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I Read It So You Don't Have To: Secrets of the Southern Belle (by Phaedra Parks)

I hope the past few days have been restful and rejuvenating for you all, but -- as I'm sure you must have learned by this point -- the journey to personal betterment is an eternal endeavor. We haven't got a moment to waste, so let's bid adieu to the sunny serenity of the California coast and settle in down South with Real Housewives of Atlanta's Phaedra Parks, as she descends from her ivory porch swing and illuminates the esoteric in Secrets of the Southern Belle: How to Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty, Have Fun, and Never Have an Off Moment.
True to the title's descriptive and straightforward sentiments, Phaedra begins the book with a concise synthesis of the worldview she hopes to present:
I believe every woman should be a Southern Belle or minimally aspire to being more ladylike, charming, and intelligent, because we should all be treated well.
As she continues, we get our first glimpse of the deep well of compassion that underlies Phaedra's mission to improve the lives of those around her.
Honestly, I sometimes feel sorry for women of northern persuasion. There they are rushing around in their baggy, drab clothes, doing everything for themselves and looking like they just rolled out of bed. They don't seem to understand there's a better way.
Thankfully, I no longer have to count myself among that witless horde. I feel like, until this fateful moment, I have been living like one of those people from the black-and-white "before" footage of an infomercial -- haphazardly bumbling through the most menial of daily tasks with no way of knowing how much brighter my world could be. Phaedra has freed me from Plato's Cave, and I have no choice but to follow her instruction and strive to shape myself in her image.
A true Southern Belle is known -- first and foremost -- for her fundamental kindness and compassion towards others, so it is only appropriate that the book's first section is succinctly titled, "Be Nice." However, even this simple directive has been trampled by the corrupting influence of the modern world. As Phaedra laments,
Unfortunately, as we see more migration from other parts of the world, we also see an increase of poor manners and rude behavior.
She elaborates, providing specific examples of the personal injuries incurred as a result of these unmannered interlopers.
I find it particularly odd in business, when the salespeople or tellers don't speak or thank you for your patronage. Don't they realize that without customers they would not have a job?
I, too, find it offensive when minimum-wage workers have the nerve to act like actual human beings rather than automatons at the mercy of my personal whims, and I appreciate that Phaedra is bold enough to ask the question that has undoubtedly been on the tip of our collective tongue. Yet somehow, she still remains humble enough to freely admit where she has room to learn; here, she lets the reader in on "something I've never quite understood about non-southerners:"
They're suspicious of basic southern warmth because they're worried it's insincere. But at the same time, they will tell you the most inappropriate things! They tell you stuff about their health that you don't want to know. They launch into crazy stories about their terrible childhoods and how misunderstood they are. They complain about what happened long ago, and they fret openly about the future. Then they tell you what they paid for things and you want to crawl under the table.
Frankly, that's not very attractive.
What is attractive, then, you may ask? Effusive compliments, for one thing -- "I don't know why some people are so concerned with being sincere, when being nice is so much more effective." We also learn to "never contradict anyone, even if you know they are wrong." Phaedra illustrates this particular lesson with the following example:
If someone tells you that your taxes are due on April 30 instead of April 15, you look puzzled and say, "Goodness, I had no idea. Did they change the date?"
And what happens after that? Either the person says yes and you're forced to play along with whatever bizarre delusion and/or power-play your companion is currently indulging, or they say no and you say -- what? "Right, of course, I knew that the whole time!" Or, "Gotcha! It's April 15th, you incompetent fraud!" Or maybe, "I don't even know what taxes are -- money is for menfolk!" I just can't imagine any of those scenarios playing out with less discomfort than a simple correction, but after four years living in New England, I can only assume that's just northern negativity clouding my vision.
We are next presented with a list of "compliments that come in handy," a few of which I've transcribed below for immediate incorporation into your own phrasal repertoire.
What an interesting way to think about it. (Good for a point on which you disagree with someone.)

You thought of every little detail; I love a meticulous lady!

Wow! That is so original. I would never have put it together like that. (In this South this might mean, "I hate it," but in a polite way.)
Boss Babe is out -- Meticulous Lady is in! Phaedra reminds us to keep health concerns -- "especially female issues" -- far from polite conversation, then shifts gears to a much-needed lesson in verbal comportment. It's not just their "attractive regional accents" that distinguish Southern Belles from their less-attractive northern counterparts; they also devote great attention to evoking grace through their cadence and tone.
Sometimes northern women can sound awfully abrupt. It's just a habit they have, poor things.
If you'd like to take your place amongst esteemed gentility, however, I urge you to change your ways! For one thing, when speaking, "slip in something affectionate so that a very harsh reality doesn't come across as rude or abrupt." For example, see how much unpleasant confrontation is avoided with the following turn of phrase:
Darling, don't you know you're too smart and pretty to be the town drunk?
Silly girl, haven't you heard? Addiction is for ugly people! You should also feel free to use these compliments liberally throughout conversation -- "You don't have to mean it, you know." As an example:
If you can tell that someone has put a lot of effort into a particular aspect of her outfit, just draw attention to it. Sparkly stars-and-stripes high heels could be terribly tacky, but you bet they're supposed to be noticed, so go ahead and do it. "Those are certainly patriotic shoes!"
Let me take a crack at it -- This book certainly has a lot of words in it! Writing a book is such an impressive achievement -- I'm sure it feels so rewarding to finally see it In print! And I love the way you occasionally use infinity signs as bullet points -- it's so evocative! I think I'm getting the hang of this!
"Another southern difference?" As Phaedra informs us, "we try not to make direct requests. It just sounds so forward and frankly unpleasant if someone comes right out and says what they want from you." Phaedra's Starbucks barista must really despise her -- If it isn't too much trouble, could I bother you for something to drink? No, anything's fine -- I wouldn't want to impose.
Almost like a modern-day Rosetta Stone, the next passage introduces us to the nuanced connotations that pervade a true Belle's vocabulary. For example, Phaedra tells the reader that "if I tell someone 'Goodness, you must have spent all day on your hair. I am so impressed!' it really means I hate it." Before I manage to convey how impressed I am by the book before me, I read on to learn that "when you're discussing a homely girl, you generally say, 'She's so smart!' The general thought is you can't be both ugly and dumb. God wouldn't be that cruel." Please excuse me while I take a few hours to re-analyze every compliment I've ever been given in my entire life.
Now that that's done, here are a few more translations to help you decipher the Belles in your life.
Belle-Speak: She's a nurse-in-training.
Unvarnished Truth: She dates only old men.

Belle-Speak: She's a butter face.
Unvarnished Truth: Everything looks good but her face.

Belle-Speak: Hope he's got money.
Unvarnished Truth: He's unattractive and pays for affection.
The second one is not even really a euphemism so much as Phaedra trying to demonstrate her knowledge of hip modern slang, but I digress. We transition into advice for conversation starters -- "don't throw them complicated or controversial subjects like politics, animal rights, or local zoning." Truly, I can't tell you how many times I've been approached at a party with an opener about municipal ordinances, and it just kills the mood like nothing else. Worried about how you'll ever find something to talk about under these restrictions?
Don't worry about sounding interesting. "Interesting" is an overrated notion. Just fill the empty air.
That…explains a lot, actually.
Our next lesson is in reference to dinner parties -- "don't make a fuss, unless you're complimenting the cook." In case you're confused as to how this guidance should be interpreted, Phaedra clarifies with some examples -- "'Is there meat in here? I'm a vegetarian' is the wrong kind of fuss." Since I typically ask this question while flailing my arms wildly and making intermittent whooping noises, I completely understand how it could be disruptive amongst refined company. Although I'm starting to get a bit nervous that I won't be able to keep track of these seemingly countless rules, Phaedra's next assurance puts my mind at ease: "If all else fails, remember the secret weapon of the Southern Belle is delicate helplessness."
In the next passage, we learn that, "if there's any characteristic that defines a Southern Belle, it's her habit of firing off little notes on any occasion." Just as with verbal compliments, these notes require little to no basis in factual reality -- "obviously it's perfectly all right to exaggerate." But while truthfulness is more or less dispensable, your choice of writing implement could have grave repercussions. As Phaedra exhorts, "Never, ever write a letter in pencil. You might as well not bother at all." Within the realm of pens, however, "blue and black are perfectly acceptable, even if they do lack panache."
We return once again to the topic of appropriate subjects for conversation, and are cautioned against asking anyone their age. Of course, wild speculation is encouraged, "as long as you're out of earshot." In the next tip, Phaedra declares: "Don't discuss the cost of anything. Any discussion of cost is just in poor taste." I just can't help picture how much of a nightmare this woman must be at a fast-food drive-through. Our final instruction?
Don't discuss hair color. Men always pretend they don't dye their hair, so you just have to go with it.
At first glance, this seems reasonable enough, especially in the context of the social graces espoused by the book so far. However, Phaedra's attempt at further explanation quickly begins to careen off-course.
For women, it's a little bit more complicated because you have the question of whether the drapes match the carpet, so to speak. And I do know some who dye the carpet to match -- that was the big thing in high school. Now with all this weird waxing, you don't have to do as much dyeing, but that's another thing you don't talk about either!
Let's see if I've got this straight: I should always believe a man about his purported hair color no matter what, but if a woman tries to lie about hers, she'll get caught…because I will inevitably be forced to confront the realities of her pubic hair? An intimate partner, sure, but I just can't imagine this situation arises with enough frequency to merit even the few lines its given in this text. And honestly, at this point, I don't even think I want to know what Phaedra means by "weird waxing."
This section of the book concludes with a final catalog of "the 'She did what?' mistakes." The list starts off strong with "wearing white to another woman's wedding." However, by the time we end on the most unimaginable of atrocities -- "drinking beer from a bottle" -- I'm beginning to wonder if this list was actually supposed to have been titled "things the sexy homewrecker does in a bro-country music video."
The following section is titled, "Work Hard," and I am immediately inspired to do exactly so by the implicit challenge thrown down in Phaedra's opening lines, in which she coquettishly asks, "Who always delivers a presentation on time, with the printed materials perfectly written and proofread?" I'm usually quite good at taming my most pedantic impulses, but contrarian passions I never knew I had are foaming at the mouth to find an upcoming typo and self-righteously call her bluff. Although perhaps I should find a more feminine way to phrase that; as Phaedra cautions, "we don't like to think of ourselves as driven, because that sounds so neurotic and unpleasant."
We next learn that "you cannot be a Southern Belle unless you understand what it is to be ladylike." But unfortunately, it is all too easy to be caught up in the ways of the world and lose sight of this primary calling.
A lot of women today enjoy being the feisty, brassy, foul-mouthed kind of gal who drinks with men and shows a lot of flesh. They think it's cool.
Phaedra continues and reflects that, "I've heard the argument that this is progress, from the feminist point of view, but I don't necessarily agree." I can never remember -- which wave of feminism was the one with all the feisty gals? But clearly, their agenda has gone too far! How, in contrast, does a delicate Southern Belle behave?
She looks as if she's heard of sex, probably has had sex, but has no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings.
I'm not sure exactly how to convey this highly specific sentiment in any other way than purchasing a t-shirt custom-printed with the phrase, "I have heard of sex, have probably had sex, but have no plans to have sex with anybody in the immediate surroundings," so I hope that approach will suffice for now. Phaedra follows up by cautioning us that,
A lady never puts in the shop window what isn't for sale.
Personally, I like to think of myself as more of a museum than a gift shop, but to each their own! We next learn more about the delicate balance a Southern Belle must achieve in order to maintain her esteemed position. For example, while "she doesn't cuss and doesn't talk dirty," frigidity is similarly unbecoming -- "if somebody tells a good dirty joke in her vicinity, she'll laugh." I'm barely a third of the way through this book, and I'm already exhausted at the prospect of having to remember all of these hyper-specific edicts. It's no surprise that the Southern Belle has to remain consistently vigilant; as Phaedra intones, "coming from a Pentecostal family, I hate to see a woman down more than two drinks." It seems to me like the simplest way to avoid such emotional turmoil would be to simply refrain from compulsively tallying the beverage intake of strangers, but I soon learn there are far more perilous hazards lurking around every corner. Phaedra shares her personal strategy for avoiding the very implication of incivility in the following excerpt:
I don't ever go to the bar at a party; I think that just looks terrible. If I must have a glass of wine or crave a fruity adult libation, I'll ask a nearby man to procure it for me.
Sir! Procure me a fruity adult libation -- tout de suite! But I would hate to diminish the male gender by implying that they're only good for the acquisition of potables; no -- men can be leveraged in an increasingly broad array of day-to-day tasks. As Phaedra shares:
I have friends who have never in their lives pumped gas for their own cars. They will ask a complete stranger to do it for them. One of my besties from New Orleans will flag down a man, give him her credit card, and have him pump and pay for her gas.
Honestly, I can't help but wonder if this might actually be some kind of avantgarde performance art, in the tradition of Marina Abramović's Rhythm 0. Because the idea that this gambit has never gone horribly, horribly awry truly strains credulity. As I read on, however, I learn that my current train of thinking is sorely misguided.
Sometimes when I'm at a grocery store the fellow bagging the groceries will ask if he can take them out to my car. Why would you say no to this? But sometimes women do. And I look at them and sigh and think, "Poor thing. She has a lot to learn."
Thankfully for my personal development, the next chapter — titled "A Crash Course in Being (Selectively) Helpless" — promises exactly the sort of content that I so desperately need to understand. As Phaedra explains, a Southern Belle is "never intimidating, because some things she just can't do on her own." She goes on to offer concrete examples of how to incorporate this ethos into your life on beginner, intermediate, and expert levels.
Experts: assume help will arrive. Flat tire? Pull over to the curb, and don't sweat it. Can't figure out which wrench to buy at Home Depot? Or how to program your DVR? This is what former boyfriends and other gentlemen are for. Believe me, the age of chivalry is not dead.
Rent due? Don't sweat it -- a gallant gentleman likely already has a check in the mail. House burning to the ground around you? You should know a Belle doesn't walk down the hallway on her own two feet! Bear attack? I'm sure a male bear is just around the corner, ready to jump in and defend your honor!
Without a hint of irony, we transition to Phaedra's advice for the workplace. We learn that the quintessential gentlewoman is savvy, competent, and always at the top of her game. For instance, at her workplace, "she figures out how to work the coffee machine and the copy machine." With that kind of go-getting attitude, the Southern Belle will be bound for the C-suite in no time! Provided, of course,
She never does that thing I hear of in the North sometimes of telling you how little she paid for something. Why would you brag about bargains?
I can't hear the phrase that thing I hear of in the North in anything other than the voice of Tinsley's mother, Dale. Except she would probably use it in reference to something like "giving compliments to your daughter" or "weight gain." Regardless, a more appropriate question at this juncture might be, "Are you sure this book was proofread quite as judiciously as you claimed?" As I scan the page, my eyes happen upon the line:
10 percent for tithing, if your religion encourages tithing, which mines [sic] does.
Of course, it would be entirely uncouth for me to brag about my typographical superiority in this context, so now seems as good a time as any to exercise some of my newly acquired techniques. Oh, Phaedra -- bless her heart! I suppose we can't all be detail-oriented, can we? It must be nice to be so casual and carefree when you express yourself!
Without further ado, however, we move along to our next lesson -- "People don't know when you're hungry, because they can't hear your stomach growling, but they definitely know when you're homeless." To be honest, the more I think about this statement , the less sense it makes to me (people…can hear your stomach growling?). Luckily, with the jam-packed schedule of a Southern Belle, I simply don't have time to dwell on the issue for a moment longer!
Our next tutorial? "If you have one fabulous pair of shoes, you will wear them to church. It is the very least you can do for Jesus." As we all know, Jesus appreciates sweet kicks, so he loves nothing more than to see you rock the newest styles when you drop by on Sunday. And besides -- the higher the heel, the closer to heaven! Phaedra summarizes the Southern Belle's can-do attitude with the line: "We all may not be sitting around big ugly Formica boardroom tables, but we get things done." As someone who has only ever attended meetings held around moderately sized tables, I find this to be a validating sentiment.
When it comes to extracurricular pursuits, "beauty pageants are important." However, "as much as she loves performing, the Belle will not take to the stage: some of those theater people are just too peculiar, bless their hearts." Honestly, Phaedra and I come down on the same side on this one. But I will have to heartily disagree with her next passage -- with respect to traditions of stepping within Black Greek Life -- in which she states,
The traditionally white organizations don't have anything comparable.
Um, excuse me? Have you never seen this iconic video?! However, Phaedra does reassure us that she's far from ignorant in the ways of the world. As she states, "I have read about hookup culture and known a few easy women." Of course, easy men don't exist -- or at least, that's what I've read in all the most prominent textbooks regarding hookup culture. But don't mistake Phaedra's awareness for acceptance -- "that doesn't mean I like any of it." However, this sentiment is belied just a few paragraphs later, when our author recalls:
I offended the mother of one of my best friends once by booking some exotic entertainment at this friend's birthday party. My friend loved the anatomically exceptional dancer, but her mother was livid.
I'm sure that it was only your friend who loved the "anatomically exceptional" dancer, and I assume this must have been one of your aforementioned token "easy" friends, besides. A Southern Belle, in contrast, is interested in serious, long-term relationships. And for this purpose, "it would be much better to marry a young man that you can train. I have always said that I would rather be a babysitter than a geriatric nurse." Yet even these kinds of discrepancies seem trivial in comparison to the boundless passions of eternal love. As Phaedra shares,
I want Apollo and me to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary, so I try to overlook momentary annoyances.
That aged well. Bless her heart.
We're soon treated to a cheeky list of "what her husband doesn't know," which echoes several key themes from earlier in the book -- most notably in its bizarre fixation with pubic grooming.
He doesn't know what her true hair color is, because the curtains always match the carpet.

