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“Good morning, First Lieutenant. And you must be Veera? I was told to expect the both of you. Please be seated anywhere you like,” the short, thin gentleman offered, gesturing around his office. It was the oddest and most anachronistic portion of the ship Winters had visited by far, though in that particular case it was not a bad thing. Instead it was an indication that Natori Kaczynski had taken the mental health of his crew into careful consideration when implementing his vision for the Event Horizon. Instead of a sleek, modern cube of metal or plastic polymer, he felt like he’d been transported to a row home in some quaint European city. The floor was richly carpeted by oriental or persian rugs, he didn’t know which. The walls were done up with unassuming, muted green wallpaper, and the moulding and ceiling varnished wood. Bookshelves lined the perimeter of the space, punctuated by a stone bust of an unknown man, a display case of historical medical implements, and a vase on a pedestal that contained what appeared to be live flowers. That particular fixture was of utter fascination to Veera, and with a squeeze of her hand she left Russell’s side to examine them.
“How strange and beautiful,” she murmured, testing the delicate petals of the orchid with her fingertips and giving the plant itself a curious sniff. As she did so Russell watched her closely, and in turn the ship’s psychologist, one Doctor Lamont, watched him. It had been impossible to miss the soldier’s stone-faced expression upon his arrival, but seeing it soften was both curious and reassuring to the medical professional. That the alien spoke english with apparent comfort was also a pleasant surprise.
“Do you not have flowers on your world?” He asked gently.
“No, we do not,” Veera replied. “My husband tells me that our forests are like those of the northern reaches of your planet. Pine trees?”
“Yeah, those are the ones,” Russell affirmed. “That specific type of flower there is an orchid.”
“It’s wonderful. I’m sorry for interrupting,” Veera offered.
“My dear, please! We are here to talk, and unless the two of you have somewhere else you need to be I see no reason why we shouldn’t begin with flowers,” Lamont replied before looking about curiously. “The Admiral informed me that I should expect a rather...unusual guest, as he put it? Given that it does not seem to be an alien I cannot help but wonder.”
‘That would be me,’ Io offered, utilizing the speaker concealed in the ceiling to make her presence known. ‘Due to the lack of projection technology in this room you will simply have to take my word for it. My name is Io. I used to be Lieutenant Winters’ VI partner and I am now his best friend, AI companion, and solemn holder of the trials he has faced while on Mara.’
“And that is, of course, the other reason we are here,” Lamont acknowledged, gesturing to a couple of chairs and a chaise lounge straight out of a twentieth century psychologist’s office. “Please, do make yourselves comfortable wherever you like. I will ask our esteemed Admiral about this apparent leap forward in human technological prowess another time.”
Veera, being a lover of soft things as with most of her species, was happy to be seated upon the recliner, though she did not lay back. Russell didn’t seem to mind, instead choosing the least comfortable looking chair in the room as Lamont was seated on his own, wheeled out from behind his wooden desk. He had a pencil and notebook in hand.
“You don’t mind, do you? I prefer the old ways.”
“Whatever works for you, doc,” Russell replied stoically.
“I presume you would not enjoy hearing how I am here to help you and that I am someone you may consider a confidant?” Lamont offered.
“Not when I know damn well everything said here is going to be a matter of semi-public record at my tribunal hearing,” the soldier said sternly.
“Russell! He’s just here to help!” Veera interrupted. Doctor Lamont watched and waited as the human looked at the alien that claimed to be his wife.
“It’s more complicated than that, Veera,” he eventually said.
“You are here to help my husband, right?” The Cauthan rounded on Lamont. He nodded.
“I can assure you I am, Veera. However, the fact that this is a military matter does, as the Lieutenant said, complicate things. I am required to report to the Admiral my personal evaluation of his mental state, fitness for duty, and to opine on the events that have brought us all to this juncture. But when this is over, Lieutenant, know that my door will remain open to you in confidence.”
“Yeah let’s just…can we get on with it?” Russell requested. The feeling that he was somewhere outside of the HEL despite knowing very well where he was did not sit well with him.
“We may indeed. Veera, Io, I would like to ask the two of you to stop me at any time should you feel the need to interject or pose a question. However, I would also request that you allow the Lieutenant to speak uninterrupted. Is that acceptable to the two of you?”
“Yes,” both Veera and Io replied, the former feeling her feathers rustle slightly. There was something off about the situation, something that made her nervous. She didn’t think Doctor Lamont a threat, but there was no denying that he was something other than a friend. She would have preferred Russell be speaking with Antoth.
“Thank you. Lieutenant I have already reviewed your files up until your arrival in this system when the Lancer was destroyed. Your combat actions and evaluations during that mission were retrieved so we need not address those matters unless you feel it necessary. Do you think you could start at the beginning and tell me about the important things that happened to you since you arrived here?”
Winters took a deep breath and rested his forehead on his thumb and two fingers, rubbing his head for a moment before looking back to the psychologist who was waiting for him patiently. “Yeah, might as well get this over with.”
“I still can’t believe you named an alien bat Steve,” Private Orlova groused as she and the rest of her squad left the armory after almost two days on Mara. They could have remained far longer, but Natori had insisted that they return to the ship to exercise, eat, and otherwise maintain a semblance of their normal routine. He had assured them that they would be given an opportunity to explore the Forge once the research teams were prepared to actually enter the structure, and that Steve the aquila would be well cared for in the camp while they were gone. The question of diet had been taken up happily by a handful of the Event Horizon’s crew, given that research on the Forge and the rest of its surroundings would have to be painstakingly conducted in a systematic manner. Tracking down various plants and insects to see which ones a scaled bat preferred to munch on was practically chaos by comparison. Rex laughed as he locked away his skull-painted helmet
“You’re just jealous because you didn’t think of it first. I’m starving guys, should we see what Gus has cooked up? Should be just about lunchtime.”
“Always thinking with your stomach,” Mendes remarked, earning him a punch in the shoulder.
“Don’t act like you’re not. Lipp?”
“What am I, your boss? Go ahead if you want! The Admiral said our next brief will take place tonight, probably just a review and discussion of future plans. Science is so damn slow.”
“Which is why we are soldiers and not scientists,” Natalya concluded as the four of them stepped out into the hallways of the ship, only to be met by a very peculiar pair. A victorious grin spread across Lipper’s face.
“Well well well, if it isn’t the fluffer nutter. I don’t think we’ve ever met personally,” he said more than loudly enough for Winters and Veera to hear. The Omega Jumper had been taking his wife on a tour of the ship following a lengthy review of his stay on Mara. There had been discussion of the good, but the focus was on things he would have rather forgotten: Jess’ death, the crew’s funeral, the raid, and the slaying of the ursae. Io appeared in his visor immediately, clad in her barbarian armor and having already painted her face with blood.
‘If you don’t, I will,’ she informed him. That comment earned her a glare from Russell, who silently walked up to the four Jumpers. He was the tallest.
“That’s First Lieutenant or Sir to you…Sergeant,” he growled, making a show of looking Lipper up and down. His face showed he was none too impressed. Lipper scoffed.
“Do you see the Admiral around here? Cause I sure as hell don’t, Omega. I’ve been down on that planet. I ain’t scared of you, and I sure as hell ain’t kissing the boots of a guy who spend the better part of a year sitting around in the sun and fucking the locals.”
