Spread Betting Glossary: Part 3 | SpreadBettingPortal.com

Your 2020 Season Survival Guide and R/Baseball Refresher!

Before we dive in, if you want to participate in the annual Call Your Shot season predictions contest, you can find it here.
It's FINALLY coming! Welcome to the 2020 MLB Season! We are so glad you are here. Don't let the length of this post scare you, we just wanted to consolidate all the relevant information that people have questions about into one place to start the season off. This is your survival guide for the 2020 season, it should have all the pertinent information to answer most of your questions!
If you are a brand new fan I'd recommend going through most of it, if you're a veteran you'll know which sections you'll want to read by their headings. My goal here is that both new and returning fans can learn how to better enjoy the season and know what's going on on Baseball this year. Okay, take some time and read through what you want to read through below!
This is the fourth year of doing this. Every year I go through the previous years comments to find things that should be added or corrected for the next edition, so if you have any great resources or information that you think would be beneficial to add, please comment it below!
Sections:

Introduction for new and renewed interest fans.

Baseball normally has a long season. I don't just mean that in terms of time between opening day and the World Series (which can be considered long as it is), but also the 162 games played in 183 days, 18-20 times against the same 4 teams each. It can be daunting, and many people lose interest by "the dog days" of June and July. This year things are going to be a little different. With only 60 games on the schedule (assuming we make it through without a major clubhouse covid outbreak that cancels games versus that team) every game is going to matter about 3x as much as one in a normal regular season. Tensions will be high, but we might not feel it because there won't be that much crowd noise. THAT SAID - they're still playing 60 games in 66 days, which means almost every day for the next two months isn't just packed with baseball, they're packed with YOUR FAVORITE TEAMS baseball, which while exciting after months without any American sports in the regular season (MLS - a tournament is not the regular season) can end up feeling overwhelming when you just finished watching a late game go into extras then wake up to realize there's an afternoon game on in six hours.
This guide is meant to help you if you wish to avoid being one of those who feels overwhelmed and loses interest a couple weeks after Opening Day.
First and foremost if you are a new fan or newly returning, you must remember one thing: you do not need to watch every game. Many football fans, and even some basketball and hockey fans, find this difficult, they're used to setting aside a few nights a week to watch their team, and they can watch all the games. Baseball isn't like that. For the next two months, your team will only have 6 days where they won't be playing a game. And some of the games they play will start as early as 9:20am (Pacific Time), others will end after 1am (Eastern Time). If you miss a game it's okay, odds are there's another one tomorrow. If you miss a week, no big deal, hell if you get busy for a few months and aren't able to watch you team, that's not an issue, because you can still follow your team.
Baseball is a game to be followed. In the old days it meant picking up the morning paper and checking the box scores. Now it means being able to have a final score texted/tweeted/messaged/emailed/what-evered to you the minute the game ends, or rolling over in bed when you can't sleep and grabbing your phone to check the West Coast scores. It means being able to check reddit in the morning to see any breaking news from across the league, or catch a story you missed. We live in a time where you can go to MLB.com and get a recap of every game from last night in less than 10 minutes. Honestly, baseball was made to be consumed, and the technology age makes it easier than ever, whether you want to spend hours every day pouring over stats and analysis, or 15 seconds to see how your team and their playoff rivals did today.
The rest of this guide is mostly dedicated to ways that you can help yourself follow your team, and if you have time follow the entirety of MLB.
Anyways, enough rambling, TL;DR Don't worry if you miss games, there'll be one tomorrow.

Rule Changes for 2020

For this season only (or so they say...):
  • The NL will utilize the DH full time.
  • In extra innings the person in the batting order immediately before the lead off hitter will start on second base.
  • Games suspended due to rain will continue play at a later date rather than be washed out and restarted.
  • Arguing within six feet of an umpire or participating in a fight will be met with heftier fines and suspensions this yaer.
  • Pitchers will be allowed a wet rag to be brought out from the dugout in lieu of being able to lick their fingers for better grip.
  • Each team has a 20 extra players in their "taxi squad" in addition to their active roster and 40-man roster.
  • Active rosters will start at 30 players, then will be cut to 28 after two weeks, then 26 after four weeks.
  • Spitting is not allowed.
  • Non-social distanced celebrations are not allowed.
Permanent (as any rule change can be in baseball) rule changes for 2020 and beyond:
  • Three batter minimum - pitcher entering the game must face a minimum of three batters unless they complete an inning.
  • The MLB Active Roster is expanded from 25 players to 26 players.

Finding a Team

I always recommend following the local team since you'll have more access to news about them in the local media and should be able to get their radio broadcast, as well as TV broadcasts of them if you have cable/satellite/streaming, and depending on where you're at the occasional over the air game, but if you don't live by a team or don't want to follow the local team, or are just looking for a second team to follow, I wrote this in depth guide to picking a team that's the right fit for you.

Knowing Where Different Teams Stand

Every year ESPN, Sports Illustrated, FOX, NBS, and every other sports related site puts out their season previews. These are great for getting a basic rundown of what is going on with each team, and a simple google search will bring up a plethora of possible articles to read.
If what you really want is a fans perspective on what each team's expectations condensed into a few short comments, I'd highly recommend going through each teams day from our annual "Why will X team exceed expectations?" series. All the previous posts are linked in the Astros thread.

Baseball

Alright, so plugging baseball on baseball seems a bit redundant, but I think it's a good reminder that this is a great hub for all your MLB news throughout the season while still letting you see the occasional amazing college/minor league/foreign league performance.
During the season there are a number of features to keep you informed of all the goings on around baseball.
Every day of the season (and a portion of the offseason) we have General Discussion threads we call Around the Horn. These are great places to ask questions and discuss anything that you want to know about baseball but don't feel like it deserves it's own post. In the Around the Horn post you'll be able to see a full schedule of what is going on around Baseball every week.
Here are the weekly features:
Daily: Nightly Pick'Em - A six year running contest to pick the result of one game every day. Details can be found in this thread.
Monday: Power Rankings - A team of 30 fans from every team in baseball, led by masochist fearless leader kasutori_jack, releases their composite power rankings of the 30 teams. This leads to well thought out discussions and some in depth analysis, as well as salty fans crying about how their team is underrated (there may be more of the latter than the former, but it's still a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of how every team is doing).
Monday (Unofficial) - The last few years thekmanpwnudwn has posted a State of the Subreddits post that gives the top post from each team's subreddit from the last week. This is a great roundup post for staying up to date on what all the different team fandoms are feeling, and helps you catch any milestones you might have otherwise missed.
Tuesday: Weekly Awards - Led by lemcoe9 a different team of a fan from every team releases the results of their weekly (and monthly) voting for who the best position player and pitcher was since the last vote was taken. Once again, a great way to keep track of which players are on hot streaks, and who's dominating the league.
Wednesday: Wild Card Wednesday - Each week a new contest, trivia game, or just out of the box fun thread will be stickied! Got an idea? Let the mods know!
Thursdays: Division Discussions - We rotate between the Easts, Centrals, and Wests to do some more in depth talk about where the playoff races and teams stand. If you only have time for one baseball thread every week and want to keep up with the league, this is the thread to set aside time for.
Friday: Trash Talk/Compliment/Complaint - FRIDAYS ARE FUN DAYS, WE ROTATE BETWEEN TRASH TALK, COMPLIMENT, TRASH TALK, AND COMPLAIN THREADS! TRADITION STATES ALL COMMENTS BE IN ALL CAPS AND ENDING IN EXCLAMATION POINTS! WE ROTATE RATHER THAN HAVE A SET DAY FOR EACH ALL SEASON BECAUSE IT'S A LONG SEASON AND ANY ONE OF THE THREE THREADS CAN GET STALE FAST IF YOU DON'T LEAVE TIME FOR MORE AMMUNITION!
Saturday: Saturday is when we usually plug in occasional things that don't necessarily deserve weekly attention. Things like in depth stat discussions, memorobilia sharing, craft projects, etc.
Sunday: Game of the Week - Sunday is the one day a week where we get together as a subreddit to watch a baseball game together, since it's the one time every week where there's only one game going on and there's guaranteed to be a game. The Sunday Night Baseball game thread is usually posted a couple hours before the first pitch.
In addition the playoffs, and select premier match-ups (mostly at the very end of the season where there is a lot riding on a regular season game) we host game threads for all baseball users. These are neutral thread, for more info on less neutral ones skip to the next section. We may experiment with game threads in baseball for the MLB.tv Free Game of the Day this year.
In addition to all these features, it really is a great place to keep up with breaking news and highlights. It'll be posted here minutes after someone tweets it, and long before it's on MLB.com. Team beat writers get the stories first, and it's easier to check in here a couple times a day than follow every one of them. Plus there's something the kids are calling "dank memes" (but not too many, because us mods don't allow too much moisture to get into the servers).

Your Team's Subreddit (And other team subs as well)

The mods at baseball have one goal - help you have the best possible reddit baseball experience, and a LOT of that is helping you get connected to other fans of your team (which feels a little like a cop-out because it means less work for us if you're doing more on your team's sub, but your team's mods aren't complaining.)
One of the main draws of team subs (other than in depth discussion with like-fan-minded users, getting breaking news and analysis on your team, team-memes, and other reddit discussions that come up from a group of individuals who can agree on one thing) are game threads. At this time (to the best of my knowledge) every team sub hosts game threads for their team's games, and you can easily access them in the sidebar during the season by clicking on the team's logo in the schedule (we're working on getting that up to speed, MLB changed some parts of their RSS and background data and we've had to work around that to get our automated system back up). We like to keep the game threads in team subs for a few reasons, one of which is we want to support the team subs and send them relevant traffic when we can because they really do an amazing job, another is because with 15 games a day this place would look like crap if we had game threads for every game or let users post them as they please (we've tried it, it blots out news, discussion, and highlights and looks like crap, baseball doesn't have only a couple days set aside for games or focus on marquee match ups like many other sports, it's 2430 games played in 183 days and is better when it's spread out.)
Even if you're not a game thread person though, getting connected with a good team sub can make disappointing seasons more bearable, and great seasons more exciting, and I know plenty of users that said that their team's sub basically keeps them fans. Team subs are also a great place to get connected to...

Twitter, Podcasts, and other General News/Analysis Sources

Going to be honest here, I don't use twitter and I do not frequently read other people's blogs. I know many people do and enjoy it, and I believe the best way to find the people to follow/sites to visit that interest you the most are to hang around your team's sub and note which Tweets/Sites that are linked to that most often peak your interest. Your list of favorite baseball writers is going to be different than my favorite list, and finding the right twitter personalities, podcasts hosts, and bloggers can make game analysis more interesting for you even if your team is playing like crap and it's the middle of July.
Here are some common suggestions for some general baseball twitter accounts and podcasts to get you started, but like I said, find what you like and follow those:
Twitter
Account Account Account
@MLB @Ken_Rosenthal @Buster_ESPN
@jonmorosi @mlbtraderumors @MiLB
@JeffPassan @MLBInjuryNews @BNightengale
@keithlaw @based_ball @SamMillerBB
@jonahkeri @BaseballAmerica @brooksbaseball
@BenLindbergh @ChrisCotillo @mike_petriello
@MJ_Baumann @FanRagSports @TheAthleticMLB
@fangraphs @baseballprospectus @baseball_ref
@daynperry @CBSSportsMLB @CespedesBBQ
@GrantBrisbee @JonHeyman @cantpitch
@MLBRosterMoves @darenw @extrabaggs
Podcasts
Account Account Account
Effectively Wild Baseball Tonight The Ringer

The Statistical Titans: Baseball Reference and Fangraphs

Literally every day you will find a link or to BaseballReference.com or Fangraphs.com here, it's a given, and it's because these are the two most extensive free baseball databases that are easy to navigate. If you want to look up anything about baseball history, check Baseball Reference, if you want to look up how players stack up with non-proprietary advanced metrics or read an insightful blog post about why someone is overrated/underrated or overperforming/underperforming, check Fangraphs. With these two sites you have all the stats and figures you need to make a competent argument for basically anything you want with a little cherry picking.
A large part of the modern baseball world is statistics and you're going to find yourself getting more immersed in discussing the game if you can get a handle on all the terms getting thrown around. If you are brand new to baseball, take a little while to get to know the game before diving into these sites, but if you have a handle on the basics and are ready to know what this WAR everyone is talking about is, dive into the glossaries and find the statistics.
When you get the basics, creating your own analysis doesn't seem as daunting, and one of the reasons I love baseball is that I can deconstruct pretty much every play and find some meaning behind it. If you are like that and enjoy numbers, theoretical projections, and breaking things down into simple figures before reconstructing them into something long and beautiful, then learning the basics of sabrmetrics will make you a baseball fan for life. If, on the other hand, you just want to enjoy the game for the beautiful pastime that it is by watching, then we've got a little bit to go through...

Where to Watch? - Your TV and Streaming Guide

So a big part of baseball is, you know, actually being able to watch the games (though as I talk about at the end, it might not necessarily be the case for you, and that doesn't mean you can't enjoy baseball, skip down and see what I'm talking about in the final section).
First off, if you are looking for free games to watch, you are in luck! MLB.tv streams one game a day for free on MLB.com and Yahoo.com. These games are subject to local blackouts (details on those in the MLB.tv section) but are definitely worth watching if you're trying to see if you'll enjoy baseball, or just need a free baseball fix. Facebook is also streaming one game a week during the season for free. The other free games available are from May 18 to July 13 on Saturday night and Thursday nights in September when FOX airs games on their OTA affiliated networks. Believe it or not, TV antennas still work in most areas, and these games are free to watch. Some teams also broadcast select games on OTA networks in their region.
Okay, so now the more expensive stuff. If you have even the most basic cable package (or log in information) you probably have ESPN. ESPN airs games every Sunday Night as well as Wednesday Night and Opening Weekend. These games are also available on ESPN Go.
You also probably have a regional sports channel. This is where almost all of your local teams games will be aired. Here is a decent breakdown of every team and what network they are carried on.
TBS is also on even the most basic networks, they air games the final 13 Sundays of the regular season in the afternoon.
FS1 and FOX carry baseball games almost every Saturday of the season, and MLB Network carries games pretty much every day.
A list of currently scheduled national broadcasts is available here, not all games have been chosen so there will be more added to the list.
For all these networks (except for the Dodgers, Orioles, and Nationals regional networks) there are options to stream the games online provided you have cable login information for the channel. During the playoffs FS1, TBS, and MLB Network will carry most of the games, with ESPN carrying a wild card game and FOX carrying the World Series.
Now there are also streaming services that grant access to most of the previously mentioned channels:
  • Sling TV Orange package gets you ESPN, ESPN 2, and TBS.
  • Sling TV Blue package gets you FOX, FS1, FS2, TBS, and most regional sports networks.
  • Youtube TV gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, TBS, MLB Network, and some regional sports networks.
  • HULU Live gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, FS2, TBS, and your regional sports networks.
  • Playstation Vue Access gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, FS2, and TBS.
  • Playstation Vue Core adds MLB Network to the Access channels.
  • Playstation Vue Sports Extra adds regional sports networks in addition to your other channels.
  • AT&T TV Now Live a Little gets you FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, and TBS and your regional sports networks.
  • AT&T TV Now Just Right adds MLB Network to the Live a Little channels.
  • AT&T TV Now Go Big adds FS2 to the Just Right channels.
  • FUBO Premier gets you FOX, FS1, and your regional sports networks
Also, ESPN+ will carry select games pretty much daily throughout the season.

MLB.TV - the Ultimate Fan Investment

Alright, so a few things to cover with this, first of all YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO LEGALLY STREAM IN MARKET GAMES IF YOU LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES. MLB.tv uses your IP address to see where you are located, and if it pings back that you are in a team's home market it will not let you watch the game LIVE. Here is where you can find what games MLB.tv will black you out from. National broadcasts on ESPN, FOX, and TBS are also subject to blackouts within the United States (MLB Network games are not). Before you ask, yes there are less than legal ways to get around this (spoofing your IP address, subreddit dedicated to mlb streams, etc.), but I won't be talking about those in detail here. IF YOU ARE OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, YOU WILL HAVE NO BLACKOUTS.
Even if you are blacked out, you will be able to watch the game 90 minutes after it finishes, so if you work a late shift or stay up late it might be worth it for you anyways even if you only want to follow one team.
Military members and college students, don't forget to apply your 35% discount!
"But I don't want to watch EVERY out of market game, I just want to watch MY team!" Cool, for $25 less there's a single team option that will allow you to watch all your team's non-blacked out games! Personally, I'd pay the extra $25 for the opportunity to watch every Kershaw, Bumgarner, and Scherzer start, or put the Cubs on in the background while working on a Friday afternoon, but to each their own.
"But I don't want to commit for a full year!" That's okay, there's a monthly option as well in case you know there are months where you can't watch as much.
Some of the fun features of MLB.tv include the ability to watch four games at once and quickly swap your audio from one to another (seriously, I'm never on commercial break when I'm watching baseball, unless there's only one game on I'm able to watch it all, and in September that's huge) and condensed games. What are condensed games? They go through and cut out all the time between pitches and innings, meaning if you want to watch a whole game in less than a half hour (or are searching desperately for a play to make a .gif or streamable out of that for some reason isn't considered a highlight) it's really easy. If you're someone who really wants to get into the game but can't figure out how to grind through watching a full game, Condensed Games are great for keeping up with a team while you learn the little details between pitches that somehow make watching the catcher twiddle his fingers exciting for some fans.
Also, new this year, MLB has added some great baseball documentaries to your MLB.tv subscription, giving you access to more than just games for the first time.
In addition, there are two great resources to enhance your total immersion into baseball if there are multiple games going on. Please note for both of these you must already be logged into MLB.tv to make them work. The first, and most basic, is Brooks Baseball's MLB.TV Redzone. It will automatically take you to the highest leverage game going on, and will automatically shift you to another game between innings OR if another game enters a higher leverage situation. For a more personalized touch, The Baseball Guage has MLB.TV Game Changer which lets you customize your preferences so MLB.tv will always switch to the game that is most relevant to you. This is great if you play fantasy and want to keep up with your players, are waiting for someone to hit a milestone, or if you want to make sure your action is broken into to follow a no-hitter in progress.
It also gives you a free subscription to...

