order Now Chapter 2 “Hazardous? I’ll show that manipulative, misanthropic, anti-establishment cretin just what hazardous means if he thinks I’m going to fold on this!” The sound of vigorous guitar riffs made a fitting accompaniment to the angry tirade despite originating on opposite sides of the communal area. Ama was glaring at a laptop that sat on a stained oak desk shoved against the large table near the kitchen. She tapped a fingernail on the wood as she read through the alert. “And what violation of basic human dignity has her royal prudishness’s undies in a bunch?” Em demanded with an affected sneer without looking up from his guitar scales. “Oh you’ll agree with this one tree-hugger,” Drake muttered from where he sat oiling his work boots. “Yeah,” Donny piped up, “Finney is trying to kill a perfectly healthy fir.” “What!” Em demanded, carefully placing his battered old acoustic guitar down in its case and darting over to look at the computer screen. “You mean apark tree?” Despite her simmering frustration Ama allowed a small smile to flicker across her face as she continued to type. “Get out of your pajamas and I’ll tell you,” Drake ordered pointing towards the bathroom door with a stained rag. “School starts in forty-five minutes and you still have breakfast and chores. That goes for you too Pip-squirt.” “I hope you washed your hands before you touched our food,” Em said with a frown. “Boot grease makes a great source of fatty acids.” Drake retorted. “Now go!” The two smaller boys muttered in annoyance but stumbled off to follow orders. “So what is up?” the youth asked as he bent his head back over the smooth leather of his boots. “Mrs. Finney wants that tree down that’s blocking her perfect view of Crescent Lake.” Ama replied in a dry tone. “One that’s clearly on park property?” Drake asked. “Indeedy-do.” Ama replied giving the paper in front of her a glare. “So how’s she justifying it?” Drake asked. “As a safety hazard to her house.” Ama replied. “And?” The biologist groaned and rubbed her face. “As far as I can tell the trunk is perfectly healthy. There is an old trash can lid grown into the trunk and a little discolored sap is leaking out there.” “Frass?” “Watch your language!” Donny interjected as he darted up to the table. “Frass is not a bad word,” Drake stated. “Have you let the chickens out?” “Yes, what does frass mean?” Donny asked as he started piling stir-fry onto his plate. “Look it up.” Drake ordered him. “Emerald! Breakfast ends in ten minutes! Get your tukus down here!” “It’s bad health to rush meals,” Em snapped out as he came down a narrow stairway with deliberate slowness. “It’s even worse for your health to skip meals altogether,” Drake growled threateningly. “Shut it and give me some eggs.” Em snapped back. “Emerald Waters Undersun,” Drake hissed out through gritted teeth. “You are going to get your own eggs.” The boy threw himself into a chair and glared at Drake with challenge in every line of his body. “Emerald,” Ama said in a calm tone. “I think you should apologize to your cousin now.” “Sorry I disturbed you Ama,” he offered without breaking eye contact with Drake. “Not me, him,” Ama said. “Sorry you had to hear that Donny.” Em said. Ama heaved a sigh and closed her computer. “Emerald,” Ama said. “Do you want to eat or go hungry?” Drake demanded. Ama glanced at him with a familiar uneasy look in her eyes and Drake fought down a wince. “Now, Em.” she said in a patient tone. “I’ll go hungry,” Em snapped, jumping up and stalking over to the couch. Donny kept his eyes fixed on his plate. Ama heaved a sigh before turning back to her computer. Em wriggled on the couch for several minutes before skulking back to the table. Drake moved to intercept him but Ama stopped him with a look and he let Em serve himself. Drake cast irritated glances at the wall clock as the time crept more and more into school time. Ama closed her computer and stood, then sighed, sat and opened it again. “I need to pick out their report topics,” Ama muttered. “I could do it,” Drake offered. “You do quite enough,” Ama replied briskly, as she scanned the news. “Here you go. For Donny, malfunctions at the Lewis- McChord Air Force Base air show.” A frown creased her face. “Wow, this is pretty serious. It looks like the F-16 demonstration team nearly got killed.” Drake whistled and leaned over her shoulder. “Multiple system failures,” he read out loud. “I am pretty sure that isn’t supposed to happen.” “Nope,” Ama agreed. “Here is a topic on big game management for Em.” “Reports due by next week?” Drake asked as the old printer on the desk began to squeal and grumble as it powered up. “Same as usual,” Ama confirmed. Drake put the printouts on top of the homework pile and moved to wash up the breakfast dishes. “I need to get to work early today so you two be good for Drake,” she called out placing a quick kiss on top of the smaller boys’ heads and giving Drake’s shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Good luck with Mrs. Finney, and stay safe.” Drake called out as she went into her room. The table was cleaned off and wiped down and the clink of forks gave way to the steady scratch of pencils on paper. They broke for a recess after religion and then lunch after history and math, and by the time the Grandfather clock in the corner struck two the younger boys twitching with energy. Drake made certain the internet was disconnected at the router, and chased Donny and Em out into the garden. “And don’t come in until dark,” he ordered tossing two snack bags out after them. Donny as usual snatched his food and disappeared into the small orachard. Low grumbles about troglodytes and the Amish wandered out into the high corn following Em and Drake shook his head in exasperation wondering, not for the first time how the dark haired princeling came from the same gene pool as his little brother. The kitchen being mostly ordered Drake was turning to put the last random dirty sock in the hamper when a gnarled hand clutching a cane head appeared in the corner of his eye, causing his heart to make a valiant attempt to bolt out of his throat. “Abuelita!” he gasped forcing his hands down from the guard position. “Where did you come from?” Smoldering black eyes ran searchingly over the tall youth. An impossibly long mane of streaked silver and black hair was barely contained in a thick braid. A sharply pointed nose perched over a small wrinkled mouth. A vibrant red horse-hair serape hung over her shoulders concealing everything except her brown and gnarled hands which currently clutched the old tree branch she used as a cane. Drake had been more than a little comforted by the fact that both Em and Donny had admitted to having the thought ‘witch’ every time time they saw her as well. “From the hand of God by the bodies of my sainted mother and father,” she replied after a long, uncomfortable silence. She always spoke in a low husky voice that suggested years of smoking, though Drake had never smelled even stale smoke on her. “Right,” Drake blinked and grinned at the response; the one she always gave. “So you are here for their Spanish lesson? I have their grammar books ready and-” The narrow end of the tree branch rapped against the concrete of the floor causing Drake to jump. Abuelita glared at him, locking his gaze and holding him in place with it for a moment. “I am here for their lessons,” she finally stated, “and you are there for my payment.” Drake thought longingly of the repair and maintenance manuals in the cab of the truck and the new tool he was itching to try, but he forced a grin on his face. “Yes ma’am,” he said. “What can I get you today?” Abuelita pulled out a bag of woven grass from under her serape causing the indistinct patterns on the cloth to shift and change. “Take this,” she ordered him, “and collect me the cobalt blue berries that grow on a single stalk close to the ground. They must come from the mountain to the south east of here by the crystal brook.” Drake nodded, and took the little bag, he didn’t quite manage to infused his gestures with enthusiasm he supposed. The old woman, probably wouldn’t have noted it anyway. She turned and moved towards the garden door without waiting for any other reply. However she called out over her shoulder as he turned to find his own way out of the rambling structure. “Don’t dawdle little one. A storm brews in the distance.” He tried not to roll his eyes at that, the weather forecast was clear and eighties for the next week according to the morning fire report Ama had printed. The youth only nodded and slipped around the corner. He circled the barn and pulled a set of loose tan pants and tunic out of the cubby. The soft worn leather almost perfectly matched the forest floor for color as did the moccasins he pulled on after them. His morning running clothes were modern stuff that wicked the sweat away from him and let him speed through the forest. These were his free day clothes. The ones that let him disappear into the forest and wander. Abuelita, for all of her demands, would tend Em and Donny until he returned no matter how late that was, and with the Park’s yearly budget talks still under way it was highly unlikely Ama would be home until long after the sun had set. Despite still hearing the call of the half restored truck he felt something lossening in him already. The soft cotton and smooth leather rested easily against his skin and Drake slipped into the forest. Freedom; for the moment at least, blissful freedom. Pushing aside the guilt that accompanied the thought as well as any lingering worries about his charges the youth let his legs carry him through the trees. He shunned the man made paths, following the faint animal trails. This close to the barn they were as clear to him as if they were named city streets. Being animal trails, they invariably led him to water. Today he stopped at a trickling stream, took off his moccasins, and rolled up his pants legs. The youth turned and followed the thin flow of icy water upstream, letting it steal the heat from his body through his feet. Some distance upstream, the stream widened and pooled under a boulder. There Drake paused and pulled an old black compass out of his pocket. Behind him he knew every trail and tree. Ahead was a broad swath of National Wilderness he would have to cross, or possibly Bureau of Land Management or even state managed forests where he more rarely wandered. It was hard to tell where the boundaries were from the ground. The clearing he wanted for the berries was solidly in BLM land and he still had quite a ways to go to get there. The stand of timber that stood between him and his