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We all know Kuxir97 as an all time Rocket League great, but what about the 96 Kuxirs who came before him?
I have taken the challenge on to find out as much information as I can about the 96 Kuxirs who had to be sacrificed for our Rocket League legend to emerge. Here's what I found out: Kuxir1: Professional sailor Kuxir2: Died in a fire Kuxir3: Works in knitting Kuxir4: Fan of Bolivian architecture Kuxir5: Admires the moon Kuxir6: Likes dogs, but not much Kuxir7: Pokemon Go player Kuxir8: Avid Johnny Depp fan Kuxir9: Caveman Kuxir10: Leader of an alien nation Kuxir11: Boomer Kuxir12: Likes porridge Kuxir13: Invented the handbag Kuxir14: His favourite card is the 3 of Hearts Kuxir15: McDonalds employee Kuxir16: Only writes in black ink Kuxir17: Steve Jobs Kuxir18: Thinks things were better in the old days Kuxir19: Hates crumpets Kuxir20: Plays Minesweeper unironically Kuxir21: Has a wart on his left foot Kuxir22: Has a wart on his right foot Kuxir23: Always bets on black Kuxir24: Programmer who only knows Scratch Kuxir25: World Volleyball Champion Kuxir26: Passed his driving test when he was 4 years old Kuxir27: Inventor of the headstand Kuxir28: Martian Kuxir29: Onesie lover Kuxir30: Believes in freedom of speech Kuxir31: Born in a month that doesn't exist Kuxir32: Has visited all Canadian shopping malls Kuxir33: David Attenborough Kuxir34: Reads minds for a living Kuxir35: Only buys pink umbrellas Kuxir36: Maker of the ladders they use in wrestling matches Kuxir37: King of Nepal Kuxir38: Has false teeth Kuxir39: Has never used contactless payment Kuxir40: Marketing expert Kuxir41: Once drank 18 pints of lager in one day Kuxir42: Painter Kuxir43: Rhett from Rhett and Link Kuxir44: Has a desk shaped like a smiley face Kuxir45: Learned to read before he was even born Kuxir46: Always carries his lucky sausage Kuxir47: Once turned up to the wrong funeral by mistake Kuxir48: Cried whilst watching The Lion King Kuxir49: Cabbage farmer Kuxir50: James May Kuxir51: Buys FIFA every year but never plays it Kuxir52: Leader of the free world Kuxir53: Collects taxes Kuxir54: Once caught Mewtwo in a regular Pokeball Kuxir55: Attends every NASCAR race Kuxir56: Mathematics wizard Kuxir57: Actual wizard Kuxir58: Allergic to potatoes Kuxir59: Makes educational videos on Vimeo Kuxir60: The Angry Video Game Nerd Kuxir61: Always uses Google Sheets rather than Excel Kuxir62: Believes the Earth is flat Kuxir63: Wears glasses that are too big for him Kuxir64: Likes numbers that are powers of two Kuxir65: Once dated himself for a week Kuxir66: Bought WinRAR Kuxir67: Weeb Kuxir68: Pretends to be Irish Kuxir69: Likes to describe things as "Nice." Kuxir70: Former Tinder user Kuxir71: Barack Obama Kuxir72: Has a virus on his computer Kuxir73: Has the world's longest toenails Kuxir74: Can't fall asleep unless it's 4:30AM Kuxir75: Invented the loading bar Kuxir76: Greek philosopher Kuxir77: Tried abseiling once Kuxir78: Applied for work experience at Fox News Kuxir79: Owns 18 fedoras Kuxir80: Believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster Kuxir81: John Cena Kuxir82: Inventor of the Nintendo 2DS Kuxir83: Hates printers Kuxir84: Writes app reviews for a living Kuxir85: Used to be pretty good at tennis Kuxir86: Hasn't got a tongue Kuxir87: Has a tattoo of his own face, on his face Kuxir88: Bingo player Kuxir89: Robbie Williams Kuxir90: Has 6 toes on one foot Kuxir91: Has never visited Australia Kuxir92: Can't remember his own phone number Kuxir93: Hasn't showered since 2009 Kuxir94: Competes in cup stacking Kuxir95: Specialises in carrot soup Kuxir96: Never failed a French test Kuxir97: Former Rocket League World Champion
A look at the harem of Jabba the Hutt-from the eyes of many of its inhabitants. Mefora Arless Her eyes straining from the transition out of the blaze of her homeworld's sun into the darkened room, Mefora struggled to see even a foot in front of her. A loud clang, followed by the beep of a lockpad, told her that she was sealed inside the cell. The floor beneath her bare feet (she had lost her shoes when the mansion was raided) felt smooth and cool. A scent of flowers, fruit, and something she could not quite place filled the warm air, and a whirring (if invisible) fan sent tendrils of it washing over her, the scent swirling around her and enticing her forward. Stumbling blindly ahead, she made solid contact with a wall, made not of stone but of some thick, draped cloth. Following the lines of the drapery, her hand ran over a switch, and she froze. A voice hailed her from the darkness. “Go ahead, press it. We could all use a little light, you know." It was a friendly voice, with a hint of mischief about it. Still, there didn't seem to be anything wrong with turning on the lights. She took a deep breath and flicked the switch upwards. Mercifully, the lights did not snap on all at once-her retinas would have disintegrated from strain. A series of glow panels slowly lit up, and then some sky-lights opened, showing her a scene that she wouldn't believe existed even in the luxuries of her plush mansion, let alone on this city-world. What she had thought a cell was actually a massive room, with a floor of white marble, only the edge of which was visible under the thick rugs that lay on it. Piles of cushions were scattered about, and low, broad silk couches lined the walls and edged the ten large pools that were cut into the floor. A light steam rose from them and rolled along the floor, swirling around any solids it encountered. the walls, as she had discovered, were made of a thick, soft fabric, which hung in billows from golden cords and marble pillars, or else long silver rods between the columns. Bowls of exotic fruits and wine stood on holders throughout the place, and the exotic scent was revealed to be from the many braziers that puffed sedately from discreet alcoves. Trays of perfumes or makeup lay next to each couch, apparently at the disposal of their occupants-and it was the occupants that drew her attention the most. Fully two dozen extremely pretty girls lounged on the rooms luxurious furnishings, or in the pools, or even on the thick carpeting. To a one, they seemed at once expectant, but also entirely at ease-one had not even stopped shaving. Most were sipping sedately at goblets of fine gold or crystal. One couch in particular drew her eye. A sea of billowy blue silk, the four girls on it somehow seemed superior to the rest, and even while she waited one got up and walked gracefully over. She was extremely beautiful, with rich brown hair and a perfectly sized chest. "Welcome," the girl intoned, a grin threatening to break through to her face, "to our world." A flick of a wrist summoned one of her couchmates. "Jess, show her around and prepare her, please. The rest of you," she admonished, a smile now well in evidence, "Quit staring, its rude." The girl named Jess replied, "Of course, Your Highness," and bowed deeply. 'Her Highness' patted Jess on the back as she left, sliding down into the pool nearest her couch. she had not even bothered to undress-then again, Mefora realized, she didn't have to. Save for the collar necklace she wore about her neck, she had nothing to take off. A look around showed this to be the case with much of the room-except for the collars (apparently a popular decoration) few wore anything at all, none anything substantial. A tug snapped her back to herself. Jess (herself dressed in little more than a panty) drew her away to a door behind some of the curtain walls. "C'mon, you need a makeover," Jess told Mefora. "You mean I'm going to have to dress like that?" she asked incredulously. "You call this dressed?" giggled Jess. "That's my point. Do I have to?" Jess sighed. It was like this with every new girl. "You'll get used to it." Mefora shrugged. After all, everyone else had. Going through the door, they walked down a short tunnel and found themselves in a small, well appointed greenroom. A shower stall of fine crystal and gold trimming stood in one corner, and most of the remainder of the space was filled with an ordinary looking makeup counter. Mefora was struck by how unused everything looked. "It's everlasting," Jess explained patiently, when Mefora commented on this. "The stuff never comes off, and so we never use it, except for new girls. That other bunch in the main room is just for fun." With a quick, skilled hand, she began to apply it. As she finished, Mefora snuck a peek at the mirror and gasped-the girl there looked nothing like the Morwillian noblewoman that had entered the harem. That girl was an Empress, a queen, and, somehow, a whore. Her dirty blond hair was now the color of auburn, her cheeks slightly flushed, her lips a deep, sensuous cherry color that perfectly matched her nails. "Now for this," said Jess, as she gently pinched Mefora on the shoulder. "Into the shower, girl." She laughed playfully. Still unsure of herself, Mefora undressed (Jess covered her eyes) and got in, turning on a flood of warm water and rose petal scent. Jess gave her a minute, and then called through the door, "Ok, olive will be fine." "What?" asked Mefora "Here, I'll show you." With that, she opened the door and climbed in. "Hey!" exclaimed Mefora, startled. "What're you in here for?" "It'll just be a minute," Jess promised. Turning off the water, she began to work a measure of liquid from a pink bottle over Mefora's skin-all of her skin. Mefora couldn't help but balk as Jess' hands slid along and around her breasts. "Is that necessary?" she asked, as Jess finished her bosom and began to work down towards her abdomen. The older girl was quite focused on her task, and seemed to be taking a great deal of care to make sure that she got the dye to cover Mefora's entire person. Her answer was a bit more clipped than usual. "Yes. And, by the way, if you could give me a hand-" she indicated the bottle-"this would be a lot faster." "Is it really that important?" "You bet. It would look terrible if we were all different colors, right? The High Exalted One needs to look good in every way-and that means that we need to look good. C'mon, hurry up." At Jess' urgings, Mefora took a little of the stuff and gingerly began to rub it onto the folds around her entrance. Jess herself had moved on to her back, and the sense of her finger tips sent goosebumps rippling down Meforah's spine time and again. She noticed and paused, whispering in Mefora's ear, "Hey! Loosen up, girl! It'll only be a minute more." Meforah could swear that she felt Jess kiss her as she said that. It wouldn't have been out of place. After the last of the dye was applied to the space between her toes, Jess helped Mefora out of the shower. Both girls' clothes had been whisked away, as had the makeup, leaving the mirror sitting alone on the washstand. Jess pointed her to it and flicked on the bulbs that surrounded the glass. Mefora gasped. Her skin, formerly pale from the weak, cold sun of her home planet, had deepened to a rich olive tone, complimenting the auburn mane that had somehow appeared out of her former brown locks. Cherry-red lips, dark eye-liner, and just a touch of blush completed the ensemble, all making for a girl that any Princeling would be ready to kill for. There was one thing missing, though. "Jess, what am I going to have to wear?" she asked. Despite the manner that they had conducted themselves with in the shower, Mefora liked her modesty, and the thought of wearing what some of those girls had been was more than a little sickening. Jess just laughed. "Here you go," she giggled, and pulled out a panel from the wall. It was hung with a number of different costumes, none of them remotely solid. Jess moved around to the other side of the rack and began to flick through them. Before long, she had made her decision. "This one," she muttered with conviction, and brought it over. It was a rich turquoise, and had been fashioned to look like seaweed, with curling tendrils that flashed with silver highlights when it moved. "Just in from Mon Calamari. It's supposed to be form fitting." said Jess as she pushed the shapeless mass into Mefora’s arms. Surprisingly, it felt not like seaweed but like smooth, light cloth. Mefora looked at it in surprise. "It feels a bit-" she broke off. The strands had come to life, and now twisted themselves around her, forming a comfortable and very revealing one-piece costume. She noted with relief that they had thought to cover her breasts (sort of) and the small triangle between her legs (less so). While this was happening, Jess had snapped open a drawer in the washstand and pulled out a pair of small, emerald-set earrings, a sheaf of gold thread, and an anklet. The jewelry, Jess explained would not come off until it was told, and the costume would work in the same way. "And those are for?" Mefora asked. The thread still sat on top of the washstand, untouched. "Oh, right," cried Jess. "I forgot. Her Highness would have been furious." Pulling the threads loose a few at a time, she began to weave them into Mefora's hair, skilled fingers flitting back and forth. In a few minutes, the thread was gone. "Right, now that'll be permanent, just like this," Jess said, holding up a metal collar. To Mefora's horror, it was irremovably affixed around her neck. "Jess, do I really need to wear that?" Mefora asked. Jess smiled. "Of course, it's the most important part! Don't worry, you'll soon treasure it," Jess answered. At least it seemed comfortable, and it's silver color matched her outfit. Jess beckoned her out of the makeup room. "Come on, I'll show you around." she invited. Moving self-consciously, Mefora went with her. This time, they did not re-enter the harem, but instead took a lift up to a floor that seemed to be entirely made of luxury bedrooms, each one seeming a mini-harem of it's own. Jess kept up a running commentary. "These are the private rooms, of course, for the important or experienced slaves. You may notice the name plates on the doors." Looking around, Mefora noticed seven bedrooms. Three on each side, and one at the end of the hall. That one had a golden name plate with Amanda engraved on it. One of the others had Jess. "Now, if we go down one floor-" they did-"we find the 'night rooms'. Part of our job is to chat up the people in court, and this is where we sleep if we are successful." "You mean that-" Mefora spluttered, horrified. "Yes. Get used to it-you really don't want to be the least bedded when inspection time comes." They entered the lift again. It stopped on a floor with dozens of closed, though probably comfortable, bed rooms. "These are where we sleep when we are not successful." The lift went down again. "We don't really have enough rooms for everyone, so either double up or sleep in-" Jess stepped out of the lift and flung the door at the end of the hall open. "-here!" They were back in the harem. Stepping out of the lift and opening the door, a chorus of cheering and congratulations greeted their arrival. "Good one, Jess!" "You've still got it!" "Her Highness will be astounded-forget The High Exalted One!" One girl in a pink and purple costume strode over and threw her arms about Jess. "It's beautiful!" she exclaimed, and kissed Jess full on the mouth. Jess responded with equal passion. Mefora goggled for a moment, and ten slipped away from the small crowd to wander among the harem's luxuries. Finding an unoccupied corner of a pool, she slid in, a sigh of pleasure escaping her as the heated water enveloped her with a cloud of honey scent. Reaching behind her, she pulled a large globular fruit from a bowl and began to peel it. the Rind came away in a cloud of lemon-scented musk. "Wise decision," said someone. Mefora looked up to see a lithe blueish Twi'lek behind her, sliding out of the nets that made up her costume. She cast them aside and dropped naked into the pool beside Mefora, twitching her lekku with enjoyment. A small tinkling filled the air-the lekku-tips had been pierced and hung with small bells. The human girl tugged away the last chunk of rind, pulling out the seed-pod with it and spraying a fine mist of juice into the air. Carefully separating a chunk of it, she popped it into her mouth, relishing in the explosion of sweetness on her tongue. "You'll need some relaxation. Everyone does after her intro." The Twi'lek stretched out on the bench beside her, modelling bare, sensual curves to the fullest extent. One taloned hand dipped into the water and came up holding something. "Yours?" "Oh, NO!" cried Mefora, dropping the fruit by the side of the pool. the limp mass in the alien's hand was her costume, now ruined. She grabbed it away, horrified-for no reason, as it turned out. The minute it touched her, the strands flew to life, wrapping about her limbs as if they had never come off. To make sure, she tugged on one. It unraveled, and the whole lot was set by the poolside. Reclaiming her snack, Mefora turned to the Twi'lek. "What were you saying?" "Everyone needs to settle in a bit. I only got here a few weeks ago myself, but it's not hard to get used to if you go with the flow," She pulled a handful of grapes from the bowl. "So, did they tell you about the games yet?" "What games?" "Oh, we have some friendly competitions now and then." She put an emphasis on the word friendly that made Mefora slightly suspicious, but she didn't say anything, just popped down the rest of the fruit. "By the way, I'm Yifa'toar. You?" The Twi'lek broke off, looking inquiringly at Mefora. "Mefora Arless. So-what goes on around here?" she asked. Yifa's