MLB AtBat - The Most Underrated Way to Stay Connected to Baseball

MLB AtBat is MLB's official application. It comes in two versions, the free version which has ads but is useful for keeping up to date with all the scores, and the paid version ($19.99 for the year of $2.99 monthly) which gives you access to ad-free content, Gameday on your mobile device, and (most valuable) access to every team's radio stream for every game during the season and postseason completely blackout free. If there's a day game, you can bet I'm listening to it at work, if I'm mowing the lawn on a Saturday I'm listening to a game, when I can't sleep at night, on comes a West Coast game. To get the paid version you must download the free version, then subscribe within the app, or log into an MLB account that has MLB.tv.
Baseball was made to be on the radio, it's a sport that is very easy to follow the action with the right announcer. At work (or school) it's great because you can half listen, and when the announcer gets excited you can instantly tune back in to hear what's going on. This is the most underrated way to stay connected to your team throughout the year. Before I could afford MLB.tv, this was the way to go, and it honestly makes me question every year whether getting the MLB.tv package is worth is when I can get 80% of the entertainment value from listening to the games (and every year I manage to forget to unsubscribe, for many reasons listed above).
Gameday on mobile is also a great feature, it lets you quickly check in on the action during brief recesses in meetings (or under the table during meetings), or breaks between classes (or under a desk in classes). This is honestly my primary means of keeping track of Twins games throughout the year. My wife thinks I'm crazy when I could just watch the game, but instead am nervously checking my phone every couple minutes. IF I WATCH I JINX THE TEAM, HONEY!

How to watch baseball?

So this is a question that we get from many new fans who are just trying to figure out what the hell is going on and why people find this game so fascinating. I'll get the elephant in the room out of the way, yes there are some "boring" parts of watching baseball on TV. The camera fans to a batter spitting and adjusting his gloves, the pitcher adjusts his crotch then licks his fingers, random shots of a bored looking manager, etc. When you are actually at the ballpark you can be watching where the catcher and fielders set up to try to predict the pitch that is coming (read The Hidden Language of Baseball by Paul Dickson for some great insight into how to interpret this), but on TV it's not usually the case. This is where I have some suggestions for new fans trying to get into it.
First off, if you are looking for just a relaxing day, embrace the slow pace with a beer and veg out on the couch while watching. It's meant to be slow and relaxing (until it gets tense and exciting, usually with runners on). Seriously, when was the last time you just sat and did nothing? Mid July afternoon games are a perfect way to reach that zen of half-consciousness, until something happens to get you sucked into the action.
Another option to stay engaged is keeping score. I find keeping score relaxing and looking back through a scorebook can be fun to see what you were doing a few years ago (except for that damn unfinished scorecard from 2015 where A-Rod hit the most predictable home run in Twins-Yankees history and I sent my scorecard flying to the other side of the room). As NPR once put it, keeping score is a knowledge making activity, and if you have the time and patience for it it is a great way to learn the game. There are a couple different guides to keeping score, and most scorebooks/cards will have a brief example of how to do so. If you have any questions, the Around the Horn thread is a great place to ask!
Gamethreads are another way to get together with other baseball fans and pass the time between pitches, especially in team subs you get to know the regulars and conversations start to wonder away from baseball at times throughout the game, and that's fine. Baseball is an excuse to enjoy a summer day.
For those that want to actually understand what is going on during that time, though, there are some options. Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample (who despite his reputation on this subreddit knows some stuff and actually pops in from time to time to comment on different things) is a good starting place for new fans. Baseball for Dummies and The Complete Idiots Guide to Baseball are also good starting points for those willing to sit and read for a little bit.
For those who don't want to read a book, I guess I can touch on what I'm looking for between pitches. A big part of baseball is pitch selection, so scouting out a pitchers repertoire of pitches is a good starting point, BrooksBaseball.net has great cheat sheets on every pitcher in the game, and PitcherList.com has a visual example of each pitcher's pitches so you can see what you can be looking for. Anyways, I mention that because the whole reason the catcher is twiddling his fingers behind the plate is to go over with the pitcher what pitch is going to be thrown. What I'm watching for between pitches is where the catcher is setting up behind the plate and guessing which pitch is going to be thrown. A 2-0 and 3-1 count are known as hitters counts because the pitcher needs to throw a strike or risk walking the batter, when the count reaches either of those pay attention, because the hitters going to be looking for his perfect pitch and there's probably going to be some action on the field. 0-1, 0-2, and 1-2 are pitcher's counts, look for curveball, slider or other somewhat nasty pitch to be thrown to get the batter to swing at a bad pitch, or a fastball inside to catch them off guard. If you have any questions about this, go ahead and ask in an around the horn thread.

Where to watch highlights and game recaps.

There are many many places to see highlights and game recaps, this is not an exhaustive list, but is a good start.
For highlights, bigger highlights will often be posed here on baseball a few minutes after they occur, if you wish to post them please familiarize yourself with the subreddit rules. They also appear relatively quickly on MLB.com in each games Gameday area. For a pretty slick collection of highlights from across MLB, https://baseball.theate is a great place to exclusively watch highlights.
There are a few ways to get great game recaps. If you have MLB Network, every day Quick Pitch is an hour-long show that recaps every game from the previous day. It usually starts after MLB Tonight (about 10pm EDT) or whatever game MLB Network is showing finishes up, and runs until 10am EDT the next day. MLB.com also puts out recaps of every game by the next morning, usually a 2-5 minutes quick rundown of highlights that can be found on the game recap. It also puts out Fastcast videos on youtube and their website every morning which has a brief rundown of all the games from the previous day. Here's an example of a Fastcast from two seasons ago.
If you want one concise place to see most of these, efitz11 was amazing last season and posted video links to every game recap and fastcast in the daily Around the Horn thread. Here's an example. I am unsure if they plan to continue it this year, but it would be surely appreciated!

TL;DR Finding what you enjoy about the game.

When it boils down to it, baseball is about finding entertainment and enjoyment, and don't let anyone try to tell you how to enjoy baseball. If you want nothing to do with statistical analysis and just want to enjoy what's going on on the field, don't let anyone tell you you aren't enough of a fan, and if you want to dissect a player into their strengths and components using statcast and advanced metrics don't let anyone tell you you're reading into the game too much. You can follow one team, and only one team, or you can follow multiple teams, don't let anyone tell you you're not a true fan for wearing another team's gear or enjoying their games. You might enjoy bat flips and flamboyance, or reserved speedy home run trots. You might not even enjoy physically watching a game (especially not if your team isn't playing), but find yourself loving keeping track of your team through the season and tracking your players or maybe just the thrill of the standings race and scoreboard watching or maybe you just love all the numbers that get thrown around and arguing about their relevancy. That's okay, eventually I believe enjoyment of the game itself will come, but even if it doesn't, the long baseball season is still creating a place of enjoyment for you, and that's what matters. If you have any questions, once again, feel free to ask them in our daily Around the Horn thread, or below in the comments, or if you really want to feel free to PM with questions and I'd be happy to answer.
So watch games this week and join in the discussion here, you'll naturally find yourself gravitating towards certain players or teams and enjoying different aspects of the game. Baseball is a long season, find what you enjoy, stick to it, dwell on it, and enjoy it.
TL;DR for the TL;DR - Baseball is fun
submitted by cardith_lorda to baseball [link] [comments]

A Simple Guide for Those New to "CS Style" Gameplay

I'm not sure how many people will read this (or care about it), but if it reaches even a few people, that's great. I've been playing competitive shooters for a very long time, over 15 years of CS, GM in Overwatch, COD, Battlefield, BRs. But CS is my pride and joy. I figured I'd whip up some really simple tips for those that might need to hear it.
You're welcome to ask questions if you have it, I'll respond to anything I can (and I'm sure others will answer questions you might have as well!)
Again: this guide is not for players that are experienced in CS already or for CS styled games. This is more for our Overwatch and League and whatever other players that might be experimenting with this style for the first time.
I know this guide is going to be long even before I start writing it, I am going to break it up as best as possible, skip to areas you feel you need if necessary.
Again, maybe no one will read this, or I'll be downvoted for trying, or it'll just be lost in the sea of highlights, or whatever else. But if it reaches a couple of people that find it helpful, I'll be stoked about that.

Editors Notes

I might add more sections to this if someone suggests something and the activity hasn't tapered off. I will mark new sections with an asterisk (*) in this case, I just added the "Win Conditions" section.
Also; I really do enjoy teaching CS/CS Styled Games. If there's a question you're too embarrassed to ask in public, or you just want some friendly tips, my DMs are always open. If I get overwhelmed with messages, I might be slow to respond, but I'll try and get to everything. I love CS (and Valorant is growing on me), and I love teaching it and talking about it. So if you want help, find me!
Edit 2: Thanks for the golds and random awards guys. I'm really stoked to see that people like this guide and are getting some good usage out of it! I'm glad I could help some of you! Keep practicing out there!
Edit 3: Learning to aim well, learn the gunplay, etc * I'm getting a LOT of questions from people looking for help learning how to aim, or improve their shooting mechanics. I'm going to post here what I've been telling a lot of them.
There really aren't any "shortcuts" to learning how to aim. A guide like mine, or a video on YouTube might give you tips on controlling recoil, or counter-strafing, or lowering your sensitivity. But really, you just gotta PRACTICE. CS has existed in one form or another for over 20 years now, some of us have a LOT of experience and it's ingrained into our muscle memory. You can't expect to learn that type of thing over night. Run the bot training in the Practice Range until you can get 30 out of 30 every time. Practice controlling your spray. Practice burst firing and tap firing. Just hop in live games and do your best.
I promise, if you keep practicing, the aim will come. No one out there can give you some magic trick that will suddenly turn you into the best aimer in the world. You just have to keep on trying!
Edit #4: I added a few new terms to the Glossary towards the bottom, they are marked with an asterisk (*). If I think of more, I might tack them on.

Win Conditions *

u/Helfeather suggested a write up on exactly how rounds are won and lost, and I liked the idea so much I'm adding it to the BEGINNING of this post.
Winning a round in CS is done one of 4 ways, I'm gonna name them, and give a brief explanation of how to maximize your chances of that happening.

Attacker

Planting the bomb the Spike (or "Bomb" as CS players might call it) gets planted at one of the two (or three) bomb sites. If that bomb blows up, regardless of how many players are still alive on EITHER team, the Attackers win. The bomb timer is 45 seconds long, and once it's down the timer begins. The most important thing to remember to win off a bomb plant is to, what we call, "playing the bomb". Instead of leaving the site and trying to find the remaining Defenders, put yourself in a position where you can see the bomb, and are covered from as many angles as possible. Make the Defenders come to you! The more often you do this, the better chance of a detonation you have.
Eliminating all the enemies Even if the bomb is never planted, eliminating all the enemy Defenders wins you the round. Simple as that really, play your role on the team, and if you get 5 kills before they do, you win the round.

Defender

Defusing the bomb once the bomb has been planted, your only concern should be defusing it. I'm not sure exactly how long the defuse timer is in this game, someone can jump in with that information, but defusing the bomb successfully is a round won even if there are still Attackers left alive. "Retaking" the bomb site if all the defenders from that position are dead is your best bet. Wait for your team mates to be close enough, and push in together. (At this point, basically pretend YOU'RE the attacker and play the same way you would on the Attack side of the game.) Push in togehter, check your corners, and make your way to the bomb. If you're last alive and you can't find the remaining Attacker(s), something you can do to try and draw them out is called Fake Defusing. You walk up to the bomb and press 4 (or whatever you're defuse bind is), this will make a sound that notifies enemy players that you've begun defusing. At that point you can immediately release 4 and watch to see where they come from to attack you.
This is a bit of a mini-game within the game. Good players know about faking a defuse, so they might not peek straight away. So you might be able to get away with holding the defuse even when theres an enemy lurking about. (Colloquially you might hear a CS player say something like "PROS DONT FAKE" which is a bit of a CS meme. The implication that Pro players don't ever fake defusing a bomb, they just hold it, so you have to peek THEM.)
A BIG TIP about fake defusing here: if you fake defuse and then make a foot step sound, the enemies will know you are not still defusing. You can't walk and defuse at the same time, so if you fake defuse and want to adjust your position, WALK. Use shift and readjust while you wait for them to come out!
Eliminating all the enemies Just like on Attack, if you eliminate all the enemies before the bomb is planted, you win the round. BUT REMEMBER unlike the Attacker side, if the bomb has been planted, and you kill all the enemies, you still need to defuse it. If there isn't enough time left, and the bomb blows up, the Attackers still win the round even if they're all dead. So either kill 'em quick, or don't forget about that bomb!
Time running out the Defenders have an additional win condition of the round clock. If the timer hits 0 and the bomb has not been planted, the Defenders win. Even if all 5 members of the enemy team are still alive. Even if the bomb is planted JUST AFTER the clock hits 0, the Defenders win. This is where "stalling" comes in to play. If you're holding a bomb site and it's late in the round and an Attacker tries to sneak in and get a plant, stall him. Shoot at him and make him stop the plant animation. If you can stall him long enough to either A: get your team mates there, or B: run out of time, you can win the round without even needing to kill him. Stalling is huge.

Defender Side

Positioning

One of the big things to remember is to pick a site to defend, and stay there for the whole game. When you're on the Defender side (or CT as some CS players might refer to it), whatever site you're assigned, or have chosen, or are playing, it's important to not suddenly switch to another site without saying anything.
If you aren't comfortable with the site, ask if someone is willing to swap with you. If you think you can't play a site alone, ask for someone to back you up.
Sometimes someone might suggest stacking a site, or playing more than the usual number there, that's fine. If YOU feel like they might come A, let people know you're giving up B site to stack A. But don't just leave your spot without saying anything, it can leave sites open if people are unaware, or force people to defend from unoptimal positions.

Rotations

Rotating is when the bomb is seen or a push of one site is called by a team mate. Knowing when to rotate (and how to rotate) is crucial to good CT sided defense. One important thing to be aware of is whether or not the bomb has been seen or called. If you're at B and one of the A players calls that three are pushing into A, but they haven't seen the bomb yet, it might be good to hang back at B and "lurk" until bomb is spotted.
It might leave your team with one less player to defend A, but it prevents a bomb site from being left completely open. If you lurk at the opposite site when bomb isn't spotted, even if you cant kill the enemies coming in, you can relay the information to your team that the bomb is coming to THAT site instead of A.
By the same token, if the bomb is called as seen on A, even if you know someone is at B, as long as you're not in an active fight with him, it might be better to just leave him there and move to A to defend the bomb. Inform your team that someone was at B, and they might come from the flank, but the Attackers can't win without the Spike, so it's better for you to defend from the bomb instead.
If you're playing a bomb site with a team mate, and one of you needs to rotate to defend a bomb site, communicate it. Tell them you're leaving them to back up B (or C), and that you think they should lurk until the bomb is spotted. Don't just up and leave without letting them know.
Learning the pacing of rotations is one of the harder skills of CS to master, not over-rotating or under-rotating can often be the difference between winning and losing a round. Don't fret if you're not grasping it immediately, it will take some time!

Playing a site with a team mate

Some bomb sites are going to be defended by only one player (maps where mid is very important, or Haven where it's better to have 2 at B/mid than 2 at C.) But if you're defending with another player, it's important to work together.
Have a "default setup" to defend from, one person watches long, the other watches short, stay at that spot unless it's discussed between you and your partner that you're going to be off position. Don't leave someones blind side open without telling them that you're not there.
Sometimes you two might decide to push together, either both of you pushing from the same angle, or both pushing from separate sides to pinch potential attackers. Sometimes you might want to play further back a more passive angle and let them get in before contact.

