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I Can Make You Hot!: The Supermodel Diet (by Kelly Killoren Bensimon) -- Part Two

I hope you all have taken full advantage of the past 48 hours or so to regain some sense of normalcy after our adventures through Part 1 of Kelly Killoren Bensimon's I Can Make You Hot! Without further ado, Part Two:
I resume my journey through the truly incomprehensible mind of Kelly Bensimon with a chapter entitled, "Thursday: Tricks of My Trade." Now that we've learned about the basic building blocks of hotness, Kelly promises to share even more hard-earned advice to help us really kick things up a notch. And, as she reassures us:
I'm actually glad for the mistakes I've made because anyone who doesn't make mistakes doesn't learn, and if you don't learn, you're boring!
And if you're boring, you're not HOT! I think I'm starting to get the hang of this!
One of Kelly's most important life lessons came at her first horse show, when she made an unbelievably devastating misstep: "I decided to have an egg on a bagel from the food-service van." What kind of unimaginable ripple effects did this poor decision set off? I continue on to learn that Kelly "did all right in the competition." And…that's literally the whole story. Kelly legitimately refers to this as "one of my biggest lessons," as it taught her "to never eat more than I normally would." If life-changing breakthroughs were this easily sparked in my own life, I can't even begin to imagine how self-actualized I would be at this point.
At this point in my reading, I have reached the book's first insert, which contains about a dozen glossy color photos from various phases of Kelly's life. Unfortunately, I am far too preoccupied by this picture, in which a carefree, wind-swept Kelly clenches her infant daughter under one arm with all the grace of an NFL wide receiver, to pay the rest of the spread much mind.
We continue on as Kelly introduces new dimensions to the basic tips she's previously introduced. For example, you may have had some vague idea that water was important, but Kelly -- always there to help us learn and improve -- digs into the specifics to make sure we're up to date on the HOTtest tricks of the trade:
Staying hydrated is important no matter what you're doing, so I always try to drink eight glasses or about a liter of water a day. Soda isn't water. Coffee isn't water. Water is water. Drink throughout the day; don't try to get it all down at once. You wouldn't drown an orchid, so don't drown yourself.
I am putting in my formal request for a Public Service Announcement in this format, but using the last line of that passage. Also, Kelly clearly does not know how poorly I tend to my houseplants.
The next page informs us that, "hot isn't just caliente; it's also spicy and sultry." Kelly promptly launches into yet another list of miscellaneous grocery items, this time focused specifically on "red-hot foods." Except it includes entries like "popcorn with sugar and cinnamon," and "Mike and Ike candy," so I'm not convinced Kelly didn't just lose track of the thread entirely by the time we got a few items in. However, this does seem like an appropriate time to introduce this picture, from the book's second photo insert, which clearly depicts the sleep paralysis demon that has haunted my dreams for the past several nights. We're also treated to this chapter's first "hot button issue" panel, in which Kelly pulls back the curtain on the shadowy, pro-salt cabal trying to control us all with their anti-sodium legislative agenda:
We keep reading about how bad sodium is for our health, but if you eat fresh foods that you prepare yourself, you can determine and control the amount of salt you want to use. I, Kelly Killoren Bensimon, am perfectly capable of deciding how much salt I want to put on my food. I don't need anyone else to salt my food for me. I know that the amount of salt I choose to sprinkle on my food is not going to hurt me.
I read on to find a two-page spread in which Kelly expounds, in rhapsodic praise to rival that of Song of Solomon, upon her ardor for her beloved dehydrator -- "I though I was in love with coffee, but now I think my dehydrator is my truest love." Most of the passage is taken up by an unstructured list of the various things Kelly has attempted to dehydrate ("cucumber," "mangoes," "avocado") but she does manage to squeeze in a few infomercial-ready lines -- "Really, you should buy one; I promise you won't be sorry."
Since repetition is the key to reinforcing new concepts, I appreciate that Kelly's next list (of "a few more lean tricks I've learned along the way") repeats a note she originally relayed to us just a few pages ago:
Drink water throughout the day (not all at one sitting).
She's also been thoughtful enough to provide a list of resources for us to use as we soldier on along the perilous journey to HOT. After all, as Kelly says, "I don’t expect you to carry this book wherever you go -- as much as I would love that." As someone who has never before ventured into the wild world of cyberspace, I really appreciated Kelly introducing me to so many fun, useful websites that I might want to check out! In case you, too, just haven't figured out how to navigate this whole Internet thing, I've included a few examples below:
www.amazon.com
One-stop shopping for just about any book, periodical, or product you might want to read or buy in order to get HOT.

www.espn.com
Everything you need to know to stay up to date on any sport.

www.webmd.com
Useful, up-to-date, trustworthy information on medical and health issues.

www.yummly.com
Claims to have "every recipe in the world"
Can't wait to check these out later! That Amazon one sounds super cool!
I'm reminded quickly just how inelegant the transitions in this book are as we move directly from that list into the following:
I suggest that you take a picture of yourself every day…Some days when you're feeling your fattest, you may be surprised to see that you really look great.
Okay, so fat is NOT HOT. Except being comfortable in your body is HOT. And trying to be skinny is NOT HOT. But being skinny is HOT. Thank goodness I still have a few more chapters to go -- I clearly still have a ways to go before I truly understand the logic of HOTness. As it stands, I must admit that I'm a bit baffled.
Of course, returning to the previous bit of advice, Kelly doesn't actually have to worry about taking her own pictures like us plebeians -- "Having been photographed so often has provided me with a permanent retrospective catalogue of my life." The chapter closes with these words of wisdom:
The best kind of vanity is being vain about what you put in your body.
Friday's chapter promises to introduce us to the world of "Hot Couture," and I am excited to see what tips and tricks Kelly has managed to accrue over her lifetime in the cutthroat world of modeling . But first, we abruptly transition to a story about Kelly meeting Madonna shortly after both women had given birth. Kelly had "gained a healthy fifty pounds," which I am led to believe, from the context of the anecdote, is NOT HOT. Madonna, on the other hand, was "flat-stomached" and therefore "HOT and cool." Of course, Kelly reassures us hurriedly that she lost all the weight within the following six weeks and was "actually thinner than I'd been prepregnancy." I am at an utter loss as to what the point of this story could possibly be, but -- blessedly -- Kelly is gracious enough to explain:
So what's the lesson here? That Madonna had personal trainers and chefs to whip her back into shape, and I didn't -- and still don’t. I shouldn't have been comparing myself to her in the first place. My advice to you is: don’t compare yourself to anyone else, only to your own personal best.
This is a perfect example of something Kelly does throughout this book, which is to present a completely reasonable piece of advice (don’t compare yourself to others), but couched within such a bizarre and logically disorganized narrative that by the time I reach the ultimate moral of the story, my brain feels like it's been run through a series of meat grinders, and I'm reduced to just nodding along in bemused acceptance.
We get a "Kelly's Cardinal Rule" reminding us to "let your body be what your body is and be happy with what you've got." I'm starting to wonder if there is some sort of Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde thing going on behind the scenes here, in which two versions of Kelly are frantically grappling over control of the book's body-positivity dial. I'm literally don't even have to flip the page to see Kelly commiserating with us that "we all have days or occasions when we feel fat" and quipping about her "go-to fat outfit." But also:
Stop praying for what you don't have and be grateful for what you've got.
This amount of cognitive dissonance is truly proof that Kelly contains multitudes. Or has recently acquired some sort of debilitating short-term amnesia. Nevertheless, we continue:
But whatever your shape, show it off. Don’t try to hide it. Hiding is not hot.
Kelly next walks us through figuring out which "season" we are, based on the wisdom extolled in "Color Me Beautiful, the groundbreaking book that was so wildly successful in the early 80s." It's no surprise to me that Kelly, who earlier encouraged us to make our lives easier by using our PDAs, finds this to be an exciting new trend to share. Also, in case you weren't aware, "hair color is also important. You can lighten it or darken it or cover the gray." Lighten it or darken it? The boundaries of my mental universe are truly expanding.
Some more fashion tidbits:
Scarves are hippie chic, cool, and always HOT.

If you're narrow, show off how narrow you are with a monochromatic palette.

Ankles are the new cleavage!
Narrow ankles only, I presume. Kelly's selfless, giving nature is highlighted yet again in the following passage, in which she explains:
All these celebrities have stylists who pull the clothes, accessories, and shoes that make them look the way they do. They charge a lot of money for what they do, so why not get some free advice based on my experience.
And what, pray tell, is this coveted advice that Kelly is so lovingly sharing with her readers, free of charge?
  1. Save sweatpants for the gym.
  2. Save PJs for the bedroom.
  3. Dress as if you were the boss.
  4. Remember what Carrie Bradshaw says: "Nothing is casual anymore, even when it says so on the invitation."
  5. Manolo Blahniks are a girl's best friend.
Okay, so far be it from me to complain about the quality of free advice. But. Out of the five pearls of wisdom that make up the "KKBStyle Rules," two of them are rudimentary instructions to wear somewhat-situationally-appropriate clothing, and the other three are the kind of cute sayings that you would find on a piece of poorly bedazzled wall art in the clearance aisle of your local TJMaxx. I'm not impressed.
Kelly next tells us how important it is to eat well and exercise, even "when you're premenstrual or having your period." That way, as she continues on, "you'll feel better because your endorphins will be flowing while your body is sloughing off unwanted endometrium and mucus." To be fair, Unwanted Endometrium does sound like a sick band name.
Thankfully, the mental image of Kelly's mucus slough is promptly booted from my mind by a careening diatribe about the color red (HOT!):
I even painted my nails red the minute I started writing this book. I wanted to see my short red nails tapping away on my Macbook Pro. Almost every red dress is smokin' HOT, and I've never met a guy who doesn't think a woman in a red dress isn't hot. He's a liar if he denies it.
To repeat, Kelly says she's "never met a guy who doesn’t think a woman in a red dress isn't hot." Poor dear got a bit carried away with her negatives, but I'm sure she'll redeem herself in no time:
When I was sitting in the front row of a Marc Jacobs fashion show a few years ago, I wore a full, red short skirt, a tight red sweater, and red open-toed shoes. One of the editors from The New York Times was sitting across from me, and as we were waiting for the show to begin I kept crossing and recrossing my legs to make him laugh.
Sure, Kelly. To make him laugh. I can only assume she must have written some kind of hilariously clever joke on the gusset of her underwear to have had this editor so tickled pink red.
It was a long wait and after a while some guy I didn't know who was at the other end of the row, leapt towards me and screamed that he was obsessed with my feet. How crazy is it that red open-toed shoes and red toenails could create such a reaction. Red is HOT, even stalker HOT. Yikes!
I'm not clear where "stalker HOT" fits into this whole complex web, but it's reassuring to know that a wise soul like Kelly has such a nuanced appreciation of all of the different ways to be hot. She also gives us some "HOT tips for heating up your image." Like,
Put on a pair of jeans and a white tee shirt.

Put your hair in a ponytail.

Put on a pair of hoop earrings.
And also
Wear your jeans a size smaller instead of a size larger.
For some reason not entirely clear to me at this moment, wearing jeans in your actual size does not seem to be an option.
The chapter continues with a reminder to "remember what's on top of your head!"
There's nothing hotter than a HOT head of hair (unless it's a hunky bald guy).
Kelly follows up by offering a list of what she calls "HOT healthy options." Based on the preceding paragraph, you might assume that these tips would have something to do with haircare and hair styling. However, you would be wrong. Instead, we're instructed to:
Enjoy as much watermelon as you like.

Pack a picnic lunch of dehydrated fruit, chamomile iced tea, and mini pizzas made with corn tortillas, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. Eat your picnic in the park.

Come up with something fun you want to try and do it!
Personally, it seems like a bit of a cop-out to make one of the items on your list of fun things to do "make up your own fun thing to do." But who knows? Maybe cop-outs are HOT!
Before my faith in our fearless leader starts to waver, however, I read on through the end of the chapter, and my surety is promptly restored:
Besides my hair and my legs, the one thing people always ask me about the way I look is how I keep my teeth so white. And yes, that's also a matter of genetics. I'm blessed with the whitest teeth on the planet, and, no, I've never had them professionally bleached.
The weekend begins as I turn the page to the penultimate chapter -- "Saturday: Heat Up Your HOT Image with Healthy Options Today." Saturdays, as Kelly tells us, are for fun activities. For example:
If you're in the mall, go to different stores and figure out which looks will make you HOT. Ask other shoppers for advice.
Also:
Parks are great for people-watching. Who looks fit and healthy?
I sincerely hope that any and all of my friends would give me a stern talking-to if I informed them that my weekend plans consisted of going to a park and…pointing out people I think aren't healthy enough?
Kelly then warns us against overindulging on late-night snacks or alcoholic beverages, lest we wake up Sunday feeling "bloating, sluggish, and with deep regrets." Presumably, Kelly then proceeded to rail a massive line of cocaine and hammer out the following frenetic spiel:
You're not going to get fat from having a few drinks a week. You will get fat if your routine is to drink, eat late, and then lie around watching television the next day, eating and making bad food choices. Going out is fun, but when you sacrifice the next day, it's never fun enough. Don't have regrets; enjoy every day. This is a life plan, and yesterday isn't coming back ever again.
The chapter comes to a close with a reminder to "wrap up every day with a great big bow and be ready for your next adventure. But before we close out our week of HOT, we're provided with what I anticipate will be an incredibly useful reference material for us all, the "KKBfit HOT Quiz." If you'd like to take the quiz yourself, you can find it here. However, I'm not entirely sure I would classify it as a "quiz," since it seems to be mostly a set of questions followed by Kelly's feedback on various possible responses. For example:
  1. How Kelly Green are you?
I had a Kelly Green Juice -- Wasn't it yummy?
I had a smoothie from the health food store with a splash of spinach -- Great choice!
I had kale chips, spinach, and quinoa for dinner last night -- I bet you woke up feeling great this morning!
Other?
I presume that the lack of response after the "Other?" choice is supposed to represent Kelly staring at me in deranged disappointment for a few painfully protracted seconds. Some questions, like the one above, don't seem to have any wrong answers at all. In contrast, other questions have clear wrong answers, which Kelly wastes no time in making apparent:
  1. Are you getting enough protein? How many days did you eat chicken, fish, or meat for at least one meal?
I had a grilled chicken salad for dinner on three different days -- That's good, but I wish you'd get a little more adventurous in your choices.

  1. How KKBfit are you?
Haven't had a meal since last night, but I'm going to skip breakfast and go on a run. I won't eat anything until lunch. -- Sorry, but starving your body is not KKBfit.

  1. Are you drinking enough?
I drink when I'm exercising but that's about it -- Not good enough! Try harder next week.
The quiz ends, leaving me entirely unsure of whether or not I've actually made any forward progress towards my HOTness goals, but the next page does promise help for those who "still need more inspiration." Here, it seems that Kelly has compiled a loose assortment of quotes, most of which (I have a sneaking suspicion) were found by searching the keyword "hot" on BrainyQuote.com. Also, this masterpiece from Kelly's ex-husband, noted fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon:
HOT--
It is not about the look,
It is not only about the charm,
It is the perfect combination:
Sweet and tough,
Sexy and reserved,
Fragile and powerful,
And definitely smart.
-- Gilles Bensimon
Move over, Rupi Kaur! I hope with every fiber of my being that Gilles Bensimon has published his collected poetry in some kind of volume that I could purchase, read, and have, I'm sure, nothing but positive things to say about. After about a dozen similar quotations, Kelly continues:
Now, as you get ready for Sunday Funday, take a few minutes to think about how you define HOT. Has your definition changed or evolved since you started reading this book? If so, I'm doing my job.
In all honesty, my definition of HOT has definitely been…affected by this experience. So we'll call that a win! Kelly tells us a few stories about times when her friends and family members have come to her for guidance on how to be hot. She explains:
I'm not the food police, but I've made myself the Sven-arbiter (as opposed to Svengali) of what's HOT and what's not.
Case in point:
It's just not hot to belong to the clean plate club.
The chapter closes with a list titled "Why Don't You," which I believe is supposed to be a list of fun activities we can try during a Sunday Funday. Or possibly a list of terrible life hacks for stoned college freshmen:
Use an electric teapot as a clothing steamer.

