Wilderness flash event rs3

Spirit Island

2018.08.07 21:55 sayguh_ Spirit Island

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2008.08.27 00:08 DC Comics: A friendly community dedicated to the greatest superheroes in the world

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2019.10.21 20:12 mugenkuwa Naruto X Boruto Ninja Tribes

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2023.03.28 20:01 some_rabbits Ex-canon user building a small kit from scratch

So here’s the situation:
I was an event/product photographer for most of the 2010s, working for a studio using their canon bodies and canon/sigma lenses. I have been out of the game since 2020, but recently got commissioned to work on a public art project. So now I have the good problem of figuring out how best to use my funding to put together a decent little DSLR kit in the $4000-6000 range. I’ll be photographing people and domestic animals in a sort of half photojournalism/half fine art style, and the final output will be printed fairly large and go into a museum collection.
I used Nikon as a kid and would like to again, but I’ve never been much of a gear head so I’m having a bit of OPTIONS OVERLOAD trying to hone in on what to get. So far I’ve landed on a used d810 for a body, 2-3 lenses (a prime or two and a zoom), plus a decent flash.
My go-to lenses while working events were a Sigma 35mm f 1.4 (and the 135mm from the same series tbh) and a canon 24-70 that was my all around/dance flooparty candids lens. (I also used a big canon 70-200 a lot and, as useful as it was in certain situations, i would prefer to never lug one around again as long as I live 😩)
So yeah, if you were in my shoes, what would you be filling your cart with? Any and all suggestions/strong opinions/dire warnings would be deeply appreciated 🙏🏻
submitted by some_rabbits to Nikon [link] [comments]

2023.03.28 18:59 EldritchEggoWaffle WARDEN OF THE WEAVER - PART 63: "THE UPRISING BEGINS"