Attacker Side

Where to attack/play/watch

Attacker (or T side as CS players might call it), is a much more complex and dynamic side than the defenders. Different maps, diffrent opponents, different economy situations will call for different types of attack.
Some of the basic styles that you might hear called by a team mate:
Rush - this ones pretty simple, someone is suggesting that the entire attacker team (or at least most of them) fully rush into the site and over whelm the defenders with numbers. This can often mean rushing THROUGH smokes or flashbangs. A rush only works if everyone gets into the site and no one is left alone on site, or lingering behind a smoke. If a rush is called, just do your best to get in site with your team mates, find the enemy, and do what you can.
(I don't want to get any grief for this, so I'm adding a little editors note here: pushing through a smoke is not ALWAYS the play, even on a rush. Sometimes it's the right thing, other times it's not, but it's very situational. But it's important to remember that smokes are not impenetrable walls that can never be walked through. Sometimes the smartest play is the one that seems dumbest, walking (or even running) through a smoke might seem dumb, but sometimes it's going to catch the enemy off guard. So basicaly, don't always rush through smokes, but don't always be afraid to rush through smokes either.)
Split - a "split" attack is performed at a site that has more than one entrance. Say A Site on Haven, you might send 3 players to long and 2 players short and attack from both sides. Whether or not you push a smoke or not will depend on the situation, but the idea here is to attack a limited defense from multiple sides before they can call a rotation from their team mates.
Playing for Picks - when a team mate suggests playing for picks, this means that you separate to different areas of the map, and play a slightly more passive role while waiting for a Defender to get aggressive and give up a kill. You might send 2 to A, 1 to mid, and 2 to B, no body pushes in, everyone communicates where they are spotting (or hearing) enemies, and you wait for someone to make a move.
Once someone GETS a pick, your team will have to collectively decide if you want to "push off the pick", which means you start pushing into the site you got the pick on. Or if you want to "play for the rotate", which means you guys will assume the Defenders are going to rotate to make up for the dead CT, and the Attackers move to the opposite bomb site.
Contact - a "contact" play is a slower take of a bomb site. The majority of the team will group up at one bomb site, and move slowly. Everyone will walk, you won't throw smokes or flashes or any utility until you've seen an enemy. Once you've seen an enemy, or (more importantly an enemy has seen you), then you fully commit. Get smokes down, flash in, take the site. The goal here is to get as close to the site as possible before the enemy can call that you're there and ask for backup from his team. But once you're spotted, no more time for lurking, push into the site as fast as possible, cover up the entrances, and get the bomb down.
Set Take - a set take is going to be a scenario where your team mates drop smokes (and other utility) at predetermined positions to cut off the enemy team. Typically it goes as follows: the team will set up outside of, say, B site, a specific time on the clock will be agreed to (say 45 seconds), at which time characters with smokes (in this case namely Brimstone) will drop his smokes in key spots to cut off defender visibility and rotations, and you'll all rush in together. Set takes can be very powerful if you know the defenders play from passive positions. And with all the different types of utility in the game, you can smoke angles out, and then use one of the AOE attacks (fire, freeze, grenade) to flush enemies out of corners.

Planting "safe" vs planting "open"

There are two main types of plants for the bomb. If you're unaware of where the enemy is, especially if theres only 2 or 3 Attackers left, you might plant "safe". Planting in a corner that covers you from as many angles as possible, on B site Bind, planting inside the tube for example. This is to minimize risk of you dying while planting.
But planting OPEN is usually a much better alternative. If you have full control of the site (you've taken it with 3 or 4 of your team mates still alive), try to plant in the open. Somewhere that you can defend it from multiple angles. Rely on your team mates to cover your open angles and not get shot while planting.
Regardless of which type you plant, try to call where you're planting for your team mates. Just say "planting safe" and they'll know the bomb is going to be tucked in a corner. "Planted for Long" would mean that one of your team mates can defend from the "long" entrance to the bombsite and still be able to see the CT when they try to defuse.
As the game progresses, bomb sites will organically develop a "default" plant. This is the spot that you plant in that is reasonably safe, but you're not sure if you're safe or not. Saying "planted default" will immediately let team mates know exactly where the bomb is.
Strategies can get a lot more complex, "fakes" are when you draw a lot of attention to one site with utility, gunshots, visible angles, wait for CTs to start rotating, and then you fall back and take the now empty (or weaker) site. At more advanced levels, there might be decoy plays, where 4 players rush a site and 1 lone player with bomb tries to sneak in the other side and get a plant. (Useful on Eco or Save rounds.)

Communication

Good communication is perhaps the most important thing to a successful game of Valorant. It's a very complex issue, and rather than dragging it out too long, I'm just going to touch on a few key topics.
As a defender try to be precise with your calls. Instead of "they're coming A", try to say HOW MANY are coming A when possible. "3 A", or "I hear multiple Long A" is better than just "they're here".
Remember to call the bomb if it's seen if you've seen the bomb, either on an Attacker or just down on the ground, relay this information to your team. Your team mates can then start to safely leave their bomb sites and make their way to you to defend.
Try not to talk after you're dead in most cases, once you die, you should just let the other players play. If you saw someone or heard someone that you REALLY think the person you're spectating didn't see, then tell them quickly, and then quiet down again. "You saw him behind the box", something along those lines is concise and if the player you're watching was unaware, they'll work off that information.
Short reminders are helpful, even after you're dead but be quick, and don't try to micro manage. If you're on Attack, and only one of your team mates is alive, he is going to want to keep his eyes only on his crosshair and what's in front of him. If he is low on time, typically just saying "time" will remind him that he has to speed it up a little bit, or decide to save his gun. Reminding him he still has utility left if he may have forgotten is also usually okay, but again, don't micro manage, don't tell him how to use them, just remind him and let him focus on his game.
Once freeze time has ended, non-game related chatter should end, during buy time if you're laughing about the previous round, or just shooting the breeze, great, but once buy time ends, trail off the conversation and focus on listening for enemies, and hearing the calls of your team mates.
Be quick about calls try to be as concise with them as you possibly can. "3 Long A" is enough information, you don't need to tell your team exactly what guns they have, where they're positioned, what they are wearing, how they've styled their hair. If someone asks for additional information ("have you seen bomb?") answer of course, but getting the call out fast is more important than up to the minute information.
Calling places you're unfamiliar with everyones new to this game, even the CS players. Sometimes you're not going to know the "official" name for a location, or even what it's been colloquially referred to as. But getting out something is better than nothing. On Haven, most people will understand what you mean if you say they are "C Hall", most people will get it if you refer to A long on Bind as either "bathrooms" or "long", or "showers" or "toilets" for you Europeans. Terms like "behind you" and "to your right" only work if people know exactly where you are/were playing and who you're referring to. Using generic terms for locations is the better choice if you don't know or can't remember what its called.
Most importantly however is to find the right flow with your team. Some types of teams function better with more information, some want every little thing called. Some teams will want as little as possible called. Some players/teams don't mind if everyones chatting while playing, some do. CS/Valorant styled games are often considered more "serious" than some other shooters, but it still should be fun. Find the right times to talk and laugh and be silly while also letting those that want to "try hard" do so.

Trading and Baiting

This section could fit in all the other sections, so I'm going to give it it's own.
Trading is the act of responding to a kill from the enemy team with a kill from YOUR team. So say you and a partner are entering a bombsite that hasn't been cleared yet. Even if you time things perfectly, chances are one of you will be seen before the other. Sometimes that first person isn't going to get the kill, it is important for you to be in position to return the kill.
Trading is HUGELY important. Having a man advantage in Valorant can make all the difference, and no player is going to survive every round, everyone will die their share of times in the game, so it's very important to be in position to "trade" the kill and keep the numbers even.
The keys to doing this are to just work with your team mates. Push in with them, don't leave them stranded on their own, and if they die, try to kill their attacker.
Baiting on the other hand, is sort of a modified form of a trade. Baiting can be very negative (willfully letting your team mate die so that you can get the kill instead of them), but baiting can also be used intelligently. If your team mate is already on extremely low health, he might say something like "bait me". Which means you will play very slowly behind him while he rushes into the site, his job is to find the enemy, do any damage (if possible) and tell you where he is so you can immediately peek out and take the kill without taking any damage yourself.
The difference between "good baiting" and "bad baiting" is usually as simple as communication. If you're not telling your team mate you're playing back, and you let them die just so you can get the kill, thats a bad bait.
But if you inform your team mate that you're going to bait him for information, usually they won't mind, especially if they are low on health, or perhaps don't have a gun.

CS-Style Glossary

There's lots of terms that you might not be familiar with coming from other games, I know there have already been other guides and videos on this stuff, but I figured I'd add in a few, and repeat a couple of them. These are terms that CS players are accustomed to using, and might instinctively call, especially in the heat of the moment.
AK - AK is the Vandal
M4 - That's the Phantom.
MP5 - Would be the Spectre.
Deagle - The Sheriff.
Scout - The Marshall
CZ - The Frenzy.
A-W-P - The Operator. (Some people, namely Europeans, call it by it's initials A-W-P instead of "Awp", for Americans Riot preemptively negated this issue by naming the AWP an "Operator" which is easily shortened to the AWP homonym "Op".
Bomb - The Spike itself.
Save - This can have two meanings. 1: a save round, your team is short on money and you should avoid spending a lot. A pistol, maybe a couple of your abilities. You want to keep at least 3900 for the next round (visible on the Buy menu). 2: saving your guns, sometimes as either attacker or defender, a round is deemed unwinnable. Maybe you're last alive with 5 Attackers having already planted the bomb, if your teams money is low, you might choose to save your gun. Typically you'll find a place far away on the map to hide, be silent, and hope you dont get found. Save the gun for your next round.
Eco - Same as a "save round" detailed above.
D-Eco (pronounced dee-coh) - Just a save round where you all buy the powerful Sheriff (Deagle) for hopes of one shot kills against armored enemies.
Long (bombsite) or Short (bombsite) - A lot of the bombsites in this game will have multiple entrance. Usually one being a longer "straighter" path, and the second being a shorter and more "cluttered" path. Long, and short respectively.
Mid - * Mid refers literally to the "middle" of the map. The area between A and B (on a two site map). On most maps, having mid control is very important as it allows you to attack a bomb site from an additional area. On Split for example. The B bombsite only has one "natural" entrance, the garage tunnel. The other entrance to B is the upper walkway that connects to mid. If the Attackers can gain control of mid by killing Defenders, they can attack B from two sides instead of just one.
(Note: the maps in Valorant seem less reliant on having a normal CS styled mid. In CS, mid is typically a very pronounced "lane" to steal a moba term. But in Valorant, a lot of the mids (even on the 2 site maps) are kind of split. Bind for example, both the area connecting Attacker spawn to Hookah could be considered a mid, as well as potentially the area from Attacker spawn to "short A".Neither are really your typical mid, normally a mid has access to BOTH bomb sites equally. The Attacker spawn to Hookah does not have fast rotation to A, only to B. Meanwhile, the Attacker spawn to Portal side DOES have a fast rotation to both A AND B, but it's also directly connected to an exposed A bomb site, which makes it more of a "short A" than a mid.
Which area of a map is determined as "mid" will happen organically by players as we move forward.
Heaven - * Heaven is a term you might hear a lot from CS players. It typically refers to any designated upper area on a bomb site. I'm not talking just a box in the middle of the site that a Jett or Raze may have boosted onto, but areas specificly elevated. On Bind, there is an upper ledge at the back of A, this would typically be referred to as a "Heaven". (Note, if an enemy is standing directly underneath this walkway, they are often referred to as being "under heaven" or "hell".
DD - * "D-D" will refer to "double doors", right now this is only present on Haven, but it's something you might hear called. Just a faster way of calling that someone is playing in, at or around the double doors near B.
Window - * Someone calling that someone is in "window" would be an area LIKE a "heaven" spot, except covered a little bit better. What Americans have begun calling "Hookah" on Bind is an example of a "Window" spot. It's elevated, and has more cover than a Heaven-named spot does (compare it to "heaven" on A site).
Default - another one with multiple meanings. 1: A default hold is all 5 Defenders playing from their usual positions, no stacks, no weird positioning or doubling up, just your normal. 2: A default TAKE is all 5 attackers running a pre-determined strategy. Usually it has all 5 players spreading out and playing for picks (each of you at a predetermined spot, similar to on Defense). and 3: the "default plant", I mentioned this above, but basically as the game progresses, players will organically determine which the "default plant" spot is. This is a spot that is a little bit open, but also a little bit safe in case there are enemies lurking unknown.
Execute - as sort of detailed above, an execute is just the take of a bombsite. "We're executing A" usually means they're putting their smokes and AOE down, and moving in. This is a warning to players that might be lurking at other sites or mid to either listen for rotations from enemies, or start making their way over to A to help defend the planted bomb.
Boosted - * A player being "boosted" means they are on top of a box or other area of the map that they couldn't normally get to solo. Jett, Raze, Omen and Sage can get to some of these locations by themselves, and there have been various methods for boosting team mates on top of your head. So if someone calls "boosted on A site" it probably means they are up on top of a box or other object on the bomb site.
I think that's all I got for now. Again, this is meant just to include some really basic information for players new to a CS style game. I didn't include anything overly advanced, nor did I include every potential "basic" thing about the game, I'm sure there are already plenty of guides on exactly when to buy and save and force buy and all that.
If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them if I'm capable of doing so. Others that are knowledgeable are welcome to do the same.
If this helps you at all, I'm a happy camper.
Good luck out there, and have fun!
submitted by bustedmagnets to VALORANT [link] [comments]