answer was cut short by an explosion of cheering at the other end of the pool. "Come on," she said, "Race you there." The two girls took off, and swam rapidly to the far edge. A sort of contest had broken out amongst a dozen or so of the girls. standing around one of the couches, a massive scarlet one, two girls at a time would pull each other down onto it and try to keep a liplock for as long as possible without coming up for air. Yifa and Mefora looked on in growing fascination as they watched some pairs go for nearly a minute wrapped up in each other. Mefora was shocked at how easily the girls here kissed other females, and with how much passion they did so with-thoughts that were unpleasantly interrupted by a strange sensation that suddenly flowed up her body. She wanted to do it too. With a start, she realized that Yifa had looped a braintail around her shoulders and was slowly rubbing her thigh. By way of response, she slid a hand along the Twi'leks back, a row of goosebumps exploding in its wake. Yifa turned and gave her a look that set off a storm inside Mefora's stomach, and before she knew it they had clambered out of the pool to join those milling about near the couch. In short order, the two of them were standing right at the edge of the 'playing area', and cheering with everyone else. A hand pressed into the small of her back, and Yifa whispered to her, "Come on, it's our turn!" They collapsed into the silken dunes, hugging each other tightly. Mefora pulled a sheet away from her face-and Yifa lunged forward from behind it. Their lips met, and she lost the ability to think of anything but the full form of the Twi'lek pressing into her stomach. sliding her tongue out, she met Yifa's halfway, the two doing a slow, delightful dance. It was an age before she remembered to breathe, and they broke apart, rolling off to the ecstatic squeals of the onlookers. Mefora, however, heard nothing but the thudding of her own heart. That was far too enjoyable for what it was. "That was amazing!" "A minute and a half!" "Best time all day!" "We won!" Yifa told her. "I shouldn't have liked that. I've never liked that. But I did. Why?" Mefora asked. Yifa grabbed her hand. "Come, I'll explain to you about your new life," she said. In one of the empty rooms upstairs, the two girls settled into a hot tub and Yifa started to talk. It was the same speech she herself had received upon her "initiation". "In this place, we don't conform to traditional standards. This is a life concerned with pleasure, the High Exalted One's first, ours next. It doesn’t matter what we do-as long as someone enjoys it," she paused, "Thusly, you will instinctively enjoy whatever you do, whether or not you think you should. Its complicated but, well, you'll learn." "I hope I do soon," grumbled Mefora, "That felt too weird." "Well, then.." said Yifa, and suddenly caught her up in a hug, pressing them hard together. Her hands slid along Mefora's back, and the costume dropped away, joining the Twi'lek's on the bottom of the pool. Their lips met, and then Mefora slid a hand downward along Yifa's stomach, feeling her full form. Yifa clamped one hand across the back of Mefora's head, the other across her backside, and they both dissolved in bliss. After an hour of amazing pleasure, Mefora and Yifa finally relaxed. Mefora, however, still had some questions. "Look, Yifa, no one's really told me what my purpose is here. I don't know where I am, I don't know how long I'll be here, and I don't know who this High Exalted One is." Yifa stared at her. "How do you not know who your new master is? Didn't you see the massive palace on your way in? How many people do you think it could be?" "I don't know. I'm a Morwillian noblewoman who's only told about what happens on my planet. I don't know what goes on elsewhere, though there are some strange rumors of late." "And what are these rumors?" Yifa asked. Mefora shrugged. "Just that the Empire has fallen and a new one has taken its place, nothing credible really," she said. Yifa leaned in. "And who rules this Empire?" Yifa questioned. "I don't know, my homeworld is very isolationist, but the rumors say he controls most of the galaxy, and that he's legally restarted the practice of slavery," Mefora answered. Yifa grinned. "Yes he has. We're living proof of it!" Mefora paled. "Jess said that, but I didn't want to believe it. Why? What did I do wrong?" she asked. Yifa shook her head. "It's not what you did wrong, it's what you did right. Your new master has judged you of high enough beauty and character to be his slave girl," she explained. "So who is your master?" Mefora asked impatiently. Yifa grinned. "Our master is the emperor himself, the ruler of the galaxy," she revealed. Mefora was stunned. "Why would someone like that be interested in me? For that matter, how did I even end up here?" Mefora cried. "You were probably captured during the scouting of your homeworld. It wasn't part of the last empire, so our master hasn't taken it yet. As for why he's interested in you, well.." Yifa said, stroking Mefora's breasts, "That should be obvious." Mefora didn't know how to react. She had never liked her planet or her family, but she doubted her new occupation would be better. She sighed, "So, Yifa, what is your..." Yifa shook her head.... "Our master like. What kind of man is he?" Mefora asked. "Well, Mefora, our master isn't a man, or a human, for that matter," Yifa said. Mefora was relieved. "So that means I won't have to spend the night with him," she breathed, but Yifa immediately contradicted her. "No, you will still have to pleasure him," she explained. Melina paled. "What species is he?" she asked, nervous. "Mefora, our master is...." Yifa didn't finish. "Who?" Mefora begged impatiently. "I can't say his name. I'm not worthy," Yifa said. "Just say it!" Mefora yelled. "Well, it is for the good of The High Exalted One, I guess I can spell it," Yifa offered. "J-A-B-B-A," Yifa began, saying one letter at a time, "T-H-E H-U-T-T," she finished. "What! I'm enslaved to a Hutt?" Mefora cried. "Well, obviously, as they're the only ones who can have slaves in the new galactic order," Yifa explained. "Listen Yifa, I'm an aristocrat, not a slave. Jabba can't just take me like this. Surely someone on my planet will come looking for me," Mefora protested. Yifa shook her head. "No, in fact, he's allowed to take any girl he wants, regardless of her status. As for someone coming for you, I doubt it. Your planet has been untouched so far, but I bet it's being captured right now," at Mefora's look of horror, Yifa quickly added, "But few innocents die during the Hutt invasions. Our mater just wants the entire galaxy to experience the prosperity his empire brings." "No! Yifa, I've seen a Hutt before when one visited my planet, they're the most vile things in the galaxy! I can't be enslaved by one!" Mefora protested. Yifa shook her head again. "Well, you are. Trust me, acceptance is always the first step in realizing your place." Mefora stared, this girl was nuts. "My..my place. What the hell are you talking about!" she demanded. "Well, what you will be for the rest of your life. You see...you are now a pleasure slave to The High Exalted One, who will serve him in any way he desires. You belong to The High Exalted One now," Yifa explained. Mefora could not accept this. "No, I will not stay here! Why did this happen to me? All I've done is good throughout my life and now I'm a slave to a disgusting Hutt. Why?" she begged. "No, Mefora. You've got this all wrong, you're a lucky girl. I know it's hard to believe, but being a slave here is an incredible experience. You've seen the harem, you know how well we are treated here," Yifa began, but Mefora interrupted her, "Yes, I believe that, though I don't know why. But Jabba is still a Hutt, a disgusting, evil, Hutt!" she said. "No, Mefora. You look upon our master as something to be reviled, but you couldn't be more wrong. Being a Hutt doesn't make him evil, it makes him a superior being. Hutts are far superior to any other species, and our master is the greatest of them all. You should be honored to serve him. He treats us very kindly, and in return we give him our loyalty," Yifa explained. Mefora started to protest, but Yifa cut her off. "I know what you're thinking, but pleasuring him isn't something to dread. after one night with him, you'll be praying every night that you are offered the chance to serve him alongside our Queen." When Mefora did not respond, Yifa continued, "I know it's hard to accept, but you'll enjoy this life. You've seen our amazing harem, you know how happy your sisters are. There are no drawbacks to this life!" Mefora finally replied, "Yes there is. Even if Jabba, the harem, and sex here are as wonderful as you say, there is still the loss of freedom, the loss to do as you please," Mefora countered. Yifa laughed. It wasn't a cold, sadistic laugh, but a sweet, amused laugh. "The thing about freedom? No one here misses it. Neither will you. You know the big harem door, that leads to the rest of the palace?" Yifa questioned. Mefora nodded. "Well, it's not locked. You know why? Because no one here wants to leave. There are twenty five girls here, and none of them prefer freedom to this. How can you refute that. You have been given the chance to be one of us and live a happy, care-free life. Embrace it!" Mefora considered this. Two dozen girls lived here, and all of them were happy. was it really possible? To give up her stressful life as am aristocrat and embrace a life of pleasure. Could she really become a slave. A happy, willing, slave; and enter a life of pleasure? If what Yifa said was true, it seemed to be an attractive way of living. Yifa seemed to read her mind. "Yes. Join us. Accept your master's protection from a cold, hard galaxy. You know this is where you belong," Yifa said. Yifa began to lean forward. Her eyes were closed and her lips were pursed for a kiss. Mefora knew that, somehow, accepting that kiss would seal the deal. She would be accepting her life as a slave and embracing her passions, which had been repressed for twenty-two years during her life as an aristocrat. Time seem to slow as Mefora pursed her own lips and began to lean forward as well. How she wanted that kiss! Wanted to release her passions! They were interrupted by the door being pushed open. An entirely naked girl strode in, and beckoned them out of the pool. "Come on down, and quick. We are having a meeting," she said, then spun on her heel and strode out. Yifa scowled, but led Mefora out of the room and into the lift. She pushed the '1' button and the lift went down. As they came out of the lift, they were quickly drawn into a conference. The girl in the pick and purple costume who had kissed Jess earlier was addressing all the other girls. "Her Highness’s birthday is tomorrow, so we need to think of something to celebr-" and the wall disappeared. Mefora never saw what happened next; a bolt of blue energy surrounded her and drew her towards the hole. The wall had not really disappeared though, as much as was vaporized. A single starship hovered in its place, sucking the new girl in like a snack. As she disappeared inside, a man slowly strode out of it and leapt the two feet to the floor. He was wearing a suit of armor, like none of them had seen, and spoke in a low growl. "Tell your master he owes me something," he ordered, and returned to his ship. The thing's engines glowed, and it streaked up and away. One girl spoke. "Boba Fett!," she sounded shocked, and, as Yifa turned to her, fainted. Yifa'toar It had been three days since the disastrous strike on the harem. While the wall had been rebuilt and the general spirit of things restored, the slaves had been seeing more and more problems around the palace. One of the pools had simply evaporated one night, leaving an empty hollow in the floor. The water had been replaced, but it was still unnerving. The delivery of fresh fruits had been late. The court itself was uneasy, as if danger lurked everywhere. Of course, the biggest clue was the harem queen herself: she had come sobbing into the room one afternoon, long before the High Exalted One normally released her, and was finally convinced to tell the rest what had happened. In short, distraught bursts, she had revealed that the High Exalted One had forbade her to pleasure him, for fear of injuring her out of anger. The reactions amongst the girls had varied. Some sat as if expecting to be shot at any moment. Others went about with a forced air of cheer. Still others, such as Yifa, were simply too shocked to do much. Lying in one of the harem pools, she simply kept seeing the scene over and over, watching her friend disappear in a beam of blue light. So entranced was she by the memory that she didn't even notice her queen coming before she called out, "Girls! Listen up!" Looking around, she spotted Leia, who seemed quite happy about something. As her subjects gathered around her, she began to explain. "I have just been with the High Exalted One," she said, with obvious delight, "And he has asked us to help catch the usurper that attacked us and took one of our sisters. We are to spread word of much reward amongst the court and listen for any rumors we may, in addition to our duties. Are there any questions?" No one raised their hand, and after a minute, the queen said, "Excellent. Lets' practice, then. We want to be in top form tonight." The court reopened in grand style, with food, drinks, and spice in abundance, and some of the best routines that the girls had ever put on drawing wave after wave of applause. The musicians were likewise startling, and Jabba was quickly surrounded by many admiring courtiers. Inquiries about the closures were laughed away. Everything was fine, they were told. Yifa, though not dancing, did her best with the role she had been given. Clad in a shimmering, skin-tight layer of silvery cloth, she cozied her way around the visitors, keeping her ears open for any hint of the bounty hunter. However, her efforts were fruitless-the man had proven as elusive to the rest of the galaxy as he had to Jabba's hired army, and no one had seen him for months. This distressed Yifa greatly. She wanted her friend back. She was cozying up to a big, male Twi'lek, one of the mercenaries, when a shout of "SCILENCE!!" boomed from the throne. A tall being with six arms stepped to the center of the floor, and bowed low. "Mighty One, I have brought you the head of your enemy," it said, and unfolded one of its hands. The helmet it had been holding clattered to the floor, prompting shocked gasps from the girls. They had all seen it before. Jabba chuckled loudly, and then waved off his henchmen. "Put it there," he ordered, pointing next to the plinth that had held Han Solo. The two guards bent for the helmet-and were suddenly blown back from it. Of it's own accord, the thing rose from the floor, and began to speak in a measured tone. "Hello, partner," it began, filling the title with scorn. "You still owe me. The harem was only the beginning. If I do not receive payment, more will follow. For instance..." a light on the visor flashed. Below the floor, the rancor's gate slid open and the beast fell out, sporting a massive black eye and clearly stunned. "And one more thing-if this had been a thermal detonator, you would be-" and at that point, one of the guards recovered enough to blast the thing out of the air. The entire world of the harem had been thrown into disarray. The girls had been told to avoid the main floor, the queen had adopted a distant, uninterested air toward everything, and the whole place seemed far too tense to be good. As such the day of the canyon races, unenclosed, massive pod races, couldn't seem to come soon enough. Beginning on the fiftieth level of the palace, racers would maneuver the twenty-kilometer course through the city’s mountains and valleys of Nal Hutta at breathtaking speeds, drawing thousands of spectators, millions of credits in bets, and the very finest the racing world had to offer. Naturally, of course, Jabba would preside over all of this, and so his entire retinue of slaves accompanied him to the palace balcony when the day came. The girls had worked out a new routine to be performed before the races, and every slave was excited for the spectacular event. Walking toward the balcony, Yifa guessed what this was all about. Their dance would be a statement to the rest of the galaxy: We are enslaved by Jabba and love it. We are happy to serve him. He is an excellent master and an excellent emperor. Yifa didn't care though. What was the harm in sending an underlying statement if it was completely true? As they emerged onto the platform, a quarter of a kilometer around, a roar of cheering greeted them. This was good. It signaled that the galaxy was beginning to accept the Hutt practice of owning slaves. and a spectacular light show began, provided by the force fields surrounding the big ferrocrete slab. Huge floating stands had been set up all around the massive palace. It was beyond anything Yifa had ever imagined. The dance kicked off, and as expected, the girls were in top form. Every eye in the enormous crowd followed each move as it grew wilder and more suggestive, culminating in the Queen's solo performance, which had the crowd on its feet in the first five seconds. She danced around, beautiful, graceful, and intense. As she finished, Jabba called for silence, and his girls retreated to the throne. "Let the race..." he began. Engines flashed to life. Pit crews raced for