Make grilled cheese sandwiches or press wraps using a hot clothes iron.
There are very few things sadder to me that imagining someone taking Kelly up on this last bit of advice as a fun way to liven up what must be the most preternaturally boring existence possible. If your idea of fun is white bread and Kraft Singles getting slowly warmed over on your clothing iron, I can only imagine the fit of hysterics that you'd be thrown into by a passable Minions meme.
And that brings us to the end of the week. But not -- lucky you! -- to the end of this book. Au contraire -- the remaining 100 pages or so of I Can Make You Hot! feature dozens of unique recipes from the culinary mind of none other than the indomitable Kelly Bensimon herself. In her intro, however, she makes it clear that
No one on earth would ever call me a chef.
Of course not, Kelly -- they'd call you a cook. Otherwise, it's creepy.
This portion of the book begins, reasonably enough, with Breakfasts. These include such thoughtfully named delicacies as "My Favorite Cereal" and "My Favorite Pancakes." The recipe for the latter begins with the following introduction:
I'm not the greatest pancake maker, and I probably never will be. But what I am very good at is thinking of unusual things and doing them.
Frankly, I can't argue with that. As she continues:
When in pancake doubt, have fun, add fruit, and see if pancakes can be a vehicle for creating great memories for your family.
Next time I'm in pancake doubt, I'll know just what to do! We move right along into the Soups and Salads section, and are promptly introduced to Kelly's "Jimmy Achoo's Chicken Soup." Which is apparently a play on Jimmy Choo and also described by Kelly as "filled with veggie exploitation," which sounds terrifying. Of the next recipe, "Rich and Skinny Cauliflower Soup with Kale Chips," Kelly reflects:
I adapted this recipe from one I found on the Internet. I wish I could tell you exactly where, but I can't.
The recipe calls for kale chips, which Kelly goes out of her way to inform us can be purchased "at health food stores and many well-stocked supermarkets." We also get a few general "HOT salad tips" that can be applied to many of the recipes throughout this book, such as
There are so many different types of lettuces available today! Try different ones to see which you like best
and
When you order a salad in a restaurant, ask for the dressing on the side. You're a grown-up and you should get to decide how much you want to use.
With that under our belts, the grown-ups among us move on to "Meat, Chicken, and Fish." In her recipe for "Grilled Rib Eye with Herbes de Provence", Kelly tells us about meeting the famous chef who inspired this dish:
When I met Eric, who was still in his thirties at the time, he still had dark hair. I was caught off guard because I thought all chefs were older, had gray hair, and smelled like garlic.
So perhaps Bethenny should have taken it as a compliment? Kelly continues,
He's since invited me many times to go into his kitchen and cook with him, but my fear of losing a finger by being overzealous has prohibited me from accepting.
It's unclear to me exactly what this means or why Kelly would even be particularly worried about this possibility. Does she have habit of excitedly snatching vegetables out from other people's knives? Does Eric have a reputation for slicing anyone who dares to get in his way? Before I make any headway with this particular mystery, we're introduced to the next recipe, the "Pencil-Thin Skirt Steak." As we learn, "Everyone looks slim in a pencil skirt, so it's only fitting that skirt steak is one of the leanest cuts of beef you can buy." We get a recipe for "Sultry Roast Chicken" in which Kelly shares with us that "in fact, chicken without ginger doesn't taste like chicken to me anymore." This would be more believable if we weren't, a mere two pages later, introduced to a notably ginger-free recipe for "Second-Chance Chicken." As Kelly explains,
I hate the idea of leftovers. To me, eating leftovers means you're too lazy to start over, and I've never wanted my girls to think that we weren't starting fresh.
In the introduction to the recipe for "Bad Girl Wings," Kelly gives us yet another poignant insight into her life as a mother:
These chicken wings are Sea's favorite. I'm sure she loves them because she knows I love wings (she's a cutie like that).
It would obviously be ludicrous to assume that Sea actually enjoys chicken wings authentically. Much more likely that she just loves them because Kelly does. HOT! In a segment labeled "hasta la vista taco bell," Kelly recounts a traumatic experience in which she "discovered that my favorite food choices [at Taco Bell] added up to 580 calories." To me, this seems like a perfectly reasonable amount of calories for one daily meal out of three, but according to Kelly, I am embarrassingly off the mark. Rather, she sighs, "I guess that means my Taco Bell days are over -- unless I decide to chance [sic] Sunday Funday into Fatso Food Day." Not HOT.
Kelly tells us about the creative process behind the development of the next recipe, "Spicy Sultry Shrimp and Mango Stir-Fry" (which, for the record, is the second recipe to have the word "sultry" in its title).
This was one of the first dishes I made when I started to cook -- as a science experiment. My "method" was to think of foods I loved and which ones I thought would go well together.
Fascinating! Think of ingredients you like and combine them into a dish that you will then likely also like! The next recipe, for "Kelly's Kalamari," features the following introduction:
I still love fried calamari, but it doesn't love me. Whenever I eat it, it goes right to my stomach and makes a little pooch -- eww!
As a reminder, this is the same Kelly Bensimon who told us that loving our bodies is HOT and dieting is die + t. But also, eww!
We trek along into the next portion of the recipe book, succinctly titled "Pizza, Pasta, Potatoes, Grains, Vegetables, and Sides." We get a recipe for "Pizzzzzzzza!," which instructs the reader to obtain pizza dough, pizza sauce, mozzerella cheese, salt and pepper. Spread out the dough, add sauce and cheese, and cook! This is yet another time I'm glad Kelly told us early on in this book to take detailed notes -- these kinds of nuanced culinary creations can only come from the mind of a true master.
The same kind of true master who would, as we soon learn, conceive of this particular travesty -- "Pink Pizza." Imagine with me, for a moment, that a dear friend invites you over to their house for dinner. I'm making pizza! they implore you. Come over -- we'll hang out, have a couple beers, catch up on old times! Excited for a chance to relive the glory days, you eagerly accept, only to be met -- upon your arrival -- with this abomination. I thought you said we were having pizza? you sputter nervously. This is pizza, your friend intones, as their eyes slowly fade to black and their hands reach out to wrap themselves around your throat.
Kelly goes on to share a recipe for an "Asian-flavored noodle dish" that she has christened (and it truly pains me to type this), "Me Love You Springtime Noodles." Somewhere, the last ember of hope for humanity quietly fizzles out.
The following recipe, for "Pasta with Oddkavodka Sauce" begins with a warning:
When you make this (especially for children) just be sure you cook off the alcohol so that you aren't serving vodka to minors or have to assign a designated driver for your guests.
This seems like reasonable and conscientious advice. Until I read on and learn that the recipe calls for 1/8 cup vodka, and makes four servings. If your guests need a designated driver after consuming a half-tablespoon of vodka each, I would strongly encourage them to seek medical advice forthwith.
I am reminded once again how different Kelly's and my worlds are with the following exclamation:
Try using quinoa in this recipe instead of the rice -- I call that having your cake and eating it too!
Oh, to live a life in which your most selfish indulgence was quinoa. I suppose this should have prepared me for a few pages later, when Kelly remarks:
Both hummus and guacamole make great toppings for steak or fish. They're my version of béarnaise sauce.
I love hummus. Hummus is great. But there is no possible existing parallel universe in which hummus and béarnaise sauce are interchangeable. One of the final recipes in this section is cryptically titled "Have an Impromptu Pepper Party" and instructs the reader to scoop out the insides of a bell pepper and stuff it with "whatever ingredients suit your fancy." Again, I feel like this fails to meet the definition of an actual recipe, per se, but it is supposedly "quick, fun, and satisfying."
We're nearing the book's end (for real this time) with a section on "Breads and Desserts." This includes an inspirational passage in which Kelly shares a personal anecdote:
On Season 4 of the Real Housewives of New York City, I made a mixed fruit pie for my kids with what was left over in the fruit bowl…Don't be afraid to try new things, make mistakes, and have fun doing it.
I can only hope to someday be brave enough and fearless enough to make a mixed fruit pie.
Blessedly, the final section , titled "Beverages", looks like it might have exactly what I need in the aftermath of finishing this book. The "GIN-Ginger Beertail," for example, which "was originally made with gin, but I don't like serving gin drinks because I think it makes people mean." We also get a recipe for something called "Babylove," which (thankfully) seems unrelated to another of my favorite reality TV cesspools.
It only seems appropriate to share the final recipe of I Can Make You Hot! with all of you. I will definitely be downing approximately seven of these tonight, and I hope some of you will be joining me in spirit. Cheers:
Gummi Bear Martini
If you don't have a paper umbrella handy, Gummi Bears are a great way to put more fun in your drink.
Makes 1 Drink
2 parts orange, grape, or other-flavored vodka
1 part Triple Sec
1 part white grape juice
Splash of cranberry juice
Gummi Bears, as many as you like
Combine the vodka, Triple Sec, grape juice, and cranberry juice in a tall glass. Add ice and fill the glass with Gummi Bears.
ETA: I am so disappointed in myself for forgetting to include that Kelly has a ceviche recipe that instructs you to marinate raw fish in lemon juice for exactly two minutes before serving. In the interest of food safety, perhaps it was for the best that this nugget momentarily slipped my mind, but sharing this information with you all is the burden I have been cursed to bear. 🙏🏼
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XENODIPLOMATS

