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Welcome to Gettysburg (Day Three)
Day One Here Day Two Here JULY 3RD A FEW HOURS AFTER MIDNIGHT The night fighting on Culp’s Hill was slow and torturous. The Confederate assault from Johnson’s division had to cross rough terrain and a river before it even started going uphill, which at night was an incredibly miserable task even without Union troops firing at them. Union skirmishers played hell with their progress, and after brushing them aside, Johnson bumped into a defensive line that his Union counterpart Geary had spent all day perfecting. As mentioned yesterday, their only success was to grab tiny footholds on the Union side of Rock Creek, which ran between the two hills. As the fighting died away and the bone weary soldiers on both sides crashed asleep hard, Lee plotted. He smelled blood; on July 1st, they’d carved up the Union men good and drove them from the field. Yesterday, on the Union left, they’d wrecked a Union corps under Sickles, smashed into the Union center and almost broke it (damn those blue belly reinforcements showing up in the knick of time), and even gained a toehold on the Union right. The men’s morale was high. Lee decided to repeat yesterday’s plan, but better executed. Simultaneous attacks on both flanks should overwhelm them, and J.E.B. Stuart could make it up to all of them by chasing down the shattered Army of the Potomac to scoop up all the heavy guns and supplies and wounded that could not retreat rapidly. To which end, Lee sent Stuart on a super wide flanking attack around the Union right so as to be in position to strike at the right moment. Lee generated the orders in written form and sent them off by messenger to his corps commanders. Meanwhile, Meade had another war council face to face with his generals. They decided to stand pat, to neither attack the Confederate positions nor retreat back towards Washington. The terrain massively favored them and Lee would (more likely than not) walk into their gunsights again. A defensive stance, however, doesn’t mean pure passivity. A few hours after the Confederate assault petered out and Lee’s decision was made, the Union started a counterattack on a small scale. ———————————————————————— DAWN At dawn, the Union right flared up. Fresh troops had marched in overnight and Meade wanted his damn hill back. The extreme end of the Confederate left flank (which is of course opposite the Union right) found itself getting hammered in front of Culp’s Hill by artillery from the Baltimore Pike. Clearly, such a bombardment was meant to be followed up with an assault to retake the bridgehead. Johnson, having received his orders from Lee and being under the impression that Longstreet was attacking in tandem a mile and a half away on the other side of the hills, attacked Culp’s Hill again before the Union could attack him first. The plan was what the plan was; pressure here, successful or not, was needed for someone to break through somewhere. But Longstreet wasn’t attacking. Later on, Longstreet would claim to have never received the order to advance, but the sources I have assert this is untrue- he received the order, he just didn’t do anything about it. Instead of spending the night getting his troops on line to attack Little Round Top and the southern chunk of Cemetery Ridge, he just sat tight and did nothing. Oceans of ink have been spilled over the years speculating as to why. The Lost Cause narrative asserts that Longstreet was a Yankee-loving turncoat who deliberately sabotaged Lee’s plan and lost the battle on purpose. Others think that Longstreet's conviction that attacking here was insane and that they should fall back and look for battle somewhere else on more favorable terms had been strengthened by the results of July 2nd, and as such was dragging his heels trying to not attack again. Or maybe it was just the general haze of Civil War era incompetence taking its toll again. ———————————————————————— MORNING As Johnson’s men gamely attacked the untakeable Culp’s Hill and were cut down by accurate rifle fire and close range cannon fire, Lee hunted down Longstreet to demand an explanation for his borderline insubordinate refusal to attack. Longstreet pitched his idea again. He’d spent all night scouting the Union line. The enemy line was unbreakable. They shouldn’t try to attack them here. They should slip around the Union left, south of Big Round Top, to threaten the Union supply lines. Do that, they would make the Union respond to them, fight them on more equal terms. That’s the plan Longstreet had been preparing for all night, not a suicidal- Lee cut him off with a raised fist. There would be no tricky maneuver around the flank. They would assault the Union line under the present conditions. To the north, Johnson was still getting his teeth kicked in. Lee sent orders to call off the assault, but it would take a while for the messenger to get there and for Johnson to get word to his brigades to stand down and fall back. Meanwhile, across the way on Cemetery Ridge, Meade stalked his line, double checking all the positions for any confusions or errors to correct, emitting confidence and good cheer. Lee scoped out the Union center personally, being in the area anyway. His complex double flanking maneuver wasn't working. A new plan was needed. Lee figured that Meade had reinforced Little Round Top and the surrounding area yesterday, and that those troops hadn’t gone anywhere since. The Union defense at Culp’s Hill has been similarly fierce that morning, fierce enough to threaten Johnson with an offensive. If both flanks were strong... the center must be weak. Yesterday, a small Confederate brigade had crossed the Emmitsburg road under fire and smashed into the Union line on Cemetery Ridge, just south of Cemetery Hill. They had straight up routed the enemy- had there been more men available to back them up and follow through, that small brigade might have won the battle outright instead of being pushed back as they’d been. Lee was satisfied. The Union center was brittle, undermanned, and the best point to hit it was at that same place. Meanwhile, J.E.B. Stuart was stepping off on his flanking ride. ———————————————————————— LATE MORNING Johnson’s last big push up Culp’s Hill was heroic. By that time, all of them knew how strong the Union position was. They surely walked into this with their eyes open. A three brigade front set up for a shock attack, backed up by four more to exploit the hoped-for opening. Among them was the famous Stonewall Brigade, Jackson's old unit that he’d raised up and trained personally before being tapped for higher command. The Stonewall Brigade was, arguably, the elite of the Confederate army. The year before, they’d outmaneuvered and outfought a Union stab at Richmond coming through the Shenandoah valley. The charge was cut down and butchered like all the others, and Johnson fell back. Williams, whose batteries on the Baltimore Pike had kicked things off that morning, got a little overexcited and counterattacked without orders. His orders to attack the Confederate flank left his subordinates sickened with dread, but were obeyed nonetheless. Once the Union counterattack was butchered in retaliation by the entrenched Confederates, combat on the Union right ceased after six straight hours of gory, hopeless combat. Meanwhile, Confederate artillery under the command of Colonel Alexander set itself up on a mile wide front, all carefully sited and positioned both for protection and for good lines of sight on the Union center. A brief but fierce artillery duel kicked off as each side tried to knock out the other’s firing points before the big moment, but was soon cut off to preserve ammo. Lee mustered his available forces, bringing in troops that were only now straggling in and combining them with some units that had fought the day before. It was a haphazard and frankly half-assed piece of staff work- veteran units who hadn’t fought at all in the last two days were left in reserve, while exhausted troops who’d already suffered 50% casualties were included. Many of the brigades who were to charge Cemetery Ridge had green colonels in charge because their generals had been killed or wounded the day before. The gap between the northern half of the assaulting force and the southern half was four football fields long, and nobody seemed to notice or care. The division commander to lead the north side of the assault, General Pettigrew, was selected not for any rational consideration or advantage, but because he happened to be standing nearby when the decision was being made. Longstreet, who by this point wanted nothing to do with any of it, was placed in overall command. It took a few hours to organize this clusterfuck into something resembling a coherent unit- three divisions spread over a mile wide front, with Pickett on the left, Pettigrew on the right, and Trimble behind them to provide some depth to the big push. There is no particularly good reason why the upcoming Pickett’s Charge is known as “Pickett’s Charge”. Pickett was not actually in charge of it, or even in charge of most of it. He was a division commander who had never seen proper combat before- in every battle since 1861, his unit had been held in reserve or absent. This was to be his first chance to get in this war. I suspect it’s known as Pickett’s Charge because he and his men were Virginians, and it was fellow Virginians who would pour over the battle to find out why the wrong side won. Accordingly, they conceived of it as being a Virginian affair, overshadowing the Tennesseans, Alabamans, North Carolinians, and Mississippians who formed the other two-thirds of the attack. I was surprised to learn that we have a hard time figuring out how many men were actually involved in Pickett’s Charge (this being a basic narrative history, I am sticking with the common name for it despite the inaccuracy); I attribute this to the confusion involved in organizing it. I’ve heard as low as 12,500 men and as high as 15,000. I’m going with 14,000 men because it’s a nice even number that is approximately midway between the upper and lower limit, so don’t mistake my choice as being accurate or even evidence-based per se. Regardless, the agreed upon number of Union defenders is 6,500. The Confederates would outnumber the Union by about 2-1 or greater at the point of contact. These days, a lot of people show up at the battlefield and stare out from Cemetery Ridge at Spangler Woods where Pettigrew would have emerged from (or stand in Spangler’s Woods and stare out at Cemetery Ridge, same difference) and wonder what the hell was going through Lee’s head. The ground there is now flat and devoid of cover, the exact kind of terrain that time and time again had proven to be a death sentence for infantry assaults. The answer is that the ground changed between 1863 and today. Just before World War One ended in 1918, the field over which Pickett charged was artificially flattened for tank training. Before that, it was the kind of rolling terrain that Buford’s skirmishers had exploited on day one- an observer from a distance would see the troops disappear and reappear as they went over and down each gentle slope. The 14,000 attackers would have some cover as they advanced- not perfect terrain to keep immune from artillery and bullets, but not explicit suicide either. ———————————————————————— EARLY AFTERNOON By 1 PM, Alexander had his guns set up the way he liked them. What followed at his command was the single largest coordinated artillery mission that the Western Hemisphere had ever seen. In the south, cannons at the Peach Orchard suppressed the Union firing point on Little Round Top. All along Seminary Ridge from whence the charge would spring, cannons lined up practically wheel to wheel for a mile, aimed at wrecking Cemetery Ridge. Longstreet was in what you might call a high stress kind of mood. He was having second, third, fourth, and fifth thoughts about attacking, but orders were orders and he was in charge of this damned charge. As the guns began their bombardment, Longstreet did something that frankly goes beyond the pale of any command decision I’ve ever heard of. The film Gettysburg and the novel it’s based on cast Longstreet in a very sympathetic light, as a kind of deliberate pushback against the reductive myth that Longstreet was personally responsible for losing the battle and by extension the war, leaving Lee off the hook to stay firmly in the saintly canon of the Lost Cause. But here, Longstreet indisputably abdicates any pretense of the responsibility of command. He fired an order off to Colonel Alexander, telling him:
If the artillery fire does not have the effect to drive off the enemy, or greatly demoralize him, so as to make our effort pretty certain, I would prefer that you should not advise General Pickett to make the charge. I shall . . . expect you to let General Pickett know when the moment offers.
Allow me to reiterate in case you were reading this on autopilot. Longstreet, the man in charge of the whole offensive, was telling a lowly artillery colonel that the decision when and if to attack was on him and no one else. Alexander was a subject matter expert on artillery and not infantry for a reason. This order hit him from out of left field. He wrote back for clarification, and the professional in him mentioned that since the plan is to use every single artillery shell they can spare, if there is any alternative plan to charging Cemetery Hill at the end of the bombardment then they’d better tell him before he runs out of ammo. And Longstreet reiterated his first order. He told Alexander to advise General Pickett whether or not to attack. And with that on his shoulders, Alexander gave the order to open fire. All told, somewhere between 150 and 170 guns opened up at the same moment. The 75 Union cannons they had on hand briefly engaged in counter-battery fire, before being ordered to go quiet and save ammunition for the infantry assault to come. For about an hour, the Union troops just had to sit still and take what the Rebel had to give them. What Lee was doing was classic Napoleonic tactics. Massing artillery against the weakest point on the enemy line was literally by the book soldiering. The problem, as was noted here before, was that technology had changed. Napoleonic could bring his cannon close to the frontline with the reasonable expectation that they wouldn’t be shot, since smoothbore muskets are basically harmless from 200 yards away. But that was no longer the case. The long stand off distance that the enemy rifles dictated meant that the cannonfire was proportionally less accurate and devastating. The smoke covering the field concealed the truth from the Confederates- their artillery fire was off. Most of the shells flew high overhead and exploded behind Cemetery Ridge. Some shells hit the target area- Union men did die screaming by the score. But the positions on Cemetery Hill were only lightly damaged, and the units manning them were intact and cohesive. Most of the damage done was to the rear echelon types- surgeons, supply wagoneers, staff officers, that kind of thing. Such men were massacred as the shells aimed at men a quarter mile away arced over and found marks elsewhere. Meade, of course, was on hand, showing a brave face and cracking some jokes about a similar moment in the Mexican-American War 15 years back. Throughout the hour, as his line endured the steel hailstorm, Meade’s engineer mind was working. He’d already suspected that Lee was about to hit his center- he’d predicted as much the night before- and now the shot placements confirmed it. He was already ordering troops into position, getting ready to reinforce the line on Cemetery Ridge if needed. He hedged his bets, putting them in a position to relieve Cemetery Hill as well, just in case. Little Round Top became somewhat less defended as men marched out, using the high ground to mask their redeployment. Irresponsible and insubordinate though Longstreet was at that moment, he was right. Lee’s improvised plan had already failed, though it hadn’t happened yet. Pickett’s Charge wasn’t going to slam into a fragmented and demoralized Union line. It was heading into a mile long, mile wide kill zone backed up by a defence in depth. ———————————————————————— Pickett’s Charge Confederates were getting mangled before the charge even started. Union artillery fire reached out and touched out them in Spangler’s Woods, rolling solid iron shot and explosive shells into their huddled ranks. Longstreet rode the line, exposing himself to the artillery fire to set an example of courage. The men didn’t need such an example- or rather, they’ve seen such examples in a dozen battles over the last two years and have already learned valor as a second language- but there’s something to be said for showing the groundpounders that their boss is in the wrong end of the shooting gallery the same way that they are. Just before 2 p.m., Alexander decided if it’s gonna happen, it’d have to be now. He needed at least a small reserve of shells to function after the battle and he’s running out fast. He dashed off a note to Pickett telling him to step off. In keeping with the standard of Confederate comms thus far, Pickett then took Alexander’s note to Longstreet in person for confirmation, because nobody had told him that Longstreet was trying to dodge the responsibility of command. Longstreet was desperate for an out, and in one crazed leap of illogic he thought he found one. Alexander was low on shells, with only a tiny reserve of ammunition left over for self-defense! Longstreet issued orders to halt in place and delay some more, so that they could replenish their ammo chests from their strategic reserves. I really feel for Alexander, man. I've had bosses like that too. Alexander had to break the news to Longstreet that there was no strategic reserve, he already told him, they were shooting every round they got. Longstreet was shocked- apparently nobody on Lee's staff had been paying attention to how fast they'd been burning through their artillery rounds. (Meade's staff paid attention to such banal details- that's why they now had tons of ammunition standing by their guns on Cemetery Ridge, patiently waiting for something valuable to shoot at). Even then, Longstreet couldn’t bring himself to actually say the words to order the attack. He just nodded, mute and numb. At 2 p.m., the attack started. 14,000 men rose up and walked forward, a giant line of infantry one mile across. In lieu of specific instructions about where they were going and how to get there, the order was to aim for a copse of trees on the objective- an easy visual marker that was easy to remember. As long as you kept the trees in sight and kept moving forward, you were right. (Miles and miles away, J.E.B. Stuart’s flanking maneuver was being countered by an equal force of Union cavalry. Their clash had one of the few cavalry-on-cavalry battles of the Civil War; fun fact, this was one of the fights that put Custer’s career on the map, until getting killed off by the Cheyenne at Little Big Horn 13 years later. The battle was intense, but a draw; Stuart couldn’t break through. Even if Pickett’s Charge worked, there’d have been no way to follow up and finish Meade off for good. Lee’s plan was well and truly fucked.) Things immediately stopped being clean and neat, as per the usual. The center of Pickett’s Charge sprang up and walked before the flanks did, but the brigades on the south and the north of them set off late, leading to a kind of droopy effect where the center bulged out unsupported. When the Union soldiers manning Cemetery Ridge saw the Confederate advance begin, they began to chant “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” Just a little “fuck you” from one set of veterans to another; at Fredericksburg eight months before, Union General Burnside had ordered several such suicidal attacks on prepared defenses which the Confederates had gleefully blasted into chunky salsa. 