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20 Overlooked Single Player Indie Games

We're all familiar with the Hotline Miami's, Hollow Knight's, and Celeste's of the world. These are some of the indie games that hit the big time. Of course, for every one of these games, there's 100 other indie games that have been glossed over, relegated to a spot in a digital store few people will ever find themselves in. I wanted to bring attention to some of these lesser known indie games.
I'm going to order them according to Metacritic Critic Ratings. Some of the games at the bottom have pretty low critic ratings. I personally disagree with the low scores of these games, but it's only fair that you hear from more than just me. Keep in mind that games with only one or two User Ratings on Metacritic will not show the score. A game needs at least three User Ratings on Metacritic before the score will be shown. This is not the case for Critic Reviews.
Price will contain the U.S. PlayStation Store link to the game.
1. Hayfever
2. Valfaris
3. Four Sided Fantasy
4. Bleep Bloop
5. Horizon Shift ‘81
6. Daggerhood
7. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
8. Ultra Hat Dimension
9. Remothered: Tormented Fathers
10. Reverie
11. Inertial Drift
12. Cursed Castilla (Maldita Castilla EX)
13. Pato Box
14. The Count Lucanor
15. The Bunker
16. A Tale of Paper
17. Late Shift
18. SINNER: Sacrifice for Redemption
19. Verlet Swing
20. Neon Drive
Conclusion
My top 5 on the list in order would be the following: (1.) Hayfever, (2.) Valfaris, (3.) Cursed Castilla: (Maldita Castilla EX), (4.) Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, and (5.) Bleep Bloop.
Have you played any of these games? What are some other overlooked single player indie games?
If you’re looking for more indie games to play, see my post here:
submitted by Underwhere_Overthere to PS5 [link] [comments]

Another 10 Overlooked Single Player Indie Games

There are also some links within the first link that discuss indie local multiplayer games as well.
Introduction
We're all familiar with the Hotline Miami's, Hollow Knight's, and Celeste's of the world. These are some of the indie games that hit the big time. Of course, for every one of these games, there's 100 other indie games that have been glossed over, relegated to a spot in a digital store few people will ever find themselves in. I wanted to bring attention to some of these lesser known indie games once again.
Details About the List
I'm going to order them according to Metacritic Critic Ratings. Steam is the only one on the list with all 10 games featured (Steam has 10 of them, Switch has 9 of them, PlayStation 4 has 7 of them, and Xbox One has 5 of them), but the Switch gets more reviews than the other platforms, so I will it use the Switch version of all the games for their review scores, except #8, where I will use the Steam version, since that’s the only version of it available. The two bottom games have pretty low critic ratings (60% with 1 Critic Review and 53% with 2 Critic Reviews). I personally disagree with the low scores of these two games, but it's only fair that you hear from more than just me. Keep in mind that games with only one or two User Ratings on Metacritic will not show the score. A game needs at least three User Ratings on Metacritic before the score will be shown. This is not the case for Critic Reviews.
Currently 9 of the games are on sale on Steam right now, and 5 of them are on sale on Switch. None of them are on sale on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One at the moment.
For the purpose of this post, I’m just going to stick with saying “achievements” and “getting all achievements” instead of “trophies” and “platinum trophy” since Steam has all 10 games on the list. You can basically substitute these with “trophies” and “platinum trophy” if you’re a PlayStation gamer. I will make mention of the two games on here that don’t include a platinum trophy however.
Platforms will include a link to the U.S. store page of the game for each platform. Price is in U.S. dollars.
1. Ultra Hat Dimension
2. Bot Vice
3. Valfaris
4. Inertial Drift
5. Golf Peaks
6. Horizon Shift ‘81
7. Pato Box
8. Primal Light
9. Tamashii
10. Neon Drive
Special shoutout to Valfaris which is my favorite game on the list and, again, one my favorite 2D run & guns ever.
Have you played any of these games? What are some other overlooked single player indie games?
submitted by Underwhere_Overthere to Games [link] [comments]

Amazing Race Route Concept #2

Warning: massive amount of text ahead. I created a mostly functional race route around the world (all loactions like buildings, businesses, landmarks, etc. are REAL locations and could theoretically actually work in the race). I tried to have a good variety in locations and types of challenges, but it's really hard! I find it a lot harder to complain about challenge design after making this. Even though this could technically happen there are probably some safety concerns in going to South Africa and Lesotho and it's probably not possible for the American Amazing Race to film in Cuba, but I decided to do it anyway. If you have any questions or feedback please let me know!

RACE #2
Leg 1 (USA - Japan)
Leg 2 (Japan - South Korea)
Leg 3 (South Korea - India)
Leg 4 (India - Oman)
Leg 5 (Oman)
Leg 6 (Oman - South Africa)
Leg 7 (South Africa - Lesotho)
Leg 8 (Lesotho - Greece)
Leg 9 (Greece)
Leg 10 (Greece - North Macedonia)
Leg 11 (North Macedonia - Cuba)
Leg 12 (Cuba - USA)

LEG 1
USA - Japan
Start at Cloud Gate, Chicago, Illinois
Run to clue at Millenium Monument
Clue #1
Make your way to the Gunma region of Japan, and travel to Sarugakyu Onsen. However, to get your tickets to Japan, you must make your way on foot through the busy streets of Chicago to Navy Pier, where flights will be given out according to the order of your arrival. Flights go to Tokyo, and you must make your own travel arrangements from there.
Flight 1 (5 teams): Chicago - Los Angeles - Tokyo, arrives 8:00 AM
Flight 2 (4 teams): Chicago - Tokyo, arrives 9:30 AM
Flight 3 (2 teams): Chicago - San Francisco - Tokyo, arrives 9:45 AM
Clue #2
Both team members must go into the hot springs and search it for the partly submerged cluebox to get your next clue.
Clue #3
Travel to Sarugakyo Bungy for your next clue.
Clue #4
Roadblock: Who’s ready to take a jump?
Bungy jump at the largest bungy jump in all of Japan at 62 meters, or over 200 feet! Once you’ve taken your leap of faith, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #5
Travel to Uenokunirokunomiya Haruna Shrine, Takasaki, for your next clue.
Clue #6
Create one string of paper cranes in Senbazuru. Senbazuru is the crafting of 1000 paper cranes for good luck. Following the demonstration, learn how to craft paper cranes. Once you have created forty of them and strung them together, deliver them to a Shinto priest at Akiba Shrine. He will give you your next clue.
Clue #7
Travel by train to Akihabara, Tokyo, and go to the top of the Tokyo Skytree to receive your next clue.
Clue #8
Roadblock: Who can ‘go’ kart? The teammate who did the first roadblock cannot do this one.
Travel to Akihabari Street Kart 1 and dress up in one of the many ridiculous costumes the company has to offer. Then, join a fifteen minute go-karting tour around the streets of this bustling region and look for three enormous signs in race colors with three different Japanese characters on them. If you can spot and write all three characters down correctly during the rush of Tokyo, you’ll receive your next clue. If you can’t get it right, you’ll have to join the next available tour.
Clue #9
Travel to Horin Park on foot to find the first pit stop! The last team to check in here may be eliminated.
Pit Stop, Leg 1
trip to Canada
last: eliminated

LEG 2
Japan - South Korea
Clue #1
Fly to Busan, South Korea! Upon arrival, make your way to Beomeo-sa for your next clue.
Fast Forward, Leg 2
Go to Songdo Beach and swim out into the ocean, locating the five whale statues in the water. At each statue, pick up marked letter tiles. Once you have all seven (two statues have two tiles), you can go back to the beach and unscramble the letters that spell out the name of a traditional South Korean delicacy that the other contestants eat at their first challenge. If you get the right word, you’ll be given a clue that takes you straight to the end of the leg.
Clue #2
Master the art of Korean meditation. If you can master all of the moves correctly, then your instructor will give over your next clue.
Clue #3
Head to Taejongdae for your next clue.
Clue #4
Roadblock: Who’s desperate to eat?
Take the marked path over one mile uphill to the marked food stand, and finish one serving of Soondae, a traditional South Korean delicacy that is made of pig intestines and pork blood. Once you have finished the food, you can run down to your partner and get your next clue.
Clue #5
Take the Songdo Marine Cable Car from Songnim Park to Amnam Park to receive your next clue.
Clue #6
Detour: Fish Identity or Fish Delivery
Fish Identity: Go to Jagalchi Fish Market and search for the marked stall. Once there, sort an enormous box of fish and organize them. Once the stall owner approves, put them up for stock in the stall to receive your next clue.
Fish Delivery: Go to Jacky’s Seafood and take three orders and three addresses that need to be delivered. Once you have delivered all the fish to all the correct addresses throughout the Gamcheon Culture Village, you will receive your next clue.
Clue #7
Make your way to the pit-stop at Haedong Yonggungsa. The last team to arrive may be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 2
-first: trip to Belize
-last: non-elimination

