This game's sleazy monetization is trying to toy with your brain. Don't fall prey to it.
I get the game is F2P, and I understand they have to make money. At first, I was pretty disappointed about bundle prices because I believed (and still do) that they were too high. I get their tactic here, it's to target the wealthy, and hopefully, down the line, small fries like the major player base will get a fair deal. It isn't only the bundles which target the wealthy, however. To preface this, I will say also that no western, successful F2P game has pay-to-win. This game has the sleaziest monetization of any F2P I've ever played. I thought it would get better over time, but my hope has dwindled after Joe Lee's (RiotSWAGGERNAU7) statement regarding the battle-pass in Ask VALORANT #1. I would also like to say that managing monetization is this man's job. If you're going to get mad at anyone, get mad at the greedy guys at the top, not at him or the revenue team. No VP in the battle-pass. Interesting strategy. Here is what he had to say.
Our goal is that when you buy a battle pass, you buy it for the total value of it rather than buying it as a way of getting enough currency to buy the next one. We want the battle pass to be the highest value product we offer as well as a compelling experience...
This statement seems pretty genuine, but when you actually view the battle-pass beyond its face value, what they have done is pretty manipulative, and such manipulation is further demonstrated in the second half of his statement (which I'll cover after). Here is an image of VP and RP prices (I am in Australia, so prices will be different and the VP in each may be different, but the manipulation is a constant). Radianite points (RP) is the second of two paid currencies, I'll call it semi-premium because of their absolutely insulting prices, but I would also like to say you can earn a considerable amount in-game (that however, does not detract from its egregiousness). You have to buy VP first, and of course, they made it so you can't buy exact amounts, you've gotta use the packs. They also put these little "-x%" next to each tier of RP because oh boy, if it wasn't a steal already it's gotta be a steal now. /s It is insulting. 10 RP goes from around $10AUD to $15AUD, so you're pretty much best case scenario paying 10 bucks for an upgrade for a skin you've already bought (the upgradeable skins on their own btw, are $30AUD). Explained succinctly and pretty much perfectly by u/schemeKC, "Radianite is priced astronomically high to artificially inflate its perceived value". That's where Mr. Lee's statement comes in. Mr. Lee wants you to buy the battle-pass for "its total value". And jeez, the battle-pass must be good because of all that juicy Radianite which boosts its perceived value a fuckton. So after you finish the BP, you've got a nice amount of skins (none of which can be upgraded with RP). You've got this pile of RP leftover and it is just staring at you. The only way to use that RP though, is to spend even more money. Other F2P games give you premium currency for BPs months on end for free, and this game strips that away so you could be spending $10 every act, then coerces you to spend even more because of the RP you've been given. The way this statement was delivered to try and convince you that you were getting a good deal, now shows that this isn't something under the rug (to be felt not seen), it has been said by a real person. Any goodwill has been thrown out the window, and the player's intellect has been insulted. I hope that wasn't his intention, but that is exactly how it came across imo. VP can only be bought in really inconveniencing amounts, a tactic mostly used in mobile games but hey, it's 2020. Small indie dev needs to survive right? /s It is annoying for every player, and these tiers are worse than any F2P game I've ever played. If I wanted to buy 20 RP, I'd need to buy the 2175 VP pack and that would roughly equate to $15AUD per 10 RP. You can only use RP on paid skins (there are barely any free skins anyway). But let's say I want to buy the big boy 80 RP pack, ooh what value and it's 40% off! I would need to buy the 5800 VP pack for $80AUD and that would be around $10AUD per 10 RP if I were only buying RP. I need to buy another bundle to get an upgradeable skin, that sucks! I'll get the 1025 VP pack for $15 so I can buy a prime classic. That's $95AUD you've paid to get and upgrade a single skin (I'm not counting the RP you get for free for the purposes of demonstrating the confusion they have imbued within this model). This is a small demonstration of obfuscation. The system is designed to make you pay more and more and more until... oh. I still have some VP left, and I can get another skin! Let me pay just this little bit more. I think my bank balance might be negative. A single prime skin without any of its variants is at least $30AUD unless you buy the big boy bundles, but then you've obviously spent more than 30 bucks. It is designed to confuse the player into purchasing the highest value pack so they don't have to think, and if I'm being honest I haven't seen mobile games this cunning. This is malicious, and kind of impressive in a super fucked up way. The second half of his statement talks about the future of Radianite, and again, further attempts to display that "it's a great deal!" The revenue team wants RP to be "the evolving currency of VALORANT". They want this overpriced, huge pile of inflated pixels to be the next big thing. The RP you got for free can't be used for free, and honestly with the way this monetization is panning out I don't expect it ever to be used as such (despite what's said in the next few sentences, we've seen in the past a number of popular suggestions being thrown to the wind). An auto-renewable battle-pass in any game is designed to respect the player's time. If I see a game I love with an auto-renewable pass, actively rewarding me for spending time with the game after a one time purchase, you'd better bet your top dollar I will spend more. This system does not respect your time, it constantly probes you to spend more and more. Riot obviously didn't design this system with morals in mind, and there are certainly way more subtle additions that I didn't catch. So pretty much, this package has overpriced bundles and skins, psychologically manipulative RP, layers of obfuscation for all monetization - but hey, it's F2P! People who pay, they're suckers. Let their wealth be sapped for trying to support the devs. obligatory /s For a developer that has such strong ties to its community, these sort of manipulative business practices sour our perception. Even EA, after the Battlefront 2 fiasco completely removed loot-boxes and to a further extent, even microtransactions from everything but their sports games and AL. They tried to improve their reputation by investing in more indie devs and actually supporting them. Riot has done nothing. I know this post won't make them change their system. We have seen that they closed the door to the battle-pass changing after huge community outcry, and haven't at all changed the scummy Radianite, in fact, they've stated they are going to double down. But if we double down on our critique of the system we can be sure they will at least discuss it down the line. Your voice matters, probably not as much as your wallet though haha. Safeguard that shit from exploitation. If and when you decide to purchase something here, a good question would probably be whether this company actually respects your purchasing decision. As it stands, my feet are firmly glued to the "no" side of the fence. tl;dr - the game uses shady microtransaction design to confuse and fool players, then asks them to spend more money after stripping away common features of an established battle-pass model, completely failing to respect/reward their consumers' money/time.
Captain Thraxos perused the ship manifest one more time. There was a late entry to join the convoy to Cycria. Cycria was a remote world and had been having a pirate problem with merchant traffic attacked several times over the past two years. As the pirates had got more bold the situation had become untenable and the Galactic Federation had to finally do something about it. Thraxos was the captain of the light cruiser GFN Duhrel and he had been tasked to escort a merchant convoy from Dilolla to Cycria as deterrence to the pirates. He did not relish the assignment to babysit a motley fleet of civilians, but as GalFed captain he went where he was ordered to. The final ship to join the convoy was the IMS Antelope. A Human merchanter that had been berthing here at Dilolla even before Thraxos had arrived. Apparently they had had some difficulty in securing new cargo to take on board and looking at the ship’s specs Thraxos could not blame anyone for not wanting to put their valuables on board this old rustbucket. But Cycria was not exactly a prime destination and apparently someone had been desperate enough to contract the Antelope to ferry their cargo to Cycria at the last minute. IMS Antelope was an Independent Merchant Ship, owned and operated by her captain Robert Nele. Even her designation was thoroughly Human. The Humans had some of the most stringent licensing requirements to own and operate starship class drives which basically put them out of reach of civilian individuals. So, in turn, the independent merchanters had banded together and founded the Independent Merchant Ship company which held the licenses for the starship drives operated by their members with minimal interference from the company itself. Thraxos scoffed, but the Humans were an upstart species. Perhaps it was for the best that not just anyone could get their hands on potentially volatile technology. That showed more responsibility of them than Thraxos had heard based on their reputation. The Antelope herself was almost 60 years old and looking through her log she had mostly been operating within or near Human space. This was as far as she had ever been from home. Still, for all the tarnish on her hull, she had passed her latest spaceworthiness inspection only six months prior. She was one of the weirdest looking ships Thraxos had ever seen. She was basically a lattice spine on which standard cargo containers were mounted like grapes on a vine. Front end had habitation and docking, the back end had its large engine, ending on a flat plate mounted on what looked like pillars. Curious. Thraxos studied her engine specifications. Her main engine was of type Thraxos had never even heard of before, something the Humans called ‘orion’ type nuclear pulse thruster and with her mass, impulse and thrust she would be by far the slowest ship in the convoy, only barely scraping over the acceptable lower limit. Her jump engine likewise was an antiquated Type-I, only barely able to do the jumps required for this route. But she was over the bar so Thraxos had to grudgingly accept her to the convoy. Slightly annoyed, Thraxos sent the engine specifications to his astrogator to have their course and time estimates recomputed to match the Antelope’s slow speed. Then he fired off a message to all ten ships in his convoy to prepare to unberth and meet at the system’s jump point in twelve hours. At the start of next morning’s shift Thraxos entered the bridge to relieve the nightshift watch officer. It would be two hours until their scheduled jump off time, plenty of time to undock and make their way the 50 000 kilometers over to the jump point. Captain Thraxos turned to the operations officer of the previous watch. “Anything interesting going on?” Lieutenant Commander Tarkran shrugged. “Just the Humans, sir. The Antelope cast off six hours ago and has been slowly making their way to the jump point using manoeuvring thrusters only.” Thraxos was taken aback. “What? Why?” Tarkran shrugged again. “No idea, sir, but they’ll be arriving at the jump just before the scheduled time.” Captain Thraxos just shook his head. “Alright, thanks. I have the bridge.” Tarkran nodded and announced, “Captain has the bridge.” Tarkran turned and left as Thraxos sat down on the command chair. Captain Thraxos waited for the other stations to complete their watch handover and then turned to communications. “Lieutenant Coccols, request undocking.” “Aye, sir.” the comm officer responded. Thraxos then turned to the astrogation officer. “Lieutenant Ulan, please prepare a course plan to take us to the jump point after we’ve moved past the station’s safety perimeter and execute once we have undocking permission.” Next Thraxos glanced over his executive officer sitting at the operations station. “While we’re en-route, prepare a convoy placement assignment for each ship according to the exclusion zones of their engines. I want us to be in the middle. Hopefully the pirates will think we’re just another fat merchantman until it’s too late.” Commander Nivek nodded. “Aye sir. I think I can nestle us between GMS Aelat and IXS Naholl. I’ll have to see what we can do with the human ship.” “Very good.” Lieutenant Coccols turned around. “Sir. Undocking clearance granted, we have 1 minute window.” Captain Thraxos nodded. “Lieutenant Ulan, undock and execute.” “Aye, sir.” There was an almost imperceptible shift as the GFN Duhrel unlatched from the station and then pushed itself away from station’s bulk using its manoeuvring thrusters. After thirty seconds they had cleared the station perimeter and they were able to engage their fusion drive. Even at the minimal power that was allowed to be used near stations, it would only take them about 30 minutes to reach their designated staging point. “Ummm… Captain?” Commander Nivek interrupted after a few minutes. “Have you looked at the exclusion chart for the Human ship?” Thraxos furrowed his brow. “No, why?” Commander Nivek hesitated for a moment. “I think you should.” Captain Thraxos called up the schematic of the Human ship on his terminal. It was still one of the ugliest ships he had ever seen, but he wasn’t here to judge a beauty contest. He switched the overlay layers to the engine exclusion zone. “What the fuck?” he exclaimed. For most ships the exclusion zone was a cone behind them a few degrees wide. For IMS Antelope it was a whole half sphere and then some, covering just under 200 degrees of arc and extending all the way to 5000 kilometers, with an advisory zone all the way to 20 000 kilometers. “I think I know why they’re limping out there with their manoeuvring thrusters only.” Commander Nivek posited. “There’s no way they could have fired up that drive anywhere near the station.” After a moment he continued. “I think the only place we can put them is as the last ship in the convoy with nobody behind them.” Captain Thraxos shook his head in disbelief. “Do they have a completely unshielded reactor back there or something?” “I don’t know, I’ve never seen anything like this, but it must be by design and approved, since they’ve passed their inspections.” Thraxos sighed. “Well, transmit the assigned relative positions to all ships and manoeuvre us into position to wait for them.” The convoy of all ten merchant ships had taken up their positions around the cruiser GFN Duhrel with the IXS Ikol at the front and IMS Antelope at the rear. All the ships slaved their jump engines to the control of GFN Duhrel and in concert they tore a hole in reality that whisked them to another starsystem a dozen light years away. The system the convoy appeared in was uninhabited, a puny red dwarf with only a catalogue number as its name. They would then have to traverse the system to the next jump point that would allow them to jump to the next star in the chain to Cycria. Most of the time in traversing the galaxy was spent moving from jump point to jump point within each starsystem. Some systems were lucky and their jump points were close-by, others had them far apart and it took a long time and a lot of Δv to traverse. The locations of the jump points and where you could jump from them depended on the background arrangement of the dark matter permeating the galaxy which warped the extra dimensions of spacetime. The convoy would have almost a week ahead of them to traverse to the next jump point in this system, and just over two months to reach Cycria. Captain Thraxos looked over the monitors and concluded that everything was in order. “Lieutenant Ulan, plot a course to the next jump point.” The astrogator glanced over. “Already laid in, Captain. Ready to execute on your command.” “Very good Lieutenant.” Thraxos acknowledged with pleasure. “Signal the convoy to get underway and execute.” Ten of the ships in the convoy each fired up their fusion torches of various sorts and the convoy started moving, but then behind the eleventh ship, the IMS Antelope, something exploded with nuclear fury. “CAPTAIN!” Sensor officer Birrai shouted. “The engine of the Antelope just exploded!” “What?” The captain looked up. Just his luck that the Human rustbucket would have a catastrophic engine failure immediately upon firing up that lethal engine of theirs. “Signal all stop!” Just as soon as the fleet had started moving the torches died down as each ship ceased accelerating. Thraxos hit transmit button on his terminal. “This is captain Thraxos of GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope, do you require assistance?” Thraxos looked at the sensor scan on his screen as he waited for their reply. At least there didn’t seem to be much debris. Hopefully the Humans didn’t have many casualties. A calm, if slightly confused, voice came on the speakers. “This is IMS Antelope. Uh, negative on assistance. Why, what is the problem?” Captain Thraxos looked at his sensor officer, who just spread his arms. Then back to the sensor display, until he finally hit transmit again. “Duhrel to Antelope, did you not just have a catastrophic engine failure?” “Um. Oh!” There was a sudden realization in the voice on the radio. “Negative Duhrel. That was the detonation of our 50 kiloton nuclear propulsion charge.” “50 kiloton propulsion?! YOUR SHIP SHITS OUT NUCLEAR BOMBS!?” Captain Thraxos immediately regretted his lapse in decorum, but the sheer insanity of the idea had caught him completely off guard. “Affirmative Duhrel. Apologies for the confusion. The shaped nuclear charges are used to push against the driveplate at the back of the ship which transfers the momentum imparted to the ship through a staged shock absorber assembly.” After the convoy had gotten over the shock of the Humans’ propulsion system the rest of the voyage to the jump point had passed quietly. Or as quietly as a fleet trailing a stream of nuclear explosions can go. As had the second and third jumps. When the convoy appeared in the fourth system on the route, another nondescript nameless star, things rapidly went south. Before the convoy had a chance to start moving a warhead detonated half a million kilometers away from the jump point. Three pirate cruisers brought up their EM suites and aimed their targeting radars at the merchant convoy. The pirates were well poised about to catch any merchants that chose to try to flee, with each pirate able to cover a large part of the possible trajectories. An ultimatum was transmitted on all the universal emergency channels. “This is captain Qauk’ats of The Blood Raiders. Stand down your ships and prepare to be boarded. Any resistance will be met with lethal force.” Captain Thraxos considered his options. The Federation Fleet Command had not anticipated this heavy pirate presence. The previous raids had been performed by single ships each. His light cruiser might be able to take on two of the pirates, depending on how well they were equipped and trained, but all three would be too much. Especially when they were spread out like this, so he would not be able to concentrate his point defences in any single particular direction. On the other hand he had not yet betrayed that GFN Duhrel was a warship. His ship had been chosen for this because it was roughly the correct size to pass as a medium merchantman. Could he use this to his advantage somehow… “Lieutenant Coccols, signal the convoy to stand by. Comm laser only, let’s not tip our hands yet.” Captain Thraxos prayed that none of the merchanters would panic and start running, he was only one ship, he couldn’t be in two places at once to protect everyone. “Lieutenant Commander Birrai, use passive scanners only. Limit actives to equipment a merchantman could realistically have. Go loud on sensors only if our cover is blown.” Thraxos was stalling for time and he knew it. He needed something to give him an extra edge somehow. Something, anything. Just one way to neutralize one of the pirate cruisers to even the odds. On the screen vectors appeared showing the pirate ships starting to accelerate carefully towards the convoy since the convoy seemed to be capitulating. Whatever he comes up with he would have to come up with quickly. Then the comm officer piped up. “Captain, we have a laser message from IMS Antelope. Captain Nele wants to talk with you.” Thraxos sighed. Great, he didn’t have time to babysit a panicking merchanter right now. “Signal them to just stand by.” Few moments later lieutenant Coccols replied. “He’s being very insistent, sir.” “Fine.” Thraxos grumbled. “Put him on my monitor.” Captain Thraxos waited until on his screen appeared the image of a middle aged human wearing a black collared suit with a white shirt underneath and a tie around his neck. On his head he had a white hat with a black visor. On the hat was a golden patch with a stylized antelope rimmed with golden stylized ropes. “Captain Nele, what do you want?” Thraxos tried to hide the annoyance in his voice, but it still leaked through. “We’re kind of busy right now.” Captain Nele ignored his tone. “Captain Thraxos, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have a suggestion. Am I correct to assume that three pirate ships are too many for you to handle?” Thraxos hesitated. Nele sighed. “Captain, this is no time for ego. Is it so?” He looked at Thraxos with stern eyes. “Because if it is, then the Antelope can take on one of them.” Thraxos’ eyes widened. “What? No, out of the question!” “Captain, the Antelope’s driveplate is designed to withstand repeated nuclear explosions with minimal ablation. It is tougher than battleship hull. And I bet the pirates don’t know that our ship ‘shits out nuclear bombs’ either as you so eloquently put it.” Nele glared at Thraxos. “I’m not planning to die today after a failed last stand, so one more time: do you need help or not?” Thraxos glanced to the side. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he did need help. After an agonizingly long moment he turned back to face the other captain. “Yes. You’re right. We can probably take on two, but not all three of them.” Nele nodded. “Alright. So here’s what I have in mind...” The control room of the merchantman was spartan compared to the bridge of a warship. Captain Robert Nele was standing next to the sensocomm station looking at the radar plot. His heart raced and he hoped he wasn’t about to do something completely stupid. He glanced around and he knew that the rest of his crew felt the same. But they had to at least try. He breathed deep once and then exhaled. “Alright Terri, jettison the cargo containers. Arkady, use the azipod thrusters and lets make like bat out of hell.” The engineer, Terri Grove, hit buttons on her console and a series of thumps echoed throughout the ship. “All containers released.” Helm officer Arkady Stachowiak used the translation joystick to pull the ship backwards out from between the containers that were now lazily floating in space. “We’re free.” Then he turned the ship to a new heading and fired the azipod manoeuvring thrusters at full. “Batting out of hell.” The azipod thrusters could be turned to allow the ship to accelerate in almost any direction. They were meant for use near ports for both manoeuvring and mobility where the Antelope couldn’t use her main nuclear pulse engine. Because of this the azipods were unusually powerful for a ship of her size and with the Antelope shed of all her cargo they could give her pretty decent acceleration. Niels Becker glanced up to the captain standing next to him. “Radio from Duhrel.” He pressed a button to put it on the loudspeakers. Captain Thraxos’ voice sounded frantic as he yelled at the Antelope. “Get back here Antelope! Didn’t you hear what they said!” Robert shook himself to get into character. Then he pressed a button on Niels’ station and shouted back in panic. “Fuck that shit! I’m getting the hell out of here! It’s every man for themselves!” He took a second to steady himself again. “Alright Niels, let’s see which pirate takes the bait. Arkady, once we know who is chasing us, turn us so our driveplate is pointed at them. Make a good show of trying to get away, we need to lure them out far enough.” “Will do, Bob.” Arkady acknowledged. “I’ll give them a merry chase.” “Now we just hope they want us disabled and don’t use missiles.” Robert voiced everyone’s concern. “Terri, how are your modifications coming along?” Without even looking up from her console, Terri replied, “I’ve got the launcher patched. I’ve voided pretty much every warranty we have, but I managed to coax it to load four charges at once. With our biggest bombs that’ll give them a two megaton surprise.” Robert nodded. “Very good.” Terri continued, “The bombs turned out to be trickier. I should be able to get their attitude control software overridden, but they also have hardware safeties. I had to send Jonesy to physically bypass them. But that also means he can slap a radio module on them while he’s at it, so we’ll be able to detonate these on command.” Robert grinned. “Excellent. Great work. Let me know when Jonesy is done with the mods.” “Aye. Just one last thing. Once we load up any bombs into the launcher, we won’t be able to unload them any more.” “Alright. Keep the launcher on full manual then and load only on my command for now.” Niels interjected. “Contact-3 is altering course to intercept. I’ve coloured her pink on the radar plot.” Robert glanced over at the helm. “Arkady?” “On it. On our new course they’ll reach weapons range in 52 minutes. By that time we’ll have spent 84% of our manoeuvring propellant.” Terri winced. Robert noticed it. “What’s wrong, Terri?” “Oh, I’m just thinking of our next overhaul. The azipods weren’t meant to be used this hard for this long.” “Good to see you’re still an optimist.” Arkady commented. As Terri glowered at him, he added, “You think we’re gonna live long enough to service them.” Terri laughed and the rest of the command crew chuckled. Their moment of mirth was, however, cut short when Niels announced a message from contact-3. “Antelope, this is captain Mas’ieh of raider Bathed in Blood. Stand down immediately or you will be fired upon. This is your only warning.” After a moment of silence captain Nele said, “let them eat static.” It had been a tense half hour as the Antelope had led the pirate raider away from the rest of the group. Once they were too far away for Bathed in Blood to turn back and help his pirate brethren the GFN Duhrel had broken off the convoy and raced to meet the other two pirates. With all the pieces in motion it was now captain Mas’ieh’s turn to make a choice. He had three choices: continue pressing the Antelope, turn back and attack GFN Duhrel, or turn away and run. If he turned to attack GFN Duhrel, he would arrive to the battle too late to help Red Mayhem and Dread Rising. If the two ships could not beat Duhrel, then he would face Duhrel on his own and it might go any way depending on how much damage Mayhem and Dread had inflicted on her. If on the other hand Mayhem and Dread managed to destroy Duhrel, then he had just let the Antelope escape for no reason. If he decided to run, then his chances depended on whether Mayhem and Dread could destroy or disable Duhrel. Duhrel was faster so she would be able to catch up with Bathed in Blood before he could slip out of the system at the next jump point. But if Mayhem and Dread did manage to destroy Duhrel, his attempt to flee would not be looked upon kindly by the leader of the Raiders. So, no matter what happens his only real option was to press on Antelope. If Mayhem and Dread won against GFN Duhrel, then capturing the Antelope was the most useful thing he could do. If Mayhem and Dread lost to GFN Duhrel, then he was in no better or worse position than if he had turned away from Antelope. He would still have to face Duhrel just the same. He sent a message to captain Qauk’ats aboard the Red Mayhem with his plan of action to continue chasing the Antelope to make sure she couldn’t escape, and the rationale for taking this action. What he didn’t mention was that if Mayhem and Dread lost to Duhrel, but damaged her enough for him to destroy her… well, then he would have just become the new leader of The Blood Raiders. The atmosphere was tense in the control room of the IMS Antelope. Minutes ticked by as the raider Bathed in Blood chased them. Several hundred thousand kilometers away the GFN Duhrel and raiders Red Mayhem and Dread Rising were fast approaching each other. “Nuclear explosion.” Niels announced suddenly. “The raiders have started firing on GFN Duhrel. I think Duhrel’s point defence got that warhead. It was too far to cause any damage.” Robert nodded in silence. They could do nothing more to help, that battle was now up to captain Thraxos. “Two more. This time against contact-2. Their point defence stopped them.” Thraxos and Duhrel had an advantage. They could fire their magazines empty if they had to without consequence. For the pirates, every missile they shot was invaluable, for they couldn’t just pull in to a naval yard to resupply. But there were still two pirate ships and if their magazines were full, then Duhrel would be in serious trouble. “No fire for a few moments. I think they were just probing each other at extreme missile range.” Robert turned to Niels. “How long until Bathed in Blood is in missile range, assuming their range is similar?” Niels looked at the range plot. “Two minutes.” Suddenly there was a radiation alarm. Robert looked at Niels with the look of ‘are you sure’ all over his face. Niels looked at his instruments. “That was ten thousand kilometers away and off to the side. I think it was a warning shot. Negligible radiation dose.” Robert thought for a moment and weighed his options. “We’ll keep going. Hopefully they won’t waste more missiles on us.” The uneasy silence returned as more minutes ticked by. Only occasionally broken as Niels reported events of the battle happening far away. The exchange of fire increased as the combatants got closer. GFN Duhrel was pressing on contact-2, the Dread Rising, and closing the distance as fast as she could. Her point defences were working at near saturation as the two pirates poured missile after missile upon her. But likewise, her missiles pushed the pirate crew aboard the Dread Rising to their limit as well. “HIT!” Niels exclaimed! “Contact-2 has left behind debris.” Everyone cheered. A hit was nice, but it wasn’t the end of the battle. Nowhere near. Warships were compartmentalized to the maximum and even a direct warhead hit only crippled them locally. Soon the flashes of missile warheads were joined by the invisible beams of anti-ship lasers as GFN Duhrel and Dread Rising reached energy weapon range. Both ships took hits to their hull. Warship armour had diamond threads woven into it, which were as close as you could get to thermal superconductivity. Each time a laser flashed across a panel, the weave would try to spread out the thermal load to try to keep the plating from vaporizing locally where it was hit and hopefully the plate would be able to radiate the heat load away before another hit. But if any plate was saturated by heat, the entire plate would melt all at once. Niels was able to see thermal spikes on his IR scopes, but his instruments weren’t powerful enough to resolve what effects those hits had. Neither were the instruments of the other merchanters who were relaying their scanner data to the Antelope as well, which let Niels see the Bathed in Blood even though it was in the shadow of their driveplate. Otherwise the plate would have been a blind spot for them, for no sensor could be mounted on it that would be able to withstand the constant bombardment of nuclear fire it was under in normal operation. They could only guess how the battle was going. Both ships were streaming air and metal behind them. Both ships were hurt, but how badly was anyone’s guess. Then their own trouble started. Terri frowned. “I think we’ve just been shot at by Bathed in Blood with their lasers. I’m reading an increased thermal load on the driveplate. Activating cooling system.” Robert swallowed. This was it for them. “Here goes nothing then. Arkady, start jinking with the azipods but make sure the driveplate remains between us. Let’s make it look good and not give them too easy a target.” “I think we just had a near miss. The driveplate heat load spiked again, but much less. I think only the halo of the laser caught us this time.” Robert nodded. “Keep going.” With their overpowered azipods being able to move them laterally in almost any direction the cargoless Antelope was an exceedingly difficult target for the Bathed in Blood to hit compared to a warship. But every jink burned even more of their manoeuvring propellant. They wouldn’t be able to keep this up for too much longer. “Direct hit on our plate.” Terri announced once more. “Vent all our airlocks, let’s make them think they hurt us.” The Antelope shuddered a little as the airlocks blew out a cloud of air around the ship. “Too bad we didn’t think of loading some junk in them before hand.” Niels commented. Robert grinned. “Yeah, but this’ll have to do. Terri, load up a 10 kiloton starter charge into the launcher. Next time they score a direct hit, fire it. Arkady, when it goes boom, put us into a spin. Hopefully they’ll think they’ve hit our engines and disabled us.” “Got it.” Arkady acknowledged. Terri hit some buttons on her console. “Charge loaded. Arkady, when I say ‘stop’ stop thrusting. I don’t want us to drift out of the driveplate’s shadow before the charge goes off.” Arkady nodded. The Bathed in Blood scored a few more near misses and but then the heat on the plate spiked again. A direct hit. “Stop!” Terri shouted, then hit the button to manually fire the drive once. A few moments later there was a brilliant flash visible to the Bathed in Blood and the Antelope felt the surge of acceleration as the shock absorbers pushed their ship with the momentum of the nuclear explosion in front of them. Arkady immediately used the azipods to give their ship a good bit of spin, making it turn end over end. This was the moment when Robert bet them all-in. If the pirate cruiser would fire their laser even one more time, they could hull them straight through. For a merchantman had no armour plating cladding it everywhere like a warship did. The bridge was deathly silent as everyone were holding their breaths. Seconds passed. Then seconds more passed. The recharge time of the pirate’s spinal laser came and went and there was no Earth shattering kaboom. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and the seconds turned into minutes. The pirates wanted a prize and they thought they had it. Even as the battle lulled here, in the distance, the battle between Duhrel and the pirates raged on. Captain Thraxos had managed to break the Dread Rising in the laser exchange. The pirate cruiser was a wreck, hulled straight through in multiple places with a large hole where her main powerplant used to be. But Duhrel had suffered greatly as well. On one side her hull had been scoured clean of her point defences. A number of missile launchers were disabled or destroyed and several compartments were open to space as well. She was streaming air as she turned towards the remaining pirate. All the while they continued exchanging as much missile fire as they could. But the crew of the Antelope had no time to spectate for long. With them ‘disabled’ and dead in space the raider Bathed in Blood had been able to close the remaining distance much faster and they were getting ready to pull up alongside them. Captain Nele stood at the sensocomm station and watched the plot with officer Becker. He and Niels kept glancing at each other nervously as the distance closed. Getting the final part of their plan correct was critical, for they would only get one chance. Once their element of surprise was lost, they would be sitting ducks to the missiles of the pirate raider. “Terri, load up the launcher with four of the biggest charges we have. Arkady, once Bathed in Blood is within 10 kilometers, stabilize us and aim the driveplate at him. Terri, once we’re stabilized go to rapid fire on the launcher with as many of the 500 kiloton charges as you can.” Robert breathed deep to calm himself. “Detonate the charges when you think is optimal, or if it seems they’ve spotted our ruse. Let’s hope this works.” Terri nodded and worked frantically on her console to execute the instructions. She would have to program the bombs to rotate to face Bathed in Blood instead of their own driveplate. She’d replaced the normal inertial stabilizing software with her own and uploaded it to the bombs, but she still had to compute the difference based on her best guess where the Bathed in Blood would be in relation to them when the bombs would be triggered. The bombs couldn’t do it themselves, since they had no external sensors, only gyros so they knew their own orientation and nothing else. “20 kilometers.” Niels announced. Time seemed to crawl as every person ran on adrenaline. “15 kilometers.” Arkady held the stick, ready to execute. He had already turned the azipods ready to cancel their rotation, but then he would have to turn to face the pirate cruiser. “12 kilometers. 11 kilometers. 10 kilometers.” Arkady waited for a moment more before he pulled on the stick to make sure they would stop as close to the target attitude as possible. The ship heaved as the azipods worked to halt its turn. With the spin nulled, Arkady then rolled the ship so the azipods wouldn’t have to slew to a new direction before he could point the ship towards the pirate. He wanted to shave every second he could. “On target!” Arkady announced. Terri hit the button to execute the program. “Launching.” The whole operation had took only seconds and the pirates were caught completely off guard. The pirate ship took no action as the four little elongated spheres flew toward it from the little hole in the middle of the Antelope’s massive driveplate. A few seconds later another group of spheres flew out and another. The pirate ship finally stopped their approach with their manoeuvring thrusters and started to turn their spinal laser to point at the not-as-disabled-as-they-thought merchantman to finish them off. Terri waited until the last moment possible before the first group of nukes would drift past the pirate and put the ship out of the cone of their shaped charges. Then she pressed the fire button. “Firing!” A dozen 500 kt nukes exploded in unison at point blank range to the pirate cruiser. Six megatons total of nuclear fury. But these weren’t just nukes, they were shaped charges with most of the blast directed forward through a heavy layer of tungsten that was turned into vapour and shot as plasma towards the hapless pirate whose hull did not have the heavy reinforcement the Antilope’s own driveplate did. At point blank range this barrage could have hulled a battleship. Then a few seconds later another 2 megaton barrage exploded. Then another. Bathed in Blood finally finished turning to bring their spinal laser on the merchantman, but it did not stop. It continued to turn, its laser remaining dark. A cloud of air and debris surrounded the hulk of the pirate ship. Then the fourth barrage of bombs hit their main powerplant and Bathed in Blood split in two as the reactor amidships exploded. Sound of debris rang all around the Antelope as the explosion pushed against its driveplate, pushing the ship harmlessly away from the destroyed hulk of the pirate cruiser. “Holy. Fucking. Shit.” Niels mouthed as he looked at his sensor screen. Captain Robert Nele walked over to his chair and collapsed into it as the tension of the adrenaline in his system disappeared. Everyone on the bridge deflated as if they had been balloons from which the air had been let out. “Reload the drive with propulsive charges, get us the fuck out of here.” Robert breathed heavy with relief. Terri fired the last modified charges to clear the launcher. Her hand shook as she hovered over the fire button. She couldn’t bring herself to press it, not any more. The pirate ship was already more than destroyed. She let the nukes drift away past the wreck as she adjusted the loading priority for the launcher and reset it to standard automatic operation. In few seconds the first 10 kt charge aimed at their own plate fired and pushed them away. Terri let the computer take over and soon the Antelope picked up speed at great rate, galloping away from the broken and hulled wreck of the pirate ship like her namesake. Empty of cargo even the lightest charges accelerated her like she was an olympic sprinter. The direction didn’t matter, as long as it was away. They’d already forgotten the battle that had been going on elsewhere. Ten minutes later the numb silence in the control room was broken by a radio call. “GFN Duhrel to IMS Antelope. Captain Nele, what is your status?” As IMS Antelope joined back with the convoy, GFN Duhrel pulled up to alongside her. Or what was left of GFN Duhrel. The battle with the pirates had taken a tremendous toll on the light cruiser. There was nary a square meter on her hull that wasn’t scarred by battle damage. There was a large gash along one side and even a hole clear through her. The other side was scoured clean of her hull mounted weapons and sensors and several compartments were open to space. Over third of her crew were dead. It was a small miracle she was still flying at all. But the pirate fleet had paid even more dearly. All three cruisers floated dead in space as wasted, hulled wrecks. Bathed in Blood lay in twain with her spine broken. Dread Rising was missing an entire quarter of the ship where the powerplant had used to be. And Red Mayhem lay shattered in pieces after multiple missile hits when Duhrel had finally managed to overwhelm her point defences. There were very few survivors from the pirate fleet, and even fewer who had wanted to be a survivor. Only fifteen lifepods had been launched from the hulks, out of their total crew of a hundred and twenty. The rest had perished in the battle, or chosen to perish in the hulks. The survivors’ pods would be picked up in due time to face justice for their actions. Captain Thraxos watched the Human ship on his screen and saluted. The Antelope may have been old and tarnished, she may have looked odd and ugly, but right now captain Thraxos was proud to have her and her crew in his fleet. She was no longer part of the convoy, she was one of its protectors. And it was thanks to her that they had triumphed today against insurmountable odds.