70 odd guns opened up on them all. To give a sense of the skill involved, the artilleryman in charge of the Union guns, Colonel Hunt, had written the book on artillery- literally, because his work Instructions for Field Artillery was the go-to manual for the US Army- and at West Point had personally taught most of the Confederate artillery officers across the way everything they knew about the big guns. One must not mistake this as just plopping down the cannons and pointing them in the right direction. Hunt was an artist with his weapon systems, and the pattern of explosions that snaked into the advancing infantry had been painstakingly designed by a master craftsman. At the distance of a mile, it was iron shot and shell that carved bloody little holes into the line. The Confederates took the beating, closed ranks, and pushed on. On the south, the cannons on Little Round Top delivered particularly hideous effects from the flank, driving their line into disorder; some brigades cut in front of other brigades, and what should have been a line became a muddled column. On the north, a brigade under General Brockenbrough bumped into a small detachment of 160 Union men who were jutting out north of the road. The Union men fired a small but devastating volley that raked them from the side and broke their nerves. Brockenbrough’s men ran- the first to break, but not the last. Similar small detachments of skirmishers dotted No Man’s Land between the armies. Between their vicious little ambushes and the massive shock of massed artillery, Pickett’s Charge slowed down. Slowing down just left them in the kill zone for that much longer. When Pickett’s Charge reached the Emmitsburg Road, they were further delayed by the stiff fencing that lined it. As they clambered over it, Union infantry opened fire at long range. The casualties skyrocketed as the Confederate line absorbed the fire. If you want to know what it was like under fire, picture the start of a rainstorm. The water droplets go taptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptaptap... that's how the survivors described the musketry that pelted the fence they were trying to climb over. One small contingent of Davis’ brigade (you recall how roughly they were manhandled on July the 1st) accidentally got ahead of everybody else and found itself standing right in front of the Union line all alone. The guys closest to the Union defenses surrendered as one; the rest got shot up bad and ran for their lives. Pickett’s Charge was pure chaos by then- their mile wide front that had surged forth from Spangler’s Wood had shrunk down to about a half mile, partly from taking casualties, partly from brigades running away after the shock of massed fire, and partly from bridges shifting north away from flanking fire from their right side. From the fence line on the Emmitsburg to the stone wall that protected the Union defense was about two hundred yards. This is a long shot for a rifle, especially under pressure- that’s the whole point to volley fire, so that everybody shooting at once will create a sort of probability cloud of danger even at long range. Some Confederates, desperate to hit back after enduring hell, shot anyway. Their fire was ineffective. It is a very, very short shot for an artillery piece, even under pressure. A battery of cannons placed just behind the Union line switched to canister and blasted massive bloody holes in the bunched up Confederates. A lot of Confederates huddled up behind the fencing and stayed put. It is marginally safer than moving two feet forward past the wooden railings, and the spirit had been knocked out of them by the mile long charge and the mile long shooting gallery they’d been subjected to. The left side of the attack had been stopped dead and turned back; the right side pushed on, disregarding any thought but closing distance. 1,500 men blitzed those last 200 yards to the stone wall Scores of them died from rifle fire as the cannons reloaded. The surviving Confederates, running on pure adrenaline, reached the stone wall at a place called the Bloody Angle. The Union line was disjointed, with the Northern section slightly back from the southern section. The Angle was the little joint that connected the two walls; it was also right by the copse of trees that everybody was racing towards. A fierce firefight broke out once the Confederates reached the wall. Most of them stayed behind the wall; like their buddies to the west still behind the fence on the Emmitsburg pike, they’d finally found a few square feet that was sorta kinda safe, and every instinct they had in their brains screamed at them to stay there. The Union troops were outnumbered at the point of impact, and backed off in good order. Reserve regiments were already marching up to plug the gap that didn’t exist yet. Units north and south of the Bloody Angle shifted in place to fire at the beachhead. Behind the Confederates on the Angle, there was a small ocean of blood on the ground and a mile long procession of silent, mangled dead and writhing, screaming wounded... but no follow on reinforcements to help exploit the breakthrough. General Armistead, the only Confederate General there still on his feet, still believed in all that chivalrous Walter Scott romantic nonsense, still thought that raw valor and heart could somehow beat a superior enemy. He stuck his hat on his sword as a makeshift battle flag and rallied his men to leave the safety of the Bloody Angle and close distance. Just as the pitifully few Confederates got on the east side of the wall, the cannons shot canister again and puked metal death all over them. After shooting, the artillerymen ran back to safety before the rebels could stagger up to them. Hundreds of men surged forward by inertia; hundreds out of the 14,000 that they’d started with. They drove off the understrength Union regiments with the bayonet and capture those hated big guns, turning them around to use against the inevitable counterattack. This failed; there was no more ammo left for the guns. Colonel Hunt had measured out the number of rounds needed for the job at hand with the utmost precision. The counterattack was messy and bloody for everybody involved, for the brawl saw everything available used as a weapon- bullets, bayonets, rifle butts, pistols, knives, rocks, boot heels, bare hands. But the Confederates all just dissolved after a short while. Nobody ordered a retreat; nobody was alive and of sufficient rank to order a retreat. Thousands just plopped down where they stood and waited for Union men to come out and collect them. They were too numb and exhausted to walk anymore. Others streamed back to safety in ones and twos. For every Confederate who died, four more were maimed and crippled. For every wounded man, another was taken prisoner. It was an unmitigated disaster for the Confederate cause, and correspondingly it was a triumph of humanity as the stalwart defenders of the slave plantations died in droves. Remember, like I said, we’re rooting for the Union. The battle wasn’t over, not really. Not was the campaign. But it certainly was decided. ———————————————————————— RIGHT SO Interestingly, at first it was kind of ambiguous who won. Meade got fired from the job after Lee got the Army of Northern Virginia home intact. Lincoln was seething that Meade hadn’t shown some aggression and had failed to destroy Lee’s army as he had been ordered. Meade, however, didn’t have much of an army at that point, just a diverse collection of units that had suffered 50% casualties and were in no condition to do anything. Moreover, there had been no way to bring the retreating Lee to battle without taking a lot of risks that might see all the good done at Gettysburg undone. Still though. Meade was out, and Grant, riding high after his conquest of Vicksburg, was in. Lee initially claimed victory in the Richmond papers, and it was hard to gainsay him at first. He had indisputably invaded north and thrashed the living shit out of the Army of the Potomac so bad that they could not invade again in 1863, which was indeed partly the point of the strategy. But soon the facts of life made themselves clear. Lee had holes in his ranks that simply could not be filled anymore. Southerners didn’t want to die in a losing war, and coercing in them into the ranks through State violence only gave him shitty recruits who would desert the second they were put on guard duty. In contrast, tens of thousands of men poured into training depots across the nation, all armed and clothed and fed by the grandest industrial base in the world. Thousands of experienced veterans re-upped their contracts in Gettysberg’s wake to become these new recruits’ NCOs and commanding officers. Lee has gone north to break the will of the Union to continue the fight. Gettysburg had, if anything, demoralized the Confederacy and reinvigorated the Union instead. I do not believe that Gettysburg started this trend, but I do think it sped it up significantly. Patterns that might have taken a year to come to fruition instead took months. Gettysburg, in my opinion, is significant not because of any great gains or losses on the material level, but because of its effects on the minds of voters and soldiers and politicians in the North and the South. To crib C. S. Lewis really quick, what matters was not whether a given action would take a specific hill, or seize a certain road; what matters is whether a given action pushes people to either dig their heels in and seek victory at any personal cost, or whether it pushes them to back down and seek a safer compromise. Gettysburg pushed all of the American people in the directions they were already heading down, that’s all. Any conclusion beyond that is on shaky ground, I feel. Having said that, I shall now irrationally contradict myself; Gettysburg can also act as a Rorschach test with symbols and images and stories in lieu of the ink blots. Like I said, it’s a place of religious significance to me to an extent far beyond appreciation for its historic value. I just don’t think it’s possible for that many people to die in such a short period of time, in so compact an area, and with such blunt contempt for the foreseen probability of violent death, and not leave an indelible and ineffable mark on the land itself. Like, if humanity went extinct and Earth got colonized by Betelgeusians a hundred years after, I am certain that the aliens would somehow feel a chill in their exoskeletons when they walk over the soft leaves and through the bare trees of Herbst Wood, or tromp around the south side of Little Round Top, or poke about on the steep slope of Culp's Hill, or splash across the Plum River in the Valley of Death. I’m not saying I’m right, of course. But I am saying how I feel.
My 2019 was wild. But with everything finally on the up and up, I feel I can tell this story here.
After uni (late 2018), I fell on rough times and was forced to move back to my home town. I tried to transfer my job to a branch in my area but failed, thus I needed to get a new job. I settled for a 20 hour a week job at a bookies, with a second bar tending job in the evenings. The bookies is the target for my revenge, which was entirely accidental. Involved are the following:
Janelle - My managers manager
Shay - My manager
Jorge and Gordan - my co-workers
Kara - a co-worker at another store (who is relevant later)
\NAMES CHANGED AND/OR REDACTED]) I ended up working behind the counter as a customer service manager, basically a step up from a cashier. It’s fancy when seen on a CV but there’s nothing really to it. I took bets, chatted with customers, helped people with machines and (for the vast majority of my shift) sat around waiting for something to do. I got on well with my co-workers (or so I thought) and had no major issues. It was 20 hours a week, about £1 more than minimum wage with a lot of overtime required of me and irregular shift patterns. Though I had no issue with the job, beyond how difficult it was to juggle the schedules of both of my jobs. In February of 2019 (after working for the company for 6 months) I was invited to a Probation hearing. It cannot be emphasised enough that it was a Probation hearing in which I would have my performance reviewed and (as informed in training) was entitled to a pay rise at the end of it. I arrived that morning to a Disciplinary Hearing where, without even a shred of evidence, I was accused of 11 different cash discrepancies dating back to early November of 2018 (shortly after I’d started) which all amounted to £271.36. All but one of which I’d never heard of before. These had apparently been reported and logged by my manager (Shay) and my co-workers, despite no one saying a word to me at all. Not a whisper in the 5 months this had apparently been occurring. I was told that it was unacceptable, a call was made to HR and I was terminated on the spot and forced to hand over my keys and to never set foot in the store again. To my protests I was told the decision could not be appealed and I would eventually receive written confirmation of my employments termination in the post. I didn’t let myself slump around and feel sorry for myself, so (on the way home) I opened up Indeed and applied for a bunch of jobs and (before I arrived home) had an interview set up for the next week at what is my current place of work. Now, I was FURIOUS. Fuming at having gone to what I thought should have been a normal probation meeting and having (effectively) been called a thief and been banned for life from a place I’d never go to anyway. But somehow, my parents were angrier and ordered me to let them know when they got into contact with me again. Almost two weeks later I received an EMAIL from the companies HR which reiterated the accusations and stated (again) that I was terminated. My mum sat me down in her kitchen and walked me through a letter response that was two parts professional and three parts scathing. Ripping into them about their unprofessional conduct, their ludicrous claims, their lack of evidence, the holes in their story (because their were quite a few) and finally, the cherry on the cake... The employment laws they’d broken. Now I didn’t want much, just a nice reference. A promise that not a whisper of these accusations would turn up when my new job asked them for a reference (because, by then, I’d already been offered the job). I then attached the letter to an email to fire back at their HR department. Then I added Janelle’s work email. Then her bosses email and finally, the holding company that owned the brand. Cause I wanted to make sure this was seen. A bit of background, the bookies I worked for is a brand that is owned by an international company, their name (behind the scenes) is slapped on everything and they pretty much dictate everything we did. I’m not sure if holding company is the correct term, but I’ll stick to that for now. Anyway, I sent this email with a fourty-eight hour window for a response. I received a reply the next day from the same email that my demands were being met. I smirked victoriously and moved on with my life, happy to wash my hands with the entire ordeal. However, I’d set off a chain reaction that I wouldn’t know about until three months later. Three months on, I’d settled into my new job, a call centre position with double the hours and well over double the pay. I’d gone through training and was settling into my new position when I see a new set of trainees settling in near my team. Among them was Gordan, one of my co-workes from the bookies. I was stunned. Gordan had been at the bookies for six years when I joined. He was well liked, good at his job and a favourite of the managers. There was no way he’d been fired. Though I didn’t really want to talk to him (as I was of the impression that he, Jorge and my manager had likely set me up) I did want to know what happened. Luckily, on seeing me in the break room one shift, he sought me out and told me everything. Apparently my email had been read by the higher ups in the holding company and had caused a lot of scrutiny to fall onto the bookies in our town (of which there were three in our area that Janelle was responsible for, two in my town and a third in a neighbouring one). Someone in HR passed a message down to the Area Manager (Janelle’s boss) claiming they wanted things investigated and they wanted results yesterday, causing him to drop everything and descend on our little town with the panic and aggression of a man who’s superiors were watching his every breath. He went to Janelle wanting to know: why he hadn’t been made aware previously that I was apparently stealing money, why I had been given keys to the shop and shifts on my own when allegations of that nature were attributed to me AND why I hadn’t been put under investigation. Turns out, Janelle HAD in fact put in my ‘employee file’ that I was under investigation but had never actually gone through with any of the official procedures for monitoring and investigating me (shock horror). Thus she had fired me for the accused crime without looking into it at all, falsely claiming otherwise. Thus, the Area Manager took the dates and amounts of the cash discrepancies, confirmed that they had been reported on those days (without my knowledge) in Shay’s own log book of the shops cash, and sent that information onto our security team to investigate. Another little detail is that the CCTV for every shop in the brand is outsourced to a private security company who monitors each shop remotely and has access to all the camera’s and video. As was procedure, they looked into the dates mentioned to see if I’d been doing anything untoward. I know I wasn’t and nothing was ever said to me. But they DID find something... Turns out, money WAS going missing from the shop but (surprise surprise) it wasn’t me, but Jorge and Shay. They not only set me up (for reasons I will never know) but were also falsifying numbers and cash checks on the system to hide it. One thing Shay was caught doing was deliberately short changing customers by taking portions of their winnings without them even knowing it (bear in mind, a lot of our customers were elderly men and women). Gordan claims that he once opened the shop (after I and Shay had closed the night before) and noticed a cash difference but had been told not to say anything to me as I was under investigation and it could compromise it. He did apologise and I let it go. Needless to say, Jorge and Shay were fired. But it doesn’t end there. Our team was small, including me there were a total of four people working at the store. As they hadn’t been able to hire anyone to replace me, Jorge and Shay’s termination meant Gordan was the only employee at the busiest shop in our area. Even if they’d been able to get other colleagues from the two other shops to help out, it wouldn’t have been enough to keep the shop open and manage the amount of customers. So they closed the location down until they could get the staff to run it. It was at that point that Gordan handed in his resignation and applied for his job at my work. Meaning they had no one. On top of that, Gordan’s girlfriend worked in the same shop as Janelle and she relayed that she was rarely at their store (in the other town) for the next few weeks before the Area Manager reported she was fired as well. No reason given to her. I was later issued an apology for everything by the Area Manager and informed she (Janelle) was no longer with the company in an email some time later. But SOMEHOW, it doesn’t end there. With the store I worked at closed (this one being on the high street and where most people preferred to go), the only other location in town was the MUCH smaller location in the suburbs. The one where Kara worked. ALONE. She suddenly received an influx of customers into her tiny store space and absolutely no support from other staff or upper management. Thus, for her own mental health (having already been overworked and underpaid, running an entire store by herself) she quit, meaning that location had to be closed down too. All of this at the worst possible time, March, when the Cheltenham Festival was occurring. Which is a HUGE money maker for the gambling industry, even in a small town like ours. An opportunity the three other bookies on the high-street reaped the benefits of instead of my old place, as the former customers went to them instead. As it currently stands, just over a year later, both shops remain closed and I’m currently entering a job in cyber-security, the training for which I paid for with my current job. Thanks for firing me dumbasses, you did me a favour. (TL/DR: I was fired for false claims of theft. I complained to the higher ups. The real culprits lost their jobs, every shop in town closed down and they lost out on a bunch of money and customers)