He doesn't know how often she waxes, or exactly what waxing entails.

He doesn't know that she has her own credit card, her own savings account, and a safe-deposit box.
I've got to say, that last one hits just a little bit different with hindsight. Always timely, however, are Phaedra's views on the importance of the homemaking arts. In this evocative passage, she describes the primal horror of an encounter with a woman tainted by an unimaginable curse:
A nice lady from another part of the country recently confessed to me that she doesn't know how to do any crafts. In fact, she said, she gets all nervous and antsy in crafts stores, because they're so full of things she doesn't understand. I laughed like I thought she was joking, but really, I felt bad for her. Imagine not knowing how to make all those cute objects that brighten up lives in the South! I shudder to think what the inside of her house looks like!
With that fable still ringing in my ears, we transition to the next section of the book: "Look Pretty." Phaedra reflects, "I am always shocked when I leave the South and encounter the enormous number of women who don't seem to understand how their clothes should fit." Now feels like an appropriate time to draw attention to the book's back cover, in which an open-mouthed Phaedra swivels her torso in such a way as to create a bulging protuberance across one half of her chest. In awe of her commitment to inclusivity, I now realize this could only have been an intentional choice to make herself seem more approachable to us northern oafs, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Phaedra goes on to inform us that, "personally, I prefer skirts and dresses over pants." However, although "high-waisted pants and pants with visible hem cuffs are quite elegant and ladylike," one should take care never to forget that "minimalism and menswear looks are just puzzling and not appealing to a Belle." I, too, must admit that I find menswear looks puzzling -- a girl? in boy clothes? I just can't make heads or tails of it! And this is far from the only contemporary fad that baffles the true Southern Belle. As Phaedra continues:
I've never understood the appeal of the natural look. It's so easy to improve your appearance; why wouldn't you take advantage of the many beauty aids available to you?
In a frankly unexpected dig against the ceramic arts, Phaedra notes that "unless you are a professional potter (and I don't think Southern Belles generally are), your nails need to be clean and filed." More generally, your physical proportions should remain mild and inobtrusive:
Ever since voluminous behinds became fashionable, I often see these lumpy, huge derrieres on women with legs as thin as a chicken's, and I think God would never put a rump roast on toothpicks, so why did you do that?
That's why I always caution my friends to pair their butt implants with a battery of leg implants, in order to really round out the overall contour of the body and mimic that structurally stable, God-given look. After all, as Phaedra quips: "'Knowledge is power' -- that's my motto." But this knowledge doesn’t come without a price; being as world-wise as Phaedra often requires direct confrontation with the atrocities of today's world. As she recounts, for example: "I was astonished to find out that not every woman possesses a lint roller." It's truly a tragedy to learn how the other half lives!
We are next informed that, "you have to have your ears pierced, but only one hole in each ear." The consequences for an infraction of this critical edict are left unvoiced, from which I can only assume that they are swift and merciless. Any self-respecting Southern Belle has a taste for the finer things in life, and Phaedra is no exception. As she remarks:
I love diamonds; I'd have a diamond duvet if I could afford it.
Because I am less fiscally endowed, I have had to settle for stuffing my duvet with assorted Swarovski crystals, at least for the time being. However, I'm eager to upgrade -- I can only imagine that the extra hardness of the diamonds will add a satisfying acupuncture affect to my nighttime regimen!
Phaedra moves on to fashion advice, and cautions the well-heeled Belle to remain conservative in her fashion choices. But don't worry -- there is a time and a place to let loose and express your more artistic side. Or, as Phaedra says, "something a little funky or ethnic may even be appropriate from time to time." To further illustrate this principle, she explains: "If I were going out West, for example, I might wear some turquoise bracelets."
But some things are a bridge too far! Any woman with a modicum of dignity would know never to be caught dead in "polar fleece," "a naughty-nurse costume," or "footed pajamas." We are also encouraged to carry around a hand fan -- "the elegant way to stay cool" -- as well as a "small leather-bound notebook for jotting down inspirations." I lose my train of thought for a moment, caught up in a daydream about the ingenious wonderings that must be contained within Phaedra's hallowed journal. But I'm brought back to reality by a declaration of "what's not in my purse," beginning with the stern pronouncement: "any kind of contraband substance."
Our pilgrimage to polite society continues with a comprehensive exploration of the monogram's social gravitas. As Phaedra intones, "I've even seen cars with a very discreet monogram on the driver's door." But with light must come darkness, and the next chapter bravely confronts an issue many others would fear to face: "Looking Like a Tramp" ("There, I came right out and said it," Phaedra breathlessly gasps below the harsh text of the passage's title). She gathers herself together and courageously reports, "some women look downright sleazy."
Alas -- even more tragically -- couture catastrophes are not restricted to those of legal majority. Phaedra heroically pulls back the curtain on a nationwide epidemic of wardrobe misconduct being perpetrated against society's most vulnerable:
I saw a picture not long ago of some hippies or hipsters or whatever you call them from some remote city. The parents looked the way you'd expect them to look, a little bit bedraggled, but the worst thing was they had this adorable little baby all done up in a black onesie. And as far as I could tell, it wasn't even Halloween!
How to combat this terrifying trend? Phaedra offers words of wisdom: "Little Southern Belles always look sweet and appropriately girlish." Specifically, we are encouraged to incorporate design elements like "tasteful, conservative rickrack." By way of further explanation, she clarifies that, "what they don't do is dress like Lady Gaga in dresses made of butchers' best cuts of beef." I'm disappointed to learn that my idea for an Etsy store selling bespoke meat-based children's clothing might be a nonstarter, but I suppose I appreciate our author giving it to me straight.
Another childcare commandment?
No costumes outside the house. Of course every little girl loves to play dress-up. But I truly dislike seeing Snow White or a fairy princess trailing along behind her mother at the Piggly Wiggly.
As she sits in her living room, most likely waiting for a man to come to her aid for some reason or another, Phaedra is struck by a sharp, blazing pain. As the flash of blinding torment subsides, she catches her breath and shakes her head wearily -- another costumed child has gone into a grocery store. Forgive their guardians, for they know not the harm their actions have caused to our author's delicate and genteel sensibilities.
But it does us no good to dwell on the darker side of life! Rather, we'll move right along into the book's final section, "Have Fun." However, this does not seem to be exactly the same kind of "fun" colloquially mentioned in mainstream circles. Rather, the Southern Belle defines fun with the principle, "everybody needs to know that you made an effort." For example, "if you're pouring punch into paper cups for a gaggle of seven-year-olds, put a spring of mint in it." My previous experiences in the general vicinity of children lead me to believe that at least 75% of the seven-year-olds in this group would respond to this elegant enhancement by dumping the punch out on the ground because it has a gross plant in it. Maybe that's part of the fun?
No analysis of Southern culture would be complete without a discussion of that most hallowed of pastimes -- college football. And although "only a really unusual woman watches football alone," it is imperative that a Southern Belle attend the social events associated with the on-season. What's more, she should take care to do with impeccable style. As Phaedra laments:
Sometimes I see pictures of women in store-bought football jerseys and I feel sorry. A store-bought jersey does nothing to flatter the feminine body.
As for the game itself, minimal understanding is required -- "Naturally a Belle knows how much men enjoy telling her things, so she isn't shy about asking questions." True to her generous spirit, however, Phaedra nevertheless provides a basic primer in the rudiments of the sport:
Basically each team is trying to get the ball through the tall H-shaped goalposts at the end of the field. […] The problem is that the ball can look awfully little from pretty much anywhere in the stands. There's no shame in watching the video replay to see what really just happened.
As a final tip, Phaedra suggests that "belles whose husbands have season tickets might even invest in matching linens and china." Our next unit of instruction concerns the arrival of a newborn bundle of joy; as we learn, "the birth of a baby is a big deal in a southern family." It's so interesting to learn all of these unique cultural details! I don't know if I've ever heard of another culture that places such importance on birth -- I'd love to get an anthropologist's take! There are also strict guidelines to which one must adhere regarding the naming of a debutante-in-training:
A Southern Belle's name:
-- is obviously feminine.
-- is two syllables or more (names like Ann or Joan seem abrupt, like so many Yankees).
-- is a real name, not a geographic feature like Sierra.
-- means something. Preferably something nice.
Once born and appropriately christened, children should be painstakingly shielded from the contaminating influences of the world at large. Phaedra explains that "pop culture is full of children behaving disrespectfully." Without the slightest suggestion of self-reflection, she goes on to declare that "besides, we think TV characters are basically tacky."
Phaedra reiterates a few of the courtship commandments mentioned previously, most concisely in the adage, "Belles don't date losers." And, as any suitor worth his salt should know, "a date with a Belle is no time for a boy to experiment with 'alternative' clothes or grooming either." Instead, a Southern Gentleman takes care to keep his language clean from distasteful or offensive language -- "For instance, why say 'liquor' when you can say 'adult refreshment'?"
As we near the end of the book, it seems only fitting that we take a few pages to cover the traditions and rituals associated with life coming to a close. Buttressed by her extensive knowledge of mortuary science, Phaedra instructs us:
Postmortem is no time to experiment with cosmetics. No one wants their sweet aunt Gertrude looking like some ashy Jezebel when she meets Jesus.
The passage concludes with the brassy observation, "we don't usually cremate in the South; we figure if we wanted to burn we'd just live recklessly and go to hell."
Before the book closes in earnest, Phaedra shares a few of her special, meticulously developed recipes. The most evocative of her culinary optimizations is a recipe for sweet tea, in which she thoughtfully informs us, "sweetness can be personalized by adding more water or ice to the tea."
The book's final pages contain an instrument designed to measure the effect of the preceding 252 pages on one's essential courtesies, charmingly titled "The Belle-O-Meter Quiz." As Phaedra explains:
So, ladies, how are you doing? I'm sure you've all been very attentive to my suggestions and are amazed by the results. You're probably totally used to a steady diet of compliments and flirtation and invitations. But here's a little quiz in case you feel the need to measure how far you've come.
If you'd like to take the full quiz, you can do so here. But if your busy Belle schedule doesn't permit you to devote that much time to something so self-indulgent, a few example questions are provided below:
Your routine greeting when you meet a new person is:
a. A surly glare.
b. "Hi."
c. "Well, hello! How are you today?"

If your gentleman friend brought you a corsage to wear on a date you would:
a. Put it in the refrigerator. Nobody wears corsages nowadays!
b. Pin it to your coat collar and check your coat.
c. Pin it in an unusual spot like your waist or behind your ear, after extracting one little blossom to put in his lapel.
The answer key informs us that answering mostly C's means that "you are a genuine Southern Belle." As Phaedra goes on to suggest, "maybe it's time to share your new skills with a friend and pass along this book. I hope it's been helpful to you." As a book hoarder of the highest order, I will have to skip that suggestion, but I am nevertheless thankful to move one step closer to self-actualization with the help of another Real Housewife. Until next time!
Upcoming plans in comment below!
submitted by efa___ to BravoRealHousewives [link] [comments]

Blunt Resume Advice for Recent Graduates in Technical Fields

I have reviewed a lot of resumes over the past several years. I have had more than my fair share of jobs in the technology industry where I have been both a job applicant and hiring manager. In recent years I have returned to academia where I get to help students prepare for that job market. I keep seeing the same missteps and offering the same advice on the matter so I thought I would right this up. ADMINS feel free to pin.
Now as a disclaimer before I begin. I am speaking ONLY about my experience in the Computing technology sector (Finance, Pharma, Telecom, and Marketing). Much of this will probably apply to similar or adjacent fields. Design or office administration jobs probably none of it.
EDIT: This is LONG. Be sure to have your resume handy when you go through it so you can edit as you go. Stick around for the end where I added a sample technical resume.
TL;DR: Think like a hiring manager, focus on what they want to see. You are ultimately going to be a cog in a machine for the first few years so leave off all of the fluff. Be clear, concise and focused. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SKILLS.

Objectives / Summary

Let me begin by addressing my biggest pet peeve: Objectives. I don’t know who keeps recommending this for resumes for anyone other than Vice President or “C” level executives. Your objective is irrelevant to the company. Your objective is to do whatever you are asked to do in order to get the job. Your objective is to be the best damned cog in the machine as you can be because that is what you are being hired to be. No one cares what the Cog wants to achieve in this role. There will come a time when it is more important. Your first post-college job is not it. Sorry, not sorry.

Education

If you graduate in an off month (Not may or june) then don’t list the month, people assume the worst. "BUT ProfessorOfLies, I had a really good reason for taking that extra semester!" It was because of my [internship|pandemic|family emergency|Early Graduation|Whatever]. It doesn’t matter. Anything you need to explain on your resume, you will never get a chance to.
Don’t list GPA unless over 3.5. Know what it is. If an employer asks then answer truthfully, but do not volunteer it.
Associates Degrees are made irrelevant by your bachelors degree IF it is in the same field. IE: your BCC degree in CS is no longer worth mentioning after your CS degree from NJIT/Rutgers/Steven’s. Now you got your associate degree in MATH and then a Bachelors in CS. YES advertise that!