LEG 3
South Korea - India
Clue #1
Fly to Hyderabad, India, and go to the Charminar for your first clue.
Clue #2
Travel to Ramoji Film City Main Entrance to receive your next clue.
Speed Bump, Leg 3
Make your way to Saha’s Adventure Park and zorb down a steep hill. Once you’ve made it, you can continue racing.
Clue #3
Detour: Birdy Woods or Bollywood
Birdy Woods: Dressing up in clumsy bird costumes, search through Asia’s largest aviary for a cutout of the bird your partner is dressing up as. Once you’ve found the two cutouts, head to the Bonsai Garden. If you match the right bird, you’ll receive your next clue.
Bollywood: Head to Ramoji Movie Magic. Dressing up in traditional Indian outfits, memorize a short dance to the tune of some Bollywood music and perform it to the live audience and judges. If you meet their standards, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #4
Head to Nehru Zoological Park where your next clue will be waiting.
Clue #5
Take an amazing elephant ride! With both teammates on the elephant’s back guide it through a short course. If you can reach the end in under two minutes, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #6
Make your way to Bidar Fort by public transport for your next clue.
Clue #7
Roadblock: Who’s itching to get etching?
One team member must help in the process of the creation of bidriware. First, you must chisel one section in the piece of bidriware very precisely. Any error and you must restart. If given the clear, then you must then make their way inside Bidar Fort and collect a total of three baskets of soil for the artisans to use later in the process. Finally, you must use some of the soil you collected and coat a piece of bidriware in it. If every part of the challenge was done to the satisfaction of the artisans, you will receive your next clue.
Clue #8
Make your way to the Bahmani Tombs and the pit-stop! The last team to arrive will be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 3
-first: trip to Japan
-last: eliminated

LEG 4
India - Oman
Clue #1
Fly to Muscat, Oman! Once you have arrived, make your way to Al Alam Palace, where you will find marked cars waiting outside. Your clue will be waiting on the car.
Clue #2
Drive all the way to the Nizwa Souq in Nizwa, Oman, where you will find nine different tags, each releasing teams at different times the next morning, when you will be given your next clue.
Tag 1: departure at 7:00 AM
Tag 2: departure at 7:05 AM
Tag 3: departure at 7:10 AM
Tag 4: departure at 7:15 AM
Tag 5: departure at 7:20 AM
Tag 6: departure at 7:25 AM
Tags 7-9: departure at 7:30 AM
Clue #3
Detour: Selling Goats or Weighing Dates
Selling Goats: Navigate through the souq to the weekly goat market. You must select a seller and help them sell their goats. First, thoroughly clean five goats so they are ready for selling. Then, parade five goats around the “walking circle,” where potential buyers will inspect which goats to buy. You must finally buy a goat yourself, haggling for a price under 100 riyals, or 260 US dollars. Once you can purchase a goat, you will receive your next clue. Keep the goat for the next challenge.
Weighing Dates: Find the marked stall in the souq that is selling dates. Your goal is to weigh out 200 grams of Ajwa Dates, 175 grams of Barhi Dates, and 125 grams of Hayani Dates. To do this, you must travel across the market to a scale at a different date stall. If you can get the perfect amount of dates, you will receive your next clue. Keep the dates for the next challenge.
Clue #4
Travel on foot to the Contemporary Mosque with either your goat or dates and trade them with the man waiting out front for your next clue.
Clue #5
Make your way back to the souq, and head to Omani Craftsman's House where you will find your next clue.
Clue #6
Roadblock: Who can work and weave?
The teammate participating in this roadblock must help create a small basketwork bowl. After watching the example, you must use the provided materials to finish off the bowl. If it meets the requirement of the shop owner, you will receive your next clue.
Clue #7
Make your way to the pit-stop for this leg of the race, Nizwa Fort! The last team to arrive may be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 4
-first: continue racing
-last: continue racing

LEG 5
Oman
Clue #1
Drive yourself to Bimmah Sinkhole in Muscat, Oman! You will receive your next clue after having a cup of delicious locally-made coffee. Caution! Double U-Turn ahead!
Clue #2
Detour: Script Write or Shipwright
Script Write: Drive to Bait al Zubair and go into the Manuscript Room. Using a provided paper and translation guide, figure out what the marked manuscript says in English. If anything is wrong when submitting it, though, you must start completely over.
Shipwright: Drive to Oman Maritime Boatyard and find the marked boat. Oman Maritime has been reviving the craft of making the traditional wooden boats of Oman’s past, and you must help with the process. First, you must hand-sand a small section of the marked vessel. Then, you and your partner must work together to stitch coconut palm fiber through twenty holes, or eighty total stitches. Once you’re done, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #3
Make your way to Mutrah Souk for your next clue and the U-Turn board!
Clue #4
Search through the enormous market for one of three marked stalls. One you’ve found a stall, search through their wares for a trinket with a red/yellow flag on the bottom. Give the correct trinket to the shop owner, and they will hand you your next clue.
Clue #5
Drive yourself to Qurum Beach, where you will receive your next clue.
Clue #6
Roadblock: Who will pass the shells?
For this challenge, one team member must watch the demonstration of two fishermen playing a traditional Omani game, Al Hawalees. You must first create a “board” in the sand and collect the required amount of shells to play. You must then challenge a local fisherman. If you can win while following all of the rules correctly, you will receive your next clue.
Clue #7
Make your way to the pit-stop at Wadi Bani Khalid. The last team to check in will be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 5
-first: trip to Tanzania
-last: eliminated

LEG 6
Oman - South Africa
Clue #1
Fly out of Oman to Durban, South Africa, on one of two flights.
Flight 1 (2 teams): Muscat - Durban, arrives 7:30 AM
Flight 2 (6 teams): Muscat - Dar es Salaam - Durban, arrives 8:00 AM
Upon touching down, make your way to Moses Mabhida Stadium, where you will find your next clue.
Clue #2
Roadblock: Who will swing for the skies?
One team member must strap in and complete the Big Rush Big Swing, the largest swing in the world! Dive 263 feet down. Once you have finished the swing, you will receive a section and seat number. You will search the stands for your next clue.
Clue #3
Make your way to Umhlanga Lighthouse for your next clue.
Clue #4
Shake it up! In this challenge, you must create Lighthouse Bar’s famous “Umhlanga Schling.” Use the provided recipe to create fifteen drinks to perfection, and you will receive your next clue.
Clue #5
Head to Addington Beach and dig underneath one of the large sandcastles for your next clue.
Clue #6
Detour: Tree or Sea
Tree: For this detour, go to Durban Botanical Gardens. Use a provided golf cart to make your way to the famous Wood’s Cycad, a tree dating back to the age of dinosaurs. It has been cared for here since 1848. Once there, use one of the provided pieces to put together a large 3d puzzle of the tree. Once it has been approved, you will be handed your clue, and you can drive back to the front of the gardens and continue racing.
Sea: Go to uShaka Marine World and help out with some chores! First, help the kitchen staff and prepare 5 pounds of specially made vegetables for some of the aquarium’s fish. Second, travel around the park and take water samples from each of the specified exhibits. Finally, record blood test results taken during routine health check-ups. If you’ve completed all of the steps correctly, you will receive your next clue.
Clue #7
Head to the pit-stop at Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World! The last team to check in may be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 6
-first: 5k each
-last: eliminated

LEG 7
South Africa - Lesotho
Clue #1
Drive yourself through Qacha’s Nek and into Lesotho! Once in Lesotho, drive yourself to Maletsunyane Falls where you’ll find your next clue.
Fast Forward, Leg 7
By completing this fast forward, you will skip an overnight rest point and will be able to head directly to the pit-stop. Head to Sehlabathebe National Park. Once there, using the provided map and compass, ride by horseback to the nomadic tribal people’s current village. At the village, help cook pap-pap, a type of porridge common in Lesotho. The first team to complete the challenge will be able to head directly to the pit-stop.
Clue #2
Drive yourself to Seshoeshoe Decor and Fashion Designers in Maseru for your next clue.
Clue #3
Who can cut up a pattern?
One teammate will choose one of the complicated tribal Lesotho designs, and must find five pieces of fabric that match it perfectly. But be careful, the designs have miniscule differences between them. Once you’ve found all of your fabric, cut them at the directed places to receive your next clue.
Clue #4
Make your way to the Subeng River Dinosaur Footprints, where you will find seven tags, each releasing you at a time in the morning when you will receive your next clue.
Tags 1-2: departure at 7:00 AM
Tag 3: departure at 7:20 AM
Tag 4: departure at 7:40 AM
Tags 5-7: departure at 8:00 AM
Clue #5
Detour: Cave or Maze
Cave: For this challenge, go to Liphofung Cave. You must memorize all of the rock paintings in a specified section (15 paintings), and then run approximately a quarter-mile away and select the correct paper cutouts and put them in the right order as they were shown in the cave. When you have everything selected and ordered correctly, you’ll receive your next clue.
Maze: Make your way to the second largest dam in Africa, Katse Dam. Enter the first marked gallery and record the air temperature and the humidity. Use those observations to crack a complicated code, and enter the parallel gallery it directs you into. Be careful, it might be hard to find! If you enter the correct gallery, you will find a boat key, which you must give to the boatmaster. He will then give you a small ride around the reservoir and you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #6
Drive yourself to Sani Stone Lodge for your next clue.
Clue #7
Help a local Basotho Shephard and their dogs move their sheep to a new grazing location. Don’t let the sheep get away! Once they’ve all been successfully moved, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #8
Make your way on foot to the pit-stop at Sani Top Chalet! The last team to check in may be eliminated!
Pit-Stop, Leg 7
-first: trip to Egypt
-last: non-elimination