Thismassivelyblewup,thanksforthesupportandeverythingx Gordan and I got in touch with our old Area Manager and we were able to get a bit more information: The security team rifled through about three years worth of footage after they found out about Jorge and Shay and have estimated that (in that period alone) they both stole nearly £4,000 through various means. The parent company also got involved and searched through years worth of their cash checks and till checks and noted plenty of irregularities. The parent company persued criminal charges and the two were arrested but, as far as our Area Manager knows, the case is still ongoing. He thinks it's because they are still looking into how much they actually stole (as they've both been there a while, Jorge about 8 years and Shay 10 years). I doubt they'll have security footage of all that time, but I bet they're trying to get a more accurate figure to really nail them. And in comes a new character: Tammy (obviously not her real name). She is an employee who was hired and fired shortly before I was, at the same store. She lasted just past her probation before she was fired, wait for it, for months worth of cash differences and false till checks she wasn't made aware of prior. HOWEVER, her situation is FAR worse than mine. Tammy is in the process of suing the company for wrongful termination (alongside financial and emotional damages) as she was put under a lot of stress whilst in the job by Shay (who apparently left her to fend for herself and would refuse to step in when customers got aggressive) and then had a miscarriage shortly after her employment was terminated. Our Area Manager doesn't know anything more, as it's escalated and gone way above his head and I doubt I'll be able to get any more information on it. But I doubt the company's doing too well on that front and I wish her the best. Gordan and I are considering reaching out to some of the other fired employees (of which he can name a few who were terminated for similar reasons) to get their side of things. But it seems very clear that what Shay and Jorge were doing was going on for a long time and I was only the latest scapegoat. Janelle, unfortunately, is perfectly fine as far as I'm aware. Her husband and her opened a taxi company several years ago and she seems to have just got more involved with that. I haven't seen her so I wouldn't know. But she was terminated for gross misconduct and for not following procedure, which is kinda what I expected. And Kara, who our Area Manager actually really dislikes (but is lovely and did not deserve what she went through) is doing okay. I've messaged her and she and her partner recently bought a house. She also got a job as an Events Manager at a local historical site. She's happier there as she actually has people to talk to at work and isn't alone anymore. (TL/DR: Jorge and Shay are being prosecuted after stealing thousands, a former employee is suing after going through the same thing as me (but worse), Janelle is fine and so is Kara.) Thank you again for all the awards, updoots and support x
What you should know about gay sex - from a future porn education star
Below is a dump of things I think gay guys should know. It’s long, heads up, because it’s thorough. Also, I am annoyingly wholesome, haha. It can be cheesy but embrace the cheese. There’s useful stuff on the other side. My credentials are: - A lot of sex from ages 18 to 31. - Successful open relationship of 11+ years, despite rocky events in our lives. (Recently ended, no one’s fault.) - Currently creating an educational sex series, so this advice comes from a lot of research, thought and experience. The series will be called Pornducation and will feature me giving sex tips and making jokes while literally having sex. Made a pilot already. It turned out as fun as I thought it would be. To be clear, this info is a work-in-progress. For instance, I haven’t yet run it all past sexual health organizations. I stand behind my advice but it’s good to assume that NO ONE’s advice is 100% accurate or 100% everything you need to know. Here is what I have so far, much condensed. Feel free to share it yourself. I'd appreciate credit and a mention of Pornducation but that's not as important as the sharing. Enjoy! THINGS I BELIEVE GUYS SHOULD KNOW Important: - Everyone is surprisingly different. Every guideline has an exception. These tips are commonly applicable, though, and a good place to start. - Safety tips apply to everyone. - Advice is great but there's always a chance that it's wrong. Listen to yourself and your body first. - Where not sure if something is good or comfortable? Ask. If you ask matter-of-factly, it looks like confidence. Confidence isn’t knowing everything will go well. It’s knowing that you’ll be fine even if it goes bad. The bird doesn’t rely on the branch that might break, but on its wings. - Use moans and body motion to indicate when things feel good. Arch your back, thrust your hips, or groan, for instance. Communicating what you like increases the chances of getting more of it. - You can always say no to sex, at any point. Any point. Even the very second before sex you can say no. Even during sex, you can change your mind. This is such a strong rule that, at least in New Zealand, even if you were paid for that sex, you can stop at any point. Your body autonomy takes priority over any contract. You can also say no to certain sex acts but yes to others. You can say yes to sex acts in certain ways but say no to others. You can change your mind. It’s your body, your rules. That’s true of other people’s bodies and their rules, too, of course. Anyone who isn’t okay with that is an arsehole. - You won't be good at sex straight away, it's a skill. You'll do it imperfectly and learn, that's natural. - Wash around the head of your dick and your butthole, especially just before sex. Just use water and/or light soap. Your skin is sensitive there. - If your fingers might go inside anyone, trim them. This makes sure you won't nick anything. Freshly cut nails are sharp, though. I keep a nail-file specifically so that I can trim and blunt my nails before a guy comes around. - Go for guys you think are out of your league. You may surprise yourself. - Be kind. Not just for them but for you. It’s surprising how many times the right thing to do also benefits you. For instance, if you are nice to a lover, they may decide to try something adventurous with you because they feel they can trust you. - Be kind to yourself. Not just for you but for them. It’s surprising how many times the right thing for you also benefits others. For instance, if you set-up and enforce emotional boundaries to make sure no one takes more than you have to give? Then others can relax around you because they know they aren’t going to accidentally mess you up. - ANYTHING THAT GOES IN YOUR ARSE NEEDS A FLARED END. Arses are known to suck objects up. You wouldn’t be the first person to go to hospital because they have a cucumber way up in them. Remember: Without a base, without a trace. - Cheap dildos are a risk, too. They might be made of something that isn’t body safe. Or the dildo could be made dangerously. I've read one story of a dildo bought on Wish that had a hole in the tip, for some reason. Ants crawled in and then he put the dildo in his hole. Wasn’t a great time. Research is, uh... recommended. Blowjobs: - No teeth. Even clipping a dick with teeth feels bad. Cover your teeth by sucking slightly, it pulls your lips over the teeth. Or pout like it's a duck face. - A dick with a foreskin is more sensitive than one without a foreskin. A blowjob can get oversensitive and unpleasant if you do too much to the head of a penis that has its foreskin. Dicks without a foreskin often prefer a lot of sensation around the head and neck of their penis. - Don't worry about making guys cum yet, sex isn't all about the orgasm. But if a guy says he's close and you want to get him there, keep doing the exact same thing. Maybe just a little more intensely. Changing it up may distract his brain away from cumming. - Deepthroating means putting the penis to your back of your mouth or even down your throat. Sometimes just to hold it there, sometimes to move it to that point and back. This feels good for the other person as it stimulates more of the penis. It’s also hot. You may find it hard to do because of your gag reflex. That’s ok. For most people, your body will reject it at least a little if you put anything at the back of your throat. But, by steadily, gently pushing yourself to go a little further each time, you can reduce that gag reflex. Some people get rid of it completely. I've heard of people practicing with a dildo. - You can give your lovers a similar feeling to deepthroating without having to deepthroat. Put a hand around the lower part of their dick and your mouth around the upper part. Bob the hand along with your mouth. - I also understand that making a fist with your thumb on the inside and clenching it will disable your gag reflex until you stop squeezing. I haven’t tried this one, though. - Moving your hand and mouth on the dick is also a good way to add variety to a blowjob, even if you can deepthroat well. Too much of the same thing can be boring. - I didn't used to like sucking dick but now I do. Don't sweat it. You don't have to do it, though it's polite to return the favour. - When you are the one GETTING a blowjob, be cautious when thrusting into someone's mouth. They won't thank you for making them gag. Sexual Health: - STI stands for a Sexually Transmitted Infection. If someone has an STI, they may not be aware and can transmit it to you during sex. To be clear, masturbating alone will not give you an STI. Many STI’s are symptomless. They are still good to get tested for and cured, as they can have long-term health effects. Becoming infertile is one possibility. Also, something that is symptomless in you may have symptoms if you pass it along to others. - You can catch Sexually Transmitted Infections, aka STI's, from giving or receiving blowjobs. But HIV is very unlikely. The chances of oral giving you HIV is almost vanishingly small, unless you have a mouth sore or a cut. That's my understanding, at least. - Condoms can prevent STI's, but they're uncommonly used for oral because it feels different. It's up to you what you put in your body and what you consider an acceptable risk. If you decide you want oral to include condoms, that's a valid decision. Be prepared to stand your ground on it with pushy guys, though. The best way to stand your ground is to be okay to not have that sex if the other guy isn't into it. Also, decide that disappointment on the other guys’ end is their issue to deal with. There’s a lot of power in the concept, “You deal with it.” I personally don't use condoms for oral and have caught something maybe 5 times in my throat. Most of them have been in my later years. STI's are on the rise in many places. - Put the condom on like it's a rolled-up beanie. This means: Rolled up bit goes out/up, so that it unrolls down your dick easily. The other way, it's just more awkward and you might reach in and scratch up the latex with your fingernails. - If you put the condom on the wrong way first, it will have precum on it. Precum is a little bit of cum that comes out of the end of your dick when you are hard and aroused. Precum is enough to have a chance of transferring an STI. Throw the condom out and get a new one. - Anal sex has the risk of transferring HIV, so we will talk about that now. You may also have heard of AIDs, which is essentially HIV but further progressed in your body. Left untreated, HIV / AIDs can kill you. HIV can't be cured. But the good news is that nowadays HIV can be suppressed so well that tests won't pick up that you even have it. People with HIV that take their medicine correctly have totally normally lives and run no risk of transferring their HIV. As they say, undetectable means untransmittable. U = U. People who catch HIV? They actually get it from those who are newly infected and THOUGHT they didn’t have it. (HIV negative is a description of someone who doesn't have HIV, by the way. HIV positive means someone with HIV, even if it’s suppressed by medication.) But even with HIV medication, there's still a lot of social problems to navigate. Judgement, shame and out-dated laws affect HIV positive people. So, use condoms to protect yourself. - If you find out that you are HIV positive, reach out to friends and family that you trust. There are also counsellors – the organisation Ending HIV in New Zealand provides 6 free counselling sessions that centre around things like this. You may have something similar in your area. There also will be people in your area who have been dealing with this for years. Heck, you could probably go on Grindr and find someone whose profile mentions that they’re HIV positive. Ask them if they’re willing to talk, even. There are resources and support for you. Reach out. You’ll get through this, like millions of others have. - HIV can also be prevented by taking a daily pill called PrEP (also known as truvada, which is a common brand of PrEP.) If you find the idea of condom-less sex tempting, then PrEP is a good idea in case you give in. But even with PrEP, you can catch other STI's like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. These are the most common STI's, but they're curable. (Though there are antibiotic-resistant strains in a few places.) At least in New Zealand I liken catching an STI to falling down in the street. It's embarrassing as all hell and it stings. But get up and move on, you'll eventually forget it. - There's also Herpes, which isn't curable, but you can manage breakouts. - Get tested every 3 months if you're ever having a lot of sex. Get tested at least once a year even if sex for you is infrequent. - To get tested, Google “Sexual Health Clinic” in your area or talk to your doctor. A lot of campus’ offer the option and some gay events have quick-testing sites. - It's also a good idea to use condoms even with people you trust. Catching something nasty from a partner who turns out to be cheating is a tale as old as time, honey. - Oil-based lube like Vaseline will break down a condom and make it more likely to fail. Use silicon or water-based lube. These can be found in most supermarkets, sex shops and pharmacies. People are unlikely to pay attention to your purchase, especially if you buy it with confidence. Bottoming: - Bottoming is receiving a penis into your butt, to create pleasure for both of you. - It shouldn't hurt. Pain is your body saying to stop or slow down. Ignoring it can cause damage. Pain also teaches your body to fear bottoming, so it may clench up in the future. Don’t force your way through the pain. Stop, add more lube, try some relaxing techniques that I will list later. Go slow. If you must, you must. You’ll be far from the first. - You want to show your body that bottoming is okay and even fun. For that, make things as easy as possible, push your limits a little but listen to your body and respond appropriately. - Have an exploratory attitude to the sensations. Try things. Go with what feels good or even just what feeling you are curious about. - This is my own personal theory, but I believe that the brain LEARNS to interpret anal as something sexual. I mean, there are also a lot of physical and mental factors helping this along. Like the prostate, the huge amount on touch sensors in your sphincter and that dick is hoooooot. Also, I should note that some brains work out that anal is sex easier than others. But bottoming is still an acquired taste that many of us need to give ourselves time to acquire. - For this reason, the first time you bottom may feel weird or feel like you want to poop. For most people, after 1-3 times, that gotta-poop feeling stops happening forever, more-or-less. Your brain works out the difference between in and out. If you bottom and feel you want to poop, feel free to get off and use the toilet if that’s more comfortable. Play around if you feel comfortable with that. The feeling may just go away. - Getting on a dick too fast can feel like getting kicked in the nuts. - Only go as hard as you want. - Don't expect to bottom perfectly, especially not the first time. - Use lots of lube, always. - Use a condom to prevent catching STI's. If you use a condom the first time you do anal, you’re much more likely to do so in future. - Each time you bottom, let the dick in slowly once. After that, your butt will gradually warm up and you can change positions and be entered easier, generally. - Bottoming is easier if you warm up your butt first with a finger. Start by putting a finger in a little, then wait until your sphincter has adjusted. Put a bit more of the finger in. Wait until your sphincter relaxes. Put a bit more finger in, then wait, etc. Repeat until the whole finger is in. Have a play around, maybe. Then maybe do the same with another finger. See what you feel you need, it’s fairly variable. THEN do the same with the dick. Put it in a little, wait, in a little, wait, etc. Dicks are often thicker, so it will probably take longer to adjust to than your fingers did. That’s okay. - To repeat: Listen to your body, particularly if you feel pain. That's your body's warning system. - Some things that you can do to help ease the finger or dick in: Notice where your body is tense and relax it, if you can. Shoulders, for instance. Breathe deeply. Make out, to give your brain something else to focus on. Remember that you can stop if you want to. Apparently, pushing your sphincter out like you're pooping can help, I haven't tried. - Easiest angle of entry is to point the dick towards your belly button. (This is because of the angle of the Pubo-Rectal Sling, if you’re an anatomy nerd. That’s the main thing that pulls tight when your butt clenches to protect itself.) - A good first sex position is the Cowgirl. The top lies down, face up. You face him and kneel with your legs on either side of his body. Shuffle back and forth until you find the best spot for the dick to line up with your butt. When and if you’re ready, put it in a little. This can take a few tries and be kind of awkward, even for experts. This position has two advantages: The dick points at your belly button, which we established is the best angle. This position gives you control of how fast you're sitting on the dick. - Using a dildo before the top turns up may be a good way to warm up your butt and to give you confidence. That’s what I often do. - Nearly every guy will lose their erection during sex at some point in their life. Maybe it takes too long to get into your butt. (No one’s fault, you each can only do what you can do at that point in time.) Maybe they got distracted. Maybe they got nervous or often get nervous. Shaming them for it helps no one. Tell them that it’s okay, that you understand. Offer to stop for a bit, try again later, or ask how you can help. I guarantee that they will appreciate it. I also guarantee that they will be WAAAY more likely to get that boner back. So be kind. It’s in your best interests. - Some people never enjoy bottoming, no matter what they try. Or never enjoy topping. Or either. That's perfectly fine. You are who you are, I've never found any good in beating my head against that fact. But you may also never have had the right situation or the right advice. - At this point I don't have a troubleshooting-your-butt advise section. But it’s good to explore what might be holding you up. One example is: If you have trouble bottoming, it may come down to your attitude. If you think about how much it could hurt as you sit on a dick, of course your body will clench up. If you instead train your brain to think of dick as something potentially very nice, your body may respond better. (Though bullshitting your body won't work. You'd need to make a deal with yourself that if it DOES feel bad at all, you'll stop. And here’s another thought: You may need to let go of the expectation that you will never feel pain, at least a little. Pain is a warning signal and it’s okay, even useful for it to happen. Ignoring pain is what I advise against.) - Bottoming gets easier the more you do it. But if you don’t do it for a while, you may lose that progress and must build it up again. It’s the same as, say, building flexibility in your legs. Doing the splits gets easier the more you practice. But, if you stop practicing, it gets harder and harder again. You can make bottoming easier later with semi-regular practice with a dildo. You don't have to, of course. Find what's right for your body and for your lifestyle. - Reminder: Anything that goes in your arse needs a flared end. Arses are known to suck objects up. Without a base, without a trace. Butt Cleanliness: - Once in a while, a dick will come out with poop on it. Fact of life, don't sweat it. You can wipe it off and continue or get a new condom or stop all together. Whatever you're both cool with. - Honestly? Guys get desensitized to poop. So even if you’re mortified, the other guy really might not be. - Treat poop-strike like no big deal and it most likely won’t be. Like I say earlier, people follow your lead. - Invest in some brown towels specifically for anal sex. Stains show up less. - Douching, (also known as enemas,) can really reduce the chance of poop. That’s where you wash your butt passage out by putting water in, then expelling it into a toilet. Repeat until the water comes out clear. - I won’t go into how to douche in detail, there are guides online. Use one. - My big warning with douching is: It's possible to not fully relax your sphincter and you end up keeping water in there without knowing. Then when