cover. "BEGIN!" Jabba gestured. Yifa watched as the twenty-odd racers shot off-except one. One single pod caught an unstart, and, with a wild twist, came in at the bottom of the stands, aiming for the repulsor-lift generators. It never arrived. In a blaze of laser fire, the pod disintegrated, and a small starship dropped down in front of the palace balcony. Its hatch opened, and two figures walked out-and, apparently, through the shields. The voice from the helmet boomed out. "In regard, Partner, for this mornings readjustment of assets, I have something to return to you." Yifa looked away from the starship. The two figures were from the harem. One was a girl she had known in passing, called Mara. The other... "Mefora! You're BACK!" she cried as the girls reached the throne. A massive group hug followed, and the race was totally forgotten. Len Marela How the harem entertains itself-and others. It was well after practice time, and so the girls were lounging in hot baths or on the couches, soaking up the harems luxury. They had finished entertaining the afternoon court, and now were enjoying each others' company in the usual manner. Len in particular was having fun. She had never been very good at the tickle game, but joined in with a will, generally to shriek with laughter as soon as her opponent reached her bare (then again, all of her was, for the most part) stomach. Due to her less-than-agile- build, she had never been much of a dancer (by the harem standard), but was easily the one of the most experienced pleasure slaves there. As she pulled away from yet another loss, gasping for air, Len rolled onto the floor and saw a pair of feet dressed in silk slippers coming towards the couch. Standing, she caught sight of Amanda, the harem mistress, with a bemused look on her face. She watched for a moment, and then clapped for attention, bringing the game to a (sort of) halt. "Girls, we need to prepare for a rather special event," she began. "There is going to be a rather large convention of the more important beings in various fields in this Palace in a few months. It is indescribably important that we be ready to help our master make the best possible impression. He stands to lose or gain quite a bit here, so no slacking, from anyone." The harem quickly became a bustle of activity, but Len, being a pleasurer and not a dancer, mainly just sat by the side, until a tap on her head made her turn. Her friend, a young girl called Tina around the harem, was standing there. The two were easily the best pleasure pair in the palace, next to Leia and Amanda, and possibly Jess and Lyn Me, but Len and Tina were actually best friends, not just lovers. Besides, the other pairs were generally reserved for the Hutts, and never had visitors come to them. "Want to 'practice'?" grinned Tina, pulling off her skimpy bikini. Len shot a smile back at her, and then tore her costume away and dragged her onto the futon. The two quickly spiraled into sensual bliss, and only dragged themselves apart to head to the pool. They had about five minutes of fun, and then were called out for a sort of roll call that took place before each performance. The girls would be told by their Queen who was to do what, and for how long. "Her Royal Highness!" the mistress, Amanda, called. The milling slaves immediately knelt, and Leia entered, dressed in her new silver, gem studded costume, which covered rather a lot less than it might have. The bottom half had been reduced to little more than a single triangle of silver with a massive ruby set in it, and the top was a thin band of twisting silver wire, supporting two elegant silver blossoms that had been festooned with rubies of their own. It was worth more than most beings had ever seen. She looked at the girls for a moment, and then began to speak. "Most of you already know your jobs, so this won't take too long. However, one more thing has just come up-the High Exalted One will be touring some of his holdings soon. as I and some others will be going with him-" she said this with obvious pride-"Amanda will be in charge for a week or so. Now, as for tonight, there is one small change from normal. Third and fourth shift dancers, you will be switching routines. I have decided it will look better on everyone," she gestured at the studio end, indicating that the two shifts in question should make sure they knew their new assignments. They did, of course-but practice never hurt anyone. "You will practice your new routines now," Amanda ordered, "Anything less than perfection will be met with consequences." Amanda then shook her head, as if to clear it. A weird look had appeared in her eyes, then it disappeared. "Right, you heard her," said Leia, though she eyed Amanda wearily. This wasn't like her. Len went over to watch the dancers practice. Throughout the whole erotic routine, Amanda stalked the edges of the mats. Every once and a while she would harshly criticize a dancer, with a weird look in her eyes. Amanda constantly shook her head, as if to clear it. Len wondered-she had been like this briefly after the horrid kidnaping, but that had passed-right? Tina slid down onto her futon. "I'm beat. Want to go for a swim?" Len shook her head. "Tina, what's wrong with the Mistress?" "What? the way she's acting? Nerves," the other slave explained. As she talked, she slowly slid Len's bra up. Len flopped down against her, saying, "If so, I hope it's over soon. It's annoying," Tina slowly began to lick the now-exposed nipple, but paused to say, "Me too," before returning to her task. Len cupped a hand behind her head, and then slid the other between her legs, feeling the warmth there. She dug her fingers in lightly, noticing how Tina jerked when she did, and transferred her mouth to the other side of Lens chest. "OH!!" Len squealed. Tina had hit some sort of sweet spot, and was flicking at it again and again. By total reflex, Len balled her hands-and in doing so brought Tina over her brink, with Len following a second later. By the time the pair had resurfaced, they had to leave for court. In the throne room, the pleasure slaves were quickly 'deployed' throughout the side areas and bars, while the dancers had a final warm-up in a green room behind the throne. Len, working the right-hand side as usual, scored quickly-a large, muscular Corellian was standing there, and took an immediate interest. She was quite on her game, and soon had the man fetching her drinks for the evening-one of the perks of a pleasurer, but then, the dancers rarely seemed to need them. Before long, they retreated to a night room, and fell into the fullest joys of love before dropping into a warm, deep sleep. Len, at least, was satisfied-this was her job, after all, and she was happy to see it well done. She woke early the next morning, and left through the hidden door to the harem, her catch still asleep behind her. She slid into one of the pools, tossing her costume aside, and then slowly began to snack on some of the fruit in a nearby bowl, marveling at how quiet everything was, even though she could already hear some people moving about upstairs. Waiting for some of them to appear, she lay back, watching the fog that sometimes came into the harem from somewhere.
Everyone knows Psvman659, but. there were 658 Psvmans before him, I have found the first 100!
Psvman1: Professional sailor Psvman2: Died in a fire Psvman3: Works in knitting Psvman4: Fan of Bolivian architecture Psvman5: Admires the moon Psvman6: Likes dogs, but not much Psvman7: Pokemon Go player Psvman8: Avid Johnny Depp fan Psvman9: Caveman Psvman10: Leader of an alien nation Psvman11: Boomer Psvman12: Likes porridge Psvman13: Invented the handbag Psvman14: His favourite card is the 3 of Hearts Psvman15: McDonalds employee Psvman16: Only writes in black ink Psvman17: Steve Jobs Psvman18: Thinks things were better in the old days Psvman19: Hates crumpets Psvman20: Plays Minesweeper unironically Psvman21: Has a wart on his left foot Psvman22: Has a wart on his right foot Psvman23: Always bets on black Psvman24: Programmer who only knows Scratch Psvman25: World Volleyball Champion Psvman26: Passed his driving test when he was 4 years old Psvman27: Inventor of the headstand Psvman28: Martian Psvman29: Onesie lover Psvman30: Believes in freedom of speech Psvman31: Born in a month that doesn't exist Psvman32: Has visited all Canadian shopping malls Psvman33: David Attenborough Psvman34: Reads minds for a living Psvman35: Only buys pink umbrellas Psvman36: Maker of the ladders they use in wrestling matches Psvman37: King of Nepal Psvman38: Has false teeth Psvman39: Has never used contactless payment Psvman40: Marketing expert Psvman41: Once drank 18 pints of lager in one day Psvman42: Painter Psvman43: Rhett from Rhett and Link Psvman44: Has a desk shaped like a smiley face Psvman45: Learned to read before he was even born Psvman46: Always carries his lucky sausage Psvman47: Once turned up to the wrong funeral by mistake Psvman48: Cried whilst watching The Lion King Psvman49: Cabbage farmer Psvman50: James May Psvman51: Buys FIFA every year but never plays it Psvman52: Leader of the free world Psvman53: Collects taxes Psvman54: Once caught Mewtwo in a regular Pokeball Psvman55: Attends every NASCAR race Psvman56: Mathematics wizard Psvman57: Actual wizard Psvman58: Allergic to potatoes Psvman59: Makes educational videos on Vimeo Psvman60: The Angry Video Game Nerd Psvman61: Always uses Google Sheets rather than Excel Psvman62: Believes the Earth is flat Psvman63: Wears glasses that are too big for him Psvman64: Likes numbers that are powers of two Psvman65: Once dated himself for a week Psvman66: Bought WinRAR Psvman67: Weeb Psvman68: Pretends to be Irish Psvman69: Likes to describe things as "Nice." Psvman70: Former Tinder user Psvman71: Barack Obama Psvman72: Has a virus on his computer Psvman73: Has the world's longest toenails Psvman74: Can't fall asleep unless it's 4:30AM Psvman75: Invented the loading bar Psvman76: Greek philosopher Psvman77: Tried abseiling once Psvman78: Applied for work experience at Fox News Psvman79: Owns 18 fedoras Psvman80: Believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster Psvman81: John Cena Psvman82: Inventor of the Nintendo 2DS Psvman83: Hates printers Psvman84: Writes app reviews for a living Psvman85: Used to be pretty good at tennis Psvman86: Hasn't got a tongue Psvman87: Has a tattoo of his own face, on his face Psvman88: Bingo player Psvman89: Robbie Williams Psvman90: Has 6 toes on one foot Psvmanr91: Has never visited Australia Psvman92: Can't remember his own phone number Psvman93: Hasn't showered since 2009 Psvman94: Competes in cup stacking Psvman95: Specialises in carrot soup Psvman96: Never failed a French test Psvman97: Rocket League World Champion Psvman98: Poops his pants every day Psvman99: Eats his own skin Psvman100: Afraid to show his pinky toe Thank you for reading! This sure took me a long time, if anyone would like to continue with the next 101-659 Psvmans, please, because I can't type anymore
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”Of course I have heard the contention that scriptsmithing is an art, but those who say such things are invariably somewhat poor artists.” Vumo Ra, possibly apocryphal.
The massive stone rolled up, pausing for a moment before toppling sideways and fracturing into a few large chunks. The small crew of Aesvain gave a cheer that was equal parts triumphant and weary, and Mark clapped the nearest on the shoulder appreciatively with a dusty hand. “That’s the last one on this stretch!” he said. “I think we’re clear to move up all the way through to the plaza.” He grinned, looking around at the disheveled refugees. “You guys want to ride in the back? We’ve got some water, too.” They perked up at the offer and followed Mark back to the truck. Jackie peered back from the driver’s seat with a grin as the diminutive workers hesitantly took their seats and shared a cup from the reservoir as they stared wide-eyed around the interior. “That never gets old,” she said. “So that’s it, right? If we can get to the plaza we should be able to pick out a path clear through to the city center.” Mark nodded and took a swig of water. “That’s the idea,” he confirmed. “Just take it slow, there’s a lot of tall grass in the plaza. Could be ruts, rocks, whatever.” Jackie snorted. “Don’t worry about me,” she said, putting the truck into gear. “They only built a paved road to a survey site if I found something that justified the expense. For me, this is a normal day at the office.” She moved the truck gently forward, smiling again at the hushed noises of awe their passengers made as a result. “You know, I’m going to miss this thing,” she said. “Of all the places I’ve almost died, this truck is my favorite.” “Yeah, if we ever get back I’m going to write a really nice letter to the manufacturer,” Mark said, patting the dashboard affectionately. “She’s held up pretty well, even though I’m almost certain we’ve voided the warranty.” They trundled along in silence for a bit before Jackie glanced at Mark. “It’s funny,” she said, “but hearing you say that made me realize that I don’t really think we’re going back. Probably haven’t believed it for a while now, if I’m being honest.” Mark turned to look back at her, then shrugged. “I haven’t really thought about it much,” he admitted. “Been focused on other shit. I guess I figured that if we’d either work it out or we wouldn’t. Besides, if it does happen it won’t be me doing the heavy lifting. Maybe you and Arjun will science it out, maybe Jesse will go on a vision quest or some shit and have a revelation. Me, I’m just out here trying to keep us all from getting blowed up.” “To your credit, that hasn’t happened once,” Jackie said. “Yet.” The street they were following opened up into the plaza, and she turned the truck to drive slowly up the hill. Warm sunlight lanced through the windows as they rose above the confining mass of buildings and began to ascend the grassy slope in earnest. Mark turned to the back, where the Aesvain had gone very still and were holding on to their seats as they crossed the rougher terrain. “Careful,” he said, “I think if you take a bump too hard those guys are going to piss themselves.” “Oh no, the upholstery,” Jackie deadpanned. She craned her neck to look down at the city spreading around them as they rose to the crest of the rise. Wind buffeted the truck sharply and drew streamers of dust from the ruins, giving the vague impression that the buildings were crumbling away to nothing before their eyes. Mark grabbed the radio handset and gave it a couple experimental clicks. “I bet we can pick them up now that we’re over the hill,” he said, holding it to his mouth. “Jesse, Arjun, you there?” A few seconds passed before a staticky but understandable burst of noise came back over the radio. “-to press the-” Gusje’s voice said, sounding exasperated. “-just give it to-” There were a few quiet seconds as Mark and Jackie stifled laughter. “There,” Gusje said. “Mark, is that you?” “Yes, hi,” Mark said, switching to Ceiqa and struggling to keep a straight face. “Everything okay over there?” “We’re fine,” she replied. “Arjun and Tesu are busy examining the keystone, Jesse is resting. Tasja and I have returned from searching the building for information that may be helpful with the keystone.” Mark quirked an eyebrow. “Neat,” he said. “We’re on our way down, I think the path should be mostly clear. Hopefully we’ll reach you before it gets too dark.” “I’ll tell Arjun,” Gusje replied quickly, with a noise of shuffling and footsteps as she began walking at a hurried pace. When she spoke next, her voice was hushed. “We found several very old items in our search. Tasja has been informing me about the differences between archaic formal script and modern writing in detail. Extensive detail.” There was a lingering pause. “If you need help with anything when you arrive-” “We’ll let you know,” Mark promised. --- “All right,” Arjun said, backing up with a grim look on his face. “I think that’s about as good as we’re going to get it.” Before him on the stone floor of the gateway hall was one of the dull crystals from Gusje’s gauntlet, removed from its socket. On either end of the crystal was a strip of electrical tape that secured a hastily modified extension cord tight against the faceted surface. The cord trailed back towards the truck, which had been carefully driven into the hall and now stood with several maintenance panels removed. Jackie looked at it skeptically. “I still don’t think this is going to work,” she said. “These crystals are designed to be charged in a kiln, not zapped. We don’t even know if they had electrical power when they built these.” “You may well be right,” Arjun sighed. “But we don’t have a lot of other options. Tesu said that the scriptsmiths had to build a special kiln to charge the Ce Raedhil gate because the standard sajam-powered ones didn’t get hot enough.” He shrugged, gesturing to the wires. “I’m actually more optimistic about using electricity specifically because the charging requirements are so extreme. The truck batteries are three hundred volts, direct current.” “Yeah, but - oh,” Jackie muttered, considering. “You think it’s all about resistance.” Arjun nodded vigorously, his eyes twinkling. “Yes, most likely. You can’t charge the crystals in a fire because the heat is too low. Raise the heat and energy can get through. My theory is that the crystals’ resistance to energy transfer is what allows them to retain their charge in the first place.” Jackie nodded. “The