goal was dense with young tree and branches that frequently formed impenetrable hedges he had to track around and he checked his compass regularly as he climbed in elevation. Even so the youth found he had wandered too far off his route and had to correct when he spotted the boundary fence. However he was in no hurry and he reached the clearing long before the sun told him it was time to turn around. Sometime in the past some unknown force had carved a shallow trench across the side of one of the small mountains that that dotted the wilderness. It had puzzled Drake at first. The scour was at the wrong angle to be an old rock slide, and terminated in a near perfectly circular clearing at the lower end. Centuries old Douglas Firs abruptly gave way to a second ring only a few decades old. Those were in turn beginning to produce cones and a smattering of knee high saplings. The rest of the space was completely given over to wildflowers. No matter what season Drake visited it he found a riot of life. There had been an early spring and many herbs that normally would have waited a month or more were already in full bloom in the mountain meadow. A white wave of foamflower washed in from the deep forest surrounding the clearing, sending up knee high stalks covered in the delicate white blooms. Late trillium hid close to the roots of the great firs, many having shed their white corollas and begun to put forth their bulbous seed heads. Fuzzy white baneberry blossoms nodded gently in the breeze. A riot of yellow and purple spread across the ground as vetch and buttercups and a host of clovers competed for space in the open sun. Great stalks of lupine as high as his head thrust up their purple and blue proudly from thick clusters of palm shaped leaves. Pink shooting stars and violet harebells crouched under the protection of the larger plants. Indian paintbrush lit the scene with flames of red and orange. Where a spring seeped into the meadow elephant’s head flared neon pink and corydalis bushes put forth blushing blooms. Pale green wild orchids stood along the wet spot and the swarms of bees danced from them to the glacier lilies. Sometimes, as he bent over a tiny blossom and traced the intricate network of veins in the petals, drank in the scent, and felt the smooth surface of the leaves an otherworldly feeling would come over him. It was as if there was another world just out of range of his senses. If he could only really look, the thin illusion that was blocking him would slip away and reveal the real world underneath it. “Look Awiegwa,” his father would whisper, pointing at a deer mouse perched on a fallen log. “What does it see?” Awiegwa would screw up his face and squint. Trying to find the answer to the question. Awiegwa had often wondered how so many flowers had come to be in the relatively small area. He had identified dozens of species and there were more he had yet to determine. The clearing was always the first place to bloom and the last to go dormant. Many of the flowers seemed to utterly defy their usual blooming patterns. However, as time passed he had simply come to accept it. It was one of the small good things that brought back the memories of his father. If it didn’t quite follow the rules Ama had taught him, well an impossible clearing in the mountains wasn’t a place for rules. The particular bloom that Abuelita had requested had taken full advantage of the early sun and had already put forth a few cobalt blue berries; easily spotted at the edge of the clearing in the delicate sea of white flowers. However before he left the shade of the forest for the meadow the youth paused and closed his eyes. Bole wasn’t always here, but he was often enough that Awiegwa always checked for him. Carefully he reconstructed the clearing in his mind; marking every tree and boulder on the edge. Three years he had been coming here and each time it was easier to recreate the clearing. Breathing evenly he opened his eyes, letting the mental image merge with the actual. There was a brief moment of confusion as details like the play of light through branches and the trembling of small clusters of flowers fixed themselves but there was only one truly jarring note. Awiegwa didn’t let his eyes focus on the disparity; he never did anymore, but a warm smile spread across his features as he slipped silently into the meadow. He was here. As the youth moved in a low crouch, gathering the first fruits of the Queen’s Cup, he let his peripheral vision linger on a particular snag. There was nothing obviously interesting about it, other than the fact that it had not been there the last time Awiegwa was here. He had named the wanderer Bole, because it most often appeared as a thick tree trunk; sometimes living, sometimes dead. Occasionally it would be a boulder or simply a mound in the dirt. Often it wasn’t in the clearing at all. If the youth moved forward and tried to closely examine it he could never find anything to suggest it was something other than a tree or rock. He had thought about taking a sample occasionally, had taken his knife out to do just that more than once, but something always held him back. Bole was a part of this place. Dissecting him would be too much like attempting to dissect his sense of his father’s presence here. The youth had never told anyone about this place, not even Ama with who could get most things out of him easily enough. Down at the house, in town, when he was Drake; solid, reliable, first up in the morning, two grades ahead in school with a penchant for science Drake, a productive member of modern society with a promising future and his mother smiling at him. Here he could be Awiegwa. Here he could believe in the ancient medicines his father had dug out of dusty old tomes and brought to life from the forest litter. Every time Awiegwa left the clearing and headed back towards home reality would reassert itself. Bole would resolve back into a figment of his imagination, created from pride in a somewhat better than average memory and what the social workers had called an “intriguing imagination”. When he reached the house and become solidly Drake again flickers of embarrassment would begin eating at him for letting his senses trick him like that, but as long as the blooms nodded around him in this garden Bole could exist even on a Thursday. The little woven grass bag filled up with the berries fairly quickly and Awiegwa soon stretched out of his crouch and let his gaze wander contentedly over the clearing. As it always did, the warm space was working its special magic. Worries about Em getting out of his schoolwork, of not paying enough attention to the quiet Donny, of letting Ama see his petty resentments: it had all melted away from his muscles, thoughts of college costs and abandoning his duties dissolved into an acute sense of the now. The leaves rustled softly in a barely-there breeze, the heavy scent of some unidentified blossom filled his lungs, a dozen shades of green framed the rainbow of flowers, and over and above it all the creaking of the firs as the wind played over them. It was at times like these that he felth he could almost see into heaven; that something wonderful that existed just beyond his senses, and all he had to do was reach out and claim it. The youth took a deep breath and let himself fall backwards onto a handy rise in the forest floor. His path had taken him to the foot of the snag and he shifted slightly to align himself with the gnarled roots. One hand gripped a time smoothed root. “Ama trusted me enough to go out of state,” he murmured. “That’s the first time she’s done that. Usually she has Abulita stay with us to fend off the Harsh, but she said it’s long past legal now.” It was his imagination of course that made him think the root vibrated in his hand in response. Many a long hour he had spent in this clearing with the wanderer. He had poured out his frustrations and anguishes over life’s injustices, had shared his secrets as he grew, and had shouted his triumphs. Sometimes he felt closer to Bole than to any of his human friends. However, something that sounded like his mother’s voice warned him that there was something odd about this and that awareness was the main reason he had kept this place secret from Ama. Their mother hadn’t exactly liked stuff like that. She had never objected to his father’s digging up the old stories of her people. Making cross generational connections between elders, who more often than not lived isolated lives, and the next generation, was an admirable goal in of itself in her eyes; objectively a social good. Storytelling was only the natural course for these relationships to take, but subtle looks had warned even a very young Drake that it was best to cautious what he shared with his mother. At least of those things that couldn’t be placed on a microscope slide. So this was Awigewa’s place, and while his father’s spirit wanders the flowers with he had never felt his mother here. He let his focus drift up, and up. Dark blue Lupine nodded over his head framing the faint crisscross of jet contrails that threw a light haze over an otherwise cloudless sky. His clothed grew deliciously hot from the spring sun. The ground too had eagerly accepted the energy and now it conducted the heat into the muscles of his back. Bole’s wood beneath him was warmer even than the surrounding ground and an idle thought traced across Awiegwa’s awareness; something about it being odd for the light colored wood and relatively dry wood to retain more heat than the darker soil surrounding it. His mind was filled with the impression of a goal. He had been meaning to do, something. Something fun, yes, exploring, he’d meant to see if whatever had dug that den by the second boulder was cubing this year. He would just get up and do that in a minute. His back was so warm and comfortable. “Flying Sparks” Another foray into the lives of Drake McCarty, Ama Love, and the rest of their siblings as they discover that something alien is out in the forest around their home. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flying-sparks-a-novel-of-dragon-bear-and-boy/coming_soon #FlyingSparks #ScienceFiction #Scifi #Story #novel #book #DrakeMcCarty #AmaLove #Donny #Em #Bard #Bole #Aliens #Spaceships #Crystals #fireflies #NPS #NationalPark #Doctor #Sever #family #storm #writing #reading #drama #literature #author #BettyAdams #DyingEmbers #Dragons #ThingsThatGoBoomp #Indiegogo #CrowdFunding
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2023.06.01 04:04 Betty-Adams "Flying Sparks" A novel of a boy, a dragon, and an alien. 100K words of science fiction adventure.