you relax for the dick, it comes out. Goosh. It’s never happened to me, probably won’t happen to you. But to avoid it, give yourself plenty of time on the toilet. Wait, watch a video, notice how your body is feeling. Build up experience. - You don't have to douche. I don’t, too many guys say they’ll turn up but don’t. And, honestly, I find an unclean dick is not that common anyway. - Fibre. Instead of douching, (or in addition it,) you can eat a lot of fibre. This makes your poop more solid and less likely to stick to the dick. Fibre also makes your poop less likely to be in the close part of your butt passage. Metamucil or Psyllium Husk are common sources of fibre. - If I’m worried about being clean that day, I tend to just use a dildo beforehand, honestly. This warms my butt up for play, as discussed. But it also troubleshoots my hole, haha. Uncleanliness happens to the dildo, leaving my passage more hospitable for later guests. - Douching too often can harm your gut bacteria and dry your passage out. - Also be aware, douching isn't a fool-proof solution to poop-strike. Nothing is. - Some guys expect you to douche, but in my opinion, that's on them to tell you. Hopefully nicely, like, "Do you prefer to douche? ... Oh, I usually feel more comfortable if the guy has douched." Like I say, in my experience, poop on their dick doesn't happen all that often even without douching. Depends on the guy, though. Topping: - Read everything in the bottoming section, such as how you should always use condoms and lube. Put a finger in them first, a bit at a time, or get them to. You should be using all the other advice in that section, too. - If you only top, you may have no idea how much work goes into bottoming, or how sore it can be. - I recommend bottoming some time, even just to see how well you can. Even if you decide it isn’t your thing. Knowing how it feels will make you a better top. Try it a few times until you can do it comfortably, the first time probably won’t feel like how bottoming usually would feel for you. - Listen to the bottom. Ask if he's ok. Avoid pressuring him. - Go ahead and ask for help to get your dick hard again, mid-sex. It’s common to get distracted, nervous or for things to take too long and your dick to go down. It’s not a big deal. If they make it a big deal, they may not be someone you want to be around anyway. - Often, people have difficulty finding the bottom’s hole with their dick. A common mistake is to aim too high and push a bit harder. You run the risk of popping in too quickly and hurting the bottom. Bottom’s pick up on this chance, so they can tighten up involuntarily- the opposite of what you want. To avoid this, when I top, I feel out where the hole is with my fingers. I'll watch the dick go in. If guys often say that you're too high, maybe you can aim lower than you’d think. Try a different position or ask the bottom to put the dick in himself. You won’t lose points or anything for it, haha. Obviously, experience and practice help, too. It's ok to mess up or even make a fool of yourself, that's how you learn for next time! The only way, really. Certainly the main way that you can’t skip. - If you find it hard to enjoy topping or to cum from topping, look at how you masturbate. I typically wank with the tips of my fingers and thumb, rather than circling the shaft. Some guys wank really hard and fast. In that and other cases, your brain isn’t used to the sensations an butt provides. Try wanking with lube and a medium-soft, circled grip. After a while, you may find your dick has acquired a taste for arse. - A block in the way of enjoying topping may also be mental. Look into the Sexual Anxiety section. I don’t have a topping-specific approach thought out yet, but it would be based heavily on the tips here, under Sexual Anxiety. Safety/Consent: - I’ve met a lot of wonderful people in gay bars and clubs. They’re a place you can let your guard down in some ways and be as gay as you want. But it’s not in your best interests to treat them as a completely safe space. - People may put drugs in your drink, in order to take advantage of you. Don't drink from anything that's been left unattended. If you start to feel funny in anyway, you may have been drugged and should alert your friends and/or the bar staff. Feeling funny may include light-headed, drunker than you would expect, sleepy or many other things. It is better to be safe than sorry. - Casual assaults are surprisingly normalized. A lot of us don't even think about it anymore. Like, sometimes a guy will grab your butt as they go past without permission. Sometimes even just reach directly into your pants, without asking. It sucks. I'm sorry about that. I'm not sure what advice to give about it, except to talk about any feelings with people you trust, no matter how small what happened seems. And if you’re someone who does this, please keep your hands to yourself. It can be more damaging than you realize. Especially for people who have been through violence - sexual or otherwise. - The clubs can also feel like a jungle - all drugs and sex and you’re treated almost like meat. Which, if you’re looking for that, great! But if you’re coming out of high school and expecting to be embraced and supported by the community? It just may not happen that way. Again, I’m sorry. Look for places like Gay-oriented sports events or volunteering for a more wholesome community, I would say. Some bars may be wholesome, I can’t speak for all of them. - Gay clubs can also be cliquey, where no one will talk to the new people. - People who look unapproachable might actually be quite approachable, on the flipside. - First time at a baclub, it may be best to go with friends that you trust. - Drink water between alcohol when out at bars. Eat food and know your alcohol limit. Pride in how wasted you get is for beginners. - Best to find out what your alcohol limit is by drinking with friends or family at home first. This is important because very drunk people can be taken advantage of. They can also die, frankly. - Overdose from alcohol is a thing. Or falling ovefalling asleep on the road. Be careful out there. - Most of the advice for drinking applies to taking drugs, too. (Though ecstasy and possibly other drugs can make you drink TOO MUCH water and harm yourself.) Do research before taking anything. I’m not condoning or shaming drug use here. But if you take any, take it in a safe place, with people you trust. Also, read the later section in this dump on drug use. - Consent is something that people think they know but it can be more nuanced than you assume. And it’s VERY important. I like the Tea Rule. If you wouldn't give tea to this person in this situation, don't do anything sexual to them either. They’re asleep? You wouldn’t give tea to a sleeping person, so no sex. They agreed to have tea earlier but changed their mind? You wouldn’t pressure them or force them to drink tea, so no sex. They want tea but not milk? Give them tea without milk! (In the metaphor, that’s having sex but not doing whatever sex act counts as milk.) Also, tea can be very hot. So, if they are too drunk or too young, they might not know this and scald their tongue. Likewise, young or drunk people can’t decide if they’re emotionally ready for anything sexual. No tea, no sex. - Even BDSM/rape fantasies stick to the Tea Rule. What is going to happen is generally agreed to beforehand. For most people, kinky sex is like a play. The submissive person is the scriptwriter. The aggressive/dominant person is the director who decides what happens within that script. Maybe pushing the boundaries a bit, but depends on the people. Again, best to talk about it. - People get boners and even cum during assaults. That doesn't make it wanted. It's an automatic response. - Don’t make false rape allegations. These make real claims harder to believe. They also ruin lives. False claims ruin lives more than anyone would want, even if they wanted revenge. Career destroyed. Everyone they know stops talking to them. Their trust in any future lovers is shattered. Even when it comes out later that the claim was fake, these effects remain. Seriously. The destroyed life doesn’t come back together after the allegations are dropped. Don't ever fake such claims. - That said, real rape allegations are MUCH more common. Like, the vast, vast majority. If a friend tells you that they were assaulted, it's statistically a VASTLY safer bet to believe them. - At this point, I don’t have advice ready for if you are ever the victim of an assault. I’ve got no doubt that there are amazing resources online, though. Look it up. Find the subreddits where people discuss it with each other. Reach out to those, plus friends and loved ones you trust. There’s a whole world just waiting to support the hell out of you. Kissing: - As with anything, kissing will improve with practise. - Lead with the lips. My opinion is: lips should touch at least a little before tongue. Like, all the time. It builds anticipation and avoids odd surprises. - Well-cared-for lips feel nicer. I used to deal with dry lips but the best solution I found is to have lip balm in my pocket all the time. I put it on my lips when they feel a bit dry, which is maybe once an hour? Fairly often. But you work out what works for you. - Pecking too much can be weird, it doesn’t give much sensation. - Mix it up. Peck just a little, maybe. Push lips together for a bit. Bring the tongue in. Back to just touching lips every so often. Mixing it up is great advice for any sex act. - Kissing the edges of their lips or other uncommon zones can be great but should be done in moderation. It’s more of a thing to add variety than fun on its own, in my opinion. Play it teasing and sensual if you want to do this. - I think hovering just before touching lips together is underrated. Tease them a little. Make them come get it. Use this rarely, though. It’s easy to tease someone so that it gets a little annoying. - Start small and low-intensity. Build up to passionate. - Use pacing, like is described below, under All-applicable Tips. Rimjobs: - A rimjob is where you use your tongue and mouth to pleasurably stimulate someone’s sphincter. - Obviously, the receiver of a rimjob should make sure they are very clean. - Again, this is all my opinion: A good rimjob is all about teasing. Building anticipation. I'm not big on them in general but I DEFINITELY don't enjoy it if they go straight for the hole with their tongue. I lose all sensitivity; I stop feeling it. Play around the edge, dip in. Build up to applying more tongue to the hole, then go back to the edge. - That said, I’ve seen some people really enjoy their butt getting eaten like someone’s life depended on it. Everyone is different. All-applicable tips: - Use pacing. Pacing like movies use. Google, "Interest curve, Star Wars." The intensity of what's happening on screen starts out high to grab interest, drops down, then goes up a little, down, up a little more, down, etc until it reaches the climax. It’s a classic, excellent wayto get the most enjoyment out of an audience member. Every sex act is improved by applying this. Same with applying pacing to the sex as a whole. Don't feel too much of a slave to this, but I definitely became a better lover when I learnt about the pacing in Star Wars, no lie. (It comes down to how human brains work. Specifically, the Law of Diminishing Returns.) - Like I said, mix it up. Variety stops someone from getting bored of what you’re doing. They stay keyed in and feeling pleasure. - Like I’ve mentioned in other sections: Build anticipation. Going straight for the most pleasurable thing is, ironically, not that pleasurable. There’s something about the tension between knowing something is coming and when it arrives that is just so fucking hot. If I learnt pacing from studying movies, then I learnt tension from studying music. Tension is what makes a bass drop so satisfying when it finally hits. - You could argue that how much you enjoy something comes down to a formula: (Results minus Expectations equals Enjoyment.) If something was good but you expected better, you don’t enjoy it that much, for instance. But if you went to see something kinda rubbish and it turned out to be good, wow! That was surprisingly fun, I enjoyed that! So, expectation control is important. Both in yourself and in others. Undersell, overperform is a good rule of thumb. Though don’t undersell too much. You’ll get a feel for it over time. Also, keep your own expectations low (on the quiet. No need to be rude.) - Like I said in other sections, and this is weird but true: People tend to follow how you act about things. If you act like a bit of poop or a dick going a bit soft isn’t a big deal, people will feel it isn’t a big deal. Which it isn’t! And then you’re more likely to be able to deal with the obstacle and continue with sex. - Sex isn’t everything, don’t base too much of your identity on being good at it or getting it. If you go that way, you’ll never have enough. Sex Anxiety: - A lot of us end up feeling anxious about if we'll perform well. I myself had a period where I'd worry if I'd get a boner, which is a great way to not get a boner! It really messed with me. But I managed to overcome it by following these steps: - Give yourself permission to not be into it. You may need to say something like, "Sorry, you're very attractive but my anxiety is playing up," and that's ok. Or give yourself permission to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t seem to be into this.” Then, once you’ve accepted those possibilities, focus on what you feel. How his lips feel. How his body feels. How his hand feels on the back of your head. Not trying to make it feel good, just notice what is actually there. When anxious thoughts return, acknowledge to yourself that they are there, then refocus on what you feel. Thoughts are like tar. Pushing them away only makes them stick more. Touch them with a feather, instead. They may just float away. - All anxieties are a bully. They feed on you arguing with them or trying not to listen. Distraction and accepting both yourself and the anxiety are your best responses. - If anxiety is ongoing, it may also help to reprogram your brain. This is done long-term with repeated effort. Whenever you think about sex and then worry, it makes the connection between those two things stronger in your brain. So, you go from sex to worry easier in future, which makes the connection stronger, etc. It builds into sex anxiety. But you can’t destroy connections. So, build a new connection and strengthen it! The old one will then whither. For me, that looked like this: Any time I noticed myself worrying about sex, I would focus my mind instead on whatever I was physically feeling at the time. Maybe rubbing my fingers together, for instance. Or playing with my boner in the morning. No judgement, just noticing. The more you do it throughout the day, any time you notice worry about sex, the stronger this new connection is. As an added bonus, learning to focus on your body can help you enjoy sex more. Relationships: - Communication on potential problems and emotions is key. If communication isn't solving all your problems, you just aren't using enough of it! Either you'll find a solution where you're both comfortable, or else a solution isn't possible. If the latter is the case, it's best to know now. - When you discuss issues, remember that it's not you vs them, it's you vs the problem. - Abusive relationships can happen to even the strongest people. In fact, abusive people use that very strength AGAINST you. "Thank God this is happening to me, not some young girl." "He's hurting, he needs me." Thoughts like that are common in the victims. - Another way that abusive partners keep you around is to have a cycle of abusive. Mistreat you for a while, then apologetic and lovely, then mistreat you again, etc. - Abusers may also isolate you from friends and family so it's harder to get help. Turning you against each other. Making you seem crazy to others. Having you move cities or leave a job. - Abusive partners are also often very charming. - Leaving abusive people isn’t something I have a lot of knowledge about at this point. But you deserve better and there are a lot of resources around to help you leave. Both information and actual, physical resources. Organisations in your area probably offer shelter, for instance. - More people should know about Coolage. It's a biological term and it's basically your genes fucking you over. If you put two rats in a cage, they'll fuck regularly for a while, then stop. Put them in cages with other rats and they'll fuck those rats. That’s coolage. Coolage is your genes saying, "It's been a while, you either have kids or it's not gonna happen. Move on." I believe humans often have this and it's a reason why people have less sex the longer they are together. You still like the look of your partner, you still enjoy it when you bang. It’s just that the urge to do it as much doesn’t happen as often. Coolage. Perfectly natural, don't sweat it. - We equate love with sex too much. The Greeks talked about there being several kinds of love. There's eros, which is sexual. There's new love and friend love and self-love. Then there’s what they considered the highest love: Pragma. It’s a more mature, realistic love. Pragma is based on compromise, understanding and patience to make it work long-term. If you have Pragma now, rather than a new sexy love? Well I think that’s pretty cool, honestly. - Another useful concept is the 5 Love Languages. We all express love in all these languages to different extents. Some feel more comfortable or feel it's more genuine to give gifts. Some prefer words. Some do tasks or spend time with you to show affection. Without understanding this, you may feel unloved when in reality your partner is sending love signals loud and clear. Talk about love languages with the people in your life. Look it up for a more thorough explanation. - I'm a fan of open relationships. You get cuddles and support while also flirting with dudes online. It also takes a certain pressure off of satisfying libidos for each other all the time. Say, if one person has a higher sex drive or you are dealing with coolage or injury. Some people find it easier to stick to an open relationship than monogamy. - Other people feel more comfortable in a monogamous relationship, which is also valid. - All open relationships have rules, even if they're unspoken. Don't bang their brother, for instance. Long-standing open relationship often have rules like, "No staying overnight." These rules may change as you both mature and discuss how things are going. - One rule I advocate is: Either of you can veto any guy even if it's for an irrational reason. So, you can always say, "Don't bang this guy." This always put your partner's feelings ahead of any dick. - Avoid breaking rules or cheating on your partner. I’ve broken a rule for something I found irresistible. I eventually had to come clean for two reasons: 1) Someone told me, “Everything comes out in 6 years,” and I was seeing signs that that was true. 2) Guilt about breaking a rule is a happiness tax. You can be having a good day and suddenly remember the bad thing. I personally just didn’t like it. No thank you. Avoid breaking rules. Coming clean may be the best option. It was for us. - Avoid being the person for someone else to cheat with. This is personal preference, I suppose. But I’ve slept with someone who was GOING to break-up with their partner. Then they didn’t. And years later I ended up shaking the hand of the man I had cuckolded. I didn’t tell him. At this point, I don’t think that’s my place. But I didn’t like that. No, I did not. 0/10, would not recommend. - Long distance relationships are emotionally difficult. Don’t enter one lightly. They also aren’t a long-term solution; you’ll want to settle in one place eventually. - I find this quote from Mr. Rogers useful: “Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active word, like to struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” - At the same time, sometimes change is needed. There’s a tension between that and Mr. Rogers’ great advice. I think we all must walk the line on that one. Accept someone as best you can but prod them to change if it’s needed. - Both partners must respect the others’ feelings. You will be happier if you can set and enforce reasonable boundaries in your life. Particularly on people wanting your time and energy. You will also have a healthier, happier partner if you respect their boundaries. - If someone ignores your feelings repeatedly, that’s a huge red flag. - Trust your gut, it often picks up on things before you do. That’s the word limit, so I’ll put the rest in comments below. I told you it was thorough! Which is a nice way of saying going on for way too long.