energy is trapped inside because it’s not enough to overcome the barrier,” she said. “So the heat needed to charge it is just a bit hotter than the maximum temperature the interior is designed to reach. High voltage could definitely be a way around that. Just one problem, though.” She gestured to the crystal. “It’s crystalline. Not generally the most conductive group of materials.” “Yes, well,” Arjun said, “Perhaps if we were on Earth. As it stands I’m not willing to make any assumptions about the material properties of those crystals, and given our depressingly limited choices I figure it’s at least worth a shot.” “Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work,” Jackie said. She blinked, then looked askance at the crystal. “Or works too well. You know, I’m suddenly remembering that time I got the cheap knockoff charger for my phone and learned a very exciting lesson about why you shouldn’t do that.” Arjun winced. “Yes, that’s part of the reason we’re doing a test first,” he admitted, clearing his throat loudly. The others turned to look at him. “I’m going to recommend that we all stand very far back from the crystal and get behind something sturdy.” “Are you blowing up the crystal?” Mark asked, helping Tesu to his feet so the bound scriptsmith could hobble behind the truck with the rest of them. “Those things don’t grow on trees, you know.” He paused and cocked his head to the side. “I realize I have no proof of that, but I’m fairly confident.” Jackie punched him lightly on the shoulder. “That’s not the plan, but you know how plans tend to work out for us,” she said. “Just trying to see if it’s safe before we go messing with the big one.” “Please try not to break the crystal,” Gusje grumbled. “I doubt the scriptsmiths will be eager to give us more in the future.” “Okay, connecting the power,” Arjun warned them. “Three, two, one-” There was a brief spark from the wire as he touched the end to the battery terminal. He held it for a few seconds before pulling it away and peering around the corner of the truck at the crystal. It appeared unchanged from before. “Hm,” Arjun said. “Does someone want to get in the truck so they can monitor the crystal through the window?” “Jesse’s napping in there,” Jackie objected. “I don’t particularly know what happens if we pop that crystal, but I’m betting it’ll wake him up,” Mark drawled. “Hop on in, let us know if anything changes.” Jackie complied, carefully edging around Jesse’s insensate form sprawled across two seats. When she was in place Arjun resumed carefully applying current to the crystal. It took around thirty seconds before Jackie noticed a faint reddish tinge at its center. “That’s incredible,” Tesu muttered. “Kiln-charging crystals usually takes most of a day, you’ve brought it to a visible glow almost instantly. How did you say this power was generated?” “We didn’t,” Mark replied pointedly. “Haven’t really been in the sharing mood insofar as scriptsmiths are concerned.” “Understandable, but this is a revolutionary discovery,” Tesu said, growing animated. “Do you realize how many things run on charged energy? This has the potential to dramatically expand its footprint. The benefits in sea freight alone-” “Tell you what,” Mark said, cutting him off. “Let’s focus on not being dead in the short term, and after we’ve figured that one out we’ll tell you anything you want to know - within reason.” He grinned at Tesu. “That is, assuming you can play by the rules that whole time.” Tesu snorted and shook his head. “For this?” he said incredulously. “If the guild found out that I passed up the opportunity they’d probably expel me for not helping you.” “Oh, sure, but if you ask to bring one little refugee camp through the magic portal…” Mark grumbled. “I’m starting again,” Arjun announced. “Jackie, please keep an eye out.” He connected the leads once more and the glow slowly began to intensify, building from dull red to orange and shading up towards yellow. “How are we doing on power?” Mark asked. Arjun waved a hand dismissively, gesturing to the mammoth bulk of the truck. “The energy in the battery packs is immense,” he said. “Even at relatively inefficient conversions-” “Smoke,” Jackie whispered urgently. Mark looked up at her, confused, and she turned to look at them with wide eyes. “Guys, there’s smoke, it’s smoking!” she said. “Turn it off, turn it off-” Arjun hurriedly disconnected the wires and they stood huddled behind the truck for a few tense seconds. “Well,” he said eventually. “I think if it was going to explode it would have done so.” Mark nodded and made to straighten up, but Arjun grabbed his shoulder before he could move. “Nevertheless, I find it’s always good practice to give it a few seconds after saying something like that,” Arjun added. He cocked his head, listening, but there was only silence under the airy dome. “Excellent, now we can take a look.” They cautiously made their way around to the other side of the truck, where it became apparent that the smoke was issuing from the acrid, bubbling remnants of the electrical tape as they sizzled on the surface of the crystal. The crystal itself appeared to be intact, and was shining with a vibrant golden glow. “All right, Tesu,” Mark called out. “What’s your opinion, they supposed to get this hot?” “Crystals can get quite hot if they’re charged near to capacity,” he answered. “That one is very bright, so it should remain hot for some time. Eventually it will find a more stable point and become cool to the touch.” “Dangerous?” Arjun asked. Tesu shrugged. “Well, it’s very hot,” he said. “Past that, probably not. The more recent attempts at charge crystals have been less stable, but that is an original. Those have rather broad safety margins.” Mark raised an eyebrow at him, but Arjun clapped his hands together with a broad smile. “Well,” he said. “I think that went all right. It should take substantially longer to charge the larger crystal, though. I recommend that we start soon.” “Loud,” Jesse complained, poking his head through the door. “I miss anything important?” “Nah, just hotwiring magic,” Mark said. “Go back to bed.” “I’m already up,” Jesse replied, stretching. “The asolan did the trick, I feel pretty normal now. Anything I can do to help?” Arjun shook his head. “At this point we’re just going to charge the large crystal, then probably as many of the small ones as we can without dropping the battery too low. Tasja is looking over a few things they found around the building, but much of the text is in some archaic format that even Gusje can’t read so I doubt we’d be of much use.” “Jyte is still getting people situated around the square,” Mark suggested. “I think he’s got everything pretty much under control but I guess we could see if he needs us to carry some stuff, open a jar of pickles or something.” He jerked his head toward the door, and Jesse nodded before falling into step beside him. “So, really,” Mark said quietly. “You good?” Jesse shrugged. “I feel better,” he said. “Headache is gone, I’m not as tired. Groggy, yeah, but I’ve been napping all day.” “Yeah, poor baby,” Mark snorted. The two men passed through the arched entryway to look out over the small plaza in front of the gateway hall. Before, it had been desolate and grassy, the wind whipping at a few hillocks of sand that accrued over fallen pillars or the odd natural rise. Now it was a frenetic hive of activity. Jyte had been working the Aesvain tirelessly, both the soldiers and the civilian refugees. Boxes of reappropriated Sjocelym supplies had been moved from the fort to a few buildings near the hall, and the people had been likewise squirreling themselves away in the nearest stable structures they could find. There had been a few unpleasant surprises, and already there were injuries when the day’s fierce winds caused a wall to collapse in one of the newly inhabited buildings. The worst by far, however, was discovering proof of Arjun’s conjecture on the nature of the old city’s dangers. They found the bodies of those who had gone exploring for treasure laid unceremoniously in a building to the leeward side of the hall, accompanied by an even greater number of older dead that had decayed to little more than skeletal remnants. Jyte had made no comment, but Mark noted that his hand gripped his halberd with furious, white-knuckled force for a long, long while thereafter. Now, though, his ramshackle command tent was the nexus of activity in the crowded square. They had staked it deep into the soil behind a half-crumbled wall, putting it out of the driving wind and deep into the cool shadows of the evening. The air behind the windbreak was chill and turbid with motes of dust that eddied in time with the gusts above them. Jyte saw them approach and motioned them closer. “I’ve been so busy telling people where to stack boxes that I’d nearly forgotten why we came down here,” he said, giving them a long-suffering look leavened with a slightly delirious smile. “Good of you to come by, though. Any word on the gateway?” “Some progress,” Mark said. “We figured out the charging portion, now we just need to see what happens when we fire it up.” He looked around the tent, noting the haphazard stacks of documents and equipment scattered on the trampled grass. “I’m not sure how long the gate remains open if neither end gets exploded, so your folks should be ready to grab what they can and head through. If anyone doesn’t have supplies to carry then we have a few crates from the truck that should go through as well.” The Aesvain captain gave a weary nod. “I’ve made sure everyone is ready,” he said. “How long until you’re able to make your first attempt?” Mark shrugged and scratched his head. “Not too long,” he said. “First attempt is going to be trying to open it as-is, wherever it was set to connect when they left it. If that works and it’s not in the middle of some Sjocelym city, great. If not, we’re going to have to figure out how to point it somewhere else.” “I’d wager that’s difficult,” Jyte said. “That’s my impression,” Mark confirmed, gesturing back toward the gateway hall. “They’re going over the keystone and whatever they were able to find in the area, but I get the sense there’s not much to work with.” “Ah, I’d forgotten in all the madness,” Jyte said, turning abruptly to grab a small stack of tattered documents and small leatherbound folios that tottered precariously atop one of the crates. “We’d sent some men down to attend to those the scriptsmiths killed,” he said. “There’s not much we’re able to do but make certain they get a respectful rest, as I see it. They came back with these, said that a few of the older bodies had them hidden on their person. I’d laid them aside here on the chance they’d prove useful.” Jesse took the pages gingerly from Jyte, moving them to better light. The material they were written on was oddly rigid and covered with a fine craquelure where some sort of protective laminate had deteriorated. Underneath lay finely rendered lines of text in a stylized, ornate variant of the local script. “Mark,” he said quietly. “These are printed. On plastic.” Mark hurried over to look, sucking in his breath when he got a close look at the ragged plasticine sheets. “Huh, no shit,” he said wonderingly. “All those years they’ve been telling us the stuff doesn’t biodegrade. Guess they knew what they were talking about.” Jesse gave him a tired look and began to carefully thumb through the pages. Some were utterly illegible, the pigments having faded or blurred into indistinct smudges. Others were only partial scraps of material, most of those collected in the leather folios. There was the sense that some of them had been vibrantly colored before age ravaged them, or that others had been filled with neatly typed text that had since bled into a cloudy dark mass over the page. A few, though, were remarkably well preserved. One page had rows of numerals in matched sequences, another with cramped blurry text surrounding diagrams. “We should give this to Tasja and Tesu, see if they can make anything of it,” Jesse said. “Yeah, Tasja was talking about some sort of ancient script before. I bet he’s going to totally geek out at these,” Mark said, holding out his hand for the papers. “I’ll take them back. I can just see Tesu going googly-eyed over these, assuming they’re actually useful. Want to remind him that he and I have an understanding.” Jesse nodded and handed over the sheaf. “I’ve got my radio on,” he said. “Let me know if something comes up.” Mark nodded and strode out of the tent, while Jyte raised an eyebrow. “Couldn’t help but notice the look on your face,” he said. “Those pages meant more to you than you’ve spoken aloud.” “They had… significance,” Jesse said hesitantly. He met Jyte’s eyes briefly, trying to choose his words. “You know your people used to live differently, right? Before something happened in the place that is now Asu Saqarid?” Jyte grunted a short affirmative. “Aye, before the opening of the eye. Not sure what the Sjocelym would have told you about that, but it’s likely skewed from the truth somewhat. That story is our history more than theirs.” Jesse frowned. “I’m not sure I understand,” he said. “Well, let me think back on my lessons so I can tell it proper,” Jyte mused. “To start with, my folk have not always lived in Tinem Aesvai. The great city of Sahao stood on the plains to Sun’s Height from here.” “Wait, Vumo mentioned that,” Jesse said. “He said it was a center of trade and learning. Never said anything about it being Aesvain, though.” “It wasn’t,” Jyte shrugged, “since neither were those who lived there. My distant fathers were Sahaon. When the city was destroyed it took all but the farthest scraps of land with it.” “So they went to the outlands,” Jesse said, nodding. “Aesvaim.” “Just so,” Jyte confirmed. “And as for the city, the plains that once lay around it were scoured bare and riven to the bones of the world. The sky wept black tears that formed a sea over the city’s corpse, poisonous water with an unnatural stillness to it - which is more than one can say about the dead who rise from it. Now the arrogance of old Sahao reaches out to claim our home once again.” He sneered down at the page in Jesse’s hand. “I’d wager something on the page marks it as touched by deep scriptsmithing?” “The material,” Jesse said, taken aback at the open disgust in Jyte’s tone. “It’s similar to something from my homeland, although we make it without scriptsmithing.” “Bah, and for this we traded our future,” Jyte spat. “Pretty pictures and flying chariots. Trinkets.” Jesse looked at the Aesvain captain and quirked an eyebrow at his sour expression. “Are you saying you’d turn down a flying chariot?” he asked. Jyte barked a quick laugh and shook his head, letting the tension bleed out of him. “Aye, can’t deny that’d come in useful right now,” he admitted. “Don’t think it’s likely, though. Just legends and sailor stories-” He cut off as an alarmed shout came from outside the tent, followed by a deep, echoing boom. Jesse and Jyte exchanged a look before scrambling through the entryway into the plaza. All around them Aesvain were staring and pointing toward the south. Jesse tensed and raised his rifle, looking for ragged bodies sprinting from the shadows of ruined buildings - but none emerged. Jesse relaxed his grip on the rifle and straightened up, warily panning his gaze across the plaza. A small flash of lightning drew his attention upward to the sky, where a thin line of gold reflected from the clouds barely visible past the crest of the hill. As he watched, however, the clouds swelled higher and higher until they revealed themselves as a vast wall of billowing dust sweeping north toward the city. Lightning crackled and discharged as the dust roiled higher into the sky, seeming to gather deep within the cloud. For a moment the stormy wall seemed to freeze solid, and it was silent. Suddenly a massive bolt of lightning tore out from the cloud to strike somewhere in the south plains. Jesse could still see the shape of it in his eyes when the thunder hit, deep and abrupt. Jesse turned to Jyte, who was staring at the approaching storm with a grim look. “Do your histories mention anything like this?” he asked, raising his voice over the wind. Jyte shook his head slowly. “Can’t say as they do, but that doesn’t mean much. History is a tale of all the trials that folk live through, and that,” he said, raising a hand to point at the swirling wall of dust and lightning, “that looks like the trial you don’t.” --- Arjun - Page 60 Next Yeah, the lull was too good to last. If you want a visual aid for that last bit, think of a haboob - then add angry lightning. This chapter is dedicated to the excellent history curriculum in Mosatel, without which an important chunk of exposition would not have been possible. ALSO. My dear readers, it has been brought to my attention that this story is, frankly speaking, becoming a bit of a tangled web of odd jargon and proper nouns what with the Sjatels and Sjogydhus and Sjan Saals all sjostling for sjpace in Tinem Sjocel. I’d like to announce that I’m totally not changing that - but what I did do is compile a reference sheet that has an author-indexed list of all the chapter supplements thus far, a character list, and a glossary of most terms that are presented in Ceiqa throughout the story. Check it out here! Let me know if there’s an entry I’m missing, I probably missed a few characters or terms when I was going through. Please feel free to join the Discord if you’d like to discuss or check Patreon for the next chapter!