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Barkskin slid off the vehicle with undisguised relief. The aircraft, while fascinating, was also terribly cramped. As such, all parties had held off trying to communicate for the duration of the short flight, leaving Sunny to write charcoal messages in her telegraphic notebook. An uncontacted empire in the middle of this megacontinent probably wasn’t the most believable of things to put on a report back to the monastery, but the scribes were paid by logogram and therefore didn’t care what they copied from the notebook’s twin. So if this adventure ended in tragedy, some other explorer might still stumble across their records and continue their work.
Buoyed by this knowledge, Barkskin could continue with his head held high, and his airsickness firmly repressed. Sunny followed close behind him, equally determined but perhaps somewhat less nauseous.
“Good thing you weren’t full,” she remarked. Her tail wagged.
“Are you seriously going to bring that up every single time?”
Sunny shrugged. “Hey, you can’t blame me for wondering. You do look a little green.” She gave him an open-mouthed, playful smile.
Barkskin hissed, equally playful. “Shut up, dichromat. I keep telling you, I’m the color of meat, not grass. No wonder Carnivora make yourselves barf by eating shrubs if you can’t tell the difference.”
Barkskin looked forwards to notice Dancer and its friend watching him, eyes wide. He mentally berated himself for forgetting about the hissing. He splayed his arms in the peace gesture, hoping to placate them. The two traded an unreadable look before Dancer made the pulling motion to indicate that Barkskin and Sunny should follow.
They had landed in the midst of a small village, one surrounded by fences and occupied with others of Dancer’s kind. Barkskin took note of their appearance, while Sunny simply took notes. The bulk of them were clothed in mottled fabrics, although a few, including Dancer and the pilot, wore solid colors or patterns. Several of this latter group also wore hats, which was probably for some utilitarian purpose but also unavoidably hilarious. Barkskin had to suppress his hissing at how silly they all looked.
All action around them stopped as the villagers noticed Barkskin and Sunny. Barkskin preened under their attention, flaring his hood and subtly flexing his biceps. Sunny, meanwhile, tried to hide as much as possible beside his bulk and behind her notebook.
“Look, that one is wearing a painting!” pointed out Barkskin.
Forgetting her anxiety for a moment, Sunny lowered her notebook to look at the person Barkskin had indicated. “It’s probably high-status; a mage or a priest. We should try to earn its favor.”
In unison, the pair exposed their necks towards the individual as a sign of submission.
“Okay, now they’re staring at us. Maybe this was a bad idea.”
Barkskin shrugged. “They were already staring at us. Not a big deal.”
They continued forward, eventually lead beyond the gawping crowd to one of the ubiquitous dark green tents. The pilot said something to Dancer, to which Dancer responded with a down-up shake of its head. The pilot walked off, while Dancer pulled back the entrance to the tent. Dancer made its follow-me motion and entered the tent.
Sunny took a deep breath. “Steel yourself. We’re about to meet their leader.”
“I’m a reptile; we’re always cold and unyielding.” Barkskin’s quip masked a sudden burst of anxiety. This was it; what every explorer dreamed of. It was time to break out from the eggshell.
Evidently, he hadn’t masked his anxiety fast enough. Sunny forced herself to make the first move, leaving him a few extra seconds to pull himself together. Establishing contact with Dancer had been so effortless, but it looked like he was still having trouble with authority figures.
And while on the subject of authority figures, Barkskin thought as he entered the tent, this one was particularly obvious. Its clothes were festooned with tiny bits of metal and colorful cloth, and it wore perhaps the silliest hat Barkskin had ever seen: white, with a flat top and wide black brim. His anxiety disappeared, replaced with an intense need to hiss. Barely restraining himself, he replicated the open-palm gesture Dancer had made, while to his side Sunny bared her throat.
Oops. They really should have coordinated this beforehand.
The village chieftain glanced between Sunny and Barkskin, judging them. Resolving itself, it tried to replicate both gestures at once.
In an involuntary motion, Barkskin pulled his arms behind his back and looked towards the ground. Clenching his fists as hard as he could, he forced his laughter down and tried to think of anything except the leader with his silly pose and sillier hat.
When he looked back up, the chieftain and Dancer were having a murmured conversation. Not good; he’d made some sort of faux-pass. Dancer made what was, if the principle of antithesis was true, a perfectly ordinary bipedal shrug. The chieftain turned back to Barkskin. Then, it brought its hands to its sides before performing an odd, stiff rendition of a play-bow. This of course forced Barkskin to look at the floor and quote tragic plays in his head, while Sunny of course responded with a play-bow of her own. Barkskin tried to look back up as the chieftain rose, but then Dancer decided to join in, which forced him down again and started another round of bowing.
It had evidently been good for something, at least. When he finally composed himself enough to see the chief without laughing, Dancer and the Chieftain had relaxed and were holding a conversation at normal volume. Barkskin understood nothing, of course, but he caught the two-syllable word Dancer had used to greet Sunny being used at least once by the chieftain, which was probably a good sign.
Dancer and the chieftain pivoted away from Sunny and Barkskin and walked towards the back of the tent circling the platform— no, the table set up in the middle. They pulled out chairs from behind it and sat down. Dancer made its pulling motion and pointed at identical chairs set up on Barkskin and Sunny’s side of the table.
Dancer froze in place, and her eyes widened. She looked at Barkskin, and then towards his serpentine body, and then towards the chair set up on his side of the table. She made to stand up, pushing her chair back. Barkskin preempted her by pulling the chair out and flipping it around, before sliding onto it such that his lower body was supported by the seat and his upper body supported by the backrest.
His tongue lolled out of his mouth in a grin. It wasn’t the first time a biped had thought they’d insulted him by offering him a chair. It was no couch, but Barkskin was perfectly happy being, at least temporarily, taller than Dancer and the chieftain.
Meanwhile, Sunny scrambled up to sit on her own chair, forced to sit on her haunches to comfortably clear the top of the table. This drew the attention of Dancer and the chieftain, causing another conversation where the two-syllable word was repeated several more times.
In the lull, while both parties figured out what to do next, Barkskin took a look around the tent. There was the table, the people around it, and an assortment of books, papers, and what might be writing implements on top of it. Magelights hung from the tent’s low ceiling provided illumination, long tubes emitting a harsh white light. In the back of the tent was an object mounted to a tripod. He surmised it was some sort of camera, judging by the large lens pointed towards the table. After negotiations finished, this historic moment would be recorded in a photograph, which made him feel a little giddy.
His attention was brought back to the table by Sunny bringing out her notebook. She took out a piece of charcoal and began to write. Once finished, she dropped the notebook on the table and rotated it so that it faced Dancer and the Chieftain.
Fig. 1 Text reader description: Two boxes are drawn in charcoal on a piece of parchment. In the first box is a spiral, above a capital ‘A’ with an extended middle brace, above two pairs of conjoined, headless stick figures side by side. In the second box is a square above a reversed lightning bolt above another square above a lowercase ‘v’ above an ‘x’ with a line drawn from the intersection of the cross straight down for twice the height of the ‘x’ itself.
Sunny pointed to the first namebox, and then to Barkskin. “Skin-like-bark”, she intoned. Then she pointed to the second namebox, before indicating towards herself. “Sun-over-fields.”
Dancer and the chieftain looked over the figures. Dancer reached up and touched its hair, while the chieftain said something and gestured with its hands. Dancer pulled out a piece of paper and began to copy what Sunny wrote, but broke off halfway through in reaction to something the chieftain said. Their voices began to raise, signaling some sort of argument.
Sunny sighed, and pulled her notebook back. A few heartbeats of scribbling later, she returned the notebook to the table.
Fig. 2 Text reader description: The boxes from figure one have been circled. In the first circle, containing the first box, a stick figure has been drawn of person with a triangular head and pointed ears. In the second circle, containing the second box, a stick figure has been drawn of a person with a triangular head, hood, four arms, and a serpentine body.
Dancer and the chieftain leaned over the notebook. After a second, they leaned back, moaning. Dancer brought its hand to its forehead with an audible smack.
Barkskin was briefly concerned, but that concern switched to curiosity as the chieftain brought out a writing implement and wrote something on a loose sheet of paper. Once finished he turned the paper over for Sunny and Barkskin to read.
Fig. 3 Text reader description: Two names have been written on a sheet of white paper in cursive by a calligraphy pen. The first name is ‘James Hayek.’ The second name is ‘Samantha Garcia.’ To the right of the first name is a stick figure with a hat and an exaggerated torso. The the right of the second name is a stick figure with long, wavy hair.
“It added the hat!” said Barkskin, gleeful.
The chieftain pointed at the third squiggle. It said a phrase, running its finger across the page left to right, and then pointed to itself.
An exclamation came from Dancer, and it smacked a hand down onto the paper. It yanked the page back, and said something to the chieftain in a strident tone of voice.
Stunned, the chieftain was silent long enough for Dancer to jot something down and present it.
Fig. 4 Text reader description: Figure four has been modified. Both names have been struck through and re-written in printed characters with a ballpoint pen.
This sparked some sort of argument between the pair, but at least they didn’t pull the paper away again.
“Look at the similarities between these characters; I think this is a phonetic alphabet,” said Sunny, pointing at the most common symbol with one hand, as she did her best to copy the contents of the page into her notebook with the other.
“Makes sense, if they don’t need to worry about communication with people who can’t pronounce the same phonemes. Awfully inconvenient for us, though. But why did the chieftain write ideograms first, if they use an alphabet? And why are there so many characters? Dancer had seven sounds, tops, in its name, which is a lot fewer sounds than there are characters.”
“Well, number one, it’s obviously a warlord, not a chieftain. You can tell from all the weaponry and also the fact that they’re all females; they’ve probably secluded their breeding males in a permanent encampment somewhere.”
Sunny paused, and Barkskin tried to think of a counterpoint just to be contrarian. He was halfway through conceiving an argument about how they were actually a clutch of brothers banding together until adulthood, which was obvious from the lack of eggs or anyone obviously gravid, when Sunny bulled over his feeble objections and continued.
“Number two, I think they’re just different styles of writing. Look at their stroke order— left to right. Warlord was lazy and wrote without picking up her tool. So Dancer reprimanded her and wrote the names in the correct way.”
“I don’t know. That sounds pretty ad-hoc to me. Wouldn’t a warlord be trained from birth to avoid low-status behaviors? And why would this so-called ‘Warlord’ just allow herself to be reprimanded and lose face?”
Sunny chuffed. “Warlords lead, not read. And challenges to authority are fine as long as everyone apologizes afterward. Trust me, I know a little bit more about pack dynamics than you do. See— they’re making up right now.”
And indeed, both Dancer and the ‘warlord’ were being mutually submissive. Both were avoiding eye contact, with their heads turned up and away to expose their necks. Maybe there was something to what Sunny was saying after all; she had some sort of rapport with these creatures he lacked.
Having resolved their conflict, Dancer and Warlord turned their attention back to the table. Dancer leaned back, while Warlord leaned forward. She placed a finger at the end of the first row of separated characters, pointing to what was, to her, the first character of a line.
Warlord pronounced a word, paused, and then pronounced a second one. Her finger moved smoothly across the row, save for a stutter at the gap between the first and second collection of characters. Then she placed her hand on her chest and repeated the process. Then she went to the second row. First she said Dancer’s semi-palindromic appellation, and then tacked on a second word, itself following the three-syllable, semi-palindromic pattern of the first one.
“That can’t be a coincidence,” said Barkskin. “The way their names are patterned. Dancer has three syllables, twice, and the repeating vowel pattern. Warlord has two one-syllable names, both of which end in a buzz. Could it be a ranking? Warlord is number one, or in the highest caste, while Dancer is third-ranked, or in a tertiary caste. I’d bet the person wearing a painting has two, two-syllable names.”
Sunny nodded. “A good hypothesis to test. I’ll write it down for the monks to look at. Though she’s definitely rank three; despite what I said, there’s no way Warlord would accept a reprimand from Dancer if there were dozens of people between their ranks. I wonder why she only introduced herself with her first name, though. Maybe the twinned names are redundant, and mean the same thing but in different ways? So then you’d only need one.”
“Well, let’s find out.”
Barkskin pointed at Warlord. “H’ayzz,” he tried, having a little difficulty with the back-of-the-throat consonant. Oops. It was the remnants of his long-suppressed regional accent striking again— he’d simply spent too much time dropping /ɦ/ off the beginning of his words. If the monks ever found out about this screwup, they’d find a way to cane him for it no matter how famous he got.
“Hays,” he tried again. There, that was it. The warlord bared her teeth and bobbed her head down-up, reminiscent of the way horned herbivores challenged each other to fights. Crap. The hypothesis was wrong, and he’d managed to give offense.
“Jays Hays,” he tried, not even attempting the lip-movement for the intermediary consonant in the first word.
Warlord’s chest and shoulders jerked as she gave a quick bark. Not good. Barkskin was on thin ice. Warlord turned and said something to Dancer.
Dancer wrote something on another piece of paper, and then presented it to him.
Fig. 5 Text reader description: On a white sheet of paper, ‘Ai’oka’i’sa’o is written with a ballpoint pen.
She pointed at the piece of paper. “Dancer,” said Dancer.
“Yep, definitely a phonetic alphabet,” said Sunny.
Dancer was still looking at them, expectantly. “What does she want?” asked Barkskin.
Sunny rolled the charcoal between her fingers. “Hmm. Oh! I know.”
A few heartbeats behind her notebook later, Sunny was done. She presented the page to Dancer.
Fig. 6 Text reader description: A box and a name have been drawn on a sheet of papyrus with charcoal. The name is ‘Ai’oka’i’sa’o. The box contains a figure composed of a triangle above a downwards-facing parabolic line, itself terminating with each line touching an upwards-facing parabolic curve. This bottom curve in turn has two lines coming out of it pointing downwards, one to its left and one to its right. In between the lines is a v shape with its end attached to the the bottom parabolic curve
“Dancer,” said Sunny, pointing to Dancer.
A thought occurred to Barkskin. “Wait, what if they find out about the double entendre?”
“What double entendre?”
“The logograph— It’s a bird facing down in a mating display. We’re basically calling her a slut. Plus, she’ll find out I thought she was male.”
“Let’s hope they don’t find out about it anytime soon, then.”
“Barkskin,” said Dancer, grabbing his attention.
“[Uh-ah-uh]—” she patted her chest. “[Uh-ah-uh]—” she cupped her right hand around her right ear, and leaned. She glanced at Barkskin again, looking for something in his eyes. Not finding it, she tried again.
“[Jays]—” she pointed at Warlord. “[Jays]—” and here, she did something quite curious. She grabbed Warlord’s hat and placed it on her own head
Barkskin leaned forward, intent. Obviously, she was trying to communicate something. She said a name, and then performed an action. She said Warlord’s name, and then performed another action.
Dancer waited a beat longer before trying again. She said a two syllable word, and then tapped the table.
“Table?” Tried Barkskin. He tapped the table. Unsure if he’d guessed correctly, he turned to Sunny. “Can you draw the table, and then draw the logogram for table right next to each other?”
He looked over the sketch once she finished. “Eh. Passable.”
Sunny laughed. “Like you could do better.” She put the drawing on the table facing Dancer.
Fig. 7 Text reader description: two figures have been drawn on a sheet of papyrus with charcoal. To the left is a hasty sketch of a table in perspective. To the right is an idealized representation of a table; a horizontal line with four parallel vertical lines of equal length attached to it and pointing downwards.
“Table—” Barkskin tapped the table. “Table—” Barkskin pointed at the sketch on the left side of the paper. “Table—” Barkskin pointed at the logogram. And then for good measure, he patted the table and repeated the word once more.
Dancer repeated the word in her language and wrote it down on a sheet of paper under her own sketch of a table and copy of Sunny’s ideogram. Sunny, in turn, labeled her logogram with Dancer’s characters. Then Dancer pulled a sheet of paper they’d seen before-- one with her transcribed nickname paired with its logogram. She pointed to herself. “Dancer”. She pointed to a blank spot on the page. “Dancer.” She pointed to the logogram. “Dancer.” She pointed to herself. “Dancer” Then she waited, expectant.
If she was following the same pattern as him, she should have pointed to a sketch of herself, to match the ideogram. But instead, she had pointed to a blank spot on the page. Why?
Dancer returned the hat to Warlord as he sat and thought.
“Why do you think she said her name, and then cupped her ear?” Barkskin asked Sunny.
“She was listening for something, I think.”
“Listening… no. Scouting.” Excitement rose in Barkskin’s voice. “What was she doing when we first found her? Scouting!” It’s her name, and it’s what she does. “And the hat— obviously, whoever wears it is their leader. So she said Warlord’s name because it means ‘leading.’ So naturally, she’s trying to find out what ‘Dancer’ means!”
“How do we tell her?”
“Well, we called her Dancer because she was dancing; or at least, that’s what it looked like. So if we just copy what she was doing, they’ll know what it was and translate it to that. By which I mean, if you copy what she was doing, because I don’t have legs so I can’t. Plus, I wasn’t paying attention anyway.”
Sunny grumbled but got off her chair.
“Dancer,” she announced. Then she began copying Dancer’s motions from earlier. Her tail retreated between her legs in obvious embarrassment.
Within a few seconds of her starting, Warlord began to bark. Sunny stopped, mortified, but instead of attacking her, he copied her in miniature, with jerky, incomprehensible motions of his own.
He spoke a word, while Dancer covered her face with her hands and leaned down over the table. Warlord wrote something on a piece of paper, and handed it to Barkskin. In was assembled from the characters ‘F’, ‘l’, ‘a’, ‘i’, ‘l’, ‘i’, ‘n’, and ‘g’.
All images: https://imgur.com/gallery/6UWBL82
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submitted by GaBeRockKing to HFY [link] [comments]

Tyr, Grudgeful Hunter [May Contest]

The seasons turned into centuries, and the ice that had bound this random trapper turned into one of the glaciers adorning the northern landscape. News swept by the mighty glacier, and through the harsh growls of traders and trappers, filtered through his icy jail, he extracted the name and location of his tormentor. Invoker. Invoker, the grand wizard, peerless and powerful. Invoker, who froze a simple fisherman to a ghastly fate. But deep in his heart, he knew. He knew that now he had something to fling against the mighty being that had cursed him to be alone for all this time. He felt it, his slow but certain transformation. He had turned his will upon the ice, and it has accepted him as one of its own. All he needed was one crack, one decisive blow, and he could break free and start towards his long awaited revenge.
The ancient sorcerer Invoker was an arcanist beyond peer, a god in the world of magic. Someone as haughty and powerful as he had amassed hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies, both mortal and divine. It was only natural that he would forget some of them, as he increasingly dedicated his time to pursuits less destructive than he had indulged in before.
Thus he would forget that, as a young wizard, he had traveled north. He had walked about in a careless hurry, and in doing so bumped into a fisherman from Icewrack, clad in a humble fur coat, an icicle-laden cap nestled over tired blue eyes. The impact spilling the barrel of fresh catch from his broad shoulders onto the snow. The fisherman, surprised, scampered to the powdery terrain, picking up the fish where they fell, the frozen net of his craft draped over his dominant arm, frantically gathering up the produce. The events of the day flashed through his mind. His brother, dead and drowned, said the mail. His boat, pierced and sunk by enemy raiders. His house, snowed in by the reckless magics of the Blueheart Glacier's resident magician. Everything, everything was too much. So he arced his neck, and snarled at this impetuous fellow.
Too late did he see the glowing eyes of power, the heartless sneer on the lips of a master wizard. He raised his arms in supplication, but it was of no use. The ice was already creeping down his limbs and past his body. Soon, his vision froze over, and all he saw was the blinding blue of his prison, and the fading form of his tormentor.
The pain that shot through every fiber of his being etched the caster's face onto his mind. The creeping ice sank ever inward towards his heart, and soon he was one with the ice. His tusks started to chip and crack, his lips turned black and rotted away, his eyes were shoved out of their sockets, replaced by a glowing blue light that shone out and stared at the unchanging burden of winter. His fur turned blue, and the changes in his body clawed at the clothes that he had on his back, shredding them as the inner core of the ice convulsed and gnawed at its prey.
The seasons turned into centuries, and the ice that had bound this random trapper turned into one of the glaciers adorning the northern landscape. News swept by the mighty glacier, and through the harsh growls of traders and trappers, filtered through his icy jail, he extracted the name and locaction of his tormentor. Invoker. Invoker, the grand wizard, peerless and powerful. Invoker, who froze a simple fisherman to a ghastly fate. But deep in his heart, he knew. He knew that now he had something to fling against the mighty being that had cursed him to be alone for all this time. He felt it, his slow but certain transformation. He had turned his will upon the ice, and it has accepted him as one of its own. All he needed was one crack, one decisive blow, and he could break free and start towards his long awaited revenge.
And one day, a barfly from Wolfsden Tavern, looking to test his strength against the biggest piece of ice he could find, granted him just that.
Attributes:
Melee Attacker
Movement Speed: 290
Base Armor: 4
Base Attack Damage- 24
Attack Spread- 16
Base Health Regeneration: 0.9
Base Mana Regeneration: 0.01
BAT: 1.2
Strength: (Primary Attribute) 23 + 3.9
Agility: 21 + 2.1
Intelligence: 15 + 1.9
Abilities:
Blizzard Flurry
Gains bonus damage and speed. A certain amount of attacks from enemy heroes dispels the bonus entirely, but grants a brief moment of invulnerability if dispelled by this method before it expires naturally.
Bonus Damage: 30/35/40/45
Bonus Attack Speed: 30/45/60/75
Bonus Movement Speed: 50
Attacks to Dispel (Creeps) - 50
Attacks to Dispel (Heroes) - 2
Duration: 2/2.2/2.4/2.6 seconds
Invulnerability Duration: 1/1.4/1.6/1.8 seconds
Mana Cost- 150
Cooldown- 1 second
A harsh wind blows with each murderous strike, and a bitter wall engulfs the assault denied.
Notes:
Subsequent casts of Blizzard Flurry stack the bonus damage and attack speed, but only refreshes the duration and movement sped. Does not refresh Dispel Attack Count.
Blizzard Flurry has the caster glow blue while the bonuses are active, and drapes the caster in a thick layer of snow when it is in its invulnerability phase.
Blizzard Flurry can be cast over a previous stack's invulnerability portion.
Beat to the Punch
Charges a target unit. If Tyr lands his attack before the target unit damages him, he deals bonus damage and silences the target for 2 seconds. If the target unit manages to land an attack on him, the charge is instantly cancelled. If the target unit casts a spell at any point of the charge, Tyr near instantaneously appears in front of them and applies the effects immediately.
Melee units targeted by this attack gain a slight range increase, equal to when they are attacking wards, when targeting Tyr.
Charge Speed- 550
Bonus Damage- 120/180/220/350
Charge Range- 1000
Mana Cost- 50
Cooldown- 4
Tyr has nothing but his fists, and the knowledge that the distraction of spellcraft only fuels his curse to greater heights.
Notes:
Pierces Spell Immunity.
The "teleport" is, in actuality, Tyr gaining invulnerability and 2000 movement speed. Tyr cannot teleport, not being a mage.
Icewrack Ambush (Passive)
If an enemy unit within 1000 range has vision of Tyr for at least 0.25 seconds , Tyr's first attack marks that unit and deals critical damage. As long as Tyr is not physically attacked by that unit, all his attacks against the marked unit deal critical damage afterwards. If the unit attacks Tyr, the mark is dispelled and the passive goes on cooldown.
Initial Critical Damage: 180%/200%/220%/240%
Subsequent Critical Damage: 130%/150%/170%/190%
Cooldown: 6 seconds
An Icewrack Ambush happens when you ignore one of their warriors' punches, and they get angrier as a result and punch harder.
Notes:
Pierces Spell Immunity.
Icewrack Ambush's detection radius is centered around Tyr and requires all nearby enemy units to have vision of him. Once they have viewed him for 0.25 seconds, they gain a debuff that produces a particle effect (an exclamation point) that persists until Icewrack Ambush marks any of the valid targets. The moment a target is marked, all exclamation point debuffs are dispelled, and cannot be regained until the mark from the first attacked unit is removed by the requirements of the ability.
Units that lose vision of Tyr for any reason also instantly lose their exclamation point debuffs, even if they are within detection range.
Units cannot gain the exclamation point debuff while Icewrack Ambush is on cooldown or under the effects of Break.
A unit already marked by Icewrack Ambush still suffers critical damage from Tyr, even if Tyr is under the effects of Break or out of their vision.
Glacial Shell
Breathes forth a snowball, then punches it forward. Spells that pass over or through the ball are instantly negated. The snowball can be directed by Tyr and his alies by attacking it, which allows it a boosting jump onward towards the direction the attacker is facing when they started an attack on the snowball. The snowball shatters and stuns the first enemy Hero unit it hits, dealing moderate Physical damage.
Tyr's hatred of the Invoker manifests in the sundering chill of the snow he draws from his frigid prison.
Snowball Size: 175
Snowball Speed: 150
Snowball Boost- 300
Snowball Roll duration: 2.5/3.5/5
Snowball Stun Duration: 2.5/3/3.5
Damage: 150/250/400
Mana Cost: 200/300/400
Cooldown: 60/50/40
Notes:
Bounces against walls and cliffs, and destroys trees it comes in contact with. Boosting it bypasses this.
Blocks the spells of ally and foe.
Spells that throw, toss, or push units lose their effect the moment they bump into or pass over the snowball.
Spells that generate walls (Invoker's Ice Wall, Dark Seer's Wall of Replica) only have the portion of the spell coming into contact with the snowball removed.
Spells that generate an effect applied by channeling (Enigma's Black Hole, Warlock's Upheaval) are instantly nullified when the Snowball is on them, but the channeling is not interrupted. Once the Snowball is no longer in contact with any part of the spell's AOE, the effects resume instantly.
Instantly destroys structures or non-mobile units that are generated by spells (Undying's Tombstone, Phoenix's Supernova)
Does not dispel spells directly cast on units when passing over them. Does block instantly cast spells if the line from caster to target intersects with any portion of the snowball.
Does not block any autoattack based spells (Chilling Touch). Does destroy projectiles from spells (Magic Missile, Arcane Bolt, the first and second portions of Ice Blast).
Completely ignores non-hero units and spell-immune units. Does shatter against creep-heroes.