A thousand and one retorts came to Winters’ lips, many of which Io was supplying in rapid succession and a few of which had come from his teenage years and Alice. Instead he turned his back to them, a blatant display of fearlessness, and walked away, taking Veera by the hand. “Let’s get out of here before I kill one of them,” he told her evenly. Veera couldn’t help but look over her shoulder at the squad of four. The woman and the shortest among them, a man with bronze skin, looked concerned. But the other two who looked more similar to Russell had gleeful expressions on their face.
“Hey cutie, if you ever feel like bedding a real man I think Private Mendes over here is feeling pretty open minded after being planetside,” Lipper called out, taking the opportunity to rib one of his own at Winters’ expense. Veera tore herself away from Russell and marched right up to them.
“I know what laying with a man is like, and need only glance at you to know you would not satisfy me in the slightest!” She yelled hotly, bringing a truly surprised look to the Sergeant’s face for the first time. Behind her it was Winters’ turn to smile viciously with a watchful eye as Veera continued her tirade while Rex muttered ‘shit, she speaks English?!’.
“I would rather be set upon by a pack of hyrven than lay with you. You are nothing more than a cub at his first harvest festival who thinks only of himself, and I feel bad for these other three humans who are forced to follow you,” she asserted, understanding easily enough that the four humans in front of her were like her husband in terms of their training at least, and that Lipper was their commander.
“I’m not going to ask twice. You take that back,” the Sergeant warned.
“Oh, and now you’re threatening a primitive
female? How manly and brave of you,” Veera taunted, well versed in the art of verbal sparring after spending more than a few cycles with the town's guard force.
“And were it not for us, your primitive
little village would have been wiped off the map!”
“Lipper, that’s enough man! Jesus Cristo,” Mendes insisted, watching Russell like a hawk. The look in his eyes gave the Private chills.
“That’s Sergeant to you, Private Mendes!”
“And my name is Veera to you, human! You are no better than the Ghaelen who threatened us. Just another petty chieftain!”
The next events of the next few seconds seemed both an instant and eternity to Private Orlova, who up until that point had remained silent. The moment Lipper’s hand shot out and wrapped around Veera’s wrist the Omega Jumper leapt to action, clearing the distance between him and their group with frightening speed. Veera’s heart hammered, slamming into her chest as her body reacted the way her inner animal wanted her to. She wanted to hurt the human who had so insulted her husband and her people, but again and again Russell had taught her to play to her strengths and an enemy’s weakness. The sad reality was that Lipper was far too large for her to win a fair fight. But she knew that just once, and only once, she would have the element of surprise. After all, he clearly saw her as a zero on the threat scale. With a snarl, Veera swiped at him, knowing he would likely stop her. When he did, she twisted and danced, trying to circle behind him while moving his arms into a less defensive position. It was mostly unsuccessful and she cried out in pain as a couple of her feathers were irrevocably bent in the wrong direction, but the momentary opening was all Russell needed.
‘VENGEANCE!’ Io roared with unabashed bloodlust, encouraging her partner. Both Veera and Natalya gasped as Winters slugged Lipper so hard the cracking of his jaw was audible. The Sergeant’s grip on Veera went slack as he crumpled to the metal floor in a heap, releasing her to find a safe distance as the situation spiraled out of control.
“Oh you’re fucking dead, Omega bitch!” Rex roared, taking a swing at Winters that the Jumper was clearly ready for.
“Any day, Beta Boy. Who or what are you overcompensating for, you walking slab of meat? Maybe your sorry excuse for a commanding officer?” Russell taunted, squaring up as punches began to fly. Rex wasn’t holding back in the slightest, but that didn’t matter to him. He’d seen all of his moves before.
“You aren’t gonna look so hot when you’re out cold on your ass,” the Beta Jumper insisted, throwing a vicious uppercut that Russell was forced to block, hardening his core as the follow up blow landed. The pain was good. He laughed.
“So they’ve got Howles training Beta now? What the fuck did he do to deserve that?” Winters jabbed, making reference to one of the men who had shaped his own development as an HEL soldier. Slowly he shifted into the combat style of Antoth and his men. There was no point in fighting like a human, especially when the Jumper in front of him was fighting the way he was, a proficient carbon copy of several HEL instructors. “Seen it,” he quipped, ducking under a left hook before rolling backwards to avoid the uppercut that had laid him out on the second day of Jumper training. Rex was good, he had to admit, and the man was strong, but he was not innovative.
“Fuck. You!” The Private roared, landing another couple of brutal but not debilitating hits. Russell shrugged them off, continuing to dance around Rex as the dull, bludgeoning pain awakened his senses. He was reminded of his fight with Kaha at the harvest festival, though he opted for a much different resolution. When the next punch came he blocked with both hands, forcefully pushing a hole open in Rex’s guard and sending his head through it. With a roar that would have made Antoth proud, Russell crushed Rex’s nose with his own cranium. Completely unprepared for the nature of the attack and resulting pain, Rex staggered long enough for Winters to grab his head and force it down into a vicious strike from his knee. Two more similar strikes to the Beta Jumper’s diaphragm had him on the ground coughing like he was about to choke up one of his own lungs, unable to breathe through his horribly contorted nose. That was when Russell rounded on Natalya with fury in his eyes. It had been a long time since he’d taken or dished out such brutal hits against other humans with no rules.
“Russell! Stop this!” Veera tried meekly.
“Not interested,” Orlova scoffed, arms across her chest as she looked over the men with disgust.
“You think I fucking care?!” Winters roared. “I thought you were supposed to be a Jumper!”
“I’m going to have to insist we dance instead, Lieutenant, though I admit I’m not nearly so attractive as Natalya,” Mendes interrupted, grabbing Winters’ arm in a competent grapple that forced him to turn away from Veera and Orlova. “In my country we all learn to dance from the time we can walk. You’re quite the partner.”
“I’m going to enjoy grinding you into dust, Private,” Winters snarled, a carnivorous smile on his face as the two men circled for a moment and then clashed, grappling and wrestling as Veera finally composed herself enough to attempt to finish what she started.
“Io!” She yelled. “Stop them!”
“What in the world is Io?” Orlova demanded.
‘Oh very well. I guess we’ve already taken out half of them,’ the AI groused. ‘And Mendes was polite enough. I’d hate to see him die.’
“IO! And get Antoth too!” Veera insisted, terrified that Io’s joke might possibly come true. All she had wanted to do was put an uppity human in his place. She could barely hear Io over the grunting of Mendes and Winters as they toppled to the ground in some perverse imitation of a scrum between guards.
‘That will be more difficult, but I’m on it…’
“Io, a pleasure to see you! Has Lieutenant Winters finished his evaluation? What are you up to now?” Natori wondered as the beautiful woman appeared on his display. To his shock and confusion she quickly dressed herself as something out of a metal show back on Earth, or perhaps Halloween.
‘THE ESTABLISHMENT OF DOMINANCE!’ Io roared, causing every human on the bridge as well as Qul’Roth, who was working back into his old routine, to stare at her with open mouths. ‘No seriously, my Jumper is kicking the shit out of your Jumpers. Get down to the armory now.’
Natori was halfway to the door before she finished. “Turnwell…I may need another coffee later.”
“Not a problem sir,” the First Mate replied sympathetically.
“Envoy, please leave violence to the humans,” Kaczynski insisted before turning his back and sprinting off. The Ghaelen nodded to himself.