Flying Sparks

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Chapter 2

“Hazardous? I’ll show that manipulative, misanthropic, anti-establishment cretin just what hazardous means if he thinks I’m going to fold on this!”
The sound of vigorous guitar riffs made a fitting accompaniment to the angry tirade despite originating on opposite sides of the communal area. Ama was glaring at a laptop that sat on a stained oak desk shoved against the large table near the kitchen. She tapped a fingernail on the wood as she read through the alert.
“And what violation of basic human dignity has her royal prudishness’s undies in a bunch?” Em demanded with an affected sneer without looking up from his guitar scales.
“Oh you’ll agree with this one tree-hugger,” Drake muttered from where he sat oiling his work boots.
“Yeah,” Donny piped up, “Finney is trying to kill a perfectly healthy fir.”
“What!” Em demanded, carefully placing his battered old acoustic guitar down in its case and darting over to look at the computer screen. “You mean apark tree?”
Despite her simmering frustration Ama allowed a small smile to flicker across her face as she continued to type.
“Get out of your pajamas and I’ll tell you,” Drake ordered pointing towards the bathroom door with a stained rag. “School starts in forty-five minutes and you still have breakfast and chores. That goes for you too Pip-squirt.”
“I hope you washed your hands before you touched our food,” Em said with a frown.
“Boot grease makes a great source of fatty acids.” Drake retorted. “Now go!”
The two smaller boys muttered in annoyance but stumbled off to follow orders.
“So what is up?” the youth asked as he bent his head back over the smooth leather of his boots.
“Mrs. Finney wants that tree down that’s blocking her perfect view of Crescent Lake.” Ama replied in a dry tone.
“One that’s clearly on park property?” Drake asked.
“Indeedy-do.” Ama replied giving the paper in front of her a glare.
“So how’s she justifying it?” Drake asked.
“As a safety hazard to her house.” Ama replied.
“And?”
The biologist groaned and rubbed her face.
“As far as I can tell the trunk is perfectly healthy. There is an old trash can lid grown into the trunk and a little discolored sap is leaking out there.”
“Frass?”
“Watch your language!” Donny interjected as he darted up to the table.
“Frass is not a bad word,” Drake stated. “Have you let the chickens out?”
“Yes, what does frass mean?” Donny asked as he started piling stir-fry onto his plate.
“Look it up.” Drake ordered him. “Emerald! Breakfast ends in ten minutes! Get your tukus down here!”
“It’s bad health to rush meals,” Em snapped out as he came down a narrow stairway with deliberate slowness.
“It’s even worse for your health to skip meals altogether,” Drake growled threateningly.
“Shut it and give me some eggs.” Em snapped back.
“Emerald Waters Undersun,” Drake hissed out through gritted teeth. “You are going to get your own eggs.”
The boy threw himself into a chair and glared at Drake with challenge in every line of his body.
“Emerald,” Ama said in a calm tone. “I think you should apologize to your cousin now.”
“Sorry I disturbed you Ama,” he offered without breaking eye contact with Drake.
“Not me, him,” Ama said.
“Sorry you had to hear that Donny.” Em said.
Ama heaved a sigh and closed her computer.
“Emerald,” Ama said.
“Do you want to eat or go hungry?” Drake demanded.
Ama glanced at him with a familiar uneasy look in her eyes and Drake fought down a wince.
“Now, Em.” she said in a patient tone.
“I’ll go hungry,” Em snapped, jumping up and stalking over to the couch.
Donny kept his eyes fixed on his plate. Ama heaved a sigh before turning back to her computer. Em wriggled on the couch for several minutes before skulking back to the table. Drake moved to intercept him but Ama stopped him with a look and he let Em serve himself. Drake cast irritated glances at the wall clock as the time crept more and more into school time.
Ama closed her computer and stood, then sighed, sat and opened it again.
“I need to pick out their report topics,” Ama muttered.
“I could do it,” Drake offered.
“You do quite enough,” Ama replied briskly, as she scanned the news. “Here you go. For Donny, malfunctions at the Lewis- McChord Air Force Base air show.” A frown creased her face. “Wow, this is pretty serious. It looks like the F-16 demonstration team nearly got killed.”
Drake whistled and leaned over her shoulder.
“Multiple system failures,” he read out loud. “I am pretty sure that isn’t supposed to happen.”
“Nope,” Ama agreed. “Here is a topic on big game management for Em.”
“Reports due by next week?” Drake asked as the old printer on the desk began to squeal and grumble as it powered up.
“Same as usual,” Ama confirmed.
Drake put the printouts on top of the homework pile and moved to wash up the breakfast dishes.
“I need to get to work early today so you two be good for Drake,” she called out placing a quick kiss on top of the smaller boys’ heads and giving Drake’s shoulder a friendly squeeze.
“Good luck with Mrs. Finney, and stay safe.” Drake called out as she went into her room.
The table was cleaned off and wiped down and the clink of forks gave way to the steady scratch of pencils on paper. They broke for a recess after religion and then lunch after history and math, and by the time the Grandfather clock in the corner struck two the younger boys twitching with energy. Drake made certain the internet was disconnected at the router, and chased Donny and Em out into the garden.
“And don’t come in until dark,” he ordered tossing two snack bags out after them.
Donny as usual snatched his food and disappeared into the small orachard. Low grumbles about troglodytes and the Amish wandered out into the high corn following Em and Drake shook his head in exasperation wondering, not for the first time how the dark haired princeling came from the same gene pool as his little brother. The kitchen being mostly ordered Drake was turning to put the last random dirty sock in the hamper when a gnarled hand clutching a cane head appeared in the corner of his eye, causing his heart to make a valiant attempt to bolt out of his throat.
“Abuelita!” he gasped forcing his hands down from the guard position. “Where did you come from?”
Smoldering black eyes ran searchingly over the tall youth. An impossibly long mane of streaked silver and black hair was barely contained in a thick braid. A sharply pointed nose perched over a small wrinkled mouth. A vibrant red horse-hair serape hung over her shoulders concealing everything except her brown and gnarled hands which currently clutched the old tree branch she used as a cane. Drake had been more than a little comforted by the fact that both Em and Donny had admitted to having the thought ‘witch’ every time time they saw her as well.
“From the hand of God by the bodies of my sainted mother and father,” she replied after a long, uncomfortable silence.
She always spoke in a low husky voice that suggested years of smoking, though Drake had never smelled even stale smoke on her.
“Right,” Drake blinked and grinned at the response; the one she always gave. “So you are here for their Spanish lesson? I have their grammar books ready and-”
The narrow end of the tree branch rapped against the concrete of the floor causing Drake to jump. Abuelita glared at him, locking his gaze and holding him in place with it for a moment.
“I am here for their lessons,” she finally stated, “and you are there for my payment.”
Drake thought longingly of the repair and maintenance manuals in the cab of the truck and the new tool he was itching to try, but he forced a grin on his face.
“Yes ma’am,” he said. “What can I get you today?”
Abuelita pulled out a bag of woven grass from under her serape causing the indistinct patterns on the cloth to shift and change.
“Take this,” she ordered him, “and collect me the cobalt blue berries that grow on a single stalk close to the ground. They must come from the mountain to the south east of here by the crystal brook.”
Drake nodded, and took the little bag, he didn’t quite manage to infused his gestures with enthusiasm he supposed. The old woman, probably wouldn’t have noted it anyway. She turned and moved towards the garden door without waiting for any other reply. However she called out over her shoulder as he turned to find his own way out of the rambling structure.
“Don’t dawdle little one. A storm brews in the distance.”
He tried not to roll his eyes at that, the weather forecast was clear and eighties for the next week according to the morning fire report Ama had printed. The youth only nodded and slipped around the corner. He circled the barn and pulled a set of loose tan pants and tunic out of the cubby. The soft worn leather almost perfectly matched the forest floor for color as did the moccasins he pulled on after them. His morning running clothes were modern stuff that wicked the sweat away from him and let him speed through the forest. These were his free day clothes. The ones that let him disappear into the forest and wander. Abuelita, for all of her demands, would tend Em and Donny until he returned no matter how late that was, and with the Park’s yearly budget talks still under way it was highly unlikely Ama would be home until long after the sun had set. Despite still hearing the call of the half restored truck he felt something lossening in him already. The soft cotton and smooth leather rested easily against his skin and Drake slipped into the forest.
Freedom; for the moment at least, blissful freedom. Pushing aside the guilt that accompanied the thought as well as any lingering worries about his charges the youth let his legs carry him through the trees. He shunned the man made paths, following the faint animal trails. This close to the barn they were as clear to him as if they were named city streets. Being animal trails, they invariably led him to water. Today he stopped at a trickling stream, took off his moccasins, and rolled up his pants legs. The youth turned and followed the thin flow of icy water upstream, letting it steal the heat from his body through his feet.