NFL teams most likely to go from worst to first in 2020
We have talked a lot about the draft, biggest remaining needs for every NFL team, some breakout candidates and other stuff, so let’s now get back to more of a big picture and look at some teams from an angle of where could they go next season. In this article, I am analyzing those teams that finished fourth in their division this past year and why they could win it in 2020 or land at the bottom once again, plus an outlook where I actually see them. Of course much of this is about these eight teams and how much better or worse I feel about them than the general public, but it was heavily dependent on their three division rivals as well. The top half I could certainly see earn a playoff spot and surprise some people if everything goes right. After that a lot of my faith is more built around the lack of great competition and giving some hope to these respective fan bases. As the cliché goes – everybody is 0-0 right now. https://preview.redd.it/rs90lt6ckf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3ddfc8945862472b52b5ef8c69076acde904c44c
1. Arizona Cardinals
Why they can win the division: Let’s just start with the main point here – this Cardinals squad has all the ingredients to make a big jump in 2020. I expect Kyler Murray to enter the superstar conversation in year two, after impressing with his arm talent and ability to extend plays in a (somewhat controversial) Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. Steve Keim managed to unload a bad David Johnson contract and basically acquire an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins for a second-round pick. Kenyan Drake now has a full offseason to learn this offense and make himself a major factor once again, following up an outstanding second half of the season once the Cardinals traded for him with Miami. He perfectly fits into this offense with a lot East-West based rushing from shotgun sets and his involvement in the pass game, including those quick throws as an extension of the rushing attack. Arizona’s defense should be a lot better with run-stoppers being added in the draft that fit their 3-4 base front with Utah’s Leki Fotu and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence, since they can stay in those packages against the other teams in their division running a lot of 12 and 21 personnel probably. Add to that a do-it-all player with ridiculous range and overall athleticism in Isaiah Simmons at eight overall, plus all the other guys being in their second year under DC Vance Joseph. I love Budda Baker as a missile from his safety spot and I think some of the other young guys on that unit will take a step forward, like second-year corner Byron Murphy, who I talked about last week. Now let’s get to rest of the West – every other team in that division has some issues. The 49ers are facing the objects of a potential Super Bowl hangover and some limitations with Jimmy G at the helm. The Seahawks have question marks on the edge on either side of the ball with Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell fighting for the starting gig at right tackle and Jadeveon Clowney still on the open market, with a bunch of draft picks these last couple of years having to step up. And the Rams had one of the worst O-lines in football last season and they lost some pieces on defense. The Cardinals already gave all these teams issues in 2019 and have now added pieces that were clearly missing when last matching up against each other. Why they could finish last again: Most importantly, I am still not completely sold on the Cardinals offensive line, with D.J. Humphries being signed to a rather expensive deal as a below-average left tackle, third-rounder Josh Jones – while earning a late first-round grade from me – still needing an overhaul on his footwork before he can slide in at right tackle and guard Justin Pugh finally having played a full 16 games for the first time since 2015 last season. NFL coaches had a lot of time to study Kliff Kingsbury’s Air-Raid offense, which when you break it down is pretty simplistic in the amount of schemes they run. Yes, he diversified it a little as last season went along, going under center and running some pro-style rushing plays, but at its core, you can learn how to create some issues for all those mesh concepts and spread sets. As far as the Cardinals defense goes, it is more about pieces than proven commodities. Patrick Peterson is seemingly on the decline, they are thin in the secondary and could Chandler Jones follow soon, after he has been one of the most underrated pass-rushers in the league for a while now? You are staring the reigning NFC champs in the eyes, a team that was a few inches away from earning a playoff bye and another squad that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago. This is probably the best division in the entire league. Bottom line: I still believe the 49ers have done enough to repeat as division champs, re-tooling for all the losses they have suffered this offseason. However, I’m feeling pretty good about the Cardinals earning a wildcard spot. While I believe in the Seahawks quarterback and the Rams head coach respectively to not allow their teams to not have throwaway seasons, I also see enough issues with those squads to make me believe the Cardinals could have the second-best year of anybody in the West. To me they are pretty clearly the best of these eight teams, because they have a young phenom at quarterback, stars at pretty much every position, a different type of system around them and what I’d like to call “juice” coming into 2020. https://preview.redd.it/anrr9erfkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=5655b4452baff2691a0e060e8d70918d58801a4c
2. Detroit Lions
Why they can win the division: Matt Stafford is back healthy and when he was in the lineup last season, this was a team that defeated the Eagles, Chargers and only didn’t finish the job against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chiefs because of some crazy stuff going on late. The veteran QB stood at 19 touchdowns compared to five picks and was playing at a near-MVP type level. However, Detroit’s identity will be built on the run game with re-investments in the offensive line as well as adding D’Andre Swift to form a dynamic one-two punch with him and Kerryon Johnson. Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones may be the most underrated receiving duo to go with Danny Amendola as a tough guy in the slot and T.J. Hockenson coming into year two as a top-ten pick a year ago, having shown flashes when he was healthy. The defense is finally starting to take shape with third-overall Jeffrey Okudah as an elite corner prospect being added to an underrated secondary, Jamie Collins being a chess piece in the front seven after already having worked well with Matt Patricia and some young guys up front trying to prove themselves to go with the versatile Trey Flowers. Maybe more importantly than the Lions themselves – Nobody else got that much better and none of the other three really stand out to me. Other than the Vikings probably – who had the advantage of making a record-breaking 15 selections – the Lions might have had the best draft within the division. Thanks to that last-place schedule, they get to face the Redskins in the East (instead of Eagles & Cowboys) and Cardinals in the West, who I just talked about taking a step forward, but are still a better draw than the reigning conference champions or possibly having to travel to Seattle. I believe that new regime in Detroit has finally built an identity on both sides of the ball with the heavy investments in the run game and back-seven on defense. Winning ten games might earn you a division title, if everybody plays each other tough. Why they could finish last again: Can these guys finally stay healthy? Matt Stafford to my surprise played a full 16 games in eight straight years before last season, but a lot of that had to do with his toughness to fight through pain and he had major issues with that shoulder early on in his career before basically breaking his back after putting the team on it for the last decade. Kerryon Johnson has missed 14 of 32 possible starts and he has never carried the ball more than 118 times a season. Their receiving corp has been banged up quite a bit too. More glaring even – how will all these additions of former Patriots players work out? Can Matt Patricia build a New England 2.0 in Michigan or is he just bringing in players he knows will listen to him and the way he wants things to be done? Detroit could also rely on a lot of rookies to be immediate impact players – possibly two new starting guards on offense, running back D’Andre Swift probably sharing the load with Kerryon, Jeffrey Okudah having to immediately become their CB1 and Julian Okwara being asked to become a much more consistent player if they give him major snaps. And I recently talked about how their uncertainty at punter could be an issue for their ball-control, defense-minded style of play. They also have an early bye (week five), which I’m never a big fan of, after facing the Bears, Packers, Cardinals and Saints, which probably includes three playoff teams. If Chicago can get any competent QB play, all these teams should be highly competitive. Bottom line: I don’t think any team in this division wins more than ten games. Unfortunately I don’t see the Lions go over that mark themselves either. The Packers won’t come out victorious in so many close games (8-1 in one-possession affairs), the Vikings have lost a few proven commodities and look for young talent to immediately replace those and the Bears still have a quarterback competition going on. So if Detroit can do any better than just split the season series with those three teams, I see them finishing above .500, but ten wins is the ceiling for me. In terms of the competition inside the division, the Lions may be my number one team in this conversation, but I see a much clearer path to things crashing down for Matt Patricia and them having another disappointing season than I do with the Cardinals. No team in this division may finish below that 8-8 mark. https://preview.redd.it/7ivo914ikf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=d029ddd274b78e78f5bc932d00086b8c697a466e
3. Miami Dolphins
Why they can win the division: When you ask the general public, the Buffalo Bills right now are the favorites to win the AFC East, but they haven’t done so since 1995 and they still have to prove they really are that team. The Patriots lost several pieces on defense and Tom Brady of course, which probably leads them to starting a quarterback, who over his four career pass attempts has thrown more touchdowns to the opposing team than to his own. The Jets are still building up that roster, with GM Joe Douglas trying to plant seeds on burnt earth, and they face a BRUTAL schedule. So Miami has a lot of things going in their favor for an organization that I believe in what they are trying to build. Depending on what happens at quarterback, you could have a veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was by far the best inside the division in several key categories last season and/or Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the most prolific careers we have seen from anybody in the SEC. They added at least two new starters on the O-line, they now have one of the premiere cornerback trios in the league with the all-time highest paid player at the position in Byron Jones and first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene to go with Xavien Howard and with some added beef up front, they are finally looking a lot like what Brian Flores had in New England. DeVante Parker really broke out over the second half of 2019 and Miami should have a much better rushing attack because of the additions up front and two quality committee backs in Jordan Howard and Matt Breida being added. They have two other young pass-catchers ready to break out this upcoming season in tight-end Mike Gesicki and a UDFA receiver from a year ago in Preston Williams. Whenever Tua’s name is called upon, he will be a perfect fit for Chan Gailey’s horizontal passing game. Why they could finish last again: As much as I like what I see from this entire organization, it is probably just a year too early for Miami. So many young players could be thrown into the fire and a lot of them I look at as needing that experience – 18th overall pick Austin Jackson (USC) is more of a developmental tackle still with his footwork and hand-placement issues, 30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene (Auburn) has only played cornerback for two years and was bailed out by his athletic tools at times, third-rounder Brandon Jones has to develop more of a feel in deep coverage and at least one more rookie lineman will likely start for them. Even outside of this year’s draft class, they already had several players on their roster that are still moving towards their prime. Whether you look at last year’s first-rounder Christian Wilkins, a lot of second- and third-year pass-catchers or their young linebackers outside of Kyle Van Noy. The Bills are entering year four of that turn-around under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, the Patriots still have the greatest coach of all time and will be a tough matchup solely based on that and the Jets at least have people playing for their jobs, plus a very talented young quarterback I still believe in. As much as I doubt Adam Gase, as long as Sam Darnold doesn’t get mono again, the offense should at least be competent, and the defense could potentially have a top-five player at every level with All-Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams, an 85-million dollar linebacker in C.J. Mosley and my number one prospect in last year’s draft on the interior D-line with Quinnen Williams. Bottom line: As I mentioned before, the Bills are the front-runners in this division for me. As much respect as I have for Bill Belichick, I haven’t seen enough from Jarrett Stidham to make me a believer and he shrunk in some big moments at Auburn. The Jets to me could be a lot better than they were in 2019 and still go 6-10 just because of the type of schedule they are up against. So the Dolphins to me could easily finish anywhere from second to fourth, depending on how some of the players on that roster progress. I wouldn’t bet on them actually making the playoffs, but they could absolutely be a pain in the butt for some of the better teams in the AFC and in 2021 they might be the pick here. https://preview.redd.it/nme3explkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=3998c6026125c1b9b48438e3fc9afaf9601b116e
4. Los Angeles Chargers
Why they can win the division: First and foremost, this Chargers defense is absolutely loaded with no real hole that you can point to. Derwin James is back healthy after a first-team All-Pro rookie campaign, Chris Harris Jr. comes in to make this secondary one the elite units in the NFL to go with two more Pro Bowlers among it and they have some guys I expect to break out like Jerry Tillery, Drue Tranquill and Nasir Adderley. In terms of having matchup pieces and a versatile pass rush to challenge Kansas City, nobody in the league may be on the same level as these guys. Offensively, Ihave talked about how the left tackle spot is concern for L.A. with a battle between Sam Tevi and Trey Pipkins for the starting job, but the other four spots are as good as they have been in a while, acquiring Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner via trade, signing a top five right tackle in Bryan Bulaga and getting Mike Pouncey back healthy. Tyrod Taylor can steer the ship and even if Justin Herbert is thrown into the fire – which I wouldn’t recommend – they have the skill-position players and willingness to run the ball to take pressure off those guys. While the Chiefs return 20 of 22 starters from a year ago, this wouldn’t be the first time we saw a Super Bowl champion have some issues the following season and as much as we want to hype up the Broncos and Raiders, both their quarterbacks (and other players of course as well) have a lot to prove still. Outside of KC, the Chargers likely have the smallest changes to what they do other than moving on from Philip Rivers and we saw that formula work the year prior, when they challenged Kansas City until the very end for the division crown and the conference’s top seed potentially. While they probably would have liked to bring in Tom Brady over the offseason, the fact they decided against signing Cam Newton to a roster that is ready to win right now, shows you the confidence they have in that quarterback room. Why they could finish last again: I’m not a huge fan of Derek Carr, but the Chargers will probably have the worst quarterback in the division in 2020. And their starting left tackle could be the worst in the entire league. As good as their defense will probably be, you can not consistently win games in which your offense doesn’t put up 20+ points in the league today – especially when all these teams in their division have spent so much on acquiring offensive firepower these last couple of years. I believe all three of their division rivals got better this offseason and the Chargers spent their top draft pick (sixth overall) on a young quarterback, who might not even help them win games this season. As I already mentioned, Kansas City brings back almost their entire starting lineups and they went 12-4 despite Mahomes seemingly having his knee cap facing the sideline while laying on his back. I have uttered my thoughts on Denver several times now, which you can read up on later. As for Las Vegas’ new team, they did start last season 6-4 and just heavily invested into their two major issues – wide receiver and linebacker. And while I don’t like to talk about it – injuries have been a huge issue for this Chargers team in recent years and I don’t really know what it is even, but I can’t assume that they all of a sudden can stay healthy. Bottom line: In terms of talent on the roster outside of the quarterback position, you could make a pretty compelling argument that the Chargers are ahead of all the other teams on this list. That’s the reason they have a pretty high floor of finishing around .500 and if everything works out, they could absolutely be a playoff contender. However, for this exercise in particular, I believe their upside is capped by what they have under center. Tyrod Taylor can be a top-20 quarterback in the NFL this season and in terms of upside, Justin Herbert has all the tools to become a difference-maker once he steps on the field, but they don’t have the explosiveness the Chiefs or the Broncos have for that matter. With so much continuity on a team that has the best player in the entire league, I can’t go against the Chiefs and in the end we are evaluating the chances to actually win the division. https://preview.redd.it/rywropjokf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=ed77a7303af810b862abb2100c4f0b86841a2d38
5. Washington Redskins