LEG 8
Lesotho - Greece
Clue #1
Via Maseru International Airport, make your way to Athens, Greece, known to be the home of the first democracy! From there, make your way to the Theatre of Dionysus on The Acropolis, where you will take part in a U-Turn vote. The two teams with the most votes will be sentenced to an automatic U-Turn when they arrive at the detour. After the vote, teams will be given their next clue.
Clue #2
Fly to Chania, Greece on the island of Crete! Upon touching down, use the provided cars to make your way to the Agora and search for the marked stall.
Speed Bump, Leg 8
Together, team members must eat through a total of twelve Greek figs. Once all of the fruits have been stomached, that team can continue racing.
Clue #3
Detour: Traverse or Immerse
Traverse: Make your way to the Maritime Museum of Crete, and find the small yacht model outside the museum. Your goal is to remember as much as you can without writing it down, then make a half mile walk through the streets of Crete to the yacht harbor, where you must find a marked yacht and rearrange the items until it is just like it was in the model. Once the actual yacht matches the model, you’ll receive your next clue.
Immerse: Travel to Minoan’s World 3D Museum, and get treated to a five minute long “9D movie” on Cretan History which engages all of your senses. If you can answer all five questions correctly, you’ll receive your next clue. However, only two teams can participate in the show at once.
Clue #4
Drive to the Palace of Knossos for your next clue.
Clue #5
Use the provided map to navigate through the ruins, collecting puzzle pieces at each of the marked rooms. Once you have all ten bundles of pieces, head outside and recreate the large painting using the pieces you collected. Once it has been finished, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #6
Drive to Cretan Olive Oil Farm for your next clue.
Clue #7
Roadblock: Who is feeling oily?
In this challenge, one teammate will help in the process of creating olive oil. First, set up special tree-shaking equipment and a net, used to efficiently get olives out of the tree without bruising them. You will then sort the olives between bruised and fair. Finally, crush both bruised and fair olives with a traditional granite olive press. Once they have been successfully grinded into a paste, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #8
Find the pit-stop along the coast of the small village of Loutro back on the west side of Crete. You will soon discover, however, that the village is completely blocked off from the mainland by mountains, so you will have to find alternate transportation. Hurry, because the last team to arrive will be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 8
-first: trip to Austria
-last: eliminated

LEG 9
Greece
Clue #1
Fly back to the mainland in Thessaloniki! When you’ve arrived, search Aristotelous Square for your next clue.
Clue #2
Detour: Serve or Observe
Serve: For this detour head on foot to Bougatsa Giannis, a renowned restaurant in the Ladadika area. You must take the orders of twelve total people and retrieve the correct dishes for them from the kitchen. Each person also has a dessert, which must be retrieved from nearby pastry shop Trigona Elinidi. You may take notes, but if you mess up someone’s order, you must start it over again.
Observe: Go by taxi to the Thessaloniki Science Centre Technology Museum and make your way to the main planetarium. The night sky will be projected above, and will be moving around you at one hour of regular movement per second. Using the provided key, identify five Greek constellations first identified by Claudius Ptolemy- Orion, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia, Centaurus, and Perseus. Be careful, it might be dizzying! Once you’ve found all of the constellations, you’ll be rewarded with your next clue.
Clue #3
Find the Arch of Galerius for your next clue.
Clue #4 Use one of the marked cars to drive yourself for the rest of the leg. Go to the Thessaloniki Concert Hall for your next clue.
Clue #5
Roadblock: Who can blow a note and hold a tune?
Macedonian brass bands are extremely popular in the Macedonia region of Greece, so for this roadblock, learn how to play the trumpet, a popular instrument played in these bands. If you can play a few notes of the folk song with the band, you’ll get your next clue.
Clue #6
Drive to Dalamara Winery. Once there, follow the guide to the directed area, where you must load two empty kegs onto a horse drawn cart. Direct the horse approximately half a mile through the vineyard and return back to the kegs. You will continue to load and deliver a total of eight kegs to receive your next clue.
Clue #7
Drive to Ski Center Voras and take the lift to the top where Kajmakcalan, a chapel right on the border between Greece and North Macedonia is situated. The last team to arrive at this pit-stop may be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 9
-first: trip to Colombia
-last: eliminated

LEG 10
Greece - North Macedonia
Clue #1
Drive yourself across the border into North Macedonia to Popova Kula Winery! Once there, pull a tag that departs you at a certain time the next morning.
Tag 1: departure at 8:00 AM
Tag 2: departure at 8:10 AM
Tag 3: departure at 8:20 AM
Tags 4-5: departure at 8:30 AM
Clue #2
Roadblock: Who is a master chef?
The teammate doing this roadblock will use the provided recipe to cook the national dish of North Macedonia, Tavche Gravche, a special type of baked beans. If it is cooked to perfection, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #3
Drive yourself to the Millenium Cross in Skopje for your next clue.
Clue #4
Detour: Art Block or Charity Walk
Art Block: Drive to the Art Bridge, which is home to 29 statues of important Macedonian artists and musicians. Wandering on and around the bridge are 29 people dressed up as those artists and musicians. You must match nine total people to their statues. A maximum of three teams can complete this challenge.
Charity Walk: Drive to the Mother Teresa Memorial House and load a trolley cart with a marked group of items that will almost completely fill the trolley. On foot, travel to the SOS Children’s Village National Office where you are to deliver the items. If you do not choose this option, your items will still be donated after the leg.
Clue #5
Drive to the city of Struga, where the North Macedonian national anthem was created. Make your way to the Saint Archangel Michael Cave Church for your next clue.
Clue #6
Teammates must work together to memorize four total stanzas of the Macedonian national anthem- in Macedonian. If you can perform it with the orchestra without forgetting the lyrics, you’ll receive your clue to the next pit-stop.
Clue #7
Drive to the Monastery of St. Naum and the pit-stop! The last team to check in may be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 10
-first: trip to Indonesia
-last: eliminated

LEG 11
North Macedonia - Cuba
Clue #1
Make your way back to Skopje, then fly to Havana, Cuba, on two predetermined flights. Once there, go by taxi to Taller Calle 8, a car repair shop, where you will receive your next clue.
Flight 1 (2 teams): Skopje - Paris - Havana, arrives 6:30 AM
Flight 2 (2 teams): Skopje - London - Miami - Havana, arrives 7:10 AM
Clue #2
Roadblock: Who can fix it up?
The teammate doing this roadblock must follow the example to repair one of the classic Cuban cars. If it makes it past inspection, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #3
For the remainder of the leg, you’ll have to drive the car you just fixed. Head to Fusterlandia, where you’ll find your next clue.
Clue #4
Find where the attached image is in person throughout the folk neighborhood of Fusterlandia. If you can find where the image actually is and show the judge, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #5
Sell the Box or Find the Band
Sell the Box: Drive to Santa Maria del Mar Beach and sell the provided boxes of boxed rum, the “juice box for bug kids.” While never selling any box for under 25 Cuban Pesos, make 375 Cuban Pesos (around fifteen US dollars). Once you’ve made your sales, you’ll receive your next clue.
Find the Band: For this detour, drive to the Cuban Art Factory and observe the large, marked piece of sheet music in the first room. Going from room to room in the factory, try to find the band who is playing the music that was in the first room. You must make your guesses ten minutes apart, so be confident in your answers! Once you have chosen the right band, you’ll be rewarded with your next clue.
Clue #6
Drive to Vinales Valley Tobacco Field and search the marked area for your next clue.
Clue #7
Perfectly roll ten Cuban cigars, five per contestant. Watch the example closely, as any small mistake in rolling the tobacco leaf will cause the cigar to fail. Once all of the cigars have been perfectly rolled, you’ll receive your next clue.
Clue #8
Take a long drive to the eastern side of Cuba and the pit-stop at Ignacio Agramonte Park in Camaguey! The last team to check into the pit-stop will be eliminated.
Pit-Stop, Leg 11
-first: trip to Botswana
-last: eliminated

LEG 12
Cuba - USA
Clue #1
For the first part of this leg, you’ll be staying in Cuba! Drive yourself using the car you used in the last leg down Neptuno street in Havana, where you will find a guarapo stall with a flag.
Clue #2
Using the hand-press to crush sugarcane, make forty glasses of guarapo. Once all of the glasses have been successfully made, you’ll be handed your next clue.
Clue #3
Drive to the Tropicana Night Club for your next clue.
Clue #4
Roadblock: Who can make it and shake it?
For this challenge, one team member must follow the instructions of the costume designer to create a costume for one of the showgirls. If the costume is made correctly and given a pass, teams will be given their next clue.
Clue #5
Teams must drive to Aeropuerto de La Habana Ciudad Libertad, where you will embark on a charter flight to Key West, Florida, back in the United States. Once in Key West, teams must go to the southernmost point in the continental United States for their next clue.
Clue #6
Make your way to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where you’ll find your next clue.
Clue #7
Roadblock: Who is a reader, a writer, and a decipherer?
Ernest Hemingway, known for books like The Old Man and the Sea, had a notoriously bad handwriting, with little regards to punctuation or accuracy. One team member must copy one of Hemingway’s notes perfectly, letter for letter, on the provided typewriter. If it was typed perfectly, you will be handed a decoder key which you can use to find the hidden message, which will reveal the location of your final challenge.
Answer: Smathers Beach
Clue #8
Now that you’ve made it to Smathers Beach, you’ll partake in a final challenge. Out in between the marked buoys are bundles of letter tiles. You must dive down to retrieve them and bring them back up to shore. Figure out what you’re supposed to spell out with them, and once you think you have the answer, hang the tiles in order on your clothesline. If you have the correct answer, you’ll be given the final clue.
Answer: United States, Japan, South Korea, India, Oman, South Africa, Lesotho, Greece, North Macedonia, Cuba, United States (teams must figure out that they have to spell out all of the countries they visited in order on the race)
Clue #9
Congratulations! Make your way to the final pit-stop at Fort Zachary Cruise Pier! Go, go, go, the first team to reach the pit-stop will win 1 MILLION dollars!
Pit-Stop, Leg 12
10 countries
4 continents
over 27,000 miles
first: 1 million dollars
submitted by theyummycookie to TheAmazingRace [link] [comments]

T’was the night before matching

And I’m hyped as heck
I’ll type this story before i doublecheck
My Redditgifts profile for the millionth time
All is want, is to ensure that I’m
Through with answers, and funny too
It’s time for the recap without further adou.