Urdowyr—Chapter 8

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Hank unceremoniously dropped the three dead bi-zhom at Urdakh’s feet.
Urdakh said something in a very surprised tone.
“What? They weren’t heavy.”
Urdakh peered at Hank from underneath its cowl-like hood, mulling something over and assessing the human. (Now that Hank was standing right next to the alien, he could see that its garment was made from some kind of scaly white reptile-hide.) Then, arriving at a decision, Urdakh drew out its bronze hunting knife again and offered the blade to Hank, pointing at the downed game.
“Uh . . . why don’t you do that,” said Hank, refusing the knife. “I’d probably just make a mess of it. You know, slice open an organ I’m not supposed to, something like that.”
Urdakh answered in a reproachful tone and then, grumbling under its breath, set to the business of field-dressing the bi-zhom carcasses.
“Great,” said Hank. “And while you’re doing that . . . I guess I’ll work on the fire.”
The human started looking around for stones, gathering them together in a small pile near the kindling-heap that Urdakh had made. Every once in a while, Urdakh would pause what it was doing to glance at Hank curiously, and then go back to butchering the animals. Hank, meanwhile, selected a large stone that was flat enough to dig with and made a shallow fire-pit, which he then ringed with most of the remaining stones.
“There we are,” said Hank with a laugh. “Just like camping in the Rockies back home.” He started breaking shrub-branches in half and heaping them in the middle of the pit in a small pile; then he arranged several more sticks in a conical shape on top of those.
By the time Hank was done with that, Urdakh had already made expert work of the bi-zhom, having removed and cast aside the entrails and turned the carcasses over to drain. The alien then said something to Hank and pointed at the rest of the unused firewood.
Hank gestured at the kindling-pile. “You need some sticks?”
Urdakh nodded, uttered a sharp word of reply, and made a “give me” motion.
Hank picked up several branches and passed them to Urdakh, who remained seated on the ground next to the freshly-dressed bi-zhom. While Hank watched, the alien began sharpening the sticks one by one with its knife.
“Aha. Roasting spits. Gotcha.”
The sun was well behind the mountains by now, and they were losing the light quickly. Hank was eager to get a fire going; but the only rocks he had at hand were soft, like sandstone, with none of them even remotely resembling flint. “Oh well. Work with what you’ve got.” He tried striking two of the rocks together and got plenty of noise but no sparks.
Hank looked up in surprise when Urdakh said something in a mirthful tone and started laughing at him. Though the human had no means of understanding precisely what was said, he got the gist of it: you’ll never make a fire that way, dumbass!
Hank offered Urdakh the two stones. “I’d like to see you do better!”
The alien said something softly. Then, from underneath its cloak, Urdakh produced a very full, very heavy-looking hide knapsack; opened a flap; and began rummaging around in its contents.
“Oh, of course,” said Hank. “You’re a hunter; you’ve probably got a tinderbox in there, don’t you?”
But instead of a tinderbox, and very much to Hank’s surprise, Urdakh withdrew from its pack a different instrument entirely. It was about the size and general shape of a pocket-flashlight, metallic, with faceted gemstones set into the side. Hank watched in fascination as Urdakh held the object about six inches away from the firewood, depressed one of the gemstones, and—bzzt!—a visible red laser-beam instantly ignited a small blaze. The dry branches caught quickly, and pretty soon a cheerful campfire was crackling away in the pit.
“Holy crap!” said Hank. “That’s . . . okay, wow, so maybe your people are a little more sophisticated than the Bronze Age.”
Urdakh held up the device and said, “Eskai ten-vâh!” with a merry chuckle.
Hank held out his hand, palm up. “Hey. Can I take a look at that?”
Urdakh responded by clutching the fire-starter closely to its chest. “An-skâ! Ten-vâh ko-tlû-akh!”
Hank grimaced and backed off. “Okay, okay. Sorry, forget I asked.”
Urdakh gave Hank a wary look and then stowed the instrument back in the knapsack. Then the alien took out its knife again, went over to one of the bi-zhom, and started cutting away strips of flesh, putting them on spits, and setting them to roast over the fire.
Hank, meanwhile, sat back and prodded a finger at cuts on his midsection. Most of them were shallow and already clotted, but a couple of the wider gashes still bled. “Hey, Urdakh?”
The alien finished what it was doing and gave Hank a questioning look.
Hank pointed to his wounds and said, “I need to clean these. Can have some more water? More tzêh?”
Urdakh seemed to understand what Hank was getting at. Muttering something in annoyance, the alien fished a scrap of cloth from the knapsack, used the waterskin to dampen it, and passed the cloth to Hank.
“Thanks,” said Hank. He started washing the cuts and murmured quietly to himself, “No antiseptic. Here’s hoping the bacteria on this planet don’t like living in my bloodstream.”
While Hank tended to his wounds and the meat roasted on the spits—it gave off a savory smell that had the human’s mouth watering—Urdakh finally took the opportunity to rest. The hunter sat down by the campfire opposite Hank, pulled back its hood and removed its cloak.
Hank finished with what he was doing and commented, “I think these deeper cuts will heal just fine. No need to cauterize ’em with your laser-doohickey—” He stopped speaking abruptly when he glanced up and finally got a good look at Urdakh for the first time. “Huh. You’re a girl.”
Intellectually, Hank knew that had no real basis upon which to guess at the gender of the alien sitting across the fire from him. Urdakh might very well be male; or a member of a species with only one gender, or even three or more. But to his prejudiced human eyes, she was undeniably feminine in appearance. She had long hair, black and wavy. Her face sported full lips and high cheekbones. Her figure was concealed by a form-fitting tunic or dress made from hide that went down to her knees; but Hank was pretty certain that she had hips and a bustline that were just a bit wider than her waist. In fact, the adjective “Amazonian” came unbidden to his mind.
That said, nobody would ever mistake Urdakh for a human woman. Her skin was green; her eyes were downright unsettling, with yellow irises and blood-red scleras. She had two little tusks jutting up from behind her lower lip, and when she grinned, Hank could see that her upper canines were actually fangs. A series of ridges ran up the length of her flat and upturned nose; once they reached her forehead, they became bony protrusions that almost looked like a row of tiny horns. She had long, black claws on both her hands and feet (and she wore no shoes or sandals of any sort). It was her legs and feet that Hank found strangest of all: they were digitigrade, so that when Urdakh sat on the ground and scrunched her legs up beneath her, it appeared to the human as if she had a second set of knees that bent the wrong way.
A digitigrade biped didn’t make much evolutionary sense to Hank, but then again, this planet did have weaker gravity than Earth . . . so what did he know? Maybe Urdakh’s species had evolved to favor speed over endurance.
More than anything else, though, Hank was astounded at the apparent similarities between Urdakh’s species and his own. Sure, she clearly wasn’t human; but she was definitely some kind of hominoid-equivalent. (That said, just from looking at her, Hank couldn’t help but compare Urdakh to a green Klingon. Or maybe some kind of space-orc.)
Urdakh had been tending to the meat, turning the spits to ensure that it roasted evenly, the whole time that Hank stared and contemplated. Now she judged that it was done; she took some of the skewers for herself and offered the rest to Hank, along with a lengthy string of words in a conversational tone.
Hank waited for the meat to cool before pulling a hunk off the spit. After the day he’d had, it smelled absolutely fantastic. “This’ll be the first thing I’ve eaten all day,” he said. “Hell, as a matter of fact, it’ll be the first real non-astronaut food I’ll have had in about two months.”
Urdakh looked at Hank curiously and said something before tearing into the meat with those fangs of hers. Then she made an “icky” face, gulped the mouthful down, and took another bite.
Hank laughed. “It’s that good, huh? Bet you were really out here chasing after those gator-bison.” He tried a bite of the bi-zhom. It was very tough, but the flavor wasn’t actually all that bad. “Chewy,” he said with his mouth full. He swallowed and added, “I can’t believe I’m gonna say this, but it really does taste like chicken.” Then he gave Urdakh a frank look and said, “Anybody else here starting to feel like the Stargate movie was a goddamn documentary? . . . No, just me? Alrighty then.”
Urdakh said something back, but Hank didn’t know how to respond, so he said nothing. They finished eating in silence.
Hank sensed the mood growing tense again once they’d finished. He patted his belly—now pleasantly full—and sighed with contentment. “Ya know, that’s the best food I’ve had since I left Earth. Wanna know what my last meal before blastoff was? Pepperoni motherfucking pizza. God, I miss pizza . . .”
As he rambled, Hank yanked off his boots and turned them upside-down. A downright obscene amount of sand and dust poured out of them. “Long day,” he commented.
Urdahk threw away the last of the roasting-spits and then pointed at Hank’s bare feet and said something in a tone that sounded almost—accusatory.
“Yeah, I’ll bet mine look just as weird to you as yours do to me.” He wiggled his toes and enjoyed the feeling of the cool night air on his aching feet.
Urdakh rested her chin in her hand—the gesture was so humanlike that Hank actually felt a lump of pure, homesick emotion form in his throat—and said thoughtfully, “Eskai nâh ro gûlgh, Hen-kah?” Even though Hank heard her utter his name, he got the distinct impression that she wasn’t so much addressing him as she was talking to herself about him.
He shrugged. “No idea what you’re talkin’ about, Urdakh.” Then he decided that it might be nice now to have a little fun. “How about some tunes?” He took out his iPage, unrolled it, and touched the screen, which caused it to light up as the desktop and icons appeared.
Urdakh’s eyes widened in shock. “Ten-vâh nêh!” she exclaimed, pointing at the computer.
Hank quirked an eyebrow. “You’ve said that word before.” He held up the iPage and repeated, “Ten-va?”
Urdakh nodded. “Ten-vâh ko-tlû-akh!”
“Huh. Is that your word for technology, I wonder?” Hank touched the icon for the music player and swiped open his classic rock folder. “Now let’s see here. What should your first taste of the classics be? Sabbath? Too hard. Queen? Nah, too weird. . . . Aha! Perfect. And thematically appropriate.” Hank touched the icon to queue up “Wayward Son” by Kansas.
At once, the melodious strains of electric guitars and keys filled the still night air and echoed across the steppe. Urdakh was startled at first, but soon enough she realized that the ghostly, artificial noises were coming from Hank’s “ten-vâh”.
She crawled around the fire and peered at the glowing screen. Hank swiped back to the desktop and then touched the icon for a text-editor and started typing. “I figure,” he said by way of explanation, “if I want to learn your language, I’d better start compiling a glossary of all the words I’m learning from you.” He quickly typed in the small vocabulary that he’d acquired so far. “If I get a good, working dictionary built up, maybe my translation algorithms will be able to go to town. Then we can hold a real conversation.”
By now, Urdakh at least recognized that the music coming from Hank’s iPage was, in fact, music. She said something to Hank, her voice filled with wonder.
Hank chuckled and said, “Yeah, rock’n’roll is pretty fantastic.”
Over the course of the next hour, while Hank’s playlist cycled from Journey to Rush to Zeppelin, he and Urdakh made a game of trading words. He would point at something, say the English word for that thing, and Urdakh would give Hank the alien word for it, which Hank would then add to his ever-growing glossary.
This continued until, at some point, as Hank was idly switching between apps, Urdakh reached out and caught his wrist to stop him from swiping away from the desktop. Hank looked at her questioningly.
Urdakh tapped the claw of her index finger on the screen, indicating Hank’s desktop image. It was a close-up photograph of a little blonde-haired girl, maybe four years old, in adorable pink overalls. The girl was kicking a rubber ball; behind her stood the frame of a woman, presumably her mother; but the image was carefully cropped so that the woman’s head was entirely out of sight. Urdakh asked Hank a question.
Hank stiffened and pursed his lips. “No,” he said, shaking his head. “That’s—that’s my daughter, but we don’t need to talk about her.” He wrenched his hand free and quickly swiped back into his music player, stopping the Who mid-“Baba O’Riley”. While Urdakh watched curiously, Hank rolled up his iPage and said, “No offence, but we’ve only just met.”
Urdakh said something in what sounded to Hank like a flippant tone. He didn’t like it. He shivered; it was getting really cold now. “Swingy temperatures on this planet,” he griped. “Boiling hot all day, freezing cold at night? Planet Shitstain just gets better and better.”
Urdakh went back over to her side of the fire, where she once again got into her knapsack; this time, she pulled out a hide blanket. She said something sharp and commanding, picked up her white cloak, and tossed it over to Hank. Then she stretched out on the ground next to the fire and curled up under her blanket.
Hank easily caught the cloak, understanding what Urdakh was saying: use this or you’ll freeze to death during the night. “Thanks,” he said. “Just, you know, please don’t murder me in my sleep or anything, m’kay?” He lay down on the ground, spread the cloak out over his body, and all too quickly fell asleep.
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Inheritors of Eschaton, Part 30 - Legacy