Final Standings: 14-13-7 (W-L-D), 49 pts, +3 GD, 6th in the West In one word, the 2019 Portland Timbers season was draining. It was an endurance test for the players. It was an endurance test for even the most ardent supporters. And it was certainly an endurance test for a Front Office that invested serious capital into organizational infrastructure. Bookended by snowy affairs in the Rocky Mountains, a year filled with tantalizing potential melted away, leaving a passionate (some might say capricious) fanbase searching for explanations. So, what went wrong? Well, it was always going to be an uphill battle from the opening kick. Starting with the coldest game in MLS history in Colorado, the Timbers faced a daunting 12-match road trip to accommodate the impressive renovations to Providence Park’s East stand. After accumulating 1 pt from the first six matches, including blow out losses to both FC Cincinnati (!) and then-winless San Jose, the fanbase collectively smashed the panic button entering a match against ex-coach Caleb Porter and his Columbus Crew. However, for the next few months, we witnessed a different team and a different mentality. Three consecutive quality victories against Columbus, Toronto, and RSL brought the team back from the abyss. And a subsequent win against upstart Philadelphia saw Portland finish its road marathon at a respectable 14 points. Suddenly, the narrative flipped. Pundits consistently listed the Timbers at the top of their power rankings, and with 17 of the final 22 matches at one of the best home-field advantages in MLS, it seemed the positive momentum would prevail indefinitely. More importantly though, the Timbers had found their final piece to the puzzle: an elite, ruthless, and fiery DP striker in Brian Fernandez. Fresh off an impressive campaign with Necaxa in Liga MX, the Argentine became the first player in history to score in five consecutive regular-season games to open an MLS career. His clinicality and intensity raised the level of the squad, leading Steve Clark to don the classic Michael Myers mask from Halloween, declaring Providence Park as a “House of Horrors” for the opponent. But as it turned out, the team never truly reacclimated to the friendly confines of its home pitch. After four months (incl. preseason) away from home, the squad’s lethal counter-attacking style was far more suited for road matches which provided no impetus to play attractive soccer. Away victories at elite opponents including NYCFC, Seattle, and LAFC provided a stark contrast to disheartening home performances against the likes of Colorado, Orlando, and 10-man Chicago. And soon, the atmosphere off-the-field began to match the team’s sudden struggles on the pitch. Political viewpoints aside, the Iron Front protests and Diego Valeri’s contract impasse ignited an already contentious relationship between the Timbers Army and FO. Meanwhile, as the squad racked up disappointing home results due to uninspired offensive play, home attendance began to waver more so than years past. While the home sell-out streak remains to this day, the increased number of empty seats in Providence Park was a pretty blunt indication of increased apathy towards the organization. And then, there was the cherry on top. After missing consecutive matches due to a reported “stomach bug,” it became pretty clear Brian Fernandez was not the same player he was in the early summer. With a complicated and somber family history, Fernandez had struggled with substance abuse issues in the past but seemed to be on the path to full recovery during recent years. However, in October, Fernandez entered the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, and just as his story arc in green-and-gold faded to black, the Timbers season finished with a whimper. Jefferson Savarino’s 87th-minute goal in snowy Utah knocked the Timbers out of Cup contention. Eleven months following an exciting run to MLS Cup, Portland entered the 2020 offseason weary, drained, and searching for a new beginning.
Giovanni Savarese I expected 2019 to provide more clarity on Giovanni Savarese’s coaching aptitude, but as I sit here one year later, I’m still left with more questions than answers. Gio’s passion and fervor was a refreshing juxtaposition to Caleb Porter’s often smug demeanor, but his far more conservative style still ruffles the feathers of fans who yearn for the days of “Porterball.” While Savarese implemented a high-pressing, dynamic, and open style during his time at the Cosmos, he has yet to find similar success doing so in the Rose City. The past two seasons have exhibited nearly the same progression: start the season trying to play pressing-style soccer, get beat badly, and then resort to a conservative, counter-attacking approach. The truth of the matter is the conservative style fits the Portland Timbers. When the defense is solid, Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco are talented enough to win the game on the counter by themselves. However, this tactical inflexibility is essentially the sole on-field contributor for why the team struggled so mightily down the stretch. When teams packed it in and eliminated the possibility of counter-attacks, Portland could not break down the opposition, resorted to launching an MLS record number of crosses, and got scorched on counters going the other way. A taste of their own medicine if you will. In 2020, Savarese has no excuse. There’s no road trip to start the season, he has a loaded arsenal of complimentary attacking weapons, and now it’s abundantly clear the Timbers must learn how to control games from the front foot. An identity is useful, but flexibility is a requirement to be great. The club wants to (has to) win now, and they’ve invested significantly into personnel and infrastructure to do so. Now, it’s up to Savarese to lead the team to silverware.
Brian Fernandez (ST): This one hurts. There are no two ways about it. Fernandez truly convinced GM Gavin Wilkinson and TD Ned Grabavoy that he was past his struggles, but unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be the case. As Wilkinson stated in The Athletic, “if we could go back and do it again, we wouldn’t have done it,” adding “what I will say is the word fraud exists for a reason.” Rumors suggest Necaxa covered up a failed drug test, and MLS is currently launching a lawsuit to help the club recoup the transfer fee. While Wilkinson suggests Fernandez was a bust, the truth is he scored 15 goals in ~25 games in all comps, showing a ruthlessness in front of goal that rivaled the Martinez’s and Ruidiaz’s of the league. As people who have met him can attest, he’s a vibrant and kind individual regardless of the fact he continues to face difficult obstacles off the field. It's just such a disappointment that it didn’t all come together, and I pray for his health and safety. Zarek Valentin (RB): This one hurts too. Zarek was a staple of the community, someone who embraced Portland as his home, and was as approachable as any professional athlete. With initiatives like wearing a rainbow ribbon in his hair to fundraise for homeless LGBT+ youth, Zarek was an ideal steward for the club and community. With our lack of fullback depth, leaving him unprotected in the expansion draft was far from a popular decision - one that strained an already frayed relationship between the Front Office and some fans. That said, as amazing as Zarek is, his lack of athleticism was starting to catch up to him. He even admitted some struggles down the stretch, and as more talented/athletic wingers enter the league, his minutes might soon reflect it. Zarek’s versatility, eccentricity, and civic involvement will certainly be missed though. Houston, you’ve got a great dude. Claude Dielna (CB): The most puzzling move of 2019, it didn’t take an acute observer to recognize that Dielna struggled in MLS. Wilkinson and Grabavoy took a one-year flier on Dielna to be the 4th-stringer, and the outcome was fairly predictable. He possesses a silky left foot which allows him to pick sharp passes out of the back, but he can’t run, can’t jump, and can’t defend 1v1. All of those attributes are pretty essential requirements for playing CB in any league, so it’s no surprise to see the organization not renew his contract. In the end, I wouldn’t suggest Dielna self-immolated like many horrific Timbers CBs of yesteryear (see McKenzie, Raushawn), but I highly doubt anyone will be pining for his return. Foster Langsdorf (ST): Langsdorf may be used as an example of a Homegrown the Timbers failed to move through the ranks, but letting him go makes sense (unfortunately.) In a 2019 season essential for his development, he failed to make any significant impact at the USL level, and at 24, he would’ve entered the 2020 campaign in the exact spot he did the previous two seasons. Despite some clever finishes in the 2018 USL season, he’s not a legitimate option for the first team in this day in age - especially when similarly-aged strikers Felipe Mora, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, and Jeremy Ebobisse boast far more developed skillsets. Modou Jadama (CB/RB): Jadama made two total appearances for the first team over two seasons, including one start at RB at Montreal in 2019. To be frank, he didn’t particularly shine as an MLS-caliber player during that time, so his opportunity to cement himself in the organization’s plans came and went. Now at Atlanta United 2, I think he’ll be a good fit for a full-time USL position, although we probably could have used CB depth with Bill Tuiloma’s injury. Kendall McIntosh (GK): McIntosh was an undersized goalkeeper whose frame and athleticism is reminiscent of the likes of Nick Rimando. For the most part, he was a career T2 netminder that was far too raw in some areas to mount a challenge against experienced keepers like Jeff Attinella and Steve Clark. Now a member of the Red Bulls via the Re-Entry Draft, I doubt McIntosh finds many more minutes outside of the USL, but he seemed like a good dude and we all wish him the best.
So, where does that leave us for the 2020 season? Well, pretty close to the same spot we found ourselves last year. In the preceding two seasons, it was clear the Timbers possessed enough talent to capture silverware, yet surpassing the final hurdle proved to be too much. As a result, continuity in terms of roster management remains among the league’s most stable. Ultimately, Portland took the field March 3 in Colorado with 10 of the 11 starters from MLS Cup the previous December, and this season, the only departure considered a surefire starter was Brian Fernandez. However, the main difference in 2020 comes down to the acquisitions. The Timbers FO utilized the abnormally long break to load up with an arsenal of talent, providing a stark divergence from the quiet transfer window in 2019. As much as I want to compliment the FO for its hard work this offseason, acquiring fresh blood was essential. Key pieces of the core including Larrys Mabiala, Diego Chara, Sebastian Blanco, and Diego Valeri are all exiting their prime window, and the Timbers must capitalize before that window slams shut. Consequently, four of the five names you’ll see listed in the acquisitions section below were brought in to have an immediate impact and elevate an already talented squad. As a result, in terms of pure on-paper talent, this is a Top 5 caliber MLS team. Whether Savarese can coalesce that talent into a functioning, dynamic, and successful unit is an entirely different story however. It honestly feels like a boom-or-bust type season, and I’m worried about how they’ll navigate the natural roller-coaster swings that MLS’s parity generates. So, I’ll leave you with this: if the Timbers figure out how to maintain defensive structure without resorting to a conservative shell, they’ll be one of the best teams in the league. If not, all bets are off.
Jarosław Niezgoda (ST): The Polish DP doesn’t have to single-handedly replace Brian Fernandez’s goal contributions, but make no mistake about it, the Timbers brought Niezgoda in to make an immediate and profound impact on the scoresheet. At only 24, Jarek arrives with a high pedigree having notched double-digit goals in multiple seasons for one of Poland’s powerhouses in Legia Warsaw. Ultimately, it makes sense European clubs like Bordeaux and Torino were sniffing around the striker, as he’s quite mobile for his size, can finish well with both feet, and is clever with his movements inside the box. And say what you will about the Ekstraklasa, it has a strange knack for producing efficient goalscorers, including Niezgoda’s Legia predecessor Nemanja Nikolic. However, there is a massive catch: Niezgoda has struggled with injuries throughout his career. In a league famous for physical play, and on a team that has experienced its fair share of injury-riddled seasons, Jarek’s fitness is a legitimate concern. While his congenital heart issues seem to be held in check, Legia fans are quick to mention “he's made of glass, and it's hard to keep him in shape for the whole season.” The Timbers’ physio staff will have their work cut out for them to keep Niezgoda on the pitch and scoring goals. Note: Niezgoda has yet to feature in preseason due to the recovery timeline from a heart ablation procedure during his medical. We likely won’t see him in the XI for the first few weeks of 2020. Felipe Mora (ST): Niezgoda’s injury-checkered past is an important factor for why Mora’s arrival is such a critical addition. The 26-year-old Chilean seemingly fell into the Timbers lap in a series of fortuitous circumstances, as they acquired him on a TAM loan deal from Pumas in Liga MX. Normally, Mora would be a DP caliber acquisition, and in fact, he was considered a serious target for the final DP slot last year before the club opted for Fernandez. However, after falling out of favor, Pumas were willing to let him go in a manner that accommodated Portland’s limited remaining budget space. Mora provides a divergent style from Niezgoda’s channel-running and Ebobisse’s hold-up ability. He operates on a true poacher’s instinct, and his industrious approach will provide a complementary presence to any of the other strikers. Dario Župarić (CB): If there’s one offseason acquisition that is more critical to the team's success than the others, Dario Župarić is that guy. Throughout the Timbers MLS history, CB has easily been their most troublesome spot, and they’ve yet to replace Liam Ridgewell’s contributions since his departure last year. Say what you will about Liam’s off-the-field persona: his magnetism, leadership, organizational skills, and distribution were undoubtedly influential to the club’s performance. Župarić, for lack of a better statement, is essentially the true Ridgewell replacement. At 27-years-old, the Croatian arrives with 90+ matches under his belt at Pescara in Italy and Rijeka in Croatia, a club that has already produced productive MLS players like Héber and Damir Kreilach. Early reports in training regard him as “smooth and confident,” and even if that confidence has gotten the better of him occasionally, those characteristics exemplify why Gio had never received “more messages from friends saying you’ve brought in a very good player.” In the end though, the pressure is on Dario to perform on the pitch. MLS athleticism poses a unique challenge, and there’s little flexibility to compensate for any struggles. His adjustment to MLS must be quick. Yimmi Chara (RM): Recognize the last name? In a courtship that has lasted as long as the Timbers MLS era itself, Wilkinson finally brought the youngest Chara brother to the Rose City. Acquired as a DP from Atletico Mineiro, there is concern about whether Yimmi’s G+A output will justify the reported $6 million transfer fee. Throughout his career, he’s never been the type of player to light up the scoresheet, but it’s difficult to dispossess him and he provides lightning-quick pace that this roster lacks. With multiple attacking options, I honestly don’t anticipate much pressure to fill the stat sheet, and his familial connection to the organization should facilitate a more seamless transition. Plus, it’s difficult enough for the opposition to face one Chara - it’ll certainly be a pain in the ass to confront two. Blake Bodily (LM): The HG left-footer is a fairly highly-regarded prospect coming out of the Pac-12, and he showed flashes of quality during his time at T2 a few years ago. With the depth on the wings, I can’t imagine he’ll see much of any first-team minutes. I could be wrong, especially if things go south for any reason, but let’s revisit this signing a year or two from now.