Aghanim's Scepter Upgrade:
Blizzard Flurry: Reduces mana cost to 75.
Talents:
Level 10: + 175 health or +10 Blizzard Flurry Bonus Damage
Level 15: + 30 Movement Speed or + 4 Mana Regen
Level 20: Glacial Shell+ 1 second stun duration or -2 seconds Icewrack Ambush cooldown
Level 25: Glacial Shell Deals 200 AOE stun on shatter or Beat to the Punch + 2.5 second silence.

Responses:
Vs Invoker
Blocking any of his spells with Glacial Shell:
"Your curse, my revenge!"
"All the ages of magic, rolled over beneath my prison."
"DENIED!"
"I do not hate magic. But I do hate you."
Killing Invoker with Beat to the Punch:
"You blinked."
"Quadratic wizards? Not today."
"All that fishing strengthened me for this moment."
Killing Invoker:
"I doubt you remember me. But my fists remember you."
"Did you even imagine someone such as I would fell you?"
"Reduced to arcane atoms by the fist of the North."
"Immortality doesn't suit you."
"For those you have sinned against, my fist falls like snow."
Ally Tusk
Meeting:
"It is good to see that our people are still strong, after all these years."
"I must admit, in my heart of hearts, your Walrus Punch beats any of my own blows."
"I am proud of you. I may have strength, but you have heart."
"They asked you to prove yourself in battle over a bar tab? I'll pay for it."
"Here we are, two fellows from the North, punching gods and Fundamentals. What gives?"
"Say, how far can we punch Bristleback from here?"
Vs Tusk
Killing Tusk with Beat to the Punch:
"Destroyed."
"You may have heart. But I have strength."
"You were a few centuries too early."
"A walrus cannot chip away at a glacier."
Blocking Snowball with Glacial Shell
"You have very strange ideas."
"Really? You just did that?"
"I can't believe this."
Killing Tusk:
"I did not ask you to come to this slaughter."
"As you freed me from the ice, I free you from your body."
"Do not think me cruel. I am still grateful for your deed."
"In a clash of countrymen, the strongest stands."
"You came here on a bet. I came here for vengeance."
"It is not mere bravado that gives one strength."
Changelog:
1.0: Created.
1.1:
Improved Agh's Scepter's mana reduction from 150 to 120.
Added some specific enemy and ally dialogue.
Beefed up the bio to include descriptions about Tyr's appearance.
Blizzard Flurry now has a static movement speed increase.
Clarified Glacial Shell's interaction with spell-immune units.
Increased Icewrack Ambush's secondary critical numbers from 120/130/140/150 to the current values.
Beat to the Punch now also silences for 2 seconds.
Changed Level 25 Talent from Max Range Beat to the Punch deals triple damage or Glacial Shell Silences Equal to Stun Duration over 200 AOE when Shattered to Glacial Shell Deals 200 AOE stun on shatter or Beat to the Punch + 2.5 second silence.
1.2:
Lowered Icewrack Ambush's marking Critical Strike Damage from 150%/200%/250%/300% to 180%/200%/220%/240%.
Adjusted Icewrack Ambush's cooldown from 12/10/8/6 to be 6 seconds at all levels.
Added Icewrack Ambush detection time, added a valid detection range, and clarified the passive's mechanics.
Adjusted Blizzard Flurry's damage values from 20/30/40/50 to 30/35/40/45.
Changed Level 10 talent from +30 movement speed to + 10 Blizzard Flurry Bonus Damage.
Changed Level 15 talent from + 5 armor to + 30 movement speed.
Adjusted Glacial Shell mana cost scaling from 200/320/450 to 200/300/400.
Changed Beat to the Punch's Mana Cost from 75 to 50.
1.3:
Removed Glacial Shell creation time.
Further reduced Agh's mana reduction of Blizzard Flurry to 75.
Blizzard Flurry's dispel counter changed from 3 to 2.
Blizzard Flurry's mana cost from 200 to 150.
Blizzard Flurry's invincibility timer to 1/1.4/1.6/1.8 seconds.
Added a new effect to Beat to the Punch. If the target at any time casts a spell during the charging period, Tyr's charge is changed to a blinding teleport, applying the effects immediately. Removed the bonus damage boost to the cancelling attack,
submitted by That_Pattern to DotaConcepts [link] [comments]

Data's Daughter or Seb-Cheneb?

This will probably be my last speculative post about Picard, at least for a while - I suspect tomorrow's episode is going to make a lot of things more clear, so this is me placing my bets as to where the show's mysteries and themes are taking us.
Assertion #1: The Zhat Vash and their allies are convinced that sophisticated androids, specifically of the post-Soong type exemplified by Dahj and Soji Asha, will inevitably lead to a new instantiation of the Borg.
I've speculated before that the idea of assimilation into a Collective is particularly horrifying for Romulans, who (for whatever reasons of psychology and culture) are being presented in Picard as strongly reserved, secretive, and even paranoid.
Related to this, I've also speculated that the ancient Vulcans might have had an encounter with something Borg-like, an encounter so traumatic that even thousands of years later, its echoes are embedded in Romulan mythology and secret societies like the Zhat Vash. Memory of such an event might be one reason why these elements of Romulan (and Vulcan?) culture are so fanatically opposed to the Borg.
At the moment I'm leaning toward this event not being connected to the present-day Borg.
It's not clear how old the present-day Borg are. In Voyager we were told that they're not much more than a thousand years old, but we've also been told elsewhere that they are many thousands of years old, their origins lost in the deep past. In either case, there are a lot of problems with the notion that the same Delta-Quadrant Borg that have given our heroes so much trouble might have turned up in the neighborhood of Vulcan thousands of years ago.
It occurs to me that there's a way to reconcile those two bits of evidence. Maybe Borg isn't just one civilization that appeared in the Delta Quadrant at some specific point and has been expanding ever since. Maybe Borg is something that (sometimes) happens to civilizations that go down the path of development that leads to sophisticated synthetic life. It's not so much "Borg" as "Borg-ism," a phenomenon that crops up in different parts of the galaxy in different eras, and has been an occasional problem throughout the history of star-faring species.
So the early Vulcans and proto-Romulans encountered a civilization that had gone Borg, and the experience was a terrible one, but a lot of the records were lost over Vulcan's chaotic history. Only the Zhat Vash and a few of their allies remember. Or maybe Vulcan civilization itself gave rise to a Borg-like collective, and there was terrible suffering before it was put down, and again only a few secret societies remember the details. (And maybe not even the Zhat Vash accurately remember all the details - which is kind of important and I'll come back to it.)
In any case, that deals with the problems inherent in any notion of the ancient Vulcans giving rise to the present-day Borg, or (even worse) the idea that Soji Asha is going to be the origin of the Borg we know. There's less need to invoke time travel or mysterious excursions between the Alpha and Delta Quadrants. The ancient Borg, the Delta Quadrant Borg, and any new Collective that the Zhat Vash might fear arising around Soji Asha would be three different things.
The question arises, of course, whether the Zhat Vash are correct to fear Soji.
Assertion #2: The Zhat Vash are right that Soji Asha, or a similar post-Soong android, could become the nucleus of a new Borg.
This is sheer speculation on my part, but I think we've been handed several pieces of evidence that point in this direction:
As I say, none of this is definite yet, but I think it's all very suggestive. Which leads me to the last point.
Assertion #3: The Zhat Vash are not correct to believe that Soji has an inevitable destiny. Soji is going to be faced with a choice, and Jean-Luc Picard and his friends are going to be there to help her choose a life-affirming path.
After all, it occurs to me that this isn't the first time we've seen a synthetic life-form faced with an impossible choice - and although that occasion was tragic, this one doesn't have to be.
"I choose!" was the exclamation of Rayna Kapec, an almost-perfect synthetic imitation of humanity, at the final crisis of her short life. Soji Asha reminds me a lot of Rayna.
Like Rayna, Soji is a synthetic organism who thinks she's human, but isn't quite there yet. She's surrounded by people who have overwhelming expectations of her: Bruce Maddox hopes to use her to track down the conspiracy that ruined his life, and the Zhat Vash are convinced that she's a new Borg Queen just waiting to surge into existence. Not even her lover, Narek, is really thinking about her as a person with her own sovereignty - to him, she's an intelligence asset to be seduced into cooperation and then thrown aside. (Narek is even creepier than James Kirk was toward Rayna, and struck up an intimate relationship with his target almost as quickly.)
When Rayna learned the truth about herself, when she was faced with the impossible choice between her father-mentor and the man with whom she had discovered love, the conflict destroyed her. Soji, too, is going to learn the truth soon, and she's going to be pulled in several contradictory directions - by Maddox's programming, by Narek, by the Zhat Vash who consider her the ultimate threat, by Hugh and her other colleagues, by Picard once he reaches the scene.
The result could be just the new outbreak of Borgism that the Zhat Vash fear. But I think Picard, with his compassion and idealism, and the devotion he carries to Data's memory, is going to be the deciding factor that swings history in the other direction. Away from fear, hatred, and the eternal cycle of violence, and back toward a future of limitless possibility.
At least that's where I'm placing my bets. In a few hours, we'll begin to see how far off I am!
submitted by Sharrukin-of-Akkad to DaystromInstitute [link] [comments]