Skills

Skills are the most important part of your resume. Some people might say work experience but the things that are important from your work experience are the SKILLS you applied and learned while on the job. What any hiring manager wants to see is if the applicant can fit the hole in their team. They need a set of skills to get a job done and they want to get the best candidate that they can with those skills. So make sure your skills are right near the top of your resume. Make sure every project and job you have had reinforces those skills. Your resume should say “I have these skills and LOOK at all the ways I have demonstrated that I have these skills!”
To that effect I would suggest making sure your skills section is easy to read and categorized for convenient skimming. For example:
SKILLS
Programming Languages: C/C++, Java, C#
Scripting Languages: HTML/CSS/Javascript, PHP, Python, Perl, BASH
System Administration: Windows (Server, 10, 7), Linux (RedHat, Fedora, Gentoo, Ubuntu), Solaris
Database Administration: MySQL, SQLite, Oracle, MangoDB
Project Management: JIRA, Trello, Git, AGILE, SCRUM
Skills should be listed from MOST proficient to least proficient. In general for a technical resume I would shy away from using qualifying language. Proficient in, experienced with, once read about it in a textbook, etc. The reality is that if you put it on your resume you better be at least proficient in it enough to answer interview questions about it. Google interview questions for each skill you list. Make sure you are prepared to answer them. If you are not then don’t list them, if you are close then STUDY until you are prepared.
Read through job sites. Technology evolves constantly. Buzzwords change. New things become popular. Classwork doesn’t always make it clear what things you do in class are worth mentioning and which are not. So read through the job descriptions. Take note of the skills that they are looking for. Perhaps you have some but didn’t mention them in your resume because you thought that it wasn't relevant. Maybe you had it down, but described it in a different or outdated way. Adapt the resume to the job description (BUT DON’T LIE).
Human languages (as opposed to programming languages) DO require qualifying language. Having taken a French class in high school is not the same as a native speaker. Being fluent in a language means more than a casual speaker. If you mention a language make sure you list your level in the language. It may actually help if you are applying for a company that has business dealings in different languages.
NOTE: IF you mention a non-English language, be sure to mention English and your level in it. You may think that English is a given, it is not. People will also assume that if you know another language that your English skills are probably poor. So PLEASE remember to list English and your level in it. Especially if you grew up in a bilingual household.
EDIT: I don't want to forget to mention that if you come from a technical field you do NOT need to mention Office as a skill. That is a muggle skill, we are better than that.

Work Experience

Work experience can be a tough one for a college student. Not everyone can get or afford to take an internship or co-op. Sometimes your work is hard to justify on your resume. There is pressure to list every job you have ever had, but the reality is that it is just not necessary.
If you have had a string of retail / clerk jobs, you really don’t have to show them all. Pick the most recent one to list. IF you managed to do anything related to the field (Helped with the company website for instance) then list that as a bullet, but do not feel the need to go into detail about it. We all know what hell you go through. The only purpose this serves is to show employers that yes indeed you can hold a job.
For each job you held you want to list the standard information in the top line for it: Company, Title, Location, Dates (year - year is fine unless you NEED to be more granular because you worked a few in the same year). Then a BRIEF one line description of the role. You can even leave it off if you are doing that clerk job (Sales Associate at BLAH).
Then you want to list 2 or 3 bullets about your SPECIFIC accomplishments while in that role. Resist the urge to go through ALL the responsibilities you had in the role. Yes there is paperwork and teamwork and meetings and documentation in every role. Those are not going to highlight your technical skills!
Example entry:
Back End Developer, South Hill Apparel Newark, NJ Summer 2019
Supported and developed new features for the remote procedure calls for retail websites.
Note how each bullet mentions what the achievement was and then name drops the technical skills used in the process. This will now reinforce the assertion that your skills in Node.js, MYSQL, ZeroMQ, AWS, and Google Dart are legit.

Projects

Passion projects, Hackathon / Game Jam projects, and class projects are excellent things to put on the resume. Treat them like jobs (But make sure they are under the correct category) in formatting. Since few college students would have had relevant work experience you really want to focus on the projects section. This is something that I wish I knew when I was a recent graduate. I never had an internship but I had a TON of passion projects.
Not only will projects show that you have experience in the skills you are claiming, but it will also tell the employer that you are actually INTERESTED in the field you want to work in. That you will constantly be learning new skills and technologies that may benefit the company. Your projects will likely have exposed you to things not mentioned in the rest of the resume that could pay out in the future.

Professional Associations

If you belong to one of the industry related professional societies, be sure to list them. I am talking specifically about IEEE, ACM, IGDA, etc. For other extra curricular activities see the section below (Spoilers: DON’T list them). These will again show that you are serious about your interests in the field.

Conclusion

At this point I have gone over everything that SHOULD be in a resume (everything after Objective that is). As a new job seeker I would even recommend it be in that order:
Education, Skills, Work Experience, Projects, and Professional Associations. The minute you have that industry job though, Put Work Experience at the top and move Education to the bottom.
You may be wondering at this point that I left some things out. If you keep reading below "Additional Thoughts" you will see what I left out and why.

Additional Thoughts

One Page Resume

The one page resume is largely a thing of the past. When the most common way to get your resume in front of an employer was to attend a career fair or trade show, the one page resume made more sense. You basically need it to be your elevator pitch and no one at a busy fair wants to go through a long resume.
These days we mostly distribute resumes digitally (PLEASE USE PDF, not DOC) and the hiring managers will go through them in bulk when they have time to think. This doesn’t mean you should be sending out 5 page documents, ain’t no one got time to go through that. But if your resume goes over a page up to a full second page I would not worry.
Now Career fairs and trade shows ARE still a thing. So have a 1 page version of your resume with ample copies printed out when you attend these events. Do not be surprised if you hand a recruiter your resume, they read it for a minute and then go, “This looks great, here is my card. Email it to me” or “This looks great, here is the company job site, please apply and mention my name.” THEN when you send in your digital resume, send in the full resume.

Never Submit the same resume twice

EVERY time you apply for a job, look at the job posting. Match your resume as best as you can to the description. Use their language. Highlight the skills that they are looking for, cut down things that are not relevant to that specific job. Even if you apply to the same company more than once, each position should get a tailor made resume.
Hell make a MASTER resume with EVERYTHING you have ever done that might be relevant. And then cut it down to suit a job in question.

If you have to explain something, you will never get the chance

I mentioned this in the education section, but this bears repeating. The resume is a filter of sorts, so if something looks OFF, it will be thrown out. You may have an EXCELLENT reason for including something weird or off, but you will never get a chance to defend it. Just do yourself a favor and don’t put it on the resume. Maybe it will come up during the interview, and if so then you can give a full explanation and maybe the thing will work out for you.

Cover Letters

This is where you would put that fluff you wrote for your objective btw. But no one reads them. Even when they are required, no one actually reads them. Do you know when people read them? When you made a glaring mistake on them. Applying for a job at Prudential but accidentally mentioned how much you want to work for FedEx? Well you can bet someone WILL read it that time.
Write a good heartfelt cover letter for a job at a company that you really want to work for, and then adapt it to the job you are applying for. AND THEN PROOFREAD IT. I can’t stress this enough READ IT, adapt it, and make sure it makes sense because no one really cares what you wrote it in unless you made a HUGE careless mistake.

Github

Definitely have a github with examples of your work. Try to curate it to show your best, but a few old projects that were not great are fine and can show your growth. Finally public repos give programmers the ability to have a portfolio. Also try to make sure your username is sanitary. I can get away with EngineerOfLies because I have been in the industry long enough. You can't. At least not yet.

LinkedIn

Make sure you have a LinkedIn page and DO NOT TREAT IT LIKE FACEBOOK. LinkedIn is like your living resume. Treat it as such. Make sure it's up to date and leave your personal life and politics off of it.
And a side note: Make sure your FB is set to Friends only. You WILL be looked up on there. Sanitize it.

Relevant Courses

This is something that I see a lot on resumes from students. You are rightfully proud of the work you did in your undergraduate degree however, listing the courses doesn’t really help you on your resume. If you are being considered for a position then they will request your transcript and it will all be there. Before that though you need to show that you have the skills that they care about. “But ProfessorOfLies,” I hear you say, “I did some excellent relevant work in those courses!” And you are right, but the way to showcase that work is with the PROJECTS section. You can hone in on that one gem of a project you did in that class without mentioning the class title.
Note on class prefixes and numbers: Even when listing class work under the projects section DO NOT use the prefix and course numbers. NO ONE OUTSIDE YOUR UNIVERSITY KNOWS WHAT CS 345 IS! Hell most people IN your university won’t know what that is.
Note on class titles: Most course titles are generic and vague by design. When we propose a course we need to future proof ourselves. Technologies change all the time and even methodologies come and go. So when we make a course title and description we tend to make them generic enough to not require updating when technology does. Also these courses have to get through committees staffed by faculty from different departments. Sometimes interdepartmental politics will mutate a course title into something ridiculous because of some petty squabble. So when mentioning a class (under the projects section) use a DESCRIPTIVE title not the authentic one if the authentic one is weird. The actual title will be seen on your transcript.

Graphics

Just a reminder that all of this advice is for a technical resume. This may not apply to graphic designers, web designers, UX designers, Writers, Administrators, etc. With that said, DO NOT PUT GRAPHICS ON YOUR RESUME! You may think that logos may look nice or highlight the big name companies you interned for, but they are tacky and take up a ton of space on the page.
DO NOT get fancy with your templates either. Again, if you are not going for a design job you are FINE with just a drab easy to read resume.
DO NOT put your picture on the resume. That is what LinkedIn is for.

Extra Curriculars

Hobbies, clubs, student senate, Sports, eSports, fraternities and sororities please leave them off the resume. NO ONE CARES.
Follow up note on Frats and Sororities: DO NOT LIST THEM on your resume. You may have heard anecdotes about that one frat brother got the job because another brother was the hiring manager. Anecdotes are not data. The sad reality is that Frats have a bad reputation. To anyone who was not part of greek life you are seen as drunken party animals and sexual predators (I am not saying that all people in greek life are like that, I am saying that your reputation has painted it like that). Hell to people who were part of greek life that is how they are seen. Worse still, you know how Frats have rivals? What if the hiring manager was greek and from a rival frat, or at their school their chapter was a rival to your fraternity even if you had a good relationship with your local chapter? The best way to use your greek connection is to ask around from within your own organization and find out if the hiring manager is an older brother or sister. Barring that just wear a ring or something to the job interview. IF it comes up and you luck out it will be a huge bonus. If not, then it won’t hurt you.

Sample Resume

College Student Name

11111 Bleeker St Newark NJ 555 555-5555 github.com/baapsjfl;kasjdf;kjasdf;j LinkedIn link goes here

Education

New Jersey Institute of Technology
Bachelor of Science Information Technology (expected 2021)

Skills

System Administration: Linux (Ubuntu 18.04 LTS), Windows 10
Programming Languages: C / C++, Java, C#, Pascal, Fortran, Erlang
Libraries: STL, Boost, OpenGL, SDL, Glib, GTK, Qt, Web Sockets, BSD Sockets,MySQLi, RabbitMQ, AJAX
Scripting Languages: PHP, Python, Bash, HTML, CSS, Javascript
Database Administration: MySQL, NoSQL, MongoDB
Technologies: AMQP, RabbitMQ, Wordpress, Git, Apache2, Cron, SOAP, CURL, Trello

Work Experience

Sales Associate, Retail Giant Hometown, NJ 2018 - Present
Responsible for managing stock, orders from corporate, and large ticket items.

Projects

Front End Developer - Systems Integration Project Spring 2020
Project involved integrating a third party data source with a custom front end through a multiple server environment. I was responsible for Project Management, setting up the Front End server and implementing the third party api

Professional Associations

IEEE, ACM, IGDA
submitted by ProfessorOfLies to NJTech [link] [comments]

Sea of Hope: Paradigm [Part 1]

Hello there, and welcome. I’ll keep introductions brief, as I’m here to share a writing story, not my life story, yes? This is my first time posting here, so I do hope this is up to snuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve put anything on display for public consumption, but it’s been suggested to me that this might be a good place to share this little project, and find potentially useful feedback, criticisms, and more.
“Sea of Hope” is an ongoing passion project being worked on by multiple people. It’s been a labor of love that’s been in development for a long time, undergoing constant evolution. There’s a lot of plot and history that’s been developed, and much, much more still in development. We wanted to share some of that with you, in hopes that you might be interested in going on that journey with us, and discover why we’re as passionate about it as we are.
Thanks for your time, and enjoy the show.
Links
[Part 2]