A word on everyone else:
Goalkeepers: Steve Clark (GK): Without a doubt, Clark was the surprise player of 2019. Boasting the highest save percentage and second-lowest GAA in the league, Clark made numerous highlight-reel saves after taking over for Jeff Attinella in late April. While the occasional mental lapse defined much of his career up to this point, the 33-year-old was nearly flawless in all phases of play last season. However, there’s legitimate concern that this outstanding form is not replicable throughout the next campaign. After Attinella’s regression to the mean following a career year, one can understand why the Front Office might have been apprehensive to give him a sizable pay raise - even if his performances warranted it. That said, Clark’s got the new deal in his pocket and will certainly be the starter opening day vs Minnesota. Jeff Attinella (GK): As highlighted above, few Timbers had a more ill-fated 2019 campaign than Jeff Attinella. After a torrid 2018 season, Attinella’s performances were marred by poor decision after poor decision until his year concluded with season-ending shoulder surgery. You have to feel for the guy too, as for the first time in his career, he entered an MLS regular season as the unquestioned starter. We’ll see how he recovers from the shoulder injury, but if Clark’s consistency remains and Aljaž Ivačič shows promise, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Timbers move him while he still has some value. Aljaž Ivačič (GK): If there’s a Timber who had a more disastrous 2019 than Jeff Attinella though, it’s probably Aljaž Ivačič. The 26-year-old Slovenian was acquired last offseason to be the goalkeeper of the future, but a significant leg surgery last February took him out of team activities for most of the year. When he did return with T2 in late summer, things did not look great to say the least. It is undoubtedly difficult to adapt to a new country, but Ivačič’s struggles were worryingly apparent. Most of his goals conceded for T2 looked similar to this, where he was either in the wrong position, extremely hesitant to come off his line, or strikingly late to react to the opponent. These are fundamental issues that can hopefully be chalked up to rust and then addressed with a full preseason. If not, Aljaž might go down as one of the worst signings in club history. Defenders: Jorge Moreira (RB): Moreira possesses the talent to be the best RB in the league, but sporadically found himself a liability last season. After years spent with Argentine powerhouse River Plate, the 30-year-old Paraguayan was naturally inclined to push up the pitch since his teams had often dominated the game’s flow. As a result, the Timbers’ conservative style and league’s athleticism caught him off guard, as he had an unfortunate propensity to be out of position early in 2019. However, he mostly adjusted over the course of the year, and his power, crossing ability, and dynamism are crucial to the team.Even with the occasional poor clearance, Moreira is a lockdown starter and few RBs in MLS have his offensive weaponry and pedigree. His loan only lasts until June 30 however, though I’d fully expect the Front Office to lock him down on a permanent deal. Update: the Timbers right-side defense has been tragic this preseason, and much of that has to do with Moreira’s play. He’ll have to re-adjust or else he’ll revert back to being a liability again Larrys Mabiala (CB): With his pearly-white smile, cool demeanor, and commanding aerial ability, the big French-Congolese CB is one of the most respected players in the Timbers’ locker room. In a position that is a perennial revolving door of underperforming wreckage, Mabiala has been the one “written-in-ink” starter since mid-2017, and his veteran savvy is integral to the squad’s success. But at age 32, Larrys’ value is not embodied by his individual qualities but more so the partnership he forms with Župarić. His physical presence will always be vital to an otherwise undersized team, however, he lacks the turn of pace and distribution ability that would place him among the elite CBs in MLS. As a result, Larrys and Dario must discover how to paper over each other’s weaknesses by performing to their unique capabilities: Župarić covers ground well and can initiate attacking movements while Mabiala handles physical strikers and cleans up loose balls in the 18. In the end, his consistency will be as influential as any player on the roster. If for any reason he performs below the norm, there is simply not enough quality depth behind him to overcome it. Bill Tuiloma (CB): Tuiloma is not spectacular by any means, but he’s an ideal player to provide sporadic minutes. The 24-year-old Kiwi is cheap, versatile, and possesses enough technical quality to score the odd banger. It’s a shame a calf injury will rule him out for the next few weeks, as the team could use his flexibility for spot duty at CB, RB, and even defensive midfield. If he recovers fully and Župarić struggles to adapt to the league’s athleticism, expect him to mount a challenge for starting minutes. Julio Cascante (CB): The Costa Rican CB is best described as a high-ceiling, low-floor player whose ceiling continues to lower year after year. As far as backup CBs go, he’s probably adequate, but the guy went from a fringe national-teamer to virtually off-the-radar since his arrival in Portland. Though his height and build forge a formidable aerial presence, he’s yet to resolve occasional mental lapses and improve his subpar distribution. But Julio’s most maddening characteristic is his inconsistency. Perhaps the best thing you can say about a Cascante performance is that you didn’t notice him. Unfortunately, he tends to stick out for all the wrong reasons. Maybe a little more familiarity with the league will help the 26-year-old raise his level in 2020. I’m not exceedingly hopeful though. Jorge Villafaña (LB): El Sueño hasn’t been the same player since his departure to Santos Laguna after MLS Cup 2015. Still an excellent crosser, Villafaña really struggled with pacey wingers towards the beginning of the season, although there are some whispers he was often gutting through minor knocks. Even with an uptick of form over the course of the campaign, there is legitimate concern he’s lost a step and will be a liability in the backline. I love the man as much as the next guy, but I’d say the uneasiness is valid. Let’s hope he proves us all wrong. Marco Farfan (LB): The lack of confidence in Villafaña would be less of an issue if Zarek Valentin were still suiting up in the green-and-gold because Marco Farfan is as fragile as a potato chip. The HG LB is not the most athletic individual, but his technical quality is probably proficient enough to play at this level. Farfan still has to evolve as a 1v1 defender, though he’ll certainly get looks this year if he can manage to stay healthy. Note: We still need a backup RB. It could be former NYRB, IMFC, and Dynamo player Chris Duvall. 20-year-old Venezuelan Pablo Bonilla is another option, but he’s at T2 for the meantime. Midfielders: Diego Valeri (CAM): When all is said and done, I hope MLS fans and media take a moment to appreciate just how good Diego Valeri was. Since 2015, we’ve witnessed impressive names take home the Landon Donovan MVP award including Giovinco, Villa, Josef, and Vela. Sandwiched in between those names you’ll find Diego Valeri. Only the ninth MLS player to reach the elusive 70G, 70A Club, Valeri took the Timbers from a hapless expansion side to a perennial playoff contender. And from my admittedly biased perspective, I don’t think he gets enough credit for doing so. But don’t take it from me, take it from Albert Rusnak, who accurately captures the true essence of the Maestro in this interview. For the miracles performed on the pitch, his importance and presence in the community are just as admirable. However, times are changing for Valeri, and it’s best exemplified by the fact we almost lost him over a contract dispute this offseason. By taking a TAM deal, Diego not only affirmed his commitment to the organization but allowed them to make moves to best ensure he doesn’t retire with only a single major MLS title to his name. I’d expect the Timbers staff to exercise more load management with him this campaign, but by no means does that change his status as a pillar of the club and community. Build the statue. Sebastian Blanco (LM/RM): Sebastian Blanco is one of those guys who never seems to score a bad goal. The fiery Argentine may not be the face of the franchise off the pitch, but the decision to extend his DP contract over Valeri is a hint towards Blanco’s importance on the field. After posting his second consecutive double-digit assist campaign, Blanco’s quality across all attacking midfield positions is unquestioned. That said, 2020 is a pivotal season for the Timbers’ oldest Designated Player. Soon to be 32, the clock is ticking on Blanco’s heyday, and he’ll certainly aspire to outperform 2019’s underwhelming tally of six goals from 106 shot attempts. Now surrounded by a wealth of complimentary attacking pieces though, I’d expect a rejuvenated Seba come March. Bet the over on six goals. Diego Chara (CDM): If there’s anyone who can conquer the inevitability of fathertime, Diego Chara is the guy. Soon to be 34-years-old, Chara’s performance metrics — involving areas such as speed and distance covered — reached all-time highs last year. His importance to the club over the past decade cannot be overstated, and we were all ecstatic to see him finally partake in an MLS All Star Game last season. The Colombian possesses a pillowy first touch, an immense soccer IQ, and a fearless presence in the middle of the park, and there simply will be no replacing him when he finally does choose to retire. But to be honest with you, I think he’s still got a few more Best XI caliber seasons in him. He just ages like a fine wine. Andrés Flores (CM): Hell, I’m just gonna copy and paste exactly what I wrote last year because it’s still just as applicable. Andres Flores is like a Toyota Camry - solid if unspectacular. He doesn't have the sexy style that will garner all the attention, but when push comes to shove and you need to get from point A to point B, he’ll do the job (at a very low price too!). Look for him to assist in spot-duty once he returns from injury, but his most important contributions will likely be found in the little things off the pitch. Cristhian Paredes (CM): At only 21 years of age, the full Paraguayan international started over 30 matches the past two seasons and has also emerged as the surefire midfield partner to Diego Chara. After a 2018 campaign that saw a significant adjustment period, Paredes looked far more composed in 2019, adding late-runs into the box into his arsenal midway through last season. However, no longer on loan from Club America, Paredes will face more organizational pressure to be a day-in, day-out starter this campaign. His ranginess and ability to break up play are unquestioned, but he needs to become a bit cleaner on the ball and more confident playing out of tight spaces. That said, there’s a reason the club has invested more capital into the promising midfielder: he has the potential to be a significant contributor for years to come. Marvin Loría (LM/RM): In the next few seasons, I’d wager Marvin Loría will become the poster child for the Timbers youth development structure. With a comparatively underdeveloped and shallow Homegrown talent pool, Portland picks up guys like Loría out of foreign youth programs to develop through the Timbers pipeline. The 22-year-old Costa Rican international showed significant promise last season, and he can play a true inverted winger role - a unique style in terms of this roster. While he may see time at LM and CAM, I love him cutting in from the right, as he can deliver bangers like this and allow Jorge Moreira to bulldoze forward. At a league minimum salary, Loría provides the cheap and talented depth which makes this attack’s outlook so promising. I can’t wait to see what strides he makes this season (once he returns from an underpublicized/undisclosed injury). Andy Polo (RM): Not many people in the Timbers fanbase understand why Andy Polo is still on the roster, let alone competing for starting minutes. In 2,860 MLS minutes, the Peruvian winger has only managed a dismal one goal and three assists - a statline that is considerably worse than ineffective wingers of the past including Kalif Alhassan, Sal Zizzo, and Franck Songo’o. He’s not an outright liability, and occasionally puts in a shift defensively, but he essentially exists solely to occupy space. Now entering his third season, Polo’s best string of matches came as the third CM in a 4-3-2-1 just before the 2018 World Cup. He’s since gathered looks in preseason as a #8 in a 4-3-2-1 and showed flashes but is still incomplete. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Tomas Conechny (CF/LM/RM): The 21-year-old Argentine enters the 2020 campaign a relative unknown, and though the club thought enough of him to exercise his full-time purchase option from San Lorenzo, his fit on the squad has yet to be fully discerned. Rumored to be one of the better headers-of-the-ball on the team, he showed occasional creative sparks in late-game situational appearances but has yet to prove he deserves starting minutes. We hear quotes akin to “he doesn’t yet know how good he can be,” but it still isn’t obvious that a particular position suits him well or if he even possesses a skillset that allows him to be a difference-maker at this level. For all intents and purposes, he’s likely to end up Diego Valeri’s understudy even if Conechny has yet to show the same precision and danger at a playmaking second-forward role. As a result, it remains to be seen if the high-rated prospect grows into a significant piece of the puzzle or if his lack of positional clarity ultimately hampers his development. Dairon Asprilla (RM): Dairon Asprilla plays at an all-star caliber level if one of two things are true: the Timbers are on the verge of postseason elimination or he’s playing on T2. If neither of those two things are true, he’s often more useless than a turn signal on a BMW. Some wonder if he possesses compromising pictures of Wilkinson or MP, otherwise there’s very little to explain why he’s one of the longest-tenured Timbers - especially considering he’s been in-and-out of the doghouse almost every year. Word out of training suggests he’s been one of the best players in camp, but we’ve been down this road before - if it’s not Oct. or Nov., Asprilla often looks lost on the pitch. Sidenote: 99% of Dairon’s shot attempts get thwarted due to his foolishly long windup, but when he does get a hold of one, they stay hit. Eryk Williamson (CM): The HG midfielder (by way of D.C.) found starting minutes in spot appearances last fall, and he looked competent if unremarkable. For T2, Williamson often occupied more advanced positions, but I think he projects best as a ball-shuttling #8 in this squad. In particular, I can see him fitting into Andy Polo’s old role as a CM next to Chara and/or Paredes in a 4-3-2-1, as his passing and combination play provide a diverse look from the other two. Overall, Williamson finds himself in a decent situation to get game action this year, and I’m interested to see how he develops and grows in confidence in 2020. Renzo Zambrano (CDM): Another international brought through the T2 pipeline, Zambrano is essentially Diego Chara’s backup at the #6. Since George Fochive left following the 2015 season, the Timbers have struggled to find a suitable defensive backup in the central midfield. Renzo is now that guy. The 25-year-old Venezuelan appeared in 10 matches last season and struggled immensely in fixtures against Colorado and Atlanta, but showed flashes of positivity in thrashings of Houston and Vancouver. 2020 will require more consistency from Zambrano who doesn’t possess the same physicality or power as Chara - but then again, few do. As a result, if I were Savarese, I’d try to mold Zambrano into a fulcrum/anchor type midfielder in the form of a Uri Rosell or Scott Caldwell. He’s a capable passer, and if he simplifies his game to shield the backline, he’ll be an asset to the team. If not, he’ll likely over-extend himself, and his midfield partner will be forced to work more tirelessly to maintain solid defensive shape. Renzo is likely the first option off the bench whenever Chara or Paredes are unavailable, so his growth is critical to the team’s success this year. Forwards: Jeremy Ebobisse (ST): Since Niezgoda and Mora’s arrival, some fans and media have denounced the organization for burying the 23-year-old American on the depth chart and hindering his development. Here’s why I think that’s an overly-sensationalized viewpoint:
As Wilkinson has correctly identified, Ebobisse will miss a good chunk of the early season for Olympic qualification, and with Niezgoda’s injury history, there needs to be other legitimate options to start upfront (i.e. not Dairon Asprilla).
In 2018, Ebobisse entered the season ‘stuck’ behind two DP-type strikers in Fanendo Adi and Samuel Armenteros. Guess who emerged on top? Ebobisse. There will be multiple competitions, two-striker formations, and rotations that allow him to earn quality minutes.
This idea that the organization is almost trying to sabotage his development is an outrageous claim. Ebobisse was the only player on the squad to play in every match last season and only finished behind Chara, Blanco, and Valeri in terms of total minutes played. Granted, he played a fair few matches at LW (not ideal, but he wasn’t outright terrible), but the team did have its best stretch of success with him and Fernandez on the pitch together.
But the one factor people must acknowledge is this: Ebobisse still hasn’t developed the it factor that other MLS strikers have - at least not yet. When Fernandez arrived, his ruthlessness was a stark contrast to Ebobisse’s often less-goal-hungry runs and occasional lack of clarity in the final third. Jeremy is a decent finisher, even with a few missed sitters, but he’s still not consistent enough with the direct runs off the shoulder that separate good from great. He’ll hopefully continue to develop a wider range of skills, but he’s not yet the guy to put this team over the top. Predicted Starting XI: Primarily: 4-2-3-1 Other likely options: 4-3-2-1 or 4-4-2 Best Case Scenario: A top playoff seed and a challenge for either the Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup. Savarese effectively implements tactical flexibility, Niezgoda and Mora combine for 20+ goals, and Cristhian Paredes takes the next step forward in his development. While Župarić locks down the defense, one of Valeri or Blanco mounts a Best XI campaign, and Diego Chara makes a second consecutive All-Star Game appearance. Sprinkle in a Cascadia Cup alongside a harmonious relationship between the Front Office and Timbers Army, and you have a damn successful year. Worst Case Scenario: Pretty much the opposite of what you see above. Niezgoda can’t stay healthy while the core pieces’ form collectively falls off a cliff. Those in the Army who hold a personal vendetta against Merritt Paulson blow a trivial issue out of proportion causing a full-on revolt from the supporter’s group. Savarese proves to be an average coach with exploitable flaws, and the team fails to qualify for the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference. Significant spending, no tangible results. A wasted year. Realistic Scenario: Well, either of those two scenarios could qualify as realistic. But like all Timbers seasons, it’s most realistic to be somewhere in between. There’ll be stretches of outright panic, and there’ll be other times where we all convince ourselves the Timbers will win MLS Cup. Some of the signings hit: let’s go with Župarić - while other signings underwhelm due to extenuating circumstances: probably Niezgoda (and his glass skeleton). The team finishes in the middle of the pack - a team that no one wants to face in October - but one that is equally liable to beat themselves. Prediction: Even for someone as pessimistic as I am, I won’t predict the worst-case scenario. Nevertheless, I can’t shake the discouraging feeling that the Timbers will squander its immense talent again. A disappointing 6th or 7th place finish is in store after another taxing roller-coaster season. However, I’ll go out on a limb to say Portland does win a Cascadia Cup or USOC - some sort of silverware that convinces everybody the obvious flaws can be overcome in 2021. Blanco has a great 2020 season. The other pieces show flashes brilliance, yet can’t quite string together enough consistency to let the attack fire on all cylinders. Savarese will keep his job but enters the 2021 campaign on the hotseat. It’ll be another case of “close, but not close enough.”