“I believe I’ll do just that. Perhaps I can pay engineer Prakash in hydroponics a visit?”
“Anytime you want to quit, just say it,” Winters gasped for air, slamming his fist into Mendes’ side. The Brazilian Jumper had him in a surprisingly firm chokehold, but it was costing him dearly.
“Not on…your life,” Mendes grunted. Russell was about to promise just that when a booming voice filled the corridors.
“That is enough!” Admiral Kaczynski roared. “Lieutenant Winters, Private Mendes, opposite walls, now!”
Exhausted and not wanting to push their luck, the two men did just that, standing on each side of the corridor as Alice of all people looked on from Naotri’s wrist-mounted device. “Admiral, what’s going on? You said the hail was urgent? I found Antoth. Ratha is here as well.”
“I would like to know that myself,” Natori muttered darkly, looking around to find Lipper unconscious, Rex clutching his abdomen, and the two women standing by. Natalya was explaining to Veera that they should not move Lipper due to the potential of aggravating possible injuries to his head or spinal column. “Veera, Natalya, I would like the two of you to explain what happened here.”
“Yes sir,” Natalya replied, pushing Veera gently forward with her. “You will not be in trouble, Cauthan. Speak the truth only.”
It took not five minutes for the story to be derailed the moment that Veera revealed that Lipper had laid his hands on her.
“Veera!” Ratha yelled, barging into view on the projection from Mara that hovered above Natori’s wrist. “Get over here now!”
“Ratha, what the hell are you-”
“Shut up, scarface! When you’re rightfully furious you can come back. Until then I will defend my
people since you refuse to! Veera, let me see your feathers now. Where did he grab you? This vision is blurry!” Out of respect for her leaders and not wanting to make more of a fuss, Veera held out her arm. “It hurts, doesn’t it?” Ratha asked quietly, placing her nose as close as possible to Alice’s display.
“Of course, Ratha. That does not mean I intend to cry about it,” Veera replied, peeved at being treated like a cub. The hallway fell deathly silent as the Huntress ‘rounded’ on Natori.
“You, human chieftain! You will execute the male who laid his hands on her or I will; make your choice!” They could all see the angry flare of Ratha’s crest before Antoth reprimanded her.
“Don’t you dare! She is one of us, Antoth! You cannot allow this to stand! If he were one of our kind you would be flogging him in the square right now! They will never respect us if they do not fear us.”
“And when you are Sun Priest you may choose to rule by fear if you think them the same!” Antoth boomed with barely contained rage. “Until then you will remember yourself, Huntress. Admiral…your soldier has put me in a very difficult position.”
Natori cast a glance at Lipper’s body, assuring himself that at least his chest was rising and falling. An alert popped up in his inbox. “Io, not now.”
‘I believe this will be necessary when this is all finished,’ the AI replied simply before stepping back out of the projection. He saw she had composed a shipwide email with a text file attachment. It was marked highest priority. Natori pinched the bridge of his nose. A headache was forming there as Mendes and Winters looked on with morbid interest. If anything, Russell was more shocked than the Beta Jumper. Ratha had treated Veera as one of her own.
“Antoth, if Sergeant Lipper were one of your people, what would happen to him?” Natori asked fearfully.
“Death!” Ratha shrieked.
“GET. OUT!” Antoth’s voice somehow grew louder still.
“We are in my temple, you unbearable mate of mine!”
“OUT!” The Sun Priest seethed as Ratha drew her knife and waved it at the screen. Alice felt like running as fast as her legs could carry her.
“I will not forget this, human,” she warned before storming off, her pregnant belly doing nothing to diffuse the aura of malice surrounding her. Both Natori and Antoth breathed a sigh of relief.
“Admiral, while my mate is out of line she is…correct. Your question? If a male of this village were to proposition a mated female and then harm her…the kindest I could do for him would be flogging him within an inch of his life with a barbed flail. Most would demand exile or execution. Both are death sentences, one just takes longer than the other,” Antoth explained in a deep, regretful voice.
“Antoth, really it’s just a couple feathers,” Veera spoke up with fear in her voice.
“No Veera, it is not just a couple feathers,” Antoth corrected her kindly but sternly. “In that, Ratha is also correct. You are one of us, you are of breeding age, and you have suffered harm.”
“By God,” Alice could be heard whispering.
“Antoth, I take responsibility for my soldier’s actions and beg your forgiveness. This is my mistake,” Natori stated immediately, watching as Lipper finally stirred to life. Natalya moved to his side, forcing him to remain still and to not speak or move his head.
‘The medical teams are already on their way,’ Io assured Kaczynski as Rex finally pulled himself into a seated position. She knew that grace in victory was her prize to claim, and that human literature almost universally rewarded those who accepted triumph with humility. Kaczynski continued to entreat the Cauthan for his soldier’s life.
“Thank you. Antoth, I will be honest with you. Out of respect for your people and way of life I have kept all details of your village and culture hidden from all but a handful of my crew. These soldiers were not among that number and did not know of your customs. I had hoped that this could have been done slowly, easing our two peoples together with minimal disruption. I was wrong. Io appears to have compiled a compendium of knowledge on your way of life for all of my crew and insists I send it out immediately to prevent any further misunderstandings, especially of this nature. On behalf of my people, and given that your own came out very much the victor here, I implore you to show mercy,” Natori pleaded. “And don’t you move a muscle, Sergeant. We will speak when this is all over.”
Antoth’s low, rumbling laugh soon could be heard coming from Natori’s device. “Admiral, you lost the possibility for minimal disruption the moment you sent Alice Winters to us. Half of my farmers decided to leave their fields this morning to examine the trinket she made for Thantis. Many clamor for their own…”
“Antoth, I’ve been trying to explain to them that unless their vision is poor they don’t…yes, I’m sorry, not the time or place!” Alice squeaked, falling silent again as Antoth took her by the shoulder. She walked with him through the temple of Valta until they found Ratha in the midst of gutting a chesko that had been felled that morning.
“What?” She spat.
“The human chieftain pleads for mercy, Ratha,” Antoth spoke firmly. “And in light of the services of both Winters siblings to our people, just this once, we will grant it. Admiral, I need assurance he will be punished according to your own species’ customs.”
“You have my word,” Natori agreed immediately as Io nodded sagely just offscreen. “The disciplinary actions will range anywhere from manual labor, to solitary confinement for a period of time, to a potential loss of his command position depending upon the evaluation of a tribunal. You have my profound thanks, Antoth.”
“When he recovers,” the Cauthan grunted disdainfully as Ratha held her tongue, apparently appeased by Natori’s plea. “Tell him that Alice saved his life.”
“I will do that, Antoth. Unless there is anything else?”
“No, but I will think on this and speak with you another time,” the village head promised. “Alice Winters, my gratitude for your haste in bringing this to our attention. You appear pale.”
With an unadulterated sigh of relief, Alice killed the connection and left the rest of them alone in the corridors just outside the armory. The Admiral looked between Mendes and Winters. “Both of you have latrine duty for a week. Lieutenant, do the Cauthan have an equivalent?”
“Then you may serve your sentence on Mara if you choose. Private?”
“Sir,” Mendes replied, making no protest. He was the only combatant left standing from Beta and knew the punishment was token. Whatever else needed to be said between the two men was conveyed silently, evinced only by a curt nod from Natori.