Why they can win the division: These guys are very reminiscent of the 49ers with their defensive line, in terms of having invested a lot of high draft picks into the unit these last couple of years and now with that second overall pick bringing in a true stud from Ohio State – this time in Chase Young. When you look at all those guys up front – with the Bama boys patrolling the middle, Matt Ioannidis capable of moving around the front, Montez Sweat looking to break out in year two and Ryan Kerrigan still being there as a productive veteran – they will wreak some havoc this season. Ron Rivera could finally bring some structure to this organization and help them turn it around on defense with the addition of an old companion in Thomas Davis, plus some high-upside players like Reuben Foster and Fabian Moreau looking to prove themselves. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins had a very underwhelming rookie campaign, but he clearly wasn’t ready to be out there and found himself in a bad situation in terms of the support system around him. I like a lot of their young skill-position players the front office has surrounded him with, when you look at Terry McLaurin trying to become a young star in this league, who produced despite shaky quarterback play last season, Kelvin Harmon and Antonio Gandy-Golden being two big-bodied targets I liked these last two drafts, Derrius Guice hopefully finally being able to stay healthy to lead this backfield and this year’s third-round pick Antonio Gibson being a chess piece that you can manufacture touches for. Somebody I forgot to mention in this discussion recently is Steven Sims Jr., who is a jitterbug with the ball in his hands. New offensive coordinator Scott Turner will implement a system that should make life easier on his second-year signal-caller as well, while relying heavily on the run game. Why they could finish last again: Haskins is by far the least proven QB of the bunch, with Daniel Jones even being head and shoulders above him in their respective rookie seasons. No pass-catcher outside of Terry McLaurin had any major production to speak. Counting on a 37-year old Thomas Davis to not only be a leader for them, but also make plays on the field, could create issues, and Washington lost some pieces in the secondary. This offseason is a challenge for any team, that is looking to implement a new system on each side of the ball, but I think especially for a motivator like Rivera, who can give his squad a heartbeat and push them to success, not being there in person with those guys will hurt. Most importantly however, this division to me will be a two-man race between the Eagles and Cowboys – as it has been for a while now. They both will likely have top ten quarterbacks, better receiving corps, better offensive lines and more experienced defenses. The Giants may not blow anybody away coming into 2020, but looking at the two matchups from last year between them and the Redskins, Big Blue beat them 24-3 the first time around, when Daniel Jones threw one touchdown compared to two interceptions and then he diced them up for five TDs and no picks in week 16. The one area Washington would have had the clear upper hand was with their front-four, but New York just invested a lot of draft capital into their O-line to prevent that. Just go through the Redskins’ schedule and show me more than six wins. I dare you. Bottom line: These last two sentences really say it all. Even if Philly and Dallas split the season series and Washington can get a game off either one of them, it will be tough to turn around this squad as quickly as this season – with reduced practice time and team activities – to a point where they can finish above both of them. Both of them could easily win double-digit games in 2020 and while I think the Redskins are on the right track if Haskins looks more like the Ohio State version of himself, other than their defensive line, no unit for them is ready to compete for the division quite yet. Just going through their schedule in an objective manner, it is tough to find any lay-ups and say Washington has some baseline of wins they count on. To not have them any lower than this is more due to the respect for Riverboat Ron and how high I was on a lot of the guys they drafted recently. https://preview.redd.it/szpawv9rkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=62ca5fe882d8155d83eb3328e9bf1f1681a17384
6. Jacksonville Jaguars
Why they can win the division: I was going back and forth between my number six and seven teams, because the Jaguars are projected to pick first overall come next April for a reason – they did lose a lot of pieces. However, to me it came down to the fact that the AFC South might be won at 9-7 or 10-6 and this coaching staff actually has to win to keep their jobs. There is a lot noise about the Colts, but when you go back to last season, Philip Rivers was a turnover machine with serious questions about his arm strength. Bill O’Brien made some very questionable decisions for Houston and Tennessee is counting on a formula that is built on a 250-banger running the ball 25+ times and Ryan Tannehill finally repeating a career year, as they are coming off an AFC title game appearance. As far as Jacksonville goes, Gardner Minshew was the highest-graded rookie quarterback according to PFF and altogether I would have put him second only behind Kyler Murray. D.J. Chark broke out as one of the young star receivers and I had a first-round grade on Colorado’s Laviska Shenault if he can be healthy, because his talent is off the charts. I think the O-line would have benefitted from another tackle to kick Cam Robinson inside to guard, but those guys are some road-graders to make the run game work. Defensively the only real contributor from that Sacksonville group a couple of years ago who actually wants to be there is Myles Jack, but I really like their young duo off the edge in first-rounders Josh Allen last year and now K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU). There are some questions about the back-end, but they were built front-to-back with a lot of zone coverage behind it and depending on the development of ninth overall pick C.J. Henderson, they can roll away from him matching up with the opposing team’s number one receiver. Avoiding some of the better AFC squads altogether is pretty sweet as well, to go with facing no playoff team from last year outside their division until the middle of November. Why they could finish last again: I’m just not sure if all of these players are ready to fight for that coaching staff and organization. Two of their remaining veterans (Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue) have openly talked about how they want to be traded, they only have a few actually proven commodities on that entire roster and with the way they have unloaded big cap numbers, they have set themselves up for a true rebuild potentially, as they are expected to be in the Trevor Lawrence-Justin Fields sweepstakes come next April. Even if they can get a few breaks and the division is up for grabs, does this organization even want to win this season? If not for the injury to Jacoby Brissett in the middle of the season, all three other teams in that division would have almost certainly finished above .500 and the Colts are actually the team that improved by far the most among them. That Texans, who have actually won the South four of the last five years, including last season, may be the smallest challenge and still sweep Jacksonville. Vegas rarely misses completely and the Jaguars right now are the odds-on favorite to pick first overall come next April, with an NFL-low OveUnder of 4.5 wins on the season. And as favorable as the early portion of their schedule looks like right, check out this eight-game stretch after their week seven bye – at Chargers, vs. Texans, at Packers, vs. Steelers, vs. Browns, at Vikings, vs. Titans, at Ravens. Ouch. They might go winless over that period. Bottom line: The Jaguars to me are a very interesting team, because I believe they have accumulated a bunch of young talent, which gets lost a little when you see all the names that aren’t there anymore. There is a lot to like about this roster, when you look at what these players could develop into, but that doesn’t mean they will have success this year already. The Colts have the best 53 currently in the division (or 55 now), the Texans have the best quarterback and the Titans are coming off an AFC Championship game appearance. Gardner Minshew could make this kind of a tough decision if they end up picking anywhere after first overall and I think some of those other kids will put up pretty good numbers, but they are still pretty clearly fourth in the South as for now. https://preview.redd.it/5myv276vkf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=7fb25f47d0759e9b5a07876ea01787898c6cc817
7. Carolina Panthers
Why they can win the division: Nobody knows for sure what Matt Rhule and his new coaching staff will throw at them. Joe Brady gets to work with Teddy Bridgewater once again, who he already coached in New Orleans – so there will be familiarity for him in this system and they already “speak the same language”. That young receiving corp with D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, free agency addition Robby Anderson and even an up-and-coming tight-end in Ian Thomas is pretty underrated actually, plus of course they have one of the truly elite weapons out of the backfield in Christian McCaffrey, who is probably set to break his own RB reception record once again. The Panthers defense-only draft has brought them a monster in the middle in Derrick Brown (Auburn), a really talented edge rusher in Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State) on the opposite of last year’s rookie stud Brian Burns, a super-rangy safety with linebacker size in Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois), what I think is a starting corner in Troy Pride Jr. (Notre Dame) and some other pieces in the secondary. The talent is clearly there and now you bring in a scheme that is probably going to be unique for the NFL level as well, when you look at that 3-3-5 Baylor ran under Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. As much as we want to praise our legends of the game, the quarterbacks of the two front-runners in this division will be 41 and 43 years old respectively and let’s not forget that Atlanta started out last season 1-7. Why they could finish last again: Especially this offseason, without certainty if there will be anything like training camp or even a real preseason, that completely new staff with new systems they are trying to teach will certainly have some growing pains. Bridgewater has been a top-20 starting QB maybe one year of his career and even when he was applauded for the way he filled in for Drew Brees last season, he finished dead-last in intended air yards among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. How will that mesh with a lot of vertical targets around him? When he has those guys running free on slants and dig routes, the ball will get there, but will he be willing to throw that deep post or give his guys a chance on go-balls? Defensively they are counting on a lot of young players and they have nobody to even come close to replacing Luke Kuechly, as well as making the switch to an unproven scheme possibly, if they actually use some of those 3-3-5 looks coming over from Baylor. When you look at Rhule’s track-record, it always took him until year two to show improvement and then in that third season is when those teams can really make some noise. And that was in the AAC and Big 12 respectively. Now he is in the NFC South with a team that just went 13-3 in the Saints and a Bucs squad that already was 7-9 and lost six of those games by one score, only because despite finishing fifth in takeaways, they ranked in the bottom five in turnover differential due to easily leading the league with 41 giveaways. That should get a lot better with Tom Brady coming in, who has never even quite thrown half of Jameis Winston’s 30 interceptions in any of his 20 years in the league. Even the Falcons – for as poorly as they started last season – went 6-2 after really coming together and making some changes in their bye week last season. Bottom line: The Panthers are clearly the most unproven team in this division. While new systems that haven’t been scouted yet certainly have an advantage in terms of game-planning early on, especially in this offseason with heavily limited live reps most likely, that might equal a net minus. You have to root for a guy like Teddy Bridgewater and the way he has worked his way up to a starting spot again, but I just don’t look at him as a surefire franchise signal-caller. The other three teams in the South all have top ten quarterbacks in the league in my opinion and much more continuity around them. Until the Panthers finally get to their bye week at the start of December, I don’t see them winning more than four of those twelve games. At that point they may have their eyes on a different goal already, if Teddy B isn’t the clear answer under center. https://preview.redd.it/y7agj2n2lf751.png?width=720&format=png&auto=webp&s=221af0a1f689d3b19d5e250fac0b58a35877edad
8. Cincinnati Bengals
Why they can win the division: We’re not that far away from 2015, when the Bengals won the AFC North with a 12-4 record as the fifth year in a row making the playoffs. Since then this is the first time I feel like there really is change happening with this team. Marvin Lewis was replaced by a young Zac Taylor, trying to prove himself to the league, they drafted Heisman trophy winner Joe Burrow first overall to replace as average a quarterback as we have had over the last decade in Andy Dalton and the front office finally spent some money in free agency. While you would think a quarterback going first overall usually comes into a situation, where he is devoid of talent around him, Cincinnati suddenly has one of the better group of skill-position players in the entire league, assuming A.J. Green is back healthy. Tyler Boyd is a stud in the slot, who will be Burrow’s version of Justin Jefferson, a 50-50 ball specialist in second-round pick Tee Higgins (Clemson) matches perfectly with Burrow’s expertise of winning with ball-placement and if they get anything from former first-rounder John Ross at least as a decoy with his speed, that’s a plus. I expect Joe Mixon to be among the league leader’s in running back receptions and be more effective in space with those receivers around him as well. The signings the Bengals have made on defense gives them a lot more talent and complements very well what they already had. D.J. Reader is one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the league and frees everybody up along the front, they completely overhauled that linebacker group, which was a major issue these last couple of years, they brought in a starting CB2 and nickel from Minnesota to pair up with William Jackson III, who is ready to announce himself as one of the best corners in football, and Von Bell is a great match with the rangy free safety Jessie Bates. Why they could finish last again: As talented as all those guys throwing, catching and running the ball may be, it all starts with what’s happening up front and the Bengals offensive line is still in transition. They could have two of the worst starters in the league at both guard spots and right tackle once again, with the prior ones close to reaching that bust status and Bobby Hart still somehow having a starting job. As great as Joe Burrow was last year at LSU and how clean his evaluation was, how much better than Andy Dalton will he be right away, especially going up against those scary defensive fronts inside his division? Defensively they could easily have six new starters, which obviously can be looked at as a positive sign, considering they allowed 20+ points in all but two games last season, but there is also a lack of continuity and reduced time to fit all those pieces together. Cincinnati’s coaching staff hasn’t really proven anything yet and they will be facing a massacre of a schedule, with three occasions of back-to-back road games and while three of their final four games of the season are at home, they will face the Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens, to go with a trip to Houston in-between. If they don’t beat the Chargers in the season-opener, they probably don’t get that first W until week four against the Jaguars and then they have to hope they can sneak out another one until their bye week. Baltimore is tied with Kansas City for the highest projected win total with reigning MVP coming into just his third season, Pittsburgh is favored to make the playoffs with Big Ben back under center and Cleveland was the offseason favorite in 2019, while fielding an even better roster this year. Bottom line: I feel bad for putting this team last, because I thought Joe Burrow was the top quarterback and definitely worthy of that number one pick and the Bengals finally spent big money in free agency to retool the defense. To me this is less about them than the Ravens, who just were the number one overall seed in the playoffs at 14-2 and haven’t done anything other than get better themselves, a Steelers team that made a run at the playoffs with the worst quarterback play in the league now getting Ben back and a Browns roster that is among the top ten league-wide in most people’s opinion. Still, there is a lot to like about this team at the skill-positions, which is probably behind only Cleveland in terms all the weapons they have, some young standouts on defense and hope that all of this brings a fresh breath of air. If you enjoyed this content, I would really appreciate if you could visit the original piece (with video clips) - https://halilsrealfootballtalk.com/2020/06/16/nfl-teams-most-likely-to-go-from-worst-to-first-in-2020/ You can also listen to my breakdown on Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9kCcuPobNU
I’m staying at a resort for people who are taking time off their medication. I’m noticing some strange things going on – Part 7
Part 6 - I creep over to the door under the staircase. After initially pushing it, I pull it open. Before me lies a rocky, spiralling staircase shrouded in darkness. It leads deep beneath the house. I turn my phone’s flashlight on as I shut the small door behind me. I walk down around 30 steps, my flashlight shines at my feet to ensure I don’t trip on the uneven surface. As I take the last step, I shine my light around the room I now find myself in. It’s a long, thin corridor. The stone walls make it feel cold, haunting. To make matters creepier, along the left side of the corridor, four cages sit; large, dungeon-like cells, certainly capable of holding humans. In each cage there is a wooden bench and multiple buckets. Nobody is in any of the cages. Just beyond them, at the far end of the corridor, a large door stands. I approach it and try to move through, but it is locked. Not wanting to make any noise, I decide that it’s best I leave this door for now. I turn to head back up the stairs. I bet this is where they keep the people they kidnap. But if Hannah isn’t here, where is she? - The door shuts quietly behind me. I need to go upstairs. I take the staircase on the far right of the room; it’s darker, covered in shadows. Each step taunts me, creaking through the eerie house. I reach the top and see the small balcony area that Miss Harper and Nommus had been speaking on not long ago. Beyond it, a corridor splits into two directions. To both sides, four rooms are aligned along the far wall. There is also a staircase at the end of the right side of the corridor which spirals up and out of view. I hear hushed voices; multiple people engaging in conversation. I stay low, and quietly approach the sound. I pinpoint the voices; beyond the third door on the right. I press my ear up to it; trying to listen, to hear Hannah. The cluster of voices make it difficult to make out what is being said; it is white noise. She’s not in there. She’s upstairs. Keep going, quickly. Ara. I move away from the door and turn my attention to the end staircase. I climb it without hesitation. At the top, a door. It’s open. “Cal?” Hannah gasps as I sneak through, “what the fuck- Cal?” “Hannah!” I excitedly whisper. She’s tied up to the far wall of an empty attic, her hands held tightly to a pipe above her head, “let me get you out of here.” She’s tied with rope; excellent. I take my knife out and quickly cut through it. I can see she’s been trying to bite her way through the thick rope, but hasn’t come close. Eventually, I cut her free. “Are you alright?” I ask, “did they hurt you?” “Cal, I’m fine. We need to get out of here, before they come back.” We make our way out of the attic and down the stairs. As we reach the bottom of the staircase, the door I had been listening through slowly opens. I grab Hannah, and pull her into the room closest to us. It’s similar to the rooms downstairs; a bed, fireplace, a desk. We quickly move under the bed as someone enters. Teacher Iris and another female walk into the room; I’m assuming the other is also a teacher, as she wears the same red jumpsuit as the others. Neither see us. They both hold a tall glass, filled with a thick, red liquid. Hannah and I hold our breath as the two teachers sip from their glasses, engaging in conversation. Hannah puts her hand on my shoulder. He’s here. A-Ara? He’s here? Who? Mr. Sick. Over there, in the corner. My eyes dart to the corner of the room. Sure enough, a tall, dark shadow looms over the room, pressed up against the wall. Nothing creates the shadow; it’s just there. He wants to come in. If he comes in now, he- he’ll call on them. He’ll call on them through you. And they’ll find you. Then, they’ll let him out. What do I do? Keep him OUT! Keep HIM OUT! KEEP HIM OUT! Her voice rings in my head. I will. I’ll keep him out. Hannah’s hand leaves my shoulder. The shadow in the corner of the room starts to shake. What begins as a slight vibration through its body soon becomes violent convulsions. Something about the way it moves makes me feel sick. But I can’t look away. Everything around me just disappears. The shadow is all I see; all I feel. It slowly takes a solid shape. As if creating matter from thin air, the shadow thickens. It’s got more substance to it now. As I stare, I soon realise it’s staring back. Wide, excited eyes. We stare at each other, unblinking. “Cal,” Hannah’s harsh whisper snaps me out of my trance, “they’ve left, come on.” My legs feel foreign, like I’ve never used them before. I begrudgingly get to my feet. I’m dazed, confused. Where am I? Who am I? What am I? Hannah grabs my hand and slowly opens the door. She pulls me out into the corridor and leads me downstairs, then back to the room I entered in, almost as if by memory, and out the window. - The shrill of the alarm clock wakes me up. Uh oh - 10 minutes till Art Therapy. Hannah remains asleep, her arms around my chest. I carefully leave her grasp – You’ll be late again, fucker. No no no go away not now I need to be at art I have to go I shake profusely, trying to shake him away. And he’s gone. I throw my clothes on and turn to see Hannah still asleep, she’s so beautiful, just laying there. Forgetting about her troubles. Hopefully dreaming of me. I imagine myself kissing her, holding her, in some suburban house. Our kids running and playing around us. The longer I stare at her, the more I realise it’d be so easy to kill her right now. Wait, what? Not kill her. Just, slit her throat. Fuck, what? This place is fucking with me. My brain is just fried, tired, from last night’s events. I’d never hurt Hannah; not me. I’m going to be late again. If Teacher Art rats me out to Miss Harper again, I’m going to fucking kill him. I’ll grab a needle and shove it right into his fucking eye, see how he likes it. I mean, not literally. I would though - kill him. Would I? I don’t know, maybe. I would. I will. I won’t. - I’m late to Art Therapy. I burst through the door and Teacher Art gives me a quick side glance but nothing more. The class are all at desks, writing something. I take my place at an empty one near the back of the room. “Nice of you to arrive,” Teacher Art doesn’t look up from the ground as he speaks to me, “today, we are writing a letter to the thing we fear most. Addressing it as if it is real, and letting it know we are not afraid of it. Please, catch up." I begin writing straight away. ‘Dear Mr. Sick.’ Actually, ‘Dear Miss Harper’. Or maybe, ‘Dear Callum’. ‘Dear Ara’. ‘Dear Hannah’. ‘Dear Mr. Sick’. - The session ends. I’m not sure how time passed so quick. I’m not even sure what I’ve written; it just looks like a list of names, like I couldn’t decide who to address it to. - “I am going to blindfold you”, Teacher Iris begins as I seat myself at Visual Therapy. She continues, “I will be once again trying to determine whether the fear you feel is based on visual or audio cues. I will be talking to you as you are blindfolded. You will repeat back what I say.” The blindfold is tight. “Are you ready to begin?” Teacher Iris asks. “Yes.” “The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the world is round,” she says. “The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the world is round,” I respond. “Mathematics is a subject based on numerical equations. English literature is a subject based on stories and poems”, she says. “Mathematics is a subject based on numerical equations. English literature is a subject based on stories and poems.” “We will all die. Some of us, painfully. Some of us, peacefully. We can either cause violent death, or receive it,” she speaks. “We will all die. Some of us, painfully. Some of us, peacefully. We can either cause violent death, or receive it.” “I, Callum Sharper, choose to cause violent death. I am going to hurt people, hurt you. I will let him in. I will do his bidding,” she says. “I, Callum Sharper, choose to cause violent death. I am going to hurt people, hurt you. I will let him in. I will do his bidding.” “I, Mr. Sick, choose to cause violent death. I am going to hurt people, hurt you. I will let me in. I will do my bidding,” she whispers. “I, Mr. Sick, choose to cause violent death. I am going to hurt people, hurt you. I will let me in. I will do my bidding.” - “Callum I-“, Sandy seems skittish during this counselling session, “I’m not sure where to begin. I’m hearing alarming things. You’ve been late twice, and Teacher Iris tells me you began to say some very, um, shall we say, questionable things during visual therapy.” “I only repeated back what was said to me”, I say. Doesn’t this bitch know how the therapy works? She looks so innocent. So weak. “Mr. Sharper, we do not tolerate that language! Please, you have no right to refer to me in that manner. I’m trying to help you.” Did I say that aloud? I don’t think I did, did I? She continues, “I understand you were tasked to repeat some phrases that Teacher Iris spoke, but you went on some sort of a tangent. You began ignoring her, and saying some rather dark things, Callum.” “She’s lying to you,” sudden guilt hits me, as if I become a new person, “I’m sorry, I- I’m confused, I just…” “Callum,” Sandy growls as her aroma changes to something much darker, “you are to see Miss. Harper after this session. She will be waiting for you in the grand hall.” Her smile is menacing. Her weak presence, gone; she now strikes fear into me. I don’t want to break any rules. I just want to be happy, you know? Happy. - The session soon ends. I don’t want to know what Miss Harper has planned for me. Part 8
Taproot! Everybody wants to have it, somebody wants to make it, nobody knows how to get it! (If you are asking why everybody wants it, see: Technical: Taproot: Why Activate?) (Pedants: I mostly elide over lockin times) Briefly, Taproot is that neat new thing that gets us:
Multisignatures (n-of-n, k-of-n) that are just 1 signature (1-of-1) in length!! (MuSig/Schnorr)
Better privacy!! If all contract participants can agree, just use a multisignature. If there is a dispute, show the contract publicly and have the Bitcoin network resolve it (Taproot/MAST).
Activation lets devs work get back to work on the even newer stuff like!!!
Cross-input signature aggregation!! (transaction with multiple inputs can have a single signature for all inputs) --- needs Schnorr, but some more work needed to ensure that the interactions with SCRIPT are okay.
Block validation - Schnorr signatures for all taproot spends in a block can be validated in a single operation instead of for each transaction!! Speed up validation and maybe we can actually afford to increase block sizes (maybe)!!
SIGHASH_ANYPREVOUT - you know, for Decker-Russell-Osuntokun ("eltoo") magic!!!
OP_CHECKTEMPLATEVERIFY - vaulty vaults without requiring storing signatures, just transaction details!!
So yes, let's activate taproot!
The SegWit Wars
The biggest problem with activating Taproot is PTSD from the previous softfork, SegWit. Pieter Wuille, one of the authors of the current Taproot proposal, has consistently held the position that he will not discuss activation, and will accept whatever activation process is imposed on Taproot. Other developers have expressed similar opinions. So what happened with SegWit activation that was so traumatic? SegWit used the BIP9 activation method. Let's dive into BIP9!
bit - A field in the block header, the nVersion, has a number of bits. By setting a particular bit, the miner making the block indicates that it has upgraded its software to support a particular soft fork. The bit parameter for a BIP9 activation is which bit in this nVersion is used to indicate that the miner has upgraded software for a particular soft fork.
timeout - a time limit, expressed as an end date. If this timeout is reached without sufficient number of miners signaling that they upgraded, then the activation fails and Bitcoin Core goes back to the drawing board.
Now there are other parameters (name, starttime) but they are not anywhere near as important as the above two. A number that is not a parameter, is 95%. Basically, activation of a BIP9 softfork is considered as actually succeeding if at least 95% of blocks in the last 2 weeks had the specified bit in the nVersion set. If less than 95% had this bit set before the timeout, then the upgrade fails and never goes into the network. This is not a parameter: it is a constant defined by BIP9, and developers using BIP9 activation cannot change this. So, first some simple questions and their answers:
Why not just set a day when everyone starts imposing the new rules of the softfork?
This was done classically (in the days when Satoshi was still among us). But this might argued to put too much power to developers, since there would be no way to reject an upgrade without possible bad consequences. For example, developers might package an upgrade that the users do not want, together with vital security bugfixes. Either you live without vital security bugfixes and hire some other developers to fix it for you (which can be difficult, presumably the best developers are already the ones working on the codebase) or you get the vital security bugfixes and implicitly support the upgrade you might not want.
Sure, you could fork the code yourself (the ultimate threat in the FOSS world) and hire another set of developers who aren't assholes to do the dreary maintenance work of fixing security bugs, but Bitcoin needs strong bug-for-bug compatibility so everyone should really congregate around a single codebase.
Basically: even the devs do not want this power, because they fear being coerced into putting "upgrades" that are detrimental to users. Satoshi got a pass because nobody knew who he was and how to coerce him.
Suppose the threshold were lower, like 51%. If so, after activation, somebody can disrupt the Bitcoin network by creating a transaction that is valid under the pre-softfork rules, but are invalid under the post-softfork rules. Upgraded nodes would reject it, but 49% of miners would accept it and include it in a block (which makes the block invalid) And then the same 49% would accept the invalid block and build on top of that, possibly creating a short chain of doomed invalid blocks that confirm an invalid spend. This can confuse SPV wallets, who might see multiple confirmations of a transaction and accept the funds, but later find that in fact it is invalid under the now-activated softfork rules.
Thus, a very high threshold was imposed. 95% is considered safe. 50% is definitely not safe. Due to variance in the mining process, 80% could also be potentially unsafe (i.e. 80% of blocks signaling might have a good chance of coming from only 60% of miners), so a threshold of 95% was considered "safe enough for Bitcoin work".
Why have a timeout that disables the upgrade?
Before BIP9, what was used was either flag day or BIP34. BIP34 had no flag day of activation or a bit, instead, it was just a 95% threshold to signal an nVersion value greater than a specific value. Actually, it was two thresholds: at 75%, blocks with the new nVersion would have the new softfork rules imposed, but at 95% blocks with the old nVersion would be rejected (and only the new blocks, with the new softfork rules, were accepted). For one, between 75% and 95%, there was a situation where the softfork was only "partially imposed", only blocks signaling the new rules would actually have those rules, but blocks with the old rules were still valid. This was fine for BIP34, which only added rules for miners with negligible use for non-miners.
The reasons miners signalled support was because they felt they were being pressured to signal support. So they signalled support, with plans to actually upgrade later, but because of the widespread signalling, the new BIP66 version locked in before upgrade plans were finished. Thus, the timeout that disables the upgrade was added in BIP9 to allow miners an escape hatch.
The Great Battles of the SegWit Wars
SegWit not only fixed transaction malleability, it also created a practical softforkable blocksize increase that also rebalanced weights so that the cost of spending a UTXO is about the same as the cost of creating UTXOs (and spending UTXOs is "better" since it limits the size of the UTXO set that every fullnode has to maintain). So SegWit was written, the activation was decided to be BIP9, and then.... miner signalling stalled at below 75%. Thus were the Great SegWit Wars started.
BIP9 Feature Hostage
If you are a miner with at least 5% global hashpower, you can hold a BIP9-activated softfork hostage. You might even secretly want the softfork to actually push through. But you might want to extract concession from the users and the developers. Like removing the halvening. Or raising or even removing the block size caps (which helps larger miners more than smaller miners, making it easier to become a bigger fish that eats all the smaller fishes). Or whatever. With BIP9, you can hold the softfork hostage. You just hold out and refuse to signal. You tell everyone you will signal, if and only if certain concessions are given to you. This ability by miners to hold a feature hostage was enabled because of the miner-exit allowed by the timeout on BIP9. Prior to that, miners were considered little more than expendable security guards, paid for the risk they take to secure the network, but not special in the grand scheme of Bitcoin.
ASICBoost was a novel way of optimizing SHA256 mining, by taking advantage of the structure of the 80-byte header that is hashed in order to perform proof-of-work. The details of ASICBoost are out-of-scope here but you can read about it elsewhere Here is a short summary of the two types of ASICBoost, relevant to the activation discussion.
Overt ASICBoost - Manipulates the unused bits in nVersion to reduce power consumption in mining.
Covert ASICBoost - Manipulates the order of transactions in the block to reduce power consumption in mining.
Now, "overt" means "obvious", while "covert" means hidden. Overt ASICBoost is obvious because nVersion bits that are not currently in use for BIP9 activations are usually 0 by default, so setting those bits to 1 makes it obvious that you are doing something weird (namely, Overt ASICBoost). Covert ASICBoost is non-obvious because the order of transactions in a block are up to the miner anyway, so the miner rearranging the transactions in order to get lower power consumption is not going to be detected. Unfortunately, while Overt ASICBoost was compatible with SegWit, Covert ASICBoost was not. This is because, pre-SegWit, only the block header Merkle tree committed to the transaction ordering. However, with SegWit, another Merkle tree exists, which commits to transaction ordering as well. Covert ASICBoost would require more computation to manipulate two Merkle trees, obviating the power benefits of Covert ASICBoost anyway. Now, miners want to use ASICBoost (indeed, about 60->70% of current miners probably use the Overt ASICBoost nowadays; if you have a Bitcoin fullnode running you will see the logs with lots of "60 of last 100 blocks had unexpected versions" which is exactly what you would see with the nVersion manipulation that Overt ASICBoost does). But remember: ASICBoost was, at around the time, a novel improvement. Not all miners had ASICBoost hardware. Those who did, did not want it known that they had ASICBoost hardware, and wanted to do Covert ASICBoost! But Covert ASICBoost is incompatible with SegWit, because SegWit actually has two Merkle trees of transaction data, and Covert ASICBoost works by fudging around with transaction ordering in a block, and recomputing two Merkle Trees is more expensive than recomputing just one (and loses the ASICBoost advantage). Of course, those miners that wanted Covert ASICBoost did not want to openly admit that they had ASICBoost hardware, they wanted to keep their advantage secret because miners are strongly competitive in a very tight market. And doing ASICBoost Covertly was just the ticket, but they could not work post-SegWit. Fortunately, due to the BIP9 activation process, they could hold SegWit hostage while covertly taking advantage of Covert ASICBoost!
UASF: BIP148 and BIP8
When the incompatibility between Covert ASICBoost and SegWit was realized, still, activation of SegWit stalled, and miners were still not openly claiming that ASICBoost was related to non-activation of SegWit. Eventually, a new proposal was created: BIP148. With this rule, 3 months before the end of the SegWit timeout, nodes would reject blocks that did not signal SegWit. Thus, 3 months before SegWit timeout, BIP148 would force activation of SegWit. This proposal was not accepted by Bitcoin Core, due to the shortening of the timeout (it effectively times out 3 months before the initial SegWit timeout). Instead, a fork of Bitcoin Core was created which added the patch to comply with BIP148. This was claimed as a User Activated Soft Fork, UASF, since users could freely download the alternate fork rather than sticking with the developers of Bitcoin Core. Now, BIP148 effectively is just a BIP9 activation, except at its (earlier) timeout, the new rules would be activated anyway (instead of the BIP9-mandated behavior that the upgrade is cancelled at the end of the timeout). BIP148 was actually inspired by the BIP8 proposal (the link here is a historical version; BIP8 has been updated recently, precisely in preparation for Taproot activation). BIP8 is basically BIP9, but at the end of timeout, the softfork is activated anyway rather than cancelled. This removed the ability of miners to hold the softfork hostage. At best, they can delay the activation, but not stop it entirely by holding out as in BIP9. Of course, this implies risk that not all miners have upgraded before activation, leading to possible losses for SPV users, as well as again re-pressuring miners to signal activation, possibly without the miners actually upgrading their software to properly impose the new softfork rules.
BIP91, SegWit2X, and The Aftermath
BIP148 inspired countermeasures, possibly from the Covert ASiCBoost miners, possibly from concerned users who wanted to offer concessions to miners. To this day, the common name for BIP148 - UASF - remains an emotionally-charged rallying cry for parts of the Bitcoin community. One of these was SegWit2X. This was brokered in a deal between some Bitcoin personalities at a conference in New York, and thus part of the so-called "New York Agreement" or NYA, another emotionally-charged acronym. The text of the NYA was basically:
Set up a new activation threshold at 80% signalled at bit 4 (vs bit 1 for SegWit).
When this 80% signalling was reached, miners would require that bit 1 for SegWit be signalled to achive the 95% activation needed for SegWit.
If the bit 4 signalling reached 80%, increase the block weight limit from the SegWit 4000000 to the SegWit2X 8000000, 6 months after bit 1 activation.
The first item above was coded in BIP91. Unfortunately, if you read the BIP91, independently of NYA, you might come to the conclusion that BIP91 was only about lowering the threshold to 80%. In particular, BIP91 never mentions anything about the second point above, it never mentions that bit 4 80% threshold would also signal for a later hardfork increase in weight limit. Because of this, even though there are claims that NYA (SegWit2X) reached 80% dominance, a close reading of BIP91 shows that the 80% dominance was only for SegWit activation, without necessarily a later 2x capacity hardfork (SegWit2X). This ambiguity of bit 4 (NYA says it includes a 2x capacity hardfork, BIP91 says it does not) has continued to be a thorn in blocksize debates later. Economically speaking, Bitcoin futures between SegWit and SegWit2X showed strong economic dominance in favor of SegWit (SegWit2X futures were traded at a fraction in value of SegWit futures: I personally made a tidy but small amount of money betting against SegWit2X in the futures market), so suggesting that NYA achieved 80% dominance even in mining is laughable, but the NYA text that ties bit 4 to SegWit2X still exists. Historically, BIP91 triggered which caused SegWit to activate before the BIP148 shorter timeout. BIP148 proponents continue to hold this day that it was the BIP148 shorter timeout and no-compromises-activate-on-August-1 that made miners flock to BIP91 as a face-saving tactic that actually removed the second clause of NYA. NYA supporters keep pointing to the bit 4 text in the NYA and the historical activation of BIP91 as a failed promise by Bitcoin developers.