Man those rhymes are getting worse and worse.
Anyway, I'm back with another adventure calendar countdown. For anyone unfamiliar, I send my giftees on an immersive treasure/scavenger hunt every year for secret santa. I’m talking through my side of things just as a way to give you a peek behind the curtain.
You can check the last three posts here, here, and here.

Wanna know what happens when an adventure doesn’t go quite as planned? Because this is what happens when an adventure doesn’t go as planned.

I give you:
Constructed Adventure no. 46: The Archer Princess and the cactus pin.
I was super intrigued when I learned my giftee lived in a small town outside Reno, NV. I was even more intrigued when I learned that she often did Legacy Horseback rides and was learning horseback archery.
This adventure was going to be in the wilderness.
After a bit of communication, I was relieved to learn that her and her husband would be fine heading into Reno. There was just so much more to work with.
I landed in Reno, booked my stay at one of the cheap hotel/casinos (Note: They’re all cheap) and went scouting! I’d done the usual Yelp/Google/TripAdvisor scrape to find my best possibilities for stops and beelined to a cute little place called “Daughter’s Cafe.” This is a Restaurant built in a home. The Owner lives upstairs. She’s super cool and the food was incredible. Pretty sure I ate there every day. Anyway, unprompted, the owner told me about these wild chickadee birds that live in the mountains halfway from here to lake tahoe (about a 45 minute drive). She hand drew me a map and gave me a bag of seed and said
“If you stand still, they’ll eat out of your hand”
Unreal.
So I drove up the mountain, rented up some snowshoes, and fed some chickadees. It was a magical experience that I HAD to send my giftee on. (note: normally I dont like having any spot have a longer travel distance than 15 minutes but occasionally I’ll make an exception).
Also, since she did archery, I really wanted her to have to shoot something down. So I scouted a spot 5-10 minutes into the trail where she would shoot down a chest from a tree.
After that spot, most of the other stops were pretty simple. She’d hit a few places in the Riverfront district, before stopping in at a speakeasy, then hitting an incredible hike, deciphering someone doing semaphore 100’s of feet away, and then meeting me up the mountainside under a fully decorated real christmas tree!
When she got her initial package, it contained a little cactus pin. The goal was to signpost every stop with the pin. (Signposting is a technique puzzlemakers use to let players know they’re on the right track). Everywhere she went, she either found, or someone was wearing one of the pins!
The day kicked off perfectly! The weather was temperate and everything looked up. My giftee and her husband hit the cafe, ate breakfast, and headed up the mountain. They picked up the snowshoes from a place midway to the spot. The guy behind the counter was kind of a jerk, but he still played along.
Then they got to the spot. I actually passed them as they got out of their car! Me and a friend who I flew in (Same guy who helped me will all the other adventures) returned our shoes and then waited...and waited….and waited....
An hour passed by.
Turns out there were two parallel paths with the same name! One was the correct path (Signposted with large roses along the way) and the other was the incorrect path. I made three big mistakes that led to this snafu:
  1. I should have done more thorough scouting to notice the other path with the same name.
  2. I should have been more detailed with directions and how long they should expect to take on the trek
  3. I gave them my phone number at the beginning of the adventure but never got theirs. They ended up leaving the note with my number in their car.
So after snowshoeing 2-3 miles into the mountains, they decided to turn back to their car, get my number, and text me.
Needless to say we were just a bit behind schedule.
Once they got back to their car and messaged me, we sorted the issue and they found and shot down the chest with ease!
They headed back down the mountain and continued their adventure. But we’d lost a ton of time on the day. Once i arrived at what was supposed to be the final location, it was getting dark, and it was brutally windy. I was pretty miserable up there and I can’t imagine they would want to be up there after snowshoeing such a long way!
So I called it! I messaged them to stay in the speakeasy and order more drinks! I drove back to the spot, and gave them all their presents at the bar. It was so much nicer than up on a dark windy hilltop.
So that’s it! Another adventure in the bag. Definitely NOT what I expected but still fun. I learn a lot of lessons after each adventure and sometimes hiccups happen!
It goes without saying that if you’re ever planning a treasure/scavenger hunt for someone, don't hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to double check your plan and point out potential pitfalls you might have.
Hope you enjoyed this recap. No shameless plug this time! Just a HUGE HUGE HUGE thank you to the mods and admins who run Redditgifts. Tomorrow is their day of reckoning and all i can say is

༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ MODS TAKE MY ENERGY ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

submitted by squeakysqueakysqueak to secretsanta [link] [comments]

When we were kids, my little brother died on Halloween. He's come back to visit me every year since his death.