Some distance upstream, the stream widened and pooled under a boulder. There Drake paused and pulled an old black compass out of his pocket. Behind him he knew every trail and tree. Ahead was a broad swath of National Wilderness he would have to cross, or possibly Bureau of Land Management or even state managed forests where he more rarely wandered. It was hard to tell where the boundaries were from the ground. The clearing he wanted for the berries was solidly in BLM land and he still had quite a ways to go to get there. The stand of timber that stood between him and his goal was dense with young tree and branches that frequently formed impenetrable hedges he had to track around and he checked his compass regularly as he climbed in elevation. Even so the youth found he had wandered too far off his route and had to correct when he spotted the boundary fence. However he was in no hurry and he reached the clearing long before the sun told him it was time to turn around.
Sometime in the past some unknown force had carved a shallow trench across the side of one of the small mountains that that dotted the wilderness. It had puzzled Drake at first. The scour was at the wrong angle to be an old rock slide, and terminated in a near perfectly circular clearing at the lower end. Centuries old Douglas Firs abruptly gave way to a second ring only a few decades old. Those were in turn beginning to produce cones and a smattering of knee high saplings. The rest of the space was completely given over to wildflowers. No matter what season Drake visited it he found a riot of life.
There had been an early spring and many herbs that normally would have waited a month or more were already in full bloom in the mountain meadow. A white wave of foamflower washed in from the deep forest surrounding the clearing, sending up knee high stalks covered in the delicate white blooms. Late trillium hid close to the roots of the great firs, many having shed their white corollas and begun to put forth their bulbous seed heads. Fuzzy white baneberry blossoms nodded gently in the breeze. A riot of yellow and purple spread across the ground as vetch and buttercups and a host of clovers competed for space in the open sun. Great stalks of lupine as high as his head thrust up their purple and blue proudly from thick clusters of palm shaped leaves. Pink shooting stars and violet harebells crouched under the protection of the larger plants. Indian paintbrush lit the scene with flames of red and orange. Where a spring seeped into the meadow elephant’s head flared neon pink and corydalis bushes put forth blushing blooms. Pale green wild orchids stood along the wet spot and the swarms of bees danced from them to the glacier lilies.
Sometimes, as he bent over a tiny blossom and traced the intricate network of veins in the petals, drank in the scent, and felt the smooth surface of the leaves an otherworldly feeling would come over him. It was as if there was another world just out of range of his senses. If he could only really look, the thin illusion that was blocking him would slip away and reveal the real world underneath it.
Look Awiegwa,” his father would whisper, pointing at a deer mouse perched on a fallen log. “What does it see?”
Awiegwa would screw up his face and squint. Trying to find the answer to the question.
Awiegwa had often wondered how so many flowers had come to be in the relatively small area. He had identified dozens of species and there were more he had yet to determine. The clearing was always the first place to bloom and the last to go dormant. Many of the flowers seemed to utterly defy their usual blooming patterns. However, as time passed he had simply come to accept it. It was one of the small good things that brought back the memories of his father. If it didn’t quite follow the rules Ama had taught him, well an impossible clearing in the mountains wasn’t a place for rules.
The particular bloom that Abuelita had requested had taken full advantage of the early sun and had already put forth a few cobalt blue berries; easily spotted at the edge of the clearing in the delicate sea of white flowers.
However before he left the shade of the forest for the meadow the youth paused and closed his eyes. Bole wasn’t always here, but he was often enough that Awiegwa always checked for him. Carefully he reconstructed the clearing in his mind; marking every tree and boulder on the edge. Three years he had been coming here and each time it was easier to recreate the clearing. Breathing evenly he opened his eyes, letting the mental image merge with the actual. There was a brief moment of confusion as details like the play of light through branches and the trembling of small clusters of flowers fixed themselves but there was only one truly jarring note. Awiegwa didn’t let his eyes focus on the disparity; he never did anymore, but a warm smile spread across his features as he slipped silently into the meadow.
He was here. As the youth moved in a low crouch, gathering the first fruits of the Queen’s Cup, he let his peripheral vision linger on a particular snag. There was nothing obviously interesting about it, other than the fact that it had not been there the last time Awiegwa was here. He had named the wanderer Bole, because it most often appeared as a thick tree trunk; sometimes living, sometimes dead. Occasionally it would be a boulder or simply a mound in the dirt. Often it wasn’t in the clearing at all. If the youth moved forward and tried to closely examine it he could never find anything to suggest it was something other than a tree or rock.
He had thought about taking a sample occasionally, had taken his knife out to do just that more than once, but something always held him back. Bole was a part of this place. Dissecting him would be too much like attempting to dissect his sense of his father’s presence here. The youth had never told anyone about this place, not even Ama with who could get most things out of him easily enough. Down at the house, in town, when he was Drake; solid, reliable, first up in the morning, two grades ahead in school with a penchant for science Drake, a productive member of modern society with a promising future and his mother smiling at him. Here he could be Awiegwa. Here he could believe in the ancient medicines his father had dug out of dusty old tomes and brought to life from the forest litter. Every time Awiegwa left the clearing and headed back towards home reality would reassert itself. Bole would resolve back into a figment of his imagination, created from pride in a somewhat better than average memory and what the social workers had called an “intriguing imagination”. When he reached the house and become solidly Drake again flickers of embarrassment would begin eating at him for letting his senses trick him like that, but as long as the blooms nodded around him in this garden Bole could exist even on a Thursday.
The little woven grass bag filled up with the berries fairly quickly and Awiegwa soon stretched out of his crouch and let his gaze wander contentedly over the clearing. As it always did, the warm space was working its special magic. Worries about Em getting out of his schoolwork, of not paying enough attention to the quiet Donny, of letting Ama see his petty resentments: it had all melted away from his muscles, thoughts of college costs and abandoning his duties dissolved into an acute sense of the now. The leaves rustled softly in a barely-there breeze, the heavy scent of some unidentified blossom filled his lungs, a dozen shades of green framed the rainbow of flowers, and over and above it all the creaking of the firs as the wind played over them. It was at times like these that he felth he could almost see into heaven; that something wonderful that existed just beyond his senses, and all he had to do was reach out and claim it.
The youth took a deep breath and let himself fall backwards onto a handy rise in the forest floor. His path had taken him to the foot of the snag and he shifted slightly to align himself with the gnarled roots. One hand gripped a time smoothed root.
“Ama trusted me enough to go out of state,” he murmured. “That’s the first time she’s done that. Usually she has Abulita stay with us to fend off the Harsh, but she said it’s long past legal now.”
It was his imagination of course that made him think the root vibrated in his hand in response. Many a long hour he had spent in this clearing with the wanderer. He had poured out his frustrations and anguishes over life’s injustices, had shared his secrets as he grew, and had shouted his triumphs. Sometimes he felt closer to Bole than to any of his human friends. However, something that sounded like his mother’s voice warned him that there was something odd about this and that awareness was the main reason he had kept this place secret from Ama. Their mother hadn’t exactly liked stuff like that. She had never objected to his father’s digging up the old stories of her people. Making cross generational connections between elders, who more often than not lived isolated lives, and the next generation, was an admirable goal in of itself in her eyes; objectively a social good. Storytelling was only the natural course for these relationships to take, but subtle looks had warned even a very young Drake that it was best to cautious what he shared with his mother. At least of those things that couldn’t be placed on a microscope slide. So this was Awigewa’s place, and while his father’s spirit wanders the flowers with he had never felt his mother here.
He let his focus drift up, and up. Dark blue Lupine nodded over his head framing the faint crisscross of jet contrails that threw a light haze over an otherwise cloudless sky. His clothed grew deliciously hot from the spring sun. The ground too had eagerly accepted the energy and now it conducted the heat into the muscles of his back. Bole’s wood beneath him was warmer even than the surrounding ground and an idle thought traced across Awiegwa’s awareness; something about it being odd for the light colored wood and relatively dry wood to retain more heat than the darker soil surrounding it. His mind was filled with the impression of a goal. He had been meaning to do, something. Something fun, yes, exploring, he’d meant to see if whatever had dug that den by the second boulder was cubing this year. He would just get up and do that in a minute. His back was so warm and comfortable.