We have discussed BIP8: roughly, it has bit and timeout, if 95% of miners signal bit it activates, at the end of timeout it activates. (EDIT: BIP8 has had recent updates: at the end of timeout it can now activate or fail. For the most part, in the below text "BIP8", means BIP8-and-activate-at-timeout, and "BIP9" means BIP8-and-fail-at-timeout) So let's take a look at Modern Softfork Activation!
Modern Softfork Activation
This is a more complex activation method, composed of BIP9 and BIP8 as supcomponents.
First have a 12-month BIP9 (fail at timeout).
If the above fails to activate, have a 6-month discussion period during which users and developers and miners discuss whether to continue to step 3.
Have a 24-month BIP8 (activate at timeout).
The total above is 42 months, if you are counting: 3.5 years worst-case activation. The logic here is that if there are no problems, BIP9 will work just fine anyway. And if there are problems, the 6-month period should weed it out. Finally, miners cannot hold the feature hostage since the 24-month BIP8 period will exist anyway.
PSA: Being Resilient to Upgrades
Software is very birttle. Anyone who has been using software for a long time has experienced something like this:
You hear a new version of your favorite software has a nice new feature.
Excited, you install the new version.
You find that the new version has subtle incompatibilities with your current workflow.
You are sad and downgrade to the older version.
You find out that the new version has changed your files in incompatible ways that the old version cannot work with anymore.
You tearfully reinstall the newer version and figure out how to get your lost productivity now that you have to adapt to a new workflow
If you are a technically-competent user, you might codify your workflow into a bunch of programs. And then you upgrade one of the external pieces of software you are using, and find that it has a subtle incompatibility with your current workflow which is based on a bunch of simple programs you wrote yourself. And if those simple programs are used as the basis of some important production system, you hve just screwed up because you upgraded software on an important production system. And well, one of the issues with new softfork activation is that if not enough people (users and miners) upgrade to the newest Bitcoin software, the security of the new softfork rules are at risk. Upgrading software of any kind is always a risk, and the more software you build on top of the software-being-upgraded, the greater you risk your tower of software collapsing while you change its foundations. So if you have some complex Bitcoin-manipulating system with Bitcoin somewhere at the foundations, consider running two Bitcoin nodes:
One is a "stable-version" Bitcoin node. Once it has synced, set it up to connect=x.x.x.x to the second node below (so that your ISP bandwidth is only spent on the second node). Use this node to run all your software: it's a stable version that you don't change for long periods of time. Enable txiindex, disable pruning, whatever your software needs.
The other is an "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin Node. Keep its stoarge down with pruning (initially sync it off the "stable-version" node). You can't use blocksonly if your "stable-version" node needs to send transactions, but otherwise this "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin node can be kept as a low-resource node, so you can run both nodes in the same machine.
When a new Bitcoin version comes up, you just upgrade the "always-up-to-date" Bitcoin node. This protects you if a future softfork activates, you will only receive valid Bitcoin blocks and transactions. Since this node has nothing running on top of it, it is just a special peer of the "stable-version" node, any software incompatibilities with your system software do not exist. Your "stable-version" Bitcoin node remains the same version until you are ready to actually upgrade this node and are prepared to rewrite most of the software you have running on top of it due to version compatibility problems. When upgrading the "always-up-to-date", you can bring it down safely and then start it later. Your "stable-version" wil keep running, disconnected from the network, but otherwise still available for whatever queries. You do need some system to stop the "always-up-to-date" node if for any reason the "stable-version" goes down (otherwisee if the "always-up-to-date" advances its pruning window past what your "stable-version" has, the "stable-version" cannot sync afterwards), but if you are technically competent enough that you need to do this, you are technically competent enough to write such a trivial monitor program (EDIT: gmax notes you can adjust the pruning window by RPC commands to help with this as well). This recommendation is from gmaxwell on IRC, by the way.
In the 20 years I’ve been playing, I’m fortunate to have very few horror experiences. I guess thats because for the majority of that time, I’ve been lucky to have had gm’d for the same group. As time goes by people get married, get jobs, move, schedule conflicts, and basically life arises and this group eventually moved to gaming from twice a week to once to once a month and eventually not at all. I mentioned in my previous story a sorcerer. The player of the sorcerer and i are still best friends, despite it being close to 15 years since that story happened. A about two years ago i moved in with him and one day he told me he wanted to run a mutants and masterminds adventure based on the SCP stories. I thought that sounded awesome. For those of you who don’t know, SCP is an online collection of stories about a fictional organization that tracks down and contains monsters and artifacts, locking them away and studying them and Mutants and masterminds is a superhero rpg. So in my head I’m picturing a cross between the company from heroes meets Cthulhu meets Spider-Man! He invites one of his friends from college who we will call “mark, and i invite one of my old players who we will call Kevin. Then of course there’s the GM, who I’ll call Steven and myself. On game day, Kevin can’t make it, but we forge ahead anyway. After making characters the three of us play through about half a session before Steven wraps it up for the night saying he needs time to “think about what will happen next.” We had only been playing for 2 1/2 hours, counting character creation. He told me later he hadn’t even come up with the monster yet despite it being his idea and he set up the date for playing, and wasn’t working at the time. A week later he calls the campaign because he just can’t figure out anything to do with it and its cutting into his time playing video games. This could have been the end. This should have been the end, but it wasn’t. I had played again and I liked it. We had 4 people who were committing to a regular game, whose schedules all lined up, and I wanted to run. I talk with Steven and let him know that i want to run a campaign. Ive already spoken with Kevin and mark and even got a hold of one of my other players who i will call Vince to join in a Star Wars group, and invited Steven to join. I told him the idea was that it would be fireflyesq. An episodic adventure of a crew who were an ensemble cast, sort of speak, just trying to get along. Doing missions to keep their ship up and running and get some money on the side. Those who were on the outskirts of the law and society, who could be a. Bounty hunter one week and a smuggler the next. Making friends and enemies in every port along the way. “I want to be the pilot.” Were his first words. I’m cool with that. No one else had chosen any roles on the ship yet, he was the first person who I spoke to about what the plot would be, and we’re typically first come first serve when it comes to characters. Besides, it would all be figured out in session zero. If anyone had any problems with a that they could talk it out then. I nodded and gave the ok. “And I want to own the ship.” well, i thought. The ship has to belong to someone. But still. “I don’t know....” I began. Him cutting me off “If I’m piloting it might as well be my ship.” “Fair enough.” I shrugged, not really seeing the harm that could do. Its not as if everyone wouldn’t have a stake in the ship and missions based around each character anyway. “And i want to be a member of the rebellion.” “You did catch that I wasn’t going to make the rebellion and empire a big thing. I mean, they would give you an occasional mission or sometimes you may have to outrun one of their ships, but that was about it.” “I wan’t to be in the rebellion or I’m not going to play.” That wasn’t the full threat and I knew it. From his tone he wouldn’t just not play, but he would whine and be as obnoxious as he could during game time to make it hard for the players. I sigh. I could make this work. Sure, he could be an undercover operative. That could be pretty fun. I’ve done that myself. Occasionally he would get jobs that would secretly help the rebellion cause. And then the group could start to figure it out, making it a mystery. What is in the thing they are smuggling, or whose the person they are hunting for a bounty, until they eventually figure out they are working for the rebellion. Yeah, that could be a fun thing behind the scenes. “Okay,” I begin. “But just a warning not everyone on the ship will be working for the rebellion.” About to lay out this idea for him, when he cuts me off. “If they aren’t rebellion I wouldn’t let them on my ship.” I blink. I had told him point blank that I didn’t want to run a rebellion/empire war campaign. That I didn’t want it to be a central point besides for background. “What?” I asked disbelieving. “You did catch what i said, right?” “Yeah, but if I’m the pilot AND its my ship, then I wouldn’t let anyone onboard who wasn’t a member of the rebellion. We would be doing rebellion work and jobs.” I sighed again. For the sake of my friendship and the peace in my home, I agreed. Making a retreat to my room before he could dictate the game to me further. In my room I start thinking. ‘Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. I hadn’t told anyone else what i was planning on with the story besides for a Star Wars campaign. I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate as a gm, so I was planning on using published adventures and adventure hooks from the fantasy flight games twitter, and I could still do that. I would just have to use some age of rebellion books instead of edge of the empire. Really, its not what i was planning on running, but i could still make it work. If this was the last of it, I wouldn’t be writing this story. Skip forward a few days to character creation/first session. I had picked up an introductory module for age of rebellion and familiarized myself with it. Steve, just as he had promised had made a pilot. It was a very well rounded character, having a little of every ability but only real focus is piloting. A good support character and honestly i was pretty happy with it. Mark had made a sniper specializing in heavy two handed ranged weaponry. Kevin made an infiltrator talker character, and Vince made an engineer droid who could only talk in imperial propaganda as he had originally been a rebel spy. Anytime anyone starts talking about their character, Steve chimes in. Someone has electronics. So does Steve. Someone has mechanics? So does Steve. Someone had medicine? Steve doesn’t, but thats okay cuz Steve is “da biggest and bestest pilot in the galaxy.” Something we heard several times during creation. The module begins with the group going to a rebel base under assault! Steve refuses to allow anyone to help him pilot despite the fact his ship was made for 2 pilots, because “I’m the pilot, so I’m the only one who should. Besides, I’m da biggest and bestest pilot in the rebellion, so i don’t need your help!” They’re being pursued by tie fighters AND have to fly through a cavern with long hanging stalactites and stalagmites while under fire, plus at a penalty with out a copilot. One of the players says they can at least use the turret and Steve tries to shoot it down, saying “this is my ship and no one will do anything in it but me!” I step in and bring up that Mark had gunnery skill, and kevin could help pilot the ship, and Vince could be repairing the ship during this. “No! This is my ship and the only thing I’m good at!” We all roll our eyes. By some miracle he brings the ship in close enough to the base for its guns to shoot off the tie fighters, but the ship is messed up, and Steven is mad. Muttering angrily under his breath mad. In the next phase of the adventure there is an ATAT making its way down a canyon right to the base, its supported with 4 at-st’s and something like 50-100 storm troopers. In the canyon there is a walkway carved that has explosives planted on it and an electronics check is needed to cause them to go boom. The droid has the bet electronics so he volunteers, playing a clip of “for the empire!” There are blaster canons along the cliff edge that can be used with a gunnery check to slow down the walkers. Marks character who had gunnery volunteers to use one. There are hidden entry ways allowing for combat with the troops in the canyon, the Kevin volunteers thinking he can use his cloaking shield and claws to take down troopers quietly, and speeders that can be piloted to help slow the walkers and provide cover for the cannons. Everyone turns to Steve is again, the ‘biggest and bestest pilot in the galaxy!’ Steve says “what’s the point? The OP will just try to screw me over like he did on the way in here! He obviously has it out for me!” I wanted to explode, but thankfully the rest of the group had my back. They reminded him how he refused to let them do anything. He didn’t let the gunner shoot, he dind’t let the copilot copilot, he didn’t let the mechanic fix, and instead they had to watch him do everything. He sighed and dropped the point, still shooting daggers at me and tried to figure out where best to go. He was reminded once again about the speeders, but just shook his head and muttered something about me. “I could do the explosives. I have one rank in computer.” The droid had 3. “I could use the turret. I have one rank in gunnery.” The Gunnar had 3. He began to argue with everyone that because he had a 1 rank in something, he obviously was the best choice for everything. I can shoot! I can use computers! I can do this, so i should do this and you should do something else. The rest of the group had had enough at this point and were arguing back. Finally, after some test roles were done and they compared the size of their cocks, i mean dice pools, he agreed to fire a blaster pistol from the canyon face. The battle itself isn’t important. The droid made the booms go boom, the group slowed down the enemies enough for him to reach the explosives, and the party won. The only noteworthy point was that that gunners canon took a hit which gave him a critical injury when it exploded. In the ffg games a critical you roll a D% and the higher you roll the worse it is. If you roll a 140 you’re dead. Each critical compounding adding +10 to the check until it’s healed. He rolled and his arm was paralyzed. That was where i called that session. Afterward, i spoke with Steve and let him know that it wasn’t just his story. This was a group campaign, and that everyone can do something, and even if it isn’t him, he can still cheer them on or offer his help. He said yeah, he knew and he would do better next session. I let it slide. He and I had spoke, he seemed to know what he had done was wrong. The party had stood up for themselves as well, and he apologized. I thought it would get better. Then the next session happened. In between sessions i had made a new character for Mark to take over since his was badly injured. I had made another heavy weapons expert, so the party didn’t lose that damage, with some medical capability, that being something the party was missing. When we begin, and people are taking out their character sheets, I inform everyone that the good part about being in an army like they were is that when someone is injured or killed, there can be someone new assigned to the unit. I take out the character i had made Mark and said if he wanted to he could play this, or he could make up a new character and bring that one in instead until his gunner was healed. Steven has a fit. “You can’t just bring in a new character!” “Why not?” I ask in a calm voice. I am very proud that i stayed in a calm, reasonable voice for this entire fight. “Because you just can’t!” “Yes, yes Mark can if he chooses to.” “How are you gonna explain it in game? It doesn’t make any sense?” “I’m pretty sure i just did. They are someone new assigned to your unit.” “But where are they gonna come from?” “The rebellion, of course.” “But what about party cohesion?” “You’re in the army. Your cohesion is whoever youre ordered to be with. Besides, its not permenant. And this character fills a void your were missing. He’s not only a heavy weapon specialist like Marks old character, but also a medic.” I say with a smile handing the sheet over to Mark. “Again that is if you choose to use him. Like i said, you can build a new..” “The rebellion won’t fix him up! He’s just some random soldier!” I can almost hear him saying “he’s not my awesome, bestest pilot in the galaxy.” Looking back at Steven, “why not. The rebellion has an entire medical frigate. And he’ll get a baseline prosthetic arms, not anything special that will give him bonuses, that is if the bacta doesn’t take care of it.” This fight went on for nearly 5 minutes with poor Mark caught in the middle. Finally Steven plays his trump card. “If i was injured, i wouldn’t want to bring in a new character or be healed. I’d want to play through it!” Mark sighed. “Its okay, I’ll stick with my Gunner.” Looking dejected he handed me back the sheet. He had actually been excited about the medic, eyes lighting up looking over, pointing out interesting things it could do. Steve looked triumphant. “Are you sure? You don’t need to let Steven dictate your character. You are a two handed specialist who lost a hand. The weapons you could use you don’t have any ranks in, plus you have a penalty from the injury, and if you take a crit it’s guaranteed to be worse. On top of that, your armor is ruined from the explosion so you’re defenseless. This isn’t Stevens decision to make, its not his character, its yours.” “Yeah, i guess I’m sure.” With Mark having made his decision there was nothing else i could do. “Okay.” Sigh. “I guess you can go to the quartermaster and get a new set of armor and a blaster pistol so you can have a weapon.” “No he can’t! We don’t have time!” Again Steve butts in. “I guess i won’t.” Mark says, giving in. I let Mark know he could but he shakes his head no and asks to move on. In the next section of the adventure its revealed there is a traitor and its up to the party to figure out who it is. The group narrows down its list of suspects, and split. Half the group goes to do background research and half go to interrogate the first suspect. Steve decides to take mark with him and talk to the suspect because he has a rank in intimidation so he can do it. “But i have more ranks in intimidate and persuasion and a higher presence...” Kevin began, being a talking specialist at that. “Its okay, i have 1 rank, and I want to do it and ill do it better.” “Okay,” said Kevin, just done with it. “I’d rather go with and help with research. I’m pretty hurt...” Mark began “I’m about to confront a traitor. You’re the only other fighter here and i want some protection.” Kevin and i scoffed, remembering that close quarters combat was a speciality of Kevin’s. I stuck with the droid and kevins character, letting them know what they found could be fed to the interrogators and help them with their checks. A few checks in and i hear “I want to interrogate the suspect!” Steven announces loudly, speaking over me while i was in the middle of letting them know what they found. “Okay, hold on just one second, let me finish with them.” “No! I want to interrogate him.” “I got that, but I’m with the other party and...” “They can wait until after i talk to him. what they’re doing doesn’t matter anyway.” Vince says “just do it. You can come back to us.” Giving me a long suffering look that only a big brother can (note, hes not my big brother, but he is Kevin’s). “Okay” i say, turning my attention to Steven. “What’s the plan.” “Me and kevin are going to interrogate the first suspect. I want to do it!” Steven starts questioning, and rolls a success, but a despair. A despair is a crit bad thing in the ffg games. The man realizing that he had been found pulls out his blaster and shoots Steven in the face with a stun bolt, knocking him out. “But thats not fair! I have one rank in intimidation!” “Yes,” responded Vince. “And hes a trained imperial spy who realized his cover was blown and protected himself. Maybe next time let the person who specialized in talking do the talking, or let the researchers finish the research because we had just found that out and could have warned you!” Mark goes down next, the guy who didn’t want to be there, and was forced to by Steve, goes down. Since he already had a critical injury, he takes another one. This time he loses his entire arm, and the spy escapes. I ask Mark if he wants to bring in a new character, because this is the time i could. “Someone could have seen what happened and come along,” i reason, pulling out the backup character i had made. “No he doesn’t!” Mark rolled his eyes and shook his head. The group tracks down the villain, and the guy who is a two handed ranged weapon specialist is forced to fight the martial artist with one arm, no armor, and no weapon already injured. He goes down in the first round, and get a new critical injury, now permenantly paralyzed from the waist down. And before the villain is taken out, the Steve, who was so proud of his 1 rank in ranged light crit misses, hitting mark and giving him one last injury, causing permanent brain damage. After they won the fight, Steve said he needed a break. I stayed behind and spoke with Steve while everyone left. “I really messed up tonight.” “Yeah.” “I’m ashamed of how i behaved in this game so far.” “Your should be.” “It’s because of me Mark needs a new character, isn’t it?” “Yeah.” “I’m gonna stay out the rest of the night.” “That’s probably a good idea. I’ll tell the guys youre not feeling well.” “Thanks.” We finished that nights session without Steven, and in the next week he texted a personal apology to every player. Despite all of us agreeing to give him another chance, he didn’t play the next week either. That was the last session as life once again reared its ugly head. To me he didn’t just apologize for the railroading, for pushing around the other players, but also for forcing me to run a game that i didn’t want to run. That surprised me, i thought he had forgotten that. Though we’re no longer roommates, Steven is still one of my best friends. We speak at least once a week. He is one of the most generous and caring people i know. He is the kind of man who will give you the shirt off of his back and ask if you’re okay while doing it. He loves to tell stories and wants to help make the world a better place, even if he doesn’t know how to. He will talk about video games and anime and cars for hours, and will help you move, even if you moved the weekend before. And i mean lifting the heavy stuff too. I put this here because its easy to judge someone based on their worse times, but with him those moments are fleeting. This is who is normally is. TLDR: player railroads the gm into playing a game he didn’t want to play, forces himself into every role, and then browbeats the other players until it kills their character. Edit. I’ve been asked a lot why I allowed him to do so much. While when he started in game i spoke to him when the events occurred, let him know he was over stepping boundaries, stealing the spotlight, and called him out on his various actions, and spoke with him after the session to remind him this was a team game, I want to explain why I allowed him so much freedom when it came to dictating terms of the game beforehand. Something I didn’t mention was that I was going through a divorce and he had allowed me to move in with him. I didn’t want to lose my home and become homeless again because of a game.