In For A Penny, In For A Pound

A continuation of Something Wicked This Way Comes
Next Part
“Optimism is the difference between a survivor and the guy who dies along the way.” was a family truism that had been oft repeated throughout Ruwaq’s Mahr’s childhood. His father had duly reminded him that he wasn’t ever going to be the brightest star in the sky, but always followed it up with a jovial exclamation of “Don’t waste time worrying about that! There are plenty of other things to do instead!” The thought would have almost certainly brought more comfort if he hadn’t been stripped of his armor and weapons and locked up in one of the basement cells of the Nerie facility. The squad of operators in unmarked and unadorned gray armor who had retrieved him and Luro from the site of the ambush were very clearly not the talkative types, not that Ruwaq was particularly eager to explain why he’d played dead after being knocked to the ground by the opening salvo of fire.
All in all, the Lorram was more than fine with cooling his heels for the time being.
A telltale hydraulic hiss snapped him back to attention as the door to his cell slid open to reveal a crisply dressed Nerie, probably a woman, flanked by a pair of those same gray armored paramilitary types. She gave a little half-nod to Ruwaq, and her two escorts made a slightly exaggerated show of turning off their outward facing communication lines. After a moment, the door to the cell automatically slid closed behind them as well. With practiced ease, the woman addressed him.
“I would lead us off with some pleasant introductions, Private Ruwaq, but I’m sure you’d agree that today has been anything BUT pleasant for a great number of our co-workers. I’m very glad to see someone make it back from the field, and I have some questions whose answers could prove absolutely vital for the livelihood of all personnel now involved in this situation.” his subdermal translator gave her voice a smooth, business appropriate feel with an urban intonation.
“Err, sure- uh… sure thing? What d’you need to know?” Ruwaq replied, lamely. He’d joined this line of work so he didn’t have to deal with suits, and this entire encounter was ill-fitting.
The Nerie fiddled with a pocket clasp and withdrew what was clearly a slimline recorder. A tap of her wrist pulled up a gently glowing array of words in the air between them, and she casually flicked through them with one hand while prepping the recorder in her other. “I’ll be taking your statement on some of the things you saw out there, and it’s paramount you tell me everything that you can recall from your initial touchdown on-planet up through the ambush. I want you to understand what happened here is the culmination of multiple errors from a variety of our former employees, and I’m here to make things right. If you need anything to drink or eat, please let me know before we begin.”
Ruwaq half opened his mouth, fumbling for a moment before his train of thought managed to catch up. “Uh, so I can just start when we landed and… y’know, go from there?” His interviewer nodded solemnly. “Well, so, when we landed and started looking around...”
Reputation was the currency of success, and Arenrett had cemented herself as a rising star within Corporation management with each accomplishment she racked up as an “emergency asset officer”. Most sane Nerie would’ve avoided any position where a significant portion of their time on the clock was in active war zones, but Arenrett’s skills and refusal to back down from a challenge now saw her as peers with staff who had spent half a century slowly climbing the ranks. Her quick ascent had also given her a great deal of insight into the downright Machiavellian power games that were played at nearly ever level of management. She had evaded the brunt of this attention up until this point due to the quite frankly depressing mortality rates of her particular position, but this job proved she wasn’t going to be able to avoid scrutiny for any longer. The spotlight was on her to appropriately handle an honest to goodness crisis in the making. She had been hoping that her interview with the survivor from the Klorrent team would lend some much needed insight as to the direction this one needed to be tackled from.
Unfortunately, Ruwaq was a fucking idiot.
Based on the background checks she’d run on the members of both ill-fated PSF teams, it seemed likely that Ruwaq, one of the handful of totally new hires for Klorrent (A surprising fact, given their genuinely glowing reputation within the industry. Growing pains from their recent changes in ownership, perhaps?) had been knocked out of the fighting early on and declined to press the matter of an engagement with the subject of this entire debacle. Considering the way the wind had blown for all of his peers, electing to stay down after his armor had managed to deflect a handful of shots was certainly the right call. He’d just made it for all of the wrong reasons, as evidenced by the honest-to-goodness disaster of an interview he’d just given. Arenrett had quickly come to understand that the Lorram hadn’t even gotten a proper look at his team’s assailant and had spent the latter half of his interview attempting to dodge around this fact.
She stood out in the hallway, fingers practically mashing away at the virtual tablet screen projected by her wrist mounted assistant computer. There was precious little information to work with on this job; whatever project the science staff had been working on here was plainly a Black Label affair... if it had even been sanctioned in the first place. The Nerie knew better than to ask anything that wasn’t directly related to solving the issue at hand, but she had made note of the terrifying effectiveness of whatever it was that had carved a swath through the facility AND the PSF teams who had been initially sent in. The metaphorical buck was being passed around like a hot potato by upper management for the time being, but thankfully Arenrett’s job never actually sunk to company wetwork.
She glanced warily at the two company toughs who had escorted her. I just hope theirs don’t too.
Calling what had been crudely scratched into the mud over the course of the afternoon “a plan” would be extremely generous. That did nothing to change the fact that Mirri Jael Gerrem was being hauled like a piece of carry-on luggage through the forest at a pace normally associated with light motor vehicles. Her “captor” had thrown together a sack of supplies from camp, freed her from the composite fiber still binding her legs, and then hucked both of them over his shoulder before taking off at a dead sprint into the woods. Mirri was absolutely certain that she’d be sporting a full set of broken ribs from the jostling if it weren’t for her armor’s inbuilt shock absorption. Even then, each crashing footfall was a new opportunity to have the wind knocked from her lungs, which was being taken with gusto. This “plan” had already found itself in good company with all of the other regrets she had about the past two days. If bad decisions were a business, Mirri was just about certain she’d have the market cornered by the time she ended up dead from her choices.
Her vision blurred at another bone-ratting impact. Her chauffeur had decided to leap over a natural embankment, landing hard on both feet, but STILL running. What the hell was he made of, anyway?
Another handful of torturous minutes, and the sapient finally jogged to a halt. None too gently, Mirri was lowered to the ground. She ripped her helmet off, gasping for breath despite the bruises she could already feel forming on her sides. With a chance to actually reorient herself, Mirri was struck with a sudden sense of familiarity. Crushed leaves, damaged foliage… had they been following the trail left by her team? She scanned the ground for any indication, and then found her answer carved into a nearby tree. The Ouruos Commandos tracking mark, still fresh enough that the wood hadn’t healed yet. Their own scouts had followed the marks all the way to…
To where…
All of that was going to have to wait. Mirri fought back her growing nausea and put her mind to the task at hand. It was hard to focus after the crash of her brain chemistry forcing itself back into balance, but she was a professional, and professionals had standards, dammit. The plan. That’s what she needed to hone in on. The set of things she had to do for even the slimmest chance of making it out of this disaster alive. Breathe in, breathe out. Go over it, one step at a time.
First thing’s first, the only way to get off world was to make contact with their light carrier. Luro had made a point of determining a low enough orbit for parking that it’d still be within range of short range communication hardware, but the only place Mirri knew she could FIND that hardware was in the shuttle they’d taken to the surface, which presented their first major hurdle: Accessing the shuttle itself. Mirri was confident that given the sheer variety and magnitude of crimes committed in smuggling an undiscovered sapient from their homeworld and experimenting on them, they’d encounter fresh resistance on any attempt to actually leave. If she was the betting type, she’d wager that the two PSF teams had been brought in to quietly mop up the situation without involving upper management at the Nerie Company. Her previous dealings with all three of the mega-corporations that in some way ran their entire society gave her the distinct impression that they would more than gladly triage an entire planet and its residents than suffer a significant scandal. If there weren’t paramilitary troops here already, there would be soon.
Hopefully, they’d be just as unprepared as we were. she thought grimly, train of thought chugging to the next platform.
Once they’d managed to radio in for their carrier, they’d have to hunker down until it actually arrived, which presented another laundry list of challenges. Normally, it’d be a simple enough task to rendezvous with it via shuttle in the upper atmosphere. In this case, it was suicide. The sapient, (who still hadn’t tried to communicate a name, not that she was interested in getting chummy with him) had made it extremely clear in doodles and muddy scribbling that aircraft had been patrolling the skies over the forest since the evening they’d been ambushed. This had lead to Mirri doing her best to convey more and more information about her plan of action to her… Co-conspirator? She refused to let her emotions get the better of her while there was still work to be done, but she was flat out exhausted, in pain and crashing from her earlier mental focus. She just couldn’t help feeling some of the hate seep through. It was galling to be forced to work with the thing that had killed her team, her friends. She’d known Luro and Nashhe for years, and she’d seen both of them just ended in front of her.
Mirri had been forced to sincerely reevaluate the sapient several times now and rationally, she understood that what had happened was the fault of both the Nerie who had hired her team and that bastard Haaes for accepting the work in the first place. Neither of them were here right now, and Mirri was forced to stand face to face with the one who had actually done the killing. The fact that their seemingly beastly “quarry” knew what wireless communications were, let alone recognizing them by her crude pictures of their abstract had dire implications. He clearly bore the scars of experimentation, but what had he been before that? What was the original form and function of this sapient, and to what degree had he been changed by the Nerie? He had been barely challenged by Nashhe, who was regarded as freakishly strong by even the standards of bull Lorram, who were already a genetic minority among males of the race. Stars and suns, he’d been a full head taller and nearly half again as heavy as Kerro was. If there was a race who’s average even came close to that, it was no wonder why a Nerie genetics program would be keen to study them.
Doubtlessly, her former captor could shed some light on that if both of them made it out of this alive. This raised another question: If Mirri was able to call the carrier down, would it be worth the risk to try escaping alone? She was an extremely capable pilot, and was absolutely confident that she could navigate safely through the planet’s drone mine layer and drone defenses solo. The two question marks were simple: Would she be able to get into the cockpit solo, and even if she could, would she be killed in retaliation for the attempt? Her co-conspirator had proven more than capable of crushing her armor and all with his bare hands. He was faster, with better reach and perhaps superior reflexes too. It would have to be a split second decision; there were just too many things that could go right or wrong to make a preemptive choice.
The sapient stepped back over and beckoned to her, breaking her away from her thoughts. There was still ground to cover, and it looked like it was time to resume the trek. Mirri braced herself as she was swung back over his shoulder and once again spirited off through the trees.
“Refreshing” was the only way that Ryan could describe the feeling of having a real goal other than “Try not to die in the woods”. He’d escaped from the facility nearly a fortnight ago, though he doubted that a day on this planet was anywhere near twenty-four hours. His roll of the dice with the little alien that he was carrying like a sack of flour over his should had paid majorly. It was clearly about as interested in dying as Ryan was, and it even outlined a plan of sorts for getting off this shitheap of a planet. It was seemingly as simple as getting back to a shuttle and then calling a larger ship in, but he had his share of doubts about that. There were definitely going to be complications, but come hell or high water he was going to see this one through. He strongly suspected that he was starting to come down with some kind of respiratory infection now that he’d gone through the last of the antibiotic tablets he’d lifted from the first group’s supplies. It was a miracle they hadn’t been toxic to him, but he was well and truly on the clock to make an escape when opportunity had come knocking in a big way.
He wheezed slightly as he continued to make his way through the woods. Ryan was thankful both to the planet’s lower gravity and to all the year’s he’d spent back home playing baseball. His physical fitness had been paramount to his survival, even if it had been dulled by his months of captivity. He focused on maintaining his pace and kept clear of thinking too much. He needed to be here in the moment one hundred percent, and couldn’t let his mind wander. He knew all too well where it would end up.
They were close now.
The facility was lit up like a mall at Christmas. The glare of floodlights spiked through gaps in the foliage, and he trotted to a halt well before the treeline. He unceremoniously dumped his passenger, and began rummaging through his pack. He’d brought a couple things with him in preparations for just such an occasion, and he deftly removed both a pair of fancy binocular analogues and one of those rifle-style weapons that both squads of hunters had used against him. He’d opted once again for the largest model; even though it went through batteries like nobody’s business, the shots absolutely scythed through the armor both teams had been wearing. He took a moment to adjust to the awkward angle he had to hold the binocular things at to see through them, and then was very glad he’d made the choice he did. He could count almost a dozen heavily armed and likewise armored aliens posted around the facility. Ryan cursed under his breath. He’d made a mistake killing the little bastard who’d stayed behind at the base. He knew that those ones were talkative, and he should’ve waited until it had made a report before he’d disposed of it.
It might not have made much of a difference in the long run, but it was an unwelcome complication. Ryan sorted through everything in the bag, and came to a regrettable conclusion: He was going to have to put a modicum of trust in the unlikely partner who was now loudly catching its breath at knee-level. He scooped the little alien up, handed over the binoculars and pointed out the clump of guards outside the facility. It handed them back after a moment, and gave him what must’ve been a concerned look. He sighed heavily. Was having the only available radio parked somewhere BESIDES the twisted science lab he’d barely escaped from really too much to ask for?
Time to to bite the hopefully metaphorical bullet.
Ryan set his alien charge down and dug out the handgun he’d liberated from one of the first team’s officers along with a pair of diminutive batteries. Tossing the now empty pack aside, he took the weapon gingerly in two fingers and passed it down to his only ticket off the planet. It looked up to him, almost in wonder as he began to pantomime out the course of action that would hopefully see both of them make it off this planet alive.
If Mirri’s nerves hadn’t been on a razor’s edge waiting for her signal, she would have marveled over the power of nonverbal communication. She hadn’t exchanged a single word with the sapient, and yet she had been informed that he was about to start a suicidal gunfight with almost a dozen Corporation Grays to buy her a way in to the facility. On one hand, she was certain he had no idea what he was getting himself into… and on the other, her quandary over escaping solo had likely just been solved! She would’ve considered it a stroke of good fortune, if she wasn’t faced with the prospect of handling whoever was INSIDE the facility with just a semi-automatic side arm. The fact that it was an illegally modified vanity piece was a detail clearly lost on her “partner”, but its output being dialed high enough to classify it as an anti-material weapon was the only thing that would give her a chance in a shootout.
She’d managed to sync her helmet’s interface up to the heavy rifle that the sapient had pilfered from the Ouruos. She’d know when the opening salvo had been fired, and that would be her queue to prep a mad dash for the facility’s entrance. She’d give it just enough time for the Grays to get distracted, and that would be her moment. All it came down to now was the wait.
It didn’t take long.
Perfectly synchronized with the electronic chirp of her helmet’s weapon’s discharge notification, a stream of gore arced from the back of a Gray’s head. He crumpled down from the roof of the facility, and before the body had even hit the ground, the other members of his team were already leaping into action. A second salvo from the trees managed to catch a second, but he’d had the reaction speed to activate a personal shield and the points of impact burst with incandescent sparks. The Gray was knocked prone by the force, but managed to scramble behind cover before another burst could find its mark. The three closest Corpsmen to the treeline had already fired up a set of mobile shield systems, the machine’s heavy treads bearing high capacity batteries that projected a nearly impenetrable wall of force in the direction of choice. Another raking burst of fire found its way over the shields and into the chest of another Gray, and Mirri suddenly realized why they’d been taken by surprise so easily on their own hunt.
He must’ve been fifty feet up in the trees to make that shot, and the first volley was at ground level. He could’ve followed us every step of the way without setting foot on the forest floor.
Despite all of that, the Grays had maintained total discipline. One of others had actually jumped down from the roof to take the place of his fallen teammate, wisely opting to keep his personal shield on regardless of the toll it would take on his suit’s internal power. In less than a minute they had managed to set up a line of defense for an entire quarter of the clearing the facility sat in, but that left them with a major blind spot. Mirri was well in position to exploit it, and she had a clear path to airlock entrance. The fight was well under way, and fire was now being exchanged by both sides.
She took her chance. Mirri cleared the treeline sprinting, pumping adrenaline banishing both her aches and her doubts. Another chirp heralded a timely barrage of fire, covering the line of sight to her approach with a wash of sparks from the shield systems. She flew up the short stairway to the destroyed airlock and into the main lobby of the facility, falling into a clean slide that put her behind one of the desks. Start to finish, the run had been less than ten seconds but Mirri was breathing like she’d been running for an hour. The last day had more than taken its toll on her, but the realization that she was that much closer to a way out put a wind in her sails, and was ready with her weapon when she furtively peeked from around the desk’s corner to survey the lobby.
The supplies and kit her team had dropped off prior to their departure had been shunted off to the side, and the half-open lids meant they had certainly been rummaged through by the Grays. Given how much her success hinged on efficient use of time, Mirri immediately crossed the boxes off a mental list of available resources. Her sidearm would be more than enough to make a kill on the first shot, and any fight that lasted longer than that was a guaranteed loss. She skittered from around the desk and down one of the cramped hallways that honeycombed the facility. Their shuttle had been parked on the roof of the facility, but she’d plainly seen its absence through the set of optics the sapient had liberated from the Ouruos’ supplies. Considering the squad of Grays who were now present, it was almost certain that it had been moved down from the roof landing to one of the underground hangars these types of constructions often used for long-term aircraft storage. Mirri recalled one of the hallways having signage directing towards the facility’s sublevels. She crept from door to door, taking corners wide with weapon drawn. Despite the still visible flashes of gunfire through the narrow glasstic windows, none of the sounds of battle made their way inside. The silence was eerie, and she was relieved when she finally chanced upon the right door. She gave the handle a test.
It was unlocked. Another quiet approach, another stroke of fortune. Mirri softly descended the stairs, taking three flights before finally reaching the bottom. She crept from the stairwell and to a bend in the hall, crouching low, stopping cold as her helmet picked up the sounds of a low conversation from perhaps a dozen paces away. The nasal tones of translated Nerieen speech were amplified by her onboard hardware, and she managed to make out the tail end of what was being said.
“...thout a doubt a developing situation. The squad tasked with accompanying me is currently engaged with the subject of interest, and their reports make it clear that they are capable of handling the moment to moment aspects of the problem for the time being… Yes, I’ve attached the transcript of the interview I conducted with the non-casualty survivor of the Klorrent team. It is my cursory judgment that he is totally ignorant as to the nature of the subject of interest, and is a strong candidate for spearheading our efforts to diffuse this situation during Central Governance interviews. I believe that coaching his testimony will be a simple affair, and I’ve attached a cursory plan with the file that will almost certainly de-escalate this from a class five to a class two inter-company crisis… Of course. I will certainly endeavor for an even better resolution, but I believe it prudent to prepare a public relations response in line with my initial estimates. That will be all for now, yes. Best to you and yours, Senior Manager.”
Mirri’s head spun as the Nerie wound down her conversation. Not only were there multiple survivors from her squad, one of them was even uninjured! She did a quick mental tally: Kerro, Lurnijijano, both of their forward scouts… Nashhe. Yuroh, the new guy, what was his name, Trabbot? She’d seen Armesh and the two other Portiians get taken out with the same swath of gunfire. Ruwaq had taken hits too, but Mirri had seen that antique double-layer armor model he wore send potentially lethal rounds glancing off more than once in her career. She’d also seen Luro go down after having a gun thrown so hard it broke through his suit, but that might’ve been survivable if nothing had punched into a lung…
She snapped back to attention as a single set of footsteps approached. She had been gifted a golden opportunity here, and she wasn’t going to waste it.
Today’s situation had finally sailed past plain awful and into the territory of “perhaps the worst of all time”. She had five different members of senior management breathing down her neck, whatever nightmarish project had torn its way free of the facility was capable of troubling a full squad of Gray Corpsmen in a night-time firefight, and worst of all she still didn’t have a genuine solution to the certain PR disaster that was brewing from all of this. Mitigating the issue was one thing, but mitigating problems like this simply wasn’t good enough. Arenrett would be facing years worth of roadblocks couldn’t follow through on her frankly optimistic promise of resolving this as a class two. The difference in sanctions, investigations, and public scrutiny between classes two and three was night and day, and it was going to be a tough sell no matter how well she prepared at this point.
Having so much on her plate left her that much more blindsided when she was tackled against the wall from behind and treated to the cold touch of a gun barrel to her temple. The rough chitter of the Ruunon’s speech gave her an inkling of just how much more trouble she was in than a moment ago.
“Hello, nice to meet’cha. My name is Mirri, and you are going to be a big help to me and mine, or the insides of your head will be very quickly become friends with the outsides. You’re not going to say anything and just nod when I tell you what to do, and we can all make it out of this one none the worse for wear.”
Arenrett very slowly rocked her head back and forth in assent.
“You Corporation types really are smart, huh? Good to see some professionalism in action.” Mirri gave her a light tap on the cheek with the gun. “You’re going to lead me straight to my uninjured squadmate, and remember if I hear a single peep, you’re not going to have time to regret it.”
Slowly, and with no sudden movements, she was eased off the wall and pointed back in the direction she’d come from. Step after halting step, Arenrett came to terms with the fact that if anything else went wrong, there wouldn’t be any more bad days for her to compare to this one.
submitted by Assaultkitten to HFY [link] [comments]