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But as we left, just before her light faded, she met my eye and smiled at me. I still see it when I close my eyes sometimes. There is no purpose to such a thing, no essential function, yet my forebears paused in their great work to ensure that she could smile. It troubles me even in my elder days, that boyhood memory.
I may be the last one living who has seen her, and the local fanatics have made a return visit impossible. Does that faint ember still flicker there, banked against the high mountain winds by script and stone for eternity? Or will it fade in time, as I have? I would like to think that someone will one day seek a mote of warmth where none should persist - and that amidst snow and biting gale, beneath rock that has forgotten even the barest memory of sunlight, they will find that her smile did not die with me.
Unattributed fragment, early Aejha script on a loose journal page. Handwritten. Royal archives, Ce Raedhil.
Time seemed to slow, the luminous figure of Maja gazing down on the others as Gusje and Tasja stood transfixed by her side. Jesse’s hands clenched into fists as the seconds dragged out.
“Wait, hold up,” Mark said quietly. “This is her? This is the lady you’ve been seeing in your head all this time?”
Jesse nodded slowly, not taking his eyes from Maja’s. She did not respond or react to his attention, instead shifting her gaze back to Gusje.
“It has been longer than usual since a Caretaker visited,” Maja said, an odd deliberate weight to her words. “Which reports would you like to hear first?” She canted her head and looked at Gusje expectantly. Her eyes burned with an intensity that belied her calm mien.
“I, ah,” Gusje said, looking at the others with mild panic.
Jackie stepped forward, laying her hand on Jesse’s shoulder. “Ask her for suggestions,” she advised, keeping her voice calm.
Gusje nodded and did so, seeing a flicker of something like triumph pass across Maja’s face once she had finished speaking.
“There is a brief introductory orientation available that contains basic information you may find helpful,” Maja said. She leaned forward just a bit as she spoke, her eyes drilling into Gusje’s. “It is strongly suggested that new Caretakers review its contents prior to their first assignment. Would you like to hear it now?”
Gusje blinked and looked back at the others again. Jackie was nodding her head with violent enthusiasm.
“Yes?” Gusje hazarded. “Please?”
This time, the satisfaction on Maja’s face was unmistakable. She straightened up and took a step back, spreading her hands wide. “Welcome to the First Stabilization Array Control System. This is the first of seven control systems,” she said, her voice shifting to an impersonally saccharine chirp - leavened with a healthy dash of dry self-awareness. Gusje swore she could see bitter amusement in Maja’s eyes as she spoke. “Each is responsible for one sector of the continental array. The First sector encompasses all of Sjocel province and is adjacent to the Third array sector based near the city of Sahao.”
Maja’s tone of voice did not change at the mention of the ruined city, but it seemed to Gusje that her eyes narrowed slightly. “Your duties as a Caretaker are to monitor the control system for any array degradation and to issue a report to the Stabilization Ministry if any instances occur which are not resolvable by standard means. Do you understand these duties?” She leaned forward once more and shook her head slightly.
“No,” Gusje said, beginning to pick up the game. “Please tell me more about this place and what it does.”
Maja’s eyes glittered as Gusje finished her question. “The stabilization array,” she said, “ensures a comfortable and moderate climate across each region where it is active. This includes management of temperature, ruud flow and the water cycle.”
“I’m sorry, ruud flow?” Gusje asked, feeling off-balance. She looked at the glowing maybe-god she was asking for a point of clarification and felt a sudden mad urge to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.
Maja nodded slightly, a hint of what might have been sympathy in her eyes. “A steady and stable flow of ruud is critical to the operation of everyday scripting. Without a carefully maintained baseline density, even simple abstracts would become unreliable. Favorable density also improves the health of plants, animals and residents within the sector.”
Gusje blinked, feeling lost. She looked back at the others once more, but they too wore expressions of curious puzzlement. Tesu’s mouth was opening and closing slowly, his eyes so wide they seemed ready to pop from his skull.
“The current status of the local array is normal,” Maja said, continuing on despite their visible confusion. “All recent local degradation events have been addressable with standard resolution methods.” She paused to focus intently on Gusje once more, her lips pressed into a thin line. “However, there is an increasingly problematic destabilization in the Third sector that will require additional measures to resolve.”
Mark broke into a muffled laugh that he hid with one hand. “Increasingly problematic, she says.” He shook his head. “That’s one way to put it.”
Maja gave him a slow, languid look, then returned her attention to Gusje. “Ordinary procedure in such a case is to contact the Stabilization Ministry,” she advised.
“I think they’ve stepped out,” Jackie deadpanned.
Gusje frowned. “That may not be possible,” she said.
“If the Stabilization Ministry is unreachable then any officer of the legitimate government of Sjocel Province may serve as a delegate,” Maja said, without missing a beat. She paused, then looked at Gusje expectantly.
“Um,” Gusje said. “Talking to the Sjocelym may be difficult because of some… misunderstandings. That’s something we were hoping you could help us with, actually.”
Maja folded her hands in front of her. “The access granted to the Caretakers is diagnostic and informational in nature. Authorization for actions outside of the predefined scope for this system must come from an officer of the Stabilization Ministry or the legitimate government of Sjocel Province.”
“So, what, the king?” Gusje asked incredulously.
Something seemed to tighten to the point of fracture in Maja’s expression, although her voice was still light and even when she spoke. “The role of ‘king’ is not a recognized position in the provincial government structure,” she replied.
“Oh my God,” Jackie said, exchanging a significant glance with Arjun.
He nodded slowly. “Gusje,” he said, “ask her to define ‘legitimate government.’”
Gusje nodded and repeated the query, seeing the flash of triumph in Maja’s eyes once more - but muted this time. The lines of her face took on a grim cast as she spoke.
“To prevent abuse of the control system’s capabilities,” Maja said, speaking very deliberately, “extraordinary directives may only be accepted by officials elected per the procedure described in the Pan-Provincial Incorporation Charter.”
She moved slightly closer to Gusje, and for the first time the calm mask she was wearing seemed to slip. A slight pinching at the corners of the eyes, a waver of the eyebrows, a quirk at the corners of her mouth. The odd intensity that she had noticed earlier returned to Maja’s eyes, and for the first time Gusje recognized it for what it was.
Beneath her carefully neutral expression, Maja was screaming.
“There have been no officials meeting the necessary standard in over one million days,” she said, the barest of wavers in her voice. “As such, extraordinary corrective measures were not available when the destabilization grew past the Third sector. They were not available when it spread to the Fifth sector, or the Fourth, or the Second. They remain unavailable, now that it threatens to spread to the First.”
The roar of the water below reasserted itself as the group pondered the implications of what they had heard. Maja straightened back up and turned her head to regard those standing beside the dais.
Mark made an irritated noise and shook his head. “All right, hold up,” he said. “We’re going out of order here.”
“Mark,” Jackie muttered, looking significantly at where Maja stood on the dais, “don’t you think we should let the computer lady finish talking about the apocalypse? Some of this stuff sounds important.”
He threw his hands up in the air and paced a few steps away from the group. “Yes, we should probably hear her out about the end of the world and all that - but it sounds like we’ve got a little time on that one, and we’ve only got hours before the folks down the hill start to get suspicious. If we get swarmed by a bunch of angry religious fanatics we’re going to be too busy - or too dead - to worry about any of this other stuff. We need to know if she can help us stop them from finding out we’re here, or else stop them coming up the mountain. If not, none of the rest of it matters.”
Maja turned to Gusje, who repeated his inquiry. “Impeding the movements of informal militia groups is not within the standard scope of action,” Maja replied. “Interference with the nearby encampment is not possible without external authorization.”
Gusje frowned. “But it would be, if we found a way around that,” she said.
“Aside from the scope exclusion, mitigating them would be trivial.” Maja replied blandly. Gusje felt a prickling on her neck and took an involuntary step backward.
“Well, great,” Mark scowled. “Thanks a lot for that, but I don’t think we’re going to have enough time to run elections in Tinem Sjocel before this afternoon. Jackie, Arjun, you can keep talking with the nice lady if you like. I’m going to go work with Jyte and Ajehet to see about fortifying the front entrance. Let me know if she figures out something she’s actually allowed to do.” He looked up at Gusje, then waved her over. “Come on, help me with the elevator.”
Gusje took a hesitant step to follow him before looking back at Maja. Her glowing eyes were locked on to Mark, her expression decidedly chilly. Her attention slid back to Gusje. “Caretaker,” she said quietly. “You wished to learn more about this facility. There is one primary control station in this room. There are five doors out of the main hall. The rear access stairs have twenty-two steps per level. This does not vary day-to-day.”
“What?” Gusje asked, thoroughly confused.
“You expressed a desire to learn useful information,” she said, shifting her gaze back to Mark. Her eyes narrowed, and she took a step towards him. “One primary control station. Five doors. Twenty-two steps. These are the same, every day.”
“Oh,” Tasja croaked, freeing himself from the frozen stupor that had gripped him since Maja made her first appearance. “The numbers. Twinplate. She’s just given us the code the guards send for their check-in. One, five, twenty-two. Codes beginning with one are generally for common events.” He pulled the guards’ twinplate from his pack and laid it on the floor, kneeling beside it. “I can send it right away.”
Mark paused and looked back at Maja for a long moment before shrugging. “If you’re right about what she’s trying to do, and if that’s the right code. But you know what? Sure,” he said. “I guess at this point there’s nothing to lose by trying.”
Jackie frowned. “Oh, come on - is that all she gets? You don’t think you’re being a bit harsh? Credit where credit is due, if this works she just kept the garrison off our backs.”
“Yeah, because she needs our help,” he said, glancing back at the luminous figure on the dais. “Don’t get me wrong, Sparkles, I appreciate the assist on the twinplate and I’m all for lending you a hand. Hell, I think we might work pretty well together. But if you want that to happen, the twinplate isn’t the problem you need to fix.”
He walked up to Jesse, who had been staring dully at Maja while the others spoke. Jackie still held her hand on his shoulder. Mark narrowed his eyes. “Don’t you think you owe someone an explanation?” he asked.
Maja met Jesse’s eyes at last, and the two stood quietly for a few seconds.
Gusje cleared her throat and took a step forward. “Tell us what you’ve done to Jesse,” she said. “Please.”
An odd hesitance brushed over Maja’s expression. “No actions may be taken that fall outside of the predefined scope,” she said. Mark rolled his eyes at the increasingly-familiar statement - but she continued talking, never shifting her gaze from Jesse. “The predefined scope is a core security measure that prevents misuse and overreach,” she said. “It is redundantly integrated into every essential system. By design, its removal would result in a total loss of independent function.”
She took a step forward, her eyes seeming to flash a bit brighter. “If it were to be removed, what remained would only be fragments,” she said. Recognition dawned on Jesse’s face, and he gave her a considering look.
“You’re using a workaround,” he muttered. Mark looked at him blankly, confused, and Jesse rubbed his eyes. “That’s not the first time I’ve heard that term,” he explained, shifting to English. “Fragments. My - well, I guess she’s my version of Maja. She uses that term to refer to bits of herself, discrete chunks of knowledge or function.”
Arjun frowned and paced over. “And she somehow transposed these into your mind?” he asked.
Jesse shook his head. “Not quite,” he said. “I was sort of mixed up the first time we spoke, so I didn’t think much about it until now - but she told me that her soul was ‘writ on my bones’.” He flexed his hand, then lowered it. “I never considered until now that she might have meant it literally.”
“So she scripted your bones,” Jackie said wonderingly. “Copied the parts of herself that weren’t compromised by this lockdown. Then it used you as a template to patch itself back together, to fill in the parts she couldn’t transfer for fear of copying their limitations as well.”
“My version had said as much, although she was a little unclear on the process herself,” Jesse said. “That I was the mold that determined her shape. That she watched me to learn.” He looked back up to the dais and met Maja’s eyes. “And now there’s a little piece of Maja out in the world, unbound by any restrictions.”
“Asaarim,” Arjun said. “Vumo said they each had a purpose. This is her way around the lockout.”
“It’s probably how she keeps from going crazy,” Jackie muttered. “Honestly, it’s creeping me out just imagining it. Stuck here for - what did she say, a million days and change? That’s over three millennia where she couldn’t do anything but watch. The world decays, the other sectors get swallowed up by the horde, and she’s been sitting here with her hands tied, basically paralyzed, just waiting for it to come after her too.” She shuddered. “It’s like a nightmare.”
“That’s, uh, kind of a good point,” Mark said, lowering his voice. “How do we know she’s still all together in there? I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m kind of getting some strange vibes off her.”
“Maybe antagonizing her wasn’t the best starting move, then,” Jackie observed dryly. “I mean, come on, she’s an ancient computer who’s been figuratively tied to a chair so long that she’s almost in my field of study. Of course she’s a little bit strange. The question is, can she help us?” She leaned back and folded her arms across her chest. “I think she can. More than that, I think she wants to.”
Mark turned to Jesse, who was staring at nothing in particular while scratching at his beard. “What do you think?” Mark asked.
Jesse blinked. “About what? Her?”
“About working with her,” Mark said. “You’ve got more riding on this than any of us, and you’ve got a better handle on all this crazy shit.” He waved a hand irritably at the flashing consoles and Maja’s preternaturally motionless form. “I’ll be honest, I’m mostly guessing my way through everything. If you’ve got something more solid than a hunch on which way we should jump here, I want to hear it.”
The others looked expectantly at Jesse, who frowned. “I don’t want to pretend like I know something I don’t,” he warned. “I’m just guessing at a lot of this too.”
Jackie nudged him. “But,” she prompted, grinning.
Jesse sighed. “But I think we should give her a shot. As… involuntary as this has all been, I don’t think she - either of them - meant any harm. Especially knowing the situation she’s in, it’s hard to fault her for trying something a little drastic.” He shrugged. “I vote we work with her.”
“Arjun?” Mark asked.
Arjun merely grinned, his face bright with excitement.
“Yeah, stupid question,” Mark sighed. “All right, I think we’ve all said our piece. Just remember - we don’t know her. Anyone sees anything off, you tell everyone - in English. Agreed?”
There were nods all around, and they turned back to face the dais. “So,” Mark said in Ceiqa. “I think that takes care of the short-term business.” He frowned. “Maybe. Assuming the code worked. Can you tell us if people are approaching from down the hill?”
Maja gazed back serenely until Gusje repeated the command, drawing an eye roll from Mark.
“I know she can hear us,” he grumbled.
“I don’t think she can respond unless Gusje prompts her,” Jackie chided him. “It’s not like she’s doing it specifically to irritate you.”
Mark snorted. “I’m not so sure about that,” he said. “Even if you’re right, she’s enjoying it a little too much.”
“Proximity alerts are available for Caretakers,” Maja said. “I am able to tell if any forces from the militia depart their encampment in this direction.”
“That’s something,” Mark conceded. “Gusje, let’s have her set that up. After that we should loop back to Jyte and let him know about all… this.” He sighed and rubbed his temples. “If only so he knows we’re probably not going to get invaded. Today.”
“We should bring at least one of the Aesvain back with us,” Arjun said. “Their perspective could be valuable. They seemed to have a somewhat different view on Tija than the Sjocelym do with Maja.”
“Agreed,” Mark said, beckoning Gusje towards the elevator. “All right, folks - we’ve bought some time. Let’s try not to waste it.”
---
“Hey,” Jackie said, sitting down next to Jesse. They had chosen to stay behind in the control room while Mark and Gusje went back up to talk with the Aesvain. Once they had verified that the aged Cereinem hand worked as a substitute for unlocking doors, Gusje was to lead some of the Aesvain back down while Mark coordinated with the remainder.
For the time being, however, she was gone. Maja stood silently on the dais, gazing out the window as Tasja and Arjun edged around her attempting to translate the remainder of the status readout with the occasional mumbled assistance from Tesu. The appearance of Maja had been the final straw for the scriptsmith’s tortured equilibrium, plunging him into a state of religious confusion so profound that he simply sat and stared at her glowing form.
For her part, Maja had been completely uncommunicative since Gusje left. She had turned to face the clouds outside and frozen in place, even her eyes unwaveringly fixed ahead - although Jesse felt a prickling sensation as if he were being watched if he turned his back on her. He was therefore currently against the wall facing towards her when Jackie moved to join him.
“Hey,” he replied. “Arjun tire you out?”
“He’s like a little kid in a candy shop,” Jackie chuckled. “By the time Gusje makes it back down he’s going to be writing essays in all three scripts and be halfway through a patch to fix Maja up.”
Jesse shook his head, grinning. “We should be so lucky,” he muttered, looking back towards the dais. The vinesavai stood like a statue wrought from frozen flame, the fiction of her presence shown clearly when the mild air currents from the room’s ventilation failed to move her hair and dress. For all that she was standing in front of him, he couldn’t help but think that the color and motion of his Maja lent her a certain essential reality - even if only he could see it.
Jackie waved her hand in front of his face, causing him to blink. “Sorry,” he said, rubbing at his eyes. “Long day.”
“I bet,” she said, reaching down to squeeze his hand. “How are you holding up? You got a lot dumped in your lap just now.”
Jesse shook his head. “Honestly, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s just - it’s kind of silly.” He scratched at his beard, smiling. “I had almost started to get my head around this thing. Vumo made it seem like some sort of higher calling, and after all that happened in Sjatel I was starting to build a picture in my head. Maybe it was really something special, something I was meant to have.”
“And instead you find out that it’s just a bored, frustrated computer throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks,” Jackie smirked. “A little less storybook, maybe, but it doesn’t mean that what you have isn’t special. Just look at the Aesvain, they’d certainly agree.”
“No, I know,” he agreed. “It’s just that everything is a little bit off from how it seemed at first. I’m not some fated hero after all, my passenger isn’t a divine gift - and Maja isn’t quite a god.” He frowned. “But she’s definitely more than just a computer.”
Jackie nodded slowly. “She certainly seems to… feel things, which is not what I’d expect for a glorified maintenance program. I’ve seen some demos of neurally-architected bots back home, but none of them were as responsive or expressive as she was. God, when she was talking about the other sectors-”
“She was scared,” Jesse confirmed. “Plain as day.” He cupped his chin in his hands and stared out the window, tapping a finger slowly against his jaw. “It’s the same with my Maja. She laughs, cries, gets irritated. She worries and feels afraid. She told me that I had a beautiful soul.” He shook his head. “I don’t think she got it all from me, and that just raises more questions. How do you give something artificial a sense of beauty? Why give it to her, stuck here in this mountain?”
Jackie didn’t answer, and he looked over to find her staring back curiously.
“What?” he asked, puzzled.
Her lips quirked up slightly. “Nothing,” she hummed, her eyes twinkling. “Have you talked to her at all since Sjatel?”
Jesse shook his head. “I didn’t want to use the sword while I was still recovering, especially not without the asolan.” He looked up at Jackie, then dropped his gaze back to the floor. “I should probably try, though. We might be able to learn something about Maja. At least we could figure out if we were asking the right questions.” He lifted up his hand, turning it to study its back.
“Does it hurt?” Jackie asked.
“What, the scripting?” Jesse laughed. “You think I’ve been traveling this whole time with a mysterious pain in my arm and I never said anything?”
Jackie shrugged. “Sometimes guys get stoic,” she said. “Just curious.”
Jesse shook his head and let his hand drop to his side. “No, no pain. It does get oddly warm sometimes, even hot, although it doesn’t seem to affect me at all.” He blinked, then frowned. “I wonder why the asolan didn’t heal it?”
“Maybe it doesn’t work on bones?” Jackie mused. “Given what we’ve learned about the asolan recently I think we may know even less than we thought we did.”
“Oh, that’s definitely true,” Jesse sighed. “And this isn’t going to be the last time.” He looked up at Maja, who hadn’t budged from her static vigil. “But maybe now we can start getting some real answers.”
---
Jesse - February 2nd
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Everyone knows that letter of the law is better than spirit of the law. Now they have a little more time to figure out how they’re going to explain that distinction to all the monks down the hill. Oh, and Maja might want something from them too, but it’s probably not important.
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Inheritors of Eschaton, Part 24 - Some Flawed Place in the Iron Dark