[Tales From the Terran Republic] More Fallout—Caw and Karashel Attack the Locus!
Our two favorite councilors do a stupid, get in a fight, and generally be... well... themselves... The rest of this series can be found here *** “Oh my little wiggly jellybean!” a distressed looking baleel exclaimed. “I’ve been so worried! I’ve tried and tried to get through but...” “Calm down, mom,” Karashel said into the microphone of her incredible new desktop (courtesy of the Xx), “I’m fine.” “The whole capital is on fire!” her mom cried. “The news isn’t saying much but on those sites you told me about... Fighting in the streets? Orbital strikes? Did we… did we actually...” “Yeah, we did,” Karashel said grimly. “I’m not supposed to talk about it yet but there are over fifty thousand humans dead in the city alone… Nothing justifies what they did in response but still...” The pupils of her mother’s eyes fully dilated. “What did they do?” she asked in horror. “I don’t have all the details, but the humans have some sort of new ‘terror weapon’, something horrible that they used on the vulxeen homeworld. It’s killed… oh mom you don’t even want to know how many are dead or how they died. It’s awful.” “They could use it on the capital!” her mom squealed. “Come home! Come home right now!” “I can’t,” Karashel replied. “Just quit that silly job,” her mom said imploringly. “You can get a job anywhere!” “You don’t understand,” Karashel replied, “I can’t. There’s a blockade right now. Nothing is going in or out of the capital. They don’t want the humans sneaking in one of those… things and they don’t want any of the human warriors still here escaping. But don’t worry, I’m perfectly safe!” “Human warriors? Terror weapons?” her mother cried. “How can you possibly be safe?” “I’m staying at a friend’s embassy,” Karashel said proudly. “This place can take a hit from one of their fusion bombs!” “THEY HAVE FUSION BOMBS?!?!?” Karashel winced. She shouldn’t have said that. “Don’t worry! I’m safe in here!” “Oh, Jellybean! You can’t possibly be safe!” “Don’t tell anyone,” Karashel said as she leaned in close to the mic and started to whisper, “The embassy that I’m in, it belongs to-” “THOSE... SIBLINGFUCKERS!!!” an enraged screech echoed down the hall. “IF THEY THINK THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH THIS...” “Mom, I gotta go,” Karashel said looking at the door. “Something is up.” “Jellybean!” her mom cried. “Wai-” Karashel switched off the transmission and quickly scooted out into the hall as the breaking of glass could be heard from Caw’s office. She cautiously poked her head into the room as Caw pulled out a rather wicked looking carbine from a smashed bookcase and was slamming a black oblong object onto it. “Caw?” “What?” he asked in annoyance as an amber light glowed briefly on the side of the weapon. “What’s going on?” she asked nervously. Caw was many things, excitable, intolerant, pedantic, but one thing he wasn’t was violent, at least she thought he wasn’t. “Robbery! Plunder! Violation!” he yelled as he started to storm out of his office. “And if they think I’m going to just sit here and let them do it they have another thing coming!” he yelled as he shoved his way past her. “Wait!” Karashel asked desperately undulating after him. “Where are you going?” “The Locus!” he shouted. “But there are humans in there!” “I don’t give a FUCK!” he screamed steadily leaving her behind. “Can I come with you?” she shouted. Caw stopped and turned around, looking at her in astonishment. “Have you lost your mind? There are humans in there!” “You don’t care, why should I?” she yelled catching up to him. “Because I’m an Xx!” he exclaimed. “If the humans are smart enough not to wish to anger the kalent they will almost certainly extend me the same courtesy. You are a baleel. No offense but they could slow roast you over open coals and nothing of consequence would be the result!” “I’m still a councilor!” she replied. “They can use me as another hostage or something!” “Compared to who they are holding at gunpoint, you are of absolutely no consequence!” “Yeah, we suck,” she snapped. “but I still want to go!” “By the ancient gardeners why?” “Because I want to talk to them!” she replied. “I’m getting nothing but wormshit from official channels! I want to understand what’s happening and why? Who better to ask than human warriors!” Caw looked at her in amazement. So great was her hunger for knowledge she was willing to risk her very life! That was so… Romantic! It was something right out of dramas, out of ancient history! How could he say no? “Well, more than one person has died because of Xvakk’Keen, the knowledge madness,” he chuckled, “but few do it with such style! You can die from this, you know.” “Possible, but not likely,” she replied. “one thing is certain though. I won’t get another chance like this!” “Ok,” he replied with a shrug, “I’ll try to protect you with my Xxness but no guarantees.” “Wasn’t asking for one!” she giggled nervously. This was insane… exhilarating, but insane. “Well what are you waiting for?” Caw grinned. “Let’s go!” *** Caw sprinted down the hall, hissing in exasperation as he had to stop every few dozen yards as Karashel “ran” after him. “Can’t you go any faster?” he shrieked. “If I could I would!” An Xx, pushing a hover cart laden with boxes of data crystals, walked around a corner. Caw lunged forward and seized his cart. With a single jerk, he slid all of the boxes off, scattering thousands of crystals across the floor. The other Xx shrieked and screamed in an alien tongue. Karashel didn’t know the exact wording but from Caw’s grin, it wasn’t nice. “Get on!” he yelled. Karashel flopped onto the cart and started wiggling herself onto it. Caw, his patience finally gone, grabbed her, rather inappropriately, and threw her onto the floating cart. She squealed in surprise as she tried to grip the cart as Caw tore off at a breakneck pace, scattering Xx and other races as he threatened to plow right over them. She laughed insanely. This was fun. She started making siren noises as Caw laughed, despite his rage. “Woo Ooo… Wooo Ooooo...” she shrieked as Caw sprinted through the sprawling building. A rather elaborately dressed Xx and a group of what were clearly guards were waiting for them at the exit. “Woooo Oooooooooooo...” Karashel slowly tapered off into silence as Caw came to a halt directly in front of the lead Xx. “What the FUCK do you think you are doing?!?!” the well dressed Xx yelled. “Stopping a crime, ambassador!” Caw yelled. “You can’t be serious, Caw!” “As serious as a blocked bowel!” “Crime?” “One of the Eel Lords is in The Locus right now! There is only ONE THING that would have one of them here!” “...” “Now get the FUCK out of my way, Kawk!” “Fuck it,” the ambassador said and started to walk away. “Shouldn’t we help him?” one of the guards asked. “Nah,” The ambassador said as he walked away. “It’s just one eel and a few humans. Caw is enough. Don’t reveal what that weapon does if you can help it,” he called out over his shoulder as he returned to his office. He had a drama to finish watching. Caw sprinted to his waiting grav-car, Karashel in tow. *** Karashel squeezed her eyes shut as Caw, switching his grav-car to manual, careened through the capital with breakneck speed. “By the progenitors themselves,” Caw screeched. “If they have touched so much as ONE THING I will snatch that glowing tally-wacker right off of his scaly head and SODOMIZE HIM WITH IT!!!” Kalent don’t glow... Karashel thought to herself trying not to lose her rice balls as the grav-car turned on its side and she felt her stomachs being shoved down into her foot. “What are they stealing?” “Things priceless beyond measure! Things that belong to all of us, not just to those sanctimonious sperm breathers!” “Eeeeeee!” Karashel screamed as they plummeted for what felt like forever. Then, throwing her forward into the restraint webbing that had mysteriously appeared, the vehicle slammed to a halt. She carefully opened one eye and saw Caw retracting the window. Standing there was a Federation trooper. “What?!?” Caw snapped impatiently. “You can’t proceed any farther, sir,” the trooper said calmly. “This is a combat zone.” “Really?” Caw said in his best patronizing tone. “Is that why there are all these soldiers and tanks? Wow! I would have never guessed. Now get the FUCK out of my way!” “Sir,” the trooper said pointing his weapon at Caw, “get out of the car, now.” “Boy,” Caw said glaring at him. “Do you know who I am?” “No, and I don’t care. Get out of the car!” “I am Caw Itsheesh, the councilor for the Xx. If you think you have a problem now, fuck with me. Then you will know what a problem really is! Now I’m driving through this barricade. Shoot me if you want.” “Sir!” the trooper yelled as Caw hit the accelerator. The air around the car glowed as bolts from the guards’ blasters struck the vehicle’s shields. “They actually shot at us!” Caw laughed as he quickly turned a corner to get out of the line of fire. “Maybe I should get a diplomatic transciever after all!” He looked over at Karashel who had wiggled out of the restraint web and was cowering on the floor board. “Relax, they can’t get through these shields with those toys! They would need… One of those!” Caw yelled as he hit the brakes as a strange curvy… thing… floated down in front of them.” Caw retracted the window again and leaned out of his ride. “Get out of my way, eel!” he shouted. “I’m councilor-” “I am perfectly aware of your identity, Xx!” a loud voice said. ”Go away.” “I will most certainly not!” Caw yelled at the craft. “I am going to The Locus and you will not stop me!” ”The situation is delicate. We do not need an Xx, especially you, further complicating matters.” “Barring me from the archives is a direct violation of the accord!” Caw shouted. “Are you telling me that the accord has been broken? If so, there is no reason for the Xx to remain sitting on this spoiled egg you call the Federation! If I leave I’m taking ALL of our toys and we are going HOME!” The strange craft hovered there in silence for what seemed like forever. ”Proceed but be warned. If you cause harm to our lord, it will not go well for the pathetic Xx!” “Try it, you prickless bastards!” Caw yelled as the craft floated back up into the sky. *** Hands tied behind her, Tawnie, glared at the kalent with pure hate as she sat against the wall with one of the Forsaken soldiers standing over her. Colonel Laurent rubbed his bruised eye. For a little slip of a civilian, that girl was a fighter. It took four of them, and one of her boots to his face, to stop her from attacking their hostage. Thank God she snatched a sabergun instead of an AK. The AK’s safety was a lot simpler to figure out than the control interlock on what she grabbed. “I am so very sorry for what the Federation did,” the sarcophagus said with a regretful tone. “Fuck you!” Tawnie hissed as she spat at him, causing his attendants to leap between the two. “Children, please,” the abyssal lord said calmly, “Human spittle is not dangerous to us.” “You better fucking kill me!” Tawnie yelled at the kalent. “Because when I get out of here you’re dead! All of you are fucking DEAD!!!” “Tawnie,” the colonel said still rubbing his eye, “you will get your chance to kill soon enough, I promise. For now, please calm down.” “Calm down?!?” Tawnie shrieked. “They killed my family!… They killed my MOM!” “And we will avenge her,” Colonel Laurent said calmly. “How?” Tawnie yelled. “I think...” The colonel said turning to the kalent. “I think it’s time for you to leave.” “Yeah,” Tawnie hissed. “Let’s fucking do this!” “The archives!” the sarcophagus said in alarm. “You can’t! We had an agreement!” “The situation has changed,” the colonel said with a grim smile. “You need to go, now.” “Sir?” a voice said over the colonel’s communicator. “We have a situation.” *** “What the hell?” the colonel muttered in French as two figures were brought into the room, an Xx and … what the hell is that thing? “What are you doing here?” the colonel asked. “I’m Caw Itsheesh, councilor for the Xx,” Caw said confidently. “And I’m Karashel, councilor for the Baleel,” Karashel added cheerfully. “Hi!” “I didn’t ask who you were,” Colonel Laurent snapped. “I asked what the fuck are you doing here!” “I’m investigating a crime against all species!” Caw said in a loud confident voice. “Well then I suggest going to the human enclave!” the colonel replied with an icy voice. “If you want your crime, you will find it there!” “And we shall, believe me, we shall!” Caw shouted in reply. “We are outraged by the events of today, the crimes committed by the Federation, and your kind, are unforgivable!” “Our kind?” Tawnie screamed from the corner of the room. “Our kind?!?” she yelled as she struggled to her feet, only to be firmly sat back down by the human standing beside her. “Get off me!” she yelled at him as she bit his hand. The soldier just smiled. Teeth don’t do much against combat gloves. “But today I am addressing the crimes perpetrated by them!” Caw shouted as he pointed at the black sarcophagus. “Thieves! Vandals! Looters!” “We have far greater concerns,” the sarcophagus said gravely. “the humans are going to destroy everything down there… everything.” “W-what,” Caw gasped in horror. “You can’t!” “We have the capacity,” the colonel replied. “Shouldn’t be that difficult.” “What’s down there… It’s priceless!… Beyond priceless!… Please!” Caw begged. “More priceless than fifty thousand lives?” the colonel asked. “They must be avenged.” “They were!” Caw screeched. “What?” the colonel asked. “Oh dear,” the sarcophagus said in a rather shaken voice. “Yes, Colonel, Jessica Morgan exacted a terrible price for their lives. She unleashed what can only be described as hell itself upon the Vulxeen homeworld. They will be avenged several times over before the death ceases.” The colonel shrugged and turned to Tawnie. “Tawnie, if we untie you do you promise to behave yourself and get that lift operational?” “Fuck yeah I do!” she said with a malicious smile. “As long as I get to see it burn.” Colonel Laurent nodded to her warden who proceeded to pull her to her feet and cut her restraints. She grabbed her tools and sprinted towards the exit, pausing only to flip off the xenos as she left. “Look,” Caw said imploringly, “Colonel was it? What is down there are treasures for all people, all species, things that-” “If it’s for all of us,” the colonel said cutting him off, “then why are we just now finding out about it?” Yeah, Karashel thought as she looked suspiciously at her friend. What are you hiding, Caw? “It’s… complicated...” Caw said cautiously. “Is it?” the colonel smiled. “Well it won’t be for long.” “If you do this,” the sarcophagus said evenly, “It will be war.” “It will be war anyway,” the colonel replied. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that the kalent, and the Xx won’t get involved anyway? It was a fucking kalent that suggested our genocide in the first place!” “What she suggested was far from what transpired, Colonel,” the abyssal lord replied from within his sarcophagus. “You have already struck one of the races behind the travesty that befell your people.” “One that you, both of you,” the colonel said glancing over at Caw, “idly sat back and watched.” “I didn’t know anything about it!” Caw screeched angrily. “You can be assured that we WOULD NOT have just sat idly by had we known!” “I didn’t know about it,” Karashel added trying to help. “It wasn’t announced in the council or anything. For the record we are really angry about it too!… not that it matters much...” “I beseech you,” Caw said his voice shaking, “please don’t do this!