[SF] Vacuum

The bright light of a new Martian day stung Linda’s eyelids long before she woke up. The night before was scrambled in her mind, turning and twisting like her stomach, who wanted to eject anything left in her stomach. The grease of pizza or kebab or some other mass of food left on her tongue, sour and strange. In the foggy delirium just before waking, she wondered why she had left the blinds up at her apartment and why it felt so hot. Since when had she ever opened them when the sun blazed so brightly? Then she realised, she wasn’t sleeping alone.
Her eyes shot open, fully awake in the time she realised and feeling her heart thump so loud she thought her companion would wake up. That alone was enough to make her feel sick, for all the fears to come rushing back, her mother would ask ‘what have you done this time?’ and she heard her ask this of her, over and over in her head.
Linda tried to think back on the night before, the nightclub lights flashing wildly above and around her, the drinks that she had downed one after the other. She probably did something embarrassing, everyone did when they were that far gone and her pounding head only confirmed it. She pushed further back; the day before, she had gone to class, met up with Daisy and they had decided to celebrate their graduation. The pair of them laughing, she felt her hair being tugged out of her face as she vomited on the pavement, her nose and eyes all watering. At least one of them could hold their drink.
“Lin?” Daisy whispered, hearing her loud, heavy breaths. “You awake?”
Her mind was racing too fast to comprehend her words. Linda could see her parents, hear their disappointed words, their condescension and judgement of every moment she made. This was her first drunken outing, they couldn’t find out or she’d be dragged back, dragged away from the academy. She could feel her stomach drop the thirty floors below them and the panic only worsened after that. How could she do this? Why did she do it? Why did she have to be so different? Why couldn’t she do something right?
“Yeah.” She wasn’t sure why she mumbled it or why she stayed so tight in the bedsheets. She hoped that she could hide herself from Daisy, so ashamed she wished the sheets would choke her where she lay. What would her parents say? “Did we?”
“I’ll say.” Daisy chuckled. “Unless we got naked to play VR together.”
“Why would we...?”
“Something my brother talks about. Apparently it spices things up, although I don’t know how fumbling like that can spice anything up.” Daisy moved her hand over Linda’s waist. “You sure you’re okay? You’re shaking.”
“I’m fine.”
Daisy paused where she was caressing her and retracted her hand slowly. “You don’t remember last night, do you?”
Linda covered her face with her hands, too ashamed to allow herself to be seen. “I shouldn’t be here, I’m not... I wasn’t... I’m not a whore, I wasn’t trying to manipulate anyone or-or-”
“I never thought you were, Lin, I don’t think you’re capable of being that cruel.”
The choked sobs she was trying to hold back came forward at so much velocity, she thought she was going to fall off the bed. Once they started, she found it difficult to stop them, the carousel of cold voices and judgemental faces spinning around her head, all the misery hitting her all at once. Daisy was taken aback, trying to comfort her by wrapping her arms cautiously around her and Linda knew she should have pushed away, but didn’t have the strength to. She needed Daisy more than she needed anyone else, a friend as well as a one night stand.
“Let me get you something.”
“No! No, just...” She turned and held Daisy tightly back, continuing to sob, knowing that her failure would become known soon enough and she’d have to face it. But for now she wanted someone to comfort her and thrust that all on Daisy without a second thought. They embraced for a while, naked in the bright sunlight and amongst the mess of clothes and sheets that clumsily littered Daisy’s room.
Linda found herself looking at the hangings on the wall of Earthen sports teams, of paintings Daisy had picked up from Mars and the letters and certificates she pinned on the wall from her family and friends. Beneath it all was pale blue walls, subtle compared to her friends navy hair, reaching just past her chin. Her eyes dark and striking, able to pierce a man from thirty paces with startling conviction.
Daisy was popular at the astroneering academy, able to talk to all the men who attended without any reservations; she was smart, the top in their class and so beautiful that Daisy didn’t understand why none of the men around them had asked her out. Waking up in her room had answered that question, at least. But Daisy was a marvel, unlike anyone Linda had ever known.
Linda wished she was like her, confident in her own skin and charming. Instead she was the outcast, the average student that faded into the background, never to be observed fully if anyone could help it. The tears tried to come back as she thought of this, but it was easily pushed away as it had been many times before.
“I’m sorry.” Linda pulled away gently and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. “That was... A lot.”
“It’s...” But Daisy knew she couldn’t let the moment go, or try to comfort her in empty lies. “Is it me?”
“What? No. Never. How could it be you?”
She smiled a bit. “I’m a bit... Different, you know? Eccentric, people tell me. Fancy word for too weird to be normal.”
“You’re amazing.” Linda told her firmly, but could already feel the churning inside her. “But it’s not you. I just... I’m not meant to be gay.” She shook her head, aware of how insane it sounded when said aloud. “I was... All this is just a faze, just a-a moment of weakness.”
Daisy stared at her. In any other moment, she might’ve laughed, but after seeing Linda broken down so low, she couldn’t even dream of it. “Who says?”
“My parents, for one. The rest of the world for another.” “Who gives a damn if you’re gay? On this world or on Earth? Last I checked this weren’t 1905.”
“No, but-”
“Why do your parents have any right to tell you what you are?”
“It’s not about that, I-I'm supposed to do better. To be better than that.”
“How does it...” Daisy trailed off, anger quickly resulting to pity, the first person to truly see all the pressures that she was under and the toxic lies she had been fed. “Linda... You are better. Worlds better, you’ve got into astroneering with me, only two years older, you’re doing well and excelling and the pair of us should pass this year.”
“You will. I won’t.”
“Why the hell not? You passed all the practice exams, only a few marks behind the top boys.”
“Top girl.” Linda corrected with a little smile.
“Well the boys won’t like you saying that.” Daisy smiled back. “See they think that I’m calling their cocks tiny when I remind them that I’m thrashing them at all the tests. But really their cocks are fucking miniscule.”
Linda laughed a bit, rubbing one of her eyes and feeling the residual tears drying on her face. Regardless of what Daisy said, she still felt that it was all futile. Her parents wouldn’t accept her the way she was, just like they wouldn’t accept her heading to astroneering academy and would only express that through the icy coldness of passive aggressiveness.
She wasn’t strong enough to go there, amongst all those men, she was only a girl still and needed time in more corporate sectors before making her choice. She needed to find a good man, this lesbian faze would pass like all others in high school, she knows if she doesn’t then she’ll be picked on, that’s just how school is. She’ll change her mind in a year or two at that silly academy, head back home and her father would find her a job at his firm and everything would go back to normal.
Linda never knew what normal was in their house, only that she never seemed to be part of it. Normal was for her to wake up as a different person and each time she didn’t, she felt as if she disappointed everyone including herself. She didn’t feel that way with Daisy. If it was all futile and finite, if it was all temporary, then she was glad, at least, to spend that time with her.
Three years had passed since that morning and Linda was thinking heavily about it as they rode in the limo along the main strip in New York, towards the TV studio. Daisy was beside her, wearing a short purple dress that revealed a little too much cleavage for Linda to approve – which was exactly why she chose it. Daisy was looking out the window, drinking in all the sights and gasping and snapping pictures at every small thing she recognised. But Linda was lost in her thoughts, looking lazily out her window, feeling herself reflect heavily on all they had done since then.
Linda found Earth to be a very strange planet to walk around on and she felt constantly sick since they arrived a few days ago. It was like she was trying to balance on a small wisp of air just under her feet and her stomach hadn’t let her eat more than a few hundred calories a day because of it. Her agent rejoiced, of course, but she only felt miserable from it.
It didn’t take long for the press to eagerly pounce on two aspiring, young recent graduates of the newly founded astroneering academy and they had been pushed by many Martian and Earthling space agencies to become the main mascots. It was the perfect coupling, with Linda being the sensible, technical half and Daisy being the eccentric, enthusiasm that seemed to sell with the younger crowd. Linda expected the PR as soon as they realised they were two of five in their class who had passed and women to boot, but never expected how eagerly everyone ate up their story. The only small part that she was scared about was their relationship and how closely the press were toeing the line in terms of confirming it.
“I don’t know about this.” Linda had said whilst lounging in their apartment as she read one of many articles about them, her fingers tired from scrolling and tapping on the slew of news webpages.
“About what? You’ll have to tell them eventually.”
Linda shook her head, placing the tablet down. “I’ll tell them when they’re ready.”
“They’ll never be ready.”
“Exactly.” Linda moved swiftly into the kitchen, as if she could end the discussion.
Daisy rolled her eyes and followed, like she always did. “The papers haven’t said anything yet, because we haven’t confirmed anything yet and they won’t until we give them the say-so.”
“But our agents-”
“Work for us so if they spill the beans, we can sue them.” She assured her. “As always, you’re panicking over nothing.”
“It’s not nothing!”
“You need to calm down.”
Linda had calmed down eventually, but it was a lot of work, as it always was. It had been difficult to explain anything to her parents since the pair of them got together, as every word felt like a betrayal towards them. She believed if she were stronger willed or held her principles like a shield towards them, the conversation would go smoother. But each time she recited it to herself, she could see their faces and all the regret and disappointment would steer her away again.
The off-planet missions of star cruises, colony ships, goods transports and other excursions paid by the ridiculously wealthy were enough to keep the pair of them busy enough so she rarely got to visit her parents. Yet still with every visit, the gaps in their conversation grew longer and longer and the questions were shorter and sparsely asked. The awkwardness had grown to the point where none of them seemed to know each other very well and were disinterested in changing it.
“It’s so cool here.” Daisy said, taking more pictures. “We should get an apartment here, in New York.”
“Come on.” Linda replied, unable to hide the sarcasm in her voice. “Like we could afford a flat here.”
“We totally could. Maybe a cute condo, I’ve never seen one but I bet they’re nice.”
She chuckled. “I don’t think they do condos in New York.”
“We should check before we go. And get pizza, can’t go to New York without having pizza! Or is it cheesesteak? Hey, we could get both!”
“Please, don’t mention food...”
“Alright, miss I’m-too-important-to-have-normal-food-like-normal-people.” Daisy mocked.
“Well, at least I’m not pigging out before I head back into space.”
“It’s a colony job, nothing I can’t handle on a full stomach.”
“Unless you throw up in your suit.”
Daisy hadn’t thought that far ahead and made a face, suddenly switching tactics: “Alright, maybe just some pizza, then.”
It had been two hours since the Hudson had started its journey towards Mars and the restlessness that came with an intergalactic journey had long since bored the hotshot pilots. Linda could tell, mainly because Daisy was starting music from her end and ignoring her objections.
“Not everyone likes that oldie stuff, Daisy.”
“Good that only you and me are listening to it, then.”
“For now.”
“Oh, come on. You love it.”
Linda’s eyes wandered back to the screen that showed Daisy’s face tucked into her spacesuit, operating the controls set in front of her. She rolled them to impress upon her how much she cared about such spectacles, which made Daisy laugh, which always ended in a little snort.
“Stop it, piggy.” Linda replied, mimicking the snort.
“You stop it! I swear to God...”
Another snort and Daisy scowled at her, which made Linda laugh. “Never! Not when you react like that.”
The Hudson lumbered forward, a humongous ship that housed hundreds of men and women who were awaiting a new life on Mars, many of the passengers were children who were the most excited of them all. There was something magical in seeing their wonder as the Earth seemed to fall from beneath them and the glorious red planet loomed ahead. Even some of the adults couldn’t hide their excitement, reliving all they had felt once as children, looking towards the moon and hoping one day to reach it – never imagining they’d travel further still.
To Linda and Daisy, this was a job that they had performed so many times without hiccups and other times with the smallest of hassles thrown in to keep them on their toes. With all the interviews, appearances and inspirational articles written about their rise to be champions in astroneering, Linda imagined a bit more glamour than sitting in a pilot’s chair, tucked far away from the rich customers. But Daisy would enthuse about every aspect, seeing the stars as another sea to conquer and other worlds were islands waiting to be explored.
“It’s not quite as star trekky as she makes it out to be.”
“Well, we probably won’t bump into God on our daily commute, but she’s miserable anyway.”
“Miserable? I’m not telling people we’re pioneers wearing ugly belt hats!”
“You did wear that for Halloween, though.”
The laughter from the crowd echoed through her head and Linda had taken it with a smile, unable to think of anything wittier to defend her case. The sea of faces behind the glare of stage lights and cameras almost appeared creepy to her and for most of the night she was just trying to keep her eyes on the host and listened to Daisy’s natural charm steal the show. It all was going well enough, until he had asked them about their relationship.
“No comment.” She had blurted without thinking, so fast that there was no way that there wasn’t something to be said. She had felt her blood rush to her cheeks and a few tears prick her eyes as the whispering washed through the crowd and the host looked at the sea of faces, pulling a comedic one himself.
Daisy took her hand and this caught Linda’s eye for a long time. Her look was very simple – this was it, this was when they had to tell the world, say that they were together, that they were a couple regardless of what anyone thought. The heat and sweat that gripped Linda wasn’t just from the stage lighting and she buckled, completely and utterly, shaking her head slightly and leaving it at that. The night had progressed on but her mind only regressed, making sure she knew how badly she had hurt her lover and their future together.
“Do you remember the night we slept together for the first time?” Linda asked as her thoughts wandered to the first night and the morning after.
“’Course I do. Most of it, anyway. I mainly remember how eager you were to buy me a drink after you had a few and how badly you managed to dance.” Daisy smiled at her, but noticed the thoughtful frown etched on her pretty face. “Lin?”
“Yeah?”
“What’s wrong? You look like you’re thinking about something, I can see the steam coming out of your ears.”
She smiled, brushing a lock of hair from her eyes before sighing. “I’m just thinking about that night. It was Martian Independence day, right?”
“I remember, because-”
“Because we weren’t sad drunk, I know.” She repeated, almost by heart. “But I never met anyone like you. You know that? Nobody who could steal a room like that.”
“I was drunk, so I was probably screaming until someone paid attention. A drama queen, through and through.” Daisy was smiling, but it was a concerned smile, worried about why they were reminiscing. “Lin-”
“You made me do karaoke with you.”
“Did I? Did we?”
“Only for... The beginning, I think?”
Daisy made a face as if she could hear the cat screeching tones already and shrugged apologetically, believing there was some point and allowing her to go on.
“Nobody used to notice me in the academy. Or at school, or at work, or anywhere – nobody saw me, they saw straight through me and I was used to that. But then you came along and I just... I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore.” She looked back at her, unsure herself where all this came from, but feeling her throat clog. “I wanted people to see me, I wanted you to see me.”
“Oh, Lin...” She smiled so warmly, glancing back to the picture she had developed from their New York trip and pinned to her ship, near her hand so she could reach it. She touched Linda’s face gently while keeping her eyes on the screen, imagining her musk and perfume intertwined. “Where has this all come from?”
“I don’t know.” Linda admitted. “I’m just... Thinking.”
“Was it the interview we did? Was it too much, or-?”
“No.” Linda admitted. “It almost did, I mean... He really wanted us to say something, but...”
“Did your parents contact you?”
Linda paused, unable to look at her, pretending to tap buttons on her ship’s dashboard to make it seem as though she was preoccupied. If Daisy saw she was attending to the ship, she wouldn’t know the truth, wouldn’t be able to see it in her face despite how much it hurt. But she wasn’t as much of an idiot as Linda thought and she heard the deep sigh to confirm it.
“What did they say?"
“It doesn’t matter what they said.”
“Yeah, it does. You’ve been putting it off for years, what did they say?”
She took a deep breath as if she could alleviate the tears that swelled in her throat and pricked in her eyes. She closed them and looked away again, keeping herself contained, keeping all she felt bottled as if the implosion couldn’t happen if she resisted it long enough. Her chest ached from the pressure, but she didn’t care, she could die from it for all she cared, as long as nobody saw it.
“Lin?”
“What I expected.” She admitted. “They can’t have a daughter like me, can’t see me burn in hell for what I do, what I decide to do. I’m not...” She tried to swallow the lump that forced its way into the back of her neck, pushing at her chest. “I’m not good enough for them. Probably never was.”
“Bullshit!”
“It’s what they said!” She snapped back. “And... And they think it’s your fault, of course, for tempting me. Saying that I just hadn’t found the right man yet.” She couldn’t hide the cracks in her voice, the tremble with every word she said.
“They’re such fucking dinosaurs, they didn’t actually say that, what year is this 1985?”
Linda rubbed her tears away and took a deep breath. “I guess it doesn’t matter. They’ve taken me out of their life until I’ve found the right man.”
“Which’ll be never.” Daisy reaffirmed. “So what? You’re better off without them.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“Why, because I’m the orphan girl who became a fearsome space pilot?” She retorted, pausing a moment before continuing. “They haven’t been your parents for years. They've made you hide and scurry like you’re a damn mouse in your own home, it’s not right.”
“Daisy-”
“Don’t try to defend them. You know it and I know it, they’re a bunch of self-serving bastards who wouldn’t know a loving relationship if it bit them on the ass.”
“Dee-”
“No, you won’t shut me up on this, they don’t deserve you, they never have and they never will-”
“We got three bogeys incoming!” Linda exclaimed over her, flipping the switch to get the colonists to their seats, flipping other switches to keep gravity and life support online and sliding against buttons to use all residual power to activate the shields, trying to watch the attackers on the radar they had.
Daisy flew above and behind the Hudson, expertly avoiding the tail and engines of the ship and sitting alongside it as it continued to drift through space. Her craft was small, agile and powered with weaponry capable of holding back three fighters that approached. She revelled in the confidence she felt, but Linda kept her caution close, unsure why only three would attack from such an obvious position.
Plasma fired against the shields and made minimal damage to them and she watched from the monitors as the ships flew and spun above, attempting to get around the shields and meeting Daisy instead. Her fire kept them away for the moment, but the craft was moving too slow and they were moving too fast. One by one the spacecraft approached, fired and tried to find a way to reach the nose of the colony ship, to dismember the crew but Daisy was sharp enough to catch them out, to fire where they intended to go and scaring them off.
The fourth time the ships approached, Linda kept her eyes on the pilot seat, seeing something unusual but unsure what it was in the pilot’s seat. She believed it was some kind of mask, maybe a faction formed with dishonoured air force pilots. She squinted her eyes as the ship at the front gained speed and she realized too late what the inconsistency was and cursed herself for not seeing it sooner. The pilot’s seat was empty, the mask attached to the head of the seat to fool whoever was looking and be used as a kamikaze tactic.
The impact of the ship on the shields was hard enough to shudder the colony ship and the screams she heard from the back only confirmed the fear they all felt. She tried to force the ship to go faster, but there was only so much that could be done when shields were so badly damaged. She kept moving, reminding everyone to stay in their seats and warning them of future impacts.
“What the fuck was that?!” Daisy exclaimed. “He just died, he just fucking killed himself!”
“It was a remote ship, Daze! They were using it as a decoy, our shields are down to 20% and everything’s going at a crawl!”
“Leave it with me!”
Linda trusted Daisy to keep everyone on the ship safe, but was always concerned about her methods. Despite this she worked to give her all the help she would need, expanding the shield so she would be protected as long as possible. She could hear their ground control barking in her ear, insisting that the civilians came first, but that choice wasn’t one she could easily make. Daisy was their last defence; without her, there was no Hudson, only a ship filled with hostages.
Daisy’s craft drifted below the Hudson and behind the shield, avoiding it entirely despite Linda’s efforts and she headed straight upwards towards the ship. Many men turned pirate made the mistake of thinking that piloting a plane, or a submarine and a spacecraft was only a matter of different schematics – always forgetting that any spaceship acted on an almost limitless plane. In space, there were no limitations of wind resistance or gravity and insane manoeuvres that could kill men on Earth could win battles in space and Daisy used this knowledge to fight back, to speed vertical to stop one ship’s almost unstoppable movement and twist back like the snap of an elbow, firing constantly into the ship’s hull.
Her major mistake was forgetting about the last ship, that was moving overhead and had easily turned to fire back to her, forcing her to take the harsh shots rather than avoid them. Holes were easily torn through her ship and Linda swore to hearing Daisy scream out in fear and pain. Her target was shot to pieces and the dismembered pilot was afloat beside his torn craft. Daisy’s ship was nearly destroyed, hanging in space like a corpse floating in water, Linda held her breath, feeling her tears and fear twist her stomach and her hands trembled at the controls.
“Daisy!” She cried.
There was no way of knowing if the exclamation woke up her lover or if Daisy was fully aware the whole time and waiting for the opportune moment to strike as her opponent raced towards its prey. But in a few final, decisive shots, the final ship’s engine exploded and took the pilot easily with it. The light was there and gone in a quick flash, the fire not even having time to blaze before the blackness of space took it. But she found there was no room to celebrate.
“Daisy? Daisy, please respond, please!” Linda repeated, trying to restore the picture of the webcam but having no luck, knowing she wouldn’t have any luck. “Please! You have to say something! Daisy!”
“I’m here.” She croaked. “Just about.”
“Listen to me, y-you have to turn the ship around, you have to head back to the Hudson before we get too far away. You have to come back to us.”
“The ship’s dead, Linda. It’s not moving... And my oxygen’s hit.”
“Wh-what?”
“I... I’m sorry.” She mumbled, coughing through the microphone, hard enough for Daisy to feel the blood. “I-I’m sorry I put you through this.”
“Y-you’re not, you’re not putting me through anything. You’re coming back to us.”
She took a deep breath. “I can’t. I’m sorry, I can’t, the ship is too far gone, it’s not-”
Linda slammed her fist on the desk. “Stop talking like this! We can figure this out!”
“We’ve got five minutes, you have to let me talk, please! For me!” Daisy took a ragged breath, scared it would be her last and allowing Linda to hear that fear. “I have loved you so much I didn’t think it was possible.” Daisy said. “You’ve made me laugh... You’ve made me cry and you’ve been the best person I ever knew. I want-w-wanted to ask you that night, on the show. I wanted to tell the world that I didn’t care wh-what anyone th-thought, th-that I wanted to love you like ev-everyone should’ve done from the moment y-you were born. I even got a ring.”
Linda opened her mouth, but closed it, her mind whirring with all that was happening, it couldn’t be happening. Her tears started to run unbidden and her heart was shattering in her chest, splintering the skin beneath and her lungs so she couldn’t breathe. She wanted to hold her breath, to stop it. The lightbulb lit her mind and the fear ceased the moment the spark of hope sprung upon her and she grasped for it, holding it tight as she continued to cry, to sob even as she spoke.
“You’re not dying today! Not if there’s a breath left in me, Daisy Jackson, and you will ask me that question yourself, not over a damn call.” Linda ordered coldly, grasping the radio and rushing through the doors, heading to the airlock bays. “You’re going to eject from your seat and aim yourself towards the airlock.”
“You’ll never make it.”
“Fucking watch me!” She exclaimed, panting. “I’ll catch you, like I’ve always caught you and I’ll bring you back.”
“Lin-”
“I will bring you back! I promise you!”
Daisy stared at the picture of her and Linda, laughing together and holding one another that night in New York. It felt like years ago and some of her blood smeared the picture, but she knew she had to believe. It was all she could do and all she had to do and it was the most painful effort to move her arm, but she did it, she gave herself the chance that Linda fought for. She prayed one last time, never for herself, but for Linda, praying for her success and her strength if she were to fail. She had to believe and she always had believed in Linda, without fail.
Daisy took a long, deep breath, squeezing her eyes shut before pulling on the ejector seat and flying into the choking darkness of space. She had fifteen seconds before she was unconscious and she counted them, trying to force the cliché of seeing each moment of her life before she died, but seeing nothing but Linda. Her chest constricted and she could feel the spacesuit she wore fight to protect her skin and blood and bones, but before she could think anymore she was unconscious and floating towards the airlock.
Linda suited up faster than she ever had before and had secured her oxygen just as Daisy lost consciousness, there was little room for praying in her mind but all her hopes pinned on her success and survival. Releasing the airlock was easy and seeing her target in the black abyss was one thing, but reaching and bringing her back was quite another and she was aware of every second that passed was another percentage of unlikelihood of Daisy coming back to her. She pushed herself out, powering towards her with the jet pack on her back and counting every moment it took.
She grabbed Daisy’s arm first, then forced on the reverse thrust, pulling her back and racing as fast as she could against the clock, feeling her limp hand underneath the suit, unable to imagine a world without her, unable to accept an entire universe without a Daisy. She closed her eyes, begging to herself, screaming as if the extra air released from her lungs would be enough to save a life before they both tumbled through the airlock and she forced it closed. There was no time for the spacesuit, no time to think about anything else.
The helmet came off Daisy’s head and Linda’s hands were on her chest, pounding against her heart and her lips pressed against her mouth as she exhaled into her lungs. Over and over she repeated the process; there wasn’t room for a universe without a Daisy, there wasn’t room for Linda without her, there wasn’t a world where she could live away from her.
“Come on.” She said to herself as she pounded against her chest, trying to ignore her limp, lifeless face, pressing her warm lips against her ice-cold ones. Linda couldn’t accept it. “Come on! Come on, you fucking bitch! Don’t leave me! Don’t do this to me!” Her breaths entered her lungs, her hands pounded on her chest, the process repeated and she kept trying, she kept hoping. It was all she could do.
The shudder that reverberated through Daisy’s body was like a bolt of lightning shot through from her lungs out to her fingertips. Then she started to cough heavily before she gasped in the breaths she had missed, trying to catch her breaths that had escaped her mere minutes before. Her eyes were bulging and tearful, but Linda was unable to stop herself, her sobbing worsened from all the fear she felt moments before.
Daisy’s eyes fixed on hers and tears filled them. She remembered everything, feeling the pounding in her head and the pain in her chest. The blackness that dragged her down all at once and the voice in her ear, telling her that she wouldn’t die. Linda had done it, she had kept her promise as she always did and Daisy’s hand lofted very gently, but Linda took it, kissing her hand and releasing a relieved laugh through broken sobs – knowing she would never doubt again.
(AN: thank you for reading, all comments are welcome!)
submitted by WixNBixes to shortstories [link] [comments]