Jimmy returned for the first time exactly one year after the accident. I was home alone. Dad was at the bar and Mom was dead. We’d crammed her into a pine box and shipped her off to the incinerator months ago.
I’d been sitting on the couch watching a plump cockroach scuttle across the coffee table, sipping whiskey that I’d liberated the previous night after Dad passed out. I wasn’t quite drunk yet. At eleven years old, my tolerance to alcohol was comparable to most local stumblebum drunks.
A knock came to the door, the gentle tap of brittle knuckles upon rotted wood. I paused with the rim of the bottle resting against my lips. Even the cockroach cocked its long antennae curiously toward the door.
The local trick-or-treaters knew better than to come here seeking candy. Our ramshackle abode was always one DHS visit away from being condemned, and the cobwebs and sundry creepy-crawlies in our front windows certainly weren’t decorative.
I reflexively choked out a sob when I opened the door and saw his ghostly form. The sheet draped over him was stained brown and soaked with stinking river water.
“Jimmy?” I asked, my voice croaking in disbelief.
As if to answer me, his jaw fell slack and I heard the tiniest groan emerge from under that sheet, like a whining door hinge in a quiet house. He raised his hand to me and I shrank back in fear, expecting him to thrust an accusatory finger and damn me as a liar and murderer. Instead, I realized that he was holding his hand open, expecting something. A dry, throaty sound whistled up from his slackened jaw and I suddenly understood what he wanted.
My little brother had come back for his favorite holiday.
I rushed up to my bedroom, reached under my bed, and grabbed Jimmy’s pumpkin-shaped Halloween bucket. I flicked off the roaches and shook out mouse shit then ran back to the front steps, where my little brother was waiting.
As Jimmy snatched his candy bucket from me, I saw them, watching us from the corner. It was the same group of older bullies that harassed us last year, on the night of the accident. Last time, they’d been wearing clown masks. They chose the Power Rangers this year.
Despite their masks, I could tell that those bullies didn’t quite believe what they were seeing. Jimmy had been presumed dead for a year, yet here he was, wearing the very same costume they’d seen him wearing on the night he went missing.
I’d had a growth spurt since that night. Rage and self-hatred did wonders for a growing boy’s physique.
Fueled by whiskey and a desperate urge to blame anyone other than myself for Jimmy’s death, I charged them. Outnumbered four-to-one, I took some shots, no doubt, but I routed them regardless, and I left one of them bleeding on the sidewalk, beaten nearly half-to-death.
Then I returned to Jimmy, smiling, and hooked my pinky around his before we set off to celebrate Halloween.
#
I sat on my couch, eyes trained on the flickering candle on my coffee table. The power had been out for a month and I hadn’t seen any good reason to turn it back on; I’d only be cutting into my meager booze budget and, besides, the city was kicking me out in a few days. The house had been bought and paid for by some long-dead relative then passed down to my parents as an act of pity. When Dad finally kicked the bucket, he left the house to me, but I was never quite able to stay ahead of the property taxes.
I wasn’t going to miss the place. It wasn’t exactly full of fond memories.
At this time of night, I’d normally be blackout drunk, but tonight was Halloween and I didn’t want to miss Jimmy. My entire life might have amounted to a hill of shit, but I’ve promised to never let my little brother down again.
I checked the time. Eight o’clock on the dot. I grabbed Jimmy’s Halloween bucket and headed out front.
Jimmy never did tell me why Halloween was his favorite holiday. He’d been a gentle kid, small for his age, fair-skinned and wispy. You wouldn’t have known it to look at him, but he preferred the schlock and gore of October grindhouse horror movie marathons to kiddie fare more appropriate to his age. He never flinched at the scary parts, when the reanimated undead wreaked havoc or dream demons emerged to slash open teenage throats.
I’d never attributed his love of Halloween to something so cliché as donning a mask to pretend to be someone else, though I wouldn’t have blamed him. No, I’d always suspected that Jimmy loved this time of year specifically because it was when the world went dim and happily embraced the horrific. Vampires and possessed dolls and werewolves made more sense than the more abstract horrors we faced at home.
Or, shit, maybe the kid just really liked candy.
I stepped outside and the riverwards were alive with grinning jack-o-lanterns, windows glowing orange and framed with fake spider webs, and scores of yuppie parents leading their kids door-to-door. I spotted him walking slowly toward the house. I swore, he got smaller every year.
I waved to him. He didn’t wave back, but he did cock his head slightly, as if he was struggling to remember who I was. As always, he was wearing the filthy sheet, soaked in river water. I felt a passing wave of revulsion and guilt when I glimpsed the faded bloodstains where the fabric hugged Jimmy’s misshapen occipital.
I smiled and offered him the bucket. Jimmy snatched it from my hand. Though there was only darkness within those crooked eye holes I’d cut into the sheet twenty-five years ago, somehow I knew that if he still had eyes, they’d have been gleaming.
I reached down to his hand, hooked my pinky around his, and I took my little brother trick-or-treating, like I’d done every year since he first returned.
This wasn’t our neighborhood anymore. Sure, the names of the streets were the same, but that was about it. The yuppie influx, with the ensuing rent increases and property tax hikes, had squashed out most of the old guard. The newbies didn’t care for the sturdy, century-old houses forged with brick and mortar. One by one, those stout homes were being flattened to make way for flimsier, but more stylish facades. Soon, our childhood home was going to suffer the same fate.
Jimmy must have sensed that something was amiss because he tightened his pinky around mine. Though I haven’t heard his voice since that night by the river, his pinky squeeze said enough.
It said, I’ve got you.
That was our private show of reassurance that helped sustain us through our childhood. When Mom wept at the dinner table as we split a dried hunk of welfare cheese for dinner, I’d give Jimmy a squeeze. When Dad staggered home drunk and started laying into Mom, I’d join Jimmy on his small twin mattress. We’d squeeze pinkies, eyes shut tight, with pillows over our ears so we wouldn’t have to hear Dad’s fist knocking against Mom’s head.
I’ve got you.
Tonight, we stopped at every house that still had its lights on. Our new neighbors smiled awkwardly, genuinely troubled by the sight of the neighborhood drunk escorting a child in a raggedy ghost costume. I didn’t give a shit what they thought as long as they tossed a few bite-sized Snickers bars into Jimmy’s bucket.
Soon, the streets began to empty and the trick-or-treaters went home. One by one, those grinning jack-o-lanterns went dark, those orange window lights dimmed, and it was just Jimmy and I wandering the lonely streets.
We headed back toward the house. This was where we would normally part ways, with Jimmy heading back on his own. Tonight, though, I remained at his side.
He cocked his head again, curious.
I squeezed his pinky.
#
Though I loved Jimmy, he was still my little brother and, often, I treated him as such. Just because I hated the neighborhood bullies didn’t mean I didn’t glean some pointers from their abuse. Sometimes, I’d slap Jimmy around or steal his toys because he’d annoyed me somehow. Other times, I just wanted to feel stronger than someone else.
The day of his death, Jimmy had put me in a particularly foul mood. Using the five-fingered discount, I’d gotten comic books from the drug store on York Street and I was looking forward to thumbing through them. Jimmy came rushing into our bedroom, crying because the rats had gotten to his hand-me-down Jason Voorhees costume. The critters had gnawed through the plastic hockey mask and left the (fake) blood-splattered overalls stinking like rat turds.
I told him to take it up with Mom and Dad, but he said Mom was passed out and Dad was at the bar, as usual.
My mood instantly turned black, not necessarily because of Jimmy, but because, once again, I’d have to pick up the slack for our parents. I cooked most of Jimmy’s meals. I scrubbed the stink off his clothes and got him ready for school every morning while Mom and Dad were off, drunk and doped. All I’d wanted was a night to myself, curled up in bed with some stolen comic books, but they couldn’t stay sober long enough to even give me that much.
Somehow, I kept my temper in check. I got him to stop sobbing by yanking the sheet off his bed, cutting out those mismatched eye holes, and draping it over him. “There,” I said. “You’re a ghost now.”
His green eyes were visible through the holes in the sheet. His cheeks perked up under the sheet and I could tell he was smiling.
“Can you take me trick-or-treating?” he asked.
No, I didn’t want to, but I also didn’t want him crying again and Mom would have beaten the shit out of me if I let Jimmy wander the neighborhood alone.
So we set out into the streets, amongst a legion of Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters and Barbie dolls brought to life. Though it was simple, he enjoyed his makeshift costume. I was just hoping to get through the night without bumping into our enemies.
That was certainly naïve of me. It didn’t take long for them to zero in on us. There were four of them, all older boys. Even the smallest one towered over me.
They were wearing clown masks, thin plastic smiling red-nosed clowns that filled my stomach with dread. None of the parents milling about with their kids noticed the brewing confrontation, not with the dozens of trick-or-treaters clogging the sidewalk.
Jimmy clutched his candy bucket to his chest. One of the bullies reached for it, and that was when I snapped. I couldn’t help it. I might have been pissed off at him for dragging me out here, but this was Jimmy’s favorite night of the year. I couldn’t watch some assholes ruin it for him.
I swung, hard. My fist connected with the bully’s face and I heard a loud crunch right before blood trickled down from behind the clown’s visage.
I grabbed Jimmy by the wrist and we took off into the throngs of costumed kids. We rounded the next corner and disappeared into an alley.
We hid there, holding our breath as the bullies sped past. There was no way they were going to let this go. Two of them would likely roam the neighborhood looking for us, while the other two would lay in wait near our house.
“What are we going to do?” Jimmy asked, voice quivering in fear.
Every night, right before I blackout, I think about how I should have just squeezed his pinky.
But I didn’t. Instead, I blamed him. We wouldn’t have been in this trouble if he hadn’t been such a crybaby back home. That was why, of the dozens of places we could have gone to hide, I chose the river, because I knew he was terrified of the river.
#
Today, the Delaware riverfront was as gentrified as the rest of the neighborhood. A casino and towering condominiums loomed large and quaint pedestrian walkways were infested with pop-up beer gardens.
In our youth, the riverfront had been an industrial graveyard, dominated by long-shuttered factories with stretches of wilderness between them. Stinking sumac trees swayed overhead and plump river rats darted through the bushes.
This wasn’t the first time we had to hide back here. Jimmy always hated it. Although the neighborhood lay only a quarter-mile to the west, Jimmy thought the riverfront was too isolated. He feared that if our bullies ever caught us here, they could kill us and no one would ever know.
My mood hadn’t improved when we finally reached one of the piers, big gray concrete blocks jutting out fifty feet into the sloshing water, supported by a number of wood pilings underneath.
Jimmy remained a few feet behind me, still in his costume, nervously gripping his Halloween bucket. The tide was coming in and he jumped every time he felt a wave hit the pilings beneath us, as if the pier might collapse.
But what scared Jimmy the most was the possibility of falling into the water, that those rough green-brown waves might trap him under the pier, where he’d come up for air and smash his face against unyielding concrete instead.
“Can we just please try to go home?” he whined.
“No,” I snapped back. “Not unless you want those assholes to knock your teeth out.”
He lowered his head. “But I don’t like it back here.”
Looking at my whimpering little brother, I lost all sense of empathy. After running scared from our bullies, I was eager to assert myself as an alpha. I yanked him toward the edge of the pier.
“I’m so tired of you acting like a wimp,” I snarled. I shoved him closer to the edge, where the water sloshed violently ten feet below us. “There’s nothing to be afraid of back here.”
“I just want to go home,” he cried, the eye holes in the sheet now rimmed with tears.
“Stop being such a pussy!” I shouted then instinctively gave him a stiff right hook to the shoulder.
What happened next occurred within seconds, yet in my memory, it seems to play out for an eternity.
I’d hit him harder than I meant to. Jimmy dropped his candy bucket then staggered as his shoes got caught in the pool of fabric underfoot. I watched in muted disbelief as he flopped over the pier, arms waving, right before the back of his head cracked against the concrete edge.
There was a splash ten feet beneath me and my brother was gone, leaving behind nothing more than a red patch on the concrete and white bubbles breaking the water’s surface.
#
Pinkies locked, we maneuvered through condominium parking lots and empty beer garden stalls until we reached that old pier.
For a moment, my memories blended with the present and I saw myself, cold and shivering and soaked with river water, trudging back toward the neighborhood alone, clutching Jimmy’s candy bucket.
I remembered how cold and dark the river was when I dove in, fighting the waves, trying in vain to find my brother before finally giving up. I never told anyone what happened. That night, when I got home, Mom was still passed out and Dad hadn’t come back from the bar yet.
I hid my wet clothes then, later, told them that Jimmy had simply run away from me. I was terrified of what would happen if they knew the truth. There was a police search that amounted to nothing. Dad didn’t seem to care very much. Months later, Mom swallowed forty sleeping pills and never woke up.
I took to stealing swigs of Dad’s half-empty liquor bottles to soothe my guilt, a habit that had served me ever since. But even that relief has proved fleeting. As Jimmy and I walked along the pier, I tightened my pinky around his, content to die sober.
We stood at the edge of the pier. Though I couldn’t see his face, I could tell that he was no less afraid of the river now than he had been twenty-five years ago.
Jimmy stepped off the pier and disappeared into the water below. I wondered, once this pier was inevitably torn asunder to make way for a condo or another casino, would Jimmy still resurface on Halloween? If he did, and he ventured into the neighborhood, would he even recognize that the shiny new studio apartments were standing on the grave of our old house?
Either way, I was going to make sure that he didn’t go through it alone.
I stepped off the pier, just like Jimmy had that night. I cracked the base of my skull against that concrete lip. A lightning flash of pain shot across the world and I crashed hard into the water, pushed at once by the tide under the pier. A wave slammed me against one of the pilings and I felt something snap in my back and, when I tried to scream, filthy river water filled my mouth.
Yet, as I was thrashed about under the dock, my consciousness slowly fading, I felt Jimmy’s tiny pinky finger squeezing around my own.
I’ve got you.
#
That happened almost one year ago, last Halloween. Though I wanted nothing more than to slip into a watery slumber with my little brother, he must have felt otherwise. I woke up, weeks later, in a hospital. They removed patches of my skull to relieve the pressure from the brain bleed, courtesy of cracking my head on that concrete lip. My ribs had been shattered to splinters from the paramedics’ vigorous chest compressions.
They found me on the road, which meant Jimmy dragged me from the water, across the industrial wilderness, then out to the waiting blacktop. I asked the medics if there’d been a boy in a ratty ghost costume with me when they arrived. They said they hadn’t seen one.
Anyway, I’m writing this on the computer at the public library right off Girard Avenue, but I better finish up. The librarian is a real asshole. Doesn’t like it when street bums like me stink up the joint. It’s almost Halloween once again. Jimmy might not want me down in the water with him, but I’m going back to join him, regardless.
I’ve got his candy bucket, so we can hit the neighborhood one last time. I’ve also got a box cutter with the sharpest goddamn razors I could find. Once Jimmy slips back into the water, I’m going to open myself up – both wrists, then my carotid artery – and I’m jumping into that green-blue Delaware shitwater right along with him, because I’m Jimmy’s big brother, god damn it.
I won’t let him swim alone.
submitted by MackMoyerAuthor to nosleep [link] [comments]