… Not this… The kalent does speak the truth, though. If you destroy what is down there, the Xx will never forgive you as well.” The colonel kept his countenance grim but he was becoming increasingly concerned. Two “elder races”… “Hey,” Karashel said with a friendly, if a bit disgusting looking smile. “Maybe… maybe we could work something out?” “Quiet,” Caw hissed. “This is beyond you, Kara.” “I might not be some big “elder race”,” Karashel said puffing herself up to her full somewhat slimy height. “But I’ve been studying humans! And from reading their history I know two important things. When they are angry begging for mercy doesn’t work.” She then flicked her eyestalks over to the kalent. “And neither do threats. Humans don’t give a fuck when they are like this.” She undulated towards the colonel. “So, why don’t we make a deal,” she said in a friendly voice. “You have them by the, as you call them, ‘short and curlies’.” The colonel laughed. “So, give them a tug,” she said in a friendly voice. The colonel smiled at the slug-like creature. It had offered him an out, God bless the thing. “So what would you suggest, Kara was it?” “Karashel, but Kara is cool.” she replied. “Well first of all why don’t we go see what all the fuss is about?” She looked back at Caw with a wicked smile. “I mean, these treasures are for ‘all of us’ right?” If looks could kill… *** The lift went down for a good minute before it came to a stop. The doors opened into a wide hallway, wide enough for small vehicles to drive down it. “Ok, we’re here,” Caw said as the group left the elevator. “The data center is this way.” “Yeah,” Karashel said, “That’s nice and all but what’s down that hall over there, the one you are trying very hard not to look at?” Caw glared at her. “Let’s go that way!” Karashel said brightly and started scooching along. I’m going to shoot her, Caw thought darkly, Just as soon as I get my gun back... The hallway ended at a large doorway. “If you don’t mind,” the colonel said gesturing at the door. Caw, cursing under his breath, entered a code into the keypad mounted in the wall. A door as thick as the entrance to a bank vault silently started to open. The lights switched on, illuminating huge chamber filled with row after row of books, scrolls, stone and clay tablets… statues… And some cases that were completely obscured. The colonel let out a low whistle as he looked around. “A museum?” he asked. “A repository of priceless manuscripts and artifacts”, the sarcophagus answered. “Artifacts of what?” He smiled as he caught Caw glancing over at whatever was in that black box behind him. “Um...” Caw said uncomfortably, “Items collected from the various races of the Federation, things from their early history.” “Annnnnd?” Karashel asked impishly. “And ‘other stuff’...” Caw mumbled. “My Xx friend here is quite correct in his accusations,” the sarcophagus said. “We intended to remove certain items for safekeeping. We felt they were no longer safe here. Our current situation is proof of that. Even you must agree, Caw Itsheesh.” “Tell me about this ‘other stuff’,” the colonel said examining a most unusual statue. It unnerved him. Caw sighed. “There are species, civilizations, far more ancient than even the kalent,” he said, “Here is where their artifacts are stored, their writings, everything we could find is in stored here. This… This is why we joined the Federation. To gain access… to this.” “And why didn’t I know about this place?” Karashel asked, just a bit angry. “You?” Caw scoffed. “You haven’t even scratched the surface of the archives you can reach! Until a few days ago you didn’t even try. What good would this do for you? You can’t even begin to understand what is in here! If you reached a point where this would be of use then you would have been made aware of it, not that it would ever, ever happen to a society so devolved as yours!” “Well fuck you too.” Karashel replied. “Maybe if we knew such things existed then maybe more races would be inclined to seek your precious knowledge.” she replied nastily. “You don’t even begin to understand how foolish you are sounding right now!” Caw sneered. “And you don’t have the slightest idea how much of a condescending prick you are being at the moment! Do you know why we are so ‘devolved’? You shitheads fucking hobbled most of us out of the gate, do you know that?” “What are you talking about?” “Culture shock, motherfucker!” Karashel snapped. “I’ve looked at my history too!” she said advancing on her “friend”. “Blindsided by you ‘siblingfuckers’ before we were even close to being ready! Completely overwhelmed, swallowed up by a galaxy a million times bigger than anything we expected. Slapped around by the vulxeen and the morash, and a dozen other races while you, and you,” she said pointing at the kalent, “just sat there letting it happen!” Her body started quivering. “And why? Why?” she said starting to yell. “Pure ‘devolved’ colonialism! A fucking land grab! God forbid the Empire, who takes care of its subjects get to us first! We just got swallowed up! Could the Xx have survived that? Or the almighty kalent? You were free to develop on your own, at your own pace, figure out things for yourself, and when you did enter the galaxy as a whole you did so fully established, able to stand on your own, protect yourself on your own!” She turned on Caw undulating towards him angrily. “And you have the fucking nerve to look down at us?” she demanded. “How long did it take you to develop your precious ‘post scarcity society’ huh? How many thousand years, how many hundred thousand years did it take? How many years did you spend just as fucking filthy as us? Did you go from where we were at first contact to your oh so perfect enlightened state in one-hundred and eighty-three years? Did you do it in two hundred and eighty-three, three hundred, four?” Caw flinched. “Yeah, that’s what I fucking thought!” Karashel snapped. “Damn,” the colonel muttered. “I’m just going to look around a little while you guys sort things out,” he said with a smile as he started walking around looking at the strange and weird objects. “But we didn’t have the archives!” Caw shot back. “So fucking what?” Karashel replied. “Technological and societal progress are two entirely different fucking things. You can’t expect a society to just magically change just because they have some fancy new toys, you… asshole. We got grabbed and hurled right into the deep-end of this fucked up galaxy, free to ‘chart our own destiny’ right to the fucking bottom!… Fuck you! Our civilization survived, intact! So did all the rest of us lowly little dirty undeserving worms! Until you get hit with something like we did, you can’t say shit to me!” “You tell them,” the colonel smiled as he admired the most alien thing he had even seen in his life, an obelisk, floating on its side in a long crystal case. “Amazing,” he muttered and then he froze. There on the obelisk, was a very familiar symbol, an eight-rayed chaos star… with an… eye?… in the middle. The rays weren’t straight though, they were curved making a spiral and those weren’t arrows on the ends… They looked like… hands! Fear gripped him as he started to look at the other symbols more closely. He hadn’t been this afraid since his first battle, so many years ago. He felt his mind “falling” into that obelisk… there was something in there! He wrenched his gaze away from it and staggered back. Pale and sweating, he walked back to the entrance. He sensed the creature in the sarcophagus looking at him. “So now you understand?” it asked quietly as Caw and Karashel continued to yell at each other. “I understand that you really don’t want to lose what’s in here,” he replied. “I have a proposal,” the abyssal lord said quietly, “How would you like to survive, not just you, your men as well. I can make that happen.” “Yeah, only to stab us in the back once we are safely away from your little treasure trove.” “You little boneless slimeball!” Caw yelled. “You judgmental feathered poo-ball!” Karashel snapped. “I personally believe that the Forsaken are here to stay,” the ancient fish replied. “The Federation isn’t going to win, at least not completely. How would you like to be their envoy to the kalent? Your men can be your staff. You join me on my ship and we return to our home system. We will prepare an embassy for you there where we can ensure mutual non-aggression.” “I thought nobody returned from your homeworld.” the colonel replied quietly, their conversation completely overshadowed by the raging argument next to them. It was starting to get ugly. “They don’t,” the abyssal lord replied. “It will be a one way trip for you and your movements will be very restricted.” “Sounds like prison. Hard pass.” “Perhaps,” the creature replied, “but it will be a most pleasant incarceration. Our guests are quite happy and it will be a far better fate for you and your men than your current one.” “How can you say that?” Caw yelled. “The two situations are completely different! You are comparing a rock with a rock lizard!” “Really?” Karashel yelled back, “Consider the rise of organized labor in twentieth-century America...” “Oh here we go with the twentieth century again!” Caw exclaimed. “I wanted you to glance over it as a cautionary tale, not make a fucking religion out of it...” “Why don’t you address my point instead of bitching about it… bitch!” The colonel looked at the black sarcophagus with a shrewd look in his eye. “Here’s the deal,” he said after a few moments. “I go with you. My men get the option between staying with me or evacuation.” “Evacuation?” “Yes,” the colonel smiled. “A fleet of transports, completely unarmed, will be allowed into this system. We will then evacuate everyone who wishes to leave, everyone. While that happens I, and a few very well armed and well equipped soldiers will remain here, to ensure the Federation’s good behavior. If anything goes wrong, we start blowing shit up. Once they leave, me and my men will go with you. You can execute us at that point if you want or you can take advantage of the opportunity to start a dialogue with the General, something that you really want to do.” “I cannot make promises for the Federation, Colonel.” “Bullshit,” the colonel replied. “That’s my deal. Make it happen or hope you took good pictures.” The sarcophagus sat there silently for a moment. “Listen, you little shit,” Caw yelled, “You can claim ‘culture shock’ all you want but does not excuse-” “It isn’t a fucking excuse, shithead!” Karashel shouted, “It’s an explanation!” “What’s the difference?” “What’s the difference?!? Listen here, pillow stuffing...” The sarcophagus moved towards the colonel. “Alright, we will make it happen,” the creature said. “It will take some time, but we do have pull, perhaps not as much as you believe, but we can exert pressure.” “No problem, gives us more time to set the charges,” the colonel smiled. *** An hour later Karashel and Caw were still going at it. “And you leave the aat out of this!” Caw yelled. “Why?” Karashel replied. “Just because they are your little pets makes them immune to your pathetic rating scale? How is their ‘post scarcity’ coming along?” “That is completely unfair!” “My point exactly!” “Gah! That’s ‘wormshit’ and you know it!” “Ok, how are they when it comes to other societal factors, hmm? Public welfare doesn’t require literacy! How about universal suffrage? You mentioned kings, where does feudalism rank in your little grade book?” “They are still developing!” Caw said defensively. “At their age, your people were likely still figuring out how to rub sticks together!” “Why would we… nevermind!” Karashel gurgled, the yelling wearing out her voice box. “You love to compare us to you but compared to you we aren’t that much more advanced than your little aat buddies are we?… Or are you not as technologically advanced as you claim to be?” “SCREEEEEEEE” Caw screeched. “You are without a doubt the most arrogant presumptuous sanctimonious little turd I have ever met!” “Quit complimenting me and answer the fucking question!” Karashel said spitting up a little bit of phlegm. “Where. Do. We. Compare. To. You. Relative. To. The. Aat? Are we closer to them or are we closer to you?” Caw just stood there and fumed. “Thought so,” Karashel said triumphantly. “You give them a pass and shower them with cuddles and kisses only because they have tech that you want. I bet if we had things that you wanted you would be much more forgiving of our little shortcomings as well, us ‘still developing’ and all.” “If you developed as much native technology as they have, sure, we would be much more ‘forgiving’” Caw replied, “But you haven’t done shit and the aat had even more of your ‘culture shock’ than you did.” “Wormshit,” Karashel snapped back. “The aat are protected by their bulletproof minds! They are so far behind most of it went clear over their heads… and they have been protected by you since you found out about all of their goodies! Nobody is going to fuck with them!” “But they were the targets of the injustices you cry about before that!” Caw replied with a sneer. “And they came out of it the winners, unlike the baleel. If you want to try to pull in another race in a pathetic excuse to distract, do take care not to use one that completely outclasses you in every single way!” “Listen here you piece of...” “It is done,” the abyssal lord said, “The Federation has agreed to an evacuation of the capital in exchange for you sparing the contents of this room.” “If you are intending to fuck us on this you do realize that you will have to deal with whatever the General considers worse than what she has already deployed as well as what I do here, yes?” “If the Federation ‘fucks’ you they have us to deal with as well.” The colonel gestured to one of his people “Sir?” “Get me a connection from here to the hyperspace relays. I need to speak with the General.” “How can you not see the complete lack of validity your argument holds?” Caw screeched. “If it is so invalid, prove it! All I hear is screeching and insults!” “I can’t disprove a ghost! Your argument is indeed valid,” Caw screeched, “if your presumptions were true. You have yet to prove a single one of them!” “Oh, really...” “Should we tell them that we are done here?” the sarcophagus asked. “Nah,” the colonel said with a smile. “We got plenty of time and I want to see where this goes.” “Indeed,” the sarcophagus replied. “It is most gratifying to see an Xx get it’s rectum stretched over its head like this. What is that creature?” “I think it’s a baleel?” “Interesting...” *** “Ok,” Karashel gasped. “I will agree to forestall this ‘discussion’ until I ‘acquire knowledge’ concerning some of your points and verify some of your less asinine statements.” “Yes… yes… We are going around in circles,” Caw sighed in complete exhaustion, “And we are running out of new combinations of slurs. I will also investigate some of your outlandish statements.” As the anger and the baleel equivalent of adrenaline faded she started to realize what she did, what she said. Oh Creators what have I done? “So...” Karashel asked looking down at the ground, “are we still friends?” “What?” Caw looked at her raising his crest in confusion. “That is the absolute dumbest question you have ever asked, and that’s saying something. Of course we are! I haven’t had that much fun in ages!” “That was fun?” Karashel asked in shock. “Well,” Caw replied with a smile, “Wasn’t it?” “...” Karashel looked him with a combination of shock and horror. “By the Creators themselves, it was… Void take me it was...” she gasped. “Now we both retreat, gather fresh information, and then do this again!” Caw said happily. “You have chosen a most intriguing position, an invalid and doomed position, but an intriguing one. I look forward to the fresh thoughts this Xvakk’Lok, knowledge battle will create!” “And I look forward to kicking your ass!… Not that I have feet...” “I hope you will accept your defeat with the same amount of grace as the foolish confidence with which you approach it!” “Oh bite me.” “Bite you?” “It’s a human term.” “You two kiss and make up yet?” the colonel asked. “We are taking a break to reinforce our positions,” Caw replied, smoothing his feathers. “You do realize the exact circumstances in which you two decided to have your spirited debate?” the sarcophagus asked. “The extreme gravity? The potentially dire circumstances?” “Silly me,” Caw replied. “I was so engrossed in teaching my silly little sidekick a lesson that you were the only one who had to make concessions. Don’t worry, if you had gotten in over your head, I would have come to the rescue.” “...” The colonel snickered. “However, the fish is right. This is a rather unique situation,” Caw said to Karashel. “Since we are here there are some things I would absolutely love to show you...”
OVER UNDER BETTING. the home team to stay in the lead and not show up in the ninth whereas an over bettor might hope that the road team can tie it and force the home team to come to bat, so Before a game begins betting over or under the total points scored is usually a -110 wager. Bettors will wager $110 to win $100 for a pre-game totals bet. If bettors wager a lot more on one side of the total, the moneyline might change before the actual point total moves. At a certain point, the sportsbook will reset change the total and the Totals bets for goals scored are usually set at over or under 2.5 goals. Soccer is the sport where you will be seeing different payout odds for the over and the under. You also sometimes will have the option of betting at multiple different lines for soccer. One game might give you the opportunity to bet at over/under 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5. OVER/UNDER betting is just like any other bet where you are looking at the final score, whether the game ends in regulation or multiple overtimes. Although it’s often said that NFL overtime is an UNDER bettor’s worst enemy but an OVER bettor’s best friend, it’s important to remember that both teams get the chance to touch the ball. Betting Over Unders. An Over/Under Bet is a wager that will only apply to a sports competition that involves scoring. For example you would not be able to place an Over/Under bet on a tennis match, auto racing, cycling, horse racing, or any other sport where it is a win or lose proposition that does not involve scoring.
A lot of successful punters use over & under in games where it's hard to pick a side or where they are convinced it's gonna be goal-party or the opposite. Learn more on www.footballutd.com. Very nice method for sports betting , 100% profitable. Want to make an income with sports betting in 2020? Watch my betting strategy guide that actually works every day . In this video, I'm going to talk about all that you need to know to win. Watch ... In today's video, you will find profitable betting picks but make sure you pick your spots. Nothing is guaranteed. You take FULL responsibility for your actions and bets. Sports Betting Explained: Pros vs Joes (Sharp Sports Betting vs Square Sports Betting) - Duration: 8:21. WagerTalk TV: Sports Picks and Betting Tips 43,904 views 8:21