https://i.redd.it/t03pj0e9db3b1.gif
Flying Sparks”
Another foray into the lives of Drake McCarty, Ama Love, and the rest of their siblings as they discover that something alien is out in the forest around their home.
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flying-sparks-a-novel-of-dragon-bear-and-boy/coming_soon
#FlyingSparks #ScienceFiction #Scifi #Story #novel #book #DrakeMcCarty #AmaLove #Donny #Em #Bard #Bole #Aliens #Spaceships #Crystals #fireflies #NPS #NationalPark #Doctor #Sever #family #storm #writing #reading #drama #literature #author #BettyAdams #DyingEmbers #Dragons #ThingsThatGoBoomp #Indiegogo #CrowdFunding
submitted by Betty-Adams to sciencefiction [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 04:00 Analypiss Durability

Key and explanation of periods where Juggernaut was stronger or weaker than normal

Durability w/ Force Field/Armor

Blunt

Piercing/Cutting

Sound

Heat

Cold

Electricity

Light

Energy

Chemical

Adhesive

Biological

Matter Manipulation

Phasing

Magic

Soul/Life Force

Power Absorption/Nullification

Mental

Durability w/o Force Field/Armor

Blunt

Piercing/Cutting

Sound

Cold

Heat

Gravity

Light

Energy

Chemical

Biological

Mental

submitted by Analypiss to JuggernautMegaRT [link] [comments]


2023.06.01 03:58 Betty-Adams "Flying Sparks" A novel of a boy, a dragon, and an alien. 100K words of science fiction adventure.