“And since you’re both awake now,” Kacznski said with acid on his tongue, looking between Rex and Lipper. “If your own broken bodies and egos are not punishment enough…I will see to it that justice is served in this matter. I wonder, Sergeant Lipper, if you ever imagined being saved by a civilian when you joined the Jumper corps.” The Admiral’s pointed musings were cut off as a medical team arrived with two stretchers. He issued orders at once, describing the injuries reported. With that information in hand, the medics loaded Lipper and Rex onto the beds and carted them away, one of them shining a pen light into the Sergeant’s eyes to check for concussive damage. “Mendes, Winters, I assume the two of you can make it to the infirmary on your own power?”
“Get checked out and then report to me in my quarters, Lieutenant. Private, consider yourself dismissed once the medical team clears you. Private Orlova, your team will remain aboard until further notice. I would get comfortable.”
“Now everyone who is a human, get out of my sight,” Natori gave his final order, watching as Winters, Mendes, and Orlova saluted and departed. “I am very sorry, Veera. Do you require medical attention for your feathers?”
“Ah no, it’s fine. A simple knife will suffice. What’s going to happen to Russell? He didn’t start it! I-”
“Io no doubt has the entire altercation recorded and at the ready. Oh, and you can send that message, Io,” Natori approved, sighing as every crew member aboard the Event Horizon was given mandatory reading. “Would you care to join me in my cabin? I would like to speak with you, if I might?”
“And to think I started today learning about flowers,” Veera lamented, though her statement caught Natori’s attention as Io and he shared a look. With a nod they bade one another farewell. He figured she might be checking on her body’s progress.
“Perhaps we could continue with that instead?” He suggested. “If you wouldn’t mind a further tour of my ship?”
“Ah…no, I suppose not?”
“It will just be while we are waiting for your husband, I assure you,” Natori said, reading the look on Veera’s face easily enough. He wondered if the shaking feathers meant fear or something different. “Io, when the Lieutenant is cleared please send him to hydroponics bay number seven. Thank you.”
‘Of course, Admiral. I look forward to devising a redoubled training schedule for your…I guess we can still call them Jumpers. Perhaps the rookie guard force would be more appropriate sparring partners?’
And so Io left Veera and Natori in silence, having made it quite clear that just because she helped run his ship and let him in on her secret cyborg project, she was in no way, shape, or form on ‘his side’ when it came to the inevitable frictions between Omega and Beta.
“Oh dear, I think I know that look. Sentaura, I apologize but I’m gonna have to step away for a tick,” Lachlan informed his Cauthan host, peering over almost harvest-ready crops to see a rather distraught looking human looking right back at him. She was wearing a pair of durable pants and a white tank top. Sentaura walked to his side carefully, avoiding both her plants and the occasional fungus that shared the soil.
“Is there something wrong?” She demanded.
“If it’s somethin’ that would be affectin’ you or your boy you’ll be the first ta know,” he promised.
“Then go to her. I managed well enough before you came,” Sentaura insisted. Lachlan wondered if her tone and choice of words were a subtle compliment or a trick of the translation program. Permission ‘granted’, the Marine dusted his hands off and moved swiftly to Alice’s side where she promptly hugged him for dear life.
“Rusty got in a fight. A bad fight!” She sniffed. “Veera was there too!”
“Woah woah, hold yer horses there pretty lass. Why don’t we start from the beginnin’?” Lachlan insisted, placing an arm around her shoulders and leading her away from the well populated fields. In addition to not wanting to cause a scene, Lachlan figured the shade of the trees would be preferable. Not to mention it was where he had stashed his canteen for the day. He offered it to her and she accepted readily.
“Already picking up on some local tricks?” She teased softly, tilting her head back and allowing some of the water to trickle onto her tongue. “Hey, there’s…oh what the heck is it called…”
“Sentaura called it niacta root,” Lachlan supplied as Alice snapped her fingers.
“That’s the one! Xan totally got in trouble with Thantis for mixing too much of it into a draught for the guardsmen. Apparently if you go overboard it’ll numb your lips and throat for a while, at least if you’re a Cauthan. Super refreshing though, right? Lachlan, Rusty beat the shit out of Lipper and the others!”
Lachlan felt as though someone had smashed him upside the head with a mallet, and he was sure it showed on his face. He ran his fingers along the trail of his moustache and sizable beard before seeking clarity. “What do ya mean he beat the shit outta four Jumpers?”
“Look, all I know is that I got a call from Io desperately telling me to get Antoth. She said she couldn’t reach you!”
“Oh shite…that musta been when the tyke ran off with my helmet!” Lachlan groaned. “Do ye have any idea how fast those little legs can run when they don’ wanna be caught?!”
“I forgive you because you’re the best human dad on Mara,” Alice managed to smile before returning to her dour disposition, running a finger along the side of his canteen. “By the time I found Antoth and Ratha it was over. Lipper was on the ground, out cold. Rex looked like he could barely breathe. Veera and Natalya were watching as my brother and Mendes were wrapped up in some stupid MMA style crap. That was when Natori finally broke it up and things went bad.”
“Lassie, what do ya mean Lipp and Rex getting destroyed wasn’t the bad bit?” The Marine demanded in a quiet tone.
“The moment Antoth and Ratha found out that Lipper had touched Veera…taunted her and my brother, apparently bent a couple of her feathers. That Huntress started screeching like a banshee that Lipper had to die. I thought she was just being hormonal and pregnant until Antoth agreed.”
“By me grandmum and all else that’s holy, what do ye mean he has ta die?!” Lachlan yelped. Alice shook her head sadly.
“Remember when we first came down here and Veera warned you about touching her?”
“How could I forget?”
“Well apparently, Lipper committed one of the worst possible crimes as far as this village goes. He propositioned a married woman, even if it was surely just a crass joke. He touched her, and she sustained injury.”
“So what did the head fuzzball have ta say about all this?” MacGregor wondered. Alice snorted at the idea of anyone calling Antoth a fuzzball other than perhaps Io herself.
“He said that if Lipper were a Cauthan the best he could hope for is being flogged within an inch of his life with a barbed flail. His words, not mine,” Alice gasped. “But more likely the sentence would be exile or execution. Natori basically had to get on hands and knees, metaphorically speaking of course, to save him. It wasn’t enough.”
“What the bloody hell! Yer tellin’ me they…” MacGregor tempered his anger as Alice hugged herself and began crying, tearfully searching for the record of the conversation. She finally found the segment she’d been looking for.
‘Tell him that Alice saved his life.’
“What did he mean by that?” Mac wondered quietly.
“Be careful, please!” Alice implored, compelling the Marine to pick himself up and sit down at her side, giving her a shoulder to lean on. She indulged immediately. “I know how kind and thoughtful you are, just please be careful. Lipper was just picking another stupid fight and it almost got him killed. If you believe Antoth, the only reason he’s being shown mercy is because I got some glasses for Thantis! I didn’t want this, any of this!”
“But aren’t ye happy we’re here instead o’ somewhere else?”
“I know Mac, it’s just…saving people is what my brother is supposed to do. I just wanted to study them and be a part of this for a while! They all seemed so cute up until now.”
“Are ye havin’ second thoughts?”
“No…nothing like that. I just suddenly feel as though there’s a weight on our shoulders we didn’t ask for.”