Nantha didn't have the heart to tell them. She didn't know how to tell them. She didn't even know where to begin.
Annid Long-Tree, leader of the Savage-Sisters approached the entrance to Tube House. At her side was Ehsh, and several other Savage Sisters, as well as an entire posse of she-Jikk prisoners.
Annid's eyes studied Nantha's closely. "Where is Prince Yallan?"
Nantha forced herself not to look away, to maintain eye contact. "He wanted me to tell you all to go on without him."
"What?" It was Ehsh this time.
Annid looked baffled. "What are you talking about? This isn't the time for jokes, Nantha. Tell the Prince to hurry. We've got the gate open."
"He isn't here," Nantha said flatly. "He's already down below, working to free the prisoners in Jailhouse 2."
Annid considered this a moment. She appeared to do some brief mental calculations. Finally, she nodded. "Well, why didn't you say that from the start? Then let's get going. The Jail-Keepers and Guards will rush in anytime now."
Nantha gave a meaningful nod. "I'm right behind you."
She followed the others away from Tube House and across Dark Cell toward Gate Wall. They did indeed have the gate opened, just as Annid had promised.
"Was it difficult to pry open?" Nantha asked.
"A little," Annid admitted. "But we used the pickaxes and mining tools, just as planned." She pointed to the bars of the gate. Several of them were bent out of shape in the middle. The gate itself hung open, slightly askew. Just on the other side, a crowd of prisoners stood waiting. All of Dark Cell was here, it seemed. Many of them wielded the pickaxes and large chisels used for mining the ore they'd been forced to collect for the Guards.
Nantha felt excitement and adrenaline swell up in her chest. Were they actually doing this, after all these years? It didn't seem possible. It felt like a dream.
The ordinarily dank, stale air of the jail seemed almost electric in that moment. Nantha felt alive for the first time in more years than she could recount. She wasn't just drawing breath, surviving from one day to the next. She was actually living.
Even if this escape attempt meant her death, she thought it would be worth it just for this brief feeling of being alive.
"The Prince is in Jailhouse 2 already," Annid announced to the crowd.
Lively murmurs broke out at once. Nantha's exaltation turned to anxiousness. They were going to be suspicious. Of course they were. Why wouldn't they be? The Dirt Prince was their leader. This uprising was his uprising. Would they truly believe he'd already made it to Jailhouse 2? What more excuse for his absence could she possibly give them? What other reasons would they actually accept?
"How?" asked someone in the crowd. "We never saw him leave?"
Nantha's heart sank. Doing her best to remain calm, she said, "Prince Yallan has his ways."
For a wonder, this actually seemed to satisfy them. Thanks the Gods for Yallan's esoteric, eccentric nature. Yallan, or whoever he was. So much of what Nantha thought she'd known about him had turned out to be a lie. Yet, still, Jikk or human, or whatever he might have been, if there was one fact about him that remained indisputable, it was that he was definitely one who had some rather strange ways about them. Clearly, if recent events in the Tubes were any indication. But then again, Nantha mused, it likely took one of strange ways to not only plan, but pull off something as mad as the uprising.
After a few more moments of excited chatter, they got moving without any further inquiries into the Prince, or his whereabouts. Much to Nantha's great relief.
If they were still alive when the uprising was over, she could tell them all the truth then.
Or, she thought as they marched down the wide corridor toward the rest of the jail, perhaps it was something she'd simply keep to herself. What good would knowing do any of the others? Knowing the truth certainly hadn't done her any good. As she looked around at the determined faces of her sister-Jikk, a part of her thought that it was best this way--with the so-called "Dirt Prince" nowhere in evidence, and the truth unknown to anyone save for her. Afterall, she told herself, The Jailer's crimes had been against she-Jikk more than anyone else. Sure, he'd taken younglings, and the elderly, and the disabled. He'd occasionally taken male Jikk; particularly those who caused too much trouble for his liking in Lo Syy Tett. But he hadn't targeted anyone else the way he'd targeted she-Jikk. The population of the Jails was around 85 to 90 percent she-Jikk.
Therefore, why should a male be the one to lead the uprising? Even before you considered the fact that said male wasn't even a Jikk.
Yes. It was much better this way. More fitting. Perhaps, if by some great miracle they survived all of this, Nantha could begin planting the idea that the Dirt Prince had really been apart of the planning stages of their revolt, more than anything else. The actual execution of said plan, however? That was a purely female undertaking.
Nantha walked between Annid Long-Tree and Ehsh, her head held high. There was still much to do. They were far from being in the clear yet. This was only the first step. The beginning.
They had lots more still to do, if they wanted to capture sweet, sweet freedom.
And as Nantha knew all too well, this was the only chance they would ever get...
The passageway was littered with decapitated corpses.
Ekkr stared down at the boomerang in his hand, with a growing mixture of wonder and horror in almost equal measure. This seemed far too powerful a weapon for someone like himself to wield.
"Well done, lad!" Wolfgang exclaimed.
"Shhh!" hissed the she-ant. "You idiot. Do you want the entire Jailhouse to hear you?
"Oh, right," Wolfgang said, lowering his voice. "Appologies, lass."
They moved down the passageway, stepping over or around bodies of fallen Jail-Keepers. Ekkr counted nine of them in total. The boomerang had cut a clean path straight through them all. Ekkr took slow, deliberate steps forward. The metallic scent of fresh blood hung in the air like an invisible vapor. Having Wolfgang at his side was the only reason Ekkr was able to continue on without stopping out of shock, or fear. Kanka and Ullteffa were close at their heels, wordlessly surveying the corpses.
As they made their way beyond the gruesome scene and down the remainder of the passageway, an almost tangible silence fell over their small group. Ekkr could practically feel the she-ant's eyes boring into the back of his head.
She's REALLY going to mistrust me now. She's probably waiting for the right moment to slip a dagger into my back, just to eliminate me as a potential threat.
The passageway became a wide corridor. Here, were the first banks of jail cells. The walls on either side of the party were lined with them; cold black steel bars like the teeth of a dark stone maw. These cells were empty.
Ekkr stopped, turning to face the others. The Ronzaxx and Willtakk also stopped walked. Ullteffa regarded him with calice suspicion. Ekkr saw her hand twitch for a brief moment, as if she intended to go for the ebony saber strapped to her back--perhaps, mostly out of reflex--before deciding to wait a moment. The Bandit only scowled, folding his arms across his chest. Wolfgang, for his part, continued walking a few more steps before halting. He did a kind of pivoting spin on the heel of one boot, reminiscent of the way Ekkr had seen Grassblade Proeliators turn in order to do an about face, for their marching drills during training exercises.
The frog raised his hairless brow. "Trouble, my boy?"
Ekkr felt his entire body tense. He was very conscious of where he held the boomerang, making absolutely certain not to do anything with it that might be misinterpreted as a threat. He looked the she-ant directly in her dark gemstone eyes. The moment he did this, he wished he hadn't. He saw nothing resembling mortal emotion in those eyes. They were cold and hard as the Void Gems from which they'd been fashioned. He summoned all the (considerably scarse) courage he had in him. He thought of the leaf, and the Weaver. He thought of his new title. He was Curator. That had to mean he was worthy of something didn't it? Well.. something. What that something might have been, he hadn't a clue, but there it was all the same. Ekkr Thrice-Flown, Curator of the Weaver.
This didn't do much to still his rapid-beating heart, but it did grant him a small modicum of strength in his resolve. He leaned on that small modicum like a crutch. Like a steady stone buttress during an earthquake. Like a hand helping an injured friend stand upright, after a nasty fall.
"I can't keep going on like this," Ekkr said. "Every moment. Waiting for a blade to slide across my throat. Please. I really have been truthful with you. I am just as confused as you are in this moment. The dagger you gave me... I threw it, and it came back as... well... as this." He looked down at the boomerang, not daring to move it even an inch; even to emphasize his point. "This is completely new and strange and unknown to me. So... I suppose what I'm saying is... please. I beg of you. I... actually, I don't know what I'm asking. I'm just..." he trailed off. He had no idea how to finish.
The she-ant and Ronzaxx only stared at him, looking utterly indifferent.
Wolfgang (bless him) decided to step in. He moved closer, to clap a webbed hand on Ekkr's back. "I believe what this right and fine gent here is trying to say, is that you're a beautiful woman, in need of a strong gentleman like myself."
Ekkr couldn't believe it. His mouth fell open. He actually emitted a small squeaking sound, for a brief instant. He stared at the frog with complete incredulous. "I meant no such thing!"
The Bandit bowed his head, jabbing his fingertips into his hard brow. He muttered, just loud enough to be heard: "Please let me kill 'em, Boss Lady. Please let me kill 'em. Can I? Please?"
Ullteffa said nothing. Her eyes never left Ekkr, but she maintained a complete and agonizing silence.
Wolfgang said, "Wasn't it, lad? My mistake. Perhaps, it was I who meant to suggest that very thing."
Ekkr openly cringed. This was almost as painful to witness, as it was terrifying.
"Well, maddam?" Wolfgang said, grinning. "What do you, my lady?"
Ullteffa's eyes finally left Ekkr, shifting over to Wolfgang. Then, she blinked. Once, then a second time. It was a bizarre, surreal thing to witness due to her Void Gem eyes.
For a moment, the painful silence hung between them. Ekkr felt every fraction of every second pass in excruciating stillness.
But then, like a ray of sunlight from behind a dark cloud, the she-ant blinked a final time... and smiled.
She actually smiled.
Ekkr was stunned. Baffled. Stupefied.
He now realized how beautiful the she-ant truly was. He'd been too terrified of her to see it before. She was gorgeous. Much too gorgeous to smiling in this way at the frog. It made no sense. It was mind-boggling.
Kanka went on scowling for half a second. Then, his scowl fell away as his eyes went from Ullteffa to Wolfgang--Ullteffa to Wolfgang, back to Ullteffa, back to Wolfgang--before finally landing on Ullteffa one finally time and remaining there. A look of both jealousy and anger began to wash across his cockroach face. It made him look menacing, and a touch pathetic. Almost like a Learning Hall bully who torments other younglings because of his own insecurities.
Ullteffa said, "You truly are an idiot. You do know that, don't you?" She sighed, shaking her head. She was still smiling, however. Then, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the smile vanished and she was all business once more. "Let's get moving."
When Ekkr and Wolfgang remained where they were, the she-ant sighed again; this time with a bit of frustration added. "Fine. I still don't trust either of you, but I'll set my suspicions aside. This time, I sincerely mean it."
The Bandit stared at her, as if he couldn't believe what she'd just said. "But Boss Lady, we--"
She raised her hand, silencing him. Kanka glared off into space, mumbling something under his breath.
Ullteffa said, "Now then. If we keep standing here, we're only going to give The Jailer more time to plan our executions."
This got them all in motion again. As they walked beyond the empty cells, Ekkr looked over to the frog. Nothing seemed to make sense when Wolfgang was around. It was as if the frog were a force of nature, and everything (or everyone) around him was caught up in his peculiar brand of charm. The amphibian had all the whimsical charisma of a trickster God. Ekkr began to wonder just how much Wolfgang's company had influenced him. He also began to wonder just how much of their current situation was prompted by the Weaver, and how much had been on account of Wolfgang. The Weaver had directed him here, but the courage it took to actually go delving down in the lair of The Jailer? That might very well have been a different story.
Wolfgang, noticing Ekkr watching him, looked up and grinned. He tipped Ekkr a wink. Ekkr sighed and turned away. What a strange, strange creature, he thought.