>>//0740 Hours, 08 January, 2168
>>//Location: Old Gemini/Lost Twin
>>//Sublocation: Clone Civil War Memorial
>>//Terra Nova, Anastasis System, Mare Spera
The ruins of the original Gemini Base were just as he remembered them: A desolate heap of rubble, destroyed far beyond any hope of repair.
YC-012, “Bourbon”—As he was now known, much to his chagrin—stared up at the massive obelisk that loomed over the ruins. To say it towered above his head would be a pitiful understatement; it stretched so far above him that he could not see the top from where he sat. Its width was much more tangible, at least in the sense that one could circumnavigate the thing in a reasonable amount of time. All the same, he wouldn’t want to run a circuit around it; it would just as well become a marathon.
The hexagonal pillar was darker than the abyss itself, a solemn reminder of the deaths it represented. The memorial’s surface constantly rippled and shimmered, forming fleeting constellations against the void of space. Those faux stars, however, consisted of the names of those who had fallen in the Clone Civil War; scrolling, flickering, fading, and appearing once again upon its surface from time to time. It was imperceptible from any sort of distance, and even up close one might find difficulty reading them due to the near-nanoscopic size of the text. The sheer number of names encompassed by the monolith demanded it.
The trillions of names demanded it.
At night, it was only visible due to the spotlights that were constantly shone against it, ensuring that it could never go unseen, the lives lost never forgotten. Bourbon supposed it likewise served the infinitely more mundane purpose of a safety precaution, of course, to avoid potential issues with any air traffic that may have been arriving or departing from the intact sibling base some distance away.
As its name implied, Gemini had been built as two installations, conjoined by a tram system that ran between the two. It was, in essence, the Coalition of Clone Systems’ capitol. He could still remember when it was first constructed. They’d been the Coalition of Clone Nations back then. He could remember when nothing stood on Terra Nova, and the day they first stepped foot on it.
How long has it been? He wondered to himself. He looked down at the stones he held in his hand, bits of and pieces of rubble that had been exposed to the elements long enough to begin eroding them. He rolled them about in his palm idly, contemplating the base’s state. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen it in this condition, though his last visit had seen him in a far less observant state. He would have bet money that these were the same stones he’d been fondling during his last visit, if he had any cash on him. Given that the CCS didn’t use currency, however, that would’ve made for a fairly hollow bet.
That didn’t stop him from collecting banknotes from Earth whenever he could, of course. Earth memorabilia was still valuable on its own to the right individual.
He continued to ponder the question he’d posed. How long had it been since the last time he’d seen the military installation intact? November 5th, 2048, he recalled. That was just under 120 years ago now. It was burned into his mind, as it was for many other denizens of the Coalition. That was the date that everything had fallen apart. Any clone who’d lived through that day would remember it well. Not just those who’d been stationed at Gemini, or even on Terra Nova, but across all of Mare Spera.
It had been a lifetime ago now. No—Two…? Three…? He struggled to recount how many times he’d transferred from one body to another now, how many times he’d undergone transference. Sometimes he struggled to recount a lot of things, other times they came naturally. His mind swung like a pendulum between trying to erase it all and desperately clinging to whatever threads remained of his memory. So much had come unraveled.
It was maddening, though part of it was his own fault. They didn’t call him “Bourbon” for nothing.
He found one such thread, and took hold. He followed it backwards through time to revisit—Not for the first time, nor the last he suspected— the day of the surprise attack that launched the insurgency to come. Mounting tensions had come to a head, and fractured the Coalition. The rebels splintered off into their own faction, the Unified Clone Nations, and both sides spent plenty of time killing each other for the next two decades, leaving long-lasting wounds that still had never healed completely.
Bastards didn’t even have the decency to come up with an original name.
“Penny for your thoughts?” came the familiar drawl of an old friend.
He reeled himself back in, looking up from his hand. He adjusted his sunglasses to peer over their rims at the man who’d addressed him. YC-087, “Bull,” stood ahead of him. The Coalition’s Commander-in-Chief was half-turned towards him, free of his aides for at least a moment. Bourbon wished he had a camera. The morning sun cast its soft golden rays across him, painting an image of him that many of the Coalition would’ve very much liked to see.
He was wearing the full extent of his formal attire, sporting the deep red, pristine white, and dark blue uniform that was unique to his station. They were the colors of the Coalition’s flag. The blue was indicative of the void of space. The red and white represented the collided galaxies that formed “Mare Spera,” the “Sea of Hope.” It also served as a slight allusion to the Coalition’s Earthly origins in the United States military.
He sported his ceremonial pauldron on his left shoulder, a remnant or replication of the retired GPAU armor. The GPAU had been their first real armor, as opposed to simple plate carriers and ballistic padding. It had since been replaced by the M-RAU and its subsequent iterations, a much more advanced armor system, befitting a civilization that trod the stars. Its purpose as a part of his uniform was purely for symbolism and aesthetics, with his other shoulder and forearms sporting the segmented angular plating that had become incredibly commonplace amongst Coalition uniform designs.
The creases in his face seemed more apparent every time Bourbon saw him, and the circles under his eyes grew darker. It was hard to place the age of his current body, as it seemed keen on catching up to the age of his mind. Bull came into being in 1988, which put him at 179 years old as it was. Physical age meant nothing to a clone aside from the need for another body transfer and the physical therapy associated with it before they could get back to their duties, but to say age was “just a number” would be disingenuous.
The wind blew gently through Bull’s cropped black hair. Bourbon could remember when Bull fancied himself a charmer, his hair longer and slicked back with pomade. At the time, paired with his personality, it had evoked the image of someone from an old Western movie. He played the part well, complete with drawl and Southern charm. While he had yet to lose his accent, and he could still play the part of the charismatic leader, he seemed to have lost interest in playing cowboy.
Something subtle in his dark eyes told Bourbon that there might have been some hidden level of concern. That was fair, if he was being honest with himself. Bull was the one who’d discovered him here during his last visit five years prior, which had been a sordid affair.
Bourbon realized he’d been staring stupidly at him as opposed to giving him an answer. Seeing Bull after all this time still felt strange to him. All the same, he’d left an uncomfortable amount of time between the question and a response. It took him a moment to remember what the question even was. He chuffed as he remembered, finally answering in his typical low, sultry voice as he readjusted his shades. “You couldn’t possibly hope to afford all my thoughts even at a penny a piece.”
Bull turned to face him fully. “No? How about a dollar for the bushel, then?”
Bourbon grinned, seizing the moment. He mimed a microphone with his free hand. “A penny for your thoughts, but a dollar for your insides, or a fortune for your disaster?” he belted out with gusto. He let his hand fall and shrugged, stating the next line with far less bravado. “I’m just a painter, and I’m drawing a blank.”
“Your musical prowess leaves nothing to be desired,” Bull said, his tone flat in spite of an amused expression. “Save, perhaps, an answer to my question.”
Bourbon took a deep breath and sighed, planting his elbows on his knees. He stared back down at the stones in his hand. He rolled one between his finger and his thumb, then let it drop. “Frankly, I would have been far happier had I never been made to step foot in this festering dung heap ever again,” he said. “Too many memories.” He rolled the stones in his palm again, hearing the clattering. He let another drop. His brow furrowed, and he nodded in the direction of the monument. “Too many ghosts.” He looked back up. “Had you told me when last we met here that I would once more find myself seated upon this same pile of rubble? I believe I promptly would have told you to shoot me on the spot.”
Bull gave him a smug look. “You could always choose another assortment of rocks to perch on,” he offered. He gestured somewhere off to his side. “Those ones look mighty comfortable. You’re certainly not starved for choice.”
Bourbon glanced towards the pile Bull had indicated. It was a spiny sea urchin of debris, bits and pieces of rebar thrusting outwards at all angles. He let yet another stone drop, shrugging. “I’ll pass,” he said, waving dismissively. “I prefer my seating arrangements a tad less likely to give me a case of tetanus.
“Well. You could always… Stand. Presuming that’s not too… Pedestrian for you,” Bull retorted, rocking on his heels as he emphasized the word.
Bourbon gave a look of mock offense. “Like some kind of plebeian?” he gasped. “That you have the gall.” He paused and sighed, letting all the stones fall from his hand. He dusted his hands off, and pushed himself to stand. He held his arms out wide. “Satisfied?” he asked with a smirk.
Bull chuckled, looking around at all the debris himself. There was a pause before he spoke again. When he did, there was a solemnity to his voice. “You know, when the orbital elevator collapsed,” he began slowly, pointing towards a spot not too far from where either of them stood. “I was standing… Right about there.” Bourbon followed his direction, then glanced back upwards towards the monument. “We were trying to secure the elevator. Just when we were sure we had it on lock, they must’ve detonated charges they’d placed somewhere up above.”
The monument stood now where the orbital elevator once had, on its massive raised platform. It mimicked the shape as the elevator had, large and hexagonal, though not quite the same scale. It was centered the same, positioned the same, though lacking in dimension. Especially vertically. Saying such didn’t diminish the monument’s grandeur in any way, but rather put things into perspective. It was hard to compare anything to something that stretched beyond a planet’s atmosphere.
Bull continued, looking upwards towards the sky, shaking his head. “Worst sound I ever heard, haven’t heard anything quite like it since. The whole thing started to flounder about, not being anchored anymore. Sound of metal twisting and groaning, that odd twang the cables made as they thrashed about. I looked up to watch as it warped and began to shake pieces off of it.” He squinted, clearly envisioning the moment. “You know what the damnedest thing is though?”
Bourbon had a feeling he knew where Bull was going with the story, but didn’t interrupt. Instead he stood and listened, knowing Bull would continue of his own volition. “Watching the other half of it going up into space. One of the craziest things you can imagine, watching something that big just getting sucked out into the sky like that. That ain’t even the worst of it, though.” He turned back to Bourbon. “Worst of it was that I could make out something else moving up there. A ship.”
He put on an expression of amusement, though he was certain it was only to cover the resentment he’d felt. “I could see that ship move in and intercept the station the elevator was anchored to. And they hauled the whole damned station away. Must’ve loaded up the elevator with as much as they could and figured to steal whatever they had still left on the thing. I can’t even begin to tell you what was running through my mind as I watched those bastards steal our elevator.” He chuckled, a hint of bitterness behind it. “Of all the outrageous things I’ve seen, I don’t think anything’s got my goat quite as much as that.”
Bourbon glanced around. He replayed the events of the attack in his head. Things had been utter chaos the whole time, which distorted the timeline in his head to some degree. It didn’t help matters that it had been over a century ago. “I believe that was shortly after we secured the armory, or somewhere abouts. Chi had ventured off to retake the motor pool shortly prior, and I was off with a contingent of my own to take back the nursery.” So much of that day blended together, but he recalled the scene unfolding at the cloning facility well enough—He might have managed to scrub it from his memory, were it not for the fact that a living reminder of it was hounding him constantly as of late. “I recall it was near the end of the attack, at any rate. Seemed pretty apparent that we had the upper hand at that point, if it could be said as such.”
He scoffed, turning his nose up at a thought. “Frankly, I’m still insulted by their choice of cliché. November 5th? Really? They really had to go and pick a date already associated with treason?” He rolled his eyes, taking a few slow paces forward, holding his arms aloft as he posed his rhetorical question. “They decided to go the route of “Remember, remember, the 5th of November,” enact their treason, then stole our bloody name while they were at it? What a joke, with a terrible punchline at that.”
Bull arched a brow at him. “Would you rather they’d have chosen the 1st of November instead, or would you instead be chiding them for their missed opportunity?”
“I would rather they’d not betrayed us at all, if we’re talking semantics,” Bourbon retorted.
“Point,” Bull acknowledged.
Bourbon gave him a shit-eating grin. “All the same, you would, however, be absolutely correct in assuming that I’d have simply taken the other stance. They’d be taking the piss from me in either instance.” He chuckled, moving towards the monument itself.
The monument stood atop the platform their orbital elevator had once occupied, which thankfully had meant that it had a stable foundation as it was. It also made for a very large foundation. A few other things occupied the space as such. Presently, an entire assembly of people occupied the platform, in preparation for the ceremonies to come. Today marked the fifth-year anniversary of the officially declared end of the Hybridas Conflict. Yet another catastrophic war, though not one that the Coalition had in any way perpetrated. Rather, they’d been invaded by an outside force, the Hybridas.
Giving the Hybridas any simple description was a relatively futile effort, though he’d have all day to revisit a description for them. They’d come from the nearby galaxy of Ptolmyra, which was governed by the Ptolmyran Confederacy. The Confederacy was, as one might anticipate, comprised of different groups of Xenos who’d banded together to form an alliance within their own space. The Hybridas were the product of a race who had not been playing by the Confederacy’s rules. Somehow, they slipped under the radar into Mare Spera, where it promptly started destroying entire Coalition worlds.
Oops.
The Hybridas weren’t their only creations. Nor were they the first of their creations to fuck over the Coalition in some capacity. No, they managed to wreak havoc on them far earlier on, during the Sigtri incident… Which would end up being one of the things to spark the Civil War in the first place. And as it would seem, they shared an even deeper history. In the end, they’d had far more influence over the Coalition’s history than they ever should have—Considering that their entire race had been dead before the Coalition ever even left Earth.
A fact they only discovered when they tried to hunt them down, and found the Confederacy instead.
With the Hybridas Conflict wrapped up, Confederate and Coalition leaders were ready to finally sit down and have a chat. They were expecting the Confederate leaders soon. Meanwhile, all of the Coalition’s major players were already assembled and waiting. He gave a sidelong glance at everyone as he strode closer to the structure, mentally taking note of everyone there. He knew he was the odd man out; he had far less business being present than everyone else.
And yet here you stand, Colonel, with a fraction of a galaxy in the palm of your hand…
Aside from the entirety of Coalition High Command, there were the far more permanent objects around the monolith, namely a few terminals placed at regular intervals around the dark object. There was one larger, central terminal at what was deemed the front of the monument, which could be used to control the display on the obsidian surface. That was more or less to be the center point for the whole shindig, and Bull would be using it as a podium as he addressed the alien delegates upon their arrival.
It could be setting to multiple different settings, all serving purposes more or less particular. The way in which the names appeared and disappeared, or scrolled, or even the ability to pull up specific units, ships, or other such things. Ship emblems or even silhouettes could cross the memorial’s dark surface, fleets crossing the space between stars as surely as the stars themselves were on it. Whoever had designed it had surely put a great deal of effort into it.
Its default setting showed the constellations that made up their galaxy, and the names of the fallen made up their stars. The individual stars were comprised of the names of those who came from those systems. The idea was to represent their lives, as opposed to their deaths. It had been built after the Civil War, during a dark time. They’d won, but it seemed they’d lost infinitely more. Many lost the will to go on, and soon ceased to be.
They had a new fight to win. A fight to survive, to keep people from giving up. The “Survivor’s War,” they called it. An apt, if uninspired description. The memorial had been painstakingly constructed in an attempt to commemorate the fallen, and hopefully raise morale. Whether or not it saw any level of success was certainly up for debate. He knew it didn’t do very much for him, not that he’d had many opportunities to witness it. Mare Spera was a big galaxy, and he didn’t spend much time around Terra Nova after the war.
The obsidian obelisk represented something more than that, however. It was a promise. The monument itself was aptly named “The End,” which encompassed many things. It promised that the war was at an end, the violence was at an end. It promised that those who had met their end would not be forgotten. But most of all, it promised the end of death itself for the Coalition. The Lazarus Division of the CRDA managed to reconstruct their ability to create neural templates, mental back-ups. A “save point” in the event of death, to be recovered and transferred into a new body. One would lose their memories beyond that checkpoint, but they would live again, missing only a few months’ worth of time.
There was the argument, of course, that it wasn’t really the same person. Whoever that person was, they had still died. This was a replication. This was how transference worked as well. When one’s body was no longer fit for the tour of duty, a new one was created. If one was lucky, they could get a solid 30 years or so out of a single body before having to switch. The mind was replicated, and they would shed their old body in favor of a new one, physically and genetically identical to their last—So long as they chose not to make any modifications, of course.
The new body would contain the same consciousness as the last, the memories, knowledge, and feelings. There was an adjustment period as one went through physical therapy to become accustomed to their new self, and life went on for them. Everyone either had done it, or would do it at some point. Bourbon had done it, Bull had done it. And they would do it time and time again, for so long as they endured. For all intents and purposes, they had achieved some sense of immortality, so long as they chose not to terminate their line.
Bourbon didn’t know if they’d ever permanently lost anyone after that, with the exceptions being those who voluntarily chose the end. He knew of only one odd instance where the backups were lost, for a single person, and it was still being investigated. Oddly enough, it was Chi, who he’d referenced mere moments ago in his conversation with Bull. Something about that didn’t sit well with him. Many things about her disappearance didn’t sit well with him. Of course, that was true of many things these days. Many would label him as conspiratorial, an alarmist, or in general just distasteful.
They weren’t wrong, per se. He acknowledged that he was all of those things—Including distasteful, at times, depending on how much he was living up to his namesake. That didn’t mean he was wrong either, despite how often people discredited his efforts to raise concern about certain issues. It was all a matter of perspective, and he just continued to hang on to things that many considered dead and in the ground.
Idealism and pessimism were a stone’s throw apart, and he had become quite adept at slinging stones.
He realized that at some point while he’d been mulling things over, he’d found himself in front of one of the terminals. Not the main podium, but one of the smaller, plaque-like exhibits surrounding the structure. They could be used to pull up a great deal of information on the war, ranging from the particulars of separate battles to individuals’ entire service records. He idly inspected it, running a finger across its surface. Clean. It seemed someone had taken the time to dust them off for the ceremony to follow.
A sense of uncertainty plagued him. He didn’t really know how long he’d been standing there staring at the thing. He felt a pang within him, a certain call, and a thousand images flashed before his eyes. One particular scene played out before him, as it had time and again. Something dark stirred in the corner of his vision, and a chorus of whispers, familiar yet unintelligible, echoed in the recesses of his mind. It wouldn’t do him any good to push them aside. There were few sounds he could recall from the memory, and none of them were words.
There was a question that burned within him, longing to be answered.
He contemplated using the terminal, but something else began to burn. Something in the back of his skull felt like it was on fire, and he felt like he was on high alert.
Eyes.
He could feel Bull’s attention on him. He was waiting expectantly.
They both knew exactly what Bourbon was thinking about as he stood in front of the terminal. What he didn’t know, however, was whether Bull would be looking directly at him, or if he would be watching him out of his peripherals. Would he be pretending not to notice, or only marginally aware? Or staring directly at him? He wasn’t sure which scenario he liked better. None of them appealed, really.
He was too sober for this shit.
His hand fell away from the terminal. He decided to play it off.
He closed his eyes and spun on his heel, running his hands through his long, dirty-blond hair to perform an exaggerated hair flip. When he opened his eyes, he put on his cockiest grin, bracing for impact.
Bull wasn’t looking at him.
He released the breath he didn’t know he was holding. Bourbon would’ve been in his peripheral vision, but the Coalition’s leader hadn’t turned to watch. That was the outcome he’d expected, and admittedly preferred. Bull wasn’t stupid, he knew what had just happened. He was undoubtedly aware that Bourbon knew that he was watching, directly or indirectly. He was feigning ignorance for Bourbon’s sake, rather than make him feel as though he was under the magnifying glass. He was thankful for it.
He was waiting for Bourbon to approach the subject of his own accord, rather than initiate a confrontation himself. That was Bull’s way of operating. When it came to decisions that required immediate action, he didn’t hesitate. When it came to smaller things, however, he preferred a more tactful approach. He seemed to instead prefer putting pieces in place and setting them in motion, letting them unfold how they would. He always provided a way deeper in, and a way out.
The door was open for whenever Bourbon wanted to confront the subject. If he wanted to. It was the secret he’d kept from the universe, the one thing nobody was ever meant to know. Bourbon had made the admission to him already, but hadn’t spoken of it again. It wasn’t a conversation he was ready to have.
He hoped he’d be able to one day, but for now, he couldn’t.
Bourbon stepped away from the wretched thing, before he made a stupid decision by changing his mind. “You know…” he began slowly, employing a mischievous tone. “I find myself thinking about how relentlessly dour this place truly is.” He sauntered towards Bull again, coming to stand at his side. He tilted his head to the side as he met his friend’s gaze. He gestured behind him. “The obsidian tombstone’s really quite nice, whoever put it together did a fantastic job. No sarcasm, full truth.”
Bull’s stare was fixed straight ahead, in the direction they expected the rest of their party to come from. He took in a deep breath, bracing himself. “There’s either a “but” or a continuation to this line of thought.”
“Oh, I’m simply idly musing at the idea of using the grounds as a venue for a heavy metal concert. We’ve already got an appropriate backdrop, and plenty of space. Set up a few pyrotechnics, and we could put on quite a show.” He stroked his chin as he pretended to be in deep thought, feeling his fingers running through his facial hair. “Maybe host it on the anniversary of the war’s end? The idea of the monument was to celebrate their lives, what better way to celebrate than with a music festival?”
The Commander-in-Chief slowly turned his head to stare straight at him. His expression was utterly blank, and his eyes bore straight through him. “You’re proposing that we host a rock concert on what some people would view as being tantamount to Holy ground, and others would view as the graveyard of our hopes and dreams?”
“Absolutely. And a fancy barbecue.” Bourbon wasn’t even remotely serious. He was moreso just trying to get a laugh out of Bull. He imagined the man didn’t do much of that these days. “The United States had Memorial Day back on Earth, right? Celebrate the lives of the fallen by hosting giant cookouts every year? Sometimes with fireworks and such? Would it truly be any different?”
Bull’s stare turned incredulous, though his intonation remained flat. Bourbon was beginning to wonder if Bull actually realized that he was joking. “And I imagine you’d like to volunteer yourself to orchestrate the entire event?”
“Who, me? No. I would never. Bull, I would never. Well. I might. Maybe. I might maybe definitely do that.” He shrugged. “Who better? Gaelia?
Bull stared for a moment longer, but the idea of CWAD’s cold leader hosting any kind of festivities was enough to finally break Bull’s composure. He finally cracked a smile and chuckled, and let out a sigh that might have been relief. “No, I suppose leaving such things to the professionals would be a better choice. Especially now that you seem to fancy yourself a rock legend anyway.”
Fancy myself?” Bourbon shifted his weight onto one foot, crossing his arms. “Oh, darling, everyone fancies me, regardless of whether or not they’re willing to admit it. They always have. I’m the idol everyone craves, here to bring some sound and vision to the dull, colorless lives of our people.” He made an exaggerated gesture towards the sky. “And beyond.
“How very noble of you.”
“What can I say except “You’re welcome?"
“And extraordinarily humble,” Bull chuckled, turning his gaze forward again. “Just remember what Lee said. As much as I’m sure the idea of amassing a collective of alien groupies is amongst your highest aspirations, and I know you do so long to wow them, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask that we keep our Summit as…” He paused. "Professional as possible. Save the dazzling for after we get into their good graces, if you would be so kind.”
Bourbon mimed shock, placing a hand over his chest so as to indicate himself. He let out a mock gasp. “Are you implying that I would jeopardize our relationship with the Xenos? Good sir, I am surprised at you. When have I ever given you reason to believe I wouldn’t take such a thing seriously?”
Bull gave him an incredulous look.
“Okay, fine, you’ve made your point. And yet, here I stand. Normal uniform, no personal touches, as requested." He tugged at his leather jacket, spinning in place to display that he’d made no modifications to it. It only displayed the patches associated with himself and his unit, even as vibrant as they were. Other than that, there were only the fairly standard bits of armor that were part of many Coalition uniforms. His featured an armored collar that melded into a plating that protected his neck, upper back, and uppermost parts of his shoulders. The segmented plates likewise graced his upper arms and forearms. If he needed to get into a close-quarters fight, he would have been fairly well off.
The jacket had seen minimal use. Bourbon had another similar jacket that he typically wore instead—One which featured a number of more personal details.
The only “exotic” part of his outfit were his sunglasses, a pair of semi-square, angular aviators with side shields around the temples. The framing around the eyes were black and gold metal, while the arms were made of a matte black plastic. They sported red-mirrored lenses presently due to being in a polarized state, but he could transition them to clear if he so desired. He could use them as a Heads-Up Display in the event that he didn’t want to use his implants, which made them a useful piece of tech. He’d be taking them off when their company started arriving in full, for the sake of formalities and good manners.
“I made sure to tidy up as much as possible,” he continued, extending a leg to indicate the crease in his pant leg. He then pulled up the pant leg itself to show off the shine to his boots. “And I’m sober.” He frowned deeply. "Painfully sober. I didn’t even take a shot before I came here. Surely that counts for something?”
“It does. Speaking of dazzling, how’s that outfit of yours coming along anyway?”
Satisfied, Bourbon crossed his arms. “It’s done. Had to sort of figure it all out myself, we don’t exactly have an overabundance of sequins lying about.” He smirked. “At least, we didn’t. But we did have an overabundance of gemstones that nobody was using…”
“Oh no.”
“Oh, yes, darling. I’d have worn it today if I could’ve gotten away with it. Niki wouldn’t even let me apply any eyeliner.”
Bull blinked, momentarily taken aback by the remark. It only took him a moment to recover. “I don’t know how or why that statement surprises me, yet here we are. You’re committed to this bit now, aren’t you?”
Bourbon huffed, baring a toothy grin. “Don’t you know who I think I am?” he shot back, harkening back to his earlier song reference. Not his favorite band, nor preferred genre, but he’d be damned if he was going to pass up the opportunity to make a musical reference. “The short answer is yes. Besides, I should think that given the day’s events, playing my part should be preferable, would it not? At least later on, when it becomes relevant. The long answer is that I’ve always been this way, just… More subdued? I should hope you’ve not forgotten.”
“My office hasn’t rendered me senile, no.”
“Yet.”
“Yet,” Bull agreed. “All the same, no, I’ve not forgotten. You’ve always been one for theatrics.” He gave a subtle grin. “I suppose the HUB’s just finally given you an outlet for it. Now the Coalition as a whole gets to see what levels of madness you’ve hidden away from us.”
Bourbon gave Bull a smirk. “Bingo, although, come to think of it…” He turned his attention towards the rest of the assembly again. “I suppose most of them would very likely shoot me if I went for the full Monty on this one as it is.” They were all off in their own worlds, tending to their last-minute business. He hadn’t really paid much attention to them until now, though his moment of self-consciousness made him more aware of them. Not the matter of making a spectacle of himself; No, he had no shame, he couldn’t possibly embarrass himself. But the feelings that this place brought to him, the things that had happened here, he didn’t much care to make visible to these people.
[Part 2]
submitted by YC-012_Bourbon to HFY [link] [comments]