Flying Sparks

Pre Order Now


https://i.redd.it/bqo2debncb3b1.gif

Chapter 2

“Hazardous? I’ll show that manipulative, misanthropic, anti-establishment cretin just what hazardous means if he thinks I’m going to fold on this!”
The sound of vigorous guitar riffs made a fitting accompaniment to the angry tirade despite originating on opposite sides of the communal area. Ama was glaring at a laptop that sat on a stained oak desk shoved against the large table near the kitchen. She tapped a fingernail on the wood as she read through the alert.
“And what violation of basic human dignity has her royal prudishness’s undies in a bunch?” Em demanded with an affected sneer without looking up from his guitar scales.
“Oh you’ll agree with this one tree-hugger,” Drake muttered from where he sat oiling his work boots.
“Yeah,” Donny piped up, “Finney is trying to kill a perfectly healthy fir.”
“What!” Em demanded, carefully placing his battered old acoustic guitar down in its case and darting over to look at the computer screen. “You mean apark tree?”
Despite her simmering frustration Ama allowed a small smile to flicker across her face as she continued to type.
“Get out of your pajamas and I’ll tell you,” Drake ordered pointing towards the bathroom door with a stained rag. “School starts in forty-five minutes and you still have breakfast and chores. That goes for you too Pip-squirt.”
“I hope you washed your hands before you touched our food,” Em said with a frown.
“Boot grease makes a great source of fatty acids.” Drake retorted. “Now go!”
The two smaller boys muttered in annoyance but stumbled off to follow orders.
“So what is up?” the youth asked as he bent his head back over the smooth leather of his boots.
“Mrs. Finney wants that tree down that’s blocking her perfect view of Crescent Lake.” Ama replied in a dry tone.
“One that’s clearly on park property?” Drake asked.
“Indeedy-do.” Ama replied giving the paper in front of her a glare.
“So how’s she justifying it?” Drake asked.
“As a safety hazard to her house.” Ama replied.
“And?”
The biologist groaned and rubbed her face.
“As far as I can tell the trunk is perfectly healthy. There is an old trash can lid grown into the trunk and a little discolored sap is leaking out there.”
“Frass?”
“Watch your language!” Donny interjected as he darted up to the table.
“Frass is not a bad word,” Drake stated. “Have you let the chickens out?”
“Yes, what does frass mean?” Donny asked as he started piling stir-fry onto his plate.
“Look it up.” Drake ordered him. “Emerald! Breakfast ends in ten minutes! Get your tukus down here!”
“It’s bad health to rush meals,” Em snapped out as he came down a narrow stairway with deliberate slowness.
“It’s even worse for your health to skip meals altogether,” Drake growled threateningly.
“Shut it and give me some eggs.” Em snapped back.
“Emerald Waters Undersun,” Drake hissed out through gritted teeth. “You are going to get your own eggs.”
The boy threw himself into a chair and glared at Drake with challenge in every line of his body.
“Emerald,” Ama said in a calm tone. “I think you should apologize to your cousin now.”
“Sorry I disturbed you Ama,” he offered without breaking eye contact with Drake.
“Not me, him,” Ama said.
“Sorry you had to hear that Donny.” Em said.
Ama heaved a sigh and closed her computer.
“Emerald,” Ama said.
“Do you want to eat or go hungry?” Drake demanded.
Ama glanced at him with a familiar uneasy look in her eyes and Drake fought down a wince.
“Now, Em.” she said in a patient tone.
“I’ll go hungry,” Em snapped, jumping up and stalking over to the couch.
Donny kept his eyes fixed on his plate. Ama heaved a sigh before turning back to her computer. Em wriggled on the couch for several minutes before skulking back to the table. Drake moved to intercept him but Ama stopped him with a look and he let Em serve himself. Drake cast irritated glances at the wall clock as the time crept more and more into school time.
Ama closed her computer and stood, then sighed, sat and opened it again.
“I need to pick out their report topics,” Ama muttered.
“I could do it,” Drake offered.
“You do quite enough,” Ama replied briskly, as she scanned the news. “Here you go. For Donny, malfunctions at the Lewis- McChord Air Force Base air show.” A frown creased her face. “Wow, this is pretty serious. It looks like the F-16 demonstration team nearly got killed.”
Drake whistled and leaned over her shoulder.
“Multiple system failures,” he read out loud. “I am pretty sure that isn’t supposed to happen.”
“Nope,” Ama agreed. “Here is a topic on big game management for Em.”
“Reports due by next week?” Drake asked as the old printer on the desk began to squeal and grumble as it powered up.
“Same as usual,” Ama confirmed.
Drake put the printouts on top of the homework pile and moved to wash up the breakfast dishes.
“I need to get to work early today so you two be good for Drake,” she called out placing a quick kiss on top of the smaller boys’ heads and giving Drake’s shoulder a friendly squeeze.
“Good luck with Mrs. Finney, and stay safe.” Drake called out as she went into her room.
The table was cleaned off and wiped down and the clink of forks gave way to the steady scratch of pencils on paper. They broke for a recess after religion and then lunch after history and math, and by the time the Grandfather clock in the corner struck two the younger boys twitching with energy. Drake made certain the internet was disconnected at the router, and chased Donny and Em out into the garden.
“And don’t come in until dark,” he ordered tossing two snack bags out after them.
Donny as usual snatched his food and disappeared into the small orachard. Low grumbles about troglodytes and the Amish wandered out into the high corn following Em and Drake shook his head in exasperation wondering, not for the first time how the dark haired princeling came from the same gene pool as his little brother. The kitchen being mostly ordered Drake was turning to put the last random dirty sock in the hamper when a gnarled hand clutching a cane head appeared in the corner of his eye, causing his heart to make a valiant attempt to bolt out of his throat.
“Abuelita!” he gasped forcing his hands down from the guard position. “Where did you come from?”
Smoldering black eyes ran searchingly over the tall youth. An impossibly long mane of streaked silver and black hair was barely contained in a thick braid. A sharply pointed nose perched over a small wrinkled mouth. A vibrant red horse-hair serape hung over her shoulders concealing everything except her brown and gnarled hands which currently clutched the old tree branch she used as a cane. Drake had been more than a little comforted by the fact that both Em and Donny had admitted to having the thought ‘witch’ every time time they saw her as well.
“From the hand of God by the bodies of my sainted mother and father,” she replied after a long, uncomfortable silence.
She always spoke in a low husky voice that suggested years of smoking, though Drake had never smelled even stale smoke on her.