“That’s just a part of bein’ a soldier, lass. So don’t ye worry about me one bit. And I’ll be here farmin’ these weird mushrooms an’ cucumbers if ya need anything.”
“What is...what is wrong with you?” Alice demanded as she devolved into a giggling fit.
“Do ye have any idea what it’s like fer a country boy ta deal with HEL food fer so long? She’s a bloody good cook, Alice.”
“Oh no…not you too!” The woman tragically moaned. “Just like my brother. I’m sure Veera lured him in with her cooking and then sunk her talons in deep!”
“Now yer just havin’ a go at my expense,” Lachlan pointed out happily, resting a tentative arm over her shoulders. She didn’t seem to take issue.
“Thanks Mac, you’re the best. So, have you decided to pay Cromwell a visit yet?”
Lachlan, who had just taken a sip of water himself, promptly sprayed the contents of his mouth all over the forest floor before coughing and spluttering. “I thought we were here ta talk about yer problems!”
“And what better way to take my mind off the fact that I apparently saved a Jumper from barbaric execution than by gossiping about the pilot who clearly wants to jump your bones?” Alice questioned devilishly. Mac leaned his head back against the tree they were seated against in defeat.
“Alice, I barely know her. I ain’t gonna sleep with her.”
“Oooh, you know me! Are you going to sleep with me?” She pressed. The silent, horrified look he sent her way was enough to have her clutching her side in stitches. “Ok, I’m sorry. I’m sorry!”
“Yer not sorry one bit!” He insisted. “But yer a damn good friend, Alice. And I’ve been around the block once or twice. I know that even best friends can…have things come between em once sex gets involved.”
“Wait, are you saying you’ve…you know, thought about me…like that?” Alice squeaked, suddenly feeling shy and quite aware of the fact that Lachlan was holding her.
“Is it that strange? It’s not like yer an unappealin’ lass,” Lachlan replied seriously. “But like I said, that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing ta do. If ya feel the need we can talk about it another time, Alice. I don’t think now’s best.”
“Yeah, yeah you’re right I just didn’t know you…I’m making it weird, aren’t I?”
“You could always say ye find me horribly unattractive and that would be that!” The Marine suggested. Alice looked up at him.
“Except then I’d be lying. But you’re right, Mac. Now is definitely not the time and…yeah, I would hate it if something wrecked whatever it is we have right now. Just…thank you so much.”
“Aww, it’s nothin’! I’m just glad Lipp gets to keep his head. Damn hot head it is too, always bound ta get him in trouble one day. Yer brother didn’t go easy on him I bet.”
“How did you know my brother won just fine?” Alice questioned.
“Other than you tellin’ me? Are ye kiddin’ lass? Lipper and his squad are well trained, but yer brother’s killed. If ye believe the stories he’s done a fair bit o’ killin’. My money’s on him, always. But let’s not dwell on this any longer. Ye said in that letter yesterday you fixed up the ol’ death priest with transition lenses? Why don’t ya go say hi and show him how they work? Perfect day for it.”
“And I’ll let you get back to farming,” Alice chuckled, standing and brushing herself off as Lachlan followed.
“I gotta earn my keep!” Lachlan agreed heartily, waving to Sentaura as they returned from the forest. The Cauthan had been watching them closely. She hummed to herself, pleased that he seemed to have found himself a mate. He was nice enough for an alien.
“Mmm, so that’s how it is. How curious!”
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-"How was Italian football before Sacchi?" -"Like now." submitted by
Just two words are enough for Arrigo Sacchi to disarm your face-to-face strategy and leave you out of the game like a beginner. Three words that, however, do not strictly correspond to reality. They are only half true. Only by digging deep into his footballing imagination can one discover how the man who built one of the greatest teams of all time is able to disregard his legacy and blur it in the timeline of the evolution of the beautiful game in Italy. Despite his modesty, there is no doubt that Arrigo Sacchi and his Milan team mark a turning point for Italian football, although from the manager's point of view it is not a turning point but a mere parenthesis. Italian football changed during his time on the bench, but recovered its natural course as soon as he stepped off the pitch and into the offices. "Clearly there has been some change, but not like in the rest of Europe. The televisions have made us see that a different kind of football is being played. 'They've changed all over the world except in Italy,' Costacurta told me a few years ago when we were watching the Italian U-21s against Denmark," explains Sacchi. What are the reasons for this lack of evolution in Italian football? Sacchi is able to recite them with the confidence with which a surgeon points out the ills to be removed. "In Italy, you don't know what the merit is, you just want to win. The fans and the journalists don't ask for the show or the fun, they ask for the victory. -And then how do we seek this victory? -We seek it in the way we know best, through cunning or the art of achieving what we set out to do. Then, our football is a football that costs to be updated and to evolve". Like a wharf which, however much you stretch, returns to its original form, Italian football always tends towards its most primal concepts. And to find the origin of those concepts, you have to do some archaeological work until you get back to the embryonic stage of football in Italy.
World football is roughly divided into four schools. First we have the direct style which was born in England and is still representative of British teams nowadays. Then we have the cheerful, colourful and lighthearted way of life that the Brazilians have been able to bring to the pitch to the height of artistic movement. Thirdly, there is the Dutch philosophy. The so-called total football with which Rinus Michels overtook Herbert Chapman's WM team to surprise the world, generating an idea of play that still has imitators, as is the case of Barcelona in recent times. Finally, we find the Italian style, baptized under the term of Catenaccio, which means lock in Italian. A nomenclature, by the way, quite illustrative of the ideals of the game. In its most basic concepts, the Italian is a football mostly defensive and disciplined, where the result prevails over any commitment to aesthetics. In line with Niccolò Machiavelli's 'Prince' ("the end justifies the means"), Italian football has always assumed that anything is permissible as long as victory is achieved.
Ironically, Catenaccio has no Italian parents. It is not clear who invented this style, but none of those who claim paternity were born in Italy. According to the accomplished historian Brian Glanville, the Catenaccio was invented by the Austrian coach Karl Rappan during the first half of the 20th century. In the 1940s, Rappan developed a tactic that the press christened Riegel (lock, in German) and consisted of having one of the five men on the WM front line move in behind the three defenders. The job of this sweeper would be to keep an eye on the opposing forwards who were running away from their marker. Helenio Herrera, however, not only proclaimed himself the inventor of the Catenaccio but claimed to be the first player to play the role of a sweeper. "It occurred to me when I was playing in France," explains the Argentine coach, as Simon Kuper relates in Football Against the Enemy. "We were playing with the WM formation then," continues Mago Herrera, "and in a game where we were winning 1-0 with 15 minutes to go, I left my position to get behind the defense. I had these ideas in my time as a player and when I became a manager years later I remembered them." Glanville believes Rappan invented the Catenaccio, Nereo Rocco introduced it to Italy and Helenio Herrera perfected it. Whether it was one or the other who invented it, both versions agree that the key piece of this style is the figure of the Libero. Without it, there would be no Catenaccio.