Real target: 9350-3875

Will be revealed within 36 hours
Feedback:
Thanks for viewing, guys! It was an ARV target for a sporting event. The task for the viewers was to choose a soccer match from the list below optimal for home winning team maximum profit bet, if: Belshina Bobruisk - BATE Borisov = Porcini mushroom, click here to view Odds=10.00 (Belshina Bobruisk's winning odds. This means if you bet $100 you will get $1000 if Belshina Bobruisk wins). Luzern - Basel = Emerald, click here to view Odds=4.00 Kasimpasa - Fenerbahce = Pizza, click here to view Odds=3.30 Real Sociedad - Real Madrid = Bullfinch, click here to view Odds=5.30 Aston Villa - Chelsea = Iceberg, click here to view Odds=7.00 The vast majority of you have described Iceberg. Triangle, white and blue, light bright, boat, water, stone / marble building, rock-like or slabs, heaviness, dizzy. Nixxla literally described: "White wall with uneven edges - iceberg, rising up from a flat surface - water. "Meatpieguy:" Triangular white shape, perhaps underwater, deep under the ocean. " Also, interesting fact. Some of you have described a cat. The nickname of Aston Villa is "Lions" Click here to view. I was really surprised when Aston Villa scored a goal in the first half. It seemed that the prediction had started to come true. But in the second half Chelsea scored two goals and won the match. Out of five matches, home teams won in only two matches. Luzern - Basel and Kasimpasa - Fenerbahce. Based on the value of the match odds, we can conclude that the optimal match was Luzern - Basel. This means that image of emerald was correct choice. Based on this, questions arise: 1. Remote viewing is not suitable for predicting sports events? 2. Has there been a phenomenon of dislocation/displacement? 3. The cue was formulated incorrectly for this purpose. Because formally in this match Aston Villa was the home winning team during the match (won half time) and it could be a profitable bet on this outcome in the match. What is your opinion? Would you like to try a such target again? With publication prediction based on your views before the match?
submitted by Mark_Shubin to remoteviewing [link] [comments]

Tomb of Acquisitions Campaign Diary - Part 1

Tomb of Acquisitions - Episode 1 - What's a Gun?

Premise

This campaign diary series will be covering my experiences preparing and running the Tomb of Annihilation published adventure, with some sprinkling in of the Acquisitions Inc. sourcebook for additional flavor. This game will be played as part of an actual-play podcast (The Rolling Loud Podcast), and so I thought that it might be interesting to write up and share my insights in preparing and running an adventure for a show. I’d also like to hear your feedback, especially your experiences running or playing Tomb of Annihilation, or about using Acquisitions Inc. mechanics in your games. I will not be linking to the show here because I think it goes against the subreddit rules, though I encourage you to check it out so you can follow along.
This campaign diary will not get very deep into my planning of the overarching campaign plot. Since this is a recorded and released story, I want to keep certain things in my back pocket. Instead, this series will largely focus on my preparation for each session. I will grant a little insight into my campaign-planning process though. In Kobold Press’s Kobold Guide to Gamemastering, Monica Valentinelli has an excellent essay on planning your campaign in four stages: Brainstorming, Sketching the Plot, Recording Wants and Needs, and finally Outlining. If you have the means I highly recommend reading her essay because the process she lays out gives you an excellent design skeleton for your campaign.
In this adventure the PCs will all be members of MacGuffin’s Repo Company, a mid-tier adventuring company that was based out of Nightstone. Now that their former base of operations was destroyed in a giant raid, the members of MacGuffin’s Repo are eagerly accepting as many contracts as they can.

Planning

Before I continue, it is important that I make a few choices I made clear. First, the characters are all rolled for stats and are starting out at level 3 instead of 1. Also, I have emphasized that this game will be a meat grinder (Well, a meat grinder by my standards anyways, I tend to be a merciful DM). Next, I decided to throw out the Syndra Sylvane intro. After reading the book’s suggested intro and contrasting it with a few guides that suggested a different opening, I decided that Syndra isn’t really adding a whole lot to the narrative herself besides the map. So, I decided to substitute the Merchant Prince Jessamine in Syndra’s place.
First, having a planned meeting with Jeassamine would give the party immediate direction once they arrived in Port Nyanzaru. This is something that I was anxious about while reading about the city in the book, because Port Nyanzaru can be overwhelming, and the book lacks direction outside of telling the players about some taverns. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when I’m trying to plan for a recording I don’t want a lot of time spent going “um where should we go?” Next, Jessamine also suffers from the death curse, so she’s just as invested in finding its source and destroying it as Syndra. Also, as a Merchant Prince it makes sense to me that Jessamine would have the means to conduct the same research that Syndra did, and could provide the same rewards.
With no more Syndra Sylvane to teleport the characters, the party needed a new way to Port Nyanzaru. The guides I read that suggested cutting out Syndra also suggested opening the campaign by sailing into the city and being attacked by pirates, and I thought that was a fun idea so I decided to run with that. The party would be sailing aboard The Brazen Pegasus, since that was the ship mentioned in Tomb. As a side note, I am just having the timer for the Death Curse start ticking down from Day 1 of this adventure. I will not be reducing the timer by the length of the boat journey because it’s not really fair to the players, since they didn’t choose this opening.
And so that brings us to the opening scene of the campaign:

Part 1 - Setting the Scene – Aboard the Pegasus

Our story begins with the party sailing to Chult aboard The Brazen Pegasus, a 60-foot sloop built for speed. The Pegasus is captained by Ortimay Swift, a female rock gnome who is both clever and calm. The first mate is Grig Ruddell, a hulking man whose face is almost hidden by a heavy beard streaked with gray. Other than shouting orders at the crew and conversing in low tones with Captain Swift, Ruddell barely speaks.
Your voyage to Chult began when the company received a job offer from a highly unusual client: Prince Jessamine, one of Port Nyanzaru's seven Merchant Princes who rule the city. She requested a group of capable adventurers be sent to her with haste, with the promise of more details and pay upon your arrival. With a sense of eagerness and anticipation, you set sail out of Waterdeep and made your way through the Sea of Swords, stopping occasionally so that the ship could trade and resupply.
And so after a long journey aboard the Pegasus, Chult has finally come into view as the ship makes its final approach to Port Nyanzaru. Even from a distance you can see that the port is busy, and many ships are anchored in its harbor.
This is the point where I’ll have my players introduce their characters, and perhaps describe what they’ve been doing to keep busy during their time sailing to Chult.