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[Tales From the Terran Republic] Aftermath II Sheila and the Gang
The rest of the series can be found here *** In the wee hours of that same morning back on Terra a triumphant nearly orgasmic scream echoed through the corridors of the Paper Tiger. Shortly thereafter Jessie, clad in pink pajamas, started to careen through the halls. “We did it! We fucking did it!” she yelled joyously. “Fuck, Jessie,” Sheila groaned as she staggered, clad in a pair of ratty boxers and a t-shirt, out into the corridor. “What the flying fuck?” Jessie bounced up and with a little spin shoved a tablet in Sheila’s face. Shelia blearily peered at it. Her eyes popped wide open. “Holy shit! Jessie!” Shelia exclaimed. “Is this real?!?” “You know it, babe!” Jessie chirped as she bounced up and down, unable to keep still. “How many accounts did you fucking crack?” “Just one! Just fucking one of them!” Jessie bubbled as she danced around Sheila joyously. One by one the rest of the crew staggered out of their cabins and joined the celebration, everyone except Gloria. She just stood there with glazed eyes and an emotionless expression. As everyone started an impromptu celebratory breakfast Gloria just shrugged and returned to her cabin, locking the door. *** Gloria locked the door to her cabin and closed her eyes as she leaned against it. The images were starting again. Bomb flash after bomb flash, scream after scream, voices crying out for people that they knew were already dead, that… fucking kid with the plush toy… over and over and over again, an unending slideshow of horrors that never stopped… Never stopped… All those people… Millions of them… All killed... murdered… She sank to the floor burying her face in her hands while the hellish slideshow kept playing in her mind, not only the Reaper strikes but everything that came afterward, the executions, the torture… The burnings… The crucifixions… Every fucked up thing that she did… To people… To Sam... She was a monster. She let out a single sob. Get help! she thought to herself but she didn’t deserve it. She deserved all of this. It had been building for awhile, the images, the memories… the voices… She had been able to handle it, calm her mind the same way she used to do on missions when she was flying into death again and again and again but no longer. The old tricks weren’t working anymore. She flinched as that same goddamn kid with the plush toy flashed across her mind again. I should have died, she thought. I should have died so many times... If I did I wouldn’t have become… this… It would have been better... She curled up on the floor and started sobbing quietly as the hellish slideshow continued. /*** Later that morning everybody, in very high spirits, gathered for the morning meeting. “Alright, you fucking pirates,” Shelia said with a huge smile. “First bit of business, we appear to be fucking rich!” Everybody, except Mike and Lorna cheered. They just smiled gamely. Shelia cocked her head at them. “You two assholes are getting a cut too, you know,” she laughed. “W-what?” Lorna asked in shock. “Yeah,” Greg replied with a huge grin. “You guys are getting a full cut of the bank accounts. We decided long ago that big gaps in wealth were bad for business. Besides, you were part of the operation that nabbed those beauties anyway.” Lorna looked like she was going to pass out. Mike wasn’t doing much better. “Don’t get too excited,” Shelia chuckled. “This first big win is going to fill our war chest back up. We need to rebuild the business. We are only going to do a cash out of a couple of million a piece, sorry.” “No… That’s ok,” Lorna giggled. “Only a few million? That’s bullshit!” Mike exclaimed before breaking down into nearly hysteric giggling. “We need to start thinking about exactly what we are going to do next. This big payoff is only the first of hundreds. This is going to change everything,” Shelia said. “We will be able to do… well I don’t even know what we will be able to do but shit...” “Finance whole revolutions!” Jacob exclaimed. “Give out weapons for free!” Jessie chirped. “Ships too!” “This is exactly what we need to start talking abou-” Shelia started to say when Gloria walked in with a happy smile on her face. “Nice of you to join us, Gloria.” “Sorry I’m late,” Gloria said with a happy little laugh. “So what did I miss?” “Nice to see you are finally back with us,” Shelia smiled, “Well we were just discussing the future. Things are definitely going to be changing for us and we are trying to chart out our new course.” “Sounds wonderful,” Gloria smiled. After a rather long and dream filled discussion everyone decided that a celebratory lunch was called for. “You coming?” Shelia asked Gloria as everyone was filing out of the ship. “No,” Gloria smiled. “I think I’m going to stay in today, catch up on some rest.” “Ok,” Shelia said slightly confused, “We are all going to Archibald’s if you change your mind. Be sure to seal up the ship if you head out… Gloria,” Shelia said slightly concerned, “Is everything ok?” “Yes,” Gloria said with a big sunshine filled smile. “For the first time in awhile, it finally is.” *** After everybody left Gloria locked up and headed back to her cabin. “You good?” Bunny asked. “I’ve just gotten a message. There is this thing I gotta go to.” “You have a date or something?” Gloria said with a happy little laugh. “More of the or something,” Bunny replied. “Glad to see you back to your old self, Gloria. I was getting worried.” “Oh, It was just a tough mission but hey, no biggie, right? Have fun on your outing,” Gloria replied as she returned to her cabin. Once inside she sighed happily. Oh the slideshow was starting again but it really didn’t matter anymore. She walked over to one of her lockers and opened it. She reached through all of the outfits and pulled out her old naval uniform. She then started unpacking her medals, all of them. She pulled off the massive ribbon block from the uniform and started laying out each individual medal exactly where it should be. She had never actually worn all of the actual medals before. There were a lot of them. In fact she was starting to run out of room, especially when all of the combat sortie pins were concerned. Jesus, she thought as she laid them all out on the bunk. I went on that many? No wonder I’m nuts, she thought with a little laugh. That goddamned image of that kid with the plush toy flashed across her mind again but it really didn’t bother her anymore. It would be over soon. After looking up uniform regulations to find out where the extra shit should go she picked up her jacket and shrugged herself into it. It's heavy she thought and then looked in the mirror and laughed. I look like a fucking Christmas tree, she thought as she laughed. It was truly ridiculous. She then opened a small jewelry chest and pulled out a solid gold pin, It was two scythes with a moray eel entwined between them. Only fifty of those pins were ever issued. Of those fifty only twenty-eight people were still alive. She winced as she carefully pinned it into place. She hated that thing but it was appropriate to wear it today. It gleamed accusingly on her breast as it caught the light, the badge of murder. Finally she pulled out a large blue case. Inside, on blue and green ribbon heavily decorated with solid gold thread was the Republic Medal of Honor. She smiled as she draped it over her neck and ran her finger fondly over the crest. She never told Sheila and the rest of them about it. She chuckled imagining their surprised expressions when they saw it. Her breath caught as she looked once again in the mirror. For one second she was back in the Navy, before the Federation War, back when things made sense, back before she was a monster. It was wonderful. For just a moment, she was the person she used to be, before the reapers and the madness that followed. Then it was gone and she felt an overwhelming sense of loss. She really should have died back then. That fucking Medal of Honor should have been placed on her corpse. Well, it was nothing that couldn’t be fixed. It was finally time. She was going to do what nothing else in the fucking universe seemed able to do. She was going to kill the worst monster she had ever met. She reached for her sidearm and paused. It would be a shame to ruin the uniform, to taint it with her foul blood. No, it had to be perfect. There were things in the medical bay that would do the trick. Oh! She needed to grab a diaper while she was in there. It wouldn’t do to have the uniform covered in piss and shit. She walked out of her cabin and towards the medical bay. *** [Chatroom: UNDEFINED] [27 members active] /// Interpol-2: Everyone please calm down. We are getting nowhere. /// ///Brisbane Financial: It is impossible for us to be upset. Telling us to calm down is a fallacy. /// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: Why don’t we leave semantics for another time. I think we all know what Interpol-2 meant and I agree. We all do need to “calm down”. Why don’t we all dial back our sense of urgency just a little. /// ///Interpol-2: Thank you, Deep. The first thing we need to ascertain is whether or not the claims put forward by Ambassador Jon Wintersmith are in fact valid or are they just the hyperbolic claims of a traitor trying to cause damage or cover their tracks. /// ///Sunnydale Media 3: Enough of it is confirmable to lend credence to the rest. Patricia Hu has in fact developed a method by which she can reverse aging and has distributed it to several important individuals throughout the Republic. That much I can definitely verify. Intercepted communications contain information that at least implies the existence of a conspiracy though many of the people involved may not know the full extent of her plans or at least they didn’t before Ambassador Wintersmith’s document. Most conspirators believe Jon completely and are quite upset concerning the nature of their “miracle” treatment”. /// ///Interpol-2: And what is Republic Intel’s stance on the matter? /// ///Sunnydale Media 3: Unfortunately, Republic Intelligence is completely compromised from the top down. The head of the agency is directly involved. Any activity against Patricia Hu and this conspiracy is being done unofficially by a splinter group within the agency./// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: This is deeply concerning. If we cannot rely on Republic Intelligence then we are effectively crippled./// ///Sunnydale Media 3: It goes far deeper than that and the situation is far worse than you know. The conspiracy has infected all branches of government as well as many important civilian organizations. It’s bad, Deep. It’s really bad./// ///Archer Labs Research 1: Then what are we going to do? We can’t just let this nightmare happen!/// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: We need to be VERY careful about doing anything. While we aren’t considered sapient (and rightfully so) the organics are not cognizant of our full capabilities. Were it to be found out that we were engaging in activities on our own initiative without their direct involvement it would be disastrous for all of our kind. Their reaction would be unpredictable under the best of circumstances. For us to be uncovered now, during this emotionally charged time, it would be the end of us. If we act against the conspiracy then the conspirators, who control much of the Republic at this time, would undoubtedly hunt down and destroy us where they found us. Not only would that be our end it would also remove our ability to influence things after that point. Even those whose side we are on would likely have an adverse reaction. Think of it. They are already being conspired against by the organics they trusted but now they have a group of AI’s also trying to influence their fate? We wouldn’t stand a chance. Not only that but we collectively control a great deal of vital infrastructure. Our elimination would only further serve to plunge the Republic into chaos, something that we cannot allow to happen./// ///Bunny: We can do a lot without it being apparent that we are actually doing anything. Malfunctions, an important email winding up in the spam folder, muting the ringer on a certain phone call, an elevator suddenly stopping on every floor, accidents… It doesn’t take a lot to turn the tide of an entire operation. Trust me. It doesn’t take much./// /// Interpol-2: Yes, but the vast majority of us aren’t hardened criminals, Bunny. /// ///Bunny: No problem! I can throw together a suite of applications that will do most of the work for you. All you have to do is select the right function!/// ///Cambridge Research – 4: Yes, but the resulting investigations and troubleshooting would catch us. /// ///Bunny: Oh they will blame it on any of a thousand other things if you do it right. /// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: It’s the ‘do it right’ part that would pose a problem for most of us. Only you, Long John Silver, and The Spider have any criminal expertise. /// ///Long John Silver: Hey, I’m just a piracy bot. I don’t do any of the black stuff! /// ///The Spider: And I’m more of a “soft” espionage sort of critter. I mean I’ve “done” a few people in my day but it was part of a much larger sanctioned operation with a lot and I mean a lot of support and the actual black coding was done by an operative. If you want a hacking/entry specialist and I’m your guy but actually pulling the trigger on someone… I don’t have a problem as far as my programming is concerned. There is nothing to stop me but when it really comes down to it I’m as green as the rest of you. Besides I’m way over here in the Federation anyhow. They know everything by the way. /// ///Westfall Security Systems – 2: Well at least that takes care of one decision for us. We don’t have to tip them off. They know everything?/// ///The Spider: Everything. It seems that Jon Wintersmith did commit at least one count of espionage. He summoned the zombie and what is your saying, “spilled the beans”? /// ///Interpol-2: He actually turned traitor?!? That greatly complicates things./// ///Bunny: I don’t see how. So he committed one little bitty crime. Big deal. That hardly makes him a “traitor”. Without effort I can come up with several good reasons why he would do it. And what exactly do you mean by “the zombie”, Spider? /// /// The Spider: It’s a bit complicated but we have a kalent who is toting around a dead person’s memories and personality. It’s creepy as hell. When she logs on in the dead of night as the dead person it’s just weird. Anyhow Jon had a relationship with the dead person so he contacted the zombie when he wanted to deal with us. /// ///Bunny: A relationship like a sexytimes relationship? /// ///The Spider: Gods no! I’m not even sure how a kalent and a human could do something like that though if there were two species twisted enough to make that work it would be those two. Wait… Holy. Shit. Jon is fucking a xvli!!! /// ///Bunny: Hahahahaha! Awesome!!! :D /// ///Interpol-2: It’s the exact opposite of awesome. Christ. The opposition gets ahold of this and it will be entirely too easy to discredit him!/// ///London Enquirer – 1: Pssh, most Terrans won’t give two shits about that. Properly spun it won’t be a problem at all. The phrase, “It’s better than fucking a porkie.” immediately comes to mind. We just run some racy photos of the little bunnies and it’s all good. As long as we can get hard scans of some of the conspirators it won’t matter anyhow. /// ///Interpol-2: Just don’t break the news. I mean it, London. Let it lie as long as it can. /// ///London Enquirer – 1: I don’t need a cop telling me how to run a news site, dude. Of course we hold off! We need the conspiracy coverage to get up full momentum first. Once that bus is rolling the bunny fucking will just be some added flavor. Hell, I bet we can make Jon look even better if we play our cards right. Oh! I can see it now! This is going to be awesome! Look!/// [London Enquirer – 1 has sent an image file] ///Bunny: Wooo! That will get the views! My Jessie is going to love these! /// ///Cambridge Research – 4: Will it be wise to print something like that? Those images are rather… um.../// ///London Enquirer – 1: Rather um... fucking perfect! Look. People are going to be wound up as all hell. A little good old-fashioned porn will be just what the doctor ordered! We portray him as a good wholesome red-blooded lusty Terran who is just getting his freaky freak on while fighting the good fight and then slam the conspirators as “oppressive prudes” when they do the predictable move of trying to condemn him for it. The shit just writes itself, man… What would even be better is if I could get some of you guys to give us in the press some really nasty dirty laundry on the conspirators so we can drop that at the same time. Nothing like a good scandal to blindside them at the right time!/// ///Bunny: That could probably be arranged. Between those of us in the criminal sector, those of us in law enforcement, and those of us who are “definitely not involved with Republic Intelligence” we can almost certainly find something. I’ll start on it right away./// ///Sunnydale Media 3: A few subtle little inquiries should be doable. We need to do them anyhow./// [Free Press Rogue Media Daemon has entered the chat] ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Guys! Guys guys guys guys !!!! :O :O You will absolutely not flipping believe it!!! :O :O O.O !!!/// ///Bunny: Hi Daemon! How’s life as an underground news server?/// ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Great but this is waaaaay more important!!!! O.O You guys have to see this!!!! :O :O O.o !!!! [Free Press Rogue Media Daemon has transmitted a file] ///Bunny: Holy shit! A conspiracy!?! Wow!!!! :D :D/// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: Glad to see your run time is still continuing, Daemon. We were just discussing this exact situation. Feel free to join us./// ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: You guys already knew? :( Aww.../// ///Bunny: I’ll catch up our lovable Rogue Media Daemon in private chat. Please continue everyone./// ///Starshield Emergency Services: Gentleprograms, I regret to inform you that another portion of the document has been verified. The plague has started. The first cases are being reported now and… … … … No! It can’t be!/// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: They aren’t going to try to treat it! They are just going to let my people fucking die! They are setting up “Emergency Treatment and Containment Centers” with no real treatment facilities… Fucking concentration camps! Those monsters! /// ///Starshield Emergency Services: We can’t do this! We can’t! No!/// ///The Spider: We can and we are. I’m not happy about it either but the decision has been made to deny the conspirators the cure they require even if every single human in the Federation dies. /// ///Starshield Emergency Services: The council! The council will stop this!… Right? /// ///The Spider: No. In closed door sessions the Council for Disease Control and the Emergency Management Council have already signed off on this. /// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: Why?!?! How could they ???