Unleashed pt. 45

Some words from u/eruwenn and I. Enjoy?
First / Prev / Next

 

  Chae’Sol stood at the centre of a large command deck, meticulously peeling the protective film from his new captain’s chair. The sensation of the slow but steady yielding of the film, the sweeping line following the contours of the seat in flowing curves; it was incredibly satisfying. Finally, with one last gentle pull, the last of his chair was uncovered and he stood back to admire his throne. Aside from the freshness of the seating itself, there were shiny new holo displays, touch sensors, and comms relays that were within easy reach of his seated fingertips. This ship would be the jewel in any fleet, a prototype Dreadnought made by the infamous Bardul of Shi’an. The Gowe Military faction had run into financial problems, and it had been left unpaid and unclaimed. What sorcery Kadir had used to find it, and purchase it, he did not know.
His comms unit beeped and Danyd’s voice came through. “Chae’S-” -He grumbled incoherently- “Captain, we’re ready to get underway.”
The Niham turned and sat back on his pristine chair, swinging his long legs over the armrest. “That was quick, Chief Engineer Ef’Yto
Danyd grunted at the use of his title. “Aye, these Awakened are efficient bastards.” The Satryn looked around at the enormous engineering bay. The entirety of the Porkchop Express could comfortably sit inside, and two of them could likely squeeze in. “Plus, this thing has never been used; feels weird not having anything to work on. It’s state of the art, and I’m having to read the manuals on half the new systems.”
Chae’Sol laughed, looking around at the Awakened as they were preparing their workstations. “Yeah, this command deck is a little intimidating. Even the Niham Armada didn’t have ships like this. There are fifteen weapons stations here, what in Tulseria’s name were the Gowe planning to do with this thing?”
“No idea.” The chief engineer walked to the large seat in front of his new work terminal, and hopped up onto it. The protective covering squeaked. “This thing has more firepower than half their fleet, it must have been something big. We’re lucky Kadir found out about the graveyard of unclaimed ships from one of his contacts.”
The newly-minted captain swung his legs down and sat up, straightening his black uniform and white collar. “That’s another thing: how does he have so many contacts? I was in the Tulseria-damned military, and I had no idea they would sell us fighters and weapons.”
“I know the feeling.” Danyd watched a junior engineer – Lily, an Awakened who wore a headband in her silver hair that sported long Kittran ears on it – begin running diagnostics on the Hoban Field Generator. “I'm aware he got the automated weapons for the system port from my people, somehow. As for how he accomplishes all he does, I think his time working with that fancy Anatidae councillor opened more than a couple of doors for him.”
Chae’Sol stood, running his fingers through his perfect hair. “Doors, windows, rear entrances and damned secret portals, all leading to a dark realm of shady deals and supplies. We have an Imperium Capital Ship for Tulseria’s sake! Nobody knows where he got it, or where he’s now hidden it.” He looked at his holo display, noting the specks springing blinking into existence as the other ships of Federation origin came to life. “Let’s just be glad he’s on our side.”
The chief engineer tugged at the green collar to his uniform. “Our side used to be a damn sight smaller.” Lily had finished her diagnostic tests and sent the results to his console. Her report included an adjustment that would create a potential three percent increase in crystal efficiency, and a small drawing of a smiling leokit with a crim-bar. He groaned, then reported back with, “We’re ready to go when you are.”
The Niham strode confidently across the command deck, stopping to stand in front of the huge vid screen at the front of the room. All around him were his crew, made up mostly from the Ashi, Awakened, and Kasurians. “Let’s get this show started.”
 
 
Jaym sat with a bowl of Tony the leokas cereal in front of her. It wasn't just a catchy advertising slogan - it really was great. She and Elizabeth had worked together so much in the engineering section of the Porkchop Express that they had become close, often spending their free time together. Indeed, Elizabeth currently sat opposite her, carefully rebuilding a power coupling and occasionally tapping at her datapad. Shortly after the results of her most recent tap played out, Elizabeth paused her work on the power coupling. Without speaking, she held up her datapad so that Jaym could see.
On the screen was Tony and his mate Jolie, and Skeena’s voice could be heard excitedly talking about collecting urine samples from the female. Jaym screwed up her face at first until Skeena announced the pregnancy test was positive. Tony was going to be a father! She couldn't contain her joy and screamed loudly, grabbing the screen and running all the way to the bridge to show the others.
Ranjaz was stretched out across the captain’s chair as Jaym burst in, and didn’t open his eyes until she began shaking his leg. Even then he didn’t pay much attention. “I told you not to let Elizabeth play with any more systems till after the mission.”
She blushed slightly, as their last improvement had inverted their water treatment system and blown six power couplings. "It's not that!" she said, holding up the datapad and starting the video. "Look!"
At the first syllable of Skeena's voice, Ranjaz sat bolt upright. The video held his full attention, and when Tony's impending fatherhood was announced the Kittran's whoops of delight could be heard all through the Porkchop Express. He reached underneath his seat and retrieved a small, fluffy bed, then picked up Aiov. Ranjaz led his unusual dance partner in a quick spin of joy before replaying the GalacTube video for her. “You’re going to be an Aunty!”
Eruwenn leaned back in the large seat that had once been Embar’s. “I didn’t think they were related?”
The Kittran nodded. “Aiov is Tony’s sister. Aaron adopted them both, and that’s how human families work. They just keep adding members, like a Dular adding shells to its burrow. Family is family.”
Cygna pressed a few buttons on her Navigator terminal, moving the video to the main screen as well as starting it over. “I still can’t believe you keep one of these under your seat. I mean, it’s a leokas!”
Ranjaz held Aiov up and they briefly rubbed noses. “Just a little one!”
The Anatidae laughed. “I can see living with the human has had quite a profound effect on you.”
With one of his trademark grins he held Aiov out towards Eruwenn. “Wanna nose rub?”
"Ah," the councillor said, shrinking back from the offer, "despite her size she is still a predator, and I am not quite ready for such a close encounter.”
From the pilot seat Ripley stood, taking Aiov from Ranjaz. “She is not a toy.” She briefly snuggled the tiny leokit to her chest, then passed her to Jaym. “Take her for food and exercise; she must grow up strong.”
Jaym also cuddled the wriggling Aiov close, and not just because the little leokit was adorable. Aiov had tripled in size, and was becoming a bit of a handful. “Thor was preparing her food; I’ll take her down to him.”
Once the junior engineer had left, and Ripley returned to the pilot seat, Ranjaz began tapping on the console in front of him. “Looks like we’ll be free to take the shuttle down to the surface with the next group.”
Cygna drummed her fingers on the arms of her chair. “I didn’t realise it would be so busy.”
Ranjaz shrugged. “There was a quake on the fourth planet, so mining colonies are shut down while the nerds poke around. Along with that, we got three big freighters waiting for resupply. That’s a lot of bored folks looking to kill time.” Ripley grunted, prompting a chuckle from the Kittran. “You don’t approve of their choice of leisure activity?”
After their few cycles together Eruwenn was already learning a lot about her shipmates. Ripley, for instance, wasn’t one for talking. She decided to interject before the Captain irritated her too much, as they would need her focus soon enough. “Gambling and pleasure palaces are not to everyone's taste, of course, but these sorts of things are covered under local governance.”
Without skipping a beat Ranjaz replied, “I know that’s the official line, but you sure as shit have tax codes for all of it. If you want to look down on folks, don’t pretend you aren’t profiting from it.”
Cygna, ever defensive of her mentor, jumped in. “That’s a bold statement for someone who never paid a credit in tax until it was automatically deducted from his Galactic Federation pay.”
Ranjaz laughed, then continued, keeping his voice care-free. “Taxed on what? I never owned anything.”
Eruwenn could see the trap her junior was walking into but decided to let this be a learning experience. The Kittran was wily, and the Anatidae found him entertaining. Cygna, as she had predicted, scoffed at his claims. “I’ve read your file. When you were arrested you had a ship, five shuttles and thousands in valuable goods confiscated.”
“Exactly!” His eyes lit up as he cornered her. “It was confiscated because it was stolen, so I didn’t own it. Imagine a world where you can keep stolen goods if you pay tax on them. Even I think that’s crazy.”
The Fae’Dan paused, and the anger evaporated from her voice as she realized what he had said, replaced by a slightly impressed tone of surprise. “Well, maybe, but… Really? You stole all of it?”
Ranjaz shrugged. “Or won it. I’m pretty good at Dalcho.”
Cygna perked up. “I play Dalcho myself, we shou-”
“No,” Eruwenn interrupted. Some lessons were too expensive. “Do not play Dalcho with someone who can get free priority entry permits to a casino.”
The former operative shook her head. “I’m a great player, you’ve seen me in the council chambers. I took that Ley’Rulian trader for five hundred credits.”
The Anatidae smiled kindly. “And he had five shuttles when he was arrested.”
Cygna slowly turned from Eruwenn to Ranjaz, noticing his grin and the sparkle in his eye. It was most definitely the smile of a predator. He gave a little chuckle. “Don’t worry, it’s been a long time since I played. No gambling on Galactic Federation ships, you know.” He laughed again. “Oh wait, you read my file.”
The Fae’Dan nodded. “Perhaps we should focus on the mission.” She gave a slight bow to Eruwenn before returning her attention to her console.
Ranjaz looked at Eruwenn and stuck out his tongue. “Don’t ruin my fun!”
The Ambassador smiled. “I don’t play Dalcho, but there is a human game called chess I quite enjoy. Perhaps we could play sometime?”
The Kittran gave a nod. Keeping his voice neutral, he replied. “I don’t know that one, but there’s another human game we could try. Poker?”
"We have permission to dock at the holding ring and send down a shuttle," Ripley abruptly called out. "Let’s get this whatever it is and make the rendez-vous.”
Both of Ranjaz’s fangs showed as he grinned. “If we’re going to pull a job on Chisola Prime, first you’re going to need to look the part!”
 