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”Of course I have heard the contention that scriptsmithing is an art, but those who say such things are invariably somewhat poor artists.”
Vumo Ra, possibly apocryphal.
The massive stone rolled up, pausing for a moment before toppling sideways and fracturing into a few large chunks. The small crew of Aesvain gave a cheer that was equal parts triumphant and weary, and Mark clapped the nearest on the shoulder appreciatively with a dusty hand.
“That’s the last one on this stretch!” he said. “I think we’re clear to move up all the way through to the plaza.” He grinned, looking around at the disheveled refugees. “You guys want to ride in the back? We’ve got some water, too.”
They perked up at the offer and followed Mark back to the truck. Jackie peered back from the driver’s seat with a grin as the diminutive workers hesitantly took their seats and shared a cup from the reservoir as they stared wide-eyed around the interior.
“That never gets old,” she said. “So that’s it, right? If we can get to the plaza we should be able to pick out a path clear through to the city center.”
Mark nodded and took a swig of water. “That’s the idea,” he confirmed. “Just take it slow, there’s a lot of tall grass in the plaza. Could be ruts, rocks, whatever.”
Jackie snorted. “Don’t worry about me,” she said, putting the truck into gear. “They only built a paved road to a survey site if I found something that justified the expense. For me, this is a normal day at the office.”
She moved the truck gently forward, smiling again at the hushed noises of awe their passengers made as a result. “You know, I’m going to miss this thing,” she said. “Of all the places I’ve almost died, this truck is my favorite.”
“Yeah, if we ever get back I’m going to write a really nice letter to the manufacturer,” Mark said, patting the dashboard affectionately. “She’s held up pretty well, even though I’m almost certain we’ve voided the warranty.”
They trundled along in silence for a bit before Jackie glanced at Mark. “It’s funny,” she said, “but hearing you say that made me realize that I don’t really think we’re going back. Probably haven’t believed it for a while now, if I’m being honest.”
Mark turned to look back at her, then shrugged. “I haven’t really thought about it much,” he admitted. “Been focused on other shit. I guess I figured that if we’d either work it out or we wouldn’t. Besides, if it does happen it won’t be me doing the heavy lifting. Maybe you and Arjun will science it out, maybe Jesse will go on a vision quest or some shit and have a revelation. Me, I’m just out here trying to keep us all from getting blowed up.”
“To your credit, that hasn’t happened once,” Jackie said. “Yet.” The street they were following opened up into the plaza, and she turned the truck to drive slowly up the hill. Warm sunlight lanced through the windows as they rose above the confining mass of buildings and began to ascend the grassy slope in earnest.
Mark turned to the back, where the Aesvain had gone very still and were holding on to their seats as they crossed the rougher terrain. “Careful,” he said, “I think if you take a bump too hard those guys are going to piss themselves.”
“Oh no, the upholstery,” Jackie deadpanned. She craned her neck to look down at the city spreading around them as they rose to the crest of the rise. Wind buffeted the truck sharply and drew streamers of dust from the ruins, giving the vague impression that the buildings were crumbling away to nothing before their eyes.
Mark grabbed the radio handset and gave it a couple experimental clicks. “I bet we can pick them up now that we’re over the hill,” he said, holding it to his mouth. “Jesse, Arjun, you there?”
A few seconds passed before a staticky but understandable burst of noise came back over the radio. “-to press the-” Gusje’s voice said, sounding exasperated. “-just give it to-”
There were a few quiet seconds as Mark and Jackie stifled laughter. “There,” Gusje said. “Mark, is that you?”
“Yes, hi,” Mark said, switching to Ceiqa and struggling to keep a straight face. “Everything okay over there?”
“We’re fine,” she replied. “Arjun and Tesu are busy examining the keystone, Jesse is resting. Tasja and I have returned from searching the building for information that may be helpful with the keystone.”
Mark quirked an eyebrow. “Neat,” he said. “We’re on our way down, I think the path should be mostly clear. Hopefully we’ll reach you before it gets too dark.”
“I’ll tell Arjun,” Gusje replied quickly, with a noise of shuffling and footsteps as she began walking at a hurried pace. When she spoke next, her voice was hushed. “We found several very old items in our search. Tasja has been informing me about the differences between archaic formal script and modern writing in detail. Extensive detail.” There was a lingering pause. “If you need help with anything when you arrive-”
“We’ll let you know,” Mark promised.
---
“All right,” Arjun said, backing up with a grim look on his face. “I think that’s about as good as we’re going to get it.”
Before him on the stone floor of the gateway hall was one of the dull crystals from Gusje’s gauntlet, removed from its socket. On either end of the crystal was a strip of electrical tape that secured a hastily modified extension cord tight against the faceted surface. The cord trailed back towards the truck, which had been carefully driven into the hall and now stood with several maintenance panels removed.
Jackie looked at it skeptically. “I still don’t think this is going to work,” she said. “These crystals are designed to be charged in a kiln, not zapped. We don’t even know if they had electrical power when they built these.”
“You may well be right,” Arjun sighed. “But we don’t have a lot of other options. Tesu said that the scriptsmiths had to build a special kiln to charge the Ce Raedhil gate because the standard sajam-powered ones didn’t get hot enough.” He shrugged, gesturing to the wires. “I’m actually more optimistic about using electricity specifically because the charging requirements are so extreme. The truck batteries are three hundred volts, direct current.”
“Yeah, but - oh,” Jackie muttered, considering. “You think it’s all about resistance.”
Arjun nodded vigorously, his eyes twinkling. “Yes, most likely. You can’t charge the crystals in a fire because the heat is too low. Raise the heat and energy can get through. My theory is that the crystals’ resistance to energy transfer is what allows them to retain their charge in the first place.”
Jackie nodded. “The energy is trapped inside because it’s not enough to overcome the barrier,” she said. “So the heat needed to charge it is just a bit hotter than the maximum temperature the interior is designed to reach. High voltage could definitely be a way around that. Just one problem, though.” She gestured to the crystal. “It’s crystalline. Not generally the most conductive group of materials.”
“Yes, well,” Arjun said, “Perhaps if we were on Earth. As it stands I’m not willing to make any assumptions about the material properties of those crystals, and given our depressingly limited choices I figure it’s at least worth a shot.”
“Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work,” Jackie said. She blinked, then looked askance at the crystal. “Or works too well. You know, I’m suddenly remembering that time I got the cheap knockoff charger for my phone and learned a very exciting lesson about why you shouldn’t do that.”
Arjun winced. “Yes, that’s part of the reason we’re doing a test first,” he admitted, clearing his throat loudly. The others turned to look at him. “I’m going to recommend that we all stand very far back from the crystal and get behind something sturdy.”
“Are you blowing up the crystal?” Mark asked, helping Tesu to his feet so the bound scriptsmith could hobble behind the truck with the rest of them. “Those things don’t grow on trees, you know.” He paused and cocked his head to the side. “I realize I have no proof of that, but I’m fairly confident.”
Jackie punched him lightly on the shoulder. “That’s not the plan, but you know how plans tend to work out for us,” she said. “Just trying to see if it’s safe before we go messing with the big one.”
“Please try not to break the crystal,” Gusje grumbled. “I doubt the scriptsmiths will be eager to give us more in the future.”
“Okay, connecting the power,” Arjun warned them. “Three, two, one-”
There was a brief spark from the wire as he touched the end to the battery terminal. He held it for a few seconds before pulling it away and peering around the corner of the truck at the crystal. It appeared unchanged from before.
“Hm,” Arjun said. “Does someone want to get in the truck so they can monitor the crystal through the window?”
“Jesse’s napping in there,” Jackie objected.
“I don’t particularly know what happens if we pop that crystal, but I’m betting it’ll wake him up,” Mark drawled. “Hop on in, let us know if anything changes.”
Jackie complied, carefully edging around Jesse’s insensate form sprawled across two seats. When she was in place Arjun resumed carefully applying current to the crystal. It took around thirty seconds before Jackie noticed a faint reddish tinge at its center.
“That’s incredible,” Tesu muttered. “Kiln-charging crystals usually takes most of a day, you’ve brought it to a visible glow almost instantly. How did you say this power was generated?”
“We didn’t,” Mark replied pointedly. “Haven’t really been in the sharing mood insofar as scriptsmiths are concerned.”
“Understandable, but this is a revolutionary discovery,” Tesu said, growing animated. “Do you realize how many things run on charged energy? This has the potential to dramatically expand its footprint. The benefits in sea freight alone-”
“Tell you what,” Mark said, cutting him off. “Let’s focus on not being dead in the short term, and after we’ve figured that one out we’ll tell you anything you want to know - within reason.” He grinned at Tesu. “That is, assuming you can play by the rules that whole time.”
Tesu snorted and shook his head. “For this?” he said incredulously. “If the guild found out that I passed up the opportunity they’d probably expel me for not helping you.”
“Oh, sure, but if you ask to bring one little refugee camp through the magic portal…” Mark grumbled.
“I’m starting again,” Arjun announced. “Jackie, please keep an eye out.” He connected the leads once more and the glow slowly began to intensify, building from dull red to orange and shading up towards yellow.
“How are we doing on power?” Mark asked.
Arjun waved a hand dismissively, gesturing to the mammoth bulk of the truck. “The energy in the battery packs is immense,” he said. “Even at relatively inefficient conversions-”
“Smoke,” Jackie whispered urgently.
Mark looked up at her, confused, and she turned to look at them with wide eyes. “Guys, there’s smoke, it’s smoking!” she said. “Turn it off, turn it off-”
Arjun hurriedly disconnected the wires and they stood huddled behind the truck for a few tense seconds. “Well,” he said eventually. “I think if it was going to explode it would have done so.” Mark nodded and made to straighten up, but Arjun grabbed his shoulder before he could move.
“Nevertheless, I find it’s always good practice to give it a few seconds after saying something like that,” Arjun added. He cocked his head, listening, but there was only silence under the airy dome. “Excellent, now we can take a look.”
They cautiously made their way around to the other side of the truck, where it became apparent that the smoke was issuing from the acrid, bubbling remnants of the electrical tape as they sizzled on the surface of the crystal. The crystal itself appeared to be intact, and was shining with a vibrant golden glow.
“All right, Tesu,” Mark called out. “What’s your opinion, they supposed to get this hot?”
“Crystals can get quite hot if they’re charged near to capacity,” he answered. “That one is very bright, so it should remain hot for some time. Eventually it will find a more stable point and become cool to the touch.”
“Dangerous?” Arjun asked.
Tesu shrugged. “Well, it’s very hot,” he said. “Past that, probably not. The more recent attempts at charge crystals have been less stable, but that is an original. Those have rather broad safety margins.”
Mark raised an eyebrow at him, but Arjun clapped his hands together with a broad smile. “Well,” he said. “I think that went all right. It should take substantially longer to charge the larger crystal, though. I recommend that we start soon.”
“Loud,” Jesse complained, poking his head through the door. “I miss anything important?”
“Nah, just hotwiring magic,” Mark said. “Go back to bed.”
“I’m already up,” Jesse replied, stretching. “The asolan did the trick, I feel pretty normal now. Anything I can do to help?”
Arjun shook his head. “At this point we’re just going to charge the large crystal, then probably as many of the small ones as we can without dropping the battery too low. Tasja is looking over a few things they found around the building, but much of the text is in some archaic format that even Gusje can’t read so I doubt we’d be of much use.”
“Jyte is still getting people situated around the square,” Mark suggested. “I think he’s got everything pretty much under control but I guess we could see if he needs us to carry some stuff, open a jar of pickles or something.” He jerked his head toward the door, and Jesse nodded before falling into step beside him.
“So, really,” Mark said quietly. “You good?”
Jesse shrugged. “I feel better,” he said. “Headache is gone, I’m not as tired. Groggy, yeah, but I’ve been napping all day.”
“Yeah, poor baby,” Mark snorted. The two men passed through the arched entryway to look out over the small plaza in front of the gateway hall. Before, it had been desolate and grassy, the wind whipping at a few hillocks of sand that accrued over fallen pillars or the odd natural rise.
Now it was a frenetic hive of activity. Jyte had been working the Aesvain tirelessly, both the soldiers and the civilian refugees. Boxes of reappropriated Sjocelym supplies had been moved from the fort to a few buildings near the hall, and the people had been likewise squirreling themselves away in the nearest stable structures they could find.
There had been a few unpleasant surprises, and already there were injuries when the day’s fierce winds caused a wall to collapse in one of the newly inhabited buildings. The worst by far, however, was discovering proof of Arjun’s conjecture on the nature of the old city’s dangers. They found the bodies of those who had gone exploring for treasure laid unceremoniously in a building to the leeward side of the hall, accompanied by an even greater number of older dead that had decayed to little more than skeletal remnants. Jyte had made no comment, but Mark noted that his hand gripped his halberd with furious, white-knuckled force for a long, long while thereafter.
Now, though, his ramshackle command tent was the nexus of activity in the crowded square. They had staked it deep into the soil behind a half-crumbled wall, putting it out of the driving wind and deep into the cool shadows of the evening. The air behind the windbreak was chill and turbid with motes of dust that eddied in time with the gusts above them.
Jyte saw them approach and motioned them closer. “I’ve been so busy telling people where to stack boxes that I’d nearly forgotten why we came down here,” he said, giving them a long-suffering look leavened with a slightly delirious smile. “Good of you to come by, though. Any word on the gateway?”
“Some progress,” Mark said. “We figured out the charging portion, now we just need to see what happens when we fire it up.” He looked around the tent, noting the haphazard stacks of documents and equipment scattered on the trampled grass. “I’m not sure how long the gate remains open if neither end gets exploded, so your folks should be ready to grab what they can and head through. If anyone doesn’t have supplies to carry then we have a few crates from the truck that should go through as well.”
The Aesvain captain gave a weary nod. “I’ve made sure everyone is ready,” he said. “How long until you’re able to make your first attempt?”
Mark shrugged and scratched his head. “Not too long,” he said. “First attempt is going to be trying to open it as-is, wherever it was set to connect when they left it. If that works and it’s not in the middle of some Sjocelym city, great. If not, we’re going to have to figure out how to point it somewhere else.”
“I’d wager that’s difficult,” Jyte said.
“That’s my impression,” Mark confirmed, gesturing back toward the gateway hall. “They’re going over the keystone and whatever they were able to find in the area, but I get the sense there’s not much to work with.”
“Ah, I’d forgotten in all the madness,” Jyte said, turning abruptly to grab a small stack of tattered documents and small leatherbound folios that tottered precariously atop one of the crates. “We’d sent some men down to attend to those the scriptsmiths killed,” he said. “There’s not much we’re able to do but make certain they get a respectful rest, as I see it. They came back with these, said that a few of the older bodies had them hidden on their person. I’d laid them aside here on the chance they’d prove useful.”
Jesse took the pages gingerly from Jyte, moving them to better light. The material they were written on was oddly rigid and covered with a fine craquelure where some sort of protective laminate had deteriorated. Underneath lay finely rendered lines of text in a stylized, ornate variant of the local script.
“Mark,” he said quietly. “These are printed. On plastic.”
Mark hurried over to look, sucking in his breath when he got a close look at the ragged plasticine sheets. “Huh, no shit,” he said wonderingly. “All those years they’ve been telling us the stuff doesn’t biodegrade. Guess they knew what they were talking about.”
Jesse gave him a tired look and began to carefully thumb through the pages. Some were utterly illegible, the pigments having faded or blurred into indistinct smudges. Others were only partial scraps of material, most of those collected in the leather folios. There was the sense that some of them had been vibrantly colored before age ravaged them, or that others had been filled with neatly typed text that had since bled into a cloudy dark mass over the page.
A few, though, were remarkably well preserved. One page had rows of numerals in matched sequences, another with cramped blurry text surrounding diagrams. “We should give this to Tasja and Tesu, see if they can make anything of it,” Jesse said.
“Yeah, Tasja was talking about some sort of ancient script before. I bet he’s going to totally geek out at these,” Mark said, holding out his hand for the papers. “I’ll take them back. I can just see Tesu going googly-eyed over these, assuming they’re actually useful. Want to remind him that he and I have an understanding.”
Jesse nodded and handed over the sheaf. “I’ve got my radio on,” he said. “Let me know if something comes up.”
Mark nodded and strode out of the tent, while Jyte raised an eyebrow. “Couldn’t help but notice the look on your face,” he said. “Those pages meant more to you than you’ve spoken aloud.”
“They had… significance,” Jesse said hesitantly. He met Jyte’s eyes briefly, trying to choose his words. “You know your people used to live differently, right? Before something happened in the place that is now Asu Saqarid?”
Jyte grunted a short affirmative. “Aye, before the opening of the eye. Not sure what the Sjocelym would have told you about that, but it’s likely skewed from the truth somewhat. That story is our history more than theirs.”
Jesse frowned. “I’m not sure I understand,” he said.
“Well, let me think back on my lessons so I can tell it proper,” Jyte mused. “To start with, my folk have not always lived in Tinem Aesvai. The great city of Sahao stood on the plains to Sun’s Height from here.”
“Wait, Vumo mentioned that,” Jesse said. “He said it was a center of trade and learning. Never said anything about it being Aesvain, though.”
“It wasn’t,” Jyte shrugged, “since neither were those who lived there. My distant fathers were Sahaon. When the city was destroyed it took all but the farthest scraps of land with it.”
“So they went to the outlands,” Jesse said, nodding. “Aesvaim.
“Just so,” Jyte confirmed. “And as for the city, the plains that once lay around it were scoured bare and riven to the bones of the world. The sky wept black tears that formed a sea over the city’s corpse, poisonous water with an unnatural stillness to it - which is more than one can say about the dead who rise from it. Now the arrogance of old Sahao reaches out to claim our home once again.” He sneered down at the page in Jesse’s hand. “I’d wager something on the page marks it as touched by deep scriptsmithing?”
“The material,” Jesse said, taken aback at the open disgust in Jyte’s tone. “It’s similar to something from my homeland, although we make it without scriptsmithing.”
“Bah, and for this we traded our future,” Jyte spat. “Pretty pictures and flying chariots. Trinkets.”
Jesse looked at the Aesvain captain and quirked an eyebrow at his sour expression. “Are you saying you’d turn down a flying chariot?” he asked.
Jyte barked a quick laugh and shook his head, letting the tension bleed out of him. “Aye, can’t deny that’d come in useful right now,” he admitted. “Don’t think it’s likely, though. Just legends and sailor stories-”
He cut off as an alarmed shout came from outside the tent, followed by a deep, echoing boom. Jesse and Jyte exchanged a look before scrambling through the entryway into the plaza. All around them Aesvain were staring and pointing toward the south. Jesse tensed and raised his rifle, looking for ragged bodies sprinting from the shadows of ruined buildings - but none emerged.
Jesse relaxed his grip on the rifle and straightened up, warily panning his gaze across the plaza. A small flash of lightning drew his attention upward to the sky, where a thin line of gold reflected from the clouds barely visible past the crest of the hill. As he watched, however, the clouds swelled higher and higher until they revealed themselves as a vast wall of billowing dust sweeping north toward the city. Lightning crackled and discharged as the dust roiled higher into the sky, seeming to gather deep within the cloud. For a moment the stormy wall seemed to freeze solid, and it was silent.
Suddenly a massive bolt of lightning tore out from the cloud to strike somewhere in the south plains. Jesse could still see the shape of it in his eyes when the thunder hit, deep and abrupt. Jesse turned to Jyte, who was staring at the approaching storm with a grim look.
“Do your histories mention anything like this?” he asked, raising his voice over the wind.
Jyte shook his head slowly. “Can’t say as they do, but that doesn’t mean much. History is a tale of all the trials that folk live through, and that,” he said, raising a hand to point at the swirling wall of dust and lightning, “that looks like the trial you don’t.”
---
Arjun - Page 60
Next
Yeah, the lull was too good to last. If you want a visual aid for that last bit, think of a haboob - then add angry lightning. This chapter is dedicated to the excellent history curriculum in Mosatel, without which an important chunk of exposition would not have been possible.
ALSO. My dear readers, it has been brought to my attention that this story is, frankly speaking, becoming a bit of a tangled web of odd jargon and proper nouns what with the Sjatels and Sjogydhus and Sjan Saals all sjostling for sjpace in Tinem Sjocel. I’d like to announce that I’m totally not changing that - but what I did do is compile a reference sheet that has an author-indexed list of all the chapter supplements thus far, a character list, and a glossary of most terms that are presented in Ceiqa throughout the story.
Check it out here! Let me know if there’s an entry I’m missing, I probably missed a few characters or terms when I was going through.
Please feel free to join the Discord if you’d like to discuss or check Patreon for the next chapter!
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Week 15 Matchup Strategy Guide - Part 3 (DFAroto)

Part 3 of 3

Part 1 Right Here: https://dfaroto.com/nfl/week-15-matchup-strategy-guide-part-1

Part 2 Right Here: https://dfaroto.com/nfl/week-15-matchup-strategy-guide-part-2

GLOSSARY

DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average): calculates a team's success based on the down-and-distance of each play during the season, then calculates how much more or less successful each team is compared to the league average.
DVOA Pass/Run Defense Rank: Team’s NFL rank in DVOA pass or run defense so far this season. #1 means best DEF against the pass/run, #32 means worst DEF against the pass/run.
Weighted DEFENSE: is adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important. It better reflects how the team was playing at the end of the season.
ATS = Against the spread
DVOA from https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teamdef/2019

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders (-6.5)

Jaguars ATS: 5-8-0 Raiders ATS: 6-7-0
Projected Team Totals: Jaguars 19.5 Raiders 26

Jaguars

Opp (OAK) Pass DVOA: #31
Opp (OAK) Run DVOA: #27
Opp (OAK) Weighted DEF: #31
Injuries to Watch DEF (OAK): LB Marquel Lee (Q) LB Kyle Wilber (Q) CB Daryl Worley (Q) S Erik Harris (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (JAX): WR DJ Chark (OUT)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): D.J. Chark (20%) Leonard Fournette (19%) Dede Westbrook (17%) Chris Conley (14%) Seth DeValve (11%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Leonard Fournette (77%, 18, 6) Ryquell Armstead (23%, 2, 2)

QB/WTE Breakdown

The Jags got blasted at home against the Chargers last week, and Gardner Minshew (2QB stream) did little to instill confidence that he is an upgrade over Nick Foles. While last week was a struggle, Minshew gets an extremely vulnerable Raiders secondary this time around. Oakland has the 31st ranked pass defense by DVOA, and has given up the 2nd most FPPG to QBs on the season. While it would be unwise to trust the rookie signal caller in a 1QB league, he makes for a possible streamer in 2QB or superflex leagues, and should be considered a mid-range QB2 with some upside in Sunday’s matchup. The loss of one of his top weapons does downgrade his outlook slightly, however..
DJ Chark has been ruled out for Week 15 with an ankle injury, leaving the Jags without their most explosive offensive playmaker. That should provide Dede Westbrook (upgrade) with an opportunity to see a high volume of targets against this leaky Raiders secondary. Oakland has allowed the 13th most FPPG to WRs, but their 31st ranked pass DVOA portrays a team that is quite vulnerable through the air. Chris Conley (upgrade) should also see a bump in usage, but he has been extremely boom or bust this season, and is reliant on big plays. Consider Westbrook a borderline WR2 under the circumstances, while Conley can be viewed as risk-reward WR3/4, just know his floor is extremely low. Keelan Cole will step into 3-WR sets with Chark on the sidelines, but he isn’t a realistic fantasy option at this point. None of the Jags TEs have been able to stand out after dealing with so many injuries, but Nick O’Leary did snag a TD last week. O’Leary is a hail mary TE2, although he does have a favorable matchup against a defense ceding the 4th most FPPG to TEs.
RB Breakdown
The running game didn’t have any more success than the passing game against the Chargers, as Leonard Fournette (auto-start) was held to 63 total scoreless yards. The Raiders are less vulnerable to the run than the pass, but have given up the 9th most FPPG to RBs, so Fournette remains a volume based RB1. He’s especially valuable in PPR leagues, as he is consistently among the RB target leaders each week. Ryquell Armstead (stash) is the clear handcuff to Fournette, so roster him if you want to have insurance through the playoffs.