The Party

After character introductions are handled, it’s time for the pace of the session to pick up. So, to start getting some action I’ll have the party roll perception checks to notice the following:
  1. Notice the smell of rotting fish. (DC10)
  2. Notice that the waters on the starboard side are being unnaturally displaced, as if a ship were atop them. (DC14)
If any players succeed on the check to notice the displaced waters, then the party will not be surprised when pirates jump aboard and attack the Pegasus:
The smell of rotting fish fills the air, causing your eyes to sting and threatening to make you lose your lunch all at the same time. Suddenly, you hear orders being shouted and grappling hooks seem to fly out of nowhere, catching the railing along the starboard side of The Pegasus. A moment later your hearts fill with dread as a galley materializes alongside your own ship, a charm of invisibility being dispelled. The massive vessel sports a crew of bloodthirsty bandits and the ship’s name: The Rancid Ghost. Captain Swift's voice rings out, "Pirates!! Come on you scallywags, to arms!" Roll Initiative!
So, a little about the attacking pirates. Like I mentioned earlier, this encounter was another suggestion offered by numerous guides on running Tomb, and it seemed like a fun idea so I included it. I wanted this encounter to have that “Ambushed by Pirates” feel, and so I had the pirate ship sneak up on the Pegasus while cloaked by invisibility. Now, the caveat of this encounter is that it culminates in the destruction of the pirate ship by Aremag, Chult’s local dragon turtle.
Since the attacking ship would be destroyed, I decided that these pirates should not be any of the three listed by the book. Instead, I came up with Captain Ray Mangold and The Rancid Ghost, and decided that they would be added to the list of pirate ships and captains wanted by Port Nyanzaru’s authorities (specifically Zindar). Now, when the players arrive and are greeted by Zindar, he will thank and reward them for dealing with one of these pirate crews and tell the party of the bounties on the other three, giving us a side-quest if the party wants to take it.
Imgur link of Battlemap
Now, onto the combat. Since we are recording remotely, we’re tracking combat through Roll20 and DnD Beyond’s Combat Tracker, which I personally am a big fan of. The Pegasus is being assaulted by an advance squad of 5 enemies: one is a Pirate Captain (Ghosts of Saltmarsh), another is a Pirate Deck Wizard (GoS), and the other three are your typical Bandits (MM). This should present a hard, but not deadly, combat challenge for the PCs. I have a handful of other crew members nearby, who’s competence I will dial up or down depending on how the combat progresses.
I want this combat to showcase cool character abilities while also demonstrating to the players that these fights will be dangerous. To do this, I’m going to try my best to knock one of the PCs off of the side of the Pegasus with the pirate wizard’s gust of wind spell. Now, this won’t kill them outright. But, it will present the players with a challenge they aren’t accustomed to, and will make the pirates seem like a real threat.
Since this is a podcast, we are playing “on the clock” in a sense. We aim for our episode length to be around an hour and a half, and combats tend to eat big chunks of that time. I have two tools to help counteract this combat from dragging on beyond what is fun:
With that being said, this combat will still probably serve as the first half of the episode, and will also serve as its action-piece. The latter half will be mostly RP based around the sights of Port Nyanzaru, and the meeting with Prince Jessamine that will set up the overarching plot of this adventure.
When Aremag arrives:
Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, the surface of the water is breached by a gigantic turtle. The world seems to freeze in place as the turtle's head and upper torso hang in the air above the fight, water shimmering across its blue-green scales and shell. Finally, the great beast plummets back down to the sea, crashing down upon the Rancid Ghost and completely destroying the ship. Pirates cry out in alarm and jump from the ship to avoid being crushed by the turtle, but few make it. Captain Swift and the crew of the Pegasus cheer at this glorious sight.
“Hail, the great guardian Aremag has shown us favor on this day!”
After the combat is all done and the pirates dealt with, the party will officially arrive at Port Nyanzaru and step foot onto Chult, forever changing their lives :O. Also, it serves as a good break in the episode.

Part 2 - Port Nyanzaru – Arrival

Having successfully defeated the pirates (with a little help from a dragon turtle), The Brazen Pegasus calmly sails to a tropical city that appears to be blossoming underneath the blazing sun. The familiar sounds of a harbor — creaking ropes, slapping waves, heavy barrels rolling across cobblestones — mingle with voices shouting and cursing in an unfamiliar language filled with clicks, inhalations, and sing-songy words that make it sound almost musical. The aroma of unfamiliar spices and tropical fruit mixes with the wharfside smells of fish, tar, and canvas.
However, what really catches your attention is the statue at the center of the harbor. The statue represents an ancient Chultan king in full regalia, resplendent in a loincloth of leopard skin and a headdress of feathers, shells, and tyrannosaurus teeth; draped in a cape of girallon fur and monkey tails; and wielding the traditional oval shield and yklwa of Chult. Residents call it Na N’buso, the Great King.
Soon enough, The Brazen Pegasus is hailed by the Port Nyanzaru's Harbormaster, and the ship finally drops anchor and docks. Up close, you are able to see that the Harbormaster is a golden half-dragon wearing large spectacles and white and blue robes, adorned with a golden trim.
Screenshot of arrival to PN
I’m having the players arrive at the Royal Docks (area 11) because I want them to be greeted by Zindar on their arrival, and am justifying this choice by saying that Jessamine’s letter grants them permission to dock in the otherwise restricted area. Upon arrival, Zindar will welcome Captain Swift and the Pegasus like old friends, and the two will have something resembling the following exchange:
Z - "Captain Swift! I am glad to see you back in one piece! How was your journey?"
CS - "Mostly fine right up until the end, damned pirates made a move on us right before we got to the harbor,"
Z - "Damn that criminal scum! The ship seems to be in fine enough condition, though. Who attacked you? Was it that cheat, Laskilar?"
CS - "No, it was Mangold as a matter of fact. Bastard snuck up on us with some cloak of invisibility and got the jump on us. Things wouldn't have gone so well for us if it weren't for these folk, who jumped into the fight right away. And a little help from Aremag didn’t hurt neither."
Z - "So the turtle sunk The Rancid Ghost, eh? Not bad, not bad at all."
Zindar focuses on the members of MacGuffin Repo. Co. and says, "Well, if any of you are looking to hunt some more pirates and make a quick buck doing it, the Merchant Princes have authorized me to offer a bounty of 2,000 gp for each pirate ship that is captured and brought into port, and a bonus 500 gp for the capture of each pirate captain. As it stands, I can't pay you that much for sunken ships. But, I am still believing that you deserve a reward for your help in defending the Pegasus."
I’m hoping that the players jump in on their exchange, and I’d love for them to try and wring some info out of Zindar, but at the same time I’m not holding my breath. Currently, their only clear objective is “Meet with Prince Jessamine”, and so that is what I anticipate they will want to do first. As you can see from the screenshot of Port Nyanzaru, I have placed my PCs pretty much right next to area 13, which is the Harbormaster’s Office. Outside of the office is an information board with listings of guides for hire, something that the party will need to traverse the jungle, which they may or may not be interested in.
The guides also add their own component to the story, which can either be a boon or a curse to the party. I debated for a while whether I’d leave all the guides available like the book says, or if I’d only make the ones that jumped out to me available for hire. Ultimately, I decided to leave them all in because this is something that will shape the player’s journey, and so I think they should make the choice. The players may want to hire a guide first, but without a real purpose to start exploring the jungle I imagine that they’ll keep making their way to Jessamine’s villa.

Exploring the City – Watch Out! Dino Race!

After disembarking from the Pegasus, the members of MacGuffin's Repo Co. leave the busy docks and enter the city proper. You find yourselves by the Harbormaster's Office, outside of which is a bulletin board that provides the names and whereabouts of several wilderness guides.
The first impression you have of Port Nyanzaru is an explosion of color. Buildings are painted in bright shades of blue, green, orange, and salmon pink, or their walls are adorned with murals portraying giant reptiles and mythical heroes.
Every building sports baskets and clay urns of colorful flowers or is draped in leafy, flowering vines. Minstrels in bright clothing adorned with feathers and shells perform on street corners. Multicolored pennants and sun awnings flutter atop the city walls. A crowd of children dressed in feathered hats and capes races past you, squealing in delighted terror as a street performer costumed as a big-toothed lizard stomps and roars behind them. The whole city seems to be bustling, sweating, laughing, swearing, and singing.
As you make your way through Port Nyanzaru, the size of the city starts to sink in. The wonders of Port Nyanzaru rivals that of Waterdeep or Baldur's Gate. Here, people use dinosaurs as beasts of burden, and the city sports a network of large water tubes. These tubes are massive, elevated connected pipes that are maintained and protected by three bound water elementals. People ride in them to quickly travel to different areas of the city. The tubes are ten feet wide and tall, providing ample space for even some dinosaurs to ride in.
While strolling through the city, you pass by a Temple of Gond, god of craft and smithwork. Instead of featuring a forge at its center like most temples to Gond, the boxy stone structure features an immense fountain whose water jets shift continually to create amazing shapes.
Crowds hustle around you as you take in the breathtaking beauty of the city when suddenly the brilliant sound of a trumpet blare echoes across the ward, and the people of Port Nyanzaru quickly begin to clear the city street.
First, you feel the ground begin to shake. Then you see three dinosaurs round the corner of the street, charging abreast towards you. Two are hadrosaurs, the other a young triceratops. The dinos are loosely tacked, and their riders seem to be hanging on for dear life rather than steering the great beasts. They quickly charge past you, and are soon followed by a string of four more dinosaurs that rush by before another trumpet blare signals that the streets are once again safe to walk, and crowds casually fill the streets of Port Nyanzaru while you struggle to get over the shock and bewilderment at what you just witnessed.
This is a good place for me to drop in a side quest or random encounter, but only a handful of the suggested options resonate with me and I don’t want to distract the players quite yet. Also, in reference to the water tubes I described. They are an idea from Sean McGovern’s Tomb of Annihilation Companion, which is available on the DM’s Guild. The guide is an excellent tool and is full of cool ideas like the water tubes.
You continue past the marvelous sight and quickly find yourselves in Port Nyanzaru's Merchant Ward, a vibrant district that encompasses the western half of the city. This is the upper-class section of Port Nyanzaru, home to the city's Merchant Princes as well as other affluent individuals, who are mostly made up of successful merchants and other elites. In fact, the district name is actually a bit of a misnomer, as the majority of the city's merchants and traders actually live and work out of the Market Ward.
As you stroll through the Merchant Ward, you approach the magnificent Temple of Savras, the god of truth and divination. This temple is one of the oldest, grandest buildings in the city. The tiled roof of its great dome resembles an unblinking eye, staring skyward, an homage to the god Savras (whose symbol is a monstrous eye).
Though I am introducing the temple of Savras to the characters, I am not going to have the party meet Grandfather Zitembe until after they’re hired by Jessamine because they need to have an idea of the grander mission that lays before them before they hear from the priest.

Meeting Prince Jessamine

Just beyond the temple is your destination: the Merchant Prince Jessamine's manor. You stand before steps that lead up to a set of double doors marking the entrance to the ruler's residence.
The guard ushers you into the palace's entryway, and you see that Prince Jessamine's home is a lavish villa; open and airy, its pillars and walls painted with colorful serpents. The mansion's decorative stone fountains and fonts also share a similar serpentine motif. The entryway is a pleasant, breezy, tiled courtyard that includes a splashing fountain and luscious green plants. You also see two more guards posted at the threshold to the inner chambers of the palace.
The guard points to an adjoining room and says, "You all may take a seat in the waiting room while I tell the Prince of your arrival."
The guard then turns to leave, going upstairs to fetch the Prince, and soon returns to their post. Around ten minutes later, Prince Jessamine makes her way down the grand staircase. She walks with a royal's stride, her chin held high. Her hair is styled in a medium-sized afro with one streak of grey tracing the left side. She wears a fine sleeveless gown that trails behind her, but as she draws near you notice that parts of her arms are bandaged.
Now that the party has accepted the main quest of this campaign, I want to offer something more immediate that will lead us into our next episode.
Now, depending on time the episode may end here or go on until the tavern. For whichever inn they choose (ideally the Thundering Lizard), they will meet Volo and have a chance to participate in a little tavern game called “Dwarf’s Bane” that I picked up from Tavern Games, a product on the DM’s Guild authored by u/lemongrovelovers. I like minigames and I think that a bar game against Volo could provide for some good banter and roleplaying to close out the episode, with the next ep picking up the following morning in anticipation of the Dino Race.

Running the Game

This section will be a lot briefer than the planning section since the podcast has been released and you can listen to the finer details there. Here I will be self-evaluating how things went and what could have been improved, and this is the section where I would like to hear from you all the most.
So, after the gang’s usual misfires in starting the episode, things get off to a nice start with character introductions and the initial action going according to plan. I almost knocked Reina off the side of the Pegasus, and although I didn’t initially design a DEX save for her to grab onto the side, when the idea was brought up it seemed more than reasonable so I allowed it. At the end of the combat Reina got her cool moment in the spotlight by climbing back over the railing and absolutely destroying the pirate captain. Even with the setback of one PC being mostly out of the combat, the party had this encounter well in hand, so the crew served as a backdrop instead of as active participants. Aremag showed up right on time, and we soon moved on to Port Nyanzaru. I think this combat was an excellent introductory encounter since each character had a moment where they shined in the spotlight, which is all I can ask for. And in the end, it took up more than half of the episode, which is a little more than I predicted. However, there wasn’t a point where I felt like it was dragging.
Arriving to Port Nyanzaru also went according to how I envisioned, almost down to the letter. The party got their prize from Zindar and decided that their best course of action would be to see Prince Jessamine as soon as they could, which is completely reasonable. The only part that surprised me was when the party was considering turning down Jessamine’s offer for one of them to race her dino in tomorrow’s Unchained Race. I thought this would be an easy “yes”, but it turned into a fun little debate and I liked that. In the end, we decided to end the episode in the tavern where the players met Volo and were about to play Dwarf’s Bane when Declan, the trickster cleric, made a wager of such unusual proportions that I deemed it a good place to end the episode.
Looking back on this session as a whole, I am happy with how things went. I think the first half of the session is really strong, but I regret not throwing in some kind of action in the latter half. Instead, it was largely filled with narration as I led the players through Port Nyanzaru. Full disclosure: we ran “episode 1” of this campaign (minus Batuk) a few weeks ago with the book’s introduction, but due to some unfortunate technical difficulties we lost an audio file and were forced to scrap the episode. In this “lost episode”, I had the party meet K’lahu and do his side quest. This time around I didn’t want to run the party through the same gauntlet, even though I liked K’lahu’s inclusion. I didn’t include any of the other side quests in this episode because they just come off as too obtuse to me, but if I could go back in time I think that including some sort of action for the players to jump in on would have made this session even better.
So with all that being said, I hope that I haven’t rambled on for too long and that you all may have found something interesting in my write-up, and I’d love to hear your thoughts so please comment below and give me some actionable feedback. If all goes according to plan, you should be hearing from me again soon.
submitted by TheRamblingDM to Tombofannihilation [link] [comments]

Girlfriend falling deeper into Arbonne's clutches.