They walked on, down a wide passage and out through another corridor. There were no jail cells here. In there place, were a set of stone doors; rounded at the tops, and lighter gray than the surrounding stone. Ekkr stopped before the third door on the left, pointing.
"This one," he said.
The others nodded, gathering around the door.
Instead of a handle, or doorknob, there was a notch punched into the rock. Ekkr placed his hand into the groove and pulled. The stone door came down like a drawbridge. It was much too heavy for the Jikk to hold. When it swung down, it slipped from his grasp. The Bandit darted forward, just in time to catch the heavy slab of stone before it crashed to the floor.
Kanka shook his head, flashing an irritated glare in Ekkr's direction. "Who needs alarm bells when they've got you around?"
"Apologies," Ekkr said lamely, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.
Kanka gently lowered the slab onto the floor. The four of them walked across it and into an oval-shaped room of pale gray stone. There was a steel rod sticking up from the center of the room. In the place where the rod disappeared beneath the floor, there was an inch-and-a-half wide gap, outlined by a circle carved into the stone.
Once they were all inside, Ullteffa said: "Allow me."
She stepped forward and took hold of the steel bar. She pulled it toward her, then moved it in a slow circle, letting it trace over the gap in the floor. For a moment, she looked like a dye maker stirring a pot of boiled plant pigments. The door behind them sprang back into place with a muffled slam. There was a soft scraping sound--the whine of metal gears--then the entire room began to turn. An overlapping wall began to encroach upon the door, swallowing it inch by inch as the room moved. The beginnings of a narrow gap appeared in the far wall, at the same time. Little by little, the gap widened as the room continued to turn, until an unobscured passageway opened where the wall had been.
"Fancy," said Wolfgang. "A rotating room."
The she-ant said nothing. She released the steel rod and stepped away from it. She looked to Ekkr expectantly.
Ekkr nodded, remembering he was the one who was supposed to lead the way. He tensed his shoulders and stepped through the mouth of the passage. Wolfgang followed beside him.
The four of them walked for only a short distance, before they reached a new corridor, lined with jailcells. There were long hallways winding into darkness, breaking up each set of cells--six cell blocks in all, with a hallway between each. And in every cell, there were prisoners. Some of them were lying down in the corner, sleeping. Others were leaning against the bars. Most of them were sitting in the middle of the cell floor looking utterly pitiful. Ekkr spotted a small handful of younglings, and a single elderly male. The rest were all she-Jikk. Each cell contained between twelve and fifteen prisoners. Close to eighty inmates in all.
The four of them stopped in the center of the corridor, looking around at the prisoners. For Ekkr, it was an absolutely heart-wrenching sight.
One of the younglings rushed over to the bars of her cell. She called out in a small, weak voice: "Are you here to help us? Please. Please help us. Get us out of here."
An aging she-Jikk reached down and swatted the youngling across the side of her face. She furiously whispered, "Shut up! We don't know who they are. Sit down and be quiet. Now!"
The youngling bowed her head and did as she was told. Ekkr saw the little one's wings begin to quiver, birthing a soft bzzttt sound; the Jikk equivalent of sobbing.
Ekkr held up a hand and waved. "It's alright. We don't work for The Jailer."
"We aren't here to help them, either," Ullteffa scolded. "Keep moving, Ekkr Thrice-Flown. We don't have time to chitchat."
Ekkr stared out across the corridor at the frightened, hopeless faces of the prisoners. Could he really just walk away and leave them?"
"Can't we do something?" he protested. "At least open their cells, perhaps?"
"Ekkr Thrice-Flown," Ullteffa said in a tone that was all the answer he needed.
Ekkr slumped his shoulders, feeling deflated. This wasn't right. These were innocent Jikk. How could he just leave them here?
That was when the Weaver's words echoed throughout his mind.
Find the Warden. Free the prisoners.
Yes. Yes. This was it. This was his purpose here. Half of it, at least. The Weaver had sent him here to help these Jikk. This was what he needed to do in order to find his redemption. Free the prisoners. This was his mission.
But how in Vellnoth's Name was he supposed to actually accomplish this?
As if sensing his distress, Wolfgang placed a webbed hand on Ekkr's arm. "We can come back for them, lad."
Ekkr looked down at the short, stubby Amphibian. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, my good man, we came here to free the canine, did we not? Once we've done that, I see no reason why we cannot help these fine folks find freedom on our way out, lad."
Ekkr considered this a moment. If the Warden were with them, they might just be able to pull this off, and live to tell the tale. The canine would definitely assist them, as well. Success would all depend on how The Jailer responded to their trespassing in his domain. But... maybe, just maybe, they could do it. The chances of helping the prisoners, and actually getting them out of this place would go up drastically if the Warden was also free and at their side.
Ekkr gazed over at the inmates again, before turning back to Wolfgang. "Alright. But you must give me your word we will return for them."
"My word is my bond, lad. I give you my word as a gentleman, and a swordsman."
"Alright," Ekkr said. "Then let's go find the Warden."
Paladin Zeyas (known to the inmates of Dark Pit as Dirt Prince Yallan Torchpath) moved along the wall of the slender passageway, feeling for the unseen Rune he knew would be there. After searching around for several moments, his fingertips finally slid across an uneven part of the stone. To the untrained eye, the wall here was no different than it was anywhere else. To Zeyas however, it was his key to breaking out of this place. He pressed his fingers into the Rune. Soon, the stone began to glow with soft red light. Then, the light brightened to a vibrant crimson.
Zeyas pushed against the Rune. The floor slid out from beneath his feet, sending him falling into darkness. He used the wings of his armored suit (the one designed to make him look indistinguishable from a Jikk when he wore it) to avoid a nasty landing. He came down several levels below Jailhouse 1.
He secured his helm back in place, giving himself increased low light vision. He was in the Main Access Tunnel now. The Master Switch was located somewhere on this floor. All the Paladin had to do was find it, activate the thing, and every door to every cell in the entire facility would open. It was a fail safe, in the event of some major catastrophe. And now, it would serve as Zeyas's greatest tool in aiding the Jikk in their uprising.
The Paladin ran down the long corridor, through unlit tunnels and dark passageways.
Soon, he would give the Insectoids of this place their freedom.
Nantha became one more face in a sea of prisoners. She let herself blend in with the crowd. She was glad not to be leading the charge, but was all the more glad to be apart of it. They marched on, into the general inmate areas of Jailhouse 1, putting Dark Pit further and further behind them.
"What's happening?" asked an alarmed voice from one of the cells up ahead. "Is this a riot?"
"Freedom!" someone in their group shouted, raising a hand.
"Let us out! We want to come with you!"
Nantha heard Annid's voice answer. "Patience. The Dirt Prince is finding the Master Switch as we speak, if all is going according to plan. We have our own part to play. As soon as your cell doors open, make for the nearest corridor. Soon, we will all be free."
There was a collective cheer from the other prisoners.
Nantha only hoped Annid's words would prove true. And that the so-called Dirt Prince was really still holding up his part in things. Otherwise, this might all be for nothing, she realized.
The members of the uprising pushed on. They slipped down passages, moved through large cavernous chambers, toward their destination: Coridor Prime. If they could just make it there, they'd be able to access almost any part of the Tunnels. It was a secret of this facility Yallan had discovered, though he'd never revealed how he came by the information. You couldn't get to Corridor Prime unless you went through Tunnel Eight. It only went one way. Once your left Corridor Prime using one of its many shafts and passageways, a Rune Seal blocked you from returning, unless you went all the way back to Tunnel Eight. It was a security feature, and an escape detourant. You had to know which shaft to choose, or else you'd end up in the wrong part of the Tunnels, without a way back.
According to the Prince, they just had to go through the shaft marked with the Source Rune symbol for 'lake'. This would leave them in the chamber beneath the Chartreuse Pool.
The forbidden waters...
Nantha thought back to her time in Lo Syy Tett, all those years ago. She recalled learning about Jikk customs and the Jikkellian faith. She'd been taught that the Chartreuse Pool was forbidden, in accordance with religious law.
The Jailer had used this to his advantage. Used, and abused this fact. The truth was, even by the laws of their faith, Jikk could enter the Chartreuse Pool, so long as they were given a blessing directly from Vellnoth the Lesser. The Jailer and his minions claimed to have such a blessing.
The Mind Mother's influence had convinced them all of the validity of this claim. That same influence had also convinced them the Green Leaf Scrolls' passing reference to the forbidden nature of the Chartreuse Pool was actually one of their religion's core tenants.
Yallan (who wasn't actually named Yallan) had been right. The Mind Mother did have to be destroyed. Jikk needed to realize the atrocities being committed here. As long as the Mind Mother lived, that couldn't happen. Perhaps, on an individual level, it could. But not on a wide scale. Nantha was bitterly glad the false Prince had slain the awful creature. Otherwise, she and the other prisoners might have been too fearful of Vellnoth's wrath to utilize their main escape route.
Nantha snapped back to the present. The crowd in front of her had stopped abruptly, just as they reached the mouth of the next tunnel between corridors. There were whispers of alarm, even fear. Nantha was forced to squeeze or push her way between several inmates, before she was able to make it up to the front of the pack.
Now, she saw what had promoted commotion; the reason why they'd stopped.
The tunnel was not very long. From here, Nantha could see where it ended, before it gave way to yet another block of cells in the corridor beyond. And there, at the opposite end of the tunnel, stood a group of figures. There were four of them. Each one wielded a weapon.
There was a meek looking Jikk. He held a weapon Nantha had never seen before. It was emerald-hued and almost looked like a throwing knife, but not like any normal throwing knife. It was curved in the center. The Jikk seemed just as anxious and alarmed as Nantha felt. Oddest of all was the fact that--aside from a pair of sandals and some tattered undergarments--he was completely disrobed.
Beside the Jikk was one of the strangest creatures Nantha had ever seen. It had a large round head that seemed too massive for its body. In place of chitin, the thing had flesh as green as a spinach leaf, and stood much shorter than the grasshopper man beside it. The creature was dressed in odd attire that didn't seem to match any of the modern styles. The creature had a wooden crossbow in its arms.
The other two figures were what Jikkellians referred to as Children of Ziilk; followers of the false God sometimes called Rogue In Rouge.
A Ronzaxx roachman and a Willtakk she-ant. The former held a silver dagger that might have glistened had there been any light source; the latter wielded an ebony saber. While the Jikk looked concerned and the short green creature appeared almost excited, the two Children of Ziilk were watching the large group of inmates with a mixture of amusement and something close to menace.
One of the braver she-Jikk in front of Nantha snatched a pickaxe from the prisoner beside her, and stepped forward. She raised her voice so that it carried across the tunnel. "We aren't going back to our cells now matter what you do!" she challenged. Although the she-Jikk spoke with confident command, Nantha could see her left leg trembling slightly out of fear
Nantha thought she heard the she-ant snort at this--as though the words were too ridiculous to remain silent--but it may have only been her imagination. Across the tunnel, it was difficult to know for certain.