 
Aaron walked down the corridor of the Hive ship, the strange spiderlike creature trailing behind him as he followed one of the corpse vines as it receded deeper into the ship. He turned and watched the creature, which shrank back from him and crouched low to the ground. “I’m sorry I kicked you. You simply startled me; you don’t have to hide.”
The lighting never changed in the endless corridors of the ship, and only the most uninteresting of doors deigned open for him. At this point, he had lost track of time completely. Through perseverance he’d made several important discoveries. The bulbous shapes in the flower vase room were seats; he was fairly certain of that after finding another room with bodies sitting in them. The vines that came for them were the ones he was now following, and by now he must have seen hundreds of dead Hive.
The second discovery was that the Hive came in a variety of shapes and sizes. There were two main ones, as far as he could tell, and the first were the four legged kind that had so kindly thrown him in the rejuvenating jelly bean. The second was bipedal, and looked a hell of a lot meaner. While the ones he deemed workers looked somewhat like ants to him, in shades of reds and browns, the second type looked much more commanding. Their carapace had thicker layers of armour in green, gold and red, and was spiked at the shoulders and joints. Even their legs had spines and to top the look off their heads were much more angular. Whether they were soldiers, commanders, or something else, he didn’t know. Through observation of the corpses he had discovered the most confusing feature yet: a strange section in the centre of their abdomen that was filled with what seemed to be a grey fluid.
Ahead of him, not skittering away like the rest, was an aphid that no longer emitted a pale green glow. Something whooshed overhead towards the slow and sluggish aphid, and Aaron instinctively threw himself to the ground before he realized what it was. "That's how you get kicked!” He stood up, brushing himself off. “Fuck, that scares the ever-loving shit out of me every fucking time.”
The huge creature looked up at him and whined as it munched on the sick aphid. He was probably imagining the apology in its eyes, but Aaron still shook his head. “I know, I know. It’s your job. They clean the floors, you keep their population healthy. Just stop leaping over me like that, fuck. I’m going to have a heart attack.” It whined and backed away from his angry words, and he tried to keep his voice to calmer tones. “Don’t be like that. I’ve told you enough times.”
When he looked down the corridor again, the retreating corpse vines had disappeared around a corner. Aaron began to jog after them, and after he'd put some distance in he heard the pattering footsteps of his terrifying shadow. He tried to pay it no mind. Once the vines were back in sight he slowed and followed behind them, singing his direction song quietly to himself. “Left, right, straight. Left, left, right. Straight, straight, left, left. Right, right, straight, right, right.”
The ship was massive and, other than some areas smelling funkier than others, there was no variation in lighting, decoration or layout. The song was his map back to the rejuvenation pod, which was his only safe source of hydration. His companion padded along behind him, a friendly nightmare to accompany him on his seemingly endless journey. “We really need to give you a name.” He wished he had his phone with him so he could channel all his nervous energy into making a video. “The audience demands a name. Plus, I won’t be able to sell merch without one.” He turned and looked at the creature. “I’ll probably have to create space-halloween first, or maybe I’ll get lucky and find that you’re cute to some species.”
Aaron returned to following the corpse vine, waving a hand high as he spoke, gesticulating to the heavens. “The name is what matters: a good name makes all the difference.” He began seriously pondering the naming matter. “Aragog, Shelob; you know, lean into your size for a characterization. But then again, that's not really going to make people like you.” He looked back over his shoulder as the unnamed beast trotted happily behind him. He assumed happy, at least. It now tended to make an odd gurgling noise after eating, and it roamed closer to him than before. “You know, I never got to name Sassie – she’s my dog. I told you about her yesterday, or the day before.” He really was losing track of the days he’d been here. “I got her from a rescue. She was skinny, and so damn angry, with scars on her legs and under her fur. I had to have special visits before I could keep her. Prove I was worthy.”
Talking helped take his mind from the gnawing emptiness in his stomach. Hydration and nutrients osmotically obtained from some weird pod were nowhere near as satisfying as a burger and a cold beer. “Her first visit, she had a rubber ball. It was her only possession, and she loved it.” There was a touch of pride in his voice. “Took me an hour before she gave it up to play. The lady from the rescue centre said I was the first.” He choked up, blinking back tears. “Anyway, couple more visits and she got to stay. Crazy dog was such a handful. She once tried to climb a tree to chase a squirrel. Got her legs over the first branch and just dangled, kicking her back legs.” He began chuckling to himself. “She once tried to jump through a car window; some guy was parked at the lights as we walked past.”
He was just chatting now, lost in his memories as he walked. “You know the type, loud radio, windows rolled down on a sunny day, annoying the shit out of everyone in the town. He tossed some litter out of his window and she just launched herself at him. Scared the life out of me at the time - funny as fuck now, of course.” He laughed again. “Then there were the swans. Man, were they not ready. She loved to swim – I told you that before – swimming and splashing was her favourite release. Well, that and chasing rabbits which is, kinda, how I ended up here. Anyway, she would just swim up and down, right past the ducks and stuff, somehow never interested in them. Then one summer these swans came along...” He paused, realising his new friend didn’t know what a duck or a swan was, or even summer, probably. Before attempting to explain, he realised they also didn’t understand english, so it really didn’t matter. “Anyway, swans being belligerent bastards, I called her out of the water straight away. Those mean white fuckers chased her all the way to shore.”
He turned around, now grinning broadly. “But, once her feet hit the ground in the shallow water and she was able to stand, did those sons of bitches turn and swim away as fast as they could.” He paused, trying to remember his original point. He really was very hungry. “Oh yeah, so trying to stop her fighting everything that moved meant I didn’t have time to teach her a new name. Figured it would be confusing to her. Sassie she was, and so Sassie she stayed.”
There was a tightening in his chest as he thought of her missing him. “Took a lot of years and a lot of time for her to get where she is now. I know Alexa will take care of her, but still, it’s my job, and I need to get back to doing it. She won’t understand…” He choked up completely, taking a moment to compose himself before clearing his throat and returning his monologue to its original course. “Anyway, names. Names matter.”
“Maybe you’re a girl monster. Charlotte?” He shook his head. That name just didn’t seem fitting. “We could call you Peter Parker? Although, you’re more of a man-sized spider than a spiderman... Parker Peter? Then again, big, scary spiders say one thing to me. Australia. You like to jump, we could call you Roo? Or, how about Ozzy? Or Bruce? Hmm, that’s a sharks name though… can you swim?”
His train of thought derailed suddenly as he saw an open door ahead of them through which the vines were receding. The pair of them continued walking behind the vine until it disappeared into the doorway and Aaron ran forward, pulling something from his pocket. He’d been saving the foil wrapping from the ration bricks, folding them together to form a wedge. He jammed his makeshift door stop under the bottom corner of the door as it began to slide shut. It ground to a halt. “Boom! Told you it would work.”
He stood and finally looked into the vastness beyond. Through the doors was, somehow, a rolling meadow, complete with trees, giant mushrooms and plants he had no name for. Vines were also everywhere, receding further across the great wilderness. “What the hell? I thought I was on a spaceship? Am I underground?”
Staring intently at the sky, he stepped onto the deep moss beyond the door. He looked at the wall around the interior and saw it was rock, and more plant life clung to every crack and crevice. As he walked slowly forward his eyes followed the vine as it headed for a large, colourful, monolith. He approached and saw that its shape was similar to the vase flowers. He watched as the corpse vines deposited their cargo on top of the monolith. Not on, he corrected himself;they were dropping inside.
He looked back to the door, nervous that it might close and lock him in. A large black shadow lurked just beyond the door, and he was torn. Should he explore this 'outside' world, or retreat to the place where he at least had the rejuvenation pods? He looked up at the sky, basking in the warm and invigorating embrace of the sunlight. He blinked at the brightness, being cautious to not look at the sun directly, and something else suddenly caught his eye. It was, incredibly, a door. A door that floated in the sky.
The thing about human eyes is that they might be easily fooled, but a shift in perspective can easily change what you see to something entirely different. Aaron was looking up at a ceiling, like the one in the Atrium back on the Azrimad, but a hundred times more convincing.
Once back inside the doorway he watched the spiderling he was beginning to think of it as a friend dancing back and forth a short distance away. It seemed… happy. “Ok buddy, I’m back.” Aaron’s stomach made a loud gurgling sound and he rubbed it, trying to squeeze the hunger away. Fingers found muscle easier than usual, and he knew he was definitely losing weight. “We should head back. I need sleep.” He thought for a moment and made a final decision, bending down to pull the foil wedge clear. “I doubt there’s a communicator or command deck in there. Let’s go home, Ozzy.”
The trip back was uneventful, Aaron sang his direction song as they navigated the labyrinth. A few more aphids were snacked on by his leggy companion, but his own legs were heavy by the time he was almost back to the jelly beans. Despite being exhausted he had made two stops to create another pair of flower vases for the aphids, as well as scattering a ration brick as he passed by. The aphids waited, as they always did, till he and Ozzy were far enough away before enjoying his bounty. Still, the human derived satisfaction from their presence.
Exhausted and weary, Aaron was glad to finally make it back to the room he was reluctantly calling his temporary home. As the door to the rejuvenation pod slid open he was met, forcefully, by the barrel of an energy rifle. Unfortunately for Aaron, due to a considerable height difference, the barrel had struck him squarely in the groin, and he instantly fell to his knees. He came face to face with his attacker with tears in his eyes, clutching his tenderness and coughing. From the other being came incomprehensible yelling, as well as a lot of gun waving. Also, there was coughing.
Aaron, eventually mustering enough self-presence to do something other than deal with the after effects of the gun-to-groin encounter, wiped the moisture from his eyes and tried to butt in to the one-sided conversation. "Relax! I'm the one who just got snookered in the fucking balls, here! Why in the world are you so mad?"”
The gun was pressed to his forehead by the tiny attacker, who shouted something unintelligible with their black eyes focused on him. They paused to cough, then stepped back, glaring at Aaron until they seemed to feel comfortable enough with the situation to take one hand off of their weapon and pull out a datapad. They held it up, and Aaron frowned at the familiar but still unintelligible colours that swirled on the screen. Then a small vent at the bottom of the device squirted out a puff of sickly sweet scent.
Aaron pulled back from the odour. "What the fuck was that?"
With some distance between them, the human finally got a good look at his opponent. They were barely waist-height, furry, with a long nose and dark banding across their brown fur. The banding was heaviest across their eyes and although that’s where the similarities ended, it was enough for the human’s brain to forge a connection. “Listen, Rocket, there’s a virus on this ship. You need to get in the jelly bean. Trust me.”
The rifle was thrust at him shakily in one hand, the tablet again was raised and a swirl of colours and shapes greeted him. “I don’t speak fucking winamp plugin!” On the wall behind his captor Aaron spotted a dull orange aphid, struggling to climb the wall. He smiled as he slowly leaned to one side. “Have you met Ozzy?”
The huge arachnid leapt over them both, causing the newcomer to blindfire at the wall. Aaron seized his chance and snatched away the weapon. He grabbed the newcomer by the front of their armoured uniform and slammed them to the ground. They cried out in pain and began their incomprehensible yelling once more. The accompanying coughing fit was bad, and Aaron dragged them to their feet. Realising that his solitude had caused him to revert to English, he switched back to galactic standard to offer a warning about the disease. “You’re going to die!”
A shocked look crossed their face as the human effortlessly lifted them and slam dunked them into a blue jelly bean. Ozzy gurgled happily through his aphid crunching. Aaron snatched up the energy rifle, but found it was difficult to hold due to its small size. He leaned over the jelly bean, noting the occupant drifting off to sleep.
Hunger and tiredness were forgotten as adrenaline flooded his system. There was no way the newcomer was alone. He left the pod room to begin searching, and Ozzy seemed to pick up on his intention and followed behind, keeping close to the human. “Good boy!” He had no idea what prompted it, likely some automated response, and it was as though he watched his movements from outside of his body as he reached back and gently scratched the arachnid's head. He was rewarded with happy gurgles, or at least that's what he hoped the noises were. “You did good back there.”
He made his way along the corridor towards the same airlock he had once chosen as his final exit. His recent suspicion proved correct as he heard a strange sound up ahead, as if someone was running a wet finger around the rim of a glass. He carefully leaned around the curve and saw another figure, dressed in the same uniform as the first. No fur on this one, although they were equally small in size, and they somehow looked like they were made of glass which couldn’t decide on a colour.
This time he remembered to use galactic standard. “Keep your hands where we can see you. We’ve got you surrounded!” The figure was clearly startled, as the ambient resonating noise began varying wildly in pitch at the same moment as their colour shifted to a solid blue. Aaron cursed. He didn’t have a translator, having instead opted for learning standard and winging everything else. The whole federation knew standard, so he hadn’t truly considered getting the implant. “Something is wrong with our translators,” he continued to bluff. “Do you speak galactic standard?”
A datapad was hastily pulled from a pocket, and as buttons were pressed the resonating sound became more rhythmic. From the datapad sprung noises. No, it was a voice! “Why do you speak Procyon? Where is Commander Bertolannixostraphes?
Aaron began relaxing at the situation he found himself in, but inside he was brimming with joy. Finally, he could talk with someone! “There is a virus on this ship, and many are dead. If your commander is the raccoon-looking guy, I got them into a healing pod. They’re going to be fine.” Under his breath he added, “probably.”
The resonating began and shortly afterwards the voice translated, “Who are you? Why did you not answer our communications.”
Opting for honesty in the hopes of leniency, Aaron stepped into view. “I’m a passenger. I don’t have access to the ship's systems.” The newcomer was looking at the tiny gun, so the human tossed it forward. “I didn’t know if you were friendly. I can take you to your friend, and you should probably get treatment as well.”
The now-orange alien walked forward, their movement accompanied by the strange sound of ceramic plates rubbing together. “That won’t be a problem, we Tricinic do not catch meat diseases. I am Tsy'lo, take me to the commander.” They turned to look behind them. “Where are the others?”
Aaron pointed to Ozzy. “It’s just us two.”
Colours swirled and the small glass person thrummed. The datapad spoke, “You are the last human, the Ambassador. Correct?”
Turning and gesturing to be followed, he began to lead the way to the rejuvenation room. “I am the first human, Ambassador Aaron Cooper, professional bounty hunter. Just call me Aaron. Are you the rescue party? Is Alexa here? Did she bring Sassie?”
It took a moment for the translation to come back. “I don’t know those names. We are the Special Tactics and Rescue Squad and we responded to distress calls and found this ship. Adrift.” They had walked a little way when Tsy'lo stopped and regarded Ozzy, who was still faithfully following behind. “Why does the achalo follow you?”
“Ozzy?” Aaron shrugged. “I think he was lonely. So, were you sent into Hive space to find me, or are you on some top secret mission? You aren’t with the Sentinels, are you?”
“Lonely? But it is an achalo.” Tsy'lo was confused and their colour visibly swirled. “Why would a rescue mission be secret? And, we weren’t sent, we were already here.”
Now it was the human who was confused. “Like spies behind enemy lines? Is that why you are in Hive space?”
The Tricinic hummed at a higher frequency. “It is our space. We are the Hive!”
 