Augusto Monterroso - Eight Stories [Mostly Translated by Edith Grossman]
Published in Complete Works and Other Stories (University of Texas Press, 1995):
And I could tell you,” the fat man interjected in a rush, “that three years ago in Guatemala an old organist in a neighborhood church told me that in 1929 when he was asked to catalogue the music manuscripts in La Merced he suddenly found some unusual pages that intrigued him and he began to study them with his usual devotion and because the notes in the margins were written in German it took him a long time to realize they were the two final movements of the Unfinished Symphony so I could just imagine his feelings when he saw Schubert’s signature written clearly and when he ran out to the street in great excitement to tell everyone of his discovery they laughed and said he had lost his mind and wanted to trick them but since he was a master of his craft and knew with certainty that the last two movements were as excellent as the first two he did not lose heart but swore instead to devote the rest of his life to making people admit the validity of his discovery and that was why from then on he dedicated himself to methodically visiting every musician in Guatemala with such awful results that after fighting with most of them and without saying anything to anybody least of all his wife he sold his house and went to Europe and once he was in Vienna it was even worse because they said no Guatemalan Leiermann was going to teach them how to find lost works least of all ones by Schubert whose scholars were all over the city and how could those pages have ended up so far from home until almost desperate and with only enough money for his return passage he met a family of elderly Jews who had lived in Buenos Aires and spoke Spanish and listened to him very attentively and became very agitated when God knows how they played the two movements on their piano viola and violin and at last grew tired of examining the pages every which way and smelling them and holding them up to the light that came in through the window and finally found themselves obliged to admit at first very quietly and then with great shouts they’re by Schubert! they’re by Schubert! and began to cry in despair on each other’s shoulders as if instead of finding the pages they had just lost them and I would have been amazed at how they continued to cry although they calmed down a little and after talking among themselves in their own language tried to convince him as they rubbed their hands together that the movements excellent as they were added nothing to the value of the symphony just as it was and on the contrary one could say they detracted from it since people had grown used to the legend that Schubert tore them up or did not even try to write them certain he would never surpass or even equal the quality of the first two and the pleasure lay in thinking if this is how the allegro and the andante are what must the scherzo and the allegro ma non troppo be like and if he really respected and revered the memory of Schubert the most intelligent thing would be to allow them to keep the music because besides the fact that there would be an endless polemic the only one who would lose anything would be Schubert and then convinced he could never achieve anything among the philistines much less the admirers of Schubert who were even worse he sailed back to Guatemala and one night during the crossing under a full moon shining against the foaming sides of the ship with the deepest sadness and sick of fighting bad people and good he took the manuscript and ripped the pages one by one and threw the pieces overboard until he was certain that now no one would ever find them again”—the fat man concluded in a certain tone of affected melancholy—“while great tears burned his cheeks and he thought bitterly that neither he nor his country would ever claim the glory of having returned to the world those pages that the world should have received with so much joy but which the world with so much common sense had rejected.”
“Which reminds me,” I said, “of the story of the ill-fated Swede, Orest Hanson, the tallest man in the world—in his time. These days the record he set is frequently broken. In 1892 he made a well-deserved tour of Europe to display his height of eight feet, one inch. The journalists, with the imagination that distinguishes them, called him the Giraffe Man. Imagine. Since the weakness of his joints made any effort almost impossible, in order for him to eat, one of his relatives had to climb to the branches of a tree and place special little meatballs, with small pieces of beet sugar for dessert, into his mouth. Another relative tied his shoes for him. And still another was always on the lookout for the moment when Orest would need to pick up some object that by accident or because of his peculiar clumsiness had slipped through his fingers and fallen to the ground. Orest looked at the clouds and allowed himself to be waited on. His kingdom, in fact, was not of this world, and you could see in his sad, distant eyes a persistent nostalgia for earthly things. In his heart of hearts he felt a special envy for dwarfs, and he always dreamed of trying with no success to reach doorknobs and of breaking into a run as he used to in the afternoons of his childhood. His fragility reached incredible extremes. When he walked along the street, each step made even the Scandinavians fear a spectacular fall. In time his parents showed signs of a greedy pragmatism that deserved the harshest criticism; they decided that Orest would go out only on Sundays, preceded by his Uncle Erick and followed by the servant Olaf, who passed his hat for the coins that sentimental souls thought they were obliged to pay for that show of gravitational danger. His fame grew. But it is true that happiness is never perfect. Little by little, an irresistible love for those coins began to filter into Orest’s childish soul. His genuine passion for minted metal eventually caused his downfall and proved to be the reason for his strange end, as you will see in due course. Barnum made him a professional. But Orest did not feel the artistic vocation, and the circus interested him only as a source of money. His aristocratic spirit, however, could not bear the smell of the lions or the fact that people pitied him. He said goodbye to Barnum. At the age of nineteen, he measured seven feet, eleven inches. Then came a period of quiescence, and it was not until the age of twenty-five that he reached his full height of eight feet, one inch, which he maintained until his death. This is how the discovery was made. Invited to London by the gracious command of their British Majesties, he went to the English consulate in Stockholm to obtain a visa. The English consul, being the man he was, received him with no great show of surprise, dared to ask his height and weight, and doubted he was eight feet tall. When the measuring stick revealed that his height was eight feet, one inch, the consul made the serene gesture that means “I told you so.” Orest said nothing. He went to the window in silence and spent long moments bitterly contemplating the rough sea and calm blue sky. From that time on, the curiosity of European monarchs increased his income. In a short while he became one of the richest giants on the Continent, and his fame reached even the Patagonians, the Yaquis, and the Ethiopians. In the magazine that Rubén Darío edited in Paris, you can see two or three photographs of Orest smiling beside the most celebrated personalities of the time—graphic documents that the great poet published on the tenth anniversary of the artist’s death in a homage as deserved as it was posthumous. Suddenly his name disappeared from the newspapers. But despite all the plotting and scheming to keep secret the causes that contributed to his unexpected end, we know today that he died tragically in Mexico during the Centennial Celebration, which he attended as an official guest. The causes were twenty-five fractures suffered when he bent down to pick up a gold coin (a “centennial,” as a matter of fact) which the obscure Chihuahuan, Silvestre Martín, henchman of Don Porfirio Díaz, threw at him in an outburst of vulgar patriotic enthusiasm.
While I was traveling on the train the other day, I suddenly stood up, happy on my own two feet, and began to wave my hands with joy and invite everyone to look at the scenery and see the twilight that was really glorious. The women, the children, and some gentlemen who interrupted their conversation all looked at me in surprise and laughed; when I quietly sat down again, there was no way for them to know what I had just seen at the side of the road: a dead, a really dead cow moving past slowly with no one to bury her or edit her complete works or deliver a deeply felt and moving speech about how good she had been and all the streams of foaming milk she had given so that life in general and the train in particular could keep on going.
YOU TELL SARABIA THAT I SAID HE SHOULD HIRE HER AND PLACE HER HERE OR WHEREVER, THAT I’LL EXPLAIN LATER
It is known that the ancient gentiles worshiped the vilest, most contemptible brutes. The goat was the deity of one nation, the tortoise of another, of a third, the beetle, of a fourth, the fly. FEIJOO, CRITICAL THEATER OF THE WORLD To the memory of the Wright Brothers It was late when the civil servant decided to follow the flight of the fly again. And the fly, as if he knew himself to be the object of scrutiny, took great pains in the programmed execution of his acrobatics, buzzing to himself but always aware that he was a common ordinary housefly, and that among the many possible ways he could shine, buzzing could not compare to the increasingly wide and elegant circles he was flying around the civil servant who, on seeing them, remembered dimly but insistently and as if he were denying it all to himself how he had been obliged to circle around other civil servants in order to reach his present high position, and without making too much noise either, and perhaps with less joy and more somersaults but with a little more brilliance if brilliance is what you could call, with no sarcasm, what he had achieved before and during his ascent to the heights of public office. Then, overcoming the sultry heat, he went to the window, opened it firmly, and with two or three brusque movements of his right hand and forearm, forced the fly to leave. Outside, the warm breeze gently shook the treetops, while in the distance the last golden clouds sank definitively to the bottom of the afternoon. Back at his desk, exhausted by his efforts, he pressed one of five or six buttons and, leaning comfortably on his left elbow (thanks to a clever mechanism in the swivel chair), waited to hear “Yes sir?” so that he could order, almost at the same time “Have Carranza come in” whom he quickly saw half-serious, half-smiling, pushing the door in coming in and then turning his back tactfully to bend over the knob to close the door again with all necessary care so that it would make no noise except the slight inevitable click that doors make when they are closed and, turning around immediately, as he usually did, he heard “Do you have Payroll C handy?” and answered “Not really handy but I can bring it in five minutes; you look exhausted; what’s wrong?” and came back in less than three with a sheet wider than it was blue which the civil servant glanced at, up and down, without enthusiasm, and then raised it to the clear sky as if he wanted to fly away, fly up, fly far, grow smaller and smaller until he lost his tie and his ordinary shape and became a speck the size of a distant airplane which is the size of a fly, and then an even tinier dot, and finally he handed it back to Carranza, his friend and co-worker, who asked him, puzzled, if anything was wrong, and he heard himself answer “No, tell Señorita Esperanza that tomorrow Señorita Lindbergh is coming in regard to the matter of the vacancy and tell her to send her to Personnel to see Sarabia. You tell Sarabia that I said he should hire her and place her here or wherever, that I’ll explain later.”
UNDER OTHER WRECKAGE
The fly buzzing around me at this moment: if it sleeps at night in order to begin its buzzing again, or if it dies tonight, and in the spring another fly, emerging from some egg laid by the first, starts to buzz—in the end it is all the same. A. SCHOPENHAUER, THE WORLD AS WILL AND IDEA We see this man walking anxiously up and down in front of the door of the transient hotel on Calle París in Santiago, Chile; he watches and suspects. For the last few days he has done nothing but suspect. He has looked into her eyes and suspected. He has noticed that his wife smiles at him in too normal a way, that everything either seems all right to her or doesn’t, that she does not disagree with him as much as before or disagrees with him more than before, and he has suspected. Anyone would. That’s how these situations are. Suddenly you feel something strange in the air, and you suspect. The handkerchiefs given as gifts begin to be important, and there’s always one missing and nobody knows where it is; just like that, nobody knows where it is. Then this gentleman works up his courage and goes to the hotel. He has finally decided to put an end to his doubts by being man enough to wait until he sees them coming out and then trap them, furtive and surely wearing the expression of unconcern that hides their fear of being discovered. And now, while he waits, he has crossed God knows how many times in front of the large, open, main door, walking back and forth mechanically, and it bothers him when he realizes that sometimes he feels almost no anger. Well, perhaps you have gone through this at one time or another and it is indiscreet of me to remind you, to call to mind something you have buried under other wreckage, other illusions, other films, other facts, for better or worse everything has blurred what at one time seemed to be the end of the world and today, as you know very well, you remember almost with a smile. Or you have leaned against the blue wall across the street. He was a tall, good-looking man with graying hair, about forty years old, it doesn’t matter. It was summer, he was wearing linen, he was sweating. We watched him from the second-story window of the building across the way. It was fun to spy on the couples who kept arriving. Old men with young girls. Young boys with old women. Young girls with young boys. Never old men with old women, I wonder why. Middle-aged men with middle-aged women, both men and women very calm. Experienced men with all kinds of little maids who were terrified. Liberated men with liberated women who went in laughing freely, happily, what envy we felt. Sometimes we spent a whole Sunday afternoon, Enrique, Roberto, Antonio, and I, watching them come from the side streets and go in. Or not go in. We would make bets. These two will go in. These two won’t. You lost or won because the ones you thought would go in, the ones you bet on, would walk right by only to come back and go in after ten steps when you supposed that virtue was going to enjoy one of her most sensational victories but was, happily, defeated. But getting back to this man—how sorry we felt for him. This man was suffering. He nervously watched the falsely confident exit of each couple, fearful they would be the ones he was waiting for and that in a careless moment they would get away from him, lost in the first shadows of twilight as they used to call it. Look how he cranes his neck, how he stands on tiptoe, how nervous he becomes when anyone comes out and how upset when anyone passes in front of anyone leaving. He goes from one corner to the other only to return quickly in a state of agitation. Perhaps he thinks that at this moment they have managed to elude him. It’s incredible. The man is beginning to make us feel sorry for him. If this were not our usual game, we would not have had the patience to observe him from this comfortable window for more than two hours (because it’s already seven o’clock) with no real interest in what was happening inside. But it does interest him, what’s happening inside, and he imagines and suffers and tortures himself and thinks up bloody acts of vengeance at which he stops and trembles, not knowing if from anger or from fear, although in his heart he knows it’s anger. And you and your friends from your comfortable vantage point watch and suffer and are not sure what is happening right now with your own wives and maybe that’s why this man who could be you, could be all of you, disturbs you so, as the twilight turns into night and the clerks anxious to return, who knows why, to their homes, increase in number and run laboriously for the buses and trolleys that go by, jammed with people. Finally, suddenly, you see in him an agitation that is much more intense, a nervousness, an anguish, and you realize that the supreme moment he has been waiting for has arrived and you quickly turn your eyes again to the door of the hotel and you see that the lovers are coming out and have realized what is happening, that is, he is there, and pretending to be calm they quicken their pace looking back in their minds and walking faster and holding one another by the arm they turn the corner of San Francisco and you come down quickly from your vantage point so you won’t miss what is happening and you find the man still on O’Higgins Avenue and you find him distraught, looking around, roughly pushing people out of his way, turning on his heels, searching, looking here and there, anxious, disconcerted, but now certainly tomorrow, or next Saturday, or Monday, or whenever, he will have the chance to watch when he is less distracted, not as slow as he was this afternoon when it probably wasn’t them.