The partially nude Jikk stepped forward. He kept his weapon lowered at his side, as it he weren't sure what to do with it. In a warm, friendly tone, he said: "I'm not going to force you back to your cells. I'm here to help you escape."
Nantha and the other inmates glanced around at one another. None of them seemed to have any clue how to proceed.
The panicked faces of several Guards and Jail-Keepers appeared before him. Floor Master Guvven considered them a moment, before raising a hand and gesturing for them to speak.
"Uh, Floor Master Guvven, sir? There are trespassers," said one of the Jail-Keepers (Guvven could never remember most of his subordinates' names, nor did he care to remember; they were unimportant to him--he cared only for his Riot Responders).
Guvven stared at him, stonefaced. A congregation of Purple Spiders clinging to the roof of the chamber cast soft, odd shadows across Guvven's features. "Do you think I'm not already aware?"
"No, sir, but they just took out several of our Jail-Keepers. They even got Gosoma."
Guvven cocked his head to one side. Now this was interesting. Gosoma of the Lash was one of his best. Anyone who could take down the head Riot Responder was a force to be reckoned with. This intrigued Guvven a great deal. It had been so long since he'd seen any real action.
A Purple Spider dropped down from the ceiling and landed on his shoulder. Through the spider, came the voice of Porter Huuth. He said, "All Floor Masters are to head to Jailhouse 1 immediately. We have trespassers. Leave Jail-Keepers and Guards at their post. Don't let any prisoners out of their cells. Bring only your top warriors with you. Head to Jailhouse 1, Tunnel Seven. Intercept the trespassers, and cut them off before they reach Tunnel Eight. They'll be bound for Corridor Prime. Kill them on sight. These orders come directly from The Jailer himself. Make haste, everyone. If you fail, you deal with me."
The voice cut out and the spider scurried down Guvven's arm, before dropping onto the floor and scampering away.
Guvven realized the Jail-Keepers and Guards were all still standing there, watching him expectantly with varying degrees of anxious fret plastered across their features. "What are you all still doing here? Did you hear the orders? Get to your posts!"
All at once, every one of them turned and made off for the cell blocks, practically tripping over one another as they went.
Just before the last of them were out of sight, Guvven called: "And send me my Riot Responders! The ones I have left!"
"Yes, Floor Master," one of them said.
Then, they were gone.
Guvven voiced a single dry cackle. "Well then. Looks like we're in for some fun." He reached for his massive warhammer which he'd propped upright against the chamber wall. Hammer in hand, he moved to the back of the room and stopped before a chest-high steel cage. Glowing yellow eyes shaped like dagger blades peered out at him through the bars, from the darkness beyond the cage door.
Guvven bent down to fiddle with the lock. "Been a while since I let you out of here, eh? You ready to go hunting again, old friend?"
There was a deep, hungry growl from inside the cage. Guvven grinned. "That's right. You're gonna have some fun with me, my friend." Guvven flicked the lock and popped open the door.
Elsewhere, in various parts of the jailhouse, the other Floor Masters had just finished listening to Porter Huuth's message.
In Jailhouse 3, Floor Master Ovtuk watched the Purple Spider that delivered the orders as it made for a crack in the stone floor of the tunnel.
He turned to the figure on his left. "Strongest warriors, he said?"
"That's what he said," replied Floor Master Snann. "I would reckon that means the four Majors."
Ovtuk nodded. "Sounds about right. I'll bring Meex while I'm at it. Can't think of a good reason to leave him behind."
Floor Master Snann unfastened the leather thong he used to secure his vine whip to his belt (his vine whip, which might have been called a "cat-o'-nine-tails" were he from a place called Earth, or if he knew what a cat was). "Let's go make the Porters of the Hand proud."
And in a part of the jailhouse known as Dread Point...
Floor Master Klivis and his strongest warrior--a Jikk built like a brick shithouse who went by the name Foxglove--marched down the long winding passageway that would take them up to Jailhouse 1. As they neared the end of the passage, a sinister sounding voice called out them.
"Leaving without me?"
Klivis and Foxglove both stopped and turned at the utterance. Klivis felt a slight chill run along the base of his neck (a rather uncommon occurrence for an Insectoid with an exoskeleton) when his eyes fell upon the one who'd spoken.
Klivis was a mean, merciless Floor Master by all accounts. He favored beating the prisoners, over... well, pretty much everything. Beating prisoners had become something of a passtime for him. It gave the Floor Master a thrill like nothing else ever had. He was a cold, calice Jikk who reveled in violence.
And yet... even Klivis felt uneasy around the figure he now saw before him.
"Nazro?" Klivis whispered. He wasn't sure why he was whispering. Something about the other Floor Master almost seemed to demand it. As if he had to lessen even the volume of his own voice in the presence of this particular Jikk. "You made it up here rather quickly."
"Of course," said Nazro cheerfully. His voice and expression were that of a good-natured chum, chumming it up with his fellow chums. This was all an act, however. Klivis could see it in his eyes. Even when Nazro smiled, his eyes remained cold and lifeless.
"I see," Klivis said sheepishly. It was all he could think to say.
"The Porter said to make haste, afterall."
"He did," Klivis said. He looked to Foxglove for assistance, but Foxglove seemed to be studying the floor as if it interested him a great deal.
"Come on," Nazro said. "I'll walk up with you."
Klivis didn't think there was anything in the world he desired less than to be accompanied by Floor Master Nazro. However, unable to come up with a good excuse to avoid this uncomfortable situation, Klivis simply nodded. "Alright then."
Together, the three of them made their way to Jailhouse 1. As they did, the rest of the Floor Masters and their top subordinates did likewise. And in no time at all, the Tunnels near Dark Pit were crawling with them...
The Comet's Crest Chancellors gathered around the white marble fountain, gazing with great interest into its shimmering waters. Through the surface of the water, they saw as one might see through a pane of glass...
Desolate Chasm--private quarters of The Jailer...
* * * * * *
From the ceiling, the glow of an entire nest of Purple Spiders bathed the room in soft lavender. Yet, this glow was unable to penetrate many of the shadows within; as if they weren't shadows at all, but rather, living things spawned of the absence of light. A portion of the floor near the entryway had been raised, revealing a previously hidden chamber no bigger than a jail cell. A slab of dark brown stone the size of a coffin sat in this crawlspace beneath the floor. The three Blind Black-Robes stood before this secret chamber. Together, moving in synchronization, they stooped down over the stone slab and placed their hands onto its cool, rough surface.
There was a sound like boiling water being poured over ice cubes as the rock began to crack apart, sending hairline fractures across the length of the slab. The stone split in two, right down the center. The two halves fell against the walls of the crawlspace, revealing that the stone slab had in fact been hollow. There was a Jikk inside the stone; lying on his back with his arms and legs, wings nearly tucked away. He stared up at them with emotionless regard.
From the back of the room, a voice that sounded the way a graveyard might sound were it given the power of speech, echoed throughout the chamber. "Ellgost. My only son."
The Jikk inside the broken stone sat upright and looked around. Beyond the three blindfolded earwig men, stood a table of polished ebony. It was as long as the bar counter in a tavern, and ran from one wall to the other--cutting across the entire room from left to right. There were strange instruments and mechanisms at one end of the table. Atop the opposite end, was a bulky object beneath an old gray tarp. And at the center of the table, sat three figures. Two of them were engulfed in shadow, obscuring their form. They appeared to be completely motionless. Between the pair of shadowed figures was the third.
* * * * * *
A Chancellor gasped, taking a step back. "Gods," he whispered. "Is this what's become of The Jailer? This is his new form? It's... horrific."
The other Chancellors said nothing. Even beneath the hoods of their cloaks, the concern on their faces was unmistakable. One of them turned to the Kite Monk who'd been waiting patiently--sitting atop a white marble bench, looking as though he were in deep contemplation--on the far side of the great hall.
The Chancellor said, "You were right to come to us, Proyy Nogg Wexx. I would agree that these matters are certainly dire enough to awaken the True Master."
The monk rose from the bench. "Did you see what's unfolding in the woods with Gupp Ro' Gamm? That fool refused to heed my--"
The Chancellor interrupted. "That is not our greatest concern. What we see in the Gazing Pool may well be the first flickers of rapture's fire. The beginning of the end, as it was written in the Scrolls."
"Silence," said the head Chancellor. "Watch the water. Something is happening."
And something indeed was...
* * * * * *
The Jailer--his transformation now complete--rose from the table and turned back to face the two shadowed figures. "Hithrid, you bitch. I keep you now as you were then. You and the Betrayer. You are fortunate. You get to witness this blessed day. A day you do not deserve to take part in. Consider this my final gift to you."
The two figures remained silent, motionless.
The Jailer turned to the Black-Robes. "Bring me the Black Vine Shroud."
The three earwig men made off at once to do as they'd been told. They moved to the far corner of the room and surrounded a mass of knotted, tangled vines the color of coal. Black roses between long dark thorns sprouted up from the growth. The Blind Black-Robes hooked their arms beneath vines, lifting the mass as they did this. Now, the underside of the growth was visible, revealing that there was in fact a wooden casket beneath the many vines. They slowly made their back to the large table, carefully placing the casket--vines and all--atop its smooth polished surface. With this accomplished, they stepped away and made themselves scarse.
The Jailer took several deliberate steps toward the Jikk inside the broken stone slab. "My son. We are together at last," said The Jailer in his thunderous voice. There was the slightest touch of sentimentality in his tone. Hearing such an inflection coming from his horrendous new form would have been deeply unsettling for anyone else. However, the Jikk he'd called his son only looked up and smiled.
The Jailer said, "I've kept you in this piece of the God Shelf since you were still a larvae. I dropped you into such a small hole in the rock. Now, look at you. Grown and ready to stand at my side. I've worked on softening that stone all these years, so that it could be cracked when the time was right. I've fed you Knowledges and Wisdoms to nurture your mind. I've transmitted Dark Energies and the Old Arts to strengthen your body. You have received an immeasurable quantity of my power, in a constant stream for your entire life. Your potential is limitless. I am soon to Ascend, Ellgost. I shall be Godhead, and you, my Numen. Do you understand, my son?"
Ellgost got to his feet. He began to rise from the crawlspace, levitating over the stone which had served as his entire world until mere moments ago. "Aye, father."
"Then we shall unseal the Black Vine Shroud together," said The Jailer. He turned back to the large table behind him, his dark eyes returning to the shadowed figures there. "And with its unsealing, your purgatory shall be made eternal, Hithrid."
Ellgost lowered himself to the floor beside his father. Together, as father and son, they approached the Black Vine Shroud; The Jailer taking one end, Ellgost taking the other. The two of them began tearing away the dark vines.
* * * * * *
Several Chancellors gasped in unison--watching the Shroud's unsealing with mounting terror and revulsion. A few of them tried to speak, but couldn't. The water began to ripple, disturbing the image. It was almost as if what the Shroud concealed was too abhorrent for even the fountain itself.
One of the Chancellors collapsed. The others acted as if they didn't even notice.
After several long moments of silent, one of the Chancellors finally lifted head, to turn to the others. "It's finally happening," he whispered.
"What is?" Proyy Nogg asked in an alarmed voice.
"The end of everything," said the head Chancellor. "All of existence."
submitted by EldritchEggoWaffle to weavingtheweird [link] [comments]