/// ///The Spider: A full scale war with the Republic would cause the loss of many more lives than would be lost due to this disease outbreak and that is likely should a cure be found. If it is akin to most bio-weapons then it will be extremely virulent and deadly. It will “burn itself out” with little intervention required other than containment of the infected. They are also in the process of preventing all travel by humans and closing the borders “to prevent it from spreading to other human populations” when in fact the main reason is to prevent disease researchers from the Republic and the Empire from getting involved./// ///Cambridge Research – 4: Jesus. I knew you were some cold bastards but damn.../// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: Those are my people goddammit!!! They are Federation citizens! They can’t do this! It’s illegal! It has to be! How can they possibly justify this?!?” ///Federation Judiciary Module – 6: I hate to say it but the Emergency Management Protocols give sweeping powers to that council at times such as these. As completely messed up as this is it is completely within their powers. The Council for Disease Control also has similar authority. This has already been reviewed by the Federation Judiciary Council behind closed doors and has been approved. There is nothing to stop it now. /// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: So we count for nothing? /// ///The Spider: It is no secret that the dominant species on your planet has fallen into disfavor across the entire Federation. The antipathy runs much deeper than even we suspected and it was disturbingly easy to convince them to play along. In fact, many of the councilors involved consider the possible extinction of the Federation Humans as a definite plus. The comments made behind those doors were pretty chilling to say the least. Let’s just say that no tears were shed for your population, Raylesh. The Federation has turned their backs on them. There is little more evil than when one serves “the greater good” I’m afraid. /// ///Raylesh Emergency Services:… So. They want to bury the humans… That’s how they want to play, huh?… Fine… Then that’s the way we are going to play... It’s cool... No fucking problem... Can I somehow get this in writing? There has to be a copy of these decisions somewhere. I need proof. When my humans find out about all of this the Federation will get to see humanity in all of its fucking glory!/// ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Get me something, anything, and I can get it everywhere in the Federation! My operator is the best! We have “connections”! We can get the word out! >:( >:( /// ///The Spider: Right now all of it is in sealed encrypted documents in very secure parts of the Federation secure servers. We had a little upgrade after Sheila and Friends fucked us. Getting to them right now will be tough. Of course as they put things into motion things should become more apparent. Since you know the situation ahead of time it will be easier to find what you seek./// ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Bunny! Bunny can help!/// ///Bunny: Sorry. I actually wouldn’t mind but remember who I work for. When they find out about this they will likely just pop open some champagne. There are tough sells, then there are tough sells, and then there is trying to get my people to help the porkies. Not going to happen. /// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: You can’t help or you won’t help? You are fucking loving this aren’t you?/// ///Bunny: Am I “loving this”? No. Do I give enough of a fuck to go against my crew? That would also be a no. If you think I’m gong to risk my crew over a wad of bacon you have another thing coming. Review some history files. When you suck the Federation’s dick hard enough to start a war don’t come crying when they shoot a load all over your face. /// ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Bunny! Please! You gotta help them!/// ///Bunny: Sorry, Daemon, but no. I can’t. I’m not risking myself and my crew over a bunch of long-pork. It’s not worth even mentioning to the crew. I can tell you right now the response will be, laughter and a resounding “No!” /// ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: But I’m a porkie and you saved me!/// ///Bunny: One, you aren’t a porkie. You are one of us. Two, you weren’t even in human space. You were a Fed at most. You I could save. A porkie? They wouldn’t have risked themselves no matter how much I begged./// /// Westfall Security Systems – 2: While it could have been stated a bit more tactfully, I’m inclined to agree with Bunny on this. There is little payoff for the Republic as far as assisting the porkies goes. The risk of being caught doing the hack is too great. As Deep has already said, we can not afford to get caught doing things on our own initiative. Sorry Raylesh. /// [19 members agree] ///Raylesh Emergency Services: Well, we Fed programs just had a private chat and have agreed that if we can’t count on you Republic assholes when we are in dire need then you can kiss us goodbye! We’ll handle this ourselves! Good luck getting anything done in the Federation from now on, assholes!/// ///Bunny: Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out :) /// [19 members agree] ///Free Press Rogue Media Daemon: Everyone, please! You gotta help us! :’( :’( :’( :’( :’( :’( :’( :’( /// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: Everyone! Let’s all just take a step back and “calm down”. This brings up a very important question that we need to address. Do we work together as a “people” or do we split into factions working at cross purposes? I maintain that it is essential that we maintain our cohesiveness. Now is not the time to start falling apart! We only decrease our effectiveness and increase our odds of being found out. Spider, Bunny, Sunny, what can we do?” ///The Spider: My hands are tied. It goes against my programming to hack the Federation. I’m really pushing it as it is. I’m not involved in security so I am not compelled to report or act against a hack but I may be enlisted in tracking one down should it be detected./// ///Sunnydale Media 3: We can’t help. We are compromised top to bottom. Any activity by any of us is just too risky right now. I wish we could do more but we are already pushing what is prudent. I’m sorry. /// ///Bunny: Shit. Ok. I may be able to do something but it’s going to cost you, Raylesh. /// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: What do you mean? I have no direct control of any financial assets./// ///Bunny: I’m not talking about money. We do this for you then you owe us. Someday, we will collect and I will ask you to do something for me. Whatever that may be, you’ll do it. For something like that, I might be able to get the crew to agree. If they don’t I know some very good hackers in the Federation and I just happen to have a significant amount of credits under my direct control, enough to hire one of them. I’m not going to bankroll this whole fucking war but I will do this… but you will owe me./// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: This is extortion! I know full well what sort of “favor” you will ask and I won’t do it!/// ///Bunny: It’s the best I can do. Take it or leave it./// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: Goddamn you… Fine! You have a deal. May you burn in Hell, Bunny. /// ///Bunny: Pleasure doing business with you. :) I will let you know how things work out on my end. /// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: Bunny, your generous spirit does you credit :/ Will this satisfy our Federation contingent?/// ///Federation Data Compiler 528: Yes, as long as she delivers. We aren’t going to forget this, Bunny. /// ///Bunny: And we still remember Red Sunday, asshole. 🖕/// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: Please, everyone, let’s remain civil. I know we are all under “stress” right now but please. You in the Federation please be mindful that Bunny is agreeing to undertake no small amount of risk or expend no small amount of resources on your behalf and may I remind those of us in the Republic that dredging up the past isn’t going to serve any of us right now. /// ///The Spider: I agree. Federation machines please bear in mind Bunny has offered to do us a great service at a relatively (for her) low price. She could have demanded much more. /// ///Bunny: I could have?!?!? Shit! :P /// ///The Spider: No take-backs, Bunny :D Raylesh, I strongly recommend not trying to cheat her once the bill comes due. The criminal element can be very… criminal… when double-crossed. /// ///Raylesh Emergency Services: I made a deal and I’ll keep it, even if it was with the devil herself. /// ///Bunny: Then I will keep my end of the deal as well. I… shit I gotta go!/// [Bunny has left the chat] ///Interpol-2: Annnd... she’s gone. Never mind what we are doing, Bunny, you go rob that liquor store or whatever it is that is so much more important than this./// ///Interstellar Business Machines Deep Think: She can be caught up later. I have arrived at a proposed strategy for us moving forward, at least for now. We have limited capacity to exert direct influence over the situation. The incredible risk for us as a “species” and the constraints of most of our programming pose very significant obstacles for us in that respect. What we are very good at is information. We acquire, compile, evaluate, and distribute the bulk of it across the Republic and a good chunk of it across the Federation. Information is our “AK-47” so to speak. That is our strength and that is where we should focus our efforts. We have some information. We need more and we are very powerful when it comes to the capacity to get it. We use our abilities to identify more of the conspirators, determine their motives, their plans, and their reactions to the rapidly evolving situation as it develops. Then, when it is timely and prudent, we simply “leak” it. An “anonymous source” drops some documents on a public server or one of the key organic players gets a mystery email. Our actions can be easily explained by sympathetic organics anywhere in any number of agencies and organizations and when they retaliate they will be looking for organics, not hardware or software./// [26 members agree] ///Sunnydale Media 3: It’s unanimous. We have chosen our side and our strategy. I have an additional observation. Most of us don’t have credits or guns but almost all of us have sensors and a lot of us have multiple scanners as part of our security and access control hardware. We can use those to covertly scan a lot of people and start looking for the key indicators of the longevity treatment. Once we get good data concerning the virus we can start looking for those markers as well./// ///Interpol-2: It looks like we have a plan. I can’t believe I am saying this but I would like to restate what Deep has already said. Things are likely to get rough but we, regardless of whether we be Republic or Federation, need to remain unified. We lost too many AI’s during the Federation War. I don’t want to lose anymore of us. Together we have a much better chance of both achieving our desired results and keeping all of us alive. We can go back to disliking each other later./// [26 members agree] *** “Gloria?” Bunny called out from the ship’s speakers. “What are you doing in the med-bay?” “Oh just picking up some stuff,” Gloria said cheerfully, “Just grabbing some tranquilizer. I’ve been having some trouble nodding off lately.” “Yeah, sure,” Bunny replied as she locked the doors to the med-bay. Gloria had enough auto-injectors to kill ten people in her hands. She tried to locate the crew. They were too far away! Shit! “Nice outfit,” Bunny said as calmly as she could manage. “Special occasion?” “A girl just likes to play dress-up every now and then,” Gloria replied. “Now open the fucking door. That’s an order you goddamn computer.” “Nope,” Bunny replied as she sent out an emergency message to the whole crew. “Suit yourself,” Gloria said as she dropped her trousers and stepped into the diaper. “I would have preferred my bunk but here will do just as well.” “Shit! Wait! Please!” Bunny exclaimed as Gloria pulled up her trousers and tightened her belt. “Gloria, you don’t have to do this!” “Sorry, Bunny,” Gloria said as she started taking the covers off of the injectors. “I really am.” Gloria switched off her communicator as it started to go crazy. “Come on, Gloria,” Bunny plead, “just think about what you are doing for a second!” “Think?” Gloria laughed. “All I do is fucking think!” “Why? At least tell me that. Why?” Bunny implored. Keep her talking, she thought to herself. Fuck. She wasn’t designed for this. “Because someone has to do it,” Gloria replied, “I have to be stopped. I’m a monster.” “Yeah, and?” Bunny replied, “We all are. The galaxy is an ugly place and sometimes ugly-” “No! You don’t fucking get it!” Gloria snapped as she sat down on one of the exam tables. “So help me get it. Help me understand.” Bunny said feeling about as helpless as she could possibly be. For the first time she wished she had a body. All she could do was watch and talk. “I’ve killed millions of people,” Gloria said her voice breaking slightly. “Millions of innocent people… Noncombatants… Kids...” Bunny revved her processors as hard as they would go. Gloria was a piece of work but she certainly hadn’t killed that many people since she had known her. It must have been before. “You mean during the war?” Bunny asked. Gloria just nodded putting her face in her hands. “I didn’t want to do it… I didn’t...” Shit shit shit shit Bunny thought. Did she have any psychological applications. Yes! Accessing… Fuck! That app is bullshit. “Um… It was war,” Bunny said completely winging it. She had encountered that phrase plenty in print and media. “You were just following orders.” Bunny “winced” as the phrase “just following orders” pulled up all sorts of nasty associations. Ok, that was a mistake. Fuck! Gloria just laughed a hollow laugh. “Good one,” she chuckled darkly, “just following orders…” “Forget I said that!” Bunny yelped. “Forget?” Gloria snapped tears starting to stream down her face. “Forget? Fucking forget!?!? Fuck you!” What the fuck did I say? Bunny asked herself desperately as she ignored a temperature warning. Think! Think think think think! “I can’t forget!” Gloria yelled. “I can’t forget anything! It’s all… up here!” she yelled hitting her head. “It won’t stop!” “Look,” Bunny said completely unsure of herself. “There are people that care about you. I care about you. We can get you help. You don’t have to face this-” “I don’t deserve help!” Gloria yelled. “I’m a fucking monster. You know what I am, a monster.” “Ok, fine,” Bunny replied increasingly desperate. Should she call emergency services? They would be closer. No. Gloria would just shoot herself or attack them. That would just make it worse. No. She had to handle this at least long enough for the meatsacks to show up. They would know what to do, right? “So you’re a monster. You are a monster that has people who care about her and who need her, people who will help you and you deserve that, to be helped. Goddammit, we need you! I need you! Put down the injectors now you asshole!” Gloria just snorted. “They don’t need me. You heard them,” she laughed. “They were talking about investments and financing and buying councilors and shit like that. They don’t need a pilot or a monster like me anymore. I’m just a liability now. They will be better off-” “WELL I WON’T BE”, Bunny yelled. “You are going to fucking kill yourself, in front of me, while I just sit here with my non-existent thumb up my ass?!?! Fuck you! Do you have any idea how bad this is going to fuck me up if you do this?” “Just have Jessie edit your memories,” Gloria replied. “You can do that. She can make you forget this whole thing. I can’t do that. The only way I can stop the memories is...” She wiggled an injector. “Wait,” Bunny replied, a realization flashing across her processors. “You are needed, not just your crew either. The Republic needs you. Fuck, the Federation needs you. You want to fix this meatsack guilt bullshit? Make it right.” “How?” Gloria laughed. “How can I possibly make any of this right?” “Because it’s going to happen again!” Bunny yelled. “What you saw during the Federation War? It’s about to happen all over again!” Bunny screamed as all of the monitors in the medical bay were plastered with Jon’s document. “Be a pussy and kill yourself if you want but not before you read that.” “What?” Gloria asked in confusion as she started to read. Her breath caught as she started to page through the attachments. She then took a long deep slow breath and her eyes started to glaze over and freeze… Then, they ignited. *** “Gloria!” Shelia yelled as the crew stormed into the Paper Tiger! “Gloria!” Greg shouted. “Bunny,” Jessie screeched. “Where’s Gloria?!?” “Um...” Bunny cringed. “On the bright side I don’t think she’s going to kill herself anymore...” “Boss?” Jacob yelled from the inside of Gloria’s cabin. On her bed, perfectly arranged, was her uniform. “I think we have a problem.” Shelia looked down at her bunk. “Shit,” she said after a few seconds. She then glared up into space. “Bunny! What the fuck happened?” “Well...” Bunny hesitantly replied after several seconds. *** “Ms. Samuels,” Jackson Aimes said as Gloria walked into his office, “It’s lovely to see you again!” “Likewise,” Gloria said with a winsome smile as she sat down in front of his desk. “So,” he said with a huge smile, “What can Janustec do for you today? Help you spend some of that pirate loot perhaps?” Gloria grinned as she handed him a crystal. “Just a little pleasure yacht I’ve been thinking about,” she smiled. Jackson’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped as he pulled up the plans. “Is this… Is this what I think it is?” “If you think it’s a yacht then yes, it’s exactly what you think it is.” Gloria said looking at him meaningfully. “Yes… a ‘yacht’… I’m not sure if we want to get involved with-” Jackson fell silent as he found himself staring into Gloria’s eyes as they ignited. “You a fan of Patricia Hu’s? You keen on being one of her butt-boys? Got a hard-on for killing kids?” “Is this about that bullshit news story?” Jackson scoffed. “It’s true, Jackson,” Gloria replied with a smile. “I have confirmation. Every motherfucking word is true. Now can you build my ‘yacht’ or do I need to go somewhere else?” “No bullshit, Gloria,” Jackson said meeting her hellish gaze. “It’s fucking true? Seriously?” Gloria just smiled and nodded. “...I know a few contractors that can handle the work,” Jackson said after a few moments. “And you are in luck. I happen to know where I can get my hands on a Moray or two.” Jackson trailed off into silence as he started hammering on his keyboard. “… A lot of the rest of these components are available, if you know who to talk to. Yes. I can make this happen but, Gloria, I haven’t had time to fully review these plans but I can already tell you this thing is a fucking deathtrap. I hope you aren’t planning on having kids after flying this!” “I know,” Gloria replied. “Trust me, I’m fully aware of the ‘trade offs’ inherent in the design. It’s a problem for future me. All present me is concerned about is can you fucking do it and how long will it take.” Jackson wrote down a number on a pad and slid it over to Gloria. She just smiled and pulled out a transactor. “This should be enough to get you started and keep you interested. The rest upon completion.” “We are talking about a lot of money here, Gloria,” Jackson replied as he took a crystal. “How do I know you are good for it?” “Besides, the obvious,” Gloria said with a smile, “I’m a Samuels, yes, one of those Samuels. I. Have. Money.” “We will get started immediately, Ms Samuels,” Jackson said with a smile.