Our flies know songstaught to them in Norwayby the ganique flies that arethe white goddesses of snow GUILLAUME APOLLINAIRE, BESTIARY Recently he had been coming to his office a little late, very late really but within the limits he thought the system tolerated, placed there precisely so they would not work, would not get in the way, so that he could come in late because, as he gave it some thought, the important thing was not to stay out altogether, to come in, to be there. Then the boy offered him a cup of coffee, which he accepted gratefully, since it was good to feel you were doing something, that you had something to wait for during the next three minutes, even if it was only a cup of bad coffee smelling of old, very old rats. When the secretaries told him that no one had asked for him (“no one” was different from nobody; “no one” of course meant some superior, some boss in the office hierarchy), he felt calm and confident. The morning would go by with no major anxieties, and now it was all a matter of waiting patiently for noon and then one o’clock and then half past two. But this was always an illusion. The hours are hard to chew, and like the boa with its victims it is better to salivate each one slowly, calmly, so that you can swallow it minute by minute, although in the offices you could see clearly that sometimes after each hour there is another, and then another and another, and there are still thirty minutes left over which you finally use up somehow and then you can go. Naturally you can always count on the newspaper, but you can’t spend the whole morning reading the paper. But you know your reserves and are certain that someone, the Great Someone, will be there to talk to you. Someone always listens with interest, or at least pretends to, which is no small matter—listens to your problems with interest and says yes when you need someone to say yes and no that’s not right when you need someone to disapprove of the way your wife handles money, or your children, or the papers and books you always leave around with that famous characteristic disorder of yours—you always know where everything is as long as they don’t straighten your damn desk; or maybe the movies, no, sports, even less, literature, perhaps, but not very deeply since even if you really know about most of the novels that have been written recently, especially in Latin America, which is all the rage, in fact you haven’t read them although you know, well, although you think it is your duty as a writer, but after all you can talk about them as if you really had read them, your instincts or a skimming through are enough to know where Cortázar, Vargas Llosa, García Márquez, or Lezama Lima are heading without having to work so hard especially now when not a day goes by without something new being published and there’s really no time to read everything, especially those long novels that are complicated intentionally by the authors just to show they know how to do it. Have you noticed? Have you read Paradiso? I couldn’t. You haven’t finished one thing when the next one appears. You’ve read it? No, you say jokingly, I’m still getting through Don Quixote, knowing full well you’ve never read Don Quixote, that it bores you to death as the great Lope de Vega said about Dante on his deathbed. But joking aside, no, the fact is you haven’t had time. Then you think with determination that in half an hour, when you leave, you’re going to catch up with the Spanish American novel, and you see a perfect world, a kind of Garden of Eden, where you come home and everything is ready and your wife with her pretty pink apron and her smile, that smile that never leaves her face except when she has problems, serves you your supper right away and your children are all sitting around the table quietly with “10”s in conduct and quick as a wink you eat your dessert and go to your room and pick up Paradiso and like those swimmers with big batrachian fins on their feet and oxygen on their shoulders God knows how many meters under the water in slow motion and in colors no one has ever seen before you sink into a deep marvelous reading interrupted only by your own impulses, like going to urinate, or scratching your back, or walking downstairs for a glass of water, or putting on a record, or trimming your nails, or lighting a cigarette, or looking for a shirt to wear to the cocktail party this evening, or making a phone call, or asking for some coffee, or looking out the window, or combing your hair, or contemplating your shoes, in short, all those things that make good reading—and life—so pleasant.
CHRISTMAS. NEW YEAR’S. WHATEVER
Fearing flies is the reverse side of loving birds. OTTO WEININGER, INTIMATE JOURNAL The cards and gifts you send and receive year after year or that we send and receive with a somewhat foolish feeling that overwhelms you or us but which slowly, because of an interweaving of memories and forgetfulness, you or we stop sending or receiving, like those trains that pass with no hope of ever passing one another again, or rather, now for self-criticism, since the comparison with trains is really not very good because you would have to be a very stupid train not to meet up again with the trains you’ve met—like those bourgeois drivers who, just because they are who they are, when they drive their cars feel free of something they cannot name if you ask them what it is and once, only once in their lives, meet up with you at a red light and you exchange foolish knowing glances with them for a moment while you discreetly but meaningfully arrange your hair or adjust your tie or check your earrings or take off or put on your glasses, depending on how you think you look best, with the melancholy suspicion or optimistic certainty that you are never going to see them again but nonetheless live that brief moment as if something important depended on it, or perhaps something not so important, that is, those fortuitous meetings, those conjunctions, just to give them a name, when nothing happens, when nothing needs explanation, when you don’t need to understand each other, when you shouldn’t understand each other, when nothing needs to be accepted or rejected, oh!
The Circumstantial or the Ephemeral [Tr by Leland H Chambers]
Collected in Contemporary Short Stories from Central America, ed. by Enrique Jaramillo Levi and L. H. Chambers (U of Tx Press, 1994):
From the first moment she saw him come in, she knew what it was about; but in any event she had to allow him to be the one who would say it. Then, waving a piece of paper in his hand, he informed her: "I won it." "What was that?" she responded, persevering in letting him believe that she suspected nothing. Exceptionally good at her vocation, she knew that with her expectant attitude she was providing him with an extra joy. Of course, he knew that his wife knew,- but he was just as certain that in a marriage, if you don't play this game, things end up by losing interest, since in that state, by a certain point both know so essentially that if one of them is thinking of something, the other one generally is thinking that same thing, and sometimes they both even say it simultaneously, to their mutual surprise, for they always declare, How curious, I was thinking that same thing, without either one knowing exactly how, but in such a way that both end up believing and on occasion being absolutely convinced that this means they love each other, and both discuss and chat enthusiastically about the topic, and even a few minutes later each one on his or her own goes on thinking that, of course, this really does mean they love each other. "The prize in the contest. The car." "No!" she said, thinking, we have to celebrate, I'm going to get the ice out for the rum. And, more convinced of it than ever, she added, "I can't believe it!" In the face of his timidity and, more than anything else, in the face of the danger that his wife might suspect that he really felt himself to be a writer, he dared to remark, "For me the important thing is having written the story and sent it in to the contest. Even though I might lose. I don't care about the car." "Oh? even though we need one?" she thought. And she imagined herself with her neck enveloped in a woolen muffler driving down Reforma and saying goodbye to her acquaintances with a careless movement of her left hand while out of the corner of her right eye she took care that the traffic was moving along without problems. But merely to continue with the machinery of the conversation, she proposed, without emphasizing it, "Well, if you don't want it we can sell it." "You know it's not a question of that," he said. "Of course I want it. But, aren't you tickled? See, I write the story almost without wanting to very much, just to see how it would come out, like playing, and I win the prize. What do I care about the car? Now, I would like to be able to write more, yes, to read, write." "Then let me have it," she said. And she seriously considered that possibility, though at exactly the same moment she began to recall that whenever she was at the window of a tall building looking down at the street she was afraid to think how she would feel down there the day she herself might have to be driving along among so many cars which from above seemed to be moving all by themselves, like toys or something. "I repeat," he said, carefully taking another glass of rum and water with ice from her hands, "that for me the car is the least of it. The good thing is that from now on I really am going to write." "Of course you are," she said. "I don't want to go on my whole life long just correcting proofs. But neither of us knows how to drive," he added, as if he had just now discovered this fact, staring at his new shoes. "All right, all right, you can't drive, I can't drive, what are we going to do, hire a chauffeur?" she made a pair of declarations and asked a question, secure in the knowledge that the first was as obvious as the second was absurd and that perhaps her husband's reply would be, "Hasn't it ever occurred to you that we might learn?" while he, in the meantime adding a little rum to his glass, waxed enthusiastic about how good it was that it had all been decided and now he was going to go write even though they hadn't eaten yet and she might not like it. But she, adding just a little bit to her own glass, maintained, "When have I ever objected? Do your own thing, that's all that matters to you. I'm going to learn, and that's all there is to it. Anyway, who knows if you could even do it, with your nerves?" "What's wrong with my nerves?" "Well, you should just see yourself right now." "Right now is another thing. Okay, okay, so I'm nervous. But as far as I'm concerned I'm happy about the prize for the reason I gave you, not for the things they are going to give me. I don't think you understand that," he persisted, asking her if she wanted more rum and serving himself. To direct the discussion she said that he knew very well that she was also happy for the same reason, but that what she was saying was only that either he would learn, or she would learn, or they both would. "All right, then, you learn. From now on you do your thing and I'll do mine. If you want to, afterward we'll change around." "Why do you have to be so sarcastic with me?" she said, suddenly really offended and adding that he just had an inferiority complex like the rest of his family that made him afraid to try to get ahead. "I am not sarcastic with you," he responded. "Seriously: we'll change places if you want, from now on you write and I'll cook." "See what I mean? What you really want is to keep me from using the car. You know very well you're never going to write because you're dying of fear, or vanity, or fear of failure, or being a success, or who knows what the hell else!" She let it ooze out, slowly and firmly, moved to cruelty by an unknown resentment and by the alcohol and filled with intent to cut really deeply. "Are we starting again?" he questioned, certain that that was what they were doing, that they were in truth starting again. "Yes; and hundreds of other times too, because you're so selfish." Ever since he had come in, he hadn't done anything else but talk and talk about writing without giving a damn whether she was going to drive the car or not. And, coming back to reality, hadn't something just occurred to her? Where would they put the car? She was happy to have discovered this new difficulty and also the fact that of course it would have occurred to him as well, but she kept this in reserve. "When do they give it to you?" she added instead. She was beginning to feel tired, as if all at once she suspected that neither she nor he were anything more than characters in something written by someone else a long time before, not motivated by any incitement, not interested in satisfying any internal needs, not attracted by any prizes. "Between the fifteenth and the twentieth." While he was saying it he also began to feel the likely weariness the readers of his story would be going through, as if he lacked any real existence and as if what he was thinking were actually being thought by someone else. He shook his head before adding, "You should start taking lessons now. Let's not discuss it any more. It's a good thing there's no catch." "And what if there is?" she said. After five years of marriage to a writer, or whatever, she was well versed in the kind of conversation where what one of them thinks seriously the other says as if making a joke--and vice versa. "You guys all know each other." Despite the fact that he was certain this was just a case of a simple wisecrack, his wife's words did not cease to make him anxious. He remembered then the joking of his friends at the office when they were discussing the possibility of entering the contest. "Isn't there a catch?" one of them said craftily. "If there's not, I'm not entering," another said with a knowing smile, and they all laughed, putting out their respective strokes of wit while they mutually recalled how those things were done. It all depended: sometimes one would win because of a friendship, others lost because of enmities, and vice versa; and on and on ad infinitum, everything being illustrated with the names of former prizewinners that left no room for the slightest doubt and that put the finishing touches to their arguments. And then came all the slighting remarks about the obstacles found in the very rules of the contest, they were so vague and, apart from their vagueness, so funny. "The theme should have to do with any situation or development of events among persons or institutions, and these can take place when the satisfaction of needs is more than fulfilled, to the point of excess, waste, extravagance; when available resources, especially if they are limited or modest, are appropriated to superfluousness; when, in sum, a person or many persons or even an entire country deflect their resources toward excessive purchases under the influence of lack of foresight, imitation, vanity, appearances, the circumstantial or the ephemeral, instead of putting them at the service of the production of goods." This was the "theme" of the contest. A really nice theme, don't you think? But leaving aside things and cars, the important thing now was that he had won, and above all, that he had written something and he had sent it in without fear of failure and he had won. Wasn't that at bottom what the contest was all about? Looked at properly, what was it they were trying to develop with their contest? The country's industry in general, and especially the automotive, or just literature? He knew that, in hopes of winning, many would try to follow those outlines in their coarsest form and try to please the automobile factories or the country's industry as a whole, and would forget the objectives of their art. But with this last argument, wasn't he himself, as one might think the protagonist was doing in the story he had submitted and never thought would win, trying to have an influence on the minds of the jurors--his friends, perhaps-- by presenting them with the dilemma of deciding which side each was on, that of industry or that of literature? Again and again he repeated to himself that for him the important thing was not the prize but the fact that he had participated and won, with a worn-out joke, with the old foolishness of writing a story about the one who is writing the story, as a result of which he definitely succeeded in affirming once more that life is a foolish tale told by an idiot. "Well, yes, probably. But not because I was after it," he said, as if coming awake again. "Why not? It could be that they realized it was mine and they liked it." "And so?" "And so what? "And so what, what? " Oh. The car. You take it. I tell you seriously, it doesn't matter to me." "You see what I mean? Although you still don't want to accept the idea that the only thing that matters to you is the car, because you're a selfish person. All right then, take it and give it away to some whore," she said, thinking she would make him understand once again that what he liked were women who got money out of him, who deceived him, who were not as good as she was, and raising her voice a little, not with the idea that he should hear better but in order to draw his attention away from the fact that she was beginning to pour herself another glass. "Do whatever you want with it," he responded in the same way, pouring one for himself too, and looking absent-mindedly at the shoes he had just bought and that he had been taking off because it had been a long time since he had broken in a new pair of shoes and his feet were burning. "Throw it away, give it away, sell it!" While she was drinking her rum, she was thinking, he's all worked up, he always gets this way, he has to demonstrate that he is the stronger, that material things don't matter to him; that what he wants is to write, and that I should admire him for this, and I should love him not for what he has but for what he can do altruistically; that I should understand, and I do understand it, that he would be ready to let himself to be killed over this literature nonsense, or over a painting, or all those kinds of things that people rightly admire--but who would go so far as to think of doing the same over a war or particularly over the stupidities that others spend their time with, business or whatever. But of course what she answered was, "Oh, of course, that's what I'm going to do: buy what I can't have if my sister doesn't give me her throwaways, just to humiliate me, or if your friends don't do you the favor of granting you a prize." She wasn't going to do anything like this, nor did she feel humiliated in the least, but in discussions of this sort that was the way one answered, even though what was inspiring the other was desire, or love, or tenderness perhaps, though one never knew why it was that all this was almost always blended with hatred. "All right, let's not discuss it any more," he said. "Either you are married to a good writer or to a fool." Just the opposite of what he thought, which was the latter, she was sure that in reality he was the former. But partly because they were beginning to get hungry and partly so as not to give any more importance to what each one was thinking at that moment, they made their way to the kitchen to look for something to eat. Once there, a silence occurred in the middle of which, while they were slowly chewing and with difficulty swallowing a little bread with some ham, since it wasn't a question of preparing a real supper, they thought about cars that were red or blue or any color really, and about new shoes, and long avenues filled with cars, and awful galley proofs, and garages for cars where one could leave them safely overnight, and literary reviews in which one's name appeared immortalized by a prize, and discussions enlivened by alcohol, and how you had to carry through with them and never give in, and love, and sex, and sentences of reconciliation, and who would be the first to say them, until the ham was finished, along with a couple more glasses, he said thank you, and she answered, you're welcome, both in the indifferent tone of voice of people who had never seen each other before this, after which he declared, with an air of determination or decisiveness, I am going to go write, and he got up and made his way to their room and sat down in front of his tiny writing desk and while she was getting undressed in front of him and into bed he took out a piece of paper and, pen in hand, stared at it for a long time, as if hypnotized by the color white, until she in her turn, after a long while of serious thought or, as can be imagined, serious examination of conscience, asked him from the bed, half imperiously and half in supplication, feeling herself abandoned and depressed as on most nights when he applied himself to that, "Aren't you coming?" In general, at eleven-thirty at night one finds oneself more than weary of work, galley proofs, breaking in new shoes, the office, friends, oneself, arguing, eating ham on bread, winning prizes, one's own enthusiasm; apart from which, at that hour the alcohol makes one feel the next day will not only be less difficult but the glorious future a great deal easier, so that, thinking about the fresh white bedsheets and what awaited him within them, he responded in a conciliatory and hopeful tone while quickly tossing down a final shot, "Oh, yes."
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Create a League Table in an Excel Spreadsheet - Part 1 of 3
This World Cup 2018 Excel Template will make predictions and run simulations with sections like tournament schedule, stadium info and more. It can also be used as sweepstakes spreadsheet. Groups Football Stats - Major Leagues - H2H in 4 clicks (excel) - BookMaking & Dutching ===== This amazing MS Excel Tool is able to collect football stats from websites and display them in a standard ... Create a League Table in an Excel Spreadsheet - Part 3 of 3 - Duration: 4:04. Tiger Spreadsheet Solutions 21,982 views. 4:04. LeagueTable - Duration: 8:15. G00328962 GMIT 19,408 views. FIBA World Cup 2019 Excel Template Features Summary: # Excel Template to track FIBA Worldcup 2019 schedule and match scores # 1.Round, 2.Round and Final Round along with date and time excel betting Recommended for you. 1:06. Excel Fantasy Football Draft Tool ... 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Free Prediction Templates For Excel - Duration: 2:23. Excel y Más Recommended for ...