2023.03.28 18:25 skyfireknight Why I can't decide between Sailing and Shamanism

What I need from Sailing

What I need from Shamanism

Additional feedback:

I NEED to see Sailing and Shamanism refined further.
submitted by skyfireknight to 2007scape [link] [comments]

2023.03.28 18:04 Ride_dirt_eat_tacos Close sighting this past weekend with friends

Approximately 2AM March 26, 2023
St Augustine, Florida
Attended a widespread panic concert this past Saturday night with 6 friends and after the show we walked to M and N’s Airbnb that they had rented for the weekend about a mile and half from the venue. The house was about two blocks off the ocean.
Earlier that day while we were all hanging out at the beach, M & N both recounted stories to all of us from the night before (Friday) of very distant UFO sightings from their Airbnb while sitting in the backyard hot tub. They were super enthusiastic and very confident in their sightings, clearly not trying to fool us and genuinely awed at what they had seen the night before.
After the show got out, we walked back from the venue to their Airbnb. Our group consisted of myself, P with his wife A1, Kevin with his girlfriend A2 and the brothers previously mentioned M & N. I have known many of the people in the group for years, went to high school with two of them- K and I have been very close friends for over 20 years.
We played darts for a while inside then moved outside around what I’d estimate was 1:50am. The first sighting occurred as I had just come back outside from using the restroom. As I was walking back outside the group was incredibly ecstatic, yelling, pointing etc.. As I ran up, I had just missed what they were seeing by just a second or so due to the overhang of roof over the outside area. They described what they saw as two or three lights zigzagging around very high up in the sky.
I was genuinely bummed that I had missed it but now I along with others were now completely fixated on watching the sky. About five minutes later is when I can honestly say was the craziest, wildest, most insane experience I have ever had throughout my 35 years of living.
As we literally all had our heads looking toward the sky, a massive object came into view on our right side of vision and was no more than 2-3000 feet away from us, a low flying helicopter is the best height I can describe it at. It was not directly overhead but I was at an angle with a clear view of its underbelly, and I roughly estimated its width to easily have been one to two football fields in width- hard to say exactly how wide it was because it almost disappeared into the darkness the further away it got. It floated unbelievably effortlessly through the sky, no sound coming from it whatsoever. I could see its flat dark metal type texture with a few flashing red/orange/white lights on its undercarriage. I remember clearly that it was large enough that the moonlight actually casted a shadow underneath the object. It cruised past us at about 30 mph and was in sight for about 6-8 seconds before vanishing out of thin air. Almost like it blended into a small cloud and vanished right into it even though that cloud was much smaller than the object. No vapors leftover behind it, gone just as the wind goes, absolutely silent. The objects shape was very almost like a mix of the Millennial Falcon and the Star Wars Star Destroyer, wide on the rear, narrower upfront. Very flat and smooth underneath.
No one said a word when it appeared, it was dead silent, almost like all of us were gasping at what we were seeing before our very own eyes. M said he pulled out his phone and tried to take a picture but was unable to get a shot of it with the amount of time it appeared along with the lighting conditions. I’m a professional videographer and photographer; the object was very dark from our viewpoint and far enough away that a camera phone would have an incredibly tough time capturing an image in that amount of darkness plus distance plus the little time to react and get a phone out was just not enough. I personally remember not even thinking to grab my phone because I was in such disbelief with what we’re all witnessing. Conditions were clear, fingernail moon, 70ish degrees out, lots of star visibility.
K did not see the large object; he was inside the house when it appeared. I ran and yelled at him right after it happened to come outside.
The best way I can describe what happened looking back, was that it literally flew in dropping thousands of feet per second to land right in our vision then took back off.
Afterwards, everyone was what the best way I can describe it- mind blown. So many questions on what we had just all witnessed. I remember feeling very high on adrenaline but then a few minutes after an almost sense of fear came over myself and over the group. The girls were pretty shaken up and they went inside for a few minutes. The guys we're now outside sitting around the table, all admitting how fucking scary that was but we we're also absolutely awed at the technology we had just seen. The length of it, how quiet it operated, how it effortlessly floated like a cloud in the sky. It vanished without skipping a beat, how you would imagine it to be done in the movies except it was dead silent. Looking back- how quiet the object moved made it incredibly scary to be in sight of. We all agreed that something that quiet, that large, that obviously insanely powerful object, flying like it did was chilling to the bone. Just recounting the story a day later gives me the chills.
About ten minutes after that, we saw two boomerang shaped objects following each other closely across the sky, very high altitude but very visible, disappearing into the universe.
After that, I started calling texting friends/family that might be up, almost felt the need to warn them or see if they were seeing anything in their areas. No one was up except my friend D who answered in California but was not really interested in hearing about it, which was understandable given the time and circumstances. Best way I justified why I called him is that I’m not going to randomly call you on Saturday night at 2am and tell you I saw an f*cking UFO if I didn’t actually see a UFO. He agreed, said be safe, call him in the am. I spoke to many friends the next morning telling them what I am writing now.
We watched the sky for about an hour longer after the large object sighting then we called an uber back to K’s family condo about 15 minutes away down the beach. P and I sat out on the porch when we got back and witnessed a light in the sky very far in the distance moving slowly, towards the horizon, disappearing then reappearing a little bit further down the path it was going.
Went to bed around 4am nonstop thoughts racing on what we had seen. I hoped on reddit to see if anyone else had seen stuff like this, google etc.. saw a few posts similar to what we had seen but I didn’t read about anything that close up.
When we woke up in the morning, all our group could talk about was recounting what we had seen and how unimaginably crazy it was. Life changing event without question. I always believed in them but wow, this completely opened my eyes and was absolutely astonishing to see in person to say the least. I told everyone in the morning to text me what they had witnessed so I can have it on record from a few different perspectives. I can post those as well once I get them all collected.
I reached out to a local hotel that was in the line of sight, their manager after a little bit of explaining the situation was willing to check their security cameras, but I think the hotel may have been located a bit too far North- I am following up with them tomorrow. Also reached out to a local restaurant but the manager was not having any of it really and she said none of their camera’s faced that direction, so I left it at that.
I’m sure I will get some flack with nonbelievers and what not, which is to be expected. I’m posting this on Reddit to help others who do in fact recognize this phenomenon maybe better understand what is happening or to possibly even gain insight into what my friends and I witnessed this past weekend.
submitted by Ride_dirt_eat_tacos to aliens [link] [comments]

2023.03.28 17:48 talentinny2 Nordstrom Rack Flash Event Coupon Code

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2023.03.28 17:36 Lanzen_Jars A job for a deathworlder [Chapter 108]

[Chapter 1] ;[Previous Chapter] ; [Discord + Wiki] ; [Patreon]

Chapter 108 – A big win…but for whom?