The success of the ultra-defensive Inter Milan during the 1960s, which razed Europe to the ground with two consecutive European Cups (1964 and 1965), made the Catenaccio the book that rested on the bedside table of any self-respecting Italian coach. Anyone who wanted to win had to resort to defensive football. Nereo Rocco's triumphs with Milan in the late 1960s and Giovanni Trapattoni's triumphs with Juventus in the 1980s did not invite the idea of an alternative. That was the context in which a discreet footballer who had not managed to get out of the lower ranks of Italian football decided to hang up his boots to become a coach. At just 26, Arrigo Sacchi sat on the bench for the first time. At Baracca Lugo, a team in the neighbourhood where he worked as a shoemaker. "I was 26, my goalkeeper was 39 and my striker was 32. I had to win them" It was the start of a rise to the elite with stops at Bellaria and Rimini and the youth teams of Cesena and Fiorentina. But fate awaited him at Parma, with whom he would achieve promotion to Serie B in just one season and leave him three points behind the top flight of Italian football. During that season, a 1986-1987 Italian Cup play-off would change his life forever. He would beat AC Milan by the smallest of margins, playing a game that caught the eye of the Rossoneri's top executive. It was on that night that Silvio Berlusconi was enthralled by Arrigo Sacchi. Silvio Berlusconi
had recently became the owner of Milan. After a failed attempt to take over Inter Milan, he ended up buying the Rossoneri on 20 February 1986, ready to build the best team in the world. Although Milan did not seem to be the most suitable club to do so. The golden years when Europe was painted in red and black had already long survived only in the history books. In the early 1980s, Milan was going through its most traumatic period. Former president Felice Colombo, members of his board and some players were involved in the 'Caso Totonero'
(blackjack), the illegal betting and match fixing scandal that rocked Italian football in the 1979-1980 season. As a result, Milan were administratively relegated to Serie B and began a dark period from which they could not escape. Despite the arrival of stars such as Paolo Rossi, top scorer in the 1982 World Cup in Spain, or the hiring of symbols such as Nils Liedholm to the bench, Milan did not get off the ground again. Berlusconi would become the end of Rossoneri's troubles.
He took over from Giuseppe Farina in the presidency, brought optimism to the stands, millions to the coffers and, above all, a new philosophy for the team. He set himself the goal of becoming the best club in the world by always opting for attacking football that would be attractive to fans.
To achieve this ambitious goal, he relied on the coach he had fallen in love with when he faced him in the Italian Cup. He trusted Arrigo Sacchi.
An unknown, with no past as a footballer, he was in charge of one of the most successful teams in Europe, making front-page coverage in the Italian press. The headslines that considered Berlusconi's gamble to be wrong were multiplying. They accused him of losing his mind. It was too shocking that someone who had not previously been a professional footballer should take over one of the giants of Italian football. That was the first obstacle Sacchi encountered in his promotion to the elite. It was a rare thing at the time. Ottavio Bianchi coached Napoli, Rino Marchesi coached Juventus, both of whom had a history with the Italian national team, and the illustrious Giovanni Trappatoni
, who was a European champion in Rossoneri colours, sat on the Inter Milan bench. However, Milan's fate was in the hands of a rookie who was not known for his footballing skills. Replacing a myth like Liedholm didn't make things any easier either. Sacchi defended himself as his Milan would later, knocking out the critics with a simple phrase: "I didn't know that to become a jockey, you first have to be a horse"
Despite the doubts of the surroundings, there was total confidence in Arrigo Sacchi at the club. Silvio Berlusconi gave his new manager full powers to build a team to suit him. "My work at Milan is made possible by a great club. A club that was positively impressed by what I did at Parma, that believed in a few things and followed me completely. They even threw out some players who were undoubtedly valuable, but who were not functional and others who were not professionally as I wanted them to be,"
says the Italian coach. Sacchi does not give out any names so as not to reveal the identity of these non-functional or unprofessional players, but to draw your own conclusions you need only look at the list of players who left Milan that summer in 1987. Agostino Di Bartolomei set out for Cesena despite being the player who had played the most matches the previous season. Dario Bonetti, Ray Wilkins and Mark Hateley, among others, followed the same path.
But the key of that summer was not in the departures, but in the arrivals. Sacchi marked a clear line in the transfer policy. "I believed in ideas and work,"
says the Italian coach, "and to do this I needed to have reliable people, people who were enthusiastic, generous, a culture of professionalism, perfectionists, and we looked for these kinds of people. Then, that they were functional to the technical project we had in mind and that they were complementary to each other."
It was within these parameters that Sacchi brought Walter Bianchi and Roberto Mussi with him from Parma, requested the signing of Carlo Ancelotti
and was given two top stars by Silvio Berlusconi's checkbook: Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit. The former arrived from Ajax in exchange for 1.75 million euros. For the second, 13.5 million was paid to PSV Eindhoven. Both would become the totemic symbols of their Milan. "Van Basten was the best, but Gullit was the emblem. Without being the best he was the one who helped me the most"
, Sacchi confesses. Together, they formed the basis of the team along with promising youngsters such as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Roberto Donadoni. Frank Rijkaard, the Holy Trinity's companion from the Rossoneri tulips
, was not due to arrive in Milan until the following summer.
After a summer of avoiding criticism and disdain while transmitting to some heavyweights that they should make the suitcase, Sacchi managed to build his Milan and this had its first test in official match in the Coppa d'Italia against Bari. The business card could not have been better. The Rossoneri won 5-0 with goals from Donadoni, Virdis, Van Basten, Gullit and Massaro, and that 23 August 1987 has become a holy day in the history of Milan. It was the moment when the team that changed the destiny of the entity was born. Three days later it would beat Como, then Monza, and then make its Serie A debut with a win over Pisa. Milan had become a machine, from the beginning, that was very difficult to stop. Disappointments such as the early elimination from the UEFA Cup against Espanyol and some unexpected results injected doubts in Berlusconi, who even flirted with Johan Cruyff to give him the Rossoneri bench, but negotiations with the Dutchman did not bear fruit. Sacchi held on to his position and ended up building one of the best teams in history.
ideas were the reconstruction of tactical values not only in Milan and Italian football, but also had a great impact on the world stage. His tactics marked a complete break with the style that was being imposed in Italy and, therefore, also in Europe. It was a tactical revolution and, as such, it required some sacrifice. Marat's death set fire to the French revolution and the assassination of Martin Luther King accelerated his 'dream'. For his own revolution, Arrigo Sacchi murdered the Libero
. The Libero represented the icon of the Catenaccio, the figure with which the hitherto unquestionable WM formation was overthrown to create a new style in which defensive concepts were varied. "Italy has a defensive mentality in general, not just in football. For centuries everyone was invading us. When I arrived, most of the attention was on the defensive phase. We had a libero and a line of markers. The offensive phase was left to the intelligence and common sense of the only creative element in the team, the number 10,"
he says in 'Inverting The Pyramid'.
Sacchi changed everything. He abolished the law of the sweeper to form a very forward four-man defensive line
that was perfectly synchronised to zonal marking and managing offside when necessary. Franco Baresi was in charge of the back line and marked the line over which the rest of the defence was to be deployed.
Such a forward defensive line meant that spaces were reduced, providing a key safety net for the other two lines to push the opposition's ball out of their control. Thus, if an opposing player crossed a line, he immediately crashed into the next one. "We wanted to get the ball back as quickly as possible,
" says Sacchi, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. However, every move of that pressure was totally studied. To the extent that there was a false pressure, like the striker: "Sometimes we practised a false pressure. We pretended to put pressure, but in reality we used that time to recover our strength".