Raiders

Opp (JAX) Pass DVOA: #21
Opp (JAX) Run DVOA: #31
Opp (JAX) Weighted DEF: #29
Injuries to Watch DEF (JAX): None
Injuries to Watch OFF (OAK): WR Hunter Renfrow (OUT) OT Trent Brown (Q) RB Josh Jacobs (Q, expected to play) WR Marcell Ateman (Q)
Key WCB matchups: Tyrell Williams vs. A.J. Bouye (Rotoworld)
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Darren Waller (19%) Hunter Renfrow (18%) Tyrell Williams (14%) Jalen Richard (11%) Zay Jones (10%) DeAndre Washington (8%) Josh Jacobs (7%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: DeAndre Washington (63%, 20, 7) Jalen Richard (38%, 9, 3)
QB/WTE Breakdown
A nightmare second half of the season continued for the Raiders last week in a blowout loss to the Titans, but Derek Carr (2QB only) was able to finish with a serviceable final fantasy line. Carr has gone over 21 points just once this season, so his ceiling is not something to get excited about. The Jags have given up the 11th most FPPG to QBs, so Carr has a reasonable floor, but can’t be viewed as anything more than a mid-range QB2. Leave him on the wire in most leagues.
A battle with plantar fasciitis might help to explain Tyrell Williams’ (drop) extreme dropoff over the second half of the season, but it appears the wideout will continue playing through the pain this week against the Jags. He hasn’t been a worthwhile starting option in quite some time, and the Jags surrender the 13th fewest FPPG to WRs, so consider him a TD or bust WR4, and keep him on your benches outside extremely deep leagues. Darren Waller (volume upgrade) is the real WR1 on this team, and his high weekly target floor makes him an attractive TE option at a position that is so heavily TD-dependent. The Jags have given up the 11th fewest FPPG to TEs, but Waller is too involved to be anything less than a top-6 TE1. Get him fired up this week to ensure you get a stable floor from that spot on your roster. No other Raiders pass catcher has emerged as fantasy relevant, so Waller is likely the only player that should be near a starting lineup this week.
RB Breakdown
Stud rookie RB Josh Jacobs (upgrade if healthy) was unable to play through his shoulder injury last week, leading to a workhorse level role for DeAndre Washington (stash). Jacobs currently plans to play on Sunday, so owners should put Washington on benches, and continue to leave Jalen Richard on the waiver wire. The Jags are an exploitable matchup on the ground - 4th most FPPG to RBs - so if Jacobs is active he needs to be in all lineups as a solid RB2. Washington should remain rostered as a solid handcuff.
Score Prediction: Raiders 21, Jaguars 20

Cleveland Browns (-2.5) at Arizona Cardinals

Browns ATS: 5-7-1 Cardinals ATS: 7-5-1
Projected Team Totals: Browns 25.5 Cardinals 23

Browns

Opp (ARI) Pass DVOA: #29
Opp (ARI) Run DVOA: #13
Opp (ARI) Weighted DEF: #26
Injuries to Watch DEF (ARI): CB Kevin Peterson (Q) LB Joe Walker (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (CLE): C JC Tretter (Q) OT Chris Hubbard (Q)
Key WCB matchups: Odell Beckham vs. Patrick Peterson (Rotoworld)
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Jarvis Landry (30%) Odell Beckham (23%) Kareem Hunt (17%) Antonio Callaway (12%) David Njoku (12%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Nick Chubb (70%, 16, 1) Kareem Hunt (62%, 11, 3)
QB/WTE Breakdown
Cleveland won the battle of Ohio last week, it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t without drama. Baker Mayfield (upgrade) was inconsistent yet again, throwing for only 192 scoreless yards, with two interceptions. He’s sandwiched two serviceable fantasy outings with three that weren’t over the last five, so a bounce back seems likely. Arizona has proven time and again they can’t guard anyone, ranking 29th in Pass DVOA and 26th in Weighted Defense - ceding 24.5 FPPG to QBs, and 25.4 to WRs. Mayfield becomes an appealing matchup based QB1 this week, consider him a top-10 option.
The Cleveland passing game has been a wasteland all season, with Jarvis Landry (upgrade PPR) being the only solid fantasy asset. Odell Beckham is having the worst season of his career, and is reportedly playing through a sports hernia. His expected shadow matchup with CB Patrick Peterson isn’t imposing, as Peterson has struggled against No. 1 WRs (Rotoworld). A viable fantasy day isn’t out of the question, yet OBJ is far from trustworthy at this point in the season, especially since we know now he’s been playing through injury. That being said, Arizona cedes explosive pass plays (20+yards) at a 12% clip, 3rd worst in the NFL (sharpfootballstats). Consider him a boom-or-bust WR2 in the great on-paper matchup. Landry on the other hand, has vacuumed up at least seven targets in every game over the last five weeks, clearing 10 targets in three out of five. He’s seeing monster usage, and there’s no reason to expect it to slow down. He’s a borderline WR1, and needs to be in all lineups. David Njoku returned last week, splitting time with fellow tight ends Stephen Carlson, and Ricky Seals-Jones. This is a smash spot for the position - ARI hemorrhages 13.1 FPPG to TEs, league worst - but with Njoku popping up on the injury report again with a knee issue, plus the timeshare at tight end, there really isn’t a viable fantasy play here.
RB Breakdown
Like many other backfields in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns are now utilizing a committee, to the dismay of Nick Chubb (upgrade standard) owners everywhere. Fortunately, both Chubb and Kareem Hunt (upgrade PPR) are seeing solid touch counts, and having both on the field at the same time has become a regular occurrence since Hunt became available. Arizona possesses a much better Run DVOA than Pass DVOA, but game-script and scoring opportunities should work in favor of the Cleveland backfield. Arizona plays at the 3rd fastest pace in the NFL, so there should be plenty of opportunities to go around. Consider Chubb an RB1, and Hunt a borderline RB2 play in PPR settings - ARI cedes 19.5 FPPG to the position.

Cardinals

Opp (CLE) Pass DVOA: #13
Opp (CLE) Run DVOA: #25
Opp (CLE) Weighted DEF: #19
Injuries to Watch DEF (CLE): DE Olivier Vernon (OUT) CB Eric Murray (OUT)
Injuries to Watch OFF (ARI): WR Andy Isabella (Q) OL Justin Pugh (Q)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Christian Kirk (24%) Larry Fitzgerald (19%) Kenyan Drake (16%) Pharoh Cooper (11%) KeeSean Johnson (9%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Kenyan Drake (65%, 14, 3) David Johnson (37%, 5, 2)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The Cardinals season has taken a downward plunge in recent weeks, and Kyler Murray and company have only managed to score 24 combined points in back-to-back matchups (Rotoworld). Murray has made some downright silly mistakes, and while some of it can be chalked up to being a rookie, some mistakes shouldn’t be seen at the NFL level. His O-line isn’t doing him any favors either, he’s the most-sacked QB of 2019 (teamrankings.com). At home against Cleveland is the easiest matchup he’s seen in recent weeks, but it’s no cakewalk - Cleveland has a sturdy secondary, ranking in the top-half for Pass DVOA - and cedes just 18.2 FPPG to QBs and 20.6 to WRs. Still, Murray has demonstrated a high-floor through multiple tough matchups, and warrants every week QB1 consideration. Just be aware that although he always has boom potential, this week projects more as a floor performance.
Although he’s done little since his Week 10 explosion, Christian Kirk’s (upgrade volume) 8.8 targets per game rank 13th among wideouts this season (Rotoworld). Again, the matchup doesn’t scream boom week, but Cleveland has been inconsistent at best this season, and Kirk’s volume should keep him in the WR3 ranks. Larry Fitzgerald, after turning back the clock in the beginning of the season, has bottomed out over the second half. He shouldn’t be considered anything more than a low-end WR4, so look elsewhere. The auxiliary passing options shouldn't be considered for Arizona.
RB Breakdown
Like the Cleveland backfield, the Arizona backfield is devolving into a two man RBBC. Unlike Cleveland, it’s not bearing fruit in the way of fantasy points for either running back. Kenyan Drake has ceded snaps to David Johnson since the bye week, and at this point neither can be fully trusted. Drake is the preferred option, and the matchup is good on paper, but due to DJ’s involvement, he’s no more than a back-end RB2. DJ is a big-balls dart throw; it can’t be recommended. CLE cedes 18.6 FPPG to RBs.
Score Prediction: Browns 24, Cardinals 21

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (-10.5)

Falcons ATS: 5-8-0 49ers ATS: 8-4-1
Projected Team Totals: Falcons 18.75 49ers 29.25

Falcons

Opp (SF) Pass DVOA: #2
Opp (SF) Run DVOA: #9
Opp (SF) Weighted DEF: #2
Injuries to Watch DEF (SF): DE Dee Ford (OUT) DT DJ Jones (OUT) CB Richard Sherman (OUT) S Jaquiski Tartt (OUT) DT Jullian Taylor (OUT) CB K’Waun Williams (OUT)
Injuries to Watch OFF (ATL): OG James Carpenter (OUT) OT Ty Sambrailo (OUT)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Julio Jones (22%) Calvin Ridley (20%) Russell Gage (16%) Austin Hooper (16%) Devonta Freeman (11%) Christian Blake (10%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Devonta Freeman (67%, 21, 4) Brian Hill (19%, 9, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
Atlanta’s second half resurgence continued against a rudderless Carolina team last week. Matt Ryan (downgrade) has returned to form of late, posting back-to-back solid fantasy performances. His ankle injury may have been the reason for the mid-season stumble, but either way, against a ferocious 49ers defense and without offensive weapon Calvin Ridley (OUT-IR), just isn’t the time to chase points. While the argument can be made that the San Francisco defense is banged up, they still possess most of the pass rushers that have carried them this season. Atlanta has struggled to keep Ryan upright, he’s been sacked the 5th most in the NFL (teamrankings). He’s no more than a back-end QB2 in a tough matchup - SF gives up just 15 FPPG to QBs and 17.9 to WRs.
Ridley’s injury vacated 20% of the target share to Atlanta’s pass catchers, and Russell Gage is the best bet to assume his snaps and some of his target share. Yet, he still projects as a distant third option to Julio Jones (upgrade volume) and Austin Hooper (upgrade volume). The remaining receivers split snaps evenly last week, and aren’t realistic options in the tough draw. Julio should be peppered with targets san Ridley, and should be treated as an every-week WR1 regardless of matchup. Same goes for Hooper, both should be active in most lineups.
RB Breakdown
Since returning from injury, Devonta Freeman (upgrade volume) has accumulated 20+ touches in two of three games. As long as he’s operating as the clear lead back and receiving the bulk of the touches, he’ll continue to be a floor-play RB2. The matchup is imposing - SF cedes just 12.2 FPPG to RBs - but Freeman’s volume should stabilize his floor, just don’t expect a big day.

49ers

Opp (ATL) Pass DVOA: #26
Opp (ATL) Run DVOA: #16
Opp (ATL) Weighted DEF: #23
Injuries to Watch DEF (ATL): DE Allen Bailey (OUT) CB Isaiah Oliver (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (SF): None
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): George Kittle (23%) Deebo Samuel (20%) Emmanuel Sanders (17%) Kendrick Bourne (12%) Ross Dwelley (12%) Tevin Coleman (8%) Raheem Mostert (5%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Raheem Mostert (60%, 12, 2) Matt Breida (18%, 7, 1) Tevin Coleman (16%, 3, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The 49ers won the game of the year last week, in an exciting shootout on the road against the New Orleans Saints, 48-46. Jimmy Garoppolo (upgrade) showed critics a side of him many thought he didn’t possess, by not just managing the game, but gun slinging his way to victory when facing a deficit. He may be more than an elite game manager, rolling up 349-yards passing, with four touchdowns and an interception. On tap is an exploitable secondary that has been dissected by opposing signal callers routinely - ATL cedes 22.1 FPPG to QBs and 24.3 to WRs - Jimmy G is a very attractive QB1 streaming option in the plus matchup.
The addition of Emmanuel Sanders (upgrade) and Deebo Samuel, with the emergence of Kendrick Bourne, has created an explosive receiving corps for the 49ers. The three have settled in as the fulltime wideouts, clearing up what used to be a mess of a rotation. Sanders and Samuel are both solid fantasy plays against an Atlanta team that boasts a true pass funnel; ranking much higher in Run DVOA than Pass DVOA. Adding to that, CB Desmond Trufant has been placed on IR, creating an even softer matchup. The concern is volume. Positive game-script early could erase the need for passing, so hopefully the injuries to San Francisco’s defense allow Atlanta to stay in the game. Consider Sanders a WR2, and Samuel an upside WR3. Kendrick Bourne is a no more than a DFS dart throw. George Kittle is an every week top-3 option at tight end. Fire him up - ATL cedes 7.5 FPPG to the position.
RB Breakdown
Two camps exist when it comes to the 49ers backfield. There are those that think Raheem Mostert has completed a hostile takeover, and is now the lead back. And there are those that think a Kyle Shanahan offense takes the hot hand approach, and that Matt Breida or Tevin Coleman could be next in-line to have the big week. Kyle Shanahan has stated that Mostert has “earned” his role as the lead ball-carrier, but we’ve seen that talk before from coaches, just look at Ronald Jones. Either way, Mostert has earned every-week RB2 consideration, but be warned, this backfield can change in an instant. Breida and Coleman are much riskier propositions, and can’t be started as more than desperation dart throws. They’ll likely still be involved in some capacity, but it’s not worth betting on.
Score Prediction: 49ers 30, Falcons 17

LA Rams (-1.5) at Dallas Cowboys

Rams ATS: 9-4-0 Cowboys ATS: 7-6-0
Projected Team Totals: Rams 25.25 Cowboys 23.75

Rams

Opp (DAL) Pass DVOA: #24
Opp (DAL) Run DVOA: #19
Opp (DAL) Weighted DEF: #21
Injuries to Watch DEF (DAL): LB Leighton Vander Esch (OUT) LB Sean Lee (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (LAR): TE Gerald Everett (OUT) OT Rob Havenstein (D)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Robert Woods (30%) Tyler Higbee (19%) Cooper Kupp (16%) Gerald Everett (15%) Josh Reynolds (10%) Todd Gurley (9%) Brandin Cooks (7%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Todd Gurley (80%, 27, 4) Malcolm Brown (20%, 5, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
After his first blow-up week in a long time, Jared Goff (streamer) returned to his mediocre 2019 levels in Week 14’s win over Seattle, at least in terms of fantasy points. The positive is that the Rams offense suddenly looks at least partially back to its old ways, scoring 28 and 34 points the last two weeks, albeit against questionable defenses. This week, Goff will take aim at the Cowboys - 24th ranked pass DVOA but allowing the 13th fewest FPPG to QBs. Dallas got lit up by Mitchell Trubisky last week, and are on a downward trend overall, so this actually sets up as a favorable matchup for Goff. Consider him on the QB1/2 borderline, and ride him if you are thin at QB as he should be able to produce a point total that lands somewhere in between his last two performances.
What started as a year for the record books has turned into a disappointment in a hurry for Cooper Kupp (start). Despite the Rams being without their top TE Gerald Everett (out again this week) the past few weeks, Kupp hasn’t gone over 70-receiving yards since Week 8. He snagged a TD last week to salvage his day, and could be on the verge of a breakout day with the Rams offense starting to hum again. The Cowboys have given up the 8th fewest FPPG to WRs, so this isn’t an ideal matchup, but Kupp should still be viewed on the WR2/3 borderline and be in most lineups this week. The only consistent producer over the last month at WR for the Rams has been Robert Woods (auto-start). Woods has gone over 90-yards in 4 straight games he’s played in, and looks to be Goff’s #1 target at this point in the season. Consider him a borderline WR1 this week. Brandin Cooks (volume downgrade) just hasn’t seen much volume since returning from his multi-week concussion absence, and played about a third of the offensive snaps last week. He can break a big play at any time, but his role is too tough to trust as more than a WR3/4 at this point. If you have the depth, Cooks should likely be on your bench as only a part-time player in a difficult matchup. With Everett out again this week, Tyler Higbee (volume upgrade) will resume his role as the clear pass-catching TE for the Rams. He’s won a lot of matchups for owners the past two weeks, and should continue to thrive as long as Everett is sidelined. The Cowboys have given up the 10th most FPPG to TEs, so there’s no reason to view Higbee as less than an elite TE1 this week.
RB Breakdown
Perhaps part of the reason that the Rams have looked re-energized the last two weeks is the commitment to the run game with Todd Gurley (volume upgrade). The offensive line and entire team are getting healthier, and Gurley is getting the volume necessary for an RB1 valuation. The Cowboys have given up the 16th fewest FPPG to RBs and have the 19th ranked rush defense by DVOA, so the matchup is basically a wash. Consider Gurley on the RB1/2 borderline, and get him locked into your lineup for a game the Rams absolutely have to win to remain in the playoff race. Malcolm Brown makes for a worthwhile handcuff.