Vacuum - a short lesbian science fiction story

[I posted the following on the shortstory feed to positive feedback and my trans boyfriend suggested I post it on here as well, feel free to comment if anyone has any]
The bright light of a new Martian day stung Linda’s eyelids long before she woke up. The night before was scrambled in her mind, turning and twisting like her stomach, who wanted to eject anything left in her stomach. The grease of pizza or kebab or some other mass of food left on her tongue, sour and strange. In the foggy delirium just before waking, she wondered why she had left the blinds up at her apartment and why it felt so hot. Since when had she ever opened them when the sun blazed so brightly? Then she realised, she wasn’t sleeping alone.
Her eyes shot open, fully awake in the time she realised and feeling her heart thump so loud she thought her companion would wake up. That alone was enough to make her feel sick, for all the fears to come rushing back, her mother would ask ‘what have you done this time?’ and she heard her ask this of her, over and over in her head.
Linda tried to think back on the night before, the nightclub lights flashing wildly above and around her, the drinks that she had downed one after the other. She probably did something embarrassing, everyone did when they were that far gone and her pounding head only confirmed it. She pushed further back; the day before, she had gone to class, met up with Daisy and they had decided to celebrate their graduation. The pair of them laughing, she felt her hair being tugged out of her face as she vomited on the pavement, her nose and eyes all watering. At least one of them could hold their drink.
“Lin?” Daisy whispered, hearing her loud, heavy breaths. “You awake?”
Her mind was racing too fast to comprehend her words. Linda could see her parents, hear their disappointed words, their condescension and judgement of every moment she made. This was her first drunken outing, they couldn’t find out or she’d be dragged back, dragged away from the academy. She could feel her stomach drop the thirty floors below them and the panic only worsened after that. How could she do this? Why did she do it? Why did she have to be so different? Why couldn’t she do something right?
“Yeah.” She wasn’t sure why she mumbled it or why she stayed so tight in the bedsheets. She hoped that she could hide herself from Daisy, so ashamed she wished the sheets would choke her where she lay. What would her parents say? “Did we?”
“I’ll say.” Daisy chuckled. “Unless we got naked to play VR together.”
“Why would we...?”
“Something my brother talks about. Apparently it spices things up, although I don’t know how fumbling like that can spice anything up.” Daisy moved her hand over Linda’s waist. “You sure you’re okay? You’re shaking.”
“I’m fine.”
Daisy paused where she was caressing her and retracted her hand slowly. “You don’t remember last night, do you?”
Linda covered her face with her hands, too ashamed to allow herself to be seen. “I shouldn’t be here, I’m not... I wasn’t... I’m not a whore, I wasn’t trying to manipulate anyone or-or-”
“I never thought you were, Lin, I don’t think you’re capable of being that cruel.”
The choked sobs she was trying to hold back came forward at so much velocity, she thought she was going to fall off the bed. Once they started, she found it difficult to stop them, the carousel of cold voices and judgemental faces spinning around her head, all the misery hitting her all at once. Daisy was taken aback, trying to comfort her by wrapping her arms cautiously around her and Linda knew she should have pushed away, but didn’t have the strength to. She needed Daisy more than she needed anyone else, a friend as well as a one night stand.
“Let me get you something.”
“No! No, just...” She turned and held Daisy tightly back, continuing to sob, knowing that her failure would become known soon enough and she’d have to face it. But for now she wanted someone to comfort her and thrust that all on Daisy without a second thought. They embraced for a while, naked in the bright sunlight and amongst the mess of clothes and sheets that clumsily littered Daisy’s room.
Linda found herself looking at the hangings on the wall of Earthen sports teams, of paintings Daisy had picked up from Mars and the letters and certificates she pinned on the wall from her family and friends. Beneath it all was pale blue walls, subtle compared to her friends navy hair, reaching just past her chin. Her eyes dark and striking, able to pierce a man from thirty paces with startling conviction.
Daisy was popular at the astroneering academy, able to talk to all the men who attended without any reservations; she was smart, the top in their class and so beautiful that Daisy didn’t understand why none of the men around them had asked her out. Waking up in her room had answered that question, at least. But Daisy was a marvel, unlike anyone Linda had ever known.
Linda wished she was like her, confident in her own skin and charming. Instead she was the outcast, the average student that faded into the background, never to be observed fully if anyone could help it. The tears tried to come back as she thought of this, but it was easily pushed away as it had been many times before.
“I’m sorry.” Linda pulled away gently and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. “That was... A lot.”
“It’s...” But Daisy knew she couldn’t let the moment go, or try to comfort her in empty lies. “Is it me?”
“What? No. Never. How could it be you?”
She smiled a bit. “I’m a bit... Different, you know? Eccentric, people tell me. Fancy word for too weird to be normal.”
“You’re amazing.” Linda told her firmly, but could already feel the churning inside her. “But it’s not you. I just... I’m not meant to be gay.” She shook her head, aware of how insane it sounded when said aloud. “I was... All this is just a faze, just a-a moment of weakness.”
Daisy stared at her. In any other moment, she might’ve laughed, but after seeing Linda broken down so low, she couldn’t even dream of it. “Who says?”
“My parents, for one. The rest of the world for another.” “Who gives a damn if you’re gay? On this world or on Earth? Last I checked this weren’t 1905.”
“No, but-”
“Why do your parents have any right to tell you what you are?”
“It’s not about that, I-I'm supposed to do better. To be better than that.”
“How does it...” Daisy trailed off, anger quickly resulting to pity, the first person to truly see all the pressures that she was under and the toxic lies she had been fed. “Linda... You are better. Worlds better, you’ve got into astroneering with me, only two years older, you’re doing well and excelling and the pair of us should pass this year.”
“You will. I won’t.”
“Why the hell not? You passed all the practice exams, only a few marks behind the top boys.”
“Top girl.” Linda corrected with a little smile.
“Well the boys won’t like you saying that.” Daisy smiled back. “See they think that I’m calling their cocks tiny when I remind them that I’m thrashing them at all the tests. But really their cocks are fucking miniscule.”
Linda laughed a bit, rubbing one of her eyes and feeling the residual tears drying on her face. Regardless of what Daisy said, she still felt that it was all futile. Her parents wouldn’t accept her the way she was, just like they wouldn’t accept her heading to astroneering academy and would only express that through the icy coldness of passive aggressiveness.
She wasn’t strong enough to go there, amongst all those men, she was only a girl still and needed time in more corporate sectors before making her choice. She needed to find a good man, this lesbian faze would pass like all others in high school, she knows if she doesn’t then she’ll be picked on, that’s just how school is. She’ll change her mind in a year or two at that silly academy, head back home and her father would find her a job at his firm and everything would go back to normal.
Linda never knew what normal was in their house, only that she never seemed to be part of it. Normal was for her to wake up as a different person and each time she didn’t, she felt as if she disappointed everyone including herself. She didn’t feel that way with Daisy. If it was all futile and finite, if it was all temporary, then she was glad, at least, to spend that time with her.
Three years had passed since that morning and Linda was thinking heavily about it as they rode in the limo along the main strip in New York, towards the TV studio. Daisy was beside her, wearing a short purple dress that revealed a little too much cleavage for Linda to approve – which was exactly why she chose it. Daisy was looking out the window, drinking in all the sights and gasping and snapping pictures at every small thing she recognised. But Linda was lost in her thoughts, looking lazily out her window, feeling herself reflect heavily on all they had done since then.
Linda found Earth to be a very strange planet to walk around on and she felt constantly sick since they arrived a few days ago. It was like she was trying to balance on a small wisp of air just under her feet and her stomach hadn’t let her eat more than a few hundred calories a day because of it. Her agent rejoiced, of course, but she only felt miserable from it.
It didn’t take long for the press to eagerly pounce on two aspiring, young recent graduates of the newly founded astroneering academy and they had been pushed by many Martian and Earthling space agencies to become the main mascots. It was the perfect coupling, with Linda being the sensible, technical half and Daisy being the eccentric, enthusiasm that seemed to sell with the younger crowd. Linda expected the PR as soon as they realised they were two of five in their class who had passed and women to boot, but never expected how eagerly everyone ate up their story. The only small part that she was scared about was their relationship and how closely the press were toeing the line in terms of confirming it.
“I don’t know about this.” Linda had said whilst lounging in their apartment as she read one of many articles about them, her fingers tired from scrolling and tapping on the slew of news webpages.
“About what? You’ll have to tell them eventually.”
Linda shook her head, placing the tablet down. “I’ll tell them when they’re ready.”
“They’ll never be ready.”
“Exactly.” Linda moved swiftly into the kitchen, as if she could end the discussion.
Daisy rolled her eyes and followed, like she always did. “The papers haven’t said anything yet, because we haven’t confirmed anything yet and they won’t until we give them the say-so.”
“But our agents-”
“Work for us so if they spill the beans, we can sue them.” She assured her. “As always, you’re panicking over nothing.”
“It’s not nothing!”
“You need to calm down.”
Linda had calmed down eventually, but it was a lot of work, as it always was. It had been difficult to explain anything to her parents since the pair of them got together, as every word felt like a betrayal towards them. She believed if she were stronger willed or held her principles like a shield towards them, the conversation would go smoother. But each time she recited it to herself, she could see their faces and all the regret and disappointment would steer her away again.
The off-planet missions of star cruises, colony ships, goods transports and other excursions paid by the ridiculously wealthy were enough to keep the pair of them busy enough so she rarely got to visit her parents. Yet still with every visit, the gaps in their conversation grew longer and longer and the questions were shorter and sparsely asked. The awkwardness had grown to the point where none of them seemed to know each other very well and were disinterested in changing it.
“It’s so cool here.” Daisy said, taking more pictures. “We should get an apartment here, in New York.”
“Come on.” Linda replied, unable to hide the sarcasm in her voice. “Like we could afford a flat here.”
“We totally could. Maybe a cute condo, I’ve never seen one but I bet they’re nice.”
She chuckled. “I don’t think they do condos in New York.”
“We should check before we go. And get pizza, can’t go to New York without having pizza! Or is it cheesesteak? Hey, we could get both!”
“Please, don’t mention food...”
“Alright, miss I’m-too-important-to-have-normal-food-like-normal-people.” Daisy mocked.
“Well, at least I’m not pigging out before I head back into space.”
“It’s a colony job, nothing I can’t handle on a full stomach.”
“Unless you throw up in your suit.”
Daisy hadn’t thought that far ahead and made a face, suddenly switching tactics: “Alright, maybe just some pizza, then.”
It had been two hours since the Hudson had started its journey towards Mars and the restlessness that came with an intergalactic journey had long since bored the hotshot pilots. Linda could tell, mainly because Daisy was starting music from her end and ignoring her objections.
“Not everyone likes that oldie stuff, Daisy.”
“Good that only you and me are listening to it, then.”
“For now.”
“Oh, come on. You love it.”
Linda’s eyes wandered back to the screen that showed Daisy’s face tucked into her spacesuit, operating the controls set in front of her. She rolled them to impress upon her how much she cared about such spectacles, which made Daisy laugh, which always ended in a little snort.
“Stop it, piggy.” Linda replied, mimicking the snort.
“You stop it! I swear to God...”
Another snort and Daisy scowled at her, which made Linda laugh. “Never! Not when you react like that.”
The Hudson lumbered forward, a humongous ship that housed hundreds of men and women who were awaiting a new life on Mars, many of the passengers were children who were the most excited of them all. There was something magical in seeing their wonder as the Earth seemed to fall from beneath them and the glorious red planet loomed ahead. Even some of the adults couldn’t hide their excitement, reliving all they had felt once as children, looking towards the moon and hoping one day to reach it – never imagining they’d travel further still.
To Linda and Daisy, this was a job that they had performed so many times without hiccups and other times with the smallest of hassles thrown in to keep them on their toes. With all the interviews, appearances and inspirational articles written about their rise to be champions in astroneering, Linda imagined a bit more glamour than sitting in a pilot’s chair, tucked far away from the rich customers. But Daisy would enthuse about every aspect, seeing the stars as another sea to conquer and other worlds were islands waiting to be explored.
“It’s not quite as star trekky as she makes it out to be.”
“Well, we probably won’t bump into God on our daily commute, but she’s miserable anyway.”
“Miserable? I’m not telling people we’re pioneers wearing ugly belt hats!”
“You did wear that for Halloween, though.”
The laughter from the crowd echoed through her head and Linda had taken it with a smile, unable to think of anything wittier to defend her case. The sea of faces behind the glare of stage lights and cameras almost appeared creepy to her and for most of the night she was just trying to keep her eyes on the host and listened to Daisy’s natural charm steal the show. It all was going well enough, until he had asked them about their relationship.
“No comment.” She had blurted without thinking, so fast that there was no way that there wasn’t something to be said. She had felt her blood rush to her cheeks and a few tears prick her eyes as the whispering washed through the crowd and the host looked at the sea of faces, pulling a comedic one himself.
Daisy took her hand and this caught Linda’s eye for a long time. Her look was very simple – this was it, this was when they had to tell the world, say that they were together, that they were a couple regardless of what anyone thought. The heat and sweat that gripped Linda wasn’t just from the stage lighting and she buckled, completely and utterly, shaking her head slightly and leaving it at that. The night had progressed on but her mind only regressed, making sure she knew how badly she had hurt her lover and their future together.
“Do you remember the night we slept together for the first time?” Linda asked as her thoughts wandered to the first night and the morning after.
“’Course I do. Most of it, anyway. I mainly remember how eager you were to buy me a drink after you had a few and how badly you managed to dance.” Daisy smiled at her, but noticed the thoughtful frown etched on her pretty face. “Lin?”