“Right,” Drake blinked and grinned at the response; the one she always gave. “So you are here for their Spanish lesson? I have their grammar books ready and-”
The narrow end of the tree branch rapped against the concrete of the floor causing Drake to jump. Abuelita glared at him, locking his gaze and holding him in place with it for a moment.
“I am here for their lessons,” she finally stated, “and you are there for my payment.”
Drake thought longingly of the repair and maintenance manuals in the cab of the truck and the new tool he was itching to try, but he forced a grin on his face.
“Yes ma’am,” he said. “What can I get you today?”
Abuelita pulled out a bag of woven grass from under her serape causing the indistinct patterns on the cloth to shift and change.
“Take this,” she ordered him, “and collect me the cobalt blue berries that grow on a single stalk close to the ground. They must come from the mountain to the south east of here by the crystal brook.”
Drake nodded, and took the little bag, he didn’t quite manage to infused his gestures with enthusiasm he supposed. The old woman, probably wouldn’t have noted it anyway. She turned and moved towards the garden door without waiting for any other reply. However she called out over her shoulder as he turned to find his own way out of the rambling structure.
“Don’t dawdle little one. A storm brews in the distance.”
He tried not to roll his eyes at that, the weather forecast was clear and eighties for the next week according to the morning fire report Ama had printed. The youth only nodded and slipped around the corner. He circled the barn and pulled a set of loose tan pants and tunic out of the cubby. The soft worn leather almost perfectly matched the forest floor for color as did the moccasins he pulled on after them. His morning running clothes were modern stuff that wicked the sweat away from him and let him speed through the forest. These were his free day clothes. The ones that let him disappear into the forest and wander. Abuelita, for all of her demands, would tend Em and Donny until he returned no matter how late that was, and with the Park’s yearly budget talks still under way it was highly unlikely Ama would be home until long after the sun had set. Despite still hearing the call of the half restored truck he felt something lossening in him already. The soft cotton and smooth leather rested easily against his skin and Drake slipped into the forest.
Freedom; for the moment at least, blissful freedom. Pushing aside the guilt that accompanied the thought as well as any lingering worries about his charges the youth let his legs carry him through the trees. He shunned the man made paths, following the faint animal trails. This close to the barn they were as clear to him as if they were named city streets. Being animal trails, they invariably led him to water. Today he stopped at a trickling stream, took off his moccasins, and rolled up his pants legs. The youth turned and followed the thin flow of icy water upstream, letting it steal the heat from his body through his feet.
Some distance upstream, the stream widened and pooled under a boulder. There Drake paused and pulled an old black compass out of his pocket. Behind him he knew every trail and tree. Ahead was a broad swath of National Wilderness he would have to cross, or possibly Bureau of Land Management or even state managed forests where he more rarely wandered. It was hard to tell where the boundaries were from the ground. The clearing he wanted for the berries was solidly in BLM land and he still had quite a ways to go to get there. The stand of timber that stood between him and his goal was dense with young tree and branches that frequently formed impenetrable hedges he had to track around and he checked his compass regularly as he climbed in elevation. Even so the youth found he had wandered too far off his route and had to correct when he spotted the boundary fence. However he was in no hurry and he reached the clearing long before the sun told him it was time to turn around.
Sometime in the past some unknown force had carved a shallow trench across the side of one of the small mountains that that dotted the wilderness. It had puzzled Drake at first. The scour was at the wrong angle to be an old rock slide, and terminated in a near perfectly circular clearing at the lower end. Centuries old Douglas Firs abruptly gave way to a second ring only a few decades old. Those were in turn beginning to produce cones and a smattering of knee high saplings. The rest of the space was completely given over to wildflowers. No matter what season Drake visited it he found a riot of life.
There had been an early spring and many herbs that normally would have waited a month or more were already in full bloom in the mountain meadow. A white wave of foamflower washed in from the deep forest surrounding the clearing, sending up knee high stalks covered in the delicate white blooms. Late trillium hid close to the roots of the great firs, many having shed their white corollas and begun to put forth their bulbous seed heads. Fuzzy white baneberry blossoms nodded gently in the breeze. A riot of yellow and purple spread across the ground as vetch and buttercups and a host of clovers competed for space in the open sun. Great stalks of lupine as high as his head thrust up their purple and blue proudly from thick clusters of palm shaped leaves. Pink shooting stars and violet harebells crouched under the protection of the larger plants. Indian paintbrush lit the scene with flames of red and orange. Where a spring seeped into the meadow elephant’s head flared neon pink and corydalis bushes put forth blushing blooms. Pale green wild orchids stood along the wet spot and the swarms of bees danced from them to the glacier lilies.
Sometimes, as he bent over a tiny blossom and traced the intricate network of veins in the petals, drank in the scent, and felt the smooth surface of the leaves an otherworldly feeling would come over him. It was as if there was another world just out of range of his senses. If he could only really look, the thin illusion that was blocking him would slip away and reveal the real world underneath it.
Look Awiegwa,” his father would whisper, pointing at a deer mouse perched on a fallen log. “What does it see?”
Awiegwa would screw up his face and squint. Trying to find the answer to the question.
Awiegwa had often wondered how so many flowers had come to be in the relatively small area. He had identified dozens of species and there were more he had yet to determine. The clearing was always the first place to bloom and the last to go dormant. Many of the flowers seemed to utterly defy their usual blooming patterns. However, as time passed he had simply come to accept it. It was one of the small good things that brought back the memories of his father. If it didn’t quite follow the rules Ama had taught him, well an impossible clearing in the mountains wasn’t a place for rules.
The particular bloom that Abuelita had requested had taken full advantage of the early sun and had already put forth a few cobalt blue berries; easily spotted at the edge of the clearing in the delicate sea of white flowers.