“Alright, what about this one?” Nia asked, before holding up an artist’s rendition of a small primate species that had hands with three thick fingers on the end of all eight of their arms and/or legs, it was pretty hard to distinguish between the two, if there was a distinction at all. Their fur had a muted green, shrubbery-like color and their face was elongated, almost pushing them into lemur-territory visually, although they didn’t have a tail to match. They did, however, have a matching set of two green, v-shaped irises in each eye that together formed something that looked a bit like a bird’s footprint, although the rest of their dark face looked fairly ‘normal’ to James’ eyes, which basically just meant it was bilateral symmetric and features usually appeared in sets of 2 at most.
Truth be told, he only knew that this was a ‘primate’ species because he recognized the species, not because it actually looked all that much like a primate to him. The galactic Orders were quite generous with what species they classified as ‘looking similar and filling a similar niche’, a lot more so than he would’ve been. Still, he wasn’t here to criticize galactic categorization, so he briefly inhaled so he could answer,
“Grassurgap. Primates from the standard world Serruducapoli. Pretty close to the coreworlds but didn’t make the cut ultimately, mostly because they only joined the community so late. These days, their main influence on the galaxy is their expertise in nanotechnology and the cultivation and export of the fruit of the Serri’Irres-Trees, which so far could only be cultivated on their homeworld for unknown reasons and have therefore become an expensive delicacy highly sought after, mostly by other primate species.”
He left out the part where he was quite sure that getting these trees to grow on other planets would most likely be easy enough with just a tiny bit of modification. During his more intense learning about other parts of the galaxy that he had so far known too little about, the same concept of an entire market that had long been established being easily overthrown by minor interference into some plant’s or animal’s inheritance had come up quite a bit, and he honestly didn’t know if he feared or looked forward to the changes that could wash over the Galaxy once humanity would manage to make genetic engineering a more common practice.
“Correct,” Nia meanwhile confirmed what he already knew, while putting the picture she held out to him away and shuffling it into a larger stack of index cards. After a bit of shuffling, she pulled out a new card, turning it in his direction. “And this one?”
James barely even needed to glance at it, as his eyes immediately fell onto the five large, black eyes; the bright red crown of devolved gills around the head; the pinkish, mottled skin that was covered over and over in fleshy villi; and the eight spindly limbs that were placed along the laterally flattened body. This one, he was all too familiar with.
“Arxhijeruterrian,” he replied quickly, as if he was firing a shot. “Named after their home-coreworld Arxhijeru -don’t ask me where the ‘terra’ comes from- and bestowed with that name by the Community since they are interestingly one of the very few species who have not given themselves any sort of name in any of their own languages. They are Urodela, belong to the founding species of the current iteration of the Galactic Community, and currently mostly contribute to it in an administrative fashion. Also interestingly, they are almost all born as females at the beginning of their life with a ratio of the sexes of about 14 to 1, however later in their life, any female Arxhijeruterrian will naturally transition into a male once all their eggs have been used up. Notable members of the species include the now Acting Councilman Ekorte Keun, who is an absolute prick and creepy as fuck, but somehow still the least annoying one of the people who had held me captive on Osontjar for a long while.”
After he was done rattling off details, he raised an eyebrow at his sister, feeling like the ones he had personal experience with might not be the best offworlders to test him on.
“Come on,” he commented with a bit of cocky confidence. “Give me a hard one.”
Nia rolled her eyes, but instead of shuffling the card she held in her hand back into the stack, she put it aside and began to rifle through the stack personally instead of shuffling it this time. Meanwhile, while she seemingly looked for something that could be a harder nut for him to crack, Tuya picked up the card she had just put down and lazily inspected the picture as well as the cliff notes written on an extra card to see how many of the listed details James had actually named. On her cheek and along her neck, thick, white bandages covered big parts of her skin right where the deep claw-scars she had gotten back on Dunnima would usually have been visible, after she had taken a trip to the doctor earlier that morning to hopefully have them removed, after she and Nia had decided that the scar-ridden look wasn’t for her quite yet.
“You started memorizing these two days ago,” she mumbled while her eyes flew over the text, her expression narrowing more and more as her gaze turned more and more unbelieving of what she read there. “How the hell are you doing that?”
James just chuckled, while his sister on the other hand sighed.
“He’s always been a straight A student,” she informed her girlfriend with a mildly disapproving tone while she herself went over card after card, seemingly trying to find a specific one. “I’ve stopped questioning how he does it. Stuff just sticks in his head.”
Well, that was giving a bit too little credit to his memorization techniques…but James wasn’t really in the mood to argue or try to make himself look like such a hard learner. He knew that he seemingly had some natural advantages when it came to learning, and he wasn’t going to downplay that fact in infuriating pretend-modesty.
Then, Nia suddenly looked up as she had seemingly found the card she was looking for.
“Got it!” she exclaimed before slowly turning it towards James. “Now…what’s this one?”
The almost sinister and deeply satisfied look on her face told James that she truly believed that this would be a challenge for him, and so he sat up a bit straighter as he studied the card.
First detail: The creature was wearing clothes. That was a good hint since that was not a habit shared by very many species in the Galaxy. The next most notable thing was the color. Dark, purple fur covered almost the creature’s entire body, with only some rare patches of dark-pinkish skin being visible around the end of their limbs.
Form wise, they were winged bipeds with a vaguely humanoid form. The wings were bat-like but had not fully devolved palms that almost still looked like actual hands at their apex. The actual-actual hands were four-fingered and had claws at their fingertips.
The face had a pink, bat-like nose under blood-red eyes with yellow irises housing slit-pupils inside them. Around the head, the long fur whipped up into ear-like tufts that were almost as large as the head itself.
However, by far the most notable feature was likely the thick, prehensile tail, that ended in what looked like a large pseudo-hand with three massive fingers that all ended in thick claws.
Admittedly, James had to stare at it for a while. He was almost sure that he didn’t remember this species from his sessions of memorization, yet he still had the oddest feeling that he had seen it before. Bats weren’t especially common in the Galaxy, so he thought that he had remembered each one of the sapient ones. However, despite a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he should know the name, these ones didn’t ring a bell at all.
“Of course, uhm…” James mumbled, while he shifted to lean in a bit closer to the picture, almost making eye-contact with the red eyes of the depicted being. “That’s obviously….hmmm…”
He was absolutely stumped. However, while he stared at the picture for what must have been a couple of minutes, he also got more and more sure that this species hadn’t been part of his learning-sessions, and therefore should not have been within his index-cards. So, unless there had suddenly been a new species discovery while he had slept last night that had since not been talked about on the news, the only logical answer was-
“You made that one up, didn’t you?” James asked after what was admittedly and embarrassingly long time of trying his best to dig up a name from his memory that he literally could not know.
Nia almost immediately broke into happy snickering.
“Yep,” she confirmed delightedly and turned the card so she could also have a look at it. “But it came out quite well, don’t you think? Aren’t they adorable?”
James decided to not dignify that question -although that was indeed a very nice drawing- and instead grunted once while running his hand over his face.
“Fine, I probably deserved that,” he admitted, owning up to his own cockiness. “But can we please keep the confusing factors to a minimum? There are over 900 species I should know at some point; adding ones that don’t exist isn’t making that any easier. And I promise you, I will now wait for these guys to come up at some point any time I go through all of the cards again.”
Having things easily stick in your head wasn’t always just an advantage.
Nia eventually calmed down from her snickering and nodded.
“Alright, let’s get back to it, so – oh, don’t need to show you this one,” she commented while she removed her fake-card from the stack and looked at the next one beneath it, giving James a sneaky look as she lifted the ‘myiat’ index-card very briefly before putting it back to the bottom of the stack. Seeing the next one, she rolled her eyes. “And that’s easy, too,” she commented while lifting the picture of an enormous being that was covered over and over with dark-red scales.
James had barely glanced at it, when he already said,
“Ligormordillar! Next!”
The only Class 5 deathworlder in the Galaxy was one of those things that were memorable enough to become basically a free answer should the question ever come up.
Nia just nodded, having obviously not expected him to struggle on that one, and just picked up the next card.
They continued that song and dance for a little bit longer, with James naturally struggling with some of the obscurer, more average species that didn’t leave much of a lasting impact upon view. However, he mostly struggled on details more so than on names.
Mixing up homeworlds between two similar looking ones or completely forgetting what the main contribution to the community of some of them was. But that would come over time. Overall, he was quite satisfied with himself and the amount of knowledge he had crammed into his head in a short time.
When they finally finished up with the questions and answering, Tuya had just begun watching a recent news-rerun that basically just recapped all of the crazy events that just kept piling onto each other during the last weeks. News Networks were eating good at the moment.
“So, Saint Aldwin,” James’ fellow Lieutenant facetiously got his attention while he pushed himself to his feet to maybe walk a few steps after sitting for the entire practice. “Are there any news on your accepting or not accepting that invitation to the monkey-club?”
James scoffed.