That kind of defensive work was the first necessary condition for a footballing bet that depended solely and exclusively on ruling the game through possession. Without the ball there was no plan. So it was necessary to get it back as soon as possible. In a way, it was a reinvention of Rinus Michels' total football. "We had the presumption, also the hope, of knowing how to do everything. We wanted to get the ball away from our opponents quickly and when we had it, we wanted to know when to have possession or when to play a vertical game. We defended by attacking, by running forward,"
explains Sacchi, "and when we had the ball we knew when we had to play upright or, on the contrary, when to pass backwards, change sides."
As he talks about his tactical ideals, Sacchi seems to have moved into the dressing room for a moment. He looks down, forgets about the camera, the focus and even the journalist in front of him, and stands in front of an imaginary team he's coaching before a game or during a training session. He speaks without resting. Having a tactical conversation with Sacchi is the perfect metaphor for the game that Milan played on the field: he takes possession, monopolises the words and leaves hardly any space for the interlocutor to interact.
He is the unequivocal master of the dialogue and one can only shut up, listen and learn. "We trained believing that pressure was important because it allowed us to grow our self-esteem and personality and impose on others a rhythm of play they were not used to. We also tried to condition them when they had the ball. But when we had the ball we had to know how to manage it and understand if it was time to play vertically or start again with the ball, change the game or change the zone. It was a team that I think knew everything and was played by excellent performers, with a great club behind them. We had the interpreters and they were all functional. For me, they were the best players in the world, all 18 of them. I knew that wasn't the case, but I wouldn't have swapped them for anyone else,"
he concludes, before taking a breath. By way of false pressure, we intuited.
Paradoxically, that Milan that needed the ball so much to represent their football ideas on the field, often worked out without it. The ball was not a usual assistant in Milanello, training center of the Milan team. Sometimes, Arrigo Sacchi designed purely theoretical work sessions in which the players did not even need to jump onto the field. At other times, he encouraged positional play and Sacchi forced his disciples to show him where they should be on the pitch depending on where an imaginary ball was.
The coach would walk around the pitch and the players would have to correct their position with millimetric precision. His tactics revolutionised Italian football to the point where the foundations of the game were called into question. Italian teams were divided internally according to the characteristics of their players. Some had the responsibility to defend and others were in charge of attacking, being exempt from running backwards. With Sacchi, although this had already happened with Michels, both parties merged to reward the block. They all ran to get the ball back and they all represented basic pieces in the creation of attacking football. With Sacchi came the supremacy of the group over the individual in the Serie A.
Sacchi's Milan reached its peak in the European Cup. During his time on the Rossoneri bench he gave Silvio Berlusconi a Scudetto, an Italian Super Cup, two European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and, above all, two European Cups.
But, above the titles, key moments are remembered, matches in which Milan was consecrated as one of the best teams of all times. Probably one of those matches was the one that pitted them against Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the 1988-1989 European Cup.
Sacchi was facing his second season at the head of Milan. After winning Serie A, he had to export his success to Europe, where Berlusconi's most coveted ambition lay: the European Cup. After beating Bulgaria's Vitosha Sofia (2-7 on aggregate), Red Star on penalties and Werder Bremen with a solitary goal from Marco van Basten in the second leg, he would face Real Madrid in the semi-finals. Although the Merengue players barely remembered those European Cups that Di Stefano won in black-and-white television, they had brought together a generation that had been thrilling the stands: the Quinta del Buitre.
The Butragueños, Michel and company were joining international stars like Hugo Sanchez to dream again with the trophy with big ears. There was plenty of talent in Madrid and it was, along with Milan, the fashionable team in Europe. It was unquestionable that the Spanish capital smelled of the Seventh, but the first leg generated doubts. After 90 minutes, the score was a 1-1 draw, but the feeling was very different. Sacchi remembers it clearly and confesses that even Butragueño recognized to him years later that he did not know how they had obtained that draw in the Bernabéu. "Butragueño told me when I was at Real Madrid - when he was vice-president and had been a great player since he was little and therefore knew everything about Real Madrid - that he had never seen in his life, having followed football and having played it, "a team that came to the Bernabeu to do what you did. We managed to recover a draw not knowing how. You looked like twenty and we looked like ten or eleven. You attacked even Buyo"
, recounts the Italian.
The key to Milan's dominance in Madrid was once again pressure, the hallmark of Sacchi's Milan. Such was the superiority shown by the visitors that, when adding up an insufficient result, the Milan players went into a state of depression. Sacchi had to work as a psychologist to lift the spirits of his team and show them the way to seal their qualification for the European Cup final. "I remember that in the following 15 days I was telling the players: 'Remember that at certain levels, when you have to win and you don't win, you lose nine times out of ten. So either we make a masterpiece or we lose here"
. That work of motivation was the first stone to build what later has been considered the Opera Prima of Milan
. Milan has given three artistic jewels to the world: the Scala, the Duomo and the Manita to Real Madrid.
Milan came back with a 5-0 win at the San Siro, although things did not start off well. So much that as soon as the match got underway, Sacchi considered removing his main star Marco van Basten from the field. "When they came here, Madrid started well, we didn't start so well; van Basten was static, so much so that I immediately got a striker warming up. I remember Ramaccioni saying to me: 'Arrigo, calm down a bit',"
said Sacchi. Then came the stroke of genius. All it took was a tactical move and the game changed in favour of the Rossoneri. Carlo Ancelotti was the embodiment of the strategy. To find the origin, you have to go back a few days before the meeting. "Carlo unlocked everything,"
analyses Sacchi, "and that's how I see football. On Tuesday, Evani had been injured in a clash with Albertini; because we trained on Tuesday as if it was already the match, with that strength. I had many solutions to replace him: to put Donadoni as a winger, who although many journalists put him there, we didn't use as a winger. We used him as a midfielder, the fourth central player, because if he ended up on the right or left wing, he bothered the wings, which were Evani and Colombo. Or putting Virdis in attack with Van Basten and Gullit as a midfielder in Donadoni's place, but Gullit didn't guarantee me on a tactical level what Donadoni guaranteed me... In the end I played the player least likely to replace Evani, who was Ancelotti, but he was the most available and gave me his 100%."
The gamble proved to be perfect: "The prize was that the first goal was scored by Ancelotti. And then he played the final in that position too. What did the Steaua coach do? He put Hagi in that area, but he didn't know that we never had a marker, we had two or three, because our team was, in that way, compact, short in that period of time compared to the others, but we were always going to mark with two or three men. And this happened against Real Madrid, where we had a numerical superiority in the pressure on the ball." Sacchi believes that the basis of the victory over Real Madrid was, as it was throughout his career, the importance of the team over the individuals. "They had players with great technique, probably better than us, but we were a great team. They had a group, but less of a team than we did. And in football the collective achieves more than the individual. You have to know this,"
says the Italian. That victory marks the definitive explosion of Milan, who went on to become the dominant force in European football.
After that, they won the Intercontinental Cup
against Nacional de Medellin and went on to reach the footballing heavens. However, that match also represented the change in the way teams faced Milan. The Colombians were the first daring ones who forced Arrigo's thoughts to change. "With Nacional of Medellin they were the ones who made things difficult for us because for the first time we were up against a team that attacked us a lot. Then, of hunters we became hunted. It took us tranquility, security. This requires patience, which is a virtue I have not always had, but at that time I had it. I remember that at half-time Van Basten said to me: 'We are not well, we are not in shape, we have to have patience'. It wasn't a pretty game, but I was amazed at how many people said it was bad. Those people never understood that Milan were playing great football. I have to say that it was a game similar to reading a Kafka book: heavy, difficult,"
says Sacchi for El Enganche about that 1-0 win for Evani in the last minute of extra time, which represented the club's second Intercontinental and the first one to be shown in his living room. Milan, however, were already a despotic side who had challenged the previously dominant footballing laws and turned them to their advantage.