However before he left the shade of the forest for the meadow the youth paused and closed his eyes. Bole wasn’t always here, but he was often enough that Awiegwa always checked for him. Carefully he reconstructed the clearing in his mind; marking every tree and boulder on the edge. Three years he had been coming here and each time it was easier to recreate the clearing. Breathing evenly he opened his eyes, letting the mental image merge with the actual. There was a brief moment of confusion as details like the play of light through branches and the trembling of small clusters of flowers fixed themselves but there was only one truly jarring note. Awiegwa didn’t let his eyes focus on the disparity; he never did anymore, but a warm smile spread across his features as he slipped silently into the meadow.
He was here. As the youth moved in a low crouch, gathering the first fruits of the Queen’s Cup, he let his peripheral vision linger on a particular snag. There was nothing obviously interesting about it, other than the fact that it had not been there the last time Awiegwa was here. He had named the wanderer Bole, because it most often appeared as a thick tree trunk; sometimes living, sometimes dead. Occasionally it would be a boulder or simply a mound in the dirt. Often it wasn’t in the clearing at all. If the youth moved forward and tried to closely examine it he could never find anything to suggest it was something other than a tree or rock.
He had thought about taking a sample occasionally, had taken his knife out to do just that more than once, but something always held him back. Bole was a part of this place. Dissecting him would be too much like attempting to dissect his sense of his father’s presence here. The youth had never told anyone about this place, not even Ama with who could get most things out of him easily enough. Down at the house, in town, when he was Drake; solid, reliable, first up in the morning, two grades ahead in school with a penchant for science Drake, a productive member of modern society with a promising future and his mother smiling at him. Here he could be Awiegwa. Here he could believe in the ancient medicines his father had dug out of dusty old tomes and brought to life from the forest litter. Every time Awiegwa left the clearing and headed back towards home reality would reassert itself. Bole would resolve back into a figment of his imagination, created from pride in a somewhat better than average memory and what the social workers had called an “intriguing imagination”. When he reached the house and become solidly Drake again flickers of embarrassment would begin eating at him for letting his senses trick him like that, but as long as the blooms nodded around him in this garden Bole could exist even on a Thursday.
The little woven grass bag filled up with the berries fairly quickly and Awiegwa soon stretched out of his crouch and let his gaze wander contentedly over the clearing. As it always did, the warm space was working its special magic. Worries about Em getting out of his schoolwork, of not paying enough attention to the quiet Donny, of letting Ama see his petty resentments: it had all melted away from his muscles, thoughts of college costs and abandoning his duties dissolved into an acute sense of the now. The leaves rustled softly in a barely-there breeze, the heavy scent of some unidentified blossom filled his lungs, a dozen shades of green framed the rainbow of flowers, and over and above it all the creaking of the firs as the wind played over them. It was at times like these that he felth he could almost see into heaven; that something wonderful that existed just beyond his senses, and all he had to do was reach out and claim it.
The youth took a deep breath and let himself fall backwards onto a handy rise in the forest floor. His path had taken him to the foot of the snag and he shifted slightly to align himself with the gnarled roots. One hand gripped a time smoothed root.
“Ama trusted me enough to go out of state,” he murmured. “That’s the first time she’s done that. Usually she has Abulita stay with us to fend off the Harsh, but she said it’s long past legal now.”
It was his imagination of course that made him think the root vibrated in his hand in response. Many a long hour he had spent in this clearing with the wanderer. He had poured out his frustrations and anguishes over life’s injustices, had shared his secrets as he grew, and had shouted his triumphs. Sometimes he felt closer to Bole than to any of his human friends. However, something that sounded like his mother’s voice warned him that there was something odd about this and that awareness was the main reason he had kept this place secret from Ama. Their mother hadn’t exactly liked stuff like that. She had never objected to his father’s digging up the old stories of her people. Making cross generational connections between elders, who more often than not lived isolated lives, and the next generation, was an admirable goal in of itself in her eyes; objectively a social good. Storytelling was only the natural course for these relationships to take, but subtle looks had warned even a very young Drake that it was best to cautious what he shared with his mother. At least of those things that couldn’t be placed on a microscope slide. So this was Awigewa’s place, and while his father’s spirit wanders the flowers with he had never felt his mother here.
He let his focus drift up, and up. Dark blue Lupine nodded over his head framing the faint crisscross of jet contrails that threw a light haze over an otherwise cloudless sky. His clothed grew deliciously hot from the spring sun. The ground too had eagerly accepted the energy and now it conducted the heat into the muscles of his back. Bole’s wood beneath him was warmer even than the surrounding ground and an idle thought traced across Awiegwa’s awareness; something about it being odd for the light colored wood and relatively dry wood to retain more heat than the darker soil surrounding it. His mind was filled with the impression of a goal. He had been meaning to do, something. Something fun, yes, exploring, he’d meant to see if whatever had dug that den by the second boulder was cubing this year. He would just get up and do that in a minute. His back was so warm and comfortable.

https://i.redd.it/zafjty1qcb3b1.gif
Flying Sparks”
Another foray into the lives of Drake McCarty, Ama Love, and the rest of their siblings as they discover that something alien is out in the forest around their home.
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/flying-sparks-a-novel-of-dragon-bear-and-boy/coming_soon
#FlyingSparks #ScienceFiction #Scifi #Story #novel #book #DrakeMcCarty #AmaLove #Donny #Em #Bard #Bole #Aliens #Spaceships #Crystals #fireflies #NPS #NationalPark #Doctor #Sever #family #storm #writing #reading #drama #literature #author #BettyAdams #DyingEmbers #Dragons #ThingsThatGoBoomp #Indiegogo #CrowdFunding
submitted by Betty-Adams to Indiegogo [link] [comments]