“Well, that’s rude. It’s obviously a monkey, ape, and lemur-club,” he gave back while he stretched a bit. Although, he did drop his joking tone moments later when he actually replied, “And, well, technically I don’t need permission to accept an invitation addressed specifically towards me. Getting the support and all-clear from our superiors is just the sane thing to do in my situation. As ‘Patron Saint of Artificial Sapience’ I have a little bit of a target on my back, even if it’s just a fringe group that declared me as such. I mean, who knows how much context people not from Earth will have for that sort of nonsense.”
It had been a…turbulent news day when that one was aired.
“Ambassador First Lieutenant James Aldwin, declared Patron Saint of Artificial Sapience by new Guide of ‘Church of the Failed Savior’, Alexander Paige.”
What a fucking headline indeed.
Also, decidedly untrue. The Church of the Failed Savior didn’t have a position in it that was called ‘Guide’, only a side-branch of the religion that refused to give itself another name than the main group did. Generally, members of the original Church referred to them as something like ‘Guided’ or ‘Guide followers’ just to have any kind of distinction between them. Mostly because of the fact that, to most of the people of that particular faith, having something like a ‘Guide’ as a position above you telling you what to do entirely defeated the purpose of the Church.
Pray at home. Pray for yourself. And keep your prayer between yourself and God. Those were basically the guiding principles of the faith, which was what had once upon a time also attracted James to that particular branch of religion.
They ostensibly believed that any religious leader, any prophet, any saint, any messiah, any ‘Savior’, as well-intentioned or malicious as they may be, would ultimately just guide people further away from God’s actual will, as in their message, they would ultimately and unavoidable muddy its truth with whatever they themselves believed to be right or wrong, no matter how clearly God would state His intentions to them. Therefore, it was better to stay away from people like that all together, and to just determine God’s truth to yourself…which was something they had, in James’ opinion, straight up stolen from the Bible. Obviously, they were picking and choosing what messages of God exactly they believed anyway, so it was hard to really nail down a consistent faith in the Church.
The only things that were truly consistent in their teachings were:
  1. The Church officially acknowledged 2 ‘Failed Saviors’ in their teachings, namely Jesus and whatever flavor of ‘The Adversary’ you believed in, although they usually chose either Lucifer, or Satan, or the Devil as the name, likely based on their recognizability alone.
  2. The Church accepted Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God (Hence calling itself a Church), although that did not equate to also being God in their eyes, and even someone as close to God as him was not able to properly convey His message without muddying it, and therefore ‘failed’ in his mission.
  3. The Church also saw ‘The Adversary’ as an attempted Savior, since he guided humanity to wisdom and understanding, even though they obviously also acknowledged that the thing he tried to “save” them from was actually God’s will and he therefore led humanity to Sin. He was therefore seen as a sort of ‘malicious savior’ and a lesson learned in not just being wary of one kind of person trying to lead you astray. The Adversary obviously ‘failed’ in his mission to lead humanity entirely astray as they could still be granted access into paradise, given they followed God’s “True teachings”, whatever those may be.
Of course, it wasn’t really as easy as that, and there was plenty of more complicated, convoluted, and straight up malicious stuff hidden deep underneath those guiding principles, somewhere down in the system. But something like a Guide still went a bit too hard against the very idea of it to be accepted by most people who were part of that particular Church.
That wasn’t even mentioning how little most other major religions wanted to have to do with the Church or its fringe groups. Unsurprisingly, none of them were particularly eager to be associated in any way with such a peculiar group of believers who identified all other forms of worship as some form of misguided or sinning…even if that also was kind of what all other religions did. They just didn’t proclaim it as publicly. Unless they did. It was complicated.
Shaking his head after getting thoroughly lost in his own mind for a moment and basically flashing back to his after-service days when he still had delusions about being religious himself, James refocused on the conversation at hand with a few quick blinks.
“Anyway, I haven’t gotten the ‘all clear’ yet, but I’m pretty sure that we as humanity cannot quite afford the embarrassment of not showing up to a conference like this after literally being invited by our own order for the first time,” he continued his previous statement after his suspiciously long pause. “So, I think I will probably get to go. If not, I’ll just remind them that I can go whether they want me to or not, basically putting them in front of the choice if they really want to let me go there all alone.”
Tuya nodded, seemingly ignoring the fact that he had drifted off for a minute there for his benefit, and then she tilted her head slightly.
“Well, if you go, you can take up to ten people…any idea who you’ll be bringing?” she continued the conversation, seemingly determined to sound casual about the topic. Now the golden question was if that was because she wanted him to bring her or because she really didn’t want him to bring her.
James decided to just be honest about it instead of guessing around.
“Well, it depends a bit on how much support I get from the U.H.S.D.F. and who actually wants to come, but if I can safely bring people, I was thinking about bringing the whole squad, you know? Everyone involved with this.” he explained, feeling like offering it to everyone and being declined was better than not offering it to someone who really wanted to come, potentially. “I mean, you’ve all been through enough shit with me, I figure as long as we can make it safe, I should at least offer everyone the possibility to be there for something like this. Not that I really expect everyone to want to come…”
He left that last sentence sitting there just in case Tuya needed an easy transition into her already declining his offer before it had even been fully made.
However, it seemed that she was leaning more heavily in the other direction, which was probably not all too surprising with an adrenaline junky like her.
“I’m game if you’ll have me,” she stated almost immediately. “Got my record to clean after that last mishap back on Dunnima.”
As if she needed to clarify what she was talking about, she used her hand to indicate towards the bandages around her neck where the claw marks from said ‘mishap’ used to be.
James nodded and rand a hand through his stubbly beard.
“Cool with me,” he stated, although he glanced over at his sister, unsure how exactly she would take it that he planned to take her new girlfriend along for the ride for yet another politically precarious mission.
Nia did indeed look a bit worried as she shifted her lips, however she quickly swept some of her loose braids out of her face and deposited them behind her ears as she sighed.
“Well, I’d much rather have you two there to watch out for each other,” she said, almost sounding a bit like she was still trying to convince herself of the truth of that statement, while her eyes remained closed with slightly trembling brows.
Tuya took that as a sign to lean over and kiss her, to which James tastefully averted his gaze.
“Speaking of watching out for each other,” Tuya then spoke back up while James was still looking away, his eyes getting caught on the moving pictures on the TV screen even though he didn’t really pay attention to what he was even looking at there. “How is Shida doing? I don’t think I’ve seen her since she needed some alone time.”
James sucked in a bit of air through his teeth in a mixture of amusement and a desire to avoid the topic, but ultimately, he walked a few steps over to the backpack that he had brought with him to carry all of the index-cards over. Picking it up, he reached his hand inside of the thing’s dark maw, and rummaged through it for a moment, feeling his hand bump against bottles, booklets, and blocks, before finally grabbing a slightly torn up, loose piece of paper and pulling it out.
The picture, that was a photo printed on regular paper, had multiple large, slightly scorched holes ripped into it, that anyone with a bit of know-how quickly identified as bullet-holes. Whatever it once showed was by now barely recognizable, as perforated as it was, however with a lot of fantasy and good will, you could still somewhat make out the vague shape of one Captain Ferromore Uton’s face.
“Her aim is getting better. The goggles certainly help,” James tried to joke as he held the picture up for all to see, although his humor was quickly overtaken as he sighed again and let it sink down, before also sitting himself down again. “Honestly, I think she’s doing fine for the most part, but she could definitely use a bit of a distraction. Being cooped up like we are…her thoughts are circling a lot. I don’t know if she is actually this angry at the Captain or if he just happens to be the current focus of all her more undirected anger, but she’s developing a bit of an unhealthy fixation. I hope getting her out of here will help with not having her mind getting stuck in place so much. I know it would certainly help me with that.”
Nia and Tuya both pulled a bit of a face as they looked at the picture that had been thoroughly shot to death, but they refrained from commenting a lot, knowing that James already knew what they were going to say.
And indeed…James knew that other than distracting her…the best choice of action was most likely to also get her to therapy. The problem was, they didn’t really have a myiat-therapist or psychologist on hand around here, and getting one in was a bit hard with their current secure location. That wasn’t even mentioning that any therapist not officially sworn in by the U.H.S.D.F. would also have to be excluded from all classified information, making it kind of hard to talk with them about any of the currently ongoing topics, which were basically all classified. So that ‘best of all options’-option was sadly hardly available to them.
Maybe she could try having a talk with one of the human doctors, of course, but the effectiveness of that would be quite questionable at best.
“Where is she now?” Nia then asked instead of digging deeper into the topic, however luckily James could give a more relaxing answer there.
“Oh, she’s asleep,” he informed and leaned back slightly at the less tense topic. “With most people gone from the base, she’s decided to return to her myiat-rhythm for a bit, meaning she sleeps more all at once and less intermittently, since she doesn’t really have humans to fall in line with right now. I don’t particularly mind having to match up my awake times with her a bit more deliberately.”
Briefly after he had finished that sentence, his phone suddenly began to ring.
“Might be the committee,” James excused himself as he reached for the device and indicated for his company to please be quiet, with Tuya immediately reaching to mute the TV. After the volume in the room had died down, James lifted the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