“Yeah?”
“What’s wrong? You look like you’re thinking about something, I can see the steam coming out of your ears.”
She smiled, brushing a lock of hair from her eyes before sighing. “I’m just thinking about that night. It was Martian Independence day, right?”
“I remember, because-”
“Because we weren’t sad drunk, I know.” She repeated, almost by heart. “But I never met anyone like you. You know that? Nobody who could steal a room like that.”
“I was drunk, so I was probably screaming until someone paid attention. A drama queen, through and through.” Daisy was smiling, but it was a concerned smile, worried about why they were reminiscing. “Lin-”
“You made me do karaoke with you.”
“Did I? Did we?”
“Only for... The beginning, I think?”
Daisy made a face as if she could hear the cat screeching tones already and shrugged apologetically, believing there was some point and allowing her to go on.
“Nobody used to notice me in the academy. Or at school, or at work, or anywhere – nobody saw me, they saw straight through me and I was used to that. But then you came along and I just... I knew I couldn’t live like that anymore.” She looked back at her, unsure herself where all this came from, but feeling her throat clog. “I wanted people to see me, I wanted you to see me.”
“Oh, Lin...” She smiled so warmly, glancing back to the picture she had developed from their New York trip and pinned to her ship, near her hand so she could reach it. She touched Linda’s face gently while keeping her eyes on the screen, imagining her musk and perfume intertwined. “Where has this all come from?”
“I don’t know.” Linda admitted. “I’m just... Thinking.”
“Was it the interview we did? Was it too much, or-?”
“No.” Linda admitted. “It almost did, I mean... He really wanted us to say something, but...”
“Did your parents contact you?”
Linda paused, unable to look at her, pretending to tap buttons on her ship’s dashboard to make it seem as though she was preoccupied. If Daisy saw she was attending to the ship, she wouldn’t know the truth, wouldn’t be able to see it in her face despite how much it hurt. But she wasn’t as much of an idiot as Linda thought and she heard the deep sigh to confirm it.
“What did they say?"
“It doesn’t matter what they said.”
“Yeah, it does. You’ve been putting it off for years, what did they say?”
She took a deep breath as if she could alleviate the tears that swelled in her throat and pricked in her eyes. She closed them and looked away again, keeping herself contained, keeping all she felt bottled as if the implosion couldn’t happen if she resisted it long enough. Her chest ached from the pressure, but she didn’t care, she could die from it for all she cared, as long as nobody saw it.
“Lin?”
“What I expected.” She admitted. “They can’t have a daughter like me, can’t see me burn in hell for what I do, what I decide to do. I’m not...” She tried to swallow the lump that forced its way into the back of her neck, pushing at her chest. “I’m not good enough for them. Probably never was.”
“Bullshit!”
“It’s what they said!” She snapped back. “And... And they think it’s your fault, of course, for tempting me. Saying that I just hadn’t found the right man yet.” She couldn’t hide the cracks in her voice, the tremble with every word she said.
“They’re such fucking dinosaurs, they didn’t actually say that, what year is this 1985?”
Linda rubbed her tears away and took a deep breath. “I guess it doesn’t matter. They’ve taken me out of their life until I’ve found the right man.”
“Which’ll be never.” Daisy reaffirmed. “So what? You’re better off without them.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“Why, because I’m the orphan girl who became a fearsome space pilot?” She retorted, pausing a moment before continuing. “They haven’t been your parents for years. They've made you hide and scurry like you’re a damn mouse in your own home, it’s not right.”
“Daisy-”
“Don’t try to defend them. You know it and I know it, they’re a bunch of self-serving bastards who wouldn’t know a loving relationship if it bit them on the ass.”
“Dee-”
“No, you won’t shut me up on this, they don’t deserve you, they never have and they never will-”
“We got three bogeys incoming!” Linda exclaimed over her, flipping the switch to get the colonists to their seats, flipping other switches to keep gravity and life support online and sliding against buttons to use all residual power to activate the shields, trying to watch the attackers on the radar they had.
Daisy flew above and behind the Hudson, expertly avoiding the tail and engines of the ship and sitting alongside it as it continued to drift through space. Her craft was small, agile and powered with weaponry capable of holding back three fighters that approached. She revelled in the confidence she felt, but Linda kept her caution close, unsure why only three would attack from such an obvious position.
Plasma fired against the shields and made minimal damage to them and she watched from the monitors as the ships flew and spun above, attempting to get around the shields and meeting Daisy instead. Her fire kept them away for the moment, but the craft was moving too slow and they were moving too fast. One by one the spacecraft approached, fired and tried to find a way to reach the nose of the colony ship, to dismember the crew but Daisy was sharp enough to catch them out, to fire where they intended to go and scaring them off.
The fourth time the ships approached, Linda kept her eyes on the pilot seat, seeing something unusual but unsure what it was in the pilot’s seat. She believed it was some kind of mask, maybe a faction formed with dishonoured air force pilots. She squinted her eyes as the ship at the front gained speed and she realized too late what the inconsistency was and cursed herself for not seeing it sooner. The pilot’s seat was empty, the mask attached to the head of the seat to fool whoever was looking and be used as a kamikaze tactic.
The impact of the ship on the shields was hard enough to shudder the colony ship and the screams she heard from the back only confirmed the fear they all felt. She tried to force the ship to go faster, but there was only so much that could be done when shields were so badly damaged. She kept moving, reminding everyone to stay in their seats and warning them of future impacts.
“What the fuck was that?!” Daisy exclaimed. “He just died, he just fucking killed himself!”
“It was a remote ship, Daze! They were using it as a decoy, our shields are down to 20% and everything’s going at a crawl!”
“Leave it with me!”
Linda trusted Daisy to keep everyone on the ship safe, but was always concerned about her methods. Despite this she worked to give her all the help she would need, expanding the shield so she would be protected as long as possible. She could hear their ground control barking in her ear, insisting that the civilians came first, but that choice wasn’t one she could easily make. Daisy was their last defence; without her, there was no Hudson, only a ship filled with hostages.
Daisy’s craft drifted below the Hudson and behind the shield, avoiding it entirely despite Linda’s efforts and she headed straight upwards towards the ship. Many men turned pirate made the mistake of thinking that piloting a plane, or a submarine and a spacecraft was only a matter of different schematics – always forgetting that any spaceship acted on an almost limitless plane. In space, there were no limitations of wind resistance or gravity and insane manoeuvres that could kill men on Earth could win battles in space and Daisy used this knowledge to fight back, to speed vertical to stop one ship’s almost unstoppable movement and twist back like the snap of an elbow, firing constantly into the ship’s hull.
Her major mistake was forgetting about the last ship, that was moving overhead and had easily turned to fire back to her, forcing her to take the harsh shots rather than avoid them. Holes were easily torn through her ship and Linda swore to hearing Daisy scream out in fear and pain. Her target was shot to pieces and the dismembered pilot was afloat beside his torn craft. Daisy’s ship was nearly destroyed, hanging in space like a corpse floating in water, Linda held her breath, feeling her tears and fear twist her stomach and her hands trembled at the controls.
“Daisy!” She cried.
There was no way of knowing if the exclamation woke up her lover or if Daisy was fully aware the whole time and waiting for the opportune moment to strike as her opponent raced towards its prey. But in a few final, decisive shots, the final ship’s engine exploded and took the pilot easily with it. The light was there and gone in a quick flash, the fire not even having time to blaze before the blackness of space took it. But she found there was no room to celebrate.
“Daisy? Daisy, please respond, please!” Linda repeated, trying to restore the picture of the webcam but having no luck, knowing she wouldn’t have any luck. “Please! You have to say something! Daisy!”
“I’m here.” She croaked. “Just about.”
“Listen to me, y-you have to turn the ship around, you have to head back to the Hudson before we get too far away. You have to come back to us.”
“The ship’s dead, Linda. It’s not moving... And my oxygen’s hit.”
“Wh-what?”
“I... I’m sorry.” She mumbled, coughing through the microphone, hard enough for Daisy to feel the blood. “I-I’m sorry I put you through this.”
“Y-you’re not, you’re not putting me through anything. You’re coming back to us.”
She took a deep breath. “I can’t. I’m sorry, I can’t, the ship is too far gone, it’s not-”
Linda slammed her fist on the desk. “Stop talking like this! We can figure this out!”
“We’ve got five minutes, you have to let me talk, please! For me!” Daisy took a ragged breath, scared it would be her last and allowing Linda to hear that fear. “I have loved you so much I didn’t think it was possible.” Daisy said. “You’ve made me laugh... You’ve made me cry and you’ve been the best person I ever knew. I want-w-wanted to ask you that night, on the show. I wanted to tell the world that I didn’t care wh-what anyone th-thought, th-that I wanted to love you like ev-everyone should’ve done from the moment y-you were born. I even got a ring.”
Linda opened her mouth, but closed it, her mind whirring with all that was happening, it couldn’t be happening. Her tears started to run unbidden and her heart was shattering in her chest, splintering the skin beneath and her lungs so she couldn’t breathe. She wanted to hold her breath, to stop it. The lightbulb lit her mind and the fear ceased the moment the spark of hope sprung upon her and she grasped for it, holding it tight as she continued to cry, to sob even as she spoke.
“You’re not dying today! Not if there’s a breath left in me, Daisy Jackson, and you will ask me that question yourself, not over a damn call.” Linda ordered coldly, grasping the radio and rushing through the doors, heading to the airlock bays. “You’re going to eject from your seat and aim yourself towards the airlock.”
“You’ll never make it.”
“Fucking watch me!” She exclaimed, panting. “I’ll catch you, like I’ve always caught you and I’ll bring you back.”
“Lin-”
“I will bring you back! I promise you!”
Daisy stared at the picture of her and Linda, laughing together and holding one another that night in New York. It felt like years ago and some of her blood smeared the picture, but she knew she had to believe. It was all she could do and all she had to do and it was the most painful effort to move her arm, but she did it, she gave herself the chance that Linda fought for. She prayed one last time, never for herself, but for Linda, praying for her success and her strength if she were to fail. She had to believe and she always had believed in Linda, without fail.
Daisy took a long, deep breath, squeezing her eyes shut before pulling on the ejector seat and flying into the choking darkness of space. She had fifteen seconds before she was unconscious and she counted them, trying to force the cliché of seeing each moment of her life before she died, but seeing nothing but Linda. Her chest constricted and she could feel the spacesuit she wore fight to protect her skin and blood and bones, but before she could think anymore she was unconscious and floating towards the airlock.
Linda suited up faster than she ever had before and had secured her oxygen just as Daisy lost consciousness, there was little room for praying in her mind but all her hopes pinned on her success and survival. Releasing the airlock was easy and seeing her target in the black abyss was one thing, but reaching and bringing her back was quite another and she was aware of every second that passed was another percentage of unlikelihood of Daisy coming back to her. She pushed herself out, powering towards her with the jet pack on her back and counting every moment it took.
She grabbed Daisy’s arm first, then forced on the reverse thrust, pulling her back and racing as fast as she could against the clock, feeling her limp hand underneath the suit, unable to imagine a world without her, unable to accept an entire universe without a Daisy. She closed her eyes, begging to herself, screaming as if the extra air released from her lungs would be enough to save a life before they both tumbled through the airlock and she forced it closed. There was no time for the spacesuit, no time to think about anything else.
The helmet came off Daisy’s head and Linda’s hands were on her chest, pounding against her heart and her lips pressed against her mouth as she exhaled into her lungs. Over and over she repeated the process; there wasn’t room for a universe without a Daisy, there wasn’t room for Linda without her, there wasn’t a world where she could live away from her.
“Come on.” She said to herself as she pounded against her chest, trying to ignore her limp, lifeless face, pressing her warm lips against her ice-cold ones. Linda couldn’t accept it. “Come on! Come on, you fucking bitch! Don’t leave me! Don’t do this to me!” Her breaths entered her lungs, her hands pounded on her chest, the process repeated and she kept trying, she kept hoping. It was all she could do.
The shudder that reverberated through Daisy’s body was like a bolt of lightning shot through from her lungs out to her fingertips. Then she started to cough heavily before she gasped in the breaths she had missed, trying to catch her breaths that had escaped her mere minutes before. Her eyes were bulging and tearful, but Linda was unable to stop herself, her sobbing worsened from all the fear she felt moments before.
Daisy’s eyes fixed on hers and tears filled them. She remembered everything, feeling the pounding in her head and the pain in her chest. The blackness that dragged her down all at once and the voice in her ear, telling her that she wouldn’t die. Linda had done it, she had kept her promise as she always did and Daisy’s hand lofted very gently, but Linda took it, kissing her hand and releasing a relieved laugh through broken sobs – knowing she would never doubt again.
(AN: thank you for reading, all comments are welcome!)
submitted by WixNBixes to lgbt [link] [comments]

NBA Over/Under Betting. An NBA over/under bet involves simply choosing whether you think there will be more total points scored by both teams, or less total scores, than the figure listed on the published line. NBA Futures Betting. Futures, as the name suggests, are wagers based upon events which may, or may not, transpire at a much later date. New England put an exclamation point on this current winning streak by blasting Chicago 51-23 last Sunday in a game where Tom Brady and Co. almost took the total over on its own. Game Trends As you can see, the over has smashed it at Las Vegas. To put the final exclamation point on this prop bet, in last year’s Vegas playoff race, there were 23 lead changes. I see there being close to 20 this weekend. Take the over for this prop bet at this weekend’s South Point 400. Exclamation Point horse page with past performances, results, pedigree, photos and videos. Exclamation Point horse rating and status. See who is a fan of Exclamation Point. With 12 minutes left, the under in the Ohio State-Purdue game had a 38.5-point cushion. It didn't hold. Here are the worst gambling bad beats this past weekend.

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