Back in March, my girlfriend tells me her friend is asking her to join her Arbonne team. I hadn't heard of it but a quick google search showed it was definitely an MLM. I said it kind of sounds like a pyramid scheme. She immediately said, "(Friend's name redacted) says pyramid schemes are illegal so it can't be a pyramid scheme." I told her it was odd her friend had a response ready to go and if you have to convince others you aren't a certain thing so frequently you have a script... you might want to re-evaluate. I also informed her of the class action lawsuit related to potentially being a pyramid scheme they had a couple years back which they settled privately out of court.
At the end of the day, she said she already uses products anyway (which was true) so signing up as an Independent Consultant for $30 a year would give her a 15% discount so she would save money long-term. I also requested that she doesn't start messaging rando people she hasn't talked to since high school and try to sell to them since that is my experience with MLM's. She laughed and told me she wouldn't. She is also super good with managing her finances so she is one of the few people I would actually believe that could sign up for it and get what she needs while saving money or at least breaking even.
Two weeks later the social media posts of fizz sticks and 30 day cleanses start popping up. She isn't messaging anyone, but just making the posts so if anyone is curious they can message her. I wasn't super thrilled her online presence was saturated with Arbonne but it's her life so I'm not going to pick a fight and try to tell her what she can/can't do. It was cringe to see 10+ Arbonne posts to her story everyday but she wasn't DM'ing anyone so who cares.
Beginning of April there is a list on her fridge of goals which include making District Manager, selling $3000 worth of product, and recruiting "at least 1 new biz builder". There were other legitimate goals mixed in like reading some books, running 3-4x a week, and repainting certain rooms in her house, but the focus was primarily on Arbonne.
Then, she started driving around house to house to drop off sample bags to potential customers despite the social distancing guidelines over the last few weeks. At dinner with her parents a couple weeks ago she was on her phone the entire time messaging potential customers and pacing around waiting for their responses being overly excited with a sale and completely silent when rejected. Her mom has been buying products from her while her dad is on my side of just sitting back. We don't want to insult her but we're not buying a single thing.
As of this last week she has yet to recruit anyone under her, but got "promoted" to District Manager based on her sales alone. I have kept my mouth shut about the paradox of a management title with no one to supervise, but that is a glaring red flag to me. I said congrats and we had a glass of wine to celebrate then I changed the topic.
Yesterday it went to a completely new level. She was on a Zoom call in the living room with her upline while I was making dinner. Her upline told my girlfriend (a teacher) about another teacher in some other state who just quit her job to go full-time with Arbonne. She said, "Yes! I saw that! It got me thinking about what all I need to do so I can quit my job too!" I had been walking back and forth asking if the dishes in the dishwasher were clean and if her dog had eaten dinner yet so while I wasn't actively involved in their chat, I don't believe I was full on eavesdropping. I didn't really care what they were talking about but when I heard that my ears perked up and my heart sank.
She is normally very smart and I thought this would fizzle out but I'm afraid I was wrong. We've always been very independent (including, and now especially, finances) and respectful of each other's interests that we may not agree with. She knows I sometimes bet on sports games (when sports were still a thing) with a couple of my friends. She thinks gambling of any kind is silly, but she also knows I budget for it and it's only small amounts. That is how I have viewed Arbonne in her life. I've got silly sports betting and she has silly Arbonne. When she got excited at the prospect of quitting teaching to sell Arbonne I felt like that would be the same thing as me quitting my job to gamble professionally. Can it be done? Possibly. Is it even remotely wise to try? Absolutely not.
I don't like ultimatums in relationships but I feel like I need to hear her say quitting her job for Arbonne is not a real option. Sorry for the rant. Any advice?
submitted by Jack_OfAFewTrades to antiMLM [link] [comments]

Sea of Hope: Paradigm [Part 1]

Hello there, and welcome. I’ll keep introductions brief, as I’m here to share a writing story, not my life story, yes? This is my first time posting here, so I do hope this is up to snuff. It’s been a long time since I’ve put anything on display for public consumption, but it’s been suggested to me that this might be a good place to share this little project, and find potentially useful feedback, criticisms, and more.
“Sea of Hope” is an ongoing passion project being worked on by multiple people. It’s been a labor of love that’s been in development for a long time, undergoing constant evolution. There’s a lot of plot and history that’s been developed, and much, much more still in development. We wanted to share some of that with you, in hopes that you might be interested in going on that journey with us, and discover why we’re as passionate about it as we are.
Thanks for your time, and enjoy the show.
Links
[Part 2]