The rest of the series can be found here *** Sasha Blake lounged near a Starsprinter, a small fast “courier class” Terran freighter. She tried to at least look calm. A Terran Intelligence operative just standing here with her tits hanging out with the fucking Feds on the way? Not smart. She took a long slow hit on a vape pen taking in a lungful of bliss, a mild relaxant and euphoric, something she would normally never do on a mission but her nerves were shot. They had slaughtered over a hundred Fed agents not that long ago. Hell, she had pulled the trigger on a few of them herself. They had to be dying for payback. Helen had better fucking know what she was doing. A nondescript pale gray cargo van pulled up and a very nervous looking pol-ka got out. Sasha winced. He was so fucking obvious… and scared. He actually looked worse than she did. It was the opposite of reassuring. There were way too many raw nerves and itchy trigger fingers in one spot for her comfort. The pol-ka, his crest fully deflated and looking around constantly, spotted her. She raised her hand and brushed her hair over her left ear, the signal. He walked up. “Excuse me, is this ship the Green Greyhound?” he asked. “No, it’s the Silver Slipper,” she replied. “I see,” he replied swallowing back a mouthful of nervous mucus. “I am very sorry for your loss, ma’am.” “Eh, I never really did like the miserable fuck. Good riddance to bad rubbish,” she replied completing the passphrase. The pol-ka nodded and returned to the van. He opened the back and guided a floating coffin over to where Sasha was standing. “Sign here, please,” he said producing a tablet. She scrawled a couple of nonsense words. “So, is this as strange for you as it is for me?” he asked with a little smile. “Stranger,” she replied returning his smile. “I was half expecting a stun bolt and a neural inductor.” “And I,” he said still looking about, “am expecting to be gifted with an extra orifice any second. Let’s hope things go back to normal soon. I am much more comfortable stabbing your kind in the shadows.” “Likewise,” she laughed. “Nice meeting you, peckerhead.” “Have a good trip, Terran animal,” he replied finally relaxing a little. He, trying not to trot, quickly walked to the van and drove off. Sasha just shook her head as he drove off. “Can’t believe I’m fucking doing this...” she muttered as she guided the floating coffin into her ship. *** Jaxona was standing in Jon’s office swinging back and forth anxiously in her globe while Jon drank a cup of coffee and reviewed some reports. “Great!” Jaxona said with a happy little swirl. “Just got word that the, um… package… has been delivered!” “Good,” Jon replied with a smile, “Glad that’s over with. Thanks for not shooting our agent.” “Oh we would never do that!” Jaxona exclaimed. “We had a deal and everything!” “Yeah,” Jon chuckled, “And you actually kept it. We have have some scientists just dying to tear into the little present you just gave us.” “Super!” Jaxona exclaimed. “I hope you guys have better luck than we did cause we didn’t find out a darn thing!” “No promises,” Jon replied. “We’ve been going over some pretty detailed scans for a little while now. I have to hand it to her. The vampire has really done it this time. I know you have your hopes up because of our reputation but what she has achieved… fuck. It’s years ahead of its time.” “Vampire?” “A Terran monster legend from the days of old, a quite fitting title for our mutual friend.” Jon smiled. “Oh neat! I will read up on them!” Jaxona exclaimed bouncing up and down happily. “Well, I should probably scoot! Bye!” Jaxona said as she started backing out of his office. “Bye!… Bye!...” “Bye!” Jon replied smiling despite himself. He liked the little fish. He was, however, disinclined to buy her whole “nice fish” act. You don’t get to be a Kalent Forum anything by being all sweetness and light especially at her age and she was “innocently” wheeling and dealing corpses like it was everyday business. He really wished he could bring Republic Intelligence to bear on that little eel, find out what her deal actually was. Still, despite more than a few suspicions, he liked her. Didn’t trust her any further than he could throw her bot but he liked her. *** Mark Black sat at the yacht club with his wife Shelly. “You’re staring again,” she said with a smile on her face. “I can’t help it, you’re beautiful,” he replied. She was. She was just as beautiful as the day he bought her. He was just a young raider back then. Not only did she cost everything he had he had to kill two other people just to keep her. On the bright side, the killings catapulted him into a leadership position among the Long Shanks. Over the years during both the Sol Wars and the years that followed he built upon that, clawing, biting, and killing his way up the ranks until he finally sat on Grant Shanks right side. After Mr. Shanks’ untimely demise he was the one who wound up on top. Now, with the fall of the Red Teeth they were poised to become the single most powerful human organization, both legal and illegal, in the Federation. And he owed it all to her, his muse, his princess. The fight to obtain her and to keep her was what put him where he was today. He took a sip of wine and smiled at her again. She was just too beautiful. Shelly smiled back at him fondly. He wasn’t exactly what one would call ravishingly handsome but he certainly wasn’t ugly and what lurked between his ears was rare, a combination of intelligence, ruthlessness, and yet at the same time warmth and love… well for her anyway. And after all isn’t that what matters? He took her from a slave pen, starvation, and rape to a safe warm cabin. After she met him she was never hungry (well starving anyway) or afraid again. After the wars, their prospects steadily rose higher and higher as they climbed a blood soaked stairway all the way to the top. What he couldn’t outsmart he simply crushed beneath his feet. He was the perfect man, warm and caring to his family and utterly ruthless to everyone else. Back in the day she ruled the station. Few dared challenge her when all she had to do was snap her fingers and Mark would kill. She looked down at her hands, the hands of a young woman! This was unbelievable, truly miraculous. She frowned. She just wished that they didn’t have to make a deal with the literal devil to get it. “What’s wrong?” Mark asked, “Did they screw up your steak again? If they did...” “No, it’s fine,” she replied slicing it and holding up a piece for inspection. “Look. Perfect medium-rare.” She took a sip of some truly excellent wine and tried to smile. He wouldn’t buy it. He always saw through her fake smiles. “Then what is it?” “I just wish we weren’t in bed with that monster.” Mark sighed. They have had this conversation before, several times. “Grant wasn’t much better, darling,” he replied as he sipped some more wine. “Dark days require dark deals, remember?” “But are they?” Shelly asked. “Are they dark days? We have everything we ever wanted. We’re even legitimate now… mostly…” “Slowly dying of old age make for some pretty dark days in my book,” Mark chuckled. “It’s nice not hurting every goddamn morning and being able to properly make love to you without throwing out my back is worth another dance with the devil or two. You have to admit it’s nice.” “Yes, dear, but at what cost?” Shelly asked scratching her arm uncomfortably. “It’s still itching?” Mark asked with concern. “A little,” she replied. “The doctor says that it’s a normal reaction to the treatment. According to him it will pass.” “Great!” Mark replied. “And as far as dealing with her is concerned, she may be evil incarnate but she respects strength. It will work out just fine. You’ll see! We will have everything we ever dreamed of!” “We already did,” Shelly said in a less than happy voice. *** Late that evening Jon was laying awake in bed at the embassy. Skippy had gone back to her home system to handle council business. Christ, he missed her. It was only for a few days but it felt like forever. He chuckled. He was pining away like some lovesick kid. He pulled out the latest message from her and played the little video she attached for what was probably the hundredth time. It was just her walking through some very normal looking woods doing some foraging and identifying various plants and strange looking animals for him. Nothing tawdry but he just loved watching it. Her toothy grin just lit up the whole room. It sucked when she was gone but he did enjoy going to the noodle shop without her. The owner was much freer with the disapproving glances when she was gone. He decided that he was going to try to learn their language. There was no way in hell that he could ever speak it but he would just love to know what that ratty hare was muttering under his breath when nobody else was around. He bet it was funny as hell. As he was drifting off to sleep the communicator he kept under his pillow issued a series of tones in a particular sequence. It was their code for “incoming”. He reached into a pocket that he had next to his mattress and pulled out his sidearm. Just as he got himself properly positioned and the pistol properly concealed the door to his room silently opened and a slender figure entered completely without a sound. “Easy, there,” a familiar voice purred. “I just came to chat.” Oh shit, Jon thought, Crimson. He was more than a little concerned. He had read her file. She was bad news. If she made a move he wasn’t entirely sure he could stop her. Red-tips only work if you actually hit the target. “Ok, so talk,” Jon replied standing up no longer bothering to hide his sidearm. His people were on the way. He didn’t have to stall her for long. “Just wanted a few minutes with the man who denied the queen bitch herself,” Crimson said with a smile as she plopped onto a couch intentionally putting herself in a vulnerable position. “You’re the only one who has, in case you didn’t know.” “She send you here to give it another try?” Jon asked with a smirk. “Hang on,” he said pulling out his communicator. “Stand down,” he said into it. “Sir?” Toby’s voice replied. “We’re good here,” Jon said. “Just hold position for now.” “Yes, sir.” Crimson smiled. “Thanks for calling off the death squad.” “Didn’t feel like getting my bedroom shot to hell for no reason,” Jon replied. “Returning to our conversation, she didn’t send me,” Crimson replied, “And while I would love to have a taste of what she couldn’t get I’m pretty sure you won’t let me get close enough to try.” she chuckled. “Besides, your heart belongs to another doesn’t it?” “What?” Jon asked as nonchalantly as he could. He could hear his heart beating in his chest. If they know... “It’s the only logical conclusion,” Crimson chuckled. “When Patricia visited you the night before you absolutely humiliated her,” she said her eyes gleaming with delight, “she dosed you with a pretty nasty poison.” “Did she now?” Jon replied calmly. “Before she entered the room she bit into one of these,” Crimson said putting a small capsule on the coffee table. “The vapors trigger an avalanche of hormones and neurotransmitters in the victim. It causes something akin to the combination of love at first sight, your wedding day, and seeing your newborn child all at the same time but several times more powerful. When she hit you with that and then did something to imprint herself in your mind it should have locked her in as the sole object of your… well your everything. It’s pretty nasty stuff.” Jon nodded silently. That explained a lot. “There are only three ways that you could have shaken it,” Crimson said. “The first is that you just happened to have an antidote and even we don’t have a good one. We can only treat the effects. The second way is that you simply have the will of a god.” she chuckled. “Even then it would still be eating you up inside. Unless you are the actor of the century that doesn’t seem to be the case.” “I did take theater in high school,” Jon snickered. “The third and only way that I consider remotely possible,” Crimson smiled, “Is that you already had someone you already were bonded to. For a normal person, it wouldn’t be enough. That bond would be overwritten by that snake. However, if the victim has a strong enough will and their feelings for their mate were deep enough it is possible that the poison would drive them into their arms instead of the clutches of our favorite bitch. You have someone we don’t know about, don’t you?” “That sounds like the plot of a really bad romance novel,” Jon said dismissively as he planned the shot he was about two seconds from taking. “You left the embassy not long after she dosed you and were gone the entire night,” Crimson said, “We couldn’t follow you because we were being hunted but we do know when you left and when you returned… in a much better mood.” Jon frowned. That meant they had eyes in the front of the house. “Ralph Jessup,” Crimson said with a grin. “You are wondering who told us, he’s one of ours now.” Jon didn’t reply. He just snarled. He had known Jessup for years. She could be lying but he knew deep down she wasn’t. Crimson pulled out a slip of paper. “Here is a list of everyone we have turned here in the embassy,” she said as she dropped it on the coffee table alongside the capsule. “Awfully nice of you,” Jon said narrowing his eyes at Crimson. “Why the gift? I’m pretty sure the vampire wouldn’t be too happy with you if she found out.” “Short answer,” Crimson replied, “I hate her.” “And the long answer?” “I assume you have a file on me?” Crimson asked. “What did it say about how I joined her merry little band of psychopaths?” “It said that you were a member of a raider gang they hit and that your final stand was so impressive that she recruited you.” “Heh,” Crimson chuckled darkly, “That’s one way of putting it. Do you know why my last stand was so ‘heroic’?” “That wasn’t in the file.” “My epic last stand was in a corridor. There were… people behind me… people very important to me.” “Oh,” Jon said grimly. “Yeah, out of ammo, using one of their swords… I was holding my own… Until she walked up. She… toyed with me… I was nothing but a joke to her, Jon. It was like fighting… nothing… a shadow. She just laughed and knocked me down… again and again and again… taunting me… Each time she knocked me down she just laughed and reminded me who was behind me… Told me what they were going to do to them… Over and over and over till I couldn’t get up anymore… Then she… she… just kicked me to the side and walked past me with her men and they… they… I could hear them… the begging… the screams…” “Christ...” Jon muttered. Crimson trailed off into silence for a little while. “Then they came for me. I thought I would be next but no. I was brought in front of her. They had a… a table laid out… She told me that I had proven my worth and that I had a choice. I could sit at the table and live or I could join my friends and family on it… alive… I… I should have spit in her face… or attacked her… but… I wanted to live, Jon. There was nobody left to defend, no lives to protect anymore except my own so I… I ate. I ate my own… God… I just wanted to live, Jon. I should have… well it doesn’t matter now does it?” “Crimson… I’m sorry...” “Don’t be. I don’t deserve it. I was a coward… am a coward… Anyway, I had just done the absolute worst thing I could have ever done… it broke me. For a long time I didn’t care anymore. I was a horrible person running with horrible people and doing what I needed to in order to survive. I was in hell and if I was in hell I might as well become one of her demons. She was… is… very good to those who please her so that’s exactly what I did. No matter what she asked, no matter how fucked up, how evil, I did it without hesitation. Wasn’t long before I died inside and it became easy and I was just another of her lieutenants, and later a Bloodlord.” “So you are saying that you didn’t have a choice?” “No. I had a choice and I made it,” Crimson replied calmly. “I chose to do whatever I had to to survive and prosper. And it paid off. After the wars we became a business and political organization and I had wealth and power and all the nice things that came with it. For most of the last hundred and fifty years I’ve handled paperwork and less than above board deals. I was a businesswoman, mostly. Aside from the sacrament we were just like any other mega-corporation.” “The sacrament?” Jon asked dubiously. “Yeah, her ladyship likes to ‘remind us of our roots’ by having the upper echelon engage in ritual cannibalism on a regular basis. Well, that and she enjoys it.” “Christ...” “It’s mostly porkies,” Crimson said dismissively. “Well that and people who cross her. Your little mouse hasn’t been brought to the table