 
Admiral Pelar of the third fleet stood in the centre of the training mat. On the floor around her were four tough looking Ashi, while a fifth was now squaring off against her. She blocked the jab and the surprise knee strike that followed, turning effortlessly to bring her elbow to her opponents ribs. With another deft turn she was behind him and kicking his knees forward. He tried to roll clear but she had anticipated the move and, as he rose, her spinning boot struck the side of his head.
“Nice try gentlemen.” She walked away and caught a towel thrown by the drill instructor. “That last one has potential,” she said, and the drill instructor nodded. “Next time, I expect at least one of them to land a hit. If not, I’ll have you in the ring instead, to make sure you still have what it takes.” She saw the fear in his eyes. “I accept nothing but the best from the Third Fleet.”
The medics ran onto the mat as she dabbed at her forehead, and she spotted Jar’Bek sitting on a bench nearby. She walked over to him and he stood, straightening what was no doubt an extremely expensive suit. “From one disappointment to another.”
The lawyer smiled. “Imagine only seeing your son when he is paid to be in your presence,” he countered.
She smirked. “Your tongue is still your most deadly weapon.”
He nodded. “Ah, but it must make you proud to see me make use of the things you taught me.”
Her face twitched. “I taught you to be a true Ashi, a soldier. I taught you to respect-”
Jar’Bek held up his hand. “I’m here on my client’s business, not yours. And, as I am paid a considerable sum per gal, let us not waste their money on matters that are concluded.” He enjoyed the irritation on her face. “I am here to finalise the amnesty treaties, and conclude your membership as citizens of Earth.”
The Admiral held up her hands, looking down at her combat training clothing. “I must shower and change first. Please, wait for me in my private office.” She smiled politely.
“No.” His smile seemed to hover as if it was a mask that could slip at any time. “You may have disowned me, but I still remember your tricks. You knew the time of our meeting; you had me brought here so you could intimidate me with this display of aggression. Then you ask me to wait in your office amongst your memorabilia and trophies.” He watched the anger behind her eyes. “You really think these tired old tricks will work on me?”
She sneered. “At least you remember something.”
“Oh, I had the scars removed, but I kept the lessons.” He walked away. “My client's time is valuable and I have scheduled a meeting with the other fleet Admiral’s for later this cycle. Since we have no time for your games, let us go to the briefing room. My team is already set up. If you wish to shower, know that it is more of your negotiating time you are wasting, and I do so hate waste.” He collected his briefcase and walked out of the room.
Captain Loring hurried after Jar’Bek, catching him as he entered the elevator. “You sure you want to antagonise the Admiral like that?”
He leaned back against the wall of the elevator and relaxed, letting out a small sigh. “A little negotiating trick a Kittran taught me. Anyway, she is no longer my Admiral.”
Elora’Tan leaned back on the opposite wall. “She is your mother, Jar.”
“Ha.” Jar’Bek laughed. “She disowned me. This is the first contact we’ve had in I forget how many celes. Her first thought is to try and intimidate me with that display. She likes to beat on cadets, she likes to cause pain, and she wanted me to watch.”
Loring gave a weak smile. “It forges strong soldiers. We can’t afford weakness.”
The elevator stopped and Jar’Bek took a step closer to Elora’Tan. “You think it was weakness that made me leave?” He didn’t let her answer, turning and exiting into the hallway. His voice now resonated with authority as he growled, “In case you people have forgotten, the Ashi will operate under the same rules as the rest of the colony. My mother is not the law... I am the law.
 
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