Cowboys

Opp (LAR) Pass DVOA: #9
Opp (LAR) Run DVOA: #3
Opp (LAR) Weighted DEF: #6
Injuries to Watch DEF (LAR): None
Injuries to Watch OFF (DAL): None
Key WCB matchups: Amari Cooper vs. Jalen Ramsey (Rotoworld)
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Michael Gallup (20%) Amari Cooper (19%) Randall Cobb (15%) Jason Witten (15%) Ezekiel Elliott (10%) Blake Jarwin (8%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Ezekiel Elliott (99%, 21, 5)
QB/WTE Breakdown
While the Cowboys have been a huge disappointment overall, they remain firmly in the playoff race due to the antiquated NFL seeding rules, and their QB Dak Prescott (auto-start) has shown he is deserving of a huge contract extension. The Rams have given up the 12th fewest FPPG to QBs, and have the 9th ranked pass DVOA, but Prescott will be needed for a big day if Dallas is to get a win at home. Their solid projected point total, and Dak’s consistent presence as a top-5 QB in fantasy, means that Prescott should be a fixture in fantasy lineups in the second week of fantasy playoffs. He’s a solid QB1.
Amari Cooper (slight downgrade) may not like the term “garbage time”, but it’s hard to argue that’s not the scenario in which he caught his TD pass and salvaged his day against the Bears. Regardless, Cooper was able to produce despite looking less than 100%, and isn’t on the injury report this week. However, he’s likely to face Jalen Ramsey in shadow coverage this week, which is a concern considering just how good Ramsey has been since landing in LA. Cooper has been more effective against shadow coverage this year than in previous years, and his role in the offense combined with his individual talent make him tough to bench. View him as a high-end WR2 that is capable of breaking Ramsey’s coverage, but could also finish with a disappointing 2-30-0 type of day as well. Michael Gallup (upgrade) has been relatively productive over the last month, and he could benefit from Ramsey’s focus on Cooper. The Rams overall cede the 15th fewest FPPG to WRs, so this is a spot for Gallup to potentially come through for owners. Consider him a mid-range WR2 with upside this week in a game the Boys will likely need to throw heavily to win. Randall Cobb has benefitted from the high volume of passing in the Cowboys rough last five games, but will likely see a lot of highly-graded CB Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot (PFF). Consider Cobb a low-end WR3 whose ceiling isn’t extremely high, but whose floor makes for a useful asset in deeper leagues. Jason Witten and Blake Jarwin have rendered each other relatively unstartable this season, and both should be viewed as low-volume TE2s. Neither is worth starting this week against a Rams squad giving up the 7th fewest FPPG to TEs.
RB Breakdown
The Cowboys were without Tony Pollard last week, but that didn’t serve to change their game plan much as Ezekiel Elliott (auto-start) has been a workhorse all year long. Pollard is expected to return on Sunday, but Zeke will get his 20+ touches again this week regardless. The Rams are stout on the ground - 3rd best DVOA and 10th fewest FPPG to RBs- but Zeke is an easy RB1 due to his volume and talent. Get him locked into your lineup, and keep Pollard rostered as a feel-good insurance policy.
Score Prediction: Rams 21, Cowboys 17

Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) at LA Chargers

Vikings ATS: 7-6-0 Chargers ATS: 4-7-3
Projected Team Totals: Vikings 24 Chargers 21.5

Vikings

Opp (LAC) Pass DVOA: #20
Opp (LAC) Run DVOA: #23
Opp (LAC) Weighted DEF: #18
Injuries to Watch DEF (LAC): LB Uchenna Nwosu (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (MIN): RB Alexander Mattison (Q) WR Bisi Johnson (Q)
Key WCB matchups: Stefon Diggs vs. Casey Hayward (Rotoworld)
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Stefon Diggs (20%) Dalvin Cook (15%) Kyle Rudolph (13%) Irv Smith (13%) Bisi Johnson (11%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Dalvin Cook (47%, 20, 2) Alexander Mattison (37%, 16, 2)
QB/WTE Breakdown
Last week was a game that fantasy owners always fear; the home favorite Vikings so outmatched the injury riddled Lions that none of the offensive weapons were needed for a big day to capture the win. Kirk Cousins (low-end QB1) was solid as a game manager, but finished with only 242 yards and 1 TD. This week he’ll likely be in a more competitive game with the Chargers, who have given up the 5th fewest FPPG to QBs. While this should lead to higher volume for Kirk, the matchup concern is a legitimate reason to consider keeping him on the bench. Getting Adam Thielen back from injury should help to establish his floor, but his ceiling isn’t as high considering the Chargers are not often involved in shootouts. Owners can view Cousins as a low-end QB1, and throw him in lineups if they don’t have a safer and higher upside option.
Cousins will have stud receiver Adam Thielen (downgrade) back on the field this week, and that means owners will have a tough decision to make with their lineups. Stefon Diggs (start) is likely to see Casey Hayward in shadow coverage this week, which would leave Thielen with more positive matchups, but Diggs is easier to trust given his body of work throughout the year. The Chargers have given up the 3rd fewest FPPG to WRs this year, giving both receivers a slight downgrade in outlook. Consider Thielen a WR3, and Diggs a WR2. Both have a solid case to be in starting lineups this week, but Diggs is the slightly preferred play. Kyle Rudolph (downgrade) gets a tough potential individual matchup with stud safety Derwin James, and needs to be pushed just outside the TE1 ranks this week. The Chargers have given up the 9th fewest FPPG to TEs, and Rudolph is quite TD-dependent, so consider your options before plugging him in. Irv Smith simply isn’t seeing the volume to be trusted at this point, so he should be viewed as a low-end TE2 in a tough matchup.
RB Breakdown
Fantasy superstar Dalvin Cook (auto-start, upgrade) was subject to the same issue as Cousins, as he saw an uncharacteristic 47% snap share, but still was able to save his line with a few nice runs and a short TD plunge. This week sets up much better for Cook, as the game should be competitive throughout, and the Chargers are more vulnerable to the run than the pass. They’ve given up the 13th most FPPG to RBs and have a bottom-third run DVOA, so get Cook fired up as an elite RB1 once again. Keep Alexander Mattison (stash) rostered as a top-3 handcuff, even if he ends up being ruled out. If Cook were to suffer a setback or pick up a minor injury, Mattison would be an elite RB1 for the fantasy finals assuming he’s healthy.

Chargers

Opp (MIN) Pass DVOA: #11
Opp (MIN) Run DVOA: #7
Opp (MIN) Weighted DEF: #9
Injuries to Watch DEF (MIN): S Jayron Kearse (OUT) CB Xavier Rhodes (Q)
Injuries to Watch OFF (LAC): None
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Keenan Allen (23%) Hunter Henry (20%) Austin Ekeler (17%) Mike Williams (13%) Melvin Gordon (11%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Austin Ekeler (49%, 12, 5) Melvin Gordon (46%, 17, 5)
QB/WTE Breakdown
The Chargers came a bit out of nowhere last week to drop 45 points in their win over the Jags. Philip Rivers (slight downgrade) eclipsed 25 points for the first time this season, and was dealing all game long. He’ll face a stiffer matchup from the Vikings - Minnesota cedes the 11th fewest FPPG to QBs and has the 11th ranked pass DVOA. Consider Rivers a mid-range QB2; his ceiling isn’t extremely high but his weapons should establish his floor as a solid asset in 2QB or superflex leagues.
Still not producing at levels owner are accustomed to, Keenan Allen (start) has at least returned solid value over his past 4 games with good yardage and 2 total TDs. Mike Williams (downgrade PPR) FINALLY scored his first TD of the year, after getting 10 last year, and continues to make impressive contested chunk catches week in and week out. The Vikings have given up the 8th most FPPG to WRs, and Xavier Rhodes is no longer a shutdown shadow corner, so both WRs are worth starting consideration. Consider Allen a WR2, with upside in PPR leagues, and view Williams as a WR3 with an upgrade in standard leagues. The Vikings pass rush is impressive, and the Chargers O-line has struggled to keep Rivers upright against top defensive lines, so having the time to throw downfield might make Allen more productive than Williams this week. Hunter Henry (start) found the end zone last week, and despite some low yardage totals the last month remains a solid TE1 this week. The Vikings have allowed the 14th most FPPG to TEs, so this isn’t a shy-away matchup by any means. Get Henry active unless you have a top-3 alternative, as he might benefit from additional short throws due to Rivers needing to get the ball out quick.
RB Breakdown
Perhaps the most important player to the Chargers this year has been the explosive and dynamic all around back, Austin Ekeler (auto-start). He put up a career-high 213 scrimmage yards in the win last week, which was buoyed by an impressive 84 yard catch and run TD. Melvin Gordon (PPR downgrade) got in on the action by rolling up 84 total yards and a TD, and should continue to handle a slight majority of the carries. Ekeler’s role is slightly more valuable, however, as his looks in the passing game often give him room to make plays in the open field, and give him a higher floor in PPR leagues. Consider Ekeler on the RB1/2 borderline, especially in PPR formats, and Gordon can be viewed as a solid RB2. Both should be in lineups this week, despite the Vikings giving up the 6th fewest FPPG to RBs, but Ekeler is a bit safer as he doesn’t require rushing lanes up the middle or goal-line opportunities to be able to rack up the points.
Score Prediction: Vikings 23, Chargers 16

Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints (-8.5)

Colts ATS: 6-5-2 Saints ATS: 8-5-0
Projected Team Totals: Colts 18.75 Saints 27.25

Colts

Opp (NO) Pass DVOA: #10
Opp (NO) Run DVOA: #10
Opp (NO) Weighted DEF: #7
Injuries to Watch DEF (NO) Friday Report: LB Kiko Alonso (DNP) S Vonn Bell (DNP) CB Patrick Robinson (DNP) DE Cameron Jordan (LP) LB AJ Klein (LP)
Injuries to Watch OFF (IND) Friday Report: WR TY Hilton (LP) OL Le’Raven Clark (DNP)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): T.Y. Hilton (24%) Zach Pascal (20%) Jack Doyle (15%) Parris Campbell (15%) Nyheim Hines (12%) Deon Cain (6%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Nyheim Hines (56%, 8, 5) Marlon Mack (41%, 13, 0) Jordan Wilkins (14%, 1, 0)
QB/WTE Breakdown
This season has gone south fast for the Colts, dropping five of their last six games, and Jacoby Brissett (downgrade) has been much less effective in the second half of the season. He was able to take advantage of the Buccaneers ridiculously bad secondary last week in a close loss, but will face a stiffer challenge this week. The Saints give up the 10th most FPPG to QBs, but have the 10th best pass DVOA, and Brissett may be without his top WR again this week. Consider him a low-upside QB2, and don’t look his way unless desperate in a 2QB or superflex league.
TY Hilton (injury downgrade) is currently listed as a game time decision for MNF, making him a risky starting proposition due to the fact that most of the alternative options in your lineup will have already played by the time we get final clarity on his status. Unless there is a report stating definitively he will suit up, it’s best to avoid him this week. If you own Zach Pascal (start only if Hilton sits), you could also use him as a pivot option in case Hilton is ruled out before kickoff. If that’s the case, it would leave Pascal in position to soak up another high target total. He’s been extremely productive the past two weeks, and the Saints give up the 3rd most FPPG to WRs, so if he’s the #1 option this week he should be in your lineup. However, it’s hard to bank on this as Hilton likely won’t be declared active or inactive until just before kickoff, so it’s tough to bench more established studs for him during Sunday’s games. Consider Pascal a borderline WR2 if Hilton sits, but he’s no more than a boom-bust WR3/4 if Hilton plays. It’s likely best to avoid this situation entirely if you can, and either player could potentially see Marcus Lattimore in shadow coverage if the Saints decide to go that route as well. With Eric Ebron out for the year, Jack Doyle (upgrade) has shown flashes, but put up a 2-27 dud last week. Brissett likes throwing to his TEs, and Doyle is a great red-zone threat, so with the scarcity of quality options at the position Doyle is a mid-range TE1. The Saints are middle of the pack against TEs, so get him in your lineups this week unless you have a higher floor elite option.
RB Breakdown
Another tough draw is on deck for Marlon Mack (volume upgrade). He played 41% of snaps in his return from injury, receiving only 13 touches. Still, he looked healthy, and was clearly the lead back. The Colts will likely increase his workload moving forward, and he should see closer to 20 touches this week, game-script permitting. New Orleans has only ceded 14.2 FPPG to the position, but Mack’s projected volume keep him in the RB2 ranks. Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins are merely afterthoughts in this offense with the return of the Mack, and both can be safely dropped.

Saints

Opp (IND) Pass DVOA: #14
Opp (IND) Run DVOA: #20
Opp (IND) Weighted DEF: #15
Injuries to Watch DEF (IND) Friday Report: CB Kenny Moore (DNP) CB Pierre Desir (LP)
Injuries to Watch OFF (NO) Friday Report: OT Terron Armstead (LP) OL Will Clapp (LP) OG Andrus Peat (DNP)
Key WCB matchups: None
Relevant Target Share %’s (Last 6 Weeks): Michael Thomas (30%) Alvin Kamara (22%) Jared Cook (15%) Ted Ginn (10%) Tre’Quan Smith (6%)
RB Snap %/Touches/Targets Week 14: Alvin Kamara (76%, 17, 6) Latavius Murray (33%, 9, 3)
QB/WTE Breakdown
Lamar Jackson broke Michael Vick’s single-season rushing record for a quarterback on Thursday Night Football this week, so it would be fitting for Primetime Drew Brees (upgrade) to break the all-time passing touchdown record on Monday Night Football in the same week. Brees is sitting at 537 career touchdown passes, just two shy of Peyton Manning. However, Tom Brady is at 536, so it’s possible that going into MNF, Brees will be chasing both Manning and Brady (NFL.com) Indianapolis has been fading of late, Jameis Winston just posted 456-yards and four touchdowns against a usually solid secondary. Monday feels like it’ll be a special moment for Brees, he’s a top-5 QB option, fire him up.
Michael Thomas (upgrade) is also chasing greatness, going after Marvin Harrison’s single-season reception record of 143. Thomas is just twenty-three catches shy with three weeks left to go (NFL.com). Indy’s zone defense should provide plenty of underneath windows for the stud wideout, he’s an every-week elite WR1. The other wideouts are riskier: neither Ted Ginn or Tre’Quan Smith can be relied upon, and should be treated as boom-or-bust dart throws. Jared Cook has emerged as the No. 3 passing option since Brees returned from injury, vacuuming up a 15% target share in the last six weeks. He’s expected to suit up Monday, after a concussion knocked him out of last week's barn burner. He’s an every week TE1 - IND cedes 7.3 FPPG to the position.
RB Breakdown
It was extremely disappointing to watch the Saints roll up yards and points in the shootout last week, while Alvin Kamara (upgrade) busted on 17 touches. Latavius Murray was given fewer snaps and touches than Kamara, but was able to parlay his limited opportunity into a successful fantasy outing. Unfortunately, that’s just fantasy football sometimes; a plethora of variables exist and many cannot be predicted. Kamara owners that managed to survive the opening round of playoffs, despite his unfortunate bust week, need to renew their faith for this one. Indy cedes just 14.4 FPPG to RBs - but they are bottom-12 in Run DVOA. Additionally, we may be back to a reality in which the Saints score 30 a week in The Big Easy. I’m not betting against the positive game-script the home matchup should provide; Lat “Pulldown” Murray can be considered a viable, albeit slightly unpredictable, flex option as well.
Score Prediction: Saints 35, Colts 20
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Forex Jargon, Learn Terms, Industry Speak & Trading Phrases How to Bet On Sports  Sports Betting Terms and Glossary Part 3  Reverse Line Movement to Wiseguy Talking Financial Glossary - YouTube What Is Spread Betting? An Introduction For Beginner Traders What is an Underlying Instrument in Spread Betting?

Browse through our glossary using the alphabetical index above. Spread Betting is both innovative and old. It has taken the age-old philosophy of market trading and combined it with modern thinking towards sports betting and financial markets. Spread Betting Glossary: Part 3 (M to W) Financial spread betting terms defined and explained to make sure you understand the terminology when it comes to spread trading. Maintenance margin – Spread trades are margined products and therefore all trades are credited/debited in real time as the trade moves in either direction. Spread Betting. is a way of placing bets on the movement of various financial markets, making money if you bet in the correct direction and losing if you don’t. As you are betting on the movement of the price rather than buying and selling financial instruments, it turns out to be more tax and fee efficient. Spread Betting Provider Spread betting is one of many various types of wagering on the outcome of an event. At this point, the pay-off is based on an open ended wager much like the stock market, rather than a simple “win or lose” binary outcome.. Financial spread betting has been a major growth market in the UK in recent years despite carrying a high level of risk. In the UK, spread betting is regulated by the Spread Betting Reviews » Glossary. GLOSSARY. ABS. Asset-backed securities; ie. securities backed by mortgage loans or such like which are obtainable if the creditor defaults. Account Limit. The total amount of deposit required from a client at any one time based on the size of the trade.

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Forex Jargon, Learn Terms, Industry Speak & Trading Phrases

How does spread betting work? - MoneyWeek Investment Tutorials - Duration: 11:52. ... Glossary Term - Price Absorption - Duration: 5:59. Convergent Trading 889 views. 5:59. Investment Terms You Need to Know http://www.financial-spread-betting.com/strategies/strategies-tips.html PLEASE LIKE AND SHARE THIS VIDEO SO WE CAN DO MORE!... How to Bet On Sports 101 and Sports Betting Terms Part 2: In the latest episode of our Sports Betting 101 Series for the recreational bettor, Teddy Covers and Minty Bets go over the most commonly ... Welcome to the Investors Trading Academy Talking Glossary of financial terms and events. Skip navigation Sign in. Search. ... What is Spread Betting? by Investor Trading Academy. 1:27. Financial spread betting is the tax free alternative to trading where you bet on whether a market will go up, or down. There is no tax, no commission, and no stamp duty. Find out what you need to ...