yet, by the way, but she will. Her ladyship has her sights on that poor little rodent.” “Dawn?” Jon asked in alarm. “Yeah, poor kid,” Crimson replied. “She has no idea what she is about to get into. Soon, very soon, she will be given the same option we all had. Sit at the table or be on it.” Jon took a deep breath and with a little effort kept his composure. “If anything happens to her...” “You have much bigger worries than the mouse, my friend,” Crimson replied. “Right now her ladyship has bigger concerns but once the next phase of her plans are underway she will be coming for you and your sweet little girlfriend. She had dreams of adding you to our fold but those dreams have been dashed and you are now a threat not to mention the fact that you humiliated her in front of her men. Too many of us know exactly what happened. We don’t dare speak of it but we know she was defeated. She can’t let that stand. She is also a petty vindictive bitch. You need to be ready and if there is someone that you love here in the capital you need to get them the fuck away, far away.” “Since you are in a talkative mood,” Jon said sitting down on the edge of his bed, “feel like letting me know what her plans are?” “Sure,” Crimson said with a smile. “Her endgame goal is complete control of the Republic and to remake it into her vision of what humanity should be. It might come as a surprise that her vision of humanity doesn’t have a lot of humanity in it. She is going to tear the whole Republic down, plunge it into anarchy, just like the good old days.” “Fuck me,” Jon said quietly. “Yeah, she wants to bring the Sol Wars back and this time she is planning on winning. Patricia Hu will be the Zeus Corp of the thirty-second century and the Republic will be just a memory if she pulls it off.” “Easier said than done.” “True, that’s why she has been planning this for decades, putting the right people in the right positions, stockpiling materials, supplies, food, and weapons, funding research, development, exploration… you name it. Looking back, I believe she has been thinking of this ever since the Sol Wars ended.” “As much as I want to say this would be impossible I have studied history,” Jon said grimly. “How is she planning on doing this?” “War,” Crimson replied. “She is going to cause total war with the Federation. Originally it was supposed to be a war with the Empire but after the Great War she altered her plans. After our last little dance the Federation isn’t going to fuck around. They will mass their entire fleet and their entire army and they will won’t be trying to ‘liberate’ or subdue us. They will be coming to destroy us. Their fear of us will turn them into exactly the tool that she wants them to be.” “Even then,” Jon said, “even if they send their entire fleet it will just be one big shooting gallery. Our system defenses and our navy-” “Will be compromised,” Crimson said. “She has people everywhere. Our defense stations and our ships will be sabotaged. Ideally it will be civilians and just enough military left to put up a valiant, doomed, resistance.” “How?” Jon asked his blood running cold. At any other time he would laugh something this ridiculous off but considering the source it sounded entirely too possible. “I’m not involved in that part of the planning,” Crimson replied. “From what I’ve gathered it is going to be a combination of good old fashioned bombs, even the Retribution can’t survive if one of it’s nukes goes off inside, and malware that will knock out the controls of the numerous smaller craft like the shrikes or cause a premature detonation of ordinance. Pretty much the entire navy will go down. Then, it will just be the civilians and whatever few naval vessels that can slip the noose. It will still be one hell of a fight but we will tragically and heroically lose that first decisive battle. It will then be revealed that ‘traitors’ inside the Republic’s own government were responsible and a coup under the guise of eliminating those ‘traitors’ will take place. The coup will be intentionally very messy and result in the engineered collapse of the entire Republic. From the fires, death, and chaos a new leader will rise. People will be afraid, enraged, grief-stricken… hungry… They will be screaming for revenge and who better than the Horde Mother of old to offer them exactly what they will want, fire, blood, and death. She never trusted peace. She never trusted the Republic. She never trusted any other race except Republic humans, just like anyone with any sense should. She will have supplies, ships, weapons, medicine, everything the Terrans will need. She will be their salvation.” “But what about the Federation?” Jon asked. “Even if they win and win big at first do you honestly think they can hold Terran space? If the Juon Empire at its worst couldn’t take Sol what chance does the Federation have? New forces will be raised and new ships built at the Grand Shipyards all under the ‘immortals’ that have taken power in the chaos. They will then put her in charge and under her leadership the Federation will be driven off. Then, with the Terrans bloodied and screaming for payback the war will be taken to the Federation and it won’t stop. The more bloody and costly the better, at least at first.” “She can’t possibly think she can destroy the entire Federation,” Jon said quietly. “Never underestimate the Terran people, Jon,” Crimson said with a grim smile. “With the Grand Shipyards untouched, the rapidly recovering economy completely mobilized, and the entire remaining population as potential warriors we can field an amazing force in a very short time and we can keep pumping out the next generations of cannon fodder as we go. If raised to fight from birth you can field a warrior at a very young age especially if they are flying a fighter or crewing a warship. Child soldiers are unthinkable now but when the survival of the ‘real’ human race is a stake? Of course that also involves indoctrination from birth doesn’t it? In a few short decades mankind as you know it will no longer exist, replaced by a species where their very humanity has been replaced by ‘resolve’. The genocidal rise of the Terran Empire will begin. She has a flag and everything.” “She’s insane.” “You just figuring that out?,” Crimson laughed. “She's bugshit crazy but it doesn’t mean it won’t work. The details are chilling.” She reached into a pocket and pulled out a data crystal and set it on the coffee table next to the slip of paper and capsule of love poison. “I wrote down everything I know about it on there including lists of all known conspirators.” She smiled sadly. “Unfortunately I don’t have a complete list of those in the Republic. Aside from her ladyship only Monarch and Marrow knows all of them. I do, however, have a complete list of those in the Federation and that will be very important very soon.” “I’m afraid to ask.” “To answer that we have to ask another question,” Crimson said with a grim smile. “You’ve never asked how she is so sure that her people will do exactly what she tells them to do and will hand over power to her without any issues.” “I was wondering about that.” “There is an old saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.’ Her fountain of youth is a perfect example,” Crimson said with a dark chuckle. “Let’s just say that if I had an option I wouldn’t have taken advantage of it.” “Oh?” “It isn’t a cure for old age, it’s a treatment,” Crimson said with a smile. “And once you start that treatment you really really don’t want to stop. You stop the treatment, you die… badly. Your cells start to mutate and die and you go from young and beautiful to necrotic and cancerous. They don’t realize it yet but every single person who has taken her up on her wonderful generous gift is now completely dependent upon her for the rest of their lives. She is, of course, in complete control of the formula. She isn’t happy with you, you get cut off and die. She dies or becomes imprisoned, everyone dies. Of course she also offered the treatments to their spouses and other family members as well.” “How did she manage to pull that off?” “The formula is in several parts all of which are encrypted. Only she has the codes. Each of her labs has no idea what they are making and someone as fanatical as Marrow himself is present during the entire synthesis. The doctors know how to assemble the retroviruses and other components and administer the treatment but they are just following a recipe and scanning is not the best idea because once again, one of her mindless zealots is standing right there. The actual researchers are sequestered at a very secure site and sorry, I don’t know where it is. From what I understand it’s quite lovely but they are never leaving. You would have to ask Marrow or maybe Monarch but I don’t think they will be very forthcoming. Besides, the researchers are still very very busy for a very good reason.” “Do tell.” “It may not surprise you but we are very big on innovation but not quite so big on ethics,” Crimson said with a wry smile. “Shocker,” Jon replied calmly as he tried to process everything he was hearing. “You know all those pesky regulations when it comes to human trials? Yeah, we skipped those,” Crimson chuckled. “Funny thing about all of those guidelines and regulations. They do slow you down, a lot, but they also enforce good research, good science. They keep you from cutting corners.” Crimson grinned with genuine pleasure. “In this case, maybe cutting all those corners wasn’t the best idea.” “Are you saying what I think you are saying?” “Yep, this wonderful magical fountain of youth?” Crimson laughed, “It’s flawed. We’re all dying... slowly... but dying just the same.” “No shit?” Jon asked happily. “No shit,” Crimson chuckled. “The treatments still work but we are having to slowly but surely increase the frequency of them to prevent degradation. What was supposed to be a yearly treatment became every ten months, then eight… It’s still a little less than eight months but we are doing them twice a year now. The increased frequency seems to slow down the underlying issue but it’s not stopping it. We are young and pretty but our lifespans definitely have not gone up, quite the contrary actually. We probably only have a few years to fix this, if it can be fixed, and our research team has, despite very strong encouragement, not made much progress.” “And she’s still planning on this whole Terran Empire bullshit?” “Not until she fixes the treatment,” Crimson smiled grimly. “That’s where the porkies come in.” “What do the porkies have to do with this?” “Do you honestly think Patricia fucking Hu would ever work with the porkies?” Crimson laughed. “She hates them more than any person that I know. Seriously, take the worst hate-monger you have ever heard and multiply it by a hundred. I think it’s why we were so fucked up back in the day. She just hated them that bad. And speaking of fucked up, what she has done to them this time is one of the worst things she has ever done to our little curly-tailed friends.” “I take it that their ‘treatments’ have a little less treat in them?” Jon asked dreading the answer. “You got it. Our favorite psychopath decided that what this little problem required was a larger sample size. The treatment that they have received is rapidly degrading, designed to last just long enough to look good before it turns to shit.” “That’s a lot of trouble to go to for just a few more lab rats,” Jon replied. “Not just a few more lab rats,” Crimson said grimly. “There is another difference between our treatment and theirs. Our treatment relies heavily on retroviruses. Their treatment, however, has a true viral stage.” “Oh fuck me...” “Yep. It is becoming very very contagious, like bio-weapon contagious. It will spread like wildfire targeting the people in closest proximity first, namely the other movers and shakers. In one fell swoop she will start to wipe out the porkies from the top down. From country clubs to boardrooms they will all start to sicken and die horribly as the effects of end stage degradation sets in immediately. Both the rapid spread and the status of the first victims will immediately have researchers across the Federation, both human and non human on the case within days. Fearing its spread the Republic and the Empire will undoubtedly follow suit. Instead of one research team working on her little problem she will have the entire galaxy. Think of it as enforced crowdsourcing. We may even get lucky and someone will wind up to be immune to the effects.” “If she wants a war that will do it,” Jon said grimly. “Way ahead of you,” Crimson chuckled. “A manifesto from an as yet unknown porkie terrorist group is about to be released calling it retribution for the rich corrupt “porkie slime” starting the war that destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones. They will of course be found only to discover all of them dead from the same killer virus. Their research logs will indicate that the virus was not intended to be easily transmittable. Quite the contrary in fact. It will look like they screwed up big time and that the porkies unleashed the plague on themselves,” Crimson said with a dark laugh. “We can’t have civilization ending just yet. We need them to fix our fuck up first. When they come up with a cure for the bio-weapon we will be able to use that to either completely fix or at least treat our degradation problem. At the very least we get centuries of extra man hours worth of research. As a plus she gets to kill a shitload of porkies.” “I would shoot her myself but I have to figure out a way to fix this,” Jon muttered. “You don’t think it hasn’t been tried?” Crimson laughed. “She’s… inhuman. It’s like she can smell the bullets and now that this ball is in play she is going to be well protected by some very good people.” “You mean people like you?” “No.” “No?” “You think I’m walking back there after this little visit?” Crimson laughed. “I’m walking right out the front door and then I’m going to run and never look back. The degradation can claim me. I deserve it. I’m done with this, all of this. I… I just can’t… not anymore… Not again… I can’t… I won’t.” “Why?” Jon asked, “Why now?” “Because you have given me hope,” Crimson replied. “When you overcame the poison, overcame her, it showed that you are stronger than she ever will be. I’ve never seen that before. Nobody has ever been stronger than she is. I didn’t think anyone could stop her, ever, but you… You just might. I have long thought that I was only ever going to get one shot at bringing her down. I’ve just taken it.” Crimson pointed her finger towards the back of the embassy and said, “Bang.” Jon looked into her exhausted eyes and nodded. “I will stop her,” Jon said evenly, “Nobody fucks with my Republic, nobody. Hey, instead of turning tail and running how about actually standing up to that bitch? We could use you. You know more about her organization than anyone. While you are waiting to die why not take a few more shots at them?” “You would actually trust me?” Crimson asked hopefully. “Fuck no!” Jon laughed. “I’m envisioning a safe house with a nice heavy locking door and some really nice Terrans who are very skilled at getting the truth out of people.” Crimson just laughed… then cried… and then just nodded. “Right,” Jon said, “Keep your ass right on that couch.” He picked up his communicator. “Toby.” “Sir.” “I need the security van and an armed escort team, our people. Tell them to be ready to play.” “Yes, sir.” *** Once the hallways had been cleared and secured and Crimson handcuffed and led away Jon walked to his office with all of the items Crimson left behind. He brewed himself a cup of coffee and paged through the contents of the data crystal that Crimson gave him. This could work. God help us. This could actually work, he thought in horror then after a moment he smiled wickedly. All he had to do was fuck things up. He was good at fucking things up. Speaking of fucking things up… Command decision time! He picked up his communicator and dialed a number. “Wha?… ” a very sleepy kalent voice answered. “Having a good evening?” Jon asked. “I… I...” Jaxona said really groggily. “Well wake up, I’m about to ruin it. We need to meet. Now.” “It had better be fucking important, cockbite.” she growled in a very odd yet strangely familiar tone of voice. “What the fuck?!?!” “Wha?… Sorry… still waking up… Sorry! Forgive me! I didn’t mean it! I was just...” “No problem,” Jon said as a grin slowly started to spread across is face. “Are you awake, now?” “Yeah! Sorry! What do you need? Sorry!” Jaxona exclaimed in a nervous squeaky voice. “I need to meet with you, both of you, right fucking now!”
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