Despite the successes achieved with his Milan, Arrigo Sacchi was not lacking detractors. His style was so far removed from Italian traditions that some were unable to digest the change. "Even now it is said that when Milan played well it was because they had good players and when they played badly it was because Sacchi was there,"
joked the Italian coach, seeking complicity. Gianni Brera, the legendary Italian sports journalist, was one of his fiercest critics. Brera, an exquisite connoisseur of football and tactics, professed admiration for a doctrine that was antithetical to that represented by Sacchi's Milan. His attacks on the ideas of the revolutionary coach were commonplace in the Gazzetta dello Sport. Although Arrigo was intelligent to take advantage of these criticisms and reverse them in his favour. Before the 1989 European Cup final against Steaua Bucharest, he used an article by Brera to motivate his players. "I remember before the final with Steaua, that the greatest Italian sports critic, the poor Brera, an excellent writer, very good indeed, but with footballing ideas very distant from ours, said: 'Milan will play against the champions of dancing football, against the champions of possession of the ball, they will have to wait for it, defend it and go on the counterattack'. On Tuesday before the match the best Italian sports journalist wrote this and I read it because I needed to know his convictions. You cannot say 'do it because I say so'. According to him, we had to use that strategy. Gullit stood up and said 'we'll attack them from the first second until we have the forces. Okay, everybody? And we did."
However, Sacchi's most surprising enemy was not Brera, but was hiding in his own dressing room: Marco van Basten.
Known to all, the relationship between the two was not good. So much so that the Dutchman often questioned him in front of the group.
Sometimes he found it hard to see the logic in his coach's approach, and so he let him know. "Van Basten asked me why the others were winning and why we had to win and convince them. He also told me that we worked too hard and didn't have any fun. I always told him: 'You're a clever boy and you have to have fun in a different way. We're here to make sure the audience has a good time. He never understood that you can't get a lot without giving a lot. Van Basten has been an extraordinary player for me, not easy to manage, but extraordinary,"
says Sacchi. Years after their paths diverged, Sacchi and van Basten crossed paths again and the Dutchman acknowledged his mistakes: "When World Soccer recognised not too long ago that Milan had been the best team of all time, from when football existed, I said to him: 'Did you understand why we had to win and convince? And he said: 'I understood. And I understood something else too. Now I am a coach and I understand how many problems I created for you"
. And I said to him: "If I can console you, I didn't solve many of them."
Nevertheless, Sacchi admits that he wouldn't have swapped van Basten for any other player, either of the time or of the present. "When they tell me 'between Ronaldo and van Basten who would you have signed,' I have no doubt: van Basten. But not because van Basten was more talented than Ronaldo, but because he was more functional in terms of our style of football and was a professional who gave more guarantees than Ronaldo, who was an unimaginable talent."
While the estrangement with Marco van Basten was evident, Sacchi had a close relationship with another Dutchman in the team: Ruud Gullit. He was his main support in the dressing room and the player through whom he injected his philosophy to the rest of the players. "Gullit was considered the emblem, for me he was a phenomenal player and an extraordinary person; probably the one who helped me the most without being the best, because the best was van Basten, but he had personality while van Basten hid himself, he was discontinuous. Gullit helped me a lot in making Italian players who always ran backwards run forward. He was the most convinced of this,"
he says. Sacchi changed the philosophy of Italian football, but Gullit transformed the philosophy of the Milan dressing room. The combination of the two Italian players made Rinus Michels' total football a success, building a Milan that would go down in history.
After winning everything with Milan, he took over the reins of the Italian national team
with whom he was second in the 1994 World Cup. He then went through an erratic career with a brief return to Milan and a few stints with Atletico Madrid and Parma before making the jump to the offices. With the perspective of his entire career, it's time to ask the same question as at the start: what was Italian football like before Sacchi? How have things changed since his revolution? Sacchi himself answers: "There has clearly been some change, but it is not linked to globalisation. Capello said it: 'We've rediscovered the Libero'. Most teams play with a fixed sweeper in the back." With Sacchi, Italian football learned that everyone must defend and attack as one, as a whole, without the previous attack-defence division. But it has forgotten everything else, and that takes its toll in Europe: "More and more we are getting slapped around and then we say: 'Why don't we spend? Why don't we use more start-up money? Then it happens that Borussia Dortmund reach the final and spend less than most of the big Italian teams or that Atletico Madrid reach the final of Champions and spend less. Our clubs are full of foreigners, full of fear, full of an eminently defensive football, playing with a sweeper. Then the result when they play at international level, where they find themselves with one less player in midfield or in attack, with the rival having players of level and leaving the ball and the initiative to them... well, they put you in difficulties". "Also because outside the country, in general, they're much better at attacking than defending. So, if you want to put them in trouble, you have to attack them, not stop their attack. But all this requires work, organization, time, planning, programming and less improvised teams, teams that make some sense. What does a sense mean? Putting each value in its place. Since we are talking about a team sport, let's start with what unites the team: the game. What is the game about? From ideas and work. And without ideas and work, you don't have the game. If you don't have the game you rely only on individuals, and no individuality will ever have the power of a team. In some teams, this tendency to improvise - which we call fantasy - causes total disorganisation, with the consequence of losing the team,"
he adds to close a precise X-ray of the ills that Italian football is suffering from. Three decades after the birth of Sacchi's Milan, Italy has forgotten everything it has learned. There is no trace of the game with high pressure, offside is just another resource and even the sweeper, whose assassination triggered everything, has come back to life. Sacchi is a revolutionary without revolution. No one has been able to pick up on his witness. Italy has forgotten him, but football hasn't. Football just cannot forget the creator of one of the best teams in its history. by Massimo Callegari & Francisco Orti for El Enganche.es (2016).
When you place a lay bet on a horse, you’re betting that the horse won’t win an event. If any other horse wins, your bet wins. If any other horse wins, your bet wins. Often it can be profitable to lay the favourite for a race – the odds will offer the best value and you have a greater statistical chance of winning a lay bet than a back bet. Lay betting is a kind of bet where you bet on the horse (or team) not to win. With a regular bet (also known as a back bet) you bet on the horse(or team) to win. Since a horse race usually contains 6-8 horses and jockeys, its almost impossible to cover all the outcomes of the race by betting on all horses to win, as regular arbing with back The liability is what a lay bet loses if the back bet side actually wins, so in this England example the liability was £20. How Back and Lay Betting Work Together. I created this infographic to hopefully illustrate how the back and lay betting works. I use the example of a punter going to bookmakers to make a £10 bet on England. figure 5: this is how your screen looks at Betfair after placing a lay bet. We hope that this brief introduction into “back”- and “lay”-bets at betting exchanges helped you to understand this complex topic. As you can see, there are more betting strategies than just the common bet against the book-maker. If you lay them for £25 you are guaranteed a total profit of £14.25 win, lose or draw at the end of the match. A simpler form of betting which involves both back and lay bets is matched betting. As the name suggests, matched betting is where you match back and lay bets. It’s a great way to make guaranteed profits.