There was a quite heavy breathing on the other end that had a hint of a voice to it of which James felt like he recognized it, although it didn’t immediately come to him from where that was.
That was, until the voice finally spoke.
“Call it back,” the voice said in between labored breaths, and the fear within it was palpable, as each syllable of the croaked statement quivered like a leave in the wind. “Please.”
James had to furrow his brow and briefly checked the screen, that told him that the call was coming from an unknown number…which shouldn’t have been possible on a highly secured phone such as this one. Nobody should have the number who wasn’t authorized to.
With a flick of his thumb, he started a program that would record the phone call immediately.
“Call what back?” James them replied, determined to keep the call going, while he also wondered where exactly he was recognizing that voice from. Meanwhile his expression and demeanor had seemingly indicated towards Tuya that something wasn’t right about the call, and she had quickly reached for her own phone to send out quick messages.
“Your beast, James,” the voice simultaneously clarified and didn’t clarify at all. “Please call it back. I have nothing left to give you, so please, call it back.”
James furrowed his brow even further. He had no idea what this was about. Not in the slightest.
“Beast? What are you talking about? I don’t have a-“ he began to say, however it was in exactly that moment when his brain fired back up and he finally knew where he recognized that voice from. “Wait, Councilman Ekorte? Is that you?”
He was kind of baffled, not only that the man would call him in the first place, but also at how in the world he would’ve gotten this number to do it. And he still had no idea what his beast was supposed to be.
“Acting Councilman,” Ekorte corrected. “And even that not for long anymore. I’m withdrawing from the election for the next Council and will be facing the courts. You win. But please, call back your beast.”
James sat there entirely baffled, his brain not quite switching gears quickly enough to keep up with all the information he was being confronted with there. One of his captors was…giving up? He was turning himself in? That was great, but why was he doing it? And what beast was he hoping James would have the power to stop?
Apparently taking James’ stunned silence as some form of denial of his request, the amphibian spoke back up, his croaking voice rejuvenated by a form of desperation that James had yet to hear from someone in the position of a Councilman.
“What else do you want?” he asked with a shaking voice. “I can’t promise you any more than that. I don’t know if you were hoping for me to reveal some big wealth of information, but I can’t. All I can do is reveal what I worked on, and throw my own life away…No, I’ve already thrown it away, it’s just catching up to me now. And I will face what I deserve for that. You can’t demand any more of me! Please, I beg of you!”
James’ brain finally fired back up, mostly because he had never expected that he would somehow suddenly feel so much pity for one of his former captors, and that based on his voice alone. The man sounded truly, deathly afraid.
“Ekorte, I have no idea what you are talking about,” he gave back honestly, ready to work through it with the man to possibly figure out who had sicced something onto the man.
However, the former Councilman barely gave him time to say anything, before he basically howled in stifled agony, that sounded mental in nature more so than physical.
“Of course,” he then said. “Of course, you can’t say either. Can’t reveal anything, I get that. You can’t admit to setting that thing onto me, can’t even admit to knowing it exists yet. I get that, yes, I do. But you can still call it off, yes? Just, give me some sort of message. Something that only I would understand. We talked so much; you have to think of something. Something that you can say to let me know that you’re satisfied and…and that you’ll call it back now, alright?”
Had James not already been sitting, he would’ve likely had to sit down now. The sheer wave of terror that came out of his phone’s speakers there was almost contagious. Granted, James wasn’t terrified quite yet, but he could definitely feel the anxiety of not knowing what was going on, especially since his interlocutor seemed to be so utterly convinced that he had to know exactly what he was saying.
To calm himself, James deeply in- and exhaled and steadied his voice.
“Just tell me what you are talking about, please,” he gave back in a regained tone of professionality, while he hardened his expression and brought his mind into an all-business mode in an attempt to work through this.
“The A.I.!” Ekorte basically yelled out in an exclamation. “Your beast! You used to be afraid of it as well. Told me not even humans would deal with them. But not anymore. Now that you’ve rallied yourself to its protection, you’re the only one it could possibly listen to. I…I made a huge mistake, I know. I unleashed it upon the world. I thought I could prevent it from spreading, but instead I spread it all by myself. I can see why it would want my head, but I’m willing to own up to it now. I will stand my trial! And even if that’s not enough for it…it has to be enough for you, right? You always said that’s all you wanted. And if you call it back, it has to listen! It just has to…”
He trailed off in deep desperation towards the end, seemingly not quite able to convince even himself of that simple fact he had seemingly been clinging his entire sanity onto.
The A.I. was his boogeyman, and he was basically pulling his blanket over his head, trying to deeply trust that that would be enough to hold it off. And James was the blanket.
“You were the one that ordered the attack on Dunnima?” James asked a bit breathlessly, feeling like that confession he had basically just heard out of the man was way too good to be true, however the fear of death might just be truly enough to get it out of a man like Ekorte.
“Yes!” the former Councilman immediately admitted. “Yes, it was me! I won’t deny it! You can have this statement from me recorded, written, I will even draw you a picture, just please, tell that beast to leave me be.”
Well, he had it recorded, so that was a good thing. Around him, he saw both Nia’s and Tuya’s eyes get incredibly wide after they had heard his statement, and he could see the burning questions on their lips which they held back with a not insubstantial force of will.
James sighed slightly. Most likely, it would be his duty to try and wring the man dry for every drop of additional evidence or confessions he could get out of him. However, this didn’t feel right. And that wasn’t even to mention that, should it get out that James was -at least apparently- using a hostile A.I. to try and torture his political opponents into submission, then well…Earth would’ve seen a time of peace for the last time. He couldn’t risk giving off that impression at all.
“Ekorte, I don’t know anything about an A.I. attacking you,” he answered hopefully truthfully. He would at least very much like to believe that Avezillion wasn’t roaming around the free network and terrorizing people at this point, because he still very much would’ve liked to not have the entire galaxy immediately declare war on her.
“Don’t lie to me…” Ekorte pleaded with him, his voice losing force. “Reprig noticed it too. It’s subtle, but…it’s there. Always there. Always letting you know that it could end you at an instant when it wants to, no matter where you go. I’ve already given all I could give. If you can’t call it off, then…I don’t want to give it the satisfaction.”
Standing straight up from his seat as soon as his brain had registered the subtext of that statement, James basically yelled out,
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait! Okay? Wait. We don’t want to do anything hasty,” he said, really not wishing this blood on his hands. Even if he wasn’t actually the one instigating any of this, if he didn’t act to the fullest of his ability here, he doubted that his conscience would care, or that he would be able to sleep again. Briefly calming himself with another breath after he had been relieved to not hear the call end immediately, he then brought his voice back into a more gentle register, as he added, “Listen, I don’t know anything about an A.I. attacking you or anything like that, but if you actually are turning yourself in, I can at the very least promise you to do anything in my power that you will be treated fairly and kept safely until the time of your process comes around, okay? I promise you that I will do everything within my power to achieve that. Do you understand me?”
He really hoped that that sounded enough like an encoded message of ‘I will call my beast back’ to ease the man’s worries enough that he wouldn’t do anything regrettable…
There was a bit of heavy breathing on the other end of the line for a few seconds. However, ultimately, the former Councilman replied,
“I understand. Thank you, James.”
His voice was weak, almost like it had deflated into itself.
James cleared his throat.
“There is nothing to thank me for. I am only doing what’s right,” he said genuinely and rubbed the cool hand of his mechanical arm along his burning forehead to cool it down a bit while he also tried to decompress. “Just tell me one thing for now: How did you get this number?”
Ekorte didn’t pause for long before he answered, seemingly worried James might retract his ‘kindness’ again.
“One of my associates gave it to me. The same one who first warned us about your beast,” he explained. “He…is good at getting around your systems.”
After he had said that the connection suddenly cut, and James wasn’t sure if Ekorte had hastily hung up the call before James could demand any more information out of him…or if it had been cut by a third party.
Basically dropping the hand holding his phone next to him, James sank back into his seat. It was…a very strange feeling that filled him.
This…was a major victory. One of the biggest contributors to the shadow-government they were fighting against was out of the game and admitting his crimes and yet…it felt so…empty.
Mostly because he didn’t feel like he deserved any of it.
Not that that would usually have meant much to him. These people needed to be stopped, and it didn’t really matter if he contributed to it or not. He would just be happy if it was all over, one way or another.
However, this way? It didn’t feel right. And not just because he was ethically against it. No, but because these methods were so…dangerous. Use of an aggressive A.I. was basically signing your own death warrant. Even a non-hostile one was dangerous enough as is. And if the attacks on Ekorte, whatever nature they may have been of, actually stopped now…then that meant the idea that James had something to do with it would gain validity, no matter how much he denied it.
Whatever nature they may have been off…
Avezillion…couldn’t actually have tried to attack him in any way. She just couldn’t. After all, even after digitalizing, she was still entirely confined to the network of Dunnima and its territories, voluntarily so….right?
Although he held onto that hope tightly and didn’t really allow thoughts on the contrary to enter his awareness, the dark feeling of having made a deal with the Devil was bubbling up within him from somewhere deep inside, and he truly hoped that it was just trying to mislead him.
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