>>//0740 Hours, 08 January, 2168
>>//Location: Old Gemini/Lost Twin
>>//Sublocation: Clone Civil War Memorial
>>//Terra Nova, Anastasis System, Mare Spera
The ruins of the original Gemini Base were just as he remembered them: A desolate heap of rubble, destroyed far beyond any hope of repair.
YC-012, “Bourbon”—As he was now known, much to his chagrin—stared up at the massive obelisk that loomed over the ruins. To say it towered above his head would be a pitiful understatement; it stretched so far above him that he could not see the top from where he sat. Its width was much more tangible, at least in the sense that one could circumnavigate the thing in a reasonable amount of time. All the same, he wouldn’t want to run a circuit around it; it would just as well become a marathon.
The hexagonal pillar was darker than the abyss itself, a solemn reminder of the deaths it represented. The memorial’s surface constantly rippled and shimmered, forming fleeting constellations against the void of space. Those faux stars, however, consisted of the names of those who had fallen in the Clone Civil War; scrolling, flickering, fading, and appearing once again upon its surface from time to time. It was imperceptible from any sort of distance, and even up close one might find difficulty reading them due to the near-nanoscopic size of the text. The sheer number of names encompassed by the monolith demanded it.
The trillions of names demanded it.
At night, it was only visible due to the spotlights that were constantly shone against it, ensuring that it could never go unseen, the lives lost never forgotten. Bourbon supposed it likewise served the infinitely more mundane purpose of a safety precaution, of course, to avoid potential issues with any air traffic that may have been arriving or departing from the intact sibling base some distance away.
As its name implied, Gemini had been built as two installations, conjoined by a tram system that ran between the two. It was, in essence, the Coalition of Clone Systems’ capitol. He could still remember when it was first constructed. They’d been the Coalition of Clone Nations back then. He could remember when nothing stood on Terra Nova, and the day they first stepped foot on it.
How long has it been? He wondered to himself. He looked down at the stones he held in his hand, bits of and pieces of rubble that had been exposed to the elements long enough to begin eroding them. He rolled them about in his palm idly, contemplating the base’s state. It wasn’t the first time he’d seen it in this condition, though his last visit had seen him in a far less observant state. He would have bet money that these were the same stones he’d been fondling during his last visit, if he had any cash on him. Given that the CCS didn’t use currency, however, that would’ve made for a fairly hollow bet.
That didn’t stop him from collecting banknotes from Earth whenever he could, of course. Earth memorabilia was still valuable on its own to the right individual.
He continued to ponder the question he’d posed. How long had it been since the last time he’d seen the military installation intact? November 5th, 2048, he recalled. That was just under 120 years ago now. It was burned into his mind, as it was for many other denizens of the Coalition. That was the date that everything had fallen apart. Any clone who’d lived through that day would remember it well. Not just those who’d been stationed at Gemini, or even on Terra Nova, but across all of Mare Spera.
It had been a lifetime ago now. No—Two…? Three…? He struggled to recount how many times he’d transferred from one body to another now, how many times he’d undergone transference. Sometimes he struggled to recount a lot of things, other times they came naturally. His mind swung like a pendulum between trying to erase it all and desperately clinging to whatever threads remained of his memory. So much had come unraveled.
It was maddening, though part of it was his own fault. They didn’t call him “Bourbon” for nothing.
He found one such thread, and took hold. He followed it backwards through time to revisit—Not for the first time, nor the last he suspected— the day of the surprise attack that launched the insurgency to come. Mounting tensions had come to a head, and fractured the Coalition. The rebels splintered off into their own faction, the Unified Clone Nations, and both sides spent plenty of time killing each other for the next two decades, leaving long-lasting wounds that still had never healed completely.
Bastards didn’t even have the decency to come up with an original name.
“Penny for your thoughts?” came the familiar drawl of an old friend.
He reeled himself back in, looking up from his hand. He adjusted his sunglasses to peer over their rims at the man who’d addressed him. YC-087, “Bull,” stood ahead of him. The Coalition’s Commander-in-Chief was half-turned towards him, free of his aides for at least a moment. Bourbon wished he had a camera. The morning sun cast its soft golden rays across him, painting an image of him that many of the Coalition would’ve very much liked to see.
He was wearing the full extent of his formal attire, sporting the deep red, pristine white, and dark blue uniform that was unique to his station. They were the colors of the Coalition’s flag. The blue was indicative of the void of space. The red and white represented the collided galaxies that formed “Mare Spera,” the “Sea of Hope.” It also served as a slight allusion to the Coalition’s Earthly origins in the United States military.
He sported his ceremonial pauldron on his left shoulder, a remnant or replication of the retired GPAU armor. The GPAU had been their first real armor, as opposed to simple plate carriers and ballistic padding. It had since been replaced by the M-RAU and its subsequent iterations, a much more advanced armor system, befitting a civilization that trod the stars. Its purpose as a part of his uniform was purely for symbolism and aesthetics, with his other shoulder and forearms sporting the segmented angular plating that had become incredibly commonplace amongst Coalition uniform designs.
The creases in his face seemed more apparent every time Bourbon saw him, and the circles under his eyes grew darker. It was hard to place the age of his current body, as it seemed keen on catching up to the age of his mind. Bull came into being in 1988, which put him at 179 years old as it was. Physical age meant nothing to a clone aside from the need for another body transfer and the physical therapy associated with it before they could get back to their duties, but to say age was “just a number” would be disingenuous.
The wind blew gently through Bull’s cropped black hair. Bourbon could remember when Bull fancied himself a charmer, his hair longer and slicked back with pomade. At the time, paired with his personality, it had evoked the image of someone from an old Western movie. He played the part well, complete with drawl and Southern charm. While he had yet to lose his accent, and he could still play the part of the charismatic leader, he seemed to have lost interest in playing cowboy.
Something subtle in his dark eyes told Bourbon that there might have been some hidden level of concern. That was fair, if he was being honest with himself. Bull was the one who’d discovered him here during his last visit five years prior, which had been a sordid affair.
Bourbon realized he’d been staring stupidly at him as opposed to giving him an answer. Seeing Bull after all this time still felt strange to him. All the same, he’d left an uncomfortable amount of time between the question and a response. It took him a moment to remember what the question even was. He chuffed as he remembered, finally answering in his typical low, sultry voice as he readjusted his shades. “You couldn’t possibly hope to afford all my thoughts even at a penny a piece.”
Bull turned to face him fully. “No? How about a dollar for the bushel, then?”
Bourbon grinned, seizing the moment. He mimed a microphone with his free hand. “A penny for your thoughts, but a dollar for your insides, or a fortune for your disaster?” he belted out with gusto. He let his hand fall and shrugged, stating the next line with far less bravado. “I’m just a painter, and I’m drawing a blank.”
“Your musical prowess leaves nothing to be desired,” Bull said, his tone flat in spite of an amused expression. “Save, perhaps, an answer to my question.”
Bourbon took a deep breath and sighed, planting his elbows on his knees. He stared back down at the stones in his hand. He rolled one between his finger and his thumb, then let it drop. “Frankly, I would have been far happier had I never been made to step foot in this festering dung heap ever again,” he said. “Too many memories.” He rolled the stones in his palm again, hearing the clattering. He let another drop. His brow furrowed, and he nodded in the direction of the monument. “Too many ghosts.” He looked back up. “Had you told me when last we met here that I would once more find myself seated upon this same pile of rubble? I believe I promptly would have told you to shoot me on the spot.”
Bull gave him a smug look. “You could always choose another assortment of rocks to perch on,” he offered. He gestured somewhere off to his side. “Those ones look mighty comfortable. You’re certainly not starved for choice.”
Bourbon glanced towards the pile Bull had indicated. It was a spiny sea urchin of debris, bits and pieces of rebar thrusting outwards at all angles. He let yet another stone drop, shrugging. “I’ll pass,” he said, waving dismissively. “I prefer my seating arrangements a tad less likely to give me a case of tetanus.
“Well. You could always… Stand. Presuming that’s not too… Pedestrian for you,” Bull retorted, rocking on his heels as he emphasized the word.
Bourbon gave a look of mock offense. “Like some kind of plebeian?” he gasped. “That you have the gall.” He paused and sighed, letting all the stones fall from his hand. He dusted his hands off, and pushed himself to stand. He held his arms out wide. “Satisfied?” he asked with a smirk.
Bull chuckled, looking around at all the debris himself. There was a pause before he spoke again. When he did, there was a solemnity to his voice. “You know, when the orbital elevator collapsed,” he began slowly, pointing towards a spot not too far from where either of them stood. “I was standing… Right about there.” Bourbon followed his direction, then glanced back upwards towards the monument. “We were trying to secure the elevator. Just when we were sure we had it on lock, they must’ve detonated charges they’d placed somewhere up above.”
The monument stood now where the orbital elevator once had, on its massive raised platform. It mimicked the shape as the elevator had, large and hexagonal, though not quite the same scale. It was centered the same, positioned the same, though lacking in dimension. Especially vertically. Saying such didn’t diminish the monument’s grandeur in any way, but rather put things into perspective. It was hard to compare anything to something that stretched beyond a planet’s atmosphere.
Bull continued, looking upwards towards the sky, shaking his head. “Worst sound I ever heard, haven’t heard anything quite like it since. The whole thing started to flounder about, not being anchored anymore. Sound of metal twisting and groaning, that odd twang the cables made as they thrashed about. I looked up to watch as it warped and began to shake pieces off of it.” He squinted, clearly envisioning the moment. “You know what the damnedest thing is though?”
Bourbon had a feeling he knew where Bull was going with the story, but didn’t interrupt. Instead he stood and listened, knowing Bull would continue of his own volition. “Watching the other half of it going up into space. One of the craziest things you can imagine, watching something that big just getting sucked out into the sky like that. That ain’t even the worst of it, though.” He turned back to Bourbon. “Worst of it was that I could make out something else moving up there. A ship.”
He put on an expression of amusement, though he was certain it was only to cover the resentment he’d felt. “I could see that ship move in and intercept the station the elevator was anchored to. And they hauled the whole damned station away. Must’ve loaded up the elevator with as much as they could and figured to steal whatever they had still left on the thing. I can’t even begin to tell you what was running through my mind as I watched those bastards steal our elevator.” He chuckled, a hint of bitterness behind it. “Of all the outrageous things I’ve seen, I don’t think anything’s got my goat quite as much as that.”
Bourbon glanced around. He replayed the events of the attack in his head. Things had been utter chaos the whole time, which distorted the timeline in his head to some degree. It didn’t help matters that it had been over a century ago. “I believe that was shortly after we secured the armory, or somewhere abouts. Chi had ventured off to retake the motor pool shortly prior, and I was off with a contingent of my own to take back the nursery.” So much of that day blended together, but he recalled the scene unfolding at the cloning facility well enough—He might have managed to scrub it from his memory, were it not for the fact that a living reminder of it was hounding him constantly as of late. “I recall it was near the end of the attack, at any rate. Seemed pretty apparent that we had the upper hand at that point, if it could be said as such.”
He scoffed, turning his nose up at a thought. “Frankly, I’m still insulted by their choice of cliché. November 5th? Really? They really had to go and pick a date already associated with treason?” He rolled his eyes, taking a few slow paces forward, holding his arms aloft as he posed his rhetorical question. “They decided to go the route of “Remember, remember, the 5th of November,” enact their treason, then stole our bloody name while they were at it? What a joke, with a terrible punchline at that.”
Bull arched a brow at him. “Would you rather they’d have chosen the 1st of November instead, or would you instead be chiding them for their missed opportunity?”
“I would rather they’d not betrayed us at all, if we’re talking semantics,” Bourbon retorted.
“Point,” Bull acknowledged.
Bourbon gave him a shit-eating grin. “All the same, you would, however, be absolutely correct in assuming that I’d have simply taken the other stance. They’d be taking the piss from me in either instance.” He chuckled, moving towards the monument itself.
The monument stood atop the platform their orbital elevator had once occupied, which thankfully had meant that it had a stable foundation as it was. It also made for a very large foundation. A few other things occupied the space as such. Presently, an entire assembly of people occupied the platform, in preparation for the ceremonies to come. Today marked the fifth-year anniversary of the officially declared end of the Hybridas Conflict. Yet another catastrophic war, though not one that the Coalition had in any way perpetrated. Rather, they’d been invaded by an outside force, the Hybridas.
Giving the Hybridas any simple description was a relatively futile effort, though he’d have all day to revisit a description for them. They’d come from the nearby galaxy of Ptolmyra, which was governed by the Ptolmyran Confederacy. The Confederacy was, as one might anticipate, comprised of different groups of Xenos who’d banded together to form an alliance within their own space. The Hybridas were the product of a race who had not been playing by the Confederacy’s rules. Somehow, they slipped under the radar into Mare Spera, where it promptly started destroying entire Coalition worlds.
Oops.
The Hybridas weren’t their only creations. Nor were they the first of their creations to fuck over the Coalition in some capacity. No, they managed to wreak havoc on them far earlier on, during the Sigtri incident… Which would end up being one of the things to spark the Civil War in the first place. And as it would seem, they shared an even deeper history. In the end, they’d had far more influence over the Coalition’s history than they ever should have—Considering that their entire race had been dead before the Coalition ever even left Earth.
A fact they only discovered when they tried to hunt them down, and found the Confederacy instead.
With the Hybridas Conflict wrapped up, Confederate and Coalition leaders were ready to finally sit down and have a chat. They were expecting the Confederate leaders soon. Meanwhile, all of the Coalition’s major players were already assembled and waiting. He gave a sidelong glance at everyone as he strode closer to the structure, mentally taking note of everyone there. He knew he was the odd man out; he had far less business being present than everyone else.
And yet here you stand, Colonel, with a fraction of a galaxy in the palm of your hand…
Aside from the entirety of Coalition High Command, there were the far more permanent objects around the monolith, namely a few terminals placed at regular intervals around the dark object. There was one larger, central terminal at what was deemed the front of the monument, which could be used to control the display on the obsidian surface. That was more or less to be the center point for the whole shindig, and Bull would be using it as a podium as he addressed the alien delegates upon their arrival.
It could be setting to multiple different settings, all serving purposes more or less particular. The way in which the names appeared and disappeared, or scrolled, or even the ability to pull up specific units, ships, or other such things. Ship emblems or even silhouettes could cross the memorial’s dark surface, fleets crossing the space between stars as surely as the stars themselves were on it. Whoever had designed it had surely put a great deal of effort into it.
Its default setting showed the constellations that made up their galaxy, and the names of the fallen made up their stars. The individual stars were comprised of the names of those who came from those systems. The idea was to represent their lives, as opposed to their deaths. It had been built after the Civil War, during a dark time. They’d won, but it seemed they’d lost infinitely more. Many lost the will to go on, and soon ceased to be.
They had a new fight to win. A fight to survive, to keep people from giving up. The “Survivor’s War,” they called it. An apt, if uninspired description. The memorial had been painstakingly constructed in an attempt to commemorate the fallen, and hopefully raise morale. Whether or not it saw any level of success was certainly up for debate. He knew it didn’t do very much for him, not that he’d had many opportunities to witness it. Mare Spera was a big galaxy, and he didn’t spend much time around Terra Nova after the war.
The obsidian obelisk represented something more than that, however. It was a promise. The monument itself was aptly named “The End,” which encompassed many things. It promised that the war was at an end, the violence was at an end. It promised that those who had met their end would not be forgotten. But most of all, it promised the end of death itself for the Coalition. The Lazarus Division of the CRDA managed to reconstruct their ability to create neural templates, mental back-ups. A “save point” in the event of death, to be recovered and transferred into a new body. One would lose their memories beyond that checkpoint, but they would live again, missing only a few months’ worth of time.
There was the argument, of course, that it wasn’t really the same person. Whoever that person was, they had still died. This was a replication. This was how transference worked as well. When one’s body was no longer fit for the tour of duty, a new one was created. If one was lucky, they could get a solid 30 years or so out of a single body before having to switch. The mind was replicated, and they would shed their old body in favor of a new one, physically and genetically identical to their last—So long as they chose not to make any modifications, of course.
The new body would contain the same consciousness as the last, the memories, knowledge, and feelings. There was an adjustment period as one went through physical therapy to become accustomed to their new self, and life went on for them. Everyone either had done it, or would do it at some point. Bourbon had done it, Bull had done it. And they would do it time and time again, for so long as they endured. For all intents and purposes, they had achieved some sense of immortality, so long as they chose not to terminate their line.
Bourbon didn’t know if they’d ever permanently lost anyone after that, with the exceptions being those who voluntarily chose the end. He knew of only one odd instance where the backups were lost, for a single person, and it was still being investigated. Oddly enough, it was Chi, who he’d referenced mere moments ago in his conversation with Bull. Something about that didn’t sit well with him. Many things about her disappearance didn’t sit well with him. Of course, that was true of many things these days. Many would label him as conspiratorial, an alarmist, or in general just distasteful.
They weren’t wrong, per se. He acknowledged that he was all of those things—Including distasteful, at times, depending on how much he was living up to his namesake. That didn’t mean he was wrong either, despite how often people discredited his efforts to raise concern about certain issues. It was all a matter of perspective, and he just continued to hang on to things that many considered dead and in the ground.
Idealism and pessimism were a stone’s throw apart, and he had become quite adept at slinging stones.
He realized that at some point while he’d been mulling things over, he’d found himself in front of one of the terminals. Not the main podium, but one of the smaller, plaque-like exhibits surrounding the structure. They could be used to pull up a great deal of information on the war, ranging from the particulars of separate battles to individuals’ entire service records. He idly inspected it, running a finger across its surface. Clean. It seemed someone had taken the time to dust them off for the ceremony to follow.
A sense of uncertainty plagued him. He didn’t really know how long he’d been standing there staring at the thing. He felt a pang within him, a certain call, and a thousand images flashed before his eyes. One particular scene played out before him, as it had time and again. Something dark stirred in the corner of his vision, and a chorus of whispers, familiar yet unintelligible, echoed in the recesses of his mind. It wouldn’t do him any good to push them aside. There were few sounds he could recall from the memory, and none of them were words.
There was a question that burned within him, longing to be answered.
He contemplated using the terminal, but something else began to burn. Something in the back of his skull felt like it was on fire, and he felt like he was on high alert.
Eyes.
He could feel Bull’s attention on him. He was waiting expectantly.
They both knew exactly what Bourbon was thinking about as he stood in front of the terminal. What he didn’t know, however, was whether Bull would be looking directly at him, or if he would be watching him out of his peripherals. Would he be pretending not to notice, or only marginally aware? Or staring directly at him? He wasn’t sure which scenario he liked better. None of them appealed, really.
He was too sober for this shit.
His hand fell away from the terminal. He decided to play it off.
He closed his eyes and spun on his heel, running his hands through his long, dirty-blond hair to perform an exaggerated hair flip. When he opened his eyes, he put on his cockiest grin, bracing for impact.
Bull wasn’t looking at him.
He released the breath he didn’t know he was holding. Bourbon would’ve been in his peripheral vision, but the Coalition’s leader hadn’t turned to watch. That was the outcome he’d expected, and admittedly preferred. Bull wasn’t stupid, he knew what had just happened. He was undoubtedly aware that Bourbon knew that he was watching, directly or indirectly. He was feigning ignorance for Bourbon’s sake, rather than make him feel as though he was under the magnifying glass. He was thankful for it.
He was waiting for Bourbon to approach the subject of his own accord, rather than initiate a confrontation himself. That was Bull’s way of operating. When it came to decisions that required immediate action, he didn’t hesitate. When it came to smaller things, however, he preferred a more tactful approach. He seemed to instead prefer putting pieces in place and setting them in motion, letting them unfold how they would. He always provided a way deeper in, and a way out.
The door was open for whenever Bourbon wanted to confront the subject. If he wanted to. It was the secret he’d kept from the universe, the one thing nobody was ever meant to know. Bourbon had made the admission to him already, but hadn’t spoken of it again. It wasn’t a conversation he was ready to have.
He hoped he’d be able to one day, but for now, he couldn’t.
Bourbon stepped away from the wretched thing, before he made a stupid decision by changing his mind. “You know…” he began slowly, employing a mischievous tone. “I find myself thinking about how relentlessly dour this place truly is.” He sauntered towards Bull again, coming to stand at his side. He tilted his head to the side as he met his friend’s gaze. He gestured behind him. “The obsidian tombstone’s really quite nice, whoever put it together did a fantastic job. No sarcasm, full truth.”
Bull’s stare was fixed straight ahead, in the direction they expected the rest of their party to come from. He took in a deep breath, bracing himself. “There’s either a “but” or a continuation to this line of thought.”
“Oh, I’m simply idly musing at the idea of using the grounds as a venue for a heavy metal concert. We’ve already got an appropriate backdrop, and plenty of space. Set up a few pyrotechnics, and we could put on quite a show.” He stroked his chin as he pretended to be in deep thought, feeling his fingers running through his facial hair. “Maybe host it on the anniversary of the war’s end? The idea of the monument was to celebrate their lives, what better way to celebrate than with a music festival?”
The Commander-in-Chief slowly turned his head to stare straight at him. His expression was utterly blank, and his eyes bore straight through him. “You’re proposing that we host a rock concert on what some people would view as being tantamount to Holy ground, and others would view as the graveyard of our hopes and dreams?”
“Absolutely. And a fancy barbecue.” Bourbon wasn’t even remotely serious. He was moreso just trying to get a laugh out of Bull. He imagined the man didn’t do much of that these days. “The United States had Memorial Day back on Earth, right? Celebrate the lives of the fallen by hosting giant cookouts every year? Sometimes with fireworks and such? Would it truly be any different?”
Bull’s stare turned incredulous, though his intonation remained flat. Bourbon was beginning to wonder if Bull actually realized that he was joking. “And I imagine you’d like to volunteer yourself to orchestrate the entire event?”
“Who, me? No. I would never. Bull, I would never. Well. I might. Maybe. I might maybe definitely do that.” He shrugged. “Who better? Gaelia?
Bull stared for a moment longer, but the idea of CWAD’s cold leader hosting any kind of festivities was enough to finally break Bull’s composure. He finally cracked a smile and chuckled, and let out a sigh that might have been relief. “No, I suppose leaving such things to the professionals would be a better choice. Especially now that you seem to fancy yourself a rock legend anyway.”
Fancy myself?” Bourbon shifted his weight onto one foot, crossing his arms. “Oh, darling, everyone fancies me, regardless of whether or not they’re willing to admit it. They always have. I’m the idol everyone craves, here to bring some sound and vision to the dull, colorless lives of our people.” He made an exaggerated gesture towards the sky. “And beyond.
“How very noble of you.”
“What can I say except “You’re welcome?"
“And extraordinarily humble,” Bull chuckled, turning his gaze forward again. “Just remember what Lee said. As much as I’m sure the idea of amassing a collective of alien groupies is amongst your highest aspirations, and I know you do so long to wow them, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask that we keep our Summit as…” He paused. "Professional as possible. Save the dazzling for after we get into their good graces, if you would be so kind.”
Bourbon mimed shock, placing a hand over his chest so as to indicate himself. He let out a mock gasp. “Are you implying that I would jeopardize our relationship with the Xenos? Good sir, I am surprised at you. When have I ever given you reason to believe I wouldn’t take such a thing seriously?”
Bull gave him an incredulous look.
“Okay, fine, you’ve made your point. And yet, here I stand. Normal uniform, no personal touches, as requested." He tugged at his leather jacket, spinning in place to display that he’d made no modifications to it. It only displayed the patches associated with himself and his unit, even as vibrant as they were. Other than that, there were only the fairly standard bits of armor that were part of many Coalition uniforms. His featured an armored collar that melded into a plating that protected his neck, upper back, and uppermost parts of his shoulders. The segmented plates likewise graced his upper arms and forearms. If he needed to get into a close-quarters fight, he would have been fairly well off.
The jacket had seen minimal use. Bourbon had another similar jacket that he typically wore instead—One which featured a number of more personal details.
The only “exotic” part of his outfit were his sunglasses, a pair of semi-square, angular aviators with side shields around the temples. The framing around the eyes were black and gold metal, while the arms were made of a matte black plastic. They sported red-mirrored lenses presently due to being in a polarized state, but he could transition them to clear if he so desired. He could use them as a Heads-Up Display in the event that he didn’t want to use his implants, which made them a useful piece of tech. He’d be taking them off when their company started arriving in full, for the sake of formalities and good manners.
“I made sure to tidy up as much as possible,” he continued, extending a leg to indicate the crease in his pant leg. He then pulled up the pant leg itself to show off the shine to his boots. “And I’m sober.” He frowned deeply. "Painfully sober. I didn’t even take a shot before I came here. Surely that counts for something?”
“It does. Speaking of dazzling, how’s that outfit of yours coming along anyway?”
Satisfied, Bourbon crossed his arms. “It’s done. Had to sort of figure it all out myself, we don’t exactly have an overabundance of sequins lying about.” He smirked. “At least, we didn’t. But we did have an overabundance of gemstones that nobody was using…”
“Oh no.”
“Oh, yes, darling. I’d have worn it today if I could’ve gotten away with it. Niki wouldn’t even let me apply any eyeliner.”
Bull blinked, momentarily taken aback by the remark. It only took him a moment to recover. “I don’t know how or why that statement surprises me, yet here we are. You’re committed to this bit now, aren’t you?”
Bourbon huffed, baring a toothy grin. “Don’t you know who I think I am?” he shot back, harkening back to his earlier song reference. Not his favorite band, nor preferred genre, but he’d be damned if he was going to pass up the opportunity to make a musical reference. “The short answer is yes. Besides, I should think that given the day’s events, playing my part should be preferable, would it not? At least later on, when it becomes relevant. The long answer is that I’ve always been this way, just… More subdued? I should hope you’ve not forgotten.”
“My office hasn’t rendered me senile, no.”
“Yet.”
“Yet,” Bull agreed. “All the same, no, I’ve not forgotten. You’ve always been one for theatrics.” He gave a subtle grin. “I suppose the HUB’s just finally given you an outlet for it. Now the Coalition as a whole gets to see what levels of madness you’ve hidden away from us.”
Bourbon gave Bull a smirk. “Bingo, although, come to think of it…” He turned his attention towards the rest of the assembly again. “I suppose most of them would very likely shoot me if I went for the full Monty on this one as it is.” They were all off in their own worlds, tending to their last-minute business. He hadn’t really paid much attention to them until now, though his moment of self-consciousness made him more aware of them. Not the matter of making a spectacle of himself; No, he had no shame, he couldn’t possibly embarrass himself. But the feelings that this place brought to him, the things that had happened here, he didn’t much care to make visible to these people.
[Part 2]
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Remote Viewing - YouTube TheRouletteWarriors - YouTube Visione remota - YouTube Remote Viewing for Money Tutorial, Part 1 Intuitive Investing by Remote Viewing